HC Deb 23 November 1909 vol 13 cc165-72

(1) The Land Commission shall not, after the passing of this Act, enter into an agreement for the purchase of any land situated in the congested districts county, save with the consent of the Congested Districts Board: Provided that this Subsection shall not apply in the case of land required for the purposes of the Evicted Tenants (Ireland) Act, 1907.

(2) No estate situated in a congested districts county shall, after the passing of this Act, be sold under the Land Purchase Acts, to persons other than the Congested Districts Board without the consent of that Board, which consent shall not be withheld unless the Board undertake to purchase the estate within a reasonable time: Provided that this Sub-section shall not apply in the case of any sale of a congested estate in pursuance of an originating application or request lodged before the passing of this Act.

Lords Amendment: In Sub-section (2), after the word "No," insert the word "congested."


I move "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."


This is an Amendment of the very first importance, and it is a most mischievous one. In fact, there are few points to which I attach greater importance than the proposal to insert this Amendment. As the Bill now stands, any estate, being outside any congested district, can be sold to any person except the Congested Districts Board. In other words, the Board has the right of preemption throughout congested districts, but by the insertion of this word, that right will be confined to congested districts, and the Board would have the right to purchase congested portions of estates in congested districts, but would not have the right of pre-emption over other parts. It has been argued, I know, both in this House and in the other House, that there is no reason why the Board should have the right of pre-emption over estates which are not congested estates. I will be able to show that there is every reason why the Board must have that right. What is going on at the present moment, and what has been going on for the last two years? In the first place, one of the facts brought out at the Dudley Commission was that the amount of grass land unoccupied in the West of Ireland is absolutely insufficient to solve the problem of congestion in that province. Every acre is required, and even if every acre was available it would be insufficient. Under the present system the better-class estates, those on which there are large and extensive grass lands, which could be of use and made available for the relief of congestion, are passing rapidly away and are being sold to substantial farmers, and are being lost for ever for the relief of congestion.

Let me point out, and this is really a matter of primary importance, that there are two classes of holdings in the West of Ireland that might be used for the relief of congestion. First of all, there are what are known as untenanted grass lands, the vast tracts of land which are out of the occupation of the owners and which are used for grazing purposes, and there are immense tracts of land which are tenanted grass lands, and which do not come under the denomination of untenanted lands, and which yet could be made available if the power of pre-emption is preserved to the Congested Districts Board, with no injustice or hardship to anyone. Those tenanted grass lands are great grazing farms held by yearly tenancies by the great graziers of Connaught, who are men, many of whom occupy six, seven, and I have known them to occupy twelve great grass farms in different parts of the country. They are men whose profession is that of grazier. They pick up those tracts and some of them occupy as many as five and six thousand acres in different large tracts in different parts of the country. They have no tenancy of those tracts, they hold them by yearly letting. Some of them have them for a great many years, and the Land Acts do not apply to them, and they cannot get judicial rents fixed. The Land Acts draw the line when they are upwards of £200 valuation, and mainly pasture, and they are not subject to the Land Acts. The tenant cannot get security of tenure, and we never desired to give security of tenure to those great graziers in different parts of Ireland. Half the grass lands of Connaught, at least, are held by those great grazing tenants. I do not for a single moment propose that those men should be stripped of all their lands, but I do say that in view of the great sacrifices made by this House and the public funds to redeem the population of Connaught from a horrid condition of things, that it would be nothing short of an outrage to allow these vast grass lands to be withdrawn for the relief of congestion. If they are allowed to be withdrawn the problem cannot be solved or nearly solved. Remember that it is impossible with all land to solve this question, but the Lords say that the Congested Districts Board are not to have the right of pre-emption on any estate which is not a congested estate. Most of these great grass farms are situated on estates which are not congested estates, even within the £10 definition. The larger farmers, including the great grass farmers, get up an agitation to have a "direct sale," so that they may be relieved from any danger of losing their large grass farms, and they use every means at their disposal to induce the tenants to agree.

Let me give a typical case. The Lynch Blosse estate was not a congested estate, the tenants were nearly all substantial. Sir Robert Lynch Blosse sold the estate by voluntary sale to the Congested Districts Board. If the estate had been sold by direct sale, as is the case with most estates of a similar character in Con-naught, all the grass farms would have passed away for ever from the control of the Congested Districts Board. They were all tenanted farms; but I am informed that the Board succeeded in obtaining 2,000 acres of most excellent grass land in Mayo for distribution amongst the neighbouring congested districts by getting rid of some of the graziers. The Board did not effect that without compensation, but as the graziers had no tenure they were able to get the lands on reasonable compensation. In the case of many other similar estates direct sale has taken place, and the Board have lost the chance of settling many families on holdings. The supply of land necessary to solve this problem is passing away, and once it passes away into the hands of the large farmers it has gone for ever. As the Bill left the House of Commons the Congested Districts Board was given power to considerably stop this process of the passing of the land. Wherever there was an estate on which there were these grasslands suitable for their purpose they could object to that sale, and say, "We will buy it for our purposes." Now I think it is a most deplorable thing that the Lords, while professing their zeal for the relief of congestion, should by this and many other Amendments show a determination, a most vicious determination, to do everything in their power to prevent the possibility of the Board solving this question. Of all the Amendments this is one of the most mischievous. What I wish to impress upon the House is this: That it is no use, but quite the contrary, to tell the Congested Districts Board that they can acquire by right of pre-emption or of compulsory purchase these slum estates—these portions of land which are absolutely essential for relief. In all the official experience of the Members of the Board this particular provision was looked upon as a most valuable one. The compulsory Clauses were regarded by the officials as among the most valuable so far as the West was concerned. They said, "We are not afraid of time—our work is slow—provided you do not allow the land to be sold away from us. We are content to take a considerable number of years to complete our work, but for Heaven's sake do not allow the land to be seized upon by these large farmers, so that it prevents our work."

It is these small Amendments, the insertion of a single word, that have done infinite mischief to the cause of the relief of congestion. I have, I am sorry to say, become a veteran in these fights in the House in the long history of trying to solve the Irish land question. I have been a Member of this House for 28 years. I remember the Act of 1881, and the twenty Acts that have been passed since. I say that without an exception there is not a single Act that the Lords have not put poison into. In every single one they have left their traces, and if Ireland has been disturbed and tortured by crime for the last 27 years, it is the work of the Lords from beginning to end. Whenever this House has addressed itself to the task, as it has been compelled to do year after year, all who were most anxious to rescue the Irish people from the horrible oppression of the landlords have been thwarted in all their efforts by the House of Lords, who, in their infinite and diabolical ingenuity and small insignificant-looking and apparently trifling Amendments, like the insertion of a certain word, have done almost unbelievable and incomprehensible mischief. Now they are at their old work again. I wish to bear my testimony to the Chief Secretary for his conduct of this Bill. He has fought very hard for the people, though I am sorry he has given way on some of these Amendments. But his exertions, like those of his predecessors who have tried to solve this Irish land question, have been to a large extent baffled and paralysed by the interference of those gentlemen across

the Lobby. I believe that Irish land troubles are to be continued. If so you will find that just as in the old days, when birth was given to the Land League by the rejection of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill—and they have repeated their operations on many subsequent occasions—so on the present occasion. They will leave a root of bitterness behind by their Amendments which will rise into serious disorder and trouble in Ireland.

Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes, 92; Noes, 67.

Division No. 908.] AYES. [12.37 a.m.
Acland, Francis Dyke Courthope, G. Loyd Lewis, John Herbert
Ainsworth, John Stirling Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.) Long, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dublin, S.)
Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch) Crosfield, A. H. Lonsdale, John Brownlee
Allen, Charles P. (Stroud) Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Maddison, Frederick
Anson, Sir William Reynell Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Marnham, F. J.
Balcarres, Lord Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne) Massie, J.
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Edwards, A. Clement (Denbigh) Middlebrook, William
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Elibank, Master of Moore, William
Barlow, Percy (Bedford) Evans, Sir S. T. Morton, Alpheus Cleophas
Barran, Sir John Nicholson Falconer, James Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)
Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.) Forster, Henry William Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)
Beale, W. P. Fuilerton, Hugh Nuttall, Harry
Bennett, E. N. Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Berridge, T. H. D. Gulland, John W. Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Bignold, Sir Arthur Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Rogers, F. E. Newman
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester) Rutherford, Watson (Liverpool)
Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh) Haworth, Arthur A. Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Hedges, A. Paget Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel
Butcher, Samuel Henry Helme, Norval Watson Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles Higham, John Sharp Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)
Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. H. M. Hills, J. W. Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Carlile, E. Hildred Hobart, Sir Robert Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)
Cave, George Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E.)
Cawley, Sir Frederick Holt, Richard Durning Toulmin, George
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Horniman, Emslle John White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)
Channing, Sir Francis Allston Hyde, Clarendon G. Wiles, Thomas
Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R. Illingworth, Percy H. Wills, Arthur Walters
Clough, William Kerry, Earl of Wood, T. M'Kinnon
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Lambert, George
Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead) Lamont, Norman TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Joseph Pease and Mr. Fuller.
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Layland-Barratt, Sir Francis
Cotton, Sir H. J. S. Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)
Abraham, W. (Cork, N.E.) Joyce, Michael O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)
Ambrose, Robert Kavanagh, Walter M. O'Malley, William
Boland, John Keating, M. O'Neill, Charles (Armagh, S.)
Bowerman, C. W. Kennedy, Vincent Paul Parker, James (Halifax)
Clancy, John Joseph Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.) Philips, John (Longford, S.)
Condon, Thomas Joseph Lundon, T. Pointer, Joseph
Crean, Eugene Lynch, A. (Clare, W.) Power, Patrick Joseph
Cullinan, J. MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Reddy, M.
Delany, William MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.) Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Dillon, John MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.) Redmond, William (Clare)
Duffy, William J. M'Kean, John Roche, Augustine (Cork)
Esmonde, Sir Thomas Meagher, Michael Roche, John (Galway, East)
Farrell, James Patrick Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.) Scanlan, Thomas
Ffrench, Peter Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.) Sheehy, David
Flavin, Michael Joseph Mooney, J. J. Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
Gilhooly, James Muldoon, John Summerbell, T.
Ginnell, L. Murnaghan, George Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Gwynn, Stephen Lucius Nannetti, Joseph P. Walsh, Stephen
Harrington, Timothy Nolan, Joseph White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Healy, Maurice (Cork) O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Hogan, Michael O'Doherty, Philip
Hudson, Walter O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Captain Donelan and Mr. Patrick O'Brien.
Jordan, Jeremiah O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)
Jowett, F. W.

I think it must be obvious to the House that we have arrived at a time when the Government should tell us what their intentions are for the rest of the morning. I myself have been here since 3.15, and we have been for more than nine hours engaged in the discussion of this Bill. I may point out that we are now approaching one of the most important questions in the Bill, which I think ought to be debated, I will not say in the daylight, but at any rate when hon. Members are not so fatigued as they must be at this moment. I wish to call attention to the fact that the numbers in the last two divisions have disclosed to everybody that if 50 Members of the Opposition had chosen to transfer their votes for the purpose of gaining a temporary party advantage the Government would have been placed in a serious position, Such things have been done for the mere purpose of scoring against the Government of the day, and it is quite obvious it could be done now. We do not, of course, suggest anything of the kind. Whatever time the Government propose to sit we shall vote without any regard to the existing position of the parties. It is not decent, however, that we should go on when the Government by the fatigue of Members are reduced to the numbers they can now command. I submit, having regard also to the question we have to discuss and decide, that we have arrived at a time when we might very well adjourn. We have been through 60 Clauses and there are some 10 or 15 more, including the most important one of all. So far there has been no factious opposition or anything which could be described as obstruction. It has been a perfectly businesslike discussion, and I should think a couple of hours at a time when we could discuss the matter in a better form would suffice to dispose of the remaining Amendments. I therefore move the adjournment of the Debate.


I should like to say a word in support of the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman. My colleagues and I have been at work in this House since noon yesterday, and I do not think it is fair to ask us to go on. There is only one important point remaining, and in view of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that a couple of hours would dispose of that I think it is eminently reasonable to ask that we should be allowed to adjourn now.


Hon Members speak to very willing ears when they speak to me on this subject. I have been hard at work on this thing from a very early hour yesterday morning. I quite agree that on the whole we have made marvellously good progress, and I am quite sure there has not been a word said which could reasonably have been omitted. We are, however, peculiarly situated. Our days are numbered. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Well, there is the chance of a joyful resurrection—I mean in this Parliament. We really have only one subject left, the important and considerable subject of the tribunal; but, when I have stated what our proposals are, although they may give rise to some discussion, I think an hour and a-half ought to be quite sufficient to get rid of it. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to pledge himself to a minute or two, but it would be a disastrous thing for other important measures on the Paper to-morrow if there were to be any undue prolongation of that time. I am quite sure that if to-morrow the same spirit is evinced as has been shown to-day, an hour and a-half or two hours will be quite sufficient after the statement which will be made on behalf of the Government to finish off this Bill. If that view is accepted by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, I shall be willing to agree to the motion that the further proceedings on the Lords Amendments be now adjourned.

Question, "That further consideration of the Lords Amendments be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendments to be further considered to-morrow (Wednesday).