§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
said, he rose to move that the clause which stood in his name on the Paper be read a first time; and before proceeding to discuss the subject-matter of his proposition, he wished to remove two misapprehensions that had been industriously circulated for the purpose of prejudicing the Committee, and especially some of the Irish Members, against his proposal. He would deal with the latter first. It was whispered about that the clause as it now stood was different in principle and in detail from that which was originally placed on the Notice Paper in March, and the increased length of the clause was dexterously used to prop up the assertion. Any Gentleman who took the trouble of reading the Notice given by him in March, and the clause as he now presented it, would see that the difference consisted principally in the addition of a clause with special provisions for the protection of remaindermen, which was of necessity nearly as long as the original clause, and that the clause dealing with absolute owners, as distinct from the limited owners of settled estates, did not in its operative details differ in the slightest degree from the clause as at first proposed by him, though there were some provisions for registration, notices, and other mere forms of procedure added to give it completeness. The motive of these misrepresentations was too obvious to require exposure, and he would content himself by thus refuting the assertion. The other misrepresentation was, that he intended that his clauses should supersede the Government Bill, and that 977 they were in fact a rival Bill. This was as fallacious as the other was false. He did intend and hope that if his clauses were accepted they would render the main clauses of the Government Bill inoperative; but they would, if accepted, depend on the force exerted by the Government clauses, and the incertitude produced by them, for their practical acceptance and application. His intention was not to set aside or supersede, but to supplement the Bill, and by offering another alternative to the many already embodied in the Bill, substitute in action fixed tenure with an improving rent for a system of eviction with compensation for the wrong done, which was the proposed operation of the Bill as it stood. What was wanted in Ireland was oblivion of the past, based on a generous reconciliation between the landlord and the tenant classes. His clauses offered this reconciliation as an alternative to litigation, and the Government must be prepared to accept all the responsibility of setting up its will against that of the Irish people, and systematically insisting that the old Irish feuds should be perpetuated, and that a reconciliation of classes should be rendered impossible by Act of Parliament. His clause was intended for no such ambitious purpose as the paternal feelings of the Government towards their Bill suggested to them. He did not oven ask for any new powers—his clause only proposed to make an exception to one of the sweeping provisions of the Bill, and that was the reason which caused him at first to bring it forward in the shape of a proviso exempting certain arrangements from the Government clause which forbade free contract between the tenant and the landlord. The clause, if passed by the Committee, would not in any respect alter the existing law. It would not confer new powers that do not now exist. It was intended only to retain in favour of the good and generous and just landlord his present legal power to enter into amicable and just contracts with his tenants. Under the existing law any absolute owner could enter into an arrangement, and establish as the rule of his estate the series of provisions as to tenancy embodied in his clause, and the practical effect of his clause would be to retain that power for the landlord on condition that he covenanted that if he used the power of free contract, the interest of 978 the tenant should be protected by the very same procedure that secured to the landlord his present legal power of free contract. The Bill deprives alike the good and the bad landlord of that freedom, and coerces both to submit in all things to its provisions, and not to travel out of them, no matter how advantageous to landlord or to tenant, or to both, and to society at large. He approved of the object of rendering agreements void which contracted the parties out of the Bill. It was a humane policy intended to protect the tenant from undue pressure by the bad landlord, and to preserve to him all the advantages of the Act. His clause gave the same protection with this difference—it would protect the tenant from eviction if the landlord wished to contract himself out of the Bill, and would allow such contracts only on the condition that the tenant should be evictable on none save defined statutory grounds. It would substitute, by the will of the owner and assent of the tenant, fixed tenure and fair rents for compensation after eviction. It would prevent the evil of eviction, not punish for its infliction. He would illustrate the position by pointing to a case with the details of which he was conversant. His hon. Friend the senior Member for Wexford was at that moment engaged in preparing an arrangement with his tenants to give them fixed tenures at fair and equitable rents. If that arrangement was completed before the Land Bill became law it would be a valid arrangement; but should the Bill receive the Royal Assent before the agreement shall have been perfected, the arrangement would be rendered absolutely void by the proposed law as regarded all tenants valued under £50, which included all tenants who pay a rent of about £60 a year or under. The Committee would remember the unwillingness of the Government to place the tenant of the South, who had the benefit of an existing tenant-right custom, in the same advantageous position as it proposed to place the Northern tenant. Refusal after refusal came from the Treasury Benches, but common sense prevailed in the end, and the Government retraced their steps without pressure when least expected, and those who supported them in force in their policy of injustice to the Southerns afterwards supported them with equal unanimity in their altered policy. Lord Portsmouth's rule of estate was 979 one of the cases cited in the debates he referred to. Lord Portsmouth created a tenant-right custom on his estate. Lord Granard introduced a similar custom on his Longford estates; but under the Bill, if not altered, no landlord could create such a beneficent custom henceforth, save for the larger tenants, and if he aimed at reconciliation he must first wade through the mire of consolidation. He wished to impress this on the Committee. At present the law allowed reconciliation between the hostile classes. Under the new law there would be more than 300,000 tenants in the three Provinces, Munster, Connaught, and Leinster, shut out from reconciliation, and forced by the Government into litigation and hostility. He might say, without the risk of being deemed egotistical, that he had at least the means of acquiring a thorough knowledge of the feelings of the Irish people on the land question. It was an old question, and it ever presented throughout its history the one distinct phase—the desire of the people to be rooted in their own soil and not expelled at the caprice of others. It was the same question from Strongbow to Elizabeth; from Elizabeth to James; from James to Cromwell; from Cromwell to William; from William to Victoria. For more than seven centuries they had strife and discord, arising out of the efforts of the conquerors to force English ideas on the Irish people. He would end this strife and contention at once, and was anxious to attempt it even by the gradual process under the permissive principle. Under it he aimed at an oblivion of past wrongs, a general spread of reconciliation; the generosity of the landlord offering justice in the future as a free gift voluntarily offered and gratefully accepted, thus laying, in friendship and gratitude, the basis of lasting goodwill, confidence, and unity, where all was discord, distrust, and hatred. He implored the Government, if they really meant to render Ireland peaceful and prosperous, not to allow any pride of paternity to mar so glorious a prospect as was opened to them by refusing to permit the landlords of Ireland to adopt the principle that, in present justice, there should be a general amnesty for past wrongs. If he thought he could carry a compulsory clause enforcing reconciliation he would try it; but he knew that he must fail in the present state of opinion in the House, and he therefore 980 proposed, with the approval of a large number of the Irish Members, the permissive and voluntary plan. Having thus removed apprehension as to what was the real object of this clause, having shown that it was only to retain for those who were disposed to reconcile themselves to their tenantry the legal power they possessed to do so, he would now proceed to explain in detail the special protections provided for the tenant. The rules of the tenancy proposed constituted, in fact, the only points to be discussed, and two questions arose as to them—were they sufficiently protective to the tenant, and were they just as respects the landlord? The representatives of the tenant interests were the parties to determine the first, and they had already decided that they were. The landlords, as represented by the declaration forwarded to the Government, practically settled the other question; but, in fact, as it was a purely voluntary arrangement, and as it was only asked that the landlord be not disabled by the Act from doing that which he now can do, no landlord need adopt it if he did not like, as no tenant can be forced to accept unless they agree, and, therefore, no real difficulty can arise as to the second question. In order to avoid trespassing too much on the indulgence of the Committee, he would deal first, without regard to their numerical order, with the rules that were not likely to be disputed, and then come to those upon which differences of opinion might exist. The 1st rule enabled the landlord and tenant mutually to agree upon the future rent; that, he presumed, would not be disputed even from the Treasury Bench. The 3rd rule declared the interest in the farm to be a chattel interest; but shut out the possibility of its being sublet or subdivided by either the tenant or his testamentary or other legal representatives, and declared that whenever sold it must be sold as one whole and undivided farm. In order to prevent injustice the Court might be appealed to in special cases, as of minority, lunacy, a large farm, to empower the tenant on good grounds to divide his farm, or the legal representative temporarily to sublet it, if the landlord proved unreasoning. The 6th rule enabled the landlord and tenant to agree to a fine and a fixed rent instead of a variable rent. This was an extension of the Government principle of sale and purchase applied to fee-farm 981 grants, and therefore could not be reasonably objected to by the Treasury, as it was only an adaptation of Part III. of this Bill. In this rule the interests of all encumbrancers were amply protected. Rule 8 was almost a copy of the clause with respect to the buying out of the Ulster custom, and the registration rule was a mere detail of form analagous to the forms of notice served under the Railway Clauses Ireland Act. He had thus briefly disposed of all the rules save Rule 2 and Ride 5, one relating to rent and the other to tenure. The tenure was to be a continuous tenure, fixed and certain, giving statutory grounds on which alone disturbance, the new word for eviction, coined by the Government, could take place. And these causes were such as no honest tenant would object to—non-payment of rent—subletting or subdividing without the assent of the landlord or of the Court, and waste or dilapidation, declared by the Court to be sufficient to warrant the termination of a destructive tenancy. He thought that the landlord who voluntarily gave fixity of tenure to the tenant was entitled to protection against having the corpus of his property wasted, and the tenant had the counter-protection that he would have an equity of redemption in all cases of eviction. This rule was the essential part of the provisions. It would stop capricious eviction, instead of compensating the tenant for being ruined. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government spoke with great pathos and forcible eloquence of the evils that resulted from capricious evictions in Ireland, and described the evicted as a man not only disturbed in his occupation, but as deprived of his future means of livelihood. Yet the Government Bill only provided compensation for ruin so complete. Rule 5 of the tenancies under his (Sir John Gray's) clause would stop the ruin, prevent the industrious man from being deprived of a livelihood for himself and family, and thus create content, security, confidence, hope, peace, and good-will throughout the land if generally adopted. That rule was the essence of the clause. It was acted on by the late Lord Derby on his Tipperary estates; and in 1847 he said of these tenants that they had a practical fixity of tenure, and that he did not object to it as a landlord. The rule would, nevertheless, be objected to by the Government as revolutionary. He would 982 deal with that suggestion again; but for the present he would accept the term and admit that it would revolutionize Ireland, if generally adopted, by substituting peace and reconciliation for disorder and hatred. He would now come to the rule which the doctrinaires on the Government Benches would most noisily protest against. The Rule No. 2 provided for the rapid, prompt, and certain adjustment of all differences as to rent by the arbitration of the Court acting as umpire between the landlord and tenant. ["Hear, hear!" from the Treasury Benches.] He perceived that the Government objected to the provision; but he contended that it was essential, if the landlord gave fixed tenure, that a sure means should be provided for enabling the landlord who could not evict to get such fair increase of rent as was his just due, and enabling a tenant who had made a property by his outlay on the holding, and who would have no claim if he surrendered, to be protected against the contingency of a continous disagreement with his landlord as to the proper and just rent. What better means could be desired than letting the Court act as sole arbitrator—practically as umpire—between the landlord and the tenant, and thus stopping all disputes on the point by fixing on a rent for the ensuing 14 years, with power on mutual agreement by the parties to substitute a free contract rent. This appeal to the arbitration, was in fact, not coercive as a fixed rule for determining a rent—it was a protective power of ending disputes, and, if the two parties were reasonable and a little yielding, they need never go to the Court. If neighbours failed to make them agree, then, and then only, was the Court appealed to as an arbitrator, to force accord, and terminate the dispute. In practice the Court would probably, in most cases, divide the amount in dispute, and send both parties away friends and contented. In all cases the decision of the Court would be accepted as the justice of the case; and it certainly did not lie in the mouth of the Government to object to the Court on which they themselves conferred such unlimited power, being entrusted with the power of amicably arranging a question of this kind. But it will be said that the principle of valued rents is introduced into the Bill by this rule. The principle is embodied in the rule, that he would admit; but 983 the principle was not introduced by him: it was taken from the Bill, which is saturated in every clause with the principle, and which enforces the practice of valuing rents. This he would show to the satisfaction of the Committee by referring to the terms of the Bill as amended, in which "rent" is constantly set out as one of the terms to be determined on by the Court as to its fairness or the extravagant extortion of it. ["No, no"] The Minister says no—the Bill must speak for itself. In Clause 4, sub-Section 4, he found these words, in the amended as well as in the original clause—"A tenant shall not be entitled to compensation" if he quits his holding of his own accord, if the Court finds that he was given—permission by his landlord to dispose of his interest in his improvements to an incoming tenant upon such terms as the Court may deem reasonable.Was that clause a sham, or was it a reality? If a reality, what did it mean, if not that the tenant was to get, at the option of the landlord, permission to sell his interest to the incomer, but that the Court was to judge as to the equity of the terms on which the permission was given. The first element for the consideration of the Court in such a case would be the rent to be paid by the new tenant. Let any man who understood land and the dealings with it examine how that clause would work—if it worked at all. Should the landlord demand an increased rent from the incoming tenant, might he not by that rent devour all the value of the outgoing tenant's interest? The words—"upon such terms as the Court may deem reasonable" enabled the Court to check the unscrupulous, and an offer to allow the tenant to sell, unless accompanied with an undertaking that the rent be not unfairly increased, would be a mere trap for both tenants, and the Court would denounce it as a fraud, and proceed at once to fix the rent and subject the landlord to the penalty of purchasing the improvements himself if he refused to accept the valuation of the Court as to the terms of his permission to sell. If the clause meant anything, and if words had meaning, the principle of determining by a third party what is a fair rent was abundantly embodied in the 4th clause. He (Sir John Gray) approved of it, and copied it in his own clause. What he contended for was that the Bill, and not his clause or rule, 984 introduced the principle of valued rents. In the last paragraph of Section 4 he found the principle still more clearly stated. In awarding compensation under that paragraph, the Court was to take into consideration "the rent at which such holding has been held." Here the very word "rent" was embodied in the clause; thus, in terms, declaring that which in the absence of the word "rent" might be said to be a matter of inference only, for if the Court did not estimate the value of the holding, how could it estimate the fairness or unfairness of the rent? The Court, to carry out this clause and give it force, must endeavour to arrive at the just value of the holding, ascertain the just rent by valuation, and then compare the valued rent with the actual rent in order to determine was the rent a fair rent, a high rent or a low rent, and on that ascertainment award the compensation. Yet the Government denied that their Bill embodied a valuation of rent, and would, as he understood, oppose his clause, because, indeed, the doctrine of valued rent was imported into it. In the 14th, or Equities Clause, introduced to the House by the Premier with a boast that it embraced the right of having the rent considered by the Court, the same principle was to be found. In Clause 24, the term "a fair yearly rent," irrespective of the value of improvements, was introduced and applied to reserved rents under leases granted by limited owners. Who was to ascertain the fair yearly rent? Not the owner—not the tenant; the Court was to judge if it be a fair or an unfair rent, and. it could do that only by some process of valuation. He would refer to one other clause only, as he was unwilling to trespass too much on the indulgence of the Committee. In Clause 6 the same words occurred, but in Clause 8 they were used in a still more direct manner, so as to remove the question from the region of inference to that of fact. That clause (8th) applied to persons disturbed for non-payment of rent due to the landlord, and the Court was empowered to inquire into the amount of rent contracted to be paid—and part of which remained unpaid—and to determine that the eviction, though nominally an eviction for nonpayment of rent, was neverthless a disturbance under the Act if they determine that the rent was an excessive or unfair rent. He contended, then, that their own Bill was saturated with the just 985 principle of valuation which he embodied in his clause, adopting it from the Bill, but not importing it into it. He would add a few words to show that the Bill also was laden with alternatives. The 1st clause gave the Ulster tenant, as an alternative claim, either the "custom" or the scale under Clause 3. The 2nd clause gave the same to the man in enjoyment of a Southern "custom," and the 3rd clause gave every person within the scale the alternative to claim in one of two ways. What, he would ask, was the lease but an alternative plan by which landlord and tenant could escape the specialities of the Bill? What was the clause fixing the £50 valuation as the contracting limit but an alternative scheme? In fact, the Bill was already as full of alternatives as it was of valuation; and his clause, instead of being a new Bill, as was asserted by the Government organs who were inspired to assail it, was only one other, but more just alternative which he proposed to add as one tending to substitute reconciliation for litigation. He would now say a word or two as to the opinion of the Irish public as to the clause he proposed. A declaration approving of identical principles was presented to the Government some months since, and he would ask the Committee to examine for themselves the meaning and force of that memorial. The Irish Landlords' Committee, in a recent official Report, stated that the Ulster tenant was secured by Clause 1, what was "practically a lease in perpetuity with powers to sell," and computed that if to the Ulster tenants, who could prove the custom, were added the Southern tenants in the same position, the numbers would be such as to warrant the conclusion that 205,549 tenants, chiefly Ulster tenants-at-will, would hereafter enjoy perpetuity tenures. He, therefore, deducted the 9 counties of Ulster from the 32 of Ireland, and of the remaining 23, he found no less than 22 represented in the memorial to which he referred, by 39 Members of Parliament, Wicklow alone being unrepresented. 16 of the counties were represented by 22 county Members representing land, and 10 city or borough Members, and 6 other counties were represented by 7 city or borough Members, as Dublin, Waterford, Carlow, leaving one county only unrepresented. The tenants of these vast areas, who would, be excluded from 986 a policy of reconciliation based on justice by the rejection of the clause by the Government—for the Committee would in this do whatever the Government ordered—amounted to 311,138, and all these, save only 6,428 in Wicklow, were represented by their constitutional representatives in the demand made on the Cabinet. The Irish Conservative Press, the National, the Liberal—all save the Government organs—approved either of his clauses or of Judge Long-field's, some preferring one, some preferring the other, but all preferring any one of them to the Government ride of litigation. The Times, the organ of the English nation, urged the acceptance of his clause with as much earnestness and more ability than he could command, the opposition came from the Government and the Government organs. Was it wise, was it prudent to ignore such a body of Irish opinion, so united, so earnest, and thus force all reasonable men to conclude that the forcing on Ireland of English ideas was as much the policy of the Cabinet to-day, as it was in the days when the language and customs of the Irish race were doomed to annihilation? The official organ told them a few days since that this permissive clause would be forced on landlords by the revolver. The calumny was unfounded. What inducement was offered for the use of the revolver by this clause, that was not ten-fold greater as regards the Purchase Clause so lauded by the Cabinet? Under his (Sir John Gray's) clause the tenant had an almost certainty of having to pay a continuously increasing rent were he to force the landlord to adopt it. To be sure, if he had to pay the increase he would receive in return an increased profit to enable him to do so, and for every shilling additional he had to pay he would pocket three. But in the case of the purchase at the 21 years' rent, as computed by the Government on the present average price brought by land, the tenant who could force his landlord into a sale, would have as the result an instant diminution of rent of nearly 20 per cent, the actual amount being a fraction over 19½, and a certainty that at the end of 35 years he would have no rent at all to pay but to the landlord of his own farm. Which plan, then, held out the inducement to use force with the landlord; that which gave a reduction of 20 per cent on all rents at once, and an assurance that the 987 time would come when there would be no rent, or that which promises an increase of rent—a perpetual rent—and only offers a security against eviction? He did not object to the purchase plan—and he availed himself of this opportunity of thanking his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick for having succeeded in securing a reduction of the interest payable by the tenant from £6 10s. to £5 yearly. In that he did a great service. But he knew the tenants would not use threats or terror in either case, and not believing that the landlords would break up their estates by selling 10 acres here and 20 acres there—that, in fact, the Purchase Clause would be a dead letter—he was anxious to fix and root the 300,000 Southerns in the soil as firmly as the 200,000 Northerns, and turn them at once to industry by the certainty of their future. He would, perhaps, be told that his idea and the Irish idea of fixed tenure was revolutionary, but he would warn those who had to rule Ireland that they must look to a higher philosophy than that of rigid and cold logic in the effort to touch the feelings and win the hearts of a people. The rules of logic were sound, and those of economy were equally useful; but if men aim at ruling a people with the success of statesmen, they must consult the instincts of the governed as well as the rigid maxims of political science, and he, for one, would prefer being called revolutionary by those who ignored the feelings of a people to being deemed wise or sage on the condition of adopting a cold and heartless philosophy. His hon. Friend the Member for Clonmel was denounced as revolutionary a few nights since by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, because he was sufficiently unorthodox to propose something outside the Government Bill. He would advise his Friend to disregard the denunciation. There was little force, less argument, and no logic in the application of such terms to men who advanced with the times, and he would add that when the term was applied in that House by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland it was utterly destitute of weight—destitute of weight, not because everything said by his right hon. Friend was not entitled to the greatest respect because of his high official position, to still higher respect because of his personal qualities, his great ability, and his high character, but because on 988 this question, and with respect to this special term, he has put himself without the pale of influence, and stripped his denunciation of all authority. The right hon. Gentleman used the term revolutionary too often and too recklessly. He, (Sir John Gray) addressed the Mayor and citizens of Kilkenny, in 1867, on the land question, and ventured to suggest that the alternative of fixity of tenure or a peasant proprietary by purchase be offered to the landlord, and his right hon. Friend, then sitting on the opposite Benches, denounced him as a revolutionist amidst the cheers of the House. But he was not pilloried alone. John Stuart Mill, the philosopher of the day, had promulgated the idea of a peasant proprietary, and the right hon. Gentleman placed him in the same pillory, and branded him also as a revolutionist. Another, and a greater than both—a man whose absence from that House they all deplored, and for whose speedy restoration to health every lover of his country and of his kind would earnestly pray—John Bright—propounded the same revolutionary doctrine from below the Gangway, and he, too, was put side by side with himself and Mr. Mill in the political pillory, and also branded revolutionist. This, Sir, was in the spring of 1867, and there they were three years later; and his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland having changed sides, was at that moment giving force and effect, as a member of the Queen's Cabinet, to the principles he but three years ago denounced as revolutionary; and the Bright Clauses were accepted by the whole Committee, at his suggestion, as the most valuable, if not the only really valuable, clauses of the Ministerial measure. The word revolution then had no terrors for him, and he would recommend his hon. Friend the Member for Clonmel to regard it at its true value. But there was a revolution which was to be met and combated. What stayed the progress of revolution in Prussia, and gave to the King a brave, devoted, and invincible army? The just land laws that gave perpetuity of tenure to the peasant-farmers at fixed rents. What put down the conspiracies of the revolutionists of Russia? The fixing every peasant-farmer securely in his own land. When the nobles saw that reform and civil freedom for the Russian peasants was inevitable, they adopted, as the watchword of their 989 policy, "Freedom without the land," the Emperor, who took his information direct from the people, adopted, as the expression of his policy, "Freedom with the land," and carried his principles into effect, giving to the people civil rights, and securing to them the land they occupied, in perpetual tenure, by purchase or at fixed rents, and thus laid the basis of the future progress and greatness of his Empire. What have the English Government done for the ryots of India? They have given fixity of tenure and adjustable rents varying with prices, as he (Sir John Gray) proposed to allow the just landlords to do by his clause; and he would warn the Government and the House that, if they wished to defeat the growing revolution in Ireland, to put an end for ever to agitation on the land question, they must adapt themselves and their legislation to the instincts of the people, as the only means of conquering those prejudices which the past misgovernment of Ireland had produced, They must recognize the existence, by the laws of nature and of eternal justice, of an inherent right in the people to strike root and grow in the land where God had placed them, and by a just law declare that no hand save that of God alone, can of right remove them from that land against their will and without their free assent. The hon. Gentleman, having stated that he would not deal with the clause respecting limited owners until the fate of the clause applicable to absolute owners was decided, concluded by moving that the following clause be read a first time—(Permissive Parliamentary tenant-right.)The absolute owner of any land not subject to the usages named in Clauses 1 and 2, or either of them, may, by registering such land or any part of it under this Clause, as hereinafter provided, and in the prescribed form, free such land, himself, and his successors in title, from all claims whatsoever on the part of the tenant of such land under the provisions of this Act or any of them, and such registration shall place such land under the provisions of "the permissive Parliamentary tenant-right" herein provided for; and after such voluntary registration by the owner, every tenancy of such land shall be regulated by the following rules:—
- 1. The rent, as agreed upon by the landlord and tenant at the time of such registration, or in the absence of any special agreement in contemplation of such registration the rent then payable, shall continue to be the rent payable by the tenant of the holding until it be altered by mutual agreement, or as hereinafter provided for;
- 2. After the expiration of fourteen years from the date of such registration, or from the date of
990 the last time subsequent to such registration, at which the rent was adjusted by mutual consent, if the landlord and the tenant cannot agree as to the continuance of such rent, or as to what alteration ought to be made therein, either party may apply to the Court to arbitrate between himself and the other party; and the Court shall, on hearing all the circumstances of the case, determine, as such arbitrator, what rent shall be paid for the next ensuing fourteen years, or until the landlord and tenant may mutually agree upon some other rent in lieu thereof; and in determining such rent the Court shall have regard to the altered value of land and to the value of agricultural products in the locality; and to such other circumstances as the equities of the case may require to be considered; but no increase of the rent shall be made because of any improvements in or on the holding for which the tenant would be entitled to compensation if claiming under the general provisions of this Act, unless such improvements have been made in whole or in part by the landlord or his predecessor in title, or by the tenant or his predecessor in title, in pursuance of some valuable consideration given by the landlord or his predecessor, directly or indirectly, or of a specific agreement; and in case of a failure at any subsequent time of the landlord and tenant to agree to continue the then rent or to adjust by mutual agreement the rent to be thenceforth payable, either party may apply, after the expiration of every period of fourteen years, but not oftener, to the Court to act as arbitrator between himself and the other party;
- 3. The tenant shall be deemed to have and shall have a chattel interest in the holding, and he, or his administrators, executors, or other legal representatives, shall have power to sell or otherwise dispose of the interest in such holding as one whole and not otherwise to any individual against whom the landlord shall not establish a reasonable ground of objection to the satisfaction of the tenant or before the Court, but he shall not sub-let or sub-divide such holding without the consent in writing of the landlord or his agent, or the sanction of the Court; and the Court shall not give such sanction until both parties shall have been heard or shall have had an opportunity of being heard before it on the subject. In every case of sale by the tenant or his representative, the landlord shall have a right of pre-emption of the holding at the price bonâ fide offered by any person tendered to him for acceptance by the tenant in occupation or his legal representative as an incoming tenant by purchase;
- 4. The tenant shall have no claim whatever against the landlord if he voluntarily surrender his holding;
- 5. The landlord cannot disturb the tenant in such holding save for:—Non-payment of rent; sub-letting or sub-dividing without the consent of the landlord or the sanction of the Court; or, such wilful or permissive waste, dilapidation, or injury to the buildings on, or to the corpus of the holding as may be declared by the Court on application for authority to servo an ejectment process, to be such as to render the termination of the tenancy requisite for the protection of the landlord. In all cases in which a decree for giving possession of the holding to the landlord shall be granted by the Court, the tenant about to be evicted may claim and exercise the power to sell his interest in the holding, and the Court shall
991 order that he be left in occupation a reasonable time to do so, and shall give to the landlord a formal lien in priority of all other debts, claims, and judgments or other demands whatever on the sum paid or to be paid for such interest for all rent, arrears of rent and taxes due on the holding, and for any damages awarded by the Court for waste or dilapidation. The Court shall, when granting a decree for giving possession to the landlord, ascertain and determine what sum is due to the landlord for rent, arrears or rent and taxes payable but not paid by the tenant, and for damages caused by waste or dilapidation, or both; and the tenant shall, on payment or on tender of the said sum or sums within six calendar months after the execution of the habere be entitled to and be restored to the possession of the holding, unless he may have claimed and exercised his right to sell his interest in the holding;
- 6. The absolute owner, subject to such rules as the Court may prescribe for the protection of the interests of mortgagees and other incumbrancers, may agree to accept, and the tenant may agree to give, a fine in lieu of the periodical adjustment of rent above provided for, and thenceforth the tenancy of such holding shall be in accordance with the above rules in all respects save that the rent shall be fixed and not variable;
- 7. Any successor in title of the landlord may by agreement with the tenant, purchase the tenant's interest in the holding, and after having satisfied all the claims of the tenant, may proceed in the prescribed form to relieve the holding from being subject to this Clause, and thenceforth the holding shall be subject to the general provisions of this Act, other than those of Clauses 1 and 2.Registration—The absolute owner may apply to the Court for authority to register his lands under this Clause, and the Court, on being satisfied that due notice in the prescribed form has been given to each tenant, and that each tenant of a holding on the land has assented to such registration, shall, on being satisfied that the interests of mortgagees or incumbrancers are not injuriously affected thereby, forthwith order such lands to be registered in the Registry of Deeds Office in Dublin, in the prescribed form. Should the tenant not notify his dissent before the expiration of one calendar month from the service of such notice, he shall be deemed to have assented, and the Court shall order the lands to be registered at the expiration of that period. If the tenant notify his dissent, the Court shall proceed to hear the cause assigned for such dissent; and if on such hearing it determine that the dissent is unreasonable, it shall order the land comprising the holding to be registered, but if it should determine that the tenant has reasonable cause for such dissent, the holding of the tenant so dissenting shall not be registered under this Clause, and shall be exempted from such registration.
§ Clause (Permissive Parliamentary tenant-right,)—(Sir John Gray,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, he thought the speech as well as the Motion of his hon. Friend (Sir John Gray) showed that the Government had been quite right in adjourning the con- 992 sideration of this important proposal to the present occasion. The proposal was evidently one that was totally unfitted to be a mere appendage to a clause of the Bill, being, in fact—though his hon. Friend might not admit it—a substitute for the Bill itself. The desire of the Government had been that, as regarded this proposal and another not very different in principle, which was also upon the Notice Paper, the Government and the Committee should have the fullest opportunity of giving to these propositions that full and respectful consideration which their importance demanded. These clauses were, in name, put forward as optional, and the proposal of his hon. Friend was called a permissive tenant-right; but he felt bound to point out that it was by no means tenant-right, in the sense in which that term was commonly employed. Tenant-right, though differing in degree in various parts of the kingdom, meant a right on the part of the tenant to make certain claims upon a change of tenancy, whether that change was brought about by the act of the landlord or of the tenant himself. To the extent of recognizing and acting upon this principle of tenant-right, the Government had succeeded in carrying the House of Commons with them; but now his hon. Friend, under the name of a permissive tenant-right, proposed to create that which was, in fact, a perpetuity of tenure, subject to the payment of rent to be fixed compulsorily from time to time by a public valuator. His hon. Friend excepted from the operation of the clause the whole tenant-right region of Ireland, and also any portion of the country in which hereafter the Court might find that a tenant-right custom existed. But of that exception the whole tenantry of Ulster, he thought, would have reason to complain, for they would be excluded from the enjoyment of this perpetuity of tenure. The Ulster tenant-right was something very different from that now proposed, for the land there was not to be held at a rent fixed from time to time by compulsory valuation, but subject to certain well-ascertained conditions, upon charge of tenancy, which had been found sufficient for the protection both of landlord and tenant. The proposal of his hon. Friend would certainly be viewed by the Irish tenants as equivalent to perpetuity of tenure, 993 subject to periodical revaluation. He proposed, it was true, to attach to it three conditions, under either of which the tenure was to be forfeited—namely, non-payment of rent, subdivision of holding, and serious waste of the farm. But, for his own part, he must declare that he was no believer in the possibility of enforcing these conditions. When once the perpetuity of tenure was acceded which his hon. Friend proposed, it would, in practice, be absolutely impossible to enforce any restriction, and still less any forfeiture, for any cause short of non-payment of rent. His hon. Friend believed that the thing was possible; but he certainly could not agree with him. To suppose that, under such circumstances, the landlord would retain in his hands any practical power of preventing subdivision of the lands was, according to his knowledge and experience of Ireland, an absolute delusion. The hon. Member very laudably had attempted to provide for the case of the limited owner; but he must say that the provisions proposed were far from being satisfactory to his mind. The hon. Member proposed, in the case of the limited owner, to enable him to bring this form of tenancy into existence at first starting, on the same terms as those in the case of the absolute owner; but he did not refrain from exercising very considerable compulsion upon the successor to renew the so-called "permissive tenant-right," because he proposed to enact that if the successor should at any time have recourse to the Court for any readjustment of rent, or accept of any increase of rent from the tenant—by that fact alone he should be deemed to have at once renewed the tenure created by his predecessor. If the successor was in his turn only a limited owner, he would be able to impose the same conditions upon his successor, and the whole process would have to be gone over again; and, therefore, he (Mr. Fortescue) should, if he was a tenant, feel it impossible to say what was the condition of his tenure. He could not conceive anything less satisfactory to the tenants than the position in which they must find themselves placed under those landlords who were limited owners, they being by far the largest proportion of the landlords of Ireland. Irish tenants really knew very little about the title of their landlords, and a tenant 994 living under a limited owner would certainly expect to obtain the same conditions as his neighbour, who held under an absolute owner; and as any difference between them would inevitably lead to disappointment, the question of tenure from a limited owner was one very well deserving the serious consideration of the Committee. His hon. Friend had taken considerable pains to show that his proposal was not opposed to any of the clauses in the Bill; but he (Mr. Forteseue) was not convinced that there was anything in the Bill which was at all like his hon. Friend's proposal. The Government had steadily resisted the idea of rent being fixer arbitrarily by a public authority, and, in introducing this Bill, the First Minister of the Crown had exhaustively spoken on that subject; while the cases quoted by his hon. Friend were not cases in which the rent was so to be fixed, but only where the Court would, in determining another matter, find it impossible to exclude the subject of rent from its consideration, which was a different thing. Rents, he believed, would, under the operation of the Bill, be left to fair competition, subject to the conditions specified in the Bill. As to absolute owners, there was no such difficulty as there was with limited owners; in fact, there was no occasion for Parliament to legislate on the subject, because, practically, an absolute owner could in the future make any arrangement he pleased. After all the main question was, whether Parliament was to single out the proposed mode of tenancy for its especial sanction and favour, without venturing to make it compulsory. That was one of the gravest questions which Parliament could have to consider, and the Government, after having given it the most careful consideration, had come to the conclusion that it would not be safe or wise for them to recommend the Committee to make that addition to the Bill. His hon. Friend had proposed to give to the Irish landlords an option, on the ground that they would be anxious to escape from the obligations of the Bill, thereby implying that the Bill was so stringent, for the protection of the tenant against any unfair and improper exercise of the landlord's power, that landlords would be so anxious to escape from the restrictions and penalties of the Bill that they would even confer perpetuity 995 on their tenants. How would that option be regarded by other persons? The Irish tenant would, he believed, regard that as a virtual enactment of perpetuity which Parliament had sanctioned, but which would, in many cases, depend upon the will and pleasure of the landlord. In other but similar proposals, which had been made to the House in recent years, the option had been given to the tenant and not to the landlord. Mr. Butt proposed to establish a system of fixity of tenure for 60 years. In the same way the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Morrison) gave the option to the tenant, and not to the landlord. He thought he knew what would be the Irish tenant's opinion of the alternative plan proposed by the hon. Member for Kilkenny. He would believe, or, at all events, he would be told by a hundred pens and a hundred voices, that this was a system of perpetuity of tenure sanctioned by Parliament, between the enjoyment of which and himself nothing interfered but the will of a selfish and tyrannical landlord. He believed that the adoption of this clause would prevent the settlement of the land question in Ireland, and not only cause pressure on individual landlords to adopt this so-called optional scheme, but would inevitably produce an agitation which would be brought to bear on the whole class of landlords who would be, not untruly, represented as the only obstacles to fixity of tenure. The proposal had received the gravest consideration on the part of the Government, and they regretted to be compelled to differ in opinion from many Irish Members and other Gentlemen, some of whom had given great attention to the subject; but having carried this measure satisfactorily so far, they felt it to be their duty not to run the risk which they believed would result from the creation of an alternative plan of this nature, and not to imperil the settlement of this question by the adoption of a scheme which they believed would not tend to promote peaceful and harmonious relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland, but would be attended by the very contrary effects in that country.
§ MR. C. S. READ
observed, that some unfriendly critics had said that the Government Bill was a measure for enabling the tenants of Ireland to indulge in the luxury of going to law with their 996 landlords; but no more damaging criticisms had been passed on the Bill than that which had proceeded from the hon. Member for Kilkenny, when he showed how the pains and penalties of litigation would be inflicted on the landlords. As it stood, the Bill afforded two escapes for the landlord—the granting of a 31 years' lease, or the agreement with the tenant to purchase under the clauses which were supposed to have emanated from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. If the proposal of the hon. Member for Kilkenny were adopted, it would practically extinguish both those alternatives, for who would take a 31 years' lease if he could get a lease for ever? Or who, if he could obtain all the privileges which attached to a copyholder in England, would avail himself of the purchasing clauses of the Bill? Another result of the hon. Gentleman's proposal would be to alienate the landlord from the land, and thereby stop all landlord's improvements, and he would merely become a rent-charger, and an absentee in a country where his example was wanted more than in any other country. The heir would be placed in a still more unfavourable position, from not being able to get possession of his land until 31 years after he became the nominal landlord. He supported the Bill originally because of the encouragement it gave to leases, and because it did not endeavour to extend the Ulster right. The Bill, as it now stood, would perpetuate that right, and the clauses proposed would extend it to the whole of Ireland; and their effect would be to make every new tenant pay something for nothing, by the creation of a goodwill in every farm throughout Ireland; whereas, by the clauses of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, the tenant was put in any easy way of purchasing land at a fair price, and was given, moreover, really valuable security for his money. Why should an Irish tenant be always treated as a spoilt child? Why should we violate every law of political economy, overlook the first principles of agriculture, and even try to upset the order of nature by converting what, by soil and climate, was naturally adapted for grass into a lot of potatoe fields, in order to have on them a half-starved peasant population? Believing that the clause of the hon. Gentleman would be 997 eventually injurious to the tenant, and would do more than anything else to retard the progress of agriculture in Ireland, and being convinced that, if passed, the other clauses of the Bill would be entirely defeated, he hoped the Committee would not add it to the Bill.
§ MR. W. H. GREGORY
said, he had given the best proof of his desire to advance the progress of the Bill, by not having on any one occasion spoken for more than five minutes at a time since the Bill had gone into Committee. Now, however, that an Amendment of such vital importance had been moved—an Amendment which was nothing less than an alternative Landlord and Tenant Bill—he would ask the House for a little longer indulgence. This was, moreover, a subject on which he had some claim to be heard, as he had suggested it almost totidem verbis in his speech on the second reading of the Bill. He had no fault to find with the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) for having adopted it and put it into legal form; on the contrary, he had every reason to be satisfied with his courtesy and fairness, for he had pressed him (Mr. Gregory) to bring it on in the first instance. He had declined to do so, preferring that it should be in the hands of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, feeling sure it would attract greater notice and be received with greater favour by the tenant class than if it had come from a landed proprietor. The first objection raised by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in his reply to the hon. Member for Kilkenny, was to the name of his scheme, "Permissive Tenant-right," because it was not identical with the Ulster custom. But the hon. Member for Kilkenny had not stated that it was the same as the Ulster custom. It was something broader, clearer, and more defined, and the word permissive tenant-right was a generic term implying what was intended, that the tenant should, under the clause, enjoy certain rights. Now he (Mr. W. H. Gregory) had said that this proposal was an alternative Bill. This seemed to create some scandal on the Ministerial Benches. But what was the object of the Bill, or of any Bill, or of any clauses, except to improve the condition of Ireland, to sweeten the relations of landlord and tenant, and to increase the general resources of the country? If 998 the clause could effect that, if it could aid the Bill in effecting that, the Government was bound to look on it as a valuable contribution, and not as an act of hostility to their Bill, which the Mover of it never intended it should be. In order to show the feeling with which this proposal was likely to be received in Ireland, he might mention that when the delegates of the different tenant associations came to London to make representations to the Prime Minister, he attended their meeting and submitted these identical proposals to them. They all said, without a single exception, that if the Bill were framed according to them it would be accepted with gratitude, and they would never again hear another word of the land question. Of course, according to those views, the provisions were to be compulsory. The Government, however, at once rejected these proposals. They were met by the Chief Secretary for Ireland with three weighty objections—the first, that you could not create a custom, though you might recognize it when it existed; the second, that it would be an injustice to give the tenant a property in the estate of his landlord, without his having gained it in any way, either by the wish of the landlord or by having compensated him; thirdly, that the provision might be most unfair to the good landlord, who had kept his rents low and who would naturally be debarred from raising them, if he chose so to do, to the ordinary letting scale of the locality. These were, no doubt, grave objections, and it was obvious to everyone that to make these provisions compulsory would not have been agreed to, except by an infinitesimal minority in the House of Commons, and would not have had, in all probability, a Proposer or Seconder in the House of Lords. Still the principle had found so much favour in Ireland not merely among tenants, but among landlords that it had influenced 39 Irish representatives to sign it. These men, representing 23 counties, were not likely to embark in any wild or visionary scheme calculated to cut their own throats, or to be against the interest of the tenant classes they represented. They recognized the force of the Chief Secretary's objection; but they also felt that the moment the adoption of the proposal became permissive the objections fell one by one to the ground. As 999 to the first, no doubt, they could not create a custom; but here it was the landlord who of his own free consent created it. Second, they did not give the tenant a property in the estate of his landlord without his leave and without compensation. It was by the landlord's leave they did so, and the compensation he obtained were secure rents, perfect peace about his home, and a relief from all the litigation involved in the Bill. Third, that extension would not be an injustice to the good landlord who had kept his rents low, for he would of course make an amicable arrangement with his tenants on the subject of rents before placing his estate under permissive Parliamentary tenant-right. But then they would be answered that it was a serious matter for private Members to bring forward an alternative plan, as it were, to that of the long-considered and widely-extending Bill of the Government. To that he would reply that, in a case like this, it would be impossible to deal with it save by an alternative plan. No landlord would, of course, adopt willingly any plan to curtail his extreme power unless under some sort of compulsion. The only question was this. Was the plan a good one? If the Amendment would have the additional recommendation of being the means of producing voluntarily the objects that are aimed at throughout the Bill, it ought to be adopted. He thought he might take for granted that one of the main objects of the framers of the Bill was the extension of the Ulster custom, or of customs analogous to it throughout Ireland. He could not suppose for a moment that the Government would refuse this Amendment from any feeling of pique, lest by this alternative being largely adopted, their own enactment should become inoperative. The next objection taken by the Chief Secretary was the fact that the Amendment sanctioned the fixing of rent. But if they considered the numerous cases quoted by the Member for Kilkenny, in which, as the Bill now stood, rent was interfered with, it was impossible to consider this to be an objection. The distinction drawn by the Chief Secretary between fixing of rents and interference with rents was untenable. Directly they touched rent at all they more or less regulated the price of land. There was an old and foolish riddle—"What was that which went round the house, and over 1000 the house, and through the house and never touched the house?" The answer was—"Wind." A very stupid answer, because it did touch the house—and here they were asked a similar riddle—what was it that went round the Bill, and over the Bill, and through the Bill, but must never touch the Bill?—interference with rent; but interference with rent, like the wind, touched it everywhere. From that the Chief Secretary, though he tried to evade it, could not escape. If the Bill was to be in any way satisfactory it must touch rent every now and then. The rarer the instances and the less wide the interference of course the better. Now, in this case, the interference would apparently be slight; in fact, there would hardly be any interference at all. At first there would be absolutely none. At the end of 14 years there might be a revision of rent; but it would be based on circumstances easily ascertained—it would be based on the price of agricultural produce, about which there could be no dispute, or on the increased value of land from exceptional circumstances, about which there might be a dispute, but which the Court could readily settle, if, indeed, the case ever came before the Court at all. It was said that it was impossible to base rents on agricultural prices. The simple answer to that was one which would be accepted by his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dublin University (Dr. Ball), who was well aware that College leases were based on this very principle. Then the Chief Secretary waxed warm against the injustice meditated towards incumbrancers and remaindermen. As regarded the first, he (Mr. Gregory) presumed when a man lent money on mortgage he inquired into the rental and the valuation of the property of the mortgagor. Now, as the rental was not to be altered from that on which the money was lent, it certainly did seem strange that the certainty of being paid rent—the certainty of recovering arrears should be considered as invalidating the security of the mortgage. As far as mortgagees were concerned, he thought they would have but small objection to an additional security, and as far as remaindermen were concerned, if the clause were considered carefully they were amply provided for; and it certainly did seem like straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel, for the Minister, who had allowed a limited owner to sell his 1001 estate, to object to the provision allowing the same owner to have fixed periods for revision of rent. Now, he (Mr. W. H. Gregory) would turn his remarks to the Conservative Benches. He would ask hon. Members opposite whether it would not be wise for Irish landlords to accept this proposal? There was no force on them to use it. He had always said vigilantibus non dormientibus leges subvenire; that in dealing with Ireland the old maxim should be reversed, and instead of its being vigilantibus it should be dormientibus non vigilantibus leges subvenire. Anything was better than that the landlord and tenant should be ever on the watch against each other. The hon. Member for East Norfolk (Mr. C. S. Read) had said this clause would deprive the landlord of all interest in his land, and produce absenteeism. But what was it produced absenteeism? In too many instances, bad relations between landlord and tenant; and certainly much as absenteeism was to be deplored, it was not to be wondered at that it prevailed among those whose lot was cast in the blood-stained regions of Meath and Westmeath. But this clause would render differences between landlord and tenant almost impossible, while it would enable every kindly relation to continue. Then, again, contrast the plainness and I simplicity of this provision as regarded the tenant himself, with the difficulties he would have to encounter under the Bill. He know if he was a tenant on any property on which this principle should be adopted that he was perfectly secure, except for certain causes. He knew if he fell into arrear he was sure to be able to sell his goodwill. He knew that every improvement he made increased the value of that goodwill. On the other hand, let them look at the uncertainty in which the tenant was placed under the Bill if about to be evicted. He went by the last decision of the Court, and made his calculation—the next decision, perhaps, upset that calculation. He could never tell what weapon the landlord might produce from the armoury of exceptions which the Bill furnished him with. So much for the tenant. Let them look at the advantages it brought with it to the landlord. He was sure to get the natural rise in rents, if such rise took place. But then it was said what was to take place if agricultural prices fell? What would take place was, what always 1002 did take place—if prices fell for a long period—if the depression be continued, rents would suffer in consequence. It need hardly be said that the tenant was always able to give up his farm in case of a fall in the value of land for a considerable period, therefore it was impossible to guarantee the landlord against a fall. He was not prepared to go into the debateable region as to the probabilities of the rise and fall of prices of agricultural produce. He himself—and he ventured to say 19 out of 20 of those who had studied the subject—would be of opinion that there was greater probability of a rise than of a fall. It was something, then, to guarantee the landlord for a rise, in case circumstances justified such rise, for he was convinced that as the present Bill stood, few landlords would be able, under any circumstances, to raise their rents. Then, again, this plan would bring with it perfect harmony in the relations of landlord and tenant—none of the litigation apprehended on all sides could take place, for no question could arise on the subject either of improvements or disturbance. He said on account of improvements, because he would be quite ready, now that the tenant was protected, to enact that all improvements should be registered on completion. The great argument, after all—in fact, the whole argument—was that this clause, though permissive, would be, in reality, an instrument of compulsion. His right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary said that if one landlord adopted it, there would be a hundred pens and a hundred tongues to insist on his neighbour doing the same, however unwilling he might be. But there was no more fear of that than in case a landlord let his land extremely low—unduly low—other landlords would have to do the same. The real compulsion would be the sight of a neighbour riding peacefully in the calm haven of permissive tenant-right, while those; around him were being tossed to and fro among the breakers of Assistant Barristers and Quarter Sessions Courts. For these reasons he would vote with the Member for Kilkenny, and he claimed the vote of the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Dr. Ball), who said the other night, in opposing the plan of the Member for Clonmel (Mr. Bagwell) for leases renewable for ever, that those who liked them should have a clause of 1003 their own. Now he (Mr. W. H. Gregory) and many other landlords would be quite willing to have this clause for themselves; and he himself could only say that he would readily go hack to Ireland and place his property under this settlement and under such a clause. He regretted that the Chief Secretary had met the proposal with such a stern and peremptory negative. He could only again repeat that the Amendment was not for the subversion of the Bill, for which every one of its supporters gave the Government the fullest credit; but as a supplement and addition, to confer additional strength and efficiency to the Bill, the main object of which was to produce harmony between the owner and occupier of land in Ireland.
§ MR. SAUNDERSON
said, he did not deny that the proposal of the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) was a popular one in Ireland; and if he sought popularity in his native country he might be disposed to support that proposal; but, as he believed, it was fraught with great danger to all classes in Ireland, he would give to it both now and hereafter his most uncompromising opposition. He was at a loss at one time to know who had invented what he thought was a most ingenious appellation—namely, that of "Permissive Parliamentary tenant-right." The speech of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. W. H. Gregory) placed it beyond a doubt that he was the author of that appellation, for the hon. Gentleman told them that it was a generic term that sufficiently explained itself. He was asked some time ago to sign the Memorial, as it was called, containing an appeal in favour of the main principle of the clause which the Committee was now discussing. His hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny asked him whether he would be willing to sign it; but, without any personal disrespect to the hon. Member, he must say that the fact of his being the author of the document induced him to look on it with considerable suspicion. He refused to sign it, and every day that had passed since had increased his satisfaction at having resisted the eloquent and somewhat convincing request of his hon. Friend. There were 39 names to the Memorial, but it was easy to obtain names. When a man of undoubted ability, unflinching perseverance, and considerable cunning undertook to per- 1004 suade his friends that a proposition which he was about to bring forward would be very beneficial, some people did not even take the trouble of reading what they signed. But some hon. Members who had signed the Memorial had told him they regretted having done so. ["Name!"] He would not name them, because they had been punished enough by having signed it. But hon. Members had told him that since they had seen it in black and white—which, he presumed, meant since they had come to understand it—they were sorry for having signed it. He was extremely glad he had not done so. With the permission of the Committee he would refer to a speech he had heard made in that House, and from which this was an extract—What the Irish people asked from the Minister and from the House, and what they would continue to ask until they got it, was, that the notices to quit, described in the eloquent words of the Premier us things showered out upon the people and falling over the face of the land like snow-flakes, should be put an end to, and that eviction, except for legitimate causes, as non-payment of rent, subletting, or wasting of the land should altogether cease."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 1682.][Sir JOHN GRAY: Hear, hear!] That was a passage from a speech of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, on the second reading of the Bill—the best speech he had ever heard him deliver. He asked himself whether there was anything in the proposals now before the Committee which came up to those prophecies for-shadowed by the hon. Member. Under the woolly skin he spied the wolf. There, in all its naked deformity, were fixity of tenure and valuation of rents. He was opposed to fixity of tenure, because he thought it a most unwarrantable interference with the natural laws which regulated the possession of property. He believed it was an attempt to interfere with the laws of social gravitation—with those laws which tended to raise the wise, prudent, thoughtful, and fortunate to the surface of society, and tended to lower the unwise, the imprudent, the thoughtless, and, alas, the unfortunate to its lowest depths. He should like to ask some hon. Gentleman who was in favour of fixity of tenure whether it would be a good thing to stereotype for all time the present condition of many of the farmers in Ireland. Would such, a measure be likely to promote the happiness of that country? Nearly one-third of all the holdings in Ireland were under 1005 15 acres. Would it be well for Ireland that such a state of things should remain for all time? If the hon. Member for the city of Cork (Mr. Maguire) were in his place he should ask him whether a farm of 15 acres was a desirable holding. If the House acceded to this proposition of the Member for Kilkenny, was there any hope in our time of seeing any alteration in the condition of Ireland? Men of determination and energy, of whom, he was happy to say, there were not a few in Ireland, would be told that the size of their farms must never be increased. So far from believing that the proposal of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, if adopted, would convert Ireland into a happy country, he felt sure that it would lead to more discontent and misery than at present existed. The hon. Member for Kilkenny said that the Irish people would continue to demand fixity of tenure; and they all knew his determination and tenacity of purpose. He objected to putting in the hon. Gentleman's hand an instrument with which he might keep the cauldron of agitation at seething point, and prevent that peace and quiet which all ought to desire to see prevail in Ireland. He would not go into the details of the measure of his hon. Friend, for a measure he called it, advisedly. He confined himself to its principles. Now, as to the Bill itself, as an Irish landlord, he believed that if it reached Ireland without any material alteration from its present form it would be a great success. He had supported it mainly for the reason which, he believed, had induced Her Majesty's Government to bring it forward. There was an argument against which no one who was wise in his generation could shut his ears; it was a voice which no monarch could pass by with inattention, and to which it would be very foolish for any statesman to turn a deaf ear. That voice was the clearly expressed wish of a united people. That which so seldom occurred in Ireland had occurred in reference to this Bill. All classes had united in demanding legislation on the land question, and this Bill was the echo of their voice. He had no fear whatever of the vast amount of litigation which was apprehended by some. He supported this Bill because he believed it would satisfy the reasonable portion of the Irish people. He supported this Bill for another reason—namely, be- 1006 cause he felt convinced that this measure would satisfy the people of England. As long as the ears of England were kept open to the appeals of agitators in Ireland by the belief that justice had not been done, so long would agitation continue in that country. But when the ears of England were stopped to those appeals, by the knowledge that she had done everything that a nation could do to satisfy the claims of justice, he did not believe that Irish agitators would be able to extract from her the injustice that some demanded, and, the trade of the Irish agitator being gone, he would either subside into some other profession, or he would take his wares elsewhere. He had supported this measure in its passage through the House of Commons to the best of his ability, and he intended to support it not only within those walls, but also in his native country. There were others besides himself who intended to show the people of Ireland that this Bill was an honest attempt on the part of the Parliament of Great Britain to build up the future prosperity of Ireland, and if his brother landlords in Ireland would join in those endeavours they would secure the future peace and happiness of that country, which, with all their faults, Irishmen so dearly loved.
§ MR. SYNAN
, as one of those who had signed the declaration alluded to, desired to make some observations on the Motion before them. The hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Saunderson) had founded his argument on two assumptions—first, that those who supported the Motion were opposed to the Bill; and, secondly, that they regretted having signed the document in favour of the proposal before the Committee. He (Mr. Synan) gave the most unqualified denial to both statements. He challenged any hon. Member to deny that he had been unceasing in his support of the Bill, and in his endeavours to amend it so as to make it effective to the purpose in view; nor did he regret having signed the paper in favour of this scheme, for he was there to redeem his pledge by supporting it. He could well understand that the Government were in an embarrassing position. They were in this dilemma—that if they rejected this proposal, they would do an unpopular act; and, if they adopted it, they might expose their Bill to shipwreck in "another place." There were 1007 two objections taken to the clause which he desired to notice. The first was, that of the hon. Member for Kilkenny himself, who said, in answer to the Chief Secretary, that mortgagees and incumbrancers were not mentioned in the Amendment at all. But this was a mistake—they were expressly mentioned; but so as not to be injuriously affected, and with a view to the protection of their interests. The other mistake was that of the hon. Member for Galway, who said that the present rents were to remain unaffected for 14 years. No doubt that was so in the declaration; but it had been altered, and the change in rents might be made to-morrow. To that he (Mr. Synan) had no objection, for he regarded it as a step in the right direction. It was said that the proposed Amendment was, first, against the principle of the Bill, and was a direct enactment of fixity of tenure and compulsory valuation of rents; secondly, it was a violation of the rights of limited owners and mortgagees; and, thirdly, that it was a new Bill in itself, and, therefore, substantially a substitution for the Bill of the Government. He considered all these objections to be founded upon a misapprehension of the clauses proposed and of the Bill itself. The Amendment simply proposed to enable a landlord and tenant to contract themselves out of the Bill by entering into an agreement for 31 years' leases, renewable, subject to the settlement of the rents every 14 years, to conditions for the proper cultivation of the land, and against subletting, and subdivision, and eviction only for non-payment of rent. What did the Bill do? It legalized the tenant-right of Ulster, and tenant-right out of Ulster; it gave power to the Court to inquire, so that the tenant might not have his tenant-right destroyed by an arbitrary demand of an exorbitant rack-rent; it gave compensation for disturbance, or for eviction if a rack-rent were refused. Whatever objection was urged to the Amendment was therefore equally applicable to the Bill; and therefore the argument of the clauses being opposed to the principle of the Bill, because they enacted compulsory valuation of rents, had no force. As to the objection that the Amendment enacted fixity of tenure, the answer was, it followed the Bill in that particular; and in his (Mr. Synan's) opinion, the Bill was valuable only so 1008 far as it did produce that result indirectly. The legalizing the Ulster custom and other customs, and the Compensation Clause, were indirect ways of enacting fixity of tenure. As to the objection as to limited owners and mortgagees—the Amendment gave the power to the Courts to see that the rights of remaindermen were not injured by the acts of limited owners; and as to mortgagees—the Amendment expressly provided that the Court should look after their rights and interests, and take special means to protect them. He came now to the third class of objections—that this was a new Bill. He frankly admitted that, if this clause were acted upon universally, it would have that effect. It was, in his opinion, the only objection Her Majesty's Government could urge against it. It was hard to ask them—after months of conflict in that House—after they had brought almost to completion a great and broad and liberal scheme for the protection of the Irish tenants—to accept an Amendment which, if acted on universally, would render the rest of the Bill waste paper and rubbish; but their object was to settle the question; and he was certain, that if Her Majesty's Government thought this Amendment would have that effect, they would not reject it on the ground that it had made the labour of months nugatory, or deprived Her Majesty's Government of the crown of victory. But the answer to the objection was simply that the Amendment was permissive—that it was rendered necessary by the 3rd and 4th clauses, which rendered voluntary contracts void as against them, and that it could only operate gradually, and by the operation of free contract. It was however said a new agitation would spring up, and that under the leadership of his hon. Friend (Sir John Gray), to make this permissive law a compulsory law. He could not deny that his hon. Friend had at his command a powerful organ of public opinion; but he denied the power even of his hon. Friend to create an agitation unless there was a grievance, and unless public opinion was agreed that there was a grievance to be remedied. There were two proposals before them—that of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, and that called Judge Longfield's. He gave the preference to the former. He had given his support to the Bill 1009 throughout; he had moved and carried many Amendments; and he now, as a true friend to the measure, asked that the Amendment of his hon. Friend should be incorporated with the Bill, as tending, in his opinion, to make the measure more complete, and the foundation of the agricultural prosperity of Ireland more secure.
§ MR. G. B. GREGORY
said, he believed the clause would revive that vampire with which they had been struggling during the last 100 years—the middleman. It was true the clause contained provisions against subletting; but it would not prevent a man taking a partner, or letting to his labourers. The great objection to the clause, however, was that it would be placing the country under two concurrent schemes, instead of leaving it under one, as the Bill at present did.
§ MR. O'REILLY
said, he rejoiced to hear that Irish landlords on the other (the Opposition) side of the House had ceased to fear that the Bill would cause litigation. He was at one time in favour of enabling landlords to enter into voluntary agreements; but his views had since undergone a change. It would be truly wrong and absurd to give to the Assistant Barristers' Court a power to decide to what extent subletting was desirable or prudent in Ireland; that was a question which those interested in property must decide for themselves. But that which weighed most with him in regard to the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) was the fear lest it should increase the difficulties of the Government, to whom much credit was due for having brought forward so large a measure as the Bill undoubtedly was. If the landlords of Ireland should find themselves involved in troublesome litigation, there would be nothing to prevent them from applying to Parliament in a year or two hence for permission to enter into arrangements with their tenants, in order to escape from the operation of the clauses of the Bill. He could not, however, shut his eyes to the difficulty of embodying two competing schemes, though the present proposal was only permissive, in the same Bill.
§ VISCOUNT ST. LAWRENCE
said, he did not endorse all the details of the proposal before the Committee, though many of the most intelligent and mode- 1010 rate Irish Liberals had done so; but he thought by giving landlords and tenants permission to make voluntary contracts it afforded a means of escape from one of the strongest objections which had been urged to the Bill—namely, the prospect of endless litigation. He denied that the Members who had affixed their names to the memorial had done so any expectation that it would give an excuse for agitation, and he hoped the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) would set their minds at rest by an express assurance upon that subject.
§ DR. BALL
said, he could not allow the Question to be put without expressing his opposition to what he believed to be, even from the point of view of the hon. Member (Sir John Gray), a very undesirable and ill-judged proposal, and only less objectionable than one for absolute perpetuity of tenure. In the Bill, notwithstanding the many improvements which had been made in it, there were several very questionable principles already, and the addition of the clause now proposed would tend very seriously, he believed, to prevent its passing into law. He must say he thought the proposition was nothing less than an incipient fixity of tenure. It had been said that the operation of the clause would be merely permissive. If so, what was to prevent a fee-simple owner, without this clause at all, establishing similar relations between himself and his tenants? He could not, of course, call in the Court as the mode of adjusting a periodical variation of rent; but an arbitrator would furnish just as satisfactory a tribunal in such an event as the Court itself. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. W. H. Gregory) had referred to the leases under the University of Dublin. Those were leases the rent in which was to be adjusted every 10 years, on the application of either the landlord or the tenant, and in many of those references he himself had acted as arbitrator. The machinery, therefore, was not a judicial tribunal, but an arbitrator appointed by the tenant and landlord. The hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) said that the limited owner would not bind the estate for ever and ever, because what he did was to grant a lease for 30 years, but in reality the scheme was merely one to induce the remainderman to concur in the act of the tenant for life. And he maintained that it would be al- 1011 most impossible for the remainderman to resist the pressure and combination of the tenants of an estate, if the tenants combined to force this fixity of tenure. But the pressure would not be confined to the remainderman; for if this perpetuity of tenure with readjustment of rent every 14 years were adopted on an estate, the tenants of the estate adjoining would not rest until they had obtained the same privileges, and it would therefore have the effect of creating quarrelling, discontent, and controversy, in a number of cases, where now perfect contentment and peace prevailed. He agreed, too, with the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Saunderson), that even if this system of perpetual tenure could be introduced all over Ireland, it would not be desirable. If it generally prevailed, it would be impossible to enforce the provisions respecting forfeiture for subdivision and waste. The adoption of this scheme would take away all interest in the land from the landlord; all motive to reside in the country, to interfere in the management of the property, or to exercise supervision over it. The motives and the objects which led great proprietors to attend to the moral supervision, arrangement, and improvement of their estates, irrespective of money considerations, would be totally and entirely destroyed. The Bill as it now stood, though, of course, it contained matters that were objectionable, had this recommendation, that it contained some element of finality. As it stood, it was an announcement by the Government, and he believed a sincere announcement, that they would go no further, and would not yield anything in answer to further agitation. But if the Government yielded on this point, a fresh agitation would spring up, because the people of Ireland would believe that the Government could be induced by pressure to go further, and that larger concessions could be obtained by perseverance. He trusted that the Committee would not waste its time in discussing the Amendment of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Morrison) for, though the Amendment might in some respects be superior to that proposed by the hon. Member for Kilkenny, the principle involved in both was the same, and in either case the Government had to consider not a question of detail, but the wisdom of introducing alternative schemes into the Bill. The adop- 1012 tion of any alternative scheme would, he felt convinced, only lead to further agitation, and be detrimental to the inteests of the people of Ireland; and he, therefore, trusted the Government would be firm in their refusal to accept this or any similar plan.
§ MR. M'MAHON
said, he hoped the Government would re-consider their resolution, and attend rather to the wishes of their ordinary supporters than to those of their habitual opponents. The Government had yielded far more frequently to propositions coming from the other side of the House than to those coming from that side. ["No, no!"] If the Amendments to the Bill were recapitulated his statement would be found to be correct. This proposition was supported by most of the Liberal Members from Ireland. The objections of the representatives of Ulster should have no weight against the present proposition, because it was not intended to apply to Ulster tenant-right, nor to any custom analogous to that tenant-right. He was surprised to find the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Dr. Ball) opposite, of opinion that this Bill would stop all agitation, or, rather, political movement for further improvement in the relations between landlord and tenant, because it must be remembered that the atrocious Landlord and Tenant Law of 1860 still remained unaffected. What did his hon. Friend (Sir John Gray) propose? The unlimited owner now could enter into covenants far more prejudicial to the remainderman. Hon. Gentlemen opposite forgot that the first principle of political economy was to give to the occupier of the soil the highest possible authority over it in order to secure its perfect cultivation. That principle was laid down by Paley and by Adam Smith, and it was on that principle that the Tithe Commutation Acts and the Act for enfranchising copyholds were based. At present the unlimited owner might give leases for ever without requiring that the rent should vary according to the prices of agricultural produce. But his hon. Friend did not propose any such thing. According to his scheme the rent would vary from time to time, not only according to the prices of agricultural produce, but according to the valuation of the land. And then as to the limited owner. From the reign of Charles I. up to 1856 a limited owner 1013 could give a lease in Ireland for three lives or 31 years. What did his hon. Friend propose? Why, that a limited owner who had entered into the proposed arrangement with his tenant might have the rent varied every 14 years, according to the prices of agricultural produce and the valuation of the land, and at the death of the limited owner his successor might come in, and, if he disapproved the arrangement, might enter into a new one, the original agreement not prevailing against him for more than 31 years. In short, his hon. Friend's proposal was a 31 years' lease from the last adjustment of rent. What wrong, then, was done to the remainderman? He was surprised that the Government and those who supported them, as well as Gentlemen on the other side, should not see that the scheme of his hon. Friend only made the Bill more perfect; it was offered in no hostile spirit, but only with the view that landlords and tenants might by agreement release themselves from the complicated conditions of the Bill. Unless some provisions of that kind were introduced into the Bill the measure would go to Ireland, not as a message of peace, but as a cause of irritation; and he hoped the Government would therefore be guided in that matter by their best friends, and those who almost alone represented the tenant-right institutions of Ireland.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
said, he was very much disappointed with the speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for New Ross (Mr. M'Mahon). On the part of the Government he thought he had a right to complain of the way in which the hon. Member had spoken of the Bill itself, irrespective of the proposition immediately under the consideration of the House. His hon. and learned Friend had told the Committee that this Bill instead of being a message of peace to Ireland, would lead to litigation—that by the Bill the Government destroyed the tenant-right of Ulster, and afforded incentives to landlords to rob their tenants. The latter assertion appeared to him to be a very extraordinary one, seeing that the Bill made ejectment more difficult by imposing severe penalties on landlords who evicted their tenants. Then his hon. and learned Friend told the Government that they destroyed the tenant-right of 1014 Ulster. This statement, if allowed to go uncontradicted, might do much harm in that Province, of which his hon. and learned Friend had no knowledge whatever. He (Mr. Dowse) had some knowledge of Ulster, and he could assure his hon. and learned Friend and the Committee that this Bill took nothing from the tenant-right of that Province; on the contrary, it added largely to it by giving the sanction of law to that which at present was based on morality and justice. Perhaps, however, his hon. and learned Friend's speech had not teen made for this, but for "another place," and every man should have an opportunity of speaking according to his instincts. His hon. and learned Friend said that the Government had treated their friends badly by turning a deaf ear to their representations. If hon. Members who held such opinions as his hon. Friend on this Bill were called their friends the Government might be pardoned for wishing to be saved both from the advice and assistance of such friends. He (Mr. M'Mahon) said, that the Government had made concessions to the demands of their opponents, instead of yielding to the remonstrances of their friends. Now, he found there had been 23 Divisions in Committee on this Bill, of which only three had been brought about by Gentlemen on the Government side of the House who held extreme tenant-right views. In those Divisions, in which the Government had succeeded against their opponents, by arguments, he ventured to think, as well as by numbers, they had frequently been assisted by his hon. and learned Friend who had just spoken. Now, as to the clauses proposed by the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) he objected to them, first, on this ground—that they did not deal with the Province of Ulster at all. If they were made law, that important Province should also have the benefit of them. He also objected to them on the ground that if Parliament thought it right and proper to do what the hon. Member would give the landlords a permissive power to do, it ought to do it itself by legislative enactment. He could understand the position taken up by the delegates who had come over from Ireland. There might be something to be said for fixity of tenure, while certainly there was a good deal to be said against it; but, at all events, 1015 the delegates asked Parliament to exercise an undoubted right; but the hon. Member for Kilkenny proposed that Parliament should ask the landlord to do what, if it were wise and right, Parliament ought to have the courage to do for itself. For the landlord who held in fee simple the proposal could not be by any means necessary, because already he had power to give a lease for 999 years, with power to revise the rent every 14 years, and to settle by arbitration any dispute with the tenant. There was one purpose which, if adopted, it might serve, though he did not say that those who advocated it had that purpose in view. It would afford a means of holding up to hostile criticism the landlord who did not avail himself of the provisions of the proposed clause. There was no species of coercion which would not be used to induce unwilling landlords to deal with their tenants in accordance with those provisions. That was a reason why he said that this proposal should not be assented to, as far as fee-simple owners were concerned. Then how did it propose to affect limited owners? All that the tenants would get under the clause in the case of limited owners was a 31 years' lease. The tenant doubtless would imagine he was getting perpetuity of tenure, at a fixed rent; but he would find out to his disgust that he got nothing more than a 31 years' lease. It was worse than a 31 years' lease, because it had all the disadvantages of a fluctuating tenure. He had, therefore, two objections to make to the proposal—the first was, that the first part of it was bad, and the second was, that the second part was bad, and as it consisted of those two parts only, it was bad altogether. A more fatal objection to the clause, however, was that it would introduce an alternative scheme into the Bill. If they were agreed to the Irish tenant would at once jump to the conclusion that, after debating this Bill for so many nights, the House had been unable to make up its mind which of the two schemes it would adopt, and had consequently left to the Irish people to decide which it would prefer. This in itself would injure the Bill, and deprive its provisions of all weight as a final settlement of the land question. It had been suggested that the objections to the clause were merely on matters of detail that might be smoothed over by 1016 the exercise of a little care. But an examination into those details would show their formidable nature. The hon. Member (Sir John Gray) had lauded the clauses on the ground that they would prevent litigation, but in his (Mr. Dowse's) opinion, they would be, on the contrary, a most fertile source of litigation. In the first place, everything was to be done through the medium of the Court,—the clause not informing the House what that Court was to be—and the best way to foment litigation was—never to be able to do anything without the intervention of a Court. The first thing that the Court was to do was to investigate the title of the owner—a proceeding occasionally long, elaborate, and expensive; then the Court must be satisfied that the interests of the mortgagees would not suffer, and of course the mortgagees must be heard upon the point, and a second elaborate investigation entered into, and then the Court might direct the estate to be registered, provided that no tenant objected to his particular holding being registered. In the event of any tenants raising such objection, the Court—again the Court—was to hear the particular case of each objecting tenant, and was to determine whether or not such objections were valid, or ought to be set aside, and the holdings registered. And what then? Why, the rent was to be fixed, in the first place, by mutual agreement, and resettled after the expiration of every 14 years by the Court. And then even in cases of gross misconduct on the part of the tenant the landlord would not be able to serve an ejectment upon the former without first obtaining the sanction of the Court. A measure more completely subversive of all the relations between landlord and tenant he never saw. If the Government or the Committee were to yield to the propositions of the hon. Member, they would not open a door to litigation, because that word would be a very inadequate description of the facilities afforded for legal contention, but would cause a flood of litigation all over Ireland. Both on principle and on common-sense considerations the Government could not consent to send to that country an alternative scheme which they did not believe to be better or so good as their own, and, therefore, he hoped the Committee would reject this clause.
§ MR. MORRISON
said, that as allusion had frequently been made to what was known as the Longfield plan, by several hon. Gentlemen, some of whom had expressed their preference for it over the scheme of his hon. Friend (Sir John Gray), he would venture to claim the indulgence of the Committee in explaining why he preferred it to the plan of his hon. Friend, and to do this he must explain what the Longfield plan was; and this course would be convenient both to the Government, in saving them from a second debate on a plan having many features similar to that under discussion, and also to those hon Gentlemen who would follow him, and who might also wish to compare the comparative merits of the two plans. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball) had objected that both schemes would lead to fixity of tenure without any periodical adjustment of rent, and the chief objection raised by the Government against his hon. Friend's clauses was, that they involved Government valuation of rent. But the plan of Judge Longfield certainly was not open to the last objection, while, as regarded the former, he was prepared to contend that the Government Bill gave virtual fixity of tenure, in the sense that no landlord would be able to resume possession of a holding without paying about as large a price as he would have to pay under the Longfield plan, and even under that of his hon. Friend. After explaining the reasons of the alterations made in the form of his clauses, in the hope of making them more acceptable to the Government, he said that Judge Longfield's plan providing for a re-adjustment of rent was this—that any landlord and tenant having agreed to come under statutory tenant-right would mutually agree on a rent which should be binding on both sides for seven years. At the end of that term, in the month of November, the landlord might give 12 months' notice of his intention to raise the rent, and the tenant would have until the following 10th of May to consider the matter. If he objected, the landlord must buy him out by a seven years' purchase, calculated on the basis of his own increased demand, or else let him remain at the old rent for seven more years, and the possibility of having the demand made would prevent the landlord asking an 1018 exorbitant rent. If owing to a reduction in the price of agricultural produce, or from other causes, the tenant should conceive that the price of his land ought to be lowered, he, in like manner, would have to serve notice upon his landlord, and the landlord would then have five or six months to consider the equity of the proposition. At the end of that time, if he thought the tenant's demand unreasonable, the landlord would be entitled to buy out the tenant and to resume possession on paying seven years' rent, calculated upon the tenant's own appraisement. Future re-adjustments of rent would take place at intervals of at least seven years. Thus availing themselves of the ordinary motives and reasonable selfishness by which men were actuated and governed, it would be possible to impose restraint upon exorbitant demands at either side, and to enable something like a fair valuation to be arrived at between the two conflicting interests. The Government Bill, on the other hand, bristled with references to the Court for the purpose of ascertaining what was a fair and proper rent, thereby contrasting unfavourably with the Longfield plan. The only case in which it would be necessary for the purposes of his Amendment that the Court should be appealed, to with a view of determining questions of value, would be where it became necessary to determine the value of improvements effected by the tenant after each adjustment of rent. Thus, it was plain that litigation must be largely avoided. The fair rights of the landlord would be respected; for, as the land increased in value, he would be able, by a self-adjusting process, to obtain for it exactly that amount of increased value which was clue to circumstances, apart from the labour and expenditure of capital by the tenant. This plan would have the effect of preserving and extending throughout the country the best features of the Ulster custom, while avoiding many of its disadvantages. In the course of the visits which he paid to Ireland during the Recess, he heard the greatest anxiety expressed lest the effect of the Government Bill might be to allow the tenant's interest in the holding to be frittered away by undue increase of rent, and he was glad that his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) had effectually dissipated that apprehension. Under 1019 the Longfield plan, however, there was no such danger that the Ulster custom would be annihilated. To the clause providing that the tenant, who quitted his holding voluntarily, should be at liberty to sell it to the highest bidder, an addition might be fairly made, providing that the landlord should have the right of pre-emption at a price fixed; and the only reason why he himself had not inserted such words was, that he did not wish to make the clause too complicated. Other minor points were incorporated with his scheme as with the Government Bill. He maintained that all they need take care of in considering the limited owner was not to injure the position of the remainderman, as to rent, and the security of the remainderman for his rent would be considerably increased by his going under such a system as the Longfield system, for it was a notorious fact that in no part of Ireland were rents so punctually paid or so steadily increasing as they were in Ulster. But it might be asked how far they could expect the landlords and tenants to agree to go under any form of permissive Parliamentary tenant-right. He apprehended that, if either the clauses which stood in the name of his hon. Friend, or those which stood in his own name, were carried, advantage would not be taken of them for some years, because landlords and tenants alike would wait to see the working of the Government measure and to watch the decisions of the assistant barristers of their own particular county. Each then would make his own calculation as to the probable sum for which, in the event of disturbance in his holding when notice to quit had been served, with a view to increase of rent or otherwise, the landlord would be liable. They would consider, from the decisions of the barrister, what amount he would give under Clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill, and any difference either way from seven years' purchase of the existing rent would be made up probably by a money payment, or equivalent alteration of the rent, by any sum paid being probably agreed to be spent on the holding. If a tenant under the Ulster custom was entitled by the custom of the estate to ten years' purchase, he would bargain with his landlord that the difference between seven and ten years' purchase should be laid out by the landlord on his holding; if only en- 1020 titled to five years' purchase of the rent, he would agree to lay out two years' purchase on his holding; and so both parties would start fair, the existing value of all tenant's improvements being allowed for at a time when, both landlord and tenant being on friendly terms, a fair value would be agreed upon, neither party looking to any determination of the tenancy. Under the Government Bill, improvements would have to be valued after notice to quit had been served, when both parties were at arms' length, inclined to fight out the valuation of each paltry item to the bitter end. Under both the Government Bill and the Longfield plan a visitation like the potatoe famine or the rinderpest would put the tenant at the mercy of the landlord; but landlords would not be hard in such a case, and if, under the Government Bill, the tenant would then get the value of his improvements, the Longfield plan allowed him to sell his tenant-right for what it would fetch. Nor need landlords fear that tenants would combine against a needy landlord. He understood that, in practice, no cash would have to be provided by the landlord, who would always be able to find other tenants to provide the money required to buy out the old tenants, at the lower rate to which, by their own demand for a reduced rent, they would alone be entitled. Now, there was no substantial difference between the plan of the Government and that of Judge Longfield with reference to the right on the part of the landlord to demand an increase of rent. But the only mode in which that demand could be made under the Government Bill was, that the landlord should serve a notice to quit, and so determine the tenancy. So that a landlord of a holding not under the Ulster custom could not increase his rent without putting himself in a position by which the tenant would be able to claim compensation for disturbance, to say nothing of the indefinite item for tenants' improvements. Practically, the effect of what he proposed would be to establish a form of Ulster tenant-right, applicable to the whole of Ireland, which, among several other advantages, would have that of establishing a system of uniformity throughout the country. One of the advantages from this plan would be that the tenant would be able to calculate some six months before the ter- 1021 mination of his tenancy the exact amount which he would have in his pocket to start afresh with. Now, one blot in the Government Bill was this—that, in all probability, in case the matter came to a fight about the sum to be awarded as compensation for disturbance, the landlord would have all the machinery ready for immediately evicting a tenant. He might have the Sheriff's officers at hand find the money in his pocket ready to pay over directly they left the Court, and though the Bill provided that the tenant was not to be evicted until the exact amount awarded had been paid, the decision made on Monday might be followed by payment on the Monday evening and eviction on Tuesday morning. In drawing up these clauses, it had been his object, and the object of those with whom he had been associated in this matter, to reconcile the scheme with the principle of the Bill, because they felt it would be quite impossible for the Government to accept any proposal which, in principle, was antagonistic to their own measure, and in this they believed they had succeeded. But, he would ask, under the Government Bill, what chance was there of the assistant barrister coming to a satisfactory conclusion with reference to the valuation for improvements? There would be hard swearing on both sides, and there would, he feared, spring up a class of landlord valuers and a class of tenant valuers, whose valuations would be full of discrepancies, and almost impossible to reconcile. Both the Government plan and the Longfield plan contemplated the imposition of a fine upon the landlord in the case of eviction, but with this advantage on the side of the latter, that the fine was limited to a certain amount. With reference to the question of mortgagees, they would be in a better position than under the Government plan, and as to the objection of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball) that his proposal was fixity of tenure, it was only fixity of tenure in appearance. If the landlord, under the Government Bill, wished to resume possession of any particular field, he could only obtain it by paying a considerable fine. Under the Longfield plan, he would have also to pay a fine; but, if the tenant stood out for an unreasonable sum, he would have to pay a heavy rent for seven years, and, there- 1022 fore, the landlord would have much less difficulty in obtaining the field than he would under the Ulster custom. He claimed for his scheme the attentive consideration of the House. He could vindicate its right to discussion, because it fairly embodied the opinion of a man who might be regarded as high an authority on the Irish land question as any man living. Judge Longfield's position must, for many years, have brought him into contact with relations of every description between landlord and tenant. This was no scheme of a doctrinaire student. Judge Longfield and his colleagues had been called upon to administer an Act of Parliament which was passed to cut a Gordian knot when the Irish land question was almost as hopeless and tangled as it was when taken up by Her Majesty's Government. It was, at the time to which he referred, a question for the owners, and not for the tenants. There was scarcely any principle to guide Judge Longfield and his colleagues, and yet they built up a code, founded in a long series of decisions, which all men praised, by sheer sagacity and good sense, just as Lord Mansfield had built up our commercial law. As far as he was aware, the Irish people regarded the scheme with extraordinary favour. The Dublin Press had expressed their approval. Saunder's News Letter said that public opinion in Ireland had pronounced with singular unanimity in favour of Judge Longfield's scheme. He hoped that the Government would see their way to adopt those proposals in some form or other, and he intimated that he would support the Motion of the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray), as there was sufficient agreement in principle, at least, between them to justify him in taking that course.
Sir, at the time when the important subject involved in the clauses of the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) was previously under discussion, I expressed a desire to give the fullest consideration to so weighty a proposition, partly on account of its great scope and range, partly on account of the evident care that had been bestowed on its preparation and development, and partly also because a large number of Irish representatives were understood to have declared their approval of it. It was, therefore, in perfect good faith that we asked my 1023 hon. Friend, in lieu of proposing to add it to the 3rd clause, already sufficiently weighted, to bring forward his clause as an independent proposition; and I hope that in the arrangements that have been made he will admit that we have redeemed our pledge, and that he has had an ample opportunity for laying his view before the Committee. The result of that, I must confess, has been that we have not found the conditions fulfilled which alone would have warranted us in assuming the very grave responsibility of accepting his plan. We have before us in a certain sense two propositions, and with great fairness my hon. Friend who last addressed us (Mr. Morrison) has been allowed to explain the alternative plan which he thinks is preferable to that of the hon. Member for Kilkenny. On that alternative project of Judge Longfield, as the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Morrison) called it, I would say this—either it is a substitute for the plan of the Government with respect to evictions, resting on the same basis, or else it is a plan for granting fixity of tenure. If we are to regard it as a plan for granting fixity of tenure, it comes in all senses within the same category as that of the hon. Member for Kilkenny. If, on the other hand, we look upon it as a simple alternative to the plan of the Government, of giving damages for eviction and thereby restraining the capricious exercise of the landlord's power, I am prepared to contend for the plan which the Committee has adopted in preference to it. It is quite plain that the whole of the elasticity given to the plan of the Government by the Equities Clause is excluded by the plan of my hon. Friend. There is only the one rigid measure of seven years' rent which is to be on the one side claimed, and on the other side paid, entirely irrespective of all questions of convenience or inconvenience, of reasonable or unreasonable conduct, of greatness or smallness of loss. Supposing, for example, that a landlord, in order to effect an improvement in the arrangement of his estate, desires to get a particular holding into his hands for his own purposes, but which would inflict, under some circumstances, a hardship upon the tenant, and supposing he points out to the tenant a better holding on his estate as at the service of that occupier, still, according to the plan of 1024 my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, as I understand it, the landlord must go through what I must call the comedy of demanding an increase of rent which he does not want in order to get possession of land which he does want; and although he is not proposing to inflict an injury on the tenant, but is offering him a better farm on his own property, he cannot get hold of the land if the tenant refuses without giving him seven years of the augmented rent. But my hon. Friend is going to vote with the hon. Member for Kilkenny. He has shown, I will not say, the cloven foot, but the angel's wings. He admits the identity, in principle at least, of the two plans; and he used an expression which, I think, was condemnatory of his scheme, when he said—As to the objection of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball) that his proposal was fixity of tenure, it was only fixity of tenure in appearance.Does he then really think it is wise for us to give to Ireland fixity of tenure in appearance? I am irreconcilably opposed to granting fixity of tenure; but I must say, if it is to be granted at all, it ought to be granted in reality and not in appearance only. I should not like to be responsible for working on the passions and susceptibilities of the Irish nation by holding out to them a promise which undoubtedly has much attraction for them, with the reserve in my own mind of my own conviction that that which we offer was to be redeemed from the danger that might otherwise accompany it by our knowledge that it was not the thing it professed to be, but that while it promised fixity of tenure it was something essentially different. Therefore, practically considering it impossible to discuss the two schemes conjointly in detail, I now turn to the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny, which is to be supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth. On the former occasion I made this demand on my hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny as a sine quâ non to enable us in any measure to entertain such a project—namely, that he should produce to us evidence of at least a sensible and considerable amount of adhesion to it on the part of Irish landlords—evidence of a promise that if this plan were adopted it would be acted upon by a considerable number of proprietors of land. I 1025 am not by any means able to say, even if that had been produced, that it would have removed my objections to the plan; but it was a preliminary condition, on which alone it could have been entertained. It is, I think, almost self-evident that an elaborate alternative scheme of this kind, trenching on subjects of the utmost delicacy and no inconsiderable danger, ought not to be introduced into the Bill, except for a practical purpose; and if it is not to be acted upon by a body of landlords sensible in number, it could not be introduced into the Bill for any practical, useful purpose, and would lead to no practical, good, result. Well, has my hon. Friend fulfilled that preliminary condition? I affirm boldly that he has not. True, the hon. Member for the county of Gal way (Mr. W. H. Gregory) has given the plan his frank and cordial support. My hon. Friend the Member for Galway is well known as a worthy representative of an admirable class of landlords; but he stands alone in supporting this clause and in saying—"Pass it and I will act upon it." One swallow does not make a summer, and my hon. Friend the Member for Galway's adhesion does not suffice by itself to fulfil the indispensable condition to which I have referred. Well, my hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny has this advantage, that his plan, I admit, on the face of it bears the appearance of free contract; and I frankly allow that the limitation of the freedom of contract—although we are obliged to adopt and adhere to it, and maintain it firmly, for the sake of the purposes of the Act—is a choice of evils. We are sorry that it is necessary to interfere with freedom of contract, and my hon. Friend has the advantage of appearing to return to freedom of contract; but is the freedom of contract which the plan bears on the face of it a real freedom? He cannot himself but have been struck with the singular fact that in this House, where so many Irish landlords sit, and where so many Gentlemen on both sides are well qualified to assist the House by their weight, by their sense, and their experience, there has been an extreme paucity of witness borne in favour of his project. It is true, I believe, that 39 non. Members signed a Memorial recommending the consideration of a plan of this kind; but permit me to say it is one thing to sign a Memorial in the 1026 early stages of a discussion of this sort, when the Bill produced by the Government was a speculation not as regards the convictions of the Government themselves, but as regards its acceptance by this House: it is one thing to sign a Memorial recommending a plan for consideration, at a time when it only comes into competition with another scheme that has not received the stamp of Parliamentary approval, and entirely another thing to hold yourself bound to adhere to that provisional assent, given at a preliminary stage, after this House has deliberately and upon full discussion and I consideration affirmed by large majorities its sanction and approval of the plan I embodied in the Bill. Well, Sir, but is this plan really founded on freedom of contract? If it is to be incorporated in the Bill, which I hope is shortly to be an Act of Parliament, one of two things will happen. Either it will be a dead letter or it will be acted on. If it is to be a dead letter, then I think we shall all agree it would be better that the Act should not be encumbered with it, because it will assume the character of a promise unfulfilled, and a promise unfulfilled is always an evil in dealings between the Legislature and the people. But if acted on, will it be acted on freely? Is the position in which my hon. Friend proposes we should place the landlord a fair one, either as regards the landlord class or the individual landlord? Now, let us see what our plan is—the plan in what was the Bill of the Government and what may now be called the Bill of the Committee. In framing this Bill, we were fully aware that it was not a plan which would create a great amount of hilarity in Ireland. Had our object been merely to solicit favour for the hour we should have adopted, no doubt, some plan of absolute tenant-right, of valuation of rents, and in one form or other, of perpetuity of tenure; but on looking carefully through those plans, we thought they were fraught with danger, we thought they involved mischief to every class concerned in the ultimate working of a Land Bill, and, therefore, we founded our Bill on other bases. We resolved to recognize the right of the tenant to improvements made by him, and to sanction custom where established. With the view of checking arbitrary evictions, we framed provisions which impose a payment in the 1027 nature of a fine for such evictions. But in doing this we carefully put aside everything that promised, or seemed to promise, fixity of tenure, and everything in the way of what may be described as valuation of rents. It is said by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny that valuation of rents is in the Bill. I do not deny that, under the Ulster custom, the claims of the landlord and the claims of the tenant may to a certain extent come into conflict. Though there is no valuation of rents, that collision may be said in certain cases to exist. But the Ulster custom is no creation of ours; we only ask Parliament to give its sanction to that which is a custom; and in the most rigid language we prevent the Ulster custom being adopted in other parts of Ireland, unless it is in all respects the Ulster custom. In other words, we have been careful not to allow currency to what may be called a spurious Ulster custom; but outside that custom, what is said about valuation of rents? Future rent is not fixed by the Bill. It is not brought under the cognizance of any authority. A positive charge, limited in its character, is a totally different thing from a valuation of rents. Except in a single retrospective provision, there is nothing to fix the amount of rent which the landlord shall charge the tenant. We shall leave the parties free as to the amount of rent; but in certain cases of eviction we say that the tenant shall be entitled to compensation in respect of the amount of rent. Everyone will admit that, whether it be right or wrong, this division is strictly limited. It is retrospective. Where contracts have been recklessly formed we have asked that eviction for non-payment of rent shall, if the Court think fit, be deemed a disturbance of the tenant. But that is not to enable the Court to see what rent shall be paid hereafter or what shall be paid now. It is merely a declaration that where an extravagant bargain has been made which the tenant is not able to fulfil, he shall not lose his claim to compensation on being turned out of his holding. My hon. Friend has taken and put together all those ideas most fascinating to the Irish mind, susceptible as it is on this land question; and when we consider what this land question is, we can account for the excitable temper of the Irish people being stirred, bewitched, led away by the pre- 1028 sentation of ideas as to fixity of tenure and valuation of rents, which, like so many flowers of fragrant scent and brilliant hues, he has gathered and bound together. If Parliament sanctions what he proposes, he would present them to the Irish tenant, and say—"Valuation of rents and perpetuity of tenure have received the sanction of Parliament, and there is nothing wanted to prevent you from enjoying them but the will of that individual man, your landlord." If we believed that the provisions which my hon. Friend proposes would be beneficial to the country, it would be our duty to give them compulsory force by legislative enactments, and to consider from what sources we ought to provide compensation to the landlord for the deprivation of rights which he now enjoys. We do not believe that the adoption of my hon. Friend's proposition would be for the advantage of the Irish tenant; and I do not think my hon. Friend will be surprised that, feeling it to be our duty to conduct this measure through the House in a spirit of perfect impartiality towards every class, we are unable to accede to a proposition which would place such a strain on one class, and not only on one class, but on every member of that class. I cannot admit for a moment that the principle of my hon. Friend's proposition is reconcilable with the principle of this Bill, while I gratefully admit the value of the support we have received from my hon. Friend in the progress of this measure through the House, and entirely accept his assurance, which is borne out by the course he has hitherto adopted, that he does not intend that his clauses should interfere with the working of the Bill. I am relieved from going into the details of those clauses by the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland, who explained the position of mortgagees and other encumbrancers, who, if the clauses of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny were adopted, would find, in 10, 15, or 20 years, claims of which they had never heard or dreamt taking precedence of theirs. If we went into Committee on these clauses we should find insurmountable difficulties of detail in the way of their adoption. But I am about to make an objection of a more general kind. The Government has, at 1029 every stage of the Bill, endeavoured to place this one feature full in the notice of the House—namely, that the Bill has been studiously framed in the spirit described by my hon. Friend the Member for Cavan (Mr. Saunderson), who said, as an Irish landlord, he hoped that, upon the passing of the Bill, it would not be his duty to take any step whatever. The object of the Government has been so to frame the Bill that it shall not entail upon any landlord or any occupier the necessity of taking any positive step whatever—that it shall descend upon Ireland as a vessel well launched descends into the sea, without shock or perturbation of any kind, and only find its existence in increased confidence, goodwill, industry, and outlay, and in greater cheerfulness and activity in daily operations, and not by its occasioning the resorting to formal proceedings for the inauguration of the new state of things. But how does the plan of the hon. Member stand that test? He states that the object of his plan is to avoid litigation. But he begins in a Court, and he requires that every landlord shall, through the medium of that Court, challenge his tenants to enter into a new state of things in order to carry out a preliminary, without which his plan can never take effect and must remain a dead letter. That is a mode of procedure so entirely at variance with the principles of the Bill that Her Majesty's Government have felt that it would be impossible for them to accede to it, even had the hon. Member shown that a great body of the Irish landowners were prepared to accept it. The hon. Member has, however, not shown that there is the slightest probability of even a handful of the landlords being prepared to act upon his plan; and although, no doubt, it has been benevolently, carefully, and ably drawn, it is not such a plan as, in the judgment of the Government, has a claim on the assent of Parliament. The Government, holding these views, would not be discharging their duty to the Irish people were they to encourage the hon. Gentleman to believe that it would be possible for them to assent to his plan being incorporated in the Bill; but, on the contrary, they would be rendering themselves liable to the charge of having endeavoured to bewilder and delude him.
§ MR. PIM
said, he hoped his hon. 1030 Friend the Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) would be satisfied with the discussion, without pressing the clause to a Division. He was one of those to whom the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Saunderson) had referred as having signed the document which had been so frequently referred to in the course of the debate, and having afterwards changed his opinion; and he knew that he did not stand alone in this respect. [Laughter.] Hon. Members might laugh, and any hon. Member who had never signed a document which he afterwards regretted having signed, was fully entiled to laugh. The objections which had been urged against the proposal by the Government appeared to him to have such weight that, if the hon. Member determined to divide the Committee, he could not vote with him; but he thought these objections had much less force if applied to the other plan which had been proposed by Judge Longfield, and which he felt strongly inclined to support.
§ MR. MURPHY
said, he rose to explain the causes that had led him to sign the document. He might observe that he had only recently returned from Ireland, and that he had found that the Irish people were becoming more satisfied with the Land Bill every day. They believed that if it was honestly carried into effect it would prove a great boon to their country. They said it was a better Bill than they had reason to expect, and that they had never dreamt that they should live to see it carried into effect. He had signed the document not because he approved the principles it set forth before any others, but because he thought it worthy the consideration of the Government. He had, in fact, signed the document, desiring the Government to consider the scheme, and to ascertain whether the Government would consent to it; and not for the purpose of binding himself to the hon. Member's (Sir John Gray's) clauses.
SIR JOHN ESMONDE
said, he was in a somewhat different position from several hon. Members who had addressed; the House. He had declined to sign the document referred to; and he stated at the time as a reason for so declining, that the effect of the principle therein advocated would interfere with existing settlements of property, especially as regarded limited owners and encumbered estates.
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
said, he had had no communication with the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Murphy), as to the policy of his clause; but he received a letter from the hon. Gentleman stating that the Member for Galway (Mr. W. H. Gregory) was authorized to place his name to the requisition.
§ MR. MURPHY
Does the hon. Member mean to say that I did not expressly state to him that care should be taken to provide for limited owners?
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
replied that on several occasions he had taken the liberty of asking his hon. Friend (Mr. Murphy), as a legal man of great experience, if he could suggest any plan of getting over the difficulty suggested by the hon. Member for Waterford (Sir John Esmonde), but in vain. He was bound to say that the Government had strictly kept their promise to allow an opportunity for the discussion of this proposition; but he was not satisfied with the answers which had been given to the arguments used in its support. Nothing could be clearer than that the Bill embodied the principle of adjustment and valuation of rent; but the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had overlooked the 6th clause, which dealt with the matter. There was no ground for the imputation that this proposition had been made for the purpose of promoting agitation. It was intended to have precisely the opposite effect.
§ MR. MORRISON
said, he regretted that Judge Longfield's plan had not been more fully considered; but, as it was essentially an Irish question, he thought it would be for Irish Gentlemen to decide what course they would take with regard to it.
§ MR. COGAN
said, that he rose as one of those who had pressed the consideration of this proposition on the Government some weeks ago. He did not regret that he had done so; but he would now suggest to the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray), whether it would not be consistent with the object he had in view to be satisfied with the discussion which he had evoked? A Division would probably place some Members in a position of some difficulty. Many were in favour of the hon. Member's proposition, while others preferred Judge Longfield's plan. Having regard to the course taken by the Government, and the views of hon. Members opposite, 1032 there could be no donbt as to what would be the result, if the Committee divided; and he thought it would be better to abstain from a Division, which might tend to lessen the moral effect of the Bill.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 29; Noes 317: Majority 288.
§ MR. MORRISON
said, that after the position in which his proposal was left by the Division, he would not put the House to the trouble of again dividing, but would consider whether it was desirable to raise the question in another form.
THE O'CONOR DON
said, he begged to move that the Chairman report Progress, only for the purpose of expressing his regret that the proposition of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Morrison) had not been discussed but had simply been dismissed by the Prime Minister in a few words. He hoped the hon. Member would avail himself of another opportunity to have the matter discussed.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
SIR HERVEY BRUCE
proposed, after Clause 11, to insert the following clause:—(Lettings in con-acre.)For the purposes of this Act the letting by con-acre shall be deemed a subletting where the same land is let oftener than once in four years, or is let for the planting of any crop but potatoes or other green crop.He said that though he could not agree in the extreme approval which had been expressed of the Bill yet when it became law he should go to Ireland with a firm determination to carry out its provisions and make it work as well as possible. He must express his regret that the Judges were to be paid by results, for he feared that such a system would cause protracted litigation.
§ Clause (Lettings in con-acre,)—(Sir Hervey Bruce,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, no notice was taken in the Bill of the con-acre system, and it was better to leave the matter to be settled between the landlord and tenant.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
said, it was desirable that the labourer should be assisted in obtaining a piece of land for sowing his potatoes in, and he trusted the Chief Secretary for Ireland would reconsider the matter.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, he believed that the con-acre system would be destructive to the best interests of Ireland.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 90; Noes 177: Majority 87.
§ MR. W. H. GREGORY
said, he had an important clause to move. It related to the conditions for the erection of labourers' cottages; but, at that late hour of the night, it would be hardly possible to do justice to it.
said, he would submit that in the case of a very great measure like this, when there had been prolonged discussion, the Committee should make some special effort when they came near the close, not by abridging discussion—no Government had a right to demand that—but by submitting to personal inconvenience as to hours of attendance. It was essential to finish during this week the Committee on the Bill, in order that it might be reprinted and circulated, and he, therefore, hoped that if Progress were reported now, the Bill would be disposed of in Committee to-morrow night.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at half-after One o'clock.