§ House in Committee (according to Order).
§ (The Earl of ONSLOW in the Chair.)
§ Clause 1:—
§ LORD ATKINSON moved to omit Sub-section I, which enabled the Estates Commissioners to acquire any land for the purposes of the Act on offering to the owner a price which appeared to them to represent the fair market value of the land, and to substitute for it the following new sub-section:—" If the Estates Commissioners are unable to acquire by agreement and on reasonable terms suitable land for the purposes of this Act, and if they have offered to the person appearing to them to be the owner of any land which, by reason thereof, they desire to acquire compulsorily for such purposes, compensation for the loss which would be sustained by the owner by being deprived thereof, and he has not within the prescribed time accepted the offer, they may, subject to the provisions of Sub-section 8 of Section 2 of this Act, acquire that land compulsorily for those purposes in accordance with the provisions of this Act, and shall declare any land so acquired to be an estate." As a consequential Amendment he proposed to insert in Clause 2 (provisions respecting acquisition of land and purchase money) a new sub-section (8), referred to in the foregoing Amendment, providing that I any person aggrieved by any order or petition of the Estates Commissioners might apply, as he should elect, either to the King's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice in Ireland or to the Judge of assize in which the lands sought to be acquired were situated, to hear and determine any question of law or fact arising out of any such petition or order.
He had three objects in moving this Amendment. The first was that the Estates Commissioners should to some degree—he regretted he could not manage it altogether—be put in the position of all other bodies who sought to acquire land compulsorily, namely, that 488 they should be obliged to show that it was necessary for the purpose authorised that they should so acquire it. He made this statement with the confidence that there was not to be found in the legislation of the three kingdoms a single instance where any individual, body, or Minister of State could take land compulsorily without convincing some other body or Minister of State that it was necessary to do so. He challenged the noble Earl the Lord President, or any noble Lord who might speak for the opposite side of the House, to produce a single instance where power was given to take land compulsorily without convincing some other body, external to the body or person who desired to acquire the land, that it was necessary for the purposes they had in view.
To that rule there was only one exception. When the country was actually invaded by a foreign force the Minister for War had power to take land compulsorily for the safety of the nation. But fleets might conquer our shores and our national existence might be threatened, yet only on actual invasion was the Minister for War given the powers which it was proposed by this Bill to confer on the Estates Commissioners. He had based his Amendment on this point on the Allotments Act, 1887, amended as it had been by the Local Government Act, 1894. In that Act it was provided that if a parish council were unable to acquire by agreement and on reasonable terms land suitable for any purpose for which they were authorised to acquire it, they might represent the case to the county council, who should inquire into that representation. The body who wanted the land were the parish council; the body who investigated the claim were the county council. But the very first point the county council would investigate would be whether it was true that the parish council were unable to obtain, by agreement, land suitable for the purpose and on reasonable terms. There was something very repellant to him in enabling any body to acquire land compulsorily without the authority of some other body external to themselves. But he quite recognised that this Bill was framed altogether on different lines, and that if he were to propose an Amendment which would vest in some body external to the Commissioners the power of deciding whether or not they should take 489 land compulsorily, it would disjoint the Bill and practically defeat it.
The noble Marquess the Leader of the House had said the other night that some of these Amendments looked as if they were designed to wreck the Bill. So far as he was concerned, he utterly disclaimed any such motive. His sole object was to mould the provisions of the Bill into harmony with the machinery of the various Acts which existed for the acquisition of land compulsorily and into some resemblance to justice, equity, and fairplay. It was impossible, without wrecking the Bill, to provide that in the first instance before any active steps were taken, some external body should be created with power to decide whether it was necessary to acquire the land compulsorily at all; but he had endeavoured, by the creation of an Appeal Court, to provide that that question should come up, and that the Court of Appeal, amongst the other things referred to it, would have power, jurisdiction, and authority, to decide whether upon the facts and circumstances proved before it it was necessary that the land should be taken compulsorily. That would be the first and the only occasion on which the task set in every other case to some authority outside the taking authority would in this case be discharged.
As the Bill stood it gave power to the Commissioners to take land where they pleased, when they pleased, and in what quantity they pleased, if they "deemed it expedient." He held that such a power was tyrannical and unjust, and it was no offence and no insult to the Estates Commissioners to say that it ought not to be given to them when it had not been given to any other body. The Estates Commissioners had peculiar views. He understood that they had at the present moment thousands of acres of land in their possession; he did not know the exact number of acres, but they had very considerable tracts, and it was perfectly competent for them to say that they thought it inexpedient to employ that land for the purpose of reinstatement, and that in their opinion it was more expedient to take other land compulsorily. The first object, therefore, of his Amendment was to require that they should show that they could not get the land they required by voluntary agreement, and to bring the question of the necessity of the application 490 of compulsory powers before a tribunal of review. By his Amendment he also wished to provide that the owner of land compulsorily taken should not only be paid the price of the land, but compensation for any other loss he might sustain through being deprived of such land compulsorily.
Under the operation of the Lands Clauses Act hundreds of thousands of pounds, he might almost say millions, had been paid to the owners of houses and lands compulsorily acquired as compensation over and above the actual value of such houses and lands. One of the earliest cases was that of a man whose brewery was taken, and he was held to be entitled to be compensated for the loss he sustained until he could get another brewery. Under that law compensation for good will had grown up, and the necessity for introducing such a provision in this measure was emphasised by the principles which, in their evidence before the Royal Commission on Congestion in Ireland, the Estates Commissioners had laid down. He had been accused of doing an injustice to Mr. Finucane. It was far from his desire to do that gentleman any injustice, and he had re-read Mr. Finucane's evidence since and found that he did him no injustice. What Mr. Finucane had said was this, that with regard to grazing land he did not estimate the value by the income which the owner was receiving from it as used, but upon some estimate that he, or his subordinates, made—because, of course, the Estates Commissioners would do very little of this work themselves—as to what it would let for to a solvent tenant, and he capitalised that rent at a certain sum. Mr. Finucane had persuaded himself that people could get 3½ per cent. for money, and that therefore the landlord would not lose anything; but he forgot that from 70 to 75 per cent. of the land in Ireland was in settlement. That meant that the purchase money of the land must be invested in trustee securities, and he was a very fortunate trustee indeed who, at the present moment, could succeed in getting 3½ per cent. for money in a trustee security.
The principles of the Lands Clauses Act of 1845 had been adopted in legislation relating to education, in the Housing 491 of the Working Classes Act, in the Sanitary Acts, and in the Allotments Act, and why should it not be adopted in this Bill? He had never heard any reason given. One peculiarity of this Bill was that, with the exception of this clause and half of another clause, none of it had been discussed in the House of Commons at all. He objected to anything so fanciful as a rent which might be fixed by the Estates Commissioners, more particularly as one of them, Mr. Bailey, after fifteen years training, told them that the fair rents under the Act of 1881 were fixed on no principle whatever.
His third object was to provide a Court of Appeal. He did not think it would be convenient to discuss at that point the structure of the Court of Appeal, but he had put down a subsequent Amendment setting up appeal machinery. In that he had slavishly copied from the provisions of the Bill of Mr. Gladstone in 1870; that ought to be a good authority for the Government of the day, although, of course, they had advanced greatly since Mr. Gladstone's time. He had also made use of the provision in the Act of 1898 which gave local government to Ireland. He wished to refer to this tribunal in the first place the necessity of taking lands compulsorily, and in the second place the amount of compensation to be paid according to the principles of the Lands Clauses Acts. The tribunal he proposed was the Judge of Assize for the county in which the lands in question were situated, or one of the Judges of the King's Bench Division; but he would not now discuss the details of that proposal. It was said that under the Lands Clauses Act of 1845 10 per cent. was added for compulsory purchase. There was nothing about 10 per cent. in that Act, but the habit of giving it in cases of compulsory purchase had grown up. There was a great deal to be said, he thought, for not giving that 10 per cent. when land was taken by the Estates Commissioners. He did not himself see why a landlord should get the bonus and also this 10 per cent., although he was conscious that his views on this matter might not meet with general approval.
On the question of an appeal, he pointed out that to grant an appeal was no aspersion of incapability, partiality, or dishonesty. It was only yesterday that noble Lords opposite argued in favour of
appeal in criminal cases, and represented that, although a Judge of first instance was perfectly honest, and exercised his powers impartially and with a paramount desire to do justice, he might have views. He would acquaint their Lordships with some of the views of the Estates Commissioners as to what their functions were under the Act. Mr. Bailey, at page 186 of the Report of the Royal Commission on Congestion in Ireland, gave evidence of a landlord who was iniquitous enough to divide his grazing lands amongst his own tenants and to apply to have the lands so sold declared an "estate," so that by that means he might get the bonus, and have the benefit of the zones, because the zones only applied and the bonus was only given in the case of; "estates," and therefore it was necessary, as a condition precedent both to the application of the zones and the obtaining of the bonus, that the land should be declared an estate by the Commissioners. This was the view of Mr. Commissioner Bailey as to this method of dealing with the grass lands—
It encouraged the land-hungry people to bid prices frequently out of all proportion to the value. The effort to raise the purchase money frequently led to borrowing and indebtedness that kept the people in poverty and misery and lessened the security for the repayment of advances of public money. Where this was not the case the system resulted in the land getting into the wrong; hands. It enabled the sons of wealthier farmers and graziers to acquire the grass lands and took away all hope of bettering their position from the smaller and poorer people who most needed relief. The system of; creating holdings by the payment of fines is, accordingly, discouraged by the Estates Commissioners, who refuse to declare lands so-dealt with as 'estates' for the purposes of the Land Acts. The Estates Commissioners are always ready to make an estimate of the price of such lands when asked to purchase, with: the object of carrying out the enlargement and creation of holdings, and the distribution, of the land among suitable persona under their own supervision.
Later on he was asked—
You say the Estates Commissioners are always ready to make an estimate of the price of such land when asked to purchase. Previously you told us of landlords having grass land in their own hands who saw a means of making a considerable profit by dividing it up and throwing it on the market. I presume, and I think you told us, that that would be an extremely profitable thing for the landlord of the grass land?
to which he replied—
The next question put to Mr. Commissioner Bailey was—
When you told us you are ready to estimate the price of such land, is that a fact you take into consideration, that if the landlord had exercised what he would be allowed to exercise in any other country, the right of doing what he likes with his own—do you take that into consideration in the price you "re going to offer him?
To which the witness replied in the negative. Sir Antony MacDonnell then interposed and asked the witness to explain why he did not take it into account, and Mr. Bailey replied—
We can only offer him a price that bears a relation to the value of the land and the price at which we can resell it to the tenants we put into possession. If the landlord chooses to cut it up and sell it and make something in that way, of course he can do it, but he cannot expect us—
That might be a good principle for a voluntary sale, but not when land was taken compulsorily and without reference to any outside tribunal. The answer was interrupted by Sir Antony MacDonnell, who said—
Does not the reason go still further back; that Parliament in its wisdom has enacted a measure which is for the good of the community as a whole, and that that measure lays down the rule that landlords in disposing of their property should only do so in accordance with the spirit of the measure?
He did not know where Sir Anthony MacDonnell found that rule. It was not in the Act nor in any speech that was I made by anyone on the Government side. The principle on which land had been acquired for great public purposes was that if the public wanted the land full value must be paid to the owner. To the question put to him by Sir Antony MacDonnell, Mr. Bailey replied—
Our grounds for refusing to declare an estate are that it is not fit to be declared an estate for the purposes of the Land Act.
His Majesty's Government, in this Bill, were grieviously contravening the spirit of the Land Act of 1903, because the leading principle of that Act was that the transaction should be voluntary, and from that fact it was hoped would spring the peaceful and beneficent spirit that would allay the strife which was poisoning the life of Ireland. He made no charge against the honesty of these men, but he could not help remembering a very shrewd remark he once heard, that "An established character for honesty is too
great a temptation for any man." He begged to move his Amendment.
In page 1, lines 5 to 13, to leave out Subsection (1), and to insert the following new subsection: 'If the Estates Commissioners are unable to acquire by agreement and on reasonable terms suitable land for the purposes of this Act, and if they have offered to the person appearing to them to be the owner of any land which, by reason thereof, they desire to acquire compulsorily for such purposes, compensation for the loss which would be sustained by the owner by being deprived thereof, and he has not within the prescribed time accepted the offer, they may, subject to the provisions of Subsection 8 of Section 2 of this Act, acquire that land compulsorily for those purposes in accordance with the provisions of this Act, and shall declare any land so acquired to be an estate.'"—(Lord Atkinson.)
§ * THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The Earl of CREWE)
My Lords, as the House will clearly perceive, this Amendment, or series of Amendments, is of the very first importance, and it has been introduced by the noble and learned Lord in a speech marked by no small amount of humour and also by a clearness and lucidity which I admire but cannot hope to imitate. I think, if he will allow me to say so, that the noble and learned Lord did wisely in travelling to some extent outside the purview of this particular Amendment, because it was impossible, without reference to the fact that he desires to establish a Court of Appeal, to make the provisions of his Amendment to the first clause clear. The noble and learned Lord said, and I need not say that I quite believe him, that he does not design these Amendments for the purpose of wrecking the Bill. But I do not think it will be very difficult to point out to your Lordships that if these Amendments are carried and are insisted upon the effect will be to destroy the entire purpose of this measure.
The noble and learned Lord does not desire—at any rate, if he desires it he does not carry out his desire—to abolish compulsion altogether, because he knows very well that to do so would be equivalent to throwing out the Bill on Second Reading, for the Bill depends upon compulsion and nothing else; but he desires to limit the operation of compulsion so far as it ever has been limited by previous legislation on other 495 subjects and possibly even a little further. The general effect of this series of Amendments would be to apply the Lands Clauses Acts to this land taken for the purpose of reinstating evicted tenants. The operations of the Lands Clauses Acts are very familiar to most of your Lordships. Many of you, I have no doubt, have carried out transactions, I hope of a profitable character, under those Acts. Under them it is customary to give compensation for damage done by severance, and to give, in addition, 10 per cent. in respect of the compulsory purchase and sometimes even more. The noble and learned Lord very fairly said that it seemed to him that if the landlords were given the bonus it would not be reasonable also in all cases to ask for the ten per cent. extra; but I noticed that that observation was not received with anything like uproarious applause on the other side of the House. On the contrary, I think it passed in absolute silence.
Now consider what would happen, assuming compulsory purchase under this Bill to take place under the Lands Clauses Act. It may be taken, I suppose, as an absolute axiom, at any rate as the result of long experience, that prices obtained under the Lands Clauses Act are higher than those which are obtained by the ordinary operations of sale and purchase. The vendor under the Lands Clauses Act is always assumed to be unwilling—even although he may possibly be delighted at the transfer—and he is treated as if he were an unwilling seller. That being so, it surely is obvious that, if you are going to get a higher price by dint of using the Lands Clauses Act for this purpose, no vendor of land will ever enter into a voluntary agreement unless he gets the same price by that agreement as he might hope to get by means of application to the tribunal. That, again, I think, is the common experience of those who are used to transactions under the Lands Clauses Act.
As a matter of fact, it is in the experience, I think, of many of us that higher prices are often obtained by agreement because of the Lands Clauses Act, and very often higher than could possibly be got if the matter went to arbitration. If that is so, I venture to submit that practically no transaction under this Bill will ever take place at all, because the 496 treatment of these sales as matters for compensation will cause so great a difference between the amount which the landlord will receive and the price at which the land can be resold to the tenant purchaser that it will be altogether impossible for the Estates Commissioners to enter into these transactions at all. The difference has to come from somewhere. Where is it to come from? Is it to come out of the bonus or out of the Imperial Treasury? I think it is almost unnecessary to remind noble Lords that the Treasury are not likely to make themselves liable for any indefinite possible charge of this kind, I assume with equal certainty that noble Lords opposite would not desire that the Purchase Aid Fund should be similarly liable; and under those circumstances I submit that if you apply the terms of the Lands Clauses Act to these transactions it simply means that no transactions will take place at all.
But, my Lords, it goes further than that, because supposing some transactions do take place on this higher scale, the Estates Commissioners will incur the risk of running up the value of all the land in Ireland which they may afterwards wish to acquire by agreement. They are accused by noble Lords opposite of desiring to depreciate the value of all the land in Ireland by paying low compulsory prices for certain parcels, audit is assumed that the effect will be disastrous upon the value of land in. Ireland generally; but surely it is equally true that, if you compel them to pay fancy prices under the Lands Clauses Act for certain parcels of agricultural land, you will be doing the precise opposite—that is to say, you will be running up the price which landlords are likely to demand for land all over Ireland. That is one set of considerations.
But there are other considerations. The noble and learned Lord desires that if the Estates Commissioners are unable to acquire by agreement and on reasonable terms suitable land they may in the last resort apply compulsion. If he means that the question whether suitable land cannot possibly be obtained elsewhere by agreement is one on which there is to be an appeal, let us consider the amount of possible delay and 497 difficulty that would be caused by such a provision. It seems to me to open up a vista of endless discussion and recrimination between the vendor and the Estates Commissioners. And these appeals, long, complicated, and expensive, are to be paid for out of public money. I ask the House whether it is conceivable that those who are responsible for the finances of the country would agree to enter into possible liabilities of that kind.
It appears to me that noble Lords have not entirely grasped the root idea of this Bill. Nobody disputes that it is quite possible to reinstate all the evicted tenants in Ireland by means of agreement if you give time enough. It is undoubtedly true that the Estates Commissioners could in the course of the next fifteen years acquire by agreement sufficient land of one kind or another to put these people back, and, therefore, the whole case for this Bill rests on the necessity for doing this work in a short space of time. Therefore, unless this operation can be carried through in a comparatively short time there is not the least object in passing this Bill. If noble Lords are right in thinking that the matter is by no means urgent, that it is perfectly satisfactory for these transactions to go on pari passu, in Lord Donoughmore's words, with all the other transactions, with the possibility of not concluding for fourteen or fifteen years or possibly longer, in that case noble Lords, from their point of view, would be right in rejecting the Bill altogether. But if you embroider the Bill with provisions of all kinds which involve either indefinite delay or an indefinite addition to the cost, so far as we are concerned the effect will be precisely the same as voting against the second reading of the Bill.
That is why I say these Amendments of the noble Lord will have the effect, though I dare say they have not the intention, of defeating the Bill. If the Government are asked to proceed under the Land Clauses Acts, or if the Estates Commissioners are to be forbidden to obtain the land they want, no Bill is required, and although in our opinion the consequences to the peace of Ireland may be exceedingly grave, noble Lords would have to take the responsibility for that state of things. On the question of 498 an appeal as to whether a particular piece of land should be taken compulsorily I am afraid we are not disposed to com-promise; but we regard an appeal on value as a different matter, and we shall be willing to discuss it with the noble Lord.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
said he had listened attentively to the speech of the noble Earl the Lord President and was not sure that the noble Earl himself had very definite views as to the first clause. The noble Earl had said that the Amendment might tend to wreck the Bill, but had not given any reason for that statement. Nor had he defended the clause in the Bill as a reasonable, intelligible, or just clause. The noble Earl had not said a syllable in defence of it.
What was the position at the present time? The whole of the land legislation of Ireland was based upon the voluntary principle. The evicted tenants were dealt with under the voluntary system in the Act of 1903, and upon that Act there had now been built up a grievance which, it was said, demanded a supreme, urgent, and revolutionary legislative measure. The noble Earl had himself said that this. Bill was not intended to apply to impossible tenants, and Mr. Birrell had declared that it was intended to apply only to those who in an agrarian war had come to grief. But the Bill was so wide that it included not only the Plan of Campaign tenants, the dupes and sufferers of an agrarian war, but also every tenant evicted within a large number of years—it might be because he had been thoughtless, because there were years of arrears of rent, or because he had not succeeded and could not succeed, and was, therefore, an impossible tenant. There was no restraint as to the cause or reason for the eviction. Nearly all the Plan of Campaign estates were provided for; there were only seventeen estates in all, fifteen of which had been dealt with, and in regard to one of the remaining two negotiations were taking place, so that there was only one estate outstanding at the present moment. The bulk of the evicted tenants remaining were, therefore, tenants who had been evicted by the ordinary process of law chiefly for the non-payment of rent. He pitied anyone in misfortune, and was not against the principle of restoring the evicted tenants to a position of happiness; 499 but the suggestion that there was any supreme urgency in dealing with this topic obviously required considerable explanation. It was only by straining language that they could call this matter urgent. A great many evicted tenants had been restored under the voluntary system in the Act of 1903, and that process was going on easily and smoothly at the present moment. The power compulsorily to take land had always been cautiously used, an honest price—to quote the words of the present occupant of the Woolsack—had always been paid, and it had always been subject to legitimate appeal. The Estates Commissioners were only human, and if they were given uncontrolled power to select land where they pleased, was it not reasonable to ask that their action should be reviewed by fresh and independent minds? This was a novel and startling position. As Lord Atkinson had pointed out, the Commissioners were to be given an absolute charter, without check, guidance, or control, to go into any part of Ireland and to take as much land as they liked, where they liked, and to measure the price without appeal. Had the noble Earl, in his opening speech that day, said one solitary syllable—
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
May I interrupt the noble and learned Lord? I was not making an opening speech. I was endeavouring to deal with the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord opposite.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
said that, being an Irishman, he called that an opening speech. This was an Amendment of the first importance. It suggested, first, that compulsion should only be employed if the Commissioners were unable to get land voluntarily. Was it not reasonable that they should only be allowed to grasp a man's land compulsorily when it was unattainable voluntarily? As to the second point of the Amendment, was it not the most common principle of justice that when land was taken compulsorily fair compensation should be given? Coming to the question of an appeal, the noble Earl opposite seemed to indicate that there was some point on which he would consider it reasonable to give an appeal, but he did not see why there should not be 500 an appeal which would search the whole transaction from beginning to end.
§ * LORD EVERSLEY
said that as this was the first of a long series of Amendments which, whatever their intention might be, would have the effect, if carried as a whole, of defeating the Bill, and, at all events to whatever extent they were insisted upon and were accepted in the other House, of making the Bill distasteful to the great body of Irish Members, he hoped he might be allowed to make a few general observations upon the policy of mangling the Bill. He thought that when their Lordships looked back at past legislation relating to Irish land, they would find that almost without exception the attempts of that House to interfere with the Bills which had come up from the other House, supported by the great majority of Irish Members, had been a failure in the sense that they had made legislation of a more extreme character necessary, and the very object that they had in view was defeated. He would give a few illustrations, and would take first the Land Act of 1870. He well recollected that when that Bill was before their Lordships' House, Lord Salisbury and Lord Cairns made speeches on the subject very similar in tone and substance to that which they had heard on Tuesday last from the noble Marquess the Loader of the Opposition. It was said that the Bill was thoroughly bad in every respect, that it was unsound in principle and bad in detail; but their Lordships decided that, in view of the state of Ireland, it was not desirable to reject the Bill, but that, on the other hand, it should be considerably amended. The House of Lords then proceeded to adopt a long series of Amendments which completely altered the character of the Bill. Most of those Amendments were ultimately defeated, but the other House of Parliament, fearing the loss of the Bill altogether, accepted some of them, and it was not long before it was proved that those Amendments were most serious in their results. Then came the crisis of 1879, when there was great distress in Ireland owing to a succession of bad harvests. It was found impossible for large numbers of tenants to pay their rent, and the better landlords of Ireland made large abatements, but the minority of bad landlords 501 insisted upon full payment, and began to evict on a large scale. Then the defect he had mentioned in the Act of 1870, which was due to their Lordships' Amendments, showed how unwise those Amendments had been, and the Government of the day, at the instance of the great majority of the Irish Members, felt themselves compelled to introduce a temporary measure for the purpose of meeting the evil, and of limiting eviction by giving compensation.
THE EARL OF MAYO
inquired whether the discussion should not be confined to the definite Amendment before the Committee.
* LORD BALFOUK OF BURLEIGH (who was in temporary occupation of the Chair)
said he thought it would be in order to refer to incidents of previous history only by way of illustration, but not to discuss them on the merits in detail.
§ * LORD EVERSLEY
said that was just what he was doing. He was proceeding to say that the Government of the day then introduced the Compensation for Disturbance Bill. Their Lordships threw that measure out, and as a result a series of agitations occurred in Ireland when evictions took place; and in the following year it was' necessary for Parliament to pass a measure which went far beyond that of the previous year and showed the unwisdom and impolicy of their Lordships in rejecting the Compensation for Disturbance Bill. The Act of 1881, which affected the greatest agrarian revolution ever carried in any country, was finally passed into law; but again their Lord-ships inserted Amendments of a serious character, which the House of Commons felt itself unable to resist, but the demerits of which afterwards appeared.
He was surprised to hear the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition state, during the Second Reading debate on this Bill, that the Act of 1881 was complete, and that since then no tenant in Ireland had lost his farm by eviction unless he had brought that eviction upon himself. The noble Marquess was Governor-General of Canada, and out of this country, between 1881 and the passing of the Act of 1887. Events then occurred which necessitated an amendment 502 of that Act in 1887. There occurred a second agrarian rising. From the land legislation of 1887 this question of the evicted tenants was left over, and had continued a running sore up to the present time. In 1894 Mr. Morley attempted to deal with it by a moderate measure proposing reinstatement of these tenants as tenants, but that Bill was unwisely rejected by their Lordships. The late Government endeavoured to deal with it in the Act of 1903—a good measure—but being permissive it lacked backbone, and was not final or complete. The present Bill was the natural supplement, and looking back at the past history of land legislation should convince their Lordships that it was unwise to introduce Amendments contrary to the expressed wishes of the representatives of the people. It was of no use to provide remedies that would not be accepted by the people for whom they were intended. With regard to the specific Amendment, it practically meant the application of the Lands Clauses Act, adding immensely to expense and delay in the procedure.
§ LORD ATKINSON
said there was no proposal that this matter should be dealt with under the machinery of the Lands Clauses Act; it was merely that the principle of compensation should be the same.
§ LORD EVERSLEY
said he quite under stood that, but he thought to whatever extent the proposal was made it was not a wise one. It was not acceptable to the majority of the Irish Members, and he ventured to say that on that ground alone their Lordships would be wise in rejecting it.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
said he would not follow the noble Lord into his memorandum upon the Book of the Irish Attorney-General on Irish land law, or make Second-Reading observations on the Bill; he would simply deal with the objections of the Lord President to the Amendment. The first objection was that the Amendment would destroy the principle of the Bill. The object of the Amendment was to assure an honest price being given for the land. He had ventured to assert on the Second Reading that the principle of the Bill was to secure land at a dishonest price, and the speech of the Lord President went far to prove that. The 503 second objection was that the Amendment would initiate the system of the Lands Clauses Act; but that had been conclusively denied. It would ensure a fair price being fixed by a Judge of the High Court. It was objected that this would be too high a price to allow of the land being sold to the tenant; therefore the landlord was to take a lower price than the land was worth. Did obviating that destroy the principle of the Bill, and was it wrong to destroy such a principle? The noble Earl said the system of appeal would be too expensive. Well, this was the first time he had heard it urged in that House that a subject of His Majesty was not to have justice because that Justice would cost too much.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I think the noble Earl forgets that when people go to arbitration they usually pay their own expenses. In this case the expenses are paid by the Treasury.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
said this was offered by the Government. It was in the Bill at their initiative. The noble Earl had given them ground for thinking that they might be allowed an appeal on the question of value. So far so good. He was sure they would be very grateful for even that; but why should they not have an appeal on fact? Clause 6 defined lands which were not to be taken under the Bill. Was it not reasonable to suppose that countless questions would be raised as to whether a particular thirty or forty acres came within the definition of that clause or not? Was it fair that these questions should be decided by the purchaser without appeal? If noble Lords opposite were going to maintain that the purchaser should be allowed to decide these questions without appeal they could join issue, and he scarcely thought that such a contention, so contrary to all precedent, would commend itself to the country generally.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord LOREBURN)
My Lords, I will endeavour to emulate the brevity of the noble Earl, who has spoken closely to the Amendment, though he has misapprehended some of the observations of my noble friend the Lord President of the Council. The principle of compulsion is not struck 504 at by the Amendment, and an objection to that principle is a matter for the Second Reading. The complaint that there is no limitation to the Bill is not a subject dealt with in this Amendment, and is a matter for special and separate consideration when we reach it. The question whether there is urgency for this Bill is, it seems to me, a matter for the Second Reading; but I hope I may be permitted to say, as the mouthpiece of the responsible Government, that we think there is great urgency and great necessity for a measure of this kind in the interest of peace and good government in Ireland. I say that with all the emphasis I can, and speaking, on behalf of my colleagues, and therefore I should like to prepossess your Lordships with a favourable view towards this Bill, provided, of course, that the Bill is a fair Bill. I hope none of us would desire to make unfair propositions, although we may differ as to what is fair.
I have not been able to look through Clause 6 since the noble Earl, Lord Donoughmore, referred to it, but my impression is that it is prohibitive, and that if the Estates Commissioners were to act contrary to that clause they could be restrained by the Court as it is. Under the Amendment the Court of Appeal, before the question of value was come to, might have to decide—first, whether in a particular case the Estates Commissioners, were unable to acquire by agreement and reasonable terms suitable land; and, secondly, whether upon the facts and circumstances proved in evidence before them the compulsory acquisition of the land was just and reasonable. All that would mean a very large addition indeed to what I may call the litigious machinery of the Bill. Then as to the question of value, the clause as it stands provides that the owner is to be paid the fair market value of his land; and in addition to that he is to get the bonus of 12 per cent. Is it a fair use of language to say that that proposal is dishonest? I think myself that it is a very fair proposal. I can only say that if the Amendment is insisted upon it will clog the Bill in point of time, business, and money. Noble Lords opposite say they have no desire to wreck the Bill. I am sure they have no desire either to put difficulties in the way of the Government, who, whether worthy or unworthy, are responsible for good order and peace in Ireland.
LORD MONTEAGLE OF BRANDON
said that even the Lord Chancellor had hardly addressed himself to the main point under the consideration of the Committee at the moment. It was quite true that the clause as it stood provided that the owner was to be paid the fair market value of his land, but it was to be what appeared to the Estates Commissioners to be the fair market value. That was the whole question in dispute, and it was the point raised by the Amendment. He supported the Amendment, but his action in doing so was very far indeed from that of a wrecker. He hoped their Lordships would not sanction the novel principle that the Estates Commissioners should not only purchase, but decide the price of the land.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the speech of my noble and learned friend behind me necessarily covered a good deal of ground, because, consulting, as I think, the convenience of your Lordships, he laid before us fully the whole scheme of Amendments of which this particular Amendment forms a part. But the question upon which we shall presently have to vote is a comparatively restricted one. That question, I take it, to be this: Are your Lordships content that the final decision upon these questions of the necessity for compulsion and of the amount of compensation to be paid to the person against whom that compulsion is exercised shall in all their bearings be left to the Estates Commissioners? I do not think? I misinterpret the feelings of your Lordships when I say that those, at any rate, who sit on this side of the House feel very strongly indeed that it is impossible for us to place the Estates Commissioners in that position.
My noble and learned friend, at the outset of his remarks, threw down a challenge to the House. He said: Can you show me any case in the legislation of this country in which this power of compulsion has been committed to any public authority without an appeal to some external tribunal? The glove which my noble and learned friend threw down still remains upon the floor of this House. In our view it is improper that these gentlemen, owing to the position which they occupy under this Bill, a position which really makes them the promoters of these 506 schemes, should be not only the promoters of them, but also the final arbiters as to the terms upon which those schemes should be carried out. And we are obliged to add, in common candour, without making any imputation whatever upon the integrity of these gentlemen, that their antecedents, the atmosphere in which they move, the language they bold, as recorded in the reported evidence given before the Congested Districts Commission, render it unlikely that, in our opinion, when they come to deal with these questions they will do so in a judicial frame of mind.
There is a word in this Amendment whish seems to me of the utmost importance. My noble and learned friend proposes that when compulsion is exercised "compensation" should be paid to the person against whom such action is taken. One would have thought that this was so obvious a proposition as to need no defence or explanation. But there is a wide difference indeed in our minds between the import of this word, "compensation" and the import of the word "price," which it will replace if the Amendment is carried. The price to be paid would under this Bill be fixed solely with reference to the personal opinions and anticipations of the Estates Commissioners. There is nothing to suggest the idea that any regard whatever is to be had to the loss which will be sustained either by the tenant farmer who is turned out to make room for the planter, or by the landlord whose untenanted land is taken up for a similar purpose.
We Irish landowners have had a very bitter lesson as to the consequences of the absence of the kind of principle which my noble and learned friend desires to-introduce in this clause. At present rents are being valued all over Ireland upon no principle whatever, and that has been so from the regrettable moment when it was determined to leave out of the Land Bill of 1881 any attempt to define what a fair rent ought to be. The result has been that the sub-Commissioners have themselves had occasion to lament the fact that they have been, to use the expression employed by one of them, turned out without chart or compass to fix rents all over Ireland upon no known standard. That is what we want to-avoid in this case.
507 What, then, is the counter proposal of His Majesty's Government? The Lord President has, it seems, a holy horror of procedure under the Lands Clauses Act, but the Amendment of my noble and learned friend does not imply the adoption of the whole of the machinery of that Act. What, then, is the proposal? I welcome gratefully the announcement the noble Earl made that in regard to the question of compensation His Majesty's Government are prepared to grant an appeal. I welcome that as a very important admission, which pro tanto goes a considerable distance to meet our objection. That would deal with the question of value. But why are we to be told that we are unreasonable in asking for an appeal on other important questions which arise under this Bill? For example, the question whether a person who is being turned out of his holding in order to make room for an evicted tenant is really a bonâ fide farmer entitled to the considerate treatment which the Lord President has always claimed for men of that class, is one which I do not think ought to be left simply to the fiat of the Estates Commissioners.
Then, again, there is the application of the sixth clause dealing with the restrictions as to untenanted land which may be taken for the purposes of the Bill. Let me say, in passing, that this is a clause in which I recognise a desire on the part of His Majesty's Government to deal fairly and reasonably with the persons who will be affected by this measure, but surely it is not unreasonable to suppose that there may be cases of very great hardship, unless some opportunity is offered to the landowner of protesting against the decision of the Commissioners, who, it must be remembered, are advised by their subordinates, many of whom are persons of very strong political tendencies. We fence in all other cases of the exercise of compulsion by precautions of this kind, and why not in this case? You are, by the admission of the Government, dealing in a very unusual way with property; why, then, should you neglect these precautions?
The noble and learned Lord suggests that by so doing we should clog the Bill, and that there would be innumerable appeals. I do not see in the least why that should be the case. The value of a 508 Court of Appeal in a case of this kind is that the knowledge of its existence steadies the Court below. For my part, I believe that if you will give us either the kind of appeal which my noble and learned friend desires, or some equally substantial appeal, the effect will be that the Estates Commissioners and their myrmidons would be very much more careful how they do their work, and that in all probability the actual number of appeals will be comparatively small. I admit that it would be unfortunate if anything happened to protract the proceedings under this Bill to an indefinite extent, but, my Lords, permit me to say, as I resume my seat, that there is a much worse possibility than that of delay, and that is that a great wrong and injustice may be done.
§ * THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (The Marquess of RIPON)
My Lords, I should not have troubled your Lordships with any remarks on this Amendment if it had not been for something which fell from the noble Marquess who has just sat down with reference to the Estates Commissioners. As far as the legal aspect of the case is concerned, I may safely rest on what has been said by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. Both he and my noble friend the Lord President have pointed to the possibility of an appeal in certain cases and in certain circumstances. I think it is very unfortunate that the noble Marquess should have used language, perhaps unintentional, which will rather tend to diminish the credit of the Estates Commissioners. My noble friend said he thought there would be very few appeals even if they were to be permitted. I am quite sure that if you discredit the Commissioners appeals are likely to be very numerous. But, my Lords, who are these Estates Commissioners? They are gentlemen who were appointed by the Government of which my noble friend opposite was a member, and it is a little hard that you should turn round now upon the men you yourselves appointed and speak of them in what I must say are very disparaging terms. I know that one of the Commissioners greatly offended a Member of the other House of Parliament, who addressed to him a very singular letter. But I venture to say that these gentlemen, who were selected by the late Government, are gentlemen of very high 509 character, perfectly fit to be entrusted with the duties which will devolve upon them. I do not know any of the Commissioners myself, but I do know the reputation of Mr. Finucane, who was a Civil Servant in India while I was Viceroy, and I know he did his work very well. I hope that in the course of this discussion noble Lords will remember that these Commissioners are to continue. They will have a great and important work to do, and it is a mischievous thing to disparage them in any way that is likely to weaken their authority.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
denied that the Leader of the Opposition had used any expression containing a note of disparagement in regard to the Commissioners. The late Government appointed those gentlemen to carry out their present duties, and never for a moment imagined that they would afterwards be given the extraordinary powers which were now proposed, powers which were virtually autocratic. If the Bill were dropped in consequence of this Amendment the responsibility would rest with the Government. The Lord President had alluded to the question of costs in regard to appeals, and had stated that in cases where land was taken compulsorily the costs were paid by the parties concerned. That was not accurate. He believed that in all cases in which land was taken for railway purposes the costs were paid entirely by the company acquiring the land, and he believed they also paid the cost of proving title and the expenses connected with the investment of the purchase money.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
That is perfectly true. I was merely speaking of the employment of public money for this purpose.
§ came to the same thing so far as the person was concerned whose land was compulsorily taken. He could assure the Committee, on behalf of himself and noble-Lords closely connected with Ireland, that they had not the slightest desire to wreck the Bill. Without injuring the Bill, they had put down Amendments with the object of preventing injustice being done. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that a large portion of the provisions in the Bill had not been discussed in the other House.
THE EARL OF MAYO
felt bound, as one who had sold land to the Commissioners, to say that he had always found them carry out their duty to the-best of their ability, and if the money had been provided these evicted tenants, would have been put back. If they had had sufficient staff and sufficient money given them to work the Act of 1903 properly the evicted tenants question would have been dealt with pari passu with the estates, and their Lordships would not have been troubled with this Bill. They must remember that already under the voluntary system over 1,000 tenants had been put back, and fifteen out of seventeen Plan of Campaign estates had been settled with. Only two estates were still left to be dealt with, and in regard to one it was only a matter of price. The Estates Commissioners had not been given sufficient money and sufficient staff, so the Government said, "We will give them compulsory powers." In the past the Estates Commissioners had done their best under very difficult circumstances, but the compulsory powers now proposed to be given them were a great deal too large.
§ On Question, whether Sub section (1) should stand part of the Bill, their Lordships divided:—Contents, 34; Not-Contents, 153.511
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Portsmouth, E.||Denman, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. President.)||Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)|
|Selby, V.||Eversley, L.|
|Ripon, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Farrer, L.|
|Allendale, L.||Fitzmaurice, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Blythe, L.||Glantawe, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]||Granard, L. (E. Granard.), [Teller.]|
|Craven, E.||Courtney of Peawith, L.|
|Hamilton of Dalzell, L.||Nunburnholme, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Haversham, L.||Pirrie, L.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Headley, L.||Rendel, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Hemphill L.||Sandhurst, L.||Welby, L.|
|Lyveden, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Hampden, V.||Inchiquin, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Hood, V.||Kelvin, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.|
|Northumberland, D.||Kensington, L.|
|Richmond and Gordon, D.||St. Aldwyn, V.||Kenyon, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Templetown, V.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Ailesbury, M.||Addington, L.||Langford, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Alington, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Lovat, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Ampthill, L.||Ludlow, L.|
|Annaly, L.||Lurgan, L.|
|Bandon, E.||Ardilaun, L.||Macnaghten, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Ashbourne, L.||Massy, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||Atkinson, L.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Cathcart, E.||Balfour, L.||Methuen, L.|
|Cawdor, E.||Barrymore, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Basing, L.||Muskerry, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Belper, L.||Newlands, L.|
|Darnley, E.||Biddulph, L.||North, L.|
|Dartrey, E.||Borthwick, L.||O'Neill, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Drogheda, E.||Braye, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Eldon, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Essex, E.||Burton, L.||Rathdonnell, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Calthorpe, L.||Rathmore, L.|
|Haddington, E.||Carew, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)||Robertson, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Castlemaine, L.||Rosmead, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)||St. Oswald, L.|
|Lindsey, E.||Cheylesmore, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Londesborough, E.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)||Sanderson, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Clinton, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Clonbrock, L.||Savile, L.|
|Morton, E.||Cloncurry, L.||Sherborne, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Colchester, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Northesk, E.||Collins, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Dawnay, L. (F. Downe.)||Somerhill, L. (M. Clanri-carde.)|
|Plymouth, E.||De Freyne, L.|
|Powis, E.||De Mauley L.||Stalbridge, L.|
|Rothes, E.||Deramore, L.||Stuart of Castle Stuart, L. (E. Moray.)|
|Saint Germans, E.||Desborough, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Digby, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Verulam, E.||Dunalley, L.||Talbot de Malahide, L.|
|Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Dunboyne, N.||Templemore, L.|
|Westmeath, E.||Dunleath, L.||Tennyson, L.|
|Wharneliffe, E.||Ebury, L.||Teynham, C.|
|Wicklow, E.||Ellenborough, L.||Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Estcourt, L.||Ventry, L.|
|Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Fairley, L. (E. Glasgow.)||Waleran, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Falmouth, V.||Forester, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Halifax, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Proposed words there inserted.
* LORD CLONBROCK,
who had on the Paper an Amendment to provide that—A register shall be kept by the Estates Commissioners of the persons reinstated under this Act, with their names and addresses, and the number of acres of land in which they shall 512 have been reinstated, which register shall be open for public inspection,said that on further consideration he was disposed to think that this was not the best way to effect his object, which was that persons should be able to obtain information as to the operations of the 513 Estates Commissioners. He thought it would be far better that the Commissioners should be instructed to publish periodical Returns as they now did under the Act of 1891. In those circumstances he did not intend to move his Amendment, but would bring up a new clause at a later stage. But he would like to know the views of His Majesty's Government on the subject.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, we should have no objection to the noble Lord's Amendment as it stands, provided he would agree to a slight alteration. The term "persons reinstated" is not a correct one. It should be "persons provided with parcels of land," because they are not all reinstated. Similarly at the end of the Amendment the words should read "land with which they have been respectively provided," instead of using the word "reinstated." I understand that the noble Lord wishes to bring up his Amendment in an amended form, and in doing so perhaps he will bear in mind that those phrases should be used instead of the words in the Amendment as on the Paper.
THE EARL OF MAYO
proposed an Amendment to limit the operation of the Act to evicted tenants whom the Estates Commissioners had, prior to 1st November, 1907, determined to be fit and proper persons to become purchasers under the Land Purchase Acts. The Commissioners knew at present the number of applicants they wished to reinstate, and it was not desirable that their decisions should be reopened. If there were any applications beyond the number referred to, the Commissioners would have ample, time to deal with them in the interval between the passing of the Bill and 1st November. It was also ill the interests of the Commissioners themselves that the cases they had decided upon should be closed, and that pressure should not be brought to bear upon them by undesirable persons who ought not to be included. As they knew, pressure of all sorts could be brought on people in Ireland in this matter, and he therefore thought it should be closed altogether by 1st November next. He hoped the Government would see their way to accept the Amendment.
In page 2, line 2, to leave out the word 'consider' and to insert the words 'have prior to the first day of November one thousand nine hundred and seven determined.'"—(The Earl of Mayo.)
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
This Amendment forms part of a series of Amendments which might be moved with regard to limiting in some degree the scope and operations of this Bill, either by time, or by numbers, or in some other way; but I hope the noble Earl will not press this particular form of limitation. It is true that the Estates Commissioners have provisionally placed upon the list a considerable number of names, but I take it that they are not prepared to say that all those provisionally placed on the list ought ultimately to be provided with holdings. On the other hand, they think that it is quite possible that a few—and even if there were only very few it would be a hardship—deserving people might be left out if the date is fixed as proposed by the noble Earl. We are not opposed altogether to the principle of some form of limitation on the operation of the Bill, as I shall be able to explain on the next Amendment; but I hope the noble Earl will not press this particular form of limitation.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
The noble Earl's Amendment does not deal with the operation of the Bill. The limitation of the Bill is one thing, but it is another thing to say that a certain individual, however deserving you may find him to be, six months hence cannot possibly be reinstated in his holding. The Estates Commissioners think the Amendment undesirable, because there is a possibility of real hardship being inflicted on deserving people in a few cases.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I was very glad to hear the noble Earl the Lord President announce that he was not opposed to the principle of limiting the operation of this Bill, because nothing could be more disastrous than that proposals of this kind should remain indefinitely open. There are limits of three kinds that might be imposed—a 515 limit of time, a limit of number, and a limit of money. I gather that the Lord President is prepared to make a statement on this point further on in the Bill. Is that so?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
If there is to be a limitation of any kind, a time limit does seem to me a most reasonable thing to propose; and if the particular date suggested by my noble friend Lord Mayo seems to the Lord President too near at hand, I suggest whether he might not name a rather later one that would give a sufficient margin of time for his purpose. It should be remembered that quite lately a Member of His Majesty's Government announced that the Government knew the exact number of cases with which they had to deal.
appealed to the Government to have some regard to the health of the Commissioners. No constitution could bear up against the labour that would be involved if a date limit were not inserted. Unless that were done, the sooner the Estates Commissioners insured their lives the better.
THE EARL OF MAYO
suggested December 31st, 1907. He held that this date would give the Commissioners plenty of time to fill up any gaps in the numbers.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I am afraid I did not make myself quite clear. There are two kinds of limitations. We should be prepared to consider a time limit after which no tenant should be restored to his holding. But we do not want to make a time limit against individuals.
THE EARL OF MAYO
said he would withdraw his Amendment at this stage, and bring it up on Report if no time limit were introduced.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY moved an Amendment limiting the operation of the Bill to 2,000 evicted tenants. He contended that there must be some limit to the number, and this
Amendment would bring the Bill into accord with the opinion expressed by the Chief Secretary in another place. It might be argued that the Bill did limit the number of tenants whose applications were to be considered. He did not deny that entirely. But the Bill did not specify, as he thought it should, and as the Chief Secretary evidently thought it did, with any degree of certainty that the number of 2,000 was to be the number on which the Government would act. Mr. Birrell's words were—
We have to appreciate what the limited purposes of the Bill are. They are the reinstatement of those 2,000 scheduled or named persons compulsorily.
But that left a very open door. At present there were about 6,500 so called evicted tenants whose claims to be reinstated had been rejected, and if the limit was not definitely settled the Government would be pressed to admit, more of them. This was really a question of opinion. The Estates Commissioners thought these persons ought not to be reinstated, but the tenants themselves naturally thought they ought to be; and unless some definite limit was fixed they would not be able to arrive at a conclusion which would settle the question once and for all. If they were going to leave this question open they would be adding greatly to the difficulties of the Estates Commissioners, whose chief work was to promote the sale and transfer of land. They had been taken away from their real duties for the purpose of deciding what applicants were qualified to be reinstated, and unless the limit which he proposed was inserted the time; when the Commissioners would return to the duties for which they were appointed: would be very far off. Meanwhile they were creating a false hope in the minds: of the applicants, and rendering the-position of the sitting tenant extremely unsatisfactory. In 1903 Mr. Dillon, whose opinion was endorsed by Mr. Redmond, stated the number of evicted tenants to be 400; now the number was-said to be 8,500; how were they to know that in the next three or four years the-number would not continue to grow?
In page 2, line 4, after the word 'Acts' to insert the words 'not exceeding two thousand in all.'"—(The Marquess of Londonderry.),
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, I dealt with this question as fully as I could on Second Reading, a fact which, I think, has escaped the recollection of the noble Marquess. At that time I said there were three possible forms of limitation that you might add to the Bill—a limit of time, a limit of numbers, or a limit of area, and I endeavoured to show why, of the three, the most objectionable in our opinion was that of the limit of numbers. When I saw the noble Marquess's Amendment I was half sorry I had not expressed a preference for a limit of numbers and a strong distaste for the others, because I thought that might have been the reason he put it on the Paper; but, as a matter of fact, he does not seem to have remembered that I addressed myself to the subject at all. I gave them various reasons why, in our opinion, a limit of numbers was an unfortunate one. The noble Marquess has just said that Mr. Dillon and Mr. Redmond made an estimate which proved to be wrong. I should have thought that that fact in itself, considering what good judges Mr. Dillon and Mr. Redmond ought to be, would show how dangerous it was to put in an exact limit of numbers. If you fix a very low limit you run the risk of leaving somebody out who ought to be in; on the other hand, if you fix too high a limit those who have applied will take that maximum as a standard and will feel aggrieved if you do not work up to it. If there is to be a limitation, we think that the best is a limit of area, and we should be prepared to consider such a limit, for which I quite admit a good deal is to be said. I understand that Lord Mayo desires to bring up his time limit on a future occasion as against the other form of time limit which I suggested as a possibility, namely, a time during which the Bill should be in operation. That, of course, is an alternative, and those two proposals can, no doubt, be considered together when the time comes. I strongly object to the noble Marquess's Amendment limiting the numbers, but we should be prepared to consider the question of limiting the area.
§ LORD ATKINSON
said they would find themselves in inextricable difficulties if they inserted a limitation of area. The claims sent in numbered 8,500, and the 5,000 whose claims were rejected were in anything but an agreeable frame of mind. He understood that the area that was 518 suggested was 80,000 acres, calculated at forty acres per man. Forty acres was a great deal more extensive than many of the farms out of which these people had been evicted, and those applicants who were disappointed would not be content to see the 2,000 selected returned to farms of forty acres; it was inevitable that agitation would again arise. An agitation would be set on foot to divide the 80,000 acres between the whole of the applicants. Nobody could contend that it would not be desirable, so far as the peace of Ireland and the labours of the Commissioners were concerned, to put an end to the agitation and to the applications for reinstatement. So long as they kept the matter open, and so long as they permitted the condition of any particular district to guide them in any way in selection, so long would they make agitation and intimidation profitable. As to the noble Earl's statement that it might be difficult to fix 2,000 because some few cases might be thereby excluded, he would remind the Committee that the Chief Secretary had again and again stated in the House of Commons that he believed he had arrived at the right number, but, of course, could not pledge himself to one or two on either side. First of all, the Commissioners stated that out of the 5,000 applications they had selected 1,600, and that they firmly believed that the balance would only yield 400 more, making, in all, 2,000. If the number was now fixed at 2,200 they would be allowing a margin of 50 per cent. to cover possibilities on the Commissioners' estimate of 400. That surely would be sufficient. He was solely interested in the due administration of the Act of 1903 and in the peace and prosperity of Ireland, and he thought their Lord-ships would be contributing to both if they closed the door to all hope after a certain number had been reinstated.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am afraid it is not practicable to assent to the limitation of numbers, and that is the only question before the Committee at the present moment. The noble and learned Lord has referred to objections to the acreage limit. Be it so. That may be discussed when the acreage question comes up.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It may. I do not see any reason why it should not. There seems plenty of vitality in the way of moving Amendments. The present question is merely one of limiting the numbers, and I am sorry that, for the reasons stated by my noble friend the Lord President, we are not able to assent to that. Other limitations are, of course, left open for the present.
THE EARL OF MAYO
said that unless some limit was inserted these men could go on being reinstated for ever. He deprecated the contemptuous manner in which the suggestions made by noble Lords who lived in Ireland were treated by His Majesty's Government. He would renew his Amendment on Report.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
pressed for some more definite assurance from the Government. Unless a limit such as that proposed was inserted in the Bill the position of the Estates Commissioners would be untenable. He was bound to say that the speech of the Lord President was not merely an unconvincing speech, but also, it appeared to him, an unconvinced speech. He did not think that His Majesty's Government, if they really desired a settlement of this question, could possibly obtain it by merely putting in a limitation of acreage. Before they left the question the Committee ought to know until what period the time of the Commissioners was to be taken up with these cases, for it should be remembered that this was not the only important subject with which the Commissioners had to deal.
THE EARL OF MEATH
said the proposal with regard to an acreage limit was a most extraordinary one, and, instead of bringing peace to Ireland, would lead to one of the greatest agitations they had ever had. He hoped the noble Marquess would press his Amendment to a division, unless some reasonable suggestion from the Government were forthcoming.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I think this debate has been of an instructive character, though the noble Earl who has just sat down imported a somewhat needless measure of heat into it. If it is agreed that some limit is necessary, the question of what that limit should be is arguable. The reasons why we do not think a limit 520 of numbers a good one have been given. The most valuable opinion upon a subject of this kind would be, I should have thought, the opinion of those who will have to work the Act; but I am quite open to admit that the matter is an arguable one, and that there is some force in the objections which were raised by the noble and learned Lord opposite. We shall be glad to take the whole matter into consideration, and, although we shall say "Not Content" when the Amendment is put, we do not propose to divide the Committee upon it.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE moved an Amendment in Sub-section (2) to provide that new tenants to whom this Bill applied should include those whose lands might be acquired voluntarily as well as compulsorily. It had been repeatedly stated by the Chief Secretary, during the Committee stage of the Bill in the other House, that he thought there were many new tenants who would be very desirous of availing themselves of the terms in the Bill and would go voluntarily and willingly. No doubt there was a good deal in that. But in the absence of such an Amendment as he had placed on the Paper this would not be open to a new tenant, because first the screw of compulsion must be applied. He thought that was unwise. He did not think it would be possible legally to give the benefits under the Bill to any new tenant except under the screw of compulsion. If the Government thought that the Amendment did not go in the direction he desired and that the object could be achieved in some other way he would not press the Amendment.
In page 2, line 9, after the word 'applies' to insert the words new tenants to whom this Act applies shall include those whose lands may be acquired voluntarily as well as compulsorily.'"—(Lord Ashbourne.)
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, this is merely a drafting question. The intention of the Bill undoubtedly is to carry out what is expressed in the noble and learned Lord's Amendment; that is to say, there will be no difference between new tenants whose land is compulsorily acquired and those who retire Voluntarily, so far as their treatment under the Act 521 is concerned. That is the intention of the Bill, and, as I am advised, it is carried out by the terms of the Bill as it stands. There really is nothing in the Bill, I am told, to confine its application to tenants whose land is compulsorily taken. Clause 1 gives power to acquire land compulsorily, but it does not state any restriction. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord will look into the matter between now and the next stage, and if he thinks it necessary we will meet him.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
said he had considered the matter very carefully, and had come to the conclusion that an Amendment in this direction was necessary. Perhaps the noble Earl would consider the matter with his professional advisors, and if it was thought that the Amendment was necessary he would put it down again. But for the present he withdrew it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE moved to amend the sub-section of the clause which enabled the Estates Commissioners to remove a "new tenant" or planter if, "having regard to all the circumstances of the case, holding, and district," they considered it expedient that the evicted tenant should be reinstated, by providing that boycotting or intimidation directed against the occupier should not be regarded as a reason for his removal. He said that as the Bill was drafted this was possible, and the fact that a planter was unpopular would be enough to authorise the Estates Commissioners to remove him to some other part of the country. If that was the intention of the Bill—and he sincerely hoped it was not—it would obviously be a very wrong state of things to allow. Boycotting had been very well defined by the Chief Secretary as a system by which the boycotted person's means of livelihood were affected, through the refusal to sell provisions to him in local shops, the refusal of labour to work for him, and the refusal of neighbours to buy from him. Noble Lords in England had no experience of this terrible political engine, but it had not been forgotten in Ireland. Cattle driving was another form of pressure; it was described in Ireland as the policy of "letting the bullocks wander." One-third of Ireland was 522 so disaffected. Those who participated in cattle driving were claiming that the Government sympathised with them. He knew that that was denied here, but he did not think he would be putting it incorrectly when he turned a common phrase round and said that the Government had praised cattle driving with very faint damnation. Mr. Birrell had admitted that 240 grazing farms were under police protection; that was, of course, to protect the graziers from intimidation. If that was the treatment of the grazier, what would be the treatment of the planter, who was a vastly more unpopular person politically? If it were understood that a man would be got rid of by the Estates Commissioners if only he were boycotted, there would be such an agitation in Ireland as had not yet been dreamed of.
In page 2, line 13, after the word 'district' to insert the words' other than any boycotting or intimidation directed against the owner or occupier of such land,' and after the second 'and' to insert the words 'also having regard'"(The Earl of Donoughmore.)
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, the effect of this Amendment would be to make it entirely impossible for the Estates Commissioners to acquire tenanted land for any purpose in a district where there had boon boycotting and intimidation. The noble Earl threw out an obiter dictum to the effect that there was no boycotting in England. I am not prepared entirely to accept that statement, but I pass it by. But it is obvious, I think, that in the very great majority of cases the boycotted person is the injured person, and therefore he ought not to be made to go if he desires to remain. I can, however, conceive cases to the contrary. I can conceive it possible that a planter, the type of man who is spoken of as "spoiling for a fight," might be an absolute centre of disturbance by his own fault: and under those circumstances I do not see that it can be described as a hardship to remove such a man to some other part of Ireland. I do not think the cases would be frequent in which the person would not be willing to go. In the circumstances I would appeal to the noble Earl not to press his Amendment.
THE EARL OF MAYO
said the proposition was now laid down that the planter was a centre of disturbance.
THE EARL OF MAYO
said he did not hear those words. The statement made by the noble Earl was not a very agreeable one for them to hear. It led them to believe that the planters were to be turned out any how and no matter what happened. It was only fair that Lord Donoughmore's Amendment should have been considered by the Government in its proper light, and not taken in the way in which it had been taken by the Lord President. The truth was that in many cases the planters were not absolute centres of disturbance. It was the people round them who had made them centres of disturbance. They were to be sacrificed now because they had been put in the places of men who had not met their obligations and who had left the farms under circumstances well known. They had been farming properly and in many cases very successfully, and because the other people were jealous these planters were designated by the Lord President of the Council and by the Attorney General for Ireland as centres of disturbance. It was very important that these men should be treated in a proper manner and not turned out of their farms, and he hoped Lord Donoughmore would press his Amendment to a division. He did not think that the Estates Commissioners had ever stated that the planters were centres of disturbance.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I must ask the noble Earl not to misquote me. I said that you could conceive a case where a planter, because of his character and through his own fault, might be a centre of disturbance. That is by no means the same as saying that planters in Ireland are, as a whole, centres of disturbance. I must ask the noble Earl, if he quotes me at all, to quote me correctly.
§ LORD ATKINSON
thought the Government did not adequately realise the dangers of the course they were pursuing. If they made intimidation profitable, the spoils being divided among the intimidators, all the prosecutions that could be instituted would not stop intimidation. If a planter was on a good farm, and the idea got abroad that if his position were made troublesome, so that he would have 524 to be protected by the police and great cost incurred, he would thereby be got rid of and the farm divided among the intimidators, they would have intimidation spread over three-fourths of the south and west of Ireland. There were in Ireland 100,000 farms with less than ten acres of land. They must remember that intimidation was not looked upon as a crime in Ireland, and he was convinced that there were tens of thousands of men in Ireland who would willingly go to gaol for six months to get forty acres of land afterwards.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
said he was not clear as to the effect of the Amendment, which he thought might not carry out the object desired. It was conceivable that the Estates Commissioners might consider the fact that intimidation had taken place as a very good reason for not reinstating a tenant. This Amendment would preclude their taking into consideration the fact that intimidation had taken place at all. Therefore the Amendment might go in the exactly opposition direction from that desired by his noble friend.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, whether the words are as unambiguous as might be desired I will not take upon myself to say, but I do not think there is any doubt as to the intention with which my noble friend Lord Donoughmore has moved them. There are two or three different cases which we can suppose. In the first place, there is the case of the person who has been subject to boycotting and intimidation, but who is ready and willing to leave his holding. He goes because he wishes to go, and there is no question of applying compulsion to him. Then there is the case of the boycotted person who may be quarrelsome and aggressive, a man of bad character, who is a source of danger and embarrassment to the neighbourhood. I do not see why such a person as that should not have compulsion applied to him. But the case which I wish to guard is a different one. I wish to guard the case of a bona-fide farmer dealing fairly by his land, a man of good character and antecedents, who has been the victim of persecution and boycotting, and who, in spite of that, desires to stand fast and remain where he is. To my mind it would be a monstrous 525 thing that that individual should be extruded from his holding merely because he had been the victim of persecution, and because his removal was desired as a cowardly way of quieting the neighbourhood. That is, I conceive, my noble friend's intention.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, the noble Manquess who has just sat down has certainly travelled further than any previous speaker on the opposite side in the direction in which we desire to go, in that he has admitted that there are cases in which a planter might with advantage be compulsorily removed. I certainly do not desire that those in the second category mentioned by the noble Marquess—namely, well-disposed people who have been boycotted—should be disturbed if they do not desire it, and I am sure the Estates Commissioners would not wish it either. But I also think, as I have said, that the words as proposed in the noble Earl's Amendment would prevent the Estates Commissioners from dealing in any way with land whore there has been boycotting and intimidation, with the result which was pointed out more clearly by the noble Earl at the Table, Lord Dunraven. Perhaps, therefore, the matter might stand over to give an opportunity of words being found which would meet both the noble Marquess's view and ours.
* THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
said there was really nothing between them except as to the kind of words to be used. He therefore gladly adopted the course suggested by the Lord President.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE moved to amend Sub-section (3)—
(3) No tenanted land shall be acquired compulsorily unless it is in the occupation of a new tenant to whom this Act applies, and unless the Estates Commissioners, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, holding, and district, and to the cost involved, consider it expedient that the evicted tenant should be reinstated as a purchaser of that land,
by substituting for the word "involved" the words "of acquisition." He thought the Amendment did little more than explain what he hoped was the meaning of the words "the cost involved." But it had been suggested that "the cost
involved" might be held to mean the cost of giving them police protection, and that the State might say, "You are costing us too much money, and therefore you must go." He did not think this was the intention of the Government, and consequently moved his Amendment to clear up the point.
In page 2, line 14, to leave out the word 'involved,' and to insert the words 'of acquisition.'"—(The Earl of Donoughmore.)
thought there was a little misapprehension in the matter, as the words proposed by the noble Earl would limit the application of the clause. The words in the sub-section included not only the cost of acquiring the land, but also the cost of compensating the tenant who was put out. But if the Amendment were agreed to, the provision for compensation would be omitted.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
asked whether they were to understand that the words "the cost involved" had nothing subterranean in them. Unquestionably the Attorney-General for Ireland had stated that in considering the question they would take into account the cost of protecting the man who was removed, and the cost of guarding him against intimidation; and the Chief Secretary had pointed out that two of the elements would be whether the man lived in accord with his neighbours and whether the district was in such a condition as to involve a great charge on the Exchequer. If he was to understand from Lord Denman that these elements were not to be taken into account in the cost involved, but that those words were to be taken in the ordinary agrarian sense, the difficulty he had suggested would be removed; but his alarm was excited by the way in which the matter was discussed in the House of Commons, when the Attorney-General and the Chief Secretary used the language to which he had referred.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I think it is important not to mix this matter up with the last Amendment we were discussing, and upon which, I am glad to say, we came to something like agreement. So far as this particular clause is concerned, without limiting the discretion of the Commissioners as to which 527 holding they may wish to acquire, I certainly understand the cost applies only to the actual cost of acquiring the holding and compensating the tenant.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
said he had no intention of attempting to cut out the second case mentioned by Lord Denman. He could quite see, after what had been said, that his Amendment, as drafted, would go further than was intended. In these circumstances perhaps the Committee would allow him to consider the matter between then and Report.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD ROBERTSON moved an Amendment to leave out Sub-section (4) of the clause in the Bill and to substitute the following:—" Provided always that no lands shall be acquired compulsorily which have been purchased, or agreed to be purchased, under the Land Purchase Acts prior to 1st May, 1907, nor any tenanted land which is in the possession or occupation of any tenant using or cultivating the same as an ordinary farmer." This Amendment involved vitally the fortunes of a considerable class of His Majesty's subjects, and, in the view he took of the matter, it also involved the honour of the Imperial Parliament. The clause as it was in the Bill proposed to place in the hands of the Commissioners a universal warrant of eviction against all the new tenants and those who were called "planters," without exception or discrimination. His Amendment would give the planter a qualified protection, or, rather, the protection was limited to those who were ordinary farmers holding on their own account, and were not mere caretakers or agents for others. His Amendment was directed solely to the defence of the class of independent farmers who were making their own way in the world. The planter class included not merely those who were still tenant farmers, but there were those who had advanced beyond the stage of mere tenants, and had become, in all but formal title, the owners. They had done every thing which the law required them to do in order to obtain the right of ownership. If this Amendment were not carried the warrant of eviction would go against not merely the tenant-farmers, but against
those who were, except in form, the owners of their farms. When this subject was adverted to in the Second Reading debate the noble Earl the Lord President treated it with characteristic urbanity. He addressed some good humoured raillery to the House, and observed that noble Lords on that side had a way of speaking with tears in their eyes. If the Amendment were not adopted to stop a great wrong there certainly would be tears in many households in Ireland. He thought also there would be tears of shame shed on this side of the Channel. But the emotions which his Amendment was likely to excite that evening were of sterner stuff, and he thought indignation would be the most prominent among them. What was the position of the Government in this matter? He declined to accept observations or suggestions, but would deal with the text of their considered and adhered-to Bill. The Bill gave an indiscriminate warrant of eviction, except against those who found favour in the eyes of the Commissioners. On the Third Reading of the Bill in the other House, the Chief Secretary, in the course of some casual remarks, said—
There are new tenants whom to turn out would be an act of injustice and tyranny.
That sounded well. But Mr. Birrell went on to say—
I cannot say that I have the particular planters in view, but my imagination has played round the subject.
If this were an entirely new and unexplored region of legislation, he could conceive that this vague and conjectural language might have a measure of propriety. But planters had been a topic in Irish politics for decades. In 1903 there were anxious discussions in both Houses of Parliament about their affairs. Every point now before the House was before Parliament in 1903, and therefore it was idle to say that the deliberate adoption by the Cabinet of this stringent universal warrant of eviction could be done away with by the otiose and lazy language of rhetoricians. He must say it showed a levity of dealing with this grave subject, and with the fortunes of a large class of His Majesty's subjects, to say the case could be met by an assurance of the responsible Minister that "his imagination had played around the subject."
He now came to the facts of the case. First of all, this was no small or inconsiderable body of men, even in point of numbers. There were many hundreds of these planters. He had not in his hand any definite information as to the precise number, but in the evidence of the special Report of the Commissioners, published the other day, it was said that there were 1,259 planters' holdings available. He was content to take that as the minimum of the number of the class he was dealing with. Next, they had been in their holdings from which it was proposed to eject them for a number of years, varying from fifteen to twenty years. As to their origin, some of them came from the immediate districts surrounding the holdings in which they were established; others had come from other parts of Ireland. As to their religion—a topic which had always to be considered in dealing with a matter of this kind—some were Protestants and some were Roman Catholics. These new tenants were good citizens, who had fulfilled their duty to the law and had been loyal to the State. When there was a conspiracy against law and order so that there should be a surcease of agriculture and vast districts of Ireland should be converted into a desert, plucky men were found to come forward and, in spite of local boycott and intrigue, take their places on the farms and keep them going. These were the men and their successors on whose behalf he spoke. He rested the claim of these men, not on personal merit, but on right. But the question of character did come in. If it was proposed to thrust A out in order to put B in, he was afraid they must ask something, not merely about A, but about B. He could not forget, when they were proposing to turn out these men, that the evicted tenants shared in the conspiracy to make Ireland a desert. It was imperative that those thing" should be recalled. This clause had been launched against these men because they were marked men for having served the State at a critical moment. They had been marked men and hated in Ireland, and he would tell the Government this, that, unless they discovered some intelligible and reasonable explanation of this clause, the inevitable conclusion was that, in proposing the sentence of eviction against those men, the Government were the instruments,
conscious or unconscious, of vengeance. Then these men were told, "Oh, do not be so frightened at eviction from your existing farms, because we are going to offer you other farms." He was dealing with the cases of men who had prospered decently well in a modest way, and who did not want to move. Some of these men were advanced in life; some had additional connections through their families in the district. Why should they be taken to another place? A great deal of light was thrown on this question in the recent Report of the Congested Districts Commissioners and the evidence which it contained; and among the many queer things in the evidence of Mr. Finucane there was one thing which had not been referred to as yet in these debates. First of all, Mr. Finucane admitted that there was a pretty general hostility to people coming from another part of Ireland. He said that this was very unreasonable, and went on, with great complacency, to observe—
When we find difficulties of that kind we invite the co-operation of the local political leaders.
He would like to picture the introduction of, let them say, a planter who came from Ulster to the local popular leader. He assembled the neighbours, his object being to make things smooth for the new man. He naturally told them first of all how he came to be in his old holding—a very popular and inviting subject—and again how he came to have left it; and he (Lord Roberston) was certain his duties would be so faithfully performed that he would wind up with an earnest exhortation not to nail his ears to the pump.
They were told that there was a discretion given to the Commisioners. Was it possible for Commissioners having a vast amount of business on their hands to take more than a casual view of every case? The general result would be that the Commissioners would keep a roan because he looked like a good sort, and they would turn out a man because they did not like the cut of his jib. They were told at one and the same time that expropriation was justified by public necessity, and that individual merit was to be considered. But the one proposition destroyed the other, for the essence of compulsory legislation was that it was universal and no respecter of persons. 531 Let the House suppose that a Committee of noble Lords opposite had a Bill sent to them which had passed the Second Reading and had compulsory powers as its basis. He would imagine it to be a Bill affecting a suburb in the neighbourhood of London, and that an objector came forward and said, "I am, although perhaps it is not I who should say it, a model of all civic virtues, and yet my villa is going to be taken; I call that a monstrous injustice." And in amplification of his claim to be a person of the highest civic virtues he might go on to say," I am a member of the National Liberal Club, a teetotaler, and a passive resister; I have decently married my deceased wife's sister, and none of my children have been vaccinated." What would be the answer of the most indulgent Committee? They would, of course, mark the perfect man and behold the upright; but he believed they would show him to the door and take his house. This pretence of public necessity broke down as soon as it was stated. In 1903 there was universal agreement that compulsion was out of the question. On that occasion the Lord President declared it would be monstrous to disturb these planters, who were respectable men and good farmers; and again, Mr. Morley, who had a firm grasp of principles, said that these men should not be put out against their will. He wanted nothing more than that. He invited their Lordships to come to a decision on grounds of high and imperious principle, and to hold to that decision unflinchingly. On former occasions the House, when contending for lights of property and freedom of contract, had had launched against it the accusation that the House of Lords was always on the side of property and the rich, but to-night it was not the rich, but the poor, for whose defence they stood—not for men of one class, or one faith; it was the proud privilege of the House to redress a wrong done to the humblest of His Majesty's subjects. What course the Government might take after the House had given a decision on the Amendment he would not profess to predict. The Government had to judge whether their comrades in another place would tolerate such a lapse from rectitude. He did not suppose the Prime Minister would steer by the stars, and respectfully suggested some more mundane considerations. If he wanted to pick a 532 quarrel with the House, did the right hon. Gentleman think this was a well chosen battle-ground? Let him make up his mind upon that. If he decided to quarrel on this ground, the House would be willing to accept the challenge, being assured that the country would support a refusal to allow the powers of the State to be launched to ruin poor men whose only crime was that they had trusted to Parliament and obeyed the law.
In page 2, line 15, after the word 'land' to insert the words 'provided always that no lands shall be acquired compulsorily which have been purchased or agreed to be purchased under the Land Purchase Acts prior to the first day of May one thousand nine hundred and seven, nor any tenanted land which is in the possession or occupation of any tenant using or cultivating the same as an ordinary farmer'; and in lines 16 to 21, to leave out Sub-section (4). '—(Lord Robertson.)
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, we always listen to the noble and learned Lord with the keenest pleasure, even when he chastises us as he has done this evening, and I can assure him that we have seldom listened with more admiration to a speech than we have to that which he has just delivered. I cheerfully join in the sentiment with which the noble and learned Lord began and ended his speech—namely, that so far as this Amendment is concerned it does not contain the slightest atom of selfish or what I may call axe-grinding motives in the minds of those who support it. I do not know that it was really quite kind of the noble and learned Lord to point out that in that respect it appeared to constitute an exception when suggestions involving the rights of property were brought before your Lordships. But I frankly agree that it is purely with a generous motive, and with a desire that certain classes of men in Ireland should not be ruined, that this Amendment is brought forward by the noble and learned Lord and so obviously supported by noble Lords on that side of the House.
The noble and learned Lord's Amendment contains two distinct propositions, and perhaps I may be allowed first to deal with the minor one included in the first half of the clause. As our Bill stands, unless the agreement to purchase had been made before the 1st day of January of this year it would not be 533 operative for the purposes of this Bill. Our object in naming the 1st of January was a perfectly simple one, and we have no hesitation in announcing it. It became known at the beginning of the year that a measure of this kind was likely to be brought forward, and its general character was, I think, pretty well foreseen. We did not think it reasonable that where agreements to purchase were entered into, not on their merits, but simply in order to evade the provisions of this Bill, it should be found possible to do so. Our object was very similar to that which is often acted upon by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when introducing a new tax in his Budget. Knowing that there will be a rush to take any particular article out of bond in order to get the benefit of the old scale of taxation, a particular date is named from which the new tax is to take effect; and I think we cannot be blamed for inserting in our Bill a provision to prevent what, in a common phrase, I may call a number of ad hoc purchase agreements being lodged, some perhaps not intended to operate but to outlive the years during which this Act is in operation. And that is why we named the 1st day of January, and not, as the noble and learned Lord desires, the 1st day of May, for the purpose of safeguarding these purchase agreements.
As regards the first words of the noble and learned Lord's Amendment—Provided always that no lands shall he acquired compulsorily which have been purchased, or agreed to be purchased, under the Land Purchase Acts "—apart from the question of the date we have no objection to the insertion of those words, but, if the noble and learned Lord will take it from me, they are really not necessary. If he will look at Section 9, Sub-section (4), of the Land Act of 1891 he will see that no money can be advanced for the purchase of land which is subject to an annuity until that annuity is either paid off or redeemed. Nobody is likely to redeem the annuity, and by the hypothesis that it cannot be paid off, no land purchased under the Land Act will be available for the purposes of this Act.
I now come to the second part of the Amendment—Nor any tenanted land which is in the possession or occupation of any tenant using: or cultivating the same as an ordinary fanner.534 The noble and learned Lord referred very kindly to what I had said on this matter on a former occasion and also during our recent debates. I can assure the noble and learned Lord that I had no intention of approaching this matter in anything like a flippant spirit. Quite the contrary. If I ventured to banter noble Lords upon their fears on the subject I did so for this reason, that I do not believe, as a matter of practice and fact, knowing the people who will have to administer this law if it is passed, that the kind of cases of hardship which the noble and learned Lord seemed to assume would be not merely common but almost universal, will occur at all; and consequently I confess I was not able to take the same serious tone of alarm which was so evident in his eloquent observations. The noble and learned Lord seemed to have a vision of the Estates Commissioners parading throughout the whole of Ireland and evicting, for the mere pleasure of doing so, substantial farmers who had been put in as planters; and it is because, as I say, I do not consider anything of the kind, if the Bill is left as it is, the least likely to occur, that I do not feel the same alarm. Why, and under what temptation, should the Estates Commissioners desire to disturb, on a large scale, or, indeed, on any scale, tenants of that particular kind? What pressure can be put upon them to which they are the least likely to yield to do anything so obviously unfair?
I confess, my Lords, I am not able entirely to follow the noble and learned Lord in his, if I may venture to say so, rather indiscriminate eulogy of the whole class of planter tenants. As regards their personal merits, I imagine they are of various characters. Some of them, no doubt, are excellent, hardworking people and serious farmers, and others, I take it, are the reverse. Neither am I able to express an unqualified admiration for the policy, if it can be called a policy, or the action, of landlords, so far as they were to blame for what occurred, which led to the fact of planters being needed at all. That, of course, is a different reading of history. The noble and learned Lord reads it in one way, and some of us read it in another way.
The noble and learned Lord spoke upon the question of migrating tenants, but he 535 did not mention that if a tenant is migrated against his wish, he has the right to claim pecuniary compensation. But as regards this question of compensation, which the noble and learned Lord treated so humorously, I take it that the answer, to some extent, to what he said is that, as a matter of fact, it has been done. The Estates Commissioners have migrated a certain number of tenants—I am not able to give the figures, but a substantial number—to the West of Ireland; and these have—after, in some cases, it is true, a certain degree of preliminary trouble—settled down, and, so far as anybody is able to judge, not only are they contented themselves, but the neighbourhood in which they live is contented with them. Of course, if you assume that the most unlikely kind of tenants are to be dumped down by the Estates Commissioners in the most improper places, I have no doubt you could get up a very pretty row indeed in a great many parts of Ireland. I shall be told, I have no doubt, that I am once more urging the House to trust to the discretion of the Estates Commissioners. I do not ask the House to do that in all respects or entirely; but I do ask the House not to assume that the Estates Commissioners will invariably act either as knaves or as fools, which seems to be the suggestion repeated over and over again from the Opposition benches. As regards the phrase which the noble and learned Lord desires to insert, "an ordinary farmer," I am not going to enter into any discussion with the noble and learned Lord on a question of legal interpretation or of drafting; and if he says that those are the best words which can describe what he means, I have no doubt he is right. I confess they do not seem to mo very much like words which I have ever met with in Acts of Parliament; but, as I say, on a matter of that kind, I should not venture to doubt the discretion of the noble and learned Lord. In our opinion, the words are too wide. After all, every man in Ireland who walks about with, occasionally, a spade in his hand, and has a patch of potatoes, is called a farmer. A "farmer" in Ireland is not the same thing as a farmer in England or a farmer in Scotland. But I pass from that to ask whether, assuming that 536 we are, as I believe we are, all agreed as to the kind of people who ought not to be moved, and those who might be, the words might not include a certain number of people who, by common agreement, might be moved without injustice to them. If the noble and learned Lord, assuming that his words are the best that can be found, would agree to the addition of these words, "except under special circumstances with the consent of the Lord-Lieutenant," we should be prepared to accept his Amendment—not as regards the month of May, which is a different question, but as regards the latter part.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
Well, who ordinarily advises the Lord-Lieutenant? The Lord-Lieutenant's name occurs in a vast number of Acts of Parliament, and who advises him is best known to himself.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I suppose the Chief Secretary would take the advice that he thought fit to take under such circumstances.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
The special circumstances would be those which appeared to the Government—the Irish Government, for, of course, that is what is meant—to justify the exceptional action of removing a man who might come under the head of the legal term "ordinary farmer."
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
inquired whether the noble Earl could give any illustration of what would be "special circumstances."
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I really think I must leave noble Lords to think that over for themselves between now and the next stage of the Bill. I think I can scarcely be expected to invent, as I go along, 537 anecdotes of Irish life. I have no doubt the noble and learned Lord will come down with some at the next stage of the Bill. I really think that that is not an unreasonable proposition. I certainly withdraw nothing I have ever said on the subject, or qualify it in any way; but I cannot help feeling that the mere fact that a man has cultivated a farm after some fashion or other is not in all cases a reason for saying that he should not be compulsorily moved—of course, under the safeguards provided in the Bill as a whole.
The noble and learned Lord said that we were venturing upon an entirely new path of legislation by arguing, upon the one hand, that compulsion was necessary, and upon the other hand, that merit might save a person from compulsion. My Lords, I do not think it is a question of merit; it is a question of the character of the damage which the person would sustain through being expropriated. And that, surely, is what governs all questions of expropriation, whether under the Lands Clauses Act, or any other Act. If the character of the damage sustained by the expropriated person is so severe that he ought not to be made to undergo it, so much the more overwhelming has to be the necessity of public policy. That is surely exactly what will happen in these cases. Where the character of the damage which the man sustains, not because he is a virtuous person, but be cause he is a substantial farmer and a good mail of business, is very severe, then clearly he ought not to be moved. But, so much the less those things can be said of him, so much the less damage does he sustain by being moved, and therefore, it does not seem to me to be a hardship to move him. I sincerely hope that noble Lords will carefully consider whether they cannot accept the addition which I have suggested; but I am afraid that so far as regards the putting forward to the month of May of the time during which provisional agreements could be held to bar the operation of the clause, we could not agree to that.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
said that the speech of his noble and learned friend Lord Robertson had beep so convincing that it required very few 538 words from him to impress upon their Lordships the necessity of accepting the Amendment. Lord Robertson had dealt very fully with the question of the hardships to the new tenants, and it was almost unnecessary for anyone to dwell further upon that point. He wished, however, to draw attention to the fact that the Amendment moved by his noble and learned friend was without exception the most important which had been, or probably would be, put forward by the Opposition, because it was a question whether they were to act justly or unjustly—whether the Government ware to keep faith with those tenants who, in very strenuous and arduous times in Ireland, undertook the responsibility of taking over these holdings, or whether they were to deal harshly with them. The Bill as it at present stood dealt far more hardly with those people than the Bill of 1894, which their Lordships rejected on Second Reading. He was not going to weary the House by quoting the various speeches made on that occasion by prominent members of His Majesty's present Government, amongst which was one made by the noble and learned Lord, in which he declared (as had been more or less corroborated recently by the Lord President of the Council) that he considered it would be most unjust to evict unfairly those people who had taken holdings under conditions which they fully understood. He held in his hand a number of quotations which he did not think could be contradicted, but with which he thought it would be a waste of time to trouble their Lordships. His real reason for rising was merely to say a few words in endorsement of what had fallen from his noble and learned friend. Why had these people taken these holdings from which the tenants in those arduous and critical times to which he had referred had been evicted—times which were critical not only with regard to the political condition of Ireland but with regard to the whole agricultural industry of Ireland? Why had they taken those holdings and undertaken the duties inherent in them? It was because the Government of that day was responsible for giving them protection in taking those holdings. At that critical time when the Plan of Campaign was started in Ireland he (Lord 539 Londonderry) had the honour of being Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. The Government of that day recognised the great difficulty—the great danger—that hung over Ireland by reason of what was known as the Plan of Campaign, and they grappled, and he thought successfully, with that Plan of Campaign, and the success with which they had done so was proved by the fact that the farms from which tenants were evicted were taken in great numbers by the new-comers. But why were the farms taken by these new-comers in the manner which had been alluded to by his noble and learned friend (Lord Robertson)? He remembered making a speech on behalf of His Majesty's Irish Government with the full approval of Mr. Balfour, who was then Chief Secretary for Ireland. That speech had had a very wide circulation and in it he assured the people who had taken the farms from which those tenants had been evicted that they should receive the protection of the Government. To that statement, made on the authority of the Government, he attributed the fact that these people had taken the farms in question. In those farms they had invested their capital, their energy, and their ability, and yet it was now proposed that these men, acting under the assurance of the Government during that time—an assurance for which he was prepared to take full responsibility—should be evicted if it was considered necessary by His Majesty's present Government. He said emphatically that that House would be wanting in justice to these people if it allowed them to be evicted from those holdings contrary to their desires. The events that he had been speaking of took place twenty years ago. Twenty years was a long time. These men during those twenty years had farmed their land to the satisfaction of their landlords and of all connected with them. They had proved themselves able and worthy citizens; they had proved themselves worthy of the position they occupied on those holdings; they loved their holdings; their children had grown up upon them; they had made their friends and their interests amongst their new surroundings; and he asked was it right that upon the simple whim 540 of the Government these people should be evicted? He declared that it was not right, and that the Government were not justified in turning those people out of the land which they had cultivated under the great difficulties he had described, unless they were perfectly willing to leave, and desirous of leaving. He hoped their Lordships would not think that in making these remarks he was desirous of saying one word which could be considered as unsympathetic to those who had had to give up these holdings. He pitied those people who were evicted more than he could say, but at the same time he always considered that they were the dupes and tools of agitators. Had they considered their own interests, and not listened to those who merely used them as pawns on the board for their own political purposes, they would be living on these farms to-day, enjoying the benefits which were now being enjoyed by those who had come after them. He spoke in no spirit of anger, but rather in a spirit of sorrow for these unfortunate people, but nevertheless he would say that the fact that these people were the dupes of agitators was no reason whatever why any injustice should be done to those who had taken their places.
There was one other point which he thought had not been alluded to either in another place or in the course of their Lordships' debate, and to that point he wanted to draw attention. The British taxpayer had, during the past twenty years, invested no less than something like £60,000,000 in Irish land for the purpose of enabling occupiers to become the owners of their holdings. £60,000,000 was a large sum of money, but the instalments due upon that advance had been paid up to now with the greatest possible regularity. He had no reason to doubt—in fact, he was of opinion that there was every reason to believe—that those instalments would be paid in the future with the same regularity; but they must always look more to the possible than to the probable, and supposing that such a state of affairs occurred as that there was a repudiation of the repayment of those instalments, what would be the position of His Majesty's 541 Government? His Majesty's Government would be unable to collect those instalments. The only process that the Government could follow would be to evict the tenants who refused to pay them. But who would take the holdings of those evicted tenants if they were liable to be evicted again at a moment's notice, in order to replace those people who had refused to meet their responsibilities and duties? They must look at the position, not only from the point of view of the Irish landlord, nor merely from the point of view of the Irish tenant, but from the point of view of the English taxpayer, and he maintained that under the circumstances which he had imagined, they would find that no honest, well-to-do citizen would take a farm from which his predecessor had been evicted, if it were recognised that His Majesty's Government would have no hesitation whatever in reinstating that evicted tenant at any moment they thought it right to do so. The question to his mind was one of supreme importance from all points of view. Their Lordships had undoubtedly to consider the unfortunate people who were the dupes of agitators, but at the same time those people ought to look to their own leaders to reinstate them, and to do what they could for them, because they had followed their advice. He said again, that he spoke upon this subject with no feelings of indignation—on the contrary, he sympathised sincerely with these unfortunate men, but he trusted that his noble and learned friend behind him would go to a division on the question in order to make certain that no injustice whatever should be done to those men who, under circumstances of the greatest possible difficulty, relying on the pledge of the Government of the day, had stepped in at a critical moment to take the place of the evicted tenants, and had made the holdings of those evicted tenants their homes and done their duty upon them for the last twenty years.
desired to say a few words on the subject of the new tenants—the "planters," as they were called. He had had no personal experience of evicted tenants on his own property, and consequently no experience of the planters; 542 but he lived in a county where there were a good many of them, and he had taken some trouble to find out the way in which they were living and their relations with the people about them. The Lord President of the Council seemed to agree with those of their Lordships who were of opinion that a man who was farming his land in a proper agricultural manner and attending to his business ought not to be disturbed in his holding. The noble Earl appeared, he thought, to be somewhat exacting as to the method of tillage these men should pursue; but he did not suppose that the noble Earl expected that they should go in for the highest class of farming such as would be seen upon a model farm. If they tilled their farms in the same manner that their neighbours did, he thought nothing more could be expected. No doubt it was not a very good manner, and he himself could wish that the method of agriculture in Ireland was a great deal better and more advanced than it was. Still, a man could hardly be expected to be very far superior to his neighbours. If, therefore, the noble Earl thought it wrong that a man of that class should be disturbed, why should he object to the insertion of such a provision as was contained in the Amendment? The noble Earl had also said that the Amendment threw great doubt on the way in which the Estates Commissioners did their work, and asked why they should not be trusted, and what temptation they could have to remove these men. Now they were told that the Bill was imperatively called for by public opinion in Ireland, and that it was—he thought the noble Earl had used the phrase—a political measure. All those who were well acquainted with public opinion in Ireland were fully agreed that the element of vengeance mentioned by the noble and learned Lord who had introduced the Amendment had a very great deal to do with the matter, and that what public opinion in Ireland called for was not so much the re-instatement of evicted tenants as the removal of the planters. There was a strong feeling against anybody who took a vacant farm in Ireland, more especially when that farm was rendered vacant by a political movement and by the effect of a widespread conspiracy. Therefore, public 543 opinion would be most favourable to the Estates Commissioners if they went rather out of their way to remove the planters. He had tried, as far as he could, to ascertain the position of those men, of whom there was a considerable number in his own county of Galway; and his information led him to be thoroughly of opinion that, taking them as a whole—he did not say there was not a black sheep among them as there was in every other class, though he had not heard that there was—but, taking them as a whole they were men who worked their farms in a manner quite equal to that of the rest of the country, and indeed rather better. Further, they were men who paid their rents and acquitted all their obligations properly. They had laid out money on their farms, and they were now on good terms with their neighbours, having lived down the obloquy with which they were met when they first took their farms. Again, in some places the difficulty of reinstating evicted tenants would be extreme; the farms had been differently arranged, and where there used to be, say, 150 farms, there were now perhaps between fifty and sixty. So much was that the case, that he was informed that not long ago one of the evicted tenants went over the country but could not find his old farm, because the boundaries had been so changed. These men had been in possession for some twenty years, and he asked whether it was fair, or in any way proper, to remove these men, in order to reinstate the tenants who were turned out in consequence of having joined the Plan of Campaign.
§ LORD BARRYMORE
said he felt great diffidence in taking part in the debate, because all he wanted to say had already been said much more ably by his noble and learned friend who had introduced the Amendment, and by others who had addressed their Lordships. But he had lived for many years, during the troublous times which had been referred to, in the South of Ireland, and had seen so much of these land wars, and had had so much to do, he was sorry to say, with evictions and reinstatements, that he did not like to let that occasion pass without saying one word in favour of the men who had 544 stepped into the gap at a very critical time, taken the farms which would otherwise have become an absolute desert, and lived honestly on those farms, doing their duty to the State. Who were those men? Some of them were local men who came in and took the farms; others were men who came from elsewhere. They had heard it said that many of them were bogus tenants. He did not know of any such—he had not come across them, although they might exist. But this Amendment was confined to those men who were bona fide tenants, bona fide farmers, bona fide working their land, and acting in the manner in which good citizens and good farmers should act. These men had come in at a critical time. They were guaranteed, both by the Government and by the landlords on whose estates they were placed, that they would be supported in their places, and he felt that every Member of their Lordships' House was in honour bound to see that the interests of these men were properly safeguarded. What had these men gone through? The noble Earl said that some of these migrants had had preliminary troubles. Had the planters had no preliminary troubles? Had they not formerly been boycotted? Had they not gone in danger of their lives, with police surrounding them to protect them from the fury of their neighbours? Many of them had gone through those experiences, and as his noble friend the Marquess of Londonderry had said, they had lived it down, and were now popular men in their neighbourhood. They were called in the Bill "new tenants." Many of them were by no means new tenants. Many of them had been on their holdings for nearly a quarter of a century—either they or their fathers before them. They had lived on those holdings all that time, and they ought not to be disturbed without the gravest possible reasons. He did not wish to say one word against the Estates Commissioners, or the judgment and discretion with which they would exercise the extraordinary powers which it was proposed to confer upon them, but he certainly thought it would be doing a most grave injustice to all law-abiding people if their Lordships' House allowed a class like this to be left to the mercy of the 545 Estates Commissioners or anyone else. He had never been against the reinstatement of the Plan of Campaign tenants. He thought he was the first Unionist Member in the House of Commons some years ago who had said that he did not wish to see the door shut against these men, and that he thought that under the purchase system they might be reinstated, provided always that the planters were absolutely and positively safeguarded. To that position he had always held, and that position he maintained still. If his noble and learned friend went to a division, as he sincerely hoped he would, he would with a clear conscience and with a most honest and firm heart, walk into the division lobby with him in order to safeguard the interests of those men who were placed in this position of jeopardy.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I do not rise for the purpose of arguing over again the case of the planters. That has been done by my noble and learned friend behind me in a manner which renders it quite superfluous for any of us to add a single word to his most learned presentation of the case. But I should like in a single sentence to confirm what has just been said by my noble friend Lord Barrymore with regard to the title which those planters have to our consideration. I, like my noble friend, have had some experience of planter tenants, and I can corroborate what he has told your Lordships—that these men came forward at very great personal risk, that they assumed the position that other tenants, their predecessors, had thought unworthy of them, that they paid the rents that their predecessors refused to pay, and paid them punctually, and that they held their own gallantly throughout a very trying time, thereby rendering, as I conceive, yeoman service to the State at a time when that service was most urgently needed.
I wish to notice two observations which fell from my noble friend the Lord President. I understood him to suggest that it would be sufficient if these men were dealt with on terms which made good any damage or loss which they might sustain by removal from their holdings. 546 Do let me impress upon the House that there are two sides to this question. There is the question of that which is due to the man and there in the question of that which is due to the community. As to the man, I can conceive that you might offer him terms—at the public expense—so lavish and so generous that he would have no more to say, and that as far as the man was concerned, your scruples would be salved. But when you come to the question of the community, then pray do not let us forget that the extrusion of the planter tenant, and the substitution for him of one of these agitators, does mean the triumph of a conspiracy which has been condemned as illegal by the highest authorities. It does mean the promotion of the agitators and the conspirators, and the humiliation of the men who deserve best at our hands. The Lord President asked us this question. He said: Under what temptation would the Estates Commissioners be to drive out one of these bona fide planters? He asked what pressure could be put upon the Estates Commissioners. It seems to me that those questions were characterised by that sancta simplicitas which we sometimes detect in the noble Earl's utterances. He has been Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. Surely he must know something of the kind of pressure to which the Irish Government can be subjected on occasions of this kind. It is because I know, and it is because those who are connected with Ireland know, what that pressure; is and what it can be, that I mistrust the formula which, I have no doubt with the most considerate motives, the noble Earl proposed to the House. I think he suggested that at the end of my noble and learned friend Lord Robertson's Amendment we should add the words "except in special circumstances with the concurrence of the Lord-Lieutenant." If we adopt those words, who will be the judge of the "special circumstances"? The Government of Ireland. Who will advise the Government of Ireland? The Chief Secretary and the Estates Commissioners. Those words, I am sorry to say, do not inspire me with any confidence whatever, because I know perfectly well that given a Government with particular political tendencies, that Government 547 will be amenable to the kind of pressure with which the Lord President is apparently unfamiliar, but which we who know Ireland know only too well.
My Lords, I hope my noble and learned friend Lord Robertson will press his Amendment upon the House, although it seems to me that the wording of it might perhaps be capable of amendment. I suggest to him that it might run somewhat in these words. It might end—Nor any tenanted land which is in the possession or occupation of any bona fide tenant using or cultivating the same as an ordinary farmer in a husbandlike manner.I believe the words "husbandlike manner" are not unfrequently to be found in statutes dealing with agricultural questions, and that would meet, I think, to some extent the criticism of the noble Earl that the expression "an ordinary farmer" is somewhat too vague. I suggest that to the noble Earl,
§ but I am afraid that his own proposal is not one which will altogether commend itself to your Lordships. At the same time I do not wish to conclude my observations without expressing my thanks to the noble Earl for his evident appreciation of the force of the argument in favour of these planter tenants. He has himself, on more than one occasion, spoken in what I regard as a very honourable manner with regard to them, and I am glad that he has shown this evening a desire to do all he can to meet their case.
accepted the suggestion of the noble Marquess. He thought the words proposed improved his Amendment, and he would accordingly move it in that form.
§ On Question, "That the words of the Amendment, as amended, be there inserted," their Lordships divided:—Contents, 146; Not-Contents, 31.549
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshall.)||Powis, E.||Burton, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Saint Germans, E.||Carew, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Shrewsbury, E.||Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)|
|Northumberland, D.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Castlemaine, L.|
|Richmond and Gordon, D.||Verulam, E.||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)|
|Wellington, D.||Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Cheylesmore, L.|
|Westminster, D.||Westmeath, E.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)|
|Wharncliffe, E.||Clinton, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Wicklow, E.||Clonbrock, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Cloncurry, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Colchester, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Falkland, V.||Collins, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)|
|Bandon, E.||Halifax, V.||De Freyne, I.|
|Camperdown, E.||Hampden, V.||De Maulay, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Hood, V.||Deramore, L.|
|Cawdor, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Desborough, L|
|Clarendon, E.||Digby, L.|
|Darnley, E.||St. Aldwyn V.||Dunalley, L.|
|Dartrey, E.||Templeton, V.||Dunboyne, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Dunleath L.|
|Addington, L.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Egerton, E.||Alington, L.||Estcourt, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)|
|Essex, E.||Ampthill, L.||Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)|
|Fortescue, E.||Annaly, L.||Forester, L.|
|Haddington, E.||Ardilaun, L.||Gage, L. (V Gage.)|
|Halsbury, E.||Ashbourne, L.||Inchiquin, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Atkinson, L.||Kelvin, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||Balfour, L.||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)|
|Lindsey, E.||Barrymore, L.||Kensington, L.|
|Londesborough, E.||Basing, L.||Kenyon, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Belper, L.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)|
|Mayo, E.||Biddulph, L.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Morton, E.||Borthwick, L.||Langford, L.|
|Mount-Edgcumbe, E.||Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)||Lawrence, L.|
|Northesk, E.||Lovat, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Braye, L.||Ludlow, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Lurgan, L.|
|Macnaghten, L.||Rathmore, L.||Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Massy, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Methuen, L.||Robertson, L.||Stalbridge, L.|
|Monteagle of Brandon, L.||Rosmead, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Muskerry, L.||St. Oswald L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Newlands, L.||Saltoun, L.||Talbot de Malahide, L.|
|O'Neill, L.||Sanderson, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)||Sandys, L.||Tennyson, L.|
|Penrhyn, L.||Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)||Savile, L.||Ventry, L.|
|Sherborne, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)||Wolverton, L.|
|Rathdonnell, L.||Sinclair, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Allendale, L.||Haversham, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Headley, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. President.)||Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]||Hemphill, L.|
|Courtney of Penwith, L.||Lyveden, L.|
|Ripon, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Denman, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Pirrie, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Eversley, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Craven, E.||Farre, L.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Portsmouth, E.||Fitzmaurice, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Granard, L. (E. Granard.) [Teller.]||Welby, L.|
|Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.)|
|Selby, V.||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.|
On Question, agreed to.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2:—
proposed an Amendment to Subsection (1) to provide that the prescribed particulars which the Estates Commissioners are required to publish in the Dublin Gazette "shall set forth in full the name and present address and occupation of the person or persons whom it is proposed to put into the possession of the land so acquired or any part thereof." The names of evicted tenants had been asked for on several occasions, and there was apparently some difficulty about giving them. But, surely, when negotiations were pending with a landlord to buy his land, the names of the persons should be given, for various reasons. One was, that he might know who was going to be put in; and another was, that he might know if the man going to be put in was the man who had been evicted, and, if not, if the man who had been evicted was deceased, or whether a proper representative of that man was to be put in. In either of those events the landlord would probably know something of the proposed tenant, and would have the right of objecting to his being put in if he thought that he was an improper person. Then, again, where the evicted tenant 550 had died, and had left a certain number of relatives, it was right that all his relatives should know who was the claimant. Somebody might claim to be tenant of a farm who was not necessarily the right person to do so. A younger brother, for instance, might claim over an elder brother; and therefore it was only fair that this information should be given at the time when it was proposed to purchase the land. The case, in his opinion, was so obvious that he hoped His Majesty's Government would see their way to grant it.
In page 2, line 31, after the word 'objection' to insert the words 'the prescribed particulars shall set forth in full the name and present address and occupation of the person or persons whom it is proposed to put into the possession of the land so acquired, or any part thereof.'"—(Lord Inchiquin.)
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, I am afraid we cannot accept the noble Lord's Amendment, and our inability to do so is based, really, on the ground of delay. So far as tenanted land is concerned, the landlord practically knows who is coming. He can only be the evicted tenant or his representative. He can be nobody else. He is bound to be the particular person who formerly occupied that particular farm, or his 551 representative. I do not know whether that is perfectly clear to noble Lords, but that is so.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
It is the representative as described—as the noble Lord knows perfectly well—in the Act of 1903. As regards untenanted land, it is true that knowledge does not exist; but, when untenanted land is purchased, I confess it does not seem to me to make very much difference to the landlord who comes there; and I think it is possible, at any rate, to maintain that, once having parted with his land, the landlord is not entitled to know who the new occupant is to be.
pointed out that the landlord had not yet parted with the land, he was only asked to part with it.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
That is perfectly true, but he knows that he will have, or may have, to part with it. Of course, in the case of a voluntary sale, it is perfectly true that the personal element would enter in, but, as we know, this is a compulsory Bill, and that is a fact which is very material in dealing with this particular matter. What we feel is, that those who are not particularly anxious that this Act should work—there may be some, and there may even be many such—will find this a most admirable method of delaying operations by engaging in absolutely interminable correspondence on the subject and altogether delaying the operations of the Act. I am afraid we cannot accept the Amendment.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
observed that if the correspondence was interminable it would be partly the Government's fault in keeping the correspondence up; but this question had a more important bearing, because a great deal of the untenanted land that was going to be taken was near the landlords' own residences, and near their demesnes; and therefore they had a right to know who the person was who was going to be put down at their very lodge gate. Such information could not cause any 552 great inconvenience to the public service, and it would not be letting out any secret prematurely to give the information. Therefore, he hoped the Government would see their way to meet the landlords in some way or other, on a point which might seriously affect the amenities of their residences and of their homes.
said that he could give one or two reasons which would show that there really was a practical difficulty in doing what had been suggested. He quite sympathised with what had been said as to some person whom the landlord did not care about being placed in the neighbourhood of his own residence; but there was this difficulty in the case of untenanted land—that it was impossible for the Estates Commissioners to know beforehand whom they were going to put in. The ordinary procedure was, that they first bought the land, and then determined upon the particular individuals they would put upon the land. The present Amendment would imply that they must first go to a tenant and say, "Will you take this particular land?" The tenant would say, "You must first take me all round it and let me see it." But the land would not then belong to the Estates Commissioners; and it seemed to him, from what he knew of these matters, that in many cases the landlords would very strongly object to the Estates Commissioners or their representative going with a tenant over their land when it did not belong to the Commissioners, and when they had really no right to go there with a tenant and ask him whether that particular land would suit him. There were many other points of difficulty with regard to untenanted land. Buildings would have to be put up, and other points would have to be settled, and therefore he really thought there were practical difficulties in the way of accepting the noble Lord's suggestion, although he confessed that he himself entirely sympathised with the noble Lord's reason for moving it.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
thought the noble Earl had hardly done justice to the very strong feeling which existed on the 553 point in question. The noble Earl, when he spoke of untenanted land, had said that the landlord knew he would have to part with it. He was supposed to know that even before the case was tried. That was an assumption which he thought might rather guide their Lordships in their subsequent Amendments, especially in Clause 6. Apparently, according to the noble Earl, it was to be understood that the moment the Estates Commissioners had scheduled a piece of ground belonging to a landlord he had parted with his interest in it. As everybody knew, this was a question which affected not landlords alone. There were men who had been centres of disaffection and disturbance in certain districts and, even with the utmost desire to credit the Estates Commissioners with universal knowledge and competence, it was only natural that the man from whose estate a tenant had gone, and to whose estate it was proposed to return him, would know something more about the antecedents of the man who was to be placed there than the Estates Commissioners could know; and although he thought it clear that there might be difficulties in naming at the outset the exact individuals who were proposed to be put back, surely there must come a time when it would be fair to give the landlord that information. Could not the noble Earl hold out any hope that in some way or another he would be able to accept this extremely reasonable proposal? He was sure that his noble friend the mover of the Amendment had no desire to force upon the Government anything which would lead to delay, but to leave the matter absolutely open and to treat the land as if it belonged to the public and not to the landlord himself—to treat the matter as if it were one of perfect indifference to the man, who owned the particular land in question and who perhaps owned hundreds and thousands of acres around it—seemed a degree of injustice to which their Lordships would be unwilling to consent.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I cannot resist the appeal of the noble Viscount, and I will certainly consult my right hon. friend as to whether any via media can be found which will meet the difficulty. 554 I quite understand it is disagreeable to landlords to have no inkling of who the man may be who is to arrive on their untenanted land until he actually appears, and I would certainly consider whether it would be possible to give them any notice or intimation of the kind desired at some stage of the proceedings. But it is quite impossible to do it at the stage at which my noble friend asks that it should be done. The land is really bought before it is decided to whom it is to be distributed. In some cases a very large area is bought from one landlord, and it would be impossible for the Estates Commissioners, having bought a large block, many hundreds of acres in extent, perhaps, to be able to allocate at once—indeed, before the purchase is made—the actual people who are going to be put there and the area of their farms.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
said he was very pleased to hear the noble Earl say that he would consider the Amendment, because there was an element in the case which demanded very keen consideration. He had presided for so many years at Courts whose function it was to decide upon the value of land, that he knew this question might lead to grave differences of opinion and to possible bitterness. He quite appreciated what had been said by Lord Denman—that if they did not know the name of the tenant it was impossible to give it, and there might be other reasons which would make the giving of the information at a particular time inconvenient. But there could be no objection at all, he would venture to suggest, to his noble friend who had moved the Amendment putting in the words "if possible," and then the matter could be considered again, before the Report stage, to decide whether the proviso could be modified or developed in any way. It might be that, although the man had lost his legal grip of the land, yet it might do him a great amount of injury to go and plump down on his property a man who had been leading a boycott against him for years past and making his whole residence like a hell upon earth. This question had to be considered. In the experience of Irish land administration it was a familiar feature, and one which occurred over and over again, that the persons 555 most objectionable to the landlord and to the other people upon the property were sought to be put upon the land. He did not wish to attribute motives at all, but as a fact such persons had been sought to be put down in places where their presence would be most hateful to the landlord and most disagreeable to the other people in the neighbourhood. That had been done in the past, and unless it was guarded against the same thing might take place very readily in the future.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Is it not better to let it stand as it is until the Report stage, and then to consider the question of any practical inconvenience which may arise?
said that having regard to what had fallen from the noble Marquess and from the noble and learned Lord he was quite willing to withdraw his Amendment, but he thought the evicted tenant's name, or the name of his representative, might be given. There might be twenty representatives of a deceased evicted tenant, and bethought it was essential that the landlord should know which of the representatives was the one he had to deal with.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD ATKINSON moved, as consequential Amendments to his Amendment on Clause 1, that compensation was to be paid as if the lands were about to be acquired compulsorily under the Lands Clauses Act, 1845.
In page 3, line 3, to leave out the words 'price thereof' and insert the words 'amount of compensation to be paid therefor, as if the said lands were about to be acquired compulsorily under the Lands Clauses Act, 1845.'
In line 11 to leave out from the word 'land' to the end of the subsection, and insert the words 'such compensation as to them appears to be reasonable.'
In line 17 and 18, to leave out the words 'at the aforesaid price' and insert the words 'upon the terms aforesaid.'
In line 25, to leave out the words 'purchase money' and insert the words 'amount of the compensation.'"—(Lord Atkinson.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
With reference to these consequential Amendments I may perhaps be allowed to say that while the Government does not accept them we do not propose to offer any opposition to their insertion at the present stage. The further discussion of the whole question will, of course, come up rather later.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE moved an Amendment to insert in the sub-section providing that if no petition had been presented, or if the petition had been withdrawn, the Estates Commissioners might make an order vesting the land in the Land Commission "without delay." He said there was a great deal of uncertainty amongst many noble Lords interested in this section as to what exactly the financial position was. He might say at once that there were three classes of people to be considered—the owner who was deprived of his land, the evicted tenant who was put on to the land, and the new tenant who might be moved into the holding. There was great uncertainty as to what was to be done in regard to the dispossessed owner. If part of his land was compulsorily taken, when was he to get his money and what was to be his position in reference to interest? When was the new tenant to begin payment of his instalments to the Land Commission? He would be very pleased if the noble Earl would give an explanation as to the exact financial position of the three classes he had mentioned. What he particularly desired to know at present was this: When the owner was dispossessed and had to hand over his property, how soon would he receive payment of his bonus? He also desired to know whether that was to be fixed by Rules or whether the noble Earl could state it now.
In page 3, line 26, after the word 'Commission' to insert the words 'without delay.'"—(Lord Ashbourne.)
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
As regards the position of the vendor, as the noble 557 Lord knows, before the land is vested in the Land Commission the purchase money has to be paid into the Bank of Ireland. Then under the Act of 1903 interest at the rate of 2¾ per cent. is to be paid by the Land Commission to the National Debt Commissioners until the land has been disposed of to purchasers. Then the Land Commission has to pay interest at the rate of 3½ per cent., as the noble and learned Lord is aware, to the person from whom the land is acquired until closing day. The supposition is that the Estates Commissioners will be able to let the land so as to be in possession of a sum which will enable them to pay 3½ per cent. to the owner. Then as to the purchase money, although the Bank of Ireland will not make payment to the National Debt Commissioners, there is a power later on in the Bill to invest that money, so that it is hoped and supposed that the 2¾ per cent. may be forthcoming. Then the reinstated tenant and the new tenant become at once owners in fee under the Land Purchase Act just like other purchasers, and the owner will in due course pay this purchase money. The position is, in fact, precisely the same as that of ordinary purchasers under the Act of 1903.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
asked whether the noble Earl could lay before the House a Memorandum setting out clearly what was the financial position of the three different classes he had mentioned. There was to be created a perfectly novel form of occupation arising from the planting down of a person on a man's land, whether he wanted him or not; and what he wanted to know from the noble Earl was when would the purchase money be lodged, what was his position until it was lodged, and whether it would be handed over to him in the way in which it was handed over to an ordinary vendor. If the noble Earl would have a short Memorandum prepared giving the information for which he had asked it would be a great convenience.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I will inquire whether that can be done, in order to meet the wishes of the noble Lord.
THE EARL OF MAYO
said he gathered from what the noble Earl had stated that the whole of the proceedings under this Bill as regards finance were exactly the same as those under the 1903 Act.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
Yes, as regards the payment. As regards the actual words, I think the noble and learned Lord will agree that the words "without delay" hardly fit in with the words "they may if they think fit."
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD ATKINSON moved to amend Sub-section 7, so that it should run—
If a petition has been presented and has not been withdrawn, the Estates Commissioners or any two of them shall hear and, by Order, determine the petition and all questions arising thereon,
and to insert a new sub-section providing for an appeal either to the King's Bench Division of the High Court in Ireland or to the Judges of Assize. He explained that the first part of his Amendment was introductory to the clauses which would produce the Appellate tribunal. He did not know whether, assuming that his proposed tribunal was right, the Government would object to the machinery he had set up for proceedings before it. He had taken a good deal of care in selecting it and he had followed precisely that provided by Section 24 of the Act of 1870. The Act of 1870 entitled tenants to be awarded compensation for capricious eviction, and also compensation for improvements. The case went, in the first instance, to the Court of Civil Bill, and on appeal from that to the Judge of Assize; and all the provisions he had introduced were little more than repetitions of the provisions in that section as regarded the procedure and mode of hearing. The tribunal which he had selected was one of the Judge of Assize. He had selected that tribunal as the normal tribunal, because it had been selected under the Act of 1870, and under the Local Government Act, 1898. It was the natural tribunal to deal with questions arising in the county where the assizes were held; but he was quite aware that the objection might be made that as the Court of Assize sat only twice a year great delay
might be caused by the absence of an appellate tribunal which should be open to the parties aggrieved in the interval when the Court of Assize was not sitting. For that reason, he had selected another tribunal merely to assist, more than anything else, in disposing of the delay, and the tribunal which he had selected was the King's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice. First, there was the precedent of the election petition. When the House of Commons dispensed with the power of dealing with election petitions, they selected the Court of Common Pleas, as it was then, and petitions were heard and disposed of by Judges of that Court selected by rota. In the Canadian Act a provision similar to that which he had proposed was introduced, and the appeal was to the King's Bench Division of the Court, to be tried and disposed of, of course, by a Judge of that Court selected by rota. It was inconceivable to him what real objection there could be to the Court of Assize; it was the tribunal that came home in its operations to the vast majority of the people of Ireland, because the Judges of Assize exercised a jurisdiction which was unknown in England. They sat to try, as Judges of law and fact, what were called Civil Bill Appeals. Where there was a proceeding in the County Court, if the party was not satisfied with the decision of the County Court Fudge he appealed by the most simple and inexpensive process to the Judge of Assize; and the Judge of Assize, sitting alone, re-tried the case. It was a small record, it was cheap, it was speedy, and it was satisfactory. He did not believe there was a judicial proceeding of any kind in Ireland which gave more satisfaction, came home more to the people, and did more to give them their ideas and knowledge of legal obligation and justice. Therefore, it was the natural tribunal to select for the trial of these cases. It was the local tribunal. If any other tribunal were selected, it would be extremely easy for the Estates Commissioners to send down one of their army of subordinates with the necessary documents and have the question investigated; but it might be an extremely irksome and annoying process to bring either a landlord or a planter up from the country to Dublin to have his case decided in Dublin.
The only other possible alternative was, that a wandering Judge should be sent here, there, and all round the country everywhere to try upon the spot these disputes. He could not see the advantage of that; and therefore it appeared to him that the ordinary tribunal ought to be the Judge of Assize. But, to meet the objection, which he anticipated might be made, that there would be no tribunal available in the intervals between assize and assize, he had selected the only one possible, that was, the Court of King's Bench—the matter to be disposed of by the Judge selected from a rota. To obviate any difficulty that might arise, he had inserted clauses which provided for ample and speedy powers of transfer. If one party to a dispute brought his case to the King's Bench Division, and another to the Assize Court, there was a provision that either the one could be transferred from the Assize Court to the Court of King's Bench or the other from the Court of King's Bench to the Assize Court, and when they got together before the same tribunal they could be consolidated. There was ample power to bring all disputes before the same tribunal, and to have them dealt with and settled speedily and without unnecessary expense. If there were to be any tribunal at all, he was entirely unable to see what better one could be selected. He was, however, not at all bigotedly attached to that particular tribunal, but he had thought, to use a legal phrase, that he might "estop" the Government from objecting to it, because it was the tribunal selected by Mr. Gladstone in his Act of 1870. He was obliged to refer to that tribunal the question of the propriety or the necessity of putting these compulsory powers into force at all. In that he had followed the precedent of the Local Government Act of 1898, where, as he had already explained, in the question of the compulsory acquisition of land for the purpose of enlarging roads that procedure was taken. He quite admitted that it might not be the best conceivable tribunal to try the question whether the compulsory powers ought to be put into force at all. If that was so, he begged to remind the noble Earl that the fault was not his. The Government had chosen to depart from all known precedent.
Any person who was acquainted with the proceedings before a Select Committee in the case of a private Bill knew that the first thing that would probably be found in most cases in a private Bill was a preamble beginning: "Whereas it is desirable that such-and-such works should be done, and whereas it is impossible to carry out the project without compulsory powers to acquire land." That was the matter which the Committee investigated. If they proceeded by a Provisional. Order, and they went before the Local Government Board, the first thing of which they had to convince the Board was the propriety and necessity of giving compulsory powers. Under the Allotments Act, when a parish council or a district council wanted to get compulsory powers, they had to go before the county council, and convince them that they ought to get compulsory powers, and no single instance could be found where the parties who wished to exercise compulsory powers were absolved from obtaining the approval of some superior tribunal. Therefore, if there was any difficulty in the way the Government had created it themselves by endeavouring to authorise two gentlemen to go to any owner of property and say: "We tell you we want to acquire compulsorily your land; we do not require any person to approve of our doing so; we are not called upon to say that we cannot dispense with it; we think it expedient, and you must give it to us." He could at any rate say for himself that as long as he had the honour of belonging to any tribunal he would never consent to such a power being given to any human being, or refrain from raising his voice against it. He believed it was wrong, tyrannical, and unjust, and for that reason he thought such a power ought to be subject to review. The only conceivable way in which he could see that it could be subject to review was to make it one of the matters of fact which would be brought up for revision before the tribunal, whatever that tribunal might be. An objection had been made by the noble Earl that this would cause great delay, but the noble Earl was entirely under a misapprehension. It would not cause anything of the kind. Supposing the Estates Commissioners made an order to buy, there was nothing on earth to prevent
the case being heard within a couple of months at the very outside. They, he presumed, had materials in their possession on which they came to the conclusion that the land ought to be acquired, and they had the Reports of the inspectors as to the value, upon which reports they based their offer. All these things were available. It could not be supposed that they went blindly at it, haphazard, without coming to any conclusion as to whether it was necessary. They had to ascertain whether there was any land available, and whether they were obliged to buy that particular land. They had all the material. The owner, or the tenant, as the case might be, would be ready to prove his case, and to show that there were reasons why his land ought not to be taken or why the price ought to be higher. But even if there should be delay, there was a great principle of justice involved, and even though delay might be incurred in the vindication of it, yet he did not think it was a tenable contention that the interests of the parties should be sacrificed, because occasionally delay might be interposed by the exercise of a necessary check upon this arbitrary power. Their Lordships would observe that Subsection (k) of his proposed new clause provided that the compensation to be paid to any owner of land in respect of the loss thereof should be deemed to be the purchase price of the land within the meaning of the Land Purchase Act. He was not particularly attached to that, but he had put it in in aid of the Government, for the reason that unless that were done they could not get the officials under the Land Purchase Act to pay compensation. But if the Government chose, that provision could be struck out, and they could provide in some other way for the difference between the amount of compensation and the sum at which they would be able to resell the land. He need hardly point out that it was a perfectly common case—it was provided for where the Estates Commissioners bought land which they could not sell to the tenant for what they had paid for it. There was a provision introduced to meet deficits, and if they were obliged to pay the man whom they compulsorily expropriated more than they could themselves obtain, then surely it was not on the man
expropriated that the cost should fall. He could not understand with what face the contention was put forward, that because it suited the Government to sell to an evicted tenant at a small price, therefore they might acquire at the same price, under compulsion, the land necessary for them to sell. He could not understand how it could possibly be contended that because the Government wished to favour these men who had been evicted, and because in order to favour them it was necessary to resell land at a low price, therefore they must buy compulsorily from the owner at the same price to enable them to carry out their desire to benefit these evicted men. He submitted that that was entirely wrong. He repeated that if the noble Earl so desired he was quite willing that this clause should be amended, but in any case it would be the business of the Government to provide from some other fund the amount of the deficit between what they had paid and what they had received. Certainly the loss should not fall upon the man who was compulsorily deprived of this land.
In page 3, line 29, after the word 'withdrawn' to insert the words 'the Estates Commissioners or any two of them shall hear and by order determine.'"—(Lord Atkinson.)
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I am entirely in the hands of the House as to continuing the debate at this moment. I have observed, interested as the whole House undoubtedly has been in the very clear statement of the noble and learned Lord, yet a good many eyes have been cast towards the clock. I think it is clearly not possible to finish the debate on this subject this evening, but I am entirely in the hands of the House as to whether I should now reply to the noble and learned Lord or postpone doing so until Monday. If noble Lords think there is any advantage in my speaking now I shall be very happy to do so. In either case it is an advantage to us to have had the very clear statement of the noble and learned Lord. Perhaps the noble Marquess will tell us what he thinks.
§ House resumed, and to be again in Committee on Monday next. The Committee to have precedence of other Notices and Orders of the day.