§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [19th July], "That the Bill be now read a second time."564
§ And which Amendment was, 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 again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
who said, that when his speech was interrupted at midnight he had traced the history of Irish land legislation from 1870 down to 1887; had pointed out that the uniform idea which unlay that series of Acts of Parliament was the dual interest, recognised and made equal of the tenants and landlords in the soil; and that the Bill now before the House was only a further and consequential step towards the recognition of that interest. He did not intend to pursue further that branch of the question, but desired to deal with the arguments that had been put forward last evening by the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin. The hon. and learned Member asked why the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland did not leave the evicted tenants to enforce their claims for compensation under the provisions of existing legislation. The answer to that argument was conclusive. There were three classes of evicted tenants, two of which had been wholly and totally outside of those provisions. They were, first, the tenants from year to year who were evicted before the Act of 1881, and, secondly, the leaseholders who were evicted before the Act of 1887. Both those classes had been outside the beneficent scope of the legislation to which he had referred; and had been left entirely to the mercy of the landlords. The third class of evicted tenants had been, it was true, within the scope of that legislation, but they were now in a position which made it urgently necessary in the interest of social order in Ireland that something should be done to relieve them. Those who knew the circumstances of the agrarian dispute in Ireland, knew that it was a point of honour with this third class of evicted tenants not to enter the Courts to make a claim for compensation for disturbance, because of considerations which, whether they were right or wrong, was immaterial to the 565 issue. That was the answer to the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman that the evicted tenants should be left to proceed under the existing Acts. He now came to the scheme of the Bill and to the criticism to which the hon. and learned Member subjected it. Summarising his arguments, the hon. and learned Member said the scheme of the Bill was unjust, coufiscatory, and without precedent; and he based his adjectives to some extent on argument, but principally on strong language. A greater misapprehension of what were the proper inference to be drawn from the existing state of things in Ireland and more extraordinary perversions of the position of the tenants in Ireland than were contained in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for the Dublin University he had not heard for a long time. He hoped to be able to show that the principal arguments of the hon. and learned Member—for he did not propose to deal with all the hon. and learned Gentleman's arguments—were not well founded and were contrary to well-ascertained facts. The hon. and learned Gentleman had described the tribunal which was to try the cases of the evicted tenants as a political job. He could not believe that the hon. and learned Member applied that term in its proper sense to the constitution of the tribunal. The ordinary meaning of a political job was the creation of an appointment for the sake of someone who was to be benefited. But the arbitrators had been most carefully chosen by the Chief Secretary with a view to getting the best men that could be found for the positions, and entirely free from partizanship. One of them, Mr. Piers White, was a distinguished equity lawyer and a well-known Unionist; the second, Mr. Greer, was also a Unionist; while the third, Mr. Fottrell, had a reputation of having succeeded in settling questions that had arisen between landlords and tenants in Ireland more successfully than any other man in Ireland. A tribunal constituted as this was must command confidence. Its functions were to deal with a social emergency, with a situation of great difficulty, in a way that would cause the least friction, to act as a medium through whom landlords and tenants might come together to settle their difficulties. It might be asked why matters were not left 566 to proceed under Section 13 of the Act of 1891. All parties were agreed that that section had failed, though there was considerable dispute as to the reasons which brought about its failure. The Leader of the Opposition had said that it would have attained the object in view if only the tenants had been left alone and had not been intimidated. This matter had been investigated by the Mathew Commission, who gave various reasons why the clause had been inoperative, but they declared that there was no evidence of any attempt having been made to induce the tenants not to avail of the section. It was sufficient for present purposes that the section had not been successfully applied, and that some other step was necessary to heal the social evil in Ireland. That step was proposed by this Bill with the object of bringing landlords and tenants together and putting the tenants back on the land. So far as compulsory powers went, the Bill applied only to holdings which were vacant or in the occupation of the landlord. There was nothing in the Bill to interfere with, in any way, the rights of existing tenants. The procedure was simple, because it was founded upon the assumption that the arbitrators were to be trusted to do justice between man and man, and were therefore invested with large discretionary powers. In the first place, the Commissioners had to consider whether there was a primâ, facie case for reinstatement. There was no difficulty or ambiguity about making out a primâ facie case. Paragraphs 38 to 42 of the Report of the Mathew Commission showed the personal and local circumstances which entered into the question whether it was desirable that an applicant should be reinstated. There were public circumstances to be taken into account, such as whether the reinstatement of a tenant would tend to the peace and good order of the district; and also personal circumstances, such as whether any injustice was done to the individual in the eviction. Having decided that there was a primâ facie case for reinstatement, the arbitrators made a conditional order, and the landlord was entitled to come in and show why the order should not be made absolute. In all that there was nothing new. The free-sale clause of the Land Act of 1881 left more difficult questions 567 to be decided by the Courts. Under that clause, if the landlord objected to the new tenant who purchased the old tenant's property in the farm, the Court was to dive into the mind of the landlord and to consider his motives and the reasonableness of his refusal. The 29th section of the Land Act of 1887 gave power to Commissioners to reduce rents merely upon their own unfettered discretion and opinion, without hearing evidence or counsel as to the prices of agricultural produce prevailing in the particular district. If the arbitrators came to the conclusion that the tenant had made out his case, they made absolute the order for his reinstatement; and even then came into operation provisions which further sheltered the landlord—namely, the purchase clauses of the Act of 1891. Dealing with this part of the Bill the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University said that it introduced the entirely new and novel principle of taking property of which one man was in occupation against his will and transferring it to another person, and that there was nothing in the things which the Act of 1881 allowed comparable to the things sanctioned by this Bill. When he said that nothing in the Act of 1887 was comparable to this Bill, the hon. and learned Gentleman must have forgotten that Section 13 of that Act, among other things, provided that, when a landlord had his contract of tenancy violated and had brought ejectment proceedings, the tenant was stilt entitled to ask the Court to stay proceedings in order that a fair rent might be fixed. In the present case, of course, there was no tenant in occupation, but he could not see the difference between a man who had no legal right in the farm, who was there as a wrong-doer, and a man who had gone out of occupation. In the Act of 1887 the very same provision was repeated in substantially the same terms; and, as he had said, under the free-sale clause of the Act of 1881 a tenant might be put into a farm of whom the landlord knew nothing and with whom he might wish, perhaps, to have nothing to do. The principles of those Acts were based on the fact that the interest of the tenant was as good as the landlord's in the soil, and it was that dual ownership in the land that was sought to be further protected by this Bill. But it was not necessary to go 568 to Ireland to find a precedent of a Government taking land in the occupation of a landlord and handing it over to a tenant, whom possibly the landlord would rather not have. Only a few weeks ago Parliament carried the Parish Councils Act, a clause of which enabled the County Council compulsorily to hire land, to take it out of the occupation of the owner, whether the owner liked it or not, and use it for allotments, and that was a precedent which it was also proposed to follow in the Local Government Bill for Scotland. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin University further said—You are not only doing this wrongly and without precedent, but you are doing it without giving adequate compensation to the landlord; you are taking away the landlord's property without giving him adequate compensation.The hon. and learned Gentleman cannot have examined the provisions of the Bill. It was true that the Bill proposed that the tenant was to be reinstated in the holding, and presumably at the old rent; but there was a section—which the hon. and learned Member had overlooked — which provided that the land should be subject to a fair rent, fixed under the provisions of the Land Act of 1881, and under that section any improvements which the landlord might have effected in the holding, while it was in his possession, would be taken into account by the Sub-Commissioners in determining the rent of the holding. Therefore, it was not true to say that under the provisions of the Bill no compensation would be given to the landlord, for compensation would be given and would be fixed by a tribunal which no one would say had been unfair to the landlords of Ireland. The hon. and learned Member also said that it was a monstrous thing to go back to 1879—15 years ago—to include in the operation of the Bill all tenants evicted since then; and that such a course was contrary to the analogy of the Statute of Limitations. What had the House to do with the Statute of Limitations in a question of this kind? They were settling a broad question of policy. They were not prescribing limitations within which a Court was to give judgment; but they were providing for tenants evicted since 1879, and in so doing they were following the analogy of Section 13 of the 569 Act of 1891, which was introduced by the present Leader of the Opposition. Another argument of the hon. and learned Member which, he confessed, filled him with astonishment was that the Bill would apply to holdings of every kind; and that the case of a man who was evicted from a house in Dublin 15 years ago would come under its operation. Again, he should ask, Had the hon. and learned Gentleman read the Bill?—had he looked at the Definition Clause, which said that the word "holding" was meant as defined by the Land Act of 1881? If the hon. and learned Gentleman would look at Clause 58 of the Act of 1881 he would find the definition of "holding." What was intended was perfectly plain, and no Court would have any difficulty in coming to a conclusion in the matter.
§ MR. CARSON
asked whether the whole of the 58th section of the Act of 1881 was included in the Bill? The hon. and learned Gentleman was wrong in saying that that section was the definition section.
§ MR. HALDANE
said, he was told by those responsible for the Bill that it was the intention of the draftsman to apply to the word "holding" in the Bill the definition in the Act of 1881. For himself he had not the slightest doubt that the Court would have no difficulty in construing the provisions of the Bill; but if there was anything wrong in the matter—and he did not believe there was—it could be set right in Committee. In any case, the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member that the Bill could be applied to houses in Dublin was absurd.
§ MR. HALDANE
replied that the Land Act of 1881 expressly excluded town parks. Another suggestion of the hon. and learned Gentleman was that this Bill would be applied to purchasing tenants. He could hardly believe his ears when he heard that suggestion. Where a tenant had purchased his holding the landlord had no legal occupation of the land, and the Bill applied only to holdings where the landlord was in occupation and where there was no tenant. It was abundantly plain that under no possible circumstances would the position of the purchase tenants be 570 marred in the slightest degree. The hon. and learned Member also described some cases of hardship which he argued were possible under the Bill. It was easy to imagine thousands of cases which would be hard if they happened; but the answer was that here was set up a tribunal composed of trusted men, the majority of whom shared the political opinions of the Irish landlords, to whom Parliament had given large discretionary powers, who would see that no injustice was done to anyone in the administration of the Act, and who would certainly not put into the holdings the ragamuffin tenants to which the hon. and learned Member had alluded. The hon. and learned Member, in alluding to the clause which enabled the arbitrators, if they thought the holding was an insufficient security, owing to the deterioration, for an advance for purchase, to demand additional security, said that the interest of the tenant in such a case would not be sufficient security for the advance of public money. But the very words of that section were the words of the 13th section of the Act of 1891. They were words drafted and approved of by the late Government, and the draftsman of the present Bill had simply taken this provision—this very useful provision—from the Act of 1891, which the arbitrators might be entrusted to exercise sensibly. Then came the question of "the planters." But the Bill did not propose to confer any powers upon this or any other tribunal for evicting tenants who were actually in occupation. If those tenants did not wish to go they need not go, and they would not be asked to go. They would have a conditional order served on them, and then they would have the opportunity of coming forward and expressing their will, and whatever their will was their legal rights would be. It was suggested that if the Bill were passed the planters would be exposed to intimidation and violence. But those planters were not new arrivals on the scene. Many of them had lived on their holdings since 1879. They had become "land-grabbers"—to use the expression applied to them—a long time since, and they would not become land-grabbers the more by refusing to leave their holdings under this Bill, and having escaped destruction all those years, 571 it was hardly possible that that doom would reach them in the year 1894. Had there been a time in the whole of the last 20 years when Ireland had been more peaceable and more free from disturbance than at the present time? To say that those men would run a serious risk of outrage under the operations of the Bill was really to bring forward an argument that was not serious. He had endeavoured to put before the House considerations which seemed to him to make it right that this Bill or some proposals of the same shape or form should become law. It seemed to him that the Hues upon which the Bill proceeded were the only lines on which it was possible to deal with the social problem in Ireland. Remember, it was only a few days ago when all Parties in the House were agreed that the question of the evicted tenants needed settlement, and that that settlement could be accomplished by setting up such a tribunal as was proposed in the Bill and giving it a sufficient grant of money for the purpose. In fact, the only objection then urged against the proposals of the Government was founded on the contention that the funds proposed to be given to the tribunal were insufficient. That defect had now been cured. It was proposed to give £250,000 to the tribunal, and, judging by the calculations made by the Mathew Commission, that sum ought to be more than sufficient to accomplish the end in view. He wished this matter had been approached in the spirit which had been evinced not only by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin and the hon. Member for South Tyrone, but by persons who had a greater interest in the Irish soil and a greater stake in the country. He referred last night to an article by Lord Monteagle in The Nineteenth Century for June. He should like to read an extract from that article—I approach the subject from an Irish point, disregarding party considerations. I shall try, moreover, to treat it without any landlord bias, and, especially at the outset, I wish to disclaim any sympathy with the vindictive feelings imputed (though I am sure in the great majority of cases unfairly) to the landlords affected. I heartily endorse every word quoted by Mr. Morley from Mr. Balfour's speech in 1891, on the 13th clause of the Act of that year:—'And for my own part, if I were an Irish landlord, even if it were not wholly to my own personal and pecuniary interest, I should desire to restore 572 peace to that part of the country in which my property was situated, and to see that on fair, equitable, and even generous terms the tenants were restored to their ancient homes.' Such vindictive feelings operating as a bar to reinstatement of solvent tenants I believe to be quite exceptional, though landlords who have been attacked by the Plan, would be more than human if they felt very charitably disposed even towards the tools of that conspiracy. But it would be wiser, in my opinion, to afford a locus penitentiæ even to the ringleaders, if solvent, or capable by any means of retrieving their character and position.Those views were the views of a great many of the landlords of Ireland. He trusted that they would prevail in the House of Commons. They could not hope for finality through a Bill of that kind; they could not hope that the Bill would solve this difficult and intricate social problem in Ireland, but it was certainly a step in the right direction, and a step in the only direction possible; and he believed that if hon. Gentlemen opposite would only consider the matter in a fair and reasonable spirit they would come to the same conclusion. He hoped it was not too late for the House as a whole to approach the question in a spirit that was above Party; and he trusted in the interest of the evicted tenants, in the interest of the landlords of Ireland, and last, but not least, in the interest of this British House of Commons, that the Second Reading of the Bill would be passed without a hostile Division.
§ MR. BARTON (Armagh, Mid)
said, that no one could find fault with the tone and substance of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Haddington; but he could assure the hon. Gentleman that he was mistaken in thinking that his side of the House had a monopoly of sentiments of compassion for the evicted tenants, or of the desire to see justice done to them. The part of his speech in which the hon. Gentleman was least successful, and in which he entirely failed to carry the House with him, was the part in which he tried to answer the convincing speech delivered last night by the hon. Member for Dublin University. Nobody who had heard that speech, which had so deeply impressed the House, would say—nor, indeed, did he think even the hon. and learned Member for Haddington supposed it—that the speech of the hon. and learned Member had afforded even the fragment of an answer to the convincing arguments of the hon. 573 Member for Dublin University against the Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Haddington had dealt with the Bill from two points of view—from the point of view of the law and from the point of view of the facts. He was bound to disagree with the facts of the hon. and learned Gentleman when he found that they had been produced from the Report of the Evicted Tenants Commission. He had never joined in any disrespectful observations on the distinguished Judge who had presided at that Commission; but he said that the way the evidence was given—unsworn, untested by cross-examination, and unanswered by any evidence on the other side—would deter anyone who desired to arrive at a just conclusion from paying the slightest attention to the conclusions of the Commission. He would read a sworn statutory declaration made by Mr. Long of Waterford, which would illustrate the way the evidence was collected. A witness was asked—How could you have given such evidence, which you must have known to be untrue?The answer was—Sure you will not blame me when I tell you that they gave me 8s. a day, paid my tram fares, and took me to all the shows in Dublin. They also restored my pension of £10 a month, and I am now getting it regular.That was only one example of the statutory declarations which had been made on a number of estates to answer the unsworn statements made before the Commission. Therefore, the evidence on which the hon. and learned Gentleman founded his facts was absolutely unreliable and absolutely misleading. With regard to the legal arguments of the hon. and learned Member, he would not argue with him as to the compulsory clauses of English Acts of Parliament; but when the hon. and learned Member came into conflict with such a distinguished Irish lawyer as the hon. Member for Dublin University as to Irish law, no one would hesitate in accepting the views of the hon. Member for Dublin University. The hon. Member for Haddington said that they had in the Land Act of 1881 a precedent for the compulsory putting of a tenant on the property of a landlord. But there was no analogy between the two cases at all. In the case under the Act of 1881 there was an existing tenancy; there was a tenant in possession, and it was only a change from that tenant to 574 another tenant who came in under that principle of free sale. But the case in this Bill was that of a landlord who had his own property in his own hands; and who had a tenant forced in on that property against his wishes. The hon. and learned Gentleman also said that the hon. Member for Dublin University was wrong as to the definition of "holding" in the Bill; that the definition was the definition of "holding" in the Land Act of 1881, and he quoted Section 58 of the Act in support of his argument. He had not the Act with him, but, speaking from recollection, the hon. and learned Member had left out words which would show that he was wrong, and that the hon. Member for Dublin University was right.
§ MR. HALDANE
The words are—This Act, with the exception of so much thereof as amends the Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act, 1870, in respect of compensation for improvements, and with the exception of Part Five of this Act, shall not apply to tenancies in.
§ MR. BARTON
said, that was his point. The Act of 1881 did not include those tenants. And what was further, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary on the previous night could not answer the question put to him as to whether demesne lands, pasture holdings, and town parks came within the scope of the Bill. Categorical questions were put to the right hon. Gentleman on each of those points, and the answer in each case was "We shall see." This point, however, was important because the Bill provided that where a tenant was reinstated under its provisions he should become a present tenant; so that while the honest tenant, the pasture tenant, the town park tenant, and the demesne land tenant would be unable to come in and claim to have a fair rent fixed, the dishonest tenant, he who had been evicted under the Plan of Campaign, would be able to acquire all the rights under the Land Act which the ordinary tenant in Ireland would have. He did not think it would be contended that the word "holding" in the Bill did not include every "holding" in Ireland. What was the rest of the answer of the hon. and learned Gentleman? He appeared to stake everything on the personnel of this tribunal. They asked what security 575 was there that the vague and indefinite powers unknown to the law which were conferred on it by this Bill would be exercised properly? and they asserted that the House had no right to make laws according to which the rights and property of tenants would be dependent, not upon the law of the land, but on the individual persons who composed this tribunal. They asserted, further, that there was no precedent for such a proposal, and nothing showed the injustice of the Bill more than that reliance upon the sense of justice of the Commissioners—this falling back absolutely and solely on the personnel of the tribunal, and this assertion that they must trust entirely to the justice of these men. He and his friends declined thus to sacrifice principle to personality. But what about the personnel of the Commission? Nothing was more difficult and more unpleasant to him to have to criticise particular individuals who were known to him; but this he would say: that nobody could assert that Messrs. Fottrell and Greer were on the side of the landlords, or that they would be on the side of the new tenants. He had not a word to say against these gentlemen personally; he did not even know Mr. Greer; but this he would say—that in his opinion they were not men with that backbone and of that firmness and fortitude of character necessary to enable them to deal with the problems that would be presented to them under the working of this Bill, nor would he be willing to entrust the administration of such wide powers to them. Again, what security had they that Mr. White would remain on the Commission? When the Mathew Commission was constituted a Member was placed upon it in whom they could trust. But what happened? Hardly had it commenced its investigations before that gentleman realised that a task had been imposed upon him which it was impossible for him to perform. The hon. and learned Gentleman had argued that they should let bygones be bygones, that there should be a development of Clause 13 of the Land Act of 1891, that a great social plague should be cured, and that a difficulty should be removed from the path of the Unionist Party. What did this mean? He joined with every Member of the House in saying that mere resentment against the tenants was neither statesmanlike, humane, nor 576 politic, and he hoped that the vote of no man would be regulated by such a feeling of resentment. They were willing to admit the attractive character of the appeal so far as it did not interfere with the lawful rights of other citizens. They might forgive those who had broken the laws, but at the same time they must not forget that there was one class of men who deserved nothing but consideration. Let them take the case of the landlord, who had offended in no way against the law. He was offered the alternative either of accepting a tenant who was obnoxious to him or insolvent, or both, or to sell his property at a price which, if it was to be fair to the State or the tenant, must be unfair to him. Besides, what security had the landlord that the rent of the new tenant would be paid? The hon. and learned Gentleman told them he would be compensated by the Government, and that he would have a rent fixed for his land. But what security was there that a single penny of that rent would be paid? In most of these cases the tenant was insolvent, and he was to be helped by the State to pay even a small composition for arrears. Again, there was no power in the Bill to compensate a landlord who had spent money in the improvement of his property during the interval. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dublin University on the previous night quoted the case of a tenant evicted for rent arrears to the amount of £1,200. The landlord resumed possession; he found the farm buildings and farm very much deteriorated; he spent considerable sums on getting them into proper condition and last year he made £600 upon it, or £200 more than the rent. Was the tenant in that case to have a right to reinstatement? Was the landlord to have no compensation for his outlay? The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Haddington suggested that perhaps the tribunal would refuse to reinstate in such a case. But what would happen to the present tenant? What chance of social order would there be under such circumstances? The new tenant had the terrible alternative either to leave with compensation in the shape of one year's rent, or to be boycotted, intimidated, and possibly killed. Nobody would deny that a man who remained on a farm under such circumstances would do so at the risk of his 577 life. Were they to let bygones be bygones on terms so unjust as these? They could not. But there were other tenants in Ireland who had to be considered—tenants who had been reinstated by their landlords before this Bill came into operation. What was their position? There had been a number of such cases. On three estates tenants had been reinstated, some paying six, some four, and the majority two years' arrears. Such cases had occurred on the Cloncurry Estate where the restored tenants had been granted 31 years' lease of pasture land, and on the Olphert Estate, where a number of tenants had been put in as future tenants on paying two years' rent with costs. It surely was apparent that the men who had resisted the law, and who would be restored under this Bill would be more favourably situated than the men who had submitted to the law, and who had been reinstated in a legitimate manner on payment of a certain amount of arrears. He had consulted the tenant-farmers in his own constituency and they had expressed their profound indignation against the Bill, which they said was an insult and an outrage to every honest tenant. They had directed him as their Representative to oppose the Bill as far as he could. What was the position of the ordinary solvent tenant compared with the tenant who would come under the Bill? As to arrears, the honest tenant was liable for six years' arrears; he could be made bankrupt for them, and he could be evicted for one year's arrears. The evicted tenant under the Bill had the benefit of a compulsory composition, under which he need pay only one year's arrears. As to arrears, many an honest tenant had his house in bad repair, and he had to pay for the repairs out of his own pocket. But the evicted tenant whose house was in bad repair, perhaps because of his resistance to the bailiffs, was to have £50 to effect repairs. Was that a fair and equal arrangement as between honest and dishonest men. As to purchase, the honest tenant, if he wished to buy his farm, must go to the Laud Commission, a permanent Public Department, which required the strictest security for the advance. But the evicted tenant did not go to a Public Department, but to a temporary tribunal erected for the purpose of reinstating 578 him. The honest and solvent tenant was only accepted as a purchaser with a guarantee deposit, consisting of one-fifth of the purchase-money kept back. But the insolvent tenant was to be accepted without any guarantee deposit. He ventured to assert that this was most unjust, unequal, and unbusiness-like, and he hoped that the taxpayers of this country would realise the risks that were thus being imposed on them. It was said that the Bill was only a development of Clause 13 of the Land Purchase Act. There was not a shadow of foundation for the suggestion. Under that clause no property was taken from anyone, and still less was it taken without compensation; but under this Bill the landlord's property was taken compulsorily and without compensation. Under Clause 13, again, no landlord could be forced either to accept an obnoxious or insolvent tenant, or to sell his property at a price fixed by a temporary tribunal, but that was what the Bill did. The clause did not force any tenant on the State at the discretion of a temporary tribunal; and it did not interfere with any new tenant who had taken land and made it his own. Under the Bill the new tenant must go out, or remain to be the target of intimidation and possible outrage. There was no objection to re-enacting Clause 13, in as far as it enabled a tenant, if he were solvent and had the landlord's consent, to purchase his holding. The Chief Secretary's chief point was that this Bill would settle a great difficulty in Ireland. If that were so, no doubt many Members would be prepared and, indeed, willing to make many sacrifices of principle. But would it settle the question? What did the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin say on this point? He was an authoritative witness, and he said that, so far from settling the question, the Bill would disturb Irish society; it would lead to disorder, contention, and strife. Would it stop crime and disorder? No; the hon. Member told them it would be an additional incentive to crime and disorder, and would lead to agitation far worse than had ever been seen in Ireland. The hon. Member said to the evicted tenants that if they did not make the position uncomfortable for a man who had a farm, and if public opinion was not strong enough to drive him out of it, there was no hope for them.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman, but that was not my language as applied to the Bill, but as to one very inadequate provision of it, which allowed the tenant-right of an evicted tenant to be taken by the new tenant without compensation.
§ MR. BARTON
said, he admitted the hon. Member was an authority to whom they ought to listen. But the whole of his speech was directed to the fact that compulsory powers were not to be applied to the new tenant. All these great sacrifices of principle were to be made, while one of the most trustworthy witnesses on the subject declared that they would not settle the difficulty. It was said that the Bill would remove a difficulty from the path of the Unionist Party. But he denied that the Unionist Party had made pledges which they could not redeem. That was the difficulty of the Government, far more than disorder. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen now seated on the Ministerial Benches had made pledges which they now found it difficult to fulfil. The Amendment left Unionists perfectly free to do justice in this matter at any time. The Unionist Party when they came into Office would not find themselves bound, like the right hon. Gentleman opposite was, in dealing with the Irish evicted tenants' question, by pledges and prejudices. All the Unionist Party wished was to do justice, and that was the extent of their pledges and of their declarations. The Unionist Members had some difficulty in finding out what were the motives of this Bill. There could be no question involved as to the merits of the tenants or the demerits of the landlords. If any case was attempted to be made out on behalf of the tenants the landlords would, of course, make out their case. Believing as he did that the Bill was essentially a dishonest one, he should give it his unqualified opposition. The measure was that of a desperate Government, and unworthy of the character of its Members as statesmen.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
said, it was quite evident to him and to other Members of the House that the Party represented by the hon. Member who had just sat down and the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University did not contemplate becoming responsible for the 580 government of Ireland for many years to come. Otherwise they would be glad to have this difficult and burning question settled. He could not conceive how, considering the pledges made by hon. Members, they should have set their faces against any settlement of this question. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin University had quoted some criticisms of his in condemnation of this Bill when it was first introduced. He was prepared to stand by the criticisms which he made then, and which he repeated now, that the Bill was utterly and wholly inadequate to settle the evicted tenants' question. Of course, he knew what the difficulties of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland were, and what were the different interests that he had to conciliate, but he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had not taken a bolder course and a higher stand with regard to it. The hon. and learned Members who opposed the Bill had endeavoured to lash themselves into fury in respect of several of its provisions, and the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down had objected to the measure on the ground that the landlords were not compelled under its provisions to give a certain amount of security that the purchase instalments would be paid by the reinstated tenants. But surely in that respect a concession had been made in favour of the landlords. He was glad to find that, as a fact, no objection had been raised to the three gentlemen who had been chosen to act as arbitrators under the Bill.
§ MR. BARTON
said, that he was one of those who took objection to the gentlemen who were selected to act under the Bill.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
, continuing, said, he supposed it was impossible to satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman. Two of the arbitrators selected belonged to the same political Party to which he (Mr. Barton) belonged, and one of them was a gentleman to whose opinion upon matters of this kind they might very well object altogether. He had previously held an official position in Ireland, and they had some recollection of his extraordinary pranks. Still, they believed that he was impartial. However, as he had said, the majority of the Commission were certainly of the same 581 political opinion as the hon. and learned Member, and he congratulated the Chief Secretary upon the fact that he had been able to pick out three members for the Commission about whom no opinion of a hostile character could be offered. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin University had declared to the House that the Irish landlords were immaculate, and that they had never robbed the people who were their tenants. Surely the hon. and learned Gentleman must be ashamed of the instance in which a landlord recently drove his cattle through the growing crops of an unfortunate tenant. It was very well known that there were cases of eviction in Ireland which no one could defend, and it was admitted on all hands that several classes of tenants were in no degree protected by legislation. It was asked that there should be a revision of judicial rents, and that the law should be made to include freeholders, but this was refused, and then the Plan of Campaign followed as a necessity. A year after a Tory Government proposed legislation, but in the meantime all the mischief had been done. He was not going to say that the Plan of Campaign might not be condemned, or that it was altogether defensible. It was a terrible necessity, and thousands of tenants were saved because of the pressure that it brought to bear upon the landlords. What was the difference between those who were evicted before the Act of 1887 and those whom it saved? Had those who were relieved by it a stronger claim as better tenants than those who were removed six months before by more aggressive landlords? There was no reason or common sense in describing one set of men as criminals and scoundrels, and the others as honest men. Let them look at the matter from the point of view of the landlords. One landlord was tolerant; he gave a little time, and did not put the law in motion early enough to anticipate delayed legislation, and by keeping his tenants he had his rents reduced by Tory legislation. Now, it was held that this very legislation should not be used to assist the poor men who were turned out by unreasonable landlords. He knew one leaseholder who, by the Act of 1887, got his rent reduced by £122, which showed that the landlord had been charging him to that 582 amount upon the tenant's improvements. This man could not have continued paying his full rent, but because he held on until he was relieved by the Act he was described as an honest person. But he had a neighbour who was unable to meet the gale of the rent before the passing of the Act, and who went under, but who was just as worthy a man as the other, and paid as long as he could. Was there nothing to be said for this man and others like him who were the victims of the accident that the Act was not passed sooner, and were these men to be excluded for ever from the benefits of this legislation? It was no objection to the Bill that it did not amend the law, because its only object was to bring within the scope of past legislation the cases that had been excluded from it. As to forcing unworthy tenants on landlords, his experience was that there were very few tenants who would refuse to pay rent if they were able to do so. If it was said that the Bill was introduced for political purposes, he would ask, was there no political motive behind the Opposition Benches that had dictated the speeches made in the course of this Debate? If a Member of the House could go down to an estate to prevent a landlord coming to terms with his tenants, was it wrong of other Members to go to the rescue of the tenants? He was supporting the Bill in the hope that it might be amended in Committee. Many of those who opposed it would only be too glad to avail themselves of its provisions for the purpose of readmitting their tenants, just as was the case of the tenant farmers of Armagh, who denounced as dishonest the Bill of 1887, but yet almost took the doors off their hinges in their anxiety to get into the Land Court to avail themselves of the benefits of the Act.
§ MR. JACKSON (Leeds, N.)
The hon. Member who has just sat down has spoken of the Unionist Party having set their faces against any dealing with the difficult question with which we are now concerned. I do not think there is any justification for saying that the Unionist Party, as a result of their opposition to this Bill, have set their faces against any plan which would tend towards solving what I admit to be a very great difficulty in Ireland. I must, therefore, repudiate on my own behalf, and I am sure I can 583 do so also on behalf of my friends, any desire to impose difficulties in the way of an honourable and honest settlement of the existing difficulties. The Chief Secretary in his speech deepened the impression which he already entertained of his great desire to find some solution of this very difficult question. I confess that I heard with some regret that the right hon. Gentleman could not resist the temptation to make what appeared to me to be a very gratuitous and unnecessary attack upon the Irish landlords. The right hon. Gentleman had no good word for the Irish landlords, and he described them as persons who in the past had often blighted the peace and order of Ireland. I wonder if he has formed any opinion of those people who have been the principal cause of the trouble which he has now to face—the men who by joining in illegal combinations have created not only difficulties for him, but much greater difficulties for his predecessors in Office. Not one single word had he to say in condemnation of those who had been the main cause of the difficulty. I think it behoves everybody to bring to bear a calm judgment and above all a conciliatory spirit upon this question. I recognise the difficulty in which the right hon. Gentleman is placed, but at the same time, after having carefully considered this Bill, I have come to the conclusion that it would work great mischief, and that it would inflict great injustice. Therefore, I can with a free conscience vote against the measure. Reference has been made to the Mathew Commission and its Report. No doubt that Commission reported that in its opinion the re-enacting of Section B would be ineffective for the purpose of settling this difficult question. The Commission also expressed its regret that a spirit of conciliation appeared to be absent from both sides. I have never heard that any attempt has been made by the right hon. Gentleman to bring about that conciliation which apparently the Commission thought might have produced a different result. The hon. and learned Member (Mr. Haldane) in one part of his speech referred to Lord Monteagle and his article in The Nineteenth Century. That article, which the hon. and learned Member appeared to approve of, did not recommend the drastic provisions con- 584 tained in this Bill. I am quite sure that everyone who knows Lord Monteagle knows that he tries as a landlord to discharge the duties of his position. Speaking as a man who has tried to do what he can for Ireland and for the tenants, Lord Monteagle expressed his opinion that if it were not all that was necessary, at all events, the first attempt should be some conciliation board to bring these people together who are now so far apart. I am sure that if any attempt of this kind were made there is no man on this side of the House who would offer any opposition to it, but that it would have everybody's support. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Carson) in what I hope I may without offence characterise as the remarkable and powerful speech he delivered last night, pointed out that this Bill would create great difficulties in many directions where difficulties did not at present exist. He referred with great force to many cases that would be brought under the operation of the Bill, and said that if action were taken under the Bill, the greatest injustice would be done to individuals in Ireland. His statements were challenged in some respects by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary; but the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Haldane), who had the advantage of being able to look up the authorities, has failed entirely to meet the case put by my hon. and learned Friend. I do not know what the difficulty was, but it appears to me that the hon. and learned Member failed to appreciate, at all events, some of the points which my hon. and learned Friend made last night. My hon. and learned Friend pointed out that in the case of new tenants there was no power under this Bill to do justice to them, and that they could not be compensated even to the extent the law at present provides for certain tenants who may be disturbed in their holdings. He pointed out that under the Act of 1870 a tenant disturbed in the possession of his holding was entitled to claim under the present law compensation to the extent of seven years. The hon. and learned Member (Mr. Haldane) never attempted to meet that point. My hon. and learned Friend asked why, if these men had grievances, they did not go to the Court and ask to have their leases cancelled, 585 and what was the hon. and learned Member's answer to that challenge? Why, that these evicted tenants, if you please, make it a point of honour not to go to the Courts to obtain redress. The first scruple of honour they have is that they do not pay the rent they have undertaken to pay. What other remedy has the landlord except eviction under such circumstances? The hon. and learned Member, however, defends the position of the evicted tenant, who, without any reason or excuse, refuses to pay his rent, and defends his action in not going to the Court to obtain reinstatement in his holding in the ordinary course and process of law. I do not understand points of honour of that kind, and I do not think it is calculated to improve matters that statements of that kind should go forth from this House. Much has been said in regard to the Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary argued that there was in this proposal no new principle, and that precedents might be found for practically everything it contained. I know of no precedent in the law of this country under which you can take a man's property compulsorily away from him, fixing the price without his intervention, or even force on him a tenant whom he is compelled to accept. The Bill no doubt was intended to be a Bill dealing with the difficulty of the Plan of Campaign tenants. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman thought the House might see some objection to legislation for the relief of men who had combined against the law as had these Plan of Campaign tenants. I will not say that was the reason; but at any rate the Bill we have before us is a measure which is much wider in its scope, and which I think enlarges the area of mischief by reason of the widening of its scope. An attempt has been made to set up some analogy between Section 13 of the Act of 1879 and this Bill. I see no parallel at all between the two cases. Section 13 was passed in order to remove the disability under which tenants and landlords alike laboured because they could not, even though they were agreed as to the price, go into Court, and obtain the advances for purchase which would otherwise be opened to them. I see no analogy at all between the two cases. Under Section 13 there was no compulsion either upon 586 the tenants or upon the landlords to act. This Bill widens the area. It sets up a new tribunal with power to fix prices, and to take action far and away beyond that possessed by any tribunal at present. It extends to all evictions as far back as May, 1879. It also sets up this new tribunal which has, to a certain extent, co-ordinate powers with an existing tribunal dealing with precisely similar cases. There is, I think, not a county, probably not a barony, in Ireland that will not have had some cases of evictions during this long period of time, and evictions, it must be borne in mind, for perfectly justifiable reasons, and having attached to them no tincture of injustice. Yet you are to have this new tribunal dealing with the same class of cases as the old tribunal, and possibly arriving at different decisions. The result will be to produce collisions between the Land Commission Court and the new tribunal and to create wide discontent throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. I think that is a serious blot upon the Bill. I do not know how it can be remedied, especially if you are to retain in the Bill the compulsory power which is at present there. I think it must be apparent to the House that, instead of tending to settle matters, this Bill will tend still further to disturb them, inasmuch as it will extend the area of disturbance, which is at present limited to a small number of districts, to a much wider district, if not throughout the whole of Ireland. I think that, if for no other reason than this, we should be justified in voting against the Bill. The hon. and learned Member (Mr. Haldane) made a very able argument on behalf of Clause 1, but it appeared to me that he failed to appreciate the point made by my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Carson), that the compulsory power contained in the clause will and must work great hardship and injustice upon Irish landlords. The landlords in Ireland are entitled to justice as well as any other class of Her Majesty's subjects. The hon. and learned Member expressed his opinion that the instructions to the arbitrators in this clause are instructions to do justice. My contention is that they have no power under the clause to do justice. The hon. Member denied that injustice 587 would be worked under the clause, and said that when the decision had been arrived at and the tenant reinstated, the landlord would take the tenant to the Court if he wished to have a fair rent fixed under the Land Commission. That, in the hon. and learned Member's opinion, was a guard and protection against any injustice or loss being incurred by the landlord. Let me put two cases to him. Let me first take the case of a derelict farm. The hon. Member will probably say that not much loss will be incurred there. Let us assume that the arbitrators reinstated a tenant on a derelict farm. Why, I ask, was the farm derelict? It was derelict because the tenant refused to pay his rent, and was evicted under due process of law. The farm had remained derelict, let us say, for seven years. Has there been no depreciation of the property due to the action of the tenant and those who supported him in refusing to pay rent? If the landlord takes the tenant to the Land Commission to get a fair rent, on what basis is the Land Commission to fix the rent? Obviously they must fix it on the present value of the holding. Therefore, the landlord has imposed upon him this loss by the action of the evicted tenant, and there is no power under this Bill, even though the arbitrators might consider it just, to make compensation to the landlord. The other case I will take is that of a number of evicted farms on which the landlord has spent a considerable amount of money with the object of restoring them to the condition they were in when the tenant was evicted. The same process may be gone through. It may be that hundreds of pounds may have been expended on this property in order to restore it to its former condition. The fair rent to be fixed would be fixed, of course, upon the present value; but the whole expenditure made by the landlord in order to restore it to the condition it formerly was in would be entirely lost, and no compensation could be given to him for such expenditure. I think these two illustrations show that under this Bill injustice must be worked, as there is no power to give compensation to the landlord for his loss owing to the action taken by those tenants whom you are now seeking to put back upon their holdings. The other alternative which the landlord 588 has is that he may require the tenant to purchase. The hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin (Mr. Harrington), I am sure unconsciously, entirely misrepresented what my hon. Friend the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) said with regard to injury to the security which the State would have for the advance. My hon. Friend pointed out that under the existing law there is a margin deducted from the value of the security and left by the Land Commissioners for a number of years, but that in this case there would be no margin of security. My hon. Friend was not complaining that this was a grievance which the landlord would feel, but was pointing out that it was an injury which the State might suffer. There is another important point which must be borne in mind with regard to this security. Under this Bill the purchase price is to be fixed by arbitrators, and the Land Commission, who are to advance the money, have no power to refuse this security or the price put upon it by the arbitrators. They will therefore be in the position of having to accept any security, whereas at present the permanent Department of the Land Commission is responsible for seeing that ample security is provided for all advances they make. I think this is a very important point to bear in mind, inasmuch as it considerably increases the risk which the State will run in making advances under such circumstances. The hon. and learned Member opposite tried to make another point with regard to the free sale tenants. He said there was a power under the Act for the tenants to take the landlords into Court, and that the Court had power to require that the landlord should act reasonably. But surely, Sir, there is no analogy between those two cases. In the former case Parliament gave protection to the tenant so as to prevent some interest of his which possessed a considerable value being rendered null and void by reason of unreasonable conduct on the part of the landlord. The tenant had a right which he could sell in the market, and it would have been grievously unjust if the State had not protected that right. In the same way where a transfer of leave takes place, as it does very often in London and elsewhere, the landlord ought 589 not to be able to refuse to accept the new tenant except upon reasonable grounds. But surely there is no analogy between these cases and the case of forcing a landlord who it may be has taken the land into his own hands, and who has been cultivating and improving it for years, to accept a tenant whom he does not want, and possibly a tenant who is unable to pay his rent. I desire to ask the Chief Secretary a question as to Clause 3. Speaking, of course, as a layman with no knowledge of the law, I notice that as regards Section 1 the landlord has power to require the tenant to purchase. Following Section 1 comes the clause which gives to the arbitrators powers to fix the purchase and take all necessary proceedings in connection with it. Then follows Clause 3, which deals with an entirely different class of cases, and provides that the arbitrators shall have in relation to the holding all the powers of the foregoing provisions of the Act. My question is this: Does this power to the arbitrators confer also on the landlord the power to call on the tenant to purchase? If it be otherwise, you might have an agreement come to between the new tenant and the evicted tenant under which no objection would be raised by the new tenant to the reinstatement of the evicted tenant against the will of the landlord. I would like an explanation of what would be the rights of the landlord supposing an agreement were made between the new tenant and the reinstated tenant against his sanction. There is nothing in the clause, so far as I see, that protects the landlord, although there is that in it which protects the arbitrator's powers. I have not very much objection to raise to Clause 3, because it has been rightly recognised, as I think, that in this case there should be no compulsory power exercised. But at the same time there is, I think, a great danger of injustice being done to the new tenants, not by reason of the operation of the law, but by reason of what we may call the pressure brought to bear elsewhere. The hon. and learned Member spoke of the new tenants not in terms of praise, and said they would have the protection which they had enjoyed hitherto. In that view the hon. Member rather differed from the view expressed by the 590 Chief Secretary on the Second Reading of the Bill, who spoke of what might be the effect of the rejection of the Bill, and the message thereby sent to the evicted tenants, that they need have no further hope. At present the new tenant has the law in support of his position. You are proposing to amend the law, and the new tenant will then be in this position that there will be nothing but his will between him and the evicted tenant, and I think it is easy to conceive how in such circumstances great pressure will be brought to bear, and possibly great injustice worked, by reason of the alteration which you are proposing to make in the law. I am not one of those who are going to charge the Chief Secretary with an indisposition to protect these new tenants. It is his duty to protect every subject of Her Majesty in Ireland, the new tenants just as much as the evicted tenants, and I do not doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will continue to give that protection to them which the law can afford. Clearly they will be in a much less strong position. I know it is customary to speak of these men in terms offensive, and as I think, untrue, and unjust. But I would ask the House to remember the difficult position that these men have filled in times of great difficulty. I think it would hardly be exaggeration to say that at the time when the war was going on between the tenants and the landlords, they exercised the rights of citizens, and took property which was available to them—stood up, in fact, in support of law and order, and I think they ought rather to be praised than blamed for their attitude. I remember well when that war was going on, how carefully and anxiously—and I am sure the Member for South Tyrone will remember this—that hon. Members from time to time, listened for the Reports as to how many farms had been taken, or how many tenants reinstated. These men, I think, performed difficult positions at that time. They showed the courage of their opinions, and I think really that those who are in favour of the maintenance of law and order owe them a debt of gratitude rather than of condemnation There was a moment when the law was almost on the verge of collapse, and when order threatened to become chaos, and 591 these men, I repeat, who stood valiantly to their post deserved commendation rather than blame. They are entitled to protection, and I hope they will continue to receive it as long as they hold their present position. There is one more reason. I will ask this question: Is this Bill likely to settle this question? The hon. Member for the Harbour Division has told us that he adheres to his former utterances. Well, those of us who heard the hon. Member on that occasion will remember distinctly that he predicted that the Bill would not settle the question, and I think there are substantial reasons for believing that that view of the question is not an inaccurate one. The Chief Secretary gave us some interesting figures on the First Reading of the Bill, and they are, as regards the totals, confirmed by the statement of the right hon. Gentleman made yesterday on the Second Reading. The position is this: There are about 4,000 cases. To how many does this apply? The right hon. Gentleman gave us figures on the First Reading, which I will ask permission to re-state to the House. Quoting from the Mathew Commission, he said that on the 17 estates inquired into, there had been 1,350 evictions, that there had been reinstated 415 tenants, and that there were 15 cases of settlements come to between the old tenants and the new tenants, leaving 921 cases to be dealt with. Of this number 215 were new tenants, 20 had purchased their holdings, and 482 were in the hands of landlords or corporations, and 204 were derelict. That accounts for the 921 cases. In addition to the 921 cases, there were 2,755 other applications, and the right hon. Gentleman pointed out at the time that this figure did not necessarily cover the whole ground, because the figures were admittedly incomplete. This would make a total of 3,676 cases, and the compulsory powers of the Bill would apply only to the 686 cases; or, in other words, the compulsory powers of the Bill will apply to less than 20 per cent. of the whole of the cases. Now, I ask whether, supposing the Bill were put into operation to-morrow, and supposing that you deal with the 20 per cent. of these cases, do you think it would settle the question? Is it likely that those gentlemen who have 592 carried on the agitation in the past, fresh from their new success, would be satisfied to leave the question where it is? No, Sir; I say it is obvious from the figures of the right hon. Gentleman himself that this Bill cannot in its present shape settle the question. Therefore, if for that reason only, I should feel justified in voting against the Bill. But I think there are other reasons also which will lead me to vote against the Bill. I look upon this compulsory legislation as being in itself mischievous and unjust. The right hon. Gentleman himself admits that the Bill is mischievous to some extent. The right hon. Gentleman will remember, I think, that yesterday he spoke of the mischiefs which he admitted were in the Bill.
MR. J. MORLEY
demurred, and was understood to say that what he had said was that for every mischief that could be pointed out in his plan he could point out numbers of mischiefs in others.
§ MR. JACKSON
Yes; then I think I am justified in saying the right hon. Gentleman admits mischiefs in his Bill to a certain extent. I do not want to misrepresent what he said in any way. I look upon the Bill as being a mischievous one, and as introducing for the first time powers which are novel in this country. I do not say it is necessarily objectionable from the fact of certain provisions being new; but I say that looking at the conditions of things in Ireland, looking at the people you have to deal with, looking back upon the past, that you may anticipate that this is merely the first step upon an inclined plane upon which you will not be allowed to stop. What an encouragement this will be to those hon. Gentlemen who threaten you with a new campaign, who are certain to institute a new campaign! We have heard much about the wounded soldiers in the old campaign. What a glorious argument this will be for new recruits for the new campaign! The wounded soldiers in the old campaign have been provided for at the cost of the State. The victory rests with them, and the Government has absolutely surrendered at discretion. What a war cry it will be! for those gentlemen will make no secret of their intentions in the future. Sir, I believe the Bill to be 593 dangerous; I believe it to be mischievous; I believe it to be calculated to do much harm; and therefore on these grounds and others I certainly shall, with a clear conscience, vote against the Bill.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Clare, E.)
said, he desired to intervene for a short time in the Debate. At the outset he might be allowed to say that if he knew anything about the evicted tenants in Ireland, and what they had suffered during the last seven or eight years, there was nothing in their lot to encourage other people to assume their position. If the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken imagined that the fact that these people who had been put back to their homes, after being out on the roadside with their families for eight or ten years, was sufficient to encourage others to become evicted tenants like them, he was speaking without much intimate knowledge of the question. The right hon. Gentleman commenced his speech by saying that he was not going to take up a position of absolute hostility to the settlement of this question. He said that should a well-considered scheme be brought forward it would be regarded by the Opposition, if not with satisfaction, with, at any rate, a certain amount of toleration. He admitted there was a question to be settled, and concluded his speech by finding fault with this Bill, because it would not completely settle the question. That was a totally different position from that taken up by the Member for North Armagh and others. They denied that there was a question at all. They did not find fault with the Bill because it did not settle the question, but what they objected to was the payment of any public money on behalf of a class of people whom they described as undeserving criminals of the worst kind. If the Member for North Armagh and the other Representatives of the landlord party in Ireland were right that those people were undeserving criminals who had brought disaster upon themselves, what did the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken mean by saying that there was a great question to be settled, and that a well-considered scheme or some other scheme than this would receive the 594 consideration of the Opposition? These were two two totally different positions, which were taken up by the representatives of the landlord party in Ireland and by Members like the right hon. Gentleman, who knew from his experience of Ireland that there was a very serious question to be settled if not by this Government by the next. If it was not settled it would ultimately cost the country far more than the sum allotted for the purpose. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last had said that the Bill would not settle everything. Of course it would not. When the Land Bill of 1881 was introduced into this House the great argument used against it by the landlords' party was that it would not be a final settlement, and that if that Bill should pass the representatives of the Irish people would still demand more. That was, however, no real argument against passing that Bill. He remembered the late Mr. Parnell said at the time, that though he looked on the Land Act of 1881 with the greatest approval as going a great way in the direction he desired, yet at the same time it would not be a final settlement of the question. The way he was disposed to regard this Bill was in the same light that his leader, Mr. Parnell, regarded the Land Act of 1881. This Bill would, undoubtedly, if properly administered, do a great deal towards settling the question; but it would not settle it altogether, and the question they had to ask themselves was this: Were they going to refuse a Bill which would partially settle the great evil now existing in Ireland simply because it would not absolutely and completely settle it? He for one would not do that, and he supported the Bill as far as it went. But he would tell the Chief Secretary and the Government, what they must know perfectly well, that there was a class in Ireland who would not be touched by the Bill, and who were causing more disturbance than any other class. They were the planters who the late Chief Secretary eulogised, and who by their lawlessness had done more to disturb and break the law than any other men. The present Chief Secretary must know perfectly well that many of the planters were men who had no interest in the locality, and did not take the farms in a bonâ fide way at all. They came as 595 the representatives of the landlords, for the purpose of carrying out the landlords' policy, and he asserted that these men, in many cases, by their lawlessness, drunkenness, and insults to the people who were rightful occupiers of the farms, and their wives and children, were the cause of the peace being broken. There was a case on the Coolgreany estate, County Wexford, where one of the unfortunate tenants was shot at in open daylight by one of these men, without any provocation whatever, and the whole country side was turned into a state of disturbance. Yet, these were the men who had been described by the late Chief Secretary as upholders of law and order in Ireland. The late Chief Secretary had said that the people had been evicted because of their own fault. But if the right hon. Gentleman had listened more carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for the Harbour Division, he would have understood that the great majority—he himself believed nine-tenths—of the evicted tenants were evicted, not for any fault of their own, but simply because Parliament did not legislate in time for their protection. He must say that with regard to the evicted tenants, whose farms had been taken, he did not know what was to be done. There would be many cases where by the Bill one evicted tenant would be restored to his holding, while another just across the road would have no hope of redress, not because he was worse than his neighbour, but because his farm had been taken. That man would not be satisfied, and he hoped that in Committee Amendments would be accepted to deal with "grabbed" farms. If the Government, however, should not support such Amendments, it would be no reason why this Bill should not be accepted, because they had the precedent of the Land Act of 1881 to prove that very often these things had to be done by successive Acts of Parliament. He and his hon. Friend who did not follow the lead of the hon. Member for Longford had been denounced for opposing this Bill; it was said that they had thrown cold water on it, and had discouraged the efforts of the Government. However that might be, they had the satisfaction now of seeing £250,000 in the Bill instead of £100,000. That 596 was a great step in the right direction, because it was money that was wanted to settle this question, but it was very unfair that it should be Irish money. By delaying legislation Parliament had incurred the responsibility for the eviction of these tenants. If the Bill which was passed in 1887 had been passed in 1886 he did not believe there would have been a quarter of the evicted tenants which there were now. The Irish Church Surplus Fund, after all, was a purely Irish fund; and although he admitted that this was a good way to use it, he did not see any reason for going into ecstasies of gratitude about the remedying of an Irish grievance with Irish money. The Irish people had a right to expect that this Bill would have been introduced long ago, and he now gave it his support.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
said, he strongly approved of the principle of the Bill, and was glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had seen his way to increase the amount of the fund available for carrying out the objects of the measure. He agreed with what had been said by the last speaker in one respect certainly—that the Imperial Parliament had responsibilities towards Ireland in this matter. The whole difficulty had arisen because Parliament had neglected Irish land legislation and had not endeavoured to arrive at a full, complete, and accurate solution of the problem before it, a settlement of the exact relations between landlords and tenants and the method to be adopted of dealing with the evicted tenants in Ireland. The Irish tenants were under a sense of oppression at being rented for their own improvements, and there had been a long period of over-renting in Ireland. The fault of the land legislation for Ireland, from beginning to end, had been that Parliament had not hitherto sufficiently recognised the instinct of the Irish people which had animated the entire agitation in favour of perpetuity of tenure and of the view that the tillers of the soil should be allowed to remain upon it as their predecessors had done. It was the failure of Parliament to recognise 597 that instinct that was at the bottom of the Irish land war and of the consequent detestable outrages and crime that had prevailed in that unhappy country for so long. Those terrible consequences lay far more at the door of Parliament than in the proceedings of Irish agitators who had been accused of bringing about those crimes. The responsibility of Parliament had been greatly increased during the last few years in consequence of the refusal of the late Government to institute Courts of Arbitration and Conciliation which might have brought about a peaceful solution of the Irish land difficulty. Even in the present Session we had had a further illustration of the necessity of dealing with these questions between landlord and tenant. The subject had been considered by a strong Committee, and it could not be said that the evidence brought before that Committee had established the landlords' case. The rights of the Irish tenants had never been sufficiently or adequately protected, and he maintained, therefore, that this measure was not the outcome of political expediency, but was an honest attempt to settle the question relating to the evicted tenants of Ireland. It was the frank recognition of an imperial duty to do justice in the matter. The question had been discussed from a very narrow point of view, as if the Plan of Campaign was the sole ground on which it rested. They had been told that this movement was not in reality agrarian, but was a mere struggle of lawlessness initiated for the purpose of defeating the reasonable control by this country of the affairs of Ireland. In every struggle for agrarian rights, in all attempts to right wrongs such as those suffered by the Irish peasantry, in every endeavour to settle such questions between landlord and tenant there must be a certain amount of lawlessness. That was inseparable from such a struggle. For the purpose of this attempt by the Irish people to right these wrongs and to bring about a better state of things a less demoralising machinery. It had been urged that the Bill was intended to reward the dishonest tenants who had joined the illegal combination known as the Plan of Campaign. He was not concerned to apologise for that Plan. He admitted that the Plan of Campaign might be against the strict 598 letter of the law, but he maintained that it had kept Ireland free from outrage and had lessened the bitterness of the agrarian struggle in that country. From what he had read of the circumstances of the various struggles which had occurred in Ireland, it was literally true that no serious crime or outrage could be fairly or justly attributed to the operation of the Plan of Campaign in Ireland. He would ask the House to consider for a moment whether the more serious charges had been proved by the actual facts and figures of the case, and whether the spirit manifested by the Irish tenants was to be attributed to unfair demands on their part. It had been proved in every case where those demands had been made and substantiated on Irish estates for a reduction of rents, they were, in comparison with neighbouring estates, found to be just and fair. In one typical case connected with the Plan of Campaign, it was found by the Court that tenants who had demanded that their rents should be fixed at £4 instead of £5 should only pay £3 17s. 6d. That was an illustration of the justness and fairness of the Plan of Campaign. It had been proved over and over again that the demands of the tenants for a reduction in the amount of their rents were fully justified. Out of 101 cases in which estates had been subjected to the operation of the Plan of Campaign, satisfactory settlements had been arrived at between landlords and tenants in 84 instances, while in the remaining 17 cases a settlement might have been arrived at by the landlords agreeing to a 30 per cent. reduction, according to an article attributed to Mr. Davitt in one of the magazines. He would ask his hon. Friend's attention to those facts in reference to the wild and reckless arguments brought forward against the Plan of Campaign, and which had been urged against the Land League as having forced the tenantry of Ireland into a miserable and destitute situation in order that it might succeed in its political objects. Would any fair minded man say when in all but 17 out of 101 cases settlements recognised as fair and reasonable had been arrived at, whether it was just and reasonable to denounce the Plan of Campaign as a mere lawless political plot and conspiracy, and not to 599 recognise it as a natural outcome of the agrarian position in Ireland and as an endeavour to settle the question by fair means? Reductions had been made to the extent of 15, 16, and 17 per cent. in addition to the originally-fixed judicial rents, which might be taken at 19 or 20 per cent. That would afford a fair measure of the reasonableness of the claims of the tenants; that, on the average, reductions had been made to the extent of at least 30 per cent. This was an Imperial question in more senses than one. The conduct of the Irish landlords in not listening to the wise advice given them, and the failure of Irish land legislation had cost the English Exchequer an enormous sum; the cost of the evictions on the 17 estates he had mentioned had amounted to £115,000; and it was estimated that the expense of the extra police necessary in Ireland had been no less than £120,000 a year. That was not an unreasonable estimate as the cost since 1887 of this policy of refusing to satisfy by fair means the traditional demands of the Irish people and the right which they had claimed at all times to the land which their ancestors had held. That policy had cost an enormous loss to the British taxpayer. He earnestly urged that the question should be considered, not as a violently-contested controversial topic, but as a recognition of the failure of Parliament to satisfy the legitimate and traditional claims of the Irish people; and he was prepared as an English Member to support the Chief Secretary in making the Bill as effective and as sweeping as was necessary in order to achieve its purpose. It would be a wise step now to adopt a conciliatory policy in dealing with the Irish people, a policy which would promote the prosperity and peace of Ireland, and he would, in conclusion, urge his right hon. Friend to strengthen the Bill and to afford protection in every sense of the word to the new tenants who might be displaced.
§ MR. BUCKNILL (Surrey, Epsom)
hoped there would be no confusion of mind on this subject, and submitted that the duty of the House was not, as the last speaker suggested, to make provision for a certain class, the evicted tenants alone, but to see if it was possible "by a just procedure to get rid of a source of 600 administrative confusion and social trouble in Ireland." Three classes were affected by the Bill—the evicted tenants, the new tenants, and the landlords. He appealed to the Chief Secretary and every Member in the House to confirm that statement. It was not their duty to favour one class against another, and any legislation which attempted to deal with one in preference to the others was wrong and unjust. In a letter written by the Chief Secretary of Ireland to an hon. Member in 1892 he spoke of the Commission he was about to set on foot as being "an agent of healing and of peace"—meaning no doubt between the evicted tenants and the landlords, not between the Government and the evicted tenants, or between the Government and the party politicians in Ireland, who had to some extent been responsible for the evictions which had taken place. By the Act of 1891 something was attempted to be done, but not what the Government was now trying to do or anything like it. He contended that there was no analogy between the 13th section of the Act of 1891, which was purely permissive, and the present procedure, which was compulsory, and by which a new machinery was to be created which he could not condemn in terms too strong. He did not think that a proper foundation could be obtained by such means. The evicted tenant must first petition the arbitrators to be put back into his holding; the petition would then be sent on to the landlord in the form called by lawyers a rule nisi—i.e., with an intimation that if the landlord could not answer the primâ facie case made out by the tenant he must accept him, and put him back again upon his holding even after an absence of 15 long years; that was not like Section 13 of the Act of 1891, in which there was no similitude to such a proceeding. What could the arbitrators do if within the prescribed time the landlord made out no case in answer to the tenant's claim? They would have no choice in the matter, but would be bound to reinstate the tenant, and the landlord would have nothing further to say in the matter. He could not say, "You, the arbitrator, have said I have not made good my answer to this petition, therefore I will sell," for he had then no choice. He must 601 either, within the prescribed time, say he would sell or make answer to the petition. Under the Bill A, the evicted tenant, made his petition, and was supposed to present a primâ facie case. The arbitrator sent it on to B, the landlord, who attempted to answer it. The arbitrator said, "You have not made an answer, and I therefore have to reinstate the tenant." So far as the landlord was concerned he had no choice, and could not say, "I will sell the land." Let the House consider the hard case of the man evicted by "due process of law" in 1879 after the month of May. The landlord of that day who evicted the tenant was dead, and his property had passed to his successor, who might be a purchaser or an heir. Would anyone say that it was fair that such a tenant should be entitled and able now, on good cause as between himself and his landlord in the first instance, to say he was entitled to come back and turn out the present landlord? Certainly not. This case, it seemed to him (Mr. Bucknill), ought to be provided for, but it was not. The arbitrator could not say to the tenant who had shown good cause, "This is a hard case—it must not be." He was bound to reinstate the tenant in his holding. He would call attention to another hard case. A landlord might say, "I don't want to sell; I don't think I have power to sell; I am trustee for other persons, though the legal ownership vests in me." Because the landlord could not sell were the evicted tenants to be put in possession? Under such circumstances would anyone willingly reinstate even a friend or a relation? Why, then, should a landlord be bound to reinstate under the Bill? The answer was that which was put forward by the hon. and learned Member for York yesterday: "If you do not do this you will have social disorder and danger, and the Government know they have got to deal with you."
§ MR. BUCKNILL
But did the Government deal equitably and justly with all classes? If not they were in the wrong. They had no right to conciliate one class of the community at the expense of another. They had no right to conciliate the evicted tenant at the ex- 602 pense of the new tenant, and they had no right to conciliate the evicted tenant if they were unjust to the landlord. In the present case the Government were proposing to do a vast amount of injustice. The Bill was not an attempt to do justice, but an attempt to do the impossible. They had heard to-day from the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin that the Government were aiming at the impossible. This hon. Member, though he had spoken in terms of strong commendation of the Bill, had said on the First Reading thatit would disturb Irish society, and particularly in those places to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred. He made bold to say that the proposal developed to the House was one that must inevitably lead to disorder and contention and strife, and to an agitation worse than anything which had yet been seen in Ireland.The hon. Member for East Mayo had said—I believe in my heart it is beyond the power of this House ever to settle the Irish Land Question finally.The hon. Member said the Bill would not settle the case of the tenants who were to be evicted in the following year, or of those who were under notice of eviction. It would not settle cases in the future, but it would be a bad precedent. Those who thought they had forced the hand of the Government now would not be slow to use this machinery in the future. They would say, "We made you do it in 1894, and we will make you do it in 1898." He had no interest in Ireland. He was not an Irish landlord nor an Irish tenant; but he had the common interest that every man in the House ought to have, and that every honest Englishman had, and that was to see that they did not pass legislation that was not productive of good, but which might be productive of evil. That was the common interest of every man in the House. He had not said a word about the Plan of Campaign. He wished to treat the question as if there had been no Plan of Campaign, and to put on one side whatever might have led to evictions. But he could not help putting this question to himself: "Having this great difficulty to deal with, are you dealing with it in such a way as will be equally just and fair to the man whom you have in the first instance a 603 desire to assist—namely, the evicted tenant, and the man who is now lawfully in possession, and against whom no one has a right to say a word, and who should only be turned out under 'due process of law,' and which is just and fair to the landlord?" He could not answer that question in the affirmative. He did not believe that the Bill would tend to a peaceful settlement of the difficulty. Therefore, he should vote against the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ MR. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
said, the Chief Secretary for Ireland in his speech introducing the Bill referred to certain gentlemen whom he denominated as "irrecoucilables." Personally he did not think he could be said to come under that description, because, if this Bill were possible of being carried out, he should consider that it would be a good and wise Bill to have brought in and he would not oppose it. The hon. Member for Cork had referred to the evicted tenants under the Plan of Compaign as the "wounded soldiers of the battle." That, he thought, was a poetic and correct description. Undoubtedly they had been wounded in endeavouring to carry on the battle. But what had to be considered was this: that it was a foolish battle, and the generals who conducted it were careless in regard to their men. The Chief Secretary claimed that he was trying to heal their wounds and to pour balm into them, and undoubtedly if his plan for doing that were a feasible one it would be a very ungracious thing to oppose his action. But again he must point out that these men engaged in a warfare which they were not justified in undertaking. He objected to the Bill because it was not a reinstating but an evicting Bill, which was not in itself a bad Bill, but which was proposing to do an impossible thing, because if it were put into force a great many families would be put out in the cold. Fifteen hundred men had been put into as many evicted farms, and those farms which were still untaken might be assumed to be the farms of the most dangerous of the men who had been evicted, while the 1,500 which had been taken were the farms of the best of the evicted tenants. At the very threshold, therefore, they bad to face the objection that this proposal would be putting a premium on the lawlessness of the worst 604 portion of the evicted tenants, and would be relieving them at the expense of tenants who most merited the sympathy of the House. It was very possible that those tenants who obeyed the mandate of hon. Members below the Gangway had thrown themselves out into the cold, and that their real friends were those who advised them and wanted them to fulfil their obligations. The tenants to be reinstated must have been evicted either because they could not pay or because they could pay and would not. If a tenant could not pay then, was he likely to be able to do so now? Would not a landlord be in a better position if he took those who could have paid and would not, rather than those who could not have paid? If all the farms were vacant and if they were to be re-occupied by those who could have paid and did not, he should have had much less objection to the Bill. The hon. Member for South Tyrone made an investigation on the Oxford estates in Donegal and found that the least arrears that were owing by any evicted tenant were four and a-half years' rent. Consequently, that statement made by the hon. Member for Armagh was no exaggeration. The Chief Secretary knew a good deal about Ireland, and he should know that in every part of Ireland a man taking a farm from which another man had been removed was called a grabber. That was to say, if the previous tenant had gone out against his will, his successor was called a grabber, no matter what the circumstances were; and the natural dislike of the Irish tenants to grabbers had been stimulated by the speeches which they had heard from the Nationalist leaders. That being so, was it possible that 1,500 new tenants could be removed to make room for old tenants without exposing the latter to the natural dislike of grabbers, and bringing about a terrible state of affairs? The Chief Secretary said there would be a terrible state of things if the Bill did not pass. If he believed that the passing of it would not produce great difficulties he would not oppose it. The Bill need not be regarded in any sense as a Party measure, because it was simply an attempt to get a number of unfortunate men out of the difficulties in which they 605 had involved themselves. The Chief Secretary was endeavouring to do by law what the hon. Member for South Hunts did without the assistance of the law. If the 1,500 new tenants could be removed without injustice, he did not think that any Unionist Member would offer anything but his support and encouragement to the Bill. But the Unionist Members took an absolutely opposite view; they believed that the Bill, by displacing the new tenants, would bring about a large amount of crime. Were it not for their sympathy with those who had taken the so-called grabbed farms they would be inclined to allow the Chief Secretary to have his way and to let the Bill go through in order to prove the disaster which must ensue. But for this apprehension he would say that the Chief Secretary was trying to do an impossible thing about as well as it could be done. Admitting that the attempt of the Chief Secretary might be possible, he did not say that any case had been made out against the clauses of the Bill, and he thought the hon. Member for North Armagh was well advised when he spoke on the general principles of the case. Objection might be taken to the discretion with which the arbitrators were to be invested, or the source from which the money was to be taken; and his opposition to the Bill narrowed itself down to the single point that 1,500 tenants would have to go out, and that this was an eviction Bill as well as a reinstatement Bill. No doubt when the Unionist Party returned to power they would be glad to have this question out of the way, and if this Bill would get it out of the way they would be blind to oppose it. But if the Chief Secretary got the farms now vacant refilled, he would leave to his successors the legacy of dealing with the 1,500 new tenants, for the right hon. Gentleman did not expect to be in Office when this difficulty would have to be dealt with. The Unionists would be left face to face with greater difficulties than ever, and the right hon. Gentleman would say, "See what the Unionists are doing." There did not seem to be any prospect of getting rid of the new tenants without bloodshed. If the Bill had dealt exclusively with the vacant farms, there would have been very little opposition, 606 and not any united opposition, on that side of the House. Many of them who viewed the sufferings of these tenants with the greatest sorrow felt compelled to oppose this Bill, believing that it would be fruitful in crime and disaster.
§ MR. BYLES (York, W.R., Shipley)
said, the one objection urged by hon. Members in opposition to the Bill was in reference to planters on the grabbed farms. He could not but feel that there was some exaggeration in the statement that there were 1,500 planted farm tenants. But even if there were, many of them were not bonâ fide tenants, but were simply creatures of the landlords—caretakers, who jobbed about the farm until the present difficulty should be settled. Even if there were 1,500 of these men, he did not think that that was a sufficient reason why they should not endeavour to arrange the large balance of disputes between other tenants and their landlords. A good deal had been said about the injustice of forcing upon landlords tenants whom they were unwilling to receive. But the principle of the Bill was exactly the same as that contained in the Parish Councils Bill, enabling the new bodies to hire land compulsorily, and it was the same as that under which railway companies were empowered to acquire land compulsorily. But that was not the whole case. It had been pointed out over and over again that these farms were really possessed by two owners. Parliament had realised by past legislation that the tenant was partner with the landlord, and, therefore, all they now proposed to do was to restore the partner. For his part, he would say that if either of the two partners in this dual ownership had power to evict the other, it should certainly be the tenant who should have the power to evict the landowner. In 99 cases out of 100 in Ireland the landlord did absolutely nothing except draw the rent. That was his sole function in life. He was a perfectly useless being. He (Mr. Byles) would probably be misunderstood if he said that the sooner the landlords were got rid of the better. What he meant was that if the landlords were away from Ireland altogether it would be for the benefit of Ireland. He did not wish his remarks to be misconstrued. He was quite sure many landlords recognised 607 their duties as landlords just as English landlords did, and were benefactors to the people who lived upon their land. But, upon the whole, to sweep out of Ireland those useless persons who simply drew the rent would be for the benefit of the country. The Irish tenants had created their farms out of land which was not worth a peppercorn. [Cries of "Oh!"] He knew what he was talking about. But for the industry of the poor peasant tenants much of the land in the South and West of Ireland would have been absolutely worthless. For generations the property of these poor people had been confiscated by the landlord class in Ireland. That was the basis and the root of the whole agrarian question, and it was at the bottom of the demand for Home Rule. If it had not been for that kind of robbery they would never have been where they were. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had described the Plan of Campaign tenants as a lawless class, and hon. Gentlemen on his own side had spoken of the combination in an apologetic tone. He made no apology whatever on behalf of the Plan of Campaign or of those tenants. These men were models amongst the tenantry of Ireland, because they had the courage and manhood to resist the enslaving influences to which the tenantry of Ireland had so long been subject. They had the manhood to say that they would not mulct their daughters who had been driven to America of their hard-earned wages in order to pay impossible rents. To say that they were men who could afford to pay and would not pay was to overlook the whole facts of the case. He hoped that their example would be followed, and that in the future the Irish tenantry would show the spirit of combination even more strongly than they had done in the past. The Irish agrarian controversy appeared to him to be on exactly the same principle as the great Coal Strike of last year or any of the great labour strikes. The miners refused to go down into the pits at a wage which they did not consider to be a living wage. They underwent great privations and sufferings in order to establish an understanding between themselves and their employers, and he rejoiced to know that that very day it was announced to the public that they had, 608 for the next two years, at any rate, accomplished their object, and had got for themselves a living wage. The Irish tenant was in the same position. He joined the Plan of Campaign, and deliberately allowed himself to be put out. He thought that the Irish tenant was to be commended and praised for attempting to obtain justice for his class. A Liberal Government and a Liberal Chief Secretary (Mr. J. Morley), than whom no man in the House had a more scrupulous sense of justice, came forward and said that these men who had been years and years in dispute with their landlords were entitled to the consideration of the House, and the constituencies who returned the Government to power two years ago told the House—he could speak for his own constituency, at any rate—that one of the first duties it ought to discharge was to put back into their farms the men who had been evicted by their co-partners. The House would only be discharging in the most direct and plain way the mandate it had received from the constituencies by endeavouring in the wise and moderate manner proposed to carry out an arrangement in the form of an Act of Parliament. He believed that this measure would do a great deal towards healing what everybody knew was a running sore and a constant danger to the peace of Ireland and to the loyalty of the Irish people towards the Empire. He firmly believed that if the Bill were passed it would make many an Irish peasant who was now resentful towards England friendly and kindly, and would promote those relations which he was sure every Member of the House desired to see promoted. If, however, this boon were refused to the Irish people, he for one said they were justified in taking the law into their own hands by forming a fresh combination such as the Plan of Campaign. This organisation was only started because legal remedies and legal justice were refused to them. In his opinion all combinations of this kind, whether they were the result of labour disputes in England or agrarian disputes in Ireland, were not the lawless and vicious acts of vicious men, but were crude attempts to obtain justice. They were attempts to get by rough-and-ready means the justice which was denied to men or which was too long in coming through 609 legal channels. It was because he believed this, and because he believed that those evicted tenants, very many of whom he knew personally, were the very salt of Ireland, that he earnestly desired that they should be put back upon the land which was theirs 10,000 times more than it was their landlords', and that they should be able to earn their livelihood and to continue to bring up a peaceful and a pious population.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
said, he doubted whether the doctrines which the hon. Member had enunciated in his speech would commend themselves to many Members of the House. He did not propose to dwell at length upon the comparison the hon. Member had drawn between the strikes which convulsed the whole commerce of the country last year, and the agricultural combinations which took place in Ireland, because although there might be points of likeness between these two forms of combination, he could find no points of likeness between the attitude of the Government towards strikes in England, and the attitude of the Government as embodied in this Bill towards evicted tenants in Ireland. He was not aware that the Government had ever entertained a proposal for forcing the employers of industry in England to take back men who, owing to the unfortunate disputes that had taken place had lost the means of earning their livelihood. He did not put this forward as an argument against the Bill, because he recognised that the position in Ireland was altogether distinct from any position of a like kind in England. He would not criticise the disquisition made by the hon. Member upon dual ownership in Ireland. The hon. Member had said many things with which he differed, but his observations had appeared to tend towards the view that some large scheme of purchase must be the goal towards which all parties in the House should aim. If that were the hon. Gentleman's view, he (Mr. Wyndham) shared it. Gladly would he welcome the day upon which the two great historical Parties in the House could forget immediate Party advantage, forget the recriminations which had sprung out of the unhappy history of the connection between England and Ireland, and join together 610 in placing on the Statute Book some large measure which would, once for all, settle agrarian difficulties in Ireland. He believed that day was far distant, and it was because he thought this Bill would not advance them one step towards that day that he should be prepared to vote against the second reading. The hon. Member (Mr. Byles) had expressed doubt as to whether it were true that 1,533 farms were occupied in Ireland by what were called "planters." Those were the figures, however, adduced from the Report of the Mathew Commission, and they were the figures presented only last year by the hon. Member for North Leitrim (Mr. P. A. M'Hugh.) He it was who told the House that the dispute might be narrowed down to 1,533 farms—namely, those who had been let to new tenants. When such a division of opinion existed upon the vital points at issue, as had been exemplified by the course of the Debate, what hope was there for the success of a measure which evaded any practical attempt to deal with these farms at all? His own judgment upon the Debate, as far as it had proceeded, led him to think that the balance of argument had been on the side of those who opposed the Bill. He felt like the man who came in rather late in the day for a game of ninepins—very few of the arguments of the other side were still left standing. But he would deal with one of the arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Haddingtonshire which had escaped the searching criticisms of those who had followed that hon. and learned Gentleman in Debate on the Opposition side of the House. The hon. Members had been criticising an argument put forward in the vigorous speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University, who had pointed out—and the matter was one well worthy of attention—that the evicted tenants had foregone, and deliberately foregone, many special privileges conferred on them by the law. The hon. Member had pointed to the fact that the Irish tenants could be divided into three categories, and as to two of those categories he had said the tenants in question had not foregone deliberately those advantages because they had not been conferred on them. He had said— 611The tenants evicted before 1881 had not the advantages of that Act conferred on them, and the leaseholders evicted before 1887 had not the advantages of the Land Act of 1887 bestowed on them.It seemed to him there was an obvious reply to that argument, and it was this—that in the 13th clause of the Land Act of 1891 both these classes were admitted to the privileges of the measure. Both these classes, had they pleased, might have come to a voluntary arrangement to purchase from their landlords, and, therefore, if they had not made any efforts to purchase voluntarily it might be truly said of them, as his hon. Friend had said, that they had foregone privileges conferred on them by the law. Then his hon. Friend took the third class of tenants—those who were evicted subsequent to all the agrarian legislation—and said they could not claim compensation, as they would by that resign all moral title to their holdings, and make submission to the law of this country. Well, if this moral title which they cherished was to lead Irish tenants to forego making use of the Acts passed in this House, what, in Heaven's name, was the use of wasting the time of the House of Commons in passing yet another Act in 1894? What reason had hon. Members to suppose that the Irish tenants, if they failed to take advantage of the Act, would not meet them with the plea that they had a moral title to the soil of Ireland, and that the Imperial Parliament must come to their assistance with time and money. It seemed to him that they had little inducement to believe that there was any measure of finality and hope of settlement in the Bill of the Government. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Haddingtonshire endeavoured to defend the second sub-section of the first clause of the Bill from the adverse criticism passed on it last night by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University. They had pitied the hon. and learned Member—as they must always commiserate a strong man struggling with adversity—when they had seen him endeavouring to describe what a primâ facie case would be. He had said that the draftsman had in his mind the 38th and 39th paragraphs of the Report of the Mathew Commission, 612 and he had said that if they would bear that in mind they would see that the arbitrator would have the widest discretion; and if they would read a little further on in the Bill they would see that those powers were unlimited. That was true. The last sentence of the third sub-section was to the effect that the arbitrator, after consideration of the question whether the conduct of either landlord or tenant had been unreasonable, might make such order in the matter as he might think consistent with justice. That sounded like a page out of the Arabian Nights Entertainments—like the decrees Haroun Alraschid was said to pronounce on the people brought before him. It would be in the power of these gentlemen to turn the landlord into the tenant and the tenant into the landlord. The hon. Member for Haddington had dealt with various other legal points which he (Mr. Wyndham) thought he might leave to other gentlemen more competent to deal with them. He should like only to deal with one. His hon. and learned Friend had said that the definition of "holding" in the Act of 1881 was so wide as to allow every evicted tenant in Ireland—even if evicted from town holdings or from other kinds of property excluded by another section from the Act of 1881—to obtain reinstatement. But his hon. and learned Friend had said that the intention of the draftsman in all this was perfectly plain; but if this was so, then it would appear that the draftsman had not divulged his intention to the Chief Secretary, who was unable to answer the questions put to him by the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin last night as to whether these holdings were or were not excluded. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Haddington had said something which touched a vital point in the whole discussion. He had dealt at some length with the question of the "planters," to which nearly every subsequent speaker had referred, and he said not only that the Bill contained no power for forcing the tenants to leave their holdings—and here the hon. and learned Gentleman showed himself rather hardy—he said that they would not be asked to go. He (Mr. Wyndham) had taken down the hon. and learned Member's 613 words. Well, it might be doubted whether the method of solicitation would take the form of a polite request to depart. There had been speakers who had indicated more prompt and rude methods which would be brought to bear on these unfortunate new tenants. It was not only that they would be left to these dangers of social disorder—that was not the chief reason for the complaint that the Bill was inadequate, but because it ignored the crux of the problem. They had been taunted last night with a root-and-branch rejection of any scheme for dealing with these difficulties—
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said, the Chief Secretary applauded that, but if he had listened to the Debate he would have seen that the Opposition were prepared to welcome any attempt at dealing with the question which promised success. The right hon. Gentleman was not present when the hon. Member for Down addressed the House, or he would have heard him express regret that the Bill held out no promise of success, and promise that any that did would meet with his enthusiastic support. The right hon. Gentleman had blamed the unfortunate neglect of opportunity by the Opposition, but there was something worse than neglect of opportunities, and that was the abuse of them. The one might involve delay, and that delay might involve danger; but the other, in holding out hopes that were never realised, added another to the list of evils of the past to which reference had been made by the hon. Member for Clare. The experience of the past had taught them that these questions were only settled by successive Acts of Parliament. The hon. Member for Clare considered that the Bill was a step in the right direction, because it would increase the sum to be advanced from £100,000 to £250,000. This method of legislation might commend itself to hon. Gentlemen from Ireland. They might be pleased at the time of one Session after another being taken up with this attempt to cure the angry sores of the country, and that, at first, £100,000 and then £250,000 should be devoted to these attempts. The Opposition regretted every failure, and held that every fresh failure would render the chance of per- 614 manent success more problematical than before. Still, in dealing with the new tenants the Chief Secretary said that the danger might be great in leaving these men practically out of account, but that the danger would be far greater if they did not deal with the whole body of tenants in Ireland. It appeared to him that it was more dangerous to let through the majority of the tenants and then to slam the door in the faces of their fellows; and this was what the right hon. Gentleman did in this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman excluded from the provisions of the Bill the very class who were in the minds, he was sure, of every Irish Member when speaking on this question in Ireland. The part of the eloquent speech of the hon. and learned Member for York, which received the most prolonged and animated cheering from hon. Members opposite, was that in which he defended the ringleaders, as they were called, of the Plan of Campaign—the men who could have paid their rent but did not. These were his words:—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 the men who had stood beside them in the hour of their need?Were not some of the men on the farms that had been re-let as worthy of those epithets as the men to whom the Member for York had referred? He did not discuss the merits of every action or motive of either class of men, but he maintained that if the ordinary ringleaders on every estate in which the Plan of Campaign had been started could be so spoken of the men whose farms had been re-let were entitled to the same praise. The hon. Member had told them that they did not understand Irishmen if they believed they would rest content as long as those men were excluded from the provisions of the Bill. The Opposition understood Irishmen well enough to know that so long as they excluded these 1,553 men their measure of conciliation was nothing but a pretence. Practically, the whole of the Luggacurran estate had been re-let to new tenants; one of the old tenants was a wealthy Member of that House; and the hon. Member for South Kerry (Mr. Kilbride) was a typical instance, to which the hon. and learned Member for 615 York referred the previous evening. As fas as he could see, however, the hon. Member for South Kerry was excluded from the provisions of the Bill. He had referred to these points in order to show how it was that, in his opinion, the Bill was doomed to become an absolute failure. This was by no means the first attempt which had been made to deal with this subject of the evicted tenants. This was the fifth attempt made in four years. The first was that of the hon. Member for Kerry in 1891, which was followed by that of the hon. Member for South Tyrone in the same year, and the proposal of the hon. Member for Roscommon in 1892, and that of the Member for North Meath in 1893. A great portion of the time of Parliament had been taken up with this question and strewn with the wrecks of their efforts. If that were so he thought they might abate a little the sanguine expressions of hope which made up so much of the speeches delivered from the Benches opposite. The Chief Secretary himself was not nearly so sanguine as his followers, because in his speeches he spoke of it with earnestness as an exceedingly difficult question. The Chief Secretary appreciated the difficulties of the question, but a good many of his followers failed to do so. Many of them seemed to think that this was a question as between landlord and tenant upon a certain limited number of estates. He had read a letter by the hon. Member for the Skipton Division which showed such a misconception of the scope and character of the Bill that, if it be widely shared and was not dispelled by their discussions, any decisions which they arrived at would be deprived of all value. In that letter the hon. Member said—If we have to choose between a departure from ordinary political morality, between some derogation from the full rights of the owners on the one hand, and the peace of Ireland on the other, the less must yield to the greater, even if it is the Irish landlord class, for the supreme needs of the British Empire.He thought everybody would agree in those sentiments, but they were absolutely beside the issue. In nine cases out of ten the Bill would benefit the landlords on those estates—it would put money in their pockets. Some of the criticisms levelled against 616 the 13th clause of the Act of 1891 were that it would have that effect, and the same criticism, if it was a criticism, might be addressed against the proposal of the Government. They had nothing to fear from this Bill. If they could restrict their view to its effect upon the fortunes of the 4,000 tenants and their landlords on these estates, they might all go into the same Lobby and vote for the tenants getting the land and the landlords getting the money. But they could not so restrict their view. They must think of what its ultimate effect would be upon no less an area than the whole social peace of Ireland. There were two great issues at stake—the peace of Ireland in the first place, and, as the minor issue, a considerable expenditure of pubic money. For his part, if they could arrive at a satisfactory settlement upon the first, he should not inquire too curiously into the second. If they could be sure that this Bill would confirm the progress now being made towards universal agrarian content in Ireland, he should not mind if it cost, not a quarter of a million, but one million or two millions of money. But it was because he believed that, far from confirming that progress, it would interrupt it, that he was prepared to vote against its Second Reading. The issues before them were more momentous than many of the Chief Secretary's supporters seemed to imagine. They were also very novel and very complex. They knew the Chief Secretary had disclaimed novelty, and had said that every principle in this Bill was familiar to this House, and that the Bill was a mere extension of the 13th clause.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said, it was quite true the Chief Secretary never said it, and he apologised to the right hon. Gentleman for the misstatement. Mr. Justice Mathew said it on the Commission, and for the moment he confused the two things in his mind. The right hon. Gentleman would agree that there had been a good deal of talk as to the policy of reinstatement, and that it had been said that it was familiar to this House, and that it had even obtained the sanction of this House on more than one occasion. The Chief Secretary had lent some colour to this view of the Bill by quoting 617 more than once the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who alleged that he was in favour of the extension of the 13th Clause. He had quoted that passage twice, and had appealed to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham as being in favour of a policy which was not very different from the policy of the 13th Clause.
MR. J. MORLEY
I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had mentioned the 13th Section.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said, he had not the quotation with him, but he undertook to say that the 13th Section was mentioned in the very quotation used by the Chief Secretary. But there was one salient feature of difference distinguishing this Bill not only from the 13th Clause, but from every one of the four attempts which had been made in recent Sessions to deal with this question. In every one of those attempts purchase was put forward as the primary solution, and reinstatement was only brought in as a threat or sanction behind the other. In this Bill, for the very first time, reinstatement was put forward as the primary solution of this difficulty and not purchase. There might be a possible exception in the case of the Bill, also founded on the Report of the Mathew Commission, brought in last year by the hon. Member for North Leitrim, but lest anyone should suppose that that Bill contained nothing that was not novel, he would remind the House that when an application for the Closure was made, Mr. Speaker declined to put the Question on the ground that the Debate appeared to open up, in his opinion, a question of great difficulty and complication, and that question of great difficulty and complication was nothing less than this: that for the first time in this House they were asked to reinstate, to restore tenants to all rights, whereas on all previous occasions they had only been asked to put them in a position to purchase and not restore them to all their rights. The measure of the hon. Member for North Kerry contemplated priority of purchase on the part of tenants evicted from farms which had subsequently been re-let; the 13th Clause merely contemplated purchase. The Bill introduced by the hon. 618 Member for Roscommon merely contemplated purchase, but, in the event of the landlord refusing to sell, reinstatement was put in as a dire punishment to be visited upon him for his offences. Still reinstatement was in the background. The policy of the Chief Secretary's Bill was a completely novel departure in this House. The other Bills all recognised the problem of the re-let farms to be the crux of the whole difficulty, but the Chief Secretary's Bill evaded and ignored it altogether. This was the other novelty of the Bill, and he thought that, before they came to any decision on it, they must examine it closely in the light of these two novel departures. He took the question of reinstatement as against purchase. He could not for the life of him imagine a single argument which had led the Chief Secretary to prefer reinstatement to purchase. Looked at from the point of view of the land, purchase had always been recognised as preferable. It had always been held that it was a hardship to force a landlord to take back a man who had failed to discharge his obligations towards him. Was it not true that from the point of view of the tenant also that purchase was preferable to reinstatement? The instalments under the Land Act of 1891 were in every case less than the rent he would have to pay, and there were provisions in that Act for assisting him if he fell into arrear not through his own fault.
§ MR. BODKIN
said, that under the present Bill purchase was at the option of the landlord. He was perfectly certain the tenants would be quite prepared to take a Bill with purchase as the only solution.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said, he dared say the tenants would be quite prepared to take a Bill with purchase as the only solution, but the Bill they had been asked to consider put forward reinstatement as the primary solution of this difficulty. Reinstatement was the Chief Secretary's solution, and if the landlord felt that reinstatement was too intolerable he was to be at the pains of appealing, of showing cause, of, practically, going to law in order to substitute purchase for reinstatement. If hon. Members from Ireland thought purchase was better 619 than reinstatement, they agreed with him, but why, in Heaven's name, was it not in the Bill? Why did not they induce the Chief Secretary to make it a purchase instead of a reinstatement Bill? Purchase was looked upon as a final remedy, and if it was a good remedy for estates in a normal condition, it followed that it was the best remedy for estates in connection with which these unhappy events had occurred. Of all the schemes for purchase that had been put forward the only one that had commended itself to the Unionist Party was the scheme of purchase embodied in the 13th Clause of the Land Act of 1891, because that measure was voluntary. It was not the mere traditional repugnance to compulsion which made them prefer the policy of the 13th Clause. It was because compulsory power in this case conferred special privileges upon a certain section of Irish tenants. It was not compulsion against which they rebelled; it was against the result of that compulsion—namely, that while the whole tenantry of Ireland, and especially the tenantry of Ulster, were dying to have a Bill for compulsory purchase, they put a certain amount of compulsory power into the hands of the men whom, rightly or wrongly, they despised as having failed to fulfil their obligations. That was, he thought, a very serious argument in favour of the policy of the 13th Clause, and a very damaging criticism against the policy of this Bill. The Chief Secretary had sometimes said that by granting this compulsory power they did not give special privileges to the evicted tenants. He had said, practically, "We don't give them compulsory purchase; they are only put on a level with the others; that they are reinstated into their holdings and enjoy them as other people enjoy their holdings." He thought it was easy to see that was a special privilege given. There was the case of the tenants whom he might call desirable tenants, from the landlord's point of view—the men who fulfilled their contracts. They had to make their bargain as best they could; but what was the position of the undesirable tenants, and tenants who had rendered themselves intolerable to the landlords. They could present the landlords with the alternative of selling 620 to them, or of receiving them back as tenants, so that they did not give them by this Bill a lever which they might apply at their pleasure upon the fulcrum of their own unfitness. It was always unwise to lead Irish tenants to think that they could not only resist the law, but neglect the benefits conferred on them by the law. That was the idea which had lurked in all their legislation for Ireland, and, although he might be told this was a criticism which might have been passed on the policy of the 13th Clause, he was sure the Chief Secretary would agree that as much difficulty sprang not only from the hostility to the restrictions imposed by the law as from the apathy of the tenants of Ireland to the benefits conferred by the law. It was in consequence of the repeated Acts which they had passed that they were fostering a belief in the breasts of the Irish tenants that they alone possessed inalienable rights which no breach of the law and which no neglect to take advantage of the benefits of the law could ever affect. Session after Session was wasted, and million after million was voted in order to restore to the Irish tenants special privileges which, for political purposes, they allow to go by default. He admitted that that was an argument which might be turned against their policy as embodied in the 13th Clause; but if there was danger there, is there not greater danger now when the benefits of that Act had also been ignored? If there was danger in putting the tenants who had been evicted upon an equality with the tenants who had fulfilled their obligations, is there not far greater danger in conferring special privileges upon them, and did they not push temerity to its last verge when, whilst making these proposals, they altogether ignored the crux of the whole problem—namely, the farms which had been re-let to new tenants in Ireland? So far as they knew, and they gathered even from the speeches which had been made that evening, this question of the farms that had been re-let to new tenants in Ireland was not only paramount, but was regarded as of exclusive importance by the men whom they wished to conciliate. The Chief Secretary professed to be guided by Irish opinion, yet his Bill did not touch the 621 problem as it was understood by his Irish advisers when, in the clause put forward in the Debates on the Land Act of 1891, it was provided that where a farm was held by a new tenant the old tenant should be allowed to offer as much money as the present tenant was willing to give for it. And if any hon. Member would read the speech of the hon. Member for North Leitrim, delivered in favour of his Bill of last year, he would see that from his argument he excluded the whole number of derelict farms and farms cultivated by the landlord. That was to say, he excluded from his argument the only farms with which the present Bill proposed to deal, and he concluded his argument by saying that the number of farms in dispute in Ireland would be reduced from 3,676 to 1,533, which, he added, was not a very large number. That was to say that the only point, according to him, in dispute was one which the Chief Secretary ignored altogether. If he meant to attack this problem, why did not he harden his heart and ask them to buy out these men at the full value of their holdings with 10 per cent. compensation for disturbance? This Bill was open to these two objections, and because these two objections were not addressed to the same point they could not be set off one against the other. The Chief Secretary had not arrived at a compromise between two rival solutions. He had made a combination of two views—a combination which embraced for the scheme of each Party the very element which led to its rejection by the other, and which eschewed the only element which commended it to those views. From such a combination they could not, with any probable regard for the future, have much doubt as to its failing to carry out the Chief Secretary's object. They might doubt how much this Bill would settle; they none of them could know how much it would cost. The Chief Secretary, in his speech on the First Reading, said it was impossible to say with anything like accuracy what was the precise number of cases that would have to be dealt with under this Bill. "This is a matter," he went on to say, "which the arbitrators will have to decide, and if the arbitrators are fully seized of the policy of this Bill, no doubt they will come to a right conclusion in all 622 the cases before them." The arbitrators would have to find whether a tenant had acted in a reasonable or unreasonable manner, but he asked the House to imagine the feelings of the man whose farm was now vacant, but who was found to have acted unreasonably by this Commission. If they did that they would arrive at some measure of the amount of success which was likely to attend this attempt at conciliation.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN (Cork, City)
If the tone, the good humour, and, to a large extent, the conciliatory speech we have just listened to had been imitated by the hon. Gentleman's more reactionary colleagues who have borne the burden of this Debate, I, for one, should not have dreamt of interfering even for a few moments in this Debate. The hon. Gentleman admits and deplores the evils which this Bill is framed to remedy, and the remedy which he himself suggests is beyond all doubt a remedy which is provided for in this very Bill, for in this Bill it is placed absolutely and unequivocally in the power of the landlord to choose whether a settlement under this Bill will be a settlement by reinstatement or by purchase. I do not intend to allow myself to be drawn by the taunts of the gentlemen who, I am sorry to say, represent the true spirit of opposition to this Bill. At the right moment I should say that we will possibly be able to take care of ourselves if there should be any occasion to do so. I do not think there is the least occasion to do so. It would be only degrading a question in reference to which any man who values permanent peace in Ireland might find something better to argue about than to keep fighting this question. The old and ancient litany of charges against the Flan of Campaign to which we listened last night and to-night has been recited hundreds, nay, thousands of times before the English constituencies year after year, and the result was that at the General Election the Tory Party, who put those charges forward, were compelled to cross the floor of the House of Commons. Again last night and again to-night we have these old charges repeated, and the action of the Tory Party shows that they are deter- 623 mined not to allow us to close this chapter of ancient Irish history. Certainly, so far as I am concerned, I have not the slightest desire to open it; but I cannot listen to these charges — these stale charges—without saying something to remind the House what are the facts. We have been told that this Bill is a Bill to screen persons who have taken part in an illegal political conspiracy. Well, we did not know, when we entered on this struggle, that it was illegal. I do not say that we cared very much whether it was or not. [A laugh.] Oh, certainly not. There is not a Trades Union in England that was not an illegal conspiracy until the Legislature learned sense and declared it legal. But I want to point out that, as a matter of fact, the Plan of Campaign, abuse it as you may, was for more than two years in operation, and that nearly all the evictions took place before the Irish people were made aware that it was an illegal combination, even in the estimation of Tory juries in Ireland. Instead of being illegal, we had it under the authority of the Tory Attorney General of the day that the Government could not interfere with it. A number of us were tried for entering into an illegal conspiracy, and, although most elaborate precautions were taken to pack the jury in Dublin, that jury of our countrymen declined to convict us, or to say that there was anything illegal in the Plan of Campaign. I think, under these circumstances, we were justified in assuming that our action was not illegal, and, glibly as gentlemen may talk about it now as an illegal conspiracy, I venture to submit to the judgment of the House the facts that the Plan of Campaign had been in operation for at least two years, and that all the evictions had taken place before any authoritative decision as to the illegality of the Plan was given. I challenge anyone to deny that ever since there was an authoritative condemnation of the Plan of Campaign that on any single one of those estates the tenants ever declined to accept any reasonable terms of arbitration, or were not from beginning to end ready to submit to anything, lest that they and their children should be driven to the workhouse, because they combined against rack rents, which the Tory Government afterwards admitted were intolerable. We have had 624 again and again repeated the ignorant outcry that the Plan of Campaign was a mere political dodge, and that it was not justified by the circumstances of agricultural depression in Ireland. The fact is that these tenants did nothing whatsoever that the Tory Chief Secretary, the hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol, did not do with regard to Lord Clanricarde, and which Sir E. Buller did not do in the same year with regard to the landlords of Kerry. That is to say, they put pressure—what the right hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol called "pressure within the law," and we thought we were well within the law in putting Trades Union pressure on the landlords in order to secure that justice was done to tenants in a year of appalling agricultural depression. This House, when it was a Tory House, declined to apply that pressure in a constitutional way when it was asked to do it by Mr. Parnell in 1886. They rejected his proposal with scoffing in the autumn of 1886, but they had to pass a Bill, which was far more stringent, in the summer of the following year; and what the Plan of Campaign did was simply to bridge over the interval and compel the landlords to do in 1887 what they declined to do in 1886. The opponents of this Bill are in this dilemma—either the Plan of Campaign was a necessary combination, or that the Tory Land Act of 1887 was a political dodge; because there is no getting over the fact that the Tory Land Act of 1887 was practically the legal enactment of the Plan of Campaign, let them abuse it now as much as they please, which they were compelled to pass into law; and if we have an Evicted Tenants Bill it is merely because the Tory Part most unwisely determined year after year for the last six or eight years to keep the country in hot water in order to take vengeance on the men who beat them. That year (1886) was a year of most intolerable distress to the Irish farmers, and we were right, and the Government were wrong, as all the world now knows. Whatever may have been the legal defects of the Plan of Campaign—and we never regarded it as anything but a rough-and-ready remedy—it brought the landlords and the Tory Parliament to reason; it saved the Irish farmers, and it prevented 625 a terrible outburst of crime as well. We have been charged again and again in this House and on Tory platforms with making political capital out of the Plan of Campaign. Our retort is that the Tory Party, to their own loss and ruin, endeavoured to extract political capital out of the Campaign by attempting to destroy these unfortunate tenants in order to prevent any further combination against the landlords, and to show what terrible fellows the Tory Party were as coercionists. I have frequently stated in this House that the quarrel might have been settled in 48 hours. Nothing would have been easier when the Act of 1887 was passed than to have drawn a wet sponge over the past—for I am certain that up to that time not more than 50, certainly not 80, of these evictions had taken place—and to have ended the whole dispute. I and other Irish Members again and again in this House offered to abandon the Plan of Campaign right away if these tenants were admitted to the benefits of the Act, which they themselves had won. But, no; the Tory Government did not want peace; they wanted vengeance; they wanted, what the hon. Member for South Hunts said, to make examples of the tenantry of Ireland for forcing Lord Salisbury to swallow in 1887 the declaration he made in 1886, that he never would reduce the judicial rents. I am sorry to have to say so; but I think I am bound to say it, that it was only for the purpose of wreaking vengeance upon these few bodies of tenants that the late Government passed their Coercion Act. It was passed for no other purpose than to crush them. That Government engaged in 4,000 prosecutions; they imprisoned about 24 Members of this House; they prosecuted almost every Nationalist newspaper in Ireland, and they carried on evictions wholesale in order to break down our combination. I sometimes wonder whether some of the Members of the Tory Party do not ask themselves what their Government gained by all these years of violence. I will tell them. They simply gained seats on the wrong side of the House. They played a petty political game for the purpose of ruining these unfortunate men in order to serve the landlords and to discredit the leaders of the movement 626 —a few Members of this House—and what has been the result? The evicted tenants have not been ruined, but the Tory Government are. In passing from this subject I will only say further that, no matter what you may say about their crimes or our crimes, these tenants were in substance right in the beginning of this quarrel. They have conducted themselves throughout all this painful time with marvellous patience. They have not allowed themselves to be intimidated by coercion, or to be goaded into crime by cruelty or suffering. I say that the Irish people will never abandon the evicted tenants. And what is more, I venture to say, with my colleagues around me, that if the Irish people were offered Home Rule to-morrow on condition of these men being driven into the workhouse they would repudiate it with scorn. This is certain: that while we are prepared to fight, we are also prepared, now as always, to put an end to the whole of this wretched business on any reasonable terms that will restore the evicted tenants. The Irish people want no crowing over the landlords; they want no injustice done to any man. They simply and honestly want to put an end to this quarrel once for all on reasonable terms. We have sufficient confidence in the justice and honesty of the case of the tenants that we are perfectly ready to allow any fair judicial tribunal to decide upon the equities of each individual case; and if the Chief Secretary has been fortunate enough to find such a tribunal—and it is remarkable that up to this the fairness of the tribunal has not been impugned by the other side—I can assure him that the Irish people will raise no difficulty as to any terms that are proposed which will do equal justice between man and man. As to the ludicrous suggestion that lifts been thrown out in the course of this Debate that the Irish Party are in some tremendous difficulty about the evicted tenants question, and that the Bill is intended to extricate them from that difficulty, it is a delusion as ridiculous as it is untrue. I do not think that any man who understands the rudiments merely of the Irish question believes it in his heart. This evicted tenants' question, instead of being our weakness, is our strength, and is one 627 of our principal holds on the loyalty of the Irish people. I need only instance the fact that the town of Tipperary—with regard to which some ridiculous misapprehensions prevail in this House—has contributed this year a larger sum towards the Evicted Tenants' Fund than any other town in Ireland, and sent its contributions not to the so-called champions of New Tipperary in this House, but to the parish priest, the Rev. Canon Cahill, who handed the money over to my hon. Friend, the terribly abused Member for East Mayo. I have been lately at meetings of our so-called dupes upon two of the largest Plan of Campaign estates—the Luggacurren and the Ponsonby estates—and I can assure the representatives of the landlords in this House that if they had been present they would have given up the illusion that they are going to damage us in the opinion of our fellow-countrymen by prolonging this wretched struggle over the evicted tenants. We are told by the hon. and gallant Member for Armagh that this Bill will be thrown out in another place. That may be so, for the other House has done as foolish things before. They rejected a certain Compensation for Disturbance Bill one year, and the next year they were able to plume themselves on having been the principal organisers of the Land League, one of the most fearful movements which the landlords of Ireland or of any other country had to contend against. This is almost too solemn a subject to prophesy about, and I recognise the danger of vaticination. But last night the Chief Secretary for Ireland reminded the House that events have invariably proved that when they have uttered warnings in this House the Irish Members have been right and their opponents have been wrong. It was so in 1880 and in 1886. I do not know how it may be in 1895 or 1896, but this I will say: that events will prove that we are right when we tell you here to-night that you might as well expect Englishmen to sell to the enemy men who had won some great battle for the existence of the English people as hope that you will ever in any possible circumstances induce the Irish people to abandon these evicted tenants or to let them drift into 628 the workhouse for the gratification of the landlords' revenge. We are, perhaps, well able to take care of ourselves when it comes to fighting; but I have no hesitation in saying that we do not want a fight; that we do not want to approach this Bill in a fighting spirit, but its object can be effected by any reasonable give-and-take arrangement which will do justice between man and man. I am afraid there is no use in appealing to hon. Members on the other side not to protract any longer this discussion at this preliminary stage of the Bill; but I will say that I believe the best friends of the landlords, as well as the friends of the tenants, would do wisely and well to hurry on the Committee stage of this Bill, to agree in Committee to such Amendments as may improve it, and then to pass it into law with as little friction as possible.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
The hon. Member for Cork has just told us that it is the object of himself and his friends to put an end to the quarrels between landlords and tenants in Ireland without inflicting injustice on anyone. I can say at once, in reply to the hon. Member, with all the conviction in the world, that that is an object with which, without exception, every single Member in this House will sympathise, no matter in what quarter he may be sitting. But whether the course which the hon. Member has pursued in the past with reference to this question, or whether the Bill now before the House is or is not calculated to effect that object, is, I am afraid, a very different question altogether. With the permission of the House, I will make some observations in reply to the speech of the hon. Member later on, but, if I may be allowed to do so, I will begin by making some general observations upon the measure before us, because I think that the gravity and importance of some of the proposals it contains cannot possibly be exaggerated. Sir, what we are discussing to-night is really nothing more nor less than another new Irish Land Act. It is another chapter in the long series of measures by which, ever since I came into this House, I am afraid 25 years ago, Liberal Governments have been endeavouring, and in my humble opinion, with almost 629 entire failure, to settle the Irish land question. Moreover, I desire to point out that in some of its provisions this measure goes far beyond any proposals ever submitted to Parliament in the different measures dealing with the land question which have preceded it. The Chief Secretary told us yesterday that the Bill contained no new principles; that it contained no principles that had not been already sanctioned by Parliament, and incorporated in some of the various Acts in reference to land in Ireland. I can refute that statement at once by asking the right hon. Gentleman a single question. Is it or is it not true that under this Bill a man who has been farming his own land for 15 years, and who has spent money in improving it, can be evicted from it, and be deprived of the advantages resulting from the capital which he has expended upon it, and be deprived, moreover, of his business as a farmer, in which he may be engaged with great profit and advantage to himself, without one single penny of compensation? I ask the right hon. Gentleman, is not that a true description of some of the contents of this Bill? The right hon. Gentleman cannot deny it; and unless he can deny it he must know, as well as I know, and everybody else in the House knows, that there are principles of entire novelty in this Bill for which there is absolutely no precedent whatever in any legislation of the past. The hon. and learned Member for Haddington this afternoon made what was undoubtedly an able speech, but as a reply to the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dublin University last night, it must be admitted to have been exceedingly feeble. The hon. and learned Member said, "You are guarded against these evils, because there must be a primâ facie case for the reinstatement of the tenant;" and he went on to point out to us the various attempts at safeguards that are contained in this particular clause of the Bill. But what is a primâ facie case for reinstatement? We have asked that question over and over again, and, up to the present, we have not had to that question a shadow of an answer from any Member of the Government or from anyone else who has intervened in this Debate. My hon. and 630 learned Friend the Member for Dublin University put case after case to the Government last night. He described various conditions under which the landlord might be called upon to resign the occupation of his own land. He put half-a-dozen specific cases to the Government, and on each particular case he asked, "Is this a primâ facie case for reinstatement?" No attempt at an answer has been made. It is no use to ride off, as the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire did this afternoon, by referring to old Acts passed years ago, and telling us that all these things to which we object have been done before at one time or another in measures that are now in existence. That is no answer to us, because we always held, and have demonstrated over and over again, that those Acts were, in many respects, most iniquitous and mischievous, and have, moreover, been almost complete and absolute failures. [Cries of "No!"] I should like very much to know the Member who says "no."
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Well, I shall have to say something of the history of those Acts, because I think I can convince the House that I am accurate in saying that they have entirely failed in their purpose. Great measure after great measure dealing with the land question in Ireland have been passed during the time I have been a Member of the House of Commons, and I maintain that nearly all of them have been failures. The hon. and learned Member for Haddington says that if we reject this measure on this occasion the House of Commons will again be guilty of the same colossal blunder that Parliament made in rejecting the Compensation for Disturbances Bill in 1880. Yes, but compensation for disturbance did not begin in 1880. Compensation for disturbance was embodied in the Act of 1870 as it left the House of Commons. Does the hon. and learned Member remember the Bill of 1870 and the fate which overtook it? It had not been in existence for many years when it was found to be so entirely inefficient and had failed so completely in its purpose that its author himself appointed a Commission to inquire into its working; with 631 the result that that Commission reported in favour of the total repeal of the Act. A few months later, so inefficient was the Act found to be, that it was ignominiously repealed by the same Minister who had carried it in the House amidst the plaudits of his Party as one of the most historic measures of the age. [Cries of "No!"] I say the Act of 1870 was repealed, and the Act of 1881 took its place.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
There is a Committee sitting upstairs now actually inquiring into the working of the Act of 1870.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
If the hon. Member makes that statement I cannot contradict him now; but I am perfectly certain that the repeal of the Act was recommended by the Commission appointed to inquire into it, and unless I am assured positively that it was not repealed, I adhere to that opinion. It was followed by the Act of 1881, and in that Act was carried everything that had been previously denounced and rejected by the authors of the measure of 1870. Provisions were actually carried in that Act which had been previously denounced by its authors as calculated more than anything in the world to demoralise whole masses of the people of this country. And demoralised the Irish people were, for I do not believe that even the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will deny that no people outside of a demoralised country would be found supporting a criminal conspiracy like the Plan of Campaign. Since the failure of the Act of 1881 both Parties in this House have been engaged in trying by various Land Purchase Acts to remove the evils of dual ownership, and it is upon these Acts, great failures as they have been, that the hon. and learned Member relies for the justification of all the propositions to which we object in the Bill that is now before us. The objections to this Bill are so obvious that there must be, in the opinion of the Government, some overwhelming reasons in their favour. What are the reasons with which they have endeavoured to support it? We are told that the Bill is absolutely necessary for the peace and harmony of different classes and their good conduct and order in Ireland. I admit that to be a very serious reason. The 632 hon. Member for Cork suggested that the hon. Member for Dover, who spoke recently, had admitted that there were evils in Ireland that this Bill was designed to remedy; and if this Bill were calculated to promote the blessings of peace and harmony in Ireland I should be the first to allow that a grave responsibility would lie upon any Party who would take upon themselves to reject this measure. But will it remedy the evils existing in Ireland? That is a point upon which I venture, with great respect and deference, to differ altogether from Her Majesty's Government. I say that, in the first place, it is our duty to do that which has been studiously ignored by the Government—namely, to examine as carefully as we can the causes of the evictions with which we are asked to deal at the present moment. The classes of persons proposed to be dealt with are not by any means the same. There are, on the one hand, those tenants who have lost their farms, it may be owing to causes for which they were not responsible—it may be, owing to misfortune and real inability to pay their rents; and for all these, and such as these I can say with perfect truth that I have only one feeling, and that is, great compassion and great sympathy; and if it were possible to do anything to relieve them no one would be more ready to do so than myself. Although I should find it hard to justify this exceptional treatment in their case any more than in the case of a great variety of persons suffering from cognate evils in this country, I would, for the sake of peace and order in Ireland, go great lengths to assist them. That, however, is only one side of the picture. I must draw the attention of the House to the other side. There is also the case of those tenants in Ireland who have been evicted because of their wilful and deliberate refusal to meet their legal obligations, though well able to pay their rents, as was openly avowed, at the bidding of their officers, who took upon themselves to dictate to the tenants what was the proper course to pursue at that particular time. These two classes of cases, the House must admit, are totally different, and to attempt to deal with these two classes of cases on the same footing appears to me to be a most unfortunate and disastrous method of 633 treating the subject. The Government cannot deny that this is offering the people of Ireland the greatest and most powerful inducements to repeat their unlawful acts at the very earliest moment at which they can get a favourable opportunity for doing so in the future. I cannot conceive anything more calculated to lead in the future to greater breaches of the law than to condone all their offences in the past in the way proposed in the Bill. The Member for Cork, in the course of his observations, offered a sort of quasi-apology for the Plan of Campaign. He said, "We did not know, at the time we instituted the Plan of Campaign, that it was illegal." I am bound to say that shows, to my mind, a very small acquaintance on the part of the hon. Member with the Ten Commandments, and especially with the eighth. What was the Plan of Campaign? The House must remember that the rents which were objected to by those tenants who obeyed the bidding of the Plan of Campaign were not fixed by the landlords, but by the Courts, and when these rents became due they were just as much the property of the landlords as the watch which is in the pocket of the hon. Member at the present moment is his property. That being so, what were the instructions given to the tenants by the leaders of the Plan of Campaign? They were to offer to pay to the landlords not the rent they had undertaken to pay, and which in many cases they were able to pay, but such rent as they themselves thought was fair. If this rent which they had fixed themselves was refused by the landlord they were to pay it to somebody else. I believe that to be a fair and accurate discription of the objects and proceedings of the Plan of Campaign; and yet the hon. Member says that neither he nor his friends were aware that it was in any sense illegal.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
The Chief Secretary, on the first night he introduced this Bill, said he could not go into the origin of this unfortunate business by asking whether Great Britain was responsible for the last two great agrarian risings in Ireland, or whether the Plan of Cam- 634 paign was justified by the action of this House in rejecting the proposals put forward by Mr. Parnell in the autumn of 1886. It was quite impossible that the rejection of that Bill could have formed the least justification for the Plan of Campaign.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I think it is much to the point, and for this simple reason, that the Plan of Campaign was started before the Bill of Mr. Parnell was rejected. ["No, no!"] I am quite aware there is a very common impression to the contrary, and it has been sedulously fostered and encouraged by the right hon. Member for Midlothian himself, who once said that if there was any crime and misconduct in connection with the Plan of Campaign the Tory Government and Party were more responsible for it than anyone else. A greater fiction was never invented. [Laughter.] I think, before I have completed my observations, the hon. Member from Ireland who seems to be so exceedingly amused will laugh at the other side of his mouth. What are the facts with regard to this question? Mr. Parnell's Bill was rejected on September 21, 1886. I am now going to quote some evidence with regard to the origin of the Plan of Campaign which will be found exceedingly interesting, which is, I think, new to the House; which I believe to be true, and which if not true can be controverted. My information is taken from an Irish paper, the Cork Constitution. In an issue of that paper of July 1888 there appears a verbatim report of the examination on oath of the hon. Member for Cork in an action which was brought by him against that paper. He was cross-examined by Mr. Atkinson, Q.C., and the examination was as follows:—Question.—Is there any money comes from America that you are aware of for the support of the Plan of Campaign, and do the contributions come through the National League?—Mr. W. O'Brien: No; not all.Who receives these that do not come through the National League that you know of?—As a matter of fact, I received the principal portion myself. I received a sum of £5,000 on one occasion myself from the Irish Parliamentary Fund Committee in America.When was that contribution?—Oh, it was a long time ago. I should say it was three or four years ago.635 That, therefore, would be in 1884 or 1885. The cross-examination continues—When did you receive the £5,000?—When I was in America.Was that devoted to the Plan of Campaign?—So far as I know, yes.Was there any other money devoted to the Plan of Campaign except that money? Were there not other moneys from the National League and American money not from the National League?—I cannot make certain. I should say there must have been, but I do not myself know.Did you not promise the people in your speech at Youghal support from America?—Certainly.As far as I have been able to ascertain the meeting at Youghal was held on August 18, 1886.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
Perhaps I can shorten the speech of the right hon. Gentleman if he will allow me to set him right. He is as much astray about the Plan of Campaign as he is about the Land Act of 1870. The sum of £5,000 mentioned in my evidence in Cork was received by me when I was in America almost two years after the starting of the Plan of Campaign. I knew all about the starting of the Plan of Campaign, and I can assure this House that it was only a week before its publication in United Ireland, at the end of October in 1886, that it ever entered into the heart of man to conceive it.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
According to my information it was started just one month after the rejection of Mr. Parnell's Bill.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
I give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance, knowing all the facts of the case, that a week before its publication the Plan of Campaign had never been dreamt of by any Irish politician.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
There is no use telling me I am wholly astray. I have read the sworn evidence of the hon. Gentleman. Of course, if he tells me the report is incorrect, I will withdraw everything I have said and apologise. But, unless he is prepared to repudiate that sworn evidence of his own, I adhere to the statements I have made. I want to go a little bit further. I do not know on what other occasions the hon. Member might have been in America; but I am informed credibly that he was there in 1886 at the Chicago Convention, and, according to the evidence I have quoted, it must either have been then or at an earlier period that he received this £5,000 which, in my opinion, was intended for the Plan of Campaign.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
I am sorry to again disturb the right hon. Gentleman, but he is wholly astray. I was in America in 1886. The Plan of Campaign had not then been dreamt of. I was again in America in 1888, fighting out our battle on the Luggacurren estate, two years after the Plan of Campaign had been started, and it was then that I received the £5,000.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
The hon. Member, according to his evidence, declares on the 28th of July, 1888—mind, if the hon. Gentleman repudiates the evidence, I do not press it. If he says he did not give that evidence, I will say no more about it. It is all very well to tell me I am astray. Either he gave this evidence or he did not, and if he says he did not there is an end to the matter.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
On that date he declared that he had received £5,000 for the purposes of the Plan of Campaign, three or four years before 1888. That establishes my case.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
That is a palpable mistake in the report of the newspaper, against which I recovered damages for libel.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I do not care whether the hon. Member recovered damages 637 or not. There is the report, the accuracy of which is now admitted, and it absolutely proves the statements I have made. The idea that the Plan of Campaign was caused by the rejection of Mr. Parnell's Bill is one of the greatest fictions that was ever published. The iniquitous scheme, the Plan of Campaign, failed. The leaders of the Plan of Campaign for some time have been and are still greatly discredited with their unfortunate dupes. And they are not likely under existing circumstances to trust in them again. But if by the passing of this Bill you relieve them from the difficulties into which they have been led by their leaders; if by this Bill you come to the rescue of the Plan of Campaign, what greater inducement is it possible for Parliament to offer to these people to believe in these men as their guides again and to join in any fresh combinations which they may desire to institute in the future? One other point I must refer to. It has been suggested by more than one speaker in the course of the Debate that one effect of the Bill, and perhaps one of its worst effects, would be to lead to great intimidation towards the planters—towards persons who had taken possession of farms from which tenants have been evicted. The hon. and learned Member for Haddington dealt with that question, and then some evidence upon it, and declared that such an objection to the Bill could not be regarded as serious in any degree. It is quite true that the hon. and learned Member was contradicted on that point by an Irish Representative—the Member for East Clare—who spoke almost immediately after; but I should like to ask in all seriousness—Have we no knowledge or experience of intimidation in Ireland under such circumstances? Has the hon. and learned Member never heard of denunciations of land-grabbers? Has he never read the report of the Special Commission? Has he read the verdict of the Judges upon that Commission? If he has given the slightest attention to those questions, how is it possible for him to contend that the fear of intimidation under the circumstances which I have described is not a very serious factor which must be taken into consideration by any Government or by any statesman who is responsible for the government of Ireland. 638 What leads to intimidation in these cases? It is the possession by one man of the farm which another man thinks he should have and into the possession of which he desires to go. If you pass this Bill you will have the situation described by the hon. Member for East Clare. The hon. Member for East Clare pointed out that one evicted tenant might, under this Bill, be restored to the farm he desired to have while his neighbour might be left out permanently in the cold. There are circumstances which we know must occur from time to time in Ireland; and I must say with all respect to the hon. and learned Member for Haddington that to ignore the conditions which unhappily too often prevail in that country is a course I should not have expected from him. It is for these reasons, amongst many others, that I for one shall give all the opposition in my power to the passing of the Bill. While I yield to no single Member in this House my desire to deal out full and even-handed justice as between man and man, between landlord and tenants, whether in England, Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, I will never be a consenting party, by voting for this Bill, to propose what I believe is eminently calculated to lead to a renewal of disorder and further breaches of the law in Ireland.
§ MR. SMITH-BARRY (Hunts, S.)
said, that the Chief Secretary for Ireland, when introducing the Bill, said that he considered that those who opposed it would be devoid of intelligence and humanity. He intended to oppose the Bill, and whether or no he was deficient in intelligence, at any rate he was not devoid of feelings of humanity. He believed he had never taken up a non possumus attitude in regard to the evicted tenants. Certainly he had done all he could to avoid evictions on his own estates when it was at all possible to avoid them; but when it was necessary for the sword to be drawn he had of course felt bound to carry the matter through, and he owned he had been responsible for a good many evictions that had taken place in other parts of the country. He had encouraged settlements, and supported the 13th section in the hope that many would be restored under 639 it. He would be ready to take the same course again if necessary. But this Bill was an altogether different measure. It was a thoroughly impolitic Bill, and one which he believed would be unjust to the landlord and to those tenants who had paid their rent steadily up to the present time. It was subversive of the ordinary principles of law. Who were the evicted tenants that the Bill was intended to benefit? It would be convenient to divide them into two classes—those who were evicted at the time that the "No-Rent Manifesto" was issued on the 18th October, 1881, and those who became so under the Plan of Campaign. Now, both those classes of evicted tenants rose owing to distinctly political movements. And the persons who were responsible for the evictions, therefore, were hon. Members who sat below the Gangway, among the chief of whom in this movement was the hon. Member for Cork. That hon. Gentleman stated that he had never heard of the Plan of Campaign a week before it was brought forward. But the Plan was started by the hon. Member and his colleague in the conduct of United Ireland, and it was a remarkable fact that in the October and the November of the previous year the Plan of Campaign was distinctly set out in lending articles which appeared in United Ireland for that date. The article of October 24, 1885, contained the following:—Paragraphs are continuously appearing in the Press to the effect that tenants of such and such an estate having waited on the agent and been refused a reduction left in a body. We therefore wish to ask the Irish tenants whether in another sense they want to be 'left in a body,' as they assuredly will unless they set to work in a very different fashion. When they leave in a body what happens? Do they take counsel together, do they form any combination, do they go and bank such rent as they would pay in a common fund to be used against emergencies? No, they do not do anything of the kind. They go home one by one.… We repeat that the estates which dissolve in a body will be beaten in detail; the estates that harden into stern combination will smash the rack-renters' horse, foot, and dragoons. If parish after parish 'in a body' banked its rent at the abated rate in trustees' names, and pledged itself to use this war chest to succour every man attacked what would become of the exterminating union?Here, then, they had an article in United Ireland, for the conduct of which the hon. Member for Cork was responsible, an article written 640 twelve months before the Plan of Campaign wag promulgated in 1886, and yet the hon. Member now said that the Plan of Campaign had never been dreamt of by any Irish politician until a week before it was started. He would not go through the speeches of hon. Members below the Gangway to show that the Plan was a political and not an agrarian movement, because the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin and other hon. Members for Ireland had admitted that it was a political and not an agrarian movement, and the hon. Member for East Mayo, in giving evidence before the Mathew Commission with regard to this movement, said that while the subject of the amount of abatement of rent was in dispute they at the same time had in view the getting of further agrarian legislation from the Government. That in itself was conclusive that all the hon. Members were aware of its object, and that that was as the hon. Member for Waterford once said, to make the Government of Ireland by England impossible. But if the fanners in Ireland who had failed in their business were to be reinstated, as was proposed by this Bill, and by public money, he should like to know why the shopkeepers, or small tradesmen, who had failed in the business, or the English farmers in their eastern counties should not have an equal claim to be reinstated.
§ MR. SMITH-BARRY
said, the hon. Gentleman appeared to think the Irish tenant had made the land, and was different from any other of God's creatures. Even though the evicted tenants were reinstated, and were to have £50 given them with which to rebuild these houses, how were they to carry on their business? They would have no money to buy stock or to work the farm. The only thing that would happen would be that in a few short years they would have to be re-evicted, and the confusion and 641 disturbance in the country would be worse than before. The last state of all would be worse than the first. He believed there were no figures to show what had become of the numerous tenants who had their arrears paid under the Arrears Act of 1883, but he knew that on his own estate there were some of them who, after coming back, their arrears being paid, never paid another sixpence until they had to be evicted and their farms had to be handed over to other men, who were in a more solvent position and able to carry on the work. On the Ponsonby Estate there were 70 tenants who took advantage of the Arrears Act; the Court paid to the owner £800 and the owner forgave £855 of arrears, and at the time of the evictions in 1889 and 1890 these 70 tenants owed £5,116. These figures were not such as to encourage them to again try and prop up men who had already failed in business in the hope that they would succeed in a second venture. He was very sorry for them, and indeed he regretted to see a man fail in any kind of business, but he did not believe it would be doing them any permanent good thus to try and prop them up. It certainly would be doing no good to the landlords, and it would simply be a waste of public money, for they would be sure to fail again if put back into their holdings. And what would be the effect on the neighbours of the evicted tenants who were to be restored? Would it be an inducement to these men—who had paid their rents regularly and who had had a hard struggle to keep their heads above water—to act honestly and according to law, if they found that those who had acted illegally, who were thriftless and worthless, were put back into their holdings on better terms than the men who had struggled through. Was it likely that they would be satisfied and that they would see in the Bill an encouragement to act honestly in the future? What about those tenants who, after joining this combination, had come to an agreement with their landlords and gone back to their lands, paying arrears and costs—men with whom peace had been made and who were now working contentedly on their farms? How would these men be satisfied when they saw the men who had refused to enter into an agreement put back on better terms 642 than themselves? Was it not likely that there would be a greater and a far juster agitation than any which Ireland had ever seen before? Then there were many landlords who were working their own lands, and who, by spending money in improving farms which had been allowed to run down and in rebuilding tumble-down buildings, with the result that the holdings were now working at a profit greatly to the benefit of the labourers employed on them. He would give one case of several on his own estate. It was a farm of 500 acres in the County of Cork. As a young man he built a large house on that farm for the benefit of the tenant, at a cost of from £400 to £500, and charged him no interest on it. The tenant got on from bad to worse, though allowances were made to him, and at last he left owing rent to the amount of between £600 and £700. The house was left in a very delapidated condition, and it cost £200 or £300 to repair. He further spent £300 or £400 on drainage. The labourers' cottages were also delapidated, and the men had never been able to get their wages. He rebuilt the cottages and there were now four families living in them in comfort. But under this Bill the successor in title might come forward and establish a primâ facie case, which meant that his predecessor in title had not paid his rent. Not only would he, the landlord, be evicted from the land and all the money he had spent confiscated, but the labourers who were now so comfortable would also suffer, and be forced back to the miserable and barbarous system under which they had existed before. There were other tenants, whose farms were not in the possession of the landlords, who were equally unfitted to be restored to their holdings. There was a case in the County Kerry of a man who had been evicted three times. He had 19 acres at a rent of £3 10s., and he was first evicted in 1886 for £19 5s. of rent. There was a second ejectment on title in 1891, when the Sheriff of the County sought to recover possession of the land and £6 16s. due for costs; and again there was an execution in 1892. The farm was now a derelict farm, and the defendant, who had taken forcible possession, had been confined in Tralee Gaol for cutting and carrying away hay and turf, 643 and for removing the door and window frames of the house in order to prevent the sheriff from locking it up, and he owed 15 years' rent. That was the kind of gentleman who was to be restored under this Bill, and perhaps would receive some £50 to repair the house. The landlords of Ireland had no wish to be paid £100,000 or even £2,000,000 under this Bill as a bribe to restore such men. If Irish Members would allow the evicted tenants to meet their landlords, terms might easily be made with them without the necessity for this Bill. It might be urged that one reason why the State should interfere was that there was a great deal of land derelict, and consequently of no benefit to the community. He found from the Report of the Mathew Commission that there were 701 farms in Ireland absolutely derelict. He had only been able to get particulars of 312 of these, and he found that of that number 53 had been let to old tenants and 47 to new tenants, while 14 were being used by the landlord. This had taken place within 15 months. Therefore, notwithstanding the denunciations of land-grabbing and the promises of reinstatement made by the Government, one-third of the farms as to which he had obtained information were now being worked. That showed that the question was settling itself very fast. One strong reason why the question was not settled was that the Government and its supporters held out to the evicted tenants the hope of being put back on their own terms. If the Chief Secretary would get up and say that the Government could do nothing in the matter the question would settle itself. The time had come when the landlords and tenants, if left alone, could and would settle this question, so far as it deserved to be settled. As to the Bill, it would do more mischief than had been done in that unfortunate country for many years. It would upset all the tenants who had behaved honestly and straightforwardly, and it would be a distinct discouragement to law-abiding and honest people. By its means the Government, instead of bringing peace to the country, would simply be sowing dragons' teeth, and they would reap a fresh crop of outrages.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. J. Chamberlain.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Monday next.