HC Deb 05 May 1891 vol 353 cc146-206

On Motion of Sir Henry James, Bill to enable Members of the House of Commons to resign their Seats, ordered to be brought in by Sir Henry James, Sir John Mowbray, Mr. Dillwyn, and Mr. Asquith.

Bill presented, and read first time. [Bill 318.]

Courtney, it is that the principle of the Amendment which I propose to move has already been decided by the Division which took place last night on the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast. We are in this unfortunate position: that the Amendment of my hon. Friend was not upon the Paper, but was one of four Amendments, which were consequential. I have obtained the manuscript from my hon. Friend, and will state to the Committee what his Amendment was. In substance it was this: that the Insurance Fund should be exacted not during each of the first five years, but in each alternate year in a period of 10 years, or upon the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th years; and that that Insurance Fund should be £4, plus 8s., per cent. on the amount of the advances. The point I desire to submit now is this: I do not raise the question of the departure from the Government rule of insurance during the first five years, which was the main point pressed on the Committee by my hon. Friend, but admitting that there is to be a self-acting and equal insurance, I wish the Committee to consider now an Amendment in excess of the proposal of my hon. Friend for a self-acting and equal distribution of insurance. That I submit, as a point of order, is a debateable question.


The principle of insurance contained in the clause is what I may term a diminishing or vanishing scale according to the number of years' purchase, so that the premium accumulated may gradually come to nothing. The Amendment of the hon. Member for West Belfast proposed a uniform scale of 10 per cent. The Amendment was not printed, but it was explained by the hon. Member. He said that he was not bound by any particular number of years, or any particular data, but the essence of his proposal was 10 per cent.


After five years.


The principle of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sunderland was decided by the Division on the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Belfast.

(4.10.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

My Amendment was an attempt to lead up to several other Amendments intended to bring about a universal rate of insurance, to be imposed in the course of a term of years. The term of years is now five, but my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) suggests not the insurance I proposed, but one which will extend over double the number of years.


The Division took place upon the question whether there should be a uniform period, and that is precisely the point raised in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sunderland.


I accept your ruling on that point, but it was agreed that the term is to be five years at a sum of 8s. per cent., and I ask whether you also rule that it is incompetent for me to move an Amendment increasing that sum?


It was open for the hon. Member to raise that point before the decision of the Committee was arrived at.


As the insurance is now left, it is from a vanishing point to a high point; and I would ask whether it is not open to any hon. Member to move an Amendment fixing the rate at a uniform scale.


I am not aware of any means by which that can possibly be done now; and the Amendment which stands on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lea) to insert "sixty-five per cent." instead of "eighty per cent." would be inconsistent with the decision already arrived at.


May I take your ruling upon a further point? Suppose I make my Amendment read "enhanced by a payment of one-fifth on each of the annual balances," would that be out of order?


Yes; I think that would be the same Amendment.

(4.15.) MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)

Then I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name to leave out, in line 40, the words "on application."


I rise to order. I wish to propose, before we come to that Amendment, if my hon. Friend will permit me, the omission of the words "eighty per cent.," in order to raise a discussion which I think it is extremely necessary to raise.


What does the hon. Member propose to substitute?


I have considered that point, and I propose to substitute words that will read in a different way. First of all, I propose to omit the words "eighty per cent." so as to raise the whole question, and I desire to point out how unfair the clause is as it stands.


All that question was debated last night, and the difference between a vanishing premium and a fixed premium was fully discussed. The Committee decided against the suggestion that there should be a uniform rate.


But the Committee did not decide that the annuity should be 80 per cent. of the annual value.


Again I ask what does the hon. Member propose to substitute? He cannot, consistently with what has already happened, make it less?


Would it not be possible to insert "seventy-six," which would be the normal annuity?


I would venture to propose that it should be 80 per cent. when it is 19 or 20 years' purchase, and 75 when it is 18 years', and so on; and for that purpose I desire to move the omission of the words "eighty per cent."


The hon. Member must propose something consistent with what has gone before. If the hon. Member will submit his Amendment, I will consider whether it will be in order.


I will draw up the terms of my Amendment.

(4.18.) MR. SEXTON

While my hon. Friend is preparing his Amendment, I will move to leave out "eighty per cent." for the purpose of inserting "seventy six per cent." I submit that with an annual payment of £3 16s. an insurance of £1 may be as easily dispensed with in a case of 19 years' purchase as it has already been dispensed with under compulsion from the Government in the case of 20 years' purchase. The scale has been well described as a vanishing scale. It certainly does vanish at one end; and I would suggest that the vanishing scale should begin at 19 years. A man who buys at 10 years would have to pay a sum equal to his purchase annuity, and in five years would pay up to the rent.

Amendment proposed, in page 5, line 37, to leave out the word "eighty," and insert the words "seventy-six."—(Mr. Sexton.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'eighty' stand part of the Clause."


The hon. Member appears to support this Amendment by the argument that the amount of insurance is so small that it may be almost disregarded. By a system of Amendments of this nature, we might gradually destroy the whole scheme, the principle of which I think the Committee accepted last night. I hope the hon. Member will be satisfied if I remind him of the arguments in which I have pointed out, that 80 per cent. is a fair amount to ask the tenant to pay, and 20 per cent. a fair reduction.

(4.21.) MR. STOREY

The Amendment of my hon Friend is one step in advance. The Insurance Fund which the right hon. Gentleman proposes bears hardest on those who buy at low rates, and easiest upon those who buy at high. I submit that the effect of that would be to discourage purchase at low rates and to encourage the idea that the purchase ought to be at high rates. If the right hon. Gentleman will take the figure of £5 annual value, and estimate the cost of 10 years' purchase, 12 years, 16, 17, and 19 years' purchase, he will see that the effect will be that in five years the man who bought at 10 years' purchase would have paid into the coffers of the right hon. Gentleman £10 insurance; the man who bought at 12 years would have paid £8, 15 years' purchase £5, 16 years £4, 17 years £3, 18 years £2, and 19 years' purchase only £1. The right hon. Gentleman says that whatever the number of years' purchase may be, he assumes that it is a fair term; but by the figures I have given, the right hon. Gentleman will see that if one term is fair the other must be unfair, according to the amount of insurance paid. For my own part, I wanted to propose a self-acting scheme by which the insurance would bear a fair proportion to the purchase money, and every man would have to pay his fair share.


The hon. Gentleman is simply delivering a speech prepared for an Amendment which I have ruled to be out of order.


I admit that the speech was prepared, and I think it is unanswerable. However, I will not pursue the matter further at the present stage. At the same time, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will reply to the arguments which I have brought forward. On this side of the House we are making a stand because we consider that the effect of the clause will be to increase the price of Irish land, and to encourage the idea that 10 years' purchase is not, but that 18, 19, and 20 years' purchase is the normal price. At a later stage we hope to move the adoption of an insurance scheme which shall apply equitably to all tenants.

(4.25.) MR. SEXTON

The right hon. Gentleman has certainly shown no cause why the same provision in regard to persons who pay at 20 years' purchase should not be extended to those who buy at a lower rate and why this slight relief should not be afforded to the tenant at the lower end of the scale.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 158; Noes 91.—(Div. List, No. 182.)

(4.39.) MR. CHANCE

moved an Amendment to strike out the words "on application," which make it necessary for the tenant who desires a reduction of the annuity at the end of the first five years to make an application for that purpose to the Land Commissioners. The hon. Gentleman said: In the case of the larger tenants they will know very well how to look after their own affairs, but I am afraid that although it will probably not be very great, there will be a certain amount of expense attached to this application, which will be a hardship upon the poorer tenants. My object in moving the omission of the words "on application" is to make the action of the clause automatic.

Amendment proposed, in page 5, line 40, to leave out the words "on application."—(Mr. Chance.)


This is the first time I have ever heard it suggested that the Irish tenants have any difficulty in asking for a reduction of rent.


I did not suggest difficulty in that, I said the right hon. Gentleman was going out of his way gratuitously in order to insult these people and put them to wholly unnecessary expense.


I am not insulting them.


The right hon. Gentleman need not have commenced by sneering at them.


As to the expense it is absolutely nothing; a simple letter sent through the penny post will be all that is necessary.

MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)

I certainly think my hon. Friend's observations deserve some better answer than the Chief Secretary has given. He might give some reason for the inclusion of these words and shown how benefit is to be derived from them.

(4.45.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

I am sorry the hon. Gentleman thinks my answer insufficient. The whole question before the Committee is, which way does the presumption lie? Is the presumption that the tenants will be in favour of paying the 80 per cent. for a longer period than five years? I am distinctly of opinion that the presumption is in favour of a desire on the part of the tenants to continue to pay the 80 per cent., and so become the proprietors of their holdings as soon as possible. I should like to make it clear on the face of the Bill that the tenants would be well advised to continue paying the 80 per cent. as long as possible.


May I point out the absolute absurdity of the clause. It provides for the payment of the 80 per cent. during the first five years, but there is no solitary provision by which the tenant is enabled to go on paying the abnormal annuity for more than five years. This is a phantom obligation put on the tenant at the end of five years, and I shall certainly divide the Committee against it.

MR. WEBB (Waterford, W.)

The question is not what the tenant ought to do, but what he is most likely to do. I do not think that the onus of making the application should be thrown on the tenant. If the right hon. Gentleman persists in retaining these words it will only be another indication of his determination to carry his Bill through as it stands quite irrespective of the views of the Irish Members.

SIR J. M'KENNA (Monaghan, S.)

I do not see any hardship in retaining these words. It would no doubt be a very good thing for the tenants to go on paying the 80 percent. as long as possible, so as to ensure their earlier enfranchisement, but surely if they want to reduce the payments they ought to make the necessary application. I shall vote for the retention of the words.


The Government think it necessary that these words shall be retained.


I shall be willing to withdraw my Amendment if the hon. and learned Attorney General will agree that the application shall be made in some simple shape and form, and shall not be of a complicated nature.


That is a mere matter of drafting which is covered in Subsection 2.


Am I then to understand some provision has been or will be made so that the application shall be informal and the tenants not put to any expense?


Of course the Government cannot pledge the Land Commission, but I will say that I cannot conceive that the Land Commission would fail to make the procedure as simple as possible.


Upon that I withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

(4.56.) MR. SEXTON

I beg to move the omission of the word "thirty" in this sub-section. The scheme of the right hon. Gentleman is that there shall be a special charge for the first five years in respect of the 4 per cent. on the purchase money, but that the tenant shall get no relief with regard to the annuity until 30 years have elapsed. You treat the landlord and tenant differently. At the end of 18 years you give the money back to the landlord, but you keep the tenant's money back for a longer period of 12 years. We have heard a great deal about the tenant's anxiety to become the absolute owner of his holding, but I venture to think that by the course you are taking under the Bill he will never be able to achieve that ambition. The fact is that if you retain this money for 30 years the tenant himself will never reap the benefit of the insurance money, and I propose to give him relief in that respect by substituting "eighteen" for "thirty" years.

Amendment proposed, in page 5, line 42, to leave out "thirty," and insert "eighteen."—(Mr. Sexton.)

(5.0.) SIR J. M'KENNA

I hope that the Government will give way on this point, for such a concession would very much expedite matters.

MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

I think it a pity the same measure of justice should not be meted out to both landlord and tenant. If the land- lords are to be entitled to the Return of their Guarantee Fund at the end of 18 years, similar consideration should be shown for the tenant.

MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)

I think, unless I misunderstand the matter, that there is something to be said for the Amendment, because the clause will not work as it stands. If there should be a small number of years' purchase, say, 10 years, in such case the whole purchase money will be paid off before the expiry of 30 years, and it will be necessary to make provision for that. There will be a considerable number of cases where the whole money will be paid off by the continuing annuity calculated at the rate of 4 per cent. for 30 years. Then on the point of policy, the present seems to be one of those cases where it is desirable to give the tenant an early hope of improvement in his position. At the end of five years he is to have one advantage, and if at the end of a further period, say, 20 years, he can have a second advantage, before the time comes when he is absolute owner, it will be a good thing in itself.

(5.5.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

I doubt whether, in point of drafting, the objection that the clause will not work as it stands is well founded, because by referring to the sub-section towards the end, it will be seen that the annuity is made to cease "at such period before the end of the term of the annuity as may be provided by the prescribed Tables, so as to replace the advance with interest," &c. I think, therefore, the clause will work as it stands because, if a man is paying a large Insurance Fund until his loan is paid off, there is provision for bringing the whole transaction to an end. I am desirous, however, to meet the suggestion of the hon. Member, supported as it has been from several parts of the House. The argument I confess strikes me with great force that the ordinary purchasing tenant cannot, as the matter stands, expect to see any future improvement in his position during the course of his natural life. I agree with the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman that that is perhaps a hard case, and that it will be an advantage to shorten the term during which an improvement in his position may be expected. I am disposed therefore to accept the Amendment in principle. I would suggest to the hon. Member for West Belfast if 20 years would not be a more convenient term than 18 years.


AS the tenants will be well aware, the landlords get their money back at the end of 18 years. I think it would only create a feeling of dissatisfaction if we differentiate between the two cases.

Amendment agreed to.

(5.10.) MR. CHANCE

I have to move the next Amendment standing in my name.

Amendment proposed, in page 5, line 42, to leave out "on application."—(Mr. Chance.)


No doubt there will be cases in which the tenant will get no present relief; but still I hold it would be far better for him to continue paying the higher rate of annuity as long as possible, for he will then become the owner of the land all the sooner.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


With regard to the next Amendment, may I point out that in the Bill of last year this matter was so arranged that the annuity might be so reduced as to secure the repayment of the insurance money by the end of the normal term.

Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 2, to leave out all after "replace," to end of sub-section, and insert "the advance at the end of the annual term."—(Mr. Sexton.)


This matter is dealt with by my right hon. Friend in what appears to me to be the proper manner, namely, by substituting 3 per cent. for 4. The annuity must be re-adjusted, so as to replace at the end of the term so much of the capital money advanced as may not have been liquidated at the date of the re-adjustment, with interest at 3 per cent.

(5.16.) MR. SEXTON

Do I understand that at the end of the period the whole of the money in the Insurance Fund goes straight to the reduction of the balance of the capital bound to be due?




I should have thought that the object would have been secured without these words. But I have no objection.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment agreed to, in page 6, line 3, to leave out "four" and insert "three."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)

(5.19.) MR. KNOX

I propose now to add after the word "annum," in line 4, words which will allow a sum to be deposited by the landlord, or by somebody in his interest, sufficient to defray the tenant's insurance money. It may seem hardly necessary to insert a proviso to this effect, as it would, no doubt, be in any case competent to the landlord and tenant to agree that the landlord should furnish a sufficient sum year by year to the tenant to provide for the insurance money. I think, however, that the Amendment is necessary, and the tenant would not always have the same confidence in a landlord, who might at the time when the money came to be paid be out of the jurisdiction, as he would have in an actual deposit in Court. It may also be said that there will be no advantage to the tenant in inserting such a provision, as the landlord will, under such circumstances, necessarily ask for a larger price. That may be so, but I think this is one way in which sales will be carried out under the Bill. There may be cases in which, unless somebody comes in to help the tenant to pay this extra sum, the tenant will be unable to pay it for himself, and therefore the Land Commission, representing the British taxpayer, will be unable to advance the money. I venture, therefore, to think that this Amendment should be adopted.

Amendment proposed, In page 6, line 4, after the word "annum," to insert the words, "Provided that if in any Agreement for the purchase of a holding any person other than the tenant agrees to provide the purchaser's insurance money, a sum sufficient to provide such insurance money shall be provided or shall be retained by the Land Commission as if it were part of the guarantee deposit, and the sum so provided or retained shall be treated by the Land Commission as if it had been provided by the tenant, and the annuity payable by the purchaser shall after the first thirty years of the term be four per cent. on the amount of the advance."—(Mr. Knox.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

(5.23.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

I am not sure that I understand the Amendment. If we are to interpret its wording strictly, it would seem that this money must be added to the landlords' Guarantee Fund.


No, it would go to a separate fund.


I am not sure that the words are clear. At present the guarantee deposit may be supplied in one of two ways. It may be provided by a person from outside, or may be retained out of the purchase money. If in the agreement for the purchase of the holding there should be a covenant on the part of the landlord or any other person to provide this money for the tenants, the Land Commission would either receive the money from the other person or retain it out of the Guarantee Fund.

(5.25.) MR. CHANCE

The object of the Amendment is perfectly clear. All the right hon. Gentleman wants is to get his Insurance Fund, and, if he gets it, it matters not where it comes from. This Amendment would in a large number of cases result in the springing up of the Insurance Fund the moment the purchase agreement was executed. Why should not the right hon. Gentleman take the ready money? If the landlord says, "I cannot possibly sell if the Commission insist on screwing this 80 per cent. out of the tenant, but it will pay me very well to hand the insurance money over to the Government and get the purchase money down on the nail." Why should he not do so? There is a slight technical difficulty in the Amendment, inasmuch as it does not clearly set the money on one side as an Insurance Fund. That can, however, be easily remedied by the addition of a few words. I know something about the practical working of these Acts, and I am sure that the adoption of this Amendment will make all the difference between the successful carrying out of the measure and its failure.


I gather that the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down thinks that the Amendment would be unworkable in its present state. I do not know what is the meaning of "after the first 30 years."


I ought to have explained that that is a misprint. It should be "five years."

(5.29.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

Then I do not understand why the tenant is to pay more than the normal annuity from the beginning if he gets from an outside source a sum of money equivalent to the Insurance Fund.


I quite admit the justice of the Chief Secretary's argument, and will leave out all the words after the word tenant.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, In page 6, line 4, after the word "annum" to insert the words, "Provided that if in any agreement for the purchase of a holding any person other than the tenant, agrees to provide the purchaser's insurance money, a sum sufficient to provide such insurance money shall be provided or shall be retained by the Land Commission and the sum so provided or retained shall be treated by the Land Commission as if it had been provided by the tenant, and shall be dealt with as the purchaser's insurance money."— (Mr. Knox.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will not accept this proposal. It will add an unnecessary complication to the whole business, and I think it will destroy more contracts than it will promote. If a man wants to provide the insurance money he can dos o without the intervention of the Act at all.

(5.34.) MR. D. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)

I think my hon. Friend has introduced a certain confusion into his Amendment. There are two entirely different cases contemplated by it. One is a case in which the insurance is to be furnished by the landlord, and the other a case in which it is to be furnished by somebody else. I say also that such general terms as "a sum sufficient to provide such insurance money shall be provided," are out of place in this Bill. Something more specific is needed to show how the Land Commissioners are to enforce the provision of the money.


Might I point out that the theory of the old Land Purchase Acts is that the guarantee deposit is not part of the purchase money, but is found by someone outside? That is an absurd theory, of course; but the provision of the Acts is that the guarantee deposit "shall be provided." Those are the words used in the printed con tract forms. Obviously, on the Amendment as it stands the intention is that there shall be a bargain to provide, and that there shall be performance of that bargain, before the abnormal annuity shall disappear.


There is a certain disadvantage in discussing an Amendment that has been so materially altered, but I think we now understand the intention of the hon. and learned Gentleman who moved it. I have two objections to his plan, which I think he will feel have some weight. The first is that one peculiarity of the Insurance Fund, as it now exists in the Bill, is, that in case of the application of any part of it to meet the necessities of the tenants, it shall be refilled from the same source.


The question of refilling the fund is not touched. It comes in afterwards.


One of the principal reasons we have had in view in fixing this Insurance Fund, although it has been rather lost sight of, is that we are unwilling to see too great and immediate a difference made between the lot of the tenant who buys and that of the tenant who is unable to buy. Now, it is clear that this object would not be at all met by the Amendment. In fact, if the Amendment were accepted, the inequality would be more glaring than it would be under the Ashbourne Acts. Under these circumstances, I would not advise the hon. Gentleman to press his Amendment, which in any case I think ought to be carefully considered, and which, if he wishes to discuss at any length, I would advise him to put down on Report.

(5.41.) MR. KNOX

I do not understand the right hon. Gentleman's advice, because on Report it could not be discussed at any length. I admit the mistake I made at the end of the Amendment, and that mistake has put me to some disadvantage. The objection raised by the hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Mr. D. Crawford) has, I think, been fully met by the argument of my hon. Friend below me (Mr. Chance); but I would point out, if any person agrees to provide this money, and it is not provided, the person aggrieved would naturally have his remedy on the contract, if not other- wise. One of the Chief Secretary's arguments has been met by my hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman's other objection is one of principle. As to his objection that the annual payment will be reduced with what he considers an inconvenient rapidity, I admit that the proposal is open to that objection. It is the object of my Amendment to reduce the annual payment in some cases more quickly than it would be reduced under the Bill. Therefore, I do not think I shall gain anything by deferring the consideration till Report, for in no case can that principle be accepted. I think, therefore, this Amendment should be pressed. I do not know whether the hon. Member for South Monaghan (Sir J. M'Kenna) intends to ask his constituents to return him again; but let him explain to them that he is opposed to a provision that aims at a further reduction of the instalments to be paid by a purchasing tenant, and I question very much if he will return to this House as Member for South Monaghan.


I may be allowed to explain now that I take this course in Committee, because I believe that the main object of the hon. and learned Gentleman is obstruction of the progress of the Bill, with the chance of its destruction, an object which some of his allies have not hesitated to avow.


I am going to vote against the Amendment, and I have not the slightest fear of what my constituents may say as to my action. I was not prepared to accept the Amendment in its original form, because it was to me intelligible. As amended now, I cannot understand it, though I have tried diligently to do so. Who, I ask, is going to pay this insurance for the tenant? Is it likely to be the landlord? I suspect he will consider that his guarantee deposit is quite enough. Is it going to be the "gombeen man?" If that is to be the case, I see no benefit to the tenant.

(5.45.) MR. SEXTON

The objection to the tenant finding the insurance money from outside is difficult to understand. It sheds a curious light on the laborious argument which the right hon. Gentleman yesterday and to-day applied to this question of insurance. He has on several occasions laboured hard to show that a quarter of a year's insurance was required in one case, five years in another, as a saving to the State against a sudden default of the tenant and the necessity for eviction. But now it appears that is not the argument most firmly fixed in his mind; but the fundamental principle upon which he is proceeding is that the full extent of the benefit the tenant purchasers might fairly reap from the use of the credit of the State is not to be allowed to become manifest within the next few years, so that the other tenants who cannot buy will not perceive the extent of the advantage. But surely that is an idle hope of the right hon. Gentleman. How does he hope to conceal these facts from the tenants who have bought under the Ashbourne Act, and whose annual instalments differ as much from the ordinary level of rents as this Bill will differ if the Amendment is accepted? I cannot agree with the hon. Member for South Tyrone that the Amendment is unintelligible. It has been hastily drafted and may be open to criticism, but the object of it is quite clear. Without supposing that any third person may interpose in the transaction, if the landlord is willing to provide the insurance at the outset, why should you not accept that lump sum at once rather than that you should continue to levy it over a period of five years? I can imagine a reason why a landlord should do that, and I submit it to the intelligence of the hon. Member for South Tyrone. Suppose a landlord is desirous of selling the whole of his estate, and finds that his tenants are willing to buy with the exception of some half dozen, the failure of this small number to agree to the contract involving the payment of this insurance might defeat the sale of the whole estate. This is a conceivable, and a not unlikely case. The failure to sell the whole of the estate may be prejudicial alike to the interests of the tenants who want to buy and of the landlord who wants to sell. In such a case, the landlord being anxious to sell, and finding that the opposition of a few tenants defeats his purpose, may very well say to these tenants, "I am willing to provide the Insurance Fund on your behalf for the present, the method of repayment being matter of private arrangement." Will the Chief Secretary say in such a case that it is not well, that it is not expedient, for the landlord to pay this insurance money, the Commissioners treating it as if it were paid by the tenant, and the tenant paying it back again? If in the meantime the failure of the tenant to pay his regular instalment causes a draft upon the Insurance Fund, you have by this Amendment the means to meet this.

(5.50.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

The hon. Gentleman appears to be unable to understand why, if I have many reasons, I do not mention them all. I have not done so in order to avoid undue and laborious repetition. I have replied to arguments used, but I did not think it necessary to repeat at great length, though I have made constant allusions to it, the argument I used originally in recommending the plan. I recalled it to mind more than once; but as it was not dealt with by hon. Members opposite I did not urge the point, because it did not appear relevant to their argument. I urge it now because it has become relevant, because it is pertinent to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cavan. And yet I am told that I have suddenly discovered a new reason which I have been concealing from the Committee during the many hours we have been discussing the first five lines of this clause.


I do not say the right hon. Gentleman was concealing it, but certainly he did not mention it.


I did not dwell upon it, because it was not relevant to the arguments used on the other side. Well, we cannot accept this Amendment, and I do not think the loss to the hon. Member's friends will be very great. I cannot understand the frame of mind of the landlord who is foolish enough to lock up, not for 17 years, but for the whole 49 years, so large a sum as would be required for insurance if the tenant bought for a very small number of years.


He would give it absolutely, and payment would be matter of arrangement.


Practically, the Bill provides an Insurance Fund for the whole time the advance is being repaid. If you are going to substitute any other form of insurance, you must provide that it shall last for 49 years; therefore, directly or indirectly, the landlord must give that large sum for 49 years.


For ever—absolutely.


For ever! Still worse. If the landlord wants to give money to the tenant, there are plenty of ways of doing it without resorting to this clumsy method. If the landlord is anxious to induce the tenant to buy, no matter on what terms, the ingenuity of landlord and tenant is amply sufficient to carry out some device without this.

(5.55.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

We who voted for the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Morley) have to consider what course we ought to adopt towards this Amendment. I have no doubt whatever. Towards the end of Clause 3 my right hon. Friend made an extremely powerful speech at considerable length, thoroughly entering into this question, and arguing against the public policy of maintaining for five years a higher rate than 4 per cent. upon the purchase money. To that proposal of the Government we have certain great objections. The main objection is that we feel that it will keep up the price of land to an abnormal extent. There were objections entertained below the Gangway which, personally, I did not share—that it would tend to check purchase. But one thing we liked about the Government proposal was that it provided an extra guarantee for the taxpayer. Now, the proposal of the hon. Member gives us this advantage, and saves two disadvantages. It gives the insurance and the possibility of its being provided by the landlord, for I am glad to see that, as the Debate has proceeded, we have put aside the idea of the benevolent interposition of the third person; and we face the practical suggestion that the landlord will provide the money. The proposal of the hon. Member below the Gangway provides the same guarantee to the British taxpayer as does the Government proposal, and avoids two disadvantages—the danger of the tenant's being obliged to pay a fictitiously large rent, and so being deterred from purchase, and the danger of his being indifferent to the number of years' purchase agreed upon. As to whether the landlord will pay the money down, attention ought to be paid to those who know Ireland; and hon. Members from Ireland have declared that landlords would be willing to make the advance, in order to facilitate purchase. If landlords should be willing to provide the lump sum down, no doubt it would accelerate sales, for tenants would begin their term under the contract of sale upon more favourable terms. Certainly, if landlords were willing, there would be no harm in carrying out the proposal.


Until the hon. Member for West Belfast spoke, I regarded the Amendment as only doubtful. Now I see that it is undesirable. It would produce collusion between the landlord and the tenant. If the landlord paid the insurance money, he would certainly stipulate for a larger number of years' purchase. I do not say that is the intention of the hon. Member for Cavan, but that will be the effect.


Whether or not the Amendment is adopted, I believe in many cases this inducement will be held out to the tenant to purchase. The landlord will, in some cases, provide the insurance; he may lodge it in the bank; he may place it with trustees; or, in some other way, to suit both parties, there will be collusion. Of course, the landlord may get a better price, but without some form of collusion there will in some parts of Ireland be no sales at all. If there is this collusion, it is better that it should be under the direction of the Land Commission, and that the Commission should know all about it. There are cases in which sales cannot be carried out at all unless the insurance money is provided by some one; and why should not the Land Commission be free to give their sanction to the arrangement?

(6.0.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

As a supporter, and almost a confederate, of the right hon. Gentleman in the matter of this insurance, I beg him to accept the Amendment. It can do no harm; obviously there will be collusion, and it is better that the thing should be done openly and fairly with the knowledge of the Land Commissioners. With regard to the argument that the price of land would be raised, hon. Members forget that the amount to be paid does not depend entirely upon the agreement between landlord and tenant; the Land Commissioners will exercise some sort of power to decide what is a fair value, and may refuse assent to what they consider an unfair bargain.


There is a guarantee deposit as well as an insurance guarantee, and, under the Ashbourne Act, the Land Commissioners may increase the amount of the guarantee deposit; they may demand an outside security or personal security, apart from the guarantee deposit or the value of the land; and why, under this Act, should you refuse to allow the aid to a tenant from a third person? Let me give an example of how this would work. Suppose a holding, at £10 a year, to be bought at 10 years' purchase. This means an advance of £100 and a nominal annuity of £4. That is all the Land Commissioners would require the tenant to pay under the old Act, and all they would have to consider would be whether the holding would be safe to repay them £4 for 49 years. But now, although the same bargain may be made between landlord and tenant, the Land Commissioners, instead of considering whether the holding will be safe to pay £4 for 49 years will have to consider whether it is safe for the payment of £8 during the first five years, and then £4 for the remainder of the term. Therefore, although the tenant may be willing to sell for 10 years' purchase, or£100, the Commissioners will have to look on the advance as if it were £200 during the first five years. The clause provides that in dealing with this abnormal annuity the Commissioners shall not look outside the four corners of the holding; but if by the Amendment they were allowed to go outside, obviously, instead of selling at 10 years' purchase, the landlord would sell at 12 years' purchase, and the amount would be £120, and the normal annuity £4 16s. 0d. and £16 would have to be found by somebody instead of it being distributed over 5 years by an abnormal annuity of £3 4s. 0d. additional. The landlord agreeing to the sale for £120 would pay back £16 of this to the Commissioners, and the increase on his guarantee deposit of a fifth would take the other £4, and so the landlord would be in precisely the same position as if he sold for 10 years' purchase, and the difference to the State would be that instead of having a doubtful abnormal annuity to be dragged from the tenant during five years, the State would have £16 cost in hand to provide against misfortune. Surely it is better to have the ready money than a doubtful debt. I cannot understand why there should be this objection. The only explanation possible is that the Government desire to check land purchase on small holdings and on poor land, and to confine land purchase to the richer land, and Ulster holdings, and this, of course, explains the support the Government receive from the hon. Member for South Tyrone. This I consider a dishonest attempt to divert the benefit of the scheme from the general body of tenants in favour of the larger tenants in Ulster and the Midlands.

(6.10.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 126; Noes 188.—(Div. List, No. 183.)

MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)

I beg to move, in page 6, line 4, after Subsection (l) to insert— Provided that this sub-section shall not apply when the amount of the advance does not exceed three-fourths of the purchase-money of the holding. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary agrees to the Amendment.

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

(6.20.) MR. KNOX

Though I am in favour of the Amendment, I would point out that it would give rise to a suspicion of collusion such as was objected to so much in connection with the last Amendment.


I am obliged to the hon. and learned Member for drawing my attention to that point. I will consider the matter with the view, if necessary, of making some modification on Report.

Question put, and agreed to.

MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)

I beg to move to insert after "but," in line 8, the words "in any case." The sub-section applies to the cessation of payment where the total amount of the advance has been repaid. As it stands it applies to the case where no application for reduction has been made at the end of the five years. Supposing an application is made at the end of five years, but another application for a reduction is not made at the end of 18 years, then it is possible that the whole amount will be paid off before the term has expired, and the sub-section ought to cover that case as well as the case where no application for reduction is made. I think the point will be met by my Amendment.

Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 8, after "but," to insert "in any case."—(Mr. Parker Smith.)

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

(6.24.) MR. KNOX

I beg to move to leave out Sub-section 3. This subsection was not in the Bill of last year, and I fail to see why it has been introduced in this measure. I suppose the real explanation of it is, like the explanation of the whole section which we have heard from the Chief Secretary, that it is political. I presume the object is to enable the Lord Lieutenant where he is displeased with the political conduct of any county to put an end to land purchase in that county. That must be the effect of the proposal if carried out, and I object to giving such a dangerous discretionary power to the Lord Lieutenant. If security is to be retained for the benefit of the British taxpayer, let us enact it plainly in the Bill. Why the Lord Lieutenant should have power to require 80 per cent. of the old rent to be paid for long periods in any county—it may be in a county where it would be difficult even now to obtain such a payment—I cannot imagine.

Amendment proposed in page 6, line 12, to leave out Sub-section (3).—(Mr. Knox.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'if' stand part of the Clause."

(6.27.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

The hon. Member has quoted the Bill of last year as though it were to guide the deliberations of the Committee this year. That is, no doubt, a great compliment to the Bill of last year, but I think it hardly makes sufficient allowance for the consideration which naturally has been given to the subject during the interval between last Session and this Session, and for the Amendments which from time to time have suggested themselves. The object I had in introducing the sub-section has not been fairly presented to the Committee. As the Bill stood originally, there was a fixed rule laid down to apply to every part of Ireland, whether land purchase was very much desired or not—whether it was in Ulster or Connaught. There was the same fixity of rule governing the length of time during which the annual 80 per cent. of the old rent was to be paid. We avoid that injurious uniformity by this provision. If I were legislating in regard to land purchase in Ulster, and for Ulster alone, or for the more prosperous part of the province, I should fix one steady rule and probably not put the immediate advance of the tenant as low as 80 per cent. I should think that a thrifty and industrious population would be grateful for the comparatively small privilege of being allowed to buy their holding at a comparatively small reduction of their original rent. When you are dealing with the South of Ireland you have to consider the circumstances of the people, and if they are to be required to pay too large an amount in annuity of that which they formerly paid in rent they may be discontented. If we had an unlimited sum of money to advance that would at once supply every tenant in Ireland with the means of buying his holding if he and his landlords should come to an agreement, I do not believe it would be necessary—though it might be—to have a provision of this kind. Supposing—what I believe to be the fact—that in a part of Ireland there is an immense competition to buy, is it not rather hard on the tenants who are so anxious to buy that they would be quite ready to pay the 80 per cent. for five years, eight years, or 10 years, that they should be ousted because they have not applied as quickly as other tenants who would not be prepared to buy if they knew this money was to be paid for more than five years? If the Lord Lieutenant finds at any time the competition amongst the tenants to buy such that it is obvious that the amount allocated to each county from the Guarantee Fund would be exhausted or more than exhausted before the tenants desiring to purchase at once would be satisfied, I can conceive that it would be his duty to increase the length of time during which the abnormal annuity, or the 80 per cent., should be paid. The result of that would be that a number of tenants less anxious and worthy to buy would be discouraged, and that the money would go first to those thrifty tenants desirous to come as soon as possible into possession of their holdings, and ready to pay the abnormal annuity for an increased length of time. They should have the first claim on the funds allocated by the Exchequer. The hon. Gentleman has conjured up to himself a picture of a Lord Lieutenant making land purchase impossible in this county or that county. I cannot conceive any Lord Lieutenant who could so far depart from his duty as to use this sub-section for that purpose. What I conceive he will use it for will be in certain counties where he finds great anxiety to buy, and anxiety to buy out of all proportion to the means provided by the Exchequer, he will increase the length of time during which the abnormal annuities are to be paid, with the result, as I have said, of discouraging the less worthy and of giving additional authority to the more worthy to buy. I use the words "less worthy" in no sense in reference to the morality of the tenants, but as distinguishing between the thrifty and the less thrifty, and those more anxious to become the full owners of their holdings and those less anxious. If this sub-section is left in the Bill we shall get a certain elasticity where it is much required, and shall not be open to the reproach that we treat the North and East of Ireland with precisely the same measure that we mete out to the South and West.

(6.35.) MR. SEXTON

The right hon. Gentleman says the retention of this subsection will give elasticity to the Bill. To my mind it will not give elasticity, but rigidity—the rigidity of death. Wherever this provision is put into operation it will kill the Act. My hon. Friend referred to a circumstance not unworthy of the attention of the Committee, namely, that this provision was not to be found in the Bill of last year. The right hon. Gentleman treats that sarcastically, but I would submit to him that the Government have been a long time considering the land question, and that they had ample time to make up their minds as to their policy before drawing the Bill of last year. When we find a provision of this kind suddenly introduced after a very short interval we are entitled to look on the alteration with suspicion, and to ask why it was not introduced in the former Bill. The right hon. Gentleman says it is not wise to treat every part of Ireland in precisely the same manner. But there is something very different to precise identity here, because in the counties in Ireland if this provision is in force there will be, or may be, extreme difference of treatment. In one county the tenants, after the lapse of five years, may be released from this special impost and enjoy the full value of the credit of the State on the amount of their purchase annuity, whilst in another county where this provision is brought into operation, the whole structure of the Act and the whole incidence of the bargain between the landlord and tenant ratified by the Land Commission may be upset. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, a solitary political official, may of his own mere will substitute a bargain altogether different from that contemplated by the Act. To suggest that such a power, after the subject has been carefully considered by both branches of the legislature, should be given to one individual with the effect perhaps of destroying the whole share of a county in the amount of Stock to be allocated, is a proposal as absurd as could be made. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary seems to have a graduated system of discouragements. He applies douches of cold water to the Irish tenants under this Bill, His first douche is a system of insurance which he applies for fear the Irish tenant should rush in and take too great an advantage of the Act. He takes 20 per cent. of the annuity for the first five years, and now he endeavours to make a kind of selection by a series of experiments applied to the financial powers or inclinations of the tenants of a county, and comes at length to the happy point when the requirements of the tenants will just amount to the quantity of Stock allocated. In my judgment the effect of the application of this power by the Lord Lieutenant will be to defeat what is, or ought to be, the main purpose of the Act— and what is avowed to be the main policy of land purchase in Ireland—and that is, the widening of the basis of social order by granting as large a number of the tenants of Ireland as your resources will allow power to buy their holdings. How is that basis to be widened? By the admission of poor men to this plan of purchase. It is not the number of holdings which affect social order in Ireland, but the number of men; and in proportion as you make your resources extend over a considerable number of tenants so will your attempt to preserve social order succeed. The effect of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal will be to discourage the small tenants. The men to whom relief is most necessary will be driven out of the field, and the only men who will be able to purchase will be the large farmers, with whom your avowed policy has nothing to do. The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that the Ashbourne Act has let in rather too large a proportion of the large tenants. I am glad to hear him admit it. That is true. The large tenants have had too much advantage from the Ashbourne Act, and the Government are now going to make the mistake more intense. The tenants who are able to pay 80 per cent. of the old rent will come in and swamp the Stock issued to the county, and the small farmers will be shut out. And I think the powers of this sub-section should not be entrusted to a political officer. The Lord Lieutenant is not like a Land Commissioner. He is not independent of Party and of Party prejudices and interests, but may be an Irish landlord with little sympathy with the tenants. The only argument in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to which weight can be attached was that the applications in a county may be more numerous than the amount of Stock will satisfy. But he surely does not think that the whole amount of Stock will be at once applied for. The share of each county will be about £1,000,000, whereas that under the Ashbourne Act was only £1,000,000 for the whole of Ireland. Under the Ashbourne Act the tenants received relief at once, which will not be the case under this Bill. What reason then, is there to assume that the applications will be more numerous under this measure than they were under the Ashbourne Act? It is highly improbable that the applications will exceed the full amount of the Stock, therefore I say the state of affairs the right hon. Gentleman speculates on to justify his proposal is one not likely to arise. On the whole, I think the right hon. Gentleman will himself admit that he is, in order to meet a state of things of an extremely speculative character, inserting a provision which may have a destructive effect on the policy of the Act.

(6.46.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

The hon. Member seems to have forgotten the Debate which took place on the Second Reading. At that time no argument was urged with greater persistency than the fact that, since the amount available under this Act is necessarily limited, the amount of discontent produced by the Act would be greater than the amount of content, and that, so far from laying broad and deep the basis of social order, the Government are providing all the elements of discord. If it should be true, as I believe it is, that in the more advanced parts of Ireland there will be immense competition to seize at once on the portion of the fund allocated to them, then the Lord Lieutenant will be welt advised to make use of the powers committed to him by this sub-section. When I spoke of the tenants most likely to buy, the hon. Gentleman assumed that I was alluding to the most prosperous part of Ireland —the North. I was not alluding to it. I believe that the small farmers are willing to give as large a price as the big tenants, or even a larger price. I hope, in the interests of the tenants who may be excluded by the competition, that the Committee will permit the Government to retain the clause as it stands.

(6.51.) MR. SEXTON

The right hon. Gentleman has a very useful Parliamentary method of casting a cloud of words over almost any subject with which he deals, and he has just availed himself of his ability in that respect to confuse the subject now under consideration. I repeat that there is a strong and manifest reason why the course I have suggested should be taken in this case, because if after a period of five years the annuity should fall from 80 per cent. to the true rate of purchase money, the term over which the annuity would extend would be much longer than if the Lord Lieutenant had maintained the 80 per cent. for the whole time. With regard to the question of social order, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman why it is that he does so much for Ulster? One of the main reasons for the scheme he has brought forward is that it is intended to preserve social order, to reduce the disturbed and convulsed parts of Ireland to an orderly condition. If that be so, how can Ulster by any possibility become a case in point? The right hon. Gentleman appears to me to have lost sight of one of the main points of his policy when he speaks so much about Ulster. My point is that his policy is required chiefly in the other provinces, and not in the province of Ulster, and that the effect of this provision will be to aggravate the inequality which the right hon. Gentleman lamented as having risen under the Ashbourne Acts. It would give the larger farmers the power of swamping the smaller tenants.

(6.55.) MR. M. HEALY (Cork)

The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he opposes this Amendment with the view of preventing the discontent which might otherwise be created among the small holders. Surely the method he takes of doing this is a peculiar one, namely, that of securing that there shall be no member of the community who shall be happy enough to become the subject of envy among his fellows. I venture to prophesy that the effect of this clause may be to render the measure, to a very large extent, inoperative. The attitude adopted by the Government will tend to secure that this Bill will issue still-born from the Legislature—at any rate, this portion of the clause will go far to kill land purchase in Ireland. The practical effect of the clause will be to put a premium upon purchase at a high rate, and a penalty on purchase at a low rate. It will press very hardly on the man who has bought his land cheap, while the man who has bought his land at a high price will not suffer. The fact is that the higher the price at which a man buys the less he will suffer; while the lower the price at which he buys the more he will suffer; and the general result will be to secure a high insurance where there is no risk, and no insurance where there is a high risk. The man who purchases at a high rate will have to go on paying the annuity for 49 years, while the man who purchases at the low rate will have to pay off the whole of the purchase money within a period not exceeding 30 years. Surely this is the reverse of the whole past policy of land purchase in Ireland. The tendency hitherto in the passing of Land Acts has been to lengthen the period of the purchase annuity, so as to enable the instalments to be reduced. The Act of 1870 began with the period of 35 years, but the Legislature subsequently thought fit to extend the period to 45 years. The effect of this clause, therefore, is to go back upon the policy which has hitherto been adopted.

(7.0.) MR. WEBB

There is no provision in the Bill against which we Irish Members have expressed a more decided objection than this. Yet, doubtless, it will be carried against us by appeal to Members and not to reason. It is the means by which that principle is to be given effect, namely, by the declaration of the Lord Lieutenant to which we evince opposition. More power is to be given to the Lord Lieutenant, than whom there is hardly a ruler with greater power. He is autocratic, only unlike other autocrats, he is not autocratic in his own country. The Lord Lieutenant is not surrounded by influences of a representative character. He lives in his own small circle, and it is impossible that the public opinion of Ireland can touch him. And now in this the arbitrament is to be given him, and it may well be that the unfortunate inhabitants of some particular locality may not please him, and he will make them suffer; or they may acquit themselves to his satisfaction, and he can, if he choose, reward them. That is a power against which the Irish people have the right to protest. It appears to me that in dealing with this Bill we ought to exercise the judicial spirit, and avoid as much as possible passion. But the Chief Secretary made one unfortunate remark. He said that this clause would scarcely have been necessary if it only applied to Ulster, where the people are thrifty and industrious — which is equivalent to saying that the people in other parts of Ireland are not thrifty and industrious. To compare parts of the country where the hard conditions of life render thrift an impossibility with others where the circumstances are more prosperous, is to do that which will provoke angry discussion, and excite bitter feelings. On every ground I support the Motion to leave out this sub-section, which I think most unfortunate and objectionable.


I do agree with the Amendment, because I am thoroughly opposed to the whole Bill, but I cannot for the life of me understand why the Chief Secretary does not accept it. A General Election must take place within the next two years—some people think that it will take place within the next 12 months—and when it does occur there is not the slightest doubt that the Liberal Party will come back with a large majority. The constituencies of the country will declare that they are opposed to land purchase, the incoming Ministry will be opposed to land purchase, and the new Lord Lieutenant, who will represent the views of the Ministry, will be opposed to land purchase, and he will immediately put up the number of years of the annuity so as to render it impossible for the scheme to be worked. Thank God at the end of two years the Liberal Party will have a majority, and, therefore, only £4,000,000 out of this £30,000,000 will be taken out of the pockets of the British taxpayer.

(7.20.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

I think the hon. Member for Northampton, in his enthusiasm, appears altogether to have forgotten that he supported this part of the scheme of land, purchase which was brought in by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian.


It is dead.


Under that scheme the tenants would have been in a worse condition than under this Bill, for by it the Lord Lieutenant would have exercised full discretion. I only rose to say that we propose to guard against the danger which has been set forth by the hon. Member, and at the proper time I shall move to insert in the first line of the sub-section the following words:— If the Lord Lieutenant is at any lime of opinion that in the interests of the general body of tenants with regard to purchase such a course is desirable, he may declare, and so on.

(7.25.) MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)

The right hon. Gentleman must think us extremely simple if he thinks we are taken in by his balmy phrases. He is fully entitled to move words into this Bill, though they will lead to further discussion. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks these words will shorten discussion, I can assure him that it will have the contrary effect. The Committee must be well aware that it is impossible to dive into the depths of the Viceregal mind. Some Viceroys have no mind at all. To suggest that these words will safeguard us against imaginary dangers referred to by the hon. Member for Northampton is to do that which does not carry the smallest conviction to our minds. If these words are carried, the Lord Lieutenant, who is responsible to nobody for the state of his mind, can make his declaration without the smallest regard to its effect. It is exactly what he does under the Coercion Act. He declares a particular district is in a state of disturbance, and there is nobody to contradict him. You cannot argue against the master of many legions. The Government, in my judgment, all through this clause have inserted words in the interest of high purchase. Take the Egmont Estate. A bargain was there made a year and a half ago for 12 or 14 years' purchase. The Egmont Estate embraces about 1,000 tenants. It will probably be next year before these tenants get their conveyances. Yet the bargain made two years ago will not be operative for the purposes of this section until the year 1892. Still, the declaration of the Lord Lieutenant would affect the bargain that had been made by those tenants before he was inducted into Dublin Castle. That is an absurdity, and I presume the Government will rectify it. We all know what is done when the landlord wants to sell to his tenants. The mapping out of these estates is about as difficult as the delimitation of Africa. He begins with 500 tenants, and probably by the time he gets done he finds a dozen of them are dead. In an estate of any magnitude I venture to say that two years is about the shortest time in which you can put through the operation of purchase, though it would more likely take 2½ and 3 years, and if you add the two years which it will take to put in force the declaration of the Lord Lieutenant, you have in all four years, and by that time the Government would be out of office. Is it worth while to press a clause of the kind? By this action you are doing a very bad thing in the interests of the Land Commission itself, and are preventing them from doing their work, freed from political consideration. On the whole you ought to divorce politics from land purchase. To say that the Lord Lieutenant is to have the right to declare that 80 per cent. is to prevail for longer than five years is to introduce political power in a most objectionable and obnoxious form. Not only is the clause obnoxious in itself, but from its strong political character it is really importing an element of doubt, difficulty, and perplexity into the land purchase Department, which never existed before, and on this ground, and no other, I shall certainly give it my strong opposition.

(7.40.) MR. CHANCE

I confess I do not understand why an inflexible annuity is considered better than a flexible annuity. But the right hon. Gentleman seems to think that some hidden virtue lies in the inflexible annuity. The right hon. Gentleman admits that his object in establishing this fund was not so much to gain any valuable security for the Treasury, but rather to make land purchase a little less attractive to the people, and as it is the clause can be used by the Lord Lieutenant to divert the stream of money from one part of the country to another. He might say to the inhabitants of one county that they had not behaved well, that they had not paid Lord Clanricarde, and that they had not gone on their bended knees to the Member for South Hunts, and, therefore, he would punish them by increasing the period during which the annuity was to run. To the inhabitants of another county he might say that they had done well, that they had returned the Member for South Tyrone and South Londonderry, and, therefore, he would divert the stream of money from the wicked people in the South and West to the constituencies who returned either Orange Members or Members of an undefined colour. I put it to the Committee that if the right hon. Gentleman is not willing to trust a quasi-judicial tribunal, without fixing them down to inflexible rules, how does it come that he is willing to trust a political individual unguided by a Judi- cial Body, or by any series of rules, what will happen? It is quite clear that the Chief Secretary will only have to give the Lord Lieutenant the slightest hint what is to be done and it will be done. Where you have a number of estates on which the agrarian difficulty has been healed, the Lord Lieutenant, governed by political consideration, will step in and throw the whole country into a state of disorganisation, simply because he chooses to do so, and having done it there will be absolutely no appeal from his decision, no method of checking or criticising his action. The Bill contains many gross absurdities, which, in my opinion, will lead to dishonesty; but I am bound to say that this sub-section is the most dangerous, the most capable of abuse, and the most certain to render the Bill inoperative.

(7.50.) MR. STOREY

This subsection appears to me to confer the power of charging 80 per cent. to all the tenants of Cork, while all the tenants of Derry, or some other Northern county, will be charged considerably less. The Land Commission are to have the power to make reductions. In Section 3, however, the Lord Lieutenant has power in any county in Ireland to increase the amount of the annual sum that is to be be paid to the purchasing tenants. When we get to Sub-section 4 we come back to the Land Commission again, and under this section the Lord Lieutenant is to have no power, while the Land Commission is to have precisely the same power, though under different circumstances, that it possesses under Subsection 3 to increase the annuity. Subsection 5 is confusion worse confounded. Here, again, the Lord Lieutenant cannot act of his own motion. He is to be moved by a Report of the Land Commission and the Local Government Board. After listening to this Debate, I cannot imagine why the Lord Lieutenant has been introduced at all. We wish the measure in its practical operation free from all suspicion of political management, and I would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should omit the Lord Lieutenant from the Sub-section altogether.

(7.54.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

I feel sorry that hon. Members who support the Government do not get up and say something in defence of this Bill, which is conceived in the interests of the majority of them. I have frequently observed that the present Government is a revolutionary Government, and I do not think that any provision of this Bill justifies in a greater degree that description. The functions entrusted to the Land Commission are supposed to require careful limitation, and I apprehend that the functions to be entrusted to the Lord Lieutenant will require in their exercise quite as much tact and discrimination, and that they ought to be equally free from all political considerations. But the Government propose to take a delicate duty from the Land Commission and lodge it in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant, who is to be absolutely irresponsible, because he is not required to give any reason for his action. As has already been pointed out, the only opportunity we will have of criticising the Viceregal action will be on the Vote for coals, or some other privilege attaching to the office. The Chief Secretary is placing the Lord Lieutenant absolutely in the condition of an uncontrolled despot. I think it would be batter for this country that these clauses should pass in all their naked hideousness. It seems to me to be simple madness on the part of the Government to insist upon provisions like these, which will render the Act simply intolerable. I cannot conceive any provision which is more likely to inspire suspicion and distrust of the integrity and impartiality of the Government than that now under discussion. The effect of the provision will be more far-reaching than has hitherto been supposed. It will not affect the working of the Land Commission; but if it is used by the Lord Lieutenant in such a way as to suggest that he is trying to punish certain portions of the country at the expense of others it will tend to increase the suspicion and distrust of the Government in other Departments, and will make the business of governing the country more difficult. It is because of its far-reaching character in this respect that I shall certainly do whatever I can to oppose the passing of the clause. It would be bad enough if Ireland were administered under the ordinary law; but with the power vested in the Lord Lieutenant of working this provision and the Coercion Act together, it is obvious that the provision will be a powerful weapon for the coercion of the unfortunate tenantry. I cannot help thinking that if the Government have any remnant of sense left in them they will pause before they force through the House so mischievous a proposal as this.

(8.0.) MR. T. M. HEALY

I wish to ask the Attorney General for Ireland whether it is the attention of the Government that the power given to the Lord Lieutenant under this clause should, if once exercised, be irrevocable? I wish also to know whether it is the intention of the Government to insist on this clause as far as it affects agreements which have been actually entered into. It is perfectly plain that an order under this clause will inevitably, in a great number of cases, affect and modify contracts which have been previously entered into, and practically change the terms of those contracts. Do the Government intend to adhere to the clause as far as it will have that effect or do they intend to insert Amendments limiting the clause or postponing the operation of any order made under it? Will they be prepared to say that in any case where an existing or uncompleted contract would be affected by an order made under the sub-section they will permit either of the parties to that contract to recede from it having regard to the changed condition of affairs. Suppose a tenant immediately after the passing of the Act enters into a contract for the purchase of a holding and it takes two years to carry it out, and suppose before it is carried out the Lord Lieutenant makes this declaration, will the Government consent to an Amendment enabling either of the parties to recede from the contract?


I quite agree that it is not desirable that the Lord Lieutenant should once and for all fix the duration of the period during which the abnormal annuity is to be paid; and it occurs to me that the clause might possibly be improved if it contained an Amendment providing that, if the circumstances of the country changed afterwards, the matter might be reconsidered in view of the changed conditions. As regards the other point made by the hon. Gentleman, respecting an alteration in the circumstances between the making of a contract and the declaration of the Lord Lieutenant, I consider it a good one.

(8.6.) MR. M. HEALY

I quite appreciate the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with this point, and I may say that such a spirit will always facilitate the progress of the Bill. Do I understand him to say that the Government would be prepared to favourably consider an Amendment, in the first place enabling an order under this sub-section to be revoked, and also limiting the operation of the clause to agreements entered into after an order made under it has been executed?


I should think that probably the way in which the clause should run is this, "In respect of annuities made on agreements for sale after the date of," &c. As regards the other point I should wish to confer with my right hon. Friend before putting an Amendment on the Paper.

(8.10.) MR. CHANCE

The unit of area over which the declaration should operate is an important consideration, and I think it is desirable to have a smaller unit than the county. The circumstances on one estate in one part of a county may be wholly different from those in another part of the same county. There may be conditions on one estate by which the tenants are placed in a far more favourable position than on another estate; for instance, on the sea board the tenants may derive advantage from the development of the fishing industry. But if the clause passes as it stands the Lord Lieutenant will be placed in a difficult position, he must either give the advantage of a revision of the order to individuals in the county whom he thinks ought not to have it, or else he must deprive the remaining purchasers in the county of the benefit they ought to enjoy. Substitute a smaller unit for the county, "barony" for instance, and the Lord Lieutenant can act fairly to both classes.


The county has been adopted as the unit in calculating these financial operations, and I see very considerable difficulty in departing from that basis in this particular. The amount available for land purchase is allotted in proportion to counties, and I see great difficulties in working this sub-section if we depart from that unit.

(8.15.) MR. CHANCE

But my point is that the question of the abnormal annuity is altogether external to the question of guarantee and the amount of advances. The existence of the abnormal annuity for a longer or shorter period cannot affect the total amount of the advances.


No, but it will be one of the elements in the consideration of the Lord Lieutenant in determining what the action of the Land Commission should be. He will take into consideration the total amount payable in any county. I cannot at present see how the difficulty of adopting a different unit in this instance can be obviated.


The right hon. Gentleman will admit it would be a serious grievance to an industrious man on a flourishing estate that he should be fixed with an abnormal annuity for an abnormal period of time simply because some twenty miles away there is an area within which this abnormal annuity is necessary, and with which area this tenant has no sympathy or connection. I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman could suggest some method by which the Lord Lieutenant could differentiate between tenants on two estates divided by the length of a county, and in every other respect.

(8.20.) MR. SEXTON

It appears that this declaration is to have no limit of time within which it may operate; it may operate for the rest of the term of the annuity. In fact, the Lord Lieutenant may so decree for any county. The Chief Secretary has explained that there might be a reason, such as competition in the county, for a system of selection, finding the substantial tenants who were willing to pay 80 per cent throughout, and in that way applications might be brought within the limits of the amount of stock available. It is obvious that the competition would disappear as soon as the capital apportioned to the county was allotted, and it might be no longer necessary to maintain the 80 per cent. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it would not be expedient to allow the Lord Lieutenant to select any period of 10 years or less.


It is, I think, by no means necessary, and I think it is undesirable to bind the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant by any fixed number of years.


But it is the function of Parliament to limit the discretion of officials. The Lord Lieutenant may or may not be trusted to do everything that is right, but it is our business to direct him.

(8.23.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 68; Noes 56.—(Div. List, No. 184.)(8.35.)

(9.3.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,

(9.5.) MR. CHANCE

I beg to move an Amendment, the object of which is to suspend the operation of Sub-clause 3 until applications have been lodged by intending purchasers in any county for one-half the capital sum available for land purchase in that county. I should assume that if this Amendment were adopted, the sum would not be exhausted by one single operation; for instance, if by repayment the sum becomes less than half, then the suspension would operate again, and so on. I move the Amendment in some hope that the Government will accept it, because their whole case in favour of the third sub-section is that in case of a rush to obtain land purchase in a given county it is necessary to put a check on it by making the terms a little harder, and so to encourage the better class of tenants to become purchasers. The Government desire to diminish the risk to the State in this way. When I say half the capital sum I do not pretend that the precise fraction is a material point; but on general principles it may be said that there is no danger of exhausting the capital sum in any county until at least one half has been applied for. If the Amendment were carried I believe it would to some extent mitigate the objection which the Irish Members feel against this subsection, and it would, on the other hand, leave the Lord Lieutenant's authority unfettered the moment the occasion arose which, apparently, has been anticipated and provided for by this sub-section. I do not think the sub-section can be said to limit the Lord Lieutenant's discretion and prevent the operation of the Bill, and, I must say, I have considerable hope that the Government will accept this Amendment.

Amendment proposed, In page 6, line 12 after "if" to insert "after one half of the capital sum available for land purchase in the county has been applied for."—(Mr. Chance.)

(9.10.) MR. SEXTON

The Chief Secretary said that unless a provision of this kind is introduced, there may be in every county a competition in excess of the amount of the Stock to be applied to the tenants, and it is expedient that the thrifty and saving tenants willing to pay larger annuities, and willing to give greater security to the State, should have the preference. That is an arguable principle, but I submit that there should be before the Lord Lieutenant some presumption that such a competition really does exist, before he proceeds to the drastic method of discriminating between the purchasers who would not be willing to pay the 80 per cent. for more than five years, and those who would be willing. The Amendment of my hon. Friend offers an excellent means of testing the question of whether there really is a competition of the kind suggested. Unless some such Amendment as that of my hon. Friend is inserted the Lord Lieutenant will have nothing on which to base his declaration under the sub-section.


I am disposed to I state at once that I agree with the hon. Gentleman to the extent that the substance of his suggestion is worthy of consideration. I go further, and I am prepared to admit that it is desirable that the sub-clause should contain some indication of the principle on which the Lord Lieutenant should act, and I think the principle upon which the Amendment proceeds—that regard should be had to the amount of money available in the county—is the right principle. I would suggest, however, that that principle should be stated in the sub-clause without laying down any hard-and-fast rule as to the amount of applications. The sub-section might contain such words as "if it appears to the Lord Lieutenant expedient having regard to the amount available for the purchase of land in any county," &c.

(9.15.) MR. CHANCE

I think that in dealing with an executive officer like the Lord Lieutenant it is better to lay down a hard-and-fast rule. He is a political person and not a judicial functionary in any sense. There is no necessity to take the drastic step of choking off land purchase until a given amount in any county is applied for. I should think that about £1,000,000 sterling will be available in each county for this land purchase, and that you will not find large amounts applied for for some time. I think, however, that you will increase the chance of land purchase if the people are given to understand that within certain definite and fixed limits they are safe from the arbitrary power of the Lord Lieutenant. Some fixed arithmetical rule should be laid down, behind which the Lord Lieutenant can shelter himself, if unfavourable criticism is made upon his conduct. Considering there is nothing much between us in principle, I would suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that it would be better by accepting my Amendment to lay down something definite, than to retain the sub-section in an indefinite form. If left indefinite one Lord Lieutenant might lay it down as a principle that the sub-section should be put in force when one third of the sum had been applied for, and another might prefer to wait until two-thirds had been applied for, and in that way there would be no fixed principle to guide the tenants. I would suggest that my Amendment should be accepted now, and that, if necessary, it should be amended in Report.


What I would suggest is that possibly the fixing of a definite proportion may not be as useful a mode of limiting the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant as a statutory injunction having regard to the amount of money available in the county for land purchase. I think the hon. Member will see that something more than the actual amount expended in a given time will have to be considered by the Lord Lieutenant. He will also have to consider the rate at which purchase is progressing.

(9.20.) MR. SEXTON

I quite agree that not only the amount applied for, but the rate at which purchase is proceeding has to be considered, and I would suggest that the Lord Lieutenant should be empowered to make the de- claration when, during the financial year, the applications reached from one fraction to another fraction. This would allow the Lord Lieutenant a discretionary power between the two fractions—say from a quarter up to a half. The words of the Bill would allow the Lord Lieutenant to act upon mere speculation, while under the Amendment of my hon. Friend he would be obliged to act upon evidence.


I would suggest an Amendment to the following effect: That if within a certain time a quarter of the total share of any county in the money available for Land Purchase under the Act has been applied for, the Lord Lieutenant, having regard to the total amount available in the county, may, if he thinks it expedient, make the declaration.


I should suppose my hon. Friend will be quite prepared to accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman.


I think the proposal is reasonable, and I will withdraw my Amendment, and move it in that form.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, In page 6, line 12, after "if," to insert, "after one-quarter of the capital sum available for land purchase in the county has been applied for within five years after the passing of this Act."—(Mr. Chance.)

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

(9.28.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

A suggestion was made earlier in the evening by the hon. Member for Sunderland, with regard to the authority to decide the expediency of this matter. While I do not think that this is a matter which could be left entirely to the discretion of the Land Commission, I think that it would be a proper provision that the Lord Lieutenant should receive information from the Land Commission, and, on its Report, come to a decision. I would suggest that Sub-section 3 should be amended so as to read as follows:— If it appears to the Lord Lieutenant, on the Report of the Land Commission, that it is expedient, in the interests of tenants who desire to purchase, that the purchase annuities shall continue for more than five years, the sub- section shall apply to all annuities in that county, and so on.


If I may venture to make a suggestion, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman why he should not make the clause read in this way, "If it appears to the Land Commission," and so forth, "the Lord Lieutenant shall." That would make the Lord Lieutenant merely Executive in the matter.


I think we have hit the right means by giving the Land Commission the initiative, but it would not be fair to throw upon them the entire responsibility.

MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

I wish to say that while I object entirely to the whole policy of the clause and the sub-section, I think the Chief Secretary is quite right in declining to make the Lord Lieutenant's action ancillary to that of the Land Commission, and that he has put the successive steps in their proper order.


The matter, after all, is not a very large one, but I would suggest that, in order the better to carry out the object of the right hon. Gentleman, the Report should be issued precedently, and a discretion given to the Lord Lieutenant. There are no words here conferring a discretion on the Lord Lieutenant.


I think if the hon. Member looks into the matter more closely he will find that there are such words. The order will only be made if the Lord Lieutenant thinks it expedient.


I should like to ask whether the Report is to be simply on the matter of fact, or whether it is also to deal with the expediency of bringing the clause into operation?


That, is a matter which will rest with the Land Commission.


The policy of the subsection is to put the drag on at such times as the process may be deemed to be necessary, and it would be for the Land Commission to report to the Lord Lieutenant when they consider they are approaching a state of things bringing them very near to their margin.


The Report of the Land Commission will deal partly with matters of fact, and partly with matters of probability, and it seems to me very desirable that the Land Commission should have some intimation that they are expected to report on the probabilities of the case.

Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 12, after the words last inserted, to insert the words, "if it appears to."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 12, to omit the word "declares," in order to insert "on the Report of the Land Commission."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)

Agreed to.

Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 12, after "expedient," to insert "in the interests of the tenants desiring to purchase."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)

(9.40.) MR. STOREY

I think it desirable to point out this proposal means either nothing at all, or something very bad indeed; the case to be met is one in which so many tenants are applying, that the Lord Lieutenant feels it necessary to husband his resources. How does he husband his resources? By increasing the annual charge that will be exacted. And the effect will be that those tenants who are the best off, will get the preference over the poorer tenants. The man who can afford to give 80 per cent. will get the land he wants, and the man who cannot afford to give the price will be beaten out of the market. But this I contend will absolutely defeat the main purpose of the Bill. This is not a Bill to enable the richer tenants to buy. They can get along pretty well as it is. It is the condition of the poorer tenants, and not the richer ones, which creates the necessity for this Bill, and yet the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary pro poses to bring about a state of things under which there will be a survival of the fittest—the fittest being the richer tenants, by whom the poor tenants will be driven from the market. I have been opposed to land purchase throughout, and I must say that if there be any justification for such a policy in Ireland it must be that of enabling the poor tenants to obtain possession of their holdings. The anxiety of the Chief Secretary from the first has been to enable the poor tenants to buy—


The small tenants.


Those, at any rate, on whom the burdens of life fall most heavily—in other words, the discontented tenants, those who have not enough of this world's goods to make them contented; and yet the right hon. Gentleman proposes that when the money appears to be running short the Lord Lieutenant shall have power to increase the annual payments the tenants will have to make. The result will be that there being two sets of competitors for the money, those most able to pay will have the preference over the poorer tenants, consequently the effect of this clause, as now remodelled, will be that in every county in Ireland, when the money begins to run short, an enhanced price will be charged annually, so that those who are best able to pay will be the beneficiares under this Bill. This cannot be carrying out the purpose of the Act, because the poorer tenants, whom we desire specially to benefit, will be placed at a disadvantage, and will have to surrender any chance of getting their share of the money to those tenants who are better off than themselves. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman whether this is a defensible proposition in the light of the policy he has propounded to this House. For my part, I cannot conceive the wisdom of employing public money in buying out one landlord for the purpose of inducting another; but if public money is to be so expended every effort should be used to ensure the application of that money in the first place to the cases of the most necessitous.

(9.52.) MR. T. M. HEALY

I do not think anyone can suggest that I have obstructed this Bill, and I do ask the Government when they have an opportunity of making a concession to avail themselves of it. This sub-section involves arguments on every branch of the land question. The Attorney General has accepted many Amendments calculated to meet our objections, but we have not put down so many Amendments as we might have done because we thought that as the hon. Members for South Tyrone and Londonderry objected to the clause it would not be insisted upon. If the Government do not want to spend another day and a-half on the discussion of this clause, they had better drop it at once. Is it worth while wrangling over an impossible clause, for I really do not think the clause will be of any practical effect?


Order, order! I must point out that it is impossible to drop this sub-section, at this stage, for Amendments have already been made in it.


I recognise the force of that observation; but let the Government declare that having heard the views of so many Members of the Committee, they will not adhere to the section.


It appears that we are discussing the subsection on an Amendment introduced for the sole purpose of meeting arguments advanced from the other side. Is that the way to treat the Government when it has done its best to meet the wishes of hon. Members? I submit that the clause has been altered in a way which will meet any real difficulty likely to arise. It would scarcely be in order for me to repeat the arguments in favour of the sub-section as a whole. Those arguments appear to me to be quite unanswered, and I do not think they have lost any of their force. The Committee have refused to drop the subsection, and, as its principle has been accepted, we may now proceed to adopt it as amended.

(10.0.) MR. T. M. HEALY

What is the good of talking about the Committee. The Members opposite spend their whole time in the smoking-room and only come in to vote as the Government direct, no doubt the Government acting on our suggestion have agreed to certain Amendments; they have inserted the word "it," and if this goes on


Order, order! The hon. Member is not speaking to the Amendment; the question is the adoption of the words "In the interest of the tenants desiring to purchase."


What are the interests of the tenants desiring to purchase which will be subserved by this Amendment? That is a question which I invite the right hon. Gentleman to answer.


The interest of having enough money to purchase.


And I want to point out that under his plan the poorer tenants will not benefit from the Act. Look at Clause 6.


Order, order! The hon. Member must deal with the Amendment.


I understand that the Government are putting forward the Amendment in the interests of the tenants. I want to find out what those interests are. Surely that is germane to the Amendment. Let me put a concrete proposition. There is £1,000 to be advanced; ten tenants desire to purchase their holdings. According to this Amendment the five richer ones, those all to pay 80 per cent will by process of selection designed by himself become the purchasers, whilst the five poorer tenants will be excluded because they cannot afford to pay 80 per cent.


Order, order! The observations of the hon. Member are not germane to the Amendment before the Committee. If he wishes to raise that point he must propose words which will raise the point.


I shall be happy to do so if I get no answer.

(10.5.) MR. T. M. HEALY

I do not think it can be said the interests of the tenants are served by raising the amount of the annuity. What are the intentions of the Government? They are by no means clear. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain them?


I agree with the hon. Members below the Gangway in contesting the policy of Clause 5 and Subsection 3; but I am bound to admit that I think the words proposed to be inserted by the Chief Secretary are tolerably intelligible. It is a pity that so much criticism should be wasted on words whose meaning is so obvious when there are other points in the clause of the greatest moment. I think it would be better to leave the sub-section as it now stands and proceed to other subsections.

SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

I do not so much distrust the policy of this section as hon. Members below the Gangway. The Chief Secretary says he wants the money to go to the smaller tenants, but will this clause operate in that direction?


Order, order!

(10.9.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

I object altogether to the Bill, which I look upon as so much humbug. It is intended to deceive the British people and to give an impression that by the eternal wisdom of the Chief Secretary, the Bill is promoted in the interests of the Irish tenants. I say it is not designed in their interests; it is designed in the interests of the landlords and I want to ask the right hon. Gentle man how he can suggest that he is putting in these words in the interest of the tenants. Can he desire us to believe that he is acting in the tenants' interests when he has passed by the opinion of every hon. Member on this side of the House for Ireland? Surely the right hon. Gentleman will not ask us to believe that he is acting in the interests of the tenants when he is supported by hon. Members like the hon. Member for the Ponsonby Estate—


Order, order!


Who certainly cannot be said to be a supporter of the tenants. Hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House cheered the right hon. Gentleman when he was introducing this Motion, and they did so for a very good reason, because they know that the effect of this sub-clause will, as pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, be to deprive of the benefits of the Act the poorer class of tenants. That is the class of tenants we wish to come under the operation of this measure. But the hon. Member for South Hunts and his friends do not desire that. They wish to use the Bill as a weapon for driving out, and getting rid of from their estates, those poor, miserable tenants who find it so difficult to get a livelihood. In their eyes the only justification for this Bill is that it will remove a sore cause of disturbance in Ireland. As has been already pointed out, the effect of this clause, and particularly of this sub-section, will be to render it more difficult than ever for the poorer classes of tenants to become the purchasers of their holdings.


Order, order! The hon. Member should address his observations to some Amendment. On the operative clause these remarks would be pertinent, but they are not so here.


In view of what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle we will not press our opposition to this any further.

Amendment agreed to.

(10.14.) MR. M. HEALY

I wish now to move that the word "county" be omitted, and that in lieu of them we insert "a prescribed area." The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General was good enough to say that this was a point worthy of consideration, and I will just briefly point out the reasons why I think it should be accepted. Of course, I know that the word county was inevitable, having regard to the financial basis of this Bill, but I think there is no necessity in the case of this particular clause that it should be adhered to. No doubt a county is a unit to be considered as a financial unit, and, therefore, although I strongly object to the use of the word, I have not attempted to alter it in other parts of the Bill. But in this particular case the right hon. Gentleman will see that a county is not at all necessary to his scheme. He would do well to consider whether he could not have some more formal defined area, or even leave the matter undefined and putting it in the power of some authority to define it, when necessary. Now the counties in Ireland differ greatly in area and circumstances, and I ask, what is the necessity for adopting such an un-uniform area as a county for the purposes of this section? Surely, if it is possible for the Lord Lieutenant to discriminate between individuals who are to get benefit under this Bill, there is no reason why he should not also have the power to discriminate between the different districts of a county with regard to making or stopping advances. For instance, take the County of Cork. The right hon. Gentleman knows that that constitutes an enormous area; that it includes districts widely differing in circumstances, and if the Lord Lieutenant saw that considerable purchases had been made under the Bill in the Western Division of the county, and that no purchases had been made in the Eastern Division, why should he not have it in his power to limit the operations of the clause to that particular half of a county in which there had been sufficient advances, and not to cut off the people in the Eastern Division of the county from any participation in the benefits of the Bill? The right hon. Gentleman is aware that some counties in Ireland are divided into ridings. Why should the Lord Lieutenant not limit the operation of the clause to a particular riding. I hope both the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General will give attention to this point, because it is somewhat important. My impression is that in the County of Tipperary the two ridings possess distinct financial authorities, and if that is so, that makes it an even stronger case in favour of the Lord Lieutenant having the power there to discriminate. I venture to repeat that there is no reason whatever why the Lord Lieutenant should not declare that for the purposes of this clause, a riding, county, or barony, should be a unit. He might even go so low as an aggregate of townlands. I hold that it would be a considerable hardship in cases of counties with large areas and. including populations differing vitally in their social circumstances, such as the counties of Cork and Tipperary, that they should be compelled to be lumped together for the purposes of this clause by the Lord Lieutenant, who, at any rate, ought to be given discretion in the manner I have suggested.

Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 13, after the word "county," to insert the words "or any prescribed portion thereof."—(Mr. Maurice Healy.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


May I suggest that it would be better for the Government to accept this Amendment, as it imports an elasticity into the clause which is most desirable. The Government can lose nothing by accepting it, and it will make the dealing with large counties like Cork more easy, and, if the Government have any sense, let them prove it by assenting to this.

(10.25.) MR. SEXTON

It must be evident to the right hon. Gentleman that this Amendment imposes no disability on the Lord Lieutenant; it only enables him to exercise his discretion in issuing a proclamation applicable to only a part of a county. Take, for instance, the County of Cork. It might easily be the case, that owing to the action of the landlords in a certain district all the applications for advances under the Act had emanated from one barony. Yet, if this clause is not amended as we proposed, the Proclamation of the Lord Lieutenant would prevent tenants in other parts of the county getting advances under the Bill unless they paid 80 per cent per annum for an indefinite number of years. Surely it would be desirable to let the Lord Lieutenant limit his Proclamation—to a particular barony, for instance.


I think it is open to argument whether so large a county as County Cork should be included in one scheme, but it is not open to argument, in my candid judgment, whether the unit which the Government has accepted for general financial purposes should not also be the unit governing the 3rd sub-section. What I desire to do in this clause is to prevent land purchase from going on in any financial area, be that area a whole county or a riding, at a rate in excess of the fund, by giving the Lord Lieutenant power to diminish the immediate benefit while, of course, increasing the ultimate benefit. I do not think the scheme could possibly work. To sub-divide the financial area into arbitrary units at the will of the Land Commissioners and the Lord Lieutenant, would introduce hopeless complication into the whole scheme of the Act, it would induce great confusion and possibly great unfairness, preventing from purchase those who desire to purchase and giving an undue bribe to those who do not intend to purchase to make agreements to purchase. We have no such object. The unit which governs the financial operation of the Bill is the unit we shall retain for purposes of this sub-section.

(10.31.) MR. M. HEALY

The argument of the right hon. Gentleman is that because the county is the unit in some cases therefore it should be the unit throughout, and even where there is no necessity for it. Such is his argument reduced to small compass. What magic is there in the word "County" that does not exist in "barony" or in any other area? If it is well for the Lord Lieutenant to have a discretionary power that he may divert the stream of benefit from this Act from one county to another, why not from one corner of a county to another? Why should not the Lord Lieutenant be allowed to discriminate in the way I suggest? There is nothing in my Amendment to compel the Lord Lieutenant to adopt a smaller or any area. The right hon. Gentleman admits that in county Cork it may be inconvenient to adopt the whole county as one area because it is treated as one fiscal unit in the Bill. Then if there is likely to be this inconvenience why not allow the Lord Lieutenant to do justice between the different parts of the large area? There is nothing compulsory in the Amendment, it does not restrict the power of the Lord Lieutenant, it simply enables him to make a distinction, if he thinks that is necessary. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman meets us in a reasonable spirit, and I am surprised he should take the view he has taken.

(10.34.) MR. KNOX

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will re-consider his decision. If this sub-section is likely to be of any use—and I admit I do not think it is likely to be of much use—it can only be by the adoption of such an Amendment as this proposed by my hon. Friend. The Castle is quite accustomed to deal with counties by parts, the Lord Lieutenant can proclaim a barony or any part of a county under the Coercion Act, and there would be no more difficulty in applying such a declaration as is here contemplated. There is nothing natural in the division of counties in Ireland, and in many cases the division is arbitrary and un-natural. The conquerors of Ireland cut up the country into shires without any regard to geographical contour, natural conditions, historical circumstances, or anything at all but the convenience of the moment. One portion of a county often differs in every respect from another portion. I might mention Antrim for instance. Is there not the widest difference between the constituency the hon. Member for South Antrim represents, and the glen district of Antrim in the North, where the land is poor and the tenants are poor, where the inhabitants are still Irish, whereas in the constituency the hon. Member represents the people talk very much as they do in Glasgow. It is very probable that in one part of this county the people will take up the advances more quickly than the poorer tenants in another part, and the latter by the time they are able to come to terms with their landlords may find the resources of the county are pledged, and all the benefits of the Act have gone to the South. It is a reasonable Amendment, and I hope it will be insisted upon.

(10.37.) MR. SMITH-BARRY (Hunts, S.)

I cannot help thinking it is a reasonable Amendment, and that the Government might accept it. Cork, for instance, is far too large a county to be dealt with as one area, it is virtually two counties. As regards Tipperary I am not quite sure whether for administrative purposes it is not two counties already; the North and South Ridings are quite distinct. Possibly the Chief Secretary might think the matter over and meet the views of hon. Members opposite.


I think I may as well talk until the Chief Secretary is seized of the observations of the hon. Member for South Hunts. We are much obliged to the hon. Member for his assistance, and I hope the Government will now give way on this very small point. It does not amount to very much, and nothing has been said against our proposal. Observe, the words proposed will enable the Lord Lieutenant to do everything he can do under the clause as it now stands, while the words will give a greater amount of elasticity and a discretionary power. The right hon. Gentleman says the whole scheme of the Act is by counties, and I agree that from his point of view there are many reasons why the county is a satisfactory unit; but this clause is divorced from the scheme which governs the county guarantee, and the Exchequer contributions, and other parts of the Bill. This clause only deals with the power of the Lord Lieutenant to prescribe in particular cases that the 80 per cent. shall continue for more than five years. We point out that there are smaller areas to which this clause would be equally applicable. In Cork there is an East and a West Riding, the Recorder has jurisdiction in the East, the County Court Judge in the West. So that, for Civil Bill purposes, there is complete division, though for Assize purposes there is not. In Tipperary there is a North and South Riding, there is an Assize Court at Nenagh and another at Clonmel. The Amendment will admit of the adoption of ridings, or baronies, or other areas; it leaves you free to adopt any area. If the Amendment is now refused we shall be free to move the insertion of the words "riding or barony or other area," and all the arguments may be repeated. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to accept this, which will enable the Government to carry out their original intention, or to diminish the area as may be expedient or

(10.41.) MR. J. MORLEY

The unit on which the financial operations of the Bill are based being the county, I quite see there is a certain inconvenience in changing the area. But it has been pointed out that it is in the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant to adhere to the county where it is convenient that that area should be altered. I think, therefore, that the proposed alteration would not be mischievous in the way that has been suggested, and, on the other hand, it will give an elasticity to the system which is highly desirable.


There is an important financial reason why the Amendment should be accepted. The fact that the county is the fiscal unit is in favour of the Amendment. The county is responsible for the default, no matter in how limited an area the default may arise. Though default may arise in one barony only, the whole of the county guarantee is liable. If applied to the whole county, the declaration of the Lord Lieutenant might stop land purchase in that county because of the competition in one barony, and the competition in that barony might have proceeded so far that any default could only occur in the barony, but the liability would fall on the entire county. But if the Amendment were accepted and competition checked in that barony by the imposition of better terms for the security of the State, land purchase would not be checked elsewhere in the county, and the county generally would be saved from the risk of default.

(10.44.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

I am free to say that it is with reluctance I hesitate to accept this point, which has been pressed upon me by my hon. Friend behind me, by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, whose moderation I desire to acknowledge. But how does the matter stand? We have determined by the general arrangement of the Bill that to each county of Ireland a certain sum shall be allocated for land purchase. To a share in that sum every holding has an equal right, subject to the limitations of Clause 6, and every tenant and cess-payer is liable for any default. In common justice to the several counties, can we leave to the Land Commissioners, controlled by the Lord Lieutenant, the power which would be given if the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman were carried? As soon as some tenants showed a great desire to purchase, it might be said that some special disqualifications were put upon the portion of the county where that desire was shown, and that other persons, relatively speaking, were bribed to come in. Supposing the Bill were so drawn that the £30,000,000 available for land purchase, instead of allocated as at present, were given to the whole country at large, irrespective of counties, the result might be that one corner of Ireland might absorb the whole amount. Suppose Ireland in that condition, just as a county may be, and suppose this Amendment proposed by me in the Bill—conceive what a shriek would be raised if the Lord Lieutenant were permitted to say to one portion of a county: "You shall pay for ten years instead of five," and to another, "You shall pay for five years instead of ten." The result would be that there would be a congestion of money contributed by the Exchequer in the privileged parts of the country, while the unprivileged would be denuded and deprived of their fair share. I am perfectly sure that if I proposed such a thing I should never hear the last of it, and yet this is what you propose to do in a particular county. Say a county has £1,000,000 allocated to it as a whole, if you pass this Amendment it will be in the power of the Lord Lieutenant to say that this or that part of the county shall not share in the privilege having an equal share in the burden. There would be a congestion of money in certain parts of the county, while other portions of the county would be deprived of the privilege we desire to bestow on the county as a whole. I admit this point is not an essential part of our scheme; but it does appear to me that the argument I have put before the Committee, in no Party spirit and with much reluctance, considering the fair way in which the point has been pressed, ought to convince the Committee that this is not an Amendment we ought to accept.

(10.50.) MR. T. M. HEALY

Does not the right hon. Gentleman see that the Government will have, under the Amendment, all the power they will have under the Bill as it stands? Really, the Government have no point of view worth contending for. Their own supporter, whose zeal is beyond question, the hon. Member for South Hunts, supports the Amendment; so does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, whose moderation is admitted. Why not accept the Amendment, wasting no more time in dialectical performances?


It is a curious argument to use, to say that the result of the Amendment would cause congestion of advances in one part of a county. It could only have such an effect if the Lord Lieutenant wilfully misused the power. The object of the Amendment obviously is to prevent such congestion. A rate to meet default is payable throughout the whole county, and it is desirable that this rate should be recovered with as little friction as possible. But if all the purchases have been at one end of the county, and you send to collect a rate from a locality 40 miles distant, will not the people resent this as an injustice and say, "we and our neighbours have had no advantage from the Act under which you draw this rate?" Take the hon. Member for South Hunts, for example, he, with a number of evicted holdings on his hands, will have to pay the rate arising out of purchases effected on an estate in a distant part of Tipperary.


I hope the Government will not compel us to go into the Lobby over this point?

(10.58.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 88; Noes 128.—(Div. List, No. 185.)

(11.9.) MR. T. M. HEALY

I now move to insert after "county" the words "or barony," in order to allow the Lord Lieutenant some discretion.


After the rejection of the last Amendment, that would not be in order.


I hope, Mr. Courtney, you will not think I am transgressing your ruling if I say that a barony is a definite area. "Prescribed area" might apply not only to a barony, but to a parish or a Poor Law Union, or a riding, or an electoral Division. I submit, therefore, that the Amendment is in order, and I am convinced it is. I do not wish, however, to press it unduly. I think this is a matter in which at least some discretion might be given to the Lord Lieutenant, and that the Government might fairly accept the Amendment. A "prescribed area," Mr. Courtney, might be an entirely different thing from a barony.


The hon. and learned gentleman draws a narrow distinction, but as there is a distinction I will put the Amendment.


Well, Mr. Courtney, I thank you. I beg to move the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 13, after the word "county" to insert the words "or barony."

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

(11.11.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will see that if the arguments used on the previous Amendments are sound they are sound against his present Amendment. He has contended that the larger tenants will obtain the advantage of priority under this Bill. Take the case of a barony in which there are large tenants and small tenants. He says the large tenants will have priority, and will absorb a great deal more than their fair share of the county guarantee. If the Lord Lieutenant acts on the discretion which the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to give him with respect to a barony, not one of the poor tenants in the barony will be able to buy at all, according to his own argument, although the tenants of the rest of the county will be able to do so on the ordinary terms.


I will not press the Amendment after the action of the Chairman, but I must call attention to the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with the matter. He uses words but does not argue. He does not enter into the discussion in a debating spirit at all. He speaks like an orator. With great respect to him, he is not an orator, and I think it would be well if he left discussions of this kind to the lawyers who sit with him on the Treasury Bench.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

(11.15.) MR. KNOX

I have now to propose an Amendment which I think the Government will accept, namely, after "continue," in line 14, to insert, "in the case of holdings of an annual value exceeding £30." This would limit the effect of the sub-section, which is to put a drag on purchase, to the case of the larger tenants. I submit that this is a reasonable proposal, and I hope the Government will adopt it.

Amendment proposed, In page 6, line 14, after the word "continue," to insert the words "in the case of holdings of the annual value exceeding £30."—(Mr. Knox.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


I agree that the question of the limitation or limitations to be imposed upon the enjoyment of this boon is one for the very serious consideration of the Committee; but any limitation introduced into Clause 6 would of course be applicable to this clause also.


I shall certainly at every stage of this Bill vote in favour of all restrictions and all drags upon its operations; but I do not understand what is meant by saying that the poorer tenants cannot afford to buy and the richer tenants can. No tenant is required to pay a single fraction toward the purchase. I cannot under- stand how even the smallest tenant can be under any incapacity to accept the reduction in his rent provided for by this Bill.


The hon. Member is speaking totally wide of the question.

(11.20.) MR. CHANCE

Might I point out that the argument which the right hon. Gentleman used on the previous Amendment has considerable force here. He pointed out that while land purchase might be confined to one end of a county, it might also be confined to large tenants, and that there might be no means of applying the measure to small tenants who had not purchased because the large tenants had done so. When the right hon. Gentleman sat down the hon. Member for Cavan rose and moved an Amendment to meet the point—an Amendment which meets the point in every particular—but the right hon. Gentleman refuses to accept it. The right hon. Gentleman may be right as to the amount, and I would ask him to accept words enabling the Lord Lieutenant to fix the amount according to the facts of the case. In Mayo £30 would be considered a large value, while in Meath it would be considered small.

(11.22.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

The hon. Member finds force in an argument I used, and it is a remarkable fact that force is frequently found in my arguments, but only after the event has happened upon which those arguments had any bearing. To confine the operation of the clause to holdings of over £30 would be to leave occupiers of holdings of under £30 open to all the difficulties and misfortunes which this clause is designed to meet. Let us suppose that you had put some kind of prohibitive or restrictive tariff on holdings of over £30, and you leave those under £30 to get the full advantage of the State loan. The result would be that the small holdings would fight with each other for the money allocated to the county, that the money would not be sufficient to satisfy them all, and that a great many of the tenants would be disappointed. If there is any ground for the drag at all, the reason for it comes in the same when you are dealing with small holdings as when you are dealing with large ones. It may be possible under Clause 6 to deal with the different sizes of holdings; but I would earnestly urge the Committee not to attempt to touch that thorny and difficult question until we come to that section. The Committee should reserve its strength, and the strength of its arguments, until we come to that part of the Bill.

(11.24.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 80; Noes 150.—(Div. List, No. 186.)

(11.34.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)

I desire now to move the substitution, in line 14, page 6, of the word "more" for "less." As I understand the matter at present the only object of allowing the Land Commission and the Lord Lieutenant together to extend the number of years of which 80 per cent. may be charged, is to put a drag on the operation of the Bill, and in cases to stop advances altogether. I think this section offers a very unsatisfactory method of attaining this end. If you wish to stop advances in any particular county you should take some more direct means of doing it instead of increasing the annual charge for a number of years. I believe it is a very common practice among the Jews—among what are called 40 per cent. men—to adopt this policy, where there is a great demand for money; but I hold that a great Power like Great Britain ought not to descend to such modes. Small holders ought not to be called upon to pay more money simply because the larger tenants have borrowed too much. As far as I am concerned, I disagree with the powers in the Bill given to the Commissioners to charge 80 per cent. for the first five years, and I do not think that either the Commissioners or the Lord Lieutenant should be able to increase the number of years. Hence the Amendment I am proposing. If the Government desire to limit or stop the advances let them devise a more straight-forward mode of doing it, instead of following this Jewish plan.

Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 14, to leave out the word "more," and insert the word "less."—(Mr Morton.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'more' stand part of the Clause."

(11.38.) MR. CHANCE

I have a similar Amendment on the Paper, although I have a different object in view. I understand Her Majesty's Government have determined that in all cases they will exact 80 per cent. for the first five years. It is perfectly idle to expect them to alter that decision, for it is intended to make the Act go slower. Now, by my Amendment I do not wish to interfere with the decision of the Chief Secretary not to have a less term than five years, but I wish there should be discretion to make it 6, 7, 8, or 10 years, but not to go beyond that number. Surely that will be a substantial improvement. At an earlier stage the Committee agreed that the purchaser should reap the benefit of his insurance money as far as possible during his lifetime; but if the Lord Lieutenant is to have power to make the abnormal annuity payable for a period of 30 or 40 years, the benefit will be reaped not by the people who make the payment, but by their grandchildren. Therefore, I do urge the Government to agree to a limit of 10 years, or some other reasonable period.

(11.43.) MR. T. M. HEALY

I think my hon. Friend ought to have an answer from the Government.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 153; Noes 71.—(Div. List, No. 187.)

(11.53.) MR. T. M. HEALY

I now rise to ask the Government if they have any objection to do in this Bill as they did in the Coercion Act, and provide that the declaration shall be in the prescribed manner. In the Coercion Act if it were intended to prescribe a barony, certain notices had to be posted in the district. The Dublin Gazette may be a very interesting paper, but the country people do not read it; hence I desire that proclamations in this Act should be made in similar fashion.

Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 12, after the word "declares," to insert the words "by publication in the prescribed manner,"—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 15, after "shall," to insert "from the date mentioned in such publication."—(Mr. Chance.)


My wish in putting forward this Amendment is to secure in case of necessity that some time shall elapse between the proclamation of a barony and its enforcement.


I accept the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 15, after the word "all," to insert the word "such."—(Mr. Attorney General for Ireland.)

It being midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.

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