§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 8.
In page 9, line 30, after the word "transferred," to insert the words "Provided that if the Town Council or Town Commissioners of any such county of a city or county of a town shall by resolution passed in the prescribed manner so declare, this Act shall not apply to such county of a city or county of a town."— (Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (1.37.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
Last night I asked by how much the exclusion of the exempted cities will diminish the capital amount of Stock for the purposes of the Act. I ventured to suggest the amount would be £4,000,000. It would be convenient if we could learn what the amount is.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND(Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
Unfortunately I have no separate statistics. I telegraphed to Ireland at the earliest possible moment this morning, and I expect information in the course of the afternoon, but I hardly think it is necessary for the Committee to wait for the figures before arriving at a conclusion on the point. As I said before, population alone ought to be, broadly speaking, the main ground for 650 an action in this matter. I think the line we have drawn is as good as can be drawn, and I am disposed to recommend hon. Gentlemen not to press the matter.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I must point out a serious defect in the Bill. The boundaries of some of the exempted cities extend for miles into the country. In the outskirts of the cities there is a purely agricultural population. Under the Bill as it stands many bond fide farmers will be excluded from its benefits. In the case of Limerick, Derry, and Cork, injustice will be done to very many persons.
§ MR. SEXTON
I am unable to admit the equity of the line drawn in the Bill. Londonderry, with a circuit of agricultural lands around it, will be excluded from the operation of the measure, while Waterford will be included.
§ (1.45.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 48; Noes 136.—(Div. List, No. 220.)
§ (1.55.) Amendment proposed, in page 9, line 31, to leave out "county of a city," and insert "municipal borough."— (Mr. M. Healy.)
§ MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)
Some Consequential Amendment will be necessary in reference to the proportion of the Irish Probate Duty grant going direct to the borough.
§ (1.58.) MR. SEXTON
In reference to the principle upon which the line was drawn dividing the towns in the two Schedules, the right hon. Gentleman said last night that if Members desired that the whole of the towns mentioned should be excluded he would be content, and no voice was raised in dissent; nevertheless, he seems to have altogether altered his mind since last night. There are other considerations than population to be taken into account; but if the line is to be drawn according to population, I think it is placed much too high. It would be more reasonable to adopt the 651 figure in the Redistribution of Seats Act, and exclude those towns having a separate Parliamentary existence. Three, if not four, of the included towns should rank in the 2nd Schedule, and not in the 1st.
§ (2.0.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not think the hon. Member has any reason to complain of the course the Government have pursued. Our anxiety has been to draw the line fairly, and while excluding strictly urban communities not to unduly deprive the Guarantee Fund of assistance. I will not go over the ground again. If we begin excluding these cities, there are others that will advance an equal claim, and I think we have drawn the line fairly.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. M. HEALY (Cork)
I do not know what view the Government take of the Amendment I now have to propose. The right hon. Gentleman said last night it would receive careful consideration, and perhaps he will now tell us the result of that consideration. I may say at once, although it would apply to the five towns in the 2nd Schedule, that I consider it is unlikely that cities like Dublin and Cork, which are entirely urban in character, would be willing to pledge the credit of their rates to secure the operation of the Act in the rural districts which surround them, but the case I have particularly in mind is Londonderry. There, as everybody acquainted with that part of Ireland knows, there is a large extent of agricultural land included in the municipal borough, the property of the Irish Society, and the Society draws from it a considerable sum in the shape of rent. We all know that the London Companies have gone a great deal lately in the direction of selling their land, and some of them have sold out the whole of their estates, and we may look forward to the day when the Irish Society may find it expedient to do so. In this state of things it is very possible the Corporation of Londonderry might consider it important to the prosperity of their district, as a whole, that the occupiers of this agricultural land should be 652 made owners of their holdings, and they might think such an object cheaply effected by such a sacrifice as might be involved by the pledging of their rates, bringing themselves within the provisions of the Act. Of course, it will be left perfectly voluntary for the Corporation to adopt such a course, and I think it is desirable that they should have the option for the purpose of getting whatever benefits may arise under the Act. Even in the other cities—Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and Belfast—there will be small portions of agricultural land which will be excluded by the Act, but I do not suppose these small holdings would be deemed sufficiently important to justify the pledging of the city rates. Londonderry, however, occupies an exceptional position, and the Corporation should, I think, have the power my Amendment would give.
In page 9, line 34 at the end of the Clause, to insert "Provided that, if the town council of any such municipal borough shall by resolution passed in the prescribed manner so declare, this Act shall apply to such municipal borough in like manner as if such municipal borough were specified in the First Schedule to this Act."—(Mr. M. Healy.)
§ (2.7.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I can only say I have no objection to the Amendment; and if it should induce any of the five excluded cities to come voluntarily under the Act, and extend the scope of land purchase, I shall be very glad.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. SEXTON
The 1st sub-section of this clause provides that, where a holding is situated in more than one county, the Land Commission shall, according to the area and value of the holding, determine in which county it shall be deemed to be for the purposes of this Act. Although this appears at the first blush a very reasonable proposition, it may work out unfairly. There may be holdings overlapping along the whole length of the boundary line 653 of the county, and if the Commission apportion the liability according to the proportion of the holding in a county, the result may be that the burden will be unfairly distributed. I think the provision should be supplemented, and that care should be taken in regard to the whole of the holdings overlapping, so that there should be an approach to an equation. The value of the whole of the holdings should be taken together, and the share of liability should be as near as may be in proportion to the extent of the holdings in a county.
§ (2.11.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not think there will be any such difficulty as the hon. Member suggests. The Commissioners will, of course, do justice between counties on consideration of all the circumstances of the overlapping holding, and it is against all probability that all along the line the larger portion of holdings will be on one side. Such holdings will sometimes be mainly on one side and sometimes on the other, and I think we may leave this matter to the discretion of the Commission rather than endeavour to produce an equality by rule. I do not think the scheme of the hon. Member would work unless we were tolerably sure that the whole of the holdings on the dividing line were going to be purchased. Of course, there will be sporadic sales here and there.
§ MR. SEXTON
It could be done very simply if on each occasion the authority, the Commission, or the Lord Lieutenant, were to have regard to the purchases already effected, and so from time to time keep the balance as between the counties.
§ MR. M. HEALY
I invite the Attorney General for Ireland to consider whether the Amendment we have made to the latter part of the section will not compel some alteration of the 1st sub-section. The section was originally drawn on the basis of counties of cities, and this reference we have struck out. In addition to considering the question of holdings overlapping counties, we have to consider holdings partly in a municipal borough. 654 In the case of counties, of course both are under the Bill; but in the case of a borough, it is conceivable that the borough might be outside the Bill altogether. Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman will consider this point.
§ MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
I should like to know what increase there will be in the borrowing powers of a county owing to the alteration made in regard to the five exempted cities?
§ MR. MORTON
There will necessarily be an increase in the Guarantee Fund, and therefore I assume there will be an increase in the borrowing powers. As the Amendment was not on the Paper, we had not an opportunity of considering it closely; but I assume that if an objection to extending exemptions is that it would decrease the borrowing powers, so I suppose an extension of the guarantee would increase the borrowing powers. I should like to know how much these borrowing powers will be increased in these various districts?
§ (2.16.) MR. SEXTON
I am of opinion the clause is indefensible and unjust. The line drawn between liability and freedom from liability is unreasonable, and the exclusion of Derry from liability in view of the fact that the improvements of the town have been largely effected through the contributions from the Irish Society, which derives its rents from agricultural land there, is grotesque in its unfairness. There are cities like Waterford which are far less connected with the rural population and their prosperity than Londonderry. The limit line of population is drawn far too high, and leaves in the county towns, which have independent existence and interests, quite apart from the rural districts around. The existence of Local Municipal Government does differentiate between them and other towns. If the fire exempted cities were not excluded there would be £35,000,000 of Stock instead of £30,000,000, but the inclusion of smaller cities represents, per- 655 haps, £500,000 between them. I see no method or equity in the division adopted, and so I shall make a protest by division against the clause.
§ MR. T. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
I am a little inclined to agree with the hon. Member as to the inclusion of the City of Derry in the Bill. In the County of Derry the inclusion of the city would doubtless be looked upon with favour, for the county would thereby receive more money for the purposes contemplated by the measure. Whether it would be fair or not to include the city is another question.
§ (2.23.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 121; Noes 61.—(Div. List, No. 221.)
§ Clause 9.
§ (2.30.) MR. SEXTON
The provision made in Sub-section 2 appears to me unusual and inappropriate. The usual course with regard to rules to be laid before Parliament is for the Department to make them and to submit them to the House, letting them lie on the Table for a certain time. Under this clause the House will have no power to deal with them, and legislative power will be delegated to a Department of the State. Another strange provision is that when the rules are once made they cannot be altered without the consent of Parliament, although they are made without such consent.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
The hon. Member seems to have missed the point of Sub-section 2. As far as the rules relate to new Stock or the redemption of Stock, it would be unwise and improper that they should be altered without the consent of Parliament. Before the Report stage I will look into the clause, and see whether any change in the wording is necessary, but I think that any provisions with regard to the Sinking Fund should be surrounded with the utmost safeguards.
§ (2.36.) MR. SEXTON
I move to insert, after "(a)," the words "the Sinking Fund and," so as to give power to 656 make rules with regard to the Sinking Fund.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 9, line 38, after "(a)," to insert "the Sinking Fund and."—(Mr. Sexton)
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 10.
§ (2.40.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
In the absence of my righthon. Friend(Mr. H. H. Fowler),I beg to move his Amendment. The Land Commissioners under this Bill will be important Executive Officers. They will be charged with the buying of immense estates. In other cases in which great sums are dealt with nearly all Commissioners hold their offices during pleasure, and are responsible to the Government and Parliament. That is the case with the Fishery Commissioners and the Harbour Commissioners. It was the case with the Army Purchase Commissioners, whose duties were not at all unlike those of these gentlemen. It is the case with the Board of Public Works in Ireland. The Irish Board of Public Works deals with a few hundred thousands a year, the Harbour and Fishery Commissioners with scores or dozens of thousands, and the Army Purchase Commissioners dealt with a total of £7,000,000. Here it is a question of perhaps £60,000,000, extending over a period which the longest lived man in the Committee at the present moment will not see the end of. I do not think Parliament has any right to entrust these immense executive powers to any officers over whom the Government has absolutely no control whatever. I deny that the duties of the Purchase Commissioners are judicial. The duties of the Land Commission have, as far as their purchase functions go, ceased to be judicial and become executive. No country gentleman would allow estates to be purchased for him by an agent over whom he had no control. The Bill does not provide for any executive control whatever over these high officials. They can be removed only by an Address 657 from both Houses of Parliament, and the Committee know what that means. It means an appeal to a House in which there is no representative of the Irish tenants, while there are many Irish landlords and their friends. Even apart from the connection of the House of Lords with the land, an Address of both Houses is an exceedingly cumbrous method of bringing to bear the animadversion of the Government on bad or corrupt administration. Such animadversion ought to be exercised by the Government of the day. It is, indeed, a mild shape of control that is asked for, because the Lord Chancellor is an Officer standing somewhere between a Member of the Executive Government and a great independent authority.
In page 10, line 8, after the word "perpetual," to insert the words "but it shall be lawful for the Lord Chancellor to remove for inability or misbehaviour any Commissioner other than the judicial Commissioner."—(Sir George Trevelyan.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
(2.49.) MR. A. J.BALFOUR
I differ from the right hon. Gentleman chiefly in the view which he takes of the functions of these high officials. No doubt they have administrative functions, but the right hon. Gentleman seems to have turned his eyes away from the most striking and important fact connected with land administration in Ireland. The questions at issue have divided classes in Ireland, and have been made the battle-ground of contending political Parties. If we would put between these contending Parties officials whose functions are to be carried out with indifference to both, and with disregard to the passions of either, we must give these officials the fixity of tenure which is given to English and Irish Judges. We give that fixity of tenure to Judges in England and Ireland in order that they may not be influenced in their administration of the law by political passions; yet no political passions which affect those Judges could compare with the passions which animate one or other of the great Parties in Ire- 658 land in connection with this question. Those officials may have directed against them the full force of apolitical organisation, with all its apparatus of newspapers, invective, and abuse. It is from such influences that the Government desire to withdraw those officials. I cannot recommend the Committee to diminish the security which the Government deliberately propose to give to those gentlemen.
§ (2.54.) MR. SEXTON
This Land Commission with which you are dealing has already existed for eleven years. I think no one would more fiercely resent than the right hon. Gentleman the assumption that these responsible and eminent persons have been influenced by public criticism, or that they are so sensitive as to be afraid of it. It is but right that this House should have control of these officials, but if that cannot be conceded, then they ought, at least, to be under the control of the head of the Commission. These Commissioners cannot be removed save by a joint Address from both Houses, and if there is disagreement between the landlords and tenants, we may be assured that the part of the landlord will be taken in the other House, and that therefore a joint Address will be impossible. It should not be forgotten that it is a grave and perilous step to withdraw from the control of this House men who will have the control of £30,000,000. In the carrying out of a system of such paramount importance to Ireland, you propose to deny both to the people of Ireland themselves and to this House the right to express an opinion as to the manner in which the important functions connected with the office of these Commissioners are discharged. The functions of the Land Commission are not of a judicial character, the judicial functions being discharged by the Judicial Commissioner, who already holds his office under the same tenure as that of the Judges, and whose salary is paid from the Consolidated Fund. In point of fact, the Judicial Commissioner has denied that the other Commissioners have power to interfere with judicial questions, and the other Commissioners have accepted his dictum. Moreover, the lay Commis- 659 sioners have no judicial training. One of them has been a solicitor, another has been a land agent, another was a superior official in one of the Courts of Dublin where he had no judicial functions to discharge except to record the exercise of such functions, and another is the son of a Judge. Such are the gentlemen who hold the office of Land Commissioners, and I fail to discover anything in their position or training which entitles them to be considered as judicial persons. Their functions are simply administrative. What is it they have to do? They simply say whether or not a piece of land has been correctly valued at a given sum. What is there of a judicial nature in that? Beyond this, the Land Commissioners, so far from occupying a judicial position, will under this Act become personal litigants before the tribunals of the country. Whenever any one fails to pay his annuity, he will have to go before the Courts at the instance of these Commissioners, whose duty it will be to institute process to sell up the defaulter's property on his failing to make good his payments. Was any more absurd argument ever put forward than to say that men performing these functions occupy a judicial position. There is nothing whatever in the public life or position of these Commissioners to justify the proposal contained in this Bill. They have not even to discharge the same kind of functions as fall to the lot of the Lunacy Commissioners and several other Bodies, who, in point of fact, are called upon to perform judicial duties. As to the Lunacy Commissioners, they have at times to discharge functions of the highest judicial importance, because on their decisions the liberty and even the lives of many persons may frequently depend. Indeed, there are few judicial functions more extreme than theirs, except that which is exercised by a Judge in the sentence of death. Then, again, we have the Charity Commissioners, who are charged with judicial functions of the first importance in relation to property. They are called upon to direct how certain properties are to be applied; and in this respect their functions are somewhat similar to those of the Court of Chancery. Again, in the case of the Scotch Crofter Commissioners, the functions exercised are of a 660 much wider description than those of the Irish Land Commissioners, because the Scotch Commissioners have not only the power of fixing the rents, but they have also, on a general view of the proceedings, the power to say whether the arrears of rent are to be enforced, and to what extent they may be reduced. By a mere stroke of the pen the Crofter Commission may wipe out the arrears that have accumulated for 10 years, and this power they have actually exercised in numerous cases. Nevertheless, none of these Bodies, including the last, which is enabled to reduce the incomes of the Scotch landlords by cancelling the debts due to them from their tenants, is withdrawn from Parliamentary review and control. Therefore I say that no argument has been adduced in favour of the withdrawal of the Land Commissioners from the same control; and, in conclusion I submit that there is nothing, either based on past experience or the nature of their functions, which justifies the course the Government are taking with regard to these Commissioners. (3.8.)
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
MR. MAC NEILL
The opposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Amendment of my right hon. Friend I think justifies the worst surmises of the most hostile critics of the Bill. It is intended that the Land Commissioners, who will have to deal with £30,000,000 sterling, shall be entirely independent of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that these Land Commissioners hold judicial posts. Would he be surprised to hear that this Amendment merely gives the Commissioners the same tenure as that upon which English County Court Judges hold office? I contend that the Land Commissioners will occupy a very similar position. They will act both as Judge and jury, and they will have to exercise an independent judgment upon delicate questions of tenant right. Why should they be put on a different footing? Is it because the Government will use 661 them for the purpose of inflicting injustice on the people? I know of no case in which a layman is given a position from which he can only be removed by an Address from both Houses of Parliament; I know of few cases in which Judges are given that position. The tenure of irremovability except upon an Address of both Houses of Parliament, is one unknown in the case of colonial or Indian Judges. The right hon. Gentleman cannot surely know what a stigma he is, by anticipation, throwing upon future Lord Chancellors by saying that the interests of these Commissioners would not be safe in their hands. This clause is the most ill-constructed and ill-devised of the whole Bill, and is a mere excrescence. No matter how grossly a man may misconduct himself, it will be impossible to remove him. It is notorious the House would never be able to put in force the machinery of moving an Address to the Crown. The clause ought to have been in the Land Department Bill. Its inclusion in the Land Purchase Bill seems to indicate a design to carry that Bill, and to throw over the Land Department Bill.
§ (3.44.) MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I wish to say a few words and to support the Amendment, but not on the ground so ably dealt with by the last speaker. I have no wish by this Amendment (which has been proposed in my absence by the right hon. Member for Bridgeton) to raise again the question of the irremovability of the Land Commissioners. That was discussed three or four weeks ago, and the House then decided that the salaries of these officials should be placed on the Consolidated Fund, and should not appear in the annual Votes. I am now advocating an Amendment with the intention and desire to make the Bill a workable Bill, and I hope my proposal will commend itself to the judgment of all impartial men. I would suggest to the Chief Secretary that it would be in the interests of public business to recognise the Members of the Opposition as entitled to some voice in such a Bill as this before the Committee, and that he should receive Amendments made by them bonâ fide to improve the 662 Bill. The Amendment does not provide that the House of Commons shall have the power to remove any official, but that the highest judicial functionary in the land, the Lord Chancellor, shall exercise, with respect to the Commissioners other than the Judicial Commissioner, the powers which Parliament has given to the Lord Chancellor with respect to other judicial functionaries of the Kingdom, excepting the Judges of the High Court. The terms of the Amendment are that it shall be lawful for the Lord Chancellor to remove for inability or misbehaviour any official other than the Judicial Commissioner. I have taken the words from recent legislation, for they are exactly those employed by Parliament in the appointment of the Railway Commissioners—a judicial body as important as the Irish Land Commissioners. These are the terms, too, upon which our County Court Judges hold office. Why in this particular case should we adopt the more cumbrous procedure of an address to the Crown? I do not wish to allude to recent events beyond to suggest, even in the slightest manner, the difficulty which this House might have been in a few weeks ago through lacking power to deal with the contingency which then arose, except by the joint action of both Houses. An Address to Her Majesty from both Houses of Parliament will, under the Bill, be necessary for the removal of a subordinate official who has developed lunacy, or who has been convicted of a misdemeanour or a felony. If the Lord Chancellor cannot be trusted, the office had better be abolished. It is foolish and unbusinesslike to leave a great Department of the State, which will have to deal with a sum of £30,000,000, exposed to the risks and accidents of human infirmity; and if the Chief Secretary will suggest some other tribunal than that mentioned in the Amendment, which will better satisfy the objections of the Government, the Opposition will gladly withdraw their Amendment in favour of the Government's proposal. I did not put in the Lord Lieutenant instead of the Lord Chancellor, in case it might be suggested he would be actuated by political motives.
§ (3.52.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am animated by no special preferences as to the wording of this or any other clause of the Bill; and the Government have always shown themselves ready to accept Amendments which will improve the measure. Sometimes they have accepted some which they did not altogether approve, but which did not materially injure the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has very considerately put on one side the topic which has formed the main staple of the speeches: as to whether or not a fixed tenure shall be given to these Commissioners. I will shortly state why I think that the Bill as drawn is better than the Bill as the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton would make it. Admitting that the machinery of an Address from both Houses of Parliament is cumbrous, I do not think it would be difficult to work in the cases suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. If a Land Commissioner were to lose his reason, or to be convicted of a fraud, it would not be difficult to get an Address, praying Her Majesty to remove the official, passed through both Houses of Parliament without discussion. In substitution for this process it is proposed to give absolute power to the Lord Chancellor. I do not see why we should not have good Land Commissioners as well as good Lord Chancellors. As a matter of fact, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the Lord Chancellor is always a member of a particular Administration; and there is no ground for supposing that the future course of Irish politics is likely to raise future Lord Chancellors of Ireland further above the influence of Party feeling. I should be very reluctant to hand over, not to this or to that Lord Chancellor, but to Lord Chancellors for all time, whatever might be the mutations of politics—to a partizan and possibly extremely unscrupulous Lord Chancellor—the absolute control of these five Commissioners, who, in their turn, control, not merely the £30,000,000, but the whole of the property of two great contending classes in Ireland. If the right hon. Gentleman can suggest other machinery not open to these objec- 664 tions, the Government will be glad to consider it; but, in the meantime, I cannot think that we are absolved from the responsibility of seeing that, so far as in us lies, be the course of Irish history what it may, the persons to whom we hand over the control of this property should be above the storms and strife of Party politics.
§ (3.58.) MR. KNOX
Might I point out that this Amendment does not give the Lord Chancellor power over all the Commissioners may do. It merely proposes to give him power to remove a Land Commissioner for misbehaviour. I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman will contend that at the present moment the Railway Commissioners, or the County Court Judges, or any officials who are subject to the jurisdiction of the Lord Chancellor are incapacitated from doing their work by the fact that the Lord Chancellor can remove them if they become incapable or mad. If a Commissioner happens to be a lunatic the Lord Chancellor will, of course, know it at once. It would not be so with this House. Of course, if it were a case of homicidal mania there would be no difficulty in this House removing him; but supposing there was sufficient method in his madness to make him always give decisions pleasing to the landlords in the other House, how could we get him removed? It is frequently a matter of great difficulty to tell when a man is or is not mentally incapable of acting. Under this clause, however, Parliament will have to decide whether a man in Dublin is or is not mentally incapable. I venture to say that is a preposterous proposal, and I support the Amendment.
§ (4.1.) MR. MORTON
I take this to be an important Amendment, which we have a right to press on the Government. I understand it to be also a compromise of a suggestion that will be discussed later on respecting the control of the Commissioners.
§ MR. MORTON
Well, I should take it to be, because I do not think we are 665 likely to pass the other proposal. I cannot help thinking that the real objection to the Amendment is that this is a landlord's Bill. The Government desire to appoint Commissioners who will be in favour of the landlords—in fact, to pack the Bench—and then they want to take care that there shall be no power of removing the Commissioners for favouring the landlords.
§ (4.5.) SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
The question whether the Commissioners are in favour of the landlords or not can in no way touch the merits of the Amendment, which deals only with cases of inability or misconduct. I support the Amendment, and I would appeal to the Government to re-consider their decision. Practically, I do not regard it as a very important matter, because I believe that there would be very few cases of inability or misconduct to be dealt with. The present jurisdiction of the Lord Chancellor has very seldom been exercised. The Chief Secretary assumes that there will be good Land Commissioners; and the Amendment deals only with the contrary of that assumption. How can the House of Commons deal with inability or misconduct? We cannot take evidence at the Bar, and we have no means of inquiry. There are no means by which oral or written testimony can be received and weighed, and the House will have to depend largely on newspaper statements. Can there be a more fitting tribunal than that constituted by the Lord Chancellor? I have always objected to popular control over Judges. The Lord Chancellor would under this Amendment sit in his judicial capacity. The Chief Secretary spoke of a partisan Lord Chancellor. I do not believe any Lord Chancellor, especially in recent times, has ever shown partisanship in the discharge of duties of this kind. The Lord Chancellor will be able to take evidence, to listen to both sides, he will be able to know what the accused says and consider the whole matter. I appeal to the Chief Secretary to mention one Lord Chancellor in Ireland within his knowledge who has faltered in the discharge of his duty. I do not think the phrase "partisan Judges" is a well considered one. For my part, I would 666 rather have no tribunal to discharge this duty than men sitting on either Bench in the House of Commons.
§ (4.12.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have already stated the reasons which I thought, and still think, in spite of the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, compel the Government not to accept the Amendment as it stands. I have also stated that the Government have no prejudice in favour of the particular words of the Bill, but we are anxious to do what we can to meet what we recognise as a perfectly legitimate object. The effect of the speech just delivered is that it is possible to prophesy with confidence as to the future history of Ireland during the next 49 years, and that it is certain that every Lord Chancellor of Ireland for a generation and a half will maintain the same high standard of character as has been maintained by Lord Chancellors in the past I am utterly unable to look forward with confidence to the same extent as the right hon. and learned Gentleman. But I admit again that the procedure of a Resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament to the Crown, praying for the dismissal of an official, is cumbrous, and that it is, perhaps, well we should look for some more practical method. What I suggest is that we should add to the Amendment the words—Every order for removal shall state the reasons for which it is made, and no such order shall come into operation until it has lain before both Houses of Parliament for not less than thirty days, nor if either Houses passes a Re-solution objecting to it—that will effect the object I have in. view. It will not secure the object of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Donegal (Mr. MacNeill), but I believe it will partially effect the object of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton. In the interest of peace and the progress of business I suggest the Amendmept. I cannot accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman unmitigated by the addition I now propose, but in that addition the object of the right hon. Gentleman and my object may be adequately attained.
§ (4.17.) MR. H. H. FOWLER
I do not wish to revive the controversy between the right hon. and learned Gentleman 667 the Member for Bury and the Chief Secretary as to the partisanship of future Lord Chancellors, but I must say while the Chief Secretary takes a pessimistic view of Lord Chancellors of the future he takes an optimistic view of Land Commissioners. I am quite prepared to accept the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment.
Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment,
To add the words, "Every order of removal shall state the reasons for which it is made, and no such order shall come into operation until it has lain before both Houses of Parliament for not less than thirty days, nor if either House passes a resolution objecting to it."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ (4.20.) MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury as to whether he is prepared to accept the proposed addition to the Amendment. The effect of the original Amendment is that the matter shall be taken from the region of politics, but the Amendment proposed by the Chief Secretary will, if carried, have this effect: that even if the Lord Chancellor has honestly and fairly exercised the judicial functions cast upon him by the Bill, his action is to be subject to the review of the House of Commons. The Amendment of the Chief Secretary introduces an absolutely new principle in regard to the position of the highest judicial functionary in the land, that principle being that the action of a Judge in an exceedingly delicate matter shall be subject to be canvassed in the House of Commons, and the House shall have the opportunity, in ignorance of the facts of the case, of expressing an opinion upon his action.
MR. MAC NEILL
With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I think every word I have said with reference to the constitution of the Commission is justified. This is simply a contrivance to enable public money to be divided amongst the supporters of the present Government, and I shall not fail to express my opinion upon every English platform I speak from.
§ MR. CHANCE
I again appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Member 668 for Bury as to whether he is inclined to accept an Amendment which lays down the principle that the proceedings of the highest legal functionary in the land is to be subject to the review of this House.
§ (4.25.) SIR H. JAMES
I gladly accept the Amendment of the Chief Secretary. The Lord Chancellor will take evidence, and the facts he ascertains will be laid before the House.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
May I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that instead of "resolution of either House," the clause should read "resolution of both Houses"?
§ (4.27.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 201; Noes 73.—(Div. List, No. 222.)
§ Question proposed, "That the Amendment, as amended, be there inserted."
§ (4.40.) MR. MORTON
I entirely object to the Amendment as amended. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury objected to my introducing landlords into the Debate, but the only effect of this proposal will be to give the House of Lords, as a house of landlords, a power which they would not possess under the clause as originally drafted by the Government.
§ (4.42.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 209; Noes 62.—(Div. List, No. 223.)
§ Verbal Amendment agreed to.
§ (4.55.) MR. KNOX
I have now to move the Amendment which stands in my name, namely, in line 2, after the word "Commissioner," insert "appointed under the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1885." I think that this is a fitting occasion for protesting against the course taken by the Government in inserting in this clause a provision which concerns Commissioners other than those under the Act of 1885, although in every other clause of the Bill where the Land Commissioners are spoken of, the reference made is to Commissioners appointed under that Act. Under the Act of 1885 two Commissioners were appointed, who were 669 to discharge the business connected with land purchase subject to the appointment of other Commissioners from time to time. In this Bill, with which is amalgamated the other Acts, the same rule of construction applies, so that wherever the phrase "Land Commission" is used, it means the Land Commission acting through Mr. M'Carthy and Mr. Lynch. In the discussion which took place before the House went into Committee, on the Resolution upon which this Bill was based, this point was referred to, and I think that now the sense of the Committee ought to be taken on a method of draftsmanship, which is the reverse of frank and open towards this House. The result has been that it is almost impossible for anyone not familiar with all the details of the preceding Acts to know what the Committee is really doing in passing this clause, wherein one phrase is used in a totally different sense from that in which it is used elsewhere. I, for one, strongly protest against the proposal to give a different tenure to men who really have no more to do with land purchase than any ordinary Member of this House. Mr. Wrench and Mr. Fitzgerald, the Commissioners appointed under the Act of 1881, are fully engaged in fixing judicial rents and hearing appeals to fix judicial rents. They get through about 250 cases every month, and they have now about 6.000 cases to dispose of. It will take them a long time to get through these arrears. They have nothing, in the meantime, to do with land purchase in any way. That is entirely in the hands of the two Commissioners appointed by a Conservative Government at a time when that Government was not indifferent to the support it might expect to receive from those who sit in this part of the House. Now, however, when apart from a small section of those who occupy these Bandies, the present Conservative Government cannot expect to get any similar support, the official position given to Mr. M'Carthy and Mr. Lynch is to be revised. I venture to protest against this course. I say we do not object to a proper change in the status of the Land Purchase Commissioners when land purchase is made a permanent scheme, but we do object to introducing into that permanent 670 scheme a provision which has nothing to do with land purchase, and which is to give Mr. Wrench and Mr. Fitzgerald, by a side wind as it were, a position it would not have been thought necessary to give them if it were not that the Government know that Mr. Wrench and Mr. Fitzgerald are, perhaps, the most unpopular officials in Ireland, and would be the very first after a General Election, when another Government is in Office, to be dismissed in accordance with the general wish of the vast mass of the Irish people.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (5.8.) MR. SEXTON
I must say that I am very much astonished that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary should treat with silent contempt the moderate arguments used by my hon. Friend in proposing this Amendment. This is a Land Purchase Bill which proposes to develop the arrangements for the purchase of land in Ireland. If it were proposed to make a reasonable alteration in the tenure of office on the part of the Commissioners by this clause we should not say the Government are going beyond their right. But seeing that the purchase system is being extended, developed, and made permanent, we say that you ought not to propose to alter in the most important manner the tenure of Commissioners who have nothing whatever to do with the purchase of land. You are now endeavouring to drag into this Bill officials who have no place whatever in this clause. This would be sufficiently strange and unjustifiable if there were no other Bill on the subject before the House; but the fact is, that there is another Bill, which has already passed its Second Reading, which proposes to alter the Land Department in an exhaustive manner, and is now awaiting its further stages. It is in that measure, and not in the Bill now before the House, that the Government 671 should deal with officials who have nothing to do with this subject. On these grounds I object to the proposal made by the Government, and submit that the Amendment of my hon. Friend is a reasonable one, and ought to be accepted by the Committee.
§ (5.10.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 97; Noes 157.—(Div. List,No.224.)
§ MR. KNOX
The Amendment I have now to move is one which will commend itself to the House on the ground of its reasonableness and prudence, and because it is in accordance with precedent. I propose that the same course shall be followed in the cases of Judges of the Land Commission as is followed in the cases of Judges in Bankruptcy.
Amendment proposed, in page 10, line 11, to leave out the words "and his salary shall be paid out of the Consolidated Fund."—(Mr. Knox.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. SEXTON
I think there should be some reply to my hon. and learned Friend before we go to a Division, and that an Amendment of this importance should not be treated with contempt. These Commissioners are to have extraordinary functions, and it is right that this House should have some control over them.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
When the hon. Gentleman was speaking I was endeavouring to arrange a circular dealing with the very matter as to which the hon. Member expressed so much anxiety. Let me point out, too, that the hon. Member began his speech by saying that he moved the Amendment as a protest. I do not think it necessary to occupy the time of the House in dealing with protests as to a matter the arguments upon which have been thoroughly threshed out. The hon. Member admitted, too, that the arguments had been so fully stated at an earlier stage that he did not think it necessary to repeat them.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I consider that my own arguments were also amply stated; and if the hon. Member, on the one hand, is absolved from the necessity of repeating those in favour of his case, surely I am entitled to a like absolution. If this Amendment were accepted, the fixity of tenure which Parliament has decided should be conferred on these officials would become absolutely nugatory.
§ (5.27.) MR. M. J. KENNY
I challenge the Attorney General to give any instance in which office is held under these conditions except that of Judges of the High Court.
The Committee divided:—Ayes 157; Noes 93.—(Div. List, No. 225.)
It being half-past Five of the clock the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.