HC Deb 29 March 1860 vol 157 cc1553-76

Sir, I rise to make one more attempt to settle the question on which the care of every Government has been bestowed and the time of every Parliament for a longer period than I have had the honour of sitting in this House—a question of great difficulty, and to Ireland of great importance. I believe that from the conclusion of peace with France in 1815 down to the present time many branches of this subject have continually engaged the attention of Committees of this House and of Commissioners appointed by the Crown. But the period which may, perhaps, be regarded as the principal era in the history of this question was the appointment of the Commission under the late Lord Devon, which took a large and interesting mass of evidence, and presented as the result of its inquiry its opinions to this House. Since that time there has been, I think, no Minister who has not endeavoured to settle this question. Scarcely has there been a year when there has not been before the House some proposal in regard to it. In the year 1845 the Earl of Derby, then Secretary for the Colonies in the Government for Sir Robert Peel, made a proposal on this subject in the House of Lords. In the following year it was renewed in this House by the present Duke of Newcastle, then Secretary for Ireland. Next, my right hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Sir W. Somerville), under the succeeding Ministry, made a like attempt in 1848, and again in 1850. In 1852 the Government of the Earl of Derby made a great effort to settle the question; and under the Government of the Earl of Aberdeen that effort was repeated, but not successfully. Afterwards Mr. Serjeant Shee, with great ability and great labour, brought forward similar measures. Those measures were to a certain extent taken up by the Government of that day, but again they failed to receive the sanction of Parliament. Then an independent Member of this House, Mr. Moore, took up the subject in two successive years, 1856 and 1857; and the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire), in 1858, was the last Member who submitted a measure dealing with it. The late Government, I believe, had undertaken and intended to grapple with it. Now, it is manifest that a question of which this is the history must be one not only of great importance, but also of great difficulty. And if we presume to entertain a hope of being able to settle it, it is because we think that the condition of Ireland is far more favourable for its settlement than in the times of some of our predecessors; because we believe that their experience may have done much to facilitate the progress of the measure; because we believe that the decisions of this House have shown what are the measures which it is impossible to carry, and will have prepared the way for the attainment of such as are practical and possible; and because I believe I may confidently appeal to this assembly to listen to proposals made with an earnest desire to obtain for them, as far as may be, legislative sanction and practical effect. The first question that anybody will naturally ask is, "Why is it necessary to deal with the land of Ireland in a manner different from that of England or Scotland?" That question has been repeatedly answered in this House in language of the highest authority. Those who are familiar with the works of Arthur Young, of Mr. Burke, or of Mr. Mill, know that in their successive generations those practical and philosophic writers have drawn a broad distinction between the state of land in Ireland on the one side and its state in England and Scotland on the other. A distinction so recognized by the highest authorities may fairly commend itself to the calm consideration of this House. But every Minister and every Member of Parliament who has handled this subject, from the Earl of Derby in 1845, down to the hon. Member who last brought it under our notice, has expressed in the most emphatic terms the necessity of dealing with it, for Ireland, in a manner specially adapted to the circumstances of that country. I am not about to trouble the House with unnecessary references to papers; but I think I ought to ask you to hear the statement on this part of the case which rests on the authority of the Devon Commission, in order that you may have before you the ground of the legislation on which you are invited to enter. These are the words:— It is well known that in England and Scotland, before a landlord otters a farm for letting, he finds it necessary to provide a suitable farmhouse, with necessary farm buildings, for the proper management of the farm. He puts the gates and fences into good order, and he also takes upon himself a great part of the burden of keeping the buildings in repair during the term; and the rent is fixed with reference to this state of things. Such, at least, is generally the case, although special contracts may occasionally be made, varying the arrangements between landlord and tenant. In Ireland the case is wholly different. The smallness of the farms as they are usually let, together with other circumstances to which it is not necessary to advert, render the introduction of the English system extremely difficult, and in many cases impracticable. It is admitted on all hands, that according to the general practice in Ireland, the landlord builds neither dwelling-house, nor farm offices, nor puts fences, gates, &c., into good order, before he lets his land to a tenant. The cases in which a landlord does any of those things are the exceptions. The system, however, of giving aid in these matters is becoming more prevalent. In most cases, whatever is done in the way of building or fencing is done by the tenant; and in the ordinary language of the country, dwelling-houses, farm buildings, and even the mating of fences, are described by the general word 'improvements,' which is thus employed to denote the necessary adjuncts to a farm, without which in England or Scotland no tenant would be found to rent it. This, Sir, is the foundation of all legislation on this subject—that the law and practice, as they exist in England and Scotland, have differed from the law and practice as they have existed in Ireland, and that special legislation is requisite to meet the circumstances of a totally different case. Now, I am happy to say that since the Devon Commission presented their Report no more marked improvement has probably taken place in any country in the world than has been witnessed in Ireland, and that amelioration has resulted in changes which, if on the one hand they diminish the necessity for legislation of this kind, operate on the other as the greatest encouragement to all just and needful measures whereby the law may second the efforts of an improving people, may expand their industry and enterprise, expand and thereby accelerate the progress of a beneficent movement. Since the year 1845, by public works, by loans, and grants, by money expended on drainage, and last, not least, by the multiplication of railways and other internal communication, the greatest advancement has been exhibited by Ireland. If it is not unduly trespassing on the time of the House I will state one or two striking instances of this improvement. We all know that live stock is a much more remarkable and critical test of prosperity in Ireland than in this part of the kingdom. The earliest record we have of the value of live stock in that country is now about 20 years old. It was then supposed to be worth £21,000,000 sterling. By the last return, if calculated at the same price, it would be now worth nearly £36,000,000 sterling. But that would be a most feeble and imperfect index of the true merits of the case, because the quantity itself has not more perceptibly increased than the quality has improved and the price risen. At a moderate estimate, the value is double what it was. If we take the holdings, the proportion to large and small ones is entirely changed; whereas at the time the Report of the Devon Commission was made the number of holdings under five acres was six times that of holdings above thirty acres. Now, however, the former are much less numerous than the latter. You have sold in the Landed Estates Court 2,000,000 acres of land for £23,000,000—most of it, I am happy to say, Irish money, not money imported from this kingdom—to more than 8,500 owners, who, having purchased it for purposes of improvements, must be taken to have expended a considerable capital on their property. I have no accurate information as to what the wages of agricultural labour were in Ireland in 1841, but if I put them at 6d. a-day I think I shall not be far wrong. At present the general average throughout the four provinces is 1s. 3d. per day. Ten years ago the number of persons evicted in the year was 72,000; last year it was 2,308. Looking at crime of an agricultural character, I find that ten years ago there were 15 agrarian homicides; last year only four. Ten years ago there were 20 cases of firing at the person, attributed to agricultural causes; last year one. Ten years ago there were 87 serious assaults of the same character; last year there were 19; making in the whole 122 agricultural crimes committed ten years ago, against 24 in the year just expired. If we turn to pecuniary results, we find that ten years ago the number of paupers relieved amounted to 2,142,000; last year it was 161,000. Ten years ago the expenditure amounted to 2,199,000; last year to £414,000. It is only right that I should state these facts to the House, because it would be uncandid to claim as the basis of a measure on this subject the statements made by the Devon Commission without also referring to the progress which has since been made. The exist- ence of that progress makes this appear to me a favourable time for legislating upon this important subject. We have greater prosperity among the landlords, the tenants, and the working people of the country, we have a better feeling diffused throughout the country, and we have arrived at a time when it may be hoped that just and equitable measures will meet with acceptance by this House. It is also a time when every report that is made to me shows that you cannot hope to pass this subject by without dealing with it; that coupled with that better feeling there is a sincere and earnest desire to have the law which has been so long in suspense, and to the alteration of which nearly every eminent man in the country has been pledged, settled once for all, so that we may have a definite state of the law under which, by the expenditure of the landlord's capital and the tenant's capital and the workman's labour, the growing prosperity of the country may be further developed. I am sure that every hon. Gentleman from Ireland will bear me witness when I say that, as a rule, the landlord holds under a settlement and the tenant holds without a lease. That is the statement upon which the Devon Commissioners proceeded, and it is to a great extent true at the present time. If that be the case, how can you expect the land to be improved? Whose interest is sufficiently strong to induce him to expend his capital upon its improvement? The owner who holds under a settlement, even if a person of considerable property, has to consider the claims of his younger children, who are not interested in the inheritance, and for whom he desires to secure a provision by means of his savings. The tenant having no lease has no sufficient protection to induce him to expend his capital or his labour. There are, then, three conditions under which you must endeavour to deal with the land if you wish to see it improved. Who is interested in its improvement? Not merely the present owner; indeed, it is almost true to say that he is the person who is least interested in it. Of all persons the reversioner is the most interested, because if he inherits land which bad laws have prevented his predecessors from improving he comes into a poor and impoverished inheritance, instead of a rich and prosperous one. In framing the Bill which we shall submit to the House we have endeavoured to deal with the land of Ireland in three categories; first, land in the hands of the limited owner; secondly, land in the hands of a tenant protected by a lease; and thirdly, land in the hands of a tenant who has no lease. With the permission of the House I will endeavour to explain shortly the provisions by which we propose to attain the object which we have in view. In the same year in which the Devon Commission reported, an important measure was passed having for its object the improvement of land. That Act was applicable to Ireland, and it enabled the limited owner to burden his land by mortgage for the purpose of draining, and to saddle the mortgage upon the estate in certain specified proportions. The machinery by which the Act was to be carried into effect was the Court of Chancery, and I am sorry to say that in Ireland not a single application has been made for the exercise of the powers given by the measure. We have the precedent of that Act, of the Montgomery Act, which has for seventy years been applied to Scotland with the most beneficial results, of the Scotch Settled Estates Act, and of other similar Acts, and we think that the principle of that precedent may properly be applied to limited owners under settlements in Ireland, and may be extended to purposes other than those of drainage. We think that for the purposes of this measure the word "improvements" may fairly include the thorough drainage of the land; the reclaiming and protection of land from tidal and other waters; the reclaiming of bog land; the reclaiming and enclosing waste land; clearing the land of stones; making roads or fences; the erection of farm buildings, houses for stewards, labourers, or other persons employed in superintending the cultivation of, or in cultivating, the land, and other buildings for farm purposes; the renewal and reconstruction of such works, so far as they are not required for maintenance, but for the increase of the permanent value. The mode in which we propose that this shall be accomplished is this. I have stated that the application to the Court of Chancery under the Act of 1845 was found so costly, that not a single petition was filed in that court. We, therefore, think that besides extending the scope of that Act, it is absolutely necessary to find a cheaper and better mode of carrying it into effect. What shall that machinery be? In the first place, I think you will agree with me that it would not be justifiable to create a new machinery, involving new expense, if there be already in existence one sufficient for the purpose. It has in former years been proposed to entrust the administration of this law to the Commissioner of Valuation, so that the valuators, who are spread through the land, might be his agents for carrying it into effect. Constitutional objections were always taken to that course, and I am bound to confess that I think that the officer by whose decision land is to be burdened ought to be a judicial and not an executive officer. It will be necessary, of course, to have the advice of executive officers; but the power of employing experts at present possessed by the Court of Chancery could easily be given to the Court exercising jurisdiction in these matters. We propose that, in the first instance, at least, the chairman of every county should exercise that jurisdiction, and that he should have power to employ experts to enable him to arrive at a sound decision. We think that probably the valuator employed for the public valuation would in most cases be the expert referred to, but we intend to leave the decision with the judicial and not with the executive officer. What we propose, therefore, is that when a limited owner seeks to improve his estate, he shall, through a cheap and simple agency, which is provided by the Bill, give notice to his successor. The Bill provides further that he shall at the expiration of three months from the period of notice being served appear before the chairman of the county and present an estimate of the cost of certain improvements and their nature; that the chairman shall hear the objections of any person who may be interested in the matter and think proper to appear, and, having satisfied himself on the subject by having recourse to the advice of a valuator or expert, give a provisional certificate for the execution of the improvements. We, moreover, propose that the successor and other persons interested in the property shall, during the progress of the works, have the power of ascertaining the bonâ fide character of the improvements and of the expenditure, and that when completed, the sum thus laid out shall be charged by the chairman under what may be called, a charging order as an annuity on the property. This annuity we propose should be the same as that which is given by the Settled Estates (Scotland) Act, £7 2s. for each £100 of the improved value of the property, to last for a period of twenty-five years; but that it shall not exceed one-fifth of the unimproved value of the property. It is, however, obvious that these are questions, of detail on which other opportunities will present themselves of entering more minutely into their consideration. The position of the limited owner will be this—so long as he remains in possession, he will, of course, himself enjoy the value of his improvements. After the termination of his estate, it is provided that the annuity, if he has made the advance, shall go to his executors for so long a period of the twenty-five years as has not expired. I do not, I may add, think that it will be necessary to encumber this arrangement with an appeal, and I therefore have inserted no provision in the Bill with that object; but if the House should be of opinion that the safeguards which I have introduced are not sufficient, they will have an opportunity of discussing the point in Committee. For my own part, I must say that, after the experience of the past, I have not deemed it expedient to encumber the Bill with provisions of that nature which would be likely to prove completely inoperative. When the annuity has been charged, it will be in the power of the limited owner to register it in the Public Registry in Dublin, and it will be a charge on the land bearing priority from its date. The limited owner will, then, under this Bill have much the same power in respect of improvements on his estate as that at present possessed by the owner in fee. The next case to which I would call the attention of the House is that of the tenant who improves under lease, and to this part of the case I think hon. Gentlemen from Ireland will agree with me in attaching the greatest importance. A few years ago the Settled Estates Act gave large powers for amending imperfect settlements by extending to them the usual powers of leasing. But, again, the machinery of that Act was limited to the Court of Chancery, and the applications which were made under it in Ireland were very few. We propose to extend its operation in three ways. In the first place, we propose to create a power of giving special improvement leases for a longer period than ordinary agricultural leases. We propose to include under this provision not only the limited owner in the ordinary sense, but also corporations, lay and ecclesiastical, and the owners of foundation schools, making the law in that respect of general application. However, the improvements which ought to be executed by a tenant are less extensive than those which ought to be executed by a landlord, because they extend only to his particular holding, and not to the whole estate. Therefore, when dealing with the improvements of tenants, we propose to leave out one or two of the heads which are included under that term in that part of the Bill which applies to limited owners. We propose that the tenant under lease should be able to execute such improvements as the draining of the land, the reclaiming of bog, the making of roads and fences on his own farm, the erection of farm houses and other suitable buildings, &c. That which we propose to do with regard to the lease itself is this—at present every limited owner can give an agricultural lease for twenty-one years without the intervention of any court, and we propose to allow corporations to do the same. With respect to improvement leases we propose that they may be granted, with the sanction of the chairman of the county, for a period of forty years. We propose that building leases, which in fact amount to an alienation, may be granted, as they are granted under the Settled Estates (Scotland) Act, and as they are granted under many special Acts referring to Ireland, that they may be granted with the leave of the Landed Estates Court, if they relate to a larger quantity of land than three acres, or to a larger value than £100 a year, and if less, then with the sanction of the chairman of the county. We propose that all these leases shall be subject to three conditions, that they shall give immediate possession, that they shall be granted without fine, and that they shall be subject to certain covenants. There still remains another, and that by no means the least complicated part of the subject. To this part of it my attention was directed in the course of the last Session by the hon. Member for Tipperary (The O'Donoghue), who expressed a hope that it would be satisfactorily dealt with in any measure on the subject which the Government might introduce. The case which the hon. Gentleman mentioned on the occasion to which I allude was, that in which the owner of property, believing he had a leasing power, gave to his tenant a lease for his life, under which he agreed to improve the estate which he held. The tenant accordingly began to improve the property, and expended with that view a small sum of money. The landlord died, and the tenant went on spending a larger sum on improvements. A dispute, however, soon after arose between himself and the new proprietor of the land. Legal proceedings were taken, and the case was heard before the Master of the Bolls in Ireland, a most distinguished Judge, who, in pronouncing his decision, said that he was compelled to give judgment against the tenant, but that nothing could be more repugnant to the principles of natural justice than that the landlord should look on at a great expenditure year after year without warning the tenant of his intention to turn him out of possession of his farm. He added that he had no jurisdiction to administer equity in its natural sense, or he should have no difficulty as to the judgment which he should pronounce. The case subsequently came before the Lords Justices of Appeal—Mr. Blackburn and Mr. Napier—and they did not express their dissent from the language which the Master of the Rolls had employed. Such was the instance which the hon. Member for Tipperary brought under the notice of the Government, and I trust the provisions of the Bill which I have already sketched out have shown the hon. Gentleman that the landlord will have the power of giving a lease, although his own settlement contains no such power, and, therefore, by an arrangement with his original landlord, the tenant will have the benefit of the protection afforded by the Act. To whatever extent the House may think it right that this Bill ought to provide such protection, to that extent, under the leasing powers of the Bill, the tenant will have protection. There yet remain other provisions, however, which the hon. Gentleman may deem more adequate to effect that object, and in approaching this part of the subject, I desire to state in the first place what it is in connection with it which we cannot accomplish. In the first place, I shall fairly avow that we intend to make no attempt to give what is called retrospective compensation. Our legislation is intended to be entirely prospective. I appeal to those who think that we ought to give retrospective compensation to remember the history of retrospective legislation when other measures have been brought before the House; and last, not least, I ask them to remember what occurred last year, when a deputation of those gentlemen who had taken most interest in this subject wait- ed upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, who was then the leader of this House, requested him to exercise the power of the Government to bring this question to a settlement, and stated to him their views upon the subject of retrospective compensation. They stated in the most distinct and emphatic manner that they did not expect retrospective compensation, and that they desired a sound and reasonable Bill which would give prospective compensation for prospective improvements. When a discussion arose in this House the year before last the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire), the last Member not in office who had the conduct of a Bill of this kind, which measure failed to obtain the sanction of the House, in stating the reasons which caused his failure, used the expressions to which I shall now appeal as a sufficient explanation why those who, like himself, have exerted themselves to the utmost of their power to obtain what they believed to be right and just for the tenants of Ireland should not refuse to accept that which is practicable because they cannot obtain that which experience has shown the two Houses of Parliament will not grant. "The Bill," said the hon. Gentleman, "which I brought in was rejected by an overwhelming majority—a majority of something like three to one. Why did I fail? Because my measure contained what is known as the retrospective principle with regard to compensation for improvements." Then, he asked, were he and his friends to continue to press on a measure which they knew must result in failure and disappointment? and he said, most justly and emphatically, "If we had done so, we should have deserved the scorn of this House and the contempt of our countrymen. Instead of doing this, instead of demanding something which we knew we could not get, my friends and myself have resolved to do something practical." I entirely appreciate the wisdom of those observations. The object which I have in view is to bring in a Bill which, if it does not obtain popularity and satisfy all expectations, may at any rate do some practical good and pass into law, and therefore I frankly state at once that I have no intention of dealing with the question of retrospective compensation. Are we, then, to sanction prospective improvements without permitting the landlord to have any voice or any opinion as to the effect of those improve ments upon his land? I shall not debate now the justice or injustice of the question, but I think it is absolutely necessary for the success of any measure that we should not interfere with the power of the landlord in that matter, and that we should reserve to him the right of objecting to improvements if he does not think they will benefit his estate. If, then, we cannot violate the law of property—if we cannot give what is called fixity of tenure, by which I understand the transferring the property from the landlord to the tenant—is there nothing we can do? I think we have it in our power to accomplish a great and most important practical result. I think we have it in our power to give to an improving tenant that which is of value to him—the certainty of compensation. I think we can put him beyond the risk and hazard of being left in the position of the plaintiff in the case that came before the Master of the Rolls. I think we can insure to him a cheap, simple, and certain mechanism by which, if he chooses to execute improvements, he will be quite certain that the result of those improvements will return into his own bosom. That is the object I have in view, that is the object which I trust we shall be able to attain. Can we give compensation in the shape of a capital payment? I think it is impossible to give it by a capital payment. I have told you that the general rule in Ireland is that a landlord holds under a settlement. If a landlord holds under a settlement, and if the period of his settlement may shortly expire, how can you enable the tenant to improve, and then saddle the whole cost of the improvements upon the landlord who has only a limited interest in the land? I think it is impossible you can do that, but you can give an improving tenant the certainty of compensation, and you can give it him in that same form of an annuity by which you have already provided it for an improving landlord. In order to carry this plan into execution, we propose that when a tenant seeks to improve he shall serve upon his landlord a notice of his intention. I ought, perhaps, to say, with regard to this notice, that we intend to have forms of notice printed and sold at a small price, so that an improving tenant shall not be subject to any legal expense that might be otherwise incurred. We propose, then, that he shall serve a notice upon his landlord or upon the agent who receives the rent of the land. If the landlord disapprove the improvement, he will have the power to terminate the tenancy. We believe that this will practically lead, not to a termination of the tenancy, which would be a great mischief, but to a written agreement between the parties as to the terms on which the holding shall be continued. I believe hon. Gentlemen connected with Ireland will agree with me when I say that one of the most desirable results which could arise in that country would be obtained by the introduction of business-like written engagements between landlord and tenant with respect to the occupancy and improvement of land. I believe that the effect of this provision will be whenever the landlord disapproves, not that he will evict the tenant, but that he will enter into a written agreement with him for the improvement of the land; but supposing the landlord to take no step, then he will be held to have acquiesced, and the tenant will execute the improvements contained in his notice. He will then go before the chairman of the county to prove the value and extent of the improvements, whereupon he will obtain a provisional certificate, which certificate will give him an annuity calculated at 5 per cent upon every £100 expended in the improvements, or £7 2s. for 25 years. If he be evicted by his landlord, he will go before the chairman and obtain a charging order, accounting for his arrears of rent, and that charging order, transferable and saleable, will be duly confirmed and registered, and will be binding on all to whom the land may come. It is obvious that the hardship denounced in such strong and forcible language by the Master of the Rolls cannot arise if this arrangement be carried into effect. As I said before, it will not satisfy the expectations of those who want retrospective compensation, of those who think that the landlord should have no voice in the improvement of his property, of those who desire to have fixity of tenure. I frankly acknowledge that I cannot hope to satisfy those expectations, but I can appeal to the gentlemen who entertain them whether, after the evidence they have had of the certain failure of every measure which contained such provisions, they would consider it an honest act on the part of the Government to propose another Bill of the same kind, or whether they would care to commit themselves to an obstinate adherence to an impracticable and unattainable measure. I ask them not to reject measures which will set free the land of Ireland for extensive, but, at the same time, just, equitable and beneficial improvements, because they cannot obtain that to which they attach importance, but which they know well the two Houses of Parliament will never grant. I can make a further appeal to them. If they think that I have been too timid in not venturing to adopt plans which I believe would not receive the sanction of Parliament, they will have an opportunity when we go into Committee of taking the sense of the House upon those plans, and of regulating their conduct according to the event. The measure which I have explained to the House, whatever may be its shortcomings, will set free the land in the hands of limited owners, and will enable those owners, whether they be sole owners, or corporations, trustees of schools, or clergymen, to give improvement leases; and I say that whoever succeeds in carrying a measure which shall settle the law upon this subject will confer a great benefit upon Ireland. If the measure is not of an aspiring character, I hope on that account it will commend itself to the candid consideration of the House. Surely there have been difficulties enough during the twenty-five years we have been dealing with the subject, and it is time we obtained for the people of Ireland some degree of improvement. The Encumbered Estates Act has conferred a signal benefit on Ireland in regard to land which has passed into the hands of new proprietors; let us by mutual co-operation try to arrive at some measure that will benefit that larger portion of the soil of Ireland, which, I trust, will descend to remote generations in the hands of its present possessors.

Motion made, and Question proposed,— That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Law relating to the Tenure and Improvement of Land in Ireland.


said, he could not concur in thinking that Ireland was so extremely prosperous as had been represented. The statistics of the two periods could not fairly be compared. Ten years ago Ireland was only coming out of on appalling famine, from which even now she was only recovering. Neither was he so sanguine as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be as to the good results of the measure. In the first place, a large portion of the Bill was only an enabling Bill to put landlords in a position to raise money at 7½ per cent upon an annuity which was to last for twenty-five years, and which was calculated at 7½ per cent. [Mr. CARDWELL: I believe it is calculated at an annuity of 5 per cent.] But the right hon. Gentleman had forgotten to tell who was to lend the money; and that brought him to the most important part of the question, namely, who in Ireland possessed capital to lay out in improvements on the land? He believed that the farmers were the only class that possessed capital to lay out on such improvements; and, if so, any measure to be effective must be such as to induce those who had capital to lay it out in that way. But that could not be done without giving them some security for its investment. Now laws of this kind were not made between the good landlord and his tenant, but between the bad landlord and his tenant; and how did the right hon. Gentleman purpose to deal with the two? In ordinary circumstances it would be bad enough for a man who would not allow his tenant to improve, to eject him; but instead of that, down came Cardwell's Act to do it for him. The law would be known in Ireland as Cardwell's Act. He could not see how it could have anything but the worst effect—it was giving the sanction of an Act of Parliament to the ejectment of an improving tenant. It would be better to allow the present state of things to exist than to attempt to interfere by such, legislative quackery. The fright hon. Gentleman was afraid to deal boldly with the question, and he attempted to deal with it in this insufficient manner. The Bill would do no good, but might, he feared, do much harm.


said, as one of the deputation which had been alluded to, he did not abandon or repudiate the principle of retrospective compensation; but merely stated that he would not obstruct a measure which had other good points, because it did not contain that one. He did not quite understand that part of the measure by which it appeared that if the landlord and tenant did not agree as to the improvements the tenancy was to cease. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the prosperity of Ireland; he did not think that prosperity rested on a very sound basis; it was caused by the diminution of the population. The extension of farms was brought about by a process of wholesale eviction, which in Ireland was not considered a great sign of prosperity. The first part of the Bill he could not understand; the second part referred to occupiers who had no leases, and it could not do said that the measure was likely to better their condition. The Government was dealing with Ireland like a doctor with a hypochrondriac patient; feeling that it must do something, it prescribed bread pills.


said, he was disposed to take a more favourable view of the Bill than the noble Lord or the hon. Member who had just spoken. It embodied three main principles; two of them could easily be carried out; with the third there might be some difficulty. The principle of enabling a person having a limited ownership of land to improve it, and charge a portion of the expense on his successor, who would reap the benefit of the improvement, was a sound principle. It was adopted nearly eighty years ago in Scotland under the Montgomery Act, which enabled the owners of entailed estates to improve the land and charge a limited portion of the outlay on the successor; but the charge was made in a gross sum—not as an annuity, and the amount was regulated by the annual rental of the estate. He thought that principle wise and beneficial. Then there was another principle, recognized from the earliest period as one of the justest and most humane, embodied in the Bill; he alluded to the proposal of allowing limited owners to give secure tenures to the tenants. There were at least fifty Acts providing leasing powers in Ireland, and five of them had been passed within the last three years. They were all, however, insufficient, but the right hon. Gentleman had got through the difficulty by proposing a uniform leasing power, which all might take advantage of. With regard to the third portion of the Bill, providing machinery by which tenants from year to year might be permitted to expend their capital for the improvement of the estate, he could not go along with the right hon. Gentleman. He listened to the explanation of that part of the measure with attention, for he knew there lay the difficulty, and he did not think that the right hon. Gentleman had provided much, or, indeed, any remedy. Any provision for the purpose was liable to the objection of converting a temporary tenure, such as that of tenant from year to year, into a settlement, and that was an infringement of the law of property. The difficulty of legislating on this point was great, and he did not think the right hon. Gentleman had mastered it; and, therefore, from this portion of the Bill he must withhold all praise. The right hon. Gentleman might have introduced a useful provision, for which there were precedents in Ireland, conferring on tenants who hold by leases power to improve their lands.


said, he could assure the House that no one had listened with greater anxiety and deeper attention to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman than he had done. He had listened to the right hon. Gentleman in no cynical or captious spirit, and with no desire that the statement he made should be unsatisfactory to the country which he officially represented. On the contrary, he was anxious that the question should be finally and satisfactorily settled, that all legislation on the subject should end with the end of the present Session, and that, if possible, the name of tenant-right should never again be heard in that House. But, however much he admired two portions of the Bill, there was one part which might be considered its weak point, and on which his noble Friend (Lord Fermoy) only gave expression to the feeling of disappointment and pain which every Irish Member felt. He agreed with his noble Friend, that if the right hon. Gentleman did not amend and greatly alter that portion of the Bill, and the most vicious machinery which had been sketched out, his name would be associated in Ireland with evictions in every part of the country. That was surely not an object which the right hon. Gentleman, who was benevolently inclined, and was anxious to associate his name with the prosperity of Ireland, could have had in view. Irish Members were struck with astonishment when they heard that if a tenant from year to year wished to improve his land, and his landlord did not think the improvement would be beneficial, or objected to it from any motive—of folly, or viciousness, or a grudging disposition—the unfortunate man, whose spirit of industry and enterprise had induced him to make the offer, was to be victimized in consequence of his having possessed the very virtues which the right hon. Gentleman was anxious to instil into his mind. With every feeling of respect and friendliness towards the right hon. Gentleman, he could not help saying that a more vicious suggestion for the landlord, or a more fatal result for the tenant, could not by any possibility be imagined. The right hon. Gentleman admitted the fact that most of the land in Ireland was held from year to year. That was a fact quite notorious to every one; indeed, he might challenge any Irish Gentleman to say, whether five-sixths of the land occupied by tenants was not held from year to year. Although the landlord might not disturb the tenant, and although in the instances of honourable, and fair, and kind landlords, the tenancy might be as good as a lease, still the fact remained, that the vast majority of tenants held only from year to year. Who then were to improve the condition of Ireland? In whose hands was the soil—on whose energy and industry must the Country depend? Just those very tenants from year to year. If they had not energy and industry, all legislation would be abortive, and the most benevolently inclined Minister and the most anxious Parliament could do nothing in the matter. How then could such men ever be induced to exert the qualities upon which so much depended, if a poor, struggling, industrious man, the moment he asked permission to improve his land, might be turned upon the roadside by some churlish, ill-conditioned, or vicious landlord? It might be said that such landlords would not be often met with; but had the House contemplated how one single act of such cruelty and folly might extinguish for a generation every impulse to improvement in the district where it was committed? If the right hon. Gentleman wanted a precedent for a practical and judicious measure, he might have found it in a Bill prepared by a former distinguished Member of that House—a late Lord Chancellor of Ireland. By that measure a tenant might improve even in spite of his landlord, and might claim compensation—not indeed for useless or extravagant outlay—not for the building of a pagoda or a piece of Gothic ornamental structure—but for improvements which were proved to be suitable, practicably valuable, and for the benefit of the land. He was most anxious, as he was sure his hon. Friends were, to give the Government every assistance in carrying through the Bill; but he believed in his heart and soul they would be deserting their country, and sowing the seeds of future evil, if they sanctioned at least that portion of its provisions. He, therefore, earnestly appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw that clause of the Bill, which was not only vicious but ab- surd; and which, while effecting no single object the right hon. Gentleman desired to effect, would inevitably operate as an encouragement and source of evictions in Ireland.


said, there was one portion of the speech of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell) that was extremely important as regarded hon. Gentlemen not connected with Ireland. He laid down in the clearest manner why it was rendered necessary to have a different system of legislation between landlord and tenant from that which obtained in England and Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman showed that in Ireland those improvements which were considered to be landlords' improvements in England were made either not at all or were made by the tenant. The one test they had to apply to the Bill of his right hon. Friend was, whether the Bill met that difficulty or not. He (Mr. Monsell) agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Mallow (Mr. Longfield), that the two first features of the Bill were founded upon sound principles; but he could not agree that they were likely to produce very important results, and he would tell the House his reason. There existed at the present moment, or within the last year, a system in Ireland, by which landlords, whether with entailed estates or not, might proceed to the Board of works and borrow money upon much more advantageous terms, namely, at 3½ per cent, the repayment of the whole money to be at 6½ per cent for twenty-two years, by which drainage and also farm buildings were enabled to be executed. Though he agreed with the principle, he was afraid that part of the measure was not likely to produce very important results. The real question of importance in the Bill was the way in which it affected that great mass of people who in Ireland were tenants-at-will. Unless they exerted themselves to induce that class to spend the capital they had been accumulating for the last three or four years upon their land, that land would not be improved. He asked any Gentleman who had listened to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, whether this measure was likely to produce the desired result, of encouraging those tenants to spend their money upon the improvement of the land. Let them consider what the process was to be. The tenant was to serve a notice upon the landlord that he wished to make such and such improvements, and if the landlord refused to give his assent to those improvements, a compulsory eviction might take place. Under such circumstances, was it possible to imagine that a tenant would go to his landlord and say to him he wished to make such and such improvements, when he knew that if the landlord refused to allow him to make those improvements, he might be immediately turned out of the farm? He really hoped that he did not understand the measure as it had been explained, but, if he did understand it, it seemed to him calculated to make things infinitely worse than they were at present. He did not think this measure would give satisfaction to the people of Ireland.


said, it was impossible to discuss a measure of this kind without seeing the Bill, because a great deal of its value would depend upon the machinery toy which it was to be worked. There was a great deal of this measure that he for one could not assent to. He was not content that the chairman of the county, without appeal, should have the large powers given to him as proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. As to the power of granting leases, that had been proposed over and over again; but now they had chiefly to deal with the tenants from year to year. There was much difficulty in dealing with that question, no doubt. In the province of Ulster the great bulk of the population were tenants from year to year; and he had no hesitation in saying that if the clause of the Bill, as he understood it, referring to tenants at will should be made applicable to that province a flame of discontent would rise from one end of the country to the other. He was anxious to protect the rights of property; but he, for one, could never give his consent to that clause. A landlord, no doubt, ought to have the opportunity of exercising his judgment, but in this Bill it was proposed, as he collected, to enforce by the landlord eviction against a tenant civilly asking permission to make improvements. [Cries of "No ! "] He had certainly so understood, and if he had misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman's intention it was not his fault. Was the landlord to have the power of saying to his tenant, "For your audacity, Sir, in making this application to me, go about your business?" The fact was that the necessity for legislation on this subject every day diminished. Tenants were far more prosperous now than they were some years ago, and it was well that this was the case. He would not say in what part of Ireland he was a short time ago when he had a conversation with a banker, and asked him what was the state of the farmers in his neighbourhood? The reply was, "I cash bills now for £100 for men for whom seven years ago I would not have cashed a bill for £10." The true interest of the landlord was to encourage the tenant, and not to try to squeeze the last farthing out of him. By the custom of the country tenancies in the North of Ireland were mostly from year to year; but it was a mistake to suppose that the landlords generally got high rents. The rents were moderate, but the landlords always got them. That was, nearly always. He recollected an extensive landowner in Ulster telling him, that during the famine year he got all his rent, minus £100. Believing the worst legislation to be that which was calculated to produce quarrels between landlords and tenants, he could not give his assent to this part of the Bill; but he would willingly lend assistance towards improving its machinery, so far as it related to leasing powers. The worst legislation they could have was that which would tend to produce quarrels between landlords and tenants; but if the Government proposed to enlarge leasing powers such enactments should have his best support.


said, he rose to remove a misapprehension which appeared to have arisen in the minds of the noble Lord below the gangway (Lord Fermoy) and other hon. Gentlemen as to the intentions of the Government. It was assumed that the Bill gave increased facilities for eviction. Nothing was more contrary to the real provisions of the Bill or the spirit of its framers. All that was intended was that the landlord should have a veto on the improvements, that he should be enabled to exercise his judgment whether they were calculated to improve the land, before he was bound to pay compensation for them. If he did not think they ought to be carried out the tenant was warned, and must proceed with them at his own risk. The result, they hoped, would be some written arrangement between them, by which both parties would understand their relative position, and the tenant would be enabled to take advantage of the beneficial provisions of the Bill to acquire a term from which neither the remainderman nor the encum- brancer could disturb him. The class of tenancies to which the operation of the Bill was confined was that of tenants from year to year, for considerable difficulty would be experienced in dealing with those in which the leases constituted regular contracts between the landlord and tenant. The Bill proposed by the late Lord Chancellor of Ireland had never, he might remark, obtained the assent of Parliament, but the hon. and learned Gentleman had felt bound to withdraw from the responsibility of having originated it. In 1855, when a Bill was proposed Tinder the auspices of his noble Friend at the head of the Government, containing provisions with regard to improvements executed by tenants holding under lease, they had been strongly opposed by the hon. and learned Member for Wexford (Mr. George), and it was only by the utmost exertions of the Government, and by a very narrow majority, that the clause had been retained in the Bill.


said, he would not enter into a discussion of the measure, but simply say that he entirely concurred in all the objections which had been taken to the Bill, which did not remedy any of the grievances complained of by the people of Ireland. He advised the Government to withdraw it with a good grace, and to bring forward some measure more adapted to the requirements of that country.


said, he wished to express a hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who had shown an anxious desire to render his term of office beneficial to the people of Ireland, would cause such modifications to be introduced into the Bill as would fulfil their reasonable expectations. He was not as much in love with the landlords of Ulster as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside), for the records of the House would show that of the atrocities perpetrated by the landlords of Ireland—which was saying a good deal—the most striking were performed by that very class.


said, that without entering into the details of the Bill he wished to state that he believed it to be free from several of the prominent objections which had been urged with regard to former measures on the same subject, and there were no indications whatever of a desire to give to the measure a retrospective tendency, which he should have felt it his duty most strongly to oppose. He did not agree with some hon. Gentlemen in thinking that an additional power of eviction would be given; the privilege of the landlord was neither accelerated by the circumstance of the veto, nor, on the other hand, was the power of evicting tenants at will, after the ordinary six months' notice, interfered with.


remarked that he cordially agreed in all that every Irish Member had urged in condemnation of the measure, and would recommend the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw it.


said, he spoke with reluctance in reference to an Irish measure, but the Bill involved principles which were not applicable peculiarly to Ireland. The time was rapidly approaching when the condition of Ireland would be equal, if not superior, to that of England; and he saw no reason, therefore, why any distinction should exist between the legislation in the two countries on these subjects. Consequently, if the measure were proposed to be extended to England he should not entertain those objections to it which had been expressed by Irish Members. There could be no more reasonable principle than that the landlord, with the concurrence of the tenant, should be enabled to improve the land, and charge the cost of the improvement on the land so as to bind his successor. In England a somewhat similar principle existed in reference to parsonage houses, the rate of interest being so arranged that it did not press with any severity on the person by whom the money was borrowed, but left him with an improved estate, and a gradually diminishing scale of payments. That seemed to him to be a sound principle. He did not think, however, that it would have much operation in Ireland, as landlords already had power to borrow money for improving their estates. By the Settled Estates Act, it was provided, that with the consent of the Court of Chancery, certain provisions might be inserted in settlements which had been omitted by their settlors. This was a matter of the greatest importance, and one hon. Member had asked where was the money to come from? Well, there were many persons who might be willing to lend the money. The landlord, himself, might not desire to put his own money into an estate which might go after him to his own child or to some other person. [Laughter.] He repeated the landlord might not like to lend the money unless he saw that his return was secure. Taking that view of the question and noticing the great assimilation which was growing up between England and Ireland he would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman whether he should not cease to treat this measure as an Irish Bill, but extend its provisions to England, so as to make it an Imperial question. He was glad to learn, however, that the impression which be had certainly gathered from the right hon. Gentleman's statement was incorrect—namely, that if a tenant from year to year served notice upon his landlord of a desire to make improvements, and the landlord did not accede, that was to be equivalent to a notice to quit.


said, that he was afraid that he had been the cause of some misunderstanding from a desire of being perfectly candid with those hon. Gentlemen who were advocates of tenant right. He wished distinctly to express that the veto with regard to the expense of repairs was to be left with the landlord. It gave no encouragement to evictions, but in the belief of the Government would lead to a more general system of written agreements between landlord and tenant. They wished to avoid the possibility of the landlord lying by appearing to acquiesce in the tenant's improvements, and then turning round and evicting the tenant, and taking advantage of his labour and capital. With regard to the other points of the Bill, the right hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell) was quite mistaken in supposing that the powers intended to be conferred by the Bill already existed in Ireland. All that existed was a loan, which was nearly all exhausted. With regard to another point, it was the fact that leasing powers did not exist in Ireland. He begged further to say that it was open to any hon. Gentleman to bring forward any plan which he might deem feasible, and see whether it would be favourably accepted by the House or not.

Leave given.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. CARDWELL and Mr. ATTORNEY GENARAL for IRELAND.

Bill presented and read 1°.