HC Deb 22 February 1825 vol 12 cc621-4
Sir Henry Parnell

, pursuant to notice, rose to call the attention of the House to the acknowledged defects of the law of Ireland, concerning Landlords and Tenants. He did not intend to propose any thing to the House by way of giving more power to landlords to recover rent; his object was, to remove those impediments which were in the way of landlords improving their estates, and to check that habit of subdividing farms which had so much contributed to the excessive population of Ireland. If the causes of the misery and destitution of the people were properly explored, they would be found all to concentrate into one— the excess of the numbers of the people, above the funds that existed for giving them employment. The consequence of this state of things was, that the wages of labour were much too low to admit the lower orders to provide for more than their bare subsistence, when provisions were plenty; and that they were exposed to ail the horrors of actual famine, the moment the prices of provision advanced beyond the ordinary lowest prices. Whatever variety of opinion might prevail respecting the depression or improvement of the condition of the lower orders of society, this principle was undeniably certain, that their misery or comfort depended wholly upon the wages the labouring class could earn. If wages were as low as they are in Ireland, it was with the greatest difficulty that human existence could be sustained, there existed nothing like enjoyment or comfort; on the contrary, in a county where wages were high, there the labouring class were not only able to live on good food, but, to purchase many of the smaller luxuries and conveniences of life. Now, in regard to Ireland, it had been shewn by several intelligent witnesses, before the committee now sitting, that if the whole sum paid in the course of one year, was divided among all the labouring class, it would not make a higher average per man, per day, throughout the year, than four-pence. Many persons considered this too high an average: but, taking it at the rate of four-pence, the House would at once see in what an extreme state of depression the lower orders of Ireland exist. In order to improve their condition, and to place them in such a state as human beings ought to live in, the rate of wages should not be less than one shilling a day, which was one third less than the rate in England. But, to accomplish this object, no less a difficulty occurred than that of some how or other making the funds for maintaining labour in Ireland three times as great as they now were. That this might be accomplished was certainly practicable, and no doubt the capital of Ireland was rapidly increasing; but this great mistake was made by all those persons who were in the habit of confining their plans for improving the condition of the people of Ireland to the augmentation of capital, that they wholly overlooked the fact—that while capital was increasing, the population of Ireland was also increasing. They ought, there- fore, to extend their views, and do all in their power to promote those measures which might be fit for the retarding of the progress of this increasing population. But the population was not only increasing, but, according to all past experience, and the authority of all writers upon the subject of population, it was, no doubt, increasing more rapidly than capital was increasing. The principle universally laid down and acknowledged to be correct was, that the tendency of population to increase, was greater than the tendency of capital to increase, and therefore that there existed the greatest difficulty to bring the ratio that capital bears to population to that point which will secure a steady demand for labour, and consequently a sufficient rate of wages. For these reasons, besides doing all that can be done to increase capital, every effort should be made to produce some change in those habits of Ireland, which were so much calculated to increase the existing population, and in this way to increase the wants and misery of the people. Among those habits none had been more productive of the present distressing condition of the lower orders, than the facility with which farms were divided and subdivided, without any consideration of the means by which the families reared upon these small tenements were to be employed. This had been very much owing to the practical difficulty that landlords had found in enforcing the clause against alienation that was commonly inserted in their leases; not that the law was against the landlord, but because there prevailed a great prejudice in the courts of law, both on the part of the judges and the juries, against the enforcing of the law. Mr. Blacker in his evidence before the select committee in Ireland, said, "Very great difficulty arises in preventing alienation, not in the law, but in carrying the law into effect; juries are always against any case of forfeiture, and indeed the courts also." What the exact alteration of the system was that was wanting, the firm, member said he would not now undertake to say, but it must not be any thing short of giving to the landlord a simple and effectual power absolutely to prevent sub-letting, contrary to the covenant of the lease. If the House gave him leave to bring in a bill, he would wait, before he presented it, to hear what further evidence on the subject might be given to the committee now sitting on the state of Ireland, and frame his bill ac- cording to the plan that appeared to be best suited to his object. He should also provide for relieving under-tenants from being distrained by the head landlord, and also for some remedy for the great abuses that were now practised under the laws for taking distress for arrears of rent. He hoped the House would think favourably of this attempt to put a stop to the practice of subdividing farms; for there was no circumstance in Ireland that led to so much poverty and misery, and contributed so much to obstruct internal improvement, as this universal practice of sub-letting, in defiance of the rights and interest of the landlords. He then moved, for leave to bring in a bill to amend the law of Ireland, respecting the sub-letting of Tenements."

Mr. Hume

feared, that the proposition would go to the extent of compromising the principle laid down by the House, of hot interfering with the disposal of property. If he understood the hon. baronet, his object was, to limit the landlord and tenant as to the disposal of their property.

Sir J. Newport

said, his hon. friend was quite mistaken. The object was, to enforce the performance of contracts between landlord and tenant, which had been hitherto frustrated by courts of law and juries. In support of the necessity of the projected measure, he could mention instances wherein land leased out twenty-five years ago had been infinitely deteriorated, in consequence of the transmission through various branches of families.

Leave was given to bring in the bill.