HC Deb 02 May 1860 vol 158 cc539-41

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he rose to move the second reading of this Bill. It only dealt with the third part of the Government measure, and he introduced it because he believed from the frequent postponements of the Bills of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, that nothing would be done this Session in respect to them. The right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary, had spoken of the improved condition of Ireland, as evidenced by the increase in the number of horned cattle. It might be a proof of the prosperity of the graziers, but must not be taken as a sign of national prosperity when the population was diminishing, and the acreage sown with grain becoming less every year. In 1849 the extent of the wheat crop in Ireland was 687,000 acres. In 1859 it was 464,000 acres. In 1849 the extent of the barley crop was 290,000— 1859, 177,000 acres. In 1849 the extent of the oat crop was 2,061,000 acres; in 1859, 1,982,000 acres. There was the same decrease in the crops of rye, beans, and peas. It was clear that Ireland had not made that extraordinary progress under free trade which the right hon. Gentleman would have the House believe. During the past year there had been an extraordinary falling off in population, and a newspaper in the west of Ireland spoke of the widespread destitution and almost unexampled suffering which, upon the authority of faithful witnesses, was known to exist. The right hon. Gentleman had laid down the admirable principle that they must do in Ireland by process of law what was done by usage and practice in England. He cordially concurred in that principle, and this Bill would carry it into practical effect. It was not carried out by the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, because the tenant from year to year would have no claim for improvements, unless the landlord had in the first instance signified his consent. In England it was an ordinary circumstance to allow the tenant a retrospective compensation, but in Ireland a statute law was necessary to enable the tenants to obtain it. With regard to that compensation, he had adopted the limit of twenty years, the same as the late Lord Chancellor of Ireland (Mr. Napier) had proposed, and supported by very learned and conclusive arguments; but he understood that an hon. Friend would move to substitute two years, and, as that was a question for Committee, and not one of principle, he should not deem that any Gentleman in voting for the second reading, bound himself to vote for the clause. The Report of the Commission, presided over by Lord Devon, recommended that some law should be passed which would enable tenants to claim and obtain compensation for improvements, and they stated that nothing remained but to pass a legislative measure for the purpose. The Report of the Commissioners was made in 1846, and many years had elapsed and nothing had been done by Parliament. He believed a settlement of the question was further off than ever, and he felt quite sure that the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland would not in the slightest degree diminish the agitation which prevailed in Ireland. A tenant who gave up his holding, or was ejected after making improvements with the landlord's consent, was to be paid an annuity at the rate of 7½ per cent on the value of the improvements. If a tenant laid out £50, and two years afterwards was ejected, according to the Government Bill he would be entitled to £3 10s. premium for twenty-three years. As a general rule, tenants who gave up in Ireland wanted to emigrate, and he suggested that it would be more convenient to them as well as to their landlords to substitute a capital payment in lieu of the annuity. The measure introduced by the Government of the Earl of Derby was a most excellent Bill and much better calculated to carry out the object in view than the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He did not wish to interfere with the rights of landlords. He felt the importance of preserving those rights intact, and he believed his Bill, by inducing the expenditure of £11,000,000 of capital on the land through the security it would afford to tenants would tend to raise the value of land, increase the prosperity of landlords as well as tenants, and raise up better feelings between them. He would not propose such a measure if he did not believe that it was just and equitable—

The hon. Member was proceeding with his speech at a quarter to Six o'clock, when Mr. SPEAKER interrupted him.

Second Reading deferred till To-morrow.

House adjourned at thirteen minutes before Six o'clock.