§ MR. BLAKE (Longford, S.)
moved a reduction of the Vote by £100, and said his object in so doing was to call attention to two points in connection with the operation of the Land Act. The first was with regard to the publication of any instructions that might have been given to the Land Commissioners by the Irish Executive, and the second was the early submission of a Report relating to the administration of the Land Act. The fact that an enormous amount of money was required for the purposes of the Act, and that the greater part of it was to be advanced out of public resources in order to secure the carrying out of the great objects of that Act, justified their demand for full information as to the manner in which the Act was being administered. The question of the failure or success of the Act depended mainly on its administration, and, therefore, the policy pursued and the principles adopted ought to be made known to Parliament in order that it might have an opportunity of criticising them. The question of individual decisions by the Land Commissioners in the cases of particular estates, whether they affected unjustly landlord or tenant, and whether they had good or bad results, whether also they were dilatory or expeditious—these questions, he said, sank into absolute insignificance when compared with the more general principles upon which the administration of the Act was based. What they wanted to know was what were the fundamental principles which had been from time to time laid down as to the mode in which the Land Commissioners should proceed in the discharge of their very important duties. They wanted to know what general regulations or instructions were made for the Commissioners by the Executive Government.
It was quite true that the Act might be made or marred by its administration. How important, then, was it to know the general lines upon which it was being administered, and of how much more importance was it that they should get that information in the early days of the operation of the Act. He made no apology whatever, therefore, for pressing on the attention of the Committee the vast importance of this 484 question, for he conceived it to be of vital consequence to Parliament and to the public to get the information for which he was now asking. So vital did he look upon it, that rebuffs would not deter him from continually pressing for it on all possible occasions. In his opinion publicity was the very essence of the successful administration of the Act, and they believed that that was the only security which Parliament had for proper control over this matter. The discharge of their duties in an efficient manner by the Commissioners largely depended upon a clear understanding of the relations between themselves and the Government, and the extent and degree to which such powers as Parliament had given them were being controlled by the action of the Executive Government. It was impossible, satisfactorily and intelligently, to deal with the action of the Commissioners and of the working of the Act without the publicity to which he had referred. They had had a debate on the 9th of that month in which the Attorney-General, answering for the Irish Government in the absence of the new Chief Secretary, pointed out that the right, hon. Gentleman was not there to state the view which he might deem it his duty to take on that particular subject. He was glad to hear on that occasion that the question was to be left an open question. Nobody could doubt it was within the province and competence of the Executive Government to communicate to Parliament any general instructions or directions which it might have adopted with reference to the Estates Commissioners. Nobody could doubt either that the matter was one quite within the competence of the Chief Secretary to deal with. Neither could anybody doubt that it was entirely within the competence of that House to determine what information it might require from time to time.
The case which he was making out was greatly strengthened by what occurred on the occasion of the recent debate, when, undoubtedly, the feeling was in favour of the information for which they asked being furnished. The right hon. and learned Gentleman on that occasion read a number of extracts from the proceedings in Committee on the Land Act, when 485 the question of placing the Commissioners under the control of the Lord-Lieutenant was under discussion. The right hon. Gentleman on that occasion moved the omission of the words which provided for that control, and, in the course of his remarks, indicated that it was the intention of the Government that the work of the Commissioners should be administrative and that they were not to occupy a position of independence or detachment such as was occupied by many Irish Boards. That view was assented to on the Opposition Benches, and they quite believed that the result of the debate and of the agreement thus arrived at would be to ensure that they would have full information which would enable them to discuss the work of the Commission, and would give really effective Parliamentary control. The clause, as originally drafted, provided that the Commissioners should be under the control of the Lord-Lieutenant, and that they should act in accordance with such regulations as he might make. Now, the danger of that was that it might indicate a day-to-day and hour-to-hour control of the details of the work of the Commissioners in concrete cases. He thought that very objectionable, because it brought in questions affecting persons and private interests, questions which it was extremely dangerous to place in the hands of the Executive. Indeed, it was absolutely impossible in the nature of things for such details to be effectively supervised by the Executive Government. It might act for evil sometimes, and certainly very little good was likely to come out of it at any time. The result of the discussion was that the Chief Secretary agreed that there should be no interference by the Executive with the details of concrete cases. The Executive held that the best prosperity of the country and the efficient working of the Act depended on the Commissioners devoting themselves to administrative work, and the Government, in the end, accepted words making it clear that that was the desire of the House. Then came up the question of the House knowing what instructions or regulations the Government might from time to time prescribe. An Amendment was moved, and received the assent of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, providing that 486 they should be laid before Parliament. The Chief Secretary intervened in that debate and confirmed what had fallen from the Attorney-General, and eventually the clause was passed in a confessedly imperfect state on the understanding that, later on, words should be inserted which would give effect to the intentions of the House. On a later clause an Amendment was moved by the Chief Secretary, and carried, which provided for the laying before Parliament of the Reports of the Estates Commissioners; and that was all that was done to carry out the agreement.
He did not think that the course that was taken in reference to this matter of the rules was one conformable to the traditions of Parliament with reference to understandings made in the House. The Attorney-General frankly acknowledged that there had been a departure from the original understanding, that he had, in fact, been thrown over; that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had changed his mind, as he had a right to do, and had come to the conclusion that it was inexpedient to follow the course which had been agreed upon. Now they did their business in that House very largely upon conventions, and the orderly transaction of the business of Parliament very much depended upon the carrying out of understandings arrived at across the floor of the House, it was indeed most advantageous that such understandings should be observed with the strictest good faith. They were matters of honour, and though they might be repugnant to a very large number of Members, yet, when once an arrangement had been made, every one considered himself bound by it. Pledges made by the Government with reference to the business of the House with regard to legislation were always held to be extremely sacred. He would be the last to impute any selfish or conscious divergence from that standard of honour on the part of the late Chief Secretary, especially at that period of his political career, for he thought it would be ungenerous to take even a legitimate advantage of Parliamentary warfare at such a time. He could only suggest that there must have been some misconception on the part of the right hon. 487 Gentleman, not of what he had agreed to, but as to the extent of the honourable obligations of the Parliamentary convention.
He had observed that such obligations were sacred. Of course, he did not mean to suggest that if a Minister came to the conclusion that a grave mistake had been made, by which the public interest would suffer, he was absolutely bound to be the instrument for perpetuating that mistake. He might then be under the painful necessity of having to retire from the obligation. But he did not think that that consideration applied in the present instance; and he did hold that it was the incumbent duty of the Minister, if he found himself in any difficulty in carrying out an agreement, to take the House into his confidence before abandoning it. Under such circumstances the Chief Secretary should have asked to be released from his undertaking, and it would then have been his duty to place matters in as nearly as possible the position they would have occupied if the arrangement had not been made, and to give Members an opportunity of taking the judgment of the House upon the proposition to which he had acceded. The question came up on July 17th, when the Bill was being hurried through, and entreaties were made that there should be no discussion. A statement that it was intended to depart from the arrangement, and an opportunity to move another Amendment, would have put a different face on the matter, but the statement was not made nor the opportunity given, and, consequently, the clause passed Report in its present form. Those circumstance ought very favourably to dispose the Administration to do the thing they were free to do, but under no obligation to do, and to consider long before they decided not to keep in the spirit the pledge given to the House of Commons, and which it was believed had been carried out.
These Commissioners were no ordinary administrative officers. They were administrative officers, but they were charged with duties of the very highest character, and it was the duty of the House of Commons to assert for itself the right to such information as 488 would enable it from time to time to judge how the Land Act was being worked. The right hon. Gentleman had suggested that the instructions were confidential and that there were no Departmental instructions in the usual sense to be given. The instructions were general instructions as to the course to be pursued by the Commissioners in the discharge of their high duty, and those who knew what an atmosphere of doubt and suspicion surrounded Dublin Castle in the minds of the people of Ireland would be the first to realise what injurious consequences would result from the refusal of this information. It was no doubt true, as the Attorney-General had stated, that the Commissioners were officials of the Government, and that the Government were responsible for their actions. But this was a special case, in which the confidence was one which those who made the communications were entitled, and, in his opinion, bound to disregard. The Government might take the responsibility of directing the Commissioners as to what they should or should not do in certain cases. What harm could possibly be done, how could the principles of Ministerial responsibility be violated, by laying down the wholesome rule that, as these instructions were of a general character, they should come before Parliament, and that Parliament should see what were these general principles of action or inaction which the Government had prescribed to the Commissioners for dealing with these enormous interests. Where did the inconvenience lay? Members of the House of Commons, who on the whole theory of the case had to criticise not the Commission but the Government, the latter being held responsible for everything that was done or not done, were entitled to know what came from the Government and what was the act of the Commissioners. It was of the utmost consequence that the House should know the instances in which the Government had taken the direct responsibility of action, and had themselves practically laid down the lines upon which decisions should be given. At present the House had no information at all, and they did not know what information they were going to get from the Commissioners themselves.
489 It was generally believed that there had been a considerable amount of interference. The belief might be unwarranted, but such beliefs were bound to arise, especially in Ireland, and the only way of checking them was to give the cases in which there had been interference, and to declare that in all others the Commissioners had been perfectly free. What reasons could the Government give for withholding the information? What evil would be done by publication? The Act was being administered, and it was admitted that there were communications, but it was said that they were Departmental and confidential. If they were such as affected the conduct of the Commissioners with reference to the general principles upon which they should administer the Act, he denied that they were such Departmental and confidential communications as should be screened from the light of the House of Commons, or so dealt with that the House of Commons could not pass judgment upon the giving of them. Therefore, having regard to the origination of the matter, as evidenced in the debates to which he had alluded, to the character of the Commission, to the interests at stake, and to the great advantage of Parliament seeing what the rules were, he hoped the Chief Secretary would pause long before—by refusing to publish the Papers—he deepened the already existing suspicion, created an obscurity about what ought to be open and clear as day, and surrounded with uncertainty, perplexity, and confusion the operations of the Act. If the right hon. Gentleman was to have a quiet Chief Secretaryship it was necessary that his administration should be marked by the utmost clearness and candour. The Report of the Commission was long overdue, but within the last half-hour Members had been able to obtain an "advance proof of appendices, so far as printed, for ad interim Report of Estates Commissioners for period from commencement of the Act to December 31st, 1904." In that document, however, he had not yet been able to find a single statement on a subject of the greatest importance as affecting the working of the Act, viz., the evicted tenants. To hand over to them these imperfect appendices was really a bad joke, and it 490 could not be seriously supposed that it would do them any good. Valuable as they might be to those who had time to study them, they were of little value unless they were illumined by the language of the Report itself. The tail—with the exception of one or two joints—had been produced, but the body was missing.
Why had they not got this Report? What did the Attorney-General say upon this subject? He told them that he regretted hon. Members were not in possession of the Land Commissioners' Report showing the lines upon which the Land Act had been worked. With even a deeper pang Irish Members shared that view. The Attorney-General further stated that he had been requested to press the Estates Commissioners to furnish a Report, and he agreed that a Report ought to be furnished. He stated that be had made representations to this effect, and that he had been informed that the Commissioners were doing their utmost to bring out a Report, but the framing of such a Report must take time. He should have thought that the appendices would have taken most time, but they had got them. The Report indicating the procedure, summarising the operations of the Commissioners, and illumining them as to the course they had taken in all the particulars in which this new departure had been made, vitally important as it was, need not take so very much time. He could not see why this Report should take so much time, and they ought to know what their general propositions were and the principles upon which they had proceeded. He ventured to say that for the satisfaction of the country and the House, the good working of the Act itself, and the standing of all concerned, the Report should have been laid upon the Table of the House as soon as possible after the House assembled. The Act prescribed that these Reports should be laid on the Table as soon as possible. They wished to know exactly what the principles of action were. The Commissioners had done a great deal of work, for they began very early, and therefore there was not very much late work to do in compiling the Report up to December 31st. The right hon. Gentleman was asked whether the Report had been revised by anybody 491 else, and whether the Treasury would revise it; and he replied that he did not know, but the Treasury would have to see it because it dealt with public money. He presumed, however, that the Treasury would not prescribe the general principles upon which the Act was worked, but would only deal with those things with which the Treasury was immediately concerned. The language of the right hon. Gentleman indicated that this Report was not to be limited merely to an explanation of the figures, but that it would give the lines upon which the Commissioners had worked the Act. They wanted the Report to be a full one. No doubt the Report had been in type for a long time, and probably it had been bandied about from one office to another. He did not know whether the Report would be the expression of the opinion of the Commissioners as they originally made it, or whether it would be the opinion of higher authorities. Probably parts would be excised or added to, but the House might at least be told the general rules upon which the Act had been administered and the principles of their proceedings.
This was a Vote taking money on account for five months, although the old practice used to be to take enough money for two months. Therefore the Government were asking for sufficient money to last them until nearly the end of the session. Taking into account all the devices for restricting the liberties of the House, it might be considered that except under extraordinary circumstances this might be the only occasion upon which they would be able to refer to this question. He was pleased to say that they now had an opportunity of delivering their minds upon the freedom of action of the Commissioners before their Report had been submitted to its last polish at the hands of its editors. As to discussing the working and administration of the Land Act without knowing what the instructions were upon which it had been worked, and without the Report of the Commissioners as to what they had done, that was another farce to which they were asked to submit. They complained of the lack of these instructions and of this Report, and in 492 order to emphasise that view he begged to move a reduction of the Vote.
§ Motion made and Question put, "That Item, Class 3, Vote 16 (Irish Land Commission), be reduced by £100."—(Mr. Blake.)
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin County, N.)
said this would probably be the only occasion upon which they could debate this question. Unless the Government were able to give them a very good explanation as to why they were not in possession of the only document which could give them full information they could not discuss this matter with anything like confidence. This delay seemed to him to be almost unaccountable. More than a year and a half had elapsed since the Act came into operation and they were still without any Report of how it was working. The production of the Report was absolutely necessary in order to obtain a proper understanding of what had actually been done under the Act. He did not know any other Department of Government of which it could be said that a year and a half after the passing of an important Act there had not been available a full account of the transactions under that Act. Everybody recognised that this was not an ordinary Act of Parliament. It was a revolutionary Act which marked the commencement of a new stage in the agrarian history of Ireland. Obviously it was essential that they should know what was going on at the very earliest moment in order that, if there was anything wrong, they might be able to correct it in time, and before any wrong practice became stereotyped. They knew very well that in many matters relating to Ireland one false step led to another, and a precedent was thus laid down. When the precedent was found to lead in a wrong direction the answer of the Minister was that the thing had been commenced and that he must now follow on the same lines of policy. That was a very dangerous thing if anything of the kind had occurred in this matter. The third reason for debating this matter at length was that the duty lay upon the Irish Members to see that the interests of their country were safeguarded. The duty which lay upon the 493 Government was very important, but he should almost be inclined to put as scarcely second in importance the duty of the representatives of the vast majority of the people to see that their interests were being safeguarded in the working of the Act. They were entirely unable to say whether that was being done or not. The Report had been delayed, and no general statement of principles had yet been vouchsafed.
He felt sure that the view which had been indicated, rather than expressed, by the hon. Member for Longford was correct, namely, that this was not the fault of the Commissioners themselves. The Report drawn up by them had long been in print, and it had been submitted, he supposed, to the Chief Secretary, the Law Officers, and, above all, to the Treasury, and all the Departments they represented were having their finger in the pie and examining the Report with the view of determining what should be its eventual form. That was an extraordinary act on the part of the Government. If it was really true that the Report had been long since before the Government, and that they were altering it in the way suggested, it would not be the Report of the Commissioners. If the Government wanted to supervise the Report, they ought to have done as was done in the case of the Congested Districts Board, and other public bodies like the Local Government Board. They should have made the Chief Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the Secretary of the Treasury a member of the body, and he could have signed the Report and taken the responsibility. If it were really true, as suggested by the hon. Member for Longford, that it had been submitted to other Departments to be revised, he said that was a more or less questionable proceeding for which an apology ought to be made on this the first occasion on which the act had been committed. The duty of the Irish Members did not rest in protesting simply against the delay that had taken place in the publication of the Report. It was their duty to pres that it should be immediately presented, and, moreover, that it should be regularly presented in future. He and his friends would not tolerate 494 this hugger-mugger in future if, by protesting, they could prevent it. They must have the document that dealt with such vital matters concerning their country, and with such vast sums of money as were charged upon Ireland itself. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to take care that this Report should be presented regularly and in time in future, and warned him that if that was not done things would be made very uncomfortable for him in the House.
As to the character of the Report, he wished to say that the document which had been presented that day was not the sort of document they wanted. It was a mass of figures which it would take, not a couple of hours, but probably a couple days properly to analyse. They did not want to know half so much how much land had been sold and how much money had been advanced in this or that county in a period ending at a particular date, as to know the general lines on which the Commissioners proceeded. It was no use to tell them that £2,000,000 had been advanced for purchase in Leinster, £500,000 in Munster, about the same sum in Ulster, and only £250,000 in Connaught. That did not convey to their minds the general lines on which land purchase was proceeding in Ireland. He regarded as of far more importance the question whether those advances had been made for the purpose, say, of the purchase of untenanted land, for the purpose of increasing the small economic holdings that existed not only in the West, but all over Ireland, or for the purpose of reinstating the evicted tenants who were to be found in all parts of Ireland. To fling at their heads at the very commencement of the debate a mass of figures from which they could not make the wildest possible guess as to the lines the Commissioners had gone on was entirely unfair on the part of the Chief Secretary, and would certainly justify the Irish Members in demanding a fresh day for considering this matter whenever the full Report was available.
In regard to the instructions supposed to have been given under the Act, he did not think it was open for the present Chief Secretary to repudiate any of the general principles or declarations made on important matters by his predecessor. On 495 July 1st, 1903, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, who was then Chief Secretary, said in the House—During the long conferences which preceded the introduction of the Bill, and on almost every clause, he had laid the greatest stress on the administrative character of the new Commission. That the new Commission should be of an administrative character was not merely his personal opinion, it was an integral part of the policy of the Government. He could not have persuaded his right hon. friend to sanction the use of large public funds for purely executive work except upon the basis that those who administered them were to be in a very real sense executive officers, subject in all matters of policy, and the economic and proper use of the funds, not only to the control of the Government but to the criticism of the House.What did that mean? Surely that could only have meant one thing, namely, that whatever general instructions might be given to the Commissioners would be laid on the Table of the House or otherwise made public, so that they might criticise them in the House. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that day in answer to a Question, if he rightly understood him, that he was considering whether or not the instructions under Section 23 of the Act might in future be published.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. WALTER LONG,) Bristol, S.
That is not exactly what I said. I stated that I was considering whether the time had not arrived both for the drawing up of those regulations and for their publication in some form which might seem most convenient.
§ MR. CLANCY
said he understood that no regulations had been framed up to the present, and also that they would be framed and that they would be published.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said he did not say in what form the publication would be made. It might be made in one or two ways; and there might be a difference of opinion even as to whether the time had arrived for the regulations to be drawn up in a formal manner, and what might be the most convenient step to take in making them public.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said he did not mean to puzzle the hon. Gentleman. All he meant was that there might be publication of the regulations in the Gazette or by their being laid on the Table of the House. He did not mean to commit himself to one particular course or the other; but to the principle that when they were drawn up they would be made public in one form or the other.
§ MR. CLANCY
said he was much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. That answer was perfectly explicit. He understood that the regulations would be made, and that they would be published either in the Gazette or presented in some form to Parliament. But instructions might be given to the Estates Commissioners other than under the 23rd Section of the Land Act of 1903. He wanted the right hon. Gentleman to say whether or not instructions had been given to the Estates Commissioners dealing, in a general way, with the administration of the Act and which would not be included in the regulations under Section 23. He could conceive that a letter might be written to the Estates Commissioners in reference to a particular subject of great importance, and that the instruction laid down in such a letter might never be formulated in the form of a rule, and yet that it might be of the vastest practical importance. Common rumour prevailed that such a thing had taken place. He, himself, at the commencement of the session last year, felt bound to call the attention of the House to a rumour current that the law advisers of the Crown in Ireland, including the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, had volunteered opinions to the Estates Commissioner which they had no right to offer, and that this was done under instructions from the Treasury with a view to curtailing the beneficial operation of the Act. He wanted to know whether an instruction or direction to the Commissioners, on their asking the advice of the Law Officers of the Crown, was given, and that the Commissioners were to abide by it; whether that instruction had been communicated by letter or otherwise; whether such instruction as that would be regarded as a regulation under Section 497 23; and whether it would be published. If it was not to be a regulation under Section 23, and therefore not to be published, then he should regard the concession just made by the right hon. Gentleman as absolutely futile and useless.
Now, he had heard it remarked that these communications were confidential. He held that they had no right to be confidential. They dealt with matters of the greatest public importance, and dealt with them in the general way in which the Act ought to be administered—with matters relating to classes of estates or properties. As his hon. and learned friend the Member for Longford had said, if they were in existence at all, reports, instructions, letters addressed by the Chief Secretary, or the Secretary to the Treasury, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or even the Prime Minister, dealing with matters of that sort were to be regarded as confidential. Ministers had no right to claim such a privilege. Every one of the letters ought to be published. He asked the plain question—had any letters of the kind been sent by the Government?—he did not care who was Chief Secretary. This was a continuous Administration, and the present Government were responsible for the acts of the Chief Secretary.
§ MR. CLANCY
Then let them say whether they had instructed the Estates Commissioners, by letter, about public matters—not dealing with individual trivialities, as, for instance, whether a certain person was to be promoted to a certain office—he did not care a button about that—he did not care who was appointed to the Estates Commission, except it was a gross partisan who had already disqualified himself from office under the State. But what he did care about was the broad general lines upon which this Act had been or was to be administered; and whether in any particular cases any steps had been taken in contravention of what ought to be the general policy on the matter by the Government of the day; and whether, above all, the will and view of the Commissioners themselves had been 498 overborne by those in authority over them.
He would take, as an example, certain town holdings in Ireland. He read some time ago a statement that, in consequence of the action of the Commissioners in sanctioning the sale of certain town holdings which formed a part of a property which was substantially agricultural, a certain instruction had been given through the Commissioners not to buy any more of it or advance public money for the further acquisition of these town holdings. Were such instructions given, and would they be among the regulations to be framed under Section 23, and would they be published? Because, if any such broad general instructions were given, he held they were a violation of the spirit of the Act, and, under certain circumstances, would delay the settlement of very serious agrarian disputes. It was well known that in various parts of the country small villages and towns had come under the operation of the Act, and that these belonged to estates where there had been agrarian trouble. Now, a great part of the inducement to the landlords of these estates to sell to their tenants would be taken away if money was not to be advanced for purchase. He admitted that there might be cases, in view of the limited amount of money at the disposal of the Commissioners, in which a restrictive policy might be justifiable; but to lay it down as a general rule that, because money was scarce, or for any other reason, no money was to be advanced for the purchase of holdings in small towns or villages coming within the Act was against the policy and spirit of the Act, and ought not to be tolerated by the House.
One of the reasons why he had wished to see the Commissioners' Report and study the lines on which the work of sale and purchase had proceeded, was to learn whether or not precedence in making advances for sales and purchase had been given to certain classes of estates. Everyone knew that in nearly ever county of Ireland certain estates gave trouble on agrarian questions to the Executive Government. It was that fact which furnished the argument for all 499 the Land Bills which had been passed. Reason and justice had nothing to do with the passing of any Land Bill by the House. It never had been; it had always been expediency, and a low kind of expediency at that. It arose from a sense of fear, of the danger of the peace being broken. It was that which led British Ministers, no matter to what Party they belonged, to touch the land question in Ireland, even if it involved the advance of money. Was it not, then, obvious, even from the English point of view, that precedence should be given in settling the Irish land question, and these agrarian disputes, to those estates to which the operation of the Act might most usefully be applied. He was re erring to cases where there were evicted tenants in large numbers, and where there were many uneconomic holdings, as well as large areas of thousands of acres of untenanted land given up to sheep and cattle. He should like to know whether or not instructions had been given to the Estates Commissioners as to securing precedence in such cases. In what order had the money been distributed. Was it by priority of application? A question of that kind was of much greater importance than the ill-digested mass of figures which had been issued that day. He was all the more curious as to whether or not any rules or instructions had been given to the Estates Commissioners, apart from regulations under Section 23, before there was a denial which seemed to be volunteered by the Law Officers.
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. ATKINSON, Londonderry, N.)
said that there was no foundation for the suggestion. It was purely imaginary.
§ MR. CLANCY
said it was very odd that the right hon. Gentleman did not give that answer to him last year when he asked who was the man in the iron mask who had written the letters.
§ MR. CLANCY
said that the right hon. Gentleman appeared to have been very 500 badly treated. The right hon. Gentleman ought to have retired in indignation. From the very foundation of the Act there had been confusion. Sometimes it appeared in the shape of a legal opinion; and sometimes in a letter from the Department. He hoped an explicit answer would be given to all these questions which would at once solve the rumours which were afloat.
There was a further question. Complaints had been continually made as to the delay which had taken place in the fixing of fair rents. The minimum was from two or three years after the application; and if an appeal were lodged a further three years would be added. Without exaggeration, quite a third of the statutory period might elapse before a fair rent was fixed. That was ridiculous; and he submitted that the Government were entirely to blame. He would tell the Committee the reason why. Last year there was a change in the constitution of the Sub-Commission. Formerly, a legal Commissioner sat with two lay Commissioners; but last year the constitution of the Court was changed to one legal and one lay Commissioner. If the then existing staff had been retained under that arrangement, manifestly double the work would have been accomplished; but the Government immediately dismissed thirty or forty Commissioners; and that, of course, defeated the object the Government had in view in changing the constitution of the Court. That was done for the purpose of making good the policy of the late Chief Secretary that he would save in administration many thousands of pounds a year in order to pay for the bonus. In his opinion, if the Government wanted to save, they might, have accomplished their object much better by a considerable reduction of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Even with the reduction that had taken place, nine-tenths of the force had nothing to do except walk round the by-roads. It was a positive disgrace that a lot of able-bodied men should be maintained out of public funds and have no duties to discharge. It would have been better to have cut down the Constabulary; and to have left the Commissioners as they were. He desired again to protest against the delay in the publication of the Report of the 501 Estates Commissioners; and he hoped the Chief Secretary would commence his career by making a frank and candid explanation regarding the instructions which had been given to the Estates Commissioners.
§ MR. LONSDALE (Armagh, Mid)
said there was only too much ground for the belief that in some parts of Ireland the United Irish League was exerting far too great an influence upon the decisions of the Estates Commissioners. In a Question which he had addressed to the late Chief Secretary he had drawn attention to the Maher Estate which had recently been sold to the Estates Commissioners and divided up. He was informed that the vendor of the estate intended that the land, which was largely untenanted, should be divided up amongst the villagers, most of whom held conacre and other small quantities of land of poor quality. But this benevolent intention was largely frustrated by the intervention of the United Irish League which, it appeared, exercised so much influence upon the Estates Commissioners. These holdings were given to the leading officials and to the prominent members of the League, many of whom lived at a considerable distance from the estate, whilst those persons living in the immediate vicinity who were not in favour with the United Irish League were shut out from the distribution altogether. He should like to give a few details showing how the distribution of this estate had been carried out. The estate was sold to the Estates Commissioners in July last. In that month, Father Murray, who was the parish priest, furnished the Commissioners with a list of fifty small farmers whom he considered were most suitable and most deserving, in order that the farms should be divided amongst them. This list was approved by the late owner, and on August 7th Father Murray, at the request of the president of the local branch of the United Irish League, also sent the Commissioners a list of about fifty names furnished by the League; but Father Murray in furnishing this second list took care to state that he was in no way responsible for it, nor did he approve in any way of this second list. On January 4th of this year the Estates Commissioners inspector called upon Father Murray and informed him that 502 he must reduce his number of names from fifty to nineteen. Father Murray at once consented to do this; and he did so selecting the most suitable and deserving people. The inspector of the Estates Commissioners then proceeded to announce his decision to the various people who were present; and he was informed that when he did so he was threatened with a great deal of intimidation from the United Irish League because certain of their friends had not been included in the list. At any rate. the disorder at the meeting was so exceptional that the final selection was postponed for two days. On that same day (January 6th)—and this was a rather important point in this matter—a meeting was held in the herd's house. The inspector of the Estates Commissioners was present and Father Murray's list was revised, other most deserving cases being struck out. This arrangement was at once ratified by the inspector, and he would like to give the Committee some details concerning the men who got land under this arrangement.
The whole estate comprised 447 acres. The president of the local branch of the United Irish League, a working mason, who lived three or four miles away from the Maher Estate, and who already had sixteen acres as a subtenant on another property, got some eighteen acres. His colleague, the treasurer, a tailor, living in the village with his father, was handed twenty acres; yet another colleague a prominent member of the South Westmeath executive, who occupied twelve acres on another property, was allotted about sixteen acres. Another president—this time of the labour league—got fourteen acres, though he was a labourer, and though his house and garden were valued at five shillings a year only. A second labourer, who occupied with his father a union cottage, had fourteen acres thrust upon him. A third labourer, in the occupation of a house and garden valued at ten shillings, received eighteen acres. A coachman received over twenty acres, and a working blacksmith, occupying in the village a house and garden valued at twenty-five shillings, was given fourteen acres. It was quite unnecessary to 503 prolong this list. There was one feature about it which must surely strike every hon. Member, and that was that the men who were not farmers and who had no means of stocking their holdings had been placed in possession of lands simply because they happened to be members of certain political organisations. He concluded that that was part of the pernicious policy of attempting to smother disloyalty by kindness; a policy which, he might remind the Committee, had aroused considerable indignation among the Loyalists of Ireland. But in this case the action of the Estates Commissioners had pleased no one except the individuals who had benefited through their connection with the League. The villagers who had been shut out from the lands to which they had the first claim were highly indignant, and had gone the length of levelling the fences on the lands to mark their indignation. The parish priest also— the Rev. Father Murray—whose advice was first taken and then thrown on one side in favour of the advice of the League, had written a letter in which he declared that only six tenants living on Mrs. Maher's property and in the very immediate neighbourhood got land; while the principle which was at first laid down by the inspector that labourers, artisans, those living at a distance, and sub-tenants, would be excluded, was violated in every particular. He thought this case deserved the attention of the Government. In his opinion they ought to institute a thorough investigation, a sworn inquiry, into the proceedings at the herd's house when the list of claimants was settled under League domination. It was important not only that landlords should sell their estates, but that the land, when sold, should be apportioned amongst those who were best entitled to it, and not amongst men whose first and only qualification appeared to be membership of a political organisation.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
said the first thing the new Chief Secretary would do well to understand was the meaning of the word "loyal." and not to rely too much on men whose loyalty was measured by the amount of the cheque they obtained from Dublin 504 Castle. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman, who had been in Parliament a great number of years and who had himself had a great agricultural experience both as a landed proprietor and as Minister of Agriculture, would take up this matter as a practical farmer; that he would look at it from the point of view of the interests of both the landlord and the tenant, and that for the very short time that his term of office would last he would try and do justice as between man and man, and would not lean towards one class which would betray him at the earliest moment. The hon. Member for Mid-Armagh, when speaking of a political organisation, meant the United Irish League, but if the hon. Gentleman had been in Parliament in 1881, he would have recollected the words of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham that if there had been no Land League there would have been no Land Bill. If he might paraphrase those words, he would say that if there had been no United Irish League there would have been no Land Purchase Act of 1903. The late Chief Secretary in introducing that measure made a great speech, one of the leading features of which was that these Estates Commissioners were not to be excluded from the privilege of Parliamentary criticism. The very essence of their position was that they were to be subjected to it. But another essential feature of the programme was the restoration of the evicted tenants, and he challenged the recollection of the House to say whether he was not correct in saying that that Act would not have been passed had it not been understood that they were to be reinstated. What had happened? Large powers with reference to the administration of the Act as it affected evicted tenants were inserted in the Act, and the Commissioners were perfectly willing to act upon them. Why were they not allowed to do so? After all these millions of money had been ladled out to the landlords, what was the position of the evicted tenants? Four thousand five hundred and fifty applications had been made and forty-six only had been dealt with, and the tenants restored either to the farms they previously held or economic farms of the same size. That was how the Commissioners had 505 discharged their duty. He hoped, after the favourable Answer to the Question asked him that day, the Chief Secretary would place the instructions asked for on the Table.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that what he said was that he would consider the desirability of formulating those regulations and of laying them on the Table.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
said it was necessary that the House should have the rules which had been laid down for the guidance of the Commissioners so that they might apportion the responsibility. Then, if the Land Commissioners went wrong because of the instructions of the Chief Secretary, they would not spare the right hon. Gentleman; while if the Commissioners went wrong of their own accord they would be open to the criticism of the House. Why, then, would not the right hon. Gentleman lay on the Table the memorandum referred to by the late Chief Secretary? For proper criticism and discussion it was absolutely essential that the House should know precisely what were the relations between the Commissioners and the Executive Government. The right hon. Gentleman would commence his tenure of office wisely, honestly, and honourably by stating clearly whether his predecessor had, rightly or wrongly, taken a course intended to burke debate and prevent the supply of information in reference to the work of the Estates Commissioners. The Attorney-General was a gentleman who, in private affairs, would not dream of breaking a pledge, but in this matter of Government policy he undoubtedly had done so. On July 1st, 1903, the right hon. and learned Gentleman promised in the most absolute manner that all regulations framed by the Government under Sub-section 8 should be laid on the Table, and that an Amendment embodying the undertaking should be inserted on the Report Stage. On March 8th, however, the right hon. Gentleman said the Government had thrown him over. But the right hon. Gentleman had no right to throw himself over. He was not only a backer of the Bill, but a representative of the tenant farmers, and how could he re- 506 concile his action with his own pledged word and his duty to the tenant farmers of North Derry? The late Chief Secretary had no right to change his mind after a pledge had been given on his behalf. In order to show exactly the position in which the Estates Commissioners were towards Parliament, and the grave disadvantage to which the House would be put if instructions given to the Commissioners by the Government were not communicated to Parliament, he would read an extract from a speech delivered by the late Chief Secretary on July 1st, 1903. The right hon. Gentleman then said—That the new Commission should be of an administrative character was not merely his personal opinion; it was an integral part of the policy of the Government. He could not have persuaded his right hon. friend to sanction the use of large public funds for purely executive work except upon the basis that those who administered them were to be in a very real sense executive officers, subject in matters of policy, and the economic and proper use of the funds, not only to the control of the Government, but to the criticism of this House.If the Government controlled the action of the Commissioners in a way not known to the House at large it would be impossible for Parliament to debate their policy, and that, in a matter involving the use of enormous public funds and of the good relations between landlords and tenants, was a serious consideration. It was not the way to treat the Grand Inquest of the nation. Ten millions of money had already been ladled into the pockets of the landlords, but so far as the reinstatement of the evicted tenants was concerned the Act had been a dismal failure. What excuse had the right hon. Gentleman to offer for the Administration, who were acting badly not only to the House of Commons and the people of Ireland, but also to the Commissioners themselves? Was the right hon. Gentleman going to work this Act in the interests of the people or in the interests of the clerks in Dublin Castle? Was he going to be a Minister himself, or to minister through clerks? If he was going to be a Minister himself he should do the honest and proper thing, produce this document, and give an assurance that all the communications in reference to the policy and administration of the Act should be placed before the House.
507 Another matter urgently requiring attention was the appalling block in the Land Court. It would be fully permissible, under the provisions of the Judicature Acts, for the right hon. Gentleman to get other Judges from Irish Courts who were doing nothing to help Mr. Justice Meredith with these appeals and to expedite public business. It had been stated—he did not know with what truth—that the Commissioners had obtained legal advice from the Law Officers in Dublin Castle. If that were so, it would be a matter for the strongest criticism, not only of the Law Officers of the Crown and the Chief Secretary who allowed it, but also of the legal Commissioners themselves, because under the Land Act of 1903 the Estates Commissioners were empowered to ask advice on questions of law, not of legal politicians, but openly and publicly of the High Court of Judicature. His own feelings in the matter were perfectly well known and he did not think much good would come out of it. He had always hoped for the best and had welcomed conciliation, and he had never opposed any generous acts in reference to the Irish landlords, although he knew the Irish people would have to pay for them. He had, however, done all this under the supreme belief that that awful sore in Irish public life, namely, the unfortunate position of the evicted tenants, would be remedied. Up to the present everything had been worked for the benefit of the landlords, and everything for the relief of the distress of the victims of the Plan of Campaign had been ignored. The right hon. Gentleman must have an intelligent appreciation of these difficulties. He might not be very successful as Chief Secretary, but he might be able to do good between man and man and see that justice was done without the progress of the Act being obstructed by the officials at Dublin Castle. The right hon. Gentleman might be a successful Minister for Ireland as compared with the disastrous failures which had gone before him, but the first thing he would have to do was to do what was right in regard to the administration of this Act. The right hon. Gentleman was credited with possessing the apostolic gift of suffering fools gladly, but he hoped he would endeavour to remedy the difficulty of which he had 508 complained by allowing other Judges to assist Mr. Justice Meredith. He thanked the House for the patience with which they had listened to him, and he assured hon. Members that he would not have intervened except that his heart was touched by the manner in which their hopes had been shattered by the administration of this Act, for it was another of the many Acts which were meant well but which had been obstructed and murdered in its administration and had been worked in the landlords' interest by the officials at Dublin Castle.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I think it is desirable at this stage that I should say a few words in reference to the points which have been raised, for more than one reason. In the first place it seems to me that, upon the examination I have been able to make in connection with the two main subjects raised here this afternoon, namely, the delay in the presentation of the Report, and the question as to whether or not the regulations issued to the Estates Commissioners are to be laid on the Table and made public, there is considerable misapprehension. I gather from the speech of the hon. Member for South Longford and one or two other speeches which have been made that there is in some quarters an idea that the delay in the issue of the Report — which has naturally caused much inconvenience to hon. Members from Ireland, as it has also to those responsible for the government of Ireland and for the defence of this Vote—has been due to some mysterious proceeding on behalf of the Executive Government, and that the Report has been going through a process of trimming in order to put it into a form more acceptable to those who are responsible for it. ["Hear, hear."] I can assure hon. Gentlemen that there is no foundation whatever for that suggestion. The facts, briefly and baldly stated, are that communications have been passing between the Estates Commissioners and the Treasury, not in regard to the precise matter that should be in the Report, for which naturally the Estates Commissioners must be responsible, but as to the form that Report should take. I am assured that not only is there no foundation for the assertion that the Report is being trimmed 509 to suit the views of the Executive, but that it has not yet reached the stage at which it would be possible for any such treatment to be accorded to it. The Report has been delayed owing to reasons which cannot be wondered at. The Estates Commissioners have had a vast task to perform, which, although, no doubt, they undertook with persons experienced in the work, yet they had inevitably to approach it without any accurate knowledge of the form the work would take, or as to the way in which it could be best and most economically and efficiently performed. Therefore I do not think that we ought to wonder that there has been delay, which seems unreasonable to some extent, in the production of the Report, but it has certainly not been due to any act of omission or commission on the part of the Irish Government, and there has been none of that improper treatment to which reference has been made. I have heard with some feelings not only of surprise, but also of regret, the contemptuous repudiation of the tables of statistics which, by my directions, were issued to hon. Gentlemen to-day. It is not my fault, or the fault of the Executive which I represent for the first time to-day, that there has been delay in the presentation of this Report. These tables were ready, and it occurred to the Irish Government that it might be advantageous that hon. Members should have all the information we had, and we could not give the Report because we had not got it. There is absolutely no foundation for the charge that the delay has been caused by any attempt or desire to trim the Report to suit our own views.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
No, it is not in type? [An HON. MEMBER: Is it in manuscript?] I do not believe it is in manuscript as regards a portion of it. The Report is in course of preparation and will be ready very shortly, and I shall do everything I can to expedite its production. I hope it will be in our hands within a few weeks. I think it is a little hard to blame those responsible for the delay when it is remembered how heavy has been the burden of the work 510 which has fallen upon them during the first year of the working of the Act. [NATIONALIST cries of "Oh, oh!"]
The other point is the publication of the rules. I have already said in answer to a Question by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford to-day that I have done my best to examine this question both as to its local aspect and from its historical point of view. I do not think that there need be any contest is to the statement of fact we have heard to-day. So far as I have been able to learn, the view given by the hon. Member for Longford and the hon. Member for South Donegal is quite accurate as to what took place during the Committee stage of the Bill and during the subsequent Report stage, but there is some little misapprehension as to which of the regulations it is that was meant. As hon. Members opposite are aware, there are two sets of regulations, those issued by the Commissioners to their inspectors and those I propose to lay on the Table at once. Then there are the regulations referred to in the subsection, namely, those issued by the Executive Government to the Commissioners, and these are the regulations to which reference has been made this afternoon. It is alleged that regulations which come under this sub-section have already been issued by the Executive Government. An answer has been given by my right hon. friend the Attorney-General that no regulations answering to those described in this sub-section have up to the present time been issued. Under the language of Sub-section 8, as the hon. Member for Longford pointed out during the Committee stage of the Bill and again to-day, two duties are imposed upon the Executive Government under the general control of thy Lord-Lieutenant and acting in accordance with such regulations. Now the regulations described here, as contemplated by this sub-section, and referred to by hon. Gentlemen opposite, I am authorised to say have not been issued.
I have been asked, Are these regulations going to be made, and, if made, will they be full and complete? I have yet a great deal to look into in connection with this Act and the general administration, and therefore I am not in a position to 511 speak with the vast experience which my predecessor had. I do not think anyone will blame my right hon. friend the Member for Dover for these instructions not being published while he was Chief Secretary. When he was asked a Question about this he stated that they had not had the full experience which was required for the issue of the instructions. I do not hesitate to say that the time has arrived when these regulations can be formulated, and, being formulated, they ought to be laid before the country. I was asked by the hon. Member for North Longford whether they would be full and complete. Most certainly they will. These regulations will, as contemplated, deal generally with the broad principles on which the Act was to be administered, and I conceive, therefore, that they will contain everything covering the whole ground governing the administration of the Act. I cannot conceive it possible that they should be open to the criticism the hon. Gentleman has suggested, namely, that they would contain only a portion of the instructions, and that the more important, and perhaps the more interesting, would have to come out in another way. I hope that that, at all events, will be a satisfactory answer to the Question I have been asked as to the publication of the regulations. I am now considering whether they cannot at once be formulated, but so soon as they are drawn up in full they will be published in one form or another—in the Gazette, or in some way which may seem most desirable and convenient.
The only other question raised in this debate has been the question of the evicted tenants.
§ MR. CLANCY
I asked the right hon. Gentleman questions as to what were the instructions of the Government to the Estates Commissioners, what was done in regard to precedence, and also whether instructions were given as to purchase in towns.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I am not in a position to say what instructions have been given in regard to these questions. I may state that the policy of my right hon. friend the late Chief Secretary in regard to the purchase of town property is one which seems to commend itself to the Irish Government. It is obvious that the difficulty surrounding the question will not be so much the purchase as the re-sale without proper security for a loan. That is the foundation of the whole thing. Then as to the precedence of the evicted tenants.
§ MR. CLANCY
said he had mentioned the question of precedence being given to the purchase of untenated land. His suggestion was by so doing to enlarge the small uneconomic holdings and to reinstate the evicted tenants.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
All I can give is the information I have received. There is no foundation at all for the suggestion.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
The suggestion the hon. Member made just now, namely, that there had been instructions given by the—
§ MR. CLANCY
I made no insinuation at all. I simply asked for information whether the Commissioners in purchasing estates gave precedence in these cases or not.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
My right hon. friend the Attorney-General for Ireland believes not, so far as his information goes.
§ MR. KILBRIDE (Kildare, S.)
Do the Estates Commissioners deal with the estates in the order in which the applications are made?
§ MR. ATKINSON
So far as I know that is the rule, and, so far as I know, no instructions have been given to the Estates Commissioners on the subject.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
It has been suggested that the Act has not done as much as it ought to have done for the 513 evicted tenants. It has been suggested by one or two speakers that the evicted tenants have not been put in the position which my right hon. friend the Member for Dover contemplated. Of course, again, I can only draw my inference from what he said on that subject when he was carrying his great Bill through the House, and when he made it perfectly clear, that important as unquestionably the question of the evicted tenants is, the Act was in the first instance for the sale of land to tenants in Ireland, and that, therefore, the evicted tenants question must not take priority, but must be ancillary to the great object of the Act, which was the transference of ownership from the landlord to the occupier. If that is a correct representation of my right hon. friend's views I do not think it is fair to blame us because we have acted on that line, and still believe that policy ought to animate those responsible for the administration of this great measure.
The hon. Member for South Donegal has complained of the glut in the Laud Courts, and made one or two suggestions for its removal. I am afraid it is true that there is such a glut, which is very much to be regretted, although I am not quite sure that it is so serious as we have been led to suppose. Obviously it is a matter which calls for attention, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it will receive attention. The hon. Member for Armagh has referred to a certain case as to the facts of which there appeared to be considerable controversy. The hon. Member has said that in this particular case occupiers of farms have been selected from men living at a great distance to the detriment of men living on the spot. If that is correct it is obviously contrary to the object of the Act, and I will inquire into the matter and ascertain the facts.
§ MR. HAYDEN (Roscommon, S.)
The Attorney-General for Ireland gave all the facts showing that the statements made in respect to this estate by the hon. Member were very misleading.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
In that case there is no need for the hon. Member to 514 be anxious about it. Perhaps I may be allowed to examine the facts for myself.
§ MR. LONSDALE
All I ask is that there should be an inquiry—a sworn inquiry if necessary—into the proceedings in the herd's house.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
My hon. friend must realise that I shall not undertake to hold a sworn inquiry until I have had an opportunity of inquiring into the subject myself.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
With that assurance I hope hon. Members on both sides will leave the matter for the present, although I cannot expect my answers will have been satisfactory to all those interested. I can assure them that in connection with one difficulty, namely the publication of the Report, I shall do all in my power to expedite it, as I, as strongly as anyone, desire to see it published.
§ MR. HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
said the Act of 1903 had been in operation for eighteen months. It dealt with £112,000,000, of which £100,000,000 was primarily secured by the ratepayers of Ireland, and, in default of them, guaranteed by the Imperial Exchequer. It was an Act which the House and the general public were entitled to expect to be carried out with great strictness and care. He had not a word to say of the defence made by the present Chief Secretary for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had just been installed to his responsible office, and it was quite impossible that he should have made himself master of the facts and circumstances which gave rise to the present discussion. Not only did the Act deal with these enormous interests: but in the money Estimates before the Committee there was an amount of £150,000 as expenditure for its administration. That was an additional reason why everything should have been done with great care and attention. Hon. Members other than Irish might not be aware what the staff was to carry out the Land Act. It consisted of two Judicial Commissioners, four Estates Commissioners, five assistant 515 legal Commissioners, twenty-seven permanent assistant Commissioners, twenty-seven temporary Commissioners, five deputy registrars, two inspectors, a secretary, and an immense number of first, second, and third-class clerks. This Act had been in operation since November 1st, 1903, yet the regulations contemplated by it had never been made. What explanation was there of that? Sub-section 8 of Section 23 said that—The Estates Commissioners, in carrying out the foregoing provisions of this Act, shall be under the general control of the Lord-Lieutenant, and shall act in accordance with such regulations as may be made by him from time to time.Of course, such regulations must be in writing; and it was inconceivable to him to have it stated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite that, up to this hour, no such regulations had been reduced to writing. Of course, if they had not been made, they could not have been laid on the Table of the House. But, as business men, what excuse could the Government give for these regulations not having been made long ago? Further, the Estates Commissioners were not a judicial but an administrative body, and were put, by this section of the Act, directly under the control of the Lord-Lieutenant, who was personally responsible for them and for their proper conduct in carrying out the Act. The Lord-Lieutenant must have given some instructions to the Estates Commissioners regulating these most important functions. If these instructions were in the form of letters, this House was entitled to know what they were. Then some light might be thrown on the question whether directions had been given them to grant a preference to some estates over others. That was a suspicion which ought not to exist. These were not private or confidential communications, but instructions contemplated by Act of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman had not promised—perhaps was not in a position to promise—that any other such instructions were to be given; and, for that reason, he maintained that all these instructions, when given, should be laid on the Table of House. It was expressly provided in the same section of the Act that—Reports of the proceedings of the Estates Commissioners shall be made by them in such 516 terms and in such form as the Treasury may prescribe, and these Reports, and all rules under previous sub-sections, shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after their making.It was most unaccountable that no Report had been made from time to time, when the Committee had been told that £20,000,000 worth of estates had been sold.
§ MR. HEMPHILL
Well, agreements lodged; but, of course, the money had to be provided to pay for them. He had seen a Report, which was a perfect labyrinth of incomprehensible figures, and he did not see why the Chief Secretary or his predecessor, or the Attorney-General for Ireland, who were responsible, should not have insisted on intelligible Reports being made. The public were still in the dark as to the proceedings of the Estates Commissioners. They were told that the Report would shortly be made and laid on the Table; but it was not at all satisfactory either to the Irish tenants, who were deeply interested in this question, or the Irish landlords, who were profoundly concerned, or the English taxpayers responsible for £112,000,000, that there should have been this laxity in carrying out this important Act. The consequence was that the preliminary arrangements even for carrying out of sales had been delayed for years. It was right that the strong light of the House of Commons should be brought to bear on the subject, for discussion on these Estimates was the only means afforded the public of seeing how far the intentions of the Legislature in regard to Irish Land Purchase were being carried out. He had been astonished to hear the right hon. Gentleman opposite say that the restoration of the evicted tenants was regarded as a comparatively unimportant matter when the Bill was passing through the House. Why, it was one of the strongest objects the Irish Party had in view in giving consent to the Bill; and, during the discussions in Committee, it was most prominently brought forward. Yet they had it now that that part of the Act had been a complete failure. Only a few out of some thousands of evicted tenants had been restored to their farms 517 since the Act became law; and he trusted one of the effects of this debate would be to call the attention of those responsible to the laxity with which the Act had been carried out in regard to making regulations, making Reports, and facilitating the hearing of cases for land purchase so as to enable the objects of the Legislature to be accomplished.
§ MR. HAYDEN
said he wished to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary on being able to make a speech on an Irish question after spending twenty-four hours in the country! Of course, the Irish Members were perfectly reasonable. They did not expect from the Chief Secretary, any more than from his predecessors, that he should be a complete master of the Irish situation or of Irish questions after a residence in Ireland of even a week. But by the time the week expired they expected that the present Chief Secretary, like so many of his predecessors, would be able to speak in an authoritative style and to lecture hon. Members who had lived in Ireland all their lives and knew the facts of the situation in that country.
One point which had been dealt with very elaborately by the hon. and learned Member for Longford, and to which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had devoted a considerable portion of his speech, was the publication of the regulations. He would not repeat the arguments already put forward; but he and his colleagues wanted it to be perfectly understood what they meant by regulations was not the legal interpretation of the exact word in an Act of Parliament, but the spirit of the promise made by the late Chief Secretary and the Attorney-General for Ireland when the Bill was going through this House. That promise, so far as they understood it, was that the instructions in the past, and which were intended to guide in the future, should, without any quibble as to words, be put into regulations which were to be published at very short periods. At any rate, that was the meaning attached, on those benches, to the promise of the Chief Secretary, and they regarded that promise as satisfactory. If there were to be any quibble with regard to the word "instructions" then the pledge of the Chief Secretary would not be satisfactory. The Chief Secretary 518 stated that there were two methods of publication; one in the Gazette, and the other by laying the documents on the Table of the House. It was strictly in accordance with the promise given when the Bill was passing through Committee that the regulations should be laid before the House; the principal reason given being that Members should be in a position to criticise the action of the Government and the Estates Commissioners. Therefore, all such regulations should be circulated among Members of the House. It should, however, be recollected that for six months of the year the House of Commons was not in session, and that during that interval the regulations should be issued to hon. Members not only in their capacity as Members of the House, but also as citizens of the country. Therefore, they would commend to the Chief Secretary this double method of publication, and he trusted the suggestion would receive the attention of the right hon. Gentleman.
As regarded the matter mentioned by the hon. Member for Mid-Armagh, it was really too absurd for anything that the Estates Commissioners should be indicted on such grounds. The facts were laid before the House last week by the Attorney-General, who was not alleged to be over-friendly to the Estates Commissioners, and they went to show that the statements of the hon. Gentleman were totally inaccurate. They were founded on articles published in the Irish Times which had been repudiated. The plain object of the hon. Member for Mid-Armagh, as he stated in a supplementary Question, was to bring odium on one of the Estates Commissioners, namely, Mr. Finucane.
§ MR. LONSDALE
said he did not mention any Commissioner's name in his Question. He only wanted to know to what extent the power of the United Irish League was being allowed to prevail.
§ MR. HAYDEN
said he would return to the proceedings of last week. It transpired from a remark from the Irish Benches that the particular Commissioner was Mr. Wrench. Then the hon. Gentleman stated that he did not state that it was Mr. Wrench, but Mr. Finucane.
§ MR. HAYDEN
said the hon. Gentleman did not mention Mr. Finucane's name in his Question; but he did state when Mr. Wrench's name was mentioned that he was referring to Mr. Finucane.
§ MR. HAYDEN
said that the hon. Gentleman repeated it now. They were endeavouring to elicit from the Attorney-General the name of the particular Commissioner who actually signed the agreement for the scheme for the distribution of this estate. They did not succeed in getting the name; and it was then they mentioned that they knew it was Mr. Wrench, the landed representative on the Estates Commissioners, that was concerned. It was, as the hon. Member for South Tyrone stated, another bad shot from the Orange gang. They fired on a previous occasion on Sir Antony Mac-Donnell and brought down the late Chief Secretary. They now fired at Mr. Finucane, and had very nearly brought down Mr. Wrench. What was the tremendous crime about this Maher Estate? It was almost a farm—210 acres; and one of the charges was that the United Irish League of Rochfort-bridge exercised a certain amount of pressure as to the distribution of this land. What curse was there in that? The United Irish League consisted practically of the people of the district, and if they were to exclude from all administration in connection with the Act the United Irish League, they would exclude the majority of the representatives of the country, most of the clergymen, and all the representatives of local boards all over the country. What would then be left? There would only be left the Orangemen, which would be a highly satisfactory thing for the five or six unofficial Members from Ulster on the opposite side. That would be very satisfactory to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but would it help to settle the land question? On the contrary, the Irish land question and the Irish question would be more burning than they were even in the most 520 revolutionary days of the Irish agitation, and would create such a state of things as might prevent the present Government from carrying out their intention of effecting economies which would reimburse the British Treasury for the bonus.
Now as to the distribution of the lands of the Maher Estate, the hon. Member for Mid-Armagh stated that one man got sixteen acres out of 210 "although he was a labourer." This, from an hon. Gentleman who posed before his constituents as a friend of the labourers.
§ MR. LONSDALE
said the hon. Gentleman should not misinterpret him. He said the labourer was a prominent official of the United Irish League.
§ MR. HAYDEN
said he had no intention of misinterpreting the hon. Gentleman; but he intended to quote correctly the words of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman's remark was that although this particular man was a labourer he was allotted a plot of land. What stigma was to be put on a labourer who succeeded in graduating on to the small farming class? Would the hon. Gentleman repeat such a declaration to the labourers in his constituency? If the hon. Gentleman did, the result which he thought would happen at the next election would be absolutely assured. The fact in connection with the Maher Estate was that there was a large number of applicants. The United Irish League sent in about fifty names of applicants; but they did not expect they would all receive plots, because in that case the farms would only amount to about four acres each. The hon. Gentleman stated that the parish priest and the Labour League sent in lists. He himself lived within five miles of the estate; and he knew the facts better than the paid writers who were sent down from Dublin to give food for speeches in this House. He knew all the applicants; and they were all fit and proper persons to get small plots. What was really proved was that there was not land enough to go round, and also that there was a necessity on the part of the Estates Commissioners in that district and in other districts to acquire more untenanted and for the purposes of division. There 521 was not a shadow of truth in the story of the supposed coachman, except that for a short while a small farmer of the district acted as coachman in charge of the single horse kept for the parish priest and subsequently for the Bishop. That man's name was in the list sent in by the parish priest, the list which the hon. Gentleman complained was not accepted.
The Question asked by the hon. Member for North Dublin, though he thought the Chief Secretary had misunderstood it, was whether in practice the Estates Commissioners treated estates in the exact order in which they were sent into them, or whether they had power, and, if so, whether it was their practice, to treat an estate according to what they considered its urgency. It was perfectly well known that the condition of some estates was far more urgent than that of others. That was particularly so with regard to estates in the West. This House had now been discussing for some years what was known as the Connaught problem and its solution, and while that problem existed, to a peculiar degree, in the West of Ireland, it was also to be found in a greater or less degree in almost every county in the country. It was the condition of estates of this class which caused the land war in Ireland, and it was the condition of these estates in the West and other parts that made legislation by this House an imperative necessity. When the Land Purchase Bill was being framed, and it was doubtful whether a bonus would be granted in connection with it, the members of the Irish Government, who were anxious to obtain the bonus, invited the then Chancellor of the Exchequer to visit Ireland. They did not take the right hon. Gentleman through the rich lands of Meath, Westmeath, and Kildare, but through the county Roscommon, and from there on a motor tour through the poverty-stricken districts of the West. That was to show the urgent character of the problem sought to be solved. It was because they were able to bring the urgent and pressing character of that problem before the Chancellor of the Exchequer that they were able to give the bonus of £12,000,000 to the landlords, and that the Government were able, with the approval of both sides of the House, to carry the financial provisions of the Bill. They now found from the 522 Return presented to the House that morning, that of the money spent in Ireland upon land purchase £250,000 only was spent in the province of Connaught and £2,000,000 in Leinster, where the land question was of quite a different character to that of the West of Ireland. A quarter of a million only was spent in a district where every day an agitation might arise unless the land question was settled, and he thought, therefore, they had good reason to express disappointment. It was not a proper policy to pursue, he thought, to take estates in the exact order in which they came before the Commissioners, because one landlord of Leinster, by putting his estate in, might cripple the resources of the Commissioners and make it impossible for them, for perhaps a full year, to touch the problem of congestion and assist in settling the country. If the right hon. Gentleman would look up the debates which took place when the Land Purchase Bill was before the House he would find that the chief incentive for passing the Act was that it would once and for all settle the Irish land question. That could not be done so long as the poverty - stricken districts of the Wrest, which always provided so rich a field for the agitator against whom the Government inveighed so much, were not dealt with till last. If the Chief Secretary studied the debates he would find the two things emphasised by his predecessor and the Prime Minister were that the Bill would deal directly and satisfactorily with the problems of the congested districts and the evicted tenants. It was not the idea to benefit rich and well-to-do farmers, but to settle the land question, and that could not be settled unless they grappled at once, and in a satisfactory manner, with the thing which, above all others, had made this question an urgent and a burning one, namely, the condition of the congestion in the West of Ireland and the consequent depopulation.
§ *MR. CHARLES CRAIG (Antrim, S.)
said he hoped the Chief Secretary would not go away under the impression that the majority of Irishmen thought that the Land Purchase Act was not a success. On the contrary, it had been almost too successful. If anything went to 523 hinder its success it was that the amount of money granted at the present time for the purpose of carrying it out had been exhausted. He trusted that when the Chief Secretary had had time to thoroughly master the details of the land question in Ireland, he would see that the thing most necessary to be done was at all costs to provide sufficient money to enable the Act to be kept steadily flowing along. Up to the present time they had only £11,000,000 to meet the sales of estates, amounting to between £20,000,000 and £30,000.000, in regard to which agreements had been made and lodged. Now the House would understand that if once the landlords and the tenants got it into their heads that after coming to an agreement a space of time amounting to perhaps two or three years must elapse before the sale and purchase could be completed, the inevitable result would be that the landlords would become more unwillingly to sell and the tenants to buy. Therefore he hoped that the objection raised by the Treasury that some extraordinary effect would be caused on the money market if more than £5,000,000 a year were granted for this purpose would be speedily dispelled. He was glad the Chief Secretary had stated what he considered was the proper policy to be pursued with regard to the Land Act. The first object of the Act was to transfer as much land as possible from landlords to tenants, and anything which hindered that operation would be fatal to the settlement of the land question. Hon. Members opposite had argued that because the farmers in Ulster were prosperous and contented, the cases of farmers in Connaught, whose lot was considered to be less happy, ought to be taken first. Such a course would be grossly unfair and would be inimical to the working of the Act. During the passage of the Bill it was freely stated that it would never work in Ulster, because the landlords were receiving their rents so regularly that they would have no inducement to sell. That, he was glad to say, had not proved to be the case. Landlords in Ulster, recognising that the land question must be settled, had been amongst the first to show their willingness to sell, and if more land had been sold in Ulster than in Connaught it redounded to the credit of the Ulster landlords and tenants.
524 A great deal had been said about the evicted tenants. Hon. Members opposite would almost have the Committee believe that upon the reinstatement of the evicted tenants depended the settlement of the whole land question in Ireland. The position taken up by the Ulster Members while the Land Act was under discussion was clear. They had never admitted that the evicted tenants ought to have any special advantage over other people, but they had said that if means could be devised for reinstating the evicted tenants without injuring the persons in occupation of their former holdings they would be very glad if it could be brought about. They did not raise any objection to the clauses or conditions relating to the evicted tenants in the Act, and they would be very glad to see them back on their farms if it could be arranged. But to lay it down that the evicted tenants should be attended to and their cases dealt with in front of all others would be most unfair to people in other parts of the country.
With reference to the Maher Estate, what his hon. friend the Member for Mid-Armagh objected to was the fact that the list prepared by the two people—the seller of the estate and the parish priest—who were probably better able than anybody else to judge who should benefit by the re-parcelling of the estate, had been set aside at the instance of the United Irish League. The objection was that the Estates Commissioners seemed to have allowed themselves to be influenced against their better judgment by the United Irish League. Another point was that he did not think it was ever intended by the Act that in the case of the uneconomic holdings that appeared to have existed around that estate the owners of those small holdings should be put on one side in favour of the variety of persons whom his hon. friend had enumerated. From the list read out by his hon. friend it was quite clear that the land had been given to a number of villagers who had previously not been farmers at all instead of to those who were already farmers, but whose farms were too small. The Act did not intend that. It did not intend to turn dwellers in towns into farmers, but it intended, where an uneconomic holding existed, to enlarge it to such an extent 525 that it would be economic. It was the question of the United Irish League which prompted his hon. friend to bring up that case, and that interference of the United Irish League he believed to be the interference of an iniquitous and most immoral association.
§ *MR. CHARLES CRAIG,
continuing, said he was not going to blow his own trumpet, but the character of the United Irish League was patent to all as that of an iniquitous and immoral body. In county Galway the League was at present acting an iniquitous and immoral part.
§ *MR. CHARLES CRAIG
said he certainly would suppress it if he had the power. Some days ago he asked two Questions on the subject, which were treated with a want of seriousness which did not speak well for the intentions of the Irish Government. The League had been bringing pressure to bear on a vast number of individuals in Galway and the surrounding districts to get them to surrender grass lands for the purpose of enlarging what they considered to be uneconomic holdings. It would no doubt be most desirable that the uneconomic holdings should be made economic, but that the possessors of those grass lands should be forced to give them up for that purpose was contrary to all the laws which ought to rule in a civilised country. He had recently asked the Attorney-General whether for the purpose of coercing the owners of those grazing farms into giving them up, large quantities, amounting in one case to 650 yards, of walls surrounding those holdings were wantonly pulled down. Any person, he thought, would understand the gravity of that offence. It was quite a new method of coercion, but if it was not dealt with at once and strongly by the Executive Government, it would no doubt before long be common. He brought before the House two cases in which that had been done£one in which 650 yards of wall were pulled down, 526 thus rendering a large farm utterly useless for the only purpose for which it could be used, namely, for grazing—and in the other case 500 yards had been pulled down. That action must have been prompted and to a large extent brought about by the United Irish League, and if, that was so, he felt that every Member of the House who was not a Nationalist Member—and probably some of the Nationalists if they would only say so—would say that such action was most immoral and should be put down with a strong hand. He hoped the new Chief Secretary would make it clear that such lawlessness as existed at present in Galway would not be allowed to continue.
§ *MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said he desired to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the new post to which he had just succeeded, and he trusted that he would take such a course in reference to Irish affairs as would allow him to give him what assistance he could. He wished to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman the necessity of providing better facilities for the work of the Estates Commissioners by easing the money difficulty. The question had been gone into, and they had had a statement of the facts. From the moment he heard of the right hon. Gentleman's appointment he had entertained some hopes that the new Chief Secretary was the statesman marked out to deal with the money part of that problem. Under the purchase scheme of the Metropolitan Water Board over £40,000,000 had been applied for, and at first it was feared that the raising of this immense sum would cause inconvenience in the money market. This, however, had not turned out to be the case, and this great transaction went through as easily as any great financial transaction ever went through in the history of this country, and upon that he thought the right hon. Gentleman opposite was to be congratulated. He thought some steps of a similar kind might betaken in connection with the work of the Estates Commissioners. The right hon. Gentleman in his scheme put such an attractive bait before the London water companies that they were induced to take a large part of their purchase 527 money in stock, and he did three things to bring about this desirable result. In the first place he found out exactly what the stock was worth. He then ascertained what would be the cost of launching it on the money market, and he offered a portion of it to the vendors if they would take the water stock and not require the raising of the money. Thus the vendors were saved the expense and trouble of reinvesting their capital. He wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman had made any inquiries as to whether any scheme of that kind could be adopted to help forward the sale of estates under the Land Act? The effect in the case of the water stock in London was that the price went up and the value of the stock was increased. Why could a similar scheme not be devised under which Irish landlords would be inclined to accept land stock instead of cash? It would, he said, be a great discredit if the Purchase Act, the greatest movement of English statesmanship since the Union, was seriously clogged for want of every assistance that sound finance could give.
§ MR. WOOD (Down, E.)
said it was a remarkable thing that these charges should have been made against the Estate Commissioners, having regard to the fact that the inspector sent out was a supporter of hon. Members opposite. As for the Galway Estate, that was placed under an absolute order for sale in 1887 and up to the present time no sale had taken place. He understood that Lord Ashbourne was desirous of purchasing the estate. That accounted for some of the agitation in Galway, and if the same thing took place in county Down he should not be surprised at the same exhibition of feeling. He wanted some information as to the number of sales which had taken place under Section 26 of the Act of 1903. That was the section under which estates vested in the Lord Chancellor were dealt with. He wished to know how many of those estates had been disposed of and the terms upon which those sales had taken place. He was told that the highest prices had been demanded by the Lord Chancellor and that there had been no sale under the section he had referred to. As to Section 5 of the Act, which stipulated that certain farms might be sold where the 528 Estates Commissioners considered that the prices for the estates which were agreed to be sold were fair and reasonable having regard to the circumstances, he wanted to know if any construction had been placed on that section by the Land Judge or the Estates Commissioners. Was it only the landlord's interest that was to be taken into consideration in relation to the question of security, or was it the combined security of the landlord and the tenant? He desired to get answers on these questions from the right hon. Gentleman, because it was utterly impossible to deal in detail with the work of the Commissioners in the absence of the Report, which should have been placed before the House long ago. He listened with some satisfaction to the reply of the Chief Secretary. He thought the Treasury ought to have given instructions in Regard to the Report long before February 27th. The Treasury had been guilty of laches and neglect. What had the Secretary of the Treasury been doing? He had been careless in allowing this matter to remain over until the end of February.
§ MR. HAVILAND BURKE (King's County, Tullamore)
said that in the course of this discussion the fact had been strongly borne in upon his mind that, after all, the letter of the law was comparatively a small thing when contrasted with the spirit in which the law was administered. They might have, on the one hand, a law that had many shortcomings, that might fall far short of their ideal, and yet, if it was administered in a strong, broad, and sympathetic spirit, they might do much. On the other hand, they might have a law theoretically perfect on paper, a law which might have secured the enthusiastic assent of every Member of the House, and yet, if they entrusted the administration to a set of hide-bound officials on the one side, or a set of covert enemies on the other, all their labour and trouble might go for nothing; their best intentions would be frustrated and come to naught. When speaking of good intentions from these benches, might he address a perhaps not unfriendly warning to the right hon. Gentleman who had succeeded to the thorny and difficult position of Chief Secretary for Ireland? They might 529 remind him that the way to Dublin Castle, like the way to a certain other place, was only too often paved with good intentions; and that any man who wanted to rule Ireland, and who submitted to the restrictions of Dublin Castle red tape, was a man foredoomed to failure, no matter how good and excellent his motives might be.
He felt, in common with the rest of his colleagues, that he was suffering under a serious grievance. It was absolutely impossible to make much of a contribution to a discussion for which no official information was forthcoming. He was sorry he could not agree with the Chief Secretary that this was a mere misapprehension on the part of the Irish representatives. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that there was no misapprehension as to the effect of the non-production of the official Report. It was not a question of misapprehension, it was a question of design. It was part and parcel of a well - established Dublin Castle dodge for deliberately delaying vital and most important facts and figures until too late for use in debating Irish affairs. In that way the Government not only mystified and befogged the House, but obstructed Members from Ireland in the performance of their duties. A promise was made from the front Ministerial Bench that the Report would be produced in reasonable time, and he regretted that efforts should be made to belittle the seriousness of that promise by all sorts of quibbling and hair-splitting. It was a promise that ought to have held good among gentlemen no matter what their political differences might be—a promise the breach of which was not only a political default, but something like an infraction of the personal courtesy between the two sides of the House.
The defects of the Land Purchase Act were due, primarily, to the assumption of the overwhelming majority of the Members of this House that the one body of men in the whole of the British Empire whose warnings could be disregarded in the management of Irish affairs were the men who were locally and constitutionally elected as Members of Parliament to represent the opinions of the people of Ireland. If Parliament, 530 in dealing with the most true-blue county in England, say Kent, were to disregard the opinions of the representatives of the county, the county councils, and the district councils, in a very short time the county would be Radical to the backbone, instead of Tory, as it was to-day. They had to complain of the spirit which had permeated the working of the Act. It had been made a reproach in English quarters against the Irish Party that they had had some differences amongst themselves as to the methods of working the Act. In this it seemed to him that Englishmen had been unfair and inconsistent, because if Irishmen had a few differences, not very serious or deep-rooted, they were told that they were a pack of quarrelsome Celts, but if they had not the slightest difference of opinion such as might arise amongst a body of intelligent men, then they were told that they were a pack of Irish slaves, controlled by the tyrant hands of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. Whatever differences there had been about this Act, what were they compared with the spirit shown on the benches opposite, and even on the judicial benches? One of the greatest troubles they had had to deal with in connection with the working of the Land Act was that, on the very eve of the Second Reading, the Solicitor-General for England went down to the country and at a public meeting sneered at the Land Purchase Bill, and said that he was only going to vote for the Second Reading as a matter of form, and that the Irish land legislation for the past twenty years was a scandal and a disgrace to civilisation. That was a very sinister remark to make. It gave to the Judges in the Land Courts, and to every man having the administration of the Act in his hands, the straight tip that if they took a line against the tenants, and did all they could for the landlords, they would be doing a thing heartily approved of by a very strong and powerful section of the present Government.
He greatly regretted that the hon. Member for Mid-Armagh and the select little band of his friends should try to import bad blood into the discussion of Irish affairs. That hon. Member had said much about land sales in Westmeath of which 531 he did not approve, and though the hon. Member in his own constituency, in view of the next general election, posed as the champion of the agricultural labourer, he tried to bar out the agricultural labourers in Westmeath from getting any scrap of benefit out of the Land Purchase Act. The hon. Member had also complained of the intervention of the United Irish League in land sales. He could only say that his grievance against a large proportion of the tenants was that they had purchased under the Act without sufficiently consulting the League, with the result that tens of thousands of pounds had been put into the pockets of the landlords more than they should have got. A number of remarks had been made by Land Judges and Land Commissioners to the effect that the high prices paid for farms in many parts of Ireland were a proof that higher rents could have been paid. He defied anyone in or out of the House to produce a quotation from any English political economist, no matter what his politics might be, which went to show that the sale price, in Ireland, of land ever had been, or could be, a fair test of the rent which the owner might reasonably ask a tenant to pay. The competition for land, and the excessive price paid for land had been notorious, and he trusted that that would be taken into account in fixing prices under the Land Purchase Act.
§ *MR. JOHN CAMPBELL (Armagh, S.)
said he wished to invite the Chief Secretary's attention to some figures taken from the Return placed in Members' hands only that day. He would take his own native county—Armagh—but the conclusions deduced therefrom would probably be found applicable to the other counties in Ireland. Firstly, the purchase price was too extravagant. In the case of judicial rents fixed before 1896 (first-term rents) the number of years' purchase was almost twenty-nine. In the case of second-term rents the number of years' purchase varied from nearly twenty-six inside the zones to over twenty-seven and a half outside the zones. In the case of non- 532 judicial rents the price was over twenty-five years purchase. This was far too high. Another point was that in county Armagh the sales were all direct between landlord and tenant, without the intervention of the Estates Commissioners. This was a dangerous mode of procedure, and was accountable for the unduly inflated prices which tenants in county Armagh had been cajoled or coerced into paying. As to the question of evicted tenants—there was a reference in the King's Speech which promised the Land Act—and a final settlement of the land question would not be possible until the last of the evicted tenants had been reinstated. Rent reductions were lamentably small and inadequate, considering the increased pressure of foreign competition and increased price of labour. Good swingeing reductions were the only way to beat down to their knees landlords like the Earl of Dartrey who demanded twenty-six years' purchase. He also desired to direct the Chief Secretary's attention to the definition of a congested estate in Section 6, Subsection 5, of the Act of 1903—The expression 'congested estate' means an estate not less than half the area of which consists of holdings not exceeding five pounds in rateable value, or of mountain or bog land.This definition would cover nearly the whole of South Armagh, where most of the land was mountain or bog land.
One word in conclusion. In the days of old Rome a new Praetor, on entering on his term of office, was wont to promulgate by edict the various laws by which he proposed to govern. The Chief Secretary was assuming a new and important post. During his tenure of the Irish Secretaryship he might be content merely to mark time. But if he desired to finish the work which his predecessor had begun, then he would show unto him a yet more excellent way. Let him open a new leaf in his album and let him take up his pen and write quickly thereon these words, "Compulsory Sale and Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act." Let him not deceive himself. The one and only ultimate solution of the Irish Land Question was the introduction into future legislation of the element of compulsion.
§ Question put.534
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 150; Noes, 224 (Division List No. 65.)535
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir E (Berwick)||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Griffith, Ellis J.||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N|
|Allen, Charles P.||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||O'Malley, William|
|Ambrose, Robert||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||'O'Mara, James|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon Herbert Henry||Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Partington, Oswald|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Harrington, Timothy||Reddy, M.|
|Bell, Richard||Harwood, George||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Benn, John Williams||Hayden, John Patrick||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries|
|Blake, Edward||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||Richards, Thomas (W. Monm'th|
|Boland, John||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Brigg, John||Higham, John Sharpe||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Bright, Allan Heywood||Horniman, Frederick John||Roche, John|
|Brown, George M. (Edinburgh)||Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk.||Rose, Charles Day|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Runciman, Walter|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Jacoby, James Alfred||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Burns, John||Joicey, Sir James||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Caldwell, James||Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea||Seely, Maj J. E. B. (Isle of Wight)|
|Cameron, Robert||Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B)|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Jordan, Jeremiah||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Kearley, Hudson E.||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Cawley, Frederick||Kilbride, Denis||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Labouchere, Henry||Spencer, Rt Hn C. R. (Northants)|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Lamont, Norman||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W.||Sullivan, Donal|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark)||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Tennant, Harold John|
|Crean, Eugene||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.|
|Crombie, John William||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Crooks, William||Lewis, John Herbert||Tomkinson, James|
|Delany, William||Lundon, W.||Toulmin, George|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Lyell, Charles Henry||Ure, Alexander|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Waldron, Laurence Ambrose|
|Duffy, William J.||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Wallace, Robert|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Edwards, Frank||M'Crae, George||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Ellice, Capt E C (S Andrew's Bghs||M'Kean, John||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Ellis, John Edward (Notts.)||Mitchell, Edw. (Fermanagh, N.||Weir, James Galloway|
|Emmott, Alfred||Mooney, John J.||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Evans, Sir Francis H (Maidstone||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Eve, Harry Trelawney||Moulton, John Fletcher||Whitley, J. H. (Halfax)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Murphy, John||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Wills, Arthur Walters (N. Dorset|
|Ffrench, Peter||Newnes, Sir George||Wood, James|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Nolan, Col John P. (Galway, N.)||Young, Samuel|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Norman, Henry|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|Freeman-Thomas, Captain F.||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid||Patrick O'Brien and Mr.|
|Furness, Sir Christopher||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Haviland Burke.|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Bain, Colonel James Robert||Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Baird, John George Alexander||Bignold, Sir Arthur|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry Eden||Balcarres, Lord||Bigwood, James|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r||Bill, Charles|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Balfour, Rt. Hn. Gerald W (Leeds||Bingham, Lord|
|Arnold-Fortser, Rt. Hn. Hugh O||Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christen.||Blundell, Colonel Henry|
|Arrol, Sir William||Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Bond, Edward|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor)||Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir H||Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Brotherton, Edward Allen|
|Bagot, Capt, Josceline Fitz Roy||Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Bull, William James|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Beach, Rt Hn. Sir Michael Hicks||Burdett-Coutts, W.|
|Butcher, John George||Hamilton, Marq. of (L'nd'nderry||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. F. (Glasgow||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Palmer, Sir Walter (Salisbury)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H||Harris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th)||Parker, Sir Gilbert|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Heaton, John Henniker||Peel, Hn. Wm. Robert Wellesley|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Helder, Augustus||Percy, Earl|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J A. (Worc||Hogg, Lindsay||Plummer, Sir Walter R.|
|Chapman, Edward||Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Hoult, Joseph||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Coates, Edward Feetham||Houston, Robert Paterson||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Howard, John (Kent, Faversham||Purvis, Robert|
|Colomb, Rt. Hon. Sir John C. R.||Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham||Pym, C. Guy|
|Cook, Sir Frederick Lucas||Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow||Hunt, Rowland||Randles, John S.|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Hutton, John (Yorks. N. R.)||Rankin, Sir James|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S||Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred.||Rasch, Sir Frederic Carne|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H.||Ratcliff, R. F.|
|Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hon. Col. W.||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile||Kerr, John||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Keswick, William||Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kimber, Sir Henry||Ridley, S. Forde|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)|
|Davenport, William Bromley||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye|
|Davies, Sir Horatio D (Chatham||Lawrence, Sir Joseph (Monm'th||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter|
|Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Round, Rt. Hon. James|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Lawson, Hn. H. L. W. (Mile End)||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Dorington, Rt. Hon. Sir John E.||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks. N. R||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lee, Arthur H. (Hants. Fareham||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Samuel, Sir Harry S. (Limehouse|
|Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir William Hart||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S.||Seton-Karr, Sir Henry|
|Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.||Shaw-Stewart, Sir H (Renfrew)|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. (Manc'r||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol. S.||Smith, Rt Hn J Parker (Lanarks)|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Lowe, Francis, William||Stanley, Rt Hon. Lord (Lancs.)|
|Finlay, Sir R. B. (Inv'rn'ss Bghs)||Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Stock, James Henry|
|FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Flower, Sir Ernest||Macdona, John Cumming||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ.|
|Forster, Henry William||Maconochie, A. W.||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Foster, Philip S. (Warwick, S W.||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Galloway, William Johnson||M'Calmont, Colonel James||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Gardner, Ernest||Majendie, James A. H.||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Garfit, William||Malcolm, Ian||Tuff, Charles|
|Gibbs, Hon. A. G. H.||Marks, Harry Hananel||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||Massey, Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn)||Maxwell, Rt Hn Sir H E. (Wigt'n||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.|
|Gordon, Maj Evans (T'r H'mlets||Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriesshire||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby-||Milvain, Thomas||Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E (Taunton)|
|Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Molesworth, Sir Lewis||Welby, Sir Charles G. E (Notts.)|
|Goschen, Hon. George Joachim||Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants.)||Wharton, Rt Hon John Lloyd|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Morgan, David J. (Walthamstow||Whiteley, H (Ashton und. Lyne|
|Graham, Henry Robert||Morpeth, Viscount||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Morrell, George Herbert||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)||Morrison, James Archibald||Wilson-Todd, Sir W. H. (Yorks.)|
|Gretton, John||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Greville, Hon. Ronald||Mount, William Arthur||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Guthrie, Walter Murray||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
|Hain, Edward||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir|
|Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F.||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Alexander Acland-Hood and|
|Hambro, Charles Eric||Myers, William Henry||Viscount Valentia.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ And, it being half past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.536
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this evening.