HL Deb 13 June 1904 vol 135 cc1419-35

My Lords, I rise to ask His Majesty's Government whether they are aware that, following the meetings of the United Irish League in East Gal-way to which their attention has been already called in this House, strikes against payment of rent have taken place in that locality, with the object of compelling landlords to sell their property; and whether, with the view of checking such intimidation, they will refuse to sanction advances for purchase in any districts where it prevails, or take any other steps to prevent it.

In putting this Question, I must refer very briefly to matters which have already been mentioned in your Lordships' House. Just before the House rose for the Whitsuntide recess, my noble friend Lord West-meath called the attention of the Government to some meetings of the United Irish League, which had taken place in the South and East of Galway, and to some exceedingly inflammatory speeches which had been made at these meetings. I need not again read any extracts from the speeches which my noble friend quoted at the time. It may be sufficient to say that they all pointed much in the same direction▀×namely, that landlords were to be forced to sell all their property, note only the land in the occupation of the agricultural tenants, but the grazing lands besides, which they either had in their own hands or let to grazing tenants; and, further, that the tenants were not to deal directly with the landlords, but that the landlords were to be forced to sell to the Estates Commissioner. In fact, the landlords were to be given no option in the matter whatever. No overt act of illegality had taken place at that time, but my noble friend judged rightly that it was inevitable that after such speeches something of the kind would occur. His forecast has been completely verified.

A few days after the matter was before your Lordships' House—the following Sunday—a meeting was held in South Galway, where speeches of just the same description were made. There was one speech to which I wish to call your Lordships' attention in view of what took place subsequent to and in pursuance of it. It was a speech made by the Member for the South Division of the county, in which he is reported to have said— They all thought the Act a splendid Act, but they might as well expect a flock of blackbirds to give the people the land as expect the landlords to sell unless compelled by the determination of the people and by their organisation. I am glad that you are asked in the resolution not to buy, but by agitation to compel them to divide the grass land wherever an estate is offered▀×not to buy unless the grass land is divided among the whole body of tenants. Two or three days later rent-day occurred on three properties immediately adjoining. On the first property the tenants appeared, headed by the very Gentleman who made this speech, who asked to be allowed to state the case for the tenants. He began by speaking very handsomely of the good and harmonious relations that always existed between the landlord and the tenants on that property, but he wound up by demanding that the landlord should make over the the whole of his property, grass lands and all, to the Estates Commissioners, who would then, proceed to divide it among the tenants, or in default of that he demanded that the landlord should give a substantial abatement of the rent then due. The landlord refused to accept either of these alternatives. The tenants withdrew to consult, and finally a deputation waited upon the landlord and asked for an abatement of 4s. in the pound, and on that being refused they all left and declined to pay any rent whatever.

On another property adjoining, the tenants arrived accompanied by the chairman of the meeting to which I have referred. The landlord objected to this gentleman acting as spokesman, preferring apparently to deal with the tenants directly, and upon this they all left in a body and refused to pay any rent whatever. On the third property, which it appears had not attracted the attention of the United Irish League, the tenants came by themselves and all paid their rent. This is a distinct proof that the tenants in the other two cases were not acting on their own initiative, but under the influence of the League. It may be said that these are poor, ignorant people, and that they require some man of considerable education to put the case for them. Anyone who has much acquaintance with this class in Ireland knows that they are thoroughly capable of expressing their opinions and are remarkably keen hands at a bargain calculated to ensure success in life. In whatever other quality they may be deficient, it most certainly is not in astuteness or fluency of expression. It is, therefore, clear that these leaders attended, not for the purpose of explaining the case, but in order to keep the tenants in line and to see that they thoroughly obeyed the mandate of the League.

It may be thought curious in this country that men whom I have described as intelligent and astute should submit to such dictation, but those who make that objection know very little of the terrible power of an organisation such as that in Ireland, and the unscrupulous way in which its decrees are enforced. I will give an instance of a small property not far from my own home. It consists of a demesne, and some agricultural tenancies surround it. It is in the hands of trustees. Some time ago the tenants made an informal proposition to buy. They offered some very inadequate sum—I think fourteen years purchase—but they imposed the condition that the demesne should be split up and divided among them. The negotiations never went further, there being legal difficulties in the way, and the trustees having no power to sell; but the tenants were given to understand that such terms as they proposed were not likely to be accepted, Up to that time it had been the custom to let the demesne for grazing purposes to the surrounding farmers. An order was at once given that this was to be stopped. No one was to send cattle on to this demesne, and it was strictly boycotted. It remained derelict for some time, and finally was let to a farmer in the neighbourhood, one of the very few men who had got independence enough to stand out against the League. Well, what happened? This farmer was boycotted and threatened, and only a few weeks ago received a threatening letter ordering him to surrender the farm, and informing him that if he did not, there was plenty of powder and ball in the county to make him do so. On the occasion of an absolute fuel famine last winter, the agent told the tenants they might go and get the timber, of which a good deal was lying about in the demesne, the windfalls of the great storm of last year, and take it away for nothing, but they were afraid to do it, and preferred to go some distance away and buy fuel rather than get timber from this demesne for nothing. One of them had asked for help to repair his house, and the agent gave him an order on the steward for timber, but he was afraid to present it. It is clear that all this boycotting did not come from the tenants themselves, who would have been very pleased to forget all about it when they wanted fuel. It must have been done by superior order.

I think I have said enough to show your Lordships the tyranny exercised in Ireland by this League, and that it is impossible where this agitation exists that that freedom of contract can be maintained which exists in every civilised country. Further it is a source of considerable danger to the peace and prosperity of the country, for in cases where there has been an absolute strike against the payment of rent it is obvious that the landlord must adopt the only course open to him and take legal proceedings against his tenants. This has already begun. The result is that we shall have the old story of the land war and the plan of campaign, of which everyone in Ireland retains such vivid and painful recollection. Now if His Majesty's Government are content to sit with folded hands and serenely contemplate from an Olympian height the battle raving beneath them, contenting themselves only with expressions of stern disapproval of such illegality, and taking no active steps to restore tranquillity, the impression which unfortunately is now whispered about will be confirmed and strengthened, that His Majesty's Government are so bent on the success of the Act of last year, so anxious for the transfer of land from landlord to tenant, that they are not disposed to look too curiously into the means by which that transfer is brought about. That is not my opinion. I hold a diametrically opposite view. I am convinced that His Majesty's Government look upon intimidation and all other illegal actions with the abhorrence which it excites in every right-minded man; but I quote this to show the feeling of uncertainty and anxiety existing in the country owing to the agitation and the absence of any steps to check it. I think too that they must see the injurious effect, although I hardly think they recognise the extent of the injury, the absolutely paralyzing effect of such agitation on the working of the Purchase Act.

I would, therefore, ask His Majesty's Government, if they are not prepared to take any stronger steps, whether they will not refuse to sanction any agreements for purchase in districts where such intimidation prevails. It may seem at first sight a somewhat incongruous proposition to recommend the suspension of an Act of Parliament with a view to promoting its efficient working. But there are two things to be considered. There is the change in the tenure of land in Ireland and there is the suppression and prevention of illegality. The change in the tenure of land may be a matter of great public importance, but surely the prevention of illegality must come first. I am sure that is the view of His Majesty's Government. If that were not the case, undoubtedly the impression to which I have just alluded would be indeed confirmed that they were looking to the end rather than the means, and were conniving at agitation.

But I wish to point out that the step I suggest would not materially affect the progress of the Act. The districts affected are at present restricted in area, I am thankful to say, and few in number. How much this number may be increased or the area enlarged if the agitation is allowed to continue is a question which the future only can solve but at present they are restricted both in area and in number. Well, in these districts there is a deadlock already. The Act is a dead letter, for it is quite clear that the majority of the landlords would be prepared to face all obloquy, annoyance, and even personal danger, rather than submit to terms which must be ruinous to the interests both of themselves and their families. It may be said that even in these districts there might be a property in respect of which a perfectly voluntary arrangement might be come to. It is hardly possible that in such a district there could be a property not directly or indirectly influenced by agitation. But even supposing that such a highly favoured spot should exist, a sort of peaceful oasis, an "island valley of Avilion," sheltered in some mysterious manner from the surrounding tempest, and against which the storms of the United League beat in vain, the worst that could happen would be that the conclusion of the arrangements would be postponed. And it need not be postponed for long, for if the agitators and their followers and dupes found that nothing could be gained by agitation, but that actual loss would be incurred by the refusal of the Government to make any advances for purchase, the agitation would subside, and the country would be restored to a normal state of tranquillity.

If His Majesty's Government will not adopt that suggestion, let them take some other active steps to show that they are determined that the freedom of contract which ought to exist shall be maintained and that the Act which they brought in, in the hope that it would be an advantage and be acceptable to all, shall not be turned into an engine of oppression. At the risk of wearying your Lordships I must say one word on behalf of the landlords. I must repeat what we have often urged, and has never been controverted. Landlords are under no moral obligation to sell. They are not responsible for the state of confusion, of uncertainty and anxiety brought about by faulty legislation in the past. All that they can be accused of is the apparently unpardonable crime of still being possessed of some property which is coveted by others. If, however, the landlords are prepared to fall in with the views of the Government and to transfer to their tenants the remnant of their inheritance, the least they can expect is that they shall have a free hand in so doing, and shall not be starved into submission by the United Irish League.


My Lords, before the noble Lord replies on behalf of the Government, I should like to state that, though the Question of my noble friend refers entirely to the County of Galway, there are other parts of Ireland where the same attempts to compel landlords to sell by withholding payments of rent are taking place. It is within your Lordships' recollection that a very few weeks ago the noble Earl opposite, the Earl of Cork, described what was taking place on an estate of his in the immediate neighbourhood of Cork, where meetings had been held and violence used, and where the condition of things was exceedingly bad. Since then, I believe, that case has been settled on a purchase basis, but there are a great many other cases besides that one. I know of two recent ones in the East of the county of Limerick, and I also know of three cases where this has been going on during the past eighteen months in the west portion of the county of Limerick, adjoining the county of Kerry. I know of a case, almost in the west centre of the county of Cork, where the tenants on an estate which formerly belonged to a distinguished Member of your Lordships' House and which was purchased by another gentleman, refused last winter to pay any rent unless the present owner was prepared to sell at what he considered a ruinous sacrifice. Meetings were held, and he was denounced for declining to part with what was his own upon terms which he could not in justice to himself and to those who were joint owners in the estate regard as just and fair.

Then there is another case at the present moment in the West of the county, where the sheriff has already been defied, and where a very serious state of things is likely to result unless some very strong measures are taken by His Majesty's Government. There is a further case in the East Riding of Cork, where the tenants last year refused to pay their rent, telling the landlord that he must sell to them at exceedingly low terms. No rent has been paid for twelve months, and meetings have been held in the neighbourhood. Cattle were ultimately taken, some belonging to a Member of Parliament, and were sold in Cork by the sheriff. A meeting was afterwards held in the immediate vicinity, which was addressed by another Member of Parliament and at which the sheriff and the landlord were denounced. That portion of the fight has been concluded; but, notwithstanding that, the tenants on the rest of the estate have not paid for twelve months, and it is feared that serious consequences may result. This is a state of things which everyone who is interested in the peace of Ireland must most sincerely and deeply deplore. I am sure no one in your Lordships' House, and no man who owns property in Ireland is anxious to see another land war in that country.

The great Purchase Act passed last year by His Majesty's Government will, I believe, if given time, work satisfactorily and carry out the policy of the Government to a very large extent; but if attempts are to be made to force landlords to sell by illegal methods such as I have described it is impossible that the Act can work. The effect of its operation will undoubtedly be checked; we shall have a fresh land war, and sales, instead of taking place rapidly, will certainly be retarded, if not stopped. For the working of that Act time and patience are no doubt required. Negotiations cannot be carried out all at the moment, and I think that probably the Estates Commissioners will require a larger staff than they at present have if they are to perform the work which is required of them in a short time. I sincerely hope His Majesty's Government will do what they can to stop the illegal and violent methods which are being resorted to to force sales under the Act, for they will not only lead to grave disturbances throughout the country but retard the working of the Act itself.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Clonbrock, who has introduced this subject, is entitled to speak with great authority on any question of this kind. He is identified by property and residence with that part of Ireland to which he has addressed himself, and there is no one in your Lordships' House who has sought to make himself more closely acquainted with everything that goes on there than my noble friend. My noble friend has very fairly prefaced his remarks by alluding to the occasions upon which topics of a similar character have been presented to your Lordships this session, and has mentioned what occurred on the occasion when my noble friend Lord Westmeath brought the matter under the attention of your Lordships last month. I am glad my noble friend said he did not for a moment think that the Government intended to regard this question calmly or with serenity from lofty heights. My noble friend who last spoke mentioned a different part of the country with which he is much more familiar, and spoke of instances occurring there which have attracted his attention and have also found their way into the Press.

I need hardly say that the question raised is one of importance, and that no Government would be justified inputting it aside as unworthy of close attention and examination. The particular matter that Lord Clonbrock brought forward had reference to a part of Connaught; my noble friend mentioned what occurred on some estates there, and also indicated what he thought might be a possible remedy. It is difficult to get any precise information as to the details of payment of rent on certain estates. Sometimes the tenants do not like to give it, and sometimes the landlords do not care to give it. I do not think it would be quite accurate to speak of strikes against the payment of rent. But unquestionably there have been refusals to pay rent on some estates, and landlords are sure to commence legal proceedings for their recovery; and if these proceedings result in decisions and decrees in favour of the landlords the Government, of course, will be bound to protect them in enforcing the awards of the law. Any attempt to compel landowners to sell by refusing to pay rent would be an endeavour to make the Act of 1903 compulsory, and would be open to the very gravest objection.

I think my noble friend was right in putting in the forefront of his observations the fact that the Purchase Act was a voluntary and not a compulsory Act. That is the only way in which it can be rightly regarded. It must be borne in mind that it is not an Act to be worked by coercion or undue pressure, but by the voluntary principle. The tenants are not compelled to buy; they can, if they please, remain tenants with all their rights and privileges under the existing Land Code. The landlords, on the other hand, cannot I be compelled to sell, and they must not be forced to do so by threats or any form of intimidation. I am only saying what has been said abundantly in reference to the intentions of the framers of this Act, and what is its manifest and obvious construction. If any overt act should be discovered, capable of proof, showing that any criminal act has been committed, the Excutive will not fail to act promptly and; with firmness. The attention of His Majesty's Government is steadily directed to the question, and they have no intention whatever of forgetting their duty. This fact has been mentioned twice by my noble friend Lord Denbigh, who spoke on former occasions on behalf of the Government; and as recently as 19th May last he said that the Government would be prepared to take all measures necessary for the purpose of protecting life and property, and for the purpose of enforcing the law. I hope that that statement, repeated now, will indicate that the Government have up to this date had their attention steadily and firmly directed to this question, that they recognise their duty, and have no intention of faltering in its discharge.

The noble Lord who called attention to this question asked whether, with the view of checking intimidation, His Majesty's Government would refuse to sanction advances for purchase in any districts where it prevails. My noble friend put that temperately and tentatively, but it was obvious that he himself saw the immense difficulties that lay in the way of carrying it out. In my opinion it would be impossible, and, I think, it would be illegal. The Act of last year is the law of the land. Its provisions are open to all, and persons who are in a position to invoke its provisions on their behalf with perfectly honest agreements between landlord and tenant should be able to do so. It would not be possible to suspend the Act in those districts and refuse to administrate a law which is on the Statute-book. In saying this I am saying what I have no doubt my noble friend anticipated. I assume that what he had in his mind was whether there were not some means by which those who were parties to this undue pressure might be made to recognise that they were defeating instead of advancing their interests. I am by no means sure that illegitimate pressure by tenants on the tenanted portion of an estate, to force the sale and division of untenanted land would not be a matter which the Commissioners would take into account in considering the circumstances of the case. Like the Congested Districts Board, it might be their duty not to sanction such sales if forced by illegal pressure. I believe that in the administration of the Congested Districts Board there are close inquiries in order to see that the proposals that are made for the sale of estates are free on both sides. I hope I have said enough to indicate that the Government are alive to the importance of the topics to which my noble friends have referred, and that they are not at all insensible to their duty in the matter.


My Lords, I do not wish to trouble your Lordships at any length to-day, as I ventured to put several Questions on this subject to the Government the other day. The Questions that I then put still remain unanswered. The reply, if I can call it such, which I received from the noble Lord on behalf of the Government did not deal with any of the points I raised. For instance, Lord Denbigh on that occasion went out of his way to quote an interesting and laudable speech by an Archbishop in an entirely different part of the country, which had nothing whatever to do with the point I brought forward. If any of your Lordships take the opportunity to read the Irish papers you will find that the occasions on which we bring forward our grievances in the House of Lords are always followed by articles showing the greatest depression and the greatest discouragement. We always obtain the same answer. The noble and learned Lord who has replied for the Government to-day, although he used language with somewhat flowery adornment, has given us the same answer that we always receive. We are told that the Government is watching what is going on, and that if only we will tell them of anything wrong they will take steps to remedy it. That is the answer we always receive. I think we have taken some trouble lately, by quoting speeches which are being made all over Ireland, to demonstrate what is taking place. My noble friend Lord Clonbrock has this afternoon shown His Majesty's Government that following on these speeches acts of the greatest illegality have taken place and are taking place. It is illegal not to pay rent, and there is now in the very districts to which I referred the other day a regular campaign and an absolute and definite repudiation of the payment of rents. The Irish newspapers are full of these facts.

I do not know what more the noble and learned Lord wants than an absolute refusal to pay rent. Think of the position of the poor landlord in some parts of the West of Ireland. He is put to great trouble and expense; he has heavy charges to meet; he is not at all ready to enter into a prolonged fight against his enemies; the odds are ten to one he may have to give in, and he sells his land at a price which will hardly pay the charges on his property. Do people in this country know, when they see the returns of sales which have actually taken place, how many of those sales are brought about by pressure? Or do they imagine that they are all voluntary? I confess I should like to hear the views of the noble Marquess the Foreign Minister on this subject, not only as Leader of this House, but also as one of the members of the Treasury Bench who from his position as a great Irish landlord himself must be acquainted as well as we are with everything that is going on. He must know that the answer which the noble and learned Lord has given tonight will be received to-morrow in the Irish Press with ridicule and contempt on the one side and with discouragement and disappointment on the other.

I venture to ask the noble Marquess if he will take steps to try and make clear to these agitators all over the country that they will gain nothing by carrying on their present programme. I do not know if it would be illegal, as the noble and learned Lord seemed to suggest, to suspend the Act in cases where intimidation has taken place; but in cases where we can show that speeches of the most menacing character have been delivered and that these have been followed by such illegal acts as the complete stoppage of rent, and where this again has been followed by the collapse of the opposition of the landlord and by his being forced to sell his land at a price which will not only not pay him, but will induce his neighbours in the long run to do the same—if this can be definitely shown, I think we are entitled to claim that the Act, instead of being a boon, as it might be, will be the greatest curse; and if it cannot be shown that such a course would be illegal, I think we are entitled to ask that the Act should be suspended in such cases, and that landlord and tenant alike should be deprived of advantages which might be conferred under happier circumstances.


My Lords, so far the great Act which was passed last year has not been the success its promoters wished it to be. Landlords, although they are not anxious to sell their property, are yet ready to part with the tenanted portion of it if they can obtain a price they consider reasonable. The tenants, on the other hand, profess to be ready to buy, but they are not so far ready to give a price at which landlords can sell. If matters remained there, I think they would find their own solution. IE the tenants were anxious to buy, their offer would increase; on the other hand, if landlords found they were in want of hard cash, they would be obliged to make some further sacrifices in order to obtain it. But the case is an entirely different one when an outside agency steps in, and when that agency is the United Irish League.

Noble Lords who have spoken have pointed out what the effect will be on impoverished landlords of refusal to pay rent; but I would call your Lordships' attention more especially to another matter which prevents the Act from working, and that is the determination which is evinced not to purchase holdings unless the landlord is prepared to sell what the tenants are pleased to call his grazing ranches. County councils, district councils, local newspapers, village agitators, all insist on this. And what are these grazing ranches? Grass land on which the landlords have spent large sums of money in drainage and in various improvements. These are the lands on which cattle are fed—those cattle which are one of the most valuable assets we have in the West of Ireland. Everybody is agreed that it is desirable that landlords should remain in Ireland, that they should remain there to spend at least the interest of the money they receive for the sale of their tenanted lands, and not only that, but, if the country is quiet, that they should invest a portion of the principal in the development of their native land. But you cannot expect men to live in a country if they have no inducement to live there, and if you take away all their grass lands, you take away from the landlords every inducement to remain there. I am quite certain that unless His Majesty's Government adopt a firm attitude in suppressing any attempts to compel landlords to part with their untenanted land the Act of last year will remain a dead letter in those portions of Ireland where it would do the greatest good.


My Lords, I think hardly anyone in England at the present moment realises how serious a future is threatened for Ireland. The Land Act of 1903 was introduced with the object of being the instrument of peace in Ireland, but I greatly fear it shows that it may be instead the foundation of war and of another land campaign. The spirit of compulsion to which my noble friend Lord Clonbrock has already alluded, is not, unfortunately, merely local. It shows signs of spreading to other parts of Ireland, and how far it will spread depends on the attitude that is taken up by His Majesty's Government. The reply that the noble and learned Lord has given will be read with the greatest interest by everyone in Ireland. There is, as Lord Clonbrock has said, a feeling amongst the Nationalist and tenant Party that they may act with impunity. The noble and learned Lordhas said that if we point out any illegal action His Majesty's Government will at once take measures for its suppression. I venture to submit that the facts and instances which have been brought forward to-day by Lord Clonbrock show the existence of illegalities, and I hope that not only assertions of disapproval will be given, but active steps taken to prevent a repetition of such illegal acts Otherwise the spirit of compulsion and illegal agitation will spread every day and become stronger. I hope we may hear that strong steps will be taken, otherwise the Land Act will become, not an instrument of peace, but an instrument of war.


My Lords, I understood the noble Lord who spoke from the BackBench (the Earl of Westmeath) to complain of the answer of my noble and learned friend beside me on the ground that it did not give to your Lordships a sufficient assurance as to the attitude which His Majesty's Government intend to assume towards these combinations in Ireland. I cannot help thinking that the noble Earl scarcely followed as closely as he might the reply of my noble and learned friend, or fully realised the import of his words. For, my Lords, what was the position which the noble and learned Lord took up? He reminded your Lordships that the Purchase Act of last year was in its essence a voluntary Act—voluntary both as regards landlord and tenant; and he pointed out that, that being so, any attempt to bring about sales by means of coercion was necessarily illegal. The noble and learned Lord also pointed out that in those cases in which the landlord resorts to civil remedies in order to compel the payment of the rent which is due to him, the landlord will, provided, of course, he is able to satisfy the Courts that his claim is a good one, receive the support of the Government, and that his representatives will be given the protection to which they are entitled at the hands of the Government.

Then there is the further case in which the difficulty arises, not out of the application of the civil law, but in consequence of criminal acts. In regard to those cases the noble and learned Lord explained that whenever any overt act of a criminal kind was committed the Irish Government were fully prepared to deal with it. Does the noble Earl behind me expect us to state here which are the cases in which it may or may not be possible to invoke the aid of the law in a particular manner? My noble friend Lord Barrymore mentioned to your Lordships a number of cases in which there had been combinations to resist the payment of rent in order to coerce the landlord into purchase. Obviously it is not in our power in this House to say which of those are cases in which a particular remedy can be applied.

It struck me, listening to this discussion, that the remarks made by noble Lords from Ireland, while no doubt they portray faithfully the unfortunate state of things which exists in some parts of that country, do not afford us very much help or suggestion as to the most appropriate means of dealing with the difficulty. For, my Lords, what is the only suggestion which has been made to us to-night? It is that in districts where these combinations have taken place the Government should refuse to sanction any advances for purchase. That, surely, if interpreted according to the obvious meaning of the words, is a suggestion which on the face of it we can scarcely be expected to regard with favour. For what does it come to? It comes to this—that in a particular district where, let us say, half the estates are the theatre of these operations and the other half are not, the law-abiding and well-conducted tenants on those estates, where rent has been punctually paid, are to be debarred from the great privilege conferred upon them by the Act of last year in order that they may suffer vicariously for the misdoings of their neighbours on the other estates in that district. That seems to me to be a suggestion which savours of considerable injustice, and which the Government can scarcely regard as a very practical guide. But if the noble Lord merely intended that, where on a particular estate or estates it can be shown that an agreement for sale has been the result of conspiracy or of coercive action on the part of the tenants, in those cases the sale shall not be allowed to proceed, then I think what the noble and learned Lord said ought to satisfy him, because I understood the Lord Chancellor of Ireland to say that, in his opinion, the Courts can, under the existing law, withhold their consent to a sale if it is established to their satisfaction that the agreement for sale has been brought about by illegal methods. And the noble and learned Lord went on to say that a discretion of that kind was actually exercised by the Congested Districts Board. Up to that point I think the principle which the noble Lord who spoke first advocated is reasonable enough, but if it be further extended, then I must say it seems to me to be a most inequitable one. I think what has been said by my noble and learned friend should be enough to show your Lordships that we regard this matter as one of very serious importance, and that we are very far indeed from adopting towards it that attitude of Olympian indifference which was attributed to us by my noble friend behind me.