§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [19th July], "That the Bill be now read a second time."674
§ And which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Colonel Saunderson.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
Mr. Speaker, in introducing this Bill, and again upon the Second Reading, my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary referred to some remarks which were attributed to me by a very energetic reporter, who caught me, in the year 1891, on an Atlantic steamer which was en route for America. As my right hon. Friend thought the matter sufficiently important to refer to it on two occasions, I may say that—although I do not think the authority a very good one—I have no objection now to repeat and adopt the language which was so attributed to me. I was reported to have said that I was in favour of a just and equitable settlement of this matter, and that I thought such a settlement could only be arrived at by an arrangement between the two sides of the House; and, lastly, that the settlement ought to follow the lines of the 13th clause of the Act of 1891. I say this, because I think my right hon. Friend makes a mistake when he assumes that, in voting against the Second Reading of this Bill, I or any of my hon. Friends are committing ourselves to a non possumus attitude. For myself, at any rate, I will say that, although the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Tyrone has been withdrawn, not only do I approve of that Amendment, but I still adhere to it, both in the letter and the spirit. Of course, the Chief Secretary very fairly admitted that readiness to accept a just and equitable settlement did not necessarily commit anybody to the provisions of this Bill; and I think he would agree that the questions which it raises are of such supreme importance that the House must carefully and—if it be possible in an Irish question—impartially consider the consequences of the policy to which we are now asked to give our assent. We have had considerable experience of land legislation in Ireland, and I think we must all feel that great dangers beset the steps of the legislator—that such a thing as a final settlement is almost impossible; and that every interference 675 with the ordinary course of the law invariably brings with it a new crop of grievances and a new agitation. I say that in the present case our caution ought specially to be exercised, because this is a Bill containing provisions so extraordinary as to be justly called the establishment of a new precedent. I am perfectly well aware that the Chief Secretary and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire contended that they had found in previous land legislation the germs or suggestions of certain of the provisions of this Bill. But I am sure they will confess that, at any rate, even if a microscopic examination would show something of the same kind in previous legislation, it has been so extended and developed in this Bill that practically it is a novel principle. But, whatever may be said about the details of the Bill, there is one principle, as I am afraid I must call it—but one characteristic, at all events—for which, I believe, they will be utterly unable to find any precedent in any previous legislation. That is the characteristic or principle that the State is to reward those who have deliberately contemned its authority, and that it is to put the men who have, well knowing the consequences, violated their obligations, in a better position than the men who, often at very great sacrifice, have scrupulously fulfilled their obligations. I think that in those circumstances we are entitled to require from the Government that they should show, not merely a primâ facie case, not merely a grievance, not merely a social difficulty, but an overwhelming case on which to rest such extraordinary legislation. And now I want the House to note what I think is very remarkable, and what will govern all I have to say on this occasion. I want the House to note the extremely narrow basis on which my right hon. Friend has put his whole case. He did not come to us and say, "Here are tenants whom I name or describe, who are suffering from some great grievance which requires the instant attention of Parliament." He did not even say, "Here are tenants in whose cases eviction was carried out with extreme harshness or injustice." On the contrary, he said that he did not desire to make any retrospect affecting the past; that he would not enter, and hoped no one else would enter, upon recriminations 676 which could not be of any advantage. He based himself on the situation which the Government found, without reference to how it was made for them, whether by the fault of this House of Parliament or by the fault of the landlords or of the tenants; and finding this situation, which he thought constituted a grave social and administrative difficulty, he implored us to take the opportunity of the present tranquillity in Ireland to endeavour to heal the sore which he said was still running. Very well, Sir; but I must say, in passing, that my right hon. Friend did not adhere strictly to the principles which he laid down, and which he desired should govern the course of the Debate. He did not himself entirely abstain from recrimination, and he made one observation which, I think, he will regret, and which I hope he will admit was unnecessary and ill-founded. He charged the landlords with being, as a class, an irreconcilable class.
MR. J. MORLEY
No, Sir, I beg pardon. What I said was this. I expressed my regret that this Motion rejecting the Bill had fallen into the hands of the representative of an irreconcilable section. Of course, that implied that there are other sections which are not irreconcilable.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
If I had thought that my right hon. Friend referred only to some small and indefinite minority I should not have taken any notice of the statement. But he went beyond that, and said that he would not inquire whether this minority, I suppose, was responsible for the disorder which had at various times prevailed in Ireland; and further, he said that there were only a few Irish landlords, and they were the exceptions, who were both humane and enlightened.
MR. J. MORLEY
No; I said that there were many who were humane and enlightened; but that I was afraid there were a few, and I hoped they were a few, who were neither enlightened nor humane.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I am delighted to have that explanation and development of my right hon. Friend's views. But what he said was that there were some landlords who were humane, but not enlightened; and others who were enlightened but not humane; and a small minority who were neither 677 humane nor enlightened. All I have to say is that an observation of that kind is ill-timed; for when you are asking the landlords of Ireland to make a further sacrifice of what every civilised nation has admitted to be the rights and properties of land-ownership you are imprudent if you accompany your request with what must be considered by a great majority of the class as a great insult and offence. And I say further that such an observation is one-sided, because if we are to go into this matter I challenge the Chief Secretary to get up and say that all the tenants of Ireland are enlightened and that all the agitators of Ireland are humane. What is the case that the Chief Secretary has to make out? He has to make out, in the first place, that there exists in Ireland in connection with the evicted tenants a social and an administrative difficulty of such magnitude that it justifies exceptional legislation. He has to make out, in the second place, that the legislation proposed is likely to be effectual, and is likely to be a final settlement of the question. In the third place, he has to show that in endeavouring to remedy the evil he has described he will not be creating still greater evils by this Bill. Now, Sir, I will take the first question. What is the magnitude of this social and administrative difficulty with which we are called upon to deal? The right hon. Gentleman tells us that since 1879 the total number of tenants evicted was 5,900, of whom 3,893 remain now to be dealt with. That is certainly a most extraordinary statement, and I do not know upon what authority it is given to the House. I think that I can show to the House that that statement requires further explanation, because in the Report of the Parnell Commission it will be found that the number of evictions from 1879 to 1886—that is, only eight out of the 15 years—was 24,000. Those evictions have been going on ever since 1886. I am told that during the period of Office of the Chief Secretary himself more than 1,400 evictions—"sentences of death"—have been passed. But if that be so the total number of evictions must have largely exceeded 30,000, and yet my right hon. Friend says the total number of actual evictions was only 5,900. Of course, I am well aware that in many cases the persons who were formerly evicted may have returned as caretakers, 678 and may have redeemed their holdings. But I wish to put this dilemma before the Chief Secretary. Either the Chief Secretary was right in his statement that the total number of victims was only 5,900, or he is utterly, entirely, and hopelessly wrong on the subject, and the total number of evictions is enormously greater. In the latter case the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's calculations fall to the ground. It is perfectly ridiculous to suppose that under these circumstances even the additional sum which he expects to scrape out of the Irish Church Fund will be of the slightest avail to meet the case, or will enable him to deal with an evil of this magnitude. But if it be the case that by some explanation or by some information which is not in my possession that the right hon. Gentleman has convinced himself that he is right in his original statement, then what follows? It ought to make people really think about the exaggerations which attend all Irish affairs. Why, Sir, we have been deafened with cries and complaints about the evictions in Ireland, about the enormous number of families who have been turned out to starve upon the hill-side by cruel and wicked landlords. And what is the fact? According to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman himself, it is that during the last 15 years less than 1 per cent. of the total number of tenants of Ireland have been subjected from any cause whatsoever to eviction, and that the annual rate of the evictions has been actually not more than 1–16th of 1 per cent. This is the social and administrative difficulty with which we have to deal. I will undertake to say that there is not a district in England and Wales—there is not a town in England or Scotland in which the annual number of evictions does not enormously exceed the proportion with which we are called upon to deal. The Chief Secretary asked us to deal with a social and administrative difficulty. But the Bill goes a great deal beyond that. It deals with facts that may require attention, but which do not constitute a social or administrative difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that the social and administrative difficulty is due to the presence of large bodies of evicted tenants in close proximity to their old holdings. No doubt that constitutes a difficulty with which the Government 679 have to deal. But the right hon. Gentleman proposes to deal with evictions from the year 1879 down to the present day. For the life of me, I cannot understand how he fixed upon that period. Why is a tenant evicted before 1879 less worthy than a tenant evicted after 1879, and, above all, why is a tenant evicted towards the end of 1895 less a subject for the consideration of this House than a tenant evicted at the beginning of 1895? In any case it is perfectly clear that with regard to the greater majority of the tenants with whom this Bill is going to deal, they do not constitute a social or administrative difficulty. There may be cases of hardship among them, of harsh eviction of persons for whose position the House may well entertain the greatest sympathy, but they are not the difficulty upon which this Bill is based. What is to become of the tenants evicted in 1879? Many of them have been absorbed in the population; others have got holdings elsewhere; others are acting as labourers; and what will be the effect of introducing them into this Bill? It will be that you will stimulate them to create a difficulty which at present does not exist. [Opposition cheers.] So far as the great majority of those who are dealt with in this Bill are concerned, there is no difficulty at all; and the difficulty will only arise if they are included in this measure; and if they are led to believe that, no matter the circumstances under which they were evicted, no matter what may be their present position, they may have a chance, if they only try for it, of their being reinstated on their own ancient holdings. Under these circumstances, I say let the House understand that the social and administrative difficulty exists solely and entirely in connection with the Plan of Campaign tenants, and this is a Bill for dealing with the social and administrative difficulty created by the Plan of Campaign. That ought to have been fairly stated, but it is hardly right to attempt to persuade the House that it has anything whatever to do with the case of tenants evicted in 1879 and subsequent years. Without the Plan of Campaign I am sure the Chief Secretary would not have come forward to propose this legislation, and it is, therefore, with those tenants alone that we have to deal in seeking to discover whether or not 680 this difficulty is of sufficient magnitude to justify legislative interference. Of the total number of tenants of the Plan of Campaign there were 1,403 evicted. Of those, up to the date of the Mathew Commission, 409 were reinstated and 994 were then out. But since then a very large number of them have, in one form or another, been reinstated. My hon. Friend the Member for South Hunts made a most interesting speech on Friday night when, I am sorry to say, the House was very thin, and he spoke not only with a great knowledge of the subject, but also, I think, with a sympathy for the evicted tenants which must have been appreciated by any of the Irish Nationalist Members who listened to him. What did he say? He said he had returns of a large number of derelict farms, and out of 312 cases of which he had returns more than one-third had been re-occupied by old tenants in the course of 12 months. What follows from that? If the same rate may be relied upon in regard to other derelict estates and generally in regard to these evicted tenants, it is perfectly certain not only that the number of 994 has already been very largely reduced, but I think we may anticipate in the ordinary course of things that it will be still further reduced, and that only a small proportion will ultimately remain to be dealt with. Under the circumstances, surely there is no sufficient case made out to induce this House to enter upon a course of violent interference with the ordinary law. I am not denying that you may have a case for interfering to increase the facilities for reinstatement by voluntary arrangement. The hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire referred in very complimentary language to an article which had been written by Lord Monteagle, who is, I suppose, a landlord who may be fairly considered to be both humane and enlightened; and he quoted the language of Lord Monteagle as justifying this Bill. But, with a most curious absence of mind, he forgot to tell the House that Lord Monteagle concluded with certain recommendations, and his recommendations were not for the formation of such a tribunal as is contemplated in this Bill and for compulsory settlement, but for voluntary settlement by a Board of Conciliation. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will be satisfied, 681 not only to quote the arguments of Lord Monteagle, but to accept his conclusions, then indeed I think, in the sense of the words which were attributed to me by the reporter, that we might be in sight of a just and equitable settlement with the common consent of both sides of the House. But I say, on review of this branch of the question, I deny that the Government have shown sufficient cause for this compulsory interference with the law, and I am forced to the conclusion that the Bill is called for not by any social or administrative difficulty, but by political and Parliamentary exigencies. But now, Sir, suppose we pass that; we have to consider, in the second place, whether the provisions of this Bill constitute an effectual and a final settlement of such difficulty as there is? Well, Sir, my right hon. Friend has, I think very justly, very properly, and very wisely placed in his Bill a great number of conditions and provisions, intended, as I suppose, to protect the landlords and the new tenants from arbitrary interference. I do not think that any fair-minded man could possibly have introduced a Bill of this kind without such safeguards. Assuming, however, that the safeguards are trustworthy, I would ask my right hon. Friend who are the tenants who are going to be relieved? The Government appoint a tribunal of the most extraordinary character, with the largest powers and the widest discretion. It is an arbitrary tribunal which is intended to administer a sort of Oriental justice, and that is defended, forsooth, by a great English lawyer like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire. I should say that the summary justice of the Oriental has some advantages. It is prompt, no doubt, and it is cheap, because, as it does not in the least depend upon law, the parties in the case can always dispense with legal assistance. It has its disadvantages also, and everything depends upon the character and impartiality of the Judges. My right hon. Friend assures the House that the three gentlemen he has named are absolutely impartial. I am not going to enter upon a personal discussion of gentlemen with whom I have very small acquaintance, and I will assume that that is true, and that you have found in Ireland three absolutely impartial men. I thought it was impossible; but I will assume that the Chief Secre- 682 tary has discovered in Ireland these three lusus in naturâ, these three black swans, and has been able to put them on his tribunal. But, then, if so, does he believe that these three gentlemen are going to say, in the case of tenants who have been turned out of their holdings because of their refusal to pay the judicial rents when they had money in their pockets, that theirs affords a primâ, facie case for reinstatement? And if not, where on earth is the relief coming in? Is there any man who knows anything about these Plan of Campaign estates who would be prepared to say that an impartial tribunal could hold that there was a primâ facie case for reinstating the tenants on, for instance, the Tipperary estates? Those tenants, and many others like them, went out, having a fair and liberal landlord, not because they had not fair rents, but because they resented the interference of the landlord in a matter in which they did not recognise the right of the landlord to interfere. That was their own confession. Does any man pretend to tell me that theirs is a primâ, facie case for reinstatement? Take the case of the Luggacurren estate. Anyone who is not blinded by Party malice—[Nationalist cries of "Oh!"] Of course, I excepted hon. Gentlemen opposite. In that case the tenants did not go out because they themselves complained of the rents they were called on to pay, but they were I will not say forced, but induced to go out in the interests of a political organisation. I am only arguing in this way. If your tribunal is impartial all these cases will at once be excluded from their decision, and where, then, is your effectual and final settlement coming in if at one blow you strike out every case where the deserts of the tenants have not been established? Moreover, if you get over that fence, there is another obstacle—another ditch behind to be cleared before advantage can be taken of this Bill. Every tenant applying to the tribunal will have to show that he has not unreasonably refused an offer made by the landlord. But it is proved—it was proved before the Mathew Commission—that in some of these cases the tenants were perfectly willing to go in on the terms which their landlords had offered and were only prevented by the policy of the Plan of Campaign. Is that a case 683 in which it can be contended that the tenants have not unreasonably refused an offer made to them? Then, again, I understand the right hon. Gentleman has given an absolute veto to all proceedings to the sitting tenant in all cases in which the planter tenant has taken the land. I understand him to provide that the planter tenants can exercise their voluntary wishes in the matter. Suppose that is true, may not a considerable number of them stick to the land? They have spent money on the land. [Cries of "No!"] Many of them are doing well on the land. [Renewed cries of "No!"] There is no certainty that any of them will get compensation for their loss if they leave their present holdings, and if they decide to leave there is no certainty that they will find land elsewhere. I say, therefore, that if these men are really left free to decide for themselves, a large number of them will retain their holdings, and, in all such cases, the Bill provides no relief of remedy whatever. There is another class of cases—namely, that of tenants who left their holdings, not because they would not, but because they could not pay their rents. These are people for whom, doubtless, one would feel sympathy. But is it at all certain that one would be conferring a benefit on them by returning them to their holdings? If they were insolvent then, they would be insolvent now. How are they to be provided with capital to work the land which they could not work at a profit before? The Chief Secretary appreciates the difficulty, but what answer did he make? He actually told the House that he did not know how the thing was going to be done, but, somehow or other, he hoped that these men would pull through. What an extraordinary expectation on which to found important legislation! That is not statesmanship. That is a happy-go-lucky way of dealing with a difficulty which would be worthy of Mr. Micawber. I cannot see the slightest ground for expecting that men who—perhaps because they were not so industrious, perhaps because they were not so clever, or perhaps because they were poorer than their fellows—did not make it pay before they were evicted will, if again placed upon the land where they have already failed, pull through and make a success of it. The 684 result of my argument is that all this novel and complicated machinery is to be established to obtain a result, when you come to look at it, that must, from the nature of the case, be perfectly insignificant. Deduct from your total of 994 the tenants who will not prove a primâ facie case, the tenants who will be shown to have refused reasonable offers, and the tenants refused re-admission by the planter tenants, and I undertake to say that this Bill, if properly administered, will not provide for 250 out of the total of nearly 1,000 cases. Then, is this going to be a final settlement? Can it be a final settlement? Can a Bill which, while professing to settle the question, deals only with the fringe of the matter be expected to provide a final solution? Only a small minority would be re-established by law, and those who are not re-established would have a greater grievance than ever. They would say, "What the law has done for you it should do for us, and if it does not we are justified in continued resistance." If the Chief Secretary had any doubt whatever on the subject, I should like to refer him to what was said by the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin on the occasion of the introduction of the Bill, and to which the hon. Member said, on Friday night, that he adhered. He said that this Bill was only tinkering legislation, and that it would be a new incentive to crime and disorder. And yet it is for a Bill which is so described by the Representatives of persons who are to benefit by it that we are kept here late into the summer, and it is by such a Bill as this that the right hon. Gentleman hopes to deal with a great social and administrative difficulty. I would ask another question. Suppose you were really able, by means of this Bill, to reinstate every tenant evicted since 1879, would that close the question? What is to become of the tenants after they are reinstated? Suppose, after they have been reinstated, that they cannot pay their rents, and are again evicted, are you to have a new Bill to reinstate them again? And if not, why not? How do you propose to distinguish between a man who was unable or unwilling to pay his rent before 1879 and a man who is unable or unwilling to pay his rent after 1894? What possible logical ground can you lay down, if we 685 accept this legislation, which will prevent us from being pressed to extend it to subsequent evictions? It appears to me that if you accept the principle of this Bill you may as well go further at once, and say, as the Member for the Shipley Division would say, that rent in Ireland is really only a voluntary performance—that it is a matter that a landlord may expect from the courtesy of the tenant, but cannot claim from him as a right. Short of this, I cannot see how you can deal with this question as my right hon. Friend proposes. Will not this Bill, if accepted, inevitably lead to greater evils? The first evil is to be found in the condition in which you are going to place the sitting tenants—these men who are called "land-grabbers," and who are constantly spoken of as enemies of the human race; who are threatened daily by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and whose lives would not be worth a moment's purchase but for the assistance of the Government in Ireland. What is going to be done under this new state of things? Do you want to know? You have only to read the warnings—I will not call them threats—of the Parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Daily Independent, defining the alternatives which lie before the taker of an evicted farm. In the issue of that paper of April 24 he thus describes the situation—Under Mr. Morley's Evicted Tenants Bill the only thing that is sacred is the right of the grabber to seize on other men's property, and, under the sanction of English made laws, hold it to ransom. The land-grabber in Ireland is a legalised brigand, who, under favouring circumstances, may either retain the property of the evicted tenant in his own possession, subject to the argument of the blunderbuss, or he may ransom it, if he is wise enough to prefer the solid compensation of a certain amount of coin of the realm to the possible settlement by a certain amount of buckshot. That is the situation created by Mr. Morley's Bill, put into plain language.Yes, Sir, I am afraid that, put into plain language, that is the situation to be created by this Bill. I could give other quotations; but, as the views expressed do not depend upon individual authority, but upon the probabilities of the case, I do not stop to give them. The Chief Secretary did not say that these people would not be subject to terrorism and hold their lives in their hands, but he argued, will not they be in a still worse 686 position if nothing is done? My right hon. Friend professes that the Government are saving them from a greater evil than they are suffering from at present. But the writer I have cited implies that the difficulty is created by the Bill of the Chief Secretary. By this Bill the evicted tenants are taught that they have a right to the land. The Bill puts the planter tenant in the wrong, and suggests the pressure that should be brought to bear upon the planter tenant, in order that he may leave the land. I think that no one who knows anything about the history of evictions in Ireland will controvert that if the Bill passes, whatever may be the danger under which these men lie at the present time, it will be immediately and from that day enormously increased. I think that is a great evil. I utterly dissociate myself from the language used with regard to these men. They are good citizens, and I want to point out to the Representatives of the British taxpayers what it is they are doing when they sympathise with the evident feeling of hon. Gentlemen opposite with regard to these men. The only fault of these men is that they are willing to take land and pay rent which the previous tenant refused to pay for it. You are going by this Bill to make their position intolerable and impossible. You are going indirectly to justify the language used about them by hon. Members opposite, and you are going to say that in your opinion they are legalised brigands. What is going to be the result? You are, as Representatives of the British Parliament, the largest landlords in Ireland at the present time, and you are going to be larger. You have lent your credit, and will be practically the owners of the land until that has been exhausted and repayment made, and you are going to teach the lesson that if any tenant refuses to pay you your rent, then the man is a legalised brigand who comes in and takes the land from you and pays the rent. Then you are going to do another thing; you are going to demoralise the honesty of the men, and what sort of example are you going to set to the men who happened—often, no doubt, with extreme difficulty—to pay their rents and fulfil their obligations? You are going absolutely to place the man who refused to fulfil his obligations, even when he was able to do 687 so, in a better position than the man who has fulfilled his obligations. What sort of lesson is this, for instance, for the Protestant tenants of Luggacurren, Lord Lansdowne's estate? In the case of those evictions, what was one of the most striking features? That not one single Protestant tenant went out; not one single Protestant tenant failed to pay his rent, nor has done so up to the present time. But now what are you going to do? You are going to say to him, "The man who refused to pay his rent, the same as you are paying, him we are going to lend the money of the State to, put him back upon the land, and give him a new fixed rent at a lower rate and under conditions which will give him the advantages of a lower rent than you. You, as a reward for what yon have done in the service of good order and the State, are to continue to the end of the term to pay the higher rent, and are not to have any assistance from the State." That justifies the threats that were used to these tenants in the heat of the agitation. Here is what the Rev. Father Hughes said of them at a meeting on December 15th, 1888. He said—Where are the Protestant farmers of this parish? Are they here to-day as they ought to be? No, they are not…… I say they are contemptible dastards; and I say they are imbeciles if they hope that by-and-by, when the fight is over and the battle won, their refusal to help us shall not be remembered.I quite agree with Father Hughes, and if really this Government is to carry out its policy and place these men, their neighbours, who have failed to fulfil their obligations, in a better condition than the Protestant farmers, then I shall say they were imbeciles, and they ought to have trusted to the League more than to the British Government. There is one other point. I do not want to enter upon a course of recrimination, but we cannot altogether leave out of sight the circumstances under which these evictions were necessary, and I want the House to consider what is going to be the consequence of whitewashing the Plan of Campaign. What was the Plan of Campaign? We heard a very imaginative account given by one of the authors of the origin of that Plan. I do not think it necessary to follow him, although I could not accept it as an accurate statement. But we were told by the hon. Member for the Harbour Division, who, I think, has not 688 been always a strong supporter of the Plan, and not committed to it himself. [Laughter and "Oh, oh!"] Well, I do not know. If he was, I am very sorry; I was only anxious to do him justice. But, at all events, he made this excuse for it on Friday night. He said—It was a terrible necessity, but it was imposed upon us by the refusal of the House of Commons to pass Mr. Parnell's Bill to deal with the leaseholders and tenants who had their rents fixed in the early stage of the proceedings.Well, Sir, is that an accurate statement? Has not the memory of the hon. Member played him false? I appeal from him to an authority that I think he will be perfectly ready to recognise as greater than himself. I appeal to Mr. Parnell. What did Mr. Parnell say about the Plan? He was speaking in 1891 in Listowel, and he said—This struggle of the Plan of Campaign was commenced, not for the benefit of the tenant farmers, but for the benefit of an English political Party. That was one of the motives, and one of the strongest motives, that produced this movement, and I said it was a false and foolish motive. These men should not have been urged to leave their holdings because certain English Members said it was necessary to show that the Irish people were fighting Balfour. Why did not these English Members come over to Ireland and fight him for themselves? Why should our farmers be evicted in order to show the English people that we were all to fight Balfour? Why should we be obliged to fight Balfour and the English Tory Party at the cost of sacrifices and sufferings which our allies, the English Members, cannot incur or take part in?I do not think it is very easy for any hon. Member to get over that statement of Mr. Parnell. It is perfectly well known and has been admitted, at all events, by some of those who have been most prominently connected with this movement, that it was in its inception a political movement intended to upset the policy of coercion, and above all to upset the Government of which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was so distinguished a Member. Under these circumstances we are dealing with a Plan which, whatever its merits may be, was, at all events an illegal Plan. It was not approved of by Mr. Parnell or by many other leaders of the movement; it was denounced by the Roman Catholic Church, and it has not had the support in this House or elsewhere of any single responsible English Leader, unless, Sir, I can make an ex- 689 ception in favour of the President of the Local Government Board, whom, I hope, we are to hear in the course of this Debate, and who, no doubt, will show his sense of responsibility by explaining how it was he promised these tenants they should be reinstated three mouths after his Government came into power, and has remained in power himself two years and has only just now begun to think of them. I say, then, it is quite too late to be going back upon the opinion which was generally formed as to the morality and legality of the Plan of Campaign. That has been settled for us, and if now you are going to relieve the tenants altogether and by law of the consequences of their own acts, if you are going to relieve their advisers of their own responsibility for the advice which they gave, one of two things follows—either at this late moment you are going to justify the Plan of Campaign, which you have always condemned; either you are going to say the tenants who took part in it were persons worthy of special consideration and entitled to the sympathy of this House; or, on the other hand, you are going to make a confession which, to my mind, would be a more shameful confession still—that is to say, that the Plan of Campaign was too strong for you, and that the social and administrative difficulty which it has created must now be disposed of by a complete surrender to its authors. I cannot believe the House of Commons will consent to adopt either of these alternatives. I say this Bill is not a just Bill, not an equitable Bill, and it will not be a final settlement. It is not, as I have shown, a Bill which is intended or calculated to meet a social or administrative difficulty, although it may have been imposed upon the Government by political reasons, and I think the House is not called upon to interfere now to relieve the agitators from the discredit and embarrassment into which they have brought themselves; and it is not called upon to intefere to relieve tenants who have deliberately faced the consequences from the results of their own action. There are, however, I am ready to admit, certain classes of tenants who may be deserving of consideration. I think it was the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin who spoke of cases of harsh and unjust eviction. I do not suppose there are very many of 690 these, but, let them be few, or let them be many, by all means, if you can define what constitutes the hardship and injustice of these evictions, let us take steps to see that they are again investigated and a remedy is found for the grievance, if it be proved to exist. But there is no necessity for a compulsory interference with the existing law in order to secure that result. Then I will admit, and I know, that there have been a considerable number of Plan of Campaign estates who have not willingly followed the Plan of Campaign, but who have been forced into it under fear for their property and fear for their lives. And there is a third class, which is, perhaps, not so deserving, but which is still much to be pitied, and that is the class of those who were duped by the encouragement given to them by English Members travelling in the country, and by the mis-statements that were made to them by Irishmen in whom they placed confidence, and who, accordingly, through ignorance, were led away to take this course which proved so disastrous to them. In all these cases by all means let us agree to facilitate voluntary arrangements. If it be necessary to find some money for the purpose—and I believe money is always necessary in Ireland—I can take no exception to that wonderful Irish Church Fund, which is like the widow's cruse, always being depleted and never empty—I cannot conceive a better course can be taken than to use it for this purpose. But let me observe that, when we are told that in dealing with this fund we are dealing with a fund which is exclusively Irish, and with which we have no concern, that I do not altogether agree in that view. The Irish Church Fund has been appropriated by Parliament to public purposes in Ireland; but if it be taken now for a new purpose, which was not contemplated at the time, some of the old purposes are likely to lack encouragement, and under these circumstances it will be very odd, indeed, if an appeal is not once more made to the British Parliament, and the British taxpayer is not called upon to meet the deficiency; therefore, I do think we have got an interest—it may be indirectly—in the proper application of this fund. Still, under the circumstances, with the view, at all events, of facilitating the object which the Chief Secretary has in view, I should see no 691 objection to the re-enactment and the extension of the 13th clause of the Act of 1891, and to supporting and enforcing the provisions of that clause by the assistance of such funds as may be provided for the purpose. But, Sir, I may go further than that—it would be a great mistake. If we go forward with this Bill we shall be encouraging resistance to the law. It will be a fatal lesson to teach to any people—that the man who breaks the law or takes it into his own hands has only thereafter to make himself sufficiently unpleasant to induce the British Government, for the sake of its own ease and tranquillity, to interfere and protect him from the consequences of his action. If we are to lay down a lesson of that kind I am sure it will be more fatal and more disastrous than anything we have now to deplore, and under these circumstances I shall vote against the Second Reading of this Bill without the slightest hesitation.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
The career of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is so cankered with inconsistency that the House may well believe it difficult to convict him of anything more varied than what we are already familiar with; but I will undertake, under the hand and seal of the right hon. Gentleman, that in everything he accuses the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary of being guilty of he is tenfold deeper dyed in guilt. The right hon. Gentleman has told us there is no precedent in this House and no precedent in British legislation for such a Bill as the Chief Secretary has proposed. Yes, Sir, there is a precedent, and a precedent drawn by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, and I will contrast the Morley Bill with the Chamberlain Act, and ask this House to tell me which is the more extraordinary measure. Before the Plan of Campaign there was such a thing as the No Rent Manifesto. Before the Evicted Tenants Bill there was the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Act, 1882; and I will show the House from its provisions that, as compared with the revolutionary proposals adopted, voted for, drawn—I may say drafted—by the right hon. Gentleman himself on the very morrow of the Kilmainham Treaty, that the present Bill of Her Majesty's present Government sinks 692 into absolute insignificance. What was the Arrears Act of 1882, and what was the position at the time? We have heard of the crimes of the Plan of Campaign. The crimes of the Plan of Campaign are eight years old, but not eight months had elapsed between the issue of the No Rent Manifesto of 1881—in October, 1881—and the time when the right hon. Gentleman brought in the Bill which I will now read to the House—a Bill not to take £100,000 or £250,000 from the Irish Church surplus, but to take £1,500,000, not only from the Irish Church Fund, but to take any contingent liability from the Consolidated Fund if the £1,500,000 should prove insufficient; and there was an Amendment by the Tory Party of that day, moved by Mr. Sclater-Booth and opposed by the Member for Birmingham—That, in the opinion of this House, it is inexpedient to proceed with any Bill to create a charge upon the Consolidated Fund except by way of loan.And who were the guilty people in whose interest this Bill was passed, supported by the entire Liberal Party, supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney), by his other right hon. next-door neighbour the Member for Bordesley (Mr. Jesse Collings), and by the whole retinue of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham? The farmers who refused to pay rent because of the No-Rent Manifesto. Was it a Bill as moderate as the Bill of the present Government? Was it a Bill that took note of the land-grabber? No, Sir; it swept the land-grabber, root and branch. Was it a compulsory Bill? Yes, Sir; in every respect. It took no note of either the landlord or the grabber, and the right hon. Gentleman who now talks of the crimes of the Irish tenantry, and of the disgrace it would be to desert the honest men who are in these evicted farms, and of the bad example it would give the Protestant tenants who had paid their rents—I heard all these arguments from the Tories in 1882—he then came forward and supported the measure. I wonder does the right hon. Gentleman remember the day before the Bill was introduced, and while Mr. Parnell was still in prison—does he remember the interview he had with Captain O'Shea and another gentleman in his own room on the subject of the Arrears of Rent 693 Bill? And yet he is the right hon. Gentleman who comes forward to-day, more Tory than the Tories themselves, to denounce the Bill which is to be administered by Mr. Piers White and Mr. Greer, two Unionists, and Mr. George Fottrell, who generally is regarded as a landlord representative. At any rate, with regard to a moderate provision of that kind, which does not touch the grabbers, which gives the landlords the power of going before that tribunal and arguing their case, the right hon. Gentleman objects. What are his own words, if his words are now of any value. He says that "the law should not reward those who deliberately contemn its authority." What did the No Rent Manifesto do? It ordered the people not to pay any rent because the right hon. Gentleman put Mr. Parnell in gaol. The Plan of Campaign, a very limited instrument indeed, said that upon particular estates the tenants were to bank the rent, less the amount of reduction they claimed, until the landlord was willing to take it less that reduction. The tenants under the first plan were evicted wholesale. The right hon. Gentleman, at any rate, could not complain that there were few evictions in the year 1881–82. There were enough to satisfy the most grasping maw. Well, here is the provision of Section 2 of the 45th and 46th Victoria, cap 47:—Any tenant evicted from his holding for non-payment of rent, or whose tenancy has been purchased for the landlord at any sale by virtue of any writ of execution obtained by the landlord for arrears of rent due in respect of such holding, may, if his landlord agrees to reinstate him—I thought there would be a cheer at that point—apply, with the consent of his landlord, in the prescribed manner during the time limited for application under this Act, and the Land Commissioner, under this Act, may make an Older under this Act in the same manner as if he had not been evicted from his tenancy, or his tenancy had not been sold.Not a word there about the poor planters—those honest and excellent men who came to help the landlord in his emergency. But suppose the landlord did not agree; suppose he was of the opinion of the Member for Birmingham, that it would be fatal in the interest of the Irish tenantry to give these dishonest ruffians encouragement. What did the Bill, the 694 Chamberlain Act, do? It provided that—Any tenant evicted for non-payment of rent, whom the landlord does not agree to reinstate, may apply during the time limited for application under this Act to the Land Commission to make an order, and they may make an order under the Act in the same manner as if the tenant had not been evicted.That is, that application having been made to the Court, the Land Commissioner might deal with the case as if the tenant had paid all arrears of rent up to the last gale in the year expiring, as mentioned in the Act. That was the case of the man whose six months for redemption had expired, not as from the 1st of May, 1879, not from whatever date might be named in the Bill, but from the date he first took the farm—it may be 40 years before. He was to be treated as if all the rent had been paid up to the last gale day, because on paying a year's rent the State would give another year's rent, and the man would be reinstated. But if his tenancy had expired on or before the 1st of May, 1879, what happened to him? The Chamberlain Act provided that if he was even six or eight years, or even 26 or 28 years, out of possession, he might apply to the Land Commissioners, who might enlarge the time for redemption (which had already expired), and thereupon he should be put into the same position as if he were not evicted at all. I only wish the Government would give us the Chamberlain Act again. And why are we not to have it? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham has quoted for our information a statement of the Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin (Mr. Harrington), who says the present Bill is insufficient. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman had some slight casting back of his mind to his own Bill, which took no note whatever of this provision about the grabber which is in the Bill of the Chief Secretary, and yet, Sir, that is the right hon. Gentleman who has the face to stand up in this House and charge the Government with having brought in a revolutionary Bill, its only fault being that it is not half strong enough or half as revolutionary as his own. Then we have the usual pharisaical attack on Irish Members from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
Will the hon. Gentleman read the clause in the 695 Act to which he alludes which contemplates the turning out of the new tenants?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The Act takes no note of the new tenant. It assumes he is like the snakes in Norway. It simply says the old tenant is to be reinstated.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
He is to go. There is no mystery about this. It is an Act of Parliament. I would like to hear even the Member for Bordesley on this. I only give the Statute plainly. There is no Birmingham construction applicable to Acts of Parliament.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
There is no such clause; but if I am to be challenged, let me be challenged by a lawyer, although I have no fault to find with the hon. and gallant Gentleman if he is not able to follow the drafting. It was not our drafting; it was the drafting of Her Majesty's Government of the day, of which the Member for Birmingham was a Member. The right hon. Gentleman did not escape taunts altogether, because there was a gentleman in that House named Mr. Gorst—he believed he was not known as Mr. Gorst now—and he seemed not to have any fear of the Member for Birmingham before his eyes, because he seems to have twitted the right hon. Gentleman and taken him to task. There is a brief quotation I will make from this gentleman's statement, made on May 22nd, 1882. It will be found on page 1326 of Hansard. He made a speech very much like that we heard just now, so I will not trouble the House with it, and he asked—What right had the Government to take the taxes of the people, paid with great difficulty and self-denial, and make a present of them to Irish tenants and Irish landlords? That was a real hardship. When it was a question of granting compensation for cattle slaughtered in connection with the cattle trade, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) was very angry at the suggestion that money should be paid out of the Consolidated Fund for such a purpose. The words of 696 the right hon. Gentleman were: 'I have a very great objection to the proposal contained in the Bill, that compensation in the case of the cattle trade should be paid out of an Imperial Fund;' and I will repeat the words of Sir George Grey, which, to my mind, are conclusive. With regard to the payment from the Consolidated Fund, Sir George Grey said: 'That the principle of applying the Public funds to compensate private loss was an extremely dangerous one. Nothing was more likely to lead to reckless expenditure than to use the bottomless purse of the nation for such a purpose.' He (Mr. Gorst) should like to know how after that the right hon. Gentleman could be a party to this Bill?That was what Mr. Gorst asked in 1882, and the right hon. Gentleman was a party to the Bill. I expected to-night to have heard from the Member for Birmingham some explanation of the difference in his position which enabled him in 1882, six mouths after that criminal conspiracy known as the No-Rent Manifesto had blossomed, as we were told by the Tory Party, into murder and so forth, how he could have supported the Arrears Bill, with its £1,500,000 out of the Church Surplus and an unlimited pull at the Consolidated Fund and with its absolute expropriation of the grabber, while now be is unable to support the moderate proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. I would advise the right hon. Gentleman, whose career is not entirely free from inconsistency—I would advise him for the sake of his own position in a case of this kind to do what we are sure to do—namely, to read up Hansard with regard to his own votes and performances. He will then see how he lays himself open to certain charges. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Bill of the Chief Secretary will deal with a small proportion of these evictions. I quite agree that, as compared with the number of cases to be dealt with after the No-Rent Manifesto of 1881, this Bill is necessarily a small measure. But he has told us that there are now fewer evictions than there were before, and that it was surprising that the Irish tenant could be found to be evicted. I think he said that 1–10th or 1–16th of 1 per cent. were evicted. For an explanation of that perhaps he will allow me to refer him to the Member for South Tyrone, who, in a speech in this House on the 21st of March, 1888, made the following remarks:—Everything that was done in the past for the tenants had been done against the protests of 697 the Irish landlords. He voted for the 7th section of the Act of 1887"—that is what we call the "eviction-made-easy clause"—because he trusted in the discretion of Irish landlords. But he would not be caught trusting in it again. Five thousand notices of eviction had been served by registered letter under that section. He did not believe that would result in eviction; but the tenancies were absolutely determined, the tenant's rights and interests were destroyed, and his improvements were confiscated.Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman why there are fewer tenants actually out of possession to-day than there were in 1882. First, because his own Arrears Act of 1882 ended in the restoration of enormous numbers of these evicted tenants. That is the first reason. The second is because, owing to the position taken up by the Tory Party under the Land Act of 1887, the Tory Party found it more convenient, because it was said the evictions were doing great mischief in England, instead of physically ejecting the tenant with crowbar and Sheriff, to turn him into a caretaker by the aid of the 7th section and a registered letter, and that is the reason why there are not so many people physically out of possession to-day. But what is their position? The landlord does not necessarily want to get rid absolutely of his tenants if he has any hope of getting some rent; but he keeps him at his mercy; he reduces him to the position of caretaker; he has him liable to pay whatever rent he can screw out of him, and, that is the reason of the difference in his position which the right hon. Gentleman found so difficult to explain. He opened his subject with the observation which, I think, shows the difference in position between Irish Members and English Members in their dealings with our country. He said you should take warning from the fact that interference with the ordinary law in these Irish Land Acts always brings a "fresh crop of grievances and a new agitation," and that sentiment was loudly cheered by his friends on the Tory side. I would put the position in exactly the opposite form. What is our position? In 1881 you passed a Land Act, and you refused to take our advice and include the leaseholders. Did not that refusal necessarily produce a fresh crop of grievances and fresh agitation? The Tories themselves, though swearing they would never con- 698 sent, brought in the Bill of 1887, and I heard the right hon. Member for East Manchester (Mr. Balfour) taunting the right hon. Member for Midlothian on one occasion that they, the generous Tory Party, were those who had included the leaseholders, while the Member for Midlothian had not that much generosity in 1881.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman contradicts me, and us the point is hardly worth while I will not insist on it. At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman asked why the Liberal Government did not include the leaseholders in the Act of 1881. I will tell him; because the Tory Party would not let them. The Member for Manchester, at any rate, will not deny that he it was who put down an Amendment to omit the fair rent section of the Act of 1881. But what did the Tories do in 1887? They admitted the leaseholders who had a 99 years' lease, but they refused to admit the long leaseholders. That produced a "fresh crop of grievances" and afresh agitation. They would not take our advice; they would not even take the advice of the Member for South Tyrone, one of the agitators on this question. I wish the Member for Birmingham was present at the Land Acts Committee upstairs, for I think he would say "What a furious agitator the Member for South Tyrone is!" After numbers of these leaseholders had been evicted what did you do? In the year 1891 you brought in a Bill to deal with those long leaseholders, and of all the jokes in the form of a Statute that ever passed this House the Redemption of Rent Act, 1891, is probably the foremost. You should read Lord Salisbury on it it if you want to understand it. He forgot he passed the measure, and when the Member for South Tyrone the following year brought in the inevitable amending Bill—you must always have an amending Bill to an Irish Land Act, just as there is a tail to a comet — you must have half-a-dozen minor Acts—when the Member for South Tyrone brought in his Bill to amend a few little minor defects of Tory legislation it was passed through this House unanimously; but when it came under 699 Lord Salisbury's notice upstairs he said, "Bless me! what is this?" I am sorry I have not with me a copy of the observations of the noble Marquess; but, as well as I remember, it was this: that a more extraordinary Bill than the Redemption of Rent Act—
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I think it is only fair to say that Lord Herschell's observations were as strong as those of Lord Salisbury.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The Government of Lord Herschell allowed the Bill to be read a second time in this House. Lord Herschell's observations are not on record, but Lord Salisbury's are. He said—I do not know how the Act of 1891 managed to struggle through. It was not a Government measure.What is the result that the Redemption Act produced? To use the words of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Chamberlain) the result was "a fresh crop of grievances and fresh agitation." And we are now considering upstairs in a very lively Committee what the Member for Birmingham would no doubt call materials for fresh agitation. And here is the position 12 or 13 years after the Act of 1881 had passed, when you rejected, when you mowed down by the regiment every Amendment proposed by the tenants' Representatives in this House, Amendments which were calculated to confer important benefits on the tenants. But, with halting gait and limping step, you bring forward your Bills of 1887, of 1891, and of 1893, and afterwards you honour them by a Committee appointed upstairs to consider the grievances resulting from the rejection of Irish advice at the time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham asks whether this Bill is necessary. I must say that the fashion of this House in dealing with Irish land legislation almost drives any man acquainted with the subject to despair. For years we have been knocking at the door of this House for some remedial measures. Year after year you refused them, and year after year these tenants are being thrown out on the roadside in consequence. This Bill has been described by the Member for Birmingham as a Bill dealing with the victims of the Plan of Campaign. I deny it. I say that for one tenant evicted owing to the 700 Plan of Campaign there were scores of tenants evicted because you refused to do justice to them in this House. And even the tenants who were entitled to come in under the Act of 1881, when did they come in, many of them? Were I to detain the House reading letters on the subject I could produce them by the bushel. What are the facts? That some of the tenants in whose interest you passed the Act of 1881 did not come before the Court, and were notable to come before it until 1886. It took them five years before they could get a fair rent fixed and during those five years, while the Land Courts were glutted and blocked by applications, many of the tenants were evicted for non-payment of the old rent. They were evicted by the score, and by the hundred. You held out terms of relief to the tenants, as the water to Tantalus, but the tenants were absolutely unable to obtain the benefit of it. The Member for Trinity College (Mr. Carson) the other night made a very able speech on this Bill. He gave a number of instances of what he called great hardship to the landlord. I wonder does he remember the case of Bolton against Keating? It is now reported in the Law Reports, and it will give a very excellent idea to the House. I only refer to it because the hon. and learned Member was counsel in it himself. It is one of the cases which I submit this Bill is intended to remedy. The tenant applied to have a fair rent fixed. The landlord appealed, and the landlord was fortunate to have the assistance of the Member for Trinity College. He asked the tenant, Miss Keating, if she had ever sublet a portion of her holding. The question had never been asked below, and the woman had not her papers in Court, not expecting the point to be raised, she said—"I have sublet portion of the holding, some three or four acres," and she was instantly shot out of Court and her application dismissed. What happened? Some weeks after the case was over it turned out that this subletting was 30 or 40 years old, and in ransacking her boxes in the County Wexford, where she lived, she found a letter from the agent recognising the subletting at the time the lease was made. Accordingly, an appeal was taken to the Court of Appeal, and they held, by the time they were enabled to give judgment, 701 that the woman had been wrongfully dismissed from the Court, and ordered the case back so as to have a fair rent fixed. But in the meantime the landlord had her evicted. He had served her with an eviction-made-easy notice under your beautiful Act of 1887. He had strangled her tenancy, and she was no more in a position to go into Court to have a fair rent fixed than any person who was a stranger to the holding, simply because of the point sprung by the landlord in reference to the subletting, as to which he had been a consenting party. She lost her fair rent, was evicted, and her farm is grabbed. I put it to the House, is that not a case in which the circumstances might, with fairness, be submitted to a tribunal such as that which the right hon. Gentleman (the Chief Secretary) proposed to set up? There are scores of such cases. I remember a case in Dublin the other day in which the landlord was Mr. Pack-Beresford, of the County Carlow. The tenant had been evicted in the bad years for non-payment of rent. The local priest applied to the landlord to reinstate the tenant, and the landlord said he would if the tenant would pay up all arrears of rent and the cost of the judgment. That was not a very generous offer, but the tenant did so. The tenant sent a cheque to the landlord for the full amount of the arrears and costs. The landlord had no intention of reinstating the tenant as a "present" tenant. He wanted to make him a "future" tenant, so that he could not obtain the benefit of the Land Acts, and accordingly he took some point about the surrender of the water rights on his holding, and absolutely, when the tenant's cheque for the full amount of arrears and costs was in the pocket of Mr. Beresford, he refused to carry out the obligation he had entered into with this tenant to reinstate him in his holding. For six or eight months the tenant contended that he was to be regarded as a present tenant, with the right to go into Court and have a fair rent fixed, while the landlord insisted that he was a future tenant. The result was that the landlord sent back the cheque and the tenant refused to take it. Then the landlord applied to the Magistrates at Petty Sessions for an order of ejectment under the seventh section, and this man was ejected from the holding for which 702 he had paid the full rent and costs. A grabber named Rose, who, I think, would smell as sweet by any other name, came along, and is now in possession of the holding, and last December prosecuted the real tenant for "trespass," and had him fined. Do you think that is in the interest of the peace of the district? Do you think a tenant who came forward and paid—I think the amount was £62 10s., and who was willing to go back and work the farm—do you think he will live in peace and quietness with Mr. Rose? He may be a thorn near that rose. I will not use any language stronger than that used by the Member for Trinity College, who, of course, would not say anything that was not strictly legal. This is what he said in his speech on Friday night—If that was to be the policy of the House and the view of the English Government towards Ireland, then those in Ireland who were prepared to live as law-abiding citizens would be justified in resorting to any extreme.I should like to know, would the tenant who paid his full rent and costs be justified in resorting to any extreme? Is sauce for the goose sauce for the gander? The Member for Trinity College was not satisfied with that declaration made in the interest of law and order. It appears there were "ironical National cheers from below the Gangway" when be so spoke. Then the Member for Trinity College said—They were welcome to their cheers. All he could say was that there must be a point, when Governments began to confiscate, at which they must exhaust the patience of those who were willing to submit to the law.But the tenant whose case I have mentioned was willing to submit to the law. He paid all the money that the law demanded of him, and he is now out on the roadside. You talk, and this House talks, of what it is pleased to call the benefits of the Land Acts for Irish tenants, and you go on Primrose platforms, and you extol those extraordinary benefits. Do you think the passing of a Bill in this House is like putting guano on the farm of an Irish tenant? Do you think there is liquid manure for the farms of the Irish tenants in any of the sections you pass? Is it such a benefit to boast about to try to prevent a man from being robbed? I will just give you an instance. Take from the Notes of that desperate Committee upstairs as to 703 what these benefits are, and, I would ask you, what would be said if the Irish tenants took the advice of the Member for Trinity College? I take this case not from the files of any Nationalist newspapers; I take it from the files of the Irish Land Commission, produced by the head of that Court, and I ask this House to say whether it is reasonable to expect Irish tenants, evicted or non-evicted, to remain patient under these circumstances. A man named Patrick Moore held eight acres under Mr. Villiers Stuart, formerly a Member of this House—Member for Waterford. These were the kind of Members the Irish tenants elected as late as 1880. No wonder as to the kind of laws that were passed! Moore held eight acres on a mountain which, according to the Report, was 550 feet above the level of the sea, and exposed to the sea. The rent he was paying was only 6d. altogether, so barren was his plot. He had reclaimed this holding. He had built on it a house, cowhouse, a boiler house, a piggery—very vulgar details, I suppose, but of great importance to those poor people—and a stable, and he had reclaimed seven acres of land from the original heath and furze. What was Patrick Moore's reward? The landlord first raised his rent from 6d. to 18s. 9d., although there is a clause in the Irish Land Act which says that no rent shall be allowed or made payable on tenants' improvements. He had expended, according to the evidence, on this holding a sum of £210. He and his predecessors in title had been working the land since 1826, and during that time not a copper of expenditure was made by the landlord. This extraordinary clause which says that no rent is to be allowed or made payable on tenants' improvements is construed by the Irish Land Commission as if the word "no" was omitted, so that it is made to read that rent shall be allowed and shall be made payable on the tenants' improvements. Accordingly, the landlord having raised the rent to 18s. 9d., the tenant applied for the benefits of the Land Act. He first went to the County Court Judge—I think this is the Irish case in miniature. There happened to be an honest County Court Judge in County Waterford—Judge Waters—but he has been removed since by the Tories. The tenant served his originating notice in 704 the Court of Judge Waters on the 24th of February, 1892, and would have come before the County Court on the 18th of April, 1892. But what did the landlord do? He appealed to transfer the case to the Land Commission. Automatically it was transferred, although in the period in which the case might come on for hearing years might elapse, and the tenant all the while would be liable to eviction on his old rent, as happened in many of these cases. In 1892 some of the block in the Courts had been got rid of, and it only took the Land Commission one and a half years to hear the case which, under the circumstances, was very moderate. On the 28th November, 1893, the Sub-Commissioners confirmed the rent of 18s. 9d., which before the Land Act had been 6d. Was the landlord satisfied with that? Nothing of the kind. Here is the Sub-Commissioners' official Report, and we all pay great respect to official Reports in Ireland—The position of the farm is exposed to the sea. The entire holding was evidently a poor wild mountain, and will require continuous outlay in the shape of labour to prevent its going back to its normal state of furze and heath.And with that statement before them the Chief Land Commission on the landlord's appeal raised the rent from 18s. 9d. to 30s., and ordered the tenant to pay the costs—that is, the landlord's costs as well as his own. There are two other cases on the Stuart estate in which the facts are substantially identical, and if you take the entire mass of the small tenantry of Ireland, that is their case in miniature. I will not assert that upon my own authority. I take the Report of Lord Cowper, who in 1887, when challenged about his Report as to the making of improvements by the tenants in Ireland, when challenged in the House of Lords by one of the Irish landlords, re-asserted the fact that in Ireland, whilst every single improvement was made by the tenant, the landlords never expended money on their estates. But if you want one more proof of it, it is this—there is a clause in the Irish Land Act which says that if the improvements on any farm are made and maintained by the landlord, the tenant shall not be entitled to the benefits of the Land Act, and cannot get a fair rent fixed. How many of the Irish landlords have got the benefit of that 705 section? 300,000 Irish tenants have gone into Court and got a fair rent fixed, and how many tenants were excluded on the ground that the landlord made and maintained the improvements? Just one. And it is with that system in vogue, with that system in operation, that the Member for Birmingham denounces the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary as revolutionary. Those poor cottiers, if he had his way, would have no relief. I think this House once voted £70,000 for a picture of the Madonna by Raphael, but you would refuse £100,000 to reinstate thousands of poor tenants in Ireland who have been thrown out on the roadside. You keep up your ships at enormous cost to suppress the Slave Trade on the African coast. I wish you would land some of your Marines in Ireland to prevent these tenants from being robbed by their landlords. You are horrified by the condition of Essex. There are deserted farms all over the place. The Adjournment of the House was moved about Essex and the derelict farms there. Why do not you transfer some of those evicted tenants over there and see what kind of a hand they would make of it? Perhaps they would do better than the tenants who threw it up. The Member for Bristol (Sir M. Hicks-Beach) gave evidence before a Committee on English land, and he said that the average fall in English agricultural land was 50 per cent. What is the evidence that we are taking in the Land Acts Committee? That the rentals fixed in 1881 and 1882 as fair rents would, if now revised, be fixed at 25 to 30 per cent. lower than the original. Every day these rack-rented tenants are being evicted, and the Member for Birmingham says these are Plan of Campaign tenants. He strains at the gnat of the Plan of Campaign and he swallows the camel of the No-Rent Manifesto. Since the Act of 1881 was passed 300,000 tenants have gone into Court and have dragged out of the vitals of the Irish landlords such reduction of rent as they have been able to obtain, whilst in England the landlords have voluntarily given reductions. The Income Tax Returns prove it. The Tory Party will support those Irish landlords, who have been the curse of their Party ever since they have been connected with it. What have they gained by it? You are having a Commission now under 706 this Bill, of which Mr. George Fottrell is going to be one. I will say nothing against him whatever. You say to-day that the true solution of the Irish land difficulty is that the Irish tenant should become the owner of his holding. A question was asked in this House in 1882, I think it was by the late Lord Chancellor, about Mr. Fottrell, and he was dismissed from the Irish Land Commission, where he was solicitor. What was his crime? That he wrote a pamphlet entitled "How a tenant might become owner of his holding." That was the head and front of his offending. That was the position of 1882. Rents have fallen since, and I am sorry to say they will still fall if the fall in the price of produce and the heavy imports continue in the way they have done. I beg this House to treat this Bill not as a great plaster to a great sore, as John Bright spoke of the Act of 1870, but as a very mild emollient applied to a very burning and heated ulcer. I have not said what I should like to say with regard to the exclusion of those tenants whose farms have been grabbed. I will say nothing at present on that position, because, no doubt, the House will deal with it later on. I will not use the language and threats of the Member for Trinity College (Mr. Carson) and say what would happen if this Bill is rejected, but I would like to quote to the House one sentence from an Irish Judge, delivered a long time ago to a Grand Jury of landlords in the County Wexford, which I think is rather germane to the question. What said Judge Fletcher in 1814? Of course, they would not listen then to anything in favour of Irish tenants. Judge Fletcher said—What is the wretched peasant to do? Hunted from the spot where he had first drawn breath, where he had first seen the light of Heaven, incapable of procuring any other means of subsistence, can we be surprised that, being unenlightened and uneducated, he may rush to the perpetration of crime, followed by the punishment of the rope and gibbet? Nothing remains to him, thus harassed and destitute, but with the strong hand to deter the stranger from entering upon his farm, and to extort from the weakness of his landlord, whose gratitude and good feelings he has failed to win, a sort of preference to his ancient tenantcy.Cases of landlord hardship have been quoted. Who are these landlords on whose behalf the hon. Member for Birmingham 707 has raised up his voice? Lord Clanricarde, whom even the Member for Manchester (Mr. Balfour), who has never lacked hardihood, was unable to defend, and who was spoken of by The Times as a public nuisance and a public danger—a man of whom the Member for South Tyrone, who had visited his estates, pointed out that so far had Lord Clanricarde's ingratitude gone that even the tomb of his own mother was allowed to be desecrated. He spoke of him, and said he would support a measure for his compulsory expropriation, and you, by quoting cases of hardship which might well be argued before this very moderate Commission, forget that hundreds of instances of real hardships to tenants which you refuse to remedy might be cited on our side. The hon. and learned Member for Trinity College has asked if a "drunken corner-boy," and former tenant of a lady he mentioned, is to be reinstated. No, I would not reinstate such a man. There are cases which are not fit for reinstatement, and I believe that they will be fairly dealt with by the very moderate tribunal which is to be appointed. There is Mr. Piers White, the man who presented the Conservative Party with five seats when he acted as Commissioner under the Bill of 1885; there is Mr. Greer, the Unionist; and Mr. George Fottrell, of whom I think it would be a strong thing to say that he was an active Nationalist. Will the House allow it to be said that they refused to remit to such a tribunal the very class of cases which the right hon. Member for West Birmingham said were a small class of cases, the fringe of this great and burning question? Sir, this House may once more reject this Bill, but I do not think it is likely. The House has passed a stronger Bill, and so has the House of Lords with which we are now threatened by the Member for Armagh. This House seems to conduct all its proceedings now under the threat of the House of Lords. The House of Lords seem to have a mortgage on the House of Commons which appears to be only a limited owner, whose estate will be dealt with in some other way when it reaches another place. The Bill of 1881—"The Chamberlain Act"—took only one day and a Morning Sitting to debate, and this very moderate Bill has occupied three days, 708 although it is said that the House of House of Lords will be sure to give it its quietus. I beg the House to consider the proportions of this question, and the fact that at present Ireland is absolutely at peace. Do not let the argument be put into the mouths of Irishmen that it is only by crime and bloodshed they can get justice. Remember the past; for just as engineers allow that for every £100,000 expended on works so many human lives must perish, so for every section on the Statute Book in the interest of Ireland so much blood has been spilt and so much agitation has had to be conducted. If the Nationalist Members are agitators, why not knock the ground of agitation from under our feet? Why not restore these unfortunate tenants to their holdings and give them another chance? And then, having done Ireland justice, you may appear, as is certainly not now the case, at the bar of the world's justice with clean hands.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said, it would probably be a matter of absolute indifference to the Irish landlords in what class of humanity or of enlightenment the Chief Secretary might be pleased to place them. None of them were, at all events, so thoroughly benighted as not to understand the position of the right hon. Gentleman, and that it was from the hollow of the hon. Member for Longford's hand that he produced his policy. The course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman had been unprecedented, for instead of justifying his measure by reference to the events which had led up to it, the right hon. Gentleman had refused to look back on that extraordinary series of events. If he had formerly declined to discuss those events, the right hon. Gentleman would never have appointed the Mathew Commission. That Commission reported on six points. With regard to the first five, there was not one on which the Chief Seeretary could not have obtained the fullest information without the Commission at all. And as to the sixth, a comparison between the Bill and the Report of the Commission would show that the latter could have been very well dispensed with. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Commission was appointed to report on "the practical equity of the case." Probably that meant that he wanted 709 some justification which equity would not supply for the legislation which had been forced on him. Of necessity some Bill had to be brought in, because not only the right hon. Gentleman's supporters, but the right hon. Member for Bradford had held out hopes to the evicted tenants that the triumph of the Liberal Party would bring about their triumphant restoration. It was idle for the right hon. Member for Bradford to draw distinctions between his private and his official positions. No such distinctions were drawn in Ireland when the right hon. Member visited the country. The leaders of the agitation in Tipperary presented an address to the right hon. Gentleman in which they referred to "the lofty position he held in the Government of England, and the place he filled in the great Liberal Party."
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said that, at all events, the right hon. Gentleman never took the trouble to repudiate any part of the exalted position attributed to him. It was futile for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he had not a large measure of responsibility for the Plan of Campaign, and for the men who were now starving outside the farms from which they had to be evicted because their leaders had not enough money to keep them going. He felt bound to allude to what the Chief Secretary had asked should be passed over. Possibly the right hon. Gentleman thought the Mathew Commission had found no practical equity to justify this legislation, and had therefore asked that a veil should be drawn over the past history of this controversy in Ireland. He regretted to say that he could not allow it to remain concealed, and that he must lift the corner of that veil in order to justify the opposition which he was obliged to offer to the Bill. What was admitted to be the origin of the whole of this business? Its origin was not the evictions which took place in 1879, but the Plan of Campaign. This Plan of Campaign was the special and peculiar policy of the hon. Member for East Mayo and the hon. Member for Cork, and was not approved by the whole of the Party with which those hon. Mem- 710 bers generally acted; indeed, it was promulgated without the approval and against the opinion of many of the most powerful leaders of the Irish National League at that time. Unfortunately, however, for the Irish tenants the advice of the more prudent members of the National League was not taken, and the active propaganda of that organisation began. Then the unfortunate tenants were urged by, among others, Mr. Deasy, Mr. Peter M'Donald, and Mr. O'Kelly to leave their farms and to join the Plan of Campaign; and it was clear that the arguments put forward to induce the Irish tenants to join the organisation were not founded upon agricultural depression but were calculated rather to sustain the political reputation of the Irish Leaders in England. Though the appeals to the cupidity of the tenants had failed in some cases, the educational policy inaugurated by the Plan of Campaign was carried out vigorously, first by resolutions and next by speeches of hon. Members; and in many cases decisions were forced on unwilling men by overt acts of intimidation. Men who would not join the Plan of Campaign had been denounced as cowards, lepers, and outcasts? What had been the result? On 17 estates examined into by the Mathew Commission 1,000 men were practically penniless and dependent on the precarious support doled out by their leaders from day to day. In defence of this policy it had been urged that because the House rejected the Bill of Mr. Parnell in 1886 the Irish tenants were justified in joining the combination. He refused to admit that this would be a justification for the proposals of the present Bill, because the Debates in the last Parliament proved either that Mr. Parnell's Bill would not have applied to the case of the Plan of Campaign estates, or in cases where it did apply the terms offered by the landlords were much better. On the Ponsonby Estate, for example, out of 190 eviction notices only 22 tenants would have been dealt with by Mr. Parnell's Bill. A similar proportion would be found in the Cool-grain Estate; while on the Olphert and Vandeleur Estates the terms offered by the landlords were infinitely better than the tenants would have obtained under the proposed legislation of Mr. Parnell. The object of the Plan of Campaign in 1888 711 was clearly indicated by the hon. Member for Cork in a letter to one of his colleagues, dated August 25th, 1888. He said:—"It will be most necessary to show Balfour that his troubles in Ireland are only beginning." It had also been urged that it was not only a question of rent, but that owing to the claims for arrears the tenants in Ireland were justified in joining the Plan of Campaign; but that argument had been refuted by the evidence given before the Mathew Commission by the hon. Member for East Mayo. It was therefore absurd for hon. Members to justify the inauguration of the Plan of Campaign either by the rejection of Mr. Parnell's Bill or by the legislation of 1887. The Plan of Campaign was nothing less than a political movement started, as had been avowed, to destroy landlordism, which was declared to be the great and only prop of English rule in Ireland. It had been said by hon. Members that the just demands of Ireland would never be granted until "the two curses of that country—landlordism and English rule—were destroyed." Those "two curses," he was happy to say, were still existing in Ireland, notwithstanding the efforts of the organisers and supporters of the Plan of Campaign, though by it the position and prospects of many of Her Majesty's subjects had been greatly altered. A fresh calamity had been added to the burden which Ireland bore, a calamity which occupied the attention of one of the branches of the Irish National Federation early this year under the presidency of the Rev. Canon Doyle, Parish Priest. A resolution was passed unanimously by the branch stating that they would regard it as a blessing for the country if Messrs. John Dillon and William O'Brien, in their voyage to Boulogne, were sunk in the ocean. The practical equities of the situation would have been dealt with in a much better way by the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill if he had promised some legislation which would have protected the tenants of Ireland and those who had been duped in the past by the policy of those two hon. Members from a similar fate in the future. The hon. Member for the Harbour Division (Mr. Harrington) had placed the whole responsibility for this agitation upon the non-rejection by the House of Mr. Parnell's Bill, but a speech made by Mr. 712 Davitt in 1887 showed that neither he nor his colleagues would have been ready to accept any settlement of the land question or of the agrarian difficulty propounded by the House of Commons. Mr. Davitt had warned the tenants at Sligo that they must be careful about accepting any proposal having the sanction of the Imperial Parliament, and if they did they must expect to have their interests seriously curtailed. Long before Mr. Parnell's Bill had been brought into the House United Ireland declared that a campaign against the landlords was inevitable, whilst the policy of United Ireland was at the time of the Chicago Convention laid down in the well-known phrase used by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. E. Redmond)—namely, that it was the policy of his Party to make the Government of Ireland by England impossible. It was therefore necessary to start an agitation, and to keep it going by hook or by crook. The most convenient form of agitation was one attacking the landlords' property, and the carrying out of the policy thus adopted had resulted in over 1,000 tenants being placed in a most unenviable position. These men would have made arrangements with their landlords long ago if it had not been for their leaders. The evicted tenants did not get any money unless they sympathised with one particular section of the Irish Nationalist Party. He asked the Chief Secretary on what ground he supposed that if this Bill passed it would put an end to any portion of the difficulty. Two or three Members for Ireland who had spoken had described the Bill in almost as strong language as that in which the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. E. Redmond) described the Bill of last year, and he asked the Chief Secretary to point out one single utterance by an Irish Member in support of the scheme indicating to the House that if the Bill were accepted it would go any length whatever towards settling the difficulty. Not a single follower of the right hon. Gentleman had made a speech in which there was the slightest enthusiasm about the Bill. The Bill settled nothing, but it would enable the Irish agitator in the future, when he once again raised the agrarian question, to hold out the most solid and material inducements to the Irish tenants to adopt 713 the plan he proposed, no matter how dishonest that plan might be, because he would be able to tell them that sooner or later there would be found some Chief Secretary who would endow their dishonesty with the money of the State. How far did the Chief Secretary think the £250,000 he proposed to expend under this Bill would go? It would give an average sum of £60 for each tenant mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. Bishop Healy, who lived in the centre of the Clanricarde district, had told the Mathew Commission that every tenant would have to rebuild his house, and would have to be provided with capital to stock his farm. The Bishop was asked whether if the Government lent these tenants money to start them in a farm it would not be fair to ask them for more security than other tenants gave, and his reply was that it would be very difficult for them to give any additional security, and that if they did give additional security it would be only Peter giving security for Paul and Paul for Peter. It was evident under those circumstances that the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman would not go to one quarter of the way that was necessary in order to settle the question. Then the right hon. Gentleman proposed to go to the Church Fund in order to find his financial resource. No doubt that was the usual source to which Chief Secretaries had gone in the past when they wanted to pursue some indefensible policy. If the right hon. Gentleman believed that his policy was justifiable, and that Parliament would say that the Plan of Campaign tenants were the pick of the Irish people, ought he not in justice to his policy to place upon the Estimates the sum he was taking for this Bill? Had the right hon. Gentleman done this, Members who supported the Bill would have had to defend their actions before their constituents, and he (Mr. Macartney) should like to have heard the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Byles) or the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Channing) defending a payment out of the Imperial Exchequer of £250,000 to men who for years had been spending their time in laziness and in visiting their friends, and who, according to one authority, had been drawing £2 or £3 a week from the National League. His (Mr. Macartney's) constituents had the 714 greatest objection to seeing the Irish Church Fund used for any purpose which would not generally benefit every interest and every class of persons in Ireland. Members who thought that by taking this £250,000 from the Irish Church Fund they would get off paying anything had possibly overlooked the section of the Bill which provided that the salaries and remuneration and all expenses not otherwise provided for under the Bill were to be paid out of the Imperial Revenue. It was absolutely certain that if this Bill was not a sham, if it was to work at all, it would swallow up probably double the right hon. Gentleman's estimate, and therefore an additional £250,000 would be placed upon the shoulders of English, Welsh, and Scottish taxpayers. He doubted very much whether the machinery provided by Section 2 of Clause 1 was ever intended to work, because, as had been pointed out by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), if it worked honestly it must exclude nine-tenths of the men whom the Bill proposed to benefit. Unless this Bill were a sham from the Irish point of view, it would be necessary for the Chief Secretary to adopt the view expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire (Mr. Haldane), and immediately on an application being made by any tenant admit that he had a primâ facie case, and let a conditional order issue. The Commissioners were told to deal with the evicted tenants in groups. He asked the Chief Secretary to explain if he could on what ground if a similar number of cases on one estate was to be dealt with in a group, he could expect Members to believe that the question of reasonableness or unreasonableness would be entertained by the tribunal. He took it that the whole of the tenants would have to be reinstated by means of a single conditional order on the Clanricarde Estate, and that the Commissioners would be compelled to refrain from making any distinction between the leaders and the dupes amongst the tenants, and would have to place both leaders and dupes back in their holdings without having the slightest regard either to reasonableness or unreasonableness. The settlement under Clause 4, which the right hon. Gentleman suggested it would be well for the landlords to accept, was one infinitely worse than the settlement 715 already arrived at on the Plan of Campaign estates by mutual agreement between the evicted tenants and their former landlords. The hon. Member for Armagh had pointed out that the settlement on the Clanricarde Estate was a great deal better. The settlement on the Oliphant Estate was made on the basis of three years' rents and costs, and two years' rents and costs. On the Cloncurry Estate, 22 of the former tenants and three new tenants at the old rents were on a 21 years' lease. On the Massereene Estate not one single reinstatement had been made except in payment of the full amount due, and on the Clongorey Estate there had been no reinstatements. He took it that this estate would present one of the greatest difficulties under the Bill. The whole area had been levelled, drained and fenced. Large sums had been spent on the improvements, and the land was being highly farmed and was said to be paying. He could not understand how the tribunal which would be set up under the Bill, if it did its work with impartiality, would manage to bring about the reinstatement of the tenants. He did not deny—it was impossible to deny—the existence of this trouble. They might as well deny the existence of thieves, or of any other form of social evil that existed in the United Kingdom; but he did net see that because a person recognised that the trouble existed that they were to deal with it in the manner proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman no doubt looked on him (Mr. Macartney) as one of the irreconcilable class. He, no doubt, was irreconcilable to dealing with a question of this sort on the basis proposed. He would never consent, nor would his constituents consent, to deal with fraud on the same basis as with honesty. He would not consent to give, nor would they consent to his giving, a vote in favour of taking out of a fund replenished annually by the industry and honesty of a large number of their fellow tenants, who were purchasers under the Church Act, money for the purpose of reinstating, on better terms than any other tenant in Ireland enjoyed at the present moment, men who had openly avowed their connection with this dishonest organisation and had subsisted in idleness as a result of seizing the land- 716 lord's property. They would never consent to a settlement on those terms. But the right hon. Gentleman opposite had no right to assume that he (Mr. Macartney) and all his friends had shut the door to all possible settlement on the question. He felt convinced that even if the Bill failed to pass through Parliament—and he hoped it would fail—the door would not be closed against a settlement. There was no reason to doubt that if the evicted tenants who were desirous of returning to their landlords—and he believed many were—that was to say, if the influences which prevented many of them from coming to terms with their landlords were withdrawn, he had no doubt that in a short time, even at the eleventh hour, peaceful settlements would be arrived at. There was no reason why those who were still out on the Olphert Estate should not be replaced on their farms, like those who went in in 1890. He could not overlook the pressure brought to bear on the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary by hon. Gentlemen from Ireland, and he was unable to agree that this was a Bill brought forward merely for dealing with the evicted tenants. He looked upon it as a Bill promoted to re-establish the reputations of the hon. Member for East Mayo and of the hon. Member for Cork, which had been materially damaged by the position of the evicted tenants, and he certainly never would be a party to advancing in this House a Bill to re-establish the reputations of men who more than any others were responsible for crime and disorder in large districts of Ireland.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, he would not detain the House many moments, but he hoped that even at this late stage of the Debate hon. Members would not be unwilling that he should state the views he held both as regarded the Bill and as regarded the Amendment by which it had been met. The hon. Member who had just resumed his seat had stated distinctly that the action now taken by himself and his friends must not be taken as closing the door to a reasonable settlement of the question. If that were so, he (Mr. T. W. Russell) should like to know why the hon. Member and his friends had insisted on the withdrawal of that portion of his Amendment which sought to give the consent of the House 717 to a just, reasonable, and equitable proposal. The hon. Member and his friends had declined emphatically to vote for his Amendment if those words stood. They had insisted on the withdrawal of the words, and he (Mr. T. W. Russell) confessed he did not understand hon. Members who said that they were prepared for an honourable and reasonable settlement, and yet insisted on the withdrawal of an Amendment which simply pronounced in favour of such a settlement. A good deal had been said about the Plan of Campaign. He had never hesitated in the House to express his views about that measure. He had denounced it in Ireland and in England, both outside and inside the House of Commons. But he would point out that the moment they passed the 13th section of the Land Act, under which 80 of the Ponsonby Campaigners were restored to their holdings, they had put themselves out of court, practically speaking, from using the Plan of Campaign as a reason why these men should not be reinstated. He was willing to denounce the Plan of Campaign at all reasonable times. If they wished to prove that the policy of the hon. Member for Cork and the policy of the hon. Member for Mayo from 1886 to 1890 was an insane and wicked policy, he was with them. He thought that policy was both insane and wicked. It had cost the tenants who had listened to those two hon. Members dearly. But this would be admitted by some hon. Members even sitting on the Ministerial and Irish Benches. Though, as he said, they had assented to the 13th section of the Land Act, and by that had covered and endorsed the principle of reinstatement, he did not say that they had committed themselves to the proposals of the Bill. They had done nothing of the kind. Section 13 covered the principle of reinstatement, but as to the methods of reinstatement they constituted an entirely different matter. One was voluntary, and not only voluntary—they resisted a proposal to make it compulsory, therefore those of them who supported that section—and he had some responsibility in regard to it—simply declared that under the stress of circumstances they were willing to consider any just and reasonable grounds for reinstating these tenants, but they certainly did not commit themselves, either to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the 718 Chief Secretary for Ireland, or to any similar proposals contained in any private Bill brought forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Having said that much about the Amendment, which he frankly said he did not approve, he might now say that he also disliked the Bill. The Bill was really divided into two parts, and he would take first what was in reality the second part of the Bill—namely, the part dealing with the new tenants. He thought the Chief Secretary would admit he had given some pains to this question, and he had devoted some attention to it both in Ireland and here, and his deliberate opinion was that there would be at least 2,000 cases to be dealt with under that portion of the measure. He regretted to hear his right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham use the word "planter" in connection with those tenants, hundreds of whom had come into occupation after the troubles of 1879–80. They took their holdings in the ordinary way, without anybody objecting; they had led quiet and industrious lives ever since; and these men were not to be confounded with the other denomination of new tenants styled "planters." The "planters" were brought on to two estates alone—the Coolgraney and the Massereene estates, in order that the Plan of Campaign might be fought; and they did not number more than 50 tenants. He wished the House to draw a distinction between the ordinary class of new tenants and those called "planters," who were brought there simply as an act of war to fight the Plan of Campaign. He took the two cases as they stood, and what did the Chief Secretary do? He appointed his Arbitrator's Court, and the old tenant who had been out of his holding for 10, 12, or 14 years, would serve a notice or claim for reinstatement. He might have been fished out from any part of Ireland and might serve a claim for reinstatement, and, unless the sitting tenant went into Court and objected, the conditional order, or what was tantamount thereto, would be made absolute, the old tenant might be put back, and the new tenant who had been occupying and farming the land for a number of years might be evicted. He put it to the right hon. Gentleman what was the sense of causing one eviction to cure another? The Government were simply lighting a 719 fire round every one of these homesteads, and were causing trouble where peace now reigned. That was a very unwise thing for any Government to do. The Chief Secretary said that the new tenants would, after this Bill had been passed, be as safe as at present. That might be true as regarded the "planters," but it was not true as regarded the other new tenants. As he had said, the new tenant was living in peace in hundreds of cases, and to light this fire around these homesteads was a most serious thing. Now, let him come to the land that was either derelict or being worked for or by the landlord. This was really the first part of the Bill, but he had kept it to be dealt with secondly. At once he would say that he approved of the Court of Arbitration that was set up. He held that some Court of the kind was absolutely necessary; if this matter was to be settled there must be some plan of bringing the two parties together, the landlord and the ex-tenant, and so far as the right hon. Gentleman proposed to set up that Court of Arbitration he agreed with the proposal. Very well, the Court was constituted, and the old tenant of these derelict lands, or the lands now being worked by or for the landlords, were entitled to serve—he was going to say an originating notice, having heard so much of them lately upstairs—a claim to be reinstated. He was not going into the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Carson), a most powerful argument from the legal standpoint, but what he said was that he thought it was a very hard and severe thing to allow the arbitrators to say to a landlord who had ejected his tenants, perhaps years before, for non-payment of rent, "You must give up that land which you are farming at a profit; you must take back these men who have conspired to defraud you; and the old relationships must be renewed." He disliked the Bill very much on this account. It was not only a hard, but a dangerous thing for the Bill to say, and he wished the House to realise what might result from it. If the landlords were brought face to face with the fact that these defaulting tenants were to be compulsorily forced back on their holdings they would inevitably compel them to purchase, and would insist upon having cash down. He thought 720 it was exceedingly probable, he might say it was almost human nature, that the landlords, having the option to insist upon purchase under the Bill, would compel these men to purchase. What did that mean, and he desired to fix the attention of the House upon this point? There were probably 3,000 tenants who would claim under this section of the Act. There were 5,000 altogether, but his calculation was that probably 3,000 would claim under this section of the Act. Supposing the Act were carried out and the whole of the 5,000 tenancies had to be dealt with, and that these 5,000 claimants were thrown upon the Purchase Acts by the action of the landlords, what was likely to happen? If there had been one bit of legislation that was a success in Ireland it had been the land purchase system; under it nearly 30,000 freeholders had been created, and the process of creating them was going on apace every day. Not only that but, what was more important still, there had been absolutely no default in payment of the instalments worth mentioning; it was the most successful piece of Irish legislation of the century. It had worked well, and every one who knew Ireland, every one who looked forward to the peace of Ireland, looked to these Purchase Acts as the ultimate means by which that peace was to be secured. He confessed that he hesitated about this Bill because of the danger which in his opinion was likely to happen to this purchase system. Should the landlords compel the tenant to buy, and that was certain, they would absolutely throw on the purchase system 5,000 men who — and he said it without any disrespect to these men, who were in an unfortunate position—were absolutely paupers; and they proposed to pledge the credit of the British taxpayer for these men. Where was the security? When he sat on the opposite side of the House in the year 1891 he heard speech after speech from those Benches against the land purchase system because of the risk it carried to the British taxpayer. But the state of things there was the case of solvent tenants; they had the tenants' tenant-right at their back, and the landlords' interest and the landlords' guarantee deposit. Now, he said, they were running the risk of throwing 5,000 men who were in a state of simple 721 pauperism right athwart the purchase system without any security at all. The land, no doubt, was there, but it was in a derelict state and would take years and a large amount of capital, which these men did not possess, to bring it back to heart and into cultivation. He said it was one of the most dangerous experiments that had ever been made in agrarian legislation. In his opinion that point was difficult enough, but the powers that they gave to this temporary Board were enormous, and it would, in fact, be simply a new Land Commission appointed for political purposes. This was another great blot on the Bill. He could have understood it if the Chief Secretary had appointed the Land Commission to deal with this matter. But what would the new Court of Arbitration know about fair rent? There could not be a better President of the new court than Mr. Piers White, but what did he know about fair rent? This temporary Commission had absolute power to bring the greatest difficulty into the working of the Land Commission itself. That he regarded as a great blot on the Bill. With regard to the question of compulsion, to which all the opponents of the Bill objected, he wished to point out that the so-called precedents drawn from the free-sale clauses of the Land Act and the Rent Redemption Act were not on all-fours with the present proposal. Under the former, if the landlord objected he had the right of preemption, and in that way could prevent the compulsion being made operative upon him; and as to the Rent Redemption Act and the power given to the long leaseholder to compel his landlord to elect between a fair rent and selling the freehold, there was the widest difference between the case of the long leaseholder who had never previously had the benefit of any Land Act and the man who had had all the benefits and had deliberately thrown them away. The two cases were not to be named in the same breath. Having said so much, he might be asked, "When you object to the Bill and when you object to the Amendment, what would you propose yourself?" He said he might fairly be asked that, and if he were asked the question, he would put the answer to it in a three-fold way. As he had said, he should unhesitatingly have set up this Board of 722 Arbitration, but he should have made it a Board of Conciliation, and he should have denied to it a single atom of compulsory power.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, he had thought of that, and he admitted that that nobleman was a difficulty, but he wished to say he in no way receded from the position he took up in regard to the noble Lord. He quite admitted that the chief difficulty would be found on the estate of Lord Clanricarde, but, leaving that estate out of the question for the present, he said that compulsion was the first difficulty that might have been avoided by making the Board a Board of Conciliation. The second difficulty was that dishonesty and illegality were to be rewarded. How could that have been avoided? By simply drawing the Bill on the lines of the 13th section of the Act of 1891—by making it a purchase Bill, and not a tenants' reinstatement Bill. He saw the right hon. Gentleman had anticipated him, and was at once ready to ask where his security was? He had not forgotten that. The Government gave the Church surplus away to the Irish landlord; he would not do that, but he would have put in a specific sum of the Church surplus or county cess in lieu of the landlord's guarantee deposit, and he would thus give the British taxpayer a better security for these men than the British taxpayer had now for a solvent tenant. In other words, for the landlord's guarantee deposit, which was removed, he should have put in a specific sum of the Church surplus, and if the landlord was to get any arrears, then he should have added the arrears to the purchase money, and by that means prevented the tenant being rewarded for dishonesty and made him pay for his own wrong-doing. That still would not have affected the new tenants, and he thought they might have been dealt with in another way also. He could never be brought to vote for a proposal which said to a man who had been living peaceably on a farm for 12 or 14 years, "You must give up your holding to the man who previously had it." But, at the same time, he should have been willing to inquire into the circumstances under which the former tenant was put out, and he did not see 723 why in those cases it would not have been possible to have tried the experiment of taking land elsewhere for these people and settling them in other parts of Ireland. If in a residue of cases no settlement could be found, he should deliberately use the residue of the Emigration Fund in order to give the deserving cases a chance of earning their livelihood in other and more favoured climes.
§ MR T. M. HEALY
Before the hon. Member sits down will he tell us what he would do with Lord Clanricarde?
§ MR T. W. RUSSELL
said, he had already said that Lord Clanricarde was a great difficulty, and if the hon. Member would bring in a Bill to expropriate Lord Clanricarde, he might put his (Mr. Russell's) name on the back of it. He did not think he could go much further than that or speak much more plainly. But he greatly regretted having to condemn the Bill, because, after everything was said in denunciation of the Plan of Campaign, these poor people were still on the roadside, and the difficulty was there. Months ago he said in The Fortnightly Review that he desired that this sore should be healed. He still desired it, and it was a very regretful fact for him that he was unable under the circumstances to support the Bill.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir R. T. REID,) Dumfries, &c.
From the statement of every gentleman who has spoken in the course of this Debate, I think it cannot be denied that there is a real social evil that requires treatment. There have been certain questions asked which the Government should endeavour to give an answer to. There has been some criticism by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Dublin University (Mr. Carson) as to which I have to say a few words, and then to pass on to other criticisms by other hon. Gentlemen. The hon. and learned Gentleman and others have said this Bill is unfair in three views—unfair to the landlord, unfair to the new tenant, and unfair to the State. It is said to be unfair to the landlords because it takes the property from their occupation without giving compensation. That statement was made by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I was astonished to hear it, because compensation is given. In the first instance, by this proposal two years arrears of rent are given which other- 724 wise would be absolutely hopeless. In the second place, under this Bill the arbitrators can impose any conditions they think fit. And, in the third place, the landlord may protest himself by insisting upon purchase. Then it is said the landlord would obtain insolvent tenants. The answer to that is that in the first instance he retains in his hands the holding as security for the payment of rent, and in the second place he can insist upon full payment in cash for the value of the holding before he is compelled to part with it. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) said it was unfair to compel a landlord to accept an obnoxious tenant, as he would be compelled under this Bill. What is the purpose of the free-sale clauses of the Act of 1881? Any landlord may be compelled by any tenant, unless he chooses, to exercise the powers which we have given him. I have been asked whether the power of insisting on the purchase applies to those cases in which the old tenant takes the place of the new tenant as well as those cases in which the landlord was himself in occupation. The answer is that those who framed and drew this Bill so believed; the power is the same in both cases, but if it turns out there is any difficulty on that subject the matter can be put right in Committee. And, lastly, the hon. and learned Gentleman asks me with regard to the improvements which are made by the landlord, and asks me whether those improvements will be taken into consideration? The answer is that they will, of course, be considered in fixing the fair rent. There is no doubt that under the Bill power is given to the arbitrators to do complete justice in the case of such improvements. I think I have endeavoured to answer all the points which have been urged as regards the alleged unfairness to the landlords. I come now to the question whether it is unfair to the new tenants. The hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin said it was monstrous that a tenant in occupation should be liable to be disturbed, after 15 years of occupation, at the will of an arbitrator. The answer is, there is no such power contained in the Bill. No person who is a tenant bonâ fide in occupation of the land is liable to be disturbed except with his own consent. 725 The hon. and learned Gentleman has, for the moment, overlooked the clause in this Bill dealing with this matter, or he would never have given the sanction of his authority to the statement that any tenant can be disturbed under this Bill. No tenant can be disturbed under the Bill without his consent. It is expressly stated in the Bill that as soon as ever the tenant in occupation expresses his dissent to further proceedings, on that objection the whole proceedings at once come to an end. The hon. and learned Member also asked what compensation was to be paid to the new tenants in the event of being obliged to go out of the holdings; and he apparently regarded the Bill as most defective in the particular that compensation was not provided for the new tenants. If the hon. and learned Member will look at the 3rd section of the Bill he will find that most ample powers are given to the arbitrators, by which they are enabled to say what sum is to be given to the new tenant in consideration of the reinstatement of the old tenant.
§ MR. CARSON
said, what he stated was that the Bill ought to provide the same compensation to the new tenant as was given in the Act of 1870 if the tenant was being disturbed by the landlord.
§ SIR R. T. REID
I at once accept the hon. and learned Gentleman's statement. I am quoting from The Times report, which gives him as saying—He should like to know upon what principle the compensation to the new tenant was to be assessed? Under the provisions of the Bill, as he understood them, the new tenant was to receive some compensation—one-half down and one-half to be secured by the promissory note of the evicted tenant.
§ SIR R. T. REID (quoting)
Under the Act of 1870, the landlord who turned out a tenant was obliged to compensate him for disturbance, the amount ranging from three to seven years' rent on his holding.What I understood the learned Gentleman's argument to be was that, in effect, he questioned the position that the arbitrators were empowered to deal fairly with the tenant in the matter of compensation. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will look at the 3rd clause, 726 Sub-section 6, of this Bill he will find that the discretion of the arbitrators is unfettered in regard to the amount of the consideration for the reinstatement of the old tenant that is to be awarded to the new tenant. But it is said that the new tenant will be exposed to violence and intimidation, and that he will therefore be obliged to go out whether he likes it or not. As my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary has stated, he will be as safe then as he is now. If he is in an unsafe position at the present moment it is a deplorable thing, and one which justifies him in demanding the protection which he now enjoys of the executive authority in Ireland, and that protection, of course, will be continued to him. If he is in danger by reason of the unfortunate past history of the last 14 or 15 years in Ireland, that is the source of his danger, and it will not be by reason of this Bill that he will find himself in any jeopardy. Lastly, it is stated that this Bill is unfair to the State. If there is any danger in the case of these new tenants, there is a like danger in the case of the old purchase schemes and for the same reasons. It must, however, be admitted that where Parliament has trusted the tenants with advances of money for the purchase of their holdings, in no instance has Parliament been disappointed in the results. It has unquestionably been proved that the instalments are repaid punctually, and I say that even if there were any risk in a comparatively small matter like this—though I believe there will be no more risk than in the ordinary transactions under the Purchase Act—for my part, I am perfectly prepared to run some risk for the purpose of ending this deplorable state of things. Speaking of Clause 1, dealing with a primâ facie case for reinstatement, the hon. and learned Member for the Dublin University asked what constituted such a primâ facie case for reinstatement, and wherein did it differ with the provision that followed to the effect that the arbitrators are to be empowered to act where there has been unreasonable conduct on the part of the landlord or tenant. Sir, I am not going to discuss minutely the words in which this clause is framed. I do not think a Second Reading Debate is the proper time for a verbal — which is necessarily a minute—criticism of the 727 language of the Bill. But this is perfectly clear: the intention of the Bill—and I believe it is fairly carried out by these words, although you might find other words equally applicable—and the purpose of the Bill is that the arbitrators should be able to go into a district, consider the circumstances of the district and of the eviction, and it is the essence of the matter that they should be able to say what is the proper and reasonable thing to be done in regard to reinstatements in the district. They are intended to be the bearers of amnesty and the messengers of reconciliation, so far as they could be, armed with power to say what is a fair and reasonable thing to do for the solution of a difficulty which is admittedly a very grave one. Of course, for that purpose it is intended that their powers shall be elastic, and that the language of the Bill shall be sufficient, that these gentlemen who are to constitute the tribunal—and against whom nothing has been, nor, I believe, can be, said—shall have the authority to arrive at settlements. Passing from these criticisms, which I thought it was right to answer, I come now to the questions of policy contained in the Bill, and to the observations which have been made upon that policy. And, in the first instance, I would say that there are very few gentlemen who will deny that it is of the highest public importance to settle this question, if it can be settled. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in his speech to-night said no case whatever had been made out for any Bill of this character, and that there was no case of a great social evil or administrative difficulty. I should be surprised if many gentlemen in the House believed that. The right hon. Gentleman said, in the first instance, that the figures must be illusory which had been supplied by the Chief Secretary, for between the years 1879 and 1886 there was something like 24,000 evictions in Ireland, and since then there must have been more added to the number. The answer to that is this. There were no doubt many evictions from 1879 to 1886, numbering between 20,000 and 30,000, or perhaps more. But in many of these cases the tenants have gone back, either by resuming possession as tenants or caretakers, or their interests have been purchased by others. The figures given by the Chief 728 Secretary were derived from the authority of the police, and they comprised the cases of evicted farms unlet, and of evicted farms in the hands of new tenants, in regard to which some claim is still advanced on the part of the evicted tenant. That is the list with which the Chief Secretary alone has had to deal, or has attempted to deal; therefore it is that the figures given before the Parnell Commission and the figures given by the Chief Secretary are perfectly reconcilable. But I turn again to the question whether it is true that a settlement of this difficulty is imperative. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham says there is no necessity for anything of the kind. That is not the language which has been used by other gentlemen in the course of this Debate. For instance, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin used language of a very significant character upon the occasion of the First Reading of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said—There was a ragged cloud of witnesses in Ireland betokening the existence of an evil which had threatened civil war in the past, and the continued existence of which constituted a threat of a renewal of civil war in the future.It must also be pointed out that in the year 1891, when Clause 13 of the Act of that year was introduced, it was done, as the hon. Member for South Tyrone has said, because it was recognised that there was a real and grave social difficulty to be met in the existence of these evicted tenants, and my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone has himself again repeated to-day—what, indeed, has been repeated by a good many gentlemen, including the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, in the course of this Debate—that there is a condition of things which it would be most desirable should be put an end to. That being so, what other alternatives can be proposed? This Debate has not been very fertile in alternatives, but two or three suggestions have been made. One is that the 13th section of the Land Act of 1891 should be continued, and, perhaps, slightly enlarged. The history of that section does not afford ground for the belief that if it was renewed it would be operative for the purpose desired. Under that clause only about 200 tenants were restored to their holdings. It is true that the section was in force only for for six months; but it is also true that, 729 quite apart from it, there is power under the Irish Land Acts by which, if they desire it, the landlord and the tenant of an evicted farm can re-create the tenancy for the purpose of effecting a sale, and can, if they thought fit, take advantage of the Land Purchase Acts. If that is so, these circumstances show that mere permissive legislation for the purpose of enabling landlords and tenants to come together with the view of a sale will not suffice to meet the difficulty. It may be that there is temper, or a sense of wrong or injustice, upon one side or both, which will keep these persons too of ten apart, but it is the case that, notwithstanding the existence of these powers to effect a sale by mutual agreement, only about 200 of these cases have been brought about. Then it is said there ought to be power given to Commissioners or arbitrators to purchase land in other parts of Ireland in order to re-settle the evicted tenants upon this land. I am speaking upon this without any pretence to be an authority on the matter. But the Chief Secretary and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition are undoubtedly authorities in this matter. The Chief Secretary has stated that the Congested Districts Clauses of the late Land Purchase Act, enabling land to be purchased and applied in that way, have been a failure, and I understood the Leader of the Opposition to intimate some degree of assent to the statement. All I can say is this: the Chief Secretary has stated his entire willingness to consider any fair clause for that purpose that might be proposed should be introduced into the Bill. If any clauses of that kind could be inserted as auxiliary for the purpose and example of dealing with the case of the new tenants who did not choose to vacate their farms in favour of the old tenants, I imagine that such clauses will receive favourable consideration. The fact of the matter is this: that all these methods of settlement are defective in one particular, and that is, they are not compulsory. The hon. Member for South Tyrone suggested that a Board of Conciliation might be formed. But does anybody who knows anything about the wretched, miserable Clanricarde Estate—or several others not much better—believe that any kind of permissive legislation would settle such a sore as exists there? The 730 thing is absolutely absurd, and I do not think that any language that could be used would be too strong to express the danger that has for many years existed to that part of the country by reason of the relations of landlord and tenant upon the Clanricarde Estate. But, apart from the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of the landlord in that particular case, there are, as the Mathew Commission pointed out, many cases outside the Clanricarde Estate in which both sides would be willing to agree if a little compulsion was brought to bear. They do not like to give in or to acknowledge themselves defeated, but there is ground for believing that the interposition of Parliament would be welcomed by the persons principally concerned. It has been asked why there should be a special tribunal, and why the matter should not have been left to the ordinary tribunals. One conclusive reason is that it is desirable that these cases should be settled with the utmost despatch, and that if a final solution can be found there should be no delay in arriving at it. An attack has been made upon the principle of the Bill upon ethical grounds, and it has been urged that it is likely to encourage future disorders by securing some immunity for those who for their own purposes have embarked upon a policy of defiance of the law. But what are the facts, as was most fairly admitted by the Member for South Tyrone? That the great bulk of the persons affected by the Bill are in their present poor and miserable condition not by their own fault, but rather by their own misfortune. He has spoken of many harsh and unjust evictions, under which the tenants still stand unredressed, and will continue to do so, unless they can obtain redress by this Bill. I should have thought that anyone familiar with the course of Irish legislation must have been struck by one feature of it. The curse of the whole Irish land legislation of the last 13 years has been that it has come too late; and on each occasion when some scanty and tardy instalment of justice towards the Irish tenants has been carried, it has been found that a number of persons who have been overwhelmed with excessive rents, or the arrears of excessive rents, have lost their hold on their farms before the relief came which was extended to them by the Act of Parliament. The 731 right hon. Member for West Birmingham said that every amendment of the Land Law in Ireland brought a new crop of grievances. Yes, but every Amendment of the Land Law in Ireland, hitherto, had placed a certain number of persons in a most unfair position in comparison with their neighbours, and by accident or misfortune they were deprived of the benefits which they saw conferred at their very doors upon others, and which were intended alike for them. The Land Act of 1881 did nothing for the victims of the two preceding years of 1879 and 1880, and yet everybody knows that that was a time of the direst and most extreme distress, and that there were constant evictions for the non-payment of rents, which were far beyond what were afterwards justified in the Land Courts. The Act of 1887 did nothing for the victims of the five preceding years. The Act of 1891, it is true, made a well-made attempt at settlement by the 13th clause, but unfortunately, from the causes I have already referred to, it was to a large extent inoperative. Therefore the mischief remains to the present day, and a large number of these tenants remain in the position in which they are. Of course, there are the tenants who went out under the Plan of Campaign. Now, Sir, I really know that the mere mention of the Plan of Campaign is apt to sound a note of discord in this House, and I certainly do not want to raise any discord. I shall say nothing at all in regard to the merits or demerits of the Plan of Campaign; but I wish to point out two things. The first is that if the Plan of Campaign was not condoned by the 13th clause of the Act of 1891, it was at all events treated by Parliament as being no bar to the benefits that were to be derived under that Act. Parliament has said, by the Act of 1891, that they will not inquire whether these tenants were parties to the Plan of Campaign or not. The second consideration, and I think a very strong one, in regard to the Plan of Campaign is this: Suppose, for the sake of argument, that it was a criminal conspiracy, and that the men who took part in it deserved punishment, I think they have been punished sufficiently already. They have been out for five, six, or seven years, living within sight of their holdings upon doles, and reduced to a state 732 of misery and destitution. Do hon. Gentlemen opposite think it is wise, when Parliament is effecting the settlement of this question, to leave out a small fraction—something under 1,000 men—who represent the Plan of Campaign; or is it not wiser, in view of the time that has passed, and of all that these men have undergone, if you are going to have a general amnesty, to include them in the general amnesty? There are many instances in history in which the most flagrant offences have been included within an amnesty at the end of a social revolution or a civil war; and I will undertake to say that no man can point to a single instance in which an act of policy of the character of an amnesty has failed to produce good results, or has been productive of a recrudescence of the troubles of the past. Does anybody believe that the fact that these men, after six or seven years of suffering and privation, should have relief extended to them by this Bill would encourage other men to undergo the risk of similar privation and suffering in the future, with so little benefit to themselves? Surely it is not probable. I do not in the least desire to shrink from this subject; but I feel it is better to say as little as possible to provoke controversies with regard to the Plan of Campaign, or any other of those miserable episodes in the history of Ireland during the last 13 or 14 years. In pressing this Bill on the attention of the House we may say for ourselves and of ourselves that one ingredient in the endeavour to adopt a generous policy towards Ireland is that many of us, by reason, perhaps, of ignorance of the true condition of Ireland, or it might be indisposition or unwillingness to learn, or prejudice of one kind or another, have delayed or denied that justice to Ireland in successive Bills on which we have not taken the advice offered to us by the Irish Representatives; and it is not worthy of the honour of a great House like this to have to remember that on every Bill we have brought forward the Irish Representatives have tendered counsel of one kind; that that counsel always turned out to be right, and that, nevertheless, successive majorities of this House, Liberal in 1880, and Conservative in 1886, have ignored that advice. We have not suffered, but the Irish 733 tenants have suffered, and the net result is that these evicted tenants now appeal to the generous instincts of the House not to be afraid or ashamed to redress the wrong that has been done.
§ MR FISHER (Fulham)
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General wound up his speech—which was very conciliatory in tone—by appealing to the Members of the Opposition not to delay legislation on this subject, as they had delayed it in other matters, on account of the serious consequences which would inevitably ensue. He (Mr. Fisher) should have been more inclined to attach importance to this peroration if he had not recognised in it the perennial peroration of every hon. and right hon. Gentleman who addressed the House on the Ministerial side of the House in support of Irish legislation. But he could not help asking himself, as a Unionist, what, after all, he had to gain from this legislation brought forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite. It seemed to him to be useless to do so unless he were prepared to support other legislation brought forward by those hon. Gentlemen—unless he were prepared to assent to the amnesty of those who were called political prisoners, and unless he were prepared to grant Home Rule for Ireland. He was not prepared to swallow Ministerial pills which it was alleged were for the benefit of Ireland if he was also to swallow black draughts to obtain peace for himself. Therefore, he looked at this measure, as at all other measures for the Government of Ireland, by itself. He asked himself whether it was just or unjust, whether it was a practicable and equitable proposal. The Chief Secretary and others were inclined to complain that the Opposition had departed from their first attitude in recognising that there was a social and administrative difficulty in Ireland. He did not think they had ever departed from that attitude. He was sure it would be admitted that every Member who had spoken from that (the Opposition) side of the House had recognised that there was such a difficulty to be settled. It was impossible to deny that after reading the Report of the Evicted Tenants Commission. Paragraph 38 of that Report stated that the economic fact of leaving evicted tenants without the means of obtaining a livelihood and permitting large 734 tracts of country to remain unproductive could not be ignored, and was injurious alike to landlords, tenants, and the whole community. They were, he thought, almost all agreed about that, but the contention of the opponents of the Bill was that its proposals were not practicable and equitable, that they contained in themselves a very bad and dangerous precedent, and that they would involve injustice towards those who deserved well for defending their own rights and the liberties of the people. He had never himself been able to see why the hon. Member for Tyrone should object so much to the Amendment moved, for, after all, it was only a matter of Parliamentary phraseology. The hon. Member's own Amendment declared that he was unable to proceed further with the consideration of the Bill. Whether that Amendment had been adopted or the Amendment of the hon. Member for Armagh, either would have had the same result—either would have wrecked the Bill. Personally, he (Mr. Fisher) was glad the hon. Member had had an opportunity of placing on record the views he held on the question of the Evicted Tenants, but he thought the views, as expressed by the hon. Member to-night, were, after all, the views of the hon. Members for South Hunts and the St. Stephen's Division of Dublin and the right hon. Member for Leeds, who was once Chief Secretary for Ireland; and he should like to say that the views of these Members were his own. He recognised that there was a social and administrative difficulty, and that there was need of some policy to meet the difficulty, and he was a supporter of the policy which had been advocated by all the speakers on the Unionist side of the House—namely, the policy of the re-enactment of the 13th section of the Act of 1891. He gave credit to the hon. Member for South Tyrone for adopting even a more specific policy and saying that £100,000 or £250,000 would be well applied if it were given towards some scheme for enabling tenants, with the consent of their landlords, to become the purchasers of their holdings. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General had said that the policy of the re-enactment of the 13th clause of the Act of 1891 had been a failure; but the Report of the Commission said the 735 reason the invitation to settle differences had not been generally responded to was that negotiations generally broke off on the questions of costs and arrears. It seemed to him that the proposal made tonight by the hon. Member for South Tyrone would meet the very difficulty which had occurred in carrying that section into effect. The negotiations were previously broken off because the tenants had no faith in the landlords, and because they were unable to find the necessary amount to meet the costs and arrears. If he were to propose to take this money from the Church Fund, he would rather take it for the purpose suggested by the hon. Member for Tyrone than for that suggested by the framers of the Bill. He could not help thinking that if a voluntary policy had been adopted, if all compulsion had been eliminated, if a Board of Conciliation had been established to meet this difficulty, with this money at their disposal, and had worked in amity with landlords, setlements would have been arrived at in a great number of cases, and these would have gone a great way towards getting rid of all difficulties. Whilst he thought that at the same time he was bound to say that he did not treat lightly the danger of establishing such a precedent by giving money for such a purpose. He was well aware it would be a dangerous precedent, not only as regarded Ireland, but also as regarded this country. What, after all, had been the contention of hon. Gentlemen opposite? It was that this Plan of Campaign in Ireland was nothing more nor less than a kind of Trades Union dispute in a struggle for a living wage. In what position would he be as an English Member if he voted for the application of this money to this purpose? He was conscious that he would stand in a dangerous position. They had cases of great trade disputes in this country, and what would be his answer if it were proposed sometime hereafter to apply public money for the settlement of a great Trade Union dispute when disappointed labour leaders came and said, "You and your supporters, through your Home Secretary, have declared that these men were only struggling for a living wage. You have given it as your opinion that these people were sorely oppressed, and that they were fighting for something that, after all, was right and just," and if he were asked then, 736 following the precedent of this legislation, to apply public money to reinstate the workmen in their homes, or to buy new furniture for that which they had been compelled to part with in the struggle, he would find the precedent very dangerous and a very difficult one to escape from. He could not make as light of the precedent as the Solicitor General had done. If Irishmen were allowed to look to Parliament to rescue them from the consequences of a Trades Union dispute and a contest with the law, Englishmen and Scotchmen and others would be likely to do the same. Recognising as he did that there was a social and administrative difficulty in Ireland, it was necessary to have some policy to meet this question; but he certainly should not go further than on voluntary lines. He should like, as the Member for South Tyrone had said, to see a Board of Conciliation established to proceed amicably with the landlords, and to place this money at its disposal to go as far as it would.
§ MR FISHER
Yes; but the landlords were entirely neglected in the Bill. It was the tenants only who were considered. The Solicitor General said that the objection to that policy was that it was not compulsory, and, therefore, that it would not settle the question. But, after all, would the policy of the Chief Secretary settle the question? He (Mr. Fisher) fully expected that when the Bill got into Committee every argument which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General urged would be brought up against them. They would be told that they would have to make this Bill compulsory upon the new tenants to clear out of their holdings, or there would be no settlement of the question. If the policy of the Opposition was found fault with because it would not settle this question, he said to Her Majesty's Government, "Neither will your policy settle the question." No Member who had spoken representing an Irish or an English constituency had held out any hope whatever that this Bill would settle the question. The hon. Member for the Harbour Division had said in his opinion it was totally inadequate to settle the question, and the hon. Member for East Clare had said that they would 737 have this state of things—on one side of the fence they would have a person readmitted to his holding, and on the other side an evicted tenant who had not been re-admitted, and that there never would be peace unless these two evicted tenants were placed in the same position. The Solicitor General had objected to the arguments used in the very powerful speech of the hon. and learned Member for Trinity College, Dublin. He said the hon. and learned Gentleman had no right to say that the Bill would be unfair to the landlords, as they would have full compensation. Were they going to take care that all should have full compensation when they got into Committee? Would they give the landlord the same compensation which was given under the Parish Councils Act for land compulsorily taken for public purposes? Would they give him compensation for severance? because there would be many cases of severances if they sought to re-admit the tenants evicted from their holdings. The Solicitor General said the landlords could not complain, because they would have compensation. They would have two years' arrears. Would the right hon. Gentleman take care that what was promised by the Solicitor General was put in the Bill—that it would not be left to the mercy of the arbitrator? If he did that he would remove one very great objection.
MR. J. MORLEY
The landlord will be placed in the same position with regard to the land which the new tenant agrees to hand over as he would be with respect to the land already in his possession.
§ MR. FISHER
was glad to hear that admission, but if the right hon. Gentleman would follow his hon. and learned colleague he would see that £250,000 would not at all cover the expenses which would have to be met. The Solicitor General went on to say that the new tenants need not consent to give up their land to the old tenants; but if they did, they too would be entitled to a considerable sum of money—to such a sum, in fact, as the landlords would have to give the tenants they evicted—namely, seven years' value of their holdings. Would the right hon. Gentleman consent to that in Committee? If so, he was sure he would have to place large sums indeed at the disposal of the arbitrators. 738 The Solicitor General said he did not understand why they should say that there would be a risk to the State. Well, it seemed to him that either the purchase must be made at such a low rate that the landlord would be robbed, or the price must be fixed at such a high price that the State must run a very serious risk. Certainly, if the promises of the hon. and learned Gentleman were carried out a very much larger sum than £250,000 would be wanted by the arbitrators. The Chief Secretary said that as there had been evictions on 5,900 holdings between May 1879, and May 1894, no action would be required with regard to 2,000, as the tenants had drifted into other employments. There were, according to Appendix G to the Report of the Commission, 1,000 tenants evicted since 1879, who were now labourers on railways, carpenters, blacksmiths, road contractors, living in Cork and other towns. It seemed to him that the Chief Secretary had no right to make the assumption that in 2,000 cases no action would be required. These old tenants might, and probably would, lodge petitions to be reinstated. It would cost them next to nothing, and there might be something to be got out of it. If the landlords were in possession of the holdings of these people the right hon. Gentleman would not debar them from the opportunity of establishing a primâ facie case because they were now engaged in other occupations. Did he intend to give the rights contained in the Bill only to those who were living in huts outside their holdings on funds supplied to them? Why should not men engaged in other occupations take advantage of the Bill? But the right hon. Gentleman had seen fit to exclude them, and as a result the right hon. Gentleman might find himself face to face with considerable difficulty. Then, again, in some cases there might have been two or three evictions since 1879, and he thought that the arbitrators would find that a very difficult point. He must say he thought the Chief Secretary ought to have given them more accurate figures. The right hon. Gentleman had said that there would be a balance of some 4,000 cases to deal with a rental of £60,000, or an average of £15 each. The right hon. Gentleman ought to have had the amounts in the 1,000 cases in Appendix G added up.
MR. J. MORLEY
said, he had the figures somewhere, but did not think he could put his hands on them at the moment.
§ MR FISHER
said, he did not complain of the right hon. Gentleman for not preparing them himself, as he knew the work he had to do. The total he (Mr. Fisher) believed would come to nearer £200,000 than £60,000. In some of those cases the extent of the holding was prodigious. The matter was very important indeed, because if it should turn out to be true that the rental of the estate was more like £200,000 than £60,000 the whole basis of the figures of the Chief Secretary would be badly shattered.
§ MR. FISHER
said, that if he displayed any ignorance in the matter the fault was to be attributed to the right hon. Gentleman in not placing full information with regard to those figures before the House. However, if the right hon. Gentleman would examine the cases in Schedule A of the Mathew Commission Report he would find holdings of great extent, the rental of which ran from £50 to £300. Suppose they were going to place a tenant in possession of a holding which had been occupied by the landlord for 10 years, they must, in common fairness, give him a very large sum of money as compensation for the improvements he had effected in the holding. It must also be remembered that where a new tenant had been in possession for 10 or 15 years it would be reasonable to presume that he had been doing pretty well, and that, therefore, he would justly refuse to go except a considerable sum of money by way of compensation were paid him. If the new tenants did not go out, then no advance would be made towards settling the case of the evicted tenants. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman had miscalculated the time that it 740 would take for the arbitrators to get through their work. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted the fact that Mr. Justice Bewley, sitting as the Court of Appeal in the Land Commission, had during three and a-half years disposed of some 4,500 cases. Yes; but in all those cases Mr. Justice Bewley had the advantage of having them already heard by the Sub-Commissioners, and of having the evidence as to valuation, boundaries, and improvements already submitted. But how were the arbitrators under the Bill to act in cases from the Luggacurren Estate, for instance, where they would find part of the land in possession of the landlord, part actually purchased by a tenant-purchaser, and part in the occupation of a new tenant? How would the arbitrators deal with such complications, and what staff would be placed at their service? He was sure the right hon. Gentleman would find that instead of the two years which he had allotted to the arbitrators they would take six or eight years to get through their work. It seemed to him that by going so far back as the year 1879 the framers of the Bill had increased the difficulties to be faced unnecessarily, and would find themselves in an absolutely untenable position. He credited the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary with the best intentions in the world; but he was convinced that the right hon. Gentleman by this Bill was proposing to do that which would greatly aggravate the situation in Ireland. Hon. Members on his side of the House wished very strongly to do something to alleviate the condition of the evicted peasantry, and they felt that that object could be best attained by means of a voluntary system, for the carrying out of which a certain amount of public money should, of course, be voted. They could not, however, support the present proposal, which he believed would, if accepted, do nothing to settle the question, but would set an evil precedent, and would work injustice and robbery amongst several classes in Ireland.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
In the course of this Debate nothing, to my mind, has been more remarkable than the different spirit in which the opponents of this Bill have approached its consideration. One section of the hon. Members who have felt called upon to oppose the 741 Bill have undoubtedly and unmistakably taken up the position of non possumus. They see no evil in Ireland, and they desire no remedy. They have no sympathy with the sufferings of the evicted tenants, and they desire nothing but revenge. The larger number of the opponents of the measure have, I am happy to say, admitted the evil. They profess a desire to remedy that evil, and all they have to say in opposition to the Bill is that it is not the best possible measure that could be devised to meet the evil. Are we not entitled to ask those hon. Gentlemen who admit the evil and who desire a remedy to give to the House some inkling at least of the lines on which their remedy would proceed? One hon. Member, in the course of a speech in opposition to the Bill, made it a matter of complaint that for four years the time of this House has been largely occupied by successive proposals for the remedying of this evil and for bringing relief to the evicted tenants of Ireland. I beg to remind that hon. Gentleman and all those who agree with him that this question of bringing relief to the evicted tenants of Ireland will return year by year to this House, and that the past sad, and what ought to be instructive, history of Irish grievances will be repeated—namely, that this question will go on from year to year appearing on the floor of the House, and, no matter how often rejected, will come up again with an ever-increasing storm of public opinion, bitterness, and exasperation in Ireland behind it, and just as between 1870 and 1880 the measures which were proposed in this House for the relief of the general body of the tenant-farmers of Ireland and for the reform of the Land Laws were rejected with scorn until finally the demand for the reform came, not in the shape of a Bill proposed in this House by the Irish Members, but in the much more menacing shape of a terrible land agitation, which swept all obstacles before it, and compelled the Government to come to the relief of the tenants. Now, I think the first duty we have to perform in considering this question is really to satisfy ourselves as to what is the nature of the situation in Ireland, and the extent of the evil we have to cope with. Some of us had hoped that 742 on this occasion at least an effort might be made by both sides of the House to rescue this part of the Irish question from the conflict of Party passion and strife. Often have I heard Unionists say that the curse of Ireland is that Irish affairs have been made the instruments of Party warfare in this House, and yet here we have history again repeating itself This question is approached not on its merits, but simply and solely from the point of view as to how much Party advantage and political capital might be drawn from it. We in this quarter of the House have often been charged with starting the Plan of Campaign for political purposes. I will have a few words to say about that before I sit down, but many Members on both sides of the House will feel that I am justified in hurling that charge at the heads of the Opposition to-night, because I believe, feeling fully the gravity of the statement I am about to make, that there are many Members in this House who will vote against this Bill who, if released from the fetters of Party discipline, would gladly give their votes for the reinstatement of the evicted tenants, and would be pleased to see them back again in their old homes, but who oppose the measure simply because their Party leaders think that some political capital may be gained by keeping those unfortunate people out of their farms. What is the state of things with regard to this question? You have a number of evicted tenants claiming reinstatement on grounds which I shall presently fully explain to the House. The Chief Secretary put the number of these tenants at 3,000, but I believe myself that when the cases come to be examined by the arbitrators that number will be considerably reduced, because many farmers claim to be reinstated who, when their cases come to be examined, will be found to have lost their holdings through their own faults, through negligence, incompetence, and idleness, and, of course, such men would have no claim for reinstatement. I imagine that the number of evicted tenants who would be considered in Ireland to have equitable claims for reinstatement would be about 2,500. That is, of course, a rough guess. It may be above or below the mark. But suppose we accept 2,500 as a fair estimate of the 743 number of tenants who may have a primâ facie case for reinstatement under the Bill—what does that represent? It represents, we may fairly suppose, 10,000 children and 2,000 or 3,000 women, who are now, and have been for years, badly fed, wretchedly clothed, and still more wretchedly housed, and, as I have too great reason to know, having been for years in charge of the correspondence and business connected with this movement, exposed to storm and rain, with the water pouring down on their excuses for bedding in the winter seasons, and yet waiting patiently, relying on the sense of justice of this House which recent events have awakened in their breasts, which never found a place there before—trusting, I say, in the newly-awakened hope in the justice of this House that they would be dealt with in a sympathetic spirit. The 10,000 children at least are innocent. You accuse these people alternately, as the mood strikes you, in one breath as having entered into a conspiracy to defy the law, and in the next breath you accuse them of being the dupes of myself and my colleagues. Are these children and wives and widows conspirators? And are you going to wreak your vengeance on them for our crime? When I heard it charged against us in this House that these men did not willingly go into this combination, but were either duped by us or intimidated by us, I felt that that was an argument that would bring conviction to every humane mind that it was the duty of the House to bring relief to these dupes and victims. If that be the true view of this transaction, then it is on our heads the punishment ought to fall. Do you think you are serving the ends of justice, or that you are laying the foundations of peace and good government in Ireland by carrying out this horrible system of revenge, for revenge it is in the moral sense, on nine-tenths of the people of Ireland? If it be true, as you say, that injustice has been done these people by us, then I say that, from your own point of view, the punishment should be on our heads. [Opposition cries of"Hear, hear!"] Then back up that cry of "hear, hear." Vote for the reinstatement of these people, and do what you can against us. Perhaps I have received enough of punishment already, or nearly as much 744 as my crime deserves. But, at all events, if punishment is to fall it is on me it should fall.
§ MR. DILLON
The hon and gallant Tory Member says "Hear, hear." Does he consider that the punishment of 10,000 innocent children is a satisfaction to him because he cannot punish me? Does he think that condemning 2,000 women and 10,000 poor children to starvation and misery is a manly way to strike at me?
§ MR. DILLON
Have I now discovered the measure of the opposition of the Conservative Party to this Bill? Is it that they object to the Irish Church Fund? If hon. Members object to the use of the Irish Church Fund perhaps they will pay for this out of English money; and remember when complaints are made of this proposal to use the Irish Church Fund that the money is not to go into the pockets of the evicted tenants, but into the pockets of the landlords in order to induce them to allow these unfortunate people to go back to the shelter of their old homes. I come now to say a few words on the able and adroit, but not very humane, speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham. The right hon. Gentleman, who has lately developed a most extraordinary fancy for arithmetic, entered into an elaborate arithmetical calculation to show that we were on the horns of a dilemma—that we had either grossly exaggerated the number of evictions during the last ten years or else that the Bill is a delusion, a fraud, and a snare. We are not in any such dilemma. We have not exaggerated the number of evictions, because our information is drawn from the only source at our command—the official returns of evictions collected by the police, and issued by Dublin Castle four times a year. The right hon. Gentleman asked, "If it be true that so many thousands of farmers have been evicted in Ireland during these years, where are they?" God knows, I think the right hon. Gentleman might have spared us that question! where are they? Why, that is a question that 745 goes to every Irish heart and arouses its passion and indignation. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that within the last 50 years over 200,000 families have been evicted in Ireland? Where are they? Their bones are scattered over the earth and over the floor of the ocean, and if many of the farmers who have been evicted in Ireland during the last 12 years are not now to be found to claim to be reinstated in their home, why is it so? It is because they have been scattered. They are gone into the workhouse or into pauper graves, or they have crossed the Atlantic, like millions of their race before them, carrying an undying hate of the laws that drove them forth, a hate that often blossoms into crime and dynamite outrage; and it is because we want to dry up that horrible source of hatred, misery, crime, and ruin that we desire that Bills like this should pass and bring a home to the most unhappy and persecuted classes of the Irish people, who believe that in this House and in the hearts of the English people there are some feelings of sympathy for their misfortunes and misery. When the Mathew Commission sat there were only 3,000 evicted farmers that claimed reinstatement. In the powerful and admirable speech of the hon. Member for North Louth he gave reasons why a number of these families are not now forthcoming to make their claims. Many have been reinstated to my own knowledge in consequence of these combinations. Hundreds of families have been reinstated, and reinstated on favorable terms owing to their own exertions. I myself can mention one case out of a large number that came under my notice, and which I think when I mention the details of it will bring home to the minds of Members of this House the strong prejudice which exists against the practice of land-grabbing. This occurred about four or five years ago. A Protestant farmer in the County of Tipperary was evicted by his landlord. This farm lay vacant (although the entire body of the parishioners were Catholics) for five years. After that, three or four years ago, I got a letter, being then in charge of the defense organization of the tenants, stating that if our organization would advance the sum of £10 that the landlord would reinstate the man at half his original rent. I had the advance made, and the man 746 was reinstated after being five years out of his farm. That is a very instructive answer to another argument that has been used. It has been said, "What use is it to reinstate Lord Lansdowne's tenants—what good can they do?" A lot of good—very often owing to the assistance of their neighbors. In the instance I have mentioned the man was broken down in health, and I got him reinstated at a rent of £24, his former rent being £48. About 20 of the neighboring farmers assembled on his farm, and in one day they ploughed the land, laid out manure and seeds, and laid down his crops for the ensuing year. These are the means by which these farmers would struggle on if they got anything like fair play. I believe if they were reinstated on anything like reasonable terms they would be better security to the landlords than any land-grabber that ever lived in Ireland. I have endeavored to bring home to the minds of hon. Members the exact situation we have got to deal with, and when speakers allude to the uncertainty of the position and of the vague character of the problem, the answer to that is simply contained in this fact. The Mathew Commission was appointed to inquire into the claims of evicted tenants to be reinstated. They advertised its sittings in all the Irish newspapers in all parts of Ireland, and the result of these advertisements was that some 3,000 cases were listed as from applicants all over Ireland.
§ MR. DILLON
There may have been 4,000 applications, but I have no doubt that many of these were bogus claims. Reducing that number by various checks and allowances you have 3,000 or more families in Ireland who claimed that they had an equitable claim, but at all events it must be admitted that their children are innocent and are deserving of some sympathy and consideration. A great deal has been said of the crime of these people and their guilt. Some of these people have been in a combination and some of them have not. I recollect when we were refused Home Rule so far back as 1886 many Conservatives and Unionists who voted against that Bill, speaking to myself personally, and saying, "If you will only give up this agitation for 747 Home Rule we will get it out of our way so that you can obtain everything you want short of Home Rule." What message are you going to send to Ireland now? We, the Representatives of the Irish people, believe that these evicted tenants are equitably entitled to reinstatement. If you go behind the Representatives of the people of Ireland and put this question to the vote of the people of Ireland whether this Bill ought to pass or not—have a plebiscite in Ireland, if you like—you would get a vote of six to one in favor of a more drastic measure. How are you going to go behind them? How do you propose to govern the people by force? Force will ultimately have to be used if you do not do justice to the Irish people. How do you propose to govern them by force when you have 2,000 families suffering under what the vast majority of the people they live among believe to be absolute injustice? Listening to some of the speeches made here by men who know nothing about Ireland, you might be inclined to think it was not unjust. It is not their belief that will count, but it is the belief of the people of Ireland, and if you set at nought the patent opinion of the overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland on a question which so vitally affects them—and it affects them most deeply next to Home Rule—I want to know how you are going to face the future? You cannot defend it. You have only one ground on which you can defend Unionist Government in Ireland, and that is that the moral opinion of the people of Ireland shall find expression in the legislation of this House. At the opening stages of this Debate we had a very remarkable and very powerful speech from the Member for Dublin University. That speech was characteristic of the Irish lawyer, and I may add of the Irish Crown lawyer. He declared, as he pointed the finger of scorn at the head of the Government in Ireland, that the Government would not provide the cost of preserving the peace in Ireland. An Irish Crown lawyer apparently does not care for peace that is maintained without cost and without spending money on lawyers. What is the truth of this matter? The truth of the matter is this: that the Chief Secretary for Ireland has been guilty of an intolerable and un- 748 pardonable crime. He has maintained the peace of Ireland without spending any money on it. No wonder he should be anathema to every Crown lawyer in Ireland. No wonder the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Carson) should have shaken the dust off his shoes and left the country that was no longer worthy of his presence. The Coercion Act is repealed, and, horrible to relate, murders have ceased and crime and out rage are decreasing month by month, in spite of all the gloomy prophecies of the Front Opposition Bench. The hon. and learned Member has no future career open to him in Ireland, and consequently he has transferred his services to the hated Saxon, where I trust he will take ample revenge on the enemies of his country by intercepting large revenues which would otherwise find their way into the pockets of English lawyers. The present Government has allowed the Coercion Act to drop into disuse—
§ MR. DILLON
I was only speaking of the Coercion Act, and I say it has dropped into disuse; and the Irish people, if they are treated with reason, can be governed with reason. The hon. and learned Member in his speech raised a tremendous outcry about the confiscation of the landlords' property and the landlords' improvements. He may calm his troubled soul about the landlords' improvements. You must first catch your hare. It is very hard to fix them, because you cannot find them. But he drew a most terrible picture of two alleged cases which he said he had investigated, and I noticed that his colleagues around him were affected almost to tears by the grievances of a lady whose case he referred to. We have no desire—nobody has any desire that there should be any confiscation, but the cases which the hon. and learned Member cited have no more to do with this Bill than house property in London. He used language, which has already been quoted by my friend the hon. Member for North Louth, to the effect 749 that if the action of the British Government was to confiscate improvements of the landlord, they would be justified in resorting to any and every extreme. What extreme did he mean? Physical resistance What else did he mean, if he did not mean that? He said there was a point at which the patience of those who wished to be law-abiding must give way. How long ago was that point reached in the case of the Irish tenancy? When the property of the poor tenants of Ireland was confiscated, when they were driven out beggars into a cold world which had no compassion for them, when they saw their wives and children starving, and when they resorted to every extremity, he was ready to prosecute them, and to denounce them with the eloquence which I have so often listened to for disobeying the law. I have heard the hon. Gentleman declare that nothing justified disobedience to the law; but when the pockets of his clients in Ireland are threatened he is not ashamed to declare that in his judgment they would be justified in resorting to any extremities. In my opinion, the poor Irish tenants who were driven to starvation very often, and whose homes were broken up were far more justified in resorting to extremities than the friends of the hon. Gentleman. He wound up by pouring a torrent of invective upon the draftsmen of the Bill. I do not pretend to be able, nor do I mean to attempt to enter the lists with so accomplished a legal practitioner as the hon. Gentleman in his criticisms of the drafting of the Bill, but it appears to me as an outsider and as a layman that his criticisms were exceedingly absurd. He poured out the vials of his wrath and his ridicule on the clause which directs the arbitrators to take into account in giving their judgment all the circumstances of the district and of the tenants and of the eviction. But, Sir, what is the wording of the Act of 1881 on the point which the hon. Gentleman most ridiculed? It was that the Commissioners were to take into account the circumstances of the district. Then the hon. Gentleman proceeded to enlarge upon that criticism. By Clause 6 of the Act of 1881 the Court is directed in fixing a fair rent to have regard to the interest of the landlord and of the tenant respectively, and to consider all 750 the circumstances of the case and the circumstances of the district. Those words are the very phraseology of this Bill, and are taken textually from the Act of 1881, which has been the law of Ireland for the past 12 or 14 years, so that he was practicing on the innocence of his colleagues in this House who do not understand Irish legislation. He then poured out all kinds of ridicule upon the expression "primâ facie case" for reinstating. He said that it was vague, and he talked a great deal of nonsense about the degree of resistance or non-resistance to the Sheriff, and as to the reasonableness or unreasonableness of landlord and tenant respectively. Has he sat in the Committee upstairs which is inquiring into the working of the Land Acts? Has he heard the evidence which has been given with regard to the directions to the Court for fixing fair rents? Is anything more vague or indefinite in this Bill, giving a wider discretion to the arbitrators, than the directions to the Land Courts and the Land Commission as to fixing a fair rent? The very same sneer as was leveled at this expression "primâ facie case" for reinstatement has been leveled at the expression "fair rent." And you will observe that there is this enormous difference: that whereas the powers proposed to be given to this Commission only deals with an extremely limited area, an almost infinitesimal proportion of property in Ireland, being confined within the limits of £50,000 or £60,000 a year, the fair rent clause affected the property of every man in Ireland, amounting in value to £4,000,000. This shows how exceedingly absurd the criticisms of the hon. Gentleman were. There was one other argument used by the hon. Gentleman which appeared to me to be a very foolish argument, and one which it would have been better, from his point of view, if it had been left unsaid. Alluding to words which this House would do well to pay attention to, which fell from the Chief Secretary, as regards the future peace and good order of Ireland, he said that such an argument was an argument in favor of mob law, and was equivalent to telling the people that if they would only commit sufficient outrages they would bring the questions which they desired to raise within the 751 sphere of practical politics. What has beep going on in Ireland for the last 100 years, and what has been the ruinous lesson which has been taught to the people of Ireland? Keep quiet, obey the law, and you will obtain no money and no justice! Commit outrage and turn the whole country into a state of turmoil and confusion, and this country will immediately listen to you! I believe the hon. Gentleman's statement of the case, but I do not accept his application of it. I say it is a sinister, and cruel, and barbarous, and demoralizing lesson that you have taught to the people of Ireland, not by word of mouth, but by your action and your policy now for three generations. Has there been outrage in Ireland during the last two years? Have the people been peaceable and quiet? Have they abided in patience and in trust the consideration of their case by this House, looking with confidence, as we have told them to look—and perhaps we may yet suffer for having told them so, and for having raised that hope in their breasts—for a better consideration of their claims? Because they have been law-abiding people are we to be sent back empty-handed, after two years of patience, to tell the people of Ireland that by being patient and law-abiding they cannot expect to obtain consideration? If anybody did that, would you be surprised if you found yourselves face to face in Ireland with another Plan of Campaign, or with operations such as those which were started by the Land League in 1881? The most ignorant person knows right well that if Ireland were in the state of turmoil in which she was in 1881 or in 1886 this Act would be rushed through the House. It is not £200,000 that you would higgle over, but you would be willing to spend £2,000,000 to restore peace. That is what we are to be compelled to fall back to after we have striven for the last ten years in the face of misrepresentation and calumny to bring peace to a country which you by your action had turned into a perfect hell upon earth. We have listened patiently to all the old stale nonsense about the Plan of Campaign. I have not the slightest intention of entering into the merits of the Plan of Campaign. I am not a bit ashamed of it. If any Tory gentleman desires to discuss the 752 Plan of Campaign with me, I will just ask him to step down to East Mayo in the autumn and discuss it with me before my constituents. It is a very pretty country, and I will promise him a fair hearing.
§ MR. DILLON
Certainly; any day you like—in Sheffield or in any other city in England, not even excepting Birmingham. I will discuss it, always provided that the meeting is open to the public, and not a packed ticket meeting. Any day the hon. Member chooses to name I will go down to Sheffield and discuss it with him; but I do not propose to enter into the merits of that movement now, for the best of all possible reasons, that I have always maintained this position: that I will defend my action in regard to any movement to my own people at home, and when I find that the Irish people are inclined to blame me for anything that I have done in connection with past agrarian agitation, then I will stand upon my defense, and not till then. I am perfectly well aware of the true cause of all the vindictive animosity which was displayed by the Unionist Party against all those connected with the Plan of Campaign movement. It is solely and simply this: that at a time of terrible distress in Ireland, when a savage outburst of crime in that unhappy country would have checked the flow of English opinion towards Home Rule and the Tory Party were confidently looking forward to a renewal of crime and outrage in Ireland, the Plan of Campaign put a stop to it. [Cries of "Oh!"] That is the simple fact of the situation. You may deny it if you like, but it is the fact, and that is the reason why the Tories and Unionists are so hot and strong against the Plan of Campaign. As we carried the country through a time of great distress without any serious crime being committed, I am fully prepared to find that the success of such a movement is exposed to the bitter animosity and the uncompromising hatred of the Tory Party. It is quite natural that that should be so, because not one in the House can have failed to notice the titillation and the pleasure and excitement 753 which has been caused amongst the Tory Party when somebody has been murdered or maimed in Ireland—[Cries of "Oh!"]—it is a strong thing to say, but it is a fact—if anything occurs in Ireland in the nature of crime. Whereas in this country murders may occur by the dozen, and every sort of odious and abominable crime, and this House finds some more decent subject to discuss, there is not a crime in Ireland that is not made the subject of disgusting discussion in this House, and every effort made to get Party capital out of it. I say it deliberately. Sir, the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University was hailed by all his colleagues as a triumphant and destructive criticism of the clause and of this Bill. [Cheers.] I expected that cheer; but will hon. Members be patient and listen for a moment to a very remarkable passage from a speech by the hon. Member for East Down, which is in quite a different tone? He said that "the Chief Secretary was trying to do an impossible thing in the worst possible manner—no case had been made out against the clauses of the Bill"? That is rather unfortunate for the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University. He does not seem even to have impressed his friends.
§ MR. DILLON
That is a most interesting discovery. The hon. Member for East Down is now added to the black list because he has ventured to show some feeling of appreciation of the situation in Ireland and some compassion for these poor people. The Major-General of the Orange Society is going to vow a tenfold vow against the hon. Member for East Down. I venture to say that the Member for East Down will be able to give as good an account of himself as the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University. But that is not the only ground on which he is attacked. He said further that no case had been made out against the discretion with which the arbitrators were to be invested, or against the source from which the money was to be taken, and his opposition to the Bill narrowed itself down to the single point that 1,500 tenants would have to go out, 754 and that the Bill was an Eviction Bill as well as a reinstatement Bill. He has plainly not studied the Bill, because there is no provision in it for evicting any human being whatever. I would point out to the hon. Member for East Down that if it be true that 1,500 families would be dealt with in that way by this Bill that is no reason why 2,000 other families should be kept out of their homes, or those cases, at all events, should not be settled under the Bill. There was another remarkable passage in the speech of the hon. Member for East Down. He said—In every part of Ireland a man who took a farm from which another had been removal was called a grabber, and the natural dislike of grabbers has been stimulated by Nationalist speeches.The right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) says that the grabbers are the most respectable citizens of Ireland, but the hon. Member for East Down speaks of the natural dislike of them. Finally, the hon. Member for East Down said—If all the farms were vacated, and if they were to be re-occupied by those who could have paid and did not, I should have much less objection to the Bill.Was there ever a more extraordinary comment on the speeches we have heard to-night in which the very opposite view was expressed? I think that the speech of the hon. Member for East Down has removed any effect that might have been produced by the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University. The fact is, the latter gentleman would, if this Bill were passed, be like a fish out of water—his occupation would be gone. Now, a few words in conclusion I have listened with such astonishment as might be left to an Irishman who has sat in this House for 15 years to the charges of robbery and of spoliation which have been made in connection with this claim for reinstatement. Now, what is the ground upon which we claim this reinstatement? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham made it a charge against the Chief Secretary for Ireland that he did not enter into the merits of the case at all, and he did not. He simply said, as head of the Executive, he found a certain state of things prevailing, and he arrived 755 at the conclusion that it was necessary to produce a remedy. We, Irish Members, on the other hand, base our claim on a question of equity. What is our position? It is this: that the tenants in Ireland for the most part who desire to be reinstated are men who have been robbed of property which they equitably held, and which their fellow-tenants now legally hold, in the land by the laws of the country, they would have been able to obtain a legal right to that property if they had been able to hold their tenancies for a few years or months longer. In everyone of these cases, with a few exceptions, to which I allude our claim is simply this: that the men I have referred to should be dealt with equitably so as to bring them again into the same position as their fellow-tenants have been placed in, and thus undo the gross injustice which has been inflicted upon them. I now come to the classification of the tenants who are seeking reinstatement. They have been divided into three classes by the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire (Mr. Haldane). I would beg leave with a more intimate knowledge of the facts to differ from that classification. Roughly speaking, there are four classes of tenants in the 3,000 cases in question. First of all, there are the tenants who were evicted before the Act of 1881 came into operation. That is the smallest class. There are a good many of them who have come under my knowledge, and there is hardly a man in this House who does not desire to see justice done to them. Secondly, there are the tenants evicted after the Act of 1881 came into operation, but who, owing to the accumulation of arrears at the unreduced rents, have never been able to procure relief under that Act. Can anything be crueler than the injustice suffered by these tenants? They were brought within sight of the Promised Land owing to the great movement in which they and the whole body of tenants were involved, and yet owing to no fault of theirs they have never been permitted to enter it. These promise a very large number. The third class is the leaseholders evicted before the passing of the Act of 1887, or in consequence of the accumulation of arrears prior to the passing of that Act. The fourth class are the tenants evicted owing to the 756 agrarian agitation or to combinations which caused the passing of the Acts of 1881 and 1887. They include the tenants evicted in consequence of the No-Rent Manifesto and the Land League and in consequence of the operations of the Plan of Campaign. The hon. Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) showed quite clearly that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, who has denounced in the most lofty style any truckling to a criminal conspiracy such as the Plan of Campaign, did actually, by means of a secret treaty, concluded behind the backs of his colleagues, with men who were lying in gaol at the time, assent to a draft Bill by which £1,500,000 of public money was to be set aside for men who had got into difficulties for acting upon the No-Rent Manifesto. And yet the right hon. Gentleman has the courage to denounce the Chief Secretary for Ireland for daring to make an attempt to relieve these men who have been described as our victims and dupes. It is perfectly plain that the principle of this Bill has been already recognized by the House. The precedent has been set of endeavoring under a flag of truce, as it were, to relieve the wounded after a great struggle when the principle for which that struggle was started has been recognized by the House. I have no doubt that some of the Plan of Campaign tenants who were evicted could have paid their rents, and they were evicted owing to the attempt they made to shelter and shield their fellow-tenants who could not pay. I would ask the House to listen to some evidence given at the time the Plan of Campaign was started. Judge O'Hagan, who was then head of the Land Commission, when questioned at the Cowper Commission as to his experience in Ireland, said—I wish to say, Sir, that in my judicial experience, looking at the matter as the judge administering the Land Act in Mayo, in Kerry, and in Clare, I found rack-renting to prevail to an extent which, I confess, I thought was simply shocking.Sir Redvers Buller, who was sent over by the then Unionist Government to put down crime in Ireland, and who might be regarded as prejudiced on the side of the landlords, said—My view of the country is this—that the majority of the tenants mean to pay their 757 rents and where they can pay them they do pay; but the rents have been too high. I do think they are too high.I would remind the House that when there was such a state of things in the past an immense quantity of evictions occurred and a terrible outburst of crime. I want to know if there has not been serious crime, as there has not, who are to be thanked for it but the men upon whose heads you have heaped every form of opprobrium and calumny and insult? Anyone who studies the terrible history of agrarian agitation in Ireland must be forced to the conclusion that the Plan of Campaign is nothing when compared with the secret societies and the crimes which have invariably marked the course of previous agitations in Ireland. Well, nobody denies the existence of the evil against which this Bill is directed. That evil involves the threatened starvation and ruin of these tenants and their families. Ten thousand women and children look to this House for mercy, and they ask for justice and for some sympathy. They at least have committed no crime. Are you prepared then, I ask, for purposes of Party capital and political vengeance, or to use the words of a great Unionist leader, in order to "crush and humiliate"—as you think you will—"two discredited politicians," to starve, persecute, and drive to madness 10,000 innocent women and children? I say if you do you will commit a great crime against humanity. The gratification which you hope to draw from it in the suffering which I admit you will inflict on me will be unworthy of you as Englishmen. Try, for once, if you honestly believe in the possibility of maintaining a Unionist Government here and in Ireland, to do something to conciliate the confidence and the love of our people. Try, for once in the history of your House, to do something for Ireland that will come home to the hearts of her people as an act of generosity. I do not promise that anything you can do will make them forget their national rights; but this I will say—that if I were an Englishman and a Unionist I would gladly avail myself of this opportunity of cutting the ground from under the feet of Irish agitators, and of bringing home to the minds of the people of Ireland, who never have had any reason to 758 put confidence in this House or in the Government of this country, that there is some sense of justice to be found here.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said, the hon. Member who had just sat down had delivered one of those remarkable speeches with which the House had been familiar in the past, and with which audiences in the country were even more familiar. The hon. Gentleman had confined himself mainly to two points. He had repeatedly put before the House, in tones of tragic pathos, the 10,000 women and children whose future he represented as depending upon the passage of the Bill. His other point was a personal and a most unworthy attack upon the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Mr. Carson). In putting before the House the picture of the women and children of the evicted tenants, the hon. Member had reminded him very much of the proceedings of those mobs of violent persons who used to place in the forefront of their onslaught upon the emergency men and the police the women and children of their locality. After they had been reviling and stoning the police and the emergency men, and when it came to a real question of physical struggle, these valiant men were in the habit of putting forward the women and children of the neighborhood in order by their intervention to escape any just retaliation which awaited them. The hon. Gentleman omitted to state that if there was a man in the country or the House who was responsible for the sad position of these women and children to-day it was the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon). He it was who, by his incitement to lawlessness, caused the original troubles which led to the evictions. He was the man who told the country that he "could show them men who could pay their rents, but who would not pay, because he had told them not to pay." He was the man who told men who took vacant farms that their "lives would not be happy, either in Ireland or across the Atlantic." He, above all others, was responsible for any misery that at present existed in consequence of these evictions. It ill became the hon. Member to come down to the House and threaten the Unionist Party with charges of the kind he had 759 levelled against them. The hon. Member said if the Bill was not passed there would be an avalanche of crime such as that which overran Ireland in 1880, 1881, and 1882, and he appealed to the House to pass the Bill on the ground that Ireland was now comparatively free from crime and outrage. The hon. Gentleman had also made the astounding statement that the Unionist Party had produced hell upon earth in Ireland. But, when the Unionist Party went out of Office in 1892, Ireland was in a state of peace and satisfaction, and the hon. Gentleman must have been thinking of the condition of the country when he and his friends had practical control of the policy of Ireland and of the British Government some 10 years before 1892. He must have been thinking of the agrarian agitation of 1880–1–2, which was a disgrace to civilization, and when a hell upon earth did prevail in Ireland. There were 10,400 agrarian crimes in Ireland in the space of those three years in consequence of the adoption by the Radical Party of the very policy which the hon. Member for Mayo and his friends were now pressing upon the House. This was the policy, the keynote of which was the chapel bell, a policy which the hon. Member wished to see re-established again. The hon. Member wished them to pass this Bill in order that it might be told to every tenant in Ireland and every dishonest conspirator there that they had only to be lawless enough and to defy the law of the land sufficiently to have a large sum of public money voted for their relief. It seemed to him (Sir E. Ashmead-Bartlett) that this question had been discussed too exclusively as an Irish question. He opposed the Bill because he believed it to be absolutely dishonest and wrong in principle; because it would be disturbing and disastrous in practice; and because it would utterly fail to achieve the results which its authors claimed for it. He opposed it also, because he believed that, looking at the policy of the Government as a whole, and looking at the claims of Great Britain as well as those of Ireland, it was unjust to the British people. He opposed the grant of £250,000 out of public money for the relief of Irish lawbreakers. They had 760 found it impossible to obtain any attention from the Government for the terrible distress, both industrial and agricultural, which prevailed in this country. He (Sir E. Ashmead-Bartlett) asserted that when the Government refused all attention to the claims of the working classes of England and Scotland, when they refused even to discuss the suffering which existed in this land amongst thousands and hundreds of thousands of people who were on the brink of starvation, there was no sufficient ground for the proposal of this measure for the relief of a dishonest section of the people of Ireland. That argument received very slight attention from hon. Gentlemen opposite, but let him warn them that it would receive much more attention from their constituencies and the electors of this country. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Mayo rashly offered to come to Sheffield, the constituency which he (Sir E. Ashmead-Bartlett) had the honor to represent, and to defend the Plan of Campaign and this Bill before an audience of people of that great city. He could tell the hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were not Irishmen, but English Radicals, that they could not stand up in their constituencies, or in any great town in the country, and defend this Bill. They could not defend this great Vote of public money for the relief of a most undeserving section of Irish people, while the claims of the English and Scotch working classes were totally cast on one side. He invited hon. Members, when they visited their constituencies, to address themselves to this question. This Bill would fail to achieve the results for which it was designed. He (Sir E. Ashmead-Bartlett) had listened with interest to the speech of the Solicitor General and it seemed to him that the hon. and learned Gentleman had made the only practical attempt that had been made in the course of the Debate by the advocates of the Bill to defend the measure. Of course, he accepted the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who introduced the measure; but he was bound to say that the Solicitor General endeavored to make a more practical and detailed defense of the Bill than its author and introducer had made. He (Sir E. Ashmead-Bartlett), however, affirmed that the 761 measure was unjust to all parties whom it affected, except possibly to a small section of the tenancy of Ireland for whose ostensible relief it was introduced. He would take first of all the class for whose relief it was introduced. The Plan of Campaign tenants were the class of all others in Ireland who least deserved consideration from the House. There was no special trouble or distress in Ireland. It was comparatively peaceful, because the Government, and the Irish Party who depended on the Government, had to maintain an appearance of peace-fullness, so he refrained from drawing any argument from that fact. But the Plan of Campaign tenants, he would repeat, were the class of all others in Ireland who least deserved the consideration of the House. They incurred their losses and sufferings deliberately. They went out of their tenancies, when most of them was well able to meet their liabilities. Some went out at the persuasion of their leaders, and others under terrorism. He would remind the hon. Member for Mayo that when the tenants on several estates were willing to settle and come to terms with their landlords, they were prevented by the operation of outrage and terrorism applied under the direction of himself and his friends from coming to terms and so from remaining in their holdings. The Glenbeigh tenants owed some £6,150, and they were offered complete release if they paid £900, which was to include the whole of their arrears and law costs. The Glenbeigh tenants were in favor of accepting this offer when they were prevented from doing so by the pressure and terrorism exercised by the agitators of whom the hon. Member for Mayo was the principal. Glenbeigh was a typical instance, and a proof that these evicted tenants were not specially worthy of the attention of this House. With regard to the landowner, he had gross injustice done to him under this Bill. His right of ownership was taken from him. No adequate provision was made for him in cases where he had spent large sums of money upon the holding, and he might be compelled to reinstate, against his will, a dishonest or insolvent tenant. With respect to the new tenant, there was not a new tenant in Ireland who, if he was courageous enough to resist the application for reinstatement by the man who, either through insolvency or dis- 762 honesty, might have been out of his holding 15, 12,10, or 6 years, that would not be made to suffer bitterly in his person and property. His life, to quote the Member for Mayo, "would not be a happy one either at home or if he crossed the Atlantic." The new tenant would be subject to terrorism, boycotting, and outrage. His family would be threatened, his property would be endangered, and his position would be rendered intolerable. The unwritten law of the League would be applied to him in such a way that the clauses in the Bill that gave him a nominal protection would prove to be a dead letter. He opposed this Bill because it would set a bad example not only to the people of Ireland, but to the people of this country. It was the crowning specimen of a long policy of paying blackmail to lawlessness, which had worked such injury and ruin to Ireland in the past. It would unsettle everything and settle nothing. It would raise hopes which were impossible to be fulfilled. It would encourage the thriftless and the lawless at the expense of the industrious and law-abiding. It would be felt to be a great injustice to the people of England and Scotland. Owing to economical causes, there was more suffering, more want of employment more misery in England and Scotland, than could be found in Ireland at this time. The poor of this country had borne their suffering with a courage and patience which merited all commendation; they had not terrorized women and children; they had not boycotted their neighbors, or mutilated cattle. They had not committed any of those odious outrages which had so often disgraced the history of agrarian revolution in Ireland. He asked Her Majesty's Ministers what the feelings of the suffering working classes of this country would be when they found that a deaf ear was turned to their complaints, and that no sum of public money was voted for their relief, and not even a single day of sympathetic discussion was afforded to their troubles and complaints. What would the British people say when they found that £250,000 of public money at the outset, and very much more before this question could be settled, was to be given to relieve the wanton and reckless conspirators of 763 that criminal conspiracy, the Plan of Campaign?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Mr. Speaker, I think it will be generally admitted after the Debate to which we have listened now for three nights that the Bill of which the Second Reading is now proposed for our acceptance is one which is, from the nature of its provisions and from the consequences which are likely to flow from it, the most important which the Government have laid before us during the whole time in which they have held Office in this country. And yet I notice that to defend their Bill in the whole course of that three nights' Debate no Cabinet Minister had risen to support the Chief Secretary, and, so far as I can observe, no Cabinet Minister has been marked out, during the short time that remains to us before the Division is taken, to defend the course for which the Cabinet, as a whole, are responsible. On whom, Mr. Speaker, has the burden fallen of defending this Bill? Not, at all events, up to the present moment, on the Chief Secretary, who only gave us at the very beginning of this Debate a brief speech of some 20 minutes, principally occupied not with the main principles of the measure but with certain alterations which he intended to propose in Committee when we came to discuss the clauses, and after he had sat down, except the Solicitor General to-night, an English Law Officer, the whole responsibility for defending the Government proposals has been thrown upon the shoulders of two Irish Representatives—the Member for East Mayo, who spoke just now, and the hon. and learned Member for Louth, who spoke earlier in the evening. I think the speeches delivered by these two gentlemen were instructive. They showed the exact amount of argumentative support which this Bill is going to derive from Irish Members. The hon. Member for East Mayo—I have to admit that I did not hear his speech, and I therefore shall be very chary in criticizing it—I understand devoted no small portion of his remarks to explaining to the House the reasons, very interesting personal reasons, no doubt, which he attributed to my hon. and learned Friend near me for leaving the Irish Bar. My hon. and learned Friend was an ornament to the Irish Bar, and is an ornament to 764 the English Bar; but I do not know that his biography is the subject under discussion at the present moment, and whether he did or did not render great services to the Government of Ireland, of which I was the responsible Minister in this House, may be a matter of moment to me, and is indeed a matter of gratitude to me, but is not a subject relevant to the discussion now before us. The hon. and learned Member for Louth, who, I think, is not in his place, delivered a long speech. It was intended, I imagine to be a reply to the speech delivered just before him by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham. The Member for Louth's speech was neither a reply to the speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, nor was it relevant, through three-quarters of its length, at all events, to the Bill now before us. It was neither relevant nor was it accurate. He devoted his time to giving a sketch of the land legislation for Ireland since the year 1881, and I venture to say that his sketch was neither pertinent to this Bill nor was it accurate in itself. I do not like to hear these statements repeated over and over again in this House about the land legislation for Ireland that we have passed without dealing with them in some shape or another, but the fictions and misrepresentations on this subject which various Members, chiefly the hon. and learned Gentleman to whom I have alluded, but also some hon. Gentlemen opposite, have thought proper to give to the House—many of the Members of which probably did not bear in mind the details of that legislation—this history is so fictitious that I do not venture to occupy the time of the House in exposing all the errors into which these hon. and learned Gentlemen have successively fallen. One statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman, which was dwelt upon by him at great length, is such an admirable specimen of the kind of narrative to which we are treated upon this subject from gentlemen below the Gangway, and from those who sympathize with them on the other side, that I must, at all events, call sufficient attention to it to note my own disagreement with the statement of the learned Gentleman. His whole speech was an indictment against our attempts to legislate 765 for the Irish tenant, and his principal example of our incapacity was based upon the fact that tenants who had applied for a fair rent were, owing to the press of business in the Irish Land Courts, prevented year after year from getting that fair rent fixed, and that during all these years, before a fair rent was fixed, they were the helpless victims of landlord tyranny, liable at any moment to be turned out on the hillside with their families, deprived of their holdings and their means of livelihood. The learned Gentleman must have known, when he made that statement, that he was misleading the House of Commons. He knows, no man in this House knows better than the learned Gentleman, that the tenant, after having applied for a fair rent, could not be turned out of his holding without the leave of the Court. What folly it is to tell us that we are incapable of legislating for Ireland in regard to these questions between landlord and tenant. What folly it is to tell us that we have made mistakes when, as a matter of fact, these mistakes have not been made, and when it stands upon the face of the Statute Book that the very difficulty to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred has been amply provided for—[Mr. T. M. HEALY: No, no!]—and that no tenant who applied for a fair rent could be turned out of his holding at the mere will of his landlord, but that the consent of the responsible Court was to be required first. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: Nonsense.] The learned Gentleman is civil enough to describe that statement as nonsense. I will give him the opportunity of refuting it at the present moment.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I presume the right hon. Gentleman is referring to the section of the Act of 1887.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
What the 13th section does is to enable a tenant who has applied for a fair rent and against whom a writ of ejectment has been issued to apply to the Court for a stay of eviction. What more can you ask for?
§ MR. T.M. HEALY
I will tell the right hon. Gentleman that it has not been availed of. It was sought to be availed of in one case, and from that day to the present it has proved absolutely inoperative. The right hon. Gentleman must establish the proposition which he calls upon me to deny or defend. I should be happy to do so. But he has established nothing. I challenge any gentleman to show any proposition of the kind he refers to. The provision in his own Act of 1887 is much more to the point.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
What I stated was absolutely accurate, and what the learned Gentleman has stated is absolutely without foundation.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have not got the section. But will any gentleman on that Bench deny that this 13th section of the Act of 1881 did give the tenant power, if he applied for a fair rent, to prevent the writ of ejectment being enforced against him unless the Court pronounced on the matter?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I assert it. I assert what is more, that innumerable cases—many cases—have been decided under that section.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Many cases have been decided under that clause, and it has not been left by the Irish tenants, as some other clauses perhaps have been, a dead letter. But that reminds me—Are we responsible because the Irish tenants do not take advantage of our legislation? The hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire made a very able and interesting speech upon this Bill on Friday last, and he admitted that certain clauses in the existing Acts of Parliament would have met the case of the Irish tenant. But he said that "the Irish tenants made it a point of honor not to avail themselves of it." Is our legislation to be moulded, not by the necessities of the case, but by the fancies of one set of people and the political necessities of another set of people? No, Sir, this House can only be asked to deal, and to deal in a reasonable spirit, with the necessities of the case; and if we have provided clauses in our Bill adequate to protect the Irish tenants it is childish to come down to 767 this House and tell us that the Irish tenants, through a point of honor, have refused to avail themselves of the provisions, and that therefore a new land tribunal must be added to the existing land tribunals by which their interests are to be protected. But I have not merely to complain of the hon. and learned Gentleman for being inaccurate. I have also to complain of him for being irrelevant. He went through, in his long narrative of Irish legislation, a great many matters which have nothing to do with what we are concerned with, and only one Bill did he mention for the sole purpose of founding on it a tu quoque argument against the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. What was his one debating point against that right hon. Gentleman? It was that in 1882 the Government of the right hon. Member for Midlothian, of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member, passed an Arrears Act which was a measure far more extreme than the present Bill, larger in its scope, and containing a greater violation of known principles. In particular the hon. and learned Gentleman attempted to make out that under the Arrears Act of 1882 there was a parallel to the provision in the present Bill by which the landlord was compelled to take a tenant of whom he did not approve. Sir, there is not a word of truth in that allegation. The hon. and learned Gentleman is entirely in error. The Arrears Act of 1882 was absolutely voluntary. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: No.] That Act was voluntary in the case of every tenant whose connection with the holding has been finally severed, which is the case of every tenant under this Bill. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: No.] For all that class of tenants the Arrears Act was absolutely voluntary. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: No.] The hon. Member has got one Statute; let him get the other.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to read the Statute I have got, and I will convince him on that point, at any rate.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
We can come to that point of the argument, which I have now passed, later, and the hon. Member will then have an opportunity of explaining. I am now making a new statement, and hope he will contradict me before I have left this part of the argument. What I now state is that the Arrears Act of 1882 as between landlord and tenant was purely voluntary in the case of every tenant who had finally severed all connection with his holding. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: No.] That is accurate, then. In what respect was it not voluntary? Only when the six months' redemption had not passed, or when the six months' had been extended by the Court; or, in other words, it was only not voluntary cases where the tenant still had a lien on the holding and still had a right to reinstatement. That is an accurate statement of the law. How, then, could the hon. and learned Gentleman have the face—have the courage to attack the right hon. Member for West Birmingham for having given a precedent in the Arrears Act of 1882 for the powers sought to be acquired by this Bill of forcibly reinstating an ex-tenant, a man who has no further connection with the holding, against the will of the owner of the land? Although I do not admire the Act of 1882, or think it was an Act which on the whole tended to agrarian settlement in Ireland, still, whatever its merits or demerits, it is no precedent for the extraordinary legislation now proposed. There is one characteristic common to the speeches of the hon. Members for Mayo and Louth, and that is that they have carefully avoided either to defend the provisions of this Bill as it stands or to show that the provisions of the Bill as they stand are likely to be a final settlement of the question. They have said a great deal about past failures of England to legislate for Ireland, and they have attacked both Parties in this House. They have delivered their invectives against the Member for Midlothian and others, but have we not some right to ask them to make some defense of the Bill—to make some attempt to show that if the Bill is passed the agrarian Question in Ireland will be finally settled? These gentlemen, and especially the Member for Louth, have fought very shy 769 of the Plan of Campaign. The hon. Member for Mayo said the Plan of Campaign was a matter on which he only talked to his constituents. The hon. Member for Louth may or may not talk to his constituents about it, but he certainly does not talk about it here, and it was left to gentlemen like the hon. Member for Northamptonshire to explain to the House that there might be a slight taint of illegality lingering here and there about the folds of the Plan of Campaign, but that, on the whole, the circumstances were such that much ought to be forgotten, and that we should not visit with too heavy a judgment any slight infractions of the criminal law which the Irish tenant might have been tempted to commit. The hon. Member for Cork said, "No one knew it was illegal until seven weeks after it was started"—an example of innocence which his enemies admire—if he has enemies—and which his friends wonder at. Though I do not think it strictly relevant to this discussion, I cannot allow to pass the defence now repeated for the thousandth time that the Plan of Campaign was justified by the fact that Mr. Parnell's Bill of 1886 was not passed. That is a statement which some people believe to be true because it has been said so often. It was originally invented by people who were very desirous of making themselves the allies of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, but were yet rather scrupulous about committing themselves to a proposition which would bring them into direct collision with a decision of a Court of Law. They have consequently been driven into the most astounding perversion of history which I remember in my time, and which nobody could accept unless for the reason that mere repetition has made that which was originally extravagant and absurd almost plausible and commonplace. What is the statement? It is this—and I really need do no more than repeat it to the House. The Member for Midlothian's Government was in Office during the whole first seven months of 1886. They went out of Office in July. While they were in Office they proposed a Bill for giving Home Rule to Ireland, and one of the propositions in that Bill was that the Irish tenants and the Irish landlords should have the right 770 to sell their property at 20 years' purchase of the judicial rent. They went out of Office in July, and were succeeded by the Government of which I was a Member. In September of that year Mr. Parnell brought forward a Bill in which he asked the House to deal, in the first place, with arrears, and, in the second place, with judicial rents. The Bill was rejected, and we are told that the rejection of that Bill has been the prolific mother of all subsequent land troubles in Ireland. What had happened in the interval between the Government of the Member for Midlothian going out and our coming in to reverse and revolutionise the whole position of the tenantry? If it was just to vote in June for a Bill which enabled the landlord to sell at 20 years' purchase, what was it made it not only mistaken and foolish, but criminal, in September to refuse to tamper with the judicial rents? The thing is grotesque on the face of it. It is unnecessary to go into the details of the question. The fact that you were in Office, and held these views about judicial rents, for the first seven months of 1886 makes it perfectly certain either that we were not criminal in rejecting Mr. Parnell's Bill in September, or that, if we were criminal, you and we should be hanged on the same gallows.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I thank the hon. Member for that observation. Mr. Parnell never based his Bill on the harvest; he based his Bill on the fall of prices, and the fall of prices did not happen between June and September of 1886. The fall of prices was a phenomenon known to gentlemen opposite as well as to us; and it is perfectly preposterous to try and make a distinction between the course they pursued and the course we pursued. If any evil resulted, they as much as we are responsible for it. But, Sir, in this connection I should like to ask a question of gentlemen below the Gangway. They say the Act of 1887, if it had had the good fortune to pass in 1886, would have prevented all the subsequent troubles. Are they prepared to exclude from the benefits of this Bill everybody evicted sifter 1887? That is a very important question, of which I think we may hear a good deal in Committee. 771 They are not so prepared, and I will tell the House why. They make a great pretence of saying that the absence of legislation, like that of 1887, was the justification for the Plan of Campaign. Now, three - fourths, I believe nine-tenths, of the evictions that took place under the Plan of Campaign took place after all the privileges conferred by the Act of 1887 were in possession of the tenants. They could have done all that the Act of 1887 enabled them to do. They could have stayed evictions until the Court had pronounced upon them; they could have had their arrears spread over such time as the Court thought fit; and the enormous privileges which that Act gave to the tenants were given to them before they chose to leave their holdings. [Cries of "No, no!"]
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
Yes. Will the right hon. Gentleman deny that on one estate—the Ponsonby Estate—out of 200 tenants who had sent in notices under the Act of 1887, 60 were served with "eviction-made-easy" notices, and had their rights destroyed?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It appears to me that no stronger case could be given in support of my argument than the case which the hon. Member puts to me. I said that nine-tenths of the tenants were evicted after 1887; and how does the hon. Member meet that? By saying that on an estate, which he has chosen as the best for his case, 60 out of 200 tenants could not avail themselves of the Act of 1887? That shows that 140 of the tenants on that estate could have availed themselves of the benefits of the Act had they chosen to do so.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me, I will give him another case. On the Mitchelstown Estate, of 500 tenants, who claimed under the Act, not one of them would have acquired a single right under the Act, if I had not gone to gaol to save them.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I daresay that the hon. Gentleman may have saved the rights of the tenants by going to gaol, but I say that they would have been much more effectually saved if they had taken advantage of the Act of 1887. These are facts of which the House can easily obtain cognisance, because they 772 are contained in the Report of Mr. Justice Mathew's Commission. It appears that upon the Ponsonby Estate there were only nine tenants in all who were evicted before May 27th, 1887. That appears to me to lie on the face of the Return. I have looked at it hastily and, of course, I may be wrong. If only nine tenants were evicted before 1888 it is clear that the whole of the residue must have availed themselves of the Act we passed in 1887.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
Those nine cases are cases of physical and actual eviction. I spoke of at least 60 cases in which there had been originating notices under the Act of 1887, and who were served with "eviction-made-easy" notices which destroyed them.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Member appears to base his statement on what the tenants intended to do. I am telling the House what actually occurred at it appears by the Parliamentary Return of the Commission. It appears that only nine tenants were actually evicted on that estate before 1888. Certainly we shall ask the House, when the Bill comes to be discussed in Committee, to confine its operation to those tenants only whom hon. Members below the Gangway think ought to have had the advantage of the Act of 1887 before it became law. I protest against the view that we have got not only to meet Irish grievances but Irish fancies in relation to this question. The hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire argued, in justification of the Bill, that the Irish tenants had made it a point of honour not to take advantage of our legislation. The fact, therefore, is that when we get this temporary Board of Conciliation, or whatever you like to call it, it will act for the purpose of meeting, not the necessities of the case, but the points of honour of the Irish tenants. I have been trying to think what class of the community will be benefited by the Bill. I will not go through them all—the time at my disposal is too short—I will hurry over them, and will begin with that most injured individual, the British taxpayer. What will he gain by the Bill? He will gain the possession of a very large number of insolvent tenants without the guarantees that hitherto have been thought necessary before he became a landlord at all.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Before he became a mortgagee. The Solicitor General surprised me very much in this connection. He asked what there was in this Bill which made the purchasers who were likely to become debtors to the State less desirable debtors than those who purchased under the existing Land Purchase or Ashbourne Acts. What, the hon. Gentleman asked, made the security worse? I will tell him. It lies on the surface of the Bill, and requires no recondite research to discover. There is less outside security under this Bill, and the men themselves are beggars. We are all ready to have bankrupt debtors if there is good outside security, and are prepared to have debtors without outside security if they are solvent. But this measure at once deprives us or the security which the debtor provides and of that which the Act provides. These men are bankrupt. Either they were unable to pay rent when they left their holdings, or, being then about to pay, they must now, having been out of their holdings for a number of years, have dissipated or lost by the processes of eviction such capital as they once possessed. In those circumstances the debtor himself cannot provide sufficient security. But under the Land Purchase Acts there was an outside security. The selling landlord was obliged to leave one-fifth of the purchase money as a security. That fifth is not exacted under this Bill. You propose to saddle the British taxpayer with a number of tenants who can neither pay themselves nor find security for their payments. That is the burden on the taxpayer; but, in addition to that evil, the Bill will produce the evil mentioned by the hon. Member for Tyrone, who pointed out with unanswerable force that you destroy by this procedure the whole value of your Purchase Acts, you besmirch the whole body of purchase tenants, you introduce into their midst men who are not of them, who have not their qualifications, not their claims on our regard, and not their solvency. By so doing you will in the long run bring into discredit your whole system of purchase, and thereby imperil the one solitary remedy to which we can look for the settlement of the agrarian 774 difficulty. So much from the point of view of the taxpayer. What will the British tenant think of this Bill? The hon. and learned Member for Louth has drawn attention to-night to one or two cases of hardship which have come under the notice of the Committee upstairs. Well, I daresay there are cases of hardship. But does the hon. Member think that Ireland is the only place where hardship can occur as between landlord and tenant? Does he think that no man has ever been evicted from a town lodging in London or Leeds?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am amazed that that interruption should be cheered. Do hon. Members not know, what the hon. and learned Gentleman knows perfectly well, and what the occupants of the Treasury Bench know perfectly well, that this House has exhausted itself in taking precautions for preserving to the Irish tenant, if he chooses to use the instruments put into his hands, every improvement that he has made?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. and learned Member thinks that the Irish tenants' improvements are not sufficiently protected.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That may be so, but I understand that the Committee upstairs is considering that very question at this moment, and before pronouncing a definite judgment upon the point we had better wait until the Committee has reported. No, the English tenant, with whose case I was dealing, knows perfectly well that he, like his Irish brother, may have been the victim of low prices and occasionally of a hard landlord, and what will he think of a plan which is formed for the purpose of supplying public money for restoring one class of tenants only, and which leaves absolutely untouched the cases of other classes of tenants? I think the supporters of the Government will discover, when they go before their constituencies, that the British farmer, the artizan, the British occupier of a town holding, will find considerable difficulty in seeing why his, the loyal subject's, case is to be differentiated from that of his Irish 775 brother, who, whatever he may have done in support of the Liberal Party, has, at all events, not shown himself an over-loyal subject of the Queen. But, leaving the British tenant, how about the solvent Irish tenant? The solvent Irish tenant, says the hon. and learned Gentleman, is not protected from having a rent fixed upon his improvements. That may be true; but the solvent tenant, who payshis debts, and has some sense of the obligation entailed by the laws of his country, will certainly not regard with a very favourable eye this measure, passed in favour of his erring brother, which hands over public money to a particular and not very deserving section of the community. Even the evicted Plan of Campaign tenant who has settled with his landlord will have reason to complain of this Bill. He has gone back as a future tenant, but the man who has held out until public money is voted to assist him comes back with a promise of public aid in rebuilding his house, and not as a future tenant, but as a present tenant, with every privilege which he forfeited by being evicted. Then how about the landlord? He will be saddled with a tenant whom he presumably dislikes, upon terms far worse than those which he has already made, in all probability, with the Plan of Campaign tenants who have settled with him before the Bill comes into operation. How are you going to justify such a state of things as that? Without your Bill tenants have, as opportunity arose, settled with their landlords. And are these tenants to get greater privileges than those who have paid their own way? The whole thing is intrinsically absurd and unjust. The next class I have to mention—and I have almost enumerated all the classes I wish to speak about—is the class that is politely described as "land-grabbers," and in certain cases as "planters." The Secretary for Ireland in the first instance, and the Solicitor General in the second place, have said—Grant that your so-called land-grabber is in danger at the present time, how is his danger going to be increased by this Bill?The Solicitor General shows his innocence with regard to this Irish matter, which, to do him justice, he never displayed when he fought the Chancellor of the Exchequer's battle with regard to finance. I will explain why the planter 776 is in greater danger now than he has been before. The danger will be increased, I say, because there is somebody who under the Bill, if it becomes law, will profit either by the death or by the expulsion of the present tenants from their holdings. At the present moment, if the police do not prevent him, the evicted tenant may shoot, boycott, or intimidate him, and drive him from his holding. But when that is done the evicted tenant is no nearer to getting possession of the holding than he was before. The landlord will probably not be so mean-spirited a hound as to give the farm to a man who has shot or boycotted the previous tenant, and the man who has been evicted and wishes to get back is no nearer that consummation than he was before. But when you have passed this Bill the evicted tenant and the evicted tenant's friends will know that nothing stands between them and compulsory reinstatement except the death or expulsion of this tenant. They will have something more than the motive of bare revenge; they will have the motive of direct self-interest, and human nature being what it is, and the motives which, unhappily, under bad guidance, animate the Irish tenant being what they are, no man can tell me that the man who has taken an evicted farm has as good a chance of maintaining life and limb intact after this Bill passes as he has at the present time. I think, therefore, that the Solicitor General will be able to see how it is that the danger to those unfortunate persons will be enhanced after the Bill is passed. There is yet another, though a very small, class of persons to be mentioned—it is a small class, for it consists only of three persons—those three persons, I mean, who constitute the tribunal of unhappy gentlemen whom you desire to constitute under this Bill. How are they going to carry out the provisions of this Bill? The hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire, and, I think, the Chief Secretary, appeared to think that no task had been thrown on these three gentlemen which had not been thrown on other Courts in Ireland before by previous legislation. I deny that altogether. Let the hon. and learned Member, great lawyer as he is, put himself in the position of one of those unfortunate trium- 777 virate. Let him picture himself sitting in a Star Chamber far from public criticism, but with an earnest desire to carry out the provisions of this Bill. What is he told to do? He is told to consider the circumstances of the eviction, and the circumstances of the district, the method in which the eviction was carried out, and the reasonableness of the conduct of the landlord and the tenant. He sets to work; and what is the kind of case that comes before him? The tenant has joined the Plan of Campaign. He has been perfectly able to pay his rent; he has refused to do so. The rent was, perhaps, a reasonable and moderate one. All these facts are known to those Judges or umpires, and if they were to go on those facts alone they would absolutely refuse to reinstate a case of this kind. Here is a man who could have paid his rent, who might have applied to the Courts to stay eviction, who has refused to pay his rent or apply to the Court; why should we exercise this power in his favour? All very well, so far. Then he looks to the circumstances of the district, and he makes inquiry of the police, and learns from them that this evicted tenant, that this man who had a moderate rent and refused to pay, who never applied to the Court, is a very dangerous character, that he is in touch with the Land League of the district, that he is hanging about in the neighbourhood of the holding, where probably he has a Land League hut, that he has been engaged in boycotting the tenant of the holding, and that he is in possession probably of a blunderbuss and other means of Irish persuasion. Then asks the unfortunate member of the tribunal "What am I to do? If I consider the circumstances of the landlord and the tenant I think the tenant ought not to be reinstated; if I consider the circumstances of the district I think he ought to be reinstated." How is he to compare these incomparable quantities? How is he to bring together these immeasurable entities? We know exactly how it will end. It will end probably in his reinstating the tenant, but suggesting to the landlord that the man should buy, and the British taxpayer will be the ultimate sufferer. You are throwing on the tribunal without instruction, guidance, or anything to help them through the difficulties of their position the task of 778 being umpires in a cause where the controversy is not between two individuals, but between two individuals in the first place and between the forces of order and disorder in the second place. You cannot deal with these two forces on the same plane, and I defy any member of the tribunal to carry out your measure with any prospect of doing what you describe as justice between man and man. I admit, however, that we have to do more than to take into account the individual convenience of the gentlemen who have so rashly undertaken these duties, or even of those particular classes whose interest in this Bill I have already touched upon. You have to consider the general social bearing of your Bill; and what is that social bearing? After this Bill passes it is perfectly certain every tenant in Ireland who throws in his lot with hon. Members from Ireland and who suffers for it will think that he has thereby earned the title to some share of public funds, and has obtained a passport to the legislative favours of this House. That is one of the consequences of your legislation. Another consequence is that you will never see an evicted farm let in Ireland again. I recollect when I was Chief Secretary the present holder of that office and the late Prime Minister reiterated in eloquent terms in debate their view that it was vain to talk of the state of Ireland while evicted farms were not taken. Evicted farms were taken in those days, and they are taken now, but will they be taken in future? If this is a measure of agrarian peace in Ireland, I ask whether a man will ever take an evicted farm who knows that it merely turns on the Parliamentary favour of the Irish Party whether a Bill shall not be brought in and carried through which will turn him and his family on to the hillside and substitute in his place a man who very likely has lost his holding through non-payment of rent, and through disregarding a contract, or through incapacity to carry on the business of an Irish farmer? I do not know whether by enumerating the evil consequences of this measure I have done anything to influence the opinion, I will not say the vote, but the opinion of Gentlemen opposite. But I will offer them one argument which I think will have greater 779 success. I would ask them whether they suppose that this Bill is going to be a final settlement. I can understand the unhappy English legislator, bothered by the multiplicity of Irish Land Acts, and struggling to remember what are the privileges given to Irish tenants, saying, "Well, if this will finish the business, in Heaven's name let us pass it and finish with the agrarian question in Ireland!" But is there any prospect of that? The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Louth occupied most of his speech by endeavouring to show that everything that has passed this House has failed because it was passed too late, or because some defect in the Bill proposed was not remedied at the appeal of the Irish Members. What do you think of this Bill? Do you think it has no defect in the eyes of Irish Members? You have been warned by explicit speeches from at least three Nationalist Members below the Gangway that this Bill, whatever its merits, is but an instalment on this question. The Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin, the Member for Clare, and I think even the Member for Louth, indicated that the Bill as it stands is not a Bill that satisfies them, that they are going to give you warning that something more will be required; and depend upon it, if you are mad enough to pass this Bill, the time will come when these very gentlemen will come down to the House and tell you that when the Bill was brought forward in 1894 they warned the House it would not be a settlement of the question; that other and supplementary measures would have to follow; and they will again use this incomplete and truncated proposal as a ground for explaining to the British House of Commons that the British House of Commons is incapable of legislating for Ireland. [Ministerial cries of "Time!"] Yes, I must hurry to an end as fast as I can, for I want to give the right hon. Gentlemen opposite a trifle of time to reply. I will only say that if this contention, which apparently commends itself to the Treasury Bench, if the views of the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Solicitor General are accurate, and this Bill is really going to be an end of the matter, I might shrug my shoulders and refuse to look with too microscopic an eye into the defects of 780 this Bill and say, "Well, if it is to finish the Irish question, in Heaven's name let it go, with all its defects upon it!" But is it to end the Irish question? The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General told us before dinner that he never knew an instance of an amnesty at the end of a great social war, a great social difficulty which did not bring with it peace. Are we at the end of a great social war? What guarantee have the Government of which the hon. and learned Gentleman is a Member that this is the last demand going to be made on behalf of the Irish tenants to the English Parliament? What guarantee has been given to us that this is really the end of the Irish Land Question? What ground have we to believe that this is an act of amnesty? We have no ground for believing it. Gentlemen below the Gangway within the last few few months have threatened us with a renewal of the war in which these Plan of Campaign tenants were evicted. They have told us that war will begin upon a scale never yet experienced, and that they are prepared, in order to destroy the land-grabber, to put in operation the whole machinery of land agitation in Ireland. In these circumstances, is it not madness for us to pour out public money on those who are fighting battles in which we are engaged? If the Member for Mayo and his friends below the Gangway would come down and tell us, with some evidence in favour of their views, that all the unhappy past will be blotted out and that the history of Ireland between 1879 and 1894 was to be turned down and never again re-opened, then, Sir, we might take this Bill, or any Bill which would help us to so happy a consummation. But, Sir, at the present time, with a threat of a renewal of this agitation, with the danger staring us in the face that these very men and these very methods with whom we have been struggling and whose soldiers you are now asked to pension will be again arrayed against us, how can you ask us to do anything to help them? Sir, I object to this Bill because it is opposed to the interests of every single class, so far as I can discover it, of the community, and I object to it above all because it is a contribution from the public funds to that Paris fund of which we have heard 781 so much, and I do not see why we Members of the British House of Commons should be made fellow-conspirators with hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, or why we should assist them by our endeavours in what, after all, is an illegal and, so far, a futile and unsuccessful conspiracy.
MR. J. MORLEY
I, for one, am not at all alarmed by the use on the part of the right hon. Gentleman of the epithet "mad" to this House in the event of its passing this Bill. Because I remember so well, in the years of which he has just reminded us, when I sat where he sits, and when he held my Office—I remember that in March, 1887, the right hon. Gentleman declared that the proposed revision of judicial rents would be madness, and in August of the same year what he had denounced as madness became the last word of wisdom and statesmanship. That is a reminiscence, but it is absolutely unanswerable. I say that the right hon. Gentleman and Lord Salisbury in the year 1887 denounced as madness and folly, and as the height of all that was immoral and inexpedient, a measure which they themselves brought in within three months. And the right hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, declared that he, at all events, would not be a party to any such legislation. Therefore, I am not at all alarmed, and I hope the House will not be, when the Leader of the Opposition denounces our present proposals as mad. The right hon. Gentleman complained that a sufficient supply of Cabinet Ministers had not risen from this Bench to answer gentlemen occupying similar position on the Benches opposite. It is quite true that on Friday night they put up two Members of the late Cabinet. But how competent one was to instruct this House on the land question was shown by the fact that the late Minister of the Board of Agriculture told the House, and stuck to it, though contradicted by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, that the Land Act of 1870 had been repealed a few months after it was passed. Why, I venture to say that there is not a single Irish Land Act on the Statute Book which is at this moment more vitally active than the Land Act of 1870. And yet we are reproached for not having answered gentlemen of 782 that calibre. The right hon. Gentleman in closing said what was quite true, that we ought to regard this Bill from the point of view of its general social bearings. That dispenses me from the necessaity of repeating the answers which the Solicitor General and the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire gave to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University—the ability and brilliance of whose speech I am the last to disparage. He made a great number of small legal points, and I hope he is not going to join the band of those who think a small point can be turned into a great one if you only speak very loud, but my hon. and learned Friends have dealt sufficiently with the legal points raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman. I was sorry to notice that the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, who might have better occupied his ingenious and informed mind, spent half an hour on the history of the Plan of Campaign. [Mr. BALFOUR dissented.] Well, it may have been the slowness with which time went with me. But whether it was 25 minutes or half an hour, I ask the House what does it matter? What is it worth, if all that the right hon. Gentleman said of the Plan of Campaign were true? His own allies do not take this view. There is the speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, which was a very moderate speech considering. I recognise that, and I recognise willingly the cause. Perhaps some day, such are the chances and changes of political life, my right hon. Friend and his confederates may be called to deal with this question in another form. But neither he nor any man, except the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment, has dwelt at any length at all on the history of the Plan of Campaign. They have gone, as I think the House ought to go, to view this measure from the point of view of expediency and in relation to those difficulties which we have to face. I should like briefly to notice one or two arguments that have been used. It is asked—Who will be benefited? Will the British taxpayer be benefited? It is said the security of these bankrupt men whom we wish to make purchasers will be a worse security than the Land Commission is accustomed to accept. In what single respect will the security of 783 a purchaser under our Bill be worse than the security of the same purchaser under Section 13 of the Act of 1891?
MR. J. MORLEY
It is quite true we remit to the landlord one-fifth and allow the rest, four-fifths, to remain. I wonder whether the landlords who are going to support the Amendment take the same view as the right hon. Gentleman in deprecating this sacrifice of one-fifth of the guarantee deposit. The hon. Member for Tyrone is in favour of the expropriation of Lord Clanricarde by Act of Parliament. To whom are you going to give his property? You are going to sell it to the tenants, and will the security be one whit the worse than it would be under the 13th section, which gentlemen on both sides want to restore? The right hon. Gentleman asks—With what eyes will a solvent tenant look at it? Is it not notorious that the great mass of the Irish tenantry look with interest, with approval, and with sympathy upon the Bill? The right hon. Gentleman says the landlords will gain nothing. Would not the landlords rather have two years' or even one year's arrears than nothing? How does it profit a landlord to have derelict holdings left on his hands? What position can be worse than that? The right hon. Gentleman seemed to suppose that if the new tenant disappeared the landlord would be his heir. Of course, the landlord would be in no better position than he is now, because the tenant would leave his successors in title, and the whole fabric of argument raised on that supposition falls to the ground. The important point is the recognition from so many quarters of the House that we are face to face—as the Opposition would be if they were in power—with great and serious difficulties, social and administrative. It has been recognised by my predecessor in the office of Chief Secretary, by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, who knows a great deal about the state of things in Ireland, by the right hon. Member for Bodmin, and by the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin; and it is not denied by the Leader of the Opposition. What is to be regarded as pitiful is that the great Party opposite has thrown itself on this critical 784 occasion into the arms of those I called the irreconcilable section of Irish landlords. I have been charged with having attacked the Irish landlords. I have never denied that there are enlightened and humane Irish landlords that some are humane without being enlightened; but that there are some who are neither enlightened nor humane. I repeat these words because it is necessary that they should not be misrepresented. In the interests of peace, of both the Irish landlords and the Irish tenants, I appeal to the Opposition to take warning by the dissension in their own ranks upon this Bill. This dissension shows how rotten is the ground on which you are treading; and when you ask us, as the right hon. Gentleman dared us, Sir, to face our constituencies—we shall not scruple to face our constituencies whatever may be done in another place with this Bill.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 259; Noes 227.—(Division List, No. 188.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.