HC Deb 20 May 1901 vol 94 cc612-4

I beg leave to move to introduce a Bill to amend Sub-section 1 of Section 9 of the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1891, and Sub-section 2 of Section 43 of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1896. I can explain what the Bill is in very few words. It is almost of greater importance to explain what the Bill is not. The Bill is not the measure mentioned in the gracious Speech from the Throne. The general object of that measure I have already indicated to the House. It is to extend the facilities for, and consequently to increase the pace of, voluntary purchase in Ireland. This Bill is not a substitute for such a measure. Still less is it a dilatory proposal brought in to justify any delay in bringing forward the measure referred to in the Speech from the Throne, at the first opportunity available in view of other demands on the time of the House. On the contrary, this Bill is necessary in order to prevent the cessation of land purchase in Ireland under the existing system; and a for tiori, I argue that it is necessary, as a preliminary to any change in the law which may be brought in hereafter, to accelerate the existing system of voluntary land purchase. The Bill is to amend Sub-section 1 of Section 9 of the Land Purchase (Ireland) Act of 1891, which provides that any advances for the purchase of holdings in any county shall not exceed twenty-five times the share of the county guarantee fund. In Wexford loans have been issued to the amount of £737,000. The credit of Wexford, calculated in accordance with the provisions of Section 9 of the Act of 1891, was estimated to be £742,000. That being so, the advances to the county of Wexford had to be suspended until the credit of Wexford had been recalculated. This has now been done, and it is found that the sums paid by instalments did increase the credit of Wexford beyond the estimate of 1891, but did not increase it so far as to effect any substantial diminution in the present or prospective excess of the loans applied for over the credit of the county. Therefore I am asking for leave to bring in a Bill which will give a discretionary power, under which the advances to any one county can be increased when two conditions are fulfilled—first, that the Lord Lieutenant shall recommend such an extension, and, second, that the Treasury is of opinion that further advances can be made without risk of loss to the Treasury. Another object is provided for. By a parity of reasoning it is proposed to give a like discretion to the Lord Lieutenant and the Treasury in respect to advances to the Congested Districts Board made under Section 43 of the Land Act of 1896. Under that section advances may be made to the Board for the purchase of land and holdings from landlords, and also the Board is empowered to resettle and resell. This provision is all but indispensable for the working of voluntary purchase by the Congested Districts Board, and since it might be imperilled in other counties by the same causes as in Wexford, the remedy is provided for in this Bill which I am now asking leave to introduce.

MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

I recognise that this Bill is an absolutely necessary proposal to prevent the whole machinery of land purchase in Ireland coming to a standstill. The right hon. Gentleman made an extraordinarily interesting explanation to an expectant House that this Bill is not the Bill promised in the Speech from the Throne. That is very well so far as it goes. We are glad to know that the Bill mentioned in the Speech from the Throne is something more serious and substantial than this; but I cannot help regarding the introduction of this Bill as a clear indication that the Bill mentioned in the Speech from the Throne is about to share the fate of so many other Bills, and will be included in the massacre of the innocents. None of us from these benches ever believed that there was any serious intention from the first of proceeding with the Bill mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. We regarded from the first that announcement as a piece of political humbug, which was forced from the Government by the activity of the movement in Ireland generally, and in Ulster in particular, in favour of compulsory land purchase. I have no doubt this Bill is absolutely necessary, and we do not intend to oppose it; but it is a clear indication that we were right in our opinion, and that the Irish people will look in vain for the fulfilment of the illusory promises of the Government.

Bill to amend Sub-section 1 of Section 9 of the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1891, and Sub-section 2 of Section 43 of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1896, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Wyndham and Mr. Attorney General for Ireland.