§ Order for Committee read.
§ House in Committee.
§ Clause 4 (Reclaiming Waste Lands, &c.)
§ Amendment proposed, in page 5, lines 6 and 7, to leave out the words "The reclaiming of waste lands or cut-out bog ground, by converting the same into arable or pasture land."
§ MR. FRENCH
said, he should take the sense of the Committee upon the question of the withdrawal of this important provision, and he regretted that the Secretary for Ireland should have proposed its omission after the repeated admissions which had been made of the practicability and expediency of reclaiming waste land, and the promise which the Government of the noble Lord the Member for London had held out on the subject.
§ MR. POLLARD-URQUHART
said, an Irish Secretary who had any personal knowledge of Ireland and its resources would not attempt to pass such a mockery of a Tenants' Compensation Bill as one which excluded the reclaiming of bog ground, an improvement more required than any other in that country.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he entirely concurred in the importance of the question of encouraging the reclamation of waste lands in Ireland, but the question was not whether the reclamation of waste lands ought to be encouraged in Ireland, but whether it was one of that class of improvements which ought to be fairly brought into the Bill now under discussion. It was thought desirable to insert in the Bill only that class of improvements concerning the compensation for which there could be little or no difference of opinion. It had been said that this class of compensation had been inserted in previous Bills; but none of those Bills had received the sanction of the Legislature, and the Government wished to frame such a measure as might pass.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, he had a strong desire to hear the Attorney and Solicitor Generals for Ireland give expression to 2313 their opinions as to maintaining or withdrawing this most essential part of the fourth clause. This was a great national question of solemn importance, and he deprecated the attempt made on that—his own—side of the House to convert it into a mere party question. He believed, if the Government did not insist on the retention of that most important improvement in reference to compensation for the reclamation of waste lands, they would hold out a bonus for new agitation and new excitement on this question.
§ MR. KIRK
said, he should support the Motion of the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. French) for he contended that it was an extraordinary thing that the subject of compensation for the reclamation of waste lands should be excluded from the Bill, and more especially as it was included in the former measure.
said, he was convinced no Bill would satisfy the hon. Member for Roscommon, and those who acted with him, unless it was one which included the famous four points of the Tenant Right Association of Dublin; and such a measure would take away all the property from the landlords in Ireland. ["No, no!"] He contended that it would deprive them of the control they now possessed over their own property, and give it to other persons.
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland had alleged sufficient reasons for striking out that part of the clause which would give tenants the power to call on their landlords to improve waste lands, or would enable them to improve such lands at their landlords' expense; but there was this additional reason, that in some cases the reclamation of waste lands cost more than the fee simple of fruitful land. He hoped, therefore, the Government would persist in their determination.
§ MR. O'FLAHERTY
said, he should support the Motion of the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. French), believing there was no subject more deserving attention and legislative provision than that of encouraging the reclamation of waste lands in Ireland. He believed that if the Secretary for Ireland left out that great principle from the Bill, it would be much better to abandon the Bill altogether.
§ MR. GEORGE
said, he considered that the course taken by the Government, with reference to the omission of a portion of the clause, had not been capriciously taken. 2314 They had adopted that course on the principle, on which they meant to act, that whatever was to receive compensation should be in the nature of improvements which were tangible and above ground, and not those that were either altogether buried under the surface or of such a kind as to render it impossible to ascertain their value.
§ MR. M'CANN
said, he would beg to remind the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. George) there were gentlemen in and out of that House who wished for such a clause as this introduced into the Bill, and who had as much wealth and property in the country as the hon. and learned Gentleman and those who acted with him.
§ MR. I. BUTT
said, he was of opinion that, whether the reclamation of waste lands was a desirable object or not, it was not one which ought to be included in the present Bill. It could not be denied that the object of the Bill was to provide that, in cases where a landlord had not placed upon the farm he let all the appliances necessary for its cultivation, it should be optional for the tenant to call upon him to provide them, and, in case of his not doing so, the tenant might undertake the improvements himself, or be entitled to ultimate compensation for them. But the improvement of waste lands could not by any means be considered as coming within the scope of the Bill now under consideration; and, even if it did, the machinery provided by the present measure would be insufficient for the purpose. In the first place, who was to determine what were waste lands; and next, who was to estimate the possible outlay in rendering them fit for arable purposes? The foundation of the Bill was, that the landlord should be called upon to execute improvements; but, in the case of reclaiming waste lands, no limit of time was fixed by which it could be determined when the tenant's right to execute the improvements himself began. It might be quite right to compensate a tenant who, by dint of daily exertion and skill, brought unprofitable lands into beneficial use, and he would not hesitate to support a measure intended and adapted for that purpose; but, believing that the present Bill was framed for a different object, he must object to the clause as only tending to create litigation between landlord and tenant in Ireland.
§ MR. V. SCULLY
said, he thought that the Bill was in some respects a reasonable 2315 one, and in nothing more than the present proposition. The hon. and learned Member for Youghal (Mr. I. Butt) had asked who was to judge of the correctness of the estimates? What estimates did he allude to? It had been said that the tenant ought to be compensated only for those improvements which appeared on the surface of the land; but those who said that forgot that improvements in draining and other matters which did not appear on the surface might be made, and would tend greatly to increase the value of the land. Were tenants not to be compensated for such improvements as that, especially when the principle of granting compensation for the improvement of waste lands had been affirmed in all the previous editions of the Bill?
§ MR. I. BUTT
said, he must refer the hon. and learned Member to the schedule, where he would find that the proposed improvements were to be described, and an estimate of their cost given. That was the estimate to which he had alluded. He advised the hon. and learned Member, before he undertook to lecture him (Mr. I. Butt) on his reading of the Bill, to take care to read it himself.
§ MR. NAPIER
said, this Bill was composed of two Bills, and only one part of it was his, and the part they were now discussing was not his. With regard to the reclaiming of waste lands he had stated the day before, and he now repeated, that, in his opinion, the only way to carry out the reclamation of waste lands was by contract between landlord and tenant. It was proposed by the provision which they were now discussing to work out those improvements, independent of express contracts, and although he had for some time been of opinion that it could be effected by the machinery of a Bill, experience, and the opinions of many gentlemen opposed to it had convinced him that any attempt to do so would be a failure, and therefore he would support the proposal for striking out the words in question.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHEE
said, he must confess himself greatly disappointed by the nature of the Amendments proposed to be introduced by the Government; and, judging from those Amendments, he doubted whether the Government really entertained a sincere wish to have this measure carried into execution. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier), who had long paid considerable attention to this important subject, told them that he 2316 had made a great mistake, in which he had for a long time persisted, but that when his friends went out of office he found out his mistake. Now, he must say he thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman had better abstain for the future from giving the House such oracular advice as that with which he had been accustomed to favour them. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had alluded to the evidence he gave before the Committee of the House of Lords, but that evidence had never been printed, and its effect had been to mislead a noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) who deserved great credit for his attention to public affairs. The evidence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman induced the House of Lords, the Session before last, to make a Report upon this Bill which had done infinite mischief, and which was extremely discreditable to that House. Not one word of objection was uttered by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in that House, or in the Select Committee, of which they were both Members, and which sat for weeks upstairs, to the retention of the compensation clause. Nay, the right hon. and learned Gentleman, after he left office, and when Sir John Young (the Secretary for Ireland) proposed to limit the compensation, assisted in making the Bill, as it was then proposed by the Government, perfect in Committee, and he never at that time raised any objection to the provision. He (Mr. Serjeant Shee) conceived that the exclusion of the compensation clause would be most fatal to the Bill; and he called upon the noble Lord at the head of the Government to pursue a bold, a generous, and a manly course; to take the Bill as it was passed through that House, when he was Secretary for the Home Department, by Lord Aberdeen's Government; to press it with all the power of the Government in the House of Commons, and, if it were rejected elsewhere, they could try it again another Session. The noble Lord, in the able and excellent speech which he delivered upon the second reading of the Bill, affirmed all the principles upon which it was founded; and it was too bad that a man of his station and reputation—an Irish landlord, and a good one—should come forward and throw down the whole edifice of improvement embodied in Lord Aberdeen's measure, which was not what the tenants of Ireland desired, but which they had the wisdom to adopt in deference to the opinion of that House and of Lord Aberdeen's 2317 Government. The Legislature, however, now turned round upon them and said, "We did not act wisely—we were all wrong—we voted what we ought not to have done, and we must out down the Bill again." It was impossible for a people to prosper who could not trust the Government under which it lived. It was not the moral effect of bad laws, but it was the rooted distrust in the honesty and wisdom of Government which prevented the prosperity of the country. Most heartily did he trust that the Government would feel it their duty to rise above the petty obstacles of embarrassed and over-mortgaged landlords in both Houses, and say at once, fairly and manfully, "The Bill which we approved last year was a good one, we consider its principles to be sound, and we will do our best to pass it through this House; and if it should not pass through the House of Lords, then it is not our fault." Now, what was the real history of the Bills before the House? Some criticisms had been made as to the language of the Bills. The fact was, that he (Serjeant Shee) was in no way responsible for the language of the Bill. The Bill which had been introduced was actually and identically the Government Bill. They were the Bills which had been framed by the Government, and which, after two or three months' discussion in the Committee upstairs, they determined to be the right thing, and which they themselves introduced to the House. Her Majesty's Government now, it would appear, had altered their tone with respect to these Bills, and they, in effect said, "We cannot think of passing the measure," although precisely the same as that which they had previously introduced, "because it is much too favourable to the tenant, and much too unjust for the landlord," and, instead of adopting this Bill, they had taken up all the absurdities which had been bruited abroad by the opponents of the measure. He thought he could prove to the House that the improvement which was now the subject of discussion was really one which ought to be made. The Bill was originally called the Tenants' Compensation Bill, and it still retained its name; but it was nonsense to call it a compensation Bill. It was nothing of the sort. The Bill was, in effect, one to protect the tenants who had improved their holdings against arbitrary eviction without compensation by their landlords. That was all which the Bill proposed to do. 2318 Now, what would be the action of this Bill supposing this improvement to be omitted? The landlord might wish to evict one of his tenants; some election had gone against him, the tenant had voted against him, he was anxious to get rid of him. The tenant was one of 289,000 tenants in Ireland who held under fifteen acres, or probably one of the 432,000 who held under thirty acres. These small tenants had voted against the landlord. The landlord would say, "That house which he occupies could not have cost more than 50l.; he voted against me at the election, he has not sent his children to ray school, he voted against me as guardian, and I want to turn him out. His house will not cost me much if I do so; he has brought into cultivation some four or five acres of waste land, which I may reckon as a set-off for the house, and it will answer my purpose very well to turn him out, while, at the same time, I gratify my personal feelings against him." Now, that was precisely the way in which the Bill would work if this clause was struck out. On the other hand, if the clause were left in, it could not by any possibility hurt the landlord, but it would protect the tenant. He knew it might be said that these cases of small tenants reclaiming waste lands were of very rare occurrence. Now, on the contrary, they were of very frequent occurrence. These small tenants, holding some fifteen or twenty acres, cultivated some small patches of land on the mountain side, adjoining their own farm, to the profit of the landlord; and if this clause remained in the Bill, the landlord would be without the temptation to evict the improving tenant, in order that he might obtain the benefit of his labour and the outlay of his capital. But it was not correct to say that the cultivation of this waste land required large capital, and could not, therefore, be accomplished by a small tenant. The reclamation of this land by the small tenant was effected by a small outlay. The Committee was not at the present time considering the case of reclaiming large tracts of mountain, in which a very large capital was required to be sunk. Thrifty tenants, such as the Irish were, did not value so much the size and convenience of their farm buildings as they did the improvement of the soil itself. Many of them lived in the poorest dwellings, and spent what capital they had in improving the land. The poor men holding these small farms almost invariably 2319 employed upon it their own superabundant labour, without expending any large amount of capital, and the profit which accrued from it was so much clear gain to themselves. He should resist striking these improvements out of the clause. It was said that if this Bill were sent up to the House of Lords it would be rejected. Well, let the Lords reject it, and let the Bill be sent up again and again, until a proper measure should be passed into law.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, instead of "fighting our battles o'er again," as some hon. Members seem disposed to do, I think we had better confine our attention to the Bill now before us, which is one highly deserving of our consideration. Those who wish to improve the condition of Ireland, and think that this measure contains provisions tending to effect that object, would, in my opinion, act wisest in not insisting upon everything which they may deem conducive to that end, but in endeavouring to shape this Bill in such a manner as would enable it to pass into law, and to pass, too, this year, that Ireland may have the benefit of it without further delay. I cannot, therefore, concur with the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Serjeant Shee) who thinks our best course is to send this Bill up to the House of Lords in a form in which that assembly will reject it, and then to send another Bill up to them the next year, and another again the third year, and so to carry on a continued conflict with the other branch of the Legislature, instead of accomplishing as much good as, in his opinion, and in that of others, it is in our power to do at once. Surely it is better for a man to get a part of what he wishes than to have none at all, and to be always waiting and fighting, and yet achieving no practical result. I quite agree that the improvement of waste lands is an object of great interest and importance to Ireland, although I somewhat differ from those who think that such a result is not only desirable, but practicable; for I own that the operation of cultivating waste lands or cut-away bog lands on any great scale is, in my opinion, not likely to be a very profitable investment of capital. I have tried it myself, and I certainly should not recommend my friends to adopt it with any such anticipation. The cultivation of bog land is best effected by the small cottier, who takes a quarter of an acre next his own dwelling, and, having no capital to expend, goes on digging at it, bringing a basket of lime upon his back 2320 at one time, and a little manure at another, and so gradually getting cabbages, then potatoes, then turnips, and afterwards a little oats. In this way, I may almost say, square yard by square yard, you would see cultivation creeping along the edges of bog-lands; but, as for encouraging the reclamation of such land on any extensive scale, such as is contemplated by that part of the Bill which we are now discussing, it is an exceedingly doubtful undertaking, and I would not, as I have just said, recommend any friend of mine blindfoldly to engage in it. I confess that my opinion now remains very much what it was when I had occasion to state it in Committee upstairs upon these Bills—namely, that this part of the present Bill, and the whole of these provisions, are at variance with sound principle. I hold that true political economy tells you that you ought to leave all contracts and arrangements between buyer and seller to be regulated by the parties themselves, and that interference by law, in such cases, is generally mischievous. Now, the landlord is the seller and the tenant the buyer, so to speak, of the occupation of the land for any particular period agreed upon between them; and, therefore, in the abstract I should be opposed to any legislation which would prevent the parties from dealing with each other according to their mutual views of their reciprocal interests, which, in the long run, I believe, is the safest and wisest plan. But at the same time there are circumstances connected with the peculiar position of Ireland, with the manner in which land is held there, and also with the mode in which the tenure of land is put an end to, which require an exception to be made in the case of that country with reference to certain things, but to certain things only. Now, what I ask is the object of this part of the Bill? It is to enable the tenant to improve the land of his landlord without his consent, and then to make him answerable for such improvements. Now, although we may be willing to admit that in the present condition of Ireland this is a desirable arrangement, nevertheless we should specially guard and limit the particular class of improvements in regard to which you are to confer this privilege on the tenant; and I say that, unless you exclude this species of improvements now under discussion, you cannot accomplish this object. There are certain characteristics which seem to designate the particular class of improvements with respect 2321 to which you may safely give the tenant this extraordinary and exceptional power. The tenant tells his landlord that he is about to make a certain improvement, and the landlord has only one alternative left to him. He may say, "I will make it for you." But the landlord may not desire to do this, or he may not have the money requisite for the purpose. We are told that many Irish landlords are extremely poor, hut, surely, the poorer they are the harder it is to compel them to pay for improvements which they may not be rich enough to effect of their own accord. The tenant may persist in making these improvements, and at the expiration of his lease, or of his notice to quit, if he be a tenant-at-will, he may demand compensation. Now, there are two categories within which such improvements should be confined. First, they ought to be improvements which are tangible and visible, which can be measured in value, so that, when the tenancy runs out, there may, if possible, be no dispute. For example, they should be houses, outbuildings, roads, and boundary-fences, the value of which any man accustomed to make estimates can easily compute, and which being permanent in their nature, when they come into the landlord's hands, enable him to get a better rent for his property. The case is, however, altogether different with the reclamation of waste land and uncultivated bog. To determine the value of these you must know what were the nature and condition of the ground, perhaps, twenty or thirty years previous, before the improvements were begun. The tenant in that case will have his witnesses to prove one thing, and the landlord may possibly have his to testify to quite the reverse; and thus you will have endless litigation between the two, and never arrive at a satisfactory result. Therefore I maintain it is highly objectionable to insert in this clause anything which is not palpable and visible to the eye, and which requires difficult comparisons to be instituted between the state of land at the present time and at remote former periods. But there is another criterion. The improvements for which you ought to compensate the tenant at the expiration of his occupancy are things which do not produce to him a yearly profit. Now, to this class belong a house, a road, or a boundary-fence, neither of which yields such an annual profit. There is no question of account in regard to them, as is the case the moment you 2322 deal with agricultural improvements. When a tenant, for instance, seeks to be paid for a few acres of waste land that he has reclaimed, or for a piece of cut-away bog that he has dug and planted, the landlord has a right to ask—"What has it cost you to make these improvements; and, on the other hand, what profit have you derived from them up to a certain date?" because, if the tenant should be as fortunate as some have been represented to be, and should be able to reimburse himself for his outlay in the first year after he has made his improvements, it is quite clear that after a short period he could have no fair claim upon his landlord. Here, then, you would have complicated questions of account as to what a tenant has expended and what he has gained, which it is most desirable to avoid. Thus, then, if you go beyond objects that are above ground, which can be seen and estimated, and which are permanent in their character, you involve yourselves in the most hopeless uncertainty, and open the door to interminable disputes. Again, suppose the landlord takes his choice of reclaiming a certain piece of his waste land under occupancy, is it to remain in the tenant's hands while the improving process is going on? Why, obviously it must be taken out of the tenant's hands; because it is plain that such an operation cannot be undertaken in January and finished by March, neither can it be begun in March and finished in July. It requires many years to bring it to completion; and evidently, therefore, it is not a thing which is contemplated by the principle of this Bill. Under these circumstances, I appeal to those who believe that this measure is, in the main, likely to prove beneficial to Ireland, to make some sacrifice of their extreme opinions in order to secure the passing into law, during the present Session, of a Bill the greater portion of which I am convinced is calculated to confer important advantages not only upon the tenantry and the landlords of the sister country, but upon the community at large.
said, he must protest against this exceptional legislation for Ireland. For he agreed with the noble Lord who had just spoken, that the Bill now before them was based upon false principles, and he could see nothing in the state of matters in Ireland differing from that of England, either with regard to the possession of property, the tenure of property, or the letting of property. If any one 2323 would take the trouble to go round London, he would find a great deal of land extremely similar to the waste lands of Ireland; and if any one liked to know why such land was uncultivated, it was simply because such cultivation would be unremunerative. Now, he would ask why should compensation be allowed in Ireland where it would be refused in England? Waste lands in Ireland were of various descriptions, some of which might, no doubt, be cultivated with profit. It is, however, quite a Utopian idea to think they could improve bog some thirty or forty feet deep. He happened to be the proprietor of some 1,000 acres of waste land himself, and all he could say was that he would be very happy to pay for its improvement; but that could not be done, certainly not quickly.
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN
said, that as a large section of the Irish tenantry, through their representatives, declared that it was important that the principle involved in the clause should be carried out, it was idle for hon. Members to oppose the clause on the ground that it would be inoperative. If this species of cultivation was unprofitable, it would not be undertaken; or if undertaken, there could be no claim made on the part of the tenant against the landlord, and therefore there was no necessity for the Committee striking these words out of the clause.
§ MR. M'MAHON
said, that the words proposed to be left out had been objected to, because it would be difficult to ascertain how much of the waste lands had been reclaimed, but nothing could be more easy, as at the expiration of the lease the tenant would serve a notice on his landlord, who could go and see how much land had been reclaimed, and there could be nothing more natural than that the tenant should be compensated for the expenses he had incurred in reclaiming it. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had said that the contracts between landlord and tenant ought to be left free, but for a great number of years they had had a Parliament of landlords passing statutes in favour of the landlord and against the tenant, and it was now incumbent on the House of Commons, by some such attempt as the present, to endeavour to check the ill effects of that legislation.
§ MR. DUFFY
said, that the noble Lord at the head of the Government recommended the supporters of the measure to assent to a compromise; why, they had been doing 2324 nothing else since the Bill was first introduced than yielding point after point, in order to obtain a settlement. When the Tenant League began their agitation, the people of Ireland were dying by thousands, while thousands more were flying to distant lands. The Tenant League, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Keogh) being one of the council of that League, laid down certain broad and intelligible principles at first, upon which their original demands were based; but they accepted the Bill of Mr. Sharman Crawford, who was himself an Irish landowner, as a compromise between themselves and the landowners. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Serjeant Shee) had taken the Bill, this Session, in the state in which it had already received the approbation of the House of Commons, and although the Tenant League were far from being satisfied with it, they had silently assented to this Bill as a settlement of the question. They had made now so many concessions, that he (Mr. Duffy) should advise them, if the Bill were not carried this Session, to fall back on their original demands. The proceedings of the Irish Parliament as well as those of this House of Commons, contained many voluminous reports and documents upon the subject of reclaiming the waste lands of Ireland; and yet no progress had been hitherto made. He was convinced that if the tenantry of Ireland were encouraged to take the work into their own hands, by that means, and by that means alone, it would be accomplished. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had drawn a very touching picture of the industrious tenant farmer endeavouring to improve the soil by the labour of his spare hours; but would the noble Lord venture after that to allow the landlord to rob him of the fruits of that labour?
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, he would beg of the Attorney General for Ireland to give some explanation in reply to the charges which had been made against him.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 47; Noes 93: Majority 46.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHEE
said, he would now move the insertion in the same clause of the words "The main draining, or thorough draining of land, or the improvement of it by irrigation." This provision had been inserted in all the Land Improvement Bills which had been brought before 2325 the House, and he would mention the names of Sir Robert Kaye, Mr. Ferguson, and other authorities to show the necessity of giving every possible encouragement to drainage.
said, he should oppose the Motion, for the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, the Clerk of the Ordnance, and several other hon. Gentlemen opposite, had voted against a similar one last year.
§ MR. POLLARD-URQUHART
said, he should support the Motion, on the ground that tenants could not be expected to make improvements if some security of this kind were not given them. He believed that in many parts of England the same tenant-right existed that was proposed by this amendment to be extended to Ireland, and he could see no difficulty whatever in the way of carrying it out.
§ MR. NAPIER
said, he thought they ought to act upon the recommendation of the Select Committee of which the hon. and learned Serjeant was a Member, and which, after a full consideration of the question, came to the conclusion that all improvements in the soil ought to be made the subject of express contract.
§ SERJEANT SHEE
said, he must deny that he had ever agreed to anything of the sort, though he did assent to what he could not help. It was of no avail to say, that another part of the Bill enabled compensation for drainage to be provided for by express agreements with the landlords, notwithstanding any difficulties which might be caused by the settlement of the estate. To render this operative it was necessary to have provisions in the earlier part of the Bill, such as he proposed. The only way to induce the landlords to make such agreements was to show them that, if they did not make them, the tenants would be by law empowered to improve the estates without their consent, and that, after having so improved, the tenants could not be evicted without compensation.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 49; Noes 100: Majority 51.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHEE
said, he would now beg to propose after line 5 to insert the following words, "The durable improvement of land by clearing away rocks and stones." This was a provision which was inserted by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of 2326 Dublin (Mr. Napier) in his Bill when Attorney General for Ireland in Lord Derby's Government. In reference to the noble Lord's (Viscount Palmerston's) observations upon what he had said, he begged to observe that he never meant to say anything disrespectful of the House of Lords. His opinion was, that a really good measure would be passed by that House. If the Government had prepared a proper measure, and had pressed it upon the attention of the House of Lords, he believed that that House would not have rejected it.
§ MR. FRENCH
said, he fully concurred in what had fallen from both of his hon. Friends, but it was quite evident that their party had no force in that House at all equal to the majority which could be obtained at the call of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston). It was his opinion that the Government were not at all anxious to carry this Bill. While the noble Lord said he was prepared to send up the measure to the House of Lords to be there carried, he at the same time remarked that many parts of it were objectionable and inadmissible in principle. Under such circumstances, he did not think it advisable to continue to divide the Committee upon those propositions, but to rest satisfied with entering their protest against the conduct of the Government upon this subject.
§ MR. DUFFY
said, he could not concur with his hon. Friend in the course he proposed. On the contrary, he thought that there was a grave responsibility upon their shoulders to use the little power they possessed in resisting to the utmost the objectionable measures of the Government. This Bill could be carried at any time if the Irish Members determined to reject the blandishments of office and to attend solely to the interests of their unfortunate country. He thought that they ought to divide.
§ Question put, "That these words be there inserted."2327
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 44; Noes 112: Majority 68.
§ MR. GEORGE
said, he would beg to move the insertion of words the object of which was that leases under seal or agreements in writing existing at the time of the passing of the Bill, should be respected, and that the provisions of the Bill as to prospective improvements should not come into operation in such cases until after the leases or agreements were expired, unless by mutual arrangement between the landlord and tenant.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 13, after the words "in respect," to insert the words "to parties holding under leases or agreements in writing during their continuance, save in accordance with the provisions thereof, or by mutual consent."
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, the proposed Amendment was opposed to the principle of the Bill, and therefore he could not assent to it.
said, he felt the Bill itself to be a violation of all existing contracts. The Amendment had for its object to respect existing agreements, and he should support it.
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
said, he considered the Bill, so far as the prospective clauses were concerned, to be objectionable, but it was doubly so when in a certain way it tended to take a retrospective character, and to affect contracts which the parties who had entered into them were desirous to maintain. He should support the Amendment.
§ MR. V. SCULLY
said, the Amendment, as worded, would not have the effect which its hon. Mover intended. He should oppose the Amendment, for if it were adopted they might as well get rid of the Bill altogether.
§ MR. GEORGE
said, he had considered that his Amendment applied to all contracts or leases existing at the time of the passing of the Bill; however, he would add to his Amendment words expressive of that intention.
§ Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, after the words "in writing," to insert the words "existing at the time of the passing of this Act."
§ Question, "That those words be inserted in the proposed Amendment," put, and agreed to.
§ MR. MALINS
said, he understood that the Bill included a claim for compensation for improvements made in pursuance of an express contract, whereas the objection of 2328 his hon. and learned Friend was that, if they were made during the continuance of a lease, the rights of the parties should depend on the terms of the lease. In that objection he entirely concurred, being convinced that if such a proposition as that contained in the Bill were made with respect to the rights of landlords and tenants in England, it would be scouted at once. It was repugnant to every principle which ought to affect the relations between those parties.
§ MR. H. HERBERT
said, the Committee having decided the question of compensation, the question that remained was, whether that compensation should be granted when there was no contract or lease. The exigencies referred to by the Amendment were provided for by a lease.
MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said, he thought the Committee would not have any. The Bill gave the tenant the power of calling on the landlord to provide farm buildings, and in the event of his not doing so to provide them themselves. These buildings when erected by the tenant were in the nature of permanent improvements; and as such became valuable property to the landlord.
§ MR. E. BALL
said, the question seemed to strike at the root of obligations and at the root of good faith. He thought the Amendment was necessary, and should give it his support.
§ MR. H. S. KEATING
said, the interpretation clause, as applied to the Amendment, gave rise to serious considerations in connection with the case of reversioners or leases for lives renewable for ever, on what the increased value of property made at this moment a merely nominal rent. It would be hard, indeed, if the reversioner, whose interest might be very small, should be compellable by the tenant to expend large sums of money upon the estate on the return of 5 per cent.
§ MR. KEOGH
said, the danger apprehended by the hon. and learned Member who had last addressed them did not exist. The 5th and 6th clauses gave the option of refusal to make the improvements in question to the landlord, and the case contemplated was one in which the tenant ought to make these improvements himself. Under no circumstances would the landlord be called on to pay anything unless he resumed possession of the land; in that case it was only just and fair that he should pay for these valuable improvements.
§ MR. MALINS
said that in reference to an observation which had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald) he did not mean to contend that to give the power to a tenant to force the landlord to pay for a house he might choose to build on his land was a violation of the English constitution, but he maintained that it was a violation of the rights of property.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHEE
said, that the arrangement which the hon. and learned Gentleman denounced as a violation of the rights of property was the law in every country in the world, except in those places where, as in England, it was the custom for the landlord to erect the necessary buildings himself. It was the law in every country where the civil law was in force. This question had been argued as if it was one that lay between landlord and tenant only, whereas the real point at issue was whether it would be good for the whole people of Ireland. In the best circumstanced districts of Ireland 43 per cent of the inhabited houses were mud cabins with only one room, and the people were living like pigs. Was this a state of things that ought to continue? The object of the Bill was to preserve the rights of property, not to destroy them, and, at the same time, amend a state of things that was truly disgraceful. If they continued the present reckless system, it would be impossible to maintain the rights of property in Ireland.
§ MR. J. G. PHILLIMORE
said, the law, as laid down by the hon. and learned Gentleman, did not apply to his proposition. The Roman law was that, if a person let a house, and it was not found to serve the purpose for which it was let, he must repair it; but it never could mean that, if a man let a field without a house, the person taking the field could compel him to build a house upon it.
§ Question put "That the words, so amended, be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 99; Noes 109; Majority 10.
§ MR. GEORGE
said, he would now move to insert after the words "like improvements," the following words:—"or in any case where a special agreement, in writing, with respect to the same, or the costs thereof, or the property therein, shall have been made by the landlord and tenant respectively, otherwise than in accordance with such special agreement."
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he did not object 2330 to the Amendment, as it was in conformity with the Bill; but would suggest that the hon. and learned Member had better prepare a special clause at another stage.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
said, he wished to move the insertion of certain words in this clause which were rendered necessary by the previous decision of the Committee. His object was to provide in cases where tenants held under leases of lives, or for a term of years, and had been amply recompensed for the improvements they had made by a continued enjoyment of their benefit, that landlords who had been kept out of their land for a number of years should not, in addition thereto, be afterwards required to pay for such improvements.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 18, after the word "case," to insert the words "where lands are held under or by virtue of a lease where less than the full annual value of the land is reserved, nor in any case."
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 85; Noes 110; Majority 25.
said, he should now move that the Chairman report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he must oppose the Motion in the hopes that the Committee would first get through the clause then under consideration.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 43; Noes 154; Majority 111.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ The House resumed. Committee report progress.