§ Considered in Committee—
§ [Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith), CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, in the Chair.]
§ (In the Committee.)
Question again proposed—
That it is expedient to authorise the annual payment, out of the Consolidated Fund, to the Local Taxation (Ireland) Account in pursuance of any Act of the present Session for amending the law relating to local government in Ireland, and for other purposes connected therewith—(a) of a sum not exceeding one-half of the amount certified to be taken as having been raised in the whole of Ireland by poor rate and county cess off agricultural land during the twelve months ending, as regards poor rate, on September 29, 1897, and, as regards county cess, on June 30, 1897; (b) of a sum not exceeding the amount which may be ascertained to be the proceeds in the previous financial year of certain local taxation licences in Ireland; (c) of a sum of £79,000."—(Mr. Gerald Balfour.)
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
This Resolution naturally divides itself into two separate parts, which have no relation one to another. The first portion proposes to give to the local taxation account of Ireland a sum analogous to the sum granted under the English Act to England; and, although there are some questions that must be raised in connection with this portion of the Resolution, they are not of so wide-reaching or important a character as the questions to be raised in connection with the second part. The grant is to be half the amount which is estimated to have been raised in Ireland during a certain specified year by poor rate and county cess off agricultural land. That lays down the general principle that the grant-in-aid is to apply only to agricultural land, and, of course, that principle will be, on the whole, agreed to. We expect that the grant must be based on the same lines as the English grant, but a variety of questions will be raised as 853 to the method by which the grant will actually be ascertained. With regard to this first portion of the Resolution, the only real question which requires to be discussed at this stage is the question of the year which has been selected as the standard year. With reference to the second part of the Resolution, I think we have some ground rightly to complain that the Government have placed before us no figures. We are entitled to assume, and must assume, that the Government have had some reason for selecting the year ending in 1897, but we have from the Government no figures on which they have based that decision. On what ground has the Government selected that year? I have looked into the matter as carefully as possible in the absence of Government figures, and I am not prepared to maintain the proposition that some other year ought to be selected; nor am I prepared to support the proposal, put forward on a previous occasion, that we should substitute for this particular year an average of years. But I think we are entitled to know from the Government the grounds upon which they have selected the year 1897. We know that in many unions this selection Mill do great injustice. In the case of the Mill-street Union a curious state of things exists, because there the poor law guardians of the union, by economy and careful administration, had, on the eve of this particular year, accumulated a balance to their credit of over £2,000, and having that surplus, they very properly struck a half rate. The result is that this unfortunate union, as a reward for good administration, will now be cut down to one-half the relief given to extravagant unions. That appears to be an exceedingly hard case. I am not prepared to maintain that because this Resolution in its present shape would inflict a monstrous injustice on the Mill-street Union and others, therefore we are to repeal the whole system. We are bound to consider the effect upon the whole country, and not upon any one district, and I admit that, as far as I have been able to look into the subject, the tendency of local taxation in Ireland of late years has been steadily upwards, and that, as regards the whole country, 854 the latest year taken by the Government is, on the whole, the best year for the country at large. I have been looking into the local taxation returns in the hope of getting some light on the question, because it is one of vital importance to us to know what the effect of the selection of this particular year will be. I find, according to the Local Taxation Returns for the year 1896, at page 9, that the net amount to be levied in 1896 was £1,280,577. This alludes, I think, to the year ending June, 1897, but I am not quite clear on that point. It is also stated that the amount to be levied in 1896 shows a decrease of £42,735 on the amount of the levy of 1895. It appears, for some curious reasons, that 1896 was an abnormal year. There was a falling off in the amount of presentments to be levied, as apart from the contributions of the Government of this sum of £42,735. That raises an important question, because if it should be shown that there was, for some transitory causes, a fall in the levy of this amount in the year selected by the Government, that makes it more evident that the Government are treating the Irish Members unfairly in not setting before them the figures upon which they based their estimates. For I have always found, no matter how carefully a private Member may investigate these returns, he is always bound to be tripped up. It is, therefore, essential that these figures should be laid before the House with all the authority of the Government. I have already directed the attention of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to the statement contained in the Local Taxation Returns to the effect that the county cess to be levied for 1896 was less than the cess for 1895 by £42,735. If we look at the other side of the picture we find that, taking a number of years, the increase in the county cess has been continuous and large. I turn for a moment, because this is an extremely important question, to the Report on Local Government and Taxation in Ireland by Mr. William O'Brien. Mr. O'Brien goes into this question at great length, and his Report shows that the history of these charges from 1850 to 1891, the year of the Report, has been 855 one of progressive increase, more especially with regard to the unions. Mr. O'Brien's Report shows that in 20 years up to 1876 the county cess had increased by something like £200,000, and that the increase took place in face of a diminution of population amounting to nearly a million and a half. That is the history of the county cess in Ireland during these 20 years, but, looking at the last local taxation Returns which are available, we find the grand jury cess for 1896 amounted to £1,518,789, a further increase since 1876 of about £200,000, and that also with a further decrease in population of about three-quarters of a million. Therefore, we are entitled to assume that in spite of the decrease in the population, the local taxes in Ireland continue to increase. In England, as I have been given to understand, the rural rates are not increasing.
§ MR. DILLON
Yes; but in many parts of England there has been an increase in the population, but in Ireland there is a decrease, yet the rates are higher. I have already referred to the grand jury cess for 1897, and I only wish to add that of the sum of £1,518,789, to which it amounts, £177,589 is due to the maintenance of lunatic asylums, which is a rapidly increasing charge. We have, therefore, this fact before us, that in Ireland is given in the 1896 Return at rapidly increasing charge in spite of a decreasing population; and there is also this remarkable fact, of which I expect some explanation from the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that in this particular year, as far as I can make out the Returns, there was an abnormal drop of £42,735 in the cess. The county cess in Ireland is given in the 1896 Return 2s. 0¼d. in the £, as against 1s. 10d. in the £ 20 years ago. This Bill proposes to transfer the whole burden of the poor rate in the future from the owner to the occupier. In 1851 the poor rate in Ireland amounted to £513,048 per annum, the population then being close upon 7,000,000 of people. In 1876, according to the figures given in Mr. O'Brien's Report, the outlay for all pur- 856 poses of poor law organisation amounted to £1,045,000, so that in these 26 years, from 1851 to 1876, the union charges in Ireland had practically doubled, although the population had decreased by 2,000,000. The total charge at the present time for poor law purposes is £1,455,000, which is more than £400,000 increase as compared with 1876. Before passing from this part of the Resolution I would suggest, for the consideration of the Committee, that it might be advisable to do one of two things: either allow some elasticity with regard to the grant, or allow, in respect of the agricultural grant, a certain margin to meet the increase we are entitled to calculate upon. I now turn to the second part of the Resolution, which, in my opinion, is more important than the first part, because it stands on an entirely different basis. A Budget has been presented which is expected to balance, and if it does not and the calculations are incorrect, the unfortunate ratepayers of Ireland will have to suffer from any miscalculation of the Government, and may suffer very severely indeed. In order to make the point clear, I turn to the speech of the right honourable Gentleman in introducing the Irish Local Government Bill. Here is what he says with regard to the second portion of this Resolution—The proceeds of the local licences were, by the English Act of 1881, transferred to the local authorities, in lieu of certain Grants-in-Aid annually voted by Parliament. It is proposed to do the same in Ireland. But there is this difference between the case of Ireland and the case of Great Britain. In Great Britain the proceeds of the local licences covered the Grants-in-Aid, with a considerable margin to spare. In Ireland the proceeds of the licences amount to about £200,000, whereas the Grants in Aid, in respect of the maintenance of certain poor law charges, amount to £44,000.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY TO THE LORD LIEUTENANT OF IRELAND (Mr. GERALD W. BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
I should explain that I have only within the last two or three days looked over the report of my speech in "Hansard," and that portion of it is so very badly reported there that it is almost unintelligible.
§ MR. DILLON
It is a pity the right honourable Gentleman did not mention 857 that when he was introducing the Resolution, because it is rather hard, I think, to ask us to pass a Resolution, which, as regards this first portion of it, will tie our hands absolutely as to the future if we vote in its favour, that we should be told that we really do not know what the proposals of the Government are, because the right honourable Gentleman's speech has been so badly reported in "Hansard." It is proposed by this Bill to withdraw certain grants, which last year amounted to £244,000, and in lieu of these grants to give Ireland the produce of certain local licences estimated to amount to £200,000, leaving a deficiency of £44,000, which will be met out of a grant of £79,000 from the Exchequer. Out of the remaining £35,000 is to be defrayed: first, one-half of the salary of a trained nurse in every union in Ireland; secondly, relief in respect of harbour and railway charges; and, thirdly, any excess in the charges caused by the transfer of lunatics from the workhouses to the asylums. If I am rightly informed, this revenue from the local licences was, in the case of England, more than adequate. With regard to Ireland, however, I maintain that the margin of £35,000 is insufficient for the provision of trained nurses, for relief in respect of harbour and railway charges, and for the transfer of lunatics; and before two or three years are over it will be more than eaten up. But that is not nearly the whole of the case. Taking the question of the grants-in-aid, I find that £244,000 is set down as a fixed sum; evidently on the assumption that the local licence revenue remains at £200,000 a year. But grants-in-aid are not a fixed sum; they are rapidly expanding. The right honourable Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on Clause 9 of the Bill, laid special stress on the fact that, if we want local control of the lunatic asylums, we must have local burdens; but, under Clause 9, the Government takes the most absolute power to the Lord Lieutenant to make requisitions which much be paid by the county councils, no matter what additional burden is cast upon them. Anyone who studies this clause will see that the intention is to effect considerable improvement in the condition of the lunatics—their accommodation, the sani- 858 tary arrangements, and general treatment, which must be raised to a higher level. I agree with that view, but it will cast a great additional burden on the ratepayers. Reading Clause 9 by the experience of past years, we are bound to look forward to, and calculate upon, a vast increase in the number of lunatics in the district asylums in Ireland. Yet in this Budget, which was set forth in the speech of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, there is not a single shilling provided for this increase. The right honourable Gentleman provides for relief in respect of district railways and of harbours, for the payment of one-half of the salary of the nurses appointed by poor law unions, and he makes what I consider an insufficient provision for the transfer to the asylums of pauper lunatics now in the workhouses; but he makes no provision for the rapidly increasing charge in respect of lunatics in the district asylums. I think I have shown that this is a Budget which requires careful consideration. The Government are proposing to shunt on to the shoulders of the ratepayers of Ireland responsibilities which, if retained by the central Government, might entail heavier burdens; and it is for this reason I complain that the Government have not founded their proposals on proper and satisfactory figures. I hope the right honourable Gentleman, if he cannot see his way to meet our view with regard to the first part of this Budget, he will alter its provisions so as to give a more real surplus.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
It may possibly save time if I reply at once to the speech of the honourable Member for East Mayo. The honourable Member complains that I have given no reasons for choosing the year 1896–7 as the standard year, and that the Government have given no figures. The honourable Member also seems to think that the Government have kept to themselves such figures as we based our choice of that year upon, because we thought that that year would give Ireland a smaller grant than would have been given if the Government had chosen another year.
§ MR. DILLON
I did not say that; on the contrary, I said that my impression, gathered from a study of the figures, was that the year 1896–7 was better than any previous year.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I do not wish to misrepresent the honourable Gentleman, but I gathered from his speech that he said that year would give Ireland a smaller grant. As a matter of fact, the Government have kept back no figures, and our choice of the year 1896–7 had no relation whatever to any available figures. We chose that year on the grounds which I have already clearly stated in the House in answer to questions put to me from the Benches opposite. We had two reasons for choosing that year. In the first place, it must be remembered that in order to ascertain what the amount of the agricultural grant was, very elaborate calculations, which took many months to carry out, were necessary; and it was not unnatural, therefore, that we should choose as the standard year the year for which the figures were available. That year was the year 1896–7. In addition to that, as I explained, we had further reasons. In England the year chosen for measuring that grant was the financial year before that in which the Bill was passed. We have special reasons for being unable to take a later year than 1896–7. We had this additional reason, that if we had done so the effect would have been that guardians and grand jurors would have been enabled to strike a rate after the intentions of the Government were known, and it would have been almost impossible, in these circumstances, to resist the temptation—I have good reason to know that even before the intentions of the Government were known the temptation was not resisted—of raising a larger rate than would have been absolutely necessary for the service of the year, merely in order to establish a claim for a larger grant than would otherwise have been necessary. It was on these two grounds that we chose the year 1896–7, and if I were asked to say whether the year 1896–7 would produce a better or a worse result for Ireland than, 860 say, an average of the three preceding years, or the year 1897–8, I should find it difficult, even now, to give a reply to the question. As regards the poor rate, I have before me the figures for the three years 1894, 1895, and 1896, and the average of these years was £1.035,558. If we compare that average with the amount raised in the standard year, 1896–7, we find it is almost exactly the same—namely, £1,035,517. With regard to the county cess, these are the figures: The amount collected in 1894, excluding Dublin, Cork, and Limerick—because there it is not county cess, but presentments levied in lieu of county cess—was £1,217,426; in 1895, £1,263,839; and in 1896, £1,259,496. For the standard year, 1897, we have not yet got the figures of the amount collected, but only of the amount assessed, which is £1,322,799; but as far as I can judge, the amount assessed and the amount collected bear no definite or clear relation to each other. The amount collected is not yet known, and I am not able to judge what it will be from the amount to be levied. These figures will show that the Government have no sinister intention in choosing this year 1896–7, and the Committee will agree, I think, that the reasons given for choosing that year are amply sufficient. That is not all. The honourable Member for East Mayo complains that these figures will bear hardly upon some particular unions, and, no doubt, that is so. But take the figures of any given year, and they will be found to bear hardly on particular unions, but, no doubt, also they will be found to be favourable to other unions. But I do not gather that the honourable Member himself is in favour of remedying inequalities of that kind by reference to a standard or average year. On the contrary, he expressly disclaimed that. The honourable Member has not observed the words of the Bill: "The amounts to be taken for the purpose of this Act as having been raised"—not the amount raised, but the amounts taken to have been raised; and that is the exact language of the English Agricultural Rates Act of 1896—language of a sufficiently elastic character to enable the Government to take account of any special or 861 exceptional circumstances. That was done in England, and will also be done in Ireland. But I would remind the honourable Member that, if special circumstances are taken into account in one direction, it will be necessary to take them into account in another direction; and, while some unions may suffer hardship on the actual figures of 1896–7, and if that hardship is diminished by the Local Government Board taking into account any special circumstances in that direction, on the other hand, the Board will equally have to consider whether there are any circumstances in relation to other unions which make in another direction. So much for the first part of the honourable Member's speech. I come now to the second part—that dealing with the substitution of the proceeds of the local licences, and the fixed grant of £79,000 for grants-in-aid hitherto made to Ireland out of voted money. The statement made by the honourable Member for East Mayo on our general proposals was, I think, correct. What it came to is this: there are certain special grants-in-aid made to Ireland at the present time out of the Votes. These grants amount to £244,000, of which the principal item is £144,000 for lunatic asylums. The local licences were estimated to produce in the coming year £200,000, leaving a deficiency of £44,000. It is proposed that that £44,000 should be met by a grant from the Consolidated Fund, and, over and above that grant, that there should be a further grant of £35,000. The burden of the honourable Member's complaint appears to be that in England there is a surplus in the proceeds of the local licences without having resort to an additional local grant; that there is a surplus over the grants-in-aid given up to that time; and, further, that the proceeds of the local licences in England are an expanding amount. So, I believe, it will be found to be in Ireland. I have not yet got the figures for which the honourable Member asked at Question time to-day, but I believe. I am correct in saying that in 1888, 10 years ago, the proceeds of the local licences in Ireland, estimated to-day at £200,000, would have been only £155,000. Looking, therefore, at the proceeds of the local licences alone, 862 there has been in 10 years a considerable expansion, and I have no reason to believe that the expansion will not continue. But take that amount of £45,000, by which the proceeds of the local licences have increased, and it will, I think, completely wipe out the amount of increase of the capitation grant for lunatics during the same period. There is one point to which I wish particularly to call the attention of the Committee, and it is this: in 1888 and in 1890 certain Measures were passed handing over to the local authorities in England and Scotland certain sums in respect of Probate duties, Customs and Excise duties, and local licences, and the sums handed over to England and Scotland in respect of Probate duties and Excise and Customs have their counterpart in Ireland also. But the local licence proceeds handed over at that time to Scotland and England were not handed over to Ireland, the reason being that England and Scotland had received local government on a popular basis, which was not at that time given to Ireland. It was not at that time in immediate contemplation to give local government to Ireland; at all events, Ireland was differently treated as regards these local licences, but was not altogether forgotten. There was, as the honourable Member for East Mayo has said, a margin over the grants-in-aid given to England and Scotland from the proceeds of local licences, amounting to £418,000. The total amount of grants-in-aid discontinued at that time in England and Scotland was £2,000,000, and the proceeds of the licence duties were £3,318,000, and Ireland received in respect of that margin of the proceeds of the local licences over the discontinued grants-in-aid an equivalent grant of £40,000. Therefore it would have been, from the point of view of the equivalent grant, perfectly just if in this year, when we were passing a Local Government Bill for Ireland, we had applied exactly the same Measure to Ireland as to England—if we had merely paid to Ireland exactly the sum which would cover the grants-in-aid hitherto paid to Ireland. It would have been fair to do it, because Ireland's "pull." if I may use the expression, had already been given to her in 1891, when she received this Exchequer grant. But 863 the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not dealt with Ireland in that way; he has not taken into consideration that Ireland had already received an equivalent in respect to the surplus which England and Scotland obtained by having local licences substituted for grants-in-aid. On the contrary, he has allowed to Ireland £35,000, calculated in this way: the margin which England and Scotland received, by the substitution of local licence proceeds for grants-in-aid, amounted to 14½ per cent. of those grants-in-aid, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, notwithstanding that Ireland had already received her share, has allowed £35,000, which is exactly the same proportion—14½ per cent.—of the total grants-in-aid discontinued. Therefore, that £35,000 is, in reality, a free grant to Ireland, in respect to which England and Scotland have received nothing. I do not know if I have made it clear to the Committee, but I affirm most distinctly that, so far from Ireland having been treated in a niggardly manner in connection with this Bill, she has been most generously treated; and, as regards the agricultural grant, Ireland, being mainly an agricultural country, has gained enormously more in proportion from that grant than England or Scotland; and in respect to the substitution of the local licence proceeds for a fixed grant for grants-in-aid, she has also been generously treated, because she has been able to get the margin twice over.
§ MR. LAMBERT (Devon, South Molton)
Mr. Lowther, I very much regret that the right honourable Gentleman did not give any answer to my Amendment relating to this grant on the Second Reading. He allowed the Amendment to be divided on without discussion. Then he had an opportunity of giving us the figures which he now states are perfectly unintelligible from the report of his speech in "Hansard." This enormous sum which it is proposed to give to Ireland is equivalent to nearly sixpence per head on the taxation of every man, woman, and child in England, Scotland, and Wales. The right honourable Gentleman did not think it worth while, when I moved my Amendment on the Second Reading of 864 the Bill, to give any reply at all tort. Now, Sir, I turn to the speech delivered by the Leader of the House at Manchester, about the beginning of the year, for some explanation of his policy, and we are told—it may differ from my Irish Friends on this matter—that, in the opinion of the Government and in the opinion of the Leader of the House, Ireland has no claim to this immense sum in the sense that it is a money debt, due to her from England and Scotland. That being so, I wanted, on the Second Reading of the Bill, to get some explanation as to why this immense annual sum was to be paid, but no explanation was vouchsafed. I think it is being paid for the purposes of political corruption—as a bribe to certain classes in Ireland to accept the Local Government Bill. Now, Sir, for my own part, I think that if this Bill is a just and a right Bill, it does not want this great gilding of £700,000 a year, because we were also told by the Leader of the House that there is no inequality and no grievance in connection with the local taxation of Ireland. The Leader of the House told us that when the question was raised by the honourable and learned Member for Londonderry in May, 1896, and only yesterday the right honourable Gentleman informed me, in reply to a question, that the Rating Commissioners were to be sent to Ireland to inquire into the incidence of local taxation in that country. At the same time, the Government, before that Commission went to Ireland, are actually proposing to relieve Irish landlords and tenants—principally, as I shall show in a few minutes. Irish landlords—of an enormous burden of local taxation, when they themselves do not know whether it is fair or not. Surely the right method would have been to have an inquiry first and legislation afterwards, but now we are to have legislation first and an inquiry afterwards. I cannot but think that it is the stress of foreign affairs that has kept the public attention away from this question, for I well recollect the enormous interest taken in the proposal of Mr. Gladstone to endow an Irish Parliament with less than £500,000, and how platforms throughout the country were made to resound by honourable Gentlemen opposite 865 in denunciation of it. This grant is not a debt, as the First Lord of the Treasury has told us plainly, due from England and Scotland to Ireland. What is it? I hardly like to call it a charitable contribution, because one does not care to use the word charity in regard to a nation like Ireland, though the condition of her people has been reported on this year by Professor Long in the Manchester Guardian as something terrible. I took a particular interest in these reports by Professor Long, as he was the gentleman I had the honour of fighting at the last election. He is a strong Unionist, and would not colour things in favour of the Liberal Party. Professor Long says that during five weeks spent in Ireland he did not see a single loaf of bread, nor a piece of butter, nor a bit of meat in the cottages of these poor people in the west of Ireland, upon whose condition he was asked to report. I am paraphrasing his remarks, as I wish to save time, but I have the report here, and will gladly read it if any honourable Member wishes me to do so. Professor Long said that, in those cottages in the west of Ireland, on only two occasions did he see anything better than potatoes, and that was a kind of appetising compound called "stirabout," made of Indian meal and water. What share will these poor people get out of this enormous grant? They will only get a very few shillings; indeed, their share may be almost reckoned in pence. The county cess is about two shillings in the pound, half of which will be paid by the State. That being so, those who hold land in Ireland at less than £4 yearly valuation—the number is, I believe, 127,000—who now pay eight shillings in county cess, or have it paid for them by the landlord, will be relieved to the extent of four shillings. There are many occupiers whose annual valuation is less than £1, and in the Fry Commission Report it is stated that in one parish in the west of Ireland the whole of the tenants have only a valuation of seventeen shillings per annum each. Now what share will these poor people get out of this large grant? It can, as I have said, be reckoned in pence. When we turn to the other side of the picture we find how much the landlords will get out 866 of it. Now I have taken some trouble to obtain figures from Thom's Official Directory, which, I am informed, are reliable. I cannot get the figures of the rentals of Irish landlords for the past few years, and I have only been able to get the valuation of 1873 from Thom's Directory. I have taken off 25 per cent. from this valuation for agricultural depression, and I find that twelve Irish landlords with an average rental drawn from Ireland of £31,897 per year each will get, in poor rates, direct into their pocket—half the poor rate having been transferred from the landlords to the State—no less a sum than £1,062 each per annum. These enormously wealthy men, who are already drawing over £30,000 a year in rents from Ireland, are to receive the amount I have mentioned under this grant. That is a state of things which I can hardly imagine will be regarded as a fair and equitable distribution of the grant to the Irish people. I take one or two individual instances. Individual instances are always invidious, and I do not want to make any special point regarding them. The Marquess of Downshire has a rental of £68,642 a year. He will get in poor rate under the grant £2,288 direct into his pocket, and he will get prospectively in regard to county cess £3,432 a year more, making a total of £5,720 a year added to the value of his property. It is a far cry from the west of Ireland to the West-end of London. I come from the west of Ireland, and contrast the share which the poor starvelings on the western coast will get out of this grant with that which the Duke of Devonshire will receive. The Irish rental of the Duke of Devonshire is £25,745. He will get direct as poor rate £858, and £1,287 prospectively as county cess, which must add to the annual value of his property.
§ MR. LAMBERT
I do not forget anything at all, because I know perfectly well, and honourable Members know perfectly well, that if land pays a certain charge, and if that charge is removed, that land must certainly increase in value. The recent Report of the Fry 867 Commission shows that the condition of things in Ireland is a disgrace to any country. The dual system of ownership cannot last. It must be replaced by a system of purchase, and when the time for purchase comes, if the tenant has not to pay so much rates he has to pay more for his holding. I have given the case of the Duke of Devonshire. I will now give the case of another Member of the Cabinet the Marquess of Lansdowne. His Irish rental is £23,652. His share of the poor rate, direct, mind you, will be £788 a year, and prospectively in county cess £1,182 a year. These two landlords are Members of the present Cabinet, but I do not for one moment suggest that they would be influenced by any personal consideration of £1,000 or so in regard to their public policy, because the amount they will receive from this grant is but a drop in the bucket when compared with their vast possessions. But I can only take the facts as they stand. Having taken two Members of the present Government, I will take another landlord who was a Member of a previous Government—the Marquess of Londonderry. His Irish rental is £27,909, and he will receive in poor rate £930, and prospectively as county cess £1,395. I do say that that is monstrous waste, and a perversion of public money. If this matter could have been considered in the country it would never have been allowed for one moment. I do not understand honourable Gentlemen opposite being so willing to vote this money to these landlords. For my part, I do not wish for a better electioneering placard than these figures supply. You are shovelling money into the hands of these enormously rich men, not for any great public duty they have performed, but merely for the purpose of buying their permission to pass a Local Government Bill for Ireland, which every Party agrees is just and necessary, and which the Unionist Party promised twelve years ago. These are not isolated instances—there are many landlords in Ireland with incomes of £10,000 a year. There is one gentleman I must mention—his name may be familiar to the honourable Member for South Tyrone and to other honourable Members—I mean the Marquess of Clanricarde. Deducting 25 per cent. of the valuation of 1873, he still draws £15,617. His share 868 of this grant will be £520 direct into his pocket, and £780 in prospective to be added to the annual value of his estate. I would ask the Chief Secretary, or any other Member of the House, what has the Marquess of Clanricarde done for this Government, or for the people of this country, that £1,300 a year should be added to the annual value of his property? Why, Sir, we know perfectly well that the honourable Member for South Tyrone once said that he would expropriate him; and now, forsooth, he is a Member of the Government that are not going to expropriate the Marquess of Clanricarde, but are actually going to endow him with £1,300 a year. What was it for? For what was the Government to bribe the Marquess of Clanricarde? Is it merely that this gentleman will give you permission to pass a Local Government Bill for Ireland? Must this Imperial Parliament, in order to enact a just and necessary law, confer a perpetual pension on Lord Clanricarde of from £3 to £4 a day for the rest of his natural life, and, as the lawyers say, to his heirs and assigns for ever. I have no doubt whatever that the ancestors of Lord Clanricarde were bribed at the end of last century to take away part of the liberties of the Irish people, and now Lord Clanricarde himself must be bribed to restore to them a portion of their lost liberties. I protest, and will continue to protest—although I am sorry my protest will not have much effect in this House—against this profligate waste of public money. It seems to be like Tammany Hall. We know from the present Secretary of State for India what the intentions of the Government are. He says the Government will safeguard and protect the interests of their own friends. They are doing it with a vengeance. I say, if the boss of Tammany Hall were about to retire, that institution could not make a better selection for a new boss than from one of the Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite. The Irish contribution to this Imperial Parliament will be enormously decreased by this annual grant. Lord Farrer stated in his Report that a fair annual contribution from Ireland to the Imperial Exchequer would be something like one-twentieth, which would be about 869 £3,000,000. Ireland now only contributes £2,000,000, and in future will only contribute £1,250,000 per annum. Although we are giving this enormous sum, I am sure there is not a single Irish Member who will say that it is any remedy for the over-taxation of Ireland. I have a leaflet in my hand which has been issued by the Irish Financial Relations Committee, which states that the increase in taxation since the years inquired into by the Royal Commission is £600,000, while there has been a decrease in the taxable capacity of Ireland, and that, therefore, at the best, the agricultural grant only removes this additional injustice, and leaves the Irish grievance where it was when the Commission reported. If that be so, this is not a remedy for an Irish grievance. I do not see how it can be a remedy, because if there is a grievance, it is because the people are poor and overtaxed. Surely you cannot remedy that by pouring money into the pockets of Irish absentee landlords, who live in England and spend it in England, and whose real interests are in England. I, for my part, do not want to stand in the way of Ireland getting this money. I will willingly vote for it provided it is used for some useful purpose, and not for the endowment of rich landlords who neglect their duty to Ireland. One out of every 20 of the people of Ireland over five years of age are not educated. This money, sent into the pockets of the Duke of Devonshire, Lord Clanricarde, Lord Lansdowne, and other landlords, will not educate one single child, and will not stop one man or woman from emigrating to America. The Chief Secretary, when he introduced his Industries Bill, stated that the methods of Irish agriculture were wofully backward, and that, as regards home industries, they might be said not to exist. Yet he is not going to do one single thing to improve agriculture or to establish Irish industries. When he introduced his Bill in May, 1896, he said that £150,000 was the equivalent grant to Ireland as regards the English Rating Act. If honourable Members will not believe their own Leaders I cannot help them. I am quoting from the figures given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, now 870 in his place, who, I am sure, will contradict me if I am wrong. That sum was arrived at by taking the proportion of the First Lord of the Admiralty—namely, 80, 11, and 9. Now, Sir, it seems to me that whenever there is any grievance the Government do not attempt to turn themselves into a constructive agency, they do not endeavour to help people to help themselves, but what they say is, "How much money do you want? Here it is for you." This Government, instead of being a legislative body, has turned itself into a kind of gigantic dole-distributing agency. It is doles here, doles there, doles everywhere. I protest against it. I do say this money would be far better employed if it were used for the benefit of the Irish people, and for the development of Irish industries, instead of being, as it is, used for the purpose of buying off the opposition of persons who, if they were reasonable and just, ought to have no objection to the extension to Ireland of a similar system of local government to that now possessed by England. As I understood you, Sir, to say you did not wish me to move my Amendment now, I will postpone moving it until later. But I will protest as I protested on the Second Reading, and as I shall continue to protest, against this monstrous and wicked waste of public money going into the pockets of people who do not deserve it.
§ MR. CRIPPS (Gloucestershire, Stroud Division)
No one will find any fault with the honourable Member for the protest he has made on this question of rating. He used the word "endowment," he used the word "bribery," and he used the word "doles." Where I join issue with the honourable Member at the outset is that there is no question of endowment, no question of bribery, and no question of doles in those principles of rating as publicly applied to Ireland. We are now seeking to put an end to an injustice existing in Ireland, which was put an end to in England by the Agricultural Rating Act of 1896.
§ MR. LAMBERT
The Leader of the House declared during the Debate in 1896 that there was no injustice and no inequality in the incidence of local taxation in Ireland.
§ MR. CRIPPS
The honorable Member quite misapprehends the position. As regards the question of distribution under the 80, 11, and 9 principle that is perfectly true, but that is not the question we are dealing with here. It is an entirely different question, viz., whether there is any existing injustice as regards the taxation of agricultural land in Ireland which ought to be dealt with on the same principle as was applied to England under the English Act. Before discussing that question let me say as a Member of the Commission on Local Taxation, to which reference has been made more than once, that we have had a considerable quantity of evidence as regards Ireland, but that a great deal more is to be taken in the future, and therefore as regards any opinion I may express on the rating point, it must be taken wholly as my own individual opinion without any reference to what the ultimate report of the Commission may be. But let me pass for a moment to what I may call the two points of prejudice raised by the honorable Member. He has mentioned by name several large landlords in Ireland who will get considerable sums out of this Bill if passed in its present form. My answer to that is that if the Bill is right and proper that is a mere question of prejudice, and nothing else. Suppose you have a thousand men entitled to a remedy as regards the incidence of taxation, and suppose nine hundred and ninety-nine are very poor, and the thousandth man happens to be wealthy. Is that any reason why the nine hundred and ninety-nine poor men should be kept under the injustice from which they are suffering? If the impossible principle of the honorable Member were to be admitted, that we were not to allow any reform on financial questions or on questions of rating because perchance a rich man here and there may reap the benefit as well as an enormous number of poor men, we may as well put a stop to the matter once and for ever. It is mere prejudice—I use the term again—to refer to these landlords who happen to have large properties. If the principle is right, a large number of poor men are suffering under injustice in Ireland, and it ought to be extended to Ireland as well as to England. What is the answer to these statements of endowments, bribes, 872 and doles? It is simply this: Sir Alfred Milner, who is now in South Africa, in his evidence before the Commission on Agricultural Depression, showed that in his view real property in this country was rated at twice the burden other property had to bear. For this reason: that educational establishments and lunatic asylums affected the owners of personal property as well as the owners of real property; the whole of this burden was thrown on real property, and you had a state of things in which the rating burden was twice what it should be as regards that particular class. That principle was stopped by the Agricultural Rating Act. It was not possible to put it right universally until a Royal Commission had inquired into the matter, but as regards agricultural land, the remedy was given at once under the Act, as it was more depressed at the time. That having been done for England, it is now being done for Ireland; and every Irish Member, whether he sits on this side of the House or the other, agrees that Ireland is entitled, as an act of justice, to the same remission of burden as regards agricultural land as that to which England had been admitted to be entitled under the Agricultural Rating Act of 1896. I would ask the honorable Member for South Molton to put aside these questions of political corruption and prejudice, and if I thought this Bill would produce that state of things I should vote against it. If I thought it was a dole, if I thought it was bribery, I should vote against it. I support it for this reason—and I think it is a very adequate reason—that this remedy as regards unjust burdens having been given in the English Bill, Ireland is entitled to the same measure of justice.
§ MR. DAVITT (Mayo, S.)
Does the honorable Member think that the Irish landlords would support the Bill if they did not get a bribe?
§ MR. CRIPPS
Yes, I think they would; but I am not speaking for the Irish landlords, and I have no connection with them. I am simply speaking on the matter of justice in this rating question There is nothing worse in dealing with principles than the consideration of to whom the benefit goes. There is 873 really no worse principle than that. If you have got a property to which an unfair burden is attached you ought to relieve that injustice irrespective altogether of the question as to whom the immediate benefit goes. Is there any honorable Member on our side amongst the large number of Unionists who desires to support the honorable Member for South Molton in reducing the amount given in remission of rating in Ireland under this Bill? Will any Irish Member get up and say that the amount is too much? It is only what Ireland is entitled to as long as you apply there the same principle as you do in the Agricultural Ratings Bill in England. Let me deal for a moment with the next point of the honorable Member for South Molton. It does seem to me to be important that the principle proposed by the Government should be thoroughly threshed out on this point. So far as England is concerned, these rates are nearly all paid by the occupier—at least, that is, the ordinary incidence of taxation in England. But there is a difference in Ireland. The county cess in Ireland is paid by the occupier, but the poor rate is paid partly by the occupier and partly by the owner. When I say this, I mean that it is paid by the occupier so far as the land is concerned, but he is entitled to make a reduction of half out of the rent he pays to his landlord or immediate lessor. Therefore, we have that difference, and it is a very crucial difference. Now what is done with the poor rates, to which the Member for South Molton special alluded? At the present time the occupier has to pay the whole of that rate, but he is entitled to deduct half of it from the rent, so that half of it only falls on the landlord. But when this Bill passes the occupier will be called upon only to pay half of it in the first instance. Surely it is absolutely fair, as provided for in this Bill—and I cannot go into the clauses in detail—that, so far as cess is concerned, the benefit should go, and be preserved as far as possible, to the occupier. As far as the poor rate is concerned, you merely relieve him of paying the full amount which he used to pay, and he has nothing now to deduct. I do not believe that either occupier or owner in these cases 874 ultimately gets the benefit. Of course, after a time, whether there is a Land Act or not, it seems to me immaterial to the point. Sir, there is one other point to which I should like to call attention. What is to be voted for is this: Subsection A provides that—a sum not exceeding one-half of the amount certified to be taken as having been raised in the whole of Ireland by poor rate and county cess off agricultural land, during the twelve months ending, as regards poor rate, on the 29th September, 1897, and, as regards county cess, on the 30th June, 1897.Now agricultural land is treated quite differently in this Act to what it is in this English Act, and it is entirely in favour of Ireland so far as the amount of contribution is concerned. There is no doubt about it, because I have all the statistics before me, and it was explained by the Chief Secretary. The Act will include in Ireland under "agricultural" a species of land which is excluded from the English Act. Whereas, on the other hand it excludes from the Irish Act land in urban districts which is included in the English Act. Now, if you set the one off against the other—I am now dealing with the benefit to Ireland—the benefit to Ireland as regards the amount contributed to the Imperial Exchequer will be greater under the provisions of this Act than if it were paid under the English Act. So far as that is concerned I express my opinion without any doubt that the provisions in this Act are really more just and fair, more easy to work, and more correct in principle, than the inadequate provisions in the Agricultural Ratings Act passed in 1896. This is what I want to point out for the moment, that the change is a benefit to Ireland, and whichever way you look at this question of the contribution, you will really find that Ireland has been most generously treated in every possible way. As regards generous treatment of this kind, to go on talking of prejudice and doles and corruption seems to me a most illiberal way from an Irish point of view, or from any other point of view of regarding a proposal of this character. When a large contribution of this kind, removing an injustice which exists at the present time, is made, it does seem a most illiberal method to pursue such 875 arguments as those used by the honorable Member for South Molton, and not consider at all the question as to whether it is just or not. I say that this relief ought to fall upon the man who is bearing an unfair burden at the moment, and that is exactly what will happen under this Bill. Now, Mr. Lowther, there is one other point, and that is as regards the £79,000. There, again, we have a generosity, and an appropriate generosity.
§ MR. CRIPPS
Have we not generosity there? I see that the honorable Member for East Mayo does not seem to agree with me.
§ MR. CRIPPS
But have you not generosity as regards this £75,000? Do we get in England or in Scotland anything like an equivalent to that additional £35,000, which Ireland will get under this Bill. I challenge any Member opposite to say, as regards the £35,000, that there is any equivalent sum in this country in respect to a matter of this kind.
§ MR. DILLON
The Chief Secretary himself explained the Measure, and, according to his statement, England gets an equivalent.
§ MR. CRIPPS
The honorable Member is wrong about that, for the Chief Secretary pointed out that £40,000 put Ireland in an equivalent position to Scotland and England, and that this £35,000 is in addition to that sum. It really is almost more than a just treatment of Ireland. Of course, we had the question of lunatic asylums raised the other day, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon that occasion pointed to this sum of £35,000. It is a generous way of treating Ireland, and it is a sign of the generosity, which I believe all parties in this House desire to extend to Ireland on these questions of finance. One other point has been raised by the honorable Gentleman the Member for South Molton. He raised the point in reference to what the First Lord of the Treasury had said 876 as regards the general financial relationship between England and Ireland. I think that has nothing to do with this question of rating, and has nothing to do with the matter. This is a question simply of treating Ireland fairly on the rating questions, and we must keep this distinct altogether from the contribution to the Imperial Exchequer. I do not take the view that Ireland has been unfairly treated by the Financial Relations Commissioners. That is a matter of opinion upon which there is a large difference, but what has that to do with the question before us? Why, it has absolutely nothing to do with it, and when the First Lord of the Treasury was dealing with that matter he was not talking about any money debt; he was not dealing with those questions of putting right unfair treatment as regards rating, but he was dealing with an entirely different part of the Measure. I am satisfied that I am right in that.
§ MR. LAMBERT
Here are the words. It is a rather long extract, but I will quote the whole of it. The First Lord of the Treasury's words are—To this immense sum, in the opinion of the Government and in my opinion, Ireland has no claim in the sense that it is a money debt due to her from England and Scotland. But I feel certain that we may rely upon being supported by the country in giving even this vast annual sum if thereby some great advantage of public policy can be attained. What is the great advantage of public policy which we hope for? It is that Ireland shall receive a measure of local government on as broad a basis as that which has already been conferred by the Legislature in England and Scotland.The First Lord of the Treasury did not touch that question, but said it was merely for the purpose of giving local self-government to Ireland.
§ MR. CRIPPS
I do not gather from those words the same meaning as the honorable Member, but I will not bandy this discussion with him as to what was said by the First Lord of the Treasury. Every Member, I think, may have expressed himself differently, but every member of the Unionist Party, in supporting this contribution in aid of the rates of Ireland, will do so on the ground that we are remedying an injustice, and 877 doing what is fair to Ireland. At any rate, a large number—a very large number—of us act on that point from the motives I have stated, and you must not mix up in a thing of that kind a question of general financial relationship. I do not want to trouble the honorable Member for South Molton to get up and make any answer, but I think that I may put this to him: if the Agricultural Ratings Act was fair in England, why does he not hold the same view as I do? If that Act is fair in England—and the honorable Member for South Molton voted for it—why is it not fair and right as regards agricultural land in Ireland?
§ MR. LAMBERT
I did not vote for the Third Reading of the Bill, and I only voted for the Second Reading in order that the principle of the Bill might be considered. I also voted in Committee against this monstrous waste of public money, which, I thought, was perpetrated in that Bill.
§ MR. CRIPPS
I think the honorable Member for South Molton said that he voted for the Second Reading of the Bill. Now, the Second Reading of the Bill implied the principle of a grant from headquarters with regard to the rating of agricultural land in England. That was the principle, and he voted for that. I daresay that in questions of detail there may be differences of opinion upon various points, but we are now only dealing with the principle in this Committee, that the grant allowed and applied in England should be applied in Ireland. I have no doubt that my honorable Friend the Member for South Molton by and by may bring forward other arguments, but having voted for the Second Reading, which carried the principle in England, how can he justify his action in bringing forward either this Amendment or voting against applying the same principle in Ireland?
§ MR. CRIPPS
No, I have not forgotten it for a moment; but that does not make any difference to the principle. You are now dealing with the principle, 878 and when the honorable Member for South Molton voted for the Second Reading, the five years was not in it.
§ MR. CRIPPS
I do not want to bandy words, for this is only a question of detail. If the principle was only for five years, I want to know why the honorable Member for South Molton supported it. That is the simple question, and I am rather anxious upon this point. It is not on one occasion, or on two occasions, but I recognize that it is the honorable Member for South Molton who more particularly has attempted to raise what I call false issues and false questions of rating reform, and he has done it consistently, and says that he intends to do it again. How could he consistently with that attitude have voted for the English Rating Agricultural Act? Mr. Lowther, I have detained the Committee rather longer than I intended, but I do think that these rating questions are extremely important. I should vote—and I am expressing my own opinion—on every occasion against any rating proposal which appeared to me to be in the nature of a dole or a bribe, or something that would lead to political corruption. I agree with my honorable Friend the Member for South Molton that in rating a proposal of that character ought to be condemned, and would be condemned by all parties in this House. And that being the case, Mr. Lowther, it is because I believe that Ireland is entitled to that measure of justice which we have meted out to England that I support most heartily the proposal which is now before the Committee, leaving all questions of detail, when they arise, to be dealt with here after.
§ MR. E. F. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
My honorable Friend says that he does not expect to be supported by any of the honorable Members from Ireland on this question. Well I do not suppose that Irish Members will vote against giving a grant to Ireland however it may be divided amongst the classes in Ireland.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX
The honorable Member for South Mayo is going to vote against it, because part of it will go to the Irish landlords.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX
My honorable Friend is a disciple of Mr. Henry George, who believes that whatever money is voted for whatever purpose it must ultimately go to the landlords.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX
I think, to be perfectly consistent, my honorable Friend should vote against any grant to Ireland to any class of Irishmen, because, in accordance with his principles, the money must eventually go into the pockets of the landlords. But, so tar as the half of this is concerned, it is ticketed for the Irish tenants, and it is to be expressly given to the Irish tenants. There can be no doubt about the ticketing. They may argue, in accordance with these false principles in "progress and poverty," that, however you may ticket any grant, the money must go to the landlords; that is a very broad proposition, into which I need not attempt to enter this afternoon. But so far as ticketing is concerned it is expressly stated in the Bill that the larger part of this must go to the tenant. It is true that the opposite principle is applied in the case of the poor rate, and that is ticketed for the landlord. But there you have it plain and square, for you have one ticketed for the tenant, and the other for the landlord; and I confess that, if the tenant stood alone, I cannot imagine that any man representing an Irish constituency would vote against a measure of relief from the agricultural rates as applied to the tenancy of Ireland. I venture to say that there is no form of financial relief which can be given to Ireland which is more useful to the country, and which goes more directly to the people who ought to be relieved, than a grant in aid of that part of the agricultural rates which is 880 paid by the tenant, and I will deal with that matter in a moment. My honorable Friend spoke of the case of the western peasant. Now, the western peasant is a man upon whom the agricultural rates press the hardest.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX
Well, I trust that they will be more relieved in that respect in the future than in the past. But we are not likely to improve the case for a reduction of rent if we say that the tenant is not in need of a reduction in rates. We will take the case and adopt the argument of the honorable Member for South Molton, and we will say that it does not matter in the least to a man who only pays 17s. a year rent whether he gets 6d. or 1s. in the pound more or less off his rates or off his rent. According to that the rents in the west of Ireland are a matter of comparative indifference.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX
Well, my own opinion is that the 17s. a year rent paid by the Irish tenant is more, as far as its pressure upon him is concerned, than the larger rent of the tenant on land in Meath. I carry that out logically, because I say that what is true of rent is also true of rates, and that the rates paid by the western tenant on his farm valued at 17s. a year press upon him more severely than upon the big tenant in Meath, and relief from those rates is a more valuable relief than the relief given to a bigger-rented man in a more prosperous part of Ireland. Therefore, anybody who takes up one position in the case of rent is bound logically to take up the same position in the case of rates. But that is not all. The rates in the pound are greatest in the poorest parts of Ireland. There may be some question as to whether the rents, even as refixed, do not err in the same way. It is a question that is scarcely appropriate on this particular Motion before the House but there is no doubt that the rents do not vary as between the west and the east of Ireland to the same degree 881 as the rates do, because, speaking broadly, the rates in the western counties along the western seaboard of Ireland amount to nearly 4s. in the £ as against well under 2s. in the £ in the more prosperous eastern counties of Ireland. So that if you give a grant in relief of rates you assure that the greater part of it will go to those parts of Ireland where the people are the poorest, and to those occupiers of the soil in those parts of Ireland who above all other people require relief. I am, however, at a loss to understand how that part of the Bill which applies to the tenant's rates can be opposed by anybody who has the interests of the Irish people at heart, as I know the honorable Member for South Mayo has the interest of the western peasantry at heart, and I cannot understand how the honorable Member can oppose a Measure which would give the tenant a considerable measure of relief. I will take the question of a man with a pound a year rent. Now, under the Land Acts, most of these men are never able to get to the Land Court at all. Under the Land Acts, if they did get into the Land Court, the legal expenses would be between £1 and £5, and if they got a reduction on the rent it might be for 15 years, at an average of about 3s. or 4s. Now, you will find in the case of those who do get into the Land Court, with regard to the reduction upon the rent of tenants, in the whole course of the land legislation of this House for Ireland, the result has been that during the many years it has been passed the net income to the tenant has been smaller than the reduction and the benefit he will get under the Resolution now before the Committee, because, as I say, these are the men who pay 4s. in the £ rates. The cess alone in these western counties paid directly by the county averages somewhere about 3s. in the £. The man whose valuation is £1 gets a direct relief of 1s. 6d., and that to him is a considerable relief. And, what is more, he gets it without any charge and without any delay or litigation, or any dispute or difficulty, such as usually occurs. And so I actually contend that the poor western occupier actually gets, and directly gets, under this proposal more than he ever got under the Land Acts which have been passed by this House during the last 16 years. 882 I say that that fact in itself would justify anybody in voting for the proposal of the Government, even though some of us may on small points doubt whether the adjustment made is in every way the best. But what is the history of this question? I venture to think that it is an interesting history, and one that Irishmen may well take to heart. When the Government made its proposal for the agricultural grant for England, they proposed to treat Ireland as a separate country. I had the honor on that occasion of moving an Instruction to the Committee demanding that the principle contained in the Act should be extended to Ireland. I had the honor of being supported on that occasion by my honorable Friends who sit above the Gangway. Although upon that occasion we were divided on this side of the House, I am bound to say that we got some support from some Members opposite representing Irish constituencies. A year after that we brought this question forward again and on that occasion all the Irish Members voted together in the same lobby, and all the English Members opposite in the other. We found our English friends and the Liberal Party without any exception—I believe without the exception of the honorable Member for South Molton—supported us on that Motion in favor of the adoption of the same principle of paying half the Irish rates, which has been applied in the case of the English rates. My honorable Friend has practically little interest in that question, as his farm is not, I believe, in Ireland. He had taken pains to vote—naturally only—for the Second Reading of the English Bill the year before last, in which he was considered. On the second occasion, which did not affect the English people other honorable Members who were equally unconcerned in the matter before the House supported it although the honorable Member for South Molton opposed it, and we were assisted by a very able speech from the right honorable Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton. So that we had, therefore, the support of the Liberal Party, and I should be very much surprised if the Liberal Party, having supported this principle when it was expounded from these Benches, are going to vote against it simply because we have induced the Government to 883 take it up. I think that would be a most unfortunate course to take. If that principle were to be applied, we should not know where we were. Supposing the Party opposite were to take up the question of Home Rule, would honorable Gentlemen below the Gangway immediately vote against it? After having been voting for it so long, surely by this time they believe in it? However, I am sure they will not treat this question in that way, and the honorable Member will not set a very great example of consistency if he does so. Nor will the Liberal Party show much consistency if, in a proposal for giving Ireland half of her agricultural rates, they now vote with the honorable Member for South Molton—the only Member of their Party who was opposing on that occasion—against the principle that has been adopted by Her Majesty's Government. I suppose it will be said, "I do not propose that this Bill shall be adjusted in such a way that the landlord shall get any benefit," and on this question I should like to know where we stand. I understand that, according to the honorable Member for South Molton, if you adjust this payment the benefit of it must go to the landlord. He argues that even in the case of cess, where the Land Commissioners are directed not to take it into account in fixing the rent, nevertheless the benefit of the relief must go to the landlord. According to that principle, the honorable Member must be equally in favor of giving everything to the landlord; because, as I understand the principle now, there is no form of human ingenuity in the framing of an Act of Parliament which can prevent the whole benefit of an agricultural grant from going to the landlords, and none of it going to the tenants. Therefore, the Radical Member who voted for the Bill of 1896 voted in favor of assisting the landlords. And, I venture to say, that is a dilemma which it will be interesting to see how they will get out of. The honorable Member takes the specific question of purchase. Now we will see how this will work. What does an Irish tenant think about when he is contracting with a landlord for the purchase of his holding? He wants to know how much reduction he is going to get in his annual payment. He will take his annual payment as a basis in calculating it out as 884 to what it will be when this cess is taken off. He will calculate how much reduction he will get by purchasing, and I venture to neither think he is not so ignorant nor such a fool as to pay to the landlord extravagant sums for the sake of a reduction which he will have got already. According to the principle of the honourable Member for South Molton, if you reduce the rent of a barn you will necessarily increase the number of years' purchase. If the tenant will give more because his annual payment has been reduced, it will also be the fact that he will give more years' purchase because the rent has been reduced. But that has not been the experience. On the contrary, the more the rents have been reduced the more the tendency has been for the tenant to stand fast. He is in a better position, he is better able to make a bargain; and if he is financially able to make a bargain there is no man more able to take care of his own interests than the Irish tenant. In cases where he has been prevented from making a good bargain he can stand out as long as he likes. Therefore applying it to the question of purchase which is the strongest instance taken by the honorable Member it will be found that in practice this grant will go to the benefit of the tenant rather than the landlord. It is true, of course that a large part of this grant rather more than a third and rather less than half will go to the landlord. None of us have any objection to English Members using the argument against landlords to any extent they like—any stick is good enough to beat a dog with—and if they think it is a useful argument against the landlord, nobody on these Benches has any reason to grumble against them. But we have to look at facts from a political point of view. Two years ago, when the Irish Land Bill was before the House of Lords, it was supposed that the result of that Bill would be to reduce the rents of the Members of that Chamber. We also know that the standing argument used against any wide extension of local government in Ireland has been that it would enable the county councils to increase the burdens upon the landlord class. That is only a recognition of the plain facts Politically, we find that the argument would Lave been used, if it had been available, in favor of cutting down this 885 Bill. I confess that, even though £300,000 a year, which I think is the amount that the landlords will get from this Bill, is a large amount, yet it is a cheap price to pay for the practical relief which we get in this Measure. I look at the surrounding facts of our recent political history. I know that the position of the landlords was so strong that, though a Home Rule Bill passed through this House, laden with many checks and safeguards, and was sent up to the Lords by a majority of Members of this House it was rejected by an enormous majority of that House and the Liberal Party was unable to raise any agitation against the House of Lords because of their action in that respect. I know that on the question of a Land Bill a Conservative Government though Conservative Governments are supposed to be omnipotent across the way was unable to control the House of Lords, and I say it as idle for any Irishman who wishes to obtain any practical measure of relief for Ireland to object to this grant because some of it will go to the men who have been the enemies of Ireland. We have to look at facts We certainly give the money but I believe we get value for fit and for that reason I venture to support this proposal. And I venture to say that, even though I stand in the position of being the only Member for Ireland whose constituency gets no advantage whatever from this Measure. In the city of Derry we under the proposals of this Bill get no direct advantage, no relief from agricultural rates. And what is more by the operation of the Union Rating, Derry will gain nothing at all Host of the towns of Ireland will gain by the operation of the Union Rating but I do not believe that there is a single constituent of mine whose rates will be reduced as a result of this Measure. Moreover I support it because I believe it to be the duty of any man who represents an Irish constituency to support any Measure which extracts from the Imperial Exchequer any part of the unjust sums which have been paid into it by Ireland. The honorable Member for South Molton referred to the fact that since the Royal Commission inquired into the circumstances of Irish and English finance the taxation of Ireland has been increased by £600,000. It has been increased by that 886 sum almost entirely as a result of the Budget of the right honorable Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth-shire. We voted for that Budget and I confess I have doubts whether we did not allow Party allegiance to carry us too far on that occasion. Certainly speaking personally, I shall not permit the same mistake to occur again. If we find that a Budget brought in on English Liberal principles has deprived us incidentally, not of course, designedly, of £600,000 of Irish money paid over into the British pocket, I think we should be foolish not to support a Budget brought in on Conservative principles, which will transfer that sum of £600,000 back again from the Imperial Exchequer to the Irish pocket, from which it was extracted. This Government is simply redressing, so far as this £600,000 is concerned, the financial grievance which was due to Ireland by the last Government. It is perfectly true that the facts stand as between the two countries just as they did after the Financial Commission made its Inquiry and Report. Though we have got rid of the extra burden we shall still be under the unjust burden which the Commission discovered and reported to Her Majesty. But to say that it is idle to support a Measure giving £600,000 of relief to Ireland, because the claim of Ireland is something much more than that amount, seems to me, I confess, to be a novel argument. You owe us some three millions a year. England owes that to Ireland We are overtaxed to that very great extent We do not expect human nature being what it is on this side of the Channel, that you will pay it all back at once, but we mean to take it as we can get it—bit by bit. I do think that we get a small bit of it back in the form proposed by this Bill. That is to say we get a relief from the extra burden which has been laid on us during the last few years. I know in the Report of the Royal Commission—in the very able Report of Mr. Sexton and the honorable Member for South Longford and others—they adopt the principle of taking the contribution of Ireland as being that sum which Ireland pays—less these sums paid back in relief of local taxation. They did take the figures on that basis and they adopted that basis in their Report and having regard to the great share which 887 Mr. Sexton took in the whole business of that Commission it is impossible to say that any sums paid in relief of local taxation should be taken as a set-off against that claim. I do not want to argue that point. Some honorable Members may think it is not to be taken into account at all; others may think that pro tanto it should be taken as a set-off. That is a point upon which there may be a good deal of argument because we have a very large sum still owing after having taken this Measure of relief into account; and I venture to think that we should be better employed in uniting the forces of Ireland in order to extract what we can from the English Exchequer, rather than in joining with some section of Englishmen to vote against the present proposal because some of the money is not going to the benefit of the Irishmen who sent us to House We ought to look at the two countries, each as a whole We ought to look at the one country—the richer country of England—the powerful country, in this House and out of it; and we ought to look at the poor country of Ireland endeavoring by Parliamentary means to get what relief it can from grievous burdens If the English are united and the Irish are divided what beneficial relief are we likely to get? If, when any Measure of financial relief is proposed, one section of Irishmen get up and condemn it because part of that relief goes to another section of Irishmen are we likely to succeed? I take a broader ground. The Irish landlords may have many crimes to answer for but at any rate, from men of the landlord class no small share of what has been won by Ireland has come; and I say that for any Irishman to take up the line of argument that he will not vote for the relief of Irish finances because part of that relief may go to the Irish landlords is a position that is unworthy of any Member of the Irish party and of the country which aspires to be called "United Ireland."
MR. T. SHAW (Hawick Burghs)
I find myself in a very difficult position. I have on former occasions when an agricultural rating Bill was before the House, voted against it. I recognize on this occasion that the House having twice adopted 888 the principle of agricultural rating as embodied in this Act it is only fair that Ireland should be treated on similar lines; and I must confess to the Committee, though with some reluctance, that I must assent to that general view. On the other hand I am bound to say that I feel the difficulty in which Irishmen are placed, and I do not think that the difficulty could have been better illustrated than by the ingenious speech to which the House has just had the pleasure of listening. I must observe that whenever my honorable and learned Friend advocates a Measure of this sort in the language which he has adopted this afternoon the Government may well ask to be saved from their friends. He spoke of this money as a "price." He spoke of it as a "cheap price" to pay in view of the possible or problematical opposition of certain legislators in the House of Lords Certainly if ever a proposal was condemned in this House it was condemned by language such as that because apparently it is to be an argument that an independent Member of the House of Commons must shape his opinions according to the possible action of another branch of the Legislature. Then my honorable and learned Friend talks about enriching Ireland; and he does that in answer to a speech of my honorable Friend the Member for South Molton, the burden of whose speech was to condemn only one part of this grant namely the grant to the landlord class. How even in the Irish mind as we have seen that mind characterized in the speech just delivered, there can occur a similarity between a grant for the landlords of the country in respect of their landlord position and a grant for the enrichment of his countrymen I myself cannot understand. Then there is the honorable Member's last argument which is or should be above the consideration of the House Let us, he says abandon all other ideas and vote for this grant of money because it is a grant of money extracted from the British Exchequer. That is not my view of the duties of Members of this House in speaking so far as they can, in their several humble capacities of the British Exchequer. I have observed throughout the years that this Government has held 889 office that when their back is completely at the wall my honorable and learned Friend the Member for Stroud appears upon the scene. Upon the present occasion he has in ingenuity and in vehemence excelled himself. He has vehemently informed the House that if this Bill be a Bill for a vote to one class of the Irish people he would be dead against it and the House looked round wondering in what lobby he can be found, excepting in the lobby led by my honorable Friend the Member for South Molton. He says there are no question of endowment and no question of dole and he spoke of it in language with which we are unhappily only too familiar, as a matter arising out of the incidence of taxation. But this proposal does not arise out of the question of the incidence of rating The question of the incidence of rating—and no one knows that better than the honorable and learned Member for Stroud—is a question which arises amongst ratepayers as to how a rate shall fall upon one pair of shoulders or another This is not a question of adjusting rates which shall fall among ratepayers but it is a question connected with a grant of money from another class of people altogether, namely, from the British Treasury and the British taxpayer, not for the purpose of adjusting anything but for the purpose of preventing an adjustment of the incidence of local rating itself. I object on principle to all grants but before I part from the honorable Member for Stroud I will make this observation. How clearly it may be seen that this is not a question of the incidence of taxation may be gathered from the following statement with regard to the accuracy of which I am in the judgment of all Members of the House. The proposal now before the House is substantially this: the Committee is asked to review a proposal whereby now and for ever the landlords of Ireland shall be written out of the list of ratepayers. How can it possibly be contended that the writing completely of a large class of the population of Ireland out of the list of ratepayers is an adjustment of local rating baffles my comprehension. As I was saying, I object to all grants from the British Treasury in aid of local taxation. I think that they lead to extravagance. 890 Money lightly come to in that way lightly goes. I object to grants from the British Treasury in aid of local taxation for another reason, and that is because I have represented considerable parties in objecting to the Agricultural Rating Bill for Scotland.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
You took grants before and after the Act out of what you call the British Treasury.
MR. T. SHAW
I have just stated what my objection was, and whether my action is consistent or not will be no argument as regards the Motion before the House. In this present question we must yield to the desire of the Irish Members, and let this money go to Ireland. What I strongly object to is that no less a part of it than £300,000 is to be ear-marked for the use of the Irish landlords. You gave this money to the Irish landlords In England, when a proposal for an agricultural grant was first mooted there was much controversy upon the subject, which was incidentally referred to by my honorable and learned Friend the Member for Stroud, namely, to whom the benefit would ultimately go and it is, I am sure, within the recollection of the House that there was strong and vehement language used about the money going to the landlords, but it was asserted that the benefit would not go to the landlords. The same with Scotland. There it was asserted that the benefit would not go to Scotland; far from it. In Scotland we have a system which I can explain in a few brief words, namely, the system of equal rating as between landlord and tenant, and further than that, we have the system of comparatively long leases of 90 years or thereabouts. These were cases in which the Government said that they were not landlords' relief or dole Bills, and it was specifically set out in the Scotch Bill that the relief was to be granted pro tanto to the occupying tenant, and none to the landlord. Now, all the arguments come to this—that when we reach the Irish case Her Majesty's Government have at last thrown off the mask altogether. There can be no question now as to whether this is a Measure for the relief of the Irish landlords or not. 891 But what Her Majesty's Government propose to do is to lift off the landlord interest in Ireland the burden which is attached to ownership in land in that country. It is an actual gift of money to the Irish landlords. Now, I do ask, what are the reasons which you put forward for this extraordinary proposal? There are two. In the first place, I understand it is hardly disputed, I think it was alluded to, I am not quite sure, in the speech of my honourable Friend who preceded me. I understand one great argument in favour of this grant to the landlords is that they have suffered, and suffered continuously, through the land legislation of this House, for many years past. Now, I object to the House of Commons, in its capacity of trustee of the finances of the country, taking revenge upon a previous House of Commons, acting in the capacity of trustee for the country, for its legislation with regard to land. Without doubt, the mistake of that legislation can be stated in one sentence. The legislation of the past has been to put an end to rack renting, and in substitution for it obtain fair rents in Ireland. The proposition under this Bill is pro tanto practically that we shall restore the system of rack renting in Ireland at the expense of the British Government. This compensation scheme appears to me to be a rack renting scheme, at the instance of Her Majesty's Government, and the British taxpayers may well ask if this is a legitimate use to which to put their money. The second argument brought to bear upon the scheme is that this is the price paid by the landlords for their acceptance of local government. Are the Irish people unwilling to accept local government? I understand that they are substantially united upon that topic, with the exception of the landlords. If local government, upon its merits, be a sound proposal, is that proposal justified by legislation of this kind? If the history of these islands justifies such legislation as local government, why have a price paid to one portion of Her Majesty's subjects in order to obtain their consent to legislation which is to be a benefit to their own country? It is compensation for legislation on land in the past, and rents are now to be increased, not out of the tenant, but the Treasury. Now, it is suggested that this is a new matter, but it is 892 not a new matter by any means. The honourable and learned Gentleman who represents Stroud talks of the existing Committee on Local Taxation, but the existing Committee on Local Taxation has not yet reported. There is another Report, however, to which the Government must still attach real importance, and that is the Report of the Committee of 1870, which was headed by the First Lord of the Admiralty. That Report deals with the question which I now ask for a moment's permission to bring to the attention of the House. So far as we know, from investigations which have been made into the working of Local Rating Bills, the best results have been shown where the rates have been paid by the landlord and tenant penny and penny about. I do not speak upon this subject without knowledge, because I belong to a country where this has been the practice for the last half-century. This subject was investigated by the Committee of 1870, and I ask the attention of the House to the two conclusions which the Committee arrived at on the subject, upon the question as to whether the landlord ought to be relieved from local taxpaying. This is what the Committee reported upon this vital question of the incidence of local rating—(a)That the existing system of local taxation, under which the exclusive charge of almost all rates leviable upon rateable property for current expenditure, as well as for new objects and permanent works, is placed by law upon the occupiers, while the owners are generally exempt from any direct or immediate contributions in respect of such rates, is contrary to sound policy.(c)That in any reform of the existing system of local taxation, it is expedient to adjust the system of rating in such a manner that both owners and occupiers may be brought to feel an immediate interest in the increase or decrease of local expenditure, and in the administration of local affairs.Now, I am bound to say, when I hear my honourable and learned Friend the Member for Stroud, who is a member of the Committee on Local Taxation now sitting, saying that this is a reform in the incidence of local rating, I can only present him with the sound condemnation of his argument contained in the Report of 1870 and our experience in 893 Scotland. Now, just let me say, before I sit down, that I should not so much care about the way in which this money was distributed if it were a question of finance, but I do most deeply feel that Ireland is to be wronged by this proceeding in her social position. The names of the landlords will be for ever removed from the ratepayers of Ireland. The increase of expenditure which will occur is not an increase in any way due to extravagance, because as time goes on and ideas are enlarged, and views are broadened by good management and good government, the needs of public health and local bodies will increase, and public expenditure must necessarily be increased. It will be increased by rating, and the names of the landlords being removed from the roll of taxpayers you penalise the whole tenantry of Ireland, and make them responsible, and, while all that falls on the tenantry, the whole benefit will not go to them because, as one knows, in many cases, such as the making of roads, and in great water schemes and questions of that kind, the benefit will ultimately go to the landlords of the country. Do you think that under any such scheme as this that the landlords of Ireland are likely to part with their land on more favourable and more liberal terms than they do now? What will be the effect upon the landlords? Do you think it will promote peace and contentment in the mind of the Irish ratepayers? In my opinion, it is much more likely to put into their minds a sense of heartburning, unrest, and injustice. The landlords say they are now to be relieved for ever, and they will ultimately get the benefit on their landed estates, which will have arisen through increased taxation, which will be actually paid by their tenants. I cannot think that such a course as this will meet the difficulties of the question. On the other hand I think, and fear, it may have a tendency to disrupt and sever society in Ireland, and promote a sense, not of peace, but of dispeace, and that it will emphasise and not remove, the distinctions between class and class. What will be the result upon the local government? If the old position of the landlord remained in Ireland, as in Scotland, his liability there would remain, 894 but this proposal will sever his interest as a landlord from his duty, and what will be the effect on Ireland itself when you are creating new institutions for local government in every locality, and are starting them on a career which will involve a very great outlay, and you are giving them nothing? You are giving the landlords in Ireland £300,000, which would be much better used, if grants are to be made at all, if it was given to the local authorities to be expended generally for the benefit of the Irish people. So far as I am concerned, feeling as strongly as I do upon the subject, I hope the House will not condemn me for having placed my views before it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir M. E. HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
I am reluctant to interfere with what appears to be an agreeable exchange of very different opinions by honourable and right honourable Gentlemen opposite; but, for all that, I confess I am puzzled to understand the reason or the motive for the speech to which we have just listened. I do not even know whether the honourable and learned Gentleman is about to support the Resolution which has been placed in the hands of the Chairman, or whether he is about to oppose it.
MR. T. SHAW
May I interpose, and say that I understood my honourable Friend the Member for South Molton is prepared, for the convenience of Debate, to defer proposing his Motion. The speech I have just made was in support of my honourable Friend's proposition.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Then it does appear to me that the honourable and learned Gentleman might have waited until the honourable Member for South Molton made his Motion, when, if he approved of it, he could have delivered his admirable speech in support of it. As it is, I would venture to submit to the Committee that, in the speech of the honourable and learned Member, and some of the Debate which has preceded it, we 895 have been really wandering from the question before the Committee. The Debate commenced with a speech by the honourable Member for East Mayo which was unquestionably germane to that subject. The honourable Member criticised the terms of the Resolution, and contended that it did not give a sufficient grant, and was not calculated in such a way as he desired to meet the necessities of Ireland. He was replied to by the right honourable the Chief Secretary. But since that time we have not been discussing the question before the Committee, so much as we have been discussing the position of the landlords in Ireland, and the question as to whether they should or should not in the future contribute something towards the rates. Now I submit to the Committee that that is not a question which arises upon the Resolution. I have not heard from the honourable and learned Member any objection to the proposal to give a grant from the Exchequer in aid of the agricultural ratepayers of Ireland, provided only those ratepayers are occupiers and not owners. I think that is the position of the honourable and learned Member, and also the position of the honourable Member for South Molton. There is no objection to such a grant, but those honourable Members—although one of them, I think the honourable and learned Member, certainly voted in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill—attach so much importance to the fact that a portion of it is to go to the relief of Irish landlords from local taxation, that they practically oppose the whole proposal which the Government is now making to the Committee. The Committee is aware—and I need not dwell upon the fact—that in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government this proposal to relieve not merely occupiers but also owners of land in Ireland from local taxation is an essential and vital part of this Bill. We could not proceed with the Bill if the House is not to accept our policy in that respect, but this Resolution now before the House does not settle that question in any way. That question will be discussed and settled when we come to the clause in the Bill which relates to the future condition of Irish landlords and 896 tenants in regard to the payment of rates. Therefore, if we are really to make any progress with the business now before the Committee, I do hope the honourable Member for South Molton, if he desires to take the sense of the Committee upon his proposal to omit the poor rate from this grant, will make that proposal and allow the Committee to debate it, and come to a decision upon it in due time. Then we can take this Resolution—which, after all, is merely a formal authorisation by the Committee of the expenditure which is proposed in the Bill, and the principle of which was accepted by the House upon the Second Reading of the Bill—and afterwards, when the proper time comes, we shall be able to debate the important question raised—I do not say improperly raised—by the honourable and learned Member, upon which he feels so strongly, but upon which he did not feel strongly enough to object to the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ SIR T. G. ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)
The right honourable Gentleman has brought us back to the matter before the House, but at the same time a number of honourable Gentlemen have preceded him and made a number of points, some of which I may be allowed to allude to. I should like to say, in the first place, that I am, and I am certain that a great many honourable Members who sit with me are, very tired of hearing, on every proposal to deal with the condition of Ireland, of the generosity of England to Ireland. We have heard a good deal of that in connection with the Agricultural Grant. The question of generosity does not arise in this matter in the slightest degree, it is merely a question of justice; the whole point is this, that now, after a delay of two years, you are giving to the ratepayers and farmers of Ireland the same advantages that you have given to the corresponding classes in England, and, if that be generosity to Ireland, then what happened before must necessarily be generosity to England, and I do not see how honourable Members can suggest that in this particular matter they are making concessions to Ireland to which England is a stranger. But when the honourable Gentleman speaks of the very 897 large sums of money given to Ireland out of the pockets of the generous English taxpayer he could never have read or must have utterly forgotten the Report of the Financial Relations Committee. When that Report comes to be dealt with by this House, and the generous English taxpayer comes to a knowledge of his real relations with the Irish taxpayer, it will be quite time enough to talk of the generosity of England towards Ireland. The honourable and learned Gentleman who has just sat down spoke of this House being the trustee of the finances of the British Treasury, but those of us who represent Irish constituencies in this House might very fairly say that we ought to be the trustees of an Irish Treasury, and that we are largely of opinion that the Irish Treasury has been greatly depleted by the superior cleverness of the English Treasury, and that, therefore, we are fairly entitled to try by every means in our power to do something to restore the equilibrium. What I wish to impress upon the House is the joint made by the honourable Member for East Mayo, who, I regret, is not now in his place, that this grant does not raise the question of the financial relations of England and Ireland. It simply amounts to giving to Ireland the same advantages as are enjoyed by England, and treating the Irish ratepayers in the same way as the English ratepayers have already been treated. Now, this part of the Bill is incontestably a most important point, and therefore, under the circumstances, I trust the House will not think ill of us if we debate this question at some length. I am perfectly certain that I shall be followed by honourable Members representing Irish constituencies on the other side of the House, who in return will be supported by honourable Members sitting behind me. I speak as an Irish ratepayer, and it certainly seems to me that the provision which the Government make in regard to the contributions towards the Irish rates will not prove to be adequate. The right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary has made some elaborate calculations in regard to this matter, but in all his calculations he has, I am rather afraid, not taken into consideration the large increase of expenditure which must necessarily occur under Irish local government, as pro- 898 posed by this Measure. Under this Bill we shall have a very great increase in the matter of the Irish Agricultural Labourers Acts; in connection also with the administration of lunatic asylums; and a large increase in other ways, and under the circumstances I am very much afraid that the provision made in the Bill will prove far from adequate in future. I can speak in this matter for two counties with which I am connected; in the case of county Kerry this year the local expenditure will be something like £5,000 more than it was last. I say that from a report sent to me by the Kerry Grand Jury. In Wexford we shall have an increase of expenditure to the extent of some £2,000 or £3,000 over that of last year; and, therefore, I think that the Government would do well to consider whether it would not be desirable on their part, in making their calculations, to take the average of a series of years, instead of taking the year 1897 as a standard upon which to base the rates in future. I quite accept the statement of the right honourable Gentleman that 1897 was taken because of the elaborate calculations which had already been made with regard to the year, but I do not think, in an important question of this character, that Her Majesty's Government ought to bind us down to a hard and fast line. I think they ought to leave it open, so that the matter might be reconsidered as to whether it would not be better to base the calculations as to what the contribution towards the Irish rates should be on an average of two or three years. I give my reasons for that suggestion. Taking the two counties with which I am familiar, if you take 1897 for the standard year, I think you will find that the expenditure of that year will be exceeded in the future. Let me go a little into the details. I have here the accounts from two Irish boards of guardians in Kerry and Wexford, the unions of Killarney and Gorey, and in those accounts are the various items of expenditure in the various localities for last year and for this year, and they show, as I say, an increased expenditure. I may here be permitted to quote some of the figures. In the Union of Killarney I find in one of the electoral divisions, Aghadoe, that the expenditure of last year necessitated a 899 rate of 2s. in the pound; this year it is 4s. 4d. In the division of Aglish last year the rate was 1s., and this year it is 2s. 7d. in the pound. In the division of Caragh last year the rate was 3s.; and this year it is 5s. 9d. in the pound; in the division of Curraghmore last year 1s. 6d., and this year 4s. 3d. in the pound; in the division of Doocarrig last year 1s. 6d., this year 2s. 4d.; in the division of Dunloe last year 2s. 2d., this year 3s. 2d.; in the division of Headfort last year 2s. 2d., this year 3s. 1d.; in the division of Kilbonane last year 1s. 8d., this year 2s. 8d.; in the division of Killentierna last year 1s. 2d., this year 2s. 3d.; in the division of Killorglin last year 3s. 9d., this year 5s. 10d.; in the division of Milltown last year 1s. 11d., this year 4s. 2d.; in the division of Molahiffe last year 1s. 10d., this year 3s. 5d.; in the division of Rathmore last year 2s., this year 2s. 11d., and so on. Then in the division of Killarney, urban, it was 2s. 11d. last year, and 3s. 6d. this year, whilst the rural district also shows an increase. So much for the Union of Killarney. Now we pass to the figures of the Union of Gorey, Wexford. I take these figures as being typical of the country. In the division of Ardamine last year we had a rate of 1s., and this year 1s. 4d.; in Ballygarratt 8d. last year, 11d. this year, and in Ballynastragh last year they were 10d., and this year 1s., and in the division of Wells it was 7d. last year, and 1s. 1d. this. In the division of Balloughter, the poor rate last year was 8d., this year 10d; in the division of Coolgreaney last year it was 9d., this year it is 1s. 4d.; in the division of Kilgorman last year 1s. 1d., this year 1s. 6d.; in the division of Killincooly last year 8d., this year 1s. 2d.; in the division of Limerick last year 9d., this year 11d.; and so on. The total expenses of this union last half-year were £5,732, whilst for the corresponding period this year they are £5,901; and the total debts of this union last year were £8,945, while for the corresponding period of this year they are £9,191. So, Sir, this year generally is more expensive than last year. The small towns in Ireland think they ought to be considered in this question. I trust the Government will consider whether such a concession can be made on this point. I join with my honour- 900 able Friend the Member for East Mayo. I hope no idea of niggardliness will be entertained, and that these new Irish local authorities—these new centres of local government in Ireland—will be in a position to carry out their work effectively and well, and will be financially qualified for the proper and efficient work of local government in Ireland; and that they will be enabled to meet the future with confidence, knowing that whatever may come upon them, they will have secure and efficient assistance from the agricultural grant to meet the situation.
In sub-head (a), line 2, to leave out the words 'poor rate and.'"— (Mr. Lambert. )
§ MR. LAMBERT (Devon, South Molton)
said he quite appreciated what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said in regard to bringing the discussion to a close, and he formally moved the Amendment which stood in his name.
§ MR. G. WHITELEY (Stockport)
It was not my intention to speak, but rather to give a silent vote on this question. You are asked at once to exclude the landlords as ratepayers in Ireland. You are relieving them of the burdens they now have on their shoulders; and how are you to relieve them—where are the funds coming from by which you relieve them? These funds are practically paid by the taxpayers in this kingdom. We have had the views of county Members, the views of the Irish Members, but we have not heard the views of any single town representative who may live at these places, and who might say that he sees that it is just or expedient that the great towns should have the burden of the payment of the rates of the landlords of Ireland. I have always raised my voice in this House against what I look upon as injustice. In the towns we have industries equally important to the land industries, and we have our rates to pay.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The honourable Gentleman is discussing what he cannot do. If he speaks for the Amendment he will be in order.
§ MR. G. WHITELEY
I say we have as much right to have our poor law expenses paid as the landlords in Ireland. I have no objection to these doles; but as you treat those landlords so I say you ought to treat us millowners, shopkeepers, and working classes. Unless you do that you will create an injustice.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northants, E.)
I should like to support the Amendment of my honourable Friend. I think we are indebted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having reminded us of what is the corner-stone and the hinge on which the whole of these proposals hang. He said, if I remember rightly, in reply to the honourable Member for the Hawick Burghs, that unless this proposal—the grant to the landlords—were carried the Government would have to abandon the Bill. I listened to the speech of the honourable and learned Member for Derry City. He repudiated in the frankest way all sympathy with anything like Radical or scientific proposals with regard to the taxation of land—such proposals as were embodied in the great Budget of 1894. That Budget seemed to me to impose a very just burden upon the owners of land in this country. But now we have this extraordinary position, that while we in this country are agitating, and shall continue to agitate, to impose equitable taxation on the owners of ground values in our great towns, we are threatened with the absolute secession of our Irish friends from any support to such legislation. The real principle of this Bill is indicated in the speech of the Leader of the House in foreshadowing this Bill last year. He said—The poor law and county administration of Ireland can only be put on a broad and popular basis if at the same time the owners of agricultural land can be relieved of the apprehension which, rightly or wrongly, they entertain with regard to the possible extravagance, perhaps unintentional and perhaps intentional, of the new bodies which are to be called into existence. I hold, Sir, that to attain that object the landlords must be relieved from all rural rates in the future. I make no secret about it. That is a wide departure from the course we have pursued in England and in Scotland.It will be simply monstrous to suppose that here in England any Government, on whatever side of the House it sits, would venture to come and propose to relieve the owners of land—whether it 902 was agricultural land or land in the towns—of all local taxation such as the Bill proposes to attempt in Ireland. I have been perfectly astounded at the speech of the honourable and learned Member for Londonderry; and I wonder how he can, consistently, with the course repeatedly pursued by the Irish Members on these questions, argue in favour of these proposals with regard to the landlords at Ireland. I am afraid the Irish party are frittering away their strength, and that their great purposes are being paralysed and ruined by dissension and faction. I am not sure to what particular section of the Irish Party the honourable and learned Member belongs, or whether he follows as his leader the honourable Member for East Mayo, who spoke of this proposal as blackmail.
§ MR. CHANNING
We have got, then, to this condition of things. From the speech of the honourable Member for Derry, and from the extraordinary arguments advanced a few days ago on clause 12 by the honourable Member for Longford, it is now plain that practically the Irish Party claim to draw upon the Imperial Treasury, to meet local expenditure to any extent up to the full amount of the calculations they have formed of the indebtedness of this country to Ireland under their view of the financial relations of the two countries. The question of what may or may not be due to Ireland under an equitable settlement of the financial relations I should be out of order in discussing now. It will have to be threshed out in other discussions on other occasions. We have now to consider simply the question of giving to Ireland an amount which is fairly equivalent to the grant in respect of English and Scottish agricultural land a year or two ago. That is a perfectly distinct and perfectly definite question. It is important to examine the inception of this policy. We know exactly how this proposal was brought about. The Agricultural Industries Bill of last year, which, at least, would have created a machinery through which grants to Ireland might have been applied to useful purposes, such as those suggested by the right honourable Member for South 903 Dublin, was withdrawn on the undertaking that this proposal of local government should be introduced, and the First Lord of the Treasury stated that this proposal could only be introduced on the distinct understanding that the landlords should be guaranteed beforehand against any unjust taxation which perhaps might be imposed upon them. I am astonished that the friends of Home Rule should be so anxious to acquiesce in this insult from the Government—this reflection on the baseness and cupidity of the county councils, and that they have been willing, apparently, to adopt the principle which Her Majesty's Government have laid down, that it was absolutely necessary to hand over this.£300,000 to the Irish landowners because the Irish county and district councils could not be trusted to tax Irishmen, whether landlords or farmers. If I were an Irishman, I would resent such a proposal with all my heart, because it is a gross reflection on the justice and fairness of the bodies to be elected in Ireland, and on the spirit of fair play with which they should carry out local administration fairly or justly. We have not had from the other side of the House a shadow of justification for this proposal to compensate the landlords beforehand for the injustice which the Irish county councils are expected to inflict upon them. My honourable and learned Friend the Member for the Hawick Burghs argued unanswerably, and I challenge any honourable Gentleman from the opposite side of the House to answer his speech line by line and argument by argument. It proved that you are deliberately handing out the money of the British people to the Irish landlords in order to make up for the diminution of the rents in Ireland. It is part of the compensation policy which had been pursued by the Party opposite ever since the Act of 1881, and which consisted in ladling out the money of the taxpayers into the pockets of Irish landlords to make up for the just reductions of rent which the Land Commission had been compelled by the facts to go carrying out steadily year after year. This is mainly a question of poor rate. Look at the congested districts, where this question of the poor rate is of most vital importance. I have visited some of the most congested of them in the west, and 904 no man can visit these districts without feeling the warmest sympathy with the miserable inhabitants of these districts. I have been in one district on the coast of Galway where the population have literally created their holdings out of seaweed and sand and manure worked together by the labour of generations upon the bare rocks. Generation after generation the landlords have extorted rent from them; and those men, who have contributed to the poverty of these people by taking their slender resources in unjust and unfair rents, are to be exempted from paving any contribution whatever for the relief of the poverty of those districts. I wish honourable Members before they vote had read what the late Sir James Caird, a man of the greatest experience in agricultural land, stated as to the condition of the peasantry of the West of Ireland, and the causes of the poverty there. He pointed out that it was the deliberate policy of the landlords to cause a sub-division of land and to make the Irish population dependent on potatoes, in order to increase the number of their tenants and exact a still greater imposition of rents from these poor, unhappy people. It is familiar to everyone who has studied this question that political motives also led the landlords in the past to encourage the sub-division of these holdings in the West of Ireland, where the most acute poverty prevails. The landlords deliberately brought about the existence of these congested districts and the acute distress of these districts. And yet my Irish Friends are condescending to take this mess of pottage from the Government and consenting to a policy of compensation to the landlords, of totally exempting from contribution to the poor rate these very men who have unjustly imposed burdens on the people, and whose selfish policy has largely created the misery which has to be relieved.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
My honourable Friend objects to exempting landlords from the rates. This Bill proposes to place Irish landlords with regard to the rates precisely in the same position as the English landlords. That is all. No English landlord pays as a landlord. He only pays rates as an occupier. Irish landlords will in future pay rates as occu- 905 piers. Whether this view is right or wrong, I will again remind the Committee that it ought to be discussed on the clause of the Bill. Supposing, however, the honourable Member were to succeed in eliminating the poor rate from this resolution, what would be the result? Would he make the landlords liable to the rate? Not in the least. That clause would still remain in the Bill, and might be carried against him in this House. What he would do would be this: he would impose the rate hitherto paid by the landlord upon the occupier without any relief from the Exchequer.
§ MR. CLANCY
The attitude of the Liberal Members surprises me. Although they recognise theoretically our right to govern ourselves and manage our own affairs, it somehow always turns out that they won't allow us to do it. We now desire a say in the distribution of this money under the Bill, and they want to dictate to the representatives of Ireland how that money is to be spent. I don't really know whether all of them take the view of the honourable and learned Member for the Border Burghs. It is admitted that the money is Ireland's, and by what right do they interfere? By what right do these English Home Rulers try to prevent Irish Home Rulers doing what they like with their own? I have been trying to analyse the motives of these honourable Gentlemen, and trying to reconcile their professions with their practice. I utterly fail. The only thing I see is that in some way or other they admit that these affairs are ours, and that we can manage them as we like, and yet they are perpetually poking their noses and fingers into business which does not concern them at all. I could understand the attitude of the right honourable Gentleman who has just sat down if he denied that the money was ours. Indeed, some of the expressions which he used in the course of the discussion would rather throw doubt upon the point, because he spoke of the British Treasury as something entirely confined to England and Scotland. If you contribute for Irish purposes out of the British Treasury, all I can say is we contribute far more than our proper share of the expenses. If this was their own money, the money 906 of the British taxpayer, I could understand their position and their right to interfere in order to tell us how to distribute it. But then the honourable Member has just told us, in answer to a question from myself, that this money it not the money of the British taxpayer.
§ MR. CHANNING
I hope the honourable Member for North Dublin will excuse me if I interrupt him. What I meant to intimate was that I did not believe Ireland was entitled to an equivalent fairly estimated for the agricultural grant given to England. That was all I meant.
§ MR. CLANCY
That is exactly what I meant. That is what I understood as admitting that the money is ours. Two years ago the honourable Gentleman, or, at any rate, this Parliament, agreed to pay out of the Imperial Exchequer half the agricultural rates of every Englishman and Scotchman.
§ MR. CLANCY
If Scotchmen have not got their half, probably they have got more. At all events, they are not likely to be cheated by Englishmen or by Irishmen. But two years ago Parliament voted to pay out of the Imperial Exchequer half the agricultural rates for England and for Scotland.
§ MR. CLANCY
What is the use of contradicting me? The point is plain to everybody except the right honourable Gentleman below me Two years ago, by Act of Parliament—oh, I see the point of the honourable Gentleman; it was the year after with regard to Scotland. I apologise to him. At all events, they have got it now.
§ MR. CLANCY
I will not enter into those minute calculations. I say, and I repeat, that, as everybody knows, half 907 the agricultural rates are now paid in England and Scotland, and were ordered to be paid by Act of Parliament a couple of years ago out of Imperial funds; and on that occasion everybody in the House admitted that an equivalent grant was due to Ireland, and you actually made a so-called equivalent grant, namely, a grant of £180,000, and the curious principle was adopted of voting an Imperial grant in the shape of and in the proportions adopted by the First Lord of the Admiralty. Having done that, the House of Commons and Parliament has admitted that this money is owing to Ireland; and by what earthly right, I ask, does any Englishman, and especially any Home Ruler, who wants to give Ireland, apparently, the opportunity of managing its own affairs as it likes, interfere in a matter which affects Ireland exclusively? My reasons for objecting to this Amendment are twofold. I do not know whether my honourable Friend the Member for South Mayo is going to vote for it or not. I gather that he is going to vote for it. Broadly speaking, then, what he will vote for is stopping half this grant from Ireland. If this Amendment is carried, instead of £730,000 a year going to Ireland there will be only about £400,000 a year going to Ireland; and it is better that this should be understood at once. That is the practical meaning of the Amendment. Now I have no notion, for one, of stopping this money from Ireland. There is too much money due to Ireland from England for me to object to any money going there, no matter where it comes from or where it goes to in Ireland. It is better that it should be in Irish pockets than in English pockets. At all events, that is my opinion, and I think those gentlemen who seem inclined to laugh at what I am saying would say the same thing if they were in the same position as Irishmen. I object to this Amendment, then, first because it will practically cut off half this agricultural grant, and Ireland cannot afford to make a sacrifice of that kind for a merely theoretical principle. I object to the Amendment for another reason. Now I heard, in the excellent speech of the honourable Member for the Border Burghs, several very good reasons for not giving aid 908 to the landlords, and I have no doubt that when the honourable Member for South Mayo speaks I shall also hear a good many things with which I agree. Certainly I do not think for one moment that if the landlords are to be compensated they deserve to have compensation at the hands of the Irish people. But, on the other hand, I think the British Parliament and the British people are bound to the Irish landlords, whom they bribed, and at one time propped up by unjust laws to enable them to rob the tenants, and then deprived them of that power without any compensation. But, while I say this, I maintain that Ireland owes nothing to the landlords of Ireland. Why, then, do I support the Amendment? Does not everyone know that if this money is not paid to the landlords in relief of the landlords' share of local taxation this Bill will not pass into law? There is no use in blinking facts. We cannot expect a Unionist Ministry such as that which is in power at present—it is absolutely useless to expect a Ministry like that which we see upon the Bench opposite to pass this Bill without this consideration being given to the Irish landlords for its acceptance. And when I hear cheers, ironical and otherwise, on this side, I will ask honourable Members, when did they oppose any Local Government Bill with or without any consideration? You find fault. You want us, first of all, to tell you why we support this Bill, and when we do so you ridicule our reasons. I repeat that, while I for one do not admit that Ireland owes these landlords anything, I am prepared to contend that this Bill ought to be extended to Ireland with or without any consideration being paid to any party for accepting it. Formerly the landlord always put on the rent the half of the rates that he paid, and he made it an excuse that he did pay half the rates. But I am not going to enter into these small points. I recognise facts. I say that those who vote for this Amendment will vote for the rejection of the Bill; that is the meaning of it, and I am not going to keep local government away from Ireland such as is offered by this Bill for any reason of that kind. Let me just point out to the 909 honourable Member for South Mayo that he is treading on very dangerous ground with his own countrymen. The whole benefit under this Bill, in the case of the tenant purchasers, will go to the tenant purchasers. They will get the benefit of the whole of the grant; and I cannot forget that there are already absolutely three times as many of the new class of landlords in Ireland as there are of the old. I am not going to deprive the new class of landlords, who are struggling into existence as landlords, of this great boon. Sir, I repeat that to vote for this Amendment to-night is to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill, and I cannot understand, knowing that to be the consequence of carrying this Amendment, how any Irishman can support it.
§ MR. DAVITT
Sir, I thoroughly agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the proper time to raise any objection to the appropriation of the amount under this grant between Irish landlords would be when we reach the clause in the Bill; but, as I have been challenged by more than one kind friend as to what I am going to do if this Amendment goes to a Division, I will trouble the Committee with a few remarks as to the reasons why I intend to support the Amendment. Now my honourable and learned Friend behind me has tried to make a point for his argument in answering the speech of the honourable Member above the Gangway by saying that this was an Irish matter, and that no Englishman had any right to interfere with regard to the appointment of the grant. Very well; I accept the argument that this is Irish money, and that Irishmen ought to be allowed to apportion it. May I ask my honourable Friend this question? If, instead of leaving the division of this money to this House, its division was left to the 82 Irish Nationalist Members, would he be in favour of giving £380,000 to the landlords? I say, Mr. Lowther, there is a great deal of humbug talked about this gift to Ireland. If this money was being given to Ireland for the benefit of real Irish industries I would support it, but I know right well that half the grant will 910 go to Irish landlords, and ultimately the remainder will go to them also. My honourable and learned Friend behind me says I should not handicap the future of the new landlords by opposing this Amendment. I am not in favour of creating landlords in Ireland—we have had too many of them; and I am no more in favour of the petty landlords than of the larger landlords. And let me give one reason why I would support this Amendment. It is this: that in proportion as you lessen rates you bolster up rents; and when the honourable and learned Member below me talks about benefits conferred upon poor tenants in Ireland by relieving the rates, he is talking sheer nonsense. The difficulty is not the incidence of rating, but the injustice of rent, as has been pointed out again and again. It has been declared by Sir James Caird and other economic authorities. If you want relief from real agricultural industries in Ireland, legitimate relief must come from the rents, which are excessive, and not from the pockets of the general taxpayer. I know there is a great temptation for Irishmen to agree to this Bill because, as my honourable Friend behind me says, it will get us back blackmail. Yes, but who will be blackmailed? Surely the taxpayers of Ireland, the artisans of Dublin, the mechanics of Waterford, the labourers in Limerick, the artisans in Derry—these will have to pay blackmail as well as the taxpayers in England. And I would remind my honourable Friend that we have one or two millions of Irishmen in Great Britain who would have to pay this blackmail. But I am not going to blackmail even those English working-men who are prepared to give us Home Rule by bribing the Irish landlords. And, moreover, I take this stand, I am going to fight for Irish liberty without inflicting wrong upon others. My belief is that we should strive to win national liberty for Ireland without inflicting injustice even upon those who in the past have inflicted injustice upon us. Even if the carrying of this Amendment should result in the defeat of the Bill. I shall still vote in favour of it. I am not prepared to seek Irish liberty by bribing. I have fought for Irish liberty, I think, as long as any man in this House, and I am 911 prepared to do it again, and to go where I have been sent by more than one English Government; but I will fight honourably and fairly, and I shall not endeavoar to bolster up a Bill for Ireland by inflicting injustice even upon England.
§ DR. CLARK
I want to get from the Chancellor of the Exchequer some reason for the course which has been taken by the Government in this matter. I wish to have from him some reason why they have changed their minds, and begun this new policy, and to know whether it is intended to carry it out. This Amendment raises an issue which I want to see raised. When, two years ago, the Government proposed their Bill for paying one half of the English agricultural rates, I opposed it, but it was carried after an all-night sitting. In the year following a Bill was passed for Scotland, not paying half the agricultural rates. It allocated to Scotsmen only one-eleventh per cent. of what was given to Englishmen. Of course we should like to get more, bur we had only 11 per cent. How was it allocated? Not one half, but only five-eighths of the half, goes to Scotland. One half of the rate is paid by the occupiers, and the other half is paid by the landlords. In regard to the application of this proposal to Ireland, it is entirely a new principle. When those two Bills were before us, the grounds urged by the Government were the benefits to English landlords and occupiers who were suffering from the depression. We have a now departure here. I want to get from the Chancellor of the Exchequer what he means by taking this course, because surely two things are involved. There is first the grant to the landlords. When the English Bill was before us creating local government for England, you had no difficulty, because, as has been pointed out here to-night, the English landlord paid the rates of the occupier, so that you made no change there. Then the next year they brought in a Bill to create 912 a new local government for Scotland. What was the position of the landlord? He occupied a different position even from that of the Irish landlord. He not only paid half the rate, but the Scotch landlord paid the whole county rate; he paid one-half of the poor rate and one-half of the school rate. But you made no change then. Now you are proposing a change for which, so far as the Bills for England and Scotland are concerned, there is no precedent with regard to relieving landlord's. You are not placing your Irish legislation in the same position as your English and Scotch legislation on this subject, but you are going back on the pledges you gave and the statements you made in carrying those two Bills. Take the position in Scotland. The Scotch landlord has to pay half the poor rates; why, then, should the Irish landlord go free? And the Scotch landlord, in addition, has to pay half the school rate, while neither the Irish nor the English landlord has to pay anything of the kind. The Scotch landlord has also to pay the consolidated rate, and anything more that may be wanted for county government. In fact, he pays the great bulk of the county rate, half the poor rate, and half the education rate. That being so, how can you fairly free the Irish and the English landlords from paying these rates? Those who are supporting this Amendment are doing so as good Radicals, and it is the Government who, in promoting this change, have gone contrary to the speeches and pledges that they gave in bringing forward local government legislation for England and Scotland. We have been given no reason at all for this action. We have had no statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We are told that we must consider this as the essential principle of the Bill, and that unless this Resolution is carried—unless you pay the landlord's rate for him, nothing further will be done. My honourable Friend the Member for Dublin fairly states that, if we get a majority to defeat this Resolution, it will involve the defeat of the Bill. Of course I am content to defeat the Bill, because I think you are going upon 913 wrong lines. Probably in the past real property may have been much more rated in proportion to personal property. Personal property may be growing more rapidly in value, and there may be some change in rating required; but all that was done for England and Scotland when you brought in your Bills, and Ireland gets the benefit of it. Ireland gets its share of the probate duty, the licence duty, and everything else given for the purpose of placing real and personal property in the same position. But has there been a change in that respect requiring the great change now proposed to be made? It seems to me that not a single argument has been brought forward, except the statement that, unless we consent to this change, you will get rid of the Bill. I hope the Amendment will be carried to a Division, and then we shall prove how fallacious and ridiculous the statements of the Government were when, two years ago and last year, they brought forward these Bills for England and Scotland.
§ MR. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)
The speech of the honourable Gentleman who has just sat down, and other speeches made from the Liberal Benches to-night, might seem to prove that more interest is taken in Ireland by others than by those of us who live in that country. I am afraid, however, that it is not because they love Ireland more, but because they love Home Rule less, that we have heard so many of these peculiar speeches to-night. Now the honourable Member for South Molton has drawn a contrast between the relief given in regard to rates to the labourers or tenants in the west of Ireland and the large amount of relief given under the rating proposals to landlords like the Marquess of Lansdowne. Sir, this contrast is quite in keeping with the action of the honourable Member for South Molton upon this question. He objects to any relief being given to the landlords in Ireland, yet he went into the Lobby and voted for the Agricultural Bill in England and the Government Rating Bill of England, under which his valuation, I suppose, was reduced by some thousands, or by some hundreds at least. Under that Bill he will shovel into his pocket this money from the 914 Imperial Treasury to which Irishmen have subscribed. I wonder whether the honourable Member will philanthropically distribute amongst his labourers this grant which he got under the Bill for which he voted two years ago, and which is now to be applied in principle to Ireland. We have heard to-night from the Liberal Benches tremendous denunciations of Irish landlords; but, Sir, we who live in Ireland have some bitter memories of how the Liberal Party, when in power, supported the Irish landlords, and helped them in their evictions and house burnings. It strikes us as peculiar to-night that those very gentlemen who when they were in power supported the Irish landlords in their worst excesses, should now object to this small grant being given to them. Well, there has been another objection made to this Bill. It is, Sir, that this Bill will increase the purchase price of land in Ireland. Is there no other cause of that increase? The American war, which has commenced within the last few weeks has sent up the price of agricultural produce, as well as the price of land in Ireland. We have heard in this Debate that Scotchmen object to this grant going to Ireland; but they have taken the grant for Scotland. Scotchmen hold peculiar notions about finance, as we know from the old story of the Scottish chieftain who turned out upon the highway to prey upon the Saxons, and, by way of excuse, said he was prepared to take their money if he could not have their blood. I think that has often been the policy of Scotchmen in cases of this kind. We have been told, furthermore, that we must have local government for Ireland on equal terms with local government for England and Scotland. On what terms was local government given to Scotland? The landlord in Scotland pays some of the rates, and under this Bill the Irish landlords will be relieved of the rates for their tenants. In Scotland, as I have said, the landlords pay some rates, but on what terms have they got county government? They have joint public committees for supervising the expenditure, and if we were to accept their principle we should continue to tax the landlords for half the rents of the tenants, and I do not see how we could resist the appointment of supervising 915 joint committees, as they have them now in Scotland. Sir, the law in England is that the landlord only pays rates for the land which is in his own hands. Well, Sir, that being so, there are no joint committees, no supervising powers over the county councils in England. If we are to get county councils on the same terms in Ireland, I do not see how we can claim to be in a different position. I shall not detain the House at further length. I think that in this case we are certainly justified in resisting the Amendment of the honourable Member for South Molton. If that Amendment were carried it would mean that this grant to Ireland would be reduced by £300,000, which sum, under the Bill, would be put on to the tenants and occupiers in Ireland, and on that ground alone I shall vote against the Amendment.
§ MR. DILLON
I venture to submit respectfully to the Committee that the matter has been sufficiently discussed, and that we should now come to a Division. There are only two points which, in a sentence or two, I desire to say a word upon. There have been some speeches from the Irish Benches which I feel bound to say most certainly do not represent the views of the great majority of the Irish Members. I do not intend, nor would it be really orderly, to take up the time of the Committee by going over those speeches, but I will allude to two points. Observations fell from the honourable Member for Derry indicating remorse for having supported the Budget of 1894, and he ventured to say that Irish Members regretted the action they took on that occasion. To that I have to say, speaking for the great majority of Irish Members, that we do
§ not regret our action. We are content with the action we took, and in the future we shall, I hope, always be found supporting a financial policy so sound and so fraught with justice to our own people, as well as to the workers of this country, as the great Budget of 1894. That is one of the points I could not let pass without a word. The other point I wish to refer to is the taunt that was thrown out to the Liberal Party when some honourable Member thoughtlessly asked, "Why have you never introduced a Local Government Bill for Ireland?" No more preposterous remark was ever made. I will give the answer. The Liberal Party never introduced a Local Government Bill because we would not let them. We demanded something from them larger and greater than a Local Government Bill; and the very Member who flung the taunt would have been among the very first to denounce the Liberal Party from being traitors to Home Rule. My position is absolutely clear and simple. I support the Resolution. I oppose the Amendment, not because I differ in principle from the honourable Member for South Mayo, or from the principles laid down with great eloquence by the honourable Member for the Border Burghs, who has always proved a sincere friend of Ireland, but because we have been told that we are to get no local government unless we pay this blackmail for it. I am prepared to support what appears to me a most flagitious waste of public money, because only on such terms can we obtain local government for Ireland.
That the words, 'poor rate and,' stand part of the Question.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 186; Noes 40.—(Division List No, 93.)917
|Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N. E.)||Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Cecil, Lord Hugh|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benj.||Chaloner, Capt. R. G. W.|
|Allhusen, Augustus H. E.||Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Brist'l)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)|
|Arrol, Sir William||Begg, Ferdinand Faithful||Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Bethell, Commander||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire)||Bigwood, James||Clancy, John Joseph|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.|
|Baird, Jno. Geo. Alexander||Bond, Edward||Cohen, Benjamin Louis|
|Balcarres, Lord||Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Brookfield, A. Montagu||Colomb, Sir J. Chas. Ready|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds)||Bucknill, Thomas Townsend||Condon, Thomas Joseph|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Butcher, John George||Corbett, A. C. (Glasgow)|
|Barry, RtHnAHSmith-(Hunts)||Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin)||Crean, Eugene|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Carvill, Patrick G. Hamilton||Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)|
|Cruddas, William Donaldson||Houldsworth, Sir W. Henry||Parnell, John Howard|
|Curran, Thos. B. (Donegal)||Howell, William Tudor||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Curran, Thos. (Sligo, S.)||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Plunkett, Rt. Hon. Horace C.|
|Curzon, Viscount (Bucks.)||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Daly, James||Jordan, Jeremiah||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Denny, Colonel||Kenyon, James||Pryce-Jones, Edward|
|Dillon, John||Kilbride, Denis||Purvis, Robert|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Knox, Edmund Francis Vesey||Rankin, James|
|Doogan, P. C.||Lafone, Alfred||Redmond, J. E. (Waterford)|
|Dorington, Sir Jno. Edward||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks)||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. T.|
|Doxford, William Theodore||Lecky, Rt. Hon. Wm. E. H.||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Drucker, G. C. A.||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Roche, Hon. J. (Kerry, E.)|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Sw'ns'a)||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Hart||Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverp'l)||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Lowe, Francis William||Saunderson, Col. E. James|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw.||Lowles, John||Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard|
|Ffrench, Peter||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Sheehy, David|
|Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)||Lucas-Shadwell, William||Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Macaleese, Daniel||Sidebottom, T. H. (Stalybr.)|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Sidebottom, Wm. (Derbysh.)|
|FitzGerald, Sir R. Penrose-||Maclure, Sir Jno. William||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Stanley, E. J. (Somerset)|
|Flower, Ernest||M'Arthur, Chas. (Liverpool)||Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart|
|Flynn, James Christopher||McCalmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.)||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Forster, Henry William||McDermott, Patrick||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Galloway, William Johnson||M'Hugh, E. (Armagh, S.)||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Garfitt, William||M'Hugh, P. A. (Leitrim)||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Gibney, James||M'Killop, James||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Godson, Augustus Frederick||Melville, Beresford Valentine||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||Molloy, Bernard Charles||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward||More, Robert Jasper||Tully, Jasper|
|Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Eldon||Morgan, Hn. F. (Monmouth.)||Usborne, Thomas|
|Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St. Geo's)||Morrell, George Herbert||Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)|
|Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Mount, William George||Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)|
|Green, W. D. (Wednesbury)||Murnaghan, George||Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)|
|Gretton, John||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.||Myers, William Henry||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-und.-L.)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Northcote, Hon. Sir H. S.||Wodehouse, Edm. R. (Bath)|
|Heaton, John Henniker||O'Brien, Jas. F. X. (Cork)||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Helder, Augustus||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wyndham, George|
|Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H.||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary)||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Hickman, Sir Alfred||O'Connor, J. (Wicklow, W.)||Young, Comm. (Berks. E.)|
|Hill, Rt. Hn. Lord A. (Down)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Hill, Sir Edw. Stock (Bristol)||O'Neill, Hon. Robt. Torrens||Sir William Walrond and|
|Hogan, James Francis||Parkes, Ebenezer||Mr. Anstruther.|
|Allan, Wm. (Gateshead)||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Billson, Alfred||Kearley, Hudson E.||Souttar, Robinson|
|Birrell, Augustine||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'land)||Stuart, James (Shoreditch)|
|Brigg, John||Lewis, John Herbert||Wallace, R. (Edinburgh)|
|Buchanan, Thos. Ryburn||McKenna, Reginald||Wallace, Robert (Perth)|
|Burns, John||Maddison, Fred||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Burt, Thomas||Maden, John Henry||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Caldwell, James||Moss, Samuel||Whiteley, George (Stockport)|
|Clark, Dr. G. B. (Caithness-sh.)||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Clough, Walter Owen||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Williams, J. Carvell (Notts.)|
|Davitt, Michael||Pearson, Sir Weetman D.|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Richardson, J. (Durham)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Dunn, Sir William||Robson, William Snowdon||Mr. Lambert and Mr.|
|Evans, S. T. (Glamorgan)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Channing.|
|Fenwick, Charles||Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarsh.)|
Main question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.