§ As amended, further considered.
Proceedings resumed on the Clause (Powers of Land Commissioners),—read the second time [5th June]:—
(Nothing in section seventeen of 'The Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1885,' shall be deemed to limit the jurisdiction of any member of the Land Commission under Part V. of 'The Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881,' and the Acts amending the same, and anything done by any member of the Land Commission in carry-the said Acts into effect shall be as valid and effectual as if it were done by the Land Commission: Provided that any person aggrieved by the decision of any Commissioner acting alone in carrying the said Acts into effect, may require his case to be reheard by three Commissioners, of whom the Judicial Commissioner shall be one, but none of such Commissioners shall be the Commissioner before whom the case was originally heard.
All rules to be made by the Land Commission for carrying into effect the Land Purchase Acts, as amended by this Act, shall be made by a majority of the Commissioners, which majority shall include the Judicial Commissioner."—(Mr. Lea.)
§ (4.33.) MR. PIERCE MAHONY (Meath, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman denies that this clause casts a slur upon the Purchase Commissioners. It may not, perhaps, be necessary to defend these Commissioners against certain accusations; but this certainly is a convenient time at which to meet a specific charge brought forward by the hon. Member for South Tyrone with reference to the Macfie Estate. The charge was that there was unnecessary delay in sanctioning the application made by Mr. Macfie. What are the facts? On July 13th, 1888, the originating statement was filed; on December 4th, the advance was provisionally sanctioned; on January 14th, the title was received, and on July 10th it was ruled defective. Then the land- 35 lord's solicitor allowed a whole year to I elapse before he took further steps. That is not all. The owner of this estate swore in the originating statement that he held the estate subject to no rent, yet when the title was inquired into, it was found that he held it subject to a fee farm rent of £18 10s. a year, and when it is remembered that the whole estate consisted of only 9 acres 25 perches, it will be seen that this was a considerable rent. I venture to assert that, under these circumstances, there could not be less foundation for any attack than there is for this particular charge. The arguments for the clause, I understand, are that the necessity for an appeal is admitted. Of course we are perfectly willing that there should be a proper Court of Appeal; but it cannot be stated for one moment that the Court provided by the Bill would be an economical one. That argument may be advanced in support of my Amendment. It is believed that the Land Purchase Commissioners will have too much work to do, while that of the Pair Rent Commissioners will be decreasing in volume. The Amendment will practically amalgamate the Commissions as soon as business permits, and a Court of Appeal will be constituted by subsequent Amendments standing in the name of the hon. Member for West Belfast and myself. There is a precedent for the proposal embodied in the Amendment, because, under the Act of 1885, there is power to call on the Land Purchase Commissioners to do the work of the Fair Rent Commissioners. I know perfectly well that the Chief Secretary can force this clause through if he chooses, but I may suggest to him he is not likely to promote the successful working of his Bill by stirring up feeling against it in Ireland. If my Amendment, and one or two subsequent ones in the name of the hon. Member for Belfast, were accepted, the clause would read thus:—If at any time the number of fair rent appeals shall he less than 1,000 in number, the Lord Lieutenant may require any Land Commissioner to perform the duties of a Land Purchase Commissioner, provided that he is of opinion that no unreasonable delay will be thereby caused in the hearing of fair rent appeals, and anything done by any member of the Land Commission so required to act, in carrying such Act into effect, shall be as valid and effectual as if it were done by one of the Land Purchase Commissioners, provided that 36 any person aggrieved by the decision of any Commissioner or Commissioners acting without the Judicial Commissioner may require the case to be heard by the two Land Purchase Commissioners and the Judicial Commissioner. All rules to be made by the Land Commission for carrying into effect the Land Purchase Acts, as amended by this Act, shall be made by the Judicial Commissioner and the Commissioners appointed under the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1885.I think the acceptance of the Amendments embodied in this clause would provide a satisfactory settlement of the question.
Amendment proposed to the clause—
To leave out from beginning of clause, to the word "same," in line 4, inclusive, and insert the words, "If at any time the number of fair rent appeals shall be less than one thousand in number, the Lord Lieutenant may require any Land Commissioner to perform the duties of a Land Purchase Commissioner, provided that he is of opinion that no unreasonable delay will be thereby caused in the hearing of fair rent appeals."—(Mr. Pierce Mahony.)
§ (4.45.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I appreciate the earnest desire of the hon. Gentleman to suggest a plan by which the differences which divide one part of the House from another upon the question of the Amendment may be reconciled: but this can hardly be done on the lines suggested by this Amendment. If the necessity for a Court of Appeal is recognised it is hardly met by this Amendment. My object in accepting the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for South Derry will really not be met by the Amendment just moved. The hon. Gentleman proposes to give the Lord Lieutenant power, when he thinks fit, to call in additional aid. But it is clear that that does not meet the view of the Government. Their desire is to secure the amalgamation of the whole strength of the two Departments for the purpose of carrying out the Act. I think the hon. Gentleman must see that the scheme of amalgamation is not carried out by his propoosal, and that it-falls very far short of the imperfect, yet substantial, assistance afforded to that scheme by the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Derry. It is, 37 therefore, impossible for the Government to accept the solution suggested by the hon. Member.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
Surely it is reasonable to say that these two Departments shall not be amalgamated. What will be the gain of asking the Fair Rent Commissioners to undertake purchase work, when they have more than 1,000 appeals in their own Department waiting to be heard? I think the proposal contained in the Amendment is a very proper one. Are the Fair Rent Commissioners to ignore the thousands of appeals waiting to be heard in order to do the work of the Purchase Commissioners? I know of cases in Donegal County where poor tenants have been waiting two and a half years to get their appeals tried, and the Amendment will secure that such hardships shall not be intensified. The clause as it stands will not produce amalgamation: it will only tend to disorder, by taking the Fair Rent Commissioners away from their proper work.
§ *(4.52.) MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)
If the hon. Member for South Derry were in active touch with his constituents, he would know that there exists in the North of Ireland a great deal of discontent at the delay in disposing of the work of the Fair Rent Department of the Land Commission. I believe that in no Court in the three Kingdoms are there so many tedious delays. This Fair Rent Court reminds one of the unreformed Court of Chancery referred to by Dickens in Bleak House. If the clause is embodied in the Bill as it now stands, it will do great injustice to the poor tenants of Ireland, by bringing into the administration of Land Purchase men who are known to be in sympathy with the landlords, while you will also increase the difficulty of getting fair rents fixed quickly and cheaply. The Member for South Derry wishes to bring in under this clause men whom the tenants of Ireland rightly hate. Though I do not think the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for North Meath goes far enough, yet its acceptance would considerably improve the clause. The Chief Secretary says the object of the Government is to amalgamate the two Departments of the Land Commission. But the clause does not do that, for under it the Purchase Commissioners 38 are not given power to deal with fair rent appeals except they are called upon to do so by the Lord Lieutenant in precisely the same way as my hon. Friend desires that the Fair Rent Commissioners may be called upon to do the work of the Purchase Department. Surely what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The Chief Secretary will not accept the Amendment, because he knows that the Lord Lieutenant will not always be advised by persons of the Chief Secretary's political opinions. While he is in office Mr. Wrench will, of course, be called upon to do this work, but there is not likely to be another Chief Secretary who will be on such cordial terms with Mr. Wrench, whose salary has just been put on the Consolidated Fund. Let me point out some of the startling details of the working of the Fair Rent Commissioners. According to the Report of the Land Commission, which brings us up to August last during the year then proceeding, the total number of appeals which had been heard was rather over 2,000, and the total number lodged was 2,781. The total number of fair rent appeals waiting to be heard on the 21st August last was 6,412. Therefore, it cannot be said that the Fair Rent Commission have much spare time to give to the work of land purchase.
§ *MR. KNOX
That I cannot say; but it does not weaken my argument, because the number of appeals disposed of roust have included cross appeals. Since August last the Commission have partially overtaken the arrears. But to what extent? According to a Return issued yesterday there were at the end of April 6,005 appeals still pending. What is the result? Why, that for eight months the number of appeals pending has only been decreased by 417. The hon. Member who has proposed the Amendment can make a simple arithmetical calculation. If in eight months the Commissioners are able to get rid of a net balance of 400 cases, in 12 months we may expect that they will get rid of 600. They have now 6,000 cases pending, so that, at this rate, it will take them 10 years before they will be able to get the pending appeals all disposed of. I do not know whether the facts 39 will absolutely be so. It is possible they may get rid of appeals quicker. I know they have been getting rid of them rather quickly within the last few months; but how have they done it? They have done it through insufficient inquiry, and through taking insufficient evidence. They have in the majority of cases raised the rents fixed by the Sub-Commissioners after an examination of the farm by one Inspector—Mr. Bomford, a man known to be on the landlords' side. If they hear the appeals carefully, as former Commissioners used to hear them, it will be many a long year before they dispose of the arrears, and in the meantime all these tenants will be waiting. Of course, the landlords do not mind delay. In many cases we read that appeals are withdrawn. And why? Because the tenants are so harassed by these delays that they assent to the rents being fixed at higher amounts than those fixed by the Sub-Commissioners in order that they may avoid the costs that would have to be paid if the rents were raised by the Chief Commissioners on appeal. I know crowds of cases where the tenants have assented to rents which they know to be grossly extravagant and far higher than those previously fixed, because they know that if they appealed Mr. Wrench would raise the rents, and they would have to pay the enormous costs the landlords would pile up. If appeals have been withdrawn, it has been because of the delay which has been caused and the inability of the tenants to wait. It strikes me that the hon. Member who moves this clause will not receive the approbation of his constituents when they learn that his attempt has been to render the process of appeal slower. The hon. Member for South Tyrone has entered into a conspiracy with the landlords in the House to make the process of fixing fair rents slower than it has been in the past. I venture to hope that the Government, if they will not accept the Amendment, will at least accept that which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Mid Tyrone. If the latter is accepted, the present Amendment will be withdrawn. That Amendment is not open to the objection urged by the Chief Secretary. If it were accepted the process of amalga- 40 mation would take place as is proposed, and would not be subject to the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant. The only difference it would make would be that the amalgamation would be delayed somewhat until the Land Commission had got rid of their arrears. I daresay the hon. Member for South Tyrone would tell me I have exaggerated these delays in dealing with the appeals. If that is so, why should not the Amendment be accepted? If within a short time the Land Commission will be able to get rid of the arrears on the matter of fair rent, why should we not delay the process of amalgamation until that short time has elapsed? If, on the other hand, it will be a long time before the arrears are cleared off, how can you propose to give these men extra work to do when they are not able to dispose of the work they have on their hands at present? I venture to hope that even if the Government think the terms of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Menth unsatisfactory they will accept that of the hon. Member for Mid Tyrone.
§ (5.10.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
I should like to know if the Government desire to get on with the Bill, because if they do they should make some statement as to the course they intend to pursue with the clause. Do they intend to carry out the clause as it now stands? It is not only opposed by Irish Members on this side of the House, but it is opposed by Irish Members on the other side of the House. I see the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Waring) has on the Paper an Amendment of a totally different character to the clause, and I want to know whether this Amendment is to be accepted, or whether we are to go on fighting the clause on the footing on which it has been placed by the hon. Member for South Tyrone. Without going into the verbiage of the clause, it may be described, in the spirit of the speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone on Friday, as power given to Mr. Wrench to overrule Mr. MacCarthy. As I say, the Irish Members do not like that proposal, but there are two counter proposals which, I think, are very well deserving of consideration. There is the proposal of the hon. Member for West Belfast that there 41 should be an Appellate Court consisting of the Judicial Commissioner, which will constitute an appellate jurisdiction acceptable to hon. Members opposite.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
There would be a Court of First Instance for land purchase, and there would be an Appellate Court, so that the opinion of a single individual—which might be erroneous—would not prevail. It seems to me that there is a reasonable case for an Appellate Court. The judgment of one man, however excellent a man he may be, is not infallible, so that what has been said on the other side in regard to appellate jurisdiction is not reasonable. It is not reasonable, as suggested by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, that you shall introduce a man, whose views, unfortunately, are not popular, to overrule a man who is suspected of holding popular opinions. Such a proposal, if carried, can only result in irritating both parties interested in the matter. That is the effect of the clause which the Government are obstinately standing by. They will not listen to the Irish Members on the other side of the House. Irish Members on both sides of the House are willing that there should be an appellate jurisdiction. There are two forms of an appellate jurisdiction—one proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast, and the other by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite. But neither of these hon. Members agrees in this most ridiculous proposal of the Member for South Tyrone to set up one man to knock down another. Yet that is what the Government have been fighting for for a whole night. ["No, no!"] Yes. I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland to say whether or not he saw this Amendment before it was put down on the Paper? If he says he did not, I will accept his statement; but I do not understand him to say so.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman says I am opposed by Irish Members on this side of the House. If he will examine the Division Lists he will find that I am supported by every Irish Member on this side of the House.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Very well. Let me take one thing at a time. The Chief Secretary says the Government have nothing to do with this clause. I venture to say that it is a Government Amendment, and until the Attorney General for Ireland says he did not see it before it was put down on the Paper, I say it is a Government Amendment. We know how these things are engineered. We all know that when it is convenient that a Government Amendment should be moved by the Member for South Tyrone it is moved, and until I am assured by the Attorney General for Ireland that the Amendment has not received his sanction I shall continue to suspect that it has. If the Government will take a reasonable course, and will state what they intend to do, they may get on with their Bill. But this clause is offensive. It is in the interest of one person against another, and so long as it stands we shall fight it. It is for the Government to say whether it is to their interest to go on with it. It is for them to say whether they are going to continue to fight under the banner of the hon. Member for South Tyrone in support of the speech lie made the other night. So long as they do that they will be resisted. If they desire an amalgamation of the Commission they should let it be known, but it is not amalgamation to bring in one set of men to overrule and fight another set of men. It is civil war. In matters where a largo amount of public money is at stake there ought to be some appellate jurisdiction, and the request that has been made for it and supported by Irish Members on both sides of the House is perfectly reasonable. Already a long time has been spent in discussing this question, and there seems still to be little prospect of a settlement of it. If the Government want to get on with the Bill they will endeavour to meet the Irish Members on both sides, and the Committee will then be able to discuss what will be a reasonable appellate jurisdiction in the matter. Until we know what the Government are going to do, whether they are going 43 to press the clause of the hon. Member for South Deny, or intend to accept some reasonable form of appellate jurisdiction, no further progress will be made with the Bill. The clause as it stands is preposterous, and cannot be justified on any administrative principle. Here you have a Court choked with arrears. It is exactly as if you had taken the Court of Chancery in the days of Lord Eldon—a Court in which it would have taken years to get through the arrears—and had sent the Judge of Assizes to try ordinary cases. The Fair Kent Court has, on the most favourable estimate, a year's arrears to get through, and you are going to take the Commissioners of that Court and amalgamate them with a Court in which there are no arrears—a proceeding so absurd that no one would have been able to understand it had it not been for the personal question of putting Mr. Wrench against Mr. MacCarthy. To take a Court which has more work to do than it can get through and to give its Commissioners a share in the work of another Court which has no arrears to deal with is a thing which really passes the bounds of human nonsense. I invite the Government to tell us what they intend to do in regard to these Amendments.
§ *(5.20.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN,) Dublin University
On behalf of my right hon. Friend, I wish to recall to the recollection of the House that when this new clause was under discussion what the right hon. Gentleman has called the personal element was carefully and studiously excluded from the consideration of the question on the part of the Government, and testimony was borne by them to the admirable way in which the Act of 1885 has been administered by the Purchase Commissioners. A great many of the questions to which the right hon. Gentleman has adverted do not bear at all on the Amendment before the Committee. There are two main principles in the new clause which has been read a second time—one is the principle of amalgamation, and the other that of appeal. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken in favour of the principle of appeal, and all he said in regard to the question of amalgamation is that the clause does not carry it far enough. I 44 have nothing to say against making the amalgamation of the different bodies complete, and that was the scheme of the Government in the Land Department Bill, which cannot, as hon. Members know, be taken this year. But, for that reason, is it wise that the Government should launch this great scheme of land purchase without some substantial kind of amalgamation which will provide perhaps not an ideal tribunal, but a Court adequate to discharge the increase of work which will be thrown upon it in the future?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
As I said the other night, in all these matters there is a great deal to be done; but the proper thing is to have a Bill introduced next year which will deal with the question of amalgamation, and, perhaps, with that of appeal.
§ *MR. MADDEN
Well, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman's experience of the House and of politics is a great deal longer than mine, but does he think it would be well for the Government always to trust to next year? "Hope springs eternal in the human breast," and Governments are only human——
§ *MR. MADDEN
The practical question is, ought we to neglect to obtain now a substantial amalgamation that will give us not an ideal tribunal, but a workable tribunal? because we may hope hereafter to carry a more perfect measure. I would remind the Committee that, although it is true there is a considerable number of appeals in arrear before the Commissioners, a great many of them are cross appeals, and the work is not nearly so heavy as might appear at first sight. A large number of the appeals are entered by landlords, and until the hearing of those appeals the rent legally payable by the tenant will be the reduced rent against which the landlord appeals. Moreover, the appeals are now being overtaken at a rapidly increasing rate, and the fair rent work of the Commission will be greatly diminished in two or three years, while at the same time the work connected with purchase will largely increase. The Government would not be justified in rejecting a proposal which would provide a substantially good 45 working tribunal to do the enormous work devolving on the Land Commission under this Bill.
§ (5.26.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
The Amendment before the Committee really carries out the intentions of the Government as shown in the 7th clause of the Land Department Bill. If there is to be an amalgamation of the Purchase Department with the Fair Rent Department of the Land Commission, it should be carried out by the highest authorities, by the Privy Council, and the Lord Lieutenant. That was the provision in the Land Department Bill, but in this unfortunate new clause, introduced under the auspices and with the assistance of the Government, there is quite another proposal for carrying out the amalgamation. It is to be carried out by the authority of the Commissioners themselves, the vast majority of whom do not understand the purchase system. The Amendment proposes to correct that proposal, and for this reason alone I consider the Government ought to accept it. The statistics before the House do not, in my opinion, warrant the statement that the appeals in arrear are being rapidly overtaken, or the hope that they will be disposed of in two or three years. If the appeals, however, are disposed of so soon, the Government will be able to make the change they desire, and to make it under the Amendment before the Committee when they think proper, without having recourse to the irresponsible authority of the majority of the Commission. I do not think that that is any proof at all. I see no reason why the work of the Purchase Commissioners should increase at a greater rate than it does at present, and I am quite certain that it will not continue to increase if it is placed in the hands of Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Wrench. We have reason to believe there is one particular provision in the Bill which will give a considerable impulse to the work of the Fair Rent Commission. In consequence of the Insurance Clause and of the 80 per cent. of the annual value being paid by the new tenants, every tenant who intends to purchase and who hitherto has not got a judicial rent, will take good care 46 to have such a rent fixed in order that the 80 per cent. may be on as low an annual value as possible. The fair rent business will increase, while the purchase business of the Commission has been quite overtaken, and, therefore, I shall support the Amendment.
§ (5.33.) MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
I prefer the tone of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken to that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, who, not satisfied with setting parties by the ears in this House, is now trying to set the various Land Commissioners by the ears. As I have stated before, in moving this clause, no charge is made against the Land Purchase Commissioners, and no attack is made upon them. There is absolutely no foundation in fact for the statement that the clause is an attempt to put Mr. MacCarthy under Mr. Wrench. It is admitted that there is a necessity, by reason of the complicated provisions of this Bill, for re-organising the Land Commission, and whatever may be said to the contrary, I repeat I have had no idea of placing the Fair Rent Commissioner over or under the Purchase Commissioners. We know that the fair rent appeals are being rapidly proceeded with. In March last, 421 were disposed of, and at that rate they will all be got rid of in a little over a year. Again, we know that appeals under this Bill cannot possibly arise for 12 months. It may be said, why not defer this particular question till next year. My answer is, that when a new system is started it is necessary to have it in working order at the earliest possible moment.
(5.36.) The House divided:—Ayes 178; Noes 135.—(Div. List, No. 269.)
§ *(5.50.) MR. KNOX
In the absence of my hon. Friend, I beg to move the Amendment which stands in his name. It is to some extent on the same lines as the one we have been discussing, and, therefore, I need not say much about it. The Chief Secretary, in objecting to the last Amendment, said he wanted to amalgamate the two Departments of the Land Commission, and did not desire that the amalgamation should depend on 47 the will of the Lord Lieutenant. Well, under this Amendment, the amalgamation will work automatically so soon as the fair rent appeals have been reduced to a reasonable compass. If the hon. Members for South Tyrone and South Derry do not want to delay the hearing of appeals they will accept this Amendment. If they wish for such a delay let them tell their constituents so. I do not believe there will for a year or two be much work in the Land Purchase Department. The rush will come on the eve of a General Election, when the landlords see that the Home Rule Bill is likely to be carried. They will then try to sell their land at any price. They know the Government will be beaten at the polls. The hon. Member for South Derry, whose reasonable speeches are out of all agreement with his unreasonable Amendments, says he has no objection to Mr. MacCarthy. Then why does he not accept this Amendment? The learned Attorney General, too, has no objection to Mr. MacCarthy, but, although personality is not involved in the matter, I think Mr. MacCarthy may very well say, "It is all very well to dissemble your love; but why do you kick me downstairs?" Mr. MacCarthy is being kicked downstairs by this Amendment. You are going to take the work from those who are ready to do it, and to give it to those who are neglecting their own duties.
In line 2, after the word "shall," to insert the words "after the number of appeals re fair rent awaiting hearing have been reduced to the number of five hundred."—(Mr. Knox.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ *(5.55.) MR. MADDEN
Many of the observations addressed to the House by my right hon. Friend on the former Amendment are applicable to this, and I will not therefore repeat them. Under this Amendment the entire operation of the clause will be postponed until the number of fair rent appeals has been reduced to 500. That will have the effect of postponing the operation of the appeal provisions of the clause, which are admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby to be valuable. Why should the appeal process 48 be delayed if it is right that there should be appeals? I cannot accept the Amendment. It has been said that the clause is intended as an attack upon one particular Commissioner, and the object is to set Mr. Wrench against Mr. MacCarthy. That idea is really ridiculous, for the decisions of Mr. Wrench will be reviewed by Mr. MacCarthy quite as much as the decisions of Mr. MacCarthy will be reviewed by Mr. Wrench. It should be remembered that an appeal under this clause, whether from a decision of Mr. MacCarthy or not, will come before three Commissioners, one of them being the Judicial Commissioner.
§ MR. SEXTON
It will be in the power of the majority of the Land Commissioners to determine who is to hear the appeal.
§ *MR. MADDEN
Some rules will have to be laid down, but these will be of a general character, and will not be directed to meet individual cases. The Appeal Court must consist of three Commissioners, one of whom will be the Judicial Commissioner, and the Purchase Commissioners will have as much right to sit as the Fair Rent Commissioners. The hon. Member has talked of the Government kicking Mr. MacCarthy downstairs. I wonder whether Mr. MacCarthy himself, whose tenure of office is now to be converted into a judicial tenure, and whose salary is to be charged on the Consolidated Fund, will accept that as a fair description of the way he has been treated.
§ (5.59.) SIR W. HARCOURT
As to there being appeals from Mr. Wrench to Mr. MacCarthy, does the hon. and learned Gentleman think that possible? Is it not likely the originating work will have to be done by the Purchase Commissioners, the Fair Rent Commissioners only coming in to set aside decisions to which they object? I was struck by what was said the other day by one of the Representatives of Ireland sitting on these Benches. The hon. Gentleman pointed out that these gentlemen of the Fair Rent Department could leave the Purchase Commissioners to do the work in the first instance, and as long as it suited them they need not interfere; but if, on the contrary, they disagreed with what was done, they could sit in appeal on what was done. 49 That seems to me to be a most inconvenient arrangement. Now, the Attorney General for Ireland said that all the personal element had been removed by the speech the other night of the Chief Secretary. We know that if it had been a case of defending a policeman for shooting a boy at Mitchelstown, the right hon. Gentleman would have adopted a very different tone.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the right hon. Gentleman and the House that what is now under discussion is the proposal to insert, after "shall," in line 2,After the number of appeals re fair rent awaiting hearing have been reduced to the number of five hundred.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I quite recognise the justice of your ruling, and I will not pursue those observations, but I maintain that we are entitled to protest against an arrangement which is clearly an inconvenient one, and one which must have been prompted by other than mere administrative considerations. I shall certainly support this Amendment.
§ (6.4) MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
I am rather surprised the Attorney General for Ireland took up the attitude he did in regard to this Amendment. I think he would have been wise in accepting it as something like a compromise between us and him. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is mistaken in supposing that we are in favour of an appellate jurisdiction. We are not in favour of that, except so far as it exists at the present moment. There is now an appeal on points of law. We admit that is fair. But as to questions of fact, we would prefer there should be no appellate jurisdiction at all. We are quite satisfied with the way in which Mr. MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch deal with questions of purchase. The Amendment has been put down as a compromise, or as an escape from a worse state of things, an intolerable state of things. I cannot understand why hon. Gentlemen from the North of Ireland do not join us in pressing upon the Government the acceptance of this Amendment. This Amendment would secure at one and the same time that the Rent Fixing Department was well conducted, and 50 that the Purchase Department was well conducted. We think there is some danger of the matter of appeals being neglected by the Land Commissioners. By this Amendment that danger will be averted.
§ (6.8.) The House divided:—Ayes 133; Noes 177.—(Div. List, No. 270.)
§ (6.20.) MR. SEXTON
I now beg to move to leave out "any Member of the Land Commission "in lines 2 and 3, and insert" the Judicial Commissioner." I hope the Amendment may lead to some reasonable arrangement of this most critical question, and to the greater expedition of the Bill. May I, for the purpose of my Amendment, clearly explain the effect of the present clause? The House is aware the Land Commission is divided into two Departments; one Department of three Commissioners is concerned with the fixing of fair rents, and that duty alone; the other Department of two Commissioners is concerned with the duty of purchase, and for the last six years by universal confession the two Commissioners have discharged their duty with diligence, efficiency, and success. The Departments have been quite apart from each other. The three men who have managed fair rents live in an atmosphere of conflict, perhaps inseparable from their functions, and they are heavily in arrear with their work, whilst the two men managing purchase have, in fact, the general confidence of the public, and have also cleared off their work. What does the hon. Member for South Derry propose to do? To give the three Rent Commissioners control of the two Purchase Commissioners in the ordinary working of the Department of purchase, while leaving the Purchase Commissioners as they are, so far as rents are concerned. He also proposes that anything done by any one of the three Rent Commissioners shall be as valid as if done by the Land Commission; that the three Rent Commissioners, junior in point of service, shall make rules as to purchase over the heads of the Purchase Commissioners; and finally, that if the three Rent Commissioners do not care to trouble themselves with the ordinary work of the Purchase Department, they can, in any case where the land- 51 lord is not satisfied with the decision of the Purchase Commissioners, take an appeal to themselves, although the Purchase Commission was manned for the purpose of giving confidence to both sides. In addition to the two men who have made a brilliant success of their work, the hon. Member proposes to throw in three men who have hitherto had nothing to do with purchase; two of whom were lawyers with no particular knowledge of purchase matters, and the third of whom was a rent agent with no experience of ascertaining the capital value of land from the point of view of security for advance. How do I propose to amend the clause? I propose to strengthen the Purchase Commission. I propose to introduce the Judicial Commissioner into the Purchase Department for the ordinary working of the Department, as well as for appellate duties. I agree with the Chief Secretary that the Judicial Commissioner will be an acquisition to the Purchase Department. That Department, in its ordinary daily working, has much to do with law, and that was why the present two Purchase Commissioners, one of whom was for 30 years in the Landed Estates Court, and the other of whom was for 30 years a solicitor in the South of Ireland, with much experience in the sale of land, were appointed. In every case where they consider an advance of State money ought to be made, they have to satisfy themselves that the agreement is in regular form in point of law; and Mr. Lynch and Mr. MacCarthy are well able to do that. If the Judicial Commissioner is introduced into the ordinary working of the Department, the Purchase Commissioners will receive all the assistance the highest legal training can give them. The Judicial Commissioner will do all Mr. Fitzgerald could do; and so far as Mr. Wrench is concerned, I do not know what the amount of his goodwill towards the Purchase Commissioners may be, but I am satisfied that with the utmost good-will to advance the working of the Purchase Department, Mr. Wrench will only hinder the work, for he does not pretend to know anything of the elementary principles of law. The introduction of the Judicial Commissioner will make the Commission 52 stronger than the Rent Commission is at present, and as strong as it need be at any future juncture. I am not only willing to introduce the Judicial Commissioner into the ordinary working of the Department, but I am willing he should act alone. I am willing that the Judicial Commissioner shall have a coordinate jurisdiction in the making of rules; and, lastly, we propose there shall be an Appellate Court. I think I am right in saying that the arguments of the hon. Members for Derry and South Tyrone have been chiefly directed to the question of appeal. I am willing to follow the model of the Rent Department, whore the practice is that when there is a re-hearing of a matter that has been taken before one Commissioner, the re-hearing is before the three, that is, by the Commissioner who has already heard the case and the two others. I am willing that an appeal in the Purchase Department shall be heard by the two Purchase Commissioners and the Judicial Commissioner, or I am prepared, as a further compromise, than an appeal from any Purchase Commissioner shall be to the other Purchase Commissioner and the Judicial Commissioner. Now, Sir, I submit that in my proposal there is unquestionably the material for a compromise between the Government and ourselves, and I invite the right hon. Gentleman to show that with the Judicial Commissioner this Purchase Commission will not be strong enough for its ordinary duty from day to day. I am sorry that on Friday the right hon. Gentleman was silent. Why did he not apply himself to the attack on Mr. MacCartliy? The hon. Member for South Tyrone attempted to throw discredit on that Commissioner, though the hon. Member for South Derry, to his credit, disclaims such a motive. There are 2,000 cases yet to be dealt with, and the Land Purchase Commissioners, in their Report, say that they expect they will have to reduce the amounts. If Mr. MacCarthy says the amounts asked for the properties are such as he cannot advance, having regard to the security, then this clause would come into operation, and Mr. Wrench, the active spirit of the Land Commission, will fix an Appeal Court, and as often as Mr. MacCarthy fails to satisfy the landlord, the 53 appeal will begin before Mr. Wrench. May I refer to the attack made on Mr. MacCarthy on Friday night? The hon. Member for South Tyrone referred to the O'Sullivan Estate.
§ MR. SEXTON
If that is so, why was it made the cover for an attack upon Mr. MacCarthy? Again, with regard to the case of Lord Fermoy, in that instance the Land Purchase Commissioners saved the whole country-side from ruin, and stopped a very scandalous miscarriage of justice, and prevented the loss of a large sum of public money. Such services entitle these Commissioners to the thanks of this House instead of the attack of the hon. Member.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member is going beyond the immediate object of the Amendment in discussing the character of Mr. MacCarthy.
§ MR. SEXTON
Of course, Sir, I bow to your ruling. I have said enough on the point, and I shall conclude upon it by expressing my regret that on Friday the Chief Secretary did not deem it his duty to go beyond the very general observations which he made. I think he ought to have been at least as energetic and specific in his defence of these functionaries as he would have been in defence of a constable who had broken a man's head with a baton. I would also remark that in point of fact £10,000,000 under the Ashbourne Act was a larger provision than the£30,000,000 under this Act, because the £10,000,000 was open to all Ireland, while the £30,000,000 is surrounded by limitation. With regard to the arrears of work before the Fair Rent Commissioners, I do not see on what ground it can be argued that the progress made with the arrears is likely to be much greater in the future than it has been in the past. The real fact of the matter is that for the next four years the Commissioners will not have half an hour to spare, and then will come the new statutory term, and they will be kept busy for a long time after that. The very nature of the Purchase Department makes it necessary that when a case 54 comes before it the same Commissioner must devote himself to it from first to last, and he must be always in Dublin, while the Fair Rent Commission is by its nature itinerant. I hope that the Government will not consent to break up a Department like the Purchase Commission for the sake of unnecessary experiment.
§ Amendment proposed, in lines 2 and 3, to leave out the words "any member of the Land Commission," and insert the words "the Judicial Commissioner."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ (7.0.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Member who has just sat down has to some extent repeated the arguments which he brought forward on the Second Reading of this clause, and it seems to me that those arguments were more suited to that stage than to this particular Amendment. I will, however, thank the hon. Member for the tone of part at least of his speech, which contrasts favourably with that of many hon. Members who have taken part in the Debate. With regard to the contention that I have not defended Mr. MacCarthy, according to my view the discussion of the decisions of a particular Land Commissioner, whether appointed under the Act of 1881 or that of 1885, is in no sense germane to the Amendment before the House. I disapprove of the Amendment, not because I approve of the attack on this or that Commissioner, but because I believe the re-organised Land Commission would be better able to deal with the work it has to do than it would in its present condition. I can only express my firm conviction that Mr. MacCarthy is animated by a strong sense of his public duty, and always acted perfectly fairly between landlord and tenant, and I can say no more than that of Mr. Wrench. If my opinion on this matter is worth anything I stated it on Friday night, and I can do no more now than repeat it. I now leave the question of his conduct on Friday night, to come to the discussion of the Amendment the hon. Gentleman has put on the Paper, a discussion which the hon. Gentleman 55 seems to regard as a convenient occasion for a re-survey of the Debate of Friday night. I would briefly point out in the first place, that by the transfer of the judicial member of the 1881 Commission to the work of the 1885 Commissioners, the hon. Gentleman will be doing something material to prevent the 1881 Commissioners from getting rid of their arrears, and if the arrears form an argument against the amalgamation, I suppose they are an argument against the transfer suggested by the hon. Gentleman. In the second place, if the Amendment is carried, the gentleman from whose decision the appeal is brought will be the Judge to whom the appeal is made. If it be true that in every case under the Bill the annual value of the holding will have to be fixed, how can it possibly be fixed except through the staff which now fixes fair rents? That staff must be at the command of the Purchase Commissioners of 1885, and it is perfectly absurd, when fresh burdens are thrown on the Purchase Commissioners, not to amalgamate the two bodies so as to make them the common masters of a common staff. For these reasons, in addition to the reasons I gave on Friday, the Government cannot accept the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman. I can assure him, however, that I desire, as far as I can, to meet the wishes of hon. Members on the other side of the House. The hon. Gentleman argues throughout that the Government are putting the Kent Commissioners of 1881 in a position to re-hear and overhaul the work of the Purchase Commissioners of 1885, and that has been described as a great insult to the Commissioners of 1885. That that is so I need not again deny—I have denied it so often. I agree that in every case one of the Purchase Commissioners of 1885 should sit on the appeal, and if a clause so drawn can by any ingenuity be described as an insult to Mr. MacCarthy, there is no use in arguing the matter any further. If the amalgamation clauses included in the Land Department Bill are accepted, I shall be very glad to introduce them, if it is possible to supersede the Amendment of my hon. Friend opposite. Whether the House agree with me or not, it must admit that I have done my best to 56 smooth over the difficulties which divide us. I have explained fully to the House the scheme of the Government; I have shown our willingness to modify the particular form of amalgamation in such a manner as to remove all suspicion that the scheme is intended as an insult to the Purchase Commissioners, and I have intimated my willingness to reintroduce the amalgamation clauses of the Land Department Bill, and so give the House an opportunity, if it desires it, of passing them into law. I hope all this will meet with some recognition from hon. Members opposite, and that they will not discuss over and over again a matter which, in my judgment at all events, has been adequately discussed already.
§ MR. SEXTON
Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to confine the interference of the Land Commissioners to matters of appeal?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There is no power of interference by the Land Commissioners unless there is an appeal.
§ (7.15.) SIR W. HARCOURT
It would surely be much better to discuss the Chief Secretary's amalgamation scheme than to go on discussing this clause, which has been, and will be, bitterly opposed. The right hon. Gentleman says that if certain clauses of the Land Department Bill are passed they will supersede this clause.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
It seems to be impossible for the Government to take a course better calculated to obstruct their own work than the course they are pursuing, in spending three days upon a highly contentious clause and the means of reconciling the House to it, when it is possible that the House might get on better with their amalgamation clause, which is the work of the hon. Member for South Tyrone.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to be fair. I 57 supported the clause; it did not require a seconder.
§ SIR W HARCOURT
Of course, if the hon. Member wishes to disclaim his responsibility, I have no objection. No doubt his constituents will be glad to hear it. I may call it, then, the clause of the hon. Member for South Derry, rejected by the hon. Member for South Tyrone. The Chief Secretary has remarked that it is of little importance what he thinks of Mr. MacCarthy, but the right hon. Gentleman cannot be allowed to disparage himself in that way, because his attitude is a material part of the whole question. There are many who look to see which way the Chief Secretary nods. The way the £30,000,000 is to be dealt with gives an English interest to this question. The object aimed at by the clause, and by the Government, is to check the prudent proceedings of the Commissioners, by which up to this time the pockets of British taxpayers have been protected. Therefore, with the leave of the Chief Secretary, I shall still continue to maintain the right of English Members, in the interests of British taxpayers, to see that their money is not wasted by discrediting the action of the Commissioners, who have hitherto protected them. Why is it desired to get rid of these Purchase Commissioners? Simply because they have objected to imprudent and most improper bargains on the part of the landlords; it is because Mr. MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch have saved the English taxpayer under the Ashbourne Act the sum of £400,000. Now there is going to be a reservoir of £30,000,000, and the policy is, by discrediting men who have put a prudent restraint on improvident bargains, to secure that the £30,000,000 shall run away a good deal more quickly than the £5,000,000 or the £10,000,000 have done. That is the real meaning of the whole transaction, although it is being covered up by all sorts of excuses. The object of the Opposition is to make it understood how the money is going to be dealt with. It would be well that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the First Lord of the Treasury should understand it—that the aim of the clause is to set aside men who have dis- 58 allowed inordinate and preposterous claims, and to set up another set of men with very different ideas. That is how the thing is understood in Ireland. It is understood that in future these preposterous bargains shall have an official seal, and we intend to resist that in the interests of the British taxpayer. There is a well-known expression as to damning people with faint praise, and that has been the attitude of the Chief Secretary.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
That is how the right hon. Gentleman defends Mr. MacCarthy, and Ireland will well understand his position.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have said over and over again Mr. MacCarthy does not enter into the question. This clause is not an attack on him.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman says his action in this affair is a matter of no consequence. I cannot consider that the course the Secretary for Ireland takes in a matter of this sort has no bearing on the administration of matters of enormous difficulty, and I, for my part, protest, in the interests of the English taxpayers, against the way in which this matter is being dealt with. As I understand it, it is intended to put a screw upon the officials, whoever they may be, not to decline but to give assent to inordinate bargains in favour of the Irish landlords.
§ *(7.31.) THE FIRST LORD OF THETREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
The right hon. Gentleman is in the habit of using very strong language, and speaking of that which he finds it convenient to allege against his opponents as if they were matters of fact. I should have thought that even the ordinary usages of political warfare would have restrained the right hon. Gentleman from asserting or insinuating that Her Majesty's Government, in the person of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, were actuated by a fraudulent purpose in their present course. What the right hon. Gentleman said amounted to no less than that. He charged the Government 59 with being influenced by a desire to secure that certain individuals should receive more than they were entitled to as the purchase money for their lands, for which purchase money the Treasury is in the last resort responsible. It may suit the right hon. Gentleman to make use of that kind of political language. I entirely repudiate the charge, for which there is not an atom of foundation, and I am confident that the country will attach to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman their proper weight.
§ (7.33.) MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I would venture to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that when he rebukes my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby for the use of violent language, it would be convenient if he would quote the language to which he refers. He has not quoted any language, and his charge, therefore, cannot be sustained by a distinct specification of particulars. He merely says that my right hon. Friend charged the Government with fraudulent conduct. I heard every word spoken by my right hon. Friend, and I heard nothing amounting to any such imputation. My right hon. Friend, if I understand him rightly, based his observations on two things—first, on a speech made by the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), when I was absent a night or two ago, in which that hon. Member argued that in consequence of an undue disposition on the part of the Land Purchase Commissioners to cut down the advances for sales, it was necessary to bring in another authority which would deal more leniently and more favourably with vendors of land. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby and others have pointed out that by means of the veto which is vested in the Purchase Commissioners, they have been able to insure very large reductions indeed in the purchase price of many holdings. I am pointing out what are the allegations of fact made on this side of the House, and I see nothing in those allegations implying on the part of my right hon. Friend the use of violent language or the casting of unworthy imputations. In our opinion the issue 60 is quite grave enough. My right hon. Friend referred to the benefit which the Purchase Commissioners have been able to confer in this way, and he argued that the course being pursued by the Government was an acceptance on their part of the charges that had been brought against Mr. MacCarthy by the hon. Member for South Tyrone. By following the course now being taken, my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby asserted that the Government were making themselves parties to, and were accepting the imputations made on Mr. MacCarthy.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Well, if the right hon. Gentleman says "No," I have no objection. I am stating a matter of opinion. But I wish to point out that there has been no violent language used by my right hon. Friend, and that the charge entirely falls to the ground. The case set forth by my right hon. Friend does not depend in the least on strong adjectives or violent language, but on the weight and gravity of the facts stated by him to the House.
§ (7.38.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St George's, Hanover Square
I should like to know what would be the feelings of the right hon. Gentleman if he and a Government of which he was the head, had been charged with deliberately supporting an Amendment in order to secure excessive prices for the land sold by individual Irish landlords—[cheers from the Irish Nationalist Members]—prices which went beyond the security available. That was the inference, and those were almost the distinct words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, and the charge was cheered as it is cheered now. That is the sense in which the words of the right hon. Gentleman were understood by the Members of the Government, and also by the right hon. Gentleman's friends below the Gangway. Her Majesty's Government, are deliberately charged with an attempt to secure larger prices for the landlords. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman really believes that?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The right hon. Gentleman charged the Government with having that as their object. The other day the right hon. Gentleman said he made no charges against the Commissioners, and that it was Her Majesty's Government, or the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), who made charges against them. Now, consider the charges the right hon. Gentleman brings against Mr. Wrench.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The right hon. Gentleman does not appear to understand the effect of his own language, at all events, till he hears from below the Gangway what inferences other people are likely to draw. The right hon. Gentleman says he made no charge against Mr. Wrench. What was the point of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway with regard to Mr. Wrench? That Mr. Wrench would be inclined to give higher terms to Irish landlords than they ought to get. The right hon. Gentleman encourages hon. Members below the Gangway to bring that charge; and yet now, he says, he brings no charge against Mr. Wrench. I altogether deny, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, because they accept this clause, which was originally part of their own proposals, that, therefore, they adopt any charge that might have been made against Mr. MacCarthy by the hon. Member for South Tyrone. With regard to this Amendment, which is not that of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, but that of the hon. Member for South Derry (Mr. Lea), the question was whether hon. Members below the Gangway will be allowed to accept the suggestions that have been made by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary. Instead of allowing the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) to state whether he would accept the conciliatory suggestions of my right hon. Friend, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby interposed so as to cut off the opportunity of an agreement. My right hon. Friend 62 the Chief Secretary proposed an arrangement by which any idea of Mr. Mac-Carthy's being placed in a position of inferiority to the other Commissioners would be removed. There has been from the beginning, no desire on the part of the Government to reverse the policy of the Land Purchase Commission, or to cast a slur on any individual; but Her Majesty's Government do desire to have a strong body, composed of five members instead of two, to administer this Act; and we protest in the strongest way against the attempt to fasten on this agreement a moaning which does not properly attach to it.
§ (7.45.) MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I have no doubt that, since the advent of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, this discussion has been very unwelcome to the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby takes care to acquaint himself with the facts of the case before he intervenes. I cannot say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer does the same. He spoke of the Amendment as being that of the hon. Member for South Londonderry (Mr. Lea), and appeared to be ignorant of the fact that it stood originally in the name of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell).
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I hope I may appeal to the House. The House is now leaving the immediate question before it, and is rather discussing the clause. If, on each of the Amendments, there is to be a Second Reading Debate, we shall make no progress at all.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Of course, Mr. Speaker, I most willingly bow to your suggestion. The observation would not have been made by me if it had not been invited by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I am bound to say the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a reply to other speeches. The matter must terminate at some time or other.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I am sorry that the Leader of the House, by his passionate intervention, gave rise to dis- 63 cussion. We have been fighting this clause with this vigour because we regard it as the heart and soul of the Bill. In fact, I go the length of saying we would rather not" have this Land Purchase Bill than have it destroyed in its administration in the manner in which this clause will destroy it. [Cries of "Oh!"] I do not know why hon. Gentlemen opposite should interrupt me. Of course, I know that they only support the clause because we are opposing it. They know as well as we do that the whole force and effect of the Act will depend upon its administration. The Government are taking care to secure that its administration shall be in the interest of the landlord. I put aside the question whether Mr. MacCarthy has been violently attacked or not, or properly defended or not. What are the facts? That landlords who demanded £500,000 for their land were compelled by Mr. MacCarthy to take £420,000. ["They agreed to take that."] When their claim was rejected by the Purchase Commissioners they consented to take £420,000, or, to be correct, £417,000, £83,000 less than their original demand. Upon this state of facts, these gentlemen having, according to the confession of the Government, done their business in the most effective and prompt manner, the Government intervene with a proposal to take the control of purchase out of their hands and place it in the hands of three other Commissioners.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I beg to ask you, Sir, whether the Amendment before the House is not to leave out "any member of the Land Commission," and to insert "the Judicial Commissioner"?
§ MR. SEXTON
Upon the point of order, Sir, I respectfully submit that the House is now discussing two alternative propositions, and that, therefore, the remarks of my hon. Friend are in order.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The question before the House is undoubtedly the transference of the Judicial Commissioner from the Pair Rent Department to the Purchase Department.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Then we are to consider the proposal made by the Chief Secretary as out of the question altogether?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
It is impossible to discuss a proposal which is only adumbrated in the course of Debate. The discussion must be confined strictly to the Amendment immediately before the House.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I am very sorry the hon. Gentleman thought it necessary to interrupt me, but the Debate has ranged a little wide of the subject, owing to the intervention of the First Lord of the Treasury. I return to the point that landlords who demanded £500,000 were compelled by the action of Mr. MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch to take £420,000. I will not say that as a consequence of, but in succession to this state of facts the power to deal with land purchase is taken from these gentlemen and given to three others. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby was perfectly justified in calling the attention of the public to this collocation of facts. The speeches of the Chief Secretary almost induce me to despair. He has a greater interest than any man in the House in making the Act such that it will work well; and I put it to him, is it not directly against the easy working of this Act that he should destroy the confidence of the tenants in the tribunal which has to deal with land purchase. We are willing to let the Judicial Commissioner come in as a Court of Appeal, even on questions of fact. I believe Mr. Justice Bewley, before he was raised to the Bench, was a man of strong Conservative opinions, and that now his sympathies will go on the side of the Land Commission. At the same time, we have no desire to act in an unreasonable spirit. We are not fighting this clause for the mere love of obstruction. We regret every moment which stands between this Bill, if properly worded, and its passing, and in order to meet the views of the right hon. Gentleman, we are willing that Mr. Justice Bewley, a political opponent of ours, but still a man of great 65 legal learning and unquestionable integrity of character, should come in as a judicial authority to act as a control, if control be required, in case of appeal on these Purchase Commissioners. What does the right hon. Gentleman propose instead? He proposes that the Rent Commissioners shall have a double set of privileges. They will be three to two, and will have the right to say, "We will deal with this estate instead of Mr. MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch." Secondly, they are to have power, when an estate has been dealt with by Mr. MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch, to sit as a Court of Appeal. I put it seriously to the Chief Secretary whether confusion and chaos and civil war, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby very properly said, is not a correct description of this amalgamation? I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that what he wants for these men is appellate power. Is he willing to confine their operations to appellate power, and is he, further, willing to give the Purchase Commissioners a fair voice in the Court of Appeal which will be thereby established? I think, if the right hon. Gentleman were to give us an elucidation of his proposals on this point, we might curtail the Debate, and the leader of the House might be saved the trouble of further embroiling and embittering the controversy by his intervention.
§ (7.58.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I hardly like to refuse the appeal of the hon. Gentleman, although it is only by permission of the House that I can intervene in the Debate. I will state how the case will stand if the compromise I propose is accepted. It is said, no doubt truly, that the Fair Rent Commissioners of 1881 are considerably in arrear of business outside the sphere of land purchase. No doubt they will have less time than the Land Purchase Commissioners of 1885 to deal with particular estates. But there will also be the dealing with estates on appeal. While I am prepared to leave the Land Purchase Commissioners on a nominal equality with regard to arrears, as they are largely occupied on other matters than purchase, I am prepared to concede to the Land Commissioners of 1885 a 66 power which will put them in a superior position to the Land Commission of 1881, and to insert in the Bill a provision that one of the two gentlemen to hear appeals must necessarily be one of the two Commissioners under the Act of 1885. There must always be a Purchase Commissioner on every appeal, but there need not necessarily be a Commissioner under the Act of 1881. If what hon. Gentlemen have in view is that the Land Purchase Commissioners of 1885 would be ousted from their due share in land purchase business, or if they are afraid that some slight or slur is to be put on Mr. MacCarthy, both those objections would be removed by adopting the suggestion I have made. I repeat that I make that suggestion not on its merits as an improvement on the clause, but simply as a compromise, having heard all the arguments of hon. Gentlemen, and as the best method of arriving at a means of settling this point.
§ (8.1.) SIR W. HARCOURT
There is one part of the question put to the right hon. Gentleman which he has not answered. Are the Fair Rent Commissioners to act in original jurisdiction? There is only an appeal when the price is too low; there is none when it is put too high. I speak from the English point of view on behalf of the Treasury. I make no insinuation against any Commissioner, but upon the hypothesis that there may be a Commissioner whose tendency is to put the price very high,
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I did not interrupt the right hon. Gentleman because I thought he was merely asking a question; but when he entered upon controversial matter I was bound to re mind him that by the rules of the House he was not entitled to speak again.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I wish to ask whether the Fair Rent Commissioners are to act in original jurisdiction in settling the purchases, as well as in appellate jurisdiction, and if one of the Commissioners happens to put the purchase-money too high, how is the Treasury to be protected?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
In answer to the right hon. Gentleman, I may say there is no protection under this or any other possible scheme against the security being bad except the character of the gentlemen who fix the price. In regard to the other question, as I have already stated, undoubtedly it would equally be the right of the Fair Rent Commissioners as of the Purchase Commissioners to act in the purchase of estates in the first instance; but the amount of work upon their shoulders, which has been so frequently alluded to by hon. Gentlemen opposite, would no doubt cause the great bulk of the work to be left to the Land Purchase Commissioners.
§ *(8.6.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I only wish to say that we have been told luring the discussion on this Amendment, that to introduce the Fair Rent Commissioners into the land purchase work means to increase the amount that will be paid to the landlords, and in reply I wish to say that the hon. Member who introduced the clause does not represent landlords at all. His whole interest is that the tenant-farmers should get the best bargain possible. Thousands of tenant-farmers in my hon. Friend's constituency have already purchased their holdings, and hundreds have done so in my own constituency. That cannot be said of the constituencies of the hon. Members for the Scotland Division and West Belfast. I and my hon. Friend represent tenant-farmers, and therefore our interest is that those tenant-farmers should get the 68 best possible terms. How can it be said, unless we are both fools and knaves, that we are making this proposal in the interest of the landlords? I say this as a protest against the attack made by the right hon. Member for Derby, who seems to have got South Tyrone on the brain.
§ (8.8.) MR. MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
It is idle to say that this clause is a tenant's Amendment. On the first appearance of the clause to which an Amendment is now moved, both the Chief Secretary and the Attorney General for Ireland were challenged to say whether it was not suggested and did not originate in the Law Room of Dublin Castle, whether they had seen the clause before it appeared as an Amendment on the Paper, and no reply was given. The hon. Member who moved the clause has made no answer to that.
§ MR. MACNEILL
This digression was to give the hon. Gentleman another opportunity of explaining how this clause arose.
§ MR. MACNEILL
I am most anxious that this Amendment should be accepted. To Irish Members, especially to those who represent agricultural and pastoral constituencies, the success of the Bill is of vital importance, but the clause as it stands, without some such Amendment as this moved by my hon. Friend, will destroy the efficacy of the Bill; the change in the personnel of the administration will imperil the success of the Bill, and what the Amendment proposes is to eliminate the dangerous feature in the clause, and to give the Judicial Commissioner of the Land Court full power on appeal of dealing with land purchase, but not conferring such power on the Fair Rent Commissioners. The Judicial Commissioner would adjudicate on land purchase cases, and appeals would be heard by him with the two Purchase Commissioners sitting with him. There can be no objection to a Judge thus hearing an appeal from his 69 own decision, and under the old Judicature Act it used to be done continually. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby must recollect many such instances of a Judge sitting with others to hear an appeal from his own decision. There is no idea of animus or prejudice in such an arrangement. Why not permit the one Department in Ireland which has been administered with success, to continue its administration? Why should there be this packing of the Bench? With Mr. Wrench's influence there will be no justice to the tenant, and his interposition in this Department will cost thousands of pounds to the Exchequer. His appointment under the Act of 188] was as a friend of the landlords. Messrs. MacCarthy and Lynch have acted with a true sense of their position, and they have given every satisfaction, saving the Exchequer £83,000; why, then, are these men of less experience to be placed over their heads? There can be but one object; at any rate, whether designed or not, the effect will be to create an inflated market for the landlords, and to give the favourites of the Government an exaggerated price for their land. The Amendment of my hon. Friend would clear away all that. This amalgamation of the Departments is an absurd idea—the duties of the two Departments are quite distinct. The Fair Rent Commissioners have no experience in land purchase, and Mr. Wrench has far less experience in the arrangement of the complicated details of land transfer than those over whom he is to be placed as an appellate authority. Mr. Wrench and his colleague will be removed from the Department, when the work is in arrear, to act as a Court of Appeal in all land purchase questions.
§ COLONEL WARING
I rise to order, Sir. I ask are we now discussing a Court of Appeal or the Amendment to this clause?
§ MR. MACNEILL
The question before us is whether there shall be added the Judicial Commissioner to the present two Purchase Commissioners, or whether there shall be an addition of three Commissioners, two of them laymen. I do not understand the interruption. I have 70 been candid in the expression of my opinion of what the effect of the clause without this Amendment will be. If the clause passes without this Amendment it will be but a mere contrivance to put the money of the taxpayers into the pockets of the landlords. Having regard to the discussions that have taken place, I think more harm has been done to land purchase by the introduction of this clause than if the Bill had not been introduced at all. It has been shown that the intention is not to carry out land purchase in a fair and reasonable manner. The Government are preparing, I believe, for a dissolution; they wish to pack the Commission in the interest of their supporters, and to override the Commissioners who have hitherto administered land purchase honestly and well. We feel indignant at this proceeding. We have not been able to discuss this clause properly in Committee, and this is the first time in my Parliamentary experience, when an important proposal like this, introduced not ostensibly by the Government, but really settled by them, has been withdrawn from Committee discussion. We offer a fair compromise. It cannot be said that Mr. Bewley is predisposed to favour the tenants' side of these questions; if anything, he is on the landlords' side; but I have the fullest confidence in his integrity and uprightness. The Government refuse this compromise, and I believe the clause is a contrivance to put in power men who will favour the supporters of the present Government after the General Election, and our victory therein. (8.20.)
§ *(8.51.) MR. KNOX
In rising to support this Amendment, I may say I have no personal feeling against any individual Commissioner. As a representative of the tenants, however, I believe it would be wrong to disturb the present balance between the landlords' and the tenants' representatives on the Land Purchase Commission. It has been assumed by many speakers, and I think among others by the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), that the present Land Purchase Commissioners are both men who are generally reputed to be on the tenants' side. I think it is generally acknow- 71 ledged in Ireland that, though both men are fair, Mr. MacCarthy inclines to the side of the tenants, while Mr. Lynch inclines to the side of the landlords. Mr. Lynch has done many things which we on this side of the House have thought it our duty to call attention to. He sanctioned sales to planters on the Luggercurran Estate, and he sanctioned sales on the estate of Lord Waterford to tenants who, as we contend, were intimidated by the threat of eviction.
(8.53.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ *(8.55.) MR. KNOX
I have been pursuing the operation described last night as "mining in Hansard," and I find that when the Commission was constituted, the learned gentleman who represented the legal aspects of the case, laid it down that these two gentlemen had been appointed because one of them was on the side of the tenants and the other on the side of the landlords. I refer to the speech of Mr. Holmes, who was then Attorney General for Ireland, on the 10th of August, 1885. At that time the Conservative Government had strong hopes of being supported by the Irish vote in Great Britain, and on those hopes based its expectation of a return to power after the General Election. Still, though the Government of that day was, on the whole, actuated not so much by any wish to be fair as by a wish to obtain the support of Irish Nationalists, I will assume that at any rate they sometimes expressed their own opinions. Mr. Holmes said (Hansard, Third Series, Vol. CCC., p. 1622);The Government were anxious, inasmuch as the Bill dealt with the interests of both landlords and tenants, that the two Commissioners to be appointed under it should be, as far as possible, representative of the interests of those two parties. The question of who the Commissioners should be to whom the administration of the Bill should be intrusted, had been a matter of earnest consideration on the part of Her Majesty's Government. After the most mature consideration, they were now in a position to submit to the House the names of two gentlemen whose past career and acquaintance with the subject, as well as the knowledge which hon. Members possessed of them, would, he thought, entitle their choice to the approval of the House. Mr. John George MacCarthy was for many years a Member of that House. When the Land Act of 1881 72 came into operation he was appointed a Sub-Commissioner, and from that time up to the present he had been engaged in carrying out the Land Act of 1881. Though it was difficult to say that any gentleman had given entire satisfaction in the carrying out of that important measure, yet it would be admitted by everyone that Mr. MacCarthy, as far as it was possible to do so, had carried out the measure in a spirit of fairness end equity to all parties concerned. While he was justified in saying that Mr. MacCarthy's sympathies were with the tenants, yet he was sure that in carrying out this legislation he would do nothing that was not just. The second Commissioner it was proposed to appoint was Mr. Stanislaus Lynch, who had been a Registrar of the Landed Estates Court for many years.I call attention to this passage chiefly to show that the Government which appointed Mr. MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch did so because they believed one was on the one side, and the other on the other side. This is not all the evidence I have that the landlords were satisfied with the gentlemen originally appointed. I think it will be admitted that no stronger advocate of landlordism ever sat in the House of Commons than the late Colonel King-Harman, and he was a strong supporter of the appointments. In fact, he went so far as to move that the salaries of the Commissioners should be increased from £2,000 to £3,000. In 1888, when it was proposed to make a new grant for land purchase, the author of the Irish land purchase legislation, Lord Ashbourne, spoke in the highest terms of these two gentlemen. Speaking in the House of Lords on the 4th of December, 1888, he said (Hansard, Third Series, Vol. CCCXXXL., p. 983)—I venture to say that the discussions demonstrated the absolute, the entire, and the unqualified success of the Act of 1885. The testimony came from all sides and from all sorts and conditions of men—from merchants, traders, landlords, tenants, Tories, those who have the misfortune not to be Tories, and a variety of other politicians whom it is not easy to describe by any particular name. All men who have considered its working have given their testimony in favour of the working of the Purchase Act of 1885. With regard to the criticisms made in the House of Commons and the Press, I think I am entitled to say it was conceded by all, that the administration of the Act by the Committee to which it was intrusted was an honest, a capable, an upright, and a perfectly fair administration. It was cautious, it was able, it was economical.He went on to say— 73Not one single abuse or anything verging on an abuse has been stated or even suggested in regard to the working of the Act.I do not think one could appeal to stronger evidence. Against this, we have the bitter words used by the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), without anything else to show that these gentlemen have not been properly carrying out the Act. It is now proposed that three gentlemen who are representative of the landlords are to be put in to disturb the balance. As it is the arrangement is fair, as the landlords' and tenants' men can fight it out together. The proposal made by the hon. Member is to bring in three men who will be able to vote down the present Purchase Commission, even when they are agreed. My hon. Friend proposes to allow the Judicial Commissioner only to come in. I do not think Mr. Justice Bewley has shown himself to be a strong representative of the tenants. On the contrary, I know him to have been a strong Conservative, and a strong representative of the landlords.
§ *MR. KNOX
Well, I believe he was—what is more Tory than the Tories themselves—a Liberal Unionist. At any rate he was a strong representative of the landlord interest. I know that in one case in County Wexford it was proposed to have an arbitration to settle differences between landlord and tenant. The landlord's arbitrator was appointed, and an hon. Friend of mine was appointed to arbitrate for the tenants; they met together to try and appoint an umpire. My hon. Friend suggested 12 names, including those of more than one hon. Member sitting on the opposite side of the House. Every one of them was refused by the representative of the landlord, and the man he suggested was the gentleman who is now Mr. Justice Bewley. Evidently intelligent landlords know that the man who, of all others, is likely to do the landlords' work is a Liberal Unionist, who is looking for a place under a Tory Government. We say, 74 if you like, bring in Mr. Justice Bewley, as he is undoubtedly an able lawyer, but we ask you to be content with having a majority of one in favour of the landlords on the Land Purchase Commission, and not to ask for a majority of four to one. Though the Sub-Commissioners are most of them in favour of the landlords, they are not so much in their favour as those Commissioners, who are perpetually raising rents fixed by the sub-Commissioners. There is one County Court Judge in Ireland, and one only, who has any popular sympathies—Mr. Watters. He is Chairman of Quarter Sessions and County Court Judge in the Counties of Cavan, Leitrim, and Waterford. I have looked at the last Report of the Land Commission to see how rents have been fixed when appeals were made against his decisions, and I find that in Cavan there has been an average rise of 6.9, in Leitrim of 7.8, and in Waterford of 13'5. It is therefore clear that when the rents are fixed by a man who is known to be a representative of the tenants, they are raised very largely by the Commissioners. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) has boasted in this House that he and the hon. Member for South Londonderry (Mr. Lea) represent the tenants. They know very well that neither one nor the other would have been in this House but for the active support of the landlords and the landlords' bailiffs. When the hon. Member for South Tyrone did take an independent attitude the Orangemen turned on him because he was not sufficiently supporting the English garrison in Ireland. I admit there are tenants in Ireland who are foolish enough to support the hon. Members for South Tyrone and South Derry, but before the next General Election I hope to be able to explain to those tenants how their Representatives have played them false in this House. I venture to think they count too much on the division of the Party below the Gangway if they believe that the tenants of South Tyrone and South Derry are willing to be fooled any longer by them. On the ground of equity between landlord and tenant, as well as on the ground of fair dealing between man and man, we have an unanswerable case against the proposal of the hon. Member for South Derry. 75 We ask the Government for a fair proposal, and what have they offered us? Though they admit that the Fair Rent Commissioners will be busy for some time dealing with the fair rent cases, yet they insist upon Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Wrench, when they like, shall have the same power as Mr. MacCarthy and Mr. Lynch of dealing with applications in the first instance. I ask, why is this? I should like to explain the modus operandi to the House. There are four landlord men—including Mr. Lynch—and there is one unfortunate representative of the tenants, namely, Mr. MacCarthy. These gentlemen will come together under the last section of this clause to make rules, and when they do I venture to prophesy that it will be arranged that Mr. Justice Bewley, the landlord head of the syndicate, will be empowered to settle the rota. He will arrange, if he likes, to hand over to Mr. MacCarthy the settlement of estates where the prices agreed upon are known to be low; if he likes, he will hand over to Mr. Lynch estates near the border line; and he will pick out the plums for Mr. Wrench in those cases where he knows that some prominent supporter of the Government, like the Duke of Abercorn, is going to sell his estate. We know how this will work. The sting of this provision is in its tail, and I should not so strongly have pressed the Amendment of my hon. Friend if the clause had not contained this rulemaking provision. If this sub-section is carried, it will go a great way towards destroying all confidence in the administration of the land purchase law in Ireland. We give you a majority on the Commission; why do you want your whole pound of flesh out of the unfortunate tenants? We let you have Mr. Justice Bewley, your own creation, and Mr. Lynch, whom your predecessors appointed as a representative of the landlords. Will not these two suffice without bringing in a fourth, to outvote the representatives of the tenants? I say that unless some reasonable Amendment is accepted this clause will arouse the indignation of the Irish tenants, and they will have good ground for indignation if ever men had in this world. We were hoping that through this Bill something would be done to arrest the flight of our 76 people from our shores—that flight which has been going on with such hateful haste during the past 10 years; but because Mr. Lynch and Mr. MacCarthy have done what they could to root a remnant of the old race in the old soil, the hon. Member for South Derry and the hon. Member for South Tyrone came down here to propose a scheme by which the Purchase Commissioner, who has the confidence of the tenants, may be out-voted by landlords' men. I say that never in the whole history of Parliamentary control of the Executive in Ireland has there been a more flagrant attempt to do a gross injustice to men who have tried to do their duty as between man and man. The Amendment the Chief Secretary suggests as a compromise is worth nothing. It does not touch the real mischief of the clause; therefore we shall have to fight this provision word by word and inch by inch, so long as we are able to do so under the Rules of the House. We have a solemn duty to discharge to the men who sent us here, and if we did not place before our people, before the constituents of some of the Ulster Members, and before the public of Great Britain, this gross bit of political partisanship and partizan jobbery, we should be neglecting our duty as honest public men.
§ *(9.23.) MR. WEBB (Waterford. W.)
I feel so strongly on this clause that I do not think I should be doing my duty if I did not say a few words in connection with it. I think that the Amendment, although it will not do all that I, in common with other hon. Members, desire, will have considerable effect in ameliorating the objectionable effects of the proposed changes. What are the main objections which have been brought against this clause from this side of the House? It is proposed that additional work should be thrown on the Fair Rent Commissioners, while it has been pointed out time after time that the Fair Rent Commissioners are already greatly in arrear with their work, and that, at least, on one of them great additional re- 77 sponsibility will be thrown in connection with the congested districts. Well, if arrears exist in the Fair Rent Court now, how much more likely is it that they will continue in that Court when this clause comes into force? Then, the two gentlemen now administering land purchase have the confidence of the country, not being biased on one side or the other; and it appears to me that on the ground of good government and everything else the Land Purchase Department should not be interfered with in any way. I believe that the Judicial Commissioner may be able to rise above his antecedents, as men like him frequently do, and will make an efficient Court of Appeal. But if this clause is passed in its present form, turn and twist the matter as you will, I hold that it will be impossible for the Irish people to believe anything else than that this arrangement is made in the interests of the landlords as against the tenants. Unless the clause is very materially amended, the Bill will fail to effect that good which has been expected of it. It is because I believe that this Amendment of my hon. Friend will, to a certain extent, make the clause workable that I intend to support it.
§ (9.29.) MR. PIERCE MAHONY
I only desire to offer one or two words of protest against the action of the Government in not accepting the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast. I do not think the clause as it stands carries out amalgamation, for it does not give all the Commissioners the same powers. All that it docs is to give the Commissioners in a Court where the work is in arrear owing to bad management power to interfere in the work of a Court where there are no arrears. You do not propose to give the men who have shown themselves capable business men, and who have managed their Department well, any power in the Department which has been managed badly—a ridiculous proposition. You say you are going to improve the conduct of business in the Land Purchase Department, and the moans you employ are the introduction of men who have shown no capacity for 78 management in their own Department. I believe it is now impossible to place these gentlemen in a position of equality—those appointed under the Act of 1881 and those appointed under the Act of 1885. I doubt whether it is competent for a private Member to make the proposal, and I do not even think that the Government can, under the terms of the preliminary Resolution at this stage, propose an alteration in the salaries of the Commissioners, and the existence of this doubt shows the difficulty in which we are placed by the way in which the Government have acted in regard to this clause. Had a clause of this kind been in the Bill originally, the salaries and pensions of these gentlemen would have been dealt with specially in the Resolution; but it is introduced now on this Report stage of the Bill not by the Government, but by a private Member in connection with the Government, and we have not had the opportunity of Committee discussion upon it. I protest against the unfair way in which we have been treated.
§ (9.35.) MR. COLLERY (Sligo, N)
I only desire to say a few words. Before I became a Member of this House I often had occasion to remark the manner in which, in regard to Irish measures, suggestions from Irish Members were ignored or rejected, and in the result it is become apparent that in consequence of this attitude of the Government, and the desires and wishes of the Irish people being thus ignored, much of the time occupied in this House with Irish legislation has been wasted. During the short time I have been in this House that earlier impression has been confirmed, and I have seen the same course pursued. This Bill, brought in by the Chief Secretary, has been framed no doubt with the desire to benefit the Irish people. In the passing of this Bill——
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I am sorry to in terrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I must remind him that it is not now competent for him to discuss the Bill. The Question before the House is this particular Amendment proposed to this clause.
§ MR. COLLERY
My inexperience in the Rules of Debate must be my excuse. I bow to your ruling, Sir. I was about to say that the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend has been in a like manner rejected this evening. The proposal in the Amendment is a reasonable one; it is simply that the Purchase Commission should be strengthened by the addition of the Judicial Land Commissioner. On Friday we discussed, and so far as we could we resisted, the introduction of this clause moved by the hon. Member for South Derry; but in spite of our protestations the clause has been accepted, and now this Amendment is proposed with the objection of facilitating the working of this provision. It cannot be said that the proposal will be prejudicial to the interest of either side in land purchase transactions. If the Government are really in earnest in the intention to confer by this Bill a benefit upon the tenants of Ireland they will accept this Amendment. To do so will allay a considerable amount of irritation which has already been excited in Ireland. If, on the other hand, the Government reject it—and with their majority I fear they will—it will go to strengthen the feeling in Ireland that the Irish people have no hope of a recognition of their claims put forward by their Representatives at the hands of a British Legislature.
§ (9.41.) MR. McCARTAN (Down, S.)
I congratulate my hon. Friend upon his Amendment. I have just arrived from Ireland, and I can assure the House that the farmers of Ulster are filled with alarm at the thought of this clause, introduced by the hon. Member for South Derry, becoming law. I cannot help thinking that the Attorney General for Ireland, if left to himself and free from the control of right hon. Gentlemen who know very little of Ireland, would willingly accept the Amendment. What is the Amendment? The addition to the gentlemen who transact the purchase business, the present Judicial Commissioner, a creature of the present Government, 80 though I am bound to say his decisions have given satisfaction to all parties. I cannot say so much of the action of the other two Commissioners, Mr. Wrench and Mr. Fitzgerald. I know that when appeals are taken from the decisions of Sub-Commissioners the farmers concerned are in a state of despair; they expect no better treatment from Mr. Wrench than from their landlords. The Commissioners will not even sit in places convenient for the hearing of appeals. On more than one occasion I have called attention to the fact that the Commissioners have sat in one county to hear appeals from another county. It is not long since that a number of farmers in the constituency of the hon. Member for South Derry complained bitterly of the expense and inconvenience of having to attend in Belfast for the hearing of appeals. I do not know that farmers have absolute faith in the two Purchase Commissioners, but I know they have more confidence in that Court than in any Court appointed by the Government. But they foresee that this clause is fraught with fatal consequences to their interests, and throughout Ulster I have heard constant complaint and apprehension expressed. I am sure if we could poll the farmers in South Tyrone and South Derry we should find an almost unanimous opinion against the addition of these Rent Commissioners to the Purchase Department. Let me give the House an idea of how Messrs. Wrench and Fitzgerald work the Land Commission at the present time. When appeals are made from the Sub-Commissioners a valuer is sent down. There is a valuer, Mr. Bomford, formerly a Sub-Commissioner and landlord partisan, and he professing an accurate knowledge of land will fix the rent to pence even, and however he increases the judicial rent, the Commissioners adopt his estimate, and the tenants are put to heavy expense. A short time since Mr. Bomford went to value a farm in my county, and with him as assistant was the editor and proprietor of the landlord newspaper of Ulster. These things being done now, naturally we are apprehensive of what may be done under these Commissioners in their new office. Confidence in the purchase system will be gone, this clause will defeat the object of the Bill, and leave the land 81 question in a worse state than it is in now.
§ (9.48.) The House divided:—Ayes 101; Noes 69.—(Dir. List, No. 271.)
§ *(9.57.) MR. KNOX
I have now to move to insert, after "any member of the Land Commission," the words "who is not also a member of the Congested Districts Board." It will be remembered that under this Bill, which deals not merely with land purchase, there is a new body constituted with duties as miscellaneous and difficult as were ever allotted to public servants. The Congested Districts Board is to consist of the Chief Secretary, a member of the Land Commission, whom the Lord Lieutenant may nominate to specially represent agriculture and forestry, and five non-official members. We know that the Chief Secretary has other duties to perform, that he will be often in London, and can pay only occasional visits to the congested districts; we know that the non-official members will not give constant attendance because they are to be unpaid, and unpaid officials attend now and then and not with regularity. So the actual work of that Board will fall upon the member of the Land Commission who is a member of the Board. I may be allowed to recall to the recollection of the House what the work of the Board is to be. The Congested Districts Board will have to administer the interest of £1,500,000; they will have the arrangement of migration and emigration, and settling the migrant or emigrant under favourable circumstances in the place to which he is transported; they will have to arrange the amalgamation of small holdings, and I cannot conceive a more difficult or onerous duty. It is one that landlords, who have given the most attention to it, find the most difficult; and if it is to be done successfully, it must be done with the greatest consideration of family interests, or you will create faction fights in the district. Further, the Board have to provide that no small holding purchased under the Act shall be sold. There are all sorts of ways of selling a holding besides selling it in open Court or by auction. In some 82 parts of Ulster one of the commonest ways of paying a debt is to give a man the loan of a field; so it will be a difficult thing to prevent the sale in some way or other of these holdings. The Board have to provide for various details concerning amalgamations. They will also have to provide suitable seed potatoes and seed oats for sale to occupiers, not merely in the congested district counties, but in other similar districts in other parts of Ireland. They will have further to assist in the aiding and developing of agriculture, of forestry, and of the breeding of live stock and poultry, and of weaving, spinning, and fishing, including the construction of piers and harbours, and the supplying of fishing boats and gear, and industries connected with and subservient to fishing, and any other suitable industries. Further, they are to see that none of the seed they buy is sold under cost price. These are only a selection of the multifarious duties which are to be performed by these gentlemen, and I do not think it will in any way make their task an easier one, that they have to perform their duties on a sum which is entirely insufficient. I think that the honoured public servant to whom the Chief Secretary entrusts the management of the Congested Districts Board should, at any rate, not have any other duties thrust upon him. It may be said there is one objection to this Amendment, and that is, that we do not know in terms who is to be the Land Commissioner who is to be the Member of the Congested Districts Board. The Chief Secretary said he would give us the information on Report. I suppose we shall get it when we reach Clause 15. We have, however, a good idea who is to be appointed to the Board. We have heard from the eloquent spokesman of the landlord party, the hon. Member for South Tyrone, that Mr. Wrench is the only member of the Land Commission who knows anything about agriculture. I suppose we may take it for granted that Mr. Wrench is to be appointed to this Board. I venture to think that Mr. Wrench will have plenty to do in minding the Congested Districts Board, in addition to the work of fixing rent, without giving him anything to do with 83 land purchase. I put it seriously to the Government that if the gentleman appointed to the Congested Districts Board is to do any good in the congested districts, his time will be sufficiently occupied with the work of the Board, without giving him a share in the very difficult and onerous work of land purchase.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 3, after the word "Commission," to insert the words "who is not also a member of the Congested Districts Board."—(Mr. Knox.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (10.8.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There can be no doubt, of course, as the hon. and learned Gentleman observes, that the member of the Land Commission who has to take part in the work of the Congested Districts Board will have less time than his colleagues to devote to the work of land purchase; but I do not think that is a reason for altogether excluding him from the work of land purchase. I do not think it necessary to do more at the moment than to point out what I think the hon. and learned Gentleman has overlooked, and that is that if the Amendment were adopted it would be in the power of the Lord Lieutenant to ostracise any particular member of the Land Commission, and shut him out from performing any land purchase work. For instance, if the Lord Lieutenant wished to ostracise Mr. MacCarthy he might appoint that gentleman to the Congested Districts Board.
§ (10.10.) MR. SEXTON
My hon. Friend the Member for Cavan (Mr. Knox) has suggested that Mr. Wrench is the gentleman most likely to be appointed to be the member of the Congested Districts Board. In reply, the Chief Secretary suggests that Mr. MacCarthy may be the member appointed to the Board. I think we must regard that suggestion as a flight of humour, rather than as a serious contribution to the Debate.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
What I said was that the appointment rests with the Lord Lieutenant, and that if there was a Lord Lieutenant holding views attributed to gentlemen on this side of the House, and who thought Mr. MacCarthy was a person inimical to the landlords, all he would have to do would be to appoint Mr. MacCarthy to the Congested Districts Board.
§ MR. SEXTON
Of course, the appointments under the Act will be made by the Chief Secretary. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say there is any possibility of appointing Mr. MacCarthy rather than Mr. Wrench to the Board? I think the moment has come when it would be convenient for the House to learn what the Chief Secretary intends to do with the Congested Districts Board. I have no doubt he has his proposals in his tin box. It would be very convenient if he told us straight out whether he means to appoint Mr. Wrench or not; it would simplify matters very much. The Commissioner, whoever his is, who is put on the Congested Districts Board, will not be able to do anything else. My hon. and learned Friend was well within the truth when he said that if any landlord tried to do on his own estate what this Commissioner will have to do in seven counties it would take up all his time. I submit that either the Chief Secretary should tell us the name of the gentleman he proposes to appoint, or that at any rate he is not going to appoint one of the Land Purchase Commissioners.
§ (10.15.) MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I am amazed at the obstinacy of the Government in resisting every Amendment proposed to this clause. Under Clause 20 the Congested Districts Board will have to provide seed potatoes and seed oats for sale to occupiers, to assist in aiding and developing agriculture, forestry, the breeding of live stock and poultry, weaving, spinning, fishing, including the construction of piers and harbours, and the supply of fishing boats and gear, and industries connected with and sub- 85 servient to fishing, and any other suitable industries. Why, since the days of Saturn there never was an earthly body who had so much work to do as this Commissioner will have to do. It has been suggested that this Commissioner is required for emigration purposes. Why the right hon. Gentleman should not be satisfied with what is taking place in that direction at the present moment is more than I can make out. What possible argument can be used against this Amendment? The Chief Secretary suggests that the Lord Lieutenant could take away Mr. MacCarthy from the work of land purchase if this Amendment were adopted. I do not think the Government would dare to take away Mr. MacCarthy; it would be absurd for the Government to do so. The right hon. Gentleman is really the most hopeless man I have ever had to deal with in Debate. He seems to have no regard for Parliamentary time and convenience, or for the interest of his own Bill and Party. His conduct with regard to this clause is calculated to seriously injure the prospects of his own Bill, and is putting into the hands of his political opponents in this country one of the most powerful weapons ever used against him.
§ (10.24.) MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
I am not very sanguine as to the working of the Congested Districts Board. I think the principal duty of the Board will be to emigrate our people in greater numbers than they are being-emigrated at present. The Bill confers various powers on the Board, but when we look at the constitution of the Board we find there is only one person who will be responsible for the work. There are to be five unofficial members, and the Chief Secretary and one official member. The bulk of the work of the Board, therefore, will devolve on the official member. We shall all admit that the Board, if it does its business properly, will not be able to afford to give its only real member to another Body. By his Amendment my hon. Friend merely asks that the Commissioner appointed to the Board shall be compelled to attend to his duties on the Board, that he shall not 86 throw his responsibilities on others, and betake himself to other fields of labour. I hope my hon. Friend will press his Amendment to a Division if necessary.
§ (10.26.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
The Chief Secretary has suggested that some Lord Lieutenant, in order to please the landlord party, might appoint Mr. MacCarthy a member of the Congested Districts Board. That, of course, would be absurd on the face of it, I am surprised the right hon. Gentleman should have treated this matter with such levity. Everything is in favour of the proposition so ably put before us by my hon. Friend (Mr. Knox), who has administered many hard knocks upon Her Majesty's Government. If the work of the Congested Districts Board is to be properly done, it is obvious the Commissioner appointed to the Board will not be able to turn his attention to anything else but the work of the Board. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, even at the eleventh hour, to listen to the arguments which have been placed before him, and to accept the Amendments which have been put forward on this side of the House.
§ (10.30.) The House divided:—Ayes 78; Noes 129.—(Div. List, No. 272.)
§ (10.40.) MR. SEXTON
I now beg to move an Amendment which is not on the Paper, and I feel much confidence that the Government will accept it. In fact, if I knew that the Government had drawn this clause themselves I should have supposed that the words I propose to omit had crept in by inadvertence. I move to strike out the words "Part V. of." I desire the attention of the hon. Member for South Derry to this. He is the representative of farmers, the champion of the tenants of Ulster, and I do not know whether he instructed the drafting of the clause, or whether he relied on the official draftsman for the skill with which the clause is drafted. The Attorney General, lam sure, will at once appreciate the effect of my proposal. By the limitation to Part 87 V. of the Act of 1881 the amalgamation is imperfect, it is all on one side. The Rent Commissioners are allowed to amalgamate with the Purchase Commissioners, but not the Purchase Commissioners with the Rent Commissioners. I understand that the object of the Chief Secretary is to place the four Commissioners on an equality in respect to salaries, pensions, rights, duties, status, and jurisdiction, but it is obvious that by limiting the reference to Part V. of the Act of 1881 the amalgamation which the right hon. Gentleman says he wishes to make symmetrical and complete will be made imperfect. Mr. Justice Bewley, Mr. Fitzgerald, and Mr. Wrench will have the right to go into the Land Purchase Department, but the Land Purchase Commissioners will not have the right of going into the Department of the Fair Rent Commissioners. With confidence, then, I move to strike out these words, as a step towards that symmetrical completeness.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 3, to leave out the words "Part V. of."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'Part V. of' stand part of the Clause."
§ *(10.43.) MR. MADDEN
I will not discuss the merits of the complete amalgamation embodied in the Land Department Bill, or the measure of partial amalgamation carried out by the clause; but I may point out that the complete amalgamation which is the Government policy, and which the hon. Gentleman desires to carry out, cannot be attained under the Amendment.
§ *MR. MADDEN
I thought the hon. Member expressed approval of complete amalgamation, and introduced this Amendment as an approach towards the policy embodied in the Land Department Bill. However, I wish to point out that the complete amalgamation which is the Government policy will not be carried out by the Amendment. Part V. is the portion of the 88 Act dealing with land purchase. The Amendment is quite irrelevant to fair rent and the general jurisdiction of the Purchase Commissioners under the Act of 1881, because the interpretation that has been put on the words in that Act is that the Purchase Commissioners are not only specially to attend to the work of land purchase, but exclusively to attend to it. I do not want to go into the merits of partial and complete amalgamation, but if complete amalgamation is to be carried out it must be by a substantive enactment, and not by the Amendment now before the House.
§ (10.47.) SIR W. HARCOURT
In his ingenious argument on technicalities the Attorney General has used a very appropriate expression, "partial amalgamation." The word "partial" has two meanings, and in one sense the arrangement under this clause is most "partial." By this partiality the Rent Commissioners will come when they please, and with full authority, and with their "unfortunate non-popular sentiments," to operate in land purchase transactions; but lest the men with popular sentiments should operate in rent-fixing, the authors of the clause adopt this partial amalgamation. A more partial arrangement than this it is not possible to conceive. The explanation of the Attorney General for Ireland makes more conspicuous the object of the whole transaction. The object is that Mr. Wrench shall be allowed to go into the purchase operation, and that Mr. MacCarthy shall not by any possibility be able to go into the fair rent one. That is what is called a "partial" amalgamation. That will be perfectly understood in Ireland, and it will be perfectly understood in England, and the whole object of these Debates is to make this matter thoroughly understood in this House and outside of it. It is, I venture to say, a most iniquitous amalgamation, giving the balance in one direction, against the interest of the tenantry in Ireland and the taxpayer in England. This is the partial amalgamation from which my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast wishes to eliminate a little of the partiality, and I, from the point of view of the English taxpayer, 89 support him. This should be thoroughly understood. If the landowner gets too little he is to have an appeal, but if there is the most notorious excess of award given by one of the gentlemen who come in from the Fair Rent Court the Government have taken good care, by putting him on the Consolidated Fund, not to make him amenable to the House. I shall take every opportunity of protesting against this partial arrangement.
§ (10.52.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It would be a just criticism to pass on the right hon. Gentleman that he is grossly unfair in his criticisms on the Land Commission and on the Government. But one expects gross unfairness from the right hon. Gentleman, and therefore I make no complaint. What I do complain of is the intolerable tedium of it. I am quite prepared to be misrepresented night after night by hon. Gentlemen, and to hear the basest motives attributed to the Government and members of the Land Commission whom the right hon. Gentleman happens to object to. That I expect. But really I think the right hon. Gentleman should try and introduce some novelty in his attacks. I did not admire the speech when I first heard it, but I bore with it. Now that I have heard it five-and-twenty times, however, my gorge rises. The thing has become intolerable to Parliamentary usage. I really cannot bring myself to do more than point out to the House that when an argument has been brought forward 25 times and answered 20 times, surely we have heard enough of it.
§ (10.55.) MR. PIERCE MAHONY
I think we might expect some better answer to the Amendment. When my hon. Friend proposed the Amendment I thought it would have been accepted without Debate, so far as the Government are concerned. A few nights ago we heard the right hon. Gentleman opposite speak of a desire to amalgamate the department as a reason for not accepting an Amendment, and now he refuses an Amendment in the direction of amalgamation. This seems to be a game of "heads I win tails you lose." All the amalgamation 90 is against the interest of the tenants. Here are two Land Departments, the one managed in a business-like manner with no complaints against it, the other under heavy arrears of work, and the gentlemen responsible for this latter department are to be allowed to interfere in the work of the first mentioned. Surely we should have presented to us some grounds for this apparently unreasonable proceeding? I can find not one single valid argument brought forward against this Amendment. Two right hon. Gentlemen upon the Front Bench have already spoken, and neither of them has produced one particle of argument against the proposal. What reason underlies this refusal to accept this Amendment? We can only suppose that the Government have some special reason for wishing to put into the Purchase Department the two gentlemen who are now Fair Rent Commissioners, Messrs. Wrench and Fitzgerald, and they must have some special reason for keeping Mr. Lynch and Mr. MacCarthy out of the Fair Rent Department. I think this bears out our contention, when the clause was introduced, that the object is to put upon the Purchase Department two gentlemen in whom the tenants have no confidence. I should have supposed you were anxious to launch this Bill in Ireland under the most favourable circumstances. I cannot understand for a moment how the Government can refuse to accept this Amendment. It is idle to talk of equality—to say that the clause, as it stands, is not a slur on Mr. MacCarthy. The merest child can see it must be a slur—every sensible man in the country will know that it is. The right hon. Gentleman is taking a very short view of the future when he refuses to agree to this Amendment, which is moderate, and against which he has not advanced a solitary argument.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
We on these Benches refuse to be diverted from the discussion of this Amendment by the real or simulated passion of the Chief Secretary, who sometimes tears a passion to tatters for the purpose of diverting the attention of the House from the question at issue. I hope the right hon. 91 Gentleman the Member for Derby will continue to oppose this clause, despite the passionate protests from the Treasury Bench. The Attorney General for Ireland talks of a partial amalgamation—which means three Commissioners friendly to the landlords, and two who act impartially between landlord and tenant and the State. It is absurd to say that there is anything approaching amalgamation, or partial amalgamation, as described by the Attorney General for Ireland, in the arrangement affecting the Purchase Commissioners and the Fair Rent Commissioners. The idea of the Government is that those Commissioners who are in arrears shall have additional work, and those who are not in arrears shall be scrupulously prevented from assisting them. Every proposal which is made on the Irish Benches to strengthen the Commission in the interests of the tenants is rejected, and every proposal that is in the interest of the landlords is clung to with blind and dull obstinacy. The right hon. Gentleman, I believe, aspires to the Leadership of this House, but he shows himself already disqualified for that position by his blind and obstinate attitude with regard to this clause.
§ *MR. KNOX
As at present constituted, the Land Commissioners under the Acts of 1885 and 1881 had precisely the same status—the only difference being that under the Act of 1885 they are confined to land purchase, while under the Act of 1881 they are not allowed to attend to land purchase. The effect of the Amendment would be to remove that restriction, and would allow the Commissioners under both Acts to take part in land purchase.
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question, 'That the words of the Clause down to the word "by," in line 7, stand part of the Clause,' be now put."
§ Question put, "That the words of the Clause down to the word 'by,' in line 7, stand part of the Clause,' be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 143; Noes 87.—(Div. List, No. 273.)92
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words of the Clause down to the word 'by,' in line 7, stand part of the Clause."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 143; Noes 87.—(Div. List, No. 274.)
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I wish to make a suggestion, which I think will shorten the proceedings. At an earlier stage I suggested a modification of the appeal which I thought was calculated to remove any objection that might be felt on the score that the clause as now drafted might do some injury to the Commissioners of 1885. I then suggested that the Appeal Court should be so arranged that in every case at least one member of the Commission under the Act of 1885 should be a member. I venture now to make a further suggestion. I should be quite prepared to say that for a term of one year, or until the number of appeals unheard was reduced to 1,000, no lay Commissioner under the Act of 1881 should take any part in first proceedings. I cannot help thinking the House will see I have gone a very long way to meet the objections of hon. Members opposite, and I offer the suggestion in the hope that it may be met in the same spirit in which I make it.
§ Further Proceeding on Consideration, as amended, deferred till Thursday.