§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. BIRRELL,) Bristol, N.
said that in moving, as he now did, that the House should forthwith consider the Amendments of the Lords to the Commons Amendments of the Evicted Tenants Bill, he regretted that it was necessary for him to make a short statement in order that the House should know the view the Government took upon the present position. There was one point of supreme importance which immediately arose. The Lords adhered, with what he could only call grim pertinacity, to the Amendments inserted in that House at the instigation of Lord Robertson, the effect of which was that in no case whatsoever, be the circumstances what they might, could any new tenant be required to leave land under the compulsory powers of the Act if he should be a bona fide farmer cultivating his land. The result of that Amendment, if they agreed to it, would be that under no circumstances could compulsion be applied either at the discretion of the Estates Commissioners, or of the Judge, or of the Land Commission, to any new tenant who was able to show that he was at present within the description of a bona 182 fide farmer. That really meant, he was bound to say, the triumph of Lord Clanricarde. It was never contemplated by the Government that compulsory powers would be used for the purpose of turning out any bona fide farmer who was unwilling to accept the generous terms offered by the Bill, which were a farm of equal value, or, if he so chose, full compensation for the disturbance to which he would be subjected. But the Amendment, if it were insisted on, would remove altogether from whatever tribunal was appointed the power to consider a case of that kind. He admitted at once, from his point of view, as Chief Secretary for Ireland, that he deeply deplored that the House of Lords should insist upon an Amendment which would deprive the Bill, if ever it became an Act, of what would be its greatest value, viz., its pacificatory message to the people of Ireland. He knew it had been said that to secure the immunity of the planters and new tenants was the object of noble Lords. From the bottom of his heart he hoped that object would be obtained by the measures they had adopted. But though his interest in the Bill had largely gone, he was still advised by persons in whom he had every confidence that what was left of the Bill, if anything was left, would be of very considerable value, and would assist and accelerate what was one of the main objects, indeed the only object of the measure, viz., the reinstatement of a considerable number of evicted tenants to the land; a reinstatement, not necessarily to the land from which they were evicted, but to land procured under the compulsory powers of the Bill. He, therefore, yielded to superior force, but in no way did he submit to force of argument, believing as he did that the Bill as originally introduced, and as the Government proposed to amend it, would secure justice. They agreed that no new tenant should be compelled to leave his farm unless in the opinion, not only of two of the Commissioners, but of the Judge of the Land Commission who was a Judge of the High Court, that course could be taken without injustice being done. That, however, was not sufficient for the House of Lords, and he understood that at that period of the session it was no use persisting in the Commons Amendment if they did not wish the Bill to be destroyed. As he, for one, did 183 not wish that, and although, as he had said, its main interest was gone, he would advise the House not to disagree with the Lords in their Amendment. The Lords also had an Amendment in Clause 1 substituting for "full market value" the word they had introduced at the request of the Opposition, viz., "compensation," and by subsequent Amendments, which appeared in Lord Atkinson's name, "compensation" meant the kind of compensation awarded under the Lands Clauses Act, save except the 10 per cent. compensation under that Act for compulsory sale. Upon that they had generously not insisted as they were getting 12 per cent. bonus under the Act of 1903. In his opinion such a course would be disastrous. There was an appeal from the Estates Commissioners if they were wrong in valuing the land, and the Government were willing to insert words which would make it plain that the Commissioners were not to take land if by so doing damage would be done to the other land of the same owner. They thereby secured that the value of the land should be given, and, secondly, that the land should not be taken if the effect of taking it was seriously and injuriously to affect the value of the proprietor's remaining land. With that particular Amendment they felt they had come to the extreme limit, and they did not propose to agree to the insertion by the Lords of the word "compensation" in lieu of the word "value." There was another Amendment to which the Lords attached great importance in regard to which he would no longer contend with them. That was the introduction of the limit of 2,000 as the number of evicted tenants to be re-instated. He had argued that point until he was tired of it, and at that period of the session he felt physically unable to pursue it. At the very utmost there could be very few more than 2,000, and his objection to inserting the words "2,000" was that it would create an impression that they would have to live up to that number. But he had also pointed out that under this Bill—and this limit only applied to this Bill—they could not limit the number of evicted tenants who were restored voluntarily; the limit applied to those tenants who were to be restored on land compulsorily acquired under this Act, and there never would be anything like 2,000 restored on land com- 184 pulsorily acquired under this Act; and therefore, he had all along objected to those words. But the House of Lords insisted upon them, and he did not think it was worth while to carry the controversy any further. And therefore, if the Lords wished to have this 2,000 inserted, he proposed they should offer no objection. The next point of importance was with regard to the appeal. There, again, he did not want to repeat himself, as he had spoken so often on the subject. His view, however, upon the question of appeal was that in the matter of valuing the land they could have no better tribunal than the Estates Commissioners, and that to appeal from them to a Judge or lawyer was unnecessary. Everyone who knew anything about the habit of Judges in matters of land value knew perfectly well that they did not ascertain the value of the land for themselves but appointed a person to value it. The Judge did not bring his own mind to bear on the question but relied upon the report of the expert. He relied upon an expert, and, if he was a sensible man, he would always do it. Therefore, he had always thought that it was unnecessary to have an appeal. But he recognised what was felt. The same people had a great jealousy of the Land Commission. It was thought there would be two ideas of the value of the land in Ireland—the idea that prevailed in the atmoshere of the Land Commission Court and the idea that prevailed in the mind of the man in the street, and it was desirable to have, if possible, some outside element. The Government agreed to an appeal to Mr. Justice Wylie, who had raised the price of land in Ireland rather than lowered it. As a matter of fact, his decisions, as compared with those of his immediate predecessors, had been of a character which had tended to raise the price of land and the idea of the value of land. But for some blessed reason all parties, had combined in admiration of Mr. Justice Wylie. Both in the House of Lords and in that House every one said a fairer-minded man and a man more competent by past training to deal with the value of land did not exist. Therefore, he jumped at Mr. Justice Wylie, and his name had been inserted in the Bill. It was suggested that he ought to have outside assistance. The Government agreed, and it was now arranged that he should have two assessors to give 185 him the valuable aid and support which was given, he supposed, by the introduction of outside assistance of that kind into a Court of Justice. Therefore, he proposed now to insert in the Bill the words "sitting with two assessors." The Government could not agree to Lord Atkinson's Amendment. The noble Lord had withdrawn his former Amendment, but it had reappeared in another Amendment, equally lengthy, which he did not think the Treasury could agree to, and which certainly the Government were not disposed to agree to. Therefore, it must be understood that the Court of Appeal which alone the Government were willing to concede was the appeal to Mr. Justice Wylie, sitting with two assessors. The House of Lords had restored the clause reserving sporting rights to the owner if he desired to reserve them. The Government would concede that. Having done that, they had shown their desire to secure the passage of this Bill even in what he, at all events, would never deny was a mutilated form. With regard to the tenure of the Commissioners, the House of Lords, after striking out Clause 13, had restored it, in perfectly good faith, with meaningless words, in order that they might have further time to consider the question. The Government proposed that Clause 13 should be restored; and if the House wished the words inserted in the other House to remain in it, they had no objection though they appeared to be surplusage, and had only been introduced for the purpose of keeping the matter I open. He thought he had said all he need say upon the general statement; which he had to offer upon this Bill. He could only repeat that, being responsible for the condition of Ireland, he was very sorry that this occasion could not be taken to indicate a generous desire to let bygones be bygones in this matter.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Lords reasons for insisting on certain of their Amendments to which I this House has disagreed, and for disagreeing to certain other of the Commons Amendments, and Lords Amendment to one of the Commons Amendments and Lords further Amendments to the Bill be considered forthwith."—(Mr. Birrell.)
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
thought it would be felt by the House 186 to be a great convenience that the Chief Secretary should have stated the views of the Government in regard to the action of the House of Lords. He had listened with amazement to the remarks of the Chief Secretary. There had been many surprising statements made from the bench opposite during the passage of this Bill, but none more amazing than that with which the right hon. Gentleman had commenced his remarks; because he had told them, in the first place, that the meaning of the words inserted in the Bill by the House of Lords in regard to the sitting tenants was a triumph for Lord Clanricarde, and, in the second place, that this alteration destroyed what would have been a message of peace to Ireland. He had made it his business in the last few weeks to learn more about the existing conditions on Lord Clanricarde's estate, and he questioned whether the Chief Secretary, if he examined the circumstances for himself, would find that the effect of the Bill, so altered, upon Lord Clanricarde's estate would in any way justify the language he had used. Even if he was wrong in that belief, it would be little short of an absurdity if they were to forbid the insertion of words which were intended to make the Bill operate justly, because in one particular case they would have an effect contrary to what was desired by the Government and some other Members of the House. It was interesting to remember that during the passage of this Bill through its earlier stages they heard nothing about the definite declaration which had fallen from the Chief Secretary to-day, that it never was the intention of the Government to turn out the sitting tenants except under certain limitations. He appealed to those who took part in the debates upon this subject whether it was not entirely from his side of the House that the case of the sitting tenants had been presented, and whether they were not, in consequence, opposed to the attacks of hon. Gentlemen below the gangway, who declared that for the first time the Unionist Party in Ireland had become the champions of the tenants. He thought the Chief Secretary gave a very inaccurate description of what had taken place when he asked the House to accept it from him that the Government had never intended to disturb the sitting tenant. When the right hon. Gentleman said this change 187 entirely altered the Bill and deprived him of any interest in it, he was still more amazed. The right hon. Gentleman told them it was not proposed to interfere with the sitting tenants unless it could be done without injustice. It depended upon what was meant by "without injustice." They had frequently been told that they must not regard this question of restoring the evicted tenants from the commercial or even from the agricultural point of view, but that they must remember that these men had an affection for the land upon which they once lived. Were they then to believe this of men who were evicted twenty-five years ago, and not believe it of the men who had been living on the land since that time? If the existence of this sentiment on the part of the evicted tenants justified this extraordinary and unprecedented action on the part of Parliament in order to help them, did not the existence of a similar sentiment on the part of the sitting tenants justify an Amendment to protect men who had done their duty in the face of every difficulty, and whose only fault in ninety-nine cases out of 100 was that they had stood against local disorder, had refused to be intimidated, and had carried on their work, not only to their own profit, but to the general good of the community of the district? [NATIONALIST cries of "Oh."] Hon. Gentlemen who dissented had not taken the trouble to make themselves acquainted with the Amendment. This Amendment would only protect men if they were bona fide) farmers carrying on their business according to the principles of good husbandry. Did the Chief Secretary in his heart believe that to remove them by force, whatever the money compensation or grant of other land might be, was to send to Ireland as a whole anything like a message of peace? It was ten times more likely to create fresh difficulties. He was glad the Chief Secretary had made up his mind, after all, not to object to this Amendment. There was one further word he wished to say. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that it was impossible to deal with these cases without compulsion. The right hon. Gentleman could under existing powers and without compulsion deal with these cases in which a man, without injustice to him, could be removed. He did not think that on the benches around him they had any cause to be ashamed of the 188 part they had taken in fighting for justice to be done to sitting tenants, and he for one rejoiced that the House of Lords had stood up for this Amendment, which would prevent what would have been an act of gross unfairness to men who had fearlessly done their duty. In regard to the next Amendment the right hon. Gentleman told them that the Government had yielded to force and not to argument. The right hon. Gentleman was enjoying a fresh experience. It was one which the Opposition had enjoyed for nearly two years. In the time which the right hon. Gentleman had before him—and he hoped it would not only be a long time but a prosperous and successful time for himself—he would be better able to appreciate the feelings of those who sat opposite to him than he had been during the period when he had been able to use force while the Opposition had been obliged to content themselves with presenting arguments. The next Amendment was for the substitution of the word "compensation" for the words "market value." He regretted that the Chief Secretary had not been aisle to accept the word "compensation," and to limit the further Amendment in regard to the way in which compensation was arrived at. There was some ambiguity about the words "market value." There was no precedent for taking land compulsorily for a purpose with which the owner was not immediately connected, without paying the full value for it. He regretted that the Chief Secretary insisted upon words which he thought he himself had admitted were not as fully satisfactory and expressive as he would like, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman could have got what he desired with the word "compensation" if he had limited that part of the Amendment to which he really objected, namely, the use of the machinery of the Lands Clauses Act in arriving at the compensation to be given. Then there was the 2,000 limit. He could not understand why the Amendment putting a limit to the number of evicted tenants to be restored was not accepted when it was first proposed. They had been assured times out of number that the Government did not intend to reinstate more than the number expressed in that limitation. The Commissioners he believed would be in a stronger position if they were able to say that 189 the statute limited the number to be restored under it. He could not see that it would in any way increase the difficulties of their task, on the contrary, it would simplify it, and would give, what, Parliament intended, the right to say that this Bill was intended for the limited purpose of restoring a particular number of selected tenants. As to sporting rights, the Chief Secretary consented to the change, therefore that did not call for any comment. With regard to the tenure of the Commissioners, he had already argued the case, and he need not argue it any further. He adhered to the views he had expressed in regard to the change of time and the manner in which the change was being made, and in reference to the fact that it was being attempted to make County Court Judges of men who in the performance of their duties were subject to the control of the Lord-Lieutenant. The other question was that of appeal. The Chief Secretary had said perfectly truly that in all quarters there was but one expression of opinion in regard to Mr. Justice Wylie. Unlike many of his hon. and right hon. friends, he had not the pleasure of the personal acquaintance of Mr. Justice Wylie, but he had heard a great deal about the work he had done, and about what he was considered to be, previous to his appointment to his office. He believed that Mr. Justice Wylie was a man who was very likely to deal fairly with all cases that came before him, to give the fairest consideration to the claims of both sides, and to deal with the difficult question of the valuation of land in a spirit of complete justice to all concerned, and with complete regard to all the various interests. But in order to do full justice all round the appeal ought to be to an independent tribunal. If the appeal was to be effective and complete it should be to an absolutely fresh tribunal, and not to a member of the very body whose action was to come under review. Those were the reasons which had led them to fight for some such Court of Appeal as was to be found in the Amendment which the Lords had insisted upon. He did not believe that the difficulties which this Bill sought to remove really lay at the root of Irish discontent and trouble, and it could not be justly described as a message of peace to Ireland. He admitted that there were difficulties in connection with the re- 190 instatement of the evicted tenants which should be removed. He could not, however, believe that when they were all so near a common agreement, that any responsible body of men who had the interests of sound and fair legislation at heart would at the eleventh hour offer any violent opposition to a scheme of appeal which gave a second hearing to those who were aggrieved and provided machinery of a character against I which not one word could be said. This machinery would enable anybody who thought an injustice had been done to them to have their case reheard.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
said he felt it his duty to rise at once and give expression to the extreme concern, with which he had heard the statement made by the Chief Secretary. It was evident from that statement that whether the Bill was passed into law or whether it was not the Government would fail to carry out that promise upon which the Irish people had been relying for so long, and upon the realisation of which, in his judgment, the hopes and the welfare of Ireland in the immediate future depended He desired at once to correct a misapprehension which might perhaps follow from one of the phrases used by the Chief Secretary, where he said that he had made these concessions in deference to advice tendered to him. He wished to say that he tendered no such advice to him nor had any of his colleagues. Whatever quarter the advice came it had not come from the Nationalist representatives of Ireland. His advice was exactly of an opposite character and he protested as strongly as it was possible for him to do against the acceptance of those Amendments of the Lords to which he would allude in a moment. Of course every man understood the difficulties of the position of the Government. Every fair man would give the Chief Secretary full credit for having intended to fulfil his promise to Ireland. His Bill as introduced was in fulfilment of that promise. But this Bill if passed—and as to that he did not know—would not be a fulfilment of that promise held out to Ireland, and certainly would not come as a message of peace, or have any chance of settling the evicted tenants question. He had not risen, however, for the purpose of attacking the Government, because he realised their 191 difficulties and the desire of the Chief Secretary to go as far as he could. He had risen for the purpose of endeavouring to point some moral to this transaction; first for the benefit of the English Members, and, secondly, for the benefit of Ireland. He would, in a few sentences, state what the situation really was with reference to this Bill, and what had been the action of the landlord party in this House and in the House of Lords. The Land Act of 1903 was carried because a specific promise was given to the representatives of the tenants—at the Land Conference first of all, and subsequently in the House—as an essential condition of the truce of peace between the two contending parties that the evicted tenants would be speedily restored to their holdings. Without that promise the Land Conference would not have been possible, and the Land Act of 1903 would never have been passed. Four years had passed since the Act was carried, and yet the promise had not been fulfilled. He knew hon. Members were fond of reminding the House that 1,000 evicted tenants had been restored owing to the voluntary operation of the Act of 1903. That was true, but the question had not been settled. The worst cases, like that of the Clanricarde estate, had not been settled, and so long as they remained unsettled the open sore could not be closed, and the land war in Ireland was not only not settled, but there appeared no human possibility of its being settled. How could it? Lord Clanricarde was a man who would not sell. He would not restore the tenants. Application after application had been made to him, sometimes direct to him and sometimes to his agent; and he had not replied except with the one statement that he would not extend clemency to those evicted tenants. Now the Government had introduced a Bill which, if carried into law, as they conceived, would have enabled cases of this kind to be settled, and in the course of a few months, without any injustice being done to anybody—not only was the landlord to be paid the full value but the new tenants and planters were to get full compensation in money for any injury that might be done to them—this vexed question would be settled. The landlord party in this House and in the House of Lords had ripped that up. They had done it deliberately. His opinion 192 was that the action of the House of Lords and the landlord party in this House had been animated by the motive of wishing to see the Chief Secretary embroiled in the coming winter in trouble and turmoil in Ireland. That was his opinion, and he had no hesitation in expressing it. All who were capable of thinking on this subject and who had had experience of the landlords were aware that nothing could be more fatal to the hopes of Ireland in the coming months than the wrecking of this Bill. They had done it deliberately. Let him explain the method that they had adopted. First of all, he would take the question of price. The Bill as originally introduced provided that the landlord whose land was to be taken was to get a fair price for his land. One would have thought that that would have satisfied everybody, but in deference to the Opposition in this House the Government made a concession, and instead of a fair price they put in the words "the fair market value," which those acquainted with these matters knew was not exactly the same thing. At the time those words were accepted he regretted it. Then the Bill went to the other House where the words "a fair market value" were struck out and the word "compensation" was inserted instead. The Lords also introduced an Amendment bringing the Lands Clauses Act into the consideration of the fine. The cool request of these landlords was that they should get first of all the full market value of the land, secondly that they should have the 12 per cent. bonus, and in addition to that their original demand was 10 per cent. bonus for compulsion, severance and so forth—an attempt which, in his opinion, was absolute robbery on the part of these people. Let the House mark the malice of it. Of course a provision of that kind would stop the working of the Bill altogether, because when the landlord was bought out of this land the evicted tenant would be put in as a purchaser, and his instalments by way of repayment of interest and principal on the purchase money would, under those circumstances, be so high that it would be utterly impossible for him to pay them. In that way the question of price in the Bill would be so worked as to make the measure absolutely inoperative. What was the next thing they did? They said, "We must have a tribunal to our liking to fix the price.' 193 They were not content with the Estates Commissioners, who were all, as far as he knew, appointed by a Unionist Government, and as to two of them he had heard it stated, without contradiction, they were Unionists in politics. Not content with a tribunal of that kind, they now came forward and asked that there should be an appeal, an elaborate system of appeal, not on value only, but on everything; not only on price but on policy. That was the first demand. They were to have an appeal on the the question whether the compulsory powers were ever to be put into operation in any case at all. The appeal they still demanded was an appeal to a rota of Judges of the King's Bench Division; and why? He was the last man in the world to make anything in the nature of an attack upon the Judges, but the majority of these men were appointed for political services and had been by tradition connected with the landlord party. Naturally the landlords demanded an appeal to them. The Government offered them an appeal to the Judicial Commissioner. He did not know whether that official was a Home Ruler or not, but he certainly was not a Catholic, and he could not be called a tenant's man. He had never heard a word of suspicion directed against the Judicial Commissioner's impartiality, and yet the landlords were afraid to trust him, because his traditions had not been associated with the landlord patty in Ireland. The landlords asked for this increased price, for compensation, and also for their own tribunal to carry it into effect. He would just like to show the recklessness, the harshness, and the unscrupulousness of these men. Clause 13 provided that the two Estates Commissioners who held their office at pleasure should have security of tenure given to them, so that they would be in as good a position as the other Commissioner. They had all heard the protest repeated again and again in this House against the iniquity of this distinction. What had happened? Since the measure was last discussed in this House some ingenious lawyer had discovered that the Act of 1903 repealed the Act of 1901 under which this Commissioner had security of tenure—this referred to Mr. Wrench who had been avowed as the friend of the landlords by more than one Unionist Member. The very moment they found that 194 Mr. Wrench's tenure was not secure they turned round in the Lords and said, "This is a most admirable provision; we will give security to the whole three." He mentioned that Fact just to show the insincerity of the whole transaction. They made a bitter fight in this House on that very point, but when they found it was necessary to concede it in the interests of Mr. Wrench they at once gave it up. The subject of the planters was the most serious of all these matters. So long as the planters in places like the Clanricarde estate were left in possession there could be no such thing as peace or an end to the land war in Ireland. In that case it would be impossible to provide for the tenants elsewhere, because there was no untenanted land available, and the only way in which the Clanricarde estate could be dealt with was by giving the planters compensation and restoring the evicted tenants to their holdings. He did not believe, from the information he had received, that in this case the planters themselves would raise any very great objection. Hon. Members above the gangway would have them believe that they had taken this action in the interest of the planters. What was certain was that the inevitable and immediate effect of their action would be that the whole force of public opinion would be directed against those planters. He ventured to say that if the planters on the Clanricarde estate were consulted, they would think that those were not their friends but their enemies who were standing in the way of a peaceful and honourable settlement of this question. He for his part desired to draw this moral—unfortunately it was a moral which he and his friends had had to draw over and over again in his experience during the last quarter of a century in this House—if Ireland was peaceful and trustful, the Unionist Party was always obdurate. Did this House think that the House of Lords representing the landlord party would dare to deal with this Bill in the way it had done if there was a strong and menacing agitation afoot in Ireland at the present time? They would do nothing of the kind. They would deal with this Bill as they had dealt with other Bills under these circumstances. The moral for Ireland was that if she wanted to get next session land legislation, if she desired to see the evicted tenants reinstated, if she 195 desired to see the black spot of the Clanricarde estate and other similar spots wiped out in Ireland, if she desired to see the Land Act of 1903 amended, as all moderate and reasonable men admitted it should be amended in the near future—if she desired all these things, she would have to close up her ranks and make her movement sufficiently strong and menacing to overcome both the hon. Members above the gangway and the House of Lords. He asked the House not to imagine that it was a pleasure to him to say these things. He was deeply disappointed. He naturally thought that they would have had a settlement of the question through this Bill. He had been so much through the political trouble, and he had seen so much of the suffering entailed upon the agricultural class during the last twenty-five years, that he shrank from the prospect of fresh trouble. But one thing was certain. Those suffering tenants who for twenty years had been waiting on the roadside for a chance of going back into their old homes, would not submit with patience to their permanent exclusion in the settlement of the land question, and in any action they took they undoubtedly would have the sympathy and support of the mass of their fellow countrymen behind them. It might be taken for granted that this Bill now, whether it passed or not, could not settle the question. He said he would not attack the Government, and he had not done so. He was certain that the Government were honestly desirous of settling the question. They had been thwarted by that power which stood between British Radicals and reform just as it stood between the Nationalists and reform in Ireland. British Members must not be surprised if Nationalists showed impatience when again they were thrown back from the prospect of redress and reform. He supposed that the right hon. Gentleman would now proceed to deal separately with the Amendments. He would himself take no further part in the discussion. He would not discuss with the right hon. Gentleman or with hon. Members above the gangway the proposals of the remaining Amendments. It was sufficient for him to know that the Bill if it passed—though he did not say it was worthless, for there was enshrined in the Bill the great principle of compulsory acquisition of untenanted land—would not fulfil the object for which it 196 was introduced. It would not reinstate the evicted tenants, and therefore, from that point of view, it would be a failure. He deeply regretted it, and he trusted. that the lesson would not be lost on fair-minded men in this country, and he was certain that the lesson would not be lost on the Irish people.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
regretted that the hon. Gentleman did not permit the closing scene of this drama; to draw to a termination without making to a wearied and somewhat somnolent House of Commons a speech which, in his opinion, was likely to do great harm to, the cause the hon. Gentleman had at heart. For what was his main charge against the House of Lords and what he called the landlord party? His main charge was that they were anxious to have a disturbed Ireland in the winter in order to give a great deal of trouble to the right hon. Gentleman opposite on whose shoulders now rested the always serious burden of Irish government. A few things suggested themselves to his mind in connection with this charge. He took it that the owners of land in Ireland had most to suffer from agrarian disturbance. It was against them that the powerful engines of calumny and intimidation were to be directed; and that in order to make the task of the Chief Secretary for the time being more difficult than it otherwise would be they should give anything in the nature of an excuse to those who controlled in Ireland the forces of disorder was a paradox so wild and absurd that he was amazed the hon. Member should have made it. He had listened with attention to the hon. Gentleman's speech, and—though he might misinterpret its meaning—the only interpretation that he could put on his words was a desire to see a period of disorder in Ireland in order that legislation of the kind he desired might be got through both Houses without difficulty. That was a direct incitement to disorder in Ireland, a plain indication to the people of Ireland of a motive to break the law and to indulge in wild and reckless agitation. Yet the same hon. member who put forward these inducements to his countrymen to break the law in Ireland accused the Irish landlords in the same speech of harbouring a policy so suicidal as that of producing a state of disorder to their own injury and to the embarrassment of the 197 Chief Secretary. That these two propositions should appear in the same speech was surely the height of rhetorical inconsistency. What was the hon. Member's charge? He did not dwell upon his statements as to the price of the land. The Chief Secretary stated that the Peers desired to see not merely the 10 per cent. which had very commonly been given under the Lands Clauses Act to those from whom land was taken compulsorily, but that they desired 12 per cent. in addition from the bonus. He did not believe that any Court would give both 12 and 10 per cent., and it was folly to add the two sums together and say that the Irish landlords wanted 22 per cent. What they desired was to get a fair price for their land. Personally he had no objection to the scheme which the House owed to the ingenuity of the hon. Member in charge of the English Land Bill; but everyone would admit that if they took a man's land against his will they must regard him as a man who was suffering from a transaction in which he did not desire to be a party. That point ought always to be considered. It was folly to suppose, therefore, that any section of opinion in the House of Lords desired to see 10 and 12 per cent. added to the value of the land. Besides, that provision was now out of the Bill, and when the hon. Member dragged it into his speech he obviously did so for no other purpose except to create prejudice and excite animosity.
§ Mr. J. REDMOND
said he had stated that the provision had been taken out of the Bill, but he was dealing with the original demands pressed in the House of Lords. The provision was only given up two days ago.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said that, at any rate, the transaction was over, and the provision was given up in the amended Bill. Next the hon. Member gave a position of prominence to the Clanricarde estate. The hon. Member spoke as if it were impossible in any circumstances to settle the case of the evicted tenants and the Plan of Campaign estates except by the Bill as it left the House. But almost all the Plan of Campaign estates had been settled 198 without this Bill. The tenants had been there for 20 years; they were bona fide cultivators, and they were as likely to be at least as much attached to their holdings as the men who left them twenty years ago. When the hon. Member told the House, therefore, that the result of the Amendment would be to prevent these tenants from being turned out unless through the action of what he euphemistically called "the force of public opinion," he thought that he took upon himself a very great responsibility. Everyone knew how that phrase would be interpreted in Ireland, and the Chief Secretary knew how it would be interpreted there. In the language of Irish controversial politics it was capable only of one interpretation; and that interpretation was that life should be made so intolerable to these tenants that, rather than remain in their holdings which they had occupied for twenty years, upon which they had roared their children and become prosperous under the agrarian conditions that prevailed, they would be ready to accept any excuse or compensation in order to got away. It was a very serious thing that words of that kind should be uttered in the House by a person in the position of the Leader of the Irish Party. They would be reported in the news papers—and they were intended to be reported in Ireland—and the advice coming from one in the position of the hon. Member in Ireland, as well as in the House of Commons, a Member of such prominence and importance, it was not likely to fall on deaf ears, nor was the seed he had endeavoured to sow likely to fall on stony ground. What was the view of settling the Irish difficulty in which the hon. Member and the Chief Secretary were agreed? They seemed to think that peace was to be attained in Ireland by turning out the men who were bona fide cultivators of their land, who were associated and had been long associated with the land and the district, and by putting others in their places. He did not know that any one had found that panacea for Irish ills which was going to give them peace in that island; but that peace ought to or could be bought at that price seemed to him to be absolutely incredible. Granted, what had never been proved, that these evicted tenants were evicted unjustly, granted that there was in their case 199 suffering and wrong which were to be compensated, how were they to compensate that suffering and to diminish that wrong by inflicting new suffering and new wrong? If they were to reach that great and desirable consummation of peace only by following there devious, crooked, and unjustifiable paths, then he did not believe that peace was attainable at all. Let the House at all events in rectifying one evil not create another greater and less justifiable; so only could they hope that some permanent alleviation could be brought to the ills of that country. There was another point that occurred to him in connection with what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member admitted at the end of his speech that this Bill was not altogether without some kernel of good, and he found it in the principle of the compulsory appropriation of untenanted land for the purpose of enlarging holdings. It was worth while reminding the House that this was in direct and explicit contradiction of the principle formulated over and over again from the bench opposite with reference to the justification in respect of compulsory purchase. It would be remembered that the Opposition had urged many times that the proper way to deal with small holdings in England was to give the option of purchase to the small holder. The Government replied that it was contrary to the fundamental principles of the party to which they belonged to take land compulsorily from one person in order to hand it over to another. That was the principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. It was the principle which the hon. Baronet the Member for South Somersetshire laid down on the Third Reading, and it was their justification for the rejection of purchase in the English Bill. But they had now the assertion of the hon. Member that the one thing he saw valuable in the Bill was this very principle of taking land compulsorily from A in order to give it compulsorily to B.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said the right hon. Gentleman could not go back upon the principle of the Act of 1903.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said the right hon. Gentleman did not understand what he said. He was saying nothing about the Act of 1903.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said that compulsion was involved in the Act of 1903. Everybody agreed that compulsion under the Act of 1903 was involved, if the land could not be transferred from the landlords to the tenants under the voluntary provisions. Parliament would not go back on that.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said that if the Act of 1903 involved compulsion, then clearly the hon. and learned. Member for Waterford was wrong in saying that this Bill for the first time introduced the principle of compulsion. On the main principles of this measure there was no conflict between the two Houses, and he did not believe that by compulsorily turning out one set of bona fide tenants to put in another set the Government were going to conduce to the peace of Ireland. But such as it was, the Bill seemed to have every prospect of passing in a form which would do all that such a Bill could do. He never took the view of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford that this was a final message of peace that would settle the long standing difficulties of the agrarian question.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I did not say that. What I said was that it would settle the evicted tenants question.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said that the hon. and learned Gentleman had contended that the evicted tenants question alone stood in the way of the final settlement of the land question. The real fact was that the Bill now retained any virtue that it ever had; and while he did not believe that it would have had all the excellent effects imagined by the hon. and learned Gentleman, he did not believe that whatever merits it had had been diminished by the modifications introduced by the Lords. He desired, therefore, that it should be added to the Statute Book, and there should be no difficulty in passing it in the shape suggested by the Chief Secretary.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said that when the question was put from the Chair it was not the intention of the Irish Party to divide against it. They did not intend to accept any responsibility for the Bill in the form in which it had come down to the House of Commons, but to wash their hands of it There were many observations in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition which invited reply, but he would not go through the speech as a whole. He, however, had remarked that the right hon. Gentleman was not quite happy in the political situation produced by the Amendments made in the Bill in another place. He might be tempted to dwell on the comparison which the right hon. Gentleman had made between the compulsory taking of land in England and Ireland. The compulsory taking of land in England would be a very simple matter if only it was taken under the same conditions as were proposed in Ireland—10 per cent. under the Lauds Clauses Consolidated Act, and 12 per cent. on the purchase money by way of bonus. He was sure that the landlords of England and Scotland would be willing to sell their land on such favourable conditions. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to dwell on the idea that the Irish Party attributed a certain amount of selfishness on the part of the House of Lords in dealing with this question. But would the right hon. Gentleman tell the House that the landlords of Ireland should have in selling their land to the tenants 22 per cent. more than its value? That was admitted by the noble and learned Lord who proposed the Amendment in another place, and that a Court of Law would have had to give the landlords that 10 per cent. if the Amendment had remained in the Bill. And that was the House which boasted of its freedom from the ordinary selfishness of mankind! It was noteworthy that the two important Amendments most damaging and sinister in their effect on the tenants should have been proposed in the House of Lords by two noble Lords who he had always supposed had been sent to the Upper House not for the purpose of indulging in political controversy but to exercise judicial functions. He would come to the root of the situation. What did it mean? The Leader of the Opposition, backing up the House of Lords, had 202 taken up the case of Lord Clanricarde. He was not astonished at the House of Lords' doing so, but he was astonished at the right hon Gentleman's doing so. And he was also astonished at the action of the right hon. Member for South Dublin. When the Chief Secretary stated at the beginning of the session that it was his intention to bring in legislation if necessary to deal with the case of Lord Clanricarde, the right hon. Member for South Dublin actually gave him his blessing. But he was not ashamed now to eat his own words and back up the House of Lords in supporting the action of Lord Clanricarde.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
asked if the right hon. Gentleman meant to say that he did not intimate at the time that he would raise no objection to dealing with Lord Clanricarde? The right hon. Gentleman could not deny what was on record and within the recollection of hon. Members. And the Chief Secretary said he was agreeably surprised at the favourable attitude the right hon. Gentleman took up with regard to Lord Clanricarde. He was surprised also at the language used by the Leader of the Opposition, for he remembered that in the stormy days in Ireland the right hon. Gentleman used the words, "On whichever side the responsibility rests of having made a hell upon earth on the Clanricarde Estates." Everybody who heard the right hon. Gentleman knew that he intended by these words as much condemnation of the unreasonableness and selfishness of Lord Clanricarde as of the share which the national organisation bore in those transactions. The Loader of the Opposition now set up as a defender of Lord Clanricarde.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said he was quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman did not say so. He was too acute and skilful a Parliamentarian to say so, but what he wanted the House to understand was that the Clanricarde estate was the kernel of the situation. What was the real meaning of the changes made in the Bill by the House of Lords? It 203 would be a waste of time to denounce Lord Clanricarde. They all knew his character as a landlord. There were 120 evicted tenants on Lord Clanricarde's estate whose holdings were in the hands of planters. There was no spot in Ireland which had been the scene of so much disturbance as the Clanricarde estate. There was scarcely an acre upon it that was not wet with human blood; and whole families were kept from starvation by the help of people as poor as themselves. The right hon. Gentleman actually said that the love of these people for the cottages in which they were born and in which their forefathers were born, from which they were evicted, frequently at the cost of blood and terrible resistance, was to be put upon the same level with that of the men who came from the North of Ireland with their lives in their hands to take possession of the homes of these people! The suggestion was grotesque. Here were these 120 tenants with regard to whom they were told that if they did not get back their old holdings they could not get other holdings in the neighbourhood because there were no other holdings to be obtained. The Clanricarde estate was the greatest poison spot in the country, and the House of Lords in their anxiety for the peace of Ireland had thrown them this message of war—that those people who had waited, twenty-five years and more, to be reinstated were now to be deprived of their homes altogether. The right hon. Gentleman did not seem to be quite happy in this matter, but he had had the parliamentary courage to attempt to throw on the hon. and learned Member for Waterford the responsibility for all the disorder that might arise in consequence of the action of the House of Lords. But the House of Lords could not get rid of their responsibility in this way.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Lords reasons for insisting on certain of their Amendments to which this House has disagreed, and for disagreeing to certain other of the Commons Amendments, and Lords Amendment to one of the Commons Amendments, and Lords further Amendments to the Bill, considered.204
In page 1, line 8, to leave out 'of the laud.'
In page 1, line 9, to leave out 'the fair market value thereof and insert 'the compensation for the loss which would be sustained by the owner being deprived thereof,'
§ Disagreed to.
In line 10, after 'may' insert 'subject to the provisions as to the appeal contained in this Act,
§ Agreed to.
§ Lords' Amendment in page 2, line 4.
§ Agreed to.
§ On Lords Amendment in page 2, line 15, and also in lines 16 to 21:—
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. CHERRY,) Liverpool, Exchange
said some slight confusion had got into the Bill owing to Amendments and cross Amendments, and if this Lords Amendment was accepted as it stood that confusion would remain. He proposed that the House instead of accepting it should insist on the Commons Amendment, page 2, line 9, substituting May for January as a concession to the other House, and should agree to the following proviso instead of the old subsection—Provided that no tenanted land shall be acquired compulsorily which is in the possession or occupation of a bona fide tenant using or cultivating the same as an ordinary farm in accordance with the proper methods of husbandry.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said the Amendment the Government now proposed was one which did not in any way alter the sense of Subsection. 3, of Clause 1, and he understood that no Amendment could be made to Lords Amendments unless they did alter the sense.
§ MR. BOWLES (Lambeth, Norwood)
asked whether it was competent for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to move an Amendment not on the Paper.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
said it was competent for the right hon. and learned Member to move to disagree with the Lords Amendment and to move to amend the Bill in such a way as to meet the object of the Lords Amendment.
§ Lords Amendment disagreed to.
§ Question "That this House doth insist on its Amendment in page 2, line 19, to substitute 'May' for 'January,'" put, and agreed to.
At the end of Subsection 3 to insert the words 'provided that no tenanted land shall be acquired compulsorily which is in the possession or occupation of a bona fide tenant using or cultivating the same as an ordinary farm in accordance with the proper methods of husbandry."—(Mr. Cherry.)
§ Agreed to.
§ Lords Amendment in page 2, lines 16 to 21—Disagreed to.
§ Lords Amendments in page 3, line 3, line 11, and lines 17 and 18—
§ Disagreed to.
The Lords agree to the Amendment made by the Commons in page 3, line 23, with the following Amendment:
To leave out the words 'the purchase money shall within the prescribed time' and insert the words 'amount of the compensation shall within six months after the expiration of of the time limited for the presentation of petitions.'
§ MR. CHERRY
We agree to that, subject to the substitution of the words "purchase money" for the words "amount of compensation."
§ Lords Amendment amended, and agreed to.
Lords Amendment in lieu of their Amendment in page 3, line 30—
To leave out from 'thereon' to the end of the Subsection (7) and insert new subsections (8) and (9).
§ MR. BIRRELL moved to disagree with the Lords' Amendment. The only thing he proposed to do was to amend the Commons' Amendment, on page 3, line 4, by omitting certain words and inserting other words.
§ Lords Amendment disagreed to.
§ MR. BIRRELL moved to omit from the line of the Commons Amendment the words "hear in the prescribed manner," and to insert the words, "with the assistance of two specially qualified lay assessors, nominated by him for the purpose, hear."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. BIRRELL moved, in the 10th line of the Commons Amendment, to insert after "1881," "other then the power to direct a valuer to report."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Commons Amendments in page 3, line 34, and page 4, line 4, to which the Lords has disagreed—
§ Insisted on.
§ Lords Amendment in page 5, line 5—
§ Disagreed to.
§ Commons Amendments in page 5, line G, and lines 7 and 8, to which the Lords disagreed—
§ Insisted on.
§ Lords Amendments in page 5, line 26, and line 32—
§ Disagreed to.
§ Lords Amendment to insert a new clause after Clause 6—
§ Agreed to.
§ On the Lords Amendment to Clause 13, inserting after "shall" in page 6, line 39 "from and after the passing of this Act":—
§ MR. BIRRELL
said these words had only been put in by the House of Lords with a desire to keep the question open. The words were very undesirable, and, therefore, he moved to disagree.
§ Lords' Amendment disagreed to.
§ MR. CHERRY moved, in page 5, clause 6, lines 34 to 36, to leave out the words "The owners of property so as to diminish the value thereof as little as possible," and to insert "Any other property of the owner so as not to diminish the value thereof."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Committee appointed to draw up reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to certain of the Lords Amendments, and for insisting upon certain of the Commons Amendments to which the Lords disagree.
§ Committee nominated of,—Mr. Attorney-General for Ireland, Mr. Birrell, and Mr. Solicitor-General.
§ Three to be the quorum.
§ To withdraw immediately.—(Mr. Birrell.)