§ Order for Second Reading read.
THE MARQUESS OF CARMARTHEN (Lambeth, Brixton)
said, he desired to submit to the Speaker a point of Order. He wished to know whether this Bill could be proceeded with? On April 19 the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Morley) asked leave to bring in a Bill entitled "The Evicted Tenants (Ireland) Bill," and it was ordered to be read a second time on April 23, when it again appeared upon the Paper as "The Evicted Tenants (Ireland) Bill." On April 30, however, without notice or the sanction of the House, it appeared upon the Paper as "The Evicted Tenants (Ireland) Arbitration Bill." That, he submitted, was not a permissible change of title. In Sir Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice he found the following passages:—It may become necessary, before the Second Reading of a Bill, to make considerable changes in its provisions, which can only be accomplished at this stage by discharging the Order for the Second Reading and withdrawing the Bill. If a change of title be necessary, the practice is to order the Bill to be withdrawn, and to move subsequently for leave to bring in another Bill. [Cheers.] But where the Bill is withdrawn, for the purpose of making numerous Amendments, without any change of title, a simpler form of proceeding is adopted.He submitted that, in accordance with the practice here explained, this Bill 424 ought to be withdrawn, and another introduced in its place.
§ MR. SPEAKER
A Bill has always two titles, a long title, as it is called, and a short title. The long title is the governing title of the Bill, and leave is given to bring in the measure according to the long title, which remains the same in this case as it was when the Bill was brought in. That title is "A Bill to Facilitate and make Provision for the Restoration of Evicted Tenants to their Holdings in Ireland." The noble Lord says that on the Order Paper to-day it is called "The Evicted Tenants (Ireland) Arbitration Bill." The fact is, that the short title of a Bill which appears on the Order Book is to be regarded as a mere marginal note at the end of the Bill, and the title of this Bill has been used for the purpose of convenient reference should the Bill pass into law. If the noble Lord will look at the 8th clause of the Bill he will see these words: "This Act may be cited as the Evicted Tenants Arbitration Act, 1894." It is in harmony with this clause, which declares what is to be the statutory short title of the measure, that the title appearing on the Paper has been given to it. There has been no change in the Bill since leave was given to introduce it. This title was only given to the Bill for convenience of reference, and in order that the title on the Paper and the short title in the Bill itself should harmonise.
MR. J. MORLEY
In rising to move the Second Reading of this Bill I find myself confronted by a rather curious change of position on the part of those who resist the measure. An extraordinary and most unfortunate change seems at the eleventh hour to have come over the temper and intentions of the Opposition respecting this Bill. I am sure that when the nature of this change is understood it will make a deep impression on the mind of the House. On the First Reading of the Bill no attempt was made to deny the existence of a difficulty in Ireland which it was the duty of any Government to make every effort to meet. Not every speaker, it is true, went as far as the right hon. Member for Bodmin, who said—If they wished to effect a permanent and peaceful settlement they must do their best to abate the feeling of ill-treatment in the past. 425 Such a course would be in the interests of all parties; and it was certainly to the interest of those who thought that there might be a change of Administration in the near future that the question should be settled, for in whatever difficulties this band of dispossessed tenants might involve the present Government, any future Government, with a different political complexion, would be placed in infinitely worse difficulties.That was the language of the right hon. Member for Bodmin, and although every other speaker did not go as far as my right hon. Friend, even the Leader of the Opposition did not deny the existence of a social and administrative difficulty. Then the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Mr. Carson) said—He should be certainly sorry to adopt a non possumus attitude on this question. He knew enough of Ireland to say that he believed and admitted that the question of the evicted tenants, whether they were rightly or wrongly evicted and whether they were evicted for the purpose of advancing a particular class of politics or not—that as long as it remained unsettled the question of the evicted tenants meant a great deal with reference to the peace of Ireland.Well, the next step was the placing, many weeks, if not months ago, of a notice on the Paper by the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell). Nothing ever daunts him. He put an Amendment down with a moderating preamble. It began in this way—This House, while willing to accept just and practicable proposals for the reinstatement of the evicted tenants.The next step, however, was to take out the words, "just and practicable proposals," and it was clear from this change that the task of resisting our plans had been taken out of the hon. Member's hands and entrusted to those of an irreconcilable section, which would listen to no proposal, no matter how just and practicable, no proposal for dealing with the social mischief whose gravity had been admitted in all parts of the House. But now we find that a further step has been taken. This section to whom I would apply no language worse than "irreconcilable"—these gentleman would not be content unless the Amendment which was to express their determination to resist the Bill was in a form involving a deliberate retreat from the policy of the 13th section of the Act of 1891 and a deliberate declaration that gentlemen opposite are at last going to take up the position which the hon. and learned 426 Member opposite (Mr. Carson) said he would not take up—the position of non possumus. If the Amendment that is to be moved to-night has any meaning, that must be the meaning attached to it. I have never denied that there are enlightened and humane Irish landlords, but some of them are humane without being enlightened, and there a few who are neither enlightened nor humane. The hon. and gallant Member who is to move this Amendment belongs, I think, to the second category. He has never shown an enlightened appreciation of the difficulties which surround this and other portions of the Irish question. I cannot help saying that it is a misfortune that the Amendment has been taken out of the hands of the hon. Member for Tyrone, and has been transformed and altered, and, taking the form of the rejection of the Bill root and branch, has fallen into the hands of an hon. Gentleman who belongs to that irreconcilable section whose lamentable blindness has so often before now blighted the cause of peace and order in Ireland. Now, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham is reported to have said, and he has not denied the accuracy of the report—I may remark that I am quite prepared to admit that it is most desirable that some equitable measure should be passed in the interests of evicted tenants. This can only be accomplished by an agreement between the Unionists and Gladstonians.Now, of course, it may be said that the settlement proposed in this Bill is not an equitable settlement. Yes; but if you deny that, in denying it do what the hon. Member for Tyrone asks you to do—namely, say that this Bill is brought in to meet a difficulty which is of the utmost gravity, and that it is of the utmost importance that it should be dealt with and removed. It was said only half an hour ago that this Bill bristles with new principles. I shall be surprised if the right hon. Gentleman or any of those who sit beside him can show me that there is one principle in this Bill for which a precedent cannot be found in the Irish legislation of the last 25 years. The first principle is the use of public money to recoup private loss. That was the basis of the Arrears Act of 1886. Then it is said you have no right to resort to the Irish Church surplus. 427 There, again, I turn to the Arrears Act. Precisely the same objections could be taken—that it was improper devotion of the Irish Church surplus to use it for the purposes of the Arrears Act. I want to know, in the language employed in 1882 by my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian, to what better use can you put the Church surplus or any other available fund in Ireland than to the restoration of peace and harmonious relations between landlord and tenant? Then we are told that the principle of compulsion in this Bill is intolerable. There is no doubt that, the principle of thrusting upon the landlord a tenant to whom he objects is found in more than one part of the Irish land code. The whole code is saturated with the principle of compulsion to which you are going to give such vigorous resistance. I should like to point out, after what the right hon. Gentleman said a short, time ago, that we are adopting no. new principle when we are asking the House to enable the arbitrating tribunal to put upon the landlord a tenant to whom he may have objections. Do those who use this kind of argument forget the free sale provisions of the Act of 1881? Under the provisions of the Act of 1881 the tenant is empowered to sell his interest, but he is obliged to serve a notice on the landlord naming the purchaser and the price agreed on, and, thereupon, the landlord has power within the prescribed period, but upon reasonable grounds, to decline to accept the purchaser of the tenant's interest. Who is to decide, according to the Act of 1881, what are or are not reasonable grounds? The Court—that is, the Land Commission. The Bill of 1881 set out four grounds which were to be held to be reasonable grounds, and which might justify the landlord in refusing to have this obnoxious tenant thrust upon him. I have not had time to look up the cause of the omission of those grounds, but for good reasons, no doubt, these grounds were omitted, and it is enacted in the Land Act of 1881, that in the case of dispute, the grounds of the landlord's refusal shall be decided by the Land Commission. That is exactly what we say here. We say that the tribunal of the three arbitrators are to decide whether the landlord's refusal to accept the tenant they have ordered to be reinstated is or is not unreasonable. 428 It is left to them just as in the free-sale clause, it is left to the Land Commission. In 1891, when the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Balfour) held the office I now hold, the Redemption of Rent Act was passed. By that Act certain classes of tenants could apply to have their rent redeemed, and, if the landlord did not consent, then the tenant was entitled to go to the Land Commission to get a fair rent fixed whether the landlord liked it or not. It is, therefore, too late in the day to take up the position that it is an intolerable injustice and an intolerable invasion of the rights of property that the landlord shall have a tenant put on him whom he does not approve of. The point was greatly pressed, I think, by the Leader of the Opposition, and certainly by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Dublin University, that we defined no principles upon which the tribunal was to go to work. Well, to that I have to say that the enormously important Act of 1870, in the section dealing with the equities of landlords and tenants, lays down no principle whatever upon which the Court is to decide, and in the Act of 1881 there are no directions. We had before us upstairs two or three days ago the very learned Judge who is the Chief Judicial Land Commissioner, and in answer to questions he informed us that the Legislature has abstained from embodying any definition whatever, or giving any indication whatever, of what constitutes a fair rent under the Act of 1881. Here is a vital point in the administration of the Act, and yet we are told by the learned Judge, and the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Carson) knows that it is so, that the Act of 1881 contains none of those directions and definitions of principle which you are so indignant with us for not having included in this Bill. There is one objection which the Leader of the Opposition took on which I should like to say a word or two. It is a detail, but not an unimportant detail. He said the evicted tenant may have had a rent fixed in 1885, and if he had not been evicted he could not have applied to have his fair rent revised until 1901. Is he, the right hon. Gentleman asked, as a restored evicted tenant to have the right to get his rent revised in 1894? No, Sir, that is not our Bill. It is not our intention that the evicted 429 tenant, generally speaking, when restored to his holdings should have rights he would not have possessed had he not been evicted. If the first clause as drawn can be shown not to deal effectively with this particular matter I shall be prepared to examine words for making it clearer. I may say that the learned Judge who presides over the Landed Estates Court has restored hundreds of evicted tenants to their holdings on estates in his Court, and has in many instances—so I am told—not only reinstated the tenants, but he has reinstated them at rents substantially lower than the rents they originally paid when they were evicted. Sir, there is another more serious objection, I think, on which I should like to say a few words, and it is one upon which I think the hon. Member for Tyrone has dwelt in his speech here and elsewhere. I mean the danger which our proposals are said to involve to a new tenant who should decline to consent to the order depriving him of the holding and restoring the old tenant. According to the Bill his consent is necessary, and the argument of the hon. Member for South Tyrone and of other gentlemen is that this requiring the assent of the new tenant—who I may perhaps remind those Members of the House who are not familiar with these matters—is known as a planter—will create a temptation to put violent compulsion by outrage and otherwise on him to secure the assent of the new tenant. Can anybody suppose that if there is this resolute determination in the minds of the evicted tenants or land jobbers to drive out the new tenant—can anybody suppose that the peril or hazard of that determination taking an active and violent form would not be just as great, yes and much greater, if the evicted tenants, as a body, were informed, once and for all, that the door of hope of facilitating their restoration to their holdings was closed?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
The right hon. Gentleman has quoted me, but that is not my position.
MR. J. MORLEY
I may have done the hon. Gentleman an injustice, but it is certainly the position taken up by the organs in the Press which support the views of these hon. Members, and of which we hear a good deal. There may be possible mischiefs in the proposals that we make. It is for you to point out the mischiefs. I will undertake to 430 say that, whatever mischiefs you point out in our plans, there is this difference between our plans and your absence of plans: The mischiefs in our plans are contingent and remote; the mischiefs in your absence of plans are certain, inevitable and flagrant. One more word on a point as to the reinstatement of the evicted tenants which was made on the occasion of the First Reading of the Bill, and which has been made in public controversy since. It is argued that the restored tenant would not have the means, if reinstated, to meet his liabilities. Here, again, it is perfectly clear that that is an uncommonly difficult question. I am the last man to deny it, and I want to meet all the difficulties as well as I can. My belief is that those whom the arbitrators think proper persons to reinstate, with the aid of their friends, or of contributions from some organisations, or other efforts, and particularly with the aid of this Bill, will pull through this particular difficulty. Anybody acquainted with Ireland knows that nothing is more surprising than the manner in which tenants with all the outward appearance of poverty somehow or other obtain the money to purchase farms whenever farms come into the market. That shows that there may be resources in the possession of these tenants themselves, which, if there is a hope of their legal reinstatement, with the assistance of the funds we are proposing to place at the disposal of the arbitrators, will ensure that the restored tenants on their reinstatement will have means to carry on, so that that is an objection without any great force. Another point that has been made is that the public hearing of applications by tenants will lead to protracted recriminations between landlords and tenants, and that the publication of these proceedings by the newspapers in Ireland will lead to a daily dose of exasperation which undoubtedly would be in the highest degree mischievous. Personally, I have a strong opinion that the proceedings before the arbitrators should be private, and I am advised that the words of the Bill do not preclude that mode of procedure. I shall, however, be prepared to strengthen the words of the Bill, if thought desirable; but I believe these words are adequate. There is just one other suggestion to which I should like to allude, which was made by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin Univer- 431 sity. He made the suggestion, which he said he would not claim novelty or originality for, that the sum proposed to be advanced should be expended in the purchase of some of those large tracts of land which, he assumed, are in the market, and which could be purchased in the present state of the Irish land market at a very low figure. That was a suggestion which was contained in the Report of the Mathew Commission. It would be the suggestion, no doubt, of anybody who has considered the condition of this problem, that those pieces of land under the jurisdiction of the Landed Estates Court should be purchased and provision made on those newly-acquired lands for tenants who have left the holdings to which they had gone, or for old evicted tenants who have not been restored to their holdings. Upon that suggestion I can only say we have a little experience. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition knows that when the Congested Districts Board was called into existence it made attempts in the direction of the acquisition of tracts of land, and I do not think the experience of that Board so far would make us treat this as a particularly hopeful suggestion. Nevertheless, if from any quarter of the House that suggestion is put forward in the shape of a practical Amendment, I will do my best to give it fair consideration, though, personally, I repeat I am not sanguine of its helping us out of our difficulty. There is no more vital point in the Bill than the composition of the proposed tribunal. On the First Reading of the Bill the right hon. Member for Bodmin saw that that would be a point upon which a good deal of discussion might turn, and upon which, in effect, the successful working of the Bill would depend. The Leader of the Opposition asked me whether the names of the arbitrators would be in the Bill, and I told him that they would. I am now able to announce the names of three gentlemen who, I believe, will fulfil all conditions which are desirable for the efficacious working of the Bill. They are all men of competence and impartiality, whatever their political leanings may be; and here I may mention that two out of the three are not in sympathy with Her Majesty's Government on Irish Government questions. But whatever their political views may be, I think it will be recognised that 432 these are the names of gentlemen from whom both Irish landlord and tenant may expect to receive fair and equitable and business-like treatment. The first gentleman is Mr. Piers White, who I think I am not wrong in describing as the undisputed leader of the Equity Bar in Ireland. His distinguished career and high character no one is better able to bear testimony to than the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin. The second name is that of Mr. George Fottrell, who has vast experience of business connected with Irish land. He has carried out great transactions of sale and purchase and has acted both for landlord and tenant on a very large scale, both in rent fixing and in transactions of purchase. Mr. Fottrell was, at all events, thought well enough of by gentlemen opposite to be invited by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol to take a place on the Cowper Commission, the right hon. Baronet thinking his presence would give weight to its deliberations, whilst he would be an impartial as well as competent inquirer. The third person is Mr. Greer, a legal Sub-Commissioner from the very beginning, who was also chosen as a permanent Assistant Commissioner under the Land Act of 1891, passed by the right hon. Gentleman. These are the three arbitrators, than whom I do not think we could find three more impartial or competent in the whole of Ireland. Since the First Reading I am glad to find myself able to make an announcement which will be satisfactory and gratifying to all friends of this Bill. The figure mentioned in the Bill is £100,000. I thought at the time that it was a comparatively narrow sum, though small sums have some advantages and recommendations. My right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian said when he brought in the Arrears Bill that there was something exceedingly fascinating in receiving public money; and that fascination is not less congenially and sympathetically felt in Ireland than in other parts of Her Majesty's dominions. Therefore, I should have felt that there were advantages for the purpose of thrift in the minds of the arbitrators by having a comparatively small sum. A Circular has been issued from the Treasury explaining the state of the Irish Church Fund, and in Committee I shall be glad to supplement that Paper by such observations 433 and explanations as may seem desirable. The Leader of the Opposition, with something of an envious and grudging turn of mind, said that he had, in 1890, endeavoured to get all the money he could for the purpose of endowing the Congested Districts Board, but he found that it was mortgaged up to the hilt, and could not understand how there came to be £100,000 to spared for the purposes of this Bill. The explanation how even a larger sum than that—as I shall presently mention—is now available is, as I am told by the confidential advisers to whom I referred, that the endowment proposed in 1890 may be taken as based on the position of the Fund on March 31st in that year. Any advance is, of course, more or less a forestalment of the future; but we have now come four years nearer to the date when a great drop in the charges on the Irish Church Fund takes place, and this renders the operation of forestalling the future less risky and hazardous to that extent. We shall, however, have abundant opportunity for discussing these and other details when we get into Committee. In four years outstanding arrears have been reduced by £100,000—a source of receipt which could not be calculated upon in 1890. Thirdly, and lastly, sales and redemptions have amounted to something like £117,000 a year, making a total of £465,000. Thus the immediate financial position is far more easy than it was in 1890. In the meantime, I am in a position to say I am informed, by those who cannot possibly give bad advice, that a sum, not only of £100,000, but of £250,000, can be made available for the purposes of this Bill. The same gentleman who gave the Leader of the Opposition a million and a half for the Congested Districts Board assures me that I can have it if it is required. I am quite confident, therefore, when the time comes I shall be able to obtain all that will be needed. There is one further point that refers to the magnitude ol the scale of operations we are asking to be allowed to undertake. So far as I can make out, the total number of holdings from which tenants were evicted between May, 1879, to the 1st of May, 1894, was something like 5,900. Through the operation of various causes there are about 2,000 holdings in respect of which no action will be required, and there is left a balance of 3,893, or, 434 roundly speaking, something under 4,000 holdings, as the probable maximum which might possibly come under the operation of the Bill. In the cases of the estates investigated by the Mathew Commission, the average rent was found to be between £15 and £16 a holding. If we assume, as I think we may, that the same scale would cover the whole field of the evicted tenancies, then the 4,000 cases would give an aggregate rental of £60,000. As the arbitrators are not entitled to award under the head of rent more than one year's rent, to take it at the highest, this leaves a very large margin out of the sum I have just mentioned for the two other possible payments to the new tenants, on the one hand, and on the other the payment, not exceeding £50, if the arbitrator thinks fit, to the tenant making a new start. It may be thought that these operations will cover a long period of time; but it need not be so, and I cannot believe it will be so. A couple of years ago there was an arbitration on the Drapers' Company estate, in which the hon. Member for North Louth and Mr. Thomas Dick-son, formerly a Member of this House, were concerned. The object of the arbitration was to fix the amount of purchase-money and to deal with £17,000 of arrears of rent. The arbitrators dealt with 560 cases; these were all settled within three months, all the evicted tenants restored, and satisfactory terms arrived at. [Mr. CARSON: Was that a voluntary settlement?] Yes, of course. I am only on the point of the time that it will take to dispose of a large number of cases. Other figures were given on the Committee upstairs by Mr. Justice Bewley. He said that in 1892 he delivered judgment in 1,650 appeal cases, all heard through; in 1891, in 1,485 cases; and in the three and a half years during which he had been Judicial Commissioner he delivered judgment in 4,540 cases, fully heard. I do not know why the arbitrators under the powers of this Bill should not get through their business, which is less complex in many ways than these appeals, with corresponding rapidity if they deal with tenants and cases in groups, as they will be able to do. I will only add that Ireland is now quiet, and tranquillity seems profound. But for my part I have been careful never to say, and I have never pretended to think, that this quietude is the 435 slumber of a sound and perfectly-established health. These are the moments the neglect of which has been followed by such disastrous consequences in the history of Ireland. It is the inveterate neglect of opportunity and occasion that might have been used for purposes of good, both for England and Ireland, that has left us face to face, time after time, with an aggravated malady. In view of the fatal lesson the negligence of this Parliament has taught to Ireland, I will be careful not to indulge in any prediction of the consequences that may follow the rejection of this measure, because predictions of possible disorder may be misinterpreted as an indication or a menace. Nothing is further from my intention. The House will not forget on how many occasions—several within the last 14 or 15 years—we have allowed favourable moments to pass by. I am confident that on this occasion for once Parliament, in this branch certainly, and I should be glad to think in minor branches, will not prove incorrigible, but will accept this favourable moment for satisfying an indispensable condition of social healing in Ireland.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. J. Morley.)
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said, he rose for the purpose of moving "that the Bill be read this day three months," and in doing so he was well aware that he laid himself open to an attack of a kind similar to the attack made upon him by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman called him an "irreconcilable." On some points he was irreconcilable. As far as the Home Rule question was concerned, he acknowledged he was irreconcilable, but so far as dealing with the land was concerned, he did not think the right hon. Gentleman or any Member of the House had any right to call him irreconcilable, for he could appeal to his past Parliamentary history to show that such a term was misapplied. He supported the Land Bill of 1870 both by voice and vote, when such action was extremely rare amongst the class to which he belonged. He was perfectly well aware that the action he and his colleagues were taking on this occasion would lay them open to be pointed at by their political opponents as men who 436 were opposed to any solution of this question of the evicted tenants. They would be described as men who gloated over the sufferings of their tenants, and who desired nothing more than to turn them out of the holdings, deriving infinite pleasure and satisfaction from it. But to gloat over the sufferings of the evicted tenants in Ireland was an expensive pleasure, and a landlord, however depraved, would think of the expense. He cared not much what his opponents thought of him, and he did not think his colleagues cared much. But they opposed this Bill because they looked upon it as fatal to the future prosperity of Ireland. They looked upon the Bill as without exception the most extraordinary legislative monstrosity ever introduced either in this or any other Parliament on the whole face of the earth. Very naturally holding that view, rightly or wrongly, the only course they could pursue would be to meet it with a direct negative. They looked upon the Bill from three standpoints: There was the position taken by the Government, the view the landlords took of the Bill, and the view the tenants took of it. With regard to the Government, he did not know whether they were very anxious to proceed with this Bill. He observed that they required a certain amount of nudging during the course of this Session. They all remembered how, every now and then, the hon. Member for Kerry, in his most Olympian tone, asked the right hon. Gentleman when he intended to proceed with the Evicted Tenants Bill. Somehow or other the Evicted Tenants Bill lingered on towards the end of the Session, and at last driven, he expected, with their sails filled to the Irish wind from below the Gangway, they had brought in this Bill. How they viewed the Bill he thought they had discovered from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. The Chief Secretary wondered why they did not accept it. Evidently the right hon. Gentleman thought there was some weakness in the financial condition of the Bill, because, after the grant of this money, he still thought their tenants would be in want of assistance. He said—and he hoped the hon. Members below the Gangway were satisfied with it—that they were to get money somewhere to enable them in some way to pull through. This was a hopeful position for the Irish tenant. To 437 get money in Ireland somewhere was not always an easy way to pull through, and would involve an additional difficulty from which both landlord and tenant would shrink in affright. He did not blame the Government for bringing in this Bill, for the simple reason that they could not help it. He would say this of the Government—and it would be the most complimentary thing he would say of them in the course of his remarks—that when they started on their career they were the most promising Government that ever sat on the Treasury Bench. They promised everything to everybody. They did that dangerous thing—they backed a great many Bills, and the difficulty they had experienced was in getting their Bills renewed. Dear little Wales was promised the plunder of the Church, and similar promises were given to Scotland; but while the Welsh and Scotch renewed the Bills, the Irish knew better than to do that. They pinned the Government to a Bill with regard to which they themselves were pledged up to the eyes. Therefore, he did not blame the Government for introducing the Bill—they introduced it because they could not help it. Now, how did the Irish landlord look upon the Bill? Why was it that the Irish landlord looked upon this Bill as utterly unjust to him? Let them consider what would his position be if the Bill became law. Suppose he had evicted a tenant. He ventured to say that, as a general rule, no landlord in Ireland evicted a tenant unless five or six years' rent was owing. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] He did not say there were no exceptions; but certainly, as a general rule, no tenant was evicted unless he owed nearly five years' rent. He believed that statement could be shown to be absolutely true. Let them imagine, then, that 10 or 12 years ago a landlord got rid of a tenant who owed him five years' rent. The tenant disappeared from view, and another tenant occupied that farm. A great many of those who came into evicted farms had done very well, and had farmed the lands with success; but if this Bill passed into law what would happen? The old tenant might come back from America, or, if he had died, his representative might appear on the scene, and insist on being reinstated in the holding. What would happen then? The new tenant would be evicted. This 438 Bill, therefore, was not only a reinstating Bill; it was an evicting Bill. They proposed to evict at least 1,800 tenants and to replace them by men who had proved their incapacity either by becoming bankrupts or by joining the Plan of Campaign. That was the hopeful look-out for the Irish landlords. He thought, therefore, the House would understand why it was that the Irish landlords did not look with satisfaction on this Bill, under which the tenants who had worked the lands since 1879 would be evicted, in order to reinstate men who had proved themselves absolutely incapable of paying their way. He was glad that it had been elicited that only 1 per cent. of the Irish tenants had failed to effect a satisfactory settlement with their landlords. After all the land agitation that had occurred in Ireland, and after all that had been said about the thousands upon thousands of tenants who had perished by the roadside, it was satisfactory to hear that less than 1 per cent. of the evicted tenants had failed to get back under the satisfactory terms offered them by the landlords. He should not go into details now. They should have ample time in the next three weeks, which the Bill would occupy. If this Bill ever became law, which it never would [Several MEMBERS: Why not?] Because it would be thrown out in the other House. It would be thrown out by the other House, whose principal duty it was to rectify the mistakes made in the House of Commons. But if the Bill passed, a quiver of horror would run through every tenant who had occupied a farm since 1889. For what was the meaning of the Bill to those men? It meant that a farmer occupying and working a farm for the last 14 years might suddenly, and without the power of redress, be evicted from the farm in order that the former tenant might go into occupation. In other words, the Bill meant ruin to those men. Those men were called "land-grabbers" by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and how were "the land-grabbers" to be treated if they did not comply with the orders of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway? He would read the words of the hon. Member for East Mayo, the principal leader of the Plan of Campaign, uttered on the 20th of May last, which showed that the tenants who had been in 439 possession since 1879 would not have a happy time—What is the course that we recommend to the people of Ireland, and which we have always recommended in the past to the people of Ireland, to deal with the landgrabbers? [A voice: Shoot them.] I dare say you have all heard of the nursery rhyme in the days of your youth about 'Little Bo-Peep.' I would apply that rhyme to the landgrabber—'Let him alone,And he'll come home,And leave the grabbed land behind him.'But it was dangerous to quote poetry unless one went to the end of the rhyme. "Little Bo-Peep" found her sheep, but she found them in a condition that made her heart bleed because they left their tails behind them, and that was exactly what would happen to the sheep of the landgrabber. He knew the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland would tell them that the law was sufficient, if a Liberal Government was in power, to protect the new tenants against the attacks of the old tenants. The right hon. Gentleman had laid down a rule that no violent intimidation in the way of speeches was to be used within a mile of the landgrabber's house; and it was said that the mile was measured by a policeman treading out 1,760 yards. He did not know what put the right hon. Gentleman up to that principle of protection. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman learned something about explosives at sea. He went once on board a torpedo-boat to witness the explosion of a pole-torpedo, and was told by the officer in charge that the boat would be blown into the middle of next week by the torpedo if the pole was not a certain length. In like manner the pole of the Chief Secretary's new political torpedo was a mile long. But the length of the mile would depend on the policeman who walked it out, and if it were a short-legged policeman, and if the wind were in a fair way, and there was a loud-voiced Nationalist at the other end of the mile, the landgrabber would certainly hear his own condemnation. The right hon. Gentleman charged them, because they opposed this Bill, with being the enemies of Ireland, and of being the irreconcilable opponents of everything that made for peace and happiness in Ireland. But a very fair opportunity was undoubtedly given by them to these evicted tenants to re-enter their farms when they passed the 13th clause of the Act of 1879. Then why 440 did not more tenants avail themselves of it? Because their own leaders forebade them. Those leaders were determined that the evicted tenants should not go back to their farms except under triumphal arches erected by themselves. How did the leader of the Plan of Campaign treat that clause? He asked the particular attention of the House to this matter, because it showed that it was not the fault of the landlords that the vast majority of the evicted tenants were not now back in their farms. He should first remind the House that when the hon. Member for Mayo gave advice to the people of Tipperary, which was not supposed to be absolutely legal, he refused to stand his trial, and went on a yachting excursion with a friend instead of attending at the Court-house. He was glad to find that gratitude had not altogether fled from Ireland, because he saw that the son of the gentleman who took the hon. Member for Mayo on that yachting expedition got, the other day, an office worth £800 a year from the Corporation of Dublin. But in the end the hon. Member for Mayo did surrender, and he happened to be in prison when this 13th clause of the Land Act of 1891 was passed by the House, or, at any rate, he was in prison during part of the time in which evicted tenants could get back into their farms under that clause. When the hon. Member came out of prison the first thing he did was to make a speech at Dungarvan, in which he warned the tenants against availing themselves of the opportunity which the 13th clause gave them of re-entering their farms. He told the meeting that he was ashamed and sorry to hear that bids were reaching the land-agents from all quarters for those empty farms—My advice to the tenants," he said, "is this: Be very slow to purchase your farms, or to have anything to do with this Land Act until after the General Election. Trust to your own exertions in your own localities. Abstain from taking those farms, and do not purchase at present.Here was an opportunity given to the tenants to re-enter their holdings; and the deliberate advice of the hon. Member for Mayo—who had learned nothing by his incarnation—was that those unfortunate people should remain as they were in Land League huts on the hillsides looking at their old farms, and not go back to them as owners under the Land Act of 1891. 441 Therefore, he thought he was right in saying that the blame for the present condition of the evicted tenants should fall on the heads of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and especially on the heads of the hon. Members for Mayo and Cork, who by the Plan of Campaign became the greatest evictors that Ireland had ever seen, and only for whom there would never have been any necessity for this Bill. The Government would never have thought of bringing in this Bill were it not for one class of evicted tenants, and one class alone—the tenants known as the "Campaign tenants." It was to help those tenants that the Bill was introduced. Hon. Members below the Gangway were pledged up to their eyes that their chief endeavour would be to get a Bill of this kind passed into law. He read in a Tipperary newspaper that—William O'Brien, whose word is as good as a millionaire's bond, and whose pledge is the nation's sheet-anchor, has guaranteed those tenants who manfully have resisted the assault of Lord 'Barry-no-more.'Something had happened to that anchor recently; it had been badly damaged, and unless the Members for Cork and Mayo could prove to the evicted tenants that they had done something to redeem their promises, that anchor would finally be dragged out of the sea of Irish credulity. It was said to be a good thing to die for one's country; but he did not think the evicted tenants found it was a good thing to starve for their country. He asked, was it worth while for hon. Members below the Gangway, for the sake of carrying on their political campaign, to condemn those unfortunate people to lives of misery and wretchedness instead of leaving them in peace and plenty on their farms? It was said the Plan of Campaign had reduced rent. Nothing of the kind. The hon. Member for Mayo himself, at Limerick Junction, stated it was not at all a question of rent that caused the Plan of Campaign to be started, but that it was done for a purely political motive. In order to carry out that political purpose the hon. Member went through the length and breadth of the land and forced unwilling men to take a course in leaving their farms which they would never have taken unless under the strongest compulsion. To make an Irish patriot of an Irish tenant was not an easy thing. He required to be propelled from behind and 442 allured in front. The hon. Member for Mayo supplied the propelling power, and the allurement was the syren voice of the the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (the President of the Local Government Board), who promised that a fortnight after a Liberal Government was in Office all the evicted tenants would be restored. Many of those evicted tenants had gone back under settlements with the landlords, and were now described as traitors to the cause and unworthy of the name of Irishmen. He opposed this Bill, because he did not believe it would be good for Ireland. In fact, he believed it would supply in the future a lever to the hands of Irish agitators, to arouse an agitation in Ireland more dangerous than any they had experience of in the past. What hope of finality had the Government got, even if they passed their Bill? If there was any hope that Ireland would become peaceful and contented under the Bill, there would be a great strain brought to bear on him and his colleagues to support even a measure they thought so hopelessly bad as the measure before the House. But there was no prospect of finality, even if they passed the Bill. The hon. Member for Mayo had taken to making periodical visits to his (Colonel Saunderson's) constituency recently, of which he was very glad. He addressed his constituents the day after the hon. Member for Mayo's last visit to North Armagh, and he was able to talk with great eloquence for over an hour on the speech of the hon. Member. In that speech the hon. Member for Mayo made a statement which he (Colonel Saunderson) believed to be perfectly true, and which ought to be a warning to every Government that sat on the Treasury Bench. The hon. Member for Mayo said, speaking on the Land Question—If we get Home Rule we will settle all those matters very soon; but if the Tories ever get back into power before we get Home Rule, I believe there will be one of the biggest land agitations that has ever been seen yet.No man could be on that subject a more perfect authority than the hon. Member for Mayo, who had conducted one of the greatest land agitations that these countries had ever seen; and the hon. Member now declared that if the Tories got back to power before hon. Members below the Gangway got Home Rule, another agitation would arise in 443 Ireland greater and more terrible than any that had gone before. What did that mean? It meant a renewal of those old scenes of crime and outrage and confusion which had made Ireland a byeword amongst the nations. Therefore, there was no finality and no prospect of peace in Ireland even if the Bill passed. In opposing the Bill, he and his Colleagues would meet with the approval of all the tenants in Ulster who followed them; and he believed they would meet with the approval also of the great majority of the tenants in the other parts of Ireland, because a Bill like that shook the foundations on which every tenant held the property in his farm. It was said that he and his Colleagues were doomed to extinction. That was quite possible; but even though they might belong to a fallen class, this consolation at any rate they would have, that they had done their best when the opportunity arose to destroy and defeat a measure which could justly be described as a measure to pay Irish criminal conspirators, out of the spoils of the Church, the wages of iniquity.
§ MR. W. KENNY (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)
said, he rose to second the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend that the Second Reading of this Bill should be taken three months hence. Having regard to the monstrous provisions of the Bill introduced, and having regard to the immoral and inequitable principle embodied in it, he could not conceive how any Unionist, be he landlord or be he not, could take any other course but to move a direct negative. The Chief Secretary tonight, at the outset of his remarks, made some observations with reference to the change which he said the tactics of the Opposition had undergone with reference to the Motion for the rejection of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Motion that had been put on the Paper by his hon. Friend the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Sauuderson), and said that the hon. and gallant Gentleman in taking the course he had adopted was taking a retrograde step, which was a deliberate retreat from the 13th section of the Act of 1891. With the permission of the House he would like to say one or two words with reference to the position of the Unionists with regard to that 13th section of the Act of 1891 and the 444 position they occupied to-night with reference to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman. When the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill on the 19th of April last he commented upon that 13th section of the Act and said that it would be futile to attempt to solve the question on the lines of Section 13 alone without the principle of compulsion. On behalf of gentlemen who sat on those Benches with him, and on behalf of the Ulster landlords, he thought he might say that they were perfectly willing to have the 13th section of the Act of 1891 re-enacted so as to give to any evicted tenant the benefits provided by that section. What were the benefits provided by that section? Without its aid the landlord had the right at any time he liked of reinstating any evicted tenant; he could put him back and place him in a position that would enable him to become a purchaser under the Land Purchase Act; but in reinstating him he would put him back on the land as a present tenant, conferring upon him the rights of present tenants, which included the right of fair rent and fixity of tenure in the soil. Under the 13th section the status of a tenant could be conferred on him without actual reinstatement. The landlords of Ireland—he did not speak in their name, but as one interested in the land question in Ireland — were perfectly willing that that section should be re-enacted without any time limit. The section as it stood limited the period within which the tenant might apply to purchase to six months, but there would be no objection to that section being re-enacted without any time limit. It was idle for the Chief Secretary to say that in taking the position which they had taken to-night there was any retreat from that 13th section. The Motion for the rejection of the Second Reading was simply adopted because the Chief Secretary, in his speech on that occasion, said it would be futile to consider the 13th section unless the principle of compulsion was attached to it. The Chief Secretary tonight referred to the principle of compulsion, and said he would be able to find precedents throughout the Land Acts for the principle of compulsion embodied in the Bill now before the House; that the whole code of the Land Acts was saturated with compulsion.
§ MR. W. KENNY
said, the right hon. Gentleman said "Hear, hear!" but he (Mr. Kenny) must say he was considerably astonished when he, for the first time in his life, heard it asserted that the Land Acts of 1881, 1885, 1887 were saturated with compulsion. He admitted that into one Act the principle of compulsion did come in a modified way—namely, in the Redemption of Rent Act. When the right hon. Gentleman cited cases in which he contended an obnoxious tenant could be forced on the landlord, what were the clauses he referred to? They were the Purchase Clauses of the Act of 1881.
§ MR. W. KENNY
Well, the Free Sale Clauses. What did they find there? Only a transfer of the existing tenancy; but, not, as in the Bill before the House, the introduction of a person who was a complete stranger to the holding, and who had no legal or equitable right of any sort. In the Act of 1881 they did not find the introduction of any person in that position into the holding or forced upon the landlord. In the Redemption of Rent Act there was an existing tenancy, also an existing holding, but they did not find the landlord in possession of that holding; they found a long leaseholder, or, it might be, a person holding under a fee farm grant, and under the Redemption Act he might purchase his rent, and if the landlord refused he was allowed to apply to the Land Court to have a fair rent fixed. Was there any analogy there to the Bill that was now before the House, which sought to force upon the landlord a person who had no legal or equitable interest in the holding? The Chief Secretary, in the course of his speech, referred to the transactions of the Landed Estates Court in Dublin, and he told the House, that the Judge of that Court, Mr. Justice Monroe, had on many occasions reinstated the tenants in their homes. In reinstating the tenants in their holdings did he reinstate them as present tenants? No; he made temporary lettings to them, which, by the 58th Section of the Act of 1881 excluded them from having a fair rent fixed or of availing themselves of any of the provisions of that Act. These were the precedents which the Chief Secretary said were precedents for his Bill of 1894, and which he said embodied the principle 446 of compulsion contained in this Bill. As he had said, the statement of the right hon. Gentleman had certainly caused him very great surprise, because he could not find that in a single one of the instances the right hon. Gentleman had taken was there any attempt to force a mere outsider, and, as he contended, an insolvent, and, in some cases, a criminal outsider, upon the landlord whom he had defrauded. What did the present Bill propose to do? As he said, he was not particularly interested in the landlords of Ireland. He was not a landlord himself, he did not own a single rood of land in Ireland; but he was, however, one of a section in this House who did believe the landlords of Ireland had been sufficiently plundered already. There were other parties in the House who believed the landlords had not been sufficiently plundered. How did the land question at the present moment stand? They had the authority of the Leader of the Irish Members who sat below the Gangway, the hon. Gentleman who represented Longford (Mr. Justin McCarthy), for the statement that thefeudal powers of the Irish landlords, the unexampled execution of arbitrary eviction, had been shattered and destroyed, and that the two essential principles of the Land League had become the law of the land.That was the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Longford (Mr. Justin McCarthy), and he thought they might take it from that pronouncement that the hon. Gentleman regarded to a large extent, the agrarian question in Ireland, the question as between landlord and tenant, as practically at an end. What was the object of the present Bill, and what class of persons in Ireland was it intended to benefit? It was not brought in in the interests of the evicted tenants alone, it was brought in, he contended, in the interests of another party altogether. It was brought in in the interests of the two hon. Gentlemen—the Member for Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) and the Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon), and for the purpose of saving their credit. It was not for the purpose of benefitting the old evicted tenant, the tenant who was evicted before the Plan of Campaign. Anyone who read the observations of the Chief Secretary in introducing the Bill on the 19th April last would see the right hon. Gentleman disregarded to a large extent the claims of 447 those tenants evicted before the Plan of Campaign, because the right hon. Gentleman's observations from beginning to end were directed to the Plan of Campaign tenants, and to these alone. The right hon. Gentleman said on that occasion that the Plan of Campaign tenants were the main centre of the mischief in Ireland, and it was for the benefit of these tenants—
§ MR. W. KENNY
said, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would agree with him in this statement, that the Campaign estates were the centre of the mischief in Ireland. But they had other pronouncements besides those made by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and he would like to know whether this Bill was brought in for the purpose of carrying out any pledge given to the Plan of Campaign tenants in Ireland by a present Cabinet Minister. The President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) visited Ireland some years ago, and what did he tell them? He said that within a month after the Liberal Party was in power every emergency man would have fled the country, and that every bogus tenant would have been replaced by the original tenant. That was a statement made by a gentleman who was one of the advisers of Her Majesty at the present time, and he would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, if he spoke, as he dared say he would, in this Debate, whether he was prepared to stand by the language he used in 1889? He would like to ask him one further question. The Plan of Campaign had been condemned as an illegal combination by every Judge in Ireland, and he would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he was a subscriber to the Plan of Campaign funds, and whether, when he subscribed, he was aware it was an illegal combination? His contention to-night was that this Bill was not brought in in the bonâ fide interest of either the Plan of Campaign tenants in Ireland or the other tenants who were evicted before the Plan of Campaign was established, but that it was a Bill brought in with a purely political object. They now knew, from confessions made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the Plan of Campaign was a purely political engine, that it was started for the purpose of embarrassing the then Government and for 448 the purpose of putting the gentlemen who now sat on the Treasury Bench into the position they now occupied. That was not an object that would commend itself to the House. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) told them that a number of the Plan of Campaign tenants were tenants who were able to pay their rents. They all remembered what the hon. Gentleman said at Glenbeigh, that he could point out tenants who could pay their rent, but would not, because he told them not to. That combination, it was admitted, in a number of estates where the landlords were in small circumstances and unable to resist the pressure brought against them, was successful, and stimulated by this they attacked another estate—namely, the Lansdowne Estate, because they thought that as the owner occupied a high position in the service of the Queen, they would drive him into terms with them. The pressure, however, was resisted, and resisted successfully. There was one other matter in connection with this Bill that he should like to call attention to. Some people thought that the object of the Plan of Campaign, and the events that followed from it were not mixed up with any criminal combination. There were two classes of evicted tenants, the evicted tenants who came into the criminal class, who were the promoters of the combination and who, after the evictions, assisted to boycott the farms and created derelict farms throughout Ireland. There was another class of evicted tenants, for whom there was, and perhaps there ought to be, a great deal of sympathy—namely, the unfortunate tenants who had to follow the lead of these men from fear of being boycotted and intimidated. These were the men for whom the landlords of Ireland, he had no doubt, had great sympathy, and that was the class of persons reinstated by the landlords under the provisions of this 13th section of the Act of 1891. The question of outrage, or no outrage, the question as to whether or not there was a criminal class amongst these evicted tenants was no academic question. Could it be said for a moment that the footsteps of the promoters of the Plan of Campaign were not followed by crime in every direction? The Chief Baron of the Exchequer, in a case heard before him in Ireland in 1890, said that it was impossible to arrive at any conclusion but one, 449 that it was conclusively proved there was a conspiracy existing to induce tenants not to pay their rents, which contemplated boycotting, assaults, and violence of every description. What did the present Bill propose to do? It proposed to allow every evicted tenant whose tenancy had been determined since 1879 to apply to these three arbitrators, to be reinstated in his holding with the right of the landlord to insist if he thought fit that the evicted tenant should purchase the holding. That was the application of the principle of compulsion to the case of the evicted tenants, subject certainly, as the Chief Secretary said, to the right of the arbitrators, not to entertain the application if they thought right. It placed within a category a certain set of people who were to be entitled to the benefit of the Act, and the set of people, as he had said, consisted of two sections, one a section who might be the criminal leaders of the Plan of Campaign on a particular estate, and the other individuals who were unable to resist the pressure brought to bear upon them. To come to the provisions of the Bill. A very serious and arguable question might arise upon the 1st clause. The House would remark that it commenced with a declaration that, where the tenancy of the holding in Ireland had been determined since the 1st of May, 1879, the former tenant or his personal representative might within one year after the commencement of the Act, apply to the arbitrators under the Act to be reinstated as tenant. If not too technical in his remarks, he would point out that the term "holding" might include any holding which was excluded by the 58th section of the Act of 1881. If it were to be the case that any tenant in Ireland was to be entitled to petition for reinstatement and was to be reinstated by the arbitrators then they would have not only purely agricultural tenants, but also tenants who had been evicted from dwelling-houses, town parks, demesne lands, and large pastures entitled to the benefit of the section. [Mr. DODD: Why not?] An hon. Member asked "Why not?" and his answer to that was that the Land Act of 1881 was intended to benefit purely agricultural tenants and not such tenants as the holders of demesne and town park lands. One of the sections of the Act absolutely excluded tenants of this character from the operation 450 of the Bill. The question was not arguable.
§ MR. W. KENNY
said, he did not understand the nature or object of the hon. Member's interruption. The proposition now seemed to be that not only in the agricultural districts but also in the towns and cities of Ireland there should be in force an Act of Parliament enabling any one who had been evicted for non-payment of rent, and who was in the position of an absolute and complete stranger to the holding to be reinstated. The result would be that men who had been evicted from dwelling-houses, town parks, demesne lauds, or large pasture holdings would be reinstated as present tenants side by side with men who, as they had not gone through the ordeal of eviction, had no such status under the Act of 1881. Did the right hon. Gentleman contemplate such a result as that? If he did they would be putting side by side throughout the agricultural districts of Ireland two sections of the community—one class of men who had no rights unless they had gone through the ordeal of eviction; and the other class, men who had been honest and solvent rent-paying tenants. There was another question arising on this section which he would commend to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. The first section of the Bill provided for the reinstatement of tenants whose tenancy had been determined since 1879. A tenancy was deemed to be determined if the landlord had purchased the tenant's interest, and yet, under this Bill, the tenant who probably had been paid for his interest in hard cash would be entitled to apply for reinstatement. Tenants who had come to terms with their landlords, and had voluntarily surrendered their holdings in lieu of arrears of rent, and who possibly had left the country, would also come under the Bill. The words of the clause were exceedingly vague. Then the arbitrators were authorised to make an order for reinstatement if there was a primâ facie case for reinstatement owing to the circumstances of the district, or the circumstances under which the eviction took place, or some other cause appearing to them sufficient. He did not think it possible to introduce more vague or 451 general drafting into any Bill. The right hon. Gentleman professed to have found a precedent for his proposals in the Acts of 1881 and 1891. But was there any such precedent, and had the right hon. Gentleman made inquiries of the Irish Land Commission as to whether or not the Commissioners had been able to act on the vague expressions contained in the Act of 1881? What were the "circumstances of a district" that were to influence a Board of Arbitrators? Was the refusal of a landlord to accept a year's rent in settlement of five or six years' arrears to constitute such a circumstance? He ventured to think that arbitrators seeking to act on instructions so vague as these would be utterly at sea. The Report of the Mathew Commission found that the Plan of Campaign was adopted on the Smith-Barry property on sentimental grounds alone—namely, because of the action of the hon. Member for South Hunts in regard to the Ponsonby estate. He would like to ask the Chief Secretary whether, under the words "some other cause appearing to them sufficient," the arbitrators were to take into consideration the action of the hon. Member in regard to the Ponsonby estate. If that were so, it would be a most monstrous thing that three gentlemen who knew nothing of the circumstances were to determine that the conduct of the hon. Gentleman in taking the action he did in regard to the Ponsonby estate was wrong. The right hon. Gentleman in creating this Board of Arbitration was constituting a new tribunal in Ireland. They already had a Landed Estates Court, and a Land Commission dealing with land questions, and now a third body was proposed. When the Bill was introduced last year one of the hon. Members for Leitrim suggested that the question of the evicted tenants should be dealt with, not by a new or separate tribunal, but by the Land Commission. That proposal had not, however, found favour, and so the Chief Secretary proposed to create this new body, and to give no power of appeal against its decisions. He thought it would be most unfortunate that they were to have absolute and final power, and that their decision should not be subject to appeal. He submitted that that was a very grave defect in the Bill. Appeals were given from the Sub-Commissioners to the Land Commission on questions of 452 value, and there was power of appeal on questions of law from the Land Commission to the Court of Appeal in Ireland. He thought it was monstrous to make the decisions of this new Board of Arbitrators final. His next point arose on the 3rd section, which provided for the case in which a new tenant had come into the holding. They might call the new tenant a planter, but he had been adopted by the landlord, and in almost every case had paid his rent as an honest man. That new tenant might object to an order for reinstatement, and thereupon the arbitrators were not to make an order. What would be the future position of the tenant? If he chose to remain in the holding he would do so at great risk. The Chief Secretary had said he had introduced the Bill for the purpose of healing a deep sore in Ireland. Did the right hon. Gentleman think that in cases where a new tenant refused to go out his life would be happy or that the Bill would not create the most intense dissatisfaction amongst these new tenants? They had had recently a recrudescence of the agitation in Ireland against men who were termed "grabbers"—men who were said to have grabbed farms. Numerous question had been of late addressed to the right hon. Gentleman on the subject, and speeches of a violent character had been made—some of them by Members of that House—in different parts of the country against those men, and the substance of the speeches had been that the life of the grabber or planter must be made too unhappy for him to remain in his holding; these men were to be driven out, though they might have legally and honourably held possession for several years. Did the right hon. Gentleman contemplete that result from the passing of his Bill? The Nationalist papers were day after day teeming with articles on the question of grabbed farms, and the view seemed to have presented itself to hon. Members that the land-grabber was the principal obstruction to the legislation of the right hon. Gentleman. He held in his hands a Wexford paper which took that view, and which further blamed the people for not having been more in earnest, and added that they ought to make it hot for them, as if they did not take action the land-grabber would remain in possession of the evicted farms. What was the meaning of that? 453 It was that the unfortunate man who had taken an evicted farm and had been spending his money upon it for the last four or five years was to have it made hot for him if he dared to remain in possession. He was told, in fact, to make way for the dishonest tenant. The Bill proposed not alone to reinstate the evicted tenant, but to place him in a position wholly different from that occupied by the tenant who purchased under the Acts of 1885 and 1887, or under the 13th section of the Act of 1891 by subsidising the man who had gone through the ordeal of eviction. The landlord was to get a sum not exceeding two years' arrears of rent, and the tenant was to pay or secure the rent for one of those years, while the State was to secure, or advance, the other, and to assist him by enabling him to rebuild such dwellings on the holding as had been destroyed.
§ MR. W. KENNY
"Burnt down," if the hon. Member wished to use the term. At any rate, the State was to advance the tenant a sum of £50 for rebuilding purposes, and he ventured to say that such a provision would create great discontent and dissatisfaction in the minds of all the neighbours of those reinstated tenants who had endeavoured to pay their rent honourably from year to year. The Bill as it stood was open to many other criticisms. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that night that he intended to increase the sum to be placed at the disposal of the arbitrators from £100,000 to £250,000. Why had he done that? They had it on the authority of the right hon. Gentleman that there were 3,800 evicted tenants in Ireland at the present time who might seek to avail themselves of the benefit of the Act. The pressure of that circumstance no doubt accounted for the increase in the amount.
§ MR. W. KENNY
said that, at any rate, provision would have to be made for 3,800 tenants. Was this Bill meant to pass? Hon. Members after that Debate would come to the conclusion that there was a great deal of unreality in the effort to pass it. He felt confident that few people believed that the measure would pass, or was even meant to pass. Even the evicted tenants themselves did not believe it was going to pass. He no- 454 ticed the other day an account of an inquest in Cork on the body of a man—an evicted tenant, who had died under an archway, having refused a home which had been offered to him, and had eventually succumbed to exposure; and the coroner, in putting the case before the jury, asked them to consider whether the tenant was under the hallucination that Mr. Morley was going to restore the evicted tenants. If this Bill should become law its main effect would be to create discontent and irritation in the highest possible degree. He agreed with the hon. and gallant Member who moved the rejection of the Bill that there was no finality whatever in it, and that instead of healing the wound of which the Chief Secretary spoke, it would only widen and deepen it, and would create greater friction than had ever existed in Ireland, not only between landlord and tenant, but also among different sections of Irish tenants.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Colonel Saunderson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. LOCKWOOD (York)
said, this question was one in which he had for a long time taken a deep interest, and it was one with which he had become intimately connected in the course of his professional career. In 1888 when, with others, he was engaged in the long inquiry known as the Parnell Commission, he became familiar with the terrible history of Irish distress and with the terrible tale of Irish evictions. He was not at all surprised to find that the Chief Secretary was in considerable doubt as to how the Opposition intended to deal with the measure, for they were under the impression that the Bill was to be met by an Amendment which began with words with which he felt sure every true friend of Ireland, upon whichever side of the House he sat, must thoroughly sympathise. The words were—That whilst willing to consider any just and practicable proposal for the reinstatement of the evicted tenants,and then the Amendment went on to express an opinion in a sense hostile to the measure. With that criticism and that 455 expression of hostile opinion they did not, of course, agree; but they admired the courage which had distinguished an hon. Member sitting on that side of the House, and which had enabled him to stand up for that which he believed to be justice in this matter—that the proposal submitted was one which could not be met merely with a cold negative of the hon. Member for the St. Stephen's Green, or be disposed of by the more warlike demonstration of the hon. and gallant Member who moved the rejection of the Bill. He recognised, and he thought the House would recognise, that there was an expression of sympathy in the words he had quoted for which, whether they agreed with the conclusion to which the Amendment would lead or not, they ought to feel thankful. He felt sure he was prepared, if it had fallen to his lot to meet the measure with this Amendment, to deal with the question in that spirit of conciliation which was the only true spirit in which it could properly be approached. But they were met here by a negative and nothing else. They had had a speech from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh, and one from the hon. and learned Gentleman for the City of Dublin, in which they were invited simply to negative the proposal of the Government, and no solution—no suggestion of a solution—of these difficulties was offered by either of these gentlemen. However much they might differ with the hon. and learned Member, he did in his speech refer to the Bill and attempt some criticism of it; but the hon. and gallant Gentleman, he ventured to say, had established a record, for he had criticised the Bill without referring to a single line of it, and where he had failed in detailed criticism he had made up in that wealth of invective which belonged solely to gentlemen in his honourable profession. To deal with some of the criticisms of the hon. and learned Gentleman he thought, first of all, he was in error when he said that the Chief Secretary for Ireland in dealing with Section 13 of the Act of 1891 claimed for it that it was on all-fours with or went as far as the Bill with which they were now dealing. The right hon. Gentleman had said nothing of the kind. What he had said if he (Mr. Lockwood) had rightly understood him, was, "The principle of Section 13 of the Act of 1891 sanctions 456 the policy of my Bill. I am not to be reproached with exceptional policy in this regard, because in this 13th section of the Bill of 1891 you have that very policy foreshadowed which my Bill will endeavour to complete." The right hon. Gentleman's answer, he took it, would be, "I do not claim that my Bill is only co-extensive with the 13th section of the Act of 1891." They were grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for going beyond the four corners of that section, for experience had shown that it was not in itself sufficient. If it had been the present measure would have been unnecessary. Then complaint was made about thrusting an obnoxious tenant upon the landlord. The hon. and learned Gentleman must have forgotten the procedure of the Bill—he must have forgotten that before even the arbitrator could be called on to decide as between the landlord and tenant, that the tenant had to make out what was called in the Bill a primâ facie case, and if he failed to make that case out to the satisfaction of the arbitrator his case could never be heard. When a primâ facie case was made out then the third sub-section provided procedure which he should have thought ample to secure any landlord from having a tenant thrust on him in a way that would render reinstatement an injustice. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that under the Bill the landlord might have forced upon him a mere "outsider." Who did the hon. and learned Member mean when he spoke of an outsider? Did he mean a man outside his tenancy? He was in that sense an outsider. He was outside his tenancy, and in many cases it was a cruel shame that he was outside it. Did the hon. and learned Gentleman use this term "outsider" as an epithet of reproach? If he did it was in that sense and under those conditions most inapt. The man was no outsider. In nine cases out of ten he was a man who had lived his life there and had followed others who had lived their lives there. The hon. and gallant Member might have a very keen knowledge of these Acts of Parliament, but he had told them very frankly that he had no connection with the land. That might explain his having so little knowledge of the people who had dwelt upon it. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman complained of the Bill. He said it was com- 457 pulsory, and, as being compulsory, was apt to work injustice. He (Mr. Lockwood) had no wish to weary the House by recalling to its recollection what was to be done before the tenant could be reinstated. But it should be remembered that after establishing a primâ facie case the 3rd sub-section of Clause 1 applied. That sub-section was in these words:—If the landlord so shows cause the arbitrators shall hear the parties, and after consideration of the question whether the conduct of either landlord or tenant has been unreasonable, or whether the one has unreasonably refused any proposal made by the other, may dismiss the petition or make the order absolute subject or not to conditions to be performed by either landlord or tenant, and generally may make such order in the matter as the arbitrators may think most consistent with justice.The hon. and learned Gentleman would, he was sure, admit that if this procedure was honestly carried out and these duties were faithfully discharged by the Gentlemen who were to be appointed arbitrators under the Bill the word compulsory could not be applied to the reinstatement. When the hon. and learned Gentleman was criticising the Bill he (Mr. Lockwood) had waited in vain to hear a criticism of the names the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had disclosed as being those he proposed to submit to the House as worthy of the office created by the measure. The hon. and learned Gentleman had not made a single suggestion that it was to be supposed for a moment that these gentlemen were not perfectly honest or would not properly carry out their duties. What was the hon. and learned Gentleman's next grievance? He objected to the £50 for the rebuilding of houses. This was rather surprising. He (Mr. Lockwood) should have thought that the hon. and learned Member would have paused before in any way inviting public attention to the circumstances which rendered that provision necessary. Anyone who took the trouble to read the account of the wanton and indefensible destruction of houses in connection with these evictions could but feel that if these things were done under the name of law, they were acts calculated to bring the law into the direst contempt. He did not know that he quite appreciated the relevancy of the reference to the Coroner's inquest which the hon. and learned Member had referred to. He did not know what the result of the inquiry was, or 458 what application it had to the question before the House. He came now to what he would call the record Second Reading speech of the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Saunderson). The hon. and gallant Member's speeches began, as his speeches generally did begin, with something about himself. The hon. and gallant Member said he ought not to be called an irreconcilable, because he voted for the Land Act of 1870. But what place did the hon. and gallant Gentleman represent in 1870? The hon. and gallant Gentleman was reconcilable, and voted for the Land Act of 1870 when he was Member for Cavan, but he was irreconcilable, and voted against this Bill when he was Member for North Armagh. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said he did not intend to deal with the details of the Bill. That promise was given early in his somewhat discursive observations, and it was a promise which was rigorously kept till the time he sat down. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, speaking not in detail but at large on the subject of the Bill, said it "was the most extraordinary monstrosity that had been produced in this or any other Parliament." Let him (Mr. Lockwood) give a friendly word of warning to the hon. and gallant Member. Let him not get rid of all his superlatives now; otherwise he would have nothing left for the Home Rule Bill. Then they were told that if this Bill passed there could be no prospect of peace; but what prospect of peace was there if it did not pass? The evicted tenants in Ireland were looking forward to this measure with an anxiety which no language could adequately describe. It was an expectancy which, if it were not realised, must have disastrous results. The hon. and gallant Member frankly told the House that this Bill should not become law. How did he know that? He (Mr. Lockwood) supposed that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had the confidence of "another place." The House would note, and he thought the country would note, that the Mover of the rejection of the Bill warned the House that even if they passed the Bill it would be rejected in another place. He (Mr. Lockwood) hoped with all his heart that wiser counsels might prevail; but if not he would ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman what then would be the prospects of peace?
§ MR. LOCKWOOD
Either in Ireland or in England. He came now to what he might venture to call the grand finale of the hon. and gallant Member's speech. The hon. and gallant Gentleman told hon. Members that they were called upon to pay Irish conspirators the wages of iniquity out of a despoiled Church. Yes, but there was no objection to despoiling that Church when the money was to go into the pockets of the Irish landlords. It would form an interesting subject of inquiry to ascertain how much of the money of that Church had gone into the pockets of the Irish landlords.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
The hon. and learned Gentleman does not seem to be aware that the money under this Bill is to go into our pockets.
§ MR. LOCKWOOD
said, that was just what he was coming to. He was about to tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman not to be downhearted, for this money would come to him as well. He was glad to see that the hon. and gallant Gentleman appreciated the position. Well, was there any justification for this last attack—namely, that the money was to go to pay criminal conspirators, and was to be taken from a despoiled Church? There were, it was said, two classes of tenants to be dealt with. The one class appeared to have the sympathy of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and the other class the hon. and gallant Gentleman said would have sympathy from none. These were the men who, notwithstanding the fact that they were in better circumstances themselves, had had some regard for their weaker brethren, and, seeing their hard lot had at great sacrifice to themselves hastened to assist them. Did the hon. and gallant or the hon. and learned Member think that the tenants of Ireland as a body would consent to a reinstatement one of the terms of which was to leave outside the pale of the arrangement the men who had stood beside them in the hour of their need? If the hon. and gallant and the hon. and learned Gentlemen thought that they little understood their fellow-countrymen. Why, on the Massereene estate the tenants had an abatement offered, which they would have accepted but for the fact that two ringleaders, as they were called, were left outside the proposed arrangement, and so the rest of the tenants refused to 460 be reinstated. All honour to them for it! It would be a disgrace, indeed, to the Irish tenants; it would be conduct of which he did not believe them capable, that they should consent, even if Parliament asked them to do so, to enter into their holdings and to leave still out in the cold the men who had made the greatest sacrifices for them in their time of need. It was said on the first reading of the Bill that to take the funds from such a source as that indicated in the Bill would amount to sacrilege. Certainly no such language as that had been used on the present occasion. The money was, in fact, to come from a fund which in 1880 supplied £1,500,000, the greater proportion, if not the whole, of which found its way into the pockets of the landlords. On other occasions the same fund had been drawn upon, and the landlords had benefited from it as they would benefit in the present instance. But was it an uneconomic act on the part of the Government to propose this Bill, even if the matter were put upon the lowest ground? What had been the cost to the country of the evictions that had taken place since 1879—the cost of the attendance of the police, the attendance of the military, the arrests, the convictions, the maintenance of prisoners in gaol, the outdoor relief, and the grants under the Prevention of Crimes Act. The cost had been £115,418. Therefore, putting the matter on the lowest ground of pounds, shillings, and pence, the proposal was justified. By the passing of this Bill the landlords would benefit, the tenants would benefit, and the public would benefit. Who, then, was to prevent them from having it? The hon. and gallant Gentleman said "another place." Then let the House of Lords bear the penalties and the responsibility. The responsibility would not, however, he felt sure, rest upon the House of Commons, for he believed that House would pass the Bill by a large majority.
§ MR. CARSON (Dublin University)
The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down commenced his speech by reminding us that his interest in the country from which I have the honour to come was first inculcated by his connection with the Special Commission. If there is one thing more than another that I am personally aware of in connection with the hon. and learned Gentleman it 461 is this, that in any matter in which he is professionally engaged he is always sure to ensure a righteous verdict. When he reminded me that he had been engaged in learning the Irish Question as a professional advocate before the Special Commission, I was tempted to turn to the verdict of the Special Commissioners as to the motives and objects of the evicted tenants in Ireland, whom we are now asked by this Bill to restore to their holdings. Of course, Sir, if those tenants had been evicted because they were oppressed by the Irish landlords, that would be an aspect of the case with which many Members might sympathise. But what was the verdict which the hon. and learned Gentleman assisted in getting? It was that these evictions had been brought about by a criminal conspiracy and by illegal means, with the object of expelling from Ireland those landlords who are styled the English garrison. The hon. and learned Member says that his interest in this question of the evicted tenants was aroused for the first time—
§ MR. CARSON
Well, that it was aroused by the Commission, and that that was his reason for addressing the House—because there was an illegal conspiracy to expel Englishmen from Ireland. I am not going to follow the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He is always eloquent, always able, and, above all things, always good-natured. Certainly, as far as his good-natured chaff went, I had not any reason for wishing to interfere between him and the House. I turn to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. J. Morley). The right hon. Gentleman did me the honour of referring to the observations I made on the introduction of this Bill by him in April last. The right hon. Gentleman insinuated to the House that in some way or other I had changed my mind or my position in regard to this Bill. I have done nothing of the kind. What I said then, and what I say now, I will read to the House. I said—I know enough of Ireland to say that I believe and admit that the question of the evicted tenants, whether they were rightly or wrongly evicted, and whether they were evicted for the purpose of advancing a par- 462 ticular class of politics or not, that as long as it remains unsettled the question of the evicted tenants means a great deal with reference to the peace of Ireland.I said that then, and I say that now; but why did the right hon. Gentleman stop there and not read the next sentence, in which I said—I do not wish it for a moment to be supposed I thought the right hon. Gentleman had proposed a satisfactory solution.I said that then, and I say that now; and I do not see any reason in the world why the right hon. Gentleman should insinuate to the House or to anyone that I, at all events, have changed my position or changed my regard to this Bill.
MR. J. MORLEY
I never meant to insinuate that he had changed his convictions with regard to the Bill. What I meant and said was, that the substitution of the Resolution of the hon. and gallant Member behind him for the Resolution of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) meant that the Party opposite had taken a non possumus attitude, which the hon. and learned Gentleman had repudiated.
§ MR. CARSON
I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman quoted me in reference to the matter, if not insinuating to the House in some way or other I had receded from the position I ventured to defend on the occasion of the First Reading. But that is a matter of very little importance, and what I wish now to discuss somewhat in a serious way is the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and the provisions by which he proposes to settle this question. I do say again, as I said on the First Reading, if the right hon. Gentleman had proposed a settlement of this question which I deemed fair to those parties who had been supporting and acting under the law in Ireland, I would certainly support him, but that is not the position unfortunately which he has taken up. The right hon. Gentleman, so far from wishing to support those who have acted under the law and in obedience to the law in Ireland, takes a position here as the champion of those who have resisted the law, and resisted it for political purposes. The right hon. Gentleman, I am glad to say, has not put his case upon any unreasonable or improper conduct on the part of the landlords of Ireland, or upon any 463 want of protection afforded to the tenants of Ireland under the Land Laws, and it is to be noted that while he proposes to ask the House to vote £250,000 for the purpose of restoring tenants who have no title to the holdings from which they have been evicted in Ireland, he does not suggest there ought to be any legal change in the law for the better protection of the tenants. The whole argument is that if this House is not prepared to yield to tenants who have been the dupes of a dishonest and immoral policy, if they do not do that you cannot vouch for the peace of Ireland. Why do I use the words "dishonest and immoral policy"? I will tell you why. One great statesman who sits on that Bench, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, went over to Ireland in the time of Ireland's greatest agitation, and having got a pledge from Dublin Castle for his own personal safety—
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. SHAW-LEFEVRE,) Bradford, Central
That is absolutely and totally false.
§ MR. CARSON
I accept the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. [Cries of "Withdraw!"] I said I accepted the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. What am I wanted to do more than that? [Cries of "Apologise!"] The right hon. Gentleman went down to these unfortunate tenants and gave a pledge on behalf of the Party of which he was an eminent Member that the moment they came into power—
§ MR. SHAW - LEFEVRE
I must again correct the hon. and learned Gentleman. I expressly said I spoke for myself, and I had no authority to speak for my Party.
§ MR. CARSON
Very well, then, I put it in this way: that he expected the peasantry of Ireland to draw a distinction between the right hon. Gentleman as a Member of the Liberal Party and as an ex-Member of the Liberal Cabinet. I make him a present of that. But, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman went down, at all events, and he gave his own pledge that within three months after the Liberal Party was restored to power—
§ MR. CARSON
Within one month these tenants would be restored to their holdings. For two years they have been in Office, and the least one might have expected is that after such a pledge given to these tenants he would have tried to effect his object with his colleagues or that he would have resigned his office. But that was the last thing the right hon. Gentleman intended. And why do I refer to that? Because the right hon. Gentleman is the one man of all others sitting on that Bench who in 1882 came before this House and blamed the Irish landlords that they were not firm in enforcing their rights in Ireland, and he was the one man who got up and accused the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), the Leader of the Irish Party, of having adopted a policy that was dishonest and immoral, and complained of the landlords not acting with more firmness in asserting their rights. And this hon. Gentleman is the same hon. Member who afterwards goes down, I think, to the County of Galway, and asks the ignorant Irish peasant to draw a distinction between what he said as a private Member and as a Member prepared to accept Office. What, then, is the whole argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary? He says, if we do not pass this Bill he cannot vouch for peace in Ireland, and the hon. and learned Member who has just spoken made one last appeal, and said, putting it on the lowest ground, we ought to consider the cost to the country. What does that mean—what does it all come to? It simply means this: that unless you pass a Bill, no matter how bad, no matter how unfair, if there is only sufficient disturbance of the peace in Ireland, you are bound to submit. So mob law is the foundation of a Liberal Government; rather submit to that than incur the necessary cost of preserving peace in Ireland. That is the view put forward by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, which is entirely in keeping with a great portion of his administration in Ireland, because he knows as well as I do there are tenants there who have taken farms who are living lives worse than the lives of galley slaves, because he dare not put the law in force against the wish of the Members below the Gangway.
§ MR. CARSON
We have argued it out before, and all I can say is that every day I receive letters from people in Ireland describing the most outrageous interference with liberty.
§ MR. CARSON
I constantly do so; I brought them before the notice of the House on the discussion of his salary.
§ MR. CARSON
He says, "Hear, hear!" but what did the right hon. Gentleman tell me on that occasion? He said, "What harm is done? True it is a man lost his trade, his windows were broken; true it is his servants left him, his smith would not shoe his horses, but what harm is done?"
§ MR. CARSON
Did he prosecute the person who did this thing? No, he said it would not be advisable to do so. Well, I pass on from that matter and come to the first statement that the right hon. Gentleman ventured to make in, I think, a spirit of confident assurance that did him credit, and which probably is the result of his holding office in the difficult position in which he now finds himself, and that is that he told this House seriously there was no new principle in the Bill.
§ MR. CARSON
And he says, "Hear, hear!" I should like to ask him two questions, and two questions only. I should like to ask him when was it, by any previous Bill that he can refer me to, ever proposed to take the property of which a man was in occupation and give it to another, and that too without compensation? The right hon. Gentleman says the Act of 1881 was passed which kept on a tenant against the will of the landlord. True it was, but is not that a different thing from this, that where a landlord is in actual occupation of his own property and wishes to remain, the right hon. Gentleman should come forward and say, "Whether you like it or not, whether you are making money by 466 it or not, you must give up this property"? But that is not all, because the right hon. Gentleman goes on and says, "Yes; you must give up the property you are in occupation of, and must do so without compensation." I would like to ask the House what is the basis for seeking to put these people practically out of possession of their own property? There is only one argument by which you can put it before the House in a logical way, and it is this: you can say it is for the public good that these tenants ought to be restored to the holdings and the property of the landlord ought to be taken, and that is the only way in which you can argue it. You have not suggested any other reason, no harshness on the part of the landlords or defect in the land laws, because you do not propose to amend them, and therefore the only argument is that it is for the good of the public these tenants should be restored. I ask where is the precedent on the Statute Book that you are compelled to take property for the good of the State, and where it has been done without compensation? Here you do not offer a shilling for compensation. If property is taken for a railway or for any public object whatever, not only do you give compensation to the person from whom you take the property, but the compensation is assessed at a value over and above the market value, because you take it compulsorily. I venture to think the exclusion of the principle that you are to compensate to the fullest extent renders it necessary for everyone on this side of the House who respects the right of property to vote for the Motion moved by my hon. and gallant Friend. But there is another principle involved in this which seems to me to go far beyond anything ever attempted by this House before—namely, the time at which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to disturb those in peaceable possession of the property at this moment. Take the case of the new tenant. What is the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman? He says that a tenant put in possession 15 years ago may now be disturbed at the will of these arbitrators. Has the right hon. Gentleman got a precedent for that? I shall quote a precedent the other way. What does he say to the Statute of Limitation? Under that if a person is in possession for 12 467 years he becomes entitled to the absolute freehold, and the right hon. Gentleman says he has a right to go beyond that for three years and to disturb the relations existing and the rights of the man in possession. A more outrageous and unsupported proposal has never been submitted to the House of Commons or any assembly that has the most elementary ideas of the rights of property. I pass from that and come to a point referred to by the hon. and learned Member for St. Stephen's Green Division (Mr. W. Kenny). As the Bill now stands it applies to every holding of every kind and description in Ireland; as the Bill is now framed every tenant of a house in Dublin who has been evicted during the last 15 years has a right to apply to these arbitrators to be reinstated. I want to know does the right hon. Gentleman mean that; does he mean this is to apply to tenancies that are not agricultural; does it apply to town houses or not?
§ An hon. MEMBER: Look at the Definition Clause.
§ MR. CARSON
I have looked at that; I am not making my point without reading the Bill, and it is because I have looked at the Definition Clause that I am making my point. The Definition Clause says—"The term 'holding' shall have the same meaning as in the definition of the Act of 1881."
§ MR. CARSON
I say it will; the term "holding" in the Act of 1881 is "a parcel of land held by a tenant from a landlord," and that is the description of every house, for every house is built on a parcel of land. Hon. Members may laugh, but it is so. I put that point, whether a holding in a suburb, of 10 or 12 acres—
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
Can the hon. and learned Gentleman give any instance where such land was held to be a holding under the Act of 1881?
§ MR. CARSON
No, Sir; and I tell him why, because there is another section in the Act which limits the application to holdings that are agricultural. And why was that section put into the Act of 1881? It was put in because, if it had 468 not been, the term "holding" in the Act would have applied to every single case in Ireland. And what is more—the hon. and learned Member need not suppose I am making this point on the spur of the moment—I have looked into it, and in the Act of 1887 I find the definition of "holding" says "but shall not include lands otherwise than those which are agricultural or pastoral, or partly agricultural or partly pastoral." But, as I said before, I am not making a special pleading point, and I wish to ask does he mean to apply it to every case in Ireland?
§ MR. CARSON
Does he mean to limit it to agricultural or pastoral, or partly agricultural or partly pastoral land?
§ MR. CARSON
Then I ask, does he mean to exclude demesne lands? He does not know. Does he mean to exclude purely pastoral holdings, home farms, glebe lands? I am taking every one of these cases excluded by the Act of 1881, but apparently the right hon. Gentleman has not made up his mind.
§ MR. CARSON
But let me show the importance of this point, and it is this. If you do not exclude these holdings, what will occur? These are not holdings to which a fair rent applies, and the landlord has the same right over them, and if you put them back to-morrow against the will of the landlord, he has the right to turn them out, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman does he mean to exclude them or not? He does not know. For a further reason this is a matter of importance. He proposes to set up a tribunal, and proposes to give it the power of deciding what comes within the Act, and we should like to know, before agreeing to the tribunal, what they will have to decide. We have had up to this, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, different decisions by different Judges affect- 469 ing these points, and he and I, and many others, for the last 18 days have been investigating upstairs what are the meanings of all these decisions. We have had the advice of the highest legal advisers to assist us, and what I want to know is this: Is this mushroom Arbitration Court to decide all these points that have been hitherto left to these learned Judges and the Courts, and eventually to the House of Lords? All I can say is, I think the right hon. Gentleman has presented to the House a very rude scheme, when he is notable even to tell us what is the nature of the holdings in Ireland to which he means his scheme to apply. But the matter does not rest there. Not only can you not find out from the Bill the holdings to which this Bill applies, but I defy any person to find out in what cases the arbitrators are to have the power of granting reinstatement. I made this point on the first reading of the Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman did me the honour, as regards the point, in some respects to say when I read the Bill I would be perfectly satisfied. Well, I have read the Bill, and I am not satisfied. I defy anyone reading the Bill to come to any conclusion as to the cases the right hon. Gentleman means to include within the scope of the measure. The right hon. Gentleman excused himself by saying that fair rent was not defined by the Act of 1881. I think the fact that it was not defined has led to a good deal of investigation upstairs and a good deal of difficulty in administration of the Act of 1881. At all events, everyone knew what a rent was, and everyone had some idea of what "a fair rent" was, and therefore in some way or other you might arrive at some sort of conclusion as to what a fair rent was, but I would like to ask in all seriousness who is there who has in his mind at the present moment any idea of any kind as to what is a "primâ facie case for reinstatement?" Up to the present time the law was clear that if a tenant paid his rent and the costs within six months he has a right to be put back; that is all we know about reinstatement, and the only reading to a lawyer would be that a primâ facie case for reinstatement was that a man who was evicted could, if he was prepared to pay up everything including costs, be reinstated within a 470 period of six months; but when I am told we are to put back a man who has been 15 years out—who went out 15 years ago because he could not pay, who has stayed out ever since because he could not pay—when I am told that he is in a position to come and make a primâ facie case for reinstatement, I can only think that the most profitable means of occupation for a tenant in Ireland is to be out of possession 15 years. Apparently the case of the right hon. Gentleman is this: that these people who have been out 15 years because they were insolvent have suddenly come to such a position of solvency that it would be an advantage, not only to the State but to the landlords, that they should be reinstated in possession. I do ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us, before the Debate concludes, some idea of what they were doing, and what the arbitrators are to consider as the primâ facie case for reinstatement. I turn to the Bill, and I find the first point is to consider the circumstances of the district. At what date are they to consider it? Is it now, under the rule of the right hon. Gentleman and his assistants in Ireland, or is it under the rule of my right hon. Friend, and, at the time when English statesmen were coming over to make government as difficult as possible. Which of these are you to take? Are you to take the fact of the district being quiet or the fact of the district being disturbed? I would like to ask that of the right hon. Gentleman, for this reason that I can assure him that if the test of whether a primâ facie case was made or not was to depend upon the quiet or the disturbed state of a neighbourhood, the arbitrators will have plenty to do; and it would be a most unfair test to place upon their shoulders. After all they ought to have some indication of what are the proper circumstances to guide them. If they are to take into account the circumstances of the district in a time of quiet or in a time of the neighbourhood being disturbed, what is the use of putting in anything about the circumstances? I find only one other indication, they are to take into consideration the circumstances under which the eviction took place. Does that mean that they are to consider whether the rent was due? The tenant cannot be turned out unless at least a year's rent is due. Does it mean 471 that the arbitrators are to consider, when an eviction takes place, whether there was a sufficient disturbance and resistance made to the Sheriffs' officers? Does this mean that if there was no resistance on the part of the tenants, and they acted in a legal way in all circumstances, then they are to be restored? Does it mean that if there was no conspiracy against the payment of rent then the tenants would make out a primâ facie case? If it does, then all I can say is what will become of all the Plan of Campaign tenants? On the other hand, does the right hon. Gentleman mean to lay it down as an indication that even if only there was a conspiracy, then there is a primâ facie case? If so, then, Sir, you are putting a premium upon illegality, and I am sure the last gentleman in the world to do that would be the Chief Secretary for Ireland. But, Sir, if the arbitrators have not been sufficiently troubled in coming to a conclusion as to what are the particular circumstances, I find there is this saving clause: "Any other cause sufficient to authorise the reinstatement of the tenant." What does that mean? Here, again, I must ask, as regards this curious political novelty, what was the necessity of putting the two previous cases in order to trouble those unfortunate gentlemen if any other cause suggested by their own imagination or the knowledge that their own imagination or the knowledge that their salaries would be discussed on the Estimates by hon. Members below the Gangway was to be deemed to be a sufficient cause to make a primâ facie case for reinstatement? I fear that, as regards the origin and the reason of this primâ facie case, it will remain, like "Morley's Mile," insoluble, and shall be relegated to future ages as one of those curiosities which always emanate from statesmen who are trying to do right when they are supported by those who want them to do wrong. As a landlord has nothing to say to this primâ facie case for reinstatement there is a hearing before the arbitrator when the landlord comes in to show cause. I should like to know what it is that the arbitrator will have to consider as sufficient cause shown on the part of the landlord. The right hon. Gentleman has given the House no information on this point. But the question is to be asked, 472 "Has the conduct either of the landlord or the tenant been unreasonable?" What is unreasonable conduct on the part of the tenant? Is it unreasonable on the part of the tenant that he should not pay a judicial rent fixed by a tribunal? Of course it is? Well then, Sir, is every tenant who has not paid a judicial rent to be refused reinstatement to his holding? Is that the meaning of the right hon. Gentleman? Is it unreasonable on the part of the tenant to refuse to pay because other tenants will not be reinstated to their holdings. What about all those tenants under the Plan of Campaign of whom the hon. and learned Member for York spoke in such eulogistic terms, and who said they could have settled on the Massereene Estate and would not, because other tenants were refused to be taken back. The hon. Member for East Mayo has told the House that he knew tenants who could pay and would not pay because he told them not to pay. Is that unreasonable conduct or not? Is this tribunal solemnly to hold that it was unreasonable conduct on the part of the landlord because he ejected a tenant who could pay and would not because the hon. Member told him not to pay? That case will arise every day before the arbitrator; it will be the first case he will have to consider. It is to put back these tenants that the Government have brought in this Bill. And before the House passes this Bill let hon. Members recollect that the object of the measure is not to restore to the holdings tenants who have been evicted because they could not pay an exorbitant rent, and because the landlord would not act reasonably towards them, but because they have turned out tenants who were able to pay but would not because, for political purposes, the hon. Member for Mayo advised them not to do so. I have been furnished with the particulars of many cases that will actually arise if the Bill becomes law, and I will vouch for the accuracy of the facts. Twenty-five years ago a landlord let a farm of 200 acres in the County of Kildare, and a new residence he had just erected. Being a lawyer, he found it necessary to live in Dublin. After a lapse of 15 years—that is 10 years ago, which would bring the case within the scope of the Bill—the tenant was ejected for non- 473 payment of rent, and the landlord resumed possession. He died five years ago, leaving the residue to his son charged with legacies and other charges to the amount of £3,000. The son gave up his profession in Dublin, went to reside on the farm, paid off the charge of £3,000, and expended £600 in improving the farm. I want to know is that evicted tenant to be restored to his holding? Is that gentleman who upon the faith of the English law has given up his profession in Dublin and expended £3,600 upon this holding to be ejected in favour of the tenant? If not, what protects him under the Bill? If he is, where is your provision for compensation? There is no provision for a shilling of compensation. These cases will multiply as the matter goes on. It is all very well for the Government to be blind to these facts by keeping their eyes on the Plan of Campaign tenants. I would rather have them say outright, "Let the arbitrators put back these Plan of Campaign tenants, and those only," and do it in the light of day. Let us not, because you are trying to wrap it up and envelop it as if you were carrying out a great act of justice, sacrifice the rights of those who have not been mixed up either in politics or in this agricultural revolution which has been going on in Ireland during the last 15 years. Take another case—that of a gentleman who five or six years ago evicted a tenant for some years' rent amounting to £1,000. The farm was near his own house, so he broke down his own demesne wall and took in the farm. Is that evicted tenant to go back to his holding? If not, what is there in the Bill to protect the landlord? It might be said that in such a case the purposes of the land had been altered. Then the theory must be that if a landlord has sufficiently altered his land be is to go scot-free, and if he has not he is to be mulcted by the Bill. Nothing more ridiculous can be conceived. A third case has been supplied to me the other day by a lady. She let to a tenant a farm lying near her residence. Some seven years ago the tenant was evicted for non-payment of rent. The lady's trap was overturned as she was driving in the road; her servants left her; and all of what the Chief Secretary calls "the innocent paraphernalia of boycotting" was brought into 474 play. The unfortunate woman was landed in the Bankruptcy Court, and, after paying such small dividends as her relatives could afford, she has been restored to the peaceful possession of the farm, while the tenant is a drunken "corner boy" in a town in Ireland. This lady asks whether the British Parliament is going to send back to her very door the man who has been making her life miserable and wretched. What is there in the Bill to prevent the tenant going back? He, at all events, has sufficient "circumstances of the district" to rely on, because he has been prominent in boycotting his former landlord and in resisting the land-grabbing, according to the creed of hon. Members below the Gangway. Then there are numerous cases where the landlords have taken up the farms and built houses and made improvements. I have details of a case in which the tenant was evicted for £1,200 of rent. The landlord found the buildings and farm deteriorated. In the first few years he spent much money in getting the farm into good condition, and last year he made £600, which was £200 over the rent. Is that landlord to take back the evicted tenant? If so, who is to compensate him? Or is the property which he has created by his own improvements to be confiscated? It might be said that that is a case which the arbitrators would disregard. What is there in the Bill to bring that about? It is especially a case in which the tenant would do well by going back, because he would reap the advantage of all the capital put into the ground by the landlord. Are these landlords to be deprived by a vote of the House of this property which they have managed to build up at so much trouble? If that is to be the policy of the House and the view of the English Government towards Ireland, then those in Ireland who are prepared to live as law-abiding citizens will be justified in resorting to any extreme. [Cheers.] Hon. Members below the Gangway cheer ironically. They are welcome to their cheers. All I can say is there must be a point, if Governments begin to confiscate, at which you will raise the indignation of those who are willing to submit to your laws, and they will be perfectly right in so doing. Let me take another set of cases which were referred to on the First Reading, which the right hon. Gentleman stated are 475 specifically defined in the Bill, but which I venture to say are not. During the last 15 years the Land Judge's Court—Mr. Justice Monroe's Court, as it is called in Ireland—has been turning out tenants and making Court lettings to new tenants with all the sanctity of a Court letting, and with the guarantee of the Landed Estates Court, which gives an indefeasible title—a guarantee, above all others, that this was done under the law. I want to know, if Judge Mouroe put a new tenant into a holding yesterday, is the Government by their Act of Parliament going to turn him out to-morrow? I want to know also what will be the position of these two Courts in Ireland. Judge Monroe will say:—"Here is a tenant who has not paid rent to the Court; I am bound to enforce his rent; I will put him out." You will say, "I do not care for the High Court and Judge Monroe; I will put him back." What is the conflict of decision between these Courts? Where does it end? What confidence will there be in the law in the future in Ireland if the Judges of the Courts Parliament itself has set up are going to invite tenders for farms, and the Government are going the next day to set up a tribunal to turn the tenants out? Then there is the case of the purchase tenant. I did think the right hon. Gentleman would tell the House something as to what would be done in that case. Is he going to turn out those tenants who have bought their farms, on whose credit the State has advanced money? It is one thing to advance money to a solvent tenant who is able to work his farm, but it is another thing to say that, having advanced a sum of money on the faith of his being solvent, the Government are to turn round and force on the State a tenant who was absolutely insolvent. Some of these tenants have been in since 1890, and must have paid four instalments, which gives them a certain share in the freehold of their farms. What is to be the fate of these tenants? What is to be the ultimate destination of the security of the State, which has given the money on the faith of solvent tenants being put there? It may be that in our hurry to get away for a vacation we might be anxious to throw all these matters aside and pass any Bill rather than sit into next month; but unless these matters are regarded a 476 state of chaos and confusion will be created in Ireland utterly unparalleled by anything that has hitherto taken place. I now come to the position of the new tenants, and I was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman expressed so little sympathy with them. He said they were called "planters." That word was never known in Ireland until the Plan of Campaign was adopted in 1886. Up to 1886, when the Plan of Campaign was adopted, there were hundreds and thousands of these new tenants in Ireland who were living on as friendly relations with their neighbours as they possibly could. The right hon. Gentleman asks us—"Will the planter be more subject to outrage if the Bill passes than if it did not pass?" and I fear in asking that question he throws out encouragement in a very dangerous direction in Ireland. I know the right hon. Gentleman said he did not want to prophesy. He only gave us what I will call a vague threat.
§ MR. CARSON
I have not prophesied anything up to this. All I say is that until the Plan of Campaign was adopted there were thousands of these new tenants living on friendly terms with their neighbours. Now, the arbitrators, without hearing these tenants, are to be given power to make conditional orders that they shall give up possession. This meant saying to the evicted tenants—"We have done all in our power. Here is a conditional order. Go and present it at the head of the new tenant, and fire it off as best you can. Get rid of him and then we will reinstate you." It might be that if the Bill should be thrown out there might be more outrages than if the Bill passed. But is that a reason for passing the Bill? To urge such an argument is to uphold mob law and is equivalent to telling people that if they will only commit a sufficient number of outrages they will bring the question they desire to raise within the sphere of practical politics. We have had enough of this sort of thing before, and we have found that by adopting such a policy we were sacrificing those who kept themselves within the law for the benefit of those who violated it. In opposing this measure we can justify our consciences by the knowledge that we are siding with 477 those who are in the right. If we pass this Bill in its present shape, have we good reason for supposing that there may not be outrages upon those persons who have taken evicted farms in Ireland? Let me give the right hon. Gentleman, if he has not seen it, the criticism of a charitable Christian minister in Ireland on the right hon. Gentleman's Bill—Forsooth, were those tenants who had given up their holdings to secure justice to all the other tenants in Ireland and bring Home Rule within measurable distance to be banished for ever from the homes of their fathers and see public thieves left in possession of their property? No, a thousand times no. They would never submit to that, and he warned the Government that if they did any such thing they would deluge Ireland with bloodshed.That was the Rev. Father Humphreys, of Tipperary. The right hon. Gentleman said—"Oh, it is only the Rev. Father Humphreys." Yes, it was only a Catholic clergyman preaching to his flock, and after all it was in Tipperary. I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman knew something about Tipperary, because I think I have a recollection that at one time he said he could manage the whole of Tipperary with a single policeman from a country town in England. Perhaps, however, he knows more about it now. The rev. gentleman went on to say—But when they see these public robbers and grabbers are to be left comfortable in their farms the wild justice of revenge would set in once more in Ireland, and the assassin and the hangman would begin their operations among them.That is the criticism upon the exclusion of one class of evicted tenants from the Bill, whilst at the same time you put back other evicted tenants into farms which are held by the landlords themselves. But Sir, upon what principle do you assess the compensation to be paid to these new tenants. As well as I understand the Bill you are to give them some small sum for compensation, half of which the State is to advance and the other half is to be secured upon the promissory note of the evicted tenant, The right hon. Gentleman has himself appealed to the Land Act of 1870. What is the right of the tenant in possession under the Act of 1870? Under the Act of 1870, if a landlord dispossesses a tenant, the latter is en- 478 titled to compensation ranging from three to seven years' of rent paid. Why should the State pay less compensation for disturbance? What is the use of passing an Act for the protection of the tenant laying down a scale of compensation, and then, owing to political exigencies which may result in turning the Government out of Office, in order to keep them in to disregard the whole antecedent land legislation which this House has passed? I have read over the evidence of these Massereene tenants, and if the right hon. Gentleman thinks that he is going to get rid of these so-called Massereene planters by anything he has got in this Bill I have to tell him he will only get rid of them when they have been put down by superior force. If anybody takes the trouble to read that evidence he will see that these men, by the fruits of their industry and determination, have got an interest in these holdings which would not be compensated by the scale of compensation you have laid down in the Act of 1870. I desire to say a word or two as regards the new tribunal. I must say, of all the extraordinary provisions of the Bill, I believe the fact of your setting up this new tribunal in Ireland is the most extraordinary and the most dishonest, and I will tell you why. What do you want a tribunal for? Have we not tribunals enough in Ireland? Why, Sir, you first were not satisfied with the ordinary High Courts of Justice, but you set up the Encumbered Estates Court, which then became the Land Judge's Court, and because they proceeded to carry out the law you were not satisfied with them. In 1881 you passed the Land Act and set up another tribunal by establishing the Land Commission. In 1885 the Conservative Party passed the Land Purchase Bill and, not satisfied with the Land Commission, set up a Purchase Commission, and much good has it done. You have now three Land Commissioners, two Purchase Commissioners, a Land Judges' Court with all their attendant expenses and different staffs, and now you propose to set up a new Land Commission and a new Arbitrators' Court. For what are you going to set it up? To fix rents? But that is the purpose for which the Purchase Commissioners were appointed in 1887. If these are the two chief functions of this tribunal the necessity for it does not, 479 therefore, exist. But the Government are creating it not because they wish to have the administration of the law, but because they want to perpetrate a political job. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he had succeeded in getting three impartial Irishmen to carry out the Bill. I have no doubt the Chief Secretary has done his best to secure three impartial gentlemen as arbitrators, and as my countrymen are the most unprejudiced people on the face of the earth, I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman has succeeded in the task he laid before himself. The hon. and learned Member for York said there had been no criticism so far in the Debate of these three gentlemen. I am not going to criticise them, because I have not had time since the right hon. Gentleman spoke to consider the various reasons — no doubt bonâ fide reasons on his part—why these three gentlemen were selected. As regards Mr. White, the praise that has been lavished upon him is nothing too high. Mr. White has been a leader of the Equity Bar for many years, and I was rather sceptical about that gentleman having accepted the post; but, of course, after the Chief Secretary's statement it must be so. Mr. Greer, another of the gentlemen, was examined in the Committee on the Irish Land Acts some days ago. I had not the privilege of being present, but I cannot find any great satisfaction with the evidence Mr. Greer gave among the hon. Members with whom I act. As regards Mr. Fottrell, I have the pleasure of knowing that gentleman, and the only recollection I have of anything connected with the public career of Mr. Fottrell is that he was originally appointed solicitor or secretary to the Land Commission in 1881 by Mr. Forster; and that, having issued a very strong and very curious circular in the interests of the tenants, he was called upon to explain, and eventually he resigned his appointment. However, I say nothing against Mr. Fottrell; and these are the only matters I desire to call attention to with regard to the three arbitrators. The right hon. Gentleman made the extraordinary statement that he was glad the arbitrators would be enabled to conduct their proceedings in private. Is it to be a tenet of the Liberal Party that the Press must know 480 nothing of the reason's which actuate the members of this new tribunal?
§ MR. CARSON
No. The Land Court is an open Court. All the proceedings before the Land Judges are perfectly public. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. If this were a matter of politics I would give way to him, but it is a matter of which I have had considerable personal experience.
MR. J. MORLEY
I do not say that all proceedings in the Land Judges' Court are private, but I do say that very important proceedings of a similar character to those which will be conducted before this new tribunal are private.
§ MR. CARSON
That I absolutely deny. I am perfectly sure the right hon. Gentleman means to accurately represent what the Judge said, but I would like to ask Judge Monroe what proceedings in his Court bear the slightest analogy to any proceedings under the Bill. Of course, if Judge Monroe has to read a title he does not read it in public; but all controverted cases involving questions of fact and law in the Land Judges' Court are open to the Press, and I am sure that Judge Monroe will admit that I am absolutely right in saying so. If ever there was a case in which the full light of public opinion ought to be thrown upon the proceedings of a judicial body, it is in the case of this extraordinary tribunal. If the right hon. Gentleman says that these proceedings are to be conducted in private, I tell him that is a new doctrine of the Liberal Party, and is now put forward for the first time. I always understood that it was an essential doctrine of the Liberal Party that the fullest light of criticism and public opinion should be thrown on every matter involving a judicial decision. I should like to ask one question more. What will be the result of passing this Bill? The result will be to practically abolish the power of enforcing rents in Ireland. 481 It will practically put an end to the inclination of any person whatever to take a farm from which another man has been evicted. I am glad to say that, though the right hon. Gentleman has refused to give details, the taking of evicted farms has been far more frequent during the last 12 mouths than previously, and I give the right hon. Gentleman full credit for bringing Ireland to a condition under which people will take evicted farms. But what man will take an evicted farm if he knows that perhaps the day afterwards the Government may set up another of those tribunals for restoring the tenant who has been evicted? Moreover, if the tenant 10 or 15 years ago when in possession was unable to pay the rent fixed by the Court, what chance will he have of doing so now, when he is without capital and without the means of stocking the farm? "He will get it somewhere or other," is the hopeless ejaculation of the right hon. Gentleman. I notice that the Mathew Commission—and no one will say that that Commission unduly strained the evidence in favour of the landlords—have stated that these tenants are not in a position without capital to go back, and they suggested that money should be advanced to them to do so, the money to be charged on them with the rent. But you do not do that. The Government will be putting back insolvent tenants upon the landlords, whether they like it or not, and with the mere chance that somehow or other they will be able to meet the rent when it becomes due. I say that, to put back these tenants in the present condition of Ireland without supplying them with the means to work the farms will practically be to hand over to an insolvent body of persons the whole tenure of land in the country. What are the reasons of the Government for doing all this? As I said before, they do not suggest that the law under which these tenants held was insufficient to protect them. And what is the position of the Plan of Campaign teuants? Not one of them could have been put out without full compensation being paid by the landlord. In case the rent was exorbitant, or the landlord was unreasonable, the Land Court, under the Act of 1870, had full power to award to the tenant the very fullest compensation. In the case of holdings under £15—and the 482 majority of these evicted holdings are under that sum—the landlord who put out a tenant for non-payment of rent has to give the same compensation as if he disturbed him for his own benefit by notice to quit. Again, under the Act of 1887 every tenant—and the majority of those men were evicted since 1887—had the right, provided they could show that their non-payment of rent was not due to anything wilful on their part, to apply to the Land Court for time in order to stay eviction, and to have the arrears of rent paid by instalments. There are some 1,400 of these tenants. Why did none of them take advantage of these Acts? Why did none of them apply for compensation or for proceedings to be stayed? It is not protection, or reduction of rent, or compensation they wanted, but to further the Plan of Campaign movement of hon. Members below the Gangway—a political movement which had for its object to make the Government of my right hon. Friend impossible. What the House is called on to do now is to sacrifice the rights of landlords and the rights of the new tenants, not for the purpose of benefitting the tenantry of Ireland, but in order to pay a political debt, and I venture to say that this is the first time in its history that Parliament has been asked to apply public funds to such a purpose.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
said, the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University had been awaited by the House with considerable interest. They knew of the hon. and learned Member's force and vigour; they knew of the distinguished career he had had in Ireland, and they knew of the most remarkable success he had achieved by raising himself at once to a great position at the English Bar. He did not think that the expectation of the House had been disappointed so far as the speech of the hon. and learned Member was concerned. The hon. and learned Member had made a brilliant speech worthy of his reputation. He regretted, however, that the hon. and learned Member should have spoken in a different spirit from that which animated him on the First Reading of the Bill, when he said—He should be certainly sorry to adopt a non possumus attitude on this question. He knew enough of Ireland to say that he believed and admitted that the question of the evicted 483 tenants, whether they were rightly or wrongly evicted and whether they were evicted for the purpose of advancing a particular class of politics or not—that as long as it remained unsettled the question of the evicted tenants meant a great deal with reference to the peace of Ireland.The hon. and learned Member, while opposing the Bill now, had given no indication of any alternative positive policy. Where was the sympathy of the hon. and learned Gentleman with the object of those who had brought forward the Bill? There was not a trace of it in his speech; and as every word of the speech was cheered and apparently received with approval by hon. Gentlemen opposite the Government now knew what they had to face from the Opposition. He confessed he was greatly disappointed. He had never been one of those who attacked the Irish landlords. He knew that amongst their body were many men who tried hard and honourably to do their duty; and as he and many of his friends looked fairly at the Irish land question with regard to the interest of the landlords, they had expected that their attitude would have been reciprocated by a desire on the other side to look fairly at the question in the interest of the tenants. Surely the time had come when the hatchet might be buried—at any rate for a time—when, in the long war waged in connection with Irish land, a flag of truce should be raised and they should go forth to succour the wounded. The question of the evicted tenants was a question of the first importance in its relation to social order, and it concerned the interests of the landlords of Ireland no less than the interests of the tenants. It was a question which ought not to be dealt with in any spirit of partisanship. Those who criticised the Bill would do well to bear in mind the situation in which they stood. If the House rejected this Bill it would commit a colossal blunder similar to blunders which it had committed before in dealing with the Irish land question. In 1880 the compensation for disturbances clauses were rejected by the House of Lords, and the consequence was that in a few months there arose the biggest agrarian combination that was ever known, and the landlords of Ireland must have rued the day when they rejected the advice that had been given to them. Within a short time Parliament had to eat its 484 own words in connection with that matter. Then, in 1886, Mr. Parnell brought forward a Bill proposing that rents fixed before 1885 should be reconsidered and readjusted, and one year later the proposal received the approbation and sanction of the Cowper Commission. But the representatives of the Irish landlords in the other House would have none of it, and the consequence was that within six months the Plan of Campaign was started.
§ MR. HALDANE
said, the Plan of Campaign was started in October, 1886. The Conservative Government came into Office in August, 1886. Mr. Parnell's proposals were rejected in September, 1886, and the Plan of Campaign was started at the end of the following October. The House of Lords rejected Mr. Parnell's proposals, and the country was now undergoing some of the consequences. But he only desired to recall to memory the evils and mistakes of the past in order to appeal to the fair spirit which actuated Englishmen and which made it possible for them—no matter what Party might have been right or wrong in the past—to look at the situation they had to deal with to-day, and to take some step forward towards the solution of the problem of social order with which they were confronted in Ireland. To his mind this Bill was the mere logical outcome of steps Parliament had taken before and which Parliament was bound to follow up now. The initial step was the Encumbent Estates Act, which sought to get rid of insolvent and bankrupt landlords. So far its object was urgent, but the mistake that was committed was in not seeing that the land which passed away from a class which, with all their faults, were at any rate in close and friendly relations with their tenants, would fall into the hands of men who were likely to use the land for the purposes of commercial speculation. Rents went up, and iniquities were perpetrated which he hoped would never again disgrace the history of land in those countries, with the result that face to face with an acute situation Parliament stepped in and passed the Act of 1860, which sought to abolish the old relations of tenure, which set up different regulations between 485 landlord and tenant, and ignoring the root of the land difficulty in Ireland, laid down the law of strict contract. That law was lived under for ten years, and then came a time when the spirit of land legislation underwent a complete change. He remembered reading in The Times—which at that period took a more moderate and impartial view of political Parties than it did to-day—the report of a Commissioner it sent to Ireland, and who declared that the tenant had, if not a legal property, at least a moral property in the soil as great as that of the landlord, and that that state of things urgently called for the attention of Parliament. Then came the Act of 1870 which established compensation for disturbance. That was followed by the Act of 1881, which established free sale and fair rents, and did that which the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University said was now for the first time attempted to be done in the Evicted Tenants Bill—namely, it enabled the Court in the case of a tenant under ejectment to adjourn the proceedings in order that a fair rent might be fixed and the tenant continued in his holding. Those principles were extended by the Land Act of 1889. Remembering those things, the question they had to consider was, What was the position in which they now stood? There were in Ireland 4,000 evicted tenants, and their case had to be dealt with. With some of them there would no doubt be considerable trouble, but with some there would be very little trouble. He read the other day an article by Lord Monteagle on this subject, and in that article Lord Monteagle—an Irish landlord who, though he had strong views against Home Rule, earnestly desired to do his duty towards Ireland—took a line wholly and totally different from that taken by the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down. Lord Monteagle said that what was wanted was a body which would undertake conciliation, because by means of conciliation the cases of a large number of the 4,000 evicted tenants might be dealt with without legal intervention. With regard to the other cases, it was necessary to have a tribunal to go into the merits of the dispute, and a tribunal such as that to be set up under the Bill, which could act with greater freedom than any of the existing legal tribunals.
§ It being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.