HC Deb 30 April 1866 vol 183 cc214-31

said, that in proposing to the House, on the part of the Government, a fresh measure upon the important question of the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland, he was quite aware of the great delicacy and difficulty of the subject they had in hand, and he knew very well the ill-success which attempts at such legislation had met with for many years past, although they had been made by men of great ability and earnestness. But although this was the case, he had at least this consolation, that the House during the last twenty years had over and over again recognized the existence in Ireland of evils requiring a remedy, and had admitted its bounden duty to see that such a remedy should be found. Those proposals had been made from time to time by many eminent and honest men—by one who might be termed the patriarch of the question—he referred to Mr. Sharman Crawford, by Mr. Serjeant Shee, by Mr. Napier—for whose authority Gentlemen opposite would, he had no doubt, have the most profound reverence; by his hon. Friend the Member for Cork, and by other Gentlemen. The House, upon these various invitations, had constantly admitted the propriety of considering the subject, and had agreed to important and even courageous measures with respect to it. He had especially in his mind the measures of 1853, which were founded in all their essential provisions upon the Bills of Mr. Napier, who represented the party opposite, then in power—Bills which were successfully carried through the House, though they eventually failed to pass the other branch of the Legislature. More than that, legislation on that great question was, whatever might be thought of its results, carried through and reduced into the form of an Act of Parliament by his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies in 1860. In speaking of that Act which, as was proved by the Committee which was last year presided over by his hon. Friend the Member for Cork, had not been effectual for the purpose intended, he desired to pay a tribute of justice to his right hon. Friend. That Act admitted important principles, in itself a fact of immense importance in a question of that sort. It was large, benevolent, and beneficent in its intentions. It was framed with all the consideration, care, and conscientious knowledge of the subject which distinguished his right hon. Friend in every matter which he touched. We knew, however, by experience—and it was easy to be wise after the event—that surrounded as it was by every kind of safeguard and precaution justifiable in a case of exceptional legislation, had turned out to be practically a dead letter. Such was the state of things which had led his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cork to move for his Committee last Session, and which, of course, obliged the Government readily to assent to the inquiry. It was, he might add, that state of things which now made it the duty of the Government to bring forward some measure which by simplifying the Act of 1860 should carry out the just and wise intentions which that Act had in view, and give motion and vitality to its enactments. It had been felt in all the attempts at legislation on the subject that there was a vital difference between the circumstances of England and Scotland, on the one hand, and Ireland on the other, with respect to the relation of landlord and tenant which justified and demanded at the hands of the House of Commons an exceptional mode of legislation for the last-mentioned country. That difference lay at the foundation of all the past attempts at legislation which had been made, and was at once the justification and constituted the duty of the Government in bringing forward the present measure. In fact, the only resemblance he knew of between the tenure of land in Great Britain and Ireland was that in both countries, which differed therein from al- most all the rest of the civilized world, the tenure of the tenant was short, precarious, and uncertain. But that state of things, anomalous as it might be, different as it was from the practice in other countries, had not produced in Great Britain those disadvantages by which it was attended in Ireland. It was commonly and most truly said that there was the essential distinction between the practice in England and Ireland that in this country the permanent improvement, and, he must say, the requisites for the cultivation and decent habitation of a farm, were provided by the landlord out of his own capital, whereas they were in Ireland left for the most part to the industry and the outlay of the tenant. These were facts with which the House was familiar, which lay at the root of all legislation on the subject, which had been so long ago as the time of the Report of the Devon Commission most strongly and emphatically stated by that important authority, and which were in a great degree as true to-day as they were then. The difference between the state of things in the two countries went even further, because, though it was the fact that the landlords in this country and in Scotland had done great things in the improvement of their estates, it was equally true that great things had been accomplished by English and Scotch tenants. That was accounted for by the happy circumstance that in this country there prevailed, and had prevailed for centuries and generations, an amount of hereditary confidence between the landlord and tenant which did not exist in Ireland, nor, he believed, in any other country in Europe—a confidence amounting, as stated by Adam Smith, to the production of a result nowhere else to be found in Europe—that of a tenant holding by a precarious tenure venturing to make improvements on his farm, trusting simply to the honour and generosity of the landlord. Such a state of things did not exist in Ireland. He would not go into the causes which led to that being so, and to trace which would require that he should enter into a historic review. It was sufficient to say that, as hon. Members knew very well, there was not that confidence between landlord and tenant in Ireland, that community of feeling, that mutual respect, that identity of race and religion which had produced in this country that happy, but most exceptional, state of things to which he had adverted. The consequence was that it was not to be ex- pected that identical laws would produce equally good effects in two countries in which the circumstances to which they were applied were so entirely different. That contrast of facts was fully admitted by the Act of 1860. We had, however, learnt much from the experience drawn from the six years since that Act had passed. That Act laid down important principles, but it was hampered in its operations and precautions and safeguards which it was now found had prevented it from attaining the object for which it was passed. That Act consisted of three parts. The first dealt with the improvements of the landlord, and he found that that portion of the Act had been brought into operation to a very insignificant degree. It was impossible, however, to say that the landlords had refused to make use of it from any indisposition to improve their estates, so far as they could prudently do so. There were, indeed, facts to the contrary. The House was aware what use the landlords in Ireland had made of those admirable powers for the improvement of land which were given under the supervision of the Board of Works. Since the Act giving those powers had passed, there had been no less than 5,000 applications from Irish landlords for the use of £5,000,000 for the improvement of their estates. Those applications went far beyond the funds at the disposal of the Board of Works, but nearly £2,000,000 had been used for the improvement of their I estates by the Irish landlords. It was clearly, therefore, from no indisposition to effect such improvements that the land-lords had not availed themselves of the first portion of the Act of 1860. He hoped by dispensing with the trouble and expense which the present state of the law necessitated—so far as was possible—that a different result would be produced. The next part of the Act of 1860 was that which dealt with leasing powers. That part also laid down a most comprehensive and important principle—the principle that no private settlement should be allowed to stand in the way of a proper and beneficial leasing power; but the Act surrounded that principle with restrictions which rendered it in the same way inoperative. He proposed to reserve the necessity of applying to a Court as at present in order to obtain its adjudication to cases in which the successor to an estate should raise an objection, but at the same time to extend the terms of the leasing power given by the Act of 1860. The leases which that Act enabled the limited owner to grant were leases of twenty-one years in the case of ordinary agricultural leases, and forty-one years for building or reclamation leases. He proposed to extend those terms to thirty-one and sixty-one years respectively. The terms which he proposed were those which were proposed by Mr. Napier in his Bill, and which that House had on a former occasion sanctioned, though they were afterwards cut down to a lower figure in another place. Those powers were only enabling powers, and there would be no compulsion on the landlord to grant one term of lease rather than another, but he thought it was wise and safe that the limited owner should possess the power of giving longer leases if he thought right. It was sometimes said that it was a mistake to encourage the granting of long leases in Ireland. His own belief was that that objection was founded upon an idea totally inaccurate. No doubt in old times long leases at low rentals did lead to that system of middle letting which had been the curse of the country. When the farming of land was in the hands of an oppressed and despised class the notion was prevalent that there was nothing respectable in Ireland except the possession of land and living in idleness. That, coupled with the war prices, gave rise to an extravagant and unnatural competition for land. But all that had passed away now. There had been a gratifying and remarkable improvement in the management of land; subletting had been greatly discouraged; profit rents had become almost impossible, and industrious, honest farming was preferred to the old idle life of the Irish squireen. There was no reason to have any fears of the operation of long leases and good tenures in Ireland. On the contrary, he believed that their effect would be most beneficial to the interests of the country. He now came to the third and most important provision of the Act of 1860—namely, that which dealt with the tenants' improvements. There was no longer any doubt that the tenants in Ireland were willing to improve the lands they held. Every one who knew anything of Ireland was aware that, while labouring under all sorts of difficulties, and in the face of great discouragement, the small Irish cottiers had comparatively speaking done wonders in this respect. He never went through the country without wondering at the improvements which had been made by the farmers themselves. Houses had been built, fences put up, fields drained, and waste lands reclaimed—of course, not to anything like the extent to which they could wish to see such improvements carried out, but still to a degree very remarkable under the circumstances. Thus, since 1841, 2,000,000 acres of wild land had been re-claimed and made profitable, and there could be no doubt that the greatest portion of it had been done by the tenants, showing that at least there had been no want of industry or of capital on their part. It was also a remarkable fact, showing the improvement that had taken place in the condition of the tenant farmers in Ireland, that since 1850 the deposits of small farmers in the Irish joint-stock banks had increased from £5,000,000 to £17,000,000. Nevertheless, the Act of 1860 had not succeeded in inducing the tenants to make any satisfactory use of the facilities offered them for improving their farms, and after the experience of the working of that Act, and after the important evidence given before the Committee of last year, there could be little doubt of the failure of that Act to do what it was intended to effect. There could be no doubt as to what had been the reason of its failure. It placed several obstacles in the way of tenants wishing to make improvements; for instance, there were the trouble and cost of an application to a court of justice in every case; there was the inadequacy of the compensation provided, and there was the mode of providing the compensation by an inquiry; and there was the very great obstacle that in every instance before the improvement could be made notice had to be given by the tenant to the landlord, which would act as an invitation to dissent on the landlord's part, and which, in the unanimous opinion of all acquainted with Irish tenant farmers, had operated, and would operate as a total bar to the success of the Act. Acting upon the experience thus gained, the proposed Act had been more simply constructed. Starting with the great leading fact that in Ireland the permanent improvement in farms—the essentials requisite for the farms, which no one in England would call improvements, and which would be performed by the landlord in this country—are executed by the tenants—the Act proposed to bring the general rule of law into accordance with the actual state of facts, and thus in accordance with the natural equity of the case. At the same time, it was pro- posed to interfere in no way with the perfect freedom of contract between landlord and tenant; but the Act provided that, in the absence of any written contract to the contrary, the tenant shall, by the general rule of law, have a limited beneficial interest in the permanent improvements executed at his own cost. It was proposed to do away with the notice, and to require no preliminary adjudication—as it was clear that all such requirements would render the Act totally inoperative. The Bill went on to provide that should the tenant, after having executed such improvements, and in the absence of any written agreement to the contrary, be dispossessed by his landlord, he should have a right to a lump sum by way of compensation equivalent to the increased letting value such improvements should have given to the land. The Government proposed that in the event of the landlord and tenant failing to come to an agreement as to the amount of compensation to be awarded to the latter, in case he should be so dispossessed, either party was to have the right of applying to the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, who were to send down a competent valuer to the farm, who would be empowered to examine the improvements made, and to require documentary and oral evidence to be laid before him from all parties able to give it, and then to make his award. It was also proposed that in case either party should be dissatisfied with such award, there was to be a right of appeal to the Chairman of the Quarter Sessions—such Chairman to sit as a County Court Judge without a jury, and to decide finally upon the appeal. Those rights were limited both in point of amount and of time. The limitation in point of amount would be £5 per statute acre, while the limit in point of time would be forty-one years for buildings, &c., and thirty-one years for other improvements on the land, after which the tenant would lose his right to compensation. The effect of that would be that the holder of fifty acres would be entitled to make a claim of £250, and not more. Great difficulties were sometimes said to arise in ascertaining the amount to which the tenant should be entitled after a lapse of years, but he believed the difficulties suggested were far overstated, as the very course laid down by the Bill was being followed every day by private agreement between the parties. The valuer, who was to act in cases of private arbitration, would be a professional man ac- quainted with the matters with which he would have to deal, and he would have all necessary evidence before him as to the increased value of the land. It was, of course, impossible to look for a perfect system, and the proposed one was intended to provide a general arbitrator, approved by authority, who, upon the whole, would settle fairly the question between the two parties. How would the case stand? The tenant would have added to the landlords' property certain requisites for its proper cultivation; the landlord would have by his own act dispossessed the tenant; and the latter would then have a certain claim under that Bill to compensation in money. The law under those circumstances implying a contract would fairly imply the consent of the landlord to improvements which he had allowed to be effected. The landlord either by himself or through the incoming tenant would pay the fair amount of compensation to the dispossessed tenant. The evicted tenant would not go forth into the world a starving man, perhaps to become a Ribandman, or a rebel, but would carry with him, to start him in life afresh, a certain sum of money, the fruit of his own exertions or outlay. In return the landlord would have an improved farm, bringing him in a higher rent. The country would find a better system of agriculture adopted on that farm; probably there would be also a decent dwelling for a happier family, and certainly contentment and confidence would be spread throughout the neighbourhood. In these matters it seemed to him that the indirect operation of a law was often as important as its direct operation. He was deeply convinced that the operation of such legislation as they now proposed, even when it did not secure any definite remuneration to a particular tenant, would yet have a most important and essential influence upon public opinion in Ireland. Because, while it would leave the landlord and tenant at perfect liberty to regulate their own affairs by written contract, it would, as was their wish, place the law of the country on the side of natural equity and justice. Without entering into the different clauses of the Bill, which would soon be in the hands of hon. Members, he would only then describe one important clause, which was this—they proposed to take away the right of distress as far as the general operation of the law was concerned, that was to say, putting an end to the right of distress in all cases where it was not given to the landlord by the terms of a written agreement between him and the tenant. These in general terms were the provisions of the Bill which on the part of the Government he ventured to lay before the House. He earnestly and sincerely trusted that these proposals would be received both by those who represented the tenant and by those who represented the landlord in that House in the spirit in which they were offered. He had every reason to believe that those hon. Gentlemen who specially represented the tenant were anxious to see that question settled upon fair and reasonable terms, and were really desirous not to keep open, but to close that political sore. Although he had not the advantage of being present at a very important interview which had recently taken place between many Irish Members and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he knew that the opinion then expressed was such as to give the greatest encouragement to the Government in its attempt now to settle that question on a reasonable basis. He trusted that those Members specially representing the interests of the Irish landlords in that House would be ready to meet the advances so made to them by the especial advocates of the tenants. He hoped that Bill would have the good fortune to be a sort of convenient half-way house, where two parties starting as they did from opposite points of view might meet in harmony and accord; and it would be a great satisfaction to the Government and a real happiness to himself and his hon. and learned Friends who, with himself, were specially charged with that measure if they should succeed in any degree in producing by legislation, as far as legislation could do it, a security and protection to the industry of the Irish cultivator, and if by so doing they could in any measure attain that greatest of all objects, as he believed, which that House could set before itself—namely, the increase of domestic comfort, of active industry, of attachment to law and of loyalty to the Crown, among the Irish people. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.


did not intend at that late hour to follow the right hon. Gentleman through the many details which he had brought before the House, yet he thought it necessary to offer one or two observations in consequence of the very important statements which had just been made. No Member of that House could be more anxious than he was to support any mea- sure in any way calculated to develop the industry of the people of Ireland; but after listening to the lengthened speech of the right hon. Gentleman, he had not found in the plan now proposed that there was anything new. The right hon. Gentleman had, in fact, stated nothing more nor less than was contained in plans which had been over and over again brought before that House, but which from a strong feeling in that and the other House of Parliament that they interfered to a great extent with the rights of property had invariably failed in becoming law. The conduct of the Government on that question seemed to him rather extraordinary. A Bill on the subject now before the House was brought in and passed four years ago by the present Colonial Secretary. Very few proceedings had been taken under that Act. Last year a Committee sat for three months to inquire into its operation, before which witnesses only were examined who were brought forward by Members of the Committee professing to act in the interest of the tenant. At the close of that inquiry a Resolution was proposed and carried by a considerable majority of the Committee, with the full consent of the Colonial Secretary and the Chief Secretary for Ireland as representing the Government, in favour of the principle of the Act of 1860, as embodied in Clauses 38 and 40—namely, that the compensation to the tenant should only be made for such improvements as were executed with the consent of the landlord. As the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State might be supposed to represent the Government, the House had in the Resolution of that Committee the opinions of Government so late as August last. But from the statement now made by the hon. Gentleman, it appeared that the Government had wholly departed from the opinions they thus recently adopted; for he gathered from the right hon. Gentleman's speech that they now proposed that unless there wa3 a special written agreement to the contrary, no notice to the landlord of intended improvements should be necessary to enable the tenant to claim compensation, and that no preliminary proceeding whatever should be requisite to enable the latter at a future time to establish his demand. He should be glad to hear that that was an incorrect description of the present Bill, because he believed that if it was a correct description of it, that measure would share the fate of every previous attempt to settle the question. The provisions of the Bill did not seem to him to be of so great value as the cheers of hon. Members opposite below the gangway would seem to indicate, because the right hon. Gentleman had stated that those provisions were only to take effect unless there was no written agreement to the contrary between the landlord and the tenant. If that were so, all he could say was that the course which landlords who objected to their tenants availing themselves of the provisions of the Bill would be forced to take, would be to bind them by a written agreement not to improve. The right hon. Gentleman expressed his belief that the passing of the measure would promote good feeling between landlord and tenant, and restore confidence between all parties. For his part, however, he believed that the moment such a Bill was passed the landlord and tenant from one end of the country to another would be brought into collision; indeed, Lord Athlumney, a former Chief Secretary of Ireland, had frequently pointed out that this would be the effect of all such legislation. He would, therefore, warn the Government of the risk that they were running. He believed that the Act of 1860 might be somewhat improved, and might still be converted into an exceedingly useful measure, but the present proposal involved an entire departure from principles which had for many years been adopted by both Houses of Parliament—so great an interference with the rights of property which might almost be regarded as sacred that it would retard the ultimate settlement of this question, and prove detrimental to the interests of the tenants themselves. The plan was not only destitute of novelty (for it had often been tried though without success), but it was a matter of regret that by the introduction of such measures as this, the House should be called upon to discuss these vexed and difficult questions year after year, creating false hopes, and thereby increasing the agitation which already existed in Ireland on the subject. He believed that the feelings which existed between the landlords and the tenants in Ireland were grossly misrepresented in that House. He believed that no proposal made to a landlord by a tenant to secure to himself fair compensation for bonâ fide improvements had ever been refused, and although much evidence was given last year on this subject, not a single instance of this kind was, as far as he was aware, adduced before the Committee. He believed that the House desired to give every reasonable encouragement to the tenant to improve his land, but he could not see anything in the Government proposal which would conduce to that end. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Tralee had stated some time since that he should regard as a flash in the pan any proposal for compensation which did not also contribute to fixity of tenure, and that he could not extend his sympathy or support to any measure which would not have that effect. Those, however, were objects which the House was not likely to entertain, nor did he believe a Government would ever approve or sanction them. He believed the Bill would conduce to ill-feeling between landlord and tenant, and lead to much litigation and confusion. Although the course proposed by the Government might be attended by a momentary popularity among a certain class, he could not but feel that it was attended with much danger.


said, that it was certainly not new to propose a measure for the settlement of this vexed question, and therefore the proposal of the Government might, in that sense, be, as the noble Lord had said, destitute of novelty. The noble Lord had himself been a Member of the Government of Lord Derby, by whom this question had been taken in hand; and he would remind the noble Lord that the preliminary notice to which he now took exception was included in the Bill introduced by that Government—for Mr. Napier's proposal to give compensation for improvements made twenty years before the Act came into operation was of a similar kind, though the benefit of that measure was frittered away. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary evinced a strong disposition to do towards the people of Ireland what was right and just, and he felt certain that the right hon. Gentleman's remarks would be welcomed in that country with great satisfaction. As an Irish landlord, and speaking in the interest of the tenant farmers of that country, he believed the measure to be an excellent one. He understood the Government to say that in the absence of a contract the presumption of the law was that the improvements were effected by the party by whom they were generally understood to be made, and that the burden of proof was thrown upon those who usually had nothing to do with them. They desired that a rule of law should be applied in Ireland which was consistent with the facts of the case. The state of Ireland was different from that of England. Here the landlord provided everything that was necessary for the tenant; in Ireland he did not; and the presumption of law ought to be that the tenant in such a case had provided himself accordingly. The noble Lord had admitted that there were many defects in the Act of 1860 which he should be glad to see remedied, and by this measure the Government proposed to remedy the defects which were justly complained of in that Act. At present its provisions were inoperative, because they were surrounded by many needless forms, and those needless forms the present measure proposed to get rid of. He would not enter into the details of a measure not yet thoroughly before the House; but he welcomed it as exhibiting a bonâ fide desire to settle this question upon an equitable footing, and to conduce to the establishment of a better state of feeling between all parties.


expressed surprise at the assertion that had been made by hon. Gentlemen, that the systems pursued in England and Ireland with respect to property were entirely opposite. The principle on which this Bill was founded must, if adopted, lead to most disastrous results. He thought it right that the law respecting distress should be the same in England as in Ireland. If the House, however, chose to abolish the law of distress in both countries, let it be abolished, and he would offer no objection. He asked whether hon. Gentlemen expected to impose upon the tenantry of Ireland so far as to induce them to believe they would get a real and substantial benefit by the Bill. In his opinion it would be as hopeless to attempt to empty the Thames at full tide with a teaspoon as to benefit the tenantry of Ireland by such a measure. The principle of this measure was that it should only apply to the case of unwritten contracts; but a contract was a contract whether written or not. The law at present took cognizance of unwritten and merely verbal contracts, and enforced them if they were substantiated. Why could not that course be continued? No such alteration was demanded. And what would be the effect of it? They knew how those things were managed in Ireland. The landlord would send for the tenant and say to him, "A bad law has been passed by that Parliament over the water, and it is now necessary that you sign this paper." And, of course, the tenant would sign it. He would ask of the right hon. Gentleman whether the Bill would he retrospective. [Mr. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE: No!] He supposed, then, that the retrospective wrongs of Ireland were not to he redressed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, by his measures, had succeeded in diminishing the distilleries and paper mills of Ireland. He, however, would no longer dwell upon the grievances of Ireland so far as the past was concerned. But, with regard to the present measure, who, he asked, would bear the expense of the inquiry, incase a dispute arose? Suppose a landlord said the tenant should only have £2, while the tenant thought he should have £10, at whose expense was the Board of Works to make the inquiry? The right hon. Gentleman had suggested a very good principle when he said the Bill would encourage a good feeling between landlord and tenant. No desire on his part could be more creditable to him; but the Bill, though doubtless well meant, would be perfectly inefficient in that respect. Nothing was wanted when the landlord, on the whole, was an honest and just man, and did the right thing by his tenant. In Ulster the landlords were, as a rule, good and just in their dealings. He ventured to think it was vain to hope for solid improvement in Ireland in consequence of the provisions of the Bill.


said, the misapprehension which existed with respect to the Bill only showed how unwise it was to discuss its provisions on the Motion for leave to introduce it. He hoped the noble Lord the Member for Cockermouth was not speaking the sentiments of the landlords of Ireland when he told the House that if the Bill became law it would be followed by agreements between landlords and tenants to prevent the latter from taking advantage of the powers the Bill proposed to confer upon them. He believed that was not just to the landlords of Ireland, whom the last speaker had, in his opinion, more correctly described. Flagrant instances of injustice on the part of Irish landlords were now and then brought to light, but these he believed were the exception, and not the rule. The right hon. and learned Gentleman complained that this Bill inaugurated different legislation for the two countries. But he was either the author or aider of Bills that proposed to introduce different principles in Ireland from those which prevailed in England. He alluded to the tenant-right in Ulster as likely to he affected by this Bill, but the present measure was only an amendment of Mr. Cardwell's Act, which preserved the Ulster tenant-right unimpaired. He thought that no honest man would find fault with a Bill which was only intended to prevent a bad landlord from doing what no good landlord would think of doing. The Bill implied the consent of the landlord, under certain circumstances, to specific improvements. It was designed to apply a remedy in the absence of a contract or of a lease. When the House had seen the Bill they would be of opinion that it did not interfere with the principles of the Resolution of the Committee of last year.


remarked that as this Bill was stated by the Secretary for Ireland it appeared to him to be a departure from the Act of 1860. The Bill of 1860 was brought in under the auspices of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Card-well), and Mr. Deasey, at that time the Attorney General for Ireland, and it was admirably adapted to hold the scale fairly between landlord and tenant. Clause 40 of that Act enacted that the owner might within three months after service give notice in writing that he disapproved of the improvements proposed to be made, and no tenant had a right to begin improvements from which the owner dissented. Any legislation which would encourage the tenant to execute improvements without notice or without the consent of the landlord would, in time, improve the landlord out of his estate. The Committee of last year determined that compensation to the tenants should only be secured to improvements made with the consent of the landlord, and he trusted that the Legislature would allow of no departure from that principle. It was exceedingly desirable, whether leases were taken for a shorter or a longer term that written agreements should as far as possible be adopted. He had always been anxious to give every facility and every encouragement for making improvements on land, but he had always opposed, and he would continue to oppose, the execution of improvements without the consent of the landlord.


hoped the House would very seriously consider the matter before it opposed the passing of this Bill, which he trusted would soon become law. The two arguments of the noble Lord who first spoke in opposition to the Bill were, in his opinion, greatly in its favour. The moderation of the provisions of the Bill, and the intention not to interfere with contracts, were the most important arguments that could be adduced in support of the Bill. Whatever might have been the old feudal idea in reference to the relationship between landlord and tenant, it was now held to be an established principle that a free, fair, and mercantile contract should subsist between the parties interested. The great value of the Bill consisted in the proposal to establish what appeared to him an equitable rule of law; and he trusted that it would have an important bearing on the treatment of the tenant by the landlord. He believed that bad landlords in Ireland were few, that they were not the large but small proprietors, and that they were not members of ancient families, but the new men in the land. He did not, however, argue this question either in the interests of the landlord or of the tenant, but in the interest of the commonwealth, with which it was vitally connected. It was important that this matter should be settled upon a fair and equitable basis, for he believed there was no question which so much affected the loyalty and the material improvement of Ireland as that now before the House.


could not feel the confidence expressed by the Secretary for Ireland that this measure was likely to prove successful. On the contrary, he was convinced that the present Bill failed to solve some of the difficulties which were experienced by the Committees appointed to consider the subject in previous years. He wanted to see the question regulated in Ireland as it was in England and Scotland, and such legislation as would facilitate the arrangement of mutual contracts between landlord and tenant, and give the necessary power to each party for enforcing the fulfilment of them. He thought that a simplification of the question might be effected by the adoption of a written contract, which might remove much matter of doubt and complaint. He was puzzled to know the exact tendency of the Bill, especially after the contradictory representations which had been made in reference to it. If improvements were to be made on land without the consent of the landlord, or even without notice being given him of the intentions of the tenant in this respect, he predicted that a state of great confusion would ensue. It was easy to make popular speeches, but the really improving farmer would not be misled by them; and he hoped the House would not imagine that by any simple piece of legislation it was possible to settle all the complicated cases arising in connection with the land in Ireland.


protested against any attempt at discussing a Bill the terms of which were not before the House; but with regard to the principle of the measure he was clearly in its favour. The hon. and learned Member for Wexford asked whether they were going to repeal the Act of 1860. Undoubtedly, as far as the question of notice went, because investigation had shown that not a single case had yet occurred in which advantage could be taken of that provision of the Act. To that extent, it was just and necessary that a different principle should be introduced for Ireland from that which prevailed in England and Scotland. He feared the £5 limit would prove illusory.


had been much surprised to hear the objections urged by the hon. and learned Member for Wexford, seeing that the Act of 1860 had proved a dead letter. This was a Bill to render that a living instead of a dead measure, and to abolish the machinery which had stifled it from its birth. Were the rights of property appealed to by the noble Lord the Member for Cockermouth—rights to hold the property improved, and to confiscate the capital which the tenant had honestly spent upon it? He believed the landlords of Ireland, if appealed to, would repudiate any such supposed rights of property. When the Bill was laid before the House it would, he believed, be found to be a good measure for the tenant, and not to interfere unduly with the rights of property. If it tended to make men more contented with their holdings, if it tended to make them stop in the country, and to lay out their money without fear of its being confiscated, some advantage would certainly be gained.


as a landlord thanked the Attorney General for bringing in the Bill. He thought it contained the materials for a fair and workable measure.


said, the Government had redeemed their promise of legislating in this matter in a worthy and honourable manner, and he would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin to assist the Government to come to a satisfactory solution of this question during the present Session.


expressed his approval of the course taken by the Government in reference to this question.

Motion agreed to.

Bill further to amend the Law relating to the Tenure and Improvement of Land in Ireland, ordered to be brought in by Mr. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND, and Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL for IRELAND.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 130.]