§ Order for Committee read.
§ The following Notices stood on the Paper:—
§ 1. MR.H. BROADHURST
On Order for Committee on Agricultural Land Rating Bill being read, to move—That it be an Instruction to the Committee to make provision for the setting apart such portions of the funds therein provided as will amount to the whole of the outdoor relief given by rural Poor Law Guardians.
§ 2. MR. H. C. F. LUTTRELL (Devon, Tavistock)
To move—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provisions for the equal division between occupiers and owners of so much of the rates to which the Bill applies as are not defrayed under the provisions of the Bill.
§ 3. MR. CHANNING
To move—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert Clauses providing for an equitable division of the rates between the owners and occupiers of agricultural land.
§ 4. MR. DAVID THOMAS (Merthyr Tydvil)
To move—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to provide for the division of local rates between the owner and the occupier of agricultural land.
§ 5. MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
To move—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert provisions to extend the operation of the Bill to Ireland.
6. MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
To move—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert provisions to secure that the deficiency which will arise in each parish from the provisions of the Act he made good by the owners of the agricultural lands in the parish.
§ 7. MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
To move—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to defer the consideration 1266 of the sum to be set apart out of the funds provided by the Chancellor of the Exchequer until the respective proportions for Ireland and Scotland, based upon the acreage of rated agricultural land in each country, be ascertained.
§ 8. Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
To move—That it be an Instruction to the Committee to omit the counties of Wales (including Mon-mouthshire) from the operation of the clauses providing for the exemption of agricultural land from one-half of certain rates, and to make provision for the transference of the proportion of the annual grant, to which such counties would otherwise have been entitled under Clause 2 of this Bill, to their respective county councils under such conditions and for such purposes as now apply to the Probate Grants.
§ 9. MR. JOSEPH A. PEASE (Northumberland, Tyneside)
To move—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to divide the Bill into two Bills, and to embody all clauses and sub-clauses which relate to or affect land assessed at twenty shillings per acre or under, and land assessed over twenty shillings per acre respectively.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
With the permission of the House, I will deal at once with all the various Instructions upon the Paper. The first proposed Instruction, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Leicester, is out of order, it being a mandatory Instruction to a Committee of the whole House, and further, because it is an. Instruction that part or the whole of the funds which by the Bill may be handed over to a board of rural Poor Law Guardians, shall be spent in outdoor relief. That is a matter of Poor Law administration, and is altogether outside the scope of the Bill, which does not deal with the distribution of the fund. Moveover, the fund is made up of other rates besides poor rates. As regards the second, third, fourth, and sixth proposed Instructions, I will deal with them together. They propose to throw the whole or part of the rates upon owners. The case stands thus. By the present law the whole rate is paid by the occupier. The Bill proposes that one-half of the rates which now fall upon the occupier shall be taken from his shoulders and put upon the shoulders of the Imperial taxpayers. Any Amendment which proposes either to make the relief more or less, or to put the burden upon the shoulders of other persons such as owners, who have some relation to the land, would be in order 1267 without an Instruction. The Instruction is therefore out of order, because its objects can be accomplished by Amendments moved in Committee. No. 5 is in order. No. 7 is out of order. The Committee have power to negative the clause as to providing funds, or they have power to postpone the consideration of the clause until a later period of the sitting of the Committee, but it would not be proper, after the House had referred the Bill to a Committee, to endeavour, by an Instruction, to postpone the consideration and report of the Bill by the Committee for a wholly indefinite time, and so practically defeat the reference of the Bill to the Committee. No. 8, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Carnarvon, is out of order. The first part of it is an Instruction to omit the counties of Wales (including Monmouthshire) from the operation of the Bill. That is out of order because it is in the power of the Committee to limit the area of the Bill. The last part is out of order because it has nothing to do with the question of relieving from rates, but proposes that sums of money should be given to the County Councils of Wales to deal with in a wholly different manner. With regard to Instruction No. 9, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Tyneside, and which proposes to divide the Bill into two Bills, and to embody in them all clauses and sub-clauses which relate to, or affect, land assessed at 20s. per acre or under, and land assessed over 20s. per acre respectively, that is out of order. There are cases where an Instruction to divide a Bill into two Bills may be in order; but to be in order the two parts into which it is proposed to divide the Bill must be two parts which are either separated in the Bill, or into which the Bill may naturally divide itself. The Bill in this case refers equally to land above and below 20s., and all its provisions apply to both, arid it will not be in order to draw an artificial line at 20s. or any other figure, and then instruct the Committee to divide the Bill into two Bills on that basis. The only Instruction, therefore, which is in order, is that which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Londonderry, 1268 and which proposes to extend the Bill to Ireland. I therefore call upon Mr. Knox.
MR. KNOX moved:—
That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have powers to insert provisions to extend the operation of the Bill to Ireland.
The Bill, as it stood, was an English Bill pure and simple. All they had as to Ireland was a sort of vague undertaking that at some time or other during the course of the Session some equivalent of 9–80ths of the English grant would be applied somehow, they did not know how, to some purpose in Ireland. He objected entirely, on principles of unionism, as well as of national justice, to this attempt to relieve the agricultural industry in one country and not in another. During the course of the Home Rule Debates they heard a good deal about the possibility of an Irish Parliament giving bounties to a particular industry in Ireland, to the disadvantage of the English producer; but this Bill gave an enormous bounty of £1,500,000 every year to the agricultural producers of England to help them to compete in the same markets with the Irish producers, who were refused anything like their share of the spoil. Never in any country calling itself a united country had a more gross injustice been perpetrated. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had argued that this Bill was in relief simply of local taxation, but that was not a fair description. The Bill did not affect local taxation in London, Manchester, or Birmingham. What it proposed was that the urban taxpayers of the United Kingdom should give a certain measure of relief to the rural ratepayers. How, then, could the Government justify their refusal to give a similar measure of relief to the agricultural ratepayer in Ireland? Ireland was almost entirely an agricultural country. It so happened that he represented one of the few urban constituencies in the country, and his constituents would be perfectly ready to give their measure of support to anything that would relieve the agricultural industry. The hon. Member for East Mayo obtained the other day from the Chief Secretary a statement that the value of the agricultural land in Ireland, within the meaning of this Bill, was
just a fraction short of £9,000,000, and the estimate of the value of the agricultural land in England was £33,000,000. Therefore, taking the figures of the Chief Secretary and of the President of the Local Government Board, Ireland should get one-fourth, at least, of the amount of relief given to England. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had argued that the ratable value of Ireland was assessed on a much lower scale than that of England. He did not say that that was so, but if it was, what was the consequence?
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
What I said had reference to the Income Tax.
§ MR. KNOX
said that as a matter of law they were both based on the same standard, which was the rent. If the real value of the agricultural land in Ireland was not £9,000,000, but, say £11,000,000, then Ireland would be entitled to a third of the sum that England got. He had been struck with the very low amount of the rates in England as compared with the rates in Ireland. They had heard of extreme cases where the rates were 7s. in the pound, but there were baronies in Kerry where the county rate alone was 6s., without allowing for the Poor Rate.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member will not be in order in discussing on this Instruction the relative claims of England and Ireland. If the Instruction is carried, when the Bill is in Committee it would then be competent for the hon. Member to draw such a distinction.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
said, that the hon. Member would be justified in giving figures to show that Ireland required this relief.
§ MR. KNOX
said he quite understood. He thought he had mentioned before that his main contention was that the relief proposed to be given to England was a relief which Ireland needed, and which Ireland ought to have. In Ireland, in many parts of the country, they had to pay extraordinarily high rates, which, in places, amounted to 6s. in the pound. That was an enormous rate, and he defied them to show how it could be justified. In some parts of the north of Ireland the rates were excessively severe, He had tried to work out the figures, and he found that the agricultural rate was not less than 4s. in the pound. No one on either side of the House contended that the agricultural rate was as great as that anywhere in England. The general average was 2s. 2½d.; therefore, they wanted that Bill in Ireland in finitely more than the farmers and landlords in England did. It was argued that they did not want relief in Ireland so much as in England because a large part of the land was pasture, and that the burden on pasture was not so great as the burden on arable land. He had two answers to that In the first place, no distinction was drawn in the Bill between the two. Relief was given as much in the one case—indeed more in one case than in the other, and if they included both in England they should include both in Ireland. It was not the fact that at the present moment there was a larger proportion of tillage in England than in Ireland. There were parts of Ireland, undoubtedly, where the country was almost entirely in pasture, but there were other parts where there was a larger proportion in tillage than in any part of England. He would take the figures with regard to a county with which he was familiar—Down. The total area of Down was 609,000 acres; about a quarter of that was mountain, and therefore could not be considered—the Mourre mountains. Of the remaining 450,000, according to the last return, 273,000 were in crops. That was an enormous proportion, and he did not think anything like that could be shown for any county in England. [An HON. MEMBER: ''Yes!"] He hoped the hon. Member would give the House the figures. [''Hear, hear!"] They could not say, therefore, that Ireland did not deserve that relief on the 1271 ground of pasture. He should take another county—Tyrone; and he could not understand how the hon. Member for South Tyrone could agree to giving to the East Riding of Yorkshire relief which was refused to the farmers of South Tyrone. The area in Tyrone was about 745,000 acres, and of this about 250,000 acres were under crops. There, again, there was a large amount of mountainous land, and of the total under crop 95,000 acres were under corn crops. With the exception of Lothian, there was nothing like that of which he was aware. They could not lay down pasture on account of the nature of the land. The chief crop in Ulster was flax, but flax had fallen in price more than wheat. The Ulster farmers were the men who had worked harder than any other men in the United Kingdom to preserve the Union. They had sent agents through the length and breadth of the country; they preserved the Union, and now they were told that they were not entitled to the same treatment as the farmers in this part of the United Kingdom. He could hardly appeal to hon. Members around him on the ground of sympathy and gratitude; they owed nothing to the farmers of Ulster, but the farmers of Ulster owed a great deal to the Nationalist Members. He appealed to hon. Members opposite to say whether they were going to exclude from the benefit of this Bill the farmers of North-East Ulster. The pressure there on the agricultural interest was as great, at least, as in any part of the United Kingdom. The cultivated area in Ireland was 15,000,000 acres, as against 27,000,000 in England and Wales. He did not say that the cultivated area was as much as half that of England and Wales, but it was at least a third; but if they took the area of the crops and left out permanent pasture, Ireland came out not far from half. In the number of cattle they were not very far behind. Although the present Government had got into power on the cry of the Union, they were no more reconciled than ever that Ireland should be treated as an integral part of the United Kingdom. It was alien to their ideas, and they were no more reconciled than they were 100 years ago to treat Ireland on a level of equality with England. There was another argument 1272 in favour of including Ireland in the Bill. A great deal had been said about the relief going to the landlords. It had been argued with some force by Liberal Members that the whole of this relief would go to the landlords, and they justified this on the grounds that the rent was adjusted from year to year, and even from sale day to sale day, and that there was no competition for farmers. In Ireland, neither of these arguments applied. Rents were not adjusted from year to year, but for 15 years, and he argued that in the case of Ireland the relief would go largely to aid the farmers. They would therefore be doing in Ireland what they said they wished to do in England—they would give relief to the occupiers. He should be well content if the Government would agree to give them half the county rate in Ireland, without touching the Poor Bate at all. It would be inadequate compared with England, still they would accept it. If they did that Ireland would get £600,000 or £700,000 instead of the maximum it would get under the scheme of the Bill of £200,000. The hon. Member was further referring to the Probate Duties when—
§ * MR. SPEAKER
reminded the hon. Member that the Instruction was confined to the application of the Bill to Ireland.
§ MR. KNOX
said his contention was that if they did not get relief now they would not get it at all—at least that it would be a long time before relief would be given. He looked upon it as one of the main duties of Irish Members in that House to try to relieve the Irish tenant, the occupier, from the terrible burdens which were pressing him down. It was those burdens which, in the main, were pressing him down. They had now an opportunity, to some small extent, of redressing the injustice, and of relieving the Irish occupier of the heavy burdens he had to bear. Let them take the case of a small farmer in the North of Ireland. His case was a hard one. He had a farm of 25 acres. He had to pay £1 an acre and, in addition, 4s. an acre, not including local rates. If they gave to the poor man what they proposed to give to the much richer farmer in England, he would be relieved to the extent of 2s. per acre per year. That would be no small relief to 1273 him. It was the difference between a little comfort and penury. They were living on a narrow margin, and they worked as no other men in the three kingdoms worked. It was a cruel shame that a Government which contained so many Members from Ulster should propose this legislation, and refuse to the poor Ulster tenant that which it gave to his richer brother in England. He said it was a matter of common justice and common honesty, if the opposite Party believed in Unionist principles, that Ireland should be included in the Bill, and he begged to move his Instruction to that effect. [''Hear, hear!"]
MR, T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
seconded the Instruction. If they did not get this matter put right now it would be impossible to do it hereafter. It had been explained that for the purposes of that Bill £2,000,000 were available, and that out of this sum England would get £1,500,000. Ireland and Scotland to be dealt with afterwards. Before proceeding to give away three-fourths of the total, they should consider the case of Ireland and Scotland also. The case of Ireland deserved the sympathy of the House. Ireland had to live by agriculture exclusively. As to local rates. In England the local rates were controlled by the localities—the public could help themselves; but in Ireland the local rates were, to a large extent, settled by that House. There was no popular control of local rates in Ireland. Therefore, while the rates of England had been falling, they had been rising in Ireland. In 1807 the average rate in England was 4s. 5d., in 1867 it was 2s. 8d., and in 1894 it was 2s. 2½d., so that there was progress downwards. He turned to Ireland. He believed that the real reason why the Bill was not extended to Ireland was that the Government could not exactly tell what the local rates were, and they were afraid of falling into an Irish bog. But there was a Blue-book dealing with the question. Still they had no clear evidence as to what the local rates were. He had made several efforts to secure information from the Chief Secretary, but he had been put off with half promises to give the information. He next called attention to the fact that, notwithstanding the grants from the Imperial funds, the local rates had risen. He believed 1274 they increased something like 5 per cent. last year. Therefore he made the point that, as rates were rising in Ireland, whereas they were going down in England and Wales, there was a good claim for the provisions of the Bill being extended to Ireland. His hon. Friends who represented Ireland had been trying to get the Leader of the House to say when the Irish Bill would come in, but it was a most extraordinary thing that they could not get to see that Bill. If the Irish Bill were only a single principle, as the Leader of the House said the English Bill was, why could they not have it? It ought to be simple and brief, and he could not see why there should be any delay in bringing it in. He hoped the result of this Division would be to put a stop to proceeding for England and Wales until they knew what were the precise provisions in regard to Ireland. He feared the money would not remain to do justice to Ireland if they proceeded with the English Bill, and he was afraid that, unless the Instruction was adopted, they would never see justice done to Ireland in this matter. There had been a greaat deal of dispute about the facts with regard to Ireland. There was a great deal of difficulty in dealing with the Irish case, because they had not got an exact story of what the rates were in Ireland, and how much money it would require to pay half the agricultural rates. Altogether, three suggestions had been made—one by the Government, and one or two others by Irish Members, and by Members in other parts of the House—with regard to how they might get at the priniciple of the Bill with regard to Ireland. The first proposal, made by his hon. Friend who had just sat down, was that the acreage of land should be taken into account, and that the money should be distributed in accordance with the acreage of land in the two countries. The second proposal was that the division should be according——
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! Those are not matters that seem to me to be pertinent to the Instruction. In the Bill, as I understand, there is no sum mentioned of £2,000,000 or £1,500,000. All that is mentioned is that half the rates on agricultural land shall be paid by the taxpayers. The Instruction asks that that provision should be extended 1275 to Ireland, and that does not involve any discussion of what would be a just and proper way of distributing the relief to Irish rates. That is a matter which, if the Instruction is carried, can be discussed in Committee, or when the Irish Bill is brought in.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not entitled to go into that. There is no sum mentioned in the Bill. It has been stated that it will amount in England, I understand, to £1,500,000, and the statement has been made that there will probably be £500,000 more, or something of that kind, available. The Instruction asks that the provisions of this Bill shall apply to Ireland—that, whether there be money or not forthcoming for that purpose, half the agricultural rates in Ireland shall be paid just as they are in England. The hon. Member may not, on this Instruction, go into the financial question.
§ MR. LOUGH
said, he felt himself to be in a very great difficulty. He could only, then, insist on his point that nothing would be just under the provisions of the Bill except to make inquiry in Ireland, and he should like to see inquiry made as to what the amount of local rates was. He thought that before this Bill went a step further they ought to have the same information with regard to Ireland as they had got for England, and to see that sufficient provision would be made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to have half the rates paid in 1276 Ireland as was proposed under the present Bill. He thought Ireland's claim in this respect was very strong upon the present occasion. What they were asking for was that local taxation in Ireland should be equitably considered, in the same way as it was proposed in the Bill to treat the local taxpayer in England and Wales. Ireland was bested in 1888, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer appropriated the revenue from licences for the purpose of assisting local rates. Instead of giving Ireland the same proportion as England and Wales of an increasing revenue, she only received a fixed grant, arid he considered that Ireland had been cheated, by the allocation which had taken place during the last eight years, of something like £40,000.
§ * MR SPEAKER
The hon. Member is now dealing with a totally different matter. The history of what has taken, place under the Act of 1888 has really nothing to do with this Instruction. I am not at all denying the importance of these matters, but they are not germane to the Instruction.
§ MR. LOUGH
said, he was only using this as an illustration of how Ireland was hardly treated eight years ago, and that she ought to be kindly treated now. He asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in conjunction with the President of the Local Government Board, to consider that, as Ireland did not receive all she had a right to claim under the first great Tory Bill in relief of the rates, they would deal liberally with her on the present occasion.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I understand that the charges that are made against us are, first, that we are going to do nothing at all for Ireland, though we propose by this Bill to give what is called a bounty to English agriculturists; secondly, that we will not disclose our intentions of what we are going to do; and. thirdly, that what we are going to do is not enough. As to the first suggestion, I will only say what I have already stated in my speech on the Budget, and what has been stated by other Members of the Government, that we intend to propose for Ireland a grant from the Imperial Revenue for local purposes, not by any means necessarily for the purposes of this Bill, in the same proportion as compared with the grant which will be given 1277 for local purposes in England under this Bill, as that which was settled by the legislation of 1888 and of subsequent years.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Certainly by Bill, as in 1888. Any proposal of the kind must be by Bill, and must form part of the legislation of the Session. I may remind the hon. Member that in 1888, when, as now, the proposals with regard to England dealt with matters which were essentially different in England and in Ireland, the Irish grant was made by a separate Bill. As to the time when the Irish Bill will be introduced, I suggest, with all respect to hon. Members, that the greater the facilities they give us for proceeding with this Bill, the sooner they are likely to see the Irish Bill. I cannot say when that Bill will be produced, but we are pledged to legislation on the subject, and that is all that can be said at the present moment. I come to the question whether such proposals as we could make with reference to Ireland should properly or conveniently be included in this Bill. The hon. Member for Derry has himself shown that they could not be. He admits that there is a complete difference in the rating system in Ireland and England. In the course of his observations he naturally discovered, and fairly stated to the House, that in Ireland half the Poor Rate and all the Poor Rate under £4, was paid by the owners. I think he said that he would be satisfied if the occupiers in Ireland were relieved of half their county cess and half the Poor Rate. But the hon. Member will observe that that would be placing Irish local taxation in a different position from that in which we propose to place English local taxation by this Bill. In England, under the present law, the whole local taxation is paid by the occupiers, and we believe that under the proposals we make, especially having regard to the fact that the duration of the Bill is proposed to be temporary, the relief given by this Bill will go to the occupiers rather than to the owners. It will be clear to the House, that by the 1278 suggestions of the hon. Member, Ireland would not get the same relief from local taxation as England. I come to what, after all, is the real point of the hon. Members' proposal. It is, assuming we are sincere in our intention that Ireland shall receive the proportionate grant fixed by previous legislation, that such a grant would be unfair to Ireland; and he bases that view on an idea that our proposals in this matter rest on an entirely different basis from that which I claim for them. I look upon these proposals as a grant from the Imperial revenue to local purposes in the three kingdoms, precisely of the same nature as the grant made in 1888. ["Hear, hear!"] In that year Parliament sanctioned a grant of considerable amount from the Probate Duty for the relief of local taxation in England, Scotland and Ireland; and precisely in that way, we in this year propose that a similar grant should be made from the Death Duties on personal property for similar purposes in the three kingdoms. We have taken the same proportions as in 1888, but the hon. Member ignores all that, and suggests that our proposals are simply a dole to agriculture. He claims that, as we give a relief of a certain amount to agriculture in England, we should give precisely in the same way a corresponding amount in Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"] He rests that claim first on the amount of local taxation in Ireland, but I think he entirely misled the House on that matter. He quoted a single barony in Kerry in which the county cess amounted to 6s. in the pound. I have here a Return presented to Parliament on the Motion of the hon. Member for East Mayo showing the amount of county cess over a series of years, ending 1894, in the different counties in Ireland. I find many cases in that Return in which the county cess was under 1s. in the pound in the year.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
There are a number of them in county Meath of 9¾d., 9d., and 10d. [HON. MEMBERS: "In the year?"] This is the annual county cess on an average of five years. There 1279 are a dozen baronies in a single county. In a great majority of cases the county cess in Ireland averages between Is. and 2s. in the pound in the year.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I do not think I can I will come to the particular barony referred to by the hon. Member; it is a barony in county Kerry. Why was the county cess so high in that barony? It was very materially affected, first of all, by the heavy charges to which it was liable on account of certain railways, and of an accident on one of the railways. Then I turn to other baronies in Clare and Galway, where the charge was high, though nothing like 6s. in the pound. I find that they were disturbed districts, where there was an addition to the county cess on the ground of extra constabulary, or compensation for malicious injuries; and those are things which, according to the hon. Member for West Islington, are not under the control of the population of Ireland.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
But the system is as much under the control of Ireland as it is in England. ["No!"] The Guardians are elected; all the county cess that is not obligatory is voted by the Presentment Sessions, before it goes to the Grand Jury. ["Oh, oh!"] I am not saying that the representative system is complete, that is another matter; but what the hon. Member attempted to convey to the House was that there was no local control in Ireland over local taxation; it unquestionably is not controlled by this House.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I must now ask whether there is any real desire in Ireland for the particular form of relief which the hon. Member has suggested. In my belief, if he did not believe that under his proposal Ireland would obtain a larger grant from the Imperial Exchequer than under the proposal of the Government, we should not have heard very much about the desire of Ireland to be relieved in this 1280 particular way, because the whole history of past legislation is this. Where, in 1887, 1888, or 1890, grants were made from the Imperial Exchequer for local purposes in the three kingdoms, the grants made to Ireland were not devoted to the relief of local taxation in the way in which they were devoted in England, but in several cases they were devoted entirely to other purposes. Take the grant of £50,000 in 1887, when considerable additions were made to the grants from the Imperial Exchequer for the maintenance of highways in England and Scotland. In Ireland the money was devoted to certain local works and certain local industries. Again, in 1888, a grant of £40,000 was made to Ireland as corresponding to the transfer for purposes of local taxation in England and Scotland of certain licences which did not exist in Ireland. That money was spent, not in the relief of the ratepayers, but in building labourers' cottages.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
And it has since been used to form a reserve fund for the purpose of land purchase. In 1890, when additional beer and spirit duties were devoted to the relief of local taxation in England and Scotland—for the superannuation of the police, for instance—in Ireland the corresponding grants of £78,000 and £40,000 were devoted, in the first place, to national school teachers; and, secondly, to intermediate education, but not in any way to relief of the rates. Therefore, in past years there has never been the same desire in Ireland, as there has been in England, to devote any grant that might be made from the Imperial Exchequer to the relief of local taxation. Why has this been so? Because the circumstances have been entirely different in the two countries. In England, for many years past, all those on whom the burden of the rates fell have complained of an injustice in having solely to bear that burden on account of the enormous amount of personal wealth in England which was not liable to it at all. I have figures here which would show from the Income Tax Returns, that the annual income assessed in England to Schedule D is something like 1281 seven or eight times as much as the annual value, of agricultural land. The income assessed to Schedule D in Ireland is hardly anything more than the annual value of the land assessed to Schedule B. Therefore there has never been that sense of injustice, I will venture to say, in the matter of local taxation in Ireland which has been felt in England. The hon. Member claims that the grant which is to be proposed for Ireland should be increased on the ground of the state of agriculture in Ireland. I believe that the state of agriculture in the two countries is entirely different. What is the case in Ireland? No doubt rents have been reduced in Ireland of late years by the Land Courts, but I suspect that that has been largely a transfer of the interest in the holding from the owner to the occupier, and that the result of that reduction very often has been that the price which the occupier could obtain for the tenant-right, if he chose to sell it, has been increased. [Irish laughter.] Who ever heard, at any rate in the south and east of England at the present day, of a man who would pay anything for tenant-right to go into a farm? I say, from my own knowledge of the south and east of England, that it is extremely difficult to induce an incoming tenant to pay the ordinary compensation for unexhausted manures and improvements of that kind, which everybody admits ought to be paid by everyone who takes a farm. In Ireland, I suppose no one who wants to let a farm, whether in the north or in the south, has any difficulty in finding a tenant. In many parts of England it is very difficult to find tenants at any price whatever, and large tracts of land, as will be seen from the Reports of the Agricultural Commissioners, are either cultivated unwillingly by the owners or practically left uncultivated at all. The suggestion of the hon. Member is based upon a view to which we cannot accede. Our proposal is to give from the Imperial revenue a certain sum for local purposes in the Three Kingdoms, in the proportions which have hitherto been adopted, and that proposal will be carried out in all good faith when the proper time arrives.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton)
could not reconcile the right hon. Gentleman's remarks with the accounts of this Bill which had hitherto 1282 been received from the Treasury Bench. The Bill had been put in the forefront of the legislation of the Government as the result of a Royal Commission appointed to inquire into a national calamity, and it had been pressed on the House as an immediate relief with respect to that national calamity. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a very Separatist speech, had dealt with this as a largesse from the Imperial revenue to England, Scotland and Ireland for certain purposes more or less dissimilar, but which would ultimately be devoted to local objects. Was it contended that there was no agricultural depression in Ireland? [Irish cheers.] One of the complaints which those who represented agriculture made was that the burdens of taxation upon that depressed industry were unjust and excessive, and from which to a certain extent agriculture ought to be relieved. That was a common calamity, a common burden, and ought to be relieved out of common funds—from the revenues of the United Kingdom, to which all the three countries contributed according to the taxation levied upon them. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted that Ireland was an agricultural country, and nothing else; its income arose from agriculture. For his own part he admitted his absolute inability to comprehend Irish local taxation, but he knew it spent a great deal, for instance, on the relief of the poor. Was the Poor Rate included in the county cess? No. Then he said there were few English counties where the county rate was as high as the figures the right hon. Gentleman read out. The heavy rate in England was the Poor Rate, and the Poor Rate and the County Rate really were the rates on which the whole of this case was rested. The average rate in England was about 2s. 2½d; he rather thought it was 2s. 4d., including in that an allowance for the School Board rate. Practically, the rates in England were a little over 2s. in the pound. He did not think they were much less in Ireland. The figures which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave the House amounted to this—that Ireland paid a heavier county taxation than England did under similar circumstances. There were many arguments which, bearing in mind the Speaker's ruling, he could not use, but 1283 he put the case simply on this broad ground—that this was special legislation for a special purpose, to relieve the special calamity of agricultural depression, which extended to Ireland as well as to England. The burden of local taxation was heavy in Ireland as in England; and whereas in England there were a large number of other classes of ratepayers who might make a claim, those other classes did not exist to any extent in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman pressed the distinction between owner and occupier; he hoped he would do that later on. The land was really the interest which was being benefited, and they ought to apply the same arguments to Ireland. Personally he had no special love for Irish landlords, but he saw no reason why the Irish landlord, whose rents had been heavily reduced, should not have the same benefits as the English landlord if he was to get it out of common funds. Parliament ought only to grant public money for public necessities, and if public necessity required that a grant should be made in relief of agriculture, it ought to be applied fairly all round. He wanted to see Ireland included within the scope of Unionist legislation. [Irish cheers.] They were not going to distinguish between necessitous and non-necessitous districts in England. Lancashire and Essex would alike share in the grant, although the average rent of Lancashire was 40s. an acre, and that of Essex only 10s. Why, then, should they draw a distinction between England and Ireland?
§ COLONEL WARING (Down, N.)
said, that even in a prosperous county in the north they thought themselves lucky if they got off the county cess at less than 2s. in the pound; so that, adding the Poor Rate cess, it appeared they paid one-third more than the English county rates came to. In some unfortunate Unions the burden was greater. He should feel a difficulty in voting for the Bill unless Government gave them in Ireland something approaching a fair share.
§ MR. J. C. FLYNN
desired to point out, in answer to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the Presentment Sessions were little more representative of the people than the Grand Jury itself, 1284 and their proceedings were only regarded as a farce. The Chancellor of the Exchequer should give the Bill another name—''A Bill for the Relief of Local Taxation." If the Bill were really intended to relieve the distress in agriculture, then it ought to be extended to Ireland, where the distress was just as great as in England. It was absurd to draw any distinction between pastoral and arable land in this matter. The urgency for the Bill in Ireland was as great as in England, and by all the principles of justice and fair play the relief ought to be extended to Ireland. In England the law of supply and demand automatically regulated rents, and it was asserted that the law regulated rents in Ireland. But the official figures proved that the average reductions in Ireland had been little over 20 per cent. There was no necessity for mixing up the Poor Law system and the county cess as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done. It would be perfectly easy to apply this Bill to Ireland under the county cess, which, with a few trifling exceptions, was paid by the occupiers. The relief would go almost immediately to them. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Down had pointed out that in one of the most prosperous of the Irish counties the average cess was over 2s., and it was likely to be considerably more than that in the less prosperous counties. If the English occupier was entitled to have half the burden of the rates borne by the State, on what principle of justice could the same relief be denied to the Irish occupier? The acreage of ratable land in England was, according to the official figures, 32,745,000 acres; in Ireland, according to the most authentic source available, it was 15,178,000 acres, or nearly one-half of the English acreage. The total assessment of land in England and Wales was £26,250,000, and that of land in Ireland was, according to an answer given by the Chief Secretary, £8,937,000, or about one-third of the English assessment. The exclusion of Ireland from this relief was one more lesson to the Irish people of the false and hollow character of the Unionist policy, which was only invoked for the benefit of Great Britain and the detriment of Ireland.
§ * MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
hoped that the operation of the Bill would he extended to Ireland, though he did not do so from any love of the principle of the Bill itself. He did not support the application of the Bill to Ireland because he thought its principle was a good one; on the contrary, he thought the burden of local rates should fall on the land, and that anything which interfered with that principle was itself objectionable. But as long as a proposal like the present was made, he was utterly at a loss to understand how any distinction could be drawn in respect to its application between England and Ireland. If it was right and just that agricultural land in Great Britain should be relieved from local charges, there was all the more reason why agricultural land in Ireland should be so relieved. A most remarkable speech had been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because the right hon. Gentleman, himself a Unionist, was not merely content with defending, so far as the Bill was concerned, the principle of separate treatment of Ireland, but he went on to give a series of examples establishing in his mind not merely that separate treatment of the two countries in financial matters was absolutely necessary in that particular case, but that it was the natural and normal state of things for all financial purposes. The other day, when the hon. Member for Islington (Mr Lough) suggested a recognition of that state of things, the right hon. Gentleman declared that any such suggestion was diametrically opposed to the very principle of Unionism. It appeared to him that if they held that separate financial treatment must necessarily be extended to Ireland on every occasion when they made an allocation of the Imperial taxation, it necessarily followed that they should have a separate Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a separate Budget for Ireland. On what principle could a single Budget for the two countries be defended if they once established the principle that separate treatment for Ireland was necessary? When it was a question of imposing burdens and obligations, the Unionist principle was that Ireland was an integral part of the United Kingdom to be treated exactly like England and Scotland, but the 1286 moment there was any question of any benefit being derived by Ireland in consequence of the union of the two countries, then the amount of Ireland's contribution to Imperial taxation was computed to the very farthing, and the share to be given to her calculated with the utmost nicety accordingly. The right hon. Gentleman actually thought it an argument against the Instruction to say that it was moved simply because Ireland would get more money under the plan it proposed than, under the Government proposals. Why, of course. The most important function of the Irish Members in that House was to watch and check the deliberate system by which the British Treasury Department over-reached their country on every possible occasion. Indeed, the principle on which the Treasury officials seemed to act, whenever any new financial proposal was made was to put their heads together and say: ''Come, let us see how we can rob Ireland." Now, he understood the object of this Bill was to relieve agricultural distress by reducing the rates on agricultural land. If that be the object of the Measure, he took it that the relief ought to be the greatest where the distress was the most severe. As he read the Bill, it was practically one which attempted to redress the injury which Free Trade had done the English agriculturist. It was an attempt to make the urban localities which had benefited by Free Trade pay for the injury Free Trade had undoubtedly done to others. Free Trade had affected Ireland more prejudicially than any other part of the United Kingdom. In fact, the injury it had done Irish agriculturists was tenfold greater than that it had done English agriculturists. Any proposal, therefore, made in Parliament to benefit agriculturists ought a fortiori to apply to Ireland. What were the arguments to be used against it? It was not suggested that agriculture was not an important industry in Ireland, and it could not be pretended that agriculture in Ireland was not depressed. Anyone acquainted with the circumstances of Ireland knew that there was very acute and keen depression. In many districts tenant right was absolutely unsaleable. He quite admitted that in other districts of the country that was not so. There were places where they would get 1287 large sums for tenant-right, but taking Ireland as a whole prices for tenant-right instead of being higher were lower than before the Act of 1881. That was the direct result of the fall in prices and, the Irish tenant of the present day, holding as he did under the system of land courts, and with the right of having his rent reduced and paying only a judicial rent was far worse off in point of the actual money he was able to earn than the tenant who held under the conditions prevailing between 1870 and 1880. Upon every ground it was plain that a gross injustice was being committed to Ireland by failing to apply the Bill to that country. A distinction had been sought to be drawn between the two countries as regarded the operation of the Bill because it was said that Ireland was so largely a pastoral country. The hon. Member for Londonderry had dealt with that argument by showing that in Ulster particularly there was quite as large an area of tillage as there was even in the most distinctively tillage district of England. That was a state; of things which, though existing most largely in Ulster, prevailed also in other districts throughout Ireland. It was quite a fallacy to say that depression in agricultural values only existed in the case of tillage, and it was also a fallacy to say that even the pastoral districts of Ireland were not affected by the fall in the prices of corn and other products of the tillage farms. The great bulk of Ireland was neither exclusively tillage nor pastoral, but a mixed class of farming was carried on, therefore outside the purely tillage districts the fall in prices of corn and other tillage products had hit the Irish quite as much as the English farmer. There was no single; ground upon which the restriction, of this Bill to England could be defended except the one so frankly avowed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, namely, that this particular dodge had been hit upon by the Treasury for securing that Ireland should get the least money out of the proposals of the Government. They often heard complaints about Dublin Castle, but the real Enemy of Ireland was not Dublin Castle, it was the English Treasury. The English Treasury was an elaborate machinery for robbing Ireland. It had done Ireland incalculably more harm than Dublin 1288 Castle ever did, and the attack of the Irish Members, in his judgment, should be more directed at that institution than it had been. If distress was to be subsidised by Imperial Parliament the subsidy ought to be greatest where the distress was most, and if agriculture was to get relief, the relief ought to go where agriculture was most important. But the Treasury gentlemen, seeing that the result of the application of a fair and equitable doctrine would be to give Ireland the largest share, cast about in their minds for a method of finding out some scheme which would cut down the amount which would otherwise be allocated to Ireland. He should like to see an Irish Chief Secretary who would deem it his duty as an Irish official to see that Ireland got justice from the English Treasury, and then such a Bill as this would be impossible. Unfortunately, part of the system of the English rule was that they should have an Englishman put into the position of Irish Secretary, and it almost necessarily followed that he took little interest in matters of this kind, important as they were, regarding them as not belonging to his Department. The Bill inflicted a great injustice on Ireland. He did not think it a Bill sound in principle, but any unsoundness in it was rendered ten times worse by the fact that it provided that any benefits given under it should be given to the larger and richer island. He was glad to hear the hon. Member for Down get up in his place and, as he understood him, support this proposition by his voice, and he hoped he would give effect to his opinion by voting for the Motion. He hoped that the Irish Members from all quarters, and the English Members who desired to do justice to Ireland, would unite in supporting this Instruction.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
appealed to the House to come to a decision upon the Instruction. By the ruling from the Chair the Debate was necessarily narrowed down to such a point that it was impossible and improper to discuss the general financial relations between England and Ireland, nor did he think under any circumstances that this was a convenient or suitable opportunity for embarking in this larger controversy, more especially as a Commission was sitting at this 1289 moment whose Report might contain suggestions leading to some final conclusion upon that perplexed question. He would only repeat what had been said before—namely, that this Bill was one which, from the nature of its framework and provisions, was incapable of being conveniently extended to Ireland, however much it was in the abstract desirable to do so. But it was not desirable to extend the Bill to Ireland, because the methods by which the object of the Measure was carried out were not applicable to the conditions of Irish agriculture. It was quite true that the Bill was intended to relieve agriculture. It was also true that Irish agriculture, though it had undoubtedly suffered was not, on the whole, in so evil a plight at the present time, as English agriculture. [Irish cries of dissent, and an HON. MEMBER: "That is not the opinion of the Irish people!"] That was the conclusion he had arrived at from studying the facts. However that might be, the particular method the Government had selected in this Bill for relieving English agriculture arose out of an inequality and injustice in the incidence of local taxation which did not exist in Ireland, and, therefore, if Irish agriculture was to be relieved, it must be on a different principle. This principle was applicable to England and to England alone, because it dealt with a condition in local taxation which was peculiar to England. Under these circumstances it seemed to the Government perfectly clear that the proper principle of allocation between the three countries was the one already defended by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. ["Hear, hear!"] That was the case of the Government in a nutshell. They were precluded by the decision of the Speaker from going into the general question, and he hoped the House would now permit them to get to work on the clauses of the Bill, and would consider the time had come when they might take a decisive vote one way or the other on the Instruction now before them. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
could not admit that the description of the Bill given by the First Lord of the Treasury was correct. The right hon. Gentleman said it was a Bill which was intended to redress a grievance and an injustice in reference to local taxation 1290 which did not exist in Ireland. He would prove that that was an absolutely incorrect and uncandid description of the Measure. If it were a Bill having for its object the relief of an injustice in reference to local taxation, it would apply to local taxation generally all over the country. The injustice in respect of local taxation was not confined to agricultural land, and if that were the real object of the Bill it would be a Bill applying to the local taxation of urban as well as of agricultural districts. They knew quite well that the Government had introduced this Bill for the purpose of relieving agricultural distress in England.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
As the hon. Member suggests that I gave an uncandid description of the Bill, let me recall to his memory that during the Debate on the Second Reading we repeated over and over again that agricultural land suffered special injustice on account of the manner in which it was rated.
§ MR. DILLON
said, that the object of the Bill was not to redress the unjust incidence of local taxation generally, but to supply something in the nature of a remedy for agricultural distress. The position of the Government was that agricultural distress in England was much worse than in Ireland, but what ground had they for maintaining that? The distress was due to the fall in prices, and did the Irish farmers obtain better prices for their produce than English farmers? Grants in England had been reduced to a greater extent than they had been reduced in Ireland, and, instead of the condition of the Irish farmer being a condition of less distress and embarrassment, he was really much worse off than the English farmer. In many places the Irish farmers were very far from their markets and had to send part of their produce across the Channel, paying very high rates for freight. If Ireland were included in the scope of this Bill, she would get at least one third of the sum that England was to get instead of only one-eighth or one-ninth, which was all that it was proposed to give her.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member will not be in order in discussing that point at length. It is not germane to this Instruction, although it would be 1291 germane to the Bill relating to Ireland when it is brought in. The only proposal that can be dealt with now is that this Bill shall be extended to Ireland.
§ MR. DILLON
explained that the object of the Instruction was to secure that Ireland should get a just proportion of the grants, and he claimed that a just proportion would be a proportion in strict relation to the ratable value of the agricultural land of Ireland as compared with the ratable value of the agricultural land of England. If the Government were, going to introduce a system of differentiation based on the relative degrees of prosperity and depression in different parts of the United Kingdom, why did they not extend the same system to different parts of England itself? That would be logical, and then the relief would go to counties like Essex, where the agricultural depression had been most marked, and not to comparatively prosperous counties like Devon and Cornwall. He did not understand how hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were always inveighing against what they called separatism, could countenance this differentiation between the interests of the two countries. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had striven to prove that the local rates on land in Ireland were less oppressive than the English rates, and referring to the county cess he had selected Meath as a specimen county, saying that there the cess was only 11d. It was, however, uncandid to put forward Meath as a representative county in this matter. In fact, it stood alone, and the case of other counties was very different. In Carlow, the cess was 1s. 11d.; in Clare, 2s. 11d.; in Donegal, 2s. 10d.; in Galway, 1s. 11d.; in Kerry, 5s.; in Kilkenny, 1s. 7d.; in Leitrim, 3s.; in Mayo, 2s. 1d.; in Sligo, 2s., and in Tipperary, 1s. 10d. Striking an average, it would be found that 1s. 10d. or 2s. was the amount of the county rate, and not 11d. Then, the poor rate in Ireland averaged at least 2s., and, adding that to the county cess, they arrived at a local rate of 4s. in the pound. It was evident, therefore, that if the amount of the rates on agricultural land in England was only 2s. 4d., the local burdens in Ireland were far higher. If this Bill were extended to Ireland, that country ought to receive nearly one-half as much relief as it was 1292 proposed to give to England. The Chancellor of the Exchequer used one very strange argument in support of the grossly unfair proposal of the Government. He had said that this grant was to be given to England for the purpose of removing unjust inequalities in connection with local taxation, the injustice being due to the evidence that there was in England an immense accumulation of personal wealth which did not contribute to this taxation. In Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman said, the same conditions as to wealth did not prevail. Therefore, because England was a rich country and Ireland a poor one, England, according to the right hon. Gentleman was to receive an enormously larger share of relief than Ireland. That assuredly was a very strange position to take up. This Bill was one more example of the ruin brought upon Ireland by Unionist Governments. When they were pressed on the question of local self-government for Ireland they were profuse in their declarations that Ireland should be treated not only justly but generously, if she would be content to put up with the Union, but when the Government was no longer hard pressed they forgot all their promises and would not even give Ireland justice. He had only this to say, in conclusion, that the language used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and by the Leader of the House would cause great alarm amongst Irishmen as to the future work of the Land Commissions in Ireland, seeing that the Chancellor of the Exchequer broadly hinted that there was no ground for a reduction of rents in Ireland.
§ MR. JAMES DALY (Monaghan, S.)
said, he was very anxious that this Bill should extend to Ireland, because he could not see why the English farmers should alone get this benefit. The hon. Gentleman the Member for South Tyrone had said that the Government had thought it their duty to give England the preference in this matter, because England returned the vast majority they had in the House at the present time. Because Ministers were under an obligation to the English constituencies they were to get relief. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told the Irish Members to wait until the English Bill had passed, and then they would hear what was to be done for Ireland. That had 1293 been the method of the Government with regard to Irish matters throughout the whole separation, but he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House would see his way to place before the House without any further delay the proposals of the Government with regard to Ireland.
§ MR. LOGAN (Leicester, Harborough) rose to continue the Debate, whereupon
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
claimed to move, ''That the Question be now put," but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ MR. LOGAN
said, he would be glad of this opportunity of justifying his position. He was sorry that he could not see his way to support his hon. Friends. He looked upon this Bill as radically bad in principle, and it did not seem to him that to confer its benefits on another country would make it any the juster.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member is going to argue that the Bill should not be extended to Ireland because it is a bad Bill, that would not be open to him. He cannot discuss the merits of the Bill.
§ MR. LOGAN
said, he merely gave that as a justification for not supporting his hon. Friends in the Division Lobby. Whatever the extent of agricultural depression in England might be, as far as he could judge, it was not any worse in Ireland; indeed, there were indications to show that it was not so serious as in England. It appeared from the Statistical Abstracts that the amount on which Irish landlords paid Income Tax in 1894 was £9,895,000 as against £9,980,000 in 1881, so that from 1881 to 1894 the reductions made by Irish landlords amounted to about 1per cent. During the same period English landlords had reduced their rents by about 1294 20 per cent. In the light of these figures there was no reason why it should be taken that the agricultural depression was as bad in Ireland as it was in England. It had been argued that the ratepayers in the towns were prepared to make sacrifices for the benefit of the agriculturists, so that they might come into the towns and purchase more goods. That was the most extraordinary argument he had ever heard. The hon. Gentleman who advanced it did not make any attempt to show how the extension of this Bill to Ireland would benefit the tenant-farmers of Ire land, and it was admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board that the result of any relief of the rates must eventually go into the pockets of the landlords.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 108; Noes, 278.—(Division List, No. 141.)
§ Bill considered in Committee:—
§ [Mr. J. W. LOWTHER in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1,—