HL Deb 27 June 1907 vol 177 cc52-5

I am indebted to the noble Lord (Lord Harris) for allowing me to address the House before him. I beg to ask His Majesty's Government the question that stands in my name—namely, whether any regulation carrying out the pledge given by the Lord President of the Council on the 5th June last, that in cases of sale of estates "persons guilty of intimidation shall not obtain any allotment on that estate" will be framed, and when its terms will be published.


My Lords, it would have enabled me to save the time of the House if the noble Lord in framing the question which he has placed upon the Paper had quoted the words which I used instead of placing upon the paper the interpretation which he has put upon those words. The words used by me were used on the occasion of the debate of 5th June last, and I had been describing what had happened with regard to the proposed regulation under which estates upon which intimidation was alleged to have taken place should be held up, so to speak for purposes of sale and purchase, and placed lower down upon the list in order to punish those in the neighbourhood who had been guilty of intimidation. I pointed out that this plan might operate very hardly in some cases—and in fact had so operated— upon landlords and tenants, and I went on to say— If we are to have a remedy of that kind, I think the proper remedy is not to stop the sale of the estate, but to see that persona guilty of intimidation do not obtain any allotment on that estate; and that is the course which I am led to believe is likely to be pursued. Well, my Lords, that does not amount, if the noble Earl will forgive me for saying so, to a pledge to issue a regulation on that subject. What I had in my mind when I made that statement were observations made in this connection by the Estates Commissioners. Now one of them said, in adjudicating upon a particular case— If the Estates Commissioners find that an applicant for an advance is a notoriously bad character, or a disturber of the peace, or a per son who has himself exercised intimidation upon others, they may, in exercise of their discretion decide that ho is not a person to whom they should make an advance for the purchase of a "parcel" of land vested in, or acquired by, them, and we have already announced our intention to exercise our discretion in that direction." Now that is what I had in my mind when I made the observation in question, and I am bound to say that I am not prepared to go further to-day. We do not think it would be reasonable (and I do not think the Estates Commissioners would be willing to undertake the duty) to lay upon the Estates Commissioners an absolute obligation to decline under any circumstances to give any allotment of land to a person who merely in public opinion has been guilty of intimidation.

Now I think we all agree that it would be a most improper thing if the class of persons mentioned by the Commissioner in the observation which I have read were to receive an allotment of land, but I do think that in that matter it is quite possible to trust to the discretion of the Estates Commissioners, because after all a great deal must depend upon the circumstances of the case. I confess that I for one—it is only my own personal opinion—should not be prepared to say that a man who had joined in a mob which had hooted an unpopular grazier, should therefore for all time be debarred from obtaining any allotment of land in the neighbourhood. I think it is conceivable that there might be cases in which much ill-feeling would arise in consequence of what would be really dealing out hard measure because of what had happened in times of excitement, so that it would not be desirable to make an iron rule on the subject. On the other hand I am convinced that the discretion of the Estates Commissioners can be fully trusted to see that in cases where any serious intimidation or guilt of any kind in connection with this matter has been proved against an individual, a black mark should be placed against his name, and I believe that that would act as a most valuable deterrent in a great many cases. I am not at all sorry that the noble Earl has raised this point, because I feel that its being generally known that the Estates Commissioners strongly desire, and are disposed, to take that course, will be of great value in helping to maintain order in these disturbed districts.


I do not propose to discuss this matter at all, but what I would point out to the noble Earl is this—that the reason my noble friend's question was put down was owing to both my noble friend and myself pressing him in the debate for information as to what instructions the Estates Commissioners had received following the speech to which he himself has alluded, because the noble Lord said that he would make a statement again, we did not press the question. I hope we shall hear from him what instructions were given, because the reason we both raised the question was this—that the noble Earl spoke in no uncertain terms in your Lordship's House as to the course he proposed to take, and with his opinion I most cordially concur, but he must remember that the Chief Secretary had a good many questions put to him upon this subject in another place, and that he fenced—


May I interrupt the noble Marquess? The Question was put in the other House by a supporter of the boble Marquess in a form which contained a modified allusion to what I had said in this House. Now in the other House they are very strict in matters of order, and the Speaker would not allow the Question in the form in which it was framed, because it was out of order in that it alluded to what I had said here.


Would the noble Earl tell us whether the Estates Commissioners have any means of obtaining information as to persons guilty of intimidation, and who would, therefore, according to the pronouncement we have heard, be held ineligible for grants of land? Are the Estates Commissioners, for instance, in any sort of relation to the police authorities, and do the police authorities make it their business to communicate with the Estates Commissioners before the latter make allotments of land?


I understood from what has fallen from the noble Earl that it is the desire of the Government to withhold allotments of land from this class of tenant, and he went on to say that they had announced their intention of doing so. Would he mind informing me and the House where and how they had announced that intention?


In reply to the noble Marquess, he will see that it is difficult to answer a Question of that kind when one is not in the Department concerned, but I imagine that when a disturbance of this kind has arisen the facts are perfectly well known to the Estates Commissioners, and bearing in mind that they have announced their intention of dealing with such cases in this particular way, no doubt they take steps, through the medium of the constabulary, to find out who the guilty persons are; but I will inquire of my right hon. friend whether any means can be devised of bringing this matter to their notice.

With regard to the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Killanin, it was made in the case of an estate in Tipperary.




The noble Lord wants the date. It was the 17th January, 1906.