HC Deb 21 January 1897 vol 45 cc201-57

Another Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words:— And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that the great fall in the value of agricultural produce, combined with the disastrous character of the last season, has rendered it impossible for fanners in Ireland to pay their present rents without depriving themselves of the capital essential to the cultivation of their farms; that the Land Act of last year has failed to provide any effective remedy for this condition of things, nine-tenths of the Irish tenantry being debarred from obtaining any present relief under its provisions; that by the operation of the seventh section of the Act of 1887 and other exclusions large bodies of tenant farmers are debarred from all benefit under the Land Acts; and that a state of extreme distress prevails in several districts in Ireland. And humbly to represent to Your Majesty that the condition of the agricultural population in Ireland demands the immediate attention of the Government with a view to comprehensive measures of relief."—(Mr. Dillon.)

MR. JAMES DALY (Monaghan, S.)

continued his speech in seconding Mr. Dillon's Amendment. He said he found ample evidence in his own constituency in support of the case put forward by his hon. Friend. Upon an estate of 50,000 acres with 2,000 tenants only fifty of the latter had been able to avail themselves of the Land Courts to get second judicial rents fixed. Although the Bill of last year was projected to bring relief to the tenant farmers of Ireland, he could say without fear of contradiction from the Chief Secretary or anyone else that that Act was a dead letter so far as giving present relief to the tenant farmers of Ireland was concerned. It was not a Bill for the future that was required but relief at the present time, considering that farmers had passed through two of the worst years since 1847. In the memory of the oldest inhabitants prices had never been so low in Ireland. He hoped that Ireland would not again be taught the lesson that her claims received no attention from the British Parliament unless they were supported by agitation. In 1888, when prices were not half so low as now, revisions of rent, were granted. If ever there was a time for the generous interposition of the Government it was now. The matter was pressing in nearly every district. It was no Party question. It affected Unionist Members for Antrim and Fermanagh equally with Nationalist Members for Cork. In North Fermanagh in October, when, as any practical farmer knew, oats and hay should be in the hay yard, he saw hay with two feet of water over it, and the oat crop scattered over the ground. It was as essential for the Unionist Members for North Ireland as it was for the Nationalist Members for any southern county. It was no Party question; it vas a matter affecting the immediate relief of the poor unfortunate farmers of Ireland. To meet the great distress there were landlords who had given reductions of 40 per cent. on their rents, but there were other farmers who would not yield a cent, and were harassing the poor people with writs and processes. There was a large surplus in the Exchequer, and the time was opportune for the Government to be generous towards Ireland in her distress.


said he wished to call the attention of the Government to the last clause of the Amendment. He did not think that this question of the housing of the agricultural classes in Ireland had been hitherto brought specifically before the House. It was a question which affected 54 per cent. of the adult population of Ireland, and 22 per cent. of the whole population. In a recent Blue Book it was said by a gentleman of the highest experience:— It will probably. I think, be accepted as a fairly well-established position that in few, if any, of the countries with the affairs of which we are conversant, has the condition of the class of agricultural labourers, in regard to house accommodation, ever been known to sink to a lower level of general wretchedness than that very largely reached in Ireland in this respect, in even comparatively modern times. This gentleman, Mr. O'Brien, an Assistant Commissioner, cited amongst other authorities the relieving officer of the Union of Naas, who said:— The houses in Kilmeague, north and south, and Rathernan electoral divisions, are the worst I ever saw. Often I had to creep on hands and knees into them to give outdoor relief when their wives would be sick; they are built of bog sod and thatched; in some cases sodded on top instead of thatched. Typical illustrations of these houses were given. One had one apartment measuring 10ft. by 8ft., with three adults and one child as inmates. Another had one room, 12ft. by 10ft., in which resided father, mother, and six children. A third had two rooms, 10ft. by 8ft., in which a father, mother, and five children lived. Another Assistant Commissioner, reporting in Ballymahon, gave it as his opinion that the house accommodation in that district was in many cases "simply vile," and referred to a cabin 11ft. by 9ft., with no chimney, furniture, or window, in which a man and his wife, and a woman and five children as lodgers lived. Another Assistant Commissioner, dealing with Westport, described the way in which the live stock lived in the same room with the family, and he went on to say that— ill-constructed, badly repaired, and comfortless as were many of the cottages in the West-port Union, they cannot be compared in wretchedness to some of the miserable hovels inhabited by labourers in the comparatively small country towns of Castlereagh and Skibbereen. Another Commissioner, comparing labourers' cottages in Ireland with those in England, said:— Monmouth was by far the worst of the English Unions visited, and in describing what I had seen there I felt it my duty to draw attention to the lamentable condition of the cottages, and the absolutely joyless condition of the agricultural labourers. Were it possible to translate the Loughrea labourers into the Monmouth cottages, bad as they are, they ought to be happy. So much then for the intensity of the evil. It was often said that the grievance of bad housing existed only in the congested districts, but there was ample proof that a disgraceful condition of things existed over the length and breadth of the land. In the Census returns, houses in Ireland were divided into four classes, the fourth class including all those which had one room and one window, and were built of mud or other perishable material. It was a terrible fact that 2.4 per cent. of all the houses in Ireland were to be found in that class. Some general improvement had no doubt been made, but it should be remembered that with the decrease of bad houses there had been a decrease in population, especially in the agricultural population. Further, the standard applied in classifying houses was relative, for a cottage had been described as fairly good for the habitation of a family containing only two rooms, the dimensions of which were only 14ft. by 14ft. It was true that the same laws applying to this matter existed in Ireland as existed in England, but the Local Authorities were either indifferent or incompetent, or there were other obstacles in the way of the law being carried out. The Agricultural Labourers' Acts had given power to the Local Authorities to rebuild cottages, but 99 per cent. of the cottages so rebuilt were in Leinster and Munster, and only 1 per cent. in the provinces of Ulster and Connaught. What was the reason for this small proportion in Ulster? It was contained in the words of an Ulster witness: "The farmers do not want to create a new order of labourers who would have the command of the situation." That was a fact which he thought required explanation, and it seemed that some further reform was necessary for the province of Ulster. In Connaught a reason was to be found in the local poverty. Delays were occasioned no doubt by the difficulty of borrowing money on favourable financial conditions, but not the least of the causes of delay had been shown to exist in connection with the Central Government in Dublin. Sometimes two years had been allowed to elapse from the inception of a scheme to the acquisition of sites. Complaints had also been made of favouritism in the selection of sites, of contractors, and of the labourers who occupied the cottages. He wished to ask the Government whether any improvement could be made, whether it would not be possible for some officer of the Local Government Board to make inquiries with a view to some general grant being made, or better terms for loans given, to enable the poorer Unions to build cottages, or for some such scheme as that proposed by the Recess Committee to be carried out. He was aware it was unusual for an hon. Member sitting on the Government side of the House to speak on the Address: but the hon. and learned Member who seconded it said that he felt certain that any member of the Unionist Party who was acquainted with evils under which Ireland laboured, would not only be willing to bring them before the House, but to advocate a remedy, and it was in that sense that he had brought these facts before the House. He thought a great responsibility rested on the Unionist Party in this respect. If there was one reform which the Party had attached more importance to than another, it was the improvement of the condition of the working classes, and it was one of their proudest boasts that they had done much to improve the housing of the working classes. He appealed to the Government to turn their attention to some practical method which would remove what he thought was a disgrace to this country and to civilisation; and he, believed no better memorial to the 60th year of Her Majesty's reign could be raised than one that would bring some measure of comfort, some measure of the benefits the nineteenth century had conferred on England and Scotland, to the country which had been too long the Cinderella of the United Kingdom.

MR. RICHARD M. DANE (Fermanagh, N.)

regarded it as a good omen for Ireland that Members from England and Scotland might be found to inquire into matters which affected the prosperity of Ireland. The fact went far to prove what the Unionist Party had declared on every platform, that this Imperial Parliament was willing to do every justice to Ireland, and to remedy every grievance. He hoped the hon. Member for East Mayo would be satisfied with the manner in which the question had been dealt with, and would not press it to a division. Undoubtedly, agriculture in Ireland in the last season had been greatly depressed, but it was only fair to the Government, which under such great difficulties passed the land legislation of last Session, to wait to hear what their proposals were regarding agricultural assistance towards Ireland referred to in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech. If the Government proceeded upon the lines recommended by the Recess Committee, of which he was a mendier, they might calculate upon the co-operation of the Irish people of all classes and creeds, but if they proposed merely to set up another Dublin Castle Board their efforts would be doomed to failure. With reference to the question of the better housing of labourers in Ireland, raised by the hon. Member for Derby, that country was at present groaning under the weight of taxation—especially local taxation—and this circumstance made Boards of Guardians most cautious as regards the passing of schemes for labourers' cottages, local taxation having already reached a point very little short of four millions—to be accurate, £3,842,000 per annum.


thanked the hon. Member for Derby for his kindly references to the position of Irish agricultural labourers. The reason why so many cottages had been built in Leinster and Munster was that there the majority of the Boards of Guardians were Nationalists, and the reason why so few had been built in Ulster and Connaught was that in the former the majority of the Guardians belonged to the political faith of the hon. Member for Derby, and that in the latter, agricultural labourers were not at all so numerous as in any of the other provinces; and the Boards of Guardians of that province who were mainly Nationalist were not to be condemned for the non-working of the Labourers' Acts. It had been pointed out that one of the great difficulties in the working of these Acts was the enormous legal expenses. His hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork had more than once introduced a Bill which would largely get rid of those enormous expenses, and he hoped that when the Bill was again introduced the hon. Member for Derby would, with his Unionist friends, support it by his vote in the Lobby. The Attorney General for Ireland had stated that the Local Government Board, through their inspectors and the district inspectors of constabulary, were looking after the distress in the West. He would suggest, however, that those responsible for the Government of Ireland should seek information from those who were more intimately in touch with the people than the officials referred to could possibly be. Notwithstanding the rather rosy description that the right hon. Gentleman gave of the condition of the people in Connaught, he could assure him that the potato crop in several of the congested districts in Connaught had been more seriously affected this year than in any other part of Ireland. It was a notorious fact, too, that these people, poor and miserable as they were, were nevertheless very slow to expose their poverty, and above all to resort to public relief. Notwithstanding the statement made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, he was not certain that the Government would not find themselves compelled, by the necessities of the situation, to legislate again this Session in regard to Irish land. The general condition in Ireland at present was worse than it had ever been before—worse than in 1879, though that was an extremely bad year. There was, it was true, no immediate danger of famine now, but ever since 1879 the prices of agricultural produce had been falling, and no one could say that they had yet touched bottom. The fall had been so great since 1879 that not only had the farmer lost the whole of the rent but 50 per cent. of the capital of which he was then possessed. The Government proposed to do nothing, because Ireland was peaceful. If the farmers were organised now as they were in 1879 the answer of the Attorney General for Ireland would have been very different. It was evident that if the tenant farmers were to be saved they must save themselves. Parliament had always neglected every class and interest in Ireland until it had made itself felt in an inconvenient way, and he hoped the hon. Member for East Mayo would go to a Division, as full-dress Debates alone would never extract anything from this Government or any other. The hon. Member for North Fermanagh, in proof of the assertion that this Parliament was willing and able to legislate for all classes in Ireland, referred to the proposed measure for setting up a Board of Agriculture in Ireland. But would a Board of Agriculture pay an excessive and unjust rent for the Irish farmer? That was the whole question. In 1896 the farmers of Ireland, not for the first time, were unable to pay the rent out of the produce of the land. That was proved by the statements made at public meetings in the North of Ireland, and even in the constituency of the Attorney General for Ireland. The rent was paid out of capital; and how long was such a state of things to continue? The shopkeepers were owed enormous sums by the farmers; and was it to be supposed that they would let their debts go, so that the landlords could take all the money that was left to the farmers? If the shopkeepers were to proceed as a body at the next Quarter Sessions in any county of Ireland, a general state of bankruptcy among the farmers would be brought about. Could the Attorney General for Ireland, or the hon. Member for North Fermanagh, or the hon. Member for South Tyrone, contradict that assertion in respect of their own constituencies? During the recess the hon. Member for South Tyrone had said that the time had arrived when the soil of Ireland could no longer support the three classes which now subsisted on it, and that one of those classes must go. If that were so, the class which ought to go should not be the fanners or the labourers, but the landlords, who were fewest in number and did least to aid the prosperity of the country. Undoubtedly the condition of some of the landlords was hard. They had inherited estates deeply mortgaged, and the landlords of the present day were suffering for the sins of their predecessors more than for their own. But was it reasonable to expect that the farmers and the landlords should take that suffering upon themselves? He should refuse to be a party to any transaction which would relieve the landlords at the expense of either the farmers or the labourers. The landlords had always acted in Ireland as the English garrison of the country, and if they were to be relieved he thought their relief should come out of the taxes of England. He could tell the House that the large grazing farmers in his constituency—men who farmed several hundreds of acres—were never in so bad a financial condition as they now were. The lands of most of these farmers were not sufficiently rich to be able to fatten the cattle into the required condition for the butcher. What the farmers did was to buy store cattle in the months of April and May, feed them during the summer and autumn, and then export them to be finished for the butcher on some of the large feeding farms in the counties of Forfarshire in Scotland and Norfolk in England. In connection with that matter he should express his gratitude to the Government for having last year prevented the farmers of Forfarshire and Norfolk from providing themselves with store cattle from Canada at the expense of his constituents in North Galway. The average profit derived from the cattle thus fattened was from 10s. to 25s. per head. Anyone acquainted with the condition of Irish agriculture knew that when large graziers had to be content with such a small profit out of cattle after six or eight months feeding it was a very serious matter for them indeed. Another matter was that the banks, which had for the last ten years given accommodation to the graziers in the large grazing districts of Leinster, Munster, and Connaught, now refused to give the same amount of accommodation as in years past, and if they gave accommodation at all, they charged a much higher rate of interest, because they had become convinced that the same security offered by the farmers for the same money advanced was not now so good as it had been ten years ago. A higher percentage of interest charged to the grazier by the bank for the money needed to stock his farm, and a shrinkage in the profit from the sale of the cattle, would soon bring these large farmers to a state of ruin. From his knowledge of the different classes of farmers in three of the provinces of Ireland he declared that they were more depressed and closer to the brink of ruin than ever they had been since the year 1878. In view of these facts he asked the Government to seriously take into their consideration the present condition of the agricultural classes of Ireland, and to do something while there was yet time to prevent a general catastrophe in which every class that had any connection with farming in Ireland would be involved.

MR. PATRICK M'HUGH (Leitrim, N.)

said that the Irish Members in supporting the Amendment represented not only the Nationalists but also the Unionists of Ireland. It was now admitted on all sides in Ireland that the present judicial rents fixed from 1882 up to 1887 had, owing to the fall in the prices of agricultural produce, become rack rents. That fact had been admitted by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, a member of the Government, and, in his judgment, the only member of the Government who knew anything about the condition of the tenant farmers of Ireland. The Irish Law Officers of the Crown on the Treasury Bench opposite knew nothing about the condition of the agricultural classes in Ireland. Neither did the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, and he (Mr. M'Hugh) saw little use in bringing forward arguments in that House if they were to be treated with the contempt and flippancy with which the right hon. Gentleman had treated the Report of the Financial Relations Commission recently at Manchester. He had said that the Irish Members represented in this matter the Unionists. Quite recently he attended a Nationalist and Unionist meeting in his own constituency, called for the purpose of considering the agrarian question. That meeting was presided over by the ex-High Sheriff of the County of Leitrim, a gentleman who had opposed him at the General Election of 1892. A resolution was unanimously carried, calling upon the landlords of the district to give reductions in the rents now falling due proportionate to the fall which had taken place in the prices of agricultural produce; declaring that the Land Act of last year was of no practical value to that district, as it gave no immediate relief to the general body of the tenantry; calling for the introduction of a Measure this year amending the Land Acts in respect to judicial terms, arrears, pre-emption, and improvements made by tenants; and expressing the conviction that the Irish Land Question could not be satisfactorily settled until the sale of lands in the hands of the landlords was enforced by law. He told his constituents at that meeting that the Government would do nothing of the kind. They did not expect justice from the Government. They could only bring these matters before the House, and if the Government insisted upon doing nothing, and driving the people to exasperation, it was upon the heads of the Government that the guilt would rest. It was said in 1866 by the late Mr. John Bright, in Dublin, that nothing had ever been got from the House of Commons except by terror, and it was stated by the present Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Russell, at the Parnell Commission, that all legislation came for Ireland when it was too late. He feared that the legislation demanded by the resolution of his constituents would not be given until it was too late, and that it was the intention of the present Ministry to retard that legislation until the people were driven to exasperation, or, perhaps, to crime. He did not think that sufficient attention had been given to the remarkable speech delivered by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board at Caledon on the 29th of October last. He should like to know whether the hon. Member for South Tyrone was going to take any part in the discussion that evening, or whether he had one voice for his constituents and another voice for the place he now occupied on the Treasury Bench. In that speech he said that there was not an article of produce sold by an Irish farmer which had not fallen in price, and while the price of produce had been falling the cost of production had gradually gone up. If the price of agricultural produce had been falling, the natural consequence should be that rents also should fall. The hon. Gentleman agreed that there was an extraordinary fall in the prices of wheat, potatoes, barley, flax, and other commodities, and said that the only produce of the farm which kept up its price was cattle. He should like to ask the hon. Gentleman why he made a statement of that kind without studying the facts. He had consulted a recognised authority, Thorn's Almanac, which showed the prices of cattle at the great fair of Ballinasloe for the years 1882 and 1896. He found that in 1882 the number of cattle sold at that fair was 15,681; in 1896 it was only 11,506. In the class of oxen No. 1, in 1882 the price was £23; in 1896 it was £16; in Class 2 in 1882, £20; in 1896, £13 10s.; in Class 3 in 1882, £16; in 1896, £10 17s.6d.; in Class 4. in 1882 £13 10s.; in 1896, £9 10s. In heifers, Class 1, the price in 1882 was £23 10s.; in 1896, £15; in Class 2 in 1882, £20; in 1896, £12 12s. 6d.; in Class 3 in 1882, £17; in 1896, £10 12s. 6d.; in Class 4 in 1882, £15; and in 1896, £8 12s. 6d. The total prices of this class of cattle-was in 1882 £148, and in 1896 £96 15s., showng a reduction of 34½ per cent. It was therefore necessary, in order to do justice to the tenant-farmers of Ireland, that they should have the opportunity of going at once into the Courts for the purpose of having the judicial rents revised, in view of this fall in prices. The hon. Member (Mr. Russell) referred to the Committee which was appointed under the late Government, and said that one of the main recommendations in its report, and one which he supported, was a reduction in the length of the judicial term. He said to his constituents that what was of vital importance was that the term now running should terminate at the end of ten years, the object being to bring immediate relief to those who had their rents fixed for 15 years. He should like to know whether the hon. Member for South Tyrone still adhered to that opinion, and whether he would give the Government the benefit of his advice on the matter. He thought that if the hon. Member failed to come forward and state to the House the opinions to which he gave expression before his constituents, his constituents should call upon him to resign, because be would no longer represent them. They could not forget that the hon. Member for South Tyrone, although he represented an agricultural constituency, was also a placeman of the present Government, and had thought it necessary to tell his constituents not to be annoyed at the refusal of the Government to grant a reduction on the judicial term, because the difficulty of the judicial term would pass away in a year or two. Yes, but in a year or two thousands and thousands of the people of Ireland would also have passed away. [Irish cheers.] In his own county the population in 1841 was 155,297; at the last census it was 78,618; and the estimated population in 1895 was 72,000. The fire had gone out on no less than 10,417 hearthstones in the county of Leitrim, and it was the refusal of the English Government to deal with the pressing necessities of the situation in Ireland which rendered it impossible for prosperity to exist in that country. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Russell) delivered a speech in that House on the 21st March, 1888, in the course of which he said that by not dealing with the arrears of rent the tenants were absolutely deprived of the very legislation passed for their benefit, they were never allowed to go into Court, they were threatened and bullied by the agent before they went in, and these arrears were held over their heads in order to prevent them from going into Court to get a fair rent. Did the hon. Member, now that be was a placeman, still adhere to that statement? Or did he support the Government in its refusal to deal with the question of arrears? By the Crofters' Act the Crofters' Commission were empowered to deal with the question of arrears in the Highlands of Scotland, and he found from their report for 1894 that in the county of Argyll, where the total amount of arrears of tenant crofters was £235 18s. 1d., the Commissioners cancelled £146 18s. 2d., or 62.27 per cent. In Inverness the percentage of arrears cancelled was 62.75. Why should not the Government give to the Land Commission in Ireland power to deal with arrears similar to the power conferred upon the Crofters' Commission in the Highaldn's of Scotland? They must remember that all these arrears were, as a matter of fact, the residue of rack rents, and many men, who were now unable to get judicial rents fixed, were, by right and justice, the sole owners of the lands they occupied, because they had bought them out over and over again. The Land Act of last Session was entirely defective. It gave compensation for improvements made since 1850. But thousands, and perhaps millions, of capital were sunk by farm tenants prior to 1850 in improvements on farms which now their children occupied. Unless it could be clearly proved that the improvements were made at the expense of the landlord, it should be assumed that they were made by the tenant whether before or after 1850. In speaking of the right of the tenant to the value of his improvements, the late Mr. John Bright, speaking in this House in 1881, said— If all the tenants have done were swept off the soil, and all the landlords have done were left upon it, the land would be as bare of houses and barns, fences and general cultivation as it was in prehistoric times. It would be as bare as the American prairie where the Indian now roams and where the white man has never trod. That was the position of affairs in Ireland, and he was certain that the hon. Member for South Tyrone (who really knew something about this question of agriculture in Ireland) would thoroughly agree that the improvements before 1850 should be considered, until the contrary was proved, to be the work of the tenant in occupation. The Act of 1896, regarded as a settlement of the Irish Land Question, was a fraud and a sham. It afforded no relief to the vast majority of the judicial tenants. It was simply a makeshift, and unless the Government had no regard for social order in Ireland or the sufferings of the people, they would bring in a Bill to amend the Act. Irish Nationalists did not expect justice from the Government. But whether they expected it or not, they would demand it, and if the result of the apathy and callousness of the Government towards the suffering; people of Ireland was to bring back the reign of crime in the country, upon their heads would be the blame. ["Hear, hear!"]


replying on behalf of the Government, said he would not follow the hon. Member for East Mayo into the many topics upon which he touched in his discursive speech. He would only mention them to put them aside. The hon. Member condemned the proposed Board of Agriculture, and, apparently, one of his reasons for so doing was that he assumed it would be founded on the Report of the Recess Committee and contaminated by the connection. It was but natural that, as he had been unmeasured in his condemnation of the Recess Committee, he should equally condemn by anticipation any Bill likely to be founded upon it.


said the hon. and learned Member was quite mistaken. He said he would give no opinion on the merits of the Bill. It might be one to which he could give his support.


thought that, under the circumstances, the hon. Member might have reserved his criticisms until the Bill for establishing the Board of Agriculture was before the House, and it would be time enough then to see whether it was based on the recommendations of the Recess Committee or not. It was not his purpose or task to defend the Recess Committee or the recommendations it made; but he could not help saying that he thought the Committee had done great service in this—that it had laid before the public a mass of most useful information, and had endeavoured also to turn the minds of Irishmen aside from that perennial wrangle that went on as to the sharing of the diminished products of the Irish soil between landlord and tenant, to the more healthy object of endeavouring to increase the general output of agricultural production, enhance its value, and regain for Ireland the markets she had lost. He would not refer to the hon. Member's remarks on the Financial Relations Commission. A day had been promised on which there would be a full and ample discussion of the subject. The hon. Member for East Mayo congratulated himself upon the union that had taken place in Ireland amongst politicians of opposite schools. He did not know whether the hon. Member anticipated that the appeal to his allies to make a considerable reduction in their rents would have the effect of cementing or perpetuating that union. For himself he thought it would have the opposite effect. He would not dwell at any length on the question of the evicted tenants. It was debated last year on the Land Act. As the matter stood, it was but fair to say that under existing legislation every facility that could be given had been given towards the reconciliation and the reinstatement of the evicted tenants, except one, that public funds had not been advanced for the purpose. The House last year pronounced a definite decision on the propriety or advisability of making any such advance. Rut, although the advance had not been made, he was happy to think that negotiations had gone on, and in many cases had terminated successfully. Under the 13th Section of the Land Act of 1891 162 applications were sanctioned, and purchase money to the amount of £86,669 was advanced. Section 13 was re-enacted in the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Amendment Act, 1895, for a further period of six months. Under that re-enactment 186 applications were received, of which three were refused, 82 had been sanctioned, the purchase money being £39,583, and 101 applications were still pending. Under Section 47 of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1896, 369 applications had been received from 127 different estates. In 183 of these cases objections had been received, two applications had been withdrawn, 45 had been refused, eight consents had been received, and 128 applications were still pending.

MR. JOHN MORLEY (Montrose Burghs)

asked how many transactions had been carried through successfully.


was understood to say there had been none, but there was every prospect of the Acts of last year leading, if not to an entire cure, to a great amelioration of the position.

MR. J. J. CLANCY (Dublin County, N.)

asked whether, in the 128 cases still pending, the time for objecting by the landlords had passed.


replied that the return on the subject did not give that information. The hon. Member for East Mayo went on to describe the present condition of agriculture in Ireland as full of alarm and danger and said no Irish Member of Parliament would deny that there existed in Ireland a widespread feeling of alarm in regard to the agrarian situation. The hon. Member seemed to labour under an almost chronic apprehension of famine, because he said he had brought this question again and again before the House for the last 12 years, and he presumed he had prophesied that disasters were likely to follow. Happily, he had been a false prophet. When the hon. Member said the condition of Ireland was one that caused great alarm, he spoke incautiously. The organ of the party of Irish Nationalists who did not follow the hon. Member, but who, he would scarcely deny, had as thorough a knowledge of the condition of Ireland, and as warm a sympathy with Irish wrung and suffering as himself or any hon. Members who followed his leadership, dealt with this question in October 1896. United Ireland, referring to the "advocacy of famine" by the journal which represented the hon. Member's Party, said: Considering the whole situation, as regards the crops, the outlook is not a good one, nor is it improved when the prices of cattle and other farm stock are taken into account. … While we say this, however, we must strongly condemn the effort now being made by the organ of Whiggery to create a panic and to spread abroad the impression that a famine is threatened. This is the most reprehensible kind of nonsense, and what the object of those who are engineering the 'scare' can be we cannot form an idea. A partial failure of the crops and depressed prices no longer spell famine in Ireland, and the suggestion that 'processes, decrees, and evictions are the order of the day' is as silly an exaggeration as ever came from the same silly source. The credit of the merchants, shopkeepers, and farmers of Ireland was hardly ever better than it is now. Is it the object of the Whig organ to destroy that credit by proclaiming that the country is on the verge of famine? He thought he was right in assuming that whether the hon. Member for Mayo was right or wrong, he could not say that there was that identity of view between all members of the Irish National Party which the passage from his speech would lead the House to suppose. ["Hear, hear!"] The information in possession of the Government really amounted to this: Ireland, of course, during the past year had not escaped from the depression of agricultural prices that England had suffered, but there laid been no such great decline in agricultural prices us some Members would seek to lead the House to believe. Taking all the articles given in the return from the Land Commission for 1896, there had been an increase in some of the products and a decrease in others—there being a decrease in nine and an increase in six. Three of the cases in which there was an increase were wheat, oats and butter, and there had also been an increase in the value of hay and wool and sheep and lambs. Although there had been a decrease in the prices of potatoes and pork, and other articles, it was by no means of such a high percentage us hon. Members had suggested. ["Hear, hear!"] In addition to that he found that, although the large farmers had suffered something by the decline in prices, the small farmers apparently had been better able to weather the storm. In the extreme West of Ireland, no doubt, there were districts where there was exceptional and sporadic distress, as was almost always the case; but these were cases which the ordinary administration of the Poor Law was entirely competent to meet and deal with. The officials of the Local Government Board, when the first symptoms manifested themselves, directed their personal attention to the matter, and if there was any necessity for any exceptional treatment the Government would be informed of it at the earliest possible moment. ["Hear, hear!"] He had also to mention that rents were seldom better paid than they had been during the past year, and that ejectments had been fewer than at any time during the last five years. The total number of ejectments or notices served last year was 4,773, as against 6,556 for 1893, and the number of actual evictions during 1896 was only 695. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for North Galway said that the rent was only paid out of capital, and at the same time he said that the condition of affairs in Ireland had been getting worse and worse every year for the last ten or twelve years. Certainly the Irish farmer must be a strange individual if year by year he could continue to pay rent out of capital, and yet, although prices were low, that the production should not diminish. This capital, like the cruse of oil, seemed to be inexhaustible, for it did not diminish, notwithstanding that year by year rent was paid out of it. The Government, therefore, did not recognise anything in the condition of Ireland which would induce them to depart from the conclusions which they had come to during the discussions on the Land Act of last year, either as to the treatment of the evicted tenants or as to shortening the duration of the judicial term. For reasons which were then deemed quite adequate the Government and the House determined that the term should not be shortened. Hon. Members must recollect that if they adopted an Act, like the Act of 1881, providing that rents must be fixed for a period, if that legislation was to have any meaning, rents could not be altered yearly as distress overtook tenants, unless by abatements made by the landlords. The hon. Member for Mayo had said that he repeated and reiterated his condemnation of the Land Act of last year, and he said that that Land Act was not a final settlement of all agrarian questions in Ireland. He did not think that it was ever suggested that it was a final settlement of all agrarian questions. If that was suggested it would be a strange thing, for this year in the Queen's Speech it was announced that a measure was to be introduced to create an Agricultural Board in Ireland, for the special purpose of applying itself to some of the agrarian questions of Ireland. The Land Act of last year purported to remove some of the objections and imperfections in the Act of 1881; it endeavoured to put the law in reference to tenants' improvements on a rational and more satisfactory footing; to bring within the letter of the Act of 1881 tenants that were within its spirit, but by the interpretation of its language had been held to be excluded from its letter. It also endeavoured to promote and give further facilities for purchase; it sought to increase the powers and strengthen the hands of the Congested Districts Board, and, despite the condemnation of the hon. Member for East Mayo, as far as he could read the signs of public opinion, it had succeeded in many of these objects to the satisfaction of hundreds of the tenantry of Ireland. [Cheers.] The hon. Member went on to suggest that the only remedy for this condition of things was first of all a reduction, on a very large scale, of rents all over Ireland—with that he had already dealt. He next suggested, with regard to the congested districts, that there should be an extended scheme of migration put into force. He would remind the hon. Member that the only emigration scheme tried to any extent by any person but the Congested Districts Board was by no means a success, notwithstanding the glamour of Mr. Parnell's name. The Congested Districts Board had power to effect migration, and they had exercised these powers in two or three cases. They had bought Clare Island and another estate, to which they had transferred some of the tenantry from the more crowded districts. But they found that the price they would have to pay to buy land for the purpose of transferring tenants from other districts was so enormous that practically all their funds would he absorbed in carrying out this policy on any extended scale. Every facility was given the Congested Districts Board in this direction by the Land Act, for they were able to purchase land to the capitalised I value of the sum yearly paid to them, and £1,500,000 was the capital they had now available for that purpose. The hon. Member referred to the Armagh cases. He had not, in the short interval that had elapsed between the time that speech was delivered and the present moment, been enabled to obtain information in reference to these cases, but even if the facts were exactly as the hon. Member stated, it was quite inevitable that as long as they had a Court of Appeal, if they added the number of dissentients in that Court to the number of persons whose decisions were under review, they might always get a majority against the view that ultimately prevailed. That obtained in every case. Say a Court consisted of three Judges and an appeal went from them to a Court of three Judges. If on the appeal one. Judge agreed with the Court below and two of them disagreed, the opinion of the two would prevail. And vet it would be two Judges who would settle the law one way as against four who thought the law should be different. The Land Commission took the greatest care and trouble to select the men in whom they had the most confidence as being best able to perform the duties of Land Valuers, and, of course, they acted upon the evidence given before the Court in addition to the evidence of the valuer. The hon. Member for Derby had expressed the hope that the Government would bring in a Bill to deal with the housing of the agricultural labourers. He would remind the hon. Member that it was the Government of 1891 that brought in a Bill enabling the Local Government Board to supersede local guardians, who were obstinate and would not put into operation the beneficial legislation embodied in the Labourers Acts. Then, again, the Act of last year was passed by which the machinery of the Labourers Acts was made to work more smoothly, more expeditiously, and more economically. The hon. Member who had just sat down had referred again and again to what he said was the effect of the Act of last year in preventing a tenant who was in arrear with his rent from going into Court and having a fair rent fixed. He confessed that he was unable to follow the hon. Gentleman in the conclusion at which he had arrived upon that point, because, in his view, a tenant, however much in arrear, might go into Court and have a fair rent fixed. ["Hear, hear!"] Under that Act it was perfectly useless for a landlord to go into Court with the idea that he could obtain a decree of ejectment merely because his tenant was in arrear with his rent. It appeared to him, therefore, that the complaint of the hon. Member was really unfounded, and that there was nothing to prevent the tenant from taking advantage of the provisions of the Act of 1881 as amended by the subsequent Irish Land Acts. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought that, having made that statement, he had said all that was necessary upon the subject. Therefore, not with standing the observations of the hon. Member, he hoped that the efforts which the present Irish Government were making, and were making sincerely to promote the peace, happiness, and progress of Ireland, would not be cursed with the disaster which the hon. Gentleman had foretold they would result in. ["Hear, hear!"]


said he thought it would be a lamentable thing if the House were to remain under the impression that the Irish tenants, or Irish people generally, were satisfied with the Land Act of last year, and, therefore, he hoped the hon. Member for East Mayo would not yield to the appeals made to him not to press his Amendment to a division. The feeling in Ireland with regard to the Land Act was not confined to any particular class, and it was of general and intense disappointment. He did not believe the Attorney General for Ireland had answered the arguments of the hon. Member for East Mayo. He had not been able to show that in point of fact the condition of the tenantry of Ireland had been bettered by the legislation of last Session. ["Hear, hear!"] It was absolutely necessary that the House should record its opinion upon this question, and to show that hon. Members sympathised with what was conceded to be the case, that the prospects of the farmers of Ireland this year and last, winter were worse than they had been for many preceding years. He confessed that he thought it was hardly reasonable of the Attorney General to try and throw the apple of discord among Members on the Opposition side of the House by referring to an article which appeared in United Ireland as far back as last October, before the result of the harvest could be sufficiently known, and before it could be ascertained whether it was or was not to be a year of distress. ["Hear, hear!"] The Government had to admit the fact that agricultural produce and the price of produce had both fallen in a tremendous degree. ["Hear, hear!"] What he found fault with in the gracious Speech from the Throne was that there was no reference to remedial measures for Ireland, except the reference to an Agricultural Board, which he supposed was intended to be one of those sops and doles which had been occasionally thrown out to satisfy the starving people. ["Hear, hear!"] The Land Act of last year could not be regarded as a final Measure, and never would be. It was no answer to the state of things in Ireland for the Attorney General to talk of a perennial wrangle going on in the House with regard to the wrongs of Ireland. A starving and impoverished people must always raise their voices in an assembly from which they hoped to get justice, and that voice could not be silenced by a jibe or a sneer at a perennial wrangle. ["Hear, hear!"] What did the case of the Government come to on this subject? The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland said that the provisions of the Evicted Tenants Act had been successful. But he had only shown in the case of 127 estates 45 proposals were refused, and that in eight eases only the landlords had given their consent to them. Did the right hon. Gentleman rely upon those figures as proof of the successful operation of the Act? ["Hear, hear!"] He said he thought that when his right hon. and learned Friend saw that figure 8 he would have crumpled up the paper and thrown it aside rather than have called the attention of the House to it. With regard to the remaining 128 the Attorney General did not know whether the time had elapsed or not for the landlord to state whether he objected or otherwise. So far as the evicted clauses went the allegation of the hon. Gentleman below the gangway had been fully sustained. What were the other figures relied upon by the Attorney General? Of 15 articles of agricultural produce he saw the price of nine had decreased, and of six increased. If the price of nine articles of produce had decreased how-could the tenant be expected to pay the old rent. Amongst the six articles was wheat, and wheat was a crop on which the tenants in Ireland never had relied and never would or could rely. The hon. Members for North Galway and North Leitrim, who had lately addressed the House, were practical farmers, and they had declared from bitter experience that it was impossible to make anything like a reasonable rent out of the land in the face of the existing prices. His right hon. and learned Friend had told the House that rents were being well paid. What evidence did he rely upon? There were no returns showing how rents had been paid, this or any other winter. He had had the opportunity lately of speaking with many people in Ireland, and he believed it was a mistake to suppose that rents were being well paid. That was not from any fault on the part of the tenant, but simply because the times were too hard to enable the men to pay their rents. The Irish tenants had for a long time tried to drag out a wretched existence on soil the produce of which left them nothing to subsist upon if they met the exactions of their landlords. Ireland had been over-rented for years. It still was over-rented, and the only possible means of remedying matters was sternly refused by the Government and the House last year, when they rejected the Amendment by which rents could have been revised every ten years. Would the hon. Member for South Tyrone tell the House that the farmers of Tyrone were satisfied with the present state of things? Would he tell the House that those men were satisfied to languish year after year under a rent which it was impossible for them to pay? The hon. Member argued that rents could be revised in two, three, or four years. Yes, but in the meantime the tenants might have emigrated or died in their wretched holdings. There never was a greater mistake committed by any Government than that committed by the present Government when they refused the Amendment to allow rents to be revised every ten years. With regard to the Congested Districts Act, the Attorney General's figures were equally unsatisfactory. His right hon. and learned Friend admitted that the clauses of that Act had only been applied with any degree of success in two or three cases. What could demonstrate more plainly the failure of that legislation than such a statement? It was quite true the fact of there being arrears did not prevent a rent being fixed, but the fact of there being arrears was taken into account in measuring the rent when there was a question of purchase. Then his right hon. and learned Friend seemed to think the 7th Section of the Act of 1887 was not a subject of complaint. That clause was known throughout Ireland as the eviction-made-easy clause. The poison of it was that if a man was evicted for non-payment of rent and re-admitted as caretaker, he was debarred from the benefit of the Land Act; he was in the position of a future tenant, and could not have his rent revised. These were reasons why he trusted the hon. Member for East Mayo would press his Amendment to a Division. By dividing they would show that there were Irish, Scotch and English Members who sympathised with the tenants of Ireland, and who still held out the hope that their sad position might at no very distant date be changed.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

thought the most momentous event in Ireland (hiring the recess was the judgment of Mr. Justice Bewley in respect to the agrarian situation. Mr. Justice Bewley declared at Belfast, on his responsibility as the Chief Judicial Commissioner, that the whole of the rents which were fixed in Ireland during the first four years were fixed upon wholly wrong principles; in other words, that an error of judgment had been committed by the Land Commission in at least 200,000 eases. No graver statement had ever fallen from the lips of a judicial functionary. Mr. Justice Bewley pointed out that there had been good times up to 1881, when the Land Act of that year was passed, and that naturally the Sub-Commissioners during 1881–2–3–4 went on the basis that the 15 subsequent years would in all probability be of as satisfactory a character as the 15 past years. Judge Bewley's words were not delivered in a corner, and, affecting as they did 200,000 families, anyone in the position of an Irish Member was well founded in taking his stand upon that remarkable judgment. He thought they might very strongly found themselves on this authority in their demand for a shortening of the judicial term. But while he said that, he did not intend for one moment to recede from the position he had taken up as to the Land Bill of last year. He would say again now what he said then—that he thought that Bill, as far as it went, was an excellent measure, and he had no hesitation in repeating that night his thanks to the Government for their firmness and courage in passing it. At the same time, that did not prevent him in any degree from pressing for further reform in the matter, especially as the learned Attorney General for Ireland had declared—what, of course, they knew to be the fact that the Bill of last year was not put forward with any pretence to be a final settlement of the Land Question. But he thought the Government, if they were well advised, would hesitate to commit themselves finally to the position which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had assumed that night. Let them take the case of Scotland. The Crofter Commissioners were going about making reductions of rent under the Act which was passed for only seven years, and yet the landlords were not up in arms, and no one of them thought of rebelling against the Government in consequence. But he thought a remedy might at once be applied to agricultural difficulty in Ireland without any injustice being done to the landlords, and even without an immediate shortening of the judicial terms. In the first place, there was the amount of overtaxation wrongfully wrung out of Ireland to the extent of between two and three millions a year, as reported by the Financial Relations Commission, and that amount, which, for one year, was more than had been won by the tenants of Ireland by the seething agitation of the last 15 or 16 years, would have to be dealt with. He would also suggest to the Government that if they were unable in the present Session to shorten the judicial term to 10 years, they might do for Ireland what they did last year for England and Scotland-give her an Agricultural Hates Bill, reducing the rates of the farmer by one-half. ["Hear, hear!"] That would of itself be a very substantial relief and benefit to the tenantry of Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"] There was another point which very closely affected the question of the shortening of the judicial term—the class of men who were appointed as Sub Commissioners under the Land Commission, and who had to fix the judicial rents. He found that no fewer than 24 new appointments had recently been made—some as temporary and some as permanent Commissioners; and he confessed that he much regretted the Chief Secretary for Ireland was not present to explain the mode in which those appointments were made. He had gone through the list of those gentlemen, and he found that only four of them were Catholics—four out of 24. He had no desire to raise any feelings of religious prejudice, but it was an extraordinary fact to start with that in a country where the Catholics and Protestants were as 4 to 1—


called the hon. and learned Member to order, on the ground that he was travelling beyond the scope of the Amendment.


said he was going to show that, almost without exception, the Sub-Commissioners were drawn from the landlord class, and that therefore most of them were Protestants, and they were debarred from having that sympathy with agricultural distress and interests which they would have if more fairly or impartially chosen. [Cheers.] He repeated that he should like to have some explanation as to how the recent appointments were made—whether they were made in consultation with, and with the sanction of, the Land Commission, or were they made by the Chief Secretary and the Lord Lieutenant off-hand without consultation? Three or four of them he recognised as well-known agriculturists—very good appointments; but he should like to know the principle on which many of the other gentlemen were appointed. He should like to refer to a few of the names. First, there was Mr. Small, who, as far as he knew, was a former landlord in a small way, nominated, he believed, by the hon. Member for Mid Armagh. Then there was—


Order, order! The hon. and learned Member is really going too far in entering upon these matters. They do not apply at all to the question of the Amendment. [Cheers.]


said he would not, of course, pursue the point if the Speaker ruled it to be irregular, but he felt bound to say that he thought the consideration of the personnel of the Land Commission entered very largely into the question of the fair administration of the Land Acts. ["Hear, hear!"] With regard to another point that had been brought under the notice of the House—namely, the question of what was called the "Eviction-made-easy Clause"—his views of that 7th Clause was this—that, like every other bad thing, it was a curse to both sides. It had proved a curse to the landlords, for it had prompted them to take steps against their tenants which they would not otherwise have done, and it had inflicted injury on numbers of tenants. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had said there had been less than 700 actual evictions this year, and that about 4,000 notices had been served on tenants, by means of which, under process of law, the landlord sought to deprive the tenant of his property—of his status as a tenant, and of his interest in the soil—without proceeding to actual eviction. The right hon. and learned Gentleman regarded these figures as a small average, but he regarded them as a very large sum of one year's evil work under this clause. Taking every year since 1887, and a yearly average of 4,000 persons not dispossessed, but whose tenancies and tenures had been destroyed and whose improvements had been confiscated, they arrived at the fact, which he thought was beyond dispute, that in 40,000 cases at least tenants who had been made present tenants by Mr. Gladstone in 1881, were now in the miserable and precarious position of future tenancies. He believed the inevitable result of that state of things must be that they were simply preparing for themselves the materials of some great future Land Act. As for himself, he would say that he had looked with satisfaction upon the growth of this union between landlords and tenants upon the same platform in the hope that reforms outside and beyond those relating merely to financial questions would accrue from it. He believed that if the landlords were wise they would find the people of Ireland at the present moment in a mood and temper to come to terms with them upon this great question of agrarian disturbances. He believed the people of Ireland, taking them as a whole, would welcome a settlement by which, on the tenant's becoming the owner of his farm at a fair price, something like compensation, either for disturbance or for compulsory expropriation, should be paid to the Irish landlords. ["Hear, hear!"] And they did not want the money to come out of John Bull's pocket. They were quite willing to pay their own money for it if they would give them charge of their own money. The Irish landlords should understand that that was the temper that prevailed among the people, and he trusted that while this spirit continued the landlords, who after all were Irishmen—and he thought he might say every Irishman was an Irishman unless he was a Belfast Liberal Unionist—[laughter]—would take advantage of it. They would find it far easier to make better terms and conditions with their own people by friendly arrangement than they were ever likely to get by combat across the floor of the House. He read with some amazement the attacks on the Government last year. The landlords met in convent ion in Gal-way, in Cork, in Dublin, and in various other places, and poured out the vials of their wrath on the Government for having passed so iniquitous a Land Act. His own view of the legislation of last year was that it had yet to be tested by results. Its result so far had been that it had given them the most peaceable winter they had ever had in Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"] He should be glad to see the Government proceed in regard to the remaining questions outstanding upon this Land Question and upon every Irish question. He believed they would find the time and the temper of the people favourable. He thought they had now, at this moment, an opportunity which was perhaps not likely to recur. The landlords themselves were coming to realise that they could no longer expect the enormous rents they had hitherto been exacting. At the same time they have the claim that they were put there as their garrison, and the Government could not desert them. Accordingly he thought the present opportunity was a favourable one for statesmen to heal up this question by doing justice alike both to the proprietor and to the tiller of the soil. ["Hear, hear!"]


said that, though he did not agree with all the statements of the hon. Member for East Mayo, he thought there was ample ground for the Amendment, and if it was pressed ton Division he should certainly vote for it. He thought the Government could not be surprised that such an Amendment should be proposed. The Attorney General for Ireland, although he affected to make light of the agricultural depression in Ireland, must feel that that depression was a real and genuine thing. He thought there was an admission of that fact when he stated, and reading, from Returns which had been placed before him, that there had been a decline of value in several of the main articles of agricultural produce. If there had been this decline he thought it must be manifest to the right hon. Gentleman and to everybody else that there was a serious agricultural depression, and one thing which made the decline of last year more serious than it would have been under ordinary circumstances was that it came on the top of several other declines. He thought the Government could not be surprised at the Amendment for another reason. He supported their Land Bill of last year, and, like the hon. Member for Louth, he had not one single word to retract or to alter that he spoke in regard to that Bill. He regarded that Hill as a series of very useful, but very small reforms, which, taken together, constituted such a reform as, in his opinion, I would have been absurd and foolish on the part of Irish representatives to reject. Although he took that view and voted for the Hill, still he had always held that it was deficient in two or three matters of the most serious and vital importance to the tenantry of Ireland, and that being so it could not be regarded as a sufficient remedy for the evils which it was intended to meet. He now came to ask, what were the Government going to do? They admitted that something more was necessary Instating in the Queen's Speech that a Hill for the establishment of a Board of Agriculture would be proposed during this Session. He had not the least hesitation in saying, that if the proposed Hill proceeded on the lines indicated in the Report of the Recess Committee it would have his hearty support. He had always been astonished at the attacks on the Report of the Recess Committee. That Committee actually made proposals which the Nationalists had been making for ten years and making in vain, and really, when he was now called upon to censure these proposals when they were put forward by a Committee representative of every shade of public opinion in Ireland, he was astonished, especially when the request came to him from the representatives of Nationalist opinion. He hoped the coming Bill would proceed on the lines of the Report of the Recess Committee. It would certainly be unsatisfactory if it did not fulfil two conditions. For the limited objects it was to serve, the Board to be set up should be a popular body. If this Board was to be simply an addition to the already long list of Boards which go to make up what was called "Dublin Castle" in Ireland, free from and independent of public opinion in Ireland, then he assured the right hon. Gentleman that it would fail like other Boards to conciliate Irish opinion and to do effective work in the service of Ireland. In the second place if this Board be not amply endowed with funds to do real, effective, genuine work in promoting the agricultural prosperity of Ireland, then he really thought the right hon. Gentleman had better stay his hand altogether. ["Hear, hear!"] He admitted that he could not set up any effective instrument for restoring agricultural prosperity to Ireland. Even if this Bill passed, even if the Board were satisfactory in these two respects, the Government must be aware, in fact everybody in Ireland was aware, that this measure alone would not meet the necessities of the case. Agricultural depression in Ireland was a real and genuine evil to be met, and which in the interests of order and from the point of view of English government in Ireland, must be met by adequate remedy. His own opinion was that before many years passed, within a very few Sessions, a Minister would come to the House and propose—perhaps too late for some of its purposes—a Bill containing the very proposals Irish Members unsuccessfully submitted last year for the shortening of the statutory term, for including future tenants within the scope of the rent-fixing clauses, and, if there were any tenants remaining outside, would certainly renew the proposals for facilitating their restoration made by the Duke of Devonshire and the Secretary for the Colonies the year before last. More than that would be wanted to settle the Irish Land Question. He was astonished that any representative of tenant opinion could consider the Land Act of last year a final settlement. Nobody ever said it, and he doubted if anybody thought it. Something much more drastic than a reduction of the statutory term, than the inclusion of future tenants within the rent-fixing provisions of the Act, or even the restoration of evicted tenants to their homes, would be required to settle the question. He looked for a settlement in the direction of purchase. ["Hear, hear!"] He believed it would be necessary to largely increase the facilities for purchase which were already provided, and which he admitted had been increased by the Act of last year. It would be said that landlords would lose by all these further changes in the law, and this would be made ground for opposition. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down had made some remarks on this subject and the remedy which should be applied with which he entirely concurred. He believed that the Irish people were not the enemies of the landlords except in so far as the landlords have unfortunately their place in a system which became infamous. There were landlords in Ireland who had availed themselves of the system to rob their tenantry for generations, but there was another section of landlords who had not availed themselves of the system, and who had acted without any very great injustice. With regard to both classes, if they appealed to the English Government—which put them in Ireland, which passed laws enabling them to rob their tenants, and subsequently passed laws enabling tenants to get back some parts of their rights—if they appealed to the English Government as responsible for their position past and present to reverse them, then he and his friends would not be found opposing that appeal. He did not indicate the manner in which they might get relief, but one method suggested itself to his mind. He believed there was a large sum due to Ireland by reason of over taxation of the country in the past, and which continued at the present time, and he had himself said at the great meeting in the Mansion House in Dublin that if the result of the agitation be to obtain for Ireland any great measure of relief, then he hoped that that relief would be shared by every class of the Irish community—landlords, tenants, labourers, merchants, shopkeepers—all alike. That declaration he repeated. He would not advocate relief from this over-taxation passing to one class only of the Irish population; every class in Ireland should share in that relief, and he should certainly not object to landlords receiving their fair share. As illustrating the facts stated by his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. T. M. Healy), he mentioned that the other day one of the most influential of his own constituents, a gentleman who had found fault with his action in support of the Bill of last year, and who had said in public that the duty of Irish Members was to oppose that Bill because it did not go far enough—actually this same gentleman proposed at a public meeting to devote sixty millions, which he thought Ireland might be able to get in respect to the over-taxation, to making up the difference between what the landlords wanted for their land and what the tenants were able to give for it.


Was he sane? [Laughter.]


said the hon. Member's acquaintance with Mr. Andrew Kettle should enable him to answer that question.


said the name being mentioned, he would wish to withdraw his remark.


said he would not go so far as Mr. Kettle. He did not adopt that suggestion, he only mentioned the circumstance that when an extreme advocate of tenant rights, who denounced the Bill of last year as not going far enough—a prominent Land Leaguer—ventured on such a suggestion to ease the situation between landlords and tenants, it was evidence in support of the statements of his hon. and learned Friend. The state of feeling between landlords and tenants in Ireland was such as to afford a hope that if the Government, which insisted on managing Irish affairs, would take Irish advice, matters might be settled to the satisfaction of everybody in a few weeks. Although the Government no doubt would vote down this Amendment, yet he was as confident as he was of his own existence that the time would come when a Bill embodying proposals indicated would be proposed and carried, and with profit the Government might reflect whether it was not expedient, in the interest of justice and order in Ireland, to depart from the practice of past years and not wait until they were forced to yield to the pressure of events. ["Hear!"]

MR. JASPER TULLY (Leitrim, S.)

said that the Attorney General for Ireland had denied that there was any substantial fall in prices, and had mentioned two commodities of which the prices, he said, had risen, namely, wheat and hay. In his opinion it was a mockery to tell any farmer in Ireland that because there was an increase in the price of wheat and hay the complaint about agricultural depression ought no longer to be made. What were the facts? In three-fourths of Ireland no wheat had been grown for many years, and any increase in the price of hay meant an increase of expenditure in keep for the ordinary farmer. It was therefore a disadvantage to him. He thought that if the hon. Member for South Tyrone had spoken instead of the Attorney General, his speech would have been more sympathetic, for the hon. Member for South Tyrone understood the Irish Land Question. When the Nationalist Members declared last year that the Land Bill of 1896 only touched the fringe of the trouble, they were told that hon. Members opposite knew more about the wants of Ireland than they did. But now the Nationalist Members had to tell the Government that up to the present the Act had been a failure, and had brought no relief to nine-tenths of the tenant farmers. The cases of reduction of judicial rents were isolated instances, and whilst the Act had brought relief to a few men only, it had done serious injury to a large number of tenants who owed trifling arrears of rent. In the last, few weeks, in the county in which he lived, many processes had been served For two years' rent, one year's rent, and even for half a year's rent, the landlords having been spurred on to take that course by the clause of the Act which said that no landlord should recover more than a year's rent after a certain period. The landlords had thus been set on to obtain from tenants trifling arrears. What was the real cause of the fall in agricultural prices in Ireland? The cause was the Free Trade policy which Parliament had imposed upon the people of Ireland. That policy had brought untold wealth to England, but ruin to Ireland's national industry. It had been said by the hon. Member for North Fermanagh that the supporters of the Amendment ought not to proceed to a Division because Ireland had been promised a Board of Agriculture. For his part he had no great faith in the efficacy of a Board of that kind. In the first place, its establishment would create a new regiment of officials, and supply profitable situations for needy Unionists in various parts of the country. In spite of the existence of a Board of Agriculture in England, they had been told time after time that the agricultural industry was ruined in this country. Had the Board of Agriculture been able to remedy the depression in Essex, where they were told there were many square miles of vacant land? How could Irishmen expect, with that example before them, that a Board of Agriculture would remedy the, present desperate state of things in their country, where the people had to contend with falling prices and markets, and where farmers could not find buyers for their sheep and cattle? Under the Agricultural Bates Act of last year, half the English farmer's local rates were paid for him. Was the Irish farmer going to receive similar or analogous relief? The Nationalist and Unionist farmers of Ireland would be intensely disappointed when they realised that the Government had no remedy to offer for the alleviation of their misfortunes.


contended that the figures quoted by the Attorney General for Ireland did not correctly represent the present prices in the markets of Ulster. For example, the right hon. Member's figures for oats were considerably too high, and in Ulster potatoes were almost unsaleable. He had not met any farmer in Ulster who admitted that the Land Bill of 1896 conferred any benefit upon him. The cases in which it had brought relief were very exceptional. At a meeting in Belfast held under the auspices of the Liberal Land Committee of Ulster, the following resolution had been passed: That the decision of Judge Bewley to exclude hundreds of tenants who served originating notices during the first sitting of the Court in 1881, but whose cases were not recorded, from now having judicial rents revised, is further proof of the continued interpretation of the law in nearly every case in favour of the landlords. That we regard it as a grave injustice that tenants not under the Ulster custom should be rented on their own improvements merely because the improvements were made in pursuance of a clause in an ancient lease, as decided under the Act of 1896 by Mr. Commissioner Bewley at Portadown 3rd November. There could be no doubt that the prices which the farmers received for their goods were very small, whilst their rents were very high. It was almost impossible for them to be just and honest men in the circumstances. The Chief Secretary a short time ago admitted that the rents fixed in 1881 and for some years thereafter were at present impossible. But those were the rents which had to be paid by the tenant-farmers, and which they would have to continue to pay for four or five years. What was the use, therefore, of the hon. Member for South Tyrone urging that these things would right themselves in course of time? Everything would right itself in course of time; the hungry man would not feel hunger in the coarse of time; but what the Irish Members asked was that the Government should see justice done between man and man, because the tenant and the landlord were partners in the working of the soil. Ireland occupied its present position owing to the action of the House of Commons. The abolition of the Corn Laws, though in the main beneficial, had struck a blow at Irish agriculture which it had never recovered. While it had brought prosperity to England it had made Ireland poor, had depopulated the country, and had left it to-day in a most abject condition. The House of Commons therefore owed a debt of restitution to the cultivators of the soil, and certainly the last word of the Attorney General for Ireland would neither give satisfaction to the Irish people, nor be the last one uttered on the subject.

MR. W. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)

said he had always advocated the creation of a Board of Agriculture for Ireland, because he maintained that it would be for the benefit of the Irish tenant farmers to have placed at their disposal improved means of production, and to be raised to the level of foreign nations. It was said that the English Board of Agriculture had conferred those advantages, but he thought that that Board was a hundred years behind the Boards of other countries—an opinion in which he thought the President of the Board of Agriculture would agree with him. The amount of money and the number of staff at the disposal of the President compared with the Boards of other countries was simply ridiculous. The English Board could not enter into serious competition with the foreign Boards of Agriculture. He trusted that the Government therefore would fully equip the new Board with an endowment capable of carrying on its work in an efficient manner. He would oppose the introduction of the measure unless it was founded and carried on in a different way from the Board which at present existed in Ireland. In Ireland they wanted a popularly constituted Board, not an irresponsible, non-elective bureaucracy. He voted for the Land Act of last year because Ireland could not obtain a better measure, not because he approved it; but at the same time this did not prevent the Irish Members from endeavouring to extract a better measure for the Irish tenants than the Government were inclined to give last Session.

MR. P. C. DOOGAN (Tyrone, E.)

said that lest his silence should be misunderstood by his constituents he wished to add his voice to the voices of previous speakers, and to assure the House in the most emphatic manner that although he lived in the midst of a Unionist constituency, he had not met a farmer who had expressed anything but the most intense dissatisfaction with the Land Act of last year. He had reason to know that a determined effort was being made on the part of the landlords to destroy the Ulster tenant right in every case they could. He knew farmers who had been paying rack rents all their lives, and he quoted the case of a town-land property in which an instance of free sale had not occurred because the tenants had always been evicted. The present occupiers in this town-land, when they went into Court, were unable to establish the Ulster custom, and hence they were rented upon their own improvements. The condition of three-fourths of the population of Ireland was most wretched and miserable at the present time. Throughout the district of Ulster where he came from he never remembered a time of greater distress. What with low prices, the desperate struggle to get money, and unfeeling treatment from landlords in exacting their full rents, the life of the agricultural population was one of much poverty and hardship. About his part of the country the small farmers had lost nearly all their hay by the incessant rains of August last. Some of these people were now going into the market to buy hay, and the enhanced price at which alone it could be procured was another of the causes which would make it more and more difficult for the farmers to pay their rents. The learned Attorney General quoted the rise in the price of hay as a benefit to fanners, whereas it was quite the reverse. Wheat also had risen, but scarcely any is grown in Ulster. The cost of labour was so high that a great deal of the land was going out of cultivation. The children were being kept from school, with the inevitable result that they would grow up to be "hewers of wood and drawers of water." Under all these circumstances he thought there should be a, statutory reduction of rent for three years, to enable them to pull through pending the time which must elapse before they could have a second judicial rent fixed.


said the speech of the Attorney-General for Ireland avoided every vital part of the argument of the hon. Member for Mayo. The right hon. Gentleman had culled some statistics about the price of produce, but he only mentioned the price of one article, and that was wheat. Surely every hon. Member knew that wheat was but a trivial crop in Ireland. There were some counties where probably no wheat was grown at all; he knew of no county where it was the substantial crop of the farmer. He had been told last Session by the Chief Secretary that large reductions had been given by landlords in the north of Ireland on account of the terrible failure of the flax crop. Time after time he had tried to get a statement from the Chief Secretary as to the estates on which such reductions had been made, but he had always been refused the information. That being so he had been driven to make inquiries on his own account, and he could not find that on one single large estate had any substantial reduction been allowed. He could not help thinking, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman had been unconsciously misled. They had been told to-night that rents were being well paid, and that never were there fewer ejectments. The Irish tenant-farmer would beg, and borrow and pawn his last acre of land for the purpose of retaining his home, and were they to be told that their only chance of relief was to take the law into their own hands? Had they not done so in 1881 they would never have had the Land Act, and he presumed the lesson now to be taught them was that if they did not do so again they would never get the justice to which they were entitled. He never remembered a time when there was so much discontent in Ulster. Through the agricultural depression indeed things were getting into a dangerous state. If outbursts of despair were witnessed in the near future, he hoped the Government would not forget that they had been warned. The right hon. Gentleman knew that the flax crop had been a terrible failure. There were cases where the farmer was not able to pay for the seed out of the crop reared from it. There were large numbers of the tenants who were still kept out of the Courts by the congestion of business, though the rack rents were admitted to be impossible. And yet the Government had no remedy whatever. As to the plea that suitable men could not be found for increasing the number of the Sub-Commissioners of the Land Court, he would undertake to find the requisite number in his own county alone. He felt that he would have been wrong to give a silent vote on this question; for all over the north of Ireland he had found nothing but discontent with the present situation, discontent with the recent Land Act, and a determination to get justice at any cost.

On the return of Mr. Speaker after the usual interval,

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

said he regretted the absence of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, because he thought they would have received from him a somewhat more favourable consideration than they had received from the Attorney General for Ireland, whose reply had been extremely unsatisfactory. In the 17th century the English traders moved the English Parliament to repress industries in Ireland, which, if they had survived, would have placed Ireland in a very different position to-day. During the time of the Williamite Parliament—


The hon. Member is a long way from the Amendment, which deals with the fall in the value of agricultural produce and the remedies proposed.


said he thought it would be generally admitted that prices had been going down since 1879. While 481,185 quarters of wheat were produced in Ireland during the year 1876, the amount produced in 1895 was only 141,543 quarters. Of oats about a million quarters less were grown in Ireland in 1895 than in 1876. Barley, as every hon. Member knew, was a glut in the market, yet in 1876 1,109,000 quarters were produced against 827,000 quarters in 1895, or a falling off of one-third. Yet barley at any price was an unsaleable product in the Dublin and other markets. As to the area of cultivation, whilst in 1891, a by-no-means prosperous year, there were 701,000 acres under cultivation, in 1896 there were 670,000, a decline of more than 30,000. It was almost a proverb that the Irish pig was the Irish rent payer, but whereas pork was formerly from 35s. to 40s. per cwt., pork was now unsaleable at 26s. per cwt. He challenged the statement made on the authority of the Land Commission that it was 29s. 8d. It was not verified by actual facts, because, from his own knowledge of a number of places in Ireland, pigs had been a drug in the market at Irish fairs, and in many places had been unsaleable owing to the smallness of the demand for and the prices of them. It would be admitted both in England and Ireland that last year's season was a disastrous one. In Ireland largo tracts of land were flooded. The potato crop, the staple crop of the country, was affected. It was an unfortunate characteristic of the potato that to keep up the produce it required to be constantly changed and renewed. In 1879 the Government introduced the "Champion" potato, but that had become so degenerated that it did not produce half as many as formerly, and another seed was now necessary. The Land Act of 1896 had failed to provide any effective remedy for the existing state of things, and nine-tenths of the Irish tenantry had been debarred from getting any relief from it. It was one of the most short-sighted acts of the present Government in their effort to settle this all-important Irish land question, to refuse the reasonable Amendment offered for the reduction of the statutory term from 15 years to 10 years. [Nationalist cheers.] Having regard to the decline of prices in England as well as in Ireland, and the loss of markets for Irish produce, it was very important that a speedy remedy should be provided for the hardship the Irish tenant had to endure of being compelled to pay a rent which the soil did not produce. That the rents were unjust was shown by the reductions the Sub-Commissioners were making—equal in amount, yet inadequate, as he maintained, to 30, 40, and 45 per cent. of the original rents fixed in 1881. Between 1881 and 1886 comparative prosperity supervened, and during those years the Land Commissioners raised the rents. It was monstrously unjust that in times like the present the tenants should be compelled to pay these rents when they were hardly in a position to do so. Reference had been made to town park holders in Ireland. Unfortunately he was a town park tenant. One case, which he could verify by actual personal knowledge, would convince the House of the injustice done in excluding, under one pretext or another, a class of tenants from the operation of Acts who undoubtedly deserved some sympathy. He knew a case in which the tenancy had existed directly for over sixty years. During that time the landlord had not laid out a farthing in improving the land. The original tenant commenced at a rent of £1 5s. In 1842 it was raised to £2 15s.; in 1856 it was raised to £3 5s.; in 1870 to £9, at which rent it had since remained, and at which it would remain as long as Parliament refused to recognise the entirely just and proper claim of the tenant for the value of improvements he and his forefathers had made on the land, but from which, under a caretaker's notice, he could be dismissed at any time. That such a tenant should be kept outside the operation of the Act of 1896 was monstrous and unjust. The question of improving the dwellings of labourers in Ireland struck at the root of a great social evil. Any Act of Parliament passed to improve the dwellings of the rural poor in Ireland would be a step not only in the interests of social order but in that of common humanity. He was well acquainted with Swinford, Achill, Belmullet, and other districts in Mayo, and nothing the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Drage) said would convey an adequate notion of the misery endured by the unfortunate people who lived in those inhospitable regions. Only those who had been on the spot could really know the true state of things. During six months of every year the able-bodied men had to come over to England and Scotland on "contract work," sleeping out in sheds and barns to get together from £5 to £8, not for the sustenance of their wives and children, but to pay their landlords exorbitant rents for wild prairie land which they had brought from a state of absolute barrenness by their labour in manuring and sowing wheat, removing rocks and stones, and making land where practically no land previously existed. The hon. Member for Derby deserved the thanks of Nationalist Members for drawing attention to the horrible conditions under which these people lived. For his part he did not know that it would be in order if he were to suggest, in connection with this Debate, any of the remedies which he undoubtedly: thought should be effected to improve the condition of the people in these districts. About eight or ten years ago Parliament passed an Act to open up the district by means of a railway. That undertaking did a great deal of good, but the line stopped short of Belmullet, an important town, and since then every effort to make the Government extend the railway had entirely failed. He had to say, as to the condition of the farmers at the present time, that he thought the statements made on that side of the House as to the rent being paid out of capital were entirely justified. He recognised that it was a hard thing to understand how a man could continue to pay rent out of capital and still go on working his farm. But if the accounts were balanced, he feared it would be found that a great many of the men who were supposed to be solvent tenants would be found to be deeply indebted indeed. If the shopkeepers in particular were to call in all their accounts and press for the full payment of the debts due to them, something like national bankruptcy must inevitably ensue. People in general had been living for a number of years from the credit advanced by the loan and local banks, and it was by this means alone that the tenant had been able to pay his rent during the last few years. He was sorry to learn from the Attorney General that the operations of the 47th Section of the Act of 1896 were so unsuccessful that in only eight cases out of 180 were consents obtained to settlements under that section. Such a state of facts, to his mind, showed a most unreasonable spirit; on the part of the landlords concerned, who declined to avail themselves of an Act which undoubtedly could do much good, and which could not, by any possibility, do them any harm. It was, no doubt, purely voluntary, but he thought if there had been some means of empowering the Commission, when they found unreasonable landlords to deal with them in a somewhat compulsory way, the Attorney General would not have had to give them such very unsatisfactory news as to the reinstatement of evicted tenants. He knew one case in the county Longford, in which the actual landlord was out of possession, and the Scottish Amicable Insurance Society were the mortgagees. The landlord was willing that a settlement should be made, but the Scottish Society stepped in and refused to allow this, with the result that the unfortunate tenant and his family were living in a most deplorable state. He was glad to be able to record his vote and give his strongest support to the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Mayo. He thought it would have been a lamentable thing, in view of all the facts, if they had allowed an occasion such as this to pass without expressing to the Government deep regret at their inability to deal with the matter of the settlement, of the Irish Land Question, and he could only hope the effect of the most unsatisfactory reply of the Attorney General would be to consolidate and strengthen the determination of the tenant farmers of Ireland to press their views in a much more determined manner on the attention of Parliament.

MR. JAMES O'KELLY (Roscommon, N.)

observed that after the answer given by the Government, it would probably be useless for him to appeal further to them to reconsider their position; yet the case that had been laid before the House ought, under ordinary circumstances, to move a person of a very hard heart to reconsider his position. The effect of legislation which was undertaken last year had unquestionably been endangered by the refusal of the Government to reconsider their determination not to shorten the judicial term. The case for shortening that term was so strong that it ought to have overcome the ordinary economic argument that might have been adduced against it. The necessity for shortening the legal term had been demonstrated by the fact that the proceedings of the Courts during the first four years of their existence' had been denounced by the Judge of the Land Court himself. It was found, by the confession of Judge Bewley, that in regard to the present judicial rents fixed during the first four years after the setting up of the Land Courts, that the rents had been fixed on a wrong principle and on a false theory. It appeared that the Government had resolved not to move on this important question of shortening the terms of the judicial leases. One way by which the evil might be considerably lessened would be to adopt the proposition made by the hon. Member for North Louth—namely, that the Government should, in addition to the proposed legislation in the Queen's Speech, go further, and bring in an Agricultural Rates Bill for Ireland in the present Session, which would do for the Irish farmer that which was done last year for the English farmer, and reduce his rates by half, which had already been done in England. If the Government would consider that proposition, or adopt such portion of it as they might think fit, they would apply considerable alleviation to the present condition of the Irish tenant. There was one thing certain, and that was, that unless something was done to improve the condition of the tenants in Ireland the present state of peace and order was not likely to last long.

MR. THOMAS LOUGH (Islington, W.)

thought his hon. Friends had done well in emphasising the importance of the subject now under discussion and the unsatisfactory answer given by the Attorney General for Ireland. What was the whole essence of that answer? Hon. Members had stated that the agricultural depression and low prices made the payment of rent impossible. The Attorney General said that Ireland had not escaped any more than had England the effect of these low prices, and his point was, that the situation of Ireland was just the same as that of England. But the grievous thing to the Irish Members was, that while England, or, indeed, the whole of Great Britain, was in a state of the greatest prosperity, Ireland was on the verge of ruin. It was this bitter contrast that was rankling in the minds not only of the Nationalist Members from Ireland, but of those who had to struggle for a meagre existence there. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to quote prices in support of his extraordinary statement that the situation was the same, but they proved exactly the opposite of what he contended. Every price the right hon. Gentleman quoted about England was a rising price.


I did not quote any price about England.


said he heard the right hon. Gentleman quote English prices, and they were all rising prices, and all the Irish prices he quoted were falling prices. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned wheat. Was any wheat grown in Ireland? Wheat had saved the English farmer this year, but he was astonished that the right hon. Gentleman should suggest that it could possibly do any good to the Irish farmer. The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned hay. There had been a small rise in hay, but it had been no good to the Irish farmer because he had not the means of getting the hay to the market profitably. Then the right hon. Gentleman mentioned articles that had fallen. He referred to butter.


The hon. Member mistakes me. I said that butter was one of the articles that had risen.


apologised to the right hon. Gentleman. That was so, but the rise, two and a half per cent., was very small, and was no use to Ireland, for the reason that Irish butter had ceased to command a high price in the English market. The right hon. Gentleman would admit there had been a great fall in the price of store cattle, and nothing contributed more to the profits of English farmers than the low price of store cattle. So that that which ruined Ireland made England rich. That point touched the very centre of the mistake the Government were making. It was not only with regard to this year, but with regard to the past 50 years that the people of Ireland felt that while circumstances were such as to bring them lower and lower every year, the people in Great Britain were flourishing more and more every day. Every statement of the hon. Member for Derby was grounded on fact. The hon. Member pointed attention to the fact that there were districts in Ireland not scheduled as congested districts, where the people were poorer than in the so-called congested districts. There was a population of 2,000,000 nearly all along the West Coast with barely the means of subsistence, and shamefully housed. Not one of the statements of the hon. Member for Derby had been controverted. This had been a valuable Debate, for it was laying the foundation of a question of which the Government would hear much. The defence of the Government was going to be that the condition of things in Ireland was the same as in England. They had had the beginning of the defence that night, and the friends of Ireland were trying to lay the foundation of their case, which was that Ireland was discriminated against, that Ireland was ruined, while Great Britain was prospering beyond all nations of the world. He thought the Queen's Speech was about the worst Speech ever given to the House. It commenced with massacres and went into war, rebellion, and famine. It left out the clause about economy. It threatened new taxes for military purposes, and finally, its promises of legislation were of the thinnest, vaguest, and most unsatisfactory kind. No part of the Speech was so unsatisfactory as that which dealt with Ireland, and he thought the hon. Member for East Mayo extremely wise to bring forward this broad resolution. A year ago he stated to the House that 1895 had been a most disastrous year for Ireland, but he was not able to prove it, because no facts with regard to that year had been presented. That was a difficulty hon. Members always laboured under with regard to Ireland. They never trot the facts until they were too late to be of use. Since Parliament separated they had got some facts about 1895, and they absolutely justified his statement. In December they had an account of the local taxation.


The question of Irish taxation does not arise in the Amendment. It has been reserved for discussion on another day.


said he had no intention of going into it. He only suggested that the burden of taxation pressed too heavily on their poor people. They were at the beginning of another Session, and Irishmen were met with the same indifference on the part of the Government. They did not know what Ireland had suffered in 1896. The returns would not be laid for another year. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House said the other day, with the greatest naїveté, with regard to the taxation question, "How is it that it has not been mentioned for 70 years?"


The hon. Member is really still discussing that question.


said he did not mean to go into it at any length. He was only going to point out that the right hon. Gentleman did not know the facts. Practically the whole of last Session they were discussing the difficulties of the British farmer and landowner, and great relief was given to them in local taxation. What was done for the Irish farmer? Absolutely nothing. The whole case was left over. He was aware that £180,000 was set aside, but where was it now? No proposal had been made with regard to the money. The relief given to the British farmer in 1896 was rankling in the minds of everybody in Ireland. Allusion had been made to the disastrous harvest. In Great Britain the weather on the whole was favourable for the harvest. ["No, no!"] At any rate it was in many places. In Ireland the harvest was practically washed away, and that made it much harder to bear the burden of rent and taxation, which was just as heavy as it ever was. Perhaps the most prosperous parts of Ireland were those in which the wide grazing districts were situated, and yet he was informed that even those districts had suffered great distress last year. The farmers in those districts had been forced to sell their cattle after they had been upon their land for some five or six months at the same price that they had paid for them, and thereby they had sustained a very heavy loss. Great distress had fallen upon the south and middle of Ireland also in consequence of the fall in the price of barley. In a most interesting article that had appeared in The Times a sort time ago, summarising the progress of the year in Ireland, it was shown that during the last six months there had been a great decrease in the revenues of the railways in that country. That was a striking proof of the state of agriculture in that country, because the receipts of the Irish railways were chiefly derived from the carriage of agricultural produce. He thought that the control of remote branches of Irish railways should be taken over by the Irish Local Government Board. Another proof of the distressed condition of the country was to be found in the large increase of its pauperism, and he was satisfied that in many districts in Ireland the population were on the verge of famine. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had said that the pauperism of the country would be relieved under the Poor Law, but it would be most unfortunate if the people of Ireland were taught to rely upon Poor Law relief. The serious feature of the situation was that the misery suffered by the Irish people was contrasted with the great progress and comfort that prevailed in Great Britain. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the Report of the Recess Committee, but that Report deprived the Government of their last protection. The defence of the Government, had been that, seeing that Ireland was an agricultural country, she must of necessity experience her share of the distress which had fallen upon agricultural countries generally. But the Report of the Recess Committee showed that in agricultural countries such as Holland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the population had doubled within the present century, and that was a proof under a proper system and Government, agricultural countries might become prosperous. He should like to draw a distinction between the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Mayo and the speech by which he supported it, which went far beyond the terms of the Amendment itself. He did not agree with the opinion of the hon. Member that no good had resulted from the Act of last year. He was as anxious as the hon. Member himself was to see something done for the benefit of Ireland, and he had no desire to make light of anything that the Government had done in that direction. This matter ought not to be regarded from a party point of view in Ireland. The Irish landlord had his grievances as well as the Irish tenants. The true interest of the Irish people, whether landlords or tenants, was to band themselves together in order to secure harmony of feeling among all classes, and to obtain a better Government than that which now occupied the Front Bench opposite. As far as he understood the policy of the Government, it was to set the classes of Ireland against one another, and having accomplished that object to ruin them all with perfect; impartiality. He knew a good deal about Ireland, because he had seen much of what was going on there during his recent visit to that country. When he was in the north of Ireland he had attended a little cattle show there and had seen the Orange baud and the Nationalist band arrive, not to lead rival factions against each other, but to give as much music and success to the occasion as they could. It seemed to him that in all parts of Ireland at the present moment there was a disposition on the part of the people to draw together and to relieve themselves of the great difficulties under which they were all placed by the legislation of that House. He hoped that his hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo would forgive him for saying that the true interest of every Nationalist was to seek the harmonious and common action of all the people of Ireland against their enemies, the Government which sat on the opposite benches. As far as he could judge, the Irish Members had commenced the Session pretty well, but he did not sympathise with certain threats as to what would occur in Ireland if that House did not; follow a particular course. If he might apply a scriptural comparison, he would say that it seemed to him that the Government were like the unjust judge, who feared not God and regarded not man in connection with Ireland. He would compare the Irish party to the widow who came to the judge crying that she should be avenged of her adversary, and who troubled him because her prayer was not granted.


said that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down might be an excellent judge of what the policy of the Government ought to be, and he also might be an admirable judge of widows, but he certainly was not an authority that the Irish Party could recognise as one from whom they were going to take their policy. Hon. Members on the Government Benches had complained of this discussion being raised, but surely the justification was to be found in the Queen's Speech itself. It was there stated that the agricultural interests of Ireland were of paramount importance. If that was the opinion of the Government, how could they object to any part of the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Mayo? What did they learn from the First Lord of the Treasury when the hon. Member for East Mayo, speaking last night, made a slip in saying there were no Nationalists on the Congested Districts Board? He heard a plurality of plurals from the First Lord, and he rose from his seat in the firm conviction that every member of the Congested Districts Board was a Nationalist. But he found there were two Nationalists on that Board, and he supposed that was so only for appearance sake. Everything in Ireland was done for appearance sake. The policy of the Government was all for appearance sake; it was like the policy of the man who went out to dinner in a sedan chair with the bottom out, and who said if it was not for appearance sake he would as soon have walked. He denied that Ireland was prosperous. Why was she not prosperous? Because she was an agricultural country. England had a teeming population, and she had to feed it. What did she do? She ruined the small agricultural country by allowing every country in the world to compete with her in her produce. England said to Ireland, "Yes, I will tax you in more ways than one; I will make you sell your produce at famine prices in order that I can feed my population." Irishmen were asked why they did not hold out the hand of friendship. They did not do so because of the gibes and sneers and laughter they heard when they brought up the ills and griefs of their country. They came to Parliament Session after Session with the old, old story, and what did they get? Hon. Members said they had heard the story often, and did not believe it. Why was Ireland not treated as England and Scotland were treated? Why did not Irish agriculture receive the relief which was given to agriculture in the two other countries last year? If it did, it would receive £900,000 instead of £180,000. He trusted the Government would not look upon this Motion as one which was made factionally, but as one which had been wrung from the hon. Member for East Mayo by the contemplation of the troubles and sorrows and distresses of the most worthy and industrious people whom he and his colleagues were sent to Parliament to represent.

MR. WILLIAM O'MALLEY (Galway, Connemara)

said that the Irish Members and their constituents felt greatly indebted to the hon. Member for Islington for the great interest he had taken in the cause of Ireland. Personally, he offered the hon. Gentleman his thanks for the speech he had made, just as he offered his thanks to the hon. Member for Derby for the interest he had taken in the Irish cause. At present, upon the financial relations between the two countries Nationalists and Unionists were making common cause, and it was the hope of every man sitting around him that once the Land Question was settled they would find landlords and tenants, Nationalists and Unionists, working in harmony for the common good of the country. Irish Members were twitted with indulging too much in sentiment, but surely upon the present occasion they had adduced facts and figures sufficient to convince the Government? He trusted that even now, the eleventh hour, they would do justice to his unfortunate country. He happened to represent one of the poorest parts of Ireland—a congested district in the West of Galway, and he feared the Board of Agriculture promised to Ireland in the Queen's Speech would afford very little material aid to his poor constituents, whose poverty was mainly duo to the exorbitant rents exacted from them, regardless of the miserable land on which they sought to maintain an existence. Moreover, they had been handicapped by being deprived of every means of encouraging their own native industries. It was obvious that any country where the population was decreasing, and the ability to pay taxes diminishing, was in a bad condition. A few figures would prove this in regard to the county of Galway. From 1851 to 1895 no fewer than 133,126 persons had emigrated. In 1841 the population was 414,810; in 1801 it had fallen to 214,712, a decrease of 60 per cent., and those figures would apply pretty gene rally with the rest of Ireland. In 1841 there were 75,982 houses in Galway; in 1891 only 41,385. It was impossible for any hon. Member who was not personally acquainted with this part of Ireland to realise the poverty, distress, and misery that existed there, especially on the coast line, and he would earnestly appeal to the Government, and to the Chief Secretary especially, to see what they could do to relieve the suffering of these poor people and to do whatever they did in THE matter in a prompt, thorough, and effective manner. [Cheers.]


said that it had ever been a serious error on the part of English Ministers to minimise the troubles and difficulties of Ireland, and he was very sorry that the hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland had to a large extent fallen into the same mistake in his speech that night. The reason of this was that Ministers had the fatal tendency to rely so much and so thoroughly on the reports of their subordinates—on the comparatively roseate reports sent to them by their inspectors in Ireland. But to whom did those inspectors go—to what class of men did they go to make inquiries? Why, invariably to the wrong class of men to obtain full and accurate information as to the real facts. ["Hear, hear!"] They never happened to make their inquiries of those who, in the nature of things, were the best able to state the actual condition of things, and to state them fully and fairly. He had found in his own experience, and it was the case generally, that the inspector generally went to the landlord or local magnate for his information, and as it was to the direct interest of the landlord to keep down the rates, which fell heavily upon him, he put the best face on things that he could. The inspector only echoed in his report what was told him by the landlord, and consequently the Government rarely got a real knowledge of the actual state of things in Ireland, and of the deplorable condition of the people in the poorer districts of the country. This method of offering to meet distress in many districts by the ordinary administration of the law was like offering to feed a dog on its own tail. The Government were asked to come to the relief of distress in the congested districts, where poverty was extreme at the present moment, where the actual food supply was already consumed, and where the outlook for the people in many districts was absolute famine. They were told they must be satisfied because inspectors had been sent down to make careful inquiries. Would these inspectors go to those who could give them accurate information, to the parish Priest, and to those who were intimately acquainted with the wants and the needs of the people, or would they be left a free hand and go only to the local district inspector, the local agent or the local magnate? They would watch and wait to see whether the refusal to do nothing for Ireland but what was foreshadowed in the Queen's Speech; and if, notwithstanding the pressure that would be put upon them, the Government continued to turn a deaf, dull, unsympathetic ear to all their claims and demands, no matter what their justice and pressing necessity, then the Government would not have so easy an existence as they had mapped out for themselves. The cries of the people of Ireland had almost reached the limits of endurance and forbearance, and the Government were acting injudiciously and unwisely in putting the screw and the pressure of necessity so severely on the Irish people as to compel them in their own interest and for their own safety to take another and more violent course. He warned the Government that if this extreme and arrogant attitude of refusal were maintained they would certainly have to meet an outburst of public feeling in Ireland for which they and they alone would be responsible. Knowing the people as he did, he said they would not remain restrained much longer, unless another course were adpoted. The Land Act of last year had not brought the people any permanent or immediate relief, and immediate relief was urgently required. They demanded from the Government—and if the Government were wise they would grant them immediate relief in these respects—a short Act shortening the judicial term, the renewal of the Act of 1887, a brief Arrears Act, and an Act reducing automatically the judicial rents of Ireland. These things were necessary, for the farmers of Ireland could not continue in their present condition. He pressed again upon the Government the necessity of their coming to some solution of the claims of Ireland at the present time. He did not suppose that anything would come out of this Amendment directly, but he hoped the question would be raised again and again until the Government conceded some of their legitimate demands.


was surprised to hear the Attorney General for Ireland say that the existing Poor Law was sufficient to meet the distress, and that the distress was not more than normal in some of the districts. He would give figures to show that in Achill Island, and the Westport Union there was more than normal distress. On the 17th of January a deputation waited upon the Westport Guardians, who, as a result of the representations made to them, gave £9 2s. 6d. of out-door relief, which amounted to £500 a year, whereas they only made an estimate of £100 or £200. The value of crops in Ireland had fallen from £58,000,000 in 1851 to £34,000,000 in 1889. The value of stock had in the same period increased from £39,000,000 to £54,000,000. Local taxation had increased from £2,000,000 to £3,000,000. Population had decreased from 8,000,000 in 1841 to 5,129,000 in 1881, and in 1891 it was 4,681,000. It might be said that with the decrease of population life was made worth living to those who remained. But to establish that proposition there should be a decrease in the Poor Rate, whereas there had been an enormous increase from £959,736 in 1873 to £1,397,032 in 1893. It was scarcely necessary to go into the statistics of emigration, but in the 30 years between 1831 and 1861, out of a total of 4,645,247 emigrants who left these islands, Ireland supplied 3,097,465. From 1st May, 1851, to January, 1896, the total emigration from Ireland was 3,651,425, or about 70 per cent. of a population of 5,500,000. Of the total number of emigrants, about 85 per cent. were between the ages of 10 and 45, so that it would appear that the young and able-bodied left Ireland and the old remained at home to die. Two remedies had been suggested for the disastrous condition of Irish agriculture, and one of these was the establishment of an Agricultural Board, the addition of one more to the number of Boards with which Ireland was saddled at a cost of nearly £27,000. And, again, instead of light railways in the West of Ireland, there were rumours in the air that the Chief Secretary intended to run a lug-boat from Achill Sound to Belmullet, and this, it was suggested, would bring peace and happiness to Achill people, who endeavoured to get a, living out of holdings of a quarter of an acre. He recommended the right hon. Gentleman to give up these ideas. A useful Board existed in Ireland, the Congested Districts Board, which would be swept away by the new Board. But the Congested Districts Board had been doing excellent work for years past, and he suggested that they should continue their work and be invested with compulsory powers for the purchase of land upon fair arbitration terms. Let the Congested Districts Board divide such land into reasonable-sized holdings at Achill and elsewhere, and in this way there would be more effect than any number of lug-boats between Achill and Belmullet.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The House divided:—Ayes, 125; Noes, 189.—(Division List—No.3—Appended.)

Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.) Haldane, Richard Burdon O'Keeffe, Francis Arthur
Acland, Rt. Hon. A. H. Dyke Hammond, John (Carlow) O'Kelly, James
Allan, William (Gateshead) Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir William O'Malley, William
Allison, Robert Andrew Harrington, Timothy Palmer, Sir Charles M. (Durham)
Ambrose, Robert (Mayo, W.) Harrison, Charles Parnell, John Howard
Barlow, John Emmott Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale- Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)
Barry, E. (Cork, S.) Hazell, Walter Power, Patrick Joseph
Birrell, Augustine Healy, Maurice (Cork) Provand, Andrew Dryburgh
Blake, Edward Healy, Timothy M. (N. Louth.) Reckitt, Harold James
Brigg, John Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H. Rickett, J. Compton
Caldwell, James Hogan, James Francis Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)
Cameron, Robert Jameson, Major J. Eustace Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)
Carew, James Laurence Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea) Robson, William Snowdon
Causton, Richard Knight Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Roche, Hon. James (East Kerry)
Clark, Dr. G. B. (Caitnness-sh.) Kilbride, Denis Roche, John (East Galway)
Collery, Bernard Knox, Edmund Francis Vesey Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Commins, Andrew Lambert, George Schwann, Charles E.
Condon, Thomas Joseph Langley, Batty Sheehy, David
Crean, Eugene Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb'land) Smith, Samuel (Flint)
Crilly, Daniel Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington) Spicer, Albert
Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal) Lewis, John Herbert Strachey, Edward
Daly, James Lloyd-George, David Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan) Logan, John William Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)
Davies, W. Rees-(Pembrokesh.) Lough, Thomas Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.)
Davitt, Michael Macaleese, Daniel Tuite, James
Dillon, John MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Tully, Jasper
Donelan, Captain A. M'Arthur, William Wallace, Robert (Perth)
Doogan, P. C. M'Cartan, Michael Walton, John Lawson
Doughty, George M'Dermott, Patrick Wedderburn, Sir William
Ellis, Thos. Edw. (Merionethsh.) M'Donnell, Dr. M. A. (Queen's C.) Weir, James Galloway
Engledow, Charles John M'Ghee, Richard Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Evans, Sir Francis H.(South'ton) M'Hugh, Patrick A. (Leitrim) Williams, John Carvell (Notts)
Farquharson, Dr. Robert Maden, John Henry Wilson, Charles Henry (Hull)
Farrell, James P. (Cavan, W.) Montagu, Sir S. (Whitechapel) Wilson, Frederick W.(Norfolk)
Fenwick, Charles Morley, Rt. Hon. John (Montrose) Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)
Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith) Morton, Edward John Chalmers Wilson, Jos. H.(Middlesbrough)
Ffrench, Peter Murnaghan, George Woodhouse, Sir. J. T.(Hudd'rsf'ld
Field, William (Dublin) Nussey, Thomas Willans Young, Samuel
Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork) Yoxall, James Henry
Gibney, James O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Gilhooly, James O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary) TELLERS FOR THE AYES, Sir Thomas Esmonde and Dr. Tanner.
Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)
Goddard, Daniel Ford O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)
Arrol, Sir William Campbell, James A. Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.
Ascroft, Robert Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire) Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Chaloner, Captain R. G. W. Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph
Baden-Powell, Sir Geo. Smyth Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J.(Birm.) Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-
Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy Chelsea, Viscount Doxford, William Theodore
Balcarres, Lord Clare, Octavius Leigh Drage, Geoffrey
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r) Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Drucker, G. C. Adolphus
Banbury, Frederick George Coghill, Douglas Harry Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.
Barnes, Frederic Gorell Cohen, Benjamin Louis Fardell, Thomas George
Barry, A. H. Smith-(Hunts.) Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward
Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol) Compton, Lord Alwyne (Beds.) Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne
Bethell, Commander Cook, Fred Lucas (Lambeth) Fisher, William Hayes
Bigwood, James Cooke, C. W. Radcliffe (Heref'd) Fison, Frederick William
Blundell, Colonel Henry Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Flannery, Fortescue
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Cripps, Charles Alfred Forster, Henry William
Bousfield, William Robert Curzon, Rt. Hn. G. N. (Lanc. S. W.) Forwood, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur B.
Brassey, Albert Curzon, Viscount (Bucks.) Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Dalrymple, Sir Charles Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)
Brookfield, A. Montagu Dane, Richard M. Fry, Lewis
Bucknill, Thomas Townsend Davenport, W. Bromley- Garfit, William
Bullard, Sir Harry Davies, Horatio D. (Chatham) Gedge, Sydney
Butcher, John George Denny, Colonel Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans.)
Giles, Charles Tyrrell Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.(Essex) Rutherford, John
Gilliat, John Saunders Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)
Godson, Augustus Frederick Long, Col. Charles W.(Evesh'm) Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard
Goldsworthy, Major-General Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (L'pool) Seely, Charles Hilton
Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon Loyd, Archie Kirkman Sharpe, William Edward T.
Goschen, George J. (Sussex) Lucas-Shadwell, William Simeon, Sir Barrington
Goulding, Edward Alfred Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Graham, Henry Robert Macartney, W. G. (Ellison Smith, Abel (Herts)
Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Macdona, John Cumming Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)
Greville, Captain Maclure, John William Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)
Gull, Sir Cameron M'lver, Sir Lewis Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord Geo. M'Killop, Ja es Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset)
Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm. Malcolm, Ian Stanley, Henry M. (Lambeth)
Heath, James Maple, Sir John Blundell Stone, Sir John Benjamin
Helder, Augustus Martin, Richard Biddulph Strauss, Arthur
Hill, Rt. Hn. Lord Arthur (Down) Massey-Mainwaring Hn. W. F. Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley
Hoare, Edw. Brodie (Hampstead) Maxwell, Sir Herbert E. Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier
Holland, Hon. Lionel Raleigh Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire) Talbot, John G. (Oxford Univ.)
Hopkinson, Alfred Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M. Thornton, Percy M.
Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry Milner, Sir Frederick George Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Houston, R. P. Milward, Colonel Victor Tritton, Charles Ernest
Howell, William Tudor Monckton, Edward Philip Valentia, Viscount
Howorth, Sir Henry Hoyle Monk, Charles James Wanklyn, James Leslie
Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn More, Robert Jasper Warr, Augustus Frederick
Hudson, George Bickersteth Murray, Charles J. (Coventry) Webster, Sir R. E. (Isle of Wight)
Hunt, Sir Frederick Seager Myers, William Henry Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.
Hutton, John (Yorks. N. R.) Parkes, Ebenezer Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Jenkins, Sir John Jones Pease, Arthur (Darlington) Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton Phillpotts, Captain Arthur Williams, Joseph Powell (Bir.)
Johnston, William (Belfast) Platt-Higgins, Frederick Willox, John Archibald
Kemp, George Pryce-Jones, Edward Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Kenny, William Purvis, Robert Wilson, J. W. (Worc'sh, N.)
Kenyon, James Rankin, James Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)
King, Sir Henry Seymour Rentoul, James Alexander Wyndham, George
Knowles, Lees Richards, Henry Charles Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.
Laurie, Lieut.-General Richardson, Thomas Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy
Lawson, John Grant (Yorks) Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W. Younger, William
Lea, Sir Thomas (Londonderry) Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Lecky, William Edward H. Round, James TELLERS FOR THE NOES, Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.
Lees, Elliott (Birkenhead) Russell, Col. F. S. (Cheltenham)
Llewellyn, Evan H. (Somerset) Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)
Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn (Sw'ns'a)