HL Deb 29 April 1884 vol 287 cc843-74

My Lords, in moving the Motion which stands in my name, I must beg that indulgence and kindness which this House always accords to those who address it for the first time. The urgency and moment of the question I desire to raise must be my best excuse for trespassing upon you; and though my weak words must be unequal to the task I have undertaken, still, if I succeed in placing before your Lordships the hardship and loss that have overtaken those whose cause I advocate, I shall feel I have not spoken in vain. Some time ago it became apparent that there was a general desire amongst all classes in Ireland to see some amendment of the Purchase Clauses of the Land Act of 1881. As early, indeed, as March, 1882, letters appeared in The Times, signed "R. O'H.," urging that some greater facilities, in the way of cheap money, to induce sales to the tenants, should be arranged; but it was not until the middle of 1883 that men began to realize that there existed what is now called a "financial deadlock in the land market." This block, and the difficulties and hardships which attend it, are increasing weekly. Receivers are being appointed by the score, increasing enormously the expenses connected with the collection of rents; penal rates of interest are being demanded on mortgages; and in many instances mortgages are being hurriedly called in, sure presage of destruction to the incumbered owner; while the Landed Estates Court Judges, standing, so to speak, in the gap, refuse to sell, thereby averting for a time—but for a time only—the ruin which is impending. Now, my Lords, what is the reason for all this? Not bad seasons. Ireland has had bad seasons before, and bad times have been tided over—I mean the Famine times of 1848. In many parts of Ireland prices and times have been better than in many parts of England. It has not been want of money amongst the farming classes except in remote parts of the West and South, where poverty is perpetual. That money is plentiful is attested by the statistical Returns of the savings banks and the fabulous prices given for tenants' interests—7, 10, 15, and 20 years' purchase being common, while they have gone as high as 29 years' purchase—nay, more, there are instances where a tenant has given 29 years' purchase, although he has refused to buy the fee-simple from his landlord for 17 years' purchase. All this proves that some outside and indirect reason must exist, or have been started into being, to account for the depreciated value of the owners' property and this financial deadlock. That reason is not far to seek. First comes, as part of it, the want of confidence engendered by the introduction of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881. Secondly, the operations under that Act, in reducing indiscriminately, and in many instances extinguishing, the margin on which the late owners of Irish property had existed, the margin on the security of which family charges had been agreed upon, and mortgages arranged for. In one of those letters to which I have referred, written by "R. O'H.," a gentleman who, as I take it, is well known to many of your Lordships, and one distinguished alike by his knowledge of Ireland and desire to serve her best interests, he separates an incumbered property into two portions in a very simple and clear manner. He speaks of one portion as "the pledged income," and the other as "the free income," or, as I have called it, "the margin." This margin I shall, therefore, allude to as "the free income." Now, I do not intend to carp at or inquire into the working of the Land Act. I am glad to say a noble Duke has already given Notice of his intention to call your Lordships' attention to its operations, and it is no part of my business to-day to advert to this wide and most important subject. It will merely be my duty to-day to state what I believe to be the result of its working up to now. Her Majesty's Ministers have stated it to be their intention to make known their views on the Purchase Clauses within a few days. I shall not detain your Lordships by referring to the desirability and necessity of amending the Purchase Clauses. I think every section of Irishmen is in favour of such amendment. However, I think I am justified in pointing out that whatever is done must be done boldly, comprehensively, and on a very liberal scale. Petty measures will not do. The whole of the legal costs of conveyancing must be minimized, and the tenant must be able to buy his farm with a good title to it as easily as he would a cow or a cupboard. At the present moment it is almost beyond a poor man's means to buy owing to legal costs and delays; while the Land Commission, hampered as it is by too much work, and, I regret to say it, red-tapeism, naturally seeks to throw obstacles in the way of bargains being arrived at between the landlord who may wish to sell and the tenant who may desire to buy. To illustrate this I will quote the words of the Chief Secretary in answering Colonel King-Harman some time ago in reference to the Costello estate. He informed the House that the tenants had agreed to buy at 15 years' purchase, and that the Irish Bank, considering the security ample, had agreed to advance one-fourth of the purchase money as a second charge puisne to the three-fourths to be advanced by the Land Commission. This estate was subsequently valued by the Land Commission, and the result was that the Commissioners considered the estate, including the possessory rights of the tenant, was only security for an advance of three-fourths of the purchase money, calculated at 12 years' purchase. Can we wonder, therefore, that there is a deadlock in the land market when sales are fettered and hampered in this manner? I understood that when the Land Commission took up their functions freedom of contract was to return as soon as possible, and that the Land Commission were not to be valuers of the selling value of land, but brokers only. There have been many plans suggested to remove these difficulties, and to facilitate the transfer of land; but none of them appear to me so workable as that of "R. O'H.," a plan which Her Majesty's Ministers have seen, and which, at the risk of detaining the House for a short time, I should wish to advert to rapidly, pointing out the most salient and valuable parts of it. By his scheme, which appeared in a letter to The Times of the 12th of this month, "R. O'H." converts into the owner of his holding, without detriment to the State, and with ample security to the interests of the taxpayer, any tenant who is willing to purchase from his landlord on fair terms, and is prepared to put down 4 per cent of the purchase money, the landlord putting down 6 per cent, and the land bank, through whose medium the transaction would be completed, also 6 per cent of the purchase money. These amounts are to be held collectively in trust at 3 per cent, and returned to the parties who had put them down, at stated periods, during the time the terminable annuity has to run. By means of this most able and ingenious device he obtains a handsome percentage for his bank; while he practically takes nothing out of the pocket of the seller or the purchaser, except for a stated time. His proposal enables a tenant, without putting down the quarter demanded at present, to reap the same, if not greater, advantages. He will pay a rent to the bank no higher than his present rent—a rent which may, perhaps, be less, and which is terminable in a given time, say 47 years. The landlord receives the major part of his purchase money, and has security for receiving the lesser portion also at a given time; while the State and the taxpayer are assured against loss by the deposits of the tenant and landlord. In fact, all three of them are parties to a transaction which it becomes every day more to their profit to see completed. Take the case of a £10 holding selling for 23 years' purchase, £230. The tenant has only to put down £9 4s., practically less than one year's rent. The landlord leaves out of his £230, £13 16s., receiving the balance, £216 4s. The bank puts down £13 16s.; and this sum, left out on trust at 3 per cent, produces for the bank 8 per cent on this invested 6 per cent, with a good margin for expenses and profit. Now, my Lords, I have touched, perhaps, at undue length on this idea, having regard, as it has apparently, only to the sale and purchase of holdings; but it may be equally well and as successfully applied to giving that indirect compensation, which, I maintain, is due to the landlords of Ireland. You have merely to substitute the word "mortgagor" for "landlord," "mortgagee" for "tenant," and leave the bank in its original position, and the suggestions that I have made in my Motion will be carried out. That is necessary because, whatever is done in facilitating the purchase of their holdings by tenants, a deadlock will always exist at some point where compensation must step in to clear the ground and relieve the position. It is on this point I lay the most stress; and having drawn, I hope, particular attention to the simplicity and comprehensiveness of this particular plan, I am prepared to await the introduction of something, if possible, better, by Her Majesty's Government. I stated in the earlier part of my speech that in many instances the "margin" or free income had been completely cut away by the action of the Land Act of 1881, while the "pledged income" was impaired, or if not impaired much imperilled; so much so that if the mortgagees called in their loans the estates would have to be sold at all hazards. This will shortly take place. I do not think that the Judges of the Landed Estates Court will be able to refrain much longer from accepting any price they can get; for though the amendment of the Purchase Clauses may lessen the loss in the sale of estates, as the tenants getting fairer terms from Government may be inclined thereby to give fairer prices, still the prices obtained will in no way be equal to the actual value of the estates. If this loss were caused by act of Providence, or decrease in the letting value of the land, or by circumstances outside human prevision, I should have no locus standi for urging that compensation is due; but I maintain, and will produce evidence to corroborate my assertion, that this loss has been occasioned by the effect and action, of the Land Act. If I can do this—if I can prove this—I will only quote the words of the Prime Minister regarding compensation, when he said during the progress of the Land Law Bill, 1881— I do not hesitate to say that if it can he shown on clear and definite experience at the present time that there is a probability, or if after experience should prove that, in fact, ruin and heavy loss is likely to be, or has been, brought on any class in Ireland by the direct effect of this legislation—that is a question we ought to look directly in the face. We have now had two years' experience of this Land Act, and "ruin and heavy loss" has been brought on the landowning class, and the question has to be looked directly in the face. I will take, in proof of this, a few cafes out of the many which have been sent to me; and when I submit these instances I will leave your Lordships to decide what loss has been sustained by these unfortunate and innocent people. In the selection of these cases I found a great difficulty facing me—not a difficulty in regard to the obtaining of instances, but rather in the selection of the few cases which I shall trouble your Lordships with detailing. Unfortunately, the number of illustrations of the effects of the disastrous working of the Land Act is but far too large. From North, South, East, and West the same story comes, telling of disaster and ruin, in many cases already fallen, in hundreds impending. At the outset let me quote some facts in regard to estates which have been inherited—estates which have descended in the line of succession to the present owners, against whom, let it be noted, no charge of "land jobbery" can be made—I mean no charge of purchasing land as a mere speculation, with a view to raising the rents and thereby making money. Let me take first the case of an estate situate in the County Mayo, the facts connected with which are, indeed, of a very sad character. The present owner, an Anglo-Indian merchant, suceeded to the property, at the death of his brother, some few years ago. At his brother's death this gentleman came from India to enter into possession of the property, bringing with him a sum of about £4,000, the proceeds of many years' industry. An investigation into the state of the deceased man's affairs, however, soon showed that there were liabilities, amounting to almost this figure—£4,000—due to pressing creditors. It was absolutely necessary to pay off these pressing debts at once, and thus was the £4,000—the product of many years of hard life in India—suddenly swept away. The rental of the estate at the time—this was prior to the passing of the Land Act—was £1,600; but only a sum of £424 remained out of it when family charges, mortgage interest, &c., were paid. With the operation of the Land Act, however, came a reduction of 26⅔per cent in the rental, and the small margin left heretofore, after the payment of the charges, was now completely cut off. The unfortunate man, who, in the ordinary course of events, came into the possession of an estate which promised him some little income for the remainder of his days, and which tempted him to pay out his all in the hopes of making the future more secure, is now absolutely penniless. The an- nuitants refuse to give him a farthing, although they have been always paid regularly—they had to be paid, no matter what happened to the unfortunate owner. The law has interfered again, and a receiver has been appointed now for two years. Penal interest has had to be paid to the mortgagee for a debt contracted before the present owner came into possession; and as the result of all this the property has now been put up in the Encumbered Estates Court, with little prospect of advantageous or even justly-priced sale. Such are the facts of one of the saddest cases which have come under my notice. The second I shall quote is that of a property situate in the County Tyrone, held by a gentleman in trust for his three nieces—three young ladies dependent, to a great extent, on the rents of their estate for their sustenance. The property is not a very large one. The yearly rental, prior to the passing of the Land Act, was £615. The outgoings in the way of charges, &c., amounted to £503, leaving a balance of £112. The action of the Land Court, however, reduced the yearly rental by 18 per cent, and now the margin remaining after the payments—for there is no escape from them—is the miserable sum of £8. On this estate, I may mention in passing, the rents had not been raised for 21 years. The next case I shall refer to is that of the estate of a magistrate in the County Cavan. Like that of which I have just spoken, this, too, is a small estate; but all the more so has the operation of the Act proved disastrous to the impoverished owner. After the passing of the Act the rental was reduced 18 per cent, bringing down the margin which remained, after the annual payments, from £168 to £57. The estate was mortgaged, and penal interest has since been exacted. A receiver was appointed two years ago, and for this period not 1d. of rent has been received, whilst the expenses of this officer have been added to the already heavily-itemed charge list. The owner cannot see any light in the darkness of his position, unless aid be given him such as I suggest. I have the details of another estate situated in the County Limerick, which are equally worthy of attention, and with the owner of which great sympathy cannot but be felt. The rental up to 1881 was £1,116, but has since been reduced to £752—something like a reduction of 33 per cent. The head rent, annuities, &c., amounted annually to £346—which left a margin in the owner's hands, prior to the reduction, of £770. The interest on a mortgage of £9,000, however, further reduced this to £365. When, through the operation of the Land Act, the rental was brought down from £1,116 to £752, the payments of family charges, head rents, &c., left but a few shillings—16s. I believe—over the sum which would be required to pay the mortgage interest. Now, to pay this interest would have been to leave the owner penniless, and for two years and a-half no interest has been paid. Penal interest, at the rate of 5½ per cent, is now due, amounting to £1,732. Completely ruined, and with no chance of being able to do anything to obtain the fair value of his property, the owner has had to go to the Cape, and to send his wife to reside with her father. I could quote other cases of a kindred kind, equally painful; but I shall only trouble your Lordships with another case under this branch. This is the case of a clergyman living in England possessed of a small property in the County Clare. Up to 1881 this clergyman enjoyed an income of something like 25 per cent of his rental after payment of mortgage interest, charges, &c., which were rather heavy. The operation of the Land Act, however, only left him with a little over 2 per cent out of the 25 per cent. The principal grievance, however, in this case is in regard to the head rent. The property is held under a Bishop's lease on the Disendowment of the Irish Church. The owner was compelled to purchase perpetuity at a cost of £2,000. He was requested to send in the then rental, and on this basis the head rent was fixed. Now, although the rental has been reduced 22 per cent, the head rent remains at the original figure. What wonder is it that he should complain bitterly at such action as this? Coming now to what I shall term the second branch of this portion of my subject—the question of estates purchased through the Landed Estates Court under the titles I have spoken of—I shall very rapidly and very shortly adduce evidence in support of my statements. Let me first take the case of an estate situated in the County Cork. This property consisted of Church lands, formerly held from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and now held by sub-grant in perpetuity under the Crown, subject to the yearly rent of £140, and tithe rent-charge of £29. The circumstances of the case are a little peculiar. The property had been in the present owner's family for five generations when it was sold in the Landed Estates Court on the petition of an incumbrancer, and bought by the present owner. To complete the purchase a mortgage of £2,000 had to be arranged for to make up the full amount of £7,240. The property sold high, it being known that the rents had not been altered for generations, and the Landed Estates Court rental bearing on the face of it a statement that "the tenants held at very moderate rents." The purchaser, believing he had an absolute title to the rents as they stood, a schedule of which was set forth in his conveyance, was satisfied with his income—a bare 4 per cent on the £5,240 laid out—and never attempted to raise the rents. The tenants, however, were yearly ones, and they went into the Land Court. What happened? It was proved that the rents had been the same for the last 50 years; and although the Chairman of the Sub-Commissioners confessed that— The management of the estate had given great satisfaction to the tenants, and although "allowances had been made for improvements, &c.," still, when considering the question of a "fair rent," they— Could come to no other conclusion than that the tenants on this liberally-managed property had been paying too much. Accordingly, they reduced the rents. Now, if I were discussing the Motion which the noble Duke is about to bring on, I would express my opinion rather strongly on this mode of procedure; but I shall not now delay here. The former rental was £543, and this was reduced to £426. The charges in all amounted to £334, which left a margin of £208 on the former rental, but only £91 on the reduced rental. Now, the owner had purchased this estate on the faith of the most solemn of covenants; he is a tenant to the Crown, and holds a Parliamentary title to at least £200, yet the action of the Crown has reduced this to £91. Leaving your Lordships to appreciate the significance of these facts, I shall pass on to another case. The property I this time refer to is situated in the County Kerry, and was bought under an "indefeasible" title from the same Court; £33,000 was the amount of the purchase money, of which £19,000 had to be borrowed at over 4 per cent. The Land Act followed the purchase, and the rents in some cases were reduced 25 per cent—and this on an estate with an "indefeasible title." The tenants will not now pay The operation of the Land Act has seriously impaired the owner's income. The mortgagee, frightened for his loan, has served notice to call in the mortgage, and for money borrowed, on what I may describe as the strength of the Crown security, the owner is likely to suffer terrible loss. One other instance and I shall have done these quotations. This last case is that of an estate situate in County Mayo, bought nine years ago in the Landed Estates Court. Like as in the previous case, money had to be borrowed to make up the amount of the purchase money. After the purchase the rents were reduced 11½ per cent, and with an unlocked for loss of £34 per year the present owner had been unable to pay off the mortgage. The mortgagee, knowing no money was to be had, has raised the interest to 6 per cent, and the owner states if 8 per cent were asked, he could do nothing but pay it. These cases need very little, if any, comment. They bear upon the face of each of them a palpable injustice. I could give your Lordships the particulars of many others; but instances accumulate, and in the multiplicity of examples the main facts might be lost. One other sentence, and I resume my general remarks. I have stated that the Land Commission do not facilitate, but rather impede, sales. In support of this I shall simply refer to a case in point where an owner communicated with the Commission in reference to selling his property. The Land Commission Secretary, in reply, raised a question as to the head rent, and placed such obstacles in the way of any forwarding arrangement whatever, that the owner at last dropped the correspondence, and nothing ever came of the matter. Now, my Lords, I think these cases prove that the loss is heavy and severe, and has been directly brought about by the legislation which the Prime Minister was referring to when using the words I have just quoted. I may, perhaps, be asked how do I propose to compensate these ruined incumbered owners? I reply, in the words of my Motion, by giving them "facilities for raising money to pay off mortgages and charges." It would be for the Government to determine the details, and it would be for the tribunal which would have the carriage of sale and such kindred matters to arrange the terms, &c., connected with such work. Such a tribunal you have in the Landed Estates Court, possessing, as it does, most able officers, and all necessary adjuncts, but now powerless to act owing to the "deadlock" I have before referred to. Perhaps, my Lords, you will say that this is too wide a statement, and I may be told I have produced evidence of loss and ruin; but I have made no clear, direct, or detailed suggestion how to remedy that loss, and the words of my Motion may be considered to be too comprehensive. At the risk, therefore, of detaining your Lordships a little longer, I will go more into details. Let us consider the position of the landlords of Ireland before the passing of the Land Act of 1881 and subsequently. Now, in this consideration, you cannot omit the charges to which their estates were and are subjected, and the persons entitled to these charges. These charges were all created at a time when freedom of contract existed between landlord and tenant. Many of them were created on the faith of "indefeasible" titles given by law—as solemn a contract as any we know of. They were created before the landlords were made subject to the control of a Court in the management of their estates and the fixing of their rents. The owners of these charges were, together with the landlord, owners of a partnership concern, of which he was manager. This management has now been taken from the landlord, and he alone is made to bear the loss, while his partner's position and rights remain unchanged. Surely, as in any business transaction or concern, loss should be borne rateably by all partners, who should be compelled to abate, when by action other than that of the manager, and beyond his control, the returns from the business are diminished. The effect, intentional or unintentional, of the Land Act has been directly or indirectly to reduce the rentals and incomes of pro- prietors at least 20 per cent. Now, these reductions having been effected, the proprietors continue charged with the same amount as they were previously. The Land Act, if conceived in a just spirit, should not have reduced the income of the landlord only. It should have reduced the annual payments charged upon that income rateably, that is to say—Firstly, tithe rent; secondly, quit rent; thirdly, land improvement charges; fourthly, head rents; fifthly, jointures and annuities; and, sixthly, interest moneys on any mortgages that might be on the estate—all should have been reduced at the same rate. The parties entitled to these amounts, the State and the owners of the free and pledged income, should have been made parties to the results produced by this legislation. It may not now be possible to deal with the fourth and fifth of these—head rents, jointures and annuities—as any diminution there might cause more ruin than at present. I will therefore omit them from consideration just now. The sixth, however—interest moneys—can be dealt with; and as this charge is intimately bound up with the sale and purchase of estates, I maintain this is the proper moment for estimating the feasibility of dealing with it. Government state their intention of amending the Purchase Clauses and thereby inducing more sales to tenants. Suppose they do, and that a general desire is manifested both by landlord and tenant to divest themselves of the dual ownership, and that agreements for sale are entered into, we must remember there are other parties to the bargain, especially in the case of an encumbered estate. I allude, of course, to the case of mortgagees and those who have a lien upon the estate. Take a case in point. A landowner may desire to sell to his tenant a particular holding more favourably circumstanced for sale than any other on his estate. But this holding being subject, with other holdings on the same estate, to a mortgage, the owner may be met with a refusal on the part of the mortgagee to join in the conveyance and take the purchase money in part payment of his charge. Or, again. Suppose the estate subject to three or four different mortgages, one puisne to the other, and that the landlords and tenants mutually agree to sell on that estate, it is more than probable that the last two mortgagees, fearing they may not receive the full amount of their loan, may use means to render the sale abortive and of no value, and thereby prohibit the very thing that is calculated, above all things, to have a tranquillizing and valuable effect on Ireland—namely, an increase in the number of proprietors. The necessity and advisability of creating these proprietors is, to my mind, more pressing now than ever; but in attempting to transform the occupier into the owner the historic words of Mr. Bright should be borne in mind and amplified. He said at Birmingham, in January, 1880, when advocating the creation of a yeomanry proprietary— This should be done by a process which shall be just, not to the tenant only, but to the landlord. Mr. Bright here forgot, apparently, the other parties to the transaction—perhaps not anticipating then the operations of the Land Act of 1881—the State, which might interfere and render the sale of the land to the tenant absolutely unjust to the landlord by vitiating the value of the saleable commodity, and the mortgagees, on the other hand, who might refuse to permit the sale, and thereby cause injustice to both owner and occupier, anxious as they might be to come to terms. The owner of an encumbered estate in Ireland—and most of them are more or less encumbered—has now but two courses open to him, supposing his "free income" to have been seriously impaired by, the operation of the Act. First, to pay the penal interest, and that will surely be exacted by the frightened mortgagees, and thereby further reducing his income; or, on the other hand, to attempt to sell his land to the tenant, who will naturally not give too large a price for what may daily be depreciated in value. In the first instance, he is very nearly ruined, and is obliged to exact the uttermost farthing from his tenants, while the enforced residence of a genteel pauper can be of no benefit to the district. In the second case, the ruin is sharp and decisive. Or take a worse case. Perhaps, in the first instance, a receiver is appointed, and the remains of his income are frittered away in law costs; while, if the second line be pursued, and the estate sold at an unfair price, as it almost undoubtedly would be, the annuitants and mortgagees would take good care to get all they could out of the purchase money, and perhaps leave the unfortunate owner penniless, as in one of the cases I dealt with. There is but one way out of the difficulty—State interference on just lines to all parties. When this is done, and not till then, we may expect finality in the Land Question. The difficulty has arisen entirely through State interference; and I maintain if, without detriment to the State or the Treasury as representing the taxpayer's interest, such justice can be meted out as is due to those aggrieved and interested, it is the duty of the State to take action. In the words of my Motion— That having regard to the announced intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce a measure to secure greater facilities to tenants in Ireland for the purchase of their holdings, this House is of opinion that any such measure as is proposed by Her Majesty's Government should be so framed as to afford to those landowners of Ireland who have suffered pecuniary loss by the operation of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, facilities for raising money to pay off charges affecting their estates on as easy terms as would by the said measure be secured to purchasing tenants, or compensation in respect of such pecuniary loss in any way that may be deemed advisable. I have been told that if this were done the effect would be to bolster up insolvent owners, giving them, so to speak, a new free income on which to borrow. I am entirely opposed to any attempt to maintain a pauper gentry—a class most detrimental to a country's welfare. Surely, loans of State money could be allowed only to those who had offered to sell their estates to their tenantry at fair prices, and were prepared to sell, but prevented by the action of the mortgagees, or by the determination of the would-be purchasers to exact a one-sided bargain. In the case of encumbered estates put up for sale, let the State offer the land to the tenants through the landlord for, say, 20 years' purchase. If the tenants refuse to avail themselves of the offer, let the State then advance to the landlord sufficient money to clear him of his encumbrances or a certain portion of them. Again, I am met by the statement that the expenditure of State money for such a purpose would be on too lavish a scale. I distinctly deny that statement, and for two valid reasons—first, in a most able prelude to a work on Sales of Land in Ireland, Mr. Fotterell, a gentleman of great experience, points out that during 10 years of most active work in the Landed Estates Court—from 1865 to 1875—when there was a mania for buying land in Ireland, £9,237,000 was the gross amount of all kinds of property sold in that Court—less than £1,000,000 a-year. Supposing even those facilities were given to which I have referred—namely, that plenary powers were given to the Land Commission to sell, and the methods of procedure were simplified, it is not unfair to surmise that not much more than £2,000,000 worth of property could by any possibility pass through that Court in the year. My second reason is that as soon as it would become known that Government could and would come to the rescue if necessary, confidence would be restored, and those who had lent, and trembled for their loans, would feel secure against panic. Then, again, I am told—and, indeed, was asked by one of our leading statesmen—"What right had poor Ireland to ask rich England for advances for such purposes?" I answered then, as I answer now—"Ireland as long as she remains an integral portion of the United Kingdom, is entitled to claim from the National Exchequer money that may be safely used for the benefit of her people of any class." But, perhaps, I may be met with the question of safety or security for the advance, whatever that may be. I say at once, utilize some financial scheme, such as "R. O'H." has worked out, and the security to the State is guaranteed. You can advance by his plan money to the landlords to pay off their charges with equal safety as to tenants to purchase their holdings. You need only convert "tenant" to "landlord," "landlord" to "mortgagee," and leave "bank" in its normal position. The percentages they would leave in pledge would be the same as when the question of purchase was being settled, and, as in the previous case, the effect would be to benefit all. Every year as it passes away increases the benefit of the loan to the recipient, it being a terminable annuity; while, at the same time, it diminishes the liability of the bank and augments as well the value of the security to the State. Now, my Lords, I come to the first, second, and third of the charges which I have enumerated—these portions of the pledged income which I called tithe and quit rents and land improvement charges. I shall not refer at great length to these matters, but shall speak of them as points where the compensation alluded to in the second part of my Motion may be indirectly given. I take them as instances of what compensation can be given to owners of unencumbered estates as opposed to owners of encumbered estates who may have suffered equally. The State, my Lords, having brought about this legislation, and being the party affected under these three heads, and having control over its own legislation, should now try to remedy the inequalities caused by the legislation, and in. remedying these should so adjust the three charges I speak of as to make them stand at 20 per cent less then they are at present, more especially when the reduction can be effected without loss by lengthening the periods during which the lesser amounts would be payable. Take the case of the tithe rent-charge. This is a rent-charge having priority over all other charges. The occupier, who originally paid it, was relieved of it, and it was placed on the shoulders of the owner, the State finding it difficult to collect. These owners were given as a bribe a quarter of it for its collection, but were empowered to add the expense of the collection to their rental; or, in other words, to raise their rental to cover the cost of collection. It was computed on the value of the land, in those days when wheat was at a very high price, and when freedom of contract prevailed. Septennial valuations were to be made, and payments estimated accordingly. These valuations were never taken, and the tithe rent is the same as it was in 1869, when it was sequestrated from the uses for which it was originally intended—that is, the sustentation of the Irish Church—and was applied by the State to lay purposes of all kinds. The quit rent and land improvement charges practically represent the interest which the State receives on some originally estimated capital value of the land. The State by its own action has lessened that value 20 per cent, or handed that amount of value over to other persons than the original owner. It should, therefore, in all justice and equity, reduce the interest it receives by 20 per cent, that being the amount it has depreciated the capital value. The question of land improvement charges I will not go into fully. It can be dealt with more fitly when the Motion of the noble Duke comes on, when I think I shall be prepared to show that drainage charges are now still extracted from the the unfortunate owner, when the value of the rental of the land on which the charges are allocated has been seriously diminished by the action of the Court. My Lords, I fear I have detained you at great length. I have, however, I trust, proved that heavy loss has been caused to owners of Irish land by the operation of the Land Act, and that compensation may be claimed with all fairness. I hope I have proved to your Lordships that the question, which the Prime Minister was prepared to look in the face, is now before you, and must be met. The amendment of the Purchase Clauses, and compensation to the ruined owners, should run hand in hand, and give that finality to the Land Question which the noble Marquess now governing in Canada (the Marquess of Lansdowne) so prophetically warned this House the present Land Act would never give. Even the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) argued upon this question from, the same standpoint, when he said, referring to the Purchase Clauses, on the 27th of April, 1881— We believe that it is in that direction alone that permant improvement in the condition of Ireland can be obtained. That the Prime Minister himself contemplated some such demand I gather from his speech on the Motion of Mr. W. H. Smith in the other House respecting the Purchase Clauses, when he said, in reference to the scheme propounded by Mr. Smith— Upon the scheme itself, I can give no opinion now, except this—that it may be possible to frame a plan which may take the form of an Irish Fund, and, at the same time, not be permanently disassociated from the Consolidated Fund. Now is the moment for the introduction of some such scheme. You have the expressed desire on all sides to see more proprietors created in Ireland. You have tested, by experience, the hardship and ruin brought about by the action of the Land Act; and you have a financial deadlock existing in Ireland which, unless the State interferes, will bring inevitable ruin, on many thousands of your fellow-countrymen. These men—these owners of property—were acquitted by the Prime Minister when he introduced the Land Act. Why are they mulcted in 20 per cent of their incomes if they have committed no crime? I abjure Her Majesty's Ministers to look this great question boldly and squarely in the face. It is no Party cry; it is no question of creed or class. The impoverished owner in Ireland has suffered equally, whether Protestant or Catholic, Peer or peasant proprietor. The trader who has converted his hard-earned money into fee-simple estate, bought in the Landed Estates Court, and held under the Crown—under as solemn a declaration as man can make—stands on the same footing, and has suffered equally as bad, as the squire whose property has descended to him through long generations. All have fared alike. The results which I complain of were, I assume, unanticipated. If they were, it is the duty of the State to meet them, now that they have arisen. If I cannot say that they were unanticipated, I am obliged to say that they were unprovided for. If this be so, provision should now, and can, be made to alleviate the position of those rent-owners—not guilty, yet sentenced; acquitted, yet condemned. Moved, "That having regard to the announced intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce a measure to secure greater facilities to tenants in Ireland for the purchase of their holdings, this House is of opinion that any such measure as is proposed by Her Majesty's Government should be so framed as to afford to those landowners of Ireland who have suffered pecuniary loss by the operation of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, facilities for raising money to pay off charges affecting their estates on as easy terms as would by the said measure be secured to purchasing tenants, or compensation in respect of such pecuniary loss in any way that may be deemed advisable."—(The Lord Castletown.)


said, he very much regretted that, his noble Friend the Lord President of the Council (Lord Carlingford), who was better acquainted with that question than he was, being unavoidably absent, it devolved on him to give such an answer as he could to the speech of the noble Lord. And, in the first place, so far from complaining in any way of that speech, he had listened with the greatest pleasure, as he was sure the whole House had done, to the perfectly calm, temperate, and, at the same time, ad- mirably clear manner in which the noble Lord had treated a difficult and somewhat thorny subject. With regard to the statement contained in the Motion as to the Government having announced their intention to introduce a measure for the amendment of the Purchase Clauses of the Irish Land Act, he could only say that the Government had pledged themselves to bring forward a measure on that subject; and it would be obvious to the noble Lord and the House that he could not now enter into details in reference to that question. He would only remark, in regard to one particular point on which the noble Lord laid stress—namely, the importance of reducing the intricacy of conveyancing and the costs of obtaining the sale of estates—that the Irish Government were fully sensible of the importance which all must feel of that being done, and, whatever measure was adopted, he did not hesitate to say that ought to form one branch of it. He now came to the more immediate subject of the Motion, which was to the effect that in conjunction with the facilities to be offered for the sale and purchase of estates some compensation should be secured to landlords who had suffered direct loss from the operation of the Land Act. The noble Lord had quoted a variety of cases in which they must, no doubt, all feel great sympathy with those who had suffered by the reduction of rent; but, with respect to particular cases, no general inference could be safely deduced from them. No doubt there had been a considerable reduction of rent in Ireland. That reduction, he believed, amounted to an average of 19 per cent. With reference to the manner in which that loss had been caused, the noble Lord had laid great stress on the hardship thus involved to those landlords who had obtained an indefeasible Parliamentary title to their estates. That indefeasible title, however, did not refer to the rent, but to the possession of the land against adverse claimants. The Government gave no guarantee, and could give no guarantee, that the rents should remain at a particular amount; but gave the buyers an indefeasible and complete title to the land. Then he was not prepared to admit that that average loss of 19 per cent on rents in Ireland had been caused by the Land Act. If the Go- vernment had stepped in for some reason of policy of its own, and without there being any difficulty on the part of the landlords in obtaining their rents, and had simply said—"We think it necessary to pass an Act that will have the effect of reducing rent," and if in that case there had been no compensation given for such reduction, that would have been confiscation. But the actual case, as he looked on it, was something entirely different from that. There arose a state of things in Ireland—it was not now his duty, nor was it necessary, to inquire through whose fault—of the most dangerous description. An agrarian movement prevailed of so serious a character that not only were the landlords unable to get their rents punctually paid, but there was a very serious possibility that they would get no rent at all. In that position of affairs the Government of this country went to Parliament, and proposed that there should be a new law with regard to landed estates in Ireland, by which the rent should be fixed by a tribunal, instead of being left to be fixed simply by the landlords and tenants together; and they entertained the hope that in that manner they would be able to restore to the landlords the powers they had lost of obtaining anything like reasonable rents for their property, and able at the same time to restore, to some extent, tranquillity to Ireland. He maintained that the objects which the Government had in view, which were not injurious but beneficial to the landlords, had to a large extent been attained. He was assured that at present rents were very fairly paid in Ireland generally; and through the operation, largely, no doubt, of the strong measures of repression which it was the duty of the Government to take, but partly, also, he hoped, through the new arrangement with regard to the position of tenants, Ireland was in a state of very much greater tranquillity. He could not admit that the Government of this country had inflicted a loss on the Irish landlords for which it was bound to compensate them with money taken from the taxpayers of this country. He said, on the contrary, that the Government had stepped in and saved the landlords from ruin. The noble Lord on the Cross Bench said the landlords had been ruined by the action of the Government. He challenged and contradicted that assertion, maintaining that the Government had saved them, from ruin; and, therefore, that the Government were not called upon in any way, upon any grounds of morality or fair dealing, to compensate the landlords for a loss which was not caused by the Government, but caused by other reasons, and which the Government had sought, as far as it was in its power, to mitigate. The noble Lord laid down the principle which had at first sight the appearance of fairness—namely, that there ought to have been a pro ratá reduction of all charges on the land; but that principle had never been acted upon, as far as he knew, in any of their dealings with land. In England there had been a reduction of rent owing partly to the same causes which had operated in Ireland, because in Ireland also the effects of bad harvests had been felt. The reduction of rent in his own part of England had, in many instances, far exceeded 20 per cent; and he was sorry to say that the landowners there had not the least prospect of being able to look to the Government, or to any other authority, to help them in their difficulties. It would be a most direct and absolute interference with all the rights of property to say, when a man had advanced money on the distinct condition that he was to receive the first portion that was available, and was not to be brought in as a common creditor with the landlord, that he should be treated as a common creditor with the landlord, and that they should pro ratá reduce that which he had the first claim upon. His position, then, in regard to that matter was this—that that loss which had been undoubtedly suffered by the landlords of Ireland was made up of different elements. A portion of it was, no doubt, due to the general depression of agriculture; and another portion was due to the unfortunate and disturbed condition of the country, to the utter want of confidence between different classes, and to an agrarian movement of a serious character. But it could not be argued that any portion of this loss had been caused by the Act in the sense that if it had not passed the landlords would not have suffered this loss. His belief was that if the Act had not been passed the landlords would have suffered a much greater loss; and, although he sympathized with them, yet when they came to treat this as a great State matter, in which it was argued that the State should come forward to relieve a whole class by State money, he felt himself unable to admit the main proposition on which the noble Lord had rested his case. He had no doubt the landlords were perfectly sincere in their complaints of the Land Commissioners; but it was a fact that the tenants also were of opinion that the Commissioners acted against them and in favour of the landlords. When both sides complained, it might reasonably be concluded that the Commissioners were impartial. Ha thought, with reference to the special cases mentioned by the noble Lord, that a tribunal should have the power of saying whether the security offered for the purchase was sufficient. He really had nothing more to say in answer to what the noble Lord had brought forward, except to repeat that the Government wore exceedingly sensible of the necessity of bringing forward a Bill to amend the Purchase Clauses, and that they would do so with a double object—first, to increase the number of freeholders in Ireland for the sake of the peace and happiness of the country; and, secondly, to offer such facilities for the purchase of land as to enable landlords who desired to dispose of their estates to dispose of them on fair terms. To that extent the Government agreed with the noble Lord; but they could hold out no hope that they would go to the extent the noble Lord desired in relieving landlords of the mortgages which pressed upon their estates. He should, therefore, be unable to assent to the noble Lord's Resolution.


said, that what was at the back of the noble Earl's argument, and at the back of the arguments of the supporters of the Irish Land Act, was that it was not in any way an exceptional Act. He must take exception to that view. His noble Friend (Lord Castletown) would never have come to their Lordships' House with the principle he had advocated unless he was prepared to prove that the Irish Land Act was an exceptional Act, not only in its conception, but in its operation. Indeed, that was acknowledged on all hands. It was acknowledged by the Prime Minister, who said at the time that the measure could only be justified by exceptional circumstances. Surely, then, his noble Friend was per- fectly justified in taking this ground—that this was an exceptional case, and one for which an exceptional remedy ought to be provided. The noble Earl thought that much of the state of Ireland was due to bad seasons; but he (the Earl of Donoughmore) was not satisfied that that was so, as the last four or five years in Ireland had been good. In England the seasons were against the farmers, and there had been a reduction of rents to about 10 per cent, which would probably be paid when the seasons were better. The reduction in Ireland was not according to the same ratio, and rents there would never be raised. His contention was that the reduction in Ireland was due to the disturbed state of the country, combined with the effect the Land Act had upon the tenants. With regard to the question of a peasant proprietary, he was not sure that it would be an unmixed blessing to Ireland, or to any country; but he was convinced that any attempt to create a peasant proprietary in Ireland ought to be made by the most careful and capable means. In the present state of Ireland the project seemed to him to be practicably impossible. The existing land block in Ireland reacted upon every industry in the country. That block in the land market was caused by the fact that the tenants either knew, or were persuaded, that some day or other the land would have to be sold for next to nothing. All that was asked of their Lordships in the Motion was that by some such machinery as suggested, the landlords might be able to go into the market and deal with their tenants on fair terms. He failed to see what particular good the Land Act bad done—it had certainly not improved the position of the landlords, and it had as yet done very little for the tenants, because he thought they would in future be hampered by the enormous tenant right which the Act created. All that was now asked was that the Government should look at this matter in a fair and impartial spirit.


I have listened with great attention to the speech of my noble Friend on the Cross Benches (Lord Castletown), and I think he has made out an excellent and unanswerable case for compensation in some form or other for the Irish landlords. There is not the slightest doubt that they have suffered most acutely from the effects of the Act of 1881; that in cases where they have been living upon margins the reduction, which should have been distributed over the whole estate, has fallen upon the margin, in many instances sweeping the whole of it away. It is unnecessary for me now to quote from the speeches of Ministers, who, at the time of the passing of the Land Act, prophesied to us the good effects of that measure upon the landlord's interest in his estate, and assured us that if confiscation could be proved compensation should be given. My Lords, confiscation has been proved over and over again. It has been proved to-day in the able speech of my noble Friend, and it is now high time that the Government took some steps to redeem the pledges which they have made. I shall not attempt to bring forward a proposal as to how this compensation could be awarded, or, in other words, how those landlords, who have been reduced almost to ruin in the manner I have described, are to be saved by the Government. There have been numerous plans suggested as to how loans at a cheap rate of interest might be raised; and perhaps the Government may see their way to adopt some one of these proposals, and tide those unfortunate landlords over their present difficulties. The Motion of my noble Friend refers also to the very much larger question of purchase; and whatever may be done to relieve the unfortunate landlords I have referred to, the Purchase Clauses must be made workable before there is any chance of success. We are informed that a Bill dealing with this subject is to be introduced by the Government very shortly; and I sincerely trust that this may not only be a real measure of relief for those landlords whose properties must be sold, and who are unable to find a purchaser at present, but that it may also be a long step in the direction of solving the whole Irish difficulty. At the time the Land Act was passing through your Lordships' House, I ventured to point out that there were certain clauses in the measure which had been put into it for the purpose of ornament; that they might look very well, and at the same time be sufficiently plausible to catch the votes of those who had hobbies on the subjects contained in them; but that, by anyone who knew the true position of affairs in Ireland, by anyone who could with any success calculate the effects of the Act upon the agricultural population of that country, they would be looked upon as perfectly unworkable. My Lords, I was taken to task by noble Lords opposite, and by the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack, for this statement; and it was also pointed out by the Marquess of Hartington that the Fair Rent Clauses of the Act itself were merely a modus Vivendi to enable those other clauses to come into operation; but I think it has been proved beyond any manner of doubt that, notwithstanding the statements of noble Lords opposite and the prophecies of the Marquess of Hartington, what I then foretold has actually come to pass; and the clauses relating to emigration, the reclamation of waste lands, and the establishment of a peasant proprietary are, in their present form, entirely inoperative. We have been over and over again informed by the Government that they are in favour of establishing a peasant proprietary; but they are in favour of doing it in as cheap and as nasty a manner as is possible. The fact that they are about to introduce a Bill for the Improvement of the Purchase Clauses proves that they admit failure; but now the question is, whether they are thoroughly aware of the reasons why the Purchase Clauses are now entirely unworkable? We all have heard of the argument that the present condition of an Irish tenant is very much against his being prepared to pay more money in the shape of an annual instalment for a certain number of years than he has been accustomed to pay for rent. We also know that the agitators never at any time had more the ear of the people than at present, and that they have been encouraging the tenants of Ireland to believe that they will get their land for nothing. I would remind the noble Earl that he stated that the tenants were equally dissatisfied with the decision of the Courts as well as the landlords; but I would point out that the tenants are dissatisfied simply because they expected to get their land for nothing. They found that the present Government were squeezable; and it is evident that they intend to squeeze them still further with a view to obtaining their land for nothing. These facts have operated against the working of the Purchase Clauses. But there are other reasons existing, which, perhaps, the Government may not be aware of, that are calculated to render their scheme entirely abortive; and among them is the fact that the Land Commission has, in addition to its other duties, the sale of land to tenants placed in its charge. There is every reason why the Land Commission should be the very worst medium between landlord and tenant for the purpose of bringing about sales. In the first place, I would like to point out that it cannot give a title without going to a great deal of unnecessary expense, and after that expense has been incurred, the title which can thus be obtained from the Land Commission Court is not nearly as good as the Parliamentary title, which can be obtained from the Landed Estates Court at less cost. Then, again, there is nobody in Ireland who can believe that the Land Commission Court is an absolutely impartial tribunal in regard to the sale of land. Its duties prove that it is not so. It acts for the tenant. Its duty is to buy land for the tenant out and out, to dispose of it to him again without making any profit, or to see that the number of years' purchase given, three-fourths of which will be advanced by the Treasury, should be as small as possible, so as to leave a very large margin for the security of the Government loan. It is acting for the Government and for the tenant, but not for the landlord. It has to buy as cheaply as possible from the landlord for the other two parties, and in either case acts in the direction of depreciating the landlord's interests. It has such enormous powers at its command that it can practically force any landlord who is obliged by his creditors to sell to part with his property almost at its own price. In the first place, it may have cut down the rents, thereby reducing the purchase money; and even then, if the landlord and tenant should have agreed upon a certain number of years' purchase, it may refuse to sanction the advance of three-fourths of the price agreed on—though the sale is boná fide—if it thinks the tenant might have got the holding cheaper, although the Government will have the additional security of the tenant's interest in his holding. The result is that if the landlord be obliged by his mortgagees to sell his estate the Land Commission, in its double capacity acting for the Government and for the tenant, can whittle down the purchase money to something far below the true market price. There are many instances which prove beyond contradiction that this is actually taking place—notably, for example, on the estate of Mr. John Bury, and also on the Costello Estate. Therefore, as long as the Land Commission has the carriage of sales, in every case where a landlord or mortgagee can hold on by any possible means, he will not hand his property over to be sacrificed at something far less than the market value. I hear on all sides in Ireland that the Land Commission is one of the chief causes of the dead-lock in the sale of estates, and is acting in a manner entirely opposed to the spirit of the Act which it was embodied to carry out. It is curious, when one hears so much said by the supporters of the present Government as to the necessity of encouraging the transfer of land, that, in Ireland, where of all countries that encouragement is most needed, the Government officials should be doing all in their power to prevent the sale and purchase of estates. Then, again, the Land Commission have no power to apportion head rents in a country where head rents are the rule, which of itself is sufficient, without any other reason, to prevent the Purchase Clauses being worked. Last year, in calling your Lordships' attention to the Report and Evidence taken before the Committee appointed to investigate the working of the Land Act, I took the liberty of suggesting that, as there was already a Court in Ireland charged with the exclusive duty of the sale of land, and also had all the machinery at its command, with extraordinary legal powers of carrying out sales in the cheapest, most expeditious, and most satisfactory manner, without bias one way or the other, and at the present moment deprived of its legitimate work by the effects of the dead-lock produced by the Land Act, that it should be made use of for the purpose of rendering the Purchase Clauses workable. The Landed Estates Court has far better opportunities of assessing the true value of estates, and so preventing frauds being committed on the Government, than any other Court in Ireland, because upon all sales the value of the property must be fully gone into, and all parties interested come before it. It is accustomed, too, in declarations of title, to ascertain the value of the property, and, in addition, all previous transactions and dealings with the estate are in its possession for reference. It alone has power to give a title which will stand against all comers. It alone can apportion head rents; to it alone must incumbrancers come in the first instance to have their securities realized; and if a sale to tenants is now effected by the Land Commission, having been obliged to purchase the property in the Landed Estates Court, two distinct sets of law costs are incurred, two distinct sets of officials are called into action, when the matter might far more easily and economically have been arranged without the intervention of a second tribunal. Then, again, I may also mention that the Land Commission cannot buy direct from the landlord unless all the incumbrancers are parties to the conveyance, and even then difficulties may arise as to the apportionment of the purchase money among the mortgagees; whereas the Landed Estates Court does not require the consent of the incumbrancers, but sells to the highest bidder, holding the purchase money; then calls on the incumbrancers to substantiate their claims to it. I cannot understand why this Court is passed over; why you are not making use of it. It is doing absolutely nothing at this moment. It has a most excellent Judge—one of the most efficient in Ireland—at the head of it, and it has a staff of most able officials. The duty of carrying out the Purchase Clauses could be satisfactorily performed by this Court, and at very little expense; and I do not understand why it should be intrusted to a Court which is most unfitted for it, and which has few of the powers absolutely indispensable for its proper discharge. In a Bill before the other House it is proposed to give these powers to a solicitor which are now exercised by a Judge of high standing in Ireland, and which are really very dangerous powers for the granting of titles to land, unless the matter is well gone into and sifted by a person in whom the greatest confidence can be placed, and likely to be productive of very serious difficulties. Why should you bring a third party into the business? The Land Commission Court has not the power; but the Landed Estates Court has. The lower Commission Court is already overburdened with work, and the other day a Supplementary Estimate was required to meet its expenses. The cost might be enormously reduced if only the work were transferred from a tribunal which has proved its incapacity to a tribunal which has every chance of carrying it out with success. Speaking of expenses, I should like to ask whether there is any chance of the expenses of the Land Court being reduced? It is most undesirable to have a number of Sub-Commissioners holding office at the discretion of the Party in power. That produces an injurious effect upon the action of the tribunal; and I think it is a matter of importance that the Sub-Commissioners should have the same status as the Judges of the land. They have most important duties imposed upon them, and there is no appeal from them except to the Chief Commissioners. I heard rumours in Dublin yesterday of the sort of Bill we are likely to have. I have been told that the Bill will propose to exact a local guarantee, and I believe from Boards of Guardians or from the Local Government Board. The defects which the Land Commission has for carrying out sales will be increased if the local guarantee is admitted, because you will be merely substituting a Board of Purchasers for the present tribunals. The faults of the Land Commissioners are that they are acting solely for the tenant, and that through defects of construction they are not able to do what they ought to bring about—sales. The Boards of Guardians are composed of the tenant farmers, and the Local Boards are similarly composed. They will be the purchasers. I should like to ask the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) whether he would like to have the number of years' purchase of his property assessed by the persons who are going to buy it? A local guarantee is asked for; that is exactly what the Bill will do; but it will turn out even much worse than before. I would prefer the Land Commission to carry out the sales rather than that the number of years' purchase should be fixed by the very men who are going to buy my estate. I sincerely hope something will be done for the unfortunate Irish landlord, who has been so pathetically alluded to by my noble Friend on the Cross Benches; and as a means to that end I hope the Purchase Clauses in the Bill will be dealt with in a truly liberal manner. The acknowledged blots ought to be swept away, and the recommendations of the Committee of last year as to the advances to tenants and as to the length of time for the repayment carried out. I believe that you can do little permanent good whatever scheme you adopt, whether it is my noble Friend's scheme or any other. You will do little permanent good to the Irish landlords unless you make the Purchase Clauses workable, and so remove the existing dead-lock. Looking deeper into the Irish question, I do not think we shall see a true solution of the Irish difficulty unless you take some means to largely increase the number of occupying owners in Ireland.


said, it appeared to him that the suggestion of his noble Friend on the Cross Bench (Lord Castletown), as far as he understood it, did not involve the consequences which were anticipated by the noble Earl the Secretary of State for India (the Earl of Kimberley). The noble Earl objected to an appeal being made to the British taxpayer to assist the landowners of Ireland; but, as he understood his noble Friend, he did not desire that any appeal should be made to the British taxpayer. All that his noble Friend suggested was that facilities should be given by the Government for money to be obtained to carry out the various schemes which he had laid before the House. That appeared to him to be a very different thing, and not to be open to the objections that had been urged by the noble Earl the Secretary of State for India. As was generally done in these debates, the noble Earl had again alluded to the fact that rents had been, reduced in England also. They all knew that perfectly well. But, surely, everyone in that House, and outside it, must recognize the complete difference between the reductions which had taken place in England and those which had taken place in Ireland. A great many of their Lordships, who owned property in Ireland, possessed property in England also; but though they were most anxious that assistance should be given to the impoverished landlords in Ireland, and thought that, in justice, they were entitled to have that assistance given to them from the State, yet they would never dream of asking for anything of the kind in reference to England. The cases were totally different. The reductions in England had been made voluntarily, and were due to natural causes, and the necessities arising there from. Then, a landowner in this country might take the land into his own hands and farm it if he liked. In fact, he could do what he liked with regard to his own land. Further, they all knew perfectly well that in many cases it was very difficult to let land—things had been so bad. In Ireland, on the contrary, they found that rents were reduced, although people were competing for it. The noble Earl also appeared to think that, in the case of owners who had received an indefeasible title from the Landed Estates Court, no hardship was involved in their having had their rents reduced. He said that they merely bought the estates, and did not buy them subject to any particular rent. That, of course, was true. They bought them with perfect right to obtain any rent they could get; but the Government introduced and passed an Act which limited their right to obtain what they could. In the cases of England and Ireland, therefore, the reduction of rents which had taken place were so dissimilar that it was quite useless to introduce any parallel. He thought that the landowning class in Ireland deserved great sympathy. They deserved more than that. They deserved, at least, justice. They had their incomes largely reduced by the action of the State. But that was not all. The action of the State unsettled the whole basis of society in the country. It disturbed men's minds; and the only way in which anything like satisfaction could be made would be for the State to show that although it thought fit to interfere and to determine the value of the commodity, yet, if that caused hardship, injustice, and loss it would interfere again to see the loss made good. The question was a larger one than that involved in the position of the landlords themselves. Nothing could be worse to a country than the existence of an impoverished landowning class. They could do no earthly good. They could not manage their property in a way conducive to the advantage or the welfare of the country; and he maintained that it was the duty of the Government in this case to do anything they possibly could in order to ameliorate the condition of the landowners in Ireland, who had been reduced to their present lamentable condition by the action of the State.


, in asking leave to withdraw the Motion, stated that he had proposed to make no demand whatever upon the taxpayer. He did not regard the explanation of the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) as satisfactory. He ventured to hope that the Government would reconsider the question in no hostile spirit. He was compelled to say that he should reserve to himself a perfect right to raise this question again, and fight the fight to the bitter end.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.