HC Deb 28 July 1896 vol 43 cc845-62

(1) Any statutory term beginning after the passing of tills Act in a present tenancy shall he ten years, and in Sections four and eight of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, "ten" shall, as respects any such term, he substituted for "fifteen."

(2) Where a statutory term in the tenancy of a holding is current at the passing of this Act, an agreement or application to fix a fair rent for the holding may be made at any time after the expiration of the ninth year of that term, and the new judicial rent fixed by the court, and the further statutory term shall, notwithstanding that the statutory term current at the passing of this Act has not expired, begin on the gale day on which the tenth year of the current statutory term expires, or the gale day next after the application, whichever is latest.

He said that the Bill as it stood would not meet the cases of the great majority of the Irish tenantry. There was throughout Ireland a just demand for some instant relief and abatement of judicial rents. The conditions of agriculture had been disastrous for several years past to a large number of industrious tenants, who were unable to meet their present rents. The Chief Secretary had stated that there were many large estates in Ulster where considerable abatements had been given on the judicial rents, but the Nationalist Members had reason to believe that the full rent had been demanded and pressed for, and that the tenants for two years had been paying those rents to a large extent either out of their capital or out of borrowed money. This state of things could not last. A calculation had been made showing that the average price of 1883, compared with the price at present, represented a fall of 33 per cent. While that fall had affected all farm produce, labour had steadily increased in price between 30 and 40 per cent., and thus the unfortunate farmer was being squeezed between the upper and nether millstone. The Irish Members contended that the Land Commission, taken as a whole, was not staffed in favour of the tenants. On the contrary, as a whole it was favourable to the landlords, by tradition, association, and connection. In spite of that fact, however, judicial rents had been reduced on an average by about 30 per cent., and in a good many cases the reductions on the judicial rents fixed on the first occasion had reached over 50 per cent. This showed that the tenants had been compelled, under State-imposed conditions, for a considerable time to pay double the fair rent of their farms. The Chief Secretary said that if they threatened the judicial terms a flood of applications would ensue, choking the Courts, causing the number of Sub-Commissioners to be increased, and a lengthened period wherein to deal with the cases. But that was not a sufficient answer to their claim. If the tenants were suffering an injustice which was the result of mistakes made by Parliament and the administration of the law in Ireland, though the relief asked might cause the expenditure of a great deal of money, and an increase of staff in the Land Commission, the Government were bound to face the problem. If all rents fixed under the Act of 1881 were to remain as they were until the termination of the 15 years for which they were fixed, it would then be too late in many cases to afford the tenants any relief. The time when legislation could have benefited them would have passed away. To nine-tenths or four-fifths of the tenantry this Bill would give no relief. The argument that statutory contracts could not be broken could no longer be urged with any force, because the present Government had distinctly abandoned the principle of the inviolability of contract of the Bill of 1887.


said that this subject had been threshed out in previous discussions, and that the hon. Member had not used a single now argument in support of his clause. As he had already said in Committee, he could not accept this proposal for a 10 years' term, believing that the change would be likely to increase the friction between the parties and to involve both them and the State in great expenditure. Even if this clause were adopted he doubted whether they would really get over the difficulty which formed the excuse for the second part of the hon. Member's proposal. One reason why the Government refused to adopt this suggestion was that they objected on principle, unless a case of absolute necessity could be proved, to interfere with contracts entered into under Parliamentary sanction. The hon. Member always spoke as if contracts were of no importance whatever in Ireland. It was perhaps not surprising that the hon. Member and his Friends should take that view after the legislative interferences of recent years, but in his judgment the fact that they did take that view was rather a reason for seeking to restore the state of things which it was a misfortune to have imperilled by the legislation of the past. He should, in any circumstances, be exceedingly reluctant to adopt a course which would have the effect of destroying the tenant's belief that when he entered into an agreement under Parliamentary sanction he would have to keep it. The hon. Member contended that, if the tenants whoso rents had been paid under the Act of 1881 could come into Court again, they would obtain considerable reductions. But the risk of a fall in prices was a risk which had to be run, and the essential condition of the 15 years' term was that, whether prices rose or fell, the rent should remain the same. Hon. Members, therefore, should not talk of rents fixed as unjust or oppressive rents. The other objection of the Government to this clause was the administrative objection. The administrative difficulty was not one that could be neglected or overlooked. The hon. Member himself said that, if his proposals were adopted, four-fifths of the tenants of Ireland would at once apply to the Court. How would it be possible for the Court to deal with such a mass of applications?


explained that he had not said that four-fifths of the tenants would apply. His view was that, in regard to the number of applications, the Court would be in exactly the same position as the Land Court was in 1881.


said it was true that the tenants did not all apply to the Court in 1881, but, if their present condition was as parlous as the hon. Member made it out to be, it was clear that they would all apply now. The accumulation of arrears between 1881 and 1887 was enormous, and there were cases in which tenants were not able to get their rents fixed for two, three, and even four years after they applied. Exactly the same thing would happen now unless they appointed a perfect army of such Commissioners. He thought the House would agree that it would not be desirable to have the Commission flooded with applications, for the administrative machinery of the Land Acts would break down under the strain.

SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)

said that it was rather late in the day to raise the question of the sacredness of contracts in connection with Irish land. The principles accepted in 1881 had been recognised by every Government since then, and adopted by the Party opposite in the legislation of 1887. At that time they heard language even more forcible than that used by the Chief Secretary that evening. It was said that contracts could not be disturbed, and that judicial rents could not be revised. He had recently read again Lord Salisbury's declaration on that subject. Speaking on the Second Reading of the Irish Land Bill of 1887, the Prime Minister said:— A belief on the part of men that they will have to perform the promises they make is the very foundation of civilised society. You are laying your axe to the root of the fabric. There is nothing to prevent the tenantry from again acting at a future period for the purpose of again operating on your feelings by the means which they have used in times past. And you may depend upon it that such interference with judicial rents, attractive as it may seem for the moment, will be dearly paid for by the absolute loss of confidence which it will introduce into all transactions between man and man. But what happened? A term of 15 years was established, and only five years of that term had expired when the Government found that they could not standby it themselves. They found that they could not bind the landlords and tenants in Ireland by their hard-and-fast rule of a 15 years' term. They found it absolutely necessary to do that which they said would destroy the fabric of civilised society. That showed, in his opinion, that the 15 years' term was a great deal too long. Was there anyone who would say that in the last few years of that 15 years' term the relations between landlord and tenant had been satisfactorily regulated? He did not think even the Member for South Tyrone would say that, nor anyone else who knew anything of the condition of the country. When such a long term as 15 years was taken, a state of things which was not contemplated at the commencement of the term was certain to arise. It used to be the habit in England to have leases for 15 years; but was there a landlord now in England who would think of making, or a tenant who would think of taking, a lease for 15 years? He did not think there was an estate in England on which such a venture would be made. The experience in England, as well as in Ireland, showed that 15 years was too long a term to tie up either the landlord or the tenant. The late Government did propose to shorten the term, and certainly they should support the Amendment. ["Hear, hear!"]


very much regretted that the Chief Secretary had not seen his way to accept the Amendment. He regretted it the more because the right hon. Gentleman's refusal was admittedly founded more on motives of expediency than on considerations of justice. The Irish tenant-farmers were to be left to struggle on as best they could under a burden which was acknowledged to be heavier than they ought to bear, simply because immediate relief would be troublesome and costly. The attitude of the Government would not have such serious consequences if the farmers were in a position to keep their heads above water, but that was not so. The majority of farmers in Munster whose rents were fixed between 1883 and 1887 would be quite unable to continue to pay them for the next three, or four, or five years. Many of them were, indeed, already on the border of bankruptcy. He was, of course, aware that nothing he could say was likely to alter the resolve of the Government, but He considered he would have failed in his duty if he did not enter an emphatic protest against that decision.

MR. J. A. RENTOUL (Down, E.)

said that, as he supported the Amendment brought forward in Committee, he should of course support it now. It seemed to him to be as much desired by the Unionist tenant-farmers of Ulster as by the tenant farmers in the South of Ireland. He would have been glad if the Chief Secretary had given him such reasons against the Amendment as he could have put before his constituents as a justification for voting with the Government; but the reasons the right hon. Gentleman had given were not sufficient. They were, first, that it would be impossible to find a sufficient number of Land Commissioners, and that there would be a block in the Committee. Had the right hon. Gentleman been able to prove that, he would have thought it unanswerable from his point of view. Another reason given by the right hon. Gentleman was that short periods tended to unsettle men's minds and keep up constant friction; but he had been told by a gentleman in England that they had the strongest objection to let farms for more than 10 years. It would give immense satisfaction to the tenant-farmers if the Government accepted the Amendment. He was sure it would raise the Bill greatly in the estimation of the tenant-farmers.


said he was extremely glad to hear that the Chief Secretary did not intend to accept this proposal. The hon. Member for East Mayo said that the present condition of the tenants in Ireland was in-tolerable, that prices had fallen to such an extent that they could no longer pay their rent, but, as usual, the hon. Gentleman did not give the House a single figure to back up his assertion. On a former occasion he ventured to adduce some figures to the House, and those figures had never been disputed by any hon. Gentlemen on the other side. He was glad to hear his right hon. Friend say that He did not agree with hon. Gentleman opposite that all contracts in Ireland should be looked upon as valueless. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were always asking for justice—" Justice without contract "was their new war cry. Mr. Gladstone, at the time that the Irish Land Act was under discussion, had pointed out that the Irish landlords would be in a far better position after than before the passing of the Act, because they would be perfectly sure of getting their rents for 15 years. The tenant farmers in Ireland ought to be made to know that contracts would he enforced in that part of the British Empire, and that knowledge would be given them if this Amendment were rejected. A 15 instead of a 10 years' term gave the landlords something like breathing time. ["Hear, hear!"]


said that he hoped that the Amendment would be accepted so that the lives of the Irish people might not be sacrificed to mere technicalities. The position of Irish tenant farmers was far worse than that of English agriculturists. If the relief proposed to be given to the Irish farmers were not given the farmers would be driven from their homes into the slums of the towns where they would remain for the rest of their lives. He hoped that the Government would reconsider their determination with regard to this clause.


said that this was probably the most difficult question which could occupy the attention of the House in connection with this Bill and he did not think that, as an Ulster Member, He ought to give a silent vote upon it. He quite admitted everything that had been said by hon. Members opposite with regard to the amount of fooling and excitement on the question, and especially in the province of Ulster. He admitted that to the full, and he thought that it would be exceedingly strange if that feeling did not exist. The farmers everywhere were suffering from bad times, and when men saw the reductions in rent on the second statutory period now commencing, of course those who had to wait for a year or two would be exceedingly obliged if they could get that reduction at once. He desired, as an Ulster Member, and representing a farming constituency in Tyrone, and not as a Member of the Government, to show what his action in the past had been upon this Question, and why he adhered to that action now. With regard to the retrospective part of the Amendment, if they looked at the proceedings of the Committee on the Land Act, they would find that the question was raised, and that Mr. Sexton moved a paragraph to this effect:— and in regard to the conclusions stated in paragraph 19 of the Chairman's draft Report, they consider it equitable to apply this abridgment of period to existing statutory terms. "What was the result of that? There was a long discussion in the Committee, and a Division took place. There voted for Mr. Sexton's Amendment Mr. Clancy, Mr. Dillon, and Mr. Sexton; and there voted against it Mr. Puller, the Solicitor General, and himself. The vote was therefore equal, whereupon the Chairman, the right hon. Member for Montrose, declared himself with the "Noes"; that was to say that, upon the Committee which investigated the Land Acts in 1894, this proposal was rejected by the Committee, and was rejected by the deciding vote of the Chairman, the right hon. Member for Montrose.


I recollect very distinctly that the Chairman said he was not prepared to commit himself on the question without further consideration.


said that he was reading from the actual records, which he had taken pains to study. ["Hear, hear!"] The vote which he gave was an open and a public one, and he saw no reason to recede one iota from it. After He had given that vote, he had been returned to that House. When the Bill of the right hon. Member for Montrose was introduced, he admitted that it was not in harmony with the decision of the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman's Bill contained a clause to the effect that the abridgment of the period should be retrospective, and that the statutory period should be shortened; and He (Mr. Russell) had then said that he could give no active support to that proposal. He would point out the reason he had for giving that vote and the vote he was about to give that night. Hon. Members opposite had made little of contracts. The view he had was this. Parliament, rightly or wrongly, had undertaken the duty of fixing fair rents in Ireland in 1881. The tenants went into Court, and the rents had been fixed for 15 years between the parties for that term. He submitted that it was unreasonable to ask that the Irish tenants should have all the advantages of State arbitration and also all the advantages of free contract. If the House interfered in the way proposed, what were they to do if a demand was made for an abatement of the land purchase instalments? He could easily see that they would find themselves in great difficulties if concessions of this kind were made. As to administrative difficulties, he looked with great apprehension upon the appointment of an army of temporary commissioners. They had now a body of men who were permanently in the service of the Crown doing this work. They were not responsible in the way temporary commissioners would be responsible; and he did not hesitate to say he would look with very great alarm to handing over the property of either landlord or tenant to an army of temporary commissioners to do what they liked with for the next two or three years. Whatever might be said of the pressure on the tenants, it was a lessening evil. In view of the serious danger of tampering with contracts in Ireland, and of great administrative difficulty arising, and in view of the fact that the evil was a lessening and not a growing one, he thought the House would be wise in accepting the proposal of the Government and resisting the Amendment. He frankly admitted that the demand in Ulster was stronger than it was in any other part of the country, and that he was going against the feeling of the great mass of the agricultural population. There were times, however, when a Member of the House should do what he thought right; and he, for the reasons he had given, should give his vote in support of the proposal of the Government.


said that, as the representative of the constituency adjoining that of the hon. Member who had last spoken, he felt bound to say he agreed with the hon. Gentleman that a very strong feeling existed in Ulster in favour of a reduction of the statutory term. When the hon. Member rose, he fully expected he would have endorsed the Bill, which was read a Second time last year, and which Bill, if he was not very much mistaken, the hon. Gentleman told his constituents he adopted in omnibus.


said the hon. and learned Gentleman had made that statement more than once; He had never said he accepted the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose Burghs in full. On the contrary, he placed on the Paper a series of Amendments, and upon the Bill plus those Amendments he went to his constituents.


was sorry if he misrepresented the hon. Gentleman, but he would ask him if he put down an Amendment to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose cutting down the term from 15 years to 10? He would be the last person in the House to try and do anything that would render more awkward than it otherwise was the position of the hon. Gentleman in reference to the Land Question, and therefore he would pass from the personal matter and deal with the question on its merits. It was clear that in the vast majority of cases rents could not be recast for four or five years. It was clear that the existing rents were higher than the tenants could pay, that farm produce was never at so low a price, or the interests of the tenants at such a low ebb. Under such circumstances, He put it to hon. Gentlemen opposite whether it would not be following the dictates of common honesty and morality to give the tenants an opportunity of having their rents recast. The Chief Secretary sought to draw a distinction between a statutory contract and a contract by lease or any other agreement. There was no distinction between such contracts. A statutory contract had no effect in preventing the rents being recast, as they knew the rents were in 1887, on account of a change in the times. A statutory contract had no effect with reference to estates purchased in the Landed Estates Court. They were aware that in the Incumbered Estates Court and the Landed Estates Court estates were conveyed subject to existing tenancies, and those tenancies were specified to be at certain rents. It was contrary to all experience to contend that a statutory contract could not be altered by a subsequent Act of Parliament. If there was any wish on the part of the right hon. Gentleman that this Measure should assume anything of a final character, he would grant this concession, because, so long as the 15 years' term existed, the tenants would never regard this as a settlement of their claim.


said he rose in consequence of statements made on the other side, especially by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, who had said that the existing rents were higher than the tenants could pay, and that the interests of the tenants were at a very low ebb. The true test was the price which the tenants got for their tenant-right interest. ["Hear, hear!"] This very year in Sligo a farm at a rent of £7 sold for £93–13 years' purchase. In Roscommon a farm at a rent of £21 was sold for £465–22 years' purchase. In Tipperary a farm rented at £2 10s. sold for £73. So he could go through all the counties in Ireland. When they spoke about low prices people thought of England, but let them compare the arable land in England and in Ireland and they would find a gigantic difference. Ireland was a stock-rearing country. In some of his own land he was better this year than last, and last year was better than the previous year. Complaint had been made by the Member for East Mayo that the tenants were between the upper and nether millstone of landlord and labourer, but the increase in the wages of the labourers was a proof of prosperity. ["Hear, hear!"]


said that the hon. Gentleman (Sir John Colomb) had informed the House that, as regarded the produce of his own land this year, he had obtained much better prices than last year, and that those prices were better than the year before, but in order to give the House an opportunity of estimating what his position was he should prefer to examine the Income Tax returns. If he had made an enormous income from the land as shown by the Income Tax returns, no doubt it would indicate a great increase in his prosperity, but unless the hon. Gentleman could assure him that he paid a much larger amount he should hesitate to accept his statement. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (the Secretary to the Local Government Board) and other Gentlemen viewed the matter under discussion as one of contract. He (Mr. Healy) had on previous occasions endeavoured to show that there was no contract whatever, that it was a Parliamentary term forced upon them in their despite, and it showed the bad advice continually given to Ulster by those whom the Ulster men relied upon. Who wanted to make the term 31 years? In 1881 the Presbyterian Ministers of Ireland petitioned the House that the 15 years' term should be increased to 31 years. And who was in favour of making it 5 years? The Irish popular Party of that day. Who was it that was in favour of making it 10 years, and who put down an Amendment to the effect? The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, now the Leader of the House. [Opposition cheers.] He regretted that the First Lord was not in his place, but he was a very ardent debater of the Bill at that time, and he put down a number of Amendments, one of which was to reduce the term to the very term which the hon. Member for Mayo now sought to enact, viz., 10 years. Having quoted from "Hansard" the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in favour of that Amendment, the hon. Member went on to say that it was true the Amendment chiefly affected the Ulster farmers, because they preferred to follow the advice given by those eminent Presbyterian divines and rejected the advice given them by the Land League, and because the House preferred to act upon the views presented for Ulster and against the view presented from the Nationalist Benches. If the House had accepted the latter view the term would have been shortened. Mr. A. M. Sullivan had an Amendment down to make the term five years, and that represented the view of the popular Party of the day. Might he use one argument that had not yet been presented to the House to-night? The hon. Member for South Tyrone had dealt with the case as if it only affected a 15 years' term; but the Ulster tenants who went into Court between 1881 and 1887 had not had a 15 years' term, but a 20, 21 and 22 years' term, because the tenants who went in after 1881 did not get their rents fixed, many of them, until 1885, 1886, or 1887, and it was not until 1887 that the law was altered making the rent date, not from the time of the decision, but from the sale day following the original notice. He thought the Government might have given some decision, when they were debating that point, as to how they were going to meet a thing against which no breach of contract could be alleged, the grievance which had sprung up from the congestion of the Land Courts at that date. The Amendment now before the House was one of great importance—["hear, hear!"]—affecting the whole body of Irish tenants, and certainly he was amazed that Irish landlords should commence an outcry against the Government for what they had given to the tenants, while forgetting what the Government were refusing. They were refusing the almost unanimous appeal of Irish Members of all sections to reduce the judicial term which would give relief to tens of thousands of tenants, and yet when the Government accepted some little scrappy Amendment that would admit a little group of one, two, or three tenants to a fair rent, or give them a little bit of bog, instantly the whole landlord party rose in insurrection against the Government. [Cheers.] If the Government resisted this Amendment he thought they were doing wrong, and bringing mischief upon themselves. Certainly it was a remarkable thing to observe, while the Government were maintaining that attitude, what was the attitude of the landlord party towards the Government because of the slight and slender Amendments which they had accepted? The hon. Member for Trinity College, in denouncing the Government for accepting those small Amendments, reminded him of the Princess in Hans Christian Andersen's "Fairy Tales," who, being of royal blood, through 15 eiderdown coverlets was able to feel the crumpling of a roseleaf underneath. [Laughter.] The Amendments accepted from the Irish Benches, were just like those crumpled rose leaves, which so seemed to affect the sensitive epidermis of the landlord party. [Cheers and laughter.] He said that the Gov- ernment were doing wrong in not meeting the question boldly and adequately. It was no question of contract. The length of the term was forced upon them against the protests of the popular party of the day, and the House should remember that the Sub-Commissioners admitted that the rents were unfairly fixed, and that, in Scotland, owing to falling prices, the term was reduced to 7 years. On all those grounds he strongly urged that this was an Amendment the Government ought to accept. If they refused to accept it, they would have, in honour, to accept the Amendment reducing the term, at any rate, to that which would enable the tenant to count from the lodgment of his application, for before it was heard He often was waiting for tardy justice for five years during which he lay at the mercy of the landlord and of the sheriff, when he was seeking to get a fair rent fixed. When, in consequence, evictions took place, and future tenancies were created all over the land, as they had been, by the delay of the Courts in bringing justice to the door of the tenant, why should the Government now turn round and say, "Do not tamper with these future tenancies, they are the operations of the law," forgetting all the time that they were the operation of rack rents and delayed remedies. The Irish tenant had no legal locus penitentiœ when judgment in ejectment was served upon him beyond six months for redemption; the moment a registered letter was fired at him, that moment and for ever the present tenancy was gone, unless he could pay in full the unabated rent. Such were the tremendous consequences which attached to a breach of statutory conditions. He implored the Government to set aside the prejudices, raised on the plea of contract, to induce them to refuse this Amendment, and to bring to the large body of the tenants, as had been admitted by the Member for South Tyrone, something of comfort and something of security in their holdings. [Cheers.]


said he would ask his right hon. Friend to consider the special case of those tenants whose term of 15 years had been prolonged owing to the congestion of the Land Courts in the earlier years of the statutory period. He was told that in a particular district in his own constituency these tenants really had not a 15, but a 17 or 18 years' term simply owing to the congestion in the Land Courts during the first two or three years after the passing of the Land Act of 1881. He felt sure that many of his constituents would like him to support this Amendment. But he felt that his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary had had a most difficult task to perform; he had refused to yield to the landlords on many most important points, and he had refused to yield to the representatives of the tenants on other important points, and he was plainly trying to steer a just and fair course between landlord and tenant. Therefore, he felt bound to support his right hon. Friend and the Government, who were honestly trying to pass a fair Bill. He would, however, ask them to consider the case of those tenants the fixing of whose rent was postponed owing to the congestion in the Land Courts to which he had referred.


cited figures to show that on every occasion when judicial rent-holders, whose rents were fixed in 1881, had had liberty to appeal to the Courts reductions had followed of from 25 to 40 per cent. He had come to the conclusion, therefore, that the real reason why the Government refused to accept this Amendment was not because they wished to steer on an even keel between landlord and tenant, but because they wished to safeguard the property of the landlord as long as they could. The tenant farmers of South Tyrone, as well as of the west of Ireland, would believe that that was the real reason of the Government for their refusal. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh said that they did not point out where the great fall in prices had been since 1887, but he must be aware that on all the smaller holdings in Ireland rent was made largely out of the sale of pigs, and that the price of pigs since 1887 had fallen 30 per cent.


Would the hon. Member give the figures?


said the present price was about 32s. per cwt. for the best class in any of the towns of the constituency which the hon. and gallant Member represented. It was acknowledged that the rents up to 1887 were fixed on the basis of the average prices of the 15 years previous to the passing of the Act, and the average prices of the products that went to make up the rent of the small farmers had fallen very much since 1887. Nobody denied that prices had fallen 30 per cent.


I deny it.


maintained that he had not exaggerated the fall in prices, and it was apparent that under these circumstances rent had almost disappeared. The refusal of the Government was due to the unfortunate fact that the Irish tenant farmers in 1896 were not as united and determined in their own interests as they were in 1886. If the Chief Secretary refused the Amendment, the fact would prove to the Irish tenant-farmer that as long as he remained disunited and squabbled over differences of procedure in politics their best interests would be neglected by the House, and if they were, he, as an Irish tenant-farmer would heartily say, "Serve them right."

MR. JAMES DALY (Monaghan, S.)

, is supporting the Amendment, said the outlook for the Irish tenant for the next 10 years was a dark one. But for the money they received from their children in America they would be unable to pay their rents. "Breach of contract" had been talked of. If there was an agitation in Ireland such as they had in 1887 there would be little talk of breach of contract. The Government would soon sue for peace with the people of Ireland.


said that as a representative of an agricultural constituency, he felt that the Government had made a mistake which they would repent before many years. It was quite true that many tenants would not be able to make ends meet until the time arrived when they could get fair rents fixed. Many would have to go to the States of America as the poor people of Ireland had had to do from time to time.


said he wished briefly to give a few instances of the fall of agricultural prices in Ireland. The average price of wheat between 1886 and 1895 was 16s. 8d. per cwt.; the price now in the south did not average 7s. per cwt. The average price of oats from 1886 to 1895 had been 11s. 8d.; the present price was not 5s. 6d. Barley was 13s. 6fi. per cwt.; now, to his own knowledge, it was not over 6s. per cwt. The Irish tenant was expected to pay the rents he paid 10, 12, and 16 years ago when prices were so much higher and things so much better. The rents paid for land six or seven years ago were now impossible. Not only had the prices of agricultural produce fallen, but the produce of the land is a drug on the market. For instance, barley had not been a marketable article for the last two years Barley grown in the south, where the tenants were asked to pay exorbitant rents, had been sold at as low as 7d. per stone. Shop-keepers who had had to hold it for two years could not even sell it at cost price.

MR. J. P. FARRELL (Cavan, W.)

heartily joined with what had been said on his side of the House with regard to this important Amendment, and could only express his regret that the right hon Gentleman had not seen his way to accept it instead of climbing down in face of the opposition of the landlords' friends.


thought the Government were quite right in resisting the Amendment, but considered they might make a concession in the direction indicated by the hon. Member for North Louth, and allow the tenants—the fixing of whose rents were delayed by the overcrowding of the Land Courts in former years—to make their judicial rents to date from the time of their application, or, at any rate, from a reasonable period after the date of their application. ["Hear, hear!"] There was a strong ground for such a course, for unquestionably the landlords did get some advantage at that time from a delay which was not contemplated when the Act was passed. It was really a small concession to make, and he thought it would be a fair compromise upon the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Mayo,

Motion made, and Question put, "That the clause be read a Second time."

The House divided:—Ayes, 101: Noes, 172.—(Division List, No. 353.)

MR. DILLON moved the following new clause, which was read a First time:—