§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [4th April], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, in moving the Amendment of which he had given notice, he had no intention of preventing the Bill from going into Committee. There were two principles in the Bill of which he cordially approved—the first, that which enabled tenants to borrow money from the Government for the improvement of their farms; the second, that which permitted tenants to remove fixtures erected by themselves in case of their failing to come to an understanding with their landlord, or the incoming tenant, to remunerate them for the outlay. These were two important principles, and to assert them it was well worth while to read the Bill a second time. He (Mr. Gregory) must, however, assert his conviction that if the object of the noble Lord was to come to a settlement of what was called the land question in Ireland, this Bill would have no effect whatever. The noble 1711 Lord might say that his Bill is not intended as a settlement; but as Her Majesty's gracious Speech at the opening of Parliament had dwelt at such length on this subject, and as the Bill of the late Chief Secretary was accepted as a settlement, although he (Mr. Gregory) could not look on it as such, he could hardly imagine why the subject should be introduced at all, and why provisions which certainly did infringe on the rights of property should be sanctioned by a Conservative Government, except on the overwhelming plea of withdrawing this question finally and completely—so far as politics admitted of finality and completeness—from the list of Irish discontents. The Bill appeared to him to have three cardinal defects. It was inapplicable to a great portion of the Irish tenancies; it utterly ignored and passed by the real cause of discontent among the peasantry of Ireland, and it needlessly violated the rights of property. As regards the first objection, there were 307,098 tenancies in Ireland under fifteen acres, representing in round numbers over a 1,500,000 souls. How was it possible to apply the principle of this Bill to these small holdings? It was clear, however, that the attempt to do so was contemplated. The noble Lord, in his introductory speech, informed the House that inspectors were to be stationed in various localities to encourage the peasantry to take loans from the Government to improve their holdings, and these inspectors were to be urged to greater zeal, because they were to derive their salaries from fees on the money expended. [Lord NAAS: I did not say so.] The noble Lord denied that such was his statement. He (Mr. Gregory) had certainly so understood him; but, whether it were so or not, what possible reliance could there be that the money would be well spent? Could they not picture to themselves the scamper there would be to get a pull at the public funds; and could they not also fancy the clamour when re-payment was demanded? No doubt in many cases the inspector would only recommend improvements which would really increase the value of the farm. But there would be others not so competent nor so scrupulous. He (Mr. Gregory) doubted from his knowledge of Ireland whether it would be possible to get the number of competent men. If the Bill was meant to be inoperative, it would be easy enough; but if the Bill were really to do what it proposes to do, there 1712 would be required a swarm of men of skill, experience and integrity, and where were they to be found? And if such men were not to be found, was it to be sanctioned that the owners of land in Ireland were to have charges scattered broadcast over their properties at the arbitrary decree of some ignorant or venal man, and the only way in which the infliction could be avoided would be by a notice to quit, which would be denounced as an act of inconceivable tyranny. Let them also conceive, apart from this extremely mischievous invasion on property, the discontents that might be produced by a dishonest, or reckless, or even incompetent inspector. He sanctions; indeed, he encourages loans right and left. The peasants are delighted to touch the cash—the improvements are badly done or turn out to be no improvement at all—land might be drained which from its intrinsic badness could never repay the outlay. But the evil day approaches—instalments become due—dissatisfaction ensues. The peasant declares he borrowed at the instigation of his inspector, that he was misled by him, and thus there might be a whole district resisting the payment of what would be considered an unjust debt, contracted by the advice of Government officials, and the Members of the county would be called on at their peril to batter and assail the Treasury for remission, an office which they would perform, doubtless, with vigour and pertinacity. This was a matter which a Government lending public money would do well to consider. In his (Mr. Gregory's opinion money might safely be lent on land held on lease, and any Scotch or English tenant farmer would inform the House, as the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Read), the very best authority, being himself a tenant farmer, had already informed the House, that the principal and interest might be re-paid within twenty-one years with ample remuneration to the borrower. Should, however, a longer period for repayment be considered desirable, there was the proposal of Mr. Caird, a gentleman well known for his able letters in The Times on the agricultural condition of Ireland, and lately a distinguished Member of Parliament. He recommends that the State should lend on a thirty-four years' lease, and he is not of opinion that public money should be lent on a tenancy-at-will. This reference to leases led him to the second objection, that the Bill ignored and passed by the real cause of discontent among the peasant 1713 classes of Ireland, and that was the instability of tenure. No Bill which did not aim at affecting an alteration in the state of things in which ninety-five out of every 100 tenants existed on the soil by the mere will of the landlord could ever be called a settlement of the question. That alteration should be effected cautiously, gradually, and with due respect to the rights of property. It would be worse than useless, it would be an additional irritation, were any Government to place upon the statute book any enactment which should not have this eventual change of tenure as its prominent and predominant feature. The noble Lord (Lord Naas) knew Ireland well enough. He must be well aware that there could be no attachment to the institutions of a country on the part of a peasantry who are living on sufferance on its soil. It would not be inconsistent with Conservative principles to try and remedy this evil. There was nothing conservative in a tenancy-at-will. In his opinion it was the most revolutionary tenure in the world. In nothing these observations he had not the least idea of advocating any measure to force landlords to give leases right and left without due precautions and selection. The discretion of landlords should be considered; but that discretion might be urged and encouraged. He entirely agreed with Lord Dufferin, who thus wrote—No one had been a stronger advocate for leases than myself. To refuse a lease to a solvent, industrious tenant is nothing less, in my opinion, than a crime. The prosperity of agriculture depends on security of tenure, and the only proper tenure is a liberal lease. Yet, I cannot conceive a measure more fraught with disaster to agriculture, more productive of discontent, more certain to inflict suffering on a large proportion of the tenant farmers of the country than that the Irish landlords should be driven by any legislation into an indiscriminate issue of leases for a term of years.This opinion of Lord Dufferin agreed with the Report of the Devon Commissioners, who say—Upon some well regulated estates the property of intelligent and liberal landlords who are upon the best footing with their tenants, no leases are given; but we cannot forbear to express our opinion that, as a general system, it more for the interest of both landlord and tenant that leases of moderate length should be given.It was true that even here the Commissioners deprecated the" direct interference of the Legislature;" but though they might have deprecated compulsion, it is quits clear they would not have deprecated encouragement. Now, in framing any Bill 1714 for the improvement of the relation of landlord and tenant there were two Indispensable postulates—the one, that the provisions of the Bill should be clear and simple; the second, that they should be self acting. The moment they enacted intricate provisions legislation became useless. The moment landlords and tenants were brought into any hind of collision it vas simply mischievous. The old saying, vigilantibus non dormientibus leges subvenire should be reversed in this case. Bearing in mind the dangerous ground on which they legislated, the infinite mischief they might create by any enactment promoting litigation between landlord and tenant, the new arrangements, whatever they might be, should work silently and of, themselves. Their objects should be rather dormientibus quam vigilantibus subvenire. Apply these tests to every successive Landlord and Tenant Bill brought in by different Governments, and they will all be open to objection, the Bill of the late Chief Secretary as well as that of the noble Lord. But it is said why legislate at all, no measure which Parliament could sanction would ever satisfy the real feeling which lay underneath this land question. That feeling was derived from old traditionary custom, that the land belonged to the tribe, that is to the people, that the utmost the owner could claim was a reserved rent held on a valuation, and that no eviction should ever be allowed or interference permitted in the tenant's management of the land so long as that annuity was paid. He (Mr. Gregory) remembered well making that observation to Mr. Dillon last year, and here he would express his regret at the untimely death of a man whose honesty and moderation and thorough knowledge of the question would have been of inestimable service as a mediator in this matter. Mr. Dillon replied that unquestionably that feeling prevailed, but that it took its strength and vigour from the irritation which had grown up under the present state of things, and that he was confident that if he and others whom the tenants looked on as their advocates and friends came forward and declared that a measure had been passed which, while doing no wrong to landlords, would place the tenants' position on a more secure foundation, this source of agitation and bitterness would speedily dry up. It was now necessary to advance another step, and in order to ascertain what should be the tendency of legislation, it was worth 1715 while to trace the growth of what was called the Irish Land question. Lord Naas was quite right in saying that it was only of recent years that it had assumed its present prominence. It was true that O'Connell did, as the hon. Member for Tralee (The O'Donoghue) mentioned, refer at times to the lamentable condition of the Irish peasantry; still the land question, as such, was small until recent years, when successive Governments discovered the danger of the sore, and had tried to plaister it. It seemed strange enough that in former days, when agrarian outrages and murders were rife in Ireland, this subject should have formed so small a part of the political professions of the day; but that now, when murder and outrage were almost unknown, when wealth and education had so much increased, it should have assumed its present prominence. The cause of this was worth examining. The first forty or fifty years of this century were different from the present. The tenure of land was different—leases were far more the rule than at present. [Colonel FRENCH: They were universal.] There was less supervision over estates, and the proceedings of leaseholders were unchecked. He (Mr. Gregory) remembered that when his father succeeded to his estate in 1840 there was not a holding which did not depend on lease. Twenty years afterwards there was not a single lease on the property, but almost everywhere there was a crop of small and almost pauper under tenants. In those days the elective franchise depended on a 40s. freehold, and subsequently on a lease. The landlord's political status and influence depended on the numbers he could bring to the poll. In short, the people did as they liked, they increased and multiplied, subdivided and again subdivided. The pressure for existence was strong enough, but the crisis had not yet come. Outrages there were without end, but they were directed against infractions of a lawless code, established and recognised by the peasantry. Their sufferings had not entered into the domain of politics. They had no mouthpieces. They made themselves intelligible by the bludgeon and the blunderbus. That the social system was diseased, was clear enough to all; but it was thought a periodical and generous system of hanging would put all things to rights, and so they hung them. A change, however, came; the Corn Laws were abolished and there was a period of low prices. The mode of voting was 1716 changed, and votes depended not on leases but on rating. The old long lease with lives was found most injurious to the country, though pleasant enough to tenants, as by their means indefinite and unchecked sub-divisions were carried on, and so landlords refused to renew. During the great political agitation of O'Connell, in many cases tenants went against landlords, and when leases fell in they were not renewed. Last of all came the famine, and nearly every lease in Ireland was swept away. To that succeeded the Incumbered Estates Court. By its operations a vast amount of land changed hands, and very many of the old landlords passed away with it. All these changes, though an improvement to the country, brought little comfort to the peasant. The old landlord, if wasteful and careless and needy, was generally kind to, and easy with, the tenants. Their families and his family had lived in close contact for many a long day, and with a people so disposed to attach themselves, a deep sympathy with what was called the old stock existed, and that feeling was reciprocated by the landlords. Too much easiness, far more than too much harshness, was the fault and characteristic of the past age of Irish landlords. Then came a new race, men who had accumulated funds and laid them out in land as an investment, who knew not the peasantry and cared but little for them. The land must pay more, that they might have a better interest for their money. The land was badly tilled, and there was not sufficient stock, so they took it into their own hands. The peasant thus found himself with his rent raised and in danger of eviction, and in the hands of new and unsympathetic landlords. Of course, he (Mr. Gregory) was speaking generally. In many instances now the landlords had regenerated their property, and were esteemed and trusted by the tenants. He knew many such in his part of Ireland, but they were exceptions. It will be seen that every change had made the peasant's condition more precarious than before. Throughout the length and breadth of the land that is to say, in the East, West, and South of Ireland, for he was not speaking of the North, where a better tenancy prevailed—there was no stability of tenure. Every ninety-five out of every 100 tenants knew that a breath had made them and a breath could unmake. Then arose the cry for landlord and tenant legislation. If he (Mr. Gregory) had rightly traced the history of 1717 what is called the land question, it would not be difficult to find the real remedy. At first compensation for improvements was the cry, but that was because the words sounded speciously in English ears, but compensation for improvements was the merest moonshine. All the compensation which the wit of lawyers could devise would not give contentment. In treating a question like this in connection with any people under the sun, sentiment and feeling should be a strong ingredient, but of all people this ought to be well considered in dealing with a susceptible, imaginative people like the Irish. If that sentiment and feeling were utterly unreasonable and absurd let them cast it behind them, but if they themselves being in the same position would, in all probability, be under the same influences, they were bound to consider them in legislation. He (Mr. Gregory) then tried to put himself in the position of the Irish peasants, and he was satisfied that the predominant cause of dissatisfaction was the uncertain and precarious character of the tenure on which their very existence depended. He had seen much of the people lately. He had endeavoured to arrive at their inmost thoughts, and this was the result of his investigation. Was it unnatural? Unfortunately the opponents of the conclusions at which he arrived were the very best men in Ireland. The really good, conscientious, improving landlords were the persons who least could appreciate the feeling he had described. They lived among an attached and contented tenantry. They knew that those men neither wanted nor would accept increased security. As far as security went these tenants believed that a tenancy-at-will offered more permanency than a lease, for the expiration of the lease implied a break of tenure. In some properties a tenancy-at-will was almost a fixity of tenure. He would give a strange illustration of that. A few years back a noble Friend of his, one of the best and most beloved landlords in Ireland, ejected a tenant for the most outrageous conduct. The tenant took defence, and pleaded that so long as a tenant paid his rent there had not been an instance of ejectment on the estate, and that such was the custom of the country. The plea, of course, was disallowed. Here, then, is the chief difficulty of those who plead for leases. They had for opponents men of the highest authority, authority derived from the exemplary performance of duties, and who cannot be 1718 brought to see that all were not like themselves. Against such it is hard to contend. Every witness before the Land Committee of 1864 deposed that if all landlords were good and did their duty no legislation would be required. They had great authority for saying that the law was not made for the righteous. Precisely the same state of things prevailed in the Southern States in connection with slavery. It was invariably the best masters who were most scandalized and provoked at attacks on a system which they believed was accepted with joy and gratitude by the slaves, was administered kindly and benevolently, and which conferred a greater amount of comfort than the black population could otherwise have reached. But as in the slave plantations, so in Ireland—something happened. The good landlord may die. The son may be an absentee, neglectful, a spendthrift. The estate may fall into the hands of a grasping, self-seeking agent. Acts of injustice are committed, and terror and suspicion extend far and wide. The landlord, too, may be harsh, griping, greedy—such there are in Ireland as in other countries; then it is that the defenceless condition of the Irish tenant becomes clear to all. The unfortunate wretches under his control know that they are in a bad man's hands, and that hand may crush them. The result was disaffection, and a surface of sentiment ready to receive the seeds of any project to overthrow the institutions and the laws which maintained and shielded these evil doings. Let him give the House one instance. The largest landlord in extent of acres in Ireland was in his county, and in the adjacent county of Mayo. Besides other acts of omission and commission, unnecessary to refer to here, the manner in which this great territory was managed was in this way. Formerly, together with the receipt for the rent, a notice to quit was issued. Now once every year the tenant had to sign an agreement that he took his holding for one year only, so that on that day twelvemonth, without any reason or cause assigned, he might find himself and his family cast adrift on a bleak mountain side in Connemara. This was the practice of the greatest territorial landlord in Ireland. Thank God, that landlord was not Irish. It was a great English company—the Law Life Society, managed by gentlemen some of whom had seats in that House, some of whom called themselves Liberal. Now he (Mr. Gre- 1719 gory) did not propose to interfere directly even in such an outrageous case as this, but he did think legislation should be resorted to to discourage such a state of things. That, then, was his reply to the argument that leases were not cared for—they were not cared for undoubtedly where the tenant had thorough confidence in his landlord, and the successor of his landlord. They were desired and craved for when there was no confidence in the landlord, or even where there was confidence, but when the destination of the property was uncertain. Then, again, he was asked would he encourage leases to very small holders. His answer was certainly not. The tenants' witnesses in 1864 deposed unanimously that in these cases it would be unnecessary and even unwise to give leases. Judge Longfield, Mr. M'Carthy Dowling, the Catholic Bishop of Cloyne, and even Mr. Dillon himself, were of that opinion. Then he was told to look at the evil effect of leases in former days—"See," say the objectors, "how these leases have turned out—the middleman has been their creation, and the lands held by them have been pauper warrens, the source of half the misery of the country." The objection was a valid one, but why? because these leases were long and almost gambling leases—leases of thirty-one years and three lives, leases in which there were no covenants, or if any they were covenants without penalties and evaded. He (Mr. Gregory) believed such leases to be worse than none at all, and such was the almost unvarying depositions of the witnesses before the Devon Commission, that these leases had been the curse and bane of Ireland. Again, it was said—leased land was not one whit better cultivated, or more capital and labour expended on it than in the cases of a tenancy-at- will. That was a disputed point, but even if admitted let them do this—let them place a tenant-at-will and a tenant on lease side by side on any property save that of a first-rate landlord, and then he would leave it to them to estimate who would be the loyal man in an emergency—who would be the defender of law, order, and the institutions under which he lived. That was a consideration for a legislator. One would hardly imagine that arguments were needed to prove that a country where the landlord, generally speaking, did little for the tenant—he qualified his language by the words generally speaking—and where the whole tenure was at will, could never be 1720 really contented. It was totally impossible it should be so. A community that could dwell together in unity under such circumstances must be a community of angels. The mere fear of eviction was not the sole disturbing cause, but that constant exercise of power and interference which must be galling to any man of independent spirit. The Irish peasant is reproached for want of that independent spirit. He is described as servile, lazy, unimproving, dependent. May not the training he has had for centuries account for this. He (Mr. Gregory) would be slow to admit inferiority of race to have much to do with the backwardness of those whose relations and comrades have been pre-eminent in France and Spain, and even in England, for their military and civil genius. Hitherto, and up to this point, he had been debating this question on mere abstract arguments. Let him now turn to something more definite. Take the example of two countries where there was the greatest content among the agricultural classes—namely, Scotland and Prussia. He did not refer to France, because there the peasants were proprietors. Now he (Mr. Gregory) said, on the introduction of this Bill, that Scotland showed us how the largest possible amount a produce could be derived from the soil, how the largest rents could be obtained, and how perfect harmony and good feeling could prevail between landlord and tenant. But had they tenancies-at-will then? Such a thing was unknown, and would not be listened to. Leases of fixed but of moderate duration prevail. In Prussia, again, 25 per cent of the peasantry were tenants, the rest were proprietors in fee. There, also, great content prevailed, but a tenancy-at-Will was unknown—in every case of letting land there was a contract or lease made for a given number of years. In Eastern Prussia this contract usually ran from twelve to twenty years; in Westphalia, from seven to twelve; in the Rhine Provinces, from three to seven and nine years. His informant was a gentleman who went to Prussia two years ago for the express purpose of looking into the state of land tenure and education there. Commenting on the tenant's position in Prussia, Mr. Ussher says—What is known 'tenant right' among the Irish farmers in the North of Ireland has never been heard of in Prussia. The tenancies being all by contract or lease at the expiration of the term agreed upon—be it for whatever period, 1721 long or short—the farm is re-let to the highest and most solvent bidder, and it would seem to a German peasant a most inexplicable thing how anyone could have a right to or claim on anything which he hired from the owner for a yearly payment once the contract ended.Now he (Mr. Gregory) quoted that sentence, as it was pregnant with wholesome deductions. Irish landlords complained of the strange doctrines that were springing up, of fixity of tenure, compulsory valuation, and other communistic invasions of the right of property, against which he inveighed as strongly as any one; but in Scotland, and above all in Prussia, the country of Stein and Hendenburgh, where infractions on proprietary rights might be expected to be advocated, no such doctrines were maintained. It was grievance which gave birth to the demand for wild and impracticable remedies, and grievances if not redressed would make these remedies appear less wild and less impracticable every day they were deferred. Now, it is said in England there are plenty of tenancies-at-will, and all goes well with them; but the difference is great; the English tenant is comparatively wealthy, his landlord has done everything for him, built, fenced, drained. If he goes out what does he leave behind him—not even a regret. But to the Irish tenant eviction is tantamount to ruin, expatriation, and the breaking up of every family tie; and the fear of this, the chance of this, made men rebels in thought if not in acts. Mr. James O'Connell last year made a speech at Killarney against the Fenians, and be said, "It is the greatest folly to folk of rebellion with batter at £4 the firkin." There was true wisdom in that observation—disaffection and misery and insecurity went hand in hand; and he would venture to say that if the system of leases were as prevalent in Ireland as the tenure-at-will, they would find almost every farmer in the country a special constable, unsworn indeed, but determined to protect those institutions under which he dwelt in safety, none making him afraid, and he (Mr. Gregory) would not modify that assertion, even by the fact of a farmer with a lease of forty acres having been shot when out with the Fenians some weeks ago. Now, let him (Mr. Gregory) take this opportunity of saying a few words as regards that class to which he belonged—namely, the landlords of Ireland. One would really imagine from the speeches made and the articles written that the Irish landlords as a 1722 class were to be stigmatized as reckless, overbearing, oppressive, or else as neglectful and unmindful of their tenants. He had no doubt many persons imagined that Irish upper society was, as in the days described by Sir Jonah Barrington, and the author of Harry Lorrequer, drinking and gambling all night, fighting duels in the morning, and the survivors riding steeplechases all day. But a visitor to Ireland would tell a different story. If he went about among the lower classes he would generally find great attachment on the part of the peasantry to the resident landlords. Instead of a reckless and improvident set he would describe the landlords as rather saving than wasting, and as taking the greatest pains in the improvement of their properties. If he had known the country for the last twenty-five years he would remark the most notable improvement in the cultivation of the land, and of the stock on the land, and in the dress and general deportment and behaviour of the people. He would tell you also that there is a landlord side as well as a tenant side of the question. That much had been said of the improvements by tenants, but very little of the reckless and ruinous destruction of the land by tenants, and that if a balance were struck far more land was returned to the landlord deteriorated and worn out than had came back to him with improvements. He (Mr. Gregory) was bound to say that, if they exterminated the landlords, which had been so charitably and judiciously proposed, they would not oblige the tenants. There must be a landlord somewhere, and there was no fact more notorious, as he had said before, than that the new landlords under the Incumbered Estates Court had pressed more heavily on the tenants than the old. They, the landlords, had their faults—all classes had their faults—but extermination was a bad cure. He had never heard the extermination of the millowners proposed by the holders of land, because smile of them practised and enforced the villanies of the truck system, or because some of them tried to reject the Ten Hours' Bill under the specious title of freedom of labour, which freedom of labour they knew in their hearts meant freedom to grow up like beasts—freedom to pine away an unhealthy youth—freedom to seek into an untimely grave. He (Mr. Gregory objected to being exterminated himself. He objected to the extermination of any class, because of the 1723 shortcomings of individuals, and because of faults engendered and fostered, and maintained by bad laws, and ages of misgovernment. A far better thing than the extermination of a class was the extermination of bad agencies, which were breeding discontent. Now, if they thought that a state of things was likely to breed discontent, which left ninety-five out of every 100 tenants at the caprice of the landlord, if such a state of things did not prevail in any civilized country in the world, then, he said, let your Landlord and Tenant Bill rest on a different basis from the one before them, let its object be to tap the fountain of bitterness at its source, and give a Bill which should cautiously and gradually, and in the most conservative spirit change the present relations, and encourage some stability in the occupation of land in Ireland. He (Mr. Gregory) was the last man to advocate wild and communistic principles. He believed one great hindrance to the settlement of this problem were the wild and preposterous views emanating from some of those who called themselves the tenants' friends in Ireland. He did not even imagine that if his Amendment were accepted by acclamation and a law passed to give it effect, that a cure would be obtained for the ingrained and inevitable diseases of centuries, and that Irish disaffection would subside into a great calm. There was something more than land in these diseases of Ireland. They pervaded the whole social system as well as the peasant. They were like fevers, they came, they disappeared, but they returned again; 1798 and 1822, 1848 and 1867 were the epochs; United Irishmen, Ribandmen, Terry Alts, Smith O'Brien and James Stephens were the symptoms. Leases alone would be no antidote to Fenianism, for Fenianism was complex. Irrespective of the base motives of vanity, love of notoriety, hopes of plunder, it was a mixture of the recollection of past wrongs, of the sense of present grievances and neglect, and of the hope of a future nationality; but as past wrongs and future schemes were sentimental, and as present grievances were real, let them deal with what they acknowledged to be wrong. He asked them, therefore, by that vote, which he meant to press, did they or did they not consider tenancy-at-will to be the best tenure for a country's welfare and content. All who did so would vote against him. On the other hand, if they thought a gradual change was advisable, they would 1724 vote for his Amendment, The remedy was in the hands of the House. There were various ways of encouraging leases. Some would advocate the more stringent course, and say the law now gives certain privileges to the landlord. These privileges may be curtailed or withheld where property was not managed in accordance with what the State considered to be of benefit to the common weal. Others would say that to give the landlord the fullest safeguard against sub-division, to diminish the term of redemption, to facilitate the recovery of possession, that these advantages would alone be sufficient to multiply leases throughout the country. Surely to this proposal, at all events, the objection cannot be raised that it interferes with the rights of property, that it promotes strife between landlord and tenant. All parties might therefore concur in his Amendment, and the House would be alone pledged to an expression of opinion that a system based on moderate security of tenure was superior to an uncertain tenure at will. As a landlord, and deriving everything he had in the world from land in Ireland, he firmly believed that the course he advocated was quite as much for his interest as that of his tenants, both as regards influence and income, and he was convinced that were a Bill based on some sound principle to become law, not one year would elapse before they would have their reward in the increased confidence of the peasant classes in the justice of Parliament, and in the increased peace and stability of the realm. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Amendment.
§ MR. BRYAN
, in seconding the Amendment, said, that considering, too, the prominent position which the Irish land question occupied in the Speech from the Throne, he could not but express his surprise at the meagreness of the measure proposed by the noble Lord for the settlement of this much-agitated and most important question. What Ireland asked for was something in the nature of security of tenure, and unless that were incorporated in the Bill no measure that could be proposed on the subject would give satisfaction. He (Mr. Bryan) honestly confessed he was an advocate for the granting of leases to the occupants of all holdings, whether they be large or small. It was admitted on all sides that there was necessity for legislation on this subject; but he believed that the general desire was that this subject, like the Reform question, should be legis- 1725 lated upon once and for ever. But he warned the House against supposing that this Bill, if passed, would settle the question. Far from it—it would be speedily consigned to the same tomb in which the measure of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) now reposed in oblivion the most complete. If the tenant farmers in Ireland had leases the military would be no more required in elections in that country than they were in England. The fact was that the military were as much required there to induce tenants to vote as their landlord or his agents directed as to preserve peace. It would he impossible to pass a compulsory clause, but it might be made to be the interest of the landlords to give long leases by placing obstructions in the way of those who refused to grant them. It might, for instance, be made the interest of landlords to grant leases by enacting that the tenant from year to year, instead of receiving a six months' notice to quit, should receive a twelve months' notice or a longer period. Could not the county cess and poor rates be made recoverable in the first instance from those landlords who insist on going back to feudal times, and making their tenants little better than villeins vegandant? It might not have the desired effect; but he saw no reason why they should deal with the county cess and pour rates as they now did with regard to the tithe rent-charge. If the Government would accept this Resolution and act upon this view of the question, it would have the desirable effect of making lease-giving the law or custom of the country; and that once established would be as strong as the law of the land. He felt certain the Law Advisers of the Government would very soon be able to devise a plan that would place non-lease-giving landlords in an unenviable or perhaps an untenable position. The second Bill introduced by Her Majesty's Government was, however, the most important of the two. It proposed to empower tenants to borrow money for the purpose of improving their holdings; but in is opinion the Bill, if passed, would do that which was exactly contrary to the noble Lord's intention, and stop leasing altogether. They all knew how jealous landlords were of having their lands improved without their consent; but how much more would he be so to have his estate made the spoil of his tenants, the commissioners, and inspectors? The noble Lord had said there was at present 1726 about £1,000,000 belonging to the tenant farmers lying in the banks of Ireland; but he (Mr. Bryan) could inform the noble Lord that it was considerably over £3,000,000, which if the tenant farmer could see his way to any stability of holding would immediately flow into the land. The principle of compensation should be that which was contained in the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) when he was Chief Secretary—namely, that the tenant who increased the letting value of the land should be entitled to compensation: and that, he believed, was the principle which Irish Members were indisposed to part with. Without desiring to give offence, he considered this a feeble measure—rather a feeble bid for popularity. It at first sight appeared to be a Bill that would do no harm, but which would be found to be mischievous in practice. He earnestly appealed to Her Majesty's Government, and especially to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, he had been told, took a deep and lively interest in all that concerned Ireland, to give Ireland a good Bill, and thereby see how promptly they would change the state of the country. They had tried coercive measures long enough, with but indifferent results, and he now called upon them to try conciliation, and by a good, useful, honest measure, earn the lasting gratitude of that country.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "without prejudging the Second Reading of this Bill, this House is of opinion that no enactment for the settlement of the Landlord and Tenant question in Ireland can be deemed satisfactory which does not provide for the encouragement of leases in that Country,"—(Mr. Gregory,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. SANDFORD
said, he had risen thus early in the debate because he considered it was desirable that this subject should be taken up as a whole, and not be broken up into fragmentary discussions. He wished, in the first place, to express his deep conviction that the efforts made by successive Governments to interfere with the natural contracts that should subsist between landlord and tenant had by no means conduced to the prosperity of Ireland. They were told that the land tenure 1727 in Ireland was an exceptional one, that it had been caused by exceptional legislation; and that it could only be remedied by further exceptional legislation. Now he (Mr. Sandford) believed that if they were to attempt to do so they would be merely moving in a vicious circle. He considered that the best panacea for Ireland was to leave her alone, and close the Notice Book against all similar Bills and Motions and Amendments on the subject for ten years. During that time the landlords and tenants of Ireland might teach themselves something of self-reliance, and at the end of the period they would find that the condition of the land tenure of Ireland would have considerably improved; and if, on the contrary, they crowded the book with Notices of Motion with regard to the land tenure in England, and endeavoured to teach landlord and tenant, instead of relying on their own foresight and arrangement, to look for Government assistance and rely on Government supervision, the condition of land tenure in England would have become almost as bad as it now was in Ireland. All the Governments that had existed during the last fifteen years were much to blame for having meddled and tinkered with this question; but of all the Governments who had endeavoured to legislate upon this subject we had the right to look with the greatest feeling of suspicion and distrust to the noble Lord and the Members of the present Government. He recollected how in 1852, when he first had the honour of a seat in that House, and when his ingenuous mind was not so accustomed to the Conservative measures of Conservative Governments, how a measure was then brought in giving retrospective compensation to Irish tenants, which, disguise it by what term they pleased, meant confiscation. That Bill was brought in, he would say, by the present Government, because Lord Derby was Premier, with the same Chancellor of the Exchequer, and with the same noble Lord as Secretary for Ireland. The present Bill proposed to advance £1,000,000 to the tenants of Ireland for improvements in three cases in which the landlord's assent was required, and three in which it was not—the latter being, thorough drainage, the reclamation of bog land, and the removal of useless fences. Now, from the experience they had of the reclamation of bog land, they knew how easy it was for persons to be mistaken upon that subject, and how doubtful it was whether any real improvement could be effected. And the 7th section of the 1728 Bill provided that such land should be charged with the re-payment of the loan even where the improvement was not successful, if in the opinion of the Commission it was likely that the improvement would be ultimately successful so that the property of the landlord might be charged for thirty-five years for attempted improvements undertaken without their consent, and which had turned out wholly unremunerative. He asked the noble Lord (Lord Naas) why he proposed to take in this way from the landlord the control of his own property. He knew of no grounds upon which such an interference with the rights of property could be defended except by broadly saying that property should be enjoyed and administered not in the interest of the few who possessed it, but for the many who had it not, and that the State being the best judge of the matter had the right to step in and administer it for the benefit of the nation at large. Those doctrines were not new. They had heard them before. They were the principles of Blanqui in the language of Proudhon; but he did not expect to find them brought forward by a Conservative Government and embodied in a measure dealing with the land of Ireland. They had been accustomed to hear it said that property had its duties as well as its rights; but he begged to observe that if the State took away from landlords the enjoyment of their rights, it must equally exempt them from the discharge of its duties. No doubt he should be told that if they read this Bill a second time, they might remedy all this in Committee. He had reason to believe the noble Lord would propose to refer it to a Select Committee. They could not, however, read the Bill a second time, because they would assent to its principle by so doing; and, in the second place, they had a precedent to the contrary, which he thought would have some weight with Her Majesty's Government and with his noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and that was the precedent of last year. On that occasion the noble Lord (Lord Naas) moved the following Amendment to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth (Mr. Chichester Fortescue):—This House, though desirous of simplifying the method of securing to tenants compensation for outlay made in permanent improvements, are of opinion that, in any measure relating to the tenure and improvement of land in Ireland, it is 1729 expedient to maintain the principle affirmed by the Act of 1860—namely, that compensation to tenants should be secured in respect of those improvements only which are made with the consent of the landlord.This Amendment was moved on the 17th of April, 1866, by his noble Friend (Lord Naas), who thus had taken not quite a year to change his mind upon the subject, Again, the Committee which sat in 1865 upon this subject reported—That the Committee, having examined several witnesses on the recommendation of the promoters of the inquiry, are of opinion that the principle of the Act of 1860 embodied in the 38th and 40th sections—namely, that compensation to tenants should only be secured upon the improvements made with the consent of the landlord—should be maintained.This paragraph was likewise prepared by the noble Lord. And such being his recorded opinions in 1865 and 1866, he thought they had a right to ask the noble Lord why he had changed his opinions upon this subject in 1867? They had certainly seen and heard of many marvellous changes in the history of Parliamentary careers; but he remembered no conversion so sudden and so complete as that of his noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He believed the fact was that thirty or forty Irish Members had banded together for the purpose of getting fixity of tenure in Ireland, and, perhaps, his noble Friend, now that he was in office, might think that if he could only modify the opposition of these Irish Members, it would not, perhaps, bring him fixity of tenure, but would lengthen his lease of office. There was no other mode of accounting for the Government Bill, except on the theory that Conservatives were ready to defend the rights of property when in opposition, but would subvert these rights when in power. If that were so, people who had anything to lose, especially Irish landlords, might come to the conclusion that the rights of property would be more respected when Conservative statesmen were in opposition than when they were in office. This measure, so far from settling the question, would unsettle it, and the £1,000,000 distributed amongst the impoverished tenantry would only, in the words of the hon. Member for Birmingham, "wet the lips but leave the palate dry." If they assented to it, it would not be the last, but the first of such a series of demands; and if they were backed up by twenty or thirty votes, there would be found Governments 1730 weak enough and profligate enough to accede to them. He opposed this proposed taste of money in the interest both of England and Ireland, because the effect of the measure, if carried, would be to re-establish incumbered estates, notwithstanding the proud boast that their recent legislation had done away with incumbered estates in Ireland. £20,000,000 had been invested on the faith of that legislation through the medium of the Incumbered Estates Court in Ireland, and in the belief that henceforward the landlord was to have the full exercise of his rights; but now a re-actionary measure vas proposed, the effect of which would be to throw Ireland back into her former state. They were told that the country was to be regenerated by the introduction of English capital, but the effect of this measure would not be to regenerate Ireland, but to drive capital out of the country. Again, how often had the House been told of the inexpediency of having the two countries governed by different laws? Yet the Bill would introduce a code of landed tenure into Ireland differing entirely from the English code. Then, the Irish people had been often reminded of the necessity of self-reliance; but this Bill taught them to look for Government grants, and rely on Government supervision; it raised futile hopes, it paralyzed self-exertion. The laws of political economy would be violated by this empirical measure, which, weakly assented to by a weak Government, would be power-less for good, but powerful for evil. You must legislate for Ireland upon principles, and not in deference to cries. It was in this way only that you could hope to rescue her from the reproach that had been cast at her—that she was, indeed, a member of the Empire, but a withered and distorted member, adding no strength to the body politic, and reproachfully pointed to by all who feared the power or envied the greatness of England.
§ CAPTAIN C. WHITE
hoped the House would grant him that kind indulgence which was invariably extended to a new Member when be first addressed them. The Irish land question had assumed such large proportions as rendered it worthy of being considered as one of the great questions of the day. A great national demand had to be satisfied; and it must be the wish of all who had the interest of Ireland honestly at heart so to legislate upon this question that they might arrive at a per- 1731 manent and not a merely temporary solution, and that contentment and confidence might be established throughout the country. They might depend upon it that the agitation of this question would not stop so long as half measures were put forward as a sop, and while the people were offered one thing when they asked for another, and their special requirement was ignored. Now, no Bill affecting to settle this question could be anything but eminently unsatisfactory to the people of Ireland, unless it to a certain extent recognised the necessity of a reasonable security of tenure. Fair security by lease was the demand of the Irish tenantry, and for these reasons:—First, that the tenant might be induced to lay out his money on the land; next, that he might be protected in case of any political difference with his landlord; and thirdly, that the security thus received might act as a check upon that hæmorrhage of emigration, which was so much to be deplored. With regard to the first of these reasons, the Bill suggested that the only reason why Irish tenants did not lay out their money upon the land was because they did not possess the necessary funds. But how did this square with the fact that £17,000,000 belonging to Irish tenants-at-will was now lying idle in the Irish banks? If that were the case, it was indubitable that those tenants-at-will must have some solid reason for not employing their capital in agricultural pursuits; and the reason was, that if they did they had no security that they would not be summarily ejected. As to the second reason—that such security would effectually protect the voter who differed politically with his landlord—that argument was worthy of great consideration;—indeed, it demanded it. The tenant, however, demanded to be protected in doing that which the State enjoined on him—namely, exercising the franchise according to his conscience. As his hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) had stated, the political question involved in this point was at the root of all the opposition with which every proposal for security of tenure was met. It was the love of political power that was called into play; and if it were possible to frame a measure which would combine security of tenure for the farmer with the retention of political power by the landlord, the opposition to it would dwindle into insignificance. They had heard a great deal of the rights of property. He hoped that in that House or anywhere else 1732 he might never be betrayed into saying anything that would be so construed as to induce a belief that he did not recognise the importance of the rights of property; but he thought it would be just if the House would consent to look at this question, not from the English landlord, but from the Irish tenant point of view, and remember that property had its duties as well as its rights, and that one of the duties of the landlord was to endeavour to secure the happiness, contentment, and loyalty of the people on his estate. It was their bounden duty to make some sacrifices in this direction, and to cease to obstruct such salutary measures by an opposition based on selfish motives. They had been told that this was exceptional legislation, and that there was no reason why, as the English farmer did not ask for security of tenure as a sine quâ non, the Irish farmer should look for it. The cases, however, were not at all comparable. In England there was a trust and confidence—the growth of time—between the tenant and the landlord which did not exist at all in Ireland, where the tenants sprang from a different race to the landlords, and differed in creed, in form of worship, and in each others antipathies and sympathies. As to the Bill of the noble Lord, he would not presume to find fault with it. He thought the noble Lord was justly entitled to every credit for the feeling which animated him in bringing in this Bill. Without wishing to be offensive, however, he thought that in a general point of view it would be useless. In isolated instances the tenant might be benefited; but, in the aggregate, the tenants would not be able or willing to avail themselves of it; for the improvements by the tenant were generally made on the "spur of the moment," and he liked to make them in his own way and at his own time. But, above all, he did find great fault with this Bill on account of the position it held in that House. He blamed the position of the Bill because it assumed to be a solution of the great Irish land question, and it would therefore lead people in Ireland to doubt the will of the House of Commons to grapple with this question, and they would not recognise in the Bill the relief which they were looking for. Having thanked the House for the patience with which they had listened to him, he concluded by expressing a hope that the time was not far distant when they would have such a liberal measure as would at once establish that contentment, 1733 that confidence, that trust in the people of Ireland which were so absolutely necessary, and that the question would be then settled, not temporarily, but permanently.
§ MR. M'KENNA
Sir, I rise to support the second reading of the Bill of the noble Lord. I have carefully studied its provisions and I regard it as a good measure. I wish it, however, to be understood that I cannot view it as a settlement of the tenant question, or as a substitute for a Bill to deal with tenure; as a Tenant Right Bill it would be of scarcely more value than the abortive measure of last Session. I cannot but remark, however, that the observations of the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Sandford) tell practically in support of the Bill, at least, as his reasons reach my understanding. The hon. Gentleman reminded the House that in 1852, when his ingenuous mind was first called to the contemplation of this subject, a measure which went still further was brought in by a Conservative Government, of which then, as now, Lord Derby was the head, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the noble Lord (Lord Naas) Secretary for Ireland. There is, however, as it appears to me, very little use in comparing the provisions of this Bill with any of its twenty or five-and-twenty predecessors which have died violent or natural deaths in this House. I regard the present Bill on its own merits, and on these merits I intend to support it. There is one feature in the Bill which especially recommends it to my support—namely, that its provisions descend to the level of the poor occupying tenant, and contemplate his reimbursement for the labour or the money he has expended in the permanent improvement of his farm, The 14th section of this Bill provides that in estimating the cost of improvements for which compensation may be had under this Act, the tenant's own labour and that of his family may be taken into account. When this Bill was introduced to the House in February last by the noble Lord, some hon. Members unacquainted with its provisions received it with very scanty favour; but for my part, I must remark that however short the present Bill may fall of their ideal of a proper measure, I search in vain through the statute books for any Act which proposes, by any machinery whatever, to bring the means of improvement within the reach of the poor tenant 1734 farmer as this Bill proposes to do. Perhaps, Sir, this is a dangerous admission; there are so many sticklers for precedent in this House, and outside so many who prefer that Parliament should for ever continue in the old grooves of legislation, and there are on the other hand so many disciples of that spurious political economy which we have heard to-night upheld by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Malden, a fallacious system to which the interests of Ireland have been long systematically sacrificed, that it may be in a certain sense injudicious to acknowledge the real merits of this Bill. That risk, however, I must run or be silent; but the risk perhaps is small, for I believe the time has arrived when the claims of Ireland to exceptional remedial measures will be generally recognised in this House. It requires no great political erudition to demonstrate to this House the fallacies of that school of Liberal politicans who, under the pretence of applying equal laws to Ireland, have applied a like scale of taxation to Ireland and to Great Britain. The condition of Ireland has unfortunately become too well known to require arguments to prove to this House or to the world that she is poorer than any of the independent States of Continental Europe. It requires no lengthened arguments to establish the fact that in this age of free trade the producers of cattle, and corn, and butter, in Belgium, in France, and Germany, have as ready and as cheap access to the English markets for sale of their produce as the producers of the like in the South and West of Ireland. And if this be the case, as it is the case, are there not grounds for exceptional legislation for Ireland? Particularly when I remind the House that concurrently with the advance of free trade, that is to say, contemporaneously with the withdrawal of protection from the Irish producer, the Imperial Parliament raised the taxation on the population of Ireland from 10s. 1d. per head per annum in 1841 to £1 3s. 5d. per head per annum in 1861. I now refer to this subject cursorily only as a plea for exceptional legislation, of which I consider the present Bill a small instalment. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Malden, said that he believed it would tend to promote the interests of Ireland if the name of Ireland were omitted from the Notice Papers of the House of Commons for ten years. I can only characterize 1735 observations of this nature as approaching as near to sneer at Ireland and her sufferings as the rules of the House will permit. There is another feature in this Bill which in my opinion distinguishes it favourably from any of the preceding land Bills. This Bill will enable the holder under a lease, even one nearly expired, to improve his farm and secure re-payment of his outlay. I find no trace of any similar concession to a tenant under lease in any former Bill, and I consider this provision in the present Bill, in the circumstances of Ireland, a most important feature. Now, what are the objections to the Bill which we have heard from quarters where we should rather look for support? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth, himself the author of a Bill last Session, or perhaps I may more properly describe him as the editor of that measure—perhaps editor is not a Parliamentary phrase—but it conveys more directly what I mean than the explanation that his Government took up a Bill from the hands of Irish Liberal Members, made their own of it when it accordingly fell through like its predecessors. Well, that right hon. Gentleman had no sooner heard this Bill announced than he took what he called a Treasury objection to the Bill, because it contemplated advancing money to tenants-at-will. But what force is there in this objection even from a Treasury point of view? It is not proposed to advance money to a tenant-at-will on his own mere security; it is proposed to advance money for the improvement of land on the security of the land improved, and what valid objection can be urged that may be termed a Treasury objection on the ground that a tenant-at-will has carried out the improvement which he is to get paid for? Another objection is urged that this Bill does not deal with tenure; but that objection can be answered by saying that the subject of this Bill is of sufficient importance to justify distinct legislation, and when it has been dealt with by Parliament there will be a principle affirmed which will in my opinion materially facilitate and cannot possibly retard a settlement of the tenant question. A third objection which I have heard, and the last which I remember, it appears to me, I may remark, that objections in this House generally resolve into threes—but this last objection is that the working of this Bill requires complicated machinery. Sir, I cannot conceive how it is possible to work 1736 any measure of this nature with justice to all parties, and yet to avoid technicalities and details which to some minds always appear complicated. Technicalities—details—complications are not merely incidental to this Bill, they are inherent in the subject, and in my opinion the sooner those who desire a reform of the land laws make up their minds to overcome the difficulties in detail the sooner we shall arrive at a satisfactory solution. To illustrate the objections gravely to this Bill on the ground that its technicalities preclude a tenant receiving compensation, I must refer to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Tipperary. Well, what is his objection? He says improvements are for the most part carried out on the "spur of the moment," and he says that a man who suddenly takes his labourers away from one description of working, digging potatoes for instance, and puts them to level fences cannot bring his improvements within the scope of this Bill, because he has not served the notice required by the Act. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that this is a serious objection, or does he make it seriously? I certainly cannot undertake to answer it seriously. As I have already said, this Bill is not a settlement of the land question, but it is a step towards it—it is a step towards the improvement of the tenant's position—but neither would the Bill of last Session have been a settlement of the question, and of the two Bills, this one is infinitely a better measure. I do not say this in any desire to disparage the Bill of last year, but because I believe of the two Bills this is better to become law first. This Bill, if it becomes the law, will bring the means of improvement within the reach of the tenant in the most tangible and encouraging form, and it offers every reasonable inducement to the landlord to co-operate with and encourage his tenantry.
§ MR. BAGWELL
said, that Irishmen were very glad to see their English friends, and to offer them such hospitality as was in their power, but they did not want to see English capitalists settle in that country. There were some in his own county, who had neither added to their own happiness nor that of those around them by settling in Ireland, and who, moreover, had not done much for the improvement of the land. What was wanted was a law to give the tenant security for the possession of the land as long as he was able to pay his rent, and until they got that the question would 1737 not be settled. Now, he did not believe that the House of Commons wanted to settle this question at present, and it would not be till certain changes took place as to the parties occupying the two sides of the House that they could look for a reform. It was probable that when hon. Gentlemen now in opposition returned to power they would introduce a Bill not much better than the present; and that when the Conservative party after two or three such changes returned to office they would see the necessity of taking the initiative as they had done upon the Reform question. At present ninety-nine out of every 100 of the tenants in Ireland were under the political control of their landlords. While this was the case there would never be any great improvement in Ireland; but they should have Irish difficulties and Irish grievances Session after Session. The Bills before the House proposed to grant money to the Irish tenantry. There were an immense number of holdings in Ireland under £15 a year value; and not one of the tenants would ever, in his opinion, come to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and ask for a shilling. The larger tenants had plenty of money of their own, and could till the land without the aid of public money. The grazing farmers wanted few buildings; for many of them held the opinion that stock was better out of doors than indoors. If the Government could be induced to legislate for the people of Ireland—by which he meant the people as distinguished from the landlords—he believed that something like a settlement could be arrived at. The longer this settlement was delayed the mere sweeping would be the change when it came. Last year the Reform proposition stopped at £7; now we were landed at household suffrage. In the same way, on this Irish question, the landlords had refused anything beyond tenure at will; they refused the thirty-one years lease; let this refusal be continued, and the landlords might find themselves landed in fixity of tenure, with their property turned into a ground rental.
§ MR. SYNAN
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Maldon (Mr. Sandford) has taunted the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland with his inconsistency, and for what he calls his communistic principles and violation of political economy, as understood when the hon. Gentleman was a young and ingenuous Member of this House fourteen years ago, ingenui vultus puer ingenuique padoris. For my part I 1738 can see no violation of the principles of political economy in lending money to develop the agricultural industry of Ireland. I shall not taunt the noble Lord with his departure from the principles he so obstinately laid down last year in opposition to the Tenant Bill; on the contrary, I congratulate the noble Lord upon his conversion, and only regret that it is only a half-hearted one, and that he stops half way to the principles he avowed in 1852, and of the head of his Government in 1845. In 1845 Earl Derby (then Lord Stanley) brought in a Bill in the other House, after the Report on the Devon Commission was laid on the table, and although the present Bill follows the machinery of that Bill it departs from it upon the most important principle of notice for three classes of improvements. In the Bill of 1845 Lord Derby permitted the tenants to make all the improvements without notice. He made no distinction between different classes of improvements as this Bill does. In defending his Bill and this principle of not requiring a notice to the landlord, Lord Stanley said—An absolute veto should not be given to landlords upon any class of improvement.And again—In well-managed estates such a veto may do no harm and it may be well to leave things alone, but this Bill is not intended for well-managed estates but for ill-managed estates.And again he said—The tenant is entitled to have compensation by money if he is evicted, or to have a duration of his term."—[See 3 Hansard, 1xxxi. 1142.]In my opinion there could not be a stronger condemnation of this Bill than the Bill and language of Lord Derby in 1845. I now come to the attempt of the same Government to deal with the question in 1852, and so far from standing upon the condition of requiring notice of improvements the Bill contained clauses, giving compensation for past improvements made within twenty-five years. And I may be allowed to say that the principle of retrospective compensation rests upon the most imperative justice, the soundest reason, and the highest authority. The practice in Ireland was, and always has been, for the tenants to make the improvements. Surely both reason and practice demanded that the Legislature should have protected that property which the tenants created, not against the will, but by the tacit consent of the landlord. Why was the landlord 1739 allowed to silently look on while the improvements were made, and afterwards (if any difference occurred between him and his tenant) appropriate to himself the improvements of the tenants? Would not such conduct be a violation of every principle of justice and fair dealing? And, yet, that has been done—nay, has been a practice, and the Judges of the Equity Courts in Ireland have been obliged to openly state from the bench, "that the law obliged them to administer injustice." But there are other high authorities upon the subject, both Liberal and Conservative. Mr. Drummond, one of the wisest and most statesmanlike officials that was ever connected with Ireland, speaking on this subject, said—To trust to contracts to regulate future dealings is possible, while, for the past, it is evidently impossible.Therefore legislation is more necessary for the past than for the future. Again, a noble Lord, not in favour of extreme views (Lord Dufferin), has said—Unless the past is first dealt with it will be impossible to come to a settlement with respect to the future.And Lord Donoughmore, in defending the Bill of 1854, and the clauses in it giving retrospective compensation, said—For various causes the landlords of Ireland had been in the habit of letting land simply and not farms … whether something could not be done consistently with the rights of property to relieve this large class of persons in Ireland who had laid out their capital on bad titles."—[3 Hansard, cxxxi. 4.]Now, I ask the Government of Lord Derby why do they depart from the principle of the Bill of 1852? It must be on either of two grounds—namely, that the claims existing in 1852 have been destroyed by eviction or by occupation for thirteen years, and that no claims have sprung up ever since. Now, as to the first, I do not think it will be contended on the part of landlords that they can equitably get rid of a just claim for compensation by eviction. And no person conversant with the subject can allege that thirteen years' occupation will pay for what it would require an occupation of thirty-one years, or forty-one years, or sixty-one years, according to the character of the improvement to exhaust. And, as to the second reason, every person acquainted with Ireland knows that claims have sprung up since 1852. I will come by-and-bye to another important particular in which the present Bill departs from the Bill of 1852. I leave the vacillating con- 1740 duct and inconsistent policy of Governments upon this subject, and come to the great and important consideration of the imperative necessity for the settlement of this question, if you are to have peace, order, and prosperity in Ireland. My arguments on that head will not be based on any observations of my own, although I have considered the matter with some care, but on the authority of public men who, under the sense of responsibility, and with full knowledge of the facts, have pronounced this deliberate opinion that a satisfactory settlement of the land question is the foundation of all attempts at beneficial legislation for Ireland. The Report of the Devon Commission pronounces the state of the tenant question in Ireland—The foundation of almost all the evils by which the social condition of Ireland is disturbed, and to which is to be traced those feelings of mutual distrust which separate the classes of landlord and tenant and prevents an united exertion for the common benefit.That complaint has been repeated from 1844 to the present time by every statesman who proposed to deal with this question. And yet, notwithstanding this unanimous agreement of the necessity of settling the question, no real attempt (unless I may call that of Lord Derby in 1852 and that of the late Government so) has been made for a satisfactory settlement of this all-important question. I must refer the House to the language of the nobleman who, under the late Government, filled the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Kimberley—a man whose character for statesmanlike views and great abilities is not confined to this Empire. Before he went to Ireland his views, I believe, were opposed to any change in the relation of the laws of landlord and tenant in Ireland. But when he went to that country and applied his strong intellect and full knowledge to the acquisition of the facts connected with the local condition of Ireland, what were his words? On his return from that country he thought it his duty to give to the House, of which he is so distinguished a Member, and to the Empire in which he filled so high an office, the results of his experience and of his observation while Governor of Ireland. He says—It is impossible for England to perform its duty towards Ireland as long as no attempt is made to deal with the important question of the tenure of land."—[3 Hansard, clxxxiv. 2085.]And again—Ireland is a country with which English statesmen have been singularly unsuccessful in 1741 dealing. But if we can devise any measure by which that country can be brought more into sympathy with the rest of the United Kingdom by which we shall touch the hearts of the Iris people—which we have never yet touched—.we shall add to the glory and strength of the Empire more than by any other measure we can possibly devise."—[ Hansard, clxxxiv. 2085.]And yet, notwithstanding the concurrent testimony of all statesmen, from Edmund Burke to Lord Kimberley, Parliament has been found unable to devise any measure to settle this question and bring Ireland more in harmony with the Empire. Is it any wonder that under such circumstance there should be discontent in Ireland No; but it would be a wonder if there was not discontent in that country. And there is universal discontent in Ireland, and the discontent is attributed by all classes—the farmer, the labourer, the shopkeeper, the clergyman—to the land question. They al argue thus:—Ireland is an agriculture country, and while the land question remains as it is and improvements are not encouraged and protected by the law,Want of employment will produce destitution, destitution turbulence, turbulence want of security, want of security want of capital, and want of capital want of employment.These words were used over twenty year ago by Mr. Nicholls, who was thoroughly acquainted with the social condition of Ireland, and they are as true of her condition this day as they were then. Her is a complete circle of causes and effect mutually acting and re-acting upon each other, and all springing from the great original cause—the social condition of Ireland. Is it surprising that the there should be discontent in Ireland as long as the Government and Parliament of the Empire for the past twenty years have shown themselves either quite incapable of understanding the condition of Ireland, quite unwilling to remedy the admitted grievances of that condition? The Government of the country stands inactive, or proposes such abortive measures as the present, while emigration goes on increasing transferring the Irish population to America, producing and increasing in that part of the world that anti-British feeling which exhibits itself in raids upon Canada, and attempts at insurrection in Ireland. I tell this House that as long as you do not dry up the source of this poisonous stream it will flow on, increased by tributaries that will swell into a mighty flood that may some day endanger the institutions under which we live, and dissolve the 1742 integrity of the Empire. I know it has been said by some persons who profess to be statesmen—and among others by the noble Lord who has brought in this Bill—that the land question has nothing to say to this state of things. I am sorry I cannot agree with such sanguine, and in my opinion, short-sighted persons; and I think I will satisfy the House before I sit down that it is the cause—the original and continuing cause—of the discontents that have culminated in Fenianism. Who are the Fenians, the real, active, energetic, trained and dangerous Fenians, who labour day and night to propagate their principles and their system? They are the returned emigrants. Who are the emigrants? They are the agricultural population of Ireland who have been leaving Ireland at the rate of 120,000 a year since 1861, and at a much more rapid rate before that period. As long as you by your present system of land tenure in Ireland allow that emigration to go on—you are increasing the ranks of the Fenians and propagating Fenianism. But I know it is said by some the land question is not the cause of emigration and that the late Returns of the number of civil bill ejectments in Ireland from 1860 to 1866 proves that. But the actual state of facts showed the contrary. According to these Returns there were 14,086 notices under civil bill ejectments served from 1860 to 1866. Of these about 8,778 were actually executed, making with 719 haberes from the superior courts 9,479 evictions actually executed. But as the proportion of decrees executed to the total evictions was as one to three, it would follow that from 1860 to 1866, 28,491 families, comprising about 170,946 persons, were dispossessed. This was about one in four of the emigrants from Ireland during the same period, If we allow the same proportion for the 2,376,157 reduction in the population of Ireland from 1844 to 1861—and surely every person will admit the proportion must have been very much greater—we have about 1,000,000 reduction of our population in Ireland actually produced by eviction alone, or directly from the operation of the land question. But there is another way in which we may arrive at a proximate result, that is, by the number of small holdings that have disappeared in Ireland since 1844. In 1841 there were 563,235 holdings from one to fifteen acres, and in 1864 only 258,405, or a reduction of 304,830 small holdings, containing a 1743 population of over 1,500,000 persons. There has been, of course, an increase of holdings over-thirty acres, but still, I think the result may be safely stated thus,—that 1,000,000 of the population of Ireland has been actually evicted from land by the direct operation of the landlords since 1841. I hope I have satisfied the House that it is not true, as often stated, that the reduction of the population in Ireland and the emigration from that country are not connected with this question; but that, on the contrary, a great part of that reduction and emigration is the direct consequence of the present state of the land question. I now come to the present condition of the holdings in Ireland, and to the consideration whether this Bill is a practical settlement of the land question. There are at this moment the following holdings in Ireland:—1 acre, 48,653; 1 to 5 acres, 82,037; 5 to 15 acres, 176,368; 15 to 20 acres, 136,578; 20 to 50 acres, 71,961; 50 to 100 acres, 14,547; 100 to 500 acres, 8,303. There are, consequently, 307,028 holdings under 15 acres, 443,606 under 30 acres, and only 156,576 holdings over 30 acres, that is only one-third. I assume that the remedy should be made co-extensive with the evil, and I ask what is the evil? You are not asked to legislate for the large tenants alone—on the contrary, I have the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for saying that the evil is the emigration of the Irish agricultural population. The right hon. Gentleman has called that emigration a "hæmorrhage to which a styptic is to be applied," since the use of those remarkable words the organs of the Government in Ireland have been making political capital out of them, and they are placed at the head of all their articles. I hope that they will not turn out as "oracular" as other clap-trap responses from the Treasury Bench. I deceive myself very much if I do not show to the satisfaction of the House that this Bill instead of being a styptic will become the application of a "lancet" to increase the hæmorrhage. No man is more conversant with the subject than the noble Lord. No man knows the state of things in Ireland better. No Member of this House is more competent to prepare a proper Bill on the subject. It is the want of will, and not the want of ability, that prevents the noble Lord from bringing in a proper Bill. The noble Lord's party in Ireland, from Lord Rosse down, do not 1744 want to settle this question. The tenant-at-will system is to be maintained, and to be maintained for political reasons. Now I ask the noble Lord this fair question—For whom, for what class of tenants does he intend this Bill? For the small class? They will not and cannot avail themselves of it. For the large class? They do not want it, and will not have it in its present condition. I have their authority for saying so. I hold in my hand resolutions in which they repudiate and reject it as worse even than the present system. This Bill cannot protect the small tenants under fifteen acres, and under thirty acres, who want protection, and it turns the farmers in Ireland of over thirty acres into stewards without the wages of stewards. I repeat, that any Bill on this subject must be made applicable to the present race of tenants in Ireland. That principle I hold to be an A B C political axiom. Is this Bill applicable to the present race of tenants in Ireland? Let us see. This Bill contains three classes of provisions—first, that tenants may apply to the Commissioners of Public Works for loans to be appointed under the Act by memorial. Commissioner may accept or reject, and if he accepts, the work is to go on under his superintendance and inspection, and if he approves of the work done be may give a certificate charging the form with the loan at 5 per cent for thirty-five years to be paid by the tenant. Second. If the tenant wishes to make the improvement at his own expense he may also apply by memorial, and if the commissioner approves, he may grant a certificate as in the former case. Thirdly. Neither the tenant nor commissioner can make or sanction improvements, first, to make fences; second, to make farm roads; third, or to build, re-build, or to enlarge farm holdings. Now, I ask the noble Lord this simple question. Will any of the tenants under fifteen acres apply under this Bill, or if they did or could would the commissioner approve of the memorial? The noble Lord is more ignorant of the class of tenants I mention, if he answers in the affirmative, than I believe him to be. Nay, I ask, will any of the tenants under thirty acres do so? The noble Lord knows well that they will not. What is the number of these tenants? 404,606, or two-thirds of the entire of the tenants of Ireland. Thus you exclude by your Bill the very people for whom legislation is most necessary, and their number is two-thirds of the whole tenantry of Ireland. 1745 Could there be a greater condemnation of this Bill? Again, I ask, will the tenants between thirty acres and fifty acres apply by memorial under this Act? I distinctly say no. And what is their number? 71,961:—so that the only class of tenant this Bill would practically apply to would be the 70,000 tenants of fifty acres and upwards—that is, one-seventeenth of all the tenants in Ireland, and the very class that are independent, and do not want, and will not have such a law as this. But suppose the fifty acre tenant does apply under this Act, what will be the consequence? He wants to drain twenty acres of his farm, and asks for £150, the work is done in two or three years; for the three or four first years, during which the tenant is obliged to pay the rent-charge, the work does not pay. At the end of that period the farm becomes more valuable, perhaps one-half, perhaps one-third. The tenant is a tenant-at-will; the landlord is a bad and hard landlord, or falls out with his tenant, and he says to the tenant, "I must get an increase of rent or the farm;" and he compels the tenant under the 11th section to apply to the commissioner to buy the rent-charges. Thus he gets possession without paying 1s., and has only to pay the residue of the rent-charge for the resisidue of thirty-five years. This I call a premium on eviction. Is this the styptic of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? I call it a new way of increasing the hæmorrhage and depopulating Ireland. But, it will be said no landlord of any character will do so? I answer in the words of Lord Derby in 1845—"We are not making laws against good landlords, but against bad landlords" If this Bill became law in its present condition, and if the tenantry of Ireland availed themselves of it (as they will not) the effect would be to get rid of all the holders of fifteen acres, and consolidate farms. I say and repeat, the effect would be to get rid of 307,628 holdings, or from 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 of people, the very number Lord Rosse says must be got rid of. But there is no fear of such a consequence, for I tell the noble Lord this Bill never will become law in its present shape, or, if it does, it will be just as worthless as the Bill of 1860; for the Irish tenants will not have it. If the noble Lord is sincere; if he is in earnest upon this subject; if he is honestly disposed to settle this question, let him introduce a clause that the tenant shall not be disturbed for the thirty-five years during which he is paying 1746 the rent-charge except for non-payment of the original rent. Why should not the tenant remain in possession while he is receiving the value and paying the costs of the improvement? If the noble Lord does what I ask him, I promise him that his Bill will not only pass, but be received with gratitude, and universally adopted and acted upon by the Irish people. Oh! what a change would come over the face of the country if the tenants were allowed to spend the £17,000,000 now locked up in the joint-stock banks, and expend it on the improvement of their farms which they were to occupy for the term during which they were paying the rent-charge under this Bill. If asked, what do I propose? I answer, turn this into a Tenure Bill as well as a Compensation Bill. This great question involving the prosperity—nay, the lives of a great portion of the Irish people, cannot be settled by a one-sided measure—you must make it complete. Protect the tenant in his occupation, or give him compensation, but do not give a compensation that will be an inducement to the landlord and a power in his hand to deprive the tenant of his farm or compel him to emigrate. I tell the House that the interests of the Empire demand that there should be a stop put to further emigration from Ireland. And I call upon the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make good his words. Let him not—Keep the word of promise to the ear, And break it to the hope.When I say that this question cannot be settled unless you deal with the subject of tenure I speak from high authority. I have the authority of the head of Her Majesty's Government. Lord Derby, in 1845, said—The tenant is entitled to have compensation by money if evicted, or to have a duration of his term.O'Connell (who knew the condition of the Irish tenantry perhaps better than any other man) said, in 1846—The tenant should have the full value of his labour and improvements unless he gets a renewed lease.And again, speaking on the Bill of 1846—The attempt ought to be made to give the occupiers fixity of tenure by lease, words frequently assailed, but implying what was most desirable to accomplish for Ireland.But I require no authority for such a proposition; it is the unanimous opinion of the Irish people—it is the universal voice of that nation demanding from this House 1747 the liberty and right of living in their native land. I beseech the House to be no longer deaf to that voice. I call upon them in the name, and in the interest of this great Empire, to arrest the tide of emigration, and disloyalty, and disaffection that is bearing away the Irish race from that island which is bound to England by the golden link of the Crown, but which this House is bound to connect with England by the ties that spring from the heart, the bonds that are formed by a common interest, a common prosperity, and a common glory. I have endeavoured to show to this House the nature of the measure that is demanded for the settlement of this question. I have proved by the Bills of former Governments, and the authority of the statesman who is at the head of the present Government, that the Bill is defective, illusory, and in some respects full of danger. I have taken no party view—I have spoken from my knowledge of the state of things in Ireland and of the character of the measure that is required to settle this question. Nobody knows better than the noble Lord the Chief Secretary that I have a right to speak upon this question, and that I speak with a certain degree of authority. On the last occasion I addressed this House upon the Tenant Bill of the late Government, I expressed my opinion freely, fully, and impartially. Nullius addictus in verba jurare magistri. I am supported by the authority of a great statesman in saying, "that the laws that are not backed by the general conscience of the community can have no permanent effect," and I now tell this House that this Bill in its present shape is not backed by the conscience of the Irish people for whom it is intended, and can therefore have no permanent effect.
§ MR. POLLARD-URQUHART
said, that this question had been discussed for upwards of twenty years in that House, and though different Governments had expressed themselves ready to stand or fall by other questions in which the Irish people felt little sympathy, few had been willing to stake their existence as an Administration on a matter like the present, which was deeply interesting to the people of Ireland, and he hoped that like the Reform Bill, which had been only sixteen years upon the carpet, it would at last come to be treated independently of party considerations. He had learnt by experience to take whatever was acceptable in 1748 any Bill irrespective of what party it came from, though the measure itself might not contain all that he could have desired; and, after carefully studying the present Bill, he must say that, though it would not form a settlement of the question, it contained a great many elements of good. Besides enabling tenants to make improvements by the aid of a loan from the Government, it is also provided that compensation should be given them for certain improvements made by themselves without the consent of the landlord. That provision was a great step in advance. He hoped the noble Lord would consent somewhat to extend the period of charge beyond thirty-five years for houses. In Scotland there existed machinery by which landlords were enabled to borrow money to build houses and make a perpetual charge on the land; and if the noble Lord would consent to engraft such a principle on this Bill, altered so as to allow tenants to avail themselves of it with the consent of their landlords, he would confer a great benefit on the farmers of Ireland, and make this measure go much further towards a final settlement of the question. The building of a house, for instance, was an improvement which not only involved labour, but an actual expenditure of money, and a tenant would hardly be justified in laying out money in building a house for which his family would lose all claim to compensation at the end of thirty-five years. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) had said a great deal about the encouragement of leases; and he believed if they were more general the solution of the question would be much more easy; but he doubted whether it was altogether wise to mix up the two subjects, because the benefits contemplated by the Bill were for those who had not the security of leases. But that, after all, was a matter to be considered in Committee. He believed the more this question was considered, the more it would be found that so far from their interests being antagonistic, when landlords gave to their tenants such a security as induced them to improve, it would be found quite as beneficial to the one as to the other.
MR. PEEL DAWSON
said, although this Bill had not created much excitement, or any great enthusiasm, it would, if passed, be the means of effecting great changes of a novel and very important character; and he considered it the duty of the House to take care that those 1749 changes were unaccompanied with any violent or dangerous innovations. It was with very great regret that in this matter, to certain extent, he must differ from his noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland and any support he could give the Bill must be contingent on the assurance he received from him, or some other Member of the Government, that the improvement alluded to in Clause 7 should be placed on one uniform basis, and that the Commissioner should grant no certificate if the landlord continued to object to any of the six several heads enumerated in the Interpretation Clause. But he was not so sanguine as to entertain the belief that, even if the Bill passed, there was any chance preventing further agitation in Ireland upon the subject. There were those who would be content with no reasonable or rational settlement short of the Confiscation of all proprietary rights, and who looked to the possession of the soil, whether through Fenian or other agencies without the control of the landlord or any acknowledgment of their title even in the shape of rent. To such no legislation would be acceptable or satisfactory; and this spirit was at the root of all Irish disorganization and discontent. He had no complaint to make of the tone of the Irish Members; but he could not for one moment sanction or encourage any such wild views as consistent with rational legislation on the question. He trusted that Parliament would not consent to any arbitrary pressure on landlords, or to the withdrawal from them of that authority and control which were necessary for the management of their estates. Permissive tenant right as existing in Ulster had, in his opinion, been productive of great advantage both to tenant and landlord, and sorry should he be to see it limited either practice or by legislation, and it was very seldom that in changes of tenancy any case of grievance was either authenticated or substantiated. He did not collect from the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) whether his proposal meant to provide compulsorily for leases; if so, he certainly could not join him in advocating concession to that effect. He must, however express his decided preference for the system of tenure that existed in Scotland where short leases of nineteen and twenty one years were given direct to the tenant. He believed that was the best arrangement that could be made between the two parties, and afforded sufficient 1750 opportunity for realizing all the solid improvements made at the tenant's expense. The real cause why this system had not been extended to Ireland was the minute subdivision of land into small farms, and the inability of landlords to undertake the erection and maintenance of such buildings as would be subsidiary to the present system. He was once much struck by the observation of an eminent Divine, well known in Belfast, who proposed to settle the question of tenant right in two words, and those magic syllables were—"give leases." He hoped that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Galway was founded on the principle of voluntary leases; he should willingly give his adherence to the principles of the Bill, provided the alterations embodied in the Amendments of his hon. Colleague (Sir Frederick Heygate) were introduced. These, he thought, would correct any seeming injustice in the Bill. Still, he did not anticipate that it would become widely operative. He hoped to receive such assurances from the noble Lord as would enable him to consider the principle of the Bill an honest and trust worthy one; and under such circumstances, but under these circumstances only, he should hope to see its future progress steady and secure, and its enactment accomplished.
said, he wished to correct a mistake into which the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) had inadvertently fallen in erroneously attributing the saying that Fenianism could not exist in Ireland when butter was £4 the firkin to Mr. James O'Connell. That opinion, so far from having been expressed by Mr. J. O'Connell, had given him considerable annoyance. He gathered from the course pursued by the Government in this Bill either that they were incapable of dealing with the land question, or that they would not deal with it, or that the land question was understood neither by the Irish people nor by the Government, and that it neither could nor would be the subject of legislation. If Her Majesty's Government meant to avow their incapacity or their want of inclination to deal with the Irish land question, he would not dispute the accuracy of that avowal or censure their candour. If, however, the Government, by declaring that this Bill did not attempt to deal with the land question, meant to convey to the House the impression that there was no such question as 1751 the land question, or that that phrase had no well defined meaning, they were entirely wrong. In his opinion, however, the Bill dealt in a large manner with the land question. That question consisted of two distinct parts which, although closely related, were not necessarily contained the one in the other, and could be dealt with separately. The first and infinitely the most important concerned the improvement of the condition of the people who dwelt upon the land, and that portion of the subject was left untouched by the present Bill. The second related to the mere improvement of the soil. The latter was the portion of the land question with which the Bill proposed to deal. Her Majesty's Government were evidently of opinion that the occupiers had no right to a permanent interest in the land, and they brought in a Bill founded upon the preposterous assumption that although the tenants would have no permanent interest in the land they would invest their savings and their labour in its improvement. Tenants would soon learn that the Bill offered them no security for the capital it proposed to lend them for the purpose of improving the land. What security had they that as soon as the improvements were effected their rents would not be raised, if they were not at once evicted? Depend upon it if the Bill were passed it would soon become a dead letter, as none of the occupiers would care to avail themselves of its provisions. The Bill would lead the House to suppose that the real and sole want of the Irish tenants was want of capital, whereas their real and sole want was security for their capital when invested in the improvement of the soil. If the Irish tenants believed that they would be enriching themselves instead of somebody else, they would soon show that they lacked neither capital nor energy. The framers of the Bill, in effect, said to the tenants, "We are aware of your position—we know your landlord can turn you out, and we are resolved that he shall have that power as long as he thinks proper; but as we are anxious that the land shall be brought into a high state of cultivation, we will lend you money by which you will be enabled to till, and drain, and fence, and clear your land more effectually, and when you have worked and strained every nerve to enable you to repay the principal and interest of the sum we have lent you we shall be unable to tell you that your condition has been in any way improved; but this we can tell you—your farms will 1752 be more valuable to your landlords than they were before; they will bring a higher rent, and they will realize a larger sum in the Incumbered Estates Court." Such was the anxiety of the occupiers to obtain some security for the possession of their farms that they would gladly borrow under this Bill if by doing so they could obtain for their tenure even a moderate amount of stability. No tenants, however, could avail themselves of the provisions of the Bill without the consent of their landlords; and therefore they could not avail themselves of the measure in order to defeat or restrain the system of eviction which Her Majesty's Government held to be so essential to the prosperity of Ireland. No more unjust charge could be brought against the Bill than to say that it endangered the rights of the landlords; because it left both the landlords and tenants in their present position, as it left the latter in complete dependence upon the former for everything that made life desirable. The Bill held out to occupiers that which they would accept if they were utterly blind to their own interests, seeing that by borrowing the money to improve their landlord's property they would be merely increasing the rent they had to pay. He thought it ought to be clear to the House that such an attempt to deal with Irish farmers as if they were mere labourers was as unjust as it was shortsighted. There was not a single clause in the Bill on which a man of business or sense could rest his expectation of an adequate return. The Bill might be useful to tenants who had leases; but in Ireland leases to tenants were rare and could not be taken into account in considering the general effect of the Bill on the state of Ireland. It was impossible that the Bill could lead to the results anticipated by those who advocated it. The improvement of the land and the improvement of those who dwelt upon it were inseparable questions. Without the assistance of occupiers the land could not be improved, and the occupiers would not aid in any improvement unless it was made clear to them that they must be substantially benefited by these improvements. If they improved the condition of the people—if they gave occupiers a certainty of tenure and placed them beyond the caprice of landlords, they would soon bring their holdings into a high state of cultivation, and distrust and disaffection would disappear in Ireland. The great obstacle that had thwarted all their attempts at legisla- 1753 tion on this question was tenancy-at-will. Sweep that away, and a new state of things would spring up. Tenancy-at-will had been an impassable barrier between the wisdom of Parliament and the wants of the people, for whatever Acts Parliament in its wisdom might have passed there was between Parliament and the people a power which virtually paralysed their action. How could they wonder at the disturbance and discontent of Ireland when the whole fabric of Irish society rested on the unstable foundation of tenancy-at-will? In a nation of tenant-sat-will men could not be said to have either a home or a country. He was convinced that before any improvement could be effected in the condition of the people it would be necessary to abolish tenancy-at-will, and to substitute in its place security of tenure. What was wanted was a simple Bill which would effect that object. Nothing short of it would satisfy the Irish tenant, tranquillize the country, stimulate industry, or place Ireland in the road to prosperity. As it was, the Irish tenant felt that under no circumstances could his position be a worse one, and he, as a natural consequence, anxiously looked to the possibility of any change. He could not but regard the present state of the land question in Ireland with alarm, and he earnestly trusted that the House would deal with this subject justly and courageously. He should, on the present occasion, give his vote in favour of the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Galway, feeling that that Amendment, at all events, pointed in the right direction.
§ MR. PIM
said, he yielded to none in his conviction of the importance of this question to Ireland. It was, in fact, a question of much greater interest to the people of Ireland than the question of Reform was to the people of England. He did not think he was in the least exaggerating the case when he said that nineteen-twentieths of the population of that country felt that the laws relating to land were unjust in principle and injurious in their operation to the public welfare. It was not a question between Catholic and Protestant. The majority of the complaints which he received emanated from Protestants, and, in his opinion, the Protestant tenantry of Ireland had suffered more than the Roman Catholic tenantry; but the Protestant tenantry did not talk so much about it. The Protestant tenantry in the South of Ireland had diminished within the last fifty 1754 years in a larger proportion than the Roman Catholic tenantry. It was poor satisfaction to know that the evils which this Bill proposed to remedy were complained of by protestants and Roman Catholics alike, still it was pleasing to reflect that the question was not a religious one. He did not believe that the interest of the landlord and the interest of the tenant were antagonistic. The land laws stood greatly in need of revision, and if that were done in a proper spirit, the position both of the landlords and of the tenants would be improved, and at the same time the condition of the country would be improved. He expected that the course which would eventually be taken would be one which would give a legal recognition to the rights of the tenants, and which would also afford increased facilities for maintaining the rights of the landlord. Some had objected to this Bill on the ground that it was special legislation; but that objection would not stand. The Montgomery Act was a case of special legislation for Scotland, and it had worked well for nearly 100 years. Another case of special legislation for Scotland was the Bill brought in by the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire, with respect to the Game Laws, which proposed to give tenants a right to recover compensation for damage to their crops from the increase of rabbits, hares, and game on their farms. That was special legislation; but certainly he did not object to it. One of the two Bills introduced by the noble Lord was based upon the Scotch statute—the Montgomery Act—to which he had already referred, but it was not nearly so liberal; and he should prefer to extend the operation of that Act to Ireland rather than adopt the measure of the noble Lord. At the same time, he thought that the noble Lord had, by the introduction of these Bills, done service to the land question in Ireland. With respect to the Bill now before them—the Tenants Improvements Bill—he did not think it would meet the requirements of the Irish land question; but still, if certain changes were made in it, which he hoped to see introduced in committee, he thought it would be a good and useful measure. The hon. Member for Tralee had shown in a very striking manner some of the objections to the provisions of re Bill; and the principal one was that there was no security for the tenant. He scarcely saw how the Bill could be made work properly unless the security of a lease was given to the tenant. So strong 1755 did this objection appear to Mr. Caird, he might be considered an authority on the question, that he proposed, where the tenant had no lease, that the Legislature should secure him one for thirty-four years, while the loan from the Government was in the course of being re-paid. If some such arrangement were not come to there could be no doubt that the tenant would run the risk of having his rent raised according to the improvements effected. But, notwithstanding these objections, he hoped that the Bill would be read a second time, and that nothing would interfere with passing into law. It would benefit only a small proportion of the tenantry of Ireland, but he was not sure that it would not benefit a large proportion of the land of Ireland, and he was sure that the land could not be improved without its producing a reflex operation upon those who tilled the land. He had received a letter from a tenant farmer, who said—I hope the Bill will be in some points amended, but not defeated, and I shall feel it great loss if, by a change of Government or other-wise, the Bill should be let drop. There are four or five persons, including myself, in this neighbourhood who would at once act upon it.The writer went on to express his opinion that it wasWith the middle and higher, but not with the lower, class of farmers that the Bill would be useful.Whether the person from whose letter he had quoted held a lease or not he was unable to say, but he lived under a landlord in whom he placed great confidence, ant under whose family he and his predecessors had held the same farm for more than 200 years. To the other Bill introduced by the noble Lord—the Land Improvement and Leasing Bill—several objections might be urged. Thus, the 13th clause enabled the successor to a property to call for re-examination of what had taken place at the instance of the limited owner, ever though an annuity might have been granted. To him it seemed that whatever inqury took place in the first instance, and especially where an annuity had been granted should be final. Again, with regard to the time allowed, it was scarcely to be supposed that any person would spend his own money and be satisfied with a twenty-five years' annuity, when he could borrow money from the Treasury and be allowed thirty-five years for re-payment. Another objection was that a limited owner was to be bound to have the consent of his successor before 1756 he could grant a lease in certain cases, Within whatever limits the ostensible proprietor could legitimately act, he ought to be at liberty to do so without any necessity for consulting the successor or any third party, otherwise the tenant could never be certain that he was getting a valid lease, or that all legal formalities had been complied with. The principle of both the Bills introduced by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland he believed to be sound; and he thought with certain modifications they were likely to prove useful to the country. But they should be freed from some of the difficulties that at present surrounded their working; and with that object he appealed to the noble Lord to allow them both to be referred to a Select Committee. The Montgomery Act was passed for Scotland nearly 100 years ago, and on looking at that Act he found that every important clause was introduced with a preamble which ran thus:—"Whereas, such an improvement will be beneficial to the public." That was the true point of view to look at these matters—to be guide not so much by the interest of the landlord or even of the tenant, but by the interest of the community at large. It was as much a matter of equity to recognise the rights of the landlords as those of the tenants. But hitherto legislation had not respected the rights of the tenants; and the only way in which lawyers could protect the tenant was to throw difficulties in the way of enforcing the legal rights of the landlord, so that, in point of fact, the operation of the law was injurious to both.
§ SIR FREDERICK HEYGATE
said he felt it his painful duty to oppose the present Bill; but he would not do so on the ground taken by the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Sandford), for he felt that any one who held the difficult any responsible office of Irish Secretary in suck times as the present might well be allowed to change his mind. For his part he gave the noble Lord the present Chief Secretary every credit for sincerity, and he believed he had brought forward this measure with a sincere desire to benefit the people of Ireland; but the noble Lord could hardly expect those who supported his Resolution of last year to be ready with equal facility to follow him in the course he was now taking. In a case of this kind it required the strongest reasons to induce him to support a measure which appeared to him to be destructive of the rights of property, by allowing one man to carry out improve- 1757 ments on another person's property without that other person's consent. Disguise the matter as they might—and the noble Lord had shown great skill in doing so—still the fact remained that these improvements were to be made without the landlord's consent. If this proposition were agreed to—if the landlord was to be put aside with respect to one class of improvements, why should he not be put aside with respect to all others? If Parliament allowed the tenant, by this Bill, to borrow money for drainage without the consent of his landlord, next year the demand would be made for the extension of that power to the case of other improvements. He was one who admitted the necessity of stopping the emigration from Ireland, which he regarded as one of the greatest evils that could befall a country; but it did not appear to him that this Bill was calculated to effect that desirable object. He had looked carefully at the Bill, with every desire to improve it, and he had put several Amendments on the paper, but the more he looked at it the more he was convinced that it was not only objectionable in principle, but also that it was one the working of which would be impracticable. If it were passed, he was sure it would remain a dead letter. The subject was not one to be approached in the spirit of party or political feeling, but should be dealt with in a spirit of compromise. The first improvement named in the Bill was draining. Why draining should be left to the tenant, however, he did not understand, because in England if draining were so left it was usually done badly. Nor could he understand the provisions of the Bill with respect to reclaiming land. No doubt that was often well done under a just landlord, who took care that the tenant was compensated either in money or by length of tenure, but it sometimes happened that mountain land was reclaimed which had better been left in its original state. The Bill was to be carried out by the Commissioners, and an enormous staff of those officials would be required if there was to be no limit as to the size of the farm in respect of which application was to be made; because, according to the noble Lord, there were 608,869 holdings in Ireland. If, on the other hand, the House did what he thought would be right, and limited the applications to farms of over £50, as there were only 35,955 holdings which came under that category, and as there would be a further deduction in respect of lands on which money had already been borrowed 1758 for draining, the operation of the Bill would be infinitesimal. Again, as to the maintenance of the improvements, how was it possible in an immense number of small farms to ascertain what extent of depreciation had taken place? He thought that any endeavour to come at the fact would create endless ill-feeling between landlord and tenant. Clause 14 of the Bill referred to the compensation to the tenant for labour. This in many cases would be very proper; on the other hand, there was great liability to abuse. He wished to know what was to be done in case it should turn out that a small farm was not able to repay the money advanced on it? Was it to be sold out of the middle of an estate? If not, was the Treasury to lose the advance? They had heard of the success of the small farm system in Switzerland, Holland, and Belgium; and it was argued that this system acted as a check upon emigration; but it should be remembered that in all those countries there was industrial occupation for the people apart from the cultivation of their farms. It was impossible for landlords in Ireland to act upon a general principle in erecting farm buildings, in consequence of the inevitable consolidation of small farms, the result of an increase in prices. In his opinion, the best plan was to let the landlords and the tenants settle their arrangements between them-selves, without giving the landlord any special advantages. He should simply have the remedy of any other creditor. The prosperity of Ireland had everything to do with this cry about the land question; a bad harvest gave fresh impetus to the agitation upon the subject, but the best way was to deal with the interests of Ireland on general principles; it was by promoting the general prosperity of Ireland and not by lending money on small farms that the question could be brought to a satisfactory solution. The largest portion of the agricultural population of Ireland were the labourers; but the House had heard nothing of them. As to the question of leases, he did not believe that the granting of them would enable landlords to obtain higher rents than they at present received. Not long ago, indeed, the whole of Ireland was under lease, and the consequence was subletting and bad farming in every direction. Irish landlords were always spoken of as if they were devoid of common sense because they had not adopted the Scotch system of nineteen years, or anything of the kind. With regard to leases of thirty-two years, 1759 they would long before their expiry be converted into perpetuities, and the example of the Bishop's lands would be followed. In his opinion a system of leases for ten years or thereabouts would be best suited for Ireland; for he concurred in what had been stated that evening to the effect that it would be a good thing if Irish tenants had a permanent interest in the land. That and a system of equitable agreements in writing between landlord and tenant would probably meet the requirements of the case. He hoped the noble Lord (Lord Naas) would withdraw his Bill, which had met with no support on either side of the House. The passing of such a measure would have the effect of driving capital away from the country. Hon. Gentlemen who had spoken on this subject seemed to forget how immensely trade had been developed in Belfast and other parts of the North of Ireland; that coal could be imported from England, and that there was any amount of water power for the establishment of manufactures. They seemed to forget that the climate was favourable for other industries. Ireland should not be treated as if it could only be an agricultural country. Why, around Belfast the number of spindles in the flax trade had doubled within the last few years. The country ought to depend not upon agriculture alone, but on those other industries which had made other nations great and rich.
§ MR. MONSELL
said, that the position of the several parts of Ireland in respect of the relations of landlord and tenant were very different. If tenant right existed in the South and South-West as it did in the North the necessity for legislation on the subject would be very much restricted. The hon. Baronet who had just addressed the House (Sir Frederick Heygate) had referred to the dangerous position of society in Ireland at the present time. Now, it was precisely because discontent was widely prevalent that he ventured to appeal to his noble Friend opposite (Lord Naas) not to give up the Bill, but to assent to the Resolution of the hon. Member for Galway. The state of the country was most dangerous, and discontent prevailed in three parts of Ireland. One section—a small and insignificant one—placed no trust in Parliament, and were determined to resort to physical force. Another section representing the intelligence of the West and South-West of Ireland, feeling discontented with their position, trusted to the promises of Parliament made for twenty-one years 1760 by successive Governments. The discontent of the South-West had its rise in the insecurity of tenure. Tenants-at-will felt no security that they would be left in possession of their holdings. The statement of the hon. Baronet (Sir Frederick Heygate) as to leases being formerly granted in Ireland was not altogether correct, the fact being that the country was divided among middle men who had long leases, and who let out the land to the actual occupiers of the soil. The system of tenancies-at-will had been condemned by Lord Macartney, Edmund Burke, Arthur Young, and other eminent men; and the Devon Commission reported that one of the principal evils they had to complain of was want of proper tenure. The hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Sandford) had remarked that people got on very well in England without leases, and asked why it was that they were considered necessary in Ireland. Now, hon. Gentlemen should bear in mind that there was a great difference between tenants-at-will in the two countries. In the first place, improvements effected by landlords in England were not effected by the landlords in Ireland; and secondly, there was not in Ireland that community of feeling and mutual trust between landlords and their tenants which was so general in England. The tenant in Ireland was in the position of a gentleman who went to hire an unfurnished house, and set about painting it. Would any wise man proceed to spend money to any extent upon an unfurnished house without a lease? Lord Rosse, writing on this subject, had said—Landlords in Ireland do not give leases to their tenants on account of political differences between them. They wish to keep their tenants under subjection. The apprehensions of landlords as to the effects of giving leases are not unreasonable; and, so long as those apprehensions exist, landlords will be reluctant to give leases.This passage struck at the root of the objection to giving leases in Ireland. The Rev. Dr. Moriarty, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kerry, said—Why leases are not given is not a matter of speculation, but a fact. They are withheld in order to concentrate political power in the landlord, and to annul the elective franchise; and this is done for the further purpose of maintaining the ascendancy of which the centre and the support is the Established Church, and which is fast embracing the whole social system.He was not raising the question of the Established Church, but he was showing that there were reasons other than those connected with the land which prevented 1761 landlords giving leases. He hoped the Government would explain whether their objection to the Resolution was founded upon an idea that it in any way touched the rights of property. It did not propose to interfere with contracts; it left landlords and tenants free to make them; and all that it proposed was that when there was no written contract that which should be presupposed to exist by law was that which would be for the benefit of society in Ireland—namely, a lease for whatever period might be considered best. This would only be analogous to the law disposing of the property of a person who died intestate in the manner which the State deemed best for the good of society. He warned hon. Members that if they did not consent to the moderate proposition contained in the Resolution the time might not be far distant when they would have to submit to something far more stringent. ["Oh, oh!"] Those who said "Oh!" opposed a moderate measure of Reform last year, and were now obliged to submit to a far more sweeping measure, and so upon this question they might have to come to the House and say they had got a measure which would not work, and must impose one far more extreme in character. He entreated the Government to consider the present circumstances of Ireland and not to reject the Resolution.
LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
desired to make an earnest appeal to the House. This Bill had been five hours under discussion, and every kind of extraneous matter had been imported into it. He appealed to the House to consider the real bearings of the measure, and not allow their minds to be carried away by the arguments of those who did not venture openly to oppose the measure, but tried to meet it with covert opposition. Let hon. Members consider the question fairly before them. For more than twenty years they had been told in that House that the tenantry of Ireland were not able to obtain compensation for the improvements they made on their holdings. Year after year they had been told that they must pass a fair compensation Bill—one which would meet the wants of the case when men were suddenly deprived of the proceeds of their industry and capital by the arbitrary action of the landlord. This Bill had been brought forward for the purpose of meeting that want. The House was called upon to say "Aye" or "No" to a distinct proposition whether such compensation were just and desirable, 1762 and he trusted hon. Members would not allow themselves to be led away upon any false issues. The question was whether, when a tenant had expended his money and his labour upon land, the Imperial Parliament should say that he should receive a fair equivalent for what he had expended. Yet, in limine, during five hours every objection had been urged against the Bill. He thought industrious tenants in Ireland had good reason to say that their loud-talking friends were not supporting their interests in the course of conduct they were following. The Bill, however, touched the susceptibilities of many in the House who were alarmed for the rights of landlords, and who, notwithstanding their former eloquence on the protection which the tenant needed, now raised false issues and endeavoured to prevent the House coming to an honest decision. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment said that he would not prejudge the Bill; but, at the same time, he must know perfectly well that if the Amendment were carried it would be fatal to the Bill. This was not a Bill which was proposed to settle the whole land question; but it was proposed as a straightforward attempt to settle some evident grievances. The title of the Bill stated that its object was to promote the improvement of land by occupying tenants by securing them money compensation. The tenantry were not capitalists, but they expended their labour on the land, and there was in the Bill a distinct provision that labour should be recognised and paid for. The Bill did not profess to settle all the questions affecting landlord and tenant. But there being a grievance and an injustice, the Government now proposed to remedy it, whereupon the so-called friends of the tenant drew a red herring across the scent and raised all manner of false issues. The question of leases was one to be entertained on its own merits; it might be properly raised, but should not be thrust forward in order to divert public attention from the subject-matter of the Bill. It had been said that leases were withheld for political reasons. Now, he had considerable knowledge of the North, and some, too, of the South of Ireland, and he could meet this statement with a positive contradiction. The hon. Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Bryan) said that this Bill was a feeble bid for popularity; but in almost the same breath the hon. Member who made this assertion added that no tenant would take advantage of the Bill. Of course, there 1763 was no consistency in such an argument. The hon. Member for Tipperary (Captain White), who had spoken with so much promise, seemed to think that the Bill would not enable tenants to employ profitably the £17,000,000 of money which they now had in the banks. But that was not so. They might, if they chose, put the whole of this money into the land. The Bill did not make the tenants merely a paltry offer of £1,000,000, but would give them security for the repayment of any money of their own invested by them in the soil. Several hon. Members talked of this Bill as not being a competent attempt to deal with the great land question, but none of them stated definitely what that question was. The House had no clear idea of what the great land question was, but they did know what compensation meant: yet when the Government proposed to deal with this definite question hon. Members objected because the Bill would not do what it did not profess to do. If those hon. Members did not like the principle of compensation to tenants, why did they not say so? He himself did approve of that principle, and therefore he supported the Bill. He appealed to the House whether they would allow Irish questions to be frittered away in the mode which was now attempted by those who supported the Amendment, which if carried could work Nothing but the postponement, and, possibly, the entire defeat of this measure for the present Session.
THE O'CONOR DON
The noble Lord who has just sat down has taunted us on this side of the House with taking up five hours to no purpose. I do not know whether he is not himself open to a charge of complicity in this crime, for I confess I do not see the results of his speech. He tells us that the Resolution of my hon. Friend the Member for Galway is beside the question—that it is foreign to it—that this Bill is not at all the large measure we supposed it was meant to be—that it is a very simple Bill, dealing with one subject only, and that we were endeavouring to defeat it, not openly, in a manly way, but by a side-wind—by proposing a Resolution that has nothing to do with it. Our answer is simply this:—We believed from the Queen's Speech, from the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to his constituents last winter, and from other speeches and statements, that the Government did intend to deal in a large and comprehensive way with the land question of Ireland, and we believed further that 1764 this Bill was the answer to their promises; and believing all this, and believing that it fell short of everything that could be called a settlement, we demand to extend it, so as to embrace the question of tenure, without which there can be no settlement satisfactory to the people of Ireland. We do not want to oppose the second reading of this Bill; we desire only to render it more satisfactory. As it is, it is in no sense a settlement. But I pass on from this part of the noble Lord's speech. He told us that on this side of the House we knew nothing of this Bill; that we showed a gross ignorance of its details, and that, in fact, we evaded the question. Well, Sir, I will try and deal with the Bill, with the Bill only, and regarding it merely as a Bill for providing compensation to tenants for improvements, I would ask, what does it really accomplish? When the Bill was first introduced, and on a cursory view of it, I frankly confess I was much impressed in its favour. It seemed to me to contain not only valuable principles, but also to originate very simple machinery by which the improvement of the soil of Ireland might be pushed forward; but the more I examined the Bill the more I found these impressions illusory, and I was obliged, with regret, to come to the conclusion that whatever good might be effected by the Bill, would be more than counterbalanced by its evil tendency. I say I came to this conclusion with regret, for I thought that the noble Lord—having admitted certain principles undoubtedly contained in the Bill, having admitted the necessity for legislation, having, I believe, honestly and sincerely taken up the question with the intention of satisfactorily settling it—was in a position to do far more than could be done by any Minister on this side of the House. To give the noble Lord, then, every assistance in my power was my most earnest desire, and no party consideration could for a moment induce me to throw any difficulty in his way when endeavouring to settle a question which, I think, can be best settled by a Conservative Government. But what is it this Bill proposes to do? It proposes to give to the occupying tenants of the soil in Ireland, whether leaseholders or not, a means for obtaining security for the value of any improvements made in or on the land whilst in their occupation. It goes even further than this. Not only does it provide a legal method by which the tenant's interest in his improvements may 1765 be secured, but it actually proposes to furnish him with the means of making them; for it proposes to lend public money to tenants, even to tenants-at-will in Ireland, for making certain classes of improvements set forth in one of the sections of the Bill. Well, in this appears at first sight, not only a treatment of the tenant with justice, but I would add, with the utmost generosity; liberality could hardly go further. Yet, I venture to think that with respect to nine-tenths, perhaps ninety-nine-hundreths of the tenants of Ireland, this would be a dead letter. I take for granted that with respect to the holders of small farms of land, tenants from year to year, these provisions would be wholly inoperative. Any one who knows that class of tenantry in Ireland must well know they would never go through all the forms necessary for obtaining this advance of money, or for registering any improvement they might make. They would not understand how to do it, and as this advance of money would necessitate an annual payment of interest, or what would seem to them an increase of rent, they would never, of their own accord, undertake it. I believe they would be wrong in this. I know it would be a short-sighted policy, but it is quite idle to argue on it. Any one who has to deal with this class of tenantry, knows perfectly well that they would never with a bonâ fide intention take advantage of the Act. Nor, indeed, do I see that the landlord of such tenants would permit them to raise this money, and for this reason. If the landlord believed that the proposed improvement was desirable, and that it would be well to raise public money to execute it, he would, naturally, raise the money himself, have the whole control over its disbursement, and as he was to have the responsibility of its re-payment, would like to see that it was properly and beneficially expended. But supposing the landlord to have no objection to the tenant's raising the money and executing the improvement, and supposing the tenant to understand thoroughly the mode of procedure, and to have no foolish prejudice against paying a fair interest for the advance, yet I would ask what is the inducement placed before such a tenant to take advantage of the Act? It is proposed, I believe, that money should be advanced re-payable in thirty-five years by means of an annuity of 5 per cent each year. Now, it must be quite evident that supposing the improved state of the soil lasted only 1766 thirty-five years, and that it equalled only 5 per cent per annum on the outlay, there would be no inducement either to the landlord or the tenant to raise the money or to make the improvement. The inducement held out to the owners of land in Ireland at present to raise money and improve their estates, is that the improvements last longer than the period during which the loan is repayable, and that they annually produce more than the annual sum required in re-payment of the loan. Under the present Land Improvement Acts, an annuity of 6½ per cent clears off principal and interest in twenty-two years; and if the money be well laid out in draining or reclaiming, it ought to yield 10 per cent per annum, and its effects ought to last long after the twenty-two years expired. Here, then, is the inducement held out to landlords to take advantage of the present Land Improvement Acts; but will tenants from year to year have the same incentive under the Bill of the noble Lord? Undoubtedly they will not. They may raise this money, they may make these improvements, but when they are made the landlord may take possession of them either by turning out the tenant or by raising his rent in the full proportion of the difference between the increased value of the land, and the annual charge to the Government. There is no security whatever that the tenant will gain the slightest advantage from these improvements, and although, to be sure, he is secured against loss, yet that is not sufficient inducement to hold out to him. The position, then, of the tenant from year to year is simply this—he may either lay out his own money, or raise money through the Board of Works, for the purpose of improving his land, and by this Bill he is secured against being a loser, but no security is given that he will be a gainer. It may be said that it is a great point to secure such a man against loss, tenants from year to year at present lay out money even without being secured against loss, and surely a Bill which gives even this security is, so far, beneficial. Far be it from me, Sir, to deny any merits which the measure possesses. I admit that it possesses this, but when we recollect that notices of the proposed improvements must be served on the Board of Works; that estimates must be made and examined; that the landlord must be consulted; that his attention will be drawn to the rent and to the change 1767 in it consequent on the charge for the money expended, I am sure no one who knows anything of the small farmers of Ireland will differ from me when I say that, so far as they are concerned, the Bill will have no effect. An individual tenant here and there may take advantage of it; but the instance will be very rare, and not at all such as would justify us in considering this a settlement of the land question. But how does it deal with regard to leaseholders? There is no doubt it holds out great advantages and inducements to improve, to the tenant. Indeed, the doubt in this case is whether it is fair to the landlord, for it allows the tenant to make certain improvements and to charge the landlord with their cost without the consent and even against the will of the landlord. Whether this is a fair or just principle I will not undertake to say. Of this I am sure, the landlords of Ireland would not consider it either one or the other, and they would take very good care not to subject themselves to its disadvantages. In Ireland, as I have said before, tenants under lease are rare exceptions. In the majority of cases land is set merely from year to year, and nearly all the complaints on the land question really have their origin in this want of any lengthened tenure. As I have said before, what I believe is really required is legislation which will promote the granting of tenure, and which will overcome this difficulty. But how will the present Bill work in this respect? It proposes to give great advantages to the leaseholders; it proposes to render them even more independent of their landlords than they are at present; it proposes to give them power to place a first charge on the landlord's fee-simple, without his concurrence, and even against his expressed wish. In one word, it proposes to hand over to the tenant leaseholders rights and powers which the bulk of the landlords of Ireland believe to be essentially theirs. Well, Sir, as I have said, we have at present very few leases in Ireland; but after the passing of this Bill, can we expect that a single new one will be granted? Is it to be expected that landlords will willingly, with their eyes open, thus put themselves in the power of their tenants? Not only does this Bill offer no inducement to leases, but it raises the strongest barrier to their being granted, and, in this respect, might justly be termed a Bill to prevent the extension of leases in Ireland. This is my strongest objection to it. Here, I believe 1768 it to be positively injurious, and its negative advantages are by no means a counterbalance for this evil. But, Sir, whilst this is my principal reason for opposing this part of the Bill, I must point out to the House that a principle more subversive than this is of all the rights of property, cannot be imagined. For the Bill in this respect is not only prospective, but retrospective. Landlords who made leases before the passing of this Act, without the slightest idea of its ever being proposed, will all of a sudden find themselves liable to charges which they could never have contemplated, over which they will have no control, and against which they can only uselessly protest. Can we imagine a more direct invasion of the rights of property than this? The noble Lord seems to me, indeed, to have a happy knack of embodying in his Bills principles utterly subversive of the rights he desires to maintain, and yet not permitting these principles to be carried out so as to be practically useful. Thus, in 1852, to a Bill of the most worthless character as regarded prospective improvements, he tacked on a retrospective clause practically worthless to the tenantry, yet subversive to the highest degree of the rights or privileges of the landlord. Now, Sir, I say, if we are to invade these rights or destroy these privileges, let us have something in return; let us have a measure which will reach not a few, but the great bulk of the people of the country—a measure not in the interest of mere isolated individuals, but for the benefit, the satisfaction, and the contentment of the nation. Sir, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry, that if we had general prosperity in Ireland we should not require these land Bills. I agree with him that if we had manufactures general all over the country—if we had a brisk trade, a commerce, and other employment for the people besides employment on the land, we might dispense with these debates. I further agree with him that we have many natural elements for the establishment of such a state of things in Ireland, and I would ask him why such establishment has not taken place. The reason is, because the people are discontented, disaffected, rebellious—because security is not suffered to exist in Ireland, and because periodical outbreaks destroy all that confidence which is essential to commercial enterprize. And this state of insecurity will ever continue until you give the occupier of the soil in Ireland 1769 some security for himself—something which he values to defend—something to make him love the Constitution under which he lives. To get commercial prosperity therein we must first have the country quiet and contented, and without dealing with the tenure of land this is impossible. I promised not to detain the House long; I will keep that promise, and will now merely reiterate my firm conviction, that on the settlement of the land question depends the peace, prosperity, and contentment of Ireland.
§ MR. READ
remarked that the great defects in the Bill introduced by the right hon. Member for Louth last Session were, as he pointed out at the time, that it laid down no scale for determining the rate of compensation; that it did not register the improvements when made; and that it provided no machinery for deciding whether the works were necessary or had been properly executed. Now, the present measure introduced a third party in the shape of a commissioner, an independent man, who would say whether the improvements had been well carried out, and would also, he supposed, by his inspectors, instruct the tenants how they were to be done. He would, moreover, have the power of advancing Government money at a very liberal rate of interest. The hon. Member for Maldon had taken great pains to prove the inconsistency of the noble Lord (Lord Naas) in proposing this Bill, he having been the author of a Resolution adopted by a Select Committee in 1865, and of an Amendment in opposition to the measure of the late Government. He thought, however, the apparent inconsistency might be reconciled. Any one acquainted with agriculture must be aware that the multiplication of buildings, the making of new farm roads, and the construction of additional fences, though they might be deemed improvements as far as regarded a particular plot of ground, would in all probability militate against the general consolidation and improvement of an estate, and ought not therefore to be undertaken without the consent of the landlord. Reclaiming a bog, cultivating a mountain side, draining, when properly executed, and removing projecting rocks and stones, could not, on the other hand, but be suitable improvements for any land, and the landlord who objected to these ought to keep the farm in his own hands. He still held the opinion which he expressed last year, that all purely agricultural improvements ought to be paid 1770 for in the course of at least twenty-one years, and if he had any fault to find with the present Bill it was for being too liberal, for he thought that instead of extending compensation over a period of thirty-five years, with the payment of 5 per cent, the terns might be contracted to twenty-one years, with the usual payment of 6½ or 7 per cent. Irish Members had said a tenant would not make these improvements unless he expected a return of 10 or 15 per cent, so that no harm would be done by such a restriction of time. It seemed to him that very exaggerated notions prevailed as to the amount of tenant right existing in England. No tenant right existed in England, for example, like that of Ulster. In some parts of the country, as Cheshire, a certain allowance was by custom made to tenants for boning, draining, &c.; and there was the notable example of Lincolnshire, where improvements were paid for on a certain scale. But there was no fixity of tenure, and every man was liable to quit at six months' notice; yet there was no part of the kingdom better cultivated. A speech of the noble Earl at the head of the Government had been quoted, to the effect that if a tenant who had drained his land received notice to quit, he could sue his landlord for compensation. But in ninety-nine cases out of 100 a tenant in England had no such remedy. A tenant's covenant, were very different things. He made certain payments for hay, straw, manure, &c., on taking a farm, and he expected to be repaid for the same on leaving it. He should be sorry to be understood as saying anything in disparagement of leases. As a Norfolk man he was bound to say that, in his opinion, there was nothing so advantageous to agriculture. The landlord always secured more rent. He knew, also, when to advance his rent, and he could look forward to the permanent improvement of his property. The tenant on his part enjoyed a certain independence under a lease, and had a chance of reaping what he had sown, which encouraged him to make a larger expenditure of labour and capital upon his land. If he were a landlord, he should not object to grant leases to intelligent, enter-prizing, and prosperous tenants; but he should seriously object to grant leases where the tenants were poor and ignorant. He would rather by far allow the smaller tenantry to expend their own money under the Bill or to borrow of the Government than grant leases indiscriminately for twenty-one years. The suggestion that 1771 where no written agreement could be produced a lease of twenty-one years was to be assumed, was about as reasonable as to enact that if a man did not carry a certificate from a doctor to say he was sane he was to be held to be mad. Remarks baying been made about the size of farms, he would express his belief that in England the largest estates were the best farmed, the lowest rented, and were let with the most liberal agreements in regard to cultivation, He believed Ireland was no exception to this rule. Large farms offered the fullest scope for the employment of capital and scientific appliances to agriculture. Small farms had their uses, for otherwise persons of small capital would have no opportunity of applying themselves to the cultivation of the soil, and the labourer would have no chance of bettering his condition by becoming a small farmer. He believed that if this Bill were passed, an immense stimulus would be given to the employment of labour, for where a large quantity of farms were in the hands of small occupiers, there was very little demand for agricultural labour, and wages were very low. If the Government would extend this Bill to England, he and the other tenantry of England would by no means consider it the act of effrontery described by the hon. Member for Tralee (The O'Donoghue). He would only add further that if the Irish tenantry were not content with this judicious recognition of their rights, there must be something of a social and political element in the question of granting leases in Ireland which he, as an English farmer, could not understand.
§ MR. KENNEDY
said, he had only known one difficulty, which the Legislature of this country was not capable of overcoming. That difficulty was Ireland, and the responsibility was upon England and not Ireland. The fact was, English Members took very little interest in the subject; yet the peace and prosperity of Ireland were of equal importance with the question which had occupied so much attention during the present Session. The Irish Members were charged with the responsibility of what occurred in that country; but he threw back the responsibility of the present state of Ireland upon the British Government and upon British representatives, for it was the interference of English Members and their votes in Irish affairs that had placed that country in her present unfortunate position. If a calculation were made of the improve- 1772 ments effected by the tenants since the confiscation of the land of Ireland, it would, he believed, be found that more than the value of the fee-simple had been paid for by the tenants. He maintained that the responsibility for the present state of Ireland devolved, from first to last, upon England. ["Question!"] Surely, the question was whether they had governed Ireland as they ought to have done? The question that had now to be decided was whether the proposed legislation was suitable to Ireland? He gave the Chief Secretary every credit for his intentions, and for certain good portions of his measure, though they were of a limited character; and, without departing from its principle, he thought the Bill might be made a good one for tenants who had leases. But he must protest against the unprotected position in which it would place the tenant-at-will. England had tried many experiments with Ireland; but it had not tried the experiment of doing common justice on the land question. In only one of the four Provinces of Ireland was the principle of property recognised as regarded the tenant; while in the other three the principle of confiscation prevailed. They knew what the consequences of these two different systems were in Ulster on the one hand, and in Leinster, Munster, and Connaught on the other; and if they would profit by experience they would extend the custom established in Ulster to the rest of Ireland. They had to reconcile proprietary rights with the right of the people to exist.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. CHATTERTON)
said, the Amendment which had that evening been moved seemed to him to have but very little connection with the subject matter of the Bill which was under discussion. In dealing with that Bill he should not think it necessary to follow hon. Members opposite into a disquisition on the real or fancied grievances of Ireland. That was not the point on which the House was invited to pronounce a decision; nor was it called upon to effect a complete settlement of what was known as the landlord and tenant question in that country. He made that observation because the Amendment seemed to be founded on the supposition that the Government were introducing a measure which they regarded as affording a panacea for all the evils of which they had heard so much in the course of the debate. The Government, however, proposed to do no 1773 such thing. All they aimed at was to lay before the House for its acceptance a measure of a very practical and moderate character; and he hardly anticipated that when such a measure, calculated—as he believed very few would deny it was—eminently to benefit the agricultural population of Ireland, was introduced it would have been met, as it had been on the present occasion, not by a direct condemnation, but by a proposition, asking the House to take the preliminary step of pronouncing an opinion on the vexed question of the tenure of land in Ireland. Such a proposal he must characterize as altogether inopportune. What fate awaited any Bill dealing with that question must depend entirely upon its scope and nature; and the proper time to discuss such a Bill was when it was actually before the House. It was hardly to be expected, he thought, that Parliament would ever give its sanction to any measure making it compulsory on the landlord in Ireland to grant leases whether he wished or not. Few hon. Members, indeed, would be so rash as to advocate a proposal of that kind; and the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) himself had stated that he did not approve the giving leases to all tenants indiscriminately—adding that, according to his view, some selection should be made. But how, he (the Attorney General) would ask, was an Act of Parliament to make any such selection? The hon. Gentleman had also spoken of a gradual approximation and a change; but he failed to inform the House in what that change was to consist. Was he in favour of a compulsory granting of leases, or did he advocate the removal of the obstacles to granting them which stood in the way of those landlords who were willing that they should be given? So far as he could see, the Amendment of the hon. Member had but little or no bearing on the measure before the House, although it might have some connection with that which stood next on the paper—the Land Improvement and Leasing (Ireland) Bill. For his own part, he should never be a supporter of any proposal which had for its object the forcing on the landlord the granting of a lease. And was it, he would ask, fair to bring about by indirect means that which the House would not directly sanction? Was it right to provoke the landlord and to place restrictions on him to accomplish indirectly the purpose of allowing the tenant to remain on his farm and giving him what was by some called secu- 1774 rity, and by others fixity in his tenure? But the hon. Member for Galway was followed by the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Bryan), who dissented from the restricted sentiments which he had expressed, and who gave it as his opinion that leases should be scattered broadcast through the country. The hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. Bagwell) went further still, and openly avowed himself to be an advocate for fixity of tenure—for he contended that so long as a tenant pays his rent and taxes no one should have the right to disturb him. Was the House prepared to adopt that view and to indorse the proposition that a tenant might under those circumstances always retain possession of his farm, no matter how turbulent or how bad he might otherwise be, or how much the landlord might require his land? The present Bill would, he maintained, give to the tenant, if fairly worked, the right to secure prospectively payment for his improvements on favourable terms; and if it were passed into a law, the promoters of that agitation on the subject which had done so much mischief in Ireland would find their vocation gone, or the whole of their demands must resolve themselves into the plain and naked proposal that the property in the land should be transferred from the landlord to the tenant. Against the principle of the Bill, he might add, he had not heard a single objection from the other side of the House. On his own side some such objection had been advanced; but he thought he should be able to show that that objection was not well founded; and that the Bill did not attempt to interfere in the slightest degree with the rights of property. What was the nature of the measure? It in the first instance provided for the tenants a fund to be lent to them by Government if they chose to borrow it, with a term of thirty-five years for its repayment in instalments, and at the rate of 5 per cent. Was ever money, he would ask, lent on more advantageous terms? A former Act gave power to landlords to apply to time Secretary of State, through the medium of a public board, for loans, giving guarantee for their repayment. By this Bill every tenant, whatever his rank, could borrow money from out of the public funds for the improvement of his holding, instead of drawing a line, as was done in the Act referred to by the hon. Gentleman, beneath which such applications could not be made. Further, if the tenant had money of his own which he was 1775 willing to spend on improvements, he would be able under this Act to have a right of charge upon the land to the same extent as if he had borrowed the money from the public funds. More than this, if the tenant had neither money of his own, nor was willing to borrow the money of the State, but desired to expend his own labour or the labour of his family on his holding, then that labour was to be computed for his benefit at a money value, and in virtue of it he would have a charge upon the land. Surely there could be nothing more beneficial to the tenant than this. But the rights of the landlord had been discovered in the course of the debate; indeed, the principal opposition to the Bill had been based upon the fancied invasion of those rights. Now, he fully admitted that the landlord was entitled to as much protection as the tenant. But it was a mistake to suppose that there was anything in the Bill calculated to imperil his just rights. In the first place, he was protected by the ample definition of the word that was contained in the Bill. In the next place, notice of any intended improvements must be given to the landlord and his consent was required; and further, this notice had to be communicated first of all to the Commissioner, whose duty it would be to transmit it to the landlord. By means of that notice the rights of the landlord were admirably preserved, and on that point the landlord could not take objection to the Bill. With regard to the nature of the improvements which might be effected under the Bill, it was said that great injustice was done to the landlords. Now, he would be the last person to interfere unfairly with the rights of landlords; but, at the same time, he asked the landlords to consider whether anything unfair was really proposed, and to recollect that in all these matters there must be concession both on one side and the other. The first class of improvements mentioned in the Bill were the thorough or main drainage of land, the reclaiming of bog land, or reclaiming or enclosing of waste land or clearing land of rocks or stones, and the removal of useless fences. These were improvements in the land, necessarily adding to its productive power. The second class of improvements were improvements upon the land as distinguished from improvements in the land, and these consisted of the making of fences, the making of farm roads, and the erection of buildings. Against these last three kinds of improvement the landlord 1776 would have an absolute veto without assigning any reason; but it was thought that the Bill, without infringing unfairly on the rights of property, might go so far as to declare that the landlord should not have an absolute veto against the execution of what were improvements in the land, and tended to increase its productive power. A responsible Commissioner was interposed as a kind of judicial officer to ascertain whether or not the three kinds of improvements in the land mentioned in the Bill should be made or not. The Commissioner was bound to hear both landlord and tenant; and if he thought that the improvements which the tenant had given notice of ought to be carried out, and was satisfied that the public money was sufficiently secured, he must decide on the matter, and the landlord was not to interpose an absolute veto. That did not appear to be an unreasonable or unfair arrangement as regarded the rights of the landlord; but if the House thought that such a provision ought not to be introduced it was a matter which did not go to the principle of the measure, and the Bill would still work well if the veto of the landlord were allowed in every case. It was scarcely conceivable that a landlord would be so blind to his own interest as to pass an absolute veto on that which would be an improvement to his own estate. If this was considered to be, as he admitted in some sense it was, an infringement on the rights of property, it was not in the slightest degree essential to the carrying or working of the measure, and they would be prepared to give it up if in Committee it should be considered a restriction that ought not to be retained. The fullest notice was to be given to the landlord in every case and the Commissioners were to see that the improvements were really carried out. Provision was also made for the maintenance of the improvements when made. If the tenant did not keep up the improvements he would be the party to suffer, for a deduction would be made from what he would otherwise have been entitled to. They were not proposing to make a loan of Government money to the tenant, but to the land; the land was to be the borrower, and the land was to bear the burden of payment, no matter who might be the tenant. He spoke with some confidence, then, when he said that this was a Bill that ought to receive a second reading. It was a good practical measure, considerate and beneficial towards the 1777 tenant, and not unduly interfering with the rights of the landlord. The Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Galway was not in any way germane to the subject-matter of the Bill. However important in itself, it was impolitic to make it a preliminary to the present discussion. He therefore trusted the Bill would be read a second time, and that they would be allowed to consider in Committee the details best calculated to carry out the object which they all had in view—facilitating improvement by the tenant while preserving the rights of the landlord.
§ MR. SERJEANT SULLIVAN
said, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had told the House at the commencement of his observations that this Bill was never intended to settle the land question, and that those who regarded it as a settlement of the land question were under a great mistake. Why, then, did Government bring forward as a great question like this a measure which was not intended to settle it? He should have expected that the Government in bringing forward a Bill would have stated that in their opinion it would settle the question. If they flung on the table a Bill not intending to settle it they were dealing with the question in an illusory manner. He must say he thought the question had been approached in a most narrow and niggardly spirit. When his right hon. and learned Friend said the Amendment was not germane to the question, he only established what on a former occasion he took credit for having said that he did not understand the main question. The questions of compensation and tenure were intimately connected, and one would not be settled without the other; and a fairer principle for adjusting that settlement could never be laid down than that of the tenant being allowed to remain in possession until he obtained compensation by that possesion for the value of what he had laid out. The question was not whether the noble Lord had changed his opinion. Perhaps he had been too rudely assailed by the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Sandford). He thought the noble Lord had acted very much on his former convictions in bringing in so niggard a Bill as this. The question before the House was not whether the present Bill, or the Bill of the late Government was the best measure. What the people of Ireland required was a good measure; and the question was whether this Bill, which excluded the question of tenure, could be considered satisfactory. He thought 1778 the Amendment, which declared that no measure could be satisfactory which did not give the encouragement of leases, was as mild a proposition as could be brought forward. The right hon. and learned Gentleman took credit to himself and the Government for having for the first time proposed to enable tenants to obtain public money for the purpose of improvements. Hitherto, he said, only owners of land were able to get advances for improvements. But this was an error. By the Act of 1847 tenants who had an unexpired lease for twenty-five years might obtain money for the purpose of improvement on certain conditions; but so complicated were the conditions and the machinery that the Act had become a dead letter, and so he believed would the present measure. That Act, by the Act of Victoria, was extended to buildings and farm dwellings. But how many applications had been made under the 7th section? He believed it had never been acted upon at all, for the clause provided that no loan should be granted until security was given to the satisfaction of the Commissioners. In the case of a tenant from year to year, if he made a bad improvement the charge would fall upon the land; and if it turned out to be a good improvement, he might be served with a notice to quit. For a measure of this kind to be properly framed the landlord must give up some of his rights in order that his land may be improved. The Bill of last Session would have been of the greatest advantage to the landlords, because it was only in cases where the expenditure by the tenant had improved the rateable value of the laud that compensation was to be made by the landlord in case he evicted the tenant. The Bill could not in any respect be considered as anything even approaching to a settlement of the question; and he regretted that the moderate Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Galway should have been met with so strong an opposition.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Graves.)
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
hoped that the noble Lord opposite would not assent to the adjournment of the debate. The had had a very long debate upon the Resolution moved by the hon. Member for Galway—a Resolution which, in his opinion, was entirely germane to the 1779 subject before the House. The question had been thoroughly investigated, and hon. Members on that side of the House were anxious to come to a vote upon it that night. If any hon. Gentleman was desirous of speaking upon the Bill, he would have full opportunity of doing so.
§ MR. GRAVES
said he had moved the adjournment of the debate because the question was one of great importance, and ought not to be discussed after midnight. Besides, there were several Amendments on it to be debated.
§ LORD HENRY THYNNE
hoped the House would not consent to the adjournment of the debate. After the statement made last year by the noble Lord the Member for Cockermouth, he did not think that the present Bill could hold water.
I can only say that it is the intention of the Government to go on with this Bill, and to endeavour to ascertain at the earliest possible moment the opinion of the House upon it. Had it been the desire of many hon. Members to address the House upon the question, I should certainly have been prepared to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Liverpool for the adjournment of the debate; but as there appears to be a general opinion that the division should be taken to-night upon this question, I do not see how I can consent to that Motion. And now, as to the course I propose to take with regard to the Motion of the hon. Member for Galway. I do not understand that that Motion is intended to upset and to destroy the Bill; but I think that it is a very great mistake on the part of the House to mix up these two questions together. The Bill I have proposed deals solely and entirely with the question of compensation to the tenant, and I believe that if it passes into law it will be of the greatest possible advantage to the country, and that it will go a long way towards settling the tenant question; although, perhaps, not in the sense in which many hon. Gentlemen who have spoken to-night would wish, seeing that it will not in any way give fixity of tenure or long leases under legislative sanction to the tenant. Still, in my opinion, it will prove most beneficial to the industrious tenant and a great boon to the Irish tenantry. It would be impossible at this hour of the night (a quarter past twelve o'clock) to go fully into the principle of the Bill; but I may say that I shall oppose the Motion of my 1780 hon. Friend the Member for Galway, because I believe that it proposes to mix up two subjects which are essentially distinct. Still, if the House should think otherwise, I shall not regard their decision as a ground for abandoning the Bill. On the contrary, I shall then be glad to see how my hon. Friend proposes to carry out his project, and to see the nature of the clauses which he will doubtless bring forward to give effect to his Motion, which, if carried, I shall esteem simply in the light of an Instruction to the Committee. My own opinion is that these two subjects should be dealt with separately, and in opposing the Motion of my hon. Friend, I only do so for the purpose of proving that in my opinion it is not for the advancement of this question that the two subjects should be joined together. I will only repeat that I shall be curious to see the clauses which my hon. Friend proposes to add to the Bill, and can only hope that they may be such as will commend themselves to the majority of the House.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
supported the Motion for Adjournment, considering that the proper time for moving the Resolution was in Committee, and not on the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. CONOLLY
apprehended that according to the forms of the House the Speaker would have put the Question, "That the words proposed to be left out should stand part of the Question," and that if that had been decided in the negative the Bill of the noble Lord would have been lost. He thought this Bill intrinsically bad, and he believed a large party in the House thought so too; and he thought that the decision ought to be taken "Aye" or "No" on the second reading.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, that his Amendment simply advocated the encouragement of leases, and did not mention anything about fixity of tenure or the establishment of long leases. He declined to bring up any clauses as suggested by the noble Lord, reserving that honour until he sat upon the Bench occupied by the noble Lord and his Colleagues.
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY
was anxious to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Sandford), and desired to learn from the Speaker how he was to vote in order to give effect to his intention. Was he to vote "Aye" or "No?"
§ MR. SPEAKER
I believe that the hon. Baronet might have ascertained from 1781 the hon. Member for Maldon, who sits at his side, what course he should pursue. The first Question that I shall have to put is "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question." If that is decided by a majority of the "Ayes," the Question "That this Bill be now read a second time" will stand. If it is negatived, then will come the Question what words shall be supplied, and it will then be open to the hon. Member for Maldon to propose the Amendment which he has placed on the paper.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.
That the words 'without prejudging the Second Reading of this Bill, this House is of opinion that no enactment for the settlement of the Landlord and Tenant question in Ireland can be deemed satisfactory which does not provide for the encouragement of leases in that Country,' be there added.
§ MR. SANDFORD
moved that all the words after "opinion" be left out, in order to insert the words—No property should be charged with the repayment of loans advanced for the purpose of making improvements except such improvements be made with the consent of the landlord.
Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, by leaving out all the words after the word "opinion," in order to add the words,
No property should be charged with the repayment of loans advanced for the purpose of making improvements except such improvements be made with the consent of the landlord,"—(Mr. Sandford,)
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the said proposed Amendment."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 104; Noes 108: Majority 4.
That the words 'no property should be charged with the repayment of loans advanced for the purpose of making improvements except such improvements be made with the consent of the landlord' be there added.
said, the Question then before the House was totally different from what had been under discussion during the whole evening. For himself he objected 1782 to both Amendments. He had been charged with inconsistency in respect of the course he had pursued last year, and this with reference to this question. The principle contained in his Motion of last year was perfectly sound, as contrasted with the Bill of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Chichester Fortescue); but the Government were of opinion that such a slight deviation from the principle laid down last year as was proposed by the present Bill might with propriety be acceded to. The difference between the two descriptions of improvement was this:—The Government believed that everything which was done on the land ought to be done only in conformity with the consent of the landlord; because considerable differences of opinion might arise between the landlord and the tenant as to the beneficial effect of such improvements. Everything, on the contrary, that was done in the soil could occasion no similar differences of opinion, and therefore, as no injury to the landlord could arise, the Government thought they were safe in permitting such improvements to be made without absolutely requiring his consent. It must be borne in mind that in every case notice of these improvements must be given to the landlord, who would have the opportunity before the Commissioner of consulting with his tenant, and if he could show that the proposed improvements would be otherwise than beneficial to the soil, or would be such as would not add a proportionate amount of value to the soil, then, beyond all question, it would be in his power to prevent the improvements from being made. If it were possible that injury could result to the landlord, then he admitted that the principle of the Bill would be a bad one; but being framed so as to bring about an amicable consultation between the landlord and tenant before any improvements were made, he believed that it would tend greatly to facilitate tenants anxious to improve bonâ fide in coming forward for that purpose. The whole object of the Bill was to endeavour to get landlords and tenants to combine for the purpose of effecting these improvements, and, as framed, he believed that it was eminently conducive to this object. As to saying that under this Bill improvements could be made that would be otherwise than beneficial to landlords, he maintained that it was a perfect absurdity. He believed that not a single landlord in Ireland, which unless he were a lunatic or an idiot, would attempt to object to the class of improve- 1783 ments proposed by this Bill. The House, therefore, would do well, in his opinion, to go into Committee on the Bill and consider its details, for in such matters the really important points were questions of detail. Whether the absolute consent of the landlord were insisted upon or struck out of the Bill, in practice he believed that it would make little difference; but as one course was less restrictive than the other he should vote against the Motion of the hon. Member for Maldon.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, that at that time of night, he would not give any detailed reasons for the opinion which he entertained that his noble Friend had failed altogether to vindicate his own consistency in introducing a Bill this Session, the principle of which directly contradicted his Motion of last year, and the Resolution which he had proposed in the Select Committee only two years ago. The Bill now before the House involved a more serious and vital departure from the ordinary principles of legislation than anything contained in the Bill of the late Government, and yet was not calculated to attain for the mass of the people any one of those benefits which could alone justify such a departure. His hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory), and those who supported him, had reason to complain of the way in which the Government had manipulated the divisions. The result of those somewhat complicated manuvres, which, till a few moments ago, he confessed he did not thoroughly understand, was that it had been made impossible for the House to pronounce any opinion upon the Resolution of the Member for Galway. The Government, consequently, would succeed in getting rid both of the Motion of the hon. Member for Maldon and of the original Resolution, which, if properly submitted to the House, would have been carried by a large majority.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the right hon. Gentleman gave Her Majesty's Government credit for an amount of dexterity to which they could fairly lay no claim. What had happened was the result of good fortune, not of any arrangement on their part. He must complain, however, that the House having spent the evening in discussing a particular question was now about to be hurried into a division on the Bill itself, the general merits of which had never been 1784 discussed. Merely uttering his individual opinion, he thought the debate had better be adjourned.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, the effect of rejecting the Motion of the hon. Member for Maldon would be to affirm that improvements in Ireland, unlike England, should be made without the consent of the landlord. That would be a novel and startling proposition. He accordingly supported the Motion for Adjournment.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
believed that, according to the forms of the House, the Bill could not be read a second time that evening, but hoped the Motion of the hon. Member for Maldon would be at once disposed of.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Dick.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 115; Noes 97: Majority 18.
§ Debate adjourned till Monday 13th May.