HC Deb 16 July 1873 vol 217 cc464-82

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [18th June], "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now" and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Sir James Elphinstone.)

Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

Debate resumed.


said, that if nobody thought it his duty to rise and enter a protest against that most remarkable measure, he at least felt compelled to do so. Some discussion took place a few weeks ago upon the Bill, and there appeared then to be a general understanding that the discussion of the subject was not likely to be resumed in the present Session. An hon. and gallant Friend of his the Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone)— whose absence on that occasion they all regretted, especially the cause of it—moved the rejection of the Bill, and he (Mr. Lowther) had certainly listened in vain to hear any argument in its favour. Clause 2 said that the tenant of a farm was to be entitled, at his own will and discretion, to erect buildings upon that farm, and in subsequent clauses it was provided that the tenant might compel the landlord at the expiration of his lease to buy the buildings. A more monstrous or outrageous proposition was never submitted to Parliament. Hon. Members might tell them that there were exceptional reasons for passing a measure of this kind for Scotland. On the other hand, they had been constantly told that, owing to the system of leases, the Scotch tenant was in a better position, and was more of a capitalist, than his fellow in England; and if that were so, there was less reason for applying legislation of this kind to Scotland than to any other part of the United Kingdom. Moreover, the difficulty of providing sufficient cottage accommodation was not exclusively felt in agricultural districts. Anybody who knew anything of the mining districts must be perfectly well aware that that was a difficulty which had always been felt; and on an estate with which he was himself not wholly disconnected, a practice had prevailed for many years of giving the colliery lessee power under his lease to erect such cottages as might be necessary for the efficient working of the colliery, and at the expiration of the term of his lease he was to give his landlord notice of the exercise of the right of pre-emption, or restore the ground to its original condition. Now, Clause 2 would almost lead the House to believe that that was the intention of the Bill; but if such was the intention, it was entirely over-ridden by the subsequent clauses. It was a crude and ill-digested scheme, and he protested against dealing in an exceptional manner with one portion of the United Kingdom in matters of the kind, and he begged to move that the Order be discharged.


said, that there was an Amendment before the House—That the Bill should be read a second time that day six months—and until that Amendment was disposed of, no other Amendment could be moved.


said, the Amendment would answer his purpose equally well, and he should vote for it.


said, it was alleged when the Bill was last under discussion that it would prove a dead-letter; but he did not think it was open to the charge brought against it by the hon. Member for York. If it were not an effectual Bill, it was at least a very innocent one, because it threw the burden of constructing these cottages upon the tenant. It was also a very necessary measure, for the erection of labourers' cottages was actually requisite on many estates in Scotland. The whole purport of the Bill was to enable a tenant, if he had a farm on which there was not sufficient labourers' accommodation, to erect cottages; and the fact that he was a leaseholder was rather an argument in its favour, because he could not threaten to throw up the farm unless the landlord erected cottages, and he must either conduct his agricultural operations with insufficient accommodation for his labourers, or he must construct cottages himself. It was not to the common interest that a farmer should occupy a holding without sufficient houses for his labourers, and he thought it would be unjust that the burden should be thrown entirely upon him.


thought it was clear that the tenant could not under the Bill erect as many cottages as he chose—he could only erect cottages where they were actually required. If there were no cottages in the immediate neighbourhood of the farm for the use of the labourers, and the landlord would not erect any, surely it could not be any very great hardship on the landlord that at the end of the lease he should be obliged to take possession of those which the tenant had erected, and which were actually needed, at their fair value.


said, that looking at the Bill, it seemed to him to be one to enable a speculative tenant to run up cottages, and then to let them in lodgings without any control on the part of the landlord or anybody else who had the decency and well-being of the country at heart. He supposed Scotland was like England, and anyone who knew anything of the agricultural population of England must know that the great obstacle to good and sufficient cottage accommodation was the herding of persons together in cottages against all decency. That Bill allowed the tenant to build cottages under the pretext of their convenience, but he did not see any test of convenience in its provisions, and a man might say that a cottage would be convenient, and he ran it up, and then let it in lodgings, with a total contempt of all the laws of decency or comfort, and by the Bill he might snap his fingers at the landlord. As long as he was tenant the cottage remained with him; but when he left his holding the landlord might be compelled to buy the building, and probably, the first use made of it would be to pull it down. He should vote for the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, for the cause of whose absence every hon. Member of the House must feel the deepest sympathy.


said, he regretted that the promoters of the Bill should have marred a most valuable principle with some most objectionable provisions. He quite agreed that a tenant who erected a building upon an estate should have power to remove it at the termination of his lease. He considered that a most valuable provision; but the Bill not only allowed the tenant to remove a building, but it gave him the power to sell it to a succeeding tenant; and it gave to the latter the same rights and privileges as were enjoyed by the tenant who erected the building. What was the effect of that? It was not only the buildings that were sold, but by selling them to the succeeding tenant, the landlord was deprived of the use of the land upon which these buildings were erected. He had never heard of such a monstrous proposition as that. He did not think a temporary occupier should have such a power as would enable him to deprive a permanent owner of his own property. They had before them the sad results of such a system as that in Ireland, where, in order to put things right, they were obliged to apply these exceptional remedies. The ease of Ireland, however, should act as a warning, and he trusted that the House would never consent to any Bill for Scotland which would produce the same complications as had been produced in Ireland by the Land Bill. But if he objected to that part of the Bill, he objected still more strongly to the 4th clause, by which a temporary occupier would have power invested in him of putting down a cottage on his proprietor's estate without giving the slightest warning to his proprietor, or asking his leave, or determining whether the amenity of the property would be destroyed or not. The House was asked to give the tenant full power to put down his cottage, and then, at the end of the lease, the proprietor was to be bound to pay the tenant for that cottage. He thought the House would never consent to a proposition of that kind. A great deal had been said as to the necessity for the Bill. It had been truly said by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen-shire (Mr. Fordyce) in moving the second reading, that there was a want of cottage accommodation in Scotland. But what was the cause of that want? In many parts of Scotland a system had prevailed which was known as "the kitchen system," under which the agricultural labourers were lodged in the farm houses. In other parts of Scotland there was what was called the "bothy system"—that was to say, the agricultural labourers were lodged in houses devoted entirely to unmarried servants. The fact was that the kitchen system had been given up in certain districts; the bothy system had also been given up; and unfortunately cottages were not built in sufficient numbers to meet the deficiency of accommodation which had thus been caused. But if they were to apply this principle to the agricultural districts, why not apply it also to the town districts. If hon. Members would read the statistics for last year, they would find that the want of house accommodation was far greater in the manufacturing counties in Scotland than in the agricultural counties; and if they compared the statistics of 1861 with those of 1871, they would find that the deficiency of accommodation in the agricultural counties was being diminished every year. while the deficiency of accommodation in the manufacturing counties was increasing every year. Under those circumstances, if it was reasonable for the tenant of a farm to have it in his power to erect a cottage upon his proprietor's land without asking his leave, and at the end of the lease to demand payment for the house or cottage, it was surely not less reasonable that a tenant of a house in a town who should find himself deficient of house accommodation for servants should erect these buildings, and at the end of the lease should charge his proprietor with them. He did not see any difference whatever in the two cases. He agreed with that portion of the Bill by which the tenant should have it in his power to remove the buildings he erected on his landlord's estate, and he should on that ground vote for the second reading; but he must protest at the same time against the other extraordinary powers with which it was sought to invest the tenant. But he would rather suggest to his hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire to consider whether it would not be advisable to withdraw the Bill, and introduce next year a short Bill giving the tenant more power than he had at present in regard to the erection of buildings, but free from those objectionable provisions.


I rise immediately, Sir, after my hon. Friend, because I wish to add my entreaty to my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire, not to press the Bill any further. He can hardly be so sanguine as to expect that it will come to anything in the course of the present Session, and the Bill is so objectionable in various and important respects, that even those who sympathize with him—as I do—in the objects he has in view, cannot give it anything approaching to a hearty support. Upon principle I am as adverse to any legislative interference with proprietors in the management of their estates, as with any individuals in any other walk of life in the conduct of their own affairs. That no doubt, like all other general rules, is subject to exception; but I take it to be a general rule of universal application, and not subject to very many exceptions—that men are best left to the management of their own affairs, and that landed proprietors in the management of their own estates are not an exception to the general rule. I quite admit that the law of Scotland, which at this moment governs the relations of landlord and tenant, and in matters not the subject of special contract is, in some respects, in an unsatisfactory condition. Of course, the relation of landlord and tenant may be constituted by contract, and the parties making the contract which constitutes that relation between them, are at liberty, subject to the general law of the land, to make provisions equally for their respective interests. I do not understand, I may observe in passing, that my hon. Friend proposes by this measure to interfere in any way with the perfect freedom of contract between landlord and tenant. There is, however, one rule of law relating to landlords and tenants which the Bill deals with, and which, in my humble opinion, is not only unsatisfactory, but positively wrong. According to the present law, if a tenant farmer, however long his lease may be, erects buildings suitable to his wants during his tenancy, he is not at liberty at the end of his lease to remove them. He can only erect those buildings upon the condition of forfeiting them to his landlord at the end of his lease, without any compensation whatever. Now, I think that that is an erroneous rule of law. and I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. M'Lagan); and in so far as the Bill has for its object and purpose the amendment of this rule of law, I am prepared to give it my support. I think it is reasonable that a tenant should be at liberty to make such erections upon his holding as he finds to be necessary for his convenient use of it under his lease, and that he should be at liberty to re- move the erections at the termination of his lease, unless he arranges with his landlord, upon terms satisfactory to him-self, to allow them to remain. I think that would be a right and reasonable state of the law, in the absence of a special contract between the parties to the contrary. The provisions of the Bill do not appear to me to be satisfactory, because it proposes to amend the law in this matter by making a distinction between the holding of land and certain buildings upon the land. Now, I think my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire and others would be prepared, upon consideration, to say that it would be inconvenient, and in the highest degree subversive of the law relating to such matters, to make a severance between the title to land and the title to buildings upon it. I think it would be productive of the greatest inconvenience when a proprietor went into the market with his property that he should have to go into the history of the buildings upon it, and show whether they are or are not included in the title to the land itself. Therefore while I fully approve of the amendment of the law in this respect, I cannot approve of the manner in which the Bill proposes to effect it. As to Clause 4, which it is impossible not to regard as the main feature of the Bill, and indeed it is described as the purpose of the Bill, "to facilitate the erection of labourers' cottages"—certainly, for my own part, so far from blaming, I feel indebted to my hon. Friend for bringing the matter forward, because it has elicited some valuable discussion upon this subject to which the clause relates. He has shown, I think to the satisfaction even of those who are most strenuously opposed to the Bill, that the accommodation for farm labourers in many parts of Scotland is at least extremely defective. The hon. and gallant Baronet who moved the rejection of the Bill attributed that to the comparatively helpless condition in which many Scotch proprietors were put by the law of entail. He said that by that law they wore cramped and hindered in dealing with their estates in the manner which would be the most beneficial not only to those dwelling upon them, and to the labourers upon them, but also to themselves. The restraints and restrictions of the law of entail, said the hon. and gallant Baronet, interfered with the proprietors in acting as they wished to do—not merely from considerations of self-interest—though these are entirely legitimate, but from considerations of another and a higher order. Well, it is certainly very unfortunate that the proprietors of land could by such an artificial law as the law of entail be hindered from doing that which they would otherwise do in justice to their own feelings, and to their own intelligence in the beneficial management of their estates. But the remedy for that is—not to compel landlords to pay for the erection of such buildings upon the farms, this work not being done by themselves, for they leave their tenants to judge what is suitable for the accommodation of the labourers upon the holdings—the remedy for that state of things is to remove the obstructions and obstacles which the hon. and gallant Baronet referred to as the cause of the existing state of things. Surely it is more proper and more in accordance with the spirit of modern legislation to remove artificial laws which restrain proprietors in the management of their property, rather than to endeavour to overcome one evil by the creation of another. I cannot consent to any proposition such as that contained in this 4th clause, by which the management of their property would be taken out of the hands of the proprietors and placed in the hands of the merely temporary possessors of the land. I may here also remark that no provision as to the endurance of the lease—whether for life or for terms of years—is contained in the Bill, nor does it even prohibit the erection of these buildings in the very last year of the tenancy. I do not wish to use such language as "crude" or "ill-digested;" but my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire, is here dealing with a very large subject, and one upon which it will be very difficult to legislate. That difficulty presents itself upon this matter in a very marked manner. The common experience in legislation upon almost any subject is that it is not a very difficult thing to do the thing you are aiming at, but the difficulty is to do that and no more. In dealing with this my hon. Friend has done a great deal more than he intended. I hope he will be satisfied with the discussion which the introduction of this measure has led to, and which I cannot consider as otherwise than extremely beneficial, and likely to promote the object he has in view in a safer manner than is done by the Bill, and I hope he will not put his Friends to the difficulty of considering whether the balance of advantage would be to support or oppose the second reading.


said, he would not have troubled the House but that the case of Ireland had been referred to, and Irish legislation had been quoted as a reason for the Bill. There was, however, a great difference between the cases of Ireland and Scotland. He did not believe that Scotch proprietors and tenants would wish to compare their position with the state of things which unfortunately prevailed in a great part of Ireland. Even in the case of Ireland there had never been a proposal made to force proprietors to purchase houses to the erection of which they had not given their assent. For his part he could not but regard any interference with freedom of contract as an unmitigated evil. He called attention to the fact that in Scotland there was freedom of contract, and the tenants had leases, while in Ireland most of the tenancies were yearly ones. He could not believe that when a Scotch farmer made a bargain for a 19 years' lease he did not consider whether there were sufficient buildings upon the farm for the labourers' accommodation. He could not conceive that the Scotch farmers would so totally neglect their own interests. He was glad to hear what the Lord Advocate had said on the subject; but he found it difficult to reconcile his speech that day with some of the votes the right hon. and learned Lord had given on the Irish Land Bill.


said, he had never seen a Bill which was more carefully and ably drawn than the present measure. He therefore hoped that, as its principle had been fully recognized, his hon. Friend would, at all events, take a division on the second reading. He and other landlords in Wales had introduced clauses into their leases, securing to the tenants compensation for improvements made with the assent of the proprietors. If cottages for labourers were erected by the tenant with such consent, and it was necessary to take them at the expiration of the tenancy, power might be given to charge the price upon the inheritance. That was in effect what the Bill would do for the tenant-farmers of Scotland, the restriction being that the buildings to be erected should be necessary.


said, that in his opinion, this was a subject of great and increasing importance. The landlords of this country had been considerate to their tenants by providing suitable farm buildings; but it had never occurred to them, as a general rule, that cottages were as essential to the cultivation of a farm as were the farm buildings themselves. He could perfectly well believe that there were many farmers who had long leases, who could not at the present day obtain a competent supply of labour in consequence of the inadequate cottage accommodation at their command. He therefore thanked the hon. Member who had introduced the Bill, for directing attention to that which was an increasing evil—although he admitted that a great number of cottages were being erected where they were most required. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had put forward with great force all that could be said in favour of freedom of contract; but in order to really have freedom of contract the law supposed the two contracting parties were upon an equality. In this case there was a total difference between the two parties in the provisions of the law. The law not only secured the landlord every sixpence of his property, but it enabled him to confiscate his tenants' improvements and eat him up with game without any compensation. It could be truly said that the landlord was clad in mail and armed with the sword of the State, while the tenant had his hands tied behind him, or at most was furnished with an oak stick in the shape of a one-sided lease or agreement, and then they were told they were quite free to settle their differences. The law gave the landed proprietor all the protection of his rights, but did not enforce any one of his duties. There was the law of distress and all sorts of laws for the special protection of landlords, and none or next to none for the protection of the tenant. The hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope) had used an argument of an astounding nature, when he said that the Bill would create overcrowding. He should have thought that by increasing cottage accommodation they would have prevented over- crowding. Labour was now so scarce that men would not walk two or three miles to work as they would formerly do. It was therefore necessary that house accommodation should be provided near the scene of their labour, and any effort to accomplish this object ought to have the serious consideration of Parliament. He should therefore vote for the second reading of the Bill, although he might take exception in Committee to they clause, which said that the landlord should be bound to pay for the buildings whether he liked them or not. He thought it but reasonable that if the landlord declined at the end of a tenancy to purchase the buildings erected by the out-going tenant, the tenant should be at liberty to sell them to his successor, and he was clearly of opinion that it would be but just, if the tenant could not dispose of them, he should have full power to remove the buildings and leave the land clear as he had found it. In the Bill which he was unfortunately obliged to withdraw a fortnight ago, larger provisions were introduced with respect to these matters, but he heartily supported this measure as a step in the right direction.


said, he did not think there was any probability of the Bill becoming law during the present Session. In reference to the question generally, the principal provisions of the Bill were contained in the clause which enabled the agricultural tenant to erect, with or without the consent of the landlord, a certain number of houses on the farm in proportion to the quantity of arable land that might be thereon, and at the end of his tenancy to claim for the value of those buildings. One objection to this was that it would interfere with house-building speculators conducting their operations, and it was also open to many other objections. He understood that the intention was to provide a suitable number of labourers on the spot for the cultivation of the soil; but the House must be careful, in legislating in that direction, that the labourer on the land should have some security for the tenure of the houses when built. Why should not power be equally given to the labourer himself to build? At present the responsibility of building houses rested with the landowner, and that Bill proposed to divide the responsibility between the landowner and the tenant; but suppose neither of them fulfilled that obligation, where would the labourer then be? It would be a great mistake in any legislation on the subject to divide that responsibility solely between the tenant of the farm and the owner of the soil. In such a Bill as this provision ought to be made to enable the labourer to build if he chose, and to give him some permanency of tenure. Public opinion called for the building of proper habitations for the working classes—especially for the agricultural labourers. He was himself owner of some cottages, many of which, he was sorry to say, were empty, the tenants having left them in order to procure more profitable employment in another part of the country. He should vote against the second reading of the Bill, because he did not think it either prudent or wise to attempt by legislation to do that under statutory provisions, which it was much better to leave to be determined by the requirements of the case, and which varied from time to time according to the peculiar circumstances of and the demand for employment.


strongly objected to the principle of the Bill, which might produce even alienation for ever without the consent of the owner of the land. If the measure became law, a man would be enabled to .create what in England would be termed a fee within a fee by putting a house on another person's land so as to form a perpetual incumbrance. Although the Bill only applied to Scotland it would commit just the same injustice as it would in England, and to any perpetual incumbrance, especially on another man's land, without his consent, moreover, he was opposed, and for that reason he should vote against the second reading; although he was willing to concede the right that when a tenant erected buildings upon the land with the consent of the landowner, if the landowner were unwilling to allow such tenant the value of such houses, the latter might have a right to take them down.


said, the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) had exercised his legal ingenuity in attempting to show that the Bill would saddle estates with encumbrances without the consent of the owner. He (Mr. Parker) did not assume to speak with any professional knowledge; but he was very much mistaken if the language of the Bill gave any title to the ground on which the buildings were erected. Certainly if it did, such was not the intention of the promoters of the Bill, and the words could easily be altered in Committee. The real position was this—that the property in the building was to vest in the tenant who erected or who purchased it, and the property in the soil was to remain with the landlord, who also would have the right of pre-emption, and the right to have the surface of the ground restored at the end of the lease. The measure did not interfere with the ordinary contract between landlord and tenant, but provided that in the event of no understanding having been come to between the landlord and the tenant in regard to farm buildings to be erected, the tenant should be entitled to claim the right of removing them or of selling them to a succeeding tenant. The Bill was not to compel but simply to facilitate the erection of cottages. The Preamble of the Bill well set forth the real objects it had in view. The first proposition of the Preamble was a matter of fact—namely, that by the law of Scotland it was presumed that buildings belonged to the person on whose land they were situate; and the second proposition was that this presumption should cease for the future, and that where there was no bargain to the contrary the property in the buildings should remain with the tenant. He thought there had been on both sides some exaggeration of the importance of the provisions relating to cottages. He did not think the Bill would do very much for the erection of cottages, and he was quite sure cottages would not be run up as matters of speculation. The capital of tenant-farmers found plenty of employment in the operations of agriculture, and they would never dream of putting up cottages unless they were really required. There was no doubt great inconvenience existed in consequence of the want of sufficient cottage accommodation. The country districts of Scotland were becoming depopulated. During the ten years of the last Census, the population of the county which he represented had decreased by 5,000—the labourers had gone to the large towns of Glasgow and Dundee, where they could find accommodation and better wages. The question, therefore, was whether it was not worthy of the attention of every person interested in agriculture to give facilities for labourers to remain on the land. He thought the 4th clause might be so modified in Committee as to have all its objectionable features removed. He especially approved of that part of the Bill which gave power to limited owners to provide the necessary cottages on the estate. He hoped the second reading would be agreed to.


said, the hon. Member who had just addressed them had said that the counties of Scotland were rapidly becoming depopulated, and that in his own county the population had decreased 5,000 since the last Census —and this the hon. Member had attributed to the want of cottage accommodation. He could assure the hon. Member that that was an entire mistake.


explained that what he intended to say—and believed he had said—was that the growth of the large towns had caused labourers to leave the agricultural districts, and that such being the tendency, it was worth the while of those interested in agriculture to see that cottages were built, in order that the labourers might have more inducement to remain.


said, they might build palaces for them if they liked; but that would not induce them to remain so long as the wages they could get in the towns were higher than those they were paid in the country. During the last 10 or 15 years he had laid out £30,000 in building houses for his workmen, and until late years he never had any trouble to get labourers of all kinds —in fact, he generally had a redundancy of labour—and there was always a great demand for houses, especially his own, which were of a superior kind; but he could assure the hon. Member that notwithstanding the men were earning very good wages, some of his houses were empty, and one part of his business was diminished and crippled entirely for the want of labour. So long, therefore, as there was one branch of trade extremely profitable they might build as many agricultural cottages as they liked, but they would not get people to occupy them. He had often told the agricultural labourers that they had better remain in the country districts, where there was little disease and plenty of fresh air. He had told them that it was shortsighted policy to run away from a healthy, cheerful, and joyful district for the temporary increased pay of the large towns. They would not do that, however, and they must accept things as they were. This was a free country, and he should be sorry to see that freedom interfered with. He was at a loss, however, to understand how anyone could support the Bill who wished to maintain freedom of contract. They had had a statement from the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read), which went beyond that of the hon. Member for Perth, who had an opportunity this day of delivering an eloquent speech, which was prepared for another occasion when he had intended to bring before the House the question of freedom of contract. According to his argument, the tenant was a poor, naked, defenceless body, utterly unable to withstand his landlord, because he was armed with all the power of the sword. Did the hon. Member really wish to persuade the House that the tenant-farmers were that poor, defenceless, unprotected class that they required special and exceptional legislation? And he put it to him, whether he would support such a Bill as this if it were to be extended to towns and cities? If the hon. Member's (Mr. Clare Read's) description of the tenant-farmers of England was a true one, he (Mr. Orr Ewing) could assure him it was not applicable to the tenant-farmers of Scotland. There was no more sturdy and independent class of people than the tenant-farmers had always shown themselves to be, and the course of events had a tendency to make them still more so. He did not know any landlord who, in dealing with his own tenantry, would not prefer the principle of private arrangement, or who would not say that this Bill would be totally useless. It might answer some hon. Member's purpose to pretend to be a great friend to the farmer; but, so far as the Bill was concerned, he must oppose it as being worthless and while doing so, he claimed for himself the title of as sincere a friend to the farmer as its most enthusiastic supporter. He was most anxious to do everything in his power to promote the interest of the tenant-farmers in Scotland; but he would not pretend to do so by supporting a Bill which he believed would produce endless confusion and stife.


regarded that as one of the crudest Bills he had ever seen submitted to Parliament, and one more likely to do harm than good. If a tenant had a piece of land opposite his landlord's mansion and did not happen to be on very good terms with him, he could build a row of cottages upon it. He concurred with the views of the previous speakers in thinking that an attempt to interfere with the freedom of contract between the landlord and his tenant, and he protested against it. It was a measure more likely to emanate from a Parliament of women than of "grave and reverend seigniors." He strongly objected to the great waste of Parliamentary time by the introduction of Bills of the sort, which could never come to fruition, although they kept the House frequently up to an advanced hour of the early morning. His health had suffered considerably by those post-midnight sittings, and he was determined if he had an opportunity next Session, to introduce a Bill to oblige them all to go home to their beds at 11 o'clock at night. He hoped that no more time would be wasted over the Bill, and that it would be thrown out by a large majority.


said, he had listened with great pleasure to the promise of the hon. Member to bring in a Bill to put a stop to 2 and 4 o'clock sittings, and to send everyone home at 11 o'clock, and would promise to support such a measure. He was also sure hon. Members of that House generally, and especially the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, would be grateful to him for doing so. As regarded the Bill, he believed it was a step in the right direction to improve the condition of tenants, and it should have his support when amended in Committee, and although he considered it an impracticable one in its present shape, yet he was very glad that attention had been called to the subject, believing as he did that there was great need for improvement as regarded the present condition of labourers' cottages. From the introduction of machinery, and one cause and another, our agricultural population was gradually deteriorating, which was a great misfortune to the country. It was of the greatest importance upon that and upon every ground that their condition both as to house accommodation and otherwise should be improved.


said, that the Bill gave a tenant power against his landlord to erect any sort of structure or fence which he might consider necessary. There was to be no limit to the number of cottages he might put up, although the Bill placed some limitation on the number to be paid for. A tenant, therefore, might erect a number of hovels for a temporary purpose. He was not bound to keep them in repair; and the landlord, who had no power to do any repairs during the tenancy, would have all the discredit. He believed the House would violate both justice and common sense in reading the Bill a second time, for its principle was utterly at variance with the rights of property. Besides that, there was no necessity for it, and even if there was its operation would, he believed, prove detrimental not only to the landlord, but also to the tenant and agricultural labourers themselves.


said, he thought that England had been somewhat too largely imported into the discussion of this Bill for Scotland. The circumstances of England and Scotland, however, were so different that arguments drawn from the experience of English Members did not apply to the Bill. That was a question between the landowner and the tenant not of every farm, but of every farm where there was not one cottage to every 100 acres of land. This Bill did not propose to apply any provision to those farms which had one cottage to every 100 acres of land; and he would remind the lion. Member opposite (Mr. J. Lowther) that the tenant could not claim the whole expenditure upon any buildings, as he bad stated, at the expiration of the lease, but only what they were worth. But that must be clone by agreement—his hon. Friend had made a great mistake when he said that the landlord must take the buildings. There was no obligation on the landlord to do so at all. All that the landlord was entitled to require was that the tenant should take away the materials of which they had been formed; and was that au unreasonable proposition? He thought not. But if the landlord said—" I should like to have these things," the Bill provided that a valuer might be appointed to say what they were worth, and at that valuation the landlord might take them. He must confess that upon looking over its provisions the Bill appeared to be one of the most equitable that had ever been introduced into the House. He supported it because, instead of asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer to put his hands into the public purse, it provided that better accommodation for the labourers should be provided by those whose undoubted duty it was to do so. At the present moment our labourers lived a very inferior sort of barrack life in villages, and indeed were much worse off in their domestic arrangements than soldiers. No one who was acquainted with Scotland but must know that in the agricultural districts of Scotland there were hundreds of cottages of the most miserable description, and in many instances there was not a cottage to be found on a thousand acres of land; and in his opinion it was high time that something should be done in the way of improvement on those grounds. He cordially supported the Bill.


said, he did not intend to reply in detail to the various Criticisms which had been made on the Bill. He was led, however, to say that it was impossible for him to agree to the advice of the Lord Advocate and of his hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. M'Lagan) to withdraw it. It had been called a crude Bill; but it had been well considered in Scotland, and the Agricultural Societies, which represented the tenant-farmers of Scotland, were unanimously in its favour, and the Chamber of Agriculture, of which the hon. Member for Linlithgow was a member, had petitioned to that effect. If anyone thought the measure an extreme one, which he denied, let him remember that it was intended to meet an extreme grievance—the frightful over-crowding and want of accommodation for agricultural labourers—shown by the fact that one-third of the families of Scotland lived in houses of one room with one window or with none. Let him recall to the house the exact provisions of the Bill. By the law of Scotland all buildings erected by the tenant belonged to the landlord in the absence of specific agreement to the contrary. The fundamental proposition of this Bill was an alteration of that presumption of law in favour of the tenant. It divided buildings into two classes, and the provisions in reference to each of these were somewhat different. In regard to buildings other than labourers' cottages, the provision was, that at the end of the lease he was entitled to remove the materials, or sell them to the incoming tenant or the landlord. In regard to cottages, the provision was, that where these did not exist to the extent of one for every 100 arable acres, and the tenant supplied the deficiency, he was to be entitled to recompense to the extent of £100 for each such cottage, provided first the Sheriff found it worth that amount, that it had three rooms and 3,000 feet of cubic contents. Could anything be more reasonable than that? In conclusion, he would mention that an hon. Member (Sir Frederick Heygate) had referred to Ireland; but what was the state of the case there? Why, what did the Blue Book which had just been circulated on the subject prove? The Poor Law Inspectors of districts in Ireland had been invited to give their opinions as to the improvement of agricultural labourers' cottages, and three-fourths of their number recommended the principle of the Bill—namely, that occupiers of land should enjoy facilities of building irrespective of the will of the landlord.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 74; Noes 78: Majority 4.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill put off for three months.