My Lords, in rising to move the resolution, that stands in my name, I cannot hide from myself that I have undertaken a great responsibility, not only because your Lordships' vote to-day will be of vital importance to the Irish landlords, but because I believe it will be of supreme moment to the interests of all who own any property of any kind whatever in the British Empire, for whether it is the rich man's estate or the poor man's one or two acres, the principle at stake is the same. The resolution I am asking your Lordships to support to-day is based on the fact that Irish landlords have been, and are being, deprived of their property for public purposes, and, contrary to the universal custom in this country when such is the case, are receiving neither compensation nor redress. But, my Lords, I have been nerved to my task by the belief inherent in me that if the people of this country once recognise the existence of an injustice they will do all in their power to have it removed. I do not propose to occupy much of your Lordships' time to-day in details of the grievances of Irish landlords, because (as is stated in the resolution before us) our claim to compensation or redress has never been seriously disputed by Parliament, and because after your Lordships heard the late Lord Inchiquin's speech in July, 1899, in which he put forward the damages done to the Irish landlords by recent legislation, your Lordships passed the following resolution—That the question of compensation to the Irish landlords for injury inflicted upon them by recent legislation demands the immediate attention of Her Majesty's Government.Since then, however, nothing has been done, so far as we know, by the Government to deal with this resolution; but we recognise the fact that their hands have 729 been full, and we did not, on our part, wish to interfere with their doing in South Africa that which we wish them to do also in Ireland—namely, to insist upon justice to all sections of the community. In asking for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the questions which are referred to in the motion which I have placed on the Paper of your Lordships' House, I think I ought at the outset to state once more, very briefly, the nature of the claim from which those questions arise. I cannot do so better than by quoting the following short paragraphs from a statement which was submitted to Her Majesty's Government by the Irish Landowners' Convention so long ago as 3rd February, 1888—The abstract right of Irish landowners to compensation for the loss or depreciation of their properties or rights by the legislation of recent years does not rest upon any new or exceptional grounds or principles.It is a right recognised and upheld in every civilised community, whenever property, or vested interests, are taken away or interfered with by the State for reasons of public policy, or for any public purpose.In England it has been for many generations an undisputed principle, rigorously enforced and continuously acted upon, sometimes at heavy cost to the nation, even in days when the country was comparatively poor.The legislature, moreover, has not only acted upon this principle in those cases in which the claim to compensation arose from the operation of great public measures or statutes, but it has always imposed a similar obligation upon public bodies, companies, or individuals to whom Parliament has, from time to time, delegated or granted powers of compulsorily acquiring or interfering with property, or vested interests, or rights of any kind.In such cases, moreover, compensation has frequently not been limited to the amount of loss or damage actually proved to have been inflicted at the moment, but large compensation has in many instances been paid for prospective, possible, or merely contingent damage or injury.The State has not only recognised this principle in its dealings with British subjects, but has in important instances both admitted and enforced a like obligation in dealing with other countries.Such is the nature or basis of our claims, and I would next desire to remind your Lordships of some instances or occasions when this policy was acted upon or enforced. So long ago as 1705, when the terms of the Legislative Union between England and Scotland were being considered, the English Parliament agreed to pay £398,085 10s. as compensation for various losses which were regarded as likely to arise from that legislation. 730 Again, in 1746, it was decided to abolish certain local Courts, known as exceptional hereditary jurisdictions, in Scotland, and a sum of about £150,000 was paid to the owners of these jurisdictions as compensation for the loss of their rights and emoluments. There was also the case of the revenues and royalties acquired by the State in the Isle of Man from the Duke and Duchess of Athol. This case is remarkable from the fact that it recognised the principle of paying compensation for injury arising from past legislation, when the injury proved to be greater than was expected when the legislation was passed. In 1765, £70,000 was paid to the Duke and Duchess, with an annuity of £2,000 per annum. Thirty-five years afterwards it was shown that the compensation was insufficient, and a further grant was made, which was subsequently converted into a perpetual annuity of £3,000. Finally, in 1829, the Duke was paid £417,144 for certain rights in and over the soil which had not been included in the previous transactions. We find also that, in 1799, the Parliament of Ireland voted £1,260,000 as compensation to the borough proprietors, when their rights were taken away. Then in 1833 the Imperial Parliament granted 20 millions sterling as compensation to the West Indian slave-owners, although it had been settled law in England for more than fifty years previously that property in man was unknown to our Constitution. The next instance of large compensation paid by the State to persons injuriously affected by legislation was probably the Irish Church Act of 1869, under which £11,616,518 was paid to individuals whose position or interests were adversely affected. Later on we had the case of abolition of purchase in the Army in 1871, when many millions of money were paid for depriving people of benefits which they had secured by a process which had actually been declared to be penal by statute. To these larger cases we have to add almost countless statutes under which power has been granted, sometimes to the State, sometimes to public or private companies, to take away the properties of individuals or to encroach upon their rights in pursuance of some public policy, or in the interest of some section of the community; but in no case that I know of has this been done without securing that compensation should be paid on a liberal scale to 731 everyone who had to surrender or suffer anything, in property or rights, for the purposes of the legislation in question. I may, therefore, be asked, Why did not Parliament insert provisions in the Land Act of 1881, providing that the landlords should be compensated for any injury that might accrue to them from its operation? My reply is that it was asserted by Mr. Gladstone, and by the leading Members of his Government in both Houses of Parliament, that their Bill would benefit the Irish landlords instead of injuring them. For instance, on 25th April, 1881,* the late Mr. W. E. Forster, at that time Chief Secretary for Ireland, said—I therefore am not surprised to hear a claim made for compensation. But the English law in the matter depends upon whether damage can be proved, and my firm belief is that no damage can be proved; on the other hand, that if the landlord were compensated, you would compensate him for conferring on him a benefit.Later on, on 22nd July, Mr. Forster again said—I think this Bill will be justified by what will happen, and I think the final result of the measure, within a few years, will be that the landowners of Ireland, small and large, will be better off than they are at this moment.Again, on 1st August, 1881, Lord Carlingford said in this House—My Lords, I maintain that the provisions of this Bill will cause the landlords no money loss whatsoever.And, on the 11th August, Lord O'Hagan said that—Another objection entertained by opponents of the Bill was that it would subject the landlords to certain losses. But he believed that if it were administered conscientiously and honestly no material injury would be done to the landlords.But, my Lords, while the Government of 1881 maintained that their Bill would be mo injury to the landlords, they were equally explicit in their assurances that if injury were the result, compensation must be made. For instance, on the Second Beading of the Bill, on 16th May, Mr. Gladstone said—I wish to refer to two words which we have heard often repeated in this debate. The first word is 'confiscation,' and the second word is 'compensation.' They are words that are, and ought to be, in close association together; for I certainly should be very slow to deny that where confiscation could be proved, compensation ought to follow.* The proceedings on the Land Law (Ireland) Bill, of 1881, are reported in The Parliamentary Debates [Third Series], Vols. cclx.—cclxv.732 Again, on 22nd July, Mr. Gladstone used these remarkable words —In doing our duty to the several classes in Ireland who are immediately affected by the Bill, we shall not forget the duty we owe to the nation at large. If these classes, either or both of them, have a just claim to compensation in consequence of the manner in which, their interests will be affected by this Bill, we are bound as a Parliament to give it to them. … If it can be shown, on clear and definite experience at the present time, that there is a probability, or if after-experience should prove that in fact ruin and heavy loss is likely to he, or has been, brought upon any class in Ireland by the direct effect of this legislation, that is a question which we ought to look very directly in the face.My Lords, I need not remind your Lordships that this line was taken, and these assurances were given, in the presence of this Imperial Parliament, and I should feel that I was offering almost an affront to both Houses if I appeared to entertain a moment's doubt that Parliament, in passing the Land Bill of 1881, identified itself in the fullest degree with the assurances thus given respecting it. If such assurances had been given respecting a measure affecting some class in one of our colonies or dependencies, would there be a moment's hesitation in recognising that pledges had been given which the English nation and the Imperial Parliament were in honour bound to redeem? If so, will it be contended that the obligation is less binding because it was given respecting the property and interests of a class who constitute no mean section of the population of the United Kingdom, and who at every period of their history have been remarkable for their loyalty and devotion to the people of England? My Lords, I turn next to the losses which we say have been inflicted upon us, and to the forms of compensation or redress which we have been demanding; both of which we now ask Her Majesty's Government to refer to examination by a Royal Commission. Our losses were accurately summarised by the late Lord Inchiquin, in this House, on the 18th July, 1899,* when he said that compensation was due to the Irish landlords in the following respects—(1) For the injury inflicted on them by being deprived of the right of resumption, and by the transfer from the landlord to the tenant of the right to the occupation of the soil;(2) By the practical abolition of free contract in the letting of land;(3) By the landlords being deprived of the right of obtaining in the open market the best* See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxiv., page 1129.733rent for their property, which solvent tenants would willingly pay;(4) By the serious interference and diminution of the landlords' rights and income, by the arbitrary fixing of so-called fair rents;(5) By the reduction of rents below anything that could be justified by economic causes;(6) By the heavy legal expenses periodically entailed upon the landlords by the process of fixing their rents judicially;(7) By the impediments which have been placed in the way of their obtaining even the rent which the State still allows them, while, at the same time, payment in full is enforced for tithe rent-charge and all other State charges; and,(8) Generally, by the depreciation of the value of their property by legislation, as well as the deprivation of many valuable proprietary rights, the proper exercise of which was beneficial, not only to the landlords, but also to their tenants and to the community at large.I ask your Lordships—do you believe there is one landowner in England who could fairly make these complaints? Have English landlords lost the right of resumption of their holdings? Has their land been transferred to their tenants for public purposes without compensation? Have they been deprived of the right to let their farms for the best rent they can get? Are their rents fixed below what could be explained by economic causes, and are they forced to let them at one-third below competition rents? Let me quote one or two instances of the grievance I refer to, about rents being reduced below competition value. Judge Bowley's evidence before Mr. Morley's Committee proves this. He said—I would say that the fair rent of a holding, as a rule, would be, roughly, about two-thirds of the competition rent.—(Q.) Two-thirds of the competition rent? Roughly. In many cases the fair rents would be, of course, less than two-thirds, but, generally speaking, I would take it in that way.I venture to ask what sort of rents would landlords in England receive if Parliament compelled them to accept rents from which the element of competition was explicitly and wholly excluded? Then, again, it is said, the fact that the tenants have done most of the improvements in Ireland justifies lower rents than would otherwise be fair, but the bottom is knocked out of that argument by the fact that rents have been reduced just as much, if not, indeed, more, in cases where it is not disputed that the improvements were done by the landlords. I could easily prove that landlords have to pay to get back possession of their own lands when no improvements have been claimed by the 734 tenant, but I think I have said enough to show that it is not true to assert that the Irish landlords are no worse off than the English landlords. If the case of the English landlords is so similar to that of the Irish landlords, why are English farmers left without the advantages given to the Irish farmers, and why do not Irish landlords get compensation for the loss of their properties and rights as English landlords do? Mr. Gladstone, speaking on February 15th, on the Irish Land Act of 1870,* laid it down thatInasmuch as perpetuity of tenure on the part of the occupier is virtually expropriation of the landlord, and as a mere re-adjustment of rent according to the price of produce can by no means dispose of all contingencies the future may produce in his favour, compensation would have to be paid to the landlord for the rights of which he would be deprived.Was not this an admission that the virtual, indeed the actual, expropriation caused by the Act of 1881 is a ground for compensation, unless, indeed, it can be shown that the landlords have derived benefits from that Act which, in themselves, are tantamount to compensation? If anyone is bold enough to assert this, I would remind him that on 22nd July, 1881, Mr. Gladstone also said —I quite agree that if Parliament were to pass a law providing that rents in Ireland should be universally reduced to Griffiths' valuation, that would be a fair case for compensation.Now, during the ten years immediately following the passing of the Act of 1881, the Irish Land Commission published yearly the figures which enabled the public to see how the reduced rents stood with reference to Griffiths' valuation, and it appears that during the period ended 22nd August, 1891, the number of rents fixed by sub-commissioners was 145,332; the old rents in these cases amounted to £3,425,843; Griffiths' valuation of the holdings amounted to £2,583,038; and the rents were reduced by the sub-commissioners to £2,661,322. In other words, the old rents were, in the aggregate, 33 per cent. above Griffiths' valuation, while the rents fixed by the sub-commissioners were only 3 percent. above the valuation. Manifestly, therefore, the administration of the Act had produced a state of things which Mr. Gladstone had deliberately selected as a test, the occurrence of which would entitle the landlords to compensation.* See The Parliamentary Debates [Third. Series], Vol. cxcix., page 350.735 Do the Government dispute this? Mr. Arthur Balfour, speaking during the debate on the Act of 1881, said—Free sale must either end in rack-renting, or in robbery.It has ended in both. What I have stated proves that the Irish landlords' property has been taken for public purposes, and that, contrary to custom, they have received no compensation for it, and this though leading statesmen of both parties considered them entitled to it. The justice of compensation or redress not having been disputed, it remains only a question of how our claim is to be dealt with, and it is to arrive at the solution of this question, and to put an end to the state of affairs described by the Times, when the Fry Commission was asked for, but which applies just as much to-day—namely, as "altogether without a parallel in any country, civilised or uncivilised" —that we ask to-day for a Royal Commission as stated in my resolution. As regards the forms or methods by which compensation might be made, there seems to be no reason why the usual practice in such cases should not be followed, and the compensation be paid in money. The only reason ever alleged against this course seems to have been that the amount would probably be very large. What does this imply? Does it not mean that the injury and injustice done have been immense? if so, is there not all the greater reason for our demand that it should be made the subject of inquiry at the hands of a competent Commission? But while we can see no reason why we should not receive compensation in the usual form of payment in money, we have indicated various other forms in which compensation or redress might be, to some extent (and even to a large extent) granted without making any payments out of the Imperial Exchequer involving expense or loss to the general taxpayer. These proposals have long ago been submitted to Her Majesty's Government, and I do not propose to deal with them at any length on the present occasion, because we rather advocate that they should now be made the subject of inquiry and report by a Royal Commission, with the object of giving effect to the resolution adopted by this House about a year ago. I may, however, very shortly state their general character. First of all, we urge that the reforms 736 recommended by the Fry Commission should receive a fair trial, in the hope that improved methods of administering the Acts would stem the daily and ever-increasing tide of confiscation. Then we ask that the State should endeavour to lighten the burden and facilitate the redemption of land charges, both private and public, by State loans to pay off well-secured mortgages; by legislation to encourage and assist the formation of mortgage debenture institutions; by an Act to enable owners and incumbrancers to convert any existing mortgage or charge into bonds or land debentures; by granting the most favourable terms possible for the purchase of State charges (such as tithe rent-charge, Crown rents, quit rents, etc.) and for the repayment of Board of Works loans; by reforms of procedure and amendments of the law under the Land Purchase Acts, with the object of decreasing as much as possible the loss of income to the landlord in sales under those Acts, and thereby encouraging and promoting such sales; and, lastly (but by no means the least in importance), by enabling titles to be cleared and registered at the expense of the State in the first instance, the State being afterwards recouped by fees on future transactions. I would like to point out that some of these proposals might be extended to the entire United Kingdom, with great public advantage, and much benefit to the landed classes. I refer especially to the formation of land debenture institutions, and the clearing and registering of titles. I will not add any further evidence of the justice of our demand, but with your Lordships' permission I should like to deal with one or two arguments I have heard used when the question of the Irish Land Acts has been under discussion. The argument has been used, that when the Land Act of 1881 was passed it was strongly opposed by many of the leading members of the present Government, but that, it having been passed, all they can do is to accept the fact. In this argument is omitted one of the chief facts which occurred when the Act of 1881 was passed—namely, the distinct assertion of the Prime Minister of England that, if a certain thing happened, Parliament would be bound to give us compensation. Again, what I ask the Government to-day is, will they assert 737 that Parliament is not bound in equity to redeem the pledges given to Irish landlords in the past? Parliament, I venture to assert, was never intended or created to despoil one section of the community for the benefit of another. On the contrary, we look to their endeavours to assure to the people of this Empire truth and justice for all generations. But look at the state of the land laws in Ireland to-day. The landlords are being ruined; the tenants are growing more dissatisfied every day that their reductions are not bigger; and what can be expected as a result but a growing sense of insecurity of capital—about the most evil and poisonous plant that could be grown in Ireland, which, being a poor country, wants all the capital possible. But, my Lords, the danger of this state of things being allowed to continue in Ireland is not confined to that country. If once it is finally established that in any part of Great Britain you can take property for any purpose, without compensation, where is the security for any man's property? Where, indeed, is the security for property of any kind, if Socialism is to be the watchword of a Unionist party? It is against the final fixing of this Socialistic precedent that I ask your Lordships to pass this resolution to - day. Another danger exists while this inequity exists, namely, that it is becoming daily more evident that Parliament either will not, or cannot, remedy this awful injustice in Ireland. We were assured before the last general election that no Irish Parliament was needed because the British Parliament could amend any just Irish grievance. It is true that the Government appointed the Fry Commission to make a very strictly limited inquiry into the process in operation under the Land Act of 1881, but though that body was presided over by one of the ablest English judges, and came to a unanimous decision, most of its recommendations remain to-day a dead letter, though over two years and a half have passed since their Report was issued, and though it referred very distinctlyto the great evil wrought by that unrest which is generated by the periodical settlement of rents.If once it is proved that an English Parliament cannot amend the just grievances of Ireland, one of the chief arguments used at the last general election 738 goes by the board. It may be asked why, if we know that damage has been done, do not we state our claim specifically? The answer is, just as any one of your Lordships would know that damage had been done to your interests if, say, a railway was run opposite your hall-door, or through your park, still you might not be able to specify the amount of damage, or what compensation or redress you required, till you had received a professional valuer's report. The evils we complain of are not of the past. They are occurring daily, and, unless immediately stopped, wholesale ruin of Irish landowners stares them in the face. We do not ask that anything should be taken from the tenants. We do ask for equality of treatment for landlord and tenant. We say that if you undermine the security of property in land in Ireland you will prevent British capital being used there, as has already been done. We say that the Land Acts satisfy no one. They have not satisfied the tenants. Witness the Irish League started in county Mayo, which is now doing all it can to ruin the larger farmers by the same methods employed in former years to ruin the landlords by the Irish Land League. We maintain that the existing unrest on account of the Irish Land Acts will go on growing till you will have a task before you which may well appal the stoutest heart. And last, but not least, we contend that it is against public policy for such a glaring mass of injustice to be allowed to continue for another day in our midst. The Prime Minister has condemned, and rightly, the view that the operations in South Africa were undertaken not because of the grievances of the Uitlanders, but because there are gold mines there. This country has spent thousands of lives and millions of money to right their grievances. Why not, then, remedy the grievances of loyal Irishmen, instead of handing over them and their property to some of the bitterest foes this country has? Are you going to say to the loyal Irishmen who have fought in South Africa when they get back, to such of them as survive the horrors and hardships they have so nobly and willingly encountered for you, "You have fought to the death in order to right the wrongs of the Uitlanders, but do not dare to ask redress of your own wrongs. If you do you will be very ill-advised." Is 739 this what you are going to say to them? If it is, I, for one, do not believe the English nation will back you up. My Lords, the issue is a simple one, though, as I have said, of the deepest moment to the whole Empire—are you or are you not going to establish the precedent that a Government may take away a man's property from him without compensation? If you are going to establish this as a precedent, then you are sapping the very foundations of the Empire's prosperity. You are making a fatal mistake, which can never be rectified; and why? Because you have not sufficient faith in the inherent nobility of the British people to say, "We will right the wrongs of these our fellow-citizens, even if it should cost us something to do it."
§ Moved to resolve, That as the claim of Irish landlords to compensation or redress from the State has been on several recent occasions placed before Parliament, and as its justice has never been, seriously disputed, a Royal Commission be immediately appointed to consider and report (inter alia)—
- 1. As to the nature and extent of the injury which Irish landowners have suffered by legislation since 1881; and
- 2. As to the best means of affording compensation or redress for the injury so inflicted upon them, having regard to the assurances given in Parliament in and since 1881 by members of successive Governments, or of the Legislature, that if Irish landowners were found to have suffered loss or injury from Irish land legislation it would be the duty of Parliament to. compensate them.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The Duke of DEVONSHIRE)
My Lords, the Prime Minister has asked me, perhaps as a retribution for the part I took in passing the Act of 1881, to reply on behalf of the Government to the resolution moved by the noble Lord. In one respect, at all events, perhaps in many others, the selection is an unfortunate one; for, though any one of my colleagues would have given substantially the same answer that I shall have to give, both the Prime Minister himself and some of my colleagues could at least have given the 740 noble Lord and his friends the satisfaction of repeating some of those criticisms and denunciations of the Act of 1881 which they have uttered on so many occasions, and which might have given some comfort to the noble Lord, whereas I, at least, am debarred from giving him even that moderate amount of satisfaction, because, while I am bound to admit that the Act of 1881 has not done all that was expected of it in improving and settling the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland, while I admit that it may have pressed harder on Irish landlords than I, at least, ever anticipated that it would, while I am bound to admit that the absence of any definition of the principles on which fair rents ought to be fixed has left room for decisions many of which seem to be unaccountable and some of which may appear to be unjust, while I am bound to admit that the Land Act has many blots and imperfections, I. am still prepared to maintain that, looking to the circumstances which at the time prevailed in Ireland, both justice and policy alike demanded some legislation in this direction, and even now I am not prepared to admit that I repent of the part I took in passing that Act. I had some difficulty in understanding what meaning was to be attached to the word "redress" which the noble Lord uses in his resolution. I rather gather from some of his concluding remarks that the word is intended to cover possible alterations which might be made in the Land Acts themselves, or in the procedure under them, such as were the subject of inquiry by the Fry Commission. That Commission was appointed two or three years ago to consider the procedure, the practice, and the methods of valuation, rent fixing, and land purchase tribunals. As I see that attention is going to be called to the Report of that Commission on Monday next, I think that it may be better that. I should not attempt on this occasion to anticipate that discussion. I shall confine the observations I have to make entirely to the question of compensation. Well, my Lords, I have to state on the part of the Government that we are unable to accept this resolution, for two reasons, In the first place, the resolution asks us to accept a principle of compensation wider and more absolute in form than has ever been admitted by any Government, as far as I know, in the past, and in a form in which we certainly are not pre- 741 pared to admit the principle. In the next place it asked for the appointment of a Royal Commission which would be charged with an inquiry into subjects in regard to which, in our opinion, no Commission is competent to form a judgment or to advise cither the Government or Parliament. It is not possible to assert the principle of compensation in a wider, broader, or more absolute manner than is contained in this resolution. I have no desire to attribute to the Irish landlords in general the desire to make unreasonable demands, and I think that probably most of them would admit that the warning which was given to them three years ago by the Prime Minister was not an unreasonable one, when he advised them not to make a claim for compensation in the shape of money from the English Exchequer. The noble Lord who moved this resolution did not appear to entirely accept that advice, because he told us he did not see why compensation should not be given in money, which, of course, must come direct from the English Exchequer. Although the noble Lord spoke in the name of the Landlords' Convention, he has, perhaps, in that respect, not represented the opinion of the whole of the Irish landlords. An Irish landlord, writing apparently with some authority on the subject, in a pamphlet called "The Case of the Irish Landlords," says of this warning given by the Prime Minister—All that his second condition can reasonably be taken to mean is a warning that admissions that the landlords have been hardly treated by, and under, the Land Acts were not to be taken as invitations to the Duke of Abercorn (for example) to draw up a statement to the effect that the value of his Irish property in 1870 was (say) £895,000, and that by 1898 it was reduced to £537,000, and to demand a cheque for £358,000 balance due, and so on to all other landlords in turn. Some Irish landlords suffer from strange delusions, and, perhaps, a warning of this kind is not misplaced.It does not seem to have been misplaced in the case of the noble Lord who moved this resolution. The writer of the pamphlet adds—The operation of the Land Acts has been so variable, capricious, and obscure that no landlord can make a statement of the amount he has lost in pounds, shillings, and pence that can hold water.The terms of the resolution which the noble Lord has moved would cover even a demand for a certain sum in damages 742 for injuries sustained, and if a Commission were appointed under this resolution they would have to endeavour to make an inquiry into the actual amount of loss sustained by the Irish landlords, collectively and individually. I conceive that there is no precedent in which Parliament has accepted in this broad manner the principle of compensation for loss sustained in consequence of legislation, except in cases where the consequences were foreseen, and were capable of being provided for either in the legislation itself or in simultaneous legislation. The provision for compensating the slave-owners was, I believe, contained in the Act itself, and simultaneously with the Act for the abolition of the Corn Laws Sir Robert Peel brought forward a proposal to transfer from the land to the Exchequer the burden of certain rates as compensation for the injury which it was anticipated the landed interest would suffer from that measure. There are numerous instances in which this principle might have been put forward and might have been accepted by Parliament. In the case of the Ground Game Act and the Landlord and Tenant Act certain rights and privileges were transferred from the English landlords to their tenants. Some of those rights and privileges possessed pecuniary value, but no proposal was ever made to compensate the landlords for the rights of which they were deprived. Railway shareholders might put forward a claim for compensation for the costly improvements which have been imposed upon them by Railway Regulation Acts for the protection or convenience of the public or of their own servants, and which have been imposed upon them since the dates at which their original Acts were granted. Manufacturers and owners of mines might make a similar claim in respect of the restrictions on hours of labour and the expensive precautions which they are now compelled by law to make in the interest of the health and safety of their workmen, and which in many cases have largely reduced their profits. No one has ever suggested a claim for compensation in these cases. Employers generally might raise a claim for compensation in respect of the loss which they have incurred through the Compensation to Workmen Act, but no one has suggested that the Exchequer 743 should be made liable for the insurance that the employers may be compelled to make in order to protect themselves against that liability. It is quite clear that claims of this character might be raised in future if Parliament, in its wisdom, should ever think fit to make any alteration in the law relating to licenses and the sale of intoxicating liquors in such a manner as might have the effect of reducing the profits of that great trade. These instances might be indefinitely multiplied, but I have mentioned enough to show that the principle which we are asked in this resolution to sanction is one of a very far-reaching and very dangerous character. Some reference has been made to pledges which are said to have been given by Mr. Gladstone and his colleagues in 1881, Nothing has been brought forward by the noble Lord, and I have found nothing in the statements which have been put forward on behalf of the Irish Landowners' Convention, which is more definite than the statement of Mr. Gladstone, which the noble Lord has quoted, that if loss could be proved as a direct consequence of the Act, that would be a question which Parliament would be bound to look very directly in the face. But it is easy to find other passages, which it has not been found desirable to quote, in which Mr. Gladstone dealt directly with the question of compensation, and in which, while he admitted that compensation would be due if confiscation could be proved to be contained in the Act, he always denied that the principle of confiscation was to be found in the Act, and, therefore, he refused to include any principle of compensation in the Act. I submit that Parliament cannot be bound, and ought not in the interest of the taxpayers of this country to hold themselves bound, by anything which may have been said in the course of a debate of a vague character, such as these declarations, upon matters which might have been made the subject of definite enactment, or, at all events, might have taken the shape of a definite proposal made to Parliament. I do not recollect whether the question of compensation was ever directly raised by way of Amendment during the debates on the Act of 1881, but for this purpose it does not much matter whether it was or not. If it was not so raised it must have been because the Irish landowners and their friends did not 744 see in what way a reasonable proposal on the subject which Parliament would be likely to accept could be made; and if it was raised by Amendment that Amendment certainly must have been rejected by Parliament, and by the only Parliament which had the whole case before it and was entitled to enact that a price should be paid by the British taxpayer for this legislation. The noble Lord first proposes that a Commission should examine into the extent of the injury suffered by Irish landowners in consequence of the legislation of 1881. Well, my Lords, it is admitted by some of these landlords, at all events, that it would be impossible for them to make a statement of the loss they had incurred through that Act that would hold water, and there are elements on the other side which would have to be taken into account and which it would be impossible to calculate. It seems to be assumed that, but for the Land Act, there would have been no loss to the landlords; but since 1881 rents have been reduced in England no less than they have been reduced in Ireland. I know that it is said that the agricultural conditions of England and Ireland differ very widely, and that the economical causes which have led to the reduction of rents in England have not affected Ireland in the same way. It was not held that so great a difference existed between the agricultural conditions of England and Ireland as to cause Ireland to be excluded from the compensation which was given in 1846 by Sir Robert Peel to the agricultural interest, for one of his proposals was that, concurrently with the repeal of the Corn Laws, the whole, instead of half, of the cost of the constabulary should be paid out of the Exchequer, the express object being to give to Irish landlords some compensation for the loss that it was contemplated would fall upon them in consequence of the repeal of the Corn Laws. It is not possible to contend that the economical causes which have led to reductions of rent in England have not had a similar effect in Ireland. I am unwilling to trouble your Lordships with my own experiences, but it certainly con-firms the opinion I hold, that in any circumstances there must have been a considerable reduction in rents in Ireland. I have, as many of your Lordships know, 745 a large estate in Ireland, and, as your Lordships probably do not know, I am the owner of a small estate in Somersetshire. Somersetshire is not one of the counties in England chiefly affected by low prices, for it is not a wheat growing county; but comparing the three years from 1878 to 1880 and 1895 to 1897, I find that, while the reduction in rent on one of the Irish estates has been 16 per cent. the reduction on the English estate has been 35 per cent. I admit there may be peculiar circumstances in that, and that that may not be universally the case, but still it cannot possibly be denied that in estimating the loss which has been incurred by Irish landlords the economical causes which brought about the reduction of rents in England must be taken into consideration. That is one element in the estimate which it is almost impossible to calculate. There is another still more difficult to calculate, and that is, what would Irish rents have been worth in 1881, since 1881, and now, but for the Irish land legislation? Noble Lords have a very lively recollection of the Land Act of 1881, but they seem to have forgotten the agitation which preceded it. They have forgotten the resistance, which had already come into existence, against the payment of any rent at all, and they have forgotten the temper in which this resistance to the payment of rent was received in this country. It is easy enough now to say it was a wicked and unscrupulous agitation, raised wholly for political purposes, and without any just cause, and that it was the duty of the then Government to have enforced the law and the rights of the landlords; but no Government could do more than what Parliament, and the people to whom Parliament is responsible, give it the means of doing, and, looking back at the circumstances of those times and the temper which prevailed in Parliament and in the country, I hold it would have been absolutely impossible for the then Government or for any Government to have enforced the rights of the Irish landlords under penalty of eviction under an unreformed land law. Then there are elements in this estimate which the noble Lord would direct the Commission to make, which are impossible of calculation. The noble Lord has made some alteration in the terms of his resolution since he first placed it on the Paper. He 746 has very wisely eliminated the second of his proposed instructions directing the Commission to inquire into the pledge which had been given by various statesmen on the subject. I think he can hardly have seriously contemplated that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into what authority ought to be attached to the speeches of either the promoters or opponents of that measure upon matters which might have found expression, not in speeches alone, but in definite legislative proposals. The last instruction the noble Lord would give to the Commission relates to the best means of giving compensation. Although, for reasons which I have endeavoured to state, I conceive that anything in the nature of direct compensation is an impossibility, and although I think that the Irish landlords prejudice their case by putting forward a demand which may be capable of being understood in that sense, yet I am perfectly willing to admit that the case of the Irish landlords is a hard one. There can be no doubt, from the speeches of Mr. Gladstone and his colleagues, that he and they did not anticipate that the Land Act would prove to be an injury to the landlords, they rather anticipated that it would prove a benefit; but it cannot be maintained that that anticipation has been realised. Neither can it be asserted, I think, that if the Act has led to greater reductions of rent than were anticipated, if it has deprived the landlords of a larger proportion of the rights of property than the framers of the Act intended, through the decisions of the courts, these consequences have been owing in any degree to the fact that investigation has proved that the Irish landlords were a more exacting or a more rapacious body, as a whole, than they have been supposed to be. It cannot be denied that the Act has pressed more hardly upon them than was either desired or anticipated. But, when I make this admission, I cannot do more than again repeat the advice which was given to the Irish landlords by the Prime Minister three years ago, when he advised them to bring forward such proposals for the alleviation of their position as they soberly thought could reasonably be adopted, and as by the moderation of their desires and arguments, as well as by the strength of the reasons they put forward, would be commended to the impartial and sym- 747 pathetic acceptance of English statesmen. It is in this direction and in this direction only, that any alleviation of the hardships of the Irish landlords can be found. We have endeavoured to do something in this direction. We have endeavoured to facilitate, in the interest of landlords as well as of tenants, the progress of land purchase. Up to March, 1897, advances from the Treasury for this purpose had been made at the rate of about £500,000 a year. In the next year they amounted to £800,000, and in the two last completed years they have amounted to £1,800,000 in each year, and I am informed the demand is somewhat on the increase. We have not waited for the Irish landlords themselves to make proposals. In connection with the Local Government Act, passed two years ago, the Government itself proposed and carried a provision which relieved them of half the poor rate, involving an expense of £316,000 a year. There is a measure now before Parliament — the Tithe Kent-charge Bill—which Irish landlords have frequently asked for, and which will give them some further relief of the same character. I do not say that these measures have given, or are capable of giving, the full measure of compensation to which they may think themselves entitled, but I do say that these measures show on the part of the Government a sympathetic spirit towards a class and an interest which we believe to be in an unfortunate and difficult position. And I say, further, that it is only through measures such as these, through measures which can be recommended and sup ported on grounds of public policy, and not only as instalments of compensation, that any further relief of the landlord's position can be found. I further say that some such measures of relief as those which have been enumerated by the noble Lord may be found in subsequent years to be worthy of consideration, but such measures can only be proposed or accepted by the Government on its own responsibility to Parliament, and I cannot conceive how the adoption of such measures would be facilitated by the appointment of a Commission charged with duties so difficult, if not impossible, as those suggested by the noble lord. For these reasons the Government have to resist the resolution. One word I must say in conclusion. The noble Lord asserted in his speech, and asserts in his resolu- 748 tion also, that the justice of these claims. has never been denied.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
Never been seriously disputed. Well, as the noble Lord reminded us, a similar claim was put forward in a resolution which was moved by Lord Inchiquin last year. It is quite true that that resolution was carried by a small majority in a not very large House, but it was opposed by every one of Her Majesty's present and late advisers who sit in this House. I do not know how, under such circumstances, the noble Lord can ask us to assert that the justice of these claims has never been seriously disputed. For the reasons. I have given, the Government feel compelled to resist the resolution.
My Lords, I deeply regret to hear the answer which, the noble Duke has given on behalf of the Government. Our chief reason for asking for a Royal Commission is that though we have repeatedly brought forward the case of the Irish landlords, and stated in,. I fear, often wearisome detail our several grounds of complaint and the nature and extent of our injuries, we have never been able to obtain any exhaustive examination of these points. The impression, therefore, is naturally left on the minds of many Members of this House and the public that we have overstated our case, and that, although we may have something to complain of, we are not worthy of much consideration. We have only been able to get from Her Majesty's Government an acknowledgment that our case is a hard one, and an assurance that we have their sympathy. The impression to which I have referred will no doubt be strengthened by the comparison which I was surprised to hear made by the noble Duke between the reductions of rent. in Ireland and in England. That comparison is a plausible one, but I think we can show that it is unsound, especially in the case of the reductions of second-term rents which are now being made to an alarming extent in Ireland. In England rent is fixed by what a solvent farmer who knows his business chooses to give, and therefore depends on the prices of agricultural produce and the cost of production. 749 In Ireland the element of competition is entirely excluded, while the high price paid for tenant right shows that tenants would be ready to pay a higher rent than the judicial one. How rents in Ireland are fixed it is impossible to exactly ascertain, for no definition of what constitutes a fair rent has ever been furnished to the men who have been appointed to fix that rent. We know that what the Fry Commission called popular evidence, namely, the rent paid for land in the vicinity, long and punctual payment of a real rent, and so forth, is not admitted, and we therefore must assume that if the rent depends upon anything more than caprice it is upon what is called technical evidence, namely, the opinions of experts as to the capabilities of a farm, prices of agricultural produce, and cost of production. The question of improvements may be entirely eliminated, because an allowance was made for improvements on the first occasion when the rents were fixed. The cost of production is held by the Fry Report to be about the same, as, although labour is higher, the price of agricultural requisites, seeds, manures, etc., has decreased; and therefore these sweeping reductions which are taking place in second-term rents must depend on the fall in agricultural produce. I have in my hand a Report prepared by probably the greatest living authority in Ireland, Mr. Barnes, in which he calculates that the fall in the average gross profits of agricultural produce, stock and crops combined, for the whole of Ireland, since the first five years from 1881 to 1885, compared with the years from 1895 to the present year, is under 5 per cent.—4¾ per cent. is the exact figure. But the rents have been reduced in the last period on an average of 24¾ per cent. The Fry Commission laid it down that if there was a reduction of values of 20 per cent., the reduction in rent ought to be 33⅓ per cent. If we take that standard, the reduction of rents to which I have referred, instead of being 24¾ per cent., ought to have been under 8 per cent. Therefore rents have been reduced, according to this table, treble as much as they ought to have been. I think that disposes of the comparison between English and Irish rents. But there is another serious grievance which Irish landlords have which was hardly mentioned by the noble Duke, and which has no parallel in England. By the Act 750 of 1881, supplemented by the Act of 1896, the selling value of Irish property has been reduced from about twenty-three years purchase of the old rent to about seventeen years purchase of the reduced rents. That has nothing to do with the reductions of rent or the fall in agricultural produce. There is no reason why the number of years purchase should have been varied. It means that a sum of over 25 per cent. of the fee simple value of the property has been taken from the landlord and transferred to the sitting tenant. It is on such losses as these that we base our claim for compensation. We do not ask for direct money compensation. We have taken the warning addressed to us by the noble Marquess the Prime Minister. But we ask for some measure of relief. The noble Duke stated that there was no precedent for granting compensation unless it had been taken into account at the time the legislation was passed which rendered the claim for compensation eventually necessary. Well, I would ask whether there was any precedent for the Act of 1881, but in any case it seems hard that, because the framers of that Act were deficient in foresight, and could not see what the consequences of the measure would be, the people who have suffered from its operations should continue to suffer. We wish to have the various schemes for relief to landlords which were mentioned by my noble friend who moved this motion, especially as some of them are of a highly technical character, referred to a Royal Commission for examination, land we are deeply disappointed at finding this Commission refused by Her Majesty's Government. I wish the House would consider the position of landlords in Ireland at the present time. By landlords I do not necessarily mean large landlords or wealthy men. There are many small and struggling landlords who are now being reduced to penury by these excessive reductions of rent, which are not justified by economic causes. There is a great probability that in another fifteen years there will be still further reductions. We hold that a grievous wrong has been done to us, unintentionally we freely admit, by Parliament and by the people of the United Kingdom, who approved of the legislation which has been passed, and it is to the sense of justice of the English people that we appeal. We appeal also to Her Majesty's 751 Government. As I have before said in this House, if we lived in a foreign country our position might be a very different one, for if any of Her Majesty's subjects abroad were injured by any foreign State the noble Marquess at the head of the Government would not be slow in demanding redress. He would stand forward as their defender, knowing well that in any steps he took he would be secure in the confidence of his countrymen, who are convinced, from the long record of his public service, that the national honour is safe in his hands. I would ask the noble Marquess and Her Majesty's Government whether the national honour may not be equally concerned in dealing with Her Majesty's subjects at home? We claim the protection of the Government. We claim it as loyal subjects, loyal not only to Her Majesty the Queen but loyal to the connection with England, to the Constitution, the laws, and the traditions of England. I do not claim for Irish landlords a monopoly of loyalty, but I do say that among that class there are more loyal men than are to be found in any other class in Ireland, and we have suffered for our loyalty. It is sometimes cast in our teeth that under other circumstances we should have received at least as much consideration from our opponents as we have from those whom we supported, and that if we had thrown in our lot with the rest of our countrymen we should be in a better position. I do not accept this view. I doubt that any identity of political views would outweigh the unpardonable sin of holding property which is coveted by others. I only mention it to show the opinion of our opponents as to how we are treated. An article appeared not long ago in The Times, signed by a well-known writer, in which was described a conversation the writer had had with a friend in Cape Town some ton years ago, in which his friend, after making a sufficiently gloomy forecast of what would happen in South Africa, used words which are thoroughly applicable to the state of things in Ireland. "Remember," he said, "that as it was in 1881, the Government will take care that it does not pay anyone to be loyal." I sincerely hope that policy will not be pursued in South Africa, but it is in that spirit that Ireland has been governed. This is the feeling, not among landlords alone, but among loyal men of other classes in many parts 752 of Ireland. And well may it be so, when they see the property of loyal men gradually taken away for the benefit of their opponents, when they see that by another Legislative Act those men have been deprived of all voice in the management and administration of affairs in their country, when they see that in the case of a Government appointment one is selected not from among those who have been consistent in support of law and order, but from those whose conduct has been widely different, when any representations which they make to Government produce little or no effect. But if loyalty does not pay in Ireland disaffection does. It is this discouragement which is given to loyalists that encourages and fosters disaffection and agitation. As to the dangerous agitation now prevailing in Ireland, which, as the noble Duke said of the former Land League, is political in its origin, the people are taught by their leaders that as the land agitation previously brought about the Act of 1881, and has given them control over a portion of the landed property of Ireland, so they may by the present agitation endeavour to obtain control over the remainder. I am convinced that Her Majesty's Government are as much opposed to this agitation as I am. I have never failed to express that opinion. But can it be wondered at that it is strengthened and consolidated when its leaders see a candidate appointed to an important Government situation who some years ago was a leader and organiser of an equally immoral conspiracy f The Government may have satisfied themselves that the gentleman in question has modified the extremely lax principles of morality which admitted of this attitude, but no announcement has been made to that effect. It is not surprising that when the leaders of public opinion j in Ireland see that resistance to the law and antagonism to England are a sure passport to favour, they should do their utmost to maintain that attitude among the people. The people would be well enough if they were let alone. Everyone who lives among them will gladly recognise their many good and generous qualities. But they are an impulsive and a credulous race, easily led away by sophistical reasoning and held in thraldom by their leaders. On the occasion of the Royal visit, when the instinctive chivalry 753 and good feeling of the people led them to break away from their leaders, and tender to Her Majesty a welcome which no one who witnessed it is likely to forget, those leaders hastened to discount the enthusiasm which they had in vain endeavoured to repress and to assure the world that, though this welcome was extended to the Queen, the feeling of hostility towards England was as bitter and as determined as ever. They feared that they might lose the hold which they deemed their disloyal attitude had given them over the timidity of England. I deeply regret the position the noble Duke has taken up with regard to the motion now before the House, and I cannot help thinking that the Government are unaware of the discouragement which they are giving to all loyal classes in Ireland, who feel deeply that, because they have no political power they have been abandoned by England, in whom they thought they could place reliance.
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN
My Lords, I also deeply regret the reply of the noble Duke; but as his reply is in the negative, I will not occupy your Lordships' time by any arguments which I might have adduced in favour of the motion. I believe the noble Duke, in the course of his speech, referred to myself, but I was not able exactly to catch the purport of his remarks.
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN
I beg to assure your Lordships that I support the motion because I take an interest in the affairs of the landowners in Ireland, and that I am not in the slightest degree influenced by my own position. I only endeavour to serve others and to urge their grounds of grievance as far as possible. The answer which the noble Duke has given will be received in Ireland with bitterness and regret. I use the word "bitterness," because the landowners in that country will see that even their last effort to obtain redress has been opposed by the Government. I do wish the Government had a little more pluck, and that they would really take in hand the grievances of this particular section of Her Majesty's subjects, without looking too closely to the future and to the results of their action. I firmly believe that a 754 little pluck in this regard would produce the best results, and would be the means of bringing round their standard many of those who at the present time are wavering. It is not those who have large incomes who suffer so severely; it is those unfortunate gentlemen who have small incomes, and whose property is gradually being taken away from them. Year by year the Commission goes on, and each year more or less of the property of these unfortunate men is abstracted from them, so that in the course of a few years it is impossible to say what their position may be. I really fear that these men will cease to exist as a class—men whose ancestors fought for the Empire, as their sons are doing to-day —and that eight-tenths of the houses will be shut up in Ireland—houses which have produced such sterling yeomen and such sterling defenders of our country. I regret extremely the decision of Her Majesty's Government, but as long as we have life and breath we shall continue to do our best to urge the claims of those unfortunate landowner's whatever Government may be in power.
*THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, I was glad to hear that the noble Duke the Lord President of the Council admitted that the Act of 1881 had not done all that was expected at the time. It has, however, done a great deal more than we, as Irish landowners, expected, and we have suffered most severely at its hands. The noble Duke said the Commission could not possibly deal with many of the matters mentioned in the motion. The same sort of thing was said with regard to the Commission we asked for to inquire into the Land Acts. But if the recommendations of the Fry Commission were adopted by the Government they would go a long way to help the Irish landlords, and to remove their grievances. But what has happened? Scarcely anything has been done to carry out those recommendations. The noble Duke made a comparison between his property in Ireland and in Somersetshire. He said there were very large reductions in England, larger, I gathered, than in Ireland, but we must remember that in his Irish property there is a most valuable salmon fishery.
*THE EARL OF MAYO
I admit that it was not included, but it is a most valuable asset in the property. There was one point which the noble Duke emphacised very much—namely, that we were not to expect compensation in pounds, shillings, and pence from the Exchequer. The noble Viscount did not say that we did expect compensation in this form. What he said was that, while we could see no reason why we should not receive compensation in actual payment of money, there were many other forms in which we could receive it. I do not suppose for one instant that anyone in his senses would imagine that we could ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pour golden sovereigns into our pockets because we have suffered in consequence of the Land Acts. Tenants in Ireland are lent money at 2¾ per cent., repayable by instalments spread over a long period, and in cases where Irish landlords have suffered from State interference with their rents, I think they might fairly claim the benefit of such loans. But this and other alternative methods of compensation are set forth in the recommendation of the Landlords' Convention of 1889, and are well known to the House. The comparisons of the noble Duke were not appropriate. He put forward as an argument that railway shareholders might be compared to Irish landlords, but I cannot see how that can be. Railway shareholders, no doubt, have to suffer loss when large improvements have to be made for the accommodation and safety of passengers, but if they have to provide large sums for such improvements what results—increasing traffics and increased revenue. Then the noble Duke mentioned, as another point in his argument, the Workmen's Compensation Act. Against claims upon them under that Act employers can insure; but how can an Irish landlord insure against the inroads the Land Commission make, every fifteen years, upon his income? If we could have insured against them we would have done so long ago. With regard to the question of rents having also been reduced in England, it must be remembered that tenant right, which exists in Ireland, does not exist in England. English landlords have not got that awful thing to face which is called tenant right, and which practically means this, that the landlord cannot regain possession of his property. I 756 will tell you how a landlord can regain possession of his property in Ireland. If a tenant does not pay his rent he can evict him, but what happens? The tenant puts up the tenant right to auction, and in order that the landlord can get back his property he has to buy it at the highest price that is bid at that auction. How would English landlords like to face that state of things? I ask your Lordships what is the use of talking of what happened when Sir Robert Peel passed measures in 1841 dealing with the Constabulary in Ireland? We have long passed that stage. The Corn Laws have been repealed, and, thank goodness, we have got a Constabulary. We have heard a great deal about the good that the Acts framed for the purpose of purchase have done in Ireland, but these Acts are framed and administered as if the interest of the tenant need be the only thing to be considered and consulted. The condition of purchase is made as tempting as possible to the tenant, and all proposals that have been made for mitigating the loss of income and the heavy cost entailed upon landlords who under these Acts have sold their property, have been dealt with both by the Government and the Land Commission in a grudging spirit. Mortgage debenture institutions, which have done so much good in Central Prussia, Eastern Prussia, and other parts of Germany, would be of the greatest use in Ireland. They do not entail any call upon the Exchequer, and the working of them amounts to this: a large number of proprietors unite in raising money upon their joint credit, which they lend to each other in such sums as they consider safe. I regret very much that Her Majesty Government have taken up this attitude with regard to the Royal Commission asked for by the noble Viscount. After all, we only ask that the matter should be inquired into. Of course, if the Commission find that we have got no losses, then we have no case; but we are so certain that we have a good case that we ask for this Royal Commission. A vast transfer of property has taken place in Ireland by the behest of Parliament, but Ireland as a whole is none the richer, the property having passed from one class to another, while the Imperial Exchequer stands by risking not a single sixpence in the transaction. I hope the noble Viscount will press his motion to a division.
*THE LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND (Lord ASHBOURNE)
My Lords, I would like in a very few words to remind your Lordships of the question upon which you are asked to express an opinion. The topics that have been presented to-night so fairly and so forcibly by my noble friends have not been presented for the first time. On several occasions the same arguments have been addressed clearly and persuasively to your Lordships, but we are always bound to consider how far any proposals which are put forward are possible and practicable. Your Lordships are asked, as you were last year, to affirm that compensation should be given to the landowners. I have to remind your Lordships of what the noble Duke (the Duke of Devonshire) has already pointed out —namely, that it is impossible to suggest that the justice of these claims has been admitted when every Member of the Government felt constrained last year, as on previous occasions, to vote against the suggestion then made that compensation was practicable and should be given. Analogies have been cited by my noble friend Lord Templetown in which compensation has been given, but on every single occasion that he mentioned the topic of compensation was dealt with at the time of the Act, and no one ever suggested that it was possible to go back after a number of years and give compensation in respect of the working of an Act of Parliament. I was an opponent of the Act of 1881, and I have never said a word in favour of its policy or operation. But we have to take it as an Act of Parliament on the Statute Book and deal with it as part of the law of the land. What is suggested is that in some way or other compensation is to be given for the way in which rents have been reduced under the working of the Act of 1881. Is that possible? Can every case under the Act be re-tried? Has it not to be borne in mind that thousands of cases have been settled by agreement between landlord and tenant? In thousands of cases there were no appeals. In thousands of others there were appeals, and the reduction of rent was affirmed. Would it be possible to disentangle the reductions and say, ''This much was worked out by economic causes and this much by the operation and undue working of an unfair and unreasonable Act of Parliament"? It is admitted that compensation in money is 758 practically impossible. It is admitted to be impossible also to take away from the tenants one single benefit they have received. Then what compensation is suggested? It is suggested that some method should be found of getting some form of indirect compensation elsewhere by other Acts of Parliament—methods that it is very hard to realise or understand. At the present moment there is the Tithes Bill, which has been asked for not as compensation, but as a mere tardy measure of justice, passing through the other House of Parliament. The Fry Commission has been mentioned. We shall have the pleasure of having that Commission's Report discussed on Monday, when I will be prepared to give my noble friend who introduced the question every possible information as to the method in which the recommendations of that Commission are being dealt with. Land purchase, which is the most hopeful solution of the Irish land question, is going on vigorously, and Section 40 of the Act of 1896 is working in a reasonable and satisfactory manner. I see my noble friend (Lord Templemore) smiling, but I claim that I know the purchase question, and am as well able as any of my noble friends to understand its bearings. With regard to loans to landowners to pay off their first charges, which were mentioned by the noble Earl behind me (the Earl of Mayo), if a, method can be found by which loans on safe and easy terms can be granted, I shall be delighted, but I am strongly of opinion that its discovery would not be an asset solely in the possession of Irish landlords, but the Treasury would be asked to grant similar loans to other sections of the community. Now, what is the good of a Royal Commission? What benefit is suggested to come from voting for a Royal Commission in the circumstances I have named? Have we not had Royal Commissions and Committees enough in Ireland? There was the Richmond Commission and the Bessborough Commission before the Land Act of 1881; and after its passing there was the Committee of your Lordships' House, in which Lord Cairns took part, and in the time of the late Government the Morley Committee was appointed. We have had the Fry Commission, and what is the good of now appointing another Commission? I venture to say that the suggestion that a Commission should be appointed is 759 impracticable. I gather from the closing words of the speech of my noble friend the Earl of Mayo that your Lordships are asked to divide on this motion. That is not a matter on which I have a right to advise, but I should have thought that the question had been adequately dealt with