§ House again in Committee (according to order).
§ [THE EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]
§ Clause 35:
§ 35. The Land Commission, where interest on the purchase-money of any holding is payable to them, shall have for the recovery of such interest the same remedies as they have for the recovery of unpaid instalments of a purchase annuity, and in addition and without prejudice to those remedies, may, if they think fit, exclude from the estate any holding in respect of the purchase-money of which one year's interest is in arrear.
§ LORD ATKINSON moved to leave out all words after the word "annuity." He could not imagine what malignant imp could have been near the Chief Secretary or whoever drafted the Bill to influence him to put these words in the clause. There were at present some scores of thousands of agreements made between landlords and tenants, and fifty-two millions of cash would be required to finance them. Landlords had in most cases dealt with the entire estate and had sold to their tenants. If the cash was not forthcoming to finance agreements like those, the purchaser paid interest on the purchase money pending a completion of the agreement, and the vendor received that interest. Under this clause the Land Commission were taking increased powers to recover interest as it accrued. The lines in the clause which he proposed to strike out enabled them, if any tenant fell into arrear with his annuity, to tear up his agreement and throw him back with his holding on the hands of his landlord. Take the case of a landlord who sold his estate that had probably thirty tenants on it for a sum of £30,000. He would not be likely to get it for ten years, and the Land Commission would collect the interest. If one of the tenants did not pay, in place of selling him up, back he was landed on the landlord's hands. What was the landlord to do? As a matter of fact the landlord could not make a new agreement, or if he did it was a future one, bringing in only three per cent. He could not conceive any one having the primordial notion of primitive justice suggesting a procedure of that kind. He would wait for something to be urged in its favour, for nothing was urged in its favour in the other House. The only argument that he heard of being used was that the landlord should be allowed to do his dirty work himself. But the landlord had 909 carried out the policy of the Act, and because the debt was not paid the tenant was to be thrown back on the landlord's hands and the agreement torn up. It seemed that the moment a man refused to pay his debts all human vices were supposed to be centred in any one who asked for payment, and credit was invariably given to the man who failed to discharge his obligations.
In page 17, line 17, to leave out from the word 'annuity' to the end of the clause."—(Lord Atkinson.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
This clause to which the noble and learned Lord takes such strong exception is intended to place a somewhat further power of pressure in the hands of the Estates Commissioners in cases where tenants do not pay interest. The noble and learned Lord argues—and I do not say without cause—that it would be a hardship in such a case to throw back the tenant who would not pay on the landlord's hands. On the other hand, it would be, I suppose, generally agreed that it is a hardship on the State to have to take over such a man as an annuity-paying tenant. The cases in which this particular power would be exercised would, I take it, be extremely rare, and it is, of course, an optional power. But our view is that it would enable a somewhat severe screw to be placed upon the tenants for the payment of interest in those cases where they fall into arrear. As a matter of fact, I believe it is the case that interest all over Ireland is very punctually paid, but there are certain exceptions, and it is desired to place a somewhat sharper weapon in the hands of those who are concerned.
§ *LORD ASHBOURNE said he had a similar Amendment on the Paper. He had listened to the reply of the noble Earl with attention, but he did not think the noble Earl had given any explanation or defence of this clause. He quite understood the earlier part of the clause, which gave the Laud Commission powers over a defaulting tenant who had omitted, after he had been freed from rent, to pay interest in its place. He believed that to be the present law, but no doubt that had been considered by the competent draftsmen in the Irish Office, and doubtless they had come to the conclusion that this drafting was better than in the Act of 1896. He did not 910 quarrel with that if the Government thought this part of the clause better in drafting, but the latter part of the clause was a new power proposed to be given to the Land Commission. The position was that if tenants on an estate did not pay their interest, instead of applying their existing powers to compel them to pay, the Government said to the unfortunate owner who had sold, "True, we made a contract, but now the tenants have made default. We will have the estate without these bad people upon it. You must take them back and deal with them as you may." What was the justification for that? He had listened most attentively to the noble Earl, as he always did, but the noble Earl did not in this case make his bricks as well as he did sometimes; the reason was he had so little straw. But take the thing quietly. Supposing a contract was made for three or four years, and the landlord had gone away. He might have died, and been succeeded by his son or those to whom his property would otherwise go. The hardship would be great. The noble Earl said these would be rare cases. If so, there would be the less hardship in striking this extraordinary proposition out of the Bill. If they were to be only rare cases, was it worth while making such a monstrous and unjust proposal? The noble Earl said it was to put the screw on. It would put the screw on, but the screw on whom? What right had they to put the screw on the landlord? He had completed his contract and done all that they required to do. The screw was not a screw on the tenant at all. The landlord would have no power to do anything, whereas the tenant was brought from a position of inconvenience to a position of comparative velvet. He was released from his obligation to the Land Commission and handed back to his landlord who could do but little. It would be a waste of time to point out the further injustices of this clause. He believed it was impossible to give priority to the injustices to be found here and there in this Bill, but he knew of nothing more glaring than this part of Clause 35 which his noble and learned friend and himself sought to omit.
§ *THE EARL OF MAYO pointed out that under the existing law the Land Commission had full powers to collect the arrears. If the tenant did not pay his arrears of rent, the farm was put up for sale. They all knew the wish for land in Ireland, and 911 there was not the smallest difficulty in getting a tenant to buy; but he had to pay the arrears before a conveyance of the land was made out to him, and the Land Commission was quite safe. This clause was really a screw on the landlord, who was landed with a tenant who had not paid his debt to the State. Such a tenant ought to be dealt with under the present law and the land put up to public auction. That was a simple way of dealing with it. The Land Commission had powers already to deal with it by public sale or civil action in the High Court. Why should the landlord suffer because this man did not pay his debt to the State? Surely landlords had suffered enough already from tenants who had not paid their rents, and if a man did not pay interest on his purchase the land ought to be put up to public auction in a country, where there was what was commonly called a land hunger.
LORD ATKINSON said he would be the last in the world to depreciate the persuasive eloquence of the noble Earl the Leader of the House, but he thought this clause would be too much for him. The noble Earl's first argument was that there was no harm in giving this power to the Land Commission because they would never exercise it. What did King John say?—
How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done.
§ His noble and learned friend Lord Ashbourne had already dealt with what was called the screw. There could be no stranger way of punishing a man for being in debt than by putting the screw on the creditor. That was what was proposed. The extraordinary thing about this proposal was that the landlord could not recover the interest from the tenant. The body who could recover the interest were the Estates Commissioners, and because they would not recover it they put the tenant back on the landlord. The landlord would be glad to recover the interest if he could, but they had taken the power away from him. This was the most vicarious enactment he had ever heard of.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I think we are really entitled to some answer to the powerful arguments advanced from this side of the House. The noble Earl said that in his view the procedure under this clause would be very rarely resorted to.
912 Our memories carry us back to other proposals made from time to time with regard to Irish land, and I can recall no harsh proposal that has not been extenuated in this House by assurances that the thing we anticipated would very rarely take place. The hardship conceivable to a vendor in cases of this kind at a time when perhaps he had no longer an agent, when he thought he had cut himself completely adrift from his former position, would be intolerable.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Why are His Majesty's Government afraid of relying upon the obvious remedies which lie ready to their hand? It is perfectly easy for them. Supposing one of these tenants makes default although he has no excuse for making default, because we all know that his instalments fall very much below what he formerly paid in rent. Surely the remedy would be that his holding should be sold, and that he should make way for somebody with more punctual habits. May I say that if these opportunities did present themselves they would be invaluable opportunities for His Majesty's Government to acquire land for the relief of congestion, and I should have thought they would have jumped at such an opportunity. I shall vote with my noble friend in this matter unless some further explanation from His Majesty's Government is forthcoming.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 35, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 36 to 38 agreed to.
§ LORD ATKINSON proposed to insert a new clause relative to the presumption of release of unpaid rent in certain cases. He said this was a clause which he had been asked to introduce. It was placed on the Paper in the House of Commons by Mr. Healy and was intended to meet a particular case. The effect of the Amendment was that, in cases of purchase under the Land Purchase Acts, where rent had not been paid for a period of twenty years it should be taken to have been released, so that the superior interests might be measured by the amount of rent actually paid, and not by the amount of rent originally reserved and not paid. He was 913 not keenly attached to the Amendment because he did not think many cases of the kind arose in Ireland; but he did not see what possible injury could be done to any parties, directly or indirectly, by accepting the Amendment.
After Clause 38, to insert the following new clause:
'.—(1) Where any land sold under the Land Purchase Acts is subject to any rent reserved under a lease, and no payment on foot of such rent has been made for a period of twenty years prior to such sale, such rent shall, for the purposes of such sale and the distribution of the purchase money, be deemed to have been released.
(2) Where portions of any such rent have become vested in different owners, this section shall apply to any portion of such rent as if it was a separate rent.
(3) Where any rent is deemed to have been released by virtue of this enactment, the purchase money of the land sold may be distributed without regard to the reversion on the lease under which such rent is reserved, or such proportion of the said reversion as is represented by the portion of the rent deemed to have been released."—(Lord Atkinson.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD LOREDURN)
My noble and learned friend was kind enough to send me a letter yesterday containing an outline of his suggestion, but I did not see the Amendment he has put on the Notice Paper until to-day. The principle that he seeks to maintain is that you ought not to treat as subsisting, for the purpose of hindering the carrying out of a purchase, a charge which though in law is still unextinguished is yet practically obsolete and could not be collected, so that it only stands as a hindrance in the way without being operative to benefit anybody. A principle of that kind, of course, everyone who wants to facilitate business would be willing to recognise; but there is a consideration which will be present to all who are familiar with the working of Statutes of Limitations. This is, in effect, a species of limitation, and you ought to be very careful to safeguard the interests of persons under disability such as minors, lunatics, and persons whose whereabouts are not known. I might suggest that a difficulty, to begin with, is that one does not want to say anything final upon such short notice. It may well be that if the principle be accepted restrictions and provisos will have to be considered and inserted in the clause. Therefore I would suggest this to my noble and learned friend, that we should look into it between now and Report. If we find there are 914 some objections to the principle, it will be necessary that certain alterations should be made in its application.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 39:
§ 39.—(1) Where any land purchased by means of an advance under the Land Purchase Acts is settled land within the meaning of the Settled Land Acts, 1882 to 1890, the trustees of the settlement may, on the request of the tenant for life notwithstanding anything in the settlement, to the contrary, invest the purchase money or any part thereof, in the following manner (that is to say):-
- (a) With the sanction of the Public Trustee—
- (i) In any of the public stocks or funds or Government securities of any foreign government or state, or
- (i) In the mortgages, bonds, debentures, or debenture stock of any railway in the United States of America, Mexico, the Argentine Republic or Canada, which has, during each of the five, years last past before the date of investment, paid a dividend on its preference stock (if any) or its ordinary stock;
- (b) And without such sanction—
- (i) In the mortgages, bonds, debentures, or debenture stock of any railway company in the United Kingdom incorporated by special Act of Parliament which has, during each of the five years last past before the date of investment, paid a dividend on its preference stock (if any) or its ordinary stock, or in the preference stock of any such railway company which has, during a like period, paid a dividend on its ordinary stock;
- (ii) In the stocks or shares of any tramway or light railway, dividends upon which are guaranteed under the Tramways (Ireland) Acts, 1860 to 1900; or
- (iii) In the stock, mortgages, bonds, debentures, or debenture stock issued or to be issued by the council of any county or urban district in the United Kingdom under the authority of any Act or Provisional Order;
§ (2) The Public Trustee, in any case in which his sanction is required for an investment under this section, shall, before sanctioning the investment, satisfy himself that there is a reasonable probability that the investment will, if realised on the death of the tenant for life or the termination of the trust, produce an amount not less than the sum invested; and the Public Trustee shall not incur any liability on account of any sanction given or withheld by him in good faith.
§ (3) The powers of investment conferred upon trustees by this section shall be in addition to any powers of investment conferred on trustees by the terms of the settlement or by Act of Parliament, and such last-mentioned powers may be exercised notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the settlement.
§ (4) A trustee shall not incur any liability by reason of any investment made by him in exercise of the powers conferred by this section.
§ (5) Subsections (1), (2), and (3) of Section 51 of the Act of 1903 shall cease to have effect.
§ Drafting Amendment agreed to.915
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
This clause, as your Lordships will see, admits with considerable freedom foreign securities for the purposes of investment, and as such, I believe, is generally welcomed. But it is thought desirable in certain cases to limit the class of securities in which there is power to invest, because some foreign railway companies issue obligations which are merely promises to pay. Therefore they are not secured, and we do not think they form a suitable subject for a trustee's investment.
In paragraph (ii), after the word stock' ["in the mortgages, bonds, debentures, or debenture stock"] to insert the words 'charged upon the undertaking,' and after the word 'railway' to insert the word 'company.' "(The Earl of Crewe.)
§ LORD ASHBOURNE said that this Amendment was favourably regarded by everyone who considered how they could get a substantial income out of their purchase money. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had mentioned in the House of Commons that he had taken a good deal of counsel on this, and he (Lord Ashbourne) had heard that there was a question regarding debentures on United States railways as to whether they were covered by the same general considerations. as the debentures on railways in foreign countries. The Chief Secretary said he would consider that. Was this alteration of the clause intended to cover that?
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
Yes; the point is that these so-called debentures are merely promises to pay and are not secured in the way which we associate with the term debentures in this country, and it is not thought that such obligations form a proper subject for trustees' investments.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Drafting Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 39, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 40 agreed to.
§ Clause 41:
§ 41.—(1) The Estates Commissioners may make proposals and enter into negotiations—
- (a) For the purchase, under section six of the
916 Act of 1903, of any estate not situated in a congested districts county, notwithstanding that an application has not been made to them by the owner under that section;
- (b) For the purchase, under section eight of the Act of 1903, of any untenanted land not situated in a congested districts county, whether required for the purposes mentioned in that section or for the purpose of re-sale to any persons to whom parcels of land may be sold under this Act.
§ (2) For the purpose of enabling the Estates Commissioners to ascertain the boundaries, extent, and character of any estate or untenanted land which they propose to purchase and to estimate the price to be offered for the same, any inspectors or other persons appointed by the Commissioners may, after notice sent by post to the person who appears to the Commissioners to be the owner thereof, enter upon the estate or untenanted land and make all such inquiries and do all such things as may be necessary for the purpose aforesaid.
§ *LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD had an Amendment on the Paper providing that the Estates Commissioners, in negotiating for land, could call for prescribed particulars from persons interested in the estate. He said that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Atkinson, had an Amendment down to leave out Clause 41 altogether, and he thought it would be more convenient for their Lordships, and more convenient for the noble and learned Lord, if he (Lord MacDonnell) refrained from moving his Amendment now and made the observations which he had to make after Lord Atkinson had proposed his Amendment. The observations he had to make would be made in no critical spirit whatever upon the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord.
§ LORD ATKINSON moved to leave out Clause 41. He said that later he would propose to leave out Clauses 42 and 43, and if it was convenient he proposed to deal with the whole of them on the same occasion, because his objection was one of principle.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
If I may interrupt the noble and learned Lord for one moment, I should like to say that I have considered this point carefully. It seems to me quite impossible to discuss the question of compulsion except as one question. It is impossible to deal with it clause by clause, and therefore I hope the noble and learned Lord will enter as fully as he can into this question of compulsion.
§ LORD ATKINSON said that was a specious invitation which he would decline 917 for this reason. In his objection to this clause he claimed the support of noble Lords whether they approved of compulsion or disapproved of it altogether, or approved of it in a modified form limited to certain purposes and carried out by effective machinery through the agency of independent men. He claimed the support of all upon the principle upon which he objected to these clauses. They were entirely unnecessary for compulsion, and proof of that was found in the Small Holdings Act of 1907, with which the noble Lord was so familiar and of which he was so proud, and with the operation of which he was so satisfied. They had compulsion there. A county council, if it wanted to take land, had the power to take it; but there were in this Bill no preliminaries of the kind provided in the Small Holdings Act. His objection to these three clauses was on the one broad principle that they were attempting to set up compulsion by a system of public odium and hostility instead of by law. If the Commissioners wanted to take land compulsorily, they could do it as any other public body did. Let them publish a notice that they were going to take it, have the parties interested served with the notice, appear before some tribunal, and let the value of the land be assessed by some independent body.
§ How would these clauses operate? The Commissioners would pounce on some man's land, whether he liked it or not. There was a provision that they might enter into proposals. They might propose to purchase an estate outside the congested districts, and he noticed, by the way, that the same power was given to the Congested Districts Board. They might go upon that land and inspect it and do anything they liked. They could make all inquiries and do all such things as might be necessary to make up their minds whether they would take it or not. If the landlord said, "You are only taking part of the land, and injuring what is left," he could appeal to the Land Commission to induce them to take the land that would be injured. He supposed that had some remote analogy to the power that existed under the Lands Clauses Acts to prevent a man taking only a part of a house by compulsion. Having done that, if the negotiations failed they then made a final offer, and unless it was accepted, compulsion was put in force. If there was to be compulsion it should 918 be under the ordinary law on the same system adopted in the Lands Clauses Acts, the Small Holdings Act, and the Town Planning Bill. They could follow any one of those methods, but this was a method of compulsion by public odium.
§ What would happen in the West of Ireland if these clauses became law? Any noble Lord who did not know Ireland could not appreciate the effect of these provisions. Daily they were heaping up upon the Estates Commissioners different duties. The result was that all these powers which were given them were not performed by the Estates Commissioners at all, and they had to have a whole tribe of officials and underlings who really carried them out. The great agitation in Ireland was that there should be sales, not to the tenants direct, but to the Estates Commissioners because they could parcel land out as they got it amongst the landless men. Under this clause an official would be sent down to go upon the estate and inspect it. It would be perfectly well known that he was there and what price was offered for the land. What would be the position of the landlord if he did not agree to the terms? He would be the subject of moral compulsion because he would be held up to public odium and hostility. He might be boycotted and subjected to all kinds of annoyances and be treated as a man who, when the Commissioners were ready to give a fair value for his land, refused to take it. If they did take a man's land from him they ought to do it under the protection of a legal tribunal and arrange a way to give him adequate compensation to be fixed by independent men. They should not make him an object of hatred amongst his fellowmen on account of what they would regard as his obstinacy in refusing to sell his land.
To leave out Clause 41."—(Lord Atkinson.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I confess I see a certain difficulty in discussing this question on the lines laid down by the noble and learned Lord, because it does seem to me somewhat anomalous and unusual to attempt to discuss the manner in which a particular public body is going to carry out its duty of compulsory purchase before you have decided whether you will admit the principle of compulsory purchase 919 at all. The noble and learned Lord proposes to omit these three clauses—Clauses 41, 42, and 43—and he must discuss the question of compulsory purchase when he comes to Clause 43. It is practically the only opportunity he will have during the Bill, as far as I can see, for if these clauses come out it is clearly useless to consider the fourth part of the Bill at all, because the clauses after Clause 60 merely provide the manner in which purchase is to be carried out by the Estates Commissioners when they have exercised the powers given them under Clause 43. Therefore I find it a little difficult, I confess, to discuss the point raised by the noble and learned Lord, because I did not clearly follow what sort of machinery he would wish to bring into play, assuming for a moment, as I am bound to assume if we are to discuss the question, that he admits even by way of hypothesis, the possibility of compulsory purchase. The noble and learned Lord mentioned the Small Holdings Act applicable to this country. Does he want to bring into being in Ireland parallel machinery of that kind to purchase land by a public body with an appeal to a central authority? You have the Estates Commissioners there carrying out the purchase of land and it seems to me hardly conceivable if you are going to have compulsory purchase that you can leave the Estates Commissioners out of the business altogether. Who is going to decide what estate is wanted and on what evidence? Who is going to make the preliminary inquiry if it is not the Estates Commissioners? The noble and learned Lord supplied no answer to those questions. In no country can you lodge a demand to buy a piece of land compulsorily without some kind of information beforehand—
§ LORD ATKINSON
How do the county councils do it under the Small Holdings Act? There is no such inquiry by them. They have no inspection of this kind at all.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
What they do is this. They first try, as the Estates Commissioners would first try, to acquire the land by voluntary agreement, and that having failed they apply for compulsory powers. That is exactly what it is suggested that the Estates Commissioners should do. The noble and learned Lord's argument is that a sort of extra compulsion is put upon landlords by being held up to public dislike, if after it is known that a 920 particular piece of land has been inspected it is not sold. But there must have been in the past, and I should think there will be in the future, other cases in which the Estates Commissioners have looked at land, and found, for instance, that it did not suit their purposes for some reasons, and therefore they have not gone on with the negotiations. How when these preliminary negotiations are taking place is it to be known that in the last resort the Estates Commissioners will be prepared to exercise compulsion in respect to this particular piece of land? The Estates Commissioners, I take it, are always looking at land. Some they want and some they do not want, and therefore, if the landlord goes about saying, "I do not want to part with this land, but I believe the Estates Commissioners are going to take it from me," in such a case he has only himself to thank if he is held up to public odium. The transaction would be of an ordinary kind where land was being inspected by the Estates Commissioners with the possible intention to purchase. I confess I do not see where the public odium comes in, and if it is seriously the contention of the noble and learned Lord that land to be acquired in these very difficult and delicate circumstances by the Estates Commissioners for the relief of congestion must be bought without inspection by anybody, it seems to me the introduction of compulsion at all becomes hopeless; and I confess I do not see how the proceedings are to take place at all. I once more appeal to you whether it would not be simpler to arrive at some preliminary conclusion as to whether compulsion can be admitted in any circumstances and on any terms to relieve any difficulty, because if not it is a pure waste of time to discuss questions such as this.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY said he had heard the noble Earl's last remark with satisfaction, because he thought they were straying a little from the main principle of this clause, which was the whole question of the compulsory sale of land in Ireland. On this very important question they in Ireland felt very strongly. The question was whether compulsory powers should be given for the taking of land in districts outside the area of congestion. In his opinion it was needful that the Government should show, before the powers were granted, that there was a real need for them, and that it was impossible to get land except by compulsion.921
§ He maintained that the Government had no right to ask Parliament to grant these powers when there was land available to be acquired by voluntary means. There was a great deal of land which might be acquired by voluntary agreement, but the real reason why it could not be obtained was that the Treasury had no money available for its purchase.
§ The noble Earl had told them that at the present moment agreements had been come to between owners and occupiers of land to the extent of no less than £56,000,000. Therefore to ask their Lordships to pass a Bill to take land compulsorily when the Government had not paid for land which they could have acquired voluntarily was asking their Lordships to take a step which required considerable explanation. The first duty of the Government, like any other debtor, was to pay money that was due; therefore their first duty was to pay off those fifty-six millions which had been voluntarily agreed to on terms approved by the State before they asked their Lordships to pass a Bill to take land compulsorily. He understood from the noble Earl that instead of devoting the whole of the money that had been voted for the transfer of land it was proposed in this Bill to take a certain amount of money from what should go to the paying off of that fifty-six millions and devote it to taking land compulsorily. That was an extraordinarily strong measure for any Government to propose, and he hoped before the debate on this clause concluded they would have some satisfactory reason given for that course by the Government.
Throughout the debates on this Bill noble Lords opposite had declared that it was not their intention to take public money to expropriate the owners of property compulsorily. The Government had declared—both the noble Earl the Leader of the House and the Lord Chancellor had stated it—that they desired to encourage in every possible way the voluntary transfer of land between landlord and tenant. But would this clause go any distance to carry out those views? It would not. It would, on the contrary, almost kill the voluntary sale of land in Ireland. Would any seller of land take stock of a depreciated character when, if his land was taken compulsorily, he could have hard Cash? That in itself was an answer to noble Lords opposite when they declared
their desire to encourage voluntary sales. The noble Earl the Leader of the House had said—
The last thing we desire to bring about is the general endowment of compulsory purchase.
But the compulsory purchase clauses were capable of general application. What he could not gather from the Government was why they would not put their intentions, as shown by the noble Earl, into words in their own Bill and let their Lordships know what they really meant and how far they intended this question of compulsory purchase to be taken. The Government had told them that they meant compulsion to be exceptional. Was that the view of the Government's supporters in Ireland? He did not think that the Nationalist supporters of the Government in the House of Commons would endorse the view put before their Lordships by the noble Earl. The noble Earl had also told them—
If you desire the purposes for which and the occasions upon which compulsory powers should be employed to be stated there is no objection to these powers being limited by some reasonable definition.
What was that reasonable definition? They had never had it in another place, and they had not, so far as he could gather, had it from any member of the Government in their Lordships' House. He trusted that any member of the Government who replied to him would state specifically what was meant by these powers being limited by some reasonable definition.
What they had heard from the Government with regard to this matter was very vague and very plausible, but he would like to see in black and white and put into the Bill what they meant. The noble Earl had stated in one of his speeches that these compulsory powers were to be used on "cantankerous landlords." He supposed the noble Earl meant those landlords who would not agree to give away their land for nothing. But the noble Earl did not give them the number of these cantankerous landlords, and unless cases could be given where land could not be obtained except compulsorily, they should not give heed to the question of taking land compulsorily in Ireland. He denied that compulsory sale was absolutely necessary. He maintained that it was not wanted at all, and it was the duty of the
Government to give specific instances of cases where this extreme step was to be taken before their Lordships acceded to their request. He would quote what Mr. Birrell had said in another place—
For many a long day to come the cash at the disposal of the Estates Commissioners will be so small as to render it most unlikely that they will put into operation those compulsory powers.
Therefore the rejection of this clause at the present moment, according to Mr. Birrell, would be a very small matter. But it would be a very big matter indeed if they allowed, under this Bill, a system of compulsion which would act most injuriously on the whole question of land sale and purchase in Ireland.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE OF BRANDON said the noble Earl in charge of the Bill had suggested that it would be well to enlarge the scope of the discussion on this clause for the purpose of considering the whole question of compulsion. But this clause itself did not contain compulsion, though it did contain some provisions which might be necessary if they had compulsion. There were portions of this clause which might be objected to even by those who advocated compulsion. He would like to ask the Government two questions. Although, as the noble and learned Lord had pointed out, some portions of this clause might be considered of an inquisitorial character, the earlier part of the clause, paragraph (a), seemed to him to be not open to an objection of that kind. That paragraph seemed merely to give the initiative to the Estates Commissioners, which they did not now possess, for commencing negotiations with the owner of a property which they wished to acquire. He confessed he saw no objection to that. The next paragraph might be too wide, and he imagined that the concluding words might admit landless men, to which he should certainly object. Taking paragraph (a) as a whole, it might be necessary to amend it, but he confessed it did not seem to him to be open to the rather sweeping condemnation that the noble and learned Lord passed on the clause as a whole. As to paragraph (b), it seemed, as he said, to be of an inquisitorial character, and he should have thought that a less objectionable means of approaching the owner and acquiring the information desired might be inserted.924
§ *LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD confessed that he regarded this clause pretty much in the same light as his noble friend Lord Monteagle. Under the Act of 1903 the practice had been that the Estates Commissioners were not to take the initiative in matters of purchase and sales with landlords, but were to await an application from the landlords to sell. He knew from practical experience that that was the attitude which the Estates Commissioners assumed when the Act first came into operation, but as time passed on and the desire of landlords to sell became more manifest the Estates Commissioners abandoned in certain cases that attitude of aloofness and did make proposals in certain cases to landlords. He thought that the object of this clause was to legalise that state of things, and to empower the Estates Commissioners to approach landlords instead of waiting for the landlords to approach them. He might be wrong; but he did not necessarily connect with this clause the idea of compulsion. From that point of view he thought, with his noble friend Lord Monteagle, that paragraph (a) of the clause was not open to serious objection; but he agreed with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Atkinson, that the second part of the clause called for certain amendment, and that it was desirable, if inspectors and other officials were sent in to an estate, that the consent of the owner should be asked for, and that the owner should be at liberty to say "No, I do not want to have my estate looked into." He had known instances in which landlords in Ireland had offered to sell their estates but objected to having inspection made, because if inspection was made it became known to the tenants generally that a sale was in the air and consequently there was a tendency to hold back rent and so on, and the general arrangements and management of the estate became somewhat complicated. He had had personal experience of that. Some noble Lords now listening to him had sold their estates, directly dealing with the Congested Districts Board on those terms. The Board were able to assure themselves as to what the circumstances of the estate were and to make an offer on the basis of such knowledge, and the transactions were amicably carried through.
He thought the intention of the noble and learned Lord was to object to this obtrusive-
ness on the part of the Estates Commissioners and to make their action dependent upon the acceptance by the owner of their wish to send in inspectors. If the clause could be reconstructed to give that meaning it would be better. He had a modification of it which would probably meet the wishes of the noble and learned Lord and their Lordships. He had drafted a sub-clause to be substituted for the subclause in the Bill as follows—
If the owner of a property agrees to enter into negotiations the Estates Commissioners may, for the purpose of ascertaining the boundaries, extent, and character of any untenanted land which they propose to purchase and to estimate the price to be offered for the same, call for the prescribed particulars from the owner or other persons interested in the estates and may depute any inspectors or other persons appointed by them to enter upon the estate or untenanted land and make all such inquiries and do all such things as may be necessary for the purposes aforesaid.
There the deputation of inspectors would depend entirely upon the consent of the owner. If he did not like them to inspect his property he would say so, and there would be no inspection. If he agreed to inspection—and there was not much objection in his experience when there was a desire to sell and to buy—then this procedure could reasonably be adopted, and this clause might pass without touching upon the great question of compulsion which came in under Clause 43.
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY said the objection lay to paragraph (b) of this clause. He gathered that Lord MacDonnell objected to that; but was there any necessity for further legislation on the point if they deleted subclause (2) which enabled the Estates Commissioners to send down and inspect? Was it necessary either to give them permission to open negotiations with landlords with regard to the sale of their estates? What he meant was, could not negotiations be entered into without further legislation? It was a quiet arrangement between the purchasing authorities and the vendors, and it seemed to him that nothing was required in the Bill to enable them to open negotiations. But to give them legal powers to go down and inspect was a very different matter. He suggested that if subclause (2) of the clause was taken out there was no further reason to enlarge upon the question.926
§ LORD ATKINSON said he desired to understand Lord MacDonnell's Amendment of this clause which was not on the Paper. As far as the owner of land was concerned if he consented to the Commissioners going down to inspect no legislation whatever would be required. But this might be possible and it was necessary to guard against it—a tenant might cause annoyance and might refuse to allow the inspectors to go upon his farm. The only necessity for the clause then would be to enable them to go upon the land and examine it.
§ LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD
And to call for the prescribed particulars from the parties interested. They could not do that unless they had legal authority.
§ LORD ATKINSON said they could ask for the particulars, but to say that they ought to get power in all cases to demand that the particulars should be furnished did not seem to be entirely necessary. With regard to the consent of the landlord, surely if the landlord had sent for the inspector he would only do that because he wanted to sell, and, of course, he would give the inspector all reasonable particulars to enable him to form an idea of the price he would offer. He could see no use whatever for the clause except for the purpose of arming the Estates Commissioners with powers against an obstinate tenant, who might take advantage of his position to prevent them going on the farm.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I think it will be, perhaps, for the general convenience if I say a few words now on the more general question which the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, admitted lies behind this clause and the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord who has moved its omission. And it lies behind it ior this reason, that unless some form of compulsion is introduced into the Bill even subsection (1) of this clause Would not be a very necessary measure. The noble Lord on the Cross Benches, Lord Monteagle, pointed out that it might be a convenience to the Estates Commissioners to enter into negotiations with a landlord in the first place, instead of waiting for a landlord to enter into negotiations with them. And no doubt even without the possibility of compulsion there might be some convenience in that course, although I do not think it would be a very great matter.
927 The noble Earl, Lord Shaftesbury, asked whether that could not be done at present. I think the reason it cannot be done at present is that the Act of 1903 specifically empowers the landlord to make the first advance, and if the Estates Commissioners were to make an advance they would run the risk of being told to mind their own business, and it is conceivable that they might not desire to place themselves in that position. I think it cannot be disputed that subsection (2), to which exception has been taken, has been inserted here as part of the necessary machinery in cases where compulsion had to be brought into play. That is quite clear, and it was in consideration of that fact that I originally suggested that it was necessary now in some degree to face the whole question, at any rate so far as it is concerned with compulsion outside the congested districts. Lord Atkinson saw that quite clearly when he said, very truly, that supposing there was merely a matter of agreement between the Estates Commissioners and the landlord for inspection subclause (2) clearly ought to come out.
The noble Marquess opposite has asked why it is that we are asking for compulsion in any degree outside the congested districts, and he repeated once more the fears which were expressed on the Second Reading that the effect of the provisions of the Bill would be to make compulsion the rule and not the exception. I endeavoured then to point out how strong the arguments were against that assumption. The noble Marquess said that hon. members from Ireland were in favour of compulsion, and, undoubtedly, they are in favour of the principle. But I have never seen anything said by an Irish member which would lead me to suppose that they are in favour of a general system of expropriation by cash payments in the manner provided by this Bill. It stands to reason, as I ventured to point out before, that nobody who supports this Bill can be in favour of general compulsory purchase, because general compulsory purchase involves payment in cash and cash only, and, therefore, the whole of our financial provisions and the hopes that we founded upon them must fall to the ground if a general system of compulsory purchase is instituted.
The noble Marquess next asked what is the need for compulsory purchase of land, at any rate outside the congested districts. We have had some considerable discussion on the question of migration, and certainly 928 a great many of your Lordships opposite took the view that if it were possible to do so it would be desirable to acquire land outside the congested districts for the purpose of placing some of the inhabitants of the congested districts on economic holdings. What is the prospect of obtaining land for that purpose? The noble Marquess said that there was a great deal of land—apart, I suppose, from that which was pending for direct sales—which the Estates Commissioners might get and which they were not able to get because they could not pay for it. But it does not, I think, follow, even if that be so, that all that land is the particular land which the Estates Commissioners might require for their purpose. We have some evidence of the difficulty which the Estates Commissioners have found in the past of obtaining the kind of land which they want for their particular purpose. In the Return which they made in 1907 of their proceedings up to May 31 in that year in respect of persons applying as evicted tenants or their representatives for restoration to their holdings, it is stated that the Commissioners approached 1,752 persons who were shown in a Parliamentary Return as being the owners of untenanted land with a view to ascertain whether they were willing to sell such land.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I do not know. It is a Return of 1907, and is numbered Cd. 3570. Of these 1,752 persons so approached 579 failed to reply; 265 refused to sell; 156 stated that they were themselves about to institute proceedings for sale; 273 replied that their land was worked by themselves, and in the case of 120 correspondence was still pending; 260 intimated their willingness to sell, and of these only 147 had furnished particulars of the land. In forty-one of those 147 cases an estimated price had been given to the owners, who had, in ten cases, comprising an area of 4,846 acres, replied that they were willing to sell at the estimated price, and formal proceedings for sale had been begun. In nine cases refusals were received, and replies were being awaited from the remaining twenty-two. That was untenanted land that was required for these particular purposes. It is true that the Estates Commissioners had at that time pro- 929 ceedings pending on no less than 80,000 acres of untenanted land which they required for the enlargement of small holdings and turning them into economic holdings, and which were situated in the immediate neighbourhood of the land. Those figures are not, I think, very hopeful, and they certainly do tend to show that in a considerable majority of cases application on the part of the Estates Commissioners either meets with no reply or with a direct refusal.
As we are considering this whole question it is important to note the next clause, Clause 42, which was inserted in another place and which gives a very real safeguard to those whose land may be taken compulsorily. It is founded on the analogy of what takes place under the Lands Clauses Act—namely, that where a piece of property is required for public purposes and is taken compulsorily, the owner may, in certain circumstances, demand that the whole property should be taken. I think noble Lords will see that in this particular case of the proposed compulsory taking of land for certain purposes the safeguard is one of the highest value to landlords, not merely because it prevents the best parts being picked out of an estate, but also because, unless the whole of the property involved is of a character which suits the special purposes of the Estates Commissioners, it cannot be taken at all. The noble Marquess asked, "Is compulsion necessary? There is no doubt that the Estates Commissioners can get some kind of land. It will not be wanted, at any rate, for some years; therefore do not pass this clause now." I wonder whether that is an argument which would appeal to noble Lords opposite. If you are going to have compulsory powers some time, is it not an advantage to close the question now when you are dealing with the whole matter in a large Bill of this kind, rather than to leave the matter open—open, if you like, to agitation, and with the admission that you must come to it someday, but that it is not necessary this year, or possibly next year, because there is some land available? I confess that argument does not appeal to me. So far as you can deal with the whole question in an Act of this kind, I believe that to be of the greatest advantage. The relief of congestion, as we have already stated, is one of the main reasons for which these powers are demanded.
930 Then there is the case of what I ventured to call the "cantankerous landlord," whom the noble Earl, Lord Dunraven, described, I think, as a landlord who refused out of "pure cussedness." The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, said you must not be surprised at a man refusing if you want to take his land for nothing. That, no doubt, is perfectly true. But will he deny that there exists a considerable number of persons who have announced that they will not sell at any price? And on this question of the occasional need for compulsory purchase I should like to ask the noble Marquess a question. He is very fond of putting questions himself, and I will ask him one. What about the views of those members of Parliament who represent that part of Ireland with which he is most connected? Is it not the fact—certainly there is a majority, there may be one or two exceptions—that the Unionist Ulster members have either definitely declared in favour of compulsory purchase in certain cases in Ulster or have refused to declare against it? I think this can be supported by the statements of several gentlemen.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I do not think that the Ulster members have stated that they would object to compulsion if it were taken on perfectly fair terms, but they have always declared that it must be equally fair between the two parties. Take Lord Ashbourne's Act. I and others sold under that Act and we were satisfied with our bargain. They have always felt that if this satisfactory state of affairs could go on as it has been doing they would be very glad to see it extended.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
Yes; but I think the Committee will see that there is a very marked distinction between saying that you will not have compulsory purchase at all, and saying you will have compulsory purchase if the price is a reasonable one. We all wish the price to be a reasonable one, and we do not wish any one to be bought out at an unfair price. That seems to give away the whole case against the principle of compulsion, whatever may be said about its application in particular instances. What we feel is that unless this power of compulsion is given outside the congested districts as well as inside—and I pass by that question, which is, of course, a different one—you will run the risk, which I am quite sure your Lordships do not wish to run, of keeping the whole question of the transfer of land 931 from landlord to tenant—a process which has gone on too slowly and which we hope to accelerate—open without seeing any finality before you. I confess I cannot understand, for the reasons that I have given, how noble Lords can suppose that the admittedly wide powers given in the Bill as it stands for compulsory purchase can be misused, because I cannot see to whose interest it is to do so. What have the Estates Commissioners to gain by compulsorily acquiring large tracts of land? In those circumstances we consider that the Bill as it stands, from the inherent circumstances of the case offers a complete safeguard to those whose land it is proposed to take.
But if noble Lords opposite, admitting the possible necessity of compulsion in certain instances, desire to narrow the terms of the Bill, I think we are entitled to ask how far they would be prepared to go. I do not press noble Lords to give me words to-day. But, assuming that the general lines are that, on the one hand, compulsion outside the congested districts may be needed for the relief of congestion and may be needed in the case of an unreasonable landlord, I should be glad to know how far noble Lords think it possible to go in that direction, and whether they consider it possible that some words might be found dealing with those two subjects which would enable us to agree on this question of compulsion outside.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON said he was sure every member of the House must be grateful to the noble Earl for endeavouring to make good to some extent the very wide principle laid down in the clause now under discussion, but he confessed he was hardly prepared for the closing words of the noble Earl's speech. It seemed to indicate that in reality the remedy which he proposed was immensely in excess of the disease, and that something far less would do, not merely to carry out the principle of the Government but might even be acceptable to the Government themselves. They had had reproaches addressed to them by the Lord Chancellor that they had attacked in this Bill what nobody sought to defend—the compulsory clauses of the Bill. Those reproaches would be justified if when they attacked those very wide, far-reaching, and objectionable provisions they could have shown to them from the opposite Bench that there was real necessity for their being put in force. 932 It had been the custom in past Bills to prove some wide spread need which could only be met by an interference with individual liberty and with the general protection of property. But they had not had that here. They had been told that a cantankerous landlord might here and there exist. The actual facts were not even given of the immense amount of land already unused and in the hands of those who desired to sell it. The noble Earl had given them a few quotations from the Estates Commissioners' Report, and he would like to point out the real difference between noble Lords sitting with him and the Government on this question. If they rejected this clause they by no means made it impossible for the Government to deal with a congested area. With the very limited means at the disposal of the Congested Districts Board for effecting improvements that body had been compelled to restrict their purchases. The estates purchased from 1904 to 1905 amounted to £650,000; from 1905 to 1906, £346,000; and from 1906 to 1907, £108,000. It was perfectly clear that the Congested Districts Board regarded it as having been possible for them to have worked in the later years very much up to the standard of former years, but they had been stopped from causes not within the control of members on the Opposition side of their Lordships' House, because members opposite had had the control of the purse. Then they were told in the closing sentences of the noble Earl's speech that one of the main objects of this Bill had been the relief of congestion, and the noble Earl appealed to them to put in force powers entirely outside the congested districts which had not been fully used in the present congested districts.
§ He submitted there was nothing to prove that the land could not be obtained without resort to the extreme measure of compulsion. He suggested this both on the ground of equity and on the ground of policy. He did not wish to say anything which reflected on the Congested Districts Board, which, he thought, had done admirable work in many respects; but the fact remained that it was not in accordance with public policy that there should be set up a public body which should be the largest holders of stock in the West of Ireland, that they should dominate all affairs, that the smaller class of occupiers should be practically dependent on the operations of a public Department as to 933 the prices they got or as to the market being glutted at a particular moment. The system of compulsion proposed was one which could only be justified on the ground of congestion, and it was one which no other country in the world had ever applied generally. It would have been far better to employ the Estates Commissioners in making arrangements between landlords and tenants, which could be carried through with success before a fresh Bill was brought in to make up for the deficiencies in this Bill. What they felt was that, admitting the general desire of the Government to act with perfect moderation in this matter, this Bill had been justified in another place by speeches which could not form a counterpart to the noble Earl's arguments. Speeches had been made saying that every landlord in Ireland would be bound to sell his property; but now it was suggested that it would only mean that the absentees or the cranks, or, as someone put it, "the soured spinsters of middle age," who failed to come to terms as they should do with their tenants or a public Department who would be dealt with. He felt that there was the greatest possible force in what was said on the previous night. By breaking up the larger grass farms they were removing the very class which in the interest of Ireland they should retain. The Government refused to use coercion in regard to crime, but did not mind using it in regard to landlords. This clause and the clause which followed it contained in themselves the essence of a coercionist and a landgrabbing policy—a policy of grabbing land which, as Lord Curzon said the other night, could only have the effect of substituting a number of evicted tenants for a number of evicted landlords. For these reasons he urged the Government to reconsider the necessity of general compulsory purchase, whatever might be said about compulsion within the congested districts. He submitted that the necessity for general compulsion throughout Ireland did not exist, and if it were imposed it could only have the effect of complicating the present system and burdening the Estates Commissioners with work which it would be impossible for them to perform.
§ *THE EARL OF MAYO said he thought the time had now come to deal with compulsion outside congested districts. The noble Earl had said that general compulsion throughout Ireland was not likely 934 to occur, and that if it did the whole of the financial proposals in the Bill would fall to the ground. There was general compulsion in the Bill, and he therefore asked what became of the financial proposals. With regard to the Return from which the noble Earl had quoted—the special Report of the Estates Commissioners up to May 31, 1907, in respect of persons applying as evicted tenants—he did not think the question of evicted tenants was germane to any discussion on Clause 41. The noble Earl had read out figures and also statements from the owners of land which the Estates Commissioners had put down in the Report. It had nothing to do, however, with acquiring land for landless men; it was for evicted tenants. They had admitted that under the Evicted Tenants Act an evicted tenant under certain conditions could go back to his holding or to another holding if possible. The Estates Commissioners had said that it would be seen that the net result of approaching owners under Regulation 5 had been that they had intimated their willingness to sell at the estimated price in ten cases, but that it should be stated that the staff recently sanctioned in respect to those inquiries had not yet been long enough at work to inspect and make preliminary estimates of the prices of the whole of the lands which the owners had offered for inspection. That was entirely a question of evicted tenants. He protested that such a Return should have been quoted and that they should have been made to believe that it was a question of obtaining land outside the congested districts by compulsory means. He felt that he had been misled, and some of their Lordships as well, with regard to that Return, and he hoped in future if the noble Earl was going to quote from Returns that he would give the headings of them and state exactly what the Return was about.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I beg the noble Earl's pardon, but I read out in full the title of the Report and its date. If he will not pay me the compliment of listening to what I say he is liable to make a mistake as to what I really did say. I believe I used the words "evicted tenants" least three times.
§ *LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE wished to make it absolutely clear, so far 935 as he was concerned, that his objection to compulsion was just as great in regard to the congested districts as to those outside. The noble Earl had asked what the Estates Commissioners gained by acquiring land compulsorily. The answer was a simple one—they gained in so far as they acquired at a much lower price. On the Second Reading he called attention to the fact that where they had been able to acquire land compulsorily under the Evicted Tenants Acts they had acquired it at about twelve years' purchase. The noble Earl further pointed out that there was a great advantage to landowners under paragraph (b), by which they were enabled to call on the Estates Commissioners to purchase the whole of their land. What that meant was that if the Estates Commissioners offered them half the value for a portion of their land, they might call upon them to buy the whole of it on absolutely similar terms. Then the noble Earl told them it was better that the Irish question should be settled at once. Did any one of their Lordships believe that this Bill was going to settle the whole Irish land question? Their Lordships had been assured that this question was going to be settled every time an Irish Land Bill was introduced in their Lordships' House. When dealing with the question of landless men the noble Earl told them the previous night that it did not follow because there were landless men that they were going to remain either wifeless or childless. He would not be at all astonished if in the course of a few years the Government did not want to acquire by compulsion portions of the mansion houses in Ireland, of course on fair terms, to furnish tenement houses for the landless men and their wives and children on the ground that in consequence of the loss imposed on owners by the State they did not require such big houses.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I gather from the noble Earl opposite that he desires that the Division, which I presume we shall take on this clause, should be really as to the expediency of compulsion outside the congested areas.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The clause itself does not contain a single reference to compulsion, but I think it is quite true to say that the concluding part of 936 the clause really has no meaning unless you assume that compulsion lies behind it. Therefore I will take it that we are now discussing the question of compulsion outside the congested areas. I desire to repeat that I for one entertain the strongest objection to compulsion of this kind outside the congested areas. In my view compulsion can only be contemplated for the limited purpose or relieving acute congestion and for the purpose of dealing with lands immediately adjacent to those areas in which acute congestion prevails. The noble Earl said that there was sporadic congestion beyond the limits of the congested districts. That may be so, but that does not seem to me to be a reason for extending to the whole of Ireland the extremely wide powers which you seek to obtain ostensibly for the purpose of relieving the congested districts. I also feel very strongly that in the interests of the Estates Commissioners it is most undesirable that this great, and, as I conceive, overwhelming burden should be laid upon their shoulders. It is quite clear that if this Bill passes into law in a form which admits of the application of compulsion all over Ireland the Commissioners will find themselves unable to deal with the great mass of applications which they are certain to receive. I think much importance should also be attached to the argument used last evening by Lord MacDonnell when he was dealing with this subject, an argument which went to show that financially the results of general compulsion would be of a kind which the framers of this Bill would not be likely to contemplate with any satisfaction. Therefore, my Lords, I am ready to contemplate compulsion only in regard to very narrowly restricted areas, and only if you are able to show conclusively that, without compulsion, you are not able to deal adequately with the relief of congestion inside those areas.
We have had an attempt to establish a case for restricted compulsion of this kind. I cannot say that it seemed to me a very conclusive one. We have had the story of the 1,752 landowners who were approached—I think approached was the word used—in order to ascertain whether they were willing to sell their lands. I cannot believe that if you desired, to obtain land for this purpose these wholesale applications to a large body of landlords all over the country was the proper way 937 of setting to work. I think the same may be said of the famous circular, which did, I admit, receive rather scant attention at the hands of the persons to whom it was addressed; but there is a good deal to be said, I think, in defence of their conduct. At the time that circular was issued it was a matter of notoriety that the Estates Commissioners had no funds available with which to pay for the land which they were acquiring, and people had been obliged to stand out of their money even where the transactions had gone through. It is worth remembering in connection with the affair of the circular that by means of private negotiation an offer was procured, I am told, of no less than 12,000 acres within the areas which the Commissioners themselves had indicated as being suitable for their purpose, and that when that offer had been obtained by great exercise of diplomacy it was refused by the Commissioners on the ground that they had no money available for such a purpose. Therefore I do not think that the failure of the circular or the failure of the attempt to deal with the 1,752 landowners, is by any means conclusive as proof that the attitude of the whole of the landowners or of these landowners who own land which would be suitable for the relief of congestion is an attitude of unmitigated obstruction.
The noble Earl during the course of his speech made us a kind of a challenge across the Table. I understood him to say something of this sort, If you object to the kind of compulsion which we contemplate in this Bill, and if you yourselves do not entirely exclude from your calculations the possibility of some kind of compulsion in exceptional cases, why do you not put before the Committee in precise language the sort of proposal that you would be ready to support?" I went very near making a suggestion of that kind in the speech I made on the Second Reading of this Bill, and I cannot help thinking that if His Majesty's Government really mean business about this, if they really see that full-blown compulsion of the kind which we now find in this Bill is not desirable and ought not to be pressed upon Parliament, it is rather for them than for us to clothe in words their ideas as to that more restricted scheme which they apparently have in their minds and which we infer they would not be very reluctant to accept. There- 938 fore, I think we must leave it to His Majesty's Government to tell us whether they are prepared to substitute some other scheme for that which the Bill contains, and if so, what kind of scheme it is they desire to advocate. At the risk of repetition I say again that if His Majesty's Government are able to show us that it is impossible to deal with those areas in which congestion of the acutest kind is to be found without, as a last resort, using compulsion in cases where the refusal of the owner is of a perverse or of an obstructive kind; if they are able to show us that they could provide machinery which would enable that owner to satisfy the Court that his refusal was a reasonable refusal; and if, above all, they could suggest some competent tribunal entirely unconnected with the management and the administration of these Departments before which an owner could go if necessary and lay his objections, and if such a tribunal could be entrusted with the task of dealing with the question of compensation, then I would go as far as to say that although I remain strongly of opinion that the resort to general compulsion for the whole of Ireland is to my mind out of the question I should be perfectly ready to discuss with noble Lords opposite and to consider with an open mind a more moderate scheme of the kind which I have ventured to indicate to the House.
§ *LORD CLONBROCK said that although he had no property in congested districts yet he lived at no great distance from them and in a county which the Bill proposed to include in the congested districts area. So sharp a line had been drawn lately between the congested area and the remainder of Ireland that he wished to associate himself with what had been said by his noble friend on his left, and to say that he and a great many other noble Lords in that part of Ireland were as strongly opposed to compulsion being exercised in the congested districts area as they were to its exercise outside. They did not believe that compulsion was any more necessary for the relief of congestion there than in the rest of Ireland where they were told that there were sporadic areas of congestion. He would ask His Majesty's Government to be prepared, in urging the necessity of compulsion, to point out instances, especially in connection with migration, in which they could prove that any large number, or any number, of the 939 inhabitants of congested districts—he strongly objected to call them "congests," for as a humorous friend of his had said, "If a man is suffering from indigestion you do not call him an indigest"—were prepared to move supposing they had the land available for them, and that the contemplated schemes of migration, as well as of increasing small holdings, had failed from the want of additional land.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I desire to say a few words upon this subject. In the first place may I refer to the observations of the noble Earl, Lord Mayo, about the Report. The fact is in regard to that Report that it related to inquiries made by the Estates Commissioners for the purpose of acquiring untenanted land for their own purposes generally, and the refusals were refusals not applicable specially to the case of evicted tenants but were refusals to inquiries made of that general character. I think my noble friend the Leader of the House was perfectly entitled to use that as evidence of the fact that a large number of landlords were not willing to sell or dispose of their lands for those general purposes. I have very little to add, in fact nothing to add, to what was said by my noble friend the Leader of the House in regard to the general policy of compulsion as to places outside the congested districts. He stated—as indeed he stated before, and so did I—that our objects are the relief of congestion in exceptional cases, such as were described by the noble Earl, Lord Dunraven, as cases of cussedness and by other noble Lords as cases of cantankerous landlords, where it was desired in the public interest to acquire their properties. The present latitude of expression allowed in Acts of Parliament, from the consideration of which I am a frequent sufferer, has not yet reached the stage at which we can use either the word "cussedness" or the word "cantankerous." The use of such language is comparatively recent, and although very useful in our debates it has not yet crept into the Statutes. The noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, and the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, said, "Why do not the Government define this themselves?" I do not want to fence on any advantage ground in this matter, and I will tell your Lordships why. We have found it difficult to define the very thoughts which I have been putting into words in the last minute or so. We find 940 definition very difficult to limit exactly according to the thoughts and the ideas and the purposes that we have, and therefore we ourselves have preferred to use general language knowing that the Estates Commissioners will be limited, in the first place, by their own necessities, because there cannot be, and will not be, money to use on any considerable scale. In the second place, the policy of the Government, and I should think of all Governments, must necessarily be not to strangle a voluntary system by putting into competition with it a compulsory system. I believe it would be ruinous to any voluntary system if any such competition were permitted. Therefore we say to noble Lords opposite that we would make no objection if they could succeed in proposing words defining the purposes for which and the occasions on which these compulsory powers should be used. The noble Marquess prefers that we should do it ourselves. He indicated his own line and the conditions, which are somewhat complex, under which he would be prepared to consent to compulsion—that it must be for the relief of congestion, and then he said of acute congestion, and I think he ended by saying the acutest.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think it started with the positive, then the comparative, and ended with the superlative. I only refer to that to indicate the sort of difficulty in which we should find ourselves if we were to try and put down our definitions. I am afraid they would have to run the gauntlet of a great deal of criticism. We would prefer noble Lords to put down their own Amendments and we will endeavour to meet them if we possibly can.
§ LORD ARDILAUN said his experience was that he had received three or four notices from the Estates Commissioners asking him if he was willing to sell, but in every case they happened to refer to demesne lands.
§ On Question, whether the clause proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 26; Not-Contents, 114.941
|Loreburn, L. (Lord Chancellor.)||Armitstead, L.||Lucas, L.|
|Crewe, E. (Lord Privy Seal.)||Blyth, L.||MacDonnell, L.|
|Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]||Marchamley, L.|
|Beauchamp, E. (L. Steward.)||Courtney of Penwith, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Denman, L. [Teller.]||Pentland, L.|
|Chichester, E.||Glantawe, L.||Pirrie, L.|
|Craven, E.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)||Sandhurst, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Haversham, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||Hemphill, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Hill, V.||Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)|
|Marlborough, D.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Fingall, L. (E. Fingall.)|
|Wellington, D.||Forester, L.|
|Iveagh, V.||Gormanston, L. (V. Gormanston.)|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Milner, V.||Harlech, L.|
|Bath, M.||Hindlip, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Abinger, L.||Inchiquin, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Kenlis, L. (M. Headfort.)|
|Abingdon, E.||Ardilaun, L.||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)|
|Albemarle, E.||Armstrong, L.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Bandon, E.||Ashbourne, L.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Cathcart, E.||Ashtown, L.||Langford, L.|
|Cawdor, E.||Atkinson, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Barrymore, L.||Macnaghten, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Bateman, L.||Massy, L.|
|Dartrey, E.||Blythswood, L.||Minster, L. (M. Conyngham.)|
|Derby, E.||Borthwick, L.||Monck, L. (V. Monck.)|
|Devon, E.||Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)||North, L.|
|Kilmorey, E.||Braye, L.||Northeote, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Londesborough, E.||Castlemaine, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Castletown, L.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Mayo, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)|
|Morley, E.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)||Penrhyn, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Clonbrock, L.||Poltimore, L.|
|Pembroke and Montgomery, E.||Cloncurry, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Powis, E.||Colchester, L.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Rosslyn, E.||Collins, L.||Rathdonnell, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Rathmore, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||De Freyne, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Verulam, E.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)||Sanderson, L.|
|Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Digby, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Wharncliffe, E.||Dunalley, L.||Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Wicklow, E.||Dunboyne, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Dunleath, L.||Tennyson, L.|
|Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Egerton, L.||Ventry, L.|
|Cross, V.||Ellenborough, L.||Waleran, L.|
|De Vesci, V.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)||Walsingham, L.|
|Halifax, V.||Farnham, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
§ Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 42:
§ 42.—(1) Where the Estates Commissioners have made a proposal for the purchase of an estate or untenanted land, and the owner objects to the proposal on the ground that adjoining lands belonging to him have not been included in the proposal, if the Estates Commissioners refuse to withdraw the proposal or to amend the same by including therein such adjoining lands the owner may, within the prescribed time and in the prescribed manner, apply to the Judicial Commissioner for an order that no further proceedings be taken upon the proposal.
§ (2) Upon any such application the Judicial Commissioner may, if he is satisfied that the said adjoining lands would be substantially depreciated 942 in value by the purchase of the estate or untenanted land as proposed, order that no further proceedings be taken for the purchase of the estate or untenanted land upon the proposal unless within a time to be named in the order the Estates Commissioners amend the proposal so as to include the said adjoining lands or such portion or portions thereof as, in the opinion of the Judicial Commissioner, ought properly to be included.
To leave out Clause 42."—(Lord Atkinson.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
We fully understand, of course, that the omission of this clause forms part of the general destruction 943 of the principle of compulsory purchase, at any rate outside the congested districts. But I think it is fair to point out, before we take leave of it, that it was inserted in order to meet the objections made in another place by the friend of noble Lords opposite, and that it represents a real and effective safeguard against anything that could be considered harsh or unfair dealing in particular cases where compulsory purchase might be applied. I think it is due to ourselves to mention this, although I understand that the general principle of conpulsory purchase is to go by the board, at any rate for the time, in pursuance of the Division which we took part in just now. Yet I think it is only reasonable and fair to point out that the clause was inserted by way of a special concession to friends of noble Lords opposite in another place.
§ LORD ATKINSON did not think, with great respect to the noble Earl, that it was any concession at all, because under the Lands Clauses Act if they took any land they had not only to pay for it but also for land injuriously affected by the taking. Clause 42 was simply a means of enabling the Estates Commissioners to escape from the liability which would be imposed upon them under the Lands Clauses Act.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 43:
§ 43.—(1) Where negotiations have been entered into or proposals have been made for the purchase under the Land Purchase Acts of any estate or untenanted land not situated in a congested districts county and no agreement has been arrived at, the Estate Commissioners may, if they think fit, send in the prescribed manner to the person who appears to them to be the owner a final offer in writing for the purchase of the estate or untenanted land.
§ (2) The final offer shall contain the following particulars:—
- (a) A description of the estate or untenanted land to which the offer relates;
- (b) The amount of the price which the Estates Commissioners are willing to give for the estate or untenanted land, subject—
- (i) to any public rights affecting the estate or untenanted land;
- (ii) to any maintenance charges under the Public Works Act; and (in the case of an estate);
- (iii) to any interests of the tenants or of persons having any claims upon those interests, and to any easements, rights, and appurtenances mentioned in section thirty-four of the Act of 1896.
§ (c) The time within which the offer may be accepted.
§ (3) If within the time specified in that behalf in the final offer, the offer is accepted in writing by any person who within the prescribed period satisfies the Estates Commissioners that he may be dealt with as the owner of the estate or untenanted land under section seventeen of the Act of 1903, the offer and acceptance shall as from the date upon which the Estates Commissioners certify that they are so satisfied, have the same effect as an agreement for the purchase of the estate or untenanted land under the said Act as amended by this Act, and the like consequences shall ensue and the like proceedings shall be carried on as in the case of such an agreement save that the advance for the purpose of the purchase shall, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Act, be made by means of money and not by means of stock, except in cases where the vendor agrees to accept in lieu of cash an amount of guaranteed three per cent. stock equal in nominal amount to the sum to be advanced, and, carrying dividends as from the date of the advance, and the Estates Commissioners agree that the advance shall be made in that manner.
§ (4) If the said offer is not accepted as aforesaid the Estates Commissioners may, if they think fit, proceed to acquire the estate or untenanted land compulsorily in manner provided by Part IV. of this Act.
§ (5) In estimating the price to be named in the final offer the Estates Commissioners shall have regard to the provisions of the Act of 1903, as amended by this Act, in respect of advances and to the prices which the tenants and other persons are willing to give for the holdings (if any) and parcels of land comprised in the estate or untenanted land.
§ *LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD, who had on the Paper Amendments restricting the application of the clause to any congested estate or untenanted land not situated in a congested districts county, but required by the Land Commission for the relief of congestion, said that in view of the decision their Lordships had come to by such a great majority the evening before on the Amendment of Lord Oranmore and Browne to replace the words which the Bill proposed to cut out of Section 6 of the Act of 1903, he felt it his duty to seriously consider what his position was in regard to the Amendment to which he now desired to speak. The retention of the words in Section 6 led practically to the frustration, on the one hand, of every attempt to relieve congestion, and the certainty, on the other hand, that attempts would be made to obtain by way of advances more than the property was security for, and in that way to lead to the failure to pay the instalments and repudiation on the part of tenant purchasers. Having that in his mind, he had come to the conclusion that their Lordships would not be able to differentiate between compulsion in regard to congestion generally 945 and compulsion in regard to the wider issues which the noble Earl who led the Government had raised, and that it would be better for him at this stage not to move the Amendments standing in his name, but later on in connection with congestion to put his proposals forward in another form. He was greatly cheered by the statement of the noble Marquess who led the Opposition that he would consider proposals for compulsion in regard to the relief of congestion if they were put forward in a more limited manner. It would be for the Government to formulate their proposals, but subject to anything which the Government might propose he would put on the Notice Paper an Amendment limiting the compulsory acquisition of congested estates to the scheduled districts, and the compulsory acquisition of untenanted land for the relief of congestion to such land as was situated in the five administrative counties of Connaught, in the West Riding of Cork, and in the scheduled districts of Donegal and Kerry. He would exclude from compulsory acquisition all land which was subject to a land purchase annuity, and all land which within the meaning of the Evicted Tenants Act fell within the definition of demesne or home farms. A definition of that description might do a great deal to relieve congestion in the West, though it would not do all that was necessary. In the circumstances he had stated he would not move his Amendments at this stage.
To leave out Clause 43."—(Lord Atkinson.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 44:
§ 44.—(1) From and after the appointed day the Congested Districts Board for Ireland shall be a body corporate, bearing the name of the "Congested Districts Board for Ireland," with a capacity to acquire and hold land, and to sue and be sued by its corporate name.
§ (2) The Board shall have an official seal, which shall be officially and judicially noticed, and such seal shall be authenticated by the signature of a permanent member of the Board, or of the secretary.
§ (3) In the execution or performance of any power or duty conferred upon or transferred to the Board, by or in pursuance of any enactment, the Board shall adopt and use the style and seal of the Congested Districts Board for Ireland.
§ (4) The powers and duties of the trustees of the Congested Districts Board for Ireland under any enactment, shall, on the appointed day, be transferred to the Board.946
§ (5) Subsection (3) of section thirty-four of the Act of 1891 and subsections (2) and (3) of section two of the Congested Districts Board (Ireland) Act, 1893, shall cease to have effect as from the appointed day.
§ THE EARL OF LEITRIM, in moving to omit from subsection (5) of the clause the words "subsection (3) of Section 34 of the Act of 1891 and," said Clause 44 dealt with the incorporation of the Board, to which they agreed, and subsection (3) of Section 34 of the Act of 1891 dealt with the quorum of the Congested Districts Board and stated that three members should form a quorum. The part of the Bill, then under discussion dealt with congested districts almost entirely, and in moving his Amendment that the provisions should still remain in force he thought it advisable to outline briefly the scheme for the congested districts proposed by the Government in the Bill and the one he had the honour to propose, in regard to which he believed he could count upon a good measure of support from noble Lords on his side of the House. The scheme of the Government with regard to the question before them had received he thought he could fairly say more criticism than, or at any rate as much criticism as, any other part of the Bill. Their Lordships would remember the manner in which Lord Curzon had dealt with that portion of the Bill. He (Lord Leitrim) did not desire to go into the different points at any great length. To begin with, the old Congested Districts Board after many years of good work had been entirely swept away in spite of the fact that the Government could not find any particular fault with the operations of the Board. In fact, Mr. Birrell himself admitted that he did not think there was a more popular Board in Ireland—
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I am most unwilling to interrupt the noble Earl. But does not the point he is raising arise on Clause 45, which deals with the reconstitution of the Board, and not on Clause 44?
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES said he was afraid he did not quite know what the meaning of the noble Earl's Amendment was.
§ THE EARL OF LEITRIM said his Amendment dealt with the proposal which came after. As the Board had to exist in the future; he wished to reinstate the quorum 947 of three. His Amendment was that subsection (5) of Clause 44 should read, "Subsections (2) and (3) of Section 2 of the Congested Districts Board (Ireland) Act, 1893, shall cease to have effect as from the appointed day."
In page 22, lines 29 and 30, to leave out the words subsection (3) of section thirty-four of the Act of 1891, and.'"—(The Earl of Leitrim.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I am sorry I had to interrupt the noble Earl, but this is another of those questions with which it is rather difficult to deal clause by clause. We have to consider the whole question of the constitution of the Congested Districts Board.
§ THE EARL OF LEITRIM said that was the reason he wanted to go into it. That was exactly what he was doing.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I agree; but I do not see any proposal by the noble Earl on the Paper for reconstituting the Board. It would seem more reasonable, I think, to take the full discussion on Clause 45 when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Atkinson, proposes to rearrange the whole composition of the Board. As regards this particular point, subsection (3) of Section 34 of the Act of 1891 is considered unnecessary now because the Board being a body corporate acts with its official seal, and it is not necessary for that purpose to say that acts must be done by a certain number of those composing the Board. As the noble Earl, I am sure, will be aware, it has nothing to do with the number of members who ought to be present for the transaction of business, but simply the number of members whose consent, as the Board exists at present, is required to give sanction to its conclusions.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE said the position was that his noble friend who had proposed this Amendment had a certain view, in which he himself concurred, as to what was the right thing to be done with the Congested Districts Board, and the omission of these words would fit in with the view which was practically to leave the Congested Districts Board as it stood subject to the alteration in Clause 44. He felt the inconvenience that the noble Earl opposite had indicated, that it was a 948 little premature to hang the whole discussion on the proposal for the omission of these words. He therefore hoped his, noble friend would be satisfied to let it stand over until the next stage of the Bill. It would be better to have the discussion on a broader clause, and he saw no objection, if his noble friend thought it right, to withdrawing the Amendment and bringing it up again later.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD ATKINSON moved to leave out Clause 44, which incorporates the Congested Districts Board, for the purpose, as he explained, of deleting the whole of Part III, comprising Clauses 44 to 63 inclusive, and of substituting an alternative scheme which was embodied in the seven new clauses set out on the Amendment Paper. He said that if he thought it was possible to preserve the present Congested Districts Board, with its existing personnel, to continue its good work through the agencies and in the spirit in which it had effected so much, he would not move his Amendment. He did not think that was possible, but he was open to conviction on the point It had been said that the Congested Districts Board had done well, and he believed that to be absolutely true, but the reward it had received for its good actions from the Government was the proposal to annihilate it, to disperse it and to continue it only in name. Its successors would have no right whatever to the worthy reputation that Board had gained and deserved for its. beneficent and excellent work
§ His first task was to show that the present scheme was defective and ought to be rejected, and, secondly, that the alternative he proposed was the better one. Those things were entirely separate. He had no desire to recriminate, and he did not refer to the matters to which he would have to allude, for the purpose of making any charge against the Government. He did it for a wholly different purpose. He thought when they were about to create a body to operate in a particular district it was childish not to consider the personnel of that body, the views and opinions which they must represent, the passions they would have to deal with, the hopes they would inspire, and the physical condition of the country in which they would have to 949 operate. His charge against the scheme of the Bill was, first of all, that it gave to a Board which was exterior to the Government of the day and independent of any authority compulsory powers for the acquisition of land which it might exercise without any authority beyond its own sanction. He challenged the noble Earl the Leader of the House to find an instance in any quarter of the British Empire where a body outside and independent of the Government of the day could, without the sanction of any authority exterior to itself, exercise compulsory powers of acquiring land. With some confidence he said that such a thing did not exist. In England the authority of Parliament must be got directly by Act or Provisional Order. In an Act such as the Small Holdings Act the county councils had to get the authority of the Minister for Agriculture, and in the case of the Housing of the Working Classes Act local authorities had to get the approval of the Local Government Board. There was no instance which he knew of where any body outside and independent of the Government of the day could of its own motion exercise compulsory powers of acquiring land.
§ His most serious charge against the scheme in the Bill was that under cover of relieving congestion they were setting up a machinery which, having regard to the people who were to work it, to the expectations that had been formed of it, and to the passions that animated the people concerned, was nothing but a machinery which would, in the main, be applied to dividing the unoccupied land of Ireland among the landless men. He thought the Bill was a United Irish League Bill. It was a cattle-drivers' Bill. He had good authority, so far as the public prints warranted it, for that statement. Mr. Redmond on December 13 last was reported in the Connaught Telegraph to have said that before he left the House of Commons Mr. Dillon told him to go to a certain district in Ireland where there was a brave people and explain the Land Bill—that was Mr. Birrell's—and tell them from him that the bill was framed by the Government on the lines laid down by the Irish Party. Again in the Freeman's Journal there was a statement to the effect that every wise thing in Mr. Birrell's Bill was a plagiarism from the programme of the Irish Party and the United Irish League, and so far as it was a satisfactory measure it was a Bill of the Irish Party and of the cattle-drivers. He would take again Mr. 950 Sheehy, a Nationalist member of the other House, who said in December last in Meath, that he advised the cattle-drivers to put up their swords pending the Bill which Mr. Birrell had introduced and to give Mr. Birrell a chance, and no matter how much they were provoked not to resume cattle-driving until they saw what was going to happen. Whether that was accurately reported or not, it would be believed in the congested districts.
But he had a much better authority than that—that of Mr. John Fitzgibbon, a most able man in the West of Ireland who occupied a remarkable position. The position Mr. Fitzgibbon assumed before the Dudley Commission was a very important one. He said he went there as the representative of the United Irish League to give evidence on behalf of the League and to express the opinion and policy of the League; he added that he had consulted the leaders of the Irish Party in London and they approved of what he had said, and that he would continue to give evidence on behalf of the United Irish League. He (Lord Atkinson) knew some of the operations of the United Irish League, and he had no hesitation in saying again what he had said before, that it was an organisation the most marvellously arranged and effective that ever was set on foot or that he had ever heard of or read of. The United Irish League could enforce its. decrees and could direct and shape the policy of the country, and it was absolutely vain to hope or think that anybody in the peasantry of Ireland, in the remote districts especially, certainly not the wretched and feeble congests as they were called, could permanently oppose the policy of the League. Therefore it became important to see what was the policy of the League because the proposal was to have elected representatives on the Congested Districts Board. What was the policy of the League? Mr. John Fitzgibbon was reported at a meeting at Roscommon to have said, after explaining the Bill in detail, that all Connaught and other counties would be under the Congested Districts Board, and the people of those counties would have the power to select their representatives on the Board. He added that the Government had been forced to introduce the Bill by the action of the people who drove cattle, and that his advice to the cattle-drivers was that as the Government were about to bring in a Bill they had better stop cattle-driving and give the Government a chance. They had, he said.
got their Bill now; it was before them. In another speech Mr. Fitzgibbon said—
The new Congested Districts Board will have upon it one member elected by each county council, who will know how to look after the people of his own county. There is no need of saying that the people of one parish must get all the land that is in that parish.
The truth was that, by this popular agitation, Mr. Davitt's well-known phrase, "The land of Ireland for the people of Ireland" had been transformed into "The land of every district for the people of that district, and for none other." Mr. Fitzgibbon believed, no doubt, what he, a member and spokesman of the League, laid down in his evidence before the Dudley Commission. In his evidence he took a prandial or culinary illustration, and said—
This is the joint, and this is the way I propose to carve it.
He proposed to carve the joint in the following way. First of all he said that the needs of the local congests should be provided for. He was pressed again and again and he was obliged to admit, on Page 184, Question 26,240, that the sons of the tenants were to be preferred before the migrants. That was the policy of the League as Mr. Fitzgibbon, their exponent, laid it down. He (Lord Atkinson) would not like to be misunderstood; he had nothing whatever to say against the sons of the tenants. He admired his countrymen and so far from attributing to them a double dose of original sin he did not think they had half a dose. They had many virtues, but perhaps their greatest defect was a want of moral courage; they were the strangest mixture of physical courage and moral cowardice that he had come across. But outside agrarian crime and crimes that arose from intemperance he believed the Irish people to be the most law-abiding and quiet people that inhabited any part of the Empire. He would have no objection to Mr. Fitzgibbon's policy if it was a matter of colonising the people. But that was not what it was. It was a question of choice, "Whom do you prefer?" Do you prefer the migrant or do you prefer the son of the local tenant?" They could not have both, and the distinctive policy of the United Irish League was a policy of preference for the sons of tenants as against the migrants.
§ The most extraordinary conclusion any human being could arrive at was the one arrived at by the Dudley Commission. 952 They dwelt at length upon the selfish aversion of the people in the district to the arrival of the migrant, and having seen how extraordinarily difficult it was to overcome that aversion one of the Commissioners suggested that four agencies should be summoned to their aid for that purpose—first, the Press, then the local Members of Parliament, next the priests, and last of all, the greatest lay behind, the police. After saying that all those agencies would be required to overcome the selfish aversion to the migrant, the Commission came to the topsy-turvy conclusion that the majority of the members of the Board should be elected from that very district to represent the antipathy that could not be overcome. He had no aversion to popular government unless the members elected represented opinions and desires and passions and intentions that were opposed and destructive to the very object which they were elected to carry out. Mr. Fitzgibbon he took to be a good specimen of the kind of man who would be most certainly returned at an election. Let them place the elective members in power and the very first thing they would say was that there was such turmoil and tumult that it was advantageous for the district that the helpless congest should be passed by for the moment and the sons of local agriculturists should be provided for. Whatever might be the intention of the Government, the intention of those who inspired them would be to leave the congests where they were and to divide the land among the landless men. That was a merciless and a most disastrous policy. Lord Granard had told them that the Board could do nothing, and it was really under the control of the Administrative Committee. If that was the meaning of the Bill, the whole thing was a mockery. He thought the real meaning was that the Administrative Committee was to have financial control in the respect that they were to keep the accounts and see how they stood financially, but the question of what land should be bought and what should be given for it and to whom it should be given if acquired rested entirely with the Congested Districts Board. For that reason he submitted that the machinery set up would enable the Board of the future to carry out over one-third of Ireland what was the policy of the League and the policy of the cattle-drivers—namely, that the unoccupied land should be divided among the landless men and that the claims of the congests should be passed over.953
§ He had drawn up his proposal very much on the lines of Lord MacDonnell's Memorandum. The effect of his Amendment would be to divide the duties of the Congested Districts Board between the Land Commission and the Board of Agriculture and to turn the Congested Districts Board into an advisory body to the two authorities to which its powers were transferred; and in order that there might be no suggestion that the Board was acting as it were in the air and had no means of informing itself of what local opinion was, he had adopted a machinery by which the members coming from congested district counties should be admitted ex officio members of the Board. The Board would be turned into a consultative body and would advise the two bodies to whom the respective duties were transferred as to the way in which those duties were to be carried out. The objection which had been urged against the Board was that it came into competition as a purchaser of land with the Estates Commissioners. Of course, that could easily be got over. He got over it in his Amendment by transferring to the Estates Commissioners the duty with regard to the purchase and the sale of land. Although he thought this was the best method he was not so attached to his own plan that he was not quite willing to support any other method proposed which would effect substantially the same results. The only qualification he made was that as he disbelieved, in election for such a purpose as the one under discussion he disbelieved in nomination also at the present time. He would oppose to the utmost any plan that in the end would have the effect of placing in power, by nomination or otherwise, a number of men who he believed would carry out, and would rejoice in the opportunity to carry out, the policy of the United Irish League, which, as he had said, was to divide up the unoccupied land of Ireland among the landless men in preference to the congests.
To leave out Clause 44 and to insert the following new clauses:
44. From and after the appointed day every person who, under the provisions of section eight, subsection one (a) of the Agricultural and Technical Instruction (Ireland) Act, 1899, has been or shall be appointed by any of the several counties in which a congested districts county, as defined in section thirty-six of the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1891, or in which any electoral division included under said section by the Lord Lieutenant in exercise of the powers
thereby conferred is geographically situate, a member of the Council of Agriculture shall, while and as long as he continues a member thereof, be in addition an ex-officio member of the Congested Districts Board. And every existing member of the Congested Districts Board shall cease to hold office on the appointed day.
45. The powers and duties of the Congested Districts Board under any enactment, so far as they relate to the purchase and re-sale of lands. the enlargement, exchange, or consolidation of holdings, the determination or creation of tenancies, the division, improvement, or use and occupation of land, and all matter necessarily incidental thereto, shall on the appointed day, be transferred to the Land Commission, and from and after that day, save as in this Act otherwise provided, they shall be exercised and performed under the same conditions, and subject to the same restriction and limitations, and by and through the same means, agents, and officers as if they had been originally conferred or imposed upon the Land Commission by the said Act of 1903. And so far as the said powers and duties relate to any of the matters following, namely—
46. From and after the appointed day the Congested Districts Board shall advise the Land Commission, or the members thereof hereby appointed to exercise or perform any of the powers or duties hereby transferred to the Land Commission, with respect to all matters and questions submitted to them by the Land Commission, or such members thereof as aforesaid in connection with the exercise of the aforesaid powers, or the performance of the aforesaid duties, or any of them; and shall advise the Department with respect to all matters submitted to them by the Department in connection with the exercise of the powers, or the performance of the duties hereby transferred to the Department.
47. As and from the appointed day an annual sum of one hundred and sixty-three thousand seven hundred and fifty pounds shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament as follows:—
Out of that sum an annual sum of forty thousand pounds shall be paid to the Department, such a sum as the Lord Lieutenant shall fix by order, not exceeding in amount three thousand pounds shall be set apart to meet the expenses of the Congested Districts Board, and the residue of said first-mentioned sum shall be paid to the Land Commission for the purpose of the exercise of the powers, and the performance of the duties transferred by this Act to those two bodies respectively.
Provided that at any time after the expiration of five years from the appointed day the Lord Lieutenant may, on the application of the Depart-
ment or the Board, from time to time direct that the amount payable to the Department for the purpose aforesaid shall be increased or reduced, and the increased or reduced amount shall as from the date fixed by the Lord Lieutenant be the amount payable to the Department under this section.
48. The Land Commission shall for the purpose of this part of this Act, in addition to the powers heretofore conferred upon them, have power to declare by order that an estate which, in their opinion, comes within the provisions of section five, subsection six, of the Act of 1903 as amended by this Act is a congested estate.
49. The jurisdiction, power, and duty of the Land Commission to define land situated in a congested district, county, or counties as a separate estate or a congested estate, and to purchase and re-sell the same and to purchase land for the benefit of a congested county, and re-sell the same shall be exercised and performed exclusively the Estate Commissioners.
50.—(1) Where any powers and duties are transferred by this Part of this Act from one authority to another authority—
(2) The expression "authority" in this section means the Congested Districts Board, the Department and the trustees of the Congested Districts Board.'"—(Lord Atkinson.)
§ [The sitting was suspended at ten minutes to eight o'clock and resumed at a quarter past nine.]
§ *LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD said he heard with unfeigned satisfaction the adherence which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Atkinson, had given to the first of those schemes for reorganising the Congested Districts Board which he had the honour to submit in connection with the 956 Report of the Dudley Commission. He admired the ability of the noble and learned Lord's exposition—an ability which he could not himself attempt to rival; and he was glad that it had fallen to the noble and learned Lord to explain the principles of the scheme. But he would have had greater pleasure had the exposition of the scheme not been united with a depreciation of his countrymen. Since his return from India it had been his unpleasant experience to find that the depreciation of Irishmen came far more from fellow Irishmen than from others. From Englishmen, Scotsmen, and Welshmen he had always heard a generous appreciation of Irish character. Never before had he heard it said that physical courage was united in the Irish character with moral cowardice. He was sorry to have heard it from the noble and learned Lord because it had lessened his admiration for a speech which otherwise appealed to his intelligence and his feeling.
§ There was one part of Lord Atkinson's speech which gave him particular satisfaction, and that was the confidence which the noble and learned Lord reposed in the Estates Commissioners. It was not many hours since the noble and learned Lord had made the welkin ring with his denunciation of the Estates Commissioners. He felt that under that denunciation there must be some portion of respect for a body of men who, under the most trying circumstances in Ireland, performed their duties with great success. He believed that after all the noble and learned Lord did preserve in some corner of his heart a respect for the men who, notwithstanding difficulties of a remarkable character, had managed to pursue the even tenor of their way and hold evenly the scales of justice. The noble and learned Lord's exposition of the scheme seemed to him to dwell more than he thought was necessary on its political aspects. If he himself were called upon to defend the scheme he should prefer to defend it on its suitability for the work which had to be done in Ireland, but circumstances were now such that, although he agreed with the noble and learned Lord in thinking that if the scheme could be introduced it might be a long way the best, he felt that the circumstances of the time were not suitable for its introduction.
§ There was in Ireland a strong feeling—sentimental it might be, but also, he had no doubt, founded on substantial and 957 concrete reasons—that the Congested Districts Board should in some form or other be retained. It had done excellent work, although the work in his opinion had not been of that permanent character which the relief of congestion in Ireland required. The reason of that was that the Board was first limited in its capacity for doing work by the laws under which it acted, and next it was very greatly limited by the want of funds. The Bill which was now before their Lordships, and which, notwithstanding what happened yesterday, would still, he hoped, emerge from their Lordships' scrutiny as a valuable measure in supplement of the great Act of 1903, would enable the Estates Commissioners if properly organised to do a great work still in Ireland, and as popular opinion seemed to be entirely in favour of the maintenance of the Board he had abandoned all intention of proposing the first scheme, and he attached himself altogether to the alternative scheme proposed in his Minute.
§ One of the principal objections which Lord Atkinson mentioned to the second scheme was in connection with the appointed members. He might say that the second scheme to which he pinned his faith was a scheme of a Board composed of twelve members, four of whom would be ex officio members—namely, the Chief Secretary, the Under-Secretary, the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, and one Estates Commissioner, taken in rotation, seven of whom would be appointed members, while the twelfth member would be a paid member whose duty it would be to carry on the work during the intervals of the Board's sittings, and generally to perform the functions of the managing-director of a commercial company. He himself had had experience of the working of the Board for nearly six years, and he was impressed with nothing more than the necessity of having such a paid member to carry on the work in the intervals of the sittings of the Board. The noble and learned Lord mistrusted the wish or the power of the Government to appoint impartial and independent men to these nominated appointments. He himself did not share that mistrust. If it were laid down, as he trusted it might be laid down, in the course of their Lordships' discussions, that the quality necessary for appointment to the Board should be the possession of an impartial mind and an 958 independent disposition, united with a knowledge of what was necessary for the purpose of viewing the relief of congestion as a whole and that the person appointed should not be of a nature likely to yield to local pressure, he saw no reason whatever to doubt that this Government or any Government would give effect to the will of Parliament and make the appointments in accordance with the intentions of the Legislature. He did not attribute to the present Government greater willingness to do that than he would attribute to noble Lords opposite if they were in power. He would equally confide to them without suspicion the power of making proper nominations, but he thought it would be right and proper that this or any Government that might be in authority should appoint a proper proportion of men with local knowledge, choosing those who possessed the qualifications to which he had alluded. If there were any reason or any ground for suspicion that the nominated members of the Board would not properly discharge their functions or that they would be subject to illicit and illegitimate pressure or influences, the way to meet that was by reducing the work which the Board now discharged and in which those illegitimate influences might have most effect, and by restricting the operations of the Board to those functions in which such influences would have least effect.
§ From every point of view he thought it most desirable that the purchase of estates should be transferred from the Congested Districts Board to the Estates Commissioners He did not think the Congested Districts Board was a proper or an efficient body for the purchase of estates on a large scale. Of course, confiding the purchase of estates to an elected Board would be entirely out of the question. The agencies at the disposal of the Congested Districts Board could not be compared for experience or for knowledge with those of the Estates Commissioners. Besides, there was a very great inconvenience in the maintenance of two standards of price as there would be if two bodies purchasing on a large scale were called into existence. He had heard it said—it was largely dwelt upon in the discussions of the Dudley Commission—that it was desirable that the agency which would ultimately distribute the land should be the agency which should fix the price, inasmuch as it 959 was, of course, desirable that there should be as little loss as possible made upon the transaction. That consideration had some weight as long as the money available to the Board for land purchase was limited in extent. Then they had to pick and choose the estate which they could buy; but that reason ceased to operate when they had the large funds which this Bill provided, and when their land purchase operations should no longer be of a spasmodic character. For that reason he thought it would be a very great improvement if the transfer of all purchase operations were effected, the Estates Commissioners doing for the Board the duty which they now so admirably did in their own sphere of operations. Nothing would be more conducive to efficient work than that the Board should be relieved of these functions, and restricted to its proper work of relieving congestion.
§ He further was strongly of opinion that all business connected with fisheries and industries should be transferred to the Department of Agriculture. At the present time the thing was almost ludicrous, if he might use the word without any depreciatory reference whatsoever to the gentlemen engaged in the work. What happened at the present time in connection with the fisheries part of the Board's work was that the gentleman who conducted the fishery work under the Department of Agriculture was a member of the Congested Districts Board, and he did there exactly what he would do if he had remained in his own Department. There was a transfer to the Congested Districts Board of work which, in his opinion, might be better done when united with the fishery work in the rest of Ireland. If it had not been for the many distinguished qualities of the gentleman who presided over the fishery work of the Congested Districts Board far more inconvenient results would have come from the present system than had manifested themselves. When the Board was first created there was no Department in Ireland entrusted either with the purchase of land or with the promotion of industries or agricultural efficiency. Since the Board came into operation the Estates Commissioners had been created and also the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction. Both of those great Departments had already passed well beyond their novitiate, and he thought it was time that the division of labour which always 960 led to efficiency should be carried out, and that the work which these Departments were created to manage should now be entrusted to them.
§ In regard to the general question of policy to be pursued in dealing with the relief of congestion he was entirely at one with the noble and learned Lord in the order of precedence which he gave to the heads of that policy. They could not relieve congestion unless they had untenanted land wherewith to relieve it—untenanted land to which migrants were willing to migrate and whose former holdings might then be distributed amongst the local people. Unless they bought untenanted land it went without saying that the relief of congestion merely reduced itself to the improvement of uneconomic holdings without enlarging them. That had been the work of the Congested Districts Board in the past, not due to any fault in the Board, but due to the fact that they had no funds with which to buy untenanted lands or to improve them when bought. They would not secure local goodwill unless the first thing they did was to relieve local congestion. No matter whether the uneconomic holding was over the fence or this side of the fence of the scheduled area, on all grounds the relief of congestion in that neighbourhood was desirable. It was more desirable because without relieving that congestion they would not obtain the goodwill of the people who had been looking on that untenanted land perhaps for generations in the hope of sharing in it when good times had come. Therefore he entirely agreed with the noble and learned Lord that the relief of congestion on untenanted land purchased should be the first object and aim of the Congested Districts Board.
§ Next after that beyond any doubt, and with unshaken firmness, they ought to give the remaining land to the congests and not to the so-called landless men. Having satisfied so far as they could the congests whom they desired to relieve, there might be remnants of land left of which the Congested Districts Board might find it desirable to dispose. He would respectfully submit that the discretion of the Congested Districts Board in dealing with these remnants of land should not be fettered by such rules as had passed under the notice of their Lordships during the last few days, and that they should not lay down restrictions that 961 the remnants should be given to tenants holding ten-acre farms or the sons of tenants holding thirty-acre farms. They should trust the Congested Districts Board with complete discretion in that matter and allow them to dispose of the remnants of land to the best advantage of the locality, and also in order to secure the most easy working of their own Department. These were the few remarks which it occurred to him to make in recommending the second scheme which he had the honour to propose and which was in his name on the Notice Paper. He believed that that scheme would be effective in creating in the West of Ireland a spirit of confidence and of reliance in the uprightness, the impartiality, and the integrity of the Board. Short of such a Department as the first scheme contemplated he thought they could secure those most essential qualifications in no Board which admitted of the elective element, because elected members must always be subject to local pressure from their constituents. At the same time, if they did no more than appoint members who might be elected, by the mere fact of their appointment they would be free from that local pressure, or at least they would not be under the same obligation to be responsive to it. He thought that the suggestions which he had placed on the Paper were such as would best conduce to the objects which their Lordships had in view—the speedy, economical, and efficient relief of congestion in the West of Ireland.
§ THE EARL OF LEITRIM said that after the damaging attack upon the Government's proposals by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Atkinson, and with which he thought Lord MacDonnell agreed to a great extent, he did not think it was necessary for him to deal with those proposals. At the outset of his remarks he should like to associate himself with the noble Lord who had last spoken in his anxiety to relieve congestion as quickly as possible. They were just as anxious in every way that these slum properties, as the noble Lord called them, and in some cases rightly so, should be dealt with as the Congested Districts Board had been dealing with them for many years past. At the same time he did not think it was right to overstate the case, as the Bill did, in including a third of Ireland in the congested area. Much had been said about the paternal system carried on by the Congested Districts Board and the other system carried on by 962 the Department of Agriculture which might be called the system of self-help. A few years ago the agricultural part of the Congested Districts Board's work was to a great extent handed over to the Department of Agriculture, and at the time he himself thought that the system adopted by the Department could not possibly work in the congested districts because the system was a complicated one. The tenants had to study it and they had to find out how they could help themselves. That system had been going on now for about two and a-half years, and he found he was entirely wrong. The system had worked admirably. The congested districts obtained quite as much benefit from the schemes of the Department as the uncongested portions of the county. Therefore he submitted that as a point to show that it was not a good thing to increase the area of the congested districts. The area of the congestion was gone into very fully in 1891, and after nearly twenty years of work it was rather an acknowledgment of defeat to say that now they had to increase that area to five times the valuation.
§ But to deal with the two different schemes before their Lordships, he did not think Lord Atkinson had made out a case to show why the present Congested Districts Board should not go on with the work they had so well undertaken for the last twenty years, and he thought that was agreed by both sides of the House. Their work was good in relieving congestion; they had experience of it, and were not likely to be biassed by political or sectional interests. Where was the fault? No fault had been found yet with the Congested Districts Board sufficient to justify doing away with the Board. Therefore he did not think Lord Atkinson's scheme would meet with the approval of their Lordships' House; but he wished to agree with the noble and learned Lord in one thing he said, that nominated members were just as unsatisfactory as elected members, and the scheme of the noble Lord, Lord MacDonnell, dealt with nominated members.
§ THE EARL OF LEITRIM understood they were done away with by the Bill. They proposed that the Board should 963 continue as it had given confidence to both tenants and landlords, and that, he thought, was a great consideration to be taken into account.
§ THE EARL OF LEITRIM said he thought it was a great thing to find something in Ireland which was popular among both parties. This Board would have to a great extent to come between the parties and have judicial functions, and therefore it was most important that it should have the confidence of the country. He maintained that it had and would have the confidence of the country. The same care should be taken in appointing this Board as was being exercised in choosing the Commissioners to carry on the Development Grant. They did not introduce the elective element into that body, and therefore he maintained that they should not introduce it into the Development Grant for Ireland. He did not think that a county councillor from every county to consult as to how the money should be spent would be inclined to help hasten the work of the Development Bill, and that was their contention with regard to the elected members and the fresh nominated members of the Congested Districts Board. They agreed with what had fallen from the noble Lord, Lord MacDonell, in desiring to see the fisheries and agriculture handed over to the Department of Agriculture. Therefore, they proposed that the Congested Districts Board should remain as at present constituted, there being no good reasons shown so far why it should not continue the work it had been engaged in since 1891. Amendments would be moved dealing with the allocation of funds and also an important Amendment would be moved by Viscount Midleton dealing with the varying of the area of congestion. The area of congestion after twenty years of work might have changed. The area which was congested twenty years ago might not be congested now. He knew himself that the Congested Districts Board had been most successful in starting a large fishery wihtin the last fifteen years or so. The amount of money which the fishery brought in to a small district was some £40,000 a year That might be considered an uncongested district in future. They agreed that there might be districts which 964 should be declared congested, but they also pointed out that there might be districts which should be declared uncongested. They did not agree with Lord MacDonnell's scheme, and he regretted that they could not agree to the scheme pointed out by Lord Atkinson. Therefore he trusted their Lordships would approve of leaving matters as they were. No scheme had yet been put forward to deal with this question satisfactorily, and therefore he should hope to be supported by their Lordships' House.
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY said that if the chicken that was being plucked before being handed over to the finial master of its destiny—namely, the cook—had any feelings at all which he admitted was open to doubt, his (Lord Shaftesbury's) feelings would be rather akin to those of the chicken at this moment, inasmuch as he was a member of the Congested Districts Board whose future destinies were under their Lordships' consideration. He was rather diffident, therefore, in addressing their Lordships upon the subject at all, and, what was more, he did not wish to labour for a moment the proposals of the Government with regard to the Board to be set up. All the arguments against that Board had been really very forcibly dealt with in the Second Reading debate and also that night. He would only like to say in passing that he did not understand the logic—if logic were counted as anything in these days—of the Government's proposals inasmuch as they gave the Board with one hand all kinds of powers and of very wide reach, and yet, with the other hand, they seemed to him to take them away by the fact that in Clause 53 they gave power to the Lord-Lieutenant to direct everything by Order in Council. Therefore he did not quite see the object in bringing in the elective element upon the Board.
§ But with regard to the future of the Board and with regard to the schemes that had been laid before their Lordships' House, he would, like to say one or two words. He confessed that, as he had indicated on the Second Reading of this Bill, the scheme of the noble and learned Lord appealed to him because, after all, he believed it to be the most efficient and economic way of dealing with the whole question; but there might be objections. It might be too drastic a move, and might 965 not be quite as intelligible to the Irish people as the idea of maintaining the Board, at any rate for the present. Therefore, he must pass from the noble and learned Lord's scheme to that of Lord MacDonnell, and he believed that if that scheme could meet with their Lordships' approval it would be the best way of settling the difficulty at the present moment. From all he could gather from speeches made in and out of Parliament the present Board had attained a certain amount of popularity and approval in the work it had done, and, therefore, he might be pardoned if he saw no grave objection to retaining the Board, at any rate for the present, as it was now constituted. But he wished to qualify that statement by saying that he really saw no objection—in fact he would almost advocate it—to handing over the purchasing power of the Board to the Estates Commissioners, not entirely for the reasons mentioned by Lord MacDonnell, but really with the object of seeing one purchasing authority in Ireland and so removing the possibility of any competition, rivalry, or friction there might arise, and had perhaps arisen, in having two authorities purchasing land in Ireland. In that respect he would not in the least mind seeing the purchasing authority of the Board handed over to the Estates Commissioners; and so far as fisheries and industries were concerned, he thought it was the most practical thing to do. They had had no difficulty with regard to the fisheries, because, as Lord MacDonnell had pointed out, the same man who looked after the fishery department in the Department of Agriculture looked after the fisheries in the Congested Districts Board. He was the one man who had looked after all the fisheries in Ireland, and therefore there was no object in retaining the control of fisheries in the Congested Districts Board; and, so far as the industries were concerned, he believed the methods employed by the Department of Agriculture were really more beneficial to the people than those attributed to the Congested Districts Board, so that he thought if they retained the clause as it was with these provisions that might be the best solution.
§ *LORD CLONBROCK said that from what they had heard from Lord MacDonnell they could quite understand that some modifications might be necessary, but what he and other members of the Landowners Con- 966 vention were most anxious to do was to retain the Congested Districts Board in its present form without any introduction of the elective element. There was no doubt his noble and learned friend had pointed out all the objections to the scheme that appeared in the Bill, but he had substituted for these elective members members elected by the Council of Agriculture, and he wished to point out that that also contained grave dangers. At present these members of the Council of Agriculture were elected by the county councils, presumably at least because of their knowledge of agriculture and experience in technical instruction, but if these new functions of acting as members of the Congested Districts Board were to be added it was perfectly clear that in future they would be appointed as advocates of the extreme policy of the United Irish League. That would have the disadvantage of introducing politics into the Agricultural Council and placing men there who would be appointed as politicians rather than as men experienced in the matters that ought to come before them. Hitherto that body had been as free from politics as it was possible for any body in Ireland to be. They would impair that Department, and it would be extremely bad to have such advisers for the Estates Commissioners. His noble and learned friend proposed that they should be only an advisory body, but he thought the Estates Commissioners would find considerable difficulty in resisting their advice if they were appointed by Act of Parliament, especially when they had the whole country at their back. That was why he thought they would be bad advisers and would be open to the same objection as if they were elected ad hoc by the county councils. He would like, therefore, to leave the Congested Districts Board as it was. It had done exceedingly well. It had worked a lot of good in his own county and in the neighbourhood, and although, like all other bodies, it had made a mistake now and then, it had given great satisfaction and inspired great confidence among the people. He passed from that to the question of the duties they would have to perform in connection with compulsory purchase. As he had said when the discussion was taking place on compulsory purchase—
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
Would it not be possible on this Amendment to confine ourselves to the question of the composition of the Board?
§ *LORD CLONBROCK said he only meant to renew his extreme opposition to compulsory purchase. He had very little more to say. The solution of the question which the Landowners Convention proposed was that the Board should remain as it was, and that a committee should be appointed by it, by the Estates Commissioners, and by the Agricultural Department to settle the allocation of the large funds to be entrusted to them.
§ LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE wished to say one word on the taking away of the purchase powers from the Congested Districts Board and giving them to the Estates Commissioners.
I rise to order. Ought we not to confine ourselves to the question of the composition of the Board?
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I made my appeal because there are four separate plans for reconstituting the Board, and it would be well to clear that question out of the way.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The Bill is one of unusual intricacy and the complication of our discussion has not been diminished by the complication of the Amendments on the Paper. We are, as the noble Lord rightly says, discussing the future position of the Congested Districts Board. Now may I venture to mention one or two points in regard to which I think there is a somewhat general agreement? In the first place I think all, or, at any rate, most of those noble Lords who have spoken to-night have arrived at the conclusion that some change is desirable in the duties at present assigned to the Board. It would really be almost inconceivable that we should think otherwise, because, as we all know, since the Board was first established, I think in 1891, other Departments have been created, and there is, as a result, a great deal of overlapping and sometimes of unfortunate competition between two authorities. That is the first point upon which there is some agreement. There is another point which has not been expressly referred to this evening but about which there is a considerable amount of tacit agreement. I think all noble Lords from Ireland would be in favour of the retaining for the Congested Districts Board, or, at any 968 rate, for the relief of the congested districts, the large sums of money which this Bill is intended to provide for that purpose. Then comes the third point upon which I think there is agreement, or, at any rate, a great preponderance of opinion. There is a wide-spread desire that the Congested Districts Board as we know it should not be wiped out of existence altogether. If I was going to criticise the proposals contained in the Bill—which I shall not do at any length, because they have already been sufficiently dealt with—I should dwell upon the fact that the new Congested Districts Board as it would exist under this Bill would be something wholly different from the Congested Districts Board as we know it at present. It would be a large and unwieldy body concerned with a large and unwieldy area. It would be constituted in a manner which would expose it to constant local pressure; it would dispose, without responsibility to Parliament, of very large sums of public money; and, finally, it would be calculated to stereotype and perpetuate that kind of paternal administration which we are all ready to accept as a transition from the present to a better state of things, but which we should not desire to recognise as part of the permanent institutions of the country.
Well, my Lords, I think there is a general feeling, on this side of the House at any rate, that the scheme of the Bill, so far as it concerns the new Congested Districts Board, is not one which we can possibly accept. Let me touch for one moment on the alternatives proposed. In the first place there is the proposal of my noble and learned friend Lord Atkinson, which he unfolded to us in a speech which we all listened to with delight. I say without hesitation that if we had a clean slate and were reconstructing a new system ab initio for the administration of these affairs, the scheme which he favours is the kind of scheme which I should certainly be inclined to support. It is logical, it is symmetrical, it would have the effect of placing in the hands of the Department of Agriculture duties connected with agriculture and industries which properly belong to it; it would have the effect of concentrating all purchase operations in the hands of the Estates Commissioners who in my opinion are very much better qualified and equipped for the purpose of dealing with these questions than the Congested Districts Board can be; and it would leave the new Congested Districts Board in the position of a 969 purely deliberative and advisory body. That seems to me, in theory, a most admirable proposal. But to my mind it has this defect, that the scheme also virtually puts an end to the Congested Districts Board. The Board would cease to have any administrative functions and it has always been connected in the public mind in Ireland with administrative functions wisely and beneficially performed. Therefore I am inclined to think that the proposal of my noble and learned friend, though admirable in theory, is one which, perhaps, in practice it might not be desirable to apply.
Then there is the proposal which was sketched by my noble friend Lord Leitrim, who, I think, desires to retain the Congested Districts Board in its present position—wherein I venture to express my agreement with him—and to add to it a new body which would be known, I think, as the Allocation Committee. I am always a little doubtful as to the wisdom, in a country where there is a good deal of official machinery already in existence, of adding any new wheels to the official machine, but I am bound to say that it seems to me that some arrangement of this kind, under which the Congested Districts Board, the Department of Agriculture, and the Land Commission might, from time to time, come together and compare notes and decide particularly as to the distribution of the funds which will be at their disposal, would be a very sensible and admirable arrangement. Then there is the scheme, not differing very widely from that scheme but not quite identical, which I think is to be found in the Amendment of my noble friend Lord MacDonnell and which was, I think, also supported by my noble friend Lord Shaftesbury in the speech to which we have just listened. I understand that under that proposal the whole of the land purchase operations would be transferred to the Estates Commissioners, and the whole of the operations connected with agriculture, industries, and fisheries to the Department of Agriculture
I understand it to be also suggested that although the Congested Districts Board should no longer be itself allowed to conduct land purchase operations it should be put in the position of indicating to the Land Commission what estates, what parcels of land, it might be desirable to acquire in one part of Ireland or another for the purpose of relieving congestion. That seems to me to be a very good suggestion 970 If it were carried out, I understand what would happen would be this. The Congested Districts Board, with the intimate knowledge of the congested areas which it would possess, would indicate to the Land Commission its desire that certain areas should be acquired. The Land Commission would thereupon acquire these areas, and, having acquired them, would transfer them to the Congested Districts Board, which would in turn improve those areas, do what was necessary in the way of equipping them with buildings, drains, and so forth, and would have the duty of distributing the land in such a manner as might be suitable among the claimants. In addition to that I understand it to be suggested that the Congested Districts Board might be reinforced by the addition of a paid member to whom would be entrusted the routine work of the Department. That, again, seems to me to be a very good suggestion. But I separate that proposal from the proposal of my noble friend Lord MacDonnell, who would, I gather, prefer gradually to get rid of the present members of the Congested Districts Board and to substitute for them a number of nominated members.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
There are eight members of the Congested Districts Board nominated at present. I would reduce the number to seven. Half of the eight would go out on the creation of the Board, and half the year after. If so desired the Board might be reconstituted with its existing members, as members who go out would be eligible for re-election.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I understand the proposal. But I lean rather to that which I think finds favour with my noble friend behind me, who would like, for the present at all events, to leave the Congested Districts Board alone. That alternative, if I have made myself clear, is the one which, upon the whole, seems to me to be the most promising, and if we could contrive to take our Amendments in such a way as to give the House the opportunity of deciding between the three schemes which I have mentioned I think we might perhaps advance matters a little. But I confess I do see considerable difficulties in arriving at a conclusion as between these half dozen schemes, because I believe there are half a dozen possible variations which might be gathered from the Amendments on the Paper. I have 971 thought it desirable at this stage, with great deference, to lay before the House the alternatives which lie before it and an expression of the manner in which I regard this difficult problem.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I think your Lordships must be grateful to the noble Marquess who has just sat down for two things—in the first place, having confined himself exclusively to the point at issue and in the second place, having, with, unequalled clearness placed the various solutions which are proposed before your Lordships' House. I think perhaps it is best first, if I may do so, to deal with the proposals of the noble and learned Lord opposite. I understand that they do not find favour with what I may call the official Opposition, if I may so express myself, but the noble and learned Lord put them forward in a speech of such great force that I think it would not be respectful to him if I were not to say a word or two about them. The noble and learned Lord proposes, in effect, to abolish the Congested Districts Board and to substitute for it an advisory body under the name of the Congested Districts Board and consisting of members of the Council of Agriculture appointed for any county containing a congested district. This would be a purely advisory body, and I think the noble Marquess who has just sat down was quite right in explaining that it would not in any sense be the Congested Districts Board as we have been accustomed to know it.
The noble and learned Lord made a challenge to me to suggest, if I could, any parallel to the proposals which we put before the House for the reconstitution of the Board and for its functions. It may be that there is no parallel to such a body within the British Empire, but then there is no parallel within the British Empire to the congested districts in the West of Ireland and special cases have, in our opinion, to be met with special remedies. The noble and learned Lord first proceeded towards the demolition of the idea of any elective element on the new Board. I do not wish to labour again the reasons which actuated us in accepting the opinion of the majority of Lord Dudley's Commission in this matter—that is to say, I do not wish to labour again the argument which I ventured to use at an earlier stage of the discussion on the question of the provision of land for congests and landless men. But the noble Lord did go over 972 some of the ground again when he spoke of the aversion to migrants, which he knew to exist, and we have always said that our proposition for the admission of an elected element was largely put forward in the hope of finding some means of diminishing and dealing with that aversion. The noble and learned Lord has said that the United Irish League is entirely on the side of the landless men and opposed to the congests, and in support of that he quoted observations made by Mr. John Fitzgibbon before the Commission, and also observations made by that gentleman in a speech. Mr. Fitzgibbon's is a well-known name in Ireland. He was well known when I was Viceroy there. He is a man who undoubtedly holds strong opinions and expresses himself strongly, and he was considered to be, and was stated by the Chief Secretary in the House of Commons to be, an extreme champion of the views of the landless men as against those of congests. However, the noble and learned Lord did not quote the published correspondence which passed between Mr. Birrell and Mr. Fitzgibbon on this subject. It is merely necessary to quote a very few lines of a letter from Mr. Fitzgibbon, dated from Castlerea on the 7th of last month. In that letter Mr. Fitzgibbon said that he never made the statement attributed to him by gentlemen sitting behind the Front Opposition Bench. On the contrary, he had invariably stated that the settlement of the people in the fertile parts ought to be a national and not a parish or local question. All he did say was that in order that the difficulties of which they heard so much from tenants far apart should be met and the work of migration run smoothly, care should be taken that the occupiers of uneconomic holdings living in the vicinity of the parish in which the untenanted lands were situated should receive at least equal treatment to that given to migrants coming from a distance. That is an observation with which I think nobody would be disposed to quarrel. My purpose in stating it is because I do not understand why it should be assumed by the noble and learned Lord that the United League as a body are altogether opposed to the relief of congestion in Ireland by migration.
§ LORD ATKINSON said the witness quoted was put forward expressly to represent the policy of the League. He said, "Congests first, then sons of tenants, then migrants."973
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
The noble and learned Lord will observe that the letter gives a somewhat different version of Mr. Fitzgibbon's opinion.
§ LORD ATKINSON
No, I think it exactly concurs. It says that local congests should be relieved before foreign congests. But it leaves out the important step that after local congests and before foreign congests should come landless men.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
Even supposing that were so—and it does not appear from the letter of Mr. Fitzgibbon, who, as we know, is Chairman of the Roscommon County Council and a popular and important person—it does not follow that because he holds this view, or because it is held by many others, that that view should be stated as being the policy of the League. It is not my business to describe, much less to defend, the policy of the League, but it seems to me that the noble and learned Lord and other noble Lords mix up two things. It is the fact that some of these young landless men who give the trouble are active members of the League, and, therefore, in a sense, it may be true that, so far as particular districts are concerned, a great number of members of the League are on the side of the landless men. But it is quite a different thing to say that the policy of the Nationalist Party as a whole is opposed to the relief of congestion by migration. I know no colour for it, and I cannot conceive any reason for it. Why and for what conceivable reason should it be the object of the Nationalist Party to maintain, in the congested districts of Ireland, a state of misery and confusion? It cannot be supposed that any political preference or prejudice should enter into the matter, and I should require a great deal more evidence than I have ever heard of the supposed preference of the Nationalist Party for the landless men before I could accept in any degree what seems to approach an article of faith with noble Lords opposite.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
Might I interrupt the noble Earl? In the evidence given before the Dudley Commission, Mr. Finucane, who, of course, is anxious that migrations should take place, said that he did not shrink from the contemplation of migration and police protection, and declared that if only the grass lands were resold cheap enough you would 974 soon find migrants who would fight for their rights. They were to fight for their rights according to him.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I cannot see the smallest relevance in the observation of the noble Marquess. It has never been denied, and we have put it forward as our main difficulty, that individual migrants would find themselves in personal difficulties with individual landless men who might wish to obtain farms. But that is quite a different matter from saying that it is the settled policy on the part of the Irish Members in Parliament and the Nationalist Party generally to interfere with the relief of congestion by migration. I, for one, do not believe it. I pass for a moment to the question of what are to be the extra functions of the Estates Commissioners, without attempting to describe them, either if the Board is abolished or if the duty of land purchase is entirely taken from the Congested Districts Board. I may at once say that we regard it as of the first importance that the power of purchase should be retained by the Congested Districts Board, and we are in no way disposed to throw these duties upon the Estates Commissioners, who, in the discussion on the previous Amendment, were described as being so heavily overtaxed that they could not contemplate the trouble of acquiring even an acre of land here or there by compulsory purchase. It was supposed that it was impossible for them to look into the question as to whether a particular piece of untenanted land could he compulsorily acquired or not, because they were so hard worked. Yet it is proposed to transfer to them the whole of the functions now possessed by the Congested Districts Board in relation to the purchase of land. I leave it to noble Lords opposite to reconcile these two statements. Quite apart from any inconsistency of which noble Lords may be convicted, it is as a matter of fact the case that, if the Estates Commissioners are to be asked to take over in any degree the general functions of the Congested Districts Board, their ordinary work of regulating and assisting land purchase must suffer. We are throwing as it is a heavy burden on the Commissioners by the acceleration which we hope will proceed from the regular work of their office; and if you are going to add work connected with the congested districts, as is freely proposed, it simply means that the work will not in reality be 975 performed by them but will have to be delegated to and done by somebody else. That is a conclusion at which your Lordships would not wish to arrive, because when important functions of this kind are entrusted to public officials of the standing and character of the Estates Commissioners you desire that they should be performed by the men themselves and not be handed over to somebody else.
The official view opposite, as I understand, is that which, if I may say so, was most clearly set forward by the noble Earl, Lord Leitrim, in the speech with which he followed the noble and learned Lord. That view is that the Congested Districts Board should be retained in precisely its present form. I do not know if the noble Earl desired to change its functions in any way, but there have been proposals for the retention of the men but the modification to some degree of their powers and duties. It was said, and said with great truth, that in a sense the Congested Districts Board has done its work very well. Everybody knows that distinguished men have given ungrudgingly of their time and pains to the work of the Congested Districts Board, and that a great deal of that work has been of the highest value. But I shall never believe that administrative functions can be properly exercised by a body which meets once a month, sits for a couple of days, and then adjourns and does not work through committees but has to depend upon officials for its actual work of administration. That being so we hold the view that whatever happens to the Congested Districts Board, it is of the highest importance that its work should be carried on by permanent paid members. The Report of Lord Dudley's Commission suggested three such members, but we think that two would be able to do the work that is required. But we attach great importance to there being two, and that is a point on which we should be most unwilling to give way.
The noble Lord behind me, Lord Mac-Donnell, proposes a somewhat different course. He proposes that one of the Estates Commissioners should sit on the Congested Districts Board. I can understand a certain attraction in that suggestion, but for the reasons which I have already given as to the work of the Estates Commissioners it does not seem to me wise, although I can see the advantages which 976 might follow from it, to attempt to throw upon any of the Estates Commissioners the additional work of being a member of the Congested Districts Board. Then the noble Lord suggests that there should be seven appointed members. Now there was one saying of the noble Earl, Lord Leitrim, which struck me as something of a dark saying. He said he disliked nominated members almost as much as he did elected members. On the same Bench as he is sitting the noble Earl, Lord Shaftesbury, is a nominated member of the Board, who apparently we are to believe represents an almost sinister figure, as if he had actually been sent there by a county council. We should be most unwilling to think that was possible. If the body of the members are to be neither elected nor nominated what are they to be? Are they to be all ex officio? In that case your Board will merely be another name for a Government Department.
I think we may assume from the course of the debate that the majority of your Lordships will not be disposed to accept the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord. It is evident from what the noble Marquess who has just sat down said that the retention of the Board in some form is desired. We think that there is a distinct and real advantage in bringing in an elected element. If there is to be any elected element at all it ought, in our opinion, to be part of the constitution of the Board, rather than of a merely advisory character. I think any objection which may be taken to the local element on the ground that they would push local interests and be biassed by local considerations would operate more seriously in the case of a purely advisory body than if people had to sit round a table and put their views as members of the body against those of other members of the body.
We also think that, as I have already said, it is of the first importance to have two permanent paid members; as regards the remaining composition of the Board, that I think speaks for itself and does not need any particular description or justification. It is, however, right to mention, as objection has been taken to the elected element, that it is the Administrative Committee who by our proposal have the power of dealing with financial questions. I do not know that I need labour this 977 question of the composition of the Board any further. The whole matter was so clearly stated by the noble Marquess that I think we are enabled at any rate to form our opinion of it, although it is not quite evident by what precise form of dealing with the Amendments the desire of the majority of the House may be translated into the Bill. I think it can be done. I suppose the first course would be to take a vote Aye or No on the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord.
§ On Question, Clause 44 deleted.
§ LORD ATKINSON regretted that he could not possibly hope to carry his Amendment. He had never made any objection to the nomination of members. What he did object to was the nomination of future members, because he thought that the power that had coerced the Government to bring in this Bill would coerce the Government in favour of the landless men. He withdrew his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 45:
§ 45.—(1) From and after the appointed day, the Congested Districts Board shall consist of the following members:—
- (a) The Chief Secretary, the Under-Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, and the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland, who shall be ex-officio members:
- (b) Five members appointed by His Majesty (in this Act referred to as appointed members):
- (c) Nine members representing the congested districts counties, of whom one shall be elected by the local authority of each congested districts county (in this Act referred to as representative members):
- (d) Two paid members appointed by His Majesty (in this Act referred to as permanent members).
§ (2) An appointed member shall hold office for four years and shall be eligible for reappointment.
§ (3) Each of the permanent members shall hold office during pleasure, and shall be paid by the Board out of the funds at their disposal an annual salary of two thousand pounds:
§ Provided that a permanent member shall not be removed from his office except by an Order in Council, and any such Order shall be laid before each House of Parliament forthwith, and if an Address is presented to His Majesty by either House of Parliament within the next subsequent forty days on which that House has sat after any such Order is laid before it praying that the Order 978 may be annulled, His Majesty in Council may annul the Order, and it shall thenceforth be void.
§ (4) His Majesty may fill any casual vacancy in the office of appointed or permament member by appointing a member in the place of the member whose office is vacant.
§ (5) Every existing member of the Congested Districts Board who is not an ex-officio member, or is not appointed or elected under or in pursuance of this section, shall cease to hold office on the appointed day.
§ LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD moved an Amendment to alter the constitution of the Board. He said that at present the Board consisted of eleven members. The original Board consisted of two official and five appointed members, the appointed members being subsequently raised to eight. It then stood at ten, and by the Act of 1903 the Under-Secretary was made a member of the Board. His proposal now was that an additional member should be added. He should be a paid member, and this would make the number twelve. Of those, four members would be official, seven nominated, and one would be a paid official of the Government. That, in substance, was the proposal he had put on the Paper. There was a subsidiary proposal that one half of the existing members should vacate their office on the coming into operation of the Bill. The greater part of the nominated members had been nominated for life and some of them had been on the Board for a long series of years. Some had been re-nominated. Having had experience of the Board, his idea was that it would be a good thing to introduce some fresh blood, though he would wish to maintain such a proportion of the Board as would continue the traditions of the institution. He was not particularly wedded to one half vacating office; and if their Lordships preferred one third he had no objection. He had no great objection to the existing Board remaining in office a little longer, but it was very desirable that there should be some introduction of fresh blood. His Amendment would Make the clause read that the Board should consist of twelve members; that four of those be official—viz., the Chief Secretary, the Under-Secretary, the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture, and one Assistant Commissioner in rotation—seven nominated members and one paid member. The Amendment would also provide that one half of the existing members of the Board should vacate office on the coming into effect of this Bill.979
In page 22, line 37, after 'Ireland,' to insert and one Estates Commissioner'; in line 39, to leave out 'five" and to insert 'seven'; in page 23, lines 1 to 4, to leave out paragraph (c); in line 5, to leave out 'two' and to insert 'one' and to leave out 'members' and insert 'member'; in line 6, to leave out 'members' and to insert 'member'; in line 9 to leave out 'Each of,' and to leave out 'members' and insert 'member'; and in page 23, lines 23 to 26, to leave out subsection (5) and to insert the following new subsection:
'(5) One half of the existing non-official members of the Congested Districts Board as existing at the date of the passing of this Act shall retire by lot on the appointed day, the second half shall in like manner retire on the expiry of one year from the appointed day; members so retiring shall be eligible for re-appointment within the number of seven provided by this section.'"—(Lord MacDonnell of Swinford.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
With regard to this proposal I need hardly say that I greatly prefer it to anything that has been proposed from the benches opposite, but at the same time we prefer our own, and therefore, of course, I cannot actually support the proposal of my noble friend. In our view it fails in two respects. It does not contain any elective element and it only provides for one permanent member instead of two whom we consider indispensable.
§ *LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD said his reason for having only one paid member was that the two proposals transferred to the Estates Commissioners the purchase operations and transferred to the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction the fisheries and industries. Nothing then would be left to the Board except the improvement of estates bought for them and the execution of agreements with the tenants. The functions of the Board were to improve estates of which they became the owners and to re-sell those estates to the tenants after improvement. The re-sale followed the procedure imposed on an ordinary landlord. The Board came to an agreement with his tenant. The agreements were recorded and deposited with the Estates Commissioners, who then carried out the remainder of the process. For the work that would remain after the transfers of duties were effected two officers would be quite unnecessary. The work would easily be within the power of one officer of ordinary competence and industry to discharge.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE OF BRANDON regretted he could not support the amended 980 proposals with regard to the Congested Districts Board. He had no doubt that from an administrative point of view they would be of advantage. Coming as they did with the commendation of the noble Lord who had had experience in administering the work of the Board they demanded serious consideration; but it seemed to him that the arguments put forward by the Government for keeping the Board as it was were so strong that it did not seem to him worth while to disturb its constitution in the way suggested. There was also the fact that the Act which set up this Board expired in two years, and that would appear to be the proper time for considering any such administrative changes.
§ LORD ATKINSON wished to make a suggestion. There was a good deal of agreement between the two sides of the House as to what functions the Board should discharge. He agreed that the purchase of land should be transferred to the Estates Commissioners and that some duties at present discharged by the Congested Districts Board should be transferred to the Department of Agriculture. Considering that the Government were opposed to the noble Lord's plan for the reconstitution of the Board and that it did not seem to find any favour either with noble Lords on the Opposition side, would it be too much to ask the noble Lord to imitate his (Lord Atkinson's) moderation. It was quite hopeless to suppose that the Amendment could be carried, and he suggested that the wiser course would be to withdraw it and endeavour between themselves to introduce some Amendment on Report which would have practical support from a sufficient number on both sides to overbear the opposition of the Government should it be offered.
§ LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD said that of the schemes put forward the Leader of the House preferred his (Lord MacDonnell's) next to that of the Government. As the matter stood at present, he did not feel inclined to forfeit that advantageous position but preferred to go on with his Amendment.
§ *LORD ASHBOURNE rather gathered that a mistake might have been made in leaving out the whole of Clause 44. Whilst he agreed with a great deal that had been said by both 981 Lord MacDonnell and Lord Atkinson, and also with something of what had been said by the Leader of the House, he could not find in anything that had been said the basis of the proposal that he himself would vote for. He had a clear and plain opinion that the right course to take was to stand by the Congested Districts Board as it was. It was popular and had worked well on the whole although open to criticism in some details. He admitted that if they were starting afresh he would try to accept the lines sketched by Lord Atkinson, but they must fall in with the logic of facts. There was not a clean slate. They had an existing Board, and he was in favour of standing to that Board and standing to its area, even if, after further consideration, they felt disposed to try and modify its duties and its work.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
That is a question I can answer without difficulty. I am in favour of keeping as much money as I can for Ireland. I would stand to the present moneys and what further addition we can get. Although I feel that the noble Earl is in every way entitled to put that question—
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I am sure the noble and learned Lord will understand that I did not put the question in any sense to annoy him. The point was whether the constitution of the Board is compatible with the spending of a largely increased sum of money.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE said he quite recognised that the noble Earl put the question in a fair and reasonable way; it was a most legitimate question from every point of view. If the noble Earl meant that he would only give the money if he had the representative members added he would answer him at once that he would not take the money on, those terms. The existing Congested Districts Board dealt with its work on the whole so as to command approval and had performed many useful functions well, although open to criticism, 982 and he hoped that would be sufficient to justify the continuance, not only of the support it had generally received in Ireland, but also of the confidence of the Government, and that the Government would not feel disposed to try and cut down the measure of pecuniary support they intended giving although the Board would not represent their exact view as to its constitution.
§ LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD said that on reflection he would comply with the suggestion of Lord Atkinson and withdraw his Amendment now, with permission to bring it up if necessary on Report.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question proposed, That Clause 45 stand part of the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
May I say here that it was through inadvertence that noble Lords agreed to the omission of Clause 44.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
I am afraid Clause 44 is out of the Bill. It can go back again on another stage.
To leave out Clause 15."—(Lord Atkinson.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 46:
§ 46.—(1) The representative members shall hold office for terms of six years (the first whereof shall date from the appointed day) and shall be eligible for re-election.
§ (2) A representative member may resign office by giving notice to the secretary.
§ (3) A casual vacancy occurring through death, resignation or otherwise, in the office of representative member shall be filled by the election of a person by the local authority by whom the person whose office is vacant was elected.
§ (4) A person elected to fill a casual vacancy shall retire from office at the same time as the person whose office is vacant would have retired.
To leave e out Clause 46."—(Lord Atkinson.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 47:
§ 47.—(1) There shall be an administrative committee of the Congested Districts Board consisting of the Chief Secretary, the Under Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, the permanent member 983 and two other members of the Board not being ex officio members, to be chosen by the appointed and the representative members.
§ (2) The administrative committee shall control the finance of the Board.
§ (3) Subject to such control, the Board shall have power to determine all matters arising in relation to the purchase or re-sale of land or the aiding and developing of agriculture, industries or fishing under the Congested Districts Board (Ireland) Acts as amended by this Act.
§ (4) The powers and duties of the Board shall, subject to the foregoing provisions of this section, be exercised and performed by and through the administrative committee.
To leave out Clause 47."—(Lord Atkinson.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 48:
§ 48. —(1) For the purposes of the Congested Districts Board (Ireland) Acts, as amended by this Act, each of the following administrative counties, that is to say, the counties of Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo Galway, Clare, and Kerry, shall be a congested districts county, and the four rural districts of Bantry, Castle-town, Schull, and Skibbereen, in the county of Cork, shall together form one congested districts county.
§ (2) The council of the administrative county shall be the local authority of the congested districts county, except in the case of the congested districts county in the county of Cork.
§ (3) For the purposes of this Part of this Act there shall be a joint committee of the councils of the rural districts of Bantry, Castletown, Schull, and Skibbereen, consisting of two persons chosen out of their body by each of the said councils, and that committee shall be the local authority of the congested districts county in the county of Cork.
§ (4) No electoral division shall, after the passing of this Act, be or form part of a congested districts county, unless it is included in a congested districts county constituted under this section.
§ (5) The Local Government Board for Ireland may make rules regulating the election, meetings, and procedure of the said joint committee.
§ LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD moved to omit the first four subsections and to insert a new subsection providing that "the council of any administrative county comprising a congested district may appoint a committee for any electoral division or smaller area in the congested districts county" for the purpose of obtaining such information and furnishing such suggestions as the Board may require and of generally assisting the Board in the relief of congestion in the congested districts county. His object, the noble Lord explained, was to bring the Board into touch 984 with the general local government organisations throughout the country. They had before them on the Dudley Commission a large mass of evidence to show that there was no local touch of an official character between the Board and the people. The Board did come into touch with the people through its officials and through the parish priests, who from the first gave to the Board the most valuable assistance. But it was felt desirable to connect the Congested Districts Board in an official way with the Local Government Board organisation of the country, and he believed that the Local Government Board were also of opinion that such an organisation as that was desirable for their own purposes. It occurred to him that it would be of advantage if some such proposal as that contained in the Amendment were carried out in order to effect the objects he had in view.
In page 24, lines 16 to 35, to leave out subsections (1), (2), (3) and (4) and to insert the following new subsection—
'(1) The council of any administrative county comprising a congested districts county may appoint a committee for any electoral division or smaller area in the congested districts county, consisting partly of members of their own body, and partly of other persons for the purpose of obtaining such information and furnishing such suggestions as the Board may require, and of generally assisting the Board in the relief of congestion in the congested districts county.'"—(Lord MacDonnell of Swinford.)
§ LORD ATKINSON, whilst sympathising with the object of the noble Lord, thought the Amendment would lead to the most absurd results. It gave authority to the Administrative Council to elect a committee for each electoral division or a smaller area. He surmised that if the council had that power they would be put under great pressure to exercise it. What would result from that? In Galway there were 151 electoral divisions. If a committee were appointed for each there would be 151 committees. In Roscommon there were ninety electoral divisions and in Leitrim seventy, so that taking those three counties there were 311 electoral divisions. There might be different opinions entertained by those different councils each wanting an advance of money for its own particular object. He did not know if the difficulty might be met by inserting the words "at the request of the Congested Districts Board" after the word "may."985
§ LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD was quite willing to accept the suggestion and to insert those words, and he amended his Amendment accordingly. Perhaps, however, the noble and learned Lord was not aware that at the present time there were what were called parish committees created in each parish in a congested district. These local committees might, in many instances, take the place of the parish committees. They would be of a more representative character than were the nominated parish committees. He was quite willing to accept the suggestion to make it permissive and to secure that the council should not act except on the suggestion or at the request of the Congested Districts Board. That was, in fact, always his intention. But he thought the object in view would be defeated if there were only one committee for the whole council.
§ On Question, Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
In page 24, line 36, after 'Ireland' to insert the words 'in consultation with the Congested Districts Board.'"—(Lord MacDonnell of Swinford.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD ATKINSON, who had an Amendment on the Paper to leave out Clause 48, intimated that, in view of its amendment, he did not propose to move its omission.
§ Clause 48, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 49:
§ 49. The powers and duties of the Congested Districts Board under any enactment, so far as they relate to any of the following matters; namely:—
- (a) The provision of seed potatoes or seed oats;
- (b) Agricultural instruction or practical husbandry;or
- (c) The aiding and developing of forestry or the breeding of live stock or poultry;
§ LORD MONTEAGLE OF BRANDON moved to add to the duties transferred "the aiding and developing of sea fisheries." 986 This work, he said, was at present practically carried on by one gentleman, one of the best officials in Ireland, who happened to be a servant of the Department of Agriculture and was also a member of the Congested Districts Board. Owing to that accidental circumstance the difficulties that would otherwise have beer almost inevitable through a division of that kind between two bodies had not arisen. But the division between the two bodies of administrative officials was such an obvious anomaly that he hoped it did not require any further arguments to commend his Amendment to the Committee. It was simply to transfer the work of aiding and developing sea fisheries in the congested districts to the same body as administered fisheries in the whole of the rest of Ireland—namely, the Department of Agriculture.
In page 25, line 7, after the word 'poultry,' to insert—
'(d) The aiding and developing of sea fisheries.'"—(Lord Monteagle of Brandon.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
The Committee will, I think, see that the Government are placed in some difficulty over this Amendment as they were over the last. I did not intervene on the last Amendment although the question really was one of supreme importance, but as the question of area hangs upon the composition of the Board it did not seem to me to be worth while to take up the time of the Committee in discussing on this occasion, although one may have to do so on a future occasion, the increased area of the Board proposed in our Bill. The same thing, though to a smaller extent, applies to this Amendment. If it were the case that the Board was to remain exactly as it is with no additions at all, which is how we stand now, there might be something to be said for it; but we do not propose, with our re-modelled Board, to divest it of its functions in regard to fisheries.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Surely this Amendment is worthy of consideration on its merits and quite apart from the larger question of the new constitution of the Congested Districts Board. His Majesty's Government already in this Bill propose to give to the Department of Agriculture certain duties which now belong to the Congested Districts Board, and it seems to me that there is a very 987 strong case indeed for so dealing with the fisheries. We were told that you have this absurd principle that half the fisheries on the coast are dealt with by one Department and half by another, and that the officer who deals with that is the same officer, owing allegiance equally to both Departments. That is an arrangement that might well be terminated.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
What is proposed by the Bill is a joint Board—which is, after all, not an infrequent creation either in this country or in Ireland—the reason being that part of the work connected with fisheries, such as the erection of piers and so on, has been so far the duty of the Congested Districts Board, and a great deal of the work is important work of the kind which had hitherto been, and in future we think ought to be, kept in their hands. It is not purely a question of fisheries but also of a number of local matters which, in our view, fall rather within the purview of the Congested Districts Board than of the Board of Agriculture, as might be the case if it were merely a question of fisheries.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 49, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 50:
§ 50. For the purpose of advising the Department and the Congested Districts Board with a view to the co-ordination of the administration of the business of the Department and the Board respectively in relation to the aiding and developing of sea fisheries in areas in which they have concurrent powers or duties, there shall be a consultative committee consisting of six members, of whom three shall be nominated by the Department, and three shall be nominated by the Board.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE OF BRANDON pointed out that his Amendment to delete this clause was consequential on previous Amendments.
To leave out Clause 50."—(Lord Monteagle of Brandon.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 51:
§ Out of that sum an annual sum of nineteen thousand pounds shall be paid to the Department for the purpose of the exercise of the powers and the performance of the duties transferred to the Department under this Act, and the residue shall be paid to the Congested Districts Board:
§ Provided that at any time after the expiration of five years from the appointed day the Lord Lieutenant may, on the application of the Department or the Board, from time to time direct that the amount payable to the Department for the purpose aforesaid shall be increased or reduced, and the increased or reduced amount shall as from the date fixed by the Lord Lieutenant be the amount payable to the Department under this section.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON moved an Amendment the object of which was, he said, to provide an Allocation Committee which, being equally representative of the Board of Agriculture, the Congested Districts Board, and the Estates Commissioners, would be a tribunal which would be fair to them all. The proposal was in no sense hostile to the interests of the Board or to the Bill. After the various decisions which had been come to that evening he thought probably it would be considered by the Government as desirable that the Congested Districts Board should be somewhat strengthened for the allocation of those large sums which Parliament was voting.
In page 25, line 22, to leave out from 'Parliament' to the end of the clause, and to insert 'and shall be paid to the Allocation Joint Committee hereinafter mentioned.
(2) For the purposes of this Part of this Act there shall be a committee, to be called the Allocation Joint Committee, consisting of nine persons, of whom three shall be members of the Congested Districts Board selected or appointed by that Board, three shall be persons appointed by the Department of Agricultural and Technical Instruction for Ireland, and three shall be the three Estates Commissioners for the time being.
(3) The Allocation Joint Committee shall from time to time allocate the moneys placed at their disposal under this section, in such proportions as they deem best, to the Congested Districts Board, the Department of Agriculture, and the Estates Commissioners respectively, to be expended in any of the districts scheduled as congested districts, for any or all of the purposes for which moneys provided by Parliament are authorised to be expended by the Congested Districts Board (Ireland) Acts. Provided, however, that neither the Congested Districts Board, nor the Department of Agriculture, nor the Estates Commissioners shall be authorised to expend any of the moneys provided under this section upon any of such purposes, except so far as they respectively are at present, or may from time to time be, authorised to expend moneys on such purposes.' "—(Viscount Midleton.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I think this proposal demanded a little more explanation and defence than it has been given. Is there any parallel to be found for the handing over of a lump sum of money to be fought for by three Departments? I confess I cannot think of one The proposal seems to be rather as though the whole sum for the defence of the country were put in a pool and the Admiralty and the War Office were left to fight in a committee of equal numbers to see who would get most. With whom must rest the decision as between the Congested Districts Board, the Department of Agriculture, and the Estates Commissioners? The whole of this vast sum of money is to be thrown before them on the table and then this strange committee of nine have to decide it as best they can. I do not know what the outcome of that scramble would in most cases be. Would it be that a system of log-rolling would take place as between two Departments, one of whom would agree to support the other's claim for half the fund that was going in consideration of getting the other half and leaving, possibly, the third Department out in the cold? I confess the proposal seems to me a very singular one. I speak in all seriousness and I shall be glad to hear the opinion of noble Lords upon it, partly because I believe it to be entirely without precedent and partly because it does seem to me in essence to be thoroughly unworkable.
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY said that although there might be no parallel for this proposal, part of the scheme was that the Estates Commissioners should be the future purchasing authority. They must look at it not in the light of the Bill but from what had been outlined that day. The first proposal was that the Estates Commissioners should be the purchasing authority. Then they came to the transfer of the duties that had been handed over, which would require money to be given, probably, to the Department taking over that work. He did not think the proposal would work adversely There might be no parallel for it, but he believed the three members of the Congested Districts Board, the three members of the Department, and the three Estates Commissioners would meet and settle the question in a most amicable way.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON said that as regarded there being no parallel for his Amendment, they had gone though clause 990 after clause for which there was no parallel. Perhaps, however, it would be wiser to leave the question, and possibly it might come up on Report.
§ LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD asked whether he was in order in calling attention to a matter of great importance to the finances of the Congested Districts Board. Clause 6 of the Bill placed the Ireland Development Grant practically at the disposal of the Treasury. On the Ireland Development Grant there was a charge of £20,000 in favour of the Congested Districts Board. Were they to understand that that sum was not to remain to the credit of the Board but was to be taken by the Treasury in part satisfaction of what they proposed to do under the section in regard to the flotation of loans? If he was not in order in then bringing it to their Lordships' notice he certainly would do so on Report.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clauses 51 and 52 agreed to.
§ Clause 53:
§ 53.—(1) The Lord Lieutenant, by Order in Council, may do all or any of the following things (that is to say):—
- (i) Regulate the proceedings and meetings (including quorum) of the Congested Districts Board and of the Administrative Committee;
- (ii) Regulate and define the powers and duties of the permanent Members;
- (iii) Make such regulations as appear to him necessary or expedient for carrying into effect this Part of this Act.
§ (2) An Order of the Lord Lieutenant in Council under this section shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after it is made, and if within the next subsequent forty days on which either House has sat that House presents an address to His Majesty praying that any such Order may either in whole or in part be annulled, His Majesty in Council may annul the same either in whole or in part as the case may require, and the Order or part so annulled shall thenceforth become void without prejudice to the validity of any proceedings taken under the same in the meantime:
§ Provided that where any Order or any part thereof is so annulled, the Lord Lieutenant in Council may within six months thereof make another Order in place of the Order or part so annulled, subject nevertheless to be laid before Parliament, and to be annulled by His Majesty in Council in manner above mentioned, and so on as often as the case requires.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE moved to leave out from the first line in the clause the words "by Order in Council" and to sub- 991 stitute the words "and with the advice of the Privy Council," and also to leave out paragraphs (i) and (ii). He thought this suggested a better method of working than that in the Bill. He believed there was a precedent for it. The Lord Lieutenant in Council might be lawfully constituted by summoning in from their offices the Attorney-General and the Under-Secretary and registering the decree about to be made.
In page 26, line 28, to leave out the words 'Order in Council' and to insert the words 'and with the advice of the Privy Council' and to leave out from 'may' to 'make' in line 35."—(Lord Ashbourne.)
§ LORD DENMAN wished to remind the Committee that the clause was copied from the Local Government Act of 1898 which regulated the Local Government Board, and which, he believed, had been found to work well. He suggested that the clause might be allowed to stand as drafted, but if the Amendment were pressed he would not oppose it.
§ LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD had serious objections to the first part of the clause. If the first part of the clause went out, as he proposed it should do, the Amendment of Lord Ashbourne would also go as a matter of consequence. What would be the effect of subsection (1) of this clause? Paragraph (iii) ran that the Lord Lieutenant might make such regulations as appeared to him necessary or expedient for carrying into effort this Part of the Bill. That would bring the Congested Districts Board under the control of the Treasury. Hitherto the Board had been the only independent Board in Ireland, and because of that independence it was the most popular of Irish Boards. This proposal had the direct effect of bringing the operations of the Board under rules to be made by the Lord Lieutenant—that was to say, made at the suggestion of the Chief Secretary he acting perhaps on the suggestion of the Treasury in all Treasury matters. That completely destroyed the independence of the Congested Districts Board. He had an Amendment on the Paper to alter subsection (1) by omitting in paragraph (i) the word "Administrative"; to make a small change in paragraph (ii) by substituting "member" for 992 "members"; and to amend paragraph (iii) by omitting the words "or expedient for carrying into effect this part of this Act" with a view to inserting "for the audit of accounts." The third paragraph of the first subsection of Clause 53 would then run, "Make such regulations as appear to him necessary for the audit of accounts." The effect of that would be to leave the Congested Districts Board as it was now independent of Treasury control. If that was not done all the good effects which had hitherto attended the working of the Congested Districts Board and might be expected to attend it in future would be destroyed. He begged their Lordships to take this matter into their most serious consideration and if they considered he was right in what he had said, then the whole of subsection (2) and the proviso would naturally go out.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
This is not a matter of conflict, but of drafting. The first paragraph of subsection (1) of Clause 53 relates to the regulation of the proceedings of the Congested Districts Board and of the Administrative Committee. I think the Committee might as well go out altogether, because the Administrative Committee no longer exists. With regard to paragraph (ii), which relates to the regulation of the powers and duties of the permanent members, that I think should come out, too, because there are no permanent members.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am aware of that. What I am doing is to go into the noble Lord's objections. In paragraph (iii) he objects to the words "make such regulations as appear to him necessary or expedient for carrying into effect this Part of this Act." The noble Lord seems to be afraid that the effect of that will be to subordinate the Congested Districts Board to the Lord Lieutenant in Council. I think he is mistaken. Regulations in this case would be just like by-laws or regulations of any kind made under the power of an Act of Parliament. They must be regulations merely for carrying out the purposes of the Bill as is expressly stated in the paragraph I am discussing. They will not, as he appears to fear, subject the Congested Districts Board to a new yoke, 993 but will merely enable any machinery necessary for carrying into effect this Part of the Bill to be set up.
§ LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD remarked that the words in the paragraph were the usual form of expression when Treasury regulations were made, and the effect of them was clearly to destroy the initiative of the Congested Districts Board or whatever officers were acting under the regulations. The Congested Districts Board had gained its popularity in Ireland and secured the success of its operations owing to its freedom from regulations of this kind. That was why he regarded the proposal in the Bill as a very serious matter. With the utmost respect for the noble and learned Lord on the Front Bench (the Lord Chancellor) he ventured to say there was a great danger in having any words in the Bill which could at any time be interpreted as giving power to the Irish Government or the Treasury to make rules or regulations which would control the actions of the Congested Districts Board. He thought the first paragraph of subsection (1) was required because he did not see any rules in the body of the Bill to regulate the quorum and meetings of the Committee and so on. He would be very glad to see the whole of Clause 53 go out and have provision made in the earlier part of the Bill regarding such matters as the quorum of the Committee. In that case they would leave things to be regulated as they were now, which would be a good thing, because the more freedom they gave to the Congested Districts Board the more successful would its working be, and the more it would commend itself to the public in the West of Ireland.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE observed that he said in the original remarks he made that he did not think this was a matter of first-class importance. He looked at it as being merely an attempt to bring the clause into harmony with changes which he anticipated would be made in the Bill. Therefore he sought to strike out paragraphs (i) and (ii) and to leave the third paragraph in the clause. It never occurred to him that his proposal was anything in the nature of a serpent in the grass. He was disposed to agree with the Lord Chancellor, but in deference to what had been said by the noble Lord opposite, Lord MacDonnell, he would consider before the Report stage whether there was any 994 possibility that the power of making regulations for carrying into effect this Part of the Bill would be misused.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
We do not think anything of the kind. People accustomed to the expression "the regulations" will, I think, agree with me that this is quite an ordinary form of procedure, and that it will have none of the terrible effects on the work of the Congested Districts Board that seem to be imagined as likely to be produced.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD desired to move his Amendment to strike out the words in paragraph (iii) "or expedient for carrying into effect this part of this Act, "and to insert "for the audit of accounts." He had already expressed his great apprehension that if this paragraph remained as it was in the Bill rules would be made at the dictation of the Treasury, and the Congested Districts Board would virtually become a Treasury Department in Ireland. If any danger of that existed it would alienate the universal sympathy which the Board now enjoyed and tend to destroy the feeling of confidence which people now reposed in the Board. Therefore he thought it would be a dangerous thing to allow this paragraph to remain in the Bill. He did not see the least use in introducing the Privy Council into the matter at all. He had endeavoured to trace the genesis of the Privy Council in this connection, and he believed it must have been introduced in connection with the representative element of the Board under the Bill as it originally stood, because the power of making the regulations was usually given to the Lord Lieutenant independently of the Privy Council. It also appeared to him to be an exaggerated precaution to say that these regulations dealing with matters of very small importance should be laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament. Unless there were matters of very great importance dealt with in the regulations that procedure was unnecessary. Ordinarily it was sufficient for the Lord Lieutenant to make regulations as to how a particular Act should be carried out. If there would be nothing more in the regulations than the noble and learned Lord said, and if it was intended that they should not fetter the Congested Districts Board, why should they be laid on the Table of the 995 House? He reserved to himself liberty, subject to their Lordships' permission, to raise the question again on Report, and to move the omission of the entire subsection, because he was greatly afraid of the effect it would have on public opinion in the West of Ireland.
In page 26, lines 35 to 37, to leave out the words 'or expedient for carrying into effect this part of this Act,' and to insert the words 'for the audit of accounts.'"—(Lord MacDonnell of Swinford.)
LORD DENMAN said that this was rather a technical matter. He was informed that already the accounts of the Congested Districts Board were audited under the Land Purchase Act, 1891, which said—
The Board shall keep such accounts of their receipts and expenditure, and those accounts shall be audited in accordance with such regulations as the Treasury direct, and be laid before Parliament.
Therefore he was advised that the Amendment of the noble Lord was really unnecessary.
§ LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD said he would not press the Amendment at this stage, but he should do so at another stage.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 53, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 54 agreed to.
§ LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD moved a new clause, to be inserted after Clause 54. He said the new clause raised a question they had already discussed—namely, the transfer of the right to purchase land from the Congested Districts Board to the Estates Commissioners. The noble Marquess who led the Opposition had with general accuracy described the procedure which it was here wished to introduce. When the Congested Districts Board desired to acquire a particular estate or a particular tract of untenanted land, it would issue a requisition calling upon the Estates Commissioners to buy the land. The Estates Commissioners would then proceed to enter into negotiations with the landlords for the purchase of the land, and if they ended successfully and the land was 996 bought the Estates Commissioners would proceed to vest the land in the Congested Districts Board as was provided for in the new clause. The Congested Districts Board would then take possession of the land and go through the various processes which it was empowered by the Acts relating to the relief of congestion to perform. Then—when everything had been done, when the holdings were "striped" or arranged, when the necessary drains were made and perhaps houses erected, agreements would be entered into with tenants. The tenants would be put in possession and the agreements would be deposited with the Land Commission. The Land Commission would then proceed to vest the land technically in the tenants and the annuities would be recovered. He hoped he would be able to induce their Lordships to agree that where compulsion was necessary the Estates Commissioners should, in accordance with the procedure in a scheme which he was prepared to submit for consideration, proceed to acquire land compulsorily. As to the tribunal, he was perfectly willing to meet the wishes of noble Lords opposite by inserting as the tribunal the Judicial Commissioner and two Judges of the High Court, so that there might be no fear of a want of impartiality on the part of the tribunal. The only other point he wished to refer to was that when untenanted land was bought outside a congested districts area the Estates Commissioners would before they made over the land to the Congested Districts Board relieve any local congestion which might exist, and having done that they would make over to the Congested Districts Board the land which remained. In a subsequent new clause he proposed that power should be given to the Lord Lieutenant to exclude from the congested area any electoral division in which congestion had been adequately relieved or, should it appear to him desirable, to include in the congested area an electoral division in which it was necessary for the operations prescribed for the relief of congestion to be put in force.
After Clause 54, to insert the following new clause:
55.—(1) From and after the appointed day, the Congested Districts Board shall cease to exercise any power to acquire land save as otherwise provided in this section, or to expend any money in aiding or developing fishing.
(2) Where any congested estate situated in a congested districts county (or any estate so
situated, for the sale of which an absolute order has been made under the Landed Estates Court. (Ireland) Act, 1858) or any untenanted land, is required by the Congested Districts Board for the purposes of the Congested Districts Board (Ireland) Acts, as amended by this Act, the Board shall issue a requisition calling upon the Land Commission to take steps to acquire the estate or untenanted land.
(3) Upon the receipt of such requisition the Land Commission shall proceed to acquire the estate or land accordingly in the manner provided by Part II and Part IV of this Act, and shall thereafter make an order which shall be effectual to transfer to and vest in the Congested Districts Board such estate or untenanted land for all the rights acquired by the Land Commission therein.
Provided that, if the untenanted land be not situated in a congested districts county, the Land Commission, before making such an order as aforesaid in respect of such land, may sell such parcel or parcels thereof under the Land Purchase Acts to any tenant or proprietor of a congested holding on or immediately adjacent to such land as will raise such holding or holdings to a valuation of ten pounds, and shall make such order as aforesaid only in respect of the balance of such land remaining over after the sale of such parcel or parcels as aforesaid.
(4) Notwithstanding anything in this section, the Congested Districts Board may for the purpose of the Congested Districts Board (Ireland) Acts, purchase the interests from the occupying tenant in any holding provided the tenant accept the price offered by the Board, otherwise the Board shall proceed to acquire such interest in the manner provided in Part IV of this Act.'"—(Lord MacDonnell of Swinford.)
§ LORD ATKINSON said he was almost at one with the noble Lord on this question. As he understood, the object of the noble Lord's Amendment was to transfer the purchasing power of the Congested Districts Board to the Estates Commissioners and to provide that where the Commissioners bought land they should, assuming there was congestion there, relieve local congestion before they transferred the land to the Congested Districts Board. He would make this suggestion. The noble Lord used the words "the Land Commission shall proceed to acquire the estate or land accordingly in the manner provided by Part II and Part IV of this Act." Part IV was the portion of the Bill which dealt with compulsory purchase, and if he left those words in he would engraft upon the Amendment the compulsory system. The result would be that if the compulsory system were ultimately struck out the Amendment would have to be amended. The suggestion he had to make to the noble Lord was that he should alter the wording of the new clause to run, "accordingly in the manner provided by this Act," omitting the words, "Part II and Part IV." Then if the compulsory 998 powers should not be acquired he could not get compulsion, but, on the other hand, if the compulsory clauses were retained in the Bill he would have the benefit of those clauses to carry out his object.
§ LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD was quite willing to accept the noble and learned Lord's suggestion.
§ LORD ATKINSON
That means the noble Lord will omit the words "Part II and Part IV of," and the clause will read "The Land Commission shall proceed to acquire the estate or land accordingly in the manner provided by this Act."
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
My noble friend behind me said that the noble Marquess opposite had given quite an accurate description of what he proposed to do in transferring these powers from the Congested Districts Board to the Estates Commissioners. As the matter was described by the noble Marquess I understood it was to be mainly a question of machinery; that is to say, that. the Congested Districts Board were to express a desire for the purchase of certain land and the Estates Commissioners were then to proceed to acquire it in the manner in which they acquire land outside the congested districts. After they had acquired it, as I understand, the administration of it would be handed over to the Congested Districts Board. That is a thing which, as a matter of machinery, may possibly be advantageous, though I confess I do not see the precise reasons for doing it.
But when I look at my noble friend's Minute of Dissent I find that he suggests this course on an entirely different ground—namely, that the Congested Districts Board have pampered and favoured the people on the estates they have bought, and that the proper way to deal with them is to treat them in the more indifferent and manly way which the Estates Commissioners have been accustomed to adop in dealing with their tenants. Would the Amendment as it stands on the Paper have any effect of that kind? It appears to me the effect of the proposal would be that the moment the purchase was completed by the Estates Commissioners the land would be vested in the Congested Districts Board. They would 999 then have the disposal of it and would at once be able to begin what the noble Lord describes as "spoon feeding," with the results to their tenants which he deplores in his Minute of Dissent.
If the Congested Districts Board are no to have the complete management of this land what functions are left to them? You have taken away their agricultural functions and fishery functions. You are taking away their purchase functions, and you want also to take away their management functions. Therefore I do not quite piece together my noble friend's Amendment with the view expressed by him in his Minute of Dissent from the Report of the Royal Commission. The noble Lord says—I admit that the congested districts require special treatment, but nevertheless I think the Congested Districts Board's methods of relieving congestion are of a slower, more laborious, more minute and more eleemosynary character than seem really necessary in an undertaking of this great magnitude. Having seen the work of the Estates Commissioners and of the Congested Districts Board, I have formed the impression that the tenants on the Board's estates have not been made to 'work out their own salvation' to the extent that was good for them; and that the Estates Commissioners, while giving the people all the assistance they really required, have been more successful in inspiring a spirit of self-reliance and of self-help. We have it on the authority of trustworthy and competent witnesses who have seen the two bodies operating in the same neighbourhood, that they prefer the methods of the Estates Commissioners to those of the Congested Districts Board, though the evidence, especially the clerical evidence (mostly from districts in which the Estates Commissioners have not operated) is generally in favour of the Board. But the problem of relieving congestion is so enormous, its cost so great, and the necessity of building up self-reliance of character in these congested districts is so imperative, that it seems to me the better course not to do so much for the 'congested' tenant as the Board does, but to roughhew the holding for him and to leave to him and his family, with some money-help, the task of shaping it to their own ends. Spoon-feeding can be carried too far.Then the noble Lord goes on to say—The Estates Commissioners are already doing the kind of work required in the congested districts with marked success, expedition, and economy. If they were substituted for the Congested Districts Board they would finish the work in much less time than the Board would be likely to take.Afterwards he speaks of all the experience the Estates Commissioners have had—The Estates Commissioners have now acquired an experience in purchasing land, arranging holdings, migrating tenants, and disposing of all questions arising in connection therewith which makes them peculiarly fitted for this great work of the resettlement of the congested districts. It 1000 might be necessary to create in their Department a section devoted to the relief of congestion alone, the staff and funds now controlled by the Congested Districts Board being transferred to it.I ask once more, what work is left to the Congested Districts Board under these proposals? It seems to me that if my noble friend's Amendment is intended to carry out the views expressed in his Minute of Dissent practically nothing at all is left to them. I stated before the difficulty which we found in adding this work to the labours of the Estates Commissioners, and I put the matter in this way. Either the work of the Estates Commissioners in this respect is to be purely ministerial, that is to say, the Estates Commissioners are simply to be empowered to carry out a particular piece of machinery at the request of the Congested Districts Board and then hand the land back to the Congested Districts Board for treatment and management, in which case I do not see the advantage of the proceeding, the Congested Districts Board being quite competent to carry through the purely machinery part; or else the Estates Commissioners in consideration of their superior methods of management are to carry on the administration of the land after they have acquired it. In that case the functions of the Congested Districts Board seem to me to disappear almost entirely. I have those two difficulties in giving support to my noble friend's Amendment.
§ LORD ATKINSON said that under the Bill, where the Congested Districts Board wanted to acquire land compulsorily they were to do the very thing the noble Lord, Lord MacDonnell, proposed in his Amendment. Therefore the Estates Commissioners who, according to the noble Earl the Leader of the House were too overburdened and could not buy an estate for the Congested Districts Board under the Amendment of the noble Lord, could buy all the land which was acquired compulsorily over the whole of Ireland under the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
That proves to what a small extent in practice compulsory powers will have to be exercised.
§ LORD ATKINSON could not but express his astonishment that officials who were too much overburdened to buy an estate for the Congested Districts Board were not too much overburdened to buy compulsorily if needed, all the land in Ireland for the Congested Districts Board under the compulsory clauses of the Bill. 1001 He understood the great objection to the existing system urged in the Report of the Dudley Commission was the competition between the Congested Districts Board and the Estates Commissioners as two buyers in the same market. It was to avoid that competition that the present proposal was made; but besides that he thought the Amendment desirable because the Estates Commissioners had a more extended experience than the Congested Districts Board and a better staff for buying land. After providing for local congestion the Estates Commissioners would transfer the balance of the land to the Congested Districts Board to be managed and disposed of by the Board in accordance with their powers as seemed fitting to them. That seemed to him to be a very beneficial object to effect, because it would both save expense and facilitate the acquisition of land
§ LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD thought the noble Earl the Leader of the House was under some misapprehension as to what he meant by his statement in the Minute of Dissent. What he said as to the better methods of the Estates Commissioners in regard to the management of land led up to his suggestion that the Congested Districts Board should be abolished and the whole work should be handed over to the Estates Commissioners. He pointed out that if the Board were kept in existence there would be a lengthy delay in solving the problem, and gave reasons why he thought the Estates Commissioners would be more efficient for the purpose. He was still of opinion that the system of administration of the Estates Commissioners was better than that of the Congested Districts Board and more calculated to create a virile peasantry. He hoped that the Board might improve upon the methods they had followed up to the present. Their Lordships were unwilling to consider the question of abolishing the Board. They decided that the Board must be kept, and if the Board was kept of course the work of improving holdings and of relieving congestion, which, after all, was the main work the Board had done up to the present time, remained with the Board. The only work to be transferred to the Estates Commissioners was the purchase of land for the Board. If the Board was to be preserved they must do the work of improving the estates before they resold them to the tenants. As regarded what the noble Earl had said about overloading the Estates Commis- 1002 sioners, might he point out that over and over again the Estates Commissioners had expressed their ability to dispose of£10,000,000 worth of land per annum. The proposal was to raise only £5,000,000 a year and to allocate £1,000,000 to the Congested Districts Board and £4,000,000 for property paid for altogether in cash or partly in stock and partly in cash. If as much as £5,000,000 worth of land under future purchases were paid for in stock, the work would be no more than the Estates Commissioners had frequently declared themselves capable of performing.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
It is most important that there should be no misapprehension as to the way in which this Amendment would work if added to the Bill. I understood the noble Earl the Leader of the House to fear that its effect would be on the one hand to overload the Estates Commissioners with a great quantity of new and onerous work, and on the other hand to leave nothing to be done by the Congested Districts Board.
§ THE. EARL OF CREWE
What I endeavoured to explain was that either it would have that effect, or, if not, supposing it was intended that the Estates Commissioners should carry out merely the process of purchase, without possessing the land or administering it, I could not see the object of bringing in the Estates Commissioners at all.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The object is this. We believe the Estates Commissioners are much better qualified to buy land in Ireland than the Congested Districts Board. The Committee may remember that the purchase of land was not part of the duties originally assigned to the Congested Districts Board. The practice grew up gradually, and there is now a state of things in which two Departments are absolutely competitors as buyers of land in Ireland. In our view that state of things should be put an end to.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Then the proposed new clause is in accordance with the policy of His Majesty's Government. As to the duties which would be left to the Congested Districts Board, the noble Lord's proposal is that the balance of the land acquired by the Land Com- 1003 mission, that is the land which remains over when the local congests have been provided for, should be handed over to the Congested Districts Board. I take it the consequence of that will be that the Board will deal with that land exactly as it deals with any land which it acquires at this moment. It will have the same functions as to the improvement of it, the striping of it if held in rundale, and the apportionment of it to suitable occupants. Therefore I do not think there need be the least fear that the Congested Districts Board will be ousted by this Amendment from functions which properly appertain to it.
§ *LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE found himself in agreement with the noble Earl the Leader of the House as to the undesirability of transferring the power of purchase from the Congested Districts Board to the Estates Commissioners. His experience was that the Board knew a great deal more about land in the conges[...]ed districts than the Estates Commissioners. Their officials were on the spot and it was only natural that they should be better acquainted with the conditions. He thought, in view of all the circumstances, the Congested Districts Board were better able to judge the price they could give than the Estates Commissioners, because it was the policy of the Congested Districts Board when they bought land to retain it in their possession for a certain time. The land was let on the eleven months system or the Board took in grazing cattle, with the result that they acquired a considerable sum of money. That money the Board were able to expend in what the noble Lord opposite would describe as improving the estate, but in what he should1004
§ call cutting it up. If the Estates Commissioners bought land they could not take into account the money which the Congested Districts Board made out of it before they divided it among the tenants. He would like to call the noble Lord's attention to the fact that while he proposed to omit the reference to Part IV of the Bill in subsection (3) of his new clause, in subsection (4) he still retained the principle of compulsion.
§ LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD said he proposed to take that out. It was quite impossible for the Congested Districts Board to make out that all the money which they got from grazing agricultural land could go for purposes of improvement. That money would be necessary to pay interest on the purchase price.
§ LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD repeated that they had to pay interest on the purchase price and that was recovered in the way the noble Lord had mentioned.
§ LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE said the money they obtained was far more than was sufficient to pay interest on the purchase price.
§ Question put: That the proposed new Clause 55, with the exception of the words "Part II and Part IV of" in subsection (3) and "Part IV of" in subsection (4), stand part of the Bill.
§ On Question?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 54; Not-contents, 20.1005
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Hill, V.||Harlech, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Hindlip, L.|
|Iveagh, V.||Inchiquin, L.|
|Bath, M.||Kenlis, L. (M. Headfort.)|
|Lansdowne, M.||Atkinson, L.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Barrymore, L.||Langford, L.|
|Dartrey, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Lawrence, L.|
|Devon, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||MacDonnell, L. [Teller.]|
|Eldon, E.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)||Massy, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Minster, L. (M. Conyngham.)|
|Morley, E.||Clonbrock, L.||Monck, L. (V. Monck.)|
|Onslow, E.||Colchester, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Pembroke and Montgomery, E.||De Freyne, L.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Powis, E.||Digby, L.||Rathdonnell, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E. [Teller.]||Dunalley, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Waldegrave, E.||Dunboyne, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Wicklow, E.||Egerton, L.||Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Farnham, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Churchill, V.||Gormanston, L. (V. Gormanston.)||Ventry, L.|
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Kimberley, E.||Lucas, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Allendale, L.||Pentland, L.|
|Beauchamp, E. (L. Steward.)||Ardilaun, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Carrington, E.||Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]|
|Chichester, E.||Denman, L. [Teller.]||Sandhurst, L.|
|Craven, E.||Haversham, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
§ Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD moved the insertion of another new clause. He said the meaning of the clause was that if the Lord Lieutenant desired he might exclude from the congested area any electoral division in which congestion had been adequately relieved. There was no object in retaining an electoral division within the ambit of the schedule and spending money when the congestion had been sufficiently relieved. On the other hand if there were an electoral division which the Lord Lieutenant thought should be scheduled and be brought within the congested area for improvement he would have power to bring it in.
To insert the following new clause:
'56. If at any time it appears to the Congested Districts Board that it is expedient to, include under the provision of section 36 of the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1881 (which relates to the congested districts counties), an electoral division other than the divisions mentioned in subsection one of that section, or to exclude from that provision any electoral division it shall be lawful for the Lord Lieutenant to include or exclude, as the case may be, such division.'"—(Lord MacDonnell of Swinford.)
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON was not quite certain that noble Lords appreciated exactly what the proposed clause did. It laid down the principle that an electoral division other than a division mentioned in subsection (1) of Section 36 of the Act of 1881 might be scheduled in the congested area by the Lord Lieutenant on the motion of the Congested Districts Board. That was rather a serious change, and would 1006 permit of a very large extension of the area of the Congested Districts Board if it pleased the Lord Lieutenant to make it.
§ LORD ATKINSON thought there was really no harm in the clause. The Act of 1891 which created the Congested Districts Board gave a particular definition of what a congested district should be but added the provision that the Lord Lieutenant for the first twelve months after the passing of the Act, might add to it or not. What the noble Lord proposed in his clause was that instead of within twelve months after the passing of the Act the Lord Lieutenant might add an electoral division to the congested area from time to time should the necessities of the division require it to be included.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE: This proposal at first sight seems to me a reasonable one, but if any noble Lords have a misgiving on the subject it might, considering the late hour we have reached, be advisable to adjourn and consider the matter further on another occasion.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I did not take any part in the discussion because our areas have been struck out of the Bill, and therefore I do not take much interest in the area as it now stands. The course proposed by the noble Marquess is, however, a reasonable one, and I therefore move that the House do resume.
§ House resumed, and to be again in Committee on Tuesday next.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Twelve o'clock a.m., to Monday next, a quarter past Four o'clock.