§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Birrell)
I beg to move, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to amend the Law relating to the occupation and ownership of Land in Ireland; and for other purposes relating thereto."
As I have a good deal to say the House will, I am sure, forgive me if I plunge at 1723 once into the thick of this important measure by inviting its attention to the actual state of land purchase in Ireland at this veritable moment of time. It is two-thirds through, and that is really the governing fact of the situation and gets rid, happily, either of the necessity or, indeed, the relevancy of any preliminary discussion or disquisition as to the best mode of carrying out land purchase in other countries. I want the House, if it kindly will—I shall trouble it with very few figures—to get these figures into its mind as the basis and groundwork of my subsequent statement. The value of the land sold, or actually agreed to be sold, under the Act of 1903, amounts to £85,410,602, and the land sold or agreed to be sold under the Act of 1909, amounts to £11,225,234. Therefore, you have, adding those figures together, a total of purchase money representing transactions either carried out or agreed to be carried out, amounting to £96,635,000 odd. If you add to those figures the £3,845,591 which has been advanced under the Land Purchase Act for the building of labourers' cottages, you get a total of £100,481,427. That is under the Acts of 1903–9, plus the money provided so far for the labourers' cottages.
If you add to that the £24,779,000 odd representing the purchase money of transactions under Land Acts prior to 1903, you get a total of £125,260,000 odd. That is what I mean when I say that this great transaction is two-thirds of the way through. That is what has been done, and the question the House is now concerned with is what remains. That raises what has hitherto in our Debates been called "the size of the problem." It was always a difficult one to solve, very difficult, and in 1903 it was estimated by very much the same advisers who are now by my side in Ireland that. £100,000,000 would complete the transaction. If that estimate had been right our troubles, my troubles, would be nearly over, but I do not wonder in the very least that it has not proved accurate, considering the difficulties that then stood in the way of making the estimate; because even now at this stage of the proceedings, I feel a certain hesitation in estimating what the remaining size of the problem is, but, of course, difficult as it was in 1903, it ought to be much easier in 1913, and I have no doubt it is. I, therefore, think that we may pretty safely assume that the size of the problem re 1724 maining untouched by any agreement or by any completed transactions may be taken at the sum of £60,000,000. To that sum of £60,000,000, which is what we need to complete this great transaction, I must add another £1,000,000 in order to place upon a permanent and satisfactory footing the most beneficent work, a necessary corollary to land purchase, of building labourers' cottages. Forty-one thousand of these cottages have actually been built. Some of them are very ugly, some of them are not so ugly, and some of them are really quite beautiful, but they are all of them healthy, and, if anybody requires usury for his money, I think we may pronounce this at all events most productive expenditure, and the interest is to be found in vigorous labourers, in healthy children responding o education, and in the revivification of a whole countryside. There are already a large number—the actual figures, I think, are 41,852—of cottages built, some 9,000 authorised but not yet built, and some 10,000 included in schemes not yet authorised. We, therefore, require to complete certain transactions and to build some 10,000, or possibly rather more in addition, and I consequently include in the size of the problem £1,000,000 necessary to complete and place upon a substantial and permanent footing this most beneficent operation.
Turning back to the figures which I have already given and which represent what has been accomplished, we naturally inquire how these great sums of money have hitherto been raised in order to carry out this work so far as it has been carried out. It is rather interesting just for the moment to consider how that has been done. Prior to the Land Purchase Act of 1891, a most beneficent Act, there was no issue of Land Stock. There was no such thing, for good or for evil, as that Guaranteed Irish Land Stock. The investing public were not invited, previous to that date, to produce out of their pockets, by way, of course, of loan, the necessary money. Under what are called the Bright Clauses and the Ashbourne Act, definite sums of public money were from time to time set aside to feed these transactions and repayment was secured by annuity, which was fixed first under the Bright Clauses at 5 per cent., of which 3½ per cent. was interest and 1½ per cent. sinking fund, and was afterwards reduced from 5 per cent. to 4 per cent., of which 3⅜ per cent. was interest and ⅞ per cent. sinking fund. Then came the Act of 1891, which, as I 1725 have already stated, created for the first time Irish Land Stock, carrying 2¾ per cent, interest. Under its provisions the tenants' annuity was, in the large majority of cases, a 4 per cent, annuity, the interest being 2¾ per cent, and the sinking fund 1¼ per cent. I think that afterwards the ¼ per cent, was knocked off. The right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) originally promised in his Bill to pay the landlords in cash, but in those days they preferred stock, stock being then at a premium. They defeated the Government, if I recollect rightly, on this proposal. But the Government, being a strong and sensible Government, did not go out. They accepted the landlords' view and allowed them to have their own way. They paid them in stock, which was, under the provisions of the Act, issued to them at face value, and was realised by the landlords—for some years, at all events—at a profit.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY rose—
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The hon. and learned Member will have his opportunity of correcting any small inaccuracy into which I may fall. I tremble a little when I see him rise in his place. The Acts, financially, were sound, but the one fault to be found with them at the time was that they did not make land purchase go. Land purchase did not proceed with that rapidity it was most eminently desirable it should, and one reason for the fault was that the Act did not offer any inducement to landlords to sell their estates as a whole. The sale of each holding was, so I am informed, an individual transaction between the landlord and the tenant, and a great number of holdings on an estate might be sold or there might only be a small number sold. There was, in fact, no inducement held out to the landlord, either by bonus or otherwise, to part with his estate as a whole, and therefore we had a long series of isolated transactions. However, whatever the reasons, it is undoubtedly the fact that land purchase did not go as fast as those concerned in the settlement of the Irish problem desired it should. I will not stop to describe the various efforts made during the years immediately before 1903 to accomplish this one great work of making land purchase go. I will pass on at once to the famous Land Conference between landlords and tenants, representatives of whom met around an Irish table and both agreed, patriotically and properly, to do whatever 1726 they could to make land purchase go. In order to do that, it was necessary, obviously, that the landlords should become willing to sell, because unless; there -was this goodwill, land purchase was bound to proceed very slowly. It was equally obviously necessary that the tenants should be made anxious to purchase, and these were the two most desirable points that had to be achieved in the scheme. As Land Stock had definitely fallen in price, it became necessary, in order to accomplish the purpose that landlords should be paid in cash, and in order to make the tenant a. willing purchaser, it was also necessary—I put this bluntly—that it should be made cheaper for him to become a purchaser than to remain a tenant—two very sensible and practical proposals. They were accomplished by provisions to the effect that the purchase annuity should, practically speaking, always be less, by some 15 or 20 per cent., than the second" term fixed fair rent.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Yes, 15 to 25 per cent-less than the second term fixed fair rent. The landlords on their part agreed that they would be satisfied if they were provided with a sum in cash, the interest on-which would produce for every £100 rent a little over £90. That was a reduction, and a not unreasonable reduction, having regard to the cost of collection, which was dispensed with, and with it any future risks, of collection. These were the two great points. The landlord got 10 per cent, less than his rent, while relieving himself of certain obligations which might or might not have absorbed the whole of that sum, and the tenant secured that the purchase annuity should be less than the second term rent. It is fair to the tenant to remember that, under a third term rent, he would have had an opportunity of getting a further reduction as time went on, but this he forewent. That was part of the transaction. Nothing was said at the Conference about a bonus or additional gift to go straight into the landlord's pocket; that was a lubrication—a very useful lubrication—which was subsequently brought to light. These were the terms, roughly speaking. I cannot pretend to give an absolutely mathematical account, but they were the terms which were incorporated in the Act of 1903, which secured to the landlords a cash payment and a bonus of 1727 12 per cent. on the amount of the purchase. The more money they got, the more was the bonus; the less they got, the smaller was the bonus they received. The total cost of purchase at the time was calculated at £100,000,000, and the bonus was necessarily started at a sum of £12,000,000, subject to Parliamentary readjustment from time to time. It was supposed that, in about twenty years, at an annual output of some £5,000,000, this great transaction of land purchase, the conclusion of which is so much to be desired, would have come to a termination.
The money wherewith to pay the landlords was to be obtained in the open market out of the pockets of investors by an issue of Guaranteed Land Stock carrying 2¾ per cent. interest—a most admirable security, with the whole backing of the British Government and of the British Empire, so to speak, behind it, with what was then considered to be a very fair rate of interest. It was represented, and I am quite sure it was intended, that the tenant's annuity, which was carefully calculated at the rate of 2¾ per cent. interest, with ten shillings in addition to create a sinking fund, would make the whole transaction self-supporting—that is to say, that at the end of a certain number of years, varying a little, but practically about sixty-eight and a half years, it would be possible to secure repayment without any loss to anybody of the whole sum, while securing the necessary result of land purchase in the meantime. The only free gift contemplated by Parliament—contemplated by the Imperial Government—was the bonus of £12,000,000. It is rather difficult to see how this view could have been taken, having regard to the then price of the 1891 Two and Three-quarter per Cent. Stock. I have always supposed—I may hive been wrong—that Mr. Ritchie, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was responsible for this scheme, had in his mind the fact that an annual sum of £160,000 Irish money, dedicated almost entirely to educational purposes, and called the Ireland Development Grant, was by the Act of 1903 deflected from its original purpose and appropriated year by year in making good the loss which was, of necessity, to be incurred if the market price of stock was below par, the landlords being paid in cash. Everybody will understand what is meant by excess stock. If, in order to get £100, 1728 wherewith to pay for the purchase of an estate, you have to issue £113 of stock and become responsible to pay the interest on the £13, and the sinking fund during sixty-eight and a half years, there is an odd £13, for which nobody is responsible but the State. The £100 is provided by the tenant's annuity and the sinking fund. He only pays his tenant's annuity and sinking fund on £100, but in order to get £100 you had to incur a liability for £113. The Act of 1903, at all events, went through the formality of providing what was to happen in this very contingency. I am not now going into that, except to say that the loss by law fell, or was to fall, upon the Irish counties in certain proportions, and was to be deducted from the sums which otherwise they would receive and devote to public purposes within their boundaries. The first issue of stock under the Act of 1903 was at 87. It afterwards rose to 92, but since then it has constantly fallen until to-day, I believe, it stands at 70¾. This Act of 1903 succeeded very well in making land purchase go in certain parts of Ireland. I do not know that it can be said positively that it was a very great success in the North, though as to that I speak with no great degree of confidence. It certainly was a failure in the West, almost a complete failure, and that for reasons pretty obvious. The Act benefited the strong purchaser and the well-to-do landlord, but it was not particularly applicable to the poor landlord and to the uneconomic tenant in the West. It was no good his buying his holding, because his holding would not support him. If he was to buy a holding at all, it was essential that he should buy an economic holding and be put upon a piece of land upon which he had some chance of living and thriving Therefore, in the West of Ireland, the one part which needed it most, the one part which appeals most to people, at all events in this country, was left very much in the cold.
Apart from that, the Act of 1903 was a great success. I do not at all wonder at it, and I rejoice most unfeignedly and honestly, without any drawbacks or considerations of any kind. I say it was worth all the money it cost, but its finance bred from the beginning great difficulties and troubles. When I came along, in 1909, to deal with the problem, the loss on excess stock was just beginning to fall upon the counties—that is to 1729 say, the annual sum of £160,000 a year available from the Ireland Development Grant. It was absorbed in making up the loss on this excess stock, which had to be issued in order to raise the money. The Treasury calculated that the loss on excess stock might ultimately amount to something like £1,000,000 per annum, while as regards past and pending transactions it was estimated that the annual charge for excess stock would amount to over £400,000. This liability was, by the terms of the Act, which is sometimes called my Act, taken over by the Treasury. Some people may say it was an easy job to get the money, but it took a good deal of argument, discussion, shoe leather, and brain power to accomplish that purpose. All past and pending transactions under the Act of 1903 were made good upon the original terms. What preyed most heavily upon my mind was this: There were 169,000 tenants who had entered into these preliminary arrangements, who had left off paying rent to their landlords and were, in lieu of paying rent to their landlords, paying interest at the rate of 3½ per cent, to the Land Commission. There were 169,000 persons in Ireland, actual living, breathing Irish tenants, who were, in lieu of paying rent to their old landlords, paying it to the Land Commission, and thinking all would be well. All was well. These obligations were taken over, and what would have been a catastrophe of too terrible a character to contemplate was prevented.
Having made good all these transactions—some £50,000,000 of arrears, as they were called—this much-abused Act, which bears my name, provided that in all future transactions vendors should be paid a 3 per cent. Stock at, its face value, with a bonus, upon a graduated scale this time, varying inversely with the increase in the purchase price, the tenant's annuity being at the rate of 3½ per cent., 3 per cent. being for interest and ½per cent. for sinking fund. In order to secure this bonus, I had to repeal the limitation in the Act of 1903, which fixed the bonus at £12,000,000, in order to enable me to have the money wherewith to pay the new bonus fixed by what is called my Act. It did more than that, because by the Clauses relating to the the Congested Districts Board, which was reconstituted and its area very greatly enlarged, its income was also enlarged by a sum of £163,750, an income which, added to what it already possessed, was spent=1730 upon the improvement of the conditions of the people in the West in making their holdings economic, and in generally promoting their economic welfare. The result of that has been that in the very part where land purchase had hardly moved at all, within an area which is now one-third of Ireland, this Board has been able to purchase for the relief of congestion and the improvement of the people 1,485,774 acres of land. It is not too much to say, and I appeal to hon. Gentlemen from all parts of Ireland, whatever their political opinions may be, that since the passing of the Act of 1909 Irish land purchase has proceeded even more quickly in the West than it ever did in any other part of Ireland. I must not stop to enlarge upon this part of the work, although it is naturally the most attractive to anybody in my position, for it is the redemption of a whole countryside and the revivification and remaking of a great population. I only wish that hon. Members of this House, during the vacation we are giving them, would take the opportunity of visiting for themselves these parts, which are not quite so far off as Vancouver Island, but which are equally instructive, where they can see for themselves first, the difficulty of the work that has to be done, and, secondly, the way it has been done. They would be grateful to the admirable men, Mr. Doran and Mr. Micks, and the small army of inspectors and sub-inspectors who are engaged not only in happy work, but a most successful work, all of which is due, to some extent, at all events, so far as money is concerned to the legislative efforts of this House.
However, I do not dispute the fact that, outside the large area of the Congested Districts Board, land purchase is proceeding far too slowly, and as, in my opinion, it is essential for the well-being of Ireland and for its peace and order that land purchase and this system of land purchase, which is now two-thirds through, should be completed as quickly as possible—it is no use being impatient with inevitable delays—it should be completed if possible in the course of the next ten or fifteen years. The Government, I am glad to say, has given its mind to the problem of how this acceleration of speed can best be made. I should be very glad were I in a position to say that the present state of the Money Market rendered it possible to adopt a system of cash payments. I always like to be able to pay cash for everything. One reason why it is very 1731 important to pay cash for everything is that it is the best way of keeping down prices. I believe it is the only honest way of keeping down prices. If you are prepared to pay a man for anything he has made that you want, good red gold, you are far more likely not to give him more than his stuff is worth. If, on the other hand, you have to offer him, in whole or part, depreciated stock, fix it how you may, by what valuation you like, you will find that you are giving rather more than it is worth in order to make up to him the substantial hardship of the fact that you are paying him in something which, if he has to do so, he will only be able to realise at a loss. Therefore I wish most earnestly that I were in a position to complete these transactions on the terms of cash payment. But I am not able to do so. The best that I can do, the best the Government can do, is to make the arrangement now proposed, which will enable us to pay half cash and half stock. That is the proposal which, when this Bill is printed—if the House is kind enough to allow it to be printed—will be found incorporated in the measure. Half cash and half stock, to be issued to the vendor just as it is under the Act of 1909, plus, if he comes to voluntary agreements, a bonus in cash.
It is not, however, now proposed—this is an important matter—to obtain the half cash necessary to work off the outstanding £61,000,000, or whatever the figure may be, and the event proves it to be, by the public issue of Land Stock. If, therefore, this arrangement receives Parliamentary sanction, the only further public issues of Land Stock will be for the money required to complete pending transactions under the two Acts of 1903 and 1909. That outstanding amount may be taken to be, speaking again roughly, some £24,000,000, requiring an issue of stock which may, it is hoped, be worked out in the next four years. It cannot fail to be an immense relief to the Money Market, that mysterious entity, to be told that a period will thus be put once and for ever to the further public issue of Irish Guaranteed Land Stock. I see the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) half rising to ask me where is the half cash for this £61,000,000 to come from? The National Debt Commissioners, as a matter of fact, as appears from an answer given a short while ago by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to some 1732 hon. Gentleman opposite, are already by far the largest holders of the Irish Land Stock that has already been issued. They have found out, and I do not wonder at it, that it is a very good investment for their surplus funds. I am glad to notice that my Friend Mr. Bowles has also seen a. very good investment in it, because in the famous Income Tax case it was discovered' that he was a holder of £60,000 of this admirable stock, which only shows how shrewd a man Mr. Bowles is, not merely as a lawyer, an amateur lawyer, but also as an expert investor of his own money. But the National Debt Commissioners, who are already by far the largest holders of Irish Land Stock, are in a position to advance out of their funds, as and when-required, the necessary annual sums in cash to provide one-half of this sum, whatever it may be—£61,000,000 I have taken it to be—which is necessary in order to complete land purchase in Ireland at the earliest possible date.
In order, however, to make that transaction possible, it will be found necessary to add one-eighth per cent. to the tenant's purchase annuity. That purchase annuity will therefore in future stand at £3 12s. 6d.. instead of £3 10s. The National Debt Commissioners will find the cash from their surplus balances on the basis of the price of Consols, but an essential part of the scheme is to provide for a fixed rate of interest throughout the period of the loan on all moneys so advanced by the National Debt Commissioners. They very properly require a fixed rate of interest;. and in order to ascertain what is a fair rate of interest on the sums so to be advanced by them, you take Consols at an average price of 75, and if you take Irish 3 per cent. Land Stock at an average price of 82, you will find, by the laws of arithmetic, that the rate of interest is determined at a sum of £3 6s. 8d. per annum. As these figures are necessarily a little hard to follow, I propose, if I get leave to print this Bill, to circulate a White Paper which will be of an explanatory character, but just to show that I can do it if I am driven to do it, I will make it as plain as I can by single concrete instance, You must bear in mind all the time that in addition to half stock and half cash, the vendor will receive a bonus calculated in a particular manner, and on a particular scale, which will appear in the Bill, and which will be partially explained by what I have to say.
1733 For the purpose of this one concrete example which I wish to give, I must, of course, make assumptions, and I start by assuming that a particular tenant pays twenty-two years' purchase of his rent. The landlord will then be entitled to receive in cash a bonus of 12 per cent. The purchase money is paid to the landlord, half in cash and half in Guaranteed Three per Cent. Stock at its face value, together with the bonus. Here is a man with £100 rental, paying twenty-two years' purchase of his farm. That makes the purchase money £2,200. You pay to the vendor half that sum in stock at 82. I have taken it at 82 which was the figure which was in our mind when the calculation was made. It is rather less than that at present, but it may be more. Stock at 82—£1,100 worth—brings in £902, if the landlord sells. Then he gets £1,100 cash in addition to the £902 which he would get if he realised his stock, and he gets the 12 per cent. bonus—£264. These three figures added together make a total cash payment to the vendor of £2,266, if he realises his stock and has the whole sum in cash. If he invests it in trustee investments, what can he obtain at the present moment? We have made calculations at 4 per cent., but I am told by people who know more about these things than I do that you can, without risk or difficulty, obtain 4½. I remember very well in the Bill of 1909, when I increased the landlords' power of investment of the moneys received under these Acts, I had the valuable assistance of the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) who, when he likes, can be as helpful as when he does not like he can be a hindrance, to persons desirous of obtaining legislation, and we inserted increased powers of investment, and I rather think a slight increase could be made in those powers, and I propose in the Bill to make a certain suggestion in that direction to which I invite the critical, but at the same time friendly, attention of the hon. Baronet. But taking it that he can only get 4 per cent., he will then get, as the usury on his £2,266, £90.64 which secures him in that respect what I call, without prejudice, land conference terms. That is the position of the landlord. The position of the tenant is that his annuity at the new rate, with half-a-crown per cent. more — three and five-eighths per cent. on £2,200 is £79 15s., which, deducted from his original rent of £100, shows a percentage reduction of £20 5s., so that I think in that respect we have met even 1734 land conference terms with regard both to the landlord and to the tenant.
We now come to the third party in this transaction, the State, and here it is a little more complicated, but I will read the figures slowly, and you will afterwards have an opportunity of verifying them at your leisure. Interest at 3 per, cent, on £1,100 Guaranteed 3 per Cent. Stock—of course that goes without saying—is £33. That is the interest payable on the stock. Then there is the interest on £1,100 cash. I compute that. in 2½ per cent. Consols at 75. That makes £1,466 13s. 4d. worth of Consols, representing £1,100. That makes the interest £36 13s. 4d. Then there is the per cent, sinking fund on £2,200—that is £11. Add the three figures together, and the total charge against the purchase price is £80 13s. 4d., and you get from the tenant's annuity, £79 15s.—showing a balance against the State of 18s. 4d. The charge in respect to the cash 'bonus of £264, obtained in the same way, with Consols at 75, at 2½ per cent. on £352 Consols, is £8 16s. Then there is the ½ per cent. sinking fund on the £352–£1 15s. 2d.—making a total charge of £10 11s. 2d. If you add that to the balance of the charge in respect to the tenant's annuity of 18s. 4d. you get a total charge against the State of £11 9s. 6d. a year, the capital value of which is calculated to amount to 13 per cent. on the whole of the tenant's advance of £2,200. The National Debt Commissioners have no difficulty in providing the moneys which may be necessary—£5,000,000, £6,000,000, or £7,000,000 per annum—in order to carry out these transactions, and they have power already, in case of any depletion of their funds, to borrow by the issue of Consols.
The transaction, therefore, is one which I think can be recommended to the House with a view to achieving the pre-eminently important object of presenting to the country, to the investor, and to the world the fact that we are now approaching the end of this transaction, socially so beneficent, financially so difficult. We are able to assert that, after you have issued enough Land Stock for £24,000,000 of money outstanding, to complete the pending arrangements which have to be financed upon that footing, you are then really at the end of the transaction so far as you are bothering the investor to produce his money. Thereby, I hope you will raise very materially the price of this stock, I mean the stock that is 1735 already out in the market, and of the new stock which is to be issued to the vendors in respect of their land. That, I think, is an enormous advantage. I hope the House will keep these two points in their mind—the necessity, first, of bringing this transaction to an end and of showing and convincing everyone that it is coming to an end, and that the market will not be flooded and injured, as markets, I am told, invariably are if you constantly keep on for an indefinite number of years, watering down the stock by the issue of stock of the same denominations.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Certainly. Half the purchase-money has to be issued to the vendors in stock at its face value, the other half will be paid in cash. In regard to the position of the landlord, he has half stock and half cash. It is a wonderful arrangement of things that the higher the interest he gets on the cash that he has for investment the lower no doubt is the stock, but, on the other hand, the higher the stock, if the stock rises in value, the lower will be the interest that he can safely get on his cash investment. Therefore, the landlord who is in a position—of course, many are not—both to keep his stock and to invest his cash at the 4 per cent. or 4½ per cent. now available would really be in as good a position, not as he might wish to be, but as persons holding that particular kind of property in that particular way can well expect to be put into by a Government full of consideration for the necessities of their case, and most anxious to complete land purchase at the earliest possible date. I hope that, with the assistance of my explanatory White Paper, I shall have put the House fairly well in possession of the proposals of the Government upon that point.
With reference to the other provisions of the Bill, it has always been considered by everyone—I have never heard any speaker on the opposite Benches or any writer on the subject who had not always contemplated the probability, as this matter approached its natural termination, in default of landlords and tenants coining to some satisfactory arrangement of compulsory purchase. After you have carried through a transaction like this, and after two-thirds of the Irish tenants have 1736 come under the Land Purchase Acts, you find that great numbers of them have received great advantages—and everybody must admit, if they are candid, that they are great advantages—under these Acts. They have come into the position of paying less than second term rents for their land, with the knowledge that in the course of years, a considerable term of years, but still not a desperate time, they will become the owners in fee. It is not to be supposed that other tenants on the other side of the wall can be expected to remain content under a landlord who, for any reason whatever, is unwilling to sell to them. The compulsion to be fair must be applied both ways. There are such things as unreasonable tenants, just as there are unreasonable landlords, and as there are a great many more tenants than landlords, there must be in proportion a greater number of unreasonable tenants. You must have compulsory powers of that sort to carry out all that is required. Those who are anxious to carry everybody with them in that way see that there ought to be an arrangement whereby in. the event, not in itself to be anticipated, of compulsion being necessary, there should be proper machinery, and proper judicial Commissioners to fix, after full consideration and the hearing of all sides, a fair price to be paid by the tenants. In Irish Land Purchase you must remember that you are not merely dealing with two individuals—a vendor and a purchaser. You are dealing with a vendor and a whole host of purchasers, and you have to make sure that what they contract for is what each is willing to give for his own holding. And there is therefore an enormous amount of negotiation between the landlord and his tenant in getting each tenant to sign a paper saying that, if the purchase is carried out, he will bear the price which has been fixed. [An HON. MEMBER: "How much? "] That is the whole question.
All these transactions between landlords and tenants in Ireland are more difficult and complicated than people imagine. They are difficult even when you are dealing with the purchase of the whole estate. When that has been done by the Estates Commissioners and Congested Districts Board they have not only to receive the consent of the landlord. They have to enter into preliminary arrangements with the tenants. They say to the tenants, "If we offer the landlord so much, you must be under an obligation to pay so 1737 much for your strip of land." Therefore, it is an occasion for fair arrangement, and for compulsion, so far as you can get it, on both sides, so that a landlord who is willing to sell and wants a fair price would know that, if some held out while others were willing to buy, the tenants who would not buy would have the price fixed either by the Estates Commissioners or the Congested Districts Board, or whoever the Commissioners were who were appointed to determine the fair price for which they ought to be made liable in taking over their holdings, or, at all events, that they would be disabled from having a fair rent fixed thereafter. These are points upon which the House, when it comes to consider them, in detail, will have to be satisfied that we have arrived at a fair and just manner of estimating the price. There is an appeal from the Judicial Commissioner on points of law, but no appeal on the price. If we are to put a fixed and fair valuation on the land, why then the 'Commissioners will do that without taking bonus into consideration. There will be no bonus in the case of compulsory sales. The price of the land will be fixed at a fair price by the Judicial Commissioner after hearing all parties. Knowing what each tenant is willing to offer for his particular holding, the Judicial Commissioner will determine what is a fair price to be paid. We believe that, except in a very few cases, compulsory purchase will not be found necessary at all.
§ Mr. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there are any provisions for the purchase of small towns or any reference to the evicted tenants?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
No; very likely some towns may be dealt with, so far as they are incidental to an agricultural community. The hon. Member knows how the small towns have been dealt with under the existing law. I do not wish to swell my Bill more than I can help, and I invite Irishmen to approach this question in a way which will render it possible to bring it to completion within a short period of time. There is another Clause to which I wish to refer, namely, the Investment Clause. I propose to extend somewhat further the securities in which trustees may invest with the sanction of the Public Trustee. I feel that, after careful consideration, there will be no difficulty in making a slight addition 1738 to these securities. I want to put in a Clause to prevent, so far as I can, the absorption of holdings by local speculators. It is beginning to enter into the matter. Under the Act of 1903 the maximum advance to a purchaser was £7,000. It was reduced by the Act of 1909 to £5,000. Nevertheless, cases have occurred where several holdings sold within these limits have become absorbed by one local person, who is thus beginning to recreate some of the difficulties which this machinery was set up to put a stop to. I therefore hope that the provisions in this Bill to prevent the system of adding holding to holding may be successful. There are technical Clauses in the Bill with which I need not trouble the House.
There is in the Bill a very necessary Clause indeed, both in the interest of the Congested Districts Board and the Estates Commissioners, to enable them to resume land now held under leases. It is rather anomalous that whilst you can take land from the freeholder, or the judicial tenant, you cannot take it from the leaseholder. These leases are bound to absorb land, which is absolutely essential if the House is to carry out the necessary proposals in the way of securing an economic holding and making the Irish tenant farmer thrive on his property; there should be power to resume the holding in these cases, just as much as any other holding belonging to anybody else. There is therefore, a. Clause of that sort. There is also some legislation necessary in connection with bog and turbary. These matters lead to enormous difficulties with respect to land purchase in Ireland. When I survey the whole of this field and consider what a mass of people are involved—each person as keenly alive to his interest in every bit of land he has got as the most enthusiastic bibliophile. is about every duodecimo in his library—and how they are prepared to argue that matter with you at great length, I am amazed at the great success which has already crowned land purchase in Ireland. I look forward to the time when this great transaction—one of the most gigantic we have yet. dreamt of undertaking—shall be completed. I can only say in conclusion that I cannot help regretting the absence of one, who in his absence I shall call my right hon. Friend, the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Walter Long). He is unable to be in his place to-day, and no one sympathises more with him than we do in his having had to undergo so much 1739 pain. We are rejoiced to hear that he is now recovering, and we trust that he will soon be restored to health.
§ Mr. GINNELL
Will the right hon. Gentleman include in his statement what he promised a few days ago, a reference to the provision for labourers' cottages?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I invited the hon. Member to listen to my speech. In the very forefront of my argument I said that we look forward in this proposal to taking £1,000,000 in order to complete a great number of schemes already framed, but not authorised.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
Apart altogether from the merits of the particular scheme for settling the question of land purchase in Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman has made a good many very interesting declarations, and I would like to say, in the first place, that one of the most interesting declarations he has made has been with reference to the subject which the hon. Member alluded to a moment ago, namely, the completing of the work of erecting labourers' cottages in Ireland. The position in which that matter stands, even at the present moment, is that there are a number of schemes which have been approved and cannot be carried out because the money advanced for that purpose is running short, or has already been allocated. There is no work to which this House ever set its hand which I think has been more beneficial to the people of Ireland than the erection of these cottages. Everybody who has visited Ireland in recent years, whatever his political opinions may be, has been struck by the number and the comfort of the cottages which have been erected, and the extraordinary contrast which they make with the old style of mud-walled hovel in which the Irish people lived in the past. There is just one thing I desire to say, and it is, that the people of Ireland will be intensely gratified by the statement that the right hon. Gentleman proposes in conjunction with the settlement of the land question to provide £1,000,000 additional for the erection of these houses. I would like to say that his hope and ambition with reference to land purchase is, that he would put forward a scheme which would finally settle the whole question once and for all. I am not sure that he is right in his 1740 evident belief that £1,000,000 will finally settle the question of the labourers' cottages. I think that probably more than that will be required to provide all the cottages which are and will be needed. Simply entering that caveat, I desire to say that there will be intense satisfaction in Ireland that this additional £1,000,000 is to be provided for cottages which are necessary. The right hon. Gentleman has given the House what I may call the history of the land purchase question. Into that I will not follow him, except to this limited extent, that I desire to remind the House that in reciting the history of land purchase in Ireland, the policy of that purchase ought not to be forgotten. The policy of land purchase originated with the Irish Nationalist party. Land purchase was the main plank in the programme of the Land League founded by Mr. Parnell, and it was received by a great proportion of public opinion in this country at. a Socialistic policy, and was denounced as confiscation, and when we hear, as we often do hear, and read statements made by representatives of the Unionist party to-day claiming for themselves the credit of having inaugurated land purchase in Ireland, I think it only right, when a question of the history of Irish land purchase is entered into at all, that it should be made clear how that policy came to be initiated and adopted by any party in this House. So far back as 1879, at the very commencement of the Land League movement. Mr. Parnell laid down his doctrine of land purchase for the settlement of the Irish land question, and at one of the very earliest meetings of the Land League, held in Ireland, in Westport, in the year 1879, Mr. Parnell used these words:—In Belgium. Prussia, France, and Russia, the land has been given to the people, the occupiers of the land. In some cases the landlords have been deprived of their property in the soil by the iron hand of revolution. In other cases, as in Prussia, the landlords have been purchased out. If such arrangement could be made without injuring the Irish landlords so as to enable the Irish tenants to have the land a their own and cultivate it as it ought to be cultivated that would be for the benefit wed prosperity of this country.So, at the very commencement of the Land League, and almost at the very first meeting of the Land League campaign, Mr. Parnell enunciated that doctrine.
§ Mr. REDMOND
It was the beginning for all practical purposes. It was then for the first time that it was put in the 1741 forefront of the National political programme, and then for the first time that any really serious agitation in support of it arose in Ireland, and men's minds in this country were for the first time really aroused by the proposal. That policy, so put before the country by Mr. Parnell, was not adopted by the Unionist party in this country until many years of strife and struggle, and, I may say, of bloodshed, had passed over Ireland, and many hearts were broken and many roof trees torn down and many families scattered throughout the world. Not until that happened was this policy adopted, and therefore I protest against the idea that the Unionist party in this country are entitled to claim for themselves the credit of having initiated the carrying out of land purchase in Ireland. However, I pass that by. I would not have mentioned it at all, but that in the history of land purchase which the right hon. Gentleman professed to give that fact in fairness ought not to have been omitted. I pass it by, and I thank God most fervently that that policy has been adopted and has been adopted by all parties in this House. Every party in this House is equally responsible for the completion of land purchase, responsible whether Home Rule is carried, or whether Home Rule is not carried, and I repeat and emphasise that assertion, because of the declaration that has been made by Unionist leaders and Unionist newspapers, that if the Home Rule Bill is passed Imperial credit will be withdrawn from that settlement of the Irish land purchase question. I rejoice, therefore, most heartily at the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman, that he proposes to do his best, at any rate, to settle the question completely once for all, and to do so speedily.
I need not dwell, even for a moment in passing, on what the result of land purchase has been, so far as it has worked up to the present. Everyone who knows Ireland knows that wherever Land Purchase has been carried out, a large measure of peace and contentment reigns to-day, that the land is being cultivated as it never was cultivated before, and in some cases, I believe, produces 50 per cent. more than it did before, and anything, therefore, which would tend to break down land purchase in Ireland, before Home Rule or after Home Rule, would be nothing else than a crime as well as an act of the grossest treachery on the part of 1742 any political party in this House. But in view of Home Rule coining, it seems to me that the urgency of the complete settlement of this question becomes greater than ever. Land Purchase is, under the Home Rule Bill, a reserved service. The Irish Parliament is to have no power to deal with it, and it is to rest entirely in the hands of the Imperial Parliament and the Imperial Government, and if there were any danger that after Home Rule were carried, the Imperial Parliament and the Imperial Government would lend themselves to the policy of breaking down land purchase, and preventing it being completed, a situation of the most serious character, menacing the peace and prosperity of Ireland, and the relations between the two countries would exist. From the Home Rule point of view, I regard the immediate completion and settlement of the question as of the most urgent character. Therefore, I welcome the intention expressed. But the right hon. Gentleman has thought it right to defend the Act of 1909. Two things -the Land Act of 1909 undoubtedly did. It enabled the £50,000,000 work of agreement, which had been entered into for sale, to be financed and carried out, and since the Act of 1909 these agreements have been financed and carried out at a more rapid rate of land purchase than I believe was ever attained since the Act of 1903 came into existence.
At the time that the Act was introduced there were over £50,000,000 of agreements in arrear, which could not be dealt with, and as the Act of 1903 stood the loss on the flotation of Land Stock for the purpose of financing these agreements would fall almost wholly on the ratepayers of Ireland. There was only one barrier in the way—that was the Irish Development Grant, amounting to £160,000 a year, and that was entirely disposed of, and had proved insufficient, and when the right hon. Gentleman introduced his Bill the wiping out of all those £50,000,000 worth of agreements must have absolutely stopped, or else the loss on the flotation of the stock for the purpose of financing them would have fallen upon the Irish ratepayers, and the amount of that loss would have been really startling. I have a pamphlet issued by a leading official of the Government on this matter, in which he said:—Agreements amounting to £6,000,000 purchase money were pending. To finance these agreements a sum of about £250,000 per year for a period of sixty-eight and a half years would have to be provided by the Irish ratepayers, and were all the agricultural land in 1743 Ireland to be sold, the charge on the ratepayers would amount to an annual sum of £877, 000.Therefore, the Act of 1909 was absolutely essential if those agreements were to be wiped out. The Act was passed, the Treasury took upon their shoulders the entire of the loss on the flotation of stock for this purpose, and already the figures show that in the short period of years which has intervened between the passing of the Act of 1909 and to-day more than half of those agreements have been wiped out, and, therefore, land purchase has worked at a rate of £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 a year, and more rapidly than ever it has worked before. Therefore, not only has the Act worked in that respect more rapidly than any other Act, but more money has been advanced for land purchase in these intervening years than ever was advanced before by the Treasury.
Another respect in which the Land Act of 1909 was an unqualified success has been eloquently dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman, and that is the way in which it has worked in the West of Ireland: I will not delay the House by again emphasising the fact that it was the condition of things in the West of Ireland which really carried the Land Act in 1903, and the West of Ireland was the only part of the country where the Land Act of 1903 became almost a dead letter. The figures which I have here differ somewhat from those which the right hon. Gentleman has given. No doubt his are more correct, but they differ by very little. Before the Act of 1909 the Congested Districts Board had bought or agreed to buy, not in any one, two, or three years, but in the whole period of nineteen or twenty years, during which they had been in existence, 470,000 acres of land to the value of £2,261,000. Since the Act of 1909—that is, in the two or three years which have elapsed since then—the Congested Districts Board have bought, or have agreed to buy, 998,000 acres of land to the value of £3,685,000—that is, the operation of the Land Act of 1909, so far as the West of Ireland is concerned, has been that, in two or three years, more land has been bought than in the nineteen or twenty years which preceded it. Generally speaking, it is true, as the right hon. Gentleman stated, that new agreements under the Land Act of 1909 have fallen off. When the Act was passing we entered our protest against the increase in that Act of the annuity to be paid by the tenant, but strange to say it seems as 1744 if that increase in the annuity were not one of the reasons at all why new agreements have not been made, because it is a strange thing that although the tenant's annuity under that Act has been increased, the reduction which the tenants have obtained in the working of that Act have not diminished—in fact, I am not sure if they have not, to some extent, increased.
The reason that the Act of 1909 has not worked, so far as new agreements to purchase are concerned, undoubtedly in my view, has been the fact that, instead of cash, you offered the landlords stock in payment of the purchase money, and it is quite easy, seeing the state of the money market, to understand why landlords have been prevented from selling by the operation of this provision. Landlords who have been paid in stock and who have suddenly to realise that stock to pay mortgages or family charges, and so forth, were liable to incur large losses, and quite indefinite losses. The object of the Government, in introducing this Bill, is to remove the cause of the non-working of new agreements under the Act of 1909, and they have proposed a scheme whereby they say that by the payment of half the purchase money in cash, by a rearrangement of the bonus, and by another increase of the tenant's annuity, they will be able to bring about an arrangement whereby the landlord will get what is called "Conference terms," and if they are able to establish that, then they come with a second proposal, and say, "If we can show that we are really offering the landlord Conference terms, which they agreed to, then we will accompany that offer by a system of universal compulsion, compelling them to accept the suggestion that is made."Let me for a moment deal with that suggestion. First of all, let me say that no one sitting on these benches, and representing Irish tenant farmers can view with indifference the proposal to increase the annuity to be paid—that is, to increase the payments by the tenants. While I say that let me say this also: So vastly and supremely important is it that this whole question should not be allowed to drag along any longer, and that the whole of this land purchase question should be settled once for all, here and now, in the course of a very few years, that I do believe, especially in view of the working of the Land Act of 1909, so far as the reduction in the annual payments is 1745 concerned, that the Irish tenant would probably agree to make this concession in return for a proposal which really would here and now settle the whole thing. As to the rearrangement of the bonus, I think that is all to the good. The bonus under the Act of 1903 was a flat rate of 12 per cent. in all cases, no matter what the purchase money was. The bonus under the Act of 1909 was altered. A new schedule, or sliding scale, was proposed whereby the purchase money was under sixteen years' purchase, in one case the bonus was to be at the rate of 18 per cent., and then the sliding scale went up to where the bonus disappeared altogether, for twenty-four years' purchase and upwards. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, I understand, is a revision of that scale. Although he has not read out to us the new scale, I gather that the old scale has been amended and changed in such a way as to make it still more the ease that the lower the purchase money the higher the bonus and vice versa. That I believe is all to the good, and will, I believe, be considered by the landlords themselves probably, in the long run, as all to their advantage, too.
As regards the payment in cash, I most deeply and sincerely deplore the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has not made a proposal for the payment of the entire purchase money in cash. I and my Friends urged this upon him and the Treasury with all the power at our command. I am sure that his own desire is the same as ours, in fact he said so to-day. I deeply deplore that it has not been done. I feel convinced that if the proposal were for the payment of the whole in cash, it would be quite easy to put forward a scheme that all parties in Ireland as well as in this House would agree to. I am sure that if the Irish landlords were given the full amount in cash they would make no serious bones about this question of compulsion, which really could only be brought into operation in those few outstanding cases of utterly unreasonable landlords who, against the interests of their own class, were holding out to the end and refusing to sell. So far as the tenants are concerned T. do not believe that even this hard suggestion of a small increase in their annunity would be allowed by them to stand in the way of a measure which held out the prospect of a full and speedy settlement of the whole of the land purchase question. Allusion has been made to Land Conference terms. Let me read one sentence from the Report of the Land 1746 Conference. Here are the terms that they unanimously agreed upon as fair to be received by the landlords:—We consider it necessary that landlords should receive such a capital coin as, invested at 3¼ per cent., will yield a return equal to second term rents or their fair equivalent, less cost of collection where such exists, but not exceeding 10 per cent.What are the Land Conference terms to-day? Not a sum of money which invested at 3¼ per cent. would produce this money, but a sum of money which, invested at rates of interest which can be obtained to-day, would produce a second term income, less 10 per cent.. Everyone knows that in the present state of the Money market landlords can easily get in Trustee Securities —I am glad to know that the right hon. Gentleman is going to enlarge the Trustee Securities under the. Act–4½ per cent. for their money. Therefore the Land Conference terms to-day would be that the landlords should receive such a capital sum as, invested at 4½ percent., would yield a return equal to their second term rents, less the cost of collection, 10 per cent. In this matter I speak for all my Friends, and we are now, as we have always been, anxious that the Land Conference terms should be obtained by the Irish landlords. For my part I would willingly co-operate with anybody in endeavouring to obtain a settlement whereby they would obtain that. The right hon. Gentleman could easily have done that, and provided the whole amount in cash, but, honestly, I do not believe—I speak, of course, without having had much consideration, and without having had an opportunity of investigating this matter as it will have to be carefully investigated, after the Bill has been printed and circulated—that the scheme, only half cash and half stock, would enable Irish land-lords to obtain what I, for my part, agree it is fair they should obtain—that is, full Land Conference terms, which were agreed upon before the Act of 1903. I regret extremely that the right hon. Gentleman has not been successful, and that we have not been successful in getting the whole purchase money in cash. Under these circumstances, of course, it is quite evident to the House that we have no responsibility for this Bill. People talk very ignorantly and very glibly about our dictation to the Government. So far as this Bill is concerned this is not our Bill; it is the Government's Bill. If it had been our Bill we should undoubtedly have endeavoured to provide the whole amount in cash, believing that thereby we might have been able to come to an agreement with 1747 the Irish landlords and settle this thing absolutely, not for a very short space of time, but once and for ever. I would like to say on this matter that I am not without hope that still better terms may be obtained than those offered in this Bill. I am not without some hope and some belief that the united representation of the representatives of all parties in Ireland concerned in this matter might have upon the Government a most salutary effect, and also upon the Treasury. I am not prepared to abandon hope that in that way we might be able to prevail upon the Treasury to go further than they have up to this moment.
I say that especially in view of the connection of this question with Home Rule. I believe that, if it were possible, such a united representation ought to be made. The completion of land purchase in my view is a necessary and vital part of the Home Rule settlement, and if the Irish landlords can be got to take that view, I, for my part, would be only too willing, if I might be allowed, to co-operate with Irish landlords in pressing upon the Government and upon the Treasury such an advance in the terms of this Bill as will mean, as I have said, a full and complete settlement of this question—a settlement really without any loss or sacrifice on the part of the landlords at all. With reference to the other parts of the Bill, I will be briefer even than the Chief Secretary, who said he would he brief. Many things have been omitted from the statement and description of the Bill given by the right hon. Gentleman which I think ought to be added before this Bill could be called or regarded as a thoroughly satisfactory Bill. But, of course, I have not seen the Bill.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
I do not care a snap of my fingers whether the hon. Gentleman believes me or not. I am quite sure the House of Commons will believe me when I say that I have not seen the Bill, and I do not know whether there is any Bill in existence at this moment.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
I have been consulted in this sense, that I have pressed my views on the Government, and, unfortunately, those views have not been carried out. Until I have seen the Bill and had an opportunity of scanning its 1748 provisions, I will not express any opinion as to the other parts of the measure, which may omit things I desire to see in and may deal with other things I desire to have dealt with in a way I do not approve. But the one great and satisfactory thing in other portions of the Bill is to be found in the system which it sets up of universal compulsion. Without a system of universal compulsion I believe this land purchase question cannot be finally settled. In the Act of 1909 you gave compulsory purchase powers to the Congested Districts Board, and they have not been used. Why? Because, as has happened everywhere in similar cases, the moment compulsory power is going to be brought into existence the necessity for this power disappears, and estates have come into the Congested Districts Board and been bought by them at the most astonishing rate of rapidity since compulsory powers were granted. You also, in 1909, granted compulsory powers outside the Congested Districts Board area, to the Estates Commissioners, but only in certain limited cases.
We did our best in 1909 to get those compulsory powers made universal, and we failed; and now I understand, from the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that he intends in this Bill to introduce provisions which will make compulsory powers universal all over Ireland—that is to say, that the power which the Estates Commissioners have at the present moment, so far as congestion is concerned, will become a universal power dealing with all estates, whether there is congestion or whether there is not. I suppose this Bill under the existing circumstances of the moment may not pass now unless it is an agreed Bill. All I say is, in my belief, it can be made an agreed Bill; and so far as we on these benches are concerned, our position is simply this: On its merits we believe in the policy of land purchase. We say that the future prosperity and happiness of Ireland largely depends on the speedy completion of land purchase. We say that this country and this Parliament, and all parties in this Parliament, are bound in duty and in honour to carry land purchase to a successful issue. Every single party is so bound and so responsible. We say it is a wise and cheap policy for this country, and it is one which, whether Home Rule is granted or Home Rule is not granted, in the end must be carried out. For my part, I end by saying, as I said a moment ago, that so vital a portion of the 1749 Home Rule settlement do I regard the completion of land purchase to be, that I would be willing to do everything in my power to so advise one party or the other to this remaining dispute in Ireland, as to bring them absolutely together, so that an agreed Bill might be passed, if the Government could be brought to see that view, which is universally entertained by all parties and all opinions in Ireland.
§ Mr. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
It is some comfort to some of us that the Government should even go through what I am afraid is but the formality of introducing this Bill. I hope we may take it to some extent as an act of reparation for the Bill of 1909, and the methods by which our warnings to the country against it were strangled at that time. Frankly, if the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken has some complaint to make against the Government, I certainly do hold that Ireland in general has not been treated quite fairly by the Government in this matter; I say by the Government, I do not say by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. Early last year we made it plain, so far as our constituents are concerned, that the completion of land purchase must be an essential condition of a Home Rule settlement. We withdrew our Amendment in Committee upon the promise of the Chief Secretary on behalf of the Government, and the House will remember it was a promise given under the most solemn and even portentous terms, that they quite agreed, and that they would introduce their land purchase proposals at the earliest opportunity. The whole of last Session passed, and the present Session, although the subject was mentioned in the King's Speech and nothing done, so far as I know, except, the consultations with the hon. Gentleman behind to redeem that promise, and now, in the dying weeks of the Session, the endeavour to get away from that solemn promise takes the form of the formality of the introduction of a Bill which the right hon. Gentleman knows thoroughly well cannot be debated in detail, and which, forsooth, is simply thrown at our heads under the old formula of take it or leave it. To make matters worse, the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, I regret to notice, has quitted the House, on the very eve of the production of this Bill, for purposes of his own land campaign in England, denounces land purchase in Ireland, and draws a most unjust and untruthful misrepresentation 1750 of the whole system of land purchase in Ireland, and denounces it all as a swindle upon the Irish tenants, a landlord's swindle on the Irish tenants, and a swindle upon the British taxpayer.
Our constituents instructed us early last year to take any course we might deem fit as to the subsequent stages of the Government of Ireland Bill unless the complete abolition of landlordism were made part of the Home Rule settlement. I do not impute to the Government, and I certainly do not impute to the Prime Minister or to the Chief Secretary, that the Government deliberately kept us in the dark, putting off to the last moment as to what their intentions were, but I do say that it is not a fair way, for a Government that has been depending for its existence on Irish votes, to deal with Ireland as to a question which the Chief Secretary himself declared, with exaggeration, but very pardonable exaggeration, to be more important to Ireland even than Home Rule itself. The hon. and learned Gentleman behind has not accepted and has not either taken or left this Bill; neither will wie, and we certainly will not give the smallest excuse for pretending that it is we, at all events, who are standing in the way of its further consideration or discussion, if it be really intended that it should be discussed any further. On the contrary, for my own part, I will join most willingly with the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) and with the Chief Secretary himself in appealing both to landlords and to tenants to consider the proposals of the right hon. Gentlemen with moderation and with goodwill, remembering how much depends for landlords and for tenants and for everybody else in Ireland upon putting an end to the present halfdead-and-alive condition of land purchase, and on the concluding of this operation. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Waterford that it is a shame that the objections of the landlords are not met to what he undoubtedly justly considers is an objection, namely, that they do not get the price of their property in hard cash, but I confess that even with the offer of half cash, I am not sure that the landlord's bargain is not rather a better one than the tenant's, and one thing is perfectly certain, that, for my part, I am not going to bind the opinion of the tenant farmers of Ireland to any final judgment whatever as to a Bill which actually raises their annuity instead of lower- 1751 ing it, and which dangles before their eyes in a highly suspicious way just three years' purchase more than we in Cork paid for first term rents and judicial rents under the Act of 1903.
While on the subject, I desire to say one word of acknowledgment of the Chief Secretary's success in obtaining this additional loan of £1,000,000 for the agricultural labourers. It really is the only crumb of comfort for us that there is in the Bill, and I hope that comfort will not evaporate in kindly words, as, I am sorry to say, the rest of the Bill is likely to. As for the other classes of tenants left out of this Bill, the tenants in towns, and as to the evicted tenants, who are also wholly left out of this Bill, beyond a doubt the Bill will be a bitter disappointment and disenchantment. If the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford has any grievance as to the disregard of his opinions by the Government, we at all events can say that we have been subjected to the usual boycott in the concoction of this Bill, and we acknowledge no responsibility whatever for it. There are three tests to my mind of what a successful Bill should be. The first is that the tenant's annuity should be lowered to the old figure; secondly, that the bonus should be made again a substantial attraction; and, thirdly, that the landlords should be paid promptly and honestly their money by the Treasury. Of course the right hon. Gentleman's statement was as luminous as his statements always are, but so far as I can understand his rather complicated financial statement, I am not at all sure that this Bill answers or satisfies any one of those three tests. This I do know, that so far as the tenants are concerned beyond a doubt with the compulsion in this Bill, and owing to the increase in their annuity, insult is actually added to injury by this annuity being raised to £3 12s., and the tenants will be handicapped to the extent, as I have said, of at least two to three years' purchase in their negotiations for terms in addition to something like four years' purchase, which the tenants on non-purchased estates have lost already by allowing themselves to be dissuaded from making their bargains ten years ago on a reduction of 40 per cent., which we were ready to advise them.
I was amused at the promptness with which the hon. and learned Member for Waterford intervened in this Debate upon 1752 a subject on which he has remained absolutely silent for the last two years, when the whole fate of Ireland was trembling in the balance. Certainly his punctuality in turning up on the present occasion, when there is some question of some kudos to be obtained, is strong confirmation for the statement made from a remarkable quarter in Ireland the week before last, that land purchase has become fashionable. This sudden enthusiasm for land purchase is, to say the least, edifying coming from an hon. Gentleman who tore the Irish party asunder to make war on the Act of 1903 at the time when that Act had been endorsed by every pledge that could bind men of honour, by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, and by every man who was then a member of the party, with one exception, the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). That hon. Member then denounced the Act as the Chancellor of the Exchequer denounces it now, as a landlords' swindle. He prophesied that the Canadian cattle would all be let in, and that the Irish cattle trade would be ruined, and that the peasant proprietors would all be beggared, and he and his Friends have certainly given pretty wide latitude to the present Board of Agriculture to make good his prophecies. He prophesied that that Act would end in universal national bankruptcy, although at, the present moment, ten years after that Act was passed, apparently the view of the same Gentleman is that Ireland is so prosperous that the addition of £1,500,000 per year to the overtaxation of Ireland is a mere bagatelle. We heard to-night of the Land Act of 1903 being a dead letter in the West. Yes, but why? The hon. Member went down to the West to make war on his own leader and on his own party, and he told the people if they would only boycott the Act, and if they would only rush into the Land Courts, the rent fixing Courts, that in a. few years third term rents would utterly beggar the landlords, and that all would have their farms for thirteen years' purchase. This Bill of to-night is a commentary upon all those prophecies and upon the statesmanship of this Gentleman. For the life of me, I could not when I read that statement, understand at first sight why all this enthusiasm for land purchase about a Bill, which beyond all doubt if it ever comes into law with compulsory provisions, instead of giving the tenants their land at thirteen years' purchase, will put upon them worse terms by at least two or three years' pur- 1753 chase than the Act which was denounced as a flagitious landlords' swindle.
The true explanation is, I am sorry to say, that it was very well known that this measure will not pass, and is not intended to pass, and the Gentlemen who succeded, to a large extent, in wrecking the Act of 1903, at all events in the West, are in some trepidation for fear lest their real attitude towards land purchase is beginning to be discovered in Ireland. Their one hope is now in the blessed word "compulsion"— even the very moderate and ineffective trial outlined by the Chief Secretary—and even if it has never to be put into force, may save their face and enable them to put off the tenants who have been unable to purchase with the old cry, that it is all the fault of the landlords. It is nothing of the kind. Mr. Commissioner Bailey, in his evidence before the Secret Committee, stated quite truly, that the landlords of the mass of unacquired land would be only too happy to be compulsorily bought out if only they could get their money from the Treasury. The main guilt lies with the Treasury, who have not paid their debts to Ireland, and with those Irish Members who, in their hatred of the Act of 1903, by their votes enabled the Chancellor of the Exchequer to repudiate that treaty, and to repeal the Act of 1903, not in the interest of the Irish tenant, but, as I heard the President of the Board of Agriculture admit in this House, in order to save the British Treasury. The Chief Secretary is extremely sensitive to our criticisms upon his action in these matters. I do not at all find fault with him for that. Sensitiveness is one of the tests and penalties of honesty in a politician. But it sometimes looks as if the Chief Secretary would be well advised to compare notes with any one of his predecessors. The fact is that his bed is a bed of roses compared with that of any Chief Secretary, Tory or Liberal, who entered Dublin Castle before him. The right hon. Gentleman has fallen upon happier times. One real trouble the right hon. Gentleman never had in Ireland was the cattle-driving campaign. He really ought to remember who it was at the critical hour Went down and denounced cattle driving to an Irish audience largely composed of cattle drivers, and pleaded for fair play for his policy at a time when certain gentlemen who are now so high in his confidence were giving cattle-driving their blessing.
We do not for a moment say that the right hon. Gentleman is anything more 1754 than the victim of circumstances. So far as personal ill will towards himself is concerned, there is no such feeling in any part of the House—certainly not on the part of myself or of any Friend of mine. He has had the unique good fortune to capture by his playful wit even those who are in some respects opposed to him. But personal charm is one thing and Governmental action is another. We never for one moment attributed to him any personal malevolence in reference to this campaign against the land purchase scheme. He was the victim of circumstances, just as he was in reference to that rather unlucky venture of his, the Irish Council Bill. That Bill no doubt he regarded as a damnosa hæreditas. There again, it is certainly not I of whom he has to complain that he was betrayed by any sudden change. It was not I who went to the friendly breakfast table of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and a day or two afterwards, as soon as the word came round, moved the rejection of the Bill. I dare say it is not his fault, but the right hon. Gentleman is largely in the position of being personally conducted through Irish politics in the same way that English tourists are conducted by the gentlemen to whom he referred just now through all the pretty show places of the Congested Districts Board, and he must not complain if, like the innocent. English tourists, he has carried away some mistaken ideas. All that we have ever charged him with is that he has allowed himself to be the unwitting instrument of Irish advisers who have hundreds of times declared in public their hatred of the Act of 1903, and under their influence he undoubtedly fathered a, Bill which, whatever else may be said about it, has practically slain land purchase. This has been done under the influence of figures which any practical farmer in Ireland would laugh at, No figures can get over the fact that £22,000,000 worth of land was sold in the years before the Act of 1903 was repealed, and that not more than a million pounds' worth of land has been sold since outside the congested districts.
Our position in this matter is unchanged and unchangeable. We stand by the terms of 1903. Both British parties alike, as the hon. and learned Member for Waterford has just recalled, solemnly pledged themselves to those terms. I am sorry to say that up to the present it is the Liberal Government alone who have broken those terms in conspiracy with the Irish enemies of land purchase. More than that, I 1755 venture to say that even from the narrowest financial standpoint the attacks upon what is called "Wyndham finance" are utterly unjustified, and are mere sham pretences for evading England's debt to Ireland. As land purchase is now fashionable when it is dead, so it, has become fashionable to praise Mr. Wyndham now he also is dead. It has been repeated again to-night that the Wyndham finance had broken down. Members of Mr. Wyndham's own party might possibly have had some justification for finding fault with the finance of his Act, but it could only have been because it was too favourable to Ireland. It was only becauso you then gave Ireland the only generous bargain England has ever given her. The astounding thing is that Irish Members of Parliament have managed to persuade themselves in some mysterious way that it is a positive grievance for Ireland to be well treated for once in her life, and their denunciations have been reserved for us who have offered the most mild criticisms of this impoverished British Treasury. The other night, while the Chief Secretary was praising the Act of 1903, I could not help overhearing behind me —I was meant to hear it; it was hissed into my ear—the words, "Yes, indeed, a present of £16,000,000 to the landlords!" I will say nothing about that except that it is rather a severe censure on the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, who was one of the high contracting parties to that engagement, and upon perhaps the greatest living friend of Ireland in the Liberal party, Lord Morley, who stated that £22,000,000 of Imperial money would be cheaply spent in bringing about a settlement. When the hon. Member made that remark in my ear, he had quite forgotten that both British parties had pledged themselves that this bonus of £15,000,000 or £16,000,000 was to be a free Imperial gift from the British Exchequer, and neither he nor any of his colleagues have had one word of objection to utter when, under the so-called Home Rule arrangements, the Government actually propose to saddle upon Ireland that £15,000,000 or £16,000,000.
Mr. Wyndham did not foresee—no human being could have foreseen—what has happened since to the state of Imperial credit—certainly not through any fault of Ireland. No one could have foreseen that Irish Two and Three-quarter per Cent,. 1756 Stock would fall to a fraction over 69 the day after the Chancellor of the Exchequer's denunciation of land purchase at the National Liberal Club. I distrust all these Stock Exchange transactions. I have my own suspicions as to how far Government brokers have considerable power in these fluctuations. I take the speech of the right hon. Gentleman here to-night. It is proof conclusive that, even taking things at their very worst as to the state of the Money market, it is a most monstrous untruth to pretend to the English people that this transaction involves any enormous or overwhelming burden upon the British taxpayers. The right hon. Gentleman has informed us that £60,000,000 remains to be raised for purchase. I have not been able to work out how much that would actually involve in losses on flotation to the Government; but I think all parties are practically agreed now in Ireland that at the very utmost the completion of land pur- chase could not cost the British Exchequer more than £500,000 a year— 2500,000 in a Budget of all but £200,000,000, less than one-third of the money which the Treasury have wrung from Ireland alone by one Act of robbery, the Budget. It seems to be strangely forgotten that the basis of Mr. Wyndham's calculation was that the Treasury would be reimbursed in a few years for those losses on the flotation of land loans by savings in the Land Commission charges, and in the constabulary charges. Mr. Wyndham estimated this at a quarter of a million in a year. Does anybody indeed doubt but that those savings might have been effected only for the conspiracy to wreck the Act of 1903, and to keep the country in a state of sham agitation in order to make the Act unworkable. The hon. Member for Mayo within the past few days has been speaking. He referred to Lord MacDonnell—who by the way has become fashionable. He said:—We do not sneer at Lord MacDonnell. We regard him as a man of great experience; yet he has never been allowed to use his powers in Ireland except for a very brief period. We want to open careers in Ireland to men like Lord MacDonnell.Really it is almost incredible that a statement like that should have been made, because there was a career open to Lord MacDonnell in Ireland, a career in which he did the most magnificent work. For his conduct in that career he was destroyed before he was driven out of the country, by one of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues who referred to him an " 1757 Indian satrap, a man half policeman and half civil servant, who was the worst enemy that ever came to Ireland since Oliver Cromwell." However, I must not be diverted from my point. My point was that before Lord MacDonnell was driven out of the country by these Gentlemen who are so interested about opening up a career to able men, he had actually succeeded in making a saving of £200,000 on the constabulary alone. What did hon. Gentlemen who sit behind me say? They started what they called a "really virile campaign," but which I have always called a "really sham campaign," the only result of which, for the Irish tenants, was the scourge of extra police taxes, and the forcing of the constabulary back to its old position. As to the land campaign, what were their achievements? Ender the Act of 1909 they insisted upon the creation of a whole regiment of monstrously expensive land inspectors and rent-fixing Commissioners. The Rent Commissioners have pleased nobody, for the reductions they have made have been of a most infinitesimal character. The land inspectors have simply caused endless delays in land purchase. In consequence of these transactions they have swollen the charges of the Land Commission in Ireland to over £700,000 a year, the greater part of which, I venture to tell this House, is spent, not in promoting land purchase, but in deliberately obstructing it. That sum alone would have been sufficient—the Chief Secretary will not deny it—and far more than sufficient, to have covered the entire possibilities of loss to the British Exchequer for the completion of land purchase. Now that all this mischief is done, what is the last wrong—I do not like to use a stronger word about it, though I might well have described it as a robbery, instead of a wrong?
The Government have actually proposed, in the Government of Ireland Bill, to debit against Ireland the whole £700,000 Land Commission charges which they themselves have so monstrously created. More than that, they are actually proposing to saddle upon Ireland fifteen or sixteen million of the bonus which was to have been given by both parties in this House as a free Imperial gift. You might as well really proceed against the emancipated slaves of the West Indian plantation for the twenty millions which this Parliament gave to their owners. Our position is this: That the Chancellor of the Exchequer, from motives of parsimony, killed the Purchase Act of 1903; and, I think, one has 1758 only to read between the lines of the speeches of the Chief Secretary and the hon. and learned Member for Waterford to know that he has killed this Bill to-night. The right hon. Gentleman rather piteously said that he envied Mr. Wyndham his Chancellorship of the Exchequer. So do we. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has succeeded in making the two former Bills abortive, and I am afraid it is almost equally certain that he will make the present one abortive, too. As to the pretence that the Treasury cannot find the money, I am only sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is not here to hear the terms in which. I should have liked to tell him how we spurn and laugh at that pretext.. You can find money in millions and tens of millions for any other purposes except for Irish purposes. More than that, over £400,000 or £500,000 of the sum it would cost you for the abolition of landlordism in Ireland, on terms perfectly satisfactory to both sides, you have already, because you have wrung from Ireland over one million of money more under the Budget than you solemnly pledged yourself to take. While I have spoken thus strongly, I desire to conclude by saying that so far as my Friends and myself are concerned, we are to-night on this matter just as we have been on other matters, willing "to let the dead past bury its dead." [Laughter.] I do not know what is the meaning of those extraordinary noises. If hon. Gentlemen who are guilty of them would articulate their opinions afterwards, I shall be very glad to listen to them.
I say at once—and my words have proved it over long years—that I am willing now, as I have been any time in the last ten years, to respond to the appeal of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford for united representation of all the Members from Ireland, with the promise that that united representation which we have been struggling for will produce better terms from, the Government. I cannot help lamenting that in this case, as in the case of the Bill, of 1903, the Government have consulted, so far as I know, no section of the Irish representatives except their own unconditional partisans, the very men who were responsible for postponing the abolition of landlorism for a generation. The hon. and learned Gentleman told us to-night, as Lord Crewe told us in the House of Lords, that, this Bill could only pass as an agreed Bill. Yes, but what steps have been taken, 1759 to make it so? I do not at all say that even yet there may not be the possibility that the hon. and learned Member for Waterford has hinted at, that if not in this Session, at all events before next Session, there may be an appeal to the good sense of Irishmen of all shades of opinion—to their common sympathies and to their common interests. I know what little encouragement the right hon. Gentleman has had in attempting anything of that kind up to the present, and the danger of offending certain interests. But I take the opportunity of expressing to the Prime Minister in particular our thankfulness for the statesmanship with which he has realised the magnitude of this great problem, and, I will add, for the magnanimity with which he has striven to avoid any mere party point in its solution.
Beyond that, I, for one, cannot go at the present time. I would express my own deep regret that after having waited for two years, I am afraid this Bill is going lb inflict another bitter disappointment upon the tenants who have already purchased. I believe as well that a grievous injury will be done by the Government of Ireland Bill by confronting the Irish Parliament with this inevitable state of social and agrarian anarchy in addition to the other troubles. The Chief Secretary appears to have entirely omitted from his Bill the evicted tenants. We have always argued that an equitable settlement of the evicted tenants' question was an essential condition of a treaty of peace between Irishmen. Probably some £20,000 or £30,000 in the way of compassionate allowance to settle all the more notorious claims that arc outstanding would suffice, and to my mind it would be a most mistaken piece of economy, for so small a sum, to take up a harsh and impracticable attitude, as these are the people who inevitably will be amongst the first claimants upon the meagre resources of the Irish Parliament.. I conclude by appealing to the Chief Secretary that in respect to the Bill that he will at all events arrange its framework so that it will not be made impossible for us to raise the question of the evicted tenants and the town village purchasers in Committee if the Bill arrives at Committee.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. J. H. CAMPBELL
I do not rise to make any attempt to criticise the position of this Bill. While I accept the disclaimer of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford that he 1760 has never had the good fortune to see a copy of the Bill, I must congratulate him of having known something of its proposals; if he did not, he has been singularly fortunate in the preparation of his manuscript notes. Like the hon. Member for Cork, my colleagues and myself, Unionist Members from Ireland, are not in the confidence of the right hon. Gentleman opposite even in regard to an important matter of the kind referred to, which it was suggested might become the basis of the Bill. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has consulted any of the leading representatives of the landlord interests in Ireland upon the subject. All I know is that, speaking for myself and my colleagues, we only heard the outline of the Bill this afternoon, and we knew nothing more of these proposals. They are somewhat complicated, but there are two considerations that suggest themselves at the very outset with regard to these proposals. The first is this: If they are so simple, and if they are likely to meet with such general approval, why were they not adopted in 1909? Why, instead of adopting them in 1909, did the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues go out of their way to introduce a measure which, as the facts and figures prove, paralysed land purchase from that day to this? The next consideration is this: Why, if they are so simple and likely to be so popular, were they introduced so late in the Session? One would have thought that in a matter of this kind of such vital and far-reaching importance, if the Government meant business they would have introduced these proposals which they suggest are likely to be so popular and to lead to little or no discussion, and to become an agreed Bill, at a stage of the Session that would have made it possible for the Bill to become law; and, above and beyond all, why has the Bill been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman within a few weeks after one of his own colleagues, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a colleague upon whom he will have to depend in putting this Bill through, had declared that the whole of Irish land purchase was a fraud and a swindle upon the British taxpayer'? The outlook is not very hopeful for the future of the Bill, and the action of the Government does lend itself to the suggestion that it is really only a window-dressing measure and that the right hon. Gentleman has very little hope or intention of ever seeing the Bill upon the Statute Book.
1761 I am not an authority upon the financial questions raised by the Bill, and therefore I do not propose to go through them, even after the very clear explanation the right hon. Gentleman gave, and the illustration he took which undoubtedly, I think, did help the House to follow his proposal. I confess there was one conclusion at which he arrived which I hope is true, but I should be surprised if it works out, namely, that while the tenant's annuity is to be increased to £3 12s. 6d., the result of the operation will still be to give him a reduction of 20 per cent. upon a second term rent. All I can say is, if that is the result of that operation, I do not think the tenant will have very much reason to complain of the additional one-eighth on his annuity. Also I say, from the opposite point of view, if the right hon. Gentleman's valuations are right, and if they will result in the landlord getting "Conference terms," then I do not think the landlord has any reason to complain, and if the result of the whole operation has been, that the right hon. Gentleman has been so successful as to bring about results of that kind which will give the tenants 20 per cent. reduction upon second term rents, and at the same time give the land lords' Conference terms, I think the right hon. Gentleman would be singularly fortunate, and if he goes on with the Bill, he will have gone a long way, I think, towards reaching a solution of the land purchase problem in Ireland. I say, however, I have to suspend judgment. We must wait until we see these figures, and have time to consider them more closely. There is one matter upon which I wish to put in a word by way of warning or rather of caution, and that is with regard to the proposals for general compulsion. I do not like compulsion in these matters in any way whatever or in any form, but it certainly ought not to have been introduced until art attempt is made to show it was necessary. Has that arisen? The working of land purchase does not suggest it has arisen, and the reason I say the time has not arisen for the introduction of compulsion is this: Land purchase on any general system was only introduced in 1903, and six years of voluntary agreement shows that more than one-half, considerably more than one-half of the entire holdings in Ireland, were sold by voluntary agreement. It is not fair to say that the delay since has been in any way due to a disinclination to come to terms. The delay since 1909, as the introduction of 1762 this Bill admits, was due to the action of the Government in 1909 in practically revolutionising the whole system of 1903, abolishing the zones, doing away with the bonus and legislating in 1909 upon such lines as the right hon. Gentleman had to-night to admit, and what is common knowledge, that since then outside the congested districts, land purchase has been practically at a deadlock.
Therefore, I say no case it appears to me, has been made, or could be made upon the facts up to now for the introduction of compulsion. I do not at all say, and never have said, that if, by the time this operation of land purchase has become practically general, and that you have exhausted all that can be done by voluntary agreement, that if there is a small residuum of tenants on the one hand and landlords upon the other who will come to no terms, and listen to no arrangement, that then, and then only, you might not introduce compulsion. But so long as things are going on as at present, so long as you have landlords and tenants tumbling over one another, the one to buy and the other to sell, and so long as there is no evidence of any disinclination on the part of the tenants and the landlords to come to terms upon the lines of the Act of 1903, and so long as the only time that that did not apply was owing to the action of the Government themselves in introducing in 1909 a Bill which has since strangled land purchase, and until we have better evidence than that on the part of the landlords to refuse to sell and the tenants to buy, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman he is only needlessly encumbering his Bill, and needlessly inviting opposition by introducing this idea of compulsion, which might be reserved, and safely reserved, for a much later stage; because I think I can assure him if this Bill becomes law and his view of the reduction that it will give, namely, 20 per cent. reduction to the tenant upon second term rents, and the landlord's Conference terms are right, I venture to assure him these compulsory provisions will not be necessary, and that, in any case, it is a mistake in a Bill intended to promote good feeling and voluntary agreement to hold a pistol at the head of either the landlord or the tenant. As I said, I am not going into any details of the Bill; it is a matter of vital interest to Ireland. I have always proclaimed that. I think this idea of land purchase is one of the greatest advantages and blessings that Ireland has derived, or ever could derive, 1763 from its connection with the Imperial Parliament. I am in favour of promoting it and helping its working by every means in my power, and I do not intend to do anything which would check the progress of this Bill, if in the next Session it is proposed to press this arrangement and promptly see it put upon the Statute Book.
§ Mr. GODFREY COLLINS
The Chief Secretary has held up this afternoon a pleasing picture for the settlement of the Irish land question. This difficulty has arisen through readjusting the situation between the State, the landlords, and the tenants, each of whom wish to place the burden upon the shoulders of the other two. It transpired this afternoon what may happen if this Bill became law, and the right hon. Gentleman took two factors. He, first, took the term of purchase of twenty-two years; and, secondly, Consols at 88.
§ Mr. COLLINS
I venture to think that there is no certainty that this state of things will come about. The experience of the last forty years has proved the Treasury have always taken too sanguine a view as to their ability to carry through land purchase in Ireland, and what has happened in the last forty years may very well happen in the years to come. If one may judge from events, Consols may still fall much further, in which case the burden to be placed upon the Imperial Exchequer may be a very considerable factor. The right hon. Gentleman told us this afternoon there would be no public issue of Land Stock, and that the National Debt Commissioners would take the stock instead. I understand from that that the National Debt Commissioners, instead of purchasing Consols in the open market with the available money, would take this stock instead, so that, in other words, from this stock being passed over into the hands of the National Debt Commissioners their ability to buy Consols in the open market would be drained to that extent. I might remind the House of the specific pledge given by the Government in 1903 when their great Land Act was passing into law. The Government, speaking on that date, said that the Irish Government intended to reduce their estimates by £250,000 a year to compensate the Imperial Government for the bonus of £12,000,000. I ask where is that 1764 reduction? I fail to find it in the cost of Irish Government. The Government from that day induced the British taxpayer, not only to lend money to the Irish landlord and the Irish tenant at a very low rate of interest, but they also induced them to hand over this large sum of £12,000,000 as a bonus, holding out hopes they have never been able to fulfil. Using the words of the Prime Minister, I think I can well describe these methods as sloppy methods of finance. From what I have been able to gather from past Debates and past Acts dealing with land purchase, I had hoped the Chief Secretary this afternoon would take his courage in both hands and raise the annuity not only from 3½ per cent. to 3⅝ per cent., but raise it to 4 per cent., because in the Acts passed from 1885 to 1903 that was the rate of annuity fixed by this House and under these Acts the terms of purchase were 17½, years, the rate of interest being 4 per cent.
§ Mr. COLLINS
Since the 1903 Act the British Government lent their money at 2¾ per cent., and the terms of purchase have been increased from 17½ years to 22 years.
§ Mr. COLLINS
Will the hon. Gentleman tell me the exact difference? It shows that there is a considerable difference of opinion as between first and second term rents. The point I am trying to make is this: That through the British Gevernment lending money at a low rate of interest, it has increased the purchase money paid by the Irish tenants to the Irish landlords, and if the rate of annuity was fixed at 4 per cent., I venture to think that these Amending Acts would not be necessary for this purpose. Perhaps the sinking fund might have been reduced or increased, but if the rate of increase had been 4 per cent. and the rate in the open market 3 per cent., the sinking fund would not have been 1 per cent., and there would have been a difference between the rate of interest and the total of 4 per cent., so that when money rises in value as it has done to-day, it would have been easier to adjust the new terms in future years. This difficulty which faced the Chief Secretary in 1909 would have been far more easy to adjust from time to time. When all is said and done this is merely a Bill to lend British gold to the Irish tenant. After what hon. Members opposite have said 1765 regarding the Irish tenants and the Nationalist party, -what right have they to vote for this Bill? If they are prepared to trust. Irish tenants with British gold, should they not be prepared also to trust the Irish people with their own methods of Government? I would like the Chief Secretary to consider whether it would not be possible to raise these annuities at 3¾ per cent., in view of the uncertainty that might exist in future years so that there need be no further Amending Bill dealing with Irish Land Stock.
§ Mr. DILLON
On behalf of the Irish party I heartily welcome the tone and temper of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Mr. Campbell). If the Irish landlords will approach this question in the same temper I do not see anything to prevent us coming to a friendly settlement with the Irish landlords and settling this matter by consent. One thing I want to say is, that while I am, and have always been, in favour of giving fair and even generous terms to the Irish landlords, where I have differed in the past, and, I am afraid, to some extent differ now from the hon. Member for Cork, is that I have always insisted in getting a quid pro quo for the tenants, and that there should be give and take on either side. I thought in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College there was evidence of that spirit of give and take. He approached the question of compulsion in a reasonable spirit, although I wholly differ from his conclusions. The right hon. Gentleman asked what is the necessity for compulsion? I desire to answer that question now, because it is vital to the whole of this Bill and the settlement that may be based upon it. I will endeavour to answer the questions. The necessity for compulsion is that in the past, in the working of these Acts, while landlords who were the least objectionable and troublesome, either to their tenants or to the Government of the day, were more reasonable in selling and treating their tenants reasonably, the most troublesome landlords often held out. If the Government attempts to solve on a great national scale a problem such as the Irish land question, and if public moneys are provided at low rates of interest on such a scale—we have heard to-day in the House that the problem has already been solved and the solution tested, with results so magnificent and so encouraging as we all admit and know them to be—then I ask, 1766 is not the Government entitled to demand compulsion in order to secure the full public benefit which wilt flow from the carrying out of this measure.
Let us for a moment look at the absurdities that arise owing to the want of compulsion. Take the case of Lord Clanricarde. He has been the puzzle and the torture of successive Chief Secretaries for close upon twenty-five years, and various Bills have been passed to get rid of that problem, and it still survives and defies the Government. Is it to be tolerated that while this great policy is going on and hundreds of landlords have given no trouble to the Government that Lord Clanricarde is to be allowed to keep the whole side of a country in a state of ferment and disorder when no man will stand up here and defend his action. The whole of the Clanricarde question which has been a source of disorder and even of bloodshed in the past could have been settled if there had been a compulsory measure placed in the hands of the Government. Let me take one other case. I am only taking this as a sample of the necessity for compulsion. I will take the case of Lord Ashtown. He is a very well known man, and I mention his name because he has been a great champion of Unionism and he is the author of "Facts from Ireland," which I should describe as lies from Ireland. Lord Ashtown is an opponent of the whole policy of land purchase, and the other day, in the "Outlook" newspaper, there appeared the following letter, on the 21st June, from Lord Ashtown:—It is stated that Mr. Wyndham conferred upon Ireland that great Act, the Irish Land Purchase Act of 1903, which altered the whole complexion of the home Rule demand. I do not blame Mr. Wyndham for bringing in this Act, as he received his first lessons in Irish politics at the feet of Mr. Arthur Balfour. If the object of the Unionist party is to drive Unionists with capital and education out of Ireland then it is certainly a great Act, for it has carried out that policy to perfection. The Land Purchase Act has, as you say, altered the whole complexion of the Home Rule demand. It has immensely strengthened the hands of the agitators who put forward the Emile Rule demand with the object of gaining their disloyal ends, and unless the Irish policy of the Unionist party is changed there can be no resistance to Home Rule in the South and West.That is the opinion of Lord Ashtown, who at the very moment is a terrible source of disturbance in Ireland and the only storm centre we have in that country is on his property. Lord Ashtown also owns a vast area of cleared land in the county of Galway which is urgently needed for the settlement of the country, which he is wholly unable to utilise, which is really only waste country, 1767 and through which you may travel for miles without seeing a human habitation, and yet Lord Ashtown calmly tells the Government that he regards land purchase as a wicked policy, playing into the hands of the agitators, and he will not sell unless compulsion is brought about. There are many counties in Ulster where land purchase is not going at all so smoothly as in Leinster and Munster, and there are many parts of Ulster in which there are many Orangemen supporters of hon. Members above the Gangway who, if you ask them whether compulsion is necessary, would be found just as hot for compulsion as the Nationalists are, and I shall watch the action of hon. Members for Ulster on this question of compulsion with interest. The Congested Districts Board were endowed with compulsory powers, and the Estates Commissioners did very little owing to the action of the House of Lords, who mutilated the Bill of 1909. It amuses me very much when I hear men denouncing that Bill to recall the action of Lord Castletown. After the Bill had come back from the House of Lords he made a speech in which he said that if the Irish party defeated the Pill of 1909 they dare not go back to Ireland. That was not true; but we were denounced by a champion of the Irish landslords, the moment it got out that there was some doubt about our attitude, because they wanted to get their money on the arrears of the purchases which were already entered into, and they knew well that if the Act of 1909 did not pass they could not get their money, and the whole thing would have been tied up indefinitely.
Why did we allow the Act of 1909 to pass? It was not our Act. Even as it was originally introduced it was in many points opposed by the Irish party, and it. was so mutilated by the House of Lords that the Chief Secretary, when it came back, said he felt that he was standing amid shattered ruins. We allowed it to pass because of the generous provision it made for the rescue of the West of Ireland from the position in which it had been left. When I hear hon. Members denouncing the Chancellor of the Exchequer in violent language—that. is not a good policy when you want to get something out of him—as the enemy of the Irish people, and mean and sordid in his relations with the people of Ireland, I can never forget the action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in making that very fine and generous provision for the Congested Districts Board 1768 which has produced such splendid results as we have heard the Chief Secretary declare to the House to-day. Furthermore, I will say this about the Chancellor of the Exchequer: People are continually referring to our action in allowing £1,500,000 extra taxation to be placed upon Ireland. In dealing with that question you must take into account Lloyd-Georgian finance as a whole, and I say that since the Union no Chancellor of the Exchequer has done so much for Ireland as Lloyd George has done. What are the causes of compulsion? I have frequently told the Chief Secretary that his compulsory Clause would be futile for a very simple reason. Even the compulsory Clauses for a congested district give the following terms: A landlord who is compelled to sell gets cash instead of stock, he gets priority over those who are not compelled, and he gets his bonus as if there were no compulsion at all, and that turns the whole of the compulsory Clauses into a perfect farce.
It is said that most of the landlords were only too anxious to be compelled to sell. Why not? If I were an Irish landlord, I would not dream of selling without being compelled. You are far better off under that Act if you are compelled to sell than if you agree to sell. That turns the whole of the compulsory Clauses into a farce. The House of Lords took care of that. I was perfectly confident at the time that the compulsory Clauses would be extremely hard to work, and that they would be more or less a total failure owing to these blots, which I trust will now be removed. There is another reason why compulsion has not worked, and the Chief Secretary knows it well. The whole history of the various Irish Land Acts is a history of the Irish Courts defeating the objects of them. No sooner do we pass an Act of Parliament on the Irish land question than the judges in Ireland set to work to drive holes through that. Act, and by a series of judgments they have tied up and interpreted the Clauses so that they have almost paralysed the Act of 1909. Take a case which occurred the other day, when the Congested Districts Board, in spite of the difficulty I have pointed out, applied the compulsory Clauses to Lord Clanricarde. What did he do? He went to the Master of the Rolls in Dublin and moved by some process of law, the name of which I do not know, and obtained an injunction. Lord Clanricarde resorted to every device to obstruct and to lay the proceeding and to 1769 inflict expense on the Court, and when all was done, and the final offer was made to Lord Clanricarde, he proceeded to the Master of the Rolls and obtained judgment. I heard the hon. Member for East Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy) say, "You have Cherry in the Court of Appeal."
§ Mr. DILLON
I am glad of it, but I do not know when he will get to the Court of Appeal, and what the result will be, though I know Lord Clanricarde intends to go to the House of Lords.
§ Mr. DILLON
I do not know whether the present Chancellor will be there by the time Lord Clanricarde gets there. This Act was passed in 1909 to get rid of the Lord Clanricarde difficulty. We are now in 1913, and we have got to the Master of the Rolls, and our only comfort is that we may get to the House of Lords. I say, again, that we ought to have, and I trust we shall have, such a system of compulsion as will be a reality, and that, amongst other things, there will be no bonus when a man is compelled. The bonus was given as an inducement to a landlord to sell voluntarily, and it is a perfect farce to hand over the bonus when he refuses to sell. Furthermore, I hope some provision may be made—and I appeal to tine Chief Secretary on this point—to cheek the outrageous flood of litigation that has arisen under these Land Laws. There is a Clause in one of the recent Acts which the. Land Judge has taken as an indication that he is to give costs in every case against the Crown or against the Land Judge's Court where a landlord appeals. What is the result' Every solicitor in Dublin tells his client to appeal without fear on every point of law that can possibly be raised, because a large bill of costs is run up, and the Treasury have to pay it. If these points are attended to, and the compulsory Clauses made watertight, so that they cannot be interfered with, as they were interfered with in the Lord Clanricarde case, then I do not believe—I have frequently expressed this view before—that you will be obliged to apply compulsion in more than one or two cases in Ireland. All you will have to do will be to initiate compulsion, because the landlord, knowing that in case of compulsion he will have to sell without 1770 a bonus, will naturally come down and agree to sell. You will have no compulsion, and the machinery will work smoothly. It is the great object of carrying out that particular side of land purchase in Ireland that we should not be driven to the machinery of compulsion, which, compared with voluntary sale is expensive, odious, and irritating. Men often ask me, "Do you really mean to say that it will be a practical policy to wind up land purchase by compulsory sales?" I say, "Certainly not, but if the Clauses are properly framed you will have no compulsion, because the moment you initiate it the landlord will come forward and say, `Stop that, I will sell.'"
There are one or two points in the speech of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), on which I should like to say a word or two. Re spoke of the Chief Secretary dangling before the eyes of the Irish tenants twenty-two years' purchase. I did not understand the Chief Secretary to indicate that there was anything in the Bill about twenty-two years, and most certainly if there were I should join in a most vigorous protest against it. What the Chief Secretary did was to take a supposititious case to illustrate his meaning. He said, "Supposing the tenant pays twenty-two years' purchase, it works out in the following way." I do not believe that any tenant would agree to pay an increased number of years' purchase, and I think I can prove quite clearly that the landlord can get 90 per cent. of his rent which I always considered very generous on a considerably less number of years' purchase. I should like to know where the English landlord is who pockets and spends 90 per cent. of his rent. I have met many English landlords who say they can consider they are very well off if they get 50 per cent, of their rent. It is 90 per cent. of the gross rental that the landlord claims in Ireland. That is the modest claim. I really think it ought to be thoroughly understood by English landlords that is the claim and basis on which they wish the settlement to be made. Mark you, it is 90 per cent. of the gross income from the estate secured on a security infinitely more staple and sure than any Irish landlord's estate. I think I can prove that a very much lower number of years' purchase than twenty-two years—and this is a very important matter—would on the basis of the present state of the Money market give what are called "Conference terms" to the landlords.
1771 The Chief Secretary alluded to one matter which I consider to be of primary importance, and that was the new settlement of the bonus. The hon. Member for Cork gave three conditions on which he said the Bill must be founded in order to be a useful and satisfactory Bill. One was that the annuity of the tenant should be reduced to at per cent. It is impossible for any practical man to believe that we can induce the British Treasury to pay cash, if we reduce the tenant's annuity to 3¼ per cent. That means stock and no cash, and I cannot agree with the hon. Member. Then he said, "Restore the bonus in such a form as to make it a real inducement." Do I understand him to mean that it is to be restored to a flat rate? The present bonus is more in money, and it costs the Treasury a good deal more than the old bonus, but the hon. Member said, "Restore the bonus, so as to make it a real inducement." I ask him, "Does he mean to go back to the flat rate, because, of all the absurdities that ever came out of this House, the flat rate was the greatest. What right has a man who gets twenty-five years' purchase for his estate to a bonus? Yet he got more than a man who sold for fifteen years' purchase. I never heard of such a scheme. Take the classical case of the Duke of Leinster, a millionaire, who sold his estate for more than £1,000.000, got tyenty-five years of his rent, and pocketed £100,000 or £4,000 a year as a reward for selling his estate for twenty-five years' purchase. I say that the grading of the bonus has been an enormous gain to the tenants in Ireland, and a very great advantage to the whole system of land purchase, and I hope and trust that the Chief Secretary, when he spoke of a change in the bonus, meant a further grading of the scale, and never for a moment intended to return to the flat rate.
I think that a great deal could be clone to make this scheme work, and to bridge the difficulty between the landlord and the tenant by handling the bonus a little more generously without any overwhelming cost to the Treasury. It is a very great inducement to the landlord. I have known cases myself where it has acted as a most powerful temptation over and above its value. In many cases the landlord was very much embarrassed for the want of ready cash to provide for his younger children, and, 1772 perhaps, his wife, and he was extremely anxious to get the bonus, because it might be the only cash that he would handle for years. That was an enormous advantage. I believe a great deal in the bonus as a means of bringing about, what I do desire most eagerly to bring about, in spite of the hon. Member for Cork, and that is an amicable settlement of this question. I would suggest to the Chief Secretary whether he could not devise a method by which a large proportion of the bonus would be paid over to the landlords as the agreements are signed. At present, one of the great grievances the landlords have, is that when they sell their estates and consent to a reduction of the interest they do not get the bonus. It lies sometimes for four or five years at a time, whilst they being poor landlords are hard up, and is not paid until the transaction is completed. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should adopt some scheme by which the bonus or a pro portion of it could be paid to the land lords when the agreements are signed. I come now to the figures. I have calculated it out very carefully, and I make out that on twenty years' purchase at 4¼ percent. interest and with the bonus the landlord would get £98 in the £100, not 90 per cent. at all, but 98; and that. on an eighteen years' purchase, by a slightly increased grading up of the bonus, which would really not cost the Treasury very much, the landlord would get £89 in the £100, which is practically Conference terms. Therefore, it is not a question of twenty-two years' purchase; it is a question of eighteen or nineteen years' purchase at the most in order that the landlord should get 90 per cent. of his gross income. Anybody who works out the figures will find that I am correct. Even without the increase in the bonus, nineteen years' purchase would bring the Conference terms.
Let me ask this question. Is it unfair, in the present state of the Money market, to calculate on 4½ per cent.? Look at what happened in the city only the other day. There was a Montreal City loan of £1,600,000. I venture to say there could not be a better security. The loan was issued at 4½ per cent., and it is said that three fourths of it is still in the hands of underwriters. I believe these cities offer as good security as any in the world. Take the City of Winnipeg. They issued a loan a day or two ago at 4½ per cent. at the price of £97. I really do not know whether this is covered by the Clause in the Act of 1773 1909, but what is to prevent the Government bringing in these Canadian City loans for the purposes of land purchase. I am convinced at this moment the Irish landlord would get for his investment 4½ per cent. in an infinitely better security than is afforded by his Irish estate. His interest would come to him by post, without a single atom of trouble, and he will not have to go hunting after tenants, which, we are told, may be a matter of difficulty when Home Rule has been passed. I think it would be perfectly possible to work out this finance if the Treasury could only be induced to make a sacrifice and pay in cash. It would thereby be possible to work out the Conference terms, and, perhaps, something above Conference terms, say eighteen years' purchase on second term rents. In spite of all that has been said by the hon. Member for the City of Cork, I am prepared to face the Irish people on the issue of eighteen years' purchase. The hon. Member said just now that we went in terror of the people of Ireland, but if we are so very unsound on land purchase, is it not strange that they should persist in returning us to this House? I have no fear on that ground whatever, and if the Government can see their way to do this, and if the landlords can see their way to support us in the demands for cash payment, I will undertake to support the 3¾ per cent. annuity If my head is taken off for that, I cannot help it.
The real point at issue is for the Government to make this Bill a complete measure, a measure which will remove all the blots and weak points that have been discovered in the working of the Land Act, which will furnish the Estates Commissioners in Dublin as well as the Congested Districts Board with a really effective system, and which, too, if it is accepted, wild clean up this business completely. If they do that I think they will find as regards the finance of the Bill that the chief point to be pressed on the Government is payment in cash. That will go a long way to remove the objections of the landlords. It will undoubtedly inflict a slightly greater burden on the Treasury, but it will settle this question once and for all, and it will command the goodwill of all parties concerned. At the same time I cannot take up the attitude adopted by the hon. Member for Cork in denouncing the British Treasury for its action in saddling Ireland, as he describes it, with the £12,000,000 of bonus to be given to the landlords. I would ask how have they 1774 saddled it on Ireland He also said that they had saddled £700,000 a year on Ireland in connection with the Land Commission. How have they done it? They have saddled it on Ireland by paying it themselves. It is only a book debt. It is entered, it is true, in certain Treasury White Papers, but there is not a single word about it in the Home Rule Bill. According to the Treasury White Paper it is a book debt against Ireland, but Ireland does not pay it, and, therefore, it is not the case that the Government have saddled it on Ireland. As far as I comprehend the problem, the Treasury have kept faith with us. But I would strongly appeal to the Government to consider whether it would not be worth while to make this further concession. They have gone half-way already. Let them complete it. and settle this question of land purchase. Let them indicate their willingness to do it, and then this Bill will become an extremely popular Bill in Ireland—in the South and West, and even in Ulster, for all Irish farmers are equally anxious to buy their farms on good terms Ulster farmers will never be able to do that without compulsion. The acceptance of this proposal would do a great deal to smooth away all the difficulties and to pave the way for the success of the Home Rule Bill and the system which it proposes to set up, and if we are able to come back at the. beginning of next Session—there is no time, I fear, to do it this Session—and say to the Government that both the Irish landlords and the Irish Nationalist party have agreed on a settlement, the Government, in carrying it out, will strike one of the best blows they have yet delivered to smooth the way for the passage of the Home Rule Bill.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Gentleman asked me one or two questions with regard to the investments by Irish landlords under the present Bill. I have not looked up the Clause, and, therefore, I cannot say accurately what interest is actually obtainable under it. I think the hon. Gentleman is more or less correct when he states that under certain circumstances, by certain investments, probably nearly 4½ per cent. may be obtained. That is more or less true. It may be 4¼ per cent. or 4⅓ per cent., but that would only be in certain investments, and not in all the investments sanctioned under the existing Clause. The hon. Member talked about Canadian cities being included in the list of authorised investments. I do not want 1775 to go into that for a moment. I would only say I think a little caution is necessary there. Say that at the present moment 4¼ per cent. or 4⅓ per cent. is obtainable. It does not follow that that rate of interest will always be paid. Indeed, I hope that if we are enabled to arrange our own finances a little here, in all probability there will be a decrease in the rates of interest to be obtained, and if that occurs here it will follow elsewhere, so that it is uncertain what rate of interest is going to be obtained in the future. I do not think you can very well say at the present moment, when there is an increase in the rate of interest which can be obtained in valuable securities, that that is going to be permanent, and that the whole future of investments of landlords in Ireland can be based on that. I object very strongly to the compulsory Clauses because, as hon. Members know, I object to compulsion in every case, unless it is to make a man obey the law, when I have no objection.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
That is not the point. I was suggesting that the hon. Baronet does not object to landlords being compelled to sell their land to a railway company for any public purpose.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
That is quite true, but, then, that is for the general benefit of the State. I do not know that this is quite an analogous case. At any rate, compulsion on the owner of land to sell his land to a railway generally results in a very high price being paid by the railway company for it, and I do not think that a similar high rate would be received by the landlord who sells under this Act. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman one or two questions. I did not quite follow where the National Debt Commissioners are going to get this money from. As far as I know, there are only two sources open to them. One is the use of the sinking fund and the other is the use of moneys which will be received by the Post Office Savings Bank. Fresh deposits which come in, which would in the ordinary course of events be invested in Consols, might presumably be diverted to this new form of investment, and so, in the 1776 same way, the sining fund, invested in various Government securities, might be entirely put into the new stock to be created under the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to bring in. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that if that is so it is merely shifting the burden from one shoulder to another. The fact that you are going to buy this new Irish Stock with Post Office Savings Bank money or sinking fund money will not improve English funds generally It may alleviate the difficulty in this particular instance, but it will not make the general credit of the English nation better, for it is only going round in a circle, and it does not alter the amount of money that will have to be provided. I understand that £60,000,000 will have to be found, in addition to about £24,000,000. I do not know whether it is new stock or money that will have to be issued on the market, but there will have to be a sufficient sum of money found to settle the bargains entered into prior to the Act of 1909. Ts that right?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
No. It is £60,000,000 of new money. That is an addition, and; it is £24,000,000 of outstanding money.
§ sir J. LONSDALE
I venture to think the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying £24,000,000, as the amount required for purchase under the Act of 1903 is £37,500,000.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I understand there is a sum of about £24,000,000 which has to be found to meet obligations already entered into?
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
And that the £24,000,000 will be found in the ordinary way, and the £60,000,000 in the new way foreshadowed by the right hon. Gentleman? I have made a rough calculation as to the amount of money which would have to be found by the English taxpayer, and I ask the Home Secretary whether I am right: So far as I can make out, the result will be, allowing for the sinking fund which must be put by in order to recoup the National Debt Commissioners at the end of sixty-eight years, and also allowing for 1777 the bonus and the interest upon the bonus if the whole of the £60,000,000 is found, the British Treasury will have to find 5 per cent. on the £60,000,000, or roughly £3,000,000 a year. I am leaving out of the calculation any loss on the £24,000,000 that has already accrued, and am dealing only with the £60,000,000 which will have to be found if this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament—that is to say, English taxpayers will have to find £3,000,000 a year.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I understand that the bonus is a free gift, and that the Irish tenants will not pay it. The rate of interest which will have to be paid to the National Debt Commissioners is £3 6s. 8d. To that you will have to add 10s. per cent. for sinking fund, which makes £3 16s. 8d. The tenant will pay £3 12s. 6d., and the difference between the £3 16s. 8d. and the £3 12s. 6d. is the loss which will have to be provided by the British Treasury. In addition to that, there is the interest on the bonus and the sinking fund necessary to provide for the repayment of the bonus. I think I am correct in my figures, although I may be wrong. I make out that in these circumstances there will be an annual loss, as soon as the whole £60,000,000 has been advanced, of £3,000,000 to the British Treasury.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I think I am right in saying that the Irish tenant will not pay a sufficient. sum to recoup both sinking fund and interest. If I am right, there must be a loss which will have to be borne by the British Treasury. I am, for the moment, taking the rate of interest on Consols as it is at the present moment. At present they return £3 9s. The interest paid to the National Debt Commissioners is only to be £3 6s. 8d. Assuming that Consols remain at their present price there will be a further loss by the National Debt Commissioners, because they might have invested their money to greater advantage than under the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman. It is only fair to say, how-ever, that if Consols go up, there will be a reverse operation, and that the National Debt Commissioners will then reap a benefit.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
That again is a speculation, into which we need not enter at the present moment. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) said it was very hard that 25 years' purchase should be given to a millionaire, and he mentioned the Duke of Leinster. I do not see that there should be any difference between the number of years' purchase given to a millionaire or a poor man, for the number of years' purchase is the value of the property. The rich man has as much right to receive it as the poor man. Unless I am mistaken, the Duke of Leinster was not the only man to receive twenty-five years' purchase for his estate.
Sir F. BAN BURY
I say it is the value of his estate which the landlord ought to receive, whether he is a rich man or a poor man. Is it not a fact that the Duke of Leinster was not the only man to receive twenty-five years' purchase for his estate? So far as my recollection goes, an hon. Member below the Gangway, and a very leading hon. Member, in fact, no less a Member than the Leader of the Irish party is supposed to have received twenty-five years' purchase for his estate.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Then he was in the same position as the wicked duke. I do not think it was very wise of the hon. Member to have brought up the illustration of the duke, inasmuch as he did no worse than his own leader. I desire to say a few words upon the financial aspect of the question. The hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. Godfrey Collins) said that if the annuity had been fixed at 4 per cent. all this difficulty would not have arisen. I think the hon. Gentleman was right. Why was it not fixed at 4 per cent. Because the original object of Irish land purchase was not to bring forward a scheme financially sound, but something which would enable the Irish tenant to purchase his land without paying too much for it. As a matter of fact, all the old economic principles were thrown to the wind. I voted against the Second and Third Reading of that Bill, and am glad I 1779 did so, because it seemed to be financially unsound, and because I object to the State interfering in order to settle disputes between two people to the detriment of the one and to the advantage of the other. The whole original scheme was unsound. It is quite impossible to suppose that any large sum of money could be borrowed at 2,4 per cent., just as it is unlikely that 4 per cent. will always remain the rate of interest. That being so, the scheme was bound to come to the position in which the Government now find themselves, in which they have to get part of the money by asking the British taxpayer to put his hand into his pocket and find £3,000,000 a year, or whatever the sum may be, in order to assist the Government out of the difficulty.
You could not now revert to a 4 per cent. annuity, because you would then have three different sets of tenants—the first who bought at 34 per cent., the second who bought at 3¼ per cent., and the third who bought at a 4 per cent. annuity. That would lead to feelings of disappointment between the different sets of people, and probably stop Irish land purchase altogether. Having once embarked upon a bad operation, we have to go on with it. Whether it is advisable to go on with it by the method proposed I am not certain. There is another method, that is, by being economical and causing the value of British funds to rise. Then all this difficulty would disappear. That method has not been followed by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Speaking for myself, I do not quite see, if we are going to have Home Rule, why the English taxpayer is to be asked to pay another £3,000,000 a year in order to provide the Irish tenants with their landlords' land. I cannot help feeling that the English taxpayers would not approve of this method. If we are going to have Home Rule, then let Ireland look after itself, but do not let us have Home Rule, and at the same time act as a wet nurse to Ireland, and put our hands into our pockets and find additional money for Ireland. I do not know whether I have stated the actual financial scheme correctly. As the right hon. Gentleman has not contradicted me I suppose I am right. I hope the Home Secretary will be able to say if I am wrong in stating that when the £60,000.000 has been raised and the whole matter settled there will be a loss of 5 per cent., which will have to be paid by the State.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
The hon. Baronet as taken what with him is rather an unusual course, namely, he has discussed the terms of a financial measure which he has not seen. I therefore do not blame him in the least for the somewhat exaggerated statements he has made. I would say that it would have been better if this Bill had been introduced under the Ten Minutes Rule and printed, and then a day given for its Second Reading, so that we could have seen the actual terms of the measure. As I understand the course the Government have taken it is this: that they are bringing in a Bill to-day which will never have a chance of being discussed on Second Reading so far as this Session is concerned, and yet exaggerated and unfounded statements such as that made by the hon. Baronet. will go forth to-morrow that this Bill will cost the English taxpayers—as though we never contributed at all—something like £3,000,000 a year. I therefore strongly complain of the course the Government have taken in bringing in the Bill in this form, when really we have now come to what I may call the mere residuum of Irish land purchase finance. In the old times we discussed these measures from the point of view of principle. The country rocked with anticipation when measures of the kind were brought in, the House was crowded, the landlords were interested, some of them protested, and a great national question of State policy was laid down. We have now come to a mere question of pawnbroking. This is a pawnbroking transaction so far as the lending of money is concerned. Therefore, as we have to discuss it from that point of view, I think that my hon. Friend the hon. Baronet, if I may so call him, will be well advised to tell his constituents that every shilling you have lent to the Irish people for land purchase you have got back, and that you have not only got. it back, but that as pawnbrokers, you have made a large profit on the transaction. Those are the net facts so far as Irish land purchase is concerned. England has been the gainer, not merely in moral effect, not merely in the soothing effect that it has had upon the country, but you have actually got our money in your pockets, and I think that to a large extent you could finance the present measure by applying the system of the sinking fund and the return that the tenants have made on their own loans—that is, if you went from the Act of 1870 to the present time I think there is. 1781 sufficient money repaid by the tenant to vivify the finance of this Bill. Certainly no one can ever forget, however Nationalist he may be, and however much he may admire the Chief Secretary, the startling statement he made that the conclusion of land purchase is a matter of more importance than Home Rule itself.
If that be true, how conies it that it is upon 21st July, and under these conditions that the measure is brought forward? I welcome. the labourers' provision in the Bill, but why put it into this Bill? Why not pass a separate Bill for it? What is the advantage of these petty Treasury tricks? Are we to swallow anything that we may object to in this Bill because you propose to lend £1,000,000 in another direction? That is a most unfair way of legislating, and it is only in regard to Ireland that that method is adopted. This money is urgently needed for labourers' cottages. The labourers also pay back their money. The Irish ratepayers make good a portion of the loss and, so far as the Government are concerned, every shilling of the money that is lent for labourers' cottages is repaid; therefore why you should mix up this question of the amount that you are going to advance for the labourers with this measure at this time of the year I really cannot understand. The Government, I think, should remember that. the right hon. Gentleman pledged himself this year he would make good some loan for the Irish labourers' cottages. Is this the way it is going to be fulfilled, that we are to accept the Bill as a whole because this very desirable provision is included in it? So far as I can gather from the reception the Bill has met with the Government have no excuse whatever for not giving a day to the Second Reading. I do not quite remember the date at which the Land Bill of the 'nineties was brought in. I think it was late as this, but I shall certainly look it up, and if the Government find, as I think they might, that there is a general desire to have another day for the Second Reading, after we have seen the text of the Bill, I should very much like that the Government should be pressed by hon. Gentlemen behind them, especially as they have not seen the Bill, to give a day for the Second Reading.
Another question I should like to ask is, has this Bill the approval of the Treasury? That seems a strange question to ask, and I would not have asked it, except that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when the Budget was being passed went out of his 1782 way to declare, as regards Mr. Wyndham's Bill, that it never had the approval of the Treasury. Is this a Treasury Bill? I think we should be enlightened on that pointy either now or on the Second Reading. I should like to ask the House to consider on this question of Wyndham finance, as against what has been called the Birrell Act of 1909, what is the question upon which all this pother is proceeding. Hon. Members behind me talk as if there were some tremendous questions which arose upon which the Wyndham Act made shipwreck. They said that the Trish taxpayers were being swamped, or were threatened with being swamped, by increasing rates, and the British Treasury was being overwhelmed with the demands of Ireland, and therefore it became an absolute necessity for the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Government to put Irish finance on a right basis.
Will the House believe that all this talk that has gone on for seven or eight years upon this question of ruin to the Irish taxpayer and the swamping of the Treasury by our demands, all turned on the question of a loss of £400,000 a year? That was a tremendous stumbling block for the Treasury when it is Wyndham's finance, but you strain at a gnat and you swallow.a camel. Hon. Members behind are horrified at £400,000 for land purchase but they will vote for £1,400,000 increased taxes through the Budget. The Irish taxpayer has been frightened by this tremendous burden of £400,000 which was to hang round his neck, and the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) said to-night, "Did we really contemplate going back to the flat-rate system of Bonus. Would any of us dare to raise a sacrilegious voice and go back to the Wyndham proposals?" Well, I would, and the case of the Duke of Leinster has no more terrors for me than the case of John Redmond. If the hon. and learned Gentleman owned an estate worth £1,000,000 I should have been very glad if he had got a large sum as a bonus for the sale of his property. It would have been a great pleasure to me to be able to congratulate him. The suggestion that you are to attack the Duke of Leinster and say, "Why should the Duke of Leinster get a bonus, and why should John Redmond not get a bonus?" at once brings up that system of individous comparison of which, of course, the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) was keen to take advantage, and he said, of course, that the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) was mala- 1783 droit in bringing the comparison forward. Not at all. On the contrary he was very adroit. He meant it. He said the Duke of Leinster—that was his skill—but he suggested the case of John Redmond. That shows that the hon. Member is, as he always has been in the House, a very great master of Parliamentary satire.
I therefore say I am not ashamed to ask for the rest of the landlords of Ireland the same terms that many hon. Members below the Gangway receive, and whether it is a flat rate or a humped rate, so long as it tends to settle the Irish land question I am in favour of that rate, and the testimonial that is to be given to this flat rate is that it has sold half the land of Ireland within something like five or six years, and that you have been peddling with your rate, crooked or straight, or flat or whatever it is, and you have sold hardly any of the land. Your system looks lovely on paper, but it has not worked. Then the Member for East Mayo referred to the litigation concerning the Clanricarde Estate, and sometimes we owe a great deal to Mr. Speaker for his indulgence, but I certainly was surprised to hear the attack which the hon. Member made on the Irish Master of the Rolls in connection with the judgment of Lord Clanricarde's case. I had always supposed that it was a rule in this House that you are never to allude to a case which is sub judice. The hon. Member not only told us that the case was sub judice, but he announced, I suppose from some communication that he has had from Lord Clanricarde, that Lord Clanricarde was going to take the case to the House of Lords. If that be so, is it not all the more desirable to bring up that case in connection with compulsory purchase in the House of Commons? What would be the effect of it? He was good enough to repeat a remark he overheard me make to the hon. Member (Mr. W. O'Brien) that if the Master of the Rolls had made a mistake he would be corrected by the Court of Appeal. Of course, it is a very easy thing in the case of a man so disliked as Lord Clanricarde to attack a judge and say, "We have great difficulty with the Irish judges and we are really surprised at the way in which this Birrell Act has been worked." I will venture to say, without having read the Section which the Master of the Rolls had to construe, that in all probability it is one of those Sections which the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) had 1784 a hand in drafting, and, if it is, I do not wonder that the Master of the Rolls has construed it as he has.
But be that as it may, what does it point to in connection with this question of compulsory purchase? I prophesy that such a speech will have this result: that there will be a demand made immediately that this Bill gets into Committee, that even if Home Rule should become law the judges who are to decide upon this question of compulsion shall be judges appointed by the Imperial Government and not by the Irish Government. That will be the result of the hon. Member bringing up to-night the decision of the Master of the Rolls, because that learned judge has only construed the very difficult Sections in the way any honest man would construe them; and even if the hon. Member had the appointment of the judges who are to decide this matter, even if their name was Muldoon, they would not come to a different decision from that come to by the highly learned man, the late Attorney-General under the Liberal Government, now the Master of the Rolls. He touched only upon one aspect of compulsion, which is not the true aspect of it, for I venture to say that once, instead of applying the true solvent to this problem, which is the advance of money upon easy terms—compulsion by temptation, instead of by law—you fall back upon the theory that the Courts of Law, either under a Home Rule Government. or any other Government, are going, after argument on both sides, to give a man less for his property than what it is worth, the hon. Member for Mayo is making a great mistake. Would he like to sell his shop at Ballaghadereen for less than it is worth? Would he like to take a decision as to the amount he is to receive for it of a tribunal I should appoint? His acceptance of the decision would be a touching illustration of his perfect confidence in my impartiality. In the same manner, in dealing with this question of compulsion, the notion that you can go to the Courts of Law and suggest to them that a man should get undervalue for political purposes is one that the Courts will lend themselves to political prostitution. I say they will do nothing of the kind, either under Home Rule or any other rule.
Compulsion may be required in some cases, but where may I look for a settlement of this question? You can only look for a settlement in the Provision of money, 1785 and the promise held out by the Government of this country that it would provide sufficient money at easy rates. Certainly it is an extraordinary thing that you, who are going to buy oil wells, and whose Navy is costing £40,000,000 or £45,000,000, and which only cost about £15,000,000 when I came to this House, when it is only a question of £400,000 a year, should kick up all this row and humbug in regard to what is practically merely a flea-bite. It is nonsense to talk as if you were dealing with some great mountain which you had to clear away. You are taking three times that amount from us year by year. Why, then, remit this whole question to compulsion? Those who leave the financial side of the case and go to the legal side are only deceiving the people. Everybody knows the way in which price on compulsion have been treated in every tribunal. There is another device of the hon. Member for Mayo, as to enlarging the range of investments, and really in this matter he seems to think that the Chief Secretary ought to be labelled, "Follow the man from Cooks." It is not that he lays down canons, but he pontificates. He is now taking us to Winnipeg. The system of investments is to be greatly extended, I suppose, as far as Bogota! I was a party although I grumbled at it to the extension of the list of Trustee investments in the Act of 1909. You may get a good kind of security in some of these places, but when the hon. Member talks about the City of Montreal and of Winnipeg, pointing out that their loans have not been taken up in the City, it shows that he does not know anything about it. Why have they not been taken up? Because everybody knows, except the hon. Member for Mayo, that Canada at present is suffering from huge over-investment in land. Canada is bored with these investments. Accordingly, there has been the greatest difficulty in floating such loans. Canada has overdone it. I agree with the hon. Member that there are some excellent securities in Canada, and if the right hon. Gentleman has been persuaded by the hon. Member for Mayo—although he has not seen the Bill, it is strange that he should guess at the contents—to add Canadians to the list of Trustee Investments, for my part I shall offer no opposition.
I think myself that the securities added in 1909 did little good. If further experiments are to be made, you may leave them to the Public Trustee in Ireland. If you look at the list he sanctions, you will conclude that he will sanction one in 1786 Kamschatka before he would sanction one in county Cork. Go to Winnipeg, go to Montreal, "over the hills and far away," and you will be sure of a first-class security. I do not know whether, now that oil schemes are coming up for the Navy "Oil shares, Limited," would not look splendid in the schedule of the new Act. "Guaranteed Oil Shares" would read splendidly, and so far as I am concerned I shall offer no opposition to that extension. Perhaps it will have the baptismal blessing of the hon. Gentleman. There is only one other remark I wish to make. The Government have boasted, not unnaturally, that by their late Act they have advanced matters in Connaught somewhat from the previous state of things under the Act of 1903. I agree that they have appointed a very large staff at very large salaries indeed. I think Mr. Doran has £2,000 a year. At all events, there is no doubt that he has a highly-paid staff, who have undoubtedly done something for the West of Ireland. To that extent, Connaught, which had been a black spot on the map, has recently advanced considerably. Let me tell the lion. Member that if Connaught had been allowed under the Wyndham Act freedom and fair-play, as Munster was, the people of Con naught, who are just as good judges of a bargain as the people in any other part of the country, would long since have been purchased out. When the hon. Member for Mayo went down to his constituents, he said: "I am sorry to say that this Bill has been working entirely too smoothly, and I wish to God—" He brought in the sacred name; a speech from him without it would not be complete. "I wish to God I had power to stop it." Naturally, the people of Connaught took his advice. They were told that if they would only wait until the sweet by and by in 1913, 1914, or 1915, they would get better terms. Now the murder is out. The step which the Chief Secretary has taken in order to get the landlord something like 90 per cent. of his rent, is based on purchase at twenty-two years. This is the end of the boastful talk about relying upon virile methods, and now they declare that the Treasury has done splendidly. Virile methods ! I would rather them call them methods of Parliamentary eunuchs. For the sake of the miserable sum of money, about £400,000, you have had this question before you for four years, and you have attacked the men who have made Ireland peaceable. You have attacked the scheme which has 1787 brought peace to Ireland, and when hon. Gentlemen say that we are now showing some bitterness on the question, let English Members recollect that we said the Act of 1909 would not work. We had the honour of being expelled from the Irish party for saying so, although we voted for the Act in July, 1909. We were expelled in January, 1910—the greatest honour of my life. Now we come here four years afterwards, and, after everything that we said, and every prophecy that we made, has been verified, you turn round and bring in an entirely fresh scheme. It only shows, of course, that the Government, though extremely well intentioned, were misled by the talk of thousands of pounds going to men like the Duke of Leinster. I would like to know how much will go to Lord Clanricarde under the compulsory provisions. At least a million of money. That is what he will get under the sweet Christian name of "compulsion." It is statesmanship to give that money to him with compulsion, but it is anti -Nationalist and unChristian to give it to the Duke of Leinster, who had the good sense to sell voluntarily, and when he was the only landlord in Ireland who could boast. that every house and fence and improvement made on the Kildare estate was made at his own expense. That is the man who is singled out for attack to-day on the ground that gross extravagance has been committed in giving him a million of money. For the sake of the county Kildare I am very glad he has got it. It is one of the most peaceful counties in Ireland. I believe that white gloves were given to the judge at the last assizes, arid I would advise the hon. Member for East Mayo when next he is attacking land purchase and arguing against the Duke of Leinster getting £1,000,000, to go down and tell the tenants on his Kildare estate that land purchase has brought them to the verge of bankruptcy.
§ Mr. NEWMAN
Really I am sorry, speaking for the Irish landlords, that the hon. Member for East Mayo has brought forward the names of the two noblemen to whom he referred and the question compulsion. I am exceedingly glad, however, that the hon. Member has come round to our ways of thinking, though I am genuinely sorry that he has mentioned compulsion, because compulsion will frighten a certain number of Irish landlords and make our task more difficult. I think that 1788 a Member for an English Division ought, perhaps, to apologise for intervening in a purely Irish Debate, but it so happens that eight years ago I took advantage of this much talked of 1903 Wyndham Act. I was the first landlord in the county Cork to sell, and what was more fortunate still, I was the first landlord to get paid. At the present moment I am still trustee for the biggest unsold estate, I suppose in Ireland, and I happen to be for my sins a member of the executive of the Irish Landowners' Convention. In introducing his Bill in 1908 the Chief Secretary for Ireland said that he never approached a task of more responsibility than the introduction of that Bill. I think that he has done the same to-day. He has approached this task with an earnest sense of responsibility and I would like to thank him very much for the way he has presented this case to us, and, undoubtedly, thanks to him, and thanks to the Government too, we have the small crumb of comfort to-day that we have the opportunity, at any rate, of exchanging our views on land purchase with each other and telling the Government what we want. I have no doubt that a Bill will be introduced later on, on which discussion and Debate will hinge during the next autumn and winter in Ireland, and I dare say that if the Government is in power next July we shall be discussing in Committee a Land Purchase Bill. But personally I am sorry that the Government did not bring in this Bill sooner. I was childlike enough to believe that the sentence in the King's Speech really meant something, and I had hoped that the measure would be brought in sooner, and that it would be settled tins Session, and not next Session. That will not be the case now, and we have only got to look forward next year for a Bill.
With regard to the Act of 1903, I may say at once that we in Ireland regard that Act as a treaty between two parties, the landlord party and the tenant party, and —something more than that—it was countersigned by the Imperial Treasury of the day. Of course, it was founded on compromise, and that is why it was such a success. I say, equally, that we in Ireland regard the Act of 1909 merely as a party measure, which tore up the 1903 treaty and which did undoubtedly stop land purchase. So far as that goes we have evidence of the Estates Commissioners, who were examined before the Secret Committee, that land purchase was stopped to a great extent by the Act of 1909. There- 1789 fore, to-day we are back as we were in 1908. We are listening to-day to the Chief Secretary requesting ways and means to get this great scheme of land purchase going again and bringing it to completion. Putting aside for a moment the effect of the 1903 Act, which has been so widely discussed, on Imperial finance and on the Irish ratepayer, I do say this—and I think that every hon. Member below the Gangawy will agree with me—that the Act of 1903 was, for our purposes, ideal. I have the resolution that the Irish Parliamentary party passed with regard to the conference on which that Bill was founded:—We endorse in the fullest manner the agreement arrived at by our representative.Why was that Act so admirable, so ideal, and so popular, and why did it receive such a measure of praise from all classes and parties in Ireland? It was a purely voluntary bargain between landlord and tenant. There was no compulsion in the matter. It was an Act easy for us to work. As hon. Members in all parts of the House know, you had to strike a bargain between two zones, and if you made such a bargain, then the tenant got one happy result. Under the 1903 Act the average result to the Irish tenant was that on first term rents he got a reduction of 6s. in the £, and on second term rents he got a reduction of 4s. in the These were reductions of 30 and 20 per cent. respectively.
I am sorry that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made an attack on Irish land purchase the other day. He did un doubtedly misrepresent what happened to the Irish landlord under the 1903 Act. He misstated the figures altogether. The selling price to the landlord under the 1903 Act, for the first five years at any rate, averaged for first term rents 18½ years' purchase, and for second term rents twenty-two years' purchase. In my native county (Cork) they got a little less. If the landlord wanted to get his net income, less 10 per cent., he had to invest his money at a shade over 4 per cent., about 4¼ per cent., which he could not always do. In those days investments were not quite so easily placed as now. Trustee investments did not give the yield which they do now, and if the trustees were at all strict the landlord was not able to get his income. Of course, he had the bonus of 12 per cent. But I would remind hon. Members that a lot had to come out of the bonus before the landlord was able to put anything in his pocket. He had to 1790 pay the agent and the solicitor, and a hundred and one other things, and if he got out of the 12 per cent. 7 per cent. into his own pocket he was a very lucky man. However, he did get some bonus. The Act was supposed to be going to ruin the British Exchequer, the British taxpayer, and the Irish ratepayer, and the Act of 1909 was introduced to save the Treasury. The President of the Board of Agriculture said that. It is no good for us now to cry over spilt milk. We have got to look to the future. Under the new arrangement which may be come to three interests have got to be consulted. First, there is the Imperial Treasury which is the most important; then there is the farmer; and the third, and perhaps the least important, is the landlord. All these have got to be consulted in any arrangement
Take the case of the landlord first. Suppose it was the case of a willing buyer and a willing seller, suppose he can sell to anybody—which he cannot do for he has got to sell to his tenants—then under normal conditions at the present moment the average Irish landlord would be entitled to ask a higher price for his land than what he asked for in 1903, because prices of agricultural produce in Ireland have gone up, and are going up every year. I move for a return showing the prices of agricultural produce in Ireland, five years by five years, and ten years by ten years, and in pointing out how prices have gone up I will compare the five years 1897 to 1901 with the five years 1907 to 1911, and I shall be able to prove that if the Irish landlords expect the same terms as in 1903, they cannot be accused, as they are being accused, of being greedy men. I have taken five staple products for comparison. In 1897–1901 the price of oats per cwt. was 5s. 4½d. In 1907–1911 it was 5s. 11¼. The price of potatoes per cwt. in 1897–1901 was 3s. 1¾. In 1907–1911 it was 3s. 4¾d. The price of butter in the first period was 93s. 4d. per cwt. and in the second was 103s. The price of pork per cwt. was 42s. 11d. in 1901 and 52s. 11d. in 1911. One and two year old store cattle, which are a pretty important item, were, in 1901, £6 12s. 1d. per head, and in 1911 they were £7 14s. 2d. That is a good rise all round, and in his evidence before the Secret Committee Mr. Estates Commissioner Bailey said:—Undoubtedly agricultural prices have been rising in Ireland steadily for the last few years.Again, if agricultural prices are up, Imperial credit is down. It no longer rests 1791 upon a 3 per cent. basis, but on something like a 4 per cent. basis, especially so far as Irish land purchase is concerned. What we desire to obtain is what will give us our net income on second term rents, and as the question of investment has been raised I, for one, do not despond as to obtaining 4½ per cent.
I only wish that I could, on behalf of the estate of which I am trustee, get enough money to invest in those Winnipeg 4½ per cents. I should rejoice to think that the Government are going to arrange that the Public Trustee in Ireland and the average trustees of Irish estates should be empowered to invest purchase money in such things as Winnipeg 4½ per cent, and Saskatchewan 4½ per cent., or any 4½ per cent. you like to name. I would a great deal rather have my money invested in China, even with the conditions existing at the present moment, than in Ireland if civil war broke out. At any rate, what we do not want is to be paid in depreciated stock and then have the Government, as they do at present, making us clear up the Government charges in cash. We say that that is absolutely unfair. We have got to pay off the Government charges in cash and we get paid in depreciated stock. I confess that I do not quite understand what will happen about the bonus; it is not going to be a flat rate, and the Act of 1909 was not at all satisfactory in that respect, especially when the arrears of the tenants were added to the purchase price, which, as we suggest, would be a flat rate of two and a half years added to the purchase price. So much for the landlord. What about the tenant? Of course a tenant, where a neighbour is bought out, will not accept very much worse terms. I was very pleased when the hon. and learned Member for Waterford stated that the tenant will not object to pay the reconsidered annuity. The hon. and learned Member must remember also that the circumstances are now very different from what they were formerly, and had the tenant right has a bigger value than it had ten years ago. A great deal has been said about the great generosity of the Treasury to Ireland in the matter of land purchase under the 1903 Act. It is pointed out what money they have risked, and how badly they have been treated. But what risk did they run under the Act of 1909? As far as I know, they ran no risk at all. First, there was a great fall 1792 in securities, and the Irish Development Fund was called upon, and £160,000 was available to meet the charge on the stock. Out of the £800,000 there came to Ireland, as her share under the Education Act, £180,000; England got £1,400,000, and Scotland had £200,000. The Grant under the Education Act has been doubled so far as England is concerned, and trebled so far as Scotland is concerned, but it has stood still so far as Ireland is concerned.
If you build on that figure alone, under the finance of the Wyndham Act, there ought to be something like £500,000 coining to us, which would keep the Wyndham Act going for a long time. Another thing I complain of is that, on this Irish land purchase scheme, land purchase has not been allowed to stand on its own basis. I was struck by a remark of the hon. Member for North-East Cork, who said that a big loan could be found for the Soudan, but nothing could be found for Ireland. Suppose a by-election had happened in the county Cork, and suppose the question of land purchase were raised, it is conceivable that the Government might have come forward with a promise of money for Ireland, just as it gave a loan of £3,000,000 for the cultivation of cotton in the Soudan in connection with Lancashire. Money can be found for the Soudan, Uganda, and East Africa, and it should also be found for Ireland. I would suggest that land purchase should be allowed to stand on its own merits, and should not be mixed up with congested districts, labourers' cottages, and other questions. We landlords want to see land purchase through on fair terms. We do not think compulsion necessary. I believe myself, if the Session could be extended, that in Committee we would be able in a few weeks to come to an agreement on this Bill. At any rate, there will be a discussion during the winter. I hope we shall have a conference, and I firmly believe that next summer, even with Ireland on the verge of civil war, we shall be able to come to an agreement. On behalf of the landlord party, I thank the Chief Secretary for the way in which he has introduced the Bill.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I have listened to the Debate, and I think I am justified in saying that my right hon. Friend has every reason to congratulate himself upon the reception with which his proposals have met. I only rise in order to answer some questions that were put by my right hon. Friend, and which he wishes me to reply 1793 to at once. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) put two specific questions. One was, "Where do the Commissioners get their money from?" He alluded, of course, to the half-payment in cash which it is proposed to make to the landlord. The answer is very short and simple. The money will be obtained from the Post Office and Trustees Savings Bank Fund. He next asked, "Whether it was true that the cost of raising this £60,000,000 in order to complete the whole of land purchase sooner would be no less than £3,000,000 a, year to the Treasury?" It is perfectly obvious that in no circumstances could the raising of £60,000,000 a year cost the Treasury £3,000,000. Even if no annuities were paid, if the Treasury bore the whole cost, if they made a free Grant of it to the Irish landlord, it would still not cost £3,000,000 a year. The fact is that the bon. Baronet has made a miscalculation in his figures, and has multiplied the true figure by ten. The hon. and learned Member for North-East Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy), in the course of, if he will allow me to say so, an extremely witty speech, used some figures which I regret I cannot agree He went to the opposite extreme, and has said that the whole cost of land purchase to the Exchequer only works out at £400,000 a year. I do not know whether I understood his statement aright. [An HON. MEMBER: "The whole loss."] The whole loss to the Exchequer.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I have always understood, speaking without book, that the highest loss to the Treasury at any time during the period of the Wyndham Act was not greater than £400,000 a year.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. and learned Gentleman is strictly accurate in that case, but he must remember that there are -under the Wyndham Act still a great many millions to be raised, and the cost of raising the millions owing to the increased expense of flotation is rising higher and higher. When the hon. and learned Member comes really to recognise what the cost to the Exchequer will be on account of the expense of issue, he will find that the cost to the Exchequer under the Wyndham Act, if the Wyndham Act were allowed to go on, would be not £400,000 a year, but no less than £1,000,000 a year. If he compares that £1,000,000 a year with the expenditure upon the whole of the country, he must remember that Ireland represents only one-ninth or father less than one-ninth, and that 1794 £1,000,000 a year which he speaks of so lightly with reference to recent expenditure would, on the scale of the United Kingdom, amount to £9,000,000 or £10,000,000 a year. That, I think, would be a very excessive charge to make for land purchase over the whole country. Let me remind the House very briefly what, this proposal does. In the first place, my right hon. Friend's illustration of the working of the Bill on a period of twenty-two years' purchase, does not mean that in every case that twenty-two years' purchase will be paid by the tenant; it is only given by way of illustration. I would remind the senior Member for the City of Cork, who spoke in terms of just praise of the Wyndham Act, that the average number of years' purchase paid by the tenant under the Wyndham Act has been 24½ years.
§ Mr. HUGH BARRIE
The right hon. Gentleman is confusing the first and second term rents. The average for the second term rent is 22¼.
§ Mr. McKENNA
No, no; the average number of years' purchase on which the tenant ought to pay annuities has been twenty-four and a half years. [Horn. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Those are the figures given to me. Hon. Members will have an opportunity of examining the figures themselves. The suggestion made by my right hon. Friend for the purpose of calculation is twenty - two years' purchase. Even if we accept the figure of the hon. Member opposite of twenty-two years, it is less than the average number of years' purchase which the tenant had to pay under the Wyndham Act. Under the system of the sliding scale bonus, for every six months less than the number of years' purchase that the landlord receives,. he shall get 2 per cent. more bonus up to the maximum of 80 per cent., that is to say, that the landlord who is content to sell to his tenant for twenty and a half years will get 18 per cent. bonus. If he sells for less then he will still only get 18 per cent. bonus. The landlord who asks from his tenant more than twenty and a half years' purchase will get 2 per cent. less bonus for 1795 every six months longer period purchase than he requires. The effect of that sliding scale is this, that between twenty and a half years' purchase and twenty-three years' purchase the landlord will get almost the same amount of money.
§ Sir J. LONSDALE
Do I understand you to say that this is part of the measure which the Chief Secretary introduced to the House to-day?
§ Mr. McKENNA
My right hon. Friend has asked me to mention the scale of the bonus which I am now giving. It is 2 per cent. up or down for every six months. What is the effect of that going to be?
§ Mr. McKENNA
If the hon. Member will consider he will find that his question has no relevance to the point I am now discussing. I only wish to give the hon. Members what the scale will be. The effect of this scale is as follows: The landlord who sells to his tenant for twenty and a half years' purchase gets by the additional bonus very nearly as much money as if he sells at twenty-two years' purchase, and not much less money than if he sells at twenty-three and a half years' purchase. The effect of a scale with such a sliding bonus is that the landlord has strong inducements to sell to the tenant at the minimum number of years' purchase in order to get the maximum bonus. Obviously, the effect of that upon the Treasury standing by itself would be most injurious. The Treasury, instead of paying a flat rate of 12 per cent., would be in most cases called on to pay 18 per cent. bonus. There is, however, a compensation for the Treasury. In the first place, if a less number of years' purchase than twenty and a half is paid by the tenant the Treasury will continue only to pay 18 per cent., which, it is obvious, will have to be paid on a less total amount. If, for instance, there were only fifteen years' purchase of £100 rental the amount the landlord would receive and that the tenant would have to pay would be £1.500, and the bonus would be 18 per cent. on £1,500, while if the bonus were to be reckoned on twenty 1796 years' purchase of a rental of £100 it would be 15 per cent, on £2,000. Consequently hon. Members will perceive that as the number of years' purchase diminishes the State gets an advantage upon the 18 per cent., but between twenty and a half years and twenty-three and a half years' purchase there is very little inducement to the landlord to ask for anything more than twenty and a half years' purchase. Above twenty-three and a half years' purchase the State, again, will gain some advantage, because in the exceptional case where a larger number of years' purchase is demanded than twenty-three and a half years there would be no bonus paid. The effect of these three different conditions, less than twenty and a half on which 18 per cent.. will be paid, more than twenty-three and a half on which no bonus. will be paid, and almost, you may say, an equal division or the same thing between twenty and a half and twenty-three years in the scale of bonus that will be paid,. may be put before hon. Members to be that the State will probably have to pay something in bonus now of from 14 per cent. to 15 per cent. That appears to me to be, and I hope to hon. Members opposite, a sufficiently high scale. What has the State got to pay under the Wyndham Act? Twelve per cent. We propose something more than that payment under the Wyndham Act, but the State also has to pay under that Act excess charge on the flotation of stock, and under our scheme that charge or payment will disappear.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The loss does not arise. The landlord will receive half his money in cash; that cash will be paid by the National Debt Commissioners out of money coming to their funds. One-half will be paid in stock at its face value, and there will be no excess charge for flotation of that stock. The landlord, it is assumed, will be able to invest his money at 4 per cent. What is the effect of that arrangement? The hon. Member for the City of Cork will, I think, agree that the Conference terms were fair. He does not wish to go behind the Conference terms and does not wish to stick at a definite point and say 3¼ is the right amount and it must not vary—provided you get Conference terms. I think that is his argument. Why was 3¼ fixed at that time? It was simply because the rate of money was such that 1797 3¼ covered the 2¾. per cent. for borrowing and 10s. per cent, for the sinking fund. Those figures will not any longer cover interest and sinking fund, and surely the tenants' annuity ought to be varied I Those conditions at that time gave Conference terms—that is to say, the tenant got a reduction of somewhere between 15 per cent. and 25 per cent. What do we propose?
§ Mr. W. O'BRIEN
On second term rents, which were at that time a mere handful. The great mass of them were either first term or non-judicial, on which we proposed there should be a reduction of 40 per cent.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Conference terms on second term rents being that the tenants should receive something between 15 per cent. and 25 per cent. of second term rent, an average of 20 per cent., and that is exactly what we propose to do. If the landlord sells to the tenant at twenty and a half years' purchase the reduction to the tenant is 25 per cent. on the second term rent, and I have given hon. Members reasons why the landlord will sell to the tenant somewhere between twenty and a half and twenty three and a half.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Twenty per cent. reduction when it is twenty-two years' purchase and 25 per cent. is the reduction if the tenant buys at twenty and a half years' purchase. I have given reasons for showing that the landlord has no sufficient inducement to demand twenty-two years' purchase if the tenant is willing to pay twenty and a half years' purchase on account of the additional bonus. Even if the landlord persists in twenty-three and a half years' purchase—that is to say, down to the point when the bonus ceases—even then the tenant will have 15 per cent. reduction on the second term rent. So under this proposal the tenant is safeguarded with the probability of receiving 25; per cent, reduction on his second term rents. Is it fair in the landlord's case to take 4 per cent. as the reasonable return for his money? The landlord is to get 50 per cent. in cash and 50 per cent. in stock at its face value and the bonus in cash. What is the effect of that? If you take twenty-two years' purchase as the average case the landlord will get 60 per cent. of his money in cash.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The landlord gets the bonus himself; it does not go to the tenant. The landlord gets the bonus, the remainder is settled. I am dealing only with the total cost now, and I am assuming that the landlord wishes to do the best by the estate. The landlord gets 60 per cent. of the total amount of, say, £2,266 in cash, and the balance at, not the face value, but the price value of the stock. That money invested at 4 per cent. brings him in an income of just over £90. In the landlord's case therefore the Con- ference terms are carried out. It is obvious that as national credit declines, as Consols drop, and as consequently the rate of interest which the State has to pay rises, so also does the rate of interest rise on trustee securities, and if the landlord gets less in cash for his paper he gets more in interest for his money. One is balanced by the other. It would be absurd to give the landlord cash at an amount estimated as if interest were still 2¾ per cent., when he can in fact invest his money at more per cent. Therefore I do not think that the hon. Member for the City of Cork can say that in working out these conditions the Government have receded from the principle of the Wyndham Act. When he talks of going back to the Wyndham finance, he really does not mean to include the whole of the Wyndham finance. He does not mean that the cost of flotation of stock should fall on the Irish counties.
§ Mr. W. O'BRIEN
The Prime Minister himself admitted that that technical liability was a mere oversight, and that no Government would ever dream of enforcing it. I do most emphatically mean that you should go back to the Wyndham finance in its entirety. At the present moment you are losing £700,000 a year for not permitting land purchase, and the loss would be exceedingly small in addition to making a complete settlement on Wyndham terms.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am glad the hon. Member has made that statement, because it has reminded me of a curious error into which he has fallen in regard to the Land Commission Vote. He speaks of the Land Commission Vote as being £700,000 a year, and then speaks of the whole of that as being spent on salaries.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I understood the hon. Member to say so, and so did my hon. Friends near me. The total Vote is £647,000. That amount is made up of cost of administration, £177,000; charge for bonus, £245,000; charge for the issue of excess stock, £150,000; and improvement of estates, £75,000. The hon. Member approves of three of those four items. He approves of the State bearing the charge for bonus; he approves of the State bearing the charge for the issue of excess stock; and he approves of the State bearing the charge for certain improvements. Consequently, he is complaining of a Government expenditure of £700,000, when all he objects to is part only of one item of £177,000.
§ Mr. W. O'BRIEN
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken as to what I said. My point was that instead of there being any saving in Land Commission charges under the Act of 1909, the amount had been enormously swollen for perfectly useless purposes, and for the purpose of blocking land purchase instead of promoting it.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am not quarrelling with the hon. Member's criticism. He is entitled to his own opinion upon that point. I am only asking him to agree with me as to the measure of the culpability of the Government. It is measured not by £700,000, but by a much smaller figure even on his own statement. I hope I have said enough to recommend my right hon. Friend's proposals, and that we shall now be allowed to introduce the Bill.
§ Mr. SHEEHAN
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman shows the extreme difficulty of dealing with this matter without having the Bill in our hands. He has dealt with a mass of facts and figures to which we have not been able to give any thorough consideration, and upon which, on that account, we cannot pronounce finally to-night. He has told us that Conference terms are reasonable. It is upon those terms that we have all along taken our stand. But whilst he has devoted the greater part of his speech to Conference terms for the landlord, I want to impress upon the House that we would equally insist upon Conference terms for the tenant. I speak with a wide experience of land purchase, having assisted in the negotiations connected with several hundreds of estates, and I say that the average taken by the Chief Secretary of twenty-two and a half years' purchase, giving a 1800 reduction of 20 per cent., is not at all equal to what we have obtained in the county of Cork from one end to the other. Not a single estate with which I have been connected did the second term tenants purchase at a figure representing less than 5s. in the £ reduction. In all these negotiations, the tenants took the basis of the reduction in the£that they were to receive, rather than the number of years' purchase they were giving. In that way they understood better what they were getting. As showing how hard a bargain it was, I have often known negotiations to break down for the sake of 3d. in the £ reduction. If tenants still remain under the old conditions because they are unable to get an advance of 3d. in the £ from the landlord, do you think that under this Bill they will pay a 1s. or 1s. 6d. in the £ more than before in the shape of increased annuity.
I was rather astonished by some of the figures put forward by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). If those figures had any substance in fact, it struck me as a rather extraordinary circumstance that they had not been adopted by the Government. If those figures could be applied to land purchase, I have not the least doubt that the Chief Secretary would have adopted them instead of taking the average he has done. But I have my own opinion about their being submitted to him. The hon. Member for East Mayo has referred to the magnificent and encouraging results which have flown from land purchase in Ireland. It appeared to me to be a rather belated conversion to the principle of land purchase, coming after years of obstruction and after he had gone down to Mayo, when we were endeavouring to make a fight for equitable terms of purchase all over Ireland, and declared that land purchase was working too smoothly, and that he wished to Heaven he had the power to stop its progress. Now he comes down, and condemns Lord Ashtown for describing land purchase as a wicked policy. If Lord Ashtown described it as a wicked policy he at least had a shining example furnished to him by the hon. Member for East Mayo. Really, as I listened to his speech describing the magnificent services which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had rendered to Ireland, I thought he had got on his feet for no other purpose than to characterise the finances of the great good Budget. I think he will find in Ireland few amongst the farmers who have to pay increased fees for the transfer of land and increased 1801 duties—many of the farmers are people who have been hit by his taxes—who will agree with him in his eulogy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I rise specially for the purpose of emphasising the point made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North-East Cork in reference to the provision which has been made for the continuous working of the Labourers Acts. I was delighted with the words which flowed from the right hon. Gentleman in reference to the beneficent work and the remarkable transformation that these Acts have made in Ireland. There can be no doubt that in Ireland they have revivified the country, redeemed the people, and recreated new conditions. That is exactly what we want to have continued. I say, as one who has given study and thought to the labourers' conditions in Ireland, that this provision of a million will not even go half way to meet the present necessities of the situation. I see that the right hon. Gentleman appears to disagree from me in that view. Take the figures of the right hon. Gentleman himself. He says that 9,000 of these cottages have been authorised. There are, says the right hon. Gentleman, 10,000 more cottages included in schemes not yet authorised. I say of my own knowledge, and I know it cannot be contradicted, that £1,000,000 of money will not meet that 9,000 cottages which are authorised, and the 10,000 cottages included in schemes not yet authorised. Let me remind him that almost every district council in the South of Ireland have schemes which have been hung up because those district councils do not want It go to expense in promoting them when they know that there is no money to finance them. Furthermore, this is my contention in regard to financing labourers' settlements in Ireland. Why not leave it an open question, and have the money to finance the schemes according to the needs of the country and according as the district councils promulgate their schemes—according as it is shown that the labourers need them after due inquiry by an inspector of the Local Government Board? Why not, I say, have the money there so as to keep the people in the country? Last year there was a reduction in the tide of emigration. This year it has gone up again, and it has been brought to my notice on several occasions that labourers have left Ireland simply because they have not been able to get cottages. I think that is a condition of things that 1802 demands the attention of the Government. I think it would be well if the Chief Secretary would translate his sympathy, which I am convinced is sincere, into active support, and if he got, not alone this £1,000,000, but got it under conditions under which we should have a continuous outflow of money from the Treasury according to the demand of the district councils of Ireland.
Furthermore, why postpone the labourers' unauthorised claims until next year? The right hon. Gentleman told us that he had hard work to get the Treasury to agree to this matter. I do not know what pressure the Treasury are amenable to, but having got their consent to the £1,000,000, why not introduce a Bill about which there would be no contention from any part of this House, a Bill that would go through without debate or controversy before the end of the present Session? It appears to me that if you do not do this you are hanging up the settlement, and you are denying the labourers homes which have been sanctioned already by the district council, after inquiry by the Local Government Board, and you are postponing the day of happiness in their own land for these people. I venture to press these matters very strongly upon the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. I would also ask him to bear this in mind, that if he yields to the pressure which we are anxious to put upon him in regard to this, he would arrange with the Grant to remove the flagitious exercise of the discretionary powers of the Local Government Board in regard to its administration afterwards. At the present time they have been exercising their powers in a most extraordinary way. Their discretion has taken the form of penalising the district councils which have been doing their duty by the labourers, even to the extent of refusing to advance the money. I hope that the Chief Secretary will give further consideration to this matter. My own view as to the proposal of increasing the annuity of this Bill is that the tenants in Ireland will read it to-morrow with dismay. I know the view is strongly held by the tenants, even who bought under the 1909 Act, that they were suffering a gross injustice in having to pay per cent., whilst neighbours on the other side of the fence bought at 3¼ per cent. You cannot give confidence under conditions like that, even with the advantages of the bonus which was set forth so eloquently by the Home Secretary.
1803 You cannot give confidence to tenants with a £3 12s. 6d. annuity. That was so strongly felt by the hon. Member for East Mayo himself that he was anxious to stand up for an annuity for £3 15s.
We are told that the 12½ per cent. bonus was the most amazingly absurd piece of legislation that had ever proceeded from this House. The test of legislation is, to my mind, whether it has been efficacious for its purpose, and, judged by that standard, a 12 per cent.. flat rate worked amazingly well—even if it was an amazing absurdity? I wonder also if, in the twenty-two years' heading, compulsory purchase is included? Certain tenants in Ireland will not look forward with any degree of anxiety or with any degree of hope to compulsory purchase on the basis of twenty-two years. We certainly could do better than that if we put into operation the principles which, had they been given fair play in Ireland, would have laid clown a standard equitable alike to the landlord and to the tenant. I have never come across any tenant, at least in Cork county, who has purchased outright who has been sorry for his bargain. Not one of them is anxious to go back to the old condition. This measure will require a great deal cf care and a great deal of consideration. Those of us who had to fight for the conciliation principle and Conference methods, all welcome the intention we heard expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford here to-clay. I very well remember in 1908 when the senior Member for Cork City (Mr. W. O'Brien) made such proposals to the Irish party, and proposed a resolution advocating the very same principle of co-operation for the purposes of land put-chase. He was vehemently opposed by the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, and we were only able to get fourteen or fifteen of our colleagues to support us. But even belated repentance is welcome, because it is a justification of the position we have taken up all along, and which we shall fearlessly adopt in the future. I adopt the position with regard to this Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork City. We will study its provisions to see if they can be made acceptable to our people having due regard to the tenant's interest, and also to the landlord's. This year it is hopeless to expect that anything will be done, but next year I hope we may have a satisfactory 1804 measure giving Conference terms to both landlords and tenants.
§ Mr. JOSEPH MARTIN
I listened to the speeches in this Debate with a view to learning something about this question which I have heard said to be one of very great importance, even of more importance than the Home Rule which we passed this Session and also last Session. After listening to the Debate very carefully I find myself perhaps in a worse fog with regard to the merits of the matter than I was before. I listened to hon. Gentlemen upon the Irish Benches and I find one set of them saying one thing and another set saying the opposite. It is very difficult for me as an English Member to come to a conclusion as to how I should vote upon this question in these circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill stating that the Government have decided to pay the landlords for their land one-half in cash and one-half in depreciated Irish Land Stock that could not be sold at par. I listened very carefully to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), in which he said he thought the whole matter might have been passed through as an agreed Bill if the Government, instead of paying one-half in cash had paid all in cash, and I rather gathered from the speech of the Chief Secretary that that is a course which he would like to have pursued. It seems to me that we have had the same plan adopted in regard to the manner in which this subject has been introduced to the House as in regard to many other matters introduced for our consideration by the Government; that is, we have had no explanation given at all. I cannot myself understand why, if it is a reasonable arrangement, in the interests of the British taxpayer, and the English taxpayer more especially, to provide the money through the National Debt Commissioners to pay the landlords one-half in cash. If that is a reasonable and right basis, why stop at half? Why not pay the whole of the money in cash? We had no explanation at all from the Chief Secretary upon that question. He gave the bald fact of what the Government had decided to do, but he gave no reasons for it. He advocated a proposal for the amount to be passed through the National Debt Commissioners, but he showed no reason why it should stop at one-half, and why the whole of the cash could not just as well be provided, because he explained there was no 1805 difficulty about the money, and that in all probability the Commissioners of National Debt would always have £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 for the purposes of providing this money, and if they have not, they have the most, ample opportunity of borrowing the money, so that it could be paid in cash. It is explained to the House by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, that it would make all the difference between having a Bill which could pass and a Bill like this which cannot possibly pass at all. It is a mere farce to introduce this Bill and a waste of valuable time to discuss it. The newspapers announce, and the Government do not deny, that it is not intended to be pressed any further, unless it could go through as an agreed Bill. Here is a proposal made upon the other side of the House to which no answer has been given, because not only did the Chief Secretary for Ireland give no explanation at all, of the manner in which this is to be clone, but, since he spoke, no Member of the Government has thrown any light upon the question. I, personally, take a great interest in the question of land purchase in Ireland, because it is the intention we are told, of the Government soon, to take up the same question in England. I have listened to this Debate with the hope and expectation of hearing something that would guide me with regard to the same question in England. I understand it to be the policy of the Government and of the Liberal party not to provide freeholds for England—
§ Mr. MARTIN
I understand that in Ireland the operation of the land purchase system is not to provide leaseholds for the Irish tenants but freeholds. I do net wish, of course, to discuss in any way the question of land purchase for England upon this Bill, except to say that I fully expected to hear some explanation of why it is in Ireland the Government through their land purchase policy provide freehold and not leasehold. Personally, I am very much in favour of freeholds, and I de not believe in the leasehold system at all. I think this leasehold system has resulted in great damage to this country, and will continue to result it as long as it remains in existence, but we have had no explanation at all. It seems to be assumed by all parties that the proper way to proceed with regard to the 1806 settlement of the land question in Ireland is to provide freeholds for Irish tenants, and personally I entirely agree with that, but I did hope and expect that the difference between the conditions in Ireland and England would have been explained in this Debate, but so far as I know there is no difference. At any rate no speaker has suggested that there should be. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill explained that the Irish tenant attached the greatest importance to the land in which he has been in possession as tenant for so many years, and under this Bill, he has an opportunity of becoming a freeholder and owning the land when his annuity ceased. I can understand that and appreciate that., and I can understand that a person cultivating land should have that particular feeling. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland likened it to the feeling of a book collector. The book collector attaches very great importance and looks upon it as something worth thousands of pounds, what to the ordinary person seems a very insignificant little duodecimo book. No doubt the same feeling applies with regard to the tenants in Ireland as to the ownership of the freehold of this property. I am very much surprised that this Debate should apparently interest only the Irish Members of this House, and very few other hon. Members appear to have taken any interest in the matter. I feel that before I give a vote on the First Reading of this Bill, I ought to be afforded some further opportunity of understanding the question better than I do.
The only thing I have gathered from the Debate is that hon. Members who sit in the front row of the Irish Members hold great differences of opinion on this question, not only with the Government, but with the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and his party. I have followed' that question very distinctly, and I have not learned why it is necessary that a large proportion of the money required to bring about what has been called revivifying the Irish people should come from this country, in which my Constituents happen to be. The hon. Member for Cork made an impassioned speech, and spoke for nearly half an hour digging up matters from the past, and then he announced his intention of letting "the dead past bury its dead." It seemed rather strange to some of us that that should be his principle. I feel that this Debate is drawing 1807 to an end, and it would be quite impossible for English Members to come to any real conclusion as to what the merits of the case are. Most of the supporters of the Government- are out in the corridors and in the smoking-room. They have paid no attention to the Bill, and no doubt they will vote as the Government Whips direct them. I feel very severely the reflection that hon. Members of the House of Commons do that kind of thing. I do not do it myself. I have listened to the statement of the Government on this Bill and to the attacks made upon the Government, and I feel that this matter has been very inadequately discussed. I feel that there has been no explanation of the remark-able circumstance that while the Government have gone a certain distance and provided half the money in cash that they are not willing to go any further. When we are providing half the money in cash I think we are entitled to know whether it is going to be done at a profit or at a loss to the -whole country. The Chief Secretary gave us no explanation on that point. To my mind it would appear that there is going to be a heavy loss by raising this money through the National Debt Commissinners. The reason given by the right hon. Gentleman was that the Government did not like to throw upon the market the whole of the £60,000,000 necessary to settle up this matter—
§ Mr. MARTIN
I thought. it was £60,000,000, but £83,000,000 is still worse. I understand that if a large sum like that was put upon the Money market while it is in such a peculiar condition, and when high rates are prevailing, the result would be that English Land Stock would go down much lower than it is at the present moment. If that is so, what is going to be the effect in pounds, shillings, and pence upon the position of the country in
§ entering into this arrangement by which the money is to be furnished at. a very low rate of interest—I think it is something like 3½, per cent.—when the Commissioners cannot borrow the money at that price. The right hon. Gentleman said they could always get plenty of money in the market, but if the present conditions have reduced the price of Consols to about 72, I understand from the argument of the right hon. Gentleman that the effect of putting upon the market a large amount of Irish Stock, which is practically the same security as Consols, would be to lower the price of Irish Stocks. As far as I can see there is going to be a heavy loss. In one respect the Government are in a most fortunate position by Consols being low. This Government has made a record for itself by paying off a large amount of public debt, and as long as Consols are low the Government can pay off debt at lower than its par value. If they are going to take the money which the National Debt Commissioners ought to pay off the National Debt with, instead of buying Consols when they are cheap, and are going to lend that money to the Irish people at a low rate of "interest., there will be, so far as the Chancellor of the Exchequer is concerned, a very heavy loss in the operation. If that is a real condition—I do not know whether it is or not, but I ant applying my limited knowledge to the question—then I say this: Either the Government should not arrange to pay cash to the landlords at all or they should pay all cash to the landlords, if the statement of the hon. and learned Member for Wateford (Mr. John Redmond) is correct that the one course would result in an agreed Bill which would finally settle this vexed question and the other course in the Bill being practically a nullity.
§ Mr. BIRRELL rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 187; Noes, 67.1809
|Division No. 205.]||AYES.||[9.5 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Barnes, George N.||Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Barton, William||Brady, Patrick Joseph|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Brocklehurst, W. B.|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Beck, Arthur Cecil||Brunner, John F. L.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Bryce, J. Annan|
|Alden, Percy||Bethell, Sir J. H.||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Boland, John Plus||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C.(Poplar)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Bowerman, Charles W.||Byles, Sir William Pollard|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Parry, Thomas H.|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Clough, William||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Pointer, Joseph|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Joyce, Michael||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Keating, Matthew||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Kellaway, Frederick George||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Cotton, William Francis||Kelly, Edward||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Crumley, Patrick||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Radford, G. H.|
|Cullinan, John||Kilbride, Denis||Reddy, Michael|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Delany, William||Lardner, James C. R.||Redmond, William (Clare. E.)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Dickinson, W. H.||Leach, Charles||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Dillon, John||Levy, Sir Maurice||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Doris, William||Lundon, Thomas||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Duffy, William J||Lynch, A. A.||Robinson, Sidney|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Rowlands, James|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Elverston, Sir Harold||McGhee, Richard||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Macnarnara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Ffrench, Peter||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Sheehy, David|
|Field, William||M'Laren. Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Shortt, Edward|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Ginnell, Laurence||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||Meagher, Michael||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Glanville, H. J.||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)|
|Goldstone, Frank||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Thomas, J. H.|
|Greig, Colonel J. W.||Millar, James Duncan||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Griffith, Ellis Jones||Molloy, Michael||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Morgan, George Hay||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Morison, Hector||Wardle, George J.|
|Hackett, John||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Watt, Henry Anderson|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Muldoon, John||Webb, H.|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Munro, Robert||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Neilson, Francis||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Nicholson, Sir Charles N.(Doncaster)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Nolan, Joseph||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Hazleton, Richard||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Winfrey, Richard|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||O'Donnell, Thomas||Wood, Rt Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Henry Sir Charles||O'Dowd, John||Wright, Henry Fitzlierhert|
|Hewart, Gordon||O'Grady, James||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Higham, John Sharp||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Hinds, John||O'Malley, William|
|Hodge, John||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|H olmes, Daniel Turner||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||O'Shee, James John|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Baker, Sir Randoll L. (Dorset, N.)||Fletcher, John Samuel||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Goldsmith, Frank||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Baring, Major Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Barnston, Harry||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Blair, Reginald||Henderson, Sir A. (St. Geo., Han. Sq.)||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire)||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Stewart, Gershorn|
|Boyton, James||Hills, John Waller||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hoare, S. J. G.||Swift, Rigby|
|Butcher, John George||Hogge, James Myles||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Hohfer, Gerald Fitzroy||Touche, George Alexander|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Chaloner. Colonel R. G. W.||Horne, E. (Surrey, Guildford)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Houston, Robert Paterson||Weigall, Captain A. G.|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Jessel, Captain H. M.||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eition)||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Newman, John R. P.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Martin and Mr. H. T. Barrie.|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Ormsby-Gore, Hon William|
|Fell, Arthur||Pete, Basil Edward|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Birrell, the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. McKenna, Mr. Herbert Samuel, and Sir J. Simon. Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 272.]