§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
, in moving the adjournment of the House, said that were it not that the matter about which he was going to speak was a vital one, he would not interpose discussion at this moment; but anyone who was at all acquainted with Ireland, and certainly those who were at all responsible for the government of Ireland, would admit that the question he was going to bring to the notice of the House was of the most vital urgency, and one which affected not merely the question of land settlement and the fulfilment of the great object of the Land Act, but most directly affected the whole question of the peace and tranquillity and the maintenance of law and order in Ireland The Government could not be surprised that he raised this question, because several weeks ago he wrote to the Chief Secretary informing him that the very first day of the autumn session he intended to submit a Question to him on the matter, and subsequently in conversation, so far back as, he believed, 8th October, he told the right hon. Gentleman that not only would he ask this Question, but that he would endeavour, if it were in order, to raise a discussion on the matter on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House. Therefore neither the right hon. Gentleman nor his colleagues could be taken by surprise in this matter. There was no opportunity of raising this question of vital urgency except on a Motion of Adjournment. By one of those characteristic arrangements in the government of Ireland the Report of the Irish Estates Commissioners, a matter of the most vital interest to everybody connected with Ireland, although due last March, was not published until after the House rose in August; and therefore they were kept in ignorance of what he would call the essential facts contained in that Report until after Parliament had risen. No one could complain for a moment that that being so they had seized the first possible opportunity of raising the matter now. There was no other mode of raising. 779 this question other than that which he had adopted. Under the Motion which was made for the holding of these autumn sittings, no question could be raised other than a matter of Government business, except by way of the Adjournment of the House, and therefore they had been forced to take this opportunity of raising the question, because it was the only way open to them, and because the question was one of such vital urgency that it was impossible that Parliament should continue to sit for any time in the autumn without some discussion upon subjects connected with the Land Commission Report issued in March. It was not too much to say that the whole question of the peace and tranquillity and the maintenance of law and order in Ireland depended upon the question of the evicted tenants. The settlement of the land question depended upon it; no one would deny that. The intention of Parliament was perfectly plain in the matter. The object of their land legislation in 1903 was perfectly plain to the whole country. It was to end the Irish land war, and all those who were responsible for the land legislation of 1903 admitted at the time in this House that the land war could not be settled unless there was a settlement of the evicted tenants question, and he might say for himself, as one of those who had no inconsiderable share in the negotiations which led to the land legislation of 1903, that his colleagues and he in all those negotiations made it a condition precedent that the Irish evicted tenants question should be settled. He said without hesitation that the Land Act of 1903 would never have been carried were it not that that Land Bill held forth the promise, and that the promoters of the Bill in the most explicit way held forth the promise in public and in private that it would mean the speedy settlement of the question of the evicted tenants. He supposed there were scarcely any Members in the House whose memories did not go back to the events connected with Irish politics for the past twenty years. Still there were some, perhaps, whose memories were so short as to forget the salient points in the political history of that period. The evicted tenants in Ireland were to them on those benches, 780 and he thought he might say, without fear of contradiction, they were to hon. Gentlemen opposite, the men who made vital and necessary every special Act on land reform in Ireland that had been passed in the past twenty-five years. The Land Act of 1881 would have been impossible had it not been for the struggles and sacrifices of the evicted tenants. Land purchase would never have been heard of were it not for the struggles and sacrifices of the evicted tenants; the great Land Act of 1903 would never have been heard of were it not for their struggles and sacrifices— struggles and sacrifices in support of the policy and principle of the Land League. Parnell and the Land League took as their principle the purchase by the tenants of their holdings at a fair price, and although that was at the time denounced as confiscation and robbery, not only the Liberal Party, but the Conservative Party had since accepted the principle. They believed that this would never have happened were it not for the struggles and sacrifices of the Irish evicted tenants— sacrifices compared with which the imprisonment of his colleagues and friends was a small matter —sacrifices that meant the risking of their well-being and that of their wives and children, and the giving up of their homes. The Irish nation would be beneath contempt if it permitted any so-called settlement of the land question which did not include the restoration of these men to their homes. What occurred when the Land Act of 1903 was passed? They suddenly found that all the promises that had been made of a speedy settlement of the evicted tenants question were fading into thin air. They found that the Act was not restoring the evicted tenants to their homes, and they speedily discovered that was to a large extent due to certain restrictions and regulations which were issued by the late Government for the guidance of the Estate Commissioners in carrying out the Act. They found that these regulations had practically stopped the work of reinstatement. They found that these regulations had forbidden the Estate Commissioners to initiate any negotiations with the landlords for the purposes of reinstatement of evicted tenants, and that reinstatement was forbidden altogether unless the whole estate on which these farms were situated was being sold at the time. The Report of the Estates 781 Commissioners made it quite clear. It says—The instructions contain provisions which in the Commissioners opinion seriously impeded the expedition and efficient working of the Act, especially in the acquisition of untenanted land and the restoration of evicted tenants,so that there was a statement by the Estate Commissioners in their Report that the late Government issued regulations, the effect of which was directly to thwart and impede the intentions of Parliament in passing the Land Act of 1903. Therefore they found that up to the end of last year there was some explanation of the breakdown of the Land Act of 1903 with reference to the evicted tenants. It did not work, and they all thought they had found the explanation in the fact that the late Government had issued these regulations. They therefore hailed with delight the accession to office of the present Government, because they knew that they came in pledged to the hilt to abolish these obnoxious regulations. The only occasion on which the late Government were defeated in the Division Lobby last year was on a Motion moved by himself condemning these regulations, and in support of that Motion almost the whole Liberal Party and the present Government voted, and so the Irish Nationalists hailed with delight their accession to office, because they felt sure that it meant that the Land Act of 1903, so far as the evicted tenants were concerned, would at last begin to work, and the whole people looked forward with hope and confidence. To-day, in reply to a Question on this matter, the Chief Secretary had given him an Answer which raised a number of most serious questions. First of all he made the point that he had been making that the delay in the working of the evicted tenants' portion of the Land Act was due in large measure to the action of the late Government, because the right hon. Gentleman said that under the former regulations— that was the regulations made by the late Government—the Estates Commissioners were not allowed to negotiate with owners of untenanted land for the purchase of it with the view of providing farms for evicted tenants, and they were also prohibited from proposing the reinstatement of evicted tenants on holdings unless the whole of the estate on which the holding was situate was sold. Both these restrictions were removed by the 782 regulations of February, 1906, and subsequently in May last the Estates Commissioners were given a special staff of six inspectors for the purpose of the promotion of this work. Therefore, so far, their expectations were fulfilled. The Government tore up those obnoxious regulations, and they appointed a special staff of six inspectors to aid in the work of the restoration of the evicted tenant. But what had been the result? Had the case during the months since the Government came into office been exaggerated? Unfortunately, no. On that point the right hon. Gentleman today gave important information. Since the new regulations came into force, since a friendly Government took charge of this matter, since an increased staff had been put at the disposal of the Estates Commissioners, 1,285 cases of evicted tenants had been investigated. How many had been reinstated? Eighty-six. There had been applications for reinstatement from 5,912. Of these, up to the present moment only 161 had been restored to their homes by the action of the Estates Commissioners, and only 86 out of the 1,285 cases investigated had been restored since this Government came into office. What was the cause of this? Here they had a strange state of things. They had a Government most anxious, according to their own professions, to restore those men to their homes; they had the disappearance of those obnoxious regulations which this Government told them impeded the work; they had an increase in the staff of the Land Commissioners and no increase in the progress of the work. What was the reason? The right hon. Gentleman, in his Answer to him this afternoon, gave under four headings what he considered to be the cause of this failure. Let him read them. He said these were the causes of the failure—(1) The unwillingness of tenants who hold evicted farms to relinquish them in favour of the former holders; (2) the difficulty of finding, especially in Ulster and Munster, untenanted land which the owner will consent to sell; (3) local opposition which is sometimes offered to the introduction of strangers—local public opinion might do much to remove this obstacle; (4) objection taken by landlords in whose hands evicted farms are to the giving up of those farms for the reinstatement of evicted tenants.Let him point out in a few words that really these four heads might be consoli- 783 dated. They all amounted to one cause— first, the unwillingness of tenants who held evicted farms to relinquish them in favour of the former holders, and secondly, the difficulty of getting landlords to agree to sell untenanted land. Those were both parts of the same question. It was the policy of the Land Act of 1903 that where in Ireland what they called the grabber was in possession of an evicted farm no violence should be used to compel him to give up that farm, but that the Estates Commissioners should be able to give another farm to the evicted tenant on untenanted land acquired elsewhere or be in a position to say to the grabber, "If you relinquish this farm and let the old tenant back we will give you another farm elsewhere." Therefore the unwillingness of the grabber to relinquish his land was part and parcel of the same question of obtaining untenanted land by the Land Commissioners. If the landlords by refusing to sell untenanted land to the Land Commissioners deprived them of the means of thus providing new farms for the old tenants or for the new tenants, those were part and parcel of exactly the same question. It all came back to this, that so far as that matter was concerned the working of the Act was being blocked by the action of the landlords. He did not want to say anything in defence of the grabber, but in this matter by far the most guilty man was the landlord, because if he would agree to sell untenanted land to the Land Commission the Land Commission would be able to reinstate the evicted tenant, even though the grabber refused to give up the old farm which he took from the old tenant. The third cause the right hon. Gentleman gave for the breakdown of the Act was that local opposition was sometimes offered to the introduction of strangers. That raised an exceedingly delicate and difficult question. What he would say by way of advice to the right hon. Gentleman and to his officials in Ireland was this. They ought to be very cautious how they carried out this policy of migration. He had known himself of some cases where without any consultation with the local leaders and local opinion they had endeavoured to carry it out. He did not think popular opinion on this matter was unreasonable at all. He thought it was natural that the people in any particular county should say that the wants and 784 needs of the non-economic tenants in that county should be considered first before men were brought from other parts of the country. Although that was a perfectly natural feeling, at the same time he was convinced that if they were properly approached and their local leaders brought into consultation it would be found that no unreasonable attitude would be taken up in the matter. There was a case in the West of Ireland, and most lamentable consequences to some extent arose, and seemed likely to a greater extent to arise, and all due to the fact that local leaders were not consulted at all. The first the people of the locality heard was the appearance of strangers from another county who came and were told they were to be given some of the grazing land in the county in question. That was the excuse for the breaking down of the evicted tenants' portion of the Act of 1903. He said that the contention was a sham. He did not believe that there were half a dozen cases in the whole of Ireland where the reinstatement of the evicted tenants was prevented by any such feeling on the part of the locality. It was a perfectly proper question to raise, and the right hon. Gentleman in raising it pointed to one of the difficulties ahead in the settlement of the land question, but to point to it as the reason why only 161 tenants had been restored in three years was on the part of whoever prepared the document a sham. These were the only reasons given by the Government for the breakdown of the Act, and be submitted to the House that he had shown that, boiled down, these four reasons all amounted to one, namely, the refusal of the landlords to sell untenanted land, and the refusal of the grabbers to give up evicted farms for the reinstatement of the former tenants. In another part of the answer of the right hon. Gentleman there was what appeared to be very dramatic confirmation of that view. He told the House that of the 1,285 cases of evicted tenants specially inquired into since the Government came into office, there were 444 cases where the landlords would not only not reinstate the evicted tenants, but would not allow the Estates Commissioners to come on to the lands at all to inquire into the question of the evicted farms or to initiate negotiations. What a farce it all was! The Land Act of 1903 was 785 passed avowedly having almost as its primary object the reinstatement of the evicted tenants, and a friendly Government sent to the Estates Commissioners instructions to go down through the country and initiate negotiations with the landlords wherever there were evicted farms and to seek to get the evicted tenants reinstated. How did the landlords act? They would not allow the Estates Commissioners' inspectors to put a foot on the land or to investigate the matter at all, and really the right hon. Gentleman might not have taken such pains as he apparently did on this question to wrap up and disguise the real reason of the breakdown of the evicted tenants' portion of the Act. He thought it would have been better for the settlement of the question, better for the Government and himself, if he had come down and candidly stated "we have done all that we can, we have given the freest hand to the Estates Commissioners, we have given them as large a staff as they have asked, but the cause is this— the landlords will not carry out what was the primary policy of the Land Act of 1903." He thought the House, when it remembered that, this Act had now been in operation for three years, and when it remembered something of the history of the Irish agrarian movement with all the passions that it aroused, and all the memories that it kept alive, would admit that the Irish people had acted with singular self-restraint and patience during these three years. Ireland had been, during the last three years and was today, in a state of profound and extraordinary peace. He did not say "extraordinary" in comparison with its own history at all, but by comparison with the history of England or Scotland, or any other country they liked, Ireland was now in a state of profound peace and crimelessness, and that had been due almost entirely to the fact that the people had looked forward with hope and with faith to this Government's, at any rate, making good the promise made in 1903, but he felt bound to say to the right hon. Gentleman that in his judgment, that feeling was almost exhausted. He regretted a phrase which the right hon. Gentleman used in his answer to-day to the effect that they ought to be patient because these were preliminary investigations which were being held. Good heavens ! Preliminary investigations 786 going on for three years in regard to a question which required no investigation at all.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
So far as this Government were concerned they had been in office for nine months. And after all, he himself had to look at the question from the point of view of the people of Ireland. They had been waiting for three years since the Act was passed. In that time there had been 5,912 applications for re-instatement. Some of these might not be genuine cases, but making every allowance for such, only 161 had been re-instated in the three years by the Estates Commissioners. Worse still, during the nine months which the present Government had been in office, only eighty-six had been restored to their holdings. That was to say, that if they went on at the present rate it would take fifty years to settle the evicted tenants' question. By that time all these evicted tenants would be dead and buried.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
said that the majority of hon. Members would also be dead and buried before the evicted tenants' question was set at rest, if the present rate of restoration was continued. He did not want to use extreme language, but in all seriousness he told the right hon. Gentleman that the Irish people would not tolerate this state of things. What he asserted was that the Government must have resort to compulsion. The right hon. the Chief Secretary at the end of his answer to the question which he had put to him earlier in the day said that —Until the whole of the evidence is before the Government, and until the administrative measures taken, and capable of being taken, by the Estates Commissioners have matured, I am not in a, position to state whether further legislation upon the matter will be necessary or not.The House must remember that the present Secretary for India, ten years ago, appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into this question, and that 787 Commission took all the evidence, brought out all the facts, and made a most remarkable report. The right hon. the Chief Secretary could not for a moment suppose that the Irish people would be satisfied with an answer of that kind. The right hon. Gentleman knew the facts and had all the evidence before him; he knew what was standing in the way of a settlement, and what he asked from him was a straight-forward statement on this matter. If the right hon. Gentleman had said "I do not think that the nine months we have been in office is long enough to enable us to settle the question"—he admitted that their experience had been somewhat disappointing; still with all his twenty-five years experience of the land question, he still cherished the hope that some feeling of goodness would touch the hearts of the Clanricardes and other harsh landlords—if the right hon. Gentleman had said to him '' give mo a few months more, and if, at the end of that time those landlords still stand in the way of restoration, the Government will introduce legislation giving compulsory powers of re-instatement"—if the right hon. Gentleman had said that, he certainly would not have complained, and he would have said to the Irish people—to all those with whom he had any influence—that they ought to be still patient. What was he to say to them when the right hon. the Chief Secretary in answer to his question said that they had nothing definite enough to go upon, and that the Government would see how matters would mature? The way to deal with these Irish landlords like the Clanricardes was to say to them—" We give you six months to agree to the re-instatement of your tenants, and if you do not by that time do so, we shall carry by our majority in Parliament a Bill giving compulsory powers to the Estates Com missioners to re-instate every tenant in Ireland. And further, we will introduce a proposal to refuse to every landlord who declines to restore his evicted tenants to their holdings a share in the bonus.'' He knew that the Government might allege that all they could say would not affect the Clanricardes; but so far as the majority of the Irish landlords were concerned he believed they would very soon hand in their guns. The position of the Irish Nationalist Leaders was a very difficult one. For his part, he was most anxious that the fullest fair 788 play should be given to the present Government till he saw what next year, or whenever they attempted it, they were going to propose on the question of Irish self-government. But there were limits to their power, and when he was asked to use his influence to preach patience to the Irish people, he told the right hon. Gentleman that he might make that task an impossible one if he did not act more strenuously on this question of the evicted tenants. He had raised this question as much in the interest of Irish government and of the right hon. Gentleman as in the interest of those for whom he spoke. He believed that the one fatal thing for this Government, so far as Ireland was concerned—and Ireland might have a good deal to say as regarded the future of the present Government—was to teach the lesson to the Irish people that there was no use in observing patience, no use being put off with expressions of sympathy when they could get nothing from a change of Government. He begged the right hon. Gentleman, not merely in the interest of the evicted tenants, but also, if he might be allowed to say so, in the interest, of the Government itself, of Irish government, and of himself, whose sincere sympathy with Ireland he gladly acknowledged, to take a firm stand upon tins question, and to let those Irish landlords know that if they remained obdurate and refused to allow a settlement of this burning question, the Government would grapple with it in a manner which would show the landlords they would be the losers in the long run. He begged to move.
§ MR. DUFFY (Galway, S.)
seconded the Motion. He said it would be impossible to exaggerate the immense importance of this question in relation to the peace and happiness of the people, and the tranquility of Ireland. The question of the reinstatement of the evicted tenants had been discussed time after time for twenty years past, so that there was no question affecting Ireland which was so well and thoroughly understood by hon. Members and by the country at large. Everyone acquainted with Irish affairs knew that in the years 1885–6–7 Ireland passed through a period of extraordinary agricultural depresssion, in consequence of which 789 the tenants were obliged to band themselves in a combination known as the Plan of Campaign, with the view of resisting, on the one hand, the aggressions of the landlords and of protecting their own interests on the other. A large number of the tenants wore evicted from their homes, and those unfortunate tenants had been ever since regarded as self-sacrificers for the purpose of securing reformed land legislation, and their defence and protection had always been regarded as a point of honour with the Irish people. The Irish people took the deepest and most thorough going interest in these people, and they would not rest until they were restored to their holdings or holdings of equal substantiality were provided for them. Those evicted tenants were always regarded by the Irish people as the wounded soldiers in the land war, and up to the Act of 1903 the whole force of the Nationalists' organisation had been used for the purpose of protecting them from attack. When the Act of 1903 was passed they were all filled with the hope that these unfortunate people would be restored to their holdings, and they had done their host, in consequence of the assurances offered them in this House, to try and get the people to take to that Act kindly, always with the hope that the day would come when a Liberal Government would try and find a solution for this knotty question, His own district was the most disturbed in Ireland, and he could say that so long as this great question was allowed to exist the wound would be constantly widening and festering, and there would be no chance of obtaining or restoring that peace, happiness, and tranquility which they all desired quite as strongly as any other set of hon. Members in the House. When, however, the Government allowed a man like Lord Clanricarde to hold in his possession 206 evicted holdings and protected a man of that kind who never visited Ireland in his life except upon two occasions — on one occasion he paid a midnight visit to bury his father, and on another occasion he came over to Dublin Castle to prosecute his agent — they thought the time had come when they should protest. Lord Clanricarde came into a great inheritance in Ireland to which was attached a princely castle, which had cost, £80,000 to build when the old castle was destroyed by fire. The landlord had, however, allowed that castle 790 to remain windowless and roofless. He could go on to describe at great length the acts of agression and of cruelty which had been committed by this man. He was not indeed a man but an inhuman monster. So long as the Government of the day, whether it was Liberal or Tory, allowed such power to remain in the hands of such a man, and allowed him to wreak his own will on the people under his control, they could expect nothing but turmoil. In the same district another landowner some years ago evicted fifty-six tenants, and in that case also every single one of the holdings had remained derelict. The Chief Secretary had stated in his reply that one of the reasons why the Estates Commissioners had not restored evicted tenants was the unwillingness of tenants who held evicted farms to relinquish them to the former owners The right hon. Gentleman had also alluded to the difficulty of finding untenanted land which the owner would consent to sell. The latter question was a very difficult and thorny one in the West of Ireland. Early in the year the Estates Commissioners purchased 150 acres in the neighbourhood of Loughrea, one of the most congested districts in Ireland, from which he had himself forwarded to the Estates Commissioners during the last eighteen months memorials from tenants, or the sons of tenants, which not less than 1,000 acres of land would satisfy, and this purchase of the Estates Commissioners would not give the people who wanted land an acre apiece. On their part Nationalist Members did everything in their power to see that the reasonable requirements of evicted tenants were complied with, and they did all they could to induce people in other districts to allow evicted tenants to settle amongst them, and to restrain public opinion upon the subject. Unless some steps were taken by the Government to alleviate the grievance at present existing, it would lead to great annoyance. This was a very great question, and, outside the National question, none appealed so strongly or so deeply to the love and affection of the Irish people, and the Government might be satisfied that peace and happiness was not possible in Ireland so long as a single one of the Plan of Campaign tenants was allowed to remain out of his holding. These evicted tenants were to be found in the workhouses throughout the land. 791 They were to be found in America and in foreign parts, but wherever the evicted tenant was found, in his heart was deeply planted the love of home, and he was desirous of being repatriated. The Government should try and control and, if necessary, manacle such men as Lord Clanricarde, and, if needs be, bring in a Bill to expropriate them. If that was not done it would become the duty of the Irish Nationalist Members to look out and see in what direction they could actually defend these tenants without bringing them within the measure of the law.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. John Redmond.)
§ MR. T. L CORBETT (Down, N.)
said anyone not accustomed to the tactics of the Nationalist Party must have been amazed at the notice of Motion for Adjournment given that afternoon at Question time. New Members, on the Liberal side especially, probably asked themselves, "What does it all mean? We were getting on so nicely. We had come to an understanding with the Nationalist Party. Why do they upset everything? Why this Motion for Adjournment so suddenly, so unexpectedly? The answer he could give them from a longer knowledge of the House than many of them had. It was a sham fight. It was a clever plot, a clover plan of campaign carefully arranged between the Whips of the Government side, and the Whips on the Nationalist Party. It served a double purpose. It showed first of all what was very important at the present juncture, that those two Parties were not altogether co-equal. Furthermore, while it professed to embarrass the Government it was really intended to help them They must ask why. First of all, there must be a short speech by the Leader of the Nationalist Party, who never made too long a speech, and was always eloquent and to the point. The hon. Member had intended to be a little shorter than he was, when he saw that some were on the watch and on the guard. The calculation was that the Chief Secretary would make a very brief reply, accepting the main points advanced by the Leader of the Nationalist Party, and then the poor, muddled followers of the Nationalist Leader, who, 792 frankly speaking, were bubbling over with anxiety to speak, were once more all to be muzzled; the Motion would be withdrawn; and the Plural Voting Bill would be rushed through Committee, and a very successful plot would be brought to an end. But that had not succeeded because some of them were determined to examine very briefly the merits of the Motion now before the House. They had heard an eloquent and impressive speech from the hon. Member for Water-ford. He was always eloquent and impressive to those Members who had not hoard his speeches before. But to-night he was not only eloquent and impressive but pathetic. They had heard that pathos before —those of them who had spent years in that sombre temple. But although he had heard that pathos before he was not unmoved by it. He pitied still those unfortunate women and children who had been driven to their present misery, which the hon. Member had so pathetically described. That misery had been caused by following the policy of hon. Members below the gangway. The hon. Member mourned over those evicted tenants and so did most kind, human-hearted men. What was the hon. Member's remedy? He would restore one set of men and evict other honest, industrious, law-abiding people in order to provide for the poor dupes whom he had misled and placed in their position of misery. When the House came to understand the farce a little better, a farce which would, when oftener played than it was now— [A NATIONALIST: And which you are still playing]—they would estimate it at its proper value and see through it as Unionists did who had Keen in the House for many years.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
said the House must have been greatly impressed by the heroic speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down. The hon. Member had described a dark and sinister plot concocted between the hon. Member for Waterford and the Government Whips, and how he had stood in the breach and destroyed that plot so suddenly sprung on the House. He could not help contrasting the speech just made with the language used with regard to those unfortunate victims of this social struggle when the Land Purchase Act of 1903 was passing 793 through the House. Was such language used then? No On the contrary, colleague after colleague of the hon. Member rose and joined with the Nationalists in asking that its provisions should he made to include these unfortunate victims. It showed very little improvement in the sense of political fitness when three years after the passing of that Act language such as that uttered by the hon. Gentleman could he used in this House. The House knew perfectly well there would have been no Land Purchase Act if these people had been excluded from its provisions. It was the hampering and harassing nature of the regulations laid flown for their guidance under the Act that tied the hands of the Estates Commissioners very largely, and the Nationalist Members rejoiced to see the present Government had cancelled those instructions. But even so, the greater progress during the last few months, since the present Government had been in office, had been terribly slow. It was heartbreaking to the people of Ireland. During all this time, only eighty-six evicted tenants out of 5,000 had been reinstated, and that with all the enormous power the Land Commissioners had at their disposal. Ireland hoped to see the Liberal Government going forward in a whole-hearted way to a settlement of this question. The Irish Party had always felt that those persons had a genuine claim to their support. That support they would continue to have, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary for Ireland would take advantage of the opportunity given by the peace and tranquility which now obtained in Ireland to make a great attempt to settle this question.
§ MR. TOMKINSON (Cheshire, Crewe)
said the hon. Member for North Down certainly paid the Government a compliment by attributing to them highly altruistic conduct in the suggestion that they had been engaged in a plot with the Nationalist Party to bring about a sham right on the subject before the House, for, whatever else the result, it had certainly delayed the progress of the Plural Voting Pill by three hours. But passing from that to the main question, it must strike many Members of Parliament for British constituencies as a great disappointment that after all the Irish land legislation 794 of the past thirty years, and especially after the great Land Purchase Bill of 1903, the Irish land question should be again before the House, and that, not for the tenth, or the hundredth, or even the one thousandth time, but possibly for the ten thousandth time, and in the acute form of evicted tenants turned out of their little holdings by the edict, perhaps by the whim, of an individual. The hon. Member for North Down had laid the blame for this on the Nationalist Members of Parliament, but as he did not bring forward one word of proof or reason for the statement, it did not call for serious notice. Had British Members of Parliament ever yet realised what was the nature of the Irish land question? There doubtless were in this House more who took an interest in the question, and desired to see it settled, than in any previous House, but it was only by visiting Ireland and studying the conditions on the spot that it could be fully realised. The tenants, as a rule, had built up every stick and stone of their holding, and consequently they clung to it with the deepest affection, and a sentence of eviction was looked upon as a sentence of death. The Bessborough Commission of 1880 reported in those words, adding the quotation—You take my life when you take the means by which I live.He had the utmost confidence in the Chief Secretary. He was sure no one was more desirous of settling this question and of seeing the evicted tenants replaced in their holdings. There were no doubt great difficulties in the way, but he sincerely hoped that if he could not bring reinstatement about by the present law he would introduce drastic legislation for the purpose.
§ *MR. DELANY (Queen's County, Ossory)
associated himself with his Leader and the Member for South Galway in support of this Motion. The figures adduced from the last Report of the Estates Commissioners showed very clearly that strong action needed to be taken when out of over 5,000 evicted tenants who had sent in claims—the great majority of which wore bona fide— only 161 had been restored to their homes in three years by the Estates Commissioners. There were no men in Ireland so conscious as the Estates 795 Commissioners that if there were power to compel landlords to sell untenanted land at a fair price, there would not be an evicted tenant homeless in Ireland to-day. It was clearly laid down in the Report of the Estates Commissioners that since the operation of the Act of 1903, land had been raised 68⅓ per cent. The only way to deal with the difficulty was by giving compulsory power. There was untenanted land enough in Queen's County to reinstate more than every evicted tenant there. An impossible duty had been placed upon the Estates Commissioners. The right hon. Gentleman might beat about the bush as much as he liked, but he would have to face the situation and confer compulsory powers upon the Estates Commissioners. He believed the right hon. Gentleman had many supporters like the hon. Gentleman who had just, spoken, and he had only to rise to the occasion to bring forward a measure which would carry out the object desired.
§ *MR. BYLES (Salford, N.)
said he desired to associate himself with his hon. friend the Member for Crewe. He would make no attack whatever upon the Chief Secretary or the policy of the Government, but he desired to strengthen the hands of his right hon. friend by every means in his power to deal with this matter. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford had referred to the condition of Ireland twenty years ago. He himself vividly remembered those days. At that time he was frequently in Ireland, and he saw many terrible scenes enacted, tenants defending their homes against the bailiffs, the police, and the soldiery. The hon. Member for North Down could not understand pathos, and thought the whole question was a sham, but happily the Government had taken it out of the hands of a Party which treated it in that way. Now that there was a Liberal Government supported by a large majority in power they might hope that this question would be advanced towards a settlement. It was a visit to Ireland that first led him to enter Parliament fourteen years ago to vote for the cause of Ireland. Everyone remembered the prolonged struggles of 1893. He had come back to the House after an absence of ten years and found this question in exactly the same position as it was then, notwithstanding the good will of suc- 796 cessive Chief Secretaries. It was really time they saw some change. Compulsion had been suggested by the hon. Member for Waterford. Whatever that word might convey to some it had no terrors for him. He knew that compulsion was the only means of obtaining justice for the tenants of Ireland, who had made their farms, taking up soil and seaweed until they had turned the bare rock into an economic holding. Those men in the real sense of the word were the owners rather than the landlords. But they did not want to take away the land from the landlords without paying for it, and the Land Act of 1903 must have led the landlords to believe that they would get a fair price for it. In his opinion drastic measures were necessary to restore these unfortunate men to their holdings, and he should be very happy to vote for the Motion.
§ MR. BARRIE (Londonderry, N.)
said that hon. Members listening to that debate would probably be given the firm impression that the evicted tenants in whose interest the House was spending some hours of the valuable time of the Government were tenants who had been evicted from land largely composed of stones, barren in its character, and what wore termed uneconomic holdings. He desired briefly to point out that the vast majority of the evicted tenants were tenants of one of the most fertile parts of Ireland, and that the demand which was made was that these tenants should be restored—tenants who were evicted justly and fairly, because their rent was in arrears to an extent that would nor be tolerated on the English side of the Channel, and because they followed the counsels of the Nationalist Members of Parliament of that day. Those tenants were simply weapons in the hands of these Members, and they suffered because they obeyed the requests of the Nationalist Members of that day in order to advance what they were pleased to call "the cause." He could use language quite as earnest as that which had been used by the hon. Member for Waterford; but he did not forget that what was proposed by him was that compulsion should be used to evict tenants who had succeeded those other tenants— that tenants who were law-abiding and rent-paying should now be taken out by force from their holdings and the 797 evicted tenants put in their place. He had no sympathy with any such plan, and he would be slow to think that the hon. Member for Waterford was absolutely sincere in making that demand upon the Government. He had read within the last fortnight that at a certain meeting which the hon. Member for Waterford attended there was a demand made for a more advanced programme for the Nationalist Party in Ireland. What was the reply of the Leader of the Party? He said that time was when the Nationalist Members of Parliament had the people of Ireland behind them, but that was not the case at present. He (Mr. Barrie) interpreted the present Motion rather as an evidence that the hon. Member had a desire to try and please the extreme section of his constituents on the other side of the water than as a proof of his real desire to do anything tangible for those tenants. They had heard various numbers given as the true total of the evicted tenants. He was informed on an authority to which he was bound to give every weight, that the number of bona fide evicted tenants in Ireland at present was nearer 500 than 5,000. They had been told that night that the Land Act of 1903 would not have passed if the case of the evicted tenants had not been provided for. He was only a young Member of Parliament, but he had no knowledge that would corroborate that assertion. If the Nationalist Members were so concerned about this small body of evicted tenants, those whom he represented would rather see them use some part of that great fund which had just been collected in America on behalf of "the cause" devoted to placing some of the tenants in small and comfortable holdings. Even if a small sum was used for such a purpose Nationalist Members would have, given a token of that sincerity to advance the prosperity of Ireland which the people of England could not yet believe. He remembered when the Plan of Campaign, which left such a train of disaster behind it, was carried out in Tipperary, that a large fund was collected, which, though it was never known, was believed to be finally located in Paris, but this they did know, that not one penny of that fund was ever devoted to the bettering of the condition of these unfortunate people.
§ SIR THOMAS ESMONDE (Wexford, N.)
said the speech of the hon. Member for North Londonderry was an indication of the spirit of a body of gentlemen now rapidly diminishing in Ire land, who stood as the only barrier between Ireland and the attainment of her national rights. The hon. Member had objected to the time of the House being taken up in discussing the case of the evicted tenants. He himself thought the time taken up had been well occupied. This was not the first time that his Party had championed the cause of the evicted tenants in this House. Whatever the hon. Gentleman might think, he was certain that the Nationalist Party would never be found wanting when it was necessary to speak on their behalf. The hon. Member had shown great solicitude in regard to the evicted tenants, and suggested that Irish public funds should be devoted to their support. He was glad to welcome the adhesion of the hon. Member to the idea that, should it be necessary to start a public fund for the maintenance of the evicted tenants, the Orange Members in the north of Ireland would come forward and assist. His reason for intervening in the debate was his very great interest in this question. He had taken a great interest in it since he first entered Irish public life. He had followed this phase of the land question through all its vicissitudes for a number of years, and he had expressed the widespread feeling of dissatisfaction which prevailed throughout Ireland in regard to it. He regretted that the message of peace which, as they understood, was to be conveyed to the Irish tenants by the Act of 1903 had not found proper expression in the case of the evicted tenants. It had been hoped that by the passing of that Act this melancholy chapter in Irish history would be closed; and the representatives of the Irish people would not be doing their duty if they did not express regret that the question had not been more rapidly settled, looking to the urgency and importance of it. When the Act of 1903 was passed it was fully expected that before many months were over steps would be taken to restore the evicted tenants to their former homes. As his hon. friend the Member for Water-ford had said, it was mainly for that reason that they agreed to the passing of the Act of 1903. In supporting that Act on 799 account of the hope it held out to the evicted tenants he believed they had the sympathy of every fair-minded, dispassionate, and charitably disposed man from one end of Ireland to the other. All sections of the people, whether landlords or tenants, were sincerely anxious for the peace of Ireland and the ending of the long strife and hideous social disorder which had for so many years prevailed. Everybody was agreed that the first essential of a settlement, and the only hope of an early settlement, was the speedy treatment of the evicted tenants question. They had been disappointed in that hope—he did not say permanently — from causes into which he did not intend to enter that night, but surely the Chief Secretary was aware of the urgency and importance of the question. Without going into the question generally he might speak of circumstances of which he had intimate personal knowledge, namely, the state of affairs in his own constituency. In the county of Wexford there were something like 200 evicted tenants. Up to a year ago about seventy-three of these tenants had been restored to their holdings, or placed on other farms in the county. During the last twelve months for some extraordinary reason only six cases had been dealt with by the Estates Commissioners. Surely there must be something wrong somewhere when such a small advance had been made with the question in that county. Was it too much to ask the Chief Secretary to take into consideration all the counties of Ireland, as well as the county of Wexford, and to see that some further advance was made? In Wexford they were perhaps more fortunately circumstanced than in some other counties. The Estates Commissioners had at their disposal large tracts of land which they had obtained specially for the purpose of reinstating evicted tenants. Up to last May the Estates Commissioners had purchased 1,744 acres of land, they had agreed to acquire 1,900 acres more, and they were in treaty for 1,000 additional acres—altogether about 4,600 acres in one county. Surely they had a right to expect that some greater progress would be made in the reinstatement of tenants when the Estates Commissioners had so much available land. There was almost sufficient land in the possession of the Commissioners to deal with the case of every evicted tenant in 800 the county of Wexford. The Chief Secretary would no doubt give some reason for the delay. He joined with his hon. colleagues in urging the extreme necessity of dealing promptly and boldly with the question, of utilising all the resources at the command of the Estates Commissioners, and of losing no time in "red tape" or making inquiries about things people know all about. No settlement of the Irish land question would ever be arrived at or agreed to by the representatives of the Irish people until justice was done to the evicted tenants in every county in Ireland.
§ MR. BRYCE
said he did not for a moment deny the importance of this question. He felt it to be so important that he regretted he had had no notice that the question was going to be brought on to-day by a Motion for the adjournment of the House. He understood some time ago that the hon. Member for Waterford intended to bring forward the question, but it had come entirely as a matter of surprise that it should be raised now in this way. If he had had longer notice it would have been possible for him to fortify himself with facts and opinions obtained from the Estates Commissioners, with whom the management of these affairs rested, and so to have been able to give a more complete and satisfactory statement than was possible with the short notice of three hours. The hon. Member for Waterford had complained that the Estates Commissioners Report was not presented until the end of the session, lie did not think that the Estates Commissioners ought to be blamed for that. They were indeed entitled to a good deal of consideration at the hands of the House, because he knew that a large part of their time during the whole of last session was occupied in preparing Answers to the extremely numerous and difficult Questions put in the House by hon. Gentleman opposite demanding information. He entirely denied that it could be fairly said that the Act had failed in dealing with the evicted tenants.
§ MR. BRYCE
No, not substantially; and even if it were so the Irish Government were not responsible. This matter 801 had been entrusted by Parliament to the Estates Comimssioners, over whom the Irish Government had no authority. All that the Irish Government could fairly be blamed for was, if they had not framed proper regulations for the Commissioners, or had failed to give them the necessary staff for their work, or had neglected to apply to Parliament for a needed enlargement of the powers of the Commissioners. He did not think that anyone would say that the Estates Commissioners had failed in their duty. No body of men could have been more zealous or more interested in their work or more prompt to recognise the importance of it. It was impossible they could have brought more sympathy and zeal to their work than they had done, and therefore the Estates Commissioners could not be condemned any more than the Irish Government. The difficulties encountered were very great. He did not know whether the ordinary Scottish or English men knew enough of those difficulties. He did not think they did. For his part he had formerly had no idea of their extent; and if they had not been so great the question of the evicted tenants would have been settled long ago. One attempt was made by the present Secretary for India, but it was defeated by the House of Lords. This new Government had come in, and it would be their endeavour to press forward a settlement of the question. The Government had done their best to cope with the grave evils which confronted them, and they had succeeded to some extent in accelerating progress. He did not want to trouble the House with a mass of figures, but the speech of the hon. Member for Queen's County showed that that hon. Gentleman had not grasped the figures which he had given in answer to the Question earlier in the day. The hon. Member for Queen's County said that only 161 evicted tenants had been restored to their holdings. What were the facts? Three hundred and eighty-one evicted tenants were restored by the landlords on the sale of their estates under the Land Purchase Act, the tenants being assisted by grants from the Estates Commissioners for the equipment of their farms. One hundred and sixty-one evicted tenants were restored directly by the Estates Commissioners, making a total of 541. Of the 5,912 802 applications received, 1,047 had been finally dealt with up to date. He might add, that a very considerable number of applications had been made which would not bear investigation, and also that in a certain number of cases the tenants had been restored without the knowledge of the Commissioners — the landlords and tenants having agreed between themselves. He did not think that the progress made had been inconsiderable, considering the difficulties which surrounded the question; and it was certainly greater than might be supposed from some of the speeches made that evening.
The Commissioners informed him that of these 1,285 applications inquired into, 377 were cases where the holdings were now in the owners' occupation, and the result as regarded them was as follows:—In 161 cases the owner objected to any inspection. In fifty-nine eases otters to purchase, with a view to reinstatement, were made. In nine of these the offer was accepted, and the tenants reinstated. In nineteen the owner replied, refusing to sell at the estimated price. In thirty-one no reply had been received up to the present. In forty-nine cases offers to purchase, with a view to reinstatement, were about to be made. In 108 cases the applications were postponed or struck out for the following causes:—(1) Applicant was not suitable for reinstatement, owing to want of farming experience, habit of industry and competence to work the land as a holding. (2) Applicant had surrendered his holding and received compensation or sold his interest. (3) Applicant was not eligible as a representative of the former evicted tenant. (4) Applicant was only a herd or caretaker, or the holding was not agricultural. (5) The applicant had enough land already.These figures showed how minute the inquiry which had been made into the different cases.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
asked if he was right in gathering from the right hon. Gentleman's statement that afternoon that in 444 cases investigated since the now regulations came into force the landlords had refused to allow the inspectors to visit the land?
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
said that of the 1,285 applications since the Act came into force, 272 had been 803 rejected, and in 444 cases the landlords had refused to allow the inspectors to visit the land.
§ MR. BRYCE
said that that was so. He much regretted that such a course should have been followed. The Government had no power to compel landlords to agree, but he wished public opinion in Ireland could be exerted to show the landlords that their action was disapproved. He meant the public opinion of all right-thinking men, who felt that an Act of Parliament which was passed three years ago to secure the reinstatement of evicted tenants should be given effect to. It was only fair and right that the landlords should respect the intentions of Parliament and give the Estates Commissioners an opportunity of inspecting the land and bringing about the reinstatement of the evicted tenants. He could not but think that public opinion moderately and temperately expressed by all classes in Ireland would have due weight, and that the Act would in consequence be brought to greater fruition. Proceeding with the Report of the Estates Commissioners the right hon. Gentleman said:—The causes which have impeded the restoration of evicted tenants are the following: (1) Where the evicted farm is in the occupation of another tenant, and he is unwilling to surrender it, no pressure can or ought to be brought to bear on the existing tenant to relinquish his holding in favour of the evicted tenant. In such cases new farms must be provided for the evicted tenants according as untenanted land becomes available for the purpose. Sometimes the evicted tenants are unwilling to migrate to new farms, and prefer to stay in the neighbourhood of their old homes in the hope that they may some day be reinstated in their old holdings. Sometimes the introduction of evicted tenants from a distance on untenanted land meets with local opposition It would be easier to overcome this if the persuasions and efforts of the Commissioners' Inspectors were re-inforced by public opinion. (3) As regards farms in the owners' occupation, landlords who are unwilling to agree to their speedy restoration are, it is believed, influenced by the following considerations. (a) If the owners were to reinstate evicted tenants as their own tenants without entering into agreements for the sale of the holding, the Estates Commissioners could not under Section 12 of the Act make any advances to such reinstated tenants or any grants for equipping the farms, since the estate would not be one that has been sold or is proposed to he sold under the Act of 1903, and if an impoverished evicted tenant were to go back to his former holding as tenant without such grant the landlord would have no security for his rent. (b) If an evicted farm is 804 sold as a separate 'estate,' terms of sale not having been arranged for the other holdings on the estate, the owner would have all the expense of proving title for one evicted farm just as he would if the whole estate were sold. Some owners also entertain the view that they thould not be expected to restore evicted enants unless in connection with the sale of their estates as a whole, (c) Some owners are believed to fear that if they were to sell evicted farms to the Commissioners at the comparatively low price which the Commissioners could otter to advance, in view of the farms having been derelict and neglected, then such prices would set up a standard which would regulate the offers which other tenants on the estate would make when the rest of the estate was being sold. As to the difficulties (a) and (b) the Commissioners have intimated that they are willing to declare evicted farms when the tenants are reinstated to be separate 'estates' and to give them immediate priority. Where the number of evicted tenants reinstated is considerable the Commissioners are willing to give priority to the whole property, and thus expedite the payment of purchase money. Where the owner does not wish to make the evicted farms separate 'estates,' but enters into a purchase agreement to sell to an evicted tenant at prices approved by the Commissioners as soon as the estate as a whole is being sold, the Commissioners are willing to make grants to the reinstated evicted tenants to equip their farms and so give them a fair chance of succeeding. The owners will also in this way have security for interest in lieu of rent on the price agreed on, while the reinstated tenant may remain on paying such interest pending the sale of the whole estate. It should be remembered that the work of the past five months has been largely in the nature of preliminary inquiries and negotiations which cannot be expected to be immediately brought to a successful issue and some time must be given to enable those investigations to bear fruit. The Commissioners propose to continue their inquiries as to the remaining applicants for another period of six months, and that a larger staff should be employed and that all applications may be inquired into within that period, if possible. It should be added that as regards the principal estates in which the Plan of Campaign was adopted and which are referred to in the ad interim Report of the Commissioners, dated the 10th of April, 1905, the cases of the evicted tenants on the Ponsonby, Lansdowne, and Brooke estates have been practically settled. Negotiations are actually in progress for the settlement of the Massereene, Lewis and Byrne estates. Negotiations are also in progress for the settlement of the evicted tenants question on the Vandeleur estate. The Government is fully aware of the difficulty of bringing about any settlement on the Clanricarde estate.The Report of the Estates Commissioners would give the House some idea of the complexity of the question which they had to deal with. It must be borne in mind that effect was not given to a great deal which was promised and hoped for when the Act of 1903 was passed. A great 805 many questions arose upon the interpretation of the Act which caused considerable difficulty, and for a time tied the hands of the Commissioners. For instance, there was a regulation made by the late Government that the evicted tenants could not be reinstated except in connection with the purchase of the whole estate upon which the holding was from which he had been evicted. That regulation had a most important effect upon the working of the Act. Then serious doubt was thrown upon the power of the Commissioners to buy untenanted land in order to reinstate tenants, and that question was only determined at the end of last year, or early this year, when it was found that the Commissioners had that power. The withdrawal of the old regulations, the making of the new regulations, which considerably extended the work of the Commissioners, and the decision of these legal points, at length, so to speak, untied the hands of the Commissioners, and enabled them to set to work in a far better and more energetic way, and with afar greater hope of obtaining substantial results than was possible before. They were further strengthened by being given six new inspectors, and he thought that looking to the results obtained since the appointment of those inspectors, it must be recognised that far more than rapid progress had been made and more important results obtained. What the inspectors had done had very greatly cleared the way for the future. He thought the hon. Member for Waterford entirely undervalued the results which had been obtained by the investigations of these inspectors during the last five months. He would now tell the House something of the methods on which the Commissioners were proceeding. If a landlord was not selling the whole of his estate the Commissioners had now found their proper course to be to declare a separate farm to be a separate estate, and they were going to act boldly and largely on that. Where a substituted tenant held a farm, in some cases he could not be induced to give it up, and there was no power to eject him. In some cases such a tenant was willing to take money compensation, and the Estates Commissioners had in some cases given that compensation, and had used the power in their hands for that purpose pretty freely. But in some cases, where 806 there was no money compensation given, he was willing to take a new farm altogether, but the power of dealing with him in that way depended upon whether a new farm could be got for him. With regard to the settlement of an evicted tenant on untenanted land in a new neighbourhood, this required a great deal of tact. The best plan generally was to approach the neighbourhood beforehand and to let it be known that, although they must consent to the bringing in of strangers, that operation and the operation of the enlargement of holdings would be carried on simultaneously. The hon. Member for Waterford had spoken of the sympathy in Ireland fur the evicted tenant. He thought this was a practical mode of showing that sympathy, and he thought they ought to appeal to those among whom the Commissioners proposed to settle evicted tenants not to receive them with harshness and unkindness. He was in hopes that when experience was gained, and if judgment was exercised, these difficulties, serious as they were, would be overcome. The quantity of untenanted land, however, was limited, especially in Ulster and Minister. Even in Connaught, he believed, there was not more than about one-third of what would be wanted to raise all small uneconomic holdings to the level of reasonable economic holdings. Therefore the question was a very grave one. As to the general question of what was to be done in the future, work might be done partly by administration and partly by legislation. As regarded administration the work of the last six months had shown the Commissioners how they might work out their plans. It had alto shown them how they might give priority in the cases of evicted tenants. He believed there was ample power to exercise discretion as to giving priority to particular cases; and he believed the fact that social order was involved in this question was a very sound reason why such priority should be given. Upon this part of the subject he thought he was entitled — they were all entitled—to make an appeal to the landlords. [A NATIONALIST: Not much use, I am afraid.] He thought in the great majority of cases the landlords might allow bygones to be bygones. They might recognise that this was a matter in which the peace and well being of the country was involved, and, 807 realising the gravity of the case, they might recognise the duty of being more willing to help than heretofore they had shown themselves to be. There were a great many landlords who as heartily wished the welfare of their country and their fellow-countrymen as any of them could do, and he would respectfully venture to appeal to them to give the Executive the help they could so powerfully render by letting the Commissioners go on with the work of reinstatement where they had not some great and solid reason in a contrary sense, outside political prejudice and passion, which this land war had unfortunately excited. He would, however, tell the House his own mind upon the subject. As a member of the Congested Districts Board, he had come to learn the extreme difficulty of getting the untenanted land which the Congested Districts Board required for the purpose of settling small tenants from the congested regions of the west. It was only with the greatest difficulty that the Board were able to obtain that land, and he was seriously obliged to consider whether if that difficulty continued, and if the necessity for dealing more rapidly with the problem of congestion became more and more recognised, it might not be necessary to arm them with further powers for the acquisition of land. That was a question which was under consideration, and he ought not to say more than to tell the House the impression made upon his own mind by the experience he had gained as the head of that Board. He could not help feeling that what might be true of the Congested Districts Board might be not less true in regard to the work of the Estates Commissioners. He was not at all satisfied that the way the bonus was now spent and given was either the way in which Parliament desired it should be spent or the way in which it attained the maximum of good. He ought not to express any more than doubts at this moment, because this was a subject which would require very serious consideration, especially as the Act of 808 1903 provided that next year the Treasury should be permitted to revise the system, although any change would not come into effect till the year after. Even supposing the question of the bonus were dealt with, it would be but a partial remedy. He thought the real difficulty was the difficulty of getting untenanted lands. For that some remedy must be found, and if the remedy lay in compulsion—well, to that remedy they might have to come. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford seemed to have made assumptions which were quite groundless as to the attitude of the Government, when he assumed that they had been backward in dealing with this question. That was not so; on the contrary, the Government had done all in their power, and they had accepted every single suggestion made to them for extending the operation of the Act and accelerating its progress. He admitted that it was a question of great gravity, because it was a question of sound order. He had recognised that from the first, and they should continue to recognise it. It was a question out of which many of the troubles, disturbances, outrages, and breaches of the peace during the last twenty years or thirty years had arisen in Ireland, and anything that would put an end to that state of things would be a boon to that country. The Government would continue to work earnestly upon this problem, but they would work a great deal more effectively if they had the support of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and his friends in endeavouring to preserve tranquility and order in Ireland.
§ MR. BRYCE
appealed to the Leader of the Irish Party to help in keeping tranquility and good order in the country, to continue to exert all the influence he possessed to keep the people quiet and to believe, as they ought, that 809 the Government were trying to do their best for them. As he appealed to the landlords on the one side, so he appealed to the popular leaders on the other. Nothing would strengthen the hands of the Government so much as to have a quiet Ireland to deal with; and he believed that, if Ireland remained tranquil, and if that public spirit was shown on both sides where so grave a question as this was involved, affecting the future of Ireland, with the support of the House, and with the earnestness which the Government desired to show in the matter, this ancient sore might soon be healed.
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin County, S.)
thought that the Irish Members had secured a complete triumph over the Government in this debate. The speech of the Chief Secretary involved the complete surrender of the Government on the main points of the land problem and to the views so long advanced by the Nationalists. The right hon. Gentleman had also attempted to shift the responsibility for the delay in carrying out the Act on to the Estates Commissioners and the late Government. But the regulations about which the House had heard so much were issued in July of last year, and they were immediately repealed by the present Government on coming into office, so that the new regulations did not appear to have had any material effect as compared with the old. The Chief Secretary had not touched on the difficult aspect of the problem that there was a large number of tenants who would not come within the description of evicted tenants used throughout the debates preceding the Act of 1903. The Government had to face the difficulty of differentiating among those tenants as to who were deserving and who were not, and they had also to deal with the difficult problem of the uneconomic holding. He had listened with some surprise to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman to the landlords. The Leader of the Nationalists had referred to 440 cases where the land- 810 lords had refused to allow the estate valuers to go on to their property to carry out the work of valuation. If there wore cases in which the landlords had unfairly exercised their lights, he was not concerned to defend them; but before the landlords were condemned wholesale, more ought to be known of the circumstances in which their refusal was made; and what demands were made upon the landlords by the Estates Commissioners and the valuers. If this was to be used as evidence on which they were to condemn, convict, and sentence the landlords, they ought to know more about it than they know after the very poor and insufficient statement which had been placed before them. He assumed that the Estates Commissioners would give the landlords an opportunity of stating their case before they took what had been said as the fact. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Estates Commissioners were going to exercise their powers to give priority to estates where such priority was necessary in the interests of social order. That was a very dangerous step for the Government to take. Parliament did not vote £120,000,000 to settle the land question in order that the Government might act in this way.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that the right hon. Gentleman used the words "in the interests of social order."
§ MR. WALTER LONG
Exactly, and it meant that priority was to be given to estates where disturbance and intimidation was going on.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that he could not understand what the right hon. Gentleman meant by this priority in that case. The only fair priority to observe was that in which the applications were received. At present many landlords and tenants who had entered into agreements were being kept waiting, and every stop of this kind meant more delay for them. In many cases some of the best of the tenants in Ireland were anxious to become possessors of their own holdings, but if the declaration of the Chief Secretary meant anything it meant that priority was to be given to those tenants who were not the best.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that that involved injustice to those estates where there was no social disorder, and the only fair and proper priority was priority of application. As the cases were considered and settled by the Court they should be dealt with and the tenants who applied first should be dealt with first.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
said this speech of the Chief Secretary would be welcome because it clearly indicated that the Government saw the necessity of granting compulsory powers in certain cases to the Estates Commissioners. Unless they got compulsory powers against such landlords as Lord Clanricarde the owners would never sell their land. The speech of the Chief Secretary showed that he was coming round to the general view held in Ireland 812 as to the absolute necessity of having some compulsory powers for the acquisition of land. He did not think there would be any difficulty in getting such powers granted by the present Parliament, because hon. Members were aware that in many parts of the Empire compulsory powers had already been granted by the Government for the acquisition of land for the common good. There was no question whatever of taking anything without payment.
§ And, it being Eleven of the clock, the Motion for Adjournment lapsed without Question put.