§ House again in Committee (according to Order).
§ [The Earl of ONSLOW in the Chair.]
§ Clause 2:—
Debate resumed on following Amendment—
In page 3, line 29, after the word 'withdrawn' to insert the words 'the Estate Commissioners or any two of them shall hear and by order determine.'"—(Lord Atkinson.)
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The Earl of CREWE)
My Lords, the Committee will remember that at the close of the sitting on Friday last the noble and learned Lord, Lord Atkinson, made a very clear and complete statement in continuation of the explanation of his group of Amendments to Clauses 1 and 2, all of which are framed with the same object—that is to say, the object of making arrangements for an appeal from the Estates Commissioners in various cases. The general effect of constituting an appeal of the character which the noble and learned Lord desires would be, in the first place, to throw upon the Estates Commissioners the burden of showing that no equally suitable land, apparently in any part of Ireland, could be found as that which they schedule for the purpose of taking over under the Bill; and that, in our opinion, would be a process causing an almost indefinite amount of delay, and one which would throw an unduly heavy burden on the Court of Appeal. Assuming it were decided in favour of the Estates Commissioners that the particular piece of land was necessary for their purpose, they would then have to proceed to negotiations on the question of value, again subject to a further appeal before the Court constituted by the noble and learned Lord's Amendment. Then there might be various 682 subsidiary matters of appeal. For instance, I suppose it would be a question of appeal whether the new tenant whom it was proposed to migrate really was a bona fide farmer working his farm in a husbandlike manner, according to the Amendment carried last Friday at the instance of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition. Those various proceedings, in our opinion, would cause such an indefinite amount of delay as practically to defeat the objects of this Bill, which I need not repeat, because I have already on more than one occasion stated the view of the Government that this is an exceedingly urgent matter.
Then, in addition to that, the noble and learned Lord provides that this Court of Appeal is to frame its judgments upon the principle of the Lands Clauses Act. Now, on the earlier Amendment I said something on the subject of the Lands Clauses Act, and I do not desire to repeat what I said then; but the point as it appears to me is this: Is it, or is it not, intended to be the invariable practice that sales effected under this Act are to be on a distinctly higher scale than the sales which have been already effected under the Act of 1903, because, if not, the application of the Lands Clauses Act appears to be at any rate unnecessary. So far as sales have proceeded already, or, at any rate, so far as the information which I have been able to get goes, the operations of the Act of 1903 have been as follows: Direct sales have averaged 26.7 years' purchase of second-term rents, and, with the bonus added, rather over twenty-seven and a half years' purchase. If the money so obtained can be invested at 3½ per cent. the effect is that the landowner receives 96 per cent. of the gross rental of his estates. As regards the estates bought by the Commissioners, the average has been 24.1 years' purchase of second-term rents, making, with the bonus added, 26.9 years That sum invested at 3½ per cent. produces 94.1 per cent. of the gross rental of the estate.
* THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
Does that include all sales? There are estates that have untenanted land, and land held under first term rents, 683 second term rents, and sometimes other tenures in addition. Are these averages brought out for all sales?
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I am not quite certain how that is. Of course, the majority of transactions have no doubt been second-term rents, but I will inquire exactly how that stands. I think one noble Lord opposite said that 3½ per cent. was a rate of interest which it could hardly be expected would be realised. It was pointed out that 75 per cent. of the land in Ireland was in settlement and therefore only trust investments were available for the purpose; but, as matters now stand, if a vendor should invest his money in Irish Land Stock at the price of that stock quoted in the paper to-day, he would get rather over 3¼ per cent. on his money even in that somewhat despised security. Therefore I ask—I have no doubt some noble Lord opposite will be able to tell us, or the noble and learned Lord himself perhaps may tell us—whether it is intended that the application of the Lands Clauses Act is to involve a distinctly higher rate of purchase than that, because I can only repeat what I said on the first occasion that, if that is so, it will practically be impossible for any transactions to take place. To increase the amount to any extent, owing to the fact that resales cannot be made even on existing terms, would practically tear the Bill in two and make it altogether an impossible measure. I think it was the noble and learned Lord who asked: Was it desired that the landlord should only get the reselling price? Of course not; obviously not. That is not what is intended, because not only is he to get the bonus but he is also to get, if it is necessary to make up the fair price to him, the further bonus which is dealt with under Clause 5.
I pass to the question of the appeal upon value—the principle which, as the Committee will remember, we have admitted to be a not unreasonable one. We think it not unreasonable because, although we do not believe that practical injustice would follow, yet undoubtedly it does appear on the face of it that the Estates Commissioners, if they are not subject to an appeal, are made to be 684 Judges in a case in which they are an interested party, although they are, of course, acting in the public interest and not in their own personal interest. Consequently, we are not averse to the idea of an appeal on value; and the question is what is the best kind of court which can be arranged for this somewhat difficult purpose. The noble and learned Lord, in his Amendment, suggests that a Judge of Assize should sit for this purpose, but, as he very fairly pointed out, as such. Judges sit only twice a year, and considerable delay might be caused by the fact that they do not sit oftener, he gives us the alternative of power of application to a. Judge of the High Court, and he reminded the Committee that Section 24 of the Act of 1870 involved a similar provision. That, no doubt, is a precedent, but it was not a very long-lived precedent, because the provision was repealed by the Land Act of 1881, when the appeal was to the Land Commission; and, later, again, by the Act of 1903, appeals are to the Judicial Commissioner sitting with an expert assessor.
As regards the question of a Judge of Assize or a Judge of the High Court we come back to a matter which led, if I may say so, on the last occasion to a rather amiable game of battledore and shuttlecock across the House on the point whether Judges have views; and there seemed to be, at any rate in the course of discussion of one measure or another, a disposition to believe that they have Well, my Lords, if particular views of different Judges are liable to be exercised in such a matter as this, I confess I think it would be a great misfortune. It is very desirable, if this Act is to be one transaction carried on through a limited period, that it should be carried on with as great a uniformity of practice as possible. I am not going to say a disrespectful word of any member of the Irish Bench Quite the contrary. But it is—I do not say it is in all cases a bad thing—the practice for Irish Judges to state their opinions on various public occasions with greater freedom than is customary in the case of their brethren on the English Bench, and they are, at any rate, popularly credited with holding strong views on matters which might come before them in this connection.
685 That, to my mind, points, therefore, not to leaving this matter to Judges of Assize or to Judges of the High Court, but to appointing one Judge to deal with this particular class of case; and I have no doubt that many more than one Judge might be found on the Irish Bench who would start with the confidence of all parties even in the decision of critical matters of this kind. I could name one learned Judge, a very near relative of the noble and learned Lord sitting on the Front Bench, who I know would obtain the confidence of all parties if he could be persuaded to undertake such duties as these. I name him as an instance, and I hope, therefore, that noble Lords opposite, in considering this whole question, will reflect whether it may not be more advisable on this question of an appeal on value to appoint' a single Judge than to leave it to the chance of a rota of assize. But perhaps I ought to add that we are no more persuaded than we were that it is advisable to have an appeal on any other subject than on this question of value. We do not believe it is possible for any Court to undertake the extraordinarily complicated series of questions which might be submitted to it if appeals were allowed on every possible point connected with this Bill.
There is only one other point to which I wish to allude. Something was said, I think it was by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Atkinson, in his speech on the Second Reading, with regard to the fact that Tents had been fixed in Ireland on no principle, and that consequently valuations of this kind would take place on no principle; and he quoted an admission to that effect by one of the members of the Estates Commission. I am bound to say I think that is an admission which every valuer would make, not merely in Ireland, but in all countries. Supposing the learned Gentleman had been asked, "Do you fix rents on principle?" and he had replied, "Yes," the next question would naturally have been, "On what principle?"; and I should like very much to know what the answer would have been. I thought it was common knowledge that in all matters of valuation the only principles upon which you can act are knowledge 686 and experience. There is no such thing as a principle, so far as I know, in fixing either the rental value of land or the value of anything else. A noble Lord is going, say, to buy a horse. A certain sum is asked for it—£100, £200, or £300—and in forming a judgment whether the animal is worth that sum he does not act on any principle; he acts on his knowledge and experience. And any land valuer in this country, and I imagine also in Ireland, if asked on what principle he valued land for purchase or for the purpose of rent would tell you he did so as the result of his general knowledge and experience of the subject, and also no doubt from such information as he could gain from the price of rents current in the particular neighbourhood. I say this because I do not wish it to be supposed that we agreed with the noble and learned Lord when he painted out that there was a certain unfitness in a man being allowed to value land for this purpose, who had made an admission of that kind with regard to the fixing of rents. I think I have, either on the first clause, or on this, covered the various points raised by the noble and learned Lord, and I only regret that we are not able to accept his Amendment.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
said it was recognised now that there should be an appeal; and the points that remained open were as to the matters upon which there ought to be an appeal and the nature of the appellate tribunal. These two questions were of course, susceptible of differences of opinion; but they might be approached to see whether there could not be a common understanding come to in regard to them. The noble Lord admitted that the question of loss, compensation or price was a legitimate subject of apeal; but he shrank from allowing the tribunal to consider the question of the necessity. But there were other matters, such as the acquisition of untenanted land in the occupation of the landowner. Under Clause 6 there was a restriction on the acquisition of land. That was a question partly of law and partly of fact. Surely, if the provisions in that clause were violated there should be an appeal.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
It certainly was our impression that Clause 6, even 687 before any Amendment was moved, would be subject to appeal under the provisions allowing appeals on points of law.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
said he supposed the noble Earl meant the reference to Clause 23 of the Act of 1903, under which there was power to take the opinion of the Judicial Commissioners. He assumed that all the topics included in Clause 6 that no land should be taken which formed part of demesne or home farm or the amenities of residence—were to be open to appeal. But all cases would not be covered by Section 23 of the Act of 1903, because there the Judicial Commissioner would only deal with matters that were reserved for him by written statement submitted by the Estates Commissioners. That was a dwarfed appeal; what was contemplated by his noble and learned friend Lord Atkinson was an open appeal, in open court and by an independent Judge, with the possibility of having witnesses examined and cross-examined. If a man's home farm was taken or the amenity of his residence destroyed, those were matters of first-class importance. It was no novelty that there should be appeals on such matters, for in Ireland under the Labourers Acts there had been appeals over and over again on the ground that cottages had been dumped down on the most inconvenient place for the owner. The final word in the matter ought not to be said by the Commissioners, but if necessary by an independent and impartial tribunal. It was necessary, too, in order to safeguard the position of the new tenants, men who might have led blameless lives as good and peaceable citizens for twenty-five years, and yet who might under this Bill by some mistake be turned out neck and crop at the bidding of the Commissioners. He noted that a novel power was to be taken in the last sub-section of Clause 3, I which would enable the Commissioners I to saddle the new holding of the new; tenant with all the charges, liabilities, and equities which affected the tenant's interest in the former holding, without any provision as to the requirement of consent; that also might legitimately be matter for appeal to an independent tribunal. An appeal on cost and com- 688 pensation would not be adequate to enable substantial justice to be done. As to the tribunal, he knew no earthly tribunal that gave satisfaction to everyone. He admitted that the selection of a tribunal was not easy, but the broad and general Amendment of his noble and learned friend would secure a Judge independent by his position, training, and knowledge. He thought there would I be a great advantage in appointing a. Judge of Assize. The Bill, mercifully, I could not go on for ever, although the noble Earl opposite seemed to linger I lovingly over the uncertainty of its-duration, and he saw no reason why the length of its operation should not be defined.
§ LORD ATKINSON
said that he was very anxious to meet the noble Earl on anything like a reasonable compromise, but if the Lord President meant that the only question to be considered on appeal was the question of value or amount of compensation, he could not accept it. There were many other questions which it might become necessary to consider, and he was, therefore, much afraid to accept an appeal on that one question alone. He felt bitter regret that the noble Earl had held out no prospect of bringing before the appellate tribunal the question as to whether there was any necessity for seizing the land. He had said that he did not mind what the tribunal was—what he wanted was that there should be some review of the Commissioners' decision. The Government had chosen to place in the Estates Commissioners absolutely autocratic power to take any property they liked, It was by no means necessary that the difficulty referred to by the noble Earl should be created. He would be the last to say that for every individual case and every bit of land taken the Commissioners should have the trouble of going to the Lord-Lieutenant in Council, supposing that to be the body selected to approve of putting the compulsory powers into force, for permission. Schemes might be presented which included a county or large portions of a county He wanted to secure either at one end of the procedure or the other that there should be some revision of the Commissioners' decision. It was intolerable 689 that in secret and without giving any reason to anyone they should be able to take any man's land. Would the noble Earl consider if there could not be some inquiry so as to prevent this being a vicious anomaly in the whole legislation dealing with this subject?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord LOREBURN)
My Lords, I think it is desirable as much as possible to avoid confusion in the discussion of this very intricate Bill—intricate, though not of very large compass. I understand that the noble and learned Lord who has just spoken now suggests that the Estates Commissioners might draw up schemes including a county or a portion of a county, and that in that event it would not be necessary to have an appeal upon each particular case, which I should greatly deprecate. I think I rightly interpret the broad view that was put by the noble and learned Lord—that if a scheme were propounded for a large area and received the imprimatur of the Privy Council, there would then be an end to all appeal in regard to the question of necessity so far as that particular area was concerned. I do not wish to fall short in recognition of the spirit which I believe animates the noble and learned Lord in this matter. It is difficult to discuss a proposal until one sees it on the Paper, and if the proposal is put forward I am sure my noble friend the Lord President will examine it to see whether any practical result can accrue from it. But the noble and learned Lord's latest suggestion is absolutely incompatible with his Amendment before the Committee. Let us see what the Amendment before the Committee is. It is largely consequential upon a decision already arrived at. The Amendment says—Any person aggrieved by any order of the Commissioners may appeal.In the first place what is to be the tribunal? My noble friend behind me: said, in effect, that, we were quite prepared to give an appeal on the subject of value. Let us see to whom that appeal is to be. My noble friend suggested a selected Judge upon the ground that Judges might be "viewy," and I think he indicated a very distinguished Judge who is not, or was not when I sat 690 in the House of Commons, of our way of thinking, but in whom we have every confidence—Mr. Justice Gibson. I rather gathered that the noble and learned Lord did not think that a fair offer.
§ LORD ATKINSON
I should have thought any one Judge would experience immense difficulty in travelling all over the country.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
One Judge was suggested, at all events. What was to be the subject-matter of appeal? The point of value was the subject-matter to which the noble Earl the Lord President referred; and upon the question whether the exercise of the power was just or reasonable, I put it to noble Lords whether you could take this issue in regard to every particular plot, and every particular application. But that is the Amendment now before the Committee. We have pointed out that we must object to that course, which would choke up the Commission and obstruct the business altogether. The same applies to other questions of a kindred character. The point whether there is to be compensation or market value has been settled by an Amendment already carried. As to the proposal that the Estates Commissioners shall be competent but not compellable witnesses, we cannot consent to that. I would point out that they are judicial persons, after all, in many of their functions, and it has always been the policy of this country not to allow persons exercising judicial functions to be called as witnesses and cross-examined as to their reasons for exercising their particular discretion. These are the substantial parts of the Amendment. The first part of Clause 6 prohibits the Estates Commissioners from taking particular described land, and if they try to take those lands they will be stopped by prohibition. It is our intention that they should be, and I think they would. If it were established that this restriction on the acquisition of certain lands was being contravened, the ordinary Courts would have ample jurisdiction to say it was ultra vires, and the Estates Commissioners could be prohibited from proceeding. As regards the latter part of 691 Clause 6 as to the exercise of discretion by the Estates Commissioners, I agree that it would not come within the rules as regards prohibition; but I am afraid we could not make it different. But that is a matter which will come up for discussion when Clause 6 is reached. As to the question of the new tenant, if your Lordships look at the words in which the Amendment inserted on Friday at the instance of Lord Robertson is shaped, you will find that the Court would be at liberty to prohibit any interference with a new tenant. However, that is a matter which may afterwards be considered. I have endeavoured to deal with the substance of the Amendment, but it is difficult and complicated, and I cannot help thinking that the proposal made by my noble friend Lord Crewe, giving an appeal on the question of the value of the land, is sufficient for the purpose, and to go any further would really make the Bill impracticable.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I had already said that the Amendment relating to new tenants which was inserted on the Motion of Lord Robertson would cover that. If the Estates Commissioners, in the face of that prohibition, tried to take such land, it is obvious that the Court would stop them.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
Would a new tenant, with, it may be, ten acres, be expected to sue a writ of prohibition at his own expense in the superior courts to save his status?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I can hardly imagine the Act being defied. If any question is to be raised in regard to giving cheap facilities to prevent the defiance of the Act, it is a matter which ought to be put forward in an Amendment and would be considered. It was not from the point of view of the means of the particular person, but of the legal position, that I was addressing the Committee.
§ LORD ATKINSON
said that if he got any assurance from the Government that they would adopt an Amendment providing 692 for schemes to be approved by the Privy Council, he would jettison his clause giving an appeal on the question of necessity.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I think we can scarcely be expected to give any promise with regard to an Amendment we have not seen. My noble and learned friend explained it very clearly, but that is not the same thing as seeing it in black and white. If the noble and learned Lord will put his alternative suggestion on the Paper we will give it our best consideration.
THE EARL OF MAYO
said he thought Lord Atkinson's offer was a fair one, and he did not see why they should not come to some arrangement. They must insist upon an appeal on fact, value, and compensation.
§ LORD HEMPHILL
said it seemed to him that the Bill as it stood furthered the main intention of the Legislature in the best way. The great object was to settle this question as speedily as possible. If ever the maxim bis dat qui cito dat applied, it applied to the case of the evicted tenants, and no one knew better than the noble and learned Lord who advocated so strongly the Amendment before the Committee that the appellate tribunal suggested would involve great delay and considerable cost. On whom the costs were to fall had not been in any way adumbrated. Why there should be an appeal in this particular case it was hard to see. The tribunal contemplated by the Bill was a tribunal of three gentlemen who had had more experience of the valuing of land and the circumstances of the country than any other men in Ireland. They had been for fifteen years acting as Commissioners, and it had been conceded by every noble Lord who had spoken that they were men of high honour and integrity, and wholly disinterested as between landlord and tenant. He could not conceive a tribunal more 693 likely to come to a fair conclusion than the Estates Commissioners.
The Bill was an anomalous Bill, he admitted; it was a peculiar Bill, because it restored to their farms men who had been evicted, some lately and some many years ago, the victims of circumstances, and it might displace men who themselves were meritorious. But their Lordships had, by giving the Bill a Second Reading, admitted that that principle was right, and they had now to deal only with details. If the principle were wholly wrong, of course their Lordships would have rejected the measure on Second Reading. They were now considering how best to carry out the objects of the Legislature. It had been suggested by noble Lords on the Government side of the House that it was reasonable that there should be some appeal, and in the few observations which he would make he would assume that appeal to be limited to the value of the land and to the question of compensation. With regard to what should be the appellate tribunal, they had ample precedent. In the case of the compulsory taking of land by railways, so familiar to their Lordships, the law was governed in Ireland by the Railway (Ireland) Act, 1851—he thought that was the year—the appeal there being to a Judge of Assize to be tried before a jury. In the original Act there was no provision made for a special jury but by a subsequent Act cither party might have the question tried by a Judge of Assize and a special jury, and by another Act the venue might be changed, at the instance of either party, if there was any suggestion that there might be partiality on the part of the jurors to one side or the other. That Act had worked fairly and well, so far as the taking of land compulsorily for public purposes went. Why should not that principle, if there must be an appeal, apply in this case? Were noble Lords to assume that all Irish tribunals were more or less tainted with corruption or partiality? Were they not at liberty to suppose that the Judges on the Bench and the jurors in the jury box acted under a sense of responsibility, and with some regard to the oaths they had taken? He thought that in legislation they were bound to act on that assumption. There was another tribunal suggested by the 694 Land Acts. Under the Act by which fair rents were fixed between landlord and tenant, which, of course, was a measure as seriously affecting the interests of the landlords as any Act of Parliament ever passed, there was an appeal from the decision of the Land Commissioners or the Assistant Land Commissioners. To whom was that appeal? It was to the Judicial Commissioner of the Land Court. The Judicial Commissioner of the Land Court had the same status and the same salary as the Judges of the High Court, to whom it was suggested by the Amendment that the appeal should lie, but he had an advantage over the Judges of the High Court. No one had a more profound admiration than he had for every single member of the Bench in Ireland, knowing as he did their ability and their anxiety to administer justice. But the Judge of the Land Court, Mr. Justice Wylie, had, from the functions which he had to discharge, the means of dealing with these questions—namely, the value of the land, the compensation to be given, and, it might be, how far necessity arose for putting into power the compulsory provisions of the Bill. On all those matters he would be a competent Judge. An appeal in the cases of 2,000 evicted tenants would disorganise the Assize Courts, and would be quite impracticable. If there was to be an appeal, he respectfully submitted that there could be no reasonable objection to its being made to Mr. Justice Wylie, the Judicial member of the Land Court, who had, under the Land Purchase Act of 1903, the power to add a valuator assessor in order to aid him.
It had been suggested by Lord Atkinson that schemes might be prepared something like the schemes under the Labourers Act, and that there should be an appeal to the Lord-Lieutenant and the Privy Council in Dublin. That system was found to work so imperfectly that, in the Labourers Act of last year, the appeal to the Lord-Lieutenant in Council under the previous Act was repealed, and the appeal now was to the County Court Judge. He felt very anxious that this Bill in its main principles should become law. He believed it would be instrumental, more than anything else in their power, in producing 695 some sort of rest and quiet in Ireland. They could not arrive at perfection in a country so full of anomalies as Ireland. If in their anxiety to attain perfection their Lordships hampered this Bill with impracticable clauses, the Bill would be rejected in the other House, and those wretched evicted tenants who had been hoping against hope for years would be again disappointed, and there would be fresh incitement to disorder in Ireland.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the Committee, I cannot help thinking, finds itself in a somewhat perplexing position with regard to this Amendment, a perplexity which is increased owing to the fact that this question of the appeal which may be had under the Bill is that upon which we on this side feel more strongly than we do, upon almost any other question within the compass of the Government's proposals, I hope I am not wrong in believing that we have this evening made, perhaps not much progress, but at any rate some progress in the direction of an understanding.
The announcement of the noble Earl the Lord President that his Majesty's Government freely admit the right to an appeal on the question of compensation is, in itself, very important; but I think I shall not do him an injustice when I say that we gathered from what fell from him this evening that in his view it was not unreasonable to ask for an appeal on something more than the mere money question. I am inclined to press that, because I notice very often in the speeches made by noble Lords opposite and their friends with regard to the many agrarian questions now before Parliament that it is assumed that the landlord's interest in his property, or in that which has hitherto been regarded as his property, begins and ends with the rent he gets from it. That is a great and fundamental fallacy.
I understood the suggestion of the Lord President to be that, in reference to such questions as might arise under Clause 6 of this Bill, there is already an appeal under the 23rd Section of the Act of 1903. Under that section any question of law may, if the Estates Commissioners think fit, on the application of any person 696 interested, be referred to the decision of the Judicial Commissioner. I am not learned in these matters, nor do I know exactly what is the procedure followed before the Judicial Commissioner, but I am strongly under the impression that an appeal of this kind would not be to the full extent the kind of appeal desired by my noble friends who sit behind me. It would not be usual, for example, for the Judicial Commissioner to hear witnesses. I understand my noble friends to desire a full appeal which would give a complete opportunity to a person who considered himself aggrieved to obtain a revision of what he believed to be a wrongful decision of the Estates Commissioners.
While pressing this as strongly as I can, I trust noble Lords opposite will not suppose that on this side of the House we desire to push this claim to an unreasonable extent. For example, the I Lord President in his opening remarks said it would be unreasonable to require, a proof in every case that no equally suitable land was to be found in any part of Ireland. I am bound to say that I agree with the Lord President. I do not think it would be fair and practicable in every case that you should put upon I the Estates Commissioners the onus of saying that nowhere in the whole circumference of the country was there some other place upon which a tenant who was to be reinstated could be planted. If a procedure of that kind were to be encouraged you would, as has been truly said, expose yourselves, to an infinite amount of delay, to congestion of the business of the Appeal Court, and to an indefinite postponement of that final settlement which we should all like to expedite as much as we possibly can. But we do, on the other hand, desire that as to those questions which arise under the 6th. Clause, and also as to all questions arising; in connection with the removal of those tenants whom we usually speak of as, planters, there should be a full appeal and an open inquiry.
At this moment we are in this position. No fewer than four alternatives are under discussion—the proposal of the Bill, the elaborate Amendment of my noble and learned friend Lord Atkinson, the alternative proposal sketched to us by 697 the Lord President of the Council, and the outline of another alternative which my noble and learned friend has suggested, and is ready to put upon the Paper for the consideration of the Committee. Of these alternatives, two only are before the Committee in a shape in which we can appreciate them—that of the Bill and Lord Atkinson's Amendment. We cannot accept the Bill as it now stands, and, therefore, in my humble opinion, our duty is to insert Lord Atkinson's Amendment in the Bill as embodying at any rate for the time being what seems to us to be the best way of dealing with this important question. Then, at a later stage, if my noble and learned friend has something better to proprose, or if noble Lords opposite have something else to propose which we can see our way to entertain, let us by all means alter the Bill again. That, it seems to me, is the only course really open to us this evening.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I merely rise to say that we shall not trouble the Committee to divide on Lord Atkinson's Amendment, for we regard it as consequential to that which was made on Friday; we will only say "Not content."
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (The Earl of ONSLOW)
The actual Amendment before the Committee is to leave out the word "withdraw," in line 29, and to insert the words, "the Estates Commissioners or any two of them shall hear and by order determine."
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
In page 3, line 30, to leave out from the word 'thereon' to the end of Subsection (7); and in line 34, after the word 'conclusive' to insert the following new subsection:—
In line 30, to leave out from the word 'thereon' to the end of Subsection (7).
In line 34, after the word 'conclusive' to insert the following new subsection:—"(8) (a) Any person aggrieved by any order of the Estates Commissioners made upon the hearing of any such petition as aforesaid may, within the time and in the manner prescribed by rules
to be made as hereinafter provided, apply as he-shall elect, either to the King's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice in Ireland, or to the Judges of Assize for the county in which the lands sought to be acquired, or the greater part thereof, are situated, to hear and determine any question of law or fact arising out of any such petition or order. Every such application shall be heard and determined by one of the Judges of Assize for the said county, or by-one of the Judges of the King's Bench Division, to be selected by the said Judges according to a rota to be framed by them at the commencement of each sitting of the said High Court. Upon the hearing of every such application the Judge shall have power and authority to hear and determine all questions of law and fact that may arise, including the adequacy of the compensation awarded by said order, and in particular the question whether, upon the facts and circumstances proved in evidence before him, the compulsory acquisition of the lands in said petition or order mentioned was just and reasonable, and he may give judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the said order of the Estates Commissioners, and may make such order as to the costs of and incidental to the said petition, and the hearing of the said application, as he may think fit: (b) Upon the hearing of every such application the said. Judge shall have the jurisdiction, power, and authority possessed by a Judge of the High Court of Justice in Ireland when presiding at a trial at Nisi Prius, including the power to administer an oath, and to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents. He shall also have the power to direct that an independent valuer, to be nominated by him, should report to him his opinion upon any matter the Judge may think fit to refer to him, and he may make such order in reference to the costs of any such report as he may deem just (c) In the determination of any question as to the adequacy of the compensation offered, the Judge shall have regard to the principles of the provsions of the Lands Clauses Act, 1845, applicable to the compulsory purchase of land, and for the purposes of the said application before the said Judge, the Estates Commissioners shall be deemed to be the promoters of the undertaking within the meaning of the said Act: (d) The Estates Commissioners shall be competent, but not compellable witnesses upon the hearing of every such application, and they shall furnish to the Judge hearing the same alt such particulars and documents as shall by him be required, including a schedule in the form prescribed by section seven of the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1903, together with a statement of the superior interests, if any, to which the lands sought to be acquired, or the estate of which they form a part, may be subject: (e) The inspectors and other officers of the Land Commission, other than the Land. Commissioners themselves, shall be competent and compellable witnesses upon the hearing of every such application: (f) The said King's Bench Division and the Judges of Assize, respectively, may order that all applications pending before them in respect of the same petition or order as aforesaid may be consolidated, and heard together, and for the more convenient, speedy, or proper hearing of any
such applications, may order that the hearing of same may be transferred from the said Division to the Judges of Assize, or from the Judges of Assize to that Division, as the case may be, and the said application, when so transferred, shall be heard and determined as if it had originally been made to the tribunal to which it has been transferred: (g) The Judge before whom any such application is heard may, where he deems it expedient, reserve any question or matter arising upon such application, by way of ease stated, for the consideration of His Majesty's Court of Appeal in Ireland: (h) All cases stated for the Court of Appeal shall be prosecuted, heard, and determined by such Court in such manner and form, and subject to such rules and regulations as the Court may from time to time by rules direct. The said Court of Appeal shall give such judgment as ought to have been given in the Court below by the Judge thereof, and such judgment shall be of the like effect as if it had been the judgment of the said Judge, or the said Court of Appeal may remit the case with such directions as they think fit to the Court below: (i) In the interval between the lodging of any such application to the Judges of Assize and the opening of the Assizes for the county in which such application is to be heard, the King's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice in Ireland shall, on the motion in the prescribed manner of the applicant, the Estates Commissioners, or any party interested, have jurisdiction, power, and authority to make any order of an interlocutory nature in the matter of said application, as if same was an action at law pending in the said division: (j) The provisions of section twenty-three of the Irish Land Act, 1903, shall apply to this Act so far as the same are not inconsistent with the provisions of the latter. Provided that a question of law which has been decided by a Judge of the High Court or of Assize, or by the Court of Appeal under the provisions of this Act shall not, after the date of such decision, be referred for decision to the Judicial Commission, nor while a question of Jaw is awaiting decision in any application pending before such a Judge, shall the same question of law be referred for decision to the Judicial Commission, unless at the request of some person who is neither a party to nor interested in the matter of the said application. (k) The compensation to be paid to any owner of land in respect of the loss thereof shall for the purposes of the Land Purchase Acts be deemed to be the price to be paid for his purchase therein: (l) Rules of Court regulating and prescribing the practice, procedure, and the costs of and incidental to the hearing of all proceedings under this section before the King's Bench Division, or any Judge thereof, or any "Judge of Assize, may be made by the authority having power to make Rules of Court for the Supreme Court of Judicature in Ireland.'"—(Lord Atkinson.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD BARRYMORE moved the addition of the following as a new subsection: "In addition to any compensation to be awarded to the owner under 700 this section, the Estates Commissioners, or the Judge on Appeal, shall have power to award such sum as may appear reasonable in respect of any arrears of rent due by the tenant at the date of the eviction, or in respect of any money paid to the tenant in respect of his interest or goodwill in the lands." He said that it was only fair and reasonable that in relation to compensation such matters should at least be taken into consideration. The arrears were often allowed to accumulate, and when, for one cause or another, the tenants went, the arrears were forgiven them and advances were sometimes made to assist them. In some cases these ex-tenants had received pensions for life. There were, besides those, cases where the landlord had actually bought the tenant-right when the tenant wished to go, and had been ever since occupying and working the land himself. Under this Bill it would be possible for the Estates Commissioners to take that land and pay the landlord what appeared to be the market price of the land, but he would entirely forfeit the money he had paid to the out-going tenant for the tenant-right, and would thereby be a considerable loser by the transaction. It would be obviously unjust, both to the landlord and the neighbouring tenants, that a man should be returned, after an interval of years, to an improved holding, no account being taken of the arrears of rent or the earlier assistance he had received. This was a matter which came before the Mathew Commission in 1893, and there was a provision to meet it in the Bill of 1894, a small Commission of two gentlemen having power, in eases where large arrears were due, to grant to the landlord some portion of those arrears—he thought the amount was not to exceed one year's rent. It was exceedingly hard that the landlord should not only have his land taken compulsorily, but should be mulcted in these sums. In his Amendment he was only asking for what was fair. The subsection was permissive and not mandatory, and he hoped the Government would favourably consider it.
In page 3, line 34, after the word 'conclusive' to insert the following new subsection: '(8) In addition to any compensation
to be awarded to the owner under this section, the Estates Commissioners, or the Judge on Appeal, shall have power to award such sum as may appear reasonable in respect of any arrears of rent due by the tenant at the date of the eviction, or in respect of any money paid to the tenant in respect of his interest o goodwill in the lands."—(Lord Barrymore.)
* THE EARL OF MEATH
supported the Amendment. They had been told that the whole of the agrarian legislation in Ireland had been due to the fact that Irish landlords, as a general rule, did not, as English landlords did, build the farmhouse and the labourers' cottages. That was true as a general proposition, but there were important exceptions to that rule. In his county many of the landlords had conducted their estates in exactly the same manner as English landlords. For instance, thousands of pounds had been spent in this way by Lord Fitzwilliam and by other landlords, and farmhouses and labourers' cottages had been built on his (Lord Meath's) estate by his ancestors and by himself; but the value of these houses and cottages had never been taken into consideration by the Land Commissioners in fixing the rents. They had held that all they had to consider was the value of the land to the tenant, and that the value of the land was not enhanced by the tenant having a good house built for him or a good farmstead. Something might be said, the Commissioners thought, in regard to farm buildings, but they held that there was no advantage to the tenant in having a good house. Landlords on English-managed estates strongly objected to that doctrine. They maintained that the tenant was put in good heart by having a good house over his head, and was much better on than a man who had to live in a leaky hovel. Thousands and thousands of pounds had been expended by Irish landlords in this way which had not been taken into consideration. The noble Lord (Lord Barrymore) alluded to cases where amicable evictions had taken place. In many of these eases the large amounts owing in rent were forgiven, and a sum of money was handed to the tenant on leaving. That money could not be said to be in any way due to the tenant. It had often happened on his (Lord Meath's) estate, when a man had been unable 702 to pay his rent, that he had been advised to give him £150 or £200 and let him go with the feeling that there was no grievance. That had often occurred in Ireland. Yet in this Bill there was no chance of the landlord ever getting this money back, although he-might have the evicted tenant, who had received this sum of money, placed again in possession of the same farm. Over and over again tenants had deliberately allowed gorse to grow over parts of their farms in the hope of profiting by the ignorance of the Land Commissioners who went down to value them. The Commissioners found that half the farm had been allowed to grow up in gorse and said: "What, £30 a year for that? Why, it is not worth more than. £15 a year!" That was quite true, but it was through the fault of the tenant. When the tenant went out that land was thrown upon the landlord's hands, and he (Lord Meath) had over and over again paid £7 an acre to get the gorse off the land before he could let it again or take it into his own hands. He thought it was hard that landlords, who had spent very large sums of money on these tenants in order to prevent friction, should have them thrust back on their hands without the slightest compensation for the expense to which they had been put.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will not press this Amendment, but will be satisfied with having drawn attention to what he considers a certain number of hard cases. So far as I know, there is no precedent of any kind for including arrears of rent in a matter of this kind. The burden thrown upon the Treasury would be absolutely unknown and would make transactions under the Act in such a case practically impossible If a number of years' arrears of rent had to be found the difference between the purchase price and the price at which the land could possibly be resold would be so great that it would make the call upon the bonus or whatever fund was to be drawn upon so great that the Estates Commissioners certainly could not venture to engage in the transaction. It seems to me very difficult to go beyond the principle that the land is purchased as it is. So far as regards the cases 703 mentioned by Lord Meath and Lord Barrymore where a farm has been left in bad heart and has been put into good heart by the landlord, I conceive that if a farm was in very good condition when purchased that fact would be borne in mind in fixing the purchase price. It stands to reason that it would. As regards the cases where tenant-right has been bought there was a similar complaint, as many noble Lords will remember, after the Laud Act of 1881 Some landlords in Ulster, who had spent considerable sums in purchasing tenant-right, felt themselves aggrieved by the provisions of Mr. Gladstone's Act. I have no means of knowing how far cases where the purchase of tenant-right has taken place are of common occurrence. The whole of the transactions under this Bill will be very limited in number, and I certainly think it would be open to the landlord, in representing his case to the Estates Commissioners, to draw attention to a fact of that kind, with a view to dissuading them from taking a particular farm. I am afraid it is impossible for us to deal with the matter in the Bill, and I trust the noble Lord will not press his Amendment.
said that on his estate thirteen tenants had been evicted since 1880. The arrears ranged from two to twelve years' rent. In each case compensation was paid to the tenant.
But shall I? That is what I want to know. Continuing, the noble Lord said he was now farming all this land—5,000 acres in extent—and had it in good heart. Last year he put up to auction a meadow of sixty acres on one farm, the buyer having to cut the hay and take it away. The price obtained averaged £6 10s. an acre; yet the former tenant could not 704 pay £2 an acre. In every case a large sum of money was due when the tenant went out; in every case compensation was paid; and in every case he had spent a considerable sum of money in putting the land in good heart. If it were taken by the Estates Commissioners, was he to get no compensation for the £2,982 arrears of rent and the money he had expended?
§ Viscount MIDLETON
thought the noble Earl the Lord President hardly did justice to the number of cases which would be affected by the considerations which Lord Inchiquin had just mentioned. The noble Earl appeared to be under the impression that these would be somewhat isolated cases and would be sufficiently dealt with by his statement that a higher price would be given where the tenant-right was in the hands of the landlord. But there was no indication of that on the face of the Bill.
§ Viscount MIDLETON
thought the difficulty would be the same as under the Land Act of 1881. He would cite one case as showing how very important this question was to some landlords. Lord Ashtown farmed nearly 4,000 acres in county Galway. That immense tract of land had been farmed by the landlord for sixty years. Quite apart from the fact that there were between 100 and 200 labourers employed permanently and that a very large sum was spent in wages on the estate, the whole of that land would be open to the Commissioners for the purpose of reinstating evicted tenants. Lord Ashtown could prove that he had spent £12,000 on buildings and permanent improvements on the land. How was he to be recouped this sum? The noble Lord said, "By some increase of rent," but that was by no means certain. The evidence of Mr. Commissioner Finucane was clear on the point that the whole of the untenanted land in Galway would require to be taken. Surely landlords who also held the tenants' interest and could prove an expenditure of that magnitude had some right to consideration. As the noble Marquess the Leader of the 705 Opposition had pointed out, the interest of a landlord in his property did not begin and end in the rent he obtained from it. He hoped the Lord President would see his way to put into the Bill guiding words to the Estates Commissioners indicating that it was the feeling of Parliament that where both interests were in the hands of the landlord they should have regard to that fact.
said there was no precedent for paying the owner, in addition to the value of his land, sums in respect of arrears of rent and money paid for goodwill, and they knew that noble Lords opposite paid very great attention to precedent in regard to this Bill. He pointed out that under Lord Atkinson's Amendment, which was put into the Bill, the high rate of compensation allowed by the Lands Clauses Act was to be paid to the landlord.
said that so far as the Government were concerned he believed it would not, but, as the Bill now stood, it contained compensation under the Lands Clauses Act, and if arrears of rent were added as well the rate of compensation would be very high indeed. As to the point mentioned by Lord Inchiquin, he (Lord Denman)
§ was not an authority on these matters, but he had read the evidence of Mr. Commissioner Finucane before the Congested Districts Commission—and he presumed the same principle would apply in the case of evicted tenants—in which he said that in his opinion five years purchase of the valuation for untenanted land should be given in excess of what would be given for tenanted land of the same value.
* LORD CLONBROCK
said that this was not always the practice of the Commissioners. He instanced the case of the Lewis estate, in county Galway. The lady to whom that estate belonged had offered to sell two farms to the Estates Commissioners for the purpose of reinstating the evicted tenants, but the Commissioners had only offered eighteen years, and a half purchase of the rent without making any allowance whatever for the occupation interest which belonged to her; and eighteen years and a half purchase was three years purchase less than the average of first-terra rents in that part of the country. Therefore whatever evidence had been given they could not get away from the fact that the practice had not been to offer the amount stated.
§ On Question, "That those words be there inserted," their Lordships divided:—Contents, 151; Not-Contents, 39.707
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Dartrey, E.||Scarbrough, E.|
|Argyll, D||Derby, E.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)|
|Northumberland, D.||Devon, E.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Richmond and Gordon, D.||Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Westmeath, E.|
|Sutherland, D.||Wicklow, E.|
|Wellington, D.||Egerton, E.|
|Eldon, E.||Churchill, V.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Fitzwilllam, E.||Falkland, V.|
|Camden, M.||Haddington, E.||Goschen, V.|
|Hertford, M.||Hardwicke, E.||Halifax, V.|
|Salisbury, M.||Ilchester, E.||Hampden, V.|
|Zetland, M.||Lauderdale, E.||Hardinge, V.|
|Lindsey, E.||Hill, V.|
|Ancaster, E.||Londesborough, E.||Hood, V.|
|Bandon, E.||Malmesbury, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)|
|Camperdown, E.||Mayo, E. [Teller.]|
|Cathcart, E.||Morton, E.||Templetown, V.|
|Cawdor, E.||Mount Edgcumbe, E.|
|Clarendon, E.||Northesk, E.||Abinger, L.|
|Coventry, E.||Onslow, E.||Addington, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Plymouth, E.||Amherst of Hackney, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Romney, E.||Ampthill, L.|
|Darnley, E.||Saint Germans, E.||Annaly, L.|
|Ardilaun, L.||Dunboyne, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Dunleath, L.||Poltimore, L.|
|Balfour, L.||Ebury, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bess borough.)|
|Barrymore, L. [Teller.]||Ellenborough, L.|
|Basing, L.||Escourt, L.||Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.)|
|Belper, L.||Faber, L.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Braye, L.||Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)||Rathdonnell, L.|
|Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Forester, L.||Rathmore, L.|
|Burton, L.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Redesdale, L.|
|Calthorpe, L.||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Carew, L.||Inchiquin, L.||Robertson, L.|
|Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)||Kelvin, L.||Rothschild, L.|
|Castlemaine, L.||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)||St. Oswald, L.|
|Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)||Kensington, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Cheylesmore, L.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)||Sherborne, L.|
|Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)||Langford, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Clifford, of Chudleigh, L.||Lawrence, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Clonbrock, L.||Leconfield, L.||Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Cloncurry, L.||Leith of Fyvie, L.|
|Colchester, L.||Lovat, L.||Stalbridge, L.|
|Collins, L.||Ludlow, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Lurgan, L.||Talbot de Malahide, L.|
|De Freyne, L.||Massy, L.||Templemore, L.|
|De L' Isle and Dudley, L.||Middleton, L.||Teynham, L.|
|De Mauley, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.||Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Deramore, L.||Muskerry, L.||Ventry, L.|
|Desborough, L.||Newlands, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Digby, L.||Newton, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Douglas, L. (E. Home.)||North, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Dunalley, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)||Worlingham, L. (E. Gosford.)|
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]||Lyveden, L.|
|Courtney of Penwith, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. President.)||Denman, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Pirrie, L.|
|Ripon, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Rendel, L.|
|Eversley, L.||Ribblesdale, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Farrer, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Fitzmaurice, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Craven, E.||Glantawe, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Portsmouth, E.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.) [Teller.]||Swaythling, L.|
|Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.||Wandsworth, L.|
|Haversham, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Allendale, L.||Headley, L.||Welby, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Hemphill, L.|
|Castletown, L.||Herschell, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF MAYO said the object of the proviso standing in his name on the Paper was to meet the case of an evicted tenant who was put back on an estate which was in the hands of tenants who had not purchased. Under the clause as it stood, when the evicted tenant was put back he returned under the same status as a tenant who had bought under the Act of 1903, and therefore his rent was much lower and he was in a much better position than the other tenants. The noble Earl the Lord President would, he thought, agree that that tenant would be very much envied by other tenants, who were likely to "make themselves not at all pleasant to the landlord and to force him to sell his 708 estate at a price below that at which he would be willing to sell. He hoped the noble Earl would see the injustice of the present provision and accept the Amendment.
In page 3, line 38, after the word 'order' to insert the words 'Provided always that in every case in which the owner of the said land shall, by notice in writing to the Estates Commissioners within the prescribed time, so require, the person or persona whom it is proposed to place in possession of said lands shall be placed there with the status of present tenants instead of purchasers, and shall from the date of being so placed in possession be subject to such rent as the Land Commission, failing agreement between the owner and such person or persons, may upon the application of either
party determine to be the fair rent of such land pursuant to the provisions of the Land Law (Ireland) Acts, 1881 to 1896.'"—(The Earl of Mayo.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, I am not unconscious of the possibility of the difficulty raised by the noble Lord occurring in certain cases. It might, no doubt, happen that on an estate where no purchase had taken place an evicted tenant might be restored under terms as a purchaser, which, like those of other purchasers, would be lower than those of an ordinary tenant. I should hope that the more natural result would be that the remaining tenants, seeing the advantage gained by a purchaser, to a large extent at the expense of the British taxpayer, would desire to purchase likewise, and would conclude matters with their landlord. The Amendment of the noble Earl is an impossible one to accept, for this reason, that if it were accepted and ah evicted tenant came back with the status of a present tenant he would return probably penniless, and there would be no means of supplying him with any funds whatever. Funds can only be supplied to purchasing tenants, and to put the evicted tenant, who had been out for a long time and had no money, back on a farm without stock would he to ensure his future ruin, with the probability, or almost certainty, that he would be evicted again in a short time because he would not be in a position to pay his rent. I hope that, in the circumstances, the Amendment will not be pressed.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ *LORD CLONBROCK moved to insert a new clause after Clause 2. He explained that he originally had a proposal down that a register should be kept which should be accessible to the public, but it was represented to him that the process now suggested in his proposed new clause, and which was in accordance with that followed under the Purchase Acts, would be far better. This proposal was only really an extension, mutatis mutandis, of the provisions of Sections 32 and 33 of the Irish Land Act, 189L He thought it was only reasonable that 710 the same publication should be made under the present Bill as was provided for under the Act of 1891.
After Clause 2, to insert the following new clause:—(1) The Estates Commissioners shall publish particulars of all cases in which an evicted tenant, or a person nominated by them to be the personal representative of a deceased evicted tenant, has been or may be hereafter, with their assistance, restored to his former holding or provided with a new holding under the Irish Land Act, 1903, or this Act: (2) Such particulars shall be in the form of a quarterly return, which shall be laid before Parliament forthwith, and shall contain such particulars of each case as may be prescribed by rules made by the Lord-Lieutenant, including the particulars set forth in the schedule to this Act."—(Lord Clonbrock.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
We have no objection to this Amendment if the noble Lord will allow these words to be added at the end of the sub-section, "if and so far as it may be practicable to furnish the same."
§ Clause 3:—
§ THE EARL OF LEITRIM moved an Amendment to provide that, where the Estates Commissioners served notice to quit upon any new tenant, the date for his occupation to cease should not be less than six months from the date of service of the notice "and ending on the first day of November then next ensuing." He pointed out that if the notice of six months were given in December it would be very hard for a man to have to leave in May or June, and probably he would not be able to take another farm just then. He submitted that the Government should either agree to one year's notice being given, or else uphold the usual farming practice by arranging that the planters should leave their holdings at a suitable time of the year.
In page 4, line 3, after the word 'thereof' to insert the words 'and ending on the first day of November then next ensuing.'"—(The Earl of Leitrim.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, so far as the noble Earl has in view the inconvenience and possible hardship of causing tenants to leave their holdings at all times of the year we are quite with him. We think it is perfectly reasonable that tenants should only leave at ordinary times, but as regards the possibility of greatly extending the notice and giving a longer time we should not be disposed to meet him. We should be willing to accept the Amendment in these words—And ending either on the first day of May or the first day of November.There are a good many holdings, I conceive, where the month of May would be more convenient for the transfer than the month of November. I do not see the precise force or value of the words "then next ensuing." All that we desire is that the removal should be at a reasonable and convenient time for the tenants.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
said the object of his noble friend Lord Leitrim was to ensure that the men on whom the notices were served would not have to quit before they had had an opportunity of taking away their crops and having the value of the year. He was afraid that would not be saved by giving the alternative of May, and if such an alternative were put in it should be at the option of the tenant.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
The month of November would not suit a grazing farmer very well, and May would probably suit him a great deal better. It is intended that the period of the year should be convenient to the tenant.
§ THE EARL OF LEITRIM
accepted the form of words suggested by the Lord President, subject to reconsideration on Report.
§ LORD BARRYMORE
proposed an Amendment that where the Commissioners offered to a new tenant another farm of not less value they should "at the same time offer to such new tenant such sum as may be reasonably necessary to cover any expense or loss incidental to the removal of himself and his family as well as of his crops, stock, and chattels, to such parcel of land." Where a tenant was forced to remove, it was only reasonable, and in accordance with practice, to pay the expense of his removing. It would be a great hardship on the planters turned out of their holdings to have to incur the expense of moving, and suffer serious loss in the sale of their stock. He had a similar Amendment in line 19, and as they were on all fours, he hoped the Government would consider them at the same time and accept them both. In the case of a planter who was obliged to move to some other place it was pretty certain that his sale of stock would be boycotted. As an act of justice to poor men he hoped his Amendment would be accepted.
In page 4, line 14, after the word 'holding' to insert the words 'and shall at the same time offer to such new tenant such sum as may be reasonably necessary to cover any expense or loss incidental to the removal of himself and his family as well as of his crops, stock, and chattels to such parcel of land'; and in line 19, after the word 'holding' to insert the words 'and for any expense or loss incidental to the removal of himself and his family, as well as of his crops, stock, and chattels from said holding.'"—(Lord Barrymore.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I think it cannot be disputed that the noble Lord has supported this Amendment with some strong arguments. One certainly feels that if these people are moved away, it would be a hardship if they sustained, by the act of moving away, any pecuniary damage. Therefore, we are disposed to accept the noble Lord's Amendment, although I confess I rather have the fear of the Treasury before my eyes in this matter, and I am not quite sure what my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer may say. But I cannot oppose the insertion of this Amendment in the Bill.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
thought the noble Earl was perfectly right to accept 713 the Amendment on every ground—both technically and on merits. At the same time it seemed to him that the whole principle was given away in Clause 4 of the Bill. But he thought it quite right to put in an Amendment making absolutely clear what was covered by the Amendment.
§ Consequential Amendment agreed to.
* LORD ASHBOUENE
, in proposing an Amendment providing that the Estates Commissioners might, if they thought proper, and if the new tenant so desired, award a sum as full compensation without making an offer of a parcel of land under subsection 2, said that Mr. Birrell was really answerable for having suggested the Amendment to his mind in a speech he had made on Third Reading. The speech in question was one of a most conciliatory nature—much more so than the Bill itself. Mr. Birrell appeared to speak kindly of a suggestion that it might be that the new tenant, instead of going through the form of being offered an alternative farm, would say: "Give me the money, and I will go." The present Amendment was to enable that to be done, so that instead of putting the Commissioners to the necessity of going through the form of offering an alternative farm, they could at once, if they thought right, and if the tenant desired, give him the money instead.
In page 4, line 22, after '1881' to insert the words 'Provided that the Estates Commissioners may, if they think proper, and the new tenant so desires, award a sum as full compensation under this subsection 3, without making an offer of a parcel of laud under subsection 2.'"—(Lord Ashbourne.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
This question, as some noble Lords may have seen, is not quite so simple as it seems, because when the tenant takes a farm, the money comes out of the Irish Land Purchase Fund, and is ultimately repayable to the Treasury. On the other hand, when the tenant chooses pecuniary compensation, the money is paid out of the Votes, and is never recovered. 714 Consequently my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is extremely unwilling—and I must say I see great force in his view of the case—to go any further than the Bill does in inviting people to take compensation rather than farms. As the Bill stands, it enables a man who does not for any reason want the farm offered, to ask for compensation instead. That, we think, is only fair, but we do not wish, as I say, to issue a general invitation to accept money compensation instead of a farm, and I hope the noble Lord will not press his Amendment.
§ * LORD ASHBOURNE
regretted to say that he felt bound to do so, in deference to what seemed to him the very reasonable proposal referred to by Mr. Birrell. When the matter was mentioned in another place on Third Reading, Mr. Birrell had plainly beamed with delight, and if he had thought the matter worth thinking of, surely it was worth thinking of by their Lordships' House, unless circumlocution was to go mad. What was the proposal? The Bill said that if a new tenant was going to be put out, he would be offered another farm under subsection 2 of the clause under consideration. If the tenant did not like to take the farm, he would go to the Estates Commissioners and say, "I do not like your farm: give me compensation instead." The Estates Commissioners would then say, "Very well, if that is your habit of mind, there is your compensation." He only asked, would it not be better to drop the form of offering a man a farm which he did not want and to give him the money which he did want?
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
We will not trouble your Lordships to walk through the lobbies on this subject, but we cannot accept the noble Lord's Amendment.
§ Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ Clause 5:—
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
, in moving to omit Clause 5, said he would, 715 as briefly as possible, give their Lordships his reasons for doing so. Before proceeding to do that, however, he would like to point out that with the exception of Clause 1, and a certain part of Clause 3, not a single other clause of that important Bill had been discussed in the House of Commons. Therefore he thought it was necessary that these clauses, one after the other, should receive the full consideration of their Lordships' House and that the public at large should know the nature of those clauses which were closured and undiscussed in another place. The proposal in Clause 5 as it stood at the present moment was not entirely new. The proposal was contained in the Act of 1903, in Section 6 of which it was provided that any loss which should accrue with regard to the resale of estates should be made good through the public purse. That was done only, however, in the case of estates in connection with the congested districts, and the clause to which he alluded very clearly defined what those estates were. It said that—The expression 'congested estate' means an estate not less than half of the area of which consists of holdings not exceeding £5 in rateable value, or of mountain or bog land, or not less than a quarter of the area of which is held in rundale or intermixed plots.It was therefore proposed in that section that those conditions should apply with regard to those estates which he had defined to make up the loss which it was found would take place on the resale. In the present Bill, although the spirit was the same, an entirely new principle was introduced. While the former clause was limited to estates under the Congested Districts Board, the present one proposed to extend the principle of making good any loss to any single farmer who was about to be replaced under the provisions of the Act. The result of that would be that a man who had been evicted in the past either because he had taken part in the Plan of Campaign, or because he had been unable to farm satisfactorily, because he had been thriftless, or because of the hundred and one reasons which their Lordships were aware of, was now to be, allowed to come on to a farm in any part of the district in which he was to be placed, as good as any farm occupied by his neighbours, but he was to pay, because he was an evicted 716 tenant, a smaller annuity on behalf of that holding than any of the surrounding farmers. A more extraordinary proposal, he thought, had never been put forward. It was putting a premium upon the thriftless tenant as against the industrious tenant, and it would naturally create discontent amongst the surrounding farmers if they found that the thriftless man was to enjoy greater advantages than were enjoyed by industrious tenant farmers. The loss to be made good by the Act of 1903 was with regard to the condition of the farm itself and the district, but the difference between that and the proposal in the present Bill was that in the latter case it was not with regard to the condition of the farm, but with regard to the condition of the man himself, that the loss was to be made good. How did His Majesty's Government propose to make good that loss? They were told that it was to be made good out of what was recognised in the Act of 1903 as a bonus. As their Lordships knew, the bonus in the Act of 1903 was voted for a specific purpose. It was to facilitate the transfer of land between the owner and the occupier, and—if he might use the expression—to bridge over the gulf which necessarily must exist in making up the loss which the owner would sustain unless he got his share of the bonus to make up the difference. Therefore the bonus in the Act of 1903 was money paid for a specific purpose, and His Majesty's Government at the present moment proposed to break into that bonus, yet they did not mention any specific sum which they proposed to take for the purpose of meeting this loss. He would like to ask the Lord President of the Council what was the sum which His Majesty's Government proposed to take from the so-called bonus, because he thought their Lordships would agree with him that upon the whole it was but right that that sum should be limited if it was to be voted from a sum of money ear-marked to be permanently used as a bridge between owners and occupiers. He was not going to suggest any sum. He thought it was a very curious principle to take a sum of money earmarked for one purpose and use it for an entirely different purpose, and yet not 717 give any idea in the Bill as to what that sum was to be. As he had said, he did not propose himself to mention what the sum ought to be, but he certainly thought it ought to be mentioned in the Bill. He proposed to eliminate this clause because the position in which he found himself was a somewhat difficult one. He was not in a position to move what the sum should be, because in all probability the question of privilege would be raised. Therefore the only alternative was to ask their Lordships to eliminate the clause from the Bill. He hoped, however, that the noble Earl would not think that in doing so he was disapproving of the whole of the clause. He merely moved the Amendment, as he said, because it was not in his power to deal with the question of what the sum of money should be, but he hoped that the noble Earl would accept the elimination of the clause, and that, when the measure came up at a later stage, he would be able to give them further information as to what the proposals of himself and his colleagues were, and perhaps to give them some idea as to the limits of the sum proposed to be taken. He begged to move.
To leave out Clause 5."—(The Marquess of Londonderry.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I quite understand the object of the noble Marquess in moving this Amendment at this time. Obviously, he would not wish to cast the clause aside altogether, because if that were done it would make it impossible for the Estates Commissioners to offer to the landowner a higher price than that at which they were able to re-sell. Nor do I think that I need repeat what I said on the Second Reading as to what I considered the general justification for drawing on the Land Purchase Fund—the bonus fund—for a moderate amount for this special purpose. We think that the sum left being considerable, and the sum asked for not being large, it is fair to ask the landlords of Ireland as a whole, who sooner or later will profit by the balance of that fund being distributed to them pro rata in the form of bonus, to contribute thus 718 far towards a settlement of this question. Of course, as the noble Lord well understands, and as in fact he has shown that he fully understands, it is quite impossible for us on this side of the House to name a sum of money with a view to its insertion, in the Bill, because that would obviously constitute a marked breach of the privileges of the other House. But I have no objection to telling the Committee and the noble Lord that my right hon. friend will be quite content if the limit of £100,000 is placed in the Bill; and I believe, therefore, that he will take steps to see that that is done when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY said that he fully recognised the spirit in which the noble Earl had met his proposal; but at the same time he was bound to say that £100,000 was a very large sum to take away from a fund earmarked for a particular purpose, and to devote to another purpose. However, after what the noble Earl had said, he would withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 5 agreed to.
§ Clause 6:—
§ *LORD CLONBROCK moved an Amendment mainly to provide that the home farm should be secure from acquisition, even although not immediately adjoining the owner's demesne, and also in all cases where it was customarily occupied with his residence. He said the object of his Amendment was to define more closely the description of the land which it was proposed to exempt from the operations of the Estates Commissioners, and to introduce some further restrictions. There were a number of consequential Amendments, and he thought it better, therefore, instead of moving each one separately, to explain the various points at once. As the clause stood in the Bill, it provided that no untenanted land should be acquired compulsorily which formed part of any demesne, home farm, and so on. He proposed to insert after the word "which" the words "is or" so that it would read 719 "which is, or forms part of any demesne" and so on. Then there was a class of land which was valuable not only to the landlord but to the neighbourhood, namely, "townparks," or land which was in the immediate proximity of a town, and he thought that that also ought to be excluded from the operations of the Commissioners, and also building land, because it clearly was to the advantage, not only of the landlord but also of the inhabitants of the town, that that land should be reserved for building purposes. Then there was land which had a special value, either from proximity to a town or other place, or as accommodation land. Considerable distinction, he was told, was made legally between accommodation land and land valuable from proximity, and therefore he had included both terms in his Amendment. Land might not only be valuable from proximity to a town, but might also be very valuable in the case of accommodation land as being worked by the landlord in connection with his own demesne. It very often happened that the home farm was inside the demesne, and then there was no question about it. Under other circumstances it very often happened that from the demesne not being well adapted for tillage the home farm was situated outside it, and even sometimes not immediately adjoining it, but at a certain distance. He knew of a case where that occurred, and it showed how necessary it was to guard against the action of the Commissioners that in that particular case the Estates Commissioners refused to consider the whole of the remainder of the property unless the landlord agreed to throw in this farm with it, which he had to do at very considerable inconvenience, his demesne not being fit for tillage. He thought that was a case well deserving of exemption. In other cases there might be a considerable extent of land, which a landlord who farmed largely was in the habit of working in connection with his demesne. Cases of that kind had already been mentioned. Such a landlord would be a great employer of labour, and it would be a great loss to the neighbourhood that such land should be taken from him and divided, for it was quite clear that then the labourers would be turned out of employment, to their very 720 considerable loss. It might be said that those labourers could be provided for on some of this land, but the land would not hold more than a certain number of people, and if the labourers were to be provided for there would be no room for the evicted tenants, and vice versa. He thought everyone would agree that it would be a misfortune that such large farming operations should cease in any part of Ireland, not only in the part with which he was best acquainted—for the landlords were almost the sole employers of labour. Farms, as a rule, were small, the farmers did not till, and they employed very little labour except during the haymaking season, or at odd times in the summer. In such cases it would be a great disadvantage that large farming operations should cease, and it would be, on the other hand, a great advantage for the country that they should have a farm properly worked as an example in their midst. Apparently hopes were entertained that what Mr. John Stuart Mill used to call "the magic of property" would induce the new tenant purchasers to till their land. He should rejoice at such a result. But they were not people easily receptive of new ideas, and tillage had fallen off in a most remarkable degree for a considerable number of years. He remembered a conversation with a man well known to most of their Lordships—at least by name—the late O'Conor Don. He had driven with O'Conor Don and with Mr. Wyndham, when the latter was Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant, through parts of the county of Roscommon—by no mean's the congested parts, but parts where farms were very much of the same size as those proposed to be established now for evicted tenants or for ordinary tenant purchasers, averaging, say, thirty acres. On that occasion O'Conor Don had remarked, "I remember the whole of this under tillage; look at it now. There is now a little patch round every man's house. Therefore give the people more land if you like, but do not think they will till it if you do, or at least do not be confident of it." And he was sorry to say that in his experience that prophecy had been very often fulfilled. In his own county of Galway farms had been divided among 721 tenant purchasers; and the first thing those men had done had been to meadow the land, cut the hay and sell it, with the result that two years ago very fair hay was to be bought for 15s. a ton, and the supply of it considerably exceeded the demand. Again, he had heard of milch cows being brought in for sale by these men, and people being entreated to buy them, in such a state of starvation that there ought to have been a prosecution for cruelty to animals, the reason being that they had sold the hay in the summer and had nothing to give their animals in the winter. With such instances as that before them, it was really important that there should be some people in the country who worked the land in the way it ought to be worked; but that was really only done by landlords farming a farm largely, as a great many would do if they were allowed. But if the land was to be taken away from them in the way suggested by the Bill, naturally the whole of the farming operations would he dislocated, and the labourers, as he had said, would suffer. He trusted, therefore, that their Lordships would allow the insertion of the words which he proposed.
In page 5, line 25, after the word 'which,' to insert the words 'is or' and after the word 'farm' to insert the word 'townpark' and leave out the word 'or.'
In line 26, after the word 'pleasure' to insert the words 'or building' and after the word 'ground' to insert the words 'or which possesses an exceptional or accommodation value to the owner in connection with his farming or owing to its proximity to a town or otherwise.'
In page 5, line 32, to leave out the word 'immediately' and leave out the word 'and' and insert the word 'or.'"—(Lord Clonbrock.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
We are able to accept the first Amendment which the noble Lord mentioned in his very interesting speech, and also to meet him to some extent upon others. The first Amendment seems quite a reasonable one.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I had better put the Amendments to the House one by one. The question is after the word "which" to insert the words "is or."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Motion negatived.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
Yes. Then as regards building land we assent to the principle, but we do not think that the phrase "building ground" is one which has any distinct meaning.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
It is very difficult indeed to define building land. Would the noble Lord accept the words "or ground proposed to be let or sold for building sites"?
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
If noble Lords will not accept that, would they accept "ground suitable for building sites"?
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I am afraid we cannot accept the Amendment as to accommodation land. It seems to me to be too wide. The noble Lord spoke of land forming part of the home farm, even though it was not part of the demesne, but that surely would be covered by the words "home farm," because there is nothing in Clause 6 as it stands which makes it necessary for the home farm to be inside the demesne, and therefore if the land was used as demesne, though outside, I imagine it would be included.
* LORD CLONBROCK
I quoted an instance where the Estates Commissioners 723 had refused to recognise a piece of land as a home farm because it was not immediately adjoining the demesne, and had refused to consider the whole property an estate unless the landlord gave up that particular farm to be divided, though it was the only farm he had for tillage. It was not touching the demesne, but within a quater or half a mile of it.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
It is very difficult, as the noble Lord will understand, to say whether a hardship existed in a particular clause or not, and it clearly would not be possible for the Estates Commissioners to include every farm which the landlord might happen to have in hand at any distance from his home or demesne. I will certainly consider if anything can be done to meet a case of that kind, but we do not like the words as they stand.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
Yes; we do not agree to leave out "immediately" or to leave out "and" and insert "or."
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
Might I suggest that it would be better if the Amendments were agreed to and settled, and then the other matters considered afterwards?
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
The words are after "pleasure" to insert "or ground suitable for building sites."
§ Amendment agreed to.724
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
said he did not know why the noble Earl was making a fuss, about the word "immediately," or what was the supreme difference which made him happy with one and unhappy with the other. Whether the land adjoined or did not adjoin, there was surely no magic about the word "immediately."
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
What is meant by "adjoining" I frankly confess I do not know, neither do I know what is meant by "immediately adjoining"—neither do I know whether there has been any legal decision on the subject. Supposing an estate to be in a ring fence of 100,000 acres, the whole acreage would be in one sense "adjoining," but not within the meaning of this Bill. These words are taken, I think, from one of the Labourers Acts. I think they are taken from the Labourers Act of 1883, and therefore I suppose that they have come before various Courts of law.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
imagined that the person who had originally used the expression was not a Mede or a Persian.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I hope the noble Lord will not insist upon the insertion of the word "immediately."
No. I attach great importance both to the omission of the word "immediately" and to the insertion of the word "or."
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I am afraid we cannot agree to the word "or" instead of "and," because that, I think does alter the case. The words are "any" home farm or land immediately adjoining and customarily occupied with his residence." That is the point with regard to which I said I would see if there were any means of meeting the noble Lord. But the word "or" is far too wide, because it would include land on any part of the estate.
§ LORD BARRYMORE
said it would create a very great hardship unless the power was unlimited. He would suggest that the three words should be left out—"immediately adjoining and"—because there were plenty of farms which were worked in with a demesne which were neither "immediate," nor "adjoining," but some slight distance off, but which nevertheless were "customarily" worked with the home farm, and if they left in the words "customarily occupied with his residence" he thought they might safely and justly leave out "immediately adjoining and."
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I hope the noble Earl will consider whether some means cannot be found of meeting the objections of my noble friends. I put it to the noble Earl that it is very undesirable to do anything which will have the effect of discouragin; what I would call bona fide farming by landowners. If you can find a large landowner—such as the late Lord Bessborough, whom I daresay my noble friend remembers—who takes an interest in farming, and farms on a large scale, the effect of that is most exemplary and admirable for the whole neighbourhood; and therefore men of that kind should receive whatever encouragement we can give them. They are large employers of labour, and for that reason alone deserve consideration. But I am sure noble Lords do not want to push that too far. The case which I understand they have in their minds is a case where a landowner has been engaged in what I call bona fide farming operations, but where his farm happens to be not in immediate contact with his residence or with his park. I gather from what Lord Clonbrock told us a moment ago that a case of that kind has actually arisen, a case in which there was not this point of contact between the farm and the demesne, with the result that the unfortunate owner was heavily mulcted in this sense, that he was not allowed to pursue the transaction for the sale of the whole of the property any further until he surrendered the land which he had himself been farming. I do not know whether the actual words which my noble friends have put down are exactly the most appropriate; but I 726 cannot help thinking that some means ought to be found of meeting the case they have brought before the House.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I certainly will think that point over, and see if any form of words can be found which would meet a hard case of the kind mentioned by the noble Marquess, without opening the door too wide and letting in very large tracts of land which might be kept in one hand, which I think ought not to be kept out of the purview of the Bill. Before the next stage of the Bill I will consult my right hon. friend, and see if there is any via media in the matter.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
Before we part with the clause, I understand the noble Lord to agree not to move the insertion of the words "or building"; but that, instead thereof, he accepts the proposal of the noble Lord the Lord President after the word "ground" to insert the words "or ground suitable for building sites."
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
And also the noble Lord does not press at the present stage to leave out the word "immediately"?
§ Amendments, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE moved the addition of the words: "Save by agreement with the owner, such lands only shall be selected as immediately adjoin or are accessible from the existing public road;" "The owner may offer an alternative site, which the Estates Commissioners shall fully and fairly consider." He thought the noble Earl would undoubtedly at once recognise the phraseology of his two Amendments. They were taken from the Labourers Act, as were a great many of the words which were found in the clause under discussion. The Labourers Act provided that no land was to be taken 727 compulsorily for a labourer's cottage unless it was accessible from a public road. That was one of the Amendments he had put down, and he supposed there was no objection to it. It was obviously not desirable that land should be compulsorily taken in the middle of a man's estate, but that it should abut on a public road; otherwise, there might be great difficulty, and no convenience would be given. The principle had been in operation for a number of years in Ireland, and his noble friend, Lord Denman would be acquainted with the Acts in which it was embodied. That was his first Amendment. If he was in order in mentioning the second, he might say that it was also taken from the Labourers Act, and he thought it was a matter that had worked extremely well. He had presided at so many appeals for so many years that he had considerable personal knowledge of these matters. The power for an owner to give an alternative site if he did not approve of the particular one selected had worked most beneficently and had led to a great many satisfactory adjustments. The owner said: "Do not take that; it is my best field; I use it for access for my cattle for water, but I will give you just as good a site abutting on a road near to water." That had led to a settlement over and over again, and all he sought in his Amendment was that the owner should have power to offer a second site in the event of his not approving of the one chosen by the Commissioners. He hoped the noble Lord would consider his Amendments.
In page 5, line 36, after the word 'possible' to insert the words 'save by agreement with the owner, such lands only shall be selected as immediately join or are accessible from an existing public road.'
In page 5, line 36, after the word 'possible,' to insert the words 'the owner may offer an alternative site, which the Estates Commissioners shall fully and fairly consider.'"—(Lord Ashbourne.)
did not think that this particular case was quite on all fours with the case of the Labourers Act, as the noble and learned Lord would suggest. Clause 6 of the Bill 728 was from the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1883. The noble and learned Lord's Amendment, he understood, was taken from Section 3 of the Labourers Act, 1886.
said that the section of the Act of 1886 was found, even in the case of a labourer's cottage, to cause such inconvenience that it had been later on amended. He did not think he could give the details. Therefore the Government were of opinion that the proposed Amendment would hamper them in the operations of the Bill.
said he would try to explain. In many cases they might wish to acquire land that was not on a road—that was to say, it was upon a mountain side or did not adjoin a public road at all. He believed the Estates Commissioners had power to make roads.
said that that was his information, but if the noble and learned Lord said it was not the case, no doubt he had ground for saying so. He was informed that the principle which applied in the case of the acquisition of land by local authorities for labourers cottages did not apply in the present case, because local authorities had no power similar to that possessed by the Estates Commissioners to make roads.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
said that no doubt it was his own fault, but he did not understand the objections made to his proposals, which were submitted in perfect good faith, and in the interests 729 of peace and harmony. If the noble Lord would think for a minute, he would see that his arguments were unanswerable. What right would anybody have to select land in the middle of a man's estate or farm that was not approachable by a road? The matter was surely one of common sense. It might lead to the most frightful inconvenience and the grossest injustice if a man was sent to pick out part of a man's property in the middle of his farm and to say, "We will take that although there is no road to it." It was to obviate that inconvenience that, no matter what the Labourers Act might say, he was proposing that the land should be selected so as immediately to adjoin, or to be accessible from, an existing public road. Why should it not? Surely it was almost nonsense to suggest that the Estates Commissioners were to be at liberty to take land not approachable from anywhere except by a balloon. He did not understand the objection. It did not convey any meaning to his mind, and he thought he understood the way in which these matters worked. He did not know whether the noble Lord also objected to his second Amendment of offering an alternative site. It was obviously in the interests of peace, harmony, and good will. Why should not a man be at liberty to say "Do not take that farm; it will destroy all my family arrangements; I will give you another just as good, accessible from a road, and near water and all the other things which are so advantageous"? Someone or other had told the noble Lord that these Amendments were unacceptable. He wished the noble Lord would tell that somebody that he (Lord Ashbourne) did not understand the objections.
THE EARL OF MAYO
said that no doubt the noble Lord in charge of the Bill would remember that exactly the same point arose in the Labourers Act of last year, and the noble Lord accepted an Amendment that the particular labourer's cottage should be accessible to wheeled vehicles. That was done because it would create a tremendous difficulty if there were only a path there, and if that path in this case 730 was interfered with he did not see how the matter could be arranged at all. But if a provision were put in in the same way as in the former Act—that it should be a road accessible to wheeled vehicles—the difficulty might be got over, because they did not, after all, want to take a patch of land and then not be able to get at it in any way. As had been pointed out by the noble and learned Lord, if a man wanted to drive his cattle to water or to market objections might be made, and surely it was only reasonable that there should be some accessibility to the bit of land proposed to be taken.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I should have thought that this Amendment was a thoroughly innocuous one even if it was not urgently called for, and that His Majesty's Government would have been glad to accept it in order that the arrangements under the Bill should work without friction and harmoniously. Nothing could be more likely to create friction than to place any of the new tenants in a position in which they could not have access to their farms except by trespassing upon somebody else's property. I should have thought that from that point of view alone the Amendment might have been accepted.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
Of course, the parallel with the Labourers Acts is not really a very complete one, because under those Acts only very small sites are taken, whereas by this Bill obviously a considerable tract of country might be acquired. I quite well remember what the noble Lord alluded to as having taken place last year. I think, if I remember rightly, it was his own Amendment, and it was found to be inconvenient that only sites should be taken which were approachable from a public road, and, therefore, an Amendment was agreed to stating that access should be made possible to some form of vehicles, which, of course, included all sorts of cartroads and accommodation roads, and which therefore, enlarged the scope of the Bill. But I do not know that that would be very much help in this instance. I imagine that what the Estates Commissioners had in their minds in saying that this provision 731 might in some cases be a convenience to them would be the kind of case which would arise, I should have thought, certainly in nineteen cases out of twenty, in which, supposing the operation to be carried out, it would be done by agreement—namely, when they desired to acquire a large tract of land say on the side of a mountain or something of that kind.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
And to make a road themselves, which is a power they have under the Act of 1903.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I will do that. As regards the noble Lord's other Amendment I think that if inserted at all it ought to form a new clause, but I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord really thinks it necessary. We cannot, of course, object to the substance of it in any way, but I should have thought that in all cases negotiations would take place between the owner and the Commissioners before compulsory powers were put into force. Nobody supposes the Estates Commissioners are going to say, "Here is a piece of land and we are going to take it." The whole thing would be the result of negotiations, and it would only be after the fullest negotiations with the landlords that compulsion would be put in force. But we cannot object to the noble Lord's Amendment if he would not mind putting it in separately as a new clause.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My noble and learned friend's suggestion seems valuable, for this reason amongst others. A great deal of dissatisfaction has been caused recently owing to the fact that the inspectors of the Estates Commissioners have been in the habit of making—I will not say surreptitious visits—but visits with very little publicity about them, to estates where there were thought to be opportunities for reinstating evicted tenants. We want to guard against that, and to have all these proceedings as far as 732 possible conducted in the light of day, and in such a manner that at an early stage of the proceedings the landowner, if he has an offer to make, may have an opportunity of making it. Now, as I understand, the addition of these words would give every landowner an opportunity at the very outset, when he found that the inspector proposed to expropriate him from a particular portion of his estate, of saying, "Well, if you want land in this neighbourhood I can give you something which will suit you quite as well, and me a great deal better." The earlier the stage at which the landowner is empowered to make a proposal of that kind the better I think for everyone's convenience.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
I admit that it errs on the ground of common sense as I have put it in, but the noble Earl can have it translated into a somewhat more lengthy form on the Report stage.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
The question is "That in page 5, line 36, after the word 'possible,' to insert the words, 'Save by agreement with the owner such lands only shall be selected as immediately adjoin or are accessible from an existing public road.'"
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
was afraid that was wrong. He had said that he would not put the first—that was, about the access to a public road. But the second he understood the noble Lord to accept
§ Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.
§ After Clause 6:—
LORD INCHIQUIN moved to insert a new clause providing that where any land was compulsorily purchased or taken under the Act all sporting rights hitherto enjoyed by the vendor, if he so desired, should remain vested in him notwithstanding such purchase. He said it was quite possible that the provision of the clause might be covered elsewhere in the Bill, but he had been unable to discover that that was the case, and therefore he had put the Amendment upon the Paper. Clause 16 of the Bill said—
This Act may be cited as the 'Evicted Tenants (Ireland) Act, 1907,' and shall be construed as one with Part I. of the Irish Land Act (1903).
It was quite possible that the provisions of that Act might deal with the sporting rights under the present Bill, and, if so, it would save time if one of the noble Lords opposite would say so.
To insert the following new clause:—'Where any land is compulsorily purchased or taken under this Act all sporting rights hitherto enjoyed by the vendor shall, if he so desires, remain vested in him notwithstanding such purchase.'"—(Lord Inchiquin.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
What would happen would be, that the sporting rights would be in all cases vested in the Land Commission, as in the Act of 1903.
said that in that case he would have to press his Amendment, because he thought it was right that 734 the landlord should retain his interest; it would chiefly apply to untenanted land adjoining the estate, where there was game, and it might also apply to fishing rights. It might happen, of course, in a great many small cases that the landlord had the sporting rights on the banks of a river and that they were suddenly interrupted by a farm which did not belong to him; and he thought that would be most unfair. In the Act of 1903 the landlord had power to reserve his sporting rights, or to sell them to the Estates Commissioners, or to pass them on to the tenant, or to sell them to private individuals. He had practically an absolute right to do what he liked with his own; and naturally that was a fair thing to do here—it might be a very valuable right.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Here again, I venture to intercede with the noble Earl in the interests of peace and good understanding when this Bill becomes law. What could be more likely to lead to trouble than that a single evicted tenant should be given a farm with full sporting rights upon a patch of untenanted land belonging to the landlord? The whole of the sporting rights all round it belong to the landlord, and you create arbitrarily in the middle of his property a little island where he has no right to exercise rights, which he has in fact always exercised without question. If, under the Act of 1903, we provided for an arrangement under which all these sporting rights might remain in the landlord's hands, surely, by parity of reasoning in this case it is desirable that the landlord should have an opportunity of keeping in his own hands a privilege to which he attaches a very great value.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
As I read the Act of 1903, it can only be done by agreement between landlord and purchaser. The landlord cannot absolutely say that he will retain the rights.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
He can refuse to sell—no doubt he has that lever—but if he sells he cannot, as a part of the transaction, retain the sporting rights except by agreement, and in the absence of agreement they are vested in the Land 735 Commissioners. That provision clearly would not be of much use to noble Lords in this case. I should like to put this point to the noble Marquess. After all, all sporting rights are practically everywhere exercised by goodwill and agreement, and if the landlord in all cases captures the sporting rights, so to speak, as a preliminary to the replacing of some tenant on the land, I should have thought it would have been very much more difficult for him to agree with the evicted tenant who had come there, and who, after all, in many cases could make the really valuable exercise of those rights almost impossible, because it is common experience that nobody can exercise sporting rights anywhere except with the goodwill of the farming tenants. I should have thought he would have had a far better chance of doing what he would wish to do through the medium of the Estates Commissioners, who, in the kind of case mentioned by my noble friend (Lord Inchiquin)—of valuable fishing rights—would clearly reserve those rights to the landlord. What would take place in such a case as that is obvious. The rights are placed in the hands of the Comissioners, who can deal with them according to the equities of the particular case. But I do not believe that it would tend to the peace and quietness which we should all like to see if it became an absolute right of the landlord to insist upon retaining them against the wish of everybody else.
did not think the noble Lord was quite right in what he had said about the section in the Act of 1903. He had drafted that clause himself, and his impression was that the landlord had the power first of all to retain in his own hands all sporting rights; he had the power to sell them to any private individual, to sell them to the Estates Commissioners, or to sell them to the tenant. He was not quite certain, but that was his recollection. What the noble Lord proposed to do now was to transfer those sporting rights from the landlord to the Land Commission and say, "Now you can go and bargain." Why hand them over to the Land Commission and then start bargaining? It seemed grossly unjust.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
May I read the words of Section 13 of the Act of 1903—Where, at the time of sale of any land to the Land Commission or to tenants or others, the vendor has, subject to the provisions of the Ground Game Act, 1880, sporting rights, exclusive of the tenant, those rights may, by agreement between the vendor and purchaser be either conveyed to the purchaser or be expressly reserved to the vendor.That is a matter of agreement. Of course the noble Marquess can point out that the landowner has that lever, but he cannot begin by saying the sporting rights are to be in any event regarded as being the absolute property of the landowner;and in the absence of such agreement those rights shall be vested in the Land Commission, and the Land Commission may deal with the same, subject to regulations to be made by the Lord-Leiutenant.That is the analogy that we go on here.
The Earl of DONOUGHMORE
appealed to His Majesty's Government not to be quite so strict upon this point, for another reason than that which had already been mentioned. He was sure that if this Amendment was accepted, the Bill would work much more smoothly, because they would find that landlord after landlord would be ready, without the compulsory powers being put in force, to sell the land along a river if they were absolutely certain of having the fishing rights along that river, but those same landlords would fight tooth and nail rather than give up a hundred yards of fishing if the position was left as it was. The noble Earl had read the section of the Act, and he (the Earl of Donoughmore) understood the position to be that at present the landlord had to bargain with the purchaser, and if he failed to agree with the purchaser, the rights were vested in the Land Commission. Evidently what the Government intended was that the Land Commission should be able to say: "I am the purchaser, and I get these things for nothing, therefore I will not agree with you about anything." He thought that was a very mean position for the Land Commission to take up.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I really must interrupt the noble Earl, because I am perfectly certain that that is not the opinion of the Government or of the Estates Commissioners. The opinion of the Estates Commissioners, I think, was that it would not be nearly so easy for the landlord to bargain directly with a newcomer, or a returned evicted tenant, and that, therefore, the sporting rights should be, so to speak, deposited with them with a view to an arrangement being come to through them. That is what I understand to be the intention.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
said that there were certain very valuable assets in the shooting rights, and if the Estates Commissioners did not propose to allow anything to the landlord for them, the landlord would not only lose his land, for which he was paid, but the very valuable sporting rights for which he had got nothing.
§ On Question, "That the new clause stand part of the Bill," their Lordships divided:—Contents, 102; Not-Contents, 26.737
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Faber, L.|
|Northumberland, D.||Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)|
|Wellington, D.||St. Aldwyn, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)|
|Ailesbury, M.||Addington, L.||Inchiquin, L.|
|Camden, M.||Amherst of Hankney, L.||Kelvin, L.|
|Hertford, M||Ampthill, L.||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)|
|Lansdowne, M.||Ardilaun, L.||Kensington, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Ashbourne, L.||Kenyon, L.|
|Atkinson, L.||Langford, L.|
|Bandon E.||Barrymore, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Cawdor E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Macnaghten, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Belper, L.||Massy, L.|
|Dartrey, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Middleton, L.|
|Derby, E.||Burton, L.||Muskerry, L.|
|Devon, E.||Calthorpe, L.||North, L.|
|Haddington, E.||Carew, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Hardwicke, E.||Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)||Penrhyn, L.|
|Lindsey, E.||Castlemaine, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Londesborough, E.||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)|
|Malmesbury, E.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Mayo, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Rathdonnell, L.|
|Morton, E.||Clonbrock, L.||Rathmore, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Cloncurry, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Colchester, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Saint Germans, E.||Collins, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||De Freyne, L.|
|Westmeath, E.||De Mauley, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Wicklow, E.||Deramore, L.||Talbot de Malahide, L.|
|Digby, L.||Templermore, L.|
|Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Douglas, L. (E. Home.)||Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Falkland, V.||Dunalley, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Dunboyne, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Hampden, V.||Dunleath, L.||Worlingham, L. (E. Gosford.)|
|Hill, V.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Hood, V.||Estcourt, L.|
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Blyth, L.||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.|
|Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]||Haversham, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. President.)||Courtney of Penwith, L.||Headley, L.|
|Denman, L.||Hemphill, L.|
|Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Lyveden, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||O' Hagan, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Eversley, L.||Pirrie, L.|
|Craven, E.||Farrer, L.||Rendel, L.|
|Portsmouth, E.||Glantawe, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Granard, L. (E. Granard.) [Teller]||Weardale, L.|
|Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.)|
§ Clause 7 agreed to.
§ Clause 8:—
§ LORD DUNBOYNE moved to amend the clause so that no holding purchased by an evicted tenant should be made available in any bankruptcy or by any "other" proceeding of law to pay any debt contracted by the evicted tenant prior to the date of the order vesting such holding in him. He said that this Amendment was little more than a drafting Amendment to make clear what he believed to be the intention of the clause. He thought the Government must not be surprised if the clause did not give entire satisfaction to a certain class of persons in Ireland, namely, the small tradesmen, who would find by this and the next clause that the debts owing to them by the evicted tenants and which had been owing probably for years, were by these clauses as completely voided as if the debtor had received his discharge in bankruptcy, or as if the Statute of Limitations applied. He left the responsibility of that with the Government. If the Amendment were agreed to the clause would read, "any other process or proceeding of law." As it stood, the Clause would imply that bankruptcy was not a proceeding of law, but he believed that most people were under a quite contrary impression.
In page 6, line 15, after the second 'any to insert the word' other.'"—(Lord Dunboyne.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
Undoubtedly this is an important Amendment, and the Government will be happy to accept it, both here and in the next clause.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 8, as amended, agreed to.
§ Consequential Amendment in Clause 9 agreed to.
§ Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 10 agreed to.740
§ Clause 11:—
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
in moving a proviso that "surplus lands" should not be sold to any person other than the vendor without such land having been first offered to such vendor, said that all that his Amendment desired to secure was that the person from whom the land was acquired should have power to take the land back at the pro rata price, the price being fixed according to the amount of land he took back as compared with what had gone from him. He thought it was only a fair provision that land taken for the purpose of this Act should be offered to the person from whom it was acquired before the Government used it for any other purposes not contemplated by the Act.
In page 6, line 26, after '1903' to insert the words 'or may be resold to the vendor provided that no such land shall be sold to any person other than the vendor unless it shall have been offered to the vendor at the price for which it is so sold, and unless he shall have failed to accept the said offer within a period of one month from the date thereof.'"—(The Earl of Donoughmore.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I do not think the wording of the noble Earl's Amendment is very clear, if he will excuse me for saying so. It says—To any person other than the vendor, unless it shall have been offered to the vendor at the price for which it is so sold.But it has not been sold. The whole point is that it has not been sold to anybody. It is surplus land.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
The noble Earl means the price at which the Land Commissioners have purchased it?
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
If the noble Earl would take it in another way, we might meet him the word "vendor" is really not right here. Would the noble Earl take it in this way—"or may be sold 741 to the person from whom it was acquired"?
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I do not know whether it is necessary to go into the question of price. Of course the difficulty is to say exactly what price was given for that particular surplus land. Therefore I am afraid it is useless to put into the clause, "the price for which it is so sold." What the noble Earl really desires, I think, is some machinery for discovering the actual value pro rata of that particular piece.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
Perhaps the noble Earl will take into consideration how that could be done. We think it sufficient to say that the land may be re sold to the person from whom it was acquired, and it stands to reason it would be at the price at which it was acquired.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
questioned whether it did stand to reason, and hoped that an attempt would not be made to make another profit out of the unfortunate owner. After all, it was only a question of words between himself and the Lord President of the Council, and therefore he would not press his Amendment now. He was sure the noble Earl would allow him to consult with him before the Report stage, and that they would be able to find suitable words.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 12 agreed to.
§ Clause 13:—
§ LORD ATKINSON
, in moving to omit Clause 13, said this clause as it stood, was about the most extraordinary of this extraordinary Bill. The Estates Commissioners were given the tenure of County Court Judges; and that tenure was, that they held on good behaviour, 742 and they could not be removed except upon an Address to the Crown presented by both Houses of Parliament. The words "good behaviour" might to a certain extent mislead the lay mind; but they had, on different occasions, for the last sixty years received a construction which amounted to this—that the tenure could only be terminated upon intentional misconduct. The matter had been considered originally, on the first occasion which it was necessary to refer to, so far back as 1843. At that time, the conduct of Baron Smith, an Irish Judge, was brought before the House of Commons with a view to having an Address presented to remove him. It was then laid down by Sir Robert Peel that nothing was misbehaviour so as to subject him to removal except corruption, intentional moral delinquency, conscious partisanship, or perverting justice. Sir James Graham, on the same occasion, also said that the bad behaviour which justified the removal of a Judge was a badness of heart and a corrupt intention which had contributed to the defeat of justice; and Lord Palmerston said it was a gross perversion of justice by corruption, intention or incapacity—physical incapacity. The same meaning had been approved and adopted some three years ago in the case of an Irish County Court Judge, Mr. O'Connor Morris, and again last year when the conduct of a well-known Judge was before the House of Commons. Therefore, as it applied to County Court Judges, it would receive the same interpretation; and it might I be assumed that at present the Estates Commissioners were in the position that, except for some corrupt and wilful malfeasance in their office, they could not be removed. This was one of the particular instances in which the Government had gone out of its way, apparently for no obvious reason, to destroy one of the main and best features of the Act of 1903. In saying that it was one of the best features, he relied upon the testimony of everybody concerned; that feature was, that the Commissioners should be administrative officers under the control of the Lord-Lieutenant, bound to carry out their duties in obedience to regulations made by him, and that their conduct should be subject to discussion in the House 743 of Commons. There was not a single person who spoke upon the Bill of 1903 who did not lay stress on that circumstance. He would presently take the liberty of quoting to the House the language of Mr. Redmond on behalf of the Nationalists, of Mr. Wyndham, on behalf of the Government, and of Mr. Blake and Mr. Healy, all approving of the position in which the Estates Commissioners were then placed. The present Prime Minister spoke in the debate, but did not say one word in disparagement of or express the slightest dissent from what had been said, Mr. Redmond, speaking on the Second Reading of the Bill on 25th March, 1903, said—This can hardly be considered a thoroughly satisfactory tribunal: one unsuitable man, one suitable man, and one unknown man. However, I heartily congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the fact of its being a non-judicial tribunal. Nothing could do more harm to this measure than the impression that it would be run by any of the 'old gang,' whose conduct we are not allowed to discuss on the floor of the House of Commons. I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has made a departure in that respect, and that the officials will be servants of the Government whose conduct can be discussed on the floor of the House of Commons.On 1st July, 1903, in Committee, when a Motion had been made to put the other Commissioners on a footing of exact equality with Mr. Wrench, Mr. Wyndham, then Chief Secretary, and speaking on behalf of the Government, expressed himself thus—During the long conferences which preceded the introduction of the Bill and on almost every clause, he had laid the greatest stress on the administrative character of the new Commission. That the new Commission should be of an administrative character was not merely his personal opinion, it was an integral part of the policy of the Government. He could not have persuaded his right hon. friend to sanction the use of large public funds for purely executive work, except upon the basis that those who administered them were in a very real sense executive officers, subject, on matters of policy, and in the economic and proper use of its funds, not only to the control of the Government, but to the criticism of the House. That placed an initial bar in the way of giving to the Estates Commissioners a tenure which would be to all intents and purposes a judicial tenure. If they had such a tenure the fact of their salaries appearing on the Votes would not place them in the position of executive officers.744 Mr. Blake, Mr. Healy, and Mr. Dillon all expressed themselves thoroughly satisfied with that; and the result was that Section 23 of the Act of 1093 provided that the Estates Commissioners should do as all civil servants and military servants of the Crown prima facie did, namely, hold their offices at the pleasure of the Crown. But they had this additional protection—that that pleasure was to be expressed by order of the Lord Lieutenant, which was to lie upon the Table of the House forty days, and if any person moved an Address in the interim it could be acted upon. Now that tenure it appeared, was not good enough. He-did not know why they should wish it to be strengthened, unless indeed it was in reference to the discontent of the 5,000 claimants who might be rejected, and who probably would show anything in the world but confidence in the decision of the Commisioners. He thought that in some of his observations the noble Earl had said that these Commissioners had a judicial rather than an administrative position. In one sense, that was true, but in nine-tenths of its application it was absolutely incorrect, The duties of a Judge they had not; they did judicial acts, no doubt; but, what was a judicial act? A judicial act might be roughly defined as being not necessarily an act done by Judges, but an act done by competent authorities, on consideration of the facts and circumstances, imposing liability upon, or affecting the rights of, other people. There was not a single magistrate who did not do judicial work; there was not a single arbitrator appointed under the Lands Clauses Act, the Housing of the Working Classes Act, or the Allotments Act who, in deciding upon questions of compensation, did not do judicial work, which was a "judicial act." There was not a single auditor appointed and engaged in auditing the accounts of Poor Law guardians and other such bodies who, in certifying as to charges to be made against certain bodies, did not do a judicial act. But who ever suggested that these auditors, these arbitrators, and these magistrates should hold their offices during good behaviour and be irremovable except upon an Address by both Houses of Parliament? The great virtue, no doubt, of the Judges 745 of the superior Courts was that they were removed from the influence of hope and fear by having a permanent tenure. But the great merit of an executive officer was that, although he was an officer who no doubt would tender advice to a superior, nevertheless, as regarded that superior, he would have no will or opinion of his own, but would suppress himself and carry out loyally and faithfully the wishes and policy of his Ministerial superior. From what the noble Lord had said, one would fancy that these Estates Commissioners were engaged the greater part of their time in doing judicial work; but nineteen-twentieths of their duties were administrative. What really were their duties? They bought estates; they sold estates; they improved estates; they built houses and made roads; they made grants to individuals; they divided farms, and regulated peat-bogs; and they settled boundaries. Let the HOUSE imagine two Estates Commissioners settling a peat bog and saying, "We don't care what anybody thinks; we don't care what the Lord-Lieutenant may think; we think so-and-so, and, though it may make a commotion in the district, we will adhere to our decision." If they were honest in that decision, and if, carried away by egotism or vanity, or influences of that sort, they honestly decided something, even though that decision was against common sense, prudence, reason, and justice, they could not be removed under the doctrine laid down with regard to the irremovability of Judges. They could buy estates at any price they pleased, and they could make grants and loans to evicted tenants; and, at a time when there might be financial pressure, they could spend millions and millions of money. And, if called to account, they could turn round and say, "We are irremovable, we cannot be removed except we are guilty of misbehaviour, and misbehaviour is intentional wrongdoing. We are honest in our opinions although everybody thinks them nonsensical; and we cannot be disturbed." Up to now, he had assumed that Section 23 of the Act of 1903 did not apply. It must either apply or not apply. If it did not apply, it placed the Commissioners in an absurd position. But the absurdity did not end there: they were 746 members of the Land Commission; and, as members of the Land Commission, which was a great spending body, they were bound to account to the Treasury. But, while they were bound to account to the Treasury, they might disregard the wishes of the Treasury. In addition to that, if Section 23 of the Act of 1903 did not apply it placed them in an absurd position for any executive officer. If it did apply, their position was, if possible, more ridiculous. For, while they were to be under the control of the Lord-Lieutenant, he could not disturb them without an Address to the Crown. They were to act according to his regulations, but they might disregard his regulations; and if they disregarded his regulations honestly believing that those regulations were illegal, they might be in a position of absolute defiance of the authority whom they were bound to obey. The truth of the matter was that, while executive officers were removable and justly removable on the ground of want of discretion, want of prudence, want of common sense, and want of ability to carry out the organisation or efficiently to discharge the duties of their office so as not to cause delay and irritation—while all those were reasons for their removal, they were no reasons at all for removing a person with the tenure of a Judge. Notwithstanding their enormous administrative duties, the millions of public money they had to administer, and the thousands of public money they might lose in administration, because they were quite entitled to distribute a million in free grants to tenants and in improving the tenants' lands they were to be placed absolutely beyond the control of the Ministry—or of the Chancellor of the Exchequer who represented the Ministry—under whom the money was spent. Their position was extremely secure. They held, no doubt, at pleasure, but the pleasure could only be expressed through the medium of an Order of the Lord-Lieutenant which was to lie on the Table of the House of Commons for forty days; and, if any attempt were made by the Government to bring undue pressure to bear upon them, they were perfectly safe, and their tenure was quite secure enough to protect them from any undue interference, while at the same time the Government of 747 the day were responsible for their acts and must find the money to carry out the engagements into which they entered on behalf of the State. He therefore submitted that they were amply protected; and he begged to move that the clause be omitted, and that the Estates Commissioners be left as they were with a tenure which had been well considered, which everybody approved, and against which, as far as he knew, there never had been any objection.
To leave out Clause 13."—(Lord Atkinson.)
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
That is a question which in one sense is by no means an easy one, although it is a tolerably simple one. I think every Member of the House will agree that if the Estates Commissioners are really executive officers there is much to be said for the contention of the noble and learned Lord. On the other hand, if they are to be regarded in any substantial degree as judicial officers, it seems equally to stand to reason that the change proposed by the Bill can also be defended by argument. As the noble and learned Lord has told us, Section 23 of the Act of 1903 states what the position of the Estates Commissioners is. They hold office during pleasure, and they are only liable to be removed by an Order in Council, which has to be laid on the table of either House for forty days, and does not come into effect if an Address is carried against it. It stands to reason that under some circumstances that is no protection at all against administrative pressure. If the Estates Commissioners for any reason displeased the Government of the day at a time when both Houses represent the same political views, the Estate Commissioners are done for—they have no safeguard in either House of Parliament. Under the present circumstances I quite admit it might be different. If we desired to remove the Estates Commissioners I have no doubt your Lordships would desire to retain them. On the other hand, the position of a County Court Judge is, as your Lordships know, held during good behaviour. He is only 748 liable to be removed for distinct misconduct. The question, therefore, really arises, to what extent are judicial duties imposed upon the Estates Commissioners by the Act of 1903, and to what further extent are they imposed by the present Bill? I quoted the other day some observations of Mr. Justice Meredith, and I will not trouble the House with them again, because the noble and learned Lord alluded to the fact of my having done so, and fully admits that to a certain degree and in a certain sense the Commissioners do exercise judicial functions. But he considers that their administrative functions hold such a larger place in their duties that they ought to be treated in the main as being administrative and not judicial officers. I think it is perfectly true that so far as regards the occupation of their time a larger part of it is taken up by administrative duties than by anything that can be called judicial duties. On the other hand, even as it is now, their judicial duties are of importance, and to a certain extent, I think, would warrant their being treated as judicial officers. But that becomes very much more the case under the present Bill—less, perhaps, as the Bill has been amended by your Lordships, but still to a very considerable extent they will be exercising judicial functions under this Bill. The position is made, of course, more difficult—as, I think, noble Lords opposite will agree—by the position of the other Land Commissioners, who are separately treated; and also the fact that one of the present Commissioners is irremovable, although he comes under Parliamentary criticism, to a certain degree adds to the difficulty of arriving at a conclusion in this case. Certainly we never should uphold for a moment the notion that the Commissioners should be free from Parliamentary criticism, and, as your Lordships know, by an ingenious device, as far as Mr. Wrench is concerned, that state of things was arranged by putting a certain part of his salary on the Votes. We think that we are entitled to say that it is important, in the exercise of their functions, that the Commissioners should be absolutely independent, and it stands to reason—it is verbally as well as 749 actually true—that if they are dependent on the Government of the day they cannot act in an independent manner. I do not want to dwell upon a very unseemly and unpleasant episode to which my noble friend (Lord Hemphill) has already alluded—the fact that a letter was written to one of the Commissioners in terms of which I am quite certain noble Lords opposite do not approve, although we have not had, I think, any expression of opinion from any of them on the subject. But when officers of that description who are executive, and all the more when their functions are partially judicial, are exposed to attacks of that kind, it is not altogether surprising that we should endeavour to protect them so far as we can in the exercise of functions which I am afraid cannot tend to make them entirely popular, and which might place them in the exceedingly unpleasant position of having to choose between compromising their official career altogether at some future day and doing something which they believed to be unfortunate or wrong. Under these circumstances I am afraid I cannot agree to the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
supported the Amendment, which he considered a very important one. He did not think the argument of his noble and learned friend had been met by the reply of the Lord President of the Council. He had not gathered that the noble Earl denied for one moment that these gentlemen were in a position which was entirely new in the annals of gentlemen performing functions such as theirs. He proposed to put them in the position County Court Judges. He had the greatest respect for all County Court Judges, and he recognised the tenure of their position, which was that their conduct could not be challenged, because, very rightly, they did not come upon the Votes. The noble Earl had alluded, in somewhat sneering terms, he thought, to the arrangement by which the head of the Land Commission, Mr. Wrench, had his salary increased in order that his actions might be criticised. He did not for one moment blame the noble Earl for making that statement, but at the same time he thought the Government 750 with which he was himself at that time associated was perfectly justified in giving Mr. Wrench that increase of salary in order that his conduct could be criticised if necessary. But His Majesty's Government were now taking a totally new departure. They were proposing to put gentlemen who were in a position to a certain extent like that of Mr. Wrench in a position which precluded them from being criticised by the House of Commons for any of their actions. He was the last person to say one word of a derogatory character with regard to any civil servant; he had had too much experience of civil servants not to have the highest possible appreciation of them and of the difficulties under which they laboured in not being able to defend themselves. But when it was proposed to change entirely the status of these gentlemen, he would say the Government were not supported by opinion in Ireland, and certainly not so far as those members of the Judicial Bench whose names were well known to their Lordships were concerned. Some time ago—he thought it was during the time that the late Government were in power—they found that Mr. Finucane did not hesitate to criticise the action of the Lord-Lieutenant. He declared that the Lord-Lieutenant had no right to deal with the question of intimidation with regard to the conduct of the Commissioners in letting land to tenants or to people who had been guilty of intimidation. He believed Mr. Finucane made the statement that the Lord-Lieutenant had exceeded his rights. He was at a loss to know why Mr. Finucane should criticise the action of the Lord-Lieutenant in regard to the regulations which were passed under the Act of 1903. He believed he would be justified in going a little further and saying that a well-known Judge in Ireland (Mr. Ross) had declared that the claims of these Estates Commissioners to have a judicial status was nothing more nor less than absurd. Under these circumstances, viewing the matter not from the layman's point of view merely, but also from the point of view of the Judge and from the ordinary point of view, he considered that to give these gentlemen a status absolutely unknown previously was an action on their Lordships' part which he did 751 not think would be justified by anyone who carefully considered the matter. His noble and learned friend (Lord Atkinson) had pointed out the great difficulty they were confronted with in giving these gentlemen that status, and he hoped that before their Lordships rejected the proposal of his noble and learned friend they would very carefully consider the matter.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not question that this is an important point, but it is after all a very short and simple one. These Estates Commissioners are gentlemen who partake of a judicial character, or at least, if this Bill is passed, they will partake of a judicial character, and it seems to me that they already do. They unquestionably also partake of an administrative character. They have to deal with peat-bogs, as the noble and learned Lord has said, and that is hardly a judicial function. They stand in two separate relations. As a rule you have those two separate functions jealously kept asunder, but apparently in Ireland—and I suppose we may expect it elsewhere, too—those functions are mingled. So far as their administrative functions are concerned, it is no doubt desirable not to have fixity of tenure, but so far as their judicial functions are concerned, fixity of tenure is desirable. I do not know how you are to deal with the amphibious animal betwixt and between. The reason why we think these gentlemen are to be treated as pre-eminently authorities of a judicial rather than of an administrative character is that under this Bill their functions are liable to be particularly invidious, and to expose them to a great deal of obloquy and pressure. Naturally it is a question upon which differences of opinion may be expected, but if I had to form an opinion upon any one circumstance, it would be the last circumstance adverted to by my noble friend (Lord Crewe.) When any gentleman in a position such as I have described is liable to receive bullying and offensive letters threatening him with consequences in the event of a change of Government—I do not wish to use any epithets, but I merely remind your Lordships of the possible effect of putting a man not only in a position in which no person ought to place another, but also into a position 752 in which it is very difficult for him to carry out impartially so much of his duties as are concerned with judicial functions.
* LORD CLONBROCK
said he had no intention of addressing their Lordships upon the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord, because it dealt with aspects of the matter about which he did not pretend to know anything. But he had been anxious from the beginning to know what reason was to be given for this change. It appeared from what had fallen from the noble and learned Lord Chancellor, and from the Lord President of the Council, that the change was proposed owing to the fears of gentlemen that in the exercise of their duties they might receive unpleasant letters. Allusion had been made to a certain letter. They all knew of the letter, and it was in his opinion excessively ill-judged. He in no way wished to defend that letter, and the only excuse that could be made for it was that it was a private letter, from a private Member of Parliament, that it was never intended to be made public, and it could not be supposed for one moment that any future Government would be guided by the fact that such a letter was written, or by its sentiments. It had never been the case that on any change of Government officials occupying positions such as those of the Estates Commissioners had been removed without due cause and reason shown. No Government would do such a thing. If the Estates Commissioners were to be exposed to all this obloquy, and were so sensitive to it, he thought they ought to be grateful to that House for the efforts that had been made to-night to limit their sphere of action, for they would now be able to say "It is not our fault; we could have exterminated all the planters and driven them into the Shannon, or at least, over it, we could have taken all the most cherished possessions of the landlords, if it had not been for the unprincipled conduct of the House of Lords."
THE EARL OF MAYO
said he would like to ask one question with reference to what the noble Earl had said—that the Estates Commissioners were dependent 753 upon the Government of the day. If they were to be the same as County Court Judges, could the Lord-Lieutenant make regulations with regard to them—because he believed he could not make regulations with regard to the County Court Judges.
§ LORD HEMPHILL
thought they must all admit that the present Bill imposed very important judicial functions upon the Estates Commissioners. Whatever their status was under previous Acts, it was clear that under the present Bill they were to determine whether or not a particular case was a proper one for the application of the very strong compulsory powers conferred by the Act of Parliament. That in itself was unquestionably a judicial act. The determination of their own mere motion of the price that was to be paid to the owner of the land for the land taken from him was also a judicial act of the greatest importance. Therefore, he thought it was in vain to quibble about words, or to discuss whether the fact that they had to estimate the value of a peat-bog for a particular purpose was or was not applicable to the consideration of the present clause. Undoubtedly most important judicial functions were imposed upon the Estates Commissioners by the Bill. That being so, did not the ordinary principle, upon which the greatness and security of the administration of the law both in England and in Ireland depended, apply—namely, that a good Judge must be independent of both sides in any question upon which he had to decide. Judges, after all, were only human, and if pressure was put by the Ministry of the day—he did not mean to say any particular Ministry would stoop to such a thing, but by the particular Party in power—if the Party in power happened to be a landlords' Party and pressure was put upon, and hints given to, the Judge that he should consider how far the interests of landlords should be preserved, or if on the other hand, a Party—say the Nationalist Party—was in power, and pressure was brought to bear by the Nationalists that they should deal with a liberal and generous hand with the tenants, was it not placing a Commissioner in a position in which no one deserving the name of a Judge, or exercis- 754 ing a judicial function, should be placed? That used to be the case with regard to the County Court Judges about whom so much had been heard. For nearly 100 years they were removable, but when their powers were increased and their jurisdiction extended, they were placed upon a footing with the superior Judges, and made irremovable, except upon Addresses from both Houses of Parliament. That had been found to work a certain inconvenience, because with regard to either the County Court Judges or the superior Judges, no matter how old a Judge became, no matter how he might have lost the faculty of memory, or of sight, or of hearing, there was no power to remove him except by an Address from both Houses of Parliament. His noble and learned friend, who was conversant with everything connected with the history of the law in Ireland, knew that there were instances within living memory in which attempts had been made to drive Judges of the Superior Court off the Bench, and they had failed, because the House of Commons would not vote the Address. To obviate that, there was a provision introduced later with regard to County Court Judges, and that was the reason why County Court Judges were introduced into the present clause, which enabled the Lord-Lieutenant in Dublin in Council, on the certificate of the Lord Chancellor that a County Court Judge was physically or mentally incapable of discharging his duty, to remove that Judge without going to Parliament. Both his noble and learned friends could mention to their Lordships a case in which that power was exercised, and where a County Court Judge was moved because unfortunately he became mentally incapable of discharging his duties. That was the reason why the Judges of the superior Courts were not mentioned in this particular Bill, but that Judges of the County Court were. Apart from all precedent—throwing overboard altogether what was done in other Acts of Parliament—appealing to the tribunal of natural justice, which was a tribunal that never erred or failed—gentlemen who were entrusted with the discharge of such important duties as the Bill proposed to entrust these Commissioners should be placed beyond the suspicion of partiality, and should be 755 put upon the footing of Caesar's wife. No matter how upright and pure they were, there should not be a breath of suspicion, even emanating from a Member of the House of Commons, that Mr. Commissioner so-and-so was the landlords' friend or that Mr. Commissioner so-and-so was the tenants' partisan.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I shall give my vote to my noble and learned friend behind me, upon the ground that, although these gentlemen have duties both of a judicial and an executive character, the executive duties are those which seem to me to be largely preponderant. I think we may fairly say that the result of what has already been done in the way of amending this Bill has been to diminish pro tanto the importance of the judicial functions which will belong to these gentlemen. I do not think that in this country we are strangers to the idea of officials who hold high executive posts and who also have judicial work thrown upon them but who are nevertheless not irremovable. Am I wrong in thinking, for example, that, let us say, the President of the Board of Education, or the Commissioners of Inland Revenue have duties which may fairly be described as of a judicial complexion? But I am not aware that it is thought necessary to render them irremovable, except for gross misconduct. I rise, however, at this moment mainly because I want to emphasise one observation which fell from the noble and learned Lord opposite (the Lord Chancellor). He dwelt upon the fact that in Ireland it was by no means uncommon to see judicial and executive work performed by the same set of people. I am afraid I must say that that is, to my mind, one of the most unfortunate features of our agrarian legislation for that part of the United Kingdom. It is because you have, all over the country, men who have really not had any judicial training, who have no judicial attainments, and who are yet placed in the positions of Judges, able to dispose of interests the importance of which may be measured not by thousands but by millions of pounds, that the whole system of our agrarian legislation in Ireland has become liable to that cloud of suspicion which has 756 never ceased to surround it from the unfortunate day on which it was first set on foot. As I have said, I shall vote for the Amendment, as I regard these officials as mainly executive officers.
said he desired to give, not his own opinion on this point, but that of a very distinguished member of the Party opposite, a noble Lord who was a great authority on questions of land tenure in Ireland and an even greater authority, perhaps, on questions connected with the fiscal policy of this country—he meant Lord Robertson. When he was speaking in the debates of 1903, he then appeared to be under the impression that the Estates Commissioners should be treated as a judicial body, and required some protection. He would like to quote to the House what Lord Robertson said on that occasion—As to the other protection he pointed out that the Chief Secretary had emphasised that the Estates Commissioners would not be a judicial body which could stand up against the storm of public opinion, but it would be under the control of the Lord-Lieutenant, which meant under the control of the Government of the day. Therefore the Commissioners were exposed to the direct current of political influence, which might be adverse to the interests of a class whom Parliament was bound in honour to protect.That was the opinion of the noble and learned Lord in 1903, when he had felt that the Estates Commissioners might be attacked for giving protection to the planters. He hoped that the noble and learned Lord's opinion had not changed since. He confessed that he would be rather interested to see how he voted upon the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Atkinson. He (Lord Denman) did not profess to be able to live up to the ideal of a pattern Liberal which the noble and learned Lord had laid down the other night; but he had his own ideas of political consistency, and if the noble and learned Lord went into the lobby against the Government upon this point, he confessed that he would have no faith in political consistency left.
THE EARL OF MAYO
said he would like an answer to the question he had put. As he had said before, the Estates 757 Commissioners were dependent upon the Government of the day. Could the Lord-Lieutenant, who also was dependent upon and appointed by the Government of the day, make regulations for these Commissioners when they had the same tenure as a County Court Judge?
§ construction of the Act of 1903. I should suppose that the Lord-Lieutenant will issue regulations so far as regards their administrative functions but not so far as their functions are judicial.
§ On Question, whether Clause 13 should stand part of the Bill, their Lordships divided:—Contents, 30; Not-Contents, 127.759
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Allendale, L.||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Haversham, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. President.)||Castletown, L.||Hemphill, L.|
|Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]||Lyveden, L.|
|Ripon, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Courtney of Penwith, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Deaman, L.||Pirrie, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Ribblesdale, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Craven, E.||Fitzmaurice, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Portsmouth, E.||Glantawe, L.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Granard, L. (E. Granard.) [Teller.]||Weardale, L.|
|Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.||Welby, L.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Wicklow, E.||Deramore, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Desborough, L.|
|Richmond and Gordon, D.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Digby, L.|
|Wellington, D||Falkland, V.||Douglas, L. (E. Home.)|
|Falmouth, V.||Dunalley, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Goschen, V.||Dunboyne, L.|
|Camben, M.||Halifax, V.||Dunleath, L.|
|Hertford, M.||Hampden, V.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Hill, V.||Estcourt, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Faber, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)|
|Albemarle, E.||Abinger, L.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Bandon, E.||Addington, L.||Inchiquin, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Kelvin, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Ampthill, L.||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)|
|Cawdor, E.||Annaly, L.||Kensington, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Ardilaun, L.||Kenyon, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Ashbourne, L.||Kesteven, L.|
|Darnley, E.||Atkinson, L.||Langford, L.|
|Dartrey, E.||Balfour, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Derby, E.||Barrymore, L.||Leconfield, L.|
|Devon, E.||Basing, L.||Leith of Fyvie, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Lovat, L.|
|Belper, L.||Ludlow, L.|
|Egerton, E.||Borthwick, L.||Lurgan, L.|
|Lindsey, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Macnaghten, L.|
|Londesborough, E.||Carew, L.||Massy, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)||Middleton, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Castlemaine, L.||Muskerry, L.|
|Morton, E.||Cheylesmore, L.||Newlands, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)||North, L.|
|Northesk, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Onslow, E.||Clonbrock, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Plymouth, E.||Cloncurry, L.||Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.)|
|Romney, E.||Colchester, L.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Saint Germans, E.||Collins, L.||Rathdonnell, L.|
|Scarbrough, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Rathmore, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||De Freyne, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||De L'Isle and Dudley, L.||Robertson, L.|
|Westmeath, E.||De Mauley, L.|
|Sanderson, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)||Templemore, L.|
|Sherborne, L.||Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)||Ventry, L.|
|Sinclair, L.||Talbot de Malahide, L.||Waleran, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 14 and 15 agreed to.
§ After Clause 15:—
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON moved to insert the following new Clause:—"Nothing in this Act contained shall prejudice or affect the rights, priority, interests, or claims of the vendors and purchasers of lands whose agreements for the sale thereof under the Land Purchase Acts have been lodged with the Land Commission, and advances in respect of which have not been refused, to have the said agreements carried out, and the purchase money payable thereunder duly paid, and the land purchased duly vested in the purchaser." He said that he rose with no intention whatever of making any Motion to embarrass the Government in the position in which they found themselves with regard to the payments which might become due under this Bill, but he thought it due to the House that it should know in some way how it was proposed to deal with the very large sums at present outstanding. He did not suppose that any Government had ever found itself, in recent years, in the position in which His Majesty's Government were to-day. At present under the Land Purchase Act of 1903 there was a sum of £30,000,000 for which agreements had been lodged and which might become, and was rapidly becoming, payable, and which, in the opinion of the Estates Commissioners, was likely to be payable at the rate of £10,000,000 per annum. Then, under the present Bill, it was assumed that 2,000 evicted tenants would be replaced in their holdings and that probably £2,000,000 purchase money would become payable. One could not help asking in what priority this large payment was to be made. Of course, it was perfectly possible to take the view to some extent which had been taken by his noble friend on the cross benches who had put off his Amendment till the Report stage. He had argued that, if the land was taken compulsorily, the money should be forthwith lodged, 760 and that no further step should be taken till the man from whom the laud was compulsorily taken had been duly paid. On the other hand, however, there had been agreements involving £30,000,000 made under the Act of four years ago. All of those agreements so far as they knew were valid and were merely waiting for the formal steps to be taken to prove the title and for the other necessary evidence to be forthcoming. His Majesty's Government were bound to pay for all of those not in stock but in cash at the moment of completion. It was hardly germane to the subject, but he personally had no agreement lodged under the Act of 1903, so that so far as he knew he would not find himself in any way touched by this Bill when it became an Act. At the same time, he felt that, as a matter of right and justice, they ought the know what were the views of the Government with regard to financing the two Bills. They stood to-day in an unequalled position for asking the question. He believed that unfortunately the credit of the Government sunk lower on Saturday than it had ever done in the memory of most of those sitting in that House. He believed it was the sad truth that the credit of the Government stood lower for the first time than that of one or two other Powers. Therefore, in regard to the actual financing of this Bill, borrowing would be a very serious measure, for borrowing at anything like the present price of 81 or 82 would involve such a sacrifice of capital that the funds on which the authors of the Bill of 1903 relied would be exhausted within twelve months. The fact, however, remained that the wolf was at the door, and, unless they were prepared to take some steps the financing of the Act of 1903 could not be carried out. What would be the effect of that? He was not thinking only of the landlord. Of course, it was very unfortunate for the landlord who had signed an agreement to part with his land that the capital should be hung up for several years. That had been the case with many landlords, and it was the case with landlords who had 761 large mortgages out at 4½ per cent. and who only received 3½ per cent. from the Government. They were not only actually out of pocket, but unable to pay off their mortgages. That was a hard position for them to be placed in. Again, the tenants themselves were not unduly favoured. Every tenant after filing his agreement paid a certain sum in interest, and that sum was 5s. per cent. heavier than he would pay the day the capital was settled. He therefore need hardly put it to men of experience like noble Lords opposite that this state of affairs in which both parties to the bargain were heavy losers was one which could not continue indefinitely without causing unrest and disquiet. That unrest and disquiet would be largely increased if it was found that their £30,000,000 of agreements were kept waiting whilst £2,000,000 available cash was used for the purpose of reinstating evicted tenants, on terms infinitely more favourable than the purchasing tenants had been enjoying, in holdings from which they were evicted under circumstances which Lord Inchiquin had described in his own case with great effect. He knew it was said that at the moment of completion they might find the necessary cash, and that what was wanted was the actual completion of the agreements, but the Commissioners, whose evidence had been so often alluded to in the course of the debate, had made it perfectly plain that they could not carry through the agreements without delay unless they were given the proper staff. That staff was not given to them, and there was, therefore, the certainty that existing agreements must be still further postponed. He was sure he need only invite it from the Lord President to extract from him some information with regard to this matter. He had put down his Amendment which he believed represented the justice of the case. He did not believe any man, landlord or tenant, who had come to terms and had signed an agreement under the Act of 1903, ought to have his power of completing the agreement postponed by any action their Lordships might see fit to allow under the Bill. There would inevitably be a very grave postponement 762 unless the Government were able to announce some financial provisions of which they had not yet heard. He moved his clause in the hopes of hearing some explanation.
To insert as a new clause: Nothing in this Act contained shall prejudice or affect the rights, priority, interests or claims of the vendors and purchasers of lands whose agreements for the sale thereof under the Land Purchase Acts have been lodged with the Land Commission, and advances in respect of which have not been refused, to have the said agreements carried out, and the purchase money payable thereunder duly paid, and the land purchased duly vested in the purchaser.'"—(Viscount Midleton.)
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I will do my best to satisfy the very natural curiosity of the noble Lord, although I am afraid he may not find my reply as complete as he would wish. There are two sets of people who are concerned directly in these transactions, viz., the Commissioners and His Majesty's Treasury. The Commissioners have to deal with three different kinds of things. They deal with the ordinary class of agreement under the first three sections of the Bill, and then they have to deal with cases where they themselves acquire estates under Section 6, and the Land Judge cases under Section 7 of the Land Act of 1903. They proceed with these three classes of cases concurrently. The noble Viscount talked about insufficient staff. The cases which I understand are the only ones in which noble Lords opposite are really interested are those in which there are agreements between landlord and tenant. So far as those are concerned, the Estates Commissioners are over-staffed. The twenty-one sub-Commissioners they have are entirely competent to deal with those cases as fast as they can be brought to maturity. It is only owing to the cases where they themselves are acquiring estates and also to some extent to the prospect of their having to deal with cases under this Bill that the fourteen other Commissioners are all kept on. If it were not for that fact it would not be necessary to retain the extra fourteen. That is quite apart from those whose term 763 of work came to an end, as noble Lords opposite will remember, on 1st August this year. When the noble Viscount talked about priority, I wondered what was exactly in his mind. A case may be prior in the sense of its having been agreed upon at on early date, but it may take a very long time to mature. In the meantime other cases are being dealt with, and they may in a sense pass one in front of another. The whole set of transactions are dealt with rather as matters are dealt with in a solicitor's office. It is a great mistake to think of these cases as if they were of a person ordering a coat, or a pair of trousers, having the garment made, completed, and sent home. The fact is a great number of these transactions are going on at the same time, and it is extremely difficult to say which can be regarded as prior to another. It is important to bear that in mind, because there is, I think, no little confusion on that point. The priority is to a great extent relative, partly owing to the fact that inspection takes longer in some instances than in others, and particularly to the fact that proof of title is a very much longer affair in some cases than in others. That is so far as the share of the Estates Commissioners in the transactions is concerned. Then you come to the Treasury. The early part of the noble Lord's speech rather gave the House to understand that there were a number of outstanding cases for which no money was forthcoming. That is not so. There is no case outstanding in that sense. There has never been a case of purchase which could not be carried through because there was no money to do it. The Treasury have made provision for all cases which can possibly come forward this year. The noble Lord spoke of the exceedingly low point which our national funds reached on Saturday last. I do not think he was correct in saying there are any funds of another country which can possibly be compared with ours which stand at a higher rate than ours do; at least, I should await the name of the country with interest—that is to say, the name of any country whose funds are on the same footing as our funds are. That, 764 however, is a mere passing observation. The Treasury, as I say, have so far refused no advances, and they hope they will be able to place themselves in a position which will prevent their keeping anybody waiting for money when the cases are carried through. I think it is at any rate safe to say that much, and it is really all that concerns us in the present Bill. I am not able to give the noble Lord much information as to the future working of the Act of 1903, which after all is an entirely separate matter; but, so far as this particular measure is concerned, I can tell him, I think quite categorically, that the transactions under it, if the Bill becomes law, will not retard or in any way interfere with, so far as the Treasury is concerned, any transactions under the Act of 1903. The whole matter is going to be very carefully looked into this autumn in view of the notorious facts to which the noble Viscount has called attention, and I have no doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer as soon as he can will tell the country, noble Lords, and anybody else interested what provision the Treasury propose to make for dealing with the undoubted difficulty which has arisen under the Act of 1903.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
said he quite realised the satisfactory nature of the assurance they had just received from the noble Lord, but he would like him, if he could, to make it a little more definite. Of course, it was quite possible to say nobody would be deprived of what was due to them under the Act of 1903, if, after it was passed, the Commissioners proceeded to deal with questions under this Act. Were they, however, to understand that no precedence would be given to applications of evicted tenants already lodged under the Act of 1903? And could they take it as an assurance from the Lord President of the Council that whatever money was needed for cases which became complete before Parliament met again would be provided by the Government? They quite understood that during the autumn the Government were going to review the whole situation, which was a very difficult one, and that they would 765 probably submit proposals, but might they understand that in the meantime steps would be taken to prevent the delaying of those applications which had already been made—those made before 1st May—and that precedence would not be given to applications made under this Bill?
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I will reply as categorically as I can to the noble Viscount. I understand it is the intention to carry on these transactions absolutely concurrently with the other sort of transaction. I do not see how, after the explanation I gave of the way in which the business of the office is carried on, I can put it higher than that. As regards the point of the Treasury Funds, all that I have been authorised to say—I will inquire whether any further assurance can be given—is that the Treasury have arranged to meet all claims made upon them up to the end of the year, but whether that means the financial year or the calendar year I confess I do not know.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
There is just one point I should like to have cleared up. The noble Earl told us a moment ago that no instance could be cited in which, when a case had been properly investigated, the money had not been forthcoming. I take it from him that that is so, but what many of us have been led to believe is that there has been a great deal of delay in investigating cases on account of insufficient staff. That is the way in which the delay which has given cause for so much dissatisfaction has arisen.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
said he noticed that the noble Earl, in the course of his remarks, stated that the Estates Commissioners' branch was overstaffed. If he was right in his recollection, Mr. Finucane had stated that they were understaffed and 766 that if they had a larger staff they could have passed a good many more cases through the Courts. He was at a loss to reconcile this statement with that of the noble Earl. He merely wished to reiterate what had been said by his noble friend, Viscount Midleton. There was considerable anxiety in Ireland as to the manner in which the provisions of this Bill were going to be carried out. He had told their Lordships that at the present time there was to some extent a block in the carrying out of the provisions of the Act of 1903. Both landlords and tenants were suffering in consequence, and they therefore contended that these cases ought to have precedence over any other cases. He certainly understood the difficulty with regard to the Treasury, but he thought they ought to have the assurance that the provisions of the Act of 1903 would have precedence over any provisions in this Bill. Whatever was done in regard to this Bill ought not to interfere with the agreements entered into under the Act of 1903, the delay in regard to which was causing great damage to the owners and occupiers. How did the noble Earl reconcile his statement with that of Mr. Finucane?
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I will explain that. What I said with regard to over-staffing was that so far as the transactions which particularly interest noble Lords opposite were concerned—that is to say the ordinary agreements—I understood that the staff is entirely sufficient to cope with them. Concurrently with these, however, the Estates Commissioners have been carrying on that considerable transaction under Section 6 of the Act of 1903 by which they have acquired untenanted land themselves. When the noble Lord asks whether these transactions are to be postponed, the answer is "No." What we say is they will be carried on concurrently.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.767
§ Proposed schedule—
|Particulars of Decisions and Returns.|
|COUNTY.||Name of Estate on which former holding is situate.||Name of Tenant.||Townland on which former holding is situate.||Date of Eviction.|
|Annual rent of former holding at date of eviction (as stated in tenant's application).||Annuity payable on purchase holding.||Expenditure sanctioned out of Reserve Fund.||Area.|
|Advances repayable as part of Land Purchase Annuities.||Free Grants not repayable.||Former Holding.||New Holding.|
|Buildings and other improvements.||Buildings and other improvements.||Stock, farm implements.||Compensation to outgoing tenants on surrendering holdings.|
§ Standing Committee negatived: The Report of Amendments to be received on Thursday next; and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 168.)