§ MR. J. J. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
said, that for six or seven years the question had been before the country and the House in almost all its aspects, and for that reason he did not think he would be justified in occupying the, time of the House at any great length in discussing the subject-matter with which the Bill was concerned. But there was another reason why he did not think it would be desirable for him to enter into the various controversies which had raged around the evicted tenants for several years. This Bill differed from any 1146 previous Measure submitted to that House on the subject in that it was a Measure which it was believed would not excite any bitter opposition in that House, and he did not think it would be right in submitting such a Measure to the House to excite or raise up again the bitter controversies to which he had referred. He felt only too keenly that a considerable amount of passion had been introduced in past years into the Debates on the subject, and he had no doubt in the world that passion had had a good deal to do in the past with the failure to arrive at a just and adequate settlement of the question. Therefore, he desired on this occasion to avoid a reference to exasperating topics in connection with the matter, and would refrain from entering into a list of the various contests between landlords and tenants during the past 10 or 20 years—in fact, since 1879—which had made that Bill a pressing necessity. There was one remark, however, which he desired to make before he came to the Bill, which was that this Measure, for which the Party with which he had the honour to be connected were responsible, was not altogether the Bill which they would like to see passed into law on the subject. As far as they were concerned their views were expressed in the Bill known as Mr. O' Kelly's Bill, which was introduced several Sessions ago in the last Parliament by his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon. That Bill was perfectly frank in its expression of opinion that compulsion was absolutely necessary to end the controversy which had raged during the last 20 years. He thought, for the purpose for which it was intended, Mr. O'Kelly's Bill was a very complete Bill, and if it were passed into law his own opinion was that controversy upon the question of the Evicted tenants would pass away and that peace would be re-established in Ireland, so far as that matter was concerned. But they recognised now that circumstances were changed, and they had heard expressions of opinion from Leaders of the Party now in power which had induced them to try the experiment of submitting to the House a Voluntary Bill; and the House would pardon him for reading a few of the expressions of opinion to which he referred, and which he thought must be in 1147 the recollection of most Members of the House, whether they were Members of Parliament when those speeches were delivered from which he was about to quote or whether they were not. The first extract to which he wished to call attention was from a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Jackson), who spoke as a former Chief Secretary for Ireland, and who spoke in a very solemn and responsible strain, and whose words, he recollected very well, were listened to with great attention at the time. On the Second Reading of the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Morley) in 1894, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds said:—Speaking as a man who has tried to do what he could for Ireland and for the tenants, Lord Mounteagle expressed the opinion that some attempt should be made to form some Conciliation Board to bring these people together who are now so far apart. He was sure, if any attempt of that kind were made, no man on that side of the House would offer any opposition to it, but that it would have everybody's support.He would now come to a more important Gentleman than the Member for North Leeds—more important at least in this respect, that he occupied a post in the present Ministry—the Secretary of State for the Colonies. On the Second Reading of the Bill to which he had referred the present Secretary of State for the Colonies spoke as follows:—The hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire referred in very complimentary language to an article which had been written by Lord Mounteagle, and he quoted the language of Lord Mounteagle as justifying this Bill. But, with a most curious absence of mind, he forgot to tell the House that Lord Mounteagle concluded with certain recommendations, and his recommendations were not for the formation of such a tribunal as he contemplated in this Bill, and for a compulsory settlement, but for a voluntary settlement by a Board of Conciliation. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will be satisfied not only to quote the arguments of Lord Mounteagle, but to accept his conclusions, then, indeed, I think, with the sensible words which are attributed to him by the reporter, we might be in sight of a just and equitable settlement, with common consent on both sides of the House.The Right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies then went on to deal with the Bill, and he subsequently 1148 referred to the question of funds. On that subject he spoke as follows:—If it be necessary to find some money for this purpose, I can take no exception to that wonderful Irish Church Fund. I cannot conceive a better course can be taken than to use it for this purpose.But the right hon. Gentleman was not satisfied even with that statement, for on the Third Reading of the Bill on the 7th August, he spoke again as follows:—The Government and hon. Members opposite"—that was the late Government, and, he supposed, the Irish Members—knew perfectly well what they could and what they could not get. They might have had a Bill providing for a voluntary arrangement in the nature of the 15th Clause of the Act of 1891, greatly extended in its operations by the help of a large sum of money which the Government had it in its power to carry into effect.That was a very significant declaration in view of what afterwards took place in the House of Lords, and it seemed to him to have been the result of a consultation between the different Leaders of the Unionist Party, for he found the view expressed by the Secretary for the Colonies immediately afterwards uttered in the House of Lords by two Members of the Unionist Party who were now Members of the present Government, the Marquess of Lansdowne, Secretary for War, and the Duke of Devonshire. The Marquess of Lansdowne said, that if the Government felt they were unable to carry on the Government of the country without some settlement of the Evicted Tenants Question, the Unionist Party would gladly accept a Voluntary Bill and do their best to make it a success; while the Duke of Devonshire, who took part in the same Debate, also advocated the appointment of Conciliators not armed with compulsory powers, who might be intrusted with the funds provided by the Bill, and expressed the opinion that if the Government were satisfied to try such an experiment as that, he believed that a Measure embodying it might pass through both Houses of Parliament in one week. The right hon. Member for Bodmin and other Unionists, the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin, who 1149 spoke for the landlords, and the present Leader of the House, who was then the Leader of the Opposition, expressed practically similar opinions. The promoters of the Bill had taken those expressions of opinion as to how the question, might be settled as the basis of their proposal, and had, therefore, decided to submit a Voluntary scheme to the House. He would now turn to the Bill, and, in the first place, he wished to mention that he went back to the year 1879, and he did so because in that year began the agrarian revolution in connection with which, and in consequence of which, most of the evictions with which the Bill proposed to deal occurred. It was about that time that the "no rent" manifesto was issued, and the tenants who were evicted at that time were entitled to as much sympathy as those who were subsequently evicted. The Irish Members believed that they would not be doing their duty to their fellow-countrymen if they did not include under the provisions of the Bill the men who were evicted at the earlier period as well as those evicted under the "plan of campaign" movement. Now, the main provision of the Bill was, in the very words used by the Duke of Devonshire, that a Board of Conciliation should be set up to settle this difficulty; and it provided that the Board should consist of two or three persons, the selection of whom would be left to the Imperial Parliament, so that there could be no suspicion, that injustice would be done to any party in Ireland or to the State. It had been objected, he understood, that by creating another tribunal in Ireland they would unnecessarily be multiplying the number of public bodies in that country. If that objection was still urged, and if the Government or the majority of the House preferred it, he should have no objection, and he spoke also on behalf of his friends, to entrust the work intended for the proposed new Board to the Land Committee. The promoters of the Bill had proposed the new body and had selected its name, because of the speech made by the Duke of Devonshire in the House of Lords; but if his views on this point had changed, or if the House was of opinion that the appointment of such a Board was unnecessary, and that the Land Commission could adequately perform the work, they would 1150 not object to the change. The Board of Conciliation would have no compulsory powers whatever. ["Hear, hear!"] It would merely have power to confirm agreements already made between the landlords and tenants themselves. The Duke of Devonshire expressed his approval of reinstatement by purchase. Well, personally he agreed that reinstatement by purchase was far more likely to put a final and complete end to the question than the reinstatement of the tenants to their former holdings as tenants. Reinstatement by purchase was one of the modes upon which landlords and tenants could agree, and if they agreed the Conciliation Board would have power to confirm the agreement and carry out the purchase as under the Land Purchase Acts. On the other hand, if the parties preferred to continue the relation of landlord and tenant, the Board could confirm also that form of agreement. Moreover, if it were agreed, as possibly it might be in some cases, that a Judicial rent ought to be fixed on the restoration of the tenant to his holding, the Board would have power to act in the matter just as the Land Committee might act in ordinary cases. Few persons, however, believed that any Measure of this kind would be of much use unless the wheels of the machine, so to speak, were greased by the expenditure of public money to facilitate agreements. They had experience of this point in connection with the 13th Clause of the Land Purchase Act of 1891, and that experience forbade them from looking forward with hope to a voluntary settlement unless funds were provided to induce both parties to come to an agreement. It was no exaggeration to say that the 13th Clause of the Act of 1891 proved more or less a complete failure because no public money was provided for facilitating and bringing about settlements. The Bill, therefore, proposed that the intended Board of Conciliation should be provided with funds for the purpose, and that those funds should come from Imperial sources for two reasons. First, because they contended that the Imperial Parliament, either through unwise and unjust legislation, or the refusal to legislate at all, was responsible for this and other troubles in Ireland; and secondly, because the Irish Members were of the opinion that the 1151 source from which the late Government proposed to draw funds for the purpose—namely, the Irish Church surplus—would not be likely to afford an adequate supply of money. If, however, the Government objected to the funds being taken from Imperial sources, and preferred that they should be taken from the Irish Church Fund, the Irish Members, rather than leave the question unsettled, would be ready to forego their preference as expressed in the Bill, and to accept an appropriation from the Church Fund. The uses to which this money would be devoted were two. The Board would be empowered to devote such a sum as they deemed just, first towards the wiping out of the arrears, and secondly towards enabling the restored tenants to make a fresh start in life. In many cases the houses on the holdings had been pulled down or had become dilapidated, and the land had deteriorated; and it was impossible that any evicted tenant who had been on the roadside for five or six years should have the money to restock and repair his holding. If he were put in without any assistance the result must be bankruptcy in a few years, followed by a fresh eviction. The sum to be given could be fixed in Committee. He believed that at the present time the quarter of a million, which the late Government proposed to take from the Irish Church Surplus, would be sufficient. Every single objection urged against the Bill of the late Government by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University, the Duke of Devonshire, and the Marquess of Lansdowne, were on the ground that the Bill was compulsory; and one Gentleman went so far as to say that those objections would not apply to a Voluntary Measure. The present Bill was practically suggested by those persons. Its very title was taken from a suggestion by the Duke of Devonshire. None of them could object to the provision of funds for making the Bill effective, because they all admitted that funds were necessary for success, and more than one indicated that the Irish Church Fund was an unobjectionable source of Supply. The four Gentlemen whom he had mentioned had practically pledged the Unionist Party to these present proposals. There were more than one controversy 1152 in Ireland which no one could expect to see concluded very soon. Such were the Home Rule and the general Land Questions. But the Evicted Tenants Question did not belong to that class. In one sense it was one of the most urgent of Irish Questions. The hearts of the overwhelming majority of the Irish people were definitely set on the reinstatement of these ex-tenants. They believed that the men evicted under the No-Rent Manifesto and the Plan of Campaign had, by their individual sacrifices and sufferings, conferred vast and permanent advantages on the whole class to which they belonged. They felt themselves under an eternal obligation to these men, and consequently they desired to see them restored to their holdings. In that sense the Question was one of very considerable magnitude, and the most urgent of Irish questions. But in another sense it was not a very great question. The number of persons to be dealt with was not very large; the time taken in settling the question need not be very long; and most of the bitter passion excited by the No-Rent Manifesto and the Plan of Campaign had now died out to a large extent on both sides. His own individual conviction was that, however peaceful Ireland might be at the present moment, if these people were left on the roadsides, and no effort was made by a party possessing overwhelming strength in Parliament to settle the question, there would sooner or later be a revival of disturbances in Ireland, and Parliament would have deserved it. Whatever reason the late Government had in its slender majority for not settling this question, the present Government had none. He hoped that the Unionist Party in Ireland were not irreconcilable on this question; and he trusted that the Government would give a favourable consideration to the Bill, of which he begged to move the Second Reading.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
seconded the Motion. There could be observed, no doubt, that amongst the Unionist Party in Ireland there was a very considerable section who would be glad to see this matter settled, and who were as heartily tired as the Nationalists at finding this difficulty constantly confronting them in the every-day life of the country. He had heard more than 1153 one Member representing English constituencies expressing the opinion that it was a very strong step to take to provide public funds from Imperial sources in order to reinstate the tenants, who voluntarily allowed themselves to be evicted, and to enable them to restock the farms which they relinquished themselves at the time of eviction. No doubt, to English minds, that was a strong order, but in Ireland the case was quite different. The difficulty in Ireland had arisen as a result of the whole land agitation, and, rightly or wrongly, the vast bulk of the people of Ireland believed they would not have received the benefits which had been conferred upon them by the Acts of Parliament which had been passed by that House, were it not largely for the agitation caused by those men who had been and were evicted at the present time. For instance, the Land Act of 1887 followed directly upon the agitation raised by a large number of the tenants who were now evicted. It might be said that the Land Act of that year would have been passed if there had been no agitation, but the fact remained that, while in 1886 the provisions of the Land Act of 1887 were refused by Lord Salisbury, directly the agitation in Ireland was raised, in which the people who were evicted took part, the Land Act of 1887 was passed into law. The evicted tenants were thus in the position that they were suffering because the Government refused to do in 1885 or 1886 what they were compelled to do in 1887, and which they then admitted to be justice. That was a state of affairs which was regarded by the mass of the people of Ireland as most unfair to the evicted tenants, who were evicted through no fault of their own or because they wanted to make a personal matter of themselves, but in pursuance of a widespread agitation upon the part of the farmers of Ireland generally, which had resulted in Acts being passed through Parliament which the people believed would not have been passed but for that agitation. The Chief Secretary would find it difficult to oppose this Bill in view of the fact that the only opposition to the Measure brought in by the late Government was that it was compulsory instead of voluntary. But this Bill was Voluntary, it was the most moderate that 1154 was probably ever introduced on the Land Question, and, moderate as it was, if it was refused by that House, he, for one, did not hesitate to say he thought the result would be disastrous in Ireland. It was often charged against the Irish Members that their proposals were extreme and extravagant. Whatever might be said about the present proposal, no one could say it was either extreme or extravagant. It was moderate in the last degree, and it was based upon the lines laid down by the Leaders of the Unionist Party themselves. The Irish Members were doing what the Government had invited them to do, and if they now refused to carry out the work they themselves suggested, the responsibility must rest upon them. He had very great hopes that after all these years of turmoil this question would now be approached by the representatives of Ireland of all sections in a spirit of moderation which would prove that there was really an anxiety in all quarters to have a difficult matter settled one way or the other. Settled it must be, and the Chief Secretary himself, although his experience of Ireland was as yet but slight, would be the last person to say that this was a question which could settle itself without some legislation. He had heard it stated by landlord representatives that evicted farms were being taken, and that gradually the question was settling itself. It was only necessary to visit the various parts of the country where evictions had taken place to see that this was not the case. A certain number of farms had been taken, but they were not properly held, the tenants were not bona fide tenants, but in the interests of the landlords they were making a show of working the farms. The major portion of the farmers, however, were idle, the great majority of the tenants were evicted on the roadside, and unless the Chief Secretary was anxious to keep open a sore in Ireland that would, sooner or later, lead to trouble, something must speedily be done. He urged all parties in the House to unite in completing the work of the Land Acts, passed as the result of the agitation of the very men who were now homeless in consequence of their action, to enable the evicted tenants to return to their homes, and so restore peace and order to the country. 1155 He earnestly trusted that a settlement might be arrived at, because, if not, it meant that disorder and agitation would once again ensue in Ireland.
MR. J. A. RENTOUL (Down, E.) rose to move the following Amendment:—
That this House, while anxious to facilitate arrangements by which evicted tenants should resume the occupation of their holdings, declines to sanction the principle that tenants evicted for non-payment of rent should receive large grants of public money in order to enable them to be reinstated.
He observed that the hon. Member for East Clare tried to make them dread what would happen if they did not pass through this Measure. But, unfortunately for the hon. Member, he made an exactly similar speech two years ago, in which he conveyed the same intimation of what would occur if the Bill before the House on that occasion, were rejected. The hon. and learned Member who had moved the Second Reading of the Bill had said he hoped no bitterness would enter into this controversy. As far as he could recollect, in the controversies on the matter of the evicted tenants there had never been in that House any bitterness worth mentioning, and he could remember no speech which did not express considerable sympathy for the evicted tenants who found themselves out in the cold to-day. Of all the Bills brought forward for the benefit of the tenants of Ireland, he had never seen any so utterly useless from any point of view as the Bill now before the House. He did not see how it was possible for it to serve any good purpose whatsoever. The first thing they noticed was that there was to be no compulsion. Then, he ventured to say, there would be no results. He fancied, when the hon. Member said no compulsion, he meant there was no compulsion in the wording of the Bill. He ventured to suggest there would probably be a great deal of compulsion outside the Bill, and in the various districts if the Bill, passed. If landlords and tenants would not come together now for the purposes of a settlement, he hardly saw how they were to be assisted to do so by the Bill, and by a tribunal being started of certain Gentlemen who would talk amicably on the subject and say to the parties,
"We should be very satisfied if you could arrange matters between yourselves." He could not imagine that such a court could in the slightest possible degree bring about settlements except in one class of cases. He thought there might be dishonest settlements under the Bill—settlements between dishonest landlords——
§ MR. RENTOUL
said, that probably there were not; but supposing there was one dishonest landlord, what might happen? They had been told by the hon. Member for East Mayo that the landlords were heartily tired of the tenants they had put in evicted farms. If that were the case, what was more likely than that if there were a dishonest landlord he should take advantage of this Bill in order to get rid of the tenant of whom he was tired? What tenant had come in at the request of the landlord and had been doing his duty for a number of years, but the landlord, being tired of him, what was easier than a bargain between the landlord and the previously evicted tenant to oust the new tenant altogether, and that without any compensation at all? Under the Bill, transactions of that sort could be carried out very extensively.
§ MR. CLANCY
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to say that these new tenants are future tenants, and there is nothing to prevent the landlord evicting them to-morrow without compensation.
§ MR. RENTOUL
replied that at any rate, if a tenant was in the occupation of an evicted farm at the present time, that tenant could, under this Bill, be ousted by a bargain between the landlord and the previous tenant. Now if this Bill did not touch the tenants who were in the farms at the present time, what became of the attitude taken up by the hon. Member and others of the Parnellite Party when the Bill of 1894 was before the House. What was their position with regard to 1157 the Bill? The hon. Member quoted extracts from speeches of certain Gentlemen of the Unionist Party in that and the other House, who declared that there was a desire that something should be done, but as far as he could recollect, those Gentlemen had suggested that the various Parties should try and approach each other. But the Parnellite Party had not tried to approach any Party. There was not a name on the back of this Bill but their own. They had not approached a single Unionist. They had not approached a single man belonging to any of the other sections of the Irish Party. This Bill was to be for thorn and them alone a triumph.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
That is not so, Mr. Speaker. Speaking for myself, I invited in Ireland the cooperation of all Irish Members in support of this Bill.
§ MR. RENTOUL
said, that was not the point. Had the hon. Member approached any Member in that House, not of his Party, and asked him to put his name on the back of the Bill? This was to be the Bill of the Parnellite Party alone. How had the Parnellite Party spoken of the Bill which did not deal with farms at present filled up. There was the Bill of 1894 which differed in no great degree from the present Bill. That Bill was denounced by the hon. Member for the Harbour Division and by the hon. Member for East Clare. He never heard stronger speeches against any Bill than those speeches which were delivered to induce the House not to pass that Bill. The Member for the Harbour Division contrasted his knowledge of Ireland with the knowledge of any other Member of the House. Admitting that that knowledge was great, the hon. Members for the Harbour Division and East Clare must have changed their minds, for the present Bill differed in nothing from the Bill of 1894 except in this matter of compulsion, and therefore, from the Irish point of view was a weaker Bill. How did they meet the Bill of 1894? They opposed it simply because they left out the cases of 1,500 farmers. The Member for the Harbour Division said, that so far from settling the question it would disturb Irish society. He went on to say, that the proposal just developed to the House must inevitably lead to disaster, contention, 1158 strife and agitation, worse than anything yet seen in Ireland. The Bill, the hon. Member argued, would leave entirely untouched the burning point of the evicted tenants' question. The complaint was that the Bill of 1894 was a mere tinkering with the question. And these were the words of a prominent Member of the Parnellite Party, that the Bill would give an immense incitement to crime and new disorder. Then the hon. Member for the Harbour Division stated that the Bill said plainly if they did not make the situation uncomfortable for the man who had the farm, if they did not drive him out, if the people were not strong enough, if the people did not expel the man from the farm, there was no hope for them. That was the kind of compulsion which he said would be applied to drive out these 1,500 men. Then the hon. Member went on to say, as one who knew better than the Chief Secretary (Mr. Morley), that he would tell him that the Bill so far from settling the question would raise contention between men who had hitherto acted together. The circumstances of the men who had been evicted, and whose farms were taken, would disturb the entire course of social life in Ireland. The hon. Member went further, and said that the sham tenant could bar the whole proceeding. Then it was added that "the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. Morley) did not touch the fringe of the question." That was the opinion of the hon. Member for the Harbour Division. But then there were the speeches of the hon. Member for East Clare, who began to-day by saying he would not make a speech. In view of the speeches he had already made, the hon. Member would have been wise if he had adhered to that resolution, but when the case of the evicted tenants came up, the hon. Member for East Clare found a difficulty in remaining silent. He had quoted some extracts from the speeches of the hon. Member for the Harbour Division, and he should now, by leave of the House, quote a few extracts from the speeches of the hon. Member for East Clare. [Ironical cries of "Hear, hear!" and "Go on!"]
§ MR. RENTOUL
Yes, these are very unpleasant extracts, I know. [Cheers.] The hon. Member for East Clare 1159 impressed on the Chief Secretary in 1894 that, even if his Bill passed, there would still remain "the tremendous difficulty of the planters who were not dealt with." ["Hear, hear!"] It was pointed out that if they restored a tenant on one side of the road, and refused to reinstate another tenant on the other side of the road whose farm was occupied by "a planter," that would not settle the question. Then he (Mr. Rentoul) wanted to know how this Bill would settle the question. Unfortunately the Member for East Clare had spoken already, otherwise he should ask him how he explained and reconciled his present position with that which he took up in 1894.
§ MR. W. REDMOND rose, and was speaking, when
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Member would not be in order in replying to the observations of the hon. and learned Member. He must merely explain any statement of his own which had been mis-represented.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
Merely this, in one sentence, this Bill is the Bill proposed by the hon. Member's own friends.
§ MR. RENTOUL
Did the hon. Member want the Unionist Party to bring in a Bill and pass a Bill that would create crime and disturbance in Ireland? With the majority they had at the present time in the House the Government would be responsible whether the Bill passed or not. They had been told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that if a Bill of this kind passed there would be an increase of crime, so that apart from this, the Government would be responsible for erecting a new tribunal in Ireland and going to considerable expense for no purpose whatsoever. If the Government were to see their way to bringing in a great Measure for the compulsory sale of land dealing with the whole Irish Land Question, he should heartily approve of it and would support it. But if the Government allowed this Bill to pass they would place themselves in a ridiculous position, and would do no good whatever to the evicted tenants, or even to the Parnellite Party, who had brought it in. Under these circumstances he had been led to put down this Amendment upon the Paper. It was seldom that he took such a step, but he had been led to take it in this instance through the respect he entertained for 1160 the hon. Member for the Harbour District and the hon. Member for East Clare, who had, as he had shown, warned their own friends who were at the time in power, that such a Measure would be useless. As those hon. Members had warned their friends so he now felt it to be his duty to tell the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that this Bill, if passed, would only complicate the situation in Ireland, and would make matters worse than they were at present, because the Irish people would learn that those tenants who would not pay their rents, even if they could, were to be replaced in their farms at the expense of a public fund, while others who could not, even if they would pay their rents, were left out in the cold. The spirit which had animated Nationalist Members' former Debates on this subject had been reproduced during the present discussion, and their speeches had shown the reasons why this Measure had been brought forward. It was clear, from what had fallen from hon. Members opposite, that this Bill had been introduced by the hon. Member for North Dublin for the political purposes of the Parnellite Party. Who were these tenants in whose favour this Measure was introduced? The hon. Members opposite described them as men who had had the spirit and courage and the self-denial to put themselves in the forefront of the Land Agitation, and the hon. Members further said that the people of Ireland felt themselves under great obligations to those evicted tenants, and were determined to see justice done to them. This Bill was brought forward for the purpose of reinstating these men, who even now would not express any regret for their conduct, and who do in the present what they had done in the past under similar circumstances. It was for these reasons that he begged to move the Amendment which stood upon the Paper in his name.
§ MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said, that he was sorry to hear the hon. Member who had just sat down express the view that the Bill had been introduced by the Parnellite Members for purely Party purposes. All he could say in reply to the suggestion of the hon. Member was that no Party in Ireland was 1161 opposed to this Measure. On the question of the reinstatement of the evicted tenants there was no difference of opinion among Irishmen. For his own part he rejoiced heartily that the Parnellite Members had been lucky enough to obtain so early a day for the discussion of this Measure. He repudiated the idea that, because the Bill had been introduced by a Member of the Parnellite Party, it would not receive the support of the other sections of the Irish Party. On that point, therefore, the mind of the hon. Member for East Down might remain at rest, because the minds of all Irishmen were practically united on this subject. Speaking for himself, and also for his colleagues, he could say that they would give this Bill their hearty support. What was the hon. Member's only other objection to the Bill? It was, that it would enable dishonest landlords to act unjustly towards their tenants. What did the hon. Member mean by a dishonest landlord? He did not know that such an extraordinary animal existed in Ireland. He did not think that such an objection required any answer from him. He begged, however, to draw the attention of the hon. Member for East Down and his Conservative friends to one very important fact—namely, that at the large land meetings that had recently been held in the Province of Ulster, and which were promoted and attended by Conservatives, Liberal Unionists, and Nationalists (for men of all Parties attended them), resolutions were passed, urging upon the Government the desirability of settling this question of the evicted tenants. That was the view taken of this subject in the north of Ireland, where it was not so burning a question as it was in other parts of the country. It was the opinion of the vast majority of Irishmen that the evicted tenants were unfairly, cruelly and vindictively dealt with, and that it was the interest of all classes in the country that this great cause of discontent should be removed. The speech of the hon. Member for North Dublin had so fully covered the subject that he had little more to say than that he gave this Bill his hearty support. After all, on Wednesdays, the best way of promoting a Bill was not to make long speeches. The hon. Member for North Dublin was 1162 quite right when he said that this Bill, after all, did not represent the views of the Irish Party. In point of fact, it was not their Bill at all, because it was one that had been drafted by the hon. Member for North Dublin upon the lines of the declarations made by the Unionist Leaders during the last few years, and it had been brought in in order to give the Unionist Party—now that they were in Office, and had at their back an overwhelming majority—an opportunity of carrying their declaration into effect, and to test the sincerity of their promises; in fact, this Bill might be properly described as a Unionist Measure. Accepting the Bill in that sense, he gave it his most hearty support. There was one point connected with this subject which had hardly been sufficiently noticed, and that was that, some years ago, there was not a single Member, either of that House or of the House of Lords, who did not admit two things—first, that a most unsatisfactory state of things existed with regard to the evicted tenants; and, secondly, that some attempt ought to be made to settle the question. The condition of things that prevailed when the Members of both Houses entertained that opinion had not materially changed since then; and, notwithstanding the re-enactment of Clause 13 of the Irish Land Purchase Act, the position of the main body of the evicted tenants was precisely the same as it was a few years ago, when all sections of that House and of the House of Lords admitted that something must be done in regard to them. The only change that had been effected in their position was that they were becoming more and more desperate, as hope faded from their minds. Therefore, if the settlement of the question was urgent many years ago, it was far more urgent at the present time. In the meantime, what had been done for these poor people? It was true that in the autumn of last year Clause 13 of the Irish Land Purchase Act had been re-enacted and renewed for six months. In one mouth's time that six months would expire. He had put a question at the beginning of the Session to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and in reply the right hon. Gentleman had stated that, during the whole period since the Act 1163 came into operation, not a single application had been made under it. He was perfectly aware that there were negotiations in progress, but there were not many, and it was not yet known whether they would be brought to a successful termination. There was a point with reference to that Bill which he felt bound to bring to the notice of the Chief Secretary. When the proposal to re-enact the 13th Clause was made, although he had very little hope that it would lead to any successful results, yet being in a kind of semi-official position to the evicted tenants, he addressed a letter to every one of the large groups of tenants in Ireland, urging them to approach the landlords and ask for a settlement, and if they were refused, to meet together and get the most influential people they could to go to the landlords and urge them to leave the settlement of the whole matter to the arbitration of the Land Commissioners. In some cases the offer was made and therefore it could not lie in the mouth of any man to charge the Nationalist Members with obstructing the working of this Act. If there had been a failure, it was due to the fault of the landlords who refused to come to a settlement. There was one case he mentioned in which the tenants actually proposed to pay 20 years' purchase for their holdings, or about three years in excess of the normal price of land in Ireland. Again, a memorial was sent to the Marquess of Clanricarde by the tenants on his estate, in which they said that they were prepared to purchase their holdings under the 13th Clause of the Purchase Act, and desired to know whether his Lordship would sell to them and on what terms. They also declared that they were willing to have the price fixed by arbitration if Lord Clanricarde would agree to that. Could anything be fairer than that proposal? Yet the Marquess of Clanricarde declined to entertain it. Could it be expected then, that the public in Ireland would be content to see such treatment meted out to these evicted tenants?
§ MR. DILLON
replied that no doubt the Nationalist Members believed that a compulsory Bill would be the right thing, but they would be glad to get what they 1164 could. The wonder was that these men had abstained from crime and outrages, and it would be a just thing for the Government to recognise their patience. The Nationalists wanted to get the best they could. They wanted to give the Government a chance, and although they did not think that this Bill would settle every case, they believed that the compulsion of public opinion would be brought to bear on the men who refused to accept the offices of a Board of Conciliation set up by Parliament. He wished to allude to an answer given by the Chief Secretary to a question put to him yesterday.—The right hon. Gentleman:—"The number of extra police employed in the Woodford Constabulary district in connection with the Clanricarde estate is 14, and their annual cost is, approximately, £965, one-half of which is paid by the county at large. There are 32 evicted farms at present unlet on the Clanricarde estate in the same district and of those nine are used or worked by the landlord. The total valuation of the 32 farms in —293.6s. and of the nine farms used by the landlord £114.12s." That was the kind of thing the Government maintained, and so far as he was aware there was in that district no sign or prospect of any settlement. He would now draw attention to the character of some of the settlements which had been arrived at outside the 13th Clause—and a great bulk of the settlements that had taken place had been effected independently of that clause. They all remembered the outcry that was raised by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House when they were in Opposition against the horrible outrage of forcing back their old tenants on the landlords. Yet what did the hon. Member for Huntingdon say? He said he wanted to get back his old tenants, and he (Mr. Dillon) was glad to say that the Tipperary dispute was practically settled. The fact was that nine-tenths of the settlements made in Ireland had been made by reinstating the old tenants, and not by having recourse to the purchase clauses. He would give one instance of a settlement, a well known case in the County Tipperary. A man named Daniel Byrne, of Morrough in Tipperary, was evicted on June 28, 1884. The old rent was £140 and the Judicial rent £111, and at the 1165 time of eviction the man owed £496. The farm was taken by a grabber and held by him for some time, but he could make nothing of it and left it. Byrne settled with his landlord and the new rent was fixed at £75 a year against the old rent of £140 and a Judicial rent of £111. Considering the terrific depression of agriculture in Ireland as well as in England, that was a fair and reasonable settlement. There was a case of another tenant who was evicted eight years ago for the non-payment of a rent of £40, and who had since been reinstated. These and other cases, went to show that the landlords had come to recognise that these evictions, carried out seven or eight years ago, were monstrously unjust, being in many cases evictions for the non-payment of rents which it would have been impossible to pay. His chief purpose in rising was to declare that all the Members with whom he acted desired strongly that this Bill should pass. It had been said most truly that although the application of the chief provisions of the Measure would practically be confined to some 1,500 or 2,000 families, the question with which it dealt was one that aroused the keenest interest in Ireland. It was a question about which there was no difference of opinion among Irish Nationalists, and if the number of the speeches in support of this Bill should be comparatively few the reason would be that Nationalist Members desired to avoid consuming time, and thereby jeopardising the fate of the Measure.
§ On the return of the Speaker, after the usual interval,
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said, that though an English Member, but partly to redeem a promise he made to certain of the evicted tenants, he desired to say something in this Debate. He obtained from those evicted tenants facts which led him to take a more favourable view of their case than he had hitherto done, and he gave them an undertaking that when the. opportunity arose he would speak a word for them, a word based on personal observation. For his own part, he was prepared in view of the better political, social, and material condition of Ireland, to avail himself of 1166 any opportunity of creating and furthering better relations between the two countries, and this had also induced him to urge the re-enactment of Clause 13 in the Act of 1891 last Session, when he had suggested to the Chief Secretary the addition of a conciliation clause. So far from ceasing to do what they could in the case of Ireland, he submitted that Unionist Members should avail themselves of this better opportunity, and if they could do so with the co-operation of Irish Members, that seemed an additional inducement to take such a course. He believed it would lead to greater contentment and prosperity, and make the future more hopeful. And this position was justified by the tone of a remarkable Unionist article in The Quarterly Review, with which he cordially agreed. Moreover, Unionist Members had to show that, while they refused Home Rule, tins British and Irish Parliament was capable of dealing with Irish affairs and willing to give attention to them, and unless Unionists accepted that alternative, and also the principle of substantial equality of treatment of each branch, he despaired of any ultimate permanent co-operation between the various branches of the United Kingdom. [Irish cheers.] He believed, also, that for England, as well as for Ireland, the true policy was to spare no public or private effort to bring to an end the feeling which had too long existed between the two countries in the past. Such a policy would, in the end, be even economical of both time and money, though for the moment it might be costly. Towards the achievement of that great purpose, which they could not affect to ignore, since it had to be accomplished, or worse would follow, he held that, so far from grudging the expenditure of public funds, it was the duty and the interest of the "predominant partner" to be, in the language of the Chief Secretary, not only just, but generous towards the poorer partner. They must seek for a union of both hearts and interests, for these were the conditions of permanent contentment and prosperity. The right hon. Member for Liskeard had declared that this evicted tenants' Question was an open social sore. The principles 1167 laid down by another great Statesman who once adorned this House, Edmund Burke, were still maxims for their guidance, and he had laid it down how such a sore should be dealt with. Once, when a constituent wrote to him to protest against con cession being made to Ireland, his reply was, "Sir, it is proper to inform you that our Measures should be healing." He favoured the extension of healing Measures to the case of the evicted tenants. Those tenants still required consideration, for Clause 13 had failed owing to the want of funds and to the cost of its application. The Amendment of his right hon. Friend placed all tenants in the same category. He ventured to suggest that as there were landlords and landlords, so there were evicted tenants and evicted tenants. Though in some cases, as he was told by many of them, they might feel that a mistake, had been made, and though, as some of them alleged, they had been misled, still their condition was a deplorable one, and some obligation rested upon the Legislature to help them. And when he remembered the attitude of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer to one Irish landlord, in relation to whose dealings with his tenants the right hon. Baronet thought it his duty to interfere [Irish cheers], and when he found that an offer just made to him in the most open terms—"name your rent or name your arbitrators"—was met with silent contempt, the recollection rather increased than diminished his feeling of sympathy, and more than sympathy, for the evicted tenants. Whether the Bill would practically do much good or not might be open to question, but he ventured to say that in comparison with previous Measures it was a moderate and reasonable proposal. He accepted it as a basis for discussion, though there were certain points, especially the exact character and source of the fund, which he should reserve for future consideration. He accepted it generally because it was based upon two principles which commended themselves to him. He remembered that in previous Debates it had been urged against the proposals then made that they were compulsory, and that they must have no compulsion. He had heard the exact opposite said that day—that this was not compulsory, and that without compulsion it could do no 1168 good. He ventured to think that neither proposition was wholly true. The voluntary principle was one which recommended itself to him. It was also, on the part of the Irish Members, some of whose expressions were relics of worse times, a new departure, and when they produced a Bill which was wholly different in its character, which was based upon Unionist expressions, and which they asked them to accept for consideration towards a solution of a difficulty, they should not either hinder or openly refuse such reasonable proposals. This Bill was a new departure, and it was a concession from the right hon. Gentlemen opposite to the views of many of those who sat on that side of the House and in the other House. It had been said that the sitting tenant would be prejudiced by the Bill. The same was said of the Bill of the late Government; and he thought in that case there was some reason, though the right hon. Gentleman who was then Chief Secretary was careful, as far as he could be by words, to protect the sitting tenant in a clause which he introduced into the Bill. He thought that in this case the sitting tenant would not be prejudiced, and they had been promised that his voluntary consent should be provided for in Committee, if this were not so by the Bill. But he would point out to the House that there were many cases in which the occupation was still vacant. The Bill was not compulsory, and therefore it could be applied to these cases of vacant possession, and do in any case a certain amount of good. Every sitting tenant would have his rights of tenancy. He would have remedies against the landlord, and it would give both the landlord and the new tenant the means of making terms. So that, even if there should be a change of possession as against the planter—he did not see why there should be, because his consent would be necessary—there were the means of making that change perfectly voluntary, and of compensating him for the improvements he had made on the property. The second point of criticism was that the procedure of the Bill was to be purely voluntary, and that therefore it would be ineffective. He welcomed the voluntary principle—he welcomed mediation and conciliation—and he would remind the House that 1169 only a few evenings ago, when that principle was discussed in relation to the disputes of capital and labour, the whole House welcomed that cardinal principle of the Bill. They welcomed arbitration in relation to foreign affairs, and if that was a principle which they accepted in international disputes, how very much more should they do so in civil disputes in their own country. And if they applied conciliation and arbitration in industrial disputes as to wages and the like, why not, by conciliatory as distinguished from compulsory methods, have some means of settling differences of opinion as to the amount of rent? But he had another case which not only assisted the principle of conciliation, but which conclusively proved that the want of the compulsory principle was an advantage and not the contrary. He meant the Railway Rates Act of 1888. Clause 31 of that Bill enabled the Board of Trade to act as conciliator between the most powerful interest in this country, and, individually, even the most helpless of the traders. He knew from the officials of the Board and from statements in the House that the very strength of that conciliation clause was the absence of a sanction of any means of compelling performance. If that were so, let them hope—and he believed it would be so as between landlord and tenant; and if it could be shown that their relations would be greatly improved by these conciliatory methods, they might depend upon it a great step would be taken towards a solution of this difficulty. He might take even a more modern instance of the value of conciliation without compulsion, and that was in the case of the Conciliation Bill of the Government which was introduced the other night. If he understood that Bill aright it provided for conciliation even, by ex parte methods. And why? The object was to gain the reinforcement of public opinion by accurate information and in the direction of reasonableness—which was the very object that existed here—to bring public opinion to bear on those who would not be wise and reasonable without the force of public opinion. He had only to deal with one other principle of this Bill, which he admitted was a more novel one, but which he believed to be essential, that was the appropriation of public 1170 funds to this purpose. They had for their guidance the fact that Clause 13 had failed where, and because, there was no pecuniary provision; while, on the other hand, there was a very considerable cost. When he visited the tenants on the Olpherts Estate, they not only spoke of, but they pointed to, the properties, and showed that the farm buildings and the houses were levelled, and that the stock was gone. They said they had no capital, even if they were replaced, and, by the Irish, contrary to the English, custom. He asked them whether replacement would suit their circumstances, and they said "No, because they could not accommodate themselves to the altered situation." Then, he ventured to think, they had to furnish the means of doing that, if they wanted to do anything practically for them at all. The reason of the failure of Clause 13 had been the very absence of the principle which was inserted in this Bill. It was essential, in any such proposal—to enable landlord and tenant both to live together for a time, and to facilitate the passage from a time of dual conflict between them and between opposing interests to a time of purchase by substituting one owner of the soil for two who had diverse interests—it was absolutely essential, if they were to do anything at all, that a fund should form part of the Bill. On that point they had a duty to do; and that duty was to make some economical sacrifice, and to be generous in dealing with this matter. Sydney Smith said, "You cannot do the Samaritan without the oil and two-pence;" and it was idle for the House to think that it could relieve the wants of these people, and place them in a satisfactory position, "without the oil and twopence;" though the source of the means, which ought, perhaps, to be the Irish Fund, which the promoters had promised, could be discussed and defined in Committee. The Irish Church Surplus Fund was, he would remind the House, resorted to in the late Irish Land Bill, and that was not the point of criticism. The mission of such a fund might even enlarge the breach and make men fight the more. Ex nihilo nihil, fit; and, a reader of a sporting newspaper once wrote to the editor, who had used the maxim in his leader, to know "Who Nihil was, who he fit, how much he fit for, and which won." He quite agreed that 1171 there were dishonest landlords and dishonest tenants, and that, if they acted in collusion, they could, perhaps, under this Bill, by arranging fictitious judicial rents, obtain ail advance, calculated on the basis of those rents. They could also, he thought, if they were so disposed, obtain an undue sum in payment of arrears. But, though there were dishonest landlords and dishonest tenants, they were not all so, nor the great majority of them, and he did not believe that would, be a practical evil. He thought the provision in the Bill that conciliation was to be done in "the prescribed manner" was rather a difficulty. He did not see how conciliation was always to be done in one way, because they were dealing with very different men, and, therefore, any hard and rigid line of that sort should be considered when they came to Committee. Again, the Chairman of the Conciliation Board was to be, according to the Bill, a barrister of seven years' standing. That seemed to him doubtful wisdom. A man of affairs, a man of business, he should think, would be more likely to conciliate than a lawyer of any standing. His own view also was that, if they could substitute some existing Board of Conciliation, rather than a new one, it would save £2,000 a year for each Commissioner, and would be another source of economy in dealing with this subject. He hoped fervently that the Chief Secretary would not allow this to be another added to lost opportunities, but that he would let the Bill go into Committee for discussion. For his own part, he could not accept an Amendment which placed all these tenants, in their hard position, at arm's length, and which treated them all as upon one footing. Against that Amendment he should be compelled to vote. He would go further, and say that they had here the chance of some solution in trying to bring together landlord and tenant by conciliation, and in changing the tenant into a peasant owner with all its stability. They had a Bill, based, at any rate with one exception, upon accepted principles, accepted by great authorities in both Houses of Parliament, and upon a principle which was essential, as they had found by experience, in dealing with this question. The Government had done great things for Ireland in the 1172 past. They had also made promises affecting Ireland which he knew they would do their best to redeem. He, therefore, hoped the Chief Secretary would see in this Bill the material on which to bring in a Measure of his own, or failing that that he would regard the Bill as furnishing at least a basis of settlement; that he would reciprocate the feelings making for peace and prosperity which the Irish Members had indicated in the Debate, and that he would give the House the opportunity of discovering in Committee on the Bill some solution of this most unfortunate question. [Cheers.]
§ MR. R. PURVIS (Peterborough)
said, that much had been spoken of the claims of the suffering evicted tenants of Ireland; but the Bill had not yet been regarded from the standpoint of the suffering British taxpayer. There were a great many other deserving people besides the evicted tenants, who had claims on the British taxpayer—people, too, who were not wrong-doers, as the evicted tenants admittedly were. [Ministerial cheers.]
§ MR. CLANCY
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman for one moment? I have already indicated our desire to substitute for the proposal in the Bill a proposal to take the money out of the Church Fund, and I may inform the hon. Gentleman that that fund is an extirely Irish fund. [Nationalist cheers.]
§ MR. PURVIS
said, that it was the general opinion of those who were acquainted with the extent of the Irish Church Fund that it would not be sufficient for such a purpose. [Nationalist cries of "No."] He believed that if, unfortunately, the Bill should pass into law, the British taxpayer would ultimately be called upon to contribute to the reinstatement of those evicted tenants ["Hear, hear!"], and therefore the House should equally consider the sufferings of agricultural tenants in other parts of the Kingdom; and the unhappy condition of the poor people in our crowded cities. Much store was 1173 laid on the fact that the Bill provided what was called a voluntary settlement of the question. But the hon. Member for East Mayo admitted that there would he behind the landlord the compulsion of public opinion. It seemed to him that this compulsorily voluntary action of the Irish landlords would be very like the voluntary signing of the Solemn League and Covenant by King Charles II. Said the French Ambassador to the King, "Your Majesty signed the Covenant voluntarily." "Sir," replied the King, "the Scottish people compelled me to sign it voluntarily."[Laughter.]
§ COLONEL WELBY (Taunton)
said, he was neither an Irishman nor an Irish Member. He was an English Unionist Member, with an unprejudiced mind, unconnected in any way with Irish land; and as such he hoped the opinion he held in regard to the Bill would be deemed to be perfectly impartial, It had been his good fortune as an officer of the Army to have served in Ireland for a considerable number of years. He was there 14 years ago during the critical time, and he could say that, though it had often been his duty to attend evictions, he had never received an abusive word from the people. He had enjoyed opportunities of ascertaining the undercurrent of feeling among the people, and of gauging opinion on this question of evicted tenants, which he regarded as a question of great difficulty, and one he would most gladly see settled, and settled for ever. He was, therefore, exceedingly sorry to have to say, after having examined the details of the Bill, that he could not see how it provided a just and lasting remedy of the difficulty. He noticed that the present tenants, who had been described in the Debate as "planters," "settlers," and "grabbers" were absolutely ignored in the Bill. It was true that in one of the earliest lines of the Bill mention was made of "former tenants," but on referring to the definition clause he saw that the word "tenant" was in all cases to be taken as applying to the evicted tenants. Therefore the term "tenant" was not even to apply to the persons who occupied the lands at present. Those tenants were totally disregarded. Any one reading the Bill and unacquainted with the facts would 1174 imagine that the whole of the land in question was either derelict land, or occupied by bailiffs, or men of straw, who were simply put in to look after the interests of the landlords. But the statement of the hon. Member for East Down (Mr. Rentoul) that there were 1,500 tenants in occupation of the evicted lands had not been contradicted by bon. Members opposite. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER—"We do contradict it."] He hoped the House would get the exact figures from some authority, but in any case if those tenants were to be absolutely ignored, the Bill which proposed to remedy one injustice will inflict another. It was also said that the reinstatement of the evicted tenants was to be a voluntary arrangement. The first sub-section of Section 3 said that either the landlord or the tenant could make application to the Board, but in the next sub-section it was said that only the landlord and the tenant conjointly could move the Board to action. Why was not the present tenant included in this arrangement? Surely there were three interests at stake—the interests of the evicted tenant, the present tenant, and the landlord. Was the present tenant to have no say in the matter? If the lands were derelict there might be some justification for such an arrangement; but until it was first proved that the tenants in possession had no rights the House should see, that they were not ignored in this summary fashion. As he had said, either the landlord or the evicted tenant might make application to the Board. What was the intention of the sub-section? It was to overawe any landlord who might be inclined to stand out against the evicted tenants. It would be said in the district that the tenants had made an application to the Board and that the landlord would have nothing to do with it. That would surely lead to the old state of things, and bring about a recrudescence of agrarian strife. Indeed, he feared that that would be the result of the Bill, if it became law. He would also like to point out that the judgment of the Board of Conciliation on the case submitted to it by the landlord and tenant was to be absolutely final. There was to be no appeal from it whatever. Hon. Members should study the principle involved and say whether they were prepared to introduce it; if so, were they 1175 prepared to apply it to other industries and to found Boards of Conciliation for them? This question of Conciliation was coming upon us from almost every industry. Were hon. Members prepared to vote for this new principle? It might he for the best, but let them do it with their eyes open. With regard to the money to be found, whether it came from the ordinary taxpayer or from the Irish Church Fund, he strongly objected to the application of it. These evicted tenants, whatever their own personal failings had been, had been evicted in accordance with the law. Were they going to allow the money of either fund to be applied to the restitution and remuneration of those who had broken the law? If they were to recompense law breakers in one case why not in others? Why not law breakers in England, Scotland and Wales as well as in Ireland? In this respect the Bill was false in principle, and they would do wrong to make this application of the money. What proof was there that many of the tenants were destitute and without the means of livelihood? Some, it had been shown, were even ready to pay fancy prices for land, and starving men would not do this.
§ MR. DILLON
In the case of these purchases, all the tenant will have to do is to sign a paper and the money will be advanced by the Government.
§ COLONEL WELBY
asked whether he would not have to find a portion ["No, no."] Then he would have to pay interest upon it and he must show that he was capable of doing that, and was a man who could be trusted. Many of these tenants who were evicted could have paid their rent at the time, but they were evicted in accordance with the Plan of Campaign, and they were considered martyrs both then and now. Thus the money would be given to political martyrs who had broken the law, and injustice would be done to those who had remained tenants down to the present time. For these reasons it would be his duty, as an unprejudiced Unionist Member, to vote for the Amendment.
§ MR. E. CARSON (Dublin University),
said he had never concealed the view he expressed in 1894 that it would be well if a solution of this question could be found. Perhaps his reasons 1176 were not altogether the same reasons that animated hon. Members opposite below the Gangway. He had experience of the administration of the law in Ireland for several years, during which many of these tenants were unfortunately evicted; and many of these evicted tenants might well say they had to leave their homes because the law was not sufficiently powerful to protect them in the exercise of their rights. With those who were evicted from no fault of their own he had the deepest sympathy; and if there were still existing tenants of that class who during the lapse of time had found it impossible to settle with their landlords he still felt the greatest sympathy with them. When the Bill of the late Chief Secretary was before the House in 1894, he and others who cooperated with him triad, by putting down Amendments, to turn it into even a more Voluntary Bill than the present Bill; but after one night's Debate they were Closured, and on account of that treatment they felt it to be their duty to retire from further discussion of the Bill. However, to-day he did not wish in anywise to revive old controversies, nor to refer to the original causes of the unfortunate condition of affairs under which these tenants had become evicted tenants. They might consider the present proposals upon their merits, and try to see how far they would go and how far it would be within their power to meet them. In the first instance, the Bill was open to two main objections. As had been pointed out by the last speaker, the Bill absolutely disregarded the interests of new tenants, who had been called "planters in. Ireland." He knew that they were men who through their great courage had been enabled, in a most trying time, to exercise their rights as citizens, and to keep their contracts with their landlords. It would be a strange thing if the Party now in power, who when in Opposition encouraged the men to take these evicted farms, deserted them now and allowed of any undue interference with their acquired rights. He knew that there was no mention of the planters in the Bill, but the effect of its operation would be that if a tenant applied to the Board of Conciliation with the support of his landlord, and an order was made for the tenant to be restored, 1177 the order would operate, and the so-called planter would have to go out without a shilling of compensation.
§ MR. CARSON
hoped before the Debate closed someone would explain how the planter was to be dealt with. The Bill provided that an order was at once to take effect in the restitution of the evicted tenant to his holding.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
said, that was not the intention of the framers of the Bill, and they would be willing to remedy any defect which led to these results.
§ MR. CARSON
said, that he could only deal with the Bill as it stood, and they must be told what it was intended to do in these cases, because this was one of the essential parts of the Bill. His second objection was the setting up of this so-called Conciliation Board. In itself it was unnecessary, and it would conflict with the machinery set up by the Land Purchase Act. The Conciliation Board would have exactly the same functions as existing tribunals in the fixing of a purchase price and the fixing of a fair rent. The result would be in each set of transactions the setting up of two standards—one for the honest and faithful tenant who had continued to pay his rent, and another for the tenant who had been evicted from his holding for several years.
§ MR. CLANCY
said, that he had already stated that he would be willing to substitute the Land Commission for the Board of Conciliation.
§ MR. CARSON,
resuming, said, there were two main points—the question of the planters and of the Conciliation Board. But they were told that these, which were the main provisions of the Bill, would be conceded by hon. Members opposite, and that they might regard them as blotted out of the Bill. The only question that would then remain would be that of money. With reference to this he should like to point out exactly how matters stood at present. Every landlord and tenant mutually willing to have the former tenancy restored could do so without this Bill at all. Secondly, under the 13th Section of the Land Purchase Act of 1887, renewed last Session, they could obtain the money to carry out the purchase 1178 of the evicted holding by the tenant from the funds the House had already supplied to the Land Commission. Therefore, the moment they left out the question of the planters, of the landlord and tenant willing and able, and the landlord and tenant who could get their funds from the State, what remained? This one narrow class of landlords and tenants who were willing to restore the tenancy but had not the means to do so. Omitting the planters, that would be 1,500 cases; the tenants willing and able formed a large number of cases, too; and when they had reduced the matter to the minimum he had pointed out, the only tenants the House was asked to deal with were those who by their poverty were unable to effect a settlement or commence de novo. It might be questioned whether the State ought to encourage this kind of tenants to be put on the holding, and whether it was likely to tend to the future peace and good government of Ireland if they specially passed this Bill and set up this tribunal to restore tenants of that class to their holdings As far as he was concerned—he had never concealed his feelings in the matter—the more money they could get for Ireland the better; and if the British taxpayer was willing to give his money for the purpose, he himself certainly would not stand in the way. If the Government saw their way to advance this money, and this was a class of tenants, or Her Majesty's subjects, it was most advantageous to confer this great benefit upon—if there were not more worthy objects upon whom to confer grants of public money—all he could say was he would vote for it. When they talked of compulsion, the only method of compulsion would be a tempting offer of plenty of money. Without this he believed the Bill would be absolutely useless. Eliminating the planters, he thought it would be a perfectly voluntary Bill. But as a voluntary Bill he suggested that it would be useless to pass it unless, in the first place, they adopted the principle of assisting the tenants, admittedly in such an impoverished condition that it would be useless to put them again on their holdings without assistance from public funds. He was glad to find the Debate had been carried on 1179 on both sides without recrimination of any kind, and when Nationalist Members from Ireland had shown a disposition to let "burning questions" in relation to the matter be bygones, it would be a misfortune if anyone on his side of the House said a single word which would stir up old feuds and would not tend to a settlement of this question. [Cheers.]
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
said he differed from the conclusions at which the hon. and learned Member had arrived as to the scope of the Bill. If the tenants to be dealt with were so small in number as he said, what was the use of the stand the hon. and learned Member and his colleagues made that the proposals of the late Government should be voluntary, of their platform speeches in the country and the Debate in the House of Lords, where the only fault found with the proposals of the late Government was that they were compulsory. The magnitude of the question was acknowledged and the importance of its bearing on the peace of Ireland. Now the Nationalist Members from Ireland met the Unionist Party on their own ground. In. the House of Commons and in the House of Lords they had repeatedly pledged themselves to consider this question of evicted tenants. Their only objection was to the principle of compulsion. Met on their own ground, what did they now offer to the people of Ireland? Hon. Members would support the proposal of the Government if they were going to vote money. Two speeches had been delivered by hon. Members opposite, and they had both declared that they would not allow one penny of the money of the British taxpayer to be devoted to Irish tenants. It was not proposed that the money of the British taxpayer should be so applied. The late Government indicated a purely Irish fund from which the money could be obtained, but the Unionist Members now gave a flat denial to their public declarations, and made speeches declaring they were prepared to do nothing for Ireland, and showing they knew nothing about the Irish Question. [Cheers.] It had been, said that the great difficulty in the Bill was that it did not deal with the sitting tenants. The Bill was not intended to deal with the sitting or occupying 1180 tenants, but to restore evicted tenants, and if the hon. and learned Member thought there was anything in the Bill calculated to prejudice the position of tenants who had gone in during the agitation he was free to propose any Amendment. The hon. and learned Member raised the question of the sitting tenants, as if the Bill would put them in a worse position than they were in at the present time. Did he not know that this Bill left the position of the sitting tenants—call them planters, grabbers, new tenants, or what they would—as it was before, and would not prejudice their position, or alter their existing rights, or deprive them of any privilege under the existing law. The position of the sitting tenants would be precisely the same if this Bill became law that it was at present. The sitting tenant had gone into occupation, he was in the position of a future tenant; if the landlord evicted him he had a right to compensation for disturbance and improvements, and the landlord would have precisely the same power to evict him if this Bill became law.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
replied that he was not referring to any section that preserved the rights of the planters. Would the hon. and learned Member refer to any section that prejudiced their rights?
§ MR. CARSON
The section of the Bill which says that on an order for restitution being made, the old tenant shall thereupon be restored to his holding.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
said, that if an order for sale was made under the 13th Clause of the Act of the late Government, and landlord and tenant agreed that order dispossessed the old tenant, and the landlord had the same power to put him out, and the tenant had the same rights as under this Bill.
§ MR. CARSON
The 13th Section only deals with the cases where the landlord has the land in his own hands.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
The hon. and learned Member is quite mistaken. It is a question on which lawyers have differed. The 13th Clause enables tenant and landlord to agree, but under the clause it is competent to any landlord to 1181 evict any tenant who has got into possession. The hon. and learned Member cannot deny what is the opinion of every lawyer.
§ MR. CARSON
The 13th Section says that "where the tenancy of the holding has determined since 1st May, 1879, and the former landlord and tenant and his successor in title is in occupation of the holding."
§ MR. HARRINGTON
contended that this did not apply to the former landlord at all, but to the evicted future tenant. It did not deprive him of the right to evict planters and make any agreement, whether under the 13th Clause or the General Purchase Act to come to terms with the tenant. But if in the opinion of the Government there was a provision which was calculated to unduly prejudice the position of the planters, the promoters of the Bill would be willing to agree to any reasonable Amendment. It was said by hon. Gentlemen opposite that they were sincerely desirous to settle, the question of the evicted tenants. It was a very strange thing that proposal after proposal was objected to upon one ground or another. The proposal of the late Government was objected to because of the compulsory clauses. The present proposal was objected to by the very persons who on a previous occasion advocated a Voluntary arrangement. As to the 13th Clause of the Land Purchase Act, no one could be surprised that that clause had not operated very widely in Ireland. Landlords did not care to break up properties by selling a particular farm, and the provision of the costs of the different parties who came in to establish their title, and the giving of security for the repayment of the instalments, operated against the operation of the clause. There could be no hope, and the Govvernment could see no hope, of settling the question except on the lines of this Bill. The only objection the Government had to urge against the Measure was that under it money was to be voted. But the money was to come from a purely Irish fund, and he believed that the sum mentioned would be sufficient to deal with a large number of the cases comprehended by the Bill. The hon. and gallant Member for co. Down had referred to a former speech of his (Mr. Harrington's). As to that 1182 speech he had not a word of qualification to offer. He believed that if the Liberal Government had taken the question in hand boldly and resolutely and in time, it would now have been settled. The evil behind the whole question was that it was regarded as a piece in the political game. The Irish Members were accused of making political capital out of the evicted tenants. Did not the Government and their supporters make political capital out of the evicting landlords; did not they bolster him up, hold him up as a hero, and assist him in every way they could? It was true he criticised in a hostile spirit the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Morley). He thought the right hon. Gentleman erred in endeavouring to conciliate his opponents by making his proposal too moderate. The opportunity was given to the present Chief Secretary to act upon the lines of suggestions made by Leaders of his own Party, and the Irish people would judge of the measure of the promises of the Government to deal with Irish questions by the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman met their proposal to-day.
§ MR. A. F. JEFFREYS (Hants,), Basingstoke
asserted that hon. Members on the Ministerialist Benches had great sympathy with those Irish tenants who had been obliged to give up their holdings on account of failure in their business, and all would admit that nothing could be fairer than the proposal in Clause 3 of the Bill to bring about a reconciliation between landlord and tenant. But when they went a little further, what did they find? It had been said he and his hon. Friends refused to give the money of the taxpayers to the purpose contemplated by the Bill. Of course, they did. We had been pouring money into Ireland for years and years ["Oh, oh!"], and the wretched English tenant had never got a penny. It was not the fact that all the expenditure was to be borne by the Irish Church Fund, because it was provided that the salaries and expenses of the proposed Board were to be paid out of the moneys provided by Parliament.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
Will the hon. Gentleman mention any case in which he poured money into Ireland?
§ MR. JEFFREYS
said, that the English tenant had never had any money advanced to them. Money had been voted for light railways in Ireland, and only the other day, when it was proposed that a million sterling should be advanced for light railways in England, hon. Members opposite raised objections. It was always said that Irish farmers were very much worse off than any other farmer in the United Kingdom. How much had the Irish farmer lost on account of the low price of wheat? ["Any amount."] How much barley was grown in Ireland? ["A great deal."] As a matter of fact, 95 per cent. of the whole wheat supply of the United Kingdom was grown in England. Hardly any wheat was grown in Ireland, and, consequently the fall in the price of wheat could not have affected the Irish farmer to nearly the same extent as it had done the English farmer. The crops chiefly grown by Irishmen were grass and oats, and oats had not fallen in price like other cereals. Not only so, but Irishmen bred cattle to a large extent, and the Bill introduced a day or two ago to prevent the importation of foreign live cattle would be an enormous advantage to the Irish agriculturist. Consequently, for the hon. Gentleman to declare that the Irish tenant farmer was worse off than any other tenant-farmer in the United Kingdom was neither true nor fair. ["Hear, hear!"] Everyone, doubtless, would be glad to see the restoration of the Irish tenants to the vacant lands, but it was another thing if it was to be done by means, or with the help of the public money; and before the money of the British taxpayer was applied to the purpose he thought hon. Members would require some better reasons for doing so than had already been adduced. ["Hear, hear!"] Unless those reasons were given, Unionist Members would certainly be justified in voting against the Bill. Why, moreover, should tenant-farmers in one part of the United Kingdom be differently treated from those in another part? ["Hear, hear!"] Under certain circumstances 1184 it might be advisable even for Parliament to provide money to assist in the reinstatement of Irish tenant-farmers, and in this connection he wished to draw attention to what he regarded as an important point in the consideration of this matter. Did those Irish tenant farmers, of whom they were talking, lose their holdings through poverty, or the stress of circumstances through the fall in prices? Many English farmers had been so hard hit by the agricultural depression that they had become almost bankrupt and had been obliged to give up their holdings in consequence. But it was not denied that in Ireland a large number of the tenants whom the Bill would affect had been evicted from or had gone out of, their holdings, not from the force of distress or poverty, but for political reasons, or because they had some objection to paying their rent. He contended that the money of the British taxpayer ought not to be devoted to the reinstatement of men of that class. There should be a differentiation between those farmers who had been ruined from no cause of their own, and those who vacated, or were evicted from their holdings for political reasons in obedience to the dictation of certain agrarian leagues. ["Hear, hear!"] But the Bill made no such differentiation; the reinstatement was to be independent altogether of the circumstances under which the man was evicted. If the cases of those Irish tenant farmers who had been ruined by misfortune beyond their control were brought before Parliament, he believed that something might be done for them, although nothing of the kind had been done for the English tenant farmer, but he protested against the application of the money of the British taxpayer to the purpose of reinstating those men who had been evicted from their holdings because they persistently and unfairly refused to pay their rent, not from inability to do so, but for purely political reasons. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Montrose Burghs),
who was received with loud cheers, said, Mr. Speaker, as one who was concerned in an attempt on the part of the late Government to deal with this very difficult question, perhaps the House will forgive me for intruding thus early in my revived Parliamentary 1185 career in the Debates of the House. I am rather astonished at the language of the hon. Member who has just sat down, and I do not think that Gentlemen sitting on the Government Front Bench will thank him for it. ["Hear, hear!"] There are two other Gentlemen who have spoken from the same side of the House, who have apparently taken the same disappointing line. We understood—and I am perfectly willing to accept it for my own part in good faith—that the right hon. Gentleman who was my successor in the office of Chief Secretary was bent upon a policy of conciliation to Ireland. [Nationalist cheers.] By that I by no means understood that he was about to concede every demand that might be made from the Irish Benches, but I suppose that he and hon. Gentlemen behind him would at least, whenever an opportunity offered, do the best they could to meet an Irish demand where it contravened no principle of their own. Now, the Bill before the House this afternoon certainly contravenes no principle of Unionist policy, but it is a Bill which embodies, as the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading, said, the very principles and recommendations which were laid down by the leading Members of the Unionist Party in the discussion on the Bill which I had the honour of bringing before Parliament. The objection to that Measure was that it involved a compulsory principle—that is to say, the landlord was to be obliged to take back a tenant against whom he thought he had a reasonable objection. That was the objection raised to our proposal, and this afternoon we have heard the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin, who has made a speech against this Bill, admit that he and his friends were engaged in framing Amendments, the effect of which would be to transform our Bill into a voluntary Bill. It is not necessary to state that, when the Second Reading of our Bill was moved in another place, nobody was more emphatic than the Duke of Devonshire in saying that if the Bill could be transformed into a voluntary Bill, though he perceived there might be difficulties in the way, no objection could be taken to it. Now, this Bill, in my view, carries the voluntary principle to an almost excessive extent. I will make this concession to Gentlemen 1186 opposite—that I am afraid the purely voluntary character of this Bill will, to a considerable extent, deprive of it of its efficacy. There was one proposal that was pressed upon us in. 1894—namely, to be content with extending the operation of the 13th Section of the Act of 1891—and I pointed out that I could expect no efficacious results from that proposal. What happened? A Measure was brought in for extending the operation of Clause 13, and I understand that the Chief Secretary, the other night, in answer to a Question, said, that not a single case had occurred in which an application had been made under that Act, and, therefore, all that we said in reply to the hon. Member for South Hunts and other Gentlemen opposite, as to the efficiency of renewing and extending Clause 13, has been proved absolutely true. I still think that you need a stronger Measure than this. ["Hear, hear!"] It is not denied by any one, and the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin admitted it, that there is a crying mischief in the social state of Ireland. It may be said, and it has been said, that there is now no disorder in Ireland. That is quite true, but the Chief Secretary knows as well as I do, that outrage and crime are not the social mischiefs with which the Irish Government has to deal. It is no trifle, as the hon. Member for East Mayo has reminded the House, that the enormous force of constabulary and the great outlay of money should be going on to protect Lord Clanricarde. [Nationalist cheers.] That is a state of things which, if we can, we ought to apply ourselves to remedy, without any reference to crime or outrage. It is a feature of deep social disorder that this great force has to be employed, not only on the Clanricarde Estate, but on others, in doing what would not be required to be done if the House had the courage to face this question. [Nationalist cheers.] I do not know what attitude the right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary, is about to take on behalf of the Government. I am most reluctant to believe—indeed, I can scarcely believe—that, after all the language that was used both in this House and in another place by important Members of the present Government, they are going to oppose a mere non possumus to the case, as it has 1187 been stated by hon. Gentlemen from Ireland. I understand that some objections are about to be raised to the use of the public money in this matter. The hon. Member who spoke last seems to think that all this money was to come from the pockets of the British taxpayer. [Mr. JEFFREYS: "I said a part of it."] Perhaps the hon. Member did not hear what was said by the hon. Member who moved the Bill—that he and his friends were quite willing, not to set up a special and extraneous Board of Conciliation, but were ready to transfer to the Land Commission the duties such a board would have to perform. If that be so, the argument of the hon. Member falls entirely to the ground. As to the funds out of which arrears are to be paid and provisions to be made for impoverished tenants in stocking farms and rebuilding cottages which have been destroyed, the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading, said, they were perfectly willing to revert to the proposal of the Bill which I introduced—namely, to throw the cost on a purely Irish fund. I confess that I should have had considerable difficulty in supporting the Bill, if the hon. Member had not made that statement. No objection was ever taken—certainly not by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, nor the Duke of Devonshire, nor, I think, by the hon. Member who is now the Secretary to the Local Government Board—to the provision of funds. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite was not entirely antagonistic to our proposal. He admitted there was a mischief to be remedied, and all he asked was that we should transform the Bill from a compulsory into a voluntary Bill. On this point of the funds he said:—In all these cases, by all means let us agree to facilitate voluntary arrangements. If it be necessary to find some money for the purpose—and I believe money is always necessary in Ireland—I take no exception to the wonderful Irish Church Fund, which is like the widow's cruse, always being depleted and never empty. I cannot conceive a, better course can be taken than to use it for this purpose.And then the right hon. Gentleman used more language in the same sense. The Duke of Devonshire in another place did the same. He said they might have many settlements by a voluntary 1188 arrangement and by the establishment of a Board not of arbitration, as our Bill proposed, but of conciliation, as this Bill proposes, and then as to funds he said:—You might have intrusted to these men the disposal of the funds provided by this Bill.Therefore they had from one Member of the present Government complete approval of the use of public funds for this purpose, and from another Member of the Government no disapproval of it, but an assumption that funds would somehow or other have to be provided. And, as this fund is an Irish fund, I cannot conceive on what grounds, if the whole body of Irish Members, except some, and some only, of the gentlemen from Ulster, approve of this use of an Irish National Fund, it can be resisted. I think hon. Gentlemen sitting on the opposite side of the House will now regret some of the language which they have used on the proposals which have been made. I am bound to say I thought it very ungenerous of the hon. Member for East Down to rake up all the hostile language that was used by some Gentlemen on this side of the House, considering it was used in the interests of his own Party. I agree cordially with the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin that, on an occasion like this, when we have an opportunity of showing that the temper of the new Parliament is pacific towards Ireland and conciliatory towards Ireland when a pacific and conciliatory policy may reasonably be adopted, it would be deplorable if anything like recriminatory language or innuendo were resorted to. I can only say I shall be greatly disappointed if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is not able to say that he is prepared to accept the Second Reading—with the modifications that have been shadowed in advance—of a Bill the principles of which were emphatically assented to by Gentlemen who are now important members of the Government.[Cheers.]
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR Leeds Central),
who was received with cheers: I am sure I am only echoing the general sentiments of the House when I say I rejoice to see the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Morley) taking part once more in our Debates. [General cheers.] 1189 I am aware the right hon. Gentleman, is a formidable opponent, and it will be an honour for me to have to cross swords with him in Debate, as no doubt I shall have to do on many occasions. I only trust that if in these encounters I should come off second best it may be put down rather to my inexperience than to the weakness of the cause I have to defend. The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by referring to utterances of members of the Government, and to my own utterances in particular, to the effect that we desired to adopt a policy of conciliation towards Ireland. His own experience of the Government of Ireland immediately afterwards suggested to him the qualification that a policy of conciliation towards Ireland does not necessarily imply that the Chief Secretary was to be expected to grant all the demands that are made upon him from the Benches opposite. No doubt we do desire to adopt a policy of Conciliation towards Ireland, but it must be as the right hon. Gentleman himself said, a policy which does not contravene any principle which we think it our duty to uphold. The question is, whether this Bill does or does not contravene a principle which we think it our duty to uphold, and it is to that question that I will address the major part of my remarks. It is not my intention to examine in detail the provisions of this Bill. With some of these provisions I am myself, at all events in principle, more or less in accord. I see, for instance, no objection whatever to the proposal in the Bill for the re-enactment of the 13th Clause of the Act of 1891. The hon. Member for East Mayo and also the right hon. Gentleman opposite called attention to the fact that, under the re-enactment of that clause, up to the present time no applications to purchase have been made. That is the case. I believe, however, as I have already had occasion to state, that there have been negotiations in a considerable number of instances going on for purchase under that clause, and I still hope that those negotiations may be brought to a satisfactory termination. But, even if under the present re-enactment of the 13th Clause no applications are made, I should still not despair altogether of applications being made under 1190 that clause if there was a further re-enactment of it, because I have no doubt it is the case that a number, not only of landlords, but also tenants are waiting, to some extent, before coining to an arrangement, to see what the Land Bill which the Government proposed to introduce this year is going to provide for them. Let me add, however, that I have never myself anticipated that the re-enactment of the 13th Clause would have a very extensive effect, and I never believed, although the hon. Member for East Mayo appeared to think that that was my impression, that the majority of settlements between landlords and tenants would take place by way of purchase rather than by way of reinstatement of the tenants as tenants. There is another point in this Bill which I should not be opposed to on principle. I think it might be an advantage that there should be arranged some means whereby a conciliator should come between tenants on the one hand and the landlords on the other. The actual proposal in the Bill is not one to which I think under any circumstances the Government could accede. The Bill proposes the establishment of a Commission of three Members with a salary not exceeding £2,000 a year each to last for three years. This arrangement would cost the country, quite independent of any fund that might be supplied under the Bill for that purpose, something like £18,000—a very large sum to pay for the advantages which the Bill proposes to confer. But I understand the promoters of the Bill would not object to the substitution of the Land Commission for the Board of Conciliation which is proposed in the Bill. If it will in any way meet the view of hon. Members that Clause 13 should be re-enacted and some arrangement made whereby the Land Commission should act between landlords and tenants—these are not matters to which we would take any serious exception. Of course, the details would have to be carefully considered, but, so far as principle is concerned, I do not know that we should at all object. But the real question arises in connection with the use of public funds to bring about this reinstatement of tenants—giving to those tenants grants of 1191 public money which others who are certainly not less deserving are not to receive. The right hon. Gentleman opposite and, at still greater length, the hon. Member who moved this Bill, have referred to statements made on the subject of the use of funds to assist in reinstating tenants by Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House or representing the Unionist Party in the House of Lords. I have not the actual quotations by me, but I listened attentively to them as they wore read, and I must say that, in my opinion, there was an "if" in them and a rather large "if." The expression of opinion given by my tight hon. Friend who sits beside me was to the effect that "if" it be necessary to take money for this purpose then the Irish Church Fund would be an admirable fund to apply to that purpose. But I do not think he at any time expressed any keen desire that public money should be applied to that purpose. Nor did the Duke of Devonshire in the other House express any desire that public money should be applied for that purpose. On the contrary, as the right hon. Gentleman said, the Duke of Devonshire assumed that money was going to be applied, and he said under the circumstances he was not prepared to oppose such a suggestion. But the right hon. Gentleman did not quote another noble Lord who expressed his opinion on the subject in the other House, although the hon. Member for North Dublin did. I refer to the Marquess of Lansdowne. His "if" was a very considerable "if" indeed. I think the words he used were practically to this effect—that if the Government were so tied by the Administrative difficulty that faced them as to be unable to carry on the Government of the country, why then the Unionists were prepared to accept a voluntary Measure and make it a success so far as in them lay. I maintain that these expressions really conveyed the opinion entertained by the Unionists upon the subject. There was 1192 no desire on our part to deny public funds to this purpose if we were assured by the Government that a crisis so grave had arisen that they could not carry on the Government of the country unless assistance were provided by Parliament, and in that case we were not prepared to oppose the Bill on that ground. It is also a noteworthy fact—though I do not call attention to any distinction between Liberal Unionists and Conservative Unionists—that, while hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, on that side tell us the views of the Unionists were expressed in the speeches they quoted, I think it ought to be said that no such expression of opinion has been quoted as having been uttered by any Conservative Member. ["Hear, hear!"] I say that, not to suggest that any difference of opinion exists at the present moment upon this question, but only to enforce what I affirm to be the fact—that is, that hon. Gentlemen opposite have no right to quote those opinions as representing the opinions of the Unionist Party. ["Hear, hear!"] I think it will be generally admitted that, in order to justify so unusual a course as the giving of public money to tenants who have been evicted by due process of law for non-payment of rent, it ought to be shown that a public evil of great magnitude exists; further, that the evil requires an exceptional remedy; and lastly, that the application of this remedy will not tend to produce in the future the very disease which it is intended to cure. ["Hear, hear!"] Is it true that at the present time there exists a public evil of great magnitude in connection with this question; and, if so, is it true that that evil demands an exceptional remedy? In asking the House to consider this question I shall be obliged to put figures before them. It is always difficult to make figures interesting, but I will do my best to make clear what I conceive to be the position at the present time. To do that I shall have to make certain com- 1193 parison. In the first place I would call the attention of the House to the number of evictions that have taken place in Ireland in each year since 1879, the year at which the operation of this Bill begins. The total number in that period of 15 or 16 years is 40,498. [Irish cheers.] I will ask the House to notice how the number of these evictions has risen and fallen in various years. In 1879 the number was 1,238. They increased rapidly up to the year 1882, when the number of evictions was no less than 5,201. During the next four or five years the evictions continued at a high figure, varying between 3,000 and 4,000. In 1888 the number fell to 1,609 from having been 3,869 in the previous year, and since then they have been diminishing fairly steadily, until in 1894 they reached the number 976, and last year the total number of evictions was only 671. ["Hear, hear!"] That figure shows, I think, how closely the number of evictions corresponds with the agitation which has been carried on in the country. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. DILLON
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the later years included the eviction-made-easy notices, because there has been a complete alteration in the form of the returns? ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I will pass from the figure of evictions generally in Ireland to the special case of these 17 estates on which the Plan of Campaign was in operation. I submit that the figures I shall have to lay before the House are conclusive of the enormous improvement which has taken place and is still taking place with regard to this question. In February, 1893, when the Mathew Commission sat, the number of holdings on which evictions had 1194 taken place from 1879 to 1893 was 1,350; and of these 1,350 the number of cases where the old tenants had been replaced by new, or where new tenants occupied with the consent of the old tenants, amounted to 429. Three years have passed since then, and now the number of 429 has increased to 732. That is to say, in February, 1896, the number of cases where old tenants have been reinstated in their holdings on Plan of Campaign estates, or where new tenants occupy with the consent of the old, had risen to 732, having been 429 in the year 1893. That change has taken place in three years. Let us look at the change in the number of holdings occupied by new tenants without the consent of the old in the same time. In 1893 the number so occupied was 235, and in 1896 283, or only an increase of 48. That is to say, that while the reinstatement of the old tenants or their replacement by new tenants with their consent had increased no less than 303 in those years, the number of holdings occupied by new tenants had only increased by 48. That is also a figure which speaks for itself. ["Hear, hear!"] In 1893 the derelict farms on the Plan of Campaign estates amounted to 204, but in 1896 the number was only 99. That is to say, that in three years the number has been reduced by more than one-half.
§ MR. DILLON
Will the right hon. Gentleman give us the number of new tenants? These figures are very interesting to us, but they only give the number of the holdings.
§ MR. DILLON
Yes, but in some instances one new tenant occupies 30 or 40 holdings. We want the number of the tenants.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
If I can get the figures for the hon. Gentleman I shall be happy to give them to him privately. I now come to the number of holdings in the Plan of Campaign 1195 estates, to which the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman opposite would have applied. There were in February, 1893, 1,350 holdings on which evictions had taken place. At that time, of-these 1,350 there were 215 in the hands of planters and 20 purchased by planters. There were in the hands of the landlords or worked by the Land Corporation 482, and there were derelict 204 holdings. These figures added together give a total of 921, to which the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman could possibly have applied. But practically you must exclude from that figure of 921 the holdings in the hands of, or purchased by, planters, because the right hon. Gentleman was careful to exclude these from the operation of the Bill except with their own consent. That leaves a figure of 686 holdings on Plan of Campaign estates which could have been dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. Now let us compare those with the figures of the present time. Instead of 921 we have now a total figure of 684; and, again, of these 262 holdings are in the hands of planters and 21 purchased by planters; and, subtracting these from the 684, we get a total of 401. It will, therefore, be seen that in these three short years the number of holdings to which the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman or this Bill could apply had been reduced from 686 to 401. ["Hear, hear!"] And, Sir, I may add that we really ought to take into account with these figures some 25 or more tenants who have already made settlements on the Smith-Barry estate; and I sincerely trust that there will be something not far short of a hundred upon the Ponsonby estate before long. [Cheers.] So that if you take the case of the Plan of Campaign estates it is not too much to say that in the course of three years the number of cases to which any Bill of this kind could apply has been reduced by one-half. I now come to those cases of eviction which have occurred on estates other than Plan 1196 of Campaign estates. The number of applications made to the Mathew Commission by tenants desiring to be reinstated in their holdings was 2,755. The right hon. Gentleman placed the total number of holdings to which he thought his Bill could apply, including Plan of Campaign as well as other estates, at the maximum of 4,000, and, in all probability, so far as I am able to judge from the figures placed before me, it would not have been far wrong. There were in the first instance 921 tenants that could possibly have been dealt with by the Bill on the Plan of Campaign estates, and add to this the 2,755 applications made to the Mathew Commission, you reach the figure of 3,676, which is not very different from those which the right hon. Gentleman gave to the House in introducing his Bill. But of these 2,755 applications there were at that time no less than 1,291 new tenants and planters who would not have been dealt with by the Bill; and, as I have already said, of the 921 Plan of Campaign tenants, there were 235 not dealt with. That leaves a grand total at that time of 2,150 tenants who really might have come under the provisions of the Bill, When I said that since 1879 there had been 40,000 evictions there was a murmur of indignation from the Benches opposite. But let hon. Members compare the number of evictions with the number of tenants to whom the right hon. Gentleman's Bill, or this Bill would apply. There appears to have been not many over 2,000. Up to 1893, the number of evictions was 38,851. The 40,000 I mentioned before included all evictions up to the present day, so you have to compare the 2,150 tenants to whom the right hon. Gentleman's Bill actually applied, with the 38,851 evictions which have actually taken place up to that time. In other words, while there were over 2,000 tenants still out to whom this Bill would apply, 35,000 tenants had made voluntary arrangements with their land- 1197 lords.[Cheers.] The total number of holdings in Ireland is 550,000. If you take 2,150 as representing the number to which a Bill of this kind would apply you get this result. Perhaps one in 250 would make use of the Bill. In this calculation I have not noticed the number of tenants who, since their eviction, have died, or the number of tenants whose holdings ceased, the land being so poor it was not worth while to cultivate it. Taking the acreage of derelict land in Ireland at the present time as compared with the total acreage of cultivable land, there were 44,322 acres of derelict land at the beginning of the year, out of over 15,000,000 acres of cultivable land in Ireland, or a proportion of one acre in 350. The valuation of the derelict land amounted to £14,981, but the total value of all cultivable land in Ireland is over £10,000,000, or a proportion in the value of derelict to cultivable land of one in 700. I think hon. Gentlemen who have followed my argument will admit that these figures do not present a case for the extremely unusual course proposed in the Bill, of granting public money to enable these evicted tenants to be, reinstated. Now, more than one hon. Member this afternoon has urged the importance of avoiding, as far as possible, any matter of a recriminatory character, or any expression which is likely to cause heat or irritation. I quite sympathise with this desire, but, unfortunately, it is not really possible to lay before the House the whole case of the Government in resisting these demands, without, to some extent at least, going back on the past; without to some extent referring to the attitude of mind, even at the present time, taken up by hon. Members opposite. In referring to the matter, which I regret to have to do, I shall endeavour to employ language as little disagreeable as possible. But it is perfectly clear, from the nature of the case and the speeches made this afternoon, that if it had not been for the movement connected with the "Norent" 1198 manifesto and the Plan of Campaign, we should never have heard of this proposal at all. [Nationalist murmurs.] If the tenants out of their holdings had been evicted simply because they were unfortunate or incapable of cultivating their land to advantage, I do not suppose anybody would have proposed to spend public money in their behalf. The real reason for this demand is that hon. Members opposite have themselves been—to a considerable extent at all events—the cause of the evictions which have taken place. [Nationalist cries of "Oh!"] What was the nature of the Plan of Campaign? It was a deliberate conspiracy to withhold payment of rent, and the hon. Member for East Mayo himself declared that he urged the adoption of this plan irrespective of the question whether the tenants could or could not pay their rents. The Plan of Campaign was in reality a campaign against law and order—[Cheers]—carried on against the State as the representative of law and order; and when hon. Members opposite come here and ask us to vote public money to reinstate these tenants, it is neither more nor less than the defeated party coming to the victorious party to ask to be reimbursed the cost of the war. [Cheers.] In an eloquent speech by the hon. Member for East Mayo, delivered, I think, on the Bill of the hon. Member opposite, the hon. Member asked the House, in passionate terms, whether if punishment were inflicted in respect of the Plan of Campaign it should not fall on the shoulders of those responsible for the Plan of Campaign instead of on those who were the sufferers by it. I am sure that expression was thoroughly genuine, and that it conveyed the real feelings of the hon. Gentleman. I am sure he would wish that any retribution should fall upon him and not upon those who followed his advice. But, unfortunately, in human affairs the followers have to suffer for the faults of their leaders. The rule operates even where the followers have 1199 been perfectly innocent. But can it be pretended that the followers were perfectly innocent in this case? The conspiracy against rent, commonly called the Plan of Campaign, was one I should have thought common sense would pronounce as fraudulent. The courts of law condemned it as illegal, and the Roman Catholic Church as a sin. Is it, therefore, possible to say those who followed the hon. Member's load are innocent victims? I do not think it is possible. It is true that some of these tenants may have been coerced into the Plan against their will. But if that is so, I submit that it is not wise on the part of the House to weaken the motives which teach men to resist coercion and strengthen the hands of those by whom that coercion had been applied. I have also no doubt that many of those who joined the Plan of Campaign did so because they were assured of immunity—that they would not suffer from the consequences of their actions. They received that assurance not only from hon. Members who sit on the Irish Benches, but from some of those who now occupy the Front Bench opposite. [Cheers.] The Paris Fund has not yet been referred to. This Paris Fund was raised to get assistance for the tenants. [Nationalist cries of "No!"] If not, it was solemnly devoted to that object. It is no business of mine to inquire what has happened to the Paris Fund; but I feel that not only has wrong been done by the unfortunate men now on the hill-side, but that wrong has been done by those who encouraged them to leave their holdings, promising assistance, and then found themselves unable to carry out their promise. Surely this is not a case for the expenditure of public money. It is eminently a case for the expenditure of private money by those who are properly responsible for the condition of things. I was immensely struck the other day with the wonderful ease with which a fund of £15,000 or £16,000 was raised in Ireland for the benefit of the families of the unfortunate men who lost their lives in a lifeboat disaster. If it be true that there is this intense and burning interest all over Ireland in the case of the evicted tenants, why is it impossible to raise a private fund to assist them? I really do think that before hon. Gentlemen can come to 1200 Parliament to claim assistance from public funds, they should make a more strenuous endeavour to raise private funds to carry out the obligations into which they have entered. I return once more to the remark of the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me as to the necessity for adopting a conciliatory policy; but we must inquire, in the first place, what the worth of a conciliatory policy is. We must consider whether there is any element of permanency in the conciliation which is to be purchased by the application of public funds for the relief of tenants like these. In order to answer a question of that kind, we must consider the action of those who are primarily responsible. Have they ever admitted that they were wrong? Have they ever stated that under like circumstances they would not act in like manner, and would not encourage the tenants to withhold their rents? On the contrary, they have reiterated, and that quite lately, the very principles on which they acted when the Plan of Campaign was started. Only as late as the 12th of last month the hon. Member for East Mayo, speaking at Clondalkin, said that the present condition of the evicted tenants under the Plan of Campaign was the work of the Irish Party of that day, and he went on to say:—The Evicted Tenants' Question is a question in which I naturally take a very deep personal interest. The present position of the evicted tenants—those under the Plan of Campaign—was the work of the Irish Party of that day, and they take the same responsibility that we take, and they are bound to do their utmost for them, whether they are Parnellites or joined in our ranks. For my part, from the first hour down to this very hour, I have never sought to shrink from my share of the responsibility. I was responsible, and I am proud of the responsibility; and if I was in the same position over again, I would face the same risks and the same responsibility.Therefore, we have it from the hon. Member himself, that under the like circumstances he would act in the like manner again. That being so, therefore, the House has to ask itself whether, by an expenditure of public funds for the relief of these tenants, we shall not so much assist the tenants as rehabilitate the political credit of the hon. Member opposite. The hon. Member for East Mayo has told us to-day that he was most anxious that settlements should be 1201 arrived at under the Act of last year. I have no doubt that the hon. Member is perfectly sincere when he says so. But is he quite sure that his action now and on previous occasions has not been rather to check than encourage such settlements? On the same occasion to which I have already referred, the hon. Member said:—I have, I may say, done everything in my power to promote settlements under the Act of 1895, but, I regret to say, it was impossible to settle many cases on account of the unreasonable demands of the landlords, and in those cases where settlements were effected I cannot recall to my mind any instances where those settlements were fair to the tenants. There were some on the Ponsonby estate and some on other estates on such terms, but when the Irish Nationalist Party get the upper hand in Parliament again these terms will all have to be revised.I beg to call the attention of the House to the latter words in the quotation. From these, we judge of the functions which he assigns to Parliament; and what are the functions which he assigns to the body of which he is the Leader? His policy in Ireland has had the effect, I cannot doubt, of weakening in the minds of the tenants the sense of obligation on their part. The hon. Member, however, has pursued a different policy in this House. If the House now passes this Bill and thereby sanctions the principle of paying public money to those who have not fulfilled their obligations, I am afraid that we shall sow the seed of still greater evil in the future, and we shall be taking one more step in the downward path of demoralisation. Holding that view I shall vote against the Bill, and I trust that hon. Members sitting on this side of the House will do so also.
§ MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N)
said, that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman would be received in Ireland with a sense of bitter disappointment by the Irish people. The right hon. Gentleman disregarded the fact that the Irish people had contributed tens of thousands of pounds towards the relief of the evicted tenants, had taunted them with having subscribed a small sum for a charitable purpose, instead of for the relief of the evicted tenants. The Irish Party now found themselves after all the professions of the Unionists in favour of the evicted tenants, during the last few years, in a far worse position than they had formerly 1202 occupied in reference to this matter. In fact, their prospects of obtaining relief for the evicted tenants had retrograded, ever since 1894. It had often been said that when the Irish people were quiet, and when their country was free from disorder and crime, nothing was ever done for them by Parliament. The result, therefore, that disorder and crime must reappear before the voice of the Irish people would be listened to. The right hon. Gentleman, the Colonial Secretary, had said that he was willing to support such a Bill as this, and the Duke of Devonshire had declared his willingness to support a voluntary Measure of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary, had, however, thrown over these declarations by distinguished Members of the Unionist Party with scorn. The Marquess of Lansdowne had said that if the Government of the day found that they had to contend with grave administrative difficulties, he should be willing to support such a Measure. Was that the lesson which the Government desired that the Irish people should learn? To what grave administrative difficulties did the noble Lord refer? He must have referred to the recrudescence of disorder and of crime in Ireland. A worse and more unfortunate lesson could not have been taught to the Irish people, and a more ill-timed and more ungenerous speech was never delivered by any Government to the Irish people, and so the Irish people would take it to-morrow.
§ MR. H. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
said, he should support the Bill. He had expected that when the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had declared it to be his intention to oppose the Bill, he would have concluded his speech by an offer of introducing some legislation for the purpose of settling the Irish land question.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I may state that the Government are prepared to introduce clauses in the Land Bill dealing with the evicted tenants of Ireland. [Cheers.]
§ MR. HOBHOUSE
said, he thought that that was a most satisfactory assurance on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, and to that extent, at all events, the Debate would not have been fruitless. ["Hear, hear!"] He could only express his regret that the Government 1203 had not expressed their willingness to accept the Second Reading of the Bill on the understanding that it was not to be proceeded with until their own Land Bill was before the House. ["Hear, hear!"] Because this Bill was a measure of conciliation, and because he believed the true Unionist policy at the present time was a policy of conciliation, he should not vote against the Bill. [Nationalist cheers.]
§ MR. AUGUSTINE BIRRELL (Fife, W.)
regretted that the Chief Secretary should have disfigured the simple eloquence of his figures by the conclusions he drew from them. In his opinion these tenants ought to be regarded as soldiers wounded in war. The right hon. Gentleman said that certain prominent politicians had not repented. Had the right hon. Gentleman ever known a politician to repent? He had only to look about him to see that what they did was to recant. If wounds were not to be healed until politicians repented, the right hon. Gentleman need not look to do any good at all in Ireland. He thought the right hon. Gentleman's figures proved that this Bill might very properly be read a Second time, for the smaller the number of people to be benefited, the less harm would be done by lending public money to help them. He was perfectly satisfied that of all the dispositions of public funds that this Government was likely to make, that which would do the most good and the least harm would be one for the relief of these poor creatures. He only rose to express the hope that the House would refuse to regard this question as one in any way connected with past events in the history of Ireland.
THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUK,) Manchester, F.
, who was received with cheers, said: My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, in my opinion, laid his arguments before the House in the most lucid manner possible; but, judging from what was said by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, one Member of this House has not the faintest idea of what my right hon. Friend was driving at, or of the bearing of his arguments on the conclusions to which he came. [Cheers.] There is but one question before the House, and I must tell the House what it is and 1204 what it is not. It is not whether these men are deserving of sympathy; it is not whether we ought or ought not to do something to enable them to come to a settlement with their landlords, because we are of opinion on this side of the House, in fact we agree with those on the other side of the House, that these men are objects of sympathy, and we do desire to see a settlement between them and their landlords. ["Hear, hear!"] We go further and say that we intend to bring forward legislative proposals which we consider will tend to carry out that object. Therefore, that is not a subject of difference between Gentlemen on that side of the House and Gentlemen on this side. The subject of difference is simply this, whether you think it for the good of Ireland and for the good of this country, and consistent with the general principles which ought to regulate your legislation, to hand over large sums of public money to men who, if unfortunate, are not more unfortunate than many other deserving agriculturists both in England and Ireland—to men who do not form a large class, who are a diminishing class, and whose case can perfectly easily be treated out of those private resources to which my right hon. Friend referred. ["Hear, hear!"] Therefore, do not let us be told that we are wanting in sympathy with these men, or that we are averse to seeing them reinstated in their holdings under conditions which will enable them to cultivate those holdings with success. Our contention is different and simpler. We say that if you are to single out individuals in this country or in Ireland as the recipients of doles of public money, the particular class which we are discussing to-day is not the class which could be most properly chosen for that object. For we venture to point out that, whatever other results this use of public money might bring with it, one result would certainly occur—namely, that if hon. Gentlemen opposite have not repented, the hon. Member opposite did not say also that they had not recanted [laughter and cheers]—if those hon. Gentlemen do what they threaten, that is, pursue similar tactics in similar circumstances to those of the Plan of Campaign, then this House will enormously strengthen their hands and make it far easier then, when future generations of evicted tenants have been reduced by the 1205 same arts, and fallen victims in the same battle, to come forward and say that, be the results what they might, nobody engaged in that struggle should suffer pecuniary or other loss. That is the plain issue before the House. Let it not be said that we do not desire to see these men put back on their holdings. We do desire it. [Cheers.] We assert that the facts of the case demonstrate that there is a gradual amelioration in their condition, and we shall be glad to do what we can to further the beneficial action of the causes which are producing this happy fruit. But we do not think it would be consistent, either with the general principles of legislation or with the particular conditions of Ireland, that we should make ourselves allies, after the event, with the gentlemen who, possibly from the highest motives, induced these tenants to quit their holdings and repudiate their obligations. We should be making ourselves responsible for their policy if we came to their assistance now, and gave out of public funds what we doubt not they are able and willing to give out of private resources. [Cheers.]
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 174; Noes, 271.—(Division List, No. 17.)
§ Main Question, as amended, put:—Second Reading put off for six months.