§ Order for the Second Beading read.
§ Motion made, and Question put—"That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. O'MALLEY (Galway, Connemara)
Mr. Speaker, in moving the Second Beading of the Evicted Tenants (Ireland) Bill, I shall be as brief as possible, as I am anxious that some of my honourable Friends who have backed it, and who are more familiar with the history of the evicted tenants than I am, should have an opportunity of addressing the House on the subject. Several Bills have been introduced to this House with the object of restoring under equitable terms those tenants in Ireland who, since 1879, have been the victims of what might be truly called the Irish land war. The first Bill was that of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Montrose, who in 1894 succeeded in passing his Bill through this House, but it was defeated by the irresponsible legislators in another place. The principal objection to the Bill was that it was compulsory, and during its discussion both in this House and elsewhere there were declarations from the most influential Unionists that if the Bill were 909 voluntary instead of compulsory it would command their sympathy and support. In 1876 the honourable and learned Member for North Dublin framed his Bill in accordance with the declarations of those Unionists and made it voluntary, but the Measure was opposed and defeated by the votes and speeches of those who, a few years before, had given the honourable and learned Member for North Dublin every reason to believe that they would support a Bill for the reinstatement of the evicted tenants, provided that it did not contain the compulsory clauses of the Bill of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Montrose. The Bill, Sir, which the fortunes of the ballot have entrusted to me, is a compulsory Bill, because we believe that unless there are compulsory powers given to the Land Commission, whom the Bill nominates as arbitrators, very few, if any, settlements would be arrived at. The Bill proposes to deal with the tenants evicted since 1879, and the funds required either for their reinstatement as tenants or purchasers would come out of the Irish Church Temporalities Fund. This is a purely Irish Fund, and, therefore, the British taxpayer would not be affected. The Bill also provides that where an evicted tenant is reinstated as tenant, and where the buildings are in a dilapidated condition, and the tenant impecunious, a sum of money not exceeding £100 should be advanced to him to enable him to carry on his farming operations. The Bill also provides that no injustice shall be done to those present tenants who are well described as "planters" by the reinstatement of the evicted tenant. There are two classes of tenants that this, Bill is intended to benefit: (1) the Plan of Campaign Tenants; and tenants otherwise evicted who may be called (2) isolated tenants. There are about 400 Plan of Campaign tenants, and some 200 isolated tenants, so that this Bill is intended to apply to about 600 tenants. There are some 600 families, or about 3,000 persons, whom this Bill is calculated to rescue from utter misery and ruin. In order that the House might realise the sad condition of those poor victims of an agrarian movement which has done so much for the Irish tenants I would read some 910 letters that appeared the other day in the Report of the Evicted Tenants' Fund Committee—I am now quite destitute, but still hold a firm grip of my farm…I only owed two years' rent when evicted. I have braved the storm, and kept the land-grabber from daring to approach my place.—C. L., K—, Co. Cavan.I am in the most desperate straits at present—charity and benevolence being exhausted on me. I have to leave the site of the home I was the sixth in descent to have inhabited, and spend the few remaining days of my life in the gloomy sphere of an Irish workhouse."— M. K., B—, Co. Carlow.I feel very reluctant to ask you for another donation, being so troublesome to you in the past, but a, catastrophe has overtaken me. My children got unwell, and one of them died, and all through the kind of a hut we are living in. —P. S., K—,Co. Kerry.I am an evicted tenant, and my eldest daughter is on the point of death from pneumonia, and I have not the wherewithal to bury her if the worst comes. I have eight other children with my wife, and I have not sixpence in the world, and my land is taken these few years by a grabber—J. B., B—, Co. Mayo.This evicted tenant is now dead for the past two months—died of a broken heart—and has left behind him a widow and a large family, who are now utterly destitute. I now ask you for a grant for his widow.—J. W. (on behalf of W. G), T—,Co. Tipperary.E. D…is at present in a very deplorable state. He has nine motherless children,…only for the charity of his neighbours they should all have entered the workhouse before now. The poor fellow was victimised by his landlord solely on account of his prominence in connection with every political movement since the inception of the Land League.—D. J. F., L—, Co. KerryThe poverty of the people is simply appalling. A magnificent tight 'was made. In several instances in which it was seen that eviction was inevitable the persons about to be evicted burned down their houses rather than let them be made a shelter for energency men.…I don't think there is a more deserving case in all Ireland.—P. A. M., Sligo.I'm nearly 10 years out now; one year and a, half of rent was due at the time of eviction. When put out there was nine of us in family. My husband took ill and died, and the night he was dead I had six of my family in the fever hospital. The eldest girl I had died, all that was fit to do anything for me.—M. W., C—,Co. Monaghan.The hardships of the family at the time and since are so well known, that I feel it unnecessary to detail them here. Suffice it to tell you that three of them were driven mad, and the broken-hearted mother sent to a premature grave, leaving the applicant, now the only one of a numerous family, keeping watch on the cherished old homestead.—J. S., C—,Limerick.911I have often at the time of receiving these grants stated the desperate want I have been, and am, in. My sister and myself live in this hut—she is an invalid—in all the cold weather, without a bit of fire and very little to eat, expecting every day to get something from the Fund.—M. T. M., B—,King's Co.I trust the First Lord of the Treasury and the right honourable. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland will approach this Bill in a better spirit than they did the Bill of the honourable and learned Member for North Dublin in 1896. The Chief Secretary on that occasion said—The Plan of Campaign was in reality a campaign against law and order—carried on against the State—and when honourable Members come here and ask us to vote public money—we are asking in this Bill Irish money—to reinstate these tenants, it is neither more nor less than the defeated party coming to the victorious party to be asked to be reimbursed the cost of the war.He further on stated—The House has to ask itself whether, by an expenditure of public money for the relief of these tenants, we shall not so much assist the tenants, as rehabilitate the political credit of the honourable Member for Last Mayo.I venture to hope, Sir, that the right honourable Gentleman is in a different frame of mind now with regard to the rehabilitation of my honourable Friend the Member for East Mayo. I think the elections in Ireland last Thursday sufficiently indicated that there is no necessity to rehabilitate him in the esteem and confidence of the Irish people. I would appeal to the First Lord of the Treasury, to the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and those who follow them in this House, to look at this question from a more humane and statesmanlike point of view than they have hitherto done—to remember that these evicted tenants lost their holdings because they refused or were unable to pay an excessive or an impossible rent. It is well known, Sir, that since these evictions took place rents have been reduced some 20, 30, 40, and in many cases even 50 per cent. My honourable Friend the Member for Mayo, in the Debate on the Evicted Tenants' Bill in 1896 referred to a man named Daniel Byrne, of Morrough, in 912 Tipperary, who was evicted on 28th June 1884. The old rent was £140, and the judicial rent £111, and at the time of eviction the man owed £496. The farm was taken by a grabber and held by him for some time, but he could make nothing of it and left it. Byrne settled with his landlord, and the new rent was fixed at £75 a year, against the old rent of £140 and a judicial rent of £111. There was also a similar case of a tenant evicted some eight years ago for the nonpayment of a rent of £40, and who has since been reinstated. The landlords themselves recognised that the rents were excessive, and in many cases they have reinstated the tenants upon more equitable terms. This Bill would deal with the remaining tenants, whom landlord vindictiveness prevents being reinstated. I believe, Sir, these men have a moral claim on those holdings. They, or their fathers, built the houses on them and reclaimed or improved the soil. This House has stepped in on several occasions within the last 20 years to protect the interests of the Irish tenantry from the rapacity of Irish landlordism, and I hope that it will now, by allowing this Bill to be read a second time, step in once more and save the lives of these 3,000 souls whose misery has been revealed in those letters I have read, and restore them to their holdings, which an unjust law deprived them of. Sir, I beg to move the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ MR. DAVITT (Mayo, S.)
Mr. Speaker, there are several features of this Measure which I think ought to recommend it to the favourable consideration of this House. In the first place, Sir, it is a small Bill, and Measures of a narrow compass, other things being equal, have frequently received sympathetic consideration at the hands of honourable Members. Then, Sir, inside the compass of this Bill of four clauses it is proposed by enactment to do work in Ireland which ought, I think, to be promoted by all parties irrespective of political differences, who wish to see peace and progress prevail in Ireland. My honourable Friend who moved the Second Reading of this Bill is slightly in error, I fear, in limiting the number of people to be benefited by the Measure to 600 families. I am of opinion that the 913 number would be nearer 1,000 families, and consequently 5,000 or 6,000 human beings may be restored to their former means of working for a livelihood if this Bill is favourably considered by the House. Now, Sir, each one of these evicted families constitutes a centre of discontent throughout Ireland. There can be no doubt whatever but that popular sympathy is overwhelmingly on their side, and if these evicted tenants were restored to their holdings general satisfaction would be given to practically the whole community in Ireland. Now, in the second clause of this short Bill the general scheme of the Measure is outlined. My honourable Friend did not read the clause, and I will trouble the House with it—Where the tenancy of a holding has been determined at any time after the 1st of May 1879, the landlord or the former tenant of the holding, or both jointly, may, within 12 months of the commencement of this Act, apply in the prescribed manner to the Land Commission to act as arbitrators, with a view to the reinstatement of the former tenant in the holding, or with a view to the purchase of the holding by the former tenant.This clause, Sir, leaves the matter at the doors of the Land Commission. This State tribunal of Ireland is to perform the duties of arbitrator as between the evicted tenant and the landed proprietor, and I venture to say that a fairer proposal could scarcely be submitted to the consideration of this House. Well, Sir, section 2 of clause 2 empowers the Land Commission, on the application either of the tenant or the landlord, to effect a settlement, for it is left optional with the Land Commission either to promote a settlement between the tenant and the landlord by way of reinstating the tenant, or providing another holding, or by effecting under the Land Purchase Act a settlement by way of purchasing out the landlord's interest in the holding. Clause 3 deals with arrears of rent on evicted farms, and empowers the Land Commission to award compensation to the landlords. Well, Sir, I do not like that recommendation. I do not believe that the landlords are equitably entitled to compensation. These evictions generally, if not altogether, are carried out in consequence of excessive rents, and this House has, as my honourable Friend pointed out, legislated during the last 15 or 20 years 914 so as to improve this system of exacting excessive rents from those who work the soil in Ireland. Then, Sir, another clause—clause 4—deals with the financial part of the Measure, which is to carry out this work. Of course, this is only put in the Bill by way of suggestion, but as my honourable Friend has pointed out—and I think it is well to again state the fact—it is proposed in the Bill not to carry this work out in Ireland by trespassing upon the sacred precincts of the pockets of the British taxpayer. What we propose is to obtain out of a purely Irish fund sufficient money to have this humane work carried out in Ireland by the machinery proposed by this Bill. Well, now, Sir, these are the leading proposals of the Measure. It is not in any way a startling or revolutionary Measure. I think it will be admitted by the Irish Secretary that our proposals would, if adopted by this House, end this troublesome chapter in the history of what is called the agrarian war in Ireland, and I sincerely hope that the Chief Secretary, in his reply, will either accept our Measure or indicate the intention on his part to have this work done by machinery which he will propose instead of that which we suggest to the consideration of the House of Commons. Arguments have been used on previous occasions by opponents to Measures of this kind, attempting to hold that we who put forward these proposals are chargeable with having neglected the interests of these evicted tenants. It has been said that these evictions occurred on account of a land movement with which my hononrable Friend and myself have been prominently identified, and that we, being in a secondary sense the cause of their misfortunes, have not paid the attention we ought to have done to these people. Well, even if that argument was founded on fact, which it is not, it would be no reason why this House should refuse to give a favourable consideration to our proposals in this Bill. I trust we shall hear no more of this argument after I have read out a few figures to show what we have done during the last 10 or 15 years in the way of providing means for these unfortunate people so as to keep them out of the workhouse. I will quote from memory, but I think I shall be under-estimating what has been done in the way of raising contributions in 915 Ireland and elsewhere for the support of evicted families. In 1890, at least £25,000 were raised as a result of our appeals to our fellow countrymen at home and abroad. In 1890–91 the sum of £20,000 was distributed amongst these and other families who have since been reinstated in their holdings. In 1891–92 £18,000 were obtained and applied to a similar purpose. In 1892–3 £17,000 were distributed, and in the following year £12,000. Subsequently the sum of £24,000 was allocated out of the moneys known as the Parish Fund for distribution amongst these unfortunate people. During the last year a sum of £4,000 or £5,000 was raised for the same purpose in Ireland, and altogether at least £120,000 have been contributed by the Irish people at home, in Great Britain, and in America towards the relief of the evicted tenants. I think, therefore, that we are not chargeable with having neglected our duty towards these unfortunate people. But even if we had neglected our duty, that, as I have already said, would be no reason why this House should refuse to pass this Bill. I can say, in the name of the Irish Nationalist representation of Ireland, that whatever differences we may have on minor matters there is no difference on this matter, and I appeal to the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary to take that fact into consideration in his reply. I hope when the right honourable Gentleman does reply that we shall hear from him that he is prepared to accept our pro-posal, or will promise, on behalf of the Government, some remedy or machinery by which the same work can be earned out.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I had intended to speak later in the Debate, but as the Chief Secretary does not seem to consider the subject worthy of his notice so far, I shall now say a few words in support of the Bill introduced by my honourable Friend the Member for Connemara. This is a subject which has been frequently before the House of Commons, and I venture to prophesy that if the Chief Secretary cannot see his way to propose to-day some satisfactory method for dealing with this great and crying injustice it will be frequently before the House of Commons in the future. We have recently had 916 in Ireland a very interesting election, and we have had an opportunity of referring great issues to the unbiased judgment of the people. Those who were present in this House during the passing of the Local Government (Ireland) Act can recall the earnest appeal which was made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland to the people of Ireland in regard to the working of that Act. We recollect the appeal which he made to the landlords and the Grand Jurors of Ireland to come forward in a spirit of patriotism, as he put it, and place their services at the disposal of the people. I ventured on that occasion to express my doubt as to whether the Chief Secretary and others who had been responsible for the government of Ireland had created in Ireland an atmosphere which would make it possible for his hope to be realised, and when the time came for demanding from the people of Ireland a verdict such as they gave last week under the Local Government Act, these unsettled questions, including the one with which this Bill is concerned to-day, stood in the path of that conciliation which the Chief Secretary had so earnestly looked forward to in his speech of last year. When the candidates for the county councils of Ireland came before the people, and found themselves, for the first time in their history—I refer to the grand jurors and the landlords of Ireland—obliged to submit their claims to the people and to the people's judgment, one of the first questions which faced them was: Will you or will you not stand by the evicted tenants, and use the machinery of the county council to force the Government to do them justice? I had some part in drawing up the pledges which were submitted to these candidates, and one of the chief points in these pledges was the question whether the evicted tenants of Ireland were to be left starving on the hillside or not. We see from the result of those elections how the sins of the landlords came home to roost. The Chief Secretary would no doubt be a much happier man to-day if his hopes had been realised, and if the doctrine of toleration, for denouncing which I and my friends have been the subject of a great deal of obloquy and abuse, had prevailed. The claims of the doctrine of toleration have been enormously ham- 917 pered by this very question of the evicted tenants and the position the evicted tenants occupy in Ireland today. I do not suppose any proof is wanted of the truth of that; but if proof were wanted, I point to one or two instances which are most striking and most singular, and which ought to be instructive, if anything can possibly instruct this House. It is not a fact that in the south of Ireland there was no toleration shown, while in Ulster there was a Unionist majority; there never was a word about toleration or any idea of allowing the Nationalists any chance; whereas, in the three other provinces, which were overwhelmingly National, Mr. Anthony Parker was returned in North Tipperary, and General Dunham Massey was returned by a large majority because he sat as President of the Conciliation Board, which sat to try to restore the evicted tenants, and because he is a friend of the people. The people embraced this opportunity of expressing their satisfaction at his action, and although the general counsel which was given by those who hold the same views as myself and the honourable Gentleman the Member for South Mayo was acted upon with almost absolute unanimity throughout the country, exceptions were made in favour of men who, departing from the evil spirit of their class, showed themselves to be in sympathy with the evicted tenants of Ireland who had been subjected to cruel oppression. I allude to that verdict because I desire to show that this spirit of cruel persecution—the spirit of revenge, the spirit of political irreconcilability and vindictiveness—which has animated the Government throughout in their treatment of this question, has been brought home to them, not only in connection with this particular question of evicted tenants, but also in connection with those wider issues which affect all the principles which the right honourable Gentleman and his Party hold dear in the government of Ireland. The Government were conciliatory—in language, at least— in the early years of their Irish administrations; they desired, they said, to kill Home Rule with kindness, and I took the opportunity at the time of pointing out that, if they wished to succeed in that policy, there was no act of kindness which would have gone 918 more direct to the hearts of the people of Ireland than the restoring of the evicted tenants to their homes. But they refused to do so. The right honourable Gentleman and his friends in the Press in Ireland appealed most earnestly to the people of Ireland to practise the doctrine of toleration in the recent county council elections, but if they had desired to see the principle of toleration practised in regard to those elections they should have given an example, when they had the power, by showing some toleration to the evicted tenants, and by turning their backs upon the mean and vindictive policy of hunting these poor people to death. What was the attitude taken up by the Chief Secretary for Ireland himself? It was an attitude which I will venture to say was mean and vindictive beyond any attitude which I ever remember to have been adopted by a Minister responsible for the government of a great community. On 26th February 1896 a Bill was introduced by the honourable Member for North Dublin for the reinstatement of the evicted tenants. The right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland spoke in opposition to that Bill, and the Bill was, of course, lost. But in his reply the right honourable Gentleman said—The House had to ask itself whether, by an expenditure of public funds for the relief of these tenants, we shall not so much resist the tenants as rehabilitate the political credit of the honourable Member for East Mayo.I thought at the time, and I think still, that it would be very difficult to find a parallel instance of so mean a motive given by a responsible and powerful Minister for not doing an act connected with the public policy of the country for which he was responsible. The question was not whether the action of the Government would rehabilitate my political character or not. The question was whether it would be for the peace of Ireland that these tenants should be reinstated, and surely it was a mean and contemptible motive to weigh with the right honourable Gentleman, whether by this Act he would rehabilitate my political reputation or not. To rehabilitate or to injure my reputation is entirely beyond the power of the right honourable Gentleman. His actions have nothing to do with my political 919 reputation, but such words are unworthy of a Minister, and when he gave that as one of his strong reasons for refusing to deal with the Bill he proved himself to be incapable of really grappling with the task which he had undertaken in Ireland. On another occasion he declared that if he were an Irish landlord whose tenants had set him at defiance he would rather break stones by the roadside than surrender to those tenants. Coming from a responsible Minister these words were extremely unjust, and were calculated to disturb rather than to promote harmony between landlord and tenant in Ireland.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
They were not my words.
§ MR. DILLON
Then they were the words of the First Lord of the Treasury, but they were equally absurd. A good many landlords have surrendered to the Plan of Campaign, which has been declared to be just by the courts; and there is not a landlord in Ireland who did surrender to the Plan of Campaign, and they are many, who does not rejoice every year of his life that he did make that surrender. Although, no doubt, it was a painful thing to do at the time, still, when the subsequent decisions of the court proved that the demands made by the Plan of Campaign were justified, every sensible man rejoiced that he had selected the better course and surrendered rather than carry on a war which has resulted in suffering and much exasperation to both sides. Why, I ask with confidence, should a Minister use such inflammatory language concerning disputes between Irish tenants and their landlords? Would he use the same language concerning an English employer and his labourers? It is a mortifying thing to anybody to surrender and give in after a fight. It is mortifying to an English employer to surrender and give better terms to his labourers when they strike for a better wage, yet English employers are not ashamed to do so; and what would be said if the Home Secretary, for instance, or any responsible Minister, should incite those employers to refuse an increase, and declare in impassioned language that if he were an employer he would rather break stones for his living 920 on the roadside than surrender a single point to the people who had struck? If these Irish disputes were approached in the same spirit by Ministers as similar disputes would be approached in England the whole action and the whole policy of the Irish Government would be entirely reversed. But unhappily that is not the spirit in which these matters are approached in Ireland. We had a full example of that the other day in the language used by the Chief Secretary, which I confess astonished me. The fact is that when in Ireland disputes are mixed up with agrarian affairs, then there is infused into the mind of the Executive Government in dealing with them an element of vindictiveness which is utterly absent in dealing with similar disputes in this country. There is no longer any idea of fair play or of holding the balance evenly. The Executive Government should see that the law is observed impartially, and should not become partisans. I deliberately charge the Executive Government, and it is impossible for any fair-minded man who is acquainted with the circumstances of Irish life to deny it, that whenever a dispute is an agrarian dispute the Government are not content with seeing the law observed, but they become the partisans of one side and display a vindictiveness in persecuting the other side which has no analogue in this country. The other day I drew the attention of the Chief Secretary to the circumstances of one of the most infamous persecutions to which an individual has ever been subjected in Ireland, a persecution which was illegal in all its details, as I am informed by all who are competent to judge. An unfortunate clergyman in Belfast——
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The honourable Member is now travelling away from the Bill. Moreover, it appears to me that he is alluding to a speech made by the right honourable Gentleman on another matter during the present Session.
§ MR. DILLON
I apologise, Mr. Speaker, and will now confine myself more strictly to the question before the House. The honourable Member who moved the Second Reading of this Bill, and the honourable Member for South Mayo, gave the number of families to 921 whom they thought the Bill might apply. I do not think it is possible to state accurately the number of families to whom this Bill might apply. I have watched the statistics of this question very closely, and I do not think they enable us to give an accurate statement of the number of those families. All I know is that on the books of the present Evicted Tenants' Belief Committee we have, I think, about 600 families actually known to be in receipt of relief. I know there are a great number who, for want of funds, have not been placed on the books of that Committee. I should think the number would be nearer 2,000 than 1,000. But that is a matter not of very great importance, because the numbers at most are entirely limited. I do not think this Bill would be found to apply to more than 3,000 families at most. Of course, it is quite true, as the honourable Member for South Mayo said, that the scope of the Bill is comparatively limited, but it would be an enormous error to suppose for a single moment that you can justly estimate the importance of this question by the number of human beings to whom this relief would apply. That would be the greatest error this House could commit. This is a question which affects the Irish people most intensely, and every family concerned in this dispute will be a cause of disturbance so long as they are kept wrongfully out of their holdings. The feeling which their treatment inspires not only affects the particular neighbourhood, but will permeate the whole of public opinion in Ireland. It is certain that refusal of the Government to reinstate the evicted tenants is one of the many causes which make the Irish people profoundly distrust the sense of justice in this House and the power of this Parliament to properly govern their country. We have seen, as I have already said, the effect of that policy already in the county council elections. This question will be agitated in the county councils of Ireland. The people of Ireland, it is true, have for a moment lost all hope of getting justice on this question from the House of Commons owing to the repeated rebuffs their proposals have received. But do not imagine, because of that, that they are going to abandon this question. This question will be carried into the county 922 councils of Ireland, and every resource within the law, every means within the narrow limits—limits allowed to them by the Local Government Board—will be used to, in some way or other, force on this question and see that justice is done to the evicted tenants. This question will embarrass the positions of the county councils and the few Unionists on those county councils, and will promote and increase the friction which is sure to arise between the county councils and the Local Government Board of Ireland. The county councils will be anxious to do everything in their power, so that this question will meet the right honourable Gentleman at every turn in his administration of Ireland, and he will find, and this House will find, that they make a very great mistake if they judge of the importance of this Bill simply by the number of families which it will affect. Let me draw the attention of the House to this remarkable fact. The right honourable Gentleman on many occasions in 1896, and on other occasions, refused to grant effective relief to these tenants, and he justified his refusal mainly on political grounds. He said that if he did it, it would rehabilitate the political reputation of the Member for East Mayo, which would, of course, be a great misfortune to every man in the country and encourage violence and combination against the law, etc., etc. If that were his real attitude he ought to have been consistent in the Land Act of 1896. The right honourable Gentlemen introduced two clauses into that Act having for their sole object the reinstatement of these very evicted tenants. Either it was a good thing or a bad thing, an unjust thing or a just thing, an inexpedient or an expedient thing to do. If it was inexpedient and unjust, then it was a monstrous absurdity to ask this House to pass clauses for this purpose. I remember saying at the time that if the Irish landlords in this House would get up and say they would endeavour to make those clauses, which were voluntary, work, I would support the voluntary clauses myself; but the landlords were silent, and would give no pledge. They have been paid off. I am glad to say, in the county council elections. Owing to their silence all the Irish Nationalist Members stated their conviction that these proposals would totally 923 fail. What has been the result? With very few exceptions they have been dismal and absolute failures, and the tenants are still out of their homes. I cannot conclude without referring to a speech which has remained fixed in the memory of those of us who heard it. I refer to the speech of the honourable Member for Bodmin on the Evicted Tenants' Bill, introduced by the Liberal Government in 1894. I venture to say that the wisdom of that speech and of many speeches on the subject which are scattered up and down "Hansard" have since been amply vindicated, and their wise counsel will be remembered by the Government with regret that it was not acted upon. Speaking at the time when the question of compulsion was being debated, the Member for Bodmin said—I confess that it is difficult to take up the position of affirming that it is desirable, expedient, and reasonable that the credit of the State should be used and the procedure of the court extended and made more elaborate in order to bring back tenants to their holdings, and that, at the same time, it is reasonable to allow an unreasonable landlord to object. The thing in itself is a thing we desire as a matter of Imperial policy. You may get half a dozen individuals—certainly not expressing the views of the majority of the Irish landlords—unreasonably preventing what you say is a reasonable solution, and you will not allow the interference of the State to prevent these plague spots being removed.These were wise and conciliatory words, but the Government turned a deaf ear to them, and killed the Bill in the House of Lords. The right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary will get up and read out, I have no doubt, a Return showing that the evicted tenants' case is settling itself, but he forgets the bitter memories which are left behind by that settlement. Some are dying or have died of broken hearts or semi-starvation; some have fled the country in despair; and others have been tempted by landlords, on monstrous and oppressive terms, to return, with the result that they are bound to be eventually again evicted, and this is what the right honourable Gentleman calls settling the question. The number has been reduced, of course. In process of time the question will be settled completely by the death of all the evicted tenants, but that is not the way to conciliate Ireland or to kill Home Rule with kindness. There are other words of 924 wisdom in the speech of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Bodmin. He said—This is a difficult Bill to recommend to the limited English intelligence. They are not wholly acquainted with the condition of Ireland. They do not see the facts and circumstances which make the thing not only expedient and desirable, but moral and just, which to them appears to be immoral or wrong.These are the words of a man who really applies a sympathetic intelligence to the solution of the Irish problem, and this is what, I regret to say, those who govern Ireland seldom do. They seem to think it sufficient to get up in this House and say, "How can we give any consideration to tenants ho refuse to pay their rents?" But the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Bodmin has hit the nail on the head in the sentence which I have just quoted. What appears to be immoral and unjust to the limited English intelligence is in Ireland both moral, just, and expedient, owing to the different circumstances, and the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary will find that out before he comes to the end of his career. I suppose we shall be treated to-day to a similar tirade, and the same sentiments which we have heard on this question before, but I warn him that he has not done with the question. His Government have called into existence in Ireland new bodies which can speak with the weight of the people's authority, and, by leaving this question unsettled, the right honourable Gentleman is supplying to the new bodies an element of irritation which will perpetually increase the difficulty of the task he has before him. These new local bodies will take up this question, as they will take up other Irish grievances, and, in spite of all the bonds which have been placed upon them, will use their powers to redeem the evicted tenants from the condition into which they have been plunged. If the right honourable Gentleman desires the new system of local government in Ireland to work smoothly, as I am sure he does, my advice to him is to apply himself without delay, and with out any consideration as to the damaged reputation, if he desires to put it so, of the honourable Member for East Mayo, to the removal of this cause of 925 irritation. The reason why the recent county council elections in Ireland were fought as they were on a square political issue was that the Irish people still have grievances, and those of us who gave them advice felt that we were bound, in justice to our people, to urge them to take up this weapon for procuring the redress and settlement of these grievances.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The honourable Member for East Mayo began his speech by attacking me for not rising earlier to address the House, but I should have thought that he would have been aware that it is usual on Wednesday afternoons for the Minister who has to reply on behalf of the Government to wait until the Debate has made some progress before rising. The honourable Member has delivered a carefully-prepared attack on myself. I do not think I need fear any attack from the honourable Member, and I shall pass by this attack, and the charges he has made against me, without comment, with the exception of one point. The honourable Member has described my language on the Bill of 1896 as "mean and vindictive" because I stated then that for Parliament to advance money to reinstate tenants evicted by due process of law would be to rehabilitate the political character of the honourable Member for East Mayo. I should have thought the honourable Member himself would have seen that in using these words I was speaking of the honourable Member, not as an individual, but as a public man, and as the author of the Plan of Campaign then in question. It was not mean and vindictive, it was eminently reasonable, to say that if Parliament, after the honourable Member had led astray so many tenants and induced them to combine not to pay their rents, proceeded to make good to those tenants the loss they had incurred; it would be advertising to Irish tenants at large that they were free to disown their obligations. The honourable Member said that if comparatively few Unionists had been returned at the county council elections in the south and west of Ireland it was lanrely due to the fact that the evicted tenants stood in the way. I should have thought myself that if fewer Unionists had been returned, not than I expected, but than the interests of local govern- 926 ment render desirable, it was particularly due to the fact that the honourable Member himself stood in the way, for certain of his colleagues, wiser than himself, counselled the toleration to which the honourable Member was opposed. Was there ever such an instance of political irreconcilability or political vindictiveness than was afforded by the honourable Member himself?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I have never suggested that anything in the shape of an absence of toleration should be shown in connection with the elections.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The hon ourable Member has not been content with justifying the intolerant attitude which he has taken up in connection with these elections; he has also given advice to the county councils which I cannot think is likely to conduce to the wise conduct of business by those bodies. The honourable Member has indicated that in his judgment it would be a proper and desirable business that the county councils should take up and deal with such questions as that of Home Rule and the evicted tenants.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I think they may try to, and if the honourable Member had his way they would. But if they do try, the county councils will probably find that their powers are somewhat more limited and circumscribed than they imagine. We all know that the boards of guardians have been in the habit of passing political resolutions, and no doubt the county councils will pass similar resolutions, but I am not aware that such resolutions have had any influence upon the Government of Ireland. In political matters the Irish people are fully and ably represented by the Nationalist Members in this House, and it is not necessary for us, in order to ascertain the political views of the majority of Irishmen, to go to the resolutions of the county councils 927 and district councils for that information. Those whom we have to deal with are the honourable Members who represent Ireland in this House, and not those who represent similar political views on the county councils and the district councils, and, if I may express an opinion upon this, I would say that the county councils and the district councils will commit a great mistake if they enter upon a province which is clearly not their own. Now, Sir, I come to this Bill which we are asked to read a second time to-day. I cannot help thinking, and it is difficult to resist the conclusion, that in bringing forward this Bill the honourable Member who moved it and his friends mean rather to make a show of activity on the part of the evicted tenants rather than to bring about any actual benefit for these tenants themselves. I base that conclusion upon the following grounds. As has been remarked, the question of the evicted tenants has been before this House a number of times since the Commission reported. In 1894 the right honourable Gentleman who preceded me in the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland brought in a Bill dealing with the subject. That Bill provided the public funds to assist in the reinstatement of evicted tenants in their holdings, and it also contained provisions for the compulsory reinstatement of the tenants in certain conditions. But, in the right honourable Gentleman's Bill, the compulsory conditions did not apply to the case of holdings which were in the occupation of new tenants. These were excluded from the Bill, and the other provision only applied to them with the consent and goodwill of the new tenants themselves. Then came the Bill of the honourable Member for North Dublin in 1896, in connection with which I made a speech which has been quoted by the Mover of this Bill, and also by the honourable Gentleman the Member for East Mayo. Between this Bill of the 9th December and the Bill of the honourable Member for North Dublin the General Election intervened, and the Unionists were returned to power by a very large majority. Now, the honourable Member for North Dublin, seeing that it would be perfectly futile to attempt to pass a Bill the provisions of which had been strenuously opposed by the Unionist Party, abstained from in- 928 troducing the compulsory provisions of this Bill. Then came the Bill introduced last year by the honourable Member for North Kerry. That Bill not only went far beyond the Bill of the honourable Member for North Dublin in 1896, but it also went far beyond the Bill of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Montrose Burghs. It applied the principle of compulsion in every case, whether the holdings were occupied by new tenants or not. And further than that, whereas the Bill of the right honourable Gentleman, my predecessor, had proposed that £50 should be applied from public money to assist the evicted tenants in order to enable them to repair their houses, the Bill of the honourable Member for North Kerry doubled that amount, and proposed that £100 should be given from the public funds; and, whereas the late Chief Secretary has proposed in his Bill that £100,000 should be the gross sum which should be provided to assist in the operation, in the Bill of the honourable Member for North Kerry that sum was increased to £250,000. The present Bill is a reprint, word for word, of the Bill of the honourable Member for North Kerry. Am I not therefore justified in saying that this is a Bill purely for show, and not for use? Under these circumstances it is hopeless to expect the House to adopt this Measure. A similar Measure was rejected by a majority of 100 not long ago, but notwithstanding that we have another similar Bill brought forward last year, and again this year. What else can honourable Members expect than to hear that the Government should again resist this Bill?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
And we expect the honourable Member for East Mayo to gain wisdom by the experience he has had of the repeated rejection of this Measure, but the honourable Member seems to think that he will make it more palatable by increasing its stringency. We have resisted these proposals from the outset on two broad grounds. In the first place, we deny that the evil is of such magnitude as to call for the interference of Parliament by adopting 929 special measures to deal with it in order to solve it, and we also believe that it is a diminishing evil. I went into this question at very considerable length in the year 1896, and I hardly like to go over again the ground which I then traversed. If I wanted anything to strengthen my argument I should find it in the speech of the honourable Member who introduced this Bill. Let the House remember that the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Montrose Burghs, in introducing this Bill five years ago, stated that he calculated that it would apply to about 4,000 holdings. We are now told by the honourable Member who introduced this Bill that the number of cases to which this Measure will apply—and this particular Measure is of a more extensive character —is about 600. Therefore, we have a reduction of something like 3,400 in a very short time.
§ * MR GERALD BALFOUR
I shall come to that directly. The House was told by the honourable Member for South Mayo that he estimated the number would be increased to 1,000, and then the honourable Member for East Mayo raised the 600 to 2,000 or 3,000.
§ MR. DILLON
Does the right honourable Gentleman wish to imply that I deliberately attempted to mislead the House?
§ * MR. GERALD BALFOUR
No, not at all. I wish to point out the effect which this great reduction of the former figures is likely to have.
§ * MR. GERALD BALFOUR
That was what was asserted, but I am inclined to think that, while the estimate of the honourable Member who introduced the Bill was probably too low, the estimate of the honourable Member for South Mayo may probably be regarded as being a reasonable approximation of the facts as I think it most likely would be. I think that there are probably about 1,000 tenants, and if the number has been reduced from something like 4,000 in 1894 to about 1,000 in 1899, I take it that the House will agree with me that these are hardly figures upon which to base such a very exceptional proposal 930 as is made in this Bill to meet an evil which is one that is steadily diminishing. I would only add to those figures one or two words in connection with evictions at the present time. The total number of evicted farms in Ireland which were unlet on the 1st of January 1899—that is to say, the total number of farms either in the hands of the landlords or derelict—was 2,609.
§ * MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Yes; that is the total number of farms which are unlet out of a total of between 500,000 and 600,000 farms in Ireland.
§ MR. DILLON
Do I understand the right honourable Gentleman to say that there are now 2,609 unlet farms in Ireland?
§ MR. DILLON
Does not that exactly bear out my estimate? I stated distinctly that I was not in possession of the actual figures as to the number of cases, but the right honourable Gentleman now says that there are 2,609 farms which are not let to the old tenants, and that shows that my estimate of the number was extremely accurate.
§ * MR. GERALD BALFOUR
No; the honourable Member makes a mistake. These farms are unlet now, and in the hands of the landlords.
§ * MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The former occupants of these farms have either gone away, or died, or disapappeared in some way or another; and it is impossible to follow all these evicted tenants, who might have taken other farms for aught I know. Many of these farms have been unlet for years and years, but most of these evictions date from the year 1879 onwards. I quoted 2,609 as the number of farms unlet from which tenants had been evicted. I cited those figures in order to show that the total amount of farms unlet in proportion to the total number of holdings in Ireland is certainly not a very large one. A total of 2,609 out of 500,000 or 600,000 holdings is not a very alarming proportion. I must further remind the House that the evictions during the last 20 years, taken for each year, have been 931 particularly instructive, and they correspond roughly speaking, in numbers, to the years of greatest agitation. When there has been a great agitation in any particular year, it also means a greater number of evictions.
§ MR. DAVITT
The evictions have diminished in proportion as the rents have been fixed by the operation of the Land Act.
§ * MR. GERALD BALFOUR
With reference to these statistics, the largest total was in 1882, when the evictions rose to 5,201; from 1882 to 1887 the total stood at about 3,000, although in one year it was 4,000; in 1888 it fell to 1,609; in 1889 and 1890 it was 1,805 and 1,842 respectively. Since 1890, however, there has been a large and almost unequalled reduction——
§ * MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Since 1890 there has been a steady reduction in the number of evictions until, in the year 1895, when this Government took office, the number was reduced to 671. In 1896 the total was 695, in 1897 it was 654, in 1898 it stood at 561, and the figure of 561 for last year is the lowest figure we have had for the last 20 years. The honourable Member has referred to the change in the system which has been introduced by what is known as the "eviction-made-easy" clause. That is a matter which he has raised before, and he believes that it entirely vitiates these statistics. It does not, however, vitiate them in the smallest degree, because these are the statistics of actual evictions, whereas, under the old system, when the tenant was turned out and put back again, they were included in the total, but such tenants are not included in these statistics. No cases are included in these lists in which evictions took place and in which the tenant was immediately reinstated as caretaker. 932 Therefore, the honourable Gentleman is mistaken in thinking that this change in the law since 1887 has in any way vitiated the returns to which I have referred.
§ MR. DAVITT
Will the right honourable Gentleman give approximately the number of evictions under the "eviction-made-easy" clause.
§ * MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I believe the number of notices during the last four or five years has been some 3,000 or 4,000 a year, but I have not got the actual figures.
§ * MR. GERALD BALFOUR
In spite of the large number of eviction notices of which the honourable Member speaks, there are only 2,609 farms unlet, which shows that a large proportion of those notices did not end in actual evictions. I think these figures show conclusively that this is not such a great evil as it is sometimes represented. I now come to the second ground upon which the Government have consistently refused to accept this and similar Bills which have been from time to time brought before the House. We maintain that it is contrary to sound principle in the case of tenants who have been evicted for nonpayment of rent compulsorily to restore them to their holdings or to use public money to assist that operation. If the House favoured such a course I think it would be at once clear to the House that any action of that kind must have a demoralising effect. This Bill proposes to begin with the year 1879 and to end with the present year; but if it were laid down as a general principle under those circumstances that the tenants evicted in Ireland for the non-payment of rent have something like a moral claim to be compulsorily restored with the assistance of public money, why stop at this year? In 10 or 20 years' time we may have another Bill similar to this, and they may point to the precedent of this Bill as an unanswerable 933 ground for yielding to their demand. It is perfectly obvious that if we had merely to regard the case of tenants who were unable to pay their rent, nobody would dream of bringing in a Bill of this kind. I am quite willing to admit, as stated by the honourable Member who introduced the Bill, that the real reason why this Measure has been introduced is not on account of an argument of that character. The real reason why this Bill has been introduced is that these evictions have been to a large extent the direct result of the action of the honourable Member for East Mayo and his friends, and that is the plain truth. The House would never have heard of the Bill if it had not been for the "Plan of Campaign." I have already referred to the attack made upon me by the honourable Member in reference to the words I used with regard to that campaign in 1897. I do not withdraw from the position which I then took up, but, on the contrary, I practically reassert it. I say that for Parliament to pass a Bill of this kind would be to whitewash the authors of the Plan of Campaign and the Plan it self. The honourable Member may say that in making such a statement I have taken up a mean and indefensible position, but it is nothing of the kind. I make that statement, and I adhere to that view because it is the plain truth, and I reassert it so that the House may understand it. This Measure would not merely whitewash the authors of the Plan of Campaign and the Plan itself, but it would put them in a favourable position to adopt tactics of a similar kind again. The honourable Member for South Mayo did say that if we passed this Bill we should be closing a chapter of ancient history. Well, if it is ancient history, all I can say is that ancient history is not without modern instances. At the present moment the honourable Member and Mr. O'Brien, and others in Ireland closely associated with the League have been advising that graziers and grazing farms should be boycotted by the refusal of the small farmers to send their cattle to those farms to graze, and that they should be boycotted by the herds now upon them. Well, Sir, what is that but a repetition, not of the precise tactics of the Plan of Campaign, but of the spirit and policy of that Plan. The honourable Member and his friends 934 are again using these unfortunate people, the small farmers, and the herds, as pawns in their political game; and while they are actually engaged in manœuvres of that description they come and ask us to provide funds for the compulsory reinstatement of those whom they describe as "the wounded soldiers of a former war." I deeply regret the position that these unfortunate men find themselves in, and I should be only too glad if it were possible to see them reinstated. The honourable Member for East Mayo appeared to think that the Government were inconsistent in having themselves brought in the Land Bill of 1896, which contained a condition for voluntary reinstatement, which it was hoped would be of assistance in reinstating the evicted tenants in their holdings. That, however, is not the question before us, for the question is as to the method to be employed. The honourable Member for South Mayo made a charge to-day that the Government and those who acted with them were not in earnest in assisting the evicted tenants. Of course, I quite accept the figures which the honourable Member has placed before me; and I admit they show that those who were responsible for the eviction of tenants under the Plan of Campaign have made efforts to, at all events, meet to some extent the evils which resulted from it. But I am not saying that the methods they have adopted have been wise methods. If it be really true that no less a sum than £130,000 has been spent on behalf of these evicted tenants, I can only say that that suggests two reflections to my mind —first, the extreme political unwisdom, from his own point of view, of the action taken by the honourable Member, and, secondly, the shortsightedness honourable Members have shown in the use they have made of their resources to palliate the evils which they brought about. If that £130,000 had been spent, not to support the tenants and their families, but to bring about some settlement of the question, say, for instance, by purchasing some other land, I think that possibly they themselves might have succeeded in solving this difficulty. But they have not done so. They have contented themselves with supporting the tenants and their families, and with making appeals to Parliament year after year, which they must have 935 known were in vain, to induce the House to do that which I cannot help thinking they ought to have done themselves. In any case, we cannot assent to Parliament doing work which I think it is incumbent on honourable Members opposite to do, and we certainly cannot ask Parliament to pass a Bill which we regard as bad in principle, and which we think would be mischievous in effect.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I only heard the latter portion of the right honourable Gentleman's speech, but I must say I think he maintains a very unwise attitude upon this question, although it is one which he has consistently maintained ever since it arose. I cannot understand how the right honourable Gentleman, responsible as he is for the Government of Ireland, and above all for tranquillity and order, does not see the necessity for closing this open sore. He has made reference to the sum of upwards of £100,000 which my honourable Friends succeeded in raising for the relief of the evicted tenants, and he has suggested that that money might have been better expended in obtaining settlements for those tenants. In reply to that I have to say that the money was not all received at once. It was received in the shape of subscriptions coming in at intervals extending over a period of some years, and, therefore, my honourable Friends had not at any one time a large sum of money at their disposal for the purpose of purchasing land on which the tenants could be settled. Secondly, I have to say that wherever an opportunity was given of effecting settlements on anything like reasonable terms, the tenants were assisted in bringing them about, and, in fact, many such settlements have been made with the assistance of money raised by my honourable Friends. I must contrast the right honourable Gentleman's observations today with those which he made when this Bill was last before the House. He then said that, after all, if there were a strong desire among the people of Ireland for the relief of these tenants, it would have been easy to bring it about, and he pointed to the large subscriptions which the Irish people are able to raise whenever their sympathies are strongly appealed to. I remember he gave, as an instance of the ready generosity of the Irish people, the large sum raised for the relief of the families of some men 936 who were drowned at Kingstown. He went on to say that if the people did not raise money for the evicted tenants, it was clear that their sympathies were not. with them. Now the right honourable Gentleman is in, a position of dissatisfaction, because he says that the money which has been raised has been improperly spent. In other words, he is seeking wherever he can for an excuse for not grappling with this great difficulty. If he had not been quite so young in Parliamentary experience, he would have known that the Plan of Campaign was a political movement, the fruits and results of which were more justified by the legislative action of this House than almost any movement of our time. It is not our fault, but it is the fault of the manner in which the affairs of Ireland have always been carried on, that in order to get anything like a large measure of reform from Parliament, it is always necessary that a state of violent and almost revolutionary agitation should exist in Ireland. At the time when the Plan of Campaign was started, we were face to face with a Government, which offered an obstinate refusal to all land reform, and especially to land reform in the shape of a reduction of rents Every agitation in Ireland is denounced until the Government see their way—I do not use the word offensively—to steal our programme, and to embody it in their own. This particular agitation was denounced strongly and violently. Some of the leaders were prosecuted and put into gaol, and yet, as a matter of fact, every single one of the reforms for which the Plan of Campaign was started was granted by a Conservative Government, and by the brother of the right honourable Gentleman himself, within a few months of the agitation being set on foot. I remember very well the striking speech and figures by which Mr. William O'Brien, who was one of the persons engaged in the Plan of Campaign, justified his proceedings. He said—I do not deny I was legally wrong in the action I was taking, just as a man would be legally wrong in seizing the arm of his executioner in the knowledge that a reprieve was on the road for him.The Plan of Campaign had the result, in many instances, of saving tenants from eviction, and it also had the effect of giving the people of Ireland the enormous benefits of the land legislation 937 passed by the right honourable Gentleman's brother, and, perhaps I should add, by the right honourable Gentleman himself. The leaseholding tenants were, as the result of the Plan of Campaign, admitted to the benefits of that legislation in face of the persistent and even violent refusals of the Government of the day to admit them. This may be ancient history, but it is relevant to this Debate to show that the present First Lord of the Admiralty went down to the Crystal Palace and proclaimed that the admission of the leaseholders to the benefits of the land legislation would be a violation of solemn and sacred contracts which no Conservative, or, indeed, any self-respecting Government, could ever assent to. Yet, within a very few months, his colleague, the then Chief Secretary, introduced a Pill in which these solemn contracts were torn to pieces and the leaseholders were admitted to the benefits of this land legislation. In the same way, in face of the facts we brought before this House towards the close of the broken Session of 188G, a Bill was brought in by the late Mr. Parnell to deal with the condition of affairs which had been introduced by a. succession of disastrous harvests, and by a fall in prices which had made impossible the payment of the rents which had been fixed by the Land Commission. That Bill was opposed by the then Chief Secretary, and rejected by the Conservative majority in this House, and the tenants were left face to face with their terrible difficulties. But in the very next Session of Parliament, the same Government and the same right honourable Gentleman who was prominent in securing the rejection of Mr. Parnell's Bill, brought in another Bill, which automatically reduced the rents and saved the people of the country from great and grave disasters. Seeing these were the circumstances which produced the Plan of Campaign, and bearing in mind the results of that movement, I ask any rational man if those responsible for the Government of the country ought not to help in putting these evicted tenants back into their holdings. Here we had a great civil discord, a great class war, a great popular movement arising, whether legally or illegally, it matters not now, but very naturally and justly out of the economic conditions of the time. The severity of those 938 economic conditions has been acknowledged by the Government itself, and has been sanctioned and attested by Acts of Parliament which have since been added to the Statute Book. But in the course of this particular movement a certain number of tenants, acting on advice which the right honourable Gentleman suggests was bad—and whether good or bad, it is now not necessary to consider—acted in such a way that they were unable to get for themselves the relief which their self-sacrifice produced for others, and they now remain the victims and mementoes of this struggle. Surely, for the sake of peace and order, the case of these men should be taken in hand, and the Government should endeavour to close that sore which has for 3-ears been running in Ireland. An epitaph ought to be written over this chapter of Irish history by the relief of these unfortunate tenants. If this were an English and not an Irish question these pitiful victims of the struggle would long since have been relieved, and common-sense statesmanship would have solved the difficulty. The struggle with all its bitterness is, to a large extent, closed. We are now at the beginning of a new chapter of Irish history, and I do think there should be a removal of these old and miserable remnants of the past dead controversy, and for the sake of his own reputation I should have thought the right honourable Gentleman, instead of rejedting, would have welcomed this Measure. I regard the course he has taken as unwise, foolish, and unworthy of his great position.
MR. J. H. CAMPBELL (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)
I do not propose to emulate the spirit or the tone of bitterness which has been introduced into this Debate by the honourable Member for East Mayo, a tone which, I am sure, is calculated to render it impossible for Members on this side of the House either to sympathise with or vote for the Bill now under discussion. I prefer to imitate the moderation of the language used by the honourable Member for Connemara in introducing the Bill. But I would point out that the moderation of his language was in striking contrast to the extravagance of his proposals. The Bill differs from that introduced in 1894 by the right honourable gentleman the Member for Mont- 939 rose, which was wrecked by reason of the introduction of a system of compulsion, but which avoided interfering with, or dealing with, the rights or privileges of the new tenants. The Bill produced to-day differs also from that introduced by the honourable and learned Member for the Northern Division of the county of Dublin in 1896, when he struck out the compulsion clauses and excluded from its operation the holdings in the hands of the new tenants. The Bill which we have had laid before us to-day goes far beyond both of those Measures, and I think the honourable Member himself is entirely unaware of the extent to which his proposition goes. He told us that the Bill would affect only about 400 what he called Plan of Campaign tenants, and 200 what he termed isolated tenants. That is 600 in all. Now, there is a remarkable discrepancy among honourable Members opposite as to the scope of this Bill. The honourable Member for South Mayo put the number of tenants affected by it at 1,000, while the honourable Member for East Mayo raises the total to nearly 3,000. I think the honourable Member for Connemara, in fixing the limit at 600, must have completely ignored or forgotten the fact that his Bill, differing in this respect from the two other Bills to which I have referred, proposes to deal, not merely with derelict farms in the hands of the landlords, but also with all farms from which the former tenants have been evicted, whether now in the possession of the landlords or in the hands of the new tenants. It must be obvious to anyone who considers the clauses of the Bill, and especially sub-section 3 of clause 3, that it is idle to suggest that its operation will be confined to 600 tenants. The fact that he thought it necessary to say this rather suggests to my mind that he is thoroughly conscious that the real object of the Bill is to benefit the Plan of Campaign tenants. In its scope, however, it would apply to the case of every farm which has come into the landlord's hands, by eviction, between the years 1879 and 1897. That is a very large order. The figures which have been given show a state of considerable confusion, and I myself think that those quoted by the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, 2,600, are nearer the mark. If 940 this Bill means what it says on the face of it, it will apply to all holdings, whether in the hands of new tenants or whether in the possession of the landlords through eviction, and in that case it will unquestionably affect at least the number suggested by the honourable Member for South Mayo, and I think it would extend to the number suggested by the Member for East Mayo, because there is no doubt that over 1,500 of the holdings on which there have been evictions since 1879 have got into the hands of new tenants, or planters as they are called, and if these are brought within the scope of the Bill, and added to those which are derelict and in the hands of the landlords, it would unquestionably affect considerably over 1,000 holdings. But if we take it that the Bill will apply, as the honourable Member for South Mayo suggests, to only about 1,000 holdings, I think I am entitled to say that those holdings have been in the hands of tenants who have been evicted for one of two reasons—either because they were unable to pay their rents, or because they were unwilling to pay them I also think I am within the facts when I say that but a small percentage of these 1,000 tenants were evicted because they were unable to pay. My reason for saying that is shortly this: this Bill deals only with evictions which have taken place since the year 1879. Since 1881 every tenant in Ireland has been entitled, if he thought his rent too high, to have a fair rent fixed, and not only has he been entitled to do that, but Parliament, in the year 1889, passed an Arrears Bill, by Which, in consideration of the immediate payment of one year's rent and the advance by the State of another year's rent, the arrears upon these holdings were wiped out. Further, in the year 1887, Parliament considering that perhaps in the rents fixed between 1881 and 1886 due regard had not been paid to the anticipated depression, provided that any tenant who had had his rent fixed between those years should have it reduced in the years 1887, 1888, and 1889 by a sum that was proportionate to the fall in prices between those years and the year in which the fair rent was fixed. Therefore, I say I think I am right in suggesting that of all the tenants who have been evicted from their holdings since 1881 the number who were unable to pay their rents 941 must be small in proportion to those who were evicted because they were unwilling to pay them. With regard to the latter class, I do not wish to say anything to revive or recall memories of the bitter contentions and struggles between landlords and tenants in the years 1881 and 1887. Some of these tenants were, no doubt, willing victims of this illegal conspiracy, but others were undoubtedly unwilling victims. I have myself been actively engaged in the administration of the Land Acts since 1881, and I can, therefore, speak with some authority on this point. I know at least of two Plan of Campaign estates, the unfortunate tenants on which lost all by joining that illegal conspiracy, and they were compelled to join it by the system of terrorism which was adopted in regard to it. I speak more especially with regard to one estate in the county of Louth, an estate as to which even the authors of this illegal and immoral conspiracy admit that a fatal mistake was made by applying the Plan of Campaign to it. Now this was an estate occupied by solvent tenants holding large farms and having substantial interests in their holdings, but these miserable, wretched men were compelled to join the Plan of Campaign when the authors of it decided that it should be applied to the estate. What has been the effect in their case? They have been reduced to a state of beggary and pauperism, and surely it would be a novel departure in statesmanship if men who had lost their interests in their holdings, by becoming willing or unwilling victims of a conspiracy which has been declared by the High Court of Justice to be illegal, and which has been denounced by the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church as sinful and immoral, were to be restored to their holding at the expense of the State. Certainly it would be a very poor encouragement to those honest tenants who stood by their contracts to their landlords, and abstained from taking part in a criminal conspiracy. It has been suggested that these tenants, whom unquestionably this Bill is intended to benefit, and who at the dictation of this cruel league sacrificed their interests and their homes, have obtained for the tenants of the rest of Ireland the benefits which they now enjoy. If that is true —and it is frequently asserted by hon- 942 ourable Members opposite to be so, we must give them credit at least for believing it—then I think those tenants who have reaped these gains at the sacrifice of their brethren are the persons out of whose pockets the compensation should come. And if it be true that the substantial reductions of rent, which the tenants of Ireland at present enjoy, have found their origin in the sacrifice of these victims of the Plan of Campaign, I confess it seems to me natural that the State should not be called upon to indemnify those who were wounded soldiers in the fight; but those who have reaped the advantage should provide the indemnity. I believe that a very small fraction in the £,say, 1d. in the £ upon the reduction of rent obtained by tenants all over the rest of Ireland, would raise a fund which would prove sufficient to restore the evicted tenants to their holdings, or make provision for them elsewhere. But it is a departure from all sound and wise policy that the State should interfere in the interests of those who ranged themselves in opposition to law and order, or that it should take upon itself to bind up the wounds of such soldiers at the public expense. It certainly would be a very poor encouragement in the future to tenants in any part of the United Kingdom to honestly fulfil their obligations. It would be a poor example to law abiding tenants, not only in Ireland but in England and Scotland, if those who had taken part in what has been decided to be illegal, and has been denounced as an immoral conspiracy, were to have their rents paid for them, and have their holdings restored to them at the public expense. That shows the length to which this Measure proposes to go. Sub-section 2 of section 3 proposes that where buildings have been allowed to get into a state of destruction or dilapidation, that actually this money from the Irish Church surplus should be devoted to restoring these buildings. First of all, these tenants who demolished their holdings and have allowed them to get dilapidated, they are to be put back at the expense of the landlord, who is to get a maximum of two years' rent; secondly, the buildings are to be restored at the expense of the same fund, and all because those responsible for the position and who have deserted them have been 943 unable to fulfil their promises when they induced the tenants to adopt this illegal course.
MR. J. H. CAMPBELL
I heard with amazement the fact stated by the honourable Member for South Mayo that £113,000 had been subscribed, not for the purpose of endeavouring to restore these men to their holdings, but for the purpose of enabling them to keep up this war and this campaign against their landlords. Now, if that money had been devoted to an attempt to come to terms with the landlords and to bring these tenants back on the condition of paying some of their arrears of rent, then I think the result—though it might not have answered the expectations of honourable Members opposite— would have been that some benefit would have accrued to the tenants themselves. There is one cause which no Irishman, no matter which side of the House he sits upon, can overlook, and that is the unhappy condition of these evicted tenants themselves—these victims of the Plan of Campaign—without every feeling of sympathy for them. Might I suggest that the leaders of the Nationalists who sit on the other side of the House should endeavour, with the assistance of those Unionist Members who come from Ireland, and who sit on this side of the House, to approach the landlords on the subject in a way which they have never yet done. I do not say that they should approach them in a spirit of repentance, nor in a spirit of submission, but in a, spirit of conciliation. The landlords who own these derelict farms are by no means anxious that a state of things which is distasteful to them and disastrous to their old tenants should continue, and I believe that if an honest attempt is made by honourable' Members opposite, in which I will assist them in my humble capacity—if an honest effort is made to approach the landlords in a spirit of conciliation, I believe much can be done in the way of restoring those 600 or 700 tenants who have forfeited their holdings by reason of their connection with this illegal Plan of Campaign. As regards the balance of these tenants—namely, those who were unable to pay their rents, being a very small proportion of the total— 944 I myself can only come to the conclusion having regard to the Measures that the State has passed since 1881, which enabled everyone of them to remain in his holding so long as he paid a fair rent, that they were either hopelessly insolvent or hopelessly incompetent. I confess that I should not like another system adopted at the expense of the State for the benefit of those men who have become failures either from insolvency or incompetency, or by which such men should remain in that profession in which they have failed. I think it would be disastrous for this small minority of evicted tenants who have failed because of their own indolence or want of business capacity that they should be restored to their holdings. For these reasons I hope the House will see its way to reject this Measure which has been brought forward. I do not think the honourable Gentleman has himself fully considered the full effect and extent to which it would lead. I think he had no conception that what he was actually proposing was an eviction Bill, for it is a Bill for eviction so far as it proposes to evict the 1,500 new tenants who, since 1881, have gone into the possession of these holdings. Unquestionably the Bill in its present form extends to them, and I doubt very much whether the honourable Member will like to know that he is the author of a Bill for the eviction of so large a number of tenants.
§ CAPTAIN DONELAN (Cork, E.)
The honourable Member who has just sat down, as is usual from those Benches on occasions like the present, has devoted his speech, not to discussing the merits or demerits of this Bill, but to a denunciation of the Plan of Campaign. I think the honourable Gentleman ought to know, as an Irishman, that the real authors of the Plan of Campaign were the Irish landlords themselves, because undoubtedly the Plan of Campaign was only resorted to by the Irish tenants as a means of self-preservation, and as the very last resort they had. If remedial Measures had been introduced in time, the Plan of Campaign probably would never have had any existence at all. With regard to the proposal that the honourable Gentleman has made—and I was glad 945 to hear him make it, and glad that such a proposal should come from his side— I would remind him that such a proposal has been more than once made from these Benches, and what we have tried to do has always failed, owing to the irreconcilable position which has been invariably taken up by the Irish landlords themselves. I have listened with very sincere regret to the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, for that speech, in my opinion, afforded a very striking illustration of the manner in which the views of the Irish people were disregarded upon this question, as well as upon all others. I regret to say that it was an absolutely non-possumus speech, and it shows the hopelessness of the present system of English government in Ireland. But I cannot help thinking that the right honourable Gentleman, notwithstanding that speech, must himself realise that the policy of vindictiveness which has been so ruthlessly pursued by Irish landlords and by their organisations and their supporters in this House has disastrously failed, and has not only proved disastrous to
§ the Government, but more especially disastrous to the landlords themselves. Undoubtedly that policy is to a large extent responsible for the social revolution which has just taken place in Ireland, and which has practically swept the Irish landlords out of public life in their own country, with the few deserving exceptions to which my honourable Friend the Member for East Mayo referred. No class ever courted their self-destruction with more persistency than the Irish landlords, and they have now very nearly succeeded in accomplishing the object for which they have striven so hard. I would, therefore, urge the Chief Secretary to save this class from themselves, even for no higher or more worthy purpose than that of dealing with this question in a spirit of justice and of toleration.
Motion made, and Question put—
That the Bill be now read a second time.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 69; Noes 167.—(Division List No. 74.)947
|Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N.E.)||Joicey, Sir James||Priestley, Briggs (Yorks)|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Jones", W. (Carnarvonshire)||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Ambrose, Robert||Kearley, Hudson E.||Reid, Sir R. Threshie|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland)||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Leng, Sir John||Roberts, J. H. (Denbighs.)|
|Billson, Alfred||Logan, John William||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Lough, Thomas||Shaw, C. E. (Stafford)|
|Burt, Thomas||Macaleese, Daniel||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Caldwell, James||M'Dermott, Patrick||Steadman, William Charles|
|Channing, Francis Allston||M'Ghee, Richard||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Colville, John||M'Kenna, Reginald||Thomas, D. A. (Merthyr)|
|Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||Maddison, Fred.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Dillon, John||Mappin, Sir F. Thorpe||Ure, Alexander|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Molloy, Bernard Charles||Wallace, Robert (Perth)|
|Duckworth, James||Morgan, W. P. (Merthyr)||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Moulton, John Fletcher||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||O'Brien, J. F. X. (Cork)||Woods, Samuel|
|Gold, Charles||O'Connor, J. (Wicklow, W.)||Young, S. (Cavan, East)|
|Gourley, Sir E. Temperley||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Harwood, George||Oldroyd, Mark||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Davitt and Mr. O'Malley.|
|Hayne, Rt. Hn. C. Seale-||Palmer, G. W. (Reading)|
|Holden, Sir Angus||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Horniman, Frederick John||Perks, Robert William|
|Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Price, Robert John|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Blundell, Colonel Henry|
|Arrol, Sir William||Bartley, George C. T.||Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Boulnois, Edmund|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Bathurst, Hn. A. Benjamin||Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Brstol)||Butcher, John George|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manc'r)||Beach, W. W. B. (Hants.)||Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds)||Bethell, Commander||Carson, Rt. Hon. Edward|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Blakiston-Houston, John||Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)|
|Cecil, Lord H. (Greenwich)||Hoare, Samuel (Norwich)||Pease, H. Pike (Darlington)|
|Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r.)||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Pender, Sir James|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Howell, William Tudor||Percy, Earl|
|Charrington, Spencer||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Pilkington, Richard|
|Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.||Jebb, Richard Claverhouse||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Coddington, Sir William||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Priestley, Sir W Overend (Edin)|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Johnston, Wm. (Belfast)||Purvis, Robert|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Pym, C. Guy|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Jolliffe, Hon. H. George||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Colomb, Sir J. C. Ready||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. William||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Cox, Irwin E. B. (Harrow)||Keswick, William||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. C. Thomson|
|Cross, H. Shepherd (Bolton)||Kimber, Henry||Robertson, H. (Hackney)|
|Cruddas, William Donaldson||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Robinson, Brooke|
|Curzon, Viscount||Knowles, Lees||Round, James|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Laurie, Lieutenant-General||Russell, Gen. F. S.(Chel'ham)|
|Davies, Sir H. D. (Chatham)||Lawrence, Sir E. Durning-(Corn)||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Denny, Colonel||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Samuel, H. S. (Limehouse)|
|Digby, J. K. D. Wingfield-||Lecky, Rt. Hn. W. E. H.||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir F. Dixon||Leighton, Stanley||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Llewellyn, E. H. (Somerset)||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Doxford, Wm. Theodore||Loder, G. W. Erskine||Smith, Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)||Stanley, Hn. A. (Ormskirk)|
|Fardell, Sir T. George||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Liverpool)||Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw.||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir J. M.|
|Finch, George H.||Lorne, Marquess of||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Finlay, Sir R. Bannatyne||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Lubbock, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Tomlinson, W. E. Murray|
|Fitzgerald, Sir R. Penrose-||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. Howard|
|Folkestone, Viscount||Macdona, John Cumming||Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)|
|Galloway, William Johnson||Maclure, Sir John William||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Garfit, William||M'Iver, Sir L. (Edin.,W.)||Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)|
|Gedge, Sydney||M'Killop, James||Webster, Sir R. E. (Isle of Wight)|
|Gibbons, J. Lloyd||Malcolm, Ian||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.|
|Gibbs, Hn. V. (St. Albans)||Marks, Henry Hananel||Whiteley, George (Stockport)|
|Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Mellor, Col. (Lancashire)||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-under-L)|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||Middlemore, J. Throgmorton||Whitmore, C. Algernon|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Milward, Colonel Victor||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset)|
|Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir J. Eldon||Monk, Charles James||Williams, J. Powell- (Birm.)|
|Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Moore, Wm. (Antrim, N.)||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Graham, Henry Robert||More, R. Jasper (Shropshire)||Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks.)|
|Green, W. D. (Wednesbury)||Morrison, Walter||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)|
|Gunter, Colonel||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Halsey, Thomas Frederick||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hn. R. Wm.||Murray, C. J. (Coventry)||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Hare, Thomas Leigh||Murray, Col. W. (Bath)||Young, Com. (Berks, E.)|
|Heath, James||Myers, William Henry|
|Heaton, John Henniker||Newdigate, F. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOESߞ Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Helder, Augustus||Northcote, Hn. Sir H. Stafford|
|Hoare, E. Brodie (Hampstead;||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay|
Resolutions agreed to.