§ (Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Chichester Fortescue, Mr. John Bright.
§ COMMITTEE. [Progress 31st March.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 2 (Legality of tenant-right custom other than Ulster custom).
Amendment moved, to insert at the commencement of the clause the words—
If, in the case of any holding not situate within the Province of Ulster, it shall appear that an usage prevails which in all essential particulars corresponds with the Ulster tenant-right custom, it shall in like manner, and subject to the like conditions, be deemed legal, and shall be enforced in manner provided by this Act."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
said, it would be convenient he should state for the information of the Committee what was proposed with reference to this clause. What he was anxious for last night was that the Committee should settle the question of the Ulster custom. That question, he considered, had been disposed of by the adoption of his Amendment and its insertion in the clause, and it would be for the Committee to consider whether it would be regular to leave these words, omitting the rest of the clause, or negative the whole clause with a view to its consideration hereafter. It was important that the Committee should consider the matter with reference to the minor customs existing throughout Ireland. He called minor customs such as were inferior in weight and authority to the Ulster custom. The authority of the Ulster custom rested on the consent of the landlord, given in deference to a long-established rule or immemorial practice. Wherever that consent was so given, an honourable obligation existed between landlord and tenant, the strength of the tenant's case being that he, with the implied or the express consent of the landlord, had given money or other consideration, or his predecessors in title had given money or consideration, for his holding. By an 1052 extension of the 6th clause it would be possible to include all these cases, so as to secure for the tenant reasonable compensation. There was still another class of cases which would be embraced by part of the 2nd clause not yet dealt with—that was to say, the 2nd clause as it stood in the print of the Bill. A practice or usage of compensation often prevailed between the incoming and outgoing tenant, apart from any interference of the landlord whatever, or from any such interference or cognizance shown or proved. The real question for the Committee to consider was, whether it was desirable to have provisions like those of the 2nd clause for the sake of dealing with this class of cases. As the Bill was originally drawn this was thought desirable, in the first place, because it was a great thing to go upon the customs of the people instead of proposing a new and conventional legislation; and, in the second place, because it was desirable to found legislation upon everything which was specifically and separately Irish, so as to mark what he believed was the conviction of the House—namely, that this Bill was to be passed with reference to the peculiar necessities of Ireland, and not with a view of creating a model to which all landlords should conform. On the other hand, it was true that this clause would involve very considerable complications in the consideration of its details; and, moreover, it would tend to obscure the main question raised by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) and others upon Clause 3. This being so, if the hon. Gentleman (Sir John Gray) felt disposed to press for the omission of the words comprised in his Amendment, he should not object; but in that case, as a matter of form, it would be right, when the Committee came to the final question of the clause, to negative it on the understanding that it would be brought up when they came to the end of Clause 6.
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
moved that the words "a tenant," line 25, and the following words to the end of section be left out, retaining the first word, "Where."
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the other customs alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown stood on the same footing as many customs in England. In the case of his own estate he determined to frame an agreement which should 1053 establish the principle of compensation. Thus, of his own free will, he had contracted himself out of the custom of the estate and created a better one; and in consideration of the security so given to the tenant he required the tenant to pay something equivalent to dilapidations. When the Bill proceeded to deal with the existing uncertain customs it was unjust, because there was to be no contract on the part of the tenant to pay for dilapidations, or the equivalent of them, in consideration of the benefit he would derive from having a security against the estate; and this injustice could not be remedied by the process which the right hon. Gentleman proposed. It was not right to give the tenant an important advantage, leaving the landlord no security against dilapidations.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he understood the Government to recommend the Committee to dispense with this clause, and rely on the 6th clause, in order to deal with cases in which the tenant had paid for his holding; relying, in other cases, on the ordinary law. The Ulster tenant-right would be left as it was, as far as the Committee could ascertain it; where it had extended beyond the Province of Ulster it was to be dealt with in the same way; and the landlord and tenant would be empowered to contract and get rid of it. This being so, he saw no objection to the omission of the rest of the clause, and the words of the Amendment already adopted would, he supposed, be also negatived with a view of bringing them up again.
said, if the rules of the Committee required these words to be negatived, that course must be adopted, and they would be brought up hereafter, on the understanding that these were words which the Committee would agree upon.
said, that when a clause was submitted every one had the power of proposing to amend it; and to strike out the rest of a clause after the first word would be a very inconvenient proceeding, for it would place them in the position of legalizing the Ulster tenant-right custom and then passing to Clause 3, which dealt with everything not coming under Clauses 1 and 2. It was admitted there were customs which ought to have legal effect given to them; and the effect of what was proposed, 1054 would be that no other custom in Ireland, excepting the Ulster tenant-right and equivalent customs could be recognized.
said, it was quite true they would not be recognized as customs; but the bulk of these practices, though not recognized as customs, would come in as facts under the 6th clause.
§ MR. OSBORNE
said, the wording of the clause must, of necessity, involve the whole South of Ireland in a great lawsuit. How could any man in Kerry, Tipperary, or Waterford, know what the Ulster tenant-right custom was in all essential particulars? These counties had customs of their own which were peculiar to them, and they did not correspond in any particular with the Ulster tenant-right. The remarkable thing in the debate was that, so far, the Ulster tenant-right custom had not been defined at all; it had only been stated what was not the custom. Whatever variations might arise in the amount paid for tenant-right in Ulster, the real custom was one and indivisible, and, according to the Devon Commission, it was that the outgoing tenant could sell his interest to the highest purchaser, independently of any improvements at all. In fact, the Ulster tenant-right was the sale of goodwill; but, somehow, everyone had been trying to avoid the statement of that fact. In the South this custom did not prevail at all; and yet the tenants in the South were told that if they could prove that in all essential particulars their custom corresponded with the Ulster tenant-right custom—in effect, that if they would go to law with the landlord—they would have the chance of approximating to that custom. Of course, the next agitation would be one for extending the Ulster tenant-right custom to the South of Ireland. He wished to know whether this was what was intended? Let it be known what was meant by corresponding in all essential particulars with the Ulster custom. In the South of Ireland the custom did not correspond, in any one single particular, with the Ulster tenant-right. Landlords who were anxious to get rid of tenants when they did not pay their rents had often to give them £50 or £100 to go away, and that did not correspond with the Ulster tenant-right at all. If the Committee were confusing 1055 the usages of the South with the Ulster tenant-right, he warned them that they were sending to Ireland a great present to the lawyers, who would worry landlords and tenants with perpetual litigation. The clause was badly worded, and did not look as if it had been drawn up by a lawyer.
§ MR. B. SAMUELSON
said, that if the remainder of Clause 2 were struck out the Committee ought to know how the customs named in it were to be dealt with, and whether they were to be re-introduced in Clause 6. Under Clause 1 the tenant had power to disclaim the tenant-right, and to claim under Clause 3, and he should like to know whether a similar proviso applied to Clause 2, as proposed to be amended.
said, undoubtedly the intention of the words which the Committee had adopted was to apply the whole body of the provisions of Clause 1 to the Ulster tenant-right if found to exist in all essential particulars out of Ulster. The manner in which it was proposed to find a much simpler substitute for Clause 2, to meet cases in which payments had been made with the express or implied consent of the landlord, was by making an alteration in Clause 6. The clause as printed applied to those who did not prefer claims under the three first clauses of the Bill, and, therefore, it applied only to a certain portion of the tenantry of Ireland; but it was proposed to substitute words which would include all the tenantry of Ireland upon their leaving a farm, so that any man who had paid money to a previous tenant with the consent of his landlord, would be able, on retiring voluntarily from the farm, to obtain compensation in respect of it. In fact, speaking briefly, the proposed Amendment of the 6th clause would cause it to embrace the whole tenantry of Ireland. That would be one change, and the other principal change required would be that, instead of the clause being limited to the case where the tenant himself, on taking his holding, had paid money, with the consent of the landlord, it would be necessary to extend it to the 1056 predecessors of the tenant. With these alterations, Clause 6 would adequately cover all the cases in which payments had been made by tenants or by their predecessors, and where any equitable interest had been created in respect of these payments as against the landlord.
SIR HERVEY BRUCE
said, that the power of the incoming tenant to buy from the outgoing tenant the entry to a farm was only one of the usages of Ulster imported upon a few estates, and not universal, and such purchase was so various in its degree and mode of being carried out that Ulster tenant-right custom would be difficult to define; it had not the antiquity which had been ascribed to it in all parts of Ireland; and, indeed, upon his own estate, and many others, it had sprung up within the last fifty years. He believed that the Ulster custom arose from the fact of the lands being low set, and when the tenant fell into difficulties the landlord, in order to get his rent paid, allowed the incoming tenant to give to the outgoing tenant a sum of money which enabled him to pay the rent; and it was only fair that those who gave money under the custom, sanctioned by the landlord, should receive the authority of Parliament to get a portion of the money back again. Still, it was not an unrestricted custom enabling the outgoing tenant to sell as he pleased the occupation to the incoming tenant; and if the definition of the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Osborne) were accepted, it would be difficult to say in what position they would be in legislating in this matter.
said, that on the second reading of the Bill he expressed his opinion that the measure was likely to make good work for the lawyers, and as the Bill proceeded that opinion became strengthened. The first question arising under the present clause was whether a usage existed; the next question related to the nature of that usage; and the third question, which must be asked, was whether any particular tenant was likely to come under that usage or under the other clauses of the Bill. These three blessed questions a £10-tenant would have to resolve, and he thought it would be satisfactory if the First Lord of the Treasury were to get the Civil Service Commissioners to state what would be the minus quantity which 1057 a £10-tenant was likely to get after having gone through the process of considering those questions. If the unfortunate tenant was to be landed in all possible litigation arising out of the present proposal, the promised benefit to be derived from the Bill could not but turn out a delusion to him. As the First Lord of the Treasury had indicated changes in other clauses of the Bill, it would be only fair to put the proposed changes on the Business Paper in print, so that they might have some chance, he would not say of being fully comprehended, but of conveying an idea of the litigation likely to result. He doubted whether hon. Members, taking them two by two, would each give the same opinion as to the effect of the proposed legislation.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ On Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill,"
said, the rule was, that in Committee it could not be proposed to omit all the words of a clause for the purpose of inserting other words, because that would be equivalent to proposing a new clause; neither ought a proposition to be made to omit all the words of a clause, except some formal words, in order to substitute new words amounting to a new clause; nor was it consistent with the spirit of the rules of the Committee to make an Amendment to insert words at the commencement of a clause, with the view avowedly and designedly of then moving to omit all the rest of the words of the clause, because that would be tantamount to proposing a new clause, which ought only to be moved after all the clauses in the Bill had been gone through. In the present instance, however, two separate and independent Motions had been made 1058 by different Members. The Committee, in the first instance, inserted an Amendment at the beginning of the clause, and the proposition since made to omit the rest of the clause was strictly in order. If the Committee agreed to Amendments in a clause, when the Question was put that the clause so amended stand part of the Bill, it was open to the Committee to affirm this. No rule was in that case violated. He repeated, that if an Amendment was proposed in the first instance, of a character which showed that it was clearly intended and framed to evade the rule of the Committee, it would not be admissible. The Committee having, however, on the present occasion agreed; to a legitimate Amendment, if, on subsequent consideration, the Committee arrived at the conclusion that it was desirable to omit the remaining words of the clause, there was no rule against it. It was matter for the Committee to decide.
said, he was very glad the right hon. Gentleman had put the question, which had drawn from the Chairman so lucid a statement of the rule.
§ MR. DISRAELI
hoped the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would not ask the Committee to divide on this question.
§ Clause negatived.
§ Clause 3 (Compensation in absence of custom).
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
said, he proposed to leave out words to the end of line 18, and insert others providing a new scale of valuation for fixing compensation where a tenant is disturbed in his possession. He thought it a just provision, which he hoped the Government would consider; but he would not divide the Committee upon it. Its effect would be to give tenants disturbed in their holdings a minimum as well as a maximum of compensation. It appeared to him that a minimum was absolutely necessary; for if there was not, one chairman of quarter sessions 1059 might give the maximum amount, while another gave scarcely anything, though the circumstances of the disturbance might in both cases be the same. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Amendment of which he had given notice.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, he could not agree to the Amendment. It implied a distrust of the discretion of the courts, which was against the principle on which the Bill was framed. If they trusted them at all, they must trust them in this matter of compensation, for there would be exceptional cases constantly arising against which no words in any Bill could provide.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
said, he rose to move an Amendment, giving a claim in the absence of custom in respect of a tenancy existing at the passing of the Act as well as in the case of tenancies of the future. He begged to move, in page 2, line 40, after "tenancy," to insert "existing at the time of or."
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
said, this would be introducing an entirely new element into the clause.
said, he feared the wording of the clause was so general that it would refer even to long leases.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
said, as long as the lease continued the tenant could not be disturbed in his holding under this clause.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, that with reference to the past, this clause made no one but the immediate landlord liable; a superior landlord, who had no relations with the subtenant, would not be liable in respect of the past; but the Government proposed that, for the future, the superior landlord should take care of himself and be liable.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
said, he must confess he was much mystified. Nothing could be more certain than that a man holding under a long lease would not be disturbed in his holding, if at the expiration of the lease the landlord re- 1060 entered into possession. If, however, at the expiration of the lease he was allowed to continue in his holding, he would become a tenant from year to year. Surely a tenant giving up possession on the expiration of a long lease would not be entitled to compensation.
§ DR. BALL
said, he believed he was right in thinking the spirit of the Bill was not in favour of a landlord disturbing a tenant on the termination of his tenure; as he understood it—and this was one of his objections to the measure—if he granted a lease for twenty-one years the Bill contemplated that he should come within this section, if he resumed possession at its termination. The precise intention with regard to leases ought to be clearly denned.
§ MR. SHERLOCK
said, he believed that the turning of a man out of his holding in Ulster on the termination of his lease would be regarded as an unjust disturbance. He would suggest that the act of disturbance should be denned, and that it should be held to take place on the very first initiatory proceedings. This would be for the interest both of the landlord and of the tenant.
§ MR. JESSEL
said, although he always hesitated to differ from the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer), he was obliged to do so on the present occasion. It appeared to Mm that the interpretation put upon the clause by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball) was the correct one. He was unable to assent to the reason given by the hon. Member for Richmond, because he found that throughout the Act disturbance of the lessee by the landlord was contemplated. After perceiving the variety of opinion even among lawyers on this point the Committee would probably come to the conclusion that the Bill was, at least, ambiguous. If the restriction was to apply only to tenants from year to year, that meaning ought to be clearly expressed.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
said, the answer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Dr. Ball) was that the words made the clause not retrospective, but prospective, and consequently the matter could be arranged by the parties themselves. If the landlord was anxious that a tenant for twenty-one years should not come under this clause he might make an arrangement to that effect.
§ COLONEL VANDELEUR
pointed out] that there were, at the present time, many leases for long terms of years. Now, if on the termination of one of these leases the landlord found a number of very poor cottiers on the estate, he could not get rid of them without serving a notice to quit on each individual cottier, and the result would be that he could not regain possession for six or eight months, as it might frequently be to the advantage of the cottiers if they refused to give immediate possession. But if notices to quit were served there would be disturbance by the landlord, and the cottiers might go before the barrister, who would be entitled to award them seven years' rent or more, according to the size of the holdings.
§ MR. OSBORNE
said, he was surprised at the reason alleged by the Solicitor General for Ireland, who had said that it was open to the landlord to make a bargain with the tenant; for one of the sections of the Bill declared that any contract made by a tenant, by virtue of which he would be deprived of his right to make any claim which he would be otherwise entitled to make, should be void. A totally different principle had been enunciated by the Solicitor General when he said it was open to the tenant to make such a contract.
said, there was no contradiction whatever. It was open to the tenant to make a contract in the terms provided by the section. It was distinctly stated in sub-Section 3 of the clause what was the kind of contract which a landlord could make with a tenant if he wished to bar the claim of the latter for damages for eviction. As to the intention of the Bill there could be no doubt whatever. He would not now enter upon the question of sub-leases, because there was a peculiarity in the phraseology in order to meet that difficulty, which must be reserved for a sepa- 1062 rate discussion. But as regarded prospective tenancies there was no doubt whatever about the intention of the Bill. The Government recognized the claim of the ordinary Irish tenant to protection in the event of his eviction, and the ordinary Irish tenant was undoubtedly a tenant from year to year. Therefore, primâ facie, it might be said that it was necessary to protect a tenant from year to year, but not a tenant who already possessed stability of tenure under a lease. The Bill, however, must determine what kind of lease was to be a bar to a claim for damages, because to pass a measure to protect tenants from year to year, and nobody else, a lease given for two years would defeat the purpose aimed at by the Government. The Government had determined for themselves what would carry out the idea of giving not perpetuity, but stability of tenure, which they thought would be adequately secured by a lease under certain conditions if granted for a term of not less than thirty-one years; and when the point of thirty-one years was reached, and when in addition there were other reservations added on the part of the tenant with respect to permanent buildings, the reclamation of land, unexhausted manures, and so on, the landlord and tenant would pass out of the scope of this vitally important part of the measure.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he thought it was clearly the intention that nothing should bar the claim under the clause except a thirty-one years' lease, with some other conditions. He was opposed as much as possible to this; but he thought the subject might be more conveniently discussed when the subsection came under the consideration of the Committee. For his own part, he could not understand why no person should be deemed able to contract unless he were able to contract for a term of thirty-one years.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
said, he would propose a verbal Amendment with the view of carrying out the conclusion arrived at by the Committee yesterday in amending the 1st clause. To the words—Where the tenant of any holding held by him under a tenancy created after the passing of this Act is not entitled to compensation under Sec- 1063 tions one and two of this Act, or cither of such sections"—he proposed to add the words—"or, being entitled, has not claimed under either of them."
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, he thought it would be far more convenient if the Solicitor General for Ireland would put his Amendments on the Paper, so that hon. Members might read them and consider their purport. The hon. Gentleman shook his head; but he confessed he did not know what this Amendment of the hon. Gentleman meant. The proposed addition might, for aught the Committee knew, have the effect of changing the whole meaning of the clause. The hon. Gentleman's Amendments had not been placed on the Paper, and nobody on that side of the House could understand them.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRALAND (Mr. DOWSE)
explained that there was no difficulty about the matter. The additional words were necessary in consequence of the Amendment passed yesterday to the 1st clause; and he might mention that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Downing) had given notice of his intention to move the insertion of words substantially the same as those just proposed.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, that in dealing with a Bill of this magnitude it was essential that everything proposed to be done, especially by the Government, should be rendered as clear as possible. All the Amendments ought to be in print, and hon. Members ought to have an opportunity of comparing all the alterations proposed. In his opinion, therefore, his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot) had done good service in calling the attention of the Committee to this subject. What had happened today? Amendments had been placed on the Paper with reference to Clause 2, and it was very naturally supposed that the discussion upon them would last some hours. Consequently other hon. Gentlemen who were engaged upstairs on Select Committees, and who had given notice of Amendments on Clause 3, calculated upon being able to come down to the House after four o'clock in time to move their Amendments, but they found that Clause 2 had been struck out altogether. He hoped hon. Members would take every step in a matter 1064 so important as this with their eyes open and deliberately.
§ MR. G. B. GREGORY
said, he thought it was agreed yesterday that every tenant might say whether he would claim under the Ulster custom or under the 3rd section.
SIR HERVEY BRUCE
pointed out that the present Amendment referred to the 2nd section, which was no longer in the Bill.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, he concurred in the protest made by his noble Friend (Lord Elcho). It was not fair that Amendments should be proposed by the Government without being printed.
said, that if the suggestion of the hon. Baronet (Sir George Jenkinson) were acted upon satisfactory progress in Committee would be impossible. When a complicated measure was discussed in the Committee the final adjustment of expressions must depend upon contributions from many persons and various quarters. Due notice had been, and would continue to be, given of every substantial Amendment proposed by the Government. When, however, an Amendment was proposed by an independent Member, and the Government saw no objection to it, they were at liberty to suggest what words would be necessary to carry out the object in view. Amendments of this kind were, in reality, merely verbal adjustments for carrying out the proposals of the Committee. The present Amendment was a purely consequential one, to give effect to the intention already declared by the Committee, and he trusted, therefore, that no further opposition would be offered to it.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he wished to know from the Solicitor General for Ireland what would be the effect of the clause in respect to tenants under the Ulster custom when there had been no disturbance?
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
replied, that in the case of a tenant under the Ulster custom there need be no disturbance in order to give him a claim to compensation. His claim for compensation would be governed by the custom.
said, he could not allow the noble Lord to remain under any misapprehension as to this point. A claim under the Ulster custom would be independent of disturbance by the landlord; but no tenant could claim under this clause until after an act of disturbance.
§ COLONEL STUART KNOX
said, that last night the right hon. Gentleman forced on the Committee, by means of his tyrant majority, several small Amendments to Clause 2; but now he came down and wiped them all out again. Last night, also, the right hon. Gentleman found fault with his hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven. ["Order!"] He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he agreed in what he was about to read—It need not be added that some hours would have been saved on Monday had this inevitable concession been then made. Something more would have also been saved. While we are grateful for the magnanimity of the Ministry, we cannot but admire the docility of their followers. To divide en masse against an Amendment on Monday, and to approve it with silent unanimity on Thursday, involves a loss of dignity and independence, however gratifying it may be as a tribute of respect to their Leader.
SIR JOHN ESMONDE
rose to Order. His hon. and gallant Friend was reading an extract from a newspaper.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. CORRANCE
said, the clause was one which required careful and anxious consideration. Providing as it did for compensation in the absence of custom, it contained what he might call the major proposition of the whole Bill, and he contended that it ought to have been taken first. They had never heard it openly and plainly stated from the Government Benches upon what reasons the clause was founded. It had certainly not been introduced on account of Fenianism, because they all knew that Fenianism had nothing to do with agrarian outrage; and it was not on account of evictions, because they all knew that 1066 nine-tenths of them took place in consequence of the non-payment of rent—a consideration which was excluded from the provisions of the Bill. It would have been very advantageous if the reasons for the clause had been stated; because the Committee would then have been able to form a better appreciation of the provisions of the Bill as to whether they should be merely temporary, or, as was proposed by the Government, of a permanent character. Those provisions would apply to all kinds of circumstances, and bar all free contract from this time forward for ever. He supposed the clause was considered to be penal or quasi penal upon the landlord class; and, proceeding on that assumption, he would ask what had the landlords done to deserve that Parliament should legislate against them in that spirit. By some it was alleged that they had not improved their estates as much as they ought to have done; but then, as the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government admitted, extraordinary difficulties were placed in their way by the Acts of 1829 and 1848, as well as by the effect of our legislation with respect to Free Trade. He, however, did not take the view of the operation of the clause which he had just mentioned. He was dealing with it rather as it would be likely to affect the tenant, and he contended that under it an incoming tenant would have to pay the sum in which it was proposed to mulct the landlord. When this Bill passed into law what would be the result? There were but too many tenants who would give not only ten, but thirty or forty years' purchase for a holding-such as that to which he was referring. By this clause they were really creating an analogous rig] it to the Ulster tenant-right in other parts of Ireland, and it would be a tenant-right that there would be a great deal of difficulty in construing. But tenant-right, instead of being the greatest boon which the tenant could have, was, in his opinion, the complete reverse; and while he and those who agreed with him held such diametrically opposite views to those of the Government, he feared they would never be able to arrive at any satisfactory compromises. He wished to have a distinct intimation from the Government on this point—was the clause intended to compensate the tenant for loss, or was it creating 1067 a right of tenancy? In other words, did the 3rd clause give a claim for loss of occupation or did it recognize a right of occupation. Against the scale for loss of occupation he had nothing to say; but he should like to have some more distinct information on the point he had just mentioned. The vice of the position was that false hopes had been raised which the Government themselves found it difficult to satisfy. His object was that they should now say precisely what they meant by "disturbance." Was it a mere vague term, like a great many other terms in the Bill, or did it give a right to any tenant who felt himself aggrieved in any way by his landlord to turn round and say—"You disturb me; I walk out of my farm and I claim seven years' rent as compensation." It was very important that a precise definition of disturbance should be given in the Bill, and he hoped that if the Government would not accept his Amendment on the subject, they would, at all events, introduce terms of their own into the Bill which would be equally precise. If there was a division on this subject he trusted it would not be a party one. He confessed he was greatly disappointed last night not to have received support from independent men opposite who had independent opinions, But not, it seemed, independent votes. He thought he could have relied on the support of some of these independent Members, many of whom had told him that they hated the Bill, and that it was subversive of every political tenet they ever professed. They knew that the power of free contract ought to be the basis of free government; they knew also that the Bill would be swept away by more enlightened legislation, or would remain the curse of Ireland. He turned now to patriotic Irishmen sitting below the Gangway. No one sympathized more warmly with Ireland than he did; but, after Free Trade, this measure in bar of free contract was the most extraordinary Liberal measure ever put before the House. He moved, in page 3, line 1, to leave out "disturbed in his holding by act of the," and insert "evicted by or consequent upon notice to quit from the landlord."
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, he agreed that the Amendment before the Committee was a very important one. But he wished to know what would be done in 1068 the case of a landlord who gave a lease for thirty, or a less term of years, instead of for thirty-one years? Would the landlord, in that case, be deprived of all the benefit that might accrue to him in the matter of disturbing a tenant if the lease were one for thirty-one years? If a tenant, having held possession for thirty years and then having broken his covenants, as Irish tenants were apt to do, was turned out for bad farming, would he be able to claim compensation according to the scale? The disturbance in that case was not so great as in the case of the yearly tenant, for the tenant of thirty years would have had time to recoup himself for whatever outlay he had made. There certainly ought to be some clear definition of what disturbance meant.
§ MR. SYNAN
said, he thought the court constituted by this Bill would be the best authority for deciding what "disturbance" was. The effect of the Amendment, if adopted, would be to deprive of compensation a great part of the tenantry of Ireland, and confine the grant of compensation to yearly tenants. As to the case of a thirty years' lease the landlord could give a thirty-one years' lease if he liked, and if he did not do so it was his own fault that he became liable to compensation.
§ MR. BRUEN
said, he wished to look at this question broadly, and neither from the landlord nor the tenant point of view. The answer to the question "What is the Government of Ireland?" used to be "Larcom and the Police!" Under this Bill, with its very indistinct definition of "disturbance," the Government of Ireland would be the assistant barristers. In order to save these gentlemen from a great deal of difficulty and odium, the Government ought to define clearly what disturbance was; and he should support the principle of the Amendment that "disturbance" of the tenant by the landlord should be limited in some way not now mentioned in the Bill.
said, he did not admit that words should be inserted in the Bill, the Committee not knowing what they meant, but leaving the meaning to be settled by the court. It appeared to him that the Amendment to the 3rd clause, of which he had given notice, would answer the same object as this Amendment; and as his 1069 own words raised the point more clearly, he hoped he should not be precluded from moving his Amendment, which was in the following terms:—Provided always, That nothing in this Act contained shall exonerate a tenant under lease from the duty of giving up peaceable possession of the demised land at the end of the term, nor shall a landlord resuming possession at the termination of a lease be deemed to be disturbing a tenant within the meaning of this Act.
said, his chief objection to the Amendment before the Committee was that the definition which it professed to give was no definition at all, but was simply an omission of the word disturbance and the putting of other words in its place. With regard to the word "disturbance," it would be far from desirable to part with it. It was a cardinal word in the Bill, it was repeated in different places, and so far from being a word unknown to the law it was a word perfectly well known to the law. He had before him a legal text-book in which it was said an action would lie for disturbance in the enjoyment of that in which a man had a right or interest—precisely the sense in which it was applied in this Bill. He also objected to the Amendment because it was verbally quite ambiguous, and the sentence carried two completely different meanings according as it was road one way or the other. It might be read "evicted by, or consequent upon notice to quit from, landlord;" or it might be read, "evicted by, or consequent upon, notice to quit from landlord." However, the object of the Amendment was explicitly avowed, and it was to lay down as a principle, which, he was sorry to say. had the approval of his right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Headlam), that at the termination of a lease or contract for a given period, a notice to quit is not to be deemed a disturbance, however short the period may be; so, in point of fact, while they were to protect tenants from year to year by damages for eviction, a lease for two years was to bar damages for eviction—nay, a lease for a year and a day would do so. He was glad the distinct intention of the Amendment had been made manifest and clear—but it was simply the destruction of the Bill—for Parliament would never dream of passing a measure which would protect tenancies from year to year, and allow agreements for a year and a day to bar a claim for damages.
§ MR. HUNT
said, he could quite understand that the right hon. Gentleman was anxious to retain the word "disturbance" in the Bill, and he (Mr. Hunt) wished to know whether it was proposed to define it. The damage done by disturbance "in the enjoyment of that in which a man had right or interest" was intelligible; but he could not see the damage done by disturbance where a man had neither right nor interest.
said, this was a question which well deserved consideration. After much thought the Government came to the conclusion that it was better to proceed by the definition of the word "tenant"; but it was quite an open question whether a distinct definition of the word "disturbance" should or should not be introduced.
said, that after the observations which had been made, he must explain the object of his Amendment. If a gentleman took a house for three months, and at the end of that term was called upon to give it up, would that be a grievance? It was clearly the duty of the man to give up peaceable possession of the house at the end of the term for which he took it. But it was proposed that if a man took land in Ireland for a definite term he was not to be bound to give it up at the end of the term. It was a monstrous thing that a landlord should be subjected to pains and penalties if he ventured to take possession of his own land at the conclusion of the term for which the land was let. If a man took house or land for a definite period, he was morally bound to give up either at the end of the term. It might be desirable to make exceptions for short leases; but he should like to have it laid down as a clear and distinct proposition, as applicable in England as in Ireland, that it was the duty of the tenant at the end of his term to give up peaceable possession. He should certainly divide the Committee on this general proposition.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
wished to say a word in favour of the common sense and understanding of the Irish people. If the tenantry of Ireland were offered leases for a year and a day, they would refuse them. So the case supposed in reality would not arise. The tendency of Parliament to legislate as if the people of Ireland were a set of the 1071 most incapable and helpless savages was to him a matter of regret and astonishment. To say that if the principle of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle were assented to, the tenantry of Ireland would be compelled to accept leases for a year and a day, or any such term, was to impose upon the credulity of the Committee.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRALAND (Mr. DOWSE)
said, it appeared to him there was a considerable difference between the Amendment before the Committee and that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Headlam), and the former was more favourable to the tenant, for the hon. Member (Mr. Corrance) did not see exactly what he was aiming at, and took a more favourable view of the case in his Amendment than he did in his speech. It was proposed to interpret the word disturbance in such a way as to exclude the determination of a tenancy; but that was not the scope and object of the Bill, which was to give compensation on the expiration of leases. The hon. Member, contrary to his intention, sought to confer a boon on the tenant who did not give up possession until the landlord evicted him; and the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Newcastle was not open to the same objection; he clearly intended to exclude the tenant from compensation on the expiration of a lease. The observations of the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Manners) at first sight appeared to be reasonable; but the Committee were dealing with the cases of tenants who held on short terms; there were cases in which men had held land for two, three, or four years, and even one year; and according to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, if a man was disturbed at the end of such a term, he would get no compensation at all. It had been just now stated that the House was asked to legislate for the Irish people as if they fell within a certain category he had rather not name; but the fact was that Irish tenants required legislation different from that required by English tenants. He knew the case of an entire estate in the West of Ireland being held by the tenants under an agreement for a year certain, and the effect was that at the expiration of the year the landlord 1072 could come in and turn the tenants out. He himself had been recently engaged in the case as counsel for the landlord. The tenants tried to show that they were not aware they were bound by such an understanding; but stamped agreements to that effect were produced. All he could say was that if the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Newcastle or the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman opposite in the sense meant by him were carried, it would be the death-blow to the Bill, and would prevent the removal of that which was a source of injustice to the Irish people and a grievance of which they justly complained.
§ DR. BALL
said, he wished to enforce upon the Committee the absolute necessity of having a definition of the word "disturbance" inserted in the Bill. By the word "disturbance" he himself should understand an eviction or an ejectment, and he would also understand by it a legal act which, like a notice to quit, terminated the tenancy. Eviction was a wide word. A tenant might be ejected because the title or tenure had expired, or it might be that he might be evicted because there was a contract between him and the landlord that upon his doing certain acts the latter was to re-enter upon the land. He should like clearly to know whether if a tenant, prohibited by his lease from assigning without his landlord's licence, should alienate his lease to another without the landlord's leave, and the landlord should evict him for that reason, this act on the part of the landlord would be deemed a disturbance? By the 8th clause it was provided that ejectment for non-payment of rent should not be deemed disturbance of the tenant by the act of the landlord—Unless the Court decides that it ought on special grounds to be so deemed in the case of a person claiming compensation on the determination of a tenancy existing at the time of the passing of this Act.It seemed to him that the introduction of the qualifying words in that part of the clause proved that the framer of the Bill was of opinion that ejectment for non-payment of rent would without them be a disturbance. He therefore thought it would be absolutely necessary, in the Interpretation Clause, to introduce some words making the matter clear.
§ COLONEL WILSON-PATTEN
said, he would suggest that the definition should be laid upon the table at as early a period as possible, because it might be a material element in considering the various clauses.
§ MR. JESSEL
said, it was quite true that a man could be disturbed who had broken his contract; but that observation applied to every case provided for by the Bill, for it was material to recollect that a tenant from year to year entered into a compact to give up his farm at the end of six months. The Bill declared that if a lease were in future granted for less than thirty-one years the tenant was not to be turned out without compensation. That principle had been affirmed on the second reading; and that being so, it was inconsistent to bring forward such Amendments as were now before the Committee.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, that if a man made a clear contract it was the duty of Parliament to see that he fulfilled it, and not to pass a law which would tend to make him break it. He believed the difficulty involved in the Bill was, that it applied to all tenants, great and small; and though the change proposed might be reasonable and fair as regards poor men, it was unjust and unreasonable as regards the larger holders of land. He hoped the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Corrance) would not press his Amendment, because the object he sought to attain would be better gained by the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Headlam.)
said, he thought it desirable that the questions under consideration should be disentangled. Each in itself was worthy of consideration; but they were wholly distinct, and ought to be considered separately. As to the first—namely, the desirability of introducing a definition of the word "disturbance," that was a point which would be considered in its proper place. The consideration of what acts should be included within a definition of the term disturbance had nothing to do with the present clause, and the question of what would happen to a tenant who assigned without leave from his landlord remained for the Committee to consider at a future stage. Meanwhile, the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman 1074 I opposite (Mr. Corrance) raised a broad question, which was perfectly intelligible and ought first to be disposed of. What the hon. Gentleman opposite wanted was that compensation should only be given in cases where a tenant had received notice to quit. To that the Government could not consent. He was anxious that the two Amendments should be kept quite distinct; because while the first would be properly considered hereafter, it was on the second the principle would be determined.
§ MR. CORRANCE
said, he wished to confess frankly that he was no lawyer, and would withdraw the Amendment, which was a simple one, and only verbal; but he had introduced these words in perfect good faith, in order to avoid the possibility of doubt arising. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had not properly represented his intention. It was assumed that he wished to destroy the Bill. On the contrary, he wanted to amend it, because he believed it would meet a want felt by 200,000 out of 600,000 tenants of Ireland—namely, those under a £10 rental. He desired to assure to them all that they had a right to claim. He had not proposed to apply the words to leases, because the clause had no reference to them, but only to annual holdings. If, however, the form of words he had suggested was inadequate to carry out his object, or would take him beyond it, he was prepared to accept any better proposal which might be made by the Government. He had received an assurance that the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Headlam) would take the opinion of the House on the Amendment of which he had given notice, and he would therefore withdraw this Amendment in favour of the one to be brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. W. SHAW
said, he proposed,: in page 3, line 1, to leave out from "land-lord," to "land," in line 35, and insert—Such notice of disturbance shall be signed by the landlord, and shall state fully the reason why possession of the holding is sought, and if such reason shall appear to the Judge sufficient and just he shall decree possession, and the tenant shall he entitled to such compensation, to be paid by the landlord, as the Judge may think fair and 1075 reasonable. In granting such compensation the Judge shall estimate the injury sustained by the tenant by reason of disturbance in his occupation. He shall estimate the value of reclamation and drainage, and of buildings and improvements, made by the tenant or his predecessor in title, and suitable to the farm, and also of unexhausted manure and tillages.While he wished to prevent any unjust treatment of the smaller tenants, it was not desirable to extend the number of small holdings by artificial measures. The holders of upwards of fifty or 100 acres constituted the real strength of the country, and they were not properly provided for in the Bill. He quite approved of the regulation by which each case was to be judged on its own merits; but in order that complete justice might be done to the parties it was important that full particulars should be before the Court. He therefore proposed that a notice to quit should state in plain language the reason why the landlord served it. This document could then be referred to on the inquiry, and would afford a valuable guide to the Judge. Good landlords in Ireland seldom ejected their tenants, and for the last ten years the majority of the estates had been well managed. Still there were some foolish landlords—for the most part young gentlemen, who might, perhaps, have met with some hon. Members who had addressed the Committee on this question, and who at any rate had imbibed an idea that a large farm cultivated by poor slaves, worse fed and worse housed than cattle, was the perfection of agriculture. Such persons set to work to evict their tenants as soon as they came into the property. He would give the Judge power to stop proceedings of this kind, without depriving the landlord of his just rights. In fact, he wished to take from these persons the power of committing moral suicide. Those who had advocated the system of large farms in England and Scotland would find out their mistake before long. Experience would show that it was better to have for every farm of 1,000 acres, with but one man deriving benefit from it, ten farms supporting ten families in comfort and respectability. If the Government would act on this suggestion, they might succeed in securing peace and prosperity for Ireland. He had used the word "Judge" because he intended in another Amendment to provide that the cases of compensation should be decided, not by 1076 chairmen of quarter sessions, but by Judges of the Landed Estates Court. They could not select a worse tribunal than that proposed in the Bill. It would lead to much confusion, in consequence of the variety of the decisions which would be given by a large number of persons, who were not of the highest standing in their profession, and who were all looking for promotion; and more money would be expended than would suffice to add one or more Judges to the Bench to administer the Act. It might be argued that law should be cheap and convenient; but he differed from that opinion, because the poor Irish farmers were already too much disposed to engage in litigation, and if the proposed arrangement was adopted they would spend half their life in court, and cause the courts of quarter sessions to be taken up with hearing disputes arising under this Bill.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, he had thought the Amendment would add nothing to the Bill until he heard the hon. Member's proposition to send the cases under the clause before a Judge. To that suggestion, which would make a serious change in the scheme, the Government could not accede. He could not agree in thinking it advisable to make law dear and inconvenient. It would be impracticable, if this measure was to have the effect intended, to have all the trials in Dublin. The tribunal proposed was one well known to the Irish people, and he was convinced that the assistant barristers would settle the questions which arose under the Bill in a satisfactory manner. The directions which the hon. Member proposed to give to the Court would be wholly unnecessary, for of course no just award could be given until the reasons for an eviction had been ascertained. But if directions of any kind were required they would be found in a subsequent clause. He hoped the hon. Member would not ask the Committee to divide on his Amendment.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, he preferred a tribunal presided over by eminent Judges, as suggested by the hon. Member for Bandon (Mr. W. Shaw), to a tribunal of men of less weight. He would point out the probability of the assistant barristers declining to undertake the additional work which would be imposed upon them by this Bill without 1077 higher remuneration. No doubt if those gentlemen received permanent appointments with increased salaries the country would have confidence in the tribunal; but if that was not done there would be a danger of the present efficient chairmen of quarter sessions being succeeded by inferior practitioners unfit to discharge the functions of the office. A statement from the Government as to the constitution of the future Court would be acceptable.
§ MR. BRUEN
said, he had great confidence in the assistant barristers; but thought they would be glad of such assistance as could be given by two or three of their number constituted into one Court. The plan of sending the cases to Dublin would involve great expense. Several objections might be taken to the wording of the Amendment.
§ DR. BREWER
said, it was inconvenient to hon. Members, who had Amendments on Clauses 18, 19, 20, and 21, to be compelled at this point to discuss the constitution of the Court.
§ MR. G. B. GREGORY
said, that if the Amendment was adopted a landlord who failed to state at full length his reasons for wishing to remove a tenant would be unable to recover possession, whatever his legal rights might be. He had always understood that it was sufficient for the landlord to give notice to quit, because he had a right to the land.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
said, he did not intend, in the remarks he proposed to make, to say one word against the clause before the Committee. He simply rose to say that he could not remain silent after hearing the observations which had been made with regard to the gentlemen who were to administer this Act. He wished to testify to their capacity to discharge the duties intrusted to them. Some of the highest law officers in Ireland had been chairmen of quarter sessions.
§ COLONEL CORBETT
said, it appeared to him that it would be almost impossible for anyone, however learned, to decide all the controverted questions that might be brought before him if the Amendment was adopted. In the first place, he would be called upon to say whether a landlord had a just right to get rid of his tenant, and when much evidence was brought on both sides the only effect would be to add to the well-known uncertainty of the law. Then, as to com- 1078 pensation, the Judge was to have no guidance; he would have to take conflicting evidence, and he would find it almost impossible, without being assisted by a jury of farmers in the neighbourhood, to say what he ought to allow for drainage, unexhausted manures, and other matters. How in the world would a learned gentleman, who never had any practical acquaintance with agriculture, know how long bone-dust manure or guano would last?
§ MR. W. SHAW
said, that in consenting to withdraw the Amendment, he wished to disclaim any idea of casting a slur upon assistant barristers.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, he had now to move the first part of the Amendment of which he had given notice for the Government. The object of the Amendment was to effect entirely that which had been only partially effected by the Bill as it was originally framed—namely, the separation of the question of improvements from that of damages for eviction. In the Bill as it stood now the two important classes of permanent improvements—namely, buildings and reclamation of land—were separated from the scale, and were to have compensation awarded for them distinctly. But, upon further; consideration, it appeared to the Government that that kind of overlapping of the two questions which still remained would be inconvenient in practice, would lead to much confusion and difficulty, and, in some cases, to inequitable results contrary to the intentions of the Bill. They admitted, of course, by the Bill that the tenant who had made valuable improvements was to receive compensation for them upon quitting his holding, and above all, under this clause, upon being served with an ejectment on the part of the landlord. But under the clause as it now stood it appeared that a tenant who had made valuable improvements, not consisting of permanent buildings or reclamation of land, might not be sufficiently compensated by the scale, and that remark applied in the strongest manner, and with a strength constantly increasing, as they rose in the grade of tenancies according to the amount of the valuation, and as they descended in the scale with respect to the number of years' rental 1079 which formed the maximum compensation for the guidance of the Court. It was evident that when they got into the upper class of tenancies and the larger farms, where the scale greatly diminished, it would be probable, nay, certain, that there would be many tenants who had made valuable improvements other than permanent buildings and reclamation of land, in whose case it would be impossible for the Court to do full justice unless the clause was altered, because it would find itself unable to go beyond two years' rent or three years' rent, which was the maximum of the original scale for farms of the larger size. That would be a result most undesirable, and which no one could wish to see produced by the Bill. Upon full consideration, and in order that no such result could possibly happen, it seemed better to leave the Court free under the scale to deal with the one question of loss in quitting the holding, and to provide that wherever the Court should find improvements of any kind which added to the value of the holding it should be at full liberty to award to the disturbed tenant the value of such improvements. The Government thought that an important improvement in the scale, providing for cases which might not be equitably dealt with as the Bill stood, simplifying the action of the Court, and securing in all cases, especially those of the larger tenancies, with respect to which the scale was very limited and narrow, that full justice should be done to every fair claim. It was on that account that he should move, as the first of a series of Amendments, in page 3, line 1, to leave out from "may if, &c.," to "thereupon," in line 3, both inclusive.
§ DR. BALL
As I understand it, this is the commencement of a complete scheme on the part of my right hon. Friend (the Chief Secretary for Ireland) to alter the original plan of this Bill in respect of compensation, and I think it also indicates some intention of interfering with the provisoes which take out of this clause altogether certain kinds of tenure. ["No!"] I shall view the present proposition as part of a series of Amendments, and I say that these Amendments, if the whole series be adopted, do, in altering the phraseology of this clause, alter also its original intention and operation. The mode in which this clause originally proposed to fix the qualifica- 1080 tion that would entitle the tenant to demand compensation was this?—the Court was to have regard to the improvements of his holding made by the tenant or his predecessors in title—other than those improvements in this section specially provided for—and to the loss sustained by him in quitting his holding. And here I must say that I think the phrase "damages for eviction" is not a proper substitute for the wording originally used; and I also think the test of the change you suggest will be by considering whether such words would not be equivalent to those you use in the new Amendments. Now, I say, as originally framed, the sliding scale, which entitled the tenant to claim a maximum of seven years', five years', three years', or two years' rent, was framed not to meet the claim for the mere matter of being deprived of his possession and put out of his holding, but also with a view to a combination of considerations by which the Court was to be affected, and upon which it was to form its judgment; and that combination included improvements on the holding made by the tenant or his predecessors, other than permanent ones—such as buildings and reclamation of land—and also the loss sustained by him in quitting his holding. When I addressed the House on the second reading I stated my opinion that the original words in the Bill did not give damages for eviction simply and solely as eviction; but what it gave was compensation for improvements and inconveniences connected with eviction, but not for eviction itself. It is quite plain that my right hon. Friend felt the force of that criticism; and, being determined to go very much beyond the original language of the Bill, he has put down an Amendment, of which the present is a mere preliminary and a mode of reaching it—and that Amendment is in these terms—not "regard being had to the loss sustained by him in quitting his holding," but "for the loss sustained by him in quitting his holding." The difference is this—that whereas in the original clause the Judge was to give compensation to the tenant for every kind of improvement except those of a permanent kind, and also compensation for interruption in a proper course of husbandry, and for particular inconvenience connected with the act of eviction, now this sliding scale is to be applied by the 1081 Judge to this one single matter of compensation for quitting the holding, or being obliged to quit it. I at once say that is damages for the simple act of eviction. Therefore, the question before the Committee on the present Amendment, which is preliminary to the other, and which is part of the machinery by which the object of the right hon. Gentleman is to be worked out, is this—whether they are prepared to sanction the view of the Government that the mere fact of eviction or deprival of possession, no matter how right it may be, applying to leases as well as tenancies from year to year, is to be subject to compensation, and whether that is to become part of the law of Ireland which you would never venture to propose for England or Scotland—namely, that a Judge is to award, for the mere fact of eviction consequent on the most legitimate termination of tenure, say, on lease for thirty, twenty, or ten years, damages ranging from two to seven years' rent? We ought to assent to compensation for everything that is in the nature of an improvement, and to the removal of everything that is an inconvenience or an injustice, either in connection with a tenant's occupation or his farming, or the rotation of crops, or any interruption generally in the management of his farm. I myself, as far as I am concerned, am willing to concede these points. But what I object to now is, that, discarding the whole of those matters, you seize upon and affirm an abstract principle, which is, that an occupier may demand compensation for the mere fact of the termination of his tenancy, this being, in your opinion, a wrong. I say in your opinion a wrong, for if it is not a wrong, why is the tenant to be compensated? I ask—"Is not that a principle of enormous, of alarming importance?" And if it is a principle that ought to be introduced without qualification, without relation to any circumstances peculiar to the particular position of an individual tenant, and as an abstract principle, to which you give an unhesitating assent, do you imagine that you can confine its operation to I Ireland? Sir, I desire to know on what principle it can be said that Scotch tenants are to be treated differently from Irish. Why is a landlord in Scotland to have the right to give to his tenants leases for nineteen years, the 1082 tenure covering all compensation for improvements, and then to advertise, as I read in a Scotch newspaper was done by a nobleman of the highest position in that country, for offers for the occupation of those farms, just when the tenancies were about to expire? I desire to know why, if your principle is right abstractedly, you are to confine it to Ireland? Must not this principle ultimately pervade your whole legislation? And although it may be that you ought to surround it with qualifications, I ask why, if it is abstractedly, morally, and justifiably right, it is not, at least, in some degree, to be inserted in your whole code and applied to the relations of landlord and tenant in all your dominions? Sir, this Amendment is pregnant with the most alarming consequences. I see no limit to its application—that is, no limit resting on a valid reason. An arbitary line of exemption is drawn by the Bill at a thirty-one years' lease. But, I ask, is not this unjust to the tenant for thirty-one years, and why is he to be excluded from this provision? If it is wrong towards an individual who has once gained a tenancy to turn him out of his occupation, it is as great a wrong at the end of thirty-one years as at any time. The abstract principle, which by this Amendment you would affirm, is this—"Give me an occupation, and I have a moral right to retain it; you cannot disturb me without giving me compensation." Sir, a thirty-one years' lease is no answer to that abstract principle. The term of thirty-one years is, I understand, selected with reference to ordinary improvements. I have read the evidence given before the Marquess of Clanricarde's Committee and the Committee of the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Maguire), and the witnesses, as well as the hon. Gentleman himself, have stated that a lease of thirty-one years is a fair inducement to a tenant to make improvements. I understand that by this Bill a thirty-one years' lease is to put an end to all claims on account of improvements—except buildings and reclamation of land, and it says to a tenant—"For everything you have done in the nature of such improvements, a thirty-one years' lease is a fair bar, because you can have an ample return in that time." But, Sir, I contend that neither a thirty-one years' lease, nor a fifty years' lease, nor a 100 years' lease is any answer what- 1083 ever to the abstract principle of the Amendment now being moved. It demands that the occupancy of any individual who possesses a holding shall be respected, that he has a moral right to retain it, and that having such moral right you must give him a pecuniary compensation for the invasion of that right by his landlord. This principle is as applicable at any period as it is at the end of one year, and it is equally applicable to the man who pays the rent of £500 per annum as to him who pays only £10. Having regard, then, to its extent of operation, I say that the principle is alarming; I further say it has a tendency, like every other abstract principle, when once affirmed, when once given to the public with the sanction of legislative authority, to propagate itself and spread, and I foresee in such a doctrine, in such a departure from all previous notions on this subject, the introduction of a new principle into morals and into law. Introduced upon this question, it may without difficulty pass gradually into our consideration of other relations of society. Doctrines of similar character can be readily suggested as to the whole relations of rich and poor, of employer and labourer, and of the various classes to each other. When once you introduce the doctrine that there are moral rights of this kind which you can establish, not only independently, but in violation of the original contract, independently of the original relations between the parties, and independently of the law of centuries, what hinders to make an abrupt change substituting for contracted, legislative obligation by the will of the majority at any moment. Therefore, I say that this Amendment alters what is by far the most important principle of the Bill, and I will go further, and say that the Committee have a right to complain that a great principle of this kind should be introduced into the Bill by way of amendment. I say, with every respect to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, that he laid on the Table of this House a Bill elaborately framed—for everyone who reads this Bill must remark the extraordinary complications of its provisions and the wonderful way in which one clause balances another, and must see that this Bill was thoroughly considered by the Ministry, and was brought here as the result of the collec- 1084 tive purpose of the whole Cabinet—and yet now, upon the 3rd clause, which is immeasurably the most important—where we originally had a sliding scale of compensation based upon a consideration of the aggregate result of improvements and inconveniences, we have a new proposition, that seven years' value shall or may be given to a tenant for the loss sustained by him in the mere fact of quitting his holding. That is a proposition large in its immediate results and fertile in future consequences, and it introduces a completely new principle; yet it is quietly placed on the Paper in the name of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I think we have reason to complain; but as we have it here, I hope the Committee will deal with it, and that if they do not accept the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) they will, at all events, force the Government to retain the original words of the clause. I earnestly implore the Committee to oppose the Amendment now sought to be proposed, as it goes far beyond the original plan of the Bill, and beyond what was brought before the country by the various organs of public opinion which have commented upon this measure. Sir, that the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman is in every respect pregnant with the most serious consequences is, I think, the view that will hereafter be taken of it.
I do not rise, Sir, for the purpose of making, on the present occasion, a full answer to the able declamation, if I may so call it—[Expressions of dissent]—I do not use the word in any disrespectful sense, for I am quite incapable of using any word disrespectful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Dr. Ball), whose address appealed very much to the feelings, not to say the passions, of his hearers, and in that sense I may so call it—but I will withdraw the word. I do not intend to enter upon either the rhetoric or the argument of the right hon. Gentleman; but I wish to say three things. In the first place, I must entirely deny that the right hon. Gentleman has any reason to complain of the conduct of the Government in proposing this Amendment. He complains of its being a new principle compared with his construction of the Bill. That may be so; but it is not a new principle compared with 1085 our construction, and never upon any occasion did we, by either word or act, admit one syllable of the construction which the right hon. Gentleman puts upon the Bill. Surely we are entitled to put our own construction on our own Bill, and surely it is rather too much for the right hon. Gentleman—who has given to it a totally different construction—to contend, when we propose to introduce these words into the Bill, that they are not accordant with its cardinal principle, and to complain of us as if we were guilty of some breach of faith. No one can have failed to observe that the right hon. Gentleman's speech was almost rapturously cheered by the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho). I am not referring to it byway of censure; on the contrary, the right hon. Gentleman, in his speech on this occasion, has expressed the very opinions stated by my noble Friend on the second reading of the Bill, when he read the Bill in its plain sense, and applied to it a construction which its authors gave to it, and which has been given by the whole House, with the exception of the right hon. Gentleman. I hope I have not said anything offensive to him, but I must entirely disclaim the notion that we have introduced a new principle into this Bill. We have made an Amendment to which I distinctly referred when speaking on the second reading, when I said that I thought conclusive and sufficient reason had been shown for effecting a more complete separation than we had made by the Bill as it originally stood between the property in improvements—as I wish to call it—and the damage sustained by eviction. Then, Sir, the effect that these enactments will have upon the condition of property and upon the relative rights of rich and poor is a matter which I dare say we shall have to consider when we get a little further into the discussion. But when this House is told of rights, and of rich and poor, let us remember that this House is an assembly in which the poor are not represented—[Expressions of dissent]—in which poor men are not contained. This House, having for 600 years had under its charge legislation for Ireland, has, by the manner in which that legislation has been conducted, presented to us the state of things which we now find. I commend that to the reflection of those who will have to 1086 enter upon this question; but I wish to make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Committee. It will be most convenient that this Amendment should be passed as being simply a verbal one. It has no connection, so far as I am able to discern, with the substantial changes that we propose in the Bill, for there is nothing in its wording to indicate the nature of the issue, and I believe I am quite correct in saying that, so far as this single Amendment is concerned, its whole object is to clear the Bill of surplusage. The material words proposed to be struck out are these—"may, if not excluded by the provisoes annexed to this section," and if they are struck out you do not require express words in the section to say that the provisoes shall take effect. Then, there are the other words—"or may apply for compensation, and thereupon shall be entitled." We think it is quite enough to say that he shall be entitled, because from those words he derives his right to apply for compensation. I wish to point this out, because the whole question must be raised by the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), presuming that he will propose the Amendment. Though at present the words proposed applied to line 3, I believe they would come much more conveniently in line 4. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire will propose to confine the giving of compensation to certain things. My right hon. Friend near me (the Chief Secretary for Ireland) will propose that it shall be given to certain other things. It will be impossible for us to make practical progress with these matters during the present debate, and we think the right hon. Gentleman may postpone his address to the House until the discussion is resumed. I think it would be greatly for our convenience to adopt this course, and then we should be able to start fair on Monday with both the proposals I have alluded to. I merely make this suggestion for what I believe will be the convenience of the Committee.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, there is much, no doubt, in the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government; but I think the Committee will be of opinion that the conclusion at which the right hon. Gentleman has arrived is perfectly inconsistent with the 1087 opening address of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. If we could consider this to be a mere technical correction, it would be possible to meet the views of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down; but if, as we understood the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant to intimate, this change is only the preliminary of a much greater one, which involves the whole question and alters the policy of the Government on a most important principle, then I think we cannot concur with the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown. I should have thought it impossible for Her Majesty's Government, however great may be their power, to introduce within a quarter of an hour two propositions quite inconsistent with each other. The manner in which the question was opened by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, caused my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball) to take views of the Amendment which, in my opinion, are perfectly just, and I think those views were expressed with forcible eloquence. There are kinds of declamation fitting to a subject and kinds of declamation not fitted to it; but I think that a Member who addresses us on this subject with the authority of my right hon. Friend, was justified in speaking in the tone he adopted when alluding to this great change—for it is a great change—announced by the Chief Secretary in the plan of the Government. If the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) had introduced the Amendment now before us as a technical alteration, and deprecated any expression of opinion on the principle involved in the Amendment to be proposed hereafter, that would be a different thing; but, having regard to the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Amendment, we cannot separate, and my right hon. Friend could not separate, the proposition now before the Committee from the whole scheme of the Government. What is that proposition? It is all very well for the First Minister of the Crown to say that the foundation of my right hon. Friend's appeal to the House is his own idea of what the policy of the Government ought to be, and not what it really is. The right hon. Gentleman says that my right hon. and learned Friend (Dr. Ball) has argued from his 1088 own point of view, and not from that on which the Bill was founded. But why have they altered it? If the Bill is in accordance with the policy of the Government, there is no necessity for them to re-construct this particular clause in a manner which entirely changes its character. The right hon. Gentleman cannot deny that this was a clause providing a sliding scale of compensation for distinct considerations, and the most important consideration in that sliding scale was not compensation for eviction. But now the right hon. Gentleman introduces a scale confined entirely to compensation for eviction. It is impossible to contend that this is not a serious change in the principle of the measure. In his speech on the second reading of the Bill, the Judge Advocate General said the 3rd clause contained the principle of the Bill, and that hon. Gentlemen in voting for the second reading would be giving their adhesion to that clause. I objected to the severity of his deduction in that instance; but take him at his word, and what do we find? The whole character of this 3rd clause is changed, and what is the vindication of the First Minister? That in a speech, in declamation probably like the speech, of my right hon. Friend, he described the policy of the Government as that which will be embodied in this alteration of the 3rd clause; which clause the Judge Advocate General previously defined as containing the policy of the Government. Of course, it would be vain to think of discussing this question at this hour of the evening; but I must say I entirely agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin in what he has said as to this most serious change, and I think Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House have a right to complain of such a departure from the policy which the Government led us to believe they had adopted when I recommended those hon. Members to vote for the second reading of the Bill. My suspicions were first excited by the proposal to omit the 16th clause, which freed from certain demands the landlord who made a thirty-one years' lease. That clause was brought forward with much ostentation when the Bill was introduced, as guarding effectually those rights of property which, I trust, are respected equally by both sides of the House; but no sooner is the 1089 Bill read a second time, than, almost in silence, the Chief Secretary puts on the Paper a notice that this clause is to be omitted. I think that step was taken without due consideration and due regard to the implied agreement entered into with the House, especially with this side of the House. And now, with the advantage of Morning Sittings to carry on this Bill, we have, to my mind, arrived at a complete revolution in the measure, and a new scheme is brought forward for our consideration different from that Bill which we agreed to read a second time, with, I believe, an anxious desire to assist the Government to carry a temperate and satisfactory measure. The impression created in our minds when the Bill was introduced has been destroyed. The feeling which animated the House in respect of this Bill has not been, I think, treated in the way it deserved, because next Monday we meet for the consideration of a new Land Bill, involving principles, the successful promulgation of which would be, I believe, most injurious to the public interests.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
Sir, I cannot but think it would be very much to be regretted if so important a question of principle as that which has been discussed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball) and the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, should be decided on a false issue. The words now proposed to be left out are mere surplusage, and it is a mistake to suppose that their omission would introduce the principle or connect itself at all with the great and important matter to which so much reference has been made by the two right hon. Gentlemen. I think that those who might vote on this Amendment for the purpose of expressing an opinion on that principle, would be defeating their own purpose; and I would ask them not to be misled into thinking otherwise, because the Chief Secretary for Ireland, when moving this Amendment, took the opportunity of stating the nature of the alteration which he intended to propose on a future occasion.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
If hon. Members vote for the Amendment as a mere technical one, it is to be distinctly understood that we are not shut out from expressing our opinion on the principle 1090 referred to by my right hon. Friend when the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire comes on for discussion.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.