§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)366
§ Clause 6.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 7, line 4, to leave out "sub-section (1)."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words 'An advance shall' stand part of the Clause."
§ (4.5.) MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
I am glad to have heard from my right hon. Friend that the Government do not intend to stand absolutely by the clause as it was originally drafted; and, therefore, what the Committee have now to decide is what limitation, if any, should be imposed upon the operation of the Bill. My right hon. Friend told us last night that the object is to create as many occupiers as possible, but I maintain that the Bill ought to be allowed to operate as naturally as possible, and that it ought not to be used for artificially increasing the number of occupiers. The hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone) proposes to exclude every tenant whose holding exceeds £30 valuation, with the simple object of making the available money go as far as possible; but the evidence of skilled experts is entirely adverse to the suggestion of the hon. Member. I want the hon. Member to consider what must be the effect of his proposal. He seems to think that it is quite possible to turn the whole channel of the operation of the Bill in one direction by a simple proviso. Does he imagine for a moment that land purchase in Ireland is to be carried out by a landlord picking out here and there the tenants who are to sell? It is most undesirable that any distinction should be drawn between the tenants of Ireland. The Bill was introduced to enable every tenant in Ireland, without distinction of acreage or valuation, and subject only to the limitations of the Acts of 1885 and 1888, to avail himself of the benefits offered by it; and there are no grounds whatever for the limitation suggested. The question of land purchase has been examined into by Commissions, and the effect of all the evidence is that such purchase would be of the greatest possible benefit to the class of tenants occupying holdings from £20 to £40 in valuation. Mr. Kavanagh, in a Report which he presented to the last Commission, stated that he looked to the tenants of the holdings as the men 367 through whom the most material benefit to the community would be derived. Then there is the evidence of the Cowper Commission, and between the Report of the Bessborough Commission and the sittings of the Cowper Commission the land purchase question developed very rapidly and very remarkably. The Commission reported that they regarded the transfer of land from the owner to the occupier to be in every respect desirable with regard to the better class of tenants. Then again, Mr. Commissioner Litton was favourable to land purchase only with regard to the larger farmers in Ireland. Therefore the whole mass of Irish opinion is entirely adverse to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire. No land purchase at all can be carried out under the Bill unless whole estates, or integral portions of them, are sold. The limitation proposed by the hon. Gentleman would put an end to all attempt at sale over a great portion of the country, as there are very few estates in Ireland where the tenants are all of one class. The hon. Gentleman objects that if tenants of over £30 valuation were converted into owners, they would eventually bacome landlords. My own experience is against such an opinion. I live in a county where there are both large and small holdings, and I have found that the men most unlikely to subdivide their holdings in any way are the substantial farmers. The men who subdivide are the very small holders, and therefore the alarm of the hon. Gentleman on this point is quite without foundation in fact. It was, moreover, quite impossible to prevent the relation of landlord and tenant from continuing in Ireland. After the expiration of the 49 years, Parliament can no longer exercise any control over the purchasing tenants; but if all the money were diverted to the very small holders there would be a great danger that the present landlords would merely be bought out for the substitution of others. It is evident that the poor tenants would be most affected by bad seasons and potato disease, and they would soon become the tenants of mortgagees and gombeen men. If any line of limitation is to be drawn, I should prefer to exclude the tenants of less than £10 valuation; but any limitation would be unwise, because 368 the tenantry of Ireland generally are looking forward to the benefits of the Bill. The limitation suggested by the hon. Gentleman, however, is purely arbitrary, because a peasant proprietor is not such by reason of the amount of land he cultivates. If the hon. Gentleman is thinking of the Continental petite culture system, where the land is cultivated only by the spade, it would be possible to exclude from the operation of the Bill all but that class of cultivators, but I do not think the Committee would consent to any such proposal. The limitation suggested by the hon. Gentleman makes no real distinction, for a holding of £30 valuation in Ireland may contain anything from 30 to 100 acres, and would include every species of the Irish tenant, from the very rich to the very poor. If the proposals of the hon. Gentleman are agreed to they will not in any way allay discontent in Ireland. The greatest dissatisfaction would continue to exist among the very tenants who most deserve consideration at the hands of Parliament. For these reasons I hope the Committee will not attempt to embark upon the course which has been suggested, but will allow this clause to pass with as few limitations as possible. I have no objection to the proposal of the hon. Member for Cork to exclude large graziers and non-residential holdings together; if they exceed £30 a year the tenant should not be allowed to purchase. For my own part I do not think that that would work unless we allowed a proviso to the effect that, when it is necessary for the sake of the estate, that condition should not operate. I should myself prefer the higher limit of £50 valuation. Subject to what I have said, I see nothing to object to in the limitation suggested by the hon. Member for Cork, though I should have preferred the broad principle that any tenant who is in a position to go into the Land Court and have a fair rent fixed should enjoy the benefits proposed to be conferred upon the Irish tenants by this Bill. I have the strongest objection to see any artificial limitations introduced into the Bill; but if limitations are to be introduced, I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should take those which are well understood and practised in Ireland at this moment.
§ (4.20.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
It appears to me that the hon. Member's view of natural causes is extremely artificial, and that he has wholly misconceived the policy of the Bill. His idea seems to be that a very small body of individuals should be allowed in Ireland to dictate in perpetuity the use and price of the land, no matter what the result may be upon the welfare of the people. We know very well what the result has been in one generation. If what the hon. Member very whimsically calls natural causes had been allowed to operate unchecked, the Irish people must have settled the law by a revolution of despair. It is all very well to say that every tenant should have an equal right to the benefits of the Bill; but when we have only £30,000,000 with which to deal with interests amounting to at least £120,000,000, it is necessary either that some large exclusion must be enacted or that some policy of preference or discrimination must prevail. I am glad that we have reached a point in the Bill where there is no serious difference of opinion between the Irish Members and those who are in charge of the Bill. The Chief Secretary stated last night that it is the wish of the Government to convert as many occupiers into owners as possible. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: Hear!] That is not the policy of the hon. Member opposite. I accept the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, and I say that if there is any meaning in a peasant proprietary at all—that if we do not blind ourselves and drown our memory in regard to the only reason why this policy is proposed, we must follow the lines laid down by the right hon. Gentleman last night. Why is this Bill necessary? It is because, especially among the small owners in Ireland—those who have a precarious living, and who have chronic disputes with their landlords—there is a dual system of ownership, and that is a state of affairs which forbids any prospect of peace. This Bill is a Bill for the development and conservancy of social order, but you cannot accomplish that end by being indifferent. Why should this money go into the pockets of men who are paying £100 a year rent, and are tolerably well able to take care of themselves? If we are careless we shall create a class of small landholders who will succeed in letting their land in 370 spite of all that can be done, and I am not sure that the last stage of the agrarian question would not be more dangerous to the common weal than is the case at present. We must bear in mind the inadequacy of our resources. The right hon. Gentleman has gone so far in the direction of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Longford as to admit that the sub-section cannot stand as it was originally. I think that on further examination the right hon. Gentleman will admit that it cannot stand as it is now. If the Land Commission make use of the rider there will be no limit except the too high one fixed by the Ashbourne Act of £3,000, or even in some cases, £5,000; while if the rider is ignored the subsection will work great hardship in a number of cases which ought not to be excluded from the Bill. But dairy farming is on a very different footing. It is an industry which is extremely suitable to the climate and the special characteristics of Ireland, and no proposal can be entertained which will exclude those who use moderate tracts of land in Ireland for the purpose of dairy farming from the right to purchase. On the whole, I contend with confidence that sub-section (a) would be injurious except in the solitary case of the large grazing speculator. The second sub-section also strikes wide. Plurality of purchase ought to be limited with care, but if there is a farmer anywhere in Ireland who has two or three strips of land which make up between them only the limit of a reasonable holding, on which a family can be maintained in ordinary comfort, that holder has as good a right to be included in a Purchase Bill as the holder of one piece of land as large as them all. Under this 2nd sub-section there should be very large admissions so long as the total value of the separate holdings does not exceed what is considered to be the reasonable value of one holding. But when we pass beyond that point I would carefully limit the right of the holder to purchase, because I consider a plural holder would be a landlord in embryo, and certainly would become a landlord if he were able to purchase, whereas I think it should be a leading principle in our Debates to consider that in disposing of one kind of landlords we should not set up another 371 kind, more petty, more paltry, and perhaps more cruel. An alternative proposal has been made by the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire, in which he attempts to carry out what is the necessary and only intelligent policy, to make the money go as far as possible amongst the men whose dependent position on account of dual ownership is the cause of social disorder. The hon. Member has undoubtedly made a crushing case in regard to the Ashbourne Acts. The policy of the Ashbourne Acts in regard to land purchase has been a dead failure. We have spent £6,000,000, and if that had been applied to the emancipation of those holdings which have the most conclusive claim—namely, £5— which are the real trouble in Ireland, at, say, 15 years' purchase, there would have been enough to buy 80,000 holdings. The hon. Member for Carnarvonshire has come to the conclusion that two-thirds of the Ashbourne money has gone to buy out tenants over £30 annual value, whereas there are 12 holders under £30 to one over it. I cannot give a clearer view of the disparity under the Ashbourne Acts in the emancipation of these two classes than by pointing out that one out of every 16 of the larger holdings has been purchased under the Ashbourne Acts, while of the smaller holdings only one in 60 has been purchased. But the abortive result of these Acts is not seen until we come down to holdings between £4 and £10. There only one in every nine has been purchased, and of holdings under £4 only one in every 200 has been bought with the £6,000,000. Therefore, so far as land purchase has been directed to the conservancy of social order, the Ashbourne Acts are a failure. We have spent £6,000,000 already, and if we spend £4,000,000 more we shall emancipate 7,000 more small holdings and 2,000 of the large. If we spend £30,000,000 under this Act between the small and the large holdings, as we have spent the money under the Ashbourne Acts, the total result of our land policy will be that after spending £40,000,000 we shall have converted of the small tenants under £30 68,000 at an expense of £13,000,000, and of the large holders 20,000 at an expense of £27,000,000. That means that we shall have spent two-thirds of our money in 372 creating 20,000 large holders who cannot be called peasant proprietors in any sense, but landlords who may become more grasping landlords than those we already have; and we shall have spent £13,000,000, or a third of the money, in converting 60,000 small holders out of a total of 600,000 in Ireland, or one out of every ten. I ask whether the last stage of the agrarian question would not be worse than the first. I doubt whether the proposal of the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire will effect his purpose, because it must be considered that the main principle to be borne in mind in carrying out this policy is the principle of sale of estates. I gather from a phrase he used last night that the Chief Secretary is rather opposed to a policy of direct exclusion, while he admits that the money as a whole ought to be applied in the interest of the State to the emancipation of small holders. In my opinion, we should endeavour to proceed not so much by a policy of direct exclusion of holdings with regard either to value or class, but subject to certain exceptions, by a policy of preference or rather of discrimination. I would advise that the Land Commission should fix a time in every year for dealing at one time with the applications from any county or group of counties. There need be no interruption in the work of the Commission, because they could proceed from day to day considering whether the security is good enough, and so on. In that way the Land Commission would apply the money designed for the use of a particular county upon a general view of the applications coming from that county. I would first deal with applications for the purchase of estates or parts of estates. It would be good policy to encourage the landlord and the tenants as a whole to purchase—to induce the large holder to join in with the general body of his smaller brethren. I would not leave to any county in any year more than the amount prescribed. I would then proceed to discriminate between estates, and, bearing in mind that the true policy should be to make as many small holders as possible, I would submit with confidence that the true course would be this: We should ascertain in the case of each estate what would be the total annuity from the 373 estate in case the proposed purchase were sanctioned. Then, by dividing by the number of tenants on the estate the total annuity, we should find out what would be the average annuity from each tenant on the estate. Proceeding in that way through all the estates, I would prefer first for purchase the estates upon which the average annuity by the State to each tenant would be the lowest, and so on from the lowest to the highest. In that way we should undoubtedly secure that a larger body of small holders would be made. When the money allocated to a particular county is absorbed, I would not exclude but reserve the remainder of the applications till the following year. And so I would proceed from year to year. I have no doubt that by pursuing such a course the minimum of hardship and the maximum of emancipation would be secured. I think the plan I have ventured to suggest is, at all events, worthy of some consideration as an experiment, and if it were found to inflict hardship on any class it would always be open to Parliament to consider some other plan.
§ (4.56.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
As nobody could be more conversant with the difficulty of this question than I am, I should be the last person to treat lightly any proposals coming from any quarter of the House to deal with this most embarrassing subject. I have not, of course, had leisure to think over the scheme of the hon. Member, but there are certain objections which strike me to the plan thrown out by the hon. Gentleman. The Committee will observe that the whole working of the plan depends on the amount of money which it pleases the Land Commission, in the exercise of an unlimited discretion, to allocate to land purchase for each county. If Parliament is to say in a Bill how much the Land Commissioners are to allocate, Parliament must have some foreknowledge of the degree of competition there will be in Ireland for estates. I will take first the case of counties where land purchase goes on very fast. In those counties the amount of money which will be applied for will ex hypothesi be largely in excess of the amount provided. In that case from year to year the unfortunate owners of estates in which 374 there are a large number of tenants desiring to purchase will be prevented from obtaining the benefits of the Act. They will have gone through all the preliminary expense and difficulty of coming to an agreement with their tenants, and they will be in the embarrassing position in which a selling landlord always is during that vague interval between the conclusion of his agreement and the final arrangement with the Land Purchase Commission; they will be in an embarrassing position for an indefinite number of years. It is likely that land purchase will go on in different districts at greatly different rates—in some districts more applications for purchase will be made than there will be money enough to meet, while in others the applications will not be sufficient to absorb all the available fund, and in such cases the hon. Member's scheme would not be found to work at all. The reason why the big tenants have obtained a greater proportion of the available funds under the Ashbourne Act than the small tenants is because the big tenants agree with their landlords, while the smaller tenants do not agree with them, and I do not see why precisely the same thing should not occur under the hon. Member's scheme. I frankly admit that the difficulties in the way of any scheme are so enormous and the objections that may be raised to any scheme are so powerful that I am not disposed to criticise the hon. Member's scheme in any hostile spirit. The hon. Member for Antrim is exceedingly anxious that what he calls natural causes shall be allowed to operate, and he said that one of the evils under which Ireland suffers is that the operation of those natural causes is being continually interfered with. But in dealing with a land purchase scheme hon. Members must recollect that nature has been left far behind, the whole thing, good or bad, being artificial, and the direct creation of Parliament. By this Bill Her Majesty's Government are doing their best to see that the bounty of the country shall flow in the best manner, and that it shall fertilise as large an area as possible. I, therefore, cannot agree with the hon. Member that the money shall be allowed to flow through natural channels. The hon. Member for Antrim did not dissent from the proposal that holdings above £3,000 value should be 375 excluded from the operation of the Bill. Indeed, I think, he cordially agreed with it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Then he would like to see the Act perfectly unlimited. I cannot agree with his view, for that would mean that by lending the money of the State we should convert a large landlord into a rather larger landlord. It is not worth while doing that. Still, I do not think that it would be advisable to tell the very large landlords or the larger tenants that they must be for ever excluded from the benefits of the operation of the Bill. In order to reconcile the various difficulties which have been pointed out, I venture to throw out tentatively the following suggestion for the consideration of all sections of the Committee. The scheme I should submit is this. The Bill is intended, as hon. Members are aware, to be worked by counties—each county has a different amount of Guarantee Fund, and is responsible for its own debt. Supposing that the Lord Lieutenant were directed to make a calculation showing the relative number of holders both above and below the limit of £30. Assuming that there were 10,000 holders in the particular county, and that the Lord Lieutenant found that the whole consisted of 1,000 above the limit, and 9,000 below it. Further, let it be supposed that the Guarantee Fund of the county is £1,000, my suggestion would be that a proportionate division of that Guarantee Fund should be made corresponding to the ideal division I have suggested, and that would appropriate £900 to the 9,000 tenants whose holdings are below the limit, and £100 to the 1,000 tenants whose holdings are above it. No doubt this suggestion possesses advantages and disadvantages. The principle disadvantage would be that it would prevent the sale of large estates, but at the same time it would not militate against the sale of solid fragments of those estates. There may be other objections to the scheme, but it will have the advantage, at all events, of making this limited sum of money go as 376 far as possible. According to the calculation I have made, it would enable us with the resources which we have at our disposal, and without any fear to the Treasury or re-lending the money, to make, straight off, freeholders of 42 per cent. of the tenants under a £30 valuation. That is an advantage that I can scarcely exaggerate, and one which the Committee should not lose sight of. I want the Committee seriously to weigh in their own minds whether the enormous advantages which it would confer, not on the smaller, but on what I may call the less large tenants, are not sufficient to outweigh the disadvantages, which are no doubt real, but which sink into comparative insignificance besides the immense gain we should obtain by adopting the principle I suggest.
§ (5.16.) MR. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c.)
I do not wish to criticise what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but to throw out an alternative suggestion. There is no doubt that the problem to be solved was fairly and well stated by the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) when he said the need was greater than the resources for supplying it. Under the Ashbourne Acts the tenants of large holdings have purchased at a much greater rate than those of holdings with a valuation of under £30. I venture to suggest one way in which the difficulty can be met. The annuity contemplated under the Bill by purchasing tenants is 4 per cent., of which 1 per cent. is principal and 3 per cent. interest. The interest should always remain at 3 per cent., but in the case of the larger holdings I would suggest an increase in the repayment of the principal. If you take a £30 holding as a limitation, tenants of holdings between £30and£50 might be asked to repay the principal at the rate of 1½ per cent, and tenants of holdings of over £50 at the rate of 2 per cent. The result would be that the repayments would come into the Exchequer at an earlier period, and the replenished fund could be used again more rapidly than if all the instalments of principal were left at 1 per cent. This scheme would bring considerable relief, and so far as it would act as a deterrent it would be in the case of estates composed of large holdings, because many holders would think twice before they would pay 4½ and 5 per cent. instal- 377 ment as compared with the 4 per cent. to which they would be liable under the Bill as it stands. With regard to the observations that have been made about the danger of creating a new set of landlords under the system of the Bill, I would point out that one of the causes of agrarian trouble in Ireland is that happily the standard of comfort has very materially increased, and the margin the tenant was formerly able to devote to rent is very much diminished. It is not, therefore, at all likely that the conditions to be set up will produce a class of hard rapacious landlords, such as some hon. Members seem to anticipate.
§ (5.20.) COLONEL WARING (Down, N.)
I do not rise with any intention of proposing an alternative scheme. I only desire to call attention to the fact that every addition to the number of schemes before the Committee seems to make confusion worse confounded, and I would strongly recommend the Committee to stick as nearly as possible to the Bill as it stands, leaving only the limitations in the Ashbourne Acts. As surely as the limitations are increased, so surely will there be greater difficulties in the making of bargains between landlords and tenants. Of the four schemes propounded, that of the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone) is perhaps the most impracticable, that of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) stands next in impracticability, and that of the Chief Secretary is nearly as impracticable: but the hon. Member who has just sat down has indicated a line on which it is possible that something may be done. Still, I think that all these sliding scale arrangements will be fatal to the practical working of the Bill. No landlord who is not in the direst extremity will deal with his estate in fragments. Some Members seem to assume that a holding of under £30 produces the most desirable farmer, but my own experience is absolutely against that. A man cannot be an independent, solvent peasant proprietor who cannot keep a pair of horses constantly going on his own land, and he cannot do this on a holding under £30 in valuation, unless, indeed, the rental is reduced to prairie value. A pair of horses would plough 50 acres, and I think, a man who has to borrow his neighbour's horses is not fit to be a pro- 378 prietor of any sort. I admit that it may be beneficial to bestow the benefits of this Bill on a number of small proprietors, but, after all, it is the tenants of the larger holdings who have been the leaders in all movements in Ireland. I quite concur in the desire of Members opposite to prevent the growing up of a new class of landlords who would be worse than the first. But I do not think that if the limit of the Ashbourne Acts be retained, such a class is likely to arise. Those who hold farms valued at £3,000 are not likely, in my opinion, to sub-divide. I think the sub-division is much more likely to take place on smaller farms than on those of 100 or 150 acres. But I agree that if you are to admit to the benefits of this Act the holders of farms of 400 or 500 acres they may become letting landlords in their turn. The hon. Member for West Belfast said all the difficulties of the last few years had arisen from dual ownership.
§ MR. SEXTON
I never said anything of the kind. They were due to the miserable condition of the small holders.
§ COLONEL WARING
Well, I took the hon. Member's words down when he spoke them. Whatever he meant, he said the disorder did proceed from dual ownership. Dual ownership we are told is to be got rid of at any price. We got on extremely well with dual ownership in Ulster for upwards of 250 years, and it was not until it was put on a legal basis that it was found to be intolerable. There is one unintentional defect in the scheme of the hon. Member for West Belfast, and it is that if the proposals to sell are to be judged by the amounts of the respective annuities, and the smaller annuities are to be preferred, that will be a direct attempt to bear the market for the sale of land. It is not the intention of the Chief Secretary to do that, and, I hope, therefore, the Chief Secretary will adhere to the Bill as it stands, or will look very carefully at any alteration which he entertains.
§ (5.29.) MR. M. HEALY (Cork)
Whatever be our views on the Bill generally we are all agreed in believing that this sub-section ought not to stand as it is. No one has even attempted to defend it, and, if I understood the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary last night, he almost aban- 379 doned the sub-clause in its existing form. We are all agreed that a certain class of grass land shall be excluded from the scope of the Bill; but we are met at the very threshold of the question by the most enormous difficulties. The Committee is practically agreed that the existing Acts are quite sufficient to deal with any evils that have arisen from the aggregation of holdings for the purpose of creating grass farms, and that it is not necessary to deal with them in this Bill. That being so, a good deal of the discussion we have had is somewhat irrelevant to the clause. The question of large or small holdings only becomes relevant when you come to discuss the comparatively small sum that will be available for the purpose of land purchase, and the necessity, from that point of view of selecting one class and discarding another. This clause does not discriminate between large and small holdings. I take it that the Government will agree to exclude this sub-clause, and we now consider the question whether it is necessary to devise any other alternative mode of apportioning the£30,000,000. The best plan you can devise is to find out in each county the number of large holdings, take the proportion of the two, and apportion on the basis the amount available under the Bill. The scheme propounded this evening by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary commends itself to my mind from this point of view. I think, however, it would largely hamper and cripple the sale of estates. The amount of money available in any county will not be large; if it be apportioned between the small and the large holdings, the amount devoted to the large holdings will be quickly exhausted. Take a county like Carlow or Louth, where the size of the holdings is comparatively large, and where seven or eight or nine transactions involving the maximum of £3,000 allowed by the Land Purchase Act for individual holdings would exhaust the amount available in the county for the purchase of large holdings. In that case the land purchase operations in that county would be paralysed. I take it that the effect of the right hon. gentleman's scheme in counties of this kind would be to prevent the sale of small holdings, because landlords would say, "If I sell any portion of my estate I will 380 sell the whole of it." Again, the right hon. Gentleman fixes the amounts to be devoted to the purchase of large and small holdings respectively by the proportion of each class to the total number of holdings in the county. But it is obvious that if, for example, the small holdings were nine-tenths of the total number, very much less than nine-tenths of the purchase money would be required for their purchase; and, on the other hand, the remaining tenth of large holdings would require much more than the remaining tenth part of the money. That is, however, a question of detail, which does not affect the principle of the proposal. Another objection to the scheme is this. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to import into the Bill an arbitrary plan for securing that the money shall reach the small holders. But as purchase under the Bill is to be purely a voluntary transaction, agreement between landlord and tenant cannot be insured. The small tenants are just as much entitled to purchase under the Ashbourne Acts as the larger ones, but the right hon. Gentleman says they did not come in because they failed to arrive at an agreement with their landlords. The apportionment of a certain proportion of the money to enable the small tenant to purchase will not in any way facilitate the coming to an agreement with the landlord, and the same difficulty as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out with regard to the scheme of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast (Mr. Sexton), will apply to his own scheme. There would be something to be said in favour of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme if the Bill provided for compulsory purchase. Further, if the £30,000,000 is apportioned in the manner proposed by the right hon. Gentlemen, he must also apportion the Sinking Fund, and also the reproduction of the £30,000,000. Consequently, the limit introduced would apply to the whole scheme and would shut out the larger tenants from the benefit of its provisions, even when all the smaller tenants had bought. I do not, therefore, favour any such plan of exclusion as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, and I confess it goes against my grain to exclude any class of Irish tenants. On these Benches our desire is 381 that all the Irish tenants should share the benefits of land legislation.
§ (5.47.) MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I should think a great Bill has seldom been carried through Committee by more extraordinary methods than those which have been employed by the Chief Secretary yesterday and today. We now have a new proposal thrown down, which goes to the real roots of the policy of the Bill. The Bill aims at restoring social order in Ireland by resorting to British credit. The question is whether the restoration of social order will be aided by the fund created by this Bill, unless there is a discrimination made between the larger and the smaller holders. I should have thought that was a point which must have occurred to the Chief Secretary from the first moment that he first considered the question of land purchase. It is almost incredible that the right hon. Gentleman should come down now, on the 15th day of Committee on the Bill, and decide how he is to deal with this vital point. The right hon. Gentleman ought to tell us whether this was a scheme to which he really holds, because if not we are wasting our time. Is Subsection 1 to be withdrawn, and if so will the right hon. Gentleman bring up the scheme so that we may know what we are dealing with? Last night a most complicated Amendment was thrown down before us, which even the Chief Secretary himself admitted he understood less than more. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: No.] Well, he said he understood it more or less, and if anyone says that it is generally the case that he understands it less than more. Now, a similar operation has taken place to-day on a more important point. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us before we go any further, whether the first subsection is withdrawn, and whether we are going to have placed before us in the course of the evening an alternative sub-section? If not, I submit that blame for wasting the time of the Committee will not lie upon any of us. A considerable amount of time has been wasted in the earlier part of our proceedings, and I hope we may now be told exactly where we are. So far it appears that neither section of the Irish Members are in love with this proposal. I admit it is not a proposal to be decided 382 by Irish Members alone. English and Scotch Members have a right to make their opinions felt, and in this the question is unlike others that have arisen in the course of discussion; but I confess that so far it seems to me the objection indicated by my hon. Friend who has just spoken is a fatal objection. If you are going to chess - board the estates of landlords I do not see what inducement a landlord will have—unless under some tremendous pressure—to sell, for he will have to go to the same expense of management, the same office expenses, and to go through nearly as much anxiety for a smaller return as if he retains the whole of his estate unsold. I should be sorry to say that on full consideration the objections of my hon. Friend would absolutely prove fatal to land purchase, but undoubtedly the objections are strong, and I do not see the answers to them. Perhaps the right hon. Gentlemen will tell us whether this proposal is one to which the Government means to adhere, or whether he merely throws it out as a suggestion?
(5.53.) THE MARQUESS or HARTINGTON (Lancashire, Rossendale)
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers, I should like to make a suggestion in reference to the observations which have fallen from my right hon. Friend. I do not think the proposal as sketched out by the Chief Secretary will necessarily hamper the sale of estates. It appears to me—I admit from small experience, but so far as I am acquainted with a portion of Ireland—that, as a matter of fact, small holdings on an Irish estate generally lie in a certain number of townlands, and probably in many cases a landlord would not be at all averse to selling the townlands with small holdings, on them and retaining the land occupied by larger holdings, which are easier to manage. Therefore, I do not think that this proposal, as far as I understand it, would necessarily, in all cases, tend to hamper the sale of estates. There is another point on which I would ask the right hon. Gentleman a question, which I do not know whether he has fully considered. The right hon. Gentleman has given some attention to the probable operation of the suggestion he has just made. He has told us that he has calculated that about 42 per cent. of 383 the small holdings might be purchased with existing funds; but has he been able to consider how far under this proposal it will be possible to deal with any considerable number of the larger holdings? If the effect of his proposal will be to almost absolutely exclude the larger occupiers, I am afraid it will cause so much dissatisfaction upon the part of those excluded entirely from this measure, that it would tend very much to impede the easy working of the Act. That appears to me a great difficulty contained in the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. I think it is very desirable that we should now know in what form the proposal is to be presented to us, in order that we may consider it somewhat further. Again, are we to understand that the division which I understand the right hon. Gentleman proposes to make with regard to the funds available for purchase in any county which will be applicable to small holdings and to large, is a final and absolute division; or in a case where the applications from small holdings have not absorbed all the funds available for the purchase of such holdings, will the surplus be available for the purchase of holdings of a larger size?
§ (5.56.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Certainly I cannot complain of the questions which have been put to me; but with regard to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle I think I have some reason to complain. The limitations which I introduced into the Bill were avowedly introduced to meet the wishes expressed by hon. Members from Ireland. ["No."] That was their object. They were introduced in consequence of a speech made by the hon. Member for Cork on the Estimates last year, when he was regarded as leader by all hon. Gentlemen who sat on those Benches, and it is not for the Friends of the hon. Gentleman opposite now to attack us because of these proposals.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
When the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) spoke on that occasion the Chairman pointed out that he had only allowed a speech of that kind, not relevant to the Estimate, to be made, because of the position of the hon. Member for Cork, and that declaration from the Chairman prevented us from discussing the matter.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Quite so. That only proves that the Chairman recognised the hon. Member for Cork as the spokesman of the Irish National Party at that time; that is my own point now. In deference to hon. Members opposite, the sub-section which is now being criticised was introduced into the Bill. Having got into difficulty in consequence of following the advice of the leader of the Nationalist Party, and having been told in the interval and having found by investigation that the sub-section would not do in its present shape, what are the Government to do? We say: "Here is a difficult question, not of a Party kind; let us hear what hon. Gentlemen have to say." Is that, or is it not, in conformity with the advice which is constantly being showered upon us by hon. Gentleman opposite, that we should consult the wishes of hon. Members from Ireland? It is precisely in accordance with that advice. It is from the desire of the Government to get an expression of opinion as to whether or not the House desires to build artificial channels to conduct the stream of its bounty that the interesting discussion on this question has arisen. For my own part, I had certainly looked for some light on the question from the right hon. Gentleman opposite. A suggestion has been made of an extremely simple character, and I had hoped that we would be told in what light hon. Gentlemen opposite look at it. Now let me deal with the two questions of the noble Lord. He asks me if we have considered the number of larger holdings to which the proportion of the funds available would be allocated. The proportion of holdings under £30 valuation and over that valuation vary to an extraordinary degree. In Antrim the proportion is 17,000 under £30 to 4,000 over; in Leitrim, 13,800 to 450; in Limerick, 11,500 to 4,300; in Longford, 7,400 to 1,000. Therefore, whatever arrangement is made must be according to respective counties, and not to Ireland as a whole, because the conditions in each county are so entirely different. I cannot accept the Amendment now before the Committee, but I am willing to omit altogether sub-head (a) of the clause—namely, that which excludes from the scope of the Bill holdings wholly or mainly used for pasture, 385 which, I may remind the Committee, was specially introduced to meet the views of Nationalist Members. Then as regards Sub-head (b) I propose to exclude all non-residential holdings above £30, allowing within the scope of the Bill all those that do not exceed £30 valuation. This is not precisely the same proposal as that made last night by the hon. Member for West Belfast, but it is founded on his observations, and I think goes a long way to meet his view.
§ MR. M. HEALY
Does the right hon. Gentleman know whether that proposal is likely to operate in more than a very small number of cases?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is almost impossible to give figures on this subject, but I think when we are dealing with pluralists, when we are dealing with tenants who have more than one holding, I do not think there is any injustice, having in view the desire to make the Act operate as generally as possible, in limiting the Act to £30 valuation where a tenant has holdings beyond the one upon which he resides. Sub-head B now excludes altogether nonresidential holdings. The hon. Member for West Belfast objects to this on the ground that there are cases where a tenant holds a number of little plots which he and his family cultivate, and which are not more than sufficient for his requirements, and which he may desire to purchase. I am prepared to meet the hon. Member and provide that in the case of holdings under £30 the fact of non-residence shall not be a bar to purchase.
§ MR. M. HEALY
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the limitation of £30 is applied to the non-resident holding or holdings, or to the total valuation of all the tenants' holdings?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The total valuation. That is the proposal. I do not now more than indicate it. I have not yet received any definite view from the Committee as to whether they are willing to accept the existing state of things under which two-thirds of the money will go to tenancies under £30 valuation or the alternative plan. I put before them, subject to two modifications with which 386 I did not trouble the Committee when explaining the general outline, and one of which I think will meet the view expressed by the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington). Sub-section 2 provides that the Lord Lieutenant shall draw a line dividing holdings above and below £30, allocating the share to each body of tenants upon the principle I have explained to the Committee. Then I would introduce a provision that where in the opinion of the Commission a deviation in favour of the class above £30 is necessary to carry into effect the proposed sale of an entire estate, then such sale shall be permitted. Further, that the Lord Lieutenant may on the recommendation of the Land Commission, and with the consent of the House of Commons, modify the rules. This will give the elasticity required, because if it is found that in any county the tenants under £30 do not wish to avail themselves of their opportunity, then it will be simply the issue of an order by which the amount may be availed of by other tenants. There will thus be a sufficient amount of elasticity in the operations, and these are suggestions I hope the Committee will accept, and that the present Amendment will be withdrawn.
§ (6.10.) MR. T. M. HEALY
I do not think we have any reason to complain of the attitude and temper with which the right hon. Gentleman has discussed this matter. Of course I am very glad he has agreed to leave out the first subhead, that which relates to the grazing tenants; but really in the interest of the Bill I must say the exceptions he is prepared to maintain are not worth while maintaining, and he had much better let the whole sub-section go by the board. So far as I understand the plan, and not wishing to use a harsh term, it seems to me absolutely preposterous and likely to put an end to land purchase. Why not leave the Land Commissioners alone, giving them eyes and ears. I object to the principle of first come first served in these matters. Let the Commissioners erect a dam against the flood of applications and consider them on their merits. What are the Commissioners to do as the Court is now constituted? Every day they get a number of applications, and. upon the Magna Charta principle of delaying 387 justice to no man they take up cases day by day. What they really want is power to exercise discretion among the cases. Now take the case of the tenants on the estate of Sir Richard Wallace, in Antrim and Armagh. Purchase on these estates would absorb I assume £500,000. But the tenants have an excellent landlord, and they can afford to wait awhile. From the point of view of the Government and in the interests of peace, surely it is better to deal with those estates from whence the howl of complaint comes loudest. Deal with such estates first and let the tenants under Sir Richard Wallace and under good landlords wait, their condition is not in such need of amelioration. Now the Government propose to introduce the apparition of the Lord Lieutenant on the scene in a wholly unnecessary manner. The Lord Lieutenant knows about as much about the matter as the first man you meet crossing Westminster Bridge. He does as he is advised by the Land Commission, but why not leave the matter to the Land Commission. If the Lord Lieutenant is not to act on the advice of the Land Commission, he will listen to the advice of some of the gentlemen around Dublin Castle who are the last who ought to be allowed to intervene in a matter of this kind. The question is not worth the time the Government are spending upon it, though from our point of view we are to get rid of what we believe will be a hindrance to purchase. It is not worth while for the Government to keep up these embarrasing proposals; so far as practical convenience goes they are not worth the paper they are written on. I do not believe they could save £10,000 on the whole £30,000,000, and by far the best plan is to get rid of the sub-section altogether. The amount of money saved by these nonresident proposals will be very little. If you want landlords to sell their estates you must give them the opportunity of doing so completely. A landlord is sick of the whole process of rent collecting and process serving and all the rest of it, he wants to have his money and be quit of the whole business; but your proposal will leave him minus the best part of his estate, with half a dozen cripples on his hands, for whom he must keep up his agent, his rent 388 office, and the rest of the landlord retinue. Let the Commission have a power of discrimination, and bring in a simple clause giving them this power. There is yet £1,000,000 to be expended under the Ashbourne Act; it will take probably a year to exhaust this amount, and by the time it is exhausted the heads of the procession of purchasers will appear to the Commissioners. Let the Commission have discrimination, with an appeal from them to some competent tribunal which the Lord Lieutenant does not represent, and in that way you will have a check upon anything like unfairness. Let the Government help us to get on with business by dropping the sub-section altogether.
§ (6.17.) MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
If the right hon. Gentleman expresses an intention of withdrawing the subsection of course it is of no use expending words upon it. I extremely regret, and I am sure all northern farmers will regret, that the Bill should have any restrictions in it at all. The difficulty we have to meet is that the Government have gone away from the simple form of the Ashbourne Act, which allows land purchase to work unrestrictedly. I am sure the scheme of the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire could not be worked at all, because it would prevent the sale of estates, and it is only by the sale of estates that we can proceed. The Chief Secretary has now put forward a rather elaborate scheme, with rules and conditions which also, I think, would work unsatisfactorily. It seems to me that it would meet the views expressed by the right hon. Gentleman to have some general sub-section providing that the Land Commission should from time to time consider the question of advances in respective counties, and should, in considering those advances, give the preference to estates with the largest number of tenants. This, while laying down a guide, would give a discretion, but to lay down distinct rules for their course of action cannot, I think, work out satisfactorily.
§ (6.19.) MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I approve the suggestion to withdraw Sub-section 1, for I think the barrier it sets up to land purchase will render the Bill unworkable. So far as I understand the proposal shadowed forth by the Chief Secretary it will be 389 disastrous to land purchase. So far (and it must always be so) land purchase has been carried out on the basis of estates, and if you introduce restrictions which prevent this, landlords will not care to sell, and tenants will not have the opportunity to buy. What could be more unsatisfactory if the plan were carried out than to have on one estate a number of tenants who have become purchasers, and one reserving the advantages of their position, while immediately beside them are a number of men prevented by an arbitrary distinction from participating in such advantages, and who have to remain tenants for ever. Instead of settling the land question this would be creating a new series of difficulties. So far as I understand the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman they would not have the effect of advancing a system of land purchase in any way. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to allocate the amount of money for the county between the small and the larger holdings. So far as money has been advanced for purchase the existing system has not been grossly unfair to the small tenants. I admit the larger proportion has gone to the larger tenants, but that is easily understood by the greater facilities the larger tenants and the landlords have of coming together and the greater inclination of the larger tenants to buy. There are some 218,000 tenants in Ireland whose valuations are under £4, and these tenants if they purchase will have taxes thrown upon them in future which at present they do not pay. They do not pay poor rate, and the county cess is matter of arrangement. The benefits of purchase are more to the larger than to the smaller tenants. Other causes operate to bring about more rapidly purchase transactions with the larger tenants, but taking them altogether proceedings so far have not been very unfavourable to the smaller tenants. At the same time, if any system can be devised which will fairly handicap the different classes, I think it will be found in the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast, because it will not be a system of positive exclusion, but by a negative system of selection, that something like an equality will be brought about. By the arrangement suggested by my hon. Friend, the Land Commission could give preference to 390 purchase an estate where there were the largest number of tenants, and ultimately you would bring about an equal distribution of the sum to be advanced, and I believe that as it worked out we should see that in the end the larger and smaller tenants would come out pretty equally. But I protest against any system which would act as a barrier to land purchase by an artificial exclusion of one class of tenants in favour of another class. The true system would be to allow things to go on pretty much as they are under the Ashbourne Act, not seeking to introduce this 1st subsection copied from the Act of 1870, and introduced there for the purpose of excluding a certain class of tenants from compensation for disturbance, but allow things to go on; and if you do anything by way of diverting purchase from the larger tenants, let it be by proviso, directing the Land Commissioners to give preference to those estates upon which are the larger number of tenants.
§ (6.25.) MR. SEXTON
It is very difficult for us to apprehend the Amendment unless we are provided with a copy of the Table of the large and small holdings in different countries from which the Chief Secretary quoted. We are, I think, disposed to agree that subhead (a) should be put aside, and, with regard to the non-residential sub-head, I should prefer that the £30 limit should be omitted.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I will withdraw my Amendment, reserving, of course, my right to move Amendments with regard to the residential clause.
§ (6.26.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If we really mean honestly to set to work to cause this money to go as far as possible, something like the Amendment I have read out must be accepted. I think we had better leave out Sub-section 1, and, as hon. Members opposite desire to have the figures from which I have quoted, perhaps the best course would be to bring forward my Amendment at the end of the clause. But I must say that I have had the utmost difficulty in getting statistics, and I do not think much reliance can be placed upon them, except that they show broadly the relative number of small and large holdings. Of course, if hon. Gentlemen desire to see the Return I am perfectly willing to produce it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will consider what can be done in the way of figures. I cannot promise to produce anything satisfactory.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I would suggest that the Land Commission should be allowed to discriminate between one estate and another, or, at any rate, to impose a period of delay.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think the more the hon. and learned Member con-eiders that suggestion, the more impossible will he find it to leave to a semi-judicial body a task which they would altogether repudiate.
§ (6.34.) MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
I thought we were all agreed that the great object was to make as many occupiers owners of their land as possible, indeed, I do not think this country will be prepared to go to this great expense merely to buy out the larger tenants. The improvement of small tenancies has been most marked where there has been a sale, and I hope the House will adopt a provision that will prevent two-thirds of these millions going to buy out the larger tenants, many of whom are in a much better position as regards tenure than the same class of tenants in England and Scotland. We have a duty to the English taxpayers to perform. They are willing to devote large sums to carry out this work, but they require, and they have a right to require, that this money must go to the purpose for which it is intended, namely, the erection of a large body of owners who will prove staunch supporters of law and order.
§ (6.37.) MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries, &c.)
If this sub-section is wholly struck out what will become of the various Amendments to it which appear on the Paper? I do not suppose any of those who propose the Amendments desire to embarrass the Committee, but it is difficult to know at what particular stage the Amendments will come in.
If the Committee agree to strike out Sub-section 1 all the Amendments on the Paper would go also. No doubt they could be brought up again.
§ MR. R. T. REID
Some of these Amendments were originally put down to Clause 1 and were postponed until 392 Clause 6, because that was considered a more appropriate clause. If we have Sub-section 1 struck out we ought to have some means provided for introducing the Amendments.
It is not necessary to give any undertaking. The Amendments can be moved when the proviso is brought up at the end of the clause.
§ Question put and agreed to.
In page 7, line 16, to leave out "The advances under this Act," in order to insert, "advances may be made under the Land Purchase Acts, as amended by this Act, notwithstanding any limitation contained in Land Purchase Acts, 1885 and 1888, by the issue of Guaranteed Land Stock, but such advances."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour).
§ Question proposed, "That the words, 'The advances under this Act' stand part of the Clause."
§ (6.48.) MR. T. M. HEALY
I presume that this Amendment is intended to meet the view put forward by the hon. and learned Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Robertson) at an earlier stage. As I understand, the object of the hon. and learned Member, was that the Government should insert words providing that the £30,000,000 sterling was to be advanced. The Government, in the most shamefaced way, have omitted to bring the Committee plumb up to the £30,000,000, and have steered the corner in the matter, they have done what they conceive to be necessary without mentioning the £30,000,000 at all. Where do they get the £30,000,000? The matter came up in this way. The Government provided in the second sub-section that the amount for the purchase of holdings should not exceed twenty-five times the share of the county in the Guarantee Fund, and then, that the Treasury, when of opinion that the advances made approximate to this limit, should certify their opinion to the Lord Lieutenant, who should forthwith determine the share of each county in the Guarantee Fund. But that is not dealing in a satisfactory way with the proposition that has been laid before the House. Either the Government are prepared or they are not, to recognise the fact that this is an advance of £30,000,000. In my judgment it would be much more honest for them to provide for the exact amount that is to be provided. At one 393 time we heard the advance spoken of as an advance of £30,000,000, and to-night the Chief Secretary has spoken of it as an advance of £33,000,000. Is it £33,000,000 or £30,000,000 that is going to be guaranteed? It is very unfair and unsatisfactory for the Government to leave the matter in its present condition. It would be much more satisfactory to the tenants of Ireland and their representatives that the Government should say the advance is to be £30,000,000 or £33,000,000 rather than the matter should be left in a trap-door condition.
§ MR. SEXTON
I would suggest that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dundee should be incorporated with that of the Government.
§ (6.59.) MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I promised the hon. Member for Dundee to move the second Amendment standing in his name. I therefore move to omit in the Chief Secretary's Amendment the words "notwithstanding any limitation contained in," in order to insert in lieu thereof" in excess of the amount of £10,000,000 authorised by."
Amendment as amended:—
Advances may be made under the Land Purchase Acts, as amended by this Act, in excess of the amount of £10,000,000 authorised by the Land Purchase Acts, 1885 and 1888, by the issue of Guaranteed Land Stock, in the amount from time to time required by the Land Commission, but such advances shall not exceed 25 times the share of the county in the Guarantee Fund.
§ Agreed to.
§ MR. R. T. REID
I now rise to move the Amendment standing in my name, namely:—In page 7, line 15, at the end, to insert "Provided that the advances to be made hereafter under the Land Purchase Acts shall not in all exceed the sum of £5,000,000.My object in proposing this Amendment is that the policy pursued under the Ashbourne Act in regard to these £5,000,000 should not be pursued under this Act. The discussion on this Bill has been so long and the subjects dealt with so complicated that very few hon. Members are acquainted with the present position of the Bill; indeed, so complicated is the measure that it will be almost impossible to work it until after much experience and a great deal of amendment, for there 394 can be little doubt that when it does come to be worked a number of blots will inevitably be discovered. In some quarters the tenants will be found either unwilling to adopt the Bill or excluded by difficulties, while in others the landlords will be equally prevented from availing themselves of its provisions. It is impossible that it can work with even as much facility as the Ashbourne Act. There is another and a strong objection to this measure, namely, the manner in which it removes from the House of Commons an amount of money which may be added to the National Debt by the Land Commissioners whether the House of Commons likes it or not. We are to have the enormous sum of from £30,000,000 to £35,000,000 sterling placed in the hands of the Commissioners entrusted with the working of this measure, and they may apply it at their discretion, regardless of whether the House of Commons may like it or not. I will not attempt after the length of time the Bill has been under the attention of the Committee to go over the various points on which I might otherwise dwell, but I wish to say that if we are to have this Bill at all we ought to have the power of renewing it, if we think proper, after we have observed its operation, because it would be the height of impropriety to pledge the country to so enormous an amount of money without retaining in the House of Commons the power of retracting or modifying what has been done. The question raised by my Amendment is simply and shortly whether we are to allow this Bill to be absolutely unlimited in scope and extent, and to take out of our control for the next 20 years the application of so many millions of money, or whether, on the other hand, the House of Commons shall be enabled to re-consider its position at a time when it may be very differently constituted from what is the case at present—whether, in fact, we are to go still further in the policy of buying out the landowners of Ireland or not. Without occupying the time of the Committee any further, I will at once move the Amendment I have placed on the Paper.
In page 7, line 16, to leave out from the word "holdings" to the end of Sub-section (2),
and insert the words "shall not in all exceed the sum of five millions."—(Mr. E. T. Reid.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'in any county' stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I presume the hon. Gentleman who has moved this Amendment hardly expects me to accept it, or even to enter into the discussion of the question he has raised at any detail. As the hon. and learned Gentleman objects to the entire Bill, it cannot be a matter of surprise that he should desire to limit its scope. And as the Amendment really goes to the root of the measure, I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman and his friends do not desire that I should repeat the arguments which have already been urged over and over again.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I think, from the tone of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and the manner in which he has replied to my hon. and learned Friend behind me, he will at least be inclined to allow that there are some hon. Members in this House who, while objecting on principle most deeply and conscientiously to this measure, have not joined in obstructing its progress. Some weeks ago I spoke at length upon this question, and I then referred to several of the points of controversy which induced me to take the view I am about to express in support of the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend. I will, therefore, confine myself at the present moment to stating those points which appear to me to impose an absolute obligation on the part of every one who has the real interests of the British Treasury at heart to vote for my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment. In the first place the Bill proposes to put the Land Commission beyond the control or veto of the House of Commons, and to prevent this House from even discussing its proceedings in the future. Therefore, we wish these proceedings to be confined to the disposition of the large sum of £5,000,000. By the time that that amount has been spent we shall have a new Parliament—a Parliament which, whatever its political complexion may be, will have, as I believe, been elected by constituencies opposed, as in 1886, to the extension of land purchase in Ireland on the credit of the British taxpayer. We hold that that new Parliament should have an opportunity of saying whether further sums shall be advanced under 396 the provisions of this Bill. I see in the Returns which have been placed before us a serious tendency on the part of the tenants to become discontented with the bargains they have made. It is an alarming fact that purchasing tenants are already applying to Parliament to be relieved of part of the liability they have incurred. I therefore submit it would be advisable to confine the operations under the Bill to the sum of £5,000,000, as the period which the expenditure of the amount will involve will throw fresh light on the question. I shall, therefore, vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
§ (7.22.) SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
I think we have suddenly come upon a vital point in this Bill. The object, we are told, is to apply —directly or indirectly—a sum of £30,000,000 to the purposes of this Bill, and I think we have a right to know what is the burden to be thrown on the British taxpayer. The object of the Amendment is that we should in this matter proceed step by step, and only authorise the expenditure of £5,000,000 in the first place. The fact is that under the Bill there is utter uncertainty as to how much money will be required. We are told that as the local grants are now allocated it will be possible to advance £33,000,000. But then the Government have a free education scheme on hand under which £200,000 will be handed over to Ireland, and as I understood that grant will enable a further £5,000,000 to be advanced for purposes of land purchase. There is consequently no telling what will be the burden eventually thrown on the British taxpayer for the benefit of the Irish landlords. The Bill is so elastic that it is altogether unsafe in the interests of the taxpayer, for the Government may throw an enormously increased liability on the country by simply increasing the local grants to Ireland.
§ (7.25.) MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
I shall certainly support the Amendment. No one, I think, who is familiar with the figures which have been produced in the course of the discussion on the Bill in regard to the operation of the Ashbourne Act can doubt that it would be the height of imprudence to lavish at one stroke £30,000,000 upon Ireland in the manner proposed. The wise course obviously would be to pro- 397 ceed in a more or less tentative manner as suggested by the Amendment. It has been demonstrated in the most conclusive fashion that out of the £5,760,000 issued under the Ashbourne Act no less than £3,771,808, or more than two-thirds, had gone to a quarter which, unquestionably, the Act was never intended to benefit. "We may search in vain through the speeches delivered by the Vice-president of the Council of Education, then Chief Secretary for Ireland, who introduced the Ashbourne Act in 1885, or through the speeches of the Attorney General for Ireland, who proposed the second Ashbourne Act in 1888, for any words indicating that they intended any part of the money expended under those Acts to go to persons other than tenant farmers on a small scale, or the creation of peasant proprietors. Yet as the Return issued in connection with the Acts conclusively show, no less than two-thirds of the money has gone in a manner contrary to that intended. The Returns referred to furnished most striking illustrations of the truth of the contention that it is the larger kind of farmers, and not the smaller class, who benefit most by these Land Purchase Acts. Taking 60 holdings mentioned in the Returns I find that the total acreage amounted to 12,000 acres, the rental to £10,000, and the cost of purchase to £180,000. The average rent per acre was 17s. 6d., to which must be added 12s. or 14s. more to represent the improvements, bringing it up to 25s. or 30s. The average acreage was 200, the average rental £170, and the average purchase money £3,000. Surely it would not be contended that the House of Commons should appropriate Imperial credit to the aid and relief of such cases as these. I am against the lending of Imperial credit for the purpose of setting up people in farming or in any other business unless good reason can be shown for the adoption of such a course; and in the 'present instance the only reasons urged in favour of the advance are that it would lead to the maintenance of social order and the relief of the small and struggling farmers. But it cannot be gainsaid that in point of fact, judging from the experience gained in the case of the Ashbourne Acts, the relief is likely to go under the present Act, not to the 398 latter class at all, but to persons very well able to take care of themselves. I shall, therefore, have no hesitation in voting for any Amendment which aims at limiting the amount of the advance.
§ (7.30.) MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
I understand the object of my hon. Friend to be to limit the sum to be advanced under this Bill, and I cordially support it, because I believe that every Parliament and every recurring Parliament should have? an opportunity of deciding whether operations under the Bill shall be continued. This has been called a "£30,000,000 Bill." I do not know who invented the phrase, the sum is not mentioned in the Bill, and no one knows better than the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this is not a question as between £5,000,000 and £30,000,000, but that it is a question as between. £5,000,000 and £60,000,000, or even more. I do not think that the public or even hon. Members recognise the fact that under the peculiar arrangements of this Bill it will not be the case that at the end of 49 years the money advanced will have been repaid to us. I thought at first that the methods of the Ashbourne Act were to have been followed in this Bill. The £10,000,000 advanced under those Acts will eventually comeback to us, after it has enabled the borrowers to buy their holdings; but under this Bill we shall, at the end of 49. years, still be £30,000,000 out of pocket, for the money as it comes in is to be re-advanced. Over and above the advances there will be the accruing interest, and it has been computed that the eventual cost will be £70,000,000 or £74,000,000 sterling. Now, I wish to enter a serious protest against the policy of allowing the Government to take out of the hands of the House of Commons the power of controlling financial matters. By now providing that this money shall be lent and re-lent, you are making not a temporary but a permanent arrangement; you are in fact adding £30,000,000 to the National Debt, you take all control over the matter from the House of Commons, and you enable the Land Commission to go on lending the money to the Irish tenants as long as it chooses. That is my first objection. In the second place, I should like to be satisfied that this operation will be advantageous to Ireland and to the State. I do not like 399 taking a leap in the dark such as this, and, therefore, I should prefer to limit the operation of the Bill. If this Bill is passed, a future Parliament cannot interfere with it unless it on get the House of Lords to pass a repealing Bill. There has been during the last four or five years a great deal too much of the practice of committing our financial arrangements into the hands of the House of Lords. We are not to he allowed to re-consider our shipbuilding projects without going to the House of Lords to get the Bill repealed, and so the Government now propose to act with regard to land purchase in Ireland; they will not allow a future Parliament to reduce the amount authorised to be advanced if in its wisdom it wishes to do so. The same principle is intended, I believe by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to be applied to the Irish light railway schemes; the money required for these undertakings is to be capitalised, and withdrawn from the control of the House of Commons. I know that on this point we cannot expect to receive the support of the Irish Members. We cannot reasonably complain of their willingness to take all they can get from a Tory Government, and from the British taxpayer. But they cannot say that we are taking up an improper position, for we represent the British taxpayers, and I, for one, was sent to this Parliament by constituents who knew I protested against land purchases when proposed by a Liberal Ministry. I voted against the Bill in 1886, and I still oppose a principle which commits the British public to large expenditure in Ireland for the purposes of land purchase.
§ (7.46.) SIR W. PLOWDEN (Wolverhampton, W.)
I merely rise to give effect to a pledge which I gave my constituents, to oppose any scheme of land purchase. That pledge was given very largely by hon. Members opposite, with what result may be now witnessed, but I, consistently with my pledge, feel now constrained to record my protest against the entire principle of using the money of the British taxpayer for the purposes of land purchase in Ireland.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I, too, wish to record my protest against the principle contained in this measure. It was a principle against which hon. Members pledged themselves up to the lips. It is true, and a matter 400 of notoriety, that many of us on this side of the House did what we could, though against our convictions, to popularise the Land Bill of 1886—["Oh!"]—and though hon. Members opposite jeer at that statement, it is to be observed that they do nothing to popularise the present Bill. Pledged to oppose the application of the British taxpayers' money to such a purpose, they now swallow all their engagements and sit silently observant of their breach of faith.
§ (7.57.) The Committee divided: — Ayes 116; Noes 44.—(Div. List, No. 200.)
§ MR. STOREY
On behalf of the hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn, I beg to move, in page 7, line 17, after "shall," insert—Be made only to such a total amount as that the aggregate of the purchase annuities due to the Treasury in each year in respect of them shall not exceed the aggregate payments due in the same year to the Guarantee Fund from Imperial contributions and local grants as provided by this Act, and shall.The hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn has supplied me, as well as other hon. Members, with an elaborate statement of figures, which show broadly that the expenditure by the Treasury will exceed the payments accruing from the tenants, and he contends that by the adoption of his proposal the ultimate effect would be the avoidance of a deficiency, and it is in the interest of sound finance that he asks the Government to accept his Amendment.
In page 7, line 17, after "shall," insert "Be made only to such a total amount as that the aggregate of the purchase annuities due to the Treasury in each year in respect of them shall not exceed the aggregate payments due in the same year to the Guarantee Fund from Imperial contributions and local grants as provided by this Act, and shall."—(Mr. Storey.)
§ (8.10.) MR. CONYBEARE
An Amendment has been proposed in a very temperate way by my hon. Friend, and whatever the right hon. Gentleman may think of it, it deserves some answer on the part of the Government. If, Mr. Courtney, besides being robbed we are also to be insulted by the Government, I think it will not conduce much to the amenities of debate or to the public interest. A Bill of the most complicated and unintelligible character, judging from what has been said by so many 401 hon. Members, has been introduced; and surely if the Committee stage is to be of the slightest use in connection with the conduct of the measure, it is desirable that we should use our time in elucidating its provisions. There are Members who think that by moving Amendments they may improve the Bill, and I take it that this Amendment has been placed on the Paper with that object in view. The fact that the hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Keay) is unfortunately incapacitated by illness from moving it should be an additional reason why the right hon. Gentleman should take some notice of it, and I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, after the speech of my hon. Friend, has studiously refrained from paying the slightest attention to the proposal. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer is indicating his desire to step into the breach and to give some answer, I will reserve any further remarks I am desirous of making until that reply has been made, and I cannot but acknowledge the courtesy displayed by the right hon. Gentleman, contrasting as it does with the discourtesy of the Chief Secretary for Ireland.
§ (8.14.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I must take the entire responsibility of not having risen to reply to the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey), as my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland left this matter in my hands. If I did not rise it was because of the singular way in which the Amendment was proposed. I did not understand whether the hon. Member for Sunderland desired to limit the amount, or whether his remarks were directed to the absence of security. His speech was, however, on the whole, in the direction of limiting the amount. The question of limitation has been argued over and over again, and we cannot assent to the Amendment.
§ (8.15.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
It is really a shame to cumber this Bill with Amendments of this kind when there are so many matters that the Irish Members wish to discuss. I may, however, point out in reference to this proposal that if a man had paid his instalments for 40 years out of 49, the fact that nine instalments had still to be paid would, under this Amendment, prevent a grant being made to the tenant of 402 another holding. There might be perfect security, and indeed the tenant might have paid so many instalments that if he refused to pay any more the country would really be a gainer, and yet no advance could be made to another holder. I am sorry to hear that the Member for Elgin is sick because except on this Bill, he has been a very useful Member of the House. With regard to this Bill, I regret to say I cannot make a similar statement. I invariably also find myself in the opposite Lobby to the hon. Member for Sunderland when it is a question respecting Irish money or the development of Irish resources, and I imagine that the hon. Member cannot be aware that Ireland contributes about £8,000 a year to the Imperial Exchequer.
§ (8.19.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
In my opinion, this Amendment really raises the same question as will be raised on the re-lending clause, and I think the discussion had better be taken on that clause. I would, therefore, suggest to my hon. Friend that the discussion should be postponed.
§ (8.20.) MR. CONYBEARE
I am inclined to think that the right hon. Gentleman is right, and, as we have no desire whatever to prolong discussion, I shall not offer any opposition whatever to the suggestion that my hon. Friend should postpone further explanation respecting his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (8.22.) COLONEL NOLAN
I would like to move the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Mahony) not to the extent of the 75, but to the extent of 28. I would ask the Government why it should be 28? I think you are cutting down the whole amount advanced to Ireland by this limitation.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 7 line 18, to leave out "twenty-five," and insert "twenty-eight." — (Colonel Nolan.)
§ Question proposed, "That 'twenty-five' stand part of the Clause."
§ (8.25.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If you want to carry out the principle of 403 the Bill, you must cover the Guarantee Fund.
§ MR. STOREY
My hon. and gallant Friend just now characterised an Amendment we moved as ridiculous. I characterise his Amendment as ridiculous and unintelligible, except on the assumption that he wants, by the introduction of 28 instead of 25, to get another £3,000 or £4,000 of British funds for the use of the tenant farmers of Ireland. I suppose that is his object; and he need not wonder that an intelligent Government and a watchful Opposition will not allow him to carry it out.
§ (8.27.) COLONEL NOLAN
My hon. Friend thinks it is ridiculous for us to try and get £3,000 or £4,000 for Ireland. I do not think it ridiculous at all. I think it is the only useful thing we do here. I think the Government ought to look over this point, and see whether they cannot increase this 25.
§ (8.28.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
I desire to support the alteration of the amount, but for altogether different reasons from those stated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I gather, from what the hon. and gallant Member has just said, that the principal object of the Irish Representatives here is to get British money.
§ MR. MORTON
I am afraid he forgets altogether that it will be necessary to repay that money. To my mind, it would be much better to reduce than to increase the total loan.
§ (8.29.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co.,Mid)
I rise, as an Irish Member, for the purpose of repudiating the statement made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Nolan) that our chief duty here is to obtain money for the Irish tenant farmers. Has the hon. and gallant Gentleman no word to say for the Irish agricultural labourers and the unfortunate men in towns? The hon. and gallant Gentleman's statement requires instant repudiation.
§ (8.30.) MR. CONYBEARE
There is a very substantial reason why we should join with the Government in resisting this appeal. I think we have a right to insist that the proposal does not go beyond an absolute cover.
§ (8.30.) MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
It was but recently we were reminded of the imprudence of anticipating default on the part of the tenants; but this 404 is what the clause does: it says that a cover for this must be kept in the Guarantee Fund. My second observation is this: that the clause or sub-clause cannot come into operation until the limit of the period is reached; that cannot be for 8 or 10 years, and the Treasury will have seen that defaults are exceedingly small. I do not believe that default will amount to anything like 1 per cent. if the Act is worked with wisdom and prudence. In that case why should the Treasury insist on a cover of 4 per cent.? Why should not the Treasury have a discretion to act on their experience, and go below the figure proposed?
§ Question put, and agreed to. (8.32.)
§ (9.9.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ (9.11.) MR. CONYBEARE
I beg to move the Amendment which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn, namely, to insert after "Fund," in line 23,Provided always, that the total amount of advances in all the counties to be made under this Act, shall not exceed thirty million pounds.The purport of the Amendment is to limit the amount of the advance to a particular and definite sum. I think that is a very desirable object, and it is for that reason amongst others that I am glad to have the opportunity of moving the Amendment in the absence of my hon. Friend. I should be glad to fix a smaller sum; but as I am moving an Amendment standing in the name of another hon. Member, I am content to take the issue upon the £30,000,000. There is good reason why they should insist upon this Amendment. The Government have let it go out to the country that [they are going to settle the whole matter for £30,000,000; but having carefully examined the Bill, I cannot find that in any part of it the Government have distinctly stated the exact amount which they propose to utilise for this purpose. I think it might be proved that, so far from £30,000,000 being the sum to which advances under (this Bill will be limited, the sum ought to be at least double, if not trebled. That being so, we have a right to insist that some distinct limitation shall be introduced, that some specific sum be placed in the forefront of the measure, so that every one reading the Bill may clearly appreciate what is 405 the extent of the obligation to which the country is being committed.
In page 7, line 23, after the word "Fund," to insert the words "Provided always, chat the total amount of advances in all the counties to he made under this Act shall not exceed thirty million pounds."—(Mr. Conybeare.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (9.15.) SIR G. CAMPBELL
I am glad this Amendment has been moved, because I think it will put the question more clearly before the House and the country. As the Chief Secretary said last night, it is customary to speak of the advance as one limited to the sum of £30,000,000; but I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, owing to the grant to Ireland of £200,000 under the Budget proposals, it will not be possible to advance another £5,000,000 under this Act?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
In reply to hon. Members, I may say that the sum of £30,000,000 has always been used as an illustration of the amount which will be available under existing circumstances. No doubt, if the contributions from the State should be increased, if they should grow naturally, the amount which can be advanced will also grow naturally. What we propose to advance is not £30,000,000, but a sum equivalent to 25 times the amount of the annual contributions from the State. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy asks if it will not be possible to advance a sum in respect of the £200,000 it is proposed to grant to Ireland. It will depend entirely upon the manner in which that sum is allocated whether or not it will come under the provisions of this Bill. It is true we do not limit the advance to £30,000,000; we do not profess to. [Opposition ironical cheers.] The Chief Secretary for Ireland has always said the amount which at present is at disposal is about £30,000,000, but we are anxious that as many tenants as possible should purchase their holdings, and we should not regret if we were able to carry further that system of land purchase in Ireland which, under present circumstances, will involve an advance of something like £30,000,000 or £32,000,000. We object to the insertion of any particular amount in the Bill, because we are anxious we should have power to advance up to 25 times of the absolute security. It has been asserted 406 that £30,000,000 is the amount to which we are able to go. I believe that, looking to the present contribution, the sum is rather above £30,000,000.
§ (9.20.) SIR G. CAMPBELL
I admit the Chancellor of the Exchequer has answered my question with perfect frankness, and that we now know exactly how we stand. The advance is not to be limited, but if there is a famine in Ireland, or if there is an increase in lunacy and the local grants are enlarged, the taxpayers of this country may be saddled with an advance of £60,000,000, £80,000,000 or £100,000,000. The Government wish to make the Bill elastic; they wish to bind posterity to an indefinite advance.
§ (9.21.) MR. GOSCHEN
The hon. Gentleman must recollect that the Treasury have got the power to check the advances at any moment unless it is supposed that the present Government will be in power perpetually, which of course I cannot assume — [Ironical Opposition cheers]—it will be in the power of any subsequent Government, perhaps under the auspices of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), to withdraw sanction to advances.
§ (9.22.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I think we may assume from the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer there will be the addition of another £5,000,000 to the £30,000,000 already promised.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I am justified in assuming that the matter will be so arranged that there may be an additional sum advanced. The worst of this system is that it will give a double inducement to make local grants to Ireland. The Committee will do well to pause before they sanction the Government's proposal.
§ (9.24.) MR. R. T. REID
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been perfectly fair and candid in the statement as to the effect of this particular clause. But I think if the statement had been made before the country was absolutely sick of the discussion of this Bill, and before it was languid on this subject, the result would not have been wholly favourable to the 407 views of the Government. The Government will not accept any limit of the sum of money which is liable to be advanced. They wish that the sum shall be extended or contracted at their pleasure. They may increase the grants to Ireland, and thereby enable a still further sum to be advanced under this Bill. I trust my hon. Friend will go to a Division.
§ (9.25.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)
I must confess that I am almost ashamed that I have not protested against this measure earlier, and more frequently. The inhabitants of Ireland may be perfectly justified in plundering this country, but we, who look at it from the point of view of the British taxpayer, are entitled, to say the least, to raise our voice in protest against this expenditure. The British taxpayers will not stand the way in which their money is being used, and the more they discuss this question the better will they understand how their interests are being betrayed. The right hon. Gentleman ought surely to be able to fix some limit to the plunder.
§ MR. LEA
I protest against this talk of robbery and plunder, and against these Second Reading speeches, justasif Ireland would take the money of the English taxpayer and never re-pay. Such talk is insincere, and unfair to Ireland. The Irish people will sustain the guarantees on which the Bill is founded.
§ MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
It is evident that the whole £30,000,000 is doomed, and that every penny of it will go. A certain number of land owners will make their money, and this huge debt will be piled up upon the shoulders of the Irish people. I want to know from what source the amount is to be paid, and who is to pay it. If you say it is to be paid by the Irish people, there is only one answer which is that they mean to repudiate it. I do not, for my own part, believe that they mean to take such a course; but at any rate, the policy the Government are pursuing is a very shortsighted policy in allowing them to have all this money which is merely to pass through their hands; because if it could be shewn that it was intended to do any permanent good there is hardly a man on this side of the House who would raise his voice against the proposal. But this is not the case, and the money is merely passing through the 408 hands of the Irish tenants who are but the conduit pipes by which this golden stream is to be conveyed to the landlords. There will have to be a reckoning some day, and unless those who have to pay are prepared to do so, the question arises who will have to bear the burden in the long run. This is a question of principle. You have already spent £10,000,000 under one Act, and have prepared yourselves for the expenditure of another £10,000,000, and now you are about to prepare for spending £30,000,000 more, or £50,000,000 altogether. I am not now speaking of the money advanced for light railways, but I say by means of this Bill and former legislation you are giving through the medium of the Irish tenants, to the landlords something like £50,000,000, and this is not all, for we are told that this is not the limit to which we must look forward—who is to pay the money if it is not obtained from the tenants? The Government do not tell us this, and all we know is that in all probability the money will have to come from the taxpayers of Great Britain, who ought not to pay it, and not from the Irish people; whereas, if it has not to come from Great Britain it will have to come with all the accumulated weight of heavy arrears some day or other from the Irish themselves, who will then see how short - sighted was the policy which led them to adopt the gift offered by a Government in whose principles and professions they ought long since to have learnt never to repose the slightest trust or confidence.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I was very glad to hear a short time ago from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Government will have complete control over these advances.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The hon. Baronet should not exaggerate what I said. I did not go so far as to say what the hon. Baronet has assumed. I said the Government hoped that the amount might be so increased as to carry further the system of land purchase in Ireland.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
That is quite a different thing, and the comfort I had derived from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman disappears. If we had a reasonable limit and the Treasury were to retain a sufficient control over the sum to be advanced, that would help to confirm the hope that the money 409 would be given to establish a class of small peasant proprietors and not create a new set of landlords, and my objections to the Bill would thereby be very much mitigated. But after all, it appears that no such control will be given by the clause we are discussing. I understand now that the Treasury is to have no control over these advances, and that, therefore, we are to have an irremovable body, in the shape of the Irish Land Commission who are to be enabled to put their hands into the public Treasury to the extent of £30,000,000 or more, the Chancellor of the Exchequer having admitted that this amount may be vastly increased, and that the Government look forward to such a probability. Thus the grants for lunatics and other purposes may be immensely increased, and we may have enormous sums added to our present liabilities. I think, therefore, that we shall be right in insisting that these advances shall in some way be limited, so that we shall only be committed to a definite expenditure. As it is it would appear that the Treasury will have no power to check the future expenditure, and that the present moribund Parliament is to be asked to sanction such a condition of things.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS
We have now been told in explicit terms that there is to be no limit to the demands to be met under this Bill, and that the Government hope they may continue to swell. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) not long ago demurred to my using the expression "£30,000,000." I named that sum because I have always heard that that was to be the amount of the advances to be made under this Bill. I had heard that from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and have seen it stated in letters written and speeches made by him. It now turns out that the hon. Member for Sunderland was quite right in demurring to my using that phrase. In point of fact we are practically asked to give a blank cheque to the Government. Some years ago the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he was not willing to give a blank cheque to Lord Salisbury, and I say that we on this side of the House are equally unwilling in such a matter as this to give a blank cheque to the Government. As the right hon. 410 Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been so frank in the statement he has made to the Committee, I hope that other Members of the Government and their supporters will be equally frank and explicit outside this House, and that on the platforms from which they may hereafter speak, they will no longer contrast the hypothetical sum of £200,000,000 which they attributed to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) as the probable result of his policy in 1886 with the £30,000,000 proposed by the present Government, but will openly avow that they have been supporting the passage of a Bill through this House, which it is now admitted does not in any way limit the amount that may be advanced for land purchase in Ireland. I shall have great pleasure in dividing with my hon. Friend, in order to do our best to secure that a distinct limit shall be named in this Bill.
§ MR. SEXTON
I should like to ask whether the Committee is to understand that in any event the minimum capital Stock to be issued is to be 25 times the amount of the Guarantee Fund? The Guarantee Fund is liable to fluctuations; will the capital Stock be also liable to fluctuations? We are, I think, entitled to assume that the Guarantee Fund will of necessity increase, and I wish to ask, supposing that by any change in our fiscal system we should cease to contribute to the support of the asylums and industrial schools in Ireland, what effect that will have? Supposing you issue £30,000,000 of Stock and the Guarantee Fund should become depreciated, what will be the position of affairs in that case?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The hon. Member for West Belfast asks whether we will guarantee that £30,000,000 shall be advanced under any circumstances and whether we will guarantee that shall be the minimum? The Government cannot fix the £30,000,000 as the minimum capital Stock to be issued. If there were a great falling off in the contributions it would not be possible to make advances up to the £30,000,000. The hon. Member for West Belfast has suggested that changes may be made in the fiscal system which would diminish the amount of the Guarantee Fund; but this is rather an exaggerated hypothesis. If those at present responsible for the Government were to make any such 411 change we should be defrauding the expectations of the Irish tenants. So long as the existing relations between England and Ireland continue it is improbable that any such violent reductions as were suggested would be made. There is no danger of a serious decrease in the funds available for the guarantee, those funds having shown a tendency to increase in recent years. Some hon. Radicals, if the expression be permissible, who constantly describe the Bill as being an attempt to plunder the English taxpayers to benefit the Irish tenants, seem to think that this policy was invented by the present Government. The chemists who first gilded the pill now sit on the Front Opposition Bench. They are the patentees of this specific. The Government will not go one step beyond their security; but as long as the security is absolute they would be rather glad than otherwise for the amount advanced beyond £30,000,000, because they desire to make some thorough, immediate, and permanent impression on the tenant farmers desiring to become owners.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has treated those who sit on this side of the House as the patentees of this gilded pill, I think I may say that so far as we are concerned we should not have objected so much if the right hon. Gentleman and his friends had merely performed the humble task of prescribing or administering the gilded pill, because, so far as we are concerned, the pill has at any rate the merit of being an honest purgative, whereas the dose the right hon. Gentleman is now proposing to administer is only a fraudulent imitation of our patent medicine. While, on the one hand, the safeguards, guarantees, and limitations devised, in the first instance, by the Bright's clauses of the Act of 1870, and the Irish Church Disestablishment Act, the principles of which were extended by the Act of 1881, founded on the prospect of risk to the British taxpayer, it has, on the other hand, been over and over again, in this medley Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and his friends, been shown that there is no guarantee for the repayment of the £30,000,000, or whatever larger sum it may happen to be, which any sensible or reasonable person in the City of London or elsewhere 412 would look at for a moment as a sufficient inducement for investments such as are invited by this measure. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects this £30,000,000 is to be repaid? Of course we shall be told by the Government that they have provided a Sinking Fund under which it is provided that the money, capital and interest, will be repaid in a certain time. But what is the number of years within which the right hon. Gentleman imagines these £30,000,000 or whatever the amount is, will be finally repaid into the British Exchequer? I believe, having regard to the proposals for re-lending, that it will never be repaid, but that advances will go on in perpetuity. I can see no termination whatever. The Sinking Fund to which we should naturally look for payment of capital and interest at the end of a certain fixed period is to be used for a different purpose; it loses its character of a Sinking Fund, for it is to be re-lent again and again.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I have not the slightest desire to do that, and therefore, I will postpone my argument on that point. It is a little difficult to prevent oneself from travelling beyond the immediate point in these proposals. But I may be permitted to refer to the observation of the hon. Member for South Londonderry (Mr. Lea). The hon. Member took exception to language used in criticism of the Government proposals, but I am not aware that I have used any strong language, beyond characterising proposals in the Bill as fraud, and purposeless plunder. An hon. Member laughs loudly at that, he laughs perhaps because he will have the advantage of the transaction. Our primary objection to the Bill is that it is a Bill for the benefit of the Irish landlords and we do not allow that they have any claim for anything of the kind, they have never done anything for the country they have plundered for so many years. The Bill will benefit the landlord by enhancing the price of the land he happens to have possession of, the Coercion Act preventing tenants from continuing to protect their rights. The tenant will have no benefit, he will be induced to pay an undue price for his 413 land, he will commit default in the future and the ultimate loss will fall upon the British taxpayer whom we represent. We have been twitted with our action, and our intentions have been questioned, but, for my own part, I have simply tried to put before the country the full significance of this measure, and I am at a loss to perceive how any supporter of the Party opposite can call our conduct inconsistent with honesty and justice, while there is scarcely one of the Party opposite who was not returned on the same platform we now occupy, and who did not give the most distinct pledge that under no circumstances would he lend himself to the proposal to risk British credit for buying out Irish landlords. How do hon. Members propose to justify themselves to their constituents if they support the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his system of unlimited advances for this purpose? There is the hon. Member for Mid Oxford (Mr. Morrell), the latest recruit of the Party opposite. Will he get up, and, in a maiden speech, to which I am sure we should all listen with the greatest interest, say that he placed this measure before his constituents, and obtained from them any mandate to support such a proposal as this, which, as we have heard from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is to provide not £30,000,000, but an unlimited amount? Did the hon. Member give his constituents to understand that he was going to support a proposal for risking an unlimited number of millions to put money into the pockets of hon. Members, noble lords, and others who are Irish landlords?
§ MR. MORRELL (Oxford, Woodstock)
If the hon. Member desires me to answer his question in the form he has just put it, I would say that, in speaking to my constituents, I put before them facts, not fiction.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I should be sorry if the hon. Member, whom I had the pleasure of knowing at the University in my humble undergraduate days, should suppose that I insinuated that he stated anything that was a fiction; but I desire to ascertain whether the hon. Member obtained a mandate from his constituents to come and support in this House a proposal which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us to-night is not one for a limited sum of £30,000,000, but for as much more as it may be 414 possible to obtain under the complicated provisions of this Bill.
§ (10.10.) MR. MORTON
I understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say just now that the Government are anxious to advance this money on British credit to the Irish tenants, but if that is so, I should like to know why the vehement opposition in 1886 to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian? Why has he changed his mind? Was he wrong in 1886, or is he wrong now? The hon. Member for South Derry seems to object to our discussing the total amount to be advanced, but I should have thought that was just one of those questions to be discussed in Committee. Then the hon. Member said there need be no anxiety for the British taxpayer, because the British taxpayer will have an ample guarantee, but that is just what we have been unable to see. We cannot see that the guarantee is of any use whatever, or, so far as it is a guarantee at all, it is a guarantee of the Exchequer contributions. I know we shall be told the local rates must make up the amount required if we have to take the Exchequer contributions, but everybody knows that, except to a very small extent, no Government would take these contributions from the purposes for which they are intended. The guarantee is a farce, and is of no value. I cannot see why the Government should refuse this limitation to £30,000,000. I should prefer the limit at £5,000,000 or £10,000,000; but whatever it is, surely Parliament should decide definitely what the amount is to be. If £30,000,000 are not sufficient, let the Government propose some extended limit, but do not let us leave it in this uncertain manner.
§ (10.15.) MR. STOREY
I should be glad to know if I rightly appreciate the difference between ourselves and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As I understand it, the proposal made by my hon. Friend is that the total sum to be advanced out of the Exchequer to buy out Irish landlords shall not exceed £30,000,000. Now, the point some of us very strongly feel is this: While we admit that if the House should vote £30,000,000, and we the minority are committed to this, we want to know whether with this amount the Government will also take the interest 415 and Sinking Fund and apply this year by year to the purpose of purchase under the Act. Take a specific case. Suppose, for the sake of argument, the whole sum of £30,000,000 expended in the first year and on the first day of the year. I admit that will not be the case; but assuming this for the sake of argument—.£1,200,000 or 4 per cent. will be returned into the hands of the Treasury. What is to become of this? We know that 2¾ per cent. plus ¼ per cent. goes as interest. The Government have to pay interest to whom soever we borrow it from. Now, 2¾ per cent. on £30,000,000 is £750,000, and 5s. per cent. goes to the county. Putting that aside so as to arrive at a round sum, that will give £900,000, and it must be evident—
The hon. Gentleman is anticipating. The question of re-lending arises on the next Amendment. He must reserve himself for that.
§ MR. STOREY
I am well aware, Sir, that a subsequent Amendment deals with the re-lending, but my point is in reference to the limitation to£30,000,000, and if I show that additional sums under the scheme of the Government are to he lent over and above £30,000,000, then I am addressing myself to the point before the Committee. I assume that in some way, by deductions, by gathering together, a sum of £1,000,000 sterling would be passed into the Treasury and be applicable for the purposes of the Bill. Now, the point I make is this: that whilst I admit the competence of this House of Commons to commit the public to the expenditure of a sum of money which is now under our control, I dispute altogether the competence of this House to commit the future public and a future House of Commons to additional expenditure for the purposes of this Bill. I think I can support that argument very clearly by showing that under the operation of the Bill as at present drawn there will not be a sum of £30,000,000 lent once for all, nor a sum of £30,000,000 outstanding every year, but £30,000,000 plus £300,000, or some other sum in addition, which any hon. Gentleman can ascertain equal to the capital sum of very nearly £15,000,000 sterling. I do not care what the House of Commons, as at present constituted, may think of this, but when 416 once the people of this country master the fact that a Tory Government which came into power pledged to resist a Bill for land purchase in Ireland at the expense of the British Exchequer, when once they learn that not only do they commit themselves to the sum of £30,000,000 which they borrow, bat commit the Parliament of the future to a large sum they do not provide for but leave to the future, I believe there will be a strong expression of feeling, I may almost say of public anger, at the action of a Government which takes this course. Mine is no Party view in the blame I attach to the Government. It does not matter to me what Party brings in a Bill of this kind. I should resist any Bill, though introduced by right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Front Bench on this side—there are few of them there now I admit—I should resist with the same animation any Bill for the purpose of pledging British credit to lay out one set of landlords and induct another set of landlords. This is no vain vaunt, though hon. Members may smile. It is a favourite taunt that we oppose this Bill from Party motives, but it is not true in fact. We opposed the Liberal Government in 1886. I know there were some on this side who supported the proposal of 1886, just as hon. Members opposite who support this Bill now opposed that of 1886. For a great many of us I can say we announced our determination to oppose any Bill for the purpose of pledging British credit to buy out Irish landlords. It cannot, therefore, be charged against us that we are animated by any feeling of personal or political antagonism to right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I will not press this line of argument, for I know it is general in character; but I thought, in view of what has been said, we should once more declare the grounds of our opposition. Holding these views, we must support this proposal to limit the total amount to be paid out of the Exchequer, and are justified in doing so by speech and vote.
§ (10.30.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 51; Noes 132.—(Div. List, No. 201.)
§ (10.39.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I beg to move, in page 7, line 19, after "Guarantee Fund," to insert "provided that no such advance shall be made 417 without the consent of the Treasury." About half an hour ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that there need be no fear in future in respect of this Bill, because all the advances would be subject to the control of the Treasury. Later on the right hon. Gentleman said he must not be misunderstood, and the control of the Treasury only applied to advances beyond the £30,000,000; that is to say, advances made under the re-lending clause, and that the original £30,000,000 would not be subject to the control of the Treasury. That raises an important point. Why should the re-lending portion be subject to Treasury control, whilst the original advances are not subject to such control? Under the Bill as it now stands, the salaries of the Land Commissioners will be placed on the Consolidated Fund, and the Commissioners will, therefore, not be under the control of the Treasury or of Parliament. Unless my Amendment be adopted, it will be quite possible for the Commissioners to play ducks and drakes with the £30,000,000 in carrying out the Act, without the Treasury or Parliament having power to stop the advances they make. This appears to me to be a serious defect in the Bill, and I therefore move this Amendment.
We have passed the point at which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to introduce the Amendment. I will, therefore, put it at the end of the sub-section.
In page 7, line 23, after the word "Fund," to insert the words "Provided that no such advance shall be made without the consent of the Treasury."—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (10.43.) MR. GOSCHEN
Personally, I should be very willing that the Treasury should have the control the right hon. Gentleman proposes to give them, especially as when a new Administration came into Office the action of the Treasury would give an immediate indication whether or not they intended to carry out the policy of the Act by sanctioning new advances. On the other hand, it must be remembered that this measure involves not only questions of finance, but those of policy, and I do not think it would be desirable to place the control of the working of the Bill in the hands of a Department only, instead of those of 418 the whole Government. At a certain point a case might be made out for the interposition of the Treasury; but it is a very different thing to say the Treasury should have the power to stop the operation of the whole Act. Surely it is advisable that the tenants in Ireland should know that a certain sum is available, and be able to make their calculations accordingly. If a new Secretary to the Treasury or a new Chancellor of the Exchequer could at any moment stop the operation of the Act, one-half its benefit might be destroyed. Consequently, we do not see our way to accept the suggestion contained in the Amendment.
§ (10.45.) SIR G. CAMPBELL
It is all very well to speak of the Secretary to the Treasury exercising an official control over the whole working of this Bill. The Secretary to the Treasury is the mouthpiece and servant of the Government, who are the mouthpieces and servants of this House. The broad question is, whether these irresponsible Commissioners are to have the power of disposing of illimitable millions for an unlimited number of years without the control of the Government, who are responsible to this House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke reasonably in his haste a short time ago when he said the Treasury would have control.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I was dealing with the speaker who had preceded me, and who had referred to the elastic character of the Bill.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
This is not a Bill for an initial expenditure of £30,000,000 only, but it may be for an expenditure of £40,000.000 or £60,000,000 or £100,000,000, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer now admits that the Treasury will have no control.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The hon. Member will see that this is a matter which the House of Commons has entirely in its own hands. The £30,000,000 or £32,000,000 can only be increased to any material extent by the act of the House. I think the hon. Member will see that under no circumstances could that amount be increased to £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 without the intervention of the House or the Government.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
Did not the Chancellor of the Exchequer tell us this evening that the Probate Duty grant had already increased to a larger amount than when this Bill was drawn? I 419 understand that these grants may increase automatically to any extent. At all events, the principle involved in this Amendment is whether we are for an indefinite number of years to part with the control of Parliament, and to give to an irresponsible body of Irishmen the power of dipping their hands so deeply into the British Treasury for the purpose of assisting the Irish landlords.
§ (10.50.) COLONEL NOLAN
I hope this Amendment will not be accepted. It is often stated that Ireland is the hunting ground of the two Political Parties, but if you entrust to one of the Party the distribution of £30,000,000, you will increase their facilities for catching game. It is said this money ought to be within the control of the Secretary to the Treasury. But there is not only a Financial Secretary to the Treasury, but a Patronage Secretary, and the probability is that the latter would have a great deal to do with the distribution of the £30,000,000. Although the Patronage Secretary is generally a most affable gentleman, it is well he should not be entrusted with the control of this expenditure. Of course, the Commissioners in Ireland cannot play ducks and drakes with the money. If they did anything extraordinary, an Act or a Resolution would be passed in the House of Commons, and they could not defy steps of that kind.
§ (10.52.) MR. H. H. FOWLER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman must know that the Secretaries to the Treasury are subordinate officers, whose superiors are responsible to this House, so that the control of the Treasury means the control of this House. The object of the Amendment is that Parliament should have control over the lending of the money, whether it is £10,000,000, £20,000,000, or £30,000,000. No doubt if I myself were passing a Bill and wished to secure its permanent operation, I should be glad to use a Ministerial majority for the purpose; but that is not constitutional; it is not the practice of Parliament with reference to the administration of public money. The practice of Parliament is to maintain control over financial operations. It is part of their complaint against the Chancellor of the Exchequer that his desire is that this Parliament should settle many things in finance for the next 10 years, and that no future Parliament should 420 have any voice whatever in the thing so settled. If this Bill works well and does good to Ireland, and if the repayments are punctually made, Parliament will not interfere with its working; having once committed itself to the experiment, Parliament will pause a long time before it disturbs a beneficial Act; but no financial operation ought to fee taken out of the control of Parliament by any majority, whether Liberal or Tory. On these grounds I support the Amendment, which will not impair the working of the measure.
§ (10.56.) MR. GOSCHEN
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the control of the House of Commons was maintained over the £50,000,000 that formed the first instalment in the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman. If not, was that Bill thoroughly unconstitutional? This Bill does not in that respect depart from the constitutional position taken by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, in whose Government the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton occupied a conspicuous post.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
The Bill of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian was not even read a second time, and I am sure that if it had reached the Committee stage provisions would have been inserted to secure the control of Parliament.
§ (10.59.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I have not risen to join in this pot-and-kettle fight between the two Front Benches as to their Land Purchase Bills, abominating both of them. But the £50,000,000 in the Bill of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian was not to be lent and re-lent, and that makes a difference. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to imagine that the Land Commission is composed not of mortals, but of angels, who may object to any species of control. I have not that confidence in them. I am one of those who believe in Treasury control, and I must say it is somewhat indelicate on the part of gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench to take advantage of the absence of the First Lord of the Treasury to seek to deprive him of the full control which the Amendment will give him. In supporting the Amendment I am really standing up in defence of the absent First Lord of the Treasury. I could not be silent when I saw the 421 colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman take advantage of his absence—on some kind of Admiralty duties, I suppose—to deprive him of that control which we wish he should have in this matter. The main question is—shall Parliament have control over the money? I agree with my right hon. Friend that a majority of this House should have the power of controlling it. My right hon. Friend certainly says it would not be likely to interfere with the Act.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I am glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman. We know the Act will not work well, and therefore we may rely on his support when he becomes a distinguished Member of a future Cabinet. But whether the Act works well or not I do insist that future Parliaments ought not to be bound by financial arrangements made by this Parliament.
§ (11.2.) MR. MORTON
I understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that the contributions would be under the control of this House. Surely that must be wrong, for so far as future advances are concerned, if you make local grants on account, say, of free education, you liberate automatically a large additional sum for operations under this Bill. Those contributions will not be under the control of this House. I shall support the Amendment because it will give us the control which I say this House should have.
§ (11.4.) MR. CONYBEARE
The measure of 1886 differed from this in various ways. The £50,000,000 proposed to be advanced on that was to be advanced not to individual tenants without any buffer between them and the State, but to Ireland as a country. All the money was to pass through the hands of an official called the Receiver General, who is responsible to, and under the control of, Parliament. But under this Bill the cash is put on the Consolidated Fund. Again, under the 1886 Bill the Sinking Fund for the reduction of capital and interest would have remained; under this Bill it will disappear altogether. I am sorry my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Galway is going to support the Government in its present unconstitutional course. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has opposed the Amendment on 422 grounds wholly inadequate; he stated that it would impose undue responsibility on the Treasury. But will he pardon me for pointing out that in this matter the Treasury means the House of Commons? If the shoulders of the Treasury are not broad enough to bear this burden, I can only say that the action of the Government in trying to impose this financial burden upon the country by the force of its majority is not such as we should have expected from an upright and honourable English Government. I do not anticipate there will be any hurry to interfere with the working of the Act if it operates with a fair show of success. But if it does not have that success, then I venture to think the right hon. Gentleman himself would not insist that the Government would be wrong in attempting either to repeal it, or to let it lapse. Governments, as a rule, are too prone to accept the mischievous actions of their predecessors, and I am afraid a future Government would be only too ready to let this Act go on working, whatever its results. The next argument used by the right hon. Gentleman was that if the Amendment were accepted the tenants would be placed in a state of uncertainty by being at the mercy of the Treasury, and not knowing if the Act would be continued in operation. But surely uncertainty must prevail in any case, for no one can tell what action a future Parliament may take in regard to the Act. It would be quite within its competency to revoke the Act, and there must necessarily be this disturbing influence of uncertainty; I therefore hope the Government will accept the Amendment.
§ (11.14.) MR. SHAW-LEFEVRE
I can only repeat, I think it is most desirable we should retain some kind of general control over the enormous sums which it is proposed to hand over to the Land Commissioners. I do not see that the Government have answered our objections at all.
§ (11.15.) The Committee divided: Ayes 57; Noes 134.—(Div. List, No. 202.)
§ (11.26.) MR. LABOUCHERE
I have to propose a proviso at the end of the sub-section to secure annual Returns to Parliament of advances made under this sub-section.
Order, order! The Committee has already decided to 423 have Returns made to Parliament of the advances made. It is covered by Subsection 1.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS
I think we should have an assurance from the Government that it is so covered, because in moving the Amendment accepted by the Government giving those Returns I had not this case in mind.
Order, order! The first part of Clause 1 provides that Returns of advances under the Land Purchase Act shall be made in the prescribed form. It was added at the end that quarterly Returns should be made, giving full particulars in respect of such advances.
§ (11.29.) MR. LABOUCHERE
I quite admit that I was in error, but I was led into the mistake by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who evidently did not know what had been decided, and immediately intimated that he should oppose this Return—the attitude he is ready to adopt towards every Amendment from this side of the House.
§ (11.30.) MR. CONYBEARE
I wish to submit, Sir, that it is competent to move an addition that the Returns made shall show the excess over the amount under the Ashbourne Act which will be advanced under this section.
Order, order! I gave the hon. Member for Northampton the words of Sub-section 1, and he appears to be satisfied that what he desires to do is provided for.
§ (11.31.) MR. STOREY
Now I beg to move an Amendment that a Return shall be made each year to this House by the Lord Lieutenant of the apportionment to each county. The object is apparent. Some of us are suspicious as to how this Act will be worked. We are of opinion that, as in the case of the present Acts, very little of the money will go to those parts of Ireland which need it most; it will be given to those which need it least. What control over or what knowledge of this will Parliament have unless we get some such Return as I have suggested. Absolutely none. We may, it is true, ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be good enough to give us Returns from time to time, but everybody knows he may decline to do so, and therefore I say that care should be taken in the Bill itself to ensure that our reasonable demands for information are satisfied. I do not think 424 it is unreasonable to want to know the nature of the apportionment orders decreed by the Lord Lieutenant.
In page 7, line 23, after the word "Fund," to insert the words "and a Return of this apportionment to each county shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament each year by the Lord Lieutenant."—(Mr. Storey.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (11.37.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The Amendment does not make sense. The transaction in question could only occur in any county when the limit of its Guarantee Fund is nearly reached. That will be rare, and could only happen once, and the idea of bringing in an annual Return is wholly absurd on the face of it.
§ (11.38.) MR. STOREY
It is by no means clear that it will occur only once, because, although the fund allotted to any county may be exhausted, a certain portion of the sum repaid will accumulate for the purpose of being re-advanced, and we want to know how and when those additional advances are made. I will take one county in which £500,000 is to be advanced. We will suppose that loans to the extent of £450,000 have been made, and the Lord Lieutenant has issued his declaration that no further advances shall be made in that county. The interest on the £450,000 will be accruing year by year, the 1 per cent. Sinking Fund will be accruing, and will be added to the original fund allocated to the county. Yet although there will, in the course of time, be a large sum ready to be advanced, the Lord Lieutenant may refuse to allow the advances to be made. We think that would be a disadvantage to some counties, and, therefore, we ask to have Returns made to Parliament which will show us the amount accrued, and enable us to judge if the intentions of the Bill are being given effect to. There is a grave suspicion in many minds that the Act may be worked for political ends. It is to be at the mercy of a political official, and it is not an unknown circumstance in Ireland to find that Acts meant for the good of the whole have been worked for the benefit of the few. I will give an illustration. In the first Light Railway Act which this House was induced to pass, the Lord Lieutenant was enabled to advance to the Board of Works a con- 425 siderable sum of money. When Parliament granted the money we understood it was to be applied to the poorer districts. But as a fact much of it was handed over to the rich Province of Ulster.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 113; Noes 65.—(Div. List, No. 203.)
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," accordingly put, and negatived.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.