HC Deb 21 February 1898 vol 53 cc1309-28

(2). £5,000 for the Irish Land Commission (Supplementary).

Resolutions to be reported.

MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)

I think we are on this vote entitled to fuller explanations than one given with the Estimate. With regard to this and singular votes, we are unfortunately in this position: the Report of the Commission has not yet been presented, and, consequently, we cannot refer to it at any considerable length. I think, however, we cannot too strongly condemn the appointments of these temporary Assistant Commissioners. I hold that to ensure that they do their duty properly and impartially, they should have security of tenure in their offices; otherwise they cannot be expected to be impartial as between landlord and tenant. I observe that one additional temporary Commissioner is appointed for the six months ending the 31st March next. It is not the sum to be paid to him that I object to; it is the principle that is wrong, and, as I hold, utterly indefensible. It is a matter of public notoriety that hundreds of thousands of tenants are now appealing to get their rents fixed for a second statutory term; surely, then, the appointment of the Assistant Commissioners should be permanent and not temporary. We have frequently protested against this system from these Benches. We say it is intolerable and indefensible that a man entrusted with such high and important duties should only hold a temporary appointment. He ought to feel that he is perfectly independent, and it is impossible for one appointed for such short periods to do his duty satisfactorily. There is a question I should like to ask about the Report of the Commission recently issued. It was in the newspaper offices at Dublin a fortnight ago; it reached the newspapers in this country the next morning. Yet we Members of this House have not received it. In that I submit that we have been treated with discourtesy. But to revert to the appointment of temporary Commissioners, I submit that the system is vicious and wrong. The Government might have learned something from experience. Complaint has frequently been made of these appointments, and one gentleman who possesses a stronger power of characterisation, if not vituperation, than many of us—at any rate, a stronger power of invective—has called these officials "labourers paid by the day or week." I say that men who are supposed to possess a competent knowledge of land, and to be able to deal with complicated and intricate questions, such as are involved in the numerous Irish Land Acts, should be in a proper and permanent position, otherwise it would be better to sweep away Irish land legislation altogether. The Commissioners had to discharge duties, on the proper performance of which largely depend the peace, contentment, and prosperity of Ireland. They must do their work without fear, favour, or affection. Therefore it is most unwise on the part of the Government to only appoint them for such short periods.


I take this as I take every opportunity of protesting against the appointment of temporary Commissioners. I think it is a growing scandal, and I canot understand on what grounds these appointments are made. These gentlemen have practically the duty of settling the incomes of a large number of persons in Ireland for good or for evil, and they are settling them on principles absolutely unknown to jurisprudence. I feel strongly that the alternative suggested by the hon. Member opposite is the only satisfactory one. Let the Government look the facts in the face, and employ gentlemen on terms which will enable them to act as independent judges, otherwise you place them in an invidious position. They know that as soon as their short term of office has expired they will have to go back into private life after having occupied positions as arbitrators and judges in which they have been subject to the most acute criticism. Men, whoever they may be, who are called upon to judge between man and man are exposed to great temptation. This is recognised in our judicial system, in which it is ordained that judges should hold office during the pleasure of the Crown. In face of that, how can the Government defend these temporary appointments? I join in the protest made by the hon. Member opposite.

DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid.)

I wish to point out that this Supplementary Estimate is required for an additional temporary Assistant Legal Commissioner, from September 23rd, 1897, to March 31st, 1898, who is to get £626; for eight temporary Assistant Non-legal Commissioners, from different dates from April 1st, 1897, to March 31st, 1898, who are to have £2,403; and for one additional temporary Registrar to a Sub-Commission, from September 13th, 1897, to March 31st, 1898. Now, Sir, I would point out this fact: that the round sum required is £5,000—plus nothing, minus nothing—simply £5,000; and I would ask hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House, how they are to obtain this sum. In connection with the salaries, there is a large additional sum which has been acquired without the attention of Parliament. This is a serious matter, and it is necessary to correct it. This having been done without anybody's knowledge, an Estimate is brought in, and this House is asked to consent to it. Our friends on the opposite side of the House, who profess to be dissatisfied with the Irish Land Commission, do not know that we have an extra Irish Land Commissioner earning £626. Putting it plainly, no one is satisfied with these appointments, but yet the money has to be paid because the big man cannot get on without the temporary assistant. Then we have a Non-legal Commissioner "from various dates." To put such an item down appears to be ridiculous. Cannot they give the dates? Is one man to get a larger fee than another? Well, it is a small thing that the British taxpayer is willing and able to pay. It is only £2,043; but that cannot be the whole amount, because you cannot have your Commissioner without you also have your Assistant Non-legal Commissioners, without you have an additional temporary Commissioner, and also an additional temporary Registrar to a Sub-Commission, from the 13th September to the 31st March. Sir, I maintain that if these sums of money are to be obtained, and if there is to be a precedent, I submit that in the first place we ought to have a pledge from the Government of the day, who are perfectly competent to reduce the conditions upon which certain moneys should be demanded. Accordingly, I think, instead of passing this Vote over in the ordinary way in which a great number of these items are, at the expense of the taxpayer, that we should require a solemn assurance from Her Majesty's Government that what has been done has been done for the best, not merely for the taxpayer, but also for the ignorant tenants who require the assistance of these Commissioners. I simply say this: That in my district of MidCork there is a great amount of difficulty in getting the tenants to go to the Courts at all. Yet, notwithstanding this, we are called upon to pass these exaggerated items, and I maintain that hon. Members opposite to me, if they were in my place, would agree in saying that you should try and do your beat for those tenants who are willing to buy their own land (because it is their own land). Moreover, I think it is my duty to point out to hon. Members on both side the inordinate amount of money that is being spent in doing nothing.

MR. DANE (Fermanagh, N.)

I wish to join my hon. Friend in expressing disapproval of the temporary character of these appointments. It will give dissatisfaction to both landlord and tenant in Ireland. Unless you make the office of Land Commissioner a permanent one, the Treasury should not contribute to it, because there is absolutely no check whatever on the office, and I do hope the Government will direct their attention to this, because it is a matter that causes great dissatisfaction.

MR. D. KILBRIDE (Galway, N.)

I wish to join my voice with those hon. Gentlemen who have raised theirs against this Vote largely on the ground that these Land Commissioners act in the capacity of Judges, and I cannot conceive that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland should desire, as he does, that their decisions should not be open to adverse criticism. I cannot see that he himself would be desirous of making these temporary appointments. We all know that if temporary lay Commissioners are appointed by the Conservative Government, by the Landlord Government, that the popular feeling in Ireland with regard to them will be that, owing to the fact that they are so appointed, they will, in order to secure their reappointment on the expiration of their term of office, be bound to give decisions in favour of their patrons, the landlords. I do not think this tends to increase the respect of the populace when British law is administered in Ireland; and also, in my opinion, there is some objection open to temporary Commissioners who may be appointed by the Liberal Government, because they would be open to the same objection, except that it would come from the other side. The objection to these temporary Commissioners being appointed is that they would decide, according to their political views, either in favour of the landlord or the tenant, and would do strict justice to neither, for they are only human, and intensely human, and because they would be anxious for reappointment at the expiration of their term of office. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary must see himself that it is absolutely essential that confidence should be established in the decisions of the Land Commissioners, and that it is impossible to have any confidence whatever in their decisions so long as you have this system of temporary lay Commissioners. For that reason, I am very pleased to be able to support the hon. Gentlemen on the other side who have objected to this system of temporary Commissioners. I must say the system of sending down new lay Commissioners, that has been alluded to by the hon. and learned Member for North Fermanagh, is, I think, a new practice, and is a practice that certainly did not prevail in the early days of the Land Commission. At that time, I think, without a single exception, the lay Commissioners had to view a farm to see whether the evidence that was given was true or not. Now, it appears to me that the practice—instituted, I suppose with the object of saving money—that one lay Commissioner is entrusted with this extremely delicate work, is hardly just—a gentleman who, we must all acknowledge, knows nothing about the Land Commissioners in Ireland. Largely divergent views are expressed by the witnesses of the landlords and the tenants, and this gentleman has to decide upon the point. It would surprise this House to hear that on a small farm, of limited area, you will hear one witness get up and swear that the improvements on that land are fully worth £200; and then you will hear a competent witness on behalf of the landlord say that he has visited the land, and that all the improvements have been pointed out to him that have been made, and he will swear that the whole lot is not worth £10. Now, that is a pretty strong conflict of testimony.


Order, order! The question the hon. Member is now addressing himself to does not arise here. That arises on the general question of the Land Commissioners.


With great respect and with great submission the question does arise here. Here are eight temporary Assistant Commissioners, and those are the gentlemen to whom my hon. Friend is referring. And with great respect, in the case of a purchase especially being detrimental, the functions of these gentlemen are called into question, and there is a distinct allegation of misconduct. This is a Supplemental Vote, but it is a full Vote in respect to these men, and in respect to their conduct during the time with which the Vote is concerned.


If the hon. Member challenges any action taken by any one of these eight Commissioners, of course, he is in order; but if he is challenging any question of general system, it is not a matter which the Assistant Commissioner is responsible for. That is a matter that the Land Commissioner is responsible for, and it is a matter which must arise upon the Vote for the Land Commissioners.


What I was directing the attention of the House to was this: that it is an extremely bad thing that the onus should fall on one gentleman, a temporary Assistant Lay Commissioner, of deciding where there is such a divergence of opinion. Where there is such a conflict of testimony given on a Land Commission that the onus should be thrown on one person, even if he be a Land Commissioner, it is bad enough, but it is ten times worse when it is thrown upon a man who is only a temporary Commissioner. I think it is a scandal in any case, but the scandal is ten times as great when it is thrown upon a gentleman of this kind, seeing that he must decide more or less in favour of the landlord. I have no desire to make any attack on any gentleman who is a Member of the Land Commission, and I have no desire to make, in any case, a personal attack on anybody. I believe the Government have a difficult task before them, and I think the only possible way of giving confidence to the country, to the landlords, and to the tenants, of the justice and impartiality of the decisions of these gentlemen is, not to make temporary, but to make permanent appointments. When I say permanent appointments, I mean that they should be made for three or five years, and that these gentlemen should not be mere emergency men, brought in for twelve months merely and appointed at so much a day—three guineas a day, and appointed from day to day. I say that to have persons under such conditions of appointment, acting in the capacity of Judges, is disgraceful and contrary and foreign to all principles of English law. I know the Chief Secretary for Ireland is not responsible for this. It is the Treasury that is responsible. It is because the Treasury think that by adopting this practice they can manage to save a few thousands of pounds in the twelve months. That is the reason for this state of things. But I say that the Treasury should adopt a more liberal attitude, and should spend a little more money in making permanent appointments. That where they save a few thousands of pounds a year they save it at the loss of the respect of the country. Nobody in Ireland is satisfied with the result, either landlord or tenant.


I do not intend to take any part in this discussion, and I feel myself in some little difficulty. I just want to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to the second clause. I do not wish to say anything upon the general question. An additional temporary Commissioner was appointed on the 21st of September. Now, I think that date is important. On that date a temporary legal Assistant Commissioner is appointed, at a time when, as everybody knows, a new tribunal was to be initiated, and that new circumstances were going to take place over which this temporary legal Commissioner will have supreme control; and having regard to the fact that in the month of September, on the very day—the 23rd September—when the Committee was actually sitting in Dublin, and when the whole of the Land Commission was on its trial, this took place; I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will give me any explanation as to why a new man without any experience—I do not know the man, and I should be sorry to make any personal, attack upon anybody —should be placed in that position he was to assist in the work of those tribunals Why should he establish a new tribunal? I would ask him himself to consider what would be the effect on any man, even if he were in the position of an immovable judge, knowing that another tribunal was discussing the matter and criticising his action; the effect would be very bad. But what would be the effect upon a man who was only in a temporary position there to-day and dismissed to-morrow when he found a tribunal which was investigating into the facts and the personnel of these positions? Let me ask for this explanation: Why did he in such a case appoint a gentleman wholly and entirely unacquainted with judicial matters to decide on such a very serious matter as dispute between landlord and tenant? I asked whether, under the circumstances, the Land Commissioners should sit at all while the Commission was sitting, because they were really on their trial; but I should say in this case the right hon. Gentleman has out-Heroded everything in making a temporary judge at this time. The fact of his being a temporary judge makes it worse. I think I am entitled to get an explicit answer from the right hon. Gentleman upon that point, and I am also entitled to bitterly complain that, having regard to the report on the points, that the private Commission has been criticised in the papers when we have not the report before us? How is it that that report has got into the hands of the Press and the House of Commons has not got it before them? I will also ask the right hon. Gentleman this question, though it almost seems cruelty, but it is a very serious matter: How it was that a temporary legal Commissioner was established under the circumstances which I have detailed?

MR. J. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)

I object to this principle of temporary Assistant Commissioners. I think it is a vicious one. I think these temporary appointments stand in the way of what we regard as the settlement of the Land Question, namely, making the tillers the owners of the soil. I find here you are voting for eight temporary Assistant Commissioners a sum of £2,400. So that being the salary of eight temporary Assistant Commissioners for 12 months, you have £300 a year for each Commissioner, or £6 a week for each man you let loose upon the rents of the tenants. Now, I think it is a very vicious principle to adopt for you to pick up such men as you can find, who, finding their other occupations unremunerative, will take up such a position at such a figure as this. You do not even give them a permanency, but leave them, as mere lodgers in the department. It is a vicious principle, and one that exposes them to too much temptation. On the tenants' side, it is contended that they do not reduce rents in order to hold on to their positions, while the friends of the hon. and gallant Member urge, when these gentlemen find rents arranged out of court, that, in order to create work for themselves, they give greater reductions in certain cases in order to tempt the tenants to come into court, and those cases are brought to a Court of Appeal, and the Court of Appeal knock off the reductions, and the tenants find themselves at a loss in the end. Now, I say the appointment of these temporary Assistant Commissioners is wrong and dangerous.

MR. J. H. CAMPBELL (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)

I should like to join with hon. Members on the other side of the House in the protest against these temporary Commissioners. I had the misfortune to be present during the greater portion of the inquiry by Lord Fry's Commission into the working of the Land Acts. While I do not intend and do not desire to go in any way into that matter, or to in any way anticipate the Debate which I think must necessarily arise hereafter upon the subject of that Commission, I think I am not travelling outside the scope of this discussion when I say that the witnesses before that Commission, those on the side of the landlords as well as those on the side of the tenants, were agreed in condemning the system by which the men entrusted with the judicial function of determining rents held office on such a precarious tenure. Hon. Members have little idea, I think, of the enormous amounts represented by the disputes with which these gentlemen have to deal. Their decisions, which are often upon large pecuniary amounts, is final; and, while a litigant suing for the smallest coin of the realm in a civil action can have his rights determined by the highest tribunal in the land—namely, the House of Lords, there is no appeal from the decisions of these temporary legal and lay Sub-Commissioners which involve hundreds and thousands of pounds a year. Now, I make no attack at all upon the personnel of these temporary Commissioners. I believe, having regard to their emoluments and the duration of their office, they are as good men as can be got for the money. But there is no man of any standing, either in my profession, or in the profession of valuer or land surveyor, that would take one of these temporary appointments. The result is that these gentlemen who are engaged for these brief periods are necessarily taken from the ranks of either the tenants' or the landlords' valuers, and, having spent a few months in the service of the Government, they must return to their former positions as tenants' or landlords' valuers, and the result is that they are extreme advocates on the one side or on the other, and neither tenant or landlord has any confidence in the decisions of a Court so constituted. I am aware, of course, that in this matter the Government and the Treasury are in a certain state of embarrassment, for this reason. The applications naturally came in at first in large numbers; immediately after the passing of the Act of 1881, they came in in hundreds. Now, the period is up and it becomes necessary to fix rents for a new period of 15 years, and there are again a great many cases before the Commissioners. But all that is simply a matter of money, and there are various departments in the Land Commission for which Sub-Commissioners could be drawn in times of pressure, and if there were no work in the way of fixing fair rents for them to do, they could be engaged in other departments. Therefore, in the interest of economy and certainly in the interests of justice it is desirable that these men should have a permanent tenure of office. Then, apart from their uncertain tenure of office, the rate at which they are paid is by no means sufficient to obtain the services of the best men. There is another matter which I think strongly shows the impropriety of this precarious tenure. These Assistant Commissioners have no means whatever of learning their work except by experience. It is an undoubted fact, strange though it appear, and I think it will appear strange to hon. Members from England, who are accustomed to Courts of Justice in this country, and especially accustomed to Courts of Appeal, that, although the Land Commission was originated in the year 1891, and we are now in 1898, up to the present time, neither in public nor in private, in Court or out of Court, has the Land Commission given their Assistant Commissioners an idea as to what is meant by "Fair rent." They delegate their authority to these men, but——


The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to go on with a criticism of the policy of the Land Commission. As long as he confines himself to the Temporary Commissioners, he will be in order.


My object was not to criticise the action of the Land Commission, but simply to show that, in order to get Assistant Commissioners competent and qualified for the work, we should have men who have knowledge and experience, and that the brief periods during which they hold the office gives them no opportunity of acquiring that experience. For these reasons, and apologising to the House for having taken up so much time, but, nevertheless, feeling that, in the interests both of the landlords and of the tenants, this is a matter which is essential to the proper administration of justice, I am glad to be able to join my Friends the hon. Members for Irish constituencies sitting on the opposite Benches in a protest against what we believe to be a vicious and pernicious system.

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

I should like to make one correction of the speech of the hon. Member for the St. Stephen's Green Division. He rather conveyed to the House that these temporary Commissioners (I do not think he alluded to the permanent Commissioners at all) were taken from both sides, and that, therefore, one or other of them occasionally gave effect to the tenants' as well as to the landlords' views. My recollection is, that there is not one single man, with one exception, who has been taken from the tenants' side, or has been known, on any occasion, to adopt the tenants' views. If the hon. Member had been longer in this House and better acquainted with the matters that have come out in the course of our Debates and proceedings on this subject, he would have known that all these Commissioners, even those appointed under a Liberal Government, were drawn from the landlord side. Then the hon. Member also referred to the practice of appeals, and I understood him to disapprove of the law which provides for appeals to the House of Lords.


The hon. Member is not quite correct. What I said was this: that having regard to the state of the law which confines the final decision of these questions to the Land Commission the importance becomes all the more manifest of seeing that the Commissioners held office permanently.


The hon. Member alluded to the difficulty of taking cases to the House of Lords, and I thought his suggestion was that even in small cases, involving only £10 or £15, there should be facilities for carrying them to the highest tribunal in the land. What I was going to say was, that when there was an appeal to a Court consisting of Mr. Justice Mellor and Mr. Commissioner Lynch, there was ample protection at all events for the landlords. What I contend is that the Government should act fairly in regard to these appointments, and should not follow the practice hitherto adopted of making their selections from one side only. It is non sense to say that in all Ireland they cannot get 10 or 15 men, even on the tenants' side, who would be fair-minded men, and I consider that it is most unfair that the tenants should not be represented.


On a former occasion I ventured to point out that from the point of view of the land-owning class in Ireland, no system could be more vicious in our estimation than that of these temporary Commissioners. I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite has placed the question exactly in the proper light. The question is not whether a Commissioner is the landlord's or tenant's man, but whether he is a man likely to arrive at a just decision on one side or the other. As to there being a difficulty in getting men in Ireland fit to fill these posts, I never met a man in Ireland who did not feel himself perfectly fitted to be a Land Commissioner, and particularly with three guineas a day attaching to the position, the temptation is overwhelming. Sir, it is very hard for the House of Commons, mainly composed of Englishmen, Scotch men, and Welshmen, to conceive the position of affairs in Ireland. I should like any English, Welsh, or Scotch landlord to be in this position: that at any moment, without warning, some outsider, who probably knew no more about land than he knows about building an iron clad, should get three guineas a day to come down on my estate, or that of any other unfortunate Irish landlord—for they are very unfortunate——


How about the unfortunate tenants?


I say it is a monstrous thing that a man should get three guineas a day to start away to Cork or Ulster, and there state what the value of the land is, and that that value should be settled by his dictum for 15 years. I think I have heard my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland condemn the provisions of the Act of 1881, but that Act is the law the land, and we must do the best we can with it. But what I blame the Government for is this, not for not upsetting the Act of 1881, for that could not be done, but for carrying out the proposals of the Act of 1881 in the worst way that could be conceived; that is, by giving these men authority to lay down for 15 years what is to be the value of the land, which may, in many cases, mean ruin on one side or the other, and after they have done that to retire into private life with what they have made out of the job. Another thing I have pointed out before, and that is this: that it is a tremendous temptation to an Irishman, at all events—I do not know what it would be to an Englishman or a Scotchman, or a Welshman—to feel that the more he reduces rents the fuller will be his court, and the longer will his three guineas a day last—


And expenses?


Three guineas a day and expenses. Sir, I say that I cannot conceive any rational man in this free country considering that it is fair to the two classes, the landlords on the one side and the tenants on the other, that men should be paid three guineas a day to fix rents all over Ireland when they have no qualifications whatever, and by the precarious tenure of their office cannot acquire the experience. For once I cordially sympathise, for a wonder, with hon. Gentleman opposite. The only reason it is done—I am sure my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary entirely agrees with me—is that if you can get anything cheap it is good enough for Ireland—cheap and nasty. I did hope that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, I believe is a right-minded man in the main, would see his way to loosen his purse strings to the extent of doing away with what is a reproach, and what, in my opinion, brines contempt on the administration of the Land Acts in Ireland.


The hon. Member for MidCork has called attention to the delay in presenting the report of the Fry Commission. I can assure the House that there has been absolutely no delay in preventing the report. As to its getting into the papers before it was issued to Members, that is a matter for which the Government is in no way responsible. But the hon. Gentleman goes on to say that the Government should have taken warning from the evidence given in the Land Court, and avoided making those appointments. Now, one of these appointments was made so lately as on the 23rd September of last year; the appointments have been going on between the 1st February last year and the 31st March this year, and one temporary Commissioner was appointed on the 13th September, 1897. It is obvious that these appointments, at all events, were made before the Fry Commission began its sittings at all. I am quite aware that the hon. Member for South Donegal thinks that we ought to have interrupted the whole work of the Land Commission, while the Fry Commission was sitting; but I may remind him that that was not the view taken when right hon. Gentlemen opposite were responsible for the Government of Ireland, and to say that because a Royal Commission has been appointed to investigate the proceedings of the Land Commission, all the proceedings of the Land Commission should be interrupted until the Commission of Inquiry has reported, is a suggestion that does not belong to the region of practical politics. Now, a good many complaints have been made in the course of this Debate that these gentlemen have been appointed by the week, or even by the day. As regards the Senior Commissioners, that is not so. They do not receive their appointments by the day There are, no doubt, temporary Commissioners appointed, and they are appointed till the 31st March of each year. I did not expect this Debate to come on to-night, and I have not got the exact figures with me, but, if I recollect rightly, there are 370 or 380 Sub-Commissioners engaged in fixing rents, about one half of whom are permanent Commissioners. Some three or four only are paid by the day, and the remainder hold their offices for periods varying from a few months to a year, or more. It will be seen that their office ceases at the end of the financial year, and there is obviously some practical convenience in that. At any rate, we have simply followed the practice which we found in existence when we came into office, and there are obvious reasons of convenience for it. I observe that there are certain divergences between the arguments used by hon. Gentlemen opposite. While the hon. Member for North Galway argued that the temporary Com missioners would necessarily decide in favour of the landlords, the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh argued that they endeavour to reduce rents too much, in order to fill their courts and keep their appointments. My hon. Friend, if he will allow me to call him so, who has just been returned for the St. Stephen's Green Division, considers that this is entirely a matter of money, while my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Armagh thinks there is no Irishman who would not be prepared to regard himself as competent to accept one of these posts at a salary of £3 3s. a day. I think those differences in the arguments of hon. Members are significant. If I may tell the House my own candid opinion upon this matter, I think there are many theoretical, and there may be some practical, arguments in favour of permanent appointments. On the other hand, I do not consider, personally, that experience shows that those who are appointed for a comparatively limited period, either necessarily give, or are likely to give, untrustworthy decisions. On the contrary, these men are on their trial; they know that the question whether they are, or are not, to be reappointed, depends on whether they do their duty in a satisfactory or an unsatisfactory manner. Hon. Members on both sides seem to think that the chance of their being reappointed depends entirely upon whether their decisions are pleasing or displeasing to the Executive of the day. I say that their reappointment depends on the manner in which they have discharged their duty, and that must not be forgotten in the consideration of this question. Of course, there are arguments in favour of having these appointments made permanent; but, on the other hand, there are administrative difficulties in the way of having them all permanent. Supposing all these 370 gentlemen were permanent, it means a salary of £800 a year each; and, perhaps, in four years, one half of them would have no work to do at all. I think when it is stated in that way the House will see that there are two sides to the question; it is not merely a question of the parsimony of the Treasury, as one hon. Gentleman seemed to think. And, while I will not say what course the Government will ultimately adopt in regard to this matter, because we must wait for the Report of the Fry Commission, which will have to be considered carefully, at the same time it does not appear to me that the arguments are all on one side.

MR. J. DALY (Monaghan, S.)

The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the question of the reappointment of these Sub-Commissioners depends upon whether or no they have done their duty satisfactorily. I would like to know from the right hon. Gentleman who are the judges as to whether these gentlemen have satisfactorily discharged their duties. Hon. Members on both sides of the House are unanimous that the appointment of temporary Commissioners is not a good method of fixing fair rents in Ireland. These temporary Commissioners are what we are accustomed to call in Ireland emergency men. They are made use of for the time being, and I for one have no confidence in a man who takes a temporary position. They must be very hard up indeed to take such a position, and it must be expected that they will play into the hands of the men by whom they expect to get reappointed. It is the general opinion in Ireland that the judgments of these men are in favour of the landlords and against the tenants. The system is due to the niggardliness and parsimoniousness of the Government. I for one should be quite ready to vote even a larger sum than the amount put down in this Vote, to enable fair rents to be fixed by men competent to the task. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what test is applied to these gentlemen before they are appointed temporary Commissioners, and who is the judge of their fitness? The fixing of fair rents at present depends entirely on the whim or notion of these Sub-Commissioners, and they seem to be appointed without any regard to their fitness for the particular cases to be investigated. For instance, a man may be sent from Limerick, where butter is the principal thing that the farmers live by, to fix fair rents in Ulster, where flax is largely grown. In fact, the whole thing seems to be done in the most haphazard fashion. As the right hon. Gentleman has promised to consider the subject, and particularly as he has gone through a very heavy ordeal this evening, I should not care to put him to the trouble of a Division, but I think we are entitled to a reply on these points.

MR. M. J. FLAVIN (Kerry, N.)

I wish to join in the protest against these temporary Commissioners, and for this reason—the mere fact of their being temporary appointments makes them subject to the influence of the party likely to have the power to reappoint them. The right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary, noticed the very peculiar unanimity of feeling amongst Irish Members upon this question. I am very glad to see that unanimity of feeling, and I hope and trust that it will continue. He also stated that the question of the reappointment of the temporary Commissioners rested entirely on the way they did their duty. Evidently, from what we have heard to-night, the temporary Commissioners do not satisfy either the tenants or the landlords themselves, and if either of the two parties are not satisfied, I should like to know very much who is to decide whether they have done their duty satisfactorily or not. The Chief Secretary, no doubt, does his duty as best he can, but I believe that the great majority of the men who receive appointments are men of whom he knows very little; he has to take his information about them at secondhand. I agree with what my hon. Friend, the Member for South Monaghan, has said—that a man who always lives in the South of Ireland is totally unfit to fix rents in the North of Ireland. A man who is well acquainted with agricultural values in the North of Ireland may know nothing at all about the South of Ireland, because in the extreme North and the extreme South of Ireland things are managed on entirely different principles. In the South of Ireland we have principally butter; in the North of Ireland we have practically none. Therefore, I feel that these men should be placed in a position of permanency, in order that the interests of the landlords on the one side, and of tenants on the other, should not interfere with the administration of justice. I have seen cases where these men have made only ten per cent. reductions, when everybody knows that the fall of prices in the South and West of Ireland is more like 20 or 30 per cent. This shows the folly of appointing men who have no practical knowledge of the matter with which they are to deal. If you want to have duly qualified men, you must give them permanent positions and make them independent of all conflicting parties. If you do that, I believe you will ensure the proper carrying out of the work, instead of having a system which is condemned by landlords and tenants alike.


I think, Sir, this is hardly a convenient occasion for the discussion of the general question the Land Commission, and I would appeal to hon. Members not to continue a discussion which can result in nothing. It is quite evident, after the Report of Lord Fry's Commission which has recently been placed in the hands of hon. Members, that the whole question will have to be carefully considered. We are simply considering now a policy, in favour of which there is much to be said, and against which there is much to be said; but I would remind the House that it is not our policy, but the policy which has been universally pursued since the Land Acts came into operation. I hope hon. Gentlemen will not carry the discussion to any greater length.


In view of the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, and in view also of the fact that Irish Members on both sides of the House are unanimous in their condemnation of these temporary appointments, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary whether he cannot see his way to postpone this Vote until after the Report of the Fry Commission has been discussed.


The hon. Member must be aware that that is quite impracticable.

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