§ LORD CASTLETOWN rose "To move for a Return showing all sums received for the redemption and purchase of quit and Crown rents in Ireland since 1897; and, if possible, an approximate Return of the amount likely to be received for redemption of quit and Crown rents out of the £25,000,000 purchase money already hypothecated for sale of land to tenants in Ireland; and to ask whether any instructions have been issued to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests to purchase or acquire 'land or hereditaments' under Section 4 of the Land Act, 1903, and under the provisions of the Crown Lands Act, 1829."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, as the Motion and Question standing in my name on the Paper may appear rather complicated, I will in a few words explain my reasons for putting them down. Two years ago I asked for a similar Return, and was told that if I pressed for it I should be able to get it; but at the same time my noble friend Lord Spencer called me to order—quite tightly, I believe—because I asked some Questions connected with a Bill which was then in the other House, and which is now the Irish Land Act of 1903. Therefore I did not then press for a Return, but I ask to-night that the Return standing in my name on the Paper should be given.
Section 4 of the Act of 1903 enables land to be bought by the State and invested in trustees for improvement, afforestation, and other purposes. To make my point clear I will quote one or two sentences from the reply that was given to me in 1903 on this subject by the Earl of Denbigh. The noble Earl said—
Under the Crown Lands Act, 1829, the sums received under the heads refered to must be invested in the purchase of kinds and hereditaments, or the redemption of charges or incumbrances on land already belonging to the Crown,
At the end of his Answer Lord Denbigh used these words—
Moreover, by attempting to ear-mark those funds for the definite purposes of investment in Ireland you would be giving away the principle that Crown lands are not the property of the particular district in which they are situated, but the property of the nation as a whole.
We have to deal with Section 4 of the Act of 1903, with the remarks made by the noble Earl, and with the obvious intentions of the Crown Lands Act of 1829. It is manifest that the Commissioners of Woods and Forests now have power to buy land under Section 4, and that they might be induced to ear-mark the utilisation of those funds which are now coming in by the redemption of quit and Crown rents for the particular county from which they come.
Another point which bears upon this is the origin of quit and Crown rents. They arose, as a rule, from licences given by the Crown to those who had taken confiscated land, and who paid a quit rent to the Crown for that land. These people denuded the lands of the forests which were on them, and the lands are now being sold by the present proprietors under the Act, of 1903, and the quit and Crown rents or licences are being redeemed and invested in a capital sum by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. I think it is now possible for the Commissioners of Woods and Forests to acquire lands under Section 4 of the Act, and, by utilising the clauses of the Crown Lands Act, carry out the policy laid down in the Act of 1903, and make a really sound scheme of State afforestation. They can do that, I think, without impinging in any Way on Treasury finance or asking for any grant, and also without any fresh legislation. I therefore ask the noble Lord whether he can grant the Return and also answer the Question standing in my name on the Paper.
Moved, "That there be laid before the House a Return showing all sums received for the redemption and purchase of quit and Crown rents in Ireland since 1897."—(Lord Castletown.)
*THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (Lord WINDSOR)
My Lords, there is no difficulty whatever in giving my noble friend the Return which he asks for in the first part of his Question. As he is aware, a Return was made in 1902 to the other House of Parliament, and figures were given showing that between 1898 and 1902 a total sum of 1355 £75,741 had been received at that time from these quit rents, I have the figures of the next three years with me. The sums received for the redemption of quit rents, etc., in Ireland in the year ended March 31st, 1903, was £17,832; in the year ended March 31st, 1904, £9,015: and in the year ended March 31st, 1905, £16,136; making, with the figures of the former term, a total since March 31st, 1897, of £118,724. If my noble friend would like that Return in complete form given to the House there would be no objection whatever in laying it.
Then, in the Question, my noble friend, asks for an approximate Return of the amount likely to be received for redemption of quit and Crown rents out of the £25,000,000 purchase money already hypothecated for sale of land to tenants in Ireland. I am instructed that there are not sufficient materials at present available for estimating the amount likely to be received for the redemption under this heading. I am sure he will understand that there is difficulty is estimating what such a sum as that is likely to amount to. He has suggested that under Section 4 of the Land Act of 1903 all these quit rents coming to the Crown might be utilised for the purpose of purchasing land for afforestation, but the purpose to which the monies of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests are devoted seem to be of an entirely different nature from this. The Commissioners of Woods and Forests consider that the monies under their administration should be invested in land, giving some return in the shape of rents. I am informed that it would be departing a considerable way from the policy of the Commissioners, even if it were possible to do so, for land to be purchased which would give no return for a considerable time, upon which large sums of money would have to be spent, and in connection with which the return, if any, would be somewhat problematical.
No instructions have been issued to the Commissioners to purchase or acquire land or hereditaments under Section 4 of the Irish Land Act. This section contemplates advances to private trustees to enable them to make purchases for the purposes mentioned in the section. The Commissioners of Woods and Forests do 1356 not require advances for any purchases that they may make. They invest the money which they have for investment under the Crown Lauds Act of 1829, and the difficulty probably lies in departing from the policy which they have pursued under that Act. I may mention the fact that the Commissioners have recently, I believe this year, invested £10,000 in the purchase of land in Ireland, but not for afforestation purposes; and should, in their opinion, suitable occasions offer in the future, I believe that further purchases will be made.
On Question, Motion agreed to; and ordered accordingly.