§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1:
MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD moved to insert after the word "consent" in line 9 the words "voluntarily and without intimidation." In order to understand the nature of this clause, and the effect of this Amendment it was necessary to go back for a few moments to Section 1 of the Evicted Tenants (Ireland) Act, 1907. By Section 1 of that Act, which this particular Bill was designed to patch up and alter, it was provided that—
If it appears to the Commissioners expedient to acquire land for the purpose of this Act, and if they have offered to the person who appears to be the owner of that land the amount which appears to the Commissioners to be its value, and if that amount has not been accepted then the Commissioners may acquire the land compulsorily.
By Section 3 of the Act passed last year it was provided—
That untenanted lands should be so acquired unless in the occupation of a new tenant, or unless the Commissioners think that the evicted tenant ought to be reinstated.
Then there was a proviso—
That no tenanted land should be acquired compulsorily which is in the possession or occupation of a bona fide tenant using or cultivating the same as an ordinary farmer, in accordance with proper methods of husbandry.
One would have thought that that was an exceedingly valuable proviso. It was clear that the Commissioners were not to come and take away compulsorily any land which was bona fide in the occupation of a bona fide tenant using and cultivating the same as an ordinary farmer in accordance with the proper methods of husbandry. Now the whole basis of this Act was designed to get rid of that proviso, and it started by
saying that the Commissioners might acquire the land although in the occupation of a tenant bona fide farming the same, provided such tenant gave his consent in writing. It was perfectly clear up to that point what the scope of the Act was, but it was evidently felt that in drawing up the Bill that if the tenant gave his consent it ought to override the Act of last year. What was the effect of the provisos in the Bill? It was that the tenant should sign this particular consent in a particular way. They were entitled to have it made clear that if the tenant was to sign a consent which gave away the right he had to remain in possession of the land that consent had not been extorted by intimidation, but had voluntarily been given. Briefly, that was the effect of his Amendment. If it could be shown that there had been any intimidation or that the consent had not voluntarily been given, the effect of his Amendment would be that the transaction could be upset, and it would prevent the Commissioners from expropriating that land and taking it away from the man who was bona fide cultivating it when consent had been extorted from him in a way of which the Committee, he was sure, would not approve. From what the Chief Secretary for Ireland had already said it was evident that he was going to propose to leave out all those words which would give satisfactory security to the bona fide tenant in the transaction, and the proper place to put that security in was where the word "consent" was first mentioned. It was on those grounds that he proposed his Amendment. He begged to move.
In page 1, line 9, after the word 'consent' to insert the words 'voluntarily and without intimidation.'"—(Mr. William Rutherford.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. BIRRELL,) Bristol, N.
said the hon. Member knew the law, and he knew that to insert these words would be contrary to all Parliamentary practice and an offence against the established principles of legislation.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD
said he was satisfied if it was clearly understood that the consent had been obtained voluntarily and without intimidation. He asked leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
M R. BIRRELL moved the omission from the clause of words providing that notice of the filing of consent should be given to the landlord and published in a local newspaper and that the consent should not be acted upon if the landlord should satisfy the judicial Commissioner that the tenant had been compelled to give consent by unlawful means. The intention of the Act of last year was that anybody who held a farm from which somebody had been evicted should not be removed without his consent, even although compensation or another farm was offered to him. Therefore he had no objection to so much of the Lords' Amendment as related to that matter, and which required that the tenant should in presence of two witnesses attach his name to the consent, but he could not agree to the part of the Lords' Amendment which said—
Notice of such filing being, in the time and manner prescribed, given to the landlord of the land to which the consent applies, and published in two successive issues of a newspaper circulating in the district in which such land is situate; and provided further that such consent shall not be acted upon if the said landlord, or any other person interested in or having a claim upon the said lands, shall, after having an opportunity of being heard in the time and manner prescribed, satisfy the Judicial Commissioner that the tenant was compelled or induced to give such consent by intimidation or other unlawful means.
He thought that was unreasonable, having regard to all the circumstances of the case. The original Act was not intended to protect the landlord at all. The sole object of it was to protect the actual tenant, and to secure that, he should not be removed until he had indicated his consent.
In page 1, line 13, to leave out from the word 'Commission' to the end of the clause.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."992
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
expressed his intention to support the Chief Secretary. When they voted on this question before, the view the Unionist Party took was that, if special powers were taken to restore evicted tenants, they should not be exercised to the detriment of men occupying farms who did not desire to vacate them. They devoted themselves to securing that a new tenant should not be displaced unless he was a consenting party. The Amendment inserted in the House of Lords necessitated so great a delay in restoring the evicted tenant that it practically made the Act of no value. If a new tenant was willing to go, and the conditions on which he was asked to go were satisfactory and fair, then Parliament laid it down that his land should be acquired. There never had been any suggestion of an appeal to the landlord as to whether he wished the tenant to go or not. It must not be overlooked that this involved considerable hardship to the landlord. After all, a landlord was a landlord in Ireland, just as much as in England or Scotland, up to a certain point, and if anything was done to deprive him of his property he had reason to complain. It should be remembered that this Bill sought to amend an Act of Parliament which attacked one landlord and had brought the management of his estate to the public eye. He was not going to criticise Lord Clanricarde's management of his estate. It was not an unpopular thing to hold up Lord Clanricarde to public contempt, but there was a great deal to be said on the other side. That, however, was not a subject which ought to be considered at that moment. They had passed deliberately an Act of Parliament for a particular object, and it had been proved beyond doubt that that object must be defeated unless this amending Bill were passed. He did not think that the Committee could ask the Chief Secretary to go further than he had done. On behalf of himself and his friends, having regard to what was said and done in that House and in the House of Lords, he said it would be impossible for them, if they were to be consistent with the declarations they had made and the attitude they had assumed, not to agree with the Government in the course 993 which they proposed. That course was the only one to take in the circumstances. Although there was a deplorable amount of intimidation in Ireland which ought to be prevented, it was not the way to prevent it by refusing to pass this amending Bill. It could only be prevented by better administration of the law, a subject, however, which could not be discussed at present. With the caveat of expressing profound regret at what was really going on in Ireland, he should offer no opposition to the Bill.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD
said that although he was entitled to look with suspicion on any proposals brought up in the middle of the night, he thought after the explanation given by the Chief Secretary it was quite proper to leave out the words proposed to be omitted. Believing that the interest of the tenant would be sufficiently secured, he agreed that the Amendment should pass.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause," put, and negatived.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.