§ (9.0.) MR. KILBRIDE (Kerry, S.)
The Motion which stands in my name is one of very considerable importance 214 to a large section of the Irish people. It closely concerns all the tenant farmers of Ireland who have not succeeded in acquiring the ownership of their holdings under the Ashbourne Act or the Land Purchase Act of last year. It is because of the importance of the Motion—because it is I believe, bound up with the future prosperity of Ireland—that I desire to elicit from Members representing different parts of Ireland opinions in regard to the compulsory purchase of land. I do not intend, and I hope I shall avoid, the introduction of Party differences. I know this is a question which is more and more agitating the public mind; it is thrusting itself to the front; and I trust it will receive favourable consideration in the House, having in view the fact that again and again Parliament has affirmed the principle of land purchase. So far back as 1870 we had what are called the "Bright Clauses." Those clauses in the Act of 1870 failed owing to the fact that the whole of the purchase money was not advanced. Only three-quarters of the purchase money, I believe, was allowed to be borrowed from the State; and the tenant farmers of Ireland at that time, and unfortunately since, have been unable to find the 25 per cent. of the whole purchase money. The "Bright Clauses" of the Act of 1870 failed from this cause, and the Ashbourne Act is more liberal in its character. That Act allows to the tenant purchaser the advance of the whole of the purchase money by the State, with no security—or practically no security—to the State for the advance. No doubt 20 per cent. is retained by the State for five years; but, after the expiration of that period, the only security the tax-payers of England will have for their ten millions of money will be the security of the land itself. I believe that under any scheme of land purchase, no matter how you may hedge it round by artificial safeguards securities, and guarantees, the only real security is the land itself. The British taxpayer has already advanced, or has consented to advance, 43 millions of money for the purchase of Irish land. Ten millions of that have been expended under the Ashbourne Act, and we are told that the 33 millions sanctioned by the 215 House in the Bill of last year will be expended. I very much doubt that, because of the nonsensical guarantees and the vexatious arrangements by which the advances are hedged round. I admit that great good has accrued to the tenant farmers of Ireland under the Ashbourne Act, or to that limited section who have been able to avail themselves of it. The number of tenant purchasers are limited by the amount of ten millions under that Act, but I would have the benefits of land purchase extended to the tenants of Ireland as a whole. I do not wish to see those benefits restricted to a minority, who are in no way more entitled to the benefits of the Act than the majority who are excluded. While I admit the good that land purchase has done, I must allow that, on the other hand, it has created many gross anomalies in every county in Ireland. This may seem a sweeping statement to make to hon. Members who do not know the social condition in Ireland as we do, but let me point out that some of the largest land proprietors in the country—such as the Duke of Abercorn, the Marquess of Londonderry, and the Duke of Leinster, and others—have, under the Ashbourne Act, sold land to the amount of £200,000 or £250,000; and these noblemen, in selling their land, sold just as much as would relieve them from their mortgages and other encumbrances—and sold the least valuable parts of their estates no doubt—and were governed in, the sales by the geographical position of the land. They would naturally sell the outlying portions of the land rather than that contiguous to the residence. But how in fairness can such a distinction be made from the tenant's point of view? Why should the man because he lives on the outlying portion of an estate receive a benefit of from 25 to 30 per cent. reduction in his annual payments, and his neighbour living on the better land receive no such benefit? Such a distinction cannot stand the test of time or the next serious wave of agricultural depression. Think what a gross anomaly is created by one man living on one side of a road paying his full judicial rent without the slightest probability of his ever acquiring any 216 other property in the soil, while on the other side of the road is a man, who has purchased under the Ashbourne Act, who gets his 25 or 30 per cent. reduction in his annual payments, and at the end of 49 years becomes absolute owner of his holding. No sensible man can maintain that such a state of things can continue. It may continue so long as the tenant farmer is able to pay his rent; but when he finds himself unable to meet his judicial rent, then the anomaly comes home to him, and you will have further agitation, which I think will be generally admitted is not desirable in Ireland. I want to see the Irish land question settled, but I see no finality except in compulsory purchase. I do not believe it is possible to continue a system of dual ownership. When Parliament was passing the ameliorative measures for Irish tenants it was not intended that the benefit should fall only on the few; it was never intended that land purchase should be for some of the tenants of the Duke of Abercorn or Lord Londonderry, or the Duke of Leinster, more than for the tenants of the small proprietor who lives on his estate. It may be hard to compel a proprietor who lives at home and looks after his estate to sell his land; but what I want to do is to put all tenant-farmers in Ireland upon a level, that, so far as their rent-paying capacity may go, they may have an incentive, an encouragement, in the knowledge that, at the end of a certain term of years, they will become owners of their holdings. Again and again since 1870 we have been told that there is no way more effectual to create in the Irish farming class loyalty to the English connection than to make them owners of their farms. But how can you ever accomplish this except by powers of compulsory purchase? The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) has said, with regard to Lord Clanricarde and landlords of that class, that they ought to be compulsorily expropriated. I think the hon. Member said that a landlord like Lord Clanricarde was a standing menace to the peace of Galway. But how can you expropriate such a landlord without some form of compulsory purchase? I certainly do not see how you can, and it is because I desire to see the expropriation of 217 landlords of this class that I desire to see some form of compulsory purchase adopted. I believe this advantage of 20 or 30 per cent. is a mere lottery as to who shall get it; and while the few successful men are well pleased, the many disappointed feel a deeper grievance as times of agricultural depression come round, and so the effect of your Land Purchase Act will be to encourage disaffection, not loyalty, and to make men more anxious for separation if there are those who desire separation. It certainly is not a condition of things calculated to promote the maintenance of the Union. I am not wedded to any particular form of compulsory purchase; all I desire is an expression of opinion from Irish Members—more especially and particularly from those representing Ulster constituencies. I think Ulster Members will admit this is a burning question among their constituents. In other parts of Ireland we have succeeded in getting considerable reductions of our judicial rents; but our brother farmers in the North, perhaps because of their loyalty, have not been equally successful. The benefit is, perhaps, measured by the amount of agitation. But we want no distinction between farmers in the North and South, and I am quite ready to advocate the interests of the Ulster farmers apart from all political opinions. My Resolution goes in the direction of Amendments supported last year in the discussions upon the Land Purchase Bill by Members from Ulster. I think an Amendment of this kind was proposed at the instance of considerable bodies of farmers in the North of Ireland. I remember seeing in the Lobby of the House a deputation of associations in Counties Down and Antrim, by whom this Amendment was supported. If I remember rightly, one proposal was that where two-thirds of the tenants on an estate paying three-fourths of the rental desired to purchase then the Land Commission should be entitled to buy the whole estate at a fair price, and sell to the tenant purchasers, thus relieving the landlord from the trouble and expense of having a portion of his estate separated from the rest, and left on his hands. I do not desire to commit any hon. Member to this or any other 218 Amendment. I simply ask the House to affirm the principle of compulsory purchase in the direction of these Amendments. My Motion declares that compulsory sale is just and expedient; the justice is found in the fact that the present condition of affairs creates glaring anomalies and gross injustice. It is a gross injustice that upon one side of a roadway a farmer should have to pay 30 per cent. more annually than his neighbour opposite. Compulsory purchase is expedient on many grounds. It is expedient to remove an inequality among tenants which is sure to breed discontent, more especially in large portions of Ulster, but in all the provinces of Ireland. It is expedient also to create the largest possible number of landowners in Ireland; and this ought to have especial weight with hon. Gentlemen on the other side, for ownership is supposed to check all radical and revolutionary ideas, and so I trust that hon. Members opposite will pledge themselves to support a comprehensive scheme of land purchase which will turn all Irish tenant farmers into strong Conservatives.
§ *(9.24.) MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)
In rising to second the Motion of my hon. Friend, I feel bound to comment on the strange fact that for six years past—perhaps excepting Home Rule—compulsory sale of land has been the question most actively discussed in Ulster. It is a question upon which, strange to say—though there are differences upon other matters—there is practical unanimity among all tenants North and South. It is a question upon which differences of sect have not been able to create any differences of opinion. Nevertheless, this is the first occasion upon which the House of Commons has been called upon to discuss this question of so much importance to the people of Ireland. The reason for this fact is, I believe, that until the Land Purchase Act was passed last year, we felt that in bringing this question before the House of Commons we should be fighting "as one that beateth the air"—we should have no practical grounds to go upon, for it is obvious it is not within the powers of private Members, even on a private 219 Members' night, to propose the grant of an enormous sum of public money. But by the Act of last year Parliament has made that enormous grant, and we have now a clear case to put before the House of Commons asking the House to decide, in principle, of course—not in detail—on a Resolution that the power of compulsory purchase is necessary in order to apply this large sum of money to the full benefit of Ireland. I notice, with some surprise, that the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) has put down an Amendment to the effect that—Whilst anxious for the fullest development of Land Purchase in Ireland, this House cannot profitably consider or assent to any proposal for the application of a general system of compulsory sale which is not accompanied by adequate financial plans for the carrying out of the principle involved.If I understand this Amendment rightly, the opinion of the hon. Member is that the House should not discuss a measure of compulsory sale unless it is proposed by a Minister of the Crown, who has the power of proposing that a large charge shall be made on the Revenues of the United Kingdom. In fact, it seems to be the object of the hon. Member for South Tyrone to put off the discussion until Doomsday. I can quite understand this. A discussion on this question is very awkward for the hon. Member. There are many of his constituents who, though they are in other questions keen supporters of the hon. Members, yet in this agree with us. I cannot, however, understand how the House can accept this Amendment, seeing how the House was occupied for the greater part of last Session. To read the Amendment, it might be supposed that the hon. Member for South Tyrone had forgotten the long-drawn discussions on the Purchase of Land and Congested Districts Ireland Bill. Several months the House spent in discussing the Bill, and I think with some adequacy. The majority of Members of this House were heartily tired of the Bill, and sick of the sound of "cash" and "contingent guarantees." Nevertheless, at this distance of time the hon. Member for South Tyrone seems to have forgotten it all, though he was most diligent in attendance—the watch-dog of landlordism—while his landlord friends lounged in the smoking 220 room or caroused at the Carlton. An enormous sum has been ticketed off for land purchase, and we contend that this should be properly applied. I agree with my hon. Friend beside me in thinking that though the sums already voted by Parliament are not enough to pay for holdings in Ireland, they are sufficient to go a long way towards the settlement of the Irish Land Question if properly applied. The amount which was voted by the Act last Session was not fixed. We cannot exactly say how much was the actual Vote for the purpose of land purchase. Certain Estimates multiplied by 25 will give us the amount. These Estimates are Estimates which increase year by year; they had increased largely since the first calculation was made by the Government; and they will be increased still further by the Education Bill of the present Chief Secretary, which is now before the House of Commons, which will devote a further sum of over £200,000 a year to National Schools in Ireland. The effect indirectly of that measure will be to increase the fund for land purchase by £5,000,000 sterling. Therefore, we find the sum voted is a good deal more than £30,000,000, the popularly supposed amount. We find, according to the last Estimates, with the addition of the £200,000, that the amount which has been voted for land purchase is no less than £38,750,000. We have in addition to that £10,000,000 which has already been spent for the purpose of land purchase. Therefore, we have a sum of nearly £50,000,000 which has been devoted by Tory Governments for the purpose of land purchase in Ireland. That sum is almost exactly the same as that which the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, in 1886, supposed would be sufficient to settle the more pressing difficulties of the Irish Land Question. And if at that time, six years ago, the Government representing the British nation considered that £50,000,000 would be sufficient for the compulsory sale of land in Ireland by enabling the landlord to compel the tenant to buy, I venture to think that £50,000,000 is enough, at any rate, to enable us to apply the beginnings of 221 compulsory sale the other way round. That sum of £50,000,000 is not, I venture to think, an inadequate financial Vote. We take no credit for the sum, except so far as it is due to the agitation which compelled the Government to give the money. The money is voted, and when we come before the House of Commons and ask that, under the Land Purchase Act, the money already voted should be applied in this way, we think we are not going into the region of castles in the air, but that we are bringing before the House of Commons proposals for the utilisation of sums they have already set aside for this purpose by Acts of the Imperial Parliament. Of course it would be easy to make a calculation which would show that a still larger sum might be necessary. I have great doubts of these calculations, which are based merely on Agricultural Returns, so-called, presented to the House of Commons. We have one case of real experience to guide us—i.e., the number of holdings which have been taken into Court under the Fair Rent Clauses of the Act of 1881. Yet very little more than half the reputed number of holdings in Ireland have had a fair rent fixed under the Act, and that after a period of ten years. We find further, when we go into details, that we have to make many exceptions from the total number of holdings before we arrive at the number to be purchased. In the first place, large holdings are already excluded from the Land Purchase Act. Speaking for myself, under a measure of compulsory purchase I would be prepared to see something further done in the way of excluding the large holdings. And even if this money already voted may be taken to be the last sums that are likely to be voted on Imperial security for the purpose of land purchase, yet I say the resources of Ireland and the resources of any administrators or legislators for Ireland will not be exhausted. It is the fashion to laugh and scoff at the notion of Irish security. I say it would be possible on Irish security to give stock bearing not very much higher interest than the 2¾ per cent. borne by the stock issued under the Land Purchase Act of last 222 year, and which would, nevertheless, rank higher in the financial market. We have an instance in the case of the Corporation of Dublin. A little while after the Chancellor of the Exchequer converted Consols, the Member for West Belfast, then Lord Mayor of Dublin, converted the loans of the Corporation of Dublin with a loan at 3¼ per cent.; and while the loan of the Chancellor of the Exchequer stands to-day at a discount of five, the loan of the Corporation of Dublin stands to-day at a premium of five over and above the price at which it was actually put on the market. I hope the House will not be put aside from the discussion of the just claims of the tenants of Ireland by any well-woven web of financial speculation drawn out by the hon. Member for South Tyrone. We do not ask the House in this Motion to pledge itself to any single farthing of further grant for land purchase beyond what has already been made; we merely ask them to assert the principle that those monies, having been voted for the purpose of land purchase, should really be applied to land purchase in Ireland. What has been the effect of this Act? You have put before the eyes of the Irish tenant farmers the great prize of nearly £40,000,000, but you have so hedged it round with safeguards and securities that the Irish tenant farmer, for the life of him, cannot get near it. A man who may have found it hard enough to get on at his present rent finds this great grant of money removes him no further from starvation and debt, so that the effect of the great act of justice and mercy of the British Parliament is to add the tortures of Tantalus to the pains of starvation. You have simply put this great boon out of the reach of the Irish tenant farmer. The Amendment of my hon. Friend would bring it into reach. I ask the House on every ground to decide that it is expedient that this great sum should be used for this purpose. We have many arguments which we could use in favour of a measure of compulsion. In asking the House to apply compulsion in this way we move on the lines of well-considered English and Irish precedents, and we ask for an extension of a 223 principle already recognised. There is compulsion in the English Allotment Acts and in the Irish Labourers' Acts. There was compulsion in the Redemption of Rent Act of last Session. The tenants who got the benefit of that Bill were those who had taken land at a full agricultural rent for ever, who had feued their land. Those tenants usually had large holdings; they had their land for ever at a fixed rent, a rack-rent, no doubt, but that was a thing they could not foresee at the time they took the land: in fact they merely made a bad bargain. I ask whether, if compulsory sale is permitted in that case, without providing means for every tenant in Ireland to buy his holding, it is not within the province of this House to assent to the principle of compulsory sale in the case of other tenants numerous enough to take the whole of the money already voted? As to the Small Holdings Bill, we find among Liberal Unionists and some Tories, as well as Liberals, a general expression of opinion that the great fault of the measure introduced by the Minister for Agriculture is that it contains no provisions for compulsory sale. I find from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, of the hon. Member for Bordesley, and of some Conservatives, there was unanimity on the point that for England compulsion was necessary. And under what condition? Under the condition that the English County Councils might be allowed to break up the boundaries of existing holdings, and take the land in patches of fifty acres wherever they liked over the whole of the area of a county, and to take these holdings feline purpose of selling them out to tenants whom they were afterwards to find, and who had never been tenants before. If the County Council in England, having a number of landlords to choose from, would be unable to get land conveniently at a fair price, how much more impossible will it be for a poor Irish tenant, who can buy one plot of land, and one only, to make terms with the one landlord, and the one landlord only, who is in a position to sell to him? I cannot understand why this Vote should not be 224 supported by the almost unanimous voice of Liberals and even some Conservatives. There is a precedent in Ireland which comes even nearer the point. We have a system of dual ownership by landlord and tenant. But you have already given the landlord the power of compulsorily expropriating the other dual owner, the tenant, at a price fixed by the Court. The Land Act of 1881 contains provisions for the compulsory sale of the tenant's interest in the land to the landlord on certain conditions. I ask why, if ten years ago you gave one dual owner the right to expropriate the other, you should now refuse to the tenants of Ireland the right to expropriate the landlords at a fair price? There is another point of strong reality. It is impossible in many cases under the present system to arrange, by any voluntary arrangement, to sell holdings at a fair price in Ireland. If it was thought necessary to have compulsory sale before, it is much more necessary now. This argument has occurred to many people, but no one has put it so well as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, who, speaking on the Land Purchase Bill in 1890, dwelt at considerable length upon the fallacy of supposing that a fair settlement could be arrived at by what was called voluntary arrangement. He said—As long as you allow these contracts under the name of voluntary engagements, the landlord can screw out of the tenant whatever terms he likes. I do not mean that every landlord will do this, but there are many who would. I am showing what we ought not to permit. We are placing in the hands of the landlord an instrument enabling him to enrich himself, and to obtain an excessive and exorbitant price for his land, in direct contravention of the intentions of Parliament. That is what Ulster is well aware of. Ulster is not deceived. Ulster sees into it. The tenants there are somewhat stronger than they are upon the average in Ireland; their position is a stronger position; but what is the language they hold? The language they hold is that if you want to have a useful Bill it must be not voluntary, but compulsory. The tenants must have the right to require that the purchase should take place. That is a very different demand, and it involves a very serious question. I am not going to give an opinion upon that subject now. I am pointing out by an argument, which I think irrefragable, that the tenants, for the sake of whom we are going to pledge British credit, will be at the mercy of 225 the landlord. After having made this enormous and unprecedented effort and placed ourselves in a position of the greatest disadvantage, it is the landlord who will be master of the position.May we not use the same argument now that practically the same Land Purchase Bill has passed into law, and ask that the tenant should be taken out of the unfair position in which he is placed and be given the right to compel the landlord to sell at a fair price. The tenants on an estate in my own constituency were going to be evicted, but, though their holdings have not, and never had, any economic value, out of love for their holdings they signed agreements to purchase them and the landlord's interest at a price which is unfair both to themselves and to the British taxpayer, who is the guarantor. That is what is happening day by day. My hon. Friend has also very clearly shown the disadvantage to the tenants where some have been able to buy their holdings while others have not. There were some in that position on the estate of Sir R. Wallace, the Court having refused to sanction the terms in some cases. This is a real grievance to those tenants who have to compete for their living by the sale of their produce, when the difference in their annual payments means everything. There are also tenants on encumbered estates who cannot possibly arrange terms for the purchase of their holdings. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) supports the principle of compulsory sale in such cases. That would affect probably half the tenants in Ireland. A Return, issued about two years ago, shows that there were 2,250 estates under the control of the Landed Estates Court; of these more than half had been in the Court five years looking for purchasers who never came, and several had been in the Court since 1877. At one time the Court was considered the most expeditious way of realising property; now it is the last refuge of spendthrift landlords who want to avoid being sold up. Tenants on these estates cannot buy their holdings, and surely there is no reason in justice or political economy for keeping these landlords in possession of estates they cannot improve, instead of letting them realise the capital value, if any, of the property, and earn 226 an honest living in other countries. If the hon. Member for South Tyrone wants to deal practically with this question, instead of his Amendment he would have put down a rider to the Motion to the effect that the principle should first be applied to the encumbered estates, and that would have been accepted by my hon. Friend, and would have got rid of most of the plague spots which still disfigure the face of Ireland. Again, the present system gives a premium to disorder, and the peaceful tenant who regularly pays his rent cannot get as good terms as the man who does not pay his rent or pays at irregular intervals. I should have thought that the principle of sanctity of contract, which is written deep down in the Anglo-Saxon mind somewhere, would have made the Anglo-Saxon mind revolt against a system which rewarded lawlessness and punished the law-abiding citizen. The tenants of Ulster have seen this point very plainly, and, indeed, the position of the tenant in Ulster is a difficult one, for he sees the tenant who pays his rent irregularly able to get good terms from his landlord while he cannot do so. Is that the last reward that is being given to the tenantry of Ulster for their allegiance to the British law and constitution? If hon. Members do not take care, there will be none left to fight when the time comes in Ulster. Many tenants are being expropriated, and in Monaghan the diminution in population in the last few years has been greater than in any county in Ireland. If the House does not give the Ulster tenants power to purchase in the Court at a fair rent the tenants will find it better to emigrate. I took the best means I could for enabling my tenants to become peasant proprietors, and I ask that other landlords in Ireland should be compelled to do what I have done voluntarily. I ask that justice shall be done to the Ulster men in spite of their law-abiding spirit. They will have their opportunity at the next General Election of asking their Representatives why they opposed this Motion for compulsory sale which would give to them as great benefits as have been given to the tenants in other parts of Ireland. If they find their Representatives, in spite of the 227 repeated demands of the Presbyterian and Protestant tenants in the most law-abiding counties of Ulster, vote against their views, they will consider whether it would not be better to change their political ways rather than send Members to Parliament who oppose the other Irish Members in everything. I ask the House to accept this Motion because it is just, because it is expedient, and specially to accept it in the interest of the tenant farmers of Ulster as well as in the interest of the tenant farmers of the rest of Ireland. On this question Irish opinion is practically united. If there is to be a settlement of Irish grievances in accordance with Irish opinion the principle in this Motion must be carried into law. It is impossible, unless some such principle be carried into effect, to satisfy the unanimous demand of the toiling tenant farmers in the North and South of Ireland that they should be turned into the owners of the land they till.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, on grounds both of justice and expediency, it is desirable that tenants in Ireland should be enabled to compel their landlords to sell to them their holdings under the Land Purchase Acts at a fair price."—(Mr. Kilbride.)
§ *(10.15.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
There is one sentiment in which I cordially agree with the Mover of the Resolution; this question undoubtedly excites great interest in Ireland, and especially in the Province of Ulster. That would, not be gathered from the appearance of the House. I do not see the leaders of the Irish people below the Gangway, and if I look at the other side of the House I see a remarkable absence of Ulster Members. The attendance of Irish Members would not lead to the conclusion that this is a question of all-absorbing interest in which the country is profoundly concerned. The hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Knox) took pains, however, to let it be known what was the real object of this Motion. Hon. Members below the Gangway have their eye on the General Election and upon the Province of Ulster. They know perfectly well that the flag of Home Rule carried through the Province of Ulster is not likely to win much for them, and still less likely 228 is the tattered flag of Irish Clericalism to do them service. They have, therefore, made up their minds, with a good deal of wisdom, to appeal to the Ulster tenants upon a question that touches their vital interests. The Ulster tenant farmers are, at all events, an exceedingly practical, cool-headed race of men, and the first thing they will be inclined to ask is, what is the record of the gentlemen who propose this Resolution, and urge its acceptance on the House of Commons? The hon. Member for South Kerry (Mr. Kilbride) admitted with candour that the Ashbourne Act had done great good in Ireland, and the hon. and learned Member for Cavan absolutely expressed gratitude to the Tory Government for the Land Purchase Acts. That being so, and hon Members having clearly admitted the benefits the Irish tenants have derived from these Acts, I want to ask what has been the record of hon. Members below the Gangway in reference to these beneficial Acts? In 1885 the question was first brought to a practical issue, and the House of Commons unanimously voted £5,000,000 sterling for the Irish tenants to purchase their freeholds. In 1888, when that money was exhausted, the present Government proposed to give another £5,000,000 to renew and extend the Act. Hon. Members have admitted that that Act has done good work, and the Member for Cavan (Mr. Knox) blessed the Government for what it had done. On the 22nd November, 1888, when the House was asked to pass the second five millions 67 Members of the Irish Party voted against the Second Reading of the Bill, and if they had had their way half the freeholders created under those Acts would now be yearly or judicial tenants. The second Asbourne Act was passed in spite of hon. Members below the Gangway. On the 1st May, 1890, the first Land Purchase Bill came to issue in this House. It was a better Bill in every respect than the Bill of last year, but though it proposed to place at the disposal of the Irish tenant farmers a sum of thirty millions of British credit for the purchase of their holdings, 78 Irish Members—practically a unanimous Party—walked 229 into the Lobby against the Second Reading, and sought to deprive the tenants of this great boon. Six months later, on the 3rd December, the Bill which is now the Land Purchase Act was brought before the House, and it proposed to place thirty-three millions of British credit at the disposal of the Irish tenants. Where were hon. Members then? All of them were in London, but they were occupied in Committee Room No. 15, and only 25 of them, headed by the late Mr. Parnell, came down to vote for the Second Reading. The rest abstained from voting. The first thing an Ulster farmer would do, if a politician went to him with a proposal like this, would be to ask for the record of the politician, and the Party which has deliberately, for its own purposes, opposed land purchase throughout the present Parliament, and at the last moment demands compulsory purchase, will find that Ulster farmers will immediately see through that design. But what have these Land Purchase Acts done in spite of hon. Members below the Gangway? Up to the 1st March last, under these Acts, 23,781 loans had been sanctioned by the Land Commission: that means that 23,781 freeholders had been created. A good deal has been said about Ulster, but that Province had had no fewer than 12,554 of these loans, Leinster had had 3,839, Munster 4,496, and Connaught 2,892. Ulster had, therefore, had its fair share in the general division. With respect to the working of the present Act, the Member for Cavan declared it to be inoperative, and the object of the Resolution he said was to make it operative. We were told that the Act was a failure, and the figures referring to the number of applications for loans, have been paraded before the House as if they were complete evidence of that failure. But it must be remembered that when that Act was passing through the House there was a surplus of three-quarters of a million under the old Ashbourne Act not disposed of, and the Government at first proposed to amalgamate that surplus with the Land Purchase Bill. But the Member for Longford objected, and it was finally 230 decided to leave the money where it was and allow it to work itself out. What has happened since the Bill became law in August last? In August there were 456 applications for loans, amounting to £189,151; in September there were 982 applications for £343,544; in October 216 applications for £80,981; in November 69 applications for £32,282; and in December 64 applications for £9,101. The total under the Ashbourne Act for the last five months in 1891 was 1,787 applications for a total sum of £653,059. In the last three months under the new Act the applications were: In October 4 for a sum of £943; in November 66 for £35,924; and in December 105 for £42,717. Thus the total for the three months under the new Act was 175 applications for a sum of £79,584, and the grand total under the various Acts from August to December was 1,962 applications for a sum of £732,643. Therefore, I contend that up to the 31st December it is absolutely impossible for anyone to say with truth that the operation of land purchase was not going forward as rapidly as it had done previously. Up to that time the average number of applications per month was 408, and that would give 2,040 for five months, and I have shown that in the last five months of last year the number of applications was 1,962. But I have as well another set of figures. I asked the Chief Secretary yesterday if he could tell me the number of applications which had been made under the new Land Purchase Act up to the most recent date, and he has given me figures brought down to yesterday, and that practically covers three months. These figures show that in that period there have been 1,253 applications for loans for a sum of £444,612; and thus it is seen that this Act, which hon. Members below the Gangway—and I am sorry to say also above the Gangway—wished precipitately to pronounce a failure, has had under it more applications in the time than were made under the Ashbourne Act, and that hon. Members have been too premature in their denunciation.
§ * MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I cannot say whether they do or not. The settlement on the Ponsonby Estate only included 109 applications, and I do not care whether for the purpose of my argument they are included or not. These are the official figures, and I say that in the face of them it is impossible for any hon. Member to say that the Act has been inoperative. But this question is largely one of finance.
§ * MR. T. W. RUSSELL
This is how the hon. Member served me the other night. He told me that he was engaged in a complicated argument, and as I should have an opportunity of following him he preferred that I should allow him to proceed and speak myself afterwards. Now, I am only treating the hon. Member as he treated me. I take it that if you are going to adopt the principle of compulsory sale in Ireland you can have no half-way house. I introduced the question of the compulsory sale of encumbered estates to my constituents, and they promptly told me that if I wish to remain their Member I must stop advocating a system which would confer a benefit on the tenants of badly-managed estates, and would press hardly upon those who lived on well-managed estates. The lowest estimate before the Land Purchase Act was passed as to the amount that would be required for the purchase of Irish land was something like 100 or 120 millions. The right hon. Member for Midlothian estimated it much higher, but I will take 120 millions. You can deduct 40 millions as the amount passed by the Land Purchase Act, but that still leaves a sum of 80 millions which would be required before you could carry out the Act all round. Take, for instance, the County of Antrim, where the principle of compulsion is most strongly advocated. Antrim's share in the guarantee fund is about one million pounds; that would be exhausted in a fortnight, and then I ask hon. Members where should we be? If you propose to limit the operation to the sum stated in the Act you would no doubt increase the number of tenant purchasers, but you would have a clamorous host for whom there 232 was no money. Then hon. Members would have to come to this House and ask for the surplus which I hold to be logically involved in this Resolution. Then it has been said that this is the old leaseholder question over again. Under the Act of 1881 the yearly tenant was allowed the right of fair rent, but it was denied to the leaseholder because he was a leaseholder. The consequence was that a great difficulty arose in Ireland with which at last Parliament had to deal. The leaseholder had a right to his fair rent. But purchase is not a right, and I say that the Irish tenant farmer cannot come to this House and demand money as a right for the purchase of his holding. The fact that one proposal carries money with it and the other does not will, I suppose, have considerable weight with Members on this side of the House who are ready to give Ireland anything and everything but cash, but the moment cash is mentioned they strike. Then, again, I say that the argument for compulsion makes havoc with another argument—the argument against the Insurance Clause. This clause is said to be operating against the purchase of their holdings by the tenants, and you cannot logically hold both opinions; and the proposal to-night is to legalize compulsion, Insurance Clause and all. You cannot hold both these opinions, and, for my own part, I do not believe that ths Insurance Clause is the difficulty. But, as I have said, the question is mainly one of finance; and if the First Lord of the Treasury or the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) will reconsider their position of last year, and are prepared to ask the British taxpayer to make good this large sum of money, which I hold will be required, three-fourths of my difficulty will be removed. But I should then have still to consider what the Resolution calls the justice and expediency of the proposal, but what I prefer to call the rival injustices and inexpediencies of the proposal. The injustice of the present system to the Irish tenants cannot be denied; but so long as the remedy remains in the region of financial impossibility I do not see that we can get very much further by discussing it. When the 233 financial impossibility is obviated I shall be willing to discuss the rival injustices and inexpediencies that are involved in this Resolution. I think there are injustices on both sides. The injustice to the non-purchasing tenant is clear. But it is now proposed for the first time to sell up a landlord against his will and without any increased price because of the compulsory sale. Hon. Members dare not propose anything of this kind for England, or, indeed, for any other class. Again, it is proposed to sell up the Irish landowner and expropriate him, and yet to compel him to leave behind him one-fifth of the purchase money as a guarantee deposit. You propose to keep as security one-fifth of the purchase money. I do not believe that hon. Members themselves would stick to that; and yet it is involved in the proposal they make to-night. Then there are other difficulties that anyone facing this question seriously would have to consider. You talk of expropriating the landlords, but that would raise a labourers' question in Ireland. The labourers of Ireland are employed to a considerable extent by the landlords in Ireland, and you cannot expropriate the landlords without raising a labourers' question. More than that, when the Irish Church was disestablished, one of the great arguments used was that the Church would be perfectly safe because of her members, because of the landed class, because of the monied class. I say that the moment you propose to expropriate the Irish landlords in this fashion you raise the question of the maintenance of that Church. (Laughter.) I give no opinion about it. I say you will raise the question, and you will have to discuss that question in Ireland. I can understand the hon. Member for Cavan laughing. He first of all got his education in England; he then chose an English profession; and then he sold his Irish estate and bolted with the swag, voting at the same time against the Bill under which he did this. I can quite understand the hon. and learned Gentleman, who has cut his connection with the country, not caring what becomes of either 234 Church or State; but that is not the position of the great bulk of the people who will have to live in the country. And I say all these rival injustices on both sides will have to be fairly considered when this question is faced; and I am bound to add that to face it by an abstract Resolution and a debate limited to three hours is only justifiable on the ground I have stated to the House—namely, that business is not meant in this House, but in the Province of Ulster, where I venture to tell him the proposal will not get a much better reception than it has got here. My position is perfectly clear upon this matter. Alone—and the hon. and learned Member for Cavan has admitted it before now—alone amongst Unionist Members in Ulster I have opposed this proposal. He has quoted my speeches over and over again; therefore I am not doing to-night what I have not done in Ulster. I am pledged to my constituency against this proposal. Even if I was willing to vote for it, I dare not, and I could not. I ask the House to pause and consider what is involved in it. The proposal is an absolutely new proposal. We have heard of compulsion before, I admit, in this matter, but of a very different kind. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian in 1886 proposed compulsion, but compulsion of a very different kind. He did not propose to compel a landlord to sell. He proposed that where landlords, flying from the wrath to come, were anxious to sell, that then the tenants should be compelled to buy at a fixed price. That was a totally different proposal. Then we have had proposals made about compulsion to re-instate the evicted tenants. Nobody will contend that these proposals are on the same lines as the proposal of this Resolution. Then we have had set before us to-night the proposal of the Rent Redemption Act. The hon. and learned Member for Cavan stated that I was one of those who supported that measure, which involved this principle of compulsion. But what the Rent Redemption Act did was this: the perpetuity leaseholders were enabled to give their landlords an option or choice, and if the landlord refused to fix a fair rent or allow a fair rent to be fixed, then he 235 could be compelled to sell at a fail price. This proposal to expropriate a whole class is actually made when these hon. Gentlemen are announcing that they are on the eve of a new birth in Ireland; that they are going to create a new heaven and a new earth there by Act of Parliament; and they are going to commence that beautiful and saving operation by banishing, as far as they can do it, a whole class of Irishmen. Well, that is a most unstates-manlike proceeding. It is well seen that their late Leader is in his grave. He, at all events, said they could not spare a single Irishman. I know what landlordism is responsible for in Ireland; and I know the bitter memories that cluster round the word; but I think it is not wise, when this House has passed Act after Act to deprive landlords of their power for evil, to say to these men without any distinction, "You must sell and go." The Marquess of Clanricarde has been trotted out here to-night. I am as ready as ever I was to support a Bill to expropriate the Marquess of Clanricarde. That is one thing. It is another thing to say that I am anxious and willing to expropriate and drive out of the country men like the Duke of Abercorn, Lord Belmore, Mr. Hugh Montgomery, and other landlords I could mention. I have no desire to see these men driven out of the country. I have no desire to see men like the O'Conor Don driven out of Roscommon. I believe this is largely a financial question, and until the financial possibilities of the case are proved there is no use in discussing the question. There is no use in sending an Irish farmer to a fair to buy a horse without giving him money to pay for it; and the Irish farmers will see that. I say, until the financial possibilities are made plain, I am not ready to befool or deceive the Ulster tenants. When these financial impossibilities are removed, if they ever are removed, then I say there will be a fair case to consider the hardship of the non-purchasing tenant as regards his purchasing brother. It is because I believe it is useless to discuss the proposal until we have found either the money or the credit to carry it out that 236 I venture to move the Amendment that stands in my name.
§ *(10.55.) MR. SINCLAIR ( Falkirk, &c.)
I shall not detain the House in seconding the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend. In his speech the hon. Member for Cavan stated that there was practical unanimity on the question of the compulsory purchase of estates amongst the tenantry of Ireland. If that be the case, how does it happen that we have no practical scheme now proposed? The hon. Mover and hon. Seconder of the Resolution both made no attempt whatever to deal with the two questions that are contained in the original Resolution—the question of justice and the question of the expediency of compulsory purchase. Instead of taking up and grappling with the difficulties that undoubtedly underlie the question of compulsory purchase, they left these difficulties severely alone. Indeed, I might say that much of the speech of the hon. Seconder, and almost the whole speech of the hon. Mover, of the Resolution was a speech in defence of the Amendment of my hon. Friend. The difficulties that underlie compulsory purchase are very great, and any of the proposals that have been made in this House, or I believe outside of it, to give compulsory powers under the Allotments Acts or otherwise, were made under very different conditions from those contained in the Resolution before the House. Take, for instance, the Small Holdings Acts which were recently before the House. It was suggested that compulsory powers should be given to the County Councils, who would pay cash for that which they bought; the buyer would have to pay cash, and the seller would have to be paid in cash, for that which were sold. But the proposal here is to compel the landlord to sell his holding and take stock in lieu of it; but it does not compel the tenant to buy, and, indeed, under the proposal it is impossible to compel him to fulfil his engagement even if he entered into one. There is no power to compel him to pay his instalments. I have never heard in any case of compulsory powers being applied except under three conditions: the first is that there should be a special inquiry into the case; the second is 237 that a public necessity should be proved for such compulsory purchase; and the third is that the purchase money that may be awarded shall be paid in cash. The great safety of the Irish Land Purchase Acts and of all the transactions that have taken place under these Acts has been that before anything can be done, before any sale can be effected, before any advance can be made by the Land Purchase Commission, the buyer and the seller, the landlord and the tenant, shall join together in an agreement as to the fair price at which the holding is to be sold; and that great safeguard would be entirely taken away under any such proposal as is embodied in the Resolution now before the House. I have, therefore, come to the conclusion in saying, with my hon. Friend, that until a fair and reasonable financial proposition has been laid before the House whereby such a great scheme can be carried into effect it would be unsound and unsafe, alike for the landlord and the tenant, to suggest that the principle of compulsory purchase should be applied either in Ireland or elsewhere.
To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "whilst anxious for the fullest development of Land Purchase in Ireland, this House cannot profitably consider or assent to any proposal for the application of a general system of compulsory sale which is not accompanied by adequate financial plans for the carrying out of the principle involved,"—(Mr. T. W. Russell,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ (11.1.) MR. DICKSON (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)
I confess it was with considerable surprise I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, especially that part of it where he referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Cavan having cut his connection with Ireland and sold his property. I think the hon. Member for South Tyrone should remember that he himself cut his connection with his own native land, and that he left Scotland some years ago and chose to take up his residence in Ireland. And I do not see why it should be a cause of reproach against my hon. Friend the Member for Cavan that he acted on the 238 principle contained in the Resolution now before the House and sold his lands to his tenants, making his tenants the owners at a reduction of their rent of more than 30 per cent. The hon. Member for South Tyrone referred to the hour at which this question was brought forward—nine o'clock at night; but he did not explain to the House that when this place was balloted for four weeks ago this Motion would have come on, in the ordinary course even, at four o'clock in the afternoon. But there is one thing, however, in his speech that the hon. Member for South Tyrone made perfectly plain, and that was that upon this question, as an Ulster Member, he only represents here to-night his own views; and I deny that he represents the views of his colleagues or of a single tenant farmer in the entire Province of Ulster. I happen to know something of the Province of Ulster, and I say this without fear of contradiction: that all through the Province of Ulster there is a unanimous desire on the part of the tenant farmers to become the owners as well as the occupiers of their lands. The difficulties in the mind of the hon. Member for South Tyrone are purely financial. In fact, he assumes the rôle of a Chancellor of the Exchequer, and would not vote for this proposal for compulsory purchase until he sees the way financially open; in fact, he says he will not vote for it until both Front Benches have made up their minds.
§ MR. DICKSON
Until either have made up their minds and see their way. All I can say is this: from my experience of this House for 19 years, if he is guided by the Front Benches, he will make a very serious mistake. I know what Front Benches have done in the past, and I know that what Front Benches oppose this year they will support next year, if it be consistent with expediency. I have not the slightest confidence in Front Benches. The hon. Member for South Tyrone, in saying that this question does not affect the tenants of Ulster, utterly misrepresents the tenants of the Province of Ulster.
§ MR. DICKSON
I say so, but I say that your constituency disagrees with you in your views of this compulsory purchase principle; and you would not get five per cent. of them to vote with you on this question. Then, as to the county of Antrim, which used to be the home of the Liberal Unionist Party; why, I thought if there was a county in Ireland whose opinions were to be fairly considered by this House, it was the great county of Antrim. I think the hon. Member heard of the Ulster Land Committee there. Every Member of this House has received from that Ulster Land Committee resolution after resolution passed upon this very question of compulsory purchase. Who are the Ulster Land Committee? Are they Nationalists, or are they that disparaged class that the hon. Member refers to as his Catholic fellow-countrymen, and the uncivilised, and the bigoted? No. The Ulster Land Committee are almost to a man composed of Presbyterians, and every one of them, with one exception, Unionists. The hon. Member for South Tyrone has said that if the House passed this Resolution, Antrim would apply for these £30,000,000 within 14 days.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
No; what I did say was that the share of Antrim would probably amount to £1,000,000, which would be taken up in a fortnight.
§ MR. DICKSON
Well, we will say £1,000,000. Does not that prove my case? Yet the law-abiding rent-paying Antrim is to have no more share in the benefits of the Land Purchase Act than the man in the moon. The hon. Member has stated that more than £400,000 has been applied for during the first three months of this year. But what is the rate of purchase under the Ashbourne Act? It is at the rate of £200,000 per month. The hon. Member said in the course of his speech that it would never do to carry the tattered flag of clericalism in Ulster, but I would ask—"who is it that has been carrying the tattered flag of landlordism in Ulster?" The hon. Member poses before his constituents as a great land reformer, but in this House and throughout the country he is known as an out and out supporter of landlordism in Ireland. I want to do the landlords of Ireland no injustice—I want to see them get full value for 240 their estates. But I also want to see those who till the soil become the owners of the soil. Every purchase under the Ashbourne Act makes the position of the landlords more untenable, and this question must be dealt with on a comprehensive scale. It has been said that I voted against the Land Purchase Act of 1891. That is not so. I voted for the First Reading; I voted against the Second Reading because I believed it would not work; but after it had passed through Committee I voted for the Third Reading. If in Ulster the tenant's interest was put up for sale I believe it would exceed the interest of the landlords. I remember giving evidence before Lord Cowper's Commission seven years ago, when I said that compulsory purchase must come if the peace of Ireland was to be preserved. I was asked by Lord Cowper—Do not you think there will be in Ulster a sort of indirect compulsion which will gradually work itself out, and that landlords will soon be compelled to sell.I answered that question in this way—Yes, I believe that will happen, but I look upon that as a most dangerous suggestion, and as a suggestion which, if pressed, will give rise in Ulster to very acute agitation.There was an instance a short time ago of this indirect compulsion in Londonderry, in the constituency represented by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, where the Drapers' Company and their tenants were at war. The tenants wanted to buy at a fair price but the Drapers' Company would not sell, so the tenants ceased to pay rent for three or four years, and more than 208 police were sent down among them. After three or four years the Drapers' Company consented to leave the case to arbitration, and every tenant was made owner, but only after a peaceable district had been disturbed by agitation. A more dangerous element could not be introduced than indirect compulsion. It is the unanimous wish of Ulster that this Resolution should be accepted.
§ *(11.23.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN,) Dublin University
I must say that 241 when I saw the Resolution upon the Business Paper I welcomed it with feelings of satisfaction and surprise. I welcomed it with feelings of satisfaction because I regarded it as a Vote of Confidence in the policy of Her Majesty's Government. I welcomed it with feelings of surprise, because it was a Vote of Confidence coming from a most unexpected quarter, and upon a subject which I should have thought would be the last to commend itself to hon. Gentlemen representing Irish constituencies and sitting below the Gangway opposite. I have a lively recollection of the introduction of the Ashbourne Extension Act of 1888. How did hon. Members who are now seeking to extend the system of compulsory purchase receive that measure? Why, they divided against the First Reading and the Second Reading, and although it was a one-clause Bill, it took eight nights to pass it through the House of Commons. An hon. Member said in this Debate—Fifty millions have been devoted—I say it with gratitude—by a Tory Government for land purchase in Ireland.I must say that hon. Members concealed with remarkable ability their feelings of gratitude in 1888. I might say on behalf of that Bill—It was all very well to dissemble your love, But—why did you kick me downstairs?You did your best and you failed. And how did hon. Members opposite treat the Bill of 1890? I have examined the Division List, and I find there the names of every hon. Member who backed the Bill for compulsory purchase which has been withdrawn in order to make way for the present Resolution, as having voted against the Bill. Hon. Members opposite have certainly a most remarkable record upon this question. At the same time, as I have already remarked, the change in their attitude is gratifying to Her Majesty's Government. Hon. Members opposite can hardly ask me to assume that they were in their hearts in favour of land purchase, while they voted against successive attempts to extend that system. I must, therefore, assume that they have been converted to the policy of the present Government. Now, to what can I attribute their 242 conversion? It must be to the success of the Act of 1891—a success so great that they are prepared to apply the measure compulsorily to the whole of Ireland. In addition to the exhaustion of the Ashbourne money there have been 1,253 applications for £444,612, and we therefore find land purchase is progressing more rapidly now than it did under the Ashbourne Act. What greater proof of the success of legislation can you have? Now, there was one kind of contribution to the Debate for which I have listened in vain, a contribution for which the ordinary Ulster farmer will look as he eagerly scans the reports of the Debate of to-night, and that is some practical suggestion as to the means by which this Resolution can be carried into effect. It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen, when they find that the policy of the Government is popular in their constituencies, and that there is a demand for the extension of the policy of land purchase throughout Ireland, to come to the House and demand the extension of the policy which they formerly opposed. The Government would, however, like to hear some practical suggestion made as to how it is to be carried into effect. No suggestion whatever has been made on the subject. Take the County Antrim: the sum available is plainly inadequate for compulsory purchase. The case has been put as if there were £33,000,000 for Ireland generally, or even for Ulster, to have recourse to for the purpose of land purchase. Nothing of the kind. There is a definite sum allocated to each county. The hon. Member has represented this as a demand proceeding from Ulster. It is new to find hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway suggesting that in legislation the views of Ulster should dominate over the whole of Ireland. That is one of the novelties to which this House has been treated in the Debate. And where is the money to come from even for Ulster or for the County of Antrim? If a scheme of land purchase was proposed containing some practical suggestions on that point, it would be the duty of the Government to carefully consider it. If the discussion were a practical one, many important considerations would arise. I am of the opinion that the success of the Ashbourne 243 Act and of the previous attempts to create peasant proprietors is largely dependent on the fact that the sales have been carried out by free and open contracts. Certain hon. Members below the Gangway have warned us frankly that they could procure repudiation in Ireland in regard to land purchase, and the House will readily understand how much greater would be the danger if contracts were not made freely but were forced on one party or the other by means of compulsion. Sir, some topics are suggested by this proposal. In the Bill which has been withdrawn to put this motion in order it was provided that the price, which was to be left to the Land Commission to decide, was not to include any increased value arising out of the improvement that was not proved to have been made by the landlord, unless the landlord could come forward and prove affirmatively that he or his predecessor in title made that improvement. That means land purchase at prairie value. There are other considerations that would arise if this were a practical scheme—the consideration, for instance, whether it is wise to expropriate the landlord class from Ireland. I do not discuss these points, for the reason that I regard this Bill as a palpable sham; it is an attempt to dangle before the eyes of the constituencies some scheme which is suggested to be to their advantage, but a scheme which has no substantial foundation, and which is merely suggested for electioneering purposes. I believe that those to whom these speeches have been made directly—the tenantry of Ulster—are far too sagacious to be taken in and will ask themselves whether this is an honest attempt to legislate for Ireland, or whether it is a mere delusion and a snare.
§ *(11.40.) MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN ( Stirling, &c.)
I must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the lively banter of hon. Members below the Gangway in which he indulged in the first part of his speech; but while his banter was lively and amusing, I am not so sure that it is difficult to reconcile the conduct of hon. Members below the Gangway last year and this year. It is easy to conceive that a Member might approve the main object of a measure, though not at all sure of the methods by which 244 nat object was sought to be attained and, therefore, might oscillate and vary according as the hope of improvement or the despair of improvement prevailed in his mind. But, above all, when hon. Members find that a measure passed for their country has produced great grievance throughout that country—even though they think the object of the measure a good one—by the inequality of its application, there is surely nothing inconsistent in their coming forward and asking that the measure should be made universal in its application, so that the grievance maybe removed. I cannot pretend to approach this question from the point of view of a supporter of the Act of last year. I voted consistently against it for many reasons, and the strongest of all was because I had no hope that it would conduce to a peaceful settlement of the land question, and to the quiet and contentment of Ireland. What was the position in which the Act left the tenants? Whilst one tenant might be receiving the full benefit of the Act, his immediate neighbour might be denied all its advantages—a reduction of rent and the prospect of becoming the owner of his holding within a few years—and this not on account of any lapse or failure of his own, not on account of his being unfortunate in the lottery of applications under the Act, but more likely on account of his landlord's unwillingness to sell. That is the fact which creates an inequality which no reasonable man can expect to cause contentment among the agricultural population in Ireland. If we had regarded the Bill as a final settlement, we might have looked upon it in a more kindly way. But we have always been haunted, in regard to this question, by the dilemma, that either you must make any system of purchase of land universal and compulsory, and that involves a sum of money exceeding anything that the British people are prepared to risk; or else, if you make it partial, you take a step which would be fatal to contentment, and which does not create a permanent settlement. That was the main reason why I opposed the Bill of last year. I do not think I have had long to wait for a justification of my position, because to-night is made this most natural and reasonable proposal for the application of compulsion. The Resolution 245 is a reasonable and natural proposal from the point of view of the Irish Members. The hon. Member for South Tyrone, it is true, says it is an electioneering movement, but the speech of the hon. Member himself deserved far more the description of electioneering. The hon. Member is always intemperate on one side or the other—sometimes on the side of the tenant, sometimes on that of the landlord. To-night he was on the side of the landlord; but he had failed to make out a case against the proposal of the hon. Members below the Gangway on its merits, and, in fact, he admitted that the present condition of things under the Act of last year was not satisfactory. But the House must consider this matter not merely from the point of view of Ireland and the Irish tenant, but also from the point of view of the British taxpayer. I believe the British taxpayer and the people of this country have the fullest wish to do justice to the Irish community. An hon. Member below the Gangway said we were always very kind to them, except when called, upon to give cash. That is not a taunt that can be levelled against us after the experience of the last half-dozen years. I do not believe that the people of this country would be at all disposed to grudge, or that they have grudged, anything which they believed to be necessary for the pacification and contentment of Ireland. But the further pledging of British credit not to the entire community, but for the sake of the individual tenant in Ireland, is a thing hardly to be contemplated with equanimity on the part of the British public. We endeavoured last year, in the discussion of this Bill, to secure that a large part of the advantage of employing British credit should go not to the individual but to the community. If that had been done it would have altered the case. But we should consider it necessary to think twice and even thrice before going forward with a sudden or precipitate extension of purchase by the use of British credit—an extension that might involve an almost illimitable use of British credit. I greatly doubt if public opinion is prepared for an immediate extension of the credit that was pledged last year. I admit that the present 246 condition of things is entirely unsatisfactory. I admit that the inequality pointed out is glaring and obvious. But at the same time I am unable to assent to a Resolution which simply affirms the rights of tenants, until I see my way to doing so without giving a further development to doubtful principles, and without imposing on the British taxpayer an indefinite and, it map be, unnecessary burden. There are difficulties of machinery and difficulties in the application of compulsion. These may be overcome. Let us hope they may be. There are, I believe, cases bf landlords who have refused to sell their land to their tenants while willing to sell it to others; and such cases point to some power of compulsion as the cure of the grievance. But I think we are hardly in a position in the first year of the working of the Act to give to it this large development. I greatly doubt whether public opinion is prepared to sanction the extension of the large measure of last year which on its introduction was viewed with grave misgivings by a very large portion of the population. While admitting fully that the present condition of things is very unsatisfactory, and that the inequalities which have been pointed out are glaring and grievous, I am not able to support a Resolution such as that before the House.
§ MR. JUSTIN MCCARTHY (Londonderry)
I have no fault to find with the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I agree with his criticisms on the Bill of last year, but this Resolution of my hon. Friend represents a principle which the Irish people must and will maintain. We hold that its necessity wall be proved more and more every day; it is being admitted every day that dual ownership of land in Ireland is a failure, and that some better principle must be maintained. We entirely agree with this Resolution, and are sure that we shall be able to convince the House of the justness of the Resolution. The right hon. Gentleman said the time has not yet arrived for the adoption of such a principle. Well, that may be so, but we have convinced Parliament of the necessity of many a principle for which, when we began to enforce it, the time did not seem to be ripe. I have no doubt we shall before very long, if this land question remains 247 to be solved in the Imperial Parliament, which it may not be; but if it is, we shall convince that Parliament that the principle of my hon. Friend is necessary and is indispensable to the peace, comfort and prosperity of Ireland. Therefore, if we have to wait—if no great Party in this House is willing to go so far as we are willing to go—we can afford to wait a little while with the certainty that before long the principle we are struggling for to-night will be carried to a successful issue.
§ MR. J. E. REDMOND (Waterford)
This Debate, Sir, is one full of interest for Ireland, but I am sorry to think that the interest has been of a somewhat melancholy character. At first I had difficulty in ascertaining the motives of those who moved this Resolution, because they could not have had any hope of getting the Government to accept the principles contained in the Resolution. The Government have taken up all along such a position that that expectation would have been impossible. But even if accepted, the principle of the Resolution, it is evident, could not have been carried into effect during the present Session. The object of the hon. Member in moving the Resolution was one in which, I confess, I heartily concurred. He desired to elicit from those in a position to give effect to this principle what their views on the matter really are. I confess I feel grievously disappointed with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs, because I failed to understand from him what policy he has—if, indeed, he has any policy at all—on this land question. The right hon. Gentleman says the settlement of purchase must be universal and compulsory or partial and unsatisfactory. He says the present condition of things is unsatisfactory, but he cannot approve of the Resolution before the House. But he fails to tell us whether he, or those whom he represents, have any policy on the land question at all. One thing is perfectly clear from the Debate that all sections of Nationalist Representatives are of opinion that the land question in Ireland cannot be satisfactorily settled unless the principle of compulsion is applied. We agree with that. The right hon. Gentleman is not in favour of the application of the principle of compulsion, 248 and therefore he is not in a position to apply to the land question those principles that are satisfactory. Therefore he cannot be in a position to settle the land question concurrently with the question of Home Rule. In these circumstances, Mr. Speaker, surely we are entitled to ask the right hon. Gentlemen, is he prepared to hand over to us the settlement of the land question? That is all I have risen to say. Personally I have strong views in favour of compulsion if properly applied; but I do not desire to see any class of my countrymen driven out of Ireland.
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS, at the request of Mr. SPEAKER, took the Chair as DEPUTY SPEAKER, in pursuance of Standing Order No. 1.
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 86; Noes 177.—(Div. List, No. 60.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ It being after Midnight the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow.