HL Deb 22 June 1880 vol 253 cc530-3

asked the Lord President of the Council, Whether Her Majesty's Government would pro- cure a Return of the number of evictions in Ireland for non-payment of rent during the years 1878 and 1879 in each Poor Law Union scheduled under the Belief of Distress (Ireland) Act? The noble Earl said, he wished to explain the reasons which had induced him to put this Question to Her Majesty's Government. A large number of evictions were said to have taken place in Ireland of late; and in consequence of that statement he thought the Government, especially as legislation was to be proposed on a principle never before heard of in any civilized country, were bound to allow the persons who had commited these evictions to be known to the public, if there were any such persons. He himself did not believe that there had been in Ireland during the last few years a great number of evictions. On his own estate in the county of Down, on which there were more than 1,700 tenants, within the last 10 years there had not been a single eviction except at the instance of the tenants themselves. He was not stating this in order to take any credit for it to himself or any of his predecessors, because he believed the the same state of things was the case upon a very large majority of the estates in Ireland. If the Government would consent to give the information which he asked for to the country, he was quite prepared to alter the Return in any way his noble Friend the Lord President of the Council desired, so long as the main facts were disclosed. He also wished to call the attention of his noble Friend to the wording of his Question. He wished to ascertain the number of ejectments that had been carried out, but did not want to know how many had been served, because many tenants had to have ejectments served upon them in order to induce them to pay their rent.


wished to corroborate the statement which had been made by the noble Earl, and also to mention a few facts to the House. Speaking from his own personal experience, and following the steps of the noble Earl, he could say that last year in Donegal, when he went to that part of the country, the tenants absolutely refused to make any payment of rent, although they were at the time two years in arrears. In consequence, he had been obliged to send out notices— upon which there were no costs—but not a single tenant would respond. What was the result? Of course he had to proceed to the last extremity, and served, accordingly, notices upon every town land on the estate. He believed he served as many as 260 ejectments; and when the tenants found he was not to be trifled with, they at once came in and paid what they could, the result being that he received between £8,000 and £10,000 without any really severe pressure upon the tenantry. But how many of these ejectments had been executed? Why, he did not think three tenants had been evicted, and still nearly every tenant owed him more than one year's rent; some of the tenants owed him three or four years' rent. He had not taken advantage of that; but, as a Pill to punish the Irish landlords was going to be introduced by Her Majesty's Government in "another place," he thought it desirable that the information now asked for should be furnished to Parliament.


I have no objection to accede to the request of the noble Earl who put the Question. With regard to what he has stated as to the evictions, as far as I understand the Return that will be made, it will refer to the actual evictions made, and not the mere notices of evictions. In addition to the Return asked for, I would suggest that the Return should be extended so as to include the early months of this year. I think that is an important addition to the Return asked for by my noble Friend. As he does not move actually for the Return, I may say that I am prepared to grant the Return on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and I will confer with the noble Earl, if he will allow me, as to the actual form in which I shall present the Return. It will be necessary for me to consult with the Chief Secretary in the matter; but after doing so I will consult the noble Earl.


said, that one of the special charges made against the Irish landlords was that the existing distress had been used by some landlords to enforce evictions; and it was a question whether it might not be well to see the proportion which those evictions in the distressed districts bore to the evictions to the country generally.


said, he agreed to the alterations proposed by the Lord President of the Council; but he should like to ask whether Her Majesty's Government would give a Return of all the landlords in Ireland? He should very much like to know how many evictions had taken place throughout the whole of Ireland.


thought the best course would he for him to confer with the noble Earl below the Gangway (the Earl of Limerick) and the noble Earl who had asked the Question; but he must point out that it would be impossible for Her Majesty's Government to grant what the noble Earl wished— namely, to give the names of all the landlords who had evicted tenants. He thought it would not be possible for the Government to grant that, although they would extend the Return to the whole of Ireland.


said, he merely said that he himself should have liked to know how many evictions had taken place in Ireland; but he thought that Her Majesty's Government could hardly take the responsibility of refusing the country the Return he asked for, considering the extraordinary nature of the legislation that was about to be proposed.


pointed out that the Lord President of the Council had not refused to grant the Return, but only said that he could not grant the names of the landlords who had evicted tenants.

House adjourned at a half past Five o'clock, to Thursday next, half past Ten o'clock.