§ As amended, to be further considered.
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [2nd June], "That the Clause (Jurisdiction of Land Commission, 40 & 41 Vic, c. 57,) — (Mr. Knox,)—which was offered to be added on Consideration of the Bill, as amended," be now read a second time.
§ (4.55.) MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)
The Attorney General opposed this clause last night, on the ground that he objected to piecemeal legislation on the subject of a Land Department. I admit that there is reason in his contention, and I do not think it necessary to ask 1635 the House further to debate this clause. Therefore I ask leave to withdraw it.
§ Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I beg to move the clause which stands in my name as to the purchase of lands by tenants formerly in possession of holdings. I have ventured to put this clause on the Paper with a view of arriving, if not at a satisfactory conclusion with regard to the whole question, at any rate at a reasonable solution of the difficulty at the present moment. I can conceive that four objections maybe urged to the clause I have now ventured to move, two of a minor character and two of a serious nature. The first objection is of a minor kind, and has reference to the limitation of the period to five years. I admit that a good deal can be said against that limitation; but still I call it a minor objection. The second minor objection deals with that part of the clause which provides that if this clause is to be taken advantage of this should be done within six months of the passing of the Act. I think that this is a point which should be dealt with as speedily as possible, and I demur to the allowing of such an arrangement to hang over either for a year or for an indefinite period. The first serious objection to the clause is that which would be taken by the hon. Member for the Eccles Division of Lancashire as to the initiative in this matter being left to the landlord. But it should be borne in mind that the landlord is in possession of the lands, and that the ex-tenant has sacrificed any equitable claim that might be urged on his behalf. The objection, however, is not a practical one, because the landlord on those estates would be as anxious to come to terms as the ex-tenant. The last objection is that the clause only deals with vacant land and not with the tenanted land. I think I may say that the clause goes as far as it is safe to go and as far as the House will be willing to go. So far as the Plan of Campaign Estates are concerned, possessing as I do pretty accurate knowledge of what has taken place upon them, I venture to say that not more than 50 settlers or planters will be found on them. It is quite true that a great many evicted farms are still 1636 untenanted. But so far as the tenanted holdings are concerned, there would be enormous difficulty in bringing them under the operation of this clause. I do not see how, at this time of the Session, and in view of the possibilities in another place, it will be possible to touch the question of tenanted land. This clause deals with evicted farms in the hands of landlords, or derelict, or held by caretakers, and I say that that is going a considerable distance in the direction hon. Members wish to go. I believe it would settle three-fourths of the Campaign Estates. It is not possible to settle all those estates. One estate, for instance, has been actually sold under the Ashbourne Act, and is consequently past dealing with entirely. I do not know, too, whether it is of any use hoping anything can be done with the Clanricarde Estate. This clause, however, would certainly meet the cases of the Ponsonby, Olphert, and Clongorey Estates. Now, the present position of the landlords is this: Before they can come to terms as to purchase, the tenants must be re-instated, for until that is done the Land Commission will not hear any motion for approving any agreement. My clause proposes, however, that the landlord and his ex-tenant may come to an agreement without previous re-instatement, and that the Land Commission shall then be empowered to hear and consider applications. I have also inserted a provision that in cases where, owing to the temporary depreciation of the land, due to its having been left derelict, the Land Commission may deem the security insufficient, the Land Commission may take from the purchaser collateral security. I think this will facilitate many sales that might otherwise be prevented. In conclusion, I desire to explain that I do not move this clause as an act of justice, nor do I say anything as to mercy. I move it because I think it will afford a fair chance of securing an honourable settlement of these matters. I do not talk of mercy; but I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Flintshire, that these men have been misled and many of them ruined. I have always taken a strong line against the Plan of Campaign, but I am anxious and willing, upon fair and reasonable terms, to bring the fight to a close. 1637 think that this is a clause which the Government can accept with credit, and with honour, and I hope it will not be marred by the fact that I move it. I ask hon. Members below the Gangway to believe that I have no possible political capital to make out of this clause. The certainty is that I shall be misunderstood in the country and by my own constituents. But I believe the time is opportune for a settlement, and I hope the House and the Government will not allow any personal feeling to interfere with it.
§ New Clause—
§ (Purchase by tenants formerly in possession of holdings.)
- "(1.) When the tenancy of a holding has been determined within five years before the passing of this Act, and the former landlord or his successor in title is in occupation of the holding, it shall be lawful for the former landlord or his successor in title, within six months of the passing of this Act, to enter into an agreement under the Land Purchase Acts as amended by this Act for the sale of the holding to the former tenant or his personal representatives.
- (2.) An advance for such purpose may be made by the Land Commission, in the same manner and subject to the same conditions as if the purchaser was at the date of the agreement in possession of the holding as tenant, and thereupon all the provisions of the Land Purchase Acts as amended by this Act shall apply to such agreement and advance.
- (3.) If the Land Commission are of opinion that the holding would be sufficient security for the advance but for its having become temporarily deteriorated in value, they may make the advance upon the purchaser giving such security as they may deem sufficient to meet any risk arising from such temporary depreciation,"—(Mr. T. W. Russell,)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."
§ (5.8.) MR. SMITH-BARRY (Hunts' S.)
I said the other night that if a clause properly drafted were introduced to deal with this important question I, for one, certainly would not oppose it. I think my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone has now proposed such a clause, and I sincerely hope Her Majesty's Government will see their way to accepting it. I know it does not meet all the wishes of hon. Members opposite, but it will, I think, open a very fair and proper door to the evicted tenants to enable them to get back into 1638 their holdings by purchasing under this Act. It opens a much wider door than did the proposal of the hon. Member for West Belfast, for he only wanted to prevent fixing in their holdings men who have taken evicted farms. His clause did nothing to bring about a settlement with the ex-tenants of derelict and unoccupied farms. This clause properly safeguards those new tenants who have taken evicted farms. I certainly would strongly oppose any proposal which was likely to interfere with those men who, at great risk to themselves, have taken and are occupying and working evicted farms. I think it affords the best way of getting over the difficulty in connection with the evicted tenants. A settlement of the disputes on the Plan of Campaign Estates is an exceedingly difficult and delicate matter, and I always have thought that the best method of settlement is by some system of purchase. Some two years ago I suggested purchase under the Ashbourne Acts as a settlement of the dispute on the Ponsonby Estate, because I considered that the best and easiest way out of the trouble. I hold now to the same opinion. I therefore cordially support this clause, which has been moved by my hon. Friend. With regard to the five years' limit, which is, after all, but a minor point, I think that possibly a better plan would be to fix some definite date. As to the provision that all applications shall be made within six months, I think that a very desirable condition, for landlord and tenant ought to be able to come to terms within that time; and if they are not coming to terms, it is most undesirable to encourage the evicted tenants to continue living in the neighbourhood of their old holdings in the hope of a settlement which will never come. It would be much better for them to go and try to earn an honest livelihood elsewhere. My hon. Friend spoke on behalf of the tenant farmers of Ireland. I, as a representative, not of the Irish tenant farmers, nor of the Irish landlords, but of the British taxpayers, also approve the provision with regard to collateral security in cases of farms which have depreciated in value owing to their being left derelict. I think the Land Commission will be bound to see that any evicted tenants who may become purchasers under the Act will be able to give such security 1639 as will ensure that the British taxpayer will not suffer.
§ (5.15.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I recognise the spirit in which the clause has been moved by the hon. Member for South Tyrone; but there are some criticisms I should like to make. The hon. Member did well not to speak of mercy, because there are two sides to the case. This is, we think, a case for the exercise of justice and mercy. The hon. Member seems to think that by his present action he will expose himself to misunderstanding. I fancy there are few incidents in his career more satisfactory than his conduct in bringing in this clause. I am glad that the hon. Member has, on reflection, abandoned the view that the evicted tenants ought to be treated as paupers. In the last Debate he spoke of them as paupers.
§ MR. SEXTON
And intimated that that penalised their position, and offered a reason for not admitting them to the benefits of the Act. If these tenants have no money, they have, at any rate, the sympathy of their fellow-countrymen, and certainly will be as good security as the persons generally planted on evicted farms in Ireland. The Amendment is open to the same objection of incompleteness as the Chief Secretary urged against the clause I moved. The landlords may be willing enough to take back the tenants on the vacant farms, and yet refuse to take back the tenants on the farms for which they had found new occupiers. My own clause provided that the supplanted tenants should be taken back; and if that had been passed, it would have naturally followed that the evicted tenants whose holdings are still vacant would be taken back. Unless provision be made for the tenants whose farms have been "grabbed," there will be a serious impediment to the operation of the Bill, for public feeling in Ireland will not be allayed. The condition of the evicted tenants whose farms have been taken by the land grabbers or planters constitutes the crux of the Irish question. So long as they remain out of their holdings, I greatly fear the Act will not work smoothly. I fear the hon. Gentleman is beginning at the wrong end. Does it not occur to 1640 him that if his proposal be not supplemented in the manner I suggest Parliament will be open to the reproach that the interest of the landlords has been its only consideration. You propose to deal with the cases in which the landlord is suffering heavy and continual loss. You propose to facilitate an arrangement between him and the evicted tenant in cases in which he has found it impossible to sell or let the farm, but you will not go into the case of those tenants who have lost their holdings, and whose farms have been taken by grabbers. When the Chief Secretary, in speaking at St. George's Hall on Wednesday, adopted the tone of a conqueror, he went rather beyond the fact. He succumbed to a natural temptation. He was speaking to a peculiar audience, an audience inclined to enthusiasm rather than to criticism. Here, however, we are better qualified to be critical than to be enthusiastic. The clause of the hon. Member for South Tyrone is the best answer to the right hon. Gentleman's contention that he is having it all his own way in Ireland; for, on the hon. Member's showing, of the farms rendered vacant during the last five years, three-fourths are still vacant, and that five years is the period during which the right hon. Gentleman was mainly responsible. What becomes, then, of the interesting observations of the right hon. Gentleman at St. George's Hall? Why, the fundamental object of his Coercion Bill was to put an end to the boycott and intimidation which kept the farms vacant! Yet, after five years coercion and all his elaborate, costly, and cruel policy, three-fourths of the farms are still vacant. Surely that should diminish the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's eloquence. The clause practically proposes that the Land Commission shall be able to treat evicted tenants, for the purposes of purchase, as though still in actual possession. This may ease the situation, but the proposal is of greater value as showing the desire of the Legislature that the landlords of the derelict farms shall come to terms with their tenants. The five years' limit which the hon. Member proposes will really operate in favour of those tenants whom the hon. Member regards as least meritorious, namely, the Plan of Campaign tenants. He says that the 1641 tenants who engaged in what he calls a criminal conspiracy should receive special consideration, but that the tenants who lost their holdings in previous years through poverty are still to be excluded from the benefits of the Act. By drawing any limit at all landlord and tenant are both injured, and the tranquillising effect of the Bill is marred. If there is a landlord willing to sell, and an evicted tenant willing to purchase, why in the name of common sense should these people be prevented from coming together by the terms of the Bill? It would be to every one's advantage that the transaction should take place, and to the advantage of nobody that the transaction should be forbidden. The hon. Member for South Hunts spoke as if the drawing of this line would prevent the evicted tenants remaining near their holdings in the future. But it will not prevent those evicted more than five years ago still hanging about the locality. As to the six months, why should that hard and fast line be drawn? We know the tenants cannot make bargains alone. I am sorry that, by an after-thought which differs from the proverbial after-thought, in being not better, but worse than the first thought, the right hon. Gentleman has brought forward an Amendment which will greatly embarrass the operation of this Amendment if it be carried into law. He proposes that if the holding has deteriorated the advance may be made on the basis of the undeteriorated value; but that the tenant, on buying, is to be obliged to give additional security to the Land Commission for the advance made to him. Let me point out, as a practical matter, that the permanent value of the farm is not deteriorated by the absence of the tenant. The only deterioration, as far as I can see, will be the deterioration of the house, which was not built by the landlord. For goodness sake treat the question reasonably, and from the point of view of common sense; and if you determine to take back these evicted tenants treat them as men in regard to whom the general principle of the Bill may be pursued, and not more stringently than you treat the other tenants. The planters are few in number, and those who have taken farms other than on the evicted estates are usually men with other means of living. I do not propose to 1642 ask the House to withhold compensation. I assume that the planters would all be willing to quit on obtaining compensation; I think it highly likely they would be. These people, detested by the people about them, and living a most inconvenient and disagreeable life, would, I think, be very glad to go for reasonable compensation; but, if necessary, I am willing to consider an Amendment providing that no tenant shall be asked to go unless he is willing. Where is the compensation to come from? I propose that it shall come from the Irish Church Temporalities Fund. That is a fund which by common consent is applicable to national purposes, and I say that never was the application of a fund for national purposes more urgently needed than in the present case, when it would restore tranquillity to convulsed districts and consolidate the elements of social order in Ireland. Let me point out that it is only the interest of the Church Surplus Fund that the right hon. Gentleman uses for the congested districts; and even if you take a considerable sum. out of the fund for the purpose of this Amendment, it would not materially affect the matter. My proposal is that the Land Commission shall treat with the evicted tenants subject to the willingness of the new tenants to go; and that if they do go, they shall be paid compensation out of the Church Surplus Fund. The number of evicted tenants during the last 10 years has been largely diminished by death and by emigration—for a great number of them have to be included in the 700,000 persons whose flight from Ireland during that period is a proof of the success of British rule. I do not think that the principle of compensation, administered in a judicial manner, would make any substantial diminution in the amount of the fund, and I most earnestly press the proposal on the attention of the House. I am satisfied that if it be accepted the effect will be to give us a conclusive guarantee that the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will be attended with success.
(5.40.) SIR W. HABCOURT (Derby)
I am sure we shall all feel that we have now come to a very important chapter of this question, and that, to a great extent through the exertions of the hon. 1643 Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton), there is a prospect of a fair settlement of it. Unjust imputations have been cast upon gentlemen representing Irish constituencies to the effect that they Lave been guilty of obstruction. But for the firm stand that was made in the Debate on Tuesday night upon the subject of the evicted tenants, it is not very likely that proposals of the character now before the House would have been made—proposals which alone can give a hope of peace to the warfare which has so long been waged between landlord and tenant in Ireland. I hope the offer that has been made will be accepted. That the Government should have proposed this Bill without any provision dealing with the evicted tenants is most surprising. I certainly expected that they would have seen that of all questions relating to Ireland this is the one which most needs settlement, and that a proposal of this kind should have come not from the authors of the Bill, but from the opposite side of the House, is an astonishing fact. However, we have now arrived at this stage—that it is universally admitted that the tenants evicted in consequence of the Plan of Campaign are men who ought to receive consideration at the hands of this House. If we can by any means get rid of this great source of irritation, it will be wise to do so, and I would recommend the Chief Secretary, if he wishes to give peace to Ireland, to deal with the matter, and to deal with it in no grudging or niggard spirit. What is the use of endeavouring to remove this mischief unless you remove it entirely? and if you leave outlying sources of irritation, you will have conceded a great deal and accomplished very little. I was much struck with what the hon. Member for West Belfast meant when he pointed out that if you take only the Amendment as it is proposed by the Member for South Tyrone it will appear to the Irish mind you have only made provision for those cases where the landlord will benefit. I suppose you really wish that the derelict farms shall be occupied. You must remember that there is a, feeling of brotherhood between these men, and they will not occupy derelict farms when those whom they regard as their brothers are left out in the cold. If you are going to deal with this matter in a really statesmanlike 1644 manner, with a desire to close what the Member for South Tyrone called a strike, it is desirable you should close it altogether, and in a liberal manner. I am not going into the details of the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for West Belfast; we are now only dealing with the general question, recognising, I do not know what you call it, the rights or interests. I hope no language will be held upon either side that will be provocative as regards the landlords, or derogatory as regards the tenant, or that will prevent a settlement of the question. I trust we shall all recognise that there are interests on both sides which ought to be conciliated. I have been told by those who have the most intimate knowledge of the Irish Question, that if this matter of the evicted tenants is not dealt with, and if the sore is not healed, there will be great dangers in the future. I only rose to heartily support the Second Reading of this clause, as I would support any clause the object of which is to recognise the interests of the evicted tenants, and I think it is a proof how opinions may be coming together that the Member for South Tyrone should be the special advocate of the interests of the tenants evicted under the Plan of Campaign. That being so I hope the Government will agree in the principle of reinstating the evicted tenants, or placing them in a position to purchase, and then they can proceed to consider upon the clause itself how far it shall go, and the further it can go safely the better it will be. I do not quite understand the Member for South Tyrone when he said his object was that the former tenant should be in possession without being reinstated. Why should the former tenant not be reinstated and put on the same footing as other tenants in regard to purchase? I see the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Waring) smiles. I suppose he is of opinion that the landlord should not have to reinstate a tenant unless he is certain of getting money for the purchase. I do not think that is a spirit in which to regard this question. If the landlord says, "The tenant may be reinstated if I can get the money, but he shall not if I cannot get the money," I cannot conceive any spirit more odious or one more likely to interfere with a good settlement. But 1645 these are matters which doubtless will be fully discussed by gentlemen who have a great familiarity with the subject.
§ (5.50.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
It is certainly a most remarkable fact that the right hon. Gentleman never takes part in a Debate, however much previous speakers have endeavoured to remove it from the arena of Party politics, without bringing it into that arena. The right hon. Gentleman must be perfectly well aware that Gentlemen in every quarter of the House have taken part in the Debate, and that although we have sometimes been most bitterly engaged in controversies on the Irish Question, they have one and all abstained, as far as they could, from saying anything in Debate which would introduce bitterness of spirit or anything in the nature of Party feeling. It is reserved to the right hon. Gentleman—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is reserved to the right hon. Gentleman to come down this afternoon, and in the intervals in which he is not engaged in imploring the Government to treat this subject in a broad and generous spirit, he takes the opportunity to say as many things as he can to irritate Party feeling, to say as many things as he can to try to twist the Amendment into a triumph for a certain section of Irish tenants, and altogether to convert this, which, in the opinion of the authors and supporters of the Amendment, is intended to smooth away and heal differences, into some wretched capital for his own purposes. The right hon. Gentleman thought fit to denounce the authors of this Bill for not having themselves introduced a clause relating to the evicted tenants. But surely evicted tenants are not a new phenomenon in Ireland? There were evicted tenants in 1886. There were the tenants evicted under the No Rent Manifesto. Did they not require to have justice done to them? Did they not require to have the great principle recognised that every evicted tenant ought to be put back under terms highly favourable? Was not the right hon. Gentleman joint author of a Bill in which there was no allusion, however distant or remote, to any evicted tenant? 1646 As a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman has not misrepresented the action of the Government in the course of this Debate merely in the particular to which I have just referred. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that this Amendment is the fruit of the discussion on Tuesday last. That is not the case. I may remind the House of what has occurred. In the Committee stage of the Bill there was an Amendment down in the name of the senior Member for Cork, on very much the lines of the suggestion made on Tuesday night by the hon. Member for the Eccles Division. That embodied two principles. One was the principle embodied in the present Amendment; the other was a proposal that the evicted tenant should be allowed to buy over the head of the sitting tenant where there was a sitting tenant. No ruling was given or asked for on the point in the Committee, but it was understood that the Amendment was not in order.
§ MR. PIERCE MAHONY (Meath, N.)
I think the right hon. Gentleman is not quite accurate in his description of the second part of the Amendment of the senior Member for Cork.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I may have forgotten the exact terms of the second part of the proposal. It was the first proposal that remained in my mind, and it was considered by a large number of gentlemen to be out of order, and it was not moved because it was thought it was out of order. Therefore this Amendment was put on the Paper by my hon. Friend on Tuesday, not in consequence of the Debate on Tuesday, but in consequence of the ruling of the Speaker on Tuesday in response to an appeal from me when I asked whether the suggestion of the hon. Member for the Eccles Division would not be out of order. It was ruled that it would be in order, and it is in consequence of that ruling that the Amendment is now down upon the Paper and has come up for discussion in the House. Therefore the account given by the right hon. Gentleman of the genesis of this Amendment is wholly inaccurate. I do not mean to go now into the details raised on this Amendment. Objection has been taken to this clause in one or two particulars. I will give the opinion of the Government on those particulars when they come up 1647 in Debate after the clause has been read a second time. For the present, it is sufficient to say that we should incur a great responsibility if we resisted the clause of my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone, representing as he does a large body of tenants in the North of Ireland, and especially as my hon. Friend is supported by the hon. Member for South Hunts, who has been engaged in one of the most serious of these controversies, and by the hon. Member for West Belfast, who, speaking from a different point of view, has given his adhesion to the general principle of the clause. A clause so supported naturally commends itself to the Government. It appears to me it will benefit the peace of a district by leading to a settlement on Plan of Campaign estates, it will be for the benefit of ex-tenants where no new tenants have come into the holdings, and the right hon. Gentleman is not wrong in saying it is eminently calculated to assist those landlords from whose estates those tenants have been evicted. I am glad it benefits the tenants and the locality, and I am very glad it benefits the landlords. I am very glad it will give to those gentlemen who have been the victims of an illegal and criminal conspiracy an opportunity—
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I only emphasized the "irritating language" of the Chief Secretary in relation to this conciliatory proposal.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not dwell on the fact of the criminal conspiracy, but that the Plan of Campaign was a criminal conspiracy everybody knows, and it has been abundantly proved.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am not discussing that; I only say that the landlords having been the victims of what has been admitted to be a criminal conspiracy, I rejoice to think that this clause will serve their interests. It is for the reason that everybody has to gain, and nobody has to lose, by the clause, that I recommend the House to read it a second time. I shall be prepared at a later stage to state the views 1648 of the Government on various points of detail.
§ (6.2.) MR. PIERCE MAHONY
I appreciate the spirit in which the hon. Member for South Tyrone has moved this clause, and I particularly appreciate his remark that it offers a means of settlement honourable to both parties. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has given a correct account of the origin of the clause. It is almost identical with one of the clauses, or a portion of one of the clauses, moved by the senior Member for Cork at an earlier stage of the Bill, and if I am asked why my hon. Friend did not put down the whole clause for this stage of the Bill, I should say it was because it would be out of order to deal with the whole case of the evicted tenants now. He considered, and I think rightly considered, that the question of the evicted tenants could not be thoroughly dealt with at this stage, and that it would be wiser to deal with the question in as full a manner as it can be dealt with by the clause of the hon. Member for South Tyrone. The right hon. Gentleman has asked why the tenants could not be reinstated first and the bargain be made between them and the landlords afterwards. Now, as the law stands at present, so far as regards the sales to tenants under the Purchase Act, there is nothing whatever to prevent the landlord reinstating them and then coming to a bargain. Not only is there nothing to prevent it, but it is a situation that has frequently occurred; the evicted tenant has been reinstated and the land sold to him under the Ashbourne Act. The fact is that when the tenant is reinstated he is in a much better position to make an equal bargain with the landlord. I maintain that the position would be greatly improved by the insertion of the second clause proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Cork, which would be out of order if proposed at this stage, the clause in which he held out an inducement to Irish landlords to reinstate their tenants, offering them, under certain circumstances, a sort of compensation for so doing. I wish it to be clearly understood that, though we assent to this clause, it does not completely meet our wishes, and only does part of the work. I would earnestly press upon the 1649 Chief Secretary still to consider in what manner he could introduce some clause offering some inducement to landlords to reinstate evicted tenants in their holdings independently of the question of purchase. There are many estates which cannot be sold at the present time, the owners not being in a position to sell, and which cannot be sold except under a compulsory Act, and it will be very hard that a distinction should be made in the position of evicted tenants, because on one estate the landlord is not in a position to sell, and on another estate the landlord is in very different circumstances. Then with regard to the five years' limit—
§ MR. PIERCE MAHONY
The hon. Member will meet the objection on this point, and I suppose that applies also to the six months' limit.
§ MR. PIERCE MAHONY
Six months is a very brief interval, but I reserve my remarks on these details to a subsequent stage. I shall cordially support the Second Reading of the clause, and I am very glad indeed that from all sides of the House it has been approached in this spirit, and I think it indicates a probability that before very long we shall arrive at a full settlement of the question of the evicted tenants.
§ (6.10.) MR. JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
I have not taken part in the discussion of the details of the Bill, and I am thoroughly opposed to land purchase where an English guarantee is given; but perhaps I may be allowed to express my view on this most important Amendment now before us. The question with which we are now dealing is perhaps the most important part of this great measure. The object of the Bill, as stated by the Chief Secretary, is to bring peace to Ireland so far as the land question is concerned, and I consider that any measure professing to deal with the land question by a great scheme of land purchase, and which did not contain a provision by means of which evicted tenants could be restored to their holdings, would be most imperfect. In relation to these evictions and disputes upon Irish estates, we have had 1650 many illustrations of similar difficulties in the ordinary trade disputes in this country. I have always looked upon the disputes on the Plan of Campaign estates much in the same light as I regard strikes in the large industrial concerns of this country. Again and again have we seen cases where, after the difficulties have been settled, the "blacklegs," if I may be allowed the vulgar expression, and I do not wish to do so offensively, have been sent back to the places whence they came, and the old hands reinstated, the "blacklegs" being allowed something by way of compensation. I think the same principle would be wisely applied to the case of the evicted tenants, and perhaps one plan of providing such compensation would be that some addition should be made to the value of the holding—it might be one year or two years, or the question might be left to the Land Commission. I am glad to find that even hon. Members like the hon. Members for South Tyrone and South Hunts, who have taken active parts against the Plan of Campaign, recognise that something should be done for these evicted tenants. It is clear that the question of purchase cannot be satisfactorily settled unless you have this point in view. I think it would be wise for the Chief Secretary to adopt the suggestion made a few minutes ago, that before accepting this clause he should give the matter further consideration, and see if he could not bring up another clause having a wider application than this clause has. It is in the interest of good government in Ireland that the question of evicted tenants should be settled on such a basis as will prevent difficulties in the future. I share with the hon. Member for West Belfast the feeling that it would be unfair to many of these men who have taken possession of evicted farms, and have worked upon them for some time, that they should be evicted therefrom without compensation, and I suggest the method of compensation to which I have alluded—an addition to the value of the holding and a repayment over the 49 years in the instalments. I believe the tenants who are most anxious to return to their holdings would be willing to consent to some such scheme, and the opportunity is offered to effect a settlement of one of the greatest difficul- 1651 ties the Government have ever had to deal with in Ireland.
§ (6.16.) MR. KNOX
The Chief Secretary in, his remarks just now, which were of a particularly irritating character, did not admit that any credit for this clause is due to my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast, and he said that it arose out of your ruling, Sir. But how, I ask, could that ruling have been obtained if my hon. Friend had not persisted, running the risk of accusations of obstruction, in raising again and again this question of the evicted tenants? My hon. Friend persisted, and he found that though but little of what we think ought to be done can be done in view of the relation of parties in this House, he found at last that something could be done, and I may add that this something may be of considerable value if it is clearly put forward as the wish of the Government that this clause should be taken advantage of by landlords—if it should be supplemented by what a former Chief Secretary once called "pressure within the law."
§ (6.18.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
This is a question in which I have ever taken a deep interest, and I cannot but express my satisfaction that the Government have admitted the clause as it at present stands. The success of the clause mainly depends upon the spirit in which the landlords of Ireland receive and act upon it. I cannot but hope that, having regard to the almost unanimous expression of opinion we have had, that the clause will be so accepted. I venture to hope that when we come to the discussion of details the Chief Secretary will be prepared to entertain the proposal of the hon. Member for West Belfast, and I can assure the Government that unless they can see their way to do something in that direction they cannot effect a complete settlement in this matter. The number of cases in which holdings have been made over to other tenants in place of the evicted tenants is comparatively small; but, however few the cases, they are unimportant, and the clause should not leave the House without such an extension as the hon. Member has suggested. However, matters of detail have to be dealt with later, and at present I have only to 1652 say that I view with great satisfaction the consent of the Government to the clause being read a second time, the spirit and tone of the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, the hon. Member for South Hunts (Mr. Smith-Barry), and other representatives of the landlord class who have spoken.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause read a second time.
§ (6.20.) MR. SEXTON
I now propose to leave out the limitation of time in the 1st sub-section. I was struck by an observation of the hon. Member for South Hunts in the Second Reading Debate, when he spoke of the danger of evicted tenants remaining in the district after eviction. Now, may I point out to the hon. Gentleman, and all who take an interest in the discussion of this clause, that if this limit of time is allowed to remain, evicted tenants will be divided into two classes—those evicted within the last five years and those evicted at an earlier period. The tenants evicted within the last five years will be allowed by the use of the credit of the State to return to their holdings, while those evicted at an earlier date, no matter how hard may have been the circumstances of their eviction, will be shut out from all participation in this advantage. There will be a danger that while the one class goes back to their holdings, the others will remain hanging about their old homes, to the detriment of the landlord and the tenants upon the estate. Generally speaking, the further back the eviction was the more reason is there that the tenant should be reinstated. If the eviction occurred 10 years ago, and the evicted farm has remained vacant ever since, the prospect of the landlord finding another tenant is obviously very near the vanishing point. Therefore, even in the landlords' interest alone, though I hope the House will not leave the tenants' interest out of view, but taking the landlords' interest as for the moment predominant, it is necessary that this limit of time should be removed. An evicted farm in Ireland means trouble to the Government, extra police, possibly outrage, extra cost in maintaining prisoners, and otherwise; the landlord loses the rent, and is put to expenses for caretakers, while the evicted tenants' 1653 existence is made miserable. It is not the time but the fact of eviction that is material
§ Amendment proposed, in lines 1 and 2, to leave out the words "within five years."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
We cannot leave the provision without some limit. We felt in framing the clause a line must be drawn somewhere. I admit that five years will not cover all the evicted tenants, and if it will shorten discussion I am quite willing to insert ten years instead of five.
§ MR. SEXTON
If I may be allowed a suggestion, evictions on a large scale began in 1879, and if the hon. Member will say 12 years there need be no further discussion upon the point.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
I have already expressed my opinion against the introduction of such a clause and have nothing to add, but, since we are to have the clause, let us make it as little defective as possible. I agree that it is inexpedient to maintain the limit of five years, but the difficulty is what period shall be allowed. According to the principle of the hon. Member for West Belfast, we might go back to the Norman Conquest. It appears to me that it would be more convenient to name a period when a fresh departure in legislation took place than to have a fixed period of years. I would suggest the period should be since the passing of the Land Act, 1881.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
May I point out to my hon. Friend that there is really no difference between the period he has named and the proposed term of ten years.
§ (6.26.) SIR W. HARCOURT
We are dealing with the case of untenanted farms, and how can it be an advantage to landlords that a difficulty should be put in the way of such farms being sold and properly occupied? Why we should have any limitation of date at all I cannot understand. The clause deals only with vacant farms, and even if it should, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, go back to the Norman Conquest, it would be so much the better for the landlords. The Land Act of 1881 was passed to cure evils which had been growing during the two preceding years, and the period proposed would just exclude the great 1654 evictions of 1879 and 1880. We should be most unnecessarily leaving behind a great sore if we omit from the benefits of the clause those men whose eviction date back to 1879. Why do you say our interest is only in the men of the Plan of Campaign? Why is it that they are the subject of the special solicitude of this House? There can be no reason for making a distinction between the different classes of evicted tenants. What you want is to get rid of the untenanted farms and evicted tenants. I should say you ought to have no date at all.
§ (6.31.) MR. PIERCE MAHONY
I cannot see what object there is in putting in any limitation whatsoever, because we are not by this clause applying any compulsion to anybody; we are only trying to facilitate voluntary agreements between landlords and tenants. Why you should exclude tenants who were evicted a certain number of years ago from coming to voluntary arrangements I cannot understand. I think hon. Members will agree that this House is not very easily moved to legislate for Ireland. In 1881 this House did legislate for Ireland in a very marked way. What caused the House to legislate for Ireland at that time? It was the fact that for some time up to 1878 high prices had ruled in Ireland. In 1879 the prices suddenly fell, and the rents which the Irish landlords had exacted from their tenants became impossible. Some few landlords exercised the rights which the law gave them in such a harsh manner that this House was forced to step in and interfere, but the legislation was in no way retrospective. The proposed limit of 10 years would exclude from the operation of the clause those very tenants whose hard cases of eviction led to the passing of the Act of 1881. If the hon. Member for South Tyrone would add two years, and make the limit 12 years, I think that would be perfectly satisfactory.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I think there is force in what has been said by the hon. Member for West Belfast and repeated by the hon. Member for Meath. The agricultural distress out of which these early evictions sprang commenced in 1879; and if my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary sees no objection, I should be glad to substitute 1879 for 1881.
§ (6.35.) MR. M. HEALY (Cork)
I am glad the hon. Gentleman has made this concession, as I think it will cover almost every practical case, but may I suggest there is some danger in introducing any limit at all. The danger is that you may create doubt as to what the existing law is, and you may suggest to the Land Commission, that except in cases to which the limit applies, it would be illegal for them to make any advance at all. I think, this is a serious danger, and I have not in the course of the Debate heard any practical reason given for imposing a limit of time.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 1, after the word "determined," to insert the words "since the 1st day of May, 1879."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ Further Amendment proposed, in line 2, to leave out the words "Before the passing of this Act."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.
§ Amendment proposed, in lines 2 and 3, to leave out the words "and the former landlord or his successor in title is in occupation of the holding."—(Mr. Roby.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ (6.40.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I confess I do not quite understand the object of the hon. Member. So far as I can make out, he proposes by leaving out the words to effect what the somewhat lengthy Amendment of the hon. Member for West Belfast proposes.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I should like to know, Mr. Speaker, if this is in order. If I understand the hon. Member rightly his Amendment would practically raise precisely the same question which the Committee disposed of on Tuesday night.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for West Belfast would be out of order. On page 10, after Clause 6, the hon. Member proposed to insert a clause which practically amounted to this, that if the previous tenant made application the sitting tenant should be practically disqualified from purchasing under the Act. There is no difference in the present proposal which practically would prevent a particular person, who is a bonâ fide occupying tenant, from taking advantage of that which is expressly provided for his benefit; and this clause not only goes the same length as the clause previously discussed and divided on, but provides compensation in the event of eviction. Therefore, to discuss again the question of pre-emption of the last tenant over the sitting tenant, would be raising exactly the same point discussed for many hours on Tuesday night, and would be out of order. If the hon. Member were to make the arrangement voluntarily, of course it would be an entirely different matter.
§ MR. SEXTON
I understand that this would not operate except by the will of the tenant. I would propose to insert in line 4 of my Amendment, after the word "may," the words "with the consent of the person who is in occupation."
§ (6.45.) MR. SPEAKER
I understand the hon. Gentleman moved an Amendment in substitution of that of the hon. Member for West Belfast, notwithstanding that it is a compulsory arrangement, and that it would cause great injustice to the occupying tenant by having pre-emption given against his will to an ex-tenant.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. SEXTON
I beg to move to omit from the clause of the hon. Member for South Tyrone the words "within six months of the passing of this Act." The Chief Secretary will agree with me, I think, that it is probable that these cases of evicted tenants will arise and be dealt with in connection with sales on estates by landlords to tenants who are in possession of their holdings. Many a landlord may not consent to sell for five years to come. Whenever; he comes to sell his estate to the occupying tenants there may be a ragged fringe of these evicted tenants to be dealt with. Will anyone "suggest why a landlord should be debarred from selling his whole estate and from admitting these evicted tenants? Then the evicted tenants may be scattered. Some may be at work in England and Scotland, and even in America, and time should be given to enable them to be communicated with. On grounds of practical convenience of the landlord and tenant, and also on the general ground that it is expedient to encourage these persons to purchase without limit of time, I would strongly urge the hon. Member to accept my Amendment.
§ Amendment moved to the Clause, in lines 4 and 5, to leave out the words "within six months of the passing of this Act."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ (6.50.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I do not think that the same argument applies to this as applied to the last Amendment. I am of opinion that it is of the greatest importance that what is done should be done promptly, and with that view I think a statutory limit ought to be imposed. On the whole, looking to what I consider to be the absolute necessity of healing this long-existing sore in Ireland quickly, I must stand by the clause. I do not think there is likely to be as much difficulty in arranging matters as the hon. Member for West 1658 Belfast supposes. Both Parties in Ireland are weary of the strife; both Parties have been sadly injured, and if there is a chance of coming to terms, I think they will be glad to avail themselves of it. I believe six months is quite sufficient time, and I am, therefore, very much inclined to stand by the words in the Bill. As to the evicted tenants who may be in England or Scotland I have no doubt that their relatives in Ireland would communicate withthem.
§ (6.52.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I do not think the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has quite reflected on one of the aspects of this question. There are many estates in Ireland where the sitting tenants would be willing to perform the operation prescribed by this clause. Their bargains, however, could not be completed because of the existence of these discontented and unhappy and, in the opinion of their fellows, injured men, who are outside the possibility of the bargain. Now, we all know that it is a very long business for a landlord to come to an arrangement with the great body of his tenants. Landlords in this position, I have no doubt, have despaired of coming to any of these bargains, and, in many cases where such bargains have been possible, they have not even begun them. Now, I venture to say that anyone who knows anything of the operation of the Ashbourne Acts knows that six months is not enough time to effect these arrangements. Many of the evicted tenants may be as far off as America, and it appears to me quite plain that in the interest of the Act, the evicted tenants, and the tenants on the estate six months is not enough. The evicted tenants may be impecunious, and in all probability will be, and will require a longer period to complete all the necessary financial arrangements for purchase. I do not suggest a period, but I think three years is the very least that should be given.
§ (6.55.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I did not intervene in the Debate on the preceding Amendment, as it did not appear to me vital or material to the success of the clause. The limit might be fixed at 5, 10, or 12 years; but I think the new point that has been raised is one of much greater importance. I would strongly recommend the House to adhere 1659 to the clause as drafted by my hon. Friend. It is said that the negotiations between landlords and their tenants have dragged on interminably, and covered far more than six months. There have not been many such cases; but it is true that in some instances titles had to be examined and difficult negotiations had to be carried through, and tenants had to be persuaded—by their priests and others—that it was to their interest to purchase. But I hold that if, in these cases, the tenants had been told that they would have to settle in six months or not at all, they would probably have settled in six months, or three months, or two months. Recollect the amount of time required is not the amount necessary to complete the sale. All that is required is that the tenants should agree with their landlords to purchase on certain terms, and if six months is not enough for that, six years, and even 600 years, would not be enough. If you allow these matters to drag on, I am sure that, instead of allaying the sore about which we have heard so much today, you will be doing your best to keep it still open. I hope the House will adhere to the clause.
§ (6.58.) SIR W. HARCOURT
I had doubt on this matter until I heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. I have none now, for the reason he defends the six months is this—that the landlord will be able to say to the tenant, "You must agree for six months or not at all;" that is to say, that the landlord will be able to put the tenant under a pressure that I do not think he ought to be placed under under the circumstances. The shorter the time allowed the greater the screw put upon the tenants. I think the period of six months is unreasonably short, although it is for those hon. Members who are familiar with the working of these matters to say whether the time should be 12 months, two years, or even longer. If the period is made too short you will be defeating the object of the clause altogether.
§ MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
I cannot quite agree with either side on this question, and it seems to me that the real point lies between the two. It has been said that 1660 men who are now in America may wish to return. I think, however, that they are far better off where they are. But I do not believe a matter of this sort should be settled too rapidly, inasmuch as some of the tenants may want a fair interval in which to make up their minds. I would, therefore, suggest that the period should be 12 months instead of 6 months. I admit that in Ireland they are quicker in doing these things than we are. I quite see the object of the Amendment which is to prevent this matter dragging on.
§ MR. PIERCE MAHONY
I think that while six months may be a sufficiently long period for settling with one or two tenants it is not so for settling with all the tenants on an estate. The time should be extended to 12 months, and there should be a proviso for a further extension of 12 months on condition of a joint notice being presented by the landlord and the tenant. Such a proposal, if adopted, would enable landlords and tenants to bring matters to a satisfactory conclusion.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I strongly urge the Government to re-consider their decision in this matter. In nine out of ten cases in Ireland the landlord will refuse to sell unless he can sell his entire estate; and on the majority of estates the evicted tenants form the minority. Therefore, if the proposed time limit be retained, the evicted tenants will have to make their bargain under great pressure, for the other tenants will be in no hurry. The proposal practically curtails the existing rights and privileges of the evicted tenants. I urge most strongly upon the Government not to enlarge the period of time. I think the only point the hon. Member for South Tyrone was able to show in favour of his proposition was that some pressure should be brought to bear on these people.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
I quite agree that most sales under the Act will be sales of the whole estate rather than of portions. This clause is brought before the House on the allegation made by hon. Members, that the evicted tenants are extremely anxious to buy, and that the landlords are anxious to sell to 1661 them. If that is so, there can be no difficulty in the parties to the agreement coming together. I protest against the enlargement of the proposed time limit, because it would only serve to keep open the existing agrarian difficulty. Hon. Members have spoken of the case of evicted tenants now in America; but the clause is not to be passed in order to bring back to Ireland men who are now in America. No one can assert that it would be well to bring a man back from a land where he has shaken off his old habits under the necessity of working for his living or of going rapidly to the wall.
§ MR. M. HEALY
I do not see why this discussion should be continued. The whole thing is sufficiently clear. You have a landlord willing to sell and a tenant willing to buy, and I do not see why any obstacle should be interposed between the two. The effect of this Amendment would be to bring together two people who have hitherto been kept at arm's length. One of the most efficacious modes of settling disputes of this kind up to the present time has been the process of arbitration, and if arbitration be adopted under this clause it will necessarily take some time to arrive at a decision. I think, therefore, that the limitation of six months which is attached to the clause is both unwise and dangerous. If the House wishes the clause to be really operative it will allow a sufficient time. I think, therefore, that the Amendment is a reasonable one, and I appeal to those who desire to render the clause workable to support it.
§ (7.24.) MR. JORDAN (Clare, W.)
I would also urge that the proposal is a reasonable one. Six months in many cases would be too short, and I do not see what objection there can be to prolonging the period. The hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) has talked of six days being sufficient, but the hon. Gentleman can hardly get home to his place in Ireland "and open 1662 his letters in that time. I would suggest that in the interest alike of landlord and tenant the period should be made one year, which is the shortest term in which a satisfactory arrangement could be come to between the landlords and the evicted tenants. This would give the landlords time to consider whether they will sell and the tenants time to consider whether they will buy. To make the period 12 months would amount to what we call in Ireland splitting the difference. I am surprised that the hon. Member for South Tyrone adheres so rigidly to his clause as to refuse so reasonable a proposition. I would, therefore, endeavour to press upon the hon. Member the necessity of extending the time so as to prevent a large number of tenants from being left out in the cold through not having sufficient opportunity of coming to terms with their landlords. I myself know of one case in which negotiations have been carried on under the Ashbourne Acts for something like three years, and a final settlement has not even yet been arrived at. That is in the County of Fermanagh. I trust the House will permit this Amendment to be carried.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I would suggest that my hon. Friend should not press this Amendment, but should allow another to be moved substituting 12 months for six months. I agree with the hon. Member who tells us that months would not be a sufficient time in many cases for the completion of negotiations.
§ MR. SEXTON
I am quite willing to adopt the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, and will ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the Amendment be, by leave, withdrawn."[Cries of "No!"]
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
I hope the Government will see their way to a favourable response to the appeals made from this side of the House. They must see that in many cases six months must necessarily be too short a period. I hope my hon. Friend will press this matter to a Division, because I think it desirable in the interests of Ireland.
§ (7.31.) The House divided:—Ayes 130; Noes 75.—(Div. List, No. 263.)
§ (7.40.) MR. SEXTON
I accept, of course, the decision of the House on the Main Question. Since the House has determined to retain the limit of six months after the passing of the Act, perhaps the Government may be disposed to make allowance for special cases by introducing the words "or such further period as for special cause may be allowed by the Land Commission." I move the insertion of those words.
§ Amendment proposed to the Clause, in line 5, after the word "Act," to insert the words "or such further period as for special cause may be allowed by the Land Commission."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That is a far more tolerable suggestion than that which has just been negatived, but I do not think it will improve the Bill or the position of the ex-tenant. My imagination fails to conceive what are the special circumstances that could induce the Land Commission to extend the term. The harm that will be done by the Amendment will be that tenants will be tempted to put off arrangements to the last day in the hope that the term may be extended, and the very fact that a tenant entertains such a hope would militate against the settlement which all desire to see effected. The Amendment seems to me to be almost useless, and I certainly think that the Bill would be better without it.
§ (7.44.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I might advance one other reason against extending the term. There are too many happy-go-lucky people in Ireland—both landlords and tenants—who will not come to an agreement unless pressure is brought to bear upon them. If delay is but possible they will take advantage of it. I do not think any difficulty is likely to arise through keeping this limit. Both parties are, I believe, anxious to effect the settlement, and as the dispute generally is only one of price, six months ought to be an ample period to allow of an arrangement.
§ MR. KNOX
The right hon. Gentleman asked as to what special 1664 causes my hon. Friend referred. Possibly the phrase is a little too vague. The special causes he had in his mind are no doubt those which may best be described by words used in the 7th clause dealing with sales to large tenants in exceptional cases—"Where it is necessary for carrying into effect other sales on the same estate." In cases where the bulk of the holdings on an estate are evicted farms, no doubt it would be possible to come to an arrangement within six months; but in cases where other tenants than evicted tenants have to be considered, it will be necessary to allow a somewhat longer period. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make this concession.
§ (7.46.) MR. P. J. POWER
I could name several cases where negotiations have been going on for over six months. Surely it would be well to leave some discretion in this matter in the hands of the Land Commission. There must be cases in which there ought to be power-given to extend the time.
§ MR. CRILLY (Mayo, N.)
I think I traced a contradiction in what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman. A little while since, while opposing the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Belfast, he said that purchase in Ireland was not bound specifically by the six months, and that if the Land Commission on the application of landlord and tenant came to the conclusion that insistence on the limit would interfere with the transaction they would be able to extend the time. Now he asks what special cause there could be for delay; what could possibly induce the Commission to extend the time? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what he meant by his first statement?
§ MR. CRILLY
Yes; I took a note of it at the time. Unquestionably, the right hon. Gentleman said the purchase of these holdings was not absolutely bound by the six months, and that there was power to extend the time if it were seen that there was a disposition on the part of the tenant to buy and the landlord to sell. I am acquainted with a case under the Ashbourne Act in which the sale negotiations occupied a period of 1665 two years. Therefore, I do urge that this is a reasonable Amendment.
§ (7.50.) MR. MACARTNEY
Although hon. Gentlemen opposite have been challenged to indicate the special causes which would justify an extension of time they have only advanced one, namely, when an arrangement has to be come to with two classes of tenants—evicted, and occupying on the same estate. It is perfectly obvious that negotiations with these two classes of tenants would have to be conducted on a totally different basis, and, therefore, the point does not apply.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
I do not think it would be possible, with regard to estates on which many farms are derelict, for the landlord to attempt to sell to the occupying and to the evicted tenants on the same terms. I think that the Land Commissioners themselves would be obliged to distinguish between the two sets of cases.
§ (7.52.) MR. PIERCE MAHONY
I think the hon. Member for South Antrim has advanced a strong argument in favour of the Amendment. He says that the cases of the sitting and of the evicted tenants must be considered separately. If that is granted, then surely there ought to be an extension of time in cases where it is proved to the satisfaction of the Land Commission that the extension is required for the purpose of carrying out different sales of holdings on the same estate. The Chief Secretary must be well aware that there are estates in Ireland where the landlord is not in a position to sell only one or two holdings, and supposing in those cases there were two evicted farms, the ex-tenants of which were willing to buy, and the landlord being willing to sell, it would be impossible to carry out the arrangement, because there might not be sufficient time to come to terms with the other tenants on the estate. All we ask for is an extension of time under these circumstances.
§ MR. P. J. POWER
And there is the difficulty likely to arise if a landlord dies while the negotiations are pending.
§ MR. PIERCE MAHONY
As my hon. Friend the Member for Water-ford points out, the landlord may die, and the new landlord not take possession within the limit of time, or the landlord may be abroad. Surely these are strong reasons for an enlargement of the period of six months. The concession we ask for is a very small one, and it will in no way interfere with the object of the limitation. Before the time can be extended it will have to be proved to the satisfaction of the Land Commission that the parties have practically come to an agreement, and it is only asked that, in order to prevent hardship being inflicted, this discretionary power should be conferred on the Court.
(7.55.) MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
It is very much to be regretted that, on a point dealing with eminently legal and technical matters, the House should not have the benefit of the advice of the legal adviser to the Irish Executive. He has had large experience in the working of the Courts, and would have been able to explain the effect of my hon. Friend's Amendment. The hon. Member who has just sat down is the only Member taking part in this Debate who has had practical experience of the working of the Land Commission. He was a Land Commissioner himself for some years; he knows what the work really is, and he is fully in favour of this Amendment. When the Land Act of 1881 was passed a provision was inserted stating a limit within which applications to have fair rents fixed should be made. The result was that large numbers of tenants were unable to avail themselves of the benefit of the Act, and although the Commissioners strained the law to the uttermost point, a good deal of hardship was the result. And the same effect will follow on this clause if the Amendment be not inserted. There are many causes which might lead to delay. A landlord might die, he might be a lunatic, or he might be abroad. I say that in the interests of both landlord and tenant this Amendment is necessary. Why should a bargain, if struck, have to be rushed through in this way? The hon. 1667 Gentleman opposite said with great justice that different considerations would apply to tenants in possession and to evicted tenants. That is quite true, and you may be sure that the landlord will see that he gets full value for the holding. I say there is no magic in the period of six months. It is inequitable: it will tell badly for both parties. I therefore hold with my hon. Friend the Member for Cavan that on estates where the landlords have to deal with two classes of tenants the Land Commission ought to have power to extend the time if necessary. I shall be glad to know whether the hon. Member for South Tyrone is not aware of the enormous exertions made by the Land Commission to extend the time for lodging originating notices, and thus enable men who, through their misfortune, had not been able to comply with the requirements. This is a mere matter of equity, and I appeal to the Chief Secretary to make some concession.
§ (8.3.) MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I join with my hon. Friend (Mr. Mac Neill) in regretting that the Attorney General for Ireland is absent, for I think he would recognise that six months is an altogether insufficient period within which to lodge the necessary documents. Searching for title, for instance, is an exceedingly difficult thing, especially when it is connected with Irish land. Again, there must be negotiations between landlord and tenants as to the amount of the purchase money; there must be much correspondence and great difficulty in getting tenants together. The hon. Member for South Hunts might be on the Continent; indeed there are very many reasons why six months is an insufficient period. It is useless for the Chief Secretary to ask us to specify reasons: a hundred reasons might arise. It would be extremely difficult even to arrive at a preliminary agreement as to the number of years' purchase to be given by the tenants. All the work would have to be crowded into six months, and I greatly fear that if the limitation is not extended the clause will be nugatory. No matter how much diligence is shown; it will be absolutely impossible to complete all the arrangements in six months. I therefore 1668 appeal to the Chief Secretary to re-consider his decision.
§ (8.10.) The House divided:—Ayes 54; Noes 92.—(Div. List, No. 264.)
§ (8.18.) MR. SEXTON
Sub-section (3) is a great defect in the clause, and will place the tenant in an inferior position. It suggests that the landlord and tenant may agree at a price higher than the Land Commission are willing to sanction, and I think it takes too restricted a view of the question in regard to the amount of the advances. I do not think the Land Commission are bound, in considering what advance they may make, to limit themselves to a consideration of the state of the farm at the moment of the agreement. The Land Commission would not be obliged to value the farm, and I think there is no probability that the case contemplated in the 3rd sub-section will arise. Beyond being unnecessary, the sub-section is very prejudicial. An evicted man has been out of his farm for some years, living perhaps on public contributions, and you say to him, "You are not to be allowed to purchase unless you do a thing which we ask no other tenant to do—give security." Where is he to get the security? Such a provision would prevent transactions taking place under the clause.
§ (8.22.) MR. P. J. POWER
Before we come to that I wish to move, in line 7, after the words "representatives," these words—At a price to be fixed by the Land Commission on the application of either landlord or tenant.The Land Commission at present have the power of saying whether the security offered is a good security for the sum advanced by the landlord, but they have no power whatever to come to the assistance of either party in making a bargain. The result will be that in many of these cases the landlord will ask a price which the tenant cannot possibly give, and the Land Commission have no power at present to say what would be a fair sum to give for the farm. My object is to give them a discretionary power.
Amendment proposed to the Clause,
In line 7, after the word "representatives," to insert the words "at a price to be fixed by
the Land Commission on the application of either landlord or tenant."—(Mr. P. J. Powr.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words he there inserted."
§ (8.25.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL
If this Amendment is inserted it will stultify the arrangement. It would make the clause compulsory.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I think the Amendment would be a good one if it meant an alternative arrangement, but at present I think it would weaken the whole clause.
§ MR. SEXTON
The Amendment is defective in this respect: that it would limit the operation of the sub-section to the case of a reference to the Commission. I would suggest that my hon. Friend should make the Amendment read—At a price agreed upon between the landlord and tenant, or a price fixed by the Land Commission upon the application of both parties.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment proposed to the Clause,
In line 7, after the word "representatives," to insert the words "at a price to be agreed upon between the landlord and tenant, or to be fixed by the Land Commission on the application of both parties."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. MACARTNEY
This would be a boon to persons who are not tenants at all, which the hon. Member himself declined to grant to the occupying tenants.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. SEXTON
I have already stated my reasons for thinking Sub-section (3) unnecessary. If retained it will greatly prejudice the prospects of the clause.
§ Amendment proposed to the Clause, to leave out Sub-section (3).—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, "That Sub-section (3) stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
The proposed purchaser from the Land Commission may have been reduced to something like poverty byhaving been out of his 1670 farm for two, three, or four years, while the farm may have been derelict and have gone to absolute wreck, growing nothing but weeds or thistles. The proposed purchaser comes before the Land Commission. The Inspector goes down and reports that, in view of the condition of the farm, there is the greatest danger in the Land Commission accepting the security of the land. This clause is drawn distinctly to facilitate the sale of a farm under these circumstances. (8.30.)
§ (9.6.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ (9.9.) MR. M. HEALY
It appears to me that the sub-section is based on an erroneous impression of what the law is, for under the existing law the Land Commissioners already have power to exact sufficient collateral security in such cases as the hon. Member for South Tyrone contemplates. They have exercised that power whenever they have thought fit—in fact, they have exercised it so as to call for considerable criticism in a portion of the Irish press. I do not think, therefore, that this sub-section will serve any good purpose. It seems to me that it would direct attention to a particular class of cases, and indicate to the Land Commission, in no obscure way, the intention of the legislature is that in the case of evicted tenants some additional security should be exacted. It must be remembered that a tenant who has been out of his holding for some time is likely to be a man who would experience the greatest difficulty in finding collateral security, in getting people to back his Bills. No doubt many of the holdings will have deteriorated, but when the Land Commission send down an Inspector to value the land, that Inspector will not consider it as land which could never be improved. The value of a holding is its value considering all the circumstances of the case, and taking into account the condition into which it can be brought by labour and skill. Therefore, it appears to me, that what the Land Commissioners would have to consider is not the present condition of the holding, which may have deteriorated through non-occupation, but whether the holding, having regard to all the 1671 circumstances, is worth the money the tenant asks for. If it is not of sufficient value, they will not, of course, make the advance. I am very much afraid that the effect of the sub-section will be to direct the Land Csmmission to advance any sum which the necessity of the tenant and the cupidity of the landlord combined may have made the subject of agreement. The effect of the sub-section would be in the interests of the landlord rather than in those of the tenant, and I think it would be both unnecessary and unjust to exact additional security from the evicted tenants under the circumstances referred to. It seems to me that the sub-clause would limit the discretion of the Land Commission, and induce them not to look too closely into the conditions of the purchase and the reckless bargain the landlord and tenant may have entered into. It may induce them to overlook the fact that the landlord has induced the distressed tenant to give too much for the holding. I believe that the hon. Member for South Tyrone drafted the clause with a good intention, but it appears to me it is open to grave objection, and is likely to be mischievous.
§ (9.15.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
In a very few words I think I can show the hon. Member who has just sat down and the House, that it would be to the interest of both tenant and landlord that the sub-section should remain. It cannot be expected that the landlord will take less than a fair price for the land he sells, and as any depreciation of the holding through vacancy will fall upon him rather than the tenant, the landlord will be justified in asking the same price is if the holding had been held throughout. Owing to the fact that the land has not been cultivated, the tenant's portion of the holding may be depreciated to a certain extent; but the depreciation only will be temporary. The value of the holding will not be permanently affected. Bat the Land Commissioners may say that owing to the temporary depreciation the tenant may not be able to meet his instalments for the first two or three years, and they will take the risk into account. Under these circumstances it is to the interest both of the purchasing tenant and of the selling 1672 landlord, that a sale should take place, and some provision should be introduced by which the Land Commission may sanction a sale essentially fair in itself and which they could not sanction if some such sub-section were not inserted in the clause. Observe, the question is not whether the holding will be able to cover the necessary instalments for 49 years, but whether during the first few years the tenant will be able to pay the instalments, and it seems to me most important that we should place this discretionary power in the hands of the Land Commissioners. The hon. Member for West Belfast was discussing quite another question—the general condition of the evicted. He pointed out to us that the evicted tenants have a means of obtaining credit that is not open to other tenants. I agree with that. Through obtaining the credit in question they will be able to come to an arrangement with the landlords—an arrangement similar to that which is come to by tenants who have not been evicted. In case the sub-section is rejected, I fear no landlord will be willing to sell property which has not been deteriorated permanently in value, and which, after a few years of cultivation, ought to rise to the value it would have had if the tenant had never been evicted. In conclusion, I would strongly urge the House to adhere to this subsection.
§ (9.19) MR. M. J. KENNY
The value of the landlord's interest is no depreciated, that being the article you are selling. Why, therefore, do you want additional security from the tenant? You are asking the tenant to give a collateral security of his tenant right to the State, and this is the first we have heard of it. The value of the landlord's interest cannot be depreciated, but then we come to the tenant's interest. That may be depreciated, and therefore he is called on to give security to the State. Everybody admits that when an estate goes out of cultivation it will take an industrious tenant a year or two to get it back again. The question then will arise, who caused the depreciation? It may have been through want of cultivation, or it may have been through the landlord pulling down houses as in 1673 the case of the Vandeleur Estate. We know that landlords' agents have set fire to houses and have pulled them down, and under this sub-section tenants might be called on to give security to the State on account of loss sustained through the wilful acts of the landlords. Surely nothing could be more unreasonable. Nothing could be more outrageous. Take the case of the Vandeleur Estate. The tenants on that estate would be called upon to give security for loss which they never occasioned. I am greatly at a loss to understand how this sub-section can be defended on any logical basis. I will move the following addition to the clause:—"Unless such deteriorated value has been caused by the action of the landlord." Otherwise the operation of the sub-section would be grossly inequitable.
§ (9.22.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I am quite unable to understand the object of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary or the motive of this clause. It appears to me that the only effect will be to put a difficulty in the way of the settlement of these cases. Many of the tenants will find their houses pulled down and their land covered with thistles and weeds. I think in such cases the tenants will find all their local credit exhausted in putting their house in order, and why you should impose further difficulties upon them by insisting upon security I cannot understand. I should have thought that the better plan would have been to relieve the tenants when they are first placed in their holdings from the operations of the first subsection of Clause 5, so as to enable them to obtain the full benefit of the reduction of their previous rent. It appears to me that the only effect of the sub-section will be to make arrangements far more difficult, and practically to interfere with the whole object the hon. Member has in view.
§ (9.25.) MR. JORDAN
I think this sub-section can do no good, and may do a considerable amount of harm. It was not in the first draft of the new clause, and it was only after second thoughts, or 1674 further inspiration, that the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) introduced it. It is objectionable in many ways. It throws on the Land Commission the assumption that the holding is temporarily deteriorated. I know something about land, and, as a matter of fact, the landlord's interest in the holding is not deteriorated because the land has not been cultivated for a few years. The hon. Member has ridden about on an outside car in summer time, and has seen the hay growing on derelict farms, and concluded that it was weeds and thistles. As a matter of fact, if these things are allowed to rot they enrich the land. ["Oh, oh!"] It is so. I am not a literary character, like the hon. Member for Tyrone. I worked on a farm in the early part of my life, and I know what I am talking about. If a tenant is evicted it is difficult for him to obtain security. He may receive doles from associations, but security is another thing. His own note of hand will not be taken as security, and I assure the House it is a most difficult thing for small farmers to obtain security to the extent of £5 or £10. Neighbours sympathise with them, but if you ask a neighbour to put his name upon stamped paper he will hesitate for fear of the consequences. I know it is most difficult to get people to put their names on a note, even for amounts due by themselves to shopkeepers. One would think, from the way in which this clause is drawn, that you were dealing, not with Irish farms, but with London houses in regard to which there is an engagement to paint and paper at certain periods. I think that if any person is to give security, it should not be the tenant; and if any person is to be compensated for temporary depreciation, it should be the tenant. In the case of the tenants on the Vandeleur Estate, the arbitrators assessed their loss at a sum equal to four years' rent. I do not say that that was not excessive; but it is clear that the tenants were entitled to compensation for the loss occasioned by their eviction. In this case I would neitherassess damages against the tenant nor the landlord; and I maintain that, under all the circumstances of the case, this is a bad sub-section, and one only adopted on second thoughts.
§ (9.32.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN,) Dublin University
I venture to express a hope that the hon. Gentleman who has moved the omission of the sub-section will not press his Motion. We have had an interesting lecture from the hon. Member who has just sat down on practical agriculture; and I am far from denying his right to speak with authority on the subject. It is, no doubt, true that certain classes of farms will not deteriorate by allowing hay and grass to rot on them; but, on the other hand, many farms will deteriorate if left uncultivated. In such a case, although the tenant is anxious to buy, the Land Commission may think the land, owing to deterioration, not a sufficient security, and the tenant's application to purchase will be refused: It is, therefore, in the interest of the tenant that the sub-section should be retained. It is said that the difficulty as to security may be met by dispensing with the Insurance Fund. But, surely, it would not be a sound principle to dispense with the Insurance Fund in a case which is ex hypothesi a risky one. On the whole, I think this sub-section a most valuable portion of the clause, because it would render possible transactions which would otherwise be impossible.
§ (9.36.) SIR G. TREVELYAN
The right hon. Gentleman has left out of sight the fact that it is the Treasury who are buying those farms, and that they are doing so at a greater price than their selling value. The right hon. Gentleman has been deceived by the phrase which has been used so frequently to-day—the tenant-purchaser. It is not the tenant who buys the farm. The Treasury buys, and has to recover during the next half century the capital value of the land by instalments paid in addition to the rent. Now the Treasury is asked to buy these farms for greater than their actual selling value. This is a sub-section put forward, not in the interest of the Treasury or of the tenant, but solely in the interest of the landlord, in order that he may get a higher price for the land. It is not in the interest of the tenant, for he, in some way or other, 1676 will have to pay annual instalments which will represent more than the selling value of the land. If this land had to be sold, not in Ireland, but in England, does the right hon. Gentleman opposite mean to say that it would sell for as much if deteriorated as it would if it were not deteriorated? We are bound to put ourselves into the position of the landlords who are selling the land, and I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom I see present, if private individuals would buy deteriorated land for as large a capital sum as they would give for land which was not deteriorated? No one in his senses would say that they would. And I would ask this: Would any English landlord wish to buy an estate with such terms upon it, and with tenants in such a condition that the only means they had of paying rent was by borrowing money. Everybody knows that a material reduction in the selling price would be made under such circumstances. I hold, therefore, that any deduction which in such circumstances would be made in a private contract, ought also to be made in a public contract. The sub-section would not be in the interest of the State or the tenant, who would have to find the security. It would be in the interest of the landlord, and that alone.
§ (9.40.) MR. COLLERY (Sligo, N.)
The credit of the evicted tenants is at present at such a low ebb that no sensible man would become security for them, and, therefore, if security is insisted upon, it will simply be taking away with one hand what you have given with the other. If this sub-section is retained it will practically put a stop to the purchase of farms by evicted tenants.
§ MR. PIERCE MAHONY
I cannot understand on what grounds it can be necessary to require further security from the tenant, because the property that would be deteriorated would not be the landlord's property, but the tenant's interest. I know that it has been the practice of the Land Commissioners to agree to the sale of farms that have somewhat deteriorated under similar circumstances on the landlord increasing the amount of the guarantee deposit. I desire to ask if this passes in 1677 its present form, will it be in the power of the Land Commission to permit the landlord to increase the guarantee deposit instead of requiring the tenant's security, or will this operate as a direction to the Land Commission not to advance the money under the circumstances unless there is that security?
§ (9.46.) The House divided:—Ayes 105; Noes 65.—(Div. List, No. 265.)
§ (9.57.) MR. M. J. KENNY
I beg to move to add to the sub-section words providing that the Land Commission shall not make the advance, even upon the purchaser giving sufficient security, where the deteriorated value has been caused by the action of the landlord. I trust the hon. Member who has moved the clause will see his way to accept the Amendment. The clause will Act as a mandatory provision to the Land Commission, and the Commission, when the valuer reports that the land has been deteriorated, will be bound under it to demand security on account of that deterioration. Take the case where the deterioration has been the burning or pulling down of a house by the landlord, surely in such a case the tenant should not be called in to give an increased security. I think the deterioration should be confined to that which has taken place through the action of the tenant.
§ Amendment proposed, at the end of the Clause, to add the words "unless such deterioration in value has been caused by the action of the landlord."—(Mr. Matthew Kenny.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I would ask the hon. Member what he would do in cases where the injury to the house has occurred through the tenant resisting eviction?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
Then I say there has been scarcely one case of injury to property which has not resulted from the resistance of the tenant.
§ Question put, and negatived.1678
§ (10.2.) MR. PIERCE MAHONY
I have now to move an Amendment to come in after the word "depreciation," in the following terms: "Unless the landlord shall consent to increase the guarantee deposit to the amount that will satisfy the Land Commission." There may be cases in which the tenant may find it impossible to get the required security, but in which the landlord might be willing to meet the difficulty in this way. I know of several cases where the landlord, after having come to terms with his tenant, reinstating him for the purpose of enabling him to make application to the Land Commission for a loan; the Land Commission have refused to sanction the loan, on the ground of deterioration of the holding, but have subsequently sanctioned it upon the landlord agreeing to increase his guarantee deposit. I think the Amendment might allow a certain additional number of cases to come within the clause when the tenant cannot find the required security.
At the end of the Clause, to add the words "unless the landlord consent to increase the guarantee deposit to an amount which shall satisfy the Land Commission."—(Mr. Mahony.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ (10.5.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I do not think this Amendment can be accepted, nor would it promote settlements. In most cases the landlord would not be in a position to act in this way, having had no rent for years. If the tenant requires help, he may get it from the neighbouring tenants, or from those friends to whom the hon. Member for West Belfast has alluded, who are so deeply interested in the tenant's welfare.
§ MR. SEXTON
This last remark is a curious illustration of how much ignorance may prevail, even among those who are nominally Irish representatives. I never said that the tenant's friends would assist in finding security. I said in reference to the suggestion that the evicted tenants were paupers, that they would receive help on being restored to their holding in resuming the cultivation. A sack of oats for seed, a supply of food on the security of the coming crop, is a very different thing to an unlettered man to putting 1679 his hand to paper, becoming security for a legal claim. The hon. Member has mistaken the purpose of the Amendment. Instead of the Land Commission exacting an increased guarantee deposit, there is no question of "shall," but the landlord "may" if he pleases increase the guarantee to carry through the transaction. But I may direct attention to the third section of the Act of 1885, and by that I believe that if the landlord, or anybody else, is willing to increase the amount of guarantee there is nothing to prevent this being done.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am bound to say I think the Amendment standing next in the name of the hon. Member is inadmissible. The House has been dealing with the case of farms vacant, or in the occupation of the landlord, but the hon. Gentleman now proposes that where the holding is in the occupation of a new tenant an agreement between the landlord and the former tenant shall operate as a determination of the new tenancy. This is a compulsory action, whereas action under the clause is voluntary. The proposed Amendment is not relevant to this clause, and it would not be in order to move it.
§ MR. SEXTON
Perhaps, Sir, you will allow me to explain that the clause deals not only with derelict farms, but with farms in the occupation of the landlords. Secondly, the question decided is that where a sitting tenant wishes to purchase, and the evicted tenant offers a higher price, the offer of the evicted tenant shall be accepted.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman introduces entirely new matter by his proposal, he introduces the question of compensation.
§ MR. SEXTON
I suppose, Sir, I should be entitled to raise the question in the form of a new clause?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must see the clause first. It is a question of how far it is consistent with the decision of the House, that negotiations should be concluded under which the Land Commission would 1680 be bound to put the former tenant over the head of the existing tenant.
§ MR. SEXTON
The objection might be met by the introduction of the words "with the consent of the person aforesaid."
§ MR. SPEAKER
Then I fall back on the original objection that it has nothing to do with the clause with which we are now dealing.
§ Clause, as amended, added.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The clause would not be in order. The introduction of a new tenant over the head of the sitting tenant would be disabling not an enabling clause.
§ (10.14.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL
The clause I have now to propose is a very simple one, but it will, I think, conduce to the efficient working of the Act. It is a proposal that where an agreement has been made between landlord and tenant the Land Commission shall have power to settle disputes as to boundaries, rights of way, and matters of that kind. The right of way to, and use of, a well, for instance, is often a matter of dispute, and it is desirable that the Commission in effecting the sale of an estate should have the power of settling such disputes and so preventing future litigation. It is a simple clause and I hope it will be accepted.
§ New Clause—
§ (Power of Land Commission to determine disputes between tenants.)
Where any tenants of an estate have agreed to purchase their holdings under the Land Purchase Acts, the Land Commission shall have power, if they think fit, to determine for the purposes of the sale, all questions which may arise respecting the boundaries of the holdings, easements, turbary, or appurtenances claimed by any of the tenants of such estate against any other such tenants of the same estate; but if the Land Commission think it expedient to refer the matter to the decision of an ordinary court, they shall not be bound to determine the matter under this section,"—(Mr. T. W. Russell,)
—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."1681
§ (10.15.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N)
This, I think, will prove a most useful clause. I know disputes of this kind do continually arise, and they will continually arise under this Bill. If they are peaceful people they settle the dispute among themselves, but if they are fond of litigation, they go to Quarter Sessions, where the Chairman leaves it to the landlord, who does often settle the matter after a fashion. Certainly I think these are matters the Land Commission might very well decide, it will save the tenants from possible expense and discourage the habit of constant litigation.
§ COLONEL WARING (Down, N.)
I hold an entirely opposite opinion to that of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down. If the clause is agreed to the Land Commission will have to investigate many small and infinitesimal questions, and great delay will arise in consequence of the Commission doing this work. We, who know Irish life, are familiar with these local disputes, and I think they had better be left to the rough but efficient methods of settlement indicated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. The landlord does not like the duty, but he is the person best acquainted with the facts, and is not personally interested. I shall vote against the clause.
§ (10.17.) MR. M. HEALY
I quite agree that when the purchase of a holding is effected, there may be a constant tendency to litigation over questions of right of way, of turbary, bog, seaweed, and questions of that kind, and if any official procedure could be desired by which a satisfactory settlement could be arrived at without resort to a Court of law, I shall support it. But I have carefully read the clause proposed by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, and it seems to me it proposes an inadequate method of dealing with such questions, and will introduce enormous obstacles in the way of land purchase. What has happened in the Land Purchase Court? By virtue of the Act of 1887, there are powers existing by which the Land Commission can hold an inquiry such as is held in the Landed Estates Court; but they have wisely refused to exercise 1682 those powers, because it would involve the going through that process which renders a sale in the Landed Estates Court such an enormous burden to the parties concerned. When an estate is sold in that Court the rights of everybody have to be ascertained, every conceivable right has to be adjusted, and the Court has been compelled to enact a series of rules, and the sale is a most costly and elaborate proceeding. More than that, I think the endeavour to prevent litigation by the definition of rights will lead to more litigation than if those rights are left at large. For more than 40 years the learned Judges in the Landed Estates Court have gone on trying to settle these rights, and though they have done it efficiently, it has been at the expense of an enormous delay in the business of the Court. The Land Purchase Commissioners have the same power under the existing law, and may proceed by vesting order, having the same effect as a Landed Estates Court conveyance, but wisely they have decided not to do this, because it would involve elaborate inquiry and long delay. In the Landed Estates Court these inquiries are only made as between estates, but the Land Purchase Commissioners would have to make these inquiries as between different holdings on an estate, so it appears to me the task imposed upon the Commissioners would be highly calculated to enormously delay the proceedings in their Court. I am desirous that the Land Commission should decide such matters if it could be done cheaply, and without delay, but I doubt the possibility of that. I certainly cannot advise acceptance of the clause.
§ (10.21.) MR. MACARTNEY
I sympathise with the object of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, but there are so many difficulties in the way of arriving at the object aimed at by the clause, that I hope my hon. Friend will not press it. Anybody who knows anything of Irish agrarian life, knows how many questions of this kind arise. I feel certain that, while agreeing with the hon. and gallant Member opposite that there would be an advantage in the Land Commission deciding such questions, they could not do so without an expenditure of time and trouble they 1683 cannot afford. I think the tenants themselves would not desire to see their right, real or supposed, decided by a tribunal like the Land Commission. It would deprive Irish country life of all excitement if, after abolishing the landlord you take away from the Irish tenant one of the first joys of life, "having the law" of his neighbour. There is in my neighbourhood a well, access to which has been the cause of numerous faction fights and proceedings rising therefrom, and some actions for slander and libel, and I am not sure that a countryman of mine is not now undergoing penal servitude as the result of a part he took in a fight in reference to this well. I do not believe that the Land Commission could ever discharge this task if it were imposed upon them, and if their decision were made a condition, I am afraid it would put an end to negotiations for purchase.
§ (10.24.) MR. M. J. KENNY
The 9th clause of the Ashbourne Act gives powers identical with these, with the exception of the rights of turbary, but this section has remained inoperative, so that manifestly the Land Commission is not a competent tribunal to decide questions of boundaries, rights of way, easements, and so on. Those familiar with matters in the County Courts of Ireland, know how these questions are raised; how from 20 to 40 witnesses are ranged on one side, and a like number on the other, how maps and plans are produced and proved by engineers, how the oldest inhabitant is brought up to depose that nobody ever went that way without the consent of plaintiff, and the next oldest inhabitant asserts that it has been the custom to pass that way without any man's leave. If the Land Commission is going to undertake the settlement of these questions there is no limit to the time that will be required to get through the sale of one estate.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have listened with considerable interest to the discussion, and I sympathise with the object my hon. Friend has in view, but as it appears that hon. Members from Ireland consider that their countrymen have a natural taste for litigation, from the indulgence of which it would 1684 be cruel to deprive them. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone will not run counter to the national proclivities, but will withdraw the clause.
§ (10.30.) MR. PIERCE MAHONY
Despite the natural proclivities, I hope the hon. Member will not withdraw the clause. I have not forgotten the remarks the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland addressed to the barristers at Cork. The learned Judge congratulated the Members of the Bar on the prospect of increased litigation, owing to the passing of the Land Purchase Act. I think this clause is calculated to diminish litigation, and that is my reason for giving it my most cordial support. The junior Member for Cork (Mr. M. Healy) referred to the fact that the Landed Estates Court has to define all rights, and that that leads to great delay in carrying out sales. Yes, but what is proposed by this clause is a totally different matter. The Landed Estates Court has to make the most careful inquiry; they have to serve notice on every interested party, and once they have completed their inquiries no one can go behind them. The hon. Member for South Tyrone does not propose that the Land Commission should do anything of the kind. He only proposes that where an application is definitely made to them they should be empowered to come to a decision. If there is difficulty in coming to a decision, if it appears to the Land Commissioners that the inquiry would cause delay, all they have to do is to refuse to come to a decision, and send the matter to some other Court. If the clause is read a second time, I think it would be worth the while of the hon. Member to consider whether it would not be wise to accept an Amendment empowering the Land Commissioners to make inquiry in cases of this kind through a sub-commissioner on the spot.
§ (10.35.) MR. KNOX
My objection to the clause is not at all that of the hon. Member for South Antrim. The hon. Member seemed to object to the provision on the ground that it would stop litigation. I think it would cause increased litigation; that it would cause a whole crop of claims to arise on the 1685 occasion of a sale. Sub-section 2 of Section 9 of the Ashbourne Act of 1885, has not been used in many cases because it was felt that if it was once proposed to inquire into every easement affecting the holding there would be such a long course of litigation that the sales would not be sanctioned for perhaps many years. The Land Commissioners felt they really could not go into these matters. Though sometimes, unfortunately, there may be litigation, as a rule these questions settle themselves. I have known cases in which tenants have ruined themselves by litigation over trifling rights of way, but for one case in which there has been litigation, there have been half a dozen cases of dispute in which there has been no litigation. If this clause were passed there would be an inducement to the tenants who have any dispute with their neighbours to make claims, and there would be litigation lasting I do not know how long before the sale could be carried out. This Amendment is not, therefore, to be desired in the interest of the tenants, whereas it is greatly to be desired in the interest of the lawyers.
§ MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
One thing has struck me, and that is the clause has been opposed almost altogether by lawyers in the House. That is sufficient to cause one to be a little suspicious. The hon. Member for Mid Tyrone says the clause does not differ from the clause in the Land Act of 1881. If that is the case, what possible objection can there be to it? I know that the late Land Commissioners, Mr. Litton and Mr. Justice O'Hagan, longed that there was some such clause as this, which would give them power to settle disputes very much to the benefit of the tenants. This is essentially a clause in the interest of the tenants, and one the House ought to pass when it is passing an Act for the benefit of the tenants.
§ MR. MADDEN
If the House has to come to a decision upon the clause it is well to have a clear understanding as to how the clause will affect the existing law. It is not the fact that all that the clause proposes can be done by the Commissioners under the powers of the 9th section of 1686 the Act of 1885. Under that section the decision of the Commissioners can only apply to a vesting order, and not to advances to complete sales by conveyance. But a greater difference is that under the Act of 1885 the Commissioners must either leave the rights, easements, and boundaries wholly undetermined, or they must determine every right or easement affecting the holding, while under the present clause the Commissioners may without going into the question of easements generally decide any little twopenny-halfpenny question that barred the way to an agreement, not touching other details. The Commissioners may determine, if they choose, some question affecting a boundary or pathway, without going into the whole question, and this specific power may be usefully exercised.
§ MR. JORDAN
The fact that this clause is opposed by the lawyers of the House is one reason that commends it to my support. If this clause will only prevent the ruinous litigation which takes place in Ireland it will be most valuable. I know of one case where the rent was ¾d. a year, and where two neighbouring tenants spent hundreds of pounds in litigation, collecting the money for the legal expenses from their friends. If the sale of the land was conditional upon the consent of the tenants to settle these easements the tenants would soon come to terms. Instead of retarding sales this clause will facilitate them.
§ MR. SMITH-BARRY
I think that this proposal, although made with the best intention, is scarcely likely to carry out its object. I am afraid it will lead to more litigation than is supposed, but perhaps if the hon. Member were to amend his clause by inserting the words "at the request of the tenants," all objections might be met.
§ (10.45.) The House divided:—Ayes 184; Noes 47.—(Div. List, No. 266.)
§ (10.58.) MR. M. HEALY
I beg to propose, after the word "where," at the commencement of the clause, to leave out the word "any," and insert "all the tenants." As the clause stands, any one tenant who purchases his holding has the right to cite any other tenants before 1687 the Land Commission. When all the tenants on an estate purchase, and when the land passes completely out of the landlord's hands, you may well say the Land Commission shall have power to adjudicate on the rights of the tenant, but where only a fractional part of the tenants purchase, I am surprised it is proposed that one or two tenants purchasing shall have the power to drag all the other tenants before the Land Commission, and have the Land Commission determine summarily all questions relating to boundaries, and so on. I say there is no justification whatever for taking the case out of the charge of the ordinary legal tribunal, and I am amazed that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should have consented to do so. I beg to move the substitution of the words "all the" for "any."
§ Amendment proposed, after the first word "Where," to leave out the word "any," in order to insert the words "all the,"—(Mr. M. Healy,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'any' stand part of the Clause."
§ (11.3.) MR. MADDEN
The Government cannot accept that Amendment. The clause will, however, have to be altered slightly, in order to make the intention of the House clear.
§ MR. KNOX
I think the clause by no means meets the necessities of the case. It is almost impossible to imagine how a question of turbary can be decided under it as it stands, without prejudicing the interests of adjoining tenants. In the case of a dispute between a landlord and a purchaser the Court may come to a decision without knowing about the claims of adjoining tenants who have not purchased, and seriously affect their interests. I think the clause should only apply to those cases in which the whole of the tenants on an estate have agreed to purchase at once.
§ (11.6.) MR. SEXTON
The question of turbary may be common to all the tenants on an estate. Yet by this exceedingly raw and crude proposal two or three of the tenants who happen to buy may go into the Land Commission Court and have a question settled which affects not only them, but numbers of other 1688 tenants. I think that would be most disastrous. I cannot imagine why it is necessary thus to pile question upon question, involving delay and expense. Why should this matter be taken out of the hands of that cheap tribunal—the County Court?
§ MR. MADDEN
If the alteration is made which I have to suggest the jurisdiction will only exist in cases where the claim is made by one purchasing tenant against another, and against him alone.
§ (11.8.) COLONEL WARING
This proposition appears to complicate things considerably. A tenant may buy his farm. He may have a dispute with the adjoining tenants, one of whom has purchased, while the other has not. In one case he will be obliged to go before the Land Commission, and in the other before the County Court Judge. Is that simplifying the matter? The arrangement now in force works very well, and the alteration will only lead to confusion.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
The hon. and gallant Member for South Antrim described just now how many dozens of heads were broken over one of these disputes. I really think the House ought not to whittle down the effects of the last Division. It was by no means a Party vote. I am well acquainted with this question of turbary, and I declare that neither this nor any other clause will settle it.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ (11.12.) MR. MACARTNEY
I wish to move to insert, in line 2, after the word "shall," the words "if requested by them." I am strongly opposed to this clause. Great difficulties will be created on estates where only a portion of the holdings have been sold.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 2, after the word "shall," to insert the words "if requested by them." — (Mr. Macartney)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (11.14.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If I may offer advice to my hon. Friend opposite, it will be that he should accept this Amendment. I am not quite sure whether the words proposed are the best 1689 likely to carry out his intention. I understand his object is to leave it to the contracting parties to voluntarily bring in the Land Commission as judges in this matter. Probably the best words would be "if they think fit," or "where the agreement for sale so provides." It would conduce to the harmony of these proceedings if some such Amendment were accepted.
§ MR. SEXTON
If such a suggestion bad been made half an hour ago by the right hon. Gentleman it would have saved much debate.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Other Amendments made.
§ (11.21.) MR. PIERCE MAHONY
In line 6 I propose to add words giving the power to appoint Sub-Commissioners for the purpose of enabling them to hold a local inquiry.
In line 6, after the word "estate," to insert the words "and may appoint a Sub-Commission for the purpose of holding any inquiry which they may deem necessary." —(Mr. Pierce Mahony.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (11.21.) MR. M. HEALY
My opinion is that at present the Land Purchase Commissioners have no power to appoint Sub-Commissioners. This would consequently be an innovation of doubtful wisdom. If when you have one County Court Judge doing work of this kind you dispense with his services and appoint three gentlemen in Dublin, you will have to send them into the country to decide a trumpery case which might well have been left to the County Court Judge.
§ (11.25.) COLONEL WARING
I take it the Land Commissioners will be men of common sense, and after what has been said they probably will not trouble themselves at all about this clause.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
I beg to move the omission of the last three lines of the clause. I think they are totally unnecessary.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "but" to end of Clause. —(Mr. M. J. Kenny.)
§ (11.27.) MR. M. HEALY
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us what will be the nature of the procedure of this Court? Will it proceed by affidavit, or take evidence in Court? What does the clause as it stands mean? I have not the slightest idea.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause as amended, be added to the Bill."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I shall take the sense of the House upon this clause. I regard it as a thoroughly bad one. It is utter nonsense. The only hope I have is that the Land Commission will exercise common sense, and refuse to put the clause into operation. We are now told that it will only operate in the case of simple disputes. In the course of my experience in the Law Courts I have never heard of such a limitation. There was no procedure laid down in the clause, but whatever manner of deciding the case is adopted, it will necessarily be imperfect and unsatisfactory.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 144; Noes 85.—(Div. List, No. 267.)
§ MR. SEXTON
I rise to order. I submit that the clause standing in the hon. Member's name is one that cannot be accepted, inasmuch as it is in direct contravention of Clause 14.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Inasmuch as the Land Commission have jurisdiction in matters included in this Bill, I think a clause dealing with the powers of the Land Commissioners would be in order.
§ MR. SEXTON
I shall oppose the Motion, and I cannot see why we should be placed at a disadvantage by the hon. Member. If it is pressed I shall divide.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
This is probably one of the most important questions that can be dealt with in the whole Bill, and there should be ample time for its consideration.
§ MR. LEA
The new clause I have to move is as follows:—Nothing in section seventeen of 'The Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1885,' shall be deemed to limit the jurisdiction of any member of the Land Commission under Part V. of 'The Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, and the Acts amending the same, and anything done by any member of the Land Commission in carrying the said Acts into effect shall be as valid and effectual as if it were done by the Land Commission: Provided that any person aggrieved by the decision of any Commissioner acting alone in carrying the said Acts into effect, may require his case to be reheard by three Commissioners, of whom the Judicial Commissioner shall be one, but none of such Commissioners shall be the Commissioner before whom the case was originally heard.All rules to be made by the Land Commission for carrying into effect the Land Purchase Acts, as amended by this Act, shall be made by a majority of the Commissioners, which majority shall include the Judicial Commissioner.The hon. Member for West Belfast complained of disadvantage, but I believe the greatest disadvantage will be to myself; for when I withdrew my clause in Committee the hon. Member said he would make it hard for me on the Report stage. In having to move the clause at this hour—close upon 12 o'clock—I shall not be able to reply to the numerous speeches which hon. Members will make, so that the advantage lies with those gentlemen. This clause stood first in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone; but, owing to illness, he did not move it, and I adopted it in principle, though not in words. I am rather surprised that during the Debates we have heard so little with regard to the question of administration; and yet it is one almost more important than legislation itself. Ulster has never been properly considered in this question of administration. Over and over again complaint has been made that that province is scarcely represented on the Land Commission, and not at all on the Land Purchase Commission. A good many people might fancy that there is no further need 1692 of administration with regard to this matter; but in four or five important particulars the Bill is entirely different to the system of the Ashbourne Act or that which the Land Purchase Commissioners had to administer up to the present time, and these are reasons why the present Land Purchase Commissioners, as at present constituted, cannot properly administer this Bill.
§ It being Midnight, Further Proceeding on Consideration, as amended, stood adjourned.
§ Bill, as amended, to be further considered to-morrow.