§ SECOND READING.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ THE EARL OF ABERDEEN
My Lords, the object of this Bill is to amend the legislation relating to the subject of allotments in Ireland for the purpose of extending the powers. At present the Guardians have power to create allotments to the extent of half an acre, but it has been found—though it is rather surprising that it should have been the case—that an acre is often asked for and would be desirable. Therefore this Bill has been brought in. It passed the House of Commons I believe without opposition, and with the assent of Her Majesty's Government; therefore I hope your Lordships will give it a Second Reading. Under the circumstances I do not think it is necessary for me to trouble your Lordships with any remarks. I may just observe, as my attention has been called to the matter, that it would perhaps be more correct in the last line of the Bill to insert the words "Statute acre"; but that can be dealt with in Committee. Meanwhile I propose that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Viscount Gordon.)
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
My Lords, I confess I cannot see what is the object of this Bill, except that the noble Earl naturally wishes to show that having been Lord Lieutenant of Ireland he still takes an interest in what is going on there. But this condition and the limit of the land were carefully considered when the Act was passed, and it was specially intended that a man might not be more than a labourer and might not be a tenant. This Bill tends, if it is passed, towards creating congested districts all through Ireland instead of in a part of it. Now as there is such immense difficulty and complicated legislation for the purpose of getting that, I think it is very undesirable to extend a holding from 1434 half an acre to an afire. A great many of those labourers who have got half an acre have already been round unable to pay their rent, and, if it has been got at all, it has been with the greatest difficulty. I confess I think that we are much indebted to the late Chief Secretary for Ireland for the vigour with which he has enforced the law; but he also gave blackmail out of the landlords' pockets to persuade the people to agree to a bail law. That would, I think, be very objectionable; but the good he has done will be all got rid of if every day the law is changed to meet every fad that is put forward. The people now—the poor tenants especially—are extremely well off and are quite content, and they will remain so if we do not change the system of government and legislation every Session; but, if we continue to do that, all the good that the right hon. Gentleman has done will be got rid of, their minds will be always occupied with expecting new changes, and they will never settle themselves down as they are doing now to quiet industry, which has resulted, I can assure your Lordships, in the West of Ireland in a prosperity among the poorer tenants which has not been known for a great many years. I feel it will be no use, but I move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months in case I meet with any support.
§ Amendment moved to leave out ("now") and add at the end ("this day six months.")—(The Lord Oranmore and Browne.)
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (Earl CADOGAN)
My Lords, the attitude of the Government in this House with regard to this Bill will be the same as that which they assumed in the other House of Parliament—namely, one of benevolent neutrality. I rather think the noble Lord on the Cross Benches (Lord Oranmore and Browne) has to some extent exaggerated the possible evils which might arise under the Bill. The noble Lord spoke of the fact of a labourer's holding as an allotment being increased from half an acre to an acre making the difference of his being a labourer or a tenant; but the noble Lord will perhaps remember that in England under the Allotments Act a labourer's allotment is considered to be 1435 land up to the extent of an acre, and I imagine that the chief object which the noble Earl opposite has in proposing the Bill is to assimilate as much as possible the size of allotments in Ireland with that at present existing in England. Under those circumstances I can see no objection to the Bill; in fact I think that anything which tends to assimilate the conditions of holding land in Ireland and England is desirable, and the Government are prepared to support the measure before the House.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived; Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read 2a (accordingly), and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Thursday next.