§ (1) As between the Land Commission and the proprietor for the time being of any holding for the purchase of which the Land Commission have, after the passing of this Act, made any advance under the Land Purchase Acts, the following conditions shall be imposed in addition to the conditions mentioned in Section fifty-four of the Act of 1903, namely:—
- (a) The proprietor shall not without the consent of the Land Commission acquire by purchase any other holding
1940 for the purchase of which an advance has been made under the Land Purchase Acts if the amount of that advance, when added to the amount of the advance or advances made in respect of the holding or holdings then held by the proprietor, would exceed the sum of three thousand pounds, and if any proprietor acquires any holding in violation of this condition the Land Commission may cause that holding to be sold.
- (b) The proprietor shall not, without the consent of the Land Commission, cut down or remove, or permit to be cut down or removed, any tree upon the holding which is in the opinion of the Land Commission necessary for the ornament or shelter of the holding or for the security of the advance, and if any such tree is cut down or removed in violation of this condition, the proprietor shall be guilty of an offence under this Act, and shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a penalty not exceeding five pounds for each tree so cut down or removed.
§ (2) Where, after the passing of this Act, a tenant enters into an agreement for the purchase of his holding under the said Acts, the foregoing condition with respect to the cutting and removal of trees shall, as from the date of the agreement, apply to the holding in like manner as if the advance had been made unless and until the application for an advance is refused or withdrawn.
§ (3) Sub-section (2) and Sub-section (3) of Section thirty of the Act of 1881, as amended by any enactment, shall apply to any sale by the Land Commission under this section.
§ Mr. WILLIAM MOORE moved, in Section (1), after the words "made any advance under the Land Purchase Acts," to insert the words "while any portion of the advance remains due."
§ There is a good deal of doubt as to what is the position of any purchaser who has paid all his advances. The position of the Land Commission is simply this, that they are the lenders of public money, and it is perfectly right, while any of the public money is due, that the Land Commission should have the power to enforce these conditions for the better security of the money. Golden prospects have been held out where the advance is being repaid, and nothing is owing by the the tenant purchaser, that he 1941 is the absolute owner of the holding. If he is the absolute owner of his holding, it ought to be made clear whether or not he is still to be subject to these statutory conditions and restrictions. I do not think it was the policy of the Act that he should be. There is a good deal of feeling as to what the rights of a man are once the annuity has been paid off, and I have moved this Amendment in order to get an opinion from the Government as to what the legal position is. These are conditions under Section 54, and one of those conditions restricts the borrowing on the holding. Solvent men are being advised that if they pay off the whole of the advance they are no longer subject to that condition. Is that so or not? Would the Government tell us whether it is their intention that these conditions and restrictions should remain in perpetuity, or whether, on the other hand, the purchaser does not really become the absolute owner as soon as he hag repaid the amount of the advance?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. Cherry)
The hon. Member has asked me rather suddenly for an opinion on the construction of a clause in the Act of 1903. As far as I can judge on the words as they stand, these would be perpetual conditions. I do not know whether that was the intention, but the words are framed in such a way as to make the restrictions perpetual. But it is not a matter of very great consequence to us now, as the position would not arise until 68 years hence, except, of course, in those very rare cases where the annuity is paid off in cash earlier. As regards the present Bill, I think the Amendment is a very reasonable one, and I am prepared to accept it. We do not desire that these conditions should be imposed upon an absolute owner who has paid off his annuity. But as far as the Act of 1903 is concerned, we could not adopt any proposal at present.
§ Mr. MOORE
I desire to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the way in which he has met me. May I ask him to consider, between now and the Report stage, whether the exemption could not apply to all these statutory conditions, otherwise there will be some statutory conditions from which a man will be relieved as soon as he has paid off his annuity and others from which he will not? It would be just as easy to make the exemption apply to the whole of Section 54.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. MOORE moved to leave out paragraph (a).
§ The Attorney-General has removed a considerable amount of the difficulty by accepting my last Amendment. It is undesirable that there should be so many statutory conditions attaching to a holding of which a man is supposed to be the absolute owner, subject to a mortgage. Consider the expense involved. Every time a statutory condition is imposed a breach of which may involve the forfeiture or sale of the holding, there is necessitated a fresh company in the regiment of inspectors all over the country. I have heard the Chief Secretary say that there is a great deal too much of this system of Government inspection into private details affecting the lives of farmers and others. Let the Committee consider the effect of this condition. Supposing there is a farm worth £3,000 in the market, and two men are anxious to get it. One has no land at all, but possesses £3,000, or is tenant under a landlord who has not sold out. There is nothing to prevent him from going into the market and paying down the money. But the other man has already borrowed as much money as with the advance required on the new farm will exceed £3,000. It is very unfair to the oher would be buyer that the man who has not bought out should have such an advantage, and it is still more unfair to the vendor. In the North of Ireland farmers put the whole of the family fortune into the land. The land is the chief asset of the family; but if they want to sell by this Clause free competition is practically eliminated, because only a certain number of people can come in to buy. There ought to be nothing done to prevent free sale. We used to hear a great deal about the rights of free sale, but those were rights as against the landlord. This condition prevents a tenant having a right of free sale in the open market against an adjoining proprietor. It is very unfair that there should be such a clause as this, involving new and harassing conditions, by which free sale on the part of a tenant will be restricted; therefore I beg to move the omission of the paragraph.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
I regard this Clause as lowering the value of Irish land by millions. The hon. Member above the Gangway has not in the least overstated 1943 the gravity of the case when he says that it is practically the first inroad on the tenant's right of free sale. When I first took an interest in Irish land the great demand of the tenants was for the three "F's," as it was then called—Fixity of tenure, fair rents, and free sale. It was considered a great advance in the emancipation of the Irish tenant when these three demands were incorporated in the Act of 1881, though the right of free sale was only incorporated in the Act in a somewhat modified form, because the landlord had the right of free entry. That one invasion of the tenants' right, the mere provision that one individual could stop a sale was properly regarded—and it is to this day regarded—as a most serious inroad in the value of the tenant's property. But you can stop a free sale in two ways. You can stop it by preventing the tenant from selling, but equally by depriving the tenant of his market. That is in effect the proposal which is now before the House. In the first place the Clause creates a most absolute distinction between tenant purchasers at different dates. Under the Act of 1870 a man can buy his neighbour's farm, and the same is true of the Acts of 1881, 1891, and 1903, and down to 1909. But the tenant purchaser who buys after 1909 is from that moment shut out from the right of competing in the open market when a farm is put up for sale. An arbitrary distinction like that between different classes of tenant purchasers cannot hold. To make it logical it must be extended to all purchasers. But if you do that you entirely suppress the sales of Irish farms; because who buys Irish farms but Irish farmers? All Irish farmers, however, will shortly be owners of their own farms, and the inevitable position will be that when an Irish farmer puts his land up for sale there will be no bidders for it. [Several HON. Members: "No, no."] Who are to be the bidders? At present the bidders are adjoining farmers in 99 cases out of a hundred. [An HON. Member: "For even ranches?"] I do not care whether they are ranches or what they are. I come from a part of Ireland where there are no ranches. In the counties of Cork and Waterford they are unknown. I am here to speak on behalf of the class of tenants with whom I am acquainted—the ordinary tenant farmer, who purchases his farm in the ordinary way. The term ranch can in no sense apply to him. Ob- 1944 serve what the condition of things is. It does not often happen. We hear landlord advocates sometimes talk about the enormous prices obtained for Irish farms. That is so in some cases. Why? Because so few Irish farms are sold. The Irish farmer does not want to sell his farm. He wants to keep it, to live on it, and hand it down to his son. There will always be a small fraction of Irish farmers who want, for some purpose or another, to sell their land. Where are they to find a market for it? In the Finance Bill it is to be proposed to tax the Irish farmer's interest in the tenant right when he buys. On what basis? On the basis of its value in the open market. This is the first step towards depriving the Irish tenant of the open market when he wants to sell his farm. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give some more consideration to this very large question. I will perhaps be told, "Oh, this does no harm, because the Irish Land Commission can use its discretion. It can give any farmer who wants to buy his neighbour's farm the permission to do so." Yes, but farms are sold by auction, and it is impossible that I can go beforehand and say to the Land Commission, "If I buy this farm will you permit it to be sold to me?" Besides, they would possibly take six months before they answered my inquiry. By the time the Commission has looked into the matter, and perhaps sent an inspector down, the sale will have been over five months. I must know in the auction room whether, if I bid a certain figure, and the bid is accepted, the contract will be carried out. In speaking for the purchaser, I am also speaking for the vendor. Supposing, too, the Land Commission, after I have bought, refuses to sanction the sale, what will be the relative position of vendor and buyer? Is the purchaser liable for damages because the Land Commission has deprived him of the right to complete the sale? Will the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General answer that question? Is the mere contract of sale void because, before I have bought, I have not got the sanction of the Land Commission to the advance? I cannot but think the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has underestimated the gravity of the issues and the interests that are raised by this Clause. I regard it as depreciating the value of Irish land in the hands of the tenant farmers by millions of pounds. Let me consider, from another point of view, 1945 the great difficulty of all these proposals, that is, the difficulty of enforcing them. If a farm is put up for sale, and if the vendor's neighbour wants to buy it, he will come in to his solicitor and ask him can he buy it. The solicitor will answer, "It is doubtful," and he will ask, "Is there any way of getting round the law?" The great instrument of fraud—or, rather, I should say, evasion—in Ireland is the Married Women's Property Act. Mr. John Stuart Mill thought he was creating a new heaven and a new earth when he passed the Married Women's Property Act. The principal use of the Married Women's Property Act in Ireland is as an instrument of fraud. I apologise—I should not say an instrument of fraud; it is enormously simple for conveyancing, and makes the task of the lawyer very much easier than it was before the Act was passed, but so far as it has any relation to the property of married women its one purpose is to enable the law to be evaded. If a man cannot do anything himself he says, "Can my wife do it?" There was a case of a man disqualified from being a district councillor in Ireland, and he at once got his wife elected. It is always what is done in conveyancing or in commercial transactions. If a bankrupt is driven from trade and from incurring debts he sets up his wife, and she trades for him, because in Ireland, at any rate, man and wife are one person for all practical purposes. Accordingly, the first question that arises on this Clause is that if the tenant fanner cannot buy he will buy in the name of his wife. Of course, that is not a case of fraud, and differs from the case where a man conveys the property to his wife for the purpose of defeating his creditors; it is a legitimate device to evade the law, the sole effect being that if the man cannot buy himself he gets his wife to buy for him, and if he has no wife he gets some other member of the family to do it. Is there any good in attempting to enforce restrictions of this kind which can so easily be evaded? When you find an enactment of this kind which can be so easily evaded, is it not better to leave it alone? I confess I do not believe in this grandmotherly Government. The first step in it was when a gentleman of Indian experience, Lord MacDonnell, introduced the restriction against mortgaging into the Act of 1903; it was a restriction that was wholly unnecessary; it was called for by nothing in the social conditions of the people. We often heard a great deal of 1946 the Gombeenman, but in the parts of Ireland with which I am acquainted the Gombeenman is as extinct as the dodo. It is the joint stock banks nowadays that do the business of the Irish tenant farmers and not the Gombeenman. That brings me to the final aspect of this Clause. As I stated, the number of vendors of farms is relatively small. It is only one man in a hundred who wants to sell his farm, and perhaps it will be said it is only one man in a hundred you hit then. But that is not so, for you hit the credit of every one of the farmers if you decrease the value of the farm. It may be a good thing to decrease people's credit. I believe it is the modern idea "neither the borrower nor the lender be," and it may be a great deal better that the farmer should do his business for cash. Still, in all communities, to have good credit is supposed to be a good thing, and this Clause strikes at the credit of every farmer, and his credit is what he has to sell—what his creditors get if he fails to pay. What has the farmer to sell? He has his farm, and if you put him in the condition that he has no market when he wants to sell it, you lessen the credit of every tenant farmer in Ireland. I speak for those with whose condition I am acquainted, and I do not profess to speak for the wants of any other district. I know nothing of districts where there are very large tracts of untenanted land. I am dealing with the ordinary districts in Ireland, where the land is occupied by small farmers, and I say in these districts it will be a fatal enactment if, when a tenant puts up his farm for sale, no buyers are to be had for it. I say that such an enactment decreases the value of Irish land all over Ireland; it takes away the credit of every tenant farmer, and I say, so far as it is intended as a restriction on free sale of farms, its evasion is a device of the very simplest kind. The tenant farmers of Ireland do not realise that this Clause is a narrowing down of their rights of free sale, and in this House now I raise this warning cry, and I hope the tenant farmers of Ireland will take it to heart. This is not any question of ranches. The districts in which ranches exist are extended only to a small proportion of the area of Ireland. If it is desirable to prevent ranching in Ireland, prevent it by all means; no one will help the process with greater sympathy than I will, but do not attack the property of other tenant farmers in Ireland. That is what this Clause does. You cannot take away 1947 a man's market for his land without attacking his property. I ask the Attorney-General or the Chief Secretary to tell us what is going to happen in this case when a man puts his land up for sale? Are the men who come in to bid for it free to bid or not? If not, how can there be sale by auction? If it is the policy of the law that the whole of Ireland is to be covered by tenant purchasers, where is the market when a farm is put up for sale? There is nothing to be said in favour of this Clause. If this took place for this country before any such handicap on a man's property was allowed, you would have a Royal Commission of inquiry; you would have ground alleged for the change by showing there was a great abuse of the existing system and that it was undesirable that land should be accumulated in many hands. The cry in Ireland for over a century was not that we accumulated land in some hands, but that we subdivided it. Up to the Irish famine the whole policy in regard to Irish land was to prevent sub-division by all kinds of enactments. That was the danger in the Irish social system which this Parliament attacked for three-quarters of a century. That has apparently all been forgotten now. Is it possible for an Irish farmer to provide for his children unless he subdivides his land or buys a second farm and gives it to his second son? The effect of the policy of which this Clause is the germ is to wholly shut out the Irish tenant farmer when farms are put up for sale. Irish tenant farmers have not the slightest idea that a serious inroad is now being made upon their property and their right of sale, and when the Irish farmers learn what is really being done there will be a day of reckoning. Has anyone explained that it is now being proposed to prevent them from selling their farms? Not a word of it. In any exposition of this Bill has it been pretended that this measure is an inroad on the tenant's right of sale? I have no interest in the Irish tenants except my daily acquaintance advising them. [NATIONALIST cries of "Oh, oh."] Yes, that is my only interest, and I have advised more Irish tenants than the whole body of hon. Gentlemen sitting behind me. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: "You are paid for it."] Certainly I was paid for it, and I have good value, and I hope I acquired considerable skill and experience in the process. I warn all who are tampering with the property of the Irish tenants and the right of sale that when the Irish 1948 tenants realise what they are doing and realise that an inroad has been made upon their freedom of action, their property, and their rights they will be somewhat surprised at the result.
§ Mr. JOHN DILLON
I do think hon. Members on these benches will be very much concerned with regard to the terrible warning of the hon. Member who has just sat down. I hope the Government will not for one moment listen to this proposal. The hon. Member for North Armagh (Mr. Moore), who moved this Amendment, displayed a very keen interest and a somewhat surprising anxiety to preserve the safeguard of the right of free sale for the tenantry of Ireland. He did not, however, say anything about the landlord's right of pre-emption. Under that right the landlord can walk in and deny to the tenant the right of sale, and that is a real interference with the right of free sale. The hon. Member who moved this Amendment and his Friends have for the last 15 years resisted us in our attempt to do away with that iniquitous right. What right has the hon. Member to stand up here as the champion of free sale and open market for the tenants of Ireland?
§ 4.0. P. M.
§ Mr. DILLON
I did not say the hon. Member had no right to express any views that he holds, but I question his right to stand up before a Committee of this House as a champion of free sale for the tenantry of Ireland when the hon. Member and his party have for 15 years strenuously and successfully resisted our attempts to obtain that right. This is simply the logical consequence of the provision which limits the advance to £3,000—a provision about which I am not at all enthusiastic—but whatever the figure in the limit to the advance is this provision is necessary. Before I address myself to the general question of the effect of this Sub-clause, which it is proposed to omit, let me say a word in reference to the speech of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy), who used language of a most astounding character. The hon. and learned Member said this was an attempt to depreciate the property of every farmer in Ireland. Are the farmers of Ireland men who are able to borrow £3,000 to buy their farms? What proportion of the farmers of Ireland are able to pay £100 a year for their farms? Then men who 1949 create the market for farms in Ireland are the small men with £10 and £20 holdings, and holdings below £50, who comprise nine-tenths, and probably nineteen-twentieths, of the farmers of Ireland. What an absurd exaggeration to attempt to practice upon the ignorance of the House of Commons in this way. It is absurd to represent the whole body of the farmers in Ireland as men who require an advance of £3,000. The number of men in Ireland who require £3,000 to buy their farms is exceedingly limited, and they form a very small section of the farmers. The hon. and learned Member has told us that this is a very serious and quite unnecessary inroad on the free market of land in Ireland. By the same voice we are also told that it is absolutely easy to avoid and defeat the law. Now you cannot have it both ways. We are told that it is perfectly easy for a man to get his wife to buy the land, and then the market is open. Why draw such awful pictures of the results of this proposal if it has no effect? [A Nationalist Member: "He has not got a wife."] Then if he has not got a wife, in the ordinary course of social law he cannot have a son. We were told that one of the horrible consequences of this Section would be that a farmer could not plant his second son upon the land. There is nothing in this Clause to prevent the second son acquiring land if he is able to buy it, and if a farmer has more than one son and desires to plant his second son on the land he can give him the money to buy the land. Therefore, so far as that argument goes, it is absolutely without effect, and, as I have pointed out, this provision would not affect in the slightest degree nine-tenths of the farmers. The abolition of this Sub-section would facilitate an abuse which, to the knowledge of those responsible for the government of Ireland, has grown up, and is growing in certain parts of the country. The graziers and the ranchers buy back these farms. It would facilitate that. The hon. Member for Cork says there are no graziers and ranchers about Cork. I am very glad to hear it, but there are large parts of Ireland which have been desolated by graziers and ranchers, and are we to be told that public money is being advanced to an enormous extent to facilitate the extension of small farms and of agriculture, and you are to put no conditions upon the advance to interfere with the possibility of large graziers and ranchers buying back the land after the public credit has 1950 been used? This is no idle matter. Cases have been brought under my notice in Meath and other parts where land bought by public money has been already bought back by the graziers and ranchers. It is against such a system as that that this provision is proposed to be inserted.
There is another evil which has grown up in Ireland to obviate which this provision is inserted, and that is the system of wholesale and outrageous fraud. Large tenants, or men of large means, who desire to appropriate very large tracts of land, divide this land amongst their friends by setting up bogus tenancies and getting the public money under false pretences. Then by bogus sales they buy back these farms for which public money has been advanced. What is at present to prevent a man who wants to buy, not £3,000 worth, but £10,000 or £15,000 worth of Irish land, splitting that land up amongst a number of friends, and then, after the public have been induced by a fraudulent transaction to advance large sums of public money, to buy back these farms by bogus sales from his friends, thus getting an advance, not of £3,000, but of £15,000 or £17,000? That is a thing which the House of Commons never contemplated, but it has been done. I say, therefore, that all this talk about interference with the freedom of sale of land in Ireland is, in my opinion, entirely absurd. I have always held, and I am perfectly prepared to defend my opinion, that when the State advances large sums of money on favourable terms to enable the farmers of Ireland to acquire their holdings, it is entitled to attach reasonable conditions to those advances, such conditions as are, in the judgment of the general public, and of the men who represent the tenant farmers, advantageous to the general community, and conditions to prevent grave evils. The hon. Member for Cork said that the great evil in Ireland at the present time was the danger of sub-division.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
Oh, no. I said that was the evil which this legislation had been aiming, and in some cases rather salutarily, to suppress for 75 years.
§ Mr. DILLON
They have been aiming to suppress it, and they have suppressed it by the wholesale extermination of people, the consolidation of huge ranches, and the creation of absolute wastes in Ireland. If sub-division was ever an evil, that day has long gone by. What we have to guard against is not sub-division, for I know no part of Ireland where that is a 1951 danger, but consolidation, which is a great and serious danger to the population of Ireland at the present time. Nobody knows better than I do how great is the experience and skill of the hon. Member for Cork, but what is the use of his talking of evils which are things of the past, and which have not existed for the last 50 years, whereas there is a great evil and a great danger against which we have to guard? This danger is not that of subdivision, but that of consolidation and the setting up of these great grass ranches. With regard to the wording of this Section, I would draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that in every case the farmer may, with the consent of the Land Commission, acquire this land, and, in my opinion, the statement of the hon. Member for Cork that there is no virtue or efficacy in those words is entirely illusory, because the number of people who in Ireland would be likely to bid at auction for a portion of land which would bring the consolidated advance to over £3,000 is extremely limited. It would be perfectly easy and practicable for these men to apply to the Land Commission for permission to bid for a certain farm before it came to auction. To hear the hon. Member for Cork talk one would think these farms were put up at 24 hours' notice.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
The Land Commission will give permission if you have bought the land, but you must first go into the market and bid for and buy it.
§ Mr. DILLON
I go so far with the hon. Member as to say that I think the Land Commission would be, and very properly, extremely slow to give any such permission. It is a question of broad policy, and we do not want to allow this Act to be used for the purpose of consolidating farms in Ireland. Our whole policy, and the policy of the Government, is that the tendency of this Act should be in the opposite direction, that it should be to increase the population and to reduce the size of farms which are already too great in Ireland. The language of the hon. Member was, in my opinion, a perfectly grotesque exaggeration as to the effect of this Clause in reducing the price of land in Ireland. It might affect a very few farms, but I say, and say without the slightest fear of criticism, that if it did affect the price of a few of the larger farms in Ireland that reduction would be a small sacrifice to make in view of the 1952 general benefit. These larger farmers in Ireland have most benefited by the Land Acts, and they have no right, even if one tithe of the statement of the hon. Member as to the effect of this provision on the price were true, which I do not admit, to thrust their private interests against the interests of the whole body of the small farmers and general population of Ireland, who are entitled to have a prior claim on the working of this Act, and to insist that the policy of this Act shall be in accord with the general interests of the community. After all, it was the small men in Ireland who won these Acts, and, in deciding what is to be the policy in these Land Purchase Acts, we, at all events, can never forget the interests of the smaller men, nor the interests of the general population. I have taken a considerable part in land agitation in Ireland, and I have been frequently denounced by critics in Ireland for being one of those who has prosecuted the whole Nationalist movement in Ireland for the interest of the farmers; but I have always maintained that we cannot allow the land agitation to be carried on in such a way as to ignore the general interests of the community; and, if it is shown that any provision in these Acts injures the interests of some few farmers, but is in the interests of the general public of Ireland and the welfare of that country, I shall support that provision. I repudiate absolutely the interpretation put upon this Clause by the hon. Member for Cork. It is, as I have already said, a logical consequence of the limitation, whatever that may be fixed at, on the general advances made in Ireland. It is a position forced upon the Executive by practical experience of the working of the Act, and it has been put into this Bill for the purpose of preventing consolidation, preventing land purchased by public money and divided into farms of moderate extent being immediately resold to graziers, and falling back into the old position. The thing has happened to my own knowledge, and I say it is a gross abuse of this Act.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
It is quite possible it may have happened in one or two cases, but this is a proposal which hits ever case.
§ Mr. DILLON
It is put into the Bill for the purpose of preventing a system of fraud, for the purpose of preventing the setting up of bogus tenancies in order to enable individuals to obtain enormous grants of money from the State, We de- 1953 sire in these Land Acts to deal honestly with this House and with the public who are advancing this money. When I speak of the public, I am thinking not only of the taxpayers of England, but also of the taxpayers of Ireland, because the taxpayers of Ireland are more concerned in this matter than the taxpayers of England. The town populations of Ireland are already getting restive, and saying too much is being done for the farmers. I do not agree. I think it is to their interests to see the farmers prosperous; but, still, we are bound to see this great system whch has been introduced at very great expense for the purpose of reforming from top to bottom the land system in Ireland shall not be used by fraudulent people, and shall not be perverted from its purpose in order to recreate some of the worst evils.
§ Mr. G. WYNDHAM
The hon. Member for East Mayo, in his concluding sentence, dwelt upon the purpose for the accomplishment of which this section has been introduced. I think it is rather more important in the Committee stage to consider the effect of a section than the purpose for which it is introduced. The hon. Member for East Mayo and those who agree with him are so carried away by the desire of having no farms in Ireland worth more than £3,000 that they are apparently prepared to pass any words, no matter whatever their effect may reasonably be anticipated to be, and the Government, actuated by the wish of the hon. Member and those who agree with him, are apparently prepared to introduce any words without considering their scope and result. I think I can make that good by taking first only one portion of the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). I take that part of his speech which he put forward with the greatest confidence. He said that if this Sub-section (a) were omitted the omission would facilitate the purchase by graziers of land which was needed for small men: that it would be easier for the grazier to buy land than it is now. I hold the contrary opinion. Nothing in this Sub-section will prevent graziers from buying any land they can lay their hands upon—nothing, unless that grazier has received an advance under the Land Act. The hon. Member is pursuing his ideal of having symmetrical farms each worth £3,000. He says here is a Sub-section which will prevent the grazier from buying the land. It does not do so. It prevents the grazier competing against 1954 the smaller man in the market. Nobody has power by the Sub-section (a) to bid if he has had an advance from the State under the Act of 1903. The purchasers under previous Acts may bid. The grazier has not purchased at all. He has fifteen or sixteen farms and he does not want to buy, for he is doing very well as things are. If he does want to buy he may have the money, or if he has not, he could easily borrow it, and you are helping him by shutting out from the market his only real competitors—the other tenants on the estate to be sold after the passing of this Act. The idea of symmetrical farms may be a good or a bad one, but assuming that it is a good idea, I am bound to say that this Sub-section militates against it. You cannot have every field of the same size. It is a stupid Sub-section, which has never been considered, and I put it to the Government that they have not considered its scope or result. We have heard a good deal about the right of free sale on the part of the tenant and of the grievances of the landlord, but I wish to put to the Chief Secretary the ease of the taxpayer of the United Kingdom. That has not yet been mentioned. What is the basis of his security? The basis of his security is the power to sell the holding if the purchaser fails.
§ Mr. DILLON
I think the right hon. Gentleman is wrong. I think he is misrepresenting the words of the Sub-section. The words are, "As between the Land Commission and the proprietor for the time being of any holding for the purchase of which the Land Commission have, after the passing of this Act, made any advance under the Land Purchase Acts, the following conditions shall be imposed …"
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I think the Section, as it stands, absolutely says, by omission, that he who has never had an advance may always bid. Anyone of the 80,000 or more tenants who have already bought are in that position; those who cannot bid are only those who are going to get advances in the future. I think that is monstrous. I do not think the hon. Member has got in this form what he thinks he has when he interrupted me. I was saying that the fundamental security of the taxpayer of the United Kingdom is the value of the farm which is sold. There are many collateral securities. We need not go into them, but the fundamental security is if a man who has bought is not doing well and fails, his farm can be sold, and the money realised, after the 1955 incidental charges have been paid, goes into the account of the Irish Land Purchase Fund. That is the fundamental security for the whole thing, and I ask the Chief Secretary by what right he has tampered with that security; by what right has he restricted the market in which the security of the taxpayer can be realised? I hope he will consider that point. Under this Sub-section we are not dealing with past transactions. We are dealing with future transactions. In the future an estate will come into the market and it will be sold. One, two, or three men may fail. There is a substantial percentage of failures, and when a man fails, under the law as it is, the holding is put up for sale. By whom is it bought? It is bought by the people in the district, and not by the grazier. I think we may leave the grazier out of account, but in the future if a man fails and the farm comes into the market the grazier will be able to come in and buy, because you say that 200 or 300 people who live in the district are not to buy if they are tolerably well off. If he has more than £3,000 he is barred from bidding. What will be the result? In the future the grazier from over the border will be able to come in and buy; the people in the locality cannot do so because they are tolerably well off. Why are you to say that the security of the taxpayer shall be diminished by limiting the market in which you can sell the farm when failure has taken place? I do not think the Government have thought this matter out very carefully. The arguments I have put forward must dispose of this Sub-section. Nobody can vote for it unless they are such slaves to the ranch mania that they will vote for anything. I will take another point in the speech of the hon. Member, for East Mayo. He said that the Act could easily be avoided. That is true, but I venture to assert that a law which can easily be avoided is the worst law that any Parliament can pass. It is a law in the interests of the rogue and of the unscrupulous man. It is a law against the legitimate opportunity of the fair man and the true man. It is a bad law, and no Parliament which respects itself will, even under the guillotine, pass a law which it knows can be avoided by every man who wishes to avoid it, and of which advantage can be taken by any man who has no scruples and no fear of detection. The Chief Secretary shakes his head, but I would like to ask how much ma- 1956 chinery he is going to set up for the administration of land purchase in Ireland. We who have been advocating land purchase are told that if the financial conditions under this Bill are not good it does not matter, because the administrative difficulty is so great that, even with better financial conditions, it would not go further. If that is true, and I accept it as true, why are you going to create this burden of following out for a period of 60 years the private transactions of the whole agricultural population of Ireland? Again the Chief Secretary shakes his head, but is that not the defence put forward for this Sub-section? I should like to know are you going to add Scotland Yard as a sub-office to the Land Purchase Department? The possibilities of collusion are obvious, but how can you detect it? How can you discover whether a man who buys the land is debarred by the somewhat intricate provisions of this Sub-section? I repeat, it is a bad law; it makes for evasion. Evasion will be frequent. The scrupulous will be deterred, and the machinery of the Land Purchase Office must be increased in order to try and detect evasion, although I fear it will fail in that object. No case has been made, and no case can be made, for this Sub-section as it stands. It does not prevent the operations of graziers, but it does hinder the avenue for better farming which now lies open to the Irish farmer. It draws the most invidious distinction between the tenant purchaser of the past and the tenant purchaser of the future—in fact, in the earlier clauses of the Bill you have placed such disabilities on the future purchaser that I do not think he will ever exist. You say to him, "You have had the hardihood to enter into an agreement, which cannot fructify for six or eight years, without knowing how matters will stand when it does fructify; but if you are prepared, after waiting six or seven years, to pay more than anybody else in order to make your future more hopeful, I will put this difficulty in your way, that you shall not have a market in order to escape the effects of failure."
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. Cherry)
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wyndham) told us more than once that this was a stupid Sub-section, and one which has never been considered. As regards the stupidity of the Section, that is a matter of opinion, but as regards its. 1957 consideration I can assure the right hon. Gentleman it has been carefully considered again and again, and I have no hesitation in saying also not only has; it been considered, but that the entire Subsection is completely in accord with the policy of the whole Bill, with the policy of the Government, and with the policy of land legislation for the last quarter of a century. From the very beginning of this land legislation, since the year 1881, when it was first commenced, it was the policy of all the Acts, including that of the right hon. Gentleman himself, to discourage on the one hand very small or very large holdings, and to encourage on the other hand medium-sized holdings, which could be worked under a system of mixed farming. Under the Act of 1881 there were very stringent provisions as regards sub-division, and the object of that was to get rid, if possible, of these wretched, small, uneconomic holdings in the West of Ireland, and on the other hand to exclude all the large grazing tracts. Why was this done? Why were not the graziers given the same right of fixing a fair rent? Obviously the object of the Legislature was to encourage mixed farming and to discourage these large grazing tracts. When we come to the Act for which the right hon. Gentleman is responsible we find in it great restrictions on the amount of the untenanted land which could be acquired, the parcels which could be allotted to any individual purchaser. Why did he say that land shall not be allotted to the man who had a certain size of farm?
§ Mr. CHERRY
I was not dealing with the Morley Commission, but I was dealing with the Act of the right hon. Gentleman, and I say that this Act which we are passing is in accordance with the spirit of his Act, and in every Land Act the object was the discouragement of very small holdings and the discouragement of very large grazing tracts. There are several clauses of the same tendency all through. Why is the limitation of the amount? Why not advance to one man £20,000 if you choose? Why limit the amount of the loan to one man?
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
May I ask why this Clause is directed entirely against the 1958 men who have had the advance, and not against the grazier who has had no advances?
§ Mr. CHERRY
If it does so it is in accordance with the policy of the Bill, and of the previous Act. The right hon. Gentleman said the Bill if passed into law would not prevent graziers purchasing, and he seems to be under the idea that the graziers in Ireland have never purchased. Why there is not a grazier in Ireland who has not purchased land up to the extreme limit.
§ Mr. CHERRY
And I agree far beyond the limit; the restrictions imposed by the Act of the right hon. Gentleman have been exceeded. These graziers bought as much land as they could, and a great many of them have got sons or brothers or relations who have bought. That is what we are endeavouring to prevent, and it is because of that fact that this Clause is introduced. The graziers are the very people who will be hit by this Clause, and it is nonsense to say it is not so. I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman can produce one single grazier in the whole country from the north to the south who has not purchaser land in that way. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy) said it would be interfering with the right of free sale, but that is not the case. The vendor can still do what he likes with his land, and can put it up for sale, and even if it were purchased by a purchaser who had more than the £3,000 limit, the vendor gets his money although the Land Commission may step and institute inquiries and compel a resale.
§ Mr. CHERRY
I think that question has been answered already. What is the use of going to infinite trouble to break up the grazing ranches, and establish mixed farming on small mixed farms, and encourage dairying as my right hon. Friend is doing by his Department—what is the use of doing that, if we are to encourage the graziers to come round again and purchase, and to again consolidate farms? It is to prevent that that the Clause has been inserted in the Bill. That is the effect of the Clause, and that is its object. It seems to me extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman should be anxious to take the part of the grazier in this very remarkable way.
§ Mr. W. MOORE
I moved the Amendment, and I had not the grazier in my mind. I was thinking of people in the North of Ireland, who do not graze, but who have made a great deal of money legitimately, and who wish to buy land.
§ Mr. CHERRY
The grazier was the right hon. Gentleman's stock argument. Another argument used by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy) I think told against himself. It is that we are introducing legislation which can be easily evaded, but I may point out to him that one of the great objects of this Clause, and one of its most beneficial effects would be to enable Clause 15, which provides for a limitation of advances to £3,000 with a possible increase to £5,000, to be carried out.
§ Mr. CHERRY
That Clause has been put to the Committee, and carried by an enormous majority, and there is only one principle in it, and the Committee, if it had not approved of that Clause, could have rejected it. That Clause 15 provides that no person is to purchase more than a certain amount, and no advance is to be made beyond £3,000 to any one purchaser. That has been evaded in a very simple way by getting the trustee to purchase a farm from another landlord and, almost immediately after, assigning. This Clause will prevent that, and do what we want to do, prevent the recreation of these large grazing farms. That is the evil which we wish to combat, and that is the evil which we think this Clause will combat.
§ Mr. JOHN GORDON
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman what his policy is with regard to this Clause? We who live in the North of Ireland have nothing to do with these ranching farms, although the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy) says that in the locality with which he is familiar they are very numerous; but we have nothing to do with these ranches, or with these very large grazing tracts. Is the policy of the right hon. Gentleman this, apart altogether from dealing with that which he conceives to be the evil of ranches and large grazing tracts in the western and certain other parts of Ireland, that the other farmers in Ireland and the vast majority of the owners of land in Ireland ought to be reduced to 1960 the dead level of a hundred or so acres of land. Is that the policy of His Majesty's Government? That a man shall be precluded, no matter how prosperous he is, how good a farmer he is, or how valuable his example would be in a neighbourhood as the owner of a good-sized farm, with capital to work it, and is never to rise to the position of a farmer with 150 or 200 acres of land. You are nor dealing with the position of the man who is so often talked of—the man who has to buy a farm of £3,000. You get the man with 60 or 70 acres, on which he has obtained an advance of £1,500, and is it to be said that he cannot, no matter how well he is prospering, or how convenient it may be to him to improve his holding by increasing his farm, take such a step? The increase of his farm may enable a man to buy machinery, which otherwise he could not have, it enables him to adopt new and better methods of cultivating his land, and he thereby improves and benefits the whole of the community in which he lives, and are we to be told that that man is not to increase his holding? If that is the policy of the Government, I unhesitatingly say it is one which will be disastrous to Ireland, because it will inflict two injuries upon the country. In the first place, the market is to be restricted, and the price, therefore, which a man may get for his holding, if he puts it into the market is very much decreased; while, on the other hand, the man who has occupied a farm successfully is prevented from increasing it to a reasonable size when he has money to do it.
It is to be remembered, moreover, that he has not come to the Land Commission for the money; he has got money himself or has borrowed it from his neighbour and the Land Commission has nothing to do with the matter. In the North of Ireland sales of large farms, relatively, to the country, though they would not be regarded as large in England, but in Ireland a farm of 80 or 100 acres is regarded as large—large farms in this sense frequently come into the market from various causes. A man may not be prosperous, or a farm may come into the market on the death of a tenant, and the property has to be distributed among those to whom he has given it by his will, and if anyone looks at the local newspapers he will find numerous advertisements of large farms, and the farmers would be unable to buy if this Clause is passed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. 1961 Wyndham) spoke of your difficulties in reference to realising monies, which you ought to be able to realise, and to preserve every facility for realising in the interest of the general taxpayer. What are you going to do under this Clause? If a man does buy a farm, the right hon. Gentleman says the transaction will be carried out and the money will have to be paid for it, and that 13 the position in which you are going to to leave him. He buys the farm and pays the money for it, and what is the man to do under this provision at the end of Subsection (a), "if any proprietor acquires any holding in violation of this condition the Land Commission may cause that holding to be sold." That means that it is to be sold when you have destroyed the market for it. The man has bought it. They have allowed him to pay his money—that is the case put forward by the Attorney-General—and then they put it up for sale in a place where the purchasers have been restricted to those, either, who have never got an advance under the Land Act, or people who are wholly unable to buy the land because they are small farmers themselves, and perhaps have not a sufficient amount of capital. Who do you expect is going to buy these farms? Is it not perfectly obvious that this Clause will inflict irreparable injury upon Ireland in both directions which have been put forward by Members who have spoken and by myself?
It has been suggested by the Attorney-General that there is not a grazier in Ireland who has not bought up to the £3,000 limit. Does he really mean to say that these grazing ranches which are held under the 11 months system have come within this Act at all? Not one is able to get a single shilling for buying up one of these ranches, which he holds only for 11 months, and therefore he is not a tenant within the meaning of the Land Purchase Acts at all. The right hon. Gentleman says this is the policy of all the Land Acts. I join issue with him in that. He cited the Act of 1881, and stated that there were restrictions upon sub-divisions. He is quite right. That has been carried out through all the Acts, but it is not the question in issue here at all. His next point was that it excluded large farms. That is to say, that it was regarded by the Legislature that the tenants of holdings above a certain value were likely to be men who were able to make bargains for themselves, and able to enter into arrangements with their landlords just in the way 1962 that any other man would do in any commercial transaction, and therefore they were excluded from the Act.
§ Mr. CHERRY
I was referring, not to the exclusively large holdings, but to land for the purpose of pasture.
§ Mr. GORDON
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that is what this Clause means? There is not a word about pasture in it. I wonder if he had present to his mind when he made his speech, and, if he had, I wonder he did not state it, that that was the restriction, that it was pasture, and that the present Clause does not mention pasture, and is in no way limited to it. Then he says it is in accordance with the Act of 1903 to restrict the advances. The object of that was that you were not to take too large a sum out of this hundred millions of money to give to men who had large farms and might be very well supposed to be able either to make terms themselves or to get money, or to purchase their land in other ways. That was to protect the smaller man, to see that there would be money to give them. But what analogy has that to this case? Here you have an advance of money for a holding that is to be sold and an advance for the holding of the man who is to buy it, and you do not take a single shilling more out of the moneys which are to be devoted to land purchase in Ireland. The two things have nothing to do with each other. This is an absolutely new, different and inconsistent provision You have yourselves put into this Bill another Clause to restrict the advances even more than they were restricted in the Act of 1903. That is the Clause which was passed without discussion; but what has that to do with the present Clause? The Treasury is not asked to advance a single shilling to carry out these sales and purchases which would be restricted by this Clause.
I cannot understand the policy or objects of the Government in reference to this matter. If you apply it to two-thirds of Ireland it is mischievous and injurious not only to the country as a whole, but to the tenants, and it is injurious, and, above all, dangerous to the taxpayers of this country. Is it because you have a certain portion of the country in which you have agitation and lawlessness rampant and that you are going to satisfy these men and those who represent them that you are going to inflict this serious injury and wrong upon the rest of the country and upon the more or less prosperous and cer- 1963 tainly industrious and law-abiding people in Ireland? I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his position. It is a far more serious matter than he seems to think, and if it were known throughout the length and breadth of Ireland that a man was to be restricted and never could have more than 130 acres of land, the people in Ireland would not be coerced or cajoled into saying they approved of any part of the Bill. That is really what it comes to, because there will be no other land in a few years to sell or buy save land upon which advances have been made by the Treasury under these Acts of Parliament. Therefore, when you are removing the larger land-owners, the people who may have home farms, it ought to have been your object as far as possible to replace them by men of intelligence and experience and with capital, who would set an example in agricultural matters to the country. Instead of doing that, you are going to wipe them out altogether.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I quite admit that there are evils to be grappled with, and the Government seriously intended to grapple with them; but the question is whether they have not gone too far. Undoubtedly mischief has arisen under the present system, and anyone who tries to consider the matter from an impartial point of view must recognise that the Government, when they framed this Clause, were only desirous of removing evils, and were not desirous of creating mischief. Therefore I approach the Clause from the most benevolent point of view, trying to see everything I can in its favour, and I see many things in its favour. The question is whether, in endeavouring to frame this Clause to meet an existing evil, you have not gone so far as to create a worse evil. In the first place, let me call attention to this bogey of the grazier. Over large areas of land the grazier does not exist, and can never exist. You cannot have a grazier in Ulster, where you must labour the land, and where, if you put land under grass, it would turn into moss inside of three or four years, and where land must be broken up by the rotation of crops. Take my own county, Louth, one of the best tillage counties in Ireland, and consequently which will be most hit by the existing Budget, because they grow mostly barley. A good many will be bankrupt when this Budget becomes law. There will be no one to buy their produce when the Budget passes. The grazier in Louth, therefore, does not 1964 trouble me, nor does the rancher to any great extent. One of the most pathetic speeches I ever heard was by Mr. Isaac Butt, in which he actually supported Mr. Gladstone, and spoke in favour of the £200 man being excluded from the Act. What was the historic attitude of the Irish party? One never knows which orthodoxy to belong to or whether you are heretic if you retain the opinions of 1903 or 1881 as against the severe orthodoxy of 1909. I have tried to steer an even keel amongst the mazes of modernism. But let me point out so recent a date as 1894. The hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) then sat upon the Committee presided over by the then Chief Secretary for Ireland, now Lord Morley. The Lord Chancellor of England, then Sir Robert Reid, presided over it. The hon. Member for North Dublin (Mr. Clancy), Mr. McCarthy, and Mr. Sexton (the editor of "The Freeman's Journal), were members of it, and, therefore, it cannot but be said that it was a representative Committee. What was their attitude towards the graziers? Really I have not a grazier in my Constituency that I know of. I should not know a grazier if I met him in the street; but here is a Report signed by these gentlemen and by myself, and I will show what happens on it. This is the unanimous Report of the Irish Members of the day. We were all orthodox then, I hope. I wonder how many of them are heretics now?—Tillage being now less profitable under the changed conditions of agriculture, it is natural and conformable to the policy of these Acts that the limit of exclusion in pasture holding should lie raised. Mr. Justice Bewlay suggested that this limit should be altered from £50 to £100. Your Committee upon consideration recommend that a limit of £200 should be fixed in substitution for that contained in the Land Act of 1881.Lord Morley (then Mr. John Morley), with the entire consent of the Irish party of the day, brought in a Bill including all graziers under the £200 limit. His Government went out, and that enemy of the graziers, Mr. Gerald Balfour, succeeded him in office, and he would only consent to the grazing limit being raised from £50 to £100. What did the Irish party do—the orthodox men of that moment, who then included the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon)? They held a meeting, and they unanimously appointed the late Mr. McCarthy to move an Amendment including the £200 graziers, and the only Member of the Irish party who got up to support him was the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon). Was he orthodox then? He is always orthodox. Whether you are moving to include 1965 or to exclude the grazier, you are always Pope. The hon. Member's speech was extremely short:—Mr. Billon supported the Amendment. He thought the figure proposed had been settled by the Land Acts Committee.5.0 P.M.
Mr. McCartan moved another Amendment, so that the absentee grazier might get the benefit of the Land Act, and what is my astonishment to find that the hon. Member for East Mayo also supported that Amendment, and said that if the Amendment were not accepted the tenants who were to receive the benefit of this legislation would be excluded. These were the orthodoxies of 1896. What happened under the Act of 1903? As everybody will remember, the limit was distinctly raised to £7,000. That limit is now reduced to £3,000 or £4,000 by this Bill. Let me remind the Committee that on yesterday's Notice Paper there was an Amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for South Kildare (Mr. Kilbride)—I hope he is orthodox —to retain the £7,000 limit.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I may not be orthodox, but if I am heterodox I will be able to explain myself vocally. Now I come to consider the admitted grievance and the admitted fraud which it is desirable to put down. How do the Government show their anxiety to put down this fraud? By clapping into gaol over 20 men who have protested against the fraud. There are at this moment in the county of Westmeath, under the warrant of the Attorney-General and prosecuted by him, 20 men lying in gaol for doing nothing else than protesting against this, as blackguardly a fraud as was ever committed upon the country, the locality, and the Treasury. And you, Sir, who propose these Amendments, ram them into gaol and deprive their leader of the commission of the peace as a person who is not worthy to sit upon the bench. You come down to the House to take action by legislation against the graziers and ranchers by proposing this admirable Bill. I would like to see some consistency on the part of the Government. You render the whole of the county of Westmeath savage, if I may say so, by your support of land grabbing and fraud and desolation, so far as you can do it by ramming men into gaol, and then smugly coming down here and saying, "We are most anxious to have small farms 1966 in Ireland where only men with £50, £60, or £70 valuations should be included." And yet you send the men of Westmeath to gaol for trying to carry out your policy. I admit to the full the necessity of some provision to prevent fraud. It ought not to have been allowed, and I am surprised that it was allowed, that men have got farms of £3,000 or £4,000 by a trick, but what have you got inspectors for? What is the work of this horde and army of inspectors that we see going all over the country? I believe the only industry that is prosperous in some parts of Ireland is hotel-keeping—an industry kept up by British inspectors. You will find an inspector in every room. I remember when we went down on the Trinity College Commission we telegraphed for rooms and could not get them because, as we were told, the whole place was occupied by Sub-commissioners. What are your inspectors for? Am I to be told that when a man has got a farm of £3,000 or £4,000, and his brother or wife or somebody else applies for a similar sum, there is not sufficient intelligence on the part of the Estates Commissioners to prevent a system of this kind? I say there ought to be, and therefore some means should be discovered to put an end to the system, But what are you doing? Fraud is one thing and the county sessions is quite another thing. I understand the feeling of the gentlemen who live in the counties where these ranches are carried on. I can understand them when they are shouting against myself for protesting against the conditions now existing. They think that unless they can get this Clause their whole cause is lost. The curious thing about this measure is this: This is the first Land Act since my acquaintance with them which is supposed to have such verbal inspiration, which is supposed to be so perfectly correct in all its drafting and conception, that the Irish party are tumbling over each other to shout you down if you say a word against it. It is the greatest compliment to the Act of Union ever passed. It elevates the British Parliament, even under the Closure and guillotine, to a position which Lord Castlereagh never hoped it would achieve, and accordingly I claim as an individual whose district is not affected by this evil, but who is aware of its existence, that the evil can be met and the wrong can be redressed without inflicting evil, wrong, and hardship upon far larger sections of the community than those you propose to benefit.
1967 Therefore, I say this is in many respects a misconceived Clause. Let me put this to the Committee: Can any man argue in favour of the position that a tenant who has purchased under the Wyndham Act is not only to be in a better position financially, but that he is to be in a better position as a haggler in the auction room in future? Can any man tell me why a tenant who bought under the Bright Clause or the Balfour Act, or any previous system of land purchase, is to have a better position in the auction room and in front of the auctioneer's hammer than the tenant who buys under the Birrell Act? Fancy the hang-dog position of a tenant going into the auction room to bid on the nod. He cannot nod under the Birrell Act. The man who has bought under the Balfour Act, the Ashbourne Act, or the Bright Clause says, "Thank God for Ashbourne, Balfour, and Bright. I can buy in the open market." Is that a position of affairs which this House of Commons can tolerate? Some £70,000,000 worth of the land of Ireland has already been dealt with, and those who have already bought are to have a status in front of the auctioneer's hammer which those who are to buy in the future cannot enjoy. I have only to state the fact to show what a badge of servitude this Bill puts on the neck of the future purchaser.
The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) spoke on behalf of the ratepayers of Ireland. Well, if I may say so, I am a humble Irish ratepayer. May I state the objection which the ratepayers of Ireland have against this Clause? Let us take the case of a man who is not able to pay his instalments, or who will not pay his instalments, whether by misfortune, bankruptcy, drunkenness or neglect. I care not how. His instalments are unpaid, and his farm is put up to auction in a district in which only the Birrell Act prevails. Who is to buy? It is a large farm—I have never forgotten a saying of the late Mr. Biggar, "Farming is a bare business; there are very few farmers who make such a good thing out of it at all." I want to know when that farm is being sold in the interests of the ratepayers of the country, to prevent the ratepayers from being saddled with the debt which that man left unpaid to the Treasury, why the market of the ratepayers is to be restricted and diminished under this Bill, and all for what? All to prevent frauds which, though gross in character are limited in number, and are detectable and punishable by other 1968 and more reasonable means. I believe the intentions of the Government in proposing the Clause were most excellent. I say further than that, that I believe this is an Estates Commission Clause. I believe it emanated out of executive experience. I believe it came from the official pigeon-hole. I believe that, whoever drafted it, expected that it would put down the frauds to which I refer. Therefore, what should the Government do? I respectfully submit that their words are too wide. They should say, "We admit the existence of the evil, and we admit that it ought to be put down. We will endeavour to see if it can be grappled with by some means which will not have the effect of depreciating the value of land all over the country." We have heard a great deal of the evils of emigration. Who emigrates? In the majority of cases the man who emigrates is the younger son. Very well, if the man has money, and if you mean to keep him in the country, why should not he be able to buy a farm? He cannot buy a farm at the moment when he is going to America and after he has paid his passage money. There might not be a farm available, but, why, if he has to pay for it a little in advance, should he not have an opportunity of buying a farm, and why not under a Budget which will double his taxation, increase his Stamp Duty, his Purchase Duty, and his Death Duty, and under a system by which he will have to pay an increased annuity to the State? No one is more anxious than I am to see small farms all over the country. I think that very often the smaller the farm the better. I am all for the small man, and I respectfully say that it will always be a community of small people. It can never be anything else, and, therefore, I respectfully say, recognising the really honest intention of the Government, they should take into consideration whether they could not amend the Clause in such a manner as while meeting one evil they will not create another.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
I have not risen for the purpose of entering into a controversy with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. T. M. Healy) who has just spoken. I can truthfully say for myself that I have always deeply regretted the differences from time to time which have existed between him and his colleagues in the Irish party, and certainly I am not going to follow him in some of his comments, because if I did so I fear that I might accen- 1969 tuate those differences rather than remove them. But I feel bound in my duty to the Irish party to say two or three words after the speech of the hon. Gentleman. Let me say in the first instance that there were portions of the speech with which I entirely agree. For my part I see no reason why previous purchasers should not be dealt with in the same way as purchasers under this Act, under this Clause. I see no logic in that. I say that men who have purchased last year, or since the Act of 1903, or even before it, ought to be brought under this disability just the same as men who are purchasing after the passing of this Act. Therefore, my point of view is, that the Clause in that respect is not stringent enough, and I would be glad to see it more stringent. This Clause, of course, cannot hit the small men; it can only hit the men whose purchase money for the farms they have already acquired, and the farms they are going to acquire, amount to more than £3,000. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) said, we are not wedded to this limit of £3,000, and when the hon. Member for Louth quoted the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Kildare as a proof of some difference of opinion in the Irish party as to the limit, he was entirely mistaken. We do not like this limit of £3,000 in every case, and we put upon the Paper an Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Kildare, saying that that limit should be extended as high as £7,000, I think it was, in every case where a certain proportion of the farm was devoted to tillage. We have no opportunity of moving that Amendment. I regret that, and really when the hon. Member for Louth implies that the Irish party liked dealing with this Bill under a guillotine Resolution, and attempted to shout down every one who wants to discuss it, he must recognise himself that he is doing a great injustice to his colleagues. If we could have had the whole of this Session for the discussion of this Bill we would have liked it. We were face to face with a situation in which we had to accept a guillotine Resolution, or else have no possibility of getting the Bill discussed at all. The guillotine Resolution is a great injury to us. It is a great injury to the House of Commons; but if hon. Members will only regard it properly it is a strong and unanswerable argument in favour of Home Rule. What justification is there for governing Ireland from an Assembly where you cannot, even when you have 1970 got the desire to do it, give time for the proper discussion of necessary Irish measures?
We were not able therefore to discuss the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Kildare, and we all deeply regret that. I have not heard any expression of opinion from the Government—it was impossible—as to that Amendment, but I do hope that even now, between this and the Report stage, they will consider and will be able to introduce an Amendment on Report which will extend this limit beyond the £3,000 in cases where a certain proportion of the farm is devoted to tillage. If they do that the limit under which this Clause will operate will be raised higher still, and still fewer people can be touched by it. Even as it stands at £3,000 it is absurd, in my judgment, to say that it will hit the small holders. It cannot hit the small holders, it cannot hit any large number of people at all, because we know the overwhelming majority of tenant farmers in Ireland are small men, much below that limit; and if the Government listen to the suggestion which I now make to them, and raise the limit as we suggest, under this Amendment of my hon. Friend they will still further safeguard still more tenants from any injury under this Clause. I would ask the Chief Secretary if he would be able to give us in his speech some indication as to whether he would favourably consider this matter, and if he does it may go some way—I do not know—to meet the objections that have been raised against this Clause. But, at any rate, he will satisfy the demand which we have put forward. I would say one word further in conclusion, which I felt it my duty to rise to say, after the speech of the hon. Member for Louth. He is a Member of the Irish party, although perhaps the House would not realise it from his speech. The Irish party is a pledge-bound party, bound to sit, act, and vote together in the House of Commons, and to support in and out of Parliament every decision come to by the majority of the party. What happened in the case of this Bill? The Irish party met and unanimously—I desire to emphasise that word —appointed a committee of their body to draft Amendments to this Bill, and report these Amendments back to a meeting of the party. The committee did its work. This committee put no Amendments to this Clause, except those that are on the Paper. The committee reported its work back to the Irish party, and the party again unanimously—
§ Mr. W. MOORE
On a point of order. Can we discuss the internal amities and relationships of the Irish party?
I was asked on a point of order. It would not be in order to switch off the Debate, so to speak, on to such a topic as that; but I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman was leading up to his point in regard to this Amendment.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
What I am leading up to simply is this, and I desire to say it with the greatest moderation possible, that when I say, as I say now, that the Irish party are in favour of this Clause in the Bill, subject to the Amendment that we have on the Paper, I am speaking with the authority, and the specific authority, of the Irish party. The hon. Member for Louth, I think, was not at these meetings. I regretted it at the time, and I regret it now. He may not be aware of what occurred. What I am now stating is the fact, and as a Member of the Irish party, and as a consequence of a unanimous decision on their part, I say we support this Clause subject to the Amendment to which I have referred.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Birrell)
I have no concern with what has just fallen from the hon. and learned Member. I am responsible for the Clause, and must meet such objections as have been made as best I can with the arguments at my command. I can only repeat what my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General (Mr. Cherry) has said, that this Clause, although it has incurred the pontifical wrath of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham), has received the very best consideration that the Government were in a position to give to that or any other question, and that it represents, subject, of course, to questions as to the amount, as to which we are in no way pledged or bound, their view upon this very difficult question. I agree that, so far as it is a question of policy, it is a grave and important question, although, I think, it has been grossly exaggerated, as these things are apt to be, in its practical importance. But it is no doubt, as a question of policy, a grave question, which the Committee will do well to consider, although, I venture to think that the time for the consideration of it has gone by many years ago. I will 1972 not go back farther than the Bill of 1903. The whole scheme of the Bill of 1903 was to devise a plan whereby the necessary price to enable the tenants of Ireland to be turned into owners was provided by the British investor—not by the British taxpayer. I am anxious to emphasise that point, because for his satisfaction of mind, I believe, it cannot be emphasised too often. It was the British investor, encouraged by the guarantee of State credit, who provided the money. The Act of 1903 had a great many incidental objects and effects, some of them of a most remarkable and far-reaching character, but the primary object of the Bill of 1903 was to provide the necessary money to enable the actual sitting tenant on an actual piece of land to be turned into an owner. It contained a great many other things which have worked out, I think, on the whole, for the benefit of. Ireland; but still we are told—and I think it is so— that so far as the statesmen engaged in the transaction were concerned the immediate, the primary object in their mind—and sometimes primary objects become secondary objects, and secondary objects become primary objects by the force of events—was not to create a class of large farmers, but to create a class of very small farmers—from the English standpoint, exceedingly small farmers—as I will show in a moment from the figures.
Surely it is a question of policy which must have entered into the minds of everybody connected with this question whether they do or do not want to restrict in future such operations of agglomeration and consolidation as might easily, if they were not restricted, produce a state of things some hundreds of years—say 200 years—hence, when someone like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover or some other constituency would introduce another Land Bill to enable once again public money to be advanced for the purpose of compelling these agglomerated and consolidated landowners once more to divide their property. There is no use coming down here now and talking about free sale and all these things. Free, sale is an excellent thing, of course, I quite agree, but, at the same time, the policy of the Act of 1903, as I submit today, was to have restriction, or, at all events, makes legitimate the question of considering restriction, so as to prevent the operation—I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Harold Cox) is not within hearing—of that free operation and competition which enable people to 1973 add acre after acre and to buy up the small landowner, particularly at a time when he may be oppressed by mortgages or be in the hands of his banker. We want to prevent that, and I say so quite frankly. It was involved in the intention of the whole system of land purchase in Ireland that you should not encourage and that you are perfectly entitled reasonably to restrict the operation of those laws which might very likely have the effect, at no very great distance of time, of recreating the very evils you have taken this great trouble to eradicate. I think the conclusion at which my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General arrived was quite correct. He showed us that the policy was to restrict these matters and to make it a small affair. During the entire period up to 31st March, 1909, the average price per holding of the holdings purchased under the Act of 1903 has been: Ulster, £228; Leinster, £484; Connaught, £201; and Munster £425. The average per holding all over Ireland was £337, which is little more than one-tenth of the limit laid down in this Clause. Take it in another way. Under this Act of 1903 advances have been made up to the present for the purchase of over 60,000 holdings. In only 700 of these cases were advances for over £3,000 made. That shows that the Act has worked out in the manner in which it was intended to do, and although cases to which the hon. Member for Louth has referred as justifying this Clause, so far as he justifies it at all, do undoubtedly exist, which vitiate all transactions, and, as he said himself yesterday, there has been a great number of cases in which persons have, fraudulently, by bogus transactions put up dummies to obtain the advances and then took transfers from them, thereby cheating the intentions of Parliament and the Revenue. These persons have, I am glad to think, in one or two instances exposed themselves to prosecutions which at all events will bring out the facts. The hon. and learned Member says that it is the business of these inspectors, at whose expense he was so sarcastic, to solve these things. Of course, the whole effect of fraud operates by concealment, and it is really no part of the business of inspectors to go about making inquiries of this kind. They have other occupations, and I can assure the hon. Member it occupies all their time to carry out the provisions of the Act of 1903, and make the necessary inspections that are devolved upon them. They do their best, 1974 and I hope all of us will be spurred up to renewed activity to discover these frauds, for frauds they undoubtedly are. I say, as a matter of fact, these tenant farmers who have now become purchasers of their holdings are small men. They are enormously below the limit even of £3,000, which is the limit inserted in this Clause. They are in a position to buy up other farms without making themselves obnoxious to their neighbours, under this particular provision of the Act; and I do think that this Committee would be departing from the policy, which I think is involved in the Act, were they not to have some restriction of this kind. If right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen say that they have no restriction in their mind—if they are desirous of leaving men to the free operation of the natural law, enabling them to buy farm after farm, holding after holding, estate after estate, and if you like, ranch after ranch—though I do not know that that word need necessarily be introduced into a discussion of this kind, which affects the whole of Ireland, and every one of the four provinces —if you choose to come out and say boldly you have no such intention in the matter, and that you will leave everything to the free mart, allowing any farm, although acquired by money obtained under the provisions of the Act of 1903, to be put up for sale and to be bought by anybody, and to add it to an adjoining farm, or if you say there are to be no restrictions, no interference whatsoever with the law of supply and demand—of which the right hon. Member for Dover, so far as I know, has not been a very conspicuous devotee—all I say is, I differ from you.
I think the policy involved in a transaction of this sort, which, ab initio, interferes with what we call a free market, does involve the placing of restrictions of such a kind as are inserted in this Clause. The right hon. Member for Dover shakes his head. He has as good a right to shake his head as I had to shake mine last night; but I put it to him that the policy of the Act of 1903, or, at all events, the policy that follows upon it, does involve some such Clause as this, namely, that there should be a restriction of the number of farms which people could purchase, those farms having been originally bought by advances made under these Acts. I would point out that the Act has worked in the way the right hon. Gentleman intended it to work, and in the vast majority of cases the farmers of Ireland 1975 are small farmers. You may make any restriction you like in this Clause. If £3,000 be too small a sum, then put such a limit as would give the small farmers the opportunity of buying perhaps another small farm, if they are prosperous, and desire to add to their holding. It is said that you are restricting so enormously the market that you are affecting the security of the British Exchequer, and ultimately of the Irish ratepayer, who is the responsible party to make good any loss which may arise from failure to pay the annuities. I dispute altogether that you are seriously restricting the markets at all. Only the small farmers are the kind of persons who are likely to buy. It is all very well talking about Irish land; there never was a free market for Irish land. All I can say is, speaking generally of Ireland, the only justification for the measure of 1903, and of British credit being used in the manner it was, is that, as a matter of fact, the only persons who were in a position, or likely to give the landlords such a sum of money as, invested at 3 per cent, or 3¼ per cent., would give them a similar income to that which they were deriving from their rents, were the small farmers. It is not the way to estimate the value, to ask what the landlord now gets from his land; it should be, what is one willing to give him, or what is he entitled to get for his land. The whole thing is based on conditions of that kind. I say, therefore, you do not restrict the market for Irish land. The market for Irish land is now among the small farmers resident in the neighbourhood. They are all small farmers already, as my figures show, and I see no reason why you should seek to foster the big farmer. The hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) said he preferred the small farmer to the big farmer; he did not want to see his native land turned once again into large consolidated estates. Therefore, I say the Act of 1903 has worked out in such a way, as the figures show, that there will be a market, not wholly unrestricted I agree, but still practically unrestricted, having regard to the fact that there never has been for a long time, and never will be in Ireland for a long time, that absolute free market which in imagination exists for land, and I daresay does exist in some parts of the United Kingdom. The question of making provision for the second son has been mentioned. I am entirely in favour of the second son. If the second son can be provided for with the money of 1976 his father, and if his father wishes, having done well himself in a small farm, to purchase another in the neighbourhood for his second son, or any other son, he can do so. There is no evasion in that. He has to provide the money for the second son, who goes into the auction market and purchases the holding, or, it may be, obtains one by private agreement. We are not interfering with that.
We have this bugbear of evasion put before us. I quite agree with the sentiment put forward by the right hon. Member for Dover that it would be a scandalous thing for anybody to concoct a clause which would be obnoxious if it was not fraudulently evaded. That is very elementary morality. We do not need to be told that these evasions would not be honest and bonâ fide transactions. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy) launched forth into a tirade against the operation of the Married Women's Property Act in Ireland. I will not follow him into that. I think that is one of the most beneficent Acts ever passed by this House. Of course, fraud is fraud, whether you are man and wife or whether you are not. If the wife has separate property of her own there is nothing fraudulent in her purchasing a public-house, or a farm, or any other business which she considers herself qualified to carry out, or put in any person whom she chooses to carry it on for her. Whether it is a fraudulent transaction or not depends upon the facts of the case. If the money used by the wife is not the wife's money, is not her separate estate, but money provided by her husband, and really and properly money belonging to her husband's creditors and not to him, then they are a couple of thieves, however well they may be tied together in holy wedlock. Really, I think it is throwing dust in the eyes of the Committee to raise points of that kind. We cannot prevent fraud, and it is the duty of the Courts, Criminal Courts, Courts of Equity, or even sometimes Common Law Courts, to expose or to punish persons who are guilty of fraud. Therefore, it is no objection to this Clause in the Bill that there is a possibility at some time or another of fraudulent evasions taking place under it. If that were to be so, it would certainly prevent our discussing not only this Bill but the Budget, of which the House is shortly to resume the consideration. The hon. Member for Louth steered an even keel through this Clause, but I am bound to say I could not see how he managed to steer between the Scylla and 1977 Charybdis of "Yes" and "No." I could not see how he accomplished this steer-manship. I am quite content to consider, when the time comes, whether the £3,000 should be increased under this Sub-section.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
Will you express an opinion whether it should be increased when a certain amount of land is in tillage.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I am quite prepared to consider the question whether it should be increased. At the present moment I think £3,000 is the proper sum to be inserted in the Clause, but one does not wish to adhere to one's own opinion in such a matter, and therefore when we reach the Amendment I shall be prepared to consider it.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I am not talking of that Amendment at all. I am talking of this particular Sub-section before us, and I think there is an Amendment on the Paper raising the question of the £3,000. I am prepared to consider that Amendment.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I understand we are debarred from supporting any Amendment that is not moved by the Irish party.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
So far as I am concerned this is a perfectly free House of Commons, and the hon. Member, or anybody else in this House, is free to do what he chooses in the matter. All I can say is that there is an Amendment down on the Paper, and I am prepared to consider it. With reference to the Amendment which proposes to allow a larger sum than that named in the Clause to be advanced when the farmer had a substantial portion of the land under tillage for some years, I think that is a proposal to which I have no particular kind of objection, though it seems to me rather vague. It requires consideration, but I am perfectly prepared between now and the Report stage to consider that Amendment and other Amendments which were unfortunately passed over. I am not an advocate of the method of procedure under 1978 which this Bill is carried on, but if we can come to any arrangement mutually I am quite prepared to consider that or other Amendments. I am most desirous in the matter to consult all parties in Ireland who wish to make the Bill a workable Bill, and who do not desire to obstruct it and destroy it unless it carry out in all respects their particular views. I am bound to say that on principle and also on detail, having regard to the actual facts of Irish land purchase in Ireland, I think that this Sub-section, subject to any possible alteration as to the £3,000, is one that ought to be supported.
§ Mr. J. H. M. CAMPBELL
No one could complain of the tone and good temper of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, which, I may say, were a very refreshing and welcome change from the atmosphere of the Debate previously. I would like to direct the attention of the Committee to the actual wording of this Clause, and I decline altogether to discuss it upon any suggestion that at some future time, the opportunity for which is very hazy, and which, so far as I can judge, can never possibly arrive, that at some future time under some different circumstances the right hon. Gentleman may change the figure £3,000 into some other figure. We have not got that before us, and so we must take that figure. When the right hon. Gentleman announced that the Government have no policy with regard to this figure, I was somewhat amazed to hear that statement, because he has already declared his policy on this question in Clause 15 of the Bill. He apparently had forgotten that, but anyone who refers to that Clause, which has been already passed by this House without discussion of any kind, and which is now part of the Bill, will see that the deliberate and determined policy of the Government, if they have any policy but the policy of the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo, is to confine these advances to a sum of £3,000. Therefore I derive no consolation whatever from the suggestion—
§ Mr. DILLON
I think I heard the right hon. Gentleman mention me. I said nothing of the kind. I said specifically to the principle of the Clause I committed myself, but I was in no way enthusiastic about the figure.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
The hon. Gentleman did not hear or was not correctly informed of the observation which I made, and his reply is utterly irrelevant. I 1979 would like to bring this question to the attention of hon. Members opposite, and I am glad we are for the first time in the Committee favoured with the presence of English Members representing Radical constituencies to any appreciable extent. I would be glad, if they have not got copies of the Bill before them, if they would allow me to read the actual words of this Clause, because I venture to think, when they come to realise what it proposes to do, that there is hardly a single one amongst them who will be able to go into the Lobby in support of this Clause without doing a very violent strain, not merely to his conscience, but to his intelligence. The Clause reads:—
"(a) The proprietor shall not without the consent of the Land Commission acquire by purchase any other holding for the purchase of which an advance has been made under the Land Purchase Acts if the amount of that advance, when added to the amount of the advance or advances made in respect of the holding or holdings then held by the proprietor, would exceed the sum of three thousand pounds, and if any proprietor acquires any holding in violation of this condition the Land Commission may cause that holding to be sold."
They may realise, first of all, that the Clause is in express language confined to persons who have purchased since the Act of 1903. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has made no attempt whatever to justify the exclusion from this Clause of all persons who have purchased prior to the Act of 1903. He has not dealt with it at all. He has given it the go-by completely. It is utterly inconceivable for the intellect of man to suggest any reason why we are to exclude one class and include the other. If it is just and right, and I think it is unjust and unrighteous, to penalise the purchasers in regard to this limit of £3,000, on what possible principle are you to confine that penalisation to persons who have purchased since the Act of 1903 and not to include also previous purchasers under previous Land Acts? That is the first observation and comment that is open on the very face of this Section. The right hon. Gentlemen the Chief Secretary and the Attorney-General for Ireland have both spoken in this Debate, and neither of them attempted to give the slightest reason or explanation of that extraordinary distinction.
§ Mr. CHERRY
The Clause is confined not to purchasers under the Act of 1903, but to purchasers after the passing of this Act.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
That makes it worse. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that explanation and interruption, because he has, not for the first time, assisted me and my colleagues largely in the discussion of these matters. Now it appears that the restriction is even still more arbitrary and unjust than I thought it was. It is now only to apply to persons who purchase after this date, and the result is to be that the farmers of Ireland are to be placed in this position. A farm is up for sale, the auction room is crowded, and we will assume it is a desirable farm to buy. Who are the persons who, under this Clause, will be at liberty to buy? Who are the persons who will be penalised and prevented from buying? First of all, every man who has purchased a farm prior to the date of the passing of this Act, or a man who has purchased any number of farms prior to that date, will be at liberty to buy without any restriction of any sort on him—at least if the Attorney-General's interruption is correct, and I assume it is. Therefore, to start with, every purchasing tenant who has had the good fortune to have made a bargain prior to the date of the passing of this Act will be perfectly free to buy this farm or any other farm or as many as he likes. Who else would be at liberty to buy without any penalty? The shopkeeper of the adjoining town, who never has been a farmer? [An HON. MEMBER; "And the land agent."] Any individual in the community, provided he has not been a farmer, will be at liberty to walk into that auction room and buy a farm without restriction or penalty of any sort or kind, and the unfortunate person who is singled out for this disqualification is any person who, after the date of the passing of this Act, may be unwise enough to purchase his holding. Yet we are told by the right hon. Gentlemen opposite that this is a Bill to facilitate land purchase, although they put in this Clause, and for the first time attempt to put a most extraordinary disqualification and penalty upon all persons who become land purchasers after the date of the passing of this Act. The thing is absurd; it is illogical. You cannot explain, and you cannot justify it, and neither of the right hon. Gentlemen attempted to give any explanation as to why it is drafted in this extraordinary and peculiar way.
1981 We were told that the object of this Clause was to prevent the consolidation of holdings, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo proceeded to declare that in the result it would be a protection against graziers becoming possessed of a number of holdings by purchasing them one for the other. It was pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dover that so far from that being the case the graziers, like the shopkeepers, were absolutely outside all penalty under this Clause, and were absolutely free at their own sweet will to go into the auction room, bid for the farm, buy, and become purchaser of it. But because he said that, and because the right hon. Gentleman pointed that out, what was the retort of the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General for Ireland? "Oh," he says, "I see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover has taken the graziers under his wing." I never heard a more unmeaning, unreasonable, or unjust criticism than that was. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) was pointing out that if the intention was to prevent the graziers becoming owners of those holdings that this Clause failed to carry out that intention, and because he points that out he is met with the very courteous retort that he is taking the grazier under his protection. There is one thing perfectly plain in discussing this Clause, the landlord is out of it. He has no interest in it one way or the other. Therefore, we can discuss it without it being suggested that we are doing so in the interests of landlordism, or as in any way representing their views. Is the grazier by any conceivable means prevented from competing for this farm? I certainly share in the surprise of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Derry (Mr. John Gordon) when he expressed the surprise with which he heard a statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General, that every grazier in Ireland was a purchaser of a farm under the Land Purchase Act, and that that applied to large grazing ranches and tracts. Why he knows, or at least he ought to know, that in the majority of cases the large grazing tracts are not held by tenants at all. They are held on what is called agistment contracts, that is, lettings for eleven months, which it has been decided do not create tenancy, and which, in the express language of every Land Act that ever was passed, ex- 1982 clude from the operation of the Act. Therefore, in face of that fact and the law being in that condition, for the right hon. Gentleman to make the statement he did was at least surprising.
Supposing that the grazier has purchased a holding, is he prevented under, and in, this Clause from going in and buying another? Of course he is not. All he has got to do is to pay off the arrears due on the holding he occupies, and then he no longer comes under the Clause, and he is at perfect liberty to buy that or any other farm. I have always understood the policy of the Irish party was to prevent the amalgamation and accumulation in the hands of wealthy shop-owners and shopkeepers in the villages and in the towns of farms and holdings. They are not hit by this in any shape or form. They are at perfect liberty to go in and buy as many places as they have got cash to enable them to do. But the one person who is to be branded as disqualified from making a bid, or, if he does, renders him liable to the risk of the farm being sold over his head, probably at a large pecuniary loss, the one person in the entire community is to be the unfortunate man who, after the date of passing of this Act, is foolish enough to become the purchaser of land in Ireland. He is the only one individual who is hit, while in support of that Clause, simply because the principle of it has been adopted and approved of by the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), we have displayed here an amount of ingenuity on the part of right hon. Gentlemen opposite that would have been much worthier of a better cause.
Let us see how absurd the Clause is, apart altogether from these considerations. I could have understood this Clause properly framed. It is no business of mine to suggest any framing of it. We have not time for it. We are not given the opportunity, and if this Bill in any shape under the conditions under which we are discussing it ever ultimately becomes law, I can only prophesy to the right hon. Gentleman opposite that it will lead to a chapter of litigation and of friction in Ireland as to which up to the present we have had nothing like it. The right hon. Gentleman should have profited by the experience of rushing an Evicted Tenants Bill through this House two years ago. After a few months he had to Amend it by introducing another Evicted Tenants Act. What was the result? Those two Acts of Parliament were so clumsy in their draughtsmanship, and left this House and 1983 the Upper House and became law in such a chaotic condition and form that the Estates Commissioners from that day to this have never been able to take one single legal step under them. That will be the result here if anything in the nature of this Clause passes into law. Let us see what the Clause in effect does. What is the penalty it imposes upon this selected and favoured few—the individuals who, after the passing of this Act, become purchasers? The result is not that they are disqualified from buying if they already own a farm worth £3,000, or a farm in respect of which £3,000 has been advanced, but they are to be disqualified if the amount to be advanced on the new farm, together with the amount advanced on the farm they already have amounts to £3,000. Do hon. Gentlemen opposite realise what a penalty that will impose upon the enterprise and industry of the farming class? I am speaking of a matter not of which I have practical experience, but of which I have professional experience extending over 25 years, and I know that in many portions of Ireland there are estates, such as the FitzWilliam estate, the Downshire estate, and the Wallace estate, in respect of which the effect of this provision will be to prevent, if a farm in the neighbourhood falls vacant, there being a single possible purchaser within miles of the place where the farm is situate. What is to become of the farm then? In the vicinity of Belfast there are three or four large estates. Recently the Belfast Water Commissioners have been acquiring land for new reservoirs and so forth; farmers' holdings have been acquired, and compensation has had to be paid. Time after time I have heard it sworn in these cases that the value of the tenant's interest alone in the holding was £100 an acre, and in my presence in numerous cases the juries have awarded that sum. Supposing a farm becomes vacant in that neighbourhood, in respect of which an advance has been made by the Land Commission, who is going to buy it? It is true, as the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) said, that in the rest of Ireland there are small farmers and small holders; but is the small holder from Mayo and Cork going to Antrim to bid for a vacant farm there? The thing is ludicrous. The only possible competitors for the farm will be the farmers in the vicinity. Take a conceivable case. Suppose that within a 1984 radius of three or five miles there is not a single farmer who would be eligible to buy; what is to be done with the farm? Suppose that the landowner is dead, and his executors are compelled to realise; how grossly unfair it would be in a case of that kind that the market should be limited and restricted to the detriment of the family. What jurisdiction can there be in a civilised community for such legislation as that?
But that is by no means the largest part of the mischief that this Clause will bring about. No man who is the owner of land under any other title is debarred from purchasing the farm. If I have 20 farms under fee or under lease, I can buy this farm or as many other farms as I like. What sense, then, is there in the restriction?
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly well aware that that will not apply in many cases. Take the illustrations I gave him of the FitzWilliam estate, the Downshire estate, and the Wallace estate. Every one of the tenants there have become tenant purchasers, and if a farm on either of those estates were put up it would become absolutely derelict, as there would be no person whatever legally entitled to bid for it if this ridiculous Clause obtained the sanction of Parliament. We were told that this Clause had formed the subject-matter of the greatest possible consideration on the part of the Government, and that they had given it as much thought as any other part of the Bill. If the result of this grave and deliberate consideration has been to produce a drafting monstrosity of this kind, it is a great misfortune that their talents and time had not been devoted to some more useful purpose. What is to be the result? A farm is put up for sale. There is no person legally qualified to bid. The people in the neighbourhood have already got advances in respect of substantial farms, not perhaps up to £3,000, but possibly up to £1,500. But the farm up for sale we will assume is worth £2,000. Therefore no man can bid for a farm in respect of which there is an advance of £2,000, except a farmer with a farm worth less than £1,000. But if the farm put up for sale is worth £3,000 nobody can bid for it at all, because if they have already got an advance of even Is. they are prevented from becoming bidders. What possible common-sense is there in it? It defeats 1985 the very purpose for which we have been told it has been framed. It is illogical and absurd in all its results.
But the greatest absurdity of all is the conclusion. Say a man has already had an advance in respect of £1,000. That would be a small farm in Ireland. If the farm put up for sale is to have an advance, or has had an advance by the Land Commission in excess of £2,000, not a single individual in the locality can bid for it. Surely, so far from discouraging consolidation, you are encouraging it by this Clause. Where is the customer to come from? He must come from the town; he must be the wealthy grazier or the "Gombeenman." It has been said that the Clause can be evaded. The Chief Secretary pointed out that it would be no evasion if a man bonâ fide bought the second farm in the name of his wife or in the name of his son. [Mr. BIRRELL made a remark which was inaudible to the Official Reporter.] If the right hon. Gentleman thinks a man ought not be allowed to buy it in the name of his wife, why has be not said so in the Clause? As the Clause stands he can buy it in the name of his wife, and this provision cannot touch him. I defy the right hon. Gentleman under this Clause to take one acre of land from a farmer, no matter what his previous advances may have been, if the second transaction is carried out in the name of his wife. Then take the case of a son. We are asked why should not a farmer advance the money to his son? But is that the way a prudent father makes provision for his son? Does he hand over the property and capital to the son at once? Does he not rather put the son under a period of probation to see what can be made of him? Under this proviso he will be unable to do that. He must part with the property out and out to the son, who may turn out a ne'er-do-well. In common prudence any ordinary parent would buy the farm and keep it in his own name for a legacy or gift in later years, if the son showed himself able to live in the place in decency, propriety, and comfort. But that will be prevented by the right hon. Gentleman.
We are told truly that land purchase has done much to improve the conditions of the Irish farmer. I do not attach exaggerated importance to it, but we know as a fact that the investments of Irish farmers in savings banks and securities have gone up by leaps and bounds in the last two or three years. What are they 1986 to do with those investments? If this Clause becomes law they cannot buy land with them, and there is nothing else to do with the money in Ireland. Of course they may spend their money on my profession, and they probably will if this Bill, in its present shape, becomes law. But what is the Irish farmer to do with the accumulation of his savings? Is the money to lie unemployed in the savings bank? It must and will if this Clause remains in anything like its present form. But see how you are crippling and paralysing the energy and industry of the enterprising farmer. This is a matter on which I am entitled to speak, because I have been conversant with it from my earliest days. The Irishmen who have been foremost in the ranks of all the professions, as well as in the Civil Service, both at home and abroad, have not been the sons of landlords or of wealthy men, but of the hardy yeomen farmers, who have been able by their thrift and energy to make provision for their sons, of which the sons have made good use in after life. What are you going to do under this provision, the object of which is to cut down the size of farms in Ireland, to kill the large farmer, and automatically to split up the whole country into farms like a regular chess-board, where each farm differs in no respect from its neghbour? You will kill all incentive to industry, enterprise, and ambition by depriving a man of the means of advancing his position in this way. I most earnestly and honestly appeal to the Government, in a question which cannot possibly concern the landlords, to remove from this Bill—goodness knows there are disfigurements enough on it already—a disfigurement which in its very drafting is unworthy of those who are responsible for it. If he cannot see his way to take the Clause out altogether, at least let him try to produce something worthy of himself, even in the drafting of it, and certainly something which will facilitate enterprise, encourage thrift, and promote prosperity.
§ Mr. D. KILBRIDE
It appears to me that there is very little difference of opinion in this matter between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. We are bound to remember, and hon. Gentlemen sitting above the Gangway are bound to remember, that in the Land Act of 1903 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover put in the limitation. We are bound to 1987 remember, in considering this Clause, that in the opinion of the Government in 1903 the public credit of this country was not to be used for the benefit of any individual in Ireland who occupied land worth £7,000. Seven thousand pounds was the extreme limit. It was only in extreme cases that an advance of £7,000 was to be made. In ordinary cases the advance was limited to £5,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover is exactly of the same opinion still—that an advance beyond £7,000 ought not to be made to any individual, whether to purchase under the Ashbourne Act or any previous Acts, including the Act of 1903, or whether he is to be a future purchaser. It does not appear to me that the Chief Secretary is wedded to this limitation of £3,000. He gave us to understand that between now and the Report stage he was perfectly willing to consider the Amendment which I have down, and which the guillotine yesterday did not allow to be discussed. From these benches, I think, we are somewhat indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover for first raising the point which has neither been dealt with by the Chief Secretary nor the Attorney-General. The Clause appears to me that as for these people in Kildare or Queen's County—cases with which I am familiar—in which one gentleman got £14,000 for purchase of land under the Act of 1903 and another got £18,000 for the purchase of land—are not now prohibited from getting more. In the first case the applicant got it quite wrongly. In the second case the man has boasted since of his success. You are penalising the future purchaser, and letting go scot-free the very gentlemen who have done these frauds under the Act of 1903. The hon. Member for Cork City knows very well that to the Amendment dealt with yesterday there was an official Amendment standing in my name.
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
We did not have an opportunity of discussing it, though the hon. Member for Cork City must know that it would affect, this Clause.
§ Mr. M. HEALY
You are liable to be expelled if you vote for any Amendment other than an official one.
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
I am not in the slightest degree apprehensive of expul- 1988 sion. The right hon. Gentleman does not intend that there should be any possibility in the future that the men who have already had the use of £7,000 of public money, or of the larger sum, that some of these gentlemen have had—and have got it by fraud—should under any circumstances whatever have the further benefit of £3,000. I can say, so far as the Bill as at present shaped stands, that it undoubtedly does not prevent an £18,000 man from increasing the amount to £21,000, or a £14,000 man to £17,000. Somebody said in the course of this Debate: Why did not the Estates Commissioners detect these frauds? What were they doing? I think the hon. and learned Member for Louth for a moment forgot that these transactions took place within the zones, and that the Estates Commissioners have no power whatever to institute an inspection. How could the Estates Commissioners discover fraud except by inspection? If the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College is right in his observation, there could have been no point at all in the observation made by the hon. Member for Louth.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
No inspection of land would inform any inspector whether a tenant had bought another holding or not.
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
I was dealing with a point made previously en the question of inspection, and how it was the inspector did not discover that these gentlemen were committing frauds by getting larger sums advanced than the limit of £7,000. I say it was possible because there was no inspection, and could be no inspection. These transactions took place within these zones which prohibited inspection. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College knows very well how these things were done. The Chief Secretary for Ireland by this time is acquainted with the matter. But in every one of these cases it was either the agent of the estate, the solicitor who had carried it to sale, or the landlord himself who returned a bogus tenant as a genuine tenant to the Estates Commissioners. I do not understand the attitude of some people who want to have the poorer man prosecuted. I have never heard a word in public yet, or read a line in the newspapers, asking the Government whether they would take proceedings against the land agent, or the landlord, or the solicitor, or whoever it was who returned the bogus tenant. No occupier of land ought to have any chance 1989 whatever to get a larger amount than the limitation of the Act of 1903. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover had £5,000 as the extreme limit in his Bill. By an Amendment which was proposed by a colleague of my own, an old Member of this House, the hon. Member for North Kildare, and supported by myself, it was raised to £7,000. That Amendment was the official Amendment of the Irish party, and it was the Amendment of the National Convention, although it has been represented in certain parts of Ireland that I and I alone was the author of that Amendment, and, therefore, that I was tremendously in favour of the grazier and large farmer, and very much opposed to the small farmer. Of course, everybody who kept themselves posted was quite well aware that the Amendment was official. It was the result of a resolution that had been come to by the National Convention in the City of Dublin.
I was pleased to hear from the Chief Secretary for Ireland that between now and the Report stage he will reconsider the question of the £3,000. I want to appeal to him and the Attorney-General: What are they going to do to prohibit the man who has already purchased up to £7,000, or maybe, £14,000 or £18,000—to prevent these men getting further public money or getting land which has been purchased by public money? It has been said in the course of this Debate that this is not the Clause of the Chief Secretary, nor the Clause of the Attorney-General, but that the real authors of this Clause are the Land Purchase Commission, and that the reason it has been drafted is to save them the trouble of inquiring into previous purchases and previous advances. No doubt they would have to look into the Ashbourne Act, the Act of 1903, and the Bright Clauses of the Act of 1870. But let us have uniformity. I am quite well aware that it is not in this Clause, and because it is not in the Clause I am saying what I am. We are in agreement, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, and the Chief Secretary, and I think all the parties in this House, are in agreement that it is not in the interests of public policy that anyone should hold a larger quantity of land in Ireland than has been purchased under the £7,000 limit. If that is so, and I think we are all agreed upon the principle, let it apply all round. Let there be fair rations, as the Yorkshireman said. Let it apply to the previous pur- 1990 chaser as well as to future purchasers when this Bill becomes law. That is the point I press upon the Chief Secretary and the Attorney-General. We are all agreed upon your intentions. The sum of £60,000,000 or £70,000,000, and it may amount to £80,000,000, have been either paid away or agreed upon before this Act becomes law. Therefore, so far as those people who are benefiting by the advance of this £80,000,000 are concerned, this Clause and this Sub-section does not affect them at all. It will affect the future man, not them; and you immediately then create two distinct classes of purchasers in Ireland, one of whom is under a disability, and the other who is not under any disability. I think it must be obvious that it is only necessary to mention these facts to show the Chief Secretary and Attorney-General the necessity of further considering this Clause. We are all agreed as to the necessity of all limitation.
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College says we are not all agreed. I thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin was in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover as to the limitation of the advances under the Act of 1903.
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
The right hon. Gentleman says that has nothing to do with this Section—but what was I saying when he interrupted me? I was saying that we were all agreed as to the limitation of advances, and he now says, "No, no."
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
The right hon. and learned Gentleman surely never took nearly an hour by the clock for the purpose of making one point. We all know the capacity of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and no matter from what point of Ireland we come we are all perfectly ready to admit his great intelligence and his great capacity. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must remember, even though he belongs to the Unionist party in Ireland, that we are proud of Irishmen like 1991 him, with intelligence and ability, no matter to what political party they belong, and we on the Irish Nationalist Benches more even than Gentlemen who come from Ulster have great admiration for an able and intelligent Parliamentarian. The right hon. and learned Gentleman told the House he took nearly an hour to make one point. That would be regarded as an insult to his intelligence and his ability if I said it. Of course, he made several other points. He made a long speech, and I thought he was flogging a dead horse; and that there must be some other Amendment on the Paper that he did not want to have discussed, and, therefore the longer he spoke the more effectual he would be in carrying out the object he had in view. We have had the assurance from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that between now and the Report stage he is willing to reconsider the official Nationalist Amendment that was on the Paper yesterday in my name, and to consider the whole of this question. We all agree there ought to be limitation; we are not agreed as to the amount. We agree that there ought to be a limitation of the amount of land which one purchaser should acquire, but we do not agree that that limitation should apply to future purchasers only and not apply to those who have already purchased.
§ Mr. CHERRY
I want to say a few words in answer to the comments of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Kilbride) and to those of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. J. H. Campbell). The right hon. Gentleman commented very strongly on the fact that this Clause applies only to purchasers who shall have purchased after the passing of this Act. Well, I think there is a very obvious answer to that, an answer which I did not think it was necessary to give, it was so obvious to every lawyer, and that was that when imposing disabilities for the first time by an Act of Parliament you should confine them to those who are affected by that Act. This imposes disabilities. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] I do not understand why hon. Gentlemen cheer that so loudly.
§ Mr. CHERRY
It imposes on purchasers under the Act the disabilities of acquiring more than a certain amount of land. We 1992 are restricting that disability to the case of purchasers who have purchased after the passing of the Act, because we think it is not in accordance with the ordinary practice of the Legislature to impose disabilities retrospectively on persons who purchased under a different state of affairs.
§ Mr. CHERRY
I do not understand the hon. Member, and I must ask him to sit down. The hon. and learned Member can speak himself afterwards.
§ Mr. CHERRY
I explained the Section is not intended to be retrospective. If hon. Members opposite wish to make it retrospective, as I gather they do, and that the general sense of this House is that it should be made retrospective, the Government are quite willing to consider it.
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
I am glad to have the official acknowledgment that this Sub-clause imposes a very serious disability upon somebody or the other. The right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General for Ireland did not tell us exactly who it is upon whom the disabilities are imposed, but we have the admission of the Government now of what we have been trying to show the House that this is a very serious disability. If hon. Members opposite only realised the nature of this disability for one moment they will, I am sure, agree with us that it reduces the whole of this Sub-section to a farce. There are something between £60,000,000 and £80,000,000 worth of land in Ireland that has passed from the landlords to the tenants and upon which advances have been made or will be made before the passing of this Act, and, therefore, it is probable that between £80,000,000 and £120,000,000 worth of land yet remains to pass from the landlords to the tenants. Under this Clause this £60,000,000 to £80,000,000 worth of land will not be affected by any disability in this Section. The tenant purchasers can come in and buy whether they have purchased their own farms or not. Under the proposals of the Chief Secretary for Ireland about half of the tenants can bid 1993 for the farms that are put up for sale, but the unfortunate people whose advances are not made until after the passing of this Act, and who represent roughly about another half of the tenant farmers in Ireland, are excluded from taking any part in the purchase of farms put up for sale. The Chief Secretary has pointed out very properly that these sales of farms or groups of farms of the value of £3,000 are very few and far between, and that persons able to bid for them are also very few and far between. And although the number of possible purchasers, even if you allowed everyone in, is very restricted, yet by the action of this Section it is reduced by at least one-half, which means that in a great many cases there would be no purchasers, and in other cases, where there would be two or three legitimate purchasers, one or two will be barred out by the action of this Section. I say that that is absurd, and if you are going to have any such fallacious and vicious provision, it ought to apply all round; but to say that I suggested, or that any Member sitting on the Unionist Bench had suggested, that you should now make such a provision retrospective is a suggestion that could only come from the fertile brain of the Attorney-General for Ireland.
§ Mr. CHERRY
There was a distinct suggestion to that effect made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. J. H. Campbell) the Member for the University of Dublin.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
No, no; I do not like to characterise that statement as I would if it was made outside the House; but this I must say, that there is not one particle or shadow of foundation for it.
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
I had very little doubt that my right hon. Friend would set that matter right very quickly. The Chief Secretary said that the object of the Act of 1903 and of the previous Land Act was to create as many small farmers as possible in Ireland. I take leave to deny that that was the object of the Act of 1903 or of any other Act. The object of the Irish Land Purchase Act was to take farmers wherever you found them, whether small or middling or big farmers, and to convert them from being mere tenants into being freeholders of the land. It was not the object of any Land Purchase Act to set up small farmers or to stereotype the size of farms in Ireland. Such an object, I submit, would be one of the most injurious that could be adopted with regard 1994 to farmers or with regard to any other class of business men. The right hon. Gentleman informed us, as an argument to prove that we were not entitled to make as much about this Section as we did, that the average price of farms sold in Ireland was somewhere about £300. That is very far below £3,000, and if there are so few cases above £300 it seems to me it is quite unnecessary to put this Clause into the Bill at all. We have no evidence or statement from the Chief Secretary or from the Attorney-General that so far as the aggregation of these smaller farms in one has taken place that it has in any way interfered with land purchase or that land purchase has in any way suffered from such cases as may have taken place. The Chief Secretary told us that one of the reasons for the inclusion of this Section was that it would prevent the introduction of fraud. The case of fraud has been amply demolished by speakers on this side, who have shown that, whether fraud has been used in the past or not, it can be used in the future under this Sub-section as well. Therefore if the fraud argument falls to the ground—and I maintain it does—and if the Chief Secretary's argument is good that these cases where the value rises above £300 are few and far between, then I say the Clause is entirely unnecessary. Everybody who knows anything about this question knows that the real crux and reason for the Amendment is to be found in the case of the large grazing ranches in the West of Ireland. It is an extraordinary thing that the Chief Secretary in his speech never mentioned the graziers at all, although it is perfectly well known to him and to hon. Members on the Nationalist Benches below the Gangway that in reality it is the question of the graziers that prompted the Section which we are now discussing. As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Maurice Healy), these grazing farms only represent an infinitesimal portion of the whole of Ireland. It is impossible to say, of course, how much they represent, but I should think I am well within the mark if I say that the grazing ranches do not represent more than one-thirtieth or one-fortieth of the entire land of Ireland, and, therefore, if that is so, I say that we are asked to put what is admitted by the Attorney-General to be a very serious disability upon the rest of Ireland in order to meet the case of the graziers.
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
Well, I withdraw these two words "very serious" in regard to what the right hon. Gentleman said, and I add them on my own account. I say it is a very serious disability, and I say it is a very serious thing to apply that disability to twenty-nine-thirtieths of Ireland for the sake of remedying a grievance which we maintain is not a grievance at all, but which for the moment is a pet grievance and a hobby of hon. Members on the Nationalist Bench. We have had no answer to the question as to whether this is not a policy of restricting the ordinary industrious tenant in Ireland—the man who is prosperous—and has no other outlet for any savings which he has except the purchase of additional land. I say this is a policy of trying to stop the natural and proper operations on the part of industrious tenants in Ireland. I think hon. Members opposite who know something about farming in England will not hesitate to say that every encouragement should be given to a man to prosper and extend his business in any way he likes. It has never been the object of any Land Act to restrict the size of farms in Ireland. I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for East Mayo say that the object of his party and himself was to prevent the consolidation of farms. Anything more calculated to retard the progress of a country than to endeavour to make all the farms of one dead level—and that a very low one—I cannot conceive, and there could not be a more fatal policy. The hon. Member, I think, is the only person I have heard in this House who has advocated such a policy. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford said that the hon. Members below the Gangway were a pledge-bound party. I wonder how many of them who represent Irish constituencies in which grazing ranches do not exist could get up and say they are in favour of the particular Clause we are now discussing; or, if they are in favour of it, how many can honestly say that the farmers with holdings of 60 or 70 acres in the constituencies are in favour of any such restriction as that which is contained in this Clause? The hon. Member representing the City of Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy) has made his position clear. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford represents an ordinary agricultural constituency, and I should like to ask him if he can say that the ordinary farmers in his constituency are in favour of this proposal.
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
Because by putting any such restrictions upon them you are hampering their chances of making progress. Then there is the constituency represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), which is an ordinary agricultural constituency, and I should like to hear him get up and tell us that the ordinary farmer in his constituency is in favour of the restrictions contained in this Clause. I should like to hear how the right hon. Gentleman would recommend this particular Clause to his constituency in South Tyrone. In spite of what has been said by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford that this Clause, amongst others, has been approved of at meetings and conventions of the Irish party, I believe that every ordinary constituency not containing grazing ranches is in favour of leaving things as they are and giving the utmost freedom of contract to any person who wishes to increase the size of his farm. Hon. Members below the Gangway are by no means at one on this question. I have listened with very great attention to every speech which has been made this afternoon, and with two exceptions, namely, the hon. Member for Cork and the hon. Member for West Mayo, I could not tell exactly what the feelings were of those who have spoken on this question. At the end of the speech of the hon. Member for Kildare I was unable to gather whether he wants this Clause left in or taken out. I know that upon the discussion of Clause 15 the other day the hon. Member had an Amendment down on the Paper to restore the words "seven thousand," and when my hon. Friends challenged a Division I understand the hon. Member voted in favour of the Clause.
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
I am referring to the hon. Member who has just spoken. How the hon. Member for Kildare can reconcile his action with the speech he made to-day I cannot understand, and I will leave him to explain his position to the Committee. Some hon. Members below the Gangway have a great admiration for this Clause, and the hon. Member for East Mayo spoke strongly in its favour. He was followed by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, who spoke in a very halting way in its praise, and said that if certain concessions were made he 1997 would be able to vote for it. Then the hon. Member for Cork and the hon. Member for Kildare—the latter in some parts of his speech—spoke strongly against it. Even the Chief Secretary for Ireland has not a fixed policy on this subject. Apparently, the Irish Members are seriously divided on this question, and the only people who really know what they want, appear to be my colleagues and myself, and seeing that this is the only part of the House on which there appears to be any unanimity the Chief Secretary could not do better than reconsider the whole question, and leave out this Clause altogether.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I think it is desirable that the Amendment substituting "five" for "three" should be discussed, and perhaps we might now be allowed to pass on to that Amendment, as there are some hon. Members who have not spoken and desire to have an opportunity of doing so.
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
The Attorney-General made what seems to me a very curious observation. [An HON. MEMBER: "Speak up."] He said that in his opinion the Government were acting right and according to the ordinary morals of Parliament in not making this Clause retrospective. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Government were quite prepared to make it retrospective, quite apart from the ordinary morals of Parliament.
§ Mr. CHERRY
I did not say "the ordinary morals of Parliament." What I said was "the ordinary practice of Parliament."
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
I think the Attorney-General for Ireland said that it would be unjust to deal in this way with persons who had already purchased, and that in accordance with the ordinary practice the Government were adhering to that practice in the way they had framed this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that although it affected half the farmers of Ireland, after all, if anybody on the other side wished to make it retrospective the Government were most pliable, and were ready to do anything.
§ Mr. CHERRY
I said if the general sense of the House wished it to be retrospective, but I understood the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. H. M. Campbell) to say that it ought not to be retrospective. At any rate, he said there was no reason for making any distinction after the passing 1998 of the Act and before. I said if that is the general sense of the House, and the general desire, we were quite willing to meet it.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
It is rather ridiculous to talk of "the general sense of the House" when most of the Members are in the smoking-room, and there are not a dozen hon. Members opposite, with the exception of the Irish Members, who know anything about this question. When my right hon. Friend said it was unjust to draw a distinction between purchasers before and after the passing of this Bill, his argument was that the Clause is unjust altogether. He did not mean that because the Clause is unjust you ought to make the injustice greater by applying it to both classes of purchasers. He simply pointed out that the Clause being absolutely unjust in principle, you were drawing a distinction for which there was no real reason or ground whatsoever. The matter seems to me to be one of very great importance. After all, if the Government are in that frame of mind, and they are prepared to take it either way, would it not be well for them to say that before the Report stage they will consider whether or not they ought to strike it out altogether. Certainly nobody has given any reason for retaining the Clause. I have been trying, with the limited knowledge I have of the Bill, to find out some reason for its retention, and I honestly believe that one reason is that this Bill is framed to stop land purchase. I believe it will have the effect of stopping land purchase, and I think it is a lamentable thing that while the whole of the land question is in the melting pot in Ireland any Bill should be introduced except one to facilitate land purchase. Another most lamentable feature is that you are by your legislation discouraging the farming classes in order that you may have more land to give to the cattle-drivers. The result of this Clause in this Bill, if passed, will be simply this: You are going to prevent the honest, hard-working, progressive farmer, who has by hard work and his own skill and ability been able to make money out of his holding, putting his money, as he would in the ordinary course of things, to the business with which he is best acquainted, because in a Section which you have already passed you are maintaining the right to use the money and the credit of the State to give land to a man who has no interest whatever in the land. 1999 I think that is a lamentable condition of affairs. I do not look upon this as being a political controversy at all. The only question is the best way to wind up at the earliest possible moment the transfer of land from landlords to tenants, and I do beg of the Government to pause before they lay down in a Clause of this kind a principle which will deprive the industrious and skilful farmer in Ireland of land in order that more land may be obtained for the landless men who have been unconnected with farming all their lives.
§ Dr. A. E. HAZEL
I desire to say a word or two if only to protest against the superior attitude of the hon. Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson) in assuming that, except for himself and his Friends, there is nobody, apart from the Irish Members below the Gangway, who takes any interest in this question of Irish land. It is perfectly true we have not had the same profitable opportunities of making ourselves acquainted with the Irish land question as the right hon. Gentleman, but there are many of us who have not only read the Irish Land Acts, but have also seen Irish land and have studied the Irish land system on the spot; and it is the knowledge we have been so able to acquire that makes us enthusiastic supporters of that particular portion of this Bill to which the right hon. Gentleman, judging by some of his remarks, is most violently opposed—I mean the Clause relating to congestion. I would like to say one word in justification of the vote I propose to give against this Amendment and in favour of the Section. As one who is in favour of land reform, whether on this or the other side of St. George's Channel, I support this Clause. I support it for the reason that it tends to encourage and to increase the number of holdings. Every land reformer is in favour of that. The greater the increase the better, so long as the holdings remain economic. I support it, further, because it will obviously tend to lower prices. The Amendment tends in the opposite direction. The tendency of it is to keep up prices and to facilitate the consolidation of farms and to lead to the grouping in one set of hands of large quantities of land, so that a future House of Commons may have once more to bring in legislation for the breaking up of large estates. Supporting, as I do, an increase in the number of holdings, and supporting the principle on which this Bill is framed, 2000 I recognise that this Clause is for the purposes we have in view an imperfect Clause. I want to see it widened. I should like, at any rate, to see the words "after the passing of this Act" excised.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Emmott)
I must point out that we have got past those words, and we really cannot keep harping back to them.
§ Dr. HAZEL
I bow to your ruling. Turning to the words of the Section itself, I would like to see an even greater widening, and, if it were possible, to see the Section recasted, and, instead of beginning with the words, "The proprietor shall not without the consent of the Land Commission acquire," begin with words like these, "No person shall, without the consent of the Land Commission, acquire." That would, I suggest, meet the object the right hon. Gentleman, has in framing this Bill, because it would prevent, not merely a purchaser before 1909, but also the grazier, the shopkeeper, and the capitalist from acquiring too many farms. I thoroughly agree with the words of the hon. Member for Kildare (Mr. Kilbride) that there is absolutely no logic in excluding the person who purchases after the present Bill becomes an Act and allowing a person who purchases before, or any other person who does not happen to purchase after, this Act to come in and acquire as much land as he can buy. I do, therefore, trust that between this and the Report stage the right hon. Gentleman will consider whether it is not possible for him to carry out what I believe to be his intention, and to prevent the creation of these large holdings, which in the past have been the curse of Ireland, by making it impossible that there shall be a grouping or a conglomeration in a few hands of a large number of farms.
§ Mr. J. J. O'SHEE
Many of us on these benches have listened with great gratification to the speech just delivered. I represent a Constituency in which there are no ranches and no congested districts. I represent an ordinary agricultural Constituency, and there is no Clause in this Bill the principle of which I more heartily approve than the principle of this Clause. In my Constituency the attention of public men has been called to the fact that some large farmers have acquired farm after farm in the district in which they reside, and some of them have now in their hands land which formerly represented 14, 16, or 18 holdings. This system which permits men to acquire farm after farm, which they 2001 do not till in the ordinary way, but which they keep in grass, has been publicly protested against at meetings in my Constituency, and I think there is no Clause in this Bill of which the farmers in my Constituency generally would be more in favour than this Clause. The same statement, I think, applies with reference to the opinion of farmers elsewhere. It may be that some change or Amendment of this Clause is necessary to bring it into conformity with Clause 15, but I do think it is a most necessary and important Clause. I have in my hand a Return which shows that in certain districts of my Constituency the average valuation of the holdings per head of population is only slightly over £1 10s., while in the same districts some large farmers have very large areas of land in their hands. One of the reasons for which I support this Clause is that when a farm is put up for sale in the open market the ordinary small farmer, the farmer with 20, 30, 40, or 50 acres, who might reasonably desire to increase the area of land in his possession, has no chance of acquiring it with the competition of the graziers and the bigger men. He may have at his disposal £300, £400, or £500, or he may be able to raise some such sum to acquire a farm offered for sale, but when he reaches his limit there is always the big grazier or the shopkeeper or the returned American, who sometimes interferes, unfairly I think, to acquire the farm. This Clause, I think, will enable the smaller farmer to extend the area of land in his possession, and will prevent those who have more capital than he has from ousting him from that right he ought to possess if he is ambitious of benefiting himself.
I do not know whether, in the course of this Debate, the precedent of the most prosperous agricultural state in Europe— Denmark—has been referred to, but they
§ have there, where the Parliament consists of representatives of the farming community, a similar provision to this which, has been the law for many years. There is a provision in an Act of Parliament in Denmark preventing, except in the case of what are called ancient farms, the acquisition of more than 150 acres of land by any farmer without the consent of a State Department similar to the Land Commission. That consent is only to be given on condition that they are satisfied that the person who proposes to acquire the land will work it by a system of mixed husbandry, and that he will not keep it as a grazing ranch. If that condition is satisfied the Department of State may give him permission to acquire the additional land. There is no such condition suggested in this Clause. I wish there were, because I rather think, if it is left to the discretion of the Land Commission to give or refuse their consent on no certain principle, it will cause a lot of trouble. Perhaps they will lay down rules, but there is nothing to indicate on what principle they are to give or refuse their consent to any man who proposes to buy additional land. I think there ought to be some such condition as is laid down in Denmark. We are anxious to see the grazing system curbed, and mixed farming increased so that, as in former days, the population may find employment on the land. I certainly most heartily support this Clause, and I hope that the Government will not go too far in the way of altering or extending its limitation.
§ Question put, "That the words of the paragraph (a) down to 'when' ['when-added to the amount of the advance'], stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 201, Noes, 35.2003
|Division No. 505.]||AYES.||[7.17 p.m.|
|Abraham, w. (Cork, N.E.)||Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight||Dobson, Thomas W.|
|Ambrose, Robert||Cawley, Sir Frederick||Donelan, Captain A.|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Duffy, William J.|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Clancy, John Joseph||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Cleland, J. W.||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)|
|Beauchamp, E,||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.)||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Elibank, Master of|
|Boland, John||Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Esmonde, Sir Thomas|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Cox, Harold||Essex, R. W.|
|Branch, James||Crean, Eugene||Esslemont, George Birnie|
|Brigg, John||Crooks, William||Evans, Sir S. T.|
|Bright, J. A.||Crossley, William J.||Everett, R. Lacey|
|Brodie, H. C.||Cullinan, J.||Farrell, James Patrick|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Curran, Peter Francis||Fenwick, Charles|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Delany, William||Ferens, T. R.|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Devlin, Joseph||Ffrench, Peter|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Dillon, John||Field, William|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Lehmann, R. C.||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Lewis, John Herbert||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Gilhooly, James||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Radford, G. H.|
|Gill, A. H.||Lundon, T.||Reddy, M.|
|Ginnell, L.||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Richards, Thomas (W. Monmouth)|
|Glendlnning, R. G.||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Richards, T. F (Wolverhampton, W.)|
|Glover, Thomas||Mackarness, Frederic C.||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Roche, Augustine (Cork)|
|Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Roche, John (Galway, East)|
|Gulland, John W.||Macpherson, J. T.||Russell, Rt. Hon. T. W.|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Hancock, J. G.||MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||M'Cailum, John M.||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||M'Kean, John||Sears, J. E.|
|Harrington, Timothy||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Seddon, J.|
|Hart-Davies, T.||Mallet, Charles E.||Shackleton, David James|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Marnham, F. J.||Sheehy, David|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Massie, J.||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Hazel, Dr. A. E. W.||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Hazleton, Richard||Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.)||Snowden, P.|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Mooney, J. J.||Steadman, W. C.|
|Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Henry, Charles S.||Muldoon, John||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)|
|Hobart, Sir Robert||Murnaghan, George||Summerbell, T.|
|Hodge, John||Murphy, John (Kerry, East)||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Hogan, Michael||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Hope, W. H. B. (Somerset, N.)||Nicholls, George||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Horniman, Emslie John||Nolan, Joseph||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Norman, Sir Henry||Thorne, Wm. (West Ham)|
|Hudson, Walter||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Hyde, Clarendon G.||O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Idris, T. H. W.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Vivian, Henry|
|Jackson, R. S.||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Jardine, Sir J.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Watt, Henry A.|
|Jenkins, J.||O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Johnson, John (Gateshead)||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)||White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Dowd, John||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Jordan, Jeremiah||O'Grady, J.||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Jowett, F. W.||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Kavanagh, Waiter M.||O'Malley, William||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Keating, M.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Kekewich, Sir George||O'Shee, James John||Wilson, W. T (Westhoughton)|
|Kelley, George D.||Parker, James (Halifax)||Young, Samuel|
|Kilbride, Denis||Partington, Oswald||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Lambert, George||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Lamont, Norman||Philips, John (Longford, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Captain Norton and Mr. Fuller.|
|Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Pollard, Dr. G. H.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Doughty, Sir George||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dublin, S.)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Fletcher, J. S.||Percy, Earl|
|Bull, Sir William James||Forster, Henry William||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Gardner, Ernest||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. H. M.||Gordon, J.||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Gretton, John||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Lanark)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Hamilton, Marquess of||Valentia, Viscount|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thomas H. A. E.||Healy, Maurice (Cork)|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Hill, Sir Clement||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. W. Moore and Mr. Lonsdale.|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Kerry, Earl of|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott-||Keswick, William|
Question, "That these words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY moved to insert, after the word "advance" ["when added to the amount of the advance"], the words "then outstanding."
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I think it is not an unreasonable Amendment. We recognise that as soon as an advance is paid off the land should be free for purchase. I think, on the whole, there is more to be said in favour of the Amendment than against it.
§ Mr. W. MOORE
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to see that between this and the Report stage this will be secured, so that we may know where we are. At present we do not know exactly where we stand.
§ Mr. HART-DAVIES (in the absence of Mr. Wedgwood) moved to leave 2005 out from Sub-section (a) the word "three" ["three thousand pounds"], and to substitute "five." It seems to me the sum of £3,000 is rather too large, for a man may have as many as ten holdings, the average value of the farm being £300, without being interfered with in any way. At any rate, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not extend the amount as he is asked to do in subsequent Amendments.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
If you put the Question that "three" stand part of the Clause will that exclude any further Amendment of the figure?
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
Would it not be better to move to omit the word "three" and leave it open as a subsequent Amendment to move some other figure?
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the Committee agree to leave out "three" it will be open to discuss any other figure.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. GORDON moved, in Sub-section (a), to leave out the word "three" ["three thousand pounds"], and to insert the word "seven."
§ As it stands on the Paper, the Amendment in my name is to leave out the word "three" and insert "five," but I wish to change it from "five" to "seven," if I should be in order in doing so. We have already discussed this matter at very considerable length, and I am not going to again traverse the ground we have gone over, but I must say that, as I stated before, I am entirely opposed to the whole Clause, and my opinions are not altered in the smallest degree about it. But if it is ever to become law, I should like something to be done to mitigate the evils which I believe would arise from it in its present form, and, therefore, it is that I move my present Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman made a statement about the number of cases in which £3,000 has been advanced, but the question is not the number of cases in which that sum has been advanced but the number of cases in which the people have not had any advance at all, or have had an advance, but wish to bring it up to the £3,000. There is not an inconsiderable body of tenants, who are the best tenants in the North of Ireland, and who have holdings of about 2006 50 or 100 acres or more, and they may want to introduce more money into their holding, and they will not be able to do it as the Bill stands. As I said before, I am entirely opposed to the Clause, but I suggest this Amendment as a mitigation of the evils which will be the result of it.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
I just want to say two or three words before the Government speak in order to make perfectly clear the position in which the Irish party stands in this matter. The figure of £3,000 is not our figure. That was inserted by the Government, not at our suggestion, or with our consent; and when we considered this matter we came to the conclusion, after full consideration, that if we could induce the Government to accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Kildare, and make the limit £7,000 where tillage formed part of the farming, we might under certain circumstances allow the £3,000 to stand. My right hon. Friend has intimated that he is prepared to consider favourably the proposal of the hon. Member for Kildare. We did not take the view, and I do not take the view now, that the £3,000 limit would have the serious effect which it has been contended it would have, and the figures which the Chief Secretary has given to the House I think entirely bear that out. As well as I recollect, he told us that the average price of the holding in Ireland was £330.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
And in addition to that he told us that of the 60,000 holdings in Ireland there were only some 700 which were over £3,000, and therefore we believe that if the limit stands at £3,000 the injury done would be very small indeed and confined to a very small number of people. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Gordon) now comes forward with a proposal which he had upon the Paper that £5,000 should be inserted instead of £3,000, which he has now changed to £7,000. If the Government propose to change their own figure of £3,000 to £5,000 I would not vote against them, but I cannot believe that they would go any further than that. Certainly, however, if they agree to £5,000 instead of £3,000, I would not oppose them, especially in view of the promise which we got from the right hon. Gentleman that the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Kildare will be favourably considered. Under these circumstances I have to say to the 2007 hon. Member—although I am not surprised that he changed his figure, but T have no doubt if the Government will agree to £5,000 he will withdraw his Amendment—I am satisfied with the £3,000, but if the hon. Member for Kildare's Amendment is accepted, and the Government choose to increase that figure to £5,000, I would not stand in the way or oppose it.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The hon. Member who moved this Amendment in this altered form says that he was originally opposed to the Clause, and he is of the same opinion still. I also am in the same plight, and adhere to the opinion which I have already expressed upon the general merits of this Section, but in the course of this discussion I certainly said that the Government were in no way disposed to attach enormous importance to the particular figure which they had imposed, £3,000. We hold strongly to the provision itself, but at the the same time I feel the force of what was said, that to a certain extent it is an undesirable thing, though in obedience to our policy it must to some extent be adopted—it is an undesirable thing to restrict the market more than is necessary in order to give effect to a certain policy. If £3,000 is thought to restrict the market unnnecessarily—that is to say, to limit the number of persons who are likely, for some years to come, to come into the market—I am willing to consider the matter, but I would remind the hon. Member that all these difficulties disappear when the moneys are paid off, and if the persons choose to pay off their obligations under the Statute at an earlier date they are at liberty to do so. At the same time, I am disposed to relax the £3,000 to the extent of £5,000; but further than that the hon. and learned Member must not ask me to go. I do not know in what form the Amendment should be put, but I resist it in the form in which it is moved by the hon. and learned Member. I am prepared to strike out the word "three" and to substitute "five," but I am not prepared to strike out "three" in order to substitute "seven."
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
My view is that really this Clause is incapable of Amendment, and in what the Chief Secretary has said it appears to me that he has thrown over the Attorney-General for Ireland, who said that every grazier in Ireland has an advance. The Chief Sereetary says that he 2008 can make himself a purchaser by paying that advance off, and this Clauae does not carry out the policy proposed. We object to it in toto, and I do not think that our objection would be met by putting the figure up or down. I shall vote against the Clause, and shall not take any part in any Division in regard to the question of £3,000, £5,000, or £7,000.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I think the Government have acted exceedingly reasonably, and the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will enable me to support the Clause. There were evils on both sides originally, and I think the Government have taken a reasonable course. I would, at the same time, suggest to the right hon. Member that he should bear in mind always that the figures of the amount of land purchased in Ireland, which show an average of something like £300 or £400 as the purchase price, represents the landlords' interest, and that the tenant's tenant right has not been sold, and when these farms are put up to auction, as security for the State purchase money, the figures will not be £300, or £400, but will represent a much larger figure. I might have said something, with regard to the only speech in this Debate which showed any sense of ill-temper, but I think it better not to take any notice of it.
§ Mr. ANNAN BRYCE
I was very sorry to hear the Chief Secretary say that he would accept this figure of £5,000. I think it would be much better to adhere to the figure in the Bill. For my part, I do not see why the credit of the State should be given to these gentlemen who wish to buy these farms. If they wish to buy these farms, let them find the money out of their own pockets.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that this Clause has nothing to do with the advances, but only with the private money of the buyers.
§ Question, "That the word 'three' stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.
§ Question, "That the word 'seven' be I there inserted," put, and negatived.2009
§ Mr. BIRRELL moved to insert the word "five."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. MOORE (in the absence of Captain Craig) moved to leave out Sub-section (b).
§ I do not think it is necessary to take up much time, but I hope the Government will meet my views. This is another case of very clumsy drafting, and one might have expected the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Mr. T. W. Russell) to have looked after this matter, but I suppose he is busy with other matters. I wish to protect the fruitgrowers. Part of the profit of a farm is made by fruitgrowing and fruit trees are part of the security for the advance, and yet, under this extraordinary Sub-section (b), the proprietor shall not, without the consent of the Land Commission, cut down or remove any "tree." He may not remove an apple tree in his orchard without permission of the Commission. This is too grandmotherly and absurd for common-sense, and I should like the Government to tell us if they will exempt orchards, or will they put in. the definition of "timber," which is a word of art and has a meaning in law? If they would substitute "timber" for "tree," or exempt orchards or fruit trees, the real pinch of this Clause, so far as it affects the fruit-growing districts in the north of Ireland, will be avoided. I think the whole Sub-section is extremely clumsy and unworkable, and it is absurd to say a man shall not cut down a tree even although it is necessary for the welfare of the holding. I am leaving out the case now of orchards. That means of course another inspector, and there is no breach of the condition until the tree has been cut down. What happens is that some neighbour or talebearer will write to Dublin to say A. B. has cut down an ash tree in his back garden, and an inspector has to come down from Dublin, and, after the tree has been removed, sold or burned, has to form an opinion whether or not it was necessary for the ornament or shelter of the home. It is perfectly ludicrous that when a man cuts down a hedgerow tree for fuel he incurs a breach of a statutory condition, if he has not instructed his solicitor in Dublin to approach the Estates Commissioners with a written request to get a rule, and that an inspector has to go down to certify whether or not the tree was for the ornament or shelter of his house. That is grandmotherly legislation gone mad. If the Government 2010 wished to protect these trees, they should have reserved trees under a vesting order, as they have done with minerals. I do not know what the aesthetic perceptions of these inspectors are. They may vary considerably. One may say the tree was obviously for ornament, and another may take an entirely different view. The thing is absolutely unworkable. Only by multiplying the work of the Land Commission, and on every vesting order having the map made large enough to contain particulars of every tree will you know what trees are for ornament or shelter. Wild as some of these provisions are, I do not think the Government seriously intends to carry this into effect.
The VICE-PRESIDENT of the DEPARTMENT of AGRICULTURE (IRELAND) (Mr. T. W. Russell)
There is more to be said for this Sub-section than the hon. and learned Gentleman would lead the Committee to suppose. The one thing complained of since the Land Purchase Act came into operation has been the persistent cutting down of timber. At the present time efforts are being made to prevent the cutting down of timber on a large scale by the Estates Commissioners selling woodlands to timber merchants, and the Department is engaged in purchasing these lands in order to prevent them being cut down. But there is another operation which has to be guarded against quite as much, and that is when tenants purchase a holding and immediately proceed to cut down the timber and sell it. The Sub-section is simply designed to prevent that very great evil, and I do not think it goes too far. I do not think fruit culture comes into it at all. It is not likely that fruit trees are going to be cut down. The Clause has been framed to give the Land Commission power and authority in the matter, and I do not think the Land Commission would be insane enough to interfere with fruit culture in any shape or form.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I am entirely with the Government in reference to this Clause, and I hope my hon. Friend will not persist in his Amendment. I rise to suggest a compromise, if there is any difficulty. I would give the Estates Commissioners power to make the fullest rules and impose penalties. I would be in favour of making the Clause very drastic, and I would enable the Land Commission to make rules providing against the cutting down of timber all over the country. The trees of the country ought to be secured.
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
We all agree with the hon. Gentleman and the President of the Department in the great importance of safeguarding the trees in Ireland, but we disagree as to the method proposed in this Section. One of three courses must be adopted. One is that when a vesting order is made the actual trees must be specified which, in the opinion of the Estates Commissioners, are for ornament or shelter or form part of the security for the advance. That would be a perfectly simple way. The amount of inspection necessary for that would not be very great. If that is not done, what is the position of the tenant? He has to go to his solicitor and ascertain whether, in his opinion, a certain tree or set of trees comes within either of these three categories. Probably the solicitor would have to tell him he cannot form an opinion, and he would have to t give notice to the Land Commission, and he would have to bring an inspector down all the way from Dublin, in the same way that a sub-Commissioner has to come clown now for the purpose of fixing a fair rent. That is a most cumbersome and ridiculous method to pursue. If that is bad, it is nothing to the third method which must be pursued, and that is for the man to take on his own shoulders the responsibility of cutting down the offending tree and trusting to luck whether the Land Commission ever hear anything about it, and whether they consider it a tree which comes under one of these categories. Although it is of the utmost importance that trees ought to be safeguarded, we ought to have an assurance of some sort as to which of these methods will be pursued in the future by the Land Commission. The best method is that the actual trees which come within the purview of this Section should be specified at the time, or before the holding becomes the tenant's. Though the other methods will be extremely arbitrary, it is not fair to ask any tenant in Ireland to submit to the two latter processes.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I quite agree that it is very necessary that timber should be preserved, and I am not sure that I shall not vote with the Government, but I want to draw attention to the very striking comment that this particular Clause and Amendment is upon the interference with the natural laws of supply and demand. Hon. Members are always talking of the advantages which will accrue when you have dispossessed landlords and created small holdings. The moment you interfere with the 2012 natural laws of supply and demand and started artificial holdings the result is that an army of inspectors must be appointed to see that the holders do not abuse the holdings provided for them by the money of the taxpayer. The holder is not allowed to do what he likes with the land. A new Department has to be set up, and new men appointed to see that he does not abuse the right which the State has granted. I voted against the second and third reading of the Irish Land Purchase Bill. This discussion alone convinces me that I was quite right in so doing. I only rise to draw the attention of the Committee, and, I hope, of hon. Members opposite, to the dreadful effects which will result if they are going to dispossess the ordinary private person and put in the State to take his place. It is quite a delusion to suppose that the people who own the land under the State are going to be in anything like such a good position as when they held under a landlord. The only difference will be that the State must take upon itself the duty of landlords, which would be more injurious to the holder and more expensive to the State than leaving matters as hitherto.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
So long as the hon. Baronet goes into the same Lobby with me he is welcome to say what he likes. We all agree that it is a duty cast upon Parliament, and upon all lovers of Ireland, to do everything they can to preserve trees. The beauty of the country largely depends upon the preservation of such timber as it possesses. I agree also that no lawyer can contemplate this Sub-section with any great satisfaction, and I am prepared to consider any proposal which may be made to give effect to a common agreement, but the difficulty of the subject arises from the consideration how you are to preserve all these trees. When they are fruit trees no one is likely to cut them down. I am prepared to do anything which can be shown to me to protect fruit trees, but, primâ facie, they are not the kind of trees which the tenant who has just come into possession of his land is likely to cut down. In this matter I am entirely in the hands of anyone who will come to my assistance. The Clause enables a prosecution to be at all events begun in certain cases, and it entitles the Land Commission to exercise some sort of supervision over this matter. I cannot pretend to say I think that is sufficient, but, at the same time, you cannot drive people into the courts and recover penalties because they have cut down a hedgerow tree. You must, as far 2013 as you can, indicate in some way or other the sort of tree that you require preserved. The hon. Member suggested that the only way would be to have a sort of Domesday Book of trees, and have every tree in Ireland at this moment swaying in the wind identified, and that there should be some record as to whether it is the kind of tree which ought not to be cut down. That would be a desirable thing to do, if it were possible, but it would not be possible, every time an estate passes or a holding is under inspection, to do any more than take some regard to the character of the timber and to indicate that upon that holding there are trees which are necessary for ornament or shelter or for the security of the holding, and that those trees ought not to be cut down. The Commission would have power under rules to make some indication of that kind which would inform the holders of the property that these trees were not to be cut down. We cannot do more than adhere to this Clause, although I am open at any time to carry out the common object, and I shall be only too glad to do so. I think myself that probably the best course would be to authorise the Land Commission to make rules and regulations on the subject: for the guidance of their inspectors when they come to inspect the holdings, and simply trust, as I am afraid we must, to the general feeling which requires encouragement and fostering in Ireland among purchasers themselves of how foolish it is to destroy the amenities of what ultimately will become their own freehold property by destroying both its value and its charm. I think, therefore, the best thing we can do is to pass the Clause substantially in its present form; but I will between now and the Report stage get any assistance I can to strengthen the Clause which, I admit, is in a wobbly state, owing to the inherent difficulties of the subject and not due to the stupidity of the draftsman.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
I rise for the purpose of suggesting to the Chief Secretary that he might consider before the Report stage the effect of the words in Sub-section (b)—"any tree upon the holding which is, in the opinion of the Land Commission, necessary …" These words make it necessary to prove before two magistrates what is the "opinion of the Land Commission" in regard to the trees. I would point out to the Attorney-General that it will be difficult to prove to the 2014 magistrates what is the opinion of the Land Commission. When the Land Commission exercises administrative discretion in any matter we know their opinion, but how are you to prove the opinion of the Land Commission in this matter? It is impossible to do it.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think it would be better to delay the discussion as to the opinion of the Land Commission until that Amendment is moved.
§ Mr. O'SHEE
I would suggest that the word "trees" should be substituted for the words "any tree." If you leave the words "any tree" in the Sub-section, the Land Commission and the magistrates must be guided by these words. It would be absurd to enact that a proprietor should not cut down an ash tree or a tree of any kind. It would be absurd that he should have to go to the Land Commission to ask permission to cut down a single tree.
§ Mr. GORDON
It occurs to me that the difficulty might be got over by putting in the word "forest" after the word "any." That would describe a particular class of tree. If the right hon. Gentleman is not in favour of that Amendment, I would suggest that after the word "tree" there might be inserted the words "other than a fruit tree." I join with hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in stating that something should be done to preserve the timber of the country. The right hon. Gentleman is perhaps not aware that we have a law at present which requires in certain cases the registration of trees. I do not know that it is desirable to extend that to the whole country, but I mention the fact in order to show that this is not such a vague matter as perhaps the right hon. Gentleman thought.
§ Lord BALCARRES
I confess the speech of the President of the Board of Agriculture (Mr. T. W. Russell) was to my mind somewhat uncompromising and inimical to the interests of the Irish sylviculture. Paradoxical though it may sound at first, I am of opinion that the economic interests of Ireland do not require that trees should be left standing, irrespective of their condition. It is better, I believe, 2015 that they should be promptly cut down, and that others should be planted. There are thousands of acres in Ireland where trees have been planted in a haphazard way, and where the economic sylviculture of the country is not to be gained by preserving these woods. It is only to be obtained by cutting them down, and replanting in accordance with modern scientific methods. I do hope that the somewhat uncompromising attitude of the President of the Board of Agriculture will be limited to some extent. Under this Sub-section as it stands, a man may not cut down a dead tree until he has got permission from the Land Commission. Is not that unreasonable? Surely some latitude may be allowed. I think it is desirable in many cases to cut down ornamental trees. I know that trees make cottages beautiful, but there are cases in which they also make them uninhabitable. This Clause may mean much or little. It may do good or it may be disastrous. That will depend on the rules brought into being by the Board of Agriculture. I hope the sentiments expressed by the President of the Board are not going to be too harshly put into operation.
Mr. BIRR ELL
I desire to protect fruit trees. I accept thoroughly the proposal to protect orchards in the way the hon. and learned Gentleman desires. Is this the proper time to put words in the Clause for that purpose? I do not think the words proposed by the hon. Gentleman would meet the case.
§ Mr. B1RRELL
I will communicate with the hon. Gentleman in order to get suggestions as to words to be introduced.
§ Mr. JAMES CAMPBELL
Would it not be better to accept the suggestion that the whole matter should stand over? Some provision might be introduced which would require that certain trees indicated at the time of purchase by the Commissioners should be retained?
§ Mr. CULLINAN
Are we, in the first place, to have a register of every single tree grown all over Ireland? [Cries of 2016 "No."] Then, if you are not, would it be necessary before any purchaser could cut down a tree, to have an inspector from Dublin?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
What I contemplate is that when a holding has been inspected there should be a report as to the trees which remain standing for the purpose of determining which of them should be retained. I quite agree with what the Noble Lord (Lord Balcarres) said about the necessity of cutting down trees which are hurtful to the health of people in cottages. It would appear to the inspector that such trees ought to be cut down. After the inspection there would be some indication in the report as to the trees which could not be cut down without the permission of the Land Commission.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. JOHN MULDOON moved to leave out, in Section (1), Sub-section (b), the words "in the opinion of the Land Commission."
§ The object of the Amendment is to leave out these words where they occur in the Section in order to restore them four lines further down. The effect of this Amendment will be that wherever trees are cut down which are for the purpose of ornament or for shelter it will be an offence, but where trees form part of the property it must be certified under the hand of the Land Commission that their removal has affected the security for the advance. The Clause as it stands is not too strong in my opinion, having regard to what is going on in Ireland now. Some drastic steps should be taken to prevent the denuding of the country of trees, and the Chief Secretary will have the support of nearly all the Irish Members in any well-considered step he may take to produce this end. I do accept some portion of the criticism which has been passed on the proposal made upon the ground of its un-workability. I had myself, before the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy) made his few remarks, considered the question of how it is to be proved before a court of summary jurisdiction what the opinion of the Land Commission was, and if the Clause is not seriously amended on that point I think that no conviction made before a court of summary jurisdiction would stand. Are you to produce the Land Commissioners themselves to give 2017 evidence before the court of summary jurisdiction as to what their opinion was, and are they to be cross-examined as to how their opinion was arrived at? I make the suggestion to the Chief Secretary that he might provide that the opinion of the Land Commission should be conclusively shown by a certificate under their hand, signed by the secretary or other proper officer. That would enable their opinions to be proved. But, even so, I admit that it is a very serious problem to prevent the cutting down that is now going on. There will be evasion on all sides. But it would make the proof easy in every case if it were provided that unless you could produce this certificate before the court of summary jurisdiction there would be liability to a conviction which would stand. As regards the penalty, it is not too strong for me, but as this is a question of great public policy there should be words introduced later on devoting the money accruing from this source to timber culture in Ireland. I hope that the Attorney-General will consider this, that the penalty should be all devoted to some scheme of restoring the damage that has been done.
§ Mr. CHERRY
I think there is a great deal to be said in favour of the proposal of the hon. Member, but as the matter is standing over as regards the Clause generally, and as my right hon. Friend has suggested that it would be considered on the Report stage, I would ask that the Amendment should be withdrawn now. I cannot accept it at present, but I think we may be able to have an Amendment ourselves on the Report stage to the same effect.
§ Mr. MOORE
I intervene in this Debate because the Attorney-General shows symptoms in reference to this Amendment of the ultimate course of action which he is likely to take. As I understand, he rather favours the idea that the tribunal before whom the proprietor is to be summoned are to decide for themselves the question of fact whether or not the trees which were cut down were necessary for the ornament or shelter of the holding. It must always occur in country districts that very probably the justices on the bench will be themselves proprietors of bought out holdings. Does he really suggest that it will have a very deterrent effect on A to be brought before a bench of B and C who are equally situated with himself, and that they are likely to hold on evidence that the act of A in cutting 2018 down trees was a crime because the trees were for either ornament or shelter on a particular holding? The thing would be simply a denial of justice. In a great many parts of the North of Ireland now it is very difficult to get convictions on prosecutions for the pursuit of game, because a great many of the justices, especially since the appointments made by the present Government all over the country are sympathisers with that form of sport with or without the leave of the owners of the game. In other parts of tin country it is very hard to get substantial fines for the most flagrant cases of poisoning the rivers with flax water, because the members of the bench rather sympathise with that practice, and hold it to be a necessary course to adopt that system of poisoning rivers. If you are going to leave offences under this Act to be tried by tribunals who are under the temptation to commit the same offence themselves every day, it only makes the proceeding more illusory than ever. The more one examines the matters which are to be left to the local tribunal, the more absolutely illusory the procedure appears. They will do nothing to prevent the evil which we all deplore, the destruction of the country by the cutting down of the timber.
§ Mr. CHERRY
I really thought I was making a concession to the right hon. Gentleman in suggesting that the matter should be left over for some Amendments which might apply to this question. I do not want to make any Amendments now. I want to hold them in reserve. I again appeal to the hon. Member (Mr. Muldoon) not to press this Amendment now. If he presses it now I shall be obliged to oppose it, which, I understand, the hon. Member would not wish to do. I think it is quite possible that a case may be made for the alteration suggested, but I think that the matter should be left over with all the other questions.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
The Amendments in the names of the hon. Member for North Armagh (Mr. W. Moore), of the hon. Member for East Down (Captain Craig), and of the hon. Member for North Londonderry (Mr. Hugh Barrie) are not in order, not being in the proper place. The matter ought to be dealt with in a new clause. The Question, therefore, is, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. MOORE
I quite recognise your ruling, Sir, as to the Amendments which stand in my name and the names of the hon. Member for North Londonderry, of the hon. and gallant Member for East Down. I understand they should be moved rather in the shape of new clauses than as Amendments to this Clause. This whole Clause deals with statutory conditions, which are all restricted and imposed by Section 54 of the Act of 1903. I propose to vote against the Clause as a matter of form. I think the Government have met us very fairly by making clear the point as to statutory restrictions, but by Clause 34 we are making the remaining conditions of Section 54 of the Act of 1903 more marked. We have gone out of our way in this Bill to restrict these new conditions to such time as the advances remain unpaid, and in regard to other conditions of the Act of 1903 they would be perpetual. There has been a great deal of feeling in the North of Ireland with regard to the condition which prevents a proprietor under the Act of 1903 from borrowing more than ten times the amount in the aggregate of his purchase annuity. That was originally put in to protect against his own extravagance a class of person who was represented to us as existing very frequently in the West of Ireland, and who was the victim or prey of the gombeenman. I express no opinion upon that; I do not pretend to know. It was put into the Bill, I understand, to protect a man, as men under similar conditions have been protected under the Usury Act, from divesting himself of his own holding. However right that may have been in the West of Ireland, it has turned out to be a real hardship in the North of Ireland, where it has caused a great deal of inconvenience. In that part of the country there is a very strong feeling of discontent among men who are hampered in their daily business by reason of it. My complaint about this Clause is that we have added to the conditions of Clause 54 of the Act of 1903. A man has a farm; he is doing well; it is a large farm, and he wants to make provision, by [...]lying an adjoining farm, for his son or some member of his family.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
On a point of order. The hon. and learned Gentleman is assuming a state of law as existing under the Act of 1903, and he is complaining that that state of the law is not repealed under 2020 this Bill. I respectfully submit to you, Sir, that it may at least be doubtful that such a state of the law exists, and the hon. Gentleman is not entitled to found an argument on an hypothesis.
I think the hon. Gentleman is in order in referring generally to the matter', and as pointing out that the Clause does not go far enough, but he may not go into details.
§ Mr. MOORE
I think I am entitled to put the matter generally as to the effect of this Clause. The capital of these people to whom I refer is all locked up in their farms, and they are unable to go to the bank—although they are perfectly solvent—to borrow the amount required to buy an adjoining farm, because that particular amount would be in excess of ten times the amount of their purchase annuity. This cripples them very much in their business, and it operates with great hardship in the North of Ireland, where various local societies are pressing for an alteration of the law. The Government have met us fairly in making it clear that when the whole of the advances are paid parties will be at liberty to deal. But it is rather hard, if it is not intended by Parliament, to prevent a person raising the whole of the purchase money for the purpose of paying off an advance, or for other objects which are reasonable, namely, for buying an additional holding, for extending his business, or other legitimate objects that are for the good of the country, and I only suggest that the Government should give their consideration to what I consider to be a reasonable proposal and one very much desired. In fact, if the right hon. Gentleman will give me an assurance that it will be reasonably considered, I should not persist in my opposition to the Clause. I should, however, like to hear the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General as to this suggestion. It is not a party matter; it is a business protection which does not hurt anybody and would remove a very pressing grievance.
§ Mr. CHERRY
I do not quite understand what it is the hon. and learned Gentleman wants. We have stated that we will consider the whole matter, and we have promised to give it a favourable consideration.
§ Mr. MOORE
The Chief Secretary has already given us that assurance. I was 2021 asking the right hon. Gentleman whether I he could not see his way to giving a reasonable opportunity to persons desiring to buy an additional farm, or providing for a member of the family, or paying off a mortgage, that this restriction should be removed. If the right hon. Gentleman would state that between this and the Report stage he would consider the removal of this very great inconvenience, I would not press my opposition. I was present with my hon. Friend at a deputation representing the leading farmers of the North of Ireland, and a joint case was sent to the hon. and learned Member for North Louth and myself to advise an association of farmers on this very point, which has given much trouble to perfectly solvent people in a way that never was intended—that is Clause 54.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman reminded me of Oliver asking for more. He has got more concessions on this Clause than all the Members of the House, and yet he gets up and wants some more. May I make the suggestion that he should submit some words. Having regard to the Closure conditions, I would suggest the right hon. Gentleman should consider the matter between this and the Report stage, provided there is no Division on the Clause.
§ Mr. CHERRY
I really cannot accede to any extension of this unless you repeal the Clause, and to repeal it would be very strong. It was adopted by the party opposite, and, I think, with the unanimous consent of the whole House, as part of the policy of land legislation. It is not fair to ask me in the course of two or three days to introduce legislation which would have an opposite effect. I really could not go further than I have gone in saying that I would consider this question and make this Clause only operate when the grant is outstanding.
§ Mr. J. J. O'SHEE
May I make a suggestion as to an addition that' he should allow the tenant purchaser to borrow in Addition to ten times the amount of the Annuity the amount already paid by him 2022 to the Sinking Fund. At present, under Clause 5, the tenant becoming a purchaser, is entitled to borrow ten times the amount of the annuity; but ten or twenty years afterwards, when he has paid off a substantial sum, he cannot borrow any more. That would meet the case put by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Moore) in a reasonable way. I really could not support the Amendment, which has been ruled out of order, as a new clause, because it goes too far and gives too much power into the hands of the banks.
§ Mr. HUGH BARRIE
Considering the whole Clause as amended, I would like to refer to what has fallen from my hon. and learned colleague as regards this question of limitation. A very important deputation waited on us, and after listening to the representations made—
The Amendments must come in the form of a new Clause, and, obviously, until they become a new Clause, it is not proper to discuss them on the Question "That the Clause stand part." We cannot go beyond the Clause and discuss something else.
§ Mr. BARRIE
I have no desire to enlarge on the minor parts. We have had an important discussion this afternoon which has bulked largely as to how the duty of Parliament lies towards the large farmer in Ireland as against the smaller one. I think we have had advanced, almost for the first time, the plea that farming, as it is carried on in Ireland by the largest class of farmers, is detrimental to the interests of the small farmers. I listened with some surprise to such a suggestion. I can only speak of my own experience in one of the most progressive districts in the North, where we have, I am happy to say, a very large number of important farmers. Their presence in the midst of a very large number of small farmers has been in the very highest degree of advantage to those small farmers. Why? Because we have had on those farms the most up-to-date methods employed. They have been a stimulus to agriculture in the whole district. I think the small farmers in the North will be the first to admit the correctness of the suggestion. In this Clause, as it was brought before the Committee, we found for, I think, the first time proposals really limiting the advantage of the Land Commis- 2023 sion to aid those large farmers in what has hitherto been considered the laudable desire to add to their holdings. I am happy to think that the Government have admitted that the position was untenable, and have accepted an Amendment from this side which, at least, in some degree reduces the hardship which it was proposed to inflict. I have found in my own Constituency that many farmers, progressive and prosperous, considered it a most laudable ambition that they should, as their good fortune permitted, buy outside farms as they fell in, and place their sons upon them. In this Clause, even in its amended form, the inducement to continue that course is very greatly discouraged. I can only regret that the Government have not taken a larger view in reference to the encouragement of those up-to-date and progressive farmers. Now we know the mind of the Government as was evidenced in remarks that were made by more than one Member on the Front Bench this afternoon, and which were explained, I think, in more detail by an English Member, who said that he was opposed to the extension, the limited extension, which even the Government gave, by reason of the hope that if in the future the Land Commission could be debarred from giving this considerable advance to farmers, that the price of land in Ireland might be reduced. That opens up what we believe is the policy that the Government has in mind in its whole legislation. It was stated yesterday, and repeated to-day, that if the competition for land in Ireland can be reduced the price may fall, the Land Commission will be able to engineer sales at lower prices than have hitherto prevailed under the voluntary system, and, in turn, the burden on the British Treasury will be reduced. There we have the whole case for this Bill. It is from beginning to end a Treasury Relief Bill; the object underlying it from the first Clause to the last is to reduce the burden which has pressed so heavily on the British Treasury. I have no desire to enlarge upon this point. Its force has been amply demonstrated both yesterday and to-day, and will be again emphasised before we conclude the hurried Committee stage of the Bill. It has been said that under the Clauses already passed the progress of future land purchase in Ireland has been effectually killed. I have believed that that would be the result ever since I first saw the Bill in print.
2024 Passing to Sub-section (b), upon which the Chief Secretary has promised to consider between now and Report, whether some alteration of the wording can be effected to meet the distinct grievance brought before the Committee by the hon. Member for North Armagh (Mr. Moore), the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture seemed to minimise the possibility of the danger suggested by my hon. Friend. I think he ought to know that every up-to-date farmer in Ireland who has gone in for fruit cultivation—and many have done so during recent years— has found that almost the first step he had to take under the tuition of the horticultural instructors of the Department was to replant his whole orchard with modern types of trees. I am sure the Vice-President is aware of that, and, therefore, I was somewhat disappointed that he did not see the reasonableness of my hon. Friend's Amendment, and support the suggested exclusion of orchards from the operation of this Clause. With that exception, we are in thorough agreement as regards Subsection (b). Nothing has been more regrettable in Ireland than to find men, with no sense or love of the beautiful, immediately they came into full possession of their farms cutting down most beautiful timber and marketing it for what it is worth. Therefore, knowing that to be the fact, I rejoice that even in a bad Bill we have one sub-section of which we can cordially approve, and we only ask for an Amendment in order that the interests of the up-to-date fruit-growers may be considered and safeguarded. In conclusion, I can only again express my regret that we should have had the large farmers so severely discounted this afternoon; but I trust that, notwithstanding the legislation herein proposed, the large farmer in Ireland will continue to prosper, and that his prosperity will be such that he will be able from time to time, as small uneconomic holdings fall in, suitable for working from the larger holding, to acquire those holdings, and that he will not be cast down by the efforts of this Government to say that for the future he is to be discouraged in favour of the small farmer who has been waging an uphill fight on an uneconomic holding.
§ Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 175; Noes, 22.2025
|Division No. 506.]||AYES.||[8.50 p.m.|
|Abraham, W. (Cork, N.E.)||Gulland, John W.||O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid)|
|Ambrose, Robert||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Armltage, R.||Hancock, J. G.||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.)|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Harrington, Timothy||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Barlow, Sir John E. (Somerset)||Hart-Davies, T.||O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)|
|Barnes, G. N.||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Dowd, John|
|Beauchamp, E.||Hazel, Dr. A. E. W.||O'Grady, J.|
|Bell, Richard||Healy, Timothy Michael||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)|
|Boland, John||Hodge, John||O'Malley, William|
|Branch, James||Hogan, Michael||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Brigg, John||Hooper, A. G.||O'Shee, James John|
|Bright, J. A.||Hope, W. H. B. (Somerset, N.)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Brodie, H. C.||Horniman, Emslie John||Partington, Oswald|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hudson, Walter||Philips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Jackson, R. S.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Jardine, Sir J.||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Jenkins, J.||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Radford, G. H.|
|Cleland, J. W.||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Reddy, M.|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Jordan, Jeremiah||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Jowett, F. W.||Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Joyce, Michael||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Cox, Harold||Kavanagh, Walter M.||Roche, Augustine (Cork)|
|Crean, Eugene||Keating, M.||Roche, John (Galway, East)|
|Crooks, William||Kekewich, Sir George||Russell, Rt. Hon. T. W.|
|Cullinan, J.||Kelley, George D.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Curran, Peter Francis||Lambert, George||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Lamont, Norman||Scanian, Thomas|
|Delany, William||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Sears, J. E.|
|Devlin, Joseph||Lehmann, R. C.||Seddon, J.|
|Dillon, John||Lewis, John Herbert||Shackleton, David James|
|Dobson, Thomas W.||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Sheehy, David|
|Duffy, William J.||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Macpherson, J. T.||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)||Steadman, W. C.|
|Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||McVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)||Summerbell, T.|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||M'Callum, John M.||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Elibank, Master of||M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Essex, R. W.||Mallet, Charles E.||Vivian, Henry|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Marnham, F. J.||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)||Waring, Walter|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Massie, J.||Watt, Henry A.|
|Fenwick, Charles||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Ffrench, Peter||Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.)||White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Field, William||Molteno, Percy Alport||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Mooney, J. J||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Gilhooly, James||Muldoon, John||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Gill, A. H||Murnaghan, George||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Ginnell, L.||Murphy, John (Kerry, East)||Young, Samuel|
|Glendinning, R. G.||Nannettl, Joseph p.||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Glover, Thomas||Nicholls, George|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Nolan, Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE A YES.—Captain Norton and Mr. Fuller.|
|Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard|
|Grayson, Albert Victor|
|Balcarres, Lord||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Craik, Sir Henry||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Doughty, Sir George||Moore, William|
|Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. H. M.||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Carllie, E. Hildred||Fletcher, J. S.||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Gardner, Ernest|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Gordon, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Viscount Valentia and Mr. H. W. Forster.|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Hill, Sir Clement|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)|