§ MR. PLUNKET
said, he was sure the whole House deeply sympathized with the regret expressed by Sir Erskine May, and the cause which had necessitated Mr. Lyon Playfair taking the Chair; but, before the unfortunate circumstance occurred, which they all sincerely trusted might not be of any serious moment, the Prime Minister had just addressed the House, and he (Mr. Plunket) would make a brief commentary upon that speech. He did not think it necessary to speak at much length, because the various Members who had addressed the House since his right hon. and learned Friend and Colleague (Mr. Gibson) opened the debate had really not touched the main grounds upon which he rested his case. The two main grounds were that by the action of the Government, as declared by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, a precedent had been set for the interference by the Executive Government in Ireland with the action of the Land Commissioners in a matter which was essentially theirs, and in which they ought not to be interfered with. No answer had been made to that charge at all. The other complaint, and the main ground of his right hon. and learned Friend, was the language—as he thought the most unfortunate language—which had been used by the Chief Secretary in dealing with this subject when receiving a deputation of Ulster Liberals. The Prime Minister commenced by criticizing some practical observations made by his hon. Friend the Member for Leitrim (Mr. Tottenham), and had reproached him because he spoke of Sub-Commissioners under the Land Act as sub-confiscators. He thought the Prime Minister might have remembered that the hon. Member had had a considerable portion of his rent, though not so large as some landlords, taken away through no fault or act of his own, and through some principle 262 entirely new to the law of this country. If he did speak warmly it should not be forgotten that the Prime Minister had encouraged the acceptance of the Act, and he" did not doubt secured it by holding out that reductions would only occur in certain exceptional cases, that they would not be the general rule, and that good landlords would get off scot free. His hon. Friend had not found that to be the case, although one of the best landlords in the country, and if he spoke warmly there was some excuse for his language. Why, there had been a general, reduction of rents all round of more than 20 per cent. Into that question, however, he did not wish to enter. The immediate subject before the House was the question raised by his right hon. and learned Friend and Colleague, and upon that he felt bound to say that the ground taken up by the Government was radically and fundamentally bad. Power had not been given to the Government to appoint valuers, because it was feared that their appointments would be open to suspicion. The same danger existed now. The original idea was to leave the appointment of the valuers to the Land Commission; and the only control given to the Government was that of assenting, through the Treasury, to the appointments. He was greatly struck by a curious expression used by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell), who said that the Treasury ought to have the appointment of these officials, and that the Commissioners ought only to arrange what salaries they were to receive. Of course, the direct reverse of this was the case. The Prime Minister gave two reasons why the Land Commissioners did generally advocate the appointment of valuers. He said it was for the purpose of increasing the expedition and the action of the Land Commissioners in valuing fair rents; and, secondly, for the purpose of diminishing appeals. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the experiment was tried and had failed, and he said that if it had succeeded at all it had only infinitesimally succeeded—of course, they had not the figures before them, so they could not judge for themselves. The Land Act had been in operation but a short time, and the plan under which the valuers were appointed had been at work a still shorter time. But, as to the hope expressed that it 263 would have the effect of diminishing appeals, the Prime Minister said that that had also failed—at least, he said that there was not much evidence of any improvement being made. Again, it was impossible for the House to judge of that matter, because the Government would not give up the document in which the Commissioners had recorded their opinion. It was not possible for him to approach the Prime Minister upon that matter; but he would remark that it was not the right hon. Gentleman nor the Irish Executive who ought to be the umpire as to what should be the plan, whether the plan was a success or not, but it was the Land Commissioners. Although it was the main ground of the speech of his right hon. and learned Friend and Colleague who introduced this Motion, the Prime Minister had not informed the House what it was that the Land Commissioners had not changed their opinion as to the propriety of appointing these valuers, and why they continued their opposition to the abolition of the valuers, until the Government interfered with the power which the Treasury gave them, and took away from the Commissioners that assistance which they thought was politic, and which had been conceded to them only a short time previously. The Prime Minister had stated that the ground upon which the valuers had been appointed had been cut away. That was not, he contended, a sufficient reason to give; and what they wanted to know was, whether the ground was cut away from under the feet of the Land Commissioners when they appointed the valuers? The Prime Minister made a calculation to show in what way time and money were to be economized by the abolition of these valuers. It appeared to him, however, that the expenses would be indefinitely increased, while time would not be saved under the new system. The valuers would now be called Sub-Commissioners, with, he supposed, an addition to their salary, and a larger number of men to do the work. He hoped the Chief Secretary would be able to say what were the advantages which he expected to derive from the new system. The hon. and learned Member for Dundalk found fault with his right hon. and learned Friend and Colleague (Mr. Gibson) for bringing this matter suddenly before the House; 264 but how else was the right hon. and learned Gentleman to get the information he wished for? All their opportunities had been taken away, and in this Autumn Session they were not able to obtain what they wanted except by the course now adopted. If the answer of the Chief Secretary for Ireland earlier in the day had been satisfactory, no Motion for Adjournment would have been made. Moreover, the time was slipping away. Those appointments would soon be gone, and what would be the use of protesting after they had been abolished? It would come like a pardon after an execution. He did not propose to argue at all whether the action of the valuers had been to the advantage of the landlords. That was just the very view of the case which he deprecated, and which he was entitled to denounce. The ground on which he objected to the action which the Government were now entering upon was this—that they were interfering by means of the Irish Executive, and through the control the Treasury gave them were endeavouring to disappoint the intentions, to thwart the policy, and to overthrow the discretion of the Land Commissioners, who ought to know what was best on this subject, who alone had practical experience, and whoso action in this matter ought, for every reason, to be as free as possible from the influence of the Executive of the day. He objected altogether to the Executive dealing with this question. Suppose another Government were to succeed to power, why there would be an utter want of confidence in the action of these Commissioners if it were thought that they could be overborne by the Government of the day. Then, too, he had to complain seriously of the speech which was delivered by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to a deputation which waited upon him in October last. If ever there was an occasion upon which a Minister ought to be careful what expressions he used, surely that was such an occasion. His right hon. and learned Friend had made one quotation from that speech, and he (Mr. Plunket) would make another. The right hon. Gentleman said—We shall have a statement from all the (Sub-Commissioners in the same manner, and if the general conclusion to be drawn is that the tenants have not at all lost by the change, then I am sure that the tenants will be willing to arrive at the same conclusion; and if, on the 265 other hand, we come to the conclusion they have lost by the change, the Government will sympathize with them and feel that they have taken a step injurious to them.Now, what could be taken as the meaning of that? That if it should turn out that the average reduction of rent according to the valuers had hitherto been too great, why then the valuers would be dismissed. The speech which the Chief Secretary made was that the object of the Land. Court was not so much to fix fair rents as to give satisfaction to those now dissatisfied. The Land Act was passed and agreed to by many at great sacrifice of principle and personal feeling, in the hope that it would assuage agitation, and that there was some kind of finality in it; but the effect of such language as the Chief Secretary had used was to encourage agitation. The right hon. Gentleman had said, in effect, that if there was any dissatisfaction felt with the Land Commissioners, application should be made to him, and the Government would see that the matter complained of was set right. The Government had not been able to give any satisfactory reasons for the discontinuance of the valuers, or why they were about to deprive the Land Commission of the advantage of their assistance. The Land Commissioners were the only proper authorities on this matter. He thought his hon. Friend and Colleague was perfectly justified in bringing forward this subject this evening; for it was impossible for him to have passed over the answer of the Chief Secretary, or to see the present step taken in the very teeth of the Land Commissioners. The Land Act was the child of political agitation, and it would have to grow up in its infancy in the atmosphere of agitation; but the great object should be, as far as possible, to lead people to understand that there was some measure of finality about the policy which introduced it; that further concessions would not be made, and that the policy of the Act would not be interfered with by political pressure, no matter from what quarter it might come. The course the Government had taken would have a tendency to defeat the true policy for which the House passed the Act and entertained such great hopes—hopes which had already been crushed.
MR. J. N. RICHAKDSON
said, he must express his regret that more of his 266 Colleagues from the North of Ireland were not in their seats when the Chief Secretary for Ireland made his very satisfactory statement to the House. He agreed with the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) that all that was wanted was fair and impartial justice. If the farmers of the North of Ireland desired more than that they must find some other exponent of their views than himself. The hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Tottenham) had spoken of public plunder. If he saw the Sub-Commissioners adopting a policy of public plunder, or putting their hands into other people's pockets, the Land Act would have to find some other exponent than himself. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last took exception to the speech made by the Chief Secretary in October last. There were some observations which might bear the construction the right hon. and learned Gentleman put upon them; but as he himself introduced the deputation, he might state that the impression left on their minds by those observations was not similar to the construction which had been put upon them. Their impression was that the valuers had been appointed for an express purpose—namely, to expedite the decisions under the Land Act; and that, if they did not bring about that result, they would be changed. The Prime Minister said the appointments had not increased the number of cases heard, or the number of fair rents fixed, and had not decreased the plethora with which the Courts were gorged; and he thought that was sufficient reason for going back to the old procedure of the time when the Land Act was introduced. The gravamen of hon. Members opposite appeared to be that the Government had given way to clamour. The only charge that could be brought against the Government was that of having given way to clamour. But if the term popular sentiment were substituted for clamour the question would assume a different aspect. It was unwise in such matters to disregard popular sentiment. Without, however, wishing to throw any cant or any charge at hon. Gentlemen opposite, he thought he might safely state this—that if there were any very strong public sentiment raised in the North of Ireland against the appointment of these valuers on their 267 attachment to the Court, it arose from the action of the Conservative Party, and their attitude towards the Land Act ever since it became law. The Land Act was not long in existence before a landlords' meeting in Dublin was convened, and ridiculous statements were bandied about respecting the in competency of the Sub-Commissioners, and equally ridiculous stories as to the rapidity of their valuations. It was said of one of them that he poked his stick into the ground, drew it up again, with the decision, "Fifteen shillings an acre." Shortly after that followed a proposal in "another place" that a Committee should be appointed to consider the working of the Land Act, and a noble Lord in the "other place" stated that the object of the Committee was to revolutionize the administration of the Land Act. But owing to the spirited action of the Government that object failed. Then followed a guerilla warfare on their part, and individual Sub-Commissioners were attacked. In one instance a Sub-Commissioner was objected to because it was stated he was an ex-publican. It turned out, however, that the gentleman in question was both tenant farmer and landlord—that he had been recommended by the highest authorities, and that he had been complimented by Captain Gibson, brother of the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University, for the discrimination and care with which he had fixed fair rents. This course of action begot a very strong sentiment in the minds of the tenants that the Sub-Commissioners were their friends—more, perhaps, than really they were; but when they found in their places the valuers they objected to them, and objected much more than if the action had not previously been taken. Those objections were threefold. In the first place, the tenant farmers in the North of Ireland boldly stated that a change in the administration of the Act was a breach of faith with them. They looked upon it in this light, and they justified their opinion. They called to mind that after the Land Act was passed every inducement was offered in some parts of Ireland for the tenants not to avail themselves of the Land Court. A document was sent to him the other day containing the following words—" Hold the harvest; pay no rent; avoid the Land Court."
§ MR. O'KELLY
Was that document issued in consequence of the attempted suppression of the Land League and the arrest of the Irish Members?
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
was unable to say, but after the passage of the Land Act such a document was issued; but, notwithstanding such pernicious advice, 32,000 Ulster tenants poured into the Land Court; and the fact of their doing so was, he believed, greatly owing to the number of cases that came from other parts of Ireland. Those 32,000 tenants sent in their originating notices on the faith of fair rents being fixed on certain procedures; and now was it fair or just for the Land Commissioners to alter that procedure without the consent of the applicants for originating notices, bearing in mind that they could not withdraw from the Court without the consent of the opposing party? Another objection which was held to be good against the appointment of valuers, and which he considered extremely valid, was the amount of friction they caused in the working of the Land Act. The valuers were of the Commission, and yet not in it. They were, or had been, imperium in imperio. The valuer gave his report on the fair rent separately from the Report of the Commissioners; and the following was therefore the result, or had been the result in his experience:—If the valuer sent in a report stating a farm was worth less than a fair rent fixed, then the tenant thought he had a grievance, and was apt to appeal. If, on the other hand, the valuer sent in a report that the rent was higher than the fair rent fixed, the landlord naturally thought the Land Commissioners were not dealing fairly with him, and was apt to appeal. Then, if for peace sake, as might sometimes have been the case, the Sub-Commissioners adopted the value of the valuer, then the valuer became master of the situation, and really decided the fair rent; but the objection which was the most fatal in the North of Ireland was the very name of valuator. In old 269 times, before the existence of the protection thrown round the tenant farmers of Ireland by the Land Acts of 1870 and 1881, the valuer was a regular part of the machinery by which the landlord could squeeze the rent out of his tenant to an unfair point. If a sale took place from an old and generous proprietor in Ireland to a mere speculative purchaser it was the sign of a visit of an "impartial valuer," and this impartial valuer seldom gave any decision other than a raise of rent. Therefore, it was not altogether unreasonable that they should bring upon themselves the name of "rent-raisers." But this was a mere piece of sentiment, and the Government could not give way to it. But then, on the other hand, they could not afford to ignore sentiment; and no doubt, had the Loader of the Opposition paid a visit to Belfast, he would not have done so. In conclusion, he was thankful to Her Majesty's Government for not having disregarded what he considered to be the proper and Constitutional expression of sentiment in the North and West of Ireland upon this subject, and he earnestly trusted that the algebraical prophecy of the Prime Minister might be fully realized.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he thought the House might fairly and justly join in an expression of sympathy with the hon. Member who had just sat down at the surprise which had fallen upon the Ulster Liberals, who, accustomed to having their respectful protestations disregarded by Her Majesty's Government, were now quite astonished to find that I the desired removal of the Court valuers had taken place without any consultation with them. He only hoped that the expression of the hon. Member's grief would be duly reported to his constituents, and that they would derive a useful lesson from it at the next election. If a Member of the House desired to bring pressure to bear upon a Liberal Government, he had better not be an Irish Liberal himself. Irish Liberals were too faithful, and Her Majesty's Government too sure of their attachment under all circumstances, to render any little appearance of discontent on their part a matter of the slightest importance in Ministerial eyes. There was no doubt, however, that several surprises had fallen upon the House that night. They had heard the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. 270 Forster) declare his desire to prevent the increase of acerbity between Parties in that House. They had him coming forth in the novel character of a pourer of oil upon troubled waters. When the right hon. Gentleman was Chief Secretary for Ireland his appearances in that character were decidedly few and far between. They had also witnessed the spectacle of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) protesting against the intrusion of the Executive into judicial operations; but it struck him that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had not one word of protest against the intrusion of the Irish Executive into the sphere of the judiciary when they deliberately interfered with the preparations of the Irish tenantry to bring their cases before the Land Courts in the form most suitable to them, and, in pursuance of the policy of interference, cast into gaol without trial the Representatives of the tenantry of Ireland. He was, therefore, inclined to think that the present protest of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was based less on constitutional scruples than upon the selfish fears of his supporters in Ireland; but if the right hon. and learned Gentleman felt surprise at the action of the Government, he ought to remember that no less a person than the Irish Solicitor General was the Representative of a tenant farmer constituency; and, if he recollected that the tenant farmers of Derry had threatened wholesale to withdraw their cases from the Land Courts unless the Court valuers were dismissed, he would have been at no loss to arrive at one of the reasons which induced the Government to get rid of these objectionable after growths of the Land Act. If the Court valuers were not dismissed, it would, at the next election, be decidedly a case of the dismissal of the Solicitor General from the representation of Derry. However, while he certainly thought the Government were wise in getting rid of the Court valuers, he was tempted to sympathize with the spirit of the exclamation of the Conservative Member for Armagh (Mr. Beresford), who asked—"How is all going to end? "This system of experimentation upon popular feeling was a poor remedy for Ireland. He wished the Government would lay before the country without delay some definite scheme for the settlement of the Land Question. Instead of the condemned 271 Court valuers, whose conduct was perfectly irreproachable, but at the same time unendurable, they were to have a number of additional Sub-Commissioners. No increase in the number of Sub-Commissioners would settle the Irish Land Question; and if, instead of continuing experiments of the kind of dismissing Court valuers one day and appointing Court valuers the next; now disregarding the respectful protestations of the Ulster Liberals; now listening to the angry complaints of the Land League, and the vigorous tugging of Mr. Michael Davitt at what the Prime Minister would call the chapel bell; if, instead of pursuing a see-saw policy of that kind, the Government came forward with something like a clear and satisfactory settlement of the Land Question, based on the Land League programme, and introduced, he did not say some liberal, but some honest scheme of purchase, under which a peasant proprietary might be created by the purchase of their holdings by the tenants at a fair price, a great deal of the time of the House would be saved, and a great deal of discomfort, disorder, and discontent would be prevented in Ireland.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
said, that if the object of the Government was to save time, nothing could be more calculated to further it and to enable land cases to be disposed of rapidly than the course which the Government had now adopted. He thought the Government fully justified in that course. It did not affect the judicial action of the Land Commission, but was a matter quite outside it. He did not know what was to be the quorum of a Sub-Commission as strengthened to five members; but if three was the quorum, then the Legal Sub-Commissioner and two others could be sitting whilst the other two were out examining lands to be dealt with at future sittings. That was a system which was calculated to remedy the defect which undoubtedly did exist under the old system. Apart from the question of saving time, there were much graver considerations, which made it wise and just to depart from the experiment which was tried for three months. The Government and the Land Commission must be taken as representing the force of the law in Ireland, and, no doubt, they did not act without consultation with one another; but if the Land Commission, in suggesting the appointment of land 272 valuators, and the Executive, in following their recommendation, had made a mistake, the wisest and honestest course was to acknowledge that mistake at the earliest opportunity, and correct it. No doubt, the course taken by the Government was an interference with the decision arrived at by the Land Commission; but it was not an interference of a judicial description. The valuators in the Land Commission Courts were not in the position of Judges, and could scarcely be treated as witnesses; they were persons who exercised a paramount influence on the Court, but whose opinion was not binding. In the whole course of jurisprudence no instance of a body of persons placed in a similar position could be found. The appointment of these persons was entirely outside the judicial duties of the Land Commissioners. In most Acts of Parliament a question like that of the valuators was provided for by the Act; in this case it was delegated to the Commissioners as persons employed in an administrative capacity to carry out the Act. Such a matter was properly one for legislation, and the action of the Government with regard to it in no way constituted an interference with the judicial discretion of the Commissioners. He only regretted that the Government had not earlier taken the step they now proposed.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, that, while the Prime Minister had denied that any charge had been made against the valuators, the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell) had approved of the decision of the Government as being in accordance with Irish popular opinion. What did that mean? He agreed with the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) that though the decision of the Government that night might be of small importance, yet there was a great question of principle behind—namely, where was this to end? The position of the landlords in Ireland was, in many respects, most miserable. However friendly their relations with their tenants, however low their rents, they found themselves in litigation, and their property gradually sliced away. If safeguards were provided for them—Acts of Parliament—popular pressure was brought upon the Government, and they were abolished. Although the Prime Minister denied that a charge had been made against the valuers, to the 273 effect that since their appointment the reductions of rent had been less than before, yet the conduct of the Government emphasized that charge. By the act of dismissing or refusing to allow the valuators to be employed longer, the Government were endorsing that charge. If a charge were made against the Sub-Commissioners, and the Government were publicly to state their intention to dismiss them, and, at the same time, deny the accuracy of the charges made against them, would not the dismissal create the idea in the public mind that the Government considered them guilty? If that applied to the Sub-Commissioners it also applied to the valuers. It was said that the dismissal was in accordance with popular opinion in Ireland. What was popular opinion in Ireland? Owing to the large number of tenants in proportion to the landlord class, popular opinion meant the views of one class of suitors before the Land Commission. One of the arguments used on behalf of the Government at the time of the establishment of the Land Court was that it would be a tribunal strong enough to withstand the pressure of the popular Party; and yet now, as soon as pressure of that kind was exercised in connection with that tribunal, the Government gave way. If the business of the Sub-Commissioners had not been expedited by the appointment of the land valuers, the reason was very simple. These valuers, who were experts, were three or four times as long about valuing a farm as the Sub-Commissioners, who discharged the duties of valuations in a very perfunctory manner. If farms were to be valued fairly, business could not be got through more quickly than at present. That the employment of valuers had not resulted in a reduction of the number of appeals was no fault of theirs. As long as varying decisions were given by the Commissioners on the question of fair rent, there would, of course, be appeals. The serious part of the position of the Government was that they were usurping functions which, if not legally, at least morally, did not belong to them. The Land Commission had the power to appoint valuers, and, under the Land Act, the Executive had no right to interfere. But because the action of the valuers was influencing a certain number of votes in the North of Ireland, the Government made an 274 unfair use—["Oh!"]—of the powers vested by the Land Act in the Treasury, with the object of counteracting that influence. It was notorious that the change in the views of the Government was the result of pressure exercised upon them from the North of Ireland. Where was this to end? Would not every succeeding Government be apt to submit itself in the same way to popular pressure? The Prime Minister, at the commencement of the Session, denounced a proposed Committee, on the ground that its investigations would interfere with the judicial decisions under the Land Act. The right hon. Gentleman said—That the object of Parliament had been to fence the Land Commission round so that nobody could interfere with it.Yet the moment that the right hon. Gentleman found himself subjected to pressure from his own supporters he exercised, in a most improper manner, that very interference which he deprecated but a few months ago. The decision of the Government would destroy the efficacy of the Land Act, so far as quiet and contentment were concerned. The tenants of Ireland believed that these valuers had been dismissed because their decisions had resulted in a less reduction of rent than previously. That being the prevalent belief, the landlords would naturally feel that the Government had made an unfair use of their powers, for the purpose of conciliating the tenants, some of whom had been known to threaten that they would turn Land Leaguers if their rents were not reduced. The tenants were naturally under the impression that pecuniary benefit was connected with the giving of a vote on behalf of the Liberal Party. The Government had arrived at their present decision because pressure had been brought to bear upon them by the tenant farmers of the North of Ireland, in the hope of getting a greater reduction of rent than they thought they would obtain under existing Circumstances. The great mass of the landlords in the North of Ireland were Conservatives, and the tenants Liberals; and the Government were about to purchase political support by confiscating the property of those who were opposed to them in opinion.
objected to the change of policy on the part of the Government, because every new change 275 led people to believe in further changes, and not to wait until they saw whether they might be benefited by what was to be done. Men skilled in the valuing of land were to be laid aside, and lawyers were to occupy the chief positions. Landholders were excluded because they were landowners. Tenants were not excluded; but they ought to be excluded as well as the landlords, if fair play were done, because they were on the other side. There were 17 Land Commissions, on which there was one legal Commissioner and two lay Commissioners. Therefore, 34 new men would be required. But when the House recollected the criticisms passed upon some former appointments, they would come to the conclusion that the Government would have very great difficulty in finding 34 fit men. The new men would be inexperienced; and, therefore, when one of them went out to examine land with his senior, he would naturally follow the judgment of the latter, and therefore it would be just as well if the more experienced Commissioner had gone out alone. There was nothing in which people could have so little confidence as in a Government which was so constantly changing, which did not know its own mind, and which was always setting its sails to the popular wind. His hon. Colleague"; (Mr. T. A. Dickson), the most prominent man in the agitation, had prophesied that before the end of three months the whole of the late arrangement would be knocked on the head, and so it was. But this uncertainty had exercised the most baneful influence upon the country—it had prevented some from going into Court, and had induced others to withdraw, in the hope that there would be another batch of Commissioners who would lower rents still more. There was another element in the case which should not be overlooked. Those who could not pay had not gone into Court; but many who could had stopped back, because they believed that the Government would give them a longer time, and now they would be "sold," because they would find themselves unable to go into Court; and as to the Irish proprietors, he was not one of those who wished to be bought out or forced to leave the country to which he and others were as much attached as any peasant could be. Many of the Irish proprietors were of old 276 Irish descent, quite as much as those who professed alone to represent the Irish people, and why they should be brought out any more than the peasants he could not see. This he would say—that until even-handed justice was done between man and man no Government would obtain the respect of the Irish people.
§ MR. LEA
apologized for the absence of the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson), who had just been referred to. The hon. Member stayed in the House several days awaiting this discussion, and would have come over to-day had he expected it to come on. All he had done was to tell the farmers that if they found the working of the Land Act was slower under the system of Court valuers they might rely upon the promise of the Chief Secretary that it should be discontinued. Whilst the tenant farmers of the North of Ireland desired that this Land Act should be final, they had a perfect right to demand a just administration of that Act. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) had stated that what was now being done by the Government was a great change. It was nothing of the kind; it was simply reverting to the old system. For 12 months the Laud Act worked in a fairly reasonable manner, but slowly, and the Government tried to expedite its working; but the plan they adopted failed, and consequently they reverted to the old practice. He hoped the Chief Secretary would not allow himself to be browbeaten by the speeches of right hon. and lion. Gentlemen opposite, who, a few months ago, could find no charges strong enough to bring against the Sub-Commissioners, nor allow anything of that kind to prevent him from carrying out the intentions the House had in passing the Act. The object of the Act was to make the property of the tenant of land in Ireland equally sacred in the e3res of the law, and equally safe with that of the landlord. He believed that under the system which the Government were abandoning that intention was not fully carried out; and he urged them to maintain the Land Act in its integrity, and to give the protection which was necessary to attain the objects for which it was passed.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, that the object of his right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Gibson) in 277 moving the adjournment of the House was to enter his protest, in the strongest possible manner, at the earliest moment available to a Member of Parliament, against the constant interference which had been going on since the Royal Assent had been given to the Land Act on the part of the Irish Executive with a judicial body—an interference which had been carried to such an extent as positively to amount to a pollution of justice—[" Hear!" and a laugh]—he repeated, to a pollution of justice, which would have been stigmatized as disgraceful if it had occurred in a Turkish Pashalik. It was clear that there was a most unconstitutional—he might say an incestuous—connection between the Commission in Merrion Street and Dublin Castle, though no unconstitutional practice had in time past been more strenuously or more successfully resisted than an interference with a Court of Justice. Now, the valuers, about whom so much fuss had been made, were appointed in strict pursuance of the Act, and in accordance with the repeated recommendations of the Commissioners themselves. That the Act itself contemplated their appointment was evident from the words of the 37th section, which provided that the Court might direct an independent valuer to report to it his opinion on any matter referred to him by the Court, such Report to be accompanied by a statement of the circumstances of the case. The valuers, in fact, were appointed by the Court, and the principle of valuation was not only admitted, but also recommended by the section he had quoted. Now, however, the valuers were to be put an end to by the Government after only six weeks' experience of their services, and without any valid reason alleged. In that six weeks probably no more than about 200 cases had been tried; but had they shown the incompetence of the valuers? If so, let the Chief Secretary say in what part of their technical work there had been a miscarriage of justice. But, after all, who had complained of their conduct? The details of the agitation against them ought to be before the House; but the House was never allowed to have details, and had to be content with the generalities which were so easily swallowed by the Prime Minister's supporters. The late Chief Secretary had said that the appeals did not diminish; but why should 278 they diminish? [A laugh.] He should like to ask the Prime Minister, who seemed so merry, why measures should be taken either to diminish the appeals under the Act, or, for the matter of that, to increase them? What, in short, was the title of the Government to interfere with the administration of a law? Only the other day he had heard the Chief Secretary say that he had written to the Commissioners with respect to the interpretation of the Hanging Gale Clause, and had impressed upon them the expediency of giving a decision on that point. Was ever such a thing done in England? And yet the Chief Secretary had told the Commissioners to do this, with or without a case before them, in order to suit the convenience of the Government. He wondered whether any Government would attempt so to degrade an English Court. As. for the action of the valuers, he presumed that their decisions, being based on a knowledge of the value of land, would tend to diminish the number of appeals; and he believed that, contrary to the view of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell), it was most undesirable that they should be placed in the power of litigants by the publication of their Reports. The Prime Minister said that in a document, which he declined to produce, the two reasons appeared which induced the Government to appoint these valuers—namely, that their employment would increase the rapidity of the tribunals, and would diminish the number of appeals. Those were the only reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman; but how could the right hon. Gentleman be sure that the Commissioners had given all their reasons? If they had done so, it was very doubtful whether they would have been listened to by the Government. In all human probability, other reasons influenced them also; but they had either not placed them on record or had stated them in the second document which existed on this subject, but which the Government declined to produce. The truth was that the object of the Government was becoming clearer and clearer every day. The intention was to reduce Irish rents all round, with an utter disregard of right and wrong; to reduce them largely when the country was disturbed, and more moderately in times of peace. As to doing justice alike to landlord and 279 tenant, that never entered the Prime Minister's head. He was always appealing to the divine right of justice; but ever since the Land Act passed the divine right of justice had boon outraged and repudiated. There was no doubt that public opinion in England was shocked at the enormous and inconsiderate deductions of rent first made by the Sub-Commissioners—reductions which were made in the teeth of all the predictions and assurances of Members of the Government. No doubt, the reductions exercised for a moment a pacifying effect on the National feeling of Ireland. In addition, there had been the Kilmainham Treaty; after that Ireland became a little quieter; and then it was that this application of the Land Commission for the appointment of additional valuators had some slight chance of favourable consideration from the Government. The consequence was that in some cases, which excited a good deal of attention at the time, the reduction of rents was not quite so large, and there was a greater approach to divine justice. There was a tremendous outcry at once. The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) said the Government yielded entirely on account of the outcry from Ulster. He did not think the Government cared twopence half-penny about Ulster; it might cry and complain as long as it liked against the Court valuers if other things had not happened. There was an apparent probability that treason and all the offshoots of treason were again likely to raise their heads. He had never noticed that the chameleon like and versatile eloquence of the Members for Ulster had exorcised any influence on the Government. The only Party which did so, and which gained the ear of the Prime Minister, was the Party led by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), the Party to the Kilmainham Treaty. A short time ago the attempt to murder an Irish Judge revived the memory of the murders in the Phœnix Park. Lately, there had been several incendiary speeches, reminding one of those which preceded the agitation of 1880. Her Majesty's Government quailed at once. When the House met Questions were put about the Court valuers. At that moment, apparently, the Government stood firm. But events had occurred since; and it 280 was now seen in the answer of the Chief Secretary what effect they had had on the mind of the Government. It at once attempted to fall back on the old practice, and to buy off agitation. It arranged for rents to be reduced down to the old iniquitous standard of reduction, and that in the most insidious and malignant manner that could be adopted, for it could not have been done with more effrontery. They abolished the Court valuers, and said they were going to appoint additional lay Commissioners. What was the difference between them? The valuers were appointed by the Land Commissioners, a judicial body—at least, so far as the Government would allow it to be. The Court valuers were, in every sense of the word, specialists and experts acquainted with the science of valuing land. The Assistant Commissioners were appointed by the Government, and were nothing more or less than Government agents and tools, sensible to the slightest impression from Dublin Castle, and summoned from time to time to meet the Chief Secretary there if the original practice were still continued. The Prime Minister would have made the error of stating that there was to be no additional cost if the Chief Secretary had not corrected him. The valuers were to be got rid of, and there was to be a new set of men, picked up, Heavon knows where, who would command the confidence of none but the lowest class of the Irish people. The best barometer to indicate whether Ireland was peaceable or disturbed was the working of the Land Act. When Ireland was peaceable landlords were more mercifully treated; but when it was disturbed the more unblushingly and mercilessly was their property torn from them. The House could depend upon it that Ireland was getting into a more disturbed state on account of the announcement the Government had made that night. The Prime Minister had said that the object was to expedite the proceedings of the Land Commission; that merely meant that the reducing of rents all over Ireland was to proceed at express speed without the slightest regard to justice, allowing all the tenants to come in, not one by one, but simultaneously, to share the plunder. That was the process by which the Prime Minister told them confidence was to be restored, industrial enterprize 281 to be established, and the fact proclaimed to the world at large that the relations between landlord and tenant were placed on a permanent and enduring basis. Certainly the right hon. Gentleman had most extraordinary methods of attaining his ends. The last step he had taken would do more than any other to frighten capital away from Ireland. In conclusion, he wished to ask an abstract question of the Government, which had some bearing on events now going on in Ireland—a question that, perhaps, the Chief Secretary would answer, although if the right hon. Gentleman did not answer it he (Lord Randolph Churchill) would put it to the public. His question was this—Who was the greatest criminal—he who, to secure the acquittal or to avenge the convictions of a murderer, stabbed a juryman in the street; or he who, to buy off political agitation, corrupted and poisoned the pure source of justice and assassinated justice? [Groans.] He should not be in the least disturbed by those expressions of disapproval. The course the Government had taken that night justified him in metaphorically asserting that they had assassinated the Courts of Justice; and he asked which was the greatest criminal—the man he had mentioned, or he who had assassinated a Court of Justice arbitrating between man and man? Which of those two parties was the most likely to inflict the most enduring and lasting misery on unfortunate Ireland?
§ MR. TREVELYAN
confessed that he rose to reply with a feeling of some warmth, which, however, had not been increased, but rather diminished by the terrible interrogatory which had just been administered to him. He had listened to the speech of the noble Lord with the usual interest, and with no other feeling except, perhaps, a feeling that the general powers of political attack which the noble Lord undoubtedly possessed had suffered from the fact that his argument was somewhat overdrawn. From first to last too hot and high a tone had been given to the debate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, who had brought it on at a certain inconvenience to the House, went to Manchester, and, with great gravity and solemnity, charged him with having made a speech which no Minister ought to have made. At other places, and 282 even before his own (Mr. Trevelyan's) constituents, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said he had not given an answer which was called for. At last the right hon. and learned Gentleman said he had got him face to face and would have an answer, and when he had risen to give it the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not present. The question had been stated to the House by the two right hon. and learned Members for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson and Mr. Plunket), and by the hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Tottenham), who never understood his case, and he would now proceed to answer them without replying to the attacks that had been made on the Government. The Government had been attacked from both sides of the House with reference to the appointment of valuers; but the Government had done its best to be painstaking and impartial in looking into the subject. Last Session many Members spoke to the effect that the Land Act was too slow in its operation, and the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan) had brought in a Bill at the beginning of the Session to deal with the matter. At a later period men on both sides in politics and on agrarian politics united in saying that there would soon be a block in the Land Courts. Mr. Nicholl said that in Kerry two sets of Commissioners were required. Mr. Orr stated that it would take, at the then rate of progress, eight or ten years. Mr. Cottrell said that the number of cases waiting to be disposed of was enormous, and could not be got through in a reasonable time. Everybody agreed that the delay would amount to a denial of justice. It was true that a much more encouraging view was taken by official persons—by Mr. Litton, Mr. Godley, Secretary to the Land Commission, and Justice O'Hagan. Justice O'Hagan thought that by the end of 1883 all the cases would be disposed of. The Government felt it was a serious thing that there should be this delay, which would prevent the people from applying to the Land Courts, and in August they began to consider the matter, in order to see what could be done to facilitate the speedy hearing of all cases before the Courts. The Government consulted the Land Commissioners, so far they could within the limits of the Statute. With respect to the constitution of the Land Courts, the Go- 283 vernment felt themselves to be responsible. At the same time, they would have been to blame if they had not consulted those who were working the Act, and held the position, and were acquiring the qualities of Judges. Accordingly, in August last, the Land Commission submitted to the Government a proposal intended to increase the expedition of trials and to diminish the number of appeals of which the essential features were—first, that each Sub-Commission should consist of three members, two legal and one lay Commissioner; secondly, that a valuer should be attached to each Sub-Commission; and, thirdly, that the legal Sub-Commissioner should sit in Court with one lay Commissioner, and that the remaining one should be engaged in valuing the fields. That was the expectation of the Commission and the Government, and on the question whether or not that expectation was realized the present controversy turned. He would not enter on the question whether the House of Commons did or did not declare itself against the appointment of those valuers during the debates on the Bill. He perfectly agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), who showed that Section 47 of the Act clearly substantiated the right of the Government to appoint valuators. The Land Commission appointed 17 valuers, one of whom was attached to each Sub-Commission. These appointments at once attracted considerable attention, and roused a wide-spread feeling of apprehension; for, first of all, the valuation was to be made summarily, and then, also, it was not to be subject to cross-examination. He was bound to say—and he had given reasons to a deputation which waited on him on the subject for his opinion—that the apprehension was quite unfounded. But the real objection was as to the personal characteristics of the men, and to the name which they bore. It was said, and believed, that the men chosen were notoriously in the interests of the landowning class, whose sympathies were with the landlords against the tenants; and that Protestants had been appointed to the exclusion of Catholics. Now, he challenged the confidence both of Ulster tenants and Southern tenants in these men. If Catholics could not trust Lord 284 O'Hagan, and if tenants could not trust Mr. Litton, he did not know who could be trusted by men of any religion or of any class. On what principle did they proceed to selection? On this point the Commissioners say—We must at once assume our proper share of the responsibility. The proposal to adopt the system of valuators emanated from us. We saw several candidates, made inquiries into their qualifications, and named the men who seemed to be the fittest, and as to their religion, we never dreamed of asking a question on this subject.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, he ought to have stated that as coming from the Land Commissioners, and he frankly confessed he had been taking a liberty with the House; but he would see if the Land Commissioners would allow him to lay the document on the Table.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I wish your ruling, Sir, as to whether it is in the power of any Minister to quote from any document which he is not prepared to lay on the Table?
§ THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. LYON PLAYFAIR)
The right hon. Gentleman has already declared that he committed an irregularity; but that he would try to put himself in Order by putting it on the Table.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I understand from your ruling that the right hon. Gentleman is bound to lay it on the Table?
§ THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. LYON PLAYFAIR,)
He mentioned that he had committed an irregularity; and, according to the Rules of the House, he has no right to quote from a document which is not on the Table, if any objection is made.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, that he could not withdraw what he had said, and in the interests of the persons concerned he should be sorry to do so. What was the result? The result was that a body of men had been appointed valuers who were of the same class as the Sub-Commissioners appointed by the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). The difference was that they gave their attention to the valuation of the land and the improvements that had been effected, by personal inspection on the land itself, without having the duty of settling in Court what value should be set on those improvements. 285 Undoubtedly the existence of an apprehension that the Land Act would be worked in a manner unfavourable to the tenants was a very serious matter to the Executive Government, for, in his opinion, the fair and impartial working of the Act was essential to peace. It was a serious fact that general anxiety and panic, or something like a panic, did exist towards the end of last September. It found vent in newspapers and in speeches, and eventually in a large deputation of Ulster tenant farmers, which waited on him at Dublin Castle. He could quote speeches which were made which would show that their anxiety was great and their apprehension genuine, that the valuers were men who were entirely in the interests of the landlords, and who would decide against the tenants. These expressions on the part of sincere and representative men were a very serious matter indeed; and it was his evident and plain duty to re-assure the minds of the tenants. If, in his own mind, he believed the changes recently made had not impaired the impartiality of the Land Courts, the undoubted belief of the tenants was that the valuers were prejudiced against them in every possible manner, and that they could not get justice. He (Mr. Trevelyan), on the other hand, did entertain the belief that they would have justice done them when they came before the Sub-Commissioners, and was lately provided with an actual case where the valuer had fixed the rent lower than the Sub-Commissioners. He had absolute evidence, in his own opinion, that they were not the creatures of the landlords, as was supposed; and he felt it to be his duty to make the fact public, and he believed in doing it he checked a feeling which, if not settled at the outset, must have been dangerous to the country. Some thought that in his desire to re-assure the minds of the tenants he went too far. In a passage to which great exception had been taken he said it must be remembered that, after all, the valuer was not the Judge; and if the tenants found that the decisions under the new system were much the same as those under the old—and he believed they would be so, because the decisions under the latter were not inconsistent with justice—and if appeals were found to be less frequent, then the tenants of Ireland would gain very dis- 286 tinctly, and the landlords too. That and other passages of the same character had been taken exception to. It was urged that the tenants, who, broadly speaking, were one of the parties to a suit, came to complain of decisions that were likely to be adverse to them, and that a Member of the Government reassured them by giving details as to such decisions. Now, if he had his own way, he would never answer in the House a single Question as to the decisions of the Land Commissioners, the Sub-Commissioners, or the Reports of the valuers; but a Member of the Government, in the presence of a popular Assembly, which really was the ruler of the country, and could override precedent and principle, was not his own master. This Session hon. Gentlemen had come down to the House and put to him Questions, not as to the average decisions, but as to special decisions of the Commissions, in which landlords were specially interested. On the 30th of June the hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Tottenham) asked him such a Question relative to the decision of the Commissioners sitting to hear an appeal at Castle bar. The noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Lord Claud Hamilton)—the brother of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex, who had to-night made such severe remarks on his conduct for entering into explanations with tenants as to decisions in the Land Court—came down and asked him a Question in regard to certain appeals heard at Castlebar from judicial rents fixed by Sub-Commissioners; and whether, in cases of such marked discrepancy between the opinion of the official valuer and the decision of the Court, the Government would provide a further appeal? Then the hon. Member for Portarlington (Mr. Fitzpatrick) asked several Questions as to special decisions given by Sub-Commissioner Thomas Meek; and the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton)—on behalf, he presumed, of some Irish Member—asked, him a Question with reference to some decisions in connection with the estate of Mr. Stuart Knox. Those, then, were four representative Irish Conservatives, all of them calling his attention to decisions of Commissioners or Sub-Commissioners, and requesting answers of exactly the same nature as those which he was blamed 287 for giving to the tenant farmers on the 4th of October. It was not enough for him to give general assurances of the impartiality of the Commissioners; he was obliged to enter into details. Did the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), or the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis)—who always had a Motion on the Paper on the subject—object to his answering the Questions addressed to him? If they had objected and had supported him, if they had not backed up their brother Members of their own Party by their countenance, he might have refused to answer at all. But he was placed in a position in which, without extreme discourtesy, he was bound to answer Questions about judicial decisions; and if he did that he was bound to treat all alike. When landlords name to express their apprehensions he did his best to re-assure them; and when tenants came to express their apprehensions, if he shut his mouth and refused to do his best to re-assure them, he should be the Minister of a class and not of the whole country. When the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Brodrick), who might from his interest almost be called an Irish Member, asked him whether he was aware that reductions of 39 per cent had been made by a Special Commissioner, he answered that that was not the case, but that the reduction was only to the extent of 26 per cent, and did any right hon. or hon. Gentleman opposite then object? That was an instance exactly analogous to that in which the tenants came and asked him if the reductions were 15 per cent, and his replying—"No; they are 20." It was necessary that on this occasion he should correct the statements made on all sides by Members of the House. The real fact was that the percentages of the reductions of rent had varied very much less than many hon. Gentlemen supposed. Up to the commencement of January, 1882, the average reduction for all Ireland was 23 per cent; up to the 15th of April it was 20 per cent; up to the 31st of May, 21 per cent; up to the month of June it was 20 per cent; up to July, 19 percent; up to August, 18 per cent. Under the new system, when the valuers were in office, the reductions were down to 17 per cent. It appeared to him, though it did not seem to be so to some hon. 288 Members, that those reductions were equable, gradual, and perfectly explicable, on the ground that the worst cases came forward first, and that he was, therefore, defending Courts whose action was perfectly defensible. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman had a more serious objection, because he alleged that by his conduct on the 4th of October he had made the Government responsible for the judicial administration of the Land Act. That charge in the mouth of the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) took almost terrible dimensions, for he said that by the action of the Executive Government with a judicial body there was a pollution of justice as black and shameful as would disgrace any Pashalik in Asia Minor. Why, it was asked, could they not leave that Court alone, like any other Court of Justice? He could not understand how the right hon. and learned Gentleman could reconcile that charge with the policy pursued last Session by himself and his Friends. If the Executive Government had no legitimate influence over the administration of the Land Commission, what was the meaning of the Question addressed to the Representatives of the Executive Government in the House as to the action of the Land Commission and its officers? Perpetually Questions were addressed to him which could only have one meaning—namely, that he should bring some influence to bear on the Land Commissioners in order that some of their officers should be censured, shifted, or removed. The senior Member for Dublin University (Mr. Plunket) had asked whether he was aware that Mr. J. G. MacCarthy, a Sub-Commissioner, was acting judicially in a district with which he was professionally connected; and whether he would suggest to the Commissioners the advisability of making some other arrangement for the Sub-Commission in that district? The noble Lord the Member for Downshire (Lord Arthur Hill) had asked him to interfere in the case of a Sub-Commissioner against whom he brought specific charges of having business relations with people which would not allow him to be impartial. The right hon. and learned Gentleman himself who introduced that Motion had asked him to represent to the Irish Land Commission that it was not just or expedient to employ Assistant Commissioners to act as 289 Judges in localities in which they were now or were recently connected by residence and occupation. The meaning of that was that a special Judge should be removed from a special district. What meaning had those Questions except that the Executive Government were to use certain influence with the Land Commission; and if he gave an evasive answer he would be met, he would not say by murmurs, but by expressions of dissatisfaction in the House? On another occasion he told the right hon. and learned Gentleman that a Sub-Commissioner had been shifted; and, instead of expressing any disapproval, the right hon. and learned Gentleman smiled very benignly and expressed a most serene satisfaction. The conduct of the Government in the House showed that the apprehensions of the landlords were unfounded, and that their interests were being duly consulted; and if the Government gave the same assurance to the tenants he did not think anyone could complain. Indeed, between the two operations he could not see any difference whatever. He now proposed to meet the practical question before them. The reason why the Government had asked the advice of the Land Commission with reference to these valuers was not that they were themselves dissatisfied with the judgment of the Sub-Commissioners, but because they thought the Courts did not work fast enough. It was impossible to tell this at first, although the result was certainly prophesied, because during the earlier part of that Session they could not ascertain for certain the pace of the Courts, and that was the real explanation of the seeming inconsistency of Her Majesty's Government. Five or six weeks ago it was said that the Government had expressed confidence in the valuators; but they did not say anything about the rapidity of their work, because they had not then sufficient experience. They now possessed that experience, and, considering the very great additional burden upon the Exchequer, the advantage gained by their labours was extremely and almost infinitesimally small. In the six weeks ending August 19, 16 Sub-Commissioners' Courts fixed 2,677 fair rents—it would be very unfair to take the earlier weeks, because they had not got into working order. In the six weeks ending November 16, 17 Sub- 290 Commissioners' Courts were working, and they fixed 2,788 fair rents, so that by the addition of 17 valuators with the same salary as the Sub-Commissioners they got in the course of six weeks only 100 additional cases disposed of out of a total of nearly 3,000. On the question of appeals, it was not the case that all the appeals were for cases decided before the change. The total appeals up to the 18th of September were 3,714, and since the 18th of September 1,127. If they compared this with the number of fair rents fixed, they would find that, while the Sub-Commissioners were working without the aid of valuators, the percentage of appeals was a little over 25 per cent. Since they had been working with the aid of valuators, the percentage had been a little over 27 per cent. These appeals were an equal grievance to both parties, and the Government were very anxious to avoid them. The principal reason for the appeals, in the belief of the litigants, was that the valuer had not sufficient time to value the land. The Government were anxious to meet a feeling of that sort by adding two pairs of Sub-Commissioners to each legal Commissioner, so that the Sub-Commissioners might have abundant and over-abundant time to examine each case. They were satisfied by the double staff they would keep the legal Commissioners employed, and with a little expenditure of money they would have a Court which would do to secure justice to all parties, and they earnestly hoped that soon both parties would come to acknowledge it. It might be that some disappointment had been felt by those who had watched the operation of the Act. The Act worked slowly, it was true; but not really as slowly as would, perhaps, appear on the surface. But it was not merely that fair rents were being fixed, it was the great and widespread tranquillity it caused, and its operation as a settlement between landlord and tenant over the whole face of Ireland that made it the most valuable. They were continually hearing that first one landlord and then another had made arrangements under it. Statistics had been placed in his hand which showed the work of one single man in valuing farms for the purpose of settlements, and they stated that he had traversed eight counties, and had visited the holdings of 1,228 tenants, of 291 whom 72 went into Court, while 94 per cent of the total number of 1,156 made arrangements in a friendly manner. He did not think it was too much to hope that that was a process which had been going on since the beginning of the Land Act, both in the Courts as they were originally arranged, and he believed it would go on under the Courts as they were now to be arranged. Through out the whole of their scheme the Government had tried to do justice to both parties, and to restore friendly relations between the two classes, in the hope and expectation that in so doing they might bring peace, quiet, and goodwill to Ireland.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had devoted a good deal of his speech to the defence of the valuators; but, in his opinion, they were a class very detrimental to the peace of Ireland; indeed, he considered them as some of its worst enemies. But whatever else his speech might have shown, it proved conclusively that the Government had never made up their minds, but drifted from one opinion to another. Before, however, dealing with that consideration, he wished to refer to what fell from the Prime Minister. His speech was divided into two parts—the first comprising a defence of his own conduct; and the second a most glowing and impassioned prophecy of the magnificent results which would unquestionably follow this new phase of his Irish policy. For his own part, he had become rather wearied of these perpetual prophecies of the triumphant successes of the present Administration; he wished to see more of the practical growth of the country and less of these glowing anticipations of the Prime Minister. The Chief Secretary had told them that the object of these changes was to secure the confidence, not of one section, but of both sections of the Irish people, and he laid great stress on the fact that he had endeavoured to gain the confidence of the landlords of Ireland. If that were so, he had signally failed. There had been that night a significant silence on the part of those who aspired to represent the tenantry of Ireland, and one voice only had been heard from those Benches during that debate. With a great deal that had been said by the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) he was not indisposed to agree. When the hon. Member entreated the Government to 292 cease from this perpetual patchwork—this perpetual alteration in the administration of the law—and to let the people of Ireland know what they intended to do, and to adhere like men to their declarations, he cordially agreed with him. But he did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in thinking that it was part of the duty of the Irish Executive to be perpetually interfering with the mechanism and arrangements of the Land Commission. he was astonished when he hoard the right hon. Gentleman say that, because Questions were continually being asked with regard to particular decisions of the Commissioners and Sub-Commissioners, hon. Members who put those Questions showed that they regarded the Land Court as merely a branch of the Executive Government. Before his connection with Ireland, had the right hon. Gentleman not heard Questions continually put by English, Scotch, and Welsh Members as to the decisions of various Courts; and did he or anyone suppose that the Members who asked, or the Home Secretary who replied to, those Questions regarded those Courts as forming any part of the Executive Government? There was one point he wished particularly to refer to. During the course of the debate the Chief Secretary had referred to an official document which had not been laid upon the Table of the House. The Prime Minister also referred to an official document, and led the House to understand that he was giving the House the meaning of that document. He referred to the document in respect of two points. One was that he was led to believe that increased speed would be obtained by the appointment of valuators, and the other that there would be a considerable diminution of appeals if they were appointed. The Prime Minister said that he consented to the change on that condition, and as that had not been fulfilled, the Government were perfectly right in reversing their policy. According to the universal practice of Parliament, the document to which the Prime Minister had referred ought not to be withheld from the House of Commons. He earnestly pressed the Prime Minister to permit that document to become the property of the House. That observation applied with far greater force to the document quoted in extenso 293 by the Chief Secretary. He trusted that the House might rely upon the production of that document. He had noticed with considerable interest the reference of the Chief Secretary to the valuable results of the labours of the Lords' Committee on the Land Act. A few months ago the labours of the House of Commons were interrupted, and a list of measures—the loss of which the Prime Minister had never ceased to deplore—was put aside, in order that the House of Lords should be censured for instituting that inquiry. He heard, therefore, with very great pleasure the reference of the right hon. Gentleman to the valuable evidence that had been taken by that Committee. He hoped that in future the House of Lords, in the exercise of its undoubted rights, would be allowed to institute important inquiries upon subjects of great public interest without a Liberal Minister again interfering with the proper proceedings of the House of Commons for the purpose of denouncing the legitimate action of the House of Lords. The first defence of the conduct of the Government put forward that night came from the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), who said that a legal point was involved; and the right hon. Gentleman taxed his ingenuity to show that Her Majesty's Government were expressly debarred by Act of Parliament from appointing valuers. That was rather a left-handed defence of the Government, because in its very statement it condemned their action. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that his Successor might have acted inadvertently—that he might not have had the purport of this section brought to his notice before he consented to the appointment of valuers. The right hon. Gentleman must have forgotten that Lord Spencer, who was a consenting party, was a leading Member of the Cabinet when the Act was passed, and that the Prime Minister was the loading spirit all through those debates. It must have struck the right hon. Gentleman with astonishment that it should have been reserved for himself and Lord Spencer to be the sole proper expositors of the legal meaning of that Act of Parliament. And here he was reminded that the same Law Officers not improbably were consulted upon both occasions, and gave their valuable advice. 294 Were they to understand from the right hon. Member for Bradford that the Law Officers who had been consulted by him gave different advice from the Law Officers whom his Successor consulted, they being identically the same Gentlemen? What must the right hon. Gentleman have thought of the soundness of his legal argument when the reply came to it, not from hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side, but from the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell)? And now they had it admitted that the appointment of valuers was strictly legal and Constitutional; while half of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down went to show how admirably the appointment of valuers had worked, how fully their conduct justified the Land Commission in appointing them, how well they had discharge their duties, and what increased confidence they had given in the administration of the Act. And having shown all that, the rest of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was devoted to the lamest possible reasons why this admirable body of men were to be dismissed and a new set of gentlemen called in. And what did it all come to? To a question of speed. They did their work too slowly; it was necessary to get on with greater rapidity. Never mind whether the work was done well or ill, so it was done quickly. Let us hurry on to the end of the chapter, and it would be found that two Sub-Commissioners would be more likely to expedite business than any valuer. Now, he altogether disputed that view of the case. He greatly doubted the stability of this great speed. And as for diminishing appeals, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman could not but have a very considerable effect in increasing the number of appeals from the judgment of gentlemen who were appointed under such conditions and with such objects. He regretted to hear the vindication which the right hon. Gentleman had made of these last appointments by Her Majesty's Government, and that the connection between Dublin Castle and the Land Commission had been so plainly admitted. He regretted many incidents in this debate; but there was one thing which he did not regret, and that was that the New Resolutions of the Prime Minister had afforded to his 295 right hon. and learned Friend the opportunity, of which he had availed himself, of calling the attention of the House, and through the House of the country, to the latest instance of vacillation and change of policy on the part of Her Majesty's Government in connection with Ireland.
§ Question put, and negatived.
[The following is the Entry in the Votes.]
Mr. Gibson, Member for the University of Dublin, rose in his place, and asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance; but the pleasure of the House not having been signified, Mr. Speaker called on those Members who supported the Motion to rise in their places, and not less than forty Members having accordingly risen in their places:—
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn: "—(Mr. Gibson:)—Question put, and negatived.