*THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
called attention to the circumstances attending the appointment of the Evicted Tenants Commission, and to the proceedings and the Report of the Commission; and also asked whether it was intended to bring in a Bill based upon the recommendations of the Commissioners? He felt that it was hardly necessary to offer any apology to the House for calling their Lordships' attention to the Report of the Commission. The Commission had been a most important one. It had dealt with a very important subject indeed, and, so far as he was aware, it had never before been entrusted to a Royal Commission to make a Report with the view of settling differences that had arisen in regard to private property. The circumstances under which the Commission was appointed, the manner in which it was selected, and the nature of its proceedings had attracted much public attention, and had given rise to a great deal of comment. Having now before them all the evidence, and being in possession of all the facts, so that they had all the materials for forming a judgment, he thought their Lordships would be of opinion that the time had arrived when the House ought to pass the circumstances relating to the Commission under close and careful review. The Commission had been termed the Evicted Tenants Commission, but he thought it ought to be called the Plan of Campaign Tenants Commission, because, as he would show their Lordships, it was into the Campaign estates, and those only, that the Commission made its inquiries, such as they had been. The Instructions to the Commission directed them to inquire and report respecting estates where tenancies and holdings had been determined since May 1, 1879, and in respect to which holdings claims for 1414 re-instatement had been made by the tenants evicted there from who were still resident in Ireland. Those terms seemed to be very plain, but the Commission interpreted them in their own fashion, and went about their work in an unusual and careless manner. Directed to inquire, in the first place, into claims which had been made for re-instatement by tenants, the Commissioners decided to receive applications themselves, and invited them from evicted tenants, many of whom were dead, or had gone elsewhere, and were certainly not resident in the country. They stated that themselves on page 10 of the Report, and the result of their inquiries would be found in Appendix G, which constituted something like a fourth of the volume. On the second page of the Report they stated that they had selected the following estates as those on which combinations had been formed, or the Plan of Campaign had been carried out, where a number of evictions had taken place; and then followed a list of 17 estates, out of which no less than 15 were in the list of Campaign Estates furnished to the Commission by Mr. John Dillon. Therefore, their inquiry was limited solely to those estates, though, no doubt, their Report was made to embrace all the evicted estates, with regard to not one of which, however, did they make any inquiry whatever. Now, it happened by a curious coincidence that the tenants of the Campaign Estates were those to whom the present Government were deeply committed both individually and collectively. While the late Government were in Office, Members of the present Cabinet spoke in Ireland and encouraged the tenants on the Campaign Estates. Mr. Shaw-Lefevre spoke at Woodford on the 10th December, 1889, and told them that within a month after a Liberal Government was returned—Every emergency man would have fled the country; every bogus tenant would have re-solved himself into his original elements, and some agreement to re-instate them would be made either voluntarily or by legislation.A few days later he said he believed—The first act of a Liberal majority would be to bring those disputes to a conclusion on equitable grounds in such a manner that the evicted tenants would be replaced in their holdings.That was not all, for Mr. John Morley went to Tipperary when an outbreak took place which even the Commission 1415 admitted was unjustifiable, and which had no connection with agrarian matters, in order to see, as the right hon. Gentleman said, "the last nail driven into the coffin of the Government." But the present Government as a whole had committed themselves. Last year Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Morley, Sir G. Trevelyan, Mr. Campbell-Bannerman, and the other Members of the present Government voted in the House of Commons in favour of Mr. O'Kelly's Bill, the principle of which was the re-instatement of all the Campaign tenants without exception. Time passed on, and having assumed the reins of Government they were called upon to redeem their pledges. They offered something in the form of an inquiry. But that was not very gratefully received by their Irish following. It was not sufficient for the Irish Members, and Mr. J. Redmond reminded them of their action and promises. He said that the condition of the evicted tenants was too well known to call for inquiry, and pointed out that the interpretation put upon their conduct by the people of Ireland was that as soon as the Liberal Party got into Office Mr. O'Kelly's Bill giving power to turn out the new tenants and restoring the evicted tenants to their holdings would again be brought in and passed. That put the Government in a rather difficult position, and after some delay Mr. Morley decided to appoint a Commission. He wrote a letter to Mr. M'Carthy in which he said he wanted fuller and more decisive information, and said he should appoint a small Commission to examine and report with strict impartiality on the actual circumstances and the practical equity of the case. The Instructions were soon issued, and they ran as follows:—The Commission was to report what means should be adopted to bring about re-instatement of the evicted tenants, and thereby give effect to the policy of the late Parliament as indicated by Section 13 of the Purchase of Land Act, 1891. Their Lordships would observe what those Instructions were. They were not to inquire, for nothing was said in them about inquiry. The instructions were to re-instate, and to devise the means of re-instating. That was the sole point committed to the Commission, and that was the view the Commission took of their duty. At the opening of the proceedings 1416 Mr. Justice Mathew referred to this task of finding the means of re-instatement as their most important duty, and said that all other inquiries must be subordinate to that main object. Before passing from those instructions, he wished to say that he had never before read arguments introduced into Instructions to Royal Commissions. Not only was argument used in these Instructions, but it was argument of the very feeblest character. The Chief Secretary made it evident that he was clutching at any straw which he thought would save him from drowning. He knew perfectly well that he was committed to these evicted tenants; he knew he was in a mess out of which he had to get; and he adopted this Royal Commission as the only means he could see. He bad the weakness, moreover, to say that he was following the policy of the late Government in this matter. The Commissioners were obedient enough to echo the words of the Chief Secretary in Clause 13. They said it was clear this was the intention of Parliament. They had received no evidence which made it clear, and it was impossible they could have received any such evidence. The sole foundation for the argument was that the word "re-instatement" was used in the Instructions and in the Act. But the Act referred alone to voluntary agreements between landlords and tenants, and simply provided that where such agreements were arrived at the evicted tenants should not be excluded from the terms of the Act. Mr. Morley tried to prove from this that there was to be a universal and compulsory re-instatement of tenants. That argument might be left to answer itself. Then, with reference to the composition of the Commission, four out of the five gentlemen appointed held Nationalist opinions, yet Mr. Morley was extremely indignant at the suggestion being made that the Commission had been packed; he even stated that there would have been more reason for the tenants to complain that the Commission was packed, and he even went so far as to say that there was not a single active politician amongst the Commissioners. Mr. Morley ought to be a little more careful, for if he did not know that Mr. Redington was an active politician he ought to have known it. As appeared from a letter which Mr. Reding- 1417 ton wrote on December 16, 1889, he was then engaged in supporting Home Rule candidates, and he expressed the opinion that those landlords were unreasonable who refused to refer to arbitration disputes arising with their tenants; that the arbitrators should have power to re-Instate those tenants who had been evicted, and that, in his opinion, it was the duty of the Government to compel both landlords and tenants to submit their quarrels to the decision of a fairly constituted tribunal. If Mr. Morley did not know that those were the opinions of Mr. Redington, and that Mr. Redington was an active politician, he could not have taken much trouble in the matter. It was his business, in appointing the Commission, to appoint men in whom the public generally could trust. With reference to the other Members, it had been a matter of surprise to him that Mr. O'Brien was appointed at all, because Mr. Morley must have known that he was going to appoint that gentleman a Land Commissioner, and, when he was so gazetted, his place on this Commission ought to have been tilled up. With regard to the proceedings of the Commission, they all knew about the memorable opening speech of Sir James Mathew, in which he began by repeating all Mr. Morley's doctrines about reinstatement being sanctioned by Clause 13; he said he wished to bring about peace and reconciliation, and then he, unfortunately, ended with an attack on one of the landlords as to whoso estate he was about to inquire. Mr. Roche, the first witness called, was well known as one of the chief agitators in the part of Ireland to which his evidence referred. Though he had never been a tenant of Lord Clanricarde's, he was invited to discuss the circumstances of Lord Clanricarde's estate, and gave voluminous evidence about it. His evidence was not tested in any way, and counsel for the landlord was not allowed to cross-examine him, and the consequence was that Mr. Roche went away, having made a great many statements which were all hearsay and were never tested in any way whatever. Mr. Murphy, the only Member of the Commission who was not a Nationalist, resigned after the first day's proceedings, and gave his reasons for so doing. He wrote and said the right of cross-examination to all parties had be- 1418 come a necessity under the circumstances which had arisen, and that his sole reason for resigning was that his hope that the tenants would obtain great and lasting benefits could not be realised, inasmuch as the procedure of the Commission was not in his judgment in accordance with its conciliatory object. With regard to that point of cross-examination, he was willing to admit that no one had an absolute right to claim to cross-examine before a Royal Commission; but he would point out that this Commission was dealing with matters relating to the private affairs of individuals, and if the Commissioners had not the knowledge necessary to enable them to question the witnesses and test their evidence, cross-examination by counsel ought to have been allowed. That would have been by far the easiest and best course to pursue. However, the course they had adopted was, on the one hand, to allow the tenants to put in their statements; the landlords, on the other, putting in their contradictory statements; the two statements being allowed to remain opposed to each other. The far simpler, and, as Mr. Murphy said, the only satisfactory plan under the circumstances would have been to permit cross-examination. Then as to the evidence received by the Commissioners he would divide it under three heads. The first class he would call the evidence of agitators, the persons who had taken a very prominent part with regard to the Plan of Campaign. The most important witness he wished to mention was Mr. Dillon, because upon his evidence the Commissioners founded some of the chief allegations and statements in their Report. Mr. Dillon stated, in answer to Question 14,957, that it was not true that he had exerted himself to prevent settlements being arrived at, but that in the case of the Ponsonby estate he strongly disapproved the terms proposed, and he therefore said that he would give the tenants on that estate no assistance whatever. But, when speaking at Templemore on October 18, 1892, Mr. Dillon said that he would not countenance or approve any settlement on any estate which he did not consider satisfactory and fair to the tenants. Therefore the House would see that Mr. Dillon took it entirely upon himself to say whether any terms proposed were fair or not. He was quoting Mr. Dillon's 1419 speeches, because the only way of showing that the evidence given before the Commission was unreliable was by producing statements in which the witness himself had affirmed the contrary. Another statement which Mr. Dillon made before the Commission at Question 14,960 was that he did not order the tenants to pay no rent at all. But how was that reconcilable with Mr. Dillon's own well-known assertion that he could show tenants who did not pay, not because they could not pay, but because he told them not to pay? When it was said that the Plan of Campaign was a purely agrarian movement, how could that be reconciled with the speeches of men who like Mr. Dillon were leaders and originators of the Plan of Campaign? Mr. John Redmond said the Plan of Campaign was startedAs a great political engine wherewith to fight Balfour and coercion, and that Parnell was right when he stated that the Plan of Campaign was more a political than an agrarian movement.And Mr. Harrington had corroborated the statement that the Plan of Campaign was a political and not an agrarian machine. All these things did not seem to be as familiar to these innocent Commissioners as they were to everybody who knew anything about the Irish Question. They would not ask a question upon the subject, and would not allow anyone else to do so. Not one single question was asked as to how evictions had arisen, us to whose fault they were, or anything of the kind. It was not intended that such questions should be asked. The same class of agitator's evidence was given by Mr. Denis Kilbride; by Mr. Lane, M.P., who was present at Tipperary and on many occasions by Mr. O'Brien Dalton, and by Mr. Humphries. Not a single question was asked those witnesses as to their own action in the matter. The Chief Secretary said he did not wish that sort of inquiry to take place. Whatever were the exact terms he used, he distinctly said that no inquiries must be made into the circumstances which led to those evictions. So much for the agitators, the first class of witnesses. The second class was the evicted tenants themselves. They were asked as to the actual evictions—whether they would like to go back and what they would give to go back. When they were asked that they 1420 became very careful. They were also asked how their farm was now being cultivated, and who was upon it. Their Lordships could imagine the kind of answer received to those questions. The third class was the planters. They were extremely angry at the statements made in regard to them by witnesses, and they sent written replies; but, although they were just referred to in the margin of the Report, in the Report itself no notice whatever was taken of them. It was not surprising that the landlords were not represented before the Commission, considering the manner in which it was opened, and the course which it took. They thought it was perfectly useless for them to go before it. He would say nothing as to the accuracy or inaccuracy of the allegations in regard to their estates, as he was not then dealing with that point, but with the manner in which the Commission itself was conducted, and the fact that their Report did not flow from evidence. The Commission finally made their recommendations, with which their Lordships were familiar. They were that a Land Commission or a Special Commission should have the power of receiving applications from evicted tenants to reinstate them upon terms—that was to say, that if no agreement should be arrived at between the landlord and tenant, the Commission should fix the terms. There was also the peculiar recommendation that loans should be made from the rates for purchasing stock for these tenants if the Boards of Guardians should apply. These recommendations were exactly what Mr. Redington wrote of before he entered the Commission. They were, in fact, Mr. O'Kelly's Bill written in large. Now, what had been the use of this Commission? What single fact had the Commission brought to light that everyone did not know before, except the actual details of the mode in which tenants were evicted, and certain random statements in connection therewith made by agitators and others? Evidence in the proper sense of the word there was none from beginning to end of the proceedings. Further, he would say this was not a question for a Royal Commission at all. An administrative plan for putting back tenants was not a subject for the consideration of a Commission. A Royal Commission ought to in- 1421 quire and to consider for itself, and to lay before the Government some information of real value; but this Royal Commission was precluded, as he had shown, by its instructions from going any further than it did. Its simple and only duty was to recommend a plan for putting back the evicted tenants. Then why was a Judge taken from his duties to preside over it? The only reason that could be imagined was that the Government, having made up their minds to re-instate the evicted tenants, started this Commission and endeavoured to shelter themselves under the respectability that necessarily attached to the character of a Judge. He had now to ask whether the Government intended to proceed with the recommendations of this Commission? Since he put the question down the matter had gone a little further, and he was not surprised that the Government shrank from bringing in a Bill based on those recommendations. He could easily imagine they were not sorry when their anti-Parnellite allies brought in a Bill ror the purpose of carrying out those recommendations; but he was struck with amazement at the manner in which the Government had received that measure. The position of the Evicted Tenants Commission had apparently greatly changed, and had become very absurd indeed. Mr. Morley had suddenly discovered that it ought to have a discriminating power in deciding whether an evicted tenant should be re-instated or not; but he was rather late in making that discovery, and it was surprising he had not made it before he sent the Commission on a wild-goose chase to find out a plan for re-instating the evicted tenants. The Commission had done that, and the moment they had done it Mr. Morley turned round upon them and said he did not think that any Commission ought to have a compulsory and universal power. Had he really considered the matter at all before he appointed the Commission? Certainly the Commissioners had great reason for complaining. Had it ever occurred to Mr. Morley that he had entirely gone back on his own policy? If he thought that the discriminating power ought to exist, why did he not say so in the terms of his Commission? That discretionary power would not satisfy his Irish allies, and if they were not satisfied it was useless for the 1422 Government to bring in any Bill. What was that discretionary power? Was it to enable the Commission to inquire into the facts which preceded the evictions, and which led up to and caused them? Because, if not, that power would be just as dead and nugatory as the powers which were given to the Commission before. But, if that were done, what a condemnation would have been pronounced upon the previous refusal to allow inquiry into this matter! Their Lordships knew that before any legislation could take place on it, a thorough and impartial inquiry in the true sense of the term must be held; and he therefore hoped that in the future development of this question their Lordships would keep a most careful eye on the proceedings of the Government, and would bestow close attention upon any Bill they might lay before the House.
§ *THE EARL OF SELBORNE
said, the noble Lord (the Earl of Camperdown) had done no more than his duty in bringing this matter before the House. It was a subject on which he felt very strongly, and he could not but say that to him this Commission appeared to he a thing perfectly without precedent and in the highest degree unconstitutional. Me did not hesitate to say that, as far as his opinion went, nothing equally unconstitutional had been done by any Government since the reign of James II. He would state his reasons for that opinion. This was a Royal Commission issued by the sole authority of the Crown, without any sanction whatever from Parliament, to inquire into the private concerns and the exercise of the property rights of individual members of the community, with a view to overrule those property rights, and to undo that which had been done in the due and regular course of law, according to some scheme which this Royal Commission was to suggest. That was totally unlike anything which had ever been done by a Royal Commission before. Royal Commissions might be divided generally into two classes— one, when it was for the public interest that the operation of particular laws should be inquired into with a view, if it should be necessary, to general legislation; the other, when there were particular institutions in which the public had, or was deemed to have, an interest, 1423 the working of which, the system of which, and the effects of winch, might be usefully inquired into, in order to consider whether, in the public interest, those institutions should in any respect he remodelled. Examples of both those classes were numerous. All the Commissions on land tenure in Ireland were examples of the first class—that was to say, the general operation of the law was the subject of an inquiry, the object of which was to consider whether it might not be useful to deal with particular evils by general legislation. The inquiries into Charities, Municipal Corporations, and the Universities were examples of the second class. But the Evicted Tenants Commission was a new kind of Royal Commission for the invasion of private rights, and concerning only certain private individuals. As far as his opinion was good for anything, he declared it to be in the highest degree unconstitutional. The subject of the inquiry was stated to be the number of tenants on particular estates who had been evicted from their holdings since May 1, 1879. That was a period of 14 years, over-reaching all the legislation of 1881 and subsequent years as to Irish land tenure. The key-stone of the arch of the Commission was the clause—To see what means should be adopted to bring about settlements and the reinstatement of the evicted tenants, and thereby to give effect to the policy of the late Parliament indicated by Section 13 of the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1891.That was the pretext for this Commission—as false and hollow a pretext as had ever been put forward. He said that, not forgetting that in deference probably to the authority of such an assertion in a Viceregal Commission—for he could not imagine that it could be accounted for in any other way—the learned President of the Commission stated at the beginning of the proceedings that the policy of reinstatement was clearly sanctioned by the section in the Act of 1891; and the same statement was made in the Report, with the substitution of the word "plainly" for the word "clearly. If it meant nothing more than that Parliament was not opposed to the re-instatement of evicted tenants where the landlords were able and willing to re-instate them, the allegation would be a platitude, but certainly true. No interpretation of the Act of 1891 was possible 1424 which would prove that Parliament had by that Act done more than sanction reinstatement by the act and with the consent of the landlord. It was a matter of profound astonishment that things so directly contrary to the fact should be stated.' In the Act of 1891, the rights of property were recognised, and nothing was to be done without the landowner's consent; but the object of this Commission was to overturn the landowner's rights. No poles could he further asunder—no two things could be more opposed to each other than the policy of the Act of 1891 and the policy of the Commission. The policy of that Act was no new thing; it was embodied in the Land Act of 1881, the Arrears Act of 1882, and the Land Act of 1887. In the Land Act of 1881 the 59th section (the Arrears Clause) enabled the Land Commission to advance money to tenants up to a certain point to enable them to clear off their arrears; and then was added, in exactly the same spirit and policy as the clause in the Act of 1891—Whenever in the case of any tenant evicted for non-payment of rent since the 1st May, 1880 the landlord agrees to re-instate such tenants on the terms by this section set forth, this section shall apply"—that was to say, the advance might be made as if the tenant had not been evicted from his holding. Again, in the Arrears Act of 1882, advances were to he made upon terms more favourable than those of 1881, and the benefit of them might be given to an evicted tenant "if the landlord agreed to re-instate him and consented to the application." By the Act of 1887 the landlord might, if he thought fit, re-instate a tenant against whom ejectment proceedings had been taken for non-payment of rent after the statutory period for redemption had passed. Where landlord and tenant were ready to agree, no one could wish to prevent the agreement; but to re-instate the tenant without the landlord's consent and against his will was simply taking away the property which had been over and over again guaranteed to the landlord by law. He could only repeat that no two things could be more opposed to each other than the policy of the Acts to which he had referred providing for re-instatement of the tenant when the landlord agreed to it and the policy of the proposals of this Commission that re-instatement should be made when 1425 the landlord did not agree to it. One was a confiscation of property; the other was a recognition of the rights of property. The only reason which made it necessary to have such a clause in the Act of 1891 with regard to voluntary re-instatement was, that it was an Act enabling advances to he made out of public money for the purposes of purchase; and, all preceding Acts on the subject having been confined to existing tenants, special provision had to be made for an evicted tenant whom the landlord was willing to place on the same footing as an existing tenant. The sole object of the clause was that the Purchase Acts might apply just as if the tenant had been actually in possession. So much for the pretext. The object of the Commission was practically to over-ride all Acts of Parliament that had been passed on the subject of land in Ireland during the last 14 years. He would not dwell upon the fact that on the face of this Commission it seemed to be intended to re-instate all the tenants who had been evicted in the last 14 years, further than to point out its origin, in the pretext founded on the Act of 1891. That Act was followed with regard to the date from which evictions should be inquired into, in order probably to make this Commission look something like what was done in 1891. It was made applicable to all tenants from that date for a wholly different purpose, with the absurd consequence, if acted upon according to what upon the face of the Commission seemed to be its sole intention, of re-instating all evicted tenants and over-riding all the Acts of Parliament which had been passed during the last 14 years. Sow, something must be said about the rights of landlords. Surely the landlords had rights as well as the tenants; and the rights of the landlords were recognised and guaranteed by law, as was shown by the provisions of the several Acts he had referred to. He should feel the deepest responsibility, having regard to the part which he personally took in 1881, if he did not upon all proper occasions maintain the principle that the rights of landlords were to be respected as well as the claims of tenants. He was reluctant to inflict upon their Lordships an enumeration of all the Acts of Parliament which had been passed, pledging over and over again, with as much sacredness 1426 and solemnity as Parliament could do anything, the faith of Parliament to the landlords as much as to the tenants. In the Act of 1860, which with a slight modification still governed ejectments, the 70th section provided that the landlord's right to the land was to be absolute after the proceedings for nonpayment of rent there pointed out had been taken unless there was payment or redemption: six months being allowed for redemption by the clause which followed. Then the Act of 1870, except in two special cases, one where more than three years' arrears existed, the other where the Court hold the rents of small tenancies to be exorbitant, ejectment for non-payment of rent was not to be held disturbance by the landlord, and compensation for disturbance was not to be given. The Act of 1881, with reference to judicial rents, expressly enacted that the tenant was to be compellable to quit his holding for breach of any of the statutory conditions—first of all, if he did not pay his rent—and no compensation was in those cases to be given for disturbance. In the Act of 1887 the same thing was provided. When Parliament had thus over and over again recognised the right of the landlord, in the event of non-payment of rent by the tenant, to resume possession of the land, for the Government to come forward and appoint a Commission in order to invent some wholesale way of over-riding rights so recognised and regulated by those Acts of Parliament deserved to be called unprecedented and unconstitutional. But if more wore wanted, what were the circumstances under which these evictions were carried out? They were circumstances of systematic, persevering, chronic combination between tenants and political agitators, against those rights of the landlords, to drive them into all sorts of straits. In 1881 the landlords were reproved for their remiss-ness in not taking care of themselves, and in not taking all such measures as might be in their power to right themselves, without throwing the whole burden upon the Government. Yet when they did take measures for their own protection and security, this Commission was appointed to take their rights away from them. What were the combinations? First, in 1879, 1427 the date from which they started under this Commission, there was the Land League, followed up by its sanction of boycotting, and its reiterated declarations of war against the landlords, who were to be exterminated — driven from the country, and treated as if they were offenders against the public peace. Then, in 1881, there was the No Rent Manifesto. That year and the next were the years of the evictions in the only two cases which were not Plan of Campaign cases into which this Commission had inquired. Landlords were then the victims of a very severe form of combination which was not at all scrupulous as to the means it used. Then came the Plan of Campaign, the text of which might be seen in the Appendix to the Report of Lord Cowper's Commission. When their Lordships remembered that, with the exception of about 40 cases, in all the tenancies inquired into by this Commission the evictions had taken place under the Plan of Campaign, it was worth while to be reminded what the Plan of Campaign was. It was a combination directed against whole estates, and the fundamental principle of it was that particular cases were not to be considered on their merits, but that all the operations were to be placed under the management of members of the National League, that the majority were to bind the minority, that the League was to fix an all-round rent (differing from the legal rent, of course), that there was to be no separate communication between any tenant and the landlord, that there was to be no settlement except on terms applying to every tenant, from a Mr. Kilbride, paying £800 a year rent, to the poorest man, and that if the terms offered on the part of the tenants were not accepted by the landlords, the rent proffered was to be deposited with the managing committee. The words in the document itself wore, that this fund wasTo be absolutely at their disposal for the purposes of the fight, and thus practically a half-year's rent of the estate was put together to fight the landlord with.Then it went on to prescribe that every possible obstacle was to be thrown in the way of landlords asserting their remedies, and not a penny of the tenants' deposit fund was to go in law costs; 1428 tenants were to remain out for ever rather than pay any law costs their landlords might have incurred. The statements made before the Commission —he could not dignify them by the name of evidence—proved conclusively that over and over again settlements that might otherwise have taken place were prevented because costs were not to be paid. The Commissioners themselves said that there had been on the part of the tenants much useless as well as expensive litigation, and that attempts at settlement had failed, because the refusal to pay accumulating costs presented an insuperable obstacle. The Plan of Campaign had been pronounced criminal by the highest authority; but, although its criminality need not have been an insurmountable objection to compromise, unfortunately the poor tenants were driven by intimidation into refusing settlements they would otherwise have been glad to make. When the funds of the National League began to fail, and money did not come in from that source, then the tenants appeared to be more desirous of coming to a settlement There were many who were able and willing to do so, and he did not gather that the landlords had shown any unwillingness, when it appeared to them that the terms offered wore at all reasonable, to re-instate their evicted tenants, and a considerable number of them were re-instated. That was the Plan of Campaign, and he did not hesitate to say that the persons responsible for the great majority of these evictions were those who invented and conducted the Plan of Campaign; and it looked very much as if the Commission was appointed in aid of the Plan of Campaign against the landlords and their property. On the principle of the right to evict tenants who would not pay their rents, he might quote even the Prime Minister; but he did not like to do so, because there was hardly any subject on earth upon which the right hon. Gentleman could not be quoted on more sides than one. He had certainly read a speech in which the Prime Minister said that eviction, if the landlord was driven to it, was the only mode by which he could enforce his legal rights. He did not suppose that landlords in Ireland, more than anywhere else, liked eviction for its own sake; but they had a 1429 right to their rents, and where tenants were bound by law to pay particular rents they might just as well say, "We will pay no rent," as "We will only pay such rent as we please." If the practical tendency of such a proceeding as this Commission was to be regarded, he might give their Lordships two illustrations from very high sources of the effect of these things upon people's minds. Archbishop Walsh, in that which was called his evidence, at Questions 5,085 to 5,098, considered the right of eviction to be an anachronism, and that a landlord should be put upon the same footing as any other creditor; so that the landlord's interest in the land was to be ignored altogether. That this was the meaning of the most rev. Prelate was clear, because it was put to him by the Commissioners whether it might not be well to leave it to the Court to say if an eviction should take place, and upon what terms; in other words, that the landlord should not have the legal right, but only whatever right the Court should choose to give him. That was suggested; and his answer was—That would be useful, and an obvious improvement upon the present system, but I should like to see the question dealt with in a more thorough-going way"—that is, to take away altogether the landlord's right to recover his land under any circumstances whatever. When he said "under any circumstances whatever," he must do the most rev. Prelate the justice to say, that he did think whatever remedy a common creditor might have, the landlord should have the same, even if it led to the selling up of the tenant and his tenancy. But another Roman Catholic Prelate, the Bishop of Raphoe, was in advance of Archbishop Walsh; for he said at Questions 12,669 to 12,690—It certainly is my opinion that a landlord in dealing with these people should not have the same facilities to put them out of their holdings that an ordinary trader has; the trader's debt is a very fixed thing, but the rent is not fixed at all.The law regarded it as fixed, but the right rev. Prelate thought it was not, and he further explained himself at Question 12,685—The judicial fixing of rent is not looked upon at present"—he supposed that meant under the fa- 1430 vourable circumstances of the present time—In these countries as determining what the precise sum is which should be paid by the tenant to the landlord.What the meaning and use could be of a judicial fixing of rent which did not determine what the precise sum was which should be paid by the tenant to the landlord, it would be difficult for human intelligence to imagine. The right rev. Prelate went on to say—Rents in these countries are at present not denned, as is evident from"—what did their Lordships think?—The reductions constantly given on this state, and on that one.A pretty encouragement to liberal-minded landlords to make reductions! The very fact of their waiving part of that which they could claim, and which by law was their own, was made a reason for setting aside and annihilating all judicial and other rents, and for putting the unhappy landlord upon a worse footing than any trader, "because the trader's debt was a fixed thing;" but the landlord who was generous, and sometimes did not exact all that was due, was therefore to be treated as if nothing whatever was due to him. The consideration of every one of these circumstances tended more and more to give emphasis to the unconstitutional character of this Commission. He did not say that nothing could ever happen in this world or in this country which could justify an inquisition into the rights of property of particular persons with or without a view to some stringent mode of dealing with them by Parliament; but this he did say—that if any circumstances could be imagined which would justify such an inquiry, it would be indispensable that, in the first place, it should be a Parliamentary inquiry with full powers— such powers as Parliament only can give—to conduct an inquiry according to the rules of evidence into every circumstance that might tend to bring out the truth; secondly, it must be a judicial inquiry conducted judicially; and, thirdly, it must be an impartial inquiry. Upon the subject of impartiality, he did not like to say anything which might seem to impute partiality to anybody; he would only say, if there was impartiality here, the indications of it might, with advantage, 1431 have been stronger than they seemed to be. But the other two conditions had been entirely disregarded. If it were a Parliamentary inquiry, and if it were judicially conducted, of course it would be without any foregone conclusion, and all cases would he considered on their merits before a decision was come to as to what ought to he done. For such an inquiry there could certainly be no fitter President than an English Judge. But what was the use of taking an English Judge for a political inquiry—an inquiry which was not to he conducted judicially—he confessed he could not conceive; and the better the Judge the greater the objection, because it put him in a false position, at the same time that it did not give those interested the benefit of his judicial character, or of any judicial procedure. He did not think that anyone present in their Lordships' House could speak more highly than he was prepared to speak of the manner in which Sir James Mathew had discharged his duties as a Judge in England. Unfortunately, he was not appointed to discharge the duties of a Judge upon this Commission, and it was not too much to say that Sir James Mathew had imported into the proceedings of the Commission as little of the judicial flavour as he would he likely to import of a political flavour into the discharge of his duties as a Judge in England. More than that he did not like to say. Then how had the inquiry been conducted? The Report stated that information had been specially sought with respect to the Plan of Campaign estates. Contemplating that course of procedure the Commissioners must have known that every part of their inquiry would affect individual property rights with a view to interfering with them. That was of most vital importance in connection with the question of cross-examination. In ordinary Royal Commissions cross-examination was not usual, and cases seldom occurred where it would be useful. But in this Commission every case before it required cross-examination. The learned President used these remarkable words—We reserve to ourselves the right, should occasion arise, to allow either party"—as if there were here two parties as in an action—no doubt it meant the landlords and the tenants— 1432to be represented by counsel for the purposes of cross-examination; but we do not anticipate that the inquiry will take a course which will render the presence of counsel necessary.In each of the 17 cases selected for inquiry the Commissioners must have known that men's property, and perhaps their characters, would be involved; yet the learned President thought that the presence of counsel would not be necessary, and, when asked, declined to allow cross-examination. The very fact that although this was a Royal Commission the Commissioners reserved to themselves the power to allow cross-examination showed that cross-examination was not impossible. He had read the 445 pages of so-called evidence, and, except when formal Returns from Government Offices were put in, there was not a single part of it where it would not have been right to allow cross-examination or where justice could be done without cross-examination. It was unfortunate that the Commissioners did not exercise such powers as they had, even if they had not the full powers of a Parliamentary Commission. About their recommendations he would say nothing except that they wore recommendations to reinstate, whether the landlords consented or not, all the evicted tenants where it could be done without turning out new tenants who might be found, on further inquiry, to have a substantial interest in their holdings: and even then, the evicted tenants were to have other farms found for them at the public expense. What was the effect of the whole business? It was to make more difficult such settlements as the Commission professed to aim at, to disturb settlements which had been already made, to unsettle the minds of the people all over Ireland, and to set one of the worst precedents ever heard of in the history of this country.
§ LORD ACTON
My Lords, I am glad to be able to say that my reply this evening will be very much shorter than I myself anticipated, not from any doubt as to the importance of the matter, still less as to the ability with which it has been brought before us, but because the noble Earl's speech led up to a very simple question. He wants to know whether the Government is or is not going to bring forward a Bill founded on 1433 the lines laid down by the recommendations of this Commission.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
begged to remind the noble Lord that he had stated, since the question was put down, circumstances had occurred which had modified it in regard to supporting other measures.
§ LORD ACTON
I perfectly understand the noble Earl's remarks, and it seems to me that he has answered his own question by giving many reasons for the Government not doing what they are going to do. The answer to that question is—No, the Government is not. about to bring in a Bill founded upon these recommendations. The noble Earl has, I say, given many reasons for doing the very thing which the Government has already declared its intention of doing.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
asked whether the noble Lord's answer was that the Government meant to do nothing whatever?
§ LORD ACTON
The answer is, that the Government is not about to bring in a Bill founded upon the recommendations of the Commissioners. Practically and politically, the main point is not what has been the result of the Commission, but what was the reason for, and the origin of, the Commission, and the intention of the Government in appointing it? The reason for the appointment of the Commission was simply that, ax your Lordships are aware, there was a residuum of evicted tenants with respect to whom there was a failure of legislation. The late Government endeavoured to deal with the matter, and the Bill to which the noble Earl who has just sat down alluded was brought in. In that Bill was a certain clause by which we were told that probably three-fourths of the cases would be remedied. Leading men, both landowners and members of the Party opposite then in power, hailed the restoration of the evicted tenants to their holdings on just and even generous terms, and one of the most distinguished of them went so far as to say he hoped a settlement would be carried out upon all the estates in Ireland. However broadly Parties are divided on fundamental questions, it did then appear that on this point humanity and policy united in bringing them together. But the result was very little. Only 128 tenants, 1434 I believe, became purchasers under that clause. Meanwhile the struggle continued, and 2,500 notices of eviction were filed in the last six months of 1892, so that things appeared to be going from bad to worse. There really was no reason to believe that the majority of those estates upon which settlements had been made were divided from the remainder by any scientific and impassable line. There were very many instances in which an agreement had nearly been come to. There were some estates on which negotiations were pursued, and the Government continued to hear from time to time that compromises had been effected. There was one estate so peculiarly situated that the agent himself advised abatements, and he was followed by another agent who gave the same advice; but, nevertheless, the policy of resistance was pursued. In another instance, wholesale evictions were being carried out on an estate when, by the intervention of an English traveller who passed that way, the parties were brought together, and an amicable settlement was concluded. There were, besides, very many among those cases which were amicably settled, which appeared to be quite as difficult, and which involved sacrifices quite as large as those of the resisting landlords. The position of the Government was this —we were spending millions to turn tenants into proprietors, and at the same time spending hundreds of thousands in order to turn tenants into paupers. After all that had been done, and after the promise and the hopes of 1891, there were still about 20,000 tenants in Ireland suffering the hardships of protracted eviction. It was not for the public interest that such a state of things should continue, and it did not appear to the Government to pass the wit of man to contrive the means by which the difficulty might be removed. That was really the extent of the positive policy to which the Government has been committed. They tried to find out by what agency a healing remedy might be applied—in how many cases, and under what conditions. These were questions which remained and remain under debate. Several elaborate statements have been circulated on behalf of some of the Irish landlords, and those which have reached me I certainly have read with the greatest interest and instruction, but no land- 1435 owner's statement, however able, could disprove the urgency of the problem before us, or affect the duty of the Government in the matter. It is no part of my argument to say a word against Irish landowners, jointly or severally, or to disparage them by selected instances. On conspicuous occasions they have shown generosity and public spirit, and I hope that the same spirit will yet avail to bring to a conclusion a work of evident delicacy, aiming at the happiness of thousands and at the well-being of the community at large.
§ *LORD ASHBOURNE
said, it might not be the duty of the noble Lord who had just spoken on behalf of the Government to say or suggest a word against the Irish landlords or any section of them, and no one could suggest that he had spoken discourteously or unkindly of them; but he (Lord Acton) must not blame their Lordships if, from the necessity of looking at the reality of things and seeing what was aimed at in the matter now under discussion, they felt that this Evicted Tenants Commission and its recommendations, standing by themselves, were not only open to all the criticisms which had been addressed to their Lordships' House, but must be looked at from a wide point of view as well. The Commission did not stand alone: it must be looked at in connection with what preceded it; and if that were done it would be found that the method adopted by the present Government in reference to this Evicted Tenants Commission had been part of a system to damage the rights of the landlords and penalise them, while it showed good tenants that they gained nothing by acting rightly and honestly as compared with tenants who had violated every principle of justice. To prove that he would ask their Lordships to go back not further than February of last year, when Mr. O'Kelly's Evicted Tenants Bill was brought in. It was not too much to say that, with all the wide experience they had had in connection with land legislation, there never was a more daring Bill submitted to the consideration of the House of Commons, because it was a Bill to provide for the compulsory restoration, without discrimination or selection and without any agreement on the part of the landlord, of all tenants evicted since 1879. It was impossible to overstate the 1436 desperate, sweeping, revolutionary, and unjust character of that proposal, and yet several of those who occupied the Front Opposition Bench at that time, headed by at least one Member of the present Cabinet, supported that Bill. That was a very grave step in the history of agrarian legislation. When a change of Government took place, and Mr. Morley undertook the very arduous office of Chief Secretary of Ireland, he found himself confronted by that vote and by other difficulties as well. He found that he had to depend for support upon the men who were the authors of the Plan of Campaign, and who had been preaching the most extreme doctrines of agrarian disturbance. There was also at the time, as everyone knew, an immense strain upon the resources of the National League, and it was absolutely necessary to try and satisfy the claims of the evicted tenants. Thus Mr. Morley was compelled, it might have been against his better judgment, to embark in the appointment of this unfortunate Commission. The Commission at first was composed of five men, but in a very short time it dwindled down to three, and it would have been more satisfactory if the Commission in its Report had stated how and why that diminution took place. Mr. Murphy, the only member who was regarded as neutral in the matter, retired on the second day in disgust with the proceedings; and Mr. O'Brien, who was known to have extreme views— and probably that was the reason he was appointed on the Commission—was made a member of the Land Commission about three weeks afterwards—also possibly in consequence of the views he was known to hold. The extraordinary non-judicial character of the proceedings of the Commission, and the entirely one-sided nature of the evidence produced, was known before it had been discussed before their Lordships, and it would have been more frank, reasonable, and fair if the Commissioners had stated in their Report why it was that the landlords withdrew from their Court, and had allowed the landlords to tell their own story in their own words as to why they felt they could have no confidence in this Commission. The recommendations were necessarily of a one-sided character; for the evidence was all on 1437 one side, was mainly hearsay, and was strongly partisan. The Commissioners did not seek to redress the balance in any way, either by the production of documents or by subjecting to cross-examination some of the evidence, and thus it-was that their recommendations were marked by the most extreme character. He had read the recommendations with astonishment. The first he would note was that the Laud Commission should decide on the terms under which all evicted tenants should be restored, without discrimination, without qualification, and without exception. He ventured to think that a more tremendous recommendation was never made by any Commission. It almost followed the terms of Mr. O'Kelly's Bill. The proposal was indeed a monstrous one, and fraught with great injustice to Irish landlords. Bearing in mind what had been done for the Irish tenant by land legislation, it was startling to hear and read the way in which the Irish tenant was sometimes spoken of. He said, without fear of contradiction, that the tenants of Ireland at the present time had a Laud Code more liberal, more generous, and more elastic than the tenants of any other country in the civilised world. This first proposal had, to his mind, another and very dangerous side. There were many tenants in Ireland who were honest, upright men, and who, under great difficulties and in face of very bad examples, had paid their rents. What a lesson was it, then, to find it gravely proposed that the men who had been Plan of Campaigners, who, yielding to bad advice, had acted sometimes criminally and in the most desperate manner, were now to be put in a better and more favourable position than tenants who, in evil times, and in spite of many difficulties, had resisted intimidation, had honourably paid their rents, and had loyally fulfilled their duties! He found it difficult to overstate the terrible nature of the example sought to be set by this recommendation to the tenants of Ireland. It was practically the beginning of the preaching of a crusade against the payment of any rent. The meaning of the proposal really came to this—"The more you resist your landlord, the more you get evicted; and the more you conspire against him, the more you can rely 1438 on some proposal afterwards being made to put you back in your holding in spite of your landlord or of the tenant who has taken your place, and with a bonus in your hands besides to help you on." This further teaching was to be gathered from the recommendations—That it is a wrong, a dangerous, and a bad thing ever to take an evicted farm in Ireland, because you never can be sure that some Government will not appoint a Commission which will recommend that the new tenants shall be turned out; and the old tenants, who would not pay their rents even when they had the money in their pockets, shall be put back in their holdings.Would it be possible, in the face of this astounding recommendation, for a landlord ever again to effect settlements in Ireland? The tenants to be dealt with in these cases were largely Plan of Campaign men, and that was a grave aspect of the matter. No one would stand up in their Lordships' House to defend the Plan of Campaign. Efforts had been made to palliate it outside the House, but no one could deny that it was criminal and immoral; and this proposal would therefore all the more offensively and unjustly affect many landlords. They might test this in respect of one landlord whose name was mentioned in the Report of the Commission—Mr. Smith-Barry — who was known to be one of the most liberal, generous, and improving landlords in Ireland, and who had done everything he could to work out settlements on his property. It might be reasonable to enable a landlord, as was done under the 13th section of the Act of 1891, to enter, of his own discretion, into an arrangement with some of his tenants to restore them to possession; but it was abhorrent to all notions of justice to suggest that a considerate and generous landlord, who had always struggled to do his duty to his tenants should be compelled by such a proposal as that of the Commissioners to receive back men who had spurned all his offers, and who had behaved to him criminally and unjustly. Another point to which he wished to refer was the recommendation of the Commission that such allowances should be made to tenants for the purchase of stock as might be thought reasonable, and this was to be done at the expense of the rates. Was such a proposal ever seriously made before by sensible men 1439 to sensible men? It might happen that the landlord paid the rates, and therefore he might be compelled not only to receive back a tenant whom by due process of law he had evicted, but out of his pocket would also come the money to enable the tenant to stock his farm. Surely such proposals not only reached the point of injustice, but of grotesque-ness! Another proposal which was made by Mr. Morley's small and select Commission was that a distinction should be drawn between the new tenants, who had been termed "planters," who had substantial interests, and other classes of such tenants, who had not substantial interests. When asked elsewhere about their intentions in reference to their recommendations, the Government gave a dilatory and courteous reply, but the Irish Nationalist Members were not going to be put off with dilatory answers, however courteous, and a day or two after the Report had been laid on the Table of the House of Commons a Bill was brought in by them. It was interesting to note the contents of that Bill and what occurred upon its introduction. The Nationalists, even, felt that the Commission had outstepped the bounds of reasonableness, so they did not adopt the astounding proposal to stock the farms. That was a very strong condemnation of the proposals made by the Commissioners. Still, the Bill remained a remarkably strong measure, and it was the more important when read in connection with the earlier Bill of Mr. O'Kelly. The Bill, which was sought to be read a second time at the end of March, was founded on the recommendations of the Evicted Tenants Commission, omitting the important one as to the stocking. Mr. Morley accepted that Bill, and promised for it the support of the Government, but he made a few criticisms upon it. He seemed to have a propensity for appointing small Commissions, and he proposed the appointment of a small Judicial Commission, instead of leaving the work to the Land Commission. Well, that was a small criticism to make considering the great magnitude of the subject. Mr. Morley also pointed out that it was most un-reasonable and unwise not to discriminate and exercise discretion as to the evicted tenants to be restored, and also to seek to make a distinction between the new 1440 tenants who had a substantial interest and those who had not. That was important as showing that owing to the progress of the discussion Mr. Morley had found that he was unable to follow or adopt what was recommended by the Commission. Taught by experience and discussion, Mr. Morley recognised the impossibility of passing such proposals through the House. What a light this threw upon the proposals in the Report! Even Mr. Morley could not defend them. What a commentary this afforded upon the present grave situation! Mr. Gladstone, in the Debate upon the Second Reading of the Home Rule Bill, as reported fully in The Times of 7th April, 1893, and practically to the same effect in the Daily News of the same date, said that he was under the impression that Mr. Parnell's mind, when he came out of Kilmainham, had undergone a change with reference to the Land Bill of 1881, and from the time when he made that discovery no word of censure had fallen from him with respect to Mr. Parnell, and he told Mr. Parnell, through a friend, that he would receive from him no hindrance in the pursuit of his purposes, which from that period Mr. Gladstone believed to be conceived in the true interests of Ireland. It was impossible to over-estimate the tremendous importance of such a statement. The Prime Minister of England was then making to Mr. Parnell, the Leader of the Irish Revolutionary Party, a promise that he would find no difficulty as far as he was concerned in the pursuit of the purposes he had in view. The same Prime Minister in 1885, time years after he had made that confidential communication to Mr. Parnell, was inviting the electors to return him to power with such a majority as would make him independent of Mr. Parnell. He was not at liberty to do more than assume that a statement of the Prime Minister's, made with all the weight of his authority, represented the facts and represented the Prime Minister's recollection of what occurred. The purpose Mr. Parnell had in view was no secret. It was Home Rule and separation at one time, Home Rule of a different kind afterwards, and land legislation of the most drastic kind. The Land Act of 1881 so little satisfied him that he had to be put in gaol in consequence of his No- 1441 Rent Manifesto. Why was this communication made by Mr. Gladstone to Mr. Parnell never laid before the country? Why should there be any concealment about a statement made by the Prime Minister of England? But from the day it was made until April 10 of this year it was never stated in the Press, in Parliament, or on the platform. He was speaking before colleagues who were in the Cabinet with the Prime Minister at the time, and it was surprising that none of them had ever alluded to that communication made to Mr. Parnell, for he put aside at once as unreasonable to the last degree the hypothesis that Mr. Gladstone would make a statement of such high importance without telling his colleagues. Seeing the careful way in which the Prime Minister had then presented his views, the importance of the statement could not be overstated, that—From me Mr. Parnell would experience no difficulty in carrying out the purposes he had in view, which from that period I believed to be purposes beneficial to Ireland.Their Lordships should take that communication in connection with the Evicted Tenants Commission and the proposals connected with it. If there was one thing more than another connected with that agrarian legislation for which Mr. Parnell contended it was the cause of the evicted tenants and their restoration to their holdings. It might well have been that Mr. Morley thought he was giving effect to the views of Mr. Parnell when he appointed the Commission. At all events, this was a matter of the highest importance. It was involved in obscurity, and he hoped that before the Debate closed it would be cleared up to some extent, and that some one of Mr. Gladstone's colleagues in their Lordships' House would offer some explanation and would take the opportunity of stating their knowledge and recollection of the matter.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
said, the surprise he had always felt at the appointment of this Commission at all had been enormously enhanced by what he had heard that evening. After the appointment of a Commission unprecedented in its character and action, the noble Lord who had spoken for the Government had told them they meant to take no action at all upon its recommendation; that they intended to bring 1442 in no Bill upon the subject, and to take no steps whatever with reference to the Report of the Commission.
§ LORD ACTON
I must really refer the noble Earl to my answer to Lord Camperdown's question. My words were perfectly distinct—that we are not going to bring in a Bill.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
asked whether it was their intention to support any measure upon the subject? Their Lordships would like to hear directly from the noble Lord whether they did intend to support the Bill which had already been introduced on the subject. As the noble Lord made no reply, were they to understand that the Government would take no steps in the matter whatever?
THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (The Earl of KIMBERLEY)
I do not think the noble Lord has any right to repeat his question over and over again to my noble Friend. He is addressing the House, and he cannot put questions in that way. In due time, if he makes any remarks which call for a reply, we shall answer them.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I have always understood that any noble Lord may address questions to whomsoever he pleases. Of course, it is open to anyone who is asked a, question to remain silent or to answer. That being so, I understand the noble Karl to have resolved on being silent, and the fact that his decision has raised this enthusiastic applause is surely a matter for gratification to the noble Lord.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
What I object to is the repetition of the question again and again. I am not in the least objecting to the question being asked.
*THE EARL OF ARRAN
would pass to another subject. Mr. Balfour's speech on the Land Act of 1891 had been quoted as proving his assent to the policy of re-instatement. What Mr. Balfour said, if his recollection served him rightly, was that if he were in the place of an Irish landlord he would act leniently and generously to those tenants who had been misled by evil counsel. He would like to ask why it was that the very men who gave that evil counsel to the tenants and had brought about this state of 1443 affairs were now the trusted advisers of Her Majesty's Government? Another point was that by the instructions of the Lord Lieutenant to the Commission they were not to inquire into the rights and wrongs of the unfortunate quarrels between the landlords and tenants; but were to find a remedy for the unhappy state of things resulting from them. Could anybody who knew what the condition of public opinion in Ireland was, imagine that that would be the view taken in that country of the appointment of the Commission? The view generally taken was that it was an attack upon the landlords in order to cover the re-instatement of the tenants, whether the landlords liked it or not. It was impossible for anyone to imagine that any other view than that would be taken.
said, that the objections to this Commission might be divided into three classes—first, that the Commission should not have been appointed at all; secondly, that the procedure was one-sided; and, thirdly, that the composition of the Commission was unfair. The noble Earl who introduced the subject said that the Commission was appointed only to register foregone conclusions, and then complained because those conclusions wore not recognised.
*LORD MONKS WELL
said, that the noble Earl had argued that they were not—that the Government had refused to register the Report; and he was very much annoyed that they had not registered it. The Earl of Selborne said that the object of the Commission was the invasion of private rights, and urged that this was not fair, as the Commission had not been appointed by Parliament, and that nothing so unconstitutional had been done since the days of James II. There would be great force in the noble Earl's objection if the recommendations of the Commission could be put into operation without an Act of Parliament; as it was, they simply supplied the information on which a Bill could be founded. What was the alternative policy of the noble Earl? Did he suggest that Parliament should be asked to legislate on a matter of such importance as the re-in-statement of evicted tenants without 1444 inquiry? or did he suggest that there should have been an Act of Parliament constituting a Commission, an Inquiry, and then another Act of Parliament? If so, the only difference between the Government and the noble Earl was that they proposed to do in two stages what he thought should be done in three. The noble and learned Earl talked about the rights of the landlords and the claims of the tenants; but he never mentioned the rights of the tenants. He declared that the Commission had produced no evidence worth having, but he quoted a good deal from that worthless evidence. He would remind the noble and learned Earl that neither Party in the State had regarded rents in Ireland as being absolutely immutable, as the judicial rents fixed by Act of Parliament were re-revised by the Conservative Party in 1887. The speech of the ex-Lord Chancellor for Ireland was exceedingly discursive, and would have been more proper to a Debate on the Second Reading of the Home Rule Bill. The noble and learned Lord had dwelt on the exceptionally favourable position of the Irish tenant under recent legislation, and yet there was still a laud question in Ireland. How was that? It was because the tenant in Ireland was part proprietor of the soil, and consequently exceptional legislation between landlord and tenant in Ireland was imperatively demanded. The section of the Act of 1891 which had been so much referred to did a great deal more than allow the landlord and tenant to come to an agreement, for it said, "If you come to terms, here is the Public Purse for you to draw upon." It was said that the procedure of the Commission was unfair; but, if all the evidence which was wanted could not be obtained, it was because the landlords would not appear before the Commission. With regard to cross-examination and the way in which the procedure ought to have been conducted, a radical difference of opinion existed between the Liberal and Conservative Parties as to the object with which the Commission was appointed. As the noble Lord on the Woolsack had stated, the object of the Commission was to allay bitter feelings and to find a fair and just solution of the difficulty. Mr. Morley, on February 2, put the matter in the true light. He said (Hansard 364, col. 339)— 1445If you wanted to fight over again the battle between the Irish landlords and Irish tenants, with every circumstance of passion, of provocation, of exasperation, I agree my Commission was not fairly appointed. But I cannot conceive anything more mischievous than the appointment of a Commission on any such principle as that would indicate. The Commission was not wanted to be a Court to try either Irish landlords or Irish tenants.Therefore, the great object of the President of the Commission was to prevent recrimination, to which cross-examination would have conduced by exasperating the embittered feelings which existed. In another place much stress had been laid upon the objection that the composition of the Commission was unfair, and that Judges who might be supposed to be biased on one side or the other ought not to decide questions involving political differences. Politics entered largely into some legal questions. As Mr. Morley reminded the House of Commons the other night, the question of distraint by night was a question of great political importance; and, therefore, according to the contention he had just cited, the question of distraint by night ought certainly not to have been decided by the Irish Judges; and if this proposition held good, the House of Lords was certainly not a proper tribunal to sit in judgment on the Evicted Tenants Commission, as their Lordships were mostly landlords. The landlords did not, in the first place, object to the composition of the Commission, and they only withdrew when cross-examination was refused them. The President of the Commission acted up to the principle of giving as little opportunity of provocation as possible to one side or the other, and of avoiding the re-opening of old sores. That was his object in everything he did; and their Lordships would, at all events, sympathise with the endeavour of Mr. Justice Mathew to do the best he could consistently with not going into matters which had excited such bitter controversy in the past, and which it was perfectly certain would excite bitter controversy in the future.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
said, as other Members of the House were anxious to take part in the Debate, which it would be generally admitted was of a most important character, he thought he would be 1446 suiting their Lordships' convenience if he moved that it be adjourned to Monday next.
§ Moved, "That the Debate be adjourned to Monday next."—(The Marquess of Londonderry.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Further Debate adjourned to Monday next.