HC Deb 18 February 1868 vol 190 cc928-30

, in moving for leave to introduce a Bill to further amend the Law relating to the Tenure and Improvement of Land in, Ireland, said, that the present Bill was similar to the measure he had introduced last Session; but with some important additions in reference to improvements made by tenants, and some other provision affecting the relation of landlord and tenant in Ireland. The principle of the present Bill, as respects tenants' improvements, was identical with that of the measure proposed in 1866, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth, then Chief Secretary for Ireland, but there was a difference of detail which would have an important effect on the practical working. The objects sought to be effected by this Bill were—firstly, to enable limited owners in Ireland who may improve their lands to charge a portion of their expenditure to their successors. Secondly, to enable limited owners, within specified limits, to grant leases and make contracts with their tenants, which shall be binding on their successors and on all parties who derive under them—and this without the necessity of notice to the Court or to any third party. Both these objects were included in the Bill introduced last year by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, but he (Mr. Pim) proposed to give the limited owner freer action, in this following the precedent set by the Scotch Montgomery Act (10 Geo. III., c. 51), which was passed so long ago as the year 1770, and which had, he believed, worked very usefully in Scotland. He had endeavoured to divest the proceedings of all unnecessary formalities, so far as could be done consistently with the precautions needful to prevent fraud and preserve the legitimate rights of the successors. The third object was this, that in the absence of a specific written contract the tenant should be secured by law in the ownership of whatever improvements he might effect by his industry or his capital; but he proposed that the tenant should, within twelve months after the completion of these improvements, be bound to record them in a public registry, to be kept for this purpose; which provision he had inserted for the protection of the landlord against the possibility of a false or unfounded claim being made long afterwards, when it would be difficult to obtain evidence to disprove it. If no such registration were made, the tenant was not to be allowed to set up a claim against his landlord at any subsequent period. Fourthly, he proposed to put an end to the power of distress, and to the priority of the landlord's claim for rent over the other debts of the tenant. By this means he believed that the relations between landlord and tenant would be placed on a much more fair and satisfactory footing; that it would make the landlord more careful in his choice of tenants, and that it would remove one of the most serious impediments to the improvement of the land which now exist in Ireland. It was a necessary consequence of the abolition of the power of distress, that the landlord should have the utmost facility for obtaining possession of his land in case his tenant failed to pay the rent. Much had already been done in this respect, but he proposed to abolish the right of redemption which the tenant now possessed for six months after eviction for non-payment of rent. This six months' right of redemption was very injurious to the landlord without being of any use to the tenant, and he believed many landed proprietors would consider its abolition to be an ample equivalent for the loss of the power of distress. The principle on which the proposed measure was founded, was "complete freedom of contract between landlord and tenant," and giving perfect validity to such contracts when entered into bonâ fide, and without fraud; and, in the absence of a specific contract, the recognition of the tenant as the legal owner of all improvements effected by himself and duly registered. He (Mr. Pim) proposed to repeal altogether the Act of 1860, incorporating into his own Bill many of the valuable provisions of that Act, so that the proposed measure would be com- plete in itself, and therefore more readily intelligible, than if he had merely proposed to amend the Act of 1860, repealing some portions and retaining others in force. This question was not one in which the tenant was to be benefited at the expense of the landlord, but proper legislation would benefit both parties. He had no doubt that whatever measure was eventually adopted by Parliament, it would be just and equitable; and justice had this quality in common with mercy, that it blesses both the giver and the receiver. This equitable settlement of the land question would be a benefit, not only to landlords and tenants, but to the whole of Ireland. He begged to move for leave to introduce the Bill.


said, the object of this Bill was to give unlimited leasing powers to the person in possession of the property to the detriment of the remainderman, and in effect put an end to the law of entail—a proposition to which he felt sure the House would refuse its assent. The Bill also proposed to compel the landlord to compensate the tenant for improvements with regard to which he had not been consulted. The crude suggestions of the hon. Gentleman with regard to an exceptional law for Ireland were only calculated to deceive the public mind, for the House would never pass such a law. Any legislation respecting landlord and tenant in Ireland must be based upon the English law relating to real property. If any departure from that rule were once permitted, the result would be a complete surrender of the property of the landlord to the tenant. He had, however, no objection to the introduction of the Bill, but merely wished on the present occasion to point out its incurable defects.

Motion agreed to. Bill further to amend the Law relating to the Tenure and Improvement of Land in Ireland, ordered to be brought in by Mr. PIM and Mr. O'BEIRNE. Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 32.]