§ * THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. BIRRELL,) Bristol, N.
The task which confronts me this afternoon is not only a most difficult and most complicated one, but also by far the most responsible task I have ever been called upon to handle during my years of office, few and evil though those years may have been. The difficulty and complication of my task is increased by the fact that the soil I am required to till it is afternoon is by no means virgin soil. It has been turned up again and again by the plough-shares of all my predecessors. The responsibility of the task is increased by the fact that the whole peace and prosperity of Ireland is irrevocably bound up in, and has been made by previous action of the Imperial Parliament almost wholly dependent upon, the success of that policy of land purchase on the terms of which 1807 something like one-half of the agricultural land of Ireland has passed, or is in course of passing, from landlord to occupier. That that policy may be open to criticism I am not here to doubt, but by the common consent of all critics, whether native or foreign, it is admitted that wherever this policy has had a fair chance, and it is not in all parts of Ireland that it has had that chance, it has already worked exceeding great marvels. Although we are dealing with a process that must take a long time, even already that process has changed the face of Ireland. That is a very gratifying thought to every one. To do anything that would arrest the progress of land purchase would be a blunder—economic and political—of the very first magnitude. The object of the Government is to do all it can to hasten the progress of land purchase in Ireland and to make it work, as it was originally intended to do, fairly all round, and to accomplish that end the Government will not hesitate to invite the House of Commons to consider proposals which will materially add to the already heavy existing burdens upon the Imperial Exchequer. There is no occasion for me now to go further back into history than 25th March, 1903, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover introduced his Bill which ultimately became the Land Act of that year. The hour was in many respects opportune. Birds of peace brooded over the usually troubled Irish waters, and a bargain was struck across the floor of this House to which practically all parties assented. Let me invite the House to consider what that bargain was. As between the landlord and tenant it was a purely voluntary matter; there was no compulsion in the Bill at all. Landlord and tenant were left at liberty to come to their own terms, and if these terms fell within certain limits known as the zones the Land Commission are required to make the necessary advances. Land purchase was already in progress, though slow, under several Acts of Parliament, and as the main and proper object of the Bill was to do something to make land purchase go mote quickly, naturally the promoters of the measure looked about to discover some temptations or inducements—whatever may be the right 1808 term—to hold out to both parties in this contract—for, of course, in Irish land purchase the only parties are the landlord and the tenant—to come together and conclude a bargain. What were these inducements or temptations? First, as to the landlord. He was to be paid—when he could get his money—in cash whatever number of years purchase he could persuade his tenants to give; and in addition to the purchase money, and in proportion to the amount of the purchase money, he was to receive in gold a bonus calculated at the rate of 12 per cent. upon his purchase price; and this bonus was to go straight into the pocket of the landlord, although in most cases in Ireland he is only a tenant for life. Of course, in the case of settled estates the purchase money went into settlement and became subject to the trusts of the settlement, and after the satisfaction of the life-interest went to the remainder-man or whoever was the person entitled. The bonus, as I have said, varied in proportion to the price of the purchase. The Duke of Leinster got £80,000 in cash as bonus for the voluntary purchase by his tenants upon terms which, no doubt, fully represented the value of his property. Therefore it cannot be denied—indeed, it was the plain object of the transaction—that the bonus afforded an enormous inducement to the landlord to sell. On the other side of the contract is the tenant. What was offered to him? There was offered to him an immediate and substantial reduction in his rent, even though they were judicial rents, either first-term rents, as they are called, or second-term rents. Under the zone system, if the purchasing annuity which the tenants was to pay was less, within certain limits, than the judicially fixed rent, the bargain went through and the Land Commission had nothing whatever to say to it, but had to advance the purchase money as a matter of course. The effect, therefore, was that in all cases the tenant obtained a substantial reduction on his rent, calculated in the case of first term rents to amount on an average to 5s. 9d. in the £, and in the case of second term rents to 4s. in the £. It must be remembered that the purchasing tenant gives up his right to go into the Court every fifteen years and do his best to 1809 obtain a revision of his rent. But he gets this immediate reduction; he gets rid of his flesh and blood landlord—a great thing in his eyes—and he has the hope of a freehold dangling before him. I do not think we should be wise to disregard that hope as a factor in the case. Some people say: "What does it matter to a man that in sixty-eight years he will have a freehold?" But people who say that disregard some of the motives which operate upon Irish tenants. Well, these are the attractions, and no one can deny that they are considerable. Then came the elementary question—Who was to provide the golden sovereigns to supply the purchase money and the bonus? Obviously the tenant was not in a position to do so. As purchaser, he was to pay an annuity of less amount than his previous rent; but he was not meant to lay down large sums of money. The cash with which to pay the landlord was raised by the exercise of British credit. In other words, it was enticed or allured out of the pockets of the investor, who every now and again had offered to him guaranteed stock at 2¾, redeemable at par on the expiration of thirty years from the commencement of the Act. There is no better security in the world. I take no responsibility in offering that advice. No risk; a comparatively high rate of interest; the most immaculate security in the world; but, alas! subject to those fluctuations of the money market which no rhetoric can control, and which certainly do not seem to be subject to patriotic considerations. The most autocratic Government in the world, or the most democratic Government in the world—and I do not know which is the more tyrannical of the two—has never yet been able to discover a means whereby to compel the investor to give £100 in cash for £100 in stock. The thing cannot be done. As I say, the bargain was to pay the landlord in cash, cash that was to be raised by the issue of stock fluctuating day by day, week by week, month by month in the market. What the tenant does is to repay the purchase price of his holding. You cannot expect him to do anything else. Assume the price of his holding to be £100. He repays that with a scrupulous fidelity which everyone admires by means of an annuity of £3 5s. 0d. which 1810 includes the £2 15s. 0d. interest paid to the investor, and is in addition to form a sinking fund. That works out in this way—at the end of sixty-eight and a half years the stock will be amortised or got rid of by these payments, which, as I have said, the tenant has hitherto made with the most commendable alacrity. Now, as this annuity is only just sufficient to pay the interest on the stock and provide a small sinking fund, we have no margin left for what is called excess stock or for incidental charges. It was, therefore, obvious that over and above the bonus of £12,000,000—which was a free gift—a great risk of loss to the Exchequer was immanent from the very beginning. What was to happen if in order to get a hundred golden sovereigns for the landlord the Treasury have to issue excess stock to the tune of £13 for every £100? Who is to pay the interest on that excess stock for the sixty-eight and a half years? Not the tenant, of course. It is enough for him to pay the 3¼ per cent. annuity on the price of his holding. Some one or something had to be found to take over the responsibility of this prospective loss. By an Act of Parliament which was passed contemporaneously with the Land Act of 1903 the Ireland Development Grant was constituted, which represents the equivalent grant to Ireland in respect of education and was somewhat ironically dedicated to that purpose. The Land Act of 1903 declared that this part must, in the first instance, bear any prospective loss of this character. The Ireland Development Grant is £185,000 a year. By the Act two statutory charges were placed upon it—£20,000 a year to the Congested Districts Board and £5,000 a year to Trinity College, Dublin—which reduces it to £160,000 a year. But since the Act was passed the Ireland Development Grant has been made somewhat of a beast of burden. There have been placed upon it not merely capital charges, but annually recurring charges to the tune of some £60,000 a year. Training colleges, £4,000 a year; salaries to assistant teachers, £34,000 a year; salaries to junior assistant mistresses, £13,000 a year; technical instruction, £7,000 a year—and there is a dredger, a most important thing; do not let any one laugh at a dredger, at £2,000 a year—are placed upon this 1811 grant, and you will agree that these are charges which cannot possibly be got rid of. Therefore, I do not think you can estimate the Ireland Development Grant, available for the purposes of the Act of 1903, at a higher figure than £100,000 a year. The Act of 1903 then went on to say that on the absorption of that sum any further loss was to be thrown upon certain grants, called the guarantee fund, which are made annually from the Exchequer in relief of the Irish rates. Consequently, subject to the plunder of the Ireland Development Grant, the cost of any prospective loss was to be thrown upon the Irish ratepayers, as were also all charges which might be incurred by arrears on the part of the tenants in paying their annuities; and as to these latter I think they were properly thrown upon the Irish ratepayers. Such was the bargain of 1903. We are now in November, 1908; and I ask myself what has happened? I remember that a former leader of the Tory Party remarked in one of his novels that the least event was, in his judgment, of greater importance than the most sublime aid comprehensive speculation. I do not share that view. But everyone will agree that events, particularly in matters of finance, are of startling interest. Up to date there have been ten issues of Irish land stock. Six have been taken up by the National Debt Commissioners at the certified price of the day, thereby saving to some extent what are called incidental charges, but not saving, of course, the loss on the issue of excess stock. The other four issues have been taken up by the public. All have been issued at a loss. The highest price ever obtained was 92 in April, 1906, and the lowest price was 84¾ in July, 1907. To-day the price in the market is just a little over 87. The stock actually issued amounts, in round numbers, to £33,200,000. Of that, £3,000,000 has been allotted to the purposes of the bonus. I may say that the bonus of £12,000,000 is raised in the same way by the issue of this land stock, although, of course, the interest and sinking fund upon it are borne by Parliament. This left £30,000,000 odd for the purposes of Irish land purchase. But the £30,000,000 of stock only realised in cash £26,500,000. The excess stock is 1812 the difference between the two—£3,504,000. Now, this sum of £3,504,000 is the capital amount of the existing charge, first on the Irish Development Grant, and subsequently upon the Irish ratepayers, and it represents—not at present, but it very shortly will do—an annuity at 3¼ per cent. for sixty-eight and a hall years of £113,901. Consequently the balance of the Irish Development Grant may be said to be already gone; certainly any fresh issue of stock will more than absorb the balance and will bring the guarantee fund, the ratepayer, into play. So far I have dealt with the issue of the stock; I come now to ask how much has actually been done in the way of land purchase, which, after all, is the problem, and how much remains to be done. Under the Act of 1903 up to the 31st of last month completed transactions represented a sum of £25,000,000 odd. That sum has been actually advanced. What about pending transactions—and by pending transactions we mean agreements which have been lodged, for direct sale from landlords to tenants, for sales to the Estates Commissioners, and also for sales to the Congested Districts Board? These agreements represent £52,000,000; so that these two figures make up £77,000,000. Now how much remains outside? The right hon. Member for Dover, advised by his experts, came to the conclusion—it was no more than an estimate—that the extent of the problem with which he had to grapple was represented by £100,000,000, and it was upon that estimate that he fixed his limit, for limit it was, of £12,000,000 by way of bonus. In considering that the right hon. Gentleman had, of course, to speculate about the price Irish land was likely to obtain under the provisions of the Bill, and undoubtedly prices have ranged a great deal higher than was within the dream of his philosophy or I think within the expectation of any of the parties to that celebrated land conference. It is one of those ironical facts which I give over to the consideration of the Member for Preston, that one effect of our interference and of the employment of British credit, and certainly of the zones, has been very much indeed to increase the price of Irish land. However that may be, the 1813 right hon. Gentleman acting upon his advice, as I have to act upon mine, made his shot, and his shot was £100,000,000. Now, I am told by my advisers—who are, I daresay, the same as those who advised him, of course with the experience of what has since happened—that that was an exceedingly bad shot, and there is very little doubt in the opinion of my advisers that the total he ought to have named, could he have foreseen the future, was not £100,000,000, but £180,000,000. ["Oh."] I am quite prepared to lay upon the Table of the House the method of the calculation upon which that is based. Do not suppose I have any interest, God forbid, in extolling the magnitude of the problem. The smaller it is the better I shall be pleased; I can only act upon information placed within my reach. If these figures are correct, we have £52,000,000 to raise to get rid of the pending agreements, and we have to raise a further £100,000,000. If prices rule on the market at the average price since Irish Land stock came into existence—88 5/16—the excess stock, in order to raise £152,000,000 cash, will be £20,000,000, and the annual charge upon this excess stock will ultimately amount to £760,000. Now deduct from that the £100,000 of the Ireland Development Grant and you get the somewhat startling figure of £660,000 a year chargeable upon Irish rates. Of course, not at once, but eventually. That will be the annual cost of the excess stock which nobody pays interest upon.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
The amount to be raised still is £152,000,000, but if £25,000,000 has to be deducted and your estimate is £180,000,000 should not the amount to be raised be £155,000,000 and not £152,000,000?
* MR. BIREELL
That is quite true, I took £100,000,000 as the estimate and this turns out to be rather more.
§ * MR. BIRRELL
It would be £660,000 a year eventually if the present system went on. That would be the interest upon the excess stock which nobody pays. In other words, the amount would fall 1814 upon the Ireland Development Grant and the Irish ratepayers.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
In making that calculation the right hon. Gentleman must have formed an estimate of the average price at which stock will be issued during the whole period. Is he taking the present figure?
§ * MR. BIRRELL
I took it at 885/16, which is the average price of issue of the stock up to the present. No doubt, as time goes on, and when the issue of the stock ceases, and when the Sinking Fund comes into operation, always assuming that this country maintains its equipoise, the price will have a tendency to rise, but for our immediate purposes, and for the next decade, we shall be very rash if we assume that it is likely to improve very much upon the average price of 88 5/16. These figures do not, of course, include the bonus. The bonus of the right hon. Gentleman was limited to 12 per cent. on the £100,000,000. Of course, you cannot add a penny to the £12,000,000 without coming to Parliament for a grant. If Parliament were so minded as to continue the bonus upon the new lot which it paid upon the old lot, then in addition we should have to find £7,200,000 more in cash, and on that you would have to bear a similar loss on excess stock. I have reminded the House of the terms of the bargains of 1903, and I have told the House what has actually happened since it was entered into. Now I am faced with the problem, what are we to do? There are three things to be dealt with. There is the £52,000,000 on pending agreements, nearly all for direct sale. I do not wonder at the complaints which have come from the landlords and in a less degree from the tenants. The landlords have got a very good bargain, but they are kept out of it. They have money in prospect and it is a good thing to have money in prospect. Some of us have not even that. But when you have parted with your land it is natural that you should want to see the money for it. In the same way, the tenant under a majority of the agreements has to pay the landlord pending the advance of the purchase money 3½ per cent. by way of interest.
§ * MR. BIRRELL
Yes. Sometimes it is as much as 4 per cent. At any rate, it is more by ¼ per cent. than his annuity, consequently he also suffers. If you take the rate of purchase in Ireland at twenty-four and a half years of second term rents, which I am advised is really below the average, this gives the owner where his interest in lieu of rent is 3½ per cent. £86 for every £100 of his gross rent, and where it is 3¾ per cent. he gets £92 for every £100 of his gross rent, and, as 10 per cent. has always been allowed as representing the cost of collection, the average selling landlord at the lower rate only loses 4 per cent. upon his net rent, and at the higher rate he makes a slight gain. The real disadvantage of his position is that he is often heavily mortgaged and has to pay interest at the rate of 4½ and sometimes of 5 per cent. Consequently he is badly off, because of the heavy interest on his mortgages. But I may point out that he was always in that position. And as regards the tenant, although it is quite true he has to pay 3½ per cent. instead of 3¼, he nevertheless does obtain by virtue of the bargain an immediate and very considerable reduction—some shillings in the £—of his annual outgoings. Therefore, as compared with the position before the bargain was struck, he is better off.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The right hon. Gentleman must take into account the fact that during the intermediate period before the sale is concluded the landlord is managing his estate and collects his rents. After the sale is concluded the instalments are collected by the State, but between the agreement being signed and the conclusion of the matter the landlord has to collect them. ["No, no."]
§ * MR. BIRRELL
I do not understand that to be the case. I have always understood that the moment a bargain was struck the Land Commissioners took over the recovery of the rent, and did that free, and the landlords got 3½ per cent. clear. But we have to think of other things besides the pending 1816 agreements of £53,000,000. We have to consider the purchase work of the Congested Districts Board and of the Estates Commissioners. I cannot allow that, as far as I have any responsibility in the matter, to be suspended until such time as these pending agreements have been cleared off. That, indeed, would be to arrest land purchase in the very direction in which it is most needed. Nobody can deny that, as things have worked out in Ireland, those who might well have been the last have become the first, and those who ought to have been first have been left to the last. Therefore, while recognising the obligation of the State to work off these £53,000,000 of pending agreements, I cannot be a party to any proposal which would suspend land purchase in its most beneficent direction until such time as the exigencies of the money market and the capacity of the Land Commission Office have worked oft these pending agreements. Then there is the problem of the land which the landlords have not yet sold, but may be willing to sell. Those are the three things I have to bear in mind—pending agreements, the work of the Congested Districts Board and of the Estate Commissioners, and the landlords still outside contracts. All that the Government can do with the best intentions in the world, is governed by two conditions—I might call them categorical and imperative conditions. One of these is the capacity of the money market to take repeated issues of hind stock, and the other is the capacity of the Land Commission to do the work necessarily imposed upon them. Taking the last point first, it is obvious that whatever increase of the staff is made—and an increase there is to be—and whatever modifications of and alterations in the present regulations are made, there is necessarily a limit to the size of a public office, to the expenditure in its administration—already over £175,000 a year—and to the amount of work which it can properly accomplish in any one year. You cannot indefinitely extend an office, you cannot indefinitely extend the expenses of administration, nor can you indefinitely extend the work done at the head by responsible persons. The Treasury have agreed to an increase of staff, and I am now engaged busily 1817 with the Land Commissioners in the revision of their rules. I am quite sure a great deal can be done by quickening the inspection of estates, by lessening points of law and points of title, and by enabling the three Commissioners to work separately rather than all together, greatly to increase the output of the office. But, however well these improvements may work, I cannot bring myself honestly to believe that the office is ever likely to do much more than double its present output. I name £10,000,000 a year as a sum to be aimed at, and I believe it can be reached; but beyond that, I cannot believe (I place no limit; there is no need to place any limit) it will ever be capable of doing the work properly. I do not wish to detain the House by describing the work. I am not unacquainted with it, and having regard to the past, and the nature of the problems, I feel sure that £10,000,000 a year is about the utmost they can hope to do. That is the first conclusion. You cannot get rid of it. The second condition is the capacity of the money market to take repeated issues of land stock. I cannot speak with authority upon that, but I know that every large, fresh issue has a bad and most depressing effect on the market. The market has not a voracious appetite; I wish it had. Its stomach soon turns. Those people who talk so glibly of issuing £40,000,000 of stock as if it could be done by a stroke of the pen are not only unmindful of the capacity of the office work of the Commission, but are unmindful of the capacity of the money market to swallow. British credit, after all, must be preserved. We cannot afford to play tricks with it. It will have to be preserved in the best way we possibly can preserve it, for general purposes and for national emergencies. What do we propose to do, working, as we must, subject to those conditions? First of all we put upon the Imperial Exchequer, subject to the Ireland Development Grant, the whole burden of the loss occasioned by the issue of the stock below par—the necessary issue of excess stock—and the bonus dividend. The advance dividend is otherwise provided for. We at once propose, if we obtain the assent of Parliament, to relieve the Irish ratepayers of prospective losses in these respects. By doing that 1818 I doubt not we remove a very serious nightmare from their minds, but we assume a very serious responsibility upon the Imperial Exchequer. My figures at all events make that sufficiently plain. I estimate the charge upon the Exchequer in respect of pending agreements to be over £200,000 a year. But let there be no mistake about this matter. It is not the present intention of the Treasury to issue more stock on terms involving loss than will be enough to raise £5,000,000 in cash each year. That was the rate contemplated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite for the first three years of the Act of 1903, though he hoped, if things worked well, to mend the pace later. At present prices it involves a loss, to be borne by the Exchequer, of at least £20,000 a year for every £5,000,000 cash that may be raised. We shall aim at an output of £10,000,000 a year. We propose to offer to the landlords who have pending agreements the option of taking their purchase money in stock at the market price of the day, or at the price of £92, whichever may be the lower, or of taking it partly in stock and partly in cash. The present price of the stock is something over 87, so that if the landlords take 2¾ per cent. stock at 92, the cost to the Exchequer would be £14,000 a year for the sixty-eight and a half years for every £5,000,000 raised. That has to be added to the £20,000 a year loss on the £5,000,000 cash raised per year. But seeing that the work of the Congested Districts Board and the Estates Commissioners must go on, £1,000,000 per annum out of the cash raised must be allotted to those departments. I do not say in what proportions now, but there must be a call upon one-fifth of the cash for the purpose of enabling these bodies to transact what, in my judgment, is by far, in the present state of land purchase, the most useful part of the operation. Now, in-regard to future transactions. The Bill proposes to take power to issue a new stock at 3 per cent., instead of at the former rate, and thereby necessarily to increase the tenants' annuity—3½ per cent. instead of 3¼. We also take power for temporary borrowing. Landlords must take this 3 per cent. stock at its face value.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Therefore, on the basis the right hon. Gentleman has described, the £5,000,000 is only for existing transactions.
§ * MR. BIRRELL
That is so. As to the bonus I have already indicated its nature. It was a 12 per cent. bonus calculated on an estimate of £100,000,000 but the House will clearly understand that by the Act of 1903, £12,000,000 was the limit. It was to go round, whatever happened. Under the 48th section of the Act of 1903, subsection (3), it was provided that after the expiration of five years from the commencement of that Act, and thereafter at each quinquennial period the Treasury might revise the percentage for the purpose of adjusting the relation between the unexpended balance of the fund and the claims made upon it. The revision of percentage was to apply to all agreements entered into after the date of its having been made. The five years came to an end on Sunday, 1st November, and as that day grew near the anxiety of the landlords to obtain this increased bonus became feverish. They spurred their agents and attorneys to unwonted exertions, and on the last two days, the Friday and Saturday of a busy week, agreements were lodged in the office exceeding in amount £5,000,000, bringing up the total of pending agreements to £52,000,000. Without legislation not one penny could be added to the £12,000,000 bonus, and pending legislation the percentage must be revised for the next five years so as to go round to the best of our calculations. Who are the present claimants of the money? It has generally been assumed in Ireland that the right to this bonus, until revised, accrues, in the case at all events, of direct sales, whenever the agreement with the tenants of particular holdings are lodged, subject, of course, to the condition subsequent that the estate of which the holdings formed part should be declared an estate within the meaning of the Act. I am advised by my right hon. friend the Attorney- 1820 General for Ireland, and if he does not know the Irish Land Acts his has indeed been a wasted life, most melancholy in retrospect, and also by the Solicitor-General, that hi their view only those landlords are actually at the present moment entitled to this unrevised bonus who lodged all their agreements before 1st November, and that the mere lodging of agreements for some of the holdings on a particular estate would not bring them within the purview of the whole bonus. That, as I have been advised, is the law, but it is not a view of the law on which I am at all anxious to take a stand, because, educated, as I had the good fortune to be, in Courts of equity, the best school of virtue in the world, I am bound to say that I think the "truth and honour of the transaction," as we say in those Courts, is rather in the other direction. I have had a little pleasant intercourse with the Treasury on that point, and they are quite willing to make it clear in the Bill that those landlords who have already lodged some of their agreements shall, in the event of an estate being subsequently declared an estate within Section 98 of the Act, be allowed to take a bonus at the old rate. But the Attorney-General insists in advising me that "the truth and honour if the transaction" would not prevail in the absence of legal provisions to that effect. On the footing of providing for these £52,000,000 as a whole there will still be left of the right hon. Gentleman's £12,000,000 a sum of £3,000,000, not more, perhaps hardly that, to provide a bonus for future applicants. Remembering what I have already said, it is quite plain that the Treasury must at once, and without waiting for legislation, revise this bonus and cut it down to the figure of 3 per cent., and such an order will accordingly appear in to-morrow's Dublin Gazette. If, however, Parliament is willing to come to our assistance in this matter and enable us to pass this measure or something like it, after full consideration we are quite prepared to increase the limit of £12,000,000 and add materially to the bonus for the landlords who remain to be dealt with.
§ * MR. BIRRELL
I will tell you in a moment. The whole subject of what is a bonus has, I confess, agitated my mind considerably. It is not, surely, a bribe to the life tenant to put money in his own pocket at the expense of those coming after him. I decline to consider that as being the basis of a bonus. The value of the land is ascertained apart from the bonus. I quite understand what the bonus was for. It was intended to supply a cash medium to bridge over the possible inability of the landlord, owing to the circumstances in which he found himself, to accept the fair value of his estate. He might agree that a certain amount was the fair value of the estate, but he was so involved one way and another that without the assistance of some cash in his pocket he would prefer to remain on in his present awkward position than to take the mere fair price of his property. This inability, which I recognise, presses far more heavily upon the poorer landlord of poor land which is heavily mortgaged than upon the owners of land that they can sell at twenty-five years purchase. Therefore I should think that the basis upon which the bonus was given in the Bill of 1903 was, if the right hon. Gentleman will permit me to say so, a thoroughly bad one. It went upon the principle of giving to those who did not need it and withholding from those who did. I cannot understand how any human being could wish to give the Duke of Leinster £80,000 for selling excellent property on which there was no trouble whatever at a high number of years purchase, voluntarily and without compulsion—I cannot understand a bonus based upon these principles. We propose, therefore, that the bonus shall be graduated and devoted so far as possible to enable poorer landlords to sell. As something may be said of the temptation it puts in the way of the poorer landlord to cheat his remainder men, if anybody makes a suggestion that the bonus should be partially settled and held over for the benefit of the remainder-men I shall have no objection. We propose to graduate the bonus in order to aid the poor landlord to sell. Our proposals come to this—that the lower down you go in the scale of years of 1822 purchase the higher will be the bonus. At the bottom of the scale will be a 16 per cent. bonus, and the scale is graduated until at twenty-five years purchase and upwards the bonus is nothing at all.
I will proceed now to the second part of my task, which involves a question of even greater difficulty and at least equal responsibility. The financial problem and the administrative problem will, I think, be recognised as, after all, questions of time and patience. We all want to see peace in our own time in Ireland, and are most anxious, if we can, to settle this tremendous question in the shortest possible space of time. But everybody who knows anything about money, law, and land will agree that you will have to wait. Therefore, time and patience are the very essence of the consideration of the financial problem. When I come to the question of the relief of congestion in the west it is not merely a question of time and patience, it is also a question of policy. The whole of this most difficult problem was in 1906 referred to a Commission presided over by Lord Dudley. I know that he is suspect in certain quarters with regard to his political opinions, but surely nobody will deny, and particularly now that he has gore from that West Atlantic and is "by the long wash of Australasian seas," that he devoted to this task pains and self-sacrifice which in a man of his position and past habits of life I have never seen equalled. He threw himself into it and worked and slaved, and, quite apart from any political opinions, he is entitled, especially when he is serving the Empire abarod, to the thanks and consideration of this House. The other Commissioners wree all distinguished men. They held 116 public sittings, spent 48 days in travelling all over the country, with four motor cars, examined 560 witnesses, asked 60,386 questions, and the answers are to be found recorded, and the House will eagerly seek them, in 11 volumes of evidence. In addition, there are 1,779 pages of memoranda, synopses, diagrams, and the like. I can only say that that Commission attracted an enormous amount of attention and excited great interest in Ireland, and if this House, or any Ministers, imagine that they can 1823 refer a question of such vital importance and deep interest to a Commission of this character and then pay no attention to their Report they are repeating the evil behaviour for which, unfortunately, there are some precedents in the past. It is impossible within the limits of a speech to give even a general idea of the substance of the Report, but I can state in a few words what is the problem that has been so elaborately reported upon. It is this. More than one-sixth of the total area of Ireland is already, under Acts of Parliament, for the first of which the Leader of the Opposition is responsible, scheduled as congested. The right hon. Gentleman brought in the first Congested Districts Act. I hope I have no envy in my disposition, but I should have been pleased to share the credit for that Act with him. But, as I was saying, more than one-sixth of Ireland is already scheduled as congested. That is a phrase which means an electoral division where the average rateable valuation per head of the population is under 30s. and where one-fifth of the total population of the county in which that electoral division is situate live in divisions of the same character as to rateable value. Here you have poverty staring you in the face. Three and a half millions of acres are already scheduled with a population of 500,000 and over. According to the census of 1901, 507,000 people—one-ninth of the whole population of Ireland, were living on holdings which represent only one twenty-seventh of the valuation of Ireland. The valuation of the holdings of those 507,000 people is only £577,000. Nine-tenths of this population live on holdings of an average valuation of £6, as compared with a general average valuation of £22. But it does not stop there. Half of those holdings are under £4; in fact, £3 17s. represents the average annual Poor Law valuation of half of these holdings, and to make matters worse, the arrangements are impossible.Not only" says the Report on page 5 "are most of the holdings in the scheduled districts quite inadequate in size, at any rate in regard to the cultivated land, but many of them are also arranged in a way that makes good agriculture impossible. On many estates in the West, especially where the houses are clustered together in 'villages,' and where the people have been in occupation for generations, the land is held in rundale—a survival 1824 according to some authorities of the old communal or tribal system of land-holding—and in other parts the people have sub-divided the holdings from time to time in their own way, in consequence of which their holdings now consist of intermixed plots. The result is that the farm of one tenant often consists not of one or two or even three separate portions of land, but of many detached plots within fenced fields scattered amongst similar fragments of other holdings. A field of one acre may belong to a dozen persons, each of whom has a plot of his own while the land is under cultivation, and very frequently matters are still further complicated by various fractions of plots being held in 'undivided shares.' As might be expected, under such conditions agriculture is extremely backward in many places. Most of the holdings consist mainly of rough grazing land, and potatoes and oats are the only crops usually grown. The methods of cultivation are primitive, with but little rotation of crops, insufficient drainage, and inadequate manuring. The breeds of live stock were worn out and of little value in the poorest districts when the Board commenced operations, and though there has been considerable improvement, much remains to be done, and progress in this respect is of great importance, as the calf or yearling that the average small occupier at present sells is often his main source of income.It goes on at page 7:—The outstanding feature of the congested districts, and indeed of the greater part of the nine counties which contain such districts, is not an excessive population, but first a fairly dense population in certain areas, mostly along the sea coast, where the land is hardly capable of supporting any population at all, and, secondly, excessive population in districts mainly consisting of poor land, but adjacent to extremely thinly-populated districts of better land.This is the issue which I want to put before the House and before Ireland with as much clearness as I possibly can. If this poverty is to be relieved, if this peasantry is to be saved, if the task begun in 1891 is to be continued, two things must be forthcoming. There must be the land to improve the conditions of the holdings, and there must be instruction to teach these poor people, when they have been put upon better holdings, how to live and how to make the most of what must always be in any circumstances a precarious and difficult mode of life. Unless you can find the land and unless you can give the instruction, it is cruelty to touch the problem at all. The people must either starve or emigrate. This is no new thing. The hope that this task should be done goes back before the days when the right hon. Gentleman introduced his Bill, and I hope that this time, at any rate, we shall be able to give effect to those 1825 hopes and wishes. The only land available for the increase of holdings in the west is the untenanted land sometimes called the grass lands. We shall be told that to advocate the policy which I certainly do advocate, and which the Report of the Commissioners advocates, involves the breaking up of those great grazing lands of the west. Well, so it does. Thereby, say some people, you will ruin the cattle trade, which is admittedly one of the great industries of Ireland. I hope, before people come to that conclusion, that they will read those pages of the Report which deal with that subject—a Report in which Sir John Colomb joined, but to which he added an interesting and well-reasoned Memorandum, putting the difficulties as strongly as they could possibly be put. I invite the whole House to read not only the Report, but his own separate Memorandum, and I think they will find that they are hasty in assuming that the breaking up of these grass lands in the west will strike a heavy blow, if a blow at all, at the cattle trade. The solution will be found in mixed farms—small farms partly tilled and partly in grass. I beseech hon. Members to consider these things before making up their minds definitely about it. Even assuming the worst that can be said, and the worst is this, that possibly the breaking up of these grass lands in the west might interfere with the full progress and the full prosperity of the cattle trade to some extent—even admitting that, I say there is no help for it. What are you going to do? Are you committed to the policy of improving these uneconomic holdings? If you are, you want the land. You have got to make up your mind between the cattle and the people. Are the people to give way to the cattle or the cattle to give way to the people? We cast our vote on the side of the people, and I say that in so doing we are not departing from or reversing any policy whatsoever of the right hon. Gentleman or anybody else opposite, because, if it is to be our policy that the uneconomic holdings of these people are to be increased from £3 17s. rateable value to something like £10 or under, you have got to get this land or to give up hope. It is not a matter at all for surprise that the whole body of the Commissioners should have reported that, if these holdings are to 1826 be increased at all, you must have every acre of untenanted land that you can lay your hands on, at all events west of the Shannon. In order to get it, the Commissioners unanimously reported, subject to certain conditions, that compulsory powers should be granted. The Government propose to invite this House to grant these powers. But the problem does not stop there. The land hunger in Ireland is universal. As originally devised, the Land Purchase Acts were confined to dealing with the actual landlords deriving rent from actual tenants paying rent and in occupation of their holdings But the Act of 1903 broke down that limitation. Outsiders were included within some of the benefits. The Estates Commissioners were authorised to buy estates as a whole in the west and elsewhere and to resell them, and in reparcelling the untenanted land they were to consider not only the relief of congestion, but to divide the untenanted land amongst other classes defined in the Act. Many people who were in no sense of the word congested tenants have shared in the division of untenanted land. Hopes have been excited; land-hungry eyes have been greedily cast on the untenanted land by persons living in the district; they have marked them out for their own. Parochialism has prevailed over nationalism in this matter. The sons of the farmers have asked why they should be passed over in favour of those whom they may in their parochialism regard as strangers. I will go no further into that question. In my judgment it is one which Ireland ought to have the opportunity of settling for herself. We cannot do good at the point of the bayonet. We cannot maintain an army of police offering protection to migrants, as in the old days they offered protection to landlords and their agents. We propose, in accordance with the Report of the Commission, to reconstruct the Congested Districts Board. We propose to enlarge its area in the manner which the majority suggest. We propose greatly to increase its statutory income, and to give it within its extended area the first call upon all the land within that area. We propose to confer upon it compulsory powers for the acquisition of land for the relief of congestion within 1827 its area. Some of its present powers we propose to transfer to the Department of Agriculture. Before stating in a little more detail what our proposals are, I want to say this, that these proposals are what seemed to us, after much consideration and reflection, fair and practicable proposals, but the Government has no other desire than to enlist on behalf of the West of Ireland the sympathy and support of all lovers of Ireland; and whilst fully determined to do whatever we can to continue the work of the relief of these people by making their holdings economic and improving their education, we shall always be ready and perfectly willing to consider, without wounded pride or personal consideration, any suggestions coming from Ireland that are honestly intended to effect the accomplishment of what I hope is a common object. We propose to incorporate the Congested Districts Board. We propose that from and after the appointed day the Congested Districts Board shall consist of three ex officio members, the Chief Secretary, the Under-Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant, and the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture; five appointed persons nominated by His Majesty; nine persons representing the congested districts counties', one being elected by the local authority of each congested district county; and at least one person to be appointed by His Majesty as a permanent and paid member. We propose that there should be an administrative committee of this Board, which shall consist of the Chief Secretary, the Under-Secretary, the paid member, and one member of the Board not being an ex officio member, to be chosen by the appointed and representative members. On this administrative committee would devolve the obligations relating to finance; the Committee would, in short, control the finance of the Board. Subject to such control, the Board would have power to determine all matters relating to the purchase and resale of land and the aiding and developing of industries and fishing. We propose that the statutory income of this Board should be increased from £186,500 a year to £250,000. That may seem a large or a small sum, according as you view the nature of the transactions of this body, but if it is to work 1828 at all, it can only work at very considerable expense. It has to acquire properties under the operations of the Land Purchase Acts. It has to fit them for occupation by the congested persons. It has to enlarge the holdings, and to go to considerable expense in buildings and the like; and however carefully this £250,000 a year is husbanded, and even if every penny of it is wisely spent, it will undoubtedly take some twenty years at the very least before the task can be said to be in any way accomplished. And, therefore, large or small as the sum is conceived to be, it is at all events not large enough to do more than enable this work to be carried out within a generation yet to come. We propose to increase the area of the Board. It will comprise the whole of the counties of Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway, Clare, and Kerry, and certain rural districts in the-western part of Cork. Now we come to the question of the transfer of certain of the powers of the Congested Districts Board to the Board of Agriculture. We propose that the powers and duties now conferred on the Congested Districts Board for the purpose of aiding and developing agriculture, forestry, the breeding of live stock and poultry, and the provision of sued potatoes and seed oats shall on the appointed day be transferred to the Department of Agriculture. In this connection I must put in a word here, or I shall get into trouble with the Treasury. The £250,000 I have indicated as the increased income of the Board is to be given on the footing that it does all that work, and consequently, if any part of the work is transferred to another Department, there will have to be an adjustment as between the to Departments. Then we propose to take powers for the compulsory acquisition of land within the area of the Congested Districts Board, and we propose to exclude the Estates Commissioners from making purchases within the congested districts, unless with the consent of the Congested Districts Board. In other words, the Congested Districts Board is to have the first call upon the land within its area. Two things are noticeable in this matter. I have not attempted in this Bill to 1829 lay down rules for estimating the value of an estate. Those who have read the Report will know that there is a very elaborate contrivance laid down in it for the purpose of estimating what is called the net profit income of the land. I have read it over and over again until my head ached, and I am bound to say that, speaking of it with all respect, sometimes I thought I had grasped it, and then it eluded me, and I found it impossible to introduce it into the Bill. Because, after all, in the case of occupied land, the rental value must be the main basis in estimating the value of an estate. If you want to buy an estate, you ask what value it is to its owner, how much does it leave after he has paid for the collection of his rents and made other allowances, how much comes to fructify in his breeches' pockets? With that object you take into consideration the surroundings and position of the estate, what are called the amenities of the estate, whether it has a town or market near it, and so on. I quite agree with Sir John Colomb when he says, in the Report—I can see no reason why, because the land is in Ireland, its owner should suffer any disabilities from which ownership of land in England, Scotland, or Wales is exempt. If the State takes land away from an owner in Ireland it should, as regards price and conditions, be subject to the decisions of a Court of Arbitrators as qualified, and commanding as much public confidence for impartiality and freedom from administrative influence, as in Great Britain.'But I think Sir John Colomb is mistaken if he thinks that arbitration in England always succeeds in giving satisfaction to all the parties. I have been an arbitrator over and over again, but I cannot lay to myself the flattering unction that in my Reports I always gave satisfaction to both sides. It is only because in Ireland such a fierce light beats upon the arbitrator, and everybody is so interested in the land, that great nervousness exists upon this question. The problem of fixing value is a very difficult problem. It can never be done to absolute mathematical perfection. All you can do is to secure, as far as you can, that you have honest and competent men—not necessarily lawyers—but competent men who are not influenced either by the administration or by hopes of promotion, or by vulgar considerations of that sort, but 1830 bend their minds honestly for the purpose of considering what is the value of the land. Having discovered the value of the land, if you take it compulsorily you must pay cash for it. You cannot pay in stock. I was brought up under the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, but I should say if you take away a man's land compulsorily, you must ascertain its value, upon the basis of finding out what it was worth to him, and having come to a decision you must pay him in cash, and I do not think he ought to be kept waiting a very long time for his money. Therefore, in all these cases of compulsion the purchase money will have to come out of the £1,000,000 which is to be set aside out of the £5,000,000. The machinery for compulsory purchase is akin to the machinery under the Evicted Tenants Act, and we propose, if there is no agreement as to price, that the price shall be fixed by the Judicial Commissioner with two lay assessors. That is to be the Court for fixing the price of the land.
§ * MR. BIRRELL
Yes, as to value, bat there is to be an appeal on points of law to the Court of Appeal, for instance, as to whether the land proposed to be acquired is a demesne or home farm. With regard to the zones, we do not propose to abolish them. I do not like the zones, because I think that undoubtedly the effect of them has been to raise the price of land. They also take away the control of the State in a matter in which it is deeply and vitally interested—namely, the Value of the security, and it is a little strange to me that a mortgagee, so to speak, should not be allowed to form any estimate as to the value of the estate on which he is lending his money. But, as I am doing my best to increase the output of the office, it seems to me that it would be most unreasonable now to increase the work. Two-thirds of the contracts are within the zones. If, therefore, we abolish the zones and throw the work of inspection on the Estates Commissioners, it would treble their work, and that, I think, is most undesirable. At the same time, we do propose to allow the Estates Commissioners, if their attention has been 1831 called to particular circumstances as to the inadequacy of the security or to any other circumstances, such as duress or great arrears of rent and the like, in cases within the zones to insist upon examination if they think proper. There are other clauses which deal with important matters. For example, in cases of non-judicial tenancies, and other cases outside the zones, we propose to make important changes. At present in these cases the security has got to be investigated, and if the Land Commission is satisfied with the security and is of opinion that the agreed price is equitable, the advances may be made. The judicial construction which has been placed upon the section of the Act is that in considering whether the price is equitable or not the matter can only be considered with regard to the vendor, that is to say, whether the price is not too low, so as to injure the mortgagees or remainder-men. Cases have occurred where most valuable buildings have been put upon the land by the tenant himself, and yet it has not been possible to consider the equity of the price so far as the tenant is concerned, and he has been made to pay for these buildings over again. That certainly affects the security very materially, and also, I think, was not the intention of the Act. I think when you say the price is to be equitable you mean equitable with regard to all parties, and, therefore, we include a clause giving effect to that view. We propose also to put a limitation upon the amount of advances to one purchaser. The original limit was £3,000; this was raised in exceptional cases, under the Act of 1888, to £5,000, and under the Act of 1903 it was further raised to £7,000. We think the sale of large holdings of this kind ought not to be encouraged. We propose to reduce the amount which may be advanced to any one purchaser to £3,000 as a general rule, allowing in exceptional cases, to resident tenants, an advance of £5,000. We also propose after a particular date to prevent any purchaser from acquiring subsequently a number of purchased holdings and consolidating them. The practice has grown up among landlords with untenanted land on their hands of dividing it up into lots, putting the tenant right 1832 up to auction, selling to the highest bidder, and undertaking to sell the fee simple to the new tenant under the Land Purchase Acts. Very high prices have been obtained under this system. All I have to say is that it is not the sort of thing for which British credit should be used. We extend provisions of the Act of 1903 as to sales of parcels of land to persons who are not tenants. It is most desirable, having regard to the difficult problems that the Congested Districts Board will have before them, to enable them, at their discretion, to give parcels of land for other purposes than in relief of uneconomic holdings. They can only do it now under the severest restrictions, and they must give notice to the Lord-Lieutenant in every case in which they exercise the power. It is most desirable that there should be a policy of friendliness carried on—it is desirable that they should have the power of coming to terms and making a bargain. We also provide for a system of afforestation. I think the hon. Member for East Clare takes a just interest in this question. It is of vital importance first to encourage the planting of trees and, secondly, to prevent their destruction. Then there is the mysterious subject of future tenants. It is not generally known what a future tenant is. I think I can explain it to those who do not know. A "future tenant" is the holder of a yearly tenancy which was created since 1881. A great many present tenants have become future tenants under the operation of the Act of 1887. In that Act there is a clause which is commonly called "the eviction-made-easy clause." I do not think anybody can blame people for putting an interpretation upon that clause which is intelligible to them and which indicates the character of the provision. The eviction-made-easy clause was one by which notice was served on a tenant who was in arrears of rent, and, instead of turning him out and creating a scene by an actual eviction, he was turned into a caretaker, and there he remained, but lost his right of having a fair rent fixed by the Court. He might be restored within six months by a writ of restitution upon payment of the arrears of rent and costs, and in that case he got back the benefit of having a fair rent fixed. When that was 1833 not done, the landlord and tenant came to terms; the tenant remained in possession, but lost, as I have said, the right to have a fair rent fixed. We restore that right.
§ MR. BIRRELL
Those that I have mentioned are the only persons, I think, to whom the new provision will apply. Now, if you give compulsory powers over one-third of Ireland to the Congested Districts Board for the relief of congestion it will be impossible to withhold similar powers from the Estates Commissioners outside that area. Otherwise the boundary question would constantly arise, and as nobody knows better than the right hon. Member for Dover, there are many estates outside the congested districts which present precisely the same features and difficulties, and to include the one and exclude the other would be, in my judgment, to cause great injustice. Obviously, these powers will have to be exercised within close limits owing to the limitations of the resources of the Estates Commissioners. Yet these powers are as necessary in the one case as in the other to secure that social order for which, and for which alone, you can justify the provisions of the Act of 1901. I am very sorry for having occupied so much of the time of the House in explaining this measure —[Cries of "No, no" and "Go on."]—but, as I have striven in the cause of land purchase—to extend it, to enlarge it, and to continue it—as I have never striven in any cause before, either public or private, either in the interest of wife or child, for either fame or fortune, I have endeavoured to do the best I can in trying circumstances and in an irritated state of the money market—to bring forward proposals which, though they must of necessity bring disappointment to many people, to some as appearing too close and to others because they may seem excessive, I believe are fair, 1834 generous and courageous terms, having for their object not to reverse the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, but to continue it and to pursue it. Though long and difficult the path may be by which we have to travel, it is, I believe, a path which, eventually, if we do not lose courage, will lead us to settled peace and increased prosperity in Ireland and these conditions must of necessity redound to the credit and the safety of the United Kingdom.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to amend the law relating to the occupation and ownership of land in Ireland, and for other purposes relating thereto."—(Mr. Birrell.)
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
The right hon. Gentleman has made a very long speech and has been dealing with an old but technical subject, and I am sure I am expressing the view of everyone who has listened to him from all quarters of the House when I say that from first to last his speech has been intensely interesting. It is due to him that someone should immediately rise representing the Irish National Party in this House to express their opinion on that speech. The right hon. Gentleman did not exaggerate the gravity of the problem in his opening remarks. No man sitting upon these benches will dispute his statement that the future welfare and prosperity and peace of Ireland depended upon the rapidity of the progress of land purchase. Speaking on behalf of the Irish Party and expressing their views at their request, what I have to say after listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is this—that whatever defects there may be in this measure—and there are some—and whatever complaints we may have to make of certain portions of it, speaking of this measure as a whole, we recognise it as a bold and a far-reaching measure of reform. We do not expect on these occasions—we have been taught by long and bitter experience not to do so—to find in any measure for Ireland, proceeding from either party in the State, all the suggestions put forward by the Nationalist Party. Some portions of this Bill are not in accord with the views 1835 we pressed upon the Government, but taking the measure as a whole, with the few exceptions to which I will allude in a moment, the measure is framed in accordance with popular sentiment in Ireland. There is a commentary which I think I might be forgiven for making when I allude to the fact that almost every one of the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, put forward now as Amendments to the existing law, are simply proposals to carry into effect Amendments of ours and proposals of ours made again and again for years in this House. This Parliament has been tortured by the Irish land question. You have passed I do not know how many Bills into Acts since at the expense of great trouble and time. You have passed thirty or forty Acts in the past fifty years, and since the Land Act of 1903 there have actually been three Land Acts passed, and if Parliament is tortured and the question comes up again and again like a phantom to haunt this Assembly, what is the reason? The reason is that our proposals have been rejected and put upon one side for those of British representatives and the British Government—they thought they knew better than we, and this measure, brought in as it is as an Amendment to the Act of 1903, if carried into law will simply carry out the proposals and the Amendments which we brought forward in Committee on the Bill of 1903. There are three portions in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but I will take the last portion first, that which deals with the general amendment of the law of 1903 and the Irish Land Acts generally. The right hon. Gentleman proposes, in the first instance, a general power of compulsion to be vested in the Estates Commissioners outside the congested areas, and I presume the machinery to be provided for the exercise of the powers of compulsion will be the same or similar to the machinery inside the congested area. I have to say that that proposal will be received with wide-spread satisfaction in Ireland. It is a proposal that has been put in the forefront by the National Party for a very long time indeed, and one we have again and again pressed upon succeeding Governments. He proposes also to include that mysterious entity called the "future tenant," to 1836 admit him to the benefits of the Act of 1881, and in taking that course also the action of the right hon. Gentleman will be received with the greatest possible satisfaction in Ireland. With reference to the zones. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell me if I misunderstood him. I understood him to say he does not intend to abolish the zones, but, as I understood, he proposes to give the Estates Commissioners, in any case falling within the zones, the right if they so choose to make an investigation as to the value of the security on one side and the equity of the price on the other, and if they are not satisfied, they are to have power to refuse the power of sale. If that does not go to the length we asked with regard to the abolition of the zones, it goes a long distance towards it and certainly will give the greatest possible satisfaction, always, of course, on the understanding, as I understand is the right hon. Gentleman's view, that in considering the equity of price, they should consider not only the equity of price in regard to the remainder-men and vendor, but as between the landlord and tenant. I will not dwell further upon this portion of the subject. The proposals he indicates with reference to forestry are fully needed. The whole country has been denuded of trees. All sections of the Irish people will welcome the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. There were other matters which can wait until we see the text of the Bill. I content myself with glancing rapidly at what I regard as the vital proposals regarding the amendment of the law. I have to say that his proposal with reference to the universal right of compulsion, and with reference to future tenants, and his proposal with reference to the zone and in other points I have mentioned, will be received with widespread satisfaction in Ireland. Now let me deal for a few moments with the second portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman—the question of congestion. He drew a pathetic picture of the problem of congestion, and indeed no picture that could be drawn could adequately paint the horrors of the present situation in the congested portions of Ireland. One aspect of the problem of congestion was not mentioned 1837 by the right hon. Gentleman. It is this. What is the origin of the congestion problem? Why is it that you have on one side these congested districts of poor people living on wretched patches of land, on which if they had it for nothing, they could not live decently? Why is it that you have people huddled together on wretched inhospitable soil and great vast expanses of rich land unoccupied? That is one feature in the description which the right hon. Gentleman gave of the problem. The origin of it is this. It is an artificially created state of things. The people were taken by force and iniquity off the rich land and driven on to the poor land; and if you are now engaged in the beneficent and holy work of endeavouring to get those people back again off those wretched patches of land on to land that will enable them to live in decency, you are engaged in undoing as far as you can the evil done by British Governments in the past in Ireland. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the Government upon having boldly adopted in the main the recommendations of the Dudley Commission, and on behalf of my colleagues I would like to associate myself and them with what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the Dudley Commission and Lord Dudley. The Commission was originally appointed on the suggestion of the Irish Party, and we have watched its proceedings with the keenest interest. We have all recognised the labour and ability bestowed on the work of the Commission, and I should think there is not a man in Ireland of any party who does not feel under a debt of obligation to Lord Dudley. Lord Dudley went to Ireland as a Unionist statesman, a Unionist Lord-Lieutenant. I presume he would still call himself a Unionist, but at any rate he was not long in Ireland before his experience widened his ideas about popular rights and popular demands, and from the day he landed till he left he showed the keenest sympathy with the Irish people, and the poorest of the Irish people, as did also Lady Dudley. There is no question about it. The whole of the Irish people are grateful, and this Report would be always a monument to his generous dealing with the subject, and to his industry, and I can only trust that 1838 the Government will be able to pass this part of their Bill which is founded on that Report. I have not yet of course seen a line of this Bill, and I do not know what are the details by which it is proposed to carry out what is in the speech of the Chief Secretary. But I confess there were some things which I did not like. I did not like the point about the financial control of the new Board. If I understand him the Administrative Committee is to consist entirely of ex-officio and nominated members of the Board.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I see. I do not say I am satisfied with that, but it is a great improvement on what I feared was the case, and when we come to discuss the matter we can consider the desirability of giving a representation of more than one elected member. The Report of the Dudley Commission asked I think, £300,000 a year. The Government are only providing £250,000. I cannot complain of that under the circumstances. I would have been glad to see the recommendation of the Report carried out in full, but I admit that raising it from £86,000 to £250,000 is, taking all the circumstances into account, not an ungenerous dealing with this question. We have many quarrels with the fault has ever been upon our side, but I am bound to say that when we find them coming any appreciable distance towards a generous treatment of these questions, we are always willing to acknowledge it, and just as in the case of the Labourers Bill when the right hon. Gentleman (the Prime Minister) was at the Treasury it dealt not unfairly with us, so now I say that the new Chancellor of the Exchequer has dealt not unfairly with us. There is another small matter. The Chief Secretary proposes having one paid member of the Board. The Dudley Commission proposed three, and I think the general view upon this subject is that there should be more than one. Speaking, therefore, on the congested districts proposals generally, I say they meet with satisfaction and approval on these 1839 benches, and that they will meet with great approval and satisfaction in Ireland. I believe these proposals afford the first real hope of the settlement of this question, and taken in connection with the general powers of compulsion which the Commissioners will have over the rest of Ireland (the congested problem is not confined to the counties named) in my opinion they offer a reasonable hope that in the near future this whole question may be successfully dealt with. I am most anxious not to delay the House unnecessarily and I pass on to the first portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He treated a difficult subject especially for those Members who have not followed the course of the finance of the Land Act of 1903, for the last five years. Some time ago the Treasury formed a Committee and they issued a Report and immediately afterwards the Irish Party formed a Committee which issued a contrary Report. I am bound to acknowledge that although on the question of the finance of the Act the Government have not gone to the full length we asked or anything like it, in some particulars, they have advanced considerably since the issue of the Report of the Treasury Committee. They have advanced along the lines pointed out by the Irish Party. The Treasury Committee presided over by the present President of the Board of Education did not suggest for a moment that the loss on flotation should be taken over by the Treasury. On the contrary, the whole of that Committee Report was devoted to endeavouring to devise some means of lightening the load on the ratepayers, without putting anything on the Treasury. The Irish Party brushed that to one side, and put forward boldly the demand that this loss should fall upon the Treasury. This scheme in 1903 was constantly spoken of as a great Imperial policy. It would have beer an absurdity indeed if a great Imperial policy were to be carried out at the expense of the poor ratepayers of Ireland. We demanded therefore that the whole of the cost of flotation and incidental expenses amounting as it will do finally to a sum of over £500,000 for a considerable number of years should be undertaken by the Treasury. The 1840 right hon. Gentleman has boldly grappled with that point and has taken the liability wholly off the ratepayers of Ireland. I admit in the frankest way that that is a very important and far-reaching decision of his, and that it will be received with the greatest possible satisfaction in Ireland.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
Of course, you speak for England. No measure of this kind can be carried without full discussion and when that discussion comes, of course the one person everybody will be eager to hear representing England will be the hon. Baronet. Now, the general complaint I make with reference to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is this—it does not provide for a sufficiently rapid rate of carrying on land purchase in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman suggests £5,000,000 a year cash and £5,000,000 in addition of 2¾ per cent. stock to be accepted in lieu of cash by the landlords. The right hon. Gentleman contemplates progress at the rate of £10,000,000 a year. I admit that is about double what the progress has been, but still it is not rapid enough. The right hon. Gentleman talks of the money market and says he cannot get more than £5,000,000 a year without considerable loss. He says British credit must be reserved for some national emergency. Is not this a national emergency? It is an emergency that has arisen in the carrying out of a great national policy, adopted by Parliament, sanctioned by both parties in this House, and on which depends the future success, prosperity and peace of Ireland. You say a national emergency would be if you had to inaugurate a war against 200,000 or 300,000 Dutchmen in South Africa or elsewhere. Your credit is to be reserved for that. But is it not a national emergency to carry out a great Imperial policy of peace, to preserve men's lives instead of destroying them, and to spread prosperity and peace amongst the people? I am bound to say that I think the Treasury in this matter ought to have gone further than they have done. I am not satisfied with the limit 1841 of £5,000,000 a year cash and £10,000,000 to the working power of the Land Commission. That brings me to the second excuse of the right hon. Gentleman. He said it was not only that he could not get the money, but that if he had it he could not put the transactions through more quickly. Well, I cannot believe that. I know that as the office works at present, and I say nothing against the conditions there, the output of £5,000,000 a year is as much as they can do, but I cannot conceive that it is impossible for you by a reconstruction of your procedure and an increase of your staff to enable far more than £10,000,000 a year to go through. It is not a Treasury objection, for if you increase the staff you shorten the period for the Land Commission to have work to do. This is only a temporary transaction, and if you let it go on for twenty-five years the Treasury is not gaining. You are merely continuing the process and it is to the interest of the Treasury to make this quicker. I cannot conceive that by simplifying your procedure and increasing your officers it is impossible to put forward more than £10,000,000 a year.
§ * MR. BIRRELL
I did not say that it was impossible. I said we would do the best that we could, but my own belief honestly is that we shall not get through more than £10,000,000 a year.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I was dealing with the fact that the right hon. Gentleman said that his experience was that they would never be able to do so, but I am glad to have got that qualification, as I am convinced that where there is a will there is a way. It is of the most urgent national importance that this thing should not drag along. It is important from the point of view of England, as well as Ireland, that no effort should be spared to get these transactions through as quickly as possible. I say, therefore, that the progress as sketched by the right hon. Gentleman is too slow. Now the right hon. Gentleman proposed that in future there shall be created a 3 per cent. stock, instead of a 2¾ per cent., and that the landlords shall be paid, not by any option of theirs but on the option of the Treasury, 1842 in stock or money. If the 3 per cent. stock went up to a premium the Treasury would pay the money and collar the premium; if the stock falls below par they would pay in stock. The objection I have to that is that it raises the interest for the tenant purchaser from 2¾ per cent. to 3 per cent. It is all very well to say that the tenant, if he makes a good bargain with his landlord, and buys at a low price, will get over that with no loss, but I do not want to see any additional obstacle put in the way of agreement between landlord and tenant. I do not want to see the process made slower. I am sure this will have that effect, therefore I feel that it will be the duty of my colleagues and myself, when we come to that portion of the subject, to move Amendments and to do what we can to re-cast that portion. On the question of the bonus I do not agree with the Chief Secretary—the right hon. Member for Dover will speak directly and enlighten us on this point—I do not agree with the Chief Secretary that whereas the £100,000,000 for land purchased was a calculation, the £12,000,000 bonus was a limit. What we distinctly understood at the time was that £12,000,000 was the amount of the bonus, because £12,000,000 would give 12 per cent. on £100,000,000. I remember distinctly in this House Mr. John Morley, as he then was, sitting on the Front Opposition Bench, saying that in regard to the figure of £12,000,000—You are making a mistake; your £12,000,000 will not be enough, because you are under-estimating the value of the land in Ireland. £12,000,000 will not give you 12 per cent. on your money.And he said that £22,000,000, in his opinion, would be required. How was that met? No one met it by saying: "Oh, £12,000,000 is the limit," The estimate of £100,000,000 was accepted, and no one pursued the matter further. Now you find your £12,000,000 is not enough to carry out that part of what I regard as the bargain. You are going to say that all the landlords who lodged agreements before November 1st are to get the 12 per cent. bonus in full, but that if this Bill does not pass no landlord who comes after November 1st can get more than 3 per cent. bonus, and even if this Bill does pass, 1843 although there is to be a large addition to the £12,000,000, still I gather no landlord can be certain that he will get as much as 12 per cent. I protest against that. You may ask why I should intervene, and say that this is primarily a landlord's question. I deny that. I say that inasmuch as it interferes with smooth and rapid progress it is not merely a landlord's affair, but is a tenant's affair as well. But even if it were only a landlord's affair, I would take the same line. I expect the Irish landlords to facilitate us in other portions of this Bill, which are favourable to the tenants. The demand was made by an hon. friend of mine above the gangway that the Government should introduce two Bills, the one dealing with finance, and the other with general amendments of the law. We were not quite such children as to agree to anything of the kind. Here we get the whole of these different portions hanging together. If we are to assist the landlord to get the 12 per cent. bonus upon new transactions, then it must be on the condition that it is part of the general Bill, and that they will facilitate us in getting those other portions which are favourable to tenants. I understand that the matter of the bonus stands in their way. Without new legislation the Government cannot give one additional penny of bonus to the £12,000,000, and therefore there will be less than £3,000,000 of bonus left to deal with the £80,000,000 of new transactions. As I understand, the bonus will be dealt with in accordance with a graduated scale. Some of the landlords who sell their estates cheap will get 16 per cent. instead of 12 per cent., and then it will be graduated up to a point at which every sensible man would say the bonus will disappear altogether. Of course, until we see that scale, and carefully examine it, and make careful calculations as to the probable price to be paid, it is impossible to estimate how much more than the £12,000,000 will be required by the Treasury. But this I will take as certain, if this Bill passes and a scale of that kind is put in, a large sum running into millions must be provided by the Treasury to eke out the balance of the £12,000,000. I am not entirely satisfied with that. We are all in favour of graduation. We first pro- 1844 posed it in Committee on the Land Act of 1903 in this House. We have proposed it over and over again. Therefore we are certainly in favour of graduation, but, if I could, I would get an additional sum in bonuses which in its amount would represent 12 per cent. on the whole of the new transaction. If the landlords will work with us on the other portions of the Bill, I am willing to work with them on that portion of the Bill, and to do the very best I can to see in carried out. For the present, therefore, I leave it as it stands, until we see the Bill and make calculations, and can consider it more closely. This Bill is not wholly satisfactory. I have pointed to some provisions in which I consider it eminently unsatisfactory, but no measure for Ireland ever proposed in this House was entirely satisfactory. Some defects are of an exceedingly great character, but I repeat what I said at the commencement that, viewing this measure as a whole, it is a great, a bold, and a far-reaching measure. What is to be the fate of the Bill? I would ask from the Government that they fix an early date for the Second Reading, so that after seeing the text of the Bill we may be in a position to enter upon intelligent discussion on all its details. I recognise, understanding the Parliamentary situation as I do, that the immediate fate of this measure depends upon circumstances over which the Chief Secretary probably has no control, and over which certainly we on these benches have no control. I am a careful student of the journalistic prophets in relation to Parliamentary affairs, and I have noticed with interest that quite recently suggestions have been made in more than one quarter. I do not know whether there is any authority for any of them. One suggestion was that if the Licensing Bill is not rejected on Second Reading but goes into Committee, and if the English Education Bill is allowed considerable discussion, which I think is extremely likely in that House, the Government have already practically made up their mind that they can not prorogue Parliament before Christmas, and that they will have to adjourn over Christmas and continue the session if necessary till the month of March. I claim if that programme were carried out we should be 1845 entitled before Parliament prorogued this session to have this Irish Bill pushed through all its stages in this House. Another suggestion was that the Government might take the course of proroguing before Christmas, and pass a Resolution hanging up the Licensing Bill or the Education Bill, so that they might proceed immediately next session at the place where they had left off. If that alternative is adopted by the Government, and any Bill is hung up, I claim that the Irish Bill should be hung up, so that we may be enabled to proceed with it at the commencement of next year. I ask the Government to make it quite clear as to their intentions. There are those who will say that this Bill is a mere sham and is not intended to be seriously proceeded with. I ask the Government to take action, and show that any such statement is not true. So far as the Chief Secretary is concerned I know perfectly well it is not true. No man who has tried to govern Ireland from Dublin Castle under any conditions—under the conditions of the peace and order of to-day—no man with that responsibility on his shoulders will take upon himself the risk of making a sham and a phantom proposal. He knows the gravity of the situation in Ireland perfectly well. He knows that the unrest and danger of disturbance in Ireland are entirely due to the delay in introducing the Bill. I am not blaming him for the delay. It was due almost entirely to the work of the Dudley Commission. That Commission sat far longer than anybody thought they would sit. If it got abroad in Ireland now after the Bill has been introduced and is on the whole of a friendly and satisfactory character, that it is intended as a sham and that the Government have no intention of passing it into law, I say as I said outside the House that the right hon. Gentleman would find the Government of Ireland impossible, and I would look forward to the future of Ireland with great apprehension and fear. I ask the Chief Secretary to allow this Bill to be proceeded with at once. I hope all arties in Ireland will seriously consider their responsibilities and will make concessions on all sides. If they do that, this Bill will lead to a successful bit of legislation. If the Chief Secretary carries 1846 this Bill into law, it will be more valuable to him as Governor of Ireland than all the Coercion Acts and policemen that were ever at the disposal of the Chief Secretary.
§ * MR. WYNDHAM
I have listened to two speeches on a subject of perennial interest. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford's concluding observations seemed to me to be at variance with the statement he made a little earlier. He then said that a question of this kind demands the fullest discussion. That is so. Anyone who has listened to the speech of the Chief Secretary and of the hon. and learned Member must see that this is not a mere amending Act; it is a new Act in respect both of the whole finance on which the Act of 1903 is founded, and in respect of the whole administrative manner in which the operations under that Act are to be carried out. May I remind the House of the deliberation with which we proceeded in 1903? Before the Act of 1903 there was, in 1902, a trial Bill. The scope of the Act of 1903 was discussed on the Motion for the Address early in the year. The First Reading was taken in March. The Second Reading was postponed until after the Easter holidays, in order that all classes in Ireland might have an opportunity of studying its provisions. I content myself, on this aspect of the subject, by saying that I do not believe it possible, and if it were possible, it would not be right, for any Government to try to drive such a measure as this through, jostling between the chario's of the Licensing Bill and of the Education Bill. Therefore, from what I have said, I dismiss as possible or probable, that we have, now or within a few weeks, to come to a decision upon the very complicated measure which the Chief Secretary has introduced. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford, in the first part of his speech, dealt with the administrative portion of the Bill, but towards the end of his remarks he had to come round to its financial proposals; and in my opinion it will be found that the whole of this measure, whether we agree with it or whether we do not, will depend entirely upon its financial provisions. You may put in it as many promises as you please, or you may put in provisions which some of us 1847 may think injurious, it does not matter one way or the other, if the financial provisions are so drawn up as to make it impossible for you to proceed in the direction you desire to follow. The hon. and learned Member towards the end of his speech thanked the Government effusively for taking the loss of flotation off the Irish ratepayers and placing it upon the British Treasury. But have they done so? After they have dealt with the applications already received, the tenant, I gather, is to pay a higher interest for his money as soon as we get this legislation, and the landlord is to take the 3 per cent. stock at its face value. If that be so, then there will not be any loss on the Treasury. The whole of what is now borne by the Irish Development Grant will then be borne by the parties to the bargain. That is not very generous.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE,) Carnarvon Boroughs
It is £14,000,000 on £53,000,000.
§ * MR. WYNDHAM
I wish to be careful in my argument on this point. It is not generous—though, perhaps, it is not a case of generosity—to say, in respect of future transactions, that the loss shall be borne entirely by the landlords and tenants. It is not denied that this will be the effect of the future provisions. So far as the future is concerned, therefore, in respect of every single application which has come in since 1st November, or which may come in hereafter, the whole of what was given under the solemn compact of the Act of 1903 has gone. It is all withdrawn. That is not denied by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I come to the other financial provision in regard to the bonus. If the Government think that a graduated scale will result, as they expect it will, they are very much mistaken. The Leader of the Nationalist Party in his speech made overtures across the gangway to hon. friends behind me, as representing Irish constituencies, asking landlords and tenants to work together, in order to get the best results they could in the interests of both. It would not be beyond the wit of the Irish land- 1848 lord or the Irish tenant to find the exact point in the graduation which would enable them to get the most out of the Treasury and the least out of their own pockets. Whatever you do in respect of the loss on flotation, and in respect of the bonus, affects the landlord and tenant equally. If the terms offered make the bargain easy then it is almost tautology to say it makes it easy to come to a deal. If you make it harder to come to a deal, then there must be more give and take on both sides. If you make it easy to come to a deal, then there is more taken by both sides out of the British Treasury. That is the elementary proposition which underlies the whole of this matter of Irish land purchase. If you can give good terms both landlords and tenants come together, and if you cannot—and that may be the case—both landlords and tenants suffer when trying to come to terms. If there is any substance in what I have said—and I think there is—the size of this problem is a very important matter. Our views, based upon how much the British taxpayer may be asked to bear, and whether it is proper to continue the present bonus, must be modified to a certain extent by the size of this problem. The speech of the Chief Secretary, so far as finance was concerned, was made up of two parts, one was a criticism of the Act of 1903, and the other dealt with the finance of the Bill he is introducing. I should not take up the time of the House with a mere barren defence of speculative estimates made up five years ago, unless the size of the problem had a very important and decisive bearing upon the other part of the Chief Secretary's speech, namely, his financial proposals. If he is wrong in believing the problem to be one of £180,000,000, we may say he has no right to depart from a solemn bargain entered into five years ago. The size of the problem may depend upon two things. It may depend upon much higher prices having been given than were anticipated when we brought in the Act of 1903, or upon the actual amount of work that has to be done. The Chief Secretary touched upon both. He seemed to suggest that far higher prices have been given than were contemplated by the Act 1849 of 1903. I cannot conceive how any hon. Member sitting for an Irish constituency can say that, in so far as second-term tenants are concerned higher prices have been given than were contemplated when they supported that Act. It may be the prices are too high—I never expressed an opinion as to the prices—but what I say is that the prices realised are almost surprisingly in accordance with the views expressed at the Conference and in the House of Commons. Under the Conference terms the tenants were to get a reduction of from 15 to 25 per cent. The average is 20 per cent. The operation of that Act as revealed in the analysed and classified results has been that in 95 per cent. of the second-term rents the average reduction has been 19.7 per cent., which is within .3 of the average the Conference recommended, and which hon. Members from Ireland thought reasonable at the time. It may be too high, and it maybe too low, but it does not vary from what we anticipated to be the meaning of hon. Members who spoke for Ireland at the time. Indeed, when they said that the landlord—to take his part of the case—was to have 90 per cent. of his income on a second-term rent basis, whilst investing his money at 3 per cent., they were offering him thirty years purchase. But under the measure which we introduced it seemed probable that the landlord would have to invest at least at 3¼ per cent., and then he would only get about £90 for every £100. If you take the average of the tenant's reduction, i.e. 19.7, you will find that the landlord goes 89.3 of his income from second-term rents, including the bonus. So the tenant has got within .3 of what was anticipated, and the landlord, so far as second-term rents are concerned, has an income within .7 of the Conference terms. It may have been foolish to embody such terms in the Bill. I do not think it was. I think it was wise. Unless we offered generous terms to landlord and tenant, purchase would not have become what it now is, the acknowledged rule for solving the land problem in Ireland. When we were bringing in the Act of 1903 there were still many representatives of landlords and tenants who said they did not believe in purchase. There were many landlords who said they would not 1850 sell. That is all over. The policy stands, and, as the Chief Secretary says, it would be politically and economically a blunder of the greatest magnitude to arrest the progress of purchase in Ireland. The inflation of the sum estimated is not, therefore, due, in my opinion, for the reasons I have given, to prices having been far higher than was contemplated at the time, nor is the problem itself much larger than was anticipated at the time. I do not know how the Chief Secretary has arrived at the total of £180,000,000. It is a subject which, though speculative, can be considered along certain lines of thought which seem to point to certain probable conclusions. If you take the Census of Ireland, there are 490,000 agricultural holdings. That includes 19,000,000 out of 21,000,000 acres in Ireland. That includes every single holding separately assessed, land attached to labourers' cottages, waste land, and tracts of grass land. We must, I suppose, deduct the 80,000 people who have bought already. That leaves us 440,000. Then we have 159,000 applications. How have the Government arrived at their enormous total? I do not know how they have done it. It looks to me as if they have done it by a simple rule of three sum. They say: "Here are 159,000 applications, which come to so much. If we take the balance, with the exception of the 80,000 already dealt with, the sums involved will be about the same relatively." I have done it in that way, and have got very nearly to the Government figure, but not quite; I could not get up to £180,000,000, but I got up to £160,000,000. If they have done it by some such simple and elementary process, I venture to suggest that they have left two important considerations altogether out of account. There are other deductions to be made in respect of holdings which will not be sold, and we must consider whether the holdings which have still to be sold are as likely to be of as valuable a character as the holdings of which sales have already been accomplished. I invite the House for a moment to give me their attention upon these two points, because if I am right in the view I take upon these two points, then this £180,000,000 is a fabulous total, and the financial proposals of the Government would have to be justified and 1851 examined upon their merits, and not under the necessity of facing the financial burdens which, the Chief Secretary says, the British tax payer ought not to shoulder. Take the deductions which, in my opinion, ought to be made upon the possible total of holdings that can be bought or sold. These 490,000 holdings must include a great proportion of the waste land in Ireland. You must deduct something for waste land, which is taken one year for a sheep run and not another. Then you have to deduct every single plot attached to a labourer's cottage, which has been created by a rural district council. You have to deduct market gardens, town plots and accommodation plots, of which there are many right into the towns—town parks. Under that head it is quite clear that if 490,000 is the total number of all the holdings considerable deductions must be made for holdings which are not mainly agricultural and which will not be sold. Then when you come to the question of grass farms there are 11,500,000 acres under grass held sometimes in large quantities by one man. I have known a case of one man who occupied sixteen grass farms. It is perfectly clear if we are going to consider the operations under the Act of 1903 and not going into new operations of a totally different character, very great deductions must be made under that head also from the possible total which you get if you deduct the 80,000 holdings sold from the maximum of 490,000 holdings which covers the whole of agricultural Ireland and a great deal of the waste land of Ireland into the bargain. It may be that in the minds of the Government their new proposals dispose of that point, and that they are going to buy all the grass in Ireland. I do not think they are. I do not think even their proposals make any approach towards what I once called a form of economic insanity. I called the idea of breaking up the grass ranches a form of economic insanity in 1903. No one told me I was wrong then. I said we must deduct a great deal for those which, in my opinion, will never be sold. Nobody dissented. This is not a question of relieving congestion. That is another matter. The relief of conigestion, as we understood it and provided 1852 for it in 1903, perhaps inadequately, is concerned with improving the holding of a man who is now a tenant. Hitherto, with very unimportant exceptions, we have contemplated two things, the abolition of dual ownership in Ireland, that is to say, allowing the occupying tenant to buy his holding as it is; and, as an addition to that, in the case of the congested district, and of congestion wherever it may be found, our second object was improving the holding of a tenant before the estate passes for sale. By all means let us discuss whether the policy of the relief of congestion should or should not be carried out more vigorously. That will not touch my deduction under the third head. Carry it out, if it be wise, in accordance with the maximum recommendation of the Dudley Report, and still, from the point of view of finance, you will not be dealing with many of the great grass farms which could not be used for the improvement of the farms of these people. If that be so, how much may you deduct from this total? I think you might deduct 20 per cent. I think 15 per cent. is a very restricted estimate. But on that restricted estimate you must deduct, in round numbers, some 75,000 in respect of holdings that will not be sold, in addition to the 80,000 that have been sold, and the 157,000 in respect of which applications have been received, that would leave 176,000 applications which may still be expected. If that is the case, how much are the 176,000 holdings which have to be dealt with going to cost on an average? Here we come to the second point. I think the Government have ignored another important consideration. They seem to have supposed that the holdings in respect to which they had applications cost no more than the holdings with which they will have to deal. We assumed that, in selling land as in selling oranges, the best would go first. It is far easier to sell a good farm. When the tenant gets a good article he feels secure against any chance in the future, and the landlord gets a good round sum. It is when you come to farms of low value that it is hard to come to terms, and if you have been dealing with the dearer article, and the applications that come are of the cheaper, you will find that 1853 your rule of three sum is not the way by which to arrive at the money size of this problem. I am not talking of the number of years purchase. My point is the differences between, say, a holding of £50 value and one of £10. If it can be shown that you have been dealing with a greater proportion of holdings with a £50 value in the past than remain to be dealt with in the future I venture to submit that your position is different. Can that be shown? I think it can. Out of 29,000 applications received last year, only 2,000 came from Connaught. Applications have come in greater numbers from the provinces of Leinster and Munster, where the article is dear, than from Connaught, where the article is cheap. Then let us get some comparison from these values if we can. I think I can. In Leinster the average rental of all holdings for which there have been applications is £23 8s.; in Minister it is £21 2s.; in Ulster, £10 2s. 6d.; and in Connaught, £9 12s, 9d., with the inevitable result that the average amount of the advance for all the applications from Leinster has been £528; from Munster, £452; from Ulster, £242; and from Connaught, £211. That has nothing to do with years purchase. It means that in Connaught you have the cheaper article. In Leinster, Munster, and Ulster, you had applications in respect of one-third of all the holdings, and in Connaught you had only applications in respect of one-eighth. Is it not evident that when Connaught catches up the average amount of advances will tend far more towards the £211 average of Connaught, and away from the £528 average in respect of Leinster? All the figures show that the best article went first. If we take the earliest applications for the whole of Ireland, namely, those in respect of which advances have already been made, it will be seen that the average was £394 for each application. Taking the average for the whole period, it was £350; last year it was £330. There has been a drop in the average of the total applications of £64 in the course of the first four years of the operation of the Act. Is it rash to say that the drop of £64 will happen again in the course of the twelve or twenty years that remain? I think it is sure to be repeated. But supposing it is not. If three out of 1854 twenty farms were not to be sold because of reductions, and if you agree with me in thinking that that drop will be repeated to the extent of 50 per cent. then the size of this problem is not £180,000,000 but £108,000,000. If you think it is more reasonable to believe that the average fall of £64 will be repeated in full then the total would be £102,000,000, which is not very far off the estimate made in 1903. So far I have confined myself to the kind of operations which were contemplated when the Act of 1903 was introduced. I hold that any enlargement of the policy of the Act of 1903 must be judged on its merits, and ought not to be paid for at the expanse of people who are satisfied with the Act of 1903; if it is right to deal more vigorously with congestion than before. But do not tell us that because you are going to do this in some parts of Ireland you are going to go back on the bargain ratified in this House in respect of tenants throughout the whole of Ireland. I come, therefore, to the question of the enlargement of policy; and, confining myself to finance, must estimate what additions should be made to the total estimate in respect of such enlargement. You take into your area of scheduled congestion the whole of Connaught and the counties of Clare, Donegal, Kerry and some parts of Cork. That may be right or wrong on its merits. But this extension of the area of congestion does not justify you in going back upon the bargain solemnly ratified by every party in Ireland on behalf of the landlord and tenant. Then I come to the enlargement of the holdings Here again I am in some doubt. In one part of his speech the Chief Secretary said that in Ireland there are no other parties except the landlord and the occupier, and I understood from an earlier portion of his remarks in dealing with congestion that he did not mean to enlarge those classes, but meant to improve the very bad uneconomic holdings and increase the income of the Board for that purpose. From the financial point of view I did not understand that he intended to give any attention whatever to the separate policy of creating a new class of proprietors in Ireland who have never been tenants. The two policies 1855 are quite distinct. The right hon. Gentleman caused some doubt in my mind, later on, when he said that in the Act of 1903, for which I was responsible, we had broken away from that tradition, and had started the policy of using State credit in order to create new holdings to be bought by those who occupied them. Now the only foundation for that is Section 2 of the Act which says that under very limited restrictions and in the case of each estate as it is sold—this has nothing to do with roaming all over Ireland—you may sell parcels to four classes. You may sell to a tenant or proprietor in the neighbourhood owning or occupying a holding of the valuation of £5; and to the occupier of a holding on the estate. These are already owners or occupiers. The only two cases in which we have brought a new roan in, are the case of the evicted tenant and the case of the sons of the tenant on the estate. The son of a tenant on the estate and the proprietor of a neighbouring holding were to be sold parcels out of any spare untenanted land over and above what was needed to improve congested holdings on the estate. If there were 600 acres of grass land, 400 acres might very properly be used for improving the residues round the estate and the balance of 200 acres could be used under strict limitations for this strictly limited purpose of providing land for evicted tenants and the sons of farmers. That is all that is in the Act of 1903 to which the right hon. Gentleman can point as justification for confusing two classes of cases which, in my opinion, ought to be kept sharply divided the one from the other. I am sure we shall be prepared to study the provision in this Bill for dealing with congestion. I do not propose to criticise that portion of the Bill at the present moment, but I may say that it does not commend itself altogether to my judgment. We do not say that the new Board should not have £250,000 if we can be persuaded that it can properly administer that amount. We shall, however, carefully examine the proposals of the Government. I have my doubts in regard to many of the proposals put forward, but I have given 1856 my views in evidence before the Dudley Commission. I do not believe that compulsion is the best plan, but if you take the maximum recommendation of the Dudley Commission, taking the new area they propose, which includes the whole of Connaught, Donegal, Kerry, Clare and part of Cork; if in that area you deal as they propose to deal with congestion in what I must call a heroic and somewhat pedantic way—out of 180,000 holdings it is proposed to treat 80,000 on this basis, the valuation being £350,000—then you are going to buy land worth £450,000 to mend the economic defects of these 80,000 holdings. That may be right or wrong, but I call it heroic to buy land in that way. I know there is some congestion outside, but it is only sporadic, and if you go in for the maximum proposal of the Dudley Commission you will do all that can be expected in respect of congestion and perhaps more, because they recommend improving holdings which have already been bought to the satisfaction of the present holders. If you take their maximum proposal to buy this land you cannot be adding more than £10,000,000 to the financial size of the problem which I ventured to sketch in the first part of my remarks. Up to the present I have been confining myself to finance. I do not propose until I have read the measure of the Government to criticise the provisions for dealing with congestion. I am sure I shall have to criticise them, but looking at the financial side of the problem, taking the highest estimate of £108,000,000 instead of £102,000,000, and adding the extravagant sum of £10,000,000 for heroic treatment you cannot inflate the size of this problem to more than £120,000,000. It cannot be done upon any reasonable examination based upon the probabilities of the case. If that is so, the prospective burden on the taxpayers do not justify the right hon. Gentleman in pleading necessity which has no law for going back upon the bargains arrived at five years ago. The total additional charge for bonus and losses on flotation on an additional £20,000,000—if you take the average at which stock can be floated over the whole period to be, more probably, 90 than 88—will be £150,222. If you put the whole additional 1857 charge which would be involved by dealing with congestion up to the maximum recommendations and accept the size of the problem which I have indicated, this is a matter not of £1,000,000 a year, but of a sum between £350,000 and £360,000 per annum at the outside beyond the £390,000 allocated to the bonus of the £160,000 hypothecated to losses on flotation, when the Act of 1903 was introduced. I put my calculation before the House, and I think it is necessary, whatever views we may form, that we should penetrate a little more deeply into this problem and see whether my £120,000,000 at the outside is not nearer to the probabilities of the case than the Chief Secretary's £180,000,000. When we come to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman with respect to the bonus I prefer to study his sliding scale before pronouncing definitely upon it. I see more reasons than the Chief Secretary was disposed to allow in favour of the bonus as it stands in the present Act. I began with a sliding scale, and my Bill, when introduced had a sliding scale in it, but the discussion in Committee revealed that you could not get any two sections of opinion to agree upon the kind of sliding scale which ought to be adopted, and ultimately, in despair of arriving at any conclusion, the representatives of landlords, tenants and taxpayers said: "We had better make it an even percentage all round," and I think they were right, because nobody can possibly know the position of the parties to the bargain. If a landlord is in a tight place his tenant finds it out by getting a better bargain than he expected; if the landlord is not anxious to sell at all that enters into the calculation. So that the price arrived at is probably in an imperfect world the nearest index to their respective interests, and so we are taking upon ourselves the function of Providence if we try to alter their conclusions by putting in a bonus on a sliding scale. We hold that so far as the bonus is concerned the Chief Secretary has not made out an argument based upon the sheer necessity of facts in favour of altering the spirit of the terms offered in the year 1903. Turning now to losses on flotation, when the Chief Secretary said in future we 1858 are going to take this loss on flotation upon ourselves I felt I had no more to say. But that is not the result of the financial proposals which the Government have put before us. In considering this matter of loss on flotation we have to bear in mind not only the Act of 1903, but also the Irish Development Act passed in the same year, and I think we must cast a glance at the origin as well as at the provisions of that Act. That measure was an equivalent grant to Ireland, consisting of £185,000 a year. It was given because in the year before the Education Act dealing with primary education in England placed £1,400,000 upon the Votes of this House, and it was said that, £185,000 was an equivalent grant for Ireland and a little over £200,000 was granted to Scotland. What has happened? I do not pretend to speak with exact information upon this point, and it is not easy to get an exact comparison. Such study as I have been able to give to the Statistical Abstract leads me to believe that the English grant has doubled and the Scottish grant trebled since the Irish Development Grant Act was passed. I may be told that I am to blame for that by making the grant to Ireland statutory, but if I had not done that Ireland would have got nothing at all. If we are to consider, as the Chief Secretary says we must, the political and economic folly of arresting purchase in Ireland surely we need not stop for £250,000 or £350,000 when larger grants have been made to both England and Scotland. We may be blamed because we did not contemplate the exhaustion of the Irish Development Grant. The sum of £185,000 was estimated upon the chance that Consols would not always be depressed. When the finance of the Land Act of 1903 was considered Consols stood at 92⅞, and they had been higher that year, and it was thought that it was not at all unreasonable to suppose that they might go higher still. It was, however, impossible to lay down finance of this character to last fifty years, and that being so is it not more essential to abide by a bargain in its spirit, to which all parties have given their willing consent? If it had been possible, as at one time it seemed possible, to introduce some large reform for primary education in Ireland, then the whole of that grant would have 1859 been spent in two or three years, and we should have been confronted then with the difficulty which confronts us now because of the persistent depression of Consols. If that had occurred it would hardly have been contended that purchase must stop or proceed, if at all, by altering the terms solemnly offered to Ireland by the consent of all parties in the House. I think three observations may be added on this matter. The Chief Secretary says quite truly that when all the development grant under the Act of 1903 is exhausted this loss falls on the ratepayers. It was the intention of the authors of the Act that £50,000 a year should be conveyed out of this very grant in each of the first four years in order to assist the Treasury with a working nucleus for managing the finances of the Act. It turned out that the Act did not carry out the intentions of the authors. We, therefore, introduced a measure in 1904 and passed it in 1905 in order that the intentions of the authors of the Act might be carried out in that respect. But it was equally the intention of the authors of the Act that the loss due to flotation should not fall on the Irish landlord, tenant, or ratepayer. It is equally right to carry out the intention of the authors of the Act in that particular too. I think the Government ought to meet this matter with something more than the proposals laid before us. After all, they are in part responsible. They insisted on piling the finances of their Labourers Act on the financial foundations of the Land Act, a course which I was advised was most imprudent, and now they say that the foundations are not strong enough to support the original edifice. By publishing the Report of the Committee presided over by the present President of the Board of Education they put a time-limit for Irish landlords and tenants which has driven them into the offices of the Estates Commissioners, so that I think in the half year to April there were 10,000 applications, in the next five months 22,000 explications, and the Chief Secretary tells us that in the last two days there were applications for £5,000,000. In view of the magnitude of this block I think the Government as parties to the difficulty will have to make a somewhat more heroic effort to get out of the 1860 difficulty than I was able to discover in the speech to which we have listened. This is not such a large matter as the Chief Secretary supposes. The Government was prepared only the other day to find £600,000 a year for an object which commends itself to no portion of the Irish people. Is it fantastic to suggest that they might find £350,000 a year for an object which commends itself to all sections of Irish opinion? The contrast is the more striking if we reflect that that £600,000 would have come on the Votes immediately, and expanded to far larger proportions; whilst the smaller sum necessary to carry losses on flotation would come on the Votes gradually in the course of twelve or twenty years, and ultimately disappear altogether. The proposals which the Chief Secretary has made do not observe the spirit of the bargain to which their predecessors were parties no less than we who sit upon this bench. We hold that it is not our business to propose any solution for this difficulty, but we do hold that any solution of the difficulty ought to fulfil at least two conditions. In the first place it ought not to depart from the spirit of the terms of the Act of 1903; any expedient you may offer to those buyers and sellers whose applications are blocked ought to observe the spirit of the Act of 1903. The second condition which we think ought to be observed in any attempt to solve the difficulty—we do not deny the difficulty—is that the solution must not prejudice the interests of future buyers and sellers when the immediate block has been removed. The proposals of the Government do not fulfil either of these conditions. For the immediate block they offer no immediate relief. Their plan hardly expedites purchase. They are going to advance £5,000,000 in cash, which I understand from tie Chancellor of the Exchequer can be done in any case. There is no difficulty there, because that is what is going on now, and, therefore, the only thing they do is to say that they will issue £5,000,000 of the present stock and give it to the landlords at the minimum face value of 92. Is that observing the spirit of the bargain of 1903 in dealing with the immediate block? This is really not a question of landlords alone. You cannot offer to the landlord who at this moment is in 1861 negotiation with his tenant upon a certain theory, terms that differ widely from that theory, without opening negotiations ab initio. If a man expects to get £20,000 and a bonus of 12 per cent., and you offer him instead £20,000 of stock at 92 it is perfectly clear that it is not the bargain which he was prepared to conclude—it is another one, and you do not observe the spirit of the contract of 1903. When you come to your future arrangements, it cannot be said that they will not prejudice the interest of all future buyers and sellers. They will do more than that, they will stop land purchase in Ireland. I understand that for the first time since 1891, the tenant is to be asked to pay 3½ per cent., of which 3 per cent. will be for interest. Under the Acts of 1891, 1896 and 1903, he has only to pay 2¾ per cent. for interest; of course, that handicaps the general plan of purchase. May I ask the House to look at this also from the point of view of the taxpayer, the Treasury and money market. Most Irish estates are mortgaged, some are mortgaged very heavily. I suppose if you take the whole of the land with which we have to deal in this matter, it is mortgaged up to nearly half the value, certainly to 30 per cent. of the value. What will be the effect of paying in stock those who have to meet their mortgages next day? A third or a half of the stock will be thrown on the market and the price driven down. This 3 per cent. will be like the local loan stock. You will have started another stock which will be driven down to compete with your existing Government securities. If half of the stock is thrown on the market on the morrow after it is issued, I do not know where it will go to and we shall be back where we were fifteen years ago. That will not, in the opinion of those who are competent to form a judgment upon this matter, be the best way of dealing with the financial aspect of the problem.
§ MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
said that nobody concerned in the future of Ireland would be disposed to under-estimate the difficulty of the Chief Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He did not wish to criticise the Chief Secretary's speech in any petti- 1862 fogging or party spirit. There were some of them who passionately believed that an all-round friendly, non-partisan settlement was not merely the only settlement that could be a permanent one of this question, but was the only one that could secure the rest the Irish people desired; and it was just because they considered that such a settlement was something higher and more sacred than any party interests, either English or Irish, that they had sometimes to encounter misapprehension and discouragement on both sides of the House where the party spirit was most deeply ingrained, and on most subjects quite properly and naturally. His one anxiety in criticising the Chief Secretary's speech was to try to see how far his proposals might be capable of happily carrying on the process of pacification and of true nationalisation which had been going on for the past five years, and what he and his friends wanted to try to be assured of was that these proposals might not have the opposite effect of undermining the settlement of 1903 and setting them all back again. He recognised at once the very marked advance in the generous-hearted speech they had heard from the Chief Secretary from the rigid and unbending attitude he took up in his letter to the hon. Member for Cambridge University last March towards a bargain which, he thought, the right hon. Gentleman now recognised, as ninety-nine out of every hundred in Ireland recognised, was the happiest bargain ever entered into between these two peoples. For himself, he said at once as to the main proposals made by the right hon. Gentleman that he would only too gladly jump at them if he could present them in the form of an Act of Parliament instead of in the form of a First Reading speech. The trouble was this action of the Government in introducing a Bill of this magnitude in the dying days of November after the spokesman of the Government in another place, Lord Denman, had announced that it was impossible at this period of the session to pass a Bill through the House of Commons, apart from the House of Lords. He ventured to say that in that particular the position of the Government was indefensible. Here was an emergency which everybody 1863 ought to have foreseen. Everybody knew that 1st November was a most critical day. The Departmental Committee of the Treasury in their Report had brought them face to face with a suspension of land purchase for ten years, and that Report was presented so long ago as 15th January last. Lord Dudley's Provisional Report, long and painfully though it was delayed, was presented to the House in the first week of May. He was gratefully conscious of how the Chief Secretary was occupied busily and fruitfully in these mouths on the Irish University Bill; but since that time what had the Government been doing that it was only now that they were making up their mind as to this Bill? Ever since this session began, they had had a spectacle of irresolution prevailing on the Treasury bench. In one week the Prime Minister, by no choice of his own, went to the astounding discourtesy—time would prove the astounding folly—of refusing even a hearing on this subject to a deputation representing the independent forces of landlords and tenants in the South of Ireland—the greatest union of forces that had ever proceeded from Ireland—a union of forces which the Chief Secretary twenty years ago would have almost given an arm or a leg to have succeeded in having. And yet a week or two afterwards the Chancellor of the Exchequer, going to the opposite extreme, received a deputation, not of friendly landlords and tenants, but belonging to the most irreconcilable section of the landlords without any representative of the tenants. Wherefore had the representative tenants, men of good will, had the door shut in their faces? He did not complain, because kicks and cuffs were always to be expected under such circumstances; but he did not think it was the very wisest statesmanship when, at a period of the year when everybody knew it was the only possible chance of getting a good understanding between landlord and tenant, that opportunity was not availed of. More than five weeks ago they pressed the prime Minister to hurry up with his proposals, if there was to be any practical chance of coming to an arrangement, but in the last week in October the Prime Minister said that he would on the following Wednesday make a comprehensive and satisfying 1864 statement on the subject. But on the following Wednesday the introduction of the Bill was delayed for three weeks longer, and when he himself suggested to the right hon. Gentleman that in order to save the Bill it should be introduced and given a Second Reading at once, the very course that was now being pursued with reference to the new Education Bill was taken, and the prime Minister said that he wished the Bill to be introduced at a date when the Chief Secretary should have an opportunity of making a full explanatory statement upon it. They had had that day a most comprehensive and illuminating speech from the Chief Secretary, but were the Irish Members to accept that speech instead of an Act of Parliament? They had the utmost admiration for the right hon. Gentleman's ability and goodness, and no human being who knew the Chief Secretary's humanity and his very genuine and proved sympathy with the Irish people would for one moment admit that he would attempt to impose on the Irish people the mere phantom of an Irish Bill. But they were not in Saturn, and they objected to be led into a fool's paradise. They thought the result would be a somewhat slender chance of the Chief Secretary's speech materialising into an Act of Parliament this session, and that was, he confessed, most disappointing. As to the practical effect of the Chief Secretary's proposals, so far as he could gather, the weak spot in the Bill was that the tenants would be separated into two different categories or camps—tenants who purchased before 1st November, and those who purchased afterwards. Both would be discontented. Either 200,000 people would be precluded from purchase at all, because the landlords would refuse to accept lower terms, or else they would purchase under totally different conditions, both as to bonus and as to tenants' annuities. Thus, would the dilemma be hastened that the new bargain would be better than the old, or the old better than the new. For his own part he rather apprehended that the new conditions would be more onerous to the tenants, as well as to the landlords, than the old ones; consequently, the new purchasers or those who might fail to purchase, would feel a sense of injustice and of legitimate 1865 discontent. They would indeed be entitled to charge that Parliament and the Government with having themselves created that inequality between the two sections of purchasers, and for the simple purpose of saving the Treasury of the richest Empire in the world from a present liability which could not exceed £100,000 a year. For that reason, he was not able to associate himself with the praises of the liberality of the Treasury which, with all its embarrassments at the present moment, was not afraid to add something like £15,000,000 or £20,000,000 to its Budget for most admirable Imperial purposes, no doubt, but not better than the Imperial purpose of a complete settlement of the Irish land question. He was afraid that by its proposal the Government would hereafter bring trouble for themselves, and for Ireland, which he could not contemplate without feelings not very far from despair, when he thought how near they had come and how near they might still go towards completing the greatest legislative reform Ireland had known. The pity was, so far as he had mastered the Chief Secretary's proposals, that he did not think there was a great deal to prevent the striking up of a friendly agreement and a friendly compromise. That was the cruelty of the situation that they were all so near an agreement, and yet with Ireland's usual luck they were all at cross purposes. As to the terms on which the Chief Secretary proposed to pay off the instalments of the arrears of purchase-money, of course from the tenant's point of view it was a most lamentable thing that the right hon. Gentleman should only propose at the best to remove these arrears by £9,000,000 a year; for thus the arrears would remain oustanding, and both landlord and tenant would be left in the miserable condition in which they were to-day. As to the financial terms offered to the landlords the £5,000,000 a year, that was really a matter for the landlords themselves. But he hoped that they would show a reasonable spirit, and that every reasonable man among them would go a great way to see whether or not it might not be possible for them, if they wanted to promote payments, to make the best of the existing financial conditions—considering that beyond all doubt if they 1866 were harmed in one way by the state of the money market in another way owing to the present financial condition they were able to invest their purchase-money upon very considerably more advantageous terms than anybody could have foreseen. He hoped that they would remember all that they owed, and they owed a great deal, to the magnanimity and sacrifices of their own countrymen, although they owed very little indeed to the Treasury of England, whose garrison they were once proud to be, and in whose interest or imagined interest, Irish landlordism with all the curses that followed it was created. He passed on to the question of compulsion which was a very terrible word, but he had never believed that not merely in the Congested Districts but all through Ireland there was any irreconcilable difficulty about it. Lord Barrymore who for thirty years had been the most formidable champion of Irish landlordism, came on to their platform at Cork with the admission that the abolition of landlordism would have to be made complete. This was not a question of compelling landlords to sell; it was a question of compelling the Treasury to pay them for their lands when they were sold and not to allow them to be ruined by moneylenders while they were waiting for their purchase-money. Then there was the great question of grazing, and he thought that anyone who had listened to the sympathetic speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, could have very little doubt that upon that great and mighty question again, the moment they came to particulars, there was no insuperable difficulty whatever about coming to an agreement as to the terms upon which those great grazing ranches in places like Meath and Westmeath and Longford should be taken up. As to the machinery employed, he had always had a very strong feeling against the Congested Districts Board in reference to this particular matter of land purchase. He had always had the feeling that they had simply been muddling away over £1,000,000 of Irish money for the last thirty years and had been toying with this question. That, indeed, was the expression used by the chief toymaker of the Congested Board himself. There, again, the best machinery 1867 for working this Act was a question for friendly discussion. It was a secondary question compared with that of by what methods were they to pass this Bill this year, because that was what concerned him. He protested root and branch against this proposal to increase the tenant's annuity by raising the tenants' rate of interest to 3 per cent. It was a reaction against the whole tendency of land legislation in Ireland for the last twenty years, which had been to lessen the tenants' annuity instead of increasing it. The only practical effect, he was sorry to say, would be to goad the tenants into a new struggle with the landlords to settle the new conditions, and whether it was the landlord or tenant who was to bear the burden. While he said that, there was no reason why it might not be in some friendly way adjusted if men would only put their heads together. For instance, he thought it might be perfectly possible if the Government would only preserve the full bonus of 12 per cent. and make the apportionment of it between the interest of the landlord and the interest of the tenant—it might be perfectly possible to preserve the existing rate of annuity even without any loss to the Exchequer. The only object of the decrease of the bonus and the change in the tenants' annuity, he thought, was with a view to lowering the prices under the Act, a purpose which would be most heartily sympathised, for he had always held that beyond all manner of doubt the prices of land in Ireland had been something like two years' purchase higher than were ever contemplated by the Land Conference. He said that with the consent of Lord McDonnell and Lord Dunraven. But he said again that that difficulty was by no means an insuperable one if the Government would only make it up to the landlords in another way by relieving them of the frightful legal costs in negotiating sales, and by distributing their purchase money. He did not know whether anybody had studied the schedules of the legal fees which were at present payable by the vendors, but they were perfectly frightful, and a man who was asked to sell his estate was really asked to enter on a long and heavy lawsuit which might last for many years. 1868 If the Government would only act generously in accordance with the undoubted intention of the Act of 1903, and relieve the vendors from these costs, in reference to duties which ought properly to be performed by the officers of the Land Commission, nobody except the lawyers would be the losers, and they would then be perfectly and absolutely justified in asking the landlords to accept a lower number of years' purchase, and bring them down to a lower standard. He had often urged that this question of the price ought not to be left to be decided by the fortunes of agrarian war between landlord and tenant, but automatically fixed. Every reasonable landlord now confessed that a fair basis of purchase was a net second term rental, already reduced for the second time by an average of 22 per cent. The Act of 1903 appointed a public trustee, and there was no reason why that official should not be empowered to ascertain beyond. "aye" or "nay" by the examination of the estate and its books, what was the actual net second-term rental, and then when he reported what investments were available, then a sum that would produce that net second term rent, already reduced for the second time, would be automatically fixed as the price of the estate. In that way the whole thing would go like clockwork through an impartial administrator. He mentioned this in order to show how comparatively easy it would have been in the last nine months, since the Runciman Report, to have worked out some reasonable accommodation between landlord and tenant, if only a dozen reasonable men had been asked to assemble round a table to dispose of it. Instead of that, every attempt to bring parties together had been discouraged, as if it was some unforgivable crime to England and to Ireland to put an end to the racial and sectarian hatreds which had been for many an age England's misery as well as Ireland's. So far as he knew, no attempt had been made to do what had been done with very considerable success in regard to English education, viz., to see whether it might not be possible to come to some friendly concordat on this subject, and in his opinion the differences and passions aroused on the English education question were a 1869 great deal more acute than the differences which now separated landlord and tenants in Ireland. But nothing of that kind was done, and now in the expiring weeks of November, this great proposal was thrown upon the Table and landlords and tenants were left to swallow it, without demur, or to take this risk either that land purchase would cease in Ireland or that the new difficulties would have to be settled by entering into a new rental. If he wanted to prove the incapacity of this House to transact Irish business unquestionably what had happened under this Bill would be a crushing proof of it. To him it seemed perfectly shocking to speak of the risk of another no rent war, and God forbid that he should see another in a country which had performed its own engagements under the Land Acts with a fidelity which British statesmen if they were wise would go down on their knees to thank God for. He was afraid to take this risk in order to save the Treasury in a moment of embarrassment from facing, for the highest Imperial purposes, a present liability less than it cost the British taxpayer at the present moment to put down cattle-driving—a liability less than Ireland—poor Ireland—had itself borne out of its development grant, up to the present moment in order to finance an Act which ought to have had behind it the guarantee of the Imperial Treasury. He was afraid no language could exaggerate the dangers or even horrors of allowing this question to remain an open sore even for six months. He believed the Bill could still be saved this session by conciliatory methods. He trusted that even now at the half-past eleventh hour there might be enough of patriotism and generosity and good sense found in all quarters of the House to see whether in everybody's interest there might not be some friendly exchange that might make it possible to tide Ireland over the winter, and tide the Chancellor of the Exchequer over the present embarrassing situation to what they all knew would be more fortunate times. He believed that if the Chief Secretary threw himself upon the country and staked his Chief Secretaryship on carrying this Bill as he did with such conspicuous and triumphant success the Irish University Bill the right hon. Gentleman would find that 1870 he had such a force at his back in the shape of the patriotism and good sense of the community that nothing could withstand his efforts. The Chief Secretary said the policy of the Act of 1903 had been an expensive one, but up to this hour that policy, mighty as had been its Imperial results in Ireland, had not cost the English taxpayer a single 6d. outside his share of the bonus. If this policy was not continued, a more expensive matter would be the renewal of the agrarian war in Ireland. No Imperial money was more wisely expended, and if the Government would rapidly and boldly with some sacrifice from the Treasury complete the revolution that had occurred within the last five years and had already put an end to half the trouble in Ireland, they would put an end to the whole of the trouble. He appealed to them to take their courage in both hands and to put their trust in the new spirit of generous national tolerance that was growing up.
§ MR. MOORE (Armagh, N.)
said the hon. Member who had just spoken was entitled to a good deal of sympathy for the public spirited and open-handed fashion in which he had faced this problem during the last few months, and their sympathy for him was not lessened by the very unfair attacks which had been made on him by his Secretary announce that £80,000,000 more was required for this problem, it struck him what a very fortunate position the Leader of the Nationalist Party was in being a British citizen and a Member of an Imperial Legislature. When he heard the hon. Member say it was a matter of life or death to Ireland that this question should be settled, he thought the hon. Member ought to ask himself where would he and his friends have got the money which was required if a Home Rule Parliament in Dublin had been dependent upon Irish resources. One advantage which Unionists could point to in the connection between the United Kingdom and Ireland was that, on occasions of this sort, they could come to the House and rely on Imperial credit. He had heard that there was a policy on foot of wrecking land purchase. When, as an impartial 1871 observer, he was asked to draw his own conclusions whether the wreckers had won the day, and were now on top, he was forced to the conclusion that they were. Of course, neither the Freeman's Journal nor the hon. Member for Waterford never said they wanted to wreck land purchase. They went through the country suggesting that the price was too high, and that the landlords wanted too much. They disavowed any idea of wrecking land purchase, but they never lost a chance of preventing a sale being completed. When one considered how the hon. and learned Gentleman the Leader of the Nationalist Party said they were not going to have a finance Bill by itself, but were going to have a finance Bill affixed to a Bill which would make the landlords give them what they wanted, then it appeared to him, thinking over the matter in an impartial way, and bringing the best judgment he could bear upon it, that if the wrecking policy wanted to succeed in regard to a Bill like this, if they did not want the additional finance for which legislation was required, what was easier than for them to attach conditions—as the hon. Member for Waterford insisted on doing—to the finance Bill, which in their hearts the wreckers trusted the House of Lords would reject, so that this Bill would be lost and land purchase paralysed? That was his reading of the intentions of the Government, and as every one knew the Chief Secretary only expressed the opinions which had been laid down in various resolutions of the Nationalist Party. The Chief Secretary was the mere mouth piece of the Nationalist Party. He could understand the position of the Leader of that Party. There were unkind people who said that the Nationalist Party under his guidance had effected nothing, and naturally the hon. Member was interested to get up in the House and say that the Chief Secretary was only voicing the resolutions which the Nationalist Party had passed from time to time. At the same time, if these resolutions were to be tacked on to a finance Bill so that the Lords would not pass them it seemed to him that the policy of wrecking was once more having a very fair chance of success. There were other ways in which the 1872 policy of land purchase could be wrecked if one looked at the treaty, as it was called, of 1903. The main, primary, and practically the only intention of the treaty embodied in the Act of 1903 was to transfer the tenanted land from the landlords to the occupiers. That was the real solution of the land purchase problem. That was the transaction, to complete which finance was properly required now and which finance the House was asked by legislation to raise. Hon. Members below the gangway had, he was afraid, captured the Chief Secretary and transformed the problem. It was no longer only a question of the transfer of the untenanted land. The Chief Secretary had said there were £52,000,000 of agreements for the transfer of land, but the people who ought to have come first had come last, and those who ought to have come last had come first. They were the people who were going about driving cattle until they could bully the Chief Secretary into giving them a free farm. Although the Government had tried to repel that and had gone out of their way to fish up contentious matter, there was only one question for the Government to deal with, and that was to find the money to enable existing agreements to be carried out. What message of hope and comfort did this legislative programme carry to the tenants represented by the £52,000 000 of agreements? The promise of the Government was that they were going to get at least £4,000,000 a year, and that if times were good they would get £9,000,000. With £52,000 000 of agreements working off at the average of £6,000,000 a year it would be eight or ten years before the existing transactions had been dealt with. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford had described this as a generous Bill, and purported in the name of the Irish people to bless it in that House. He had heard him bless another Bill not very long ago, which contained provisions for a charge on the Imperial Exchequer, but only to half the amount of the Bill submitted, to what was humourously called the Convention, held in the Mansion House at Dublin. Having blessed it in the House, within a week Balaam was found to have cursed it and withdrawn the approbation which he had expressed, 1873 as there going to be another Convention [...] consider this Bill? If there was to [...]one, and if the hon. Member for Cork, and the hon. and learned Member for worth Louth put it freely to them whether they were going to break up the settlement of 1903, and whether they were going to pay an extra quarter per cent. interest, he believed that Convention could repudiate this Bill as a Convention had repudiated the other Bill. The Chief Secretary said he did not wish to clay the purchase or sale of estates still remaining in the country. He did not now what the right hon. Gentleman meant by that. Did he mean that new stock was to be created at 3 per cent. which was to be worked on parallel lines and simultaneously with the money which was to be provided for the payment of the £52,000,000? Could the Attorney-General tell them?
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. CHERRY,) Liverpool, Exchange
The Chancellor of the Exchequer will deal with the matter later.
§ MR. MOORE
said that at present the House was in this difficulty. Either the dealing with the balance of the estates was to work contemporaneously with the working out of the £52,000,000 or it was not. He did not himself see how the two operations could be worked contemporaneously, because they were told that the total output of the Commissioners was only to be £10,000,000 a year, and it was perfectly obvious that, with the time, opportunity, and staff at their disposal, the Commissioners could not begin to deal with the balance of still unsold land, and the 3 per cent. stock to be created, for a period of nine or ten years, and that meant an absolute loss. If, on the other hand, they were told that the two were to be dealt with contemporaneously, what an absurd result followed. The landlords who had agreed to sell to the tenants up to 1st November of this year were to be put off for a period of eight years, with £4,000,000, or perhaps £6,000,000 a year. The landlord who sold after 1st November went on the market and immediately was paid 3 per cent. stock. But what was going to be the position if the 3 per cent. stock was postponed for eight or nine years 1874 until the £52,000,000 was disposed of? Who could tell what the state of the money market would be then? Yet they were going to make it obligatory—if the Bill passed—on a man to accept stock in nine or ten years of which no Member of that House could forecast the value. It was not business, and it was not justice, and so far as that part of the subject was concerned, the Government were sublimely indifferent to it, judging by their ideas of other Irish legislation. The fact was there was only one question in dealing with the Irish problem, and that was to find the money. There was no doubt that in the debates which took place in that House on the Act of 1903, although it was not expressed in that measure, the underlying idea was that where the landlord and tenant had agreed to terms of purchase, subject to the approval of the Commissioners, it was the absolute duty of the Treasury, on the true construction of the Act, to advance the money within a reasonable time. Unfortunately the point had never been raised, but an eminent legal authority had given the opinion that this was undoubtedly the law. No one had suggested that under the Act of 1903 the British Treasury could not fulfil its obligations within a reasonable time. Instead of now saying that the money was to be advanced within a reasonable time, the policy of the Government was that the people were to be starved and pinched by a miserable £4,000,000 a year in the course of the next eight, or nine, or ten years. With regard to the numerous Amendments foreshadowed by the Chief Secretary, he thought that if ever a mother had overlain her child it had been done in this case. The Chief Secretary had gone out of his way to bury the most important part of the Act in a mass of vexatious and absolutely unnecessary Amendments. The Freeman's Journal had been denouncing the zone system, and the right hon. Gentleman, while preserving that system in name, allowed the Commissioners to tamper and interfere with it; but the very instant they made inspection necessary in the case of those holdings, they multiplied by ten or twenty the work of the Estates Commissioners. Yet the Chief Secretary said there was no 1875 intention whatever of arresting the progress of land purchase. The Freeman's Journal had advocated the abolition of the bonus system and the substitution of a sliding scale, and here again the Chief Secretary had capitulated. The scale would go as far as 16 per cent. in some cases. It was like the case of the Irish school where, when flour was cheap and meat dear, the master said that the boy who ate the most pudding should have the most meat. They had the vendor and tenant coming to an agreement, and the tenant said to the vendor: "The lower you sell to me, the higher bonus you will get from the Treasury." Of course, hon. Members below the gangway, representing Irish constituencies, would be very glad to leave the whole financial burden on the Imperial Treasury. But when the Chief Secretary professed himself to be the guardian of the Treasury as well as of the interest of the landlord and tenant, it was only fair to point out where his proposal would lead to. The fact was, the right hon. Gentleman had adopted the proposal without fully understanding it, but because it emanated from the Freeman's Journal he felt bound to accept it. Another difficult question, which was dealt with in the Report of the Dudley Commission, was this: When they did acquire these grazing tracts or ranches in the West of Ireland, to whom were they going to give them? Were they going to give them to the "landless men"? The Chief Secretary had glided very gracefully over this point. He said the question whether the landless men from the congested districts should get these tracts, or whether the small farmers in the neighbourhood should have them, was a question to be settled by Irish opinion. But who was to hold the balance between those two classes? The Dudley Report said the people who were to get the preference were the small farmers who had holdings, and not the people who were imported from another neighbourhood. The Chief Secretary, not being quite sure what policy the Freeman's Journal might announce about it, said it was a matter which should be left to Irish opinion. They had heard a great deal from the Chief Secretary about the policy of breaking up these grasslands 1876 and going in for mixed farming. For himself, he believed that mixed farming afforded the best means of making the people of Ireland prosperous and thriving—that was to say, in those parts of the country where mixed farming was possible. The land must not only be suitable, but the should have the people desirous for in That was the cardinal point of all. In the West a man wanted to have as little tillage as possible, and to get as much land as possible with an advance from the State as a loan annuity. But the last thing he dreamt of was to break it up and convert it into a mixed farm. Two advertisements in the Tuam Herald for 25th April of this year showed how the land policy of the Government was working out. In one there were 400 acres to be sold. The grazing system was condemned by the Chief Secretary and by landless men and tenants when they wanted to get holdings, but when they got them what did they do?—'Subscriber' has received instructions from the tenants on the estate of Clanmoor to sell the said lands in suitable divisions of from 10 to 100 acres and upwards for grazing.Immediately below that was another advertisement of—prime grazing land about 200 acres, in suit able divisions,and so forth—The tenants on the property of Mr. T. R. Roche, having purchased the grass farm of Rashira, six miles from Tuam and ten miles from Galway, have instructed 'Subscriber' to offer for sale the said land by public auction on Monday, 4th May, 1908.The result now of the operations in the West of Ireland with these grazing lands was that the tenants formed themselves into a syndicate, got advances from their obliging friends, the Estates Commissioners, the lands were allotted to them, they were never really divided, the syndicate instructed the auctioneer to put them up, not for mixed farming, and owing to the State transaction the tenants were able to keep the land in the grazing which they had so consistently denounced. Yet in Connaught they were told there were to be special powers and a special body created to settle this great problem of congestion and the division of the population. It was a highly contentious matter that they should have a Congested Districts Board 1877 [...]med with powers to take land compulsorily when nine members of it were to be [...]resentatives of local bodies, because [...]in and again these county councils and passed political resolutions dealing with the question of the land. Their members would not have been returned if they did not share the popular view, and he popular view about the price of land [...] Connaught was that every shilling that as paid to the vendor was a sheer waste, especially when out of the public purse, and the idea of putting nine of these gentlemen on the Board with compulsory powers was unnecessary, irritating, and absurd, and could only bring about the defeat of the Bill if the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford has going to take the whole Bill and no[...]ing but the Bill. As to compulsion it has really a rather extraordinary come down for the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture, because he was the apostle of compulsory sale.
§ THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FOR IRELAND (Mr. T. W. RUSSELL, Tyrone, E.)
It is a bigger come down for you.
§ MR. MOORE
said that at the last election in Ulster the right hon. Gentleman himself, and the few dependents he sent to represent him at other elections in different constituencies, told the electors, where they were articulate—he meant the dependents, not the electors—that as soon is this great and good Liberal Government came into power the whole of the land of Ireland would be dealt with on compulsory lines. Individual landlords in each constituency were singled out and these obedient candidates, when they could make themselves understood, said: "Only return the Liberal Party to power and Mr. So-and-so will be obliged to sell." They had had the Liberal Party in power—and they had found it out to their cost—for the last three years, but there was no longer a question of Mr. So-and-so being obliged to sell. The matter was left the same as ever. £1,000 000 a year was to be placed at the disposal of the Congested Districts Board and the Estates Commissioners for different parts of the country. It was only to be used, on the Chief Secretary's statement, for the relief of congestion.
§ MR. MOORE
asked what was it to be used for. A minute ago the Attorney-General was unable to state what was the main provision in the Bill with reference to the interdependence of the two methods of payment of the two stocks. He was now perfectly ready to say it was not so although his chief said it was so.
§ MR. CHERRY
I was anxious to relieve the hon. and learned Member from a misapprehension. There is no restriction as regards the Estates Commissioners as far as I understand.
§ MR. CHERRY
The hon. and learned Gentleman is wrong as regards the Estates Commissioners. He is right as regards the Congested Districts Board as I understand it.
§ MR. MOORE
said the hon. and learned Gentleman told them a minute ago that he understood the whole thing. What was the Congested Districts Board to have for congestion in Connaught if the Estates Commissioners carried it off for other purposes in Ireland? The Chief Secretary said the work done in Connaught would be limited by the fact that they only had £1,000,000 to spend there. He also said that in other parts of Ireland which were not scheduled there were 1879 portions which they might leave to the Estates Commissioners although they were congested, thereby actually carrying out the very findings of the Dudley Commissioners. If the Chief Secretary was asked whether their share of the £1,000,000 a year was to be given to the Estates Commissioners for the rest of Ireland he had no doubt he would once more throw the Attorney-General overboard as he had done on many occasions. He wanted to point out what compulsion had come to—the policy which was to make a new heaven and a new earth when the Vice-President was looking for votes. It had come down to a solitary £1,000,000 a year which was to be divided between the Congested Districts Board in Connaught and the Estates Commissioners in other parts of the country. The right hon. Gentleman would still remain a Member of the Government. He would do that if the Government put into the Bill a clause under which there would no longer be any compulsion in Ireland. Why should he not? He had got there and they wished him joy of it, and he was a great asset to them while he remained on the Government Bench. When the Irish public who were interested in this matter—and that included ratepayers as well as tenants and occupiers—came to look at the Bill as a whole, there was simply one provision by which they got the very least benefit. He was prepared to hear the hon. and learned Member for Waterford assure the tenant purchaser that it really was a benefit to him to have to pay ¼ per cent. on his annuity, and the Vice-President would tell them it was an absolute blessing. It would make them work harder and the more they worked the more they would reap for the Government. But from the point of view of what was tangible the only matter which the Irish ratepayer came in for was that the contingent liability, amounting at the very outside to £660,000 a year, might be removed from his shoulders and put on to the Imperial Exchequer. There would be no liability at all if land stock exceeded the hypothetical price that the Chief Secretary said. That liability only existed to that extent while land stock remained at 88 5/6. Of course if the Government remained in power 1880 it would be absolutely impossible for land stock to rise to anything like pa[...] but it was not improbable in the course of the next sixty-eight and a half year that Consols would rise considerable above 88 5/6 so that all the Irish ratepayer got—and it was the only pennyworth of bread to a monstrous quantity of sack—was relief from the contingent liability—which might never be half the size—to the extent in the next sixty eight and a half years of some £660,000. If for the sake of that they were to be plunged in controversial legislation of this sort it would be brought home to the Irish ratepayers, who would rather allow matters to work out as they were if the Government would simply fulfil their elementary duty of finding the money to enable it to be done instead of playing to the clamour of the cattle-driver in the North and West and the Freeman's Journal in Dublin. He understood if there was to be purchase for those who were only entering into their agreements now the time for completion in their case would be very largely postponed. He could quite understand that if a man entered into an agreement now it might be ten years before he would receive his purchase money. He asked the Government were they prepared to fulfil their other duty with regard to vendor and purchaser in that case? They ought to see that that man had a free market. They ought to see that in the meantime he was not to be intimidated or forced either by indirect process of the Estates Commissioners or by direct process of the United Irish League into parting or selling or being intimidated out of his holding. All over the South and West of Ireland this intimidation was going on. It was coupled with overt acts, and the Government stood by, and by putting an odd policeman here and there and sending a patrol at a time when he was not likely to meet anyone they said they had discharged their duty. If this was going to be a fair transaction the Government ought to see at least that a ring was kept until the transaction could be completed. This was not in the ordinary sense playing the game, and although he knew what he had said would fall upon deaf ears, in the 1881 interests of the peace and tranquility of Ireland, it was the duty of the Government to see that due and adequate protection was given to a fair and free bargain.
§ * MR. KAVANAGH (Carlow)
said that as a Member of the Royal Commission on Congestion he would like to say one or two words on that part of the Bill as far as it related to Ireland. In case, however, anyone might think that if he only spoke on that part of the Bill he was unfavourable to the rest of it, he would like to say at once that he was entirely in favour of compulsory purchase. They recommended compulsory purchase in their Report, and he did not think there was anyone, not even the hon. Member for North Armagh, who did not believe that compulsory purchase was absolutely necessary in those areas. The work of the Congested Districts Board was absolutely stopped for want of that power. The reason the Royal Commission did not recommend compulsory powers outside those areas was that they considered that the Estates Commissioners had a much easier task outside than the Congested Districts Board had inside those areas. They had a much larger area, and could obtain untenanted land much easier, but inside those areas the Congested Districts Board found that compulsory purchase was absolutely necessary. He was glad the Government had followed nearly, if not entirely, the lines of the Report of the Commission. The members of the Royal Commission spent an enormous amount of time and trouble over their Report, and he was very glad indeed to hear the few words the Chief Secretary said about the chairman, who had been a most hardworking and painstaking member of the Commission. The Chief Secretary had alluded with a little levity to the number of motor cars employed, but how could they have covered such a vast district and held so many meetings without the use of motor cars? He was particularly glad that the Congested Districts Board was going to be reconstructed, and that it was going to retain its old name. There was a good deal in the old name, "Congested Districts Board," because it had won the confidence and trust of the people. When he began his investigations upon the 1882 Royal Commission he had a perfectly open mind about the rival claims of the Estates Commissioners and the Congested Districts Board, and if anything he was rather inclined to favour the Estates Commissioners, because he thought there were too many Boards in Ireland. Anyone who had listened to the great chorus of evidence in favour of the Congested Districts Board, from Donegal to Cork, could only conclude that if congestion was to be relieved properly and quickly it must be done by the Congested Districts Board. Those who did not know the West of Ireland must be told that any scheme of migration was very difficult to carry out and required great tact and knowledge of the people. If, at the beginning of their Report, they had gone against the wishes and evidence put before them, and recommended that the Estates Commissioners should have taken the place of the Congested Districts Board, they would have done that which would have been fatal to the relief of congestion. The constitution of the Board was to be somewhat changed. The Report of the Commission recommended three paid members, and the reason they did that was on account of the difficulty experienced in forming a quorum. The Board only sat once a month, and between the sittings it was very hard to find the members, and if they had three paid members they would sit from day to day, people would be able to find them when they wanted them, and that was very essential. The hon. Member for North Armagh was horrified that there should be such a thing as a representative of the people on the Board, but such representatives were absolutely necessary to carry out the scheme. They could not make a hard-and-fast rule in a matter of this kind. If they desired to carry out a very difficult task like migration they must have representatives of the counties concerned on the Board. He was glad the areas were to follow the lines recommended in the Report, and he was pleased the Government had not listened to those who tried to persuade them that the definition was better than an area. Every one of the definitions had broken down upon investigation, and they came to the conclusion that the only way congestion 1883 could be relieved in the West of Ireland was by giving a large area to the Board and giving them absolute power within that area. The hon. Member for North Armagh was very much exercised in mind as to who was going to get the untenanted land. The Commission had much evidence on that point placed before it, and he confessed that there was a good deal of difficulty and misunderstanding upon it. He could, however, assure the House that he would never have put his name to the Report—and he was sure his colleagues would not have done so—unless he believed that the untenanted land would be taken for the relief of congestion and for that only. Within the area which the Government proposed, and which the Commission recommended, only untenanted land was dealt with for the relief of congestion and the Board constituted by the Government would carry out the relief of congestion first, and if there was any balance after that had been done they would dispose of it elsewhere. In regard to the finance of the Bill he was glad to see that the income of the Board, which hitherto had been very inadequate, was to be raised from £186,000 to £250,000, and that was a very good rise. Some hon. Members thought it was too small, but he believed it was a good workable income, and as the compulsory powers would naturally make the loss on purchase and resale less, they would find that £250,000 was a very good sum to work with. A great many people would consider that was a very large sum, and they were inclined to look upon every vote given to Ireland for that purpose as money going to be lost in charity to Ireland. They did not want charity, and they only wanted their just share from the Imperial Exchequer. He ventured to assert that this was the very best use public money could possibly be put to, because they were investing their money in the industry of the hardest working people in the world, and this Bill, if passed, would simply mean the opening of the prison doors of congestion which would let out the people on to the land upon which their fathers and forefathers had worked. The people would do the rest, and they would 1884 change the whole face of the country, making the land hum with their industry. He was aware that every promoter of a Land Bill said his own particular measure would be absolutely the last. He profoundly believed that this would be the last. [Cries of "No, no."] He held that opinion because land purchase, with its relief of congestion, and the settlement of the vexed question of the price of land, would do all that was required. He hoped that when the landlords looked into the question of compulsion they would decide to support as he supported that principle, because he firmly believed that it would do injury to nobody and it was, he was sure, a great and necessary reform for Ireland.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said he was glad the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in the House, because he wished to say a few words upon the financial aspect of this question. He did not understand very clearly from the speech of the Chief Secretary what the exact operation of the financial proposals of this Bill would be, and he would be very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman if he would kindly set him right if he made any errors in what he believed the Chief Secretary stated to be the financial basis of his proposals. He would first say a word or two on the question of the total amount. His right hon. friend the Member for Dover was under the impression that the total amount of money required to be raised would be £120,000,000, whilst the Chief Secretary put the sum required at £180,000,000. In his own business career he had come across estimates of great mining engineers, and he generally found they were very much less than the actual cost of the work when completed. He could not see what motive the Chief Secretary could have in over-estimating the cost of the purchase of this land, and he was inclined to think the amount would be quite £180,000,000 and probably a little more. He understood that up to the present time something like £25,000,000 had been spent in paying landlords for estates acquired and that agreements had already been entered into involving £52,000,000. The average was 3½ per cent. of the 1885 outlay instead of 3¼ which they would have to pay if the State had found the money as under the Act of 1903. Therefore, he listened with a great deal of curiosity to ascertain in what way the Chief Secretary meant to meet this want. So far as he understood the matter, the right hon. Gentleman was not going to meet it at all. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he was going to increase the output of the Estates Commissioners. Up to the present, they had arranged for spending on purchase £5,000,000 a year, but for the future it would amount to £10,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman said that in order to keep up the credit of the country, he did not think it would be possible to raise by loan in the market more than £5,000,000 a year, and, therefore, there would at once be a deficit of £5,000,000. What was to become of the £52,000,000 arranged for and not paid? The Chief Secretary said he was going to give the landlord the option of taking his money in 2¾ per cent. stock at ninety-two, or part in stock and part in money. At the price at which the stock stood at present, there would be an immediate loss of something like 4½ per cent. He did not know why a landlord should take stock on which undoubtedly he would lose 4½ per cent. of the purchase money. He told his right hon. friend the Member for Dover in 1903 that he would no more be able to get the money than to fly, and that statement had been verified. He also told his right hon. friend that when it came to the point there would be a deficit which the taxpayers would have to pay. They had not paid anything for it, but the Government had put the charge on the Imperial revenue. He maintained that when it was known in the city that £180,000,000 would be required instead of £100,000,000 they would not be able to find the money at the price to be given, and consequently the loss to the landlord would be still greater. It was not at all likely that the landlords would elect to take their money in this stock. Then the Chief Secretary stated that there was to be another 3 per cent. stock which the landlord could take if he liked at par. Here he might say that the 2¾ per cent. stock at 92 yielded about 3 per cent. so that there was little difference 1886 except as to the possibility of redemption. Eventually he presumed if everything went on well in the country the 2[...] per cent. stock might be paid off, and, although they need not put it too high there was a little advantage in that. The landlords had the option of taking the 2¾ per cent. stock at 92 or the 3 per cent. stock at 100.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said that was what he was going to ask. Did it apply only to sales after the passing of this Bill?
§ MR. ANNAN BRYCE
Yes that is what I understood the Chief Secretary to say. It applies to the £52,000,000 not completed.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
asked whether the £5,000,000 the right hon. Gentleman was going to raise was to be issued as 2¾ or 3 per cent. stock?
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said the 2¾ per cent. stock was likely to go lower than he had thought. His idea was that the Chief Secretary said that any landlord who had sold could take the price in stock at 92. There would have been a possibility if the credit of the country improved, of a rise in the price, and that might have been an inducement to take it. But if money was to continue to be raised, it stood to reason that there would be stock continually coming on the market, and the chance of this stock rising would be very remote. It would have been better if the Chief Secretary had issued his new stock at 3 per cent. than in this particular form. He could not himself see the advantage of having another stock issue. He would point out to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that when Mr. Goschen converted consols first to 2¾ and then to 2½ per cent. in 1888 there were then three different kinds of stocks. When Mr. Goschen consolidated these stocks into one, all financiers and even railway companies endeavoured to pursue the same policy. It was supposed at that time to be an excellent policy. 1887 Mr. Goschen afterwards rather spoiled it by creating the local loans. The Chancellor of the Exchequer should have stopped the issue of the 2¾ per cent. stock altogether and given Consols to the landlords. He would have been able to obtain Consols at 3s. 6d. per cent. cheaper and that would have been a saving to the tenants and to the English taxpayer. If that had been done, the right hon. Gentleman would have had a readier market than he had by creating this different kind of stock limited in amount.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said it would not be a very good effect. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must not forget that people were now selling Consols in order to buy local loans, Irish land, and other Government loans, because they were guaranteed by the Government. The security was as good in the one case as in the other. They were selling Consols to go into the higher paid stocks. By creating these higher paid stocks the Government were creating competition against themselves. The most business-like way would have been to issue Consols. If that had been done, the British taxpayer would have saved money and the Irish landlord would have bad a much more marketable security, and he believed the effect on the whole market would have been good. He would like to know when the issue of the 3 per cent. stock was going to take place. Was it to be for all new purchases?
§ MR. ANNAN BRYCE
said there were £35,000,000 of completed purchases, and £52,000,000 of pending purchases. It was for the latter that the 2¾ per cent. stock was being created.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said he understood the Chief Secretary to say that he would not in any year issue more than £5,000,000.
§ * MR. BIRRELL
said that what he stated was that, although it was no part of the Bill, it was not the intention to raise more than £5,000,000 cash in each year.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said he understood that the result of the arrangement would 1888 be that the tenant would have to pay 3½ instead of 3¼ per cent. That confirmed more than ever his impression that to have two stocks going at the same time was a very great mistake. It would be much better to consolidate all the stocks in one stock. The Imperial taxpayer was to bear the cost of the flotation, and that he must say filled him with a great deal of apprehension. The hon. Member for Waterford said that one of the objections to the plan of the Chief Secretary was that there was not sufficient money to be raised in any given year, and he further said that he could not raise more than a given amount in any year unless the state of the money market improved, because it was necessary to keep up the credit of the country. If the loss on the flotation was to be borne by the taxpayer, what did it matter to hon. Gentlemen from Ireland what the loss was?
§ MR. KETTLE (Tyrone, E.)
We from Ireland are also British taxpayers, and this is only being done with our own money.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said he was aware of that. But the population of Ireland was 4,000,000 as against 38,000,000 in England, Scotland, and Wales, so that the proportion received from the larger population would be very much greater. He was sure the hon. Gentleman would not wish England to pay everything as the money was going to benefit the people of Ireland. That did not take away in the least from his argument that tie purchases would be congested. His own idea, so far as he could see, was that there was not going to be a very great rise in the money market. This was a very serious matter' and he was endeavouring so far as he could to deal with it in a serious spirit. They must not forget that the next Budget was going to be a rather difficult subject. He thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find that out. There would be a very large sum of money to raise, and what with the proposals of the Government, of a very socialistic tendency—which were exciting a very serious effect in the City—it would be difficult to get people to invest their money in English securities so as to raise the money. It did not seem to him that there was to 1889 be a very rosy time in the near future for these securities. The hon. Gentleman said that every Irish Land Bill was going to be the last. He did not believe that this would be the last unless the unforeseen happened. This was more than a Nationalist question, because the loss on the quotation would be borne by the English taxpayer. The cattle-driving would go on; another Bill would be brought in, and the unfortunate British taxpayer would have to pay the piper. Passing from the financial question, he wished to say a word about the question of compulsion. He must say that he was extremely sorry that compulsion had been brought in. The Chief Secretary had drawn eloquent pictures of the condition of the people in the congested districts, which no doubt were not in the least exaggerated. His only alternatives were that the land under cultivation should be increased, or migration. But, supposing that the land in the congested districts was given to these poor people, in twenty-five years from now they would have children growing up desirous of getting on to the land too. Was the right hon. Gentleman going to take steps to prevent the increased land being divided up?
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said that that took away some of his objections; but the population of Ireland would increase, and if they desired land were they to get it? If the people could not get the land the only alternative, in his view, was that they should emigrate.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
asked what arable land was there which they could get? He was a little bit of a farmer himself, and he liked to lay down his land in grass. He had always understood that these rich grazing lands were fat and some of the best lands in the country. If these lands were cut up into arable land they would have to have more horses and more labour, and that would make it much more expensive to work. He did not know 1890 whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer was enamoured of his Patents Bill, but was he going to have a Patents Bill for Ireland to encourage the export of wheat and oats? He had endeavoured to treat this measure, especially the financial part of it, seriously, and he was doubtful of the result of it. He did not believe that the Act would be final any more than the Act of 1903 had been. Unless there was very considerable modification of the Bill he would be compelled to vote against it. He hoped they would be allowed to discuss it after it was introduced without the guillotine; and as it was an extremely important measure he was quite sure that hon. Gentlemen below the gangway would like to discuss it fully.
§ MR. ANNAN BRYCE (Inverness Burghs)
thought that the criticisms of the hon. Baronet as to the issue of stock were very sound. He himself believed that the new stock would fetch a better price if all the stocks were consolidated. He doubted the desirability of introducing a further complication in the Irish land stocks. There was a possibility of its introducing friction between the different classes of stockholders in Ireland, and he asked the Government to reconsider their decision on that point. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London had expressed doubts with regard to the breaking up of grass lands, but if he read the Dudley Commission Report, although a good deal of it was stodgy, he would see that the greater portion of the grazing lands was at one time under cultivation, as was evident from the old rigg and furr.
§ MR. ANNAN BRYCE
did not think it was much higher. The object of the landlords in clearing the people off these lands was not economic; it was, to a large extent, social and political. His belief was that it would be sound policy if these grazing lands, or a largo portion of them, were again brought under cultivation; and that a better return and a larger return of wealth to the country would be got than if they were kept under grass. Of course, there were 1891 undoubted exceptions to that in Roscommon and Galway, where it would be always more economic to keep a certain proportion of the land under grass. A large part of the new expenditure of the Congested Districts Board would be the difference between the price they paid to the landlord and the price they would be able to get from the tenant; while the cost of the re-arrangement of the land for settlement would amount on the average to 13 per cent. The amount granted was a smaller sum than was recommended by the Commission, and the reduction would delay the complete settlement of the question, and instead of taking twenty-five years it would take thirty years, because as they gave a smaller or larger amount they would get through the work quicker or slower. The hon. Member for Carlow had given them a very interesting speech, and touched upon some of the points the Commission had to consider. He mentioned the fact that the Commission had, after great discussion, settled upon the principle of representation of the localities in Ireland. In a very able note which was written by Lord McDonnell they would find that conclusion controverted. He quite understood that there was a good deal to be said for the argument of Lord McDonnell, but the majority of Commissioners felt that as this Congested Districts Board had been the only board in the past which had received any part of the funds it was necessary to preserve its character. It would not have been necessary to do that if the Council Bill which the right hon. Gentleman proposed last year had been carried. He was very sorry it was not passed although he did not think it was a good Bill. It was not pretentious, but at the same time it would have been a beginning, and one thing was certain, that there complicated provisions which were necessary under the recommendations of this Commission, would not have been necessary, as it would have been perfectly easy to have left everything of that kind to the Irish Council. If Home Rule were to come to-morrow none of these complicated provisions would be necessary, and the sooner the House realised that the better. In every Irish matter, the complications which were introduced were due entirely to the fact that under the present system of Castle 1892 government in Ireland there could not be that freedom of choice on the part of the people which, under a Home Rule system, they would be able to afford. Under a Home Rule system, therefore, they would find that all these complicated questions would be done away with. The hon. Member for Carlow and the hon. Baronet for the City of London alluded to the question of migration, and as to that ten years ago it would have been said that the difficulties were insuperable. But of late years it had been found that there was a growing readiness on the part of many of these poor cottagers in the West of Ireland to take the better chance which was offered to them by migration even to a place some distance off, rather than go to a country with which they were not familiar. But the obstacle still existed that a great many of the people were not at present in the state of education or knowledge which would render their transfer desirable. At the present moment it would be absolutely impossible to expect any good results from the migration of the cottagers, and some other way of dealing with them must be devised. He thought they might do something more than they were doing in the way of re-creation of industries on the coast of Galway. There existed the fishing industry, but he did not think that quite sufficient attention had been paid by the Congested Districts Board in the past to its development and to making it the success which it had been made on the coast of Donegal. He trusted that the Congested Districts Board, who would have to continue this work, would in future be able to devote a larger amount of time and greater expenditure to the development of fisheries along the coast of Galway. One other thing which might be of assistance in the regions of Ireland it was most difficult to help would be an extensive programme of afforestation. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to that, and he thought that in regard to the particularly difficult part of the Irish coast afforestation would afford a far better chance of providing for the needs of the people than even perhaps the development of the fisheries. There was an immense expanse of rough mountain land in that district which would be eminently suitable for 1893 planting, and in that way they would furnish a large amount of work, when no agricultural programme was likely to give much assistance to the people in this region. In order to have migration to other and more favoured parts there must necessarily be a growth of strong patriotic feeling in the country. In the causes which produced cattle-driving there had been shown a strong local desire on the part of the people to have a division of the grass land made among themselves. That was a very natural impulse, but it was one which, if gratified to any large extent, would destroy, in a great degree, any chance of carrying out a system of migration. If, therefore, their hon. friends on the other side of the House would make it their duty and their pleasure to try and excite in all parts of Ireland affected by these proposals a patriotic feeling in the direction that they must subordinate all private and local desires in the distribution of the land to the general welfare of the country at large, only in that way could they hope to see the question of congestion finally settled. There were many other points to which he would like to allude, but probably there, would be an opportunity on the Second Reading of discussing them. He would therefore only congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the Government upon the broad way in which they had looked at this question, and upon the very generous spirit with which, on the whole, they had dealt with it.
§ * MR. BUTCHER (Cambridge University)
wished to say a word first about the land purchase side of this question, but prefaced his observations by remarking that he recognised gladly the progress that had been made in the mind of the Government since an earlier time this year when, in July, through their spokesman in the House of Lords, they said most decisively that the British taxpayer could not be called upon to undertake any further burden in respect of land purchase in Ireland. He also recognised that there was a change for the better, since he received an uncompromising letter from the Chief Secretary at a later date, at the beginning of October. He felt sure that the Chief Secretary had meanwhile done his best to ease the situation and to expedite 1894 land purchase. All the same, he was afraid that there would be profound disappointment in Ireland and that the proposals that were now made did not go far enough to meet the extreme difficulty as to finance. As regarded completed agreements, the block in land purchase would, he was afraid, continue and sales would be hung up, if not for quite so long a time as they would have been otherwise, still for a time quite sufficient to create a situation of danger and disorder. As regarded future agreements, he greatly feared that the proposals would bring land purchase almost to a standstill. He need not go into the financial question at any length, especially after the exhaustive treatment it received from his right hon. friend the Member for Dover, but he would point out this—that the Government, in his opinion, had done a very bad turn to Ireland in tying up together two measures so different as the expediting of land purchase and the relief of congestion; and with this result, that the failure of one of these measures meant the failure of both. Yet the one policy—that of land purchase—was accepted by everybody both in Ireland and in the United Kingdom, while the other policy called forth the greatest possible divergence of view, and opened up the most difficult and most complicated of all Irish problems. That these two policies should be so inextricably united was, he thought, a misfortune. Not only was there this difference as regards the two policies, but there was also great difference of opinion respecting machinery in each case. In the case of land purchase nobody wished to alter appreciably the existing machinery, but merely to quicken it. In the case of the Congested Districts Board the machinery to be employed called forth even greater divergencies of opinion than did the policy itself. The Chief Secretary referred to Lord McDonnell as in the main supporting the policy, but he did not mention the smashing attack which Lord McDonnell made upon the machinery proposed by the majority of the Commission, and accepted by the Government. Further there was this difference. The carrying out of the one policy was a matter urgent in the highest degree; the carrying out of 1895 the other policy was indeed a matter of anxious interest and importance, but it could not be said to be bound up at this moment with the whole interests of public order and public safety. The Chief Secretary in his exhaustive speech did not seem to him to bring out the inherent difficulties, social and economic, that were involved in the problem of the congested districts. There were two entirely different questions. One was the question of policy, the other that of the machinery to give effect to it. If the proposed policy was to be carried out, then the Congested Districts Board should, in his opinion be abolished, in spite of the good work it had done. But the policy seemed to him to raise great doubt. The colossal scale on which it was proposed to work, and the magnitude of those operations, should be borne in mind. It was proposed to bring every uneconomic holding up to an economic standard which was put at a £10 holding. At the present time seven-eighths of the holdings in the congested area were under £10 poor law valuation. There were no less than 50,000 of these holdings in the existing area, their valuation being £50,000; and in the new area to be created by this Bill there were 30,000 more. One-third of the whole of Ireland was made a congested district. The additional land required to give effect to the scheme was land to the amount, in poor law valuation of £450,000. They must therefore purchase land of a total valuation of £800,000, to be divided among 80,000 families. The sum to be advanced as estimated by Lord McDonnell was £40,000,000 or £50,000,000, with an irrecoverable loss which his Lordship placed at £7,000,000, but which others placed at £4,500,000 to £5,000,000. Was it possible that such huge and unprecedented operations should be carried out by a Board nine of whose eighteen members were to be elected by local authorities, and from the nature of the case would be subject to every kind of political and social pressure? Then as to the land required for this purpose. The whole of the untenanted land in Connaught, Donegal, Sligo, Kerry, and a large part of Cork was to be bought up, and even that was not enough. The majority of the Commission actually 1896 recommended that they should "fine down" existing holdings, so that no tenants and no tenant purchasers were to be allowed to have farms of more than a £100 valuation. They were prepared to get rid of all the strong farmers in Ireland, all the men on whom the future development of farming was dependent, and who were indispensable now that the landlords were being bought out. The large farmers would henceforth be the chief employers of labour, and the only men who could give a lead in scientific agriculture. He was, anyhow, thankful that the Government rejected that proposal, which would not only have been economically disastrous, but would have led to downright war. But the Government scheme also contemplated migration on an enormous scale. It reminded him of events to be read of in ancient history, when oriental monarchs deported whole populations, a thing never done in civilised times. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: Except by Irish landlords.] It looked as if some oriental imagination had been running riot in the construction of the scheme. No less than 20,000 or 30,000 families—the numbers were variously estimated—had to be migrated.
§ * MR. BUTCHER
said the right hon. Gentleman's illustration did not apply. This was in effect compulsory migration. There were three enormous difficulties in the way of the Government scheme—the existing landholders did not want to quit; the "congests," or would be migrants, did not wish to be migrated; and the local landless men, who claimed the right to any land that was going, threatened war against the introduction of strangers until their own "land hunger" had been satisfied. He had read a number of resolutions passed by branches of the United Irish League with regard to the migrants. This was a specimen—They must not be brought in until the small people and the landless people are supplied with land, and when this is done, we have no objection to giving these migrants any surplus lands remaining, but otherwise we pledge ourselves to rout the migrants from our midst.These facts ought to be impressed on the House. Suppose therefore that this 1897 new Board, with its large elective element, subject to all the pressure of local politics, preferred the claims of the local men to those of the migrants, the whole object of the Bill would be lost. It would be an impossible task to impart into a district whole families of men who had already been called grabbers and whose lives would be made in tolerable. There was a phrase used by the Chief Secretary which seemed to indicate that he was aware of this danger. He said "an army of police cannot be maintained to offer protection to migrants." Did he mean that the landless man was to get the land instead of the migrant who could not be protected? If so, the Government scheme fell to the ground. If not, the only other alternative was that the "congests" were indeed to be migrated but were not to be protected, and were to go to their new homes at their own risk. They knew what would be the consequence. The Government however by their administration had already killed their own policy of migration, because they had raised the hopes of lawless and landless men to such a pitch that the migration scheme was doomed. He desired lastly to lay stress on the economic side of this proposed social revolution. The economic side was one which admitted of argument. He had read a great deal about the substitution of mixed farming for grass lands, and he had consulted people who knew infinitely more than he did; and he thought if they could be sure of substituting in Ireland a system of mixed farming for the grazing system that the economic result might be all to the good. At the same time, looking at the enormous difficulties of altering the farming tradition and methods of any country, he felt grave doubts whether they could establish that mixed system of scientific farming which alone could replace the system of grazing. What was more likely was that they would merely set up a large number of small graziers instead of a small number of large graziers, and what would be the result? They would have poor men with small farms on which they could not rear good cattle. They would have poor stock, an inferior breed of stock throughout Ireland, and the whole cattle industry of Ireland would suffer; 1898 and the first to suffer would be the people in the South-west of Ireland who now raised store cattle which are bought by the large graziers of Roscommon and Galway. The Chief Secretary said "You must make up your mind between the cattle and the people." That phrase was a bit of mischievous and cheap rhetoric. If the soil and climate of a country favoured the rearing of cattle, then it was for the benefit of the people that the cattle should be reared. In England and the rest of the United Kingdom the same movement had been going on as in Ireland. Grazing was more and more taking the place of tillage. They did not go to the man who grazed his land in England and say: "You must make up your mind between the cattle and the people." It was, he thought, the most fallacious economic doctrine he had ever heard uttered in that House. There was nothing Irish fanning needed so much as more tillage and less grazing; but he did not believe that they could substitute one system for the other off-hand. There was much confusion of thought in what had been said and written upon the subject of congestion. It seemed to be thought that all that was needed to turn an uneconomic into an economic holding was to add a few acres and put an un-economic man on the land. The man and not the land was the really important factor in the case; and by giving an additional ten acres to be worked by an uneconomic man, who was incapable of working it, they would only aggravate the problem of congestion and not solve it. He had had before him cases—names of farmers and the character of the farms—in Galway in which lands had been divided and redistributed. Migration had here been carried out either by the Congested Districts Board or by the Land Commission, and in almost every instance the result so far had been that the men who were put upon the new holdings—migrated men who had got larger holdings which were now economic—had done one of two things. They had either sub-let them to graziers or let them for meadowing, and in this way they were making a profit rent by doing nothing. Formerly when they had uneconomic holdings they were hard working; but now they had simply taken to grazing, the thing they 1899 formerly denounced, and had become idles. Having given a great deal of study to the question of migration, his feeling was that if migration was to be carried out—and he believed it must to some extent—they must proceed cautiously and experimentally and not in this large and wholesale manner. There must be a careful selection of the families to be migrated. The thing could not be done in the way proposed in the Majority Report of the Commission which the Government had followed in their Bill. The truth was they could not make a man a farmer by giving him a farm. He only wished he could have discovered in the Chief Secretary's able and interesting speech a greater sense of the enormous economic difficulties with which he was confronted if the scheme was to be carried out on sound principles.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said he had listened with very great interest to the able speech of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge but, like many other speeches delivered from those benches that day, it was taken up chiefly with an exaggerated description of the difficulties facing those who undertook the problem. They were all aware of those difficulties, but was that any reason why the problem should not be dealt with? The hon. and learned Member had said that this proposal of the Government was like the proposal of some oriental despot who took whole populations and moved them against their will from one quarter of the country to the other. No, he would tell the hon. and learned Member who were like oriental despots: it was those men who drove those populations in the past to the position in which they were. The proposal of the Government was not as was described, a proposal to remove any man from his holding against his will. It was not enforced migration, it was voluntary migration, and when the hon. and learned Member stated that there were only 304 families which had migrated up to the present—
§ MR. DILLON
said that fact had no significance unless they know how many were offered migration. He was informed 1900 by the hon. Member for Carlow that the evidence before the Commission was to the effect that the desire for migration was rapidly growing in the country where the people were beginning to understand what there was offered to them. He did not believe that that point was a serious difficulty at all. They had had migration in Ireland such as had been described by the hon. and learned Member in his imagination, but which were real in the past—migrations which forced unhappy people whom the Government were now trying to rescue, into the bogs and mountains of the west, where they had lived wretched though most industrious lives from that hour to this. In his own district large tracts of waste land which were given up to bogs and to game 100 years ago were now filled by the unhappy populations who were driven from the North of Ireland, from the county of Armagh, and who walked 100 miles to settle in the bogs and mountains of Mayo and of Galway, where they now formed the congested populations which were, without exception, the result of misgovernment in the past. They were driven there, and on the Government of this country, therefore, lay an obligation of honour and humanity to rescue them from the effects of this misconduct. Yet the hon. and learned Member took exception to an expression which was used by the Chief Secretary, an expression which, in his opinion, would ring from one end of Ireland to the other to-morrow, to the effect that it was the duty of the Government to take their choice between the people and the cattle. No more popular expression was ever used by an Irish Secretary. They heard a great deal of humbug talked about the danger to the cattle trade, but who thought of danger to the people when these lands were cleared for cattle in Ireland? He believed all this talk about the dinger to the cattle trade was absolute nonsense, and the evidence given before the Royal Commission was all in the direction that there was no danger to the cattle, but that, on the contrary, the division of the grass lands in the West and also to a considerable extent in the Midlands, would result in a very great improvement and would increase the demand 1901 for cattle in Ireland. He had been listening for the last two years to the most doleful prophecies as to the ruin of the cattle trade by the cattle drivers. He wanted to draw attention to a remarkable fact which he had observed with his own eyes. They were all told that the cattle-drivers would destroy the cattle trade, and that the first people to suffer would be the small men in the West, who reared young stock. What had happened? That month the November fairs were held in Mayo, Sligo, and Galway, where these young cattle were, and it was the universal testimony of everybody who saw them that never in the last twenty-five years had there been such fairs in the West of Ireland, both as regards the supply of cattle, the demand, and the prices. The fairs were on a scale he had never witnessed. They were swept clear of cattle by ten o'clock in the morning. If that was the result of cattle-driving it had done no injury to the trade. The whole thing was a mere piece of cant and humbug. This delicate interest for the cattle trade and for the small stock raiser in the West of Ireland which had recently distinguished the landlord party in Ireland was the greatest cant. The cattle trade would not suffer if these grass ranches were divided. It would be improved, and even if it did suffer he was for the people as against the cattle trade. Why had this Bill become necessary? It was a great and comprehensive Bill, and he most heartily endorsed every word uttered in respect of it by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. The first question the House was entitled to ask was why had it become necessary so soon after the Act of 1903. They had heard constantly the assertion that the Act of 1903 had been an unparalleled success. In one sense it had been an enormous success, because in five years nearly eighty millions' worth of land had been offered for sale. But that was only one aspect of the case. He was amazed to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover make the assertion that the Act was passed solely for the purpose of conveying from landlords to comfortable tenants in Ireland their holdings by direct sale.
§ * MR. WYNDHAM
No. I said it was confined to those who were occupiers of holdings. There were two objects: one, the sale of the holdings as occupied; the other the relief of congestion—that is, the improvement of existing holdings. But it did not contemplate bringing in new men.
§ MR. DILLON
said that in 1903 the right hon. Gentleman said its greatest object was to relieve the poverty and misery of large districts in Ireland, to reconstruct the rotten and rigid communities in the West of Ireland; and the British Treasury of that day would never have consented to the bonus or to the terms contained in that Act, had it not been that the woes and the misery and the injustice of the condition of Connaught were paraded before the House and used as an argument for this treatment. The right hon. Gentleman had gone into elaborate figures to prove that the result of the Act had been that the best farms had been sold first and that the poor farms remained unsold to this hour. That was exactly what they had been saying for the last five years, and the Secretary for Ireland put his finger upon the point of the whole situation when he said the real truth was that those who ought to have been on top had been put at the bottom and those who ought to be at the bottom and could afford to wait had had the first place. That was one of the first causes of failure. The Act was put forward as a measure which would bring relief and generous relief to those rotten and rigid communities, as they were called, in the West of Ireland, and they all remembered that Mr. Ritchie, when the question of granting a bonus was in suspense, was put into a motor car and motored all round to the show places in Connaught and Galway to see the misery of the people. It was on that that Mr. Ritchie and the Treasury consented to give a bonus; and yet those people whose sufferings were used as a means to get good terms out of the Treasury had been left to this hour unrelieved, and in that respect the Act had been a tremendous failure. In another and a cognate case it had also been a failure. Here again he was amazed to hear the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. 1903 He had said that in his opinion the breaking up of the grass ranches would be an act of economic insanity. The breaking up of the grass ranches was one of the great considerations on which he and his colleagues had agreed to the passing of the Act; and some who were discontented with some of the provisions of the Act were tempted to hold their tongues and be patient by the inducement that relief would be brought to the West of Ireland, that the grass lands were to be broken up, and that the evicted tenants would be promptly and generously reinstated. Every single one of these pledges had been broken, and while it was absolutely true to say in regard to the amount of land brought into the market the Act had been an enormous success, it was equally true to say that in regard to these three great matters, which to them were the chief recommendations of the Act, it had been a dismal failure, and that was the reason why it had been necessary to introduce an amending Bill. The success of an Irish Land Act might very fairly be judged, to some degree, by the extent to which it had brought peace and contentment to the country. Could any man who knew Ireland say the Act had brought peace and contentment to the country? According to hon. Gentlemen above the gangway Ireland was in a state of great uproar and discontent. There was another aspect of the failure. It was unreasonable to say that an Act like this had been a great success if its financial provisions were unsatisfactory. Some of them in 1903 tried to make their voices heard in protest against the financial provisions of the Act. He had always said they were vicious and would in all probability lead to a financial breakdown. The Bill was pushed through very rapidly and was not adequately discussed, and these financial provisions were slurred over by the eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover. But there was no denying the fact that one of the sources of their trouble, and one of the causes which had made it necessary to introduce this Bill, was that the financial provisions had totally broken down. He expressed his obligation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for one provision in this measure, and 1904 that was for relieving the Irish ratepayers. It was all very well to say it was nothing for this Bill to relieve the Irish ratepayers from their obligation under the Act of 1903. He entirely differed from that view because, supposing the Government let the Act of 1903 go on, what would, be the result? They were bound as practical men to take into consideration this fact. If they simply went on and raised £10,000,000 a year from the money market the Treasury would have no choice. The whole loss would fall upon the Irish ratepayers, and it would amount to £10,000,000 or £15,000,000. It was a most valuable and necessary provision to relieve the Irish ratepayers from that loss. The provisions and alterations in the system of Irish land purchase introduced by the Act of 1903 were very far-reaching, and, in his opinion at the time, financially unsound. Up to 1903 Irish Land Act purchase paid its way, it was self-supporting, and under the Act of 1891 a sum of £200,000 had been accumulated, earned by the process of land purchase. But the Act of 1903 introduced a totally new system of finance. The annuity was reduced, the zone system and the bonus introduced, and all the changes made were for the sole purpose of inflating the price paid to the landlord. He had endeavoured to point out that when the Treasury was making sacrifices of that kind, and when these efforts were being made to increase the price given to the landlord, the Irish Members were entitled to some quid pro quo, and one of the great objections which he had to the financial system of the Act was that they got no quid pro quo. What had been the effect of those provisions? He wanted to direct the attention of the House to the most interesting Report of the Estates Commissioners on this point. They gave an exceedingly valuable and interesting table of the prices of Irish land for the five years preceding the Act of 1903, calculated first in stock and then in cash, because at that time the landlords were paid in stock which had appreciated. He would give only the cash price—the average price in years purchase of land throughout Ireland, taking all classes of rents. The number of years purchase in stock were in 1899 18.0; 1905 in 1900 18.2; in 1901 18.3; in 1902 18.0; and in 1903 18.2. The number of years purchase in cash was in 1899, 19.4; 1900, 19.1; 1901, 18.0; 1902, 16.8; 1903, 17.0. Hon. Members must remember that in each of those successive years the number of second-term rents which came into calculation was increased, and it should be observed that during the five years preceding 1903 the price of Irish land was rapidly falling in the market, and it fell in those five years from 19.4 in 1899 to seventeen years purchase in the year 1903. What was the effect in the year 1903? The Estates Commissioners Report stated—It will be observed that the average number of years purchase calculated in land stock, for the five years preceding the passing of the Land Act of 1903 was 18.0; that during the years 1899 and 1909, when land stock was ordinarily above par the number of years purchase calculated in cash was somewhat over nineteen; and that during the two years immediately preceding the passing of the Act of 1903, when land stock was below par, the average number of years purchase calculated in cash was about seventeen. The average number of years purchase paid in the case of sales by landlords direct to tenants for holding the purchase-money, which was advanced in period ended 31st March, 1906, is 22.9, which, with the bonus, is equivalent to over twenty-five and a half years purchase to the vendor, an increase of somewhat over 40 per cent. on prices obtained in the preceding five years, or of 50 per cent. on prices obtained during the two years immediately preceding the passing of the Act. The average rates per acre paid for all classes for holdings sold by landlords direct to tenants under Land Purchase Acts before and since the passing of the Irish Land Act, 1903, were as follows: Act of 1885, £10 8s. (cash); Acts of 1891–1896, £9 2s. (stock); Act of 1903 (to 31st March, 1906), £13 4s. (cash). The average rate per acre paid during the five years immediately preceding the passing of the Act for holdings sold by landlords direct to tenants was £8 9s. (stock), when no bonus was payable, as against £13 4s. (cash) paid under the Act of 1903, exclusive of bonus, which, with the bonus, would realise for the landlord £15 per acre. This figure compared with the prices previously paid shows an increase in the price per acre received by landlords of 68.5 per cent.That was the result of the finance of the 1903 Act. In his opinion that result went far beyond anything which the House of Commons intended. When they were arriving at a final agreement in regard to the Act of 1903 he recollected stating himself that if the landlords were content to accept the average prices which they had got for their land before the Act was passed, he was willing to give them the 1906 whole bonus, although many people thought it ought to be divided between the tenant and the landlord. Now they were assured that a new spirit of moderation had come into the minds of the Irish landlords, and that they were willing to come to reasonable terms all round. He should, be very glad if he could believe that, but he was bound to say that the resolutions passed at their Dublin Convention did not look like reconciliation. One of those resolutions condemned the GovernmentFor wasting time and money on reinstating evicted tenants which ought to have been devoted to promoting land purchase; they regarded the proposal for dealing with the West of Ireland on the lines of the Dudley Commission Report as an outrageous proposal calculated to interrupt the whole process of land purchase; and furthermore that the Land Commissioners were carrying out a system of confiscation by their excessive reductions of rent.That did not look very much like conciliation or agreement upon a common basis. He had no desire to introduce any obstacles to conciliation or to land purchase, and he was in favour of acting in a spirit of give and take. It must not, however, be a policy of all give and no take. He was perfectly prepared to consider any proposals the landlords had to make in a spirit of reason, of friendliness, and of give and take, but, for himself he would not consent to being any party to an arrangement by which the landlords could walk off with their plunder and leave the tenants in the ditch. He could see quite clearly what was at the bottom of the landlords' mind. They grudged the £250,000 a year which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had generously offered to the Congested Districts Board; they would like to see it turned into their own pockets. They had no peace on those terms. He might tell the landlords' that they would not get that £250,000 [...]o swell the prices which were already high enough. He wished to allude to one subject which was the cause of a great deal of debate upon the Bill of 1903. In that discussion he protested against the zone system as an abominable invention which in his judgment had wrought untold mischief in Ireland. He was told at the time that the zones would not affect the county he represented, or apply to congested districts. At that time he stated that in his judgment the zones would have more effect in raising 1907 the price of land in the poor districts than in the rich districts, and that was what had actually happened. What had been the result in his own division? Before the passing of the Act of 1903 the normal price of land was fourteen years purchase of the rent; but since that time it had men to twenty-three years purchase. Therefore it was no use telling him that the zones did not apply to his county. His unfortunate people were in arrears of rent, and the landlords would not sell them unless they consented to twenty-two years purchase, and if they refused they were served with writs and processes for arrears of rent. This unhappy system of zones had deprived the poor class of tenant of the protection of inspection for value, which in the past had been most effective, because it often cut down the price which the tenant had agreed to pay under coercion and terror. Under this system of zones the price of land had been raised all over Ireland to twenty-three and twenty-four years purchase, with the consequence that in the western districts purchase had come to a deadlock and the whole of the money which they were led to suppose would relieve those districts had gone to the Duke of Leinster and other landlords in the southern districts, and the poorer districts had been left out in the cold. With regard to the zones the land of Ireland was perfectly good security, but in the case of some of the western estates he admitted the security was not so good. He wished to point out, however; that the Treasury incurred no risk in this matter, because any loss would be made good by the charge upon the ratepayers in Ireland. Consequently those who represented Ireland were entitled to see that the ratepayers did not incur any unnecessary risk in the terms agreed upon. He wished to read one passage which was of extreme value upon this question of security. Although he was sorry that the Government had not seen its way to sweep away zones altogether, the proposal made by the Chief Secretary was to a large extent a satisfactory method, because the Estates Commissioners had power whenever they had any good reason for suspecting there had been duress or heavy arrears or insufficient security, to take the case outside the zones. The Fry Commission, the 1908 personnel of which was entirely appointed by the Tory Government in response to the landlords of Ireland, in their Report said—In our opinion the practice of the Department has been over-strict in the matter of security, and applications to the Department have been thereby discouraged …. We are further of opinion that where the purchase is made within a fixed period, say five years from the fixing of a fair rent, and the purchase money does not exceed, say, eighteen years purchase of the fair rent, that price ought to be accepted by the purchase Department as the sum to be advanced by the State, without inspection, except to the extent of ascertaining that the purchasers are the actual occupiers.That was the high-water mark under their own agreements when the fair purchase price was not more than eighteen years, and the fair rent was fixed within five years. That was tie second term rental. They had now departed from that, and the landlords insisted that where the purchase was twenty-six or twenty-seven years there should be no inspection. He heartily thanked the Chief Secretary for the courage he had shown in bringing forward this measure. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would stick to his guns. He thought the Irish landlords would be badly advised if they did not give the Bill fair consideration.
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
The hon. Member for East Mayo has declared that the landlords have pronounced against this Bill, and especially in regard to the grant of £250,000, because, as he was good enough to say, it would not go into their own pockets. There have been only three speakers who can, by any possible effort of imagination, be held to speak for the Irish landlords, namely—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, the hon. Member for North Armagh, and the hon. Member for Cambridge University. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, in referring to the extra grant, not only did not criticise it, but, on the contrary, while he safeguarded himself by saying that he might have something to say about the way in which it was to be spent, he had no objection to offer to the extra grant to be made by the Exchequer to the Congested Districts Board. The hon. Member for Cambridge took a similar line, and where the hon. Member for East Mayo found ground for the proposition 1909 that the landlords object to the proposal of this special grant, I do not know. If the hon. Member desires, as he told us he did, a conciliatory and friendly consideration of the Bill from the landlords, he took the worst possible step to secure that end. I have listened to the whole of the debate, as I have listened to many previous debates on the Irish land question, and I have often asked myself: Does the House realise what it is asked to do, and do the Government realise the effect of their proposals? What is the ultimate object of this measure? Do the Government intend to go on with it to the Second Reading and subsequent stages, and, if so, when do they propose to take it? The speech of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford was an indication of his views. I do not suggest anything in the form of an alliance, or even friendship, between the two benches, but the hon. Member indicated that it would be satisfactory to him if the Bill were included in a suspensory Motion. The discussion has been an indication to the Chief Secretary that he has somewhat rashly and without consideration embarked unnecessarily on a very thorny path. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the three objects that he set himself to solve were the block in the working of the Land Act owing to financial reasons, the removal of congestion, and the necessary Amendments to the Land Act to make it effective for all purposes. The hon. Member for East Mayo has told us that in all the negotiations that took place both in the Conference that preceded the passage of the Land Act of 1903, and during the passage of that Act, the governing principle was the removal of congestion. I know nothing of what took place at the Conference, but I know what took place in this House, and I say that what took place here in that year was the result of what took place at the previous Conference. I have read the debates recently, and I venture to say that the idea of the Government and the governing principle with the Government, was not the relieving of congestion, but the transfer of the land from the owners to the occupiers, and not upon the ground put by the hon. Member for East Mayo—not because this House 1910 was moved by the terrible stories of Irish congestion, suffering, and misery. We have heard of that, and those who have studied this question know of and deplore the fact that there is great foundation for the statements in regard to the misery of a large portion of people who live in the congested districts. But that was not the cause that led to the acceptance by this House of the Act of 1903. What was it? It was in the first place that this House had deliberately established the principle of dual ownership. Consequently when various Land Acts had failed to transfer the land from the owners to the occupiers with sufficient rapidity there was at that time an entire block. In consequence of the block there was a demand for compulsion. The conference was the answer to that demand, and the Act of 1903 was the result of the Conference, and the condition of things then existing. When the hon. Member for East Mayo said that the right hon. Member for Dover took Mr. Ritchie, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, through the congested districts and moved him to assent, as Chancellor, to the passage of the Bill, he did a grave injustice both to the memory of Lord Ritchie and to the action of ray right hon. friend. What are the Government doing to remove the block? The main object of our coming here to-night is to hear their announcement. They admit that the block is caused by the want of money. What is there in the proposals of the Government dealing with, the main question of finance which is going to advance by a single inch the position of those purchasing holdings in Ireland? I tried to the best of my ability to follow the financial statement of the Chief Secretary. As I understand, what he proposes to do is by a sum limited to £5,000,000 per annum to deal with the matter. The proposal of the Chief Secretary fails altogether to meet the proposition laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover at the time the Act was passed, and again this afternoon. In his speech this afternoon, my right hon. friend, speaking not only as the author of the Act of 1903, but for his colleagues, said that whatever was done in regard to the finance of the Land Purchase Acts, there were two things which were essential. One was 1911 that the present block should be removed by easing the finance, and the other was that nothing should be done to prejudice the position of those who come after. I venture to say that in the Government proposals there is nothing which will by one 6d. or by one second expedite the purchase of land by the occupiers from the owners. What about those who come afterwards? The Chief Secretary has based the whole of his proposal on the fact—I will not say the fact, but upon the suggestion that the figures of my right hon. friend were arrived at upon information obtained in the ordinary way, and that those estimates were wrong. The Chief Secretary told us that we are to have a paper a little later by which we shall be able to ascertain how his calculations were arrived at; I venture to say that that Paper ought to have been laid on the Table at the time this Bill was introduced. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover did not base his calculations on estimates, but he took the figures which were available. I do not believe that the Chief Secretary realises that this is not an Amendment of the Act of 1903. This is not to remove certain blots in that Act. The proposal of the Government means practically the repeal of the Act of 1903. Perhaps I am mis-stating the case when I say repeal, but it means the carrying of a new Act of Parliament for a different object, or else the calculations of the Government on which the whole of this matter rests are ill-founded. We shall wait for the Paper which the Chief Secretary says he is going to produce. The debate has produced abundant evidence that behind this proposal there is an intention to upset a great part of the policy of 1903. The Chief Secretary had appealed to Lord MacDonnell's Report. I have read that Report with great care, and I can only say that I was amazed that the Government in shaping their proposals have not shown more respect for it. They have adopted wholesale the Report of the majority of the Dudley Commission without regard to the weighty criticisms made by Lord MacDonnell as a result of his very considerable experience of Dublin Castle. The Chief Secretary used a phrase with reference to cattle-driving which, I think, he will regret, 1912 although the hon. Member for Mayo welcomed his words with cheers. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Mayo, and so far as I was able to follow him it appears that he believes that the more cattle-driving you have the more likely is the cattle trade to prosper. The particular phrase used by the Chief Secretary was: "You have to choose between the cattle and the people." That may be a very pleasant catch-phrase for the Chief Secretary to use, who is fond of humour and of remarks that are likely to tickle the fancy of those who listen to him; but I venture to say that it was an unfortunate phrase for any Minister to use, above all a Minister in the very difficult position occupied by the Chief Secretary in Ireland, to whatever party he belongs. The hon. Gentleman knows well that cattle-driving is going on and that he has been unable to stop it. I do not know if he has taken the proper means. What then does he mean by saying: "We must choose between the cattle and the people"? Did he hear the speech of the hon. Member for Cambridge University, who told us that we should find in the Reports two sides of the question regarding the change of the grazing land into arable land? With regard to this cattle question there is one fact which nobody can deny, and that is, that the cattle industry is by far the greatest, most prosperous, and most valuable in money of any industry in Ireland. [Cries of "Oh, oh!" from the IRISH Benches.] That is undoubtedly the case.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
Well, I believe that to be the case. I do not mean to exaggerate and say it is one of the most valuable industries in Ireland so far as agriculture is concerned. What is the suggestion of the Government? You are not to amend the Land Act of 1903 so as to relieve congestion, but to take land which it was never contemplated, when that Act was passed, would be offered for purchase at all, and use that land for the purpose of relieving congestion. This brings us to an entirely new development of the land question. And do not let hon. Gentlemen opposite, who do not represent Irish constituencies, 1913 and who will vote cheerfully for the Bill, forget that they are taking a step along a fresh path which they cannot retrace. If it be right to use the machinery of the Land Act of 1903 to take the grazing lands of Roscommon and Galway and to migrate to them people from the West of Ireland—grazing lands which are held by people who are using them to their own advantage and carrying on a prosperous industry to the advantage of the country—then, I ask, are the Radical supporters of the Government opposite prepared to allow a similar extraordinary change to be made in England? Are they prepared to propose to break up the grass land of Gloucestershire and Leicestershire in order to settle on them the congested population of some of the large towns of England? If it is sound policy to break up the great ranches in Ireland for this particular purpose it is equally sound to apply the same principle to England and to the grazing parts of Scotland. I am not discussing now whether the policy is right or wrong—I think it is wrong—but whether right or wrong, you are taking a step to-night which is altogether a fresh departure so far as the Act of 1903 is concerned; and taking a step which carries with it immense responsibilities. The Chief Secretary told us that judging by the figures given before the Dudley Commission, and by the Report itself, as well as by the Minority Report of Sir John Colomb, he believed that the balance was in favour of an improved revenue being derived from cultivation over the cattle business. And the right hon. Gentleman went on to indicate that he was a believer in the policy of the land now held for grazing purposes only being held as small holdings for mixed husbandry. I say that the Government are deliberately flying in the face of every particle of evidence and experience. In the first place, I do not believe that there is any evidence worth reading which shows that arable farming and grazing of cattle can be successfully carried on unless on large farms. Under present conditions if you break up these grazing lands for the purpose of growing cereals, is it likely that you are going to make it a success? If you alter the existing system you must educate the farmers to make a living by a system which has been abandoned in other 1914 parts of the country. I say that this is a question which is open to debate, and there is a great deal of evidence against breaking up the grass lands, and it is a monstrous thing to declare that the only alternative lies between the cattle and the people. It will only do the greatest cruelty and the greatest injustice to the people, and it will be used in Ireland in a very different sense from what the right hon. Gentleman used it in this House. I have only one more word to say. The hon. Member for Mayo told us that the Act of 1903 was ill-considered and insufficiently discussed. Well, that Act was mainly a financial proposal to facilitate the transfer of land from one owner to another and involved no new principle. This Bill is a Bill which raises a dozen novel principles; it touches three great questions, each separate and distinct, and each one of which ought to form the subject of a separate measure. It is brought in at the end of November when we have more than enough work to engage our attention to the middle of next year. I do not for a moment suggest that the Chief Secretary has acted in bad faith with regard to it by bringing it in now, but it is impossible for me to regard it as a really businesslike and practical proposal which the House is asked to discuss with a view of its passing into law within a reasonable time. A Bill of this kind ought to have been introduced weeks ago in order to have a fairer and better opportunity of its consideration and discussion. So far as we are concerned we shall be only too glad to deal with anything to relieve congestion and facilitate purchase, but the Government are making a mistake in bringing in a comprehensive measure of this kind at the fag end of an autumn session.
§ MR. BIRRELL
I should like to say that this Bill which I ask leave of the House to introduce is by no means a sham Bill. It is a Bill which we mean to prosecute, after listening to the criticisms which we may anticipate getting from all quarters, to the very best of our ability. I will do my very utmost to secure that it receives a Second Reading in this House at the earliest possible moment, and, so far from having a desire to drop it, that 1915 will be the last notion to enter into my mind. It is impossible to forecast the session, but, if any Bills are carried over, I certainly will not continue to occupy the position I hold unless this Bill is one of them.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Birrell, Mr. Attorney-General for Ireland, and Mr. T. W. Russell.