§ LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE had given Notice to move, That a Select Committee of this House be appointed to examine the pledges given between 1920 and 1923, by Ministers of the Crown, in 46 regard to the completion of Irish land purchase, and to report whether these pledges have been fulfilled. The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps some of your Lordships expected and many of your Lordships hoped that once the Irish Free State was established you would no longer be troubled with discussions on Irish affairs in this House. If such hopes were entertained it was not long before they were disappointed. But still, I make no apology for intruding this subject on your Lordships to-day, because so long us there are Irish Representative Peers in this House, and it is still doubtful whether or not their rights have lapsed owing to recent legislation, so long it is their duty to do what they can to assist those whom they were sent here to represent. In addition to that, I may say that I am a member of the executive committee of the Irish Landowners' Convention, the only body in Ireland which is qualified to speak on behalf of landowners in every part of that country, and it is at then wish and by their authority that I bring this matter before your Lordships.
§ I should like to make it perfectly clear at the outset that I am not making any attack on the Irish Free State Government. In 1923 Mr. Cosgrave and his colleagues, having been successful in the Civil War which was raging in Ireland, found themselves charged with the government of the smallest and youngest of the Dominions of the Crown and in that capacity they thought it their duty—and I think rightly thought it their duty—at once to take steps to complete the scheme of land purchase which had been going on for a number of years and which everyone who had considered the Irish question at all was of opinion must be settled before it was possible even to attempt successfully to give Home Rule to that country. So far back as 1886, when Mr. Gladstone introduced his first Home Rule Bill, it was accompanied by a Land Purchase Bill, which would, at that time, have purchased the land from the landowners at twenty years' purchase of rents which were, at least, 50 per cent. above those at present existing, and when the midnight Treaty was finally signed your Lordships will find, if I am not mistaken, that the Government which signed it had on the Order Paper of the House of Commons a Land Bill which they had expressed their intention of 47 passing as a necessary part of a scheme of Home Rule.
§ But Mr. Cosgrave was dependent for support and even for his very Parliamentary existence on those who, a very short time before, had been in active rebellion against the Crown and who were not inclined to be over-generous to Irish landowners, whom they regarded, and rightly regarded, as having been in the past the chief bulwark of British Power and whom they knew to be still anxious to retain a few of the strands which still existed of the mighty cord which once bound the two countries together. Therefore, the Bill which was introduced into the Irish Parliament and finally passed by that Parliament, though not a confiscatory measure, was certainly very much less favourable to the interests of landowners than the Bill which was presented to this Imperial Parliament by the Government of the day and the provisions of which are now part of the law of the land, so far as Northern Ireland is concerned.
I have, on several occasions, brought this matter before the notice of your Lordships, and I was anxious if possible not to make it the subject of an absolutely separate debate. Consequently, last year, when the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, put down on the Paper of the House a Motion dealing with the losses which landowners had suffered, I thought that would be a good opportunity to include the losses suffered owing to the Land Purchase Bill of the Irish Parliament as one of the subjects which might be considered by the Committee which he proposed should be set up. Lord Selborne's Motion read in part as follows:—
That a Committee of Inquiry be appointed by His Majesty's Government, which shall make recommendations as to the compensation which ought to be paid to those Irish loyalists. … (b) who have no legal claim for compensation under existing legislation, but who have suffered in person or property owing to the withdrawal of British protection in Southern Ireland.
It appeared to me very clear that landowners had suffered severely from the withdrawal of British protection in Southern Ireland, but I found that those who were more acquainted with the matter than I was held that even under the very wide Rules of Order which prevail in your Lordships' House, I should not be justified in introducing this subject in the course of debate.
§ I put down an Amendment to it, but this was met with the objection by friends of the noble Earl that if I were to move this Amendment it would necessarily limit the discussion of the losses which had bean suffered by loyalists to this particular branch of the subject. I therefore refrained from speaking at all on the first day on which this subject was discussed, and when, on the second day, the discussion was renewed his Majesty's Government made a proposal which was accepted by the noble Earl, with the result that the debate was adjourned and I had no opportunity of bringing forward the question which I was anxious to raise. It seemed to me, therefore, that I had no option but that of putting down the Motion which stands in my name on the Paper to-day.
§ I presume that there are three matters which I ought to be able to prove to the satisfaction of your Lordships: in the first place, that pledges were given by His Majesty's Government at that time that simultaneously, or as near as possible simultaneously, with the passage of a Home Rule Bill there would be passed a Bill dealing with the land question; in the second place, that those promises, although they are not repudiated, have not yet been carried out; and thirdly, that in consequence of the failure to carry them out, very serious loss, in some cases ruin, has ensued to Irish landowners. Before dealing with these points I should like to say how much I regret that the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, is not present to-day. He made a strong speech on the subject on the last occasion and put the case so admirably and briefly that I almost wish I might read it to your Lordships. I know that is impossible; but he was good enough to write a letter which appeared in yesterday's issue of The Times in support of my Motion and I am sure that most if not all of your Lordships will have read it with the attention it deserves. I hope it may have the effect of strengthening those who are good enough to support me in this Motion.
§ Now let me deal very briefly with the three points I have raised. In the first place as to the pledges which were given by His Majesty's Government and renewed from time to time since, that the promises made with reference to land purchase would be fulfilled, I 49 have them all here in a long printed list, but I do not think I should be justified in reading them to your Lordships. They have been quoted and the very words have been repeated so often in this House that it would be an abuse of your Lordships' indulgence to do so. To begin with, there are the promises made by Mr. Lloyd George when he was Prime Minister in 1918 and continued through those made by Mr. Macpherson, in introducing the Government of Ireland Bill, Mr. Bonar Law, the noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead, on two or three occasions—here I must express my regret that illness prevents the noble Earl from being present to-day; his speeches are, always most interesting and instructive, and had he taken pact in this debate we should all have been very pleased to hear what he had to say on the subject—Lord Peel and, lastly, the Duke of Devonshire when he was Colonial Secretary in December, 1922.
I may, perhaps, be allowed to read what the noble Duke said with regard to the matter because that was at a much later date than the others and is very explicit. He said:
We have an equal responsibility, reference to which has been made in the course of these debates, in relation to compensation, land purchase"—
I ask your Lordships to note the words—
and the position of servants of the Crown. It is for us who have accepted that responsibility to see that full and ample justice is rendered in all cases.
If further evidence is required I have the Land Bill which was introduced into the House of Commons to amend the law relating to the occupation and ownership of land in Ireland. It was presented by Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, Mr. Secretary Shortt and Mr. Fisher and ordered by the House of Commons to be printed on November 11, 1920. That Bill, or what is practically the same measure, is now the law of the land in relation to Northern Ireland.
§ In addition to that the promises have been made by various Ministers of the Crown to members of deputations of the Irish Landowners' Convention who have waited upon them from time to time. We have been received by Mr. Winston Churchill, by Sir Austen Chamberlain, by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House and others. What is said in reply to those deputations is, I presume, of a 50 more or less private nature and it would not be in order for me to quote any specific promises which may have been made. But I think I may say without any breach of confidence that there was no attempt at repudiation of the pledges. The line taken was, in the first instance, that the time that had elapsed was very short and it was desirable not to do anything which would hurt the amour propre of the Irish Free State Government. There was a very reasonable addition—that until the Irish Government had produced and passed their Bill relating to land purchase it was impossible to know what the terms would be or what additional compensation would be required. I think that some Ministers of the Crown were optimistic enough to hope that those terms would be at least as good as, if not better than, those proposed by His Majesty's Government, in which case, of course, there would have been no claim for compensation.
§ The first change which came over the spirit of the dream was in connection with a deputation which went last year to Mr. Amery, the Colonial Secretary. The attitude of that right hon. gentleman was certainly not so sympathetic as that of other Ministers. He seemed to hint that circumstances had changed and had altered the case, and that what was perfectly right and proper in 1922 or 1923 might not be at all right and proper in 1925. But no public statement of that kind was made until later on. The first public expression of it is to be found, I think, in a speech made by my noble friend the Leader of the House in reply to an appeal that I made to him on behalf of the Southern Irish landlords at the time of the Second Reading of the Northern Ireland Land Bill. The noble Marquess twitted me for omitting to mention when I was recounting the ills they had suffered that at any rate the English Government had come to their assistance by guaranteeing the bonds issued by the Free State Government. He pointed out, and rightly pointed out, that this was a great advantage as the bonds were at a discount of only 10 per cent. whereas that discount might have been very much larger.
He ended up with these words:—
As I have said, the sympathy of the British Government with the Irish loyalists is not exhausted, and never can be ex-
hausted; yet we cannot hope to look after them as we should have looked after them had the Treaty never been made.
I heard those words with some consternation. I am very loth to criticise any statement which has been made by the noble Marquess regarding the Irish question. I recognise that in him the Irish loyalists have their truest, their staunchest and their best friend and it would be the basest ingratitude not to acknowledge that at once. In spite of that, I know that the noble Marquess is a very important member of the Government and when he speaks he has to bear in mind the dictum which is attributed to Lord Melbourne that the first necessity is for Ministers of the Crown all to say the same thing. Therefore, when I heard him make that statement, it seemed to me an indication that His Majesty's present Government, though not absolutely repudiating their liability, were inclined to think that it was not so great as it would have been before the passing of the Home Rule Act. We, on the other hand, hold that the Land Act ought to have been passed simultaneously with the Home Rule Act, and if the Government failed to do that there is no reason why that negligence should not be made good at the present time. As I have said, I believe that if the noble Marquess's purse was as large as his heart he would be ready to pay the necessary money to make good the compensation.
§ I have to show your Lordships that landowners have suffered by the failure to carry out these pledges. That will necessitate the quoting of a few figures. Nothing is more tiresome than to have to listen to figures and, therefore, I shall make that part of my statement as brief as possible. The facts are shortly these. For every £100 of income which a landowner receives he would have in future, under the Land Bill introduced by the Government in 1920 and under the Land Act passed by the Government for Northern Ireland, an income of £82 and some odd shillings a year, whereas under the Bill of the Free State Parliament all that he will receive will be £67. This is a, very serious difference, and, of course, the figures that I have quoted refer only to the best and most favourable cases, where there are no charges on the property, no head rents or things of that kind. Where such exist, for instance, where a man for £100 had an 52 income of £50, under the provisions of the Irish Land Bill his income will now be reduced to £17 a year.
§ But if those figures are bad as concerns tenanted land—I am now speaking of first and second term tenancies—they are much worse in the case of untenanted land. I have before me some very remarkable figures regarding this which relate to a property in Kildare and Meath. The owner for the last six years has had an income which has averaged just over £6,000 a year—that is £6,000 a year net, because his Income Tax and Super-tax are paid on that sum. How much do your Lordships think he has been given for that? He originally received £49,000, and that was eventually raised on appeal to £52,250. This landowner, therefore, instead of receiving £6,000 a year, for the future will receive, if he keeps his money in the bonds which he has been given, about £2,250 a year, and if he sells those bonds there will be a further loss of 10 per cent. on £52,250 on realisation.
§ I have tried to state these particulars very briefly to make out, as it were, a prima facie case, because it seems to me that if your Lordships were in the position of a. Grand Jury I should make such a case as would justify you in finding a true bill. That is why I ask for a Select Committee to inquire into these matters. I feel sure that if a Select Committee were to inquire into them they would report if justice had been done, and if justice had not been done I feel confident that we could rely upon His Majesty's Government to see that it was not delayed.
§ It is within the last few years that I have opened my paper in the morning and have seen in large headings the words: "Peace in Ireland." On the first occasion it was the peace of the midnight Treaty, a peace which was secured by the surrender of 300,000 of His Majesty's most loyal subjects to Sinn Fein without any attempt to fulfil the promise that had been made that ample safeguards would be provided for them. These safeguards were not provided, and there was not even an attempt made to secure them representation in the Convention—I think that was its name—which was summoned for the purpose of deciding the 53 Constitution under which in the future they should live.
§ Once again, within the last few weeks, I have opened the paper to see the old familiar heading: "Peace in Ireland." On this occasion pence was obtained by I he surrender of a claim for £128,000,000, a sum which I think is equivalent to nearly two-thirds of what Germany obtained from France after the successful war of 1870 and 1871, and sufficient, to free the over-burdened tax-payers here of at least 1s. in the £ Income Tax. I am not complaining that that second peace was made. I think it was a necessary corollary to the first. It was a sort of drafting amendment to the Bill, because nobody imagined for one moment that it was ever intended that Clause 5 of the Treaty should be carried into effect. It was put in merely for the purpose of camouflage, or what is sometimes vulgarly known as "eyewash." It was perfectly well recognised that England would never attempt to claim the money, and that if she did there would be no chance of obtaining it from the Free State.
§ I want to point out that in both instances peace was obtained by surrender. It is easy to obtain peace at such a price. We might have had it at any time from Germany after 1914. I am old enough to remember another peace. When I was a boy I can remember Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury, father of the noble Marquess who now leads this House, returning from Berlin, and driving through London amidst the acclamations of the crowd. They had brought peace, but "Peace with honour." Has honour gone by the board now? We can give £128,000,000 in order to secure peace in Ireland. We have already given £12,000,000, and we may have to give £18,000,000 more, to obtain a respite for nine months from people anxious to produce a revolution by a strike in every trade, and we are giving up between £200,000,000 and £300,000,000, besides interest at the rate of £25,000,000 a year for sixty-two years, in order to stabilise the finances of a friendly and neighbouring Power. We have since the 1st January entered into obligations which, it has been calculated, entail a sum of £60,000,000 in order that the Government may redeem pledges that they made to certain people in this country before the last General Election.54
§ Are the only people who are not to have their pledges redeemed the loyalists of Ireland, some of the most faithful subjects of the King, whose families in many cases have maintained the Standard of their country for nearly eight centuries, and who have done their best to strengthen the links that join the two countries together? After all, what do we ask for? It is not huge sums of hundreds of millions of pounds. At the utmost we ask for £6,000,000, and that not in money. We ask for it in 4½ per cent. bonds They would not all be issued at once. It would take some time before the Land Bill in Ireland had its full effect, and bonds would be issued only as required, so that it would be many years before all had been issued. That means that at the outset the payment of the State would be £270,000 a, year, and of that £270,000 nearly half, at least, would come back in Income Tax and Super-Tax, while as to the bonds themselves long before they became due they would have fallen into the Treasury in the shape of Death Duties.
§ When I quote these figures I am really somewhat astonished at my own moderation. We do not ask for a favour, we ask for justice. I ask that this Committee may be appointed to consider the matter and to see that justice is done. I feel sure if they Report what they consider is just in the matter, we can rely on His Majesty's Government to see that their recommendations are carried out. I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name.
§ Moved, That a Select Committee of this House be appointed to examine the pledges given between 1920 and 1923, by Ministers of the Crown, in regard to the completion of Irish land purchase, and to report whether these pledges have been fulfilled.—(Lord Oranmore and Browne.)
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DOMINION AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF CLARENDON)
My Lords, my noble friend who has just sat down has moved that a Select Committee of this House be appointed to examine the pledges given between 1920 and 1923 with regard to the question of Irish land purchase, and to report whether those pledges have been fulfilled. These pledges may be classified as being of two kinds. First of all, there is the general pledge—amely, that 55 the whole question of Irish land purchase should be completed. I submit that that pledge has been fulfilled inasmuch as the Irish Free State Land Act, 1923, has now become law and another Act dealing with the same question was passed last Session—namely, the Northern Ireland Land Act.
I now come to the more specific pledges which are embodied in the Act of 1920 and which are also dealt with in a statement which was made in your Lordships' House by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, in July, 1921, when Lord Birkenhead was sitting upon the Woolsack. These pledges are, I think, the pledges to which my noble friend Lord Oranmore and Browne referred, which he claims are unfulfilled and which he and those who think with him contend should be examined. This question was last discussed in your Lordships' House on July 23, 1923, and my noble and learned friend Lord Birkenhead, who was not then in the Ministry, explained the view that he took not only of the pledge which he had given two years earlier but also of the Bill which had, in the meantime, become law.
I feel certain that it is a source of great regret to your Lordships that the noble and learned Earl is not here to-day to explain the views which he then put forward. We had hoped it might have been possible to persuade my noble friend Lord Oranmore and Browne to put off his Motion until such time as the noble and learned Earl was able to be in his place in the House; and for this reason, that quite obviously any statement of his own views and any explanation of the Act to which I have already referred would naturally come very much more authoritatively from him than from anyone else who could take his place. The noble Lord—I hope he will not think I am in any way cavilling with him in not accepting the proposal I put before him—felt himself unable to agree to the suggestion and, therefore, it devolves upon me this afternoon, with the help and assistance of what my noble and learned friend Lord Birkenhead said in 1923, to answer the arguments that have been put forward by the noble Lord in his speech this afternoon.
I think it may be said that his contentions amount to this: First, that the Convention of 1918 agreed upon the question 56 of land purchase; secondly, that the Government pledged themselves to give effect to that agreement; thirdly, that the Act of 1920 did, in fact, give effect to that agreement; and, lastly, that the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, stated two days after the Truce, in July, 1921, that as part of the general scheme for dealing with the situation and reaching a solution of the. question of land purchase, this question must be dealt with and dealt with upon the lines that the Government had already indicated, and that it would be dealt with on the lines laid down by the Act of 1920. There was, however, one pledge which was not kept, and which never could be kept. The whole question of land purchase was not deal with in the Articles of Agreement of December, 1921. It is unnecessary for me this afternoon to give the reason why. My noble and learned friend Lord Birkenhead, in the speech to which I have already referred, in July, 1923, made it quite clear why that was so. I can add nothing to what he then said, and nothing that he or I can say at this moment can possibly alter that fact.
The question, however, of Irish land purchase has not been neglected. It was understood, as between the British and Irish representatives, that the pledges which had born given by the British Government were to be carried out by the new Government which was forthwith to be set up in Ireland, and the result of that Agreement was what is known as The Irish Free State Land Act, 1923. It is contended, I think, that the pledge which was given by the noble and learned Earl was to this effect, that purchase should be on the lines of the provisions of the 1920 Act, and that as the Act of 1923 is not precisely similar in its provisions to the Act of 1920 that pledge has not been fulfilled. I am authorised to say that His Majesty's present Government, as indeed was the ease with its predecessors, do not accept that interpretation of the noble and learned Earl's statement.
Let me turn, if I may, to the Act of 1920. That Act was based upon three fundamental principles. First, that part of the settlement was embodied in the Government of Ireland Act, 1920; secondly, that it should be founded on an agreement between landlord and tenant; and, thirdly, that it should be financed by the Irish taxpayer alone. When Lord Birkenhead spoke in 1921, a 57 Bill identical with the Bill of 1920 could not have complied with any of the principles that I have enumerated. The noble and learned Earl could not have supposed for one moment that such a Bill was possible, nor could he, in the statement, that he made, have pledged himself or any of his colleagues to secure the passage of such a Bill. The Act of 1920 was dead, so far as that area which is now known as the South of Ireland was concerned, and the settlement, which it was hoped might be a, real settlement, turned out to be very much the reverse and, indeed, to be the cause of still further strife. As for the agreement between landlord and tenant, while a Bill forward in the Dail and it would been claimed to be based on such an agreement had it been introduced either in 1918 or in 1920, it had become clear later that any such agreement was a thing of the past.
After the Free State Government had been set up in Ireland it called together representatives of both landlords and tenants and it was met at once with a demand, not only on the part of the small farmers but also on the part of the big farmers, for confiscation without compensation. A Bill on these lines would undoubtedly at that moment have been extremely popular had it boon brought forward in the Dail and it would undoubtedly have strengthened the position of the Free State Government, whose very existence was then being threatened by the Republicans. But what did the Free State do? They abandoned any attempt to secure a settlement between landlord and tenant and they introduced and carried against opposition a measure for the purchase of tenanted land at 15½ times its gross rental and of untenanted land on lines approximating to those of the Bill of 1920. Further, the Bill of 1920 was to be financed by the taxpayers of the Irish Free State and by those taxpayers alone.
In the debate in this House in July, 1923, the noble Earl, Lord Midleton, made a statement with regard to the bonus under the Bill of 1920, which he said would have cost this country anything from £6,000,000 to £10,000,000. This is what he said:—That sum this country, at the time of the passing of the Act, was prepared to spend. That sum, if it is not now paid, this country will have repudiated.58 I know that the noble Earl will forgive me if I say that this was not quite an accurate statement. The Bill of 1920 was part of a scheme embodied in the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, which provided that the cost of what are known as the Irish Reserved Services, of which land purchase is one, should be provided out of the proceeds of Irish taxation. The Bill of 1920, had it been carried through as part of an agreed Irish settlement, would not have involved the payment of one single penny of English money. I submit, therefore, that there is no justification for the suggestion or the point of view that the Bill of 1920, or the statement made by my noble and learned friend Lord Birkenhead in 1920, constituted a pledge that the cost of the purchase of land in Ireland should fall upon the British taxpayer.
I should like, if I may, to quote to your Lordships what my noble and learned friend Lord Birkenhead said in the debate on July 23, 1923. The noble and learned Earl is, as I think your Lordships will agree, prone in all matters on which he speaks to make his meaning as abundantly clear as it is possible to make it. This is what he said:—We were pledged to dispose of the I question of land purchase. In order to obtain the signature of that Treaty—a signature which, I think, the noble Earl was as desirous to obtain as we were—it was necessary that we should put it out of our power ourselves to introduce this legislation. It was necessary that we should look to the Irish Government to introduce a Bill to complete land purchase. And we found, as was to be expected by anyone who understood conditions in Ireland, that they were at least as convinced of the necessity of dealing with and of ending this question as we were ourselves. They have introduced and passed through the Dail a Bill which, in its framework, is based largely upon the Bill of 1920, but which, I agree, differs from that Bill in some important particulars. But the Bill of 1920, which the noble Earl appears to think possesses some verbal sanctity, was a Bill which depended upon the hypothesis that agreement was reached by the Convention. No such agreement ever was reached. It depended in the second place, and was stated to depend in the second place, upon the agreement of the landlord and the tenant. And no one can claim that anybody was verbally bound until the conditions precedent, soon to prove themselves impossible of verbal repetition or attainment, were satisfied, the first condition being that there was agreement at the Convention, the second condition 59 being that there was agreement between landlord and tenant.Having said this, and having rejected the point of view that he had given such a pledge, the noble Earl went on to say that the important matter, after all, was whether or not this Bill, as between the parties, was an equitable Bill; and, having referred to the previous Bill, the noble and learned Earl made use of the following words, which your Lordships will find printed in Column 1243 of the Parliamentary Debates of July 23, 1923:—I say quite plainly that if you are able to procure the passage of a Bill which goes In this length, as a result of verbal understanding made with men who, in the whole of these negotiations, proved themselves, until they died in the cause which they had taken up, to be men of their word in the transaction—if you produce a result of this kind so closely comparable, by reasoned and irrefutable argument, to the proposals which were contained in the. 1920 Bill, which was never verbally accepted, except in the conditions which I mentioned—if you produce this, I say plainly that you have obtained and obtained from the Irish Government themselves—which is worth far more than any legislation imposed upon them from without—a Bill which is upon the lines in which the noble Earl was very much interested at this time.I cannot, I think, in quoting those words of the noble and learned Earl, add anything to what he said upon that occasion.
§ THE EARL OF CLARENDON
I must, I fear, admit that I do. Now turning, if I may, to the letter which was addressed to the Press by the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, to which Lord Oranmore and Browne has referred, may I, before I say anything about that letter, join with him in expressing the regret that I am sure we all feel that the noble Marquess is not here to take part in the debate. I think it may be argued quite fairly that for many years past the ownership of land in Ireland has not been a very profitable business. The really relevant question in the letter which Lord Lansdowne has addressed to the Press has, I think, already been answered in what I have said this afternoon. He asks what has happened since the year 1920 to render the terms then agreed to by all parties inappropriate to-day. my Lords, since 1920 the scheme which was embodied in the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, has vanished, and the agreement as between 60 landlord and tenant upon which that Act was largely based has also disappeared.
But there is something more. The agreement which was reached between landlord and tenant in 1918 was reached at a period when great prosperity prevailed in agricultural circles, not only in Ireland but also in this country. As your Lordships are aware, farmers both large and small were at this time making I urge profits and the prices of land both in Ireland and in this country had soared to fantastic heights; and in 1921, when the noble and learned Earl to whom I have referred made his statement in your Lordships' House, in the debate which took place here, the situation had considerably altered. It is quite true, I think, to say that the fall in price was due to a certain extent to the disturbed conditions which then were prevailing in Ireland, but it is also true to say that it was due, at any rate, in some measure, to the same causes which operated in this country at the same time. Apart from all the other causes which I have mentioned, apart from the breakdown of the 1920 settlement, it cannot be expected, I submit, for economic reasons, that the terms of the Act of 1923 should follow precisely or approximately those agreed upon in 1918.
What is the position of the landowner in Ireland under the 1923 Act? Under this Act the owner of land, the rent of which was fixed prior to 1911, will receive stock, guaranteed by the British Government, producing 4½ per cent. Interest; in other words, he will obtain a perpetual and secure net income amounting to 67 per cent. of his previous gross rentals; and in so far as the rents which were fixed after the year 1911 are concerned, I am informed that those amounts will be even greater. Those of us who have had any connection with land know quite well of all the deductions to which gross rentals are subject—agency, and so forth. We are also aware that on occasions there are rents which we can never expect to be collected. In the light of what has taken place, and in view of the changes which have taken place everywhere throughout the world, His Majesty's Government do not regard this Act as a wholly unsatisfactory fulfilment of the pledge given by their predecessors in 1921.
There is one further point with which Lord Lansdowne in his letter dealt and 61 that is the question of arrears. The Act provides that the Land Commission shall collect and pay over 75 per cent. of all arrears owing for three years prior to the passing of the Act and that the previous arrears shall be remitted. With regard to this latter point it is argued by the noble Marquess that that is a hardship. If I may I should like to quote to your Lordships the amount which is payable to the owners in regard to the arrears owing for the three years prior to the passing of the Act to which I have referred. £721,000 is due for the first year, £421,900 for the second year, and £97,000 for the third year, making a total in all of about £1,240,000. In regard to the first year I am informed that £681,000, or roughly seven-eighths, has already been paid over.
I venture to say that so far from the remission of the earlier arrears being a hardship owners in Ireland would not, but for this provision, have recovered 5 per cent. of the amount which they will receive under this provision, and if the Bill of 1920, which contains no such provision, had been passed landowners in Ireland would have recovered only a very small proportion of those arrears that were due to them. It must, I think, be remembered that estates which come under the Act of 1923 because they were unsold are not estates upon which rents have, as a matter of fact, been paid regularly. In many parts, I am informed, the rents have not been collected for upwards of ten years. I venture to submit that a secure net income of £67 with addition of 2¼ years' arrears is better than a gross income of £100 which might not, and perhaps could not, ever have been collected.
The noble Lord who moved this Motion has asked that a Committee should be appointed to consider this question. What is there for a Committee to consider in the light of the discussion which has taken place previously in this House, and which will probably take place this afternoon? There is only one pledge—the pledge given by my noble and learned friend Lord Birkenhead. Two and a half years ago he explained this, and I have called attention this afternoon to some further relevant considerations. I have attempted to explain that this Government, like its predecessors, do not regard the pledge given by the noble and learned Earl as a pledge to secure for landowners 62 in Ireland terms identical with the provisions contained m the Act of 1920, and, while the difference between the Bills of 1920 and 1923 may be great, the call cannot be made upon the British taxpayer to make good the difference. I regret, therefore, to have to inform the noble Lord who moved this Motion that the Government in all the circumstances are bound to oppose it.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, I am sure we all agree in deeply regretting the absence of the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, but, on the other hand, I do not think His Majesty's Government have any reason to regret the method in which their case has been presented by the noble Earl who has just sat down. I think that he has taken advantage of every point which could tell in favour of the Government as against my noble friend's Motion. But I a little demur to the ingenious method by which he endeavoured to narrow down this discussion as between the case presented by my noble friend and the actual contentions of Lord Birkenhead with regard to his own consistency in this matter.
What Lord Birkenhead said from the Woolsack was, indeed, a most important item in our action at the time, but I think your Lordships will carry your minds a little further back and remember that his statements were only a reiteration of the statements made by every statesman who has had to deal with the Irish question—namely, that it was necessary that the question of land should be cleared away before any question of Home Rule was finally decided. My noble friend Lord Clarendon has endeavoured to prove that Lord Birkenhead in 1921 was dealing with the exact proposition which had been previously affirmed by his colleagues, especially in relation to the Act of 1920. I accept his statement that I was in error in assuming 2½ years ago that the bonus was, by the Act of 1920, to be charged directly on the revenues of this country. But your Lordships will recollect that at that period Ireland had no separate Exchequer from this country. She had a surplus of over £12,000,000 a year, and there was every reason to believe that, under the new Government there would be a balance available from which Ireland would have no difficulty in meeting the £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 which were required, and which would 63 be spread over a period of years. The circumstances of 1921 were wholly different from the circumstances of 1920, and I do not think anybody who contemplated the position in Ireland in November, 1921, would feel that any argument which might have been used twelve months before would then apply.
But I would bring the matter on to a much broader ground. In the first place, what the noble and learned Earl led this House to believe was that the question would be dealt with on the lines of previous legislation, and he made an effort, in which my noble friend has attempted to second him to-night, to prove that the Bill as passed, and under which landlords are living at this moment, bore some similitude, indeed was almost an equivalent, to the measure proposed by His Majesty's Government. There never was a more complete change than that which has been made. The former measure of the Government contemplated taking tenanted land. The present measure deals with untenanted land in addition all over Ireland. In other words, the parks and the home farms, on which the smaller landlords have lived by farming their own land and making their own living, are not merely open to be taken away, but are being taken away at this very moment.
In the same way there is the question of compensation. I am not making any attack on the Free State Government. It has been recognised by every statesman, from Mr. Gladstone to Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and I think I may say the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, and Mr. Lloyd George, that you could not expect any Government of Southern Ireland, dealing with much more restricted finance, dealing with a population in which employment on the land had been an obsession for hundreds of years, to keep the terms which this country considered adequate if persons were to be deprived of their land against their will for the benefit of the public. Therefore, I am not attacking the Free State Government, but I would put one single case which refutes the whole of Lord Birkenhead's contention, and the whole of the suggestion made by the noble Earl who has just spoken, that justice has been done. There is the case 64 of a man at this moment in Ireland, a case which I think was cited by Lord Oranmore and Browne, who has paid Income Tax for the last six years on his own profits from his own land of from £5,000 to £7,000. He has now had his land compulsorily taken from him by the payment of a 4½ per cent. annuity, which will bring him in £2,400 a year. He has, therefore, lost more than half his income. He has lost his livelihood, he has lost his power of remaining in the country. How can my noble friend ask any member of this House to consider that in such a case justice, from the point of view of this country, has been done?
If the contention of all the statesmen I have mentioned for the last forty years has been that owing to the peculiar conditions in Ireland it was not safe to leave the land question to be scrambled for by a new electorate and a new Assembly in which those concerned would have practically no voice, how extraordinary it is that that course should have been taken by His Majesty's Government who had forced a civil war upon Ireland. It was not forced by those who are now giving up their land but by the policy—I am not challenging it one way or the other—of the Government who had called upon all men who were loyal to the British connection to join them in the struggle. Nobody more eloquently appealed to them over and over again than the noble and learned Earl who at that time sat upon the Woolsack. Having brought the whole question as between these countries to a final climax by insisting upon conscription—not at the time when it was introduced in this country but at the very moment when the worst state of feeling happened to prevail—having done all that and having made Ireland into a shambles, they turned round and said: "Now we have had to make an agreement and you landlords must shift for yourselves." If during the previous forty years it was not safe to take that line, how could the Government suppose that, consistently with justice, they could take it at the moment at which they made the Agreement in 1921?
I would like to put this further point to your Lordships. It was recognised by the Coalition Government that everybody who had been in any way engaged in this 65 struggle must be safeguarded because it was not humanly possible to expect the new Free State Government to take their cases into favourable consideration. The Judges were all provided for. The Civil Service was provided for. The Constabulary was provided for. Great efforts were made by the Home Government, though, possibly, some members of your Lordships' House may think them insufficient—the principle at any rate was accepted—so that these people should be provided for. But for those who had suffered and had earned compensation owing to the destruction of their property, what provision was made? In the most recent agreement made with Ireland even the contention that Ireland had been long over-taxed received consideration from His Majesty's Government. But the one set of individuals for whom nothing was ever done, with the exception of this guarantee of bonds, in regard to the amount of money they should receive and whether they should be allowed to remain in occupation of land which they had held for generations, which was not tenanted by others, were the landlords of Ireland, whose record, I venture to say, has been for many years one of complete harmony with the people and a complete absence of those difficult relations which we all remember forty or fifty years ago. That the Coalition Government should have held out all these promises and should consider that they had been carried out by the giving of one-half or two-thirds of that which, under any other measure, these people might rightly have claimed, is, I suggest, in itself a serious slur on the good faith of the British Government.
I dare say that in debating the matter two and a half years ago when we had less knowledge than we now have of the sums which might be required, I placed the amount of the bonus somewhat too high. I dare say that £6,000,000 may be required or, let us say, a sum of £300,000 a year. I remember being very much struck by the remarks made by a scion of one of the oldest houses represented in your Lordships' House when he was asked to give his name to a City company. He was in the Army and had already said that he could not give the time and had not the knowledge which would be of advantage. But they said: "All we want is your name." And he asked; "What do 66 you propose to give me for giving you my name?" They said: "You will get £300 a year." He said in reply: "The name that has taken 300 years to make is not going to be sold for £300 a year." The good faith of the Government of this country has existed for a far longer period than three centuries and, considering that sums running into hundreds of millions have been spent annually in this country since this agreement was made it seems to me that the good faith of this country should not be lost for a sum approaching £300,000 a year.
I would only say in conclusion that, so far as I know, I have practically no personal interest in this question. My property in Ireland is almost. Exclusively urban property. I am not, therefore, pleading for myself. I am pleading for-those remnants of the old landed gentry of Ireland whose existence in that country should be the greatest object of the Free State and of all those new associations which are growing up there, whose deprivation of the means: of livelihood will be a permanent sore and whose treatment, after the promises of the Coalition Government and Dot merely of Lord Birkenhead himself, seems to me to be a considerable reproach to our country.
§ LORD CARSON
My Lords, I have no interest whatever, I am thankful to say, in the question of the purchase of land in Ireland. Indeed, I am glad to say that I have no personal interest in any pledge of any kind that has ever been: made by the British Government. I am sincerely thankful that this is so because I have not the slightest reliance upon any pledge that is ever made by the British Government. I do not know that there is anything more hateful to listen to in this House than a Minister trying to explain away the clearest and most unambiguous language and to persuade not only the House but himself that what was said ought never to have been said or that, if it was said, it did not mean what was most plainly meant on the face of it. I admit that Ministers receive these legacies from previous Governments and from different sources and circumstances, but might I suggest to them that when these awkward questions arise they should honestly and boldly say: "That pledge was made in 1921 and at various other times. We are not in a position to 67 carry it out and we do not intend to carry it out." That would relieve those who have lived in expectancy and who go on trusting in what you are pleased to call British honour. They have been deceived over and over again, but they still hang on with some kind of hope in their hungry days that someone or other will take up their cases in the Imperial Parliament and try to have this pledge honoured.
The prolongation of the agonies of these people is far worse than a speedy execution. This question does not admit of argument, for this reason. The pledge is printed in the OFFICIAL REPORT. It is not merely the pledge of Lord Birkenhead, of whose language the noble Earl has made such an excellent defence. As part of the settlement with Ireland a Land Purchase. Bill was not only promised, but was-actually brought in, and is upon the Records of Bills introduced into the House of Commons. From want of time or for some other reason there was no time to bring it forward in 1920, but again, in the next year the Bill having been withdrawn in the previous Session, the Prime Minister in reply to a question put on March 16, 1921, stated—There is every intention of introducing this Bill as soon as possible after Easter.That was in 1921. There was every intention, but there was no fruition, and the Bill was not introduced in 1921. But that that Bill was the policy of the Government itself was perfectly plain because he said he knew it was to be introduced as soon as possible after Easter.
And the Lord Chancellor, Lord Birkenhead, in this House on July 13, said—I may say at once that … this is one of the questions which must be dealt with, and dealt with upon the lines which the Government have already indicated. … I said over and over again that as the price of peace, as an accompaniment of peace, there were no limits which I desired to set as to the concessions that the Government would make in financial matters.In the next Session Lord Peel, who was then in charge of the negotiations for the Treaty, said in a debate on the Irish Free State (Agreement) Bill on March 9, 68 1922, when talking of the same land purchase—I do not understand that the Imperial Parliament denies any of its obligations or any of its undertakings.On March 13, 1922, when a deputation of the Irish Landlords' Convention met Sir Austen Chamberlain, then Mr. Austen Chamberlain, Leader of the House of Commons, Mr. Churchill, Colonial Secretary, and Lord Peel, those Ministers stated fully and absolutely that the pledges given by the Government regarding land purchase must be carried out, and they affirmed their intention of fulfilling them. In those circumstances what is the use of trying to whittle away a promise of that kind?
The noble Earl has so far convinced himself of the righteousness of getting rid of the pledges that he actually put forward, in part of his speech, the suggestion that after all the landlords are just as well off, or very nearly as well off, under the Act passed by the Free State as they were under the Act of 1920. It is really most remarkable how a Minister can convince himself of anything. People talk of counsel pleading in a case, but after all counsel is paid to take a particular line. The noble Earl had to confront pledges that were made not by members of the same Government, because at that time the noble Earl was not in partnership with Lord Birkenhead so far as I know. But it is a most remarkable thing, when you set yourself to support a pledge made by a political colleague or a political friend, how in politics you can bring yourself to a state of mind which you could not do in relation to any other business or any of your own domestic concerns. So the noble Earl in effect says, in this House: After all these troubles Irish landlords have really had a very good time; they are not doing so badly. It is true that as a consequence of civil wars, throughout the whole of three years they never got a shilling of rent, and to the tune of £70,000,000 their houses were burnt down, but these landlords had really a good time of it under the Treaty, and what have they to complain of? They really have not done so badly.
Let me compare the Bills for a moment. I will demonstrate that the Conservative Government themselves saw the injustice of the Bill. Under the Bill of 1920 for every £100 of income a land- 69 lord received a sum of about £82 net. The Free State Bill, taking an average of first and second term rents, would give him £67 7s. when certain deductions have been made. You cannot by any process of calculation that I know of honestly bring your mind to believe that £67 7s. is the same thing as £82. That is a plain and simple fact that I commend to the noble Earl. The case already mentioned, which I know perfectly well, is the case of an owner who farmed largely himself, and whose property has been taken from him. After sticking it out during all those years of civil war, arson, maiming, and cattle raiding, and everything else, staying in his own blessed country because I suppose he still loved it—after all that, the figures in relation to his income come out like this: In 1919 his net income was £7,806; in 1920, £7,806; 1921, £5,111; and each year since the Treaty, £5,111. Observe that by the Treaty, in the first instance, he lost something like £2,500 a year by the fall of his income. And now he is "not badly off" because he has been bought out compulsorily, and the 25,000 is still further reduced to £2,362.
What has he to complain of asks the noble Earl; things are bad in agriculture. Yes, but surely that one fact of itself demonstrates that you are going back on a pledge which was as plain a pledge as could possibly be given. It was a pledge which was not founded on generalities, but took the form of a Bill actually brought into the House of Commons. The matter does not rest there. It can be shown by the action of the present Government to be unfair, even in the opinion of the Government themselves. Why do I say that? They passed last year the Northern Ireland Land Act on the same terms as the Act of 1920, by which the landlords of Northern Ireland get £82. Why is it fair that the Southern Irish landlords should get only £67? Why should there be a different measure of justice? Why is the one said to be having a good time on £67? What a riot must be going on in Northern Ireland on the £82 which is given by an Act of the Government itself These are facts, and what is the good of trying to whittle them away? You cannot do it. You may take any other line you like, and I know that in politics there are many disappointments, but you cannot pretend in the face of these facts, that 70 anything like justice or fair play has taken place.
I will tell you my reason why there is this distinction. When the Prime Minister and the Coalition Government were trying to pass the Treaty, the so-called Treaty—I am, glad to say I shall be always proud to remember that I opposed it with all the force in my power—they were ready to promise anything. They were ready to give the Act of 1920, or any other Bill. Yes, and the Southern landlords in this House—I am not in the least blaming them, for I knew what they were going through and the conditions which prevailed—actually believed a British Prime Minister. We were not such fools in the North of Ireland—and that is the whole origin of all this. They gave the Government their votes in this House, and he gave them his pledge. He printed the Bill; arid this is all they have got—the paper on which it is written. Let us be honest with ourselves. I do not suppose for a moment that there is any sympathy throughout the country with Irish landlords or with Irish loyalists, the question has passed away, but do not let us talk about British honour. I read a speech made the other clay by the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Amery, on the question of Iraq and Mosul, in which he said that to evacuate that country and leave people whom we had encouraged to settle there, would mean that British honour would he dragged in the dirt. That was in Iraq and Mosul; what does it matter when it is in Ireland? It is exactly the same question, exactly the same thing, but—leave them there, they are having a really good time, and perhaps, they will come, in time, to believe it.
I am sorry for the decision of the Government. The whole matter, when considered in connection with a great revolution of this kind, is really very small. A calculation has been made that to put the matter on an equality with the Act of 1920, as regards tenanted land, would take about £3,000,000 in bonds, which, with interest, at 4½ per cent. is but a flea-bite as compared with leaving these people in their present condition. The untenanted lands, which are now being taken compulsorily, would involve another £3,000,000; and if you only gave them £1,000,000 you might make some alleviation. But no, they get nothing: They get no consideration, but 71 when it comes to a question of carrying, out pledges to the Free State everybody holds up their hands in horror in thinking that you should in the slightest degree try to minimise the calculations they make.
Only the other day we were all in a chorus of agreement—perhaps, I had better not say all, because I see a noble Lord opposite who was not quite so enthusiastic—when giving the Irish Free State a sum of from £150,000,000 to £200,000,000. It might have been worth while then to say: "We will let you have £200,000,000, but you may just as well put in £3,000,000 to pay off the Irish landlords under the Act of 1920." Everybody said that it was a great act of statesmanship to forego that £120,000,000, or £150,000,000 or £200,000,000, or whatever sum it was. I dare say it was, and I do not want to detract from the credit of any one connected with it. But last year we had a debate in this House in which it was admitted that the British Government gave £1,000,000 to compensate men who had been manufacturing bombs to blow up British troops! Marvellous!
As a poor Irishman, I am lost in admiration at the generosity they show, particularly to those who hit them hard. The landlords of Ireland have no voting power, they have no friends, and they have not only to put up with any kind of justice, with any kind of British honour, with any kind of pledge, but with any kind of construction of a pledge. But really I think it goes a little too far when they are told that they are having a really good time as compared with other people in Ireland. However, I am aware that this matter rests with the Government. There is no way of compelling the Government to take action in the matter, and I can only express my profoundest regret that in trying to settle this question they have thrown over absolutely and most clearly the very men who helped them to establish what they believed would bring about peace for ever in Ireland.
§ LORD ARNOLD
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has made a strong and impressive speech, as he always does, and there is no one who is a greater admirer of his gifts than myself. It is, however, a little unfortunate for him on this occasion that I can prove—or I hold I can prove, I do not want to be too dogmatic 72 —that within the last two or three months he himself, sitting in your Lordships' House in his judicial capacity, has given a judgment, or at any rate has assented to a judgment, which is diametricaily opposed to what he has said in his speech this afternoon. I understand his position to be that a pledge given in 1920 has been broken. I do not myself agree with that contention, but let me put it still higher than that. Let us assume that there was a binding contract on the British Government in 1920 in this matter and that that binding contract was set up by law. If I understand the noble and learned Lord aright he suggests that if the British Government had entered into a contract to pay in certain contingencies certain moneys out of the public fund and that subsequently the Irish Free State were set up, that makes no difference at all to the contract. I understand that to be his position this afternoon. But a case was heard before your Lordships within the last few months—in June of last year—where a decision was given in an entirely contrary sense. Your Lordships' House, sitting judicially, then decided that the setting up of the Irish Free State transfers, as a liability on British funds, contracts for payment of money out of the public funds of this country to the Consolidated Fund of the Irish Free State.
§ LORD CARSON
Is the noble Lord really referring to a case heard judicially here upon some other matter?
§ LORD ARNOLD
I am referring to a case which is obviously concerned with another matter, but the principle is the same. I am referring to a case in which the liability was in the ultimate resort upon the Consolidated Fund of this country—the noble and learned Lord, I expect, knows by this time which case it was, the case of the Great Southern Railway of Ireland—and the noble and learned Lord assented to the judgment which was given on that occasion by my noble and learned friend behind me, and the Lord Chancellor also assented to it. It is quite true that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, was not present on that occasion, but the noble Viscount, Lord Dunedin, spoke for him and, with. his authority, gave his assent to the judgment.
I submit that this is a matter very much in point on this occasion. What does it 73 come to? It comes to this: that even if there is a binding contract on the British Government in this matter—and the noble Lord, Lord Oranmore and Browne, does not contend, nor do his friends contend, that it was a binding contract on the British Government; all that they say is that it was a pledge which was broken—even if it was a. binding contract your Lordships' House, sitting judicially, has decided that such a contract no longer exists but is transferred to the Irish Free State. So far as I am aware, nothing has transpired since to alter the effect of that judgment. As I say, I do not wish to be dogmatic, but I believe that I am correct in saying that the position is precisely the same as it was when that judgment was given. Such being the case, it really is not consistent, if I may say so with great respect, for the noble and learned Lord, sitting judicially last June, to give one judgment and then—
§ LORD ARNOLD
I obviously could not read through the whole of the judgment, which was a very long one, but I submit, that it has, and that in the very case in question liability in the last resort came bad; upon the Consolidated Fund of the British Government, and in the matter which we are discussing to-day that is what would have happened under the pledge of 1920 in the last resort; or, at any rate, that is the strongest ease that, can be put forward, though I believe, as a matter of fact, that even at that time it was provided or intended that the liability should rest upon the Consolidated Fund of the Irish Free State. But I am putting the case in the highest possible way against myself. I cannot conceive any way of putting it higher. Such was the judgment of your Lordships' House, sitting judicially. I leave that point, but I shall be very interested to hear if any valid criticisms can be put forward to shake the argument which I have advanced.
Leaving the noble and learned Lord, I come to the general case. I do not propose to traverse ground which has been so often traversed before, but I think that Wore I sit down I shall be able to bring forward for your Lordship consideration certain points which have not, as a 74 matter of fact, yet been advanced, so far as I am aware, it this controversy—points which do, I think, put a different complexion upon the case. The matter can be put very simply. Broadly, I take it that the case is this: that the Irish landlords consider that they are unjustly treated because, instead of getting, as they contend that they ought to have got, twenty years purchase at 5 per cent., they will, under the Irish Free State Act, 1923—which is, incidentally, now guaranteed by the British Government, and that is, of course a very important matter, but it has been referred to already—they will now get only 15½ years' purchase at 4½ per cent That is broadly the case. I will not go into all the details or consider the slighs differences in the bonus, which are not very important looking at the case as a whole. The figures subsequently given show a sufficient margin to cover any differences in the bonus. But the grievance is that a pledge has been broken. I do not intend to say more about the pledge, because the main arguments regarding it were fully and, if I may say so, very admirably stated by the noble Earl, Lord Clarendon, who also quoted the defence which was put forward in this matter by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, in July, 1923—a defence which, I cannot help feeling, was a convincing one. However, I will not pursue the matter of the pledge because I want to come to what I think are new points.
I propose to come straight away to the very heart of the, controversy. I think I can prove to your Lordships that, as a matter of fact, circumstances have worked out very favourably for the landowners under the terms of 1923 and that they are as well off under those terms as they could reasonbly have expected to be under the terms and conditions of 1920. I will apply my remarks broadly to one or two pasages from the letter of the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, which appeared in The Times yesterday. I need not say that we all very much regret his absence, and anything which he says always carries, most properly, the greatest weight in your Lordships' House. I will try to deal with one or two of his points as I proceed. The point at issue is that fifteen years' purchase at 4½ per cent. is claimed to constitute so much worse terms than twenty years' purchase 75 at 5 per cent. that a serious injustice is being done. This contention entirely leaves out of account the great fall in prices which has taken place since 1920 and the great change in the value of money since that year. After all, money is only a counter and is useful only for what it will buy, and the simple fact is that, owing to the great fall in prices, the money which the landlords will get under the Act of 1923 will buy more, will go further, than could reasonably have been expected in 1920.
What are the facts? In 1920 the cost of living was on the average 150 per cent. above the 1914 level, but now and in fact, broadly speaking, for the last three years, price levels have not been 150 per cent. above the 1914 level but only about 75 per cent, above the 1914 level. That is a great fall, and it means that money is worth a great deal more than it was worth in 1920. Therefore a. smaller amount of money may have the same purchasing value as a larger amount would have had in 1920, and that is exactly what has happened in regard to the matter which we are now discussing. I do not propose to go into close statistical calculations—it is not neeesary—but looking at the matter broadly it is true to say that owing to the big fall in prices fifteen years' purchase at 4½ per cent. is equivalent to twenty years' purchase at. 5 per cent. in 1920.
§ LORD ARNOLD
Prices in Ireland have fallen proportionately very much the same as they have done all over the world. Prices have come down in Ireland since 1920. Let me make another point, because it will have some bearing upon one of the sentences of the letter from the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne. It is a different point and I do not say that it is so strong a point, but it has a bearing on the matter. In 1920 Income Tax stood at 6s in the £. It is now 4s. in the £. If that factor is taken into account, as well as the fall in prices, it eau be shown that landlords are better off under the present terms than they would have been under the terms of the Bill of 1920, assuming that conditions had remained as they then were. In short, landlords, owing to the fall in prices, are getting about the same purchasing power—and that is what 76 really matters—for their land as they would have done under the 1920 terms, and if changes in taxation are also taken into account they are geting a bigger net real income than they would have done under the 1920 terms and conditions
Now I come to the letter of the noble Marquess. At one point he uses these words, which I will read:To many vendors expropriation on these terms implies the complete disappearance of the all-too-slender margin of income which remained to them.Looking at the matter generally, and I am not. dealing with exceptional cases, I think I have shown that as a matter of fact the purchasing power of the net income of landlords will be greater than under the 1920 conditions, and therefore I do not think that this sentence can be allowed to pass unchallenged. On this point there is a question which I would like to ask. Several times the ease has been cited of a landlord whose income is reduced from £6,000 or £7,000 to between £2,000 and £3,000. I think it will be admitted that that is an extreme case, and we have had many instances of extreme cases brought forward in the controversy with regard to compensation for damage to property. I am not dogmatising because I do not profess to know everything about the matter, but what I would like to ask is: How would that landlord have fared under the 1920 terms?
It does seem to me that one of the criticisms which can be urged against the general tenor of the letter of the noble Marquess is that after all the same rents would have been the basis of the 1920 settlement. The terms might have been longer, but the same system of rents would have applied as the basis. Then the noble Marquess asks, in his letter, what has happened since the year 1920 to render the terms then agreed to by all parties inappropriate to-day. Quite apart from all other considerations, the fall in prices and the change in the value of money are very real factors which, without doubt, make the terms of 1920 inappropriate to-day, or in 1923, when the Irish Free State Act was passed. I submit that if a true comparison of real values is made between the two sets of figures there is no such disparity as is alleged by the noble Lord and his friends who have put down this Motion, because the landlords will receive money 77 which is broadly equivalent in value to what they would or could reasonably have expected to receive under the 1920 Bill.
Let me take another consideration, which deals with the change in the rate of interest which is to be 4½ per cent. instead of 5. That is not a very serious diminution, though it is a diminution of a half per cent. But what is the general position with regard to the value of money? In 1920 the bank rate was 7 per cent., and it is now 5 per cent. It may before very long be 4 per cent. The noble Lord and his friends have left this out of account and still urge that they should have the 5 pee cent. rate, despite the great change which has now taken place in the value of money. In 1920 British 5 per cent. War Stock was as low as 81. It is now about 101. In 1920 the yield on the British War Stock was over 6 per cent. It. is now under 5 per cent. But the noble Lord and his friends talk as if nothing had happened, whereas the position has materially altered, and with great respect to the noble Marquess, when he asks what has happened to change the position, I would reply by calling his attention to the figures which I have given about the fall in the value of money and the fall in prices, and so on.
Finally, consider what it is that this Motion really seeks to do. As I understand, the noble Lord who has put it clown asks for a Select Committee. Presumably he anticipates that the Select Committee would report in his favour, and that as a result of that he would expect—so I take it—that the landlords would be given the literal 1920 terms, at the expense of the British taxpayer. If that is not the ultimate aim of the noble Lord, perhaps he or some other subsequent speaker will correct me. That is what I understand it would come to in the end. If that is not their case, what is their case? It cannot be suggested that pressure should be brought upon the Irish Free State in a matter like this, even if we had a good case, and personally I think that for any such purpose the case is extremely weak.
The only alternative is that the British taxpayer should pay and make up the difference between the 1923 and the 1920 terms. That is what it comes to. Is that 78 seriously put forward? I should not have thought it was possible to put that forward, were it not on account of the weak attitude, as must call it, and the surrender of the Government last July. We had debates then on the question of compensation, and the Government meekly surrendered, and agreed to set up a Committee to investigate; and I suppose that the noble Lord and his friends, emboldened by their success on that occasion, think that they can repeat the-victory. They were no doubt encouraged in that endeavour by the knowledge that it has become the custom of His Majesty's present advisers to settle their difficulties, and troubles by a cash payment at the-expense of the British taxpayer. However, I was very relieved to learn from the reply of the noble Earl opposite that there are limits to the lengths to which even this Government is prepared to go, in that direction. I think I have tried to argue the matter moderately, and give-reasons for my views. I do feel that this Government is in a strong position in this matter, and I hope that the considerations which I have put forward may do something to strengthen, rather than weaken, those who are going to support the Government in resisting this Motion.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, before I deal with this Motion I should like to refer to what the noble Lord has just said. He began by attacking Lord Carson, and said that a decision which he gave when sitting-as a Law Lord, with regard to the Great Southern and Western Railway, was in contradiction of the speech he has made in support, of Lord Oranmore and Browne's Motion. The noble and learned Viscount opposite knows perfectly well that that has nothing whatever to do with the question of land.
THE EARL OF MAYO
Then the noble Lord went on to deal with the great fall in prices. I asked him if he was talking about Ireland, and his answer was that he was talking about the whole world, including Great Britain I suppose, and that it must be acknowledged that, according to the fall in prices and the lower value of money, the Irish landowner ought to be very well satisfied with 75 per cent. of his rent.
§ LORD ARNOLD
I did not say that. I said that the fall in prices was from 150 per cent. to 75 per cent. above the 1914 level. That was the point I made, and those prices, be it remembered, are the prices in Great Britain, and most of the Irish landlords live in Great Britain, and will continue to do so.
THE EARL OF MAYO
There are a great many Irish landlords, or landowners—I object to the term landlords, they are landowners now—who live in Ireland, and who intend to stop in Ireland, notwithstanding all the troubles they have gone through. I said that the landowners were receiving 75 per cent. of the rent, but in Northern Ireland, under the Bill of that Government, they get £82 for every £100. The noble Lord asked how they would have fared if they were dealt with under the Act of 1920, and he quoted Lord Lansdowne. He says that the case has been overstated, in the same way as the compensation claims were overstated, but I would ask him to listen to this case. There was a farm of 81 acres, valued for Poor Law purposes at £16, and let prior to 1881 for £22. The judicial term for the first term was £19, and for the second term £15 10s. This farm will be acquired: by the sitting tenant under the Free State Act of 1923 for £212, and he will for the future have to pay in lieu of rent an annuity of £10 1s. 6d. The owner will receive £233 6s. 3d. He had spent £223 14s. on the farm buildings. The tenant right of this holding has lately been acquired by another farmer close by for £1,025. I think that answers the noble Lord.
Let me deal with what the noble Earl, Lord Clarendon, has said upon this Motion. He began by saying he considered that the Land Act of the Free State of 1923 fulfilled all the pledges, and also that the Land Act of Northern Ireland did so. He seemed to be the mouthpiece of Lord Birkenhead. I wish Lord Birkenhead had been here, because many a time have I had in this House to stand up and say to my noble and learned friend many things with regard to the Irish land question that he did not agree with, whip on other things we have been in agreement. Lord Clarendon's words were to the effect that with the help and assistance of what Lord Birkenhead said be would deal with the Motion. He also said that the 1920 Act was dead, and he 80 added—and this I must traverse most distinctly—that in the Convention there was one thing that we did not agree about and that was the land question. That was stated by Lord Birkenhead, but it is not the case. If there was one matter in that Convention upon which we all agreed it was the settlement of the land question, and the 1920 Act was framed upon what took place in that Convention. I hope your Lordships will believe me, for I was on that Convention, and my noble friend Lord Oranmore and Browne was one of the Committee appointed to deal with the whole of the details of the settlement. The Northern members also helped us, and agreed with regard to the land question. On that basis the 1920 Act was framed.
There is no doubt that pledges have been given. In a small island consisting of 26 counties it would have been impossible for the Free State to attempt to finance a big Land Bill of the kind promised by this country, and which the British Government should have passed. It must be remembered that those who had not then purchased under the Ashbourne Act, the Wyndham Act or the amending Birrell Act, which practically did away with the two previous Acts, found themselves in a very difficult position indeed. In most cases they found themselves in a, condition of penury. Let me remind your Lordships that there was not a single gentle family in Ireland that did not send someone to fight your battles against the Germans, and some of them have lost all, though some remain.
It was absolutely necessary at that time that by some means or other the Free State should settle the land question in Ireland. It stood in the way of every form of domestic legislation with which the Free State, as constituted by both Houses of Parliament here, had to deal. It stood in the way of everything, and I will tell you why. On one side of a hedge was a man who had bought his land from the landlord and was paying what I might call a very low State rent. In most cases that orent was punctually paid, though not, perhaps, in all. There were bad districts in Ireland in that respect, as your Lordships are aware. On the other side of that hedge were sitting tenants who had not been settled with by their landlord, and who said. "This man has got the land and he 81 knows that in a certain number of years he will become a peasant proprietor. He is improving the land and living as a peasant proprietor. Why have we not been settled with?" That was the question which came upon the Free State Government in those days.
I have been a member of the Senate since 1921. I had a great deal to do with the Minister who was concerned with the Land Bill, and I felt that although these men were suffering and I knew they would suffer, it was all-important that the land question should be settled. I am interested to see that Lord Arnold is an advocate of the present Government. I have known occasions when the Government were not so well pleased with the remarks that came from the Benches opposite, and I congratulate the noble Earl upon the support he has received from the Front Opposition Bench. I do not know whether that state of things will continue. There is a long Session before us and, perhaps, we shall see a different state of affairs later on.
When a small country like Ireland consisting of twenty-six counties has to deal with the land question after a war, a rebellion and a civil war, it is faced with a very difficult task. I am afraid this Motion will be regarded as a sort of Vote of Censure upon the Government. But we are not asking for very much. We are asking for a Committee to examine these pledges, and as far as I can make out, the answer of the Government is that there are no pledges at all. Lord Carson read those pledges to your Lordships and I should like to remind the House of the last pledge of all, made in 1922. The representatives of the Landowners' Convention were received by Sir Austen Chamberlain, Mr. Winston Churchill, then Colonial Secretary, and Lord Peel, and, while admitting their responsibility, Ministers stated that under the settlement it was necessary that the Land Bill should be passed by the Free State Parliament. What we have got are the land bonds which were guaranteed by the Government. But the sum required to bridge over the financial difficulties in which landowners have found themselves is so small that when millions are being voted by this country we think a little generosity might be shown to these people in Ireland. The Free State Government 82 has had very little credit for the difficulties they have surmounted, and all honour to them that they have dealt with the land question at all. They might have let it slide, though a lot of people would not have liked it had nothing whatsoever been done.
I wish that the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, could have been present, but his letter to The Times closes with three questions. The noble Lord, Lord Arnold, said something about them, and I should like to quote them to your Lordships:—
I do not know whether the Government will give an answer to them. The noble Earl, Lord Clarendon, who answered for the Government, did not deal with them in any way whatsoever.
- (1) What has happened since 1920 to render the terms then agreed to by all parties inappropriate to-day?
- (2) Why the tenants (about one-third of the number) who refused to avail themselves of the opportunities offered to them by the different Land Purchase Acts, and gratefully accepted by their neighbours, are to be accorded terms specially generous to them and specially onerous to their landlords?
- (3) Why these same tenants are to receive treatment so much more favourable than that given in Northern Ireland to their brethren separated from them only by a boundary which does not express any difference in economic conditions as between North and South?
We are not asking for very much. Somebody said the other day—I think it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer speaking at a luncheon—that the Irish question would never be finished, and that we would be very dull without it. I hope that is the case. Your Lordships must remember that we have been through very bad times in Ireland. You cannot compare Ireland, as a whole, with this country. There is no analogy whatsoever between the two countries. The noble Lord, Lord Arnold, said that everything was cheaper, and that the cost of living had gone down 75 per cent. In reply to that I wish to say that Dublin now is one of the dearest cities in the world to live in. I hope your Lordships will forgive me for saying so, but to us who live in Ireland the ignorance of English gentlemen of what the state of Ireland is now is a terrible thing. We have made good. We are carrying out our pledges in every possible way. I hope the Government will give us some little 83 encouragement. With regard to this Motion, I can only say that if my noble friend goes to a Division I shall join him in the Lobby, but that will depend upon the answer that His Majesty's Government give in this matter.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, as an unrepentant anti-Homo Ruler I confess that I am entirely out of sympathy with the Motion of the noble Lord, and I am rather surprised at his attitude in bringing it forward, because the noble Lord, if I recollect rightly, was a very strong supporter, during the later days in Ireland, of Home Rule. He went so far, I think, as to follow those who advocated so complete a reform as to give the Irish people complete control of their fiscal system, and more or less complete control of all their domestic affairs. If you are anxious to give to the Irish people, or to any people, the control of so many of their domestic affairs in such important matters as this, it is hardly a logical position to take up to ask that you should withhold from that people the control of the very soil on which they live. All of us in Ireland, or very nearly all of us, realised that once you gave Home Rule to Ireland it was inevitable that there must be simultaneous surrender of the control of Irish land purchase to the Free State Government.
I cannot help thinking that these pseudo-anti-Home Rulers, who became Home Rulers, and advocated the cause of Home Rule so eloquently, and eventually so successfully, are in a measure responsible for giving over control of land purchase to the Irish Government. So far as they were honestly supporting Home Rule, so far it appears to me are they, though indirectly and I daresay unwillingly, responsible for land purchase being put in the hands of a Free State Government. That does not at the same time reduce my sympathy with the noble Lord who moved this Motion and for those others who did not take advantage of the opportunity of getting rid of their property when they could have done so. The writing on the wall was plain enough for anyone to see. Deeply as I feel sympathy with all those who have not sold in the position in which they find themselves, I do not see what is to be done. Ireland is now a Dominion. My noble friend the Leader of the House, 84 in a debate on Irish compensation, made use of a remark which, I think, all of us remember. He said that the Irish Parliament had been given Home Rule, and that by giving Home Rule we had abandoned our friends, and if we had once abandoned our friends how was it possible to help them? I think that argument is an unanswerable one.
I believe I am right in saying, although I have not had time to verify it—I only heard of the noble Lord's Motion quite recently—that the drastic land legislation during recent years in Australia and the Colonies has caused the landlords there to suffer very severely, but I have not heard that the English Parliament has been asked to interfere in those cases. I have not heard that the English Parliament has been asked to make good the losses suffered by landlords owing to this land legislation in Dominions other than Ireland. I agree that the position of those of the Irish landlords who have not sold out is disastrous. For myself I have nothing to complain of. I have no doubt the position of the noble Lord who moved this Motion and of others who have been referred to is as bad as it has been described.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
I am sorry to interrupt, but I think the House will allow me to make it clear that this Motion does not affect me personally in any way, for I sold my land in 1912.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
I beg the noble Lord's pardon, and withdraw what I said. I thought the noble Lord still owned land in Ireland. I am sure the noble Lord was speaking for others, and, in any case, I am certain would not speak for himself. But I do not see what can be done. Home Rule has been given to Ireland, and it is a very extreme Home Rule—Dominion Home Rule. I do not see, therefore, how the Mother Country can interfere in a Dominion's domestic affairs.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT CAVE)
My Lords, I think your Lordships will allow me to say a few words before the Division on this Motion is taken. I will add only a. few observations with the object mainly of bringing the House back to the real subject matter of the Resolution which has been moved.
85 Many speeches have been made in support of the Motion, some of them, as might have been expected, eloquent and moving speeches, designed to excite your Lordships' sympathy for the landlords of Southern Ireland. But the real substance of the Resolution which has been moved, and which you are asked to affirm, is that this Govern-merit has not fulfilled pledges made not only by its predecessors in 1920 and 1921, but by the Government of 1923—that is what the Motion means—of which we were all members. I need hardly say that I was not in the Government of 1921, and I was no party to the so-called Treaty of that year. I have never in any way expressed any approval of it, and I have always, in common with my noble friends who sit on the Front Bench, felt and expressed the greatest sympathy with those who have suffered by the troubles in Ireland, and have done something to procure for as many of them as possible redress or compensation for that which they have suffered. But when a noble Lord comes to your Lordships' House and asks you to pass a vote of condemnation upon a Government for whose actions I and my colleagues are responsible, to put us so to speak on our trial before a Select Committee, then I must ask the House, which always fairly considers arguments put before it, to think for a few moments whether there is any ground for passing such a Resolution, and whether there is or has ever been a promise which should be redeemed by putting a charge to-day on the British taxpayer in favour of the landlords of Southern Ireland—a charge of some £6,000,000 or a sum of about £300,000 a year.
The Motion relates to the years 1920–23; it is naturally not relevant to go back to the earlier years, and condemn, as the noble Earl did, the proposal for conscription, or to criticise the Treaty itself. We are not concerned with anything but the pledges which are said to have been given between the years 1920–23. I agree that in 1920 the Coalition Government brought in a Land Purchase Bill containing certain terms, which I believe had been approved by the Convention, and quite naturally they wished, as I agree again all Governments have done, to combine the proposals for land purchase with the proposal for a measure of self-govern- 86 meat in Ireland. A Bill was brought in and it contained these terms. But it was not passed. For reasons which we all know, the Act of 1920 was not successful in Ireland and surely no one says that the bringing in of a Bill constitutes a pledge, or that if a Bill is introduced and not carried the public funds must make good to those who would have benefited by the Bill all that has been lost by its rejection. No one contends that the Bill of 1920 was anything in the nature of a pledge, otherwise the difficulty of proposing measures to Parliament would be greater than it is.
But what is said, and said with great force, is this: that when the matter was brought up in the year 1921 a speech was made by the noble and learned Earl who is now Secretary of State for India, which amounted to a pledge. I have his speech here. A few sentences have already been given from it but I ask noble Lords to look at the speech themselves. I think I am not wrong in saying that what the noble and learned Earl said was something to this. effect: We are engaged daily in negotiations with the representatives of Sinn Fein in Ireland; we are trying to make a settlement with them, and we intend to make it a part of that settlement that a measure of land purchase shall be passed upon lines already indicated, which means upon the lines of the Bill of 1920. No doubt the noble and learned Earl said that, but he added that if they were not able to come to an agreement then he reserved for himself and for his colleague: liberty to review the situation. That is the effect of his speech and that was his qualification. The negotiators of that day tried to get these terms inserted in what is called the Treaty. They failed. The Irish negotiators would not accept any such terms, and the Treaty itself was in danger of being broken up. Whether that would have been a. good or bad thing I am not prepared to argue, but the whole Treaty might have come to an end. Therefore it was made without any terms in it as to land purchase.
It is very easy for those who are outside to criticise what men may do in what is called the moment of crisis. They have to make up their minds at the last moment whether they will yield on a certain point or whether the whole negotiations shall go by the board. Rightly or 87 wrongly they thought it best not to endanger the Treaty as a whole and they therefore signed the Treaty without any reference in it to terms of laud purchase. That is really the gravamen of the complaint, that the intention to include in the Treaty provisions for land purchase was not carried out. They did their best to carry it out, but they could not do it, and unless you blame them for making the Treaty at all you cannot accuse them of a breach of faith. However that may be, the Treaty seems to me to give an entirely new aspect to the whole matter. It was never intended to put a charge upon British funds. That was not the proposal of 1920, and from the moment when the Treaty was signed it was obvious that any charge for land purchase must fall upon the Free State funds, or at all events that it was in the power of the Free State and of the Free State alone to make arrangements as to the purchase of Irish land.
That was the position when we came into office at the end of 1922 and when we dealt with the matter in 1923. Our duty then, as we conceived it, was to get the very best terms possible for the landlords of Southern Ireland from the Government of the Irish Free State. The matter was debated, as has been said, in July, 1923, and the noble Duke who was then responsible for the conduct of Irish matters from the Colonial Office took part. No one, I think, will for a moment accuse him of not having spoken quite candidly and quite plainly on that or, indeed, on any other occasion. What the noble Duke said in that debate was only this: that he recognised the position in which Irish landlords were placed, that the Irish Land Bill was in course of passing and that the Government would consider the whole matter and see whether they could do anything to meet the complaints that had been made. I have read the speech through and I find in it nothing more than that. It has not been said to-day, and I do not think that it will be said, that any pledge whatever was made to deal with the matter either by a grant of funds or in any other way. We carried out all that the noble Duke had promised. I was then a member of the Government and I know what passed. I know that strenuous efforts were made to get the best possible terms for the landlords of Southern Ireland in con- 88 nection with this question of land purchase.
The Bill took the form of the present Irish Free State Act of 1923. Its terms have been referred to frequently in this debate. I do not for a moment think of disputing the view that has been taken that 15½ years' purchase is not so good as 18 years' purchase and that £61 for £100 is not so good as £82 for £100. That stares you in the face and is obviously true, and I regret that the figures in the Bill are not larger than they are. But I will point out one or two considerations. In the first place, the noble Lord, Lord Oranmore and Browne, and, I think, the noble Earl, said that they made, no attack upon the course taken by the Government of the Irish Free State and that they recognised that that Government passed a Bill which is as good a. Bill from the landlords' point of view as could have been passed through the Dail. That has often been said, and I think it is recognised to-day.
In the second place, do not let us forget—because it was in all our minds at the time—that the provision in the Bill as to arrears is better than anything previously proposed. Provision was made that the State should be responsible for 75 per cent. of arrears over a period of three years. This involved a very large sum and was surely a valuable concession to obtain. People in Ireland do not get their arrears as people do in this country. The effect of this provision was to obtain for the landlords a certainty, which has been fully confirmed, of obtaining 75 per cent. of their arrears over three years. That is something to be set against the disadvantages to which noble Lords have referred. In the third place, let me add that the Government of that day, which was in substance the Government of today, did for the first time promise and give a British guarantee for the stock to be issued. That was accepted as a very valuable concession by those who represent the landlords of Southern Ireland, and I hope that in making an attack upon us through this Motion noble Lords will not forget what this Government has done to obtain better terms for those for whom they speak.
I know of no pledge other than those to which I have referred, and they reduce themselves to the pledge given in 1921 by my noble and learned friend the Secretary 89 of State for India. I am sorry that he is not here to-night and that the noble Lord could not see his way to postpone this question until the noble Earl could be present. I have said all that I can concerning his promise. I think it was a promise to do his best to secure in the Treaty terms of land purchase which, for reasons to which I have referred, he was not able to obtain. I do not think that anywhere in the whole history you can find a promise to put a charge of £6,000,000, or, indeed, any charge at all, upon British funds. I agree with all my heart that the landlords of Southern Ireland have suffered and suffered terribly by reason of the events in that land. Many others have suffered also and few, I think, have received such compensation as is afforded the landlords through the Land Act of 1923, while many others have had to suffer far greater and more serious loss owing to the terrible disasters in Ireland, to the Rebellion and to the events which followed it—relatively more serious loss even than that of the landlords for whom noble Lords have been speaking.
This Government has done all that any British Government could have done to secure fair terms for the landlord. They have set up a Committee, which is sitting to-day under my noble and learned friend Lord Dunedin, to make provision for assisting those who, by reason of these events, have suffered. I do not think the Government could have done or can to-day do more, and for myself I repudiate with all my strength the charge, inherent in the Motion, that there has been on our part any breach of faith or failure to fulfil any pledge. I cannot see that any Committee which you may set up could ascertain facts which are not already known to everybody, and, so far as we are concerned, we feel that we are improperly and unjustly attacked, and we must resist the Motion and ask the House to reject it.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
My Lords, I wish to be as brief as possible in replying to the noble and learned Viscount, and I should like to say that I am not making any attack upon the present Government. My attack is on Ministers of the past who have given a pledge which I am afraid the present Government does not see its way to fulfil.
90 The noble Viscount, of course, limits his reply to the period for which the Government of which he is a member is responsible. In making my speech originally I did not quote the various pledges which have been made, but they were perfectly clear, that the Government were determined to pass as a necessary part of the settlement of the Irish Question the Land Purchase Bill at the same time as the Home Rule Bill.
I think I must road one or two extracts which I have here. The first is a letter from Mr. Lloyd George—Finally, the Government have noted the very important Report which has been prepared on the subject of Land Purchase and on which a unanimous conclusion has been reached by the Committee of the Convention set up to consider this subject.My noble friend Lord Clarendon did not seem to think that that was the case:If this Report commends itself to the Convention, the Government would be prepared to introduce in Parliament as part of the plan of settlement (and simultaneously with the Bill amending the Government of Ireland Act, 1914) a measure for the purpose of enabling Parliament to give effect to the recommendations of the Convention on the subject of land purchase.That was amplified by Mr. Macpherson when he introduced the Bill.
The noble and learned Viscount referred to one advantage which landlords have under the Bill of the Free State Parliament with reference to arrears. He said there was a provision in that Bill which allowed arrears to be collected. But those arrears would never have arisen if the Government of the day had fulfilled their pledge and passed the Act of 1920. It was solely on account of that Act not having been passed that the tenants began to refrain from paying their rents, in the hope of gaining future benefits. I am sorry to find that the Government are not prepared to meet me in any way. I was told before making my Motion that I should get lots of sympathy and no cash. I am afraid that is the case, and without wishing to censure the Government in any way, but only with the object of ascertaining the facts of the case, I must press the Motion which stands on the Paper.
§ On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 35; Not-Contents, 33.91
|Dartmouth, E.||Atkinson, L.||Lawrence of Kingsgate, L.|
|Lanesborough, E.||Banbury of Southam, L.||Leconfield, L.|
|Mayo, E. [Teller.]||Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Leigh, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Bellew, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Carson, L.||Muskerry, L.|
|Selborne, E.||Danesfort, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L. (L. Mereworth.) [Teller.]|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Decies, L.|
|Westmeath, E.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Farnham, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough)|
|De Vesci, V.||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Inchiquin, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Sidmouth, V.||Kilmaine, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Lawrence, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Cave, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Stanhope, E.||Faringdon, L.|
|Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Bertie of Thame, V.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroil.)|
|Hood, V.||Kylsant, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Arnold, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Biddulph, L.||Somers, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Clwyd, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Eldon, E.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Desborough, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Malmesbury, E.||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)||Teynham, L.|
|Plymouth, E. [Teller.]||Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Wargrave, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative and Motion agreed to accordingly.