§ Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Irish Parliament shall have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Ireland with the following limitations, namely, that they shall not have power to make laws except in respect of matters exclusively relating to Ireland or some part thereof, and (without prejudice to that general limitation) that they shall not have power to make laws in respect of the following matters in particular, or any of them, namely:—
- (1) The Crown, or the succession to the Crown, or a Regency; or the Lord Lieutenant except as respects the exerciss of his executive power in relation to Irish services as defined for the purposes of this Act; or
- (2) The making of peace or war or matters arising from a state of war; or the regulation of the conduct of any portion of His Majesty's subjects during the existence of hostilities between foreign States with which His Majesty is at peace, in relation to those hostilities; or
- (3) The Navy, the Army, the Territorial Force, or any other naval or military force, or the defence of the realm, or any other naval or military matter; or
- (4) Treaties, or any relations, with foreign States, or relations with other parts of His Majesty's Dominions, or offences connected with any such treaties or relations, or procedure connected with the extradition of criminals under any treaty, or the return of fugitive offenders from or to any part of His Majesty's Dominions; or
- (5) Dignities or titles of honour; or
- (6) Treason, treason felony, alienage, naturalisation, or aliens as such; or
- (7) Trade with any place out of Ireland (except so far as trade may be affected by the exercise of the powers of taxation given to the Irish Parliament, or by the regulation of importation for the sole purpose of preventing contagious disease); quarantine; or navigation, including merchant shipping (except as respects inland waters and local health or harbour regulations); or
- (8) Lighthouses, buoys, or beacons (except so far as they can consistently with any general Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom be constructed or maintained by a local harbour authority); or
- (9) Coinage; legal tender; or any change in the standard of weights and measures; or
- (10) Trade marks, designs, merchandise marks, copyright, or patent rights; or
- (11) Any of the following matters (in this Act referred to as reserved matters), namely:—
- (a) The general subject-matter of the Acts relating to Land Purchase in Ireland, the Old Age Pensions Acts, 1908 and 1911, the National Insurance Act, 1911, and the Labour Exchanges Act, 1909;
- (b) The collection of taxes;
- (c) The Royal Irish Constabulary and the management and control of that force;
- (d) Post Office Savings Banks, Trustee Savings Banks, and Friendly Societies; and
- (e) Public loans made in Ireland before the passing of this Act:
§ Provided that the limitation on the powers of the Irish Parliament under this Section shall cease-as respects any such reserved matter if the corresponding reserved service is transferred to the Irish Government under the provisions of this Act.
§ Any law made in contravention of the limitations imposed by this Section shall, so far as it contravenes those limitations, be void.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Committee will observe that the first four pages of the Orders of the Day are proposed new paragraphs which, under the Orders of the House, I am instructed should be taken to-morrow and on the two succeeding days. I have been asked to give a ruling with regard to a matter arising out of some of them. I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee that I should do so now. The question I have been asked is this: Will it be competent for an hon. Member to offer to-morrow and the two succeeding days a new paragraph which may appear to be inconsistent with something in paragraph (11) of the Bill when we leave it to-night? I have considered that question, and I am of the opinion that it will not be right for me on that ground to debar any hon. Member from offering to propose a new paragraph or an addition to the exempted matters; and if any such addition were accepted by the Committee, and inconsistency appeared in the Clause as it left the Committee, it would be the duty of the Government to set that matter right on the Report stage.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
When this question of land was brought up some three or four months ago, we asked the Prime Minister distinctly for an undertaking that complete and full liberty for discussion should be given on the proposal to exclude Irish land purchase from the purview of the Irish Parliament, and with that view my hon. Friend the senior Member for the City of Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) put down a Motion taken from Mr. Gladstone's 1260 Home Rule Bill of 1893, and in the form, as I understand, agreed upon at that time in consequence of certain negotiations which took place with the late Mr. Parnell as well as with the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond), and one of the Members from Mayo. As I under stand it, that Motion is down on the Paper to-day, but by the form the guillotine Resolution has taken, it seems very likely that it may be either shut out or inadequately discussed. I should like to call the attention of the Government to the form—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think that is really a matter of Order. Possibly the hon. Member's point will be met by something further I have to say. Having dealt with the proposed new paragraphs, so far as they concern us to-day, I come to the proposed Amendments to paragraph 11 as it is in the Bill. I propose to take first an Amendment dealing with the question of the Land Purchase Acts, and to take it in a form which will enable a wide discussion to take place which will bring up the whole matter of Irish land purchase as it is affected by the proposals of the Bill. I think it right that in that discussion there should also be allowed the question of the financial aspect, the liabilities on the Imperial Exchequer, and even dealing with the further matters which are called "Reserved matters" in the Bill, so that the discussion may be broad, and not limited. After that I observe certain Amendments dealing with points which may be partly covered by the wider discussion, but which hon. Members may desire to put specifically to the Committee, therefore, for the convenience of the Committee, I should propose to call the Noble Lord the Member for Kensington (Lord Claud Hamilton), or the hon. Member for Ealing (Mr. Nield). on the question of the fixing of judicial rents. There is another Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Croydon (Mr. Malcolm) and the Noble Lord the Member for Maidstone (Viscount Castlereagh) dealing with the Congested Districts Board. I do not know how far that will be covered by the earlier discussion, but I will reserve my opinion upon that point.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
Before you decide the matter, may I submit to you that it is one upon which the Chair may be assisted by those who have been concerned with these various measures. May I submit to-you the historical considerations on the question of priority. In the first place, in 1261 1886, Mr. Gladstone's measure was undoubtedly killed by the fact that he proposed to deal with the Irish land question in that year. In the year 1893 Mr. Gladstone did not bring forward a parallel measure of land purchase, but provided for a certain length of time in which land purchase must be dealt with by the Imperial Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Cork City (Mr. William O'Brien), in order to recall to the Committee the historical position of the land question, has taken Mr. Gladstone's words from his Bill of 1893, which were the subject of a compact with the Irish party as it then existed, and I respectfully submit that in order to present to the Committee the real difference, or similarity, if you like to call it so, between the situation then and now, the true view for the Chair to take would be that that is the most important Amendment—namely, the one which would make a contrast between the position taken up by the Government as to Home Rule and land purchase in 1893, and that which they take up to-day.
§ Mr. MILDMAY
On a point of Order. Will you kindly say in what order the paragraphs will be taken to-morrow, and what will govern that order?
§ The CHAIRMAN
If it were convenient to the Committee that I should do so, I think I may say this: I have taken some little pains to find out what the view of the Opposition is on this matter in regard to new paragraphs, and I understand that their desire is that the first question to be raised should be that of taxation, and the second that of the Post Office. I propose, if I can see my way, to take them in that order.
§ Mr. LOUGH
Are we to understand you to say that when the question of land purchase is being discussed it would be in order in that discussion to raise at the same time all the financial questions with regard to the reserved services; and may I ask, if you did say so, whether, having regard to the essential differences between the finance of these reserved services and the finance of land purchase, it would not be best to keep land purchase separate?
§ The CHAIRMAN
It seems to me part of a connected argument as to the effect of the Bill on land purchase and other 1262 matters which will involve a continuing liability on the Imperial Exchequer. It is for that reason that I thought it not to be my duty to rule out references to the other questions.
§ Mr LOUGH
May I respectfully point out in regard to the reserved services that they need not necessarily, and probably will not, form any continuing liability on the Imperial Exchequer. The Bill makes provision for taking them over, and it is probable that they will be taken over. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no."] It is my opinion that they will be taken over. The Bill provides for it. But land purchase is quite a different matter. That will remain a liability of the Imperial Exchequer for sixty years until it is wiped out, and in these circumstances I suggest that these two things can be kept separate.
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
Am I right in understanding that your ruling is that we can go into the questions of finance so far as they effect land purchase and so far as the finance of land purchase is dependent upon or guaranteed by other services, and that it is only so far as the two are intermixed in the general finance of the reserve services that we can go into them?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Yes. I understand that is to be the main subject of the Debate, but I understood also there were one or two Members who wished to raise rather wider points than that. I shall be largely guided by the Debate. What I wanted to indicate was that I should not take a narrow view of the matter, because the two things run necessarily together.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CASSEL
May I call your attention to the fact that I have an Amendment, preceding this, to leave out the word "matters" and insert the word "liabilities"? My intention is to raise the general question of the effect on the Imperial Treasury of these reserved services.
§ Mr. W. O'BRIEN
I beg to move, in paragraph (a), to leave out the words "Land Purchase in Ireland."
This is to be read in conjunction with a later Amendment, the words of which are words embodied in the Home Rule Bill of 1893, and what I propose to the Government now is that these words should be incorporated in the present 1263 Clause in lieu of the existing words, which, in my belief, would be a source of trouble and chaos, instead of creating tranquillity and contentment in Ireland. Let me deal with the circumstances in which the proposal I now make was made by Mr. Gladstone. A complete and concurrent settlement of the land question was one of two conditions which the late Mr. Parnell considered alone would have justified his retirement from the leadership of the Irish party, and an undertaking which all of us, except Mr. Parnell, considered substantially satisfactory was given by Mr. Gladstone upon the subject. I need not go into the details, but a fact which has a vital bearing upon this discussion, and indeed upon the success or failure of the Bill, is that the undertaking was given by Mr. Gladstone, and was given at the urgent request, not merely of Mr. Parnell and myself, but also of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. John Redmond) and the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dillon), who were on opposite sides at the time, and it was rejected by Mr. Parnell on the ground which, in the light of this Bill, is more important than we were disposed to think at the time, because Mr. Parnell demanded that during the three years when this Imperial Parliament was to retain the control of the land question the Irish representation in this House was to continue undiminished—a very important condition indeed in the circumstances of the present Bill, which proposes to whittle down the Irish representation in this House from 103 to 42. However, that condition was not fulfilled. But when the Prime Minister told me in this House, in reply to a question, that the undertaking of Mr. Gladstone was not an unconditional undertaking, but an offer to give such an undertaking if it were accepted, and as it was not so accepted no action was attempted on it in the Home Rule Bill of 1893 or otherwise, he was led into an extraordinary mistake, and unconsciously, I am sure, he led the House into the mistake, because I was immediately able to point out to him that Clause 34 of the Home Rule Bill, the words of which are embodied in my Amendment, was almost in words a redemption of the undertaking which was given by Mr. Parnell two years before, although Mr. Parnell was then two years in his grave. I do not want to labour the point, and I do not at all blame the Prime Minister. There are 1264 very few people who are altogether unforgivable, and assuredly the Prime Minister does not come under the category of unfor-givables, as far as Ireland is concerned at all events. He probably knew nothing whatever personally about these circumstances at the time, but the fact stands that Mr. Gladstone not only gave the pledge, but kept the pledge that this Imperial Parliament might undertake the complete settlement of the Irish land question within three years after the passage of the Home Rule Bill under a penalty which, of course, we all regarded at the time as simply an unthinkable one, namely, that of surrendering to the Irish Parliament control of the whole subject. It is that pledge, in the words in which it was embodied by Mr. Gladstone, that we now ask Mr. Gladstone's successors to honour and to give effect to by incorporating it in this Bill.
If there is a genuine determination on the part of the Government and of their Irish advisers to complete land purchase as a vital element in the success of Home Rule, I am at a loss to discover what can be the objection to doing as Mr. Gladstone did and accepting this Amendment, which is really Mr. Gladstone's Amendment and not mine. The case for this Amendment now is immeasurably greater than it was in 1893. At that time Mr. Gladstone undertook what was really a labour of Hercules, because up to that time not more than £20,000,000 worth of land in Ireland had been sold, and there were still 400,000 farmers and their landlords condemned to life-long litigation under the universally discredited system of rent fixing, whereas now more than half the whole problem has been settled, and has been settled substantially upon terms which are almost universally satisfactory to both sides. At the present moment it is a mere question for this House between completing a settlement which has yielded such splendid results and deliberately leaving half that settlement unsettled, and festering, over half the country, and yet in this Bill of something like forty-five pages, there is only one line dealing with this question, which is beyond all question of doubt above any other Clause or line in this Bill, a question of life and death to the great mass of the Irish population. Even that line would simply have the effect of making the question insoluble. It may be said from the Front Bench that this proposal of mine would not effect its object. It may be said, "We 1265 do not want this question left to the Irish Parliament, if for no other reason, for the extremely good reason that it will be absolutely impossible for them to raise the £80,000,000 or "£90,000,000 of money which will be required for the purpose, and the result would be to make confusion worse confounded." I quite agree, but although my proposal, which is Mr. Gladstone's proposal, would not absolutely bind this House to undertake the settlement itself, the mere knowledge that unless they did so within three years of the passage of the Home Rule Bill, the whole thing would be handed over to the Irish Parliament to do just what they pleased with it would, in my opinion, be quite sufficient to convince any Government or any party that might be in power, that it-would be mere insanity not to carry out within these three years the powers which this Amendment would reserve to them. Mr. Gladstone thought these words sufficient, and so do I.
I will explain what the situation is and how it would be affected by this Clause. Suppose this Clause and this Bill should pass in their present form., how would the mass of the Irish people stand? In the first place, there are 192,000 what are called non-purchase tenants—almost half the entire body. I give the last official figure. Possibly there are now 175,000 tenants who will be absolutely barred out from land purchase for the present generation, because the Irish Parliament could not touch the subject, and under the existing Act, sometimes unfairly called the Birrell Act, the rate of purchase has fallen to a lower rate than it was twenty years ago under the Ashbourne Acts. Therefore, to begin with, you have these 175,000 Irish tenants condemned to forego land purchase for their lifetime, and condemned, moreover, to lose, in the shape of rent, at the least a sum of £1,500,000 a year, which would remain in their pockets if they could purchase upon the same terms on which their neighbours on the estate across the fence were able to purchase under the Land Act of 1903. Then there is another class of 134,000—again I take the last figures; it may be now 120,000 tenants—many of whom have actually purchased five, six, or seven years ago—the hon. Member (Mr. Guiney) is one of them; he purchased about eight years ago—whose holdings are not yet vested, and simply because the State has failed to find the purchase money every one of these 120,000 men has now to go on paying an interest of at least 3½per cent., or per- 1266 haps even 4 per cent., instead of the 2¾ per cent, interest which was guaranteed them by the Act of 1903. Taking that at an average of £5 per head, you have over £500,000 a year. In addition to the loss of the chance of present vesting the tenants have not advanced one day nearer purchase until the purchase money is got to pay the landlord for his property. All those men will have to go on bearing that loss, for an indefinite number of years, not through any fault of their own or of their landlords, but simply because the Treasury repudiate what was beyond all doubt understood to be the spirit of the arrangement, if it was not actually a legal guarantee. In addition to all that there must be fully 50,000 agricultural labourers who are not yet provided with cottages, and at least half of the number who have not been provided with their acre allotment, and if once this Bill were passed there would be no longer any prospect of Imperial loans sufficient to meet the gigantic social reform which is involved in this question, and which I have no hesitation in saying is as vital an element to the pacification and happiness of Ireland as the abolition of the present system of government. I say you have in round numbers 400,000 Irish farmers, every one with a distinct personal grievance, and a legitimate ground of discontent.
These are pretty conditions for the unfortunate Irish Parliament to begin the regeneration of Ireland for which the first element is beyond all doubt the agrarian peace of Ireland. The trouble does not end even there, for there is no use closing our eyes to the fact, however painful it may be to deal with it, that there is a section, and a powerful section of hon. Members opposite, who do not believe in laud purchase, and who loath the very name of it. Of course, since the Prime Minister made a statement on the subject the atmosphere is a little clearer in that respect, but it; is impossible for us to have read the speeches of the hon. and learned Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Hemmerde), the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite) and the Lord Advocate, and of a still more eminent' personage, without knowing that the land revolution they are preaching is directly contrary to the principle on which we stake our hopes for the future of Ireland. I do not desire to dwell in (he way of criticism on what they said. Of course, there are many good friends of Ireland who say that the Land Taxes are not intended for exportation to Ireland. Gambetta once 1267 said that anti-clericalism in France was not intended for exportation. If we could suppose the triumph of Land Taxes in this country at the time when under this Bill you will still have left half of the agrarian problem in Ireland in a state of angry inflammation and unsettlement, do you really suppose that the Imperial Treasury would find the money to complete land purchase? Do you suppose that the couple of hundred thousand landlords, most of the agricultural labourers, and the labourers in towns and cities, will not apply your doctrines to the new owners, who will be denounced as new landlords, and in that way you might wholly upset the one happy arrangement in Ireland which English rule ever accomplished?
You have only to read the speech made the other day by the Archbishop of Tuam to realise the turmoil, the misery, and the sheer anarchy which will be the consequence if you leave this question unsettled as it is at the present moment, and if you set up a new agrarian revolution in Ireland and drive the 250,000 peasant occupiers you have yourselves created up against your new policy. The Archbishop of Tuam correctly described himself as a moderate man, but he had no hesitation in saying that he would put himself at the head of such a resistance. If the Irish Parliament had not only discontented Ulster on its hands—and I, for one, do not despair of appeasing the discontent in Ulster—but it it had to deal with what would be a very different matter, and if discontented Ulster saw the rest of the country plunged into a new class war, not only between landlords and tenants, but between labourers and farmers, well, the Irish Parliament under this Clause would be absolutely disabled from doing anything effective to deal with the difficulty, and it seems possible that there might be a majority of land taxers in this House who would rather be adding fuel to the fire than helping the settlement of the land question in Ireland. That is the danger, and it is all the greater because of the great desire to pass it over as lightly as possible, but it is a thing which cannot be passed over. There is a powerful section in Ireland who, no doubt, from the most conscientious motives, detest the whole land purchase settlement of 1903, who are doing their worst to obstruct it, and who only wish to heaven that they had the power to obstruct it more. I 1268 know that some of these things may seem to many good friends of Ireland on the other side of the House hard sayings, and it is no pleasure to me to utter them, but in the circumstances we cannot allow ourselves to remain silent when, in our judgment, the whole labour of our lives for the happiness and prosperity of our own people is being sacrificed. We do not pretend to dogmatise to the people of England as to the particular land system that may be specially suitable for the great agricultural areas of this country, but neither is it possible for hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House altogether to understand the feeling of joy with which we have seen something like 300,000 Irish homes which in our young days were mere cabins occupied by trembling slaves transferred in recent years to prosperous freeholds. I think it is still harder perhaps for Englishmen altogether to understand the feeliags of consternation and indignation with which we have seen that great process suddenly cut short half-way. I have never in my life met an Irish landlord except upon business, but I am not afraid to say that the landlords are Irishmen also. Parnell, O'C'onnell, Grattan, and Charlemont wars Irish landlords, and you will find that in general it is the men who fought the Irish landlord hardest as landlords in the days of their power who are very largely of England's own making, and, believe me, you will never have peace for yourselves and us until you keep them in the country and attract them to the public life of their own country. The Chief Secretary will probably tell me that this Clause still reserves to this Parliament the power to deal with land purchase. Well, but what we want is the exercise of the power, but instead of exercising it, this Clause would set up a rival land system by giving certain authority to the Irish Parliament to supersede land purchase, and to turn the attention of the non-purchase tenants to the old system of rent fixing for fifteen years. The truth is that the more you study this Bill the more you find that neither the Imperial Parliament nor the Irish Parliament under this Clause can do anything except mischief. As to the Imperial Parliament, will anybody tell us that the existing land purchase is a remedy? If it is not, what remedy would the Irish Parliament have? They could tell the tenants to go in to the landlords and ask for third-term abatements without any change in the law, but the list of judgments of the Irish Land Commission, even 1269 under a friendly Liberal Home Rule Government, only averages four and a half per cent., and even that can only be given on improvements effected since the previous judicial list fifteen years ago, so that unless you transform completely the present law, it will be for the Irish Parliament a cruel mockery and a farce to tell the 175,000 unpurchased tenants of Ireland to go into the rent-fixing Courts.
But suppose that the Irish Parliament, left in the fix in which this Bill would leave it, were to proceed to some revolutionary legislation as to the rent-fixing tribunals, what would be the consequence? Either the Bill would be instantly vetoed by the Privy Council or by the other vetoists that are created by this Bill, or else if they succeeded in bringing down the rate of land purchase by five or ten years' purchase, quite naturally the quarter of a million bargains which have been made already should be reduced to the same figure, and the whole thing would end in anarchy. That is what would come about, and now is the time to warn you and to save us from the consequences. To my mind, you have only these two choices. Either you have got to kill land purchase deliberately in order to please those who do not like it—and I for one certainly acquit the majority of the party opposite of any such intention—or if you grant that, then your only plea for not dropping an Act which has failed disastrously and reverting to an Act which was such a splendid success, is that owing to the troubles and the present condition of Imperial credit, for which Ireland at all events is not responsible, Imperial land loans are too costly. I do not want to shirk that. My first answer is that England's word is plighted and plighted by both parties in this House, just as much by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Lord Morley and the President of the Local Government Board, as by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the City of London. And, really, sometimes when one thinks one is talking to the Parliament of the British Empire there is something not merely dishonourable, but downright grotesque, about a Treasury, such as yours, wallowing in wealth—for a great revenue of £180,000,000 a year means wallowing in wealth—pleading in forma pauperis as a poor bankrupt to be let off with the composition of £40,000 or £50,000 a year to Ireland, although you have had no heisitation in adding at least £2,000,000 a year to the over taxation of that country during the past couple of years.
1270 Nobody doubts, whether it be now or later, that some sensible compromise will have to be struck up between the Purchase Act of 1903 and the Purchase Act of 1909, though I do think that many irresponsible people will say it is not possible to devise means of making such a compromise as that work in the city even if things remained for Imperial credit as they are at present. I am sorry that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has left the House for I should have liked to ask him whether or not I am well informed that one plan was laid before him by a group of city bankers for taking up £40,000,000 Exchequer Bonds, and that two of those bankers proved their good faith by offering to take up ten millions of the stock themselves. I do hope we will hear by and by that the Chief Secretary has not merely nodded his head in approval, but that he will speak in thorough approval of some such compromise as I have suggested. At all events it is not my business to say how England is to get out of it. All I know is that England does owe this debt to Ireland. But there is another and still better answer: that we do not propose to add a single pound to the money that you in England are at this moment actually paying in respect of the Irish land question, in addition to all it costs you in the way of insecurity and un-settlement. At this moment you are paying £600,000 a year for the Irish Land Commission, and £1,300,000 for the Irish Constabulary. Can any man responsible for the Government of Ireland deny that the completion of land purchase would mean a saving of at least £1,000,000 a year in that particular respect? And that saving would be, I should think, fully double the sum that would be required to discount whatever Imperial loans may be necessary for the completion of land purchase even if Imperial credit stood as low as it stands at the present moment on the Stock Exchange.
We have heard in one of his happy phrases the Chief Secretary talking of cutting your losses, under perhaps somewhat problematical conditions, but here we offer you an opportunity where beyond doubt you are incurring the loss, and' where I am absolutely certain you could make a very considerable saving, and I would ask the Government, before they reject this Amendment, to consider seriously that they have no other alternative-except to break the bargain that was made solemnly by England with Ireland, and was made by both parties in this 1271 House of Commons, and put us off with a cowardly impossible compromise which would give the Irish Parliament no effective power of dealing with the difficulty, but would leave them a legacy of responsibility, unpopularity, anger, and discontent. We regard this particular portion of this Clause as incomparably the most important detail of the whole Bill. The Government cannot allege as a reason for rejecting this Amendment that it would be harmful to the success of this Bill. Quite the contrary. I know something of the North of Ireland, and I say that the acceptance of this Amendment and the completion of land purchase would do more than any other thing could do to disarm the opposition of thousands of the farmers and agriculturists of Ulster who are the very backbone of the opposition in Ulster. I do not think any Member, even from those districts in the North of Ireland, will deny that the completion of land purchase would be accepted throughout Ireland, including throughout Ulster, as ten thousand times more valuable than all the other safeguards in the Bill put together.
I think when the Leader of the Opposition went over to Belfast and made, as he always does, a very effective speech—for us it was a painfully effective speech—that the sentence in his whole speech that went straightest home to three-fourths of his hearers was the promise which he gave that if the Unionist party should be returned to power their first task in Ireland would be the completion of the work of land purchase, and in the spirit of the Act of 1903. At the very worst the insertion of this proposal would give us all a breathing space of three years after the passing of Home Rule, during which inevitably any Government of any party that was in power would have the necessity for complete and drastic action upon this subject, driven in upon them. There are many men upon the Opposition side of this House who would be narrow-minded enough to grudge the contribution which the acceptance of this Amendment would pay to the practical genius of Mr. Parnell, who foresaw that the settlement of the land question was the first condition of a real settlement in Ireland, and to the memory of Mr. Gladstone, who undoubtedly not only gave the undertaking, but endeavoured by the last great act of his public life to carry it out; and if there is any use in so small a body as I speak for in this House making 1272 an appeal to the Government I would ask them to consider very seriously indeed before they ask this Committee to do an injustice to the memory of these two great men, and to facilitate an undertaking which was asked for by the united voices of the Irish Nationalist representatives of the time, and which Mr. Gladstone, at all events, to the last did his best to fulfil.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Birrell)
I rise, in the first instance, to deliver a message with which I am charged from the Prime Minister, and until I get that off my chest I am afraid I shall not be free to deal with the question which has been raised. The Prime Minister yesterday had the fullest intention of being here to-day, and, although he was well aware that even to do that would be the cause of considerable personal suffering to himself, I am sorry to say that things have not gone quite so well with the malady from which he is suffering as w-e hoped, and to-day, after the Cabinet meeting which we had was concluded, he felt himself practically forbidden from being present here. I can assure the House that we all greatly regret his absence, and I also regret it, not only from personal affection for him, but because it imposes upon me an important duty, and one not always very easy to fulfil, namely, to say exactly what he would have said on the important subject had he been here in his place to-day. His Majesty's Government find it quite impossible to accept any Amendment whatsoever which would have the effect of removing the reservation which at present stands in the Bill—the complete reservation of the whole subject matter of land purchase in Ireland. They have naturally, of course, considered the question with great care, and they feel that, having regard to the enormous stake which English credit has in the success of the operation, and the extent of the problem which has to be solved—I quite agree that it should be solved at the earliest possible moment—it would be impossible for the scheme to retain its hold on the public if we were to depart from our obligation, and to hand over land purchase to the Irish Government. That would deal a great blow, and cause a great shock, to' the very principle on the maintenance of which depends the completion of this great and most beneficent transaction. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. W. O'Brien) did not himself draw a lively picture of what would happen were Ireland to attempt on her own credit and her own 1273 legislation to carry out a transaction of this kind. She could not do it.
It can only be done, it must be done, and I think that it will be done by this Parliament, and by the employment of British credit. Still, what the Prime Minister is most anxious to have said to this House is that this Committee and everybody must clearly understand that it follows as a corollary, from the reservation of this most vital subject, that this Government, at all events, absolutely recognises its full and complete responsibility, quite apart from the future fate or fortune of the Bill now in Committee. Whatever may happen to that, whatever can happen to that, and quite apart from that, the Government take upon themselves to make such alterations as can be made to facilitate and accelerate land purchase. This subject is too important, to allow my personality to enter into it, but I have been accused of having destroyed land purchase in Ireland. Let that pass. There was never a more fantastically inaccurate statement. I know something about the subject. [An HON. MEMBER: "I do not think you do."] I know I have been accused by hon. Gentlemen opposite of having destroyed land purchase. Finding—as they believed—Ireland a going concern and prosperous under its legislation, and with no difficulty whatsoever in my path, it would appear that I have been actuated by the Devil, or it may be by somebody else whose name begins with a "D," to set myself to work to destroy something that was going. It is absolutely untrue. I found land purchase under the Act of 1903 a broken bankrupt by the wayside; it was completely stopped from lack of money. It could not be kept going; and, although it, is perfectly true, as hon. Gentlemen opposite say, that there was a binding bargain passed by this House, binding on everybody, to at once provide out of the Treasury funds everything that was required to keep that Act a going concern, all I can say is, as a Minister who can only act under the authority of Parliament, there was no Act of Parliament to which I could turn, there was no Clause on which I could rely to give me any such assurance.
The money which acted as a buffer between this bankruptcy, which was always impending in the finance of the measure—the Development Grant had been exhausted—had been reduced to a few thousand pounds. I was advised that the very next issue of money for land stock—and since then millions and millions of land 1274 stock have been issued—would throw obligations, under the Act of Parliament which was passed by this House, received the assent of the Crown, and put on the Statute Book, on the ratepayers of Ireland. That was never intended to be enforced, it is said; but there it was, in an Act of Parliament, staring me in the face. When we look at the Statute we find that the Act of Parliament had contemplated this particular case, and made provision to throw the obligation upon the ratepayers of Ireland. They were to bear the cost owing to the fall of credit, which, by the way, was always falling under the Wyndham Act, and land stock was never issued except at a very heavy discount.
§ Mr. W. O'BRIEN
When the right hon. Gentleman says that huge sums might be thrown on the Irish ratepayers owing to the breakdown of the Act, has he for-gotten that the present Prime Minister stated publicly that the provision was obviously a drafting mistake, and that neither in the opinion of the Government who proposed it in Committee, nor of any other section of the House, nor of any party that might come to power, would any Government ever think of enforcing that provision.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I intended this to be a wide Debate, but I intended also that it should deal with the future rather than the past. I think the important matter is to consider how the proposal of the Bill affects land purchase in the future.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I accept that. I desire to make in my own behalf this most honest statement to the House, that there is no man in the House—and I believe my colleagues share my conviction—who is more strongly in favour of land purchase. So far as Ireland is concerned, I am myself a land purchase man to the backbone. I say it has got to be pursued, and that the money necessary to pursue it must be obtained. But it can only be obtained on British credit, and it will be unfair to assume that the Treasury would take the same view as the Chief Secretary. I have obtained the most money I could get; I have poured oil into this broken machine, and set it going, so that £50,000,000 of arrears are now being worked off. The Act is in full operation at the present time from the finances which I supplied, or were supplied by the Treasury and the Government of which I am a Member. Therefore I am entitled to claim, notwithstanding the accusations made against me, 1275 to be an enthusiastic and out-and-out supporter of Irish land purchase upon the lines on which it has hitherto proceeded. I am not dealing with new proposals, I am not considering what may be the wisest course to adopt in this country or any other, but I say that so far as Ireland is concerned we are absolutely committed to the completion of land purchase at the earliest possible day. We have been doing the thing practically, and nearly two-thirds of the agricultural land of Ireland has passed under the operations of the various Land Acts which have been called into existence from time to time. Even my Bill, as hon. Gentlemen call it, and which was passed into an Act, does not stop it. You have to bear in mind that you are dealing with vast arrears under the Land Purchase Act, and we have obtained a legislative enactment to depart from the Act of 1903. We have modified it so as to be able to work it on the old lines.
With regard to the new Act, it is incorrect to say that nothing has been done. There have been £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 of transactions under this Act In the West of Ireland, where there had been no land purchase at all, under the Birrell Act, owing to the increase of income of the Congested Districts Board, we have at this moment entered into obligations to the extent of between five and six millions of money, and anybody who visits the West of Ireland, whether they come from North, South, East, or West, or whatever may be their political opinion, will bear most interesting and touching testimony to the revolution that has taken place on the face of that country owing to the operations we are now carrying out. At the same time, I do not want to argue that point now. I quite agree that under the provisions of the recent Act the thing does not go quickly enough. It is in that sense you choose to say that the terms were not good enough to induce the landlords and tenants alike—or to prohibit the landlords; if you choose to say so—to enter into contracts. I am authorised by the Prime Minister—and nothing gives me personally more pleasure, though I deeply regret his absence—to be the mouthpiece of his opinions, which are intensely my own. You say that we are setting up a Parliament in Ireland, and that we will not hand over to them land purchase. You say, "Very 1276 well, you are excluding them from a thing which is most vital to their whole existence."
I would undertake to say that, in my judgment, and for the moment, and only for the moment, the completion of land purchase is more important than Home Rule itself. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That is only because the completion of land purchase is one of the most important things in Ireland that could possibly enter into the minds of men. I say, "Get this thing through as quickly as you can." I agree that it is a matter of pecuniary liability and consideration. The hon. Member referred to some body of distinguished financiers who recently waited upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer and laid before him some proposals. I was not present at their councils, but I was aware that such a meeting was being held. I cannot say what those proposals were or how far they recommended themselves to the mind of the Treasury. Still, I do say that the thing has got to be done somehow. The burden has got to be faced. Of course, it is all money, and the next Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is listening to me gloomily, no doubt, knows perfectly well that, whatever Government is in power, and whoever finds himself custodian of the British Exchequer, he will not be able to take quite so cheerful a view as was presented by the hon. Member for Cork, that we are "wallowing in wealth," and that we have only got to give people whatever they want. A Chancellor of the Exchequer finds himself hampered in every way. Promises may be easily made when in Opposition, but they are not always easy to be carried out when those who made them come to be responsible for the business of the country. It is to me a most gratifying thing to know that hon. Gentlemen opposite are warm advocates of land purchase in Ireland. When an hon. Member said it was the only good thing that had ever resulted from the Act of Union and from English rule hon. Gentlemen opposite cheered. I think it was a good thing. I think that old age pensions were also a good thing, and there have been many other good things, although, unhappily, but few have been attributed to the English connection. Still we are all agreed upon one thing, although I dare say differences of opinion will arise whenever deputations of Irish Members visit even a Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer 1277 in the mysteries of the Treasury room. These differences will have to be considered. What I want the House to understand, and I am now speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister, is that we are giving a most solemn pledge and assurance that, whatever may happen to this Bill one way or the other, will in no way affect the sense of our oligations not to leave land purchase in Ireland in the position it is at the present moment, under the provisions of a Bill, if you like to call it by my name I do not care, call it by whatever name you like; but a Bill which has not worked well in the sense of carrying out quickly and accelerating the process of land purchase. It has not done so because of pecuniary conditions.
The former Bill worked uncommonly well indeed, because of the excellent pecuniary conditions which then obtained. But the money obtained, although advantageous to the landlord, had to be obtained at a loss. We had to go to the British public and ask them to invest their money. Unfortunately the price at which the public gave the money in no way represented the obligations of the Treasury with regard to interest. If you only get £80 and give somebody an I O U for £100 for it, and then have to pay in addition interest for sixty or eighty years, it cannot be suggested that that is a transaction of a satisfactory financial character. You had to face the loss and distribute it between various persons—the landlords, the tenants, and the Treasury. Still the work has to be done, and it will be done. It is being done in whatever leisure moments I have. I have to do it in association with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, financiers, and persons of that that kind. It is going on most rapidly, and will continue to engage our attention. But the pledge I give is that, whatever happens to this Bill, we propose at the earliest possible moment to deal with this subject on the lines on which we have hitherto dealt with it, not on new lines, and to carry out to completion at the earliest possible day a job which is already two-thirds done. That is the assurance which I am authorised by the Prime Minister to give.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
Before the right lion. Gentleman sits down will he tell us who was the person whose name begins with a "D" he referred to?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I cannot answer that without infringing the rule of the Chair. 1278 All I can say is that nobody whose name begins with a "D" ever in any way sought to hinder me or prevent me getting the best possible terms I could from the Treasury in order to set this matter going. No person of any sort, kind, or description from Ireland, be he who he may, and spell his name as you choose, interfered in that matter. On the contrary, the hon. member for East Mayo, to whom I suppose the hon. and learned member is referring, whatever his views about land purchase may be, would have been the first to rejoice the more money I got. Certainly he was not satisfied with what I did get, and he remonstrated as far as he could, and as far as any hon. Member is entitled to remonstrate with Ministers of the Crown. He said I had not got nearly enough; but it is untrue to suggest either of him or of me that we are hostile to the re-establishment of land purchase on the best possible terms, and in the quickest possible way. The more money I got the better pleased he would have been. I certainly did not get as much as he hoped or as I had hoped myself; but I do wish that we could in these matters eliminate these personal questions. I believe there is no Irishman and that there are very few Englishmen who will not gladly welcome the day when land purchase shall be restored to Ireland on the best possible terms, so that it may be carried to its ultimate solution, and for that we ought, not to be required to wait many more years, nine or ten at the outset. We want to see the job well through. But to start now would be folly. It would risk everything we have already done. It would reduce Ireland to a state I cannot bear to contemplate. Everything depends on this being done well, and we fully undertake the responsibility.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that, as far as these personal matters are concerned, I shall not spend a moment of time in entering into them. Although as a matter of history it may be necessary from time to time to go into the terms of land purchase, what we have really now to consider is, having regard to the existing facts, what is the best thing to do. This is some indication of the extraordinarily complicated questions which we are beginning now to reach when we try to rake up the relations existing between the two countries. This one is complex enough, but I am not at all sure that it is the most complex, as I am perfectly certain, when we come to the 1279 question of finance, we shall find in it still greater difficulties besetting us. Here we are trying to work out the solution of a matter which, in my opinion, has been the fruit of a policy absolutely inconsistent with the granting of Home Rule to Ireland. I say that for this reason. I do not believe, if there had been Home Rule in Ireland, which fortunately there was not in 1893—I do not believe for one moment that this House and this country would have ever allowed their credit to be pledged for that land purchase which everybody is now admitting was the greatest Act ever passed for the amelioration of the condition of Ireland.
When the right hon. Gentleman tells us that he is prepared, on behalf of the Prime Minister, to give a pledge that whatever happens to this Bill land purchase will be carried out in Ireland, while from the point of view of Irishmen I may consider the pledge a satisfactory one, I am not at all sure that the Prime Minister is in a position to give it. I am not at all sure if Home Rule is granted by this House, and we stand clear of Irish affairs, that if there is a demand made in England for an advance for the purchase of small holdings, or for other things of that kind, the Prime Minister of the day may not then postpone the claims of Ireland, over which they no longer have any control, and rather seek to meet the claims of England, or Scotland, or Wales. I know it is often thrown in our teeth that we are Unionists, and are supposed therefore to be hostile to our country. It is often said, "Look at the way the English Parliament acted in putting down our industries and in developing Ireland before the Union." But that was when Irishmen had no voice in this House and when they were unable to press the just claims of Ireland upon it. I would suggest to my fellow countrymen that it would be well to look ahead, and see what power they will have and what claims they will be able to put forward as regards British credit when Ireland has been, to the extent of this Home Rule Bill, separated from the British Exchequer and put, as it were, on her own—when they find themselves unable at any price to raise capital for the purchase of land or any other of the developments that may become necessary in Ireland. These gigantic financial operations between the two countries partake of a very different character when you are setting up separate Executives in the two countries, be- 1280 cause everyone knows perfectly well that when you have a separate Executive in Ireland the stability of your security will rest no longer upon the Imperial Executive but upon the local Executive. If you are only able to raise money as you are now at £3 15s., when you guarantee payment of these instalments as interest to the persons who buy this stock, what will be the position when you have transferred the power out of your own hands into those of an Executive that, to say the least, has never been tried and which nobody can know how it will turn out? I should like to know what your land stock will be worth when you are trying to finance it in the market. And the misfortune is that you are now in this position, that you have half, or, as the right hon. Gentleman said, nearly two-thirds, of the tenants of Ireland who have, in some way or other, come under the operation of the present Act.
§ Sir E. CARSON
And that is not altogether satisfactory from their point of view. The problem is this. If you cease to go on with this gigantic matter and carry it out to a conclusion you will, as the hon. Member for Cork said, throw the whole of the rest of the tenant purchasers into chaos. You cannot do it through an Irish Parliament. I do not believe that any Irish Parliament could possibly carry out the obligation, and it is a good commentary on the passage of the Home Rule Bill that the main policy for bringing about peace and prosperity in that country cannot be carried out by the Parliament which it is sought to set up. There is, of course, a way in which the Irish Parliament might proceed, and which some declarations made by certain Members below the Gangway rather lead us to anticipate, namely, if this matter was not excepted from their powers, to pass a Bill amounting to the practical confiscation of the-land. There have been many doctrines ably and eloquently preached in Ireland to the extent of saying that that would be the real solution. I am not in the least saying that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) has never said so. Since 1903 when he was a member of the Land Conference he has always steadily adhered to what was put forward by that conference. He has stood by the compromise then arrived at—although I must say that I was not myself very much in favour of 1281 the Bill at the time. If the Irish Parliament were given the power to legislate for the purpose of purchase, what, with their financial difficulties, would happen? All the £108,000,000 which you have advanced on British credit would be absolutely imperilled, for this reason. If the remaining one-third, or whatever the proportion may be, of the tenants were to get their land upon easier terms than the people who have already purchased, you would at once have the people who have entered into contracts for the purchase of their land saying, "Why should the man on the other side of the road be paying only half what I am paying? Why am I not to get the benefit of the Act of the Irish Parliament?" In that way you would imperil the whole of the money advanced up to the present time. I think right hon. Gentlemen opposite are conscious of that, and that is probably one reason why they have made this a reserved service. Why it is called a "reserved" instead of an "excepted" service, I do not know; because it is not included in Clause 5 as one of those to be handed over, nor could it be handed over.
If I am correct in my statement, I cannot understand why the Government have split up the Land Acts, so far as this Home Rule Parliament is concerned, and handed over to the Irish Parliament and Executive the fixing of judicial rents. You have only to look at the question for a moment to see that if you hand over the fixing of the judicial rents, you are in exactly the same way imperilling the stability of the loans that you have already made for land purchase. If the Irish Parliament through its Executive proceeds to reduce rents at a greater ratio than has been the case under the Imperial Parliament, the same question will arise. The fixing of these sums upon zones which depend upon the amount of the rent fixed judicially is one of the main bases of the carrying out of land purchase in Ireland. The truth of the matter is that this is one of the best illustrations of the impossibility, at all events under present circumstances, and before you have finally settled the land question, of granting with any hope of success this Home Rule Bill to Ireland. It is a funny kind of Home Rule which cannot entrust the buying and selling of land to an executive Parliament. You will be in some difficulty when you come down here, and say, "We want another £70,000,000, £80,000,000 or £100,000,000 for the Parliament we have created in Dublin. We must really ask 1282 you to give this money to us, because we are under an obligation to carry this purchase out." There will probably be a new-body of Members in the House, and you will hear some extraordinary speeches on the subject. Members will say, "Why do they come and ask us for this money? They do not allow us to interfere in their affairs; they only come to us when they want Imperial credit." In my opinion, by what you are doing, you will gravely imperil the completion of land purchase in Ireland.
The Mover of the Amendment said that both sides are pledged to carry out this policy of land purchase. I think they are as long as the two countries are one; but I doubt whether they are any longer. What the hon. Member wants is to put some kind of pressure upon the Government to have that policy carried out. For my own part, I do not think the Amendment is a practicable one from that point of view. In the first place, it could not be carried out within the three years; and even if you had a section handing it over to the Irish Parliament after the three years, I, as an Irishman, would be greatly afraid that there was a very strong temptation to the Imperial Government, once this Bill was passed and they were no longer accountable for affairs in Ireland, to say, "We will do nothing for three years, and then the whole financing of this matter will pass over to the Irish Parliament." Therefore, I think there would be no use in putting in this Amendment. If the Bill is to pass at all, speaking as an Irishman, I think the only possible hope we can have is to keep the matter as it is in the Bill. I should like to ask whether there is any meaning to be attached to its being called a "reserved" service, as I understand it is not one of those services which are to be transferred at the option of the Irish Parliament. Personally, if there is any Division I shall certainly not vote for the Amendment, though I am in entire sympathy with the hon. Member in wishing purchase to be completed. The matter cannot be left as it is. I believe that the long delay that has happened in completing land purchase—though I am not blaming anybody at the moment for that delay—is a most hazardous matter which at any time may lead to great difficulties and complication in Ireland. I am, above all, in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman in his observation that the completion of land purchase is far more important than the question of Home Rule.
§ Mr. J. REDMOND
I am sure the universal opinion in the Committee will be that it is a great misfortune that the Prime Minister is not able to be present; but I personally have heard with the greatest possible satisfaction the declaration made in the name of the Prime Minister by the Chief Secretary. In my opinion it is right, proper, and necessary that land purchase in Ireland should be amongst the reserved services in this Bill. I do not think, when we come to analyse the position, that so far as the object at heart is concerned, there is any difference between the hon. Member for Cork and myself. Land purchase in Ireland is a great Imperial policy. It was so adopted by this House, and so accepted by every party in the House. Every section of every party pledged themselves to land purchase for Ireland as a great Imperial policy, and it must continue to be carried out as a great Imperial policy. For any party in the State to suggest anything else except the carrying out of that policy to its full completion as a great Imperial policy would be an act of the basest dishonour and treachery to Ireland. Therefore I do not complain in the smallest degree of the fact that land purchase is amongst the reserved services, and that the Irish Parliament is deprived of the power of dealing with it. But the point which has been put most forcibly in this Debate is this: If, when the Irish Parliament is deprived of the power of dealing with this question, there remains any danger that the Imperial Parliament in the future will abandon the policy, and leave the purchase of land in Ireland only half-completed, most undoubtedly a question of the very gravest import will arise. I, for my part, take the gravest view of the importance of land purchase in Ireland. I believe that undoubtedly the peace and prosperity of Ireland depend upon its completion. I do not go the length to which the Chief Secretary went when he said that he considered the completion of land purchase at this moment to be of more importance than Home Rule. That is perhaps a natural view for an Englishman to take, but from the Irish point of view I dispute it altogether. If it became a question—as it never will—between the completion of land purchase to-morrow and the concession of Home Rule, I and my Friend would have no hesitation as to which side we should be on.
1284 Let me consider for a moment the attitude which the leaders of the Tory party have recently taken upon this matter. Since the controversy on Home Rule has arisen they have been prodigal in their promises in the Press, upon the platform, and in this House, of the completion at any cost of the system of land purchase, if they come back into power on the rejection of the Home Rule Bill. I am very glad to have them pledged in such a definite way. Some of their organs have gone a little further, and have not only held out that bait to people to be lukewarm upon Home Rule, but have indulged in the threat that if Home Rule is carried, and if, after Home Rule is carried, they come back into power, the policy of land purchase will be abandoned by them, and they will not provide any money for its completion. That has been said, in effect, by more than one representative Member of the party. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why should they?"] An hon. Member says. "Why should they?" Let us clearly understand the position. They say, "Reject Home Rule, and we will give you money for land purchase. Carry Home Rule, and we will wreck land purchase." I notice that in the "Spectator" of 12th October last this was put in so many words. The paper said:—If the Home Rule Bill is carried no Unionist, we are convinced, will assent to a single penny more of Imperial money being spent or Imperial credit being pledged for any land purchase in the future. …All possibility of the extension of Trish land purchase through Imperial credit ceases the day the Home Rule Bill becomes law.In that connection it is interesting to hear what is said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Dublin University. He draws a picture of the Irish Home Rule Parliament coming to this Parliament and asking from this Parliament seventy, eighty, or ninety millions of money to complete land purchase. This Parliament is not providing a penny to settle land purchase.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
They have not to come to this House and ask for the credit of this House. Stocks are put upon the market and are subscribed for by the British public. There is no question of the Irish Parliament coming here and asking for any money or any credit whatever. The Imperial credit is by your Statutes already pledged to this purpose, and there can be-no question of coming here to ask for additional credit or to ask for money to be- 1285 advanced for this purpose. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that this policy of land purchase in Ireland was inconsistent with Home Rule. Did he say that in 1903? Did any man of the Tory Government of that day say that? On the contrary, we were asked to discuss the question of land purchase on its merits. We were told distinctly that it had nothing to say to the question of Home Rule. I have no hesitation whatever in declaring that if land purchase had then been put before us as an alternative to Home Rule, the Bill, instead of being accepted, would have been rejected. In the discussion on the Bill in 1903 this was made abundantly clear. "I am a Unionist," said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover; "I am a Member of a Unionist Government. I believe Ireland always will be bound by close constitutional ties to this country"—I say that now, and I say it for the future under Home Rule. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover went on:—But I put it hypothetic-ally as high as this: If Ireland, within the political limits of the Empire, occupied a constitutional position analagous to that of Canada, or to take a more fantastic and a more monstrous supposition, if the whole history of the last 1,000 years had been other than that which it has been, and Ireland, outside the political limits of the Empire, occupied a constitutional position analogous, let us say, to that of Egypt, I should still affirm that in view of the geographical position of Ireland it was to the material interest of this country that the main industry of such a neighbour should he prosperous and secure, instead of, as now, being precarious and decadent.In view of that presentation of the land purchase problem to us in 1903, we are asked now, if you please, after all these years, to agree with the proposition that the policy of land purchase is inconsistent with the policy of Home Rule.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
I am not alluding to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University. He said the policy was "inconsistent with Home Rule."
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
I quite understand. I am not misrepresenting the right hon. Gentleman at all. I say that those on the one side who attempt to wean the farmers of Ireland, and the people of Ireland generally from Home Rule, by promising them if the Home Rule Bill is rejected that any amount of money will be forthcoming for land purchase, that 1286 they absolutely fail in that attempt; to those who on the other hand threaten the people of Ireland that if Home Rule is carried, no more money will be forthcoming for land purchase, I would say that their threat will be treated with absolute contempt. The statement of the Prime Minister made through the Chief Secretary is as welcome as indeed it is necessary. I do not myself, if I may be allowed, without offence, a word of criticism on the Amendment, believe as it stands the Amendment on the Paper could possibly be accepted. For this reason: I admit if a time limit were put in for the reservation of this particular service, that time limit might operate really as a compulsion upon the landlords of Ireland, who have not sold, to come in and sell speedily. But the completion of land purchase in Ireland, much as we desire to accelerate it, cannot be carried out in three years. I do not think anyone, even the most sanguine amongst us, hope that that will be done. If it could not be carried out in three years, and if this Amendment were in the Bill, at the end of the three years the whole land-purchase problem would be thrown over into the hands of the Irish Parliament, which, I am convinced, would be a misfortune to that Parliament, and a misfortune to Ireland.
At the same time I fully admit the dilemma in which we stood at the commencement of this Debate. Ireland is not, under the Bill, to be given power to deal with this question, and we have no guarantee that the Imperial Parliament will deal with it at all. The Imperial Parliament might hang it up, and so far as the Imperial Parliament is concerned we will have no remedy. I welcome therefore the specific and definite declaration of the Prime Minister, through the mouth of the Chief Secretary, conveying to this House the decision of the Government, namely, that irrespective altogether of what happens to this Bill they consider it their duty to take such steps, administrative or legislative, or both, as may be necessary to enable land purchase speedily—I think he used the word "immediately"—to be carried to completion. It is unnecessary for me, because really the case was not pressed, to point out how untrue it is to say that the present admittedly unsatisfactory position of land purchase is due to the Act of 1909. As a matter of fact the amount of money paid out by the Treasury and expended in land purchase transactions by the Land Commission in Ireland has been, since the Act of 1909, 1287 increasing year by year. I believe that the amount expended in this way last year was larger than any year since the Act of 1903 was passed. "But." it is said in answer to that, "that this money is being expended in working off the block of old agreements." That is true. There was a block of about fifty millions to be worked off. The money that has been advanced in recent years is being used mainly for that purpose, and not for the purpose of new agreements. Let me remind the Committee that these agreements of fifty millions could not have been worked off at all but for the Act of 1909. Under the Statute of 1903 the loss for raising the money to wipe these agreements out must have fallen on the ratepayers of Ireland. It is perfectly true to say that that could not have been done. To have attempted to raise fifty millions of pounds from the ratepayers of Ireland to advance the working of these agreements would have been to create almost a revolution in Ireland. Therefore only by the Act of 1909, which took upon the shoulders of the Treasury the entire loss, could those agreements have been worked off at all. If it is true to say that new agreements are fewer after the Act of 1909, it is also true to say that that block of fifty millions of agreements is being worked off solely because the Act of 1909 was passed, putting the loss upon the Treasury and taking it off the shoulders of the ratepayers. Further, the Act of 1909 is the sole cause why the Act of 1903 has commenced for the first time to work in the West of Ireland. Hon. Members who are listening to me no doubt are well aware of the fact that the intensity of the land movement in Ireland sprung almost entirely from the misery and condition of the people in the West of Ireland—that is, in the congested districts of the country. They were the men whose sufferings attracted the whole world. They were the men whose sacrifices made the land war successful. The Land Act of 1903. while it worked well in the rich parts of Ireland, did not work at all in Connaught.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
I have no objection at all to give the reason. It was because the Amendments that we in 1903 desired to insert in the Bill of that year were not accepted by the Government. Anyhow, the fact remains that, whatever the reason, it did not work. The Act of 1288 1909 made the Act work in the West of Ireland. Although it is quite true that the rate of new agreements has decreased enormously, the old agreements of fifty millions are being rapidly wiped out at the rate of eight, nine or ten millions a year. The Act has worked with the most beneficent results in the West of Ireland. I do not want to labour this, but it is only fair to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that the statement that the breakdown of land purchase in the new agreements in Ireland is due to his Act of 1909 should be alluded to, and contradicted. The present state of things cannot be allowed to last. Something must be done. I admit that difficulties are enormous. The condition of the stock markets, rendered worse by recent foreign events, constitutes in itself, without anything else, an enormous difficulty. But whatever the difficulty is, it must be faced by the Government, by whatever Government is in office, and whether the Home Rule Bill is passed or not. For that reason I welcome the statement of the Government, and, for my part, I consider it entirely satisfactory.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
In his interesting speech the Chief Secretary for Ireland tried to make out that he was not responsible for the stoppage of land purchase in Ireland. In three years' time, he said, people looking back upon the history of Ireland during the preceding years, would be unanimous in their opinion on this matter. The operation of the Land Purchase Act of 1903, I say, was entirely stopped by the action of the Liberal Government and of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I will ask the Committee to remember that this question of the settlement of the land in Ireland is a matter which has been clamant and pressing for the last thirty years. I will ask hon. Members to remember that the so-called reforms of the Liberal party during the last six years that they have been in office are of quite modern inception. If any man tells me that this Government could not have tackled the situation which arose—they are not at fault for the trouble, I admit, nor was the Tory Government which preceded them—could not have tackled the situation which they had to face owing to the fall in the price of securities, and have dealt with it as they did the Insurance Act and the Old Age Pensions Act, he talks nonsense. The question of the land in Ireland was at all times very pressing, and a more clamant question than either the old age pensions 1289 and the Insurance Act. Much suffering has been produced by the land question. It was the most pressing question which has faced us in the last twenty years, and the Chief Secretary gets up and defends the action of the Government, which, when this great settlement was in satisfactory process of being worked out, deliberately stopped it. He said he did not, but the facts remained. The Chief Secretary has admitted to-day that his own Act of 1909 practically stopped the applications for sale and purchase in Ireland, but he falls back upon the fact, as everybody knows, that at the time that Act was passed there were a large number of applications already in under the Act of 1903, and he claims credit for having carried out the obligations of the Government with regard to these cases. There can be no question about it that the Government have failed absolutely in their duty in not boldly facing the difficulty of providing about £2,000,000. They grossly failed in their duty when they did not produce that money; they were able to produce it for old age pensions and other matters, which were small matters when compared with land purchase, and they threw that money about recklessly and lavishly. Whatever the Chief Secretary says, and whatever apologies the hon. and learned Member for Waterford makes, the Government will go down to history as having defeated the beneficent operations of one of the most splendid Acts this House ever passed for Ireland. No one will agree with the contention of the Chief Secretary that he has done his best for land purchase. He says land purchase is as near to his heart as any man in this House. I do not know where the Chief Secretary's heart lies, but wherever it is, I am sure that land purchase or anything else connected with the welfare of Ireland bothers his heart very little.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
I feel sure that what ever happens to that unfortunate island does not trouble the Chief Secretary very much. Let me switch off now from the unsavoury subject of the Chief Secretary and his doings in Ireland—
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
It is not ruled out of order, but in deference to the hon. and learned Member below the Gangway I will not repeat the expression. Let me now switch off from the subject of the Chief Secretary and the Government, who are absolutely responsible for the breakdown of land purchase. I would venture a few remarks in reference to what was said by the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. W. O'Brien). He said, if land purchase was settled, one of the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of Home Rule would be removed. I remember in 1903 he said the same thing, and I ventured to differ from him on that point, and I repeat my difference on this occasion. I said then, and I feel all the more convinced now, of the truth of that observation, that if Land purchase had been settled before this Bill was introduced, I do not believe there would be any hope or chance of its passing into law. There is no question about it, and it cannot be denied, that half of the driving force behind Home Rule ten years ago has entirely disappeared owing to such success as the Land Purchase Act in 1903 had achieved. It has been shown time after time that the farmers in Nationalist parts of Ireland before land purchase were comparatively strong Home Rulers, and that they are now Home Rulers no longer. One hon. Member in 1910 candidly confessed he was finding it increasingly difficult from year to year to get subscriptions from the farmers.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
I understand it was the hon. Member for West Belfast, but it is on record and I can produce the quotation. It is a fact, and if hon. Members will only think upon the matter they will find it is perfectly reasonable and natural that those men when they become owners of their own farms, having a stake in the country and something to be taxed out of existence—as it will be if we get Home Rule—when they come to balance up the difference between the Union and Home Rule, should infinitely prefer to remain as they are than live under a Home Rule Government in Dublin, because that Parliament, in spite of the £2,000,000 to be given them by the British Parliament, will not be in any very great affluence, and when they subtract from that affluence the sum of money they expected to get. out of the North of Ireland, but which they never will get, they must see, and and they do see, that in a very short time the only resource from which a Chancellor 1291 of the Exchequer of the Dublin Parliament can ever get any funds will be from the unfortunate farmers themselves. Seeing that, they very reasonably say to themselves, "We think perhaps we are as well off as we are." The fact remains, and hon. Members below the Gangway will not deny it, that there are many farmers, and especially amongst those who have purchased, innumerable cases of men who a few years ago joined in the demand for Home Rule, but who no longer do so, and who, if they were only allowed to make themselves articulate, would say they considered themselves better off under the Union than they would be under Home Rule; and that feeling is not confined to farmers, although we are dealing only here with the landed interest at the present moment; that feeling is growing amongst business men and shopkeepers in other parts of Ireland. I repeat that the hon. Member for Cork City is quite wrong if he imagines that the land question, if settled, as he and I would both like to see it settled, would smooth the way for Home Rule. I claim to be just as anxious as he is, or anybody else, that the land question should be settled on terms acceptable to both parties at the earliest possible moment. I am desirous and anxious to see that quite apart from the question of Home Rule, and whether it ever comes to fruition or not in Ireland. Ireland can never be in anything but an unsatisfactory condition so long as the land question remains unsettled; but I am perfectly convinced in my own mind that circumstances have been such that the Government were bound by force majeure, brought to bear upon them by hon. Members below the Gangway, to stop land purchase.
If Home Rule had been postponed even for five years, and if the land question had at that time been settled, I feel perfectly convinced that such driving power as there is at the present moment in favour of Home Rule—and it is not half as great as it was ten years ago—would have entirely disappeared, and the more responsible and respectable citizens in Ireland would have been opposed to this Home Rule proposal altogether. So far as we are concerned, I admit that this matter of the retention of the land question in the list of reserved services, is a very difficult one. I do not know exactly what view to take upon it. It does not affect us very seriously in that portion of Ireland which we represent. We do not propose to allow Home Rule ever to have any 1292 force with us. On the other hand, of course, we must assume, as we do purely for the sake of argument, that this Bill is going to become law, and it is our duty, I suppose, to think what would be the best for our landlord friends and for the tenants in other parts of Ireland. I naturally think unless this question is reserved and kept entirely in the hands of this Parliament there is little or no hope of its ever being carried to a satisfactory conclusion, and therefore I agree that it ought to be reserved, not for the three years which I understand is suggested by the hon. Member for Cork City, but that the whole question, not only of land purchase, but the other question which, as the hon. Member very properly pointed out, is inseparably bound up with the question of land purchase—namely, the question of rent fixing—must be absolutely reserved for this Parliament. We need not go into the arguments with reference to rent fixing, but I think it is most abundantly plain that it is a grotesque and absurd proposal to separate one from the other; to hand one over to the Irish Executive and to keep the other in the hands of this Parliament. The hon. Member for Cork City has pointed out that, with the possession of the rent-fixing machinery in their hands, the Irish Government could make ducks and drakes of the whole question of land purchase; and if Englishmen desired to see land purchase brought to a successful conclusion in Ireland I very strongly urge them not to part with the control they at present have over the rent-fixing Clauses of the various Land Acts.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. GINNELL
I think the Committee may congratulate itself upon the fact that, although the Irish land question has been a source of trouble both in Ireland and in Parliament, it is quite possible, and I believe probable, that the unanimity of all parties in the House will make the discussion of this subject one of the most harmonious in connection with the whole Bill. With regard to the statement made by the Chief Secretary on behalf of the Prime Minister, we all agree it would be very satisfactory, provided he embodies that statement in the Bill, otherwise it will have no value whatever. There is an Amendment on the Paper to that effect, binding this Parliament in the event, of Home Rule being set up in Ireland to continue to provide an amount of money equal to the average provided during the last seven years for land purchase. Will the Chief Secretary or 1293 the Prime Minister embody in the Bill an Amendment to that effect, either the one on the Paper or one substantially equivalent to it. If so, the right hon. Gentleman's statement today will be very satisfactory. If not; his assurance will have no binding force whatsoever upon any future Imperial Parliament. If the present Government wish to see the land question in Ireland really settled, then this Clause, as it stands, must have been drafted on the erroneous assumption that the provision of the price and the security for its repayment either comprise the entire law of land purchase' or, for some reason not apparent to anybody but the Government, cannot be separate without reserving that entire law. There is no foundation whatsoever for either of those assumptions. The Debate so far, has gone on the lines that the Imperial Parliament should reserve the powers providing the money for land purchase and security for its repayment, but there is no reason in the nature of the case at all why the whole Jaw of land purchase should at the same time be reserved. Land purchase now practically comprises the entire land question. It comprises relief of the ratepayers, who are still denied equal opportunities with their neighbours of purchasing their holdings, and relief of those kept for years paying interest in excess of their agreements. The acquisition and distribution of untenanted land, the restoration of evicted tenants, the relief of congestion, the enlargement of holdings, and the provision of new holdings, the application of statutory compulsion wherever necessary; and many other agrarian problems, are certain to arise, all comprised in land purchase, and with which this Parliament will have neither time nor knowledge, sympathy, nor inclination to deal, after having set up a Parliament in Ireland. In the Debate on the Second Reading of this Bill the Secretary for Foreign Affairs frankly assured us that after a Parliament had been set up in Ireland, the British Parliament would be so much occupied with affairs that are proper and important to it, that it would not go out of its way, unless some extreme case should arise, to interfere in Irish affairs. That is really precisely the situation that will be created by this Bill, and that is really the point of the Amendments which have been put on the Paper.
The land is of all Irish questions the most important after the national question. In that situation created by the Bill, and 1294 frankly acknowledged by the Foreign Secretary, that vital business will be left stagnant, because the Irish Parliament cannot, and the British Parliament will not, touch it. Much has been done to settle the land question, but to imagine that it has been fully settled and will not give rise, in the next eighty or ninety years, while land purchase is going through various embarassing developments, to the necessity for further legislation is simply to confess ignorance of the subject. To create a Parliament in Ireland and incapacitate it from ameliorating the position of any rural class there, howsoever urgent the need may be during the next eighty or ninety years, is really to lock the safety-valve for fear of an explosion, the effects of which in this Parliament you could not possibly-escape. To create a Parliament in Ireland and leave it helpless in a matter which is of such vital importance to the country, would bring upon yourselves most unwelcome trouble. It would sow the seed of a new and powerful agitation, which none of us desire. It is the fact that we do not want convulsion in Ireland, and it is an earnest desire to avoid convulsion that makes us press for amendments on this particular point. The security for the repayment of money provided is really not what any Member of this House belonging to any party really desires to maintain in this Bill. It would be easy for the Chief Secretary to draft an Amendment embodying this security for the Imperial Parliament, and leaving all the other branches of the law of land purchase to the Irish Parliament to carry out. The Committee on Irish Finance considered the land laws and their services so obvious and distinctly Irish, that they thought it would go to the Irish Parliament as a matter of course.
It goes without saying that the Parliament of a country should have control of the land laws and their administration. That is the truism which supplied the motive for cautionary recommendations of the Finance Committee in their Report that you should retain a sort of lien on Irish Customs and Excise as an additional security for the repayment of the purchase money. That proves that the Committee intended and supposed that all the rest of the laws of land purchase would be placed under the control of the Irish Parliament. Another finding of the Finance Committee of general application is that which I mentioned yesterday in connection with any settlement of the 1295 Irish land question now, namely, that as little as possible should be left to future adjustment. Here is a matter of vital importance to the Irish people, and it is left to future adjustment in the Parliament in which Ireland will have only a reduced representation. To turn to a somewhat different subject which your ruling this morning, Mr. Chairman, puts in order, I would ask the Government, and specially the Chief Secretary, whether he will say what reason there can be for not embodying in this Bill a guarantee which will be binding on future Parliaments? After this Bill has passed, this Parliament will continue to provide the money necessary for land purchase in Ireland, and the security will remain precisely as it is, and the amount provided year by year will continue to be equal to that which has been provided for land purchase during the seven years preceding the passing of this Bill. You reserve to yourselves full control of land purchase, power to continue or suspend it at will, and at your own convenience, with no sort of responsibility whatsover to Ireland.
Whether regarded as politics or as business, I would ask, Is it a reasonable proposition that a question of vital importance to the whole population which lives on the land., as well as to the town and country population, should be dealt with, not by the Parliament in Dublin, but by the Parliament here in Westminster, where Ireland will have a very small representation? There is no part of the land question outside, land purchase, but there are cases of special hardship, cases of victims of tyrannical landlordism, and of people who, because they are paying excessive rents, have not been given a chance of purchasing their holdings, and these are the very cases which, if not dealt with, will cause trouble to arise, and for the relief of which compulsory provisions were inserted in the Act of 1909. These are the cases which this Bill ironically professes to enable the Irish Parliament to deal with. Never was a profession so false or such a heartless mockery to the knowledge of Members of the Government, who are acquainted with the subject. It is a wicked and villainous mockery.
It is notorious that the one and only way in which those unfortunate people can be relieved is by applying the compulsory provisions of the existing Acts to those landlords of whom their own class 1296 are ashamed, who, because they are-in receipt of exorbitant rents, refuse to settle. This Bill gives no-power to the Irish Parliament to deal with those cases, and it tells the victim of that state of things to look to the Irish Parliament for relief. It does not give the Irish Parliament power to give the only-kind of relief which is of any use in the case. I ask the Chief Secretary, who has brought this message from the Prime Minister to-day, to seriously consider the embodying of that message in the Bill now before the Committee in some form or other. There are suggestions on the Paper, any one of which he can adopt or modify as he pleases, but I would seriously ask and urge the Chief Secretary to embody in the Bill as it stands one of the Amendments already on the Paper, or any other Amendment to the same effect, embodying the message which he bore to the Committee from the Prime Minister today. If he does we will accept it as a proof of the sincerity of his wish to have land purchase completed in Ireland; and if he does not, the message from the Prime-Minister will not be worth a snap of the fingers.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I cannot agree with, the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, in any way when he attempts to diminish the value of the statement of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I fully accept his statement, and I believe it as good for us as if it were enacted into law. The word of a British Minister given across the floor of the House on a subject of so much seriousness and given with such solemnity, even if the Minister were at any time disposed to evade it, which I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman would never, is as good, in my opinion, as the law of the land. Having said that, it therefore could not be supposed that we would put upon the Government the additional burden of enmeshing this Bill in a fresh series of financial complications which must seriously add to the length of an Autumn Session, because, after all, we are now in the middle of October and are also dealing with propositions which have not been in the Bill at the start, on which there has been no Second Beading Debate, and, therefore, as to which it might very fairly be said no notice whatever had been given to the country or to the constituencies. At the same time I think probably what was in the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for West Meath (Mr. Ginnell) was some feeling of surprise that some other method had not been imported into 1297 the Bill of dealing with this question than the mere method of exclusion. If that was what was in his mind, I am heartily in sympathy with him, because, of course, he had in mind the fact that a number of Irish leaders had been for many months in conference with the Government before this Bill was produced. Naturally the hon. Member feels somewhat stung at the barrenness of the measure after so many conferences, and therefore wishes at the eleventh hour that the pledge my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) has extracted should find expression in some legislative shape. I think I can assure my hon. Friend by telling him that in my opinion—although he may not think my opinion of any great value.—whatever lacuna or neglect there may have been as the result of those conferences, the matter ha1; been amply supplied by the action of the Chief Secretary. Therefore, as far as we are concerned, we have no desire whatever to prolong this Debate unnecessarily, and my hon. Friend has no intention of pressing this Amendment to a Division and asks leave, as I understand, to withdraw.
I think I should not sit down, however, without paying some tribute to the Leader of the Opposition for the speech he made at Belfast. We do frankly and freely acknowledge it when we see a speech of this kind made. Although we know that in intent it is really a sort of parry to the Home Rule demand, at the same time, it is a subject of gratification to us to see that Irish needs are recognised by the Tory party, and I can assure hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench that we scan their speeches always with considerable interest, not merely from the point of view of Imperial politics, but with regard to what is passing in their minds with respect to Ireland. I must couple that speech of the Leader of the Opposition with the fact that as long as the Government were in power with the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon), and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor)- nothing was heard on this question of land purchase, and all that was presented to us was this hollow shell of an exclusion from the Irish Parliament, well knowing that the English Parliament without some such pledge had no such intention of dealing with it. We have now had this Bill before us for three or four months, without one single word being 1298 uttered by the hon. Member for Waterford to bring this question to a settlement, or even to bring the matter to a debate. I therefore think my hon. Friend the Member for West Meath, in the complaint he-has made, may take this satisfaction to-his mind, that we owe it not merely to-my hon. Friend the Member for Cork in pressing this Motion forward to-day, at the risk of some misunderstanding, but that we also owe some measure of obligation to the Leader of the Opposition for the manner in which he grappled, and the frank manner in which he dealt, with this, question at Belfast.
May I say one word upon the matter from the point of view, if I may humbly say so, of the Government. No one can say that as this Bill has progressed it is not easier to deal with Irish problems today than it was in the earlier part of the Session. The stage fright has passed away. This Bill no longer figures as an alarming spectre on the hustings. It is-not now a scooped turnip to frighten the electors. We know very well now that it is in the ordinary play of British politics. The introduction of this Bill, small and restricted as it was upon this land question, may have been what led the Leader of the Opposition at Belfast to trump the Leader of the Government, thereby greatly assisting us by getting from the Government to-day probably what we would hardly have got at an earlier period of the Session, namely, the clinching, and I may say absolutely reliable, trustworthy, unhesitating, and unrestricted promise which the Chief Secretary has given and given, of course, on behalf of the Prime Minister of this country. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition has also worked a still more extraordinary miracle. It has placed the hon. Gentleman the Member for Waterford upon the side of land purchase in the most enthusiastic manner. We have waited here for many months during all the time this Bill was upon the stocks; we have waited even for years, while the Bill of 1909, like the famous French constitution, was failing to march—everything was marching except the Bill—for a single complaint as to the paralysis of land purchase in Ireland. Now the Chief Secretary, speaking for the Prime Minister, and assisted by the Leader of the Opposition, has with a wand of wizardry coverted the whole of the Irish party into enthusiastic land purchasers-Not only so, but they have done it in face 1299 of the single tax, and all the suggestions made from Midlothian to Hanley, and in face of the cryptic allusions which have been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I say, therefore, I have known no Amendment which has not been accepted produce such a beneficient revolution.
The Chief Secretary for Ireland apparently thought it somewhat over-curious on my part to ask which of the "D's" it was who were supposed to have given him that unhappy inspiration to which he referred. I can only say for myself that my question was due to the fact that I desired to relieve one of these "D's" from a certain amount of odium. I will not say who is the big "D," but at all events it was one of the two Gentlemen. The reason I had in my mind was this: It was the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) who declared at Swinford of this Bill of 1903, to which now the hon. Member for Waterford is such an enthusiastic witness, that it was a landlords' swindle and that it was working entirely too rapidly and he wished to God—the sacred Name was invoked—he had the power to stop it. Accordingly, my question was in the nature of a gentle attempt at accouchement to get from the right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary, some measure of relief for some other gentleman bearing that unhappy initial who might have come under a certain amount of blame from the suggested inspiration. Of course next Session the Irish question so far as the Home Rule Bill is concerned will take a very drastic and simple form. I assume all Bills under the Parliament Bill will come under some Standing Order which will relieve them of the Committee and Report stages. [Laughter.] I do not know what the laughter is about. I presume now that the hon. Member for Worcestershire has accepted the Closure, or rather the guillotine, as a necessary portion of our procedure, it is the logical result that next year this Bill or some Bills like it, such as the Welsh Disestablishment Bill and the Franchise and Registration Bill, as they cannot be changed in the House, will not be put through the farce of the Committee and Report stages, but that there will be Standing Orders provided doing away with any stages except perhaps the stage of Third Reading. That, I take it, will become embedded in the British Constitution as part of the Rock of Ages, which we all respect. That being so, I would 1300 urge the Government, as they will have such ample time next year for dealing with this land question, owing to what I may call the decanter method of legislation I have just suggested, to bring in their Purchase Bill at an early stage, so that we shall have an opportunity of redressing at once the undoubted disappointment under which the people of Ireland labour.
Hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway who declare they will not have Home Rule should remember there is one part of Home Rule they must have, if this Bill passes. May I refer my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim to Schedule 1, Part I. If this Bill passes it will reduce the Orange representation in this House to seven Members. You cannot stop that kind of Home Rule; it may be one of the greatest reliefs this congested Parliament could experience. But at all events that is a branch of this legislation which my hon. Friends above the Gangway would do well to remember that no amount of wooden cannon in Ulster will do away with. What is the corollary of that proposition? It is to their interest, as it is ours, that while we are here in these proportions we should bring pressure to bear on the Government for the immediate settlement of this purchase question. In my opinion, if it be true, and it is not true, that land purchase kills in the minds of Nationalists the desire for Home Rule, the contrary proposition is still stronger: that land purchase kills in the mind of the Protestant farmer the fear of Home Rule, and, therefore, there could not be any better anodyne as a complement to a measure which, for the moment, these Gentlemen may dislike, than the beneficent proposal I am glad to welcome to-day from the mouth of the Chief Secretary for Ireland.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I do not desire to follow the hon. and learned Member along the lines of ridicule with which he has treated the present state of feeling in Ulster, nor do I wish to speculate with him on the lengths to which the present Government may carry tyranny and Closure of Debate under the Parliament Act. But I hope that an English Member—an English Unionist Member—may be permitted to say a word on this question of land purchase. I greatly regret that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition cannot, owing to a sudden bereavement, be here to speak on our behalf. I need scarcely say that nothing is further from my mind than any desire to 1301 qualify or minimise the declaration in regard to land purchase which he made on behalf of the party he leads. He contemplated, and we contemplate, a United Kingdom—a united people—and it is worthy of consideration by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, with all due respect to the light-hearted tyranny of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, whether their guarantee for the continuation of land purchase is as great as they think it to be. Before I argue this question from the English point of view—in this matter there is an English point of view quite as important as the Irish, and, perhaps, likely to be more influential if the Home Rule Bill ever goes through—before I argue this question from that point of view I would like to say a word or two on the Debate at large. Whatever it achieves it will be memorable for the declaration of the Chief Secretary that, for the moment, in his opinion, he being responsible for the government of Ireland, and having been so for some years, land purchase is more important than Home Rule.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I do the right hon. Gentleman no injustice. I do not wish to carry his phrase one step further than he took it. But is not that rather a confession? Is it not significant that, while he is the Minister responsible for Ireland and he holds that opinion, the whole situation, is being turned upside-down, the whole work of the House of Commons is being held in abeyance, while the thing which, for the moment, is less important to Ireland is done, and the thing which is more important for the moment is left undone.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
It is not left undone. At this moment land purchase is proceeding more rapidly than ever. A larger sum was last year issued by the Treasury for land stock than ever before. Land purchase is proceeding more quickly now than ever before. It is not being stopped.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Surely the right hon. Gentleman cannot complain of the argument which I found upon his utterances. He says land purchase is for the moment the most important thing to Ireland, and he comes down here to make a declaration on behalf of the Prime Minister with unusual solemnity, which is accepted in all parts of the House as being a declaration of a great policy, that the present position of Irish land purchase 1302 is most unsatisfactory. He admits that it is not going as it should, and that it is necessary it should go quicker. That is the whole point of his declaration. Surely he does not wish to whittle it down. He says that the present rate of land purchase is not satisfactory, and that, for the moment, the most urgent thing to do is to find some means to expedite and facilitate it. Let me go one step further. At this moment we are invited by this Bill to establish an Irish Parliament for purely Irish affairs, and we are to-day discussing whether that Irish Parliament should be allowed to deal with what is for the moment the most important of all Irish questions. I gather from the observations with which the hon. and learned Gentleman who last spoke concluded his speech that the House is unanimously, without even taking a Division on the subject, going to determine that to the new Irish Parliament for the management of exclusively Irish affairs it will not entrust the management of the most important of all. What a commentary on the Bill! What a commentary on the claim that this is national self-government! What a commentary on the profession that you trust the Irish people!
I turn next to the question of the position of land purchase if we assume that this Bill becomes law. The Government are now pledged to find some means to facilitate Irish land purchase, whether this Bill passes or not. We, for our part, are pledged by our Leader, with our hearty approval, to do our utmost to facilitate and hasten land purchase, provided the United Kingdom remains one entity. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the expression of my countenance while he was discussing the financial difficulties of land purchase. No one who has held the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer is likely to belittle those difficulties. They are there, and the solution of the problem which all parties have set themselves is not easy. Undoubtedly one of the facts which has affected British credit has been the continuous issue of Irish land stock. Undoubtedly the recurring demand on the Money Market for money to finance this enormous scheme has affected our credit-and has restricted our resources for other purposes, and makes it more difficult for this Parliament, whichever Government may be in power, to deal with some English or Scottish questions that we would wish to deal with. But these are obligations which we have undertaken. They are sacrifices which we must make, while 1303 we remain one people and while our responsibility for Ireland continues. Will the English people make them when we are absolved from all responsibility? It is not we who are seeking divorce; it is being granted at the demand of the Nationalist party, and I repudiate their right any longer to come to us and, while they deny our right to have any voice in their affairs, claim that our credit shall be at their ser vice when they choose.
The risk to our credit is greater. It has been pointed out already by my right hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Dublin University, and by others who have spoken, that, while you will not trust the Irish Parliament with land purchase, while admittedly they cannot finance it, you do give them the administration of the Land Act and place under their control the fixing of fair rents. It is thought that in consequence your security for the money you have already advanced, your whole security for the sums you have already-advanced, or for any further sums, might easily be destroyed. I say the security under this scheme of Home Rule would be much worse. And I say something more, speaking as an Englishman. There is a growing desire among large sections of our people for land purchase in this country. There is a growing jealousy among our own agricultural population, and among a large section of our urban population, too, who have come from the country, and many of whom would like to return to it—there is, I say, a growing jealousy of the special favours shown to Ireland in this matter. We English Members—and I dare say our Friends in Scotland can tell the same story—are increasingly met with this question, "Why is it that you do so much for Ireland, and that you cannot do anything for us? Why is the whole credit of the United Kingdom to be at the service of the Irish tenants to become the owners of their land, whereas you cannot find any money to enable the English tenant to secure the ownership of his land, or to put small people on the land and give them the chance of a career there and to make the land their own?"
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I will try to say what is my answer. I want to make an experiment in this direction, not exactly under the same conditions as the 1304 work is being carried out in Ireland, because the conditions in England are not the same. Here we have no divided ownership, and we have not the practice which prevails over the greater part of Ireland of having improvements made by the tenants. Admittedly, therefore, we do not need to follow the exact practice in Ireland. But I do earnestly desire to make an experiment in facilitating a more widespread ownership of land by those actually cultivating it in England. I believe the experiment would be successful, and that it might prove of great advantage. That is the first answer I give when I meet with these criticisms. And then I go on to say that, under the present circumstances, our first obligation is to Ireland. We have undertaken to set this thing through. We must do it, and we are not entitled to jeopardise the completion of Irish land purchase in order to carry out a scheme for the establishment of small holdings in England. I am prepared to defend that action against the growing jealousy of which I speak, and against the growing restlessness. I do not say I am prepared to defend it to the exclusion for the time being of any attempt to deal with the English question—there must be an attempt made, and made concurrently—but I am prepared to recognise to the full that obligation to Ireland, and to defend it against whatever criticism or whatever jealousy our action arouses, so long as we are one people. It is part of the responsibility that we, as the common Parliament of the United Kingdom, owe to the sister isle. If, as I say, you break the Union, if you claim your separate Parliament and the management of your own affairs, then I, speaking as an English Member on behalf of English people, say we claim to use all our own credit for our own people, and will not pledge it to you in those circumstances; and I, for one, decline to recognise that you have any call upon it.
§ Mr. JAMES MASON
I desire to call attention to one point only of the question before us. I should like the Committee to realise the connection between the subject we are now discussing and the powers which are given under this Bill to the Irish Parliament to borrow money on the security of the transferred sum. Under Clause 23 of the Bill it is contemplated that the Irish Parliament may raise loans on the security of the transferred sum. It is quite obvious that if that can be done to the limit of the amount of the transferred 1305 sum now contemplated, the position is very much affected by this Amendment, inasmuch as when the transferred sum becomes in the future very largely increased by handing over this service of land purchase—and it equally applies to other matters in paragraph (a)—the powers of the Irish Parliament for raising money will be very largely increased. Supposing land purchase were handed over to the Irish Parliament, and on the security of the transferred sum which they get for that purpose they raise loans, what is to happen to the service for which that money is transferred; that is to say, if the transferred sum handed over for land purchase, as is contemplated by Clause 23, is pledged for the purpose of raising a loan, it is obvious that a legitimate purpose, that is land purchase itself, might easily fall into arrear. That is a matter of the utmost importance to England, because I am of the opinion, and I doubt very much whether anyone will differ from me, that the credit of Great Britain and Ireland is so intertwined and so dependent one upon the other, that it is absolutely impossible for us to contemplate in any circumstances whatever, allowing the Irish Parliament to become bankrupt.
It is quite obvious that if the Irish Parliament, by means of spending this money, not for carrying out services for which it is supposed to be handed over, but for raising money by loans, and that if Ireland runs into debt and arrears for the actual cost of her services, it will inevitably fall upon this country to make good the loss. I am convinced that the credit of England, Scotland, and Wales would be so infinitely damaged by anything approaching the bankruptcy of the Irish Parliament, that should such a time come, we should pay the deficit the Irish Parliament had created rather than allow our credit to be dragged in the mud by the action of the Irish Parliament. If I am right that, owing to the intertwining of the credit of the two countries, it is impossible for us to ever contemplate the bankruptcy of the Irish Parliament, no matter how badly she administers her finance, then I say we are giving to Ireland a blank cheque and putting our names to a bill for an unlimited amount, and I doubt very much whether the people of this country, if they fully understood the possibilities that lie behind such a suggestion, will ever sanction anything in the shape of unlimited liability on behalf of a 1306 Government whose finances we should no be able to control.
§ Mr. CASSEL
Under the liberty which the Chairman reserved at the beginning of this Debate of dealing with the question in a somewhat general way, I propose from the point of view of an English Member to consider these "reserve matters," as they are called in the Bill. As a rule when you make a grant and you reserve something for yourself, you expect something in the nature of an advantage to yourself. If you are granting a lease perhaps you reserve a right of way, or minerals, or whatever it may be. What is to happen if I have to go to my Constituents and explain to them what we have reserved for the English and Scotch people under this Bill? True, I should have to tell them that we have made a grant of self-government to Ireland, but I should have to tell them we have reserved for them the right of paying old age pensions in Ireland, the full liability for the State contribution under the Insurance Act in Ireland, and the full liability for the cost of collecting the taxes in Ireland. Perhaps they might feel happy by being told that the collection of the taxes had been reserved. But why it is reserved is this: It is a reservation to the British Treasury and the British Parliament of the odium of collecting, and the expense of collecting, and then they are bound to hand the money over to the Irish Exchequer. Perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find it very convenient to have someone to undertake for him the cost of the collection of these taxes. That would have made the position with regard to the Land Duties much easier, because while he secured the £60,000 which they produce, he would have somebody else paying the £680,000 it costs to collect them. That is the privilege which is reserved to the English and Scottish taxpayers—the Irish Parliament imposes the taxes and receives the money which those taxes produce.
§ Mr. CASSEL
It is quite true that in the first instance the money goes into the Imperial Exchequer, but the whole of it has to be paid back, either into the Irish Exchequer or used for paying old age pensions, and matters of that kind, in addition to which we have to pay £2,000,000 out of the pockets of the English and Scottish taxpayers. If that is what the right hon. 1307 Gentleman (Mr. Lough) means about the money going into the British Exchequer, it is quite true. But surely it is a mere matter of form. There is an obligation to hand back, in the transferred sum, first of all £6,000,000, then to undertake those reserved services, and then to pay about £2,000,000 according to the Government calculation. These are called "reserved matters." I prefer to call them "reserve liabilities," and have put an Amendment down on the Paper to that effect. According to the estimate of the Government the reserve liabilities for the English and Scottish taxpayers are for old age pensions £2,664,000, National Insurance and Labour Exchanges £191,500 to start with, and more than £1,000,000 later on, for land purchase, quite apart from the obligation to issue stock, and merely for administration purposes £761,000, for the constabulary £1,377,500, and for the collection of revenue £298,000 That is a total of reserve liabilities of £5,292,000 for the Scottish and English taxpayers, and there is money short of the amount required to the extent of £2,000,000. If it turns out to be more than £2,000,000 the full liability for those services, whatever it comes to, remains with and is reserved as a privilege under this Bill for the English and the Scottish taxpayers. We were told to-day that the British Treasury was wallowing in money. It would appear that this Bill has been drawn upon that assumption. Even if the British Treasury is wallowing in money, there are a good many British taxpayers who are not, and who will be interested to know what are the matters which are reserved for them under this Bill.
Moreover, although the liability in respect of these matters is reserved for the British taxpayers, substantially the administration of them will rest with Irish officials. Take the case of old age pensions and of the Post Office Savings Bank; both of those will be in the hands of the Irish officials. Take the case of national insurance. There you have reserved a liability for the British taxpayer independently of whether insurance continues in Ireland or not. One thing that is certain under this Bill, is that the British taxpayer for ever has got to pay the sum which will be calculated by the Exchequer Board as being due in respect of insurance. Assuming that the Irish Parliament decides to take over the reserved services, the reserved liability to the 1308 British taxpayer would not cease. Supposing that they decide to repeal the Insurance Act for Ireland, even then the reserved liability of the British taxpayer would continue, and he would have to continue to pay to the Irish Exchequer the sum which would have been necessary for national insurance if it had continued in Ireland. Surely, from the point of view of the English taxpayer, it would have been much better if the word instead of being "matters" had been "liabilities," so that he might have known quite clearly and explicitly what it was that he had to deal with. I put it that, looking at it from the point of view of an English Member, this Bill embodies a most one-sided bargain. It embodies a bargain which shows that the interest of the British taxpayer and the Scotch taxpayer has been wholly and absolutely neglected, and I feel it is our duty, en every occasion on which it is possible under the limited opportunities which are allowed us, to point that out and make it clear to those whom we represent.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I now under stand why the Government selected this particular moment in our discussion for passing the guillotine, because I think if this discussion of the relations of the land question in Ireland to Home Rule had been allowed to be taken without any restrictions upon our Debate, it would have been impossible even for the party-opposite to go on supporting Home Rule. It seems to me so clear a case that it is impossible to dissever the interests of this country and of Ireland, that I do not believe hon. Members opposite, unless they abstained from attending the Debate, as they appear to have been intending to do throughout the rest of the discussion—except for that expedient, which is always open to those Gentlemen who receive £400 a year—
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL rose—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member has no right to interrupt or to rise while I am standing. If he wishes to make any remarks, he must address them to the Chair.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
I appeal to you on a point of Order. Is it in order for hon. Members to charge us on this side, as they do continually, with corruption?
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Gentleman has a point of Order he ought, as I said, 1309 to have addressed it to the Chair, and not in a disorderly manner as he did. He has been a long time a Member of this House and he knows the correct way to raise matters of that kind.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
The hon. Member appears to think I have charged him with corruption. I have not charged or thought of charging even any of his Friends with corruption, least of all have I charged him, who happens to be in the House. To refer to Members who are not in the House, who make a practice of not being in the House, and who are not performing their duties, seems to me well within the limits of Parliamentary criticism. What has been the argument we have heard upon this Amendment? It is this. The hon. Member, in moving the Amendment, pointed out that land purchase had been of the greatest possible benefit to Ireland. He drew a picture, which to me was very impressive, of the transformation which land purchase had wrought in those parts of Ireland to which it had been applied, and the Chief Secretary began his speech by endorsing in the heartiest and most conclusive way everything that the hon. Gentleman had said. How is this great policy to be carried on if this Bill is passed? It is admitted now by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment that you cannot transfer land purchase to an Irish Parliament. The hon. Member has pointed out, not only that the Irish Parliament would not have funds to do it, but also, what is even a more important matter, that a large section of his colleagues, either covertly or openly, I do not know which, are opposed to the policy. Therefore it cannot be transferred to the Irish Parliament, nor can even the other land legislation of Ireland be safely transferred to the Irish Parliament so long as Irish land purchase is in process of being carried out. Nothing can be clearer than that you cannot transfer to the Irish Parliament the power of reducing rents without seriously imperilling the security on which land purchase depends. That is too clear even for argument. Therefore the settlement suggested in this Bill, the splitting up of land purchase and Irish land, is clearly unsatisfactory. The settlement suggested by the hon. Member is even more unsatisfactory, namely, the transferring of land purchase as well as the rest of Irish land to the Irish Parliament.
Mr. W. O BRIEN
Only if the Imperial Parliament has failed to settle the question within three years after the passage-of Home Rule.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
There is no-chance of that happening. I do not think anyone is really in favour of the proposal that the administration of land purchase should be handed over to the Irish Parliament. At any rate, it appears to me clearly an insane proposal. If it is to be kept here, the hon. Member is quite right in saying that it has very important enemies to contend with. There are all the Socialists. They all hate land purchase. They dislike the idea of creating, further private property in land. That is, of course, one of their common statements. There are the land taxers, who, I believe, regard themselves as not Socialists. They hate land purchase because it will create-a larger body of persons who are opposed to their predatory proposals.
Then there is that section of opinion which is represented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He is not, I understand, a single taxer, nor is he, I believe, avowedly a Socialist; but he does wish for predatory legislation on the land, because he hopes to weaken those who are his, political opponents in this country. Of course, we all know that is the object of his policy. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is more honest than you are."] I was not dealing with our comparative honesty. At any rate, he equally hates the proposal for splitting up land among a larger number of owners, because obviously the more owners there are the more difficulty he will have in carrying out his proposals. Therefore, there are these three sections the Socialists, the single taxers, and, if I am permitted by the Rules of Order so to-describe them, the Lloyd Georgites, who are opposed to this proposal. The one important section of the House which is really whole-heartedly in favour of land purchase is the Unionist party. That is only a matter of history. They have always been the people who have pressed it forward in Ireland. [An HON. MEMBER "Since when?"] Since the Ashbourne Acts, at any rate, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will find, if he looks at Parliamentary history, since an earlier date than that.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The Noble Lord cannot have forgotten the famous declaration of the late Lord Salisbury on the subject.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I do not wish to go into those questions. For very many years the Unionist party has been vigorously in favour of land purchase in Ireland, and unquestionably have carried out the only practicable method with that object, and it is part of their—I hate these words—but part of what I understand is now described as the official programme of the party that they shall foster land purchase in England, too. My right hon. Friend has said, very truly, that the position of the Unionist party in reference to land purchase in Ireland must be fundamentally altered by the grant of Home Rule. It is one thing to say that we shall come to the assistance of a poorer part of our own country with the credit of the whole Empire to carry out a great scheme of social reform, and quite another thing to hand over our credit to be dealt with for the benefit and under the control very largely of a separate Parliament. The two proposals are entirely different, and it seems to me quite irresistible that if you pass Home Rule you imperil the progress of land purchase in Ireland. What is the conclusion of that? We have the admission of the Chief Secretary in so many words that at this moment land purchase is more important than Home Rule. We have the impassioned advocacy of that policy by the hon. Member (Mr. William 'O'Brien). Surely anyone who is moved by reason, and not by party prejudice or party interest, would see that the only possible conclusion of that is that Home Rule ought, at any rate, to be postponed till land purchase has been carried out. The thing is so clear and so irresistible that I do not believe, if we were to bring in this Bill without the restriction of the Closure, it could survive the Debate this afternoon.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. NIELD
I beg to move, after the word "to" ["Acts relating to land purchase in Ireland "] to insert the words, "the fixing of judicial rents."
The object of this Amendment is to preserve to the Imperial Parliament the 1312 question of fixing judicial rents in Ireland. Under the Act of 1881 a Commission was set up consisting of three Commissioners, but it was subsequently enlarged. At present there are four Chief Commissioners, with Assistant Commissioners, engaged in different parts of Ireland in fixing judicial rents. In no other part of the United Kingdom is there a court or machinery of the kind, whereby the ordinary transfer of land in the open market or between purchaser and seller is added to by a machinery which permits a man to compel bis landlord to sell at a price fixed neither by the one nor by the other. It is true that the law requires that a Commissioner should be a barrister of not less than ten years' standing, and that he should be assisted by two laymen upon whom rests the real duty of fixing the price. The object I have in moving this Amendment is to take care that the Commissioner shall always remain above reproach, that he shall be absolutely impartial, and that under no circumstances shall party pressure be put on him by any Irish Parliament to make his decisions in accordance with the desire of the majority of that Parliament. The Committee will remember that the vast majority of the representatives in the Irish Parliament, as it is in this House, will consist of members from the rural districts, and the electors of these rural districts will have a direct interest in putting pressure on their representatives in the Irish House in order that they may influence the appointments in future to this judicial Commission, with instructions no doubt to see that rents are lowered. An observation fell from my right hon. Friend the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) to the effect that judicial rents were the security upon which English capital had been advanced in order to accomplish land purchase in Ireland. That security would be jeopardised unless this House consents to reserve to the Imperial Parliament the control of this matter, and takes care that the Commissioners shall remain, as heretofore, perfectly impartial persons. I remember that in a Debate in this House the Nationalist representatives from Ireland declared that all the Commissioners were unsatisfactory from the point of view of the Irish tenants. It was stated in 1903 that the setting up of the tribunal with Commissioners was unfair towards the landlords as to the fixing of rents. That statement was challenged, which means that nothing would satisfy those who are interested in getting down the 1313 judicial rents already fixed in Ireland. How many of these rents have been dealt with since the Act was passed? I find from a perusal of the last Report of the Commissioners that the total is 405,489, so that you have cases of that magnitude in which judicial rents have been fixed, and in respect of which land purchase has proceeded. That means that the money of the United Kingdom has been advanced upon security which is based upon a computation of years upon the judicial rents. I venture to say it would be an immoral thing to go behind the conclusion of the Commissioners in order to deal with the agrarian question. There are a great many applications still pending. I venture to say that the House would be ill-advised by not reserving this service and continuing these Commissioners to be appointed, nominally by the Lord Lieutenant, but in fact by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. In 1893 a very similar Amendment was moved by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson). A speech was made upon it by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), on 11th August, 1893. He said:—We know perfectly well, when hon. Members opposite say that the decisions of these Assistant Commissioners have given universal dissatisfaction, what it is they mean. We know that the Nationalist party and their representatives have held that the proper value of land in Ireland is either five years' purchase or the prairie value. Of course, any decision which is not based on that theory is in their view an unfair and unjust decision, and they are bound to take every means in their power of reverting to and obtaining a decision in the opposite sense. They have again and again attacked these very judges for the decisions they have given. They have attacked the Government who have appointed them as impartial men because their decisions have not concurred with the opinions they have expressed as to the proper value, of Irish land. Well, is it likely that, when they have the power to select judges, they will be satisfied to appoint men who may hold the same opinions as those whom they have already denounced? Is it not certain that they will take care to put in these places men whom they can depend upon to give what they would call fair and just decisions? If you throw this duty upon them, they are absolutely bound to fulfil it in the way I am suggesting, because the one thing they have promised the tenants on which they have laid the greatest stress, and on which they have been advocating Home Rule, is that if there were an Irish Government the tenants would obtain better terms than they are obtaining now. They will have to act upon that statement, or the tenants will say they have been deceived. There is only one way in which they can fulfil it, and there is not the slightest doubt that they will take advantage of the opportunity the Government give them to see that the Commissioners shall be selected from the men who hold the extreme view of the value of Irish land—a value which I am perfectly certain is not shared by any Member of the present Government. This is not a case in which the 'angelic theory will serve. I am not making any charge against hon. Members opposite: lam not throwing upon them any imputations of unfair or improper dealing. If they honestly believe that Irish land is only worth the 1314 prairie value, they are bound to give effect to their honest conviction, and nobody can blame them. But I appeal to the Government will they have redeemed their pledges if, as a direct consequence of their action, landlords throughout Ireland are forced cither to accept the prairie value of their land or to fly for their lives? That is the alternative. If their interests are put in the hands of partisan judges, as we should call them, although they would not be partisans in the view of hon. Members opposite, it is certain that landlords will have to accept the prairie value or even less, and will not be protected if they refuse it.Then the right hon. Gentleman quoted Lord Morley of Blackburn as declaring that he would never be a party to placing on the Irish Legislature the burden of legislating on this question. I think it right to quote the speech, because I regard it as not only apposite to the Amendment I have made, but also because it came from one of great authority in this House, who unfortunately is not able to be with us now. I do say he is entitled to have respect from every fair-minded man in this House, because it was pointed out in how hopeless a state the matter would be left if the Irish Legislature were empowered to deal with the question. It cannot be supposed for a moment that tenants who have purchased upon the footing of judgments already given would remain contented if prospective tenants were able to get their terms considerably reduced. I wish to call attention to an utterance, at Tuam, on 7th July, by Mr. Conway, a lecturer of the United Irish League, who said they would succeed in winning Home Rule for Ireland within the next few years, and when they did win they would be able to deal with those few landlords who are holding out and refusing fair terms. That is, I venture to think, a direct threat that any Irish Home Rule Government would compel landlords to sell their land, and that they might either take what is offered or flee for their lives. I hope the House will give full consideration to the Amendment.
§ Captain CRAIG
I would like to add my own personal testimony to the value of the remarks made by my hon. Friend. He seems to have got to the root of the matter in drawing attention to the difficulties which will inevitably crop up if you separate on the one hand the fixing of judicial rents, and on the other hand the whole subject-matter relating to land purchase in Ireland. Those who have any personal knowledge of the system by which land purchase has been successfully carried through since the 1903 Act was passed, are fully aware that the whole fabric on which purchase takes 1315 place is the judicial rent fixed by the Commissioners. I do not suppose there is any, or at all events there are very few, English Members who really comprehend the complexity of our Irish Land Purchase Acts. But it will be readily understood that for years past the tenantry in Ireland have looked upon the question of the number of years' purchase as the basis on which they make all their calculations, and no matter what Act has been introduced, whether the Ashbourne Act or the Act of 1903, the tenantry were always comparing among themselves the purchase prices and reducing to the terms of so many years' purchase the value of their holdings in order to carry out their bargain. Every Irishman knows that has become the standard, and therefore in order to get at the true basis of land purchase you will have to take the judicial rent which has been fixed first of all. In my opinion, the Government have left a greater lever in the hands of the Nationalist party by leaving out this particular matter of fixing judicial rents than anybody who is not thoroughly acquainted with the land laws of Ireland can understand. The first thing the tenantry have to consider is whether they are under first, second or third term rents. On some estates where there are firs, second and third term rents, in order to come to a common basis a proportion has to be allowed for those still under the first and second term rents. The amount is brought down to the equivalent of the third term in order to determine at what price within the zones land purchase will be carried out.
As soon as you divorce, as is proposed by this Bill, the system of fixing fair rents from the control of those who have to carry out land purchase in the future you will place an intolerable strain upon all those who have land in Ireland, and also perpetuate the policy of the present Government of stopping land purchase altogether. Picture for a moment what it would mean if a partisan party in the Nationalist House of Commons in Dublin were passing some new regulation or passing an Act to control the fixing of fair rents in the future, forced on as it would be very likely by the speeches of Nationalist Members. The hon. Member for South Mayo (Mr. Fitzgibbon) had to apologise quite recently for a speech which he made outside the control of the Congested Disgested Districts Board, of which he is a member. He and other Members like him 1316 are quite sincere in their advocacy of compulsion being brought to bear on landlords to sell their property at any price that happens to suit them. Is it likely that their partisan views in this matter would be in any way modified by sitting in a Parliament in Dublin. Having passed an Act or issued regulations controlling the fixing of fair rents, no matter how unfair they were, the Imperial Parliament would have to base its purchase on those rents as they were fixed by the Parliament in Dublin, and the consequence would be you would have an impossible proposition to put before those who are willing to sell on fair terms. No one can deny that the voluntary system of sale throughout the whole of Ireland was a success far beyond what its authors contemplated, and that the rate of money proposed to be advanced soon proved insufficient to cover the large number of voluntary agreements arrived at. The reason was because the Commissioners who fixed the fair rents were above suspicion.
The reason that hon. Members are striving to keep in their own hands—and I presume they will prove successful—this matter of fixing judicial rents is because they find that the cry of Home Rule varies in inverse proportion to the success of Land Purchase Acts in Ireland. Home Rule never was a cry worth anyone taking up until they were able to couple with it the question of the land tenure of Ireland. Kill this land agitation by the generous method started by the Unionist party and even in the most out of the way portions of Nationalist Ireland you will not have a single man suggesting that Home Rule will be a benefit to the country. We have had experience of that already. I ask the Chief Secretary to cast his eye over those parts of Ireland where land purchase has been carried out successfully, and then to go into neighbourhoods where it has been impossible to come to agreements between landlords and tenants. In the one you will invariably find the people contented, happy, and settled down. In the other they are still agitating for some settlement which the Nationalist party in Ireland tell them can only come by their getting Home Rule. It is no use, I suppose, appealing to the Government. All we can do is to put forward the knowledge of those who live on the spot and are acquainted with the people, and to point out how fatal it is for the Government, to suggest that in a case of this sort, while you leave as a reserved service the whole 1317 subject of land purchase in Ireland, you will allow the matter of the fixing of judicial rents to remain with the Nationalist Parliament. The one should go with the other. Now that this House has decided to retain the greater in its own hands, it would be foolish for it to part with the other.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir J. Simon)
The hon. and gallant Member began by saying he found it difficult to believe that any English Members could pretend to have a complete knowledge of the complexities of the Irish land laws, and, while I confess that I make no claim to any such knowledge, it is some consolation to me to reflect that this important Amendment has nevertheless been presented to this House by an hon. and learned Member who is an Englishman. I think it improbable that any English Member could claim such a detailed and exact knowledge of the complexities of this question as would make him a real authority upon it. Certainly I do not. I remember that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University, when the last Irish Land Bill but one was being discussed, explained that he had lived through many Irish Land Bills, and indeed had lived by many Irish Land Bills, and he looked forward to many other Land Bills. There, of course, he has the advantage of me. I should like to present to the Committee two or three considerations which I suggest go to show that these dreadful consequences which it is said by some will follow the determining of the fixing of fair rents under the Irish Parliament are not really likely to result. I would first point out the broad consideration that some of the criticisms which have been passed seem to be based on the theory that a policy of Irish land purchase is in some way nullified, or rendered abortive, because of the operation of a law which regulates the fixing of judicial rents. That is not true. The truth is that at every stage and in nearly every case where one subject has been dealt with the other subject has been dealt with, and that while ever since 1881 the process of fixing judicial rents has gone on, the process of purchase has also gone on, and the annuities of Irish land purchasers have none the less been paid, and, in fact, since 1881 the operations of the Courts which fix judicial rents and the reduction of those rents has not meant the destruction of the security on which the policy of Irish land purchase was founded. I am quite aware 1318 that hon. Members opposite may wish to answer that point, but certainly the two things in their nature are not inconsistent, and the circumstances that rents were substantially reduced by judicial process during the course of the working out of the system of Irish land purchase has not in fact, and by itself, in the least nullified the machinery of Irish land purchase or damaged the security upon which land purchase is based. Then it will be said: "Yes, but the situation becomes entirely different if, under a scheme of Home Rule, the law relating to the fixing of judicial rents falls within the powers of an Irish Legislature and the administration of that law falls within the scope of an Irish Administration." Why? It is an old proposition that you cannot argue with a prophet; you can only disbelieve him. It is an assumption natural enough in people who think that the Irish nation are not qualified to govern themselves, but it is an entirely unwarranted assumption in the mind of any man who believes that they are responsible people, the assumption that they are going to abuse their position and the machinery of fixing judicial rents for purposes supposed to be satisfactory to themselves. For my part, and I think I may speak on behalf of most people who are Home Rulers, my first answer is, I do not believe it.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I think that most Irishmen from time to time make speeches for which afterwards they are just a little sorry.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Another thing that we are all agreed about is that, though Irishmen may make speeches for which they have occasion for repentance, yet they will never say so. The point that I am anxious to make, and which I will ask you next to consider, is that this doubt, which is, of course, sincerely entertained by those who offer the criticisms which the hon. and learned Gentleman embodies in his Amendment, is really based upon the fact that they disbelieve in the whole principle of Home Rule for Ireland. They are entitled to do so, but they are not entitled to say to us who do believe in that principle, "Listen to our argument and we will show you that, though you do believe in that principle, here is a case which you 1319 should exempt from their authority." But I go much further than that. This is the third and the only other point. In point of fact it is easy to show, if anybody will consider the terms of the Bill a little more closely, that the whole interest of the new Irish Government is not in the direction which hon. Gentlemen opposite say, but in exactly the opposite direction. Let the Committee remember what the situation actually is. It is said, and I desire to put the contention as strongly as I can against myself, supposing there was some gross and excessive reduction of rent tinder a Home Rule Government, what would follow? Why, those tenant proprietors who have already purchased and who are under an obligation to pay every half-year to the Estates Commissioners their annuities in redemption of their land would say, "Why should we pay at this comparatively high rate, whereas our neighbours have since got the advantage of some great reduction of rent?" If that result is to happen, and if thereby there arose danger of default on the part of existing purchasers, upon whom would that default fall, and who would suffer because of that default? At this moment, if there is a default, the security for the punctual payment of these annuities for Irish tenants purchasing their holdings is the security of the Guarantee Fund, which is something like £3,000,000 a year.
What is going to happen under this Home Rule Bill? If the Committee will turn to Clause 18 of this Bill and look at the last words of the Clause, they will see what would be the result. The Irish Home Rule Parliament, in exercising its powers under this Bill, would not be so foolish and so unjust as to pursue a policy calculated to encourage people not to pay these annuities, because it would mean a direct loss to the Irish Government. In view of that result it is unlikely, if you take the lowest ground, that the Irish Government would encourage, under its auspices, a policy which hon. Gentlemen opposite themselves see would tend to default in the payment of those annuities, and must thereupon penalise this very Irish Government by subtracting from the Transferred Fund, which is about £6,000,000, exactly the sum of money which by their own foolish policy they would have caused the British Exchequer to lose. The real truth is that as between the two guarantees—the real truth as between the two—the security which is given is 1320 rather superior to the security which exists under the Guarantee Fund. The Guarantee Fund is a matter of £3,000,000, and the Transferred Fund is a matter of £6,000,000, and it is a superior security, because the transferred sum is paid to the Irish Exchequer, and it is for the Government by their policy to determine whether that transferred sum is to suffer by a refusal to pay annuities.
I say, first of all, that the two policies of Irish Land Purchase on the one hand, and of the fixation of judicial rents are not and never have been regarded as inconsistent policies. It is not the fact that the reduction, stage by stage, in judicial rents has ever in the past affected the security for Irish land purchase at all, and, if it were so, that would be just as great an argument for the present situation as it is supposed to be for the future situation. If you say, in the second placer that the situation is altered because the matter is being passed to the Irish Government, you only say that because you attribute to the Irish Government all those bad qualities which would unfit them for self-government at all. We repudiate that view. I claim, thirdly, that if we are not prepared to give them the Irish Parliament credit for reasonable and good intentions and good faith in administering their own affairs, at any rate under this Bill, they would be penalised in proportion as they produced those consequences to which I have referred. I ask the Committee to take the view that it is quite right to leave the fixation of judicial rents as one of the subjects not to be withdrawn.
§ Sir ROBERT FINLAY
I do not think it requires any previous acquaintance with the intricacy of the Irish land laws to appreciate the importance of this Amendment. Everyone who has paid attention to the Irish question knows that the Irish difficulty has been not so much political as agrarian. If you can settle the agrarian question you can settle the whole of the Irish difficulty. The only settlement that has been successfully worked out is that obtained by the plan of land purchase which Unionists inaugurated and have done so much to promote. It has been found by experience that when farmers become the owners of land they cease to take an interest in Home Rule. When a farmer becomes an owner, he ceases to be a Home Ruler. An Irish farmer was asked what he though about Home Rule, and he replied, "Personally, I am against it, collectively, I am not." The pressure 1321 brought to bear in Irish affairs leads to a collective expression of opinion very different from that which is entertained individually, or by those who become owners of their farms. To my mind, what constitutes the importance of this Amendment is, as I believe, that the fixation of judicial rents and the progress of land purchase are intimately connected. Indeed, the progress of land purchase depends on the process of fixation of judicial rent being conducted as fairly in the future as in the past. Without going into detail, may I refer hon. Members who may not be very familiar with it to the Irish Land Act of 1903. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) was responsible for this Act, and a most valuable Act it has been. One Section of that Act provides for the advance being made of money for the purchase by the tenants of their holdings in the following ways. First, it is shown how judicial rents are to be the basis of Land Taxes. Paragraph (a) says:—In the case of a purchase of a holding, subject to a judicial rent fixed or agreed to since the passing of the Act of 1896, if the purchase of annuity created under this Act payable in respect of the account will not be less than 10 per cent, nor more than 30 per cent. below the existing rent; and(b) In the case of the purchase of a holding subject to a judicial rent fixed or agreed to before that date, if the said purchase annuity will be not less than 20 nor more than 40 per cent, below that rent.That establishes the basis of land taxes on which are determined the advances to be made for the purpose of paying the price. If the Imperial Parliament is to retain the land purchase in its own hand, and if funds are to be found on the Imperial credit, is it not absolutely essential that the Imperial Parliament should retain control over the process of fixation of judicial rents which form the bases of land purchase upon which it rests? The Solicitor-General said that rents had been lowered in the past without injury to land purchase. I do not know that the lowering of rents in the past from time to time has been at all comparable to what might take place under the Bill as it now stands, if the control of the fixation of judicial rents is removed from the hands of the Imperial Parliament. The fact that land purchase 1322 has not been impaired in the past is due precisely to this control of fixation of judicial rents which has rested with the Imperial Parliament. You are now going to take it away, while you leave it to the Imperial Parliament to advance the promotion of land purchase. Is it likely that the Imperial Parliament would be willing to do what is desirable for the settlement of the land difficulties, in short for the settlement of the agrarian question in Ireland, which is the Irish question above all others, if they are not satisfied that the basis on which the money is to be used is a fair one, and it can be satisfied only if the Imperial Parliament itself retains control?
The Solicitor-General said that there is really no danger or possibility of the Irish Parliament lowering the judicial rents unduly, and that anyone who thinks that such a thing might occur in Ireland must have a very low opinion of human nature as it exists in that country. Surely, in view of the speeches that have been made on the land question by Gentlemen who will occupy a foremost place in the Irish Parliament, that is showing a confidence which it is almost astonishing to see. When the Solicitor-General says he would trust the Irish Parliament implicitly, it is impossible to free our minds from the thought that the pressure of their own constituents may lead to an undue lowering of judicial rents. The Solicitor-General says that is a bogey, that it will not take place, and that we need not be in the least afraid. It is not satisfactory to those who are interested in the Irish question, it is not satisfactory to the English taxpayer, to have the matter treated in the light and airy fashion in which the Solicitor-General treated it. He seemed to think that the matter might be dismissed as one of those phantoms which were conjured up by the opponents of Home Rule.
Apprehension depends only on this, that many of the most influential Gentlemen in the Nationalist party, when they spoke on this subject, were expressing their genuine view—views which, if they are in power, they will be prepared to give effect to. I think the danger is a very serious one. The Irish Secretary told us this evening that it should be seen that there is nothing in the Bill to impair the progress of land purchase. The Solicitor-General says that there is no danger that the lowering of judicial rents in the future would lead those who have bought 1323 on a basis higher rents to refuse going on with their payments. The reason the Solicitor-General gave was the loss would fall on the Irish Exchequer. I do not think the Solicitor-General realises what the working of the Bill would necessarily be. There would be great difficulty and confusion in Ireland. He forgets that the Bill provides for the return of forty Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament, and you may be absolutely certain that you will have an agitation for further concessions from the Imperial Parliament, with a view to putting an end to the confusion and distress which will necessarily result from a feeling on the part of the tenants who have bought on the higher rents about the impropriety of their being called upon to go on with their payments when their neighbours can buy on much more advantageous terms. The danger is a very real one, and it cannot be conjured away by the sanguine assurances of the Solicitor-General. I do not speak with any hope of convincing the Government, but the Unionist party feel very strongly upon this subject. They regard it as vital to the progress of land purchase, and they regard land purchase as the cure for the ills of Ireland, and, whether the Government listen to us or do not, we shall appeal to the country to mark its sense of a Bill framed in such a way as to cripple the progress of that measure which has done more for Ireland than any measure that has ever been passed by any Government.
§ Mr. GODFREY LOCKER-LAMPSON
I should like to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend. I am very sorry that the learned Solicitor-General has taken up such a very uncompromising attitude in this matter. There were rumours afloat, so I heard, that the Government were rather weakening on the subject of judicial rents. I certainly had hoped that the Chief Secretary might have seen his way to give this concession. Personally, I have a great admiration for the learned Solicitor-General, but I must say that on this occasion he has presented a very weak case against the arguments in favour of this Amendment. He first of all said that the operations of judicial rent fixing and the operations of land purchase had gone on very amicably side by side. No doubt that may be perfectly true, but he forgets for the moment that they have been going on under one central authority, the Im- 1324 perial Parliament, whereas in future one of them will be under the Imperial Parliament and the other will be under the Irish Parliament sitting in Dublin. He also said that he did not believe that the Irish Parliament would be so unjust as to gerrymander the judicial rents and lessen the security which exists. I think he forgets that speech after speech has been made by Irish Nationalists, and I need only remind him of one, a speech made not very long ago by the Member for East Mayo (Mr. J. Dillon) in which he said, when Home Rule was granted and when an Irish Parliament was set up in Dublin, the Irish Nationalists would know how to reward their friends, and they would remember who had been their enemies. There is no doubt at all that their friends would probably be those gentlemen who had been engaged in cattle-driving and other agrarian action, and their enemies would probably be the landlords who were still in possession of their estates.
The learned Solicitor-General seemed to keep up his sleeve what he regarded as his best argument until the latter part of his speech. He said that the security would not be infringed, because, supposing the annuitants refused to pay the annuities or supposing they diminished their annuities, recourse could be had to the Transferred Sum. If the Solicitor-General will look at Clause 23 he will find that the Transferred Sum will be very likely largely mortgaged on account of other liabilities, so that there certainly will not be the whole of the Transferred Sum to fall back upon in case of default on the part of the Irish annuitants. I do not know whether the Solicitor-General means to imply that the Transferred Sum would be docked to any extent in the case of such default, because it would be quite impossible for the Imperial Parliament to dock the Transferred Sum more than to a certain extent, because the whole of Irish government would come to a standstill.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I know, but it is quite conceivable that if the Imperial Parliament did try to take out of the Transferred Sum a very large amount the Irish Parliament might take good care that the Imperial Parliament should not have the collection of the taxes in Ireland. I do not think the Solicitor-General has really presented a ease against this 1325 Amendment as strong as he thought it was. I should like to ask him or the Chief Secretary a question. I do not see how the two questions—the question of judicial rents and the question of land purchase—can properly be separated. They seem to me to be part of one homogeneous scheme. If the Chief Secretary looks at Clause 23 of the Land Purchase (Ireland) Act of 1903 he will see that the Estates Commissioners act at the present moment under the direction of the Lord Lieutenant. The present Court of Appeal is the Judicial Commissioner, assisted by a lay assessor, and the Judicial Commissioner is the gentleman who to-day hears appeals in regard to rent fixing. But the Judicial Commissioner is also the gentleman who is head of the Land Commission. Therefore I do not sec how you can possibly separate the question of judicial rents from the question of land purchase.
It is perfectly certain that there would not have been any Home Rule Bill at all if the question of land purchase had not been approaching a solution. I do not think that the Government would have dared to bring in a Home Rule Bill at all if land purchase had not been in a fair way of solution. In fact, land purchase may be considered to be a temporary business, and judicial rents are also a temporary business, because directly land purchase comes to an end judicial rents must also come to an end, since when all the estates have been given over in freehold to the people who are now occupying them there will be no rents to settle judicially. Therefore, as the Government are retaining one part of the temporary scheme, I really do not see why they should give over to the Irish Parliament the other temporary part of the same scheme. My feeling is, in spite of what the Solicitor-General has said, that they are really handing over this part of the temporary scheme, the judicial rents to the Trish Parliament, at the dictation very largely of the present Nationalist party. I am very sorry indeed for the cause of the absence from this House of the hon. Member for East Mayo, but I had hoped that his absence, his temporary absence, from this House would have enabled the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw himself from that terrific personal influence which the hon. Member for East Mayo exercises over him. There is no doubt that the reason judicial rents are being handed over to the Irish Parliament is because in future the leaders of the Nationalist party hope, by means of gerrymandering the judicial 1326 rents, to squeeze the existing Irish landlords out altogether.
Land purchase, as has been pointed out, is to be under the control of the Imperial Parliament, but the land itself in all its other aspects outside the land purchase is to be subject to the legislative authority of the Irish Parliament. The Treasury has already advanced £67,500,000 to tenant purchasers in Ireland; a further sum of £50,000,000 has been applied for in pending cases, and must be advanced some time or another. Of the first sum of £67,500,000 a sum of £43,000,000 was advanced under the Land Purchase Acts of 1903 and that of the right hon. Gentleman, the Act of 1909. Together with the £50,000,000 in respect of pending cases—that is to say, £90,000,000—that sum has been advanced on the supposition that the fixing of fair rents was a proper and fair system, and that it might be taken as a safe basis on which to calculate the security which the taxpayer was getting for that gigantic sum of money which has been advanced by the Imperial Parliament. It is now proposed that the Irish Parliament is going to have full power not only to deal with the Irish land outside the Land Purchase Acts, but that it is also to have the power to deal with the fixation of judicial rents. I know that hon. Members below the Gangway would probably say that the security of those holdings could not possibly be affected because the holdings had already passed out of the possession of the landlords and had already been vested in the tenants. It is perfectly clear to my mind they could do it very easily indeed. They could do it by altering or lowering the rents on the land still unsold, which, as has been pointed out, would create dissatisfaction amongst those people who are now paying annuities.
The lands already sold and vested in purchasing tenants or acquired by the Estates Commissioners or by the Congested Districts Board amount at the present moment to about six and a half million acres, and the land in respect of which proceedings are still pending amount to about five million acres, making about eleven and a half million acres altogether. It is estimated that there are still about seven and a quarter million acres capable of being dealt with under the Land Purchase Acts. I am told it is not at all likely that the whole of the seven and a quarter million acres will be dealt with under those Acts, but it is 1327 estimated that at the very least sixty millions out of those eighty-one millions would be required for land purchase in future. As the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, the tenant now in estimating the advantages of turning himself from a tenant into an owner compares the terminable annuity which he will have to pay with the rent, which very nearly always is the judicial rent. In fact, the principle of fixing the purchase money upon the basis of the judicial rent is the corner-stone of land purchase as it stands at the present moment. I do not think that therefore it is really necessary to labour the point any more in regard to the great danger there will be lest the security of those estates may be lowered or almost abolished in future by some action of the Irish Parliament. I think I am correct in saying that the judicial rent is not only looked upon from that point of view in regard to estates within the zones, but it is also looked upon from that point of view in regard to estates which are outside the zones. The Estates Commissioners have adopted the fair-rent principle in estimating the security which a holding offers in cases which are outside the zones. They have appended a form called Form B to be used by inspectors in which they ask for a short description of the holding, its character, situation, and an estimate of the gross fair rent of the holding as it stands, an account of the improvements admittedly made by the landlord and by the tenant an the present capital value respectively. They end up with the question, "Estimate what, in your opinion, will be the net fair rent of the land." Therefore, it is quite clear that the whole of the system of land purchase as carried out up to the present is fixed upon the judicial rent system. T hope there may be some truth in the rumour that the Government intend to retain the judicial rent system in the hands of the Imperial Parliament, and that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us, at any rate, that one small consolation.
§ Mr. WILLIAM PEEL
This is a matter of the utmost importance. I say that, not so much in reference to Ireland, as in reference to the British taxpayers, whose interests throughout this measure are absolutely neglected by the Chief Secretary. I cannot blame hon. Members from Ireland if they show a cynical indifference to the interests of my Constituents. But I think 1328 it is necessary for English Members to make it absolutely clear to their own countrymen what risks they are running, and what risks the money they have invested in Ireland will run if this measure is carried into effect and the securities that we demand are not given. I assume that hon. Members below the Gangway want this measure to pass. If they do, they would disarm the hostility of a certain number of persons who are not very strong Unionists but who look upon questions more as a matter of pence, if they were to give way on a point of this kind. I appeal to them, because it is no good appealing to the Chief Secretary whom they hold in the hollow of their hands. The only reason they can have for wanting to keep this power in their own hands is that they may lower the rents unduly, and perhaps get back on some of the landlords against whom they have treasured up hard feelings during the last few years. If they wish to continue the present fair system, why not leave it to the Imperial Parliament? I remember very well the passing of the Land Purchase Act of 1903. The Chief Secretary, by an unfortunate accident of the election, was prevented from being in the House. There were Members of considerable weight on our side who protested very strongly against granting these enormous sums of British money on the security of Irish land. From the investment point of view you could not have a more ridiculous transaction. To put £180,000,000 in one investment of that kind is a thing which no one of ordinary sanity would attempt in ordinary life. Personally, I would not have supported that measure if I had thought there was to be any change of the nature now contemplated. I would not have supported it on the understanding that there was to be Home Rule. I would certainly not have supported it if I had been told that the rents were to be fixed by the Irishmen themselves.
The Solicitor-General made a very remarkable observation on this point. I do not know why it is, but Solicitors-General always seem to despise the House of Commons. They are bound to be very able men, I suppose, but they address to the House of Commons arguments in which they cannot possibly believe, but which they apparently think are good enough for the House. Arguments are solemnly addressed to us which would be simply laughed out of court by any ordinary business man. What did the Solicitor-General 1329 say? "You do not trust the Irish; you think they are not fit for Home Rule, and therefore you object to anything they may do in the matter of self-government." It is quite unnecessary to meet so far-fetched an explanation as that. If, in ordinary business, you are going to buy a property, and the other man says that he will value it, he does not grow indignant and call you a fool if you object to take it at his own valuation. It is a mere matter of ordinary business. For the Solicitor-General to say that our request to go on valuing the property on which we are lending money expresses general distrust of the Irish people is really so utterly silly that I only wish he were here that I might fully express my indignation at the absurdity of his argument. I do not know whether the Chief Secretary endorses that opinion.
§ Mr. PEEL
I think he knows it already. There was a very significant argument used by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), whose speeches on this subject I admire very much, because he seems really to try to deal with the subject less from a party point of view than many other Members, and it is impossible to doubt his sincerity. He pointed out that there had been reductions of 20 per cent, on the first term rents and 20 per cent, on second term rents, but that on third term rents the reduction was only 4½ per cent. or 5 per cent. That is very likely. If rents have been reduced 20 per cent, and 25 per cent., there is not likely to be a progressive reduction of the same amount. But what sort of impression will a statement of that kind make upon those who are not so well informed ay the hon. Member? The ordinary Irish tenant or farmer will probably think that there ought to be a reduction of 20 per cent. on third term rents, and he will think that he has been hardly used if, on going to the Court he does not get such a reduction. The Solicitor-General says that the reduction of rents under the Land Courts has not affected land purchase up to the present. Of course it has not, because it has been done under the ægis of the Imperial Parliament. Is the hon. and learned Gentleman really incapable of seeing that there is a difference between lowering rents under the Imperial Parliament and lowering rents under the Irish Parliament, whose interest it is to have them lowered, and who represent the very men whose rents are being brought before the Court? It 1330 seems absurd to Debate such a proposition, but the argument is solemnly placed before us by the Solicitor-General. I want to say one word on the last point of the hon. Gentleman, because he really seemed to think the ease was conclusive. Let me deal for a moment with that situation. You are going to have two difficulties. Before land purchase and while land purchase was going on we were always told—I remember with very great force and eloquence by the right hon. Gentleman the present Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture—that if yon once began land purchase you have to continue it. On one side of the hedge you have the man who has bought his land, and on the other the one who is simply paying his rent. That is one class. The other class, as has been pointed out, is the one where the man has paid interest on the sinking fund on a totally different and lower basis than either. Here are great causes of friction. After all, this Bill is supposed to bring goodwill and friendship to Ireland. Supposing these men do refuse to pay upon the old basis, and supposing there is a disturbance in the Irish Parliament on the subject by the men elected by these very men. Are we really to be told that the friendship between Ireland and England is to be cemented by the English Government paying the money in default? I cannot conceive the Government having the courage to do such a thing. We are told that the security for our £180,000,000 is to depend, let us say, upon the courage of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The security is one of the most shocking that I ever heard of. After all, you must have confidence in these matters of paying money. When so much is at stake, and when there are so many opportunities of friction in this method, I cannot conceive why the Irish Members, if they are serious about Home Rule, cannot give way upon this matter, which is a comparatively small one. No matter of principle, so far as they are concerned, is involved in it. If they do give way at least those who are in a very humble way responsible for these millions of British money being advanced in Ireland will have some sense of security that things will not be quite so bad as they were afraid they would be if the Bill goes through.
§ Mr. NEWMAN
The learned Solicitor-General told us a short while ago that there was no reason why the fixing of fair rents and land purchase should not go on 1331 simultaneously. The Irish landlord is placed between Scylla and Charybdis—between the Scylla of having to sell and the Charybdis of having rents fixed. If I understand the Chief Secretary aright, so far as the tenant goes, the Scylla is going to be removed. We are told by him, speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister, that land purchase is going to be definitely taken in hand in the near future. Hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House may be satisfied on behalf of the Irish tenants, but I want, on this Amendment, to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland one or two questions on behalf of the Irish landlords. I want to know something about this great scheme outlined of land purchase. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that within two years and before Home Rule becomes law we are going to have—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
We have passed that Amendment. We are now dealing with the question of judicial rents.
§ Mr. NEWMAN
Speaking for myself and for my brother landlords in Ireland, the Amendment has my very hearty support. They say it is important that the rent-fixing as well as land purchase should be reserved services. Of course they have got to show that they are making a reasonable request to the Committee. It is for me to show that, and I shall try to do it very shortly. The request I make this evening to this Committee on behalf of my brother landlords in Ireland is the reasonable request that rent-fixing, as well as land purchase, should be reserved services. We have to take things as we find them, and we have to acknowledge—and I am sorry to say so—that in the counsels of the Irish party at present moderate men are not in the ascendant. The Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), with all his great experience, authority, and reputation, has been consistently against land purchase. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Well, I put it this way: He has been consistently against the Land Purchase Act of 1903. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I will quote to the Committee what the hon. Gentleman said about the Act of 1903:—I wish to heaven we had the power to obstruct the smooth working of the Act more than we did. It has worked too smoothly—far too smoothly to my mind. Some men have complained in the past year that the Land Act was not working fast enough. For my part, I look upon it as working a good deal too fast, and at a pace which has been ruinous to the people.1332 Just about a year ago the hon. Member for East Mayo made a speech, I think it was in Trim, and in that speech he made the following statements, also about land purchase. In that speech he said:Now let me give a word of advice to these worthy landlords. Their day is over. They are going to meet in Dublin next week at one of their animal Congresses, and I have no doubt they will raise a great pillaballoo about the death of land purchase. I tell these men that the sands in the hour glass are running out fast. Home Bale is coming. We will get it whether they like it or not. And when Home Rule has come, and there is an Irish Parliament sitting in Dublin, I do not think they will get English Ministers to trouble themselves much about their woes in the future.We had a meeting in Dublin a few days after, and had our pillaballoo, and a resolution was passed deploring the dropping of land purchase on behalf of the landlords, and inviting our fellow-countrymen to a further conference to see what could be done. The reply of the hon. Member for East Mayo to that was that the only conference we could have was discussion on the public platform. I have here a speech which the hon. Member for East Mayo delivered in Kells, county Meath, upon this very subject. He said:—One of the things I say is this, that when the time comes for a settlement we must have a just settlement, and the first condition I put forward is this—the compulsory sale of the land.…What ruined the Land Act of 1009—and I pointed out at the time—was that the compulsory Clauses of the Act had been paralysed.…Therefore I say when a settlement comes, if it is to be an effective settlement, we must, before another year is over, have made it manifest to all men that Home Rule is inevitable, and then I say you can settle the land question quickly and easily with the landlords of Ireland, liven the gentlemen who met in the Court House the other day will be quite civil and agreeable.The hon. Member for Cork City had a few good words to say of us, the landlords, who are such an abused class of Irishmen. He said we were not so bad as we were painted, but he said there was one thing that we Irishmen were determined on, and that is that we were not going to be bullied. That is not the way to get us to make any settlement. It is no use to threaten us and our class, and to tell us we shall be simply ruined if we do not come to a settlement. I want to put one practical point to the Committee. The Act of 1903 established, as we all know, a great Land Purchase Department, and that Land Purchase Department was housed in a sort of rabbit warren in Upper Merrion Street, Dublin, in which was already housed the Land Commission. I do not know whether these arrangements still continue, but when I had occasion to go there these two Departments were housed under the same roof and they were divided into seven sub-departments. Now 1333 under this Bill, of these seven sub-departments of these two great Departments under the same roof, two would be under Imperial control, two would be under the Irish Parliament, and three would be mixed between the two. That is not legislation; it is Bedlam and nothing else. It is nonsense; it cannot work. What we say is this, that while we welcome a scheme of land purchase—though I confess I cannot imagine a great scheme of land purchase being put through in two years or three years, or even ten years, as I do not know where the money is going to come from—still we welcome it, but we say these two Departments must be kept together. Let them both be under Imperial control. Sooner than have them divided I would prefer to have both under an Irish Parliament, but to have them divided is absolutely ridiculous nonsense. Let them come under the Imperial Parliament; let the Government pour out its money to settle land purchase once and for all, and if they do that we believe it will make Home Rule useless. Therefore, I beg very heartily, on behalf of the landlords whom I represent, to support the Amendment.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has made, as he always does, a very interesting speech, and showed a very friendly feeling towards all Irishmen, which I hope will be followed by other speakers on his side. I do not know that his closing remarks had very much to do with the practical effect and conditions of the Amendment now before the Committee. To hear some hon. Members opposite speak, you would suppose that as soon as an Irish Parliament were established it was in some mysterious manner to start off round the country fixing rents and reducing them at an even greater rate than they have been reduced hitherto, This matter has been spoken of as if it were going on to-day. At any rate, it has been spoken of as if that was done under Imperial control which was suddently to be removed. This fixing of rents was established by one of the greatest Acts of Parliament that ever was passed. We heard a great deal about the beneficent Act of 1903, and that it was the most beneficent Act that ever passed through the House of Commons, but there were other brave men and good Acts before the Act of 1903. One of Mr. Gladstone's great Acts was the Act of 1881, which put the tenant farmers in a position from which they never receded, and which certainly was one of the essential precedents of the 1334 Act of 1903 or any other Act relating to land purchase. Now one of the Clauses of that Act established Courts for the purpose of fixing fair rents, and that was to be done at periods of fifteen years. It is not a thing that happens every minute or every day. As soon as the judicial rents have been determined, these judicial rents remain, unless the property is sold, until the expiration of fifteen years. That was in 1881; fair rents were fixed; then another fifteen years elapsed; second-term rents were fixed in 1896, and now another fifteen years has elapsed and we have got to the year 1912–13, and applications are being made, not nearly so numerous, of course, as on former occasions, to fix fair rents. I hope there will be no more necessity to have fair rents fixed in Ireland at all, because we hope and believe, with the support of everybody, to carry out land purchase, with some difficulty no doubt, because, as I have often said before, you cannot get more things through the neck of a bottle than its width will admit, and there must be difficulties.
There must necessarily be a considerable lapse of time doing the work in connection with the adjustment of property, titles, and the distribution of money, and all the numerous questions, such as turbary and the like, to be settled amongst the tenants, and therefore if money were a matter of absolute indifference—if it came in millions without asking the British public or anybody else, if we had it all in a box in the Treasury—land purchase would still take a considerable length of time to complete. You cannot get rid of that difficulty. I think it ought to be borne in mind that up to the present moment there never has been a moment's delay in supplying the money required on the certificate of the Land Commission. The moment the Land Commission were in a position to say, "we want so much money in order to buy the holdings for the tenants," that moment the money is supplied. There has never been up to the present time any difficulty in the issue of land stock to obtain the necessary funds, and therefore the difficulty does not arise in that way. The delay that has hitherto occurred—the four, five or six years that have elapsed between the signing of the agreement and the paying of the money—has not been occasioned by any default in the Treasury in issuing land stock the moment they receive the authority or request from the Land Commission. Some people have an idea that the stoppage was 1335 due to the Treasury. Up to the present that is not the case. The moment the business was got through and the Land Commission wanted the money they obtained without delay the authority of the Treasury and proceeded through the proper channels to issue land stock. Whatever money was got all those difficulties which seem so serious you still would have, and there would still be a considerable length of time before land purchase could be completed, and the land vested in the actual tenants. The fixing of rents will not occur again until the expiration of another fifteen years, and I hope before the next fifteen years period is undertaken, we shall get rid of rent fixing altogether in the agricultural portions of Ireland.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that within the next fifteen years there will be no more fixing of rent in Ireland, because it does not depend on the time.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I know it is fifteen years from the time the last rent was last fixed, but it goes on all the time in very much reduced numbers. I know it will continue during the next seven or eight years, but I hope we shall not start off again on another fourth term of rent fixing. I see no occasion why we should. We have the Act of Parliament saying that every fifteen years from the date of the last fixing your judicial rents are to be fixed, and there is a court constituted by the Act of Parliament over which a barrister and the laymen, or two laymen and a barrister, preside to do this work. These persons have hitherto been appointed by the Irish Executive. I know that unreasonable complaints have very often been made against the persons appointed by Conservative predecessors of mine to fill these positions, and sometimes complaints have been made as to the character of the person appointed by myself. Sometimes we are told that they are tenants' men, and sometimes it is said that they are landlord's men. I do not know that they have given satisfaction. In these matters nobody ever does give satisfaction unless he gives an award in accordance with the wishes of those affected.
There have been difficulties, and we cannot ignore them, in regard to the decisions arrived at, but an appeal remains to the Judicial Commissioner, who is a 1336 judge and a person of judicial position and training, and those who are dissatisfied can appeal to him on these matters. If hon. Gentlemen assume that the new Irish Parliament and the new Irish Government are a set of rogues and vagabonds who will deliberately set themselves to do this kind of thing, the only way they can do it is by appointing unscrupulous and absurd persons to these positions and appointing an incompetent and absurd judge—if you assume all that I agree, not only that they ought not to have any authority whatsoever over rent fixing, but they ought to have no authority whatsoever over anything. There is the abyss, the abyssmal gulf which separates some hon. Gentlemen opposite from myself and from all good Home Rulers in this matter. I am only pointing out that it is not the function of the Irish Parliament, as such, to go about fixing fair rents. You cannot suppose that it will pass an Act declaring that for evermore rents shall be according to the Schedule of this Act. If they are going to have this corrupt intention they can only carry it out by corrupt administration and the scandalous appointment of ignorant persons, and saying that the Court of Appeal or the judicial person who hears the appeals shall be an irresponsible rogue. I want to point out to hon. Members that this is a work which is now being done by an Irish Executive, and I know it has not enjoyed the confidence of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
We have to select persons to go about fixing these rents, and I am assured by persons engaged in the work that certain principles have been evolved during this course of years which are applied almost mechanically by the persons who discharge this duty to the problems presented to them. It may be a bit of rule-of-thumb but, at any rate, the rules are well defined. They are handed down as matters of legal administrative tradition, although I know they have not always given satisfaction. Ever since 1881 these rents every time have shown a reduction, and that, of course, has not been quite satisfactory to the landlord. To assume that there is going to be any reversal of the principle which the Assistant Commissioners and the judge who presides over this Court of Appeal have laid down is, I think, a most unreasonable interpretation of what is proposed, and it is only part of that world-wide suspicion of everything which makes it rather difficult to pursue arguments, because each time the objection raised is that you 1337 are entrusting these most important functions to persons not fit to discharge them. This function which we are entrusting to the Irish Parliament is the nomination of the persons who are to carry out these matters. There is nothing revolutionary in the proposal we make. The Solicitor-General, whose speech did not give satisfaction to the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Peel), pointed out that the case often made was that if you go on reducing these rents so much, the people who have already bought will grumble to such an extent that they will not pay their annuities. You have to bear in mind that this process has been going on all these years, and every time these annuities have been paid. Some of these tenants had their rents fixed upon the first term, whereas their neighbours purchased and had their rents fixed upon second-term rents, and new purchasers had their rents fixed upon third-term rents, and upon each occasion there has been a reduction. It is said they might say, "What a fool I was! Why did I not hold on a little longer and postpone my purchase?" But they do not say that. In fact, they are glad to be in possession of their holdings and making such a good thing out of them, and it does not occur to them to inquire too curiously as to what rent their neighbour on the other side of the hedge has to pay for his holding.
If they were disposed to do that they have had hundreds and thousands of opportunities of doing it, because they have seen this reduction of rents going on all round them. I do not think that is a point which is likely in the future to lead to any more trouble than it has done in the past. I do not know that when the Solicitor-General pointed out that the Transferred Sum is ultimately liable, it was a point he was not perfectly entitled to make. The hon. Member for Taunton taunted me, and possibly in future he may taunt other Chief Secretaries, by asking, "Would you dare to dock the Transferred Sum of these amounts?" All I can say is that you will not be able to do anything else, because that is the law, and it is not a question of daring. We have not yet arrived at such a condition of things that even Cabinet Ministers can disregard the financial arrangements incorporated in Acts of Parliament. Just because I could not disregard them in the Wyndham Act, I had to come to Parliament to get a new Act. If I had treated them as if they did not exist I might have been in a different 1338 position to what I was. I should have thought anybody would have to obey the law in the matter, and that it would be an automatic affair. I think therefore the Solicitor-General was perfectly within his-rights when he said the Bill, if it becomes law, would be a very powerful instrument in preventing even a corrupt Irish Administration from taking any course which would be at all likely to upset the regular payment of purchase money. I therefore think the arguments presented are not sound and may be disregarded.
§ Mr. FETHERSTONHAUGH
I have not yet heard any reason for the proposal to separate rent fixing from the other business of the Irish Land Commission, unless it is intended to misuse the powers which are to be given to the Irish Executive. Up to the present the Land Commission has carried on the business of land purchase and rent fixing, and, as far as my knowledge of the way in which they do their business goes, the two have been very much mixed together. The same gentlemen who act as sub-Commissioners in fixing fair rents are very often employed as valuers for the purposes of land purchase. The judicial Commissioner at the head of the whole authority is charged with hearing appeals—
§ Mr. FETHERSTONHAUGH
He has not, as a matter of convenience, heard appeals from fair rents, but appeals lie to him, and he is entitled to hear them. Every sensible man in Ireland is in favour of pushing land purchase, and Mr. Justice Wylie has devoted a great deal of his time and ability to the working out of land purchase; but he is at the head of that Court and to him appeals would lie. He is, therefore, to occupy this curious position: he is to be under the Irish Government when hearing appeals regarding the fixing of fair rents, and under the Imperial Government when exercising his functions in hearing appeals for judicial rents. Why is it that hon. Members below the Gangway seem to be so anxious to have this change if it is not intended to misuse it? The importance they attach to getting this rent-fixing power has certainly been avowed over and over again in the Press. I do not share the belief that Irishmen are incapable, and should not be entrusted to do many things. I have great confidence in my fellow countrymen in many-respects, but I do not think at the close of 1339 a long land war the power of determining what rent tenants are to pay should be conferred on the tenants themselves, which is really what it would come to. The Irish Parliament would be overwhelmingly representative of the interests of the tenants, and they would naturally do everything they could to make things as favourable as possible for their electors. The Chief Secretary has suggested it is only a question of fixing fair rents every fifteen years.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I meant that the rent of each particular holding could only be fixed once every fifteen years.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. FETHERSTONHAUGH
I quite understand the right hon. Gentleman. He seemed to think that was the only manner in which this rent fixing could come before an Irish Parliament. We know rents can only be fixed every fifteen years, but what is to prevent the Irish Parliament shortening that term to, say, three years. That would have a very important effect upon a great many estates in Ireland, because the cost of fixing fair rents in the case of small holdings is very often out of all proportion to the matter in dispute. When a rent is to be reduced from £5 to £4 the sum of £1 only is in question; but it costs the parties, and particularly the landowner, who generally has to bring in a valuer of skill and position—he is treated as giving no evidence at all if he is not—and have legal assistance, a great many years' purchase of the reduction. There are a great many other ways in which a power of this sort might be misused. I do not want to be taken as suggesting that it will necessarily be misused, but it looks as if it was intended by some people that it should. I have here the report of a meeting at which one gentleman pointed out that if the Irish Executive got control of the rent-fixing department, they would appoint judges who would fix fair rents impartially, so that the unfortunate tenants who were paying unjust rents would have their position bettered. I do not take any exception to the interpretation placed by hon. Members on the word "impartially." The point is that he contemplated an alteration in the present system which would enable people who as he considers are paving unjust rents to pay just rents. Those rents must have been fixed by the Land Commission, and, therefore, what this gentleman contemplates is that those rents should be fixed again by 1340 someone who he says would be impartial. It is perfectly clear, he means, they would be fixed by somebody who would be satisfactory to the people who think the rents are too high. That does look like enabling tenants to themselves fix what rent they should pay.
There are many other points which the Chief Secretary passed over very lightly. There are many ways in which the Irish Parliament could entirely upset and alter this system of fixing fair rents besides shortening the term. Under the existing Land Acts there are provisions as to the fixing of fair rents and the principles upon which they are to be fixed are laid down. One Act prescribes that there should be what is called the fixed schedule, in which are set out by the Commissioners all the different qualities of the land comprised in the holdings, the value placed upon it, and the improvements the tenant is allowed. There is nothing to prevent all those safeguards and protections as to the fixing of a fair rent being done away with. The Irish Parliament, in fact, would have power to alter the whole scheme of the Land Act of 1881, and the Act that followed and amended it, and it would have the power to bring in a number of people to have fair rents fixed who under the present law are not entitled to have them fixed. It would virtually mean revolutionising the whole law as between landlord and tenant in Ireland. There is nothing to prevent the whole of the land laws of the country being entirely altered and upset. I venture to submit that is a very strong and drastic measure to take, and there must be some purpose for taking it that countervails the inconvenience of dividing the Land Commission into a number of sections. I have had a great deal of experience of the Land Courts. I am not one of those people who condemn wholesale the Land Commissioners. I think on the whole they have done their work as well as can be expected; but I very much doubt whether when if after a period of thirty years the control of these land tribunals is transferred to the Irish Parliament they will work as satisfactorily as under Imperial management.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
I heard the speech of the Chief Secretary in which he defended the proposal of the Government to hand over the rent-fixing department to the Irish Parliament, and, to my mind, the right hon. Gentleman gave no proper explanation of this extraordinary proposal. 1341 It seems to me that once the Government arrived at a decision that the question of land purchase was to be reserved to the Imperial Parliament, it should follow as a simple self-evident corollary that the question of rent fixing should also be retained in the hands of that Parliament, as the two things are so inextricably mixed up. The whole of the purchase portions are based upon rents which have been fixed by the rent-fixing department of the Land Commission, and, therefore, I think we have a right to ask for some explanation why this is to be done. No explanation has been given at all. The Government have sought to defend this action by trying to show that under their proposals no injustice will be done. That is not enough. On the face of it if it is reasonable and obvious that the purchase department should be left in the hands of the Parliament of this country, the rent-fixing department should also be left under Imperial control. Even the Solicitor-General was unable to show any good reason for adopting any other course.
The Chief Secretary told us that our objections to the course the Government proposed to pursue was based on our distrust of our Nationalist fellow-countrymen. These are not my views: they are the views of the Chief Secretary, and he said, in effect, that only on the assumption that any Irish Parliament would consist of rogues and vagabonds could we explain our opposition to this proposal. I do not suppose it would be within the bounds of Parliamentary decency for me to suggest that my fellow-countrymen below the Gangway are either rogues or vagabonds; but T would like to remind the House of some quotations made by the hon. Member for Central Sheffield (Mr. James Hope) from the speeches of the hon. Member for East Mayo. Those who have been in the House of Commons for any length of time know perfectly well the views held by hon. Members below the Gangway, who have never made any secret of the fact that they think that the rents have not been reduced nearly as much as they ought to have been, and also have made no secret of their intention, if ever they have the power, to see that the rents are very much more reduced. In these circumstances, it would be grossly unfair to hand over to the men who have expressed such opinions the duty of fixing the rents on which the price to be eventually paid for the farms will be based. The hon. Member for East Mayo made no secret of the fact that he was 1342 alluding to the time when the Home Rule Bill was passed, and when, in consequence, the Executive of a Parliament in Dublin would have the appointment of the judges and other officials to whom would be entrusted the carrying out of the Land Purchase and Rent Fixing Act. The hon. Member made no secret of the fact that he hoped that when that time came the landlords would have a very much worse chance of receiving a just and equitable sum for their property than they now had. In face of this statement, is it any wonder that we should endeavour to retain the rent-fixing department in the House of this country?
The Chief Secretary has said truly that the Land Commissioners have had to put up with a great many adverse criticisms both from landlords and tenants. That was inevitable. Although I am not prepared to go so far as to say that in all cases their decisions have been what they ought to be, I believe they have, on the whole, done their best to act squarely and fairly towards both landlord and tenant. My desire is to see both landlord and tenant justly dealt with, and I should like to remind the House that, after the passage of the Act of 1903, both landlords and tenants, with few exceptions, were agreed that the proposals of that Bill were fair to both. They were absolutely content with what was meted out to them under that Bill, and if it had been allowed to work out to its logical conclusion there would never have been any necessity for any more rents to be fixed. We claim that land purchase-should be allowed to go on on the lines on which it was begun by that Act; but we say, if you are going to retain in the hands of the Imperial Parliament the power of selling land in Ireland you must inevitably, unless you are going to be convicted of a gross contradiction, also maintain in its hands the power of fixing rents. At the present moment a great deal of the work of both these departments is done by one man, and it must pass the wit of man to see how you are really going to divide the two. The Government must have been aware of that difficulty, and must have recognised it when they introduced Clause 40 into the Bill, because they there propose that—Arrangements may be made by any department of the Government of the United Kingdom for the exercise and performance on behalf of that department of any powers or duties of that department by officers of an Irish 1343 department, or by any Irish department for the exercise and performance on behalf of that department of any powers or duties of that department by officers of a department of the Government of the United Kingdom on such terms and conditions as may be agreed.I do not know what condition the Land Commission will be in after that provision has been applied to them. It will be difficult to know under whose authority any individual in that office is. We base our claim on the fact that if this land purchase is to be carried to a successful conclusion—it has been carried two-thirds of the way already, and it will be a thousand pities if it were allowed to stop there—until every acre of land at present held by a tenant is transferred to him, every department which has to deal with land purchase should be left in the same hands. It was agreed by the Committee this afternoon that the proper hands in which to leave that matter is the Parliament of this country, and therefore I support the Amendment.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
As an Englishman, I approach this question in a spirit not of dogmatism, but of inquiry. I, therefore, ask the Solicitor-General to give the Committee a little more information than it at present possesses on one or two points. The Chief Secretary spoke as if the only function that the Irish Government could exercise in this matter was the appointment of the Commissioners. He said rents are fixed every fifteen years, and once they are fixed they cannot be interfered with. Therefore all that would be left to the Irish Government would be to appoint Commissioners. He said they might appoint rogues and vagabonds. I do not suppose they would do that; but is there anything in the Bill to prevent the Irish Government bringing in legislation altering the present terms, and reducing fifteen years, for instance, to seven, because the Chief Secretary spoke as if that were so. The right hon. Gentleman also spoke of the operation of land purchase in the future. This afternoon he made a very interesting announcement, and with a solemnity which is not usually found in his speeches, he spoke about a new measure for land purchase. I ask the Solicitor-General, because it bears immediately on the question of judicial rents, is that Bill going to be compulsory? If it is, no doubt a great deal of the argument on the pre- 1344 sent Amendment falls to the ground, because purchase will be arranged in a great number of cases before any third term rents are fixed. If it is not going to be compulsory there is another aspect of the question, because all the third term rents-cannot be fixed in any one year. The first terms rents are fixed in one year, the second term rents are fixed in different years, and the third term rents are fixed in different years, and in the case of leaseholders they started a good many years later. While the Chief Secretary may bring in his Land Purchase Bill, supposing it is a voluntary one it will begin operations in a great many different years. Will there not be a temptation for the tenants to defer making any application at all until they get lower rents fixed as a third term rent by the Commissioners. If that is so, it will delay land purchase considerably. Those are the three questions I desire to ask the Solicitor-General.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I have already spoken on the Amendment, but out of courtesy to the hon. Gentleman opposite I will ask leave to say this much further. He asks a question as to the form and scope of the new proposals relating to land purchase to which the Chief Secretary referred. My answer must be that no one is in a position to make any further declaration than was made with authority by the Chief Secretary. The hon. Member asks me whether or not, assuming that this Bill in this respect remains as it stands, it will be within the competence of the Irish Executive, not only to appoint when vacancies arise, such persons as they think fit to act as Commissioners, but whether it will be within their competence to bring in a Bill relating to the fixing of judicial rents. I do not doubt that in the absence of any reservation that it will be within their power. The point I made earlier in the Debate was that the whole matter really turns on the view we take of the good faith of those who undertake the work of Irish self-government. If you take the view that they are persons in whom you cannot place any confidence at all, many of these dreadful prophecies adopt a certain substance. If, on the other hand, you take the view that the people who undertake to carry out this Bill will act in good faith, I am not willing to assume there will be a monstrous abuse of the powers. That is the real answer to such a suggestion as the hon. Gentleman makes.
§ Question put "That those words be there inserted"1346
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 157; Noes, 266.1347
|Division No. 253.]||AYES.||[9.25 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Foster, Philip Staveley||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Gardner, Ernest||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Peel, Captain R. F. (Woodbridge)|
|Astor, Waldorf||Gibbs, George Abraham||Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)|
|Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Goldsmith, Frank||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Gordon, John (Londonderry, South)||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Baicarres, Lord||Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Haddock, George Bahr||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Hall, Fred (Dulwich)||Randies, Sir John S.|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Barnston, Harry||Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry)||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.|
|Barrie, H. T.||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Helmsley, Viscount||Rutherford, W. (Liverpool, W. Derby)|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue||Hill, Sir Clement L.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Boyton, James||Hill-Wood, Samuel||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hoare, S. J. G.||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Stanier, Beville|
|Burgoyne, Alan Hughes||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Butcher, John George||Houston, Robert Paterson||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Campbell, Capt. Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Hume-Williams, W. E.||Swift, Rigby|
|Campton, W. R.||Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.||Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Ingleby, Holcombe||Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, E.)||Talbot, Lord E.|
|Cassel, Felix||Joynson-Hicks, William||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)|
|Cator, John||Kerry, Earl of||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Keswick, Henry||Thynne, Lord A.|
|Cave, George||Kimber, Sir Henry||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Chaioner, Col. R. G. W.||Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Touche, George Alexander|
|Chambers, James||Kyffin-Taylor, G.||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Larmor, Sir J.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Clyde, J. Avon||Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Cooper, Richard Ashmole||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John||Lockwood, Rt. Hon, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Lonsdale. Sir John Brownlee||White, Major G. D. (Lanes, Southport)|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||MacCaw, Win. J. MacGeagh||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Macmaster, Donald||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Dixon, C. H.||Mount, William Arthur||Yate, Col. C. E.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Newman, John R. P.||Younger, Sir George|
|Fell, Arthur||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Nield, Herbert|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Norton-Griffiths, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Earl of Ronaldshay and Mr. G. Faber.|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)|
|Forster, Henry William||Ordo-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Cotton, William Francis|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. William (Rhondda)||Brace, William||Crawshay-Williams, Eliot|
|Adamson, William||Brady, Patrick Joseph||Crean, Eugene|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Brocklehurst, W. B.||Crooks, William|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Brunner, John F. L.||Crumley, Patrick|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Bryce, J. Anpan||Cullinan, John|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)|
|Armitage, Robert||Burke, E. Haviland-||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Burris, Rt. Hon. John||Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Dawes, J. A.|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Delany, William|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Chancellor, Henry George||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas|
|Barnes, G. N.||Chapple, Dr. William Allen:||Doris, William|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick)||Clancy, John Joseph||Duffy, William J.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Clough, William||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts, St. George)||Ciynes, John R.||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Collins, G. P. (Greenock)||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tlpperary, N.)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)|
|Boland, John Pius||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Essex, Richard Walter|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Esslemont, George Birnie|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Falconer, James|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rind, Cockerm'th)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Ferens, Ft. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Levy, Sir Maurice||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Ffrench, Peter||Lewis, John Herbert||Radford, G. H.|
|Field, William||Logan, John William||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.|
|Fitzgibben, John||Lundon, Thomas||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Lynch, A. A.||Reddy, Michael|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Furness, Stephen||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Gelder, Sir W. A.||McGhee, Richard||Richards, Thomas|
|Gilhooly, James||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Gill, A. H.||MacNeill, John G. S. (Donegal, South)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Ginneil, Laurence||Macpherson, James Ian||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Greig, Col. J. W.||M'Curdy, C. A.||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||M'Kean, John||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke)||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Rowlands, James|
|Guiney, Patrick||Manfield, Harry||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Hackett, John||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Samuel, J. (Steckton-upon-Tees)|
|Hancock, J. G.||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Meagher, Michael||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir C. E.|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds.)||Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.)||Sheehy, David|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Millar, James Duncan||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Molloy, Michael||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Molteno, Percy Alport||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Hasiam, James (Derbyshire)||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Mooney, John J.||Snowden, Philip|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Morgan, George Hay||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.).|
|Hayward, Evan||Morrell, Philip||Sutherland, John E.|
|Hazleton, Richard||Morison, Hector||Sutton, John E.|
|Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Muidoon, John||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Munro, R.||Thomas, J. H.|
|Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Higham, John Sharp||Nannettl, Joseph P.||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Hinds, John||Needham, Christopher T.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Neilsen, Francis||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Hodge, John||Nolan, Joseph||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Hogge, James Myles||Norman, Sir Henry||Walsh, J. (Cork, South)|
|Holmes, Daniel Turner||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Holt, Richard Durning||Nuttail, Harry||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wardle, George J.|
|Hudson, Walter||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Hughes, S. L.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||O'Doherty, Philip||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Jackson, Sir John||O'Donnell, Thomas||Watt, Henry A.|
|John, Edward Thomas||O'Dowd, John||Webb, H.|
|Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Grady, James||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||White, J. Dundas (Glas., Tradeston)|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||O'Malley, William||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Jowett, F. W.||O'Shee, James John||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Williams, P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Keating, Matthew||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Keilaway, Frederick George||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Kelly, Edward||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Kilbride, Denis||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|King, J.||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Lamb, Ernest Henry||Pirle, Duncan Vernon||Young, William (Perthshire, E.)|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Power, Patrick Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Guiland.|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
§ Viscount CASTLEREAGH
I beg to move, in paragraph (a), after the word "Ireland" ["Acts relating to Land Purchase in Ireland"], to insert the words "and to the Congested District Board."
The object of this Amendment is to include amongst the reserved services the operations of the Congested Districts Board. This is a matter of supreme importance, because it only shows the con- 1348 fusion of thought which there is in the minds of those who are promoting this Bill when they believe that it is possible to dissociate the action of the Congested Districts Board from the land purchasing authority in Ireland. We must realise that the Congested Districts Board is the only purchasing authority in seven counties, in Ireland—Donegal, Sligo, Galway, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, and Kerry 1349 and part of Clare. The Congested Districts Board operates over one-third of the whole area of Ireland, which includes nearly 800,000,000 acres. The Chief Secretary made this statement in his speech on the Second Reading of the Home Rule Bill:—The grants, salaries, and expenses of the Congested Districts Board, so far as they are not included in the general subject-matter of the Land Purchase Act, will not be a reserved service. Grants for land purchase will continue to be made from the Imperial Exchequer.This is a very misleading statement, because it infers that the Imperial Parliament has some control over the Congested Districts Board. But what I want to prove is that the only control which the Imperial Parliament has over the Congested Districts Board is merely an indirect control, and what is, moreover, a most vexatious control. Under the Bill for the better government of Ireland the Congested Districts Board becomes an entirely Irish Department. It is proved conclusively by the words of the Prime Minister:—The item, 'Congested Districts Board, £169,000,' shown on the same page, represents (in round figures) the total of the Vote for the Congested Districts Board (Class 11., No. 38). The whole amount of this expenditure will be defrayed by the Irish Government out of the Transferred Sum." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th August, 1912, col. 2936, Vol. XLI.]That means that the total amount to be defrayed by the Irish Government will fall on the Transferred Sum. Therefore the Imperial Government has no control over the operations of the Board. The Prime Minister made another statement of a similarly inaccurate character. On 11th April last he said:—We … propose the exclusion of certain Irish services—described in this Bill as reserved services—services reserved for the Imperial Parliament and the Imperial Executive. First, and in some ways the most important, is the subject-matter of the Irish Land Purchase Act.When the Congested Districts Board has power over one-third of the whole of Ireland, the Imperial Executive will not have complete control overland purchase. There is one objection to this conclusion. It is quite true that the Estates Commissioners might refuse to act upon the request of the Congested Districts Board when they call upon them to take such steps as are necessary to purchase an estate. It is quite true that if the Estates Commissioners took this step it would be one of a very drastic character, but they might be compelled to do so by the refusal of the Imperial Exchequer when the limited sum at its disposal had been exhausted in the purchase of estates or untenanted land.
1350 It must also be remembered that on these occasions in every compulsory acquirement of untenanted land the vendors must be paid in cash. That is a very important point. It might be that when the Treasury was called upon to supply the demand of the Estates Commissioners they would have to raise a sum by 20 per cent. stock. I do not think that anyone will maintain that confidence will be increased by the passing of the Home Rule Bill for Ireland. I venture to say that exactly the opposite will be the case. The Treasury, instead of being called upon to pay 20 per cent, to pay the vendors in cash, would probably be called upon to pay a much larger sum of money. It comes to this, that the Imperial Treasury would be compelled to limit their advances in the interest of the taxpayers to about one-tenth for the purpose of acquiring land. That means that when the Congested Districts Board have to approach the Estates Commissioners and ask them to put in motion the requirements for acquiring land, the Estates Commissioners, under the pressure of the Imperial Treasury, would find it impossible to respond to the invitation. Then a curious situation would arise. There would be two public Departments disagreeing. They would be at loggerheads. These two public Departments would be controlled, one by the Imperial Executive in this country, and the other by the Executive in Ireland. I do not think it requires a great stretch of imagination on the part of any hon. Member to realise exactly what the situation would be. This Bill empowers forty-two Irish Members to sit in the House of Commons.
We were told by the Prime Minister that the passing of the Home Rule Bill is for the purpose of relieving the congestion of business in the House of Commons, but I think it obvious that, when there is a Department under the control of the Executive in Ireland which is represented by forty-two Members in this House and that Department in Ireland is forbidden to act as it wishes to act by the Imperial Executive in this country, the congestion of business in this House, if it is congested at the present moment, would be doubly congested under these circumstances. It might be argued that the Estates Commissioners will merely represent a revising body, or, rather I should say, not a revising body, but a body merely required to register the decrees of the Congested Districts Board. If that is the intention, it is inaccurate to say that land purchase comes entirely under the 1351 Imperial Parliament. The purchasing authority, the Congested Districts Board, stands for seven counties in Ireland, and it is obvious that, under the restrictions you would be bound to put upon them if there was not sufficient money in the Exchequer, the Congested Districts Board, instead of coming entirely under the influence of the Parliament in Dublin, would be controlled by the purchasing authority in this country. It is for the purpose of avoiding the difficulties which are bound to arise, unless the Congested Districts Board is a reserved service, that I ask the Committee to accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I attach considerable importance to this Amendment. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, at an earlier period of the proceedings this afternoon, stated that the Imperial Parliament would have complete control over the whole question of Irish land purchase. I say that unless and until you transfer the operations of the Congested Districts Board to the control of the same authority as is to control your main land purchase, it is entirely inadequate and ridiculous to say that the land purchase scheme remains under the control of the Imperial Parliament. I shall show that in a couple of sentences. I want the Committee to realise that the Congested Districts Board are in a very large measure indeed responsible for the working of Irish land purchase at the present moment. It is proposed that Irish land purchase as a whole shall remain reserved service, but it is not proposed that the Congested Districts Board shall remain a reserved service. In no less than seven counties, namely, Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway, and Clare—and I might add in a considerable portion of Cork, and a considerable portion of Kerry—the Congested Districts Board is under Statute the sole purchasing authority. The total amount of land in Ireland is 13,174,631 acres. I think the Congested Districts Board are the sole purchasing authority in respect of over 7,500,000—actually more than half of Ireland. I say it is a sham and a farce to say that the land purchase system will remain entirely under the control of the Imperial Parliament when the body that controls the land of more than half Ireland is not a reserved service.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The suggestion in this Amendment is that the Congested Districts Board and all its operations should 1352 be excluded from the services which pass to the Irish Parliament, and should remain reserved services, under the sole control of the legislature and executive here. I expected to hear from the Noble Lord who moved this Amendment some references, at any rate, to another and very important aspect of the work of the Congested Districts Board. We all know that land purchase is very far from being the sole work of the Congested Districts Board. If there is any side of that work which ought obviously and necessarily to pass under the control of an Irish Executive and an Irish Parliament it is the other topics with which the Congested Districts Board is concerned. Many of us have seen in the West of Ireland the sort of work which that body does. Assume for the purposes of argument—and that assumption must be made for the present Debate—that you are going to set up an Trish Parliament and an Trish Executive, do you really think it could be right to exclude from the control of that Irish Parliament and that Irish Executive such subjects as the promotion of village industries in the West of Ireland, the promotion of fisheries on the coast, the promotion of migration from certain parts of the country, the development of the lace schools and the carpet weaving industry, and other things which we have been accustomed to regard in this controversial subject as beyond controversy and among the things in which all Irishmen alike are interested? Are we going to say when an Irish Parliament is started that hon. Gentlemen from Ulster and other parts of Ireland will differ on this matter? Here is a matter which is above all matters domestic to the Irish people and it is ridiculous for anyone who deals with this matter on the basis that there is to be a Home Rule Parliament and Executive to say that these questions should be withdrawn from the control of that local assembly and executive.
I can imagine it may be said: that may be so, but the difficulty is land purchase. There are many difficulties in this world and I do not say there is no difficulty here, but it is as far from being as serious as hon. Gentlemen think. The Congested Districts Board, it is quite true, not under its original constitution but under powers which it has since received is the principal purchaser, but not the only purchaser of land under the Land Purchase Acts in that part of Ireland. It gets the money from the Land Purchase Fund by application 1353 to and with the assent of the Estates Commissioners. We have reserved already, by the decision of this Committee and the language of the Bill, the whole subject matter of land purchase, and inasmuch as the Estates Commissioners have to assent to the finances of the Congested Districts Board for the purpose of purchase in so far as that is their function, that subject matter remains a reserved service. While that is the case, what has it got to do with the proposition now put forward that we should take away from the control and the responsibility of the Irish Executive all these great varieties of matters which the Congested Districts Board deals with? In so far as they are concerned with land purchase, in so far as the consent of the Estates Commissioners is required, there is a topic which already, by the decision of the Committer, is reserved. In so far as that topic is not touched and it deals with the other work of the Congested Districts Board there is no reason why anybody who for this purpose accepts the principle of this Bill, should say that this ought to be one of the topics specially reserved from the Irish Parliament and the Irish Executive.
The Congested Districts Board buy the land, with the assent of the Estates Commissioners and with money which they get with their assent from the land purchase fund. Having bought the land, one of its functions is to develop it, to improve its culture, and to determine the way in which it should be broken up before it is handed over to those who are to get it. Does anybody say that that is a matter with which the Irish people are not to be trusted when we have always got the Estates Commissioners and the land purchase funds as topics which are reserved under the decision we have already come to? I say that while complications may be suggested the proposition that we should deal with the whole subject matter of the Congested Districts Board as a subject matter which ought to be removed from the Home Rule Parliament is a proposition which cannot receive the assent of any body of persons who really consider what is the work which an Irish Parliament will have to do. It may be said, "On your own admissions there is a corner of the Congested Districts Board's work which entrenches upon reserved topics, and the rest of it, according to your view, should be handed over without restriction to the Irish Government"; and it may be said, "Shall we not have difficulties in drawing the line?" A 1354 difficult case might arise, and it is provided for in the most obvious and necessary way. Anybody who takes an interest in the subject and turns to Clause 44, Sub-section (g), will see that one of the things to be done to bring this into operation is that an Order in Council should be made which shall draw this line, if indeed the line is not drawn by the language of the Bill itself. That is the proper way to deal with the matter. We could not assent to the proposition that the development of a village industry or fishing and these other matters, which are par excellence matters to be dealt with in Ireland, should be reserved by the express decision of this Committee from a Home Rule Parliament.
§ Sir E. CARSON
The speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman shows once more the complications of the questions which we have to deal with in this House. I think on a little analysis I shall be able to show that his speech is the reductio ad absurdum of the whole system which is being attempted to be set up by this Bill. He says there are certain duties attached to the Congested Districts Board which are domestic. I entirely agree with him. But the Bill has done nothing whatever to segregate what are purely domestic from what the House has already decided can only be done by the Imperial Parliament. It is only about an hour since we passed a provision, with which everybody agreed, that land purchase must be kept for the Imperial Parliament and for the Imperial Executive altogether so far as Executive matters are concerned. Now the Solicitor-General seems to think it is an extraordinary thing for us to say you cannot have two kinds of land purchase in Ireland under the same set of Acts, setting up probably, for all we know, two different standards of land purchase and two different standards of price and of methods of carrying out the whole system which is under the land purchase code. Is that anything more absurd than what the hon. and learned Gentleman put forward when he says he cannot draw a distinction between the domestic matters which the Congested Districts Board have to carry on and land purchase matters? He admits that in seven counties the Congested Districts Board are the sole authority for land purchase. He says that the matter is quite easy, and that when they want money they have to go to the Estates Commissioners. What we are laying down is that the Irish Home 1355 Rule Government will be prepared to take over anything so long as they can apply to the Imperial Parliament for the money to pay for it. That is really the whole answer which is given to the case of the Noble Lord who moved this Amendment. The Solicitor-General really must see how ludicrous his own argument is as to discriminating between the various duties which are so closely intertwined in those different Departments. He must see there is nothing more ludicrous. Fixing the rents on which purchase is founded is to be kept with the Home Rule Government, but the purchase itself is to be kept with the Imperial Government.
The truth of the matter is that the various duties which have been imposed upon these Departments are so intertwined, and the finances in the carrying out of the business are so intertwined, that you never will succeed, and never can succeed, by trying to discriminate between those who carry out the business and those who pay for the business. The whole matter comes to this: Are you prepared to take Home Rule without any finance from this Imperial Parliament? And the simple answer is, "No." Therefore, at every stage with reference to every Department we are always to be coming into these difficulties, because you will be handing over administration to the Irish Parliament, and you will be retaining in this Imperial Parliament the obligation to pay for the administration of those who are in Ireland. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to a very general provision. Clause 44, paragraph (g), and here the Order in Council crops up once more. They say, "For heaven's sake do not bother us with these things here. Let us not look at difficulties in advance; trust the Government Department. The Government Department is the real foundation for all liberty of the democracy, and you must really rely upon the Government Department, and leave them to legislate. What is the good of the House of Lords, what is the good of the House of Commons—it is the Government who are really the parties that you are to trust." The real sanctity of liberty is to be sheer trust and confidence in the Government, of which the hon. and learned Gentleman is so admittedly an ornament. Then the Solicitor-General went back on a very favourite argument—"trust the Irish people." Of course I admit that that must be the foundation of any real safeguard, 1356 and the only question is whether you can trust them.
In an earlier speech the hon. and learned Gentleman said that Irishmen always make exaggerated speeches—"Oh, do not mind what hon. Members below the Gangway say."
§ Sir E. CARSON
The hon. and learned Member was speaking with reference to their speeches during the agrarian conflict. He said, with that air of superiority which an Englishman always has, "Do not mind what Irishmen say, they always exaggerate in their speeches." May I say to the hon. and learned Gentleman that he is always extremely exaggerated in his confidence, particularly where he knows that the placing of that confidence is not going to affect himself. That is really what gives the hon. and learned Gentleman such extreme confidence and such extreme cock-suredness, that whatever happens the one person above all others whom you can trust is the Irishman, because you are always entitled to disregard everything he has said or everything he has done in the past. Your confidence is to be based on neglecting entirely his action and his speeches, and you are always to suppose he has meant and done exactly the contrary of what he would have wished to have said or done. We are not prepared to accept the Bill on those terms, and really the hon. and learned Gentleman, if he will only consider it, does not himself altogether agree with that trust and confidence except so far as suits his argument for the moment.
The truth of the matter is that the hon. and learned Gentleman has confidence when it suits him, but has no confidence when it does not. He has no confidence in the Irish Parliament because he knows perfectly well that the reason he has reserved to the Imperial Parliament the purchase of land is because they could not raise a shilling to carry it out; but he prefers, for the sake of passing the Bill, to rely upon the confidence he has in the British taxpayer—and the British taxpayer does not make exaggerated speeches which the hon. and learned Gentleman said Irishmen are always making. This Bill is so full of anomalies, and so full of these problems, that nobody on earth, save, perhaps, the hon. and learned Gentleman, could possibly say that this mixing up and trying to divide the various duties between these 1357 Departments, will lead to anything but friction. We are told that this House is going to be freed from all the difficulties of Irish business in future, when there are only forty-two Irish Members in this House. The hon. and learned Gentleman must be of a hopeful and cheerful disposition; but the truth of the matter is that if you are relieving this House you are postponing problems far more difficult than exist at the present day. All the arguments we have heard merely tend to show that you are setting up and creating difficulties which you are only postponing for a short time, but which tinder far more adverse circumstances than the present will have to be solved in future.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
I do not think that I could add anything very much to what the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has said from the Irish point of view as to the difficulties of this question which are involved in this Amendment. I wish to look at the question from the English point of view. If you do that I think it becomes obvious that this Clause in not reserving the Congested Districts Board is a direct cause of possible quarrel between the Home Rule Parliament which you are to set up and the Imperial Parliament. I suppose one of the reasons why we object to Home Rule as much as anything else is that we say that it is impossible to set up a Parliament so near to us as Ireland, and so closely bound up in every possible way in all its subject-matter with our Parliament, without constantly having quarrels and disagreements between the two Houses. It appears to me here is exactly one of those more or less minor questions which will undoubtedly mean perpetual friction and quarrel when the two Parliaments get to work. I largely agree with a great deal of what the Solicitor-General said. He said, "Can you imagine trusting an Irish Parliament with anything at all and not giving it these powers to the Congested Districts Board." I think there is a great deal in that. I think it is a natural conclusion that you may trust them to provide adequate stock bulls for the farmers in the congested districts, which I believe is part of the function of the Board. I believe you may certainly entrust them to foster rural industries in the congested districts, which I believe is part of their functions; but in saying that the Solicitor-General by his own remark enforced the very absurdity of the whole matter 1358 because he showed that here in a simple matter like the Congested Districts Board you are bound to have conflict of authority, and that you cannot adopt either one proposal or the other but that they are bound to be under two authorities, one of which is the Imperial Parliament and the other the Home Rule Parliament.
It seems to me that the Chief Secretary was aware of that himself when he said in April last that in so far as the Congested Districts Board were not included in the general subject matter of the Land Purchase Acts they would not be a reserve service, but it appears to me they are not a reserved service even when they are included under the Land Purchase Acts, although, as a matter of fact, they will have all the inconvenience that would arise if they were a reserved service. What will happen now? Suppose the Congested Districts Board appeal to the Estates Commissioners to compulsorily acquire some land in Ireland, and the Estates Commissioners, acting upon the orders of the Imperial Treasury, who, I think very rightly, will not be so keen to advance money under Home Rule as they are now under the United Kingdom, suppose they appeal to them to buy some property, and the Estates Commissioners refuse, what happens? You have the Estates Commissioners on the one hand, blamed by the Members of the Irish Parliament who want that land purchase to go through, and who yet are not responsible to that Irish Parliament but to the Imperial Parliament, which has really stopped it by the refusal of the further grant of credit. There you at once have a cause of quarrel between the two Parliaments, and what is going to happen then? We all know very well that hon. Members who represent Irish constituencies will use their position in this Parliament quite regardless of the merits of any question to force their view upon the Government that sits upon the Front Bench.
So much has Parliamentary Government been prostituted in the past by the presence of hon. Members from Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I will not withdraw. Will hon. Members allow me to substantiate what I say? What I mean by that is—[HON. MEMBERS "Withdraw."] What I mean by that is that hon. Members say openly that they do not vote on questions according to what they believe to be right but according to 1359 what will help them to get Home Rule for Ireland, and I call that the prostituting of Parliament. They prostituted Parliament when they voted for the Budget which they disagreed with. They did that because they thought—I do not blame them—that it was the most efficacious step they could take in order to get their Home Rule Bill in. They will do exactly the same thing, when they are here, though in reduced numbers. If ever they find themselves in the position of holding the balance between the two parties, as they do to-day, they will still not vote according to the merits of the Imperial question which is up before the Imperial Parliament, but they will vote in accordance with some trumpery question such as this, so as to make the Irish view of the Irish Parliament prevail over the view of the Imperial Parliament. The result is that that state of affairs, which we have often contemplated, and which we have often put before the country, and which, I think, the country are beginning to see, namely, that the Irish Parliament will control not only Ireland, but also England, and Scotland and Wales, will undoubtedly come about. I think this is a very typical instance, and I do not think any Amendment has been more happily chosen for the purpose of showing what inherent difficulties there are in all those questions where the powers of the Imperial Parliament and of the Home Rule Parliament overlap, and where, moreover, you get unending causes of difficulty and of friction as there must inevitably be when you set up a so-called subordinate Parliament such as this.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I think the House will agree with mo that almost any Amendment but this might have been moved from the other side. What is this Congested Districts Board? It was set up by the right hon. Gentleman the late leader of the Conservative party. It was set up as a representative Board to a certain extent. True, it did not rest on an elective basis, but still an effort was made to have representatives of the districts, and to entrust to them small useful work which a local authority alone could do. That is the Board which has well justified its existence for the last twenty years. That is the Board which has grown and prospered so well in Ireland which Gentlemen opposite want to take away by this Bill and to withdraw. It suggests to anyone who has heard the 1360 speeches, which have been most extraordinary, that gentlemen opposite, although they sometimes talk about being willing to concede local government, would still not extend the slightest or the smallest power of local government to any part of Ireland. The speeches were most extraordinary with regard to the districts which the Congested District Board covered. I suppose the Noble Lord made a mistake when he spoke of eight hundred millions. I think he was almost as wrong in the eight millions as he was in the eight hundred millions. When he was corrected by an hon. Member above the Gangway, he stated that the area under the Board amounted to more than half of Ireland, and that the whole extent of Ireland was thirteen million acres. I am sure everyone knows that the arable land amounts to eighteen million acres, and the whole extent is something like twenty millions. The two hon. Members who bring forward this Amendment, did not take the trouble to ascertain correctly a single fact on which they based the statements which they made to the House.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I did not say anything offensive. It is not offensive to correct a mistake. If I said anything offensive I withdraw it. Take the substantive argument on which the right hon. Gentleman spent so much time, and in regard to which I think I can add something to the answer already given. The argument was that the Congested Districts Board is the sole purchasing authority in the vast district under its control. Nothing of the kind. I might say with perfect truth that it is not the purchase authority at all. All the land that is sold passes through the hands of the Estates Commissioners, and except in one instance the inspectors of the Estates Commissioners inspect every parcel of land and guarantee the purchase money. I referred to one exception. There are certain cases in which the Congested Districts Board itself gives a certificate. When that certificate is given, the-Estates Commissioners will accept it, and the purchase may go through. But on what condition? On the condition that if there is any shortage in the instalments of the purchase money the Congested Districts Board will make it up. So that the Congested Districts Board affords another guarantee in addition to those that the Imperial Government already possess.
1361 So far from there being any weakness, or looseness, or complication, or difficulty, or danger, connected with the alleged land purchase powers of the Congested Districts Board, those powers are hardly existent; and so far as they exist the Board adds another guarantee to the guarantees which the Imperial Parliament already possess. [An HON. MEMBER: "Out of whose funds is that guarantee given?"] One hon. Member who seems to be more simple than the others—I am using a word which will not be thought offensive—asks out of whoso funds the guarantee is given. It is given out of their own funds. [An HON. MEBKBR: "Where did they get them?"] They are Irish money allotted out of the Irish Church Fund to build up the Congested Districts Fund. Hon. Members cannot contradict anything that I say. The Noble Lord (Viscount Helmsley), whose speeches with their candour and raciness we much enjoy, except that they are sometimes a little remote from the subject, admitted that the Irish Board provides bulls. Not only that, but it provides better breeds of poultry, cocks and hens, and imports improved breeds of donkeys; it takes in hand the wretched cabins in the West, which are a disgrace to civilisation, and provides better houses and outbuildings for the people there; it drains their land; it plants trees in some places, provides fences—it does all sorts of this local work—establishes fisheries and so on—all with the full consent of hon. Gentlemen opposite until to-day. Why! the Congested Districts Board was supposed to be one of the great examples of local government which the Conservative party itself had conferred on Ireland. To-day you would take it away from Ireland. [HON. MF.MKKKS: "NO."] Yes, you would. You see, Mr. Whitley, by a few sentences, I have brought hon. Members to be ashamed of their own Amendment. I appeal to the Noble Lord and hon. Members opposite, who in a misguided moment were inclined to support this Amendment, to abandon it, even at the eleventh hour, and give us one late, and perhaps I may say unexpected, example of intelligence.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
The right hon. Gentleman opposite has talked of simplicity, but I never heard anybody get up, perhaps not with the desire to deceive the House, and deal in such a manner with the arguments for this Amendment. He began by telling us that Congested Districts Board had nothing to do with land purchase schemes, and he devoted five 1362 minutes to showing how land purchase schemes are carried out by the Board. There has not been one single argument adduced by hon. Gentlemen opposite in answer to the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend below me. The whole time it has been an attack upon the Congested Districts Board. That Board carries out its duties admirably, and benefits to an enormous degree large portions of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman suggests that we are taking away the Congested Districts Board from Ireland. Does he suggest that we are taking away land purchase from Ireland as well?
The Government are reserving land purchase to the Imperial Parliament because they conceive that land purchase, as I gather from the speeches this afternoon, is such an important matter that for the benefit of Ireland it is better to reserve it. We suggest that the land purchase operations, at all events of the Congested Districts Board, are so important that they had better, in the interests of Ireland, be preserved to the Imperial Parliament. That is all, and the right hon. Gentleman suggests that we in some way or other are trying to deprive Ireland of all the benefits that accrue to it from the Congested Districts Board. The real truth seems to me to be this—I want to deal only with their land purchase, I will leave the Irish bulls, and other matters—that so far as the land purchase duties of the Congested Districts Board are concerned, they are so inexplicably mixed up with the duties of the Estates Commissioners that there is bound to be friction between the two. The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the Noble Lord's speech. I cannot help myself thinking that the desire to keep this power in Ireland is with the distinct intention of providing a means of provocation between the Irishman and the Imperial Parliament. The Congested Districts Board proposes a land purchase scheme, and the Estate Commissioners do not approve and will not provide the money. What is the first thing that will happen? There will be a disturbance throughout Ireland and an agitation against the Estates Commissioners. The whole of Ireland will be ringing from one end to the other against the hated Saxon, because this reserved service would not allow the Congested Districts Board to carry out any particular scheme of land purchase which they have in their minds. This likely cause of friction has not been dealt with 1363 at all. It was not dealt with in the slightest degree by the hon. and learned Gentleman who answered on behalf of the Government. So far as I can gather, the really important thing that he said was: "Oh, you have only got to be firm; see "Sub-section (g) of Section 44, and the whole thing is made perfectly clear." I am quite sure we are going to have Section 44 flung at our heads many times during these Debates, and I venture to suggest that Section 44, paragraph (g) does not in the least refer to this question. The difficulty between the Congested Districts Board and the Estates Commissioners will go on as long as Home Rule lasts. I am assuming for the moment—I know it is a great assumption—that Home Rule is likely to be passed. We are bound in these Debates in Committee to accept that assumption. These two boards will go on for many years, possibly for generations. The Solicitor-General says the friction will be avoided because of the Order-in-Council made under Sub-section (g) of Clause 44. I asked the Solicitor-General to kindly look at the covering words of Clause 44. They are purely transitory; they are purely with a view to
§ carrying out the provisions of this Act. Section 44 says:—
§ His Majesty may make Orders in Council for the purpose of the transitory provisions of this Act
§ That is the sitting in motion of the Irish Parliament
§ and for any other matters which may seem to His Majesty necessary or proper to make provision for the purpose of bringing this Act into full operation.
§ That has nothing whatever to do with future disputes between this Board and the Estates Commissioners. If this Section is to be flung at us in these Debates it is well we should realise in the early parts of the Committee stage of this Bill that it has nothing to do with it. This is a provision to enable the Act to be put into operation. Section 44 will have exhausted its own operation a year after the passing of the Act.
§ Question put, "That the words 'and to the Congested Districts Board' be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 202; Noes, 320.1367
|Division No. 254.]||AYES.||[10.37 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Gretton, John|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Chambers, James||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S. E.)|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)|
|Astor, Waldorf||Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Haddock, George Bahr|
|Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Clyde, J. Avon||Hall, Fred (Dulwich)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Cooper, Richard Ashmole||Hambro, Angus Valdemar|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Cory, Sir Clifford John||Hamersley, Alfred St. George|
|Balcarres, Lord||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Harris, Henry Percy|
|Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Craik, Sir Henry||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Heimsley, Viscount|
|Barnston, Harry||Denniss, E. R. B.||Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire)|
|Barrie, H. T.||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Hewins, William Albert Samuel|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Dixon, C. H.||Hill, Sir Clement L.|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Doughty, Sir George||Hill-Wood, Samuel|
|Beckett, Hen. Gervase||Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Hoare, S. J. G.|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Duke, Henry Edward||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Eyres-Monseil, Bolton M.||Hope, James Fitzaian (Sheffield)|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish||Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)|
|Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue||Falle, Bertram Godfray||Home, E. (Surrey, Guildford)|
|Boyton, James||Fell, Arthur||Horner, Andrew Long|
|Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Houston, Robert Paterson|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Finiay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Hume-Williams, W. E.|
|Bull, Sir William James||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.|
|Burgoyne, Alan Hughes||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Ingleby, Holcombe|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Fleming, Valentine||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, E.)|
|Butcher, John George||Fletcher, John Samuel||Jessel, Captain H. M.|
|Campbell, Capt. Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Forster, Henry William||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr|
|Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.)||Foster, Philip Staveley||Kerry, Earl of|
|Campion, W. R.||Gardner, Ernest||Keswick, Henry|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Mildred||Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Kimber, Sir Henry|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Gibbs, George Abraham||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Cassel, Felix||Goldsmith, Frank||Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford|
|Cator, John||Gordon, John (Londonderry, South)||Kyffin-Taylor, G.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Lane-Fox, G. R.|
|Cave, George||Grant, J. A.||Larmor, Sir J.|
|(Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Greene, Walter Raymond||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. N'mts., Mile End)|
|Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Pollock, Ernest Murray||Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Pretyman, Ernest George||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)|
|Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Randies, Sir John S.||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (S. Geo, Han. S.)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Thynne, Lord A.|
|Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Rees, Sir J. D.||Touche, George Alexander|
|Mackinder, Hallord J.||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Macmaster, Donald||Ronaldshay, Earl of||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Malcolm, Ian||Royds, Edmund||Valentia, Viscount|
|Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Rutherford, W. (Liverpool, W. Derby)||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Salter, Arthur Clavell||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)||Sanders, Robert Arthur||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Mount, William Arthur||Sanderson, Lancelot||White, Major G. D. (Lanes, Southport)|
|Neville, Reginald J. N.||Sassoon, Sir Philip||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Newman, John R. P.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Newton, Harry Kottingham||Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'p'l, Walton)||Wilson, A. Stanley (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Wield. Herbert||Stanier, Beville||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Norton-Griffiths, J.||Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C B. Stuart-|
|Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Starkey, John Ralph||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Steel-Maitland, A. D.||Yate, Col. C E.|
|Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)||Stewart, Gershom||Younger, Sir George|
|Parkes, Ebenezer||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Swift, Rigby|
|Peel, Capt. R. F. (Woodbridge)||Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Viscount Castlereagh and Mr. Joynson-Hicks.|
|Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)||Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Perkins, Walter Frank||Talbot, Lord E.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Hackett, John|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. William (Rhondda)||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Hall, Frederick (Normanton)|
|Adamson, William||Cotton, William Francis||Hancock, J. G.|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Cowan, W. H.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouh)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds.)|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Crean, Eugene||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Crooks, William||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Crumley, Patrick||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Cullinan, John||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)|
|Armitage, R.||Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Hasiam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Hay ward, Evan|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Dawes, J. A.||Hazleton, Richard|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Delany, William||Healy, Maurice (Cork)|
|Barnes, G. N.||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, N. E.)|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick)||Dcris, William||Helme, Sir Norval Watson|
|Barton, William||Duffy, William J.||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Purtcan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Henry, Sir Charles|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Higham, John Sharp|
|Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts, St. George)||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Hinds, John|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.|
|Black, Arthur W.||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Hodge, John|
|Boland, John Pius||Essex, Richard Walter||Hogge, James Myles|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Esslemont, George Birnie||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Falconer, James||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Farrell, James Patrick||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Brace, William||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Hudson, Walter|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Ffrench, Peter||Hughes, S. L.|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Field, William||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Fitzgibbon, John||John, Edward Thomas|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Sw'nsea)|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||France, Gerald Ashburner||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Furness, Stephen||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Gelder, Sir W. A.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)||Gilhooly, James||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Gill, A. H.||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Heywood)||Ginnell, Laurence||Jowett, F. W.|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Joyce, Michael|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Keating, Matthew|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Greig, Col. J. W.||Kelly, Edward|
|Clough, William||Griffith, Ellis J.||Kennedy, Vincent Paul|
|Clynes, John R.||Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Kilbride, Denis|
|Collins, G. P. (Greenock)||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||King, J.|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Guiney, Patrick||Lamb, Ernest Henry|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)|
|Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Scanian, Thomas|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||O'Doherty, Philip||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir C. E.|
|Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rlnd, Cockerm'th)||O'Donnell, Thomas||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||O'Dowd, John||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Ogden, Fred||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Logan, John William||O'Grady, James||Sheehy, David|
|Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Lundon, Thomas||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||Shorn, Edward|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||O'Malley, William||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Lynch, A. A.||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||O'Shaughnessy, p. J.||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||O'Shee, James John||Snowden, Philip|
|McGhee, Richard||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.)|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Outhwaite, R. L.||Sutherland, John E.|
|MacNeill, John G. S. (Donegal, South)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Sutton, John E.|
|Macpherson, James Ian||Parker, James (Halifax)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|M'Callum, Sir John M.||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Tennant, Harold John|
|M'Curdy, C. A.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Thomas, J. H.|
|M'Kean, John||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Pirie, Duncan Vernon||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|M'Laren, Hon. F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Pollard, Sir George H.||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Manfield, Harry||Power, Patrick Joseph||Wadsworth, John|
|Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Walsh, J. (Cork, South)|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Primrose, Hon. Neil James||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Meagher, Michael||Pringle, William M. R.||Wardie, George J.|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Radford, G. H.||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Median, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Menzies, Sir Walter||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Millar, James Duncan||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Watt, Henry A.|
|Molloy, Michael||Reddy, Michael||Webb, H.|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Mond, Sir Alfred M.||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Money, L. G. Chiozza||Rendail, Athelstan||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Mooney, John J.||Richards, Thomas||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Morgan, George Hay||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Morrell, Philip||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Morison, Hector||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Muldoon, John||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Williams, P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Munro, R.||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Robinson, Sidney||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Nannetti, Joseph P.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Needham, Christopher T.||Roche, Augustine (Louth)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Neilson, Francis||Roe, Sir Thomas||Winfrey, Richard|
|Nolan, Joseph||Rose, Sir Charles Day||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|Norman, Sir Henry||Rowlands, James||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Young, William (Perthshire, E.)|
|Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Nuttall, Harry||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Guiland.|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Samuel, J. (Stockton)|
|O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Samuel, Sir Stuart M. (Whitechapel)|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow (Thursday).