§ [SECOND READING.
§ Order of the day for the Second Reading read.509
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND (Lord ASHBOURNE)
My Lords, this is a Bill to explain and amend Section 48 of the Irish Land Act, 1903, with respect to the payment and application of the percentage provided by that section. It deals with a matter that has been mentioned very often in the Press and elsewhere in reference to the payment of the bonus, and its object is to clear up some points with reference to which there has been some doubt. It provides, in Clause 1, that any land, wholly or partly untenanted, sold to the Land Commission or the Congested Districts Board may be regarded as an estate for the purpose of the payment of any percentage under Section 48 of the Act of last year. It then makes perfectly clear that the percentage mentioned in Section 48, may, subject to the enactments contained in the proviso to Sub-section 1 and in Subsection 4 thereof, be paid to any vendor, other than the Congested Districts Board, whether such vendor is a person entitled to a beneficial interest in the land sold, or is a trustee or other person not so entitled, and save as provided, shall be held by him on the trusts, if any, affecting the purchase money. The third clause provides that where the vendor is a tenant for life or a person having the powers of a tenant for life under the Settled Land Acts, 1882 to 1890, the percentage shall, subject to the enactments mentioned, be retained by him as his own proper moneys for his own use and benefit, free and discharged from all claims upon the lands sold, or the purchase money thereof, and from any trust affecting the same. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(Lord Ashbourne.)
THE EARL OF WESTMEATH
My Lords, I need hardly say that at this stage of the session I do not rise for the purpose of opposing this Bill. I only rise to make clear the position which I and a great many other Irish landlords hold on this matter, Your Lordships will recollect that when the Land Bill was before the House last year Irish landlords displayed a unanimity and agreement which is not always found in an assemblage of Irishmen. In fact, only on one 510 point was it found that there was a general disagreement. That point was the one dealt with in this Bill. Opinion was at that time divided. There were those who held that the bonus ought to be given into the hands of the actual owner because he had incurred so many losses and so much trouble during the struggles of the land war; and there were others, a much smaller body, who considered that this war was not quite an honest proceeding, and that this being part of the purchase money it ought to follow the trust. This Bill makes it clear that the bonus is to go into the hands of the actual owner. I may say that I have not in the least changed the view which I formed last year, that it is not quite honest that this money should be diverted from the trust.
When the Bill now before your Lordships was first introduced, it was found to contain several provisions which were distinctly objectionable. We brought those provisions to the notice of His Majesty's Government, and I think it only fair to say that they have endeavoured to meet us in every way, and have removed the greatest objections we had to the Bill, for which we are very much obliged to them. Having entered, on my own behalf and on behalf of other noble Lords from Ireland, a protest against this Bill, I wish to say that, as it is to become law, I hope it will help the Act of last year to work more smoothly. We shall certainly give it our assistance.
I do not like to resume my seat without associating myself with the protest which was made yesterday by the noble Lords the Earl of Wemyss and the Duke of Northumberland against the treatment which we receive in this House. It has been said that there is no way of altering this, except by carrying on Bills from one session to another. It has been said that Bills have been originated in this House, but have got no further. That is due to the loquacity of Members in the other House. I certainly think we should not suffer on that account. I have been wondering what possible objection there can be to more Bills being initiated in this House. Is it to be said that there is not sufficient intelligence on the Front Bench to bring in a Bill without being guided by the discussion in the other House, or that 511 the majority of your Lordships have not sufficient intelligence to find out mistakes in a Bill, unless under similar guidance? I am not one of those who think that a Peer need necessarily be more deficient in intelligence than anybody else. I do not see why, for instance, the Licensing Bill could not have been initiated in this House. As long as noble Lords are satisfied to be treated like a flock of sheep nothing can be done. But I would suggest that if we are treated in this way next year, a sufficient number of patriotic Peers should form themselves into a sort of holy alliance and remain here till September, if necessary.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Earl in the very lively description he has given of the manner in which your Lordships' House is treated. I can only say that we shall await with great interest in the coming session the action of those independent Peers, whose numbers always seem to me to be far too small, on this point of the treatment which this House receives at the hands of the other House. Nor do I propose to offer the slightest opposition to the Bill introduced by the noble and learned Lord opposite. I think it was perfectly clear that it was the intention of Parliament last session that this bonus should be paid to the life tenant. There were, and are, arguments against taking that course; but there is this consideration, which seems to me to make it evident that the Government, in settling this matter in the way they have done, have pursued a reasonable course. The allocation of this bonus is not really a matter for Irish landlords at all. It is a free gift from the taxpayers of the whole of the country in order to lubricate the working of this particular Act, and consequently, it is at the free disposal of Parliament. Even though some noble Lords may consider, and consider with great plausibility, that this particular money ought to be paid to the estate rather than to the life tenant, I think it is upon the will of the majority of Parliament that the matter must be allowed to rest. Of course, if any landowner in Ireland has any scruple about taking this money; it is perfectly open to 512 him, when he receives it, to apply it to the purposes of his estate trust.
§ * LORD EMLY
My Lords, I do not rise to oppose this Bill, but I think His Majesty's Government might darn not only the small tears but also the large rents in the garment. The Government are very sensitive as regards the landlords' position, but I see no great sensitiveness as regards the tenants' position. I do not object to the landlord's interest being safeguarded, but I think the tenant's interest might be safeguarded also. His Majesty's Government have absolutely and entirely ignored the interests of the evicted tenants and of the labourers. The noble Earl said there was a wonderful unanimity on the subject of the Land Act. Of course there is in your Lordships' House. For instance, when the Land Act was passing through Parliament, the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War was in war paint. He was the foremost fighting champion of the landlord interest. I am glad to see that he has breached over the tremendous differences that existed between himself and His Majesty's Government, and I congratulate His Majesty's Government on having kissed and made friends with the noble Earl.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a; Committee negatived; and Bill to be read 3a on Monday next.