* LORD INCHIQUIN
My Lords, I rise to call attention to the following resolution of the Landowners' Convention, held in Dublin, 22nd February last:
"RESOLUTION PASSED BY THE LANDOWNERS' CONVENTION IN DUBLIN, FEBRUARY 22ND, 1899.That as Parliament has for public purposes thought fit to deprive the Irish landlords of a large portion of their legal rights and property in the soil, and has done so without that compensation which, previous to the passing of the Irish Land Acts, has been always recognised and granted wherever Parliament has deemed it necessary to interfere with such rights and property, we again call upon Parlia- 1129 ment to consider the claims of the Irish landlords to compensation from the State for the loss they have sustained by the Land Acts and their administration, in the following respects:—And to move to resolve:
- "(1) For the injury inflicted on them by being deprived of the right of resumption, and by the transfer from the landlord to the tenant of the right to the occupation of the soil;
- "(2) By the practical abolition of free contract in the letting of land;
- "(3) By the landlords being deprived of the right of obtaining in the open market the best rent for their property which solvent tenants would willingly pay;
- "(4) By the serious interference and diminution of the landlords' rights and income by the arbitrary fixing of so-called fair rents;
- "(5) By the reduction of rents below anything that could be justified by economic causes;
- "(6) By the heavy legal expenses periodically entailed upon the landlords by the process of fixing their rents judicially;
- "(7) By the impediments which have been placed in the way of their obtaining even the rent which the State still allows to them, while at the same time payment in full is enforced by the State for tithe rent-charge and all other State charges; and
- "(8) Generally, by the depreciation of the value of their property by legislation, as well as the deprivation of many valuable proprietary rights, the proper exercise of which was beneficial, not only to the landlords, but also to their tenants and to the community at large."That the question of compensation to the Irish landowners for injuries inflicted upon them by recent legislation demands the immediate attention of Her Majesty's Government.The resolution passed by the Landowners' Convention in Dublin states in a short and concise form all I wish to put before your Lordships, and if there is nothing that is untrue in that resolution—and I contend there is not—it is sufficient to justify the landowners' claim to have this question of compensation considered. Many of your Lordships are, perhaps, not aware of the manner in which the Landowners' Convention is constituted. It consists of representatives from every county in Ireland, who are elected to represent their county on the Convention, and to speak on behalf of the landowners in that county. Therefore, my Lords, in addressing your Lordships on this subject to-day, I feel that I am not expressing my own opinions or the 1130 opinions of those who sit with me in this House, but that I am giving you the opinions of the whole of the landowners of Ireland. We have been blamed, and I think not unjustly, because we, as the representatives of Ireland in this House, have not done our best to bring this subject before Parliament. The subject is an exceedingly difficult one, and when it is considered, it will be seen that we are not so much to blame as we are thought to be in Ireland. Your Lordships must know that this is a question far more fitted for the other House of Parliament, and if we had in that House representation such as we ought to have, we should, of course, bring the question up in the House of Commons. Therefore, I ask your Lordships' indulgence in calling attention to the matter here; and I have more reason to do so, because I took up a very large portion of your time two years ago in calling attention to the matter then. I am afraid it will be impossible for me to put this case again before your Lordships without a certain amount of repetition. The subject is a very wide one, and there are no less than twenty-five Acts of Parliament dealing with it and extending over as many years. On the former occasion I did not allude to a very important Act, which really is the first Act upon which there are grounds for us to ask for compensation; and if compensation had been then asked for, and pressed for, as I think it ought to have been, very likely we should not have had the legislation which has followed. The Government have themselves, on various occasions, admitted that the Act of 1869, to which I am going to draw your Lordships' attention, did do great injustice to the landlords in many ways. That Act was the Act for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Ireland, and our grievances in regard to that Act come about in this way. The Church was disestablished, but we were left to pay the tithes which were payable before for the maintenance of the Church, and also, in addition, to keep up the Church at an enormous expense. I think the landlords of Ireland have behaved nobly in this respect. They have not only continued to pay their tithes, but they have found a revenue for the Church which amounts to £400,000 a year; in fact, the Church of Ireland at the present moment has an endowment of no less than £8,000,000, a great deal of 1131 which has to come out of the pockets of the landlords. That alone gives the landlords some claim to consideration; but I would go further, and say that we have not only had to do that, but that we have strong grounds of complaint in reference to the tithe rent-charge itself. Many of your Lordships may not be aware how this tithe rent-charge came about. Before 1823 the tithe was paid by the occupying tenant in Ireland out of the corn produce of the country, and was revised every seven years according to the prices which then obtained, and the tenant himself had to pay it. Between 1823 and 1838 various Acts of Parliament were passed, the result being to place upon the landowner the duty of paying this tithe which had hitherto been paid by the tenant. This was not thought to be such a great hardship at the time, because landlords then had the power to recoup themselves out of the rent, which they could increase or vary as they pleased—though, in justice to them, I ought to say that they did not increase the rents on account of having the tithe rent-charge thrown upon them. The transferring of the tithe rent-charge from the tenant to the landlord naturally increased the value of the interest on the land; that is to say, the letting valuation of the land was increased. In 1838, an additional alteration was made by which demesne lands and grazing lands, which, of course, constitute a very large part of Ireland, were included, and the tithe was made payable on these lands. Then came the Act of 1869, which, as I have just now informed your Lordships, took the tithe away from the Ecclesiastical purposes for which it was at first raised, and devoted it entirely to secular purposes, leaving the landlords to supply the Church with funds. This went on until 1872. In that year it was determined to alter the arrangement by which the tithes were raised, and, instead of altering them every seven years, as had been the custom, it was resolved that the tithe rent-charge should be commuted into a terminal charge, and that money should be lent from the Exchequer to pay off these tithes. The arrangement was that the interest was to stand at £3 10s. per cent., and the money was to be lent to the landlord to pay off the tithes in 52 years. The total charge, including Sinking Fund as well as interest, came to £4 9s., so that by paying £4 9s. per cent. the landlord was able to get rid of 1132 the payment in respect of tithes in 52 years. But since this arrangement in 1872, rents have been lowered to the extent of something like 40, 50, and 60 per cent., but the same charge still remains upon the landlords as that fixed in 1872. That is a grievance which Mr. Balfour himself said in 1896 was a serious one, and which the present Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who was then Lord Privy Seal, condemned ten years ago as a very great grievance, and one which ought to be remedied. Nothing has been done since that time to remedy the grievance until this year, except one thing, which was, as usual, brought forward in the interests of the tenant, and the tenant only. The Government found, in 1896, that they were obliged to make the landlord buy up the tithe in cases where he sold to the tenant; therefore, they brought in an arrangement under which the landlord could pay off the tithe in forty-five years instead of fifty-two. In point of fact, it had been discovered that a miscalculation had been made in reference to the fifty-two years, and that the period should have been originally fixed at forty-five years. As this alteration was made in the Act of 1896, you would naturally have thought that if this really was just for a landlord, when selling his right to the tenant, it should extend to other landlords. The Government promised us that they would amend this matter, and they introduced a Bill very late this year, although they promised to bring it in earlier in the session. I and other noble Lords had intended to move an Amendment to the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne, but we refrained from doing so on receiving an assurance from the Government that they would deal with the question of tithe rent-charge in Ireland this session. We have, however, been treated very badly by the Government, inasmuch as the Bill was, in the first place, introduced at so late a period of the session, and, secondly, has now been dropped. I hope the noble Lord who will speak for the Government will make it perfectly clear that they do not mean to leave things as they are, but will bring forward their Bill at an early stage of next session and push it through. The legislation of 1870 was the commencement of that by which Mr. Gladstone gave effect to his land policy. Before 1870, Mr. Butt brought forward a Bill, which included the three "f's." I 1133 do not know whether it is necessary for me to explain the three "f's" to your Lordships, but, as I shall have to use the words frequently in my speech, I think I had better do so. The three "f's" are generally taken to mean fixity of tenure, fair rents, and free sale. Fixity of tenure means perpetuity rents, free sale means the right of the tenant to sell his interest in the land to the highest bidder, and fair rents mean valued rents. Mr. Butt, in his Bill of 1869, introduced these three "f's," and Mr. Gladstone was at that time very strongly opposed to them. How his opinions became altered to such a degree within a year or so afterwards it is difficult to make out. At that time Judge Longfield, who was judge of the Landed Estates Court in Ireland, than whom no one was able to speak with greater force, spoke strongly against any proposition of the kind. He said that the rent which ought to be charged for land is really the economic rent—the rent which the land would fetch in the market. He said that the only test of value was the price the public were willing to pay; that rent by valuation only appeared just to those who did not know what the value of land was; and that landlord and tenant have the only and best means of knowing the value of the land. He said it was probable that, if a tenant right measure was passed, the tenant or occupier would be certain to pay the full rent in the end, because he would not only have to pay the rent but the price of the tenant right. He added that, therefore, between the two rents which the tenant would have to pay, he would have to pay just as high a rent as in the market. I suppose Mr. Gladstone must have been reading Judge Longfield's remarks at the time he said what I am going to read to your Lordships. Speaking on Mr. Butt's Bill, including the three "f's," Mr. Gladstone said:Inasmuch as perpetuity of tenure on the part of the occupier is virtually expropriation of the landlord, and as the mere readjustment of rent according to prices can by no means dispose of all the contingencies the future may produce in his favour, compensation would have to be paid to the landlord for the rights of which he would be deprived. This compensation must be paid either by the Consolidated Fund, or by an immediate increase of rent, in order to compensate the landlord by positive augmentation in the present for loss of his chances in the future. The effect of such a provision will be that the landlord 1134 would become a pensioner and a rent charger on what had been his own estate. The legislature, no doubt, has the perfect right to reduce him to that condition, giving him a proper compensation for any loss he may sustain in money.Could anything have been clearer than that? Sir Roundell Palmer (afterwards Lord Selborne) stated the same view. He said, speaking in March, 1870:Fixity of tenure, in plain English, means taking the property of one man and giving it to another. My right hon. friend (Mr. Gladstone) said, according to the principles of justice, if we transferred property in that way we must pay for it. No doubt we may take a man's property, but in that case we must compensate him for it.This was the view expressed by Mr. Gladstone in 1870, and it is an extraordinary thing that he should have changed his opinion so soon afterwards. I will try and trace what was in his mind. Mr. Gladstone, having refused the three "f's," brought in a Bill in 1870 legalising the Ulster custom, and giving tenants the right to claim compensation for disturbance. Then it was that landlords should have insisted on their claim for compensation. Under the Act of 1870, a landlord wishing to resume possession of a paying farm, the Court held that the tenant was entitled to £500 compensation, though he had been in occupation only a short time and the land was almost valueless to him. Under the same Act, landlords have had to pay compensation for improvements to which they have themselves contributed. After the Act of 1870 we come to the Act of 1881, but, before I deal with that Act, I would remind your Lordships that two Commissions sat during those years, one presided over by the Duke of Richmond, and the other by Lord Bessborough. The Richmond Commission was a very important one, and, after a long inquiry, they came to the conclusion that the landlords had not done the things which it was said they had done, and supported the landlords' claim for compensation if the three "f's" were established. But before the Richmond Commission reported, Mr. Gladstone appointed the Bessborough Commission, and every witness examined before that Commission had the three "f's" thrust down his throat. It will be admitted that it was extraordinary that Mr. Gladstone should be anxious to bring forward the three "f's," having used the language which I have quoted in 1870. 1135 In 1881, when Mr. Gladstone brought in his Land Bill, he said in his statement that the three "f's" were not included, because the rents he proposed to have fixed were not necessarily reduced rents. Mr. Gladstone said he agreed that, if Parliament were to universally reduce rents to Griffith's valuation, that would be a fair case for compensation. I would ask your Lordships to look at the results, and you will see that subsequent evidence has shown that Mr. Gladstone was entirely wrong in 1881, for rents have been reduced much below—in some instances 25 per cent.—Griffith's valuation. Perpetuity of tenure, Mr. Gladstone said, was not in the Bill, because, at the end of the fifteen years' lease, a landlord could resume; but it is well known that has turned out a fallacy, and judicial rents are renewable in perpetuity. Between 1881, the time the Land Act was passed, and 1891, there were 139 applications to the Land Commission for the purpose of resumption of land, but only nineteen of those applications were granted by the Land Commission. There were eighty applications to the Civil Bill Courts, out of which only twenty were granted. The landlord, Mr. Gladstone said, would have the right of pre-emption, but in fact this has been otherwise, and he can only exercise the right by the payment of a prohibitory sum for his own property. I have shown your Lordships, clearly I hope, that Mr. Gladstone was entirely wrong in the grounds upon which he excused himself in giving compensation to owners, and those who opposed him were right; and now I am justified in calling upon those gentlemen who opposed Mr. Gladstone with arguments, the soundness of which have been proved by subsequent history, to give effect to the opinions they then expressed, and not to eat their own words. I propose, with your Lordships' permission, to read what the Members of the present Government said upon this subject—and their words are so strong that I cannot understand how they can get out of the obligation to pay compensation. Mr. Edward Gibson (now Lord Ashbourne) said during the Debates of 1881:The measure concedes the three 'f's,' but gives no compensation to landlords for what it takes from them, and no security for what is left, though it offers them a guarantee for universal litigation renewable for ever.1136 And, again, Lord Ashbourne said:If landlordism is to be done away with; why should not the transaction be done openly, and in the light of day? Don't filch their property without confession, or mutilate it without acknowledgment. What you take, take openly, and pay for what you take.I think the noble Lord deserves great credit for his foresight, and for having, spoken those words. He cannot turn round now, when we show him that what he anticipated has taken place. Mr. Arthur Balfour said:It now appeared, by the Bill of 1870, that, without intending it, they had conferred on the tenant property which belonged to the landlord, and they now thought it necessary to legalise deliberately this accidental confiscation. Free sale must end either in rack-renting or in robbery.We have been hauled over the coals over and over again for saying our property has been confiscated, but here is an admission of that fact. Free sale has ended in both rack-renting and robbery. Sir Richard Cross (now Viscount Cross), said:Let them say for the public good that this must be taken out of your estates, but, as in all other cases where we take the property of one loan for the benefit of others, we offer you I compensation full, fair, and ample for the injury we undoubtedly do to your estates.The next quotation I will read to your Lordships contains very strong language, and it is from a speech by Mr. Chaplin:Are you going to give the man to whom you have sold the estate yourselves compensation, or, failing that, are you not bound to, repurchase his estate on equitable terms? You are bound—there can be no question upon this point—to give him compensation. You give none. You tell us of judicial leases and judicial rents. I say that this part of your Bill is nothing else than one great scheme of judicial plunder.I have another extract from a speech by Mr. Chaplin, the language of which is equally strong. He says:These sweeping and extravagent proposals, proposals which conveyed to the breakers of the law the bulk of everything they have demanded, and which differs little, if at all, from those schemes of public plunder which the Prime Minister himself so unsparingly denounced, except, indeed, in this particular—that the Government gave no compensation to the landlord; and which certainly were-included in every scheme which has been: either suggested or attributed to the hon. member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell).1137 In every scheme which Mr. Parnell brought forward he included provision for compensation. Mr. Chaplin continued:You teach the lawless and the disaffected that by outrages, by violence and crime, by persistent and daring defiance of the law, they can wring—nay, they have wrung—from the Imperial Parliament the grossest and most unhallowed act of great public confiscation that ever yet has been attempted by any Minister or Statesman in any civilised society or country in the world.This is is pretty strong, I think. This is what Lord Salisbury said on the subject. Speaking on free sale, the noble Marquess said:I defy anyone to show that this money is given to the tenant without taking away the property of the landlord.Lord Lansdowne said:You are going to divide the interests of landlord and tenant, restricting the former and leaving the latter free. The landlord's property must suffer.There is one letter which I should like to read to the House. It is from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack (the Lord Chancellor) in reply to a letter from a landlord in Ireland, asking him his opinion on the subject of compensation. The noble and learned Lord said:Dear Sir,—As my words were not committed to writing, I cannot speak with absolute certainty as to what they were. But what I think I said was, that I cou'd see no reason why Irish landlords should be excepted from the principle which was generally applied in all cases where State policy involved taking away something to which an individual had a right—that is to say, that compensation should always be given where, for State reasons, private rights were invaded.I believe I have made it clear that it is impossible for the members of Her Majesty's Government to deny that they anticipated the very evils which it is my business to show have occurred. Mr. Gladstone, in introducing his Bill of 1881, said:If as has been said, Parliament is about to invade the property of Irish landlords, the 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 those classes, either or both of them, have a just claim for 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.1138 No language could be clearer than that. In another stage Mr. Gladstone said:We, in 1869 (on the Disestablishment of the Church), provided that every holder of an advowson in Ireland should receive the full market price of his property. This we held to be the true principle on which compensation should be based, and this is the principle on, Which the question should be approached on, the present occasion. If after experience should prove that, in fact, ruin and heavy loss is likely to have been brought on any class in, Ireland by direct effect of this legislation, that is the question we ought to look directly in the face.I could quote many of Mr. Gladstone's, colleagues to the same effect. The noble Marquess at the head of the Government, in answering me on a previous occasion, told the Irish landlords that they must appeal to the constituencies and get public opinion on their side, and so long as they did not ask for any money he could give them his complete sympathy. What, my Lords, is the good of sympathy without money? I am speaking on behalf of men who have been ruined, and not for those landlords who are well off and get their money from other sources than their estates. I was in a house in Ireland recently which was previously occupied by a family in a very comfortable position, with an income of some £3,000 or £4,000, a year, but the lady who was living in that house, on account of difficulties, is now receiving only 14 ts. a week, just enough to keep body and soul together, from the mortgagees. I am putting before the House the position of thousands in Ireland. A great cry has arisen, and will increase in volume until a remedy is provided. If we appeal to the constituencies they either will not understand our case, or they will say:We have the strongest Government this country has seen, which is perfectly capable of understanding the mater, and it is their duty to see that the Irish landlords are compensated.Our case must be heard, and we insist upon having it heard. Millions of pounds have been taken away from Irish landowners, and they are entitled to compensation. What the Irish landlords say is this: "You have reduced our rents, you have taken a large slice out of our property and handed it over to the occupying tenant, who is at liberty to go wherever he likes with the money." That is what Parliament has done. It has handed over to the occupying tenant 1139 the difference between the old rent and the judicial rent. I will take in illustration a peculiar case upon my own estate just after the Act of 1881 was passed, and which I mentioned to your Lordships when I had the honour of calling attention to this question two years ago. I happened to put a tenant into a farm a year before the Act came into operation. The tenant was to pay a rent of £150 a year. He had not paid a farthing for that, because tenant right did not exist in the South of Ireland, and as regards my own estate, it was especially guarded. The tenant asked the rent to be reduced to £120. He asked to be allowed to sell, and he was allowed to sell. The result was that he got £1,250 for his interest, having come in the year before without having paid for any interest whatever. This man walked off to America, or somewhere else, with his £1,250, and left the present tenant subject to the rent of £120 plus interest on £1,250, which, I am bound to add, the tenant is paying very regularly. The other day the tenant applied to have his rent fixed for the second Term. It was fixed at £90, so that the original rent has been reduced by £60, or about 5 per cent. on the sum paid for the tenant-right. That is a clear case of carving the tenant-right out of the rent. Numerous cases of this sort could be cited. I had intended to refer to other matters, but I fear that I have already detained your Lordships at too great length. I would conclude by impressing upon the Government the absolute necessity of looking seriously into this question, and if they offer the same answer which they gave on a former occasion I shall feel compelled to appeal to your Lordships to put a little pressure upon them.
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN
My Lords, I have listened with the greatest interest to the excellent speech which has just been delivered by the noble Lord, and the most extraordinary part of that speech is that it is perfectly true, however incredible it may seem that any Government could have brought any class of Her Majesty's subjects to such a state of misery and poverty. I am sure the noble Lord's speech will meet with the sympathy of your Lordships, and especially of the three noble Lords opposite who have held the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and who are thoroughly 1140 acquainted with this question. The noble Lord at the beginning of his speech referred to the tithe rent-charge, and I should like to be permitted to say one word with regard to the Tithe Rent-charge (Ireland) Bill, which was introduced at the beginning of the session. To the astonishment of those who had trusted to the promises of the Government, we learned this morning that this Bill had been withdrawn, and I fear that when the news is received in Ireland it will be read with amazement and consternation by most of the landowners in that country. I cannot help thinking that the Government have treated us very badly in this matter. I might even use a stronger term, for my noble friends and myself naturally assumed that when the Bill was introduced the Government intended to proceed with it. Mr. Balfour stated that he hoped to bring in the Bill early next session with better results, and I trust the First Lord of the Treasury will fulfil his obligation to the landlords of Ireland. Why should this Government, the strongest in our own time, not only in ability but in votes, not support their friends who support them, instead of listening to the smooth words of those who have never helped them, who are their political enemies, who will continue to be their political enemies, and who, the more that is given them, the more will want? Slowly but surely the Irish landowners are being bled to death, and by the next generation there will hardly be a middle-class or small landed proprietor left in Ireland in a state of solvency. That has been brought about by various Acts of Parliament passed by different Governments, and I hope that to-night we shall have a satisfactory answer to the question laid before your Lordships by my noble friend.
* LORD FARNHAM
My Lords, after the very able and exhaustive speech of the noble Lord who introduced this question, I do not intend to detain your lordships at any great length, but I feel I should not be doing my duty to those who look to us, and whose only representatives we are, if I did not make a few remarks upon their case. Were it not for their representatives in the House of Lords the landlords of Ireland, contributing as they do large sums to the revenue, would, nevertheless, be almost as much without repre- 1141 sentation or means of making their voice heard as are the Uitlanders in the Transvaal. I was present during a Debate in your Lordships' House a short time ago, when it was proposed that some form of Fair Rent Fixing Court should be introduced into Wales, and I was struck by the shudder of horror with which the suggestion of an extension of the Irish Land Acts into Wales was received. In that Debate the noble Duke, the Duke of Argyll, stated that in passing the Irish Land Acts your Lordships had salved your consciences by believing that in Ireland the improvements were made by the tenants, whereas in England they were made by the landlords. In the first place I indignantly deny that there is, or ever has been, any desire on the part of the great body of the Irish landlords to confiscate the improvements of their tenants. On the contrary, they would have welcomed any measure which Would have secured to the tenant the unexhausted improvements of his holding. But, if it was expedient to legislate for the purpose of securing the tenant his improvements, why should it have been thought necessary to take from the Irish landlord those rights which the English landowner enjoys along with him? I had always understood that it was a maxim of English law that when the property of a private individual is taken from him, he should receive fair and full compensation. Sir Stafford Northcote said that when you sacrifice the interests of a class for what you consider a general benefit you ought to be called upon to make compensation. The question is whether recent legislation was brought about by political exigencies or not. My case is that the whole of the Irish land legislation was the outcome of political, and not of economic, necessity. It was laid down, more than fifty years ago, by Mr. Finton Lalor, that the mere question of separation was not in itself sufficient to enlist the sympathies of the peasantry of Ireland, and that in order to do that it would be necessary to tack on to that some other question, and this question, he said, is found in the land. That article, forty years later, was quoted by Mr. Michael Davitt, who said that those were the principles which presided over the birth of the Land League, and started the land agitation. The object was to drive out the landlords, not so much qua landlords, but because they 1142 constituted the English garrison. The rent agitation was set on foot for a political object, and the Land Act was passed for the same object. Mr. John Bright said on May 9, 1891, on the Second Reading of the Land Bill of that year:It is for the peace and tranquillity of the realm that this Bill has been drawn up and introduced to the House.And, later on, Mr. Bright speaks of it asA measure on which depends to a large extent the social interests of Ireland, and, I believe also, on which depends to a large extent the political interests of the United Kingdom.If the custom as to improvements of holdings differed in England and Ireland, that was a mere question of practice; but when we come to the other questions, such as right of occupation, free contract, etc., they are questions which depend on abstract principles of right and wrong. If the rights of which the Irish landlords have been deprived by legislation were consistent with justice, the Irish landlords ought to have been compensated for their loss. If those rights are unjust, then the English landlords, who still enjoy them, ought to put their house in order, and bring in a measure to provide for the surrender of rights which they ought not to possess. But I do not consider that those rights are unjust, and it is impossible to deny the equity of the claim put forward by the Irish landlords for compensation for their loss. If we have suffered, and if we deserve compensation for the loss of those rights which we used to, and which the English landowners still enjoy, much more do we consider that we are entitled to it on account of the manner in which the Land Act has been administered, and the way in which the predictions concerning it have been falsified. When the Bill was introduced in the House of Commons, we were told that it would rather benefit the landlords than otherwise, and that if they did lose a small amount of their rents it would be amply made up to them by the security they would enjoy, and the regularity by which their rents would be paid. It was stated by Mr. Parnell, in July, 1881, in Committee on the Fair Rent Clause, that the Bill would undoubtedly reduce many rents which were extreme rack-rents; but he thought that, on the other hand, it would raise many rents which were at the 1143 present moderate, and that, as regarded the class of rents which were too high, but which could not come under the denomination of rack-rents, it would leave them untouched. The net result would be, said Mr. Parnell, that the total amount of rent paid to the landlords in Ireland would be increased rather than diminished. The extraordinary thing which we find is that there does not appear to be any difference made between what may be called rack-rents and other rents, inasmuch as rents which had been recently raised to what might be termed rack rents, and those which had remained unaltered for generations, have been subject to the same percentage of reduction. As to the rents which have been left untouched, we could almost count them on our fingers, and the alteration has invariably been in the same direction. We have an original and fundamental grievance which exists in the Act. It is one which I called attention to when I had the honour of addressing your Lordships last year, and it is this, that the State has undertaken a task which it has never performed. The State undertook to fix fair rents as between landlord and tenant, but the State has never gone so far as to define what a fair rent is, or the principles upon which such a rent may be fixed. I called attention to that last year, and the noble and learned Lord (the Lord Chancellor of Ireland), in answering me, said:The Act itself, however, when an opportunity was given to it of defining a fair rent, shrank from the task and did not define it, so that some consideration should be given to those who are given the administration of the Act, which itself declines the difficulty of a definition.That is exactly what we complain of. I submit that our grievances are none the less keenly felt because the defect is inherent in the Act itself. We have suffered severely under it, and from the vague ideas that are in the minds of the sub-Commissioners as to what fair rent is. I submit that on that head alone we are entitled to compensation for the loss we have sustained. We have claims also in regard to the extraordinary proceedings of the courts of sub-Commissioners. I do not intend to go into all the cases to which I might refer, but I would call your Lordships' attention to one or two. I will first call attention to the evidence of Mr. Bassett, a valuer, given before the Fry 1144 Commission. He was speaking of a holding in which the rent had been reduced from £70 to £41, and when he was cross-examined he said that he had deducted, as part of the cost of production, 300 tons of manure—£30. The witness was asked: "Do you mean farmyard manure?" And his reply was: "Yes, Sir, 300 tons at 2s. a ton are £30." Is it conceivable, my Lords, that the manure which is taken out of the farm, and which the tenant pays nothing for whatever, should be charged for under the head of cost of production and deducted from the rent? That £30 made the difference between the old rent and the new rent. Another case has recently come under my notice—the case of General Everard. Previous to the passing of the Act of 1870, General Everard let a portion of the demesne as an ordinary yearly tenancy, no fine being paid by the tenant on getting possession. The tenant applied, after the passing of the Act of 1881, to have a fair rent fixed. He claimed no improvements, and had seriously deteriorated the holding. He lived four miles away, and used the land merely for grazing purposes. The rent was reduced by the Court from 25s. to. 20s. per statute acre, and the true value fixed at £7 10s. per statute acre. General Everard did not reside upon the estate, and was only tenant for life. His nephew, Major Everard, barred the entail on coming of age, but as he did not for some years require to occupy the land, he found that the farm had thereby become undemesned. He is now obliged to rent the farm from his tenant yearly on an eleven months' grazing agreement, for which he has to pay him 35s. per statute acre, and to herd the cattle and keep the fences in order at his own cost. This is, indeed, a monstrous case. In the report of the Fry Commission special attention was drawn to the methods of the sub-Commissioners when valuing a farm and inspecting drains. The Fry Commission say:In our opinion it should be the practice of these officials, from time to time, to direct that, before their inspection, such openings should be made in the drains as may be necessary to test their existence and condition, and that they should do so in every case in which the landlord makes a request to that effect.This was alluded to, and commented upon, by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland 1145 both last year and this year. My noble and learned friend said on July 28 last year:The suggestion as to the inspection of drains is a very important matter. It commended itself to everyone, and has peen incorporated in the instructions to valuers.More recently the Lord Chancellor of Ireland said the recommendation of the Commission in regard to drains had been put in force, and was at the present moment working with great advantage. When I heard that my heart was filled with hope, and I believed that one point upon which we had very great difficulty would be set at rest. But my dream was soon dispelled by a letter which I received from my own agent a few days ago, drawing attention to a conversation he had with the lay Commissioner when visiting the lands of one of my tenants, James Reilly, Clonlohan. The Commissioner looked at the outlet of a drain, and on being asked by my agent what steps he took to ascertain whether the length of the drain claimed for by the tenant was correct, he told him that they had no way of ascertaining, and always accepted as correct what the tenant swore to in court. So astonished was my agent that he called up the bailiff as witness, and he encloses a letter from the bailiff confirming his statement. Surely it is conceivable that a tenant might make an exaggerated statement as to the amount of drains he had made. It is also within the bounds of possibility that he might make a statement at variance with the truth. Are we to believe that his statement is to be accepted in court without any investigation? Would any noble Lord, when he is selling a flock of sheep, expect to have his word taken as to the exact number of sheep in the flock? If there is one direction more than another in which proper supervision and inspection should be exercised, it is in verifying the statement of the tenant as to the improvements he has made in his holding. I would ask, my Lords, What is it that the State has done? It has, if I may be allowed the metaphor, constructed an enormous vessel built upon principles opposed to any preconceived ideas of naval architecture; fitted her with powerful engines, with no appliance for stopping or going astern; sent her to sea unprovided with any efficient steering apparatus, and started her on her voyage either without a compass, 1146 or with one on which the north point, the cardinal pint of a properly-defined fair rent, has never been defined; manned by a crew mainly composed of inexpert landsmen, and only capable of being navigated at enormous cost. Starting on her wild and erratic career, she damages or sinks all who come in her way, and we, I think not without justice, consider that we deserve some form of compensation as the unwilling and protesting victims of an unprecedented and dangerous experiment. Who are we who now appeal to you? We are not those who have been marching through rapine to the dismemberment of the Empire. We are not those in whose eyes England's difficulty has been Ireland's opportunity. We have, as your outposts, borne the brunt of the first attacks on property and the Union. Faithful, though not favoured, we have kept our claims in the background: when, by pressing them, we might have embarrassed a Unionist Government; but when We see that ruin and exile is the immediate fate of many of our number, and the ultimate fate of almost all, we can keep silence no longer, but come forward to ask that it shall not be said of the justice-loving people of England that they have placed upon men's backs burdens too grievous to be borne, which they themselves will not touch with one of their fingers.
§ * THE LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND (Lord ASHBOURNE)
My Lords, the noble Earl who moved this motion has presented his case clearly and fairly, and with every anxiety not unduly to occupy the time of your Lordships, but he set before himself an immense task when he went on to discuss an enormous code, which he said comprised twenty-five Acts of Parliament and which dealt with a vast variety of complex subjects. At the close of his speech, which was necessarily a Very long one, he asked your Lordships to affirm the proposition that the question of compensation to the Irish landowners for injuries inflicted upon them by recent legislation demands the immediate attention of Her Majesty's Government. That recent legislation, he stated, had its starting point in 1869, with the passing of the Irish Church Act, which was followed by the Land Act of 1870, and by other Acts of Parliament, notably by the Act of 1881. My noble friend, when he came to the Act of 1881, gave your Lordships 1147 many quotations from speeches of Members of your Lordships' House, and he did me the honour of quoting some words which I had used and he said it would be impossible for us to eat our words. Personally, my Lords, I have never wished to withdraw, qualify, or deny one solitary syllable I have said in reference to the Act of 1881. I was one of its most resolute and consistent opponents. I challenged its policy from the start to the finish, and I attacked every one of its clauses. I therefore repudiate any suggestion that I am bound to defend the Act of 1881, or to vindicate the policy which was responsible for it. We have now to face a practical question, and my noble friend (Lord Inchiquin) and the noble Lords who followed him must, as practical men, present to your Lordships some practical conclusions that can lead to some practical results. My noble friend dealt with various topics, and one of those was the reduction of rent which has taken place in Ireland. That, of course, was the most important subject he referred to. Your Lordships will at once recognise that the reduction of rent is not peculiar to Ireland, although it has been brought about by voluntary action and concession it might be in England and Scotland, while the legislature stepped in in Ireland and worked out the results which have been arrived at. What is the practical way of dealing with this question? Does my noble friend suggest that it is possible to retry all the fair-rent cases in Ireland? Does he suggest that it is possible by an inquiry into those vast topics to find a way by which compensation might be sought? Anyone connected with Ireland knows that there is much truth in the suggestion that the landowning class in Ireland have been subjected to grave and serious loss in recent years, and I know, from being more closely connected with them, how keen the suffering has been to the smaller landed proprietors, many of whom have been reduced to urgent straits. When the noble Marquess at the head of the Government had his attention called to this subject on a former occasion he spoke with the deepest and kindliest sympathy, but he said it must he made clear to the tenants in Ireland that you do not mean to upset the Act of 1881, that compensation in any shape, in pounds shillings and pence from the English Exchequer is not to be sought for, but that an effort 1148 should be made to enlist public sympathy with what my noble friend called a merited tenderness for interests which have been hardly treated. This is the way, a difficult way, no doubt, in which this question must be approached, because it must be dealt with as a practical question. My noble friend (Lord Farnham) referred to the Fry Commission and its recommendations. I admit, at once, that it is a reasonable suggestion that any fair proposal that is capable of being worked out and applied with justice to both sides should be fairly tried. Upon more occasions than one this question has been before your Lordships, and not long ago I went in the fullest possible way into every one of the operations of the Land Commission to give effect to such of the recommendation of the Fry Commission as they themselves approved of, and as appeared desirable they should adopt, and I heard with surprise the statement of Lord Farnham as to the mode of inspection of drains. I was informed that a certain practice was being adopted, and if a contrary practice has been adopted, then it was a matter for inquiry. There is another matter, apart from giving direct compensation, which may also do a great deal for land in Ireland, and which I have always looked upon as a matter of the highest importance in reference to the working out of the whole agrarian problem in Ireland—that is the development of the purchase system. We are always entitled to be asked how that system is working, and to-show that we are alive to the importance of giving every facility for the working of that great policy. I am happy to say that that system is working vigorously, well, and progressively. I gave figures two or three months ago, showing that the output up to the date at which I spoke was quite 2,000,000 a year, and that it was going on steadily, and even at an increased rate. The year that terminated on March 31 last shows a great increase on the preceding year, which itself showed a vast increase on the year that preceded it. I have made inquiries as to the progress of the system during April, May, and June of this year, and I find that during these three months there has been a steady, marked, and most encouraging increase. Is it not satisfactory, in regard to this great land question in Ireland, to find that the purchase system is in vigorous, 1149 successful, and progressive operation? A matter of obvious importance has been referred to by the noble—namely, the fact that a Tithe Bill was promised in the Queen's Speech. The measure, which was introduced in the House of Commons, was intended to be perfectly fair to all parties, and to enable right to be done, and no one regrets more than I do that that Bill could not be passed into law this session. It is evident, however, from the language of Mr. Balfour in another place, that the Bill was dropped with great reluctance and regret, and that the intention is to re-introduce it at an early period of next session. I can only express my own deep regret that that Bill was dropped. I believe my regret is shared by many others, and no effort will be spared on my part to endeavour to ensure the introduction of the Bill at a very early period next session. I trust, in these circumstances, that my noble friend will withdraw his motion.
§ THE MARQUESS of LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I confess I heard the concluding words of my noble friend with a certain amount of satisfaction, but I would rather have heard him give an absolute promise that the Bill should be introduced at an early period next Session. All who wish to deal fairly in this matter cannot but have heard with sympathy the grievance under which the Irish land-owning classes are suffering. I do not think anyone can deny that the Laud Acts of 1870 and 1881 have to a very great extent benefited one class in Ireland to the injury of another; but if the motion of my noble friend had attempted to deprive the occupying class in Ireland of any single item of advantage they have derived under the legislation I should not have supported it. The land-occupying classes in Ireland have obtained enormous advantages under the Land Acts, and they have been perfectly justified in taking every advantage of those Acts, but I feel that those classes who have benefited by this legislation would, in a great many cases, be the first to desire that those who have been deprived of the benefits they possessed in the past should 1150 be recompensed, and, if possible. compensated for losses in the future. No one, I think, will deny that at the present moment the original landowner in Ireland has become nothing more than a rent-charger. We know full well that the powers of Parliament are unlimited, and that Parliament can take the roof over my head and the coat off my back if it chooses; but I do not think Parliament has ever confiscated a man's property without giving him honest and fair compensation; and some compensations, direct or indirect, should be given to those who have had their property in Ireland gradually, but surely, squeezed away from them. Whenever this question is raised the noble and learned Lord who responds for the Government on Irish questions invariably attributes this legislation to the Government of 1881. He adheres to the speeches he then made, and says he does not repudiate one single sentence. I should have liked to see the noble Duke the Lord President of the Council and the noble and learned Loral the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in their places tonight, as they were responsible for the Act of 1881, and to have heard what were their views upon it. In all probability they would have told us that they anticipated that the Land Bill of 1881 would do no harm whatever to the land-owning classes. They probably thought that the passing of that Land Bill would bring about an absolute millennium to the land-owning classes. I think they must now admit, however, that their prognostications have been falsified by the results. Lord Selborne, during the passing of the Bill of 1881, made use of the following expression:I deny that the Bill will in any degree whatever diminish the rights of the landlord or the value of the interest he possesses.Five years after the passing of the Act Lord Selborne ventured to observe that he would rather have cut off his hand than have been a party to the Act. Moreover, the legislation to which I have alluded has been, in my opinion, a breach of contract on the part of the Government, who put forward every inducement to people to invest their money. People were assured that the rents were so low that they could easily be raised, and owing to the assurance of the Government £52,000,000 was invested in this 1151 way. What is now the position of those who bought that land? The property has been damaged in the market to the extent of thousands, and even millions, of pounds by this legislation, and it is a clear case of mutilation of property. Realising as he does the damage that has been done to the land-owning classes in Ireland, is my noble friend not justified in asking that compensation of some kind, either direct or indirect, should be given to those people who, as I have said, have had their property squeezed away from them? The Irish Land Commission during the past year has cost no less than £172,000, and it does not appear that these expenses are going to be curtailed in future, for the salaries of commissioners and sub-commissioners in 1899–1900 were £127,722, as compared with £114,579 in 1898–1899. If I were to say that the decisions of these commissioners were considered unfair by the land-owning classes, your Lordships would probably regard my assertion with scepticism. But I will quote what Mr. William O'Brien says on the subject. He says:There can be no finality, no security, either for landlords or tenants so long as the rents of Ireland go on dropping and changing every fifteen years, according to the whim of whatever Land Commissioners get hold of them. It is a mere gambling transaction what a man's rent may be. It depends on what Government is in, or What kind of Land Commissioners they appoint. It depends on whether the landlord is rich enough to carry it to the Appeal Court. For all practical purposes, the rents of Ireland might as well he fixed by tossing up a coin.Mr. O'Brien anticipates that, by the time the period for the third fixing of judicial rents comes round, Irish landlords will be absolutely ruined unless they dispose of their property, for their rents will be whittled down to next to nothing. As Mr. O'Brien said, the landlords know this, and this is the reason for the motion of my noble friend. Do Her Majesty's Government consider that it will be for the benefit of Ireland that the land-owning class should he wiped from the face of the country? So far as I know the feeling of Irish farmers, they do not wish for the expropriation of landlords, though naturally they desire to enjoy the benefits of legalisation passed on their behalf. They know that the labouring class far outnumber the occupying tenants, and expropriation of one class in the interest of the class below 1152 being permitted, they fear that the cry for their own expropriation would not be long deferred. In this lies great danger for the future of Ireland—the rise of a race of small proprietors without capital, who cannot develop the resources of the country, who will not inspire confidence in English capitalists, and who will fall into the hands of the "gombeen" men—the usurers—who will be the real owners of land in Ireland. I rejoice that under the operation of the Ashbourne Acts purchase is making way. Those Acts are of inestimable advantage and relief to owners with heavily mortgaged property—but there are owners not under such difficulties, and who are unwilling to sell because they cannot invest their money at the rate they derive in the form of rent. When the noble Marquess the Prime Minister received the deputation on this subject, he expressed his sympathy and advised the landlords to bring forward their grievances prominently and frequently. That advice they are following. For the Government to ask the House of Commons to vote millions for the redress of the grievances is impossible, but there are ways in which the object can be partly attained. To a certain extent the Tithe Rent-charge Bill would have done something, and I trust we shall hear that an attempt will be made to pass it next session. It might be possible to make advances at a cheap rate of interest to heavily mortgaged landowners, and upon security that would relieve the British taxpayer from any anxiety. It is not for me on this occasion to Suggest Ways and means; it is for the Government to put their sympathy into practical form.
* Loan CLONBROCK
My Lords, I am afraid my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor of Ireland will be surprised at what I am going to say. I wish to appeal to the Government not to consider this a hostile motion, but to accept it as an acknowledgment of the reality of our grievance and our claim to compensation in some shape or form, while reserving to themselves the power of dealing with any measure for compensation which we may bring before them. It has been often acknowledged by individual members of the Government that grievous losses have been inflicted, however unintentionally, on Irish landlords by the Land Acts. I say unintentionally, as it is universally admitted that those Acts 1153 have not fulfilled the anticipations of those who introduced them. I will repeat, in support of that statement, the oft-quoted remark of Mr. Gladstone to the effect that he would be greatly disappointed if property did not rise to twenty-five years' purchase. Instead of rising, it has fallen to about seventeen years' purchase, and my noble friend who introduced this motion has given your Lordships the reasons why this has taken place. His statement of the losses which landlords have sustained by the imposition of tenant right and the introduction of fixity of tenure was so full and exhaustive that I should have done little more than glance at it, had not my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, in his answer on behalf of the Government, passed over that portion of my noble friend's speech, and seemed to attribute our losses almost entirely to reduction of rent, and to hold therefore that our claim to compensation was on that ground. My noble and learned friend also matte a comparison between the reduction that had taken place in rent in Ireland and the reduction in rent in England, which I cannot admit to be a fair one. For if a comparison were made not between Ireland and England as a whole, but between Ireland and those parts of England which most resemble it in agricultural conditions, a different conclusion would be arrived at. I have seen such a comparison; I have not the figures by me, but they would bear me out. The loss which the landlords have sustained by the introduction of tenants' right where it never before existed, and of fixity of tenure, was foreseen in some quarters at the time the Act of 1881 was passed. The noble Marquess at the head of the Government stated in your Lordships' House in August, 1881, on the subject of free sale, that:The tenants all over Ireland are to be authorised to sell for money that which they never bought, which they never earned. I defy anyone who pays attention to the multiplication table to show that this money is given to the tenant without taking away property from the landlord on whose estate the farm is.The late Lord Selborne said:I must say that the extension of the Ulster custom to the rest of Ireland does appear a manifest violation of the principles of justice, and to be impossible if we mean to respect those principles.1154 The Marquess of Lansdowne, on the Second Reading of the Land Bill of 1881, said:The fact is, my Lords, that this is not an attempt to remove imperfections from the existing law. It is an attempt to quell an agrarian rebellion by the wholesale concession of proprietary rights to the peasantry of Ireland—a concession which has been extorted by violence and agitation. These rights you are asked to create; do not let us be deluded into the belief that we are merely going to recognise and legalise something which exists already.There could not be a clearer description than that of what has been done by the imposition of tenant right and fixity of tenure over the whole of Ireland. It has been sought to justify this transfer of property on the ground that the tenant has by his improvements acquired, in equity, a property in his farm, and that the landlord is only entitled to its "prairie value." I have often heard a landlord say, "Prairie value! I wish I could get back my land at its prairie value," meaning as virgin soil, before it had been destructively treated by successive tenants. To anybody who knows Ireland it is apparent that there cannot be a greater mistake than to assume that the land in Ireland has been generally improved by the tillage of the tenant. I have taken the trouble to consult some of the most experienced and most competent judges, and they assert that for every one acre that the tenant has improved there are 100 acres which have been deteriorated to an extent far exceeding in amount any outlay in buildings or fences. Many of the tenants are poor, ignorant people who know no better, and lead struggling lives. There are 580,000 holdings in Ireland, and of those nearly a half are under fifteen acres. I would be the last person to blame the poor people who hold these farms, but by persistent bad husbandry they have deteriorated the land, and it was consequently most unjust that at least 25 per cent. should have been carved out of the fee simple of the land, as shown by the reduction of its selling value, and given to the sitting tenant on the ground that he and his predecessors in title had improved it. This is a distinct grievance quite apart from reduction of rent or agricultural depression. The administration of the Act has also not fulfilled the anticipations of its framers. The 1155 report of the Fry Commission bears witness to this. When we find that it states that there is no common understanding of the law or uniformity of practice., that the most general instructions are issued to the sub-commissioners, that no definition is given them of the fair rent they are called upon to fix, when we find about the best thing said about the administration is that the Commissioners are unable to conclude that the machinery has been uniformly worked with injustice to the landlord, it is impossible not to see that the whole of the administration of these Acts has been carried out in such a haphazard and uncertain way that if any righteous decision has been arrived at it has been more by good luck than good management. Since the Report of the Fry Commission has been issued, one of the most distinguished members of that Commission, Mr. Robert Vigers, has made a speech on the subject, in which he says:His own experience was that many of the men sent to report on the farms and to fix the rents did not know as much about the value of land in Ireland as he himself did as a mere visitor. They had no experience or proper training; the work was done without any head to direct their proceedings, and they consequently got into many difficulties. His own impression, after talking with the people in some of the districts, was that those men going to report on some of the more lonely parts of Ireland felt that they mast reduce the rent or they would hardly dare to revisit the district. In any case, an old landowner who had never altered his rent, but had kept it at the lowest minimum, was treated in the same off-hand way as was the speculating landowner who had doubled or trebled his rents.Again, Mr. Vigers, comparing the way in which the business is done now with the manner in which Sir Richard Griffith did it, says that Sir Richard Griffith instructed the men under him in a way that to his mind was extremely practical and clever. Mr. Vigers says:—Every man employed had complete directions as to how he was to proceed with his work. Sir Richard Griffith was the one head, and every man who made a valuation could go to him, and with a schedule of his particulars and valuations could have any corretions made or directions given that were necessary. That was very different from the way in which the business was done in connection with the present Land Act. The valuers now knew little or nothing of what they were to do as a general body, but simply made their own notes and their own valuations and handed them in, and, if necessary, supported them in court; 1156 but there was no one to give them any direction, whether in fixing the rent they were to deal with, the buildings, or what deductions they were to make, or whether they were to make any deductions at all from what they thought was the value of the tenant right interest. Some of them did make a deduction for the tenant right interest, but others who had valued the same farm had not made any deduction on that account, but they came to the same conclusion that there should be a deduction of 24 per cent., 25 per cent., or 26 per cent., off the rent. The more one looked into the matter, the more evident it was how very loosely the whole thing was managed.That is the opinion of one of the most competent men in the United Kingdom to express an opinion upon this subject. Some improvements, have, as stated by my noble and learned friend, been lately introduced, but they are but few in number compared with the recommendations of the Fry Commission. The uncertainty as to what constitutes a fair rent still continues. I should like to read to your Lordships a short statement by Mr. Commissioner Bailey, one of the legal Commissioners in the North of Ireland. Mr. Bailey said:What I did state, however, and what I wish to reiterate, is that, as a rule, we do not, merely on our own valuation of the land, raise a rent where the landlord has not so applied; and we would not reduce a rent where the tenant had not made an application, and did not complain of his rent until he was brought into court by the landlord.Therefore, it appears that Mr. Commissioner Bailey, although he is instructed to fix a fair rent, thinks it right, when the rent is too low, to allow it to remain so and call it a fair rent, simply because the landowner has not applied to have it increased; and in the same way, when the rent is too high, to refuse to alter it because the tenant has not applied to have it reduced. One noble Lord compared the working of the Land Commission to a ship sent to sea without a compass and under very unfavourable circumstances. I would rather compare it to a terrible engine of destruction paring away and destroying the property of a portion of Her Majesty's subjects. They appeal to Her Majesty's Government for protection. The Government say, "The machine is not of our creation, it was wound up and set going long before our time, we can only try and make it grind a little more evenly. We cannot be held responsible for the injury which it inflicts." My Lords, the same continuity in legislation which pre- 1157 vents a Government from rescinding the Acts of their predecessors, should render them responsible for the effects of such legislation. If they were dealing with a foreign Government I do not think they would accept for a moment a plea that what they complained of was the work of a previous administration. They would hold the Government in power responsible, and the country responsible. We are ready to admit that the legislation of which we complain was approved of by this country when it was passed, but, now that the injury that has been inflicted is proved, we hold the United Kingdom responsible and look to the Government for redress. We were told, not long ago, by the noble Marquess, the Prime Minister, that we ought to make our grievances known. It is with the object of making our ease thoroughly known that I appeal to the Government to accept the resolution of my noble friend. There are, no doubt, a certain class of people in England, as probably in every other country, who are prepared to pronounce a dogmatic opinion on every question under heaven, but the generality of Englishmen know nothing of the subject we have been discussing. They know that Her Majesty's Government are fully acquainted with it, and, when they find that we can get nothing more than a few civil words of sympathy, they naturally compare us to the most intolerable nuisance which can afflict any class of society—namely, the man with an imaginary and ill-founded grievance. But, if they saw that our case attracted the attention of the Government, they would look into it in order to see if our complaints were well founded. That is what we want. We want the people of England to criticise and look into our case, feeling confident that if they really understood it they would recognise that we had a real grievance which should be remedied. We have but little power to appeal to the people of England, and we have no political influence in our own country. From what has happened lately it has been shown that we are not allowed any control over local affairs. It has been often thrown in our teeth that we have never been able to attract the people to us; but it must be remembered that, if we are in this isolated position, it is because we have been too faithful to the English connection, because we have desired that the country 1158 we love so well should not sink into a mere Dependency, but should remain closely united to the governing centre of that great Empire which our countrymen have done so much to extend and to consolidate. The fact that we have clung so closely to English associations ought not to be thrown in our teeth as a reproach by any class of Englishmen, even by those who differ with us as to the exact nature of the link which should unite the two countries. We do not claim any favour on the ground of our attachment to England; all we claim is justice, which we hope we shall eventually receive. I would appeal to Her Majesty's Government to accept the motion of my noble friend as an acknowledgment of the justice of our case.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, said the noble Lord who moved this motion had come to no practical conclusions. The practical conclusion that noble Lords from Ireland have come to is that they will get nothing at the hands of Her Majesty's Government. Only this session the Tithe Rent-charge Bill has been thrown over, notwithstanding all the promises of the Government, and the arrangements made that the Irish Peers should not move an Amendment to the Address, because that Bill was to be introduced this session. In reply to the noble Lord, I will mention a way in which relief or compensation could be granted to landlords without in any way touching the tenant. If the tithe rent-charge was immediately abolished, it would only be a slight instalment of the compensation due for injustice inflicted by the Land Acts. Board of Works loans have been granted to landlords. Outstanding portions of these loans should be ascertained, and made payable by instalments identical with those required from tenants for loans under the Land Purchase Acts. When such concessions are freely conceded to the tenants, we submit we have a good right to ask that State loans advanced to us on the security of our estates should be adjusted on similar terms. The case is strong in respect of Board of Works loans, because a large proportion of these advances was made for the improvement of tenants' holdings, and rents have been reduced without fair credit being given to the landlord in respect of 1159 the expenditure under these loans. State loans on the same terms as to repayment as loans under the Land Purchase Acts could be granted to landlords to enable them to purchase and redeem Crown rents, quit rents, and Church perpetuities, All these the State exact as if rents had not been reduced and Land Acts did not exist. I could bring many more matters, if time permitted, before your Lordships—notably the Land Purchase Acts, which were framed as if the interest of the tenant was the only thing to be seriously considered or consulted. Everything is done to help the tenant to buy; nothing is done to help the landlord to sell. He often cannot face the loss of income and heavy costs entailed upon him, and therefore refuses to sell. We will admit that it is the duty of the Land Commission to make no advances of State funds beyond the amount for which, in their judgment, a holding affords good security; but, to quote the Report of the Fry Commission:The practice of the Department has been over-strict in the matter of security, and applications have been thereby discouraged.Such a course impedes land purchase transactions, and in many cases contemplated sales are abandoned. The Fry Commission has recommended reforms in procedure with regard to the Land Purchase Acts, and we ask that their recommendations may be carried out.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I do not know that I can usefully acid to what has already been said by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland; but it might appear disrespectful to the noble Lords who have spoken since he addressed your Lordships if someone sitting on this Bench were not to say a few words upon the subject before the House. I think my noble and learned friend gave good advice to the Irish landlords when he recommended them to treat this question as practical men, and to concentrate their attention upon measures which might fairly be described as practical measures. I am not at all sure that we much advance matters by researches into the working of Mr. Gladstone's mind when the Land Acts were in the process of incubation, or into the manner in which that wedge, the thin end of which the noble Lord discovered in the Irish 1160 Church Act of 1869, was ultimately driven home with such disastrous results. The question seems to me to be this—What can we, as practical men, do at the present time to mitigate the admitted hardships from which the landlords of Ireland have been made to suffer under the various Acts of Parliament to which attention has been drawn this evening? One noble Lord has told us very frankly that he did not care very much about sympathy unless it was accompanied by money—indicating, presumably, that we should have a raid upon the British Exchequer—and that a sufficient grant should be obtained from that source to make good to the Irish landlords the losses they have sustained. I am afraid that proposal does not come within the category of those practical measures upon which, in my opinion, Irish landlords ought to concentrate their attention. In the first place, I think it would be an entirely new departure in the politics of this country if we were, eighteen years after the passing of an Act of Parliament, to compensate from the public funds the persons who, owing to the mistaken estimates of the framers of that Act, have proved losers by its operation. I doubt if there is any precedent in the history of this country for any action of the kind. But, apart from that, I am unable to imagine upon what basis a measure of compensation of that kind could be framed; because, after all, it is quite obvious that if rents have fallen in Ireland it is due to two causes—partly to the action of the Land Courts, and partly to the natural fall in values which has occurred all over the United Kingdom; and I fail altogether to see how it is possible to disentangle those two factors, and to say that a certain proportion of the diminution of the rent roll of the landowners in Ireland is chargeable to the Act of 1881. Noble Lords from Ireland are, I think, wiser when they take the line which they have laid down in a very clearly-drawn Memorandum, submitted to the Government by the Executive Committee of the Irish Landowners' Convention. In that Memorandum they make certain specific suggestions, and they explain that those suggestions are so framed that they would not deprive Irish tenants of any of the benefits conferred on them by the Land Acts—that was a point upon which Lord Londonderry laid much stress—and in the next place they would not involve the 1161 payment out of the Exchequer of anything in the nature of money compensation. Those seem to me to be wise lines upon which to proceed, and I have read with very great interest the proposals which follow in the Memorandum. I confess that I think the claim of the Irish landlords for the sympathy of the House is due, not simply upon the reduction of their rents, but to the fact that the results of past legislation have been to deprive them of a great many of those incidents of ownership, the presence of which makes the owner of an estate the real proprietor of the land, and the absence of which converts him into something like a mere rent-charger. It is suggested that, for the loss of these incidents of ownership, what is called compensation might be granted to the Irish landlords in three directions—first, by a reform in the procedure, practice, and methods of valuation of the land courts, as recommended by the Fry Commission; secondly, by legislation for the purpose of lightening the burden and facilitating the reduction of land charges, both private and public; and, thirdly, by facilitating land purchase. With regard to the first suggestion, a number of the recommendations of the Fry Commission have already been carried out, and the whole report is receiving the consideration of the Land Commissioners. In discussing these matters we sometimes allow ourselves to lose sight a little of the fact that the Land Commission is, after all, a judicial tribunal appointed under Statute, and that it is not within the province of the Executive Government to dictate to that Commission how it should discharge its duties. We are apt, when dealing with people outside the limits of this country, to wax rather indignant when we find the executive usurping the functions of the judiciary and interfering with the functions of the Courts; and, to be consistent, we should observe ourselves the rules which we are so fond of inculcating for the observance of others. Then, my Lords, with regard to the second recommendation of the Convention, reference has been made in the Debate to the Irish Tithe Rent-charge Bill; and I share in the regrets which have been expressed over the abandonment of that measure. It is said that the present Government are a strong Government, and that it is not at all to their credit that they should have thrown that Bill overboard. But 1162 there is one thing which even the strongest Government cannot command, and that is Parliamentary time, and it is because Parliamentary time is not available that, in addition to other "innocents" this particular ewe lamb has at the last moment to be immolated. I very gladly repeat and enforce what has been said by my noble and learned friend, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, as to the intention of the Government to reintroduce that measure next session; and no pains will be spared to place it on the Statute Book. I do not suppose that any Government, under any circumstances, could un-undertake to give an unconditional pledge that any- measure would become law during a session from which we are removed by six or seven months; but we have said enough to show that it is our intention to introduce the measure and to spare no pains to pass it. The third recommendation was in the direction of land purchase in regard to which there is absolute unanimity amongst all persons who have studied the Irish land question. I rejoice to know that land purchase, which seemed at one time to be flagging a little, is now proceeding with great vigour and rapidity; for it is in that direction, more than any other, to which I look for a solution of the great difficulties that surround the Irish land question. It was suggested by the noble Lord who spoke last that we should show our goodwill by accepting the motion as it stands on the Paper. That is an invitation which I am afraid we cannot accept, for the motion carries us a little too far; but this we may say, that, with regard to the past, noble Lords from Ireland, who have brought this question more than once before the House, have achieved a good deal by the success with which they have directed attention to blots in the administration of the land laws; and, with regard to the future, we have every hope that the one particular measure upon which noble Lords from Ireland have very naturally set their hearts will be more fortunate next year, and will find its place on the Statute Book.
* LORD INCHIQUIN
My Lords, I might almost make another speech in answer to what has been said on behalf of the Government, but I do not propose to do anything of the kind. I merely propose to inform your Lordships that my motion was specially worded with the hope that it would be accepted by Her Majesty's Government as a motion which was not hostile. It is impossible for me to do what the Government wish—namely, to withdraw this motion, as the adoption on my part of such a course would be to stultify my position altogether. If the Government cannot, as the noble Marquess has said, disentangle the hurt done to the Irish landlords by economic causes from the harm done