§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)782
§ Clause 18.
§ (3.58.) MR. M. HEALY (Cork)
My hon. Friend the Member for South Donegal (Mr. MacNeill) has given notice of an Amendment which in his absence I desire to move. I do not think it is necessary I should make an explanation, the intention is obvious.
In page 16, line 36, after "area," to insert "The expression 'tenant' includes the predecessors in title of a tenant who has acquired a holding by descent, devise, or purchase from a preceding tenant."—(Mr. M. Healy.)
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN,) Dublin University
I am not prepared to accept this, and I do not think it is in any way necessary.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (4.0.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name, which tends to qualify the definition of the annual value of the holding. The Bill provides that—The expression 'annual value of the holding' means the annual sum which at the date of the application for an advance under the Land Purchase Acts is the rent of the holding in respect of which the advance is made, after deducting there from the average annual amount payable by the landlord during the five years next before such date for Poor Rate and Grand Jury cess; but where a judicial rent has not been fixed for the holding, and the purchaser applies to the Land Commission to determine the annual value of the interest purchased in the holding, the said expression means the annual value so determined.The expression "annual value" occurs more than once in the Bill. For instance it occurs in Clause 5, where it is provided thatWhere an advance for the purchase of a holding is less than twenty times the annual value of the holding as defined by this Act, then during the first five years of the term of the purchase annuity the annuity shall be 80 per cent. of such annual value.It is, therefore, quite apparent that if you have a high nominal annual value and the natural attendant consequence, a low number of years' purchase, the result will be that you unduly increase the purchaser's insurance money. The annual value being high and the number of years' purchase being low, the purchaser will be subjected to a far higher burden for five years in the shape of insurance money than if the 783 annual value was low and the insurance money high. One of the objects of my Amendment is to remedy this injustice; it is to provide that the annual value shall not be arbitrary, but shall have some correspondence to the real annual value of the holding. I suggest that we should define the annual value by first defining the rent, and then by qualifying the rent so as to cover the annual value. There are three classes of tenants in Ireland. My Amendment is not pointed at rent as such, or at the payment of rent, but I simply wish to bring the three classes of tenants into line. In the first place, where a judicial rent has been fixed since January, 1886, the date adopted in the Act of 1887, it is proposed that the judicial rent so fixed shall he the judicial rent of the holding. I suggest that the rent in that case shall be considered to be not the judicial rent, but the rent as adjusted under the Act of 1887. In addition to bringing the rents more in accordance with the actual annual value at the present moment, and in that way by a reduction from the nominal to the actual rent, increase, no doubt, the number of years' purchase, the Amendment will have the effect somewhat of lightening in many cases the burden of the insurance money which, as the Bill at present stands, will very heavily and unjustly press upon the holders who purchase at a small number of years. At present there is no real basis of annual value on which the tenants can proceed in negotiating the purchase of estates. It is manifest that the tenants whose rents have been subject to judicial action since 1886 will be inclined to buy at a higher number of years' purchase than the tenants whose rents were fixed before 1886, and whose rents are more in excess of the real nature of the land than the rents fixed since that date. If the Amendment is adopted, the rents fixed before 1886 and the rents which have never been touched will approximate in their real relation to the value of the holdings of those whose rents have been fixed since 1886. I beg to move my Amendment.
In page 17, line 1, after the words "the expression," to insert the words "'rent of the holding' means—(1) in the case of a holding for which a judicial rent was fixed since the
first day of January one thousand eight hundred and eighty-six, such judicial rent; (2) in the case of a holding for which a judicial rent was fixed before the first day of January one thousand eight hundred and eighty-six, such sum as was determined by the Land Commission under 'The Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1887' to be equitably payable for such holding in the year commencing from the gale day next before the passing of that Act; (3) in the case of a holding for which no judicial rent has been fixed, then there may be found the average rate by which the rents, previous to the date of the passing of this Act, fixed by the Land Commission in the same electoral division, exceed or are less than the rateable value of the holdings in such division, and the rent of the holding, for the purposes of this Act, shall be deemed to be fixed at such average rate over or under the rateable value, and this rule may be applied whether such holding is or is not a holding for which a judicial rent can be fixed."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (4.13.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
The object of the hon. Member, as I understand it, is not at all to deal with the question of rent as between landlord and tenant, but to find some machinery by which, as far as possible, the 80 per cent. of the annual value which the tenant has to pay under Section 5 of the Bill shall be made to press with equal weight upon every purchasing tenant alike. It will be seen at once that that object, though a perfectly proper one, is not one of vital importance to the tenant himself. The difference between the man on whom the 80 per cent. does not press very heavily and the man on whom it presses somewhat heavily is simple. In the first case, the purchasing tenant will pay up his interest and pay off his debt to the State rather more quickly than the man in the second case will. To carry out his object the hon. Gentleman proposes very far-reaching machinery. As to the 1st sub-section of the Amendment, I need not detain the Committee, because it is practically identical with the proposal of the Bill as it now stands. But in the 2nd sub-section the hon. Member has taken the temporary abatement in the judicial rents based upon the fall of prices subsequent to 1886 as the basis of his permanent arrangement. Of course, it is perfectly true that a judicial rent fixed in 1881 may not bear precisely the same relation 785 to the fair rent now fixed as the rent fixed in 1885. That is inevitable: it is the peculiarity of any system under which from time to time fair rents may be fixed. There are always changes of prices, changes of seasons, changes of fashion, and other changes which will influence the action of the Commissioners in fixing fair rent, and, no doubt, from year to year there will be differences, now in favour of the landlord and now in favour of the tenant. I am distinctly of opinion that we must assume that fair rent is a fair basis of this arrangement, and that to substitute any other basis for it will not necessarily make the arrangement more fair. The hon. Gentleman wishes to take the particular abatement made between 1886 and 1889. That may be fair for a year or two, and may become unfair, and, therefore, I am not disposed to think that we could appeal to the abatements made in those years under the Act of 1887 as affording in any way a more certain and more infallible guide as to the future than the fair rent fixed at any period. By the 3rd sub-section the hon. Gentleman has chosen to plunge very boldly into one of the most thorny and difficult topics which have ever demanded consideration. I do not believe, on examination, that any automatic or general method of defining rent without special examination of the circumstances of each holding will hold water for a moment. The hon. Gentleman proposes to take the average reduction or alteration of rent by the Land Commissioners as compared with the value, and on that he bases his automatic reduction. It will be found that in the same union the difference between the highest reduction and the lowest reduction made by the Land Commissioners is so great that practically to take the average does not represent anything that can be described as a mean between two extremes. As I pointed out yesterday, in one electoral district there are rich grazing farms, and in other electoral districts very small and poor holdings. How can an automatic reduction operate in such a case? Again, a large number of holdings have been converted from tillage into pasture holdings in consequence of the fall in the price of cereals, and wet seasons. There are many other considerations to be taken into account 786 in arriving at a decision. Under all the circumstances, I cannot recommend the Committee to plunge into a system which, however attractive it may be, I am convinced, will work the greatest injustice upon those whom it directly affects. For these reasons, though I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman's view, I think it would be simpler and better to leave the judicial rents as the basis on which the annuity is to be fixed, and, in cases where there is no judicial rent, to let the Land Commissioners, by some rough and ready process, determine what the basis shall be.
§ (4.22.) MR. SEXTON
I doubt whether a "rough and ready process" will do justice all round. I would point out that the Amendment has no bearing whatever on the question of what rent ought to be paid to the landlord, and I would ask Members to dismiss from their minds the notion that it has anything to do with that question. We know nothing whatever of the "rough and ready process" by which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to carry out the second part of his definition. The Chief Secretary admitted on a former occasion that it would be inconvenient to put in motion the laborious machinery of the Land Act for the purpose of determining the annual value of a holding. I invite him or the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland to show that the "rough and ready" method, of which we have yet had no outline, would get nearer to the true annual value than the comparatively simple method which I propose. It may turn out that the right hon. Gentleman's "rough and ready" method may do more mischief than the proposal I make. In regard to Sub-section 2, I should say that the fact that the rents fixed before 1886 were revised in 1887 and again in 1888 and 1889 in consequence of the fall in prices—
§ MR. SEXTON
I say that the fall in prices has not ceased to operate. There is a sufficient body of evidence for the limited purpose of the present Amendment to justify the fixing of the annual value on any holding upon what I think is a sounder basis than that of the 787 shadowy "rough and ready" method of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman's observations about the Poor Law valuation have nothing to do with the question. I did not urge that the Poor Law valuation should be made the basis. I simply asked that the relation between the judicial rent and the Poor Law valuation should be taken as a guide.
§ (4.30.) MR. MACARTNEY
I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that from 1886 to the present year there has been a very considerable rise in the price of corn in Ireland. This is clearly proved by the only statistics available in this House.
§ (4.33.) MR. M. HEALY
The hon. Member may have satisfied himself that there has been a rise in prices, but I do not think he has satisfied anybody else in this House. I would point out that the necessity of having this long definition is the most complete demonstration of the absurdity of the provisions respecting the right hon. Gentleman's fund. With respect to the first part of my hon. Friend's Amendment, the Government and he are in the most complete accord, and they both take judicial rent as the standard of actual value. As regards the second part of the Amendment, the right hon. Gentleman has no better reply than to say that it really does not matter whether the tenant pays a high or a low annuity, because he is purchasing his farm. The Amendment fixes the purchase annuity at a rate which the purchaser will probably be able to pay. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman fixes it at a rate which will, in my opinion, go far to kill land purchase altogether. The reduction of judicial rents was determined on in 1887, because Parliament had been absolutely satisfied, through the machinery of the Cowper Commission, that judicial rents during the six years commencing with the passing of the Act of 1881 had been fixed on much too high a basis, and had left the tenants who had had their rents fixed very much in the position they occupied before the passing of the Act. It is notorious in Ireland that the judicial rents fixed since 1887 have been fixed with much greater care and skill than was formerly the case. There can be no doubt that the administration of the Act has been carried out 788 in a much more careful way, and that the rents will stand the test of examination much more than those fixed previously. Of course, it is not a matter of capital importance; but, if you are to depart from the judicial rents at all, I do not see why, when fixing the amount of the purchase annuity, instead of taking the bare and naked judicial rent, you should not take the rent as equitably modified according to the provisions of the Act of 1881. It is true that the Poor Law valuation could not be taken universally, or anything like universally, as the standard of value. But the point my hon. Friend takes is that the relation between the Poor Law valuation and the judicial rents fixed in the neighbourhood gives a very fair test as to the degree in which the Poor Law valuation has departed from the correct standard of value. It is, therefore, no answer for the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Poor Law valuation was fixed long ago. My hon. Friend's Amendment takes that into consideration, and employs the Poor Law valuation practically as modified by the subsequent experience of the Sub-Commissioners in fixing rents. In that way he arrives at a method which, if adopted, would furnish a very good clue to what the value is. The right hon. Gentleman has complained that my hon. Friend's. Amendment is unnecessarily elaborate, but he seems to forget that his proposal involves an inquiry by the Land Commission in every case equally elaborate before they can ascertain what the judicial rent ought to be.
§ (4.45.) MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)
I believe my hon. Friend attaches more importance to the second part of the Amendment than to the first. Of course, it may be that the judicial rents fixed before 1886 were too high, but that is according to the standard you hold. Hon. Gentlemen on that side no doubt think they are too low, while others think they are too high. But we do not care to enter upon that question. I venture to think it will be well to insert a provision of this sort; and where it is put in operation in the West of Ireland, you could take into account the abatements voluntary or enforced by the landlord during the year previous to the purchase, especially in the case of, judicial rents fixed at the higher rate.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid.)
The first point I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman is, that a manifest injustice would be done to those tenants whose rents were temporarily fixed by the Act of 1887, and I think the Chief Secretary should bear in mind that fact, so that no injustice may be done to those tenants under this Act. The second point is that immense delay must take place if application must be made to the Land Commission, and I think better machinery for the purpose could be devised.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It will be better to leave the Land Commission to determine what methods should be taken to arrive at the annual value. No doubt they will adopt a rough and ready method of doing this, by which, however, substantial justice to the tenant will be done, and by means of which neither delay nor friction in the working of the Act will be caused. For example, they will take into consideration the rent payable, the amount and the circumstances in which it has to be paid, the character of the holding, the character of the reductions made on holdings of a similar kind, and other particulars affording a very fair ground for coming to a conclusion as to what would be the fair annual value on which to base the purchase annuities.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I wish to ask whether the wording of the paragraph does not practically limit the Land Commission in dealing with the annual value, and therefore preclude the Commission from going into the questions which the right hon. Gentleman has indicated? I advocate the principle of a sliding scale in order to produce the minimum of discontent among purchasers in Ireland.
§ (4.55.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 42; Noes 101.—(Div. List, No. 233.)
§ (5.8.) MR. SEXTON
I think it would be only fair to substitute for the arbitrary deductions of poor rate and Grand Jury cess proposed in the clause the actual expenses of the landlord, which would include tithe rent-charge, agent's salary, cost of management, bad debts, and so on, in order to ascertain the annual value of the holding. I beg, therefore, to move 790 to insert words to a view of carrying out this object.
In page 17, line 1, to leave out from the word "means," to the word "determined," in line 11, and insert the words "the rent of the holding, after deducting from that rent the tithe rent-charge, if any, payable to the Land Commission (unless such tithe rent-charge is to be redeemed by the landlord), and the average percentage for expenses in respect of bad debts, rates, or cess, allowed or paid by the landlord, management, repairs, and other like outgoings, if any; and such average percentage shall be ascertained by finding the average percentage on the rent for the time being of the estate of which such holding forms part, to which such expenses have amounted during the five years next before the date of the application for an advance."—(Mr. Sexton.)
That the words 'the annual sum which at the date of the application for an advance under the Land Purchase Acts is' stand part of the Clause.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I contend that the Government have proceeded on a perfectly defensible basis. They do not take into account charges hitherto paid by the landlord, but which will not be paid by the tenant who may become the purchaser of a holding. Among these are charges for estate management, agent's salary, cost of collection of rent, bad debts, and other analogous charges, which are vitally important to the landlord, and of no importance to the occupier when he becomes the freeholder of his holding. The tithe rent-charge has, as a matter of fact, been generally commuted; but there are certain cases in which it has not been commuted, and in these cases it is only right that the charge should be deducted from the gross rent. Words might be introduced to meet that case.
§ (5.15.) MR. KNOX
A distinction might be drawn by the Government between bad debts and voluntary abatements given by the landlord to the tenant. It is only fair that an abatement should be deducted from the gross rent. Is it likely that a tenant will purchase under the Act when by so-doing he will actually be called upon to pay more every year for some years to come than he has been paying in the past? If a landlord has been in the habit of giving an abatement of 20 or 30 per cent., why should the tenant make himself liable to pay a greater sum to 791 the Government? I venture to think that unless this Amendment is agreed to there will be no land purchasers under this Act in some parts of Ireland. I hope the Government will re-consider this point, which is all essential to the successful working of this Bill in the West of Ireland.
§ (5.18.) An hon. MEMBER: I hope that my hon. Friend will persevere with this Amendment, which I think deals with one of the weakest and worst points in the Bill. The measure will enable the landlords to extort a higher number of years' purchase than they would have obtained under the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and the British taxpayer is to be made to pay the excess. The mischief will be markedly gross in the congested districts.
§ (5.20.) MR. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c)
The argument of the hon. Member seems to be based on a misconception of the principle of the Bill. That is, that there shall be an agreed sum as between landlord and occupier, and that agreed sum has nothing to do with the "annual value of the holding," which we are now endeavouring to define. Moreover, these words do not once occur in the portion of the measure dealing with the congested districts. The Amendment is based upon what appears to be entirely a misconception, and I trust the hon. Member will not press the matter to a Division, but will allow us to proceed with the more material parts of the Bill.
§ MR. SEXTON
The hon. Member takes to himself the incredible conceit that he can settle the matter by simply telling us we are under a misapprehension. He entirely ignores the fact that this clause if applied to the congested districts will be most oppressive —more so than in any other part of Ireland.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I desire to know on what principle these estates are going to be valued. Yesterday I was told that the full market value was to be taken, but, as I pointed out, where there are no sales it is impossible to have a market value. Now it is stated that the annual value will be taken. The truth is, that these properties have no economic value at all; and 792 that if we took them at what is called their commercial value, we should not pay 1s. for them.
§ (5.25.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman is always zealous in the interests of the British taxpayer, but this matter has nothing to do with that personage either directly or indirectly. The Amendment has nothing to do with the amount which the landlord will receive from his tenant. The object of this part of the clause is merely to determine the amount of the annuity which the tenant shall pay during the first five years after he has purchased.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
Then that should be clearly defined. We have here a series of ingenious checks which constitute perfect nonsense, and which, operating one on the other, will have the result of completely and absolutely stopping the operation of the Bill unless the Commissioners act as prudent men and disregard them.
§ (5.28.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 102; Noes 43.—(Div. List, No. 234.)
§ (5.38.) Amendment proposed, in page 15, line 4, after "therefrom," to insert "tithe rent-charge."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Agreed to.
§ MR. M. HEALY
I hold that Income Tax under Schedule A ought also to be deducted. For this tax after purchase the tenants will be liable. At present it is paid by the landlord. Therefore, to get at the net annual value of the holding it will be necessary to deduct Income Tax.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 17, line 6, after "poor rates," to insert "Income Tax."—(Mr. M. Healy.)
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am not at all sure that this comes under the same category as poor rate and county cess; but as the Amendment is not on the Paper, and as I am not prepared at the moment to say whether I can accept it or not, it would be well to postpone the point to the Report stage.
§ MR. M. HEALY
It is reasonable that as notice has not been given, the right hon. Gentleman should have time to consider the Amendment, and I will therefore defer it. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that Income 793 Tax does stand exactly on the same basis as poor rate.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (5.42.) MR. CHANCE
I have to move an Amendment to supply what I imagine is a pure omission—the payments made under the Fishery Piers and Harbours Act. The tenant pays these assessments, and, as a matter of fact, half of the payment is deducted from the rent, and thus the landlord pays half the rate. It is clear, therefore, this must be taken into account in considering the net annual value. Where a tenant now pays 1s., and gets back 6d., he will, when he becomes purchaser of the holding, have to pay the whole rate. I do not think it is necessary to argue the point.
§ MR. MADDEN
I think this Amend-ment had better be put down for Report, in order that I may consider whether this rate is included in the Grand Jury cess.
§ (5.44.) MR. CHANCE
No, that is not so. A separate receipt is always used, and the half is allowed by the landlord as a matter of course. The thing is perfectly clear, and I really do not see why we should defer this to Report. If the right hon. Gentleman inserts it now he can move to have the Amendment struck out on Report. But I can assure him I have looked over the Act, and I speak with absolute knowledge of what is the fact. The right hon. Gentleman has no information on this point, and yet asks the Committee to ignore my statement.
§ MR. MADDEN
I do not in the least?degree mean to state that the hon. Member is wrong. If he had put a notice on the Paper, I should have had an opportunity of reference to the Act. Before I can say I accept the Amendment I must satisfy myself, and the Amendment can equally well be made on Report.
§ MR. CHANCE
So also could the right hon. Gentleman look into the point, and make a correction of the Amendment on Report.
§ Amendment negatived.794
§ MR. KNOX
I now move the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Mahony), in line 7, after "cess," insert—And the average cost of collection and the average amount of loss from allowances to tenants, or irrecoverable rent during the past 10 years.I am anxious to arrive at some compromise in this direction, and I am willing to omit the words "irrecoverable rent."
This Amendment seems to be covered by the Amendment rejected by the Committee when moved by the hon. Member for West Belfast.
In page 17, line 10, after the word "holding," to insert the words "such annual value shall be ascertained by the Land Commission in the manner prescribed by rules to be made by them, and in such case."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (5.49.) MR. M. HEALY
It would be proper, I think, to lay down the principle that is to guide the Land Commission in arriving at the annual value. I understand that it is the intention of the right hon. Gentleman that the Commission shall fix the annual value on the same principle as they would fix judicial rent.
§ MR. M. HEALY
In reply to myself this evening, the right hon. Gentleman dealt with the matter at length, and I gathered nothing inconsistent with the idea of fixing the annual value on the same basis.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Surely the many speeches I have made on the point have made clear my opinion that the Commissioners will adopt a much more rough and ready process than they would if dealing with an agreement as between landlord and tenant.
§ MR. M. HEALY
We do not seem to understand each other. I do not propose that the Land Commission, in fixing 795 the annual value, should go through an elaborate process involving a hearing in Court, an elaborate process of inspection, and taking evidence. What I mean is this: that the same principle should be applied as would be applied in fixing a judicial rent, that the Commission should deal with tenants' improvements on the same principle, excluding the tenants' improvements, as they would in fixing judicial rent, though not by an elaborate process.
§ (5.52.) MR. A.J. BALFOUR
Surely the hon. Member by laying down a rule of the kind would compel that costly and elaborate method of investigation we desire to avoid. The Commissioners will frame their rules carrying out the idea. We have simply to make the tenant pay upon the annual value of the landlord's share in the holding which he has bought.
§ MR. M. HEALY
We are quite agreed upon what should be the idea; the only point of difference is whether the Bill should carry it out. There is nothing in the Bill which compels this principle being applied in fixing the annual value.
§ MR. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman relies on the words "annual value of the interest purchased," but if he had any experience of fixing fair rents he would know that too often many improvements are not taken into account. However, if he is clear on the point, I take it the Land Commission will act as he suggests.
§ MR. CHANCE
Are the Rules to be laid before the House? I have been concerned in many land cases, and so has my hon. Friend the Member for Cork, and I can say that wherever the Land Commission can exact from a tenant rent on his own improvements they do so. We assume that the same course will be followed, and we have no control over the Commission.
§ (5.55.) MR. SEXTON
There is much force in the observations of my hon. Friend. The Commissioners will 796 be removed from our criticism, and in a matter of such grave importance as fixing the annual value it is not fit that the final decision should be left entirely to an irresponsible body. The House, I think, should have the power of protecting the tenant's interests, and therefore I beg to move an Amendment to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, after the word "them," to insert the words "subject to the approval of Parliament."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (5.58.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 41; Noes 106.—(Div. List, No. 235.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ (6.10.) MR. CHANCE
I move to insert after "them," in the proposed Amendment, "and shall not include improvements made by the tenant or his predecessor in title." I do not assume it is necessary to say a word in favour of the Amendment. It is too late in the history of Irish land legislation to talk about the Act of 1870 as an Act for the confiscation of the landlord's property. If that Act and this Bill are to be realities it will be perfectly monstrous to compel a tenant to pay for his improvements over again. The words I propose must be inserted, or the Land Commission will go on doing what they have always done, that is, attempt to carry out the policy of the Government and their supporters and take away, penny by penny, and pound by pound, the tenants' improvements.
Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment—
After the word "them," to insert the words "and shall not include improvements made by the tenant or his predecessor in title."—(Mr. Chance.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (6.12.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not pretend to say what motive the hon. Gentleman has in moving the Amendment, but his motive cannot be to improve the Bill. The hon. Gentleman knows quite enough of the matter to be perfectly aware that the addition of his words would make nonsense of the clause. 797 The addition would be mere surplusage, the clause being quite clear as it now stands.
§ MR. CHANCE
Does the right hon. Gentleman pretend that the existing law protects the tenant's improvements? It is idle for anyone who knows anything of the Land Courts to make such an assertion. The Land Commissioners have certainly got the cue from the right hon. Gentleman to reckon the tenant's improvements. We must certainly take a division upon the Amendment.
§ (6.15.) MR. SEXTON
So far from agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman that the clause as it stands is clear, and that the addition of the proposed words would be surplusage, I think the clause directs the Land Commission to rent the tenant upon his improvement. It is absolutely necessary the Amendment should be accepted if the meaning is to be made clear.
§ (6.16.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 44; Noes 105.—(Div. List, No. 236.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (6.25.) MR. M. HEALY
I see that the definition of "purchase annuities" is limited to purchase annuities consequent on the issue of Stock. Could not the definition be extended so as to:apply to purchase annuities under the Ashbourne Acts?
§ MR. MADDEN
I do not think that would be consistent with the arrangements of the Bill. It is expressly intended to separate the annuities consequent upon the issue of Stock from the annuities under the Ashbourne Acts.
§ MR. M. HEALY
The definition is rather ambiguous, and I suggest the right hon. and learned Gentleman should accept some such words as these—And the said Acts and this Act may be cited as the Land Purchase (Ireland) Acts 1871 to 1891.
In page 17, line 31, after "1891," to insert "and the said Acts and this Act may be cited as the Land Purchase (Ireland) Acts 1871 to 1891."—(Mr. M. Mealy.)
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.798
§ MR. M. HEALY
In respect to the definition of "county," is it not necessary that the definition shall include the "Ridings of Tipperary?" I beg to move to add at the end of the clause—The expression 'county' includes a Riding of a county where such Riding is separate from the county for fiscal purposes.
§ Amendment made.
§ Clause 18, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 19.
§ (6.30.) MR. M. J. KENNY
It is proposed by this clause to alter the position of the two Commissioners who are not Purchase Commissioners. I protest against extending the provisions of the Bill to officers who will have nothing whatever to do with land purchase, and to alter altogether the tenure of office of Mr. Wrench and Mr. Fitzgerald. If there is to be any change in the position of the Commissioners, it should have reference only to those officers who have to do with the administration of the Land Purchase Acts. I am perfectly astonished that the Government should propose, by a side wind, to alter the tenure of office and status of these gentlemen.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
We have now finished the whole Bill with the exception of the Schedules and the new clauses. I had hoped that by the time we should have disposed of the Committee stage, with the exception of the discussion of the important clauses which stand next on the Paper. That hope has been disappointed. It is not necessary to consider whether there has been any fault, and, if so, whose fault it has been. At the same time, I have now, in obedience to the general declaration of policy made by my right hon. Friends the First Lord of the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to propose that we shall suspend our labours upon this measure until Thursday next. On Thursday next we shall resume the discussion on the first of the new clauses which stands in my name, and I have accordingly to move to report Progress.
§ (6.35.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I venture to hope that some means may be found, even now, to extend the holiday somewhat. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have done well had he listened to the demand of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) at the beginning of the Sitting. The right hon. Gentleman has not acted in quite a conciliatory manner. On the other hand, I would appeal to my hon. Friends below the Gangway. There are sufficient reasons why it is desirable there should be a longer adjournment. A great number of Members are suffering from influenza; officers and servants of the House are disabled from attending, and it is extremely desirable the House should be well fumigated. I understand that cannot well be done until after Tuesday next, and if the House resumes on Thursday there will not be sufficient time for fumigation. There are many Members who wish to take part in the discussion on the new clauses, and many of them will not be able to be here on Thursday next. I appeal to my hon. Friends below the Gangway whether they might not facilitate the passing of the Bill by going through the new clauses with the exception of the important clause of the Chief Secretary, so that the House may adjourn until Monday week We have supported many of the changes proposed by the Irish Members, and I submit that we are entitled to some consideration in the matter. I think hon. Members below the Gangway will act in consonance with the feeling of the House if they will endeavour to make some arrangement.
§ (6.39.) MR. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
Those who sit below the Gangway on this side are quite as anxious as the right hon. Member for Bradford to have as long a holiday as possible. For my own part, I find no particular delight in the Sittings of the House, and I should not care much if I never came here any more. While I am here, however, I must discharge what I believe to be my duty. We were led to believe that the adjournment of the House would be moved at 7 o'clock. We have not yet reached that hour, and already the 800 Adjournment Motion has been made. I would ask the Government their intentions with regard to a new clause on the Paper relating to the position of a very important section of the community in Ireland—more lowly than the farmers, but equally numerous, and having as much right to consideration as the farmers themselves. I refer to the agricultural labourers. This Bill furnishes an opportunity for doing a great deal more for the agricultural labourers of Ireland than has been done under the Labourers' Act, and I hope we shall be able to obtain such an assurance from the Government as will enable us to let the matter stand over until the Report stage.
§ (6.41.) MR. SEXTON
We take note of the declaration of the Chief Secretary. The situation may not be very pleasant to hon. Members generally, and is not agreeable to us. We have tried twice to obtain a discussion on the case of the evicted tenants, which is a vital part of the agrarian case, but the Government have prevented us. The first time we were despicably closured, after two or three Members had spoken. The second time the clause on which we intended to raise the discussion was snatched from our hands. We have sought further opportunity of taking discussion, and now it appears that the condition on which our holidays are to be given is that we must deprive ourselves of that opportunity. I will never consent to have my holiday regulated at the will and caprice of a Government, or any individual Member of a Government; and if I am only to have a holiday at the price of what I consider to be my duty, I would rather never have a holiday so long as I Raman a Member of the House. If we are to be driven by the whip of the Chief Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I shall, when the proper time arrives, propose to substitute Monday next for Thursday, because I think we had better go on than have the farce of a holiday only till Thursday. Last night I told the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we might desire that a limited number of clauses should be held over, and in the absence of any dissent from the right hon. Gentleman I did think it possible that he might accept our proposal. To-day I simply ask that along with the Amendment of the right 801 hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary my Amendment on the question of arbitration may be taken. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman thinks we intend to take advantage of the renewed Committee for dealing with other Amendments. I am here to say that my hon. Friends will be willing not to press any of the other Amendments standing on the Paper, but to postpone them till the Report. We should only use the remainder of the Committee stage for the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment and my Amendment, and even a fragment of a Sitting would be sufficient for mine. I do not desire any long discussion. I want a brief discussion, but a free discussion in Committee. If this is refused there is nothing at the bottom of the situation but sheer obstinacy, and it is not a question of convenience or of the interests of the Bill. If the Government persist in driving us on in Committee, time will be both lost and gained. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer will allow us to maintain our rights, not only will the convenience of the House be generally served by the prolongation of the holiday, but it will be found that time will not be lost, but gained.
§ (6.45.) COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
I beg to warn her Majesty's Government against entering into a compact on the strength of the promise made by the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton). The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. M'Carthy) is not present, and it is generally understood that the hon. Member for Londonderry is the guide of the Party opposite. Neither is the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), who guides hon. Members from Ireland when he is in the House, present at the discussion. Moreover, a Committee has been appointed to watch the hon. Member for Londonderry, and the Members of that Committee are not present. As far as I know the hon. Member for West Belfast has no power to make arrangements for any one but himself.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I trust that we shall" be able to separate till Thursday next with good temper and with no heat or feeling on either side. The Government is unable to make a bargain with 802 any single Member of the House. The hon. Member for West Belfast has selected one clause to be held over, but there is no reason why that clause should receive more special treatment than any other. There are other hon. Members who attach just as much importance to the clauses which they in their turn wish to bring forward. Last night I was as positive as possible that under no circumstances could the Government keep over more than one clause, and on the strength of that declaration many hon. Members have removed their Amendments from the Paper. We have no desire to exclude the hon. Member's Amendment from discussion, and I hope that the House will meet on Thursday with the desire to make all possible progress with the clauses on the Paper.
§ (6.48.) MR. A. O'CONNOR
Allow me to say that, in the absence of the hon. Members for Derry and Longford, I as an individual Member of the Party am very glad to follow the lead of my. hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast. I believe that every hon. Member from Ireland, sitting below the Gangway, will have the same feeling. I would ask whether during the Recess the Government will consider the possibility of utilising the Bill in the interests of the agricultural labourers?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Of course I shall be perfectly ready to consider any clause which may be proposed, but that promise must not be supposed to indicate an intention of accepting the clause.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
We have brought the matter down now to two clauses, and as regards the clause of the hon. Member for West Belfast I think it is but right to state that from the Irish Members' point of view it is the most material clause that could be brought forward on the Land Purchase Bill. The case of the evicted tenants concerns not only the hon. Member for West Belfast, but also the whole of the Party. I think it is most unreasonable that the Government, after having taken up so much of the time of the House in the discussion of this Bill, should, for the sake of one clause, ask the House to re-assemble on Thursday next. It would be well for the Government to recollect-that while they are able, by means of 803 their great majority, to carry any proposal they choose to make, the minority have also large powers in the regulation of business in this House; and it is a mistake on the part of the Government to think that they can, by sheer force, push a particular Bill through this House without being under the necessity of making some kind of a compromise with the other side. If the Government were only prepared to make a reasonable compromise in regard to this matter the probability is that when the House meets again what remains to be done in relation to this measure would take up a very small amount of time, because practically it would be reduced simply to the one point I have referred to, and that an amicable adjustment being agreed to at the present moment would materially facilitate future business. Reference has been made by the Government to Amendments having been withdrawn, but as far as those Amendments are concerned, their withdrawal, especially by supporters of the Government, was nothing more than could reasonably be expected. With regard to Amendments on the other side, it may be said that the Amendments proposed by the hon. Member for West Belfast have undoubtedly been put forward by the Irish Party in what they conceive to be the true interests of this Bill.
§ MR. CALDWELL
I say, Sir, that the hon. Member for West Belfast must be recognised in this matter as representing the views and intentions of the Irish Party; and I appeal to Her Majesty's Government to re-consider the course they are proposing to take. If they decline to yield upon a point which is only just and reasonable, I do not think—judging, at any rate, from my own experience of the House—that they will be doing the best they can to promote the progress of this Bill. On the contrary, their action is more likely to occasion delay. If the Government are obstinately determined on refusing to act in a fair spirit of compromise, and insist on enforcing their own views on this subject, regardless of the feelings and wishes of the Opposition, they will very probably find that instead of their 804 having secured any benefit by the course they are taking, they will have done that which will only add to their embarrassments.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday next.