§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
*THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (Earl CADOGAN)
My Lords, it is now some four and a half years since the first of a series of measures intended to deal with the land question in Ireland by the present Government was presented to your Lordships' House. The Land Bill of 1887 was in one sense a connecting link between the policy of Her Majesty's Government with reference to the land question and that of their predecessors. It was intended to remedy the defects ef the Act of 1881, especially with reference to the question affecting leaseholders, and matters connected with evictions. But when I had the honour of introducing that Bill to your Lordships I was careful to explain that Her Majesty's Government did not view that measure as to any large extent productive of a final solution of the difficulties connected with the tenure of land in Ireland. I stated at that time that it was the opinion of the Government that the only permanent solution that might be found for that difficult question was to be sought in the production of a large and generous measure for the assistance of land purchase in Ireland. The question of land purchase, which involves the giving of assistance 1366 to occupying tenants for the purchase of their holdings, has two objects to effect. The first is to increase the number of peasant proprietors in Ireland, and the second is, as far as possible, to diminish and, if possible, to do away with the evil effects which have been found to attend on the system of dual ownership. Now, my Lords, it is somewhat interesting to note that Mr. Gladstone, to whom belongs the credit of having first given practical effect to the idea that the land question was the most important of all the difficult questions connected with the Government of Ireland, evidently had in his mind the two objects connected with land purchase which I have just enumerated, because in the Land Bill of 1870, which was the first measure connected with the land laws which that right hon. Gentleman introduced, he introduced what are known as the Bright Clauses, which provided a certain method of procedure with regard to land purchase. I may also say that in the previous year, in a measure connected with the disestablishment of the Irish Church, there were also some provisions with the same object. But in 1870 there was no such thing as dual ownership, and therefore it is evident that when Mr. Gladstone provided for the assistance of land purchase in Ireland he was doing so for the purpose of increasing the number of peasant proprietors in Ireland. The system of dual ownership, as your Lordships well know, was practically created under the Bill of 1881, which established the two principles of fixity of tenure and freedom of sale, and in all measures connected with land legislation which have been brought before Parliament since that date your Lordships will find that invariably clauses were inserted providing facilities for land purchase. I need hardly, I am sure, in this House quote from the opinions expressed by statesmen of all Parties in encouragement of the policy of increasing the number of peasant proprietors. I prefer to deal with acts and not with words. I will briefly remind your Lordships of what has taken place with regard to legislation connected with land purchase in the last 21 years. I have already mentioned that in the Act of 1870 the Bright Clauses were introduced, which provided for the advance of money 1367 by the Treasury, limited to £1,000,000 per annum, to the extent of two-thirds of the holding, annuities being payable on the whole amount. In the Land Act of 1881 we find the same principle embodied; we find the credit of the State involved by moneys being provided by Parliament in the shape of advances for land purchase, in this case to the extent of three-quarters of the holding instead of two-thirds. In 1884 Mr. Trevelyan, now Sir G. Trevelyan, a distinguished Member of the Party opposite, introduced a Bill in the House of Commons, which did not become law, but which was founded very much on the same lines. Again, the credit of the State was called in to assist in the purchase by Irish tenants of their holdings; again there was a limitation, a larger limit this time, namely, £20,000,000; and again a guarantee, to a certain extent, was provided. Then we come to the Act which has been so honourably associated with the name of my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, which is known as the Ashbourne Act of 1885. In this case, for the first time, the whole of the purchase-money was advanced by the Land Commission, and and again in that Bill the credit of the State was employed. It was limited in extent to the amount of £5,000,000, and the advances were secured by what was known as a guarantee deposit, to the extent of one-fifth of the purchase money. Later on, in 1888, another sum of £5,000,000 was added to the sum devoted to the purpose of the Ashbourne Act of 1885. Then we come to the Bill introduced by Mr. Gladstone in 1886. Now that Bill, although to a certain extent it embodied the same principles as those to which I have already alluded, was accompanied by one condition which, to a certain extent, takes it out of the category of the others. It was linked with a measure for what is known as Home Rule in Ireland, and under those circumstances it is impossible to argue upon it on the same lines as those on which one can consider the other measures which I have mentioned. It will be noticed that throughout all these various measures the same general principles are adopted, and perhaps I ought to add that the same general objections can be found to each of these Bills in turn. In, all these cases the credit of 1368 the State was used for the purpose of benefitting the tenants in Ireland, and in all these cases the Bills are open to that one objection which I feel bound at this early stage of my remarks to admit exists, namely, that the result is that the State is brought into immediate contact with the tenants—as the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll) contended on a former occasion—somewhat in the manner of the connection that exists between landlord and tenant. I venture to submit to the noble Duk I that perhaps the analogy of the relatioe between landlord and tenant is non exactly that which exists between the State and an occupying owner whoe has purchased; I would suggest that the analogy is perhaps closer of a mortgagee or a rent-charger. The question of land purchase has at present absorbed all other questions with reference to land legislation in Ireland; and although all Land Purchase Bills have differed those Bills differed in various conditions, yet in their general principles they rested upon the same foundation. The one-difficulty which has remained—the one portion of the question which has occupied the attention of all statesmen and of both Houses of Parliament—has been, How shall we be able so to hedge round this gift—this advance, as I should more correctly call it—with secure guarantees, which, while using the credit of Great Britain, will involve absolutely no risk to the British taxpayer? There is one other preliminary observation which I should like to make. Much has been said in the course of the discussion on this measure on the inconsistency which our opponents think they have discovered in the conduct of the Government and of their supporters in producing a measure-of this description after the pledges which it is asserted they gave in the year 1886. There is one hon. Gentleman, a Member of the other House of Parliament, who occupies a position of great authority in the Party opposite, who is never tired of telling us that in 1886 the Unionist candidates throughout the country engaged themselves under no circumstances whatever to pledge the credit of the country for the purposes of land purchase in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman told us on one occasion that a collection of those addresses is to be found 1369 in the British Museum, and on a later occasion he informed us that by some inscrutable process they had been transferred to his own pocket. I can only say that, for myself, I cannot understand that any Unionist candidate in the election of 1886 should have made any other pledge than that described by the hon. Gentleman. The House will remember that in that year the only land purchase scheme before the country was one which involved British credit to the amount of £50,000,000 sterling, which gave this money to a State Authority under a Home Rule Government controlled by an Irish Parliament, whoso duty it was to purchase the holdings, and who alone were responsible for the securities which were naturally required. I cannot think that in 1886 any Unionist candidate could have been found to vote for any such proposal, nor can I believe, if in the present day any measure were brought forward on the lines of that of 1886, any Unionist Member of either House of Parliament would be found willing to support it. It is certain that no public money will ever be granted by the Imperial Parliament to a Parliament in Dublin; and if the events of 1886 and the election of that year have taught us anything, it is that if British credit is to be used for Irish purposes it must be under proper safeguards and under the control of the Imperial Parliament. Before I proceed to lay before the House, which I shall do as succinctly as I can, the main provisions of this Bill, it may be a relief to your Lordships that I should say I do not propose to go at any length into the details of the various clauses which the Bill contains, nor do I necessarily bind myself to take the various subjects dealt with in the clauses in the order in which they will be found in the Bill. I believe it will be more agreeable to the House that I should merely give a rough sketch of the general principles upon which the Bill proposes to proceed, leaving to the Committee stage the details which it probably would be distasteful for the House to discuss now. It has been said that this measure is one not only of great complexity, but one which presents unnecessary complications. If that is the case, I can only say our justification is to be found, not only in the fact that any measure dealing 1370 with the complicated system of land tenure in Ireland must contain an enormous number of complex details and almost unintelligible procedure; but I wish to recall the memory of the House to the discussions which took place in 1888, when the House of Commons was asked to provide a further sum of money for carrying out the Ashbourne Act of 1885. Anyone who reads attentively those discussions will agree that it would have been absolutely impossible, after the views expressed in the House of Commons on that occasion, to suppose that there could be passed through Parliament any further measure involving any risk to the British taxpayer. It was clearly understood on the introduction of the Bill of 1888 that Parliament would sanction no farther payments of a similar description, and, therefore, if British credit is to be used to any further extent, it is obvious that it must be accompanied and hedged round by the amplest securities and the most perfect guarantees, in order to avoid any possible risk of loss to the British taxpayer. Now, with reference to the history of this Bill. As your Lordships will probably remember, the Bill was brought in in February of last year. It was then in the shape in which we should have preferred to see it passed. It was a largo measure, consisting of three parts, the first providing for land purchase by a completely new mode of procedure, the second dealing with congested districts, and the third containing provisions for the consolidation and rearrangement of the Land Department. Owing to Parliamentary exigencies, to which I will not at present allude, it was found impossible to pass that measure in the Session of 1890; and when Parliament met again in the autumn of that year the Bill was re-introduced by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary. Further changes were again rendered necessary by the exigencies of time. It was found necessary to divide the Bill into two parts. The first part dealt with the purchases, but under a different system, because the clauses were engrafted upon those contained in the Act of Lord Ashbourne; it dealt with congested districts, and it contained, as then introduced, one clause securing perpetuity of tenure. The second part of the Bill contained 1371 provisions with reference to the Land Department clauses dealing with turbary, leaseholders, and other subjects. It has been found necessary to drop the last of these Bills, and the Bill which I have now the honour to ask your Lordships to read a second time is simply the first Bill, containing an amplification of the procedure of the Ashbourne Acts with reference to the purchase provisions, clauses relating to congested districts, and some further clauses imported from the Land Department Bill in order to carry out most necessary provisions in regard to that portion of the question. The first and leading principle of this Bill is a pledge of British credit up to a certain limit to carry out its objects. The majority of its clauses have been framed so as to enable us to use that credit so as to avoid throwing any risk whatever on the taxpayer, and in order to provide, if possible, absolutely sufficient guarantees. The second object is to provide for the allocation of the money to be lent for land purchase; and the third object is to provide for the relief of congested districts; and there are also a few clauses, as I have before mentioned, with reference to the Land Department. These objects it is proposed to attain as follows: The main security taken in this Bill over and above the primary security of the holding itself is the power to capture, for purposes of security against loss to the British taxpayer, the Imperial contributions to Irish local purposes. I will reserve the list of these contributions until I come to deal with the Guarantee Fund, which is created, as your Lordships will see, under Clause 5. The financial provisions of this Bill are engrafted on the system of land purchase under the Ashbourne Act, and this Bill is to be read into that Act, with certain modifications, which I will now proceed to summarise. When the landlord and tenant are agreed on the sale of a holding—the Bill being entirely permissive in its character—and when the Land Commission have sanctioned the advance, the advance is made to the landlord, not in cash, but in the issue of guaranteed Land Stock of the nominal amount of the advance, producing dividends at the rate of 2¾ per cent. In order to provide for the payment of these dividends and for the redemption of the whole amount in 49 years, the purchasing tenant pays a pur- 1372 chase annuity for that period, the normal rate of which is 4 per cent. on the advance, but which is fixed at a higher rate during the earlier years of the term in order to provide the tenants' Insurance Fund, which I will explain hereafter. This purchase annuity at 4 per cent. will provide for the following purposes:—2¾per cent. on the advance, 1 per cent. Sinking Fund to pay off the capital in 49 years, and ¼ per cent.—5s.: £100, termed in the Act the "county percentage "—which, subject to charges in connection with the Guaranteed Fund, is devoted to local purposes, and primarily for the purpose of providing labourers' dwellings in the various counties. The purchase annuities are paid into the Land Purchase Account provided for in the Bill, and if there is any deficiency in the payment either of interest or capital, or in the county percentage, that deficiency is temporarily advanced out of the Consolidated Fund—I should like to call the attention of the House to this provision—this temporary advance out of the Consolidated Fund being to a certain extent an automatic operation. It will be obvious that if at any time there are arrears in the payment of annuities and interest, it would be impossible to obtain investors in Land Stock at 2¾ per cent. Therefore, the Bill provides for the automatic filling up of any deficiency by the Consolidated Fund, and the object of guarantees is to recoup the Consolidated Fund. I will now proceed to explain to the House the various provisions in reference to this Guarantee Fund to which I have alluded, and which is intended to recoup the Consolidated Fund by the repayment of its temporary advances. The Guarantee Fund is of two kinds—there are the cash portion and the contingent portion. The cash portion consists of the Irish Probate Duty grant, which is a little over £200,000 per annum, the Exchequer contribution of £40,000, which is to be paid each year out of the Consolidated Fund; and the county percentage. In so far as the Exchequer contribution is not required to make up any deficiency, it is to be invested annually until it reaches £200,000, which is reserved for an object I will explain afterwards. Those two items form what is termed the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund. I now proceed to enumerate 1373 the various items which make up the Contingent Fund. In the first place, the contingent portion of the Guarantee Fund includes the Irish share of the local taxation (Customs and Excise) Duties, amounting to £700,000, and the following local grants:—Rates on Government property, grants to model schools and national schools, grants for the maintenance of children in industrial schools, grants in aid of workhouses and dispensaries, and grants to wards the cost of pauper lunatics in District Asylums. In a case in which the cash portion of the fund has been used, there is a provision for enabling the Lord Lieutenant to order a levy to be made by the Grand Jury. This levy will defend the locality from the loss which would be entailed by touching any contingent portion of the Guarantee Fund. I think those are the chief points to which I need call the attention of the House with reference to the Guarantee Fund. There is one more procedure in case of failure, wholly or in part, to recover arrears. Under the Act of 1885, after exhausting all legal remedies against a tenant and his holding, the Land Commissioners were authorised to declare the amount they failed to recover to be an irrecoverable debt, and then it was possible to resort to the one - fifth guarantee deposit. By this Bill the Commissioners are enabled to retain the guarantee deposit in every case, and only one-half of the sum declared to be irrecoverable is to be borne by the guarantee deposit. Now the reason for this latter provision is as follows: Under the Ashbourne Act the State had but one security in addition to the holding—namely, the one-fifth guarantee deposit. Under this Bill the State has two securities—the guarantee deposit and the contribution to the local rates, that is, the Guarantee Fund; and it is only fair that both should bear their proportion of the loss. The great defect in all systems of land purchase has been the absence of provisions for periods of exceptional distress and calamity. In former Bills the only remedy was the sale of the purchaser's interests. This Bill provides two distinct resources against such a contingency. The first is provided by the increase of the annuity payable in the earlier years, called the purchaser's Insurance Fund, on which he 1374 can draw in seasons of distress. The second is the Reserve Fund to be created by means of the carrying over of the £40,000 a year Exchequer contribution in so far as it is not required under the Act. The purchaser's Insurance Fund is the difference between 80 per cent. of the annual value of the holding which will be payable for five years and an annuity of 4 per cent. on the advance. This is only used when the advance is less than 20 years' purchase of the annual value of the holding, but the period may be extended by an order of the Lord Lieutenant in certain exceptional circumstances. Perhaps I might illustrate the working of this increased annuity by supposing a very simple case. Suppose an estate to be worth. £100 a year, and that the tenant bought at the rate of 15 years' purchase, a rate which may make some noble Lords shudder; but they may remember they are dealing only with cases under 20 years' purchase. On an estate of the annual value of £100, 80 per cent. would be £80 a year; but 4 per cent. on £100 at 15 years' purchase would be £60 a year. Therefore, in that case the tenant's insurance would be an annual sum of £20, which will be carried to his account and which will be placed at his disposal in case of exceptional calamity or distress. The other source of the Reserve Fund is created by paying over £40,000 a year out of the Exchequer contributions until the amount so carried has reached £200,000. There are one or two other points which require notice. A point of interest to your Lordships is the allocation of the total amount to be advanced in any county in proportion to the number of holdings above and below £50 value. Statistics of the working of the Ashbourne Act prove that the tenancies under £50, are as 12 to 1, compared with those over £50, and the proportion of money allocated under the Act of 1885 is as two to three. If the chief object of land purchase, as I ventured to say at the outset of my remarks, is to increase the number of peasant proprietors, and if the funds available are limited, it is obvious, if you wish to make your money go far in the desired direction, it is absolutely necessary that there should be some method of proportioning the advances to the relative numbers of the holdings. How- 1375 ever, as I said before, that is a clause which, though very important in itself, can, I think, be much better discussed in Committee. Then there is a provision in Clause 12 which enables tenants who were formerly in occupation of a holding to purchase. This is limited to cases where a tenancy has been determined since the 1st May, 1879, and the former landlord or his successor are still in possession, and it can only be resorted to within six months after the passing of the Act. Lastly, there is a provision of of considerable importance in Clause 8, which authorises the re-lending of money provided by British credit. As soon as 25 times the share of a county in the Guarantee Fund has been advanced, the Treasury may order additional advances in that county out of the capital accumulated in the Sinking Fund, so that practically there will always be money available for land purchase in Ireland. I think those are the chief points which call for remark in that portion of the Bill which deals with land purchase, and I now come to the question of the congested districts. Your Lordships are aware that however much land tenure in Ireland may have been discussed in Parliament, and however many measures may have been introduced for dealing with it, no statesman or Government has at any previous time attempted to deal with this most intricate and in some respects anxious and critical question. Clause 30 declares that a district may be declared to be a congested district when the proportion between the total population of electoral divisions and the total rateable value is less than £1 6s. 8d. per head. Those districts are formed into separate counties for the purposes of the Act, and in the Guarantee Fund in those districts, £1,500,000 of the Irish Church Fund is substituted for that part of the contingent Guarantee Fund which comes under the head of model and industrial schools; and there is one condition under which those congested districts will receive their guarantees, namely, that when a levy is made, half only will be made out of the county, and the other half will be made out of the £1,500,000 of the Church Fund, which, as I have said, is devoted to these congested districts. Then a Congested Districts Board is formed, whose chief 1376 duty will be to bring about the amalgamation of small holdings, to assist migration and emigration, and generally to develop the industries and resources of the poorest districts in Ireland. Then with regard to the powers of the Land Commissioners the question at once arises whether, the Land Department Bill having been dropped in the other House, it might not be possible to utilise the whole strength of both classes of the present Land Commissioners for the purpose of land purchase. Your Lordships will remember that two additional Land Commissioners were appointed for land purchase under the Ashbourne Act, and no doubt they were sufficient in number for the work which they bad to perform at at that time; but under this Bill provision will have to be made for the discharge of duties on a much larger scale, because it is not unreasonable to suppose that under the provisions of this Bill the work of the Land Purchase Commissioners will be enormously increased. By Clause 24 of the Bill it is provided that the three Commissioners appointed under the Act of 1881 and the two Commissioners appointed under the Act of 1885 shall each and all of them be empowered to act separately in carrying out the provisions of this Bill, provided that any person aggrieved may appeal from the decision of any single Commissioner to three other of the five Commissioners, one of whom must always be the legal Commissioner. I may say that the necessity for a tribunal of appeal has been generally recognised, and has, therefore, been provided for in the Bill. I have now given to your Lordships cursorily what, I admit, is an imperfect and a rough sketch of the more important provisions of this intricate and complicated measure. I know not what may be the character of the opposition which this Bill may meet with in this House. One noble Lord has given notice of an opposition to the measure which I prefer to regard as being of a friendly character, inasmuch as it invites your Lordships to read the Bill a second time on the 25th of April next. I prefer, therefore, to read that as a plea merely for delay. With regard to the noble Lords who sit behind me, I am quite aware that there may possibly be a large number of provisions in the Bill to which they may object—to which they may 1377 even be strongly opposed, and upon which they may make proposals when the measure gets into Committee; but I have no doubt that the main policy of Her Majesty's Government on this important and difficult subject will receive their sanction. I have a vivid recollection of the way in which they received the Bill of 1887, which required from my noble Friends a large measure of self-denial and patriotism, and yet which received in the main an acquiescence for which I at the time felt deeply grateful. I have no doubt that on the present occasion, when we get into Committee, my noble Friends will be disposed so to amend the Bill as to make it conform to their wishes and yet not resist the principle upon which it is founded by voting against it on Second Reading. With regard to the noble Lords opposite, I cannot forecast what may be their attitude. The only authoritative declaration that I have seen was contained in a speech made last week by Earl Spencer, whom I will venture to call my noble Friend, whose absence through ill-health I deeply regret; and in the circumstances I will refrain from commenting upon that declaration. I prefer to devote myself to the more congenial task of making allusion to a most statesmanlike speech which the noble Earl delivered in 1885, in reference to the Ashbourne Act, of which it is not too much to say that it was one of the ablest delivered in the long course of the discussions upon this subject of land purchase. He criticised the Bill from all points of view, but in a spirit of friendliness, and apparently with a great desire to assist as far as he could the passing of an adequate measure for the purpose which was aimed at by that Act. He concluded with these words which I should like, with your Lordships' permission, to read:—It would give me the greatest satisfaction if a Bill of the kind, on sound principles, were carried through Parliament that it should he a success. A great deal depends on the condition of Ireland. If Ireland is prosperous, and law and order are maintained in that country, if intimidation is kept down, and if men of various classes may follow their lawful occupations without interference from voluntary and unlawful associations, then I think this Bill will have some chance of success, and certainly no one wishes it more success than I do.If the noble Lord were here I should like to ask him whether he does not 1378 think that all the conditions which he required have been fulfilled, and whether we are not justified in the production of a measure of this description. I can emphatically state that Ireland is now prosperous, that law and order are maintained in that country, that there is less intimidation, and that men can follow their lawful occupation without interference from violent and unlawful associations. Perhaps I may add now what could not have been said in 1885, that that condition has been brought about without the use of those methods of coercion against which noble' Lords opposite have so often protested. At present the condition of Ireland is such that we are justified in looking forward to the time when it may be unnecessary to continue in force the provisions of what are termed the Coercion Acts, and that we are justified in appealing to both sides of the House to enable us to pass this measure with unanimity. I feel that in the statement I have made I have already trespassed too long upon your Lordships' indulgence. I have endeavoured to show that this Bill is one that will carry out objects which have been sought for by all Parties alike, that in its main features it is but an amplification of the present system of land purchase in Ireland, and that in its securities it guarantees for protecting the British taxpayer against loss. its provisions are entirely and absolutely adequate. It has been discussed by the House of Commons paragraph by paragraph and line by line, and it now comes before your Lordships' House as a Bill in connection with the national credit, approved by that House which has almost exclusive authority over that credit. My Lords, I venture to conclude with the expression of an earnest hope that your Lordships will affirm the principles upon which the Bill is founded, by unanimously assenting to the Second Reading of the measure. The past history of land legislation in Ireland furnishes a long and dreary record of hopes deferred, of efforts defeated, and of good intentions frustrated. It is difficult to speak with confidence as to the future, though some, and they are those who perhaps have the best right to form an opinion in the matter, can already discern the dawn of brighter days, and signs of happiness to come for those whom it is 1379 our intention to benefit by the legislation now proposed. In commending this measure to your Lordships, I am, at all events, justified in saying that its principle is one that can be conceded without misgiving, and accepted without compunction; that it is offered and promoted in a spirit of loving-kindness and goodwill, and that it is calculated to strengthen and perpetuate those bonds of union between Great Britain and Ireland by which alone the stability of the Empire can be maintained. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl Cadogan.)
Having, in 1887, opposed Lord Ashbourne's Act, your Lordships will not be surprised at my moving the postponement of this Bill for ten months. If your Lordships think well of it at the end of that time you can adjourn the House and revive it. I do not think any owner of property in this country would wish his land to be treated in the way this Bill disposes of the property of Irish landlords. I have been 37 years a landlord, and I believe that the best possible feeling exists between my tenants and myself. I have the greatest regard for them, and I believe they have considerable esteem for me. The dual relation is the best that can possibly exist. It was founded by Joseph. The landlord has to find the seed, and the tenant to give part of the increase. That was strangely forgotten until the failure of the potato crop broke suddenly upon the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The Chief Secretary was at North Berwick enjoying himself, when suddenly he found there was excessive distress existing in Ireland. If a district is congested it is very necessary, if possible, to keep the people upon the land. Your Lordships will remember the proposition for providing the people with three acres and a cow. Mrs. Manners Ingram and Sir George Wombwell were applied to by me, and their agent told me that no man who would work for his neighbours as well as depending upon a small portion of land could be accommodated with those privileges. Small holdings may be very well. Lady Verney, the sister of Florence Nightin- 1380 gale, wrote a most admirable account of the working of the system of peasant proprietary in foreign countries. How is a man who pays more than what is his rent possibly to gain stock, implements, and everything that is necessary to ensure the prosperity of a farm? I am deeply interested in Ireland. I was there in 1836, just after the time of the McCormack Riots, as I suppose I must call them. I rode from Cork to Dungarvan, taking twenty-two hours and a half, and I saw that the destitution was indeed great. I remember at the Gap of Dunloe seeing a man with his face almost black with famine. By increasing the prosperity of the farmer you may enable him to agree with his landlord, and to be happy. In my small experience I have done a great deal to reconcile at least one farmer to his landlord, and I believe I succeeded. The provisions of the Agricultural Seeds Bill, which was brought into this House when the Standing Orders were suspended, were solely for potatoes. The addition of roots would have been a very great improvement to it. I am sure your Lordships do not understand Ireland. I advise you to go there, and you will see what the people really are. They do not wish to be forced out of the country. They would wish to put taxes upon foreign imports. If we find foreign imports better than our own articles, we surely are justified in handicapping them. It is a confession that foreign countries are producing articles which are better than our own, and therefore they can afford to pay for a good market for them. I am satisfied that the whole of the Irish people desire Fair Trade. We scoff at Fair Trade, and talk of the defects of Fair Trade. Surely mutual facilities is the law of comity among nations. I do most earnestly hope your Lordships will not involve yourselves in so tedious a discussion as occurred in another place upon this most intricate Bill. As a landlord, I would not change the security of my land for anything else you might offer me. What a number of changes may happen in 49 years! It is presumptuous to look forward in that way. Then, again, look at the state of disunion between Boards of Guardians in Ireland and Grand Juries. Adding to the rates is no security, because they may refuse 1381 to pay those rates. We have been on the verge of rebellion in Ireland. They have seen it does not answer; but, as Mr. Justin McCarthy said to me, "You have a National Union, but divided hearts." If you do not win the affections of the people, you never can govern them. They are a most warm-hearted people. I have known a great many of them, and have employed them over 20 years, and I have always been on a good understanding with them. You cannot by large grants of money gain the good opinion of those for whose benefit these large sums are contributed. There is something extremely obstinate in the Irish character. A farmer told me that there had been very beautiful barns built for the tenants to thresh in, and when they were remonstrated with for not using them, they said, "Shure the corn will wait." With people of that sort it is very difficult to deal, but if you show that you are earnestly desirous of doing all you can for their prosperity, you will gain their support. Only last evening, I believe, the Leader of the Liberal Unionists (Lord Hartington) said that at the end of a year, perhaps, we should have a great struggle between the Unionists and others. It is not a question of struggle, it is a question of peace. It was so in the attempt to repeal the Union with Scotland. That only arose from the malt being too highly taxed in Scotland, and from some difference between Councillors; but that measure was only rejected by a very small minority in this House. It is a question which is to be decided on common sense principles. When the Duke of Wellington was in the Peninsula he said, you find the Irishman, when he is in the vineyards, is in a good humour; the Scotchman, when he is punctually paid; and the Englishman is always loyal. I believe we are a loyal Nation, and I am certain we wish for peace with all the world. I do most earnestly hope, as there may be some division of opinion upon this Bill, which is really a Money Bill, that your Lordships will not give yourselves the trouble to accord it a Second Reading.
§ Amendment moved, to leave out (" now,") and add at the end of the Motion (" this day ten months.")—(The Lord Denman.)1382
§ *THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD (who, by leave of the House, was heard sitting) said
My Lords, I beg to thank you very much for allowing me to-address you seated. I think your Lordships will join with me in congratulating my noble Friend on the very able speech he made in introducing this most complicated and intricate Bill. I believe this is the most complicated measure almost that has ever been presented to Parliament. I do not believe, myself, that even the noble Lord, who apparently knows the Bill so well, or any other Member of Her Majesty's Government, can possibly tell what will be the actual result of some of these clauses. As the noble Lord has stated to you, the principle of creating an occupying proprietary in Ireland has been adopted by all parties in the State. My noble Friend went through the number of Acts that have been passed by different Political Parties, beginning, I think, with the Church Act and ending with the only Act which I may say has proved workable—the Act of 1885—which was introduced by my noble Friend (Lord Ashbourne) below me. I think your Lordships are in thorough agreement with regard to the healing nature of these Purchase Acts in Ireland. I have seen it myself in my own and in other districts. I have seen purchasers leave the League and withdraw their subscriptions entirely from its objects. I have said this is a very complicated Bill, but I think I may also fairly say it is one of the cleverest propositions that has ever been placed before Parliament, and I think it reflects the greatest credit upon the Chief Secretary, to whom we Irishmen, and I think I may say Englishmen as well, owe so very much. He had here to deal with one of the most diff-cult problems it is possible to conceive. He had to provide ample security to the taxpayer, and at the same time he had to satisfy a large number of other parties whose interests used to be identical, but I regret to say have been rendered thoroughly antagonistic by the Act of 1881. I think when Her Majesty's Government brought forward this measure they intended, and it was in the mind of my noble Friend when he made the speech introducing this Bill, to do away with dual ownership, and my noble 1383 Friend took credit to himself for the fact that this Bill was going to do away with dual ownership; but I think he forgot the clause in this Bill, which absolutely prevents dual ownership being done away with at all. It prevents a large number of men who can have a fair rent fixed coming under this Act—I allude to Clause 10, the "limit" to which my noble Friend alluded. Now, my Lords, I come to the congested districts, and I think this portion of the Bill is also a most clever attempt to deal with a most difficult subject, the districts which has been called the "Cancer of Ireland." I think everyone will rejoice if the man who has proved himself to be one of the best Chief Secretaries we have ever had in Ireland, should be successful in this first effort that has been made to deal with this most thorny subject, an effort which probably will lead to future efforts of the same description; and I say again, if this effort be successful, I am satisfied that the name of the Chief Secretary will be handed down to future generations as one of the greatest benefactors Ireland has ever seen. Well, my noble Friend has alluded so fully to the security provided to the British taxpayer that I need hardly refer to it again. The taxpayer has indeed been looked after with fatherly care. The Chief Secretary was not satisfied with what satisfied my noble and learned Friend below me, the guarantee deposit of the landlord, the one-fifth out of the purchase-money which was found amply sufficient under the Ashbourne Acts; but he established another fund as well, in addition to the guarantee deposit, and he has provided counter checks and checks again, until the British taxpayer, I think, is absolutely protected. My noble Friend has alluded to the guarantee fund, and he has pointed out to your Lordships what that fund is composed of. I think your Lordships will agree with me that before the British taxpayer can lose one single shilling, almost the whole machinery of civilised life in Ireland must cease; and as the Lord Lieutenant has powers to levy on any county to cover any deficiency, I cannot see how any risk to the British taxpayer can ever arise at all. There is a great deal more of the 1384 machinery in this Bill, which my noble Friend has alluded to so very ably, which I think is extraordinarily clever. This Bill abounds in clauses most care-fully drawn to make the measure satisfactory to all parties. My noble Friend asked the noble Lords behind me whether they approve of the principle of this Bill. Well, I have had the opportunity of knowing the opinion of noble Lords from Ireland, and I think, as a rule, they approve entirely of the principles of the Bill; but I was glad to hear from what my noble Friend stated that he is not opposed to putting in certain Amendments which, I think, would improve the Measure very much indeed. I will allude to one or two points in which, I think, this Bill ought to be amended in order to make it workable, because in its present form I am doubtful whether it will be as workable, or anything like as workable, as the measures which are called after my noble and learned friend below me, the Ashbourne Acts. Some of the clauses were in the Bill originally when it was introduced'; other clauses have been added in another place, and I believe it is the fact—I do not think anybody will contradict me—that landlords have not been very keen to sell, and tenants have not been very keen to buy under the Ashbourne Acts. As this measure does not give either Party nearly such good terms, what is to create the rush, which it seems the Government expect? I believe there will be no rush; on the contrary, I believe it will be most difficult if these clauses are left as they are—if they are altered it may be quite a different thing—but if they are left as they are I believe it will be most difficult to induce either landlords to sell or tenants to buy. Well, I will begin with the first. Your Lordships are aware, from what my noble Friend has told you, that the landlords are to paid in guaranteed land stock. I would ask your Lordships, do you believe that that stock is going to be worth 20s. in the £1. Do you believe that the name of Ireland attached to a stock will at once render it more valuable than Consols? I believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in another place, himself stated that a small stock (and this will be a small stock in proportion), is never so 1385 valuable as a large stock; and my belief is that the landlords who sell will have to sell at least at one year's purchase more in order to receive the same amount in cash they would have received under the Ashbourne Acts. Now I will pass to another thing. There is no provision under this Bill to oblige mortgagees or holders of charges to accept this stock at the face value. I believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has refused to accept this stock in payment of Government charges. I think it is really a very hard thing—and I would commend it to the noble Lords below me—that Her Majesty's Government should have created a stock to buy out Irish landlords and should then refuse to take their own stock in payment of debts due by the landlords to the Government. The only thing the landlords will be able to do—and they will be obliged to do it—will be to put this stock upon the market. Your Lordships are probably aware that Consols are at, I think, 95 now; therefore at this moment, if supposing this stock, which I do not for a moment believe, will be as valuable as Consols, the landlords would lose, when they sold, at least 5 per cent., and probably more. I said just now there are provisions in this Bill which will prevent landlords selling and tenants buying; and I would ask your Lordships whether you think that this clause will induce landlords to sell. There is a provision which my noble Friend pointed out which is called the Insurance Clause. This clause is to do various things, but among other things it is to provide for agricultural calamities. I am going to deal with the question of agricultural calamities later. The landlords of the North of Ireland approve of this clause, and I may say that in the Landlords' Convention, of which I have acted as Chairman in London, the majority approve of this clause. But I have heard it stated that there are some landlords in the North of Ireland particularly who have not any wish that this Bill should work at all. But, on the other hand, there are many landlords in the South and West of Ireland who entirely disapprove of this clause, because they believe it will prevent the bulk of their tenantry from buying at all. This clause provides that the tenant is to pay at the rate, as my noble Friend has told you, 1386 of 80 per cent. for the first five years. Under the Ashbourne Act the tenants have purchased on an average all through at seventeen years' purchase; many have bought much higher, and many others have bought much lower, I believe as low as twelve, ten, and even six years' purchase. Your Lordships may laugh at such a price, but I believe holdings have been sold at even so low a price as six years' purchase, so anxious have the landlords been to get out of certain districts. I would ask your Lordships how many of these tenants would be prepared to give at the rate of twenty years' purchase for the first five years? Your Lordships must not forget that five years is an eternity to an Irish tenant farmer, who of late years has had a Land Act every year or so; and I am sure, unless the bribe held oat under my noble and learned Friend's Act of an immediate and large reduction is given under this Act the tenants will not buy at all; they look entirely to the immediate and large reduction. They never care what is going to happen at the end of 49 years. I have sold a great deal of property myself, I may say, over the table to my tenants, and whenever I have mentioned to them what their position was to be in 49 years, they have always said to me, "Shure, where will I be in 49 years?" Well, as my noble Friend has pointed out to you, if a tenant is prepared to give 10 years' purchase, he will have to pay no insurance. I could never understand how the Chief Secretary arrived at the fact that the tenant who paid 20 years' purchase did not require to give an insurance. All those who purchase at a cheaper rate do require insurance. These men are not required to give any insurance if they give 20 years' purchase, but the men who are only inclined to buy at a less rate will say, No, if they have to pay the insurance in addition. Now I come to another point which my noble Friend has referred to, that is the Agricultural Calamities Clauses. I think those clauses will do the utmost injury to this measure, and not only that, but that they will injure terribly the excellent working of the Ashbourne Acts up to the present time. Those Acts had worked well, but these clauses will render their working impossible in 1387 future. The purchasers understood when they purchased under my noble and learned Friend's Act that they were to pay their instalments as they came due. They constantly said to me, "It is worse being under the Government than under you, because we shall have to pay the Government up to the day," and I have never put that out of their mind for a moment; but these clauses arrange that if they can only establish agricultural calamities they will not be obliged to pay up to the day. I do not think that is an invitation which will ever be refused by an Irish tenant, particularly if he sees that, by accepting the invitation, he can get rid of his liabilities, and frequent as agricultural calamities have been in Ireland in the past, I believe that, in the future, if these clauses are not struck out of the Bill, as they should be, they will become much more frequent, and, I may say, will become the permanent yearly condition of the country. They will do away with the punctual payments, the very punctual payments, which have been made under the Ashbourne Acts. Up to November, 1890, under all these Acts there was only £2,000 in arrear. Could anything be more satisfactory than that? But wait and see the result of these clauses. You will soon see the result. We shall return to the old unpunctual system, the system of unpunctual payments and constantly increasing arrears. There is certainly a proviso under one of these clauses that if a good year comes the tenant is to pay a portion of the insurance. He has to pay back his insurance in addition to his instalments. But those of your Lordships who know Irish tenants, know that once a man gets in arrear—once he gets his head under water he very rarely pays more than what he considers his liability in one year. I believe that if these clauses, or rather sections I ought to call them, be retained, the Government will rue the day that they ever were introduced. They will jeopardise the guarantee deposits of the landlords. They will invite the tenants whom the landlords may have left to join with the purchasers in refusing to pay rent, and in creating bogus calamities. They will be a thorn in the side of any Government 1388 which attempts to work this Purchase Act in the future. I do sincerely trust my noble Friend will take a note of this, because I think there could not be a worse thing placed in the Bill in the interests of the Government, but a thousand times more in the interests of the tenants themselves. There is nothing more useful to the tenants than making them understand that they have to pay up to the day, and then they invariably do so. This they have done under the Ashbourne Acts. Now, I come to another proposal which my noble Friend alluded to, and which I referred to earlier in the evening, which is the clause preventing the dual ownership being done away with. I may be wrong, but I believe this Bill was framed for the purpose of creating an occupying proprietary of the men best suited to become proprietors: the men who could give the best security to the State, the leaders of public opinion in the different districts who were most likely to create a Consevative element which would be in favour of law and order. My noble Friend has said that this Bill does away with dual ownership. My noble Friend now says, to a certain extent, that is not doing away with dual ownership. If yon want to do away with dual ownership, you must do away with it altogether. You must admit every man who can have a fair rent fixed to the advantages of this Bill, or else the dual ownership will remain; and I would ask, has there ever been a system which has worked worse in Ireland than the system of dual ownership? The curse of dual ownership will be perpetuated, as many of those who are able to have a fair rent fixed under the Act of 1881 will be excluded from purchase by this clause. I have never been able to understand on what basis this clause is framed. The division was originally taken at £30 valuation. It is now £50; but instead of taking the aggregate valuation of the tenants above and below £50, Her Majesty's Government have decided that the number of holdings should be ascertained, and that the sum for which the different counties could provide security, should be allocated in proportion to the number of holdings instead of in proportion to their values. I think your Lordships will see 1389 that nothing in the world can he more unfair. The figures to be ascertained by the Lord Lieutenant, for he has the work of ascertaining those figures, will be varying from day to day in every county; and as my belief is that under Clause 7 of the Bill these small tenants will not purchase at all, or to any great extent, this money will be tied up and dangled before the eyes of the larger tenants—tied up for the smaller tenants' benefit, and left unused. This Bill was to put down agitation, but what will this clause really do? Why, it will create a very tremendous agitation in the future among the larger tenants. I do not think any English landlords who are present would like to feel that if they wished to sell they were obliged to sell their estates in patchwork, that is to say, to sell a small holding here and a small holding there, and another small holding somewhere else, and yet be left with a number of other holdings on their hands. That is what this clause obliges Irish landlords to do. It obliges them to patchwork their estates; but I do not for one moment believe that the landlords will take advantage of the Bill unless they can see the probability of their being able to sell a large portion of their estates lying together. Then, again, with regard to the tenants. The tenants who fire the leaders in the different districts will be cut out and prevented coming forward, and without the example of their leaders in the different townlands the smaller men will not buy at all. I know that from my own experience—I know from what happened to myself—that the people in townland after town land did not buy. I never asked them to buy. They came in and asked me to let them buy after the big men had come in. The big tenants will be prevented from coming forward, not knowing whether they will be able to purchase or not under this clause; and as the example of the big men is absolutely essential to their smaller neighbours, this clause, which was put in for the purpose of inducing small tenants to buy will have exactly the contrary effect. I am opposed to this clause because I think it will destroy this Bill, which I wish to see a success. If Her Majesty's Government are determined to retain this clause, I think, at any rate they ought to make it fair 1390 and workable, and that could be done by taking the aggregate of the valuations above £50, and the aggregate of the valuations below £50, instead of taking the numbers, and by allocating the money accordingly. I moved in your Lordships' House a short time ago for a return, which now lies on the Table, of what has taken place under the Ashbourne Acts; and I cannot conceive, if that return or anything like it was before the Chief Secretary, why he should have adopted this clause; because what do I find? I find that up to March 31st, 1891, below £50 there were 13,130 who purchased, but above £50 there were only 1,537. I think your Lordships will allow that the proportions are very fair and very reasonable. Then, again, the amount allocated and paid over to tenants below £50 valuation was £3,518,000 odd, and the amount paid over to those above £50 was £2,716,000 odd. Those proportions are not very unfair. That has been the result of the working of the Ashbourne Act for six years, and under that Act I can affirm that not one single tenant has been refused to purchase for lack of money. No doubt numbers of smaller tenants have been refused because they could not find security, and your Lordships cannot find fault with that because the Commissioners are bound to see that there is security. It is their duty to see to that. Then there is another consideration which I should like to place before your Lordships to see how unfair and unequal the operation of this clause is. It is an extraordinary clause. In Connaught I find that for every £1 allocated to tenants above £50 there are £28 allocated to those below £50 valuation. I am not surprised at that, because Connaught is one of the congested districts; but what I am surprised at is that in Ulster for every £1 allocated above the £50 valuation there are £18 allocated below it. Is that the return which Her Majesty's Government are going to make to the loyal tenants of Ulster, the men who have stood to them through all these troublous times, the men who have been always loyal? Are they to be cut out of this Bill, because I can see no other reason why these big holders are cut out of the Bill. Then, turning to Munster, which is not quite so 1391 loyal—I think your Lordships have heard of agitation and occasional outrages there—for every £1 allocated above £50 there are £8 allocated to tenants below, and in Leinster, for every £1 to tenants above £50, £5 has been allocated to tenants below. Those are two fair amounts, and I am not finding fault with them; but, looking at Ulster, it is outrageous to think that the men of Ulster, who will make the best peasant proprietors, should be excluded from the operations of this Bill. It is, I think, a great mistake; that is all I can say. If you look at the return for the whole of Ireland, you will see that there are only £2,776,000 odd allocated to tenants above £50, and the enormous sum of £27,147,000 odd to tenants below. I think these figures speak for themselves. My Lords, I sincerely hope that my noble Friend will agree to take the aggregate of the valuations instead of the aggregate numbers, which are ridiculously unfair. The aggregate value would be £13,231,000 odd allocated to tenants above £50, and £16,692,000 odd to tenants below. I think that is fair; I am quite satisfied with that; the other thing is not fair. I am perfectly satisfied that the smaller tenants, the men below £50 valuation, are not going to take up this £16,000,000. They will not want nearly so much. It will be tied up for their use. That they may take up some of it I do not deny; but it is a great deal more than they require. Then I turn to another point with regard to this clause. If you take again the number of the holdings only, you must necessarily be wrong, because the Government returns are taken from the rate books in the different counties. I hold in my hand a copy of the entries in a rate book, and if your Lordships could study one of those rate books you would see that the same man is rated four or five times, and sometimes more, for small holdings separately, although really one holding, and he is counted over and over again as against the tenants above £50. Do you want to create peasant proprietors of valuations below £1, and some of them even down to 5s. and 2s. 6d.? This Bill would enable all these men, and goes out of the way to encourage them, to buy. This clause would encourage them to buy to the exclusion of the solid 1392 and prosperous men of Ulster—men having a valuation of 2s. 6d. a year. Then take Leitrim; and I am dealing now with the Government return. In Leitrim there is only £6,000 allocated to proprieters above £50, a sum which would enable about five of them to buy. Is that fair, my Lords? But now I come to something which is very important, and I hope your Lordships will attend to this very particularly, because I think it is the most ridiculous part of this clause, and shows how absolutely unworkable it is in its present form. If your Lordships will look at Return No. 260, you will see in columns 4, 5, and 6 that the total valuation of holdings in Ireland above £50 is £4,482,000 odd. That is the total valuation for Ireland; and under £50 it is £5,654,000 odd. If your Lordships will return to the clause of the Bill which my noble Friend dealt with so very clearly—I think it is Clause 5—you will see with regard to the guarantee portion of the Bill that holdings above £50 are liable not in proportion to their numbers, but in proportion to their value. Under Clause 5 they are liable to provide the county security in proportion to their values, and not in proportion to their numbers. The farmers above £50 are to take a risk—the figures are before your Lordships—they are £4,000,000 as against £5,000,000. Therefore they are to undertake a risk of 44 per cent., and they are to undertake that risk in order that this Bill for the purpose of purchase in Ireland should be rendered workable. When they ask what benefits they are to receive they are told, and here are the figures, that they have £2,776,000 allocated to them. Therefore, though they are to undertake the risk under the guarantee portion of the Bill of 44 per cent., they are only to receive a benefit of 9 per cent. Can anything be more monstrous than that? I am certain Her Majesty's Government must have overlooked that or they would not have thought of putting it in. To ask the best men in Ireland to undertake to pledge their credit to the amount of 44 per cent. and only to be offered the miserable dole under this Bill of 9 per cent. is monstrous. I do not think your Lordships will consider that is a right thing, and I am sure Her Majesty's Government 1393 have only to look at it to see that it is not right. If the contingent portion is touched the Lord Lieutenant, as my noble Friend has told you, is to levy on the county. Whom does he levy upon? He levies upon the cesspayers. And what does he levy upon? He levies upon their valuation. But it is not the valuations which have been put in this clause. It is the numbers. If you put the valuation in it would be perfectly fair, as was done in Clause 5; but in Clause 5 they obliged the tenant to be security for 44 per cent., and then in Clause 10 they have taken numbers instead of valuation, and, therefore, they can only give him 9 per cent. I am sure this is a mistake; that is to say, that the local guarantees, as in Clause 5, which were in the Bill originally, were passed before this Clause 10 was added to the Bill; and, therefore, it was an oversight that in one portion of the Bill the valuation is taken, and in the later portion of the Bill only the numbers. Of course it is an oversight, and my noble Friend, I am sure, will put it right. If Her Majesty's Government will not agree to taking the valuation instead of the numbers, I hope, at any rate, that they will limit the operation of this clause in duration; that is to say, if this rush is to come, surely two years will be sufficient to allow these men to rush in. Two years would be time enough to leave this clause in operation. Then let us revert to what was originally in the Bill. What is the necessity for it? In the Landed Estates Court they have never been able to sell at a quicker rate than two millions a year. Under the Ashbourne Acts they have never been able to sell at a quicker rate than a million and a quarter, and under this Bill, which is a thousand times more complicated than any of them, they will never be able to sell at a quicker rate or at as quick a rate as two millions a year. At that rate this money would last 16 years, and as it is reproductive it would last even a great deal longer. I believe that this £33,000,000, being reproductive, is amply sufficient to buy up all the land that will be either bought or sold in Ireland. I cannot understand why this limit is placed in the Bill, but I want to know if Her Majesty's Government (and this is a matter which I alluded to before) 1394 wish to create a larger number of these poor holders. There are 150,000 odd of them in Ireland. Do they wish to turn these men into proprietors, men so badly off that they cannot pay even their own rates? They are only labourers, and not fit to be turned into peasant proprietors at all. They can provide no security whatever for the State; and I ask your Lordships whether they would not be the first men to feel the effects of a bad year. There is a proviso in the Congested District portion of the Bill that these holdings should be amalgamated. This clause acts entirely against that, because it proposes that these small holders should be allowed to purchase, and to stereotype themselves in their misery and poverty. I do not know whether your Lordships are aware that a very rare occurrence has taken place with regard to this clause—a unanimity of opinion in Ireland. There is an almost unanimous feeling among landlords and tenants in Ireland against it. That feeling has been expressed by representatives of both parties in another place. The only support this clause has obtained has been from Mr. Parnell and his small following, and from certain landowners, who, I believe, have no holdings, or, at any rate, very few holdings, above £50. This support can be understood to have been given for obvious reasons. Surely, with such a consensus of Irish opinion against this clause, Her Majesty's Government ought to consider the matter, and give fair weight to it. It is a very rare occurrence indeed. I do not think in my lifetime I ever remember such a consensus of opinion on any subject before in Ireland, and I think Her Majesty's Government ought to take notice of such a very rare circumstance, and amend this clause. I am sorry to have detained your Lordships so long; there are several other amendments which I shall bring forward at the proper time. I may, however, mention one of them. I believe the judges have offered Her Majesty's Government to come into the Land Commission Court, and I should very much like to see the judges brought in as a Court of Appeal on questions of value of this kind. That would be, in my opinion, an immense improvement in the Bill. I sincerely hope the noble Lord will agree to amend this great measure. It re- 1395 quires really very little alteration to make it a real and great success. It is drawn with the most extraordinary care and cleverness. It has taken up a very large portion of the time of Parliament this Session, notwithstanding that it has been guided in another place with such marvellous ability by the Chief Secretary. I trust your Lordships' House will make this measure really workable, and a lasting benefit to all classes in Ireland.
*THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, I rise under a very deep impression from the speech which we have just heard. It has been a very able speech; a speech with knowledge of the facts with which this measure professes to deal. I do not think it is a speech which diminishes the difficulty in which we, the independent members of this House, are placed. We wish to know what we are voting for. The noble Marquess started by saying he approved entirely of the principle of this Bill, and he went on to make such fundamental objections to it that he ended by saying one particular clause destroyed the whole object of the Bill. My comfort is that the objections go almost entirely upon a few clauses of detail. I am not going to trouble the House with any question of detail. We have larger issues before us in this measure. We cannot be proud of our previous legislation in regard to Ireland. We have much to think of; much to regret; I think much to be ashamed of. My noble Friend who expounded the Bill to us to-night began by going back, I think, as far as the year 1870. Will your Lordships allow me to take you a little further back, and to remind you that since 1848 there have been no less than six great measures connected with the agrarian question in Ireland. In 1848 we had the Encumbered Estate Act passed by Lord John Russell. The object and the principle of the Bill were clear. It was to encourage the investment of new capital in Ireland, and to give additional security to owners of Irish land—a Parliamentary title. Again, in 1860, only 12 years afterwards, we had the Act commonly called the Cardwell Act, which declared that the landed property in Ireland should be considered to rest upon the basis of contract, a great declaration of fundamental principle. Then came the Act 1396 of 1870, at 10 years interval. Ten years interval seems to be about the longest period of rest allowed to the unfortunate landowners in Ireland, and to the occupiers of land too. In 1870 we had a third Act; and what was the basis of that Act? The basis of that Act was that not contract but custom was to be considered. It was a Bill mainly for the legalisation of custom, especially the Ulster custom, and for the extension of that custom, as far as it could be extended, over the whole of Ireland. That was the principle of the Bill of 1870. Then we had the Bill of 1881, the principle of which was neither contract nor custom, but the State regulation of rents, and the giving over of the whole property both of the landlords and of the tenants in Ireland to a triumvirate with subordinate Commissioners nominated by the Government of the day. That was the principle of the Bill of 1881, if you can call it a principle. Then came the Bill of 1887, only six years having elapsed since the last, introduced, I am sorry to say by a, Conservative Government, but under the pressure and compulsion of circumstances arising from the measure of 1881, which left them practically not free agents in the matter. What was the principle of the measure of 1887? Its principle was that contract was to be absolutely destroyed in Ireland. No recognition of contract between landlord and tenant; however old, however long it had existed, the contract was to be destroyed. And now we have this measure of 1891, and I ask your Lordships what is its nature and object? What are we voting for? I mean to vote for the Second Reading most heartily, but I do it upon one particular ground, and upon no other; and I wish to explain in a few words to the House what that ground is. Before doing so let me explain some grounds and arguments put forward in favour of this Bill which would induce me not to vote for it, but to vote against it. We must look—so to speak—at the atmosphere of this Bill. We have heard nothing in the two speeches which have been delivered to-night, nothing directly at least of the real nature and object of many persons out of doors who rejoice in this Bill, and who believe it to be the first of a long 1397 series of measures which are to come. The principle, indeed has been alluded to; the nature and object has been alluded to by the noble Marquess, as well as by the noble Lord opposite. He said it is "to buy out the Irish landlords." That was the expression he used. Another expression he used was that it was to constitute peasant proprietorship. Now there are many persons out of doors who are not fools, but able and intelligent men, who agree with the noble Marquess that the object of this Bill is to destroy ownership of land in Ireland.
*THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
In words the noble Marquess did not say so; but he said in effect that the object of the Bill was to buy out the Irish landlords. Now, what are the terms on which the Irish landlords are to be bought out? Do not let us deceive ourselves. There is a large body of opinion forming in this country, if you can call it opinion, a large body of fancy dreams, that the relation between the owner and occupier of land, between the landlord and the tenant is in itself a bad relation, bad politically, bad socially, bad productively, that it ought to be discouraged, and that whenever an opportunity occurs it ought to be destroyed. Perhaps your Lordships will say that to discuss this matter is really to discuss an academical question. Ah, my lords, we must take care what we call academical questions in these days. What is called opinion—but are really only what we should call fancies, and are mere dreams—run fast and far. To-day, what is an academical question becomes a practical demand to-morrow, and a burning question the day after tomorrow. I want to know on what ground it is that men have this dream, that they are to abolish the relation between those who own and those who till the land. They say it is a bad relation. My Lords, I affirm, on the contrary, that it is a relation dating from the very origin of human society and is in itself not only the result but has in many cases been the cause of human civilisation. And yet, as I have said, there are those who are no small or mean authorities, who seem to favour that view. Let me name one gentleman whose name is well known to noble Lords opposite, and perhaps still better 1398 known to noble Lords behind me. Among the Irish members at the present moment in the House of Commons, I am not sure that I could name any man, although I have not the honour of his personal acquaintance, for whose personal opinion and character I have a higher respect, as far as I know it, than I have for the character and opinion of Mr. Russell, the member for South Tyrone. He has taken, no doubt, the side which I take on the great question of the union of Great Britain and Ireland, and I may be prejudiced in his favour on that account; but I have been immensely struck, not only by the ability of his speeches, but by their manliness and their courage, and by the freedom with which he states facts as against Ireland, and the general courage with which he speaks against popular opinion and maintains what he thinks to be right. I do not know whether your Lordships have noticed a short article published by the hon. Gentleman in the Nineteenth Century for April, 1890. In that article Mr. Russell undertakes to prove that all the agrarian evils of Ireland have arisen not from the union, but from economic causes with which the Government of England has had nothing to do. He traces those evils specially to the enormous increase of population, which was bred up upon the potato, and almost alone upon the potato, between the years 1780 and 1846. He points out that starting from that date the population of Ireland was only 3,000,000; that when the potato famine occurred it was 9,000,000, or close upon it; and he points out that such an increase of population, with no corresponding increase in resources of the people except the potato, is unknown in the history of the world. He says, in effect, "I have examined this question as carefully as I can, and I distinctly say I cannot trace any one of the evils of Ireland to anything the English people or the British Government have done." I do not say this is the whole case; I do not pretend it is; but it is one view of the case, and I do say in the main it is a reality, and the strength of the whole case. It is economic causes which have produced the distress in Ireland. It is not, except in a very minor degree, the fault of Government. But what does this gentleman say upon another question? I 1399 do not like to cite—I think it is against the policy of this House to refer to debates which have happened elsewhere—but I would, with your Lordships' permission, refer to what this gentleman has said in regard to this Bill, because it is a codicil or postscript, as it were, to his essay in the Nineteenth Century on the cause of evils existing in Ireland. What does he say? He says distinctly that the system of landlord and tenant has been a curse to Ireland. I am not sure that those are his very words, but that is the meaning and spirit of his expression. He says the object of this Bill and other Bills which must follow in the same direction is to clear out the landlord in Ireland, and to do away with the relations between landlord and tenant. I deny this proposition altogether, except with regard to recent circumstances, to which I shall presently refer. I repeat, the time will never come, and cannot come, when the owners of land will not have occasion to let let out their land to others; and there never will come in human society any period when men who have not land will not occasionally wish to hire it; and, therefore, to abolish the relations between the owner and the occupier of the soil is merely an absurd proposition—an absurd idea. It is a curious thing how anxious men are now to go back to what they consider to be the primitive conditions of society; and how little they understand what those primitive conditions really were. Mr. Russell speaks in that article with great contempt of men who talk about Ireland without examining the facts. He says they go about the country "holding their heads in a cloud of poisonous lies." That is a strong expression, and I should myself have substituted the word "fictions" for it; because Mr. Russell is himself a clear proof that they are not lies. Those who make the statements do not generally know them to be untrue. But though there are many such statements often made in which the speakers themselves believe, they are, as a matter of fact, utterly untrue. It is a common idea in these days that in early conditions of society no such thing as a landlord existed; but the historical fact is that the relation of landlord and tenant dates from the earliest condition of society, and 1400 in repeated instances it has been the cause and origin of civilisation. A very curious illustration of this fact, that the ownership of land may be the cause of civilisation, came across me the other day, to which, I trust, I may direct for a moment the attention of the House. I do not quote the case of our own colonies, although every one of our colonies goes on the principle that the ownership of land is the means to which they look to increase their population and their wealth. It may be said that this is a case of an old existing civilisation which has been transplanted to another country, and we should not talk of that. Then, I say, let us go to another part of the world, where civilisation is making its first steps, where out of barbarism civilisation is struggling to arise. Will the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) excuse me if I take him in this illustration to a country of which he has spoken lately very hopefully in Glasgow—the Turkish dominions. I am not quite so sanguine as the noble marquess appears to be as regards the future of the Moslem dominion in the west of Asia, but I admit it is improving. Now, what happened the other day in a part of the dominions of the Moslem, dose to the Holy Land? Your Lordships know there is a Palestine Exploration Fund, to conduct exploring operations under European officers. A gentleman named Schumacher, belonging to the expedition, went across the Jordan in order to find the ancient city of Arbela, one of the cities of Decapolis. He found the country almost entirely desolate, covered with ruins; but when he came to the spot which was supposed to be probably the site of the old city of Arbela, he found a little village of about 40 huts. He inquired whose they were. He was introduced to the head man, or sheikh. He was hospitably entertained. The sheikh was at first suspicious that he had come to search for treasure; but at last, convinced that he had not, the sheikh took him up to a neighbouring elevation, and showed him not only the ruins, but a still more interesting sight. He showed him a considerable extent of good arable land, well cultivated by the people who constituted the village. The sheikh then said to Mr. Schumacher, the German explorer, "See, my son, these 1401 are my fields, but I have tenants. I have sowers who sow them, and I have plonghers who plough them, and they yield to me one-fifth of the produce "There you have civilisation beginning, and beginning in that country where the abomination of desolation has reigned for so many centuries. How is it beginning? This old man, Sheikh Jeber, as they called him, said," I called together my brother fellaheen and told them, 'You can resist these Bedouin ravagers, who are perpetually despoiling you. Let us resist them.'" They did resist them. They gathered under his banner; they beat off the Bedouins. He secured them in the enjoyment of the property; he let it to them as occupiers and sowers. He got it registered with the Turkish Government as his own property, and civilisation began. This has been the history of civilisation throughout the world, and I am astonished at educated men who talk such stuff as that the relation of landlord and tenant is in itself one which is adverse to the interests of mankind. Now, what is it that we are voting for to-night? To abolish landlordism? Certainly not. But then there is another explanation of this Bill. Mr. Russell says substantially this:—"You Englishmen introduced landlordism into Ireland; it has wrought untold mischief in Ireland; it is for you to abolish it, and instead of offering us Irishmen this paltry sum which you are voting us now, you will have to vote us a great deal more to get rid of the curse which you have imposed upon us." This, and I say it with great respect to this hon. Gentleman, is pure fiction. He is "walking with his head in a cloud of lies," not lies which he knows to be such, but absurd and pure fictions. It is notorious in history that the relations between landlord and tenant had begun in the modern sense, in what you choose to call the English form, 120 years before Henry put his foot in Ireland, before the invasion of Strongow. Look at the Irish muniments and records. Look at the splendid volumes which have been published in Dublin with regard to the ancient Irish history. You will there find some five distinct charters written in the Erse language, in which private property in land was given to individual retainers by 1402 the old Irish chiefs and kings. Those charters were in precisely the same or upon like terms as those which were being given at the same time by the Norman kings in England and Scotland. Now, what do people mean by talking about this English system and customs which have been introduced into Ireland? But it is said the old Irish landlords did not press their tenants as was the case under the English custom. Why, the reverse is the truth. Under the old Celtic feudalism the oppression of the tenants was tremendous. They did not pay their rents, of course, in money; they paid them in services; and do not we all remember from our youth upwards the old complaints about coigne and livery in Ireland, and all the barbarous terms applicable to the usages by which the kings and chiefs were supported. Take the evidence of a very eminent Irishman, a gentleman who has attained a great and venerable age, I mean Mr. Prendergast, the author of "Cromwellian Settlements in Ireland." He says, when the Normans came over to Ireland, they came to an uncontaminated people, uncontaminated by any outside minds; that the Celtic mind was pure and by itself, and that they played great mischief there. What is Mr. Prendergast's account of the old purely Celtic service? This is his account of it; this is the evidence with regard to the state of things in which the people introduced modern landlordism to the destruction of old Irish customs, that" the Irish knew no such things as tenure, or forfeiture, or fixed rent; that they offered the amount of tribute which was required, and let their chieftains eat them out of house and home; hence arose the old Irish saying, 'Spend me but defend me.'" There is a charming but melancholy humour in this, as there so often is in Irish proverbs:—"Take everything I have got, but secure me in the enjoyment of the remainder." That was the fact with regard to the old Irish tenures. I have here a list of six or seven of the expressions of the old Celtic feudalism, expressive of the services which were exacted; there is the service on visits from the chiefs, "cosherings" service with regard to dogs and horses. There was apparently any amount of hunting and 1403 shooting, then there were "spendings" which are indescribable—they were too undefined to be described. What was the great desire of tenants in Ireland before the full system of English law came to prevail? It was to get charters which saved the tenants from Irish customs. "Malis consuetudinibus Hibernicis." That was a common clause in charters. Then, is it true that coming down to more modern times the landlords have taken no part in the improvement of the country? I say it is absolutely false. Look at Arthur Young's "Tour in Ireland" in 1777–8–9. Our fathers remembered that date perfectly well. We are not talking of very ancient times, we are talking of the time of fathers of the noble Lords opposite, many of them, and at the utmost of their grandfathers. I thought it my duty prior to taking part in this Debate, although I thought I could remember it perfectly well, to refresh my memory of Arthur Young's "Tour in Ireland." I looked it up, and what did I find? I found that from south to north in Ireland, Arthur Young proves to you conclusively that all the improvements in agriculture which had taken place in the country, in the most industrious time, were introduced by the landlords throughout the country at great cost and expenditure, including the introduction of turnips, the rotation of crops, the sown grass, the introduction of improved cattle, above all the abolition of the Rundale system which was the misery of Ireland as it was the cause of the poverty of Europe during the whole of the Middle Ages. I happen to remember one expression which was used by an Irish gentleman, whose representative I may have the honour of addressing—the Lord Shannon of that day. He was an immense improver, and he said it had been the result of hard study on his part. He said, "I read myself into it, and I worked myself out of it"—meaning to describe the trouble he had taken to learn his business as a land-owner, the pains he had been at, and the final success he had achieved in the improvement of his country and his people. These are the men that we are told we are to buy out as having been curses to Ireland—importations from England forsooth! as if they were not what our own landlords 1404 had been, the legitimate development of land ownership becoming not a mere possession—not only a tenure—but a business. That is what these theorists do not understand; they do not understand that landlordism is a business, and ought to be regarded as a business, and that without giving landlords the power of managing their own property they cannot make it a business. Now, my Lords, I will tell you why I reject all these arguments in favour of this measure and am yet prepared to vote for it. I say in any country in a healthy condition, where landlordism has not been practically abolished by injurious limitations and disabilities? this would be a monstrous measure. But I look at the fact of the measure of 1881, at the present condition of things, and I vote for the Bill on these two grounds: that it will tend to re-establish ownership, though it be in the worst possible hands; and secondly, that it will tend to put a stop to political corruption, which is now ravaging the character of the Irish people. I have read many articles and many letters, and heard many speeches against this Bill—letters, articles, and speeches full of objections to it, and I agree in every one of them. But there is one fatal flaw in all these arguments, and that is, that the writers and speakers seem to forget what is the existing state of Ireland under the Act of 1881. Let me remind the House of what it is. I remember saying, when the Bill of 1881 was passed, that it would destroy ownership in Ireland. You talk about dual ownership. It is not dual ownership or any other ownership. Ownership is put into commission, it does not oven exist in regard to the country. We have not even a Henry George's panacea of the State being the supreme landlord; we have nobody as landlord, nobody with the full rights and powers of ownership, who could make land cultivation and the improvement of the land a business. The tenant is not owner; the nominal owner is not owner; the Crown is not owner; nobody is owner. The thing is a mass of confusion. Take an individual case. Suppose a landlord says to his tenants that drainage is necessary, or that tenants come to him and say, "We want this district drained, and we are quite willing to pay interest upon 1405 the money." What does the landlord reply to them? You say you will pay interest upon it, and I have no doubt you are perfectly honest fellows, and will do it if you can. But what is to happen if, 10 or 15 years after this date, round come the Commissioners with absolute power to say what your rent is to be; you promise to pay interest for the outlay, but they will strike off perhaps 10 or 20 per cent.; you cannot help it, and the interest which is to pay for the outlay will be gone." The landlord must say: "I cannot have any confidence in your ability to keep your promises, for the Legislature treats you as babies or fools, incapable of making a promise, and who cannot manage your own business; you cannot be held to it by the law; these arbitrary powers are all I can rely upon, and I cannot trust you." Look at the actual result. I dare say many of your Lordships have not seen a return which I moved for some two years ago, of the amount of loans advanced for the improvement of land, which had been applied for during the ten years before and after the Act of 1881. A more remarkable document I have never seen. Under the Act of 1870, which did not destroy ownership, and under which the selling value of land in Ireland was maintained—Mr. Gladstone boasted that the land had maintained its selling price, and it was perfectly true under that Act—the landlords were applying every year more and more for large loans for the improvement of their estates. That was the case down to 1880. In 1880, I think, about the time when the Act which practically abolished their duties was passed, they had applied, I believe, for loans to the amount of £1,200,000. The tenants had applied for no loans during that period. Now observe the effect of the Act of 1881. Down dropped the £1,200,000 to £36,000; every year dropping down and down, showing that landlords were not borrowing a shilling except, probably, to improve their own domains and the land which they held in their possession. Do you find any compensation for that by the tenants asking for loans? Very little. I think the last return showed that the amount was £26,000 over the whole of Ireland. Under these circum- 1406 stances I say that ownership in land has been destroyed in Ireland. It has been destroyed by your Act of 1881; and everybody who know anything of Ireland must have known that it would be so. That is why I vote for this Bill. I would not vote for the abolition of the relation between landlord and tenant in Ireland if we could possibly re-establish it; but we cannot, without a great preliminary change and the establishment of a new set of owners. But the only people who can really buy land in Ireland now are the tenants. Another great objection to this Bill is this: You talk of re-establishing ownership, but who in a civilised country ever dreamt of limiting the value of land and the market for land to the existing occupiers of the soil? If you want to introduce new capital, if you want to introduce new skill, if you want to introduce enterprise into a country, and to improve the soil, why are you to limit the purchase of land to the existing tenants, whom you know to be, in a large proportion, approaching pauperism, whose agriculture is miserable and wretched? And yet you say these men, and these men alone, are to have the power of purchase. These are tremendous objections to the Bill, but they are not objections to the Bill in the circumstances in which the Government are placed, and in which we are all placed. What you have to do is to restore ownership, if you can, even in the hands of the worst possible owners by whom it can be held. That is the only ground on which I vote for this Bill; but there is another ground, which I have mentioned already, to be considered: the ground of political corruption. I do not think that is understood in this country. I do not think it is understood what corruption is involved in our Irish legislation. You talk of the corruption of Mr. Pitt in procuring the Act of Union. You talk of the comparatively petty sums which were given to peers and Members of Parliament in exchange for nomination boroughs. You talk of this favour and that favour granted in order to accomplish a great political object, the union of the two countries, and the closing of the book of political corruption, as Mr. Pitt hoped, for all future time. But you introduce by your new legislation such an element of political corruption as has never yet 1407 been poured into the veins of any civilised community. At the election speeches which we hear every day, when elections go on in Ireland, what is the tone of those electioneering speeches? The people are told: "Your rents have been reduced; who got that for you? I got it for you; I and my friends got your rents reduced; vote for us again, and we will get your rents reduced still further. You will see that we will set up a Government breathing the atmosphere of Committee Room No. 15, or of the late Kilkenny election; we will get you a Government established which will give you a new set of Commissioners who will have absolute power, and they will reduce your rent to nothing if you like; there is no appeal; what they may choose to do is in their own breasts. Vote for us." I ask your Lordships in this House whether any civilised Legislature has ever placed a popular constituency in any country in such a position of desperate temptation? I know nothing like it except a physical disease in the human frame, which, I am sorry to say, I saw but lately in a member of my own family. An internal organ has a small lesion, as the doctor's call it, hardly more than the point of your finger, a mere ruffling of the surface, but where is it? It is in the cavity of the heart, and as the blood rushes over this place it is poisoned in its course, fever supervenes, and the patient withers under a slow decay. So it is in Ireland. There is not a man in Ireland, be he owner or be he tenant, who has not this idea of corruption before him: "Let me vote for a certain set of men; they will appoint a certain set of Commissioners; those Commissioners will have absolute power, without appeal from their decisions. Their decisions will rest upon no principle; they will give no reason; nor will they lay down any principle; and they will have power to deal with every agricultural holding in Ireland as they like." I say that is a source of political corruption which is desperate and insuperable, and my only reason for voting for a Bill which even looks in the direct ion of converting all these poor creatures into landlords is because it gives some prospect of getting rid of this corruption. I hope the day will come, and Mr. Gladstone in one of his 1408 speeches said he hoped the day would come, when free trade in land could be restored in Ireland; but you never can hope for that until you have a large body of owners. It may be a cynical observation to make, but it is a fact that you cannot get men to see the truth if it is against their own personal interests to see it. Make the seeing of it coincident with their own personal interests and then they will begin to descry it. That is the secret of the result which, as the noble Marquess has told us, he has seen occur: the healing effect of the new ownership in Ireland on the part of those who bought under the Ashbourne Acts. I believe him thoroughly; and let me say, in passing, that I agree thoroughly with him in the folly, if it can be avoided, of limiting the power of purchase to the poorest and most ignorant of the people. It seems to me that my right hon. Friend the Irish Secretary has given way too much to this fad about peasant-proprietors; but there are able men in the House of Commons who long for it, and I, for one, shall be very glad to see the experiment tried under any conditions which are favourable to success. But when you talk about peasant proprietors you do not mean surely pauper proprietors, persons who have not a shilling in the world, and who have scrambled on only because you have made the conditions of tenure so easy for them that their idleness and their ignorance and their impecuniosity have become rooted in the Irish soil. You surely want to make your small proprietors, men decently competent to manage the land. Do you think that land anywhere, and least of all in Ireland, can be managed without any skill, without any capital, and without any knowledge, which is the condition of many of these poor people? Can you dream of such a folly as that? And yet that is the object of this clause. I know it has been forced upon the Government, but I do hope they will adopt any modifications of it, such as those which have been suggested by the noble Marquess, which would at least diminish the evil. But I see the pressure under which they lie. Take, again, another Member of the House of Commons, a man also for whom I have the highest respect, not an Irish 1409 Member, but an English Member, Mr. Rathbone, the Member for Carnarvonshire. He has circulated to the Members of this House, I believe, a printed pamphlet, which, probably, most of your Lordships have seen. Now, what does he complain of? He complains that under the Ashbourne Act only 10,000 small holdings have been created and that 3,118 have been made out of the larger farms. He talks about this as a misapplication of money. He holds out a threat even, that if under the new Act there be a similar misapplication there will be new agitation. Just conceive what a man's idea of property can be who holds that an average cost of £1,183 spent upon the larger farms is misspent money! What does he call a larger farm? It appears to be a farm from about £60 to £100 a year. He says it is a misapplication of the public money to create proprietors of that class, a monstrous employment of British capital in the purchase of farms of from £60 to £100 a year in value. Can you conceive any educated man talking such nonsense as this? I think it very probable that the noble Marquess may be right when he says that the want of intelligence and foresight which are hereditary among the poorer classes of the Irish people may for a long time prevent them realising the advantages which they may get under this Bill, the prospect being deferred for 49 years. It is very possible. The provisions of this Act are so extremely complicated that it is very difficult, indeed, to understand them. They seem to me to be very like the "something which no fellah can understand." I know they have been elaborated by a, very powerful, acute, and able mind, but I have confidence on the whole on the general object and purpose of the Bill. I fully see the difficulties which these elaborate clauses have been made to cope with, and I have no suggestion to make as to how those difficulties could have been otherwise avoided; but I do earnestly hope that Her Majesty's Government will try and see if they can so modify these clauses as to give a decent chance to the larger tenants who, after all, are the leaders of the people, so that they may be induced to buy their properties. 1410 I thought that that argument of the noble Marquess was a very powerful one. Now, before I sit down, having explained to your Lordships the grounds, and the only grounds, upon which I could vote for a measure such as this, bristling as it is with objections of every sort, I think there is one word which I ought to say more upon the general condition of Ireland. I congratulate the Government, and especially the noble Marquess opposite, the Prime Minister, on the distinguished ability which has been shown by the Irish Chief Secretary. It seems to me he has redeemed the character of English statesmanship. He has spoken the truth, or what he believes to be the truth, in and out of season, in the face of all opposition, and with triumphant success, in securing the peace and tranquility of Ireland. There seems to me to be manifest symptoms that the reign of law and order, maintained as it has been even for five short years, is beginning to find a response in the conscience of the Irish people. It is something when a priest of Tipperary comes forward and denounces in the language of religious censure the abominable invention of the Plan of Campaign, with which our English statesmen have not been ashamed to dally, and, I think, indirectly to encourage. We all remember the celebrated speech of Mr. Gladstone, in which he said that after the passing of the Irish Land Act of 1881, he should feel it to be a matter almost of personal honour to maintain the security of the Irish landlords for the judicial—save the word!—rents which might be fixed under his new measure. Of personal honour we will say nothing—every man must be his; own judge in that line; but of political honour I say do this: that if any ministers were bound in honour as politicians and as statesmen, and even I would say as individual men, to support the decisions of the Land Court which they set up, it is the old members of that Government who passed the Land Act of 1881. Well, this priest of Tipperary comes forward and denounces as wicked, sinful in the sight of God, and wicked in the sight of all men, the combination which was made against a landlord and proprietor of Tipperary. And why was that combination made? 1411 It was made because he did something in support of his brother landlords in other parts of Ireland. May I turn to my noble Friend behind me who has filled so many public offices in the State, always with distinction to himself, and with advantage to the public, and ask my noble Friend the Earl of Kimberley to remember how often I have heard him say in this House, and out of it, that the great evil of Ireland was that the upper classes and the landlords would do nothing for themselves; and now when they have done something for themselves, when they entered into legitimate combinations to resist the foulest conspiracy which has ever threatened the integrity of the British Empire, what encouragement have these landlords had from my noble Friend and his former colleagues? Not one word of consolation, not one word of generous approval or high-souled sympathy with men struggling against conspiracies of every kind, has fallen from their lips. I hope the reign of Mr. Balfour has done something to restore confidence in the maintenance of law and order. I have myself a warm feeling for Ireland, for I inherit to a large extent Irish blood. From my earliest years I have heard Ireland spoken of with interest and affection. I believe in the future of the Irish people, but only on one condition—that they support law and order, and truthfulness, and full liberty in transactions between man and man. Such a condition as that is not against their own old traditions. Do not let it be said the Irish were ever—however fierce their wars, however bloody their intertribal contests—really savage. In the earliest centuries of our era their Christianity shone with a pure, translucent light; and they had in their ancient literature and in their ancient Brehon laws this splendid adage: "There are three periods when the world goes to ruin; the first is the time of a general plague; the second is the time of a general war; and the third is the time of the dissolution of express contracts—a habitual breach of faith between man and man." Let them remember this adage, this precept of their old Celtic laws. Let them remember that there are natural laws which they cannot disobey. Let them remember that no people can come to 1412 good that are tyrannous towards each other; insincere in their transactions; aiming at acquiring the possession of others' property by unlawful means; who are cruel and tyrannous in private life towards their neighbours. No people can flourish under such conditions. Let them remember that solemn line in one of the Psalms—"The Lord reigneth, be the people never so impatient." Alas! my Lords, the people are very impatient; but they must submit to the law of the land, and the laws of moral obligation. If they submit to those laws, if they obey the laws of God and of the land, and embrace them heartily, there is yet hope of seeing them a prosperous and contented people.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, like my noble Friend beside me (the Marquess of Waterford), who has dealt so fully and ably with the measure now before your Lordships' House, I think it my duty, as one of the Irish members of this House, to offer to my noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal my warmest congratulations on the marked ability and eloquence with which he has introduced this very difficult and complicated measure to your Lordships to-night, and I also cordially endorse the words of my noble Friend beside me when he says how truly we appreciate, not only the ability, but the energy and zeal which my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland has displayed in carrying this Bill through its various stages in another place. I need scarcely say that the qualities of the right hon. gentleman are such as Irishmen of all classes and of all denominations fully recognise and admire. The right hon. gentleman has shown that he realises and sympathises with the wants and requirements of the Irish people. It is only due to the right hon. gentleman and the Government to which he belongs to say that they have grappled most effectually with the great Irish problem, and have succeeded in finding the true and only solution of it, which is to enable the occupier of a holding to become the owner of his holding upon terms of satisfactory agreement with his landlord, and with no appreciable risk to the State. Therefore I may say, as was said by my noble Friend beside me, that, acting in agreement with the majority of Irish 1413 Peers, I intend to give my most hearty support to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. In doing so, however, I must reserve to myself the right to propose certain amendments and modifications when the Bill gets into Committee. During the last five years we have had considerable experience of the working of land purchase in Ireland, and the provisions of the Ashbourne Act have been carried out in a manner far exceeding our most sanguine hopes. The statistics showed that the repayments of instalments by tenants under the Ashbourne Act had been made in a most satisfactory manner; so remarkable, indeed, in their nature are the statistics upon that point that though they have been touched upon by my noble Friend beside me (the Marquess of Waterford) I shall ask your Lordships to allow me to refer further to those statistics with regard to the payments of instalments by tenants. In the period from the passing of the Act in August, 1885, down to November 1st, 1890, there accrued due from half-year to half-year instalments and advances amounting in the aggregate to £518,792 payable by 12,679 tenant purchasers. The entire amount of those instalments and advances has been repaid, with the exception only of £1,471. This is even more extraordinary: the amount payable for this gale was £125,591 by 13,500 purchasers, and out of this, on the first demand through the Post Receivable Orders, the Commissioners have in seven weeks received no less than £91,207, or about seven-ninths of the whole. Therefore, my Lords, I think Her Majesty's Government, looking at the satisfactory results, have no reason to fear that the instalments will be paid in the future under this great measure which is now before your Lordships, with the same regularity and punctuality with which they have been paid in the past. I have noticed there has been manifested by certain politicians a feverish anxiety with regard to what is called the British taxpayer. My noble Friend has pointed out, in the course of his speech, that the British taxpayer has been exceedingly well looked after. I noticed in the course of the speech of my noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal, with regard to ill-health having prevented Earl Spencer (whose absence we all regret) being present to-day, that he referred to one 1414 of the noble Earl's speeches. I recollect that in another of his speeches the noble Earl made use of the expression that "there should be a buffer between the British taxpayer and the Irish tenant." On reading that observation it would appear that the noble Earl has small confidence in the integrity of the Irish tenants. I am sure if he had been in his place to-night the noble Earl would not have contradicted me when I say that my experience of the Irish tenant-farmer is far larger and far more recent and practical than that of the noble Earl, and I can say that I have every confidence in the integrity and honesty of the Irish tenant farmer, provided he is left to himself. But I think if we could search the innermost recesses of the noble Earl's mind we should find that it is not the Irish tenant farmer he doubts, but that he has a certain want of confidence in the members of the Irish Nationalist Party, who, I believe, are the support of the party to which he belongs at the present time, to whom agitation is as the breath of life, men, in the words of Burke, "to whom a state of order moans a sentence of obscurity, and who know well that if the Irish land question were satisfactorily settled their occupation, like that of Othello, would be gone. But I would venture to re-assure the noble Earl were he here, even upon that point, for I can assure your Lordships it is one thing for the authors of the Plan of Campaign to swoop down on the estates of impoverished Irish landlords, who are, it may be, over-burdened with debt, and compel those landlords, on the principle of half a loaf being better than no bread, to accept the pittance offered him. But it is quite a different thing for these agitators to endeavour to come between the Irish tenant, who is anxious and willing to pay his rent, and the British taxpayer—that British taxpayer who, however unconcernedly he may regard the plundering of an unfortunate Irish landlord, has not the slightest idea of surrendering one jot or tittle of what he knows to be his just due. Therefore I cordially endorse the remarks which have been made by the noble Marquess beside me when he says that the British taxpayer has been very well looked after indeed. Now I will turn to a few of 1415 the modifications which I should like to see accepted by the noble Lord below me (The Lord Privy Seal). I rejoice immensely that the clause introduced by the hon. Member for South Derry has been inserted in the Bill, which appoints a Court of Appeal to which the decision of the Land Purchase Courts may be referred, although at the same time I agree with the remark of my noble Friend, that I should like to see that Court composed of the legal Commissioner and two other Judges. I most cordially support that expression of opinion, but I think that is after all more a matter which can be dealt with in Committee. Still, I think a Court of Appeal is absolutely necessary when we are dealing with a measure of this magnitude, and when we consider that even in the bare fixing of a fair rent those cases are tried in open Court, that they can be carried to a still higher Court, and that if a point of law is introduced they can even go to a third. Now, I would not willingly say a word which could be thought in the least degree disrespectful of the Land Purchase Commissioners. Mr. Lynch has, I know perfectly well, since his appointment discharged his difficult and onerous duties with the greatest ability and impartiality, and in a manner which reflects the highest credit upon him; but with regard to his colleague, Mr. MacCarthy, I have not the same confidence, and when your Lordships hear what he states, according to the notes of a judgment he has given, I think you will allow that that opinion is perfectly justified. I am bound to say I think I am wrong in making use of the word judgment, for on that occasion there was no case really before him. Mr. MacCarthy ought rather to admit that it is merely an expression of his own opinion, but given vent to in open Court. On the occasion to which I allude, Mr. MacCarthy stated,From time to time, for the last four or five years, I have been asked by owners or agents of large estates in which agrarian quarrels have occurred or were expected to occur whether, in case the actual tenants were evicted, and other persons substituted for them, I would consider that such substituted tenants ought to be able to purchase the holdings which had belonged to the evicted tenants, and whether I would use my statutory powers to facilitate 1416 such purchases, to all which inquiries I have replied in the negative.Now I can quite understand, if the tenant appears to be a bogus tenant, occupying a sham holding, it would have been the duty of the Commissioner to refuse to allow him to purchase his holding, but when the tenant is a perfectly solvent and reliable man, I would ask what business has any Commissioner to attempt to debar that man from participating in the benefits of the Act, which was passed solely to benefit every tenant in Ireland. But Mr. MacCarthy, by reason of his position, is anxious to prevent such being carried out, because forsooth he believes that such sales would cause a terrible recurrence of social disorder. I will not detain your lordships at this time of the evening, though I might proceed to show at considerable length how he bears out that argument. I venture to say that when we have a man in Mr. MacCarthy's position airing these opinions, not in the discharge of his duty, but for his own glorification, it does seem to me to be ample proof that we do require a Court of Appeal to which either Party can appeal, from men of the stamp of Mr. MacCarthy, or from men of the same kidney, from whichever party they may come, who may be appointed in the future. Now, before resuming my seat, I should like to say a, few words with regard to the clause which has been dealt with so ably by my noble Friends and by the noble Duke opposite, Clause 10. I fully recognise the desire of the Government to give a fair share of the money to be advanced to people in all parts of Ireland. I fully recognise their desire to place all tenant farmers in all counties on an equal footing; but I cannot understand, as I read this Bill, why they wish to convert into a peasant proprietor the occupier of a poor, wretched, and small holding in a congested district, an occupier who is utterly unable to support his family, and even sometimes himself, out of the produce of his farm alone; and yet, as far as I read this Clause 10, these small cottiers are calculated among the total number of occupiers of holdings of under £50 a year. Thereby, having been so calculated, a larger amount of that £30,000,000 1417 is allocated to those occupiers of under £50 in value. That provision in the Bill I cannot but think is a gross and a harsh injustice on the substantial tenant of over £50, as, by the amount of money which is allocated to these smaller tenants, so much is taken away from the sum which ought justly to be theirs. Although I have stated once that this £50 clause in no way affects me personally as an Irish landlord, I would, as an Irishman who wishes to see this land question settled, beg of my noble Friend, the Lord Privy Seal, to stop before putting obstacles in the way of that which it seems to me they fully admit it is their duty to encourage, the formation of a substantial class of agricultural holders. I think the noble Lord is right when he has told you that the smaller class of tenants should be substantial men, and I, for one, most earnestly believe that the one thing which will prevent the working of this Bill, and cause it to be a failure, will be anything which operates as a discouragement to the larger men to buy, for if they do not, the smaller men will not dream for an instant of buying. I would venture to throw out a suggestion to the noble Lord who has introduced this Bill; that is, that it might be possible for the Government to accept an amendment somewhat in these terms: that the small farmers in the congested districts should be eliminated from the calculation, and that the £30,000,000 be divided into two parts according to the ratio of the number of holdings above £50, and the number of holdings under £50, less those rated at £1, £2, £3, or £4. This, however, is a matter which could very easily be considered in Committee. Before I conclude my remarks, I would merely throw out one other suggestion. It may be, and I think it will be, found that a large amount of the money allocated to the smaller tenants will not be taken advantage of by them, and I would suggest to the Government whether they would not consider it would be better, after the lapse of a certain time—make it six months or two years if you like—the money ought to be placed at the disposal of tenants of over £50 value who are best calculated to become purchasers of their holdings. Though I have stated on the part of some other Irish Peers as well as myself that it is 1418 our intention to submit Amendments at the proper time, I can assure Her Majesty's Government that it is with no intention of hampering them in carrying through Parliament a measure which we conscientiously believe will go a long way to settle the great Irish question. I would ask them to accept the Amendments which may be put before them by us as Irish Peers, because we believe that this Bill, with proper Amendments, and with necessary modifications, will prove itself to be, as has been stated by my noble Friend beside me, not only admirable in itself, but by its satisfactory working, an inestimable benefit and of enormous value to all classes in Ireland.
*VISCOUNT DE VESCI
My Lords, at this period in the evening, I do not think it would be right to detain you by occupying your attention for any great length of time. The noble Duke who has spoken (the Duke of Argyll) has used all his almost unrivalled powers of eloquence in giving a historical review of all previous Irish land legislation, and in giving a short description of the system which led to it. I, in common with others who have spoken this evening, have to congratulate the House that Irish land legislation is again in the hands of the Lord Privy Seal. Those of your Lordships whose duty it was to take part in the discussion on the Land Bill of 1887, will have some recollection of the tact and mastery of details shown by him both during the debate on the Second Reading and in Committee. That opinion has, I think, been confirmed by the ability he has shown in explaining the necessarily intricate details of the present measure. I do not wish to approach the consideration of this Bill in any unnecessarily carping or critical manner; but I confess that though we have in this Bill before us what is, no doubt, the complete financial scheme of the Government, yet I think we are left in the dark somewhat as to what the intentions of the Government are with regard to the working machinery of the Bill. The noble Lord, the Lord Privy Seal, gave us some history of the previous legislation during the last ten years, but I would call your Lordship's attention again to the fact that last year, in the Session of 1890, a Bill was brought in dealing completely with the whole question of land 1419 purchase, and comprising a scheme both financially and as regarded the Land Department. That Bill was strangled soon after its birth, or, perhaps it might be more proper to say, it was overlaid. At the commencement of the present Session the Government proposed two Bills. By singular good fortune, both those Bills reached in the other House the stage of Committee before the adjournment for the Christmas holidays; but notwithstanding that only one of those Bills has survived the rough handling it has received in another place, and is now presented for your Lordships' consideration. I venture to "think that this is an unfortunate state of things, and perhaps the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor of Ireland will, before the conclusion of this Debate, give some indication of the intention of the Government in the matter—whether they propose to introduce a supplementary Bill dealing with the Land Department before the dissolution of the present Parliament. Speaking for myself—and I think I echo the sentiments of every Peer in this House who is in any way connected with Ireland—it is our duty, it seems to me, to consider the Bill, with a full desire to benefit alike all classes in Ireland, and it is our duty to see, as far as we can, that it ensures our fellow taxpayers of the United Kingdom from incurring any appreciable pecuniary risk; and I think in considering it in that view we may congratulate Her Majesty's Government with having safeguarded the public purse with a triple wall of almost impregnable defence. Before going from this point I wish to call attention to the fourth clause dealing with the county percentage, which earmarks and sets aside 5s. per, £100—¼ per cent.—out of the annuities payable by the purchasers. This is set aside by the Bill primarily in favour of the Labourers and Cottagers Acts, and, if necessary, to be added to the Guarantee Fund. I acknowledge that as far as the Labourers and Cottagers Act is concerned it is to be spent within the county in which the contributing purchasers reside. But I would point out that this tax—for it is a tax—is laid on a limited number of ratepayers who are liable all the time for the rates they have to pay in their several electoral 1420 divisions. It is not improbable, and it may be the case, that a purchaser resident in a Poor Law Union of a county in which there is no necessity for improving the labourers' cottages may find that this levy is expended in a remote portion of the county of which he has little knowledge and with which he has no connection. In making these remarks, I wish it to be understood that I am not averse at all to legislation which substitutes comfortable cottages, with plots of land attached to them, in place of the shameful and miserable hovels which exist in, and are a disgrace to, so many parts of Ireland. With regard to the 7th clause in this Bill dealing with purchasers' insurance, your Lordships will have seen from the remarks made to-night by the noble Marquess opposite that this clause meets with considerable opposition from a certain minority of those who are best qualified to judge in Ireland. They think there may be cases where a landowner wishing to sell his estate in entirety will be prevented under this clause, even if the tenants are willing to come to terms. I do not share in the opinions expressed upon these matters. I think it will come to be understood that this is simply in the nature of a compulsory investment in the hands of the Land Commission entirely for the benefit of the purchaser to be used solely as an insurance for him against agricultural disasters, and which, if not allocated for the purpose, will go in a gradual and, I trust, progressive reduction of his rent charge. I, in common with the noble Marquess and others who have already addressed you, take Serious objections to the provisions of the 10th Clause. I can conceive no greater danger than to create discontent among the most influential and industrial class of occupiers in Ireland by debarring from the benefit of this Act those who come within the purview of the Acts of 1870 and 1881. Is it wise to shut out from this Act those to whom you will look for a fair and impartial exercise of their powers as elective members of the future County Councils? Your Lordships have heard that amendments will be made to this clause, and I trust that the Government will give them their favourable consideration. I have said I do not wish to detain your Lordships at any great length this evening; 1421 but before I conclude I would venture most humbly to express my full appreciation of the great ability with which this Bill has been prepared and introduced into your Lordships' House. This Bill, as all previous land legislation has done, no doubt calls for great sacrifices on the part of Irish landlords, and confers very large and immediate benefits on the purchasers. Notwithstanding those sacrifices on the one side, and those benefits on the other, I say it is a brilliant effort to heal an open sore and to assuage and calm the griefs and passions which have desolated and afflicted Ireland during the past 10 years. By his firm and fearless administration of the law, the Minister primarily responsible for the government of Ireland has crushed the malignant tyranny of the village despot, and restored the free exercise of social relations and interchange of personal regard between all classes which, when untrammelled, are closer and warmer in Ireland than in any other part of the United Kingdom. What he has done in the past few years might have been equally well performed by any other Minister of ability and ordinary courage. But by this proposal of constructive legislation the Chief Secretary will, I am sure, have done all that lies within the bounds of human possibility to restore confidence and to consolidate the mutual interests of all. I am sure this measure will go far to neutralise the intolerable land system so wantonly imposed upon Ireland by the Land Act of 1881. I am confident that this Bill, when it becomes law, will succeed; but whether or no, to have made the effort alone will be a record of honour attaching to the present Administration, and which will survive the varying fortunes of the ensuing or any future General Election.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, I beg to move that the Debate be now adjourned, and resumed tomorrow as the first Order of the Day.
§ On Question, agreed to.
§ Further debate adjourned till tomorrow, and to be taken first.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes before Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Ten o'clock.