HC Deb 07 August 1912 vol 41 cc3344-6

I am sorry that although I gave notice that I would raise the question of the Congested Districts Board in regard to land purchase in Ireland the Chief Secretary for Ireland has not thought fit to be present, but I am quite sure it is not because of any want of interest in the question. On the Motion for the Adjournment over the Whitsuntide holidays I pointed out that the Land Act of 1903, the great Act associated with the name of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wyndham), which was passed practically unanimously and was intended to settle once and for all the Irish land question, has utterly failed to settle what is called the problem of the West. No sales took place under that Act. It was found necessary to introduce another Act in order to deal with the congested districts in Ireland. An Act was passed in 1909 for that purpose. I pointed out at Whitsuntide that although three years had elapsed since the passing of that Act, not a single estate was purchased in my Constituency in Connemara, and indeed very few estates were purchased anywhere in the West of Ireland. My complaint on this occasion is one I have frequently brought under the notice of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I complain of the delay by the Congested Districts Board in their dealings with the landlords. For example, there is a large and important estate called the Berridge estate in Connemara. It is notoriously the poorest estate, so far as land is concerned, in the whole of the West of Ireland. There are 15,000 or 20,000 people on the estate. Four or five months ago the Board made an offer to Mr. Berridge, the landlord of the estate. I understand it was fourteen years' purchase, plus the bonus. Mr. Berridge declined the offer, and negotiations have been going on ever since. I understand that a few weeks ago the Board made a new offer, giving him sixteen years' purchase and the bonus. I pressed the Chief Secretary for Ireland to ascertain whether Mr. Berridge had accepted this offer or not, and he informed me yesterday that the matter is in the hands of the Congested Districts Board, and that he could not give me the information. What I say to the Chief Secretary and what I wish the people in the district to realise is, that if Mr. Berridge had been informed when the original offer was made of fourteen years' purchase, and the bonus that it was final, it might have been accepted. It was a generous offer. In fact the price is very much beyond the value of the estate. Now that he has been offered sixteen years' purchase, plus the bonus, he hesitates. Why? Simply because he knows the methods of the Board are such that if he delays and the negotiations continue, they may increase the ofter. That is the system which has been pursued by the Congested Districts Board, and will be pursued unless something is done to bring public attention to these methods. If Mr. Berridge or any of the other landlords in the congested area were informed that a certain number of years' purchase was offered, and that that would be the final offer they would hesitate before they declined it. It seems to me that the Board imagine that they are going on for ever. I think everybody knows that the Congested Districts Board was created for a special purpose, and to deal with the problem within a certain limited time. The Board seem to be going on as if established for ever, and judging by their methods it seems to me that they will go on for ever, and that this problem will never be solved. I want the people of the West of Ireland to realise the fact, that although as I believe the individual members of the Congested Districts Board are fair-minded conscientious men, anxious to do the right thing for the tenants, still their efforts are such that land purchase is delayed and agitation may go on. As far as I am concerned, if I knew that Mr. Berridge was going to decline the last offer made to him, during my holidays in Connemara I would call upon the tenants to decline to pay any rent until the question is settled, and I believe that they would be perfectly justified in doing so.


I am very sorry that the Chief Secretary is not here, but I shall take care that the views of the hon. Member are conveyed to the right hon. Gentleman.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Gulland.] Adjourned accordingly, at Thirty-seven minutes past Nine o'clock, until Monday, 7th October, 1912.