§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ (4.15.) Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ Debate arising;
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I beg to move that the Debate be now adjourned. This is a most contemptuous way of treating the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
In what way is there contemptuous treatment? The hon. Member was not in the House when I introduced the Bill and explained the purport of it. It is substantially the very Bill that was read a second time in the course of the present year. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that in the course I have taken no discourtesy was intended to the House.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I certainly think that I have some reason to complain of the remarkable manner in which the right hon. Gentleman has acted. The right hon. Gentleman seems to imagine that the way in which he obtained the Second Reading of the Land Bill without criticism was owing to the fact that the action of the Irish Party was entirely paralysed. I beg to assure him that he is absolutely mistaken on that point, and I can further assure him that a more thoroughly bad Bill has never been brought in by a thoroughly bad Administration. The Bill is a reversal of the policy of 1885.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
Order Order! The hon. Gentleman cannot enter into a discussion of the merits of the Bill on a Motion for Adjournment. The hon. Member if he goes on will deprive himself of his right to speak on the Bill.
§ (4.17.) MR. T. M. HEALY
In that case I shall persist in my Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate. I would advise the Government, unless they want a series of these Motions, to take another course. The Bill is a reversal of the policy of the Act of 1885, and on that account I take exception to it. [Cries of "Order!"]
§ (4.18.) MR. M. HEALY (Cork)
I think it is rather hard that we should be asked to proceed with the Debate on the Bill until we have some information as to who are the persons to be charged with the administration of it. The working of the Bill will depend very much upon the person who is to administer it. Judge Litton is dead, and the vacancy has not yet been filled up.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
As I understand an Amendment is to be moved to the Second Reading of the Bill I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ (4.20.) MR. M. HEALY
I beg to renew the application. I have already made for information, and, to afford the Government an opportunity to give it, I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time on this day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. M. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ (4.21.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I wish to ask Mr. Deputy Speaker whether, by replying to the small point raised by the hon. Member, I shall be precluded from addressing the House again if any serious objection is raised to the Bill?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It cannot be denied that a very short time has elapsed since the death of the Chief Commissioner, and as there is no connection, direct or indirect, between the Bill and the appointments, I do not think that the Government ought to be called upon to state their choice upon the present occasion.
The Bill is a reversal of the policy of 1885, when the Ashbourne Act was passed. There was then a Treaty between the Tories and the Irish Members, the latter insisting upon a remarkable change in the original draft of the Bill. That draft proposed to create a Land Department, and to leave to the existing Land Commission the power and the duty of dealing with the question of purchase. At that time the Land Commission consisted of Mr. Justice O'Hagan, Mr. Litton, and Mr. Vernon, who were appointed by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) in 1881. All of those three gentlemen are since dead. The Irish Members objected then, as they do now, to any merging of the powers of the Land Commission with the powers of the Purchase Commission; and the Government communicated to them that if they moved an Amendment severing the two Departments, it would be accepted. This was done, and, so changed, the Bill passed. Therefore the present proposal of the Government is the renewal of a proposal which was formerly abandoned by themselves. The object of the Government in now seeking to merge the power of the two Commissions is to embarrass English Members, Irish Members, and the House generally. The splitting of the Bill into two is a trick intended to deceive the House. We objected in 1885 to the appointment of Mr. O'Hagan, Mr. Litton, and Mr. Vernon. In discussing the principle of land purchase, one of the main questions we have to consider is the personnel of the Commission who are to shovel coals to the Irish landlords. When the vacancies were filled up by the appointment of Mr. John George M'Carthy and Mr. Stanislaus Lynch no dissatisfaction was expressed; but some of their decisions have been complained of. The Government now intend to rig the Commission with a Tory personnel, 713 and in their hands the £30,000,000 would not go a very long way. A momentous change is to be made in the payment of the salaries of the Land Commissioners. Under the Act of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian the salaries were placed upon the Estimates, so that from year to year the policy of the Commissioners could be criticised, as it has been from both sides of the House; but now such criticism is to be evaded by placing the salaries on the Consolidated Fund. The policy of the Government in separating the Bill that deals with the money from that dealing with personnel is a policy of blind man's buff, and of throwing dust in the eyes of the House of Commons. The Government's land purchase scheme is as great a novelty in 1890 as was that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in 1881. Why is it, I ask, that you are afraid to face criticism—an annual criticism of your own policy? If ever a case demanded close scrutiny, it is this policy of paying money out to Irish landlords. We are told, and I have no doubt I shall be told, that I was the very first to press that the appointments of the Land Commissioners should be permanent. Yes, I did press for permanent Commissioners, and I do so now, but I never asked that they should be sheltered from criticism. I hold it necessary that anyone dealing with the money of the people should hold permanent appointments, and I wish a similar policy were followed in regard to the Resident Magistrates. But the House will not allow the rental of a single landlord to be cut down one fraction except by three Sub-Commissioners, with a right of appeal, first, to the Head Commissioner, and then to the Court of Appeal. But you entrust the liberties of the people of Ireland to two Removable Magistrates, in most cases without appeal. I say that this Bill in every detail is intended to subserve the landlord's interest, and is framed accordingly. No doubt, in a matter which involves so much litigation the Government is justified in endeavouring to secure that it shall be dealt with in a single Court; but why stop at that point—with the question of rent reduction or of land purchase? Why do you not take away from the Common Law 714 Judges all power over matters affecting the land, and leave every question connected with land, rent, rates, and evictions, to the Land Department; and why not, above all, give to the Land Department those powers of conciliation which the Government declared to be so useful, and which were embodied in Section 30 of the Act of 1887? That would be a natural policy. But you are not doing it; you are, instead, preparing a Court for some kind of jobs and jobbery. You are not going to deal with the agrarian situation in Ireland. This Bill is a piecemeal Bill, though it may, in the abstract, be considered as a proper measure of reform. I declare that the Bill, for the purpose of dealing with the question as a whole, is not only inefficient, but that it bears upon its face traces which entitle me to denounce it as flagrant jobbery. There are many matters in this Bill to which strong objection must be taken. Out of the six Commissioners any two may make a grant of money, while under the Bill of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian two Commissioners out of three were required to act. We all know how at elections in former days it was a practice for a man whose face was unseen to bribe voters through a hole in the wall. Well, this Bill is a sort of hole-in-the-wall bribery for the Irish landlords. From previous experience we know what the characteristics of the Commissioners are likely to be, the present body of 70 or 80 Commissioners being composed almost exclusively of landlords and land agents; indeed, with the exception of the brother-in-law of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, everyone comes within that category, I suppose I may take it that the Northern Whigrepresents in the North of Ireland to some extent the Government, and has given it the information at the disposal of the Crown. Well, it is stated on the authority of that paper that the other day the Chief Secretary held a kind of competitive examination among the Commissioners with a view of sifting their qualifications to act under this Bill. Is that statement right or wrong? I challenge a reply. The right hon. Gentleman answers not; he remains in beatific repose, and so we must assume that to this already landlord saturated body is to be 715 added a further crop of landlord appointments under this Bill. To ask the House of Commons suddenly, without a word of explanation, to read this Bill a second time is little less than trifling with the House. Two of the Irish Bankruptcy Judges, whose salaries are never taken on the Estimates, receive £2,000 a year each, but under this Bill two gentlemen are to be appointed—bribed—at the rate of £3,500 a year, while the remaining four are each to have a salary of £500 a year more than these two Bankruptcy Judges. Perhaps I ought to say, looking at this matter from the point of view that the expenditure will take place in Dublin, "the more the merrier," because the more it costs English tyranny to govern Ireland the better I am pleased. But to pretend that a Bill of this sort, issued only this morning, can be read by a wave of the magician's hand—the hand of the Chief Secretary—and, although it is of such magnitude, is entitled to no consideration, is, I maintain, a most high-handed policy even for the Irish Secretary. The proposal contained in the 9th clause is a Brobdingnagian one, giving an appeal in the Land Department from two gentlemen who get £2,500 a year to one gentleman who gets £3,500, the only basis which I can conceive for the proposal being that the man who gets a bigger salary will give a bigger price. That is a proposal which the Government wish to pass into law without a solitary word of explanation. Their action in this business has been brazen throughout; and if the House of Commons is to be brought down in the fogs of November to discuss Bills of this kind without getting one word of explanation, it seems to me that the Government regard the House as a kind of mere registration machine—put a penny in the slot, and "hey, presto!" the House of Commons will give you £30,000,000! I can only say that I have always been personally in favour of a policy which will root the tenants of Ireland in the soil at a fair price, but that policy of purchase must never be allowed to degenerate into a policy of swindle. The Irish land is worth something, and we are willing to pay the price of the land, but not the landlords' price. I believe that there is yet sufficient spirit, even in the majority of this House, to resent the 716 manner in which we have been treated by the Government in this matter.
§ ٭(4.42.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN, Dublin University)
I have listened to the speech of the hon. and learned Member in hopes of ascertaining what reason he alleges why this Bill should not be read a second time. The hon. and learned Member has addressed a great many questions and a great many complaints to the Government. He has complained that this Bill was not circulated until this morning. But, as was fully pointed out by my right hon. Friend when he obtained leave to introduce the Bill, it is identical in substance with the Bill which was read a second time during last Session. There are various maters of detail, such as the 9th section, which have been introduced into this Bill, but those are obviously matters for discussion in Committee. The hon. and learned Member wants to know who are to be Land Commissioners under this Bill. If the hon. and learned Member had read the first portion of the Bill attentively he would have seen that the First Commissioners are the existing Land Commission; therefore there is no foundation for the suggestion that the Government are withholding information as to the personnel of the Commission. The fact that there is a vacancy on the Land Commission, which we all regret, is not a reason why the Bill should not be read a second time. With regard to the more permanent tenure of office conferred on the Commissioners, there will still be an opportunity on the Votes of discussing the policy embodied in the Land Commission generally, and I think that the advantage of putting the Commissioners on a more permanent footing has been admitted by the hon. and learned Member himself. A regards the principle of this Bill, it carries out a policy which I think will recommend itself to every Member of this House. It has been recognised by all persons for a long time that extreme inconvenience and a great waste of power and of public money are caused in Ireland by the existence of a variety of Departments dealing with a subject-matter which can really conveniently be dealt with by one consolidated Department, namely, sale of land, and the valuation of land, whether for the 717 purpose of sale or of fixing a fair rent. These important functions are now divided between the Land Commission, the Land Judges, Court, who carry out sales in cases outside the immediate operation of the Land Purchase Act, and the Valuation Department. A very great waste of judicial power arises in this way, and the object of the Bill is to bring the work, judicial and non-judicial, within one single Land Department, whereby, in the opinion of the Government, it will be better done and the charges ultimately reduced. I think the fact that the Bill effects that object forms an ample reason why it should be read a second time. Of course, the questions raised by the hon. and learned Member will come up for discussion in Committee, and, for my own part, I will reserve any remarks upon these questions until then, with the exception of one point. The hon. and learned Member has called attention to an important addition to the Bill of last year, I mean Clause 9, under which, when the Land Department has sanctioned an advance under the Land Purchase Acts to a tenant who is purchasing his holding, it shall be lawful for any person interested in the purchase money other than the landlord to apply in the prescribed manner, and within the prescribed time, to a judicial Land Commission, who is to inquire into the sufficiency of the price agreed on and to refuse his sanction to the transaction if he is of opinion that the agreement for sale is not an undervalue. As hon. Members are aware, tenants for life possess very considerable powers for sale of the fee-simple of the land, but they may not be aware that it may be in the power of a landlord whose estate is so encumbered that he has no substantial interest in the purchase money to enter into a contract of sale with the tenants for something under the fair value of the land, thereby causing great loss to the encumbrancers. The clause in question is for the protection of encumbrancers and remaindermen against sales not an undervalue. So much for the first portion of the Bill. The second portion introduces various Amendments in detail, but it is in substance the same clauses as were contained in the Bill of last year. The whole Bill is, in substance, 718 the Bill of last year, minus the clauses and provisions introduced in Bill No. 1, already read a first time, and I believe that the House will have no difficulty in affirming its general principles by reading it a second time.
§ ٭(5.3.) SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I do not rise to make a long speech, but I wish to give the reasons which to my mind render it absolutely imperative that those who voted against the Second Reading of the principal Land Bill the other evening should vote against this Bill, and that many who did not vote on that occasion should vote on this occasion. The most essential part of the Bill is the consolidation of the Land Department and the salaries paid to the Land Commission. As a British taxpayer I denounce as an absolutely indefensible proposal the consolidation of the Land Department and the crystallisation and prolongation to absolutely unknown time of an extremely highly paid department. As the Bill stands there will be four Civil Administrative Commissioners, who will receive practically £3,000 a year each. They will get it in meal or malt; they will get a consolidated salary of £2,500 with a prospect of a pension which is very moderately stated at £500. There will be two Judicial Commissioners, who will receive £3,500, with the prospect of a pension which will be estimated very low at £1,000 a year. That is £12,000 a year for the Administrative Commissioners and £9,000 a year for the judicial, or £21,000 a year for the superior officers of a Department which carries out the administration of, perhaps, some £3,000,000 of public money per annum. Just imagine any public Department of any description on this side of St. George's Channel in which £21,000 a year is paid to the permanent officials who have to deal with only a sum of £3,000,000. If this Bill once passes, Parliament will have given its sanction to this 719 system of land purchase being one of the settled institutions of the country. It is not merely a question of £5,000,000 with which we had to deal on the last occasion that this question was brought before us. This Bill contemplates that the system shall go on while these gentlemen are getting old and getting superannuated, and while their successors are getting old and getting superannuated too. It is not for 10, or 20, or 50 years we are passing this Bill, but in all probability this system of land purchase in Ireland will continue for 70, 80, or 100 years. I object altogether to the proposed system of land purchase. I will not argue the point now, but simply direct attention to certain clauses in the Bill which render it absolutely imperative on anyone who is opposed to buying up the land of Ireland to vote against the Bill. Will hon. Members turn to Clause 21—the most important clause? We are told that this is a system of land purchase by the tenant. It is no such thing. In previous Bills the tenant was a part purchaser, but in this Bill it is a purchase of the landlord's property, not by the tenant, but by the State exclusively. It is a very common thing when an estate is purchased to leave a part of the money on mortgage; but now, for the first time, the Government ask the State to purchase landed property from certain landlords, and to leave not a part but the whole of the money on mortgage. If this proposal was made to a private English capitalist he would say, "The man who makes it must think me a fool," and yet that is the proposal the Government makes to the taxpayers of this country. In order to make some show of appearance that there is a proper guarantee for the repayment of the purchase money strong powers are put into the hands of the Commissioners, for the purpose of exacting the instalments, because the instalments are the only means by which the State is supposed to recover the money. Under Clause 21 the Commissioners are empowered, if the instalments are not paid, to sell up the tenant. If they cannot sell the farm they have power to work it themselves. The Commissioners are 720 enabled to sell the farms, but, like a landlord's agent who tries to sell an evicted farm, they will not be able to sell. Irishmen will be no more desirous to buy the farm of a tenant evicted by the State than the farm of a tenant evicted by the landlord. That being the case, the Land Commissioners will be forced to enter into possession of the holdings, and to work them for the benefit of the State. The Chief Secretary argues that the Irish tenant who is evicted will say, "It is true I am evicted by the State, but I am evicted in the interest of my neighbours, the ratepayers; I am evicted in order to protect them from having the payments from the Exchequer confiscated." Does anybody who knows human nature, and especially Irish human nature, and the human nature of the Irish evicted tenant, believe that the evicted tenant will make such a nice distinction as this? Will he not say, "I am being turned out by Dublin Castle"? or will he not say, "I am being evicted by the British people on the other side of the Channel"? Under Clause 21 you will have this state of things, that, with rare exceptions, all the rent of Ireland, a country almost exclusively devoted to agriculture, will pass over the Channel to this country to be paid into the pockets of the British taxpayer, who will be the great absentee landlord of all Ireland. It is under this Clause 21 that the process of evicting the tenant who does not pay the rent will be carried out. As an economist and patriot I thought it right to declare that I apprehend that in future days; he relations between the two countries will be greatly strained if all the rent of Ireland is sent over to England to be paid to the English taxpayer.
§ ٭(5.18.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I always listen to the hon. and earned Member for Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) on land questions with interest, but I think his absence from the House during the last fortnight has probably misled him in this matter. My difficulties on this occasion are not his. The Government have split the Bill into two, and I think Bill No. 2 is in great danger of not being carried, and the Government 721 do not much care whether it is carried or not. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: We will smash it.] Well, in smashing it, the hon. and learned Member must remember he is also smashing the long leaseholders at the same time. A great many valuable provisions for the tenants have been left out of Bill No. 1, and now form part of Bill No. 2, and, as I said the other night, it is very possible that Bill No. 2 will be caught in the toils of the Assisted Education Bill. I hope the hon. and learned Member for Longford will look a little more closely into the Bill than he has done, according to his own admission. I sympathise greatly with one part of his speech, and that was the part in which he referred to the constitution of the Land Department and the way in which the Land Commission is being handled. In 1881, after the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was passed, there were three appointments made, and the public understood that the appointments were made on these lines: Mr. Vernon was fairly taken as the representative of the landlord interest; Mr. Litton, a lay Commissioner, although a lawyer, was chosen because he was the representative of the tenant farmers of Ulster; and there was a judicial Commissioner, Mr. Justice O'Hagan, who had no recommendation save that of high character. When Mr. Vernon died another landlords' representative was appointed, in the person of Mr. Wrench. I do not challenge the appointment. Then Mr. Justice O'Hagan died, and again I think the Government did right. Mr. Justice Litton was chosen to succeed him. But in Mr. Justice Litton's place was any representative of the tenants placed? I say no. Mr. Fitzgerald was Chairman of Quarter Sessions in County Westmeath——
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I think it is a bad appointment. At one time the dissatisfaction with this gentleman's decisions was very great.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
May I explain that the appointment was a bad appointment in 1881, but he has since learnt a deal of sense, and has been behaving very sensibly.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I say that in no way can it be said that Mr. Gerald Fitzgerald was a fit man to put in the place of the tenants' representative on the Commission. The hon. Member for Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) has had a good deal of experience in the Land Court, and I am glad to hear him say that Mr. Gerald Fitzgerald has learnt a great deal. Well, here comes the pinch. There is on the Commission a landlords' representative in the place of Mr. Wrench, we have Mr. Gerald Fitzgerald in the place of Mr. Justice Litton, and I want to know who is to get the fresh appointment. Is he to be a Judge, is he to be a man who has human sympathy and who has a grasp of the land question, not only in its legal aspects, but in its broader and wider effects upon the people of Ireland? I say the people of Ulster are practically shut out from all influence upon this Commission now, and I would ask the Government, and I think I am justified in asking the Government, to look for a man who is not merely an able lawyer but who has some human sympathy in his breast and knows something about the land question. Although I agree with the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) in very little, I have always valued his opinion on these questions, and I would put this point to him. I do not think he exactly conveyed his meaning to the House when dealing with the question of salaries. There are five Land Commissioners. The new Bill proposes to add another, but not to add anything to the expenses of the country, because it simply contemplates the addition of the Land Judge who has his salary of £3,500 a year now. There 723 is something to be said about these salaries not being put on the Estimates, but being charged to the Consolidated Fund. These are, however, matters which do not touch the principle of this Bill, as to the wisdom of creating a great Land Department to take the whole question in hand, and, inasmuch as the Government, rightly or wrongly, have introduced into the Bill a great many provisions to which the tenants of Ulster attach enormous importance, I shall vote for the Second Reading.
§ ٭(5.25.) MR. D. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)
There is one aspect of this Bill on which I think a Member from this side of the St. George's Channel may venture to express an opinion—the economical aspect—and I cannot agree with the hon. Member who has just sat down in thinking that it does not affect the principle of the measure. This is a Bill creating machinery, and the economical aspect of that machinery strikes at the root of the whole matter. We have more than once in this House made attempts to call attention to the extravagant expenditure on the judiciary in Ireland, and we have always been met with the difficulty that the salaries of Judges are placed on the Consolidated Fund. This is an attempt on the part of the Government to add to the number of officials who are to be placed on the Consolidated Fund. The Government can only make such a proposal on the ground that these gentlemen are to be Judges—that they are to be an addition to the already overgrown judiciary. If they are to be Judges why not detail some of the existing Judges for the purpose of performing these duties? It is admitted that the Judges are too numerous, and it would be easy to carry out this suggestion. If it be said that these gentlemen are not to be Judges—and I apprehend that their duties are to be to a large extent administrative—why put them on the Consolidated Fund, and why pay them such excessively high salaries? It seems to me most desirable that when such a Department as 724 this is to be reconstituted on a new basis—and I think there is a great deal to be said for amalgamating the duties of the two Departments which now exist—it is most desirable that the salaries should be put on the Estimates, especially when we hear criticisms from various quarters of the House respecting the way in which the Commissioners are supposed to represent different particular interests, whether of the landlords or of the tenants. With regard to the salaries, I am sure if this body were to be set up in any other part of the country but Ireland, where money is so lavishly spent on objects which are often believed to be questionable, whilst it might be admitted that there should be one high judicial officer at the head, salaries of £2,500 a year, with a pension, for subordinate officers would be regarded as absurdly extravagant.
§ (5.29.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I entirely agree with everything that has been said by my right hon. Friend beside me, but there is a special point to which I desire to call attention of the Chief Secretary. I put a question on the Paper to-day with reference to the probable financial effect of the whole proposal, and I think the House does not understand how great is the magnitude of the operation that will take place under this Bill. I believe the House is under the impression that the amount will be limited to purchases to the amount of £30,000,000. I think that under the process of the Sinking Fund the amount that will be ultimately advanced will be much greater. I wish particularly to call the attention of the Chief Secretary to this point that he may see that I am right. As I understand, the amount of the Sinking Fund is £300,000 a year. You go on increasing the amount every year, and so far as I can make out at the end of the first 10 years the amount which can be reinvested or re-lent by the State will be £3,300,000, involving interest to the amount of £134,000 a year.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman must address himself to the question of the Second Reading of 725 the Bill, and not to the discussion of the clauses of another Bill.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
The money clauses involve the power of the Commissioners to evict those who do not pay; therefore, I apprehended I was fully entitled to enter on the question as to what ultimately would be the liability that the Commissioners to be appointed would be entitled to undertake. Cannot I go into that question at all? Under Clause 21 the liabilities on which the Commissioners to be appointed under the Bill will be entitled to insist, and to evict purchasers if they do not pay, will be infinitely larger than the House, I think, understands it to be—£30,000,000, and will be £40,000,000.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I wanted to show that the Guarantee Fund would not cover it, if you would allow me. But I will take some other opportunity.
§ (5.32.) MR. ATKINSON (Boston)
I think I may congratulate the Government upon coming events which cast their shadows before. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir G. Trevelyan) seems to have some anxiety that the British people will be bad landlords and will excite bad feeling among the tenants. But it seems to me rather strange that the right hon. Gentleman does not give the British people credit for the desire to engender good feeling with the Irish people. If they do become landlords as the result of this legislation and advancing this money, it is not likely they will be bad landlords or treat the tenants in the cruel way the right hon. Gentleman fears they will. Probably he has an idea that he and his friends will get into power very soon. But I think we shall see the Government hold their own through the next General Election, and so the right hon. Gentleman's fears will not be realised. Then the right hon. 726 Gentleman made a point, as he thought, from a business-like view, when he said no man in his senses—nobody who was not a fool, I think he said—would allow anybody to borrow to the full amount of the estate he is buying. Well, I must confess, though I have had some 25 years' experience, I must be included under the category the right hon. Gentleman mentions. Last week I offered for sale a good estate, and it will be sold I anticipate in a short time, and I offered to allow the whole of the purchase money on the estate to remain at 4 per cent., and to give an undertaking that I will not call it in. This is a case in point. The right hon. Gentleman thinks it is foolish to allow the whole amount on the land. I say it is sense, for I know the value of the security, and I get 4 per cent, instead of 3¼ per cent, from the Bank of England, or 3 per cent, in Consols. I represent the British taxpayer as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite and all of us do, and the British taxpayers I represent are dissatisfied at the manner in which they have been treated in relation to Irish affairs. It is true we have voted, and voted straight, but there has been so much talking from the other side, from the Parnellite Party and the Gladstonian Party—["Order,order!"]— well, from all the elements of the Liberal combination, that word had to be passed that, however anxious our constituents were, we were to sit still in order that those who were obstructing business by much talking might not prevent Bills being carried at all. So we passed a "self-denying ordinance." We said nothing, but we got our Bills, and the present pacific state of Ireland is the result of our "self-denying ordinance." The hon. Member for Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) has declaimed against governing Ireland by tyranny, but my opinion is that tyranny has been exercised in favour of Ireland for the last four or five years. Ireland has been petted like a spoiled child, and 727 other interests as far as possible have been thrust aside, though we could by our votes have swept away Home Rulers and so-called Liberals. Yet we remained quiet, and allowed our claims to remain in abeyance, our opinions to remain unexpressed. But the opinion of the British taxpayer is that too much of the time of Parliament has been given up to Irish affairs, and so you would all think if you were Representatives of English taxpayers. Judging by the relative importance of different parts of the kingdom, Ireland has had 10 times her fair share. It is not my intention to occupy more than five minutes, and I will only allude to an unfortunate remark from the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy). It is dangerous, said he, to attempt to deceive the House Commons. Now, we could not but be reminded of a historical event of that kind on the part of the political leader of the hon. Gentleman himself, who admitted in the witness box that he did attempt to deceive the House of Commons, and succeeded in the attempt. It is remarkable that the hon. Gentleman should by his words remind us of that incident. Well, if you will continue to dilate at this length upon Irish affairs we shall pass no more self-denying ordinances. I shall express my opinions to the full extent, and if you will talk for an hour I will talk for an hour.
§ ٭(5.38.) MR. MAHONY (Meath, N.)
Other occupations have not left me sufficient leisure to make myself acquainted with the details of this Bill.
§ An hon. MEMBER: It was not circulated until this morning.
§ MR. MAHONY
Anyhow, the fact remains, I have not mastered the Bill. But I know well how very important the question of the personnel of this Commission is, what important consequences may follow the appointment of this Land Department of person whose names we do not as yet know But apart from that there is one point to which I wish to direct attention, I see that by one of the clauses power is to be given to those interested in the 728 purchase money the landlord is to receive to apply, not to the Land Commission as whole, but to the Judicial Land Commissioner to intervene and stop the sale on the ground that the landlord will not receive sufficient value for the land. Now, if that power is given it also ought to be given to those who are interested n behalf of the tenant, and the amount to be paid by the tenant, and those persons are the taxpayers in Ireland, whom the Government propose to force against their will to give a guarantee. I say you cannot with any show of reason, if you give this power of intervention on behalf of the landlord, on the ground that the price is too low, you cannot with any consistency refuse a similar power to those who are interested in the tenant, to prevent the landlord from receiving too high a price.
§ (5.41.) MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
I do not intend to prolong this discussion in the general merits of the Bill, but one point I want to impress upon the Chief Secretary for Ireland. My hon. Friend he Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) has referred to the administration of the Bill, and I do wish the Chief Secretary would spend a little more time in looking after the administration of the Department. It is of no use our passing good Acts here unless they are afterwards properly administered. We have to regret the loss of Mr. Justice Litton, and from association with him I know the value of his services. His death is a great loss to the administration of the Land Act. I am sure the Land Act of 1881 would not have been worked so well without the administration of Mr. Justice Litton. We are extremely anxious to know who is to be his successor. I do not press the right hon. Gentleman on that point now, but this I will say, that if the Land Commission is to have the confidence of the people it must not have only landlord representatives upon it. My hon. Friend (Mr. T. W. Russell) has referred to this, and I wish the Chief Secretary would give us the satisfaction of his declaration that it 729 is not desirable that the Department should be administered by the representatives of one Party. There is another side to this. There are four Commissioners now, and from what we hear we may expect there will be a fifth. All the present Commissioners come from the South of Ireland. Ulster is not represented at all, and there is a very sore feeling in the North of Ireland on the point, because, after all, in the fixing of fair rents Ulster has considerable interests, and it is considered very hard that Ulster has not a representative on the Commission. I do not know whether circumstances permit of the successor to Mr. Justice Litton being found in the North, but I may suggest to the right hon. Gentleman another way. There has been a good deal of delay in hearing appeals, and much has been said of the salaries of the Commissioners, and I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that if he reduced by £500 the salaries proposed by the Bill, and appointed a new Commissioner, then he might remove the block in the Appeal Court and enable all appeal cases to be heard quickly. I do not know what possibility there is of appointing a Commissioner from Ulster, but I do think that Ulster has a fair claim to be represented.
§ (5.44.) MR. J. SEYMOUR KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)
What I desire to say has reference to a point of order, and the ruling from the Chair. The Bill was only circulated this morning. I desire to point to line 3 on page 15; and, Sir, if your ruling will allow me to proceed, I am prepared to show that the direction in the Bill there, namely, that the instalments not paid by defaulters should continue to be charged on, and paid out of the Guarantee Fund is a financial impossibility, for the Guarantee Fund will be bankrupt on the very first re-lending taking place. I would like, if I may, to ask the House to listen to a recital of the manner in which this Guarantee Fund will become bankrupt on the first occasion of re-lending, and which will make it impossible for the 730 direction in this third line I have mentioned to be fulfilled——
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
The hon. Member must reserve such questions of detail until in Committee the point is reached.
§ MR. J. SEYMOUR KEAY
I bow to your ruling, Sir, but I am prepared to show how financial stability is impossible under this provision.
§ (5.46.) MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
The answer of the Attorney General for Ireland is not altogether satisfactory. In replying to the argument that the salaries of the Commissioners should be placed upon the Estimates, he said the functions of the Commissioners were of a judicial character, and for this reason it was not desirable that their salaries should appear on the Estimates. But surely a main portion of their work is of an administrative more than of a judicial character? If the argument of the Attorney General for Ireland holds good, how comes it that the salaries of County Court Judges are annually provided by Parliament? Upon this item in the Estimates it is possible to raise debate, although these County Court Judges fulfil functions of a purely judicial character. I strongly object to administrative duties of the character of those to be conferred by this Bill, and which have been conferred on the Commissioners, being placed outside the pale of Parliamentary criticism. It is not a sufficient answer to say that there are certain expenses we can criticise, for previous experience connected with Irish Judges shows us that the opportunity for Parliamentary criticism is in such a manner altogether impossible, and so it will be impossible to criticise in a sufficient manner the conduct of the Land Commissioners under this measure. I have not sufficient knowledge as to the point raised by the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) as to Clause 9. But Clause 9 involves a principle which seems to be at the root of the whole Bill, and upon which the whole superstructure of the 731 measure is based, for under that clause it is possible for the Commissioners to intervene and prevent the sale of any land on representation from the mortgagee, or remainderman, or person for whose benefit the estate is encumbered, that the sale has taken place under what they are pleased to call the value of the land. Why is this allowed? It seems to point to the fact that this measure, like the previous measure, to which a Second Heading has been given, is to enable Irish landlords to dispose of unsaleable land at a price above the market value, above what purchasers would be willing to pay in the open market—to enable such sales to take place to the benefit of the landlords, and to the detriment of the interest of the tenants.
§ (5.50.) MR. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c.)
Before the Chief Secretary replies there is just one question I should like to put to the right hon. Gentleman in reference to the operation of Clause 9. It will be seen that the clause, which has not hitherto been referred to, deals with the guarantee deposit and its amount, which may be reduced to a tenant, or, indeed, altogether abrogated under certain circumstances. I think, perhaps, I might better explain by a concrete instance. I assume the case of a holding of £600 value. If the amount to be advanced is only £450, or three-fourths of the value, then no guarantee deposit will be required, but, assuming that a larger sum than three-fourths is advanced, it would seem the guarantee is only reduced. Assuming that a sum of £500 is required to purchase a landlord's interest in a holding, 20 per cent guarantee deposit is required; that is to say on £500 it would be £100. I should be glad to have this explained. Are we to understand that this would be reduced to £50, which would be the difference between the £500 and the £450 advance, which also is three-fourths of the whole? It seems to me some verbal amendment will be required in the clause. I may refer for a moment to some of the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir G. Trevelyan), who seems again to have fallen into the 732 mistake of considering that the repayments that are to be made by the occupying tenants by instalments are to be looked upon as rent, and therefore the British taxpayer becomes a great absentee landlord. I think that fallacy underlies a great deal of the misconception in the view taken by opponents of the measure as to the dangers that may arise. The British taxpayer will not be a landlord. He will be in the position of a mortgagee, who holds good security and receives repayment of the amount advanced in annual sums of principal and interest. I have more than once put this view before the House, but it seems almost impossible to get it impressed on the minds of the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench.
§ ٭(5.55.) MR. M. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
Naturally anxiety exists as to the Commissioner who will succeed Mr. Justice Litton, as the usual difficulty is sure to arise in the working of the Act in view of the fact that certain Commissioners have no legal qualifications at all and yet will deal with purely legal and technical affairs. The Attorney General for Ireland is a high authority, and I suppose nobody knows more about the working of the Encumbered Estates Act, and how necessary it is that questions of a legal character should be disposed of by a lawyer of experience. If hon. Members will look at Clauses 4 and 5 they will see how jurisdiction under the Common Law in Ireland is transferred to the new Commissioners. The administration of important questions under the Judicature Act of 1877 is transferred to gentlemen who, perhaps, never read the Act. Now, the Irish Bar met some time ago and arrived at a series of resolutions which, as they were published in the newspapers, and especially in the Irish Law Times, doubtless were brought under the notice of the Attorney General for Ireland. In the first place, the members of the Bar pointed out that the duties to be performed by non-legal persons were such as non-legal men could not discharge; questions affecting 733 settlements, incumbrances, conditions of trust, and a number of points I need not go into. They then go on to suggest a way out of the difficulty, that the services of some of the existing Judges of the Common Law Division should be utilised in dealing with purely legal affairs. I believe there will be no difficulty in obtaining Judges from the Common Law Division who have sufficient spare time on their hands to discharge such duties as they arise. Questions of a purely administrative character may be left to the non-legal Commissioners; and two Common Law Judges might be selected by rota, or in any other way suggesting itself to the approval of the Judges, to deal with legal questions. Again, under Clause 9 there is a most distinct violation of principle. It deals with the value of land. This is not a technical question at all; but, nevertheless, is withheld from the lay Commissioners, who have no power to assist in giving a final decision on these points. Under certain circumstances appeals are given to the Court of Appeal in Ireland, but under Clause 9 there is no appeal from the legal Commissioners, who, by the way, are deprived of the assistance of assessors or lay Commissioners. There is a further defect in Clause 9, either in withdrawing jurisdiction from the lay Commissioners or in not allowing an appeal to the Court of Appeal in Ireland. I put these objections before the right hon. Gentleman, I do not profess to speak as the mouthpiece of the Irish Bar, but I am speaking on subjects as to which declarations have been made by the Irish Bar; and I trust that in doing so I am not misrepresenting the views of my professional brethren.
§ (6.2.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will endeavour to touch on all the points which have been raised in the course of the Debate, and I will begin with the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down. He has very accurately represented the views of the Irish Bar and the Irish Judges. If the hon. Member will look at Clause 8, Sub-section 2, which is new in this Bill, and is also in Bill 1, he will see that the Government have endea- 734 voured to meet the views of the Irish Bar, and to introduce judicial strength into the Land Commission from the general number of the Irish Bench. From the observations that some hon. Members have made upon Clause 9, they seem to think that this is an attempt made on the part of the Government to construct machinery for the artificial raising of the price of land in Ireland. I need not say to anyone who has read the clause attentively that there was no such object in the mind of the framer, and that the Government had no such view. The sole object we had in view was this: It may happen— not often, but it may happen—that a landlord has no practical or substantial interest in the land of which he is the legal owner; and it may happen that under such circumstances he will find it to be his interest to part with the land to his tenant at a price far lower than the tenant will be ready to give, and far lower than the fair price of that land. In such circumstance, who will be the person to suffer by the transaction? Not the landlord but the mortgagee, and under this Bill, as stated last year, he has no voice in the sale at all. Everyone, I think, will admit that it is only fair to give the man the chance of having his case heard by appeal to some judicial tribunal; but whether the machinery provided by the Government for this purpose is the best that could be adopted will be for the Committee to decide rather than the House itself. No doubt there is something to be said for the suggestion of the hon. and learned Gentleman who last addressed the House, that there should, under certain circumstances, be an appeal to more than one Judge. That it seems only right to give the mortgagee an appeal under the circumstances I have pointed out is a proposition no one will deny. The object of Section 17, which was also in last year's Bill, is that in case the price, or a considerable portion of the price, is found by the tenant from other sources than public loans, and in case, therefore, the amount advanced for the holding is considerably less than the value, the Land Commissioners will be empowered to dispense with the Guarantee Fund. That will throw no 735 additional risk on the State, and it will facilitate sales in some few cases. The greater part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir G. Trevelyan) was directed rather to the Bill which has already been read a second time than to this now before the House. His main objection to the Bill, however, was applicable to both Bills, and it was founded on this proposition: that as soon as purchase has gone on to a considerable extent the English Government will become the landlord of the Irish tenant, that they will have to evict and sell the holdings in case of non-payment, and that they will be as unable to sell the lands of evicted tenants as are certain landlords in such cases now in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman made some very gloomy vaticinations on this point, but I think there is abundance of evidence which may reassure him. I have glanced at the Report of the Land Commission, and find that of 13,000 cases of holdings sold, the actual number in the possession of the Commission which they have been unable to dispose of is only three. I do not think the British taxpayer need tremble if only three holdings are unsold of 13,000. The hon. Members for South Tyrone and Derry and one or two other Members below the Gangway have made some remarks about the personnel of the Land Commission. It is true that there is a vacancy, but it is not a fair question to ask me now who is to fill it. I can only say that the matter will receive careful consideration from the Government, but it is obvious at all events that, from the nature of the functions to be discharged, it is absolutely necessary that a man of high legal standing should be appointed. The hon. Member for South Tyrone asked why one of the existing Judges of the Supreme Court should not be appointed. I should be extremely glad if one of the Judges of the Supreme Court would accept the position, but the hon. Gentleman must be well aware that the position is one which is not coveted by Judges of the Supreme Court. Though the salary may be higher the duties are certainly more disagreeable, and I fear there is little chance of inducing a Judge of the High Court to exchange voluntarily. Such an exchange 736 could only be made voluntarily; there is no power to compel it, and I do not think there ought to be. The hon. Member also criticised the appointment of Mr. Fitzgerald as a landlord appointment. I cannot understand upon what that objection is founded, for Mr. Fitzgerald is neither a Conservative in politics nor a landlord. Mr. Justice Litton was a landlord, but is it possible for anybody to suggest for a moment that that fact ever warped or unfairly influenced his decisions, or made him more a landlord's man than a tenant's man? I am perfectly certain that every one who has had an opportunity of watching the manner in which Mr. Fitzgerald discharges his duties will not agree with the criticism of my hon. Friend as to that appointment, but will rather regard the appointment as a very successful effort by the Government to discharge one of the most disagreeable and onerous parts of their functions. It has been asked why we propose to put the salaries on the Consolidated Fund, and the hon. Member for Longford and one or two Members above the Gangway have accepted the principle that while the Judges hold permanent office their salaries should be voted by Parliament. It is perfectly true that with the Bankruptcy Judges permanent tenure is combined with salary voted by Parliament, but I cannot but believe that that was an oversight in the drafting of the Bill. I believe this course is absolutely anomalous; there is not a single case in England of a similar kind, and I believe that as a general rule it is more honoured in the breach than in the observance. There is a radical inconsistency between subjecting Judges to criticism in this House, and yet putting them in a position from which the House cannot oust them, and the arrangement to give a permanent appointment and leave the salary to be voted by Parliament is one which this House has not accepted in the past, and will not, I think, accept in the future. One hon. Member has referred to the case of County Court Judges in England, but I am not familiar with the tenure of those Judges, who, I believe, are appointed by the Lord Chancellor. If that is so, the arrangement is fundamentally different from that for the payment of the salaries 737 of the Irish Judges. They cannot be dismissed, and the arrangements for their salaries are entirely in accordance with the arrangements of this Bill; their salaries are charged on the Consolidated Fund. The point which has received most criticism and attention is the question of economy. One of the most frequent complaints made in the course of the Debate was that an additional charge is thrown on the English taxpayer by the new arrangement. I can assure the House that not only is that not the fact, but it is directly the reverse of the fact. This is a Bill calculated to produce great economy. It is true that two salaries are raised thereby—the salaries of Mr. Lynch and Mr. M'Carthy. It is true that those gentlemen now get £2,000 a year, and that they will get £2,500 after the Bill passes, and a pension. But it seems to me to be an invidious and inexpedient course to make a homogeneous Land Department of this kind, and leave an inequality of salary between the Commissioners of 1881 and the Commissioners of 1885; and for that reason I would strongly advise the House to accede to an increase of salary in the case of those two gentlemen. But in the case of the other members of the Land Commission, their salaries will in the future be what they are now. I ask the House whether it will be prepared in constituting a new Land Department, having thrown upon it duties of a very onerous kind not contemplated by previous legislation, to take this opportunity of diminishing the salaries of gentlemen who have, after all, done their duties to the satisfaction of the public. If, however, we look to the future, the economy which this Bill proposes to effect is a large and substantial economy. At present the land work of Ireland is carried out by a Judge of the Landed Estates Court with a salary of £3,500 a year, by a Judicial Commissioner with £3,500 a year, by two Lay Commissioners with £3,000 a year, by two Purchase Commissioners with £2,000 a year, and by a Valuation Commissioner with £1,200 a year. The total cost is somewhere over £19,000 a year. But as vacancies occur that cost will be reduced until it comes to about £8,500—in other words, the cost of administering land in 738 Ireland will be diminished by more than £10,000 a year. Now, I think that, under these circumstances, whatever other criticisms may be brought against the Bill, and they have not appeared to me to be of a very satisfactory character, at all events the criticism of extravagance cannot be brought against it. It is a Bill that, among its other merits, certainly has this, that the charge now thrown on the British taxpayer for the purpose of administering Irish land will be largely and permanently reduced. I think I have now dealt with every single point raised.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, the hon. Gentleman was ruled out of order when he raised that point, and as I do not wish to draw down upon myself a similar rebuke from the Chair, I think I must defer till a more convenient time the discussion of that question.
§ (6.21.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
The question how you deal with these officers in Dublin, and whether you chop them about, and give one man a little more and another a little less, is of very little importance to the taxpayers, and of very little interest to my constituents. There is one point, however, on which I wish for some explanation because it may become one of some importance after the Christmas Recess. The clause which relates to turbary is one in which the keenest interest will be excited amongst the small tenants who may purchase in the West of Ireland. The clause regulates the manner in which turbary is to be purchased, and the way in which it is to be divided among the tenants. Now, that being the case with turbary, why should it not be the case with grass lands also? I want to see the poor tenant in the West of Ireland put into a position in which he can purchase grass farms near his holdings. If there were a similar section to the turbary clause relating to grass land and grass farms in reference to tenants holding not more than 10 or 15 acres of land it would probably satisfy all the wishes of the small 739 tenants in the West of Ireland. It is very important that we should get an answer to this question before the Recess. I am glad that these two Bills have been put in before the Christmas Recess, because we shall have ample time to consider them and to draft Amendments to them. I wish, however, to know from the Government upon which Bill a clause regulating the purchase of grass lands could properly be brought forward? The question is one of enormous importance, because another 500,000 of Irishmen must go out from the West and South of Ireland unless their holdings are increased, and I have no hesitation in saying that the landlords' position would be improved by selling their grass land to these poor tenants.
§ (5.27.) MR. MADDEN
It is only by the indulgence of the House that I can reply to the question. I do not think that such an Amendment as the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggests could be properly introduced upon the Land Purchase Bill. The measure now before the House deals with a Land Department, and amends in certain particulars the existing machinery under the Ashbourne Act. The provisions with respect to turbary naturally fall within the scope of this Bill. It would be quite in order for the hon. Member to propose to introduce provisions of the kind he mentions into the measure now before the House, and any Amendments of that kind would meet with the most attentive consideration of the Government.
§ (5.28.) MR. CUNINGHAME GRAHAM (Lanark, N.W.)
I know the opinions I shall advance are shared by so small a number of Members that to dwell on them at any length would be something like an impertinence. I know my opinions are unpopular, but that will not prevent me expressing them, because they are held by many outside this House who wish their views to be made known on this question of pledging the credit of the British taxpayer in reference to Irish land. The object of the Bill, as I understand it, is to create a peasant proprietary in Ireland. I do not pretend to have any special know- 740 ledge of Ireland, or to have any knowledge of Ireland at all, but I suppose there is no special set of circumstances to be observed in Ireland which is not to be found in other countries. This is an attempt to induce the Legislature to introduce a similar state of things into Ireland to that which——
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
The hon. Member's argument belongs to a Bill which has already been read a second time.
§ MR. CUNINGHAME GRAHAM
In that case I will bow to your decision, I merely enter a formal protest against creating a peasant proprietary in Ireland on conditions which are to be terminated in 49 years. I would continue in perpetuity the land of Ireland to the Irish people. I regret that I have not an opportunity of dealing with the absolutely rotten character of the guarantee on which the Bill is founded. As, however, I appear to be out of order all round, I shall conclude by saying that we have had many protestations from leading Members of the Opposition, both in outside speeches and in debating speeches, that their intention is not to allow the credit of the British taxpayer to be pledged on questions like this, and that they will fight this Bill on every occasion, in order that through their agency it may be left to the Irish people to settle their own land question, instead of forcing it upon the English House of Commons.
§ ٭(6.33.) MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
Sir, the Chief Secretary, in replying to comments made on the 9th clause, admitted that in the Bill of last year Her Majesty's Government did not introduce provisions which gave the same protection to the encumbrancer and mortgagees as they have seen fit to put into this Bill. I think that is a very extraordinary admission. I really think the Chief Secretary ought to throw some light on the omission of those provisions in the Bill of last Session.
§ MR. MADDEN
There were provisions introduced into the last Bill, though those in the present Bill give 741 another kind of protection to the encumbrancer.
§ MR. CHANNING
They were not anything like the provisions introduced into this Bill. The 9th clause, in fact, places very nearly a compulsory power in the hands of the mortgagees to exact from the Land Commission that the price of the land shall not fall below the value at which the land has been mortgaged. Hon. Members are aware that there are mortgages on most of the land of Ireland, and where the mortgages are the heaviest on the holdings obstacles will be placed to purchase under this clause. Her Majesty's Government have in this clause created a new leverage for artificially raising the price of land to be sold under their land purchase proposals. They have not seen fit to introduce provisions such as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) introduced into his Bill in 1886, giving the Land Commission means of seeing, in the interests of the tenants, and in the interests of the taxpayers of England, that the purchase price was fair and reasonable. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galway referred to a most important question, namely, the power to buy; grass land in neighbouring districts to facilitate migration from congested districts. That is a point which I hope will meet with the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Member for South Tyrone complained of our opposition to this Bill, because we would risk the valuable clauses relating to turbary, and the 29th clause, which gives power in the case of long leases to come within the Land Purchase Bill. I would remind him and other hon. Members that we are placing no obstacle in the way of these particular proposals, which might be introduced into the first Bill in the form of Amendments. Referring once more to this question of mortgages, Her Majesty's Government are losing a great opportunity of dealing with the question of their revision. The whole of the question of land purchase hinges upon the point of what is the real value of the land. The mortgages on the land stand in the way of a fair price for it, 742 and constitute an obstacle to land purchase in Ireland. I for one, as a hearty opponent of the principle of land purchase, record my vote against the Second Reading.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Attorney General for Ireland started an extraordinary doctrine just now. He said the principle of this Bill was accepted last Session, that we were not to oppose it, but were to agree to it without having had the time to read it. I opposed the Bill last Session, I shall oppose it this Session, and I hope I shall have the opportunity of opposing it next Session; if I may judge of what occurred last Session, very possibly I shall. I will vote against this Bill for the very excellent reason that it is the complement of the first Bill. I object to the whole system of land purchase on an Imperial guarantee. This Bill would not have been brought in but for the other Bill, of which the Attorney General will not deny that it is an integral portion. Under these circumstances I intend to vote against every clause, if I get a chance, both of this Bill and the other.
§ (6.41.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
Sir, I only wish to advance one reason why I will vote against every clause, letter, and syllable, of this Bill. Our contention is that the tenants will be compelled to pay far more than the value of the land in purchasing their holdings. They will be compelled to purchase their own interest in their own improvements at a long price. It is probable that a great portion of the land will be made utterly unmarketable in the open market, by reason of the fictitious prices created through the machinery of this measure. And this is the reason: So long as therégimeof coercion exists, the tenants will be prevented from combining in protection of their own interests. So long as coercion is rampant in Ireland no attempt should be made to compel the tenants to purchase their holdings at the risk of the British taxpayer. Coercion, 743 directly or indirectly, is employed for the purpose of compelling the tenants to pay artificial prices for their holdings. It is perfectly well-known that the Ponsonby tenants had an opportunity of very nearly coming to an arrangement with the landlord to obtain their holdings, when Smith-Barry and his syndicate intervened with the whole machinery of coercion, in order to defeat the tenants and compel them to pay the enormously advanced prices which Smith-Barry and his syndicate chose to impose upon them. Therefore it is, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I regard with the utmost aversion the whole of this scheme, and I will do whatever I possibly can to defeat it. I feel that so long as the régime of coercion is continued by this Government in Ireland, we ought to resist every attempt which is made to compel the tenants to purchase their holdings.
§ (6.45.) The House divided:— Ayes 191; Noes 129.—(Div. List, No. 11.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for to-morrow.