HL Deb 12 June 1903 vol 123 cc747-50

, who had given notice—1. To move for a return showing all sums received for the redemption and purchase of quit and Crown rents in Ireland since 1897, and how the capital sum has been disposed of; 2. To ask if, having regard to the extensive sale of estates contemplated under the operation of the proposed Irish Land Bill, 1903, His Majesty's Government will make provision in the future that all such sums received for the redemption and purchase of quit and Crown rents in Ireland, instead of being merged in the general capital of the land revenues of the Crown and spent in Great Britain, should be reserved and appropriated for the re-afforestation and improvement of those areas in Ireland which it is proposed to vest in trustees under Clause 18 of the Irish Land Bill of 1903, said: My Lords, I shall not trespass on your Lordships' time for more than a few minutes, but I desire to explain the reasons why I have placed this Question on the Paper. Mr. Lecky, in another place on 4th April, 1898, moved for a Return showing all sums received for the reduction and purchase of quit and Crown rents in Ireland since 1863, and how the capital sum had been disposed of. He received that Return, and appended to the Return was a note saying that— These sums have been merged in the general capital of the land revenues of the Crown under the management of the Commissioners of Woods, etc., and invested with moneys received from other sources in the purchase of estates in Great Britain and the redemption of charges on Crown property in Great Britain. Your Lordships will observe that there was no payment or repayment made to the funds in Ireland. The sum received was a large one, amounting to some £244,5. Since then, of course, further estates have been sold and more quit rents and Crown rents have been redeemed. I do not desire in any way to criticise the manner in which those funds were utilised, but I cannot help thinking that it would have been wiser if they had been used for the purpose of the Crown in Ireland. There are Crown lands in Ireland which might have been improved, and possibly ameliorated, if that had been done. I offer this merely as a suggestion, but the purchase of a Royal residence might have been arranged with the funds at the disposal of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. I bring forward this question most humbly, and not with any wish to dictate to the Treasury or to contend that funds connected with Ireland should be used for any other purpose than for the benefit of the Crown and of the State generally. But I do think that funds which are, if one may say so, absolutely derived from land in Ireland, should be utilised for the amelioration and improvement of that country.

I now come to the second part of my Question. As your Lordships know, there is before the other House a Bill, the Committee stage of which will, I believe, be taken next week, and which most Irishmen will be glad to see passed. In that Bill there is a very valuable clause—namely, Clause 18. This clause deals with the lands which would be purchased by the Estate Commissioners, and it is proposed that those lands should be handed over, as I understand, to trustees for the Crown to deal with I would venture to suggest that it would be for the benefit of the country if these funds, coming under the name of quit and Crown rents, and which belong to the Woods and Forests, were utilised for the purpose of improving the waste lands which it is proposed to hand, under that clause, to trustees, and especially for re-afforestation. Your Lordships area ware that in Germany and in France the forests are managed entirely by the State, and have been proved to be a very lucrative source of revenue to the State. I believe the same result would obtain in Ireland. I therefore think that if His Majesty's Government could be induced to look into this matter from the point of view I have ventured to put forward in the second part of my Question, it would be to the benefit of the country. Speaking as one who has had a great deal to do with the timber trade generally, and also judging from information I have received from France and Germany on the subject, I think it would be of very great advantage to Ireland if some such scheme were carried out. I should be glad, therefore, to elicit information from His Majesty's Government on the subject, and I trust that the Return for which I have asked will be granted.

Moved, for a Return showing all sums received for the redemption and purchase of quit and Crown rents in Ireland since 1897, and how the capital sum has been disposed of.—(Lord Castletown.)


My Lords, I can give the noble Lord the information he asks for with regard to the sums received in redemption of quit and Grown rents in Ireland. If he presses for the Return I can let him have it, or I can give him the information now. The total received since 31st March, 1898, has amounted to £93,120, of which £17,379 was received in the year ended 31st March, 1903, and since the latter date a sum of £15,636 has been invested in Bank of Ireland Stock. With regard to what the noble Lord has said as to the manner in which this money is utilised, I am afraid I can only repeat the answers which have already been given in another place when somewhat similar questions have been asked, and point out to him that under the Grown Lands Act of 1829 the sums received under the heads referred to must be invested in the purchase of land or hereditaments, or the redemption of charges or encumbrances on land already belonging to the Crown. I have no doubt whatever that a scheme of re-afforestation in Ireland is of very great importance, and might possibly be of benefit to the country; but I am afraid it cannot be considered under this head, because the money is not available for that purpose without legislation on the subject. Moreover, by attempting to earmark these funds for the definite purpose of investment in Ireland you would be giving away the principle that Crown lands are not the property of a particular district in which they are situated but the property of the nation as a whole.


I only rise to call attention to one fact in regard to the notice of my noble friend behind me. It is this: whether the second Question is really in order. I do not think I need dwell on it, because the noble Earl opposite has practically answered it, but it seems to me exceedingly irregular to refer to a Bill that is actually in the House of Commons and to suggest that an alteration of one of the clauses should be made in that Bill in order to carry out the noble Lord's view. I only rise to say that, because I think in regard to the future we ought to be careful not to set a dangerous precedent. I certainly think that an allusion to a clause in a Bill which the Government have introduced in the House of Commons is irregular and should not have appeared on the Notice Paper of your Lordships' House.


I quite agree with what the noble Earl has said.


I beg to thank the noble Earl for his reply, which will enable me, when the Bill comes up to this House, to meet the very sound arguments brought forward by the noble Earl. I was not aware that these sums were earmarked for those particular purposes, but the information I have received will very likely enable me to bring up an Amendment which will meet the difficulty.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.