HC Deb 12 July 1851 vol 118 cc620-6

Order for Third Reading read.


said, he could not allow the third reading of this Bill to pass without again protesting against certain words in the 73rd clause. He was the more anxious to renew his protest upon this occasion, because the noble Lord at the head of the Government had not been present when the former debate upon that subject took place. The clause involved the question of the relations between landlord and tenant, which he had understood the noble Lord had promised to introduce some measure to settle; and he wished to know what was the noble Lord's intention with respect to that question in the next Session. He protested against any new legislation of that sort on that subject, and against giving further powers to the landlords before the whole law of landlord and tenant was considered. Another objection which he had to the clause was the fact that the greater part of the lands of Ulster was held by smaller tenants under a tenancy at will.


said, he also must protest against the words in the clause. The people of Ireland fully expected that some measure would be introduced by the Government, and felt indignant at the way in which they had been treated in respect of this Bill. If some protection were not afforded to that class of men who were particularly affected by that clause, in the south of Ireland they would be swept away from the land. He hoped the noble Lord would withdraw the clause.


was sure the noble Lord did not understand the effect of this clause. All the landlords of Ireland, nearly, were absentee landlords, and they did not care one farthing for the tenants, and the tenants did not dare to improve the cultivation of their lands lest the agent should raise their rents. He had the greatest confidence in the good feeling of the noble Lord, and he hoped that he would yet see the propriety of withdrawing this clause.


said, if the noble Lord at the head of the Government had been present upon the occasion of the last discussion upon that question, he would have heard, amongst other observations, the unanswerable arguments of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, and the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland, and which had induced the Committee to pass that clause. He thought, with those two right hon. Members, that the clause in question was a tenant's and not a landlord's clause, inasmuch as it would put an end to that objectionable custom of serving notices to quit every year.


said, he would support the Bill, which he thought was a good one. He protested against the language used by the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor) with respect to Irish landlords; and he thought that if the law was passed, they would not take advantage of it for the sake of oppressing their tenantry.


suggested that it would save the public time if the third reading was allowed to be moved, and then raise the discussion on the Amendment of which he had given notice on the 100th clause.


said, he would take every opportunity afforded him of protesting against and opposing the 73rd clause. He could not but congratulate the Government on having availed themselves, in the absence of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland, of the services of the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier), in defending that clause. He objected to it, because it was an attempt to introduce into a Bill for the regulation of the inferior courts, a matter totally at variance with the spirit of the measure, and because it took away from the tenants of Ireland a protection which they now enjoyed. Although there were many of the landlords of Ireland good and excellent men, as a body generally they were the most cruel, heartless, and persecuting set of individuals on the face of the globe, armed with a power to oppress and persecute their tenantry. He denied that that was a tenant's clause, and did not see why it should be confined to that poor class of men to whom only it was applicable,


said, he did not see why tenant debtors should have greater advantages than other debtors; but, at the same time, he did not approve of this clause being introduced in a Bill which gave no protection to the tenant. The landlords had been blamed for depopulating the country. The fact was, that owing to free trade arable land had been turned into pasture, and in consequence so many tenants could not obtain a subsistence on the soil as formerly, and a portion of them were compelled to go elsewhere to find subsistence.


thought the attacks made on the landlords of Ireland as a body were most unjustifiable. The Government were entitled to thanks for having brought in the Bill. He did not think it went as far as the law of landlord and tenant in England.


said, he was sorry for the absence of his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, but he was too unwell to attend. With regard to the question now before the House, he should say it had been frequently considered by the Government, and it always appeared to them that an amendment of the law in this respect was much required. It was apparently a privilege for the tenant that he should not be ejected without a considerable time elapsing, some six months or more, before the notice took effect. In fact, it was a hardship on the tenant that the landlord should be induced to give notice to quit, in order to have the tenant in his power in case he should wish to enforce the payment of his rent. And that view appeared to have been taken by the Committee, for the clause in dispute was agreed to by a majority of 56 to 20, of which there was a majority of 23 Irish Members against 18. He thought, therefore, the clause would be an advantage and not a hardship to the landlord and tenant. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. S. Crawford) had asked him two questions—why he had not introduced a Landlord and Tenant Bill this Session, and what he intended to do in this respect next Session. With regard to the first of these questions, he need not enter into any explanation. It must be obvious to the hon. Gentleman and to other hon. Members, why it was that they were not able to bring in more Bills. But with regard to the second question, he must remind the House that no agreement had been arrived at as to any plan for improving the law of landlord and tenant in Ireland. Those who had extreme views—extreme views which amounted to this, that the property of the landlords should be transferred to them—had been be persevering in their attempts that they had prevented any such agreement, and there was nothing that the Government would be able to propose which would go much, beyond giving facilities by which the landlord and the tenant might agree as to giving security to the tenant as to any improvement that might be made. He must say, that whatever might be said with regard to Irish landlords, he did not think that any general observations against them were just. There were severe expressions applied to certain landlords which were not more than adequate; but to apply those expressions to other landlords would be doing them a great injustice. He was convinced that instead of benefiting the landlord and tenant, by introducing a law which would lead them to insist upon certain rights, the landlord having certain property which no Parliament could take away, such a law, instead of improving the present state of things, would make it worse. He was induced to say thus much, because, after all that had passed, he thought it would be doing wrong to hold out the expectation that Government was going to bring in a Bill which would entirely settle this question with regard to a settlement of which they must, after all, look to an improvement in the state of society in Ireland rather than to any legislation.


said, he attributed the distress of Ireland to the alteration in the corn laws. Many severe observations had been made on the landlords of Ireland, particularly by the hon. Member for the city of Dublin (Mr. Reynolds), but he must say he did not think they were justified. He was nearly connected with a gentleman holding considerable property in Ireland, and he believed that a better landlord did not exist.


said, he had voted for free-trade measures in the absence of any instructions from his constituents; but he had lately received petitions and communications from farmers and millers which showed that what the hon. Baronet had just said was correct. He thought the hon. Member for the city of Dublin had used stronger language about the Irish landlords than he was justified in using. The resident landlords of Ireland were always kind to their tenantry; but it was their agents and those of absentee proprietors who were guilty of acts of oppression.

Bill read 3°.


moved to omit in Clause 100 the words "other than in ejectment and replevin." He said they had struck off one protection of the Irish tenant by depriving him of the right of notice to quit. What he now asked was that in the County Court the tenant should have, as in England, the right of having a jury if he chose. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had referred to the majority against him (Mr. M'Cullagh) the other day; but that boast was rather inconsistent, as the Irish Members who voted against the Amendment were those who had told them that day that they attributed the evils of Ireland to free trade. And the noble Lord overstated the majority, for it was only three, and three were placeholders. He had heard with surprise and pain the declaration of the noble Lord that all they could hope for was a permissive Bill for landlords and tenants to enter into arrangements between themselves. He thought that declaration most unfortunate; but however that might be, he confidently appealed to the justice of the noble Lord to give to the tenant the benefit of a jury in the County Court, as all classes had in England.

Amendment proposed, in page 49, line 27, to leave out the words "other than in ejectment and replevin."


said, he must oppose the Motion. If they were to have a jury in all these cases, instead of the County Court being a Court for obtaining speedy decision, great delay and expense would be occasioned. He had never heard any charge against the assistant barristers that they gave unjust decisions; but in all cases where there was conflicting testimony, the assistant barrister might call in a jury, and a jury might be had on appeal to a Judge. In this country the parties could have a jury if they chose; but in not one case in a thousand did they require a jury.


, in supporting the Amendment, said, he must repeat what he had before said, that there never was a body of men in any country, civilised or barbarous, who had been guilty of greater atrocities towards their fellow beings than many of the landlords of Ireland. [The hon. Member then went into a long statement, and read various extracts detailing circumstances connected with evictions in Ireland, and contended that he was borne out by those allegations in all he had put forth.] He would vote for the Amendment although he knew what would be the result.


protested against the course pursued by the hon. Member for the city of Dublin in coming forward without notice to make a general attack upon a whole class of persons in Ireland who had, during the recent scenes of famine, pestilence, and distress, discharged their duties with so much perseverance and zeal. He did not mean to say but that individual cases of oppression might be found; but that was no ground for pursuing a course than which anything more unworthy the character of a Member of that House he could not conceive. Let the hon. Member honestly give notice of his intention to make a sweeping charge against the landlords of Ireland in that House, and they would be ready to meet him there. Within the last three years about 6,000,000l. had been paid for poor-rates in Ireland, and it was on the landlords the chief of that burden fell.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided:—Ayes 51; Noes 6: Majority 45.

Bill passed.

The House adjourned at half after Two o'clock.