THE DUKE OF ABERCORN moved,—
That an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to direct that the following words should be added to the terms of reference to the Royal Commission on the Land Acts—'Also to report on the effects and results of the Irish Land Acts, and of their administration, on the respective interests of landlords and tenants.'
He assured their Lordships that he in no way had any wish to embarrass Her Majesty's Government, or to make demands that it might be difficult for them to comply with. They were only asking for what was fair and just, and he begged of them to listen to his statement, and to consider that he represented the feelings of a large body of men and woman who were gradually being squeezed out of existence and suffocated by a system of land legislation which, prompted no doubt originally by good motives, had proved to be an utter and disastrous failure—disastrous to the original proprietors of the land, and by no means an unqualified blessing to the occupiers of the soil. What he asked in the terms of his Motion, was not that any compensation should be granted to landowners, but that inquiry should be held by the Royal Commission about to inquire into the procedure adopted by the Land Courts, as to whether landowners in Ireland had suffered by recent land legislation, and if so, what kind and what amount of compensation they were entitled to. Many noble Lords in this House must remember the passing of the Irish Land Act of 1881—especially some of those Lords who sat upon the
Opposition Front Bench. In those days bright forecasts were held out as to the working of the Act, and what benefits it would confer upon the tenant without unjustly infringing upon the rights of the landlords. These were held out by the promoters of the Bill, whilst others, who had more knowledge of Irish land than Mr. Gladstone possessed, predicted different results, and foreshadowed that the working of the Act, even in a legitimate way, would cause great loss of property and of income to the landowners. He could use many quotations front the promoters of the Bill of 1881 to show that they believed it would confer a benefit upon the landowners; but he would not trespass too much upon the time of their Lordships' House, and would only ask to be permitted to read some extracts of opinion as expressed by Mr. Gladstone and one other upon these points. Mr. W. E. Forster, on April 25, 1881, said:—
We have had cases very often in which we have had to change the law in order to carry out the principles of equity, and there have been cases sometimes in which large compensation has been given out of State funds. I therefore, am not surprised to hear a claim made for compensation. But the English law in the matter depends upon whether damage can be proved, and my firm belief is that no damage can be proved; on the other hand, that if the landlord were compensated you would compensate him for conferring on him a benefit.''—("Hansard," vol. 260, col. 1166.)
From this quotation it is evident that Mr. Forster thought that the Land Act of 1881 would confer a benefit upon Irish landowners. These benefits had certainly not been recognised by any one, and it would be a long time before they were. Mr. Gladstone, on May 16, 1881, said:—
Now, Sir, before I speak on the Bill with the Second Reading of which we are concerned, I wish to refer to two words which we have heard often repeated in this Debate. The first word is 'confiscation,' and the second word is 'compensation.' They are words that are, and ought to be, in close association together; for I certainly should be very slow to deny that where confiscation could be proved compensation ought to follow. The proof of confiscation—the proof of damage resulting from the action of the Legislature—is the very first step that must be taken, and that must he established beyond doubt before the House can fairly he called upon to consider whether it will grant compensation or not.
(July 22, 1881) said:—If, as has been said, Parliament is about invade the property of the Irish landlords, this question of compensation becomes a very serious one indeed, and One concerning which, if we are prepared to deal with it at all, we ought to speak in most decisive terms, If these classes, either or both of them, have a just claim to compensation in consequence of the manner in which their interests will be affected by this Bill, we are bound as a Parliament to give it to them. I, for one, shall be bitterly disappointed with the operation of the Act if the property of the landlords in Ireland does not come to he worth more than 20 years' purchase on the judicial rent,From these quotations Mr. Gladstone said compensation should be granted if it turned out that the Act caused damage to property-owners in Ireland. This he stated emphatically. Here they had the views of the greatest Liberal statesman of that day, and also the views of the then Chief Secretary for Ireland, a gentleman who knew Ireland tolerably well, and who was always honest and just in his dealings with the people of that country. Now noble Lords might say that Parliamentary utterances of old standing are of no importance—that times change, and with them the natural course of politics must change also. This was very true, for the wheel of political life rotated very quickly, and carried with it great changes; and sentiments which would have been abhorred by both political parties a few years ago were looked upon at the present time as the leading and guiding foundation upon which the future prosperity of the country must exist. But in the quotations that he had made the case stood differently. Here the leading statesman of the day brought in a Bill which was denounced by others as confiscatory. He stated that in his opinion such was not the case, but should he unfortunately be wrong in his estimation of the working of the Act, and should it be found that the properties of the landowners in Ireland had in reality, and unjustly, suffered by the Measure, that then certainly some reparation should be made to them for what they had lost. But this sentiment could not have been felt by him alone. It must have been shared by others, his colleagues in the Cabinet. So that if these provisos—acting as safeguards to the passing of the Bill—were mentally entertained sixteen years ago, he asked 844 whether such a change had come over the minds of noble Lords sitting en the Front Opposition Bench, as to prevent them from supporting the Motion that he hail the honour to thing before the House. Now with regard to the damage sustained, he wished to mention in the first place the reduction of rent, and such reductions which were now going on and which were not compatible with the lowering of agricultural prices. Then there was the transfer of property from landlord to tenant, by giving perpetuity of tenure and the establishment of tenant right where it did not previously exist. The transfer of property from one class to another had had this effect, that in many parts of Ireland when properties used to be sold at 23 years' purchase, or even upwards, these properties in many instances fetched considerably less at the present time. This transfer of property did not show that the value of land had deteriorated—it had only deteriorated to the landowner by Act of Parliament. The value was still in the land, but that value went to the credit of the tenant, as was shown by the high price of tenant right that was given in almost every case throughout the whole if Ireland. These facts could not be disputed—they were manifest in all returns that were given, and resolved themselves to this one plain piece of evidence, that whilst the value of the land had not diminished, yet that value had been taken away from the landlord who once possessed it, and had been given to the occupier of the soil. There were other additional ways in which compensation might be given. Take, for instance, the Death Duties. When an Irish landlowner died, as the law now stood, not one in twenty estates in Ireland would be able to right itself, and the few remaining country houses, where so much employment had hitherto been given, would probably have to be shut up. A man for Death Duty purposes, valued his land at 18 or 20 years' purchase of the existing rent, believing that to be its value. The Sub-commissioners came in and reduced him 30 or 40 per cent.; the Treasury also nearly always refused to reduce the instalments, and, therefore, the successor hail actually got to pay Death Duties on property that he did not possess. Again, when a man had his land taken 845 away from him by a proposed railway he had his costs paid him. The landlords in Ireland were nearly broken in defending the little property left to them, because perpetual claims were being made against them. These claims had to be tried in the County Courts and Land Courts, and he need not remind their Lordships that when once they went into a Court of Law and had a solicitor to defend their case, that they did not come out richer in pocket, whether they had lost or won their case. Very often cases were brought into Court in Ireland as test cases, and they had to be defended. What they asked for was an inquiry only. He should not go into details, but he failed to see on what reasonable or logical ground such an inquiry could be refused or opposed by any political party, having regard to the utterances he had already quoted. He would only venture to say that this question, as well as that of the administration of the Land Act of 1881, was one that should occupy the serious attention of statesmen, irrespective of Party, who had the future interests of their country earnestly at heart. The landed gentry of the United Kingdom had always been considered as a body of men useful to the State and necessary for the firm and just administration not only of the laws, but also for the carrying out of local duties inseparably connected with their various counties. ["Hear, hear!"] Were they going to ignore this class of men in Ireland and allow them to be obliterated? If they were, then they would find that in a very short period of time such a great social revolution would take place as would shake society in that country to its very foundations and be of no use or benefit to the kingdom at large. ["Hear, hear!"] They would then find the duties hitherto performed by one class taken up by another, and they would hear regrets expressed everywhere, when it was too late, that that fine old stamp of Irish country gentleman, with his charm of disposition and generosity of character, who had always stood loyally to the Constitution of this country had passed away and that nobody remained to fill his place. [Cheers.] He begged of the House and of the Government to deal generously towards these people. Do not let the close hand of the Treasury or the drawback of 846 any former political principles debar them from. acting in a liberal spirit towards those who, after all the injury, all the hardship, and all the injustice that had been cast upon them, had never uttered one disloyal word, but had always maintained the unity and integrity of this great kingdom, and had cherished those principles which, in this year, above all others, should unite all classes together. He knew that this Irish Land Question must be wearisome to their Lordships, but if wearying to English and Scotch Lords who had no Irish property, how much more wearisome and unpleasant to those who had perpetually to be contending with the Government whom they support, and who, he hoped, would now support them. But they were fighting for their very existence. Like a drowning man who grasped at the oar or piece of wood that came within his reach, so they were hopeful that they should get not merely a sympathetic answer from the Front Bench, but an acquiescent one, that would open some ray of hope in the hearts of those whose cause he had been pleading this afternoon. [Cheers.] He begged to move the Resolution.
§ LORD CASTLETOWN
wished to be allowed to say a few words, though in the very able and eloquent speech they had just heard the case of the Irish landlords was so clearly stated that very little remained to be said. They desired, as the noble Duke had said, to obtain such information as would lead, if found advisable, to a proper comprehension of the Land Acts. The references now only referred to fixing of rent. There were several other matters which must arise in the inquiry, but which could not be gone into unless this reference of the noble Duke were added. Was the Commission to be precluded from asking about them or giving an opinion? Take Section B in the present reference:—In ascertaining the true value to be paid for a tenant's interest in a holding by a landlord exercising the right of pre-emption.Take the effect of an inquiry by the Commissioners into those words. That was to say, they were to ascertain the true value to be paid for the tenant's interest. In ascertaining the true value to be paid for a tenant's interest the Commission at 847 once touched upon the point which was raised in the Motion of the noble Duke, and there it was practically covered by their proposed reference. They wanted to know what had been the effect as to the sale of the tenant's interest. They had heard it said that the Land Acts were passed in order to benefit the people of Ireland generally. If they wanted to show that the Acts had been for the benefit of the tenant farmers, the way to do that was by accepting such a reference as was now proposed. If the Commission found that by the Acts new value had come to the tenant's property and to his interest, it would make the Acts more palatable to the tenant and conduce to ending the land agitation. Therefore, if the Government wanted to help in this matter they must add this reference to the existing ones, because it would then clearly demonstrate how the tenant has benefited. It would prove it incontestably as regarded the landlord, and would show whether he had suffered, as they contended he had, for no fault of his own, but had simply been sacrificed to an agrarian agitation, as the noble Marquess (Lord Lansdowne) put it so well in his speech in 1887. If the Commission examined in this case, that was the case of the true value of the tenant's interest in a holding by a landlord exercising right of pre-emption, they would have the power of ascertaining out of whose property this value came. They could not create a value out of nothing at all. There was no interest before 1881 in the South and West of Ireland. Out of whose property had they carved it? Undoubtedly out of the landlord's property, and therefore they asked that this Commission should logically ascertain the effect of these Acts as regarded the respective interests of the landlord and tenant. What the Irish landlords asked, too—and he thought it was a very fair thing to ask, the time having come when they might almost demand it—was that there should be some finality in this legislation. [Cheers.] Nobody benefited by the present state of things except the lawyers. They accepted the Land Acts as existing, but he said that while they existed in the present shape they acted as an irritant both to the tenant and the landlord. The wanted to know what their effect had been. Every Minister on 848 the Government Bench, except the Duke of Devonshire, had denounced these Acts, and yet, as he read the whip that had been issued that day, they refused a full inquiry into their working. This reference was a corollary to the other references. If they refuse this reference they must have another inquiry on the top of this one. The Government were warned about their Land Bill of last year. They persisted in their determination to rush through a crude, indigestible Measure, and the result was that a Commission of Inquiry had to be appointed by them in the following year. If the Government refused the terms of reference the noble Duke had moved, if they meant to burke this inquiry, making it bald and useless, then that merely meant another Debate and another Commission. He had often heard it said that the noble Duke proposed to put the whole of the Land Acts into the crucible. Nothing of the kind was suggested, the words of the Motion were perfectly clear. Everyone who had knowledge of the Irish land question (and he did not include those Englishmen and Scotchmen who visited the island and learned nothing about it), knew that what was wanted to make the Acts tolerable was, in the first place, honest administration, and the reference to the Commission on that point would secure inquiry he agreed; and, in the second place, what was required was a clear statement for Parliament and the public of the amount of injustice and injury done, or the benefit accruing to the parties concerned. The Acts were badly drawn and badly conceived, and for 15 years they had been tinkered at. For Heaven's sake let the question be settled now! There were the means for doing that. Let the Government add these words to the terms of reference, making them wider and more logical, and what should have weight with the Government; they were proposed by the largest landowner in the north of Ireland, a nobleman well known for his knowledge of land legislation, and for generosity to his tenants, whose stake was perhaps the greatest in the whole of the land of Ireland. It would be shown that the proposal was supported by English and Scottish Lords who felt that this demand was wise and just. If it was refused, of course they could say to the country that the case had not been heard, what- 849 ever the decision arrived at by the Commission. This question he had studied all his life, he had gone through the mill, and knew something of the effect of this legislation. The time was opportune for a settlement now, there was the strongest Government the country had had, he might almost say for centuries, there was an admirable Commission appointed, why not, therefore, add these few words to the terms of reference? If the Government did not want a bonâ fide inquiry, if they did not want this great question settled, if nothing was to be clone for the landowners—then with all sorrow he said, let the Government say as much, and let landowners sell their houses for building materials for the labourers who must be dismissed and whom the State would have to maintain. Let them cut down their woods and sell their grass lands to cottar farmers, who, no doubt, would like them. Let the Government take the responsibility that now rested on the landlords if they would not listen to the advice given. It was a strong statement to make, but if the Government would not take this advice they would act as they would not act towards the worst criminal, forgetting the first rudiments of justice, that required the truth should first he obtained upon which to form an impartial judgment. That was all that was asked by this addition to the reference moved so ably and so eloquently; that was all they asked, and that they were entitled to demand.
*THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The Marquess of LANSDOWNE)
said if his opinion. of the Land Act of 1881 could be compared with that formed of it by the two noble Lords who had just addressed the House, he did not expect they would be found to differ very widely on the subject, but he was afraid he was not able to keep company with them when they proposed to make this extensive and fundamental alteration in the terms of reference to the Royal Commission. How did they stand in regard to this matter? There had been, as they had been reminded, discussion after discussion on this matter, in and out of Parliament, and he did not think he would be contradicted when he said that in the forefront of their grievances noble Lords from Ireland had always put forward this argument—that the Land Commission, in 850 carrying the Act into operation had failed continually to give effect to the terms of the Acts themselves or the intentions of Parliament. They had been told again and again that their practice and procedure had been most irregular, that their valuations had been made perfunctorily and carelessly, and that they had failed to comply with the conditions directly laid down, and nowhere so directly laid down for them as in certain clauses of the Land Act of 1896 with which their Lordships were all familiar. An inquiry into these points had been insisted upon, and the Government had felt it their duty to grant that inquiry; they felt it was due not only to the landlords but also to the tenants, who had upon many occasions made perhaps not quite such violent complaints of the manner in which complaints of the manner in which the Acts were being administered. He could not help adding that it had always seemed to him that an inquiry was called for in the interest of the La id Commissioners themselves, who he thought had a right to some investigation of the charges—personal charges—made against them so persistently. The Government had appointed a Commission, and had drawn up the terms of reference; and he had not yet heard it said that, for the particular purpose which he had just now indicated, the reference was not all that could be desired, nor, he thought, could anyone reasonably complain of the composition of the Commission, which was composed of gentlemen who, in the opinion of most people, were admirably suited for the kind of investigation to be committed to them. That was how the matter stood, and it was under such circumstances that the noble Duke asked the Government to alter completely and fundamentally the whole scope and object of this inquiry, and, to substitute for the specific inquiry contemplated an inquiry covering the whole question of the effect and results of recent land legislation in Ireland. In other words, they were to give the Commission two inquiries wholly distinct in their subject-matter. The noble Duke made no secret of the object with which he asked for this investigation; he indicated plainly that it was to be the basis of a claim for that compensation which had been so insistently demanded at the hands of Parliament by those who had 851 suffered, and he believed they had suffered very cruelly—["hear, hear!"]—ruder the Acts of the last few years. He would like to ask their Lordships this question—what was it with regard to this claim to compensation that the Commission could tell the House under the proposal made by the noble Duke? Did they want a Royal Commission to show that landlords had suffered by the Act of 1881 and the Acts which followed it? He did not know that anybody in the House or out of it would venture to affirm the contrary. ["Hear, hear!"] There had been many quotations from speeches of those who favoured the Act of 1881, and he had always wondered at the simplicity—he might almost say the power of self-deception—of those who at that time were able to affirm their belief that legislation of that kind was possible without injuriously affecting the interests of landlords. There was then, and there is now, a very simple test which anyone could apply. Ask any experienced land agent, any experienced land surveyor, anyone familiar with the sale of real property, whether an Act applying to any part of the United Kingdom the land system commonly spoken of as the "three f's" would not largely diminish the value of every single acre in that part of the country? ["Hear, hear!] A Commission was not required to show that landlords had suffered by reason of the Land Acts. Then he would be told that the Royal Commission would be useful because it would be able to determine how much suffering had been caused, to assess the amount of injury in terms of money, but it seemed to him that task was far beyond the power of any body of men. It had been sometimes assumed by his noble Friends that the fall in the value of Irish land had been entirely caused by the Land Acts, but that, if they would forgive him for saying so, was art overstatement of the case, because it was useless to deny that land in Ireland, just like land in all other parts of the United Kingdom, had suffered in value from the recent fall in agricultural prices. He did not see how any Commission, however able, could take upon itself to say in the case of a farm which was worth £1,000 in the seventies, and was now worth only £500 or £600, how much of the difference was due to land legislation and how much to economic causes. For 852 that purpose the Royal Commission would not be likely to lead to any conclusive result. Then it had been suggested that the Commission would be useful because it would indicate the different possibilities in the way of compensation to the landlords. He thought the discussions which had taken place in the House had shown that they were already pretty well aware of the different directions in which it was possible to look for compensation, were the question to be entertained at all. Most noble Lords bad stopped short of suggesting the possibilty of what was generally termed direct compensation—he meant in the shape of a grant—and it, of course, would have to be an enormously large grant from the Treasury. He had generally found, in private conversation, that most of his friends from Ireland had not been slow to admit that a grant of that kind was not the compensation to which they could venture to look forward. lie would take upon himself to say that, as men of business, there was not one of them who would give a. brass farthing for his prospective share of compensation of that kind to be expected from the Treasury either of this or of any other Government which might be in power. But it had been indicated to them that there were other directions in which it was possible to look for compensation. They had heard of loans—of loans to landlords for the purpose either of paying off mortgages or of acquiring the tenant right. He ventured to point out the other evening that loans for the purpose of paying off mortgages would operate very unevenly, and that in those cases where relief was most urgently needed by a landowner, in cases where he was already on the very verge of bankruptcy, it was almost idle to expect for him a loan of public money upon security so indifferent. If it was remembered, as it must be, that in all loans of this kind the borrower had to pay so much per annum as interest and so much more as sinking fund, he believed it would be found that the amount of relief actually afforded to the person who might receive such a loan would be infinitesimally small. As for the proposal that loans should be made to the landlords to enable them to purchase up the tenant right, he confessed that that was an expe- 853 riment which he would not like to see tried without a great deal of hesitation, because it seemed to him that it would have the effect of giving assistance from the public purse to landlords to enable them to buy from their tenants the tenant right at a price lower than that at which the tenant could sell it in the open market. He could not conceive any arrangement more likely to perpetuate that irritation which his noble Friends joined with him in desiring to put an end to by every possible means. ["Hear, hear!"] Then there was the suggestion made with regard to the tithe rent-charge, and as to that he really did not think that noble Lords from Ireland could complain of the manner in which they had been met by Her Majesty's Government. A very distinct pledge was given in that House the other evening that the matter would be taken up, and that the persons liable for the payment of ecclesiastical tithe rent-charge might look forward to a measure of relief. There was one suggestion made by the noble Duke which, he admitted, was a novel one—the suggestion that in the assessment of the Death Duties the owners of land in Ireland were very hardly dealt with, and that, in that respect, some assistance might be afforded to them. If he followed the argument of the noble Duke, it seemed to him to point to this, that the administration of the Death Duties was carried out without sufficient regard to the true circumstances of the estate in respect of which the Death Duties were levied. If that were indeed the case, the matter was surely one which it did not require a Royal Commission to deal with. He earnestly hoped that the Commission which they desired to appoint would be allowed to conduct its inquiry without the addition of any fresh matter. He could not help thinking that noble Lords from. Ireland had not much to complain of in respect of their achievements during the present Session. They had told the House just now that they had been "pegging away." He thought they had been pegging away not entirely without success. They had got the Royal Commission which they desired to appoint—a Royal Commission which, although it might not in all respects satisfy their demands, would unquestionably deal with the grievance which, of all others, they 854 had put forward in the front of their complaint, and they had obtained a distinct pledge in regard to tithe rent-charge. He trusted they would rest content with these achievements, and that they would not insist upon an inquiry which, he honestly believed, would be inconclusive and superfluous, and, which he did not think would really do much to bring about the final settlement, upon the necessity of which the noble Lord opposite had dwelt so strongly in his speech.
*VISCOUNT TEMPLETOWN rose with very much pleasure to support the Motion of the Duke of Abercorn, and to deal with one or two points in the speech of the noble Marquess who had just spoken. The noble Marquess said he thought that State loans to landlords would not benefit a great many of them. He did not know on what ground he based that statement. He quite admitted that the rates of interest paid for loans by Irish landlords varied on different properties, but one advantage of having loans from the State was that the rate of interest would be lower than that at which money was at present lent to Irish landlords by the insurance companies on Irish securities. He thought that probably one of the greatest condemnations ever passed on the Irish Land Acts was that conveyed in the want of will of the great insurance companies of England and Scotland to advance money on what really was good security in Ireland, in consequence of the Acts passed by the Governments. The noble Marquess said that if they asked for compensation direct it would come from the public purse. He did not know which noble, Lord who had supported the Motion had ever claimed direct compensation. He did not say whether they were entitled to it or not—he believed they were—but they had not asked for it. What they were asking for was consideration of their case. They only asked to be heard, not only in their Lordships' House but before the country, and he did not know of any better method by which they could get such a result than by having a Commission to inquire into the matters defined by the Duke of Abercorn. There was another point, and that was the Death Duties. Personally, he had nothing whatever to complain of in the way he had been handled by the Irish authorities in this matter, but he saw this point very clearly before him, that
a man might succeed to a property a year or two before the revision of rents was to occur. What he wanted to be certain of was, that he should not be charged succession duty on rents which in the ordinary course of events in this country would only be subject to reduction from economic causes, but in Ireland were subject to reduction by those very authorities who assessed the Death Duties upon him. When he had the honour of asking Her Majesty's Government whether this Commission would have power to examine and report on the pledges given by the Government of the day on the passing of the Land Act of 1881, and as to whether the circumstances contemplated by the Government which would raise a claim for compensation had arisen, he produced evidence in favour of a general inquiry into the Acts, which the Government had never even challenged, much less had they even denied it. He showed the interdependence of the various Acts, and if they once admitted that there was this interdependence, mid that there ought to be inquiry into some of them, surely it followed logically that they should inquire into all of them. On that occasion he ventured to show the difficulties of lawyers and experts in administering them, and, finally, that there was a general consensus of opinion that there ought to be a general inquiry into Irish Land Acts. He did not intend to go over the same ground again, but he would quote two short statements in favour of the inquiry asked for by the Duke of Abercorn. When Mr. Justice FitzGibbon was examined before Mr. Morley's Commission, Mr. Morley asked (Question 2,969, page 140),—
I think the Committee, so far as I can judge, certainly including myself, feel that unprofessional persons must be perplexed beyond measure by the enormous difficulties of construction arising from the interdependence of the various Acts which refer to one another, in and out, of which you as a Court I suppose must have felt the difficulty as we laymen. I should like to hear if you would be kind enough to tell the Committee an account of the relations of those Acts to one another, and any statement that you care to make of the difficulties arising from those relations.
The answer of Mr. Justice FitzGibbon was as follows,—
I can scarcely exaggerate the difficulty that has arisen in two ways. First, from the artificial system of definition that exists in these
Acts, by which we have first to learn a special language before we try to and out what the interpretation of a particular section is, we must know the language before we proceed to interpret it, and it is a foreign language to lawyers.
Again, Judge O'Connor Morris, writing in The Fortnightly Review of June, 1896, in the article, "The Irish Land Bill of Lord Salisbury's Government," said,—
It does not attempt to place the land system of Ireland, at least in its most important relations, on a more stable and sound foundation, or essentially to change the legislation of late years, which has torn it, it may be truly said, to pieces;" and further, "a Government which commands the field of politics might have made an earnest and thorough effort to set the Irish Land System on a better basis; in its largest and most important province, to reconcile it in some measure at least with the conceptions of just and civilised law, to mitigate in part without doing violence to existing or recently acquired rights, the gross wrongs and the vexatious evils of an ill designed and revolutionary scheme of reform. Legislation of this kind, however, must have been preceded by a careful, protracted, and impartial inquiry into the present state of the Irish Land System and into the operation and effects of the Gladstonian Land Act,….
Land tenure in Ireland must be thoroughly recast if the Land System is to rest on a sound basis.
If he understood the reasons for passing the various Land Acts, they were enacted to secure that the tenant should not pay an excessive rent. It had been shown that by means of tenant right the practical rent paid by a tenant is not as a rule lowered. But two things were going on in Ireland. One was the reduction of rent under the Land Act, which he supposed was anticipated and intended, but the other thing which was going on was not anticipated and not intended, and that was that part of the corpus of the estate of Irish landlords was being taken away over and above that. The one thing which differentiated the case of the English and Irish reductions in rent was this—that whereas English landlords only suffered to the extent of the reductions given by them to their tenants, the Irish landlords suffered that and lost a part of the corpus of their estate into the bargain for State reasons. It was that they asked for an inquiry into now. When the First Lord of the Treasury, speaking
in another place, virtually admitted without reservation or qualification that none of the Land Acts could be any longer defended, he thereby asserted the necessity and justice of an inquiry sufficiently wide to embrace all the matters complained of. The words of the First Lord of the Treasury were,—
When the right hon. Gentleman opposite points out that we are dealing with a judicial body, and that inquiries into the action of a judicial body are in themselves rather dangerous remedies, I entirely agree with him. I think the course we have adopted is one which ought to be adopted with reluctance, and only if there is adequate ground shown for it; but observe that, by the very nature of the case, the sort of judicial work which we have thrown upon the Land Commission by the Act of 1881 and successive Acts justifies a procedure which would not be proper if we were dealing with the administration of settled principles of law such as those which the ordinary practice of the Courts in this country administer. I have never concealed from the House that, however great the excuses—and they were great—for the experiment made in 1881, that experiment was in itself a disastrous experiment — [cheers]—foredoomed to failure, or, at all events, to partial failure—and that we attempted to do through the medium of a Court that which no Court could adequately accomplish.
§ He thought that it was patent that so much confusion existed in the Land Acts that not to inquire into them, as moved by the Duke of Abercorn, now that a favourable opportunity existed, would be an omission which Her Majesty's Government and many others who wished justice done to all classes of the community would deeply deplore. He took this opportunity of saying that the Motion did not seem to him to threaten the rights of the Irish tenants in any way. If the tenants had received more than they ought to have, it was not their fault, but that of the Land Acts, and it was those who were responsible for the present state of things to make amends to the Irish landlords. tie supported the noble Duke's Motion on the grounds that if the practice of taking property from Irish landlords without compensation was to be allowed to continue, a fundamental principle of the Constitution would be violated and a precedent established for similar Acts in this country.
*THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
said he agreed with almost every word that the noble Duke had said, but did not quite 858 agree with the methods whereby he desired that his wishes should be carried out. The noble Duke sought to add to the reference to the Royal Commission in order that the Commissioners should inquire and report as to the validity and justice of the various grounds upon which owners of land in Ireland had claimed that compensation was due to them. It would be an excellent and desirable thing if an inquiry were made into that subject, but some of the grounds upon which compensation was claimed would, he thought, be examined into under the terms of the present reference. Compensation was claimed on the ground that property had been depreciated through the reduction of rents. That obviously was a most disputable question, and one in which morals and ethics came in. It was conceivable that the State might, without taking away any absolute property, be justified in imposing certain conditions upon the enjoyment of that property which might affect its value, without granting compensation. For instance, interference with the use of property might be necessary and equitable to put an end to some gross injustice. As to any claim for compensation owing to reduction of rents, that claim in its moral aspect depended very largely upon whether rents had been reduced below the natural market rate; and, as far as ethics were concerned, whether the rents were reduced below what were fair and just and equitable rents. [''Hear, hear!"] He understood that that would be a subject for inquiry by the Commission under the reference as it stood. Another distinct type of ground upon which compensation was claimed was that the State had taken away actual property and rights in property which had value, which value could be ascertained. For instance, there wove the questions whether owners had been deprived of the right of resumption and of valuable property in buildings amid so on. Was it true that up to a certain date buildings on an agricultural farm were the property of the owner of the soil, and that after a certain date had ceased to be his property? That was a question into which ethics did not enter. He imagined not one of their Lordships would say that the question could arise as to whether the owner ought or ought not to have had any property 859 in buildings. Rightly or wrongly he had such property, and to argue that compensation would depend upon whether he ought to have had it or ought not, would be a dangerous precedent. There were many people who were strongly impressed with the idea that ground landlords in the Metropolis and great cities had no equitable claim to the enhanced value of the property due to the development of the Metropolis and those great cities. There were many other persons who held that the surface-owner had no equitable right to the minerals below the surface. There were some persons who objected strongly to private ownership in land altogether, and there were others who were perhaps more logical and certainly more foolish, who pinned their political faith and social science on the simple doctrine that no one ought to have any property at all, and that all property was thrift. It was impossible to say how far public opinion might develop in any of those directions, and he was sure their Lordships would agree with him that the only safe doctrine to adhere to was that which obtained in this and every civilised country, namely, that if the State, for the good of the community deprived individual of property to which he had a legal title, the State was bound to compensate the individual to the full extent of the value quite independent of the question whether the property ought to have been the individual's or not. What he would like to see at rest was whether there really had been any deprivation of valuable property at all. If Parliament and the nation chose to say property had been taken and they refused to pay for it, that was a clear and distinct position, but at present neither Parliament nor the country had before them sufficient data to make up their minds as to whether valuable property had or had not been taken, and he confessed he should be exceedingly glad if at some future time, if not now, an inquiry upon the subject could be made. ["Hear, hear!"] It did not appear to him, however, that the present Royal Commission was a perfectly competent body to deal with the difficult and complicated question what had been the effect, upon the 860 interests of landlord and tenant, of the whole policy which had influenced Parliament, during the last quarter of a century, in dealing with the system of land tenure. There was another reason why he could not vote against the Government on this question. If their Lordships agreed to this Motion they would be petitioning the Queen to do that which they were perfectly well aware Her Majesty's advisers would advise her not to do. They would be practically petitioning Her Majesty to dispense with the services of her present Ministers. In other words it would be a want of confidence in the Government, although brought forward in a somewhat curious and irregular way. It was for that reason, mid because he did not think the present Royal Commission was particularly well qualified to deal with this subject, that he felt unable to vote for the Motion, although he sympathised with the objects the noble Duke had in view.
said he had been prepared to argue, before he heard the speech of the noble Marquess on the Front Bench, that this proposal would be a convenience to Her Majesty's Government, as, if the Commission reported that the present deplorable position of Irish landlords was due to their own fault, the Government could disregard their appeals with a far clearer conscience than they could at present, whereas if they reported that the landlords had been unjustly treated, the Government would be in a better position to give practical effect to the sympathy they always expressed for them. They had never been able to extract from the Government an answer as to the justice of their claims, and, in the innocence of his heart, he supposed that this otherwise unaccountable reticence was owing to want of information. But the position appeared to be that whether their claims were just or not, no compensation was going to be given, except some slight relief in the matter of tithe rent-charge. He hoped this was not the last word of the Government, and he could not think that it would be accepted by the country. That was not, he thought, in accordance with English justice. The answer of the Government would be anxiously looked for. There were many hundreds of people—some on the verge of ruin, others in more 861 or less straitened circumstances—who, while filled with the greatest apprehension for the future, were convinced that they had been unjustly treated by legislation in the past. They were equally convinced that if the matter were the-roughly threshed out there would be an overwhelming feeling on their behalf. It was not right to leave these people, most of whom had been strong supporters of the Union and of the Government, in such a position. If the present: Commission was not a Commission ad hoc, let the matter be referred to a differently constituted body, but he hoped they would not be forced to the conclusion that because they were politically weak they were to be denied even the investigation of their claims. ["Hear, hear!"]
*THE PRIME MINISTER (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, the Debate appears to me to have taken a somewhat discursive tone, and it is a. little difficult to ascertain precisely what are the objects which some of my noble Friends from Ireland have in supporting the Motion of t he noble Duke. At the beginning of the Session they expressed themselves, as they had expressed themselves before, very strongly with respect to the evils which the working of the Land Act as administered appeared to be bringing upon Ireland generally, and upon the class of landowners in particular. I think that they met with very general sympathy and a general concurrence in the belief that the sufferings of that class were very severe; but in asking for an inquiry they were careful to say, as I think I have also heard again to-night, that they did not intend to draw into question the Act of 1881 itself. They desired a thorough and complete investigation into the manner in which its provisions were administered, in order that they might know whether the intentions of the legislators who had passed that Act were fulfilled, and whether the particular enactments were properly carried out. I have not the quotations by me, but my impression is that several of the most prominent mid conspicuous of those who have maintained the cause of the Irish landowners were careful to draw t hat distinction. Drawing that distinction, and insisting upon it, they urged us to give an inquiry into the mode in which 862 the Act was administered. We found great difficulty in doing so, and it was a matter of very considerable reflection before we saw our way to do so with any prospect of useful result. But we yielded their wish, we announced a Commission with terms of reference which I think were agreed to by some of my noble Friends, and which did not at the time certainly draw down any protest from them either with respect to sins of omission or of commission. We named a Commission competent in our judgment to carry out the distinct and limited inquiry indicated by that order of reference. The Commission was so framed that it was, it seemed to us, suited to carry out an inquiry into the question whether the Act had been duly and rightly carried into effect by its administration. There was a Judge, there were two English surveyors, and there were two gentlemen of different opinions in Ireland who were conversant with the working of the Land Law. These gentlemen appeared to be perfectly competent to carry out that inquiry; it was a very important inquiry, and one which noble Lords from Ireland had earnestly desired, and it was one which could have been carried out by these gentlemen with great effect. But now they propose to add to it a very much wider kind of inquiry, touching a wholly different matter, and requiring entirely different capabilities in those by whom the inquiry is to be conducted. I have never before heard of this proceeding. I cannot remember a case in which the Crown has been asked to alter the terms of reference of a Commission which has once been issued. Be that as it may, you are now asking the Crown, if -you pass this Motion, to refer to them "to report on the effects and results of the Irish Land Acts, mid their administration, on the respective interests of landlords and tenants." Now that does a It require a minute conversance with engineering and surveying technicalities, it does not even require a knowledge of the Irish Land Laws; what it requires is a knowledge of land cultivation in Ireland, it requires a knowledge that would enable them to determine whether as a result of these 16 years' operation of the Irish Land Acts the tenants or the landlords have obtained an advantage greater than that which would have been conferred upon either side by 863 the seasons, or the other conditions which have passed during that time. Now, that is an agricultural investigation which would require absolutely different men to carry it out. The present Commissioners would be entirely useless for the purpose, and the result of tacking this totally new and different reference on to the old one would be that the old investigation for which you were so anxious would have to he set aside, and new men, for the purpose of conducting a new investigation, would have to be selected and commissioned. Now that seems to be a very thriftless way of conducting a public investigation; that is not the manner in. which any useful result can be obtained. Just conceive what the width is of this inquiry to which you are inviting the Commission, and the way in which the Act has affected the interests of the landlords and the tenants. You must inquire how the landlords and tenants stand towards each other compared with their position in 1881, and you must further inquire how far has that relative position been altered by the events that have taken place in the world at large. ["Hear, hear!"] You must ascertain what has been the result in Ireland of those economical causes with whose operation here in England we are too familiar. Of course I am quite aware, and should always maintain, that it is not fair to apply the experience of the eastern part of England to measure the result of economical causes in Ireland, but there are many parts of England that do not differ very largely from the position of Ireland, and over them to a. certain extent the wave of depression has passed. You would have to inquire into each case—this landlord is less rich, this farm is less valuable—is it duo to the operation of the law, or is it due to the economical conditions that have appeared? I cannot imagine a more lengthy, interminable, difficult inquiry than that which you arc proposing to place upon the Commission. Is there any sense in mixing it up with another clear and comparatively brief and easy investigation, in which a few months ago you expressed yourselves not only interested in the highest degree, but which you regarded almost as the sole matter which called for inquiry? I entirely concur with what Lord Dunraven said, that it would be a very curious thing and a 864 very interesting thing to have an investigation which would tell us what the real result has been of this bold defiance of the laws of political economy which Parliament sanctioned 16 years ago. I entirely concur with my noble Friend Lord Lansdowne in looking on that legislation as entirely disastrous, and with reference to the three southern provinces of Ireland I consider it not only disastrous but unjust. But that does not make the problem less complicated or less difficult to investigate. I should be very glad if it were possible to have it investigated, not only by a competent but by a fairly impartial body. The difficulty in all these investigations in Ireland is that the Judges are so apt to bring some of their opinions ready-made into the room. I should be very glad if it were possible to have such an inquiry. Two conditions would be absolutely necessary before it would be safe to enter into such an investigation. First, you must make it clear to the tenants of Ireland that you do not mean to upset the Act of 1881. I have never found any value in the Act, but from the moment it was passed I have held the language that you were taking a step which you could not retrace, and that in any revolutions that concerned the possession of land it was impossible to undo a great error when once committed. I think it would be a very evil thing if you led the Irish tenant to believe that the entire reversal of the recent policy of England with respect to Irish land was at hand, because during these 16 years all kinds of vested interest and expectations have grown up. Men have invested money on the faith of your policy. They have made their plans and arrangements, perhaps speculated and offered their property for the purpose of investment. And if you give them the impression that the security of property as applied to land is a thing which simply depends on the oscillations of the political pendulum you destroy all confidence in the principal industry of Ireland, and, therefore, you destroy the sole hope there is that agriculture may be restored by the application, in however small a degree, of the capital it so sorely needs. While retaining in the strongest degree my opinion of the Act of 1881—I repeat my opinion that a revolution like that cannot be simply retraced, and you would commit the 865 greatest economical error if you allowed the tenants of Ireland to think that any such issue was possible. There is one other precaution I would recommend Lord Dunraven to observe, if ever he is able to carry into effect the interesting inquiry he has shadowed forth, and that is, to make it clear to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that no one expects compensation in the shape of so many pounds, shillings, and pence from the English Exchequer. I ant quite sure they would not get it, and not only that they will discourage any other proposal for the benefit of Irish landlords they may have to make, and cause all financial authorities on both sides of the other House to close their ears to any suggestion they may bring forward. If these two conditions are observed, I believe, if you study them, things may be done to the advantage of the Irish landlords which you may call compensation, but which I would call merited tenderness for an interest which has been hardly treated. I do not like the word compensation. It savours too much of a railway company and of arbitration. I believe there are several such methods, but they must be examined one by one. They cannot be dealt with as a whole. You cannot lay down a general principle which will embrace them all. It is for you who know where the shoe pinches to tell how the pressure can be relieved. It is for you to bring forward such proposals for the alleviation of the position of the Irish landlords as you soberly think can really be adopted, and by the moderation of your desires and arguments, as well as by the strength of the reasoning you put forward, to commend them to the impartial and sympathetic acceptance of English statesmen. I think the legislative improvement of the position of Irish landlords in this matter lies in their own hands and may be carried to a considerable point. But to take a Commission you have recently appointed, and which you affected to believe was of great importance, and deliberately to wreck it by attaching to it a wide inquiry which it is wholly unfitted to carry out—that is not the course of statesmen and will not benefit the suffering industry you represent. [Cheers.]
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I think as this is a matter that directly touches the Act of 1881, for which some noble 866 Lords on both sides of the House were directly responsible, I think I ought to say a few words—not that I differ from the view taken by the noble Marquess. I think the reasons he has given for not extending the inquiry are quite conclusive, and I can add nothing to them. We on this side would go further, because we have thought no inquiry whatever was desirable, and our reason for thinking so was based on the view expressed by the noble Marquess, that there was a great danger in disturbing the minds of the tenants in Ireland by these inquiries. But I will not go upon that point at all, because that is a matter that may be considered settled. Agreeing as I do entirely with the view that it would be practically impossible to separate distinctly the various causes which may have contributed to produce the present situation of agricultural affairs in Ireland, I am bound to express my own opinion for what it may be worth, that, in point of fact, Irish landlords, although they are very naturally ascribing their misfortunes to the Act of 1881, do not give sufficient weight to the fact that not only in Ireland, not only in England, but in all civilised countries in Europe, a disastrous condition of things has arisen as regards owners of agricultural land. For that is a remarkable fact which I could wish Irish landlords would bear more in mind. I am not for a moment about to say that I think the Irish. Land Act was one which could be acceptable to the landlords for the reason, of course, that it interfered directly and most seriously with their full power over their whole property. More than that, it created in the South of Ireland, as has been pointed out, the recognition of tenant right, which before that did not exist to any considerable extent outside Ulster. Nothing could be more natural than that they should feel themselves aggrieved, but I ask them not to blind themselves to the operation of economical laws on agriculture in this country and ethers. In the wheat-growing parts of England it may be different, but where wheat-growing is not so much carried on there has been a heavy reduction indeed in the income of landlords. When we speak of an English landlord losing on his rental as much as 50 per cent., that he has lost the whole of that on his gross income, 867 all his expenses, and they are very heavy, in the management of an English estate remain exactly the same. [Cheers.] In Ireland, it is a fact that no one will deny that, the system of management being different, there are not those heavy expenses which fall on the landlord in England as regards the management of the estate. That makes the case of the English landlord in one sense more disastrous than that of the Irish landlord.
THE EARL OF MAYO
asked whether the noble Earl could point out any part of England where tenant right had been sold at from 30, 40, and 50 years' purchase.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
For the simple reason that tenant right does not exist in England. That is one of those remarkable circumstances in Ireland—I am speaking of the north of Ireland—which, as far as I know, to an Englishman seems inexplicable. I passed a certain time in Ireland, and nothing struck me so much as tenant right in Ulster. Why it existed to the extent it did, and what were the causes that produced it, was an enigma to me. I sincerely trust it will never exist in England. It is not in accordance with our practice, and I do not think it will grow up here. I cannot conceive any one being able to controvert the two grounds upon which I understand the Government oppose this Resolution—first of all, that the Commission is obviously not composed in the manner necessary to conduct the inquiry it is proposed to make; end secondly, however interesting such an inquiry may be, I think it would be beyond the wit of man to determine exactly what are all the causes that have operated to produce the present condition of things in Ireland. Then there is a third reason, most strongly, plainly, and without hesitation stated by Lord Salisbury—who has al ways been a consistent opponent of and has consistently condemned the Act of 1881—which I was glad to hear from him. He laid down two propositions that it would be disastrous to awaken in the minds of the Irish tenants the belief that you were to reopen the whole question—which you would by such an inquiry—of the Irish Land Act; and, secondly, that when Parliament has, rightly or wrongly, determined upon a great change in the whole system of a great industry in this country, it would be to the largest degree 868 disastrous that after a few years you should endeavour to reverse that policy entirely, and would introduce a state of uncertainty and ill-feeling which would lead to consequences which I am quite certain not only all of us in this country but every Irish landlord would ultimately deplore. [Cheers.]
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
said he gathered from Lord Salisbury's speech that if the Duke of Abercorn carried his Motion he would impose upon the Commission appointed by the Government a duty outside the sphere of its work, and that would damage the Commission. At the same time he could not disguise from himself the fact that, if his noble Friend did not carry the Motion on a Division, Her Majesty's Government would be more or less identified with the idea that they declined to regard the Irish landowning class as being justified in asking for any compensation whatever. Under these circumstances he was somewhat doubtful as to the course which the supporters of the Motion should take. But there was one point that should be brought home to their Lordships, and that was that the acquiescence of the Government in forcing this Commission was entirely distinct from the rights to compensation which the landowning class thought they hail owing to the variety of land legislation, from which they had suffered so much. They considered when they approached the noble Marquess and demanded a Commission, such as he had appointed, that it was absolutely necessary at the present moment to have some inquiry as to the reasons of the extraordinary reductions of rent that were being daily and almost hourly carried into effect by the Sub-Commissioners under the Land Act of 1881. His noble Friend below him, in his temperate speech, alluded to the fact, as did the noble Marquess, that prices were very much lower in England than they had been in years gone by, and consequently the landowners in Ireland could not complain if their rents were reduced compulsorily to very much the same extent as had been the rents of the landowning classes in England. His noble Friend forgot to draw attention to this fact. The main point put before the noble Marquess by the deputation was that the fall in prices in Ireland did not correspond with the fall of prices in England, and that 869 the tenant-right which the tenants obtained in Ireland was higher than it had been for many years past, and consequently they were at a loss to understand why these extraordinary reductions were given in Ireland. That was the reason they approached the noble Marquess. Now let him turn to the other side of the question. The reason why that deputation, which was received in the main kindly and considerately, approached the noble Marquess was because of a Resolution passed in Dublin to the effect that a deputation should wait upon the Prime Minister. One of the chief resolutions of that meeting was that the question of compensation—entirely distinct from the fall in prices—due to the Irish landowning classes, owing to the land legislation, should be brought before Parliament at the earliest possible moment. The action of the Sub-Commissioners was what the Commission were to inquire into. The result of the legislation of 1881 was a totally different matter. What he wanted their Lordships to do was to dissociate the two matters in their minds. He should be glad if the noble Marquess below him (Lord Lansdowne) who spoke most sympathetically with regard to the wrongs done to Irish landowners, apart from the action of the Sub-Commissioners, Who more or less sympathised with the landowning classes owing to their misfortunes due to the legislation in 1881, would assure his noble Friend behind him that the Government would give some practical proof of the sympathy they had expressed by saying they would inquire into the matter or consider the question very seriously from a practical point of view. There was no one, to his mind, who was qualified more fully to speak on this matter than the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne.) The conditon of the Irish landowning classes was described absolutely graphically by him in the able speech he made in the Debates ill their Lordships' House in 1881. The noble Marquess last year alluded to himself as a tame elephant who was calculated to lead other wild elephants into the meshes of the Government net. He would say with regard to that simile, although his simile of the position of the Irish landowning class in 1881 to what their position would be at the present moment was even more remarkable and significant. These were 870 the noble Marquess's words addressed to their Lordships in 1881:—I own that I am filled with concern when contemplate in anticipation The position of helplessness and uselessness into which the landlords are likely to be driven by this Bill. I read the other day in the report of the proceedings of a Society of Entomologists that there is a species of wasp which is in the habit of feeding its young upon the bodies of other insects, generally those of a large grasshopper. These wasps have discovered that their victims, if killed outright, are apt to decay and become worthless. They have accordingly, by a marvellous effort of instinct, hit upon the expedient of stinging them in such a manner as, without actually killing them, to deprive them of all power of movement. In this miserable condition they languish until they are required for consumption. That is the condition into which the Trish landowners will, I fear, be driven by their persecutors.The noble Marquess went on to say:—''It will, I am sure, be a consolation to your Lordships to know that the distinguished naturalist who conducted there researches found that even after the treatment I have described, the victims retained some power of digestion, and that he was able to prolong their lives considerably by feeding them on syrup. Let us hope that in their last days the landlords will be equally fortunate in the treatment they will receive.That was the position into which the landowning classes were brought at the present moment. Might he say he trusted they would be equally fortunate in the treatment they would receive at the hands of the noble Marquess below him. He trusted they might receive some assurance from the Government that they would consider the difference of the two questions—the formation of the Commission to inquire into the unjust reduction of the rent by the Sub-Commissioners, and the hardships inflicted on the landowning, classes by the legislation of 1881. If they should receive some such assurance he had Po doubt his noble Friend behind him might be inclined not to go to a Division.
THE DUKE of ABERCORN
understood the Prune Minister to say that if any propositions or suggestions were put forward by the Irish landowners fortified by the strength of reasoning, the Government would be willing to take these matters into consideration. He, therefore, begged to ask the noble Marquess, supposing they were able to comply with these conditons, if he would give an undertaking to form, at any rate, some body of men to inquire into the landowners' condition.
*THE PRIME MINISTER
What the noble Duke asks me is rather a speculative and academical question. I am afraid he would think I was trifling with him if I told him that, if he quite convinced Her Majesty's Government, Her Majesty's Government would act upon their convictions. [Laughter and "Hear, hear!"] I do not know that it is possible in the circumstances to give a more distinct promise; but I shrink a little, having had some experience this year of the difficulty of forming Irish Commissions, from an unlimited and unconditioned promise of future Irish Commissions on indistinct and unsettled circumstances. [Laughter.] I think it may be very doubtful whether these matters would be cleared up by a Commission, but I readily promise the noble Lord that we shall not shrink from applying such a remedy if we think that by doing so we can do what undoubtedly we have so much at heart—namely, improve the position of those who have been so much injured by recent legislation—as the Irish landlords. [Cheers.]
could only say that, if the noble Duke who had brought this Motion forward was satisfied with what he had got from the noble Marquess at the head of the Government, he was very easily contented; and he thought be need never more ask noble Lords to come to support him on questions like this if he did not press his Motion to a Division. [Cheers.]
THE EARL OF MAYO
wished to know whether, if they pressed this Motion to a Division, it would or would not wreck the Commission, as he had understood the noble Marquess had suggested that this might be the result, they did not wish to wreck the Commission, as they had asked for it.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.