HL Deb 01 August 1882 vol 273 cc331-60

Order of the Day for Report of Amendments; and Standing Order No. XXXV. to be considered in order to its being dispensed with, read.


said, that as that would be the last opportunity their Lordships would have for protesting against the principle of this Bill, he wished to avail himself of it, and to state very shortly the grounds upon which he objected to it. The measure was put forward on all sides by supporters of the Government avowedly with the object of bringing about an entire cessa- tion of evictions; but he denied that that would be the case, for many tenants would still be unable or unwilling to pay a year's rent, and they would be liable to eviction, and very properly so. On principle he entirely ignored the Bill, and would take no part in it, except to try and amend it. In his opinion, the Bill, in conjunction with the provisions of the previous Act of last year, would be utter and entire ruin to small landed proprietors of Ireland, on whose estates, he feared, there were heavier charges generally than on the properties of English landowners. This Bill would not restore peace and tranquillity to Ireland, neither would it prevent political agitation so long as, by the action of the Government, as in the present instance now indicated, there had been no less than two Land Bills, the result solely of political agitation. Therefore, their Lordships would have no guarantee whatever that political agitation would cease, even for 12 months, as shown by this very Bill; therefore, he felt it his duty to enter his protest against the principle of this Bill, which could only be rendered less mischievous by strictly adhering to the two Amendments proposed by this side of the House, carried by large majorities.

Report of Amendments considered accordingly.

Clause 1 (Settlement by Land Commission of arrears of rent).


in rising to propose the Amendment of which he had given Notice, said, the noble Lord opposite (Lord Ellenborough) had remarked that the small proprietors would be ruined by this Bill. He (Lord Emly) could not see that; on the contrary, it appeared to him that, instead of being ruined by the Bill, they would be the very people who would have two years' rent put into their pockets by it. He could not help thinking that noble Lords opposite could not, in common with himself, view the proceedings of last night with regard to the Bill without feeling some anxiety; and he was quite certain that his noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who had so wisely, gallantly, and temperately exercised his powers with already so much success, and the Resident Magistrates, and others interested in the preservation of peace in that country, would look upon their Lordships' action with dismay. The second of the two important Amendments passed at the instance of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) last night, did not touch the principle of the Bill, as it would give to every tenant a certain advantage, and he, therefore, would not venture to object to it; but as to the other Amendment, he was afraid he must speak of it in a different sense. It left it in the power of the landlords from caprice, vengeance, or appetite for land, or any other motive they pleased, to exclude the tenant, however deserving he might be, from the advantages of the Bill; and, therefore, he considered that the adoption of such a proposal must be looked upon with some alarm, for if it were persisted in without modification, it would be fatal to the Bill, and it would never become law. The effect of it would be to leave it in the hands of the landlords to say whether the Bill should be put in operation or not. What would be the consequence of that? There could be no doubt that evictions, especially in the West of Ireland, were going on already to an alarming extent, and these would be multiplied, if the Bill were rejected or destroyed. Had they considered that fact, and that there were multitudes of poor proprietors of land, many of them poor ladies in the deepest possible distress, who had been looking to this Bill as their only hope of salvation? These would lose all hope of saving themselves from absolute and utter ruin. No noble Lord on the Opposition side of the House could get up in his place and contradict these words. Well, was there no way out of the difficulty and of bringing the two sides of the House together on this matter? He would appeal to his noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal (Lord Carlingford), and the noble Marquess opposite, whether they could not find a way out of the difficulty in the interests of the persons he had just described, each yielding some of his own opinions in order to consent to some arrangement which would be satisfactory. The proposition he ventured to bring before their Lordships was this, to insert in Sub-section 1, line 15, the words "and provided that such dissent may be overruled by the Land Commissioners on reasonable cause shown." His aim was to give an appeal against the capricious veto of the landlord. He had no feeling in favour of the Land Commissioners, but would agree to the overruling of the dissent of the landlord by the County Court, or any other Court the noble Marquess might think competent for the purpose. It did not seem to him that it was a matter of much importance. What was of importance was, that it should not be in the power of any person arbitrarily, and without cause, to exclude a tenant from the operation of the Bill; and it appeared to him that the case, if fairly argued, was very clear. All he wished to satisfy their Lordships upon was, that there should be some power of appeal given in the matter; and the argument in favour of that view seemed to him to be absolutely conclusive. If their Lordships would cast their minds back to the time when the Land Act was before them, they would recollect there were two reasons which induced Parliament to accept that anomalous and extraordinary measure, which set aside many of their most firmly-rooted convictions, and that had it not been for those reasons, the measure would never have become law. There was, in the first place, a large cottier tenantry in Ireland living upon very small farms, and these persons were in a miserable and hopeless state under the system of land competition that prevailed. In point of fact, they were an illustration of the truth of the dictum of John Stuart Mill, that "where you have a poor tenantry cultivating the land not for the sake of profit, there you have a miserable state of things;" and, in the second place, there were, as proved by the evidence taken before the Bessborough and other Commissions and Committees, a large number, though happily only a small minority of the whole, of the landlords in Ireland who took advantage of the poverty and misery of those cottier tenants, and of their having no means of subsistence except the land, to screw them down to the payment of exorbitant rents, and confiscate their improvements. Well, what did the noble Marquess propose to do? These cottier tenants were in hundreds of thousands along the West Coast of Ireland, and it was notorious that the arrears hanging round their necks excluded not hundreds or thousands, but tens of thousands of them from the operation of the Land Act, which was passed especially in their interests. If the tenantry of Ireland had been generally paying £40 or £50 a-year, Parliament never would have passed the Land Act; and, on the other hand, such an anomalous measure would not have been passed if there had not been in existence such a class of landlords as he had described. It was on account of the position of these two classes that the measure was passed. But let them observe what the noble Marquess proposed. He proposed to put in the hands of the second class he (Lord Emly) had described, the power of shutting the door that it was intended to open to the poor cottier tenant to enable him to go into the Land Court. The noble Marquess put these very people, whose misdeeds made it necessary to pass that extraordinary Land Bill, into the position of being able to exclude the poor tenantry of the West of Ireland from the benefits of the Land Bill. Was it wise, just, fair, or politic to do that? Was it politic to put that power into the hands of persons who were so certain to misuse it; and, without appeal, to allow them to be excluded by the action of the very persons from whom they were to be protected? He (Lord Emly) would much rather the Bill stood as it did before the Amendment was passed; but that could not be, therefore it appeared to him the best course to get rid of the difficulty would be to adopt such an Amendment as that he now proposed. There might be reasonable grounds of exclusion; but his Amendment left those untouched. It protected the tenants only from a capricious and unreasonable use of the power placed by the noble Marquess's Amendment in the hands of the landlord. He saw many objections to the Bill; he felt them as strongly as anyone, and nothing but an overwhelming necessity would have reconciled him to it. No one felt more keenly the terrible injustice, which must necessarily arise from its operation, of giving a boon to dishonest tenants, and placing them in a better position than the just tenantry. But that objection applied precisely as much to the Bill with the Amendment of the noble Marquess as without that Amendment. They talked of "confiscation," but noble Lords opposite should remember what their Predecessors did 45 years ago in regard to tithes. There were at that time a number of clergymen who were receiving their incomes irregularly, and not re- ceiving a halfpenny of the arrears due to them. On account of the state to which the clergy were reduced, a Bill was passed which reduced the incomes 25 per cent, and it was considered necessary to do that for the sake of the public peace. If that was confiscation, that which was contained in the present Bill was only confiscation to the same extent, and all the arguments used by the noble Marquess last night would apply to the previous case. In conclusion, however, he would put it once more to the noble Marquess and his Followers whether they were really going to destroy a Bill which the Lord Lieutenant considered necessary for the maintenance of peace in Ireland, and which would save thousands of people from eviction and multitudes from the direst misery. Did the noble Marquess want to reject the Bill? Was he willing to let proceed the ejectments it would prevent? Was he ready to turn a deaf ear to the struggling landlords, who looked to it as their only escape from ruin? He hoped better things. He hoped the noble Marquess would sacrifice a Party triumph to the interests of the country, and that he would disappoint the expectations of those agitators who saw in his action the means of again convulsing Ireland. If the Bill were rejected, it would be an injury to Ireland which would be very difficult to repair. The people most anxious to see this Bill cast out were not the friends of Ireland, but the enemies of England and the Constitution. The noble Lord concluded by moving his Amendment.

Amendment moved, In page 1, sub-section (1,) line 15, after ("agent,") insert ("and provided that such dissent may be overruled by the Land Commissioners on reasonable cause shown.")—(The Lord Emly.)


said, he looked upon the Amendment of his noble Friend (Lord Emly), so well intended as it undoubtedly was as an Amendment applying not so much to the Bill of the Government as to the Bill of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) and, therefore, he did not feel called upon to go into it very deeply. He recognized the excellent intentions of his noble Friend, and he would not dogmatize as to the effect which such an Amendment might possibly have in mitigating the great evils which would be introduced by the Amendments of the noble Marquess if they were to become law. But he thought his noble Friend would see the Amendment was not without great and serious drawbacks. He would mention one, which was this—that they had to do in this matter with the very poorest class of tenants in Ireland, who would be those who would come under this provision, this right of appeal; and they might safely assume that it was this class of whom a certain section of landlords would be most ready to get rid. He confessed he looked with little hope upon a proposal which would confer upon such tenants the privilege of appealing to the Land Commission, with its necessary delay and expense. He did not wish to go further into the merits of his noble Friend's Amendment. He could only say it endeavoured, with the best possible intention—he would not say with how much possible success—to amend the Amendment of the noble Marquess, which, to the mind of the Government, it was impossible for them to contemplate as one that could become the law of the land.


My Lords, if the noble Lord opposite (the Lord Privy Seal) was unwilling to consider this as an Amendment to the Bill, and, therefore, did not wish to go very far into it, I also do not care to go very far into this Amendment, which coming, though it does, from a private Member of this House, one eminent and conspicuous for his knowledge of Ireland, does not carry with it the weight of the opinion of the Government, and which, I am bound to say, is not worked out in such detail as might fairly be expected in a proposition emanating from such an authority, and intended to be made into law. But, like the noble Lord opposite (the Lord Privy Seal), I fully recognize the excellent intentions of the noble Lord who has brought it forward; but I confess that I do not see either how it is to work, or how, in its existing language, it is to be interpreted. I will set aside the question of the tribunal. As at present worded, the Bill gives the Land Commission power to delegate their authority to any one Sub-Commissioner, and I need not say that I could not regard that as a satisfactory proposition in the present state of opinion with respect to the Sub-Commissioners. But, putting aside, as I said, the question of the tribunal, and merely looking on the proposition in the language in which it is submitted to us, in the first place, I do not quite understand how it could be interpreted. What does the word "reasonable" mean? Under what circumstances is it unreasonable for a man to wish to have his own money? Under what circumstances is it reasonable or not reasonable for a man to wish to keep alive debts which he believes can be recovered? I am not sure that the word would not be capable of being stretched one degree further. It might be reasonable, if you merely dwelt on that word, for a man to wish to keep alive his arrears for the purpose of clearing his estate of those very small tenants whom the noble Lord desires to admit to the benefits of the Act. I do not, however, think there is the slightest likelihood of such a motive operating on a landlord; nay, more, I think it is nearly impossible, because it is acknowledged that those rapacious landlords, of whom we have heard so much, who, as the House of Commons was told, are a miserable minority, but who, in this House, are supposed to be sufficient cause for the passing of this important measure, are the poorer class of landlords who are now nearly ruined; and to say that such men, in order to gratify their diabolical instincts against their tenants, would resist the offer of 10s. in the pound for irrecoverable debts is to me quite incredible. It is really too great a strain upon our powers of belief. When the noble Lord can produce an instance of such a rapacious landlord who, for the sake of evicting his tenants, would ruin his own prospects, I will believe in his existence, but not till then. Such a being is an entire fiction—noble Lords opposite have invented it to pass this Bill. I do not think that this word "reasonable" would [in any way reach the object which the noble Lord opposite has in view. His object is to exclude the action of men who do not cling to their arrears for the purpose of recovering them—that, I suppose, he would admit to be quite legitimate—but for that whimsical and diabolical purpose which he thinks will produce great misery to the cottier tenants in Ireland. I believe that these chimeras of the noble Lord are purely imaginary, and that the offer of 10s. in the pound will drive them away, as the sun drives away the clouds. But even if they really existed, I do not think that the words which he has proposed—and I confess that I cannot suggest better words—would in any way reach the object he has in view, but that they would leave scope for all the rapacity that ever existed before they were inserted in the Bill. I object, then, to the Amendment, because of the tribunal, and because these words do not seem to meet the aim of the noble Lord, and I object further to the Amendment because I do not think it would be workable. But I entirely deny that the rejection of this Bill is in any sense necessary in consequence of my Amendment, except in so far as it shall please the peculiar humour of the Prime Minister that it should be so. He is a man who is firm in his resolutions, and very much in the habit of sticking to them—a habit which, taken by itself, I highly admire, and I trust we shall all imitate it. But if you look, not at the position of any individual statesman—not at the language which the Government may have used at this time or at that time about the Bill—but at the reason of the thing, there is, I say, no ground whatever for rejecting the Bill because it is made optional instead of compulsory. There is no doubt that this offer of 10s. in the pound will have the effect of effacing a vast amount of arrears all over Ireland—there is no doubt that it will remove, to a great extent, the evil you indicate, and against which you wish to provide. Even if it were true that it would leave a small residue, which it did not remove, I should say it would be very much to your wisdom to take nine-tenths of a loaf rather than have no bread. But I do not believe that such a residue exists. I believe—and all the evidence that has been produced tends to show—that if the Government are honest in their desire in this matter—if they are sincere in wishing to despoil no man, and in desiring that all the money that can be recovered from the tenant shall still be left within the rights of the landlord, then optional provisions will effect that object quite as efficiently as compulsory provisions, while they will avoid the operation of a great injustice on a certain class of landlords, and also avoid—what I consider to be of supreme, importance—a very dangerous tampering with the first principles of the rights of property.


My Lords, I feel obliged to make one remark in reply to the speech we have just heard. I do not know whether the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) may or may not, at the time when he arrives at Mr. Gladstone's age, have the same authority in this country; but I believe there never will be any man in this country who will be such an autocrat as the noble Marquess seems to imply the Prime Minister is. And I must say that I think that this sort of attempt to separate Mr. Gladstone from his Colleagues is an unworthy one on the part of the noble Marquess. When the noble Marquess laid down his opinion that, weighted with the introduction of such an Amendment as that which he proposed, the Bill is not seriously affected, I venture to say it is not only the Government who think the passing of his Amendment equivalent to the rejection of the Bill; but I believe there was not one independent Member on this side of the House who spoke against his Amendment who did not recognize the fatal consequences which it must have upon the measure.


said, he objected to their Lordships devoting their energies to a measure originally introduced into the other House by a Home Rule Member. The Bill would not, in his opinion, have the effect of purchasing that obedience to the law which the Government hoped for. Besides, he could not understand something which, to him, seemed perfectly inexplicable—namely, the sudden appearance of an urgent necessity for dealing with the arrears which had existed for a long time, and of which the Government had been cognizant. That Bill, which was now held to be so imperatively necessary, was never mentioned in the Queen's Speech, and was not introduced into the other House until the month of May.


said, that the first condition on which a tenant could obtain the benefit of the Bill was that he should pay a year's rent; and yet the great majority of the small tenants were confessedly unable to comply with that condition, and, therefore, they must depend on the indulgence of their landlords. It appeared that 76 Irish proprietors had voted in that House last night—54 for the Amendment and 22 against it, showing that this was not altogether a case of landlords against tenants. The minority, he thought, was a strong one, and showed a fair division of opinion, and that the matter had been fairly considered. There was, therefore, no combination in that House against the Government; but the vote was the honest result of the opinion of their Lordships after a full discussion of the question. He questioned very much whether 76 Irish Members of the House of Commons had ever voted on the question at all. Moreover, what was the course of the Bill through the House of Commons? It was not at once accepted as a wise and prudent measure. This was a question which might be fairly considered. The proposition, moreover, was not really one that was hostile to the Bill.

Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.


moved the insertion of a new sub-section, in order, as he said, to save the hanging gale, which he considered was not sufficiently protected by Sub-section 3, and because, without some such Amendment, the Bill would inflict a gratuitous injustice on a great many tenants.

Amendment moved, In page 2, after line 10, insert as a new subsection—"(.) Provided that in respect of any holding situated in a townland as to which it has been the custom not to pay the current half-year's rent until the next subsequent gale had become legally due, 'the year expiring as aforesaid' shall be deemed, for the purposes of this Act, to be the year of the tenancy expiring on the first gale day of the tenancy in the year one thousand eight hundred and eighty-one."—(The Lord Ventry.)


said, the Amendment, if adopted, would disarrange the plan on which the Bill had been drawn. The six months' hanging gale was saved by the Bill as it stood. He was unable, therefore, to assent to the Amendment.


said, the Amendment was similar to one he moved last night, and which he should presently move again if this was rejected.


said, he supported the Amendment, as the words of the Bill as they originally stood would, by a side-wind, get rid of the hanging gale where there happened to be an arrear. If it was intended that the hanging gale should be got rid of, the subject ought to be dealt with comprehensively.


said that, after what the noble Lord opposite (the Lord Privy Seal) had stated, he should not persist in his Amendment.

Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

Amendment moved, In page 2, Sub-section (2,) line 24, after ("1881,") insert ("Provided always that the sum so payable to the landlord shall not exceed two years' rent of the holding.")—(The Lord Emly.)


said, he did not think the matter one of much importance.

After a few words from the Earl of LONGFORD,

Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.


moved to amend Sub-section 2 by omitting the word "may" and substituting "shall," and also omitting the words "if the Commissioners think it desirable." The noble Duke said the effect of the Amendment would be to make it obligatory on the Commissioners to take into account the saleable value of the tenant's interest in ascertaining whether he was able to pay antecedent arrears. As an Irish landlord, he was bound to say that he thought the Amendment would very much minimize the objections to the compulsory nature of the Bill as regarded landlords. Nor would his proposal injure the tenant, because he was already protected by Sub-section C. He hoped that the Government would accept the Amendment.

Amendment moved, In page 2, Sub-section (2,) line 25, omit ("may,") and insert ("shall,") and omit ("if the Commissioners think it desirable.")—(The Duke of Abercorn.)


My Lords, the Amendment proposed by the noble Duke (the Duke of Abercorn), although short, is of considerable importance, and it is one to which my noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal and the Government must say "Not content," although they will not give the House the trouble to divide. I can give no hope of its ultimately being accepted. But, considering the great position the noble Duke holds in Ire- land, where he has twice held the highest Office, and his large estates on which tenant right prevails, the Government are bound to consider attentively any Amendment proposed by him, more especially one which he has stated would greatly take away the necessity of the optional Amendment carried yesterday by the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury).


said, he did not understand his noble Friend (the Duke of Abercorn) to pit his Amendment against the optional Amendment. He understood him to pit it against the Amendment leaving the arrears as a charge or dormant mortgage upon the holding. As to the second Amendment of the noble Duke's upon the Paper, he did not think it was workable.


said, that he distinctly understood the noble Duke (the Duke of Abercorn) to say that the adoption of his proposal would in a great degree minimize the objections to the principle of compulsion.

On Question? Resolved in the negative.

Amendment moved, In page 2, line 28, after ("arrears,") insert ("Provided always, that the tenant shall not be deemed to he unable to discharge such antecedent arrears if the Land Commission is of opinion that the antecedent arrears affecting the tenancy immediately before the first day of November one thousand eight hundred and eighty-one, and subsisting at the time of making the application, do not exceed one half of the value of the tenancy as ascertained by the Land Commissioners.")—(The Duke of Abercorn.)

On Question? Resolved in the negative.

On the Motion of the Marquess of Waterford, the following Amendment made:—In page 2, sub-section (3.), lines 40 and 41, omit the words ("on the last gale day of,") and insert ("in.")

Other Amendments made.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 (Delegation of powers of Land Commission).


in moving in page 5, line 11, an Amendment to the effect that the Sub-Commissioners to whom powers under the Bill were to be delegated should be barristers-at-law, said, it was most important that the gentlemen to whom this delegation was made should be members of the Bar. He wished to point out the extreme danger to Ireland arising from the ignorance of English people as to the real state of the country and the operations of the general law. A noble Lord in "another place" had said that the Irish Sub-Commissioners compared favourably with any magistrates in England or in Ireland. If that noble Lord knew nothing about the Sub-Commissioners, he had better have said nothing; but if he knew what they were, and what they had done, he could not have hurled a greater insult at the English magistracy than he had in what he had said. Though he (Viscount Lifford) had acted in both countries, and had known many magistrates in both England and Ireland, he did not know one who would do such acts as had been committed by the Irish Sub-Commissioners. The noble Lord on the Cross Benches (Lord Brabourne) did good work on the previous evening in calling attention to certain circumstances in connection with the Sub-Commissioners. At considerable personal sacrifice, the noble Lord had shown, with unsurpassed ability, how a man could rise above Party, when principle was involved. He (Viscount Lifford) had investigated very closely all the charges made by the noble Lord against the Sub-Commissioners, and, notwithstanding what the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said last night, he considered that those charges had been distinctly proved. He (Viscount Lifford) once heard a case tried before a Judge, without a jury, in an Irish Court. There a young barrister pleaded with eloquence and action for some time, until the Judge calmly said—"Now, Mr.—,you forget that you are speaking to a Judge, and not to a jury. All that is thrown away; please confine yourself to facts." Did the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack forget that the noble Lord on the Cross Benches had brought up the name of Mr. Meek, who had been one of the sworn valuers for the tenants, whose valuations had been found so unjust to the landlords that the Commissioners refused to accept them, and who, notwithstanding, had now been made a Sub-Commissioner? On Monday night, when this subject was under discussion, their Lordships were called upon, not as Judges, but as a jury, to ignore all the facts that were brought before them as to these Sub-Commissioners, and to de- cide the question, on the ground that the whole attack on the Sub-Commissioners was on account of their not being of sufficiently high status in life. He hoped their Lordships would accept the Amendment.

Amendment moved, in page 5, line 11, after the word ("Sub-Commission,") insert ("being a barrister-at-law.")—(The Viscount Lifford.")


said, he was unable to agree to the Amendment. Its effect would be to tie down too much the discretion of the Land Commission. If the proposal of the noble Viscount (Viscount Lifford) were accepted, the Commissioners would have to confine their choice to these legal members of the Sub-Commission, who were very few in number; whereas the Government were convinced that the Land Commission could easily select perfectly capable, competent, and trustworthy persons from among the other Sub-Commissioners for the discharge of these duties. And he would remind the noble Viscount that in a very full House last night, the clause as it stood was accepted in its entirety without a division, though an attempt was made to exclude the Sub-Commissioners.


said, that the Amendment of last night on this question was quite different to the one now proposed, for the one on which they did not divide last night was whether the Sub-Commissioners should not be struck out altogether, as being unable to decide matters eminently requiring a trained mind. He was sorry that the Government did not see their way to accept the present Amendment; because it was obvious that questions would have to be dealt with which lay Commissioners could not be supposed to understand—namely, questions of evidence and others which required minds trained in the Legal Profession. Of course, he could not deny that there were in England persons who were not members of the Legal Profession dealing with important legal matters; but, in the present case, it was absolutely essential that the Sub-Commissioners should have had legal training, for questions of considerable complication would arise under the Bill. He thought the noble Lord (the Lord Privy Seal) would improve the measure if he would accept the Amendment.


said, that a barrister would not be in a better position than any other Sub-Commissioner in determining the question whether the value of the tenant's interest in his holding was taken into account.


said, he had not been able to hear the last remarks of the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack, who had not spoken so loud as when denouncing him (Lord Brabourne) last night. The noble and learned Lord had thought it worthy of his dignity and position to allude to his (Lord Brabourne's) supposed political opinions, and even the particular seat which he occupied in that House. He bore such personal attacks with profound equanimity; but begged to point out that they only diverted their Lordships' attention from the real issue before them. He had been accused by the Lord Chancellor of impeaching the integrity of the Sub-Commissioners. He had done no such thing, nor had he dreamed of attacking the character of Mr. Forster or Lord Cowper—both old friends of his. All he had done was to show that many of the Sub-Commissioners were selected from a class from whom judicial knowledge could not be expected, and some of whom had taken an active part in elections which had mainly turned upon questions between landlord and tenant; their decisions had been characterized by great inequality, and, in his opinion, such persons were too biassed to be able to discharge the duties which it was proposed to impose upon them with impartiality. Indeed, it was hardly possible that there should not be discontent. Even since he last spoke, he had received an Irish paper, sent by no friendly hand, for it contained a vulgar and bitter attack upon himself, which he bore with equal equanimity to that which sustained him under the attack of the noble and learned Lord. But in this paper was an account of the sitting of the Sub-Commissioners' Court at Banbridge, where, in 13 cases, the rents were all reduced below Griffith's valuation—some considerably below—which had been allowed by both the Land Commissions to be far below the fair letting value of the land. He was much obliged to the noble Viscount (Viscount Lifford) for the manner in which he had spoken of him; but he had only endeavoured to do his duty in bringing forward grievances at the instance of many persons who felt aggrieved. He had suggested the present Amendment, which he thought an improvement.


said, he was afraid that the result of the Amendment would be to exclude not only the Sub-Commissioners, but the Commissioners themselves from acting, for it would exclude others than barristers being members of the Chief Land Court.

On Question? Resolved in the affirmative.

Words inserted accordingly.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 17 (Exemption in respect of public charges upon arrears of rent extinguished).

On the Motion of The LORD PRIVY Seal, Clause struck out of the Bill.

Standing Order No. XXXV. considered (according to order).


said, that the manner in which the Bill had been dealt with on that occasion was a strong proof of the necessity of the objection he took last night against going through two stages at one Sitting.


said, that, when he ventured to resist the authority of the noble Lord, it was to meet the convenience of noble Lords generally, and the Government; but, as he understood a change had come over the spirit of their dream, and they were not now so anxious to go on with this Bill, perhaps the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) would say whether he would, under the circumstances, consent to the third reading being taken on Thursday next?


said, that on many occasions, where it was found convenient, it had been usual to take the third reading after the consideration of Amendments, two stages in one day, and he thought that course should be pursued now.

Standing Order dispensed with.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a."—(The Lord Privy Seal.)

Motion agreed to; Bill read 3a accordingly.

Moved, "That the Bill do pass."—(The Lord Privy Seal.)


expressed his surprise that the Government should resist very reasonable improvements introduced into their Bill. They had held to their idea that the principle of the Bill was absolute compulsion, when it certainly was nothing of the sort.


moved the insertion of the word "shall" for the word "may," in Clause 1, Sub-section 2, with the view of rendering it compulsory upon the Commissioners to take into account the saleable value of the tenant's holding in ascertaining whether the tenant was able or not to discharge his antecedent arrears.

Amendment moved, In Clause 1, page 2, Sub-section (2,) line 25, omit ("may") and insert ("shall,") and omit ("if the Commissioners think it desirable.")—(The Duke of Abercorn.)


My Lords, I rise to support the Amendment proposed by the noble Duke (the Duke of Abercorn), and I hope that, even at this late stage, you will permit me to address a few observations to you. When the noble Duke first proposed this Amendment, on the third reading, he stated, with perfect candour, that his object was to minimize the difficulties which led the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) to propose his earlier Amendments, which were carried on division yesterday, and thus to enable the noble Marquess to recede from those Amendments. My Lords, it is in that spirit, and with that object, and to relieve your Lordships from an intolerable position, that I give my support to the noble Duke. My Lords, you will recollect that the noble Marquess's Amendments, in substituting the landlord's option for what was said to be compulsion, gave, in effect, to the landlords control over the operation of the first part of the Bill so completely that the tenant could not attain the benefits intended for him without the assent of his landlord, and that the noble Marquess justified his action principally on the ground that otherwise the landlord might be defrauded and his property confiscated by the dishonest tenant. My Lords, I refrain from all criticism, as I would not wish, by a single word, to add to the tension which already exists; but it seems to me that the Amendment of the noble Duke does minimize those difficulties, and render them so small that, if carried, it will enable the noble Marquess to recede from his position, and render it practicable for both sides of the House to approach an agreement. My Lords, on looking to Clause 1, paragraph (c.) of Sub-section (1.), you will perceive that the condition on which the tenant is to obtain relief is, that he is unable to discharge the arrears without loss of his holding or deprivation of all means necessary for cultivation; and, on the inquiry, it was left discretionary with the Commissioners to take into account the saleable value of his interest. My Lords, the immediate effect of the noble Duke's Amendment is to take away that discretion, and render it mandatory on the Commissioners, in ascertaining whether the tenant is unable to pay his arrears, to take into account the saleable value of the tenant's interest in his holding. Thus you will perceive, my Lords, that the effect of the Amendment may be very large; and that, to obtain the benefits of the first part of the Bill, the tenant must, in the course of a judicial inquiry, in which the Judge is bound to take into consideration the saleable value of his interest, have established his inability to pay. My Lords, I suggest to your better judgments whether this absolute obligation to establish inability to pay will not so far minimize the supposed dangers to the landlord's interests, and reduce the apprehensions of his being defrauded to so fine a point, that if the noble Duke's Amendment should be carried, the protection which the noble Marquess thought yesterday to be absolutely necessary may well be abandoned. My Lords, I confess that I am nervously anxious to assist the noble Duke in promoting accord on this subject, and enabling us in the end to pass this Bill in an acceptable shape. My noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal announced yesterday that the Government could not accept the Bill with the Amendments of the noble Marquess. It is not for me to judge whether, in that resolution, the Government may be right or may be wrong; but I do see plainly the consequences to the peace of Ireland. My Lords, something also was said as to the creation of a political crisis; but I do not pause on that. It cannot be. The noble Mar- quess described the Bill as a measure of confiscation, and on that allegation I take issue. It seems to me, on the contrary, that its true character is one of mercy to the tenants and of bounty to the landlords. My Lords, "confiscation," as the noble Marquess applied it, meant the deprivation of something which the landlord actually had, or might reasonably expect to receive. Does the Bill in this case confiscate any arrear which he might reasonably expect to recover? My Lords, the Bill deals only with a class of small tenants, poor, and generally broken down, and only operates where there is proved inability to pay. How does it operate in such cases? If there are but two years' rent due to the landlord up to 1st November, 1881, he is to be paid in full. If there are three years due, he gets full two-thirds, one-third from the tenant and one-third from the State; and if there are four years due, he gets 10s. in the pound. Can that be called confiscation? Many of my noble Friends opposite know as well as I do, that when a small tenant in Ireland is suffered to get three or four years into arrear, the debt is a bad one; that arrear, as a rule, is hopelessly irrecoverable. But the noble Marquess says that to pay the landlord two-thirds or one-half of that bad debt, is confiscation. My Lords, it is simply a gift, and the only matter that the State asks from the landlord in return is to forego his power to drive thousands of unfortunate people from their holdings. Is that confiscation? My Lords, I may claim to know something of Ireland, and every part of it. I have no personal interest to serve; no interest that is not your Lordships'—none but to endeavour to restore tranquillity; but, my Lords, I confess, and with perfect sincerity, that I regard the loss of this Bill with entire dismay. My Lords, it has been said that, tried by economic tests, this Bill is wholly indefensible, and I assume for a moment that it can be only excused on the plea of necessity; but do not forget, my Lords, that, from the moment the measure was announced as one of Government relief, the necessity that it should pass into law became overwhelming and inexorable. My Lords, if this Bill is defeated—if it is allowed to drop—we must look forward to another winter of increased disturbance and lawlessness, and of non-payment of rent—to another season in which the voice of the unscrupulous agitator will be all-powerful to incite to crime. My Lords, I mentioned a few moments ago to the noble Duke, a communication which I recently had as to the present condition of a large county in Ireland in which the noble Duke is interested, and coming from a well-informed official not unknown to the noble Duke. That county is largely occupied by small tenants, and is now in a state of peace and quiet, with but little crime; but my informant added that recently a very large number of ejectments had been instituted to turn out small tenants in arrear, and if that course was to be persevered in, and if this Bill did not pass, peace and order would cease, and crime and disorder take their place. My Lords, it is to avoid such a state of things in the poorer districts that I press on your Lordships to pass this Bill. There is, my Lords, another class in whose interests I ask leave to be permitted to say a word—a class well entitled to your Lordships' favourable consideration, and from whom you will keep large benefits if this Bill is defeated. I mean, my Lords, a class much injured by the Act of 1881, and utterly crushed by the "no rent" policy of the Land League—the lesser landlords of Ireland. I will illustrate my meaning by a typical, but real case that I have at present in my mind—a landlord whose estate is in one of the distressed districts, and who ought to have received about £5,000 per annum, but subject to incumbrances. The holdings are all small, and for three years he has received nothing. The arrears up to November, 1881, are about £15,000, and he is in great pecuniary distress. My Lords, under this Bill that proprietor might receive about £10,000. My Lords, the class of tenants with whom this Bill will deal, are, as a class, generally so poor and so broken that the real difficulty in its application will be in their being each able to make up a year's rent. The Bill will work injury to no one, to no class, and if I were entitled to advise, I would strongly advise your Lordships; but I am not entitled to advise, and thus I beseech your Lordships not to allow this Bill to perish. It is, in my humble judgment, the first and a necessary step towards the re-establishment of peace and tranquillity in certain districts in Ireland. In that view, and with that object, I most cordially support the Motion of the noble Duke.


My Lords, one link was wanting in the chain of argument on this question, and it has been supplied by the powerful speech of the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Fitzgerald), which showed that the optional character which this House has impressed on the Bill is no reason why it should not be accepted by the Government, or that it would in any way interfere with the efficiency of the measure. The noble and learned Lord speaks with dismay of the Bill being dropped, and paints, with a powerful hand, the evils which he thinks will arise from such a contingency. Let him address his remarks to those whom he sits behind, and also to the Prime Minister, who, without any show of argument whatever, or any reason that can be called feasible, insists on making the absence of this compulsory principle fatal to the Bill, dangerous though that principle is to the interests of landlords of Ireland, and dangerous though it is to the principles upon which all rights of private property rests throughout the Kingdom. It seems as though the Prime Minister had a pleasure in using a great public crisis of this kind, when the great forces of insurrection are behind him, for the purpose of undermining the rights of private property, and for preparing the way for future enterprizes against those rights which he cannot now undertake. The whole case would be different if it could be shown that the optional principle would really interfere with the full efficiency of the Bill. Our contention is, that it is perfectly consistent with the Bill, and that it is merely owing to an accidental phrase that fell from the Prime Minister in "another place" that it is considered that this principle is inconsistent with the objects which the measure is designed to meet. The Amendment of the noble Duke (the Duke of Abercorn) may or may not be accepted by the House; but, though undoubtedly it would be capable of being worked in a very stringent manner, I cannot regard it as any efficient protection even in the case of a tenant with a holding of considerable value who seeks to have his arrears remitted, because the Amendment leaves everything at the disposition of the Sub-Commissioners; and, without reviving a controversy which has been almost thrashed out, it is obvious that there is not that confidence in the decisions of the Sub-Commissioners which would render satisfactory an arrangement resting on their decision the ultimate instrument as regards both the interests concerned. The noble and learned Lord said the Amendment not only covered the case of a tenant with a holding of considerable value who came to have his arrears remitted, but that it would afford an absolute security against fraud. The noble and learned Lord appeared to think that the value of the holding is all the means the tenant possesses. But may there not be, as we were told last evening, his cattle, which may have been driven away from the farm by his neighbour; the money which he has in the bank in the name of a neighbour, or the sovereigns hidden in an old stocking of which we have often heard? There are many ways in which the dishonest tenant may evade inquiry into his alleged impecuniosity; and even if the Amendment of the noble Duke sufficiently guarded against that danger, which I do not admit that it does, I cannot see that the other dangers to which the landlord would be exposed are sufficiently guarded against. I earnestly trust that the Government will reconsider what appears to me their wholly unreasonable and indefensible objection to the alterations which the House has made in their Bill; and I can only say that if the result of their obstinacy should be that this Bill should come to nothing, the responsibility will rest with them, and not with us. [Laughter from the Treasury Bench.] At least, I am sure it will be so in the opinion of the majority of the House.


My Lords, with regard to what the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) has said as to the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government if this Bill should come to nothing, I leave your Lordships to judge how that matter stands. I appeal not to my noble Friends behind me, but to noble Lords opposite, whether the charge of obstinacy that has been brought against us is substantiated or not; and I ask your Lordships to compare the substance and tone of the speech which my noble and learned Friend (Lord Fitzgerald), who is so competent to speak on the subject, has made in regard to the effect which the rejection of this Bill will have in Ireland, with the sort of speech that has just been delivered by the noble Marquess, in which, for the second or third time this evening, he has not been able to refrain from indulging in personalities towards a great statesman in "another place."


My Lords, Circumstances prevented me from taking part in the debate on the second reading of this Bill; and I feel a great unwillingness to allow it to pass from the House without a brief expression of my earnest hope that, notwithstanding all obstacles, it may substantially and in its integrity pass into law. I wish to assure your Lordships that many of the best and wisest men in Ireland look with absolute dismay at the prospect of the loss of it, and would regard that loss as a national calamity. The possibility of what may come to Ireland in the approaching months and years, if this Bill should not be passed in some shape or other by this House, they regard with anxious apprehension. It is not for me to speak of the great statesman who introduced the Bill, or to say why he declared—if he has declared it—that such an Amendment as that of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) will render it impossible to proceed with the measure. But if he has made such a declaration, I can comprehend why he has done so. The Amendment is inconsistent with the Bill, because it gives the landlord absolute dominion over the tenant in matters most essential to the tenant's interests. It is inconsistent with the Bill, because the Bill designs that the tenant shall be perfectly independent of his landlord. The House of Commons has given a control over the Church Fund on the faith of the Bill as it stands. If we subject it to another power, there will be a breach of faith with the House of Commons. ["Oh!"] In my opinion, the efficacy of the Bill will be destroyed by the Amendment of the noble Marquess; and, should it be abandoned, great will be the responsibility of the House and of the Government. I state my conviction that, for Ireland, the passing of this Bill substantially in its integral condition is an absolute necessity. I do not say it is an immaculate Bill. I do not say that I am enamoured of all its provisions. There are matters contained in it for which I am not an advocate. I do not deny the force of the objections to some of its details. I admit that there may be difficulty in ascertaining the true condition of an applicant for relief. I appreciate the considerations which have induced very many of its warmest advocates to prefer the machinery of loan to the machinery of gift; and, for myself, I have always regretted the application of the Church Fund to such a purpose. Indeed, I regard that application with great disapproval, for I had hoped that that Fund might have been kept sacred to purposes of permanent utility in Ireland—to purposes more or less akin to that to which it was originally dedicated. To such a purpose it was devoted when the grant of £1,000;000 was made for Intermediate Education, and, again, when the Royal University was sparingly endowed; and I had desired to see similar beneficent allocations of the residue. I lament that the exigencies of the situation have induced the Government to make another disposition of it; even though that disposition was authorized by the terms of the Church Act. But, at least, such a use of an Irish fund for Irish purposes might have mitigated the violence of the declamation we have heard about the spoliation of the English taxpayer, and against the application of English money for the relief of Ireland. How does the case stand? The great bulk of the funds to be employed under this Bill will come from Ireland. For the instructions to the Treasury are not to apply English money for the purpose until there is not a farthing of the Irish Church Fund left. Not a penny is to be sought elsewhere, if that Fund is found adequate to the temporary need. I concur with my noble Friend the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (Earl Cowper) that this being a United Kingdom—which ought to be united in feeling and in object—there is nothing unreasonable in asking the people of one district to be helpful to the people of another—that reciprocal kindness and reciprocal aid should be the fruit of a concession for their common interests—and that Great Britain will not be without compensation for any outlay required of its resources, if measures like this produce the restoration of peace and order in Ireland, and so reduce the burden of taxation and promote the general safety and well-being of the Empire. My Lords, I am of opinion that, in these and other things, the Bill is open to some reasonable exception. But its justification is its necessity. It has been said of old—"Necessity has no law;" and its pressure has often led men to ignore the deductions of logic, and transcend the limits which economic science would prescribe. The Bill is necessary, and it is necessary not as a mere eleemosynary measure for the relief of the impoverished peasants and the struggling landlords who exist in large numbers in Ireland. The Bill is intended for them, as much as for the starving tenants. It is a Bill for the benefit of all the people of Ireland. Its object is to supplement the Land Act of last Session, and to reach by its provisions as many people as possible. It is essential to the success of that Act; essential that it may work freely, and widely, and procure fair play for the great experiment of social change which it inaugurated. ["Oh, oh!"] My words, I know, in this place with reference to that Act will have no gracious reception. We are familiar with abuse of its principles and of its administrators; and we have been vehemently told that the relation of that measure to this is alone sufficient to justify an adverse vote. But, my Lords, I pray you to remember that, whatever may have been your views as to the policy of the Land Act, it is the law of the land. You have been instrumental in making it the law, and you are bound to accept it, with all its legitimate consequences. It is the work of the Legislature, sealed with the sanction of the Crown. Your Lordships constitute a great political Assembly; but you also constitute the highest legal tribunal of the Realm; and it is not in this House that any Statute should be treated with indifference or contempt. You are bound to give the law its due effect. I believe that it has, undoubtedly, as we have been told, wrought a social revolution, and a social revolution of deep and far-reaching influence, which will only be consummate and complete when it has been brought into full operation, if Parliament shall agree to carry into effect the recommendation of a Committee of your Lordships' House. But what is done cannot be undone. You cannot rase the seal from off the bond, You cannot, by any amount of anger and vituperative violence, restore Ireland to the condition in which she was before the Land Act passed. It is the interest and the duty of every man to see that the revolution is utilized, instead of being rendered destructive; and it will be more wise to give frank acceptance to the new state of things, and honestly endeavour to make the best of it. And for that purpose you are asked in this measure to strike down the barriers which are holding away multitudes from the benefits of the recent legislation, and leaving them subject to the misery of eviction. Surely, it will be better for all concerned if the hopes held out to the people by Parliament can be realized; if the promises of fixed tenure and fair rent on which they rely can be fulfilled; and if we can convert those whom suffering has made disaffected, and despair has made criminal, into law-abiding and order-loving men. This is the high function of the Bill, with all its shortcomings and all its faults; and if it can accomplish this, it will be a boon and a blessing, not to one class only—not to the tenant or the landlord alone—but to the entire community. It will do very much for the settlement of Ireland and for the permanent good of the British Empire. My Lords, it is not easy to obtain statistical evidence in such a matter; but I believe there are tens of thousands of humble people to whom this Bill will bring substantial relief, not merely in a temporary way and for present exigencies, but as enabling them to enter securely on the paths of industry, and enjoy the permanent possession of comfort and competence in holdings made lastingly their own. Three terrible seasons, which emptied the savings banks and thronged the workhouses, have reduced a great body of the Irish peasantry to a hopeless condition. Their decadence has been continuous, steady, and complete; and without the help of the State it will be beyond recovery. If the means be given to them, those who are best informed believe that there will be a rush of suitors to the Land Courts, such as, to the astonishment of everyone, took place when they opened first. They will get a new start in life under the new circumstances of the country, and the result will speedily be seen in the improve- ment of manners, the progress of industry, and the obedience of contented men to the law which has given them protection. As it is, grievous evil will result if this measure fails to soften discontent. They will brood over their misfortunes and become a prey to criminal temptation. They cannot pay accumulated arrears, and they will be cast upon the world to pine and perish in the ditches, or on the hill-side, unless they eat the bitter bread of public charity. The evictions in Ireland have fearfully increased; and the Returns for the last month alone—the month of June—show that 515 families, comprising nearly 3,000 persons, were turned out of their homes during its progress. From poverty comes eviction, and from eviction outrage, and thence the social confusion and the unpunished crime which have brought such disgrace and sorrow to Ireland. And, my Lords, there is a further mischief. Those who suffer thus, and are thus corrupted, act upon others more fortunate than themselves. The man who cannot approach the Land Court, to gain security in his holding and escape expulsion from it, does his utmost to prevent his neighbours from availing themselves of the fair advantages of their better state, and rejoices when he can make them as desperate as himself, and lure or terrorize them to the evil courses to which his own misery has led him. And so disorders spread and outrage flourishes, and the country is baulked of the advantages which the Legislature has bestowed. The aim and purpose of the Bill are to change all this, and bring those advantages within the reach of men who should enjoy them. It will improve the tenants' condition, whilst, on the other hand, landlords who may have been reduced to the verge of destitution will find themselves, through its assistance, helped through their day of trouble, and enabled to maintain their position, and hope for better times. My Lords, it is easy for the owners of great principalities to tell you that this Bill will not be useful to their class. Rich and prosperous, they do not want it for themselves; but there are multitudes of the proprietors of Ireland whose condition is lamentable, whose wants are urgent, whose sufferings are sometimes as worthy of sympathy and pity as those of the evicted and hopeless and helpless peasant, and to them the payment of two years' rent upon the average would be an enormous blessing. My Lords, this is the state of things which makes, as I have said, good and wise men look with dismay on the chance of the loss of this Bill and its possible consequences—a continuance of the social wretchedness which has too long prevailed in Ireland, and an increase of the disorder which has grown unendurable. My Lords, in presence of such dangers, I trust your Lordships will not deprive the country of the Bill; and I pray you to remember, when it is condemned as violating economic laws, that abnormal circumstances require abnormal treatment, and that the circumstances of Ireland are abnormal in the extreme. The late Government did not hesitate to help the peasant with his seed and the landlord with his loans, largely, at 1 per cent, because there existed an exceptional necessity. The present Government, with deep reluctance, have passed, with your Lordships' help, a measure of repression which violates the Constitutional principles they cherish most, and destroys the Constitutional safeguards they hold most precious for the security of public liberty. If these things have been justified by the necessity of the case, this Bill is amply justified. The measure of coercion should not be dissociated from the measure of relief which has been promised to make it more tolerable. Whilst you accept what is harsh, do not reject what is beneficent. If you have felt yourselves driven to restrain and punish, do not be obdurate to the appeal of expediency and mercy. In the interest of the embarrassed landlords and the suffering people of Ireland, and still more in the interests of peace, law, order, and prosperity, I appeal to your Lordships, and specially to such of your Lordships as follow the lead of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury), so to shape your course as not to take from Ireland the advantages which will be conferred by this Bill, and leave the country to the miseries to which its rejection will unquestionably expose her. I trust most earnestly that it may be allowed to pass.


said, he wished to make a few observations upon the Bill.


rose to Order. He apprehended that as the third reading of the Bill had been carried, the only Question before the House was the Amendment proposed by the noble Duke (the Duke of Abercorn), and general observations on the Bill wore out of Order.


said, he merely rose for the purpose of saying, before the Bill left the House, that, in his opinion, the first Amendment of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), which had been carried, was equal to the rejection of the Bill. He would wish their Lordships, even at that last moment, to consider whether it was their intention to condemn Ireland to another such winter of outrages and murder as the last?—a result, above all things, to be regretted.


said, that, in his opinion, the conclusion of the noble Viscount (Viscount Powerscourt) was entirely indefensible. In his (the Earl of Redesdale's) opinion, the responsibility, if the measure should not become law—for that was the real point in question—would rest, not with the majority of their Lordships, but with the Government. In 99 cases out of 100 the Amendment of the noble Marquess would have no effect; it was not likely that the interference of the landlords to prevent the operation of the Bill would be at all extensive. He believed that the enormous majority of the tenants affected by the Bill would not in the least degree be interfered with by the Amendment of the noble Marquess; and, therefore, the responsibility for depriving these persons of the benefit of the Bill would rest upon those who would not accept the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion agreed to.

Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.