HC Deb 19 July 1860 vol 159 cc2151-5

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (Glossary).


said, he rose to move that the Chairman do now leave the chair. He did so because the Bill was one entirely for the landlords of Ireland, and not for the advantage of the tenants. They were asked to go into Committee upon the Bill, without receiving any explanation of its provisions. There were a great many statutes on the subject, and it was proposed to consolidate and amend them; but they were not told how much was new, how much was old, how much was consolidation, and how much improvement; but the Bill was simply thrown upon the table, it being left to hon. Gentlemen to make out its provisions for themselves by a laboured study of its contents. The Bill contained 106 sections, and repealed 57 Acts of Parliament. Every section of the Bill was favourable to the landlord and against the tenant—in short, they were a simple confirmation of the Acts passed by landlords in their own favour for the last 400 years—from the reign of Edward IV. The Bill would have the further effect of making the law of landlord and tenant in Ireland essentially different from what it was in England, though they all professed to be in favour of making the law similar in both countries. It also abolished the power of landlord and tenant to make verbal contracts for three years. There was no part of the Empire in which it was so desirable to encourage the farmer to plant trees, and labour to preserve them, as in Ireland; but, by the 31st section, a farmer was liable to a penalty of £5 for each tree or shrub cut down, topped, lopped, or grubbed, without the landlord's consent, even though it might be necessary to do so for the preservation of the tree or the improvement of the farm. Thus he could not lop off a withered branch, crop a hedge, cut a gooseberry bush, or grub up underwood, without asking leave of the landlord. Another objectionable clause was that by which, wherever in existing leases the mines had been reserved, the landlord might go in and work them in any way he chose. Clause 35, relative to waste, was even more intolerable. By that clause, if the landlord went before a magistrate, and showed that he had reason to believe the tenant was intending to commit any unlawful waste, injury, or destruction, the magistrate might issue his warrant forbidding such act, and if that were not attended to, commit the tenant, his aiders and abettors, to prison for three months. Surely such an arbitrary power was not the law of England, or of Scotland, or of any other country. In fact a tenant might by this clause be sent to gaol for three months for carrying out what he believed to be his right according to the terms of his contract. Again, the power of ejectment by the Quarter Sessions for non-payment of rent was extended by this Bill. As it now stood, where a year's rent was due and the rent was not more than £50, such a proceeding might be adopted, but it would now be extended to cases where the rent was £100; and, moreover, it was now to be provided that such eviction might take place "even before the expiration of the time, if any, limited for the entry of the landlord in any lease or agreement." The provisions as to ejectment for overholding or for desertion of the premises, were equally unjust to the tenant. These were but a few of the grievances created by this Bill, which was called a Consolidation Bill. He thought the other Landlord and Tenant Bill, proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) was, upon the whole, a much better one. He asked the House to pause ere they passed such a Bill. It was the same Bill as the Bill of 1853, which was sent up to the House of Lords, together with the Tenant's Compensation Bill, it being looked upon as a counterpoise to the latter Bill, and being consented to on that ground; but when the tenant's Compensation Bill was rejected by the House of Lords while this Bill was passed, the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell) said that it was not his intention to persevere with it. For these reasons he should move that the Chairman do now leave the chair.


said, he should support the Motion. The Bill was founded on a measure which he had himself introduced in the year 1853; but he had since thought proper to amend that measure, and his amended Bill, which contained sixty-seven additional clauses, stood on the notice paper of the House for committal that day. It was not his intention to go on with that Bill, and when they came to it he would move that the order for the Committee should be discharged, because he felt persuaded that it would be idle to attempt to proceed with it during the present Session. He thought it rather hard that the Government should be pressing forward his defective Bill of 1853, instead of aiding him to carry his improved Bill. Besides, he thought that what was new in the measure should have been pointed out. He believed that portion of the Bill which related to the law of distress was very imperfect. In his own Bill he wished to extend to the other parts of Ireland the practice which prevailed in Ulster, where the incoming tenant settled with the outgoing tenant for the value of improvements which he might have made on the farm. There was no pressing necessity for the measure; and he would recommend his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland to consider the whole question seriously during the recess—to take both Bills together, and select what portions of both he thought best, and, perhaps, in another Session they might be able to arrive at a satisfactory settlement of the law of landlord and tenant in Ireland.


maintained that the Bill had been thoroughly considered on the second reading, and complained of a discussion on the principle of the Bill being now raised in Committee. The hon. and learned Member (Mr. M'Mahon) had criticised the Bill, he did not say unfairly, but he had not done so at the right time. He invited him to repeat his criticisms on the clauses as they came before them in Committee, and he would be ready to adopt such Amendments as were fair and reasonable. If it could be shown that any of the clauses were unjust to the tenant, he would at once consent to expunge them. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) complained that his new provisions had not been introduced into the present Bill; but his reply was, that he had never seen the new provisions of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill till they were printed by order of the House, and, therefore, he could not have availed himself of them. He must say, however, that he could not adopt the provisions of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill with regard to the law of distress, or of fixtures, and that he preferred the clauses of the present Bill. He did not say that the measure was a perfect one, but it would be a material improvement on the existing law, and would be highly beneficial to the tenantry of Ireland. Its object was to make the law more clear and simple, so that both landlord and tenant might be perfectly apprised of their relative rights and liabilities. The law ought not to be left in such a state as to afford the tenant a continual temptation, instead of paying his rent, to spend his money in litigation with his landlord, and to waste among the attorneys those funds which might be better employed in stocking a new farm. With this view, to render the law more plain and the remedies for any infringement of it efficacious and inexpensive, the Bill had been very carefully prepared, and he trusted it would be allowed to go into Committee.


said, he thought it would be ungracious, after what the Attorney General for Ireland had said, to divide against going on with the Bill in Committee; but, at the same time, he put it to the Attorney General whether, after what had fallen from his right hon. Friend (Mr. Whiteside) and the hon. and learned Member for Wexford, it would be expedient to proceed with a Bill of such importance at this period of the Session.


said, he must appeal to those hon. Gentlemen who were anxious for a real settlement of the tenant law of Ireland, not to prolong this preliminary discussion, but proceed to look into the clauses of this Bill, and those of the Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside), in Committee. The Government were quite ready, in the most candid spirit, to compare the merits of the two Bills; and they had no desire to stand upon any particular feature of their own Bill, but would adopt such provisions as might seem to the House to be best. After the great pains which had been taken, by two successive Governments of late years, to prepare a measure upon the subject, he hoped it would be allowed to proceed. At any rate, he would not be responsible for the delay.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 8; Noes 88: Majority 80.

Clauses 1 to 34 agreed to.

Clause 35 (Prevention of Waste and Law I of Repairs).

MR. POLLARD-URQUHART moved the omission of the clause. Under the present law the landlord who had reason to apprehend a waste of the property should apply to the Court of Chancery for its prohibition; and that power could not be transferred to a magistrate without disadvantage to the tenant.


explained that the object of the clause was to facilitate the prevention of waste, and so to save expense, both to the landlord and the tenant. The tenant could appeal to the Quarter Sessions against the decision of the magistrate, and the only restraint that would be put upon him was that he could not in the meantime injure the property.

Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 89; Noes 21: Majority 68.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 36 (Punishment of Disobedience of Precept).

MR. BUTT moved the omission of the clause. It would introduce the action of the police for the purpose of enforcing regulations between landlords and tenants; and he thought that the police ought not to be allowed to interfere in those cases of private rights.


said, he admitted that there was considerable force in the objection which had been made to the clause, and he would not therefore press it. But he wished to give notice that on the bringing up of the Report he would introduce some other provision for the purpose of securing a compliance with the injunction against waste. He did not mean to give the constabulary any power which they did not now possess.


said, he objected to the question being postponed. It would be better to settle the point in Committee.

MR. HENNESSY moved that the Chairman report progress.

Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.

Back to