§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 4.
In page 4, line 7, after the word"Fund," to insert the words" and such charge shall be payable out of the cash and contingent portions of the Guarantee Fund in the order hereinbefore mentioned."—(Mr. Knox.)
Question again proposed," That those words be there inserted."
§ (4.10.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I think that the Government, in declining to accept this Amendment, are violating the agreement they deliberately entered into when Clause 3 was under discussion. There was a clear understanding that the Amendment was to be looked upon as of a consequential character. The Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Cavan (Mr. Knox) proposes to apply a particular provision to Clause 4, and I hope the Chief Secretary will inform the Committee if he has anything to add to the statement which he made last night. It has come to our knowledge accidentally that the Government regard the most important of the Amendments made in Clause 3 as having been accepted in ignorance, and that they propose to strike them out on Report. I certainly understood the right hon.
1857 Gentleman to say that these Amendments were to be regarded as consequential. I submit that he was not taken by surprise, but that there was a distinct Amendment on the Paper which provided that the Guarantee Fund should consist, in addition to the county percentage, of two other sums. There was a proposal that the county percentage should be first drawn upon, but the right hon. Gentleman did not move it. In so doing he showed that he was Sensible of the propriety of allowing a certain order to be observed in regard to the guarantee. The agreement was entered into by the right hon. Gentleman and by the Attorney General for Ireland with deliberation, and they cannot now rely upon the plea of simplicity, and say that they did not understand the force of the arrangement they entered into. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, for the sake of the progress of the Bill and the good relation which exists between members in different parts of the House, to give an undertaking that he will not, on Report, endeavour to affect the arrangement which has been come to. If the right hon. Gentleman will leave the clause as it stands we on our part will not press the Amendment moved last night. We will be satisfied with the transfer from the Land Purchase Guarantee Fund of whatever may be got as a balance, but let it be drawn upon in the order already agreed.
§ (4.20.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I will endeavour to explain the misapprehension, but, in the first instance, I will point out the parts of the hon. Gentleman's speech with which I agree. I agree with him that he did put down on the Paper an Amendment designed to allocate £40,000 of the Probate Duty first, and that he placed two out of the three contributory funds in such a position that they would be drawn upon before the county percentage was touched. I agree also that the Government assented to the Amendment proposed by himself, which had for its object the alteration of the order in which the various funds in Clause 3 were to be utilised, and to provide that one fund should be exhausted before the next in order was touched. But 1 do not agree with the hon. Member that 1858 there was any such understanding as he asserts with reference to the 5s. percentage, nor do I admit that the Government had anything of the kind in their minds when they consented to stereotype the order of the contributory funds, nor is there any evidence that either he or his hon. Friends near him had such a proposal prominently before their own eyes.
§ MR. SEXTON
That was distinctly the object of the Amendment, and the Government assented to the county percentage coming last.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No, Sir; nothing appeared in the Amendment or in the speech of the hon. Member to show in the most remote manner that that was either directly or indirectly the object in view. I have looked through the reports of the Debates upon the Bill, and neither in the Times, the Free-man's Journal, the National Press, nor in Hansard, of which I have the reports of our proceedings up to Friday last, can I find any reference to such a proposal in regard to the 5s. percentage, nor can I find at. what stage of our proceedings the Amendment referred to last night was introduced. If anything was said upon the matter, it must have been incidentally in the course of some conversation across the Table, and not in serious debate. Indeed, it was neither debated, discussed, nor alluded to regularly in any speech.
§ MR. SEXTON
The matter was mentioned when the right hon. Gentleman agreed to withdraw, and not to move, his proposed Amendment, by which the county percentage was to be made the first fund drawn upon.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
What was then said had reference to the propriety of the county percentage being dealt with by a later sub-head; but no argument was addressed to the Committee in favour of putting it lowest down in the order. If such a proposal had been made, I should have risen at once to urge the impropriety of leaving untouched this contribution, made simply out of charity. [" Oh, oh!"] The question was regarded as settled, and when the Amendment was brought forward immediately after dinner last night, hon. Members certainly did not appear to be conscious that the matter had been mentioned in any previous Debate. The Amendment 1859 however, was introduced, not as a Consequential Amendment, but as a substantive alteration in the Bill.
§ MR. KNOX
(Cavan, W.): I proposed it as a drafting Amendment, imagining that it would be disposed of in two minutes. It was only after the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland shook his head and said that he could not regard it as a drafting Amendment that I went into the merits of the question.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I was not present at the time; but my right hon. and learned Friend says that the hon. Member did not explain that it was to carry out what had already been agreed upon in Clause 3. We had not Clause 3, as amended, before us. On the whole, I see no reason to alter the view I expressed last night that the Amendment in Clause 3 was introduced accidentally; and I should not have assented to it if I had been aware of what was being done. I shall advise the House, on the Report stage, to restore the clause to the form in which I believed that the discussion had left it.
§ (4.26.) MR. MAHONY (Meath, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman says that the hon. Member for Cavan did not move this as a Consequential Amendment, hut I distinctly remember that when my hon. Friend got up he said that he would save the time of the Committee by simply moving it formally. He was only induced to discuss the Amendment at length because the Attorney General by shaking his head intimated that he intended to object to it. My hon. Friend at once expressed his astonishment at the right hon. and learned Gentleman's dissent. My hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) has now made a proposal which, I think, will be a very fair compromise. The right hon. Gentleman objects that the 5s. county percentage should be carefully guarded and that other funds should be used first in case of the Guarantee Fund becoming cut down, and the hon. Member for Belfast proposes that Clause 3 shall be allowed to remain as it now stands. The effect of this would be that, while the full amount of the annual instalments of the 5s. percentage from the repayments for the holding would go into the Guarantee Fund, it would not be required 1860 to make up any deficiency until the two other funds which stand in front have been exhausted. Consequently, in the event of repudiation the 5s. for the labourers would never reach the Guarantee Fund, and until it reached the Guarantee Fund it would not reach the labourers, and to that extent the labourers would suffer. But although the 5s. might not reach the Guarantee Fund unless it were supplied by the sale of the tenant's property, if there was a deficiency beyond what was thus realised, it would become a charge upon the Guarantee Fund in the ordinary way.
§ (4.32.) MR. SEXTON
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will find that my proposal is worthy of consideration. I think that it would be rather hard if the consequence of the Amendment proposed last were to be to require a deficiency in the land purchase account to be made good out of the Probate grant; but what I now ask is that where the tenant pays the full £4 on his advance of £100, the 5s. county percentage should be placed in the Guarantee Fund and allowed to remain there. If the right hon. Gentleman will accept that compromise, I believe we shall be able to get on with the Bill.
§ (4.35.) MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
May I remind the Committee that I supported the Government last night because I thought the Chief Secretary was right in his view of the effect of the Amendment. But after the proposal now made by the hon. Member for West Belfast I think the Government would be well advised in acceding to the suggested compromise.
§ (4.36.) SIR G. CAMPBELL
(Kirkcaldy, &c.): My great doubt is whether the Amendment is required at all. There can be little doubt that there has been a deplorable waste of time over the measure. We do not like the Bill, but at the same time we profess that we are anxious to get on with it, and get to free education. If that is so, it seems to me that it would be better to allow the Amendment to be withdrawn, and, if necessary, reconsider it on Report.
§ (4.38.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN,) Dublin University
I think it is due to the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Knox), to say that he did move his Amendment at 1861 first as consequential, but when that view was dissented from he at once went into the substance of the Amendment, without in any way explaining in what way it was merely a drafting or consequential Amendment. The Amendment was discussed, not as a consequential Amendment, but as a substantive proposition. We accepted an Amendment across the floor of the House.
§ MR. SEXTON
What does the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean by accepting an Amendment across the floor of the House?
§ MR. MADDEN
I mean accepting an Amendment not put down on the Paper, but moved by an hon. Gentleman opposite. I would remind the Committee that on Clause 2 I warned hon. Gentlemen opposite that in an intricate and complicated question such as this it is exceedingly dangerous to accept Amendments without the fullest consideration, and that the best way would be to re-consider the matter on Report.
§ (4.40.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Although I am unwilling to give a final judgment on the Amendment suggested by the hon. Member for West Belfast, I am quite willing to withdraw unreservedly from the position I took up last night as to restoring Clause 3 upon Report, and will give full consideration to the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman, and if I possibly can, give effect to it upon Report.
§ MR. SEXTON
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the assurance which I have no doubt he will carry out, and I would suggest to my hon. Friend that he should ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
I hope I am entitled to express a hope, viewing the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has met them on this important question, that hon. Members who have Amendments on the Paper will consider it part of their duty to look over the numerous Amendments with a view to making a selection of the most important questions on which they desire to obtain the judgment of the Committee. If they will do so, I am sure that opportunities will be given them which otherwise they may lose of bringing forward important matters, the discussion of which would 1862 be of considerable service to the country.
§ (4.42.) MR. T. M. HEALY (Long ford, N.)
We entirely appreciate the spirit in which the Chief Secretary has met us in this matter, and we have shown on former occasions our willingness to meet him in the same spirit. As for the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, he is not entitled to express any hope with reference to our conduct. We have repudiated him from first to last, and if the Government desire to get on with the Bill, the less attention they pay to any suggestions from the hon. Member the better.
§ MR. FITZGERALD (Longford, S.)
We also are entitled to repudiate the action of the hon. Member for Longford and his Friends, which we think is not calculated to promote the progress of the Bill.
§ (4.43.) MR. SEXTON
Without raising any contentious matter I may say I think the Chief Secretary will admit that on both Clauses 2 and 3 I endeavoured to open the discussion of each by eliciting from him a general statement as to the intentions of the Government, with a view to limiting the Debates and number of Divisions. We have thus tried to economise the time of the Committee.
§ MR. PARNELL
I expressly guarded myself from expressing any hope with regard to the action of the hon. Member for Longford. I may tell him I shall reserve to myself the right to express my opinion either on this Committee or in this House on any questions affecting Ireland, undeterred by any exasperating remarks from the hon. Member.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (4.45.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I gather from the Chief Secretary that he really intends not to use the Guarantee Fund, or to make a special levy on the country, until he has used all legal means to recover the annuity from persons primarily responsible, and I have therefore put down this Amendment to make it distinctly clear that that is the right hon. Gentleman's intention. I need not point out it is only right and proper that all means of getting the money from the person who has had the advantage of it should 1863 be exhausted before you come either on the taxpayers of Ireland or of the United Kingdom. I want the Chief Secretary to assure me that he will stand by what he has said so frequently in the course of these Debates, namely, that he will cause evictions to take place before coming on the Guarantee Fund; otherwise when the Irish Executive have in hand moneys paid into the Guarantee Fund they may refrain from enforcing the payment of the annuities on the purchasing tenants and come instead on the taxpayers generally. I think the best plan will be for the Government to accept the Amendment, which puts the right hon. Gentleman's assurance into a definite form.
Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 3, at end to insert—
Provided that no sum shall he paid to the Land Purchase Account by the Guarantee Fund, in respect to a failure to pay a purchase annuity, unless the Land Commission shall have exhausted all legal proceedings competent to them for the recovery of the sum due." — (Mr. Labouchere.)
§ (4.47.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is not possible for the Government to accept this Amendment, because they have no control over the proceedings of the Land Commission. It will be the duty of the Commission to obtain the money and to use all the means in their power to do so, but we cannot make any such rule as the hon. Gentleman suggests. The hon. Member will further see that a great hardship would be inflicted on the British Exchequer, which would be kept out of its money until proceedings are taken in Ireland. Of course, it must be left to the Land Commission to say when a sale shall take place in order that the greatest amount of assets may be realised in the interest of the taxpayer, of the tenants themselves, and of the Local Authority.
MR. J. MORLKY
I am quite disposed to agree with what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. I think that there should be no cast-iron rules imposed on the Land Commission, but that the question should be left to their discretion.
§ (4.50.) MR. LABOUCHERE
I am quite content to accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Morley) if I am to understand it to be the intention 1864 of the framers of this Bill that as a general rule the evictions must take place before you can come upon the guarantees. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary says he cannot oblige the Land Commissioners to take a particular course, but if I am to understand him to state for the guidance of the Commissioners that this is the intention of the Government I will not press my Amendment.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I cannot, of course, interfere with the Land Commissioners in the exercise of their duty, but I think the hon. Member may take it that I am not averse to the course suggested.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
(4.53.) MR. MAHONT
I beg now to move the Amendment standing in my name, in page 4, line 10, after the word" if" to insert—In any county where the ratepayers have signified their assent in the manner hereinafter provided.''The object of this Amendment is to provide that the taxpayers of a county who are going to be forced by this Bill to give certain guarantees should have at any rate the opportunity of consenting or dissenting before a special rate is directed by the Lord Lieutenant to be made. The Amendment will not interfere with the cash portion of the guarantee. And in So far as it does not do that, it will accord with the view expressed by the Chief Secretary in a dim and shadowy manner in the earlier part of the Committee's proceedings. The right hon. Gentleman has more than once stated that his proposal with regard to a plébiscite has not been received with approval by the Committee, but I do not think that that is a fair way of putting what has really happened. What has happened is this. Many Members of the Committee have expressed a decided approval of another form of obtaining the assent of the taxpayers. We asked the Chief Secretary to assent to a provision requiring the approval of the County Council to the guarantee, but that was decided in the negative. We now want the Chief Secretary to say distinctly whether he will allow the taxpayers to express 1865 by plébiscite whether the contingent portion of the Guarantee Fund should be put in operation or not. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman was willing to confer on the taxpayers certain powers with regard to that portion of the fund. For my own part, I would prefer that the proposal of the Government should be modified in the direction of giving the taxpayers power to consent to pledge a certain portion of their security at a time, but sooner than get no concession on the subject we would agree to the proposal that the taxpayers should have power to assent or dissent for a certain period. This Amendment will, of course, require a consequential Amendment, which is not yet on the Paper, but will depend upon the answer given by the Chief Secretary. I now beg to ask the Chief Secretary whether he will be prepared, if there is now any expression of opinion from any considerable section of the Committee, to bring in this plébiscite which I have foreshadowed in the earlier stage of the Committee.
In page 4, line 10, after the word"if," to insert the words" in any county where the ratepayers have signified their assent in the manner hereinafter provided."—(Mr. Mahony.)
Question proposed," That those words be there inserted."
§ (5.0.) MR. PARNELL
I appeal to the Chief Secretary not to dismiss too hurriedly the suggestion which has been made in this Amendment, or to close the door against further consideration of the question of a plébiscite. It is quite true, as stated by the Member for Meath (Mr. Mahony), that we should have preferred to have had this question referred to a Local Government Authority to be set up in the Irish counties, but as that has not been found possible, it appears to me that the next best course to adopt was that which shaped itself in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman, but which was not insisted upon owing to the want of support on the part of the Committee. Still I think, from the point of view taken by the right hon. Gentleman, we should be wrong in eleminating the question of the plébiscite altogether. I have always been desirous that, in connection with land purchase, there should be no repudiation, because I believe that the use of British credit would very 1866 materially facilitate a solution of the land question, but at the same time I maintain that the proposal to hypothecate local resources without the consent of ratepayers is one which Irish Members ought not to countenance without obtaining some form of local control. The best form of local control is that which would permit the ratepayers from time-to time to say whether or not the Act should be put into operation, but there is a tolerable alternative. Let the Act operate for a year without the consent of the ratepayers being required, and then we should be in a better position to judge whether they would wish its, operation to continue. That would be the second best form of local control, and I would place the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman in the third class as the next best form of local control. I would rather have the right hon. Gentleman's system than none at all, because it does recognise the principle of throwing on those who may have to pay the responsibility of saying whether the Act should operate or not. Certainly some system might wisely be adopted by the Government for recognising the principle of local control, and thereby freeing themselves from the reproach which undoubtedly exists of having shown an utter disregard of those principles of local government so successfully applied in England and Scotland.
§ (5.10.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The Committee have long known that the hon. Member for Cork holds the views which he has just expressed. The question now under discussion has been dealt with fully on several occasions during the progress of the Bill, and I have not much to add to what I have already said on the subject. There are not more than a certain number of definite arguments which can be adduced one way or the other. The argument in favour of local control has been considerably exaggerated in one respect. The difficulty—if a difficulty exists—would not really be met by the modification suggested by the hon. Member. After all, the counties are bound, under any scheme, to meet any deficiency occurring over more than a generation and a half in the repayments to the Guarantee Funds. I have never thought that the introduction of local control in the form of a control exercised by Representative Bodies would 1867 give any substantially increased security for the repayments to the Exchequer. I will point out to the Committee that if this matter is to be brought up again it can only be done effectively in a new clause; but as far as the action of the Government is concerned I have nothing to add to what has been said before.
§ MR. SEXTON
The only form of local control which I should regard as at all effective would be a control exercised by an elective Local Body upon individual transactions under the Act, whether it were the sale of a holding or of an estate. If liabilities are imposed on the ratepayers in Ireland in respect of transactions with which as a body they have no concern, there can be only two justifications of such a course. The first is to procure the assent of the ratepayers, which has not been done; and the second is to give them such control over the accruing of the liability as would disentitle them afterwards to repudiate their responsibility. I think it is cruel to put the farmers in any county into the position of saying whether they will part with the Act altogether, or whether they will be responsible for the full balance of transactions. Two questions should be put—first, whether the Act should be contined any longer; and, secondly, whether it should be suspended for a year, another plébiscite to be taken as to whether the suspension should be continued or not? This would be a kind of automatic arrangement which would not interfere with the operation of the Act in any district where the farmers were disposed to view its transactions with favour.
§ MR. MAHONY
I do not think that this is an inopportune moment to raise this discussion. I shall press the matter to a Division because, as an Irish Representative, I feel that I have no mandate or authority from the taxpayers in Ireland to place this burden upon them without their consent.
§ (5.20.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Bridgeton, Glasgow)
I think that hon. Members will be perfectly justified in pressing this Amendment to a Division. The Chief Secretary has spoken of the moral sanction which the plébiscite would give to the diposition of the contingent Guarantee Fund; but this is not the most important part of the question. I 1868 look upon this as the last and only remaining popular check on the system of land purchase. See what we have done already; we have practically withdrawn the Commissioners from any supervision or criticism by Parliament, which would be a very serious thing if the new clause, to be proposed by the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), is accepted, and if the Land Commissioners, who are to have charge of the Purchase Department should be other than the special Purchase Commissioners, in whom at present so many of us have the greatest confidence. In every other part of the Kingdom, except in Ireland, power is given for the purchase of allotments and small holdings on the principle of local control, and is Parliament going to reject this principle when dealing with a similar scheme, but on a much larger scale, which affects the tenants of Ireland, and involves the expenditure of £30,000,000 of money? No doubt a plebiscite is a very imperfect form of local control, but it may be an effective one. The people of the locality would watch how the Commissioners act; and if they find that particular landlords have got the ear of the Commissioners, they will give a vote which will have the effect of suspending any more purchases for the time being, and the result will be that the Commissioners will be kept in check.
§ (5.30.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman argued that under the Bill as it stood, and as it might be modified by the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, the Land Commissioners would not be under any responsibility to Parliament, Parliament would not know what was going on; and in lieu of Parliamentary control some substitute in the shape of control by the locality would have to be invented and applied. Now, in the first place, Parliament could not be deprived of the means of knowing what was being done by the Commissioners; and if the necessity should arise, Parliament would have the power of altering the whole system of land purchase in Ireland. This Parliament could not prevent its successor from finding out what is being done in Ireland. All that would be effected by the present Bill with respect to the Land Commissioners is that any particular action of 1869 theirs should not be discussed on the Estimates. I therefore deny the first proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. I also deny that a plébiscite would form a sort of substitute for Parliamentary Control. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that the Commissioners would be frightened if the Act were suspended for a year or two. But why should they be frightened. Their salaries would be paid all the same, and not the slightest injury of any shape or kind would be done to them. If he thinks a plébiscite would have such an effect he never would have suggested it. According to the right hon. Gentleman, a plébiscite would show whether the price was what the farmers would like to give, and if it was not, it would stop the purchases. If that is what the right hon. Gentleman meant by local control, I am glad that no form of local control was given by the Bill. There are two possible things which hon. Gentlemen might try to show would be done by the plébiscite—one is that it might control the action of the Commissioners, but that I have shown to be illusory; and as to the other, a moral control against repudiation, the Committee have it on the authority of the hon. Member for West Belfast that such a control would not be exercised on the Commissioners. I must again impress upon the Committee that this is not a fitting time to discuss the question of a plébiscite. There is no plan for a plébiscite before the Committee. I would suggest to the hon. Gentleman to put down any proposal he may desire to make in the form of a new clause, and then it could be discussed. Any discussion of the subject now would be only a waste of time.
§ (5.40.) MR. J. MORLEY
This may not be the most convenient time for discussing the subject, but the right hon. Gentleman must know that hon. Members take a very strong view about local control, and will naturally make use of every opportunity of expressing their desire for it. The Chief Secretary has intimated that local control could influence the Commissioners only if their salaries were affected. That shows that the right hon. Gentleman takes a lower view of the Land Commissioners than Members below the Gangway. I do not think that the Commissioners would be insensible to the expression of opinion of 1870 the locality concerned. As the Land Commissioners are about to be put on a new footing, it is all the more necessary to establish some form of popular control. It is not that we may get a moral control against repudiation that we insist upon popular control; but because it is essentially unjust that the resources of a locality should be pledged without the assent of the locality. When in 1889 the right hon. Gentleman laid another Bill on the Table of the House, what did he do? Did he go on the principle which he now proposes to act upon in regard to a far more important proposal in connection with land purchase? Certainly not. On the contrary, where a guarantee was necessary on the part of certain baronies or districts he provided that the responsibility should never fall on the barony until the assent of the ratepayers had been taken in manner required by the Bill. Surely if it were worth while to insist on the principle of popular control in so slight a matter, it is far more essential, when dealing with a much larger and more important proposal, that that principle should be enforced. Of course we would have a plébiscite rather than nothing, but we must all agree that the only effective form of popular control is the control of effective Local Bodies who shall ascertain beforehand whether or not the localities assent to the hypothecation.
§ (5.48.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It appears to me that the distinction which has been drawn by hon. Members as between the cash and contingent portions of the fund is a mockery, and so also would be the plébiscite taken at the beginning of the transaction.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast attributed to me the paternity of the proposal for the plébiscite. If so I can assure him that he is entirely mistaken. I have on several occasions, while this Bill has been under discussion, urged strongly my views in favour of real control by the local administration, and I may point out that both the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow have by their arguments also favoured some such local control, while 1871 they are not in favour of the particular proposition now before the Committee. What I have to say is that I do not accept this suggestion of a plébiscite as in any sense a substitute for a real local control. In the first place, a plébiscite such as has been suggested would give no real local control and would involve no responsibility on the part of the Local Authority. Then there remains the question: Will it give us any what he called moral security against repudiation? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has pointed out that in no form have hon. Members seriously suggested that any such moral security would be afforded. I am really surprised that the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast, with his practical acquaintance with the subject, should suggest that there should be at intervals a plébiscite taken on the question whether or not the cash guarantees should be suspended. How is that possible? Under the first plébiscite you may have had a decision as a result of which you may have used up a considerable portion of the contingent part of the Guarantee Fund. And, by a subsequent plébiscite, it may be decided that this portion shall not be used. But what is to become of that portion which has been used and for which the guarantee has already been exhausted?
§ MR. SEXTON
The right hon. Gentleman entirely misapprehends my suggestion. The idea is to give the locality an opportunity, after a time, of suspending the operation of the Bill. But all the liabilities incurred under the authority of the first plébiscite would be accepted and have to be duly met.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
That shows the extreme inconvenience of discussing a proposition, the terms of which we have not before us. The hon. Member said nothing about providing for liabilities already incurred at the time of the suspension, which he suggests may take place some time after the Guarantee Fund had been drawn upon. Although the hon. Member for West Belfast may think he has by his proposal obtained a moral security, other hon. Members from Ireland may say that, as the locality had no sufficient option as to allowing the Bill to be enforced in the first instance, there is consequently no moral security. On both grounds, therefore—i.e., that there 1872 is no real local control and no effective moral security—the proposal is worthless, and if it is pressed to a Division I shall vote against it.
§ (5.52) MR. KNOX
When we vote in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Meath we do so with a view rather to the suggestion of the hon. Member for West Belfast. I think the hon. Member will admit that the form of his Amendment is not really applicable to a suspensory veto; it is only applicable to a veto taken once for all, either before the Bill commenced to operate or at some later stage before the contingent portion of the Guarantee Fund is involved. The Amendment really scarcely raises the question of a suspensory veto, which alone, as we think, is of no real value. It was designed before the hon. Member had any idea of a suspensory veto. Therefore, in supporting the Amendment, I do so not on account of its wording or apparent object, but for the indirect object which I gather from the speeches of the hon. Members for Cork and North Meath is involved in it. I take it that the hon. Members have adopted the idea of a suspensory veto which was first suggested by the hon. Member for West Belfast. I am glad to find that they have, for it is infinitely preferable to any other laid before the Committee; failing any direct control by a Local Representative Body. I think the Committee is greatly indebted to the right" hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridge-ton for having called us back from mere question of political ethics—a shadowy, if not shady subject—to the more practical question of what can be gained by a suspensory veto. I venture to think that the Chief Secretary misunderstood the advantages which we thought might be gained. If the prices were too high, or if the landlords in a given county would only sell at a price which the farmers of the county thought unsafe, surely the farmers of that county ought to be in a position to say there shall be no further sales until the landlords consent to more reasonable terms. We do not ask that the farmers should be able to enforce what terms they choose on the landlord; but we think they should be able to prevent sales on terms unsafe and unfair to the mass of the people in the county. That is one object in 1873 putting forward the idea of a suspensory veto, and surely the hon. Member for South. Tyrone, who is in favour of sales to the tenants at fair prices, will not oppose this Amendment.
§ (5.57.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
The hon. Member has put the matter more plainly than did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridge-ton. I oppose all these schemes of local control, not because they are bad in theory, but because—to use the words of the right hon. Member for Newcastle —"things are as they are in Ireland."I oppose these schemes on the plain ground that it is proposed by them to put into the hands of one of the parties to a bargain the power of forcing terms upon the other party, giving them the right to regulate the price of land or stop the operation of the Bill.
§ (5.59.) MR. MAHONY
My hon. Friend the Member for West Cavan was slightly in error when he stated that I adopted the idea of a suspensory veto from the hon. Member for West Belfast. At an earlier stage of the proceedings in this Committee when we were discussing an Amendment by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle I said, in alluding to the scheme of a plébiscite put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, that it would be greatly improved by allowing it to be revived after the Bill had been in operation for some time. It appears to me that the Committee have strayed from the vital point at issue, which is this: Under this Bill, about one-third, roughly speaking, of the tenant farmers in Ireland may be able to purchase, and the other two-thirds, together with the ratepayers of Ireland generally, will have their rates pledged in order to guarantee the payment by the purchasing farmers of their annuities, and that pledge is taken without their consent being asked. The Irish Members, or rather the vast majority of them, have not signified their consent to the rates being pledged; they deny that they are in a position to give consent, and it is only because the right hon. Gentleman has at his back a majority of English Members that he is able to impose this guarantee on the Irish people. We ask that before this guarantee is enforced in its worst form the Irish ratepayers 1874 should be allowed to express their assent or dissent. There is one point which I think the Committee do not appreciate, and it is this, that when we come to the contingent portion of the Guarantee Fund it cannot be drawn upon until the Lord Lieutenant has made a special levy on the taxpayers of the county. We want before that levy falls on them that they shall have an opportunity of expressing their assent or dissent. It has been stated that this will give them no control over the Land Commission. I do not propose by this Amendment to give them any such control; I only say that they should be allowed to exercise the plébiscite after they have had an opportunity of judging how the Act is working; and if they find the Land Commission, by not seeing there is sufficient security in the holdings for the amount advanced, are endangering the rates and property of the county, they may be able to suspend the further operation of the Act. I shall with that object press the Amendment to a Division.
§ (6.3.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 114; Noes 187.—(Div. List, No. 170.)
§ (6.16.) MR. SEXTON
It is provided in the clause that when a charge is made upon the contingent guarantee a notice shall be sent to that effect, and interest at 4 per cent. shall be paid from the date of the notice. I think it would be enough to pay a rate of interest equal to that at which the country can borrow. I move to reduce the interest to 2¾ per cent.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 17, to leave out"four," and insert"two and three quarters."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed,"That 'four' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The annuities, in respect of which the Guarantee Fund is to be called upon, have interest paid upon them; and if the Treasury are to meet all the charges that will be thrown upon them they must charge 4 per cent. I do not know whether it might not be possible to substitute 3¾ per cent.
§ MR. SEXTON
There is no reason why the interest should not be the same as is charged upon an annuity.
1875 If the right hon. Gentleman will turn to Clause 1, Sub-section 3, he will find that where the Land Purchase Fund is insufficient there will be a temporary advance out of the Consolidated Fund.
§ (6.20.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN, St. George's, Hanover Square)
We must have some regard to the Consolidated Fund. It is, of course, impossible to say at what rate we may have to borrow, and it must be remembered that we are paying all the expense of the carrying out of the Act. If I may say so, I think the State is acting with extreme generosity, and I hardly think hon. Members ought to be desirous of cutting down the expenses.
I do not wish to be too severe on the Consolidated Fund, but will the right hon. Gentleman consider who they are who have to pay this money. They are the people who have not been able to buy under the Act, and the shopkeepers and artisans who have no personal interest in land purchase. I am willing to meet the right hon. Gentleman quarter-way, and I would suggest 3 per cent., which will allow a substantial margin.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
Surely the Consolidated Fund is not to be treated as if it were a bill-broker. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is surely not going to charge the unfortunate artisan or shopkeeper such a rate of interest as 4 per cent. The most that should be required is that the Consolidated Fund should be repaid the sum with the ordinary interest.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 17, to leave out"four" and insert" three."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Agreed to.
§ Verbal Amendments agreed to.
§ (6.27.) MR. SEXTON
The next Amendment I have to move is one which 1 think the Government cannot hesitate to accept. If the Treasury give the Lord Lieutenant notice in May, there will be no Assizes till the following year, and the County Surveyor will not be 1876 able to pay the levy for a year. Under the clause as it stands it will be open to the Treasury, under such circumstances, to pounce on the Guarantee Fund and derange the whole Public Service of the country in regard to the most necessary and fundamental institutions. I do not suppose the Treasury would do this, but there is no reason why the clause should be left in such a condition that it will be possible to do it. The object of my Amendment is to give time for payment.
In page 4, line 26, at end, to insert," Pro vided that the Treasury shall not order any such payment to be made out of the contingent portion of the fund, until, at least, one week after the date appointed by the Lord Lien-tenant in his requisition to the secretary of the grand jury of any county concerned, for payment by the county treasurer into thee Local Taxation (Ireland) Account as hereinafter provided."—(Mr. Sexton.)
Question proposed," That those words-be there inserted."
§ (6.28.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am not sure that the object of the hon. Gentleman would be carried out by this Amendment. Any money advanced by the Treasury will be paid for at the interest just agreed upon of 3 per cent., and they will have no motive for shortening the time during which the interest shall run. The mention of" one week,"' might be treated as a suggestion to be acted upon in all cases.
§ (6.30.) MR. SEXTON
I think there is some danger that with the guarantee-so temptingly to hand, the Department may come down upon the money, and it is desirable that there should be some-remedy provided for the danger, and against the Public Service being put to. such inconvenience.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not; think there is anything to be gained by it. As the hon. Gentleman is aware" the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer must act in harmony with the Irish Government in such matters, and the stopping of the various grants would not be governed by red tape, the action of officials would be subject to the: responsible Parliamentary heads. I do net think there need be the least apprehension of the Treasury anticipating the-time when the Guarantee Fund should be appropriated.
§ (6.31.) MR. T. M. HEALY
There should be something in the nature of a tribunal of appeal outside the Government Department to which the county to be mulcted might refer. The Treasury may make mistakes, and it would be safer to accept some such machinery as is suggested by my hon. Friend. At some stage of the proceedings there should be this appeal. The Lord Lieutenant will have nothing to do but order the payment, and the Grand Jury will have no option but must make the levy. From the Treasury in London through the Lord Lieutenant to the county there is a cast iron rigidity. This unfettered official power has done much mischief in Ireland. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider something in the nature of a reference to a body before whom arguments may be used, and representations made.
§ (6.32.) MR. SEXTON
Really the clause takes all discretion from the Treasury, it provides that the Treasury shall send the notice to the Lord Lieutenant, and tell him that by a certain date he must pay the sum necessary, and failing this payment the Treasury shall order such sum and interest to be paid to the Guarantee Fund out of the contingent portion of the fund. They must take it no matter how inconvenient for the Public Service. If the right hon. Gentleman will not accept this Amendment, which I think important, will he consent to a provision that the Treasury shall not name an earlier day than two months from the date of the next Assizes?
§ (6.33.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That suggestion is a reasonable one. It is the intention of the clause, and the object of the levy, to prevent the contingent guarantee being drawn upon, and if the Treasury were to go Upon the guarantee before the levy was made, that object would be defeated. I do not conceive that any such course would be approved by the Treasury, but I am ready to introduce words to make that impossible. As to the suggestion that there should be some tribunal to act as buffer, I think it might be advisable, in regard to such questions as the partition of charges between counties and matters of that sort, that there should be an appeal to the absolute discretion of the Lord Lieutenant; but 1878 in the matter of the security of the Treasury, I do not think an appeal to the High Court or Privy Council would be right or proper. But as to the Treasury having no power to come upon the guarantee until the Lord Lieutenant has asked for the collection of the rate, I am quite prepared to accept such an Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (6.34.) MR. SEXTON
I have an Amendment to propose to the beginning of the next sub-section which does not appear on the Paper. The Chief Secretary surprised me when he said a compulsory presentment should never be confided to an Elective Authority. Why not, provided you vest in a Judge of Assiza the power to make an order? It does not matter whether the Local Authority is elective or not, so long as you say the Judge of Assize has that power to make an order. There is no discernible principle in saying that an Elective Authority should not have the power to consider a presentment. There can be no harm in their having it before them, providing you guard the compulsory nature of the presentment by referring it in the last resort to the Judge of Assize. I dissent from the proposition that a purely elective body should not have this function, nor do I see any more difficulty in the proceeding than in the present system. In the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman I find the suggestion that even after the establishment of County Councils the Grand Jury may have to deal with presentments of this class. We have assumed that the. fiscal functions of the Grand Jury will pass to the County Councils when these are constituted, and that the Grand Jury will be simply a body to deal with affairs of criminal administration. I now move my Amendment, in order to extract an opinion from the right hon. Gentleman whether he really means that after County Councils are established in Ireland the functions of the Grand Jury in relation to presentments of this class shall continue. I propose that the third sub-section shall apply only until County Government is established in Ireland, and this will be an indication that when the time comes for considering Local Government in Ireland, these fiscal functions should be drawn from 1879 the Grand Jury, and should devolve upon the County Council. I can see no reason why a presentment of this kind should be withheld from the view of an Elective Body, power to pass it being still with the Judge of Assize.
In page 4, line 27, before the first word" The," to insert the words" Until otherwise provided by an Act for the extension of Local Government in Ireland."—[Mr. Sexton.)
Question proposed," That those words be there inserted."
§ (6.37.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I understand the hon. Member moves this in order to elicit from me an explanation of a speech I made last night, and I have no objection to explain the words I used. I stated, and as I think truly, that if you are looking for an instrument to carry out a mandate you do not look in the direction of a Representative Body. In carrying out a compulsory presentment the Grand Jury act as a mere machine interposed between the mandate of the Judge and the levy of the tax; they have no discretion, they can offer no opinion, or at all events no opinion that would be considered by the Judge, they are merely the mechanism by which the tax is collected. Now, surely the hon. Gentleman will agree that if you are looking for such a machine you do not go to a Representative Body—the essence, the value, the virtue of which is that it can and does discuss and express opinions upon the matters before it. It is the very worst body in the world to act as an automatic machine between the fiat of the Judge and an administrative act. I therefore adhere to the general view I laid down last night, saying nothing of Local Government, but that you will not look to an Elective Body called into existence under it as the most proper machine to carry out business on which that Elective Body is not to be consulted at all. Whether it is proper or not to have a consultative body, or to allow consultation on these presentments, is a question I need not decide now, but I may observe that if you do allow such discussion and there is to be no decision issuing from it, it is but a vain exhibition of dialectical and oratorical skill.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That is to say that when an order is made under the Bill the Council may discuss it and act in such a manner as to compel an alteration of the law in regard to compulsory presentments?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is not with such a view County Councils should be invested with these functions. There is a special convenience in leaving this matter to the Grand Jury, because they, in the ordinary course of business, have to meet the Judge in whom the compulsory power is vested. The Grand Jury meet the Judge of Assize, and act in concert with him, and if you take this duty from the Grand Jury then you must compel the County Council to meet the Judge, and make that body the passive instrument for carrying out an action of which they possibly may heartily disapprove. I cannot conceive how anyone anxious to give authority and dignity to County Councils can wish to invest them with this function of a Grand Jury which certainly will not add lustre to such a Representative Body.
§ (6.42.) MR. J. MORLEY
Surely when the right hon. Gentleman says there is no example of a compulsory levy being committed to a Representative Body he forgets one incident. I remember that in 1883 or 1884, after extra police had been sent into Limerick, an order was made upon the Corporation of that town to levy an extra rate to meet the expenses of this Force. The Lords Lieutenants of both parties found the greatest difficulty in getting that extra rate, and, as a matter of fact, it never was paid. That surely is an exact illustration of a compulsory order being made upon a Representative Body. It is not a very encouraging precedent 1 know, but it shows the kind of difficulty you will have to meet when you force upon a locality an extraordinary levy through a body which is not representative, and in every sense unpopular. I suppose the hon. Member for West Belfast wishes the Commiteee to insert this provision because he foresees the enormous difficulty that will beset these new County Councils when created, if this power is going to be entrusted to an outside body, as it were, over their heads. It is so obviously consistent with all we ought to expect 1881 in Representative Government that I support the Amendment.
§ (6.44.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman appears to me to have given the most cogent argument against the Amendment when he cited the incident in regard to the City of Limerick. The Corporation of Limerick were ordered by mandamus to collect the extra police rate, and they did not do so. They refused to obey the law, and there was no power to compel them to do so; but if, under the existing law, the Grand Jury were ordered to levy a tax and did not do it the Judge would levy it for them.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am not an expert in these technicalities, and must leave my right hon. Friend (Mr. Madden) to explain details; but as we desire the Bill to be framed it would not be left to the discretion of the Grand Jury or any Local Authority whether the tax should be raised or not. If there were any such discretion the security for the Treasury provided in the Bill by the guarantee would become worthless. In the view of the framers of the Bill it should not be left to the Local Authority to determine whether the tax should be raised. It is to be raised independent of all local control, and the proceeds are to be paid to the contingent portion of the fund; or, rather, are to be used to prevent the contingent portion of the fund being touched. That could not be carried out if we adopted the precedent in the Limerick case, and if the Bill does that it must be amended. We believe the machinery of the Bill is adequate for the security, and the responsibility of the Grand Jury is that the tax shall be raised.
§ (6.46.) MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman has been singularly unfortunate in his statements of law and statements of fact. There is nothing in this clause differing in any way from the ordinary case of a police rate levy.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Very well. Let me take the right hon. Gentleman's proposition. When you want the rate paid to whom do you issue a precept? In the case of Dublin, Limerick, Water-ford, and other places, when you want your tax raised, how do you get it?
1882 How does the Government collect from Dublin nearly £60,000 a year for the Police Force? By precept on the Local Authority, in the very same way as that my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast proposes. Similarly, in the City of Limerick, how is the extra police rate levied? By precept. In the County of Clare you make up £5,000 a year for a period of 10 years for extra police, and how is that £50,000 taken from the county? By precept. What is the case in England and for your School Boards here; how does the School Board collect its rates in English towns? It sends a precept to the Municipality, and the Local Municipality collects the rates. The right hon. Gentleman has a broad method of laying down a proposition which is all very well in philosophical writing, but in the House of Commons he should be a little more cautious. The method of raising the rate in Ireland has been in force since the Statute of William IV., and here is proposed no difference in principle though a difference in persons. We are asking nothing whatever from the right hon. Gentleman. His clause provides that the Lord Lieutenant should send to the Grand Jury a precept—for that is practically what it is—and if the Grand Jury do not act on that, action is taken by the Judge. Cannot the Lord Lieutenant and cannot the Judge proceed in the same manner whether the Local Authority is the Grand Jury or the County Council? Where is the difference in principle? Suppose the Grand Jury of the County of Limerick did what the Corporation of Limerick did, saying," We do not care twopence for the fiat; it is only waste paper."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman cheers that. Well, if it is treated as so much waste paper, what you want is machinery for collection; and the right hon. Gentleman says he will amend the Bill to prevent the action of the County of Limerick imitating the action of the Corporation of Limerick. Into what bog, what quagmire, has he now sprung? Will he set up in every city and county an Imperial means of collection? Will he sit at the receipt of custom, or are we to understand that, as Local Authorities are not to be trusted, some new scheme is to be 1883 developed under the Bill for collection by the Royal Irish Constabulary, in the same way as fines under Quarter Sessions and Petty Sessions convictions? - Will he provide that the collection shall be made by. the Constabulary, as in the case of the estreated recognizinces of Messrs Dillon and O'Brien? Will the same easy and forcible method of collection be resorted to to make good cases of default under this Bill as is adopted in the case of persons who do not make their appearance before a Coercion Court? Will that carry out the intention of Her Majesty's Government? Under the present arrangements you make an order on the Grand Jury, and in any case the Judge's fiat will be required, and he hands that to the Treasurer of the Grand Jury, and the collectors have to collect. But are you going to set up two systems of local and Imperial collection? When you set up County Councils are you going to withhold from the control of those bodies the collection of rates? Are you going to have. Grand Jury collectors and County Council collectors? When the new system of County Government is instituted, I cannot see how you can deny to the new authority control over the collection of the rates.
§ (6.52.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There is a question of substance as well as of machinery on this point. The Bill should be so drawn that whatever may be the view of the Grand Jury or the successor to the Grand Jury, the County Council, or any other body, there should be no option for that body but to levy the rate in order to save the Guarantee Fund. That is what the Bill is intended to carry out and I believe will carry out now.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The Amendment of my hon. Friend would leave the matter exactly where it was, with this difference, that it would express the view that after County Government is established in Ireland there should not be an Imperial rate collection and a local rate collection.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
In the Bill I introduced last year I contemplated the contingency which has been discussed this evening, and I then had a suspicion, or an idea crossed my mind that possibly the machinery of compulsory presentment under extraordinary circumstances might not be sufficient, and therefore I adopted a provision from the Crimes 1884 Act. of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, the power of the Lord Lieutenant to levy a tax by his own machinery. Of course I do not intend to discuss the merits of that provision now, but if any hon. Member wishes to investigate it I refer him to Section 19 of the Crimes Act of 1882, and in Clause 14 he will see how it was embodied in the Bill of last year— this power to levy a penal rate. Practically the Lord Lieutenant was allowed to appoint his own collectors.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I trust the time may never come when such a power may have to be put into force, but in the. opinion of right hon. Gentlemen opposite it was necessary to provide a special mode of collecting a tax, and this was embodied in their Act of 1882. It has been dropped out of the present Bill because I was advised that probably the existing ordinary means of presentment were sufficient, and also, because if hon. Gentlemen will look at the end of the sub-section we are discussing the Treasury is given a lien upon every rate collected by the Local Authority. This seemed to me a sufficient security, but if the result of this discussion is to excite a suspicion, that by the refusal of the Local Authority, whether County Council or Grand Jury to obey the mandate of the Judge, some difficulty will be thrown in the way of the collection of the tax, then I will carefully consider the subject with my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland, and see whether it is advisable to re-introduce the provision in regard to this point which appeared in the Bill of last year.
§ (7.0.) MR. SEXTON
The object with which I moved my Amendment was to give an indication, that when Local Government is extended to Ireland and County Councils are established, then this compulsory presentment should no longer remain with the Grand Jury. I am not contesting the power to be given to the Judge, and that power may remain in the hands of anyone with whom it is proper to deposit it, but I say the presentment should be in the first instance presented to the County Council; and though it is compulsory and may not be popular to the Council as 1885 the County Authority, it should be submitted.
§ SIR J. M'KENNA (Monaghan, S.)
May I ask is it quite in order that?we should now discuss the functions of County Councils not yet established, and is it not premature and useless to contemplate their possible position in respect to the machinery of this Bill?
§ (7.5.) The Committee divided: —Ayes 87; Noes 146.—(Div. List, No. 171.)
§ (7.19.) MR. SEXTON
I now move to omit the words providing that a sum shall be raised—which upon any adjustment under this Act of a charge between the counties is charged against a county in excess of the share of the county in the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund.There is no case to which these words can apply which is not covered by the earlier portions of the clause. The words mean nothing and correspond with no effect which could here arise."The share of the county in the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund has been taken away, and nothing remains that -could be liable, but the share of the county in the contingent portion of the Guarantee Fund which has been dealt with elsewhere.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 4, to leave out lines 28, 29, and 30.—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed," That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ (7.21.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think the words are necessary to meet the case of a mistake made before and not discovered until after the adjustment. The words were carefully considered, and I think our experience in off-hand drafting has not been particularly happy. I would suggest, therefore, that the words should be left unchanged. They will be much more likely to carry out the view we entertain than any words which could be suggested across the Table of the House.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ (7.22.) MR. T. M. HEALY
I beg to move in page 4, line 31, after"upon," to insert" the poor rate of each Poor Law Union situate wholly or partly Within." The object of this, with other Amendments consequent upon it, 1886 is to substitute the poor rate for the county cess in levying taxes on the counties under the Bill. The Amendments raise two points—first, the area of charge (with which I will deal later on), and, secondly, the divisibility of charge, which is the more immediate object of the present Amendment. As to the area, the right hon. Gentleman referred a short time ago to the"Blood Tax." That, of course, was a very infamous charge, but in the matter of delimitation, even the" Blood Tax" was more equitable than that of the right hon. Gentleman, for that was limited to the area immediately surrounding the spot where the murder was committed. The Lord Lieutenant, for instance, in the case of a murder committed at Youghal in the county of Cork, could draw a ring round the Barony in which Youghal is situated, and fix his tax on that division. In the case of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill, however, the tax must go over the entire county. As to the divisibility of the charge, since the Land Act of 1870, in every new tenancy it has been divided equally between owner and occupier, and it has been felt an enormous burden by the Irish people that not only are they prevented from having any representation on the Grand Jury, but that the gentlemen who assess the tax and the landlords of the county pay none of the rates. In the case of the poor rate it is entirely different. The poor rate was instituted long after the Grand Jury rate, the latter having been settled in the reign of William and the former in the reign of Victoria. When in the 30's or 40's the Legislature first began to consider the question of the poor rate it was thought only natural that it should be divided between the landlord and the occupier. Not only is the poor rate divisible between owner and occupier, but in cases of under £4 valuation it is payable by the landlord. It may be said that as the landlords have created all the poverty in Ireland, it is only fair that this should be so; but I do not think that when the provision was made the House of Commons was swayed by the sins of the landlords: it must have acted upon some general principle. The landlords form one-half of the Boards, the remaining half of those being elected. In the case of the county rate, the 1887 Body which assesses it is selected by the Sheriff at his own sweet will, the Sheriff being in turn selected by the Lord Lieutenant. The Sheriff's practice is to take two men from each barony, and they fix what rates they please. The result used to be that whenever a landlord wanted an avenue made up to his house, or a road made round his domain, it was paid for out of the county rate. Lately a sharper look-out has been kept, and these things have been prevented. Up to 1870 the rate was payable solely by the occupier. In 1870 Parliament established an innovation whereby it was provided that in the case of every new tenancy half the rate should be borne by the owner and half by the occupier. This was the action taken by Parliament in dealing with the case of a new cess, and I challenge the Government to show me an instance in which a new cess, .in the case of a Private Bill, unless it was a Railway Bill, was thrown on the county without being divided between the owner and the occupier. In the case of the Tramways (Ireland) Act, no doubt it is not so, technically, but it is, in fact, being divided between the Treasury and the tenant. The series of Amendments I have put down provide that the machinery of the Poor Law shall be employed for delimiting the area, and in addition they provide machinery whereby the rate is divisible between owner and occupier. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary says it is right that in towns like Lurgan, Kilkenny, and Waterford the ratepayers should provide their local contributions to the Guarantee Fund. That may be so, and I assume the right hon. Gentleman's proposition is correct, viewing the matter in the light of a system of insurance. But why are the landlords left out of this insurance? Why is this burden to fall on every labourer who pays his 1s. a week for his miserable cottage and on every artisan who for his fever stricken room in a town has to pay 4s. or 5s. a week, whilst the landlord escapes from it, although in the case of the poor rate, from which the labourer or the artisan may in his old age derive some advantage, the landlord has to pay half? If this were a Bill to provide £100,000,000 for the redemption of the landlords I could understand the 1888 action of the Government in throwing the entire charge on the county rate. But the Bill only provides £30,000,000, so that a large proportion of these gentlemen will still have to continue at their trade of rent-collecting and rack-renting. That being so, why should not those of the landlords whore main continue to be made to pay some amount of the county rate? I will give the strongest of all reasons for the proposition I make to the Committee. Probably if there is any strike against this new levy or against the repayment to the Treasury it will arise from some local agitation created by the tenants of some rack-renting landlord whom they have been unable to buy out because of his exorbitant demands. The sympathy that may be generated in the district may spread to the next locality; and the people there may be roused—I do not say it is likely—to repudiate for a year or half a year their re-payment of the purchase money. It is in my opinion desirable that the landlords, should know that if there be repudiation they, as citizens of the country, will be as much interested in the question as the tenants. If the Government are unable to accept the poor rate as the rate from which the Treasury is to be recouped, at any rate let them adopt some system whereby the rate shall be divided between the owner, and the occupier. My Amendment would give the landlords a temptation to adopt the purchase policy. Local Government in Ireland is in such a defective condition that you must resort either to the machinery of the Poor Law or to that of the county.
In page 4, line 31, after the word"upon," to insert the words" the poor rate of each Poor Law Union situate wholly or partly within."— [Mr. T. M. Healy.)
Question proposed," That those words be there inserted."
§ (7.35.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It will be noted that, whatever else can be said against our scheme, it is not open to the objection that the discretion with regard to levying the rate is vested in a local, but non-representative body, because undoubtedly the rate will be levied at the discretion of the Treasury. Therefore, such objection as there may be to the Grand Jury on the ground that they are not elected falls to the ground.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. and learned Member dilated at considerable length on the injustice of giving power to levy rates to those who were not elected. However, if the hon. and learned Member does not urge that point, far be it from me to take up the time of the House with it. The hon. and learned Member said that before 1870 the rates were divided between the owner and the occupier. He must be aware that now nearly the whole of the county cess is levied not on the owner but on the occupier. The hon. and learned Member attempted to show that the framers of the Tramways (Ireland) Bill deliberately threw on the Treasury the rate that should have been borne by the landlord, but those who drafted that Bill are present in the House at this moment, and I should be surprised if they admitted that the reason why they burdened the Treasury was that the landlord should not bear a charge he ought to have borne. I will postpone my remarks on the point which I understand the hon. and learned Member proposes to raise by means of a subsequent Amendment. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that we should select, of the two rates we have to choose from in fixing upon our machinery, the Poor Law instead of the county cess. I have decidedly come to the conclusion that we ought to take the opposite course. In the first place, the area of the Poor Law election is a most inconvenient area, considering that the county at large will be the area charged, and besides that the hon. Gentleman must recollect that it is not a complete or accurate statement of the incidence of the poor rate to say it is divided between the owner and the occupier. In districts where almost all the holdings are below £i the burden will fall almost entirely on the owner. The landlords do not escape, as the hon. Member appears to suppose; on the contrary, unless the default reaches a proportion which could only be caused by a general strike against payment the landlord would lose. If there should be a general strike against the payment of annuities, it would be part of an agrarian movement of which the land- 1890 lords would not be the authors, and to make them the victims of such a conspiracy would be grossly unjust on the face of it. For these reasons I cannot consent to the proposal of the hon. Gentleman to transfer this tax from the county cess to the poor rate, of which the-greater part is paid by those who would be the victims of such a conspiracy as-would alone render it possible that the contingent portion of the fund should be touched.
§ (7.45.) SIR G. TREVELYAN
Sir, in 1884 the Government to which I belonged brought in a Purchase Bill, the machinery of which nobody more than the right hon. Gentleman will confess was exceedingly well devised. It was that Bill which first put before the world the system of cheap and easy transfer of land, which has been embodied in subsequent land legislation. A conclusion arrived at in regard to that measure was that the guarantee ought to be on the county cess, and not on the poor rate. But under that Bill it was proposed that, seeing that both the landlord and tenant would benefit alike, the cess required to meet the deficiencies should be divided between the tenant and the owner. It likewise was stated in my speech introducing the Bill that it would be unjust that the district should be burdened with a liability which it had no voice in accepting, and provisions were introduced to make that voice effectual. I am certain that it would be possible to devise a county cess, and an hon. Member has an Amendment down which will carry out that object. The arguments of the right hon. Gentleman are not convincing as to the desirability of placing the entire responsibility on the tenant. Two great classes of the agricultural community are benefited by the measure, and the liabilities and the disagreeables of the measure ought to fall on both classes alike. I agree that the poor rate is in itself a cumbrous and awkward method of securing this joint liability, but I firmly believe that it is perfectly practical, as it is entirely just, to resort to the project of dividing the county cess.
§ (7.52.) MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, N.)
It is not accurate to state that the Grand Jury are not representative of the cesspayer. The Grand Jury, 1891 though not an elected body, consist in every county of the largest cesspayers, who are very often landlords. Therefore, under the clause at it stands, the landlords will bear a large proportion of the liability as cesspayers. I cannot imagine why they should bear the liability at all. The liability arises entirely on the part of the tenant. The hon. Member proposes to substitute the complex machinery of the Poor Law for the comparatively simple proposal of the Bill, which is drafted to meet the circumstances of each county separately, and to introduce the Poor Law element would be to complicate the whole matter. I cannot conceive on the ground of convenience why the House should for one moment assent to the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ (7.55.) MR. T. M. HEALY
The object of the Amendment is to secure divisibility of rating between the owner and the occupier. The hon. and learned Gentleman states that the landlords are large cesspayers. Has he ever heard of a landlord named Clanricarde, in Galway? How much land has he in occupation? But that is only one case. The country is absenteed all over, and that is sufficient reason for saying that the landlords are not large cesspayers. I should be content to drop my proposal with regard to the Poor Law, if the Government will agree to adopt some limited area of charge. Why is the urban tenant to be saddled and the landlord to go free? Although the Amendment is not in the form in which I should prefer, I say its adoption would prove very advantageous, as I assert that under the Bill as it at present stands, it will be an enormous hardship (aggravated seriously in the case of urban tenants) to enforce payment of a rate as to the imposition of which the people have never been consulted.
§ (8.1.) MR. SEXTON
I submit with some confidence that it can be shown that principles of equity and public policy demand the adoption of the Amendment of my hon. Friend. This is not a mere question of machinery, and such a consideration ought not to be allowed to stand in the way. If it be desired to raise money by means of the poor rate instead of by means of the county cess, nothing could be easier than to make an adjustment between Poor Law Unions 1892 which overlap from one county into another. The real question is: Is it equitable or desirable as a matter of public policy that these burdens should be levied on the poor rate. Deal with it first as a matter of equity. Who is it that is asking for the Bill? It is not the tenants; it is the landlords, one-third of whom are in such financial straits that they cannot hold on without this relief.
§ MR. SEXTON
Then, this is a most remarkable instance of the entire separation of cause and effect. I again assert that one-third of the Irish landlords are in a bad way financially. It is a most happy coincidence that while they are in that condition the Chief Secretary should take it into his head to introduce this Bill, which will help them out of their troubles, and enable them to sell their estates to their tenants. They have no other means of selling their estates.
§ MR. SEXTON
Whatever may be the case in Ulster, we know that in other parts of Ireland the landlords are simply panting to sell, while the tenants are not very eager to buy. Why, we know that in the North the London Companies and other great landlords simply rushed forward to avail themselves of the opportunity of selling under the Ashbourne Act. The Chief Secretary is now giving the Irish landlords a market for their land. It will be a great advantage to them without any corresponding advantage to the purchasing tenants. The benefit will be very slight to the latter; and seeing how enormous the advantage will be to the landlord, I say that in common equity the landlord should be asked to bear a share of any resulting liability. How can any reasonable man allege that it is tolerable to throw his liability on farmers who have paid their money to the State. Why, too, should it be thrown on persons living in towns? Why should all this be done for the sake of a fraction of a fraction? The purchasing farmers will constitute but a fraction of the whole body of farmers on whom, however, the liability is to be thrown. The only way to make this plan tolerable, would be to make any ultimate burden 1893 fall on the classes mainly concerned— the selling landlord and the purchasing tenant. The Chief Secretary said the land would suffer when the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund was appropriated in case of default. I think he went so far as to say that the loss would fall equally on the poor rate and the county cess.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
What I said was that, as the Bill was now drawn, any loss will fall on a fund which is in part paid by the landlords.
§ MR. SEXTON
Yes, so far as they contribute to the poor rate; but while 500,000 or 600,000 tenants pay that rate, only 7,000 or 8,000 landlords have to contribute to it. No doubt, when the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund is drawn upon for the default, it means that the amount is withdrawn from the counties, and there has to be an increased levy, which falls upon the poor rates and upon the landlord; consequently, so far, he contributes to that rate. But he only has to pay in respect of holdings under £4 annual value, and such holdings constitute but one portion of the agricultural valuation. As a matter of fact, when the cash portion is come upon, the landlord will only suffer to the extent? of one-fourth as against the payment by the tenants of three-fourths. Why should there be this disparity of treatment? Why should a distinction be drawn between the cash portion and the contingent portion? Will the Chief Secretary favour a proposal to establish a parity of treatment as between the two portions of this fund? Seeing that in the cash portion he divides the loss between landlord and tenant, will he do so with regard to the contingent portion? The right hon. Gentleman very often refers to an imaginary strike. He says that if ever there is a call upon the contingent fund it will be caused by a strike against the payment of the annuities. I am not so sure of that. He contends, however, that in such a case no liability should be thrown on the landlords. But is it not the fact that the landlords generally impose hard bargains on the tenants?
§ MR. SEXTON
Not at all. The Land Commission will only have to make sure that the value of the landlord's and tenant's interest combined in the holding constitutes a sufficient security for the price charged for the land. I say that by placing any loss through default on the county cess the landlord will be deprived of any inducement to use his moral influence to secure the safe and sound working of the Bill. But if you make the landlords liable to some extent you give them a practical reason for using their influence to prevent hard bargains and to suggest to individual landlords that they should make fair terms with their tenants in order that this liability may not arise. I think the right hon. Gentleman would find that to be a very powerful beneficent influence. If he will establish a parity between the two funds I shall be willing to accept a suggestion that if the liability is thrown on the county cess all occupiers shall pay their share, and as to the"strike" argument I am willing to agree to the insertion of a provision to the effect that if the contingent fund be drawn upon by reason of default through a combination among the tenants against the payment of the annuities, the burden shall in that case fall on the county cess alone.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I believe the major portion are, and if part of the burden is thrown on occupiers under £4 the landlords will be responsible for the payment, and those who have caused the default will go absolutely scot free.
§ ME. T. M. HEALY
We have already said we would assent to a suggestion that all occupiers should pay their share in case of default being made.
§ (8.16.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman seems to think that the treatment of this question depends upon the view whether this Bill was brought in to please the landlord or the tenant. Surely that is not a proper spirit in which to approach this Amendment. At any rate, it is necessary to make some observations on the arguments used by 1895 hon. Members opposite, especially as hon. Members are never tired of throwing these particular charges across the floor of the House whenever they wish an Amendment introduced into the Bill. I cannot conceive what foundation there is for the statement of the hon. Gentleman, which has been over and over again denied, that this Bill was introduced by the Government to please the landlords. If it had been, the Government would have failed in their object. ! The hon. Member for West Belfast asks what the tenants gain by it. If a farm is sold for 20 years' purchase, the tenant will obtain a reduction in his rent of 32 per cent.; but if a landlord sells at 17 years' purchase, he will receive Consols at 2¾ per cent., and for every £100 of income only £60.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If the hon. Gentleman wishes to know why the landlords in the South of Ireland are anxious to sell, while the landlords in the North are not, I will tell him: it is because the tenants in the South do not pay their debts, and the tenants in the North do.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say upon what evidence he bases that assertion? What is the difference between the tenants North and South?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Those in the North are a more sober lot. Those in the South, too, think it more convenient not to pay, but to wait for the time when they will be able to get their land for nothing. The tenant in the North prefers to meet his legal obligations, and is, as 'a consequence, anxious to buy. Many landlords in the South and West ask,"How can we escape from this country?" because they are being driven out by Members opposite. Those who contend that the landlords are the gainers ignore the whole history of the country for the last 10 years. The agrarian agitators make out that the landlords are debtors to the State; in my opinion, they are really creditors. I allow that the landlord ought not to escape some part of the responsibility of default by the purchasers; nor does he. Under the Bill the landlords bear, I believe, much more than their share of the responsibility. If there is to be default, it is 1896 likely to be on a scale of great magnitude, and then the landlords will have to bear their share of the loss of the Probate Duty grant, and, so far as they are occupiers as well as owners, they will have to bear half the county cess, and, above all, the whole of the fifth of the purchase money will be exhausted before the Contingent Fund is touched. I say, therefore, it is unfair to throw upon them the additional burden which would be imposed by, the adoption of this Amendment. As to the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman, that he would be quite prepared to bring in a scheme by which the county cess would be divided, I may point out that in addition to the broad objection I have just mentioned, that proposal would throw upon us the burden of inventing a new and complicated assessment. We must, however, take the machinery as we find it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Where will the hon. Member draw the line? Will he nest try to get in the ground landlords? I must respectfully decline to burden a Bill already sufficiently large and controversial with any superfluous provisions.
§ (8.23.) MR. MAHONY
The right hon. Gentleman has made a very confusing statement. He said that because the selling landlords had to deposit one-fifth of the purchase money as a guarantee, which fifth would be absorbed before a levy took place, they would have to contribute more than their share in case of default. The right hon. Gentleman forgets that only a very few tenants will be able to purchase under this Bill, and that a comparatively small number of landlords will sell. It is only those who sell who will thus contribute anything in the case of default, whereas you are asking contributions from the whole of the taxpayers of the country. Those taxpayers may be roughly divided into four different classes—landlords, tenants, agricultural labourers, and the urban populations. If you proposed to confine the assessment even to the tenants, it would be unjust, although they are the only people at all likely to join in a combination for the non-payment of the annuities, because there will be a number of tenants who will derive no benefit under the Act. It appears to 1897 me a monstrous thing to throw an extra tax like this on the taxpayers, and then refuse to divide it equally between all classes. You choose the county cess in preference to the poor rate, not because it is a more convenient tax to levy, but because it is not divided between occupier and landlord. In the year 1870 this House indicated its opinion that the county cess ought to be divided between landlord and tenant, and on subsequent occasions when this House has put an extra amount on the county cess it has specially directed that the extra levy shall be thus divided.
§ MR. MAHONY
I was specially referring to the Relief of Distress Act, 1880. I was also thinking of the guarantees given by Grand Juries in the case of railways. I know that in these cases the county cess is divisible between occupier and owner. In Section 14 of the Relief of Distress Act, 1880, there is a special provision for the levy on the county cess to be so divided. The Chief Secretary complained just now that he was asked to introduce into this Bill a cumbersome and complicated method of assessment. I say a sufficient method is already devised in the 14th section of the Act I have just referred to, that it is not cumbersome, and that it works without any difficulty whatsoever. It does not even require an additional ticket to be issued by the cess collector. I do not support that portion of the Amendment which would transfer the levy to the poor rate. I only support the principle that the levy should be divided between landlord and occupier, and I take it that that is the real object of the Amendment. The next Amendment on the Paper is in my name, and if I move it I shall propose to add to it these words—Except and so far as that section provides, as regards holdings under £4 valuation the payment of the whole levy shall be by the owner or lessor.I want to provide distinctly for a division between the owner and occupier. Is the Chief Secretary prepared to make any concession on this point? If so, he may save discussion on my next Amendment? (8.35.)
§ (9.1.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ (9.4.) MR. KNOX
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, in a remarkable speech made half an hour ago, showed in a way we had never before sufficiently realised how great a benefactor he had been to the tenants of Ireland. We were under the impression derived from speeches we have heard from the Benches opposite that under the strict coercive régime of the right hon. Gentleman rents have been paid in Ireland; but we are told by the Chief Secretary that in the South and West the tenants do not pay their rents. If that be so, if the administration of the right hon. Gentleman has led to this practical result that the tenants do not pay any rents, then I fail to see the necessity for the Bill, for we have arrived at an ideal state of things in the South and West. We can now well understand the speech we read the other day on the text of" more power to the elbow of the right hon. Gentleman?" But I come to the practical parts of the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for South Tyrone, and we see that the Bill in this provision aims to do a great injustice to the tenants of Ireland. Throughout the argument of the Chief Secretary, he based his contention, that the landlords should not pay any part other than as occupiers of this rate, on the assertion that if you put half the liability on the landlords yon would be removing the loss from the class who had caused the loss. The hon. Member for South Tyrone supposes, and perhaps he is right, that there is no loss which could fall upon the Contingent Guarantee except in case of general combination among purchasers. He argues that the landlords could not prevent that combination, and, therefore, they should not pay the loss. But could the other tenants prevent such a combination? It certainly could not have escaped the minds of the Chief Secretary and the hon. Member for South Tyrone that the tenant purchasers will have to bear the whole of the loss whether we adopt the poor rate or the county cess as the method of raising the money. In either case these men will 1899 have to pay the whole of the loss. The hon. Member for South Tyrone said, and I daresay he is right so far as the number of tenants are concerned, that in Donegal the majority of holdings are under £4 valuation. But, in the first place, my hon. Friends the Members for West Belfast and for North Meath have admitted that, so far as tenancies under £4 are concerned, we are ready to waive the point; and though under the Poor Law they have to pay nothing, we say let them pay half. But suppose it were not SO, it would not be the case, as the hon. Member for South Tyrone argued, that these tenants in Donegal under £4 valuation would bear none of the loss if this Amendment were accepted, because a large proportion of these tenants would have purchased their holdings under the Bill; and whether you take the county cess or the poor rate levy, the small tenants who have purchased will have to pay their share. I do not object to that. I only want to show that if these combine they will, in case of default, have to bear the whole burden. As between landlords who do not sell, and tenants who do not buy, the burden should be equally distributed. Surely the hon. Member for South Tyrone must know that in many counties there is a very deep feeling of discontent in consequence of extra taxation being levied by the county cess instead of being divided between landlord and tenant. The fact has been referred to that under the Tramways Act of 1883 the burden is not divided between landlord and tenant, and I suppose a very large number of the constituents of the hon. Member—I know many of my constituents do—think that it is a gross injustice that railways should be made Under that Act simply for the advantage of landlords, while tenants provide the guarantee. This is a source of grave discontent, and threats have been made to combine against the payment of the county cess.
§ MR. KNOX
I know there is very great discontent there at the tenant farmers having to bear the whole of the burden under the Tramways Act. I have heard that they relied on the belief, vainly of course, that the Parliamentary efforts of the hon. Member for South 1900 Tyrone would be directed towards obtaining for them some relief from this burden; but I suppose, if they read an account of to-night's Debate, and find that the hon. Member is in favour of throwing this further burden on the tenants, they will consider whether, if they do not resort to combination, they should not adopt the still more painful step of getting rid of their present. Member. Undoubtedly, there have been axpressions of great discontent on eccount of injustice similar to this we are trying to prevent under this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman must see that when a tenant farmer has to pay two rates, one of which is divided and one is not, he must be painfully conscious of the injustice of throwing any fresh burden entirely on the rate of which he has to pay the whole. If it ever does come to pass that this levy has to be made, it will be found almost impossible to collect it. Under the light railways scheme the extra cess in part of my division amounts to 1s. in the £1; but under this Bill there may be an extra cess of 3s. in the £1 in the year, and I say it would be impossible for a Government to levy 3s. in the £1 extra cess if the burden is to fall entirely on the tenant farmer. Combination would inevitably arise against such injustice. I therefore ask the Government, as much in the interest of their own scheme as in the interest of justice, to consent to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Longford or to that of the hon. Member for North Meath, which stands next on the Paper, and make an equitable division of this rate between the landlords and tenants of Ireland.
§ (9.14.) MR. FLYNN
The Amendment is of such a reasonable character that I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman should not accept it except on the principle that he will make no concession at all to hon. Members in this part of the House. Such appears to be the position we are drifting-into, and we are forced to the conclusion that there is a determination on the part of the Government not to listen to Irish Members, though they speak with special knowledge of this subject. I invite the attention of the Committee to the words of the Chief Secretary in reference to this Amendment. He said that in framing the Bill he had to con- 1901 sider whether the levy should be thrown upon the poor rate or the county cess, and he decided upon the latter. So that it comes to this: that he, having so decided, the representations of Irish Members are to have no effect. Against this we protest, and shall continue to protest. I congratulate the hon. Member for South Tyrone on the dual róle he assumes. Sent here as the tenant's representative, he poses as the landlord's advocate. He says a large portion of the county cess is already paid by landlords—
§ MR. FLYNN
I thought the hon. Member also assented to that proposition; but if I am mistaken, I withdraw the assertion. But whoever made the statement, I am sure that anyone who knows anything of Irish local taxation knows it is not the case that landlords pay any large share of the county cess. Where the landlord farms any portion of his land, he, of course, as occupier, pays the county cess upon that portion, but such portions form but a very small part of the whole property. I invite the attention of Ulster Members to the case of the London corporations. They are large landed proprietors, and they are trying to sell out under the Ashbourne Act, or they will sell out under this Act. They pay no county cess, and some of the London companies have even made their agent a present of his farm, and so they pay no cess whatever. Lord Egmont in my constituency has sold his property near Kanturk, on which he paid his share of the county cess, cut down the pretty plantations round the town, cleared himself from all obligations, and left the country. I fail to see how it can be pretended that landlords to any appreciable extent pay any portion of the county cess. Whatever unfairness there may be in regard to the valuations under £i that can be met by the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Meath; and in regard to these small holdings in Donegal, Sligo, Galway, Mayo, and part of Kerry, the payment of poor rate has been taken into account by the landlord in fixing the rent. That there is a large amount of discontent because of the heavy burden of county cess there 1902 can be no doubt whatever. I am not competent to speak of Tyrone, but I know that such discontent does exist in Ulster and Munster, and in Kerry representations have been made to the Grand Jury that the extra rates make the local burdens intolerable. If, in addition, you impose this additional burden upon the occupiers it is very possible that this grave discontent will culminate into something still more grave. In times of difficulty and distress the tendency towards combined resistance to payment may lead to very serious consequences. Take the case of the tax for raising £1,000 for the widow of Constable Lee It was levied, and I believe collected, but after fierce, and at times, bloody struggles, in which several persons were injured, and, I believe, it will be found that in many cases it cost £2 to recover £1. Do you propose to perpetuate this state of things, this possibility of scenes of disturbance all over the country? I am not sanguine about the matter, but I hope that under the Bill landlords may be reasonable, and the tenants may purchase at a fair price, and that there will be no necessity to call upon the guarantee at all, but we have to face the fact that in many cases under the more lenient Ashbourne Act tenants, under the pressure of arrears, high rents, and other causes, have been forced into contracts to purchase at a price the instalments of which they will probably be unable to keep up. If this state of things exists to any great extent in Ireland, as I greatly fear it may, then you will have these tenants who, by great exertions, manage to pay their annual instalments, burdened by the default of those who-have failed to pay, and perhaps through no fault of their own, and thus causing more default. It is a most reasonable Amendment, and I am sure no Government would resist such a proposal from local Members if applied to a measure dealing with Wales or Scotland; but the habit of coercion for Ireland seems to encourage the Government to be deaf to the representations of Irish Members. We warn the Government that they are doing much to make this Bill inoperative, and they will make it a very dubious gift indeed to the Irish tenantry and the Irish people if they do not accept the Amendment. We are told that the Bill is more or less part of a scheme for the 1903 pacification of Ireland. Surely the landlords are as much interested in that as the tenants are, and they ought to pay their fair share of the burden instead of putting it all upon the people from whom they have already taken their full pound of flesh.
§ (9.26.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I do not think the Amendment is one that need trouble the minds of English Radicals. Reference has been made to the fact that the poor rate falls entirely, or is supposed to fall entirely, on the shoulders of the landlords in the case of holdings with a valuation of under £i. It is perfectly well-known, however, that in many cases the landlord takes very good care to shirk his responsibility, and to saddle his poorest tenants with a portion, at any rate, of the poor rate by consolidating holdings of under £i so as to bring them up to £4. I know, as a fact, that this was done in the case of the Glenbay Estates, and I have no reason to suppose that other landlords do not adopt the same subterfuges and dodges to relieve themselves at the expense of their tenants. I would suggest to my hon. Friends to be very careful in adopting precautions to prevent landlords acting thus unjustly to the tenants, in case such a concession might be made as they ask for. But on broader grounds I should certainly be disposed to support the Amendment. It appears to me that the principle for which the Chief Secretary is contending is but another illustration of the extent to which the Government are willing to go for the purpose of relieving the landlords in every possible way. They are going directly against a very sound principle which I recollect was advocated in the Western part of England not many years ago by a very eminent financial authority. It was then explained that in any proposal for buying out the landlords it was very desirable that some hold should be maintained on the landlords, and that they should not be allowed to pocket the whole of their purchase-money at one stroke, and march off triumphantly to spend it in London or abroad, but should be compelled to have it spread over a number of years as a sort of rent-charge. The person by whom this principle was enforced and emphasised on the public platform was 1904 the right hon. Gentleman who now occupies the chair.
I was going to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, not on personal grounds at all, but as a matter of financial soundness to consider whether in resisting the Amendment of my hon. Friend he is not going further than he ought to do in the direction of relieving the landlords of every possibility of loss. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded on another line of argument and he said—to do what is proposed by the Amendment would be to make landlords the victims of a conspiracy against the payment of the annuities in the Bill because, he said, he could not conceive the possibility of any risk of loss unless there were a general strike against the payment of what he called rent, but what is now, I suppose, to be called annuities. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that according to those who know far more about Ireland than he can possibly pretend to know, in spite of extended tours, he is, by refusing this Amendment, refusing that which would prevent a state of things likely to culminate in a conspiracy, and consequent risk to the British taxpayer. This imposition of a burden on the tenants to the exclusion almost entirely of the landlords will bring about such a feeling of discontent amongst these unfortunate people as will, in all probability, result in a determination not to pay this county cess. A more foolhardy course than that he is following it would be impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to adopt. I should have thought that with the warnings he has staring him in the face even a Minister more brave than the right hon. Gentleman would have paused before repudiating a suggestion such as that just now made. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will even yet see the error of his ways, and will agree to accept the proposal of the hon. Member for Longford.
§ (9.40.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 62; Noes 71.—(Div. List. No. 172.)
§ One of the Tellers made a communication to the Chairman.1905
§ MR. SEXTON
The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. M'Cartan) was engaged in writing when the Division was called, and did not hear the Question put. He voted in the" No" Lobby by mistake.
In that ease his vote ought to be disallowed, but the circumstance that the hon. Member did not hear the Question put should have been announced to me before the result of the Division was declared.
§ (9.50.) MR. MAHONY
I beg to move an Amendment to get rid of an objection which can be raised to the clause. I wish, in line 31, after"county," to insert—Subject however to the provisions of Section 14 of the Belief of Distress (Ireland) Act, 1880, except in so far as that section provides, as regards holdings under £4 value, for the payment of the whole levy by the owner or lessor.This subject has already been very largely debated on the last Amendment, therefore I propose to be very brief. I wish the right hon. Gentleman in this Amendment to address himself to the following points, which I think up to this he has avoided. The county cess in 1870 by an Act of this House was as regards all the future lettings divided equally between the owner and the occupier. When in 1880 under an Act for the relief of distress, this House threw an additional burden on the county cess which could not be contemplated in any agreement for tenancy previous to that date, it was especially enacted that any levy under the Act should be divided between the owner and occupier except in the case of holdings of under £4—which I propose to except. Now, I think that that shows the spirit in which this House has approached this matter of county cess up to the present time, that is to say, it has declared its belief that where there is no agreement to the contrary, and no lettings have taken place since 1870, the county cess shall be divided, and that even where there are agreements to the contrary, where the House has proposed fresh taxation which could not be foreseen at the time of the agreements, the county cess shall be divided between the owner and the occupier. Now, this House is going to throw a fresh burden on the taxpayers,
1906 and in no agreement previous to this can any tenant or landlord have foreseen the possibility of this fresh burden. Therefore, I say in justice you ought to. enact that any levy under this Bill shall be equally divided between the owner and the occupier. I want to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to a matter which, will show the injustice of the clause as it stands at present. As the clause stands you will have in Ireland two different cases of tenancy. You will have the majority of cases in which the county cess is generally paid by the owners, but you will have a smaller though a definite number of cases in which at the present moment the county cess is divided between the occupier and owner, and in these cases the levy under the clause will be divided between the occupier and the owner. Does not the Chief Secretary see that the clause will not bring relief to a very large number of tenants, and that its injustice will be clearly apparent? It will relieve some tenants. We imagine that they ought all to be relieved; but as it stands it will actually relieve some tenants from half the burden of this levy, while others, solely because their tenancies were created prior to 1870, or if created after 1870, because the parties entered into an agreement at a time when they could not foresee this Act, will have to bear the Whole burden of the levy instead of half. These are the only points I will ask the Chief Secretary to answer. I will press the Amendment to a Division, because it places the matter in a distinct and definite manner before the Committee and does not interfere in any way with the area chosen by the Chief Secretary in substitution for the poor rate, but only asks the Committee to distribute the taxation equitably.
In page 4, line 31, after the word" county," to insert the words" subject however to the provisions of section fourteen of ' The Relief of Distress (Ireland) Act, 1880,' except in so far as that section provides as regards holdings under four pounds valuation for the payment of the whole levy by the owner or lessor."—(Mr. Mahony.)
§ Question proposed," That those words be there inserted."
§ (9.56.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
So far as I understand the hon. Gentleman 1907 his objection to the clause as it at present stands is based on the fact that under the Act of 1870 there are a certain number of holdings in Ireland in which the county cess is divided between owner and occupier. Then, says he, in the present instance, this new tax will bear unequally. In some cases it will be paid only by the occupier, and in other cases, half by the occupier and half by the owner. I do not deny that there is an inequality owing to the Act of 1870. All I can say is that it is a difference that affects very few persons, and that the inequality must exist whatever we do with regard to the Bill. The hon. Member seems to think that every cess imposed has been divided in past times. That is certainly not the case. We have already to-night discussed one of the most important examples of new cess— that levied under the Tramways Act of 1883. That cess, with very few exceptions, is entirely thrown on the occupiers. The same inequalities as those the hon. Member complains of exist in connection with the Public Works Loans Act. Though I admit that it is not altogether satisfactory to have these different methods of meting out loans to the Irish tenantry, it appears to me that the anomaly is not of a serious character and that it ought not to oblige us to adopt a principle which is not justified at all on grounds of equity. There does not appear to me to be anything new in the arguments the hon. Member has advanced. In the main I have dealt with his statement in a previous Amendment, and I would, therefore, venture to suggest that we should not waste time in further considering the question.
§ (10.0.)The Committee divided:— Ayes 64; Noes 79.—(Div. List, No. 173.)
§ (10.10.)Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 37, to leave out the words," Without any previous provision at any presentment Sessions."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ (10.12.) MR. MADDEN
The Amendment would be entirely inconsistent with the ordinary mode of procedure in all cases of compulsory presentment, and the Government cannot accept the alteration that the hon. Member suggests.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1908
§ Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 41, to leave out"shall," and insert" may."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ (10.20.) MR. MADDEN
In cases of compulsory presentment it is usual to direct the Judge to fiat the presentment. The Government cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (10.21.) MR. SEXTON
I do not propose to move the next Amendment in my name, but I will the following one, in support of which two reasons may be urged. The Assizes at which the presentments are made are usually held in March and June, so that between the June presentment and the succeeding March there is an interval of nine months. It may well be imagined that at the end of that interval the Local Authorities have become hard up and stand much in need of the first fruits of the new levy, and if, no matter how late the presentments may be, you seize for Consolidated Fund purposes the first moneys that are collected, you run great danger of doing that which you say you have no desire to do, namely, crippling the Workhouse and Asylum Authorities. My other point is this: according to Grand Jury law in Ireland money raised under a presentment must be applied to the particular purpose named in the presentment, and if you take the first money that comes into the hands of the County Treasurer and alienate it to services other than that for which it is raised, the effect may be that the works named in the presentment may have to be postponed. The works in question may be in connection with Asylums or Industrial Schools, and most serious results might follow if they were postponed for half a year. A final reason in support of the Amendment may be found in the scheme of the Bill itself Under that scheme the Lord Lieutenant has to direct the county treasurer to pay the money over within two months after the cess is issued. Surely that is a sufficient provision, and it is not necessary to say it shall be paid out of the first moneys. I hope the Chief Secretary will rest content with that, and accept my Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 5, line 1, to leave out all after" shall," to" pay," in line 2.—(Mr. Sexton.)1909
§ (10.25.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
An important light was thrown on this Amendment by a discussion earlier in the evening on an Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford. It was pointed out in the course of the discussion on that Amendment that the Government really had no greater power of getting money by these compulsory presentments than under an ordinary process. It is evident, if there is even the remotest truth in the allegation, that there is no security at all in the Bill as it at present stands, except that contained in the words to which the hon. Member objects. If the words are retained, it will be impossible for the county to escape paying the levy, as some taxes must be raised. If we rely on the ordinary form of presentment, we must have some clause of this kind to make it absolutely impossible for the county to escape paying. If this particular provision is not carried, then we must introduce some such clause as was contained in the Bill of last year, by which the Lord Lieutenant, if deprived by the Act of the county of the use of the ordinary machinery for levying taxes, was able to set in motion the machinery for that special object. I am reluctant to introduce into this Bill any such invidious and, to 'some extent, cumbrous mechanism. I therefore advise the Committee to retain these words, and to this conclusion I have been forced by the tenour of the Debate which occurred before dinner to-night.
§ (10.28.) MR.SEXTON
I do not see what bearing the Debate before dinner had upon this point. I fail to see how the words which the clause at present includes gives a more effectual grip on the county treasurer than the earlier words. If the treasurer has collected £1,000, and does not pay within two months, you can take action against him just as easily as if you retain these words. I notice the right hon. Gentleman avoids the question with regard to the presentment. I understand that by the Grand Jury Law in Ireland, when a County Authority raises money, it is obliged to apply the money collected under the presentment to the purpose named in the presentment. Now, if the first money collected is intended under the presentment to go to the industrial schools, and you take it to make up the 1910 default in the payment of annuities,. I understand that, as the law now stands, the authority will be debarred from applying any sums subsequently collected to the school purposes, and the schools will have to suffer for want of funds until the next Assizes.
(10.30.) MR. A.J.BALFOUR
understand the hon. Member's point to be, that the Lord Lieutenant under this clause will be able to take money for the payment of annuities which had been collected for industrial school purposes, and that it will not be possible to apply to the maintenance of industrial schools money subsequently collected for the payment of the annuities. I will ascertain if that interpretation of the law be accurate, and, if it is, care shall be taken that if money collected for industrial schools is taken for the purposes of this Act, other money collected for this Act shall be made applicable to the schools."With regard to the first portion of the hon. Member's reply, it is one thing to go to the county treasurer and say," You must give me the money you have in your possession," but it is quite another thing to make a demand upon him when he has no money in his possession. That is the contingency against which we have to guard, and unless we take the precaution contained in these words, the levy to make up the default may never be collected, and the county treasurer will then never be able to hand the money over, for you cannot get blood out of a stone. But if it is made clear that whatever money is collected for the county may be taken for the purposes of this Act, then there will be no difficulty in making up the default. For that reason I would suggest that the Committee adhere to the words of the clause.
§ (10.33.) MR. KNOX
My hon. Friend's Amendment is supported on two grounds—one technical and the other of substance. The right hon. Gentleman has promised to inquire into the technical ground, I trust we may have the opinion of the Attorney General on the other point as well. I have examined this question somewhat carefully, and I find that there are cases where there is a compulsory levy on a Board of Poor Law Guardians, and a similar provision has been inserted to that which is inserted here, but I cannot find that there is any precedent in the case of a compulsory 1911 presentment upon a county for such a provision. I think hon. Members opposite will bear me out when I say that the system of presentments is probably one of the most cumbrous and technical systems of raising money in existence in any country in the world. It is hampered on all sides by most elaborate provisions, and I believe it is the case that if money is raised on a presentment it can be applied only to the particular purpose named in that presentment. What my hon. Friend wants is that industrial schools and other county matters shall not be kept waiting until a sufficient sum has been raised by county cess to pay for the treasurer's demands.
§ (10.35.) MR. MADDEN
The hon. and learned Member is accurate in saying that the principle has not been applied to county cess, although it has been applied to the analogous case of Boards of Guardians. The system is, no doubt, a very complicated one, and I will see whether it is not possible to add words which shall make it clear that if money primarily raised for one purpose is diverted to the purposes of this Act, the fund from which it has been diverted shall be recouped from subsequent collections.
§ (10.37.) MR. FLYNN
My hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast has called attention not merely to the illegality of the presentment in its present form, but also to the injustice which may be caused. He enumerated two or three objects for which the presentment money might be required, but he omitted to state that the money in the hands of the county treasurer might be wanted for useful and necessary works and for expenditure already incurred. Men who have been engaged in the repair of roads and bridges will be wanting their wages, and yet they are to be kept out of their money in order to meet this special levy. The Bill is drastic enough in all conscience without importing into it this further injustice. I always understood wages were a first charge on the rates, and surely, in its greed and eagerness to grab every available copper, the Treasury will not commit this further injustice.
§ (10.39.) MR. MACARTNEY
I think that the point which has been raised by the hon. Gentleman opposite is not a 1912 substantial one; but if it is material, it may be met by the addition of the words" out of surplus funds in the treasurer's hands." The presentment which raises money for specific objects only relate to bridges and specific improvements of roads, and the large proportion of the expenditure is entirely met out of the surplus funds in the treasurer's hands. The addition of these words would make the clause impervious to criticism.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think that the Amendment suggested by the hon. Member is worth considering. According to his experience, the greater part of the taxes for roads and industrial schools, and, indeed, for a very large proportion of the general county expenditure is collected ad hoc, while that collected for specific purposes bears to it a relatively insignificant proportion. Therefore, the suggestion might probably be carried out with advantage. If the Committee will allow me, I will see whether it cannot be carried out on the Report stage.
§ (10.42.) MR. SEXTON
It is a curious thing to see how the reception of an Amendment by the Chief Secretary depends upon the bench from which it comes. When it comes from these benches the right hon. Gentleman. makes a conclusive speech against it; but when it comes from the other side, it immediately becomes very valuable in his eyes, and he promises to do everything he can to carry it out. My only desire is, that money collected for special services in a county shall not be diverted from those services. That is the suggestion of the hon. Member opposite, and it is the same as the one I made, and against which the right hon. Gentleman spoke definitely. However, as long as my purpose is served, I do not care from what quarter the Amendment comes. All I want is, that it shall be carried into effect.
§ (10.45.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Member is entirely wrong in-supposing that his suggestion is the same, either in form or substance, as that which the hon. Member for South Antrim proposes; for under the one emanating from my hon. Friend the Treasury will still be able to secure payment of the special levy out of the first moneys received in respect of the 1913 presentment made at the Assizes, with the trifling exception of that allocated to one or two special purposes.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Member's Amendment would, on the other hand, put it out of the power of the Government to take any moneys at all.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The difference between the two Amendments is great and vital. The hon. Member for West Belfast should be the last man to insinuate that the Government show any preference for Amendments suggested by their own supporters. I have systematically done my best to accept every suggestion of the hon. Member for West Belfast, even in cases where I did not approve of them, and it is, therefore, a most extraordinary statement to make that I have exhibited any partiality in accepting a single suggestion from a supporter of the Government.
§ (10.47.) COLONEL WARING (Down, N.)
I may correct one statement made by the right hon. Gentleman. The money collected for specific purposes is not by any means an infinitesimal sum. It is money for roads, bridges, and other public works. The industrial schools, lunatic asylums, and other Public Institutions, are maintained out of surplus moneys in the treasurer's hand, and, generally speaking, the surplus funds are large, so that the treasurer would probably be able to discharge any demand made upon him. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will adhere to the clause as at present framed.
§ (10.48.) MR. KNOX
There is another possible injustice to which no attention has been called. One barony may have paid its cess and another may not, with the result that the money having been seized by the Treasury the barony which has paid will suffer from the neglect of its roads and other public works.
§ (10.49.) MR. SEXTON
After the extremely conciliatory speech of the Chief Secretary, I ask to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1914
§ Amendment proposed, in page 5, line 7, to leave out" and charged against," to"in such order," in line 8, inclusive.—Mr. Sexton.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 5, lines 13 and 14, to leave out"having regard to," and insert"in accordance with."— (Mr. Sexton.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Verbal Amendments agreed to.
§ (10.54.) MR. KNOX
In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), I beg to move the Amendment standing in his name, to insert"in Council, in the prescribed manner" after"Lord Lieutenant." Another Amendment stands immediately after it in my own name, having the same object in view, but reaching that object in a slightly different manner. The Government may urge that the decision of these questions may be of an administrative character. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will probably agree that some sort of appeal should be given, and in the Amendment which stands in my own name I have adopted a provision which appeared in the English Local Government Act of 1888. Under the Local Government Act, 1888, for England, in Section 29, a similar method of decision to this I suggest was provided, and I think the framers of that Act probably had in their minds the fact that these questions would be questions in which administrative and judicial action would be so intermingled that it would be difficult to decide them according to the procedure of actions at law. It has been found that this proceeding has been exceedingly satisfactory. Counsel on either side have usually agreed as to facts, and the matter has been brought before the Court in a manner enabling the Court to decide with the least delay and difficulty. There is one other advantage. The right hon. Gentleman may probably say there ought not to be interminable appeals in these cases. The clause will only give one appeal from the Lord Lieutenant to the High Court, not from the High 1915 Court to the Court of Appeal. In that way I have also followed the procedure which has been prescribed in the Local Government Act for England. It has been decided by the Court of Appeal in England that similar words in the section of that Act give no appeal to the Court of Appeal from the decision of the High Court. The right hon. Gentleman may point out that it is not in form an appeal from the decision of the Department, but in substance it is. As a matter of fact, I understand that the procedure is this: The Local Authority first consults the Local Government Board in England, the Board gives an opinion, and it is only when that opinion is unsatisfactory that it is found necessary to take the decision of the Court. Practically, and in all essential features, the procedure in the Local Government Act of 1888 will be followed under this Act. The form in which this proposal is made is somewhat vague, I know; but the matters that may arise, the many questions to decide are so various and so difficult to put in a form of words that it is well to leave it vague, leaving the Court to decide under rules what particular class of cases should come before it. 1 venture, therefore, to press upon the Attorney General that either the one or the other of these proposals should be inserted in the Bill.
In page 5, line 33, to leave out"and his decision shall be final," and insert—"Provided that, if any county or local authority or person shall feel aggrieved by such determination, such county or local authority or person may apply to the High Court of Justice in Ireland in such summary manner as, subject to any rules of court, may be directed by the court; and the court, after hearing such parties, and taking such evidence (if any) as it thinks just, shall finally decide such question."—(Mr. Knox)
§ (10.59.) MR.MADDEN
This Amendment raises a question of great importance. A number of matters are left to be determined by some tribunal, and, following a usual course, these have been left to the determination of the Lord Lieutenant. I do not think the section in the Local Government Act to which the hon. Member refers is of any use as a precedent, for this reason—that the questions which by this Act may be carried up to the 1916 High Court are of a strictly legal nature, questions as to whether any business power or liability is, or is not, attached to a County Council or permitted under the Act—matters, in fact, of construction of the Act. The questions the Lord Lieutenant will have to decide under this Act will be more or less of an administrative character, and I think, on the whole, I would venture to advise the Government that the Privy Council, which is not an exclusively Legal Body, is the better tribunal. This, however, would not be effected by the adoption of the Amendment before the Committee, which leaves these questions to the decision of the Lord Lieutenant in Council. The action of the Lord Lieutenant in Council does not involve any Judicial decision of the Privy Council, but merely expresses the formal assent of the Privy Council. But these are points of detail. The Government are prepared to adopt the principle that the decision of the Lord Lieutenant shall not be final, and I am disposed to advise my right hon. Friend that the Privy Council might be with advantage adopted as the tribunal for the consideration of other than purely legal questions. If the hon. Member will withdraw his Amendment now, the matter shall be carefully considered with the object of giving effect to the principle I have mentioned.
§ (11.5.) MR. KNOX
I quite admit that the form of the Amendment may not be altogether satisfactory, but in regard to the procedure in the Local Government Act, though in form the questions arising for decision would seem to be chiefly of law, as a matter of fact they are questions in which law and administration are mingled. Of course, questions arise as to the construction of the Act, and so would such questions arise here, and questions such as I imagine under the English Act have to be decided. With great deference to the opinion of the Attorney General, probably, if he would consult the President of the Local Government Board as to the working of the section in the Act of 1888, it might be found that in some ways the procedure adopted under that section is more suitable to this case than an appeal to the Privy Council. The only objection I have to the suggestion the right hon. Gentleman has made is, that I should like somewhat 1917 more of a pledge that an appeal shall be given in all cases in which a person may feel aggrieved. I do not think it would be desirable, by the use of any form of words, to prevent an appeal in certain cases or to give it only in a certain class of cases. It is difficult to know beforehand what class of cases may arise and I therefore think an appeal should be given in all cases leaving the appellate power the means of dealing as all Courts do with frivolous cases. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give a specific pledge that an appeal shall be given in all cases where a person or an authority feels aggrieved.
§ (11.8.) MR. MADDEN
The subsection to which the Amendment refers relates to a certain class of cases only—Questions which arise as to the share of any County or other Local Authority in any fund or sum dealt with in this Act, or as to the rights or burdens of any County or Local Authority or persons in respect of payments out of the Guarantee Fund or the Local Taxation (Ireland) Account.Without giving an absolute undertaking, I am prepared to say that these are cases in which there should be an appeal.
§ (11.8.) MR. J. MORLEY
It is satisfactory that the right hon. Gentleman has admitted so much. It is perfectly clear under the clause that though questions, as to the share of a county, are questions of account, yet questions of principle may arise, and are inseparable from these questions of account on which it is proposed to grant an appeal. The decision of the Lord Lieutenant as to rates or burdens clearly might involve questions of large construction. I, therefore, hope that when the right hon. Gentleman puts his Amendment on the Paper it will be in a full and complete fashion.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (11.10.) MR. KNOX
The Amendment I now move is simply to provide that Returns shall be provided for the information of Parliament, and it is practically similar to the information which it has been agreed shall be furnished under Clause 1, the only difference being that I do not propose that the Returns shall be made more than once a year.
Amendment proposed, in page 5, line 33^ at end, to add—
(7.)"Returns shall be presented to Parliament in respect of every financial year, showing—
§ (11.11.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have no objection to the fullest information being given to Parliament from time to time as to the working of the Act in all its important essentials, but from a drafting point of view I do not think it is well to load the Bill with an excessive amount of details to be made the subject of Returns. It is quite true we established a precedent in Clause 1, but I think it is an inconvenient method to adopt. I shall suggest on Report that the provision as to Returns shall be taken out of Clause 1 and inserted in a clause specially ad hoc determining what particulars shall be given in an annual Return. To stick at the end of each clause a long catalogue of items on which Parliament shall be informed will make the drafting of the Bill very cumbersome, and I venture to suggest that at the end of the Bill we should add a clause enumerating those particulars upon which it is desirable Parliament should be informed.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not pledge myself 6r ask the hon. Member to defer his Amendment now. If he does not like my catalogue or wishes to add to it, of course he can raise any objection when the clause is moved.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1919
§ Question put,"That Clause' 4, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ (11.15.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 132; Noes 77.—(Div List, No. 174.)
§ Clause 5.
(11.25.) MR. J.MORLEY
This clause raises points which have exerted as much interest in many parts of Ireland as almost any portion of the Bill. This 5th clause purposes to enact that where an advance for the purchase of a holding is less than twenty times the annual value of the holding, then"during the first five years, the annuity shall be 80 per cent. of such annual value. We have heard again and again that one of the main objects of this Bill is to reach those districts where the economical and agrarian conditions are difficult. The effect of this clause is to make every tenant pay for five years at the rate of 20 years' purchase. Though a tenant may have purchased for 10, 12 or 15 years' purchase, yet for five years certain, and possibly for an indefinite time at the will and discretion of the Lord Lieutenant, he will pay an annuity as great as though he had bought at 20 years' purchase. It comes to this, that for five years, and possibly for more he is to pay an annuity which is greater than the substantial annual value of the holding. If, for example, 15 years' purchase is the proper price, to make him pay 20 years' purchase is to make him pay, say, £8, where otherwise he would pay £5 or £6, or even £4, and therefore is to make him pay an amount greater than the substantial value of the holding. How do the tenants put the matter to themselves at this moment? That, after all, is the important thing from the point of view of the advocates of purchase. They say,"We are going to be compelled to pay for five years 8 per cent. instead of 4 per cent., which is the fair interest on the price." If a purchaser has come to terms at 10 years' purchase on a rent of £10 the price is £100, and the ordinary annuity will be £4, but under this provision for five years certain and for an indefinite time longer he will pay not £4, but £8. The new purchaser, therefore, will commence his new career under circumstances of exceptional difficulty. At the very outset it will affect his inclination to purchase, because by this provision the relief to be afforded 1920 to him will not be immediate nor substantial, but may be the very opposite of relief. There is another aspect of the question, which I hope the Chief Secretary will not refuse to consider. How will the Land Commissioners regard a security which is burdened for five or more years in the manner proposed in the clause? It is obvious that the likelihood of a tenant being able to meet his engagements will be impaired for as long a time as this additional burden is cast upon him. The Land Commissioners have constantly refused to sanction bargains on the basis of 12 or 15 years' purchase because they have held the security to be inadequate; à fortiori will the security be inadequate where the annuity is burdened for four or five years with this extra payment. The clause, I admit, will do no harm to the strong, comfortable tenant who can afford to pay for five years or more at the rate of 25 years' purchase, but the struggling tenant cannot afford to pay the extra price, and he will therefore be discouraged from entering into negotiations, and when he has entered into them may not be able to fulfil his bargain. Not to do more than enumerate the points, there is just one more. There can be no doubt, Ireland being what it is, that this provision lends itself very easily to evasion. I should think the Chief Secretary might have taken into account the temptation which this provision will hold out to evasion, that is to say, it will be easy for bargains to be made between landlord and tenant, which will baulk the Government of their Insurance Fund. Supposing the rent of a holding is £10, and the price agreed upon £100, then the normal annuity would be £4; but 80 per cent. of the annual value would be £8, and, therefore, for five years the purchaser will pay, not £4, the normal annuity, but £8—that is to say 8 per cent. for his money. But what may happen? The tenant may go to his landlord and say,"This is very hard upon me; to you it makes no difference. I am willing to pay you your price of £100, but why should you not reduce my annual value from £10 to £5?" What will the effect of that be? Why, the result will be that he will pay the 80 per cent. on £5, or £4, which will exactly equal the amount of the normal annuity under the original 1921 arrangement, and thus the Insurance Fund will not be benefited. The Chief Secretary and the Attorney General for Ireland will be able to follow this argument, and I submit that there is no answer to the proposition that the landlord without anything fraudulent on his part, putting no loss on himself, and not imperilling the security of the Exchequer, would be able by an arrangement of this kind to bring to nought this provision which I believe to be injurious to all that is best in the policy of the Bill. What is the object of this tenants' Insurance Fund? There is no such provision for insurance in the Ashbourne Act. The object of the Government can hardly be to improve the security, for that object cannot be gained by impoverishing the tenant at the very outset of his new arrangement. If you want to improve this security you ought to be content with what the Land Commission do now in cases where they are dissatisfied with the security of the holding—increase the amount of the landlord's deposit. If security were the object of the Government in making this provision that is what they would do. They would increase the amount of the guarantee deposit, or else they would enable the vendor to agree to do so as a substitute for this Insurance Fund. I do not believe that the object can be security. I think the object must have been to increase artificially the price. I do not wish to impute sinister objects to the right hon. Gentleman; but it is clear that landlords wil1 be likely to get high rates of purchase—20 years or more—if, when tenants are hesitating whether they can pay the stipulated sum or not, the landlords can point to tenants who have purchased on neighbouring estates, and who are paying at the rate of 20 years' purchase. Another point which calls for remark is that the annual value in Ireland is often unreal, for there are estates where the rents as put down in the books have not been paid for six or seven years, and are merely nominal. By taking as one basis of calculation in these purchase arrangements a value which is merely a book rent, and by multiplying it, as this clause proposes to do, you will impose a great hardship upon the would-be purchasers, and so baulk the operation of the Bill. I will not detain the Committee longer. I have put my objection 1922 to the clause as briefly as I could; but I submit that there is no clause in the Bill which is sure to baulk the object which the Chief Secretary has avowed as his main purpose, and no clause which is more likely to cause confusion.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out Sub-section 1.—(Mr. J. Morley.)
§ Question proposed," That the word ' Where' stand part of the Clause."
§ (11.40.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will endeavour to deal briefly with the important statement of objection just made by the right hon. Gentleman. I am sorry that in introducing a speech otherwise purely argumentative he should have suggested that the provision in question was introduced with a view to artificially raising the price of land.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I was careful to say that I could find no other explanation for it. I did not impute any sinister motive to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am ready to accept that explanation. I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman imputed a sinister motive, but that he found a provision in the Bill which he could only account for by an imputation which I should regard as sinister, because it suggests that our desire is to raise the price of the commodity which we profess to wish to see fixed by natural arrangement between those who desire to buy and those who desire to sell. But what plausibility is there for such an extraordinary suggestion on the part of the right hon. Gentleman? The whole tenour of his argument against this sub-section, and the whole tenour of every argument I have ever heard against it, is that the tenants will be made much less desirous of buying owing to the fact that during the first five years at least after the purchase they will be obliged to pay 10, 20, perhaps even 30 per cent., more than if they had bought under the provisions of Lord Ashbourne's Act. Did anyone ever before hear of an accusation being brought against anybody of desiring to raise the price of a commodity, and endeavouring to effect that object by rendering the buyers less desirous of buying? Is it not clear that if the provision had the effect which is attributed to it, and which I, to a certain extent, admit, of making the Irish 1923 tenant less anxious to become the owner of his holding than he otherwise would be, the result would be not to artificially raise the price of land, but to diminish it artificially? If there is any ground of complaint in this it rests not with the tenants, but with the landlords, who see the market value of their property reduced. So much for that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, which I gladly put aside, because it was not in harmony with the general tenour of his argument, which was characterised by great moderation. A more forcible point urged by the right hon. Gentleman was that the clause would conduce to collusion between landlord and tenant in order to get the rents lowered, but there are judicial rents, and it is clear that those cannot be altered by private arrangement. It is conceivable that such collusion might occur in the case of holdings of which the rents are not judicially fixed, but I will consider whether it would not be easy to introduce words to enable the Land Commission to take cognizance of any colourable fraud of that kind, and by which the objection of the right hon. Gentleman can effectually be met. The main objection of the right hon. Gentleman to the subsection is that it will be operative, and not inoperative, but his argument was entirely founded on fallacy. He supposes that the tenant will be always considering what is the capital value of his holding. I do not believe that anyone acquainted with the Irish tenant really is of opinion that that is the mode in which he will look at this transaction. What the tenant will look to is not the capital transaction, but the transaction as far as the interest on that capital is concerned; the amount of annuity which he will henceforth have to pay as compared with the rent he has had hitherto to pay. If this is true, what becomes of the sense of injustice and loss which the right hon. Gentleman attributes to the Irish tenant? At the very worst under this section the Irish tenant will save at least 20 per cent. on his former payments, less the amount of county cess or poor rate, which is estimated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division at about 7 per cent. The saving to the Irish tenant would thus be 13 per cent. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may regard it as an insignifi- 1924 cant amount, but after all it is a larger amount than has stood between the landlords and the tenants in those internecine quarrels which have had such a disturbing influence upon Ireland during the last few years. On most of the Plan of Campaign estates on which the most acrimonious controversies have existed between the landlords and the tenants, the difference that has so widely separated the respective combatants has been something less than the amount now sneered at by the hon. Gentlemen opposite. So much for the statement that the tenants will feel themselves aggrieved. Now I come to the question of the securities, and I have always brought forward this proposal as one which increases the security. The right hon. Gentleman says it will diminish the security, and he talked as if this was a kind of additional burden thrown upon the holdings, but surely the Committee will see that the reverse is the fact. Let us take the case of a small holding in the West of Ireland, where probably the price of land would be small, and the tenant's insurance would, therefore, be relatively large, and let us ask ourselves what would happen. If you sold under the Ashbourne Act the tenant would, no doubt, get an advantage of say, 40 per cent. off judicial rent. In good years he would have the full advantage of that 40 per cent.; he would, no doubt, spend it all. Bad years would come— and recollect you are working and must work with the tenant's insurance on an automatic and rigid mathematical system. When bad years come, as come they would, the tenants would have nothing in hand to meet the payments, the Land Commissioners would have to proceed against the defaulters, the tenants would be evicted and the holdings would be sold. But take the case of insurance under the clause as it stands. The tenant gets a reduction of, let us say, 13 per cent. in his rent. During the first five years he is not allowed to get more than that unless misfortune happens to him. In ordinary years he is obliged to pay an amount to the Land Commission decidedly less than he ever had to pay to his landlord; a sum of money out of his instalments is annually laid by; a bad year comes, he cannot meet his engagements—he cannot pay his annuity and falls into arrear with 1925 the Land Commission. Well, the Land Commission do not find themselves in the invidious position of the Commissioners under the Ashbourne Act. They are not obliged to evict, but may say to the tenant," We have saved up on your account 20 per cent. of your annuity during the first five years of your tenancy, and with that we now relieve you from the consequences of your misfortune and will set you on your legs again. You may have to pay a little more for the first two or three years to bring up the insurance to the original point, and as soon as that is done you will be able to go on in your holding paying a less amount than you would have done under the Ashbourne Act in consequence of the interest which has been accummulating on your deposit." Which of these two systems would be the easier to work and would throw the higher burden on the Land Commission and this House? I must say I listen with astonishment to hon. Gentlemen who at one time go about talking of the English taxpayer and the English Exchequer involving the Irish tenant in hardship, and then come down and refuse to accept a provision which, more than any other provision in the Bill, will probably diminish the necessity for harsh eviction. Then I must point out the extraordinary inconsistency between the argument just used by the right hon. Gentleman and those with which I am overwhelmed by hon. Gentlemen who sit around him. In earlier Debates those hon. Gentlemen told me there was inequality between the annuities paid by the purchasing tenant, and the rent paid to the landlords would cause the Bill to conduce not to public order, but to public disorder. I have always felt, and I feel still, that there is force in that objection. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby urged this very argument against the Bill of last year. It is to obviate this danger that the provision in the Bill now under discussion has been inserted, and I shall look with greater misgiving to the working of the measure if such provision, which is in the interest of social order, of the security of the State, and of conciliation and fairness to the tenant were omitted.
§ (11.52.) Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.