§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ New Clause (Advances in the case of sales by mortgagees,)—(Mr. Chance,)— [see page 878] brought up, and read the first time.
§ Question again proposed. "That the Clause be now read a second time."
§ (3.45.) MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland took exception to this new clause principally because under it the Land Court would not be in a position to control the sales made by a mortgagee under his power of sale. But, as I pointed out last night, the mortgagee is entitled to sell without the intervention of any Court, and a tenant, if he purchases from a mortgagee, should not be in a worse position than if he purchased from a landlord. I should think that the law is sufficiently powerful to punish a mortgagee who makes a reckless and improvident sale to a tenant. The same state of things exists in England, and the law is stringent enough to protect the landlord from an improper sale by the mortgagee; the Irish Law is precisely the same; but I am quite ready to meet the views of the Government by assenting to the introduction, into the proposed new clause, of words which will limit the operation of the clause to cases where the Commission considers the sale to be a fair one. The Landed Estates Court is no longer what it primarily was, a Court for the sale of land, but is a Court for the management of land, the appointment of receivers, and bringing to the assistance of the landlords powers which were never intended to be employed in cases where a sale was intended. I know of cases in which estates have been allowed by landlords to remain in Court unsold for seven, eight, or nine years, and the 885 landlords have deliberately refused to put in their title, simply because if they had done so the receivers appointed by the Court would have had greater powers than the land agents. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will admit that that is not a proper function for the landlord to enjoy, and that it constitutes a great hardship upon the mortgagee to compel him to have recourse to an antiquated, expensive, and exceedingly cumbersome mode of procedure, which was established at a time when State-aided land purchase was unknown, and which the Landed Estates Court was instituted to get rid of. I am aware that there is an earlier Act—the Act of 1885, I think—which enables sales by the Land Judges to be treated as sales by the landlord, but that clause is inoperative if the landlord objects. At first sight it might appear that that Act would carry out the object I have in view, but unfortunately that Act contemplates that the whole of the amount advanced by the Government and the guaranteed deposit shall be at once forthcoming. The Land Judges have only power to sell for cash, and the owner might refuse to permit a sale, no matter how high the price may be, if a certain portion of the payment was deferred. I submit, therefore, that some amendment in the direction of my new clause is necessary.
§ (3.55.) MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
The position of the mortgagee is precisely similar to that of the Irish landlord. Both have invested their capital in the same way, but from certain circumstances the estate is not marketable. Then why should you pick out the mortgagee and give him a market which the landlord does not possess? As a matter of fact, the mortgagee is in a position, if he chooses to accept the responsibility upon which he lent the money, to become the landlord in law as he is in fact, and proceed to the sale of the property. I cannot see why we should give any additional advantage to the mortgagee and create for him a market which does not at present exist.
§ MR. CHANCE
My Amendment does not propose to give the mortgagee anything beyond what is given to him under the Ashbourne Acts.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
I understood that the object is to put the mortgagee in the position of the landlord.
§ MR. CHANCE
The position is a perfectly simple one. The clause gives no additional power to the mortgagee. It is only when a tenant buys from the landlord that an advance can be made, and my object is to give the same power to the tenant if he buys from a mortgagee.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
There is very little difference between the two. What I object to is the short cut. I do not see why a short cut should be made in favour of the mortgagee, whereas the landlord is left without any compensating advantage whatever.
§ (4.0) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I think it is very desirable that the Government should do something in the direction of the clause moved by my hon. Friend, in order, if for nothing else, to facilitate the sale of the enormous number of estates now in the Landed Estates Court. The clause, as at present drawn, may not be altogether satisfactory, but I think it is desirable to do something to facilitate the sale of estates to tenants. Some time ago I moved for a Return, from which Return it appears that there are no less than 2,500 separate estates in the Landed Estates Court awaiting sale. Although it is true that a small number have been sold to tenants, the great body are awaiting sale because there is practically no market for them, and all parties concerned are placed in a position of great difficulty and inconvenience. It therefore appears to me that in the interests of the Bill itself greater facilities should be given for dealing with these properties. At present I do not find that the Bill gives any greater facility for the sale of estates than is given by the Ashbourne Acts. What I understand my hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Chance) to desire is that the mortgagee should have the power of negotiating with the tenant without an absolute veto on the part of the landlord; and I believe he would not object to the arrangement being subject to the supervision of the Land Court. It seems to me that the 887 Government might to a great extent facilitate the sale of estates by taking some step in this direction. If time permitted I could give cases showing the great hardship which has arisen from the delay which now takes place; but I will not detain the Committee by entering into them at present.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ (4.8.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN,) Dublin University
I wish to point out shortly to the Committee the precise scope of this new clause. The hon. Member who has moved it admits that in its present form is requires modification.
§ MR. MADDEN
But even if it were modified it would not carry out the wishes of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre). The present position is this: A mortgagee in Ireland has the same power of sale as a mortgagee in England. But a mortgagee in Ireland resorts to the Land Court, in a vast majority of cases, for sale. The Land Court is able to give an indefeasible title, and thus to secure higher prices than would be obtained at private sales. This is considered to be more than equivalent for the necessary costs and expense of carrying the sale through the Court. For the very purpose of meeting the considerations which seem to press on the mind of the right hon. Member for Bradford, the Legislature has given to the Land Judges the power of the landlord, and thus sales are constantly carried out by the Land Court under the provisions of the Land Purchase Acts. The cases in which first mortgagees exercise the power of sale are extremely rare, and in those cases some protection is certainly required against the action of the mortgagee in the interests of all persons concerned. The matter is one which requires grave consideration, and if the suggestion of the hon. Member for Kilkenny of putting the matter under the control of the Land Commission, is to be adopted, it could only be dealt with by a carefully drawn clause; but any suggestion which 888 may be made will receive the attention of the Government.
§ MR. CHANCE
My contention is that the Judges of the Landed Estates Court will have no power to carry out a sale where any portion of the guaranteed deposit is retained.
§ (4.15.) MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
The question which has now arisen is one of the greatest importance. One-third of the Irish estates are in the Court of Chancery—if not one-third in value, certainly one-third in area. At present the whole of these estates are tied up in a knot, and there is no means of securing their sale under the provisions which regulate the Landed Estates Court. I quite agree that it is possible to give to the mortgagees powers which might work with injustice; but we all know that the landlord is the mere bailiff of the mortgagee, and that being so, I think it is unnecessary to discuss the question of hardship. The hardship lies in the nature of the thing, and is not the invention of my hon. Friend. It is therefore useless to discuss the hardship which the position of the mortgagee inflicts upon the landlord. Before considering what effect the passing of the Land Department Bill may have, I think the Government ought to announce what line they propose to take in the matter. We are dealing with one third of the land question of Ireland by this clause, and I do not think it is right to stave it off by telling us that it is to be dealt with in the Land Department Bill. I sincerely trust that between this and the Report, the Government will seriously consider the matter, and announce what they propose to do.
§ (4.18.) MR. M. HEALY (Cork)
I fail to see that there is anything in the clause of my hon. Friend which gives new powers. It will not enable the mortgagee to do anything which he could not have done before the Bill passed into law. The power of the mortgagee to sell has always existed from time immemorial. In the first place, he could throw the estate into the Court of Chancery; secondly, he could enforce a sale without going into Chancery; and, lastly, it has been considered desirable to confer this power upon him without any special statutory enactment. Therefore, there are powers which enable the mortgagee to do the very thing this 889 clause seeks to do, and which it is now contended that a mortgagee ought not to be able to do. As a matter of fact, a mortgagee can do anything a landlord can do. Unfortunately, the tenant is in a different position, when he is dealing with a mortgagee, from that which he is in when dealing with a landlord. Where a mortgagee is concerned the Ashbourne Acts step in and say, "We will not assist the tenant," and the Attorney General now intimates that that is the deliberate policy of the Government for fear that the land may be sold too cheap. The existing state of the law compels an appeal to the Landed Estates Court, so that a higher price may be obtained than the landlord would get for the property otherwise. Hitherto Irish estates have been sold to land jobbers without mercy—many estates having been sold for six or seven years' purchase. In such cases the Judges of the Landed Estates Court have not felt it their duty to step in and interfere. Formerly, the policy was to get rid of encumbered estates, and the Court got rid of them, no matter what the sacrifice might be. But now, when all that state of things is to be changed, and the estates are to be sold not to land jobbers, but to tenants who desire to acquire the freehold of their holdings, the Land Judges are to step in and say they will not permit the estates of the Irish landlords to be sacrificed, but must require that the price to be paid shall be fair to the landlords. Now, I maintain that it is no part of the business of the Land Judges to raise the price of land, and it is an abuse of their functions to declare that no sales are to take place, but that the Court must stand adjourned, which is the stereotyped announcement week after week, land sales having fallen into a state of stagnation. The Irish people are sick of the Landed Estates Court, and the Government ought not to keep it up as a barrier in the way of land purchase. The English landlord has no Estates Court to step in between him and his creditors. If an English mortgagee takes proceedings against a landlord there is no Court in this country to step in and say that a sale shall not take place unless what is considered to be a satisfactory price is given. Why then should such a state of things exist in Ireland, where the whole of your policy is that sales shall 890 take place, and the land become vested in the Irish tenantry? I hope the Government will decide upon dealing with this important question, and I believe my hon. Friend who moved the clause will have no objection to a provision giving power to the Commission to see that nothing inequitable is done.
§ (4.25.) MR. MADDEN
The 17th clause of the Land Department Bill will probably effect what hon. Members opposite desire with reference to the question of the landlord's consent to the retention of the guarantee deposit. The clause reads—Notwithstanding anything in any of the Land Purchase Acts, in every case of an advance under the said Acts made by the Land Department to a tenant who is purchasing his holding, the Land Department shall, subject to the provisions of this section, retain a guarantee deposit out of the advance made.The Government are prepared to introduce that clause into the present Bill. It would make the retention of a guarantee deposit obligatory, whether the landlord consented or not.
§ MR. CHANCE
I do not think that the effect of Clause 17 of the Land Department Bill would be what the right hon. and learned Gentleman supposes. The landlord would still have the power of objecting to a sale on any but absolutely ready-money terms; consequently that clause would not remove, in the slightest degree, the difficulties which now exist in connection with the Landed Estates Court. The Government must admit that the landlords whose estates are disposed of in the Land Court are for the most part ruined and wrecked absentee landlords. It is not denied that there are now one-third of the Irish estates in the Land Court, and the Government announce that it is their deliberate policy to keep these wrecked and ruined landlords there unless they are sufficiently bribed to dispose of their estates and the money is sweated through the hands of persons who are not entitled to any part of it. The Bill ought not to be called a Purchase of Land Bill, but a Bill to enable landlords to sell their estates for prices higher than they could get otherwise.
(4.30.) MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
Until 11 years ago, the sale and purchase of land in Ireland was free; and for the first time Judge Flanagan, 11 years ago, began to obstruct land purchase by declining to permit free sale. He was rewarded for taking that course by being made a member of the English Privy Council—a most unusual course of procedure on the part of the Government.
§ MR. MADDEN
I regret that the hon. Gentleman should have allowed himself to make such a charge against a man in the position of Judge Flanagan, one of the most eminent of the Irish Judges. He says that Judge Flanagan obstructed the free sale of land in the Landed Estates Court, and that he was rewarded for so doing by being made a Privy Councillor. Fortunately Judge Flanagan needs no vindication from any one; but, at any rate, I may unhesitatingly and emphatically contradict the accusation.
MR. MAC NEILL
I say again that Judge Flanagan was the first person, in my recollection, who obstructed land purchase, and, what was a most unusual course, he was made a Member of the English Privy Council.
Order, order! I hope the hon. Gentleman is not going to pursue that topic, which has really nothing whatever to do with the Amendment before the Committee.
Order, order! The question before the Committee is that the clause be now read a second time.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I am of opinion that the attitude taken by the Government is most unreasonable. The Lauded Estates Court of Ireland is a pure excrescence. It is absolutely unnecessary, and the whole of its business could be managed by a clerk. When the estates of Lord Gort—said to be worth £500,000—were sold for £50,000, his lordship is reported to have said that he did not mind being ruined but, alluding to Judge Hargreave, he added that he did object to being wrecked and ruined by a dwarf in a garret. I hope that the Government will introduce Clause 25 of the Land Department Bill into this Bill.
§ (4.40.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 40; Noes 82. — (Div. List, No. 241.)
§ (4.52.) MR. CHANCE
I beg to move the new clause standing in my name. I do not suppose the Government will find any difficulty in accepting it.
(Amendment of 50 and 51 Vic, c. 33, s. 20, as applied to advances under this Act.)
In the application of section twenty of 'The Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1887,"' to advances made under this Act, the said section shall be construed as if the words 'two and three-quarters,' were substituted for the words 'three and one-eighth,'"—(Mr. Chance,)
—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."—(Mr. Chance.)
§ (4.53.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I should, have no objection to a clause in the sense of that moved by the hon. Member, although I cannot consent to the terms of his proposal. I could accept it if the word "three" were substituted for the words "two and three-quarters."
§ MR. CHANCE
Then, if the Committee will read the clause a second time, I will make the alteration in it the right hon. Gentleman suggests.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Amendment agreed to in the proposed clause to omit "two and three-quarters," and insert "three."
§ Clause, as amended, added.
§ (4.54.) MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I trust the Government will see their way to accepting the clause I now rise to move, because, as we have had occasion to point out from time to time during the discussions in Committee, there is a serious defect in the Bill. If it passes in its present form, a large number of people who occupy as sub-tenants will be excluded from the operation of the Act. The condition of the sub-tenants in Ireland has been the subject of a great deal of litigation. It has led to a great deal of violent discussion, and the position of the sub-tenants is at the present time extremely anomalous. If the Bill comes into operation without such an Amendment as this, a man who holds, say, 893 100 acres of land which he has sub-let to five or six sub-tenants, will be able to purchase the whole of the land which they are farming as bonâ fide agricultural tenants. The tenants will continue to be tenants, and no one but the purchaser will reap any benefit from the purchase. What I propose is that the sub-tenants of any tenant purchasing shall themselves be entitled to purchase on the same terms or on such terms as the Land Commission think proper. The middleman, as a rule, is a person who has sub-let for the purpose of avoiding the hard work of farming and for the purpose of living on the profits derived from the land. The sub-tenants are mostly rack-rented, and I certainly think they are entitled to some measure of relief. I do not know how many of these sub-tenancies there are in Ireland, but I believe there are some 30,000; and if 30,000 tenants are to be excluded from the operation of the Bill, I think it is a serious matter, and one which well deserves the attention of the Government. If the Amendment is not now accepted, it will in process of time become necessary to adopt it for the purpose of bringing the sub-tenants within the operation of the Bill.
§ New Clause—
When a tenant agrees to purchase his holding, but is not in occupation of the entire of such holding by reason of having sub-let a portion or portions thereof, the Land Commission before sanctioning the sale shall cause notice of the intended sale and the terms and conditions attaching thereto to be served in the prescribed manner upon all persons in occupation as sub-tenants of such proposed purchaser; and if, within twenty-one days from the date of the notice aforesaid, such sub-tenants, or any of them, signify in writing to the Land Commission their willingness to purchase their sub-tenancies on the terms and conditions specified, the Land Commission shall proceed to apportion the purchase annuity in due ratio between the various parties in occupation of the holding, and shall then proceed in the usual manner to carry the sale into effect by means of vesting orders:
—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."—(Mr. M. J. Kenny.)
§ (4.57.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I think the Committee will see that the clause runs counter to the policy universally and unanimously accepted in all these questions of fair rent and land purchase. The State proposes to lend money to enable landlord and tenant to come to an arrangement to sell and buy respectively, and to accept this clause would be to adopt a new principle. A hardship would be inflicted on the landlord by requiring that his fifth should be divided into fragments corresponding with the fragments into which the holding is divided, and it would obviously be unjust to compel him to stand surety for people with whom he has nothing to do, and who never became occupiers by his consent. But quite apart from the question of injustice to the landlord, there is the deeper question of policy, which of itself would form a sufficient reason for rejecting the clause. The Committee is aware that for many years one of the gravest difficulties in the agrarian condition of Ireland has been in connection with subletting, and I cannot imagine a more direct incitement to the practice of subletting than a clause of this kind.
§ MR. M. HEALY
Since 1881 it has been illegal, and a sub-tenant under an illegal sub-letting is a trespasser.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That may be so; but my point is that a landlord should not be asked to be responsible for a tenant who is not his tenant.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Possibly; but why should a present landlord be punished because an ancestor may have been lax in dealing with the question of sub-letting? It is contrary to the policy of our land legislation in Ireland to encourage sub-letting, therefore I cannot accept the clause.
§ (5.0.) MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten the Act of 1888, and cannot know the effect of what he has just stated. In that Act it is provided that where the Land Commissioners shall sanction an advance for the purchase of a holding that is let and held subject to subletting, they may prescribe such terms as to the part sub-let as they think fit. That clause was intended for the benefit of the labourers; but the Land Commissioners, to my astonishment, have construed the clause to mean terms as to rent only, and not as to tenure. My hon. Friend has proposed this clause in order to remedy that state of facts, and to put the labourers and sub-tenants on the footing which Parliament intended for them under the Act of 1888. I think we are entitled to ask the Government to carry out the intention of the Legislature. Under the Ashbourne Acts no sub-letting can take place. If there is a sub-letting without consent under the Act of 1881, the tenant cannot get a fair rent fixed. That being so, we now ask for some protection for the immemorial tenancies which have existed in Ireland for scores of years—it may be, for centuries. The Government say they will not encourage sub-letting. How will this clause encourage subletting? It will only deal with sub-lettings made with the consent of the landlords which have become encrusted, so to speak, in the lease. The subtenants can get a fair rent fixed against the middleman, but the middleman cannot get a fair rent fixed against the landlord; but he can buy under the Ashbourne Acts, and so defeat the subtenants, whose rights have been recognised by the Land Act as the superior rights in the transaction. That seems to me one of the most remarkable developments of British law in Ireland that we have seen for a long time, and I ask the Government if the state of things is one they wish to allow to continue. In old leases there never were clauses against sub-letting—in fact, the landlords encouraged it. The tenants of such land can get a fair rent fixed. But now, under the Ashbourne Acts, the position is the exact converse. Under the Act of 1881 the sub-tenants' position was the superior position. Now it is the middleman who is enabled to sell 896 and buy, whilst the tenant, who has a right to get a fair rent fixed, has not a right to buy and sell. This seems to me to be an absolutely grotesque state of things. Formerly we used to hear the landlords, supported by the Tory Party, thundering against the middleman, and saying that the small men, the men on the soil, were those who should be considered, and now they turn round and take the contrary view. If the Government cannot accept this clause, surely they cannot allow the situation to remain as it is. I challenge the Attorney General for Ireland to say that the position is satisfactory. The case seems to me to be so strong that it has only to be stated to show the absolute necessity of having something done.
§ (5.8.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It appears that there are two errors into which hon. Gentlemen opposite have fallen, and on those two errors they have based the whole superstructure of their arguments. I admitted, or allowed it to be inferred, that subletting is possible in Ireland. Gentlemen opposite say that sub-letting has become illegal since the Act of 1881. They are entirely wrong. All the Act of 1881 does is to prevent sub-letting where the rents are fixed.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
No; sub-letting under the Act of 1881 is illegal except with the consent of the landlord.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman told us in so many words that sub-letting could not go on. I have shown that in one of the most important classes in Ireland that is totally untrue, and all he does is to alter the position he took up, without in the least affecting my arguments.
§ MR. M. HEALY
I am really amazed at the right hon. Gentleman, and I venture to think that he does not understand this question. He says the Amendment would encourage subletting, meaning that it would do so after it had become law. How can sub-letting go on after the passing of this Bill? Take any case you can take. Take the case of the tenant purchaser. He is expressly prohibited from sub- 897 letting. Take, next, the case of the ordinary tenant. He has been prohibited from subletting since the Act of 1881. Take, next, the case of the leaseholders. They were admitted to the benefits of the Act of 1887, and, of course, nine tenths of them took advantage of that Act; and everyone who did became prohibited from sub-letting. Therefore, the number of cases in which sub-letting could take place after the passing of this Bill into law would be infinitesimal, and not by any means sufficient to furnish an argument against the proposal of my hon. Friend.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The fact remains that, as I have stated, this subletting may go on as at this moment without the consent of the landlord. Sub-letting is an evil which ought to be guarded against, and anything that would encourage sub-letting ought not to have our support.
§ (5.14.) MR. M. HEALY
Does the right hon. Gentleman really suggest that because sub-letting may go on in an infinitesimal number of cases we are not to deal with the cases of sub-tenants at all? The right hon. Gentleman says the Amendment obliges the landlord to become guarantor for a sub-tenant. May I ask under what part of the Amendment that is so? I do not know what my hon. Friend intended, but I cannot see that such an operation arises under his Amendment. I take it the operation will be this: that when a man who occupies the position of a middleman having sub-let to agricultural tenants proposes to purchase, the Land Commission will say to him, "You are in the position of landlord to these sub-tenants, and our business is not to assist middlemen to buy, and, therefore, we compel you to agree to sell to the sub-tenant." The Commission will insist that the sub-tenants shall have a share in the benefits of the Act. In the case of each sub-tenant there will be a guarantee deposit to meet a case of default, and this would be furnished not by the landlord, but the middleman. I would press this Amendment upon the Government as really worthy of their attention. I thought we were all at one in the desire not to encourage the status of the middleman, and I am amazed that the Chief Secretary does not assist in the endeavour to get rid of the 898 middleman. In his Land Department Bill the right hon. Gentleman proposes to do the same thing this Amendment proposes to do, and to squeeze out the middleman on such terms as the Land Department may fix—to force a compulsory sale of all the interests concerned—and I am, therefore, at a loss to know why the right hon. Gentleman objects to this Amendment, which is intended to secure the benefit of the Bill to the occupying tenant.
§ (5.20.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has made out a good case against the Amendment of my hon. Friend. It appears to me the Amendment is the necessary complement of the step we have already taken. We have already enacted that a sub-tenant may have a fair rent fixed, and by thus admitting his status as tenant we recognise his right to share in the full development of this legislation. The Amendment naturally follows upon what we have already done; and if it is not accepted, much of the evil attending the present conditions of agrarian life is left untouched, and left to survive in one of its most acute forms. For the sake of symmetry in the measure, if for nothing else, the Amendment should receive a favourable reception. The objection of the right hon. Gentleman, that the Amendment will not meet the case of labourers, is one to which we have a sufficient answer ready. If he is willing that the Amendment should include the case of the labourers, we will co-operate with the right hon. Gentleman in widening the provisions of the clause for that purpose. It will be observed that the next Amendment, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for East Donegal (Mr. A. O'Connor), deals specifically with the condition of labourers, and the intention of that Amendment may be incorporated in the present proposal if the right hon. Gentleman desires; but do not let him assign this as a reason for refusing the Amendment. With regard to the encouragement of sub-letting, that case can be completely met by the suggestion that we should confine the clause to sub-letting actually in existence at the time of the passing of the Act. Then as to the objection that a landlord would be made responsible for persons whom he did not admit to the land, I think it 899 may be said that the sub-tenant is really admitted with the consent of the landlord, and he is therefore morally responsible. Moreover, my hon. and learned Friend. the Member for Cork has argued, and I am not qualified to follow him in his legal argument, that if the clause becomes part of the Act, the guarantee deposit in respect to each sub-tenancy will be provided not by the landlord, but the middleman; and if that be so, there is no force in the objection as to the responsibility of the landlord. The liability of the landlord is half of the fifth of the purchase money in case of default, and the real security to the State is the value of the holding, and with the decision of the Land Commission upon this point the advance upon a sub tenancy will relatively be as safe as an advance on a tenancy. I am disposed to think there is nothing in the objections of the right hon. Gentleman to lead us to suppose that the Amendment is not worthy of our consideration.
§ (5.27.) MR. MADDEN
I think it has been admitted that the criticisms of my right hon. Friend in regard to subletting are well founded, by the suggestion that the clause should be restricted to cases where sub-letting has already taken place. We know that since 1881 sub-letting has gone on to a considerable extent. I recognise the force of the suggestion thrown out that the clause might be confined to sub-lettings before the passing of the Act, and therefore the evils alluded to would not arise. Bat there are very serious matters in connection with this clause to be considered. I have ascertained what is the course usually taken in connection with a sale when a tenant has sub-let. The Land Commission consider, and rightly consider, that the whole scope of the Purchase Act is to facilitate sale to the occupying tenant. When a tenant comes before the Land Commissioners, if they find that there is a substantial sub-letting, such as is contemplated by this section, to a bonâfide agricultural tenant, they are rightly of opinion that he is not an occupying tenant within the meaning of the Act, and many cases have been rejected by the Commission on that ground. I am informed that in many of those cases the difficulty is solved by the 900 landlord taking over the sub-tenant as his immediate tenant, and the sale is carried out on this basis. Having looked carefully into the matter, I am bound to say that the clause is open to the second criticism of my right hon. Friend, and, as I view it, the clause would be unworkable, or could only work with injustice towards the landlord, splitting up his guarantee deposit into portions, and making it security for persons who may have become tenants of the land without his consent.
§ (5.32.) MR. M. J. KENNY
The Attorney General thinks there is risk to the landlord's guarantee, but that is really imaginary. With the advantage of extending land purchase among small occupiers, there is the additional security of the liability being divided over a number of bonâ fide agricultural tenants, who in nearly every instance will have created a tenant-right of their own, thus presenting an additional security. We know as a fact that subletting has been dying out since 1881. Prior to the passing of the Act of 1881, and when agriculture was prosperous, tenancies were often sub-let at extortionate rents; but since the passing of the Act, the sub-tenants have gone into Court and have had fair rents fixed, and there is no longer the inducement to sub-letting there formerly was. But the objections raised can be met by restricting the clause to sub-lettings before the passing of the Act. I am not wedded to the particular form of the clause. I am willing to accept any Amendment if only I can carry out my intention that subtenants to the number of, perhaps,30,000 may come under this Act. I think the Chief Secretary might consider the suggestion a little more seriously, for it is a question that must certainly come up again if he disregards it now, and it must ultimately find a remedy in the direction of my proposal. There is now an opportunity of finding a remedy and of avoiding that hasty and ill-advised legislation which requires amendment in the following year, to which Lord Salisbury alluded the other day at Glasgow. Nothing has been said to induce me to withdraw the clause, and I shall press it to Division.
(5.40.) MR. MAC NEILL
If the Government reject this proposal, I do 901 not think they can continue to make their loud professions in favour of creating peasant proprietors in Ireland. My hon. Friend, I think, underestimates the number of sub-tenants his clause would affect. I think the number is nearer 40,000 than 30,000, representing with their families probably a population of 100,000, to whom the arguments in favour of this Bill apply with greater force than to any other class. The objection is founded on the prejudice there might possibly be to the landlord's interest; but let me remind the Committee that this is ostensibly a tenants' Bill, whatever it may be in reality, and the tenants have claims to be recognised. The middleman will have the right to purchase under the Bill, and he acquires the position of landlord to the sub-tenants, and then, by the duplication of machinery, the tenants may have advantage of the Act possibly; but to avoid this double proceeding, and to assist the harmonious working of the Act, we ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept this proposal and weigh, on the one band, the possible prejudice to the landlord's interest with the undoubted injury to the interests of some 40,000 sub-tenants on the other.
§ (5.45.) MR. M. HEALY
It is scarcely fair to make it ground for rejecting an Amendment proposed by a private Member that his proposal is not perfect. It is not to be expected that a Member can present an Amendment to a Bill like this that shall not be free from flaw. Enough that he indicates a blot in the measure; and if his remedy is not perfect, let the Government take up the duty of repairing an omission in their original proposal. I do not think that any Member will dispute that the clause does deal with an admitted grievance that must ultimately be met. There is no desire on the part of anyone on these Benches to favour the middleman—our interest is for the occupying tenant. Now, the question of sub-letting has been raised as one of the evils of Irish agricultural life; but everyone who has experience knows that the practice of sub-letting has well-nigh ceased, and it is the practice of sub-division of farms among members of a family that has to be deplored. Whatever may have been the case 80 or 90 years ago, sub-letting has now ceased to be a danger that the 902 Legislature need take into account. It is a curious thing that while the law deals severely with sub-letting, which has ceased to be an evil, it does not deal with sub-division at all. While a man imposes upon himself the severest penalties by sub-letting, excluding himself from all sorts of rights, under the Land Act, sub-division does not exclude him from the Act of 1881. Such has been the decision of the High Court in Ireland. Now, if a man by sub-letting creates certain rights for his sub-tenants, he will think twice before he creates such rights. The hon. and learned Gentleman has, practically, admitted our point, namely, that there is a case which is altogether unaffected by the Purchase Act—the case of the middleman who has under him agricultural tenants, who, as we say, have a right to be considered. He tells us that according to the present practice the Land Commission do consider such cases, and refuse assent to a purchase by any middleman unless he comes to an arrangement with the sub-tenants. Well, then, if such a practice exists, why should there be any refusal to confer upon it the sanction of the law? As to the mere details of the clause, I am sure that my hon. Friend will not hold to them if any method can be suggested for rendering the clause more workable; and if there is a strong objection to compelling the landlord to stand surety for the subtenant, the proposal can easily be so modified as to obviate that objection. As the Bill stands at present, there is nothing to impose conditions as to the sub-tenant when he goes before the Land Commission to purchase. Why should the Bill not provide that the middleman shall not get the benefit of the Act unless he is prepared to give due consideration to the sub-tenants?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I hope at any rate the Chief Secretary, if he is not prepared to adopt this clause at the present moment, will, at least, seeing that he has admitted that there is a grievance, which, in point of practice, is now taken into consideration, promise to consider the matter between now and the Report stage.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I cannot offer the hon. Member any pledge that the Government will deal with this question on the Report.
§ (6.0.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 45; Noes 96.—(Div. List, No. 242.)
§ (6.10.) MR. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
The clause which I now beg to move has been drafted for the purpose of making use of the occasion which the Bill offers to do something for the agricultural labourers of Ireland, a large and long-suffering class. As the farmers have been rack-rented, so they have rack-rented the agricultural labourers, the hardships of whose conditions are grievous in the extreme. The cabins these men inhabit are, as the Chief Secretary has observed in his visit to the West of Ireland, wretched, and not fit for human habitation. There has been for a number of years past a stream of emigration going on between Ireland and the other side of the Atlantic which has been a constant drain of the best peasantry of Ireland. Something has already been attempted on behalf of the agricultural labourer, but it has not proved of much use. By Section 19 of the Act of 1881, the Court was enabled, when fixing judicial rents, to direct the tenant to make provision for the proper housing of his labourer. But, unfortunately, that Act fails to give the labourer a locus standi before the Court, and as nobody can appear for him he has been unable to secure the benefit of the provision. A remedy was to some extent secured in the following year, in the Labourers' Cottages and Allotments Act, in the third section of which power is given to the Land Commission, in cases where a fair rent is fixed, to see that proper accommodation is provided for the tenants on the holdings. The labourers are given a locus standi before the Court. But, unfortunately, the adoption of this power, especially in the North of Ireland, is attended with considerable risk to the labourers. A farmer is able to say to the labourer, "My engagement with you expires in May or November. I shall not, after that date, have further need of your services." The consequence was that if a labourer attempted to obtain for himself a better holding or a better house he did so at the risk of losing his employment; therefore the provision has been, to a great extent, a dead letter. You cannot expect a labourer to go into 904 Court and apply under the section when he has reason to believe the benefit will be reaped by somebody else. It seems to me that when the landlords of Ireland are taking a sum of £30,000,000 from the Public Exchequer to enable them to obtain cash for their estates; and when the farmers of Ireland are, by means of the same £30,000,000, being made the owners of their holdings, it is not too much to expect that something, however slight, should be done for the suffering agricultural labourer in the way of securing to him something like fixity of tenure in his small holding. I should be disposed to urge that a farmer, purchasing under the Act, should be required, for each 25 acres of arable land, to provide a holding for a labourer either on the land or in its immediate vicinity. I think the great mass of the farmers of Ireland would be willing to do it, bearing in mind the advantages they are deriving under the Bill. It must, however be admitted that farmers have not always acted very generously towards their labourers; and Boards of Guardians, which are composed of the larger farmers, have not proved to be the best Bodies in Ireland to be entrusted with the care of the interests of the labourers. Still, many Boards in Leinster and Munster have done their utmost to work these provisions for the benefit of the working classes; and if the Government accept the Amendment, I think they will find there will be a bonâ fide effort to do something to ameliorate the condition of the agricultural labouring population. Of course, a tenant labourer would have to pay the price of his half acre just as much as the tenant farmer has to pay the value of his landlord's interest; but the difficulty could be met by advancing to the tenant applying to purchase under the Act sufficient money to enable him to erect a suitable dwelling for the labourer, the cost to be made a charge on the labourers' allotment. In many cases the farmers would be able to build the cottages more cheaply than any one else. I have drawn the clause with a view to the dissimilar circumstances which prevail in different parts of Ireland. I think it would be dangerous to lay down a hard and fast rule for all parts of Ireland, and therefore I would leave it to the discretion of the Land Commissioners to decide in each particular case 905 according to the circumstances of the holding and of the locality. The clause itself is enabling and not mandatory, and I put it forward as the only contribution I have ventured to make to the consideration of this Bill. I appeal to the Government to accept the clause in its present form, or in a modified form, and thereby confer a boon on a class -which is admittedly suffering, and which surely is entitled to some share in the boon which is being conferred on the people of Ireland with regard to the land question.
§ New Clause—
§ (Land Commissioners may prescribe term when making an advance.)
Where the Land Commissioners shall after the passing of this Act sanction an advance for the purchase of a holding they may prescribe such terms as they think fit as to—
—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."
§ (6.21.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am sure I agree with the desire expressed by the hon. Member that we should do what we can to improve the condition of the labourers' class, and I think we have shown that while our chief object is to promote the agricultural prosperity of Ireland we have not been oblivious of the interests of the labourers. But the clause as proposed can hardly be accepted. The hon. Member is no doubt aware that at the present moment the responsibility for labourers' cottages, in so far as it is not thrown upon the Local Authority, rests with the Local Government Board, and it would be neither desirable, nor indeed possible, that there should be a further division of responsibility, such as would result from the acceptance of this clause. The hon. Member in it pro- 906 poses that it shall be left to the Land Commission to determine as to the necessities of particular neighbourhoods with regard to the number of agricultural labourers' dwellings to be erected; and later on in the clause he suggests the Local Government Board shall make a Report on the necessities of the Union and take such steps as may be necessary to acquire land for the purpose. The hon. Gentleman has reminded the Committee that under the Act of 1881 it is provided that where a fair rent is fixed it is competent for the Land Commission to determine not merely the general conditions under which the labourers required for the cultivation of the holding shall exist, but also to see that allotments are attached to their cottages. In fact, the widest powers are given them to act in the interests of the labourers; and again, under Clause 4 of the Act of 1888, there is power given to the Land Commissioners, when they sanction a loan for the purchase of a holding, to prescribe conditions as to the rent of the labourer's holding, and I am informed that the Land Commission under these powers have done much to ameliorate the condition of the agricultural labourers. I take it, it is the opinion of the hon. Member that Clause 4 of the Act of 1888 does not give such full power to the Purchase Commissioners as is possessed by the Land Court to see that the labourers are properly housed, and I gather his desire is to secure such an extension of the power under this Act. If he will withdraw this clause and move one couched in language of that kind, the Government will be glad to accept it, and I would suggest a clause of this nature—That the provisions of Sec. 19, of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, shall apply in all cases where an advance is made for the purchase of a holding under the Land Purchase Acts, as amended by this Act, and the powers thereby conferred on the Land Commission in regard to the determination of the rent shall be exercised by them with the necessary modification in sanctioning the agreement for sale.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I think the whole difficulty would be met if the right hon. Gentleman would accept my hon. Friend's clause minus the first and third sections. It appears to me that 907 these powers might be exercised from time to time. It might happen that a labourer might die or emigrate, and that another man might come in. In such a case the farmer ought not to have the power to add a patch of ground to his own homestead.
§ (6.33.) MR. MADDEN
I would suggest the clause should read—The provisions of Section 19 of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, and the Acts amending the same, shall apply in all cases where an advance is made for the purpose of a holding under the Land Purchase Act, as amended by this Act, and the powers thereby conferred on the Land Commission in regard to the determination of rent, shall be exercisable by them with the necessary modification in sanctioning an agreement for sale.
§ MR. M. HEALY
I should like to point out that Clause 19 of the Act of 1881 provides no machinery for the enforcement of the orders made under it. It is perfectly plain that in whatever form we ultimately mould the clause we shall have to take care that there is machinery for enforcing the orders made.
§ (6.37.) MR. CHANCE
Let me remind the Committee that the whole object of the clause is to save the pocket of the county. Tenants of ten say to the labourers, "Go to the Poor Law Union and get them to build cottages for you." The tenants are more or less inclined to neglect their duty to the labourers, and to throw on the county the expense of doing what they ought to do. The county has to build houses, and before it can get the land to build them on it has to put in force a series of provisions under the Labourers' Act which are exceedingly expensive and slow. The legal costs under the Act amount to a public scandal. A rate of 3d. or 4d. in the £1 which is levied under the Act for the purpose of erecting houses goes very largely into the lawyers' pockets. I think that by the admission of everyone in the House, the Labourers' Acts have proved to be unworkable, owing to the expense and the cumbrous procedure. I hope the Government will see their way to get rid of the cumbrous, extravagant, and I may almost say, stupidly complicated system by which Irish tenants are induced to deliberately neglect their duty towards the labourers.
§ MR. MADDEN
I think we are all agreed as to what ought to be done, and I suggest that the hon. and learned Member should confer with me, between this and Report, on the subject.
§ (6.42.) MR. SEXTON
I freely acknowledge the spirit in which the Chief Secretary has dealt with this subject, and I should be sorry to minimise the importance of the concession the right hon. Gentleman has made. I am inclined to suggest, however, that the right hon. Gentleman might still consider whether the operation of the Labourers' Act may not be made more easy. The general failure of the Labourers' Act is manifest, and not only that, but the causes of the failure are well-known. The system is slow, it is cumbrous and costly, and therefore it is unsuccessful. I put it to the Chief Secretary whether it is not possible to alter the jurisdiction—can it not be arranged that upon a report or representation from the Local Government Board with regard to the need of cottages, the Land Commission may authorise the sale or letting of a part of the holding, not exceeding a certain proportion for labourers' cottages? The Government have now a golden opportunity of benefiting largely the third great class, and the most numerous and the most helpless class in Ireland. The Guardians have been impeded and embarrassed in respect to the provision of labourers' cottages, partly by the unwillingness of the tenant to give land, and partly by the procedure under the Labourers' Act. The Chief Secretary will entitle himself to very special acknowledgment if he can see his way to adopt some such suggestion as I have made.
§ (6.49.) MR. MACARTNEY
I quite agree that the working of the Labourers' Act has not been completely satisfactory, and I hope that at some time or other the House will be able to remedy the defects. That, however, must be done by a definite Amendment of the Act now in operation, if it is to be done safely. If we attempt to introduce into this Bill machinery for the working of the Labourers' Act, I believe we shall not only complicate matters, but also place a great impediment in the way of land purchase. Tenants will not like 909 to negotiate for the purchase of their holdings when they are uncertain what terms the Purchase Commissioners will put on them with regard to the opportunities to be given to other agricultural labourers besides those resident on the holding.
§ (6.51). MR. A. O'CONNOR
I beg to withdraw my Amendment in favour of the words suggested by the Attorney General for Ireland.
§ Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
The provisions of Section 19 of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, and the Acts amending the same shall apply in all cases where an advance is made for the purpose of a holding under the Land Purchase Act as amended by this Act, and the powers thereby conferred on the Land Commission with regard to the determination of rent shall be exercisable by them with the necessary modification in sanctioning an agreement for sale,"—(Mr. A. O'Connor,)
—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause be now read a second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Amendment proposed to the proposed new Clause, to leave out the words "as amended by," and insert "and."—(Mr. M. Healy.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, added.
§ (6.54.) MR. M. HEALY
I beg to move the new clause, "Sanitary Authority may purchase, under Land Purchase Acts, land taken on lease." Cases have come under my notice in which Sanitary Authorities instead of buying plots of land required by them have taken them on lease for 99 years. The Authorities become the tenant of the landlord, and the original tenant upon whose holding the plot is has no further interest in the plot. When an estate is put up for sale on which plots have been taken under the Labourers' Act, the question arises what is to be done with those plots. There may be 10 or 12 or 20 half-acre plots scattered over an estate, and let at rentals of perhaps 10s. a year. It would be distinctly inconvenient to leave them in the landlord's hands as such plots were left in the hands of Lord Shannon, after he sold his estate in Cork. I think 910 you will be acting unwisely if you do not enable the landlord to dispose of bits of land which have been let on lease to labourers in this way.
§ New Clause—
§ (Sanitary authority may purchase under Land Purchase Acts land taken on lease.)
- (1.) Where a sanitary authority has for the purposes of the Labourers (Ireland) Acts, 1883 to 1886, taken any land on lease, compulsorily or otherwise, such sanitary authority may at any time thereafter by agreement with the person in whom the lessor's interest in such lease is for the time being vested, purchase the lessor's interest in such lease and the lands held thereunder.
- (2.) Where, in the opinion of the Land Commission, any such purchase if necessary for carrying into effect sales on the estate of the same landlord, the Land Commission may make advances to sanitary authorities to enable such purchases to be made in like manner as if the sanitary authority was a tenant in occupation of such holding.
- (3.) The provisions of the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Acts shall apply in the case of any such advance, but the annuity by which such advance is to be repaid shall be charged on any fund or rate now chargeable with the repayment of moneys borrowed by such sanitary authority for the purpose of defraying expenses incurred in carrying the said Acts into effect. The Land Commission shall not require any guarantee deposit to secure an advance made under the provisions of this section.
- (4.) The price paid by a sanitary authority for the purchase of any lands under the provisions of this section shall not exceed twenty years' purchase of the rent reserved in the lease under which the said lands are held by the sanitary authority.
- (5.) An advance made by the Land Commission, under this section, in any county shall not be taken into consideration in calculating the proportion which the total advances made in such county bear to the share of such county in the guarantee fund.
- (6.) Rules for carrying this section into effect shall be deemed to be rules under "The Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881," and shall be made by the Land Commission accordingly,—(Mr. M. Healy,)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."
§ (6.58.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think the hon. Gentleman will see that if this clause is not out of order, which I assume it is not, as you, Sir, have not so decided, it, at all events, goes very much beyond the scope of the Bill. I would point cut in the first place that the Sanitary Authority would, under the proposal, be a middleman. In the 911 second place, it can hardly be described as a Corporate Body. In the third place, though I do not suppose that the amount of money that could be used for this purpose is at present very large, I think it is inexpedient to pass a clause for the sole purpose of bringing in a new kind of purchaser—a purchaser never contemplated by the framers of the Bill, and who would not be a peasant proprietor. Under these circumstances I hope the hon. Gentleman will not press the Amendment, which I do not think is required in the interest of the labourers or of the Local Authority, and which is not much needed in the interest of the landlord.
§ (7.1.) MR. M. HEALY
I understand that the right, hon. Gentleman is not favourable to the reception of this clause. I quite agree that it is not a large matter, and I do not desire that it shall be debated at any length. I wish, however, to point out that the amount of money it would involve is very small, and I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman does not see his way to accept it. If, however, the right hon. Gentleman thinks it right to place the landlord selling his estate in the inconvenient position of having to retain in his hands a number of small scattered plots, the responsibility rests on him.
It would be necessary to alter the clause very materially to make it properly in order.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ (7.4.) MR. SEXTON
I beg to move the clause which stands in my name. I wish to say at once, that although I have not inserted a limit in the clause, the omission has not been due to any desire to make it illimitable. If the right hon. Gentleman accepts the principle of the proposal, the date will be a matter of arrangement, and I would suggest that it should be the 1st of January, 1880. If the right hon. Gentleman accepts the principle of my Amendment, the effect will be to cover a multitude of sins, and to make public opinion in Ireland tolerant of the defects of his Bill. A heavy responsibility lies at the door of the Legislature itself. The existence in such numbers of the unfortunate class of evicted tenants is due to the fatal delay occurring from time to time in the 912 passing of remedial legislation by Parliament. It is well known that the agitation which led to the Land Act of 1881 had been going on from 1877, at which date the evictions commenced. Intolerable suffering was caused. Many tenants were evicted because they could not pay arrears, and it was only by the Land Act of 1887 that the leaseholders were allowed to find relief in the Courts. Between 1881 and 1887 many of the leaseholders came to grief. That was the case on the Ponsonby Estate, and while these tenants were waiting for relief they were evicted. It is on behalf of these men that I have drafted the clause. Since 1887 disputes between landlord and tenant have developed, mainly owing to the refusal of the landlords to make reasonable abatements. These refusals embittered the temper of the parties and led to law costs, and though arbitration was offered in nearly every case, it was in nearly every case refused. A second cause of the number of evicted tenants is to be found in the refusal of just and necessary demands. The tenants who have been evicted within the last few years demanded nothing more than the usual abatement which bad been freely given by the general body of landlords in Ireland. The clause I propose is in no way an indictment of the Irish landlords, who, as a body, have met the necessities of the situation very fairly, but an exceedingly small minority of landlords have refused all abatements. Such of the evicted tenants as have been readmitted and allowed to go into the Land Courts have had their previous resistance vindicated by the decisions of the Courts. Where there have been voluntary settlements the terms conceded by the landlords have, in every case, approximated to those demanded by the tenants before eviction. The equity of the tenants' demands has also been proved where there has been arbitration, as in the case of the Vandeleur Estate. In the clause which I propose more than the interests of tenants and landlords are concerned; the interests of good Government itself are concerned. The evictions in Ireland and the circumstances connected with them during the last 10 years have been the chief cause of the Coercion Act, the prosecutions and im- 913 prisonments that have taken place, and the inflated Estimates in connection with the administation of the law in Ireland. Another proof that the tenants have not made inequitable demands is afforded by the fact they have always been willing to submit their claims to arbitration. The party which declined arbitration was presumably not satisfied with the justice of its case. I hope that the Chief Secretary will not reply by saying that the evicted tenants have resorted to what some people call an illegal combination. Some of them, no doubt, have combined; but others have not, and have given their last shillings in payment of impossible rents. Those who combined did so because they were driven to desperation, and really did no more than Englishmen would do in the same circumstances. The Chief Secretary himself, two years ago, said that if he were an Irish tenant, and found the landlords combining against him, he would combine with others against the landlords. I have no doubt that those words, spoken by the right hon. Gentleman in this House, encouraged many of the tenants to take the course of action that resulted in their eviction. I trust that the Chief Secretary will not treat my proposal in a spirit of punishment—I will not say in a spirit of revenge or partisanship. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will remember that he is now a statesman dealing with a remedial measure, and that, commiserating unfortunate and suffering people, he will consent to take a course which will offer them some hope of restoration to their old homes. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to allow the Land Commission to distinguish between the great body of Irish landlords who have granted necessary abatements, and have refrained from resorting to extreme measures, and the few landlords who have acted like Lord Clanricarde, and have shown themselves to be the enemies of social order by the unwise and excessive use of their powers. Had this small minority of the landlords acted as 19 out of 20 landlords would act in times of adversity, there would never have been any occasion to pass a Coercion Act. This is demanded by the equity of the case, because for the sake of one or two years' rent men have been evicted from farms which 914 their fathers and grandfathers cultivated, and their property has been confiscated. To facilitate the sale of evicted farms to emergency men and squatters will not only be terribly unjust to the former tenants, but will be against the interest of the State, for what security will there be that the purchasing emergency men and squatters will follow the pursuit of agriculture for any length of time? I should like to know who are these squatter tenants. They are really emergency men. They have no connection whatever with these farms; and it will be in the interest of the landlords themselves that my clause should be accepted. The security of the State will be very considerably improved. The right hon. Gentleman may say that the Land Commission are instructed to take care that the security is sufficient. What they have to do is to see that the holding itself constitutes sufficient security for the advance. But the tenant has a certain interest of his own in the holding. I may be told the Commission is not obliged to consider the tenant at all; that they have no duty cast upon them to inquire as to the stability of the tenant. That the State may be secure it is necessary that the purchasing tenants should be persons with some practical acquaintance with agriculture, and who will continue the pursuit of agriculture upon the holdings. But who are these tenants? They are grooms, ostlers, and others—mere casuals from the towns and cities of Ireland, brought in upon an emergency to assist the landlords, and of whom no record will he found upon the farms in a few years to come. There is nothing to assure us that there may not be between the landlord and the purchasing occupier an agreement by which the landlord will give the new owner a bonus, and he will he glad to disappear from the place. There is no assurance in the case of these farms that the tenants will remain, or that the annuities will be paid, and if the tenants should make default and he evicted from the holding, the consequence will be you will have to sell the farm, which is the security of the State for the advance, and you will have no one to buy it, except the landlord and the previously evicted tenant. These will be 915 the possible competitors, and whether the one or the other buys it will be at so much below the original purchase money that the State will be at a heavy loss in the transaction. If you recklessly enter on a sale from the landlords to these men who are not agriculturists in any sense of the word, you deliberately imperil the security of the State, and when loss arises you will not be able to say we did not warn you against the possible consequences of your action. I venture to speak even on behalf of the landlords and say it is to their interest that this Amendment should be accepted. They may desire in some cases to sell to emergency tenants, but there are few landlords, if any, who have "planted" the whole of their estates. In most cases only a small part of an estate has been so planted with emergency men, and I think the hon. Member for South Hunts (Mr. Smith-Barry) will agree that if a landlord sells part of his estate to these planters that will tend to discourage sales to other tenants. The original tenants who remain on the estate will deem it a point of honour and duty not to cooperate for the purpose of purchase with these emergency men; and if the landlord Representatives are so wanting in discretion as to oppose this clause, they will find in the result that they have inflicted an injury upon their own interests and have raised an insurmountable barrier to the sale of their estates. In the interests of peace I press this Amendment, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider this: If the farms are sold to these emergency men who are strangers in the district, at issue with the community around, by whom they are regarded as having appropriated to themselves the fruits of the capital and industry of those tenants who were evicted, what prospect will there be of agrarian peace? The alien element will be ever in evidence before a community deeply sympathising with the evicted tenants who are near by in the neighbourhood, living as best they can. So you will have this position, the intruding tenants at issue with the community amongst whom they are placed, the evicted tenants who feel they have been deprived of their means of living; you will have the community in sympathy 916 with these evicted tenants and condemning the action of those who stepped into the vacant holdings. Surely, it is impossible that out of these heterogeneous and conflicting elements a condition of peace can arise. I ask you to make such a distinction as you have made in numerous other instances in the Bill. You have made a distinction between large and small tenants, between one rate of years' purchase and another, between those who require the advance of the whole of the purchase money and those who do not, between the tenants in the congested districts and those in the rest of Ireland. I ask in reference to this matter that you should apply to men the same principle of distinction you have applied to districts. No men are more entitled to sympathy than these evicted tenants. I do not ask you to interfere with the legal rights of any landlord, I ask you to allow the Land Commission, in the judgment of whose members you have such confidence that you have withdrawn their conduct from the criticism of the House of Commons—I ask you to allow to these Commissioners, when they have satisfied themselves that a landlord has unreasonably refused arbitration in the case of tenants evicted since a certain date, say January 1st, 1880, or a later date—the discretion to say to such a landlord: "The presumption is against you, that you have refused to submit questions in dispute with your tenants to arbitration, and if you persist in such refusal we prefer that the money provided by the State shall go to landlords whose conduct is not open to censure, and we will not sanction an advance in your case unless you submit to arbitration and afford us evidence that your action has been just." I hope there is no obstinate resistance to my proposal, founded on the belief that these evicted tenants have been abandoned. It may be that the right hon. Gentleman maybe influenced by recent occurrences to the belief that the condition of these tenants has become hopeless and more unfortunate than it has been in the past. Such a belief is not well-founded. There has been other evidence in the last few days, and this very day from the City of New York there has been received £3,000 for the relief of these evicted tenants, and full evidence to show that 917 the stream of sympathy which has flowed so freely from the hearts of their countrymen in distant parts of the world has not yet dried up. I believe that these suffering tenants will be supported, will be kept from starvation by the generosity of their countrymen until the power to deal with their destinies has passed from the hands of the right hon. Gentleman. But I do not found my plea upon this hope; I believe the right hon. Gentleman is desirous that this Act shall work without impediment for the good of the two classes interested in agriculture in Ireland, and I can assure him that whatever other benefits the Bill may bring, it will fall far short of success so long as this class of men, driven to an extreme condition by no fault of their own but by the repeated failure to consider their just demands, are left without any hope from the Legislature. I beg to move that the clause be read a second time.
§ New Clause—
§ (Prohibition of advances on certain estates.)
No advance shall he made under the Land Purchase Acts, or under this Act, for the purchase of any holding on the estate of any landlord, if it be proved, on the application of any person formerly in the occupation of any holding on that estate, that the landlord has in any case refused, in a manner which the Land Commission may think unreasonable, to submit to arbitration any dispute relating to the estate between him and such person formerly in occupation,"—(Mr. Sexton,)
—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."
§ (7.39.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman in moving the Second Reading of this clause has traversed most thorny controversial ground with a speech which he endeavoured to make, and did make, moderate in tone, in defence of a class whose position he has in mind, but whose case, to my mind, is wholly indefensible. I have no desire to treat the matter in a manner to arouse some of those slumbering controversies which have raged across the floor of this 918 House in reference to agrarian affairs in Ireland in the past few years. We differ essentially in our reading of the agrarian history of Ireland for the last 10 years. Anyone taking his ideas from the speech of the hon. Gentleman in relation to what has taken place might suppose, in the first place, that Irish tenants have been the victims of halting and feeble legislation, and in the second place, that all the agrarian disputes in Ireland were due to the action of the landlord class. But it seems to me, on the other hand, that never has there been in the history of this world any class of cultivators in any part of the civilised globe who have received so many and such varied gifts at the hands of any Legislature, as the Irish tenants have received from the Legislature of the United Kingdom. I think the hon. Gentleman may ransack all history to find a parallel to the treatment Irish tenants have received from this Parliament. I am equally obliged to differ from the hon. Gentleman in his view of the relations between the action of landlords and the agrarian troubles in Ireland. He talks as if all the difficulties the Executive have had to deal with, and all the difficulties legislation has had to meet in the interest of social order, have been due to the action and short-sighted stupidity of the Irish landlords. Well, I do not wish to put the matter more controversially than truth demands, but I read history in a very different manner I believe that these agrarian difficulties-have been forced upon the Irish landlords. Broadly speaking, I believe that on the estates where the greatest troubles have occurred these disputes have been deliberately fostered for the sake of gaining political ends. I believe the tenants for whom the hon. Gentleman has pleaded with so much eloquence have been the victims, not of landlord tyranny, but of a policy instigated by those who may have been animated, for anything I can say or will say, with a single-minded desire to serve the interests of their country, but who, at all events, had not at heart the interests of the particular tenants who have suffered, and who only regarded these as 919 instruments for carrying out principles believed to be essential to the future happiness of the country. Differing as we do, then, the hon. Gentleman will hardly be surprised to learn that the Amendment is one which the Government cannot accept. To come down from the broader question, as the hon. Member suggests, and to consider the Amendment as applied to the particular section of tenants whose case he desires to meet, it appears to me that the clause he has put upon the Paper is not well adapted to gain that end in itself, and that it would be absolutely unworkable. Consider it from the point of view of the Land Commission. If this clause becomes part of the Bill you throw upon the Land Commission the extraordinary and impossible task of surveying the history of a particular estate during the last ten years, and of deciding upon no evidence that could ever satisfy a tribunal that a particular course which was adopted, a course in itself perfectly legal and in harmony with the legislation of 1881, was a course no well-advised landlord would have pursued. You throw upon the Land Commission the impossible task of determining whether or not a landlord should have gone to arbitration; and you require the Land Commission to punish him for his error in judgment, while at the same time you punish every one upon his estate who may desire to purchase his holding.
§ MR. SEXTON
It is perfectly evident, from the exordium of the right hon. Gentleman, that he will not accept the clause, and detailed criticism is unnecessary unless he will indicate any limitation which will make the clause acceptable. I am willing to limit it to particular holdings.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman does not care for any detailed exposition of the defects, absurdities, and impossibilities that will make the clause unworkable, and, under the circumstances, I do not think it is necessary to detain the Committee by any close examination of the wording of the clause. It is sufficient for me to say that, though I have no doubt that there 920 are tenants in Ireland who have been evicted from their holdings in circumstances of hardship, though I feel there are many cases in which evicted tenants deserve the sympathy of all persons who think as I think they have been the victims of organised intimidation, still I do not think that either in justice to the landlord, in justice to the now occupying tenant, whose interest after all has to be considered, or in justice to the general principles of equity which ought to guide legislation on the subject—I do not think, that on any of these grounds, it would be wise for the Committee to read the clause a second time.
§ (7.46.) MR. SEXTON
The right hon. Gentleman has chosen this time to exercise his powers of debate upon old subjects of controversy, but if he had turned his thoughts a little more upon the subject before us he would have seen more of the Amendment I propose, and that there is nothing in it remarkably different from the functions the Land Commission will have to discharge under other portions of the Bill. The Commissioners have to discharge varied functions, they have to report upon the existence of particular and exceptional distress on the part of any occupier or any portion of the country, they have to discharge functions requiring the most acute exercise of the rarest faculties. Many duties have been provided for them, some of which we doubt their competency to discharge, but here I ask there shall be entrusted to them a duty which it will not transcend the ability of the average man to discharge. But how, says the right hon. Gentleman, are the Land Commissioners to ascertain whether a landlord ought or ought not to have proceeded as he did to the eviction of his tenant? Well, the Commission will have the facts before them; they have the record of the proceedings for the reduction of rents on similar holdings, and it will be a simple matter, by the exercise of their judgment, to come to the opinion whether or not prior to eviction the landlord unreasonably refused arbitration. "Ab- 921 surd," "impossible," are the epithets of the right hon. Gentleman; but I say there is nothing absurd or impossible about it, and that the Commission would have no more simple function than to apply to the application of the tenant those same methods which enabled them to come to a decision upon an application for a reduction of rent upon a similar holding. There would then be a primâ facie case, upon which arbitration might proceed. I have drawn the clause in terms as general as possible, in order to invite suggestions; and I am willing that the powers of the Commission shall be limited to a particular holding. As to the exordium of the right hon. Gentleman, I may say I have never known a more remarkable instance of allowing the misleading light of a reckless imagination to be cast over the plainest political question. One would think that Ireland was a veritable garden of Eden, a favoured land and clime, where every man was happy and prosperous, and that you might ransack all history in vain to find another country upon which such blessings have been showered by Heaven and British legislation as on Ireland. It is a "Happy Valley," and belongs to the region of romance, not to the dry details of politics. You might ransack history, no doubt, and find nothing like it—nothing like the neglect of duties that should accompany territorial occupation. What have they ever done for the education or the good of the people; or what have they ever cared to do but draw their rents? For over 200 years your Government have allowed this to go on, and it has only been within the last dozen years that you have attempted to deal with the agrarian question in a practical manner. You may ransack history, but where can you find anything like the experiences of 1848, or where can you find another instance of 3,000,000 of people being exiled from their country, owing to agrarian troubles, in a manner that has been a disgrace to your Government, a scandal to Parliament, and a libel upon Christianity itself? This is the happy country in which no one, except by an inexcusable perverse-ness, raises the voice of complaint.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Member commenced his speech by com- 922 plaining of the manner in which the agrarian question had been neglected by the Legislature, and in reply I pointed out that no body of tenants had been the subject of such favourable legislation as the Irish tenants. I waited to hear the hon. Member substantiate his declaration by facts.
§ MR. SEXTON
It was not until the most acute distress had existed for four years and bankruptcy had been at work amongst the tenants that Parliament legislated. I repeat—and my argument cannot be contradicted — that many tenants were evicted between 1877 and 1881, because of their distress and bankruptcy and loss of credit. Nothing was done in the way of legislation until 1881. The reductions which were made by the Court, when the tenants were allowed to go, in showed the necessity for legislation. You have always been slow to act, and when you have acted you have always been inadequate. Under the Act of 1881, 18 months were allowed to pass before the old arrears, which were hanging like millstones around the necks of the tenants, were removed, and during the interval a great many of the tenants for whom I have pleaded to-night were evicted. Will any one deny that the leaseholders have suffered less than these tenants? and yet it was not until six years after the passing of the Act of 1881 that they were allowed to go into the Court. During those six years a great many leaseholders who were unable to meet their liabilities were evicted — many hundreds were turned out of their holdings because you would not apply your legislative machinery to them in order to give relief. In the presence of facts of this kind it is idle, and worse than idle, for the right hon. Gentleman to pretend that he is discharging the function of a constitutional Minister in a constitutional Assembly when he faces an Amendment such as this with such a vapid and meaningless discourse as that we heard from him.
§ (7.56.) MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I was rather surprised to find that the right hon. Gentleman in his retrospect of the legislation of the last 10 years forgot to mention the part that he himself took in that legislation. I was a Member of the House in 1881, and I remember how the right hon. Gentleman, as a Member of the Fourth Party, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was endeavouring to confer one of the first real Acts of land reform on Ireland, made us all deaf and dizzy by his constant speeches against that Bill. In fact, an hon. Friend reminds me that the right hon. Gentleman may be accredited—as one of the incidents of his brilliant political career in regard to Ireland—with having taken on himself the responsibility of moving the rejection of the fair rent clause. A relative of the right hon. Gentleman took the trouble to compute the number of speeches made by the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) on this Bill. I assume that the voice of the uncle was a re-echo of the voice of the nephew; and I say that if the right hon. Gentleman dares to complain of the number of speeches made on this Bill, he will be invited to have recourse to the pages of Hansard to see the number of speeches he made on the Land Act of 1881. The right hon. Gentleman, in speaking of the legislation which had been passed in the interest of the Irish tenants, was wise enough to confine himself to the land legislation of the last 10 years, and not to deal with the terrible records of landlordism in previous periods. When the right hon. Gentleman claims that more has been done in this country for the tenants of Ireland than has been done elsewhere, I would remind him of the legislation of another country, which I do not think even he will describe as uncivilised. I would remind him of the land legislation of Prussia, which in many respects has been better than that now proposed. A system of peasant proprietorship has been set up in that country, and that not in the lame and halting form the right 924 hon. Gentleman proposes. Have the legislation and the concessions of which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken been given to the tenants of Ireland by him and his Party for love of the tenantry? Nothing of the kind. That legislation has been meant, not for the benefit of the tenants, but for the rescue of the landlords, and, therefore, we owe no thanks to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues for it. He has brought it in in the interest of his own class, and his speech to-night shows little diminution in the ferocity with which he has pursued the tenants of Ireland during his term of office. The right hon. Gentleman smiles at that observation. He is blindly callous to the sufferings of the Irish tenants. He knows how they are suffering on such estates as that of Mr. Olphert at the present moment; he has assisted in augmenting those sufferings, and has nothing but a smile with which to greet a reference to them. The claim made by the hon. Member for West Belfast is rendered necessary in consequence of the halting and partial character of recent legislation in respect to the class of tenants referred to. The Act of 1887 was forced from the Government in spite of the declaration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer one Saturday afternoon at Alexandra Park, when he swore on his honour and by his Ministerial consistency that he would never do that which on the following Wednesday he announced it was his intention to do. The Government were forced to legislate by the combination of the tenants. The campaign tenants—for such I must call them—who formed the combination were the allies and teachers and apostles of the Government in carrying the legislation of 1887. Well, the hon. Member for West Belfast has again demonstrated the justice of the case of the Irish tenants; but the right hon. Gentleman absolutely disregards his appeal, and the way he has done so shows that his chief consideration is not the real interests of the tenants of Ireland. If the right hon. Gentleman would only take a straight forward and statesmanlike view of the matter, he would accept the new clause of my hon. Friend, for it would be the means of obviating great injustice that must otherwise be inflicted, and would 925 have a beneficial effect throughout the country. This would be an effectual solution of the Irish land question. We thought so in 1880, and said so in our speeches and in the published documents of our organisation. The right hon. Gentleman is never tired of telling Tory audiences in the country that he never heard a practical or wise suggestion from these Benches with regard to the government of Ireland. Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that he has made that observation over and over again in the country?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Then the repetition has all the more exposed the error. The right hon. Gentleman may not think so, but, as a matter of fact, every single act of the Legislature with regard to the land question in Ireland has been borrowed years after it was suggested by hon. Gentlemen who sit on these Benches and their organisations. What will be the state of Ireland when this Bill as it stands passes into law? There are a few sore spots still in Ireland—about 20. As the hon. Member for West Belfast has pointed out, these sore spots have been the cause, if I may use the term, of all the inflammation in the body politic of Ireland; they have been the cause of the Coercion Acts and of the enormous cost required for the government of the country. Now, without such a clause as that proposed, these sore spots will remain, and will continue to work mischief, and surely a wise man in the position of the right hon. Gentleman would do everything in his power to meet that difficulty. The proposed clause would do so to a great extent, and there would be no difficulty in making it work if the right hon. Gentleman would only apply himself to the task. The folly of the right hon. Gentleman in refusing this proposal exceeds my most sanguine expectations of his qualities in that direction. The right hon. Gentleman did not criticise in 926 full the proposal of my hon. Friend. It is lucky for him he did not, because I think he would have found it difficult to have disposed of the proposal by detailed criticism. It is plain to see how the Amendment could be made workable, but the right hon. Gentleman does not want to work it. He has administered coercion for four years. I will not go back on the dire and tragic episodes of that administration. But the right hon. Gentleman has managed to get from his own Party a reputation for firmness in the administration of the Coercion Act. He has also succeeded in exciting the indignation of the vast majority of his own countrymen in England and Scotland, a forecast of which he has been able to see within the last two or three weeks, and the reality of which at the next General Election will make even him reel in his estimate of the omnipotence of his policy. The right hon. Gentleman wishes to keep up his reputation for consistency. He thinks he cuts a better figure by this policy of firmness than he would by making a wise and statesmanlike concession such as that demanded by my hon. Friend. I am not surprised at his persistent refusal to accept the Amendment. I hope the observations of the right hon. Gentleman will be studied in Ireland, and I have not the smallest doubt they will be. They will throw some light upon this new and portentous alliance between the so-called Independent Nationalist Party and the present Administration. The people will in the light of those observations be able to understand how the two Parties are able to work together, the one by refusing funds that belong to the tenants, and the other by refusing concessions to the tenants—to work together, so that the evicted tenants may be crushed between the upper millstone of Parnellism and the nether millstone of Balfourism. The intelligent people of Ireland will read and understand this Debate, and I am very much mistaken if the rejection of the Amendment of my hon. Friend, foolish as it may be on the part of the Chief Secretary, and disappointing as it may be to my hon. Friends, will not in the end redound to the advantage of the people, inasmuch as it will be one of the many contributory causes which will 927 drive the right hon. Gentleman from his present position, which will put a very-different kind of administration on the Treasury Bench, and will sweep away coercion and Parnellism combined.
§ (8.12.) MR. T. M. HEALY
I read the other day in the papers that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had received at his office a large body of gentlemen on behalf of the evicted tenants of Ireland; and from the accounts, which were only supplied to the Parnellite newspapers, I gather that he held out some hope of consideration to them. From that fact I certainly imagined that the right hon. Gentleman would have shown more sympathy with the proposal of my hon. Friend than he has done. The right hon. Gentleman admitted to the deputation the existence of grievances. That being so, there remains only the question of remedy Surely the application of destructive criticism on an occasion of this kind is not the be-all and end-all of statesmanship. The right hon. Gentleman is well aware that there are at the present moment large bodies of evicted tenants. I should have supposed it was the business of a man of the world, of a man who sits on the Treasury Bench, to treat the world as he finds it, and not as if everybody possessed all the cardinal virtues. But the right hon. Gentleman, now he thinks he has these men in his power, instead of endeavouring to lay down the proposition that Ireland's difficulty is England's opportunity, is seizing the downcast and down-hearted condition of these men, to drive them still more into the mire. I confess that would not be my idea of British statesmanship. I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman would have been glad to build a golden bridge to enable these people to obtain the benefit of the Purchase Act. Mr. Townsend French is a man of the world, and he wished to settle the Luggacurran difficulty; and I imagine, from the wistful way in which the hon. Member for South Hunts (Mr. Smith-Barry) has been regarding these Debates, that 928 the landlords of Ireland would be glad to see the Government giving something like an impetus to a settlement, which they would pretend to grumble at, but would be only too delighted with. We have seen the Member for South Hunts, like a solitary raven, looking on at these Debates and hoping that somebody would put his hand on his shoulder and say to him, "Now, do, like a good fellow, let these Ponsonby tenants back into their holdings. If you do not, we must apply a little pressure." These men are always governed not by Irish opinion, but by English opinion—by the opinion of their clubs, their four-in-hand meets, and their Rotten Rows—and they would be glad if they had the opportunity to say, "The Government forced us to reinstate the evicted tenants." When the Liberal Party are in Office they have in front of them some hundreds of Tories denouncing them if they make the least concession to Ireland. When the Tory Government is in Office it is like forcing an open door. They meet with no opposition from the Liberal Party at all, and do as they like practically as long as they are considered to be doing something in the interests of Ireland. It is the same with foreign policy, and this is the great secret of any success the Tory Party has achieved. Let us now take the case of Lord Clanricarde. The case is so extraordinary that the Irish Secretary, in a few of those barbed sentences of which he is such a master, probably gave him the greatest amount of flagellation that anybody has inflicted on him in this House. The right hon. Gentleman despatched the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) to Ireland. Of course he did not do it directly, but whenever the hon. Member for South Tyrone goes anywhere it is always difficult to find out who pays for his trot. Take his letters on the subject of what is going on on Lord Clanricarde's estate, where there is now so large a body of these poor tenants, and where so many evils have long prevailed. The hon. Member for South Tyrone went to the West of Ireland in 1888. He went to the agent, Mr. Tenor, who entertained him for a long time, and he then went to the local prison and was generally taken about the estate, and the result was that 929 he condemned Lord Clanricarde's procedure, writing a letter to the Times, in which he occupied about two columns for the purpose of proving that Lord Clanricarde was one of the greatest monsters that had ever descended upon the Irish tenantry, and asserted that the way to deal with such men as he, was by compulsory expatriation.
Order, order! The hon. Member appears to have lost sight of the proposal before the Committee.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I was only endeavouring to cope with statements to the effect that those tenants have no grievance, and what I said was entirely occasioned by the charge that the existing state of things is due to the action of hon. Members on this side of the House; but, of course, if you object to my going further into this part of the subject I will not proceed with it; nevertheless, I may say that it must at least be acknowledged that there are estates in Ireland upon which, even according to the testimony of the supporters of Her Majesty's Government, there are burning questions, a solution of which must be provided in some manner or another, and which ought to be provided by this Bill. What is the remedy which the Government propose? Take this case of Lord. Clanricarde; it is admitted that the estate is denuded of tenants, and this estate extends over a district as large as half an average-sized Irish county—almost as large as the County of Carlow, and certainly quite as large as the County of Rutland. If you had such a state of things in England—a district as large as a small county denuded of its tenantry, a landlord who was living in a foreign clime, using on his own property the forces of the Crown to harry and oppress such tenants as are left—would you not say that the opportunity offered by a Bill of this kind was one in which the interests of those tenants should be considered and provided for? My hon. Friend says that the Bill will not meet the case of Lord 930 Clanricarde, because he is content to make a desert, and to call that peace. No doubt Lord Clanricarde is quite satisfied, so far as I am able to see, to go on with the scheme of exterminating the tenants without any attempt to replace them by other tenants; but is this a case which the Government can contemplate with anything like equanimity? If the Government have broken down the Plan of Campaign in Ireland, and if the hon.Member for South Hunts (Mr.Smith-Barry) has so acted that he has deprived the Ponsonby tenants of all hope, it is somewhat strange that when matters are in this condition the situation, instead of being rendered better, is being rendered more 'desperate by the Government. If the subscriptions from America had been dried up, if the sympathy is being sealed as against the Irish tenantry, surely the Government must see that there can be nothing much worse for a landlord like Lord Clanricarde to have in his immediate neighbourhood large bands of hungry and desperate tenants encamped in huts on his estate, and not knowing where to turn for a meal. The Government are rejoicing and gloating over the misfortunes of these men and are practically holding them up as scarecrows and dreadful examples by which the other tenants are to be terrified; such a policy as this is, I say, an unwise and a perverse policy; and when it is found that large bodies of tenants have gone out because of rack rents, and large numbers because they have made themselves the pioneers of a movement of self sacrifice—I say, that in a case of this kind, where these men are denuded of all hope and expectation of bettering their condition, we have a state of things which I, if I were in the position of the Chief Secretary, should not be able to contemplate with anything like equanimity. At any rate, if I did, I do not think I should he taking a statesmanlike view of the matter. How does it happen that men like the Ponsonby tenants have been brought to such a pass? Was it by the action of the landlords? No; it was by the intrusion of a hostile, or rather a strange and foreign syndicate. If so, is not the case for my hon. Friend's Amendment made all the stronger? Surely these are circumstances under which pressure ought to be brought to 931 bear on the landlord to induce him to work up the ravelled skein of the agrarian difficulty on his estate, and to arrive at a settlement as to which he might be enabled to say that this has been made a matter of high State policy by the Government, and it was therefore desirable that an arrangement should be effected. Let us admit, for a moment, that these tenants have made a mistake, and that instead of being animated with the pure and noble motives which induced the citizens of Moscow to burn the then capital of the Russian Empire, so as to prevent its affording food and shelter to the army of the French conqueror, the actual motives by which these men have been influenced are as base and sordid as those which the Chief Secretary attributes to them. I ask, what then? At any rate, the Government have to face the fact that there are 4,000 or 5,000 landless and hungry men sitting down on the estates of their landlords and watching their farms. Is that a desirable state of things? I say it is not, and that whatever may be the motives which animate the action or influence the conduct of those people, the Government ought to be ready and willing to provide a safe and satisfactory method of settling the question. If the word had gone round to Mr. Ponsonby that the Government were anxious to effect a settlement, he would have been one of the first men to concur in a settlement. We on these Benches are frequently told that we only select for our operations those landlords whom we believe to be defenceless. Let us take this statement for granted, although, as a matter of course, I deny it. Is Mr. Ponsonby, or any other landlord similarly situated, to be deprived of all hope or chance of ever gaining benefit from this legislation? I think it would be found that if an opportunity were offered by which the Representatives of the landlords of Ireland on the one hand and of the tenants on the other, could meet in some room and discuss the whole question round the common table, they might, with very little difficulty, be enabled to find a satisfactory solution, provided the question of feeling could only be put on one side. The present attitude of the landlords is really attri- 932 butable to a determination to resist what they regard as compulsion. They say the situation is a threatening one; but I would ask how can they make this statement when they have men like the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) going about the country and telling the tenants that their only hope is in the present Bill, and that the money which has been subscribed for the relief of the evicted tenants cannot be unloosed? I say when you have men in the position of the hon. Member for Cork saying all this, and adding that this is the last Bill the Irish tenants are ever likely to get from the Imperial Parliament, is this a situation that can be said to threaten the Irish landlords? No, it is nothing of the kind. On the contrary, I say that it is a favourable moment for the Irish landlords to come on, when the flag has been so lowered by the hon. Member for Cork. This is hardly a moment when they will feel inclined to fire upon a flag of truce. Beyond this, it is surely far better from their point of view that the settlement of this question should come from a Tory Government than from a Liberal Government. Therefore I say, if there be any statesmanship on the Treasury Bench, let the Government seize the opportunity which is now afforded. If they do not like our proposal, let them bring forward a proposition of their own, and we are willing to discuss it. They cannot suppose that they have acquired a life tenure of their present offices. Even the most foolish Insurance Company would hardly be disposed to calculate the remainder of their term as worth more than a year-and-a-half or two years' purchase at the outside. I would, therefore, earnestly suggest to the Government that this is the most favourable moment at which they can make terms on behalf of these landlords who are in a position of difficulty. Because that they are in a position of difficulty is undoubted, and if the situation is not in some way held up, they may depend upon it that by some means or other a sufficient amount of money will be found to carry on this struggle, if necessary. Knowing what I do of the men who have had the charge and care of these evicted tenants, I do not believe, for one moment, that they will fail in securing the means of con- 933 tinuing the conflict, should that course be forced upon them. I do not believe that men like Canon Keller, who is in charge of those tenants on the Ponsonby estate, and other men of his rank and standing and noble character and priestly influence, would find their appeal unheeded if they were to go to the members of our race in America. I am convinced that, in that case, they would not find that the well of Irish sympathy has been dried up. Therefore I say, that if the Government and the friends of the Irish landlords are wise in time, they will endeavour to find, under cover of this Bill, some means of settlement. Remember what happened in the past, when the Act of 1881 was carried. You would do nothing to lighten the burden of arrears which, then hung so heavily round the necks of the Irish tenants. But subsequent events, including the terrible murders which took place in the Phœnix Park, induced the Government to bring in a Bill by which the arrears were dealt with to a large extent, and that measure was regarded as a sort of amnesty throughout Ireland. Surely the Government ought not now to wait until some fresh calamity comes upon the Irish tenants, and they are aroused anew into a condition of exasperation. If the Government will not accept our proposal in this House, then the House of Lords might be called upon to exercise their ingenuity to endeavour to bring about a settlement of this question. There is at this moment a pause, a lull, which is highly favourable to the exercise of a judicious temper in the direction of a settlement. The Government can hardly say that they have selected this moment of depression in the popular ranks as a fitting one for coming forward to arrange a satisfactory solution of the difficulty. The situation is sufficiently grave, and involves questions sufficiently large to induce the Government to address themselves to its consideration in a becoming spirit of good temper and good sense. And I say, that if they only exhibit the same disposition as was evinced in regard to the Scotch crofter question in 1886, the Government will be showing that they still have some share of those governing qualities which British statesmanship in our colonies and elsewhere has always 934 endeavoured to bring to the solution of problems of this nature.
§ (8.40) The Committee divided:— Ayes 29; Noes 62.—(Div. List, No. 243.) (8.48.)
§ (9.20.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ (9.22.) MR. W. PRITCHARD MORGAN (Merthyr Tydvil)
I beg to move a new clause—"Regulation of Mines, &c." I have every reason to know that there is a general feeling in the House that an opportunity now presents itself of enabling the State to do that which it might have done many years ago with great advantage to the public interest, namely, to become the owner of the minerals contained in the lands of the country. On two occasions I have put on the Paper clauses having that object, but unfortunately those clauses have been ruled out of Order. I am driven, therefore, to make the proposal I now make, namely, that the minerals shall be reserved to the present owners of the land. It would be a very serious thing, in the event of minerals of value being discovered in Ireland, if the lands were cut up and handed over to a large number of persons—because in that case persons desirous of developing the mineral resources of Ireland would have, of necessity, to go to a great number of persons before they could secure the rights of mining in the lands. The Royal Commission now sitting on mining royalties have issued a special Report in which they warn the House of the effect which the passing of this Bill may have on the development of the mineral resources of Ireland. The evidence of the Irish witnesses before that Commission shows that they consider this a favourable opportunity for the State to take over the minerals of Ireland. Not only from an abstract point of view should that principle be adopted, but because it is being largely recognised in our colonies at this moment. The colonies are now legislating 935 in a most drastic manner for the purpose of bringing about a development of their internal resources. I say it is the duty of the State to avail itself of this opportunity of doing something to prevent the shutting up of the mineral resources of Ireland. There are many hon. Members on both sides of the House, I know, who laugh to scorn the idea that there are any precious metals whatever in the British Isles. But as a matter of fact they do exist. If anyone doubts the existence of precious metals in Ireland, he will find unmistakable proof of that fact in the British Museum. If anyone desires to mine in Ireland, he must get permission to search for the base metals from the landlords, and then get the leave of the Government to search for the precious metals. Each of these landowners or royalty owners insist upon receiving a proportion, not of the profits of the mining operations, but of the products. In the Court of Appeal the other day a declaration was made by the learned Judge to the effect that if the base metals and the precious metals were of anything like co-ordinate value, he did not know to whom the mine would belong. That shows that the law as to mining is in a most unsatisfactory state. The Attorney General for Ireland cannot say that the Crown is not desirous of interfering in this matter, and of, in some way, controlling the mining interests of the country, because in some respects it does so already. What I desire to do is to centre all the minerals in the Crown, or, failing that, to keep them in the hands of the present landlords. The Land Commission should arrive at an approximate price at which the Crown can buy out the mining rights of the landlords. My only object in moving the clause is to serve the best mining interests of the country, and if I succeed in doing that I shall consider that I have done my duty.
§ New Clause—
§ (Reservation of mines, &c.)
No mines, minerals, scone, gravel, clay, earth, or other substances (except peat) contained in any lands that shall come under the operations of this Act shall pass to any purchaser under this Act, but shall remain the property of and be reserved by the present owners of such lands."—(Mr. Pritchard Morgan.)
—brought up, and read a first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now, read a second time."
§ (9.32.) MR. MADDEN
The subject to which the hon. Member has called attention is one of great importance, but the hon. Member himself has admitted that the new clause does not contain the policy which he would have been glad to recommend, but that in fact in many respects it is opposed to it. For my own part, it does not appear to me that this clause will deal effectively with the question. I have always felt that the sub-division of the ownership in fee of land in Ireland may here after prove a very considerable bar to the development of the mineral resources of the country, but the question cannot be met in the manner proposed, which is simply to reserve compulsorily to the vendor mines and minerals. I could quite understand the position of the hon. Member if he had brought forward a scheme by which either the State or some Local Authority should have control over mines and minerals. Of such a scheme, I will only say that it would deserve the consideration of the Committee; but that is not the proposal of the hon. Member. By the wording of the clause such things as clay, stone, and gravel and earth would be included. Everything, in fact, on or beneath the surface of the soil would be reserved to the vendor, save bog. The substance, however, of the proposal is that such things as are generally known as mines and minerals should be reserved to the vendor—i.e., to the landlord, who in many cases has parted with the whole of his estate, and I do not think that that would be conducive to the development of mines and minerals in Ireland, inasmuch as the landlord might have severed his connection with the country, and would have no interest in the development of these resources. I cannot, therefore, recommend the Committee to adopt this Amendment, though I fully appreciate the importance of the general question, which is one which may have to be considered in a substantial manner hereafter.
§ MR. PRITCHARD MORGAN
May I, ask whether the right hon. Gentleman can suggest any other means by which the question of minerals may be reserved; would he reserve them to the State?
§ (9.38.) MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
I think there is great force in this clause. Those tenants who, under this clause, are to become purchasers of their holdings will not buy the mines and minerals. They simply want the agricultural surface of the soil, and that is all they buy, although they will, unless the Bill is amended, become purchasers of the mines and minerals as well as the surface. Under the circumstances I think there ought to be some means whereby mines and minerals should be vested in some one other than these new proprietors. When you come to open up a mine in Ireland it would be very inconvenient to have to treat with a considerable number of proprietors having an interest in the land. I think there is no reason why we should not reserve these metals for the general good. You, Sir, have ruled that it would be out of order to consider the question of how far the locality should have an interest in minerals.
§ MR. CALDWELL
It seems to me that we should prevent minerals passing from any vendor under the Bill. Parliament could then, on some future occasion, legislate in regard to the mineral rights.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
It is outside the scope of the Bill to discuss the question of minerals going to the State or the Local Authority. Would it not be possible to reserve in the Bill mineral rights to the present owners 938 where there is no reference to minerals in the contract?
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ First Schedule—
§ (9.42.) MR. SEXTON
We had a sharp Debate at an earlier stage of the Bill on the different treatment extended by this Bill to the five cities and towns in the 1st Schedule, and to the five cities and towns in the 2nd Schedule, and I said I should divide the Committee on the subject. I want to see the same rule applied to all these cities and towns. So far as the interest of the farmers is concerned the Government propose to strike a serious blow at the five cities in the 2nd Schedule, because their share of the Cash and Contingent Guarantee Fund is such that by excluding them from the operation of the Bill you lower the amount of Stock by £4,500,000. In view of that very grave fact, I think it requires a very powerful argument to justify the inclusion of the cities in the 1st Schedule. When we debated the matter here the Secretary for Ireland recognised the force of my contention, and said that if the Members for the districts adjoining the included cities thought they should be excluded, he would be prepared to yield on the point. Prom that day to this not one Member has said a word in opposition to what I pleaded for on that occasion. There was an Amendment on the Paper in which an hon. Member proposed to move to exclude Waterford from the 1st Schedule. But unfortunately the day after the Chief Secretary came down and turned a complete somersault on the question. He took up a totally different position. So far from saying that he would be guided by the Members representing the districts adjoining or surrounding the cities, he adopted the simple and inappropriate and unmeaning argument of population. Size is not an argument in this case. A small city may be more independent and distinct on this matter than a large one, and I 939 refuse to assent to the proposal that there should be any distinction drawn. Waterford is an important city. It is a seaport with a foreign trade, with important brewing and distilling industries, and with bacon curing and other industries. Will the Government exclude Waterford from the Schedule? The County of Waterford is to have £750,000 of Stock, which will last for a considerable time. I decline to admit that there is any reason in the test of population which has been adopted by the Chief Secretary; but the population of Waterford approaches the line which has been laid down, and I cannot see why this important city should be denied the privilege, which is given to Limerick or Londonderry, of deciding whether or not they will come in under the Bill. Waterford is as much separated from the rural districts as Londonderry or Limerick. I hope the Government will be able to give me a favourable reply, at least with regard to Waterford, and if there be no favourable response I shall be obliged to raise the case of each of these cities.
§ (9.45.) MR. M. J. KENNY
It has been pointed out that there was no appreciable difference between the populations of Waterford and Derry according to the last Census. It is true that Derry has since grown, but it is also true that Waterford has since grown. Waterford is twice as large as any of the other towns in the 1st Schedule, and all the circumstances connected with it would lead to its inclusion in the 2nd Schedule
§ MR. SEXTON
I beg to move the omission of Kilkenny, with the view of raising the question of Waterford.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 19, line 5, to leave out the words "County of the City of Kilkenny."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."
§ (9.50.) MR. M. HEALY
The refusal of this Amendment is simply an attack on the whole municipal system of Ireland. Four out of five of the towns in the 1st 940 Schedule have municipalities of their own. In refusing our demand the Government say they will not submit the operations of this Bill to local control. In regard to Waterford the case is unanswerable, and it is an outrage almost on the symmetry of the measure to include Waterford in the 1st Schedule.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not quite understand the basis of the criticisms which are passed on the Schedule. We suggest that the very big cities should be excluded, and the line must be drawn somewhere. According to the Census of this year, of which of course I have only the unrevised figures, I find that Londonderry has a population of nearly 32,900 and Waterford a population of 21,700.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes. Waterford has a population of about 21,000, Galway 13,000, Drogheda 11,000, and Kilkenny 11,000. I would earnestly recommend the hon. Gentleman not to press the Amendment. If now you turn from the general scheme of the Bill to the manner in which it affects Waterford, you find that the total for the county guarantee is £758,000, and the amount from Waterford city £142,000 odd, nearly a fifth of the whole; so that if hon. Gentlemen insist on turning Waterford out of the list, and putting it, against all arithmetical symmetry, in the excluded list, the effect will be to deprive the county of Waterford of a fifth of the whole of the amount to be devoted to land purchase in the county.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It would be a serious blow to the prospects of land purchase in the county, and I hope that will not be done. We have given power to each of the excluded towns to come in under the Bill, but we do not necessarily compel them to do so. On the 941 whole, I think no sufficient reason has been shown for modifying our original proposal.
§ (9.56.) MR. SEXTON
Waterford will not necessarily be deprived of its share of Stock; it is simply a question of giving the people of Waterford the option of saying if they will or will not hypothecate their city revenues to provide security for the agricultural parts of the county. The county will have £750,000. That is a large share, and I think it is a serious thing to say that the municipality of a city like Waterford shall have no voice in determining whether it shall provide a fifth of the whole Stock of the county. Surely it is an abrogation of all principles of municipal government, a despotic interposition of the Imperial Government. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the gaps of population, and as if the groups were arranged in order of population. There is no doubt considerable difference in the size of the towns in each group, but not between Waterford, with above 20,000 population, and the towns at the end of the other group; and I submit that on the basis of population alone Waterford would more properly find its place in the 2nd Schedule. I may remind the right hon. Gentleman that at an earlier period of our discussions he expressed his willingness to accede to a desire on the part of the county Representatives that a town should be excluded, and this Amendment stands in the name of an hon. Member who represents one Division of the county, and I am aware that the Member for the other Division concurs in the proposal. I cannot conceive upon what principle a Corporation like that of Londonderry, deriving an income from agricultural tenancies, and having a direct interest in the prospects of agricultural tenants, should be allowed to say whether or not it will join in the guarantee, while a city like Waterford should be denied any voice in determining whether its revenues should be pledged for a like purpose. What is the use of dwelling so much on this matter of relatively small importance? We have made out a strong case, and 942 I trust we shall not be put to the necessity of debating it further. Waterford will have £600,000 worth of Stock, and the £140,000 from the city will not be required for many years to come, and meanwhile, the city being included in the 2nd Schedule, it will be open to the Corporation to co-operate should it be desirable.
§ (10.3.) MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)
An element in the comparison as between Waterford and Londonderry is valuation as well as population, the capital value of their shares of the Guarantee Fund, and I imagine that, test it as you may, the valuation of Waterford and payments to income tax are immensely larger than in Londonderry. Wealth as well as population should be considered in estimating the importance of a town, and the wealth of Waterford arises from manufactures and commerce quite apart from agriculture. And yet are the resources of Waterford to be pledged, though they are quite distinct from agriculture, which is not the case with Londonderry, which is excluded? We have often been told that people must be weighed as well as counted, and let this principle be applied as between Waterford and Derry. To an extent that does not find a parallel, I think, in any other city in the Kingdom. Derry draws a large proportion of revenue from agricultural land, and it would be reasonable, were a city, so circum stanced, to bear its share in the loss that might accrue from the application of a system of land purchase to the county. I venture to think that if the hon. Member for South Derry were to protest against the exclusion of Londonderry from the Bill he would have a very strong case, so long as Waterford is included. Surely if there is any strong feeling in the County of Waterford that the amount available for land purchase is insufficient by reason of the City of Waterford standing aloof from the scheme, then if the Corporation is a representative body, and the interests of the city are bound up with the interests of agriculture in the county, the pressure of public opinion will induce the Corporation to pass a resolution including the city within the scope of the Act. If the 943 Chief Secretary is right in his premise, he must be wrong in his conclusion. If the interests of Waterford are agricultural, the City Corporation will, by resolution, include itself in the responsibilities of the county. I venture to deny his premises. I do not allow that Waterford is so intimately connected with agriculture as the right hon. Gentleman supposes. It is the shipping port, but on that account is not more connected with agriculture than Milford.
§ (10.10.) MR. SEXTON
I really think some error must have crept into the figures of the Chief Secretary, for I find, on reference to the Parliamentary Companion the population of Londonderry given as 29,162, and Waterford 29,181, or 19 more, and the difference in the number of electors is 73.
§ (10.11.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The figures are, of course, different for the Parliamentary borough and for municipal purposes. Hon. Gentlemen claim that the proportion of the contribution of the city to the county constitutes a claim of the city to determine whether it should be included in the Bill; but the same argument might be applied to Drogheda and its proportion to County Louth, and there would be as much to be said for Galway. But, however, if hon. Gentlemen insist, I do not know that it is worth while contesting the point.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out line 9.—(Mr. Sexton.)—Agreed to.
§ Schedule, as amended, added.
§ Schedule 2.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 11, to leave out "counties of cities and towns," and insert "municipal boroughs."—(Mr. M. Healy.)—Agreed to.
§ Amendment proposed, at end of Schedule, to insert "Waterford."—(Mr. Sexton.)—Agreed to.
§ Schedule, as amended, added.
§ Schedule 3.
§ (10.15.) MR. M. HEALY
You intimated, Mr. Courtney, when Clause 19 was under discussion, that this would be the proper place to discuss the details of those enactments which are repealed, 944 and to which my hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny raised an objection. This 3rd Schedule contains a list of enactments repealed, and upon the first of these arises the question of the radical alteration in the constitution of the Land Commission, in relation to which parts of sections of the Act of 1881 are repealed. This repeal, we contend, should have been limited to an alteration in the status of those two Land Commissioners who are to be Land Purchase Commissioners, and the other Members of the Commission should not be included. This matter was discussed under Clause 10, and I do not intend to press it further, though it may be that we shall enter a final protest by dividing against the Schedule.
§ Schedule added.
§ Bill reported.
§ MR. SEXTON
Is it certain that the Report will be then taken? It would be convenient to allow a little longer interval.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
If the hon. Member will put the question later on I will answer it. This is the present arrangement.
§ Bill, as amended, to be considered upon Monday, 1st June, and to be printed. [Bill 342.]