§ As amended, further considered.
§ (4.20.) MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
I beg to move the new clause standing in my name—"Powers of Land Commission." I was moving this clause when the Debate stood adjourned last night. I wish to ask why, under this Bill, we should incur the expenditure involved in the appointment of Special Commissioners, with a separate staff, when, by judicious management, we can avoid such expenditure? I do not intend to make an attack upon the Commissioners. The two gentlemen who have had charge of the Ashbourne Acts have worked well, and I desire to give them every credit. I know there have been complaints of delay and of the employment of 1730 too many solicitors; but such complaints would, I am afraid, be incident to any system of legislation. It is, however, an important question that neither of them pretend to have any special knowledge of agricultural land, and, in my opinion, that fact depreciates their value as Land Purchase Commissioners. Since the Act of 1887 the Land Purchase Commissioners have had power to make rules and regulations for carrying out the scheme of land purchase, but I do not think that it was really intended when the measure was passed that these two gentlemen should have such power exclusively, and, therefore, by my clause I propose to give the power of making rules and regulations to the whole of the Land Commission. The present mode of administering the Acts relating to land purchase is not always satisfactory. I will give an example. Three or fours years ago a landlord and tenants agreed for the purchase by the latter of a townland in Antrim. The Land Purchase Commissioners sent a valuer to view the land in February, when it was covered by three or four inches of snow. The valuer simply asked to see the boundaries, and then made the usual secret Report, with the result that the Commission declined to advance the purchase money unless the holding was sold for three years' less purchase than the landlord and tenant originally contemplated. The valuer in this case had acquired experience in Mayo, and it was ridiculous to send him to value land in Antrim, where quite a different state of things prevailed. Undoubtedly the system works badly. Cases of this kind show the necessity of granting an appeal, and it is to provide an appeal in such cases that part of my clause has been framed. If by a better administration of the land purchase scheme the costs incurred by tenants could be lessened it would be a very good thing. Not very long ago some glebe purchasers in my own constituency complained to me they were mulcted of £25 for legal expenses, the sum involved in the transaction being only about £100 to £150 Hon. Members may say that some of the objects which I have in view would be accomplished if a new Commissioner is appointed under this Bill. But why incur the expense of this new appoint- 1731 ment when the Commissioners who are at present administering the fair rent clauses of the Land Acts can be utilised to do the work? In a year or two the great bulk of the fair rent cases will be disposed of, and the appeals, we may hope, will have been cleared off long before any appeals under my clause would be ready for hearing. The Fair Rent Commissioners had had practical experience in all parts of Ireland; and to utilise their services would certainly be wise. The Sub-Commissioners on the staff of the Land Commission could be used just as well as any staff of valuers sent down by the Land Purchase Commission; and if only on the ground of economy, I think it is desirable that course should be adopted. I am not going to say that Mr. Wrench is regarded with the same popular sympathies as the late Mr. Lytton and the late Mr. Justice O'Hagan, but he has the traditions of the office to guide him. The Commissioners will know that if they make any serious mistake in the administration of the Act they will be held responsible. I am sure these gentlemen will rise to the occasion, and make the Bill as great a success as they can. If Mr. Wrench and Mr. Fitzgerald are fit to fix fair rents they are fit to work this Bill. On the ground of economy and of efficient administration I beg to move the clause now on the Paper.
§ New Clause—
§ (Powers of Land Commissioners.)
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 re-heard 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,"—(Mr. Lea)
—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second, time."
§ (4.28.) MR.SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
By this modest clause of seven propositions a private Member of the House in a Debate upon a Government Bill proposes to overturn the whole administrative system of the Irish Land Commission, and to substitute something altogether different. This proposal is made by a private Member with regard to the one solitary Department of State in Ireland which in six years of administration has gathered to itself the general approval of the country. I challenge denial of that statement. That is the Department which the Member for South Derry, who appears on this occasion as the agent and instrument of the Irish landlords, proposes to overturn.
§ MR. SEXTON
I very much doubt it. I ask why the Government have not proposed this clause themselves? They have sent out a four-lined whip calling on their friends to support the clause, which they describe as most important. If so, why did they not propose it? Every year the Land Commission, which, by its constitution, worked in two Departments—the Rent Department and the Purchase Department—made two Reports, nominally to the Lord Lieutenant, but really to the Chief Secretary, who had the best opportunity of judging. The right hon. Gentleman introduced last year a Bill which related to the Land Department as well as to the question of purchase; why did he not include this clause?, Then the right hon. Gentleman brought in another Bill, and had another year's experience. Why has not the House heard a single word until the hon. Member brings it forward of a matter which is one of capital importance? Is it fair that the Representatives of Ireland, who have a right to expect notice, and to get time to confer with their constituents, on a subject which has been on the stocks for two years, should have to wait for the Report stage of the Bill before the matter comes up? The Government have abstained from the discharge of a manifest duty if they think this clause 1733 is required. The history of the clause is very peculiar. By a very convenient and very economical arrangement the Government have a subsidiary administration on the Opposition side of the House. On the Front Opposition Bench they have two Ministers without a portfolio, and on the back Bench two Under Secretaries without responsibility. One of those unavowed Under Secretaries undertook to move this clause; the other was to have moved it previously. In his absence the Member for South Derry moved it in Committee before the holidays, but withdrew it, and did not bring it up after the holidays until it appeared on the Report stage. Am I not entitled to say that there is something extremely tortuous in the proceedings with regard to this clause? The hon. Member said last night that administration was as important as legislation. There is another Bill which we expected until a few days ago. Whenever that Bill comes on, as it will next year, that will be the time for discussing this clause. What case has the hon. Member attempted to make out for the clause? He said some things so marvellously irrelevant that I cannot think they sprang from the hon. Member's own intelligence. The hon. Member spoke of the utility of the Sub-Commissioners in determining the value of land. There is nothing to prevent the Sub-Commissioners from assisting the Chief Commissioners. The first point the hon. Member made was that Ulster is not represented in the Land Commission.
§ MR. SEXTON
But Ulster will not be represented if the clause be carried. Mr. Justice Bewley, a Dublin Judge, will not represent Ulster, neither will Mr. Gerald Fitzgerald, a barrister from the Munster Circuit, and a County Court Judge of Leinster. Mr. Wrench, some time a land agent in Leinster, cannot be said to represent Ulster. But has Ulster suffered at the hand of the present Purchase Commissioners, or has it any cause of complaint? In the last five years the two Purchase Commissioners have sanctioned loans amounting to £7,300,000. How are they distributed in the four Provinces? Con- 1734 naught receives £400,000, Leinster £1,800,000, Munster £2,300,000, and Ulster £2,700,000; so that Ulster receives considerably more than a third of the whole amount. Out of 13,700 loans Ulster receives more than a half of the loans sanctioned. I maintain that on every ground the Purchase Commissioners must be regarded as more competent men for the administration of purchase than the men who constitute the Rent Department. Mr. Lynch and Mr. MacCarthy have six years' service and are senior to the Rent Commissioners. Mr. Lynch has enjoyed an unrivalled experience in the sale and purchase of land before he became a Commissioner, while Mr. MacCarthy was for 30 years a solicitor in practice dealing with the purchase and sale of land, and no two men can be found whose experience is greater or more diversified in this particular branch of administration. But the proposal of the hon. Member is to supplement the ability of those two men in dealing with questions of purchase by allowing the intrusion into their department of men who have no experience and no particular knowledge in fixing the capital value of land. Surely it is not necessary to be a tiller of land to acquire a knowledge of its capital value; and yet it seems to me that the proposal of the hon. Member in its naked deformity is to humiliate those two officials, and in my judgment to degrade them, after six years' service, in the course of which they have conducted themselves with unexampled success, by disturbing them in the discharge of their functions, by thrusting upon them the services of three men, juniors in point of service, inferiors in point of experience, and of no experience at all in fixing the capital value of land. There are two departments of the Land Commission. One is sound and the other is unsound. The hon. Member proposes to leave alone the department which is unsound and to tinker the department which is sound. The Rent Commissioners are greatly in arrear with their work, and I should not have been surprised had the proposal been to call in the aid of Mr. Lynch and Mr. MacCarthy to assist those Commissioners in making headway with the arrears. A Return of the Land Commission shows up to February last the 1735 condition of fair rent appeals. By the last year's Report it appears that the number of appeals lodged before the Fair Rent Commission was actually in excess of the number they were able to deal with during the year, and this shows that the arrears are increasing from day to day. In February last the number of appeals heard by the Rent Commissioners during the month was 233, and the number lodged was 211; and yet the hon. Member proposes to add new functions to that body, that they should be taken away from their own work and should be asked to give assistance to the Purchase Commissioners. There are indeed 6,400 appeals in arrear before the Rent Commission. At the rate at which they are discharging them it will take nearly three years to clear off those arrears, while at the same time new arrears are coming in as rapidly as they are being dealt with. The truth is that the inspiration of this clause is to be sought for in the cupidity of a group of greedy vendors, who hope that if the control is taken away from Mr. Lynch and Mr. MacCarthy they may be able to find a more pliant and more favourable authority for the reception of their claims. I wish to direct the attention of the Chief Secretary to a very significant sentence in the last Report of the Commissioners.We anticipate that many of the more recent applications rejected by us will be renewed on the basis of a reduced advance.I have no doubt that if these Commissioners are deprived of the control of the matter many thousands of these applications will be renewed, either on the basis of a reduced or on that of the original grant. I am entitled to speak of the success of the Purchase Commission, for I find that in six years the Purchase Commissioners have issued 13,731 loans to tenants in the four provinces of Ireland, representing an aggregate of £5,700,000. Last year the arrears did not exceed £2,000; only 27 farms have been offered for sale, and 24 sold. I challenge the hon. Gentleman to mention any other Department of Irish administration which can come forward with such a record, and I resent and condemn any attempt to cast a slur upon the diligence and public virtue and efficiency of these Commissioners. I protest against any proposal to cast in on top of 1736 them men who have proved themselves to be, if not inefficient, incompetent to discharging diligently their own work. The work of the Purchase Commissioners will be easier for the next five years to come. They will have nothing to do with the Guarantee Fund, or with levying money on a county. And in regard to the congested districts, the duty of making Reports to the Lord Lieutenant will net much trouble men like Mr. MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch, whilst after the Reports have been once made the work will be clerical, and it will only be a question of having an adequate staff. The hon. Member appears to think it would be an improvement if the rules were made by the five Commissioners, including the three who know nothing about land purchase, but until the hon. Member makes out some concrete case, I decline to consider that part of the proposal as worthy of serious consideration. I contend that no case has been made out on behalf of this clause. While the work of the Purchase Department has been efficiently transacted, the right hon. Gentleman knows very well that he is often troubled with questions as to tenants being kept waiting for months and for years for the decision of the Land Commissioners. His attention has been drawn to cases where the Land Commissioners have put tenants to unnecessary expense by making them travel long distances. For instance, they compelled many tenants to travel from Wexford to Dublin to have their appeals tried, whereas the Court might just as well have sat at Wexford. Again, if the Land Commissioners are to undertake this work, it will be much interrupted by the constant necessity of travelling from one end of Ireland to the other to discharge their present functions. Instead of the adoption of the proposals contained in this clause leading to speed and economy, delay and infinite expense will be the outcome, and the result will be disastrous to both landlord and tenant. My impression is that even if the clause is carried the three Land Commissioners will not endeavour to interfere with the ordinary practices of the Purchase Commissioners. So long as the latter do not offend the prejudices of the former, they will not be interfered with; but immediately they give a decision of which the Land Com- 1737 missioners disapprove, then the three Commissioners will step in and act as a Court of Appeal, and the Purchase Commissioners?will be overpowered. The clause ingeniously provides that when a re-hearing is granted the Commissioner who first heard the case shall not sit, while of the Court of three Commissioners only one may be a Purchase Commissioner. The Land Commissioners are bound, consequently, to have a majority on the bench. Therefore, I say that the appeal which the hon. Member proposes is the most grotesque of which I have ever heard. It is an appeal from seniors to juniors, an appeal from those who have done their work to those who have failed to do it. It is an appeal from men who, after six years' experience, have proved their diligence and competence, to men whose administration has provoked discontent, and whose own work is hopelessly in arrear. I contend that if anything is necessary to be done it should be by appointing another Purchase Commissioner. I say the Purchase Commission is quite competent to do the work, and if it requires assistance, the Land Commissioners are not the men to give it. On these grounds, the Representatives of the Irish people must offer a resolute resistance to the clause.
§ (5.12.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
The hon. Member for West Belfast commenced his obserations by expressing surprise that this new clause should have been brought forward by one who ostensibly represents tenant farmers. It has been proposed by the Representative of an agricultural constituency, and opposed by an hon. Member for an urban constituency, and I think the House is entitled to believe that the hon. Member for South Deny is more entitled to speak for the tenant farmers than the hon. Member for West Belfast. I support the clause on behalf of the tenant farmers of South Tyrone. So far from the landlords approving of it, they are exceedingly anxious to get an entirely different thing. One of their Representatives has put a notice on the Paper as an amendment to the clause. During the whole time I have been in Parliament, I have never said or written one word hostile to the Purchase Commissioners. On the contrary, I have over and over again, in this House, before my constituents, and in newspapers and 1738 magazines, declared my belief that these gentlemen have carried out the experiment fairly well; but I have always held that if any large scheme of land purchase is to be placed before the country, it will be necessary to extend the machinery and quicken the pace, and that is exactly the position I take in regard to this clause. I say that the tenant farmers will not be willing to wait on the convenience of Messrs MacCarthy and Lynch; and unless the operation of the Bill is to be spread over 30 or 40 years, it will be absolutely necessary to extend the machinery and quicken its pace. I do not quite understand why the two Purchase Commissioners should have the extraordinary objection they seem to have to the assistance of the three Fair Rent Commissioners. Under the Act of 1885 they can, if required, be made Fair Rent Commissioners themselves by an Order in Council. The original Commissioners under the Act of 1881, who are now called Fair Rent Commissioners, were originally appointed to deal with purchase by right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Bench below me. It is true that in 1885, when a larger measure was carried, the machinery for carrying out land purchase was extended, and two additional Commissioners specially appointed to deal with it. I now support the clause of my hon. Friend because a still larger measure has been introduced. We may be told that the Fair Rent Commissioners are in arrear to a colossal degree. I will call the attention of hon. Members to the latest figures in this respect. Since 1881 they have fixed over 300,000 rents. Up to the 31st of May, 1891, there were 5,766 notices of appeal pending; that, however, includes cross appeals, which amount to about 20 per cent. of the entire number; the actual appeals to be dealt with number, therefore, 4,600. Now, during last year, up to April 30, 1891, these Fair Rent Commissioners heard 3,912 appeals; but during two months of that time Mr. Justice Litton was ill, and no appeals could be heard. The 4,600 appeals, therefore, really represented only a year's work. Now, taking the figures of fair-rent cases at the end of April, 1890, there were outstanding 37,811 cases to be heard; at the end of April, 1891, there were only 21,000 cases outstanding; most of these 1739 had been inspected, and, as a matter of fact, there are only 6,590 fair rent cases unlisted at the present moment. Practically speaking, there is but one year's work before the Fair Rent Commission. That Commission has been made a permanent one; its members receive large salaries (£3,000 a year), and I maintain that it is reasonable that these Land Commissioners, upon whom the duty was originally cast by the Act of 1881, should be called in, their own work being nearly exhausted, to assist the Purchase Commissioners, whose work is about to begin. The hon. Member for West Belfast has had a good deal to say about I the way in which the Purchase Commissioners have done their work. I repeat I have never publicly said one word against them: but other people have. I do not want to weary the House by going into details. Here is a case from County Antrim. The sum involved was £350, the case has been pending for three years, and when it is finished the costs will add seriously to the amount of the purchase money. Yet titles on the same estate had been settled in previous cases. I have heard of numerous other cases in which expense and disappointment have been caused that both parties have regretted they ever went into the Court. Now I come to the question of appeals. I think that a good deal may be said about the necessity for having an appeal from the judgment of a single Purchase Commissioner and his valuer. In order to make land purchase go on prosperously, we must have a Court in which both the buyer and the seller have confidence. I am not arguing that Messrs. MacCarthy and Lynch would not command the confidence of both parties; I only want to establish the need of a Court of Appeal. And in doing so I will mention the case of the Sullivan Estate in County Cork. Mr. Sullivan, who was originally a butter merchant in Cork, purchased the estate in 1878 for £27,000, the rental then being £1,142. Some years subsequently, after the Commissioners had inspected the estate, the judicial rents were fixed at £852, the Government valuation standing at £541. Mr. Sullivan in one year paid to his tenants £2,000 for butter alone. When a sale was proposed the price agreed on between landlord and tenant was £8,785, reducing the judicial 1740 payment to £351 or £200 below the Government valuation. Surely that was an enormous reduction. But the case came before the Commission. A valuer was sent down from Cork, and on his Report the Commission declared that this annuity of £351 was too much, and that they would not sanction it unless it were reduced to £295. I am not affirming that the Commissioner was wrong; my point is that there must be confidence on the part of the seller as well as the buyer, and I have mentioned this case as one in which an appeal ought in fairness to have been possible. The only difference between hon. Members opposite and ourselves is that while we want justice, we also want to give the other side justice. But I have a much more serious case to bring under the attention of the House. I hold in my hand a correspondence which I very much regret to read. It is between Mr. John George MacCarthy, one of the Land Commissioners, and a representative of Lord Fermoy, whose estate was in the Court. The correspondence has been before Mr. Justice Monroe. Lord Fermoy some time ago sold an estate in the County of Cork. The transaction was sanctioned; the advance had been made, and the whole thing satisfactorily arranged, when Mr. Saunders, the Receiver under the Court on the estate, received the following letter from Mr. John George MacCarthy, who the House will remember, being a Purchase Commissioner, is a judicial person:—
§ 24, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin,
§ 27th October, 1888.
§ Dear Sir,—I have been surprised to learn that, taking advantage of a clerical error in our office, proceedings have been taken in Lord Fermoy's name for large arrears of rent or interest against his farmer tenants after their holdings had become vested and the purchase money placed to the credit of the estate. I am sure you will see that, whatever may have been the previous equities as between the parties, such a proceeding is an evasion of one of our most important rules and is gravely detrimental to the public interest, inasmuch as it tends to overweight the new proprietors with a double burden, and thus prevent the discharge of their duties to the State. Mr. Commissioner Lynch, in whose chambers the matter arose, has written to Lord Fermoy's solicitor and suggested the discontinuance of the proceedings. Permit me to add my request to his and to address you personally. I hope you will not be offended by my adding that if advantage is taken by your firm of a mere clerical oversight all future transactions between our Department and your firm will become impracticable."1741
§ [Cheers.] I am not astonished at the cheers of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. I am astonished at the cheers of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt), although I have long ceased to be astonished at anything the right hon. Gentleman does or says.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I say that even if the facts had been as Mr. MacCarthy put them—and they were not —no English Judge would have said, as Mr. MacCarthy said, that any future case coming before him in the hands of that solicitor would not be judged on its merits, but would be prejudiced. No English Judge would say it, or would be warranted in saying it. No judicial person has a right to use such a threat. What are the facts? It is a fact that Lord Fermoy discharged every farthing of arrears up to the date when the agreement was signed, and he never made a claim for arrears. The Land Commission had the case 2½ years in Court, and what Lord Fermoy did, or rather what the Court did, was to sue the tenants for the interest accruing during those 2½ years. They went before the Recorder at Cork. The Recorder held that he was entitled to interest at 4 per cent. Judge O'Brien, on appeal, held the same thing; in another case, Chief Baron Palles held the same thing. This House in 1888, when it passed the Ashbourne Act, enacted the very thing that Judge Monroe insisted upon, namely, that interest at 4 per cent. should be paid on the purchase money from the date the agreement was signed until the Land Commission had finished the work. That is a fair thing. What was done on behalf of Lord Fermoy was not to sue for arrears of rent. Every farthing of those arrears was discharged under the 55th rule of the Land Commissioners. What did the Commissioners do? On the 1st of November, three days after Mr. MacCarthy'sletter was written, they made a new rule to prevent landlords recovering more than six months' interest. It was for the violation of a rule that was not in existence until this correspondence took place that it was sought to hold 1742 Mr. Saunders and Lord Fermoy up to odium.
§ MR. SEXTON
We had no notice that these matters were to be brought forward. Will the hon. Member allow us to read the correspondence?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
The whole of it. The least the House of Commons can do when such friction arises, and when one of the Purchase Commissioners shows his hand in such a plain way, is to give an appeal. Then, as to the question of the substituted tenants, last year Mr. MacCarthy gave a deliverance on the subject. It was àpropos of nothing at all. He went into his Chamber one morning and delivered an address, in which he announced that he would never sanction a sale to a tenant who had been put in place of an evicted tenant. That may be right or wrong, but I repeat there was no case before him. There are substituted tenants on the Luggarcurren property. They have purchased. I presume that Mr. Lynch sanctioned the purchase. In a matter of this kind there ought not to be two rules, one rule governing one Chamber and another rule governing the Second Chamber. I have put this case strongly, not out of any hostile spirit to the Purchase Commissioners. I know both gentlemen personally, and, as I have said, I have always considered that they have done their best to carry out the Act of Parliament fairly. I have heard a great deal about the Land Commissioners. I have heard Mr. MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch praised as the embodiments of all virtues. It is not my wish to take anything from them in that respect. I am perfectly certain they will do their best according to their lights to carry out this measure. But when I come to the Fair Rent Commissioners what do I find? Who are they? Is anyone prepared to say a word about Mr. Justice Bewley? Every one knows him to be a most able lawyer. The only objection I ever heard urged against him is that he is Lord Ashbourne's brother-in-law.
MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
That was never raised here.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
That is the only objection against him. He is not only a most able lawyer —? probably the most able that could be selected for the work—but he is an able 1743 and honourable man, who will neither turn to the right or to the left hand unless he considers it proper to do so.
§ MR. SEXTON
I never said a word about Mr. Justice Bewley; and I should certainly accept the judgment of the Attorney General for Ireland as to the learned Judge's competency.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I am only showing that these men are competent for the work. There is Mr. Commissioner Fitzgerald. I objected to his appointment because of some proceedings of his in the County of Armagh many years ago. Who was it who defended Mr. Fitzgerald in this House? Who was it who declared that, although he had been guilty 10 years ago of these things, it was a very good appointment, and he was doing very well now? It was the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy). Then who is it who is objected to? It is Mr. Wrench. There is a curious thing about Mr. Wrench. I find he is just about as much objected to by the landlords as he is by hon. Members below the Gangway. Landlord after landlord have protested to me against Mr. Wrench's action; and when I find hon. Members below the Gangway and the landlords in Ireland attacking Mr. Wrench, I am forced to the conclusion that at all events Mr. Wrench is trying to do his duty. But even if Mr. Wrench were what hon. Members describe him to be, he is only one of five. He cannot have his own way; he is not likely to have his own way. I have watched Mr. Wrench for some time, and I do not think any man can find any fair or reasonable objection to his work on the Land Commission. These men will be idle, and what I object to is going to further expense when you have these men idle in Dublin. I urge that the clause of the hon. Member for South Derry should be accepted. I believe it will extend the machinery and quicken the pace. In the name of my constituents, I am bound to express a hope that the pace should be quickened, and also to express as much confidence in the Fair Rent Commissioners as in the Purchase Commissioners.
§ (5.45.) MR. PIERCE MAHONY (Meath, N.)
I cannot help thinking that this is a very ill-advised clause. Last night we had the most satisfactory 1744 discussion I have heard in the House since I became a Member. It was a discussion in which Members in all parts of the House attempted to approach the subject in a spirit of compromise and fair play, and to avoid anything like Party feeling. The very subject dealt with in that discussion is one that will have to come before the very body whose constitution we are now discussing. I believe the result of last night's work will be very valuable in Ireland, but that the value of that work will be very largely diminished if this clause is carried. Is it worth while to run the danger of, in any degree whatsoever, diminishing the value of what we did last night by insisting upon a clause which those interested in the tenants greatly object to? I do not think we have been very fairly dealt with by the Government. Last year they introduced a Bill for land purchase and a re-organisation of the Land Department. The proposed reorganisation of the Land Department was strongly opposed, and the Bill was withdrawn. This year the Bill has been divided into two parts in order that land purchase might not be clogged by the objections urged to the proposals with regard to the Land Department. In the Land Department Bill there were some provisions of considerable value to the tenants, but it has been abandoned. By this clause it is proposed to take out of the Land Department Bill the most objectionable provision of all, and put it in the Land Purchase Bill. The main arguments in favour of this clause are that it will save time, promote economy, and provide for appeal. How can it possibly save time to impose fresh duties on men who are already overburdened with work? They have got more work than they can possibly get through in the next few years, and in the next few years they will have a large amount of additional work. Again, as to economy, there is no economy in getting men to do work under the Land Purchase Department when they are already unable to perform the work in their own Department; and if you are going to place the Land Purchase Commissioners and the other Commissioners all in one Department and make them one body, you must place them in a position of absolute equality and pay them the same salaries; and if you pay 1745 them the same salaries, you will have to raise the salaries of the Land Purchase Commissioners. I do not think the Government can escape the dilemma. The whole weight of the argument of the hon. Members for South Derry and South Tyrone relates to the question of appeal. At the present moment cases are heard in the Land Purchase Department by one Commissioner, who does not value the estates that is to be the subject of sale and purchase. He derives his information from witnesses and Inspectors, and if he decides for or against the purchase there is no appeal. That is a real and substantial grievance. But if you want to provide an appeal from one Land Purchase Commissioner why do you introduce a totally different body and bring into the Court of Appeal gentlemen from another Department of the Land Commission, who have nothing to do with land purchase and who have had no experience of it? I think I can show the House that there is a special reason why you should not introduce any gentlemen from the other Department of the Land Commission for an appeal of this kind, at any rate as regards the question of value. All appeals at Fair Rent Sessions are heard by the Chief Commission, one member of which is supposed to have some knowledge of the value of land. The other is a Judicial Commissioner. As regards the question of value, the Court of Appeal would be largely guided by the opinion of the non-judicial Commission. Questions of law, I think, rest entirely with the Judicial Commissioner. In a case of any property where a fair rent is fixed coming before the Land Purchase Department, you have a guard in the interest of the British taxpayer; you have a guard to prevent the amount of purchase money being estimated solely on so many years' purchase of the judicial rent; you have got, as it were, a revision of the value. The Land Purchase Department will not advance money unless they are satisfied the holding affords bonâ fide value for it. To that extent you have got a check on the judicial rents. Do you require that check? The real object of this clause is that the judicial rent shall be made the whole basis of the calculation for purchase, and that there should be no regard to the question whether the land is worth the sum 1746 advanced or not. That was stated in so many words as the object of the clause at a meeting of the Liberal Unionist Association in Dublin. The other day I alluded to the case of the Glenshannon property in County Limerick. Years ago the Land Commissioner fixed judicial rents on the property, but owing to the action of the tenants, the Court of the Land Judges entered upon the management of the estate. The Court appointed a receiver, and refused to give the tenants any reductions; or, at any rate, if they offered any reductions, they were very trivial. After a series of combinations on the part of the tenants, the Land Judges Court sent down their chief valuer; and, on his Report, they offered the tenants a reduction of 30 per cent. on the judicial rents, and wiped out nearly all the arrears. Supposing the judicial rents had been taken as the basis of value in that case, the result would have been that the tenants would have been forced to pay an exorbitantly high price for their holdings. If you are to exercise a check on the judicial rents, if you are not to accept those rents as a basis of purchase, if you are to exercise the right of having an independent valuation of the holdings, it is most necessary that you should not give that Department of the Land Commission, who deal exclusively with the fixing of rent, any power whatsoever in fixing the price of land purchase. There is one member of the Land Commission who is not directly engaged in fixing the value of the land under fair rent, and that is the Judicial Commissioner. If you want an appeal from the decision of one Commissioner in the Land Purchase Department you can very easily form a proper tribunal for the hearing of the appeal by allowing the two Land Purchase Commissioners to sit with the Judicial Commissioner. That would provide a properly constituted body to hear appeals against the decision of one man; a body against whom the objection could not be made that is made against the body proposed to be constituted under this clause. I commend this suggestion to the Chief Secretary. I ask him would it not be worth his while to recommend his Friend the hon. Member for South Derry to accept a suggestion of this kind, that is to say, that, upon any question on which an appeal is desired against 1747 the decision of one Commissioner, the case should he re-heard by the Judicial Commissioner in conjunction with two Land Purchase Commissioners. That would be following out the lines which have been accepted in other Departments dealing with the Land Question, where, upon the action of one Chief Commissioner, either party has a right to have his case re-heard by two lay Commissioners, sitting with the Judicial Commissioner. I commend this to the acceptance of the Chief Secretary as a compromise that will meet the case completely, will give protection against the possible mistakes of one man, and will enable us to carry on the Debate in the spirit that, happily, animated all sides last night.
§ (6.4.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
This new clause or Amendment in whatever shape for the time being it has been before the House, for it has had many shapes, has attracted from the first a great deal of attention; but I do not think that anyone was prepared for the enormous gravity which it has assumed to-night. In the hands of the hon. Member who moved it, its importance did not seem to assume large proportions, and I must own that, personally, I was unable to elicit from his speech the reasons why he proposed this great administrative change. But it was quite another matter when, after the powerful, exhaustive, and, to my mind, absolutely unanswerable, speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast, there arose the well known rhetorical voice of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell). The Member for South Tyrone—and it is impossible that anything which even the Chief Secretary with all his ability can say can alter it—the Member for South Tyrone gave to the proposal the form of a Vote of Censure on the present Land Purchase Commissioners. Such the clause became in the hands of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, and such it remains. The speech of the hon. Member reminded me of nothing so much as those attacks which the present Prime Minister, in all good faith and with great ability, directed against the Endowed Schools Commissioners in old days, and we well know the result of those attacks. This has been made by the hon. Member for South 1748 Tyrone a personal question on behalf of those he wants to introduce into the administration of Land Purchase, and those he wishes to excludeor override, and everyone who has examined the clause knows whom he wishes to substitute for the present Purchase Commissioners, and so we have had much personal invective and much more serious insinuation against the present Purchase Commissioners, who so little deserve these attacks. I shall not enter very deeply into the defence of these Commissioners. I prefer to leave them to the different panegyrics they have received at the hands of their responsible official superiors in former Debates in this House, but I am bound to say this, that so flimsy a case for such a purpose was never brought in the House of Commons in an attack upon any administrative or judicial official, as on this occasion has been brought against Mr. John George MacCarthy; for I do not know that anything has been alleged against his colleague. Let me point out the flimsiness of the attack which consisted for three charges. Take the first charge put forward, that under a misapprehension—for that is the worst that can be said of it—of what had been done by a firm of solicitors—
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN
The Commissioner, then, in consequence of what he supposed had been done by the Receiver of the Court, gave utterance to doctrines which, if the impression of the Commissioner had been correct, were doctrines any Judge ought to have been proud to express, and which it would have been his duty to express. The second charge related to a very queer estate, and which the mere description of the hon. Gentleman shows to have been one of the queerest pieces of property that ever came under the cognizance of any body. With a rent of £1,100 to begin at, reduced to £700 or £800, and then bounding down again to an equivalent of £350 or £400, is it a wonder that Mr. J. G. MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch should have declared after all that the annuity should be but £295? Is that a dereliction of duty on the part of officials who are our only defence against the greed of the seller and the helpless- 1749 ness of the man who is the so-called buyer? The third charge is that Mr. J. G. MacCarthy has spoken very strongly against making substituted tenants owners. Now, on that point I can only say it is exceedingly necessary that the Purchase Commissioners should, in the interest of the State, at any rate look very closely into the condition of these tenants, who are not the class of men for whom land purchase was originally instituted. For the old holders of the land, for those who are part proprietors in the value of the holding, this House is prepared to make sacrifices to convert them into proprietors—sacrifices which it does not make for the farmers of England, because they are not part-proprietors of the land. It is for the interest of the State that the Purchase Commissioners should look closely into the position of these substituted tenants, because, as will be admitted, there is primâ facie a probability that they will not be such good cultivators, will not have had the experience, and will not be so likely to be so successful on the holdings as the ordinary tenants of Ireland. "Well, these are the three charges on the strength of which a Vote of Censure of the most cruel and biting sort has been moved, and this House is asked to pass a condemnation of the conduct of a public official upon utterly flimsy and frivolous ground. If I speak with some heat I do not think that hon. Members opposite will resent that, but I now drop into a different tone, and, speaking from the point of view of one who has had some part in administration, I ask the House to regard this proposal apart from point of view of tenant or of landlord, and simply as it concerns the public interest. This is essentially a question of division labour. The Fair-Rent Commissioners have already plenty to do. In alternate weeks they are supposed to be in the Four Courts or travelling about Ireland. In addition to their work under the Land Act, they have upon their backs a great deal of work under the Labourers Act in the way of the collection of statistics, and the latter part of the Bill now before the House will place upon them considerable work with reference to the congested districts. They have a great deal to do, their work requires special knowledge, and they cannot be taken 1750 from it without the greatest detriment to their work. It is idle, too, to try to explain away the great burden of the appeals. There remains the great fact that these appeals number thousands, and that each year there are between 1,500 and 2,000 such disposed of. Then, when five years hence appeals are disposed of, will come the gigantic task of the re-revision of all the rents in Ireland, and it is quite certain that the full powers of these gentlemen will have to be given continuously to that work for many years to come. Their duties are essentially different from the duties of the Land Purchase Commissioners. The duties of the Purchase Commissioners are to advance public moneys, to investigate the security, to ascertain the rights of owners and encumbrancers, and to distribute the proceeds of the sale between the different persons interested. To undertake such administrative duties requires the possession of great ability. To adequately perform this work great experience is required—a knowledge of the business can only be learnt by long experience, and this clause proposes that, when that experience has been gained, those who have obtained it should have their functions interfered with by those who are without such experience. Here you have a public office with great duties to perform divided by a sharp line into two parts. Would the House of Commons ever sanction such a method of dealing with a public department as is here proposed in relation to any other public office? Would the House sanction a proposal by which the functions of the officers in one department of the Treasury should, after an experience of five or six years, be transferred to officers of a wholly different branch of the department? Would it not be an extraordinary proposal if in the Admiralty the official whose duty it is to superintend the purchase of dockyard materials should be suddenly entrusted with the duty of giving out contracts for ironclads? But here is a similar proposal by which the officials in the two branches of the Land Department of Ireland are called upon to change their functions. And again, in the Act of 1885, Parliament deliberately confirmed the decision arrived at in 1751 1881, that appeals should only be on questions of law, not on questions of fact, but this proposal is, in matter of appeals, to confuse the administrative and judicial functions. No doubt the motive of the hon. Member who brought forward this clause is excellent, but the motives of those who are supporting him outside are not so excellent. The change is really proposed in the interest of disappointed vendors. I have seen the reasons which the Liberal Unionist Association in Ireland have given for the change, and some of these seem to me little short of libellous. It is stated that the Purchase Commissioners have had no experience in land value, and, on account of their own incompetency, have to rely upon a valuer for the practical experience they want. The Purchase Commissioners are quite right in sending their valuer down. They are quite right in not accepting, without a fresh investigation, the basis of a judicial rent fixed some eight years ago. They have to make a bargain which shall be safe for the taxpayers of this country, while conferring a benefit on the tenants of Ireland, and I cannot conceive that a better method can be devised than that by which for the last five or six years the Commissioners have so satisfactorily carried out their work, and I cannot consent to pass a Vote of Censure on those Commissioners in the interest of those few landlords who have been unable to sell because the prices they demanded have been too high.
§ (6.21.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
Those Members of the House who have followed the policy of the Government in the matter of land purchase will not be surprised to hear that we are prepared to support this new clause, which, in fact, is a portion of the scheme of the Government embodied in the Land Department Bill, which considerations of time have compelled the Government to drop. In defending the proposal, I shall endeavour to pitch my remarks in the key which characterised the middle part of the speech of the right hon. Baronet who has just spoken rather than that in which he began and ended. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that to accept the Amendment would be to pass a Vote of Censure of a biting kind on 1752 the Land Commissioners appointed in 1885.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes; after the speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell). My hon. Friend used his undoubted right to condemn what he thought were unjustifiable proceedings of certain gentlemen connected with land purchase, just as the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) used his Parliamentary privilege of making an attack upon Mr. Wrench and his colleague, and I wish to know, if we, by accepting the clause, pass a Vote of Censure upon the Commissioners appointed under the Act of 1885, do we not equally accept the conclusion that not to accept the clause would be to pass a Vote of Censure on the Commissioners appointed in 1881? This Amendment is resisted principally by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on the definite ground that they think the Land Commissioners of 1881 are favourable to the landlords, that they have not got what they are pleased to term popular instincts; that they twist the law and twist their duty, using their functions in favour of the landlord, not of the tenant; that they have done this though appointed as Judges, and required to exercise their jurisdiction without fear or favouritism. Now, I want to know, if these accusations are to be levelled, are we not to draw the conclusion that if accepting this clause will be a vote of censure upon the Commissioners of 1885, equally to reject the clause will be to censure the action of the Commissioners appointed under the Act of 1881?
§ MR. SEXTON
As the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned my name in this connection, I may be allowed to say that from beginning to end of my speech I never referred to favouritism as between landlord and tenant, but dwelt on the question of diligence and efficiency of administration as proved by records.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
But I think the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that this has been the staple of attack in the many preliminary discussions we have had in relation to this question, and I think the hon. Gentleman did make an illusion very much in that direction in regard to Mr. Wrench's 1753 character and performances. But I am sure the House will not expect me to follow the example set by those speakers who have preceded me in criticising the conduct of these Commissioners. For my part, I believe that both the Commissioners of 1881 and the Commissioners of 1885 have deserved well of their country, and have done their duty to the best of their ability in an impartial spirit. It is not, therefore, because we have any want of confidence in the Commissioners of 1885 that we accept this clause. It is not intended, in the slightest degree, to suggest that any of these five gentlemen to whom we propose to entrust the duty of carrying out the policy of land purchase are not deserving of the fullest confidence. With this preliminary observation, I pass to the arguments against the clause. The hon. Member for West Belfast has complained of our permitting a private Member to propose the introduction of such a clause as this. Now, it may be observed that when an hon. Member below the Gangway makes a proposal to amend the Bill we never hear of such a criticism. The acceptance of an Amendment then is evidence of a conciliatory spirit and desire to meet a general wish; it is never suggested that the Government are going outside their duty if they accept such an Amendment. When, as in this case, the proposal is identical with a portion of our plan for the amalgamation of the various branches of the Land Department, surely, then, to refuse the proposal, when made by a private Member, would be to reverse the traditions and ordinary procedure of the House. The hon. Member for West Belfast has told us that by this clause it is proposed to interfere with the one department in Ireland concerned with the land which has hitherto escaped criticism. Well, I do not say that the Land Purchase Department has never deserved criticism, and this Debate has proved that it is sometimes open to criticism, but I do not dwell upon that. It is quite true that the Land Commissioners have been the subject of criticism to a far greater extent than the Land Purchase Commissioners, but the work of the Land Purchase Commissioners does not bring them into collision with public opinion, whereas the Land Commissioners have to fix rents, and an 1754 archangel performing such a task in Ireland would not escape criticism and attack. The functions of the Land Purchase Commissioners do not concern the great mass of the tenants. They cannot raise the price against the tenant; they can only lower the price in the interest of the Exchequer and whenever they interfere in the bargain between landlord and tenant, it is to lower the price the tenant will pay, the interest of the Exchequer being the interest of the tenant. The result of the interference is that the tenant buys at a cheaper rate.
§ MR. A.J. BALFOUR
I apprehend that in a very large proportion of the cases where the Commissioners do not accept the original terms, fresh proposals are made. The strongest argument which has been brought against the proposal of my hon. Friend—a proposal for which there is an obvious primâ facie case—is that the Commissioners to whom we are going to entrust the new funds are not in a position to carry out their new functions, that arrears have accumulated and are accumulating, and that' by giving them appeals besides, we shall be hampering rather than promoting the rapid discharge of their work. I do not think the matter has been properly stated to the House, as far as I understand it. It is perfectly true that there have been large arrears of appeals. It is not true that they are increasing; indeed, they are diminishing at a rate which makes it quite clear that the Land Commissioners will be able to devote their energies to the daily increasing work of land purchase. The Returns show that appeals are being disposed of in a greater ratio than they are put down, and that, therefore, the number to be heard is getting less. The number disposed of by August, 1888, was 200; in the year ending August, 1890, it rose to 3,G66, while in the year ending April, 1891, the number was close upon4,000.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us the number that are now waiting to be decided?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The larger number includes a number of cross-appeals, and allowing for these the total is nearer the lesser number. These appeals, irrespective of new ones to be put down, will be disposed of in little more than a year.
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not think that is the case. The hon. Gentleman has referred to the month of February, 1891. In that month the number of appeals lodged was 211, and the number heard and withdrawn was 421, so that the number disposed of was nearly twice as large as the number listed.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I chose February, 1891, because that was the month selected by the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton). In March the number lodged was 108, and the number disposed of 390; in April the number lodged was 199, and the number disposed of 363. I think, therefore, it may be taken that these appeals will not be such a serious burden as to prevent the Commissioners undertaking the additional labour the clause will impose upon them. Let me now call attention to the advantages that will accrue from the acceptance of the Amendment. It will give the Purchase Commissioners the assistance of the existing legal Commissioner, Mr. Justice Bewley. When you talk of the two 1885 Commissioners being able to discharge the duties created by this Bill, I think you hardly appreciate what those duties are. This Bill is much more than a mere addition to the Ashbourne Act of 1885. No doubt this Bill is rooted in the Act of 1885, but the system created by it is a new system; it is a very elaborate system, and it will throw upon those who administer it duties very different from and more onerous than the duties imposed by the Act of 1885. There will be a large increase of actual business. It has taken six years to get through about £6,000,000, but does anyone suppose that land purchase is going on at the same rate in the future? If the Bill succeeds—if it is allowed to succeed— land purchase will, I am convinced, go forward at a rate incomparably more 1756 rapid than anything we have hitherto bad experience of. It is quite plain that the two gentlemen who have hitherto been able to keep abreast of their work will not be able to do so without assistance when the Bill comes into operation. In carrying out this Bill they will have to do many things they are not required to do now. They will have to carry out elaborate financial arrangements, to collect a much larger body of annuities, and to advise the Lord Lieutenant whether to extend the five years during which the 80 per cent. is to be paid. They will have to fix the annual value of land, and I dissent from the proposition that that is essentially different from fixing fair rent. I want to point out that you have compelled the Land Commissioners to fix the annual value of the land, and if you say they cannot do both, you ought to throw the duty of fixing the annual value, not on the Purchase, but on the Fair Rent Commissioners. They will have to determine matters connected with distress. Under the measure as it stands, it will be in the power of any purchaser to bring, as an excuse for non-payment of annuity, facts to show that he is unable to pay through undeserved misfortune. The consideration of such matters will be a duty entirely different to any duties conferred on the Commissioners by the Act of 1885. It is a duty not very analogous to any performed by any branch of the Commission; but if it is a duty that should be performed by a branch of the Commission, surely the branch best fitted to perform it is that established under the Act of 1881. So as to distress. The Lord Lieutenant can be set in motion by the Land Commission, and on their advice he can declare that general distress exists in a district of such a kind that the Reserve Fund may be called on partially to meet it, and when that is called on loans will have to be made out of that fund to defaulting tenants. Can a more elaborate and delicate process be conceived, and one which would require a stronger Commission to deal with, and which would make a greater call on the whole judicial strength of those who administer the Act? I should weary the House if I were to go on to point out the new functions thrown on the Commissioners by the labourers and the congested district part of the Bill; 1757 but I think, after the discussions we have had, it will be seen that in reality we are calling upon those who administer the Act of 1889 to discharge functions entirely different in character, and largely exceeding in amount any functions imposed by the Acts of 1885 and 1888. At present these two Land Commissions have a staff partially in common, and each has also a staff of its own, and these staffs are largely occupied in similar operations. There may be different examinations of holdings—such as examinations to ascertain the fair rent value, and examinations to see if there is adequate security for an advance; but the staff ought to be the same, and it is ludicrous to have two separate staffs carrying out functions that are closely analogous. If you want to carry out these functions in the best manner, and with the greatest economy of time and money, there should be only one staff, and it should be at the disposal of one undivided body. To sum up, the existing Commissioners under the Act of 1881 are carrying out functions which are diminishing; the Commissioners under the Act of 1885 are carrying out functions that are not only increasing but will go on increasing by leaps and bounds. If you want to organise the Department you must amalgamate the two branches. If the House wants to make the new Department equal to the enormous work thrown upon it by this Bill, instead of breaking it up by introducing fictitious divisions of labour, it ought to give every opportunity for organising the staff to the best advantage, and it ought to give those who have to fix capital values all the assistance they can derive from those who have been fixing fair rents, and from the legal experience of the gentleman at the head of the Commission of 1881. I am almost ashamed of having taken up the time of the House in making so long a statement on what appears to me so obvious a policy. The policy is not carried so far as I should like to see it. I say it is really ludicrous that in Ireland at this moment there should be the Fair Rent Commission of 1881 determining one set of questions relating to the land, that there should be the Commissioners of 1885 determining another set of questions relating to the land, that there should be the Landed 1758 Estates Courts performing other functions in connection with the land question, and that there should be still other bodies also engaged in matters relating to the land. By the Land Department Bill these various bodies were to have been amalgamated. Unfortunately, that measure cannot be passed this Session. I hope, however, that the House will not be so foolish as to reject half a loaf because it cannot at once get the whole loaf.
§ (6.48.) SIR W. HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman, with an assumption of innocence, spoke of the clause and the speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone as emanating from a private Member. The hon. Member for South Tyrone, we know, is the organ of the Triumvirate who sit below the Gangway opposite. When a Motion is to be proposed which it is not convenient for them to propose, the hon. Member chosen for the purpose is the hon. Member for South Tyrone. Betting is sometimes done by commission, and when the Government want a thing done they know where to find a commissioner ready to lay out their money for them as they think fit. That commissioner is the hon. Member for South Tyrone. Now, Sir, quite apart from the administrative character of this clause, or the effect it will have in Ireland upon the acceptance or the rejection of the policy of this measure—and this from a statesmanlike point of view is a most material question—I ask, if the Government thought this clause expedient and necessary, why in the world did they ever commit it to or allow it to fall into the hands of the hon. Member for South Tyrone?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
It is not his clause. The hon. Member put up another man. The betting commissioners to whom I have referred know that device also. But the speech and the Amendment and the policy are those of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, or rather of those by whom he is inspired. What was the object of the speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone? To attack the character and destroy the credit of a Purchase Commissioner. The speech was a violent, bitter—I had almost said malignant— 1759 attack upon Mr. MacCarthy. And what was Mr. MacCarthy attacked for? For doing that which any Judge in the Chancery Division in this country would have done in similar circumstances. Everybody knows that in Court or in Chambers a Judge relies upon the honour and good faith of those who practice before him. If he were not to do so, business could not be transacted. Mr. MacCarthy believed, rightly or wrongly, that a practitioner had been guilty of sharp practice, and he said to him, "If you continue this sharp practice you will make business as conducted by you impracticable." That is what he said, and that is all he said. For that he has been attacked in this House, and thrown over by the Chief Secretary.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman has misrepresented what I said. The idea of throwing over the Purchase Commissioners never entered my head.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Perhaps I used too strong an expression. Instead of "thrown over" I should have said "dropped." The right hon. Gentleman attributed some observations as to the unpopularity of Mr. Wrench to the Member for West Belfast, but the Member for West Belfast did not make those observations. It was the hon. Member for South Derry who expressed regret that Mr. Wrench was not a person of more popularity. That is all I heard against any of these Commissioners; therefore, when the Chief Secretary got up to apologise for the bitter attack, intended to destroy the credit and position of Mr. MacCarthy, we know very well what the object of the attack was. The fact is Mr. MacCarthy was attacked because he has done his duty towards the English taxpayer. The Unionist landlords are dissatisfied with him; that is the reason why the hon. Member for South Tyrone has been put up to blacken—I had almost said calumniate —Mr. MacCarthy, who has had the courage to defend the English taxpayer against the landlords, and to prevent English money being wasted in unfair bargains between vendors and purchasers in Ireland. Mr. MacCarthy is the bête noire of landlords who want to get too large a price for their land, and therefore this clause is moved with the intention of casting a slur upon him.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman is not the mover of the clause. The whole object of the clause, as expounded by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, was to attack Mr. MacCarthy, and to introduce Mr. Wrench to overrule him. The clause, if carried, will destroy the credit of the Land Commission in both its branches, because it is intended to set one branch of the Commission against the other. The clause is put forward because the landlords do not trust Mr. MacCarthy. The mass of the people of Ireland have confidence in him; therefore, it is proposed to associate a number of other Commissioners with him to overrule him. That is the interpretation which, in my opinion, will be put on this clause, and, in my opinion, it will discredit the Commission in both branches, because it has been introduced in a spirit of hostility. I say it is most unfortunate for the success of the Bill and for the credit of the Commission that the Government should have accepted this Amendment from the hon. Member for South Tyrone. If the Government really think that the clause is necessary as an administrative measure, why have they not had the courage to bring it forward themselves? They have said it is part of the Land Department Bill. Well, it is a curious proceeding—an inconvenient and, I should have thought, hardly a regular proceeding—that when there are two Bills before the House one should be taken and practically incorporated in the other by an Amendment on the Report stage. If you want to amalgamate two Bills there are forms well known by which it can be done, and by which Second Reading and Committee Debates can be given. But here, nothing could be more likely to injure the prospects of the Bill than the course which has been pursued. A clause embodying a policy which ought to be well considered is thrust forward at the last moment on the Motion of a private Member—a most unstatesmanlike way of dealing with the matter. What is the hurry? The Government say they do not consider this a satisfactory solution of the question. I admit that, in dealing with a great measure like this for land purchase, it may be necessary to 1761 revise your machinery; but I think that when a scheme for revising the machinery is submitted, it should be laid before us on the responsibility of the Government. You are going to incorporate in the Purchase Commission three gentlemen of ability and integrity. What is the hurry? Why can you not bring in your Land Department Bill next Session? You. know that the Rent and Purchase Commissioners have to get rid of their arrears, and that you have time to bring it forward with the full authority of the Government. Therefore, there is really no necessity whatever for this Amendment, except to destroy the position of Mr. MacCarthy. Do Her Majesty's Government think that after such a speech as that of the hon. Member for South Tyrone the people of Ireland will be well disposed towards this measure? We heard in the speech of the hon. Member those tones of class animosity of which he is the representative. Let the Government next year bring forward a well-considered plan, and they will lose nothing in the meantime. If we proceed with this Amendment, we will be pitting one section of the Commission against another, one man against another. When Mr. MacCarthy has given a decision, another Commissioner will endeavour to overthrow it; we will introduce a spirit of class animosity and class hostility which we ought to endeavour to get rid of. The advice which I offer to the Government is not hostile advice; their Bill will not suffer, but will gain, if we accept it. Here are £30,000,000 to be placed at the disposal of this Commission; and here is an Amendment which will be regarded in England, as in Ireland, as a change made in the Commission for the purpose of allowing and encouraging inordinate prices to be given for the land. Mr. MacCarthy has been guilty of refusing to allow what he believes to be an improper sum to be given as between the vendors and the taxpayers. Therefore, whether we regard the matter from the point of view of the Irish tenant or the British taxpayer, who is ultimately responsible for the money, this Amendment is injurious to the Bill. It is utterly unnecessary, because the Rent Commissioners have got more than enough to do, and there is ample time for introducing that com- 1762 plete measure which the Chief Secretary told the House is necessary. In this Amendment, proposed in a spirit of injustice and class animosity, no man will have confidence; and I hope it will be resisted by every means in our power, and take care that the people in Ireland and in England shall understand the spirit in which it has been brought forward.
§ (7.8.) MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I begin to believe that the Education Bill will after all be postponed to next Session, and that it is the intention and desire of the Government to do so, because at the close of the Debates on this Bill they have sanctioned an Amendment which, more than anything else the Government have done, is calculated to prolong Debate and embitter passion. There can be no doubt of the intention and purpose of the Member for South Tyrone—he wants to stab Mr. MacCarthy, and he does so openly; but the Chief Secretary, "willing to wound, but yet afraid to strike," does the same work furtively. Here for the first time is the betrayal by the Chief Secretary of a faithful public servant.
§ MR A. J. BALFOUR
Not a single word did I say against Mr. MacCarthy, and after the contradiction I gave to the right hon. Member for Derby I must say the hon. Member seems to have deliberately misquoted me.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
The right hon. Gentleman charges me with deliberately misquoting him. I charge him with deliberately betraying his official subordinate, not by speech, but by deliberate silence. The right hon. Gentleman will have plenty of opportunities of washing himself clean if he can. The Member for South Tyrone accused Mr. MacCarthy of deliberate misconduct in several cases. The right hon. Gentleman, ignoring the whole attack, gave the sanction of his silence to that bitter and malignant attack. If the right hon. Gentleman was ignorant of the facts of the case, why did he not get the facts from the Attorney General for Ireland, who knew them? Because the right hon. Gentleman did not want the facts. I will tell the whole secret. Mr. MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch refused to sanction applications in 1,064 cases for a sum amounting to £507,000. The applications were made a second time, and then all that was 1763 asked was £420,000, and it was because Mr. MacCarthy forced the landlords to accept that proper and just amount that other vendors are now taking revenge by the open attack of the Member for South Tyrone, and the furtive attack of the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman was not able to defend Mr. MacCarthy with regard to some of these cases. The hon. Member for South Tyrone was not courteous enough to give the particulars of the attack he was going to make on Mr. MacCarthy; he said he would not give them unless he was compelled to do so; and yet he comes down to this House with all his armoury in his pocket and at once proceeds to make use of every weapon. Why did he not give the Chief Secretary notice of what he was about to do? If he intended to attack Mr. MacCarthy for his official administration, why did he not in courtesy and honesty tell the Chief Secretary he meant to do so, in order that the right hon. Gentleman might have had the means of replying to him? We understand the relations between the hon. Member and the Chief Secretary. They are of that demi-semi-official character which is avowed or denied as occasion requires. I know that the hon. Gentleman is a strong and violent Protestant, and I admit the contrast between the violence of his attack and the attack on the other side; but I ask the hon. Gentleman, was it fair to attack Mr. MacCarthy without giving the least notice either to him or his official superior?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I spoke of two cases, and I did so deliberately, for the sole purpose of showing that where there was so much divergence of opinion there ought to be a right of appeal from a single Commissioner.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I understood the hon. Gentleman's purpose from the method of his attack. The misfortune of Mr. MacCarthy is that he is an honest Purchase Commissioner, and not a dishonest one, and that he will not help the dishonest landlords against their tenants. The right hon. Gentleman gave us an account of the additional duties of the Land Commissioners; but he said nothing as to those of the Assistant Commissioners. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether they have not all had additional duties imposed upon them? Mr. T. P, O'Connor 1764 Why, Sir, one of these Commissioners is to be a member of the Congested Districts Board, and will consequently be taken away from his other duties, the extraordinary part of the business being that a department which is not in arrear with its work is to be helped by a department that is already heavily in arrear. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that the rent fixing Commissioners were only a year's work in arrear. Even if we take the figures from the right hon. Gentleman, and accept the statement that these Commissioners have only a year's work to bring up, why does he not wait for another year and bring in his Land Department Bill, when we shall be the better able to see who is right. If the year's arrears were then overtaken, the right hon. Gentleman would then have a right to say that the work might be taken up by these persons; but if it were found that in the meantime the arrears continued to accumulate, it would then be clear that the Purchase Commissioners should not have further work thrown upon them. The right hon. Gentleman puts himself in the position of prophesying what the new Bill is going to do, whereas what he ought to do would be to wait until next year and see whether he is right. 'The hon. Gentle man the Member for Tyrone has put for ward propositions which you could see by his very face he did not believe. Here is the charge against Mr. Mac Carthy
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the readiness with which he says that. Why, Sir, here is the very man who makes charges against Mr. MacCarthy denying that he does so, and at the same time pouring all this thunder and lightning upon Mr. MacCarthy's head because he made a mistake.
§ MR. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c.)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to order. I wish to ask whether the hon. Member has any right to say that the hon. Member for South Tyrone has made a charge against Mr. Mac Carthy, when the hon. Member for South Tyrone says he has made no charge?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
We are told 'that the transaction was not on the part of Mr. MacCarthy but of Mr. Lynch. At any rate, the original rent of £1,142 was reduced to £852 by the Sub-Commissioners, the Government valuation being £541. In another case, where a man came before the Purchase Commissioners, Mr. MacCarthy was under the impression that Mr. Saunders had taken advantage of a clerical error. I am told that it turned out that Mr. MacCarthy was under a false impression, and I accept that statement for the moment, although I do not know whether it will bear examination or not. An hon. Member on my right says it is not true; but I will take it that it is true. If Mr. MacCarthy were under the impression that an officer of the Court had taken advantage of a clerical error for purposes of extortion, was he not called upon to use the language he did? I now come to the third charge, which is that Mr. MacCarthy declined in some cases to sell to substituted tenants. Now, Sir, I put it to the House—supposing the hon. Member for South Tyrone were to become a Purchase Commissioner—not at all an unlikely thing to happen: in fact, I should be disappointed if when the Government go before the constituencies in another year's time, knowing very well that they are not likely to come back to power, they do not make provision for the hon. Gentleman. But, Sir, was not Mr. MacCarthy justified in refusing to sell to substituted tenants? Here is a loafer or a "corner-boy," brought from Belfast with money put in his pocket in order to make a bogus purchase, and instead of his paying for the use of the land he is paid to stop on the land. Would anyone be justified in giving to that itinerant loafer a full claim to the property? I would not trust him to pay for 49 days, let alone 49 years; and yet because Mr. MacCarthy refuses to take these substituted tenants, down come the friends of the landlord party and make attacks upon him. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby was quite justified in asking what effect this clause would have in Ireland. The man who stands most in the way of the successful working of this Bill is the Chief Secretary himself. He never did an uglier or worse piece of work than when he gave 1766 an authoritative sanction to the attack on Mr. MacCarthy. What will be the result? There are to be five Commissioners—three supposed to be on the side of the landlords and two on the side of the tenants. These men are to fight as in a cockpit the question of landlord versus tenant. The Bill, we know now, is intended to be in the interest of the landlord. The three landlords' Commissioners are to be placed in a position of superiority over the two Purchase Commissioners. I do not think anything more effectual could have been done to destroy any confidence that might have been felt in Ireland in this Bill. The measure is only intended to last until the General Election: it is a piece of pedantry in politics, and not genuine statesmanship.
§ (7.33.) MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
I do not propose to touch on many points which have been raised in this Debate, for I think it is quite possible to arrive at the conclusion suggested by the hon. Member for Derry, without dealing with these personal questions. It would be impossible for any body of Commissioners occupying a. responsible position to entirely satisfy public opinion on a question like this: but there is no reason why the subject of appeal should not be raised and discussed apart altogether from the manner in which those gentlemen may or may not have succeeded in satisfying public opinion. It is no discredit to the Purchase Commissioners if they have failed to satisfy public opinion. I hold that the appeal is necessary to the administration of this Act, and it is undesirable, while extending the scope of land purchase in Ireland, not to grant appeal even in the interests of the Purchase Commissioners themselves. As to the question of the nature of the appeal to be given, I admit that that is a question open to a great deal of argument. I am far from denying that there is great force in the points raised by the hon. Member for West Belfast. I would prefer, however, to see the appeal transferred in the manner proposed by the hon. and gallant Member for North Down, because under it there will not be any possibility of friction arising between the Commissioners of the Land Department and those of the Purchase Department. It would also have the advantage of 1767 obviating any presumption that a point in dispute was being taken from one Commissioner who was supposed to be friendly to one class in Ireland, and decided by other Commissioners who were supposed to favour the interests of another class. A phrase used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby in his peroration was extremely misleading. There cannot, in a question of appeal, arise any question of hostility between landlord and tenant. There may be hostility between landlord and tenant on one hand and the English taxpayer on the other, but that is the only possible hostility on which the Court may be called to adjudicate. Remember that before the appeal stage is reached all questions between landlord and tenant must have disappeared, and, therefore, the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby in relation to this hostility has in it no substance. I do not think it necessary to argue this question at any great length. The principle which underlies the clause will remove a great anomaly which exists in Ireland at the present time. At present you have an elaborate machinery for dealing with appeals in cases in which rents are fixed for a period of 15 years, which may be but a trifling question, but now you are going to deal with the permanent realisation of the capital of the landlord. You provide no machinery for adjustment or re-adjustment. I hope that the House will consent to give a Second Reading to the clause, which I believe introduces a great and valuable improvement in the administration of the Act. Take the case of a farm on an estate on which the rents have been judicially fixed. These rents have been fixed by two experts who sit in Court to assist the Land Commissioner. But the Purchase Commissioners, if the case comes before them, may send down a valuer, who may, or may not, be a person of experience, and he may fix the capital value of the farm at a sum absurdly out of proportion to the annual value fixed by the Land Commissioner. I believe that to be a great anomaly, and for the reasons I have stated I hope the House will give a Second Reading to this clause. At the same time, I do not pledge myself to adhere to the particular form of appeal sketched out by 1768 the hon. 'Gentleman the Member for South Derry.
§ (7.40.) MR. SINCLAIR
The hon. Member for West Belfast used words indicating his opinion that the adoption of this clause by the Government would upset the system and policy of land purchase hitherto existing in Ireland. That raises a question of the policy of transferring to the occupying tenant the interest of the landlord. But this Debate has turned more upon personal matters. It is true that the Land Purchase Department has been administered by Messrs. MacCarthy and Lynch in a satisfactory manner on the whole, but it does not necessarily follow that they may not have committed some error of judgment. The proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for South Derry is to create a power of appeal in cases where the decisions given may be wrong. It is in no way intended—nor should I support it if it were intended—to cast any slur upon Messrs. MacCarthy and Lynch. It 'is, to my mind, little less than scandalous that this clause should have been treated as an attack on those gentlemen, who. I believe, have in the past done their duty to the best of their ability. Those of us who support the clause strongly and strenuously repudiate any such suggestion. The clause is no more a slur on those gentlemen than is the power given to a Court of Appeal to hear appeals from decisions of the Lord Chief Justice of England a slur upon that eminent judicial dignitary. I trust that the line of argument which has been adopted by hon. Members below the Gangway will be dropped, and that those who address the House will deal with the real question before the House, and disprove, if possible, the necessity which we say exists for a Court of Appeal in cases of this kind.
§ (7.45.) MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I do not know what, in the mind of the hon. Gentleman who last spoke, constitutes an attack; but if there has not been an attack on the administration of the Land Purchase Department in the course of the present Debate, I should like to know what all the talking has been about. From the commencement no speaker has resumed his seat without alluding with greater or less fervour to 1769 the alleged conduct or misconduct of Mr. J. G. MacCarthy.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
I quite admit that, but the hon. Member for South Tyrone came down to the House briefed for the occasion. And what was his brief? It consisted of a series of letters and charges connected with the administration of the Purchase Department. It was alleged that one or both of the Commissioners had been guilty of some inexplicable misconduct in connection with two properties. I will pass by the case of the Sullivan Estate, which, I believe, is not yet out of the Court, and I will merely say that there are facts in regard to it which, if brought forward, would place a considerably different complexion on the attitude of the Land Department as depicted by the hon. Member for South Tyrone. But I will deal with the case of the Fermoy Estate. The charge that Mr. MacCarthy voluntarily went out of his way to interfere in this case is absolutely devoid of foundation. The hon. Member was evidently not properly coached. The facts are these: The estate of Lord Fermoy was for some years in the Court. Delays occurred, which Lord Fermoy charged as the fault of the Department, although subsequently he admitted they were due entirely to difficulties connected with the ascertaining of the title and to applications which he himself had made from time to time to delay the sale of the estate. In the meantime certain arrears had accumulated. The law at that time was in doubt; it was not known whether a landlord in such a case should sue for rent or interest. Lord Fermoy sued in the alternative. The negotiations were carried on in the month of August, just before the Long Vacation; and, owing to the pressure of clerical work, the Land Commission failed to get Lord Fermoy to sign a certificate under Rule 55, which entitles the Land Commissioners to satisfy themselves that all arrears of rent had been either released, or discharged, or paid. The Land Commission not having obtained that certificate, Lord Fermoy proceeded to assert his claim for arrears. Mr. MacCarthy having called his attention to the matter, Lord Fermoy at once 1770 expressed his willingness to sign the certificate. The charge made against Mr. MacCarthy is that he unwarrantably interfered in the affairs of his fellow-Commissioner. The interference was, however, with Mr. Lynch's consent, and the tone of the letter was far more moderate than the language used by Mr. Lynch in open Court in regard to the proceedings of Lord Fermoy's agent. It was the conduct of that agent in suing unjustly for arrears that brought about an alteration in the rules that rendered it necessary, as Mr. Lynch said, forThe Court to guard itself against any invasion of Rule 55…. In one case where the agreement was in the old form, proceedings were taken for a year and a half's rent, or in the alternative, for interest in. lieu thereof, while in another case we found that while we had approved a conveyance more than six months since it had not been executed, and when an explanation was asked for we found it had been held back in order that proceedings might be taken and a decree obtained for arrears of rent. It would militate against the successful working of the Act in future if claims of this character were capable of being made, and we have ordered—Then follow the new rules. The hon. Member in reading the correspondence carefully gave only that which suited his own case, but if he had read the letter of the 5th November, closing the correspondence, he would have thrown a different light on the case. In that Mr. MacCarthy says (to Lord Fermoy's agent)—Surely it must be plain to you it is our manifest duty by leaving all parties free up to the date of the advance to see that the landlord does not, at the very time he receives the advance of State funds, reserve demands against the new proprietors, which, if exacted, would render it impossible for him to discharge his obligations to the State. This plain and clear duty you may be well assured we shall always discharge without fear or favour to anyone.The hon. Member for South Tyrone appeared to think it was a very grievous piece of misconduct on the part of Mr. MacCarthy to threaten Lord Fermoy's agent, who himself is a receiver in the Landed Estates Court.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
Mr. Saunders, the agent, was alone responsible for this action, and yet Mr. MacCarthy threatened the entire firm.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
He is a member of the firm. The Court of Chancery cannot appoint a firm—it can only appoint a single individual; and if the position of the hon. Member were a sound one, 1771 it would be possible for a receiver to grossly misconduct himself by getting his firm to do that which he personally dare not do, and then to escape scot-free as against the Court of Chancery. Both Mr. MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch are bound to be strict in their dealings with these men. The Land Commission have express power under their rules to deal not only with receivers, but also with solicitors, whom they may suspend even for trivial offences. I think the Court's action towards Mr. Saunders was extremely moderate. I look with the utmost alarm to the future of the Land Commission if the practice hitherto recognised is to be departed from, and the two sets of Commissioners to be intermingled, so that those who in the past have fixed the rent will, in the future, be called upon to fix the capital value of the same holding. I say that such a plan is grossly unfair, for a Commissioner who has once fixed the rent would not have a free mind to deal with the question of capital value, as he would be tied somewhat by his previous decision. I say the present system of dividing the work is the only fair and logical one, and that to disturb it will be productive of unfortunate results. The hon. Member for South Tyrone says that the Lord Lieutenant, by Order in Council, can transfer the Purchase Commissioners to the fair rent side of the Land Commission. It is true he may do that, but he has never done it. Furthermore, when such power was conferred on the Lord Lieutenant in Council, care was taken not to give the converse power of transferring the Land Commissioners to the Purchase side. You are proceeding to do that, and by so doing you will, I believe, render the working of the Land Department in the future excessively difficult. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary regarded this Amendment as so important, why did he not stick to a portion of his Land Department Bill? It has been said that preparation must be made for the increased work that will be thrown on the Commissioners. I deny that any increased work will be thrown on the Commissioners. Unless you increase the area of Ireland, it is absurd to imagine that the annual amount of work to be discharged by the Commissioners will be in any way increased. Experience 1772 has shown that £10,000,000 for land purchase lasts over six or seven years. It is fair to assume that land purchase will not go on at an accelerated rate in the future. I venture to predict that, so far from its going on at a greater rate in the future, the tendency of the present Bill will be to retard it. The additional functions thrown upon the Land Commission will be so extremely simple that in no instance will they consist of anything more than signing their names to the documents placed before them, and recommending to the Lord Lieutenant, from time to time, whether the five years over which the guarantee extends shall be continued or not. All the additional work will be performed by Inspectors, and not by the Land Commissioners themselves. The whole tendency of the new Bill is to throw obstacles in the way of purchase, and, that being so, the argument that provision must be made for the additional work to be thrown on the Land Commissioners falls to the ground. There are no arrears in the Purchase Department, but lots of arrears in the Fair Rent Department. I would ask how, under the circumstances, can it be supposed that the Commissioners under the Act of 1881 can lend the slightest assistance to the Commissioners under the Land Purchase Act? I believe myself that the two Purchase Commissioners will be perfectly equal to any work thrown on their Department. In the cases referred to by the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), and especially in Lord Fermoy's case, there would be no appeal. You propose to give power to determine points of law on appeal to gentlemen who are not lawyers at all. Not only will the hon. Gentleman's clause not improve the administration of the Land Department, but I think it will be positively mischievous. I think that if the hon. Gentleman would publish the whole of the correspondence in the case of Lord Fermoy it would be seen that Mr. John George MacCarthy was not only justified in everything he said, but that he only fulfilled his manifest duty in calling attention to the culpable misconduct of Mr. Saunders, and to the action which Lord Fermoy subsequently agreed to withdraw from. I think that, under all the circumstances, the charges 1773 that have been made against the Land Purchase Commissioners fall to the ground. It is said we must have representation for Ulster, and the hon. Member for South Tyrone, speaking for his constituents, said he supported the clause in their name. Speaking for my constituents, who belong to the same class as the constituents of the hon. Gentleman, I believe they will be alarmed and shocked that any Member, especially the hon. Member for South Derry, should introduce a clause which will have the effect of materially injuring the interests of land purchase in Ireland. The great body of them are quite prepared that land purchase should be left in the hands of those who deal with it at the present time. I regret extremely the Chief Secretary has determined to accept the clause. The Land Department Bill proposed to deal with this matter in a different way. Whether we approve of the Land Department Bill or not, its provisions were certainly much more equitable and much more advantageous than the new clause proposed by the hon. Member. (8.25)
(8.50.) MR. MAC NEIL
It is unusual to find Irish Members engaged in defending Government officials against the attacks of false friends. I have recently come from the turmoil of a contested election, and I have stated on every hustings my opinion that the policy of the Government has been inimical to the interests of the British taxpayers, that the policy has amounted to the taking of money from the pocket of British working men, applying it to the relief of worthless Irish landlords. I have also stated that the whole course of administration in Ireland has been to convert, possibly indirectly, that administration into a species of rent office for the landlords. These are serious allegations, but during the course of this Debate, and from speeches from friends of the Government on either side of the House, these allegations have been justified. I have had some years of Parliamentary experience, but I cannot remember in any measure, great or small, an Amendment going to the very root of the matter largely affecting the whole administration of a great and comprehensive measure being brought in on Report ostensibly by an indepen- 1774 dent Member, but really by the Government itself, in the manner this Amendment has been proposed. It is ridiculous to regard the hon. Member for South Derry as the author of this proposal, when we know that a four-lined Whip has been issued to the friends of the Government to support this proposal. The purpose of the Amendment is to cast a slur upon, to degrade so far as it is in the power of the Government to do so, the two Land Purchase Commissioners, and the Land Purchase Commissioners themselves view it in that light. But even for Dublin Castle it is too strong a step to take to censure officials appointed by themselves. It is an amusing thing that these officials were appointed by the present Government to administer the Ashbourne Act, upon which they set great store. Mr. J. G. MacCarthy and Mr. Stanislaus Lynch were nominated by the Government as the best men that could be found to administer the Act, and how have they performed their duties? They have behaved as trustees, as guardians of public money; they have refused to become mere Castle tram horses. They have not degraded their position; they have administered the £10,000,000 entrusted to them judiciously, having regard to the British taxpayer and the community at large, and their real offence is that they have not converted a temple of justice into a thieves' kitchen for the Irish landlords. The Chief Secretary has said that he defended Mr. J. G. MacCaithy, but who attacked him? No one but the agent of the Government, the hon. Member for South Tyrone, and the defence of the right hon. Gentleman was but a "damning with faint praise." I have often admired the loyalty with which the right hon. Gentleman has defended the conduct of his subordinates, even when I have thought it wrong for him to do so. But how different has been the faint and lukewarm defence of Mr. J. G. MacCarthy, who has refused to consider these £10,000,000 as so much plunder to be divided among Irish landlords. Contrast this with the defence of petty officials in bygone years. Two years ago, from my place in this House, I held up the certificate of dismissal with disgrace from the Caps Force of the right hon. Gentleman's Resident Magistrate, O'Neil Segrave, a man whose conduct was the 1775 cause of the murder of three men in open day in cold blood, and yet the right hon. Gentleman defended this man as he has not defended Mr. J. G. MacCarthy. He defended Dr. Barr, who was found guilty by a coroner's jury of having caused the death of John Mandeville. These things come to our remembrance in contrast to the right hon. Gentleman's action now; but we will defend this gentleman and his colleague Mr. Lynch, because we believe they have acted justly, honourably, and well. Long ago I foresaw the course the Government would take in reference to these gentlemen. That Return to which my hon. Friend (Mr. Sexton) has referred, shows how these gentlemen have saved the Exchequer £83,000 by not permitting unconscionable bargains between rich and poor, and I knew then that their doom was sealed by the present Government, and we know the Government have done what they could to degrade the position of these Commissioners. They were given £1,000 a year less than the two pets of the Government, the two handy men who are ready to do as the Government wish, and the shameful, shabby pretence for this present action would be amusing but for the gravity of the consequences. The hon. Member for South Derry, who acts in concert with the hon. Member for South Tyrone, has made this Motion, but it is in reality that of the hon. Member for South Tyrone. It was down originally in the name of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, bat then comes a little shuffling of the cards, and with a new deal the motion appears in the hands of the hon. Member for South Derry as a less notoriously prominent partisan than the hon. Member for South Tyrone. We contend that these two Commissioners should be continued in the position which they have filled with honour to themselves and advantage to the public. I wish the hon. Members for South Derry and South Tyrone were in their places. It is said that the Land Commissioners have had a larger experience, but I say that statement is false. I do not say false to the knowledge of the hon. Gentlemen who make the statement, but I do say they are guilty of surprising negligence in putting the statement forward. There is a Return before the House, moved for on February 23 by the hon. Member for Mr. Mac Neill 1776 South Derry, which shows the qualifications of the Land Commissioners and Purchase Commissioners, and I invite attention to this Return. What are the qualifications of these gentlemen, as compared with the qualifications of the handy men of the Government who are to try the cases on appeal? What are the qualifications of Mr. Lynch? He is nearly 20 years older than the solicitors to whom his cases are to go on appeal. He has had practical experience in land in no fewer than eight counties, and is a gentleman of the highest culture. He was educated at Stony hurst. He kept his terms for admission to the Bar, and had no fewer than 14 years' experience in the Landed Estates Court in Ireland, becoming acquainted, as Registrar, with all the complicated questions and details of title, and displaying conspicuous and splendid ability. He has farmed 1,500 acres of land, or 300 more than Mr. Wrench. The hon. Member for South Derry (Mr. T. Lea) said the Land Purchase Commissioners had less experience than the persons to whom the appeals would be taken. I will not say that what the hon. Gentleman stated was untrue to his knowledge, but I say he was unpardonably negligent, as the Return moved for by himself shows that the Purchase Commissioners have 10 times the experience of the others. I now come to Mr. John George MacCarthy. I do not wish to understate or overstate his qualifications. He had one disqualification in the eyes of the Government. He was elected by the voice of the people, and sat in this House for six years. I find that he has had practical land experience in no fewer than nine counties. He is a gentleman of good education. He was educated in Dorset-shire. He was a land agent, was Legal Assistant Commissioner for four years, and was promoted straight from being Legal Assistant Commissioner to be a Purchase Commissioner. As regards the persons to whom the Appeal is to be taken, when the proper time comes, which I should imagine will be on reaching the clause giving these people their positions, I shall be prepared to state in the plainest language what their qualifications are. At present I decline to do so. I want, however, to say in reference to Mr. Justice Bewley, that his is such a good appointment, and 1777 he is such a meritorious man in every way, that I have a strong notion the Government appointed him by mistake. I shall on a future occasion refer to the qualifications of these gentlemen, because when this Act has passed I shall have an opportunity of speaking about them again. Our mouths are now closed. If I mentioned one of these gentlemen, you, Mr. Speaker, in the exercise of your authority, would call me to order, for the only means of expressing disapproval of anything they may do is by an Address from both Houses of Parliament. Mr. Wrench is not even an Irishman; his previous occupation was that of a land agent, he had an experience in only five counties, and his age is only 37. Mr. Gerald FitzGerald was Legal Assistant Commissioner in 1881 and 1882, and the Return says of him: "He never farmed land or acted as a valuer or surveyor." He never dealt with as much land as would support Noah's dove when it left the ark. It is said that there is no one on the Commission to represent Ulster, but the Ulster case is now played out, and in a few plain words I will state the meaning of this. The Government want to take a leaf out of the book of a bad class of tenants, and to divide this swag amongst their own supporters. These gentlemen for five years have administered public funds economically, and that is their great offence. They have said in effect: "We were appointed by a Conservative Government; we are not grateful to them for the appointment; if they appointed us in order that we might favour them we ought to throw the appointment in their faces; if they appointed us to do Party work on the Bench the appointment is a disgrace to them and to us. We took office as public trustees, and we say that no less than £83,000 has been saved by us from the maw of the landlords by our stepping in and saying to them 'the bargains you propose are unjust and inequitable having regard to all the circumstances of the case.'" I very much object to officials, especially judicial officials, being promoted. It would be a shameful thing if a person appointed to a judicial position were to keep his eyes fixed upon the Treasury Bench in the hope of being promoted. Mr. MacCarthy would not consent to allow bogus tenants to 1778 become mere conduit pipes through which men like Lord Clanricarde might get the money of the taxpayer, and the object of the Amendment is to destroy the independence of men who have acted independently, and put in their place gentlemen on whom the Government have more reliance. The Government want to rig the Irish Bench and get the Land Commission in the hands of the supporters of the Government. These are grave charges if they are not true—as I believe them to be. The Government will say: "We cannot stigmatise our own nominees;" but there are wheels within wheels, and they get their friends on the other side to do that which they cannot do themselves, and then, by means of a four-line Whip, they bring in their supporters from the smoking-room and the tea room to vote for a policy which they would not vote for if they understood it. Their desire in this clause is not to keep their friends on the Land Commission from the influence of the times, but to keep them from the influence of the House of Commons and the Executive Government, and fence them round by the House of Lords, knowing that they themselves will not be in power when the Land Commission as re-organised gets into proper working order. I think, having regard to all these matters, that the public opinion of this country may be affected, and people may see that in Ireland not only are meetings and juries packed, but that by this Land Purchase Act even the Bench of Justice will be packed by the supporters of the Government. It is said that there should be an appeal, but why should there be an appeal under this Act when there was none under the Ashbourne Act? The reason there was no appeal, and why there could be none, under the Ashbourne Act, was that there was no compulsion either on the landlord to sell or the tenant to buy. The Purchase Commissioners, according to theory, are simply trustees of the public purse, and no appeal should be permitted from them, unless on a point of law. The tenant, who is a poor man, is not on an equal footing with the rich landlord in the matter of appeals, and it seems to me that it will be a very hard thing to allow the discretion of the Land Commissioners to be interfered with, 1779 Mr. Justice Bewley for legal purposes is an admirable selection, but the Bill altogether is an after thought in the interests of landlords. Its object is to put a check on the honest discretion of Mr. John George MacCarthy and Mr. Stanislaus Lynch, and to give Mr. Wrench authority in the Court—and this gentleman, like the Resident Magistrates, will do just what he is told either directly or indirectly. Of all the shameful incidents which have occurred in Ireland during the last five years, I think the most shameful is the way in which every judicial tribunal and Court of Justice is tampered with. The Courts of Justice are simply machines of the Government—and I am glad that we are here now defending Government officials. We Irish Members will take right good care that Mr. MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch do not suffer from being honest to the British public, and when we can do so we will try and offer them some atonement for the gross insult the Government have passed on them.
§ (9.25.) MR. WEBB (Waterford, W.)
This clause is at first sight a very simple and innocent looking clause, bat I think it is seldom that simplicity and innocence covered up a more insidious principle than in this case—a principle which would have passed unnoticed by the majority of the House if it had not been for Members sitting on these Benches. It appears to me that all legislation in regard to Ireland follows a very distinct course— directly opposed to what it should be, having regard to the history of the country, and to the small minority in which we find ourselves here. When legislation like the present Bill is intended, there is no consultation with the Irish Members, and vital Amendments brought forward by us are outvoted—and outvoted by hon. Members who have not even heard the Debate or the reasons on our side. The next course is that care is taken that in its application legislation of this kind shall operate against the mass of the people. We have had all these principles strikingly illustrated on the present Land Bill. There was no real consultation with the Irish representatives as to what the legislation should be. I think it will be admitted that there are men on this side of the House, and belonging to our Party, who are quite as able to take a statesmanlike 1780 view of any system of legislation as any Members in any part of the House, and yet I do not think that they have even been cousulted of late years on any question of important legislation. More than this, our Amendments have been constantly outvoted, although they are often very important Amendments. It is difficult to imagine anything more likely to stir the blood of the Irish Party than the way in which we have been outvoted by the majority who are just kept in leash for the purpose. This Bill has been pressed through day after day, it is a measure of great complications, requiring the greatest ability to understand all its details and bearings, and I may say that, but for the extraordinary ability and the iron constitution of two or three Members who have been able to hold out in a period of great sickness, we should have had no real discussion whatever. I consider that the style in which the Government had sought to force 'on the Bill was absolutely indecent. They had had the extraordinary spectacle of the Bill being forced on at the time when the two men who were most responsible for the present agitation in Ireland, and whose views it was most important to obtain—namely, Mr. John Dillon and Mr. William O'Brien—were in gaol.
§ MR. WEBB
This clause is introduced to prevent the Irish people from getting the full benefit of the Bill, and I am surprised at its being backed as it is by Representatives of the tenants of the North of Ireland. With reference to the relative merits of the gentlemen whose different Departments we are now considering, it cannot be denied that one Department has practically no work to do, and that the other is always in arrear, and it does appear extraordinary that the gentlemen in the Department which is in arrear with its work should be chosen to have additional duties imposed upon them. The Purchase Commissioners, Messrs. Lynch and MacCarthy, have done their duty fairly and openly; they have not done it in the spirit of ascendancy, in the spirit of coercion which influences too many of the officials of Ireland, or by truckling to popular clamour. This clause has, to a certain 1781 extent, come upon us by surprise. There has not been time for the country to express its opinion upon it. It has not been introduced in a straightforward manner. On all these grounds we ought to give it the most strenuous opposition in our power.
§ (9.33.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I cannot doubt that the action of the Government, in giving their support to a proposal which has been sprung upon the House by an hon. Member evidently in agreement with them, is most unusual and most unfortunate, and will certainly tend to prolong and embitter the discussions not only on the clause itself, but on the other remaining parts of the Bill. It will have, also, a most unfortunate effect on the future of the Bill when it passes into law, for undoubtedly the change will be regarded as one made in the interest of the landlords, and with the object of enhancing the price of land. The Chief Secretary has said that the proposal now before us is identical with that contained in the Bill to which I refer.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I said that I regretted that the Government could not make it identical, but that it was better to have half a loaf than no bread.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
At all events, the right hon. Gentleman should have pointed out the important respects in "which the clause differs from his Bill. I have referred to that Bill, and I find that the proposal for re-constructing the Land Commission is in every most important respect essentially different from that now before us. The scheme in the Land Department Bill, whether we may approve it or not, was a carefully considered one, and complete as a whole. It proposed that the five Commissioners should be of equal rank and equal pay. The proposal now before us will continue the existing inequality of pay and rank, and will virtually place the Land Purchase Commissioners in an inferior position. Then, again, under the Land Department Bill the distribution of duties is to be made in a very formal manner by the Lord Lieutenant with the assent of the Privy Council. In this proposal a majority of the Commissioners are empowered to make rules in the future for the guidance of the Land Purchase Commissioners. In other 1782 words, the three Land Commissioners are empowered to make rules in respect of that branch of the Department of which they know nothing over the heads of the two Land Purchase Commissioners. Lastly, as regards appeals, the procedure is totally different. Under the Land Department Bill every question affecting the amount of advance is to be made by two Commissioners, and only in the event of their differing is there to be any re-hearing, and then the re-hearing is to be by three Commissioners—one of whom is to be the Judicial Commissioner—and I presume the other two Commissioners will be, or may be, the two who heard the case before. Under the present proposals a single Commissioner is to decide these matters, and if any party thinks himself aggrieved there is to be an appeal to three other Commissioners, of whom one is the Commissioner who first heard the case. For my part, I very much prefer the procedure of the Bill to that now proposed to us. What I desire to point out is the essentially different character of the proposal to that in the Bill, and that the Chief Secretary has entirely misled the House by saying that the are identical. The Chief Secretary defended the proposal mainly on two grounds: the first the necessity for providing machinery for greatly extended operations under the Bill now before us, and he seemed to think that the Bill would necessarily result in a vast increase in business in the direction of purchase. I venture to think he is entirely mistaken; the Bill before us gives no additional facilities or inducements to purchase, but rather the reverse, the only extension is of the actual aggregate which may be advanced; any other change has been in the direction of restricting the two Ashbourne Acts, and, in the opinion of most of us, the 5th clause with respect to tenants' insurance will have a most injurious effect in restricting purchase. If under the Ashbourne Acts purchases have been effected at a rate a little over £1,000,000 a year it is safe to predict that under this Bill the rate "will not be increased, but will be reduced. But the Chief Secretary said that the Bill imposes other duties on the Commissioners; they are, however, of a very contingent and remote character, namely, to report on cases of distress, and the 1783 like. Surely it would be wise, before changing the constitution of the Commission, to obtain some experience as to the working of the new Act, and the effect it will have on the work of the Department. On the other hand, it is perfectly clear from the figures quoted by the Chief Secretary that, for one and a half years at the very least, the other three Commissioners will be amply and fully occupied in clearing off arrears of their own work. What, then, can possibly be the motive for taking them from their present duties? The other question raised is the necessity on appeal and the necessity for bringing into re-hearing the decisions of the Commissioners. I need not remind the House that the Act of 1885 expressly prohibited any appeals and re-hearing, except in matters of law. We are now asked to allow appeals, on any and every point in which any person may think himself aggrieved, and that the appeal shall be from a Commissioner who is thoroughly acquainted with the whole subject of land purchase to three others, who may be wholly ignorant of the business of land purchase. If there is to be an appeal or re-hearing in any special case it should follow the direction of the appeal in legal points, as provided by the Act of 1885—to be to the two Land Purchase Commissioners and a Judicial Commissioner. The real fact is, that this clause is for the express purpose of humiliating the Land Commissioners. The bitter attack of the hon. Member for South Tyrone made this abundantly clear. It is undoubtedly the fact that the Land Purchase Commissioners by their care and their zeal for Imperial credit, and their determination not to allow money to be advanced on bad security, have given mortal offence to many landlords. Mr. MacCarthy has also offended by refusing to make advances in the cases of the planters and emergency men, who have taken the place of evicted men. What is now proposed is to overrule Mr. MacCarthy by bringing on the other Land Commissioners who know nothing about land purchase, who have heard nothing of the previous proceedings, and have no knowledge of what is done in other cases to overrule Mr. MacCarthy, and the undoubted effect will be to tend to raise the rate of purchase, especially in the 1784 case of small holdings, to risk the credit of the State, and to make the measure unpopular with the country.
§ (9.55.) MR. JORDAN (Clare, W.)
I oppose this clause mainly because I think the Land Purchase Commissioners have done their work fairly well and should not be superseded. I think also that the functions of the two classes of Commissioners should be kept distinct, the Purchase Commissioners fixing the capital value of the land, and the Land Commissioners the fair rent. The fixing of fair rent is not nearly so important as the fixing of capital value. The Land Commissioners have the fixing of fair rents for 15 years only, and any mistake they make is only applicable to that term, whereas the Purchase Commissioners have to fix the full value of the land for 49 years, or nearly half a century. I think their functions are much more important than those of the Land Commission. The hon. Member for South Tyrone has admitted that the Purchase Commissioners have done their work fairly well. If so, why should they be superseded? But, says the hon. Member, the transactions are enlarged, and the machinery should be quickened. If we want to quicken the pace, who are so likely to do it, or to do it as well as the present Purchase Commissioners? When the land purchase experiment was new, with all its initial difficulties and intricacies, the Commissioners did so well that we may fairly ask why should they not, with all the experience they have since derived, be able to do as well or even better in the future. I believe they are capable, if necessary, of doing double the amount of work they have done under the Ashbourne Act. On the other hand, you have the rent-fixing Department, where all the officials, except Mr. Wrench, are novices and know little of the land question. Beyond this, Mr. Wrench has only been in office a very short time. The Chief Secretary has not in his able speech to-night disproved the figures put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton). The hon. Member for South Tyrone has told us that the work of the rent-fixing Commissioners is almost exhausted. I would put it to the House whether this is really the case. In my opinion, there must be a 1785 considerable prolongation of the rent-fixing process, which must necessarily go on, at least, for several years. If the rent-fixing Department will require even five years to clear off their work, how foolish is it now to mix them up with land purchase. Wait until their present work is exhausted, and if you then find the rent Commissioners are idle men you can legislate as you wish to legislate now, or you can pension them off; but until then why overweight the rent-fixing Commissioners with work for which at present they have not time or fitness? Why mix them up with these dual functions? The old adage is applicable, "Let the cobbler stick to his last," let each set of Commissioners stick to the work they know best, let those who have been doing their work well continue to do it. I have nothing to say personally against the rent-fixing Commissioners. Mr. Bewley is, I am informed, and I do not doubt it is a fact, a highly respectable man, and it is not my tendency to detract from the merits of any man. I am ready to say a good word when I can, even for Members of the present Ministry. Mr. Bewley, deservedly respected as he is, is simply a Judicial Commissioner, a high and dry Chancery lawyer. Lawyers are all fairly dry, but driest of all is a Chancery lawyer. I hope I am saying nothing offensive to learned limbs of the law who are also Members of this House. I do not see how the qualifications of a Chancery lawyer fit a man for deciding questions in dispute, which turn upon the decision whether a piece of land is worth 12 or 13 years' purchase, or the judicial rent. I do not know why the hon. Member for South Tyrone should have imported such heat into this discussion if he and those with whom he acts have no animus against Mr. J. G. MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch. I am willing to suppose he has no such animus, because I think we may say of the hon. Member that his "bark is worse than his bite," and it may be that his manner is assumed, in his character of special advocate for a class. Anyhow, his case against Mr. J. G MacCarthy has hopelessly collapsed. I think that Mr. Commissioner MacCarthy wrote as expressing the opinion of the Department, and with the assent of Mr. Commissioner Lynch. If Mr. MacCarthy, in 1786 expressing that opinion, was under a misapprehension, yet believing as he did, the letter he penned did honour to him as a man and as custodian of the interests committed to his charge, both of the tenants and the State, and had he dismissed Mr. Saunders, instead of reprimanding him, he would not have exceeded his duty or strict justice. I supported the hon. Member for South Tyrone last night, and, at the risk of giving offence to my Party, I would support him still if I thought in this he was in the right, but I do not think so, and I take the liberty of earnestly advising him not to press this Amendment. If such an exactment should in the future appear desirable let it then be introduced. Are we not to have a Land Department Bill next year? Is the bringing forward the Bill a mere piece of hypocrisy—are the Government fooling the House? I will think better of the Ministry than that, and will suppose that it is their intention to bring forward the Land Department Bill if they should be in office. The Chief Secretary says this clause is part of their scheme in that Bill. Then leave it to be settled with the Bill. Why make the hon. Member for Derry the putative father of the proposal? The right hon. Gentleman found great difficulty in making out the semblance of a case. Would he not be wiser in leaving the thing alone now and letting the Purchase Commissioners continue to do the work which it is not alleged they are unable to do? Why should you anticipate a dead-lock in the purchase transactions? When a difficulty arises deal with it. Why should you degrade these Commissioners from the position they now hold, in which you admit they have done their work well, by associating with them other Commissioners who, from the fact of their drawing higher salaries, will assume a superior position? If it would remedy any defect in the working of the scheme of land purchase, I would support the clause, but the business of the rent-fixing Commissioners is largely in arrear, and likely to be for many years to come.
(10.15.) MR. M.HEALY (Cork)
This is by far the most important issue raised since the Second Reading of the Bill. The clause proposed by the hon. Member for South Derry appears to me to endanger the very existence of the Bill, and strikes a blow at the whole policy of land pur- 1787 chase. I am amazed 'that the Government should act in this perverse way, giving countenance and support to such a pernicious proposal. We have heard from hon. Members on this side of the House a great deal about the interests of the British taxpayer, and many of our hon. Friends from England have felt constrained to differ from us in the position we have taken up upon this Bill, and they have voted against the system of land purchase embodied in it on the ground that the interest of the British taxpayer is endangered thereby, but we have steadfastly supported the policy of the Government. Yet I am bound to say that if this clause passes into law, I, for one, will begin to think that those Irish Members who have supported the Bill have not been entirely wise, and if, indeed, there is any danger or possibility of the British taxpayer suffering loss by the proposals in the Bill that result will be brought about by the clause now proposed. I do not, however, pretend to oppose the clause in the interest of the British taxpayer. The interest: I have in view is that of the Irish, not the English, taxpayer, because, as hon. Members will remember, the Irish taxpayer is interposed as a barrier between the English taxpayer and any possible loss to him under the Bill, and it is the Irish taxpayer who will first have to bear any loss or injury this clause may cause in bringing about the sanction of improvident bargains and consequent failures to meet the purchase annuities on the part of peasant proprietors. The risk of danger falls first upon the Irish taxpayer, and in his interest, primarily, I oppose the clause. This proposal, if adopted, will compel many hon. Members to totally change the point of view from which they have regarded the Bill. Land purchase administered by two men in whom we have confidence is one thing, but administration by five men in the majority of whom we have no confidence is quite a different thing. I, for one, will claim the liberty of re-considering the position I have hitherto taken in regard to the Bill if this clause should be adopted, and, instead of being its supporter, I shall think that, far from it being a benefit to Ireland, it may be the worst curse inflicted upon our country for many years. This clause has had a peculiar history. I do not say 1788 it has been brought forward in any breach of technical Rules of Order, but if no Rule of Order has been distinctly violated, I do suggest that the Procedure of the House has been abused by transactions in relation to this clause. It is admitted to be a capital clause of the utmost importance, and is it fair treatment to Members to capture their support to the Second Reading of the Bill on false pretences, to induce them to believe that the administration of the Bill would be in the hands of the two men who have administered the land purchase system in a way to command general confidence, and then at the fag-end of the Report stage to import a provision handing over the administration to a body in the majority of whom we have no confidence? It is introduced not in Committee, where it could be properly discussed, but on a stage when the facilities for properly discussing such a clause are greatly curtailed. It is introduced not on the responsibility of the hon. Member who makes the Motion, but as a Government proposal. When we consider, too, that just before the Whitsuntide vacation many hon. Members were induced to withdraw their Amendments from Committee, I say the House has not been treated fairly in this matter, and though, technically, there may have been no breach of Rule in the proceedings, I say that if we have many more instances of this kind the House will be driven to seriously re-consider its Rules on the ground that there has been an abuse of our Procedure in the manner in which this clause is put before us. This Bill involves a proposal for advancing £30,000,000; it is a scheme carefully matured by the Government; it is introduced for the second time, and yet we are not told until now that there is to be a change in the administration of these funds, and the selection of the Commissioners is left to a private Member. It is an unreasonable, an unconstitutional, proceeding, and this Conservative Government has added one more to the many instances given of their utter disregard for constitutional precedents hitherto governing procedure in this House. For the first time the Chief Secretary has had the co-operation of Irish Members in a Government measure of importance, and so perverse is his action that I am driven 1789 to suppose that he has become tired of his unwonted position, and is determined that no act of his whole administration shall be one of which Irish Members can cordially approve. This proposal is part of that policy of packing which has from time to time appeared in his administration. We are familiar with jury - packing, we have seen the packing of the Magisterial Bench, and now the proposal is to pack the Land Commission. Having regard to the enormous sums of money the Commission will have to administer, I venture to think that this is probably the most serious of the tamperings with the constitution of Departments which from time to time has characterised the administration of the right hon. Gentleman. What are the pretexts upon which the clause is introduced—for of course they are not the real reasons for which it is promoted? In the first place, the hon. Member for South Derry, its putative father, does not appear to be very strong on the grounds for introducing the clause. He spoke vaguely of the work of the Land Purchase Department and the expense to litigants; he contented himself with vague generalities, not advancing a single instance in support of the proposal. Now, there is no Court in Ireland where the tenant has to pay less in the shape of costs than the Land Purchase Commission. I have had a good deal to do in the management of affairs for the tenant class in the Land Court, and I know that the whole cost of the proceedings has usually been borne by the landlord, very unwisely sometimes, for there are many matters before the Court upon which the tenant ought to be represented. Then it is said there have been great delays in the Court of the Land Purchase Commissioners, and here, again, the hon. Member was judiciously vague; he attempted to give no instances of such delay. Now, this Court has been in existence for six years, and during those six years there have been perpetually questions raised in this House commenting upon, and criticising the administration of, almost every Department in Ireland; but I challenge the hon. Member to examine the Records of this House and find any single criticism in debate or question reflecting on the history and proceedings of the Land 1790 Purchase Department. The hon. Member for South Tyrone mentioned one case in which he was able to allude to some delay. It was a case we never heard of before, in reference to which no questions have been asked, and as to the history of which I know nothing. It may have been that the delay was caused by the professional men engaged in the case. Then, again, stress has been laid upon the amount of knowledge of agricultural values. Upon this I will say that, in my opinion, the two Purchase Commissioners have, at least, as much knowledge as the three gentlemen who are to be added. The hon. Member for South Derry seemed to think that the three rent Commissioners must necessarily have acquaintance with agricultural matters, qualifying them to decide as to the value of land; but the fact is, fair rent appeals are decided, like every other judicial case, not on the personal knowledge of the Judges, but on the evidence given before them upon the reports and evidence of their valuers. It does not follow, because the three rent-fixing Commissioners have been going about hearing appeals, that therefore they have acquired agricultural knowledge, and the two Purchase Commissioners are probably as well qualified to decide the questions that arise before them as any Department in the United Kingdom. Of course, the real fact is — and it is practically admitted—that the three Fair Rent Commissioners are to be introduced not because they can give any assistance in the working of this Act, but for the sole purpose of serving as a Court of Appeal on questions of value from the decisions of the two existing Commissioners, Messrs. Lynch and MacCarthy. It is admitted that these Purchase Commissioners have work cut out for them in the way of appeals that will last them at least a year. For 10 years the Fair Rent Commissioners have been hearing appeals without having ever overtaken the mass of work which has accumulated on their shoulders. It is now said that in the course of another year they will have done so. I am exceedingly glad to hear that information. It will be very comforting to the great mass of the tenants in Ireland. I am professionally concerned for tenants whose appeals have been 2½ years pending, but have never been 1791 listed, and are not likely to be listed for six months or 12 months. Under the circumstances, it is idle to tell me that these three learned Commissioners are likely to render any efficient service in the practical carrying out of the Act. It is to be observed that these gentlemen have other administrative duties. They have important duties under the Labourers Act, and they have administrative duties in regard to the Church Temporalities Fund. It is on these gentlemen, who have been for 10 years, and are still, in arrear with their work, that it is modestly proposed to dump down the additional work created by this Bill. It is perfectly plain that the real reason for this proposal is the reason given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt). This clause is a vote of censure on Mr. John George MacCarthy. It would be throwing water on a drowned rat to allude any more to the ridiculous mare's nest which was discovered by the hon. Member for South Tyrone in reference to the estate of Lord Fermoy. The hon. Gentleman brought his allegations forward in such melodramatic tones that one would have naturally expected to find on the Paper a Notice of Motion calling on Her Majesty to remove Mr. MacCarthy from his position. It all amounted, however, to this: that some gentleman concerned in the Court had been accused of being guilty of sharp practice, and that Mr. MacCarthy wrote and asked him if it was correct. My own complaint in reference to the Purchase Commissioners in the matter of Lord Fermoy's estate is that they ever sanctioned the sale. The sale took place in the early days of the Land Purchase Act, at 20, or more than 20, years' purchase. It was a sale which the tenants afterwards made desperate efforts to get out of, and it was pressed on the tenants as the result of a long struggle with their landlord to obtain some reduction of their enormous rents. The transaction reflects no discredit on Mr. MacCarthy, and, if it could be examined, the person who would come badly out of it would be Mr. Saunders, the hero whom the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) comes forward to defend. What is still more remarkable than the speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone is the sinister silence of the Chief Secretary. 1792 For the first time during his administration an attack upon an Irish official has been passed over in silence by the right hon. Gentleman. If it happened that the meanest Resident Magistrate in Ireland, from Mr. Cecil Roche down to Colonel Caddell, was attacked, the right hon. Gentleman had his defence ready cut and dried. He was always ready to pour the vials of his wrath on anyone who ventured to impeach the competency of any of his officials. To-night, however, the head of an important Department, the Member to whom the Government in their own Bill propose to hand over the administration of £30,000,000 sterling, has been attacked, and we have heard no word of reproof from the right hon. Gentleman. This is, in effect, a proposal to change the men who are working the machinery of land purchase in Ireland, to give an appeal on the question of value from Mr. John George MacCarthy to Mr. Wrench. The hon. Member for South Tyrone argued that the Land Purchase Commissioners at present are the Court who have the confidence of the tenants, but that a Court ought to be a body who have the confidence both of landlords and tenants. He, therefore, proposes to introduce Mr. Wrench and the other gentleman as a counterpoise to Mr. John George MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch. The Land Purchase Department is an Executive Department administering the funds of the State, and it is a Court to carry out bargains between landlord and tenant. It is not a question of landlord and tenant having confidence in the Land Purchase Department; it is a question of the Irish and English public having confidence in the Department, and that alone is the issue in this case. The hon. Member for South Derry gave an example of a sale in Antrim, in which case the landlord and tenant agreed to present their agreement to the Land Purchase Commissioners, and the Commissioners sent down a valuer, who saw the farm when snow was on the ground, and induced the Commissioners to reject the sale. The hon. Member says there ought to be an appeal from one man. Applications for loans are frequently made to the Treasury, who, after due consideration, announce their decision. What would be said if we proposed there should be an appeal from the Treasury? 1793 It is ridiculous to speak of an appeal from the Treasury or the Land Department. The practice of the Land Purchase Commissioners in doing their work through valuers has been sneered at. Does the hon. Member for South Derry expect that Mr. John George MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch are going to visit the properties themselves? Does he suggest that these three Commissioners will go through any process of the kind? No; they must act just as the Land Purchase Commissioners are acting. It is on information derived by Inspectors that the Land Commission, however constituted, must in the end decide, and therefore it is idle to suggest that the three Commissioners, when they are invested with authority under the Bill, will be a whit more competent to pronounce on a question of value than the two Purchase Commissioners. However an application comes before them, there is only one way in which they can satisfy themselves that the security is adequate, and that is by sending down a valuer, who will decide whether it is or not. The way in which the Court of Appeal, which has been put forward as a model, does its work is by this despised system of valuers, and it is the boast of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that since they adopted the system of valuers they have done twice as much work as they did in the whole of their past history. Reference has been made to the case of Mr. O'Sullivan. So far from the action of Mr. Lynch in that case reflecting any discredit upon him, it was the highest testimony to his integrity. The principal member of the firm of solicitors who applied to Mr. Lynch for a loan was a near relative of his own. Mr. Lynch had the strongest interest in making an advance if he could. This is an attempt to degrade the Purchase Commissioners in salary and jurisdiction, and by being attacked in the House by a supporter of the Government, and having that attack passed over in silence by the Chief Secretary. There was something to be said for the proposals in the Land Department Bill. Those proposals were, at any rate, well considered and well matured. Whilst this clause imports into the working of the land purchase system a body of men in whom the Irish public have no confidence, on the other hand that Bill contained a great many 1794 excellent proposals which, to some extent, would have mitigated the objections which we take to this particular proposal. That Bill put the Land Purchase Commissioners on a perfect equality with the existing Land Commissioners. This clause will have a most mischievous effect. It 'will vitiate the whole Bill; it will render the Bill as hateful in the eyes of the Irish public as it appears it has hitherto been in the eyes of the English public.
§ (10.50.) MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I should like to say a word or two from what I may call a practical point of view. I can quite understand the action of the Chief Secretary and the Government in bringing in the Land Department Bill. Anybody who has the slightest acquaintance, even on this side of the Channel, with judicial administration in Ireland—the very lavish scale on which it is based, and the very easy manner in which it is worked— must say that the Government were right in proposing that there should be a thorough re-construction of the Land Department when there were very large and increased duties handed over to the Commissioners. I can also understand that, looking at the state of Public Business and the vast complexity of this measure, the Government should abandon for this year their Land Department scheme, and should content themselves with proposing to the House the land purchase scheme really as an extension of the Ashbourne Act. That was an intelligible policy, and one which apparently met with the approval of Parliament. But what I do not understand is this: that having decided to abandon the Land Department Bill, and having decided to omit all reference to the working of the Commission in this Bill, they should, on one of the last nights of the Report stage of the Bill, accept from one of their supporters, who is charged with no official responsibility, and who does not possess much official knowledge, a clause which has been provocative of the greatest difference of opinion in the House, a clause which must naturally very much impede the working of the Act. I ask the Chief Secretary what is the practical advantage to him and to the Irish Government and to land purchase in forcing this clause at this moment? I quite agree 1795 you must re-construct your Land Department. I do not believe it is possible for the Land Purchase Commissioners to work out this scheme; they must have help, perhaps more than we contemplate. In the next 12 months nothing can be done by the aid of the clause you are now going to pass into law; and by passing this clause you will practically deprive yourselves of the power of an intelligible and statesmanlike re-construction of the Department. Let me recall the Chief Secretary's attention to the figures relating to business as stated in the Report of the Land Commissioners themselves. In their Report, presented to Parliament up to the end of August last year, the Commissioners say that 2,381 appeals from the Civil Bill Court and re-hearing of decisions of the Sub-Commissioners were disposed of by them during the year. They say the number of appeals lodged during the year was 2,781, that is 400 more than were disposed of. The number of appeals pending was 6,400. In January of this year the number of appeals lodged was 326, and the number disposed of 156. There we see the tendency is for the arrears to increase. In February last, 333 appeals were disposed of, while only 211 were lodged. My argument amounts to this: that even if they were overtaking their work, and I think it is probable they are, it would be absolutely impossible for any Land Commission to devote half of their judicial time during the next 12 months to the work of land purchase. How can they do that without neglecting their other duty? I think I am not straining the point when I say it will take two years before they can overtake the business. Mention was made last night of the conciliatory manner in which all sides of the House approached the difficult question of dealing with the evicted tenants. I do not suppose the Chief Secretary is so silly a man as to wish this great Act of his should not be a success. It is his interest that this great measure of land purchase should work with as little friction as possible, and with as satisfactory result as possible. It is evident that some time must elapse before the friction caused by this Debate will pass away. Possibly Mr. MacCarthy may feel aggrieved, and so also may Mr. Lynch, but certainly you have by this clause 1796 introduced an element of discord into an otherwise pacific measure. You are devoting an enormous sum to the pacification of Ireland, and surely it is in the interests of both landlords and tenants and of good government as well, that you should avoid introducing anything irritating and likely to provoke controversy in the working of the measure. If you pass this clause the Bill will be a dead letter for at least 12 months, and it may be for two years. For six years you have divided your Commissioners into two classes—three of them being appointed to settle fair rents, and two to deal with purchase questions. You are now going to throw an apple of discord into that Commission, with no practical result, for there will of necessity be great delay in dealing with the cases arising. It is inevitable that there must be a reconstruction of the Land Department. The Chief Secretary rebuked me when I said the Purchase Commissioners were coming to the end of their duties. He said that the period during which the judicial rents were to be in force would shortly expire, and that that would bring a large access of work. It is quite evident, too, that there will be a large amount of work to be done by this Land Commission. We persist in opposing this clause, which has not been introduced on the responsibility of the Government, which forms no part of their scheme, and which emanates from hon. Members who are not conversant with the difficulties which the proposition involves. I think the wisest, safest, and best course will be to let the Amendment stand over on the understanding that the Chief Secretary will at the earliest possible period introduce a Bill for the proper re-construction of the Land Department, and for the utilisation of a greal deal of the existing spare judicial power. That would, I think, tend to secure the working of this great Land Purchase scheme on satisfactory, peaceful, and, I hope, successful lines.
§ (11.4.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman has been distinguished by a tone of moderation which was absent from some of the other speeches delivered earlier in the evening. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary recognises the spirit in which the 1797 right hon. Gentleman has addressed the House, but in the observations he has made the right hon. Gentleman has indicated reasons which must induce the Government to adhere to the course which was indicated by my right hon. Friend earlier in the evening. The right hon. Gentleman has pointed out in strong, distinct, and clear language that as a permanent arrangement it would be impossible to leave the two Purchase Commissioners to deal alone with the great duties which would be placed upon them.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
In other words, then, the Court would have to be re-constituted and placed on a proper basis. The right hon. Gentleman suggests as a measure of conciliation that the matter should be postponed until next year, when the Chief Secretary can re-introduce the Land Department Bill, and then take steps to place this Court on a proper footing. But the question to be considered is whether this delay might not risk the re-constitution of the Court being undertaken at all, and that re-constitution, as the right hon. Gentleman has very properly pointed out, is essential for the working of the scheme. Some hon. Members have spoken from the British point of view. If my right hon. Friend desired to pass the Land Department Bill early next Session, I do not know whether it would be possible to subordinate the other important British measures with which we have to deal in order to do it, and then we should be landed precisely where the right hon. Gentleman does not wish us to be. On the admission, therefore, of the right hon. Gentleman, the Government say it would be impossible to continue with safety to leave those important duties in the hands of two men, notwithstanding the manner in which they have conducted the business of their Department hitherto. Are the Government to run the risk of depending upon an opportunity of passing the measure next year, looking to all the chances of dealing with a large number of important questions? The sole object my right hon. Friend has in view is to strengthen the Court, not for want of confidence in the members of it, but on account of the increase and complication of their duties which will 1798 result from the passing of this measure. I have heard it suggested that it is somewhat of a degradation to those gentlemen that they are to be associated with other gentlemen receiving a different salary. I do not think it is any degradation for gentlemen to work together, even supposing they are on different sides, and receiving different salaries. That happens even in the case of Cabinet Ministers. Those Ministers, who have varying salaries, do not at all feel it to be a degradation to work together, and therefore I ask the House to put aside this question of degradation or slur on the present members of the Commission. My right hon. Friend disclaims in the strongest manner that anything he has said reflects in any way upon Mr. MacCarthy. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that Mr. MacCarthy may claim to be heard, but has not language similar to that complained of as having been used towards Mr. MacCarthy been used nearly a whole evening with regard to Mr. Wrench? It may equally be said, therefore, that Mr. Wrench has a claim to be heard. I trust that both these gentlemen will have the common sense to know that in no way has the House of Commons as a body reflected upon the way in which they have performed their duties. I trust that the heat which has characterised a portion of this Debate will pass away. I feel strongly with my right hon. Friend that if we are to have full confidence in the Court that it will do its work honestly and to the satisfaction of the country at large, it is necessary it should be re-constructed as proposed by this clause, and, in passing the clause, as I hope the House will, we must disclaim any intention to cast the slightest reflection upon any member of the Land Commission.
§ (11.14.) MR. CRILLY (Mayo, N.)
We now know where we stand. The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hand is the hand of Esau—the clause, which has emanated from supporters of the Government on these Benches is the clause of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I think we have some justification for feeling heat in this matter. Why, if it was so necessary at the end of the discussions on this Bill to introduce a clause entirely altering the complexion of this Bill, was the clause not brought forward 1799 by the Government? Why is the measure to be turned topsy-turvy by the hon. Member for South Tyrone and his Friend the Member for South Derry? I represent a large body of poor people in the West of Ireland who might have been benefited by this Bill, and I have a right to protest against the acceptance of this clause by the Government. I was one of those who from the first looked favourably upon this Bill. I regarded it as a measure which would be of benefit to the poor tenants in the West of Ireland, and I now join with the junior Member for the City of Cork in protesting against the introduction of a clause the sole object of which is the aggrandisement of the landlords. It is because I sympathise with the poor people in the West of Ireland, because I know that the introduction of the clause will unhinge and spoil and maim the Bill, that I give it my strenuous opposition. The hon. Member for South Tyrone has honestly avowed the purpose of this clause. He never minces matters. If he wants to fight the Plan of Campaign he fights it like a man, and when he wants to tell the truth about Mr. MacCarthy he does it in the same way. Undoubtedly, in supporting this clause, he is fighting Mr. MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch, the Land Purchase Commissioners, and it is because those gentlemen have the confidence of the Irish people that we protest against the acceptance of that clause. This is not a matter of mere sentiment. We have lived among our constituents, we are familiar with their sufferings, we know which way their sympathies tend, and therefore it is that we sometimes import a little heat into our speeches. If, by the acceptance of this clause, we thought it would be possible for justice to be meted out to both parties we would, of course, look on it with favour; but we believe that the tenants will not receive justice under it. I am amazed at the action of the Government in to-night throwing over the two Purchase Commissioners. When the hon. Member for South Tyrone attacked Mr. MacCarthy did the Government remember that his appointment was made by a Conservative Minister? When the Chief Secretary of the day, the Member for the Dartford Division of Kent, was introducing the Bill of 1885, he and the then Attorney General (now Mr. Justice 1800 Holmes) both guaranteed that the two Commissioners appointed would be men in whom the country at large would have confidence. Well, the Government did appoint two such gentlemen. I contend that Mr. MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch have gained, and have deserved, the confidence of Irishmen and Englishmen, and I object altogether to this insidious attempt to undermine their authority and destroy their position. We shall, therefore, oppose the clause to the bitter end. I have gone to the trouble of analysing the Returns issued by the Land Purchase Department, but the hon. Member for West Belfast has forestalled me. But I may point out that during the five years Messrs. MacCarthy and Lynch have been administrating the Department they have had 23,348 applications before them for advances out of the British Treasury to the gross amount of £9,217,380. Of these they have rejected — because they have conscientiously attended to their duties— claims to the amount of £964,702. What a howl of delight would have gone up from the landlords of Ireland if these men had not exercised their power of supervision in such an active and efficient way, and had passed all these claims! But although they have had such an enormous number of claims before them, they have been able to get through their work so well that in August, 1890, they had provisionally sanctioned advances to 17,550 applicants. I want now to point the contrast. These two gentlemen had in their hands the distribution of £10,000,000. They received applications to the extent of £9,217,000. They actually issued a sum practically amounting to £6,000,000. In view of the insidious character of this clause, I would ask hon. Members to observe how these two men have watched over the Public Purse. On the 21st of August, 1890, upon this enormous sum of £6,000,000 the only arrears owing amounted to £7,657, and by the 31st of October this amount had been reduced to £2,554, and the Land Purchase Commissioners say that, with the exception of £611, the whole of these arrears were due in respect of the half-yearly instalments payable on the 1st of May, 1890. The experience of the Commissioners is that all they have to do is to give some little notice and the great bulk of the arrears comes in. So that to-day these gentle- 1801 men have acted so faithfully to the trust reposed in them that, as a result of their large expenditure, there is a sum of something like £700 or £800 only due to-day. This fact may be due either to the honesty of the Irish tenants or to the vigilance of the Land Purchase Commissioners or to both. We have had cause for many years to believe in the honesty of the Irish tenants, whose spokesmen we are in this House. I would only refer to one little fact more, and I have finished. The last Report of the Land Commissioners showed that in 1890 the purchase price of land in Ireland amounted to 16.7 of the annual rental, whereas this Bill permits the Land Commission, if necessary, to advance 20 years' purchase. We hold that it is necessary for the interests of the Irish people, and for the interests of the British taxpayer, that the faithful service of these gentlemen should be recognised, and that we must resist to the very last, and as bitterly as we can, any attempt to weaken or undermine the authority of these experienced and trusted men. I hope, therefore, that the suggestion thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. Fowler) will be accepted. Despite the—shall I use an Irish phrase and say—soft-sawderizing speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we think this clause should be delayed. As one who hopes the Bill will do some good among the poorer class of tenants in Ireland, I would ask hon. Members to resent and resist as far as they possibly can the introduction of this clause, which has not been put down until the eleventh moment. It is a clause which will make the Bill inoperative in Ireland, which will place the Irish tenant at the mercy of his landlord, and will, in consequence, re-open the whole agrarian war in Ireland. By accepting this clause the Government, instead of holding out the olive branch to the Irish people, are sounding the note of war. I trust the House will realise the fact that we below the Gangway, as representing the Irish tenants, unanimously oppose this clause, and we trust that if the Government have been actuated by fair and honest motives in introducing this Bill they will, even now, re-consider their decision and refuse to accept the clause.
§ (11.39.) MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. Fowler) clearly showed that this clause, even if it passes, will be inoperative for some time. He said he considered that the Commissioners would not have much to do, but then he recognised that he was misinformed on that subject, and that they would have a great deal to do. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stood up to answer the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, but he did not allude to that branch of the subject at all, and he said it was necessary, if this land purchase was to go on in Ireland, that additional assistance should be given to the Department. Well, I venture to point out that for the first year or 18 months there will be no great crowding of work in the Land Department, in fact, that the rate of purchase will be what it has been for some time past. The working of this Bill will be slower than that of the Ashbourne Act, owing to the local guarantees. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was necessary to give further assistance to the Land Commissioners, and that if it was not given it would lead to the choking of the department. I say that that is not the case. The working of the measure will depend on the men to whom the work is entrusted, and if you appoint the Land Commissioners and make them Commissioners in the Land Purchase Department, you will have to cancel the appointments before long. The arrears will become so great that you will have to appoint new Commissioners, and if you do that you will create vested interests, which you will find it difficult hereafter to interfere with. I cannot see what hurry there is for making this change. I venture to say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton is correct in his forecast that this clause will prove inoperative. More than that, I am against it in principle, believing that in voting Supply we have a right to debate the views of those who dispense it. In this clause you are taking out of our hands what we believe to be the right of the House of Commons to inquire into the way in which these men perform their duties. To my mind there is nothing urgent in this, and you will only bring about per- 1803 plexity, and make the working of the measure impossible, and prejudice the Irish people against it, if you adopt this clause. Even from the Government point of view the wisest thing would be to take time in the matter.
§ (11.44.) MR. COLLERY (Sligo, N.)
I do not wish to prolong the Debate, but I listened attentively to the speeches from the Treasury Bench, and from the hon. Gentleman who introduced the clause, and I am bound to say I heard no valid reason given why these three additional Commissioners should be added to the present Land Purchase Commission. I listened to hear whether it could be shown that the two Land Purchase Commissioners had not fully and adequately discharged their duties. I thought I should hear some arguments brought forward to show this, but none have been advanced. There have been many additions made to the Bill at the instance of the Government, but it seems to me they will only tend to complicate it. It seems to me that the Irish tenants will derive very little consolation from the measure. The hon. Member for South Tyrone declared that he spoke in the interest of the Irish tenant farmers, but I should like to know where be has studied the interests of the Irish tenant farmers? If he had ascertained their feelings he would have known that they are not in favour of this clause, and will not be willing to be drawn into the net prepared for them. The Chief Secretary has tried to make a great measure, but he has only succeeded in making such a measure that very few people in Ireland will be able to take advantage of or understand. I honestly confess I do not understand its difficult and complicated clauses. The three Commissioners about to be added to strengthen the Land Purchase Commission are three gentlemen who, to my own knowledge, have so delayed their own work that cases have been erased from the lists without having been heard, owing to the death of one of the parties. A case of this kind occurred within my own experience in Sligo. The case was thrown back, owing to the Commissioner starting away at 1 o'clock in the day in order to catch a train to Dublin. There was then a long delay, and an old woman 1804 who was one of the parties in the case died. The Commissioner has not returned yet, and when he does he will find the case erased from the list. These three Land Commissioners are to be introduced into the Land Purchase Court to do work that has hitherto been well done, and I think, under the circumstances, it would be to the interest of the country at large that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary should re-consider his decision, and postpone the clause for the present.
§ (11.50.) The House divided:—Ayes 136; Noes 83.—(Div. List, No. 268.)
§ Clause read a second time.
§ It being after Midnight, Further Proceeding stood adjourned.
§ Bill, as amended, to be further considered upon Monday next.