§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. J. Morley.)
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN (Cork)
said, the difficulty in connection with the question of the congested districts was not the want of land but the fact that the land-lands would only part with it at a very extravagant price. He did not believe any substantial progress would be made in the direction of enlarging holdings or in the direction of migration unless compulsory powers were obtained. This Bill was the second measure introduced with a view to extend the powers of the Congested Districts Board, and yet it only touched the fringe of the whole question. There was plenty of land available for the purposes of the Board in the West of Ireland; but the landlords were complete masters of the situation, and they could name their own figures. Compulsory powers were therefore needed; and there would be nothing 647 revolutionary in adding those powers to the Bill, as they were already exercised in Scotland under the Crofters Act; and in Ireland, to some extent, under the Labourers Acts; and as they would be exercised in England under the Parish Councils Act. Of course, he did not object to the present Bill. On the contrary, he thought it a step in the right direction, and that it would be useful as au inducement to some landlords to act reasonably towards the Congested Districts Board. But he hoped the Chief Secretary would be able to tell the House that between this and next Session he would consider the matter, and see whether he could not agree with the Leader of the Opposition, whose name was on the back of this Bill, on some moderate compulsory powers which would enable the Congested Districts Board to deal with the social difficulties in those districts.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, lie desired to point out that the cases which would be dealt with by the Bill were precisely those cases where the security of the State was very weak. The Bill proposed to release the landlord from his guarantee, and also to abolish the tenants' insurance fund. If the author of the Land Purchase Act of 1891 saw his way to make those concessions he did not see why anyone should object; but he wished to point out that the element of security disappeared altogether from those very holdings where the security was always weak.
said, the Congested Districts Board had an income of £46,000 a year, and found it difficult to get on with it. He was glad the Bill was going to pass; but if the new expenditure was going to fall on the income of the Board, he thought that income ought to be substantially increased.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
said, he thought it would be the fairest thing if the clerks to be appointed under the Congested Districts Board were appointed by open competition and not by nomination.
MR. J. MORLEY
said, he quite agreed with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Louth. In the course of inquiries with regard to the Bill he had been surprised to find that in the Land Commission there were appoint- 648 ments to offices by nomination, a course which he thought had disappeared from the Public Service. He did not desire any application of that exploded principle in the office of the Congested Districts Board; and he hoped it would also disappear from the Land Commission. In answer to the hon. Member for South Tyrone, he would say that the security to the taxpayers was not affected or impaired in any way. In an ordinary case they had only the security of an individual landlord and an individual tenant; and surely the hon. Gentleman would not deny that the guarantee of the Congested Districts Board with an assured income was better? The Congested Districts Board was not likely to go so close to the wind as to endanger the security of the liabilities which the Bill could impose on them.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL(interposing)
said, that his point was that if anything was drawn from the income of the Board to meet those liabilities, it must operate against the other work of the Board, and thus bring further claims on the taxpayers.
MR. J. MORLEY
said, that was quite true; but the security was not affected or impaired in any way, and the proposal in the Bill had the approval of the founder of the Congested Districts Board, in answer to his hon. Friend the Member for Cork, ho agreed that the fact that consideration of public policy had justified the introduction of compulsory powers in the Crofters Act; the Parish Councils Act and the Irish Labourers' Acts certainly took away anything violent or revolutionary in the suggestion of his hon. Friend, that the Congested Districts Board should have compulsory powers to acquire land. But the question of compulsory powers was always attended with considerable controversy, and it would not be possible to pass a measure containing those powers this Session. He was now considering the matter, but he could not say at that moment whether he would be aide to bring in a Bill dealing with it as early as next Session.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.