§ The EARL of DEVON
, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, remarked, that whatever differences of opinion might exist with respect to other measures necessary to cure the evils under which Ireland laboured, there could be little difference on this point, that it was essential to the welfare of that country that facility should be given in every way for the improvement of the agriculture of Ireland. Great facilities had lately been given for the sale of land in that country by the passing of the Encumbered Estates Bill; and the object of the present measure was to facilitate the purchase of land. This Bill would enable a number of individuals, by the union of their small capitals, to do that which any single individual of largo capital was at liberty to do at present—to enable them to purchase land in large quantities, and sell it in small quantities. He was aware that an alarm prevailed in 256 some quarters lest it should have the effect of perpetuating the system of small holdings in Ireland. He admitted that that system was a great evil; but he entertained a strong conviction that the passing of this measure, so far from increasing or perpetuating that evil, would furnish the best and most effectual means of getting rid of it. At present there were 812,000 persons in Ireland holding land, whose holdings did not exceed fifty acres, and the question was, would it not be better that some portion of those persons should be enabled to become independent yeomen, instead of discontented and miserable tenants, by the purchase of land in freehold in portions of not less than thirty acres? Any individual at this moment might purchase land, in any quantity, and sell it in any quantity he chose. He might buy, for instance, 100 acres, and sell them to 100 persons in portions of one acre each: there was nothing in the law to prevent any individual from doing so; whereas by the Bill then under consideration all the land purchased by the company must be sold in portions of not less than thirty acres. So far, then, from its tendency to encourage a minute subdivision of land, it would, to a certain extent, counteract that tendency. If by means of this Bill they could secure the introduction into Ireland of a certain proportion of persons possessing thirty or forty or fifty acres of land in freehold, with the independence which that possession would give them, he maintained that such a result would form a most important element in securing the tranquillity of that country. Now, it had been ascertained upon unquestionable evidence that there did exist in Ireland a considerable number of persons with small capital, which they were anxious to invest in land; and it was to enable this most desirable class of persons to do so, that this Bill had been brought forward. He begged therefore to move that it be read a second time.
§ LORD BEAUMONT
said, that on looking into this Bill, it seemed to him that its effect would be to create not only a small but an insolvent proprietary in Ireland, and that, in addition to the difficulty of collecting the taxes upon such property, there would be the difficulty of collecting the purchase-money. This Bill gave the power of purchasing allotments of not less than thirty acres upon the payment of a certain portion of the purchase-money at the outset, and on condition that in ten 257 years the whole should be paid up. Now, what he feared was, that in the eagerness for the possession of land which prevailed in Ireland, persons of insufficient capital would rush into the market and purchase land; and being unable to extricate themselves from the responsibilities thereby incurred, they would be evicted with the loss of the little capital they had originally possessed. This was a repetition of Mr. Feargus O'Connor's plan. The excuse of the Government for introducing such a measure, and of the House for passing it, must be the disordered state of Ireland, which rendered such remedies necessary lest the malady should become worse. He doubted whether any parties under this Bill would be able to make a purchase within the time which it prescribed; and he feared the result would be the creation of a wretched proprietary, and continued subdivision of the land.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
observed that, with reference to the recent state of Ireland, the Bill was of considerable importance. A Bill had been passed to facilitate the sale of land in Ireland, the effect of which would be to bring a great deal of land into the market; and the object of the present Bill was merely to enable a certain number of individuals to do what any one individual might do, and on terms more safe and advantageous, because one individual could parcel out the land at once, and form a pauper cottier tenantry; whereas this Bill sought effectually to secure the creation of a certain number of small proprietors. He felt distinctly authorised to say, on the part of the noble Lord who presided over the Government of Ireland, and whose attention had been called to the proper means of establishing a number of small proprietors in Ireland, that in his opinion this Bill was the most practical step that could now be taken towards effecting that object.
The EARL of RODEN
thought the Bill was likely to increase the evil of small holdings, by which paupers were invariably multiplied; the districts where such holdings were found were the worst.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
denied that the effects of the Bill would be to prevent the eviction of had tenants, or to facilitate the eviction of good. He himself had had the honour to propose a Bill for the prevention of those cruel evictions 258 of tenants, of which they had seen so many examples. But it never was his opinion that landlords should not evict bad tenants. On the contrary, it would he impossible to improve their estates, if they had not the power of evicting those tenants who were unable or unwilling to pay their rents or cultivate their grounds. But if the landlord wanted to get a good tenant off his land in the manner in which some of these cruel evictions had been effected, he should not be permitted to do so without making him full compensation. As to the subdivision of land, to which so much objection had been made, thirty acres was the minimum prescribed for a farm under the Bill.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
supported the Bill, but signified his intention of proposing some amendments in Committee.
§ LORD REDESDALE
thought there were objections to the Bill on principle. He thought that they should not give power to a company to purchase land for ever. It ought to be limited to twenty years, and their application could be made to Parliament to permit a renewal of the term.
The EARL of GLENGALL
, if he thought the Bill had the slightest chance of being operative, should feel himself placed under the disagreeable necessity of stating fully his reasons for opposing it. But he felt quite assured that it would be wholly inoperative. If by any chance it should really come into effect, it would be found that it promoted subdivision of land to the utmost degree possible. He begged their Lordships to look at the exceeding difficulty that the landlords of Ireland had in pro-venting subdivision of land at present. They found it almost impossible to prevent it, do what they would. For his own part, for the last twenty-two years he had granted only two leases, and he never would give a lease of his land if he could help it, except indeed he might to some merchant, or to some one who was going to build a mill. And still with all the precautions that could be taken, it was like the attention of a cat watching a mouse that was required to prevent the subdivision of holdings. As to the Incumbered Estates Bill, which the noble Marquess had so praised, he (the Earl of Glengall) hoped that in the next Session of Parliament a Bill would be brought in to repeal the clauses that had been introduced into that measure by the House of Commons.
§ Bill read 2a
§ House adjourned.