§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
, in rising to move—That, instead of attempting to deal with all classes of agricultural improvements by optional provisions, as in the present Bill, it would be more satisfactory to the country to defer dealing with permanent improvements, and to provide at present that compensation for temporary improvements be imperative in all cases,said, he wished to express his grateful acknowledgments to the Prime Minister for his kind and gracious remarks, and would not interpose were it not that he had an important duty to his constituents in regard to the subject of the Bill. The Resolution which he had to submit would raise various questions, which were dealt with in several Amendments, and it might save time in Committee if these questions were now comprehensively dealt with. The terms of the Resolution were not conceived in any spirit of hostility to the Bill. Indeed, many of his constituents 1669 were deeply interested in the passing of some measure which would secure for them in some degree compensation for unexhausted improvements, and although this was an English Bill, the measure for Scotland, which had been issued within the last few days, was drawn on precisely the same lines as the English Bill, and from the manner the Scotch Business was conducted in the House, he apprehended this was the only opportunity he should have of discussing the principles of the measure. His object, then, in submitting the Motion was to make the Bill, so far as it went, a real measure of practical reform. The Bill which had been introduced by the Government professed to deal with and, indeed, to settle the whole question, by re-adjusting the relations between landlords and tenants in particulars wherein it was admitted they were not now satisfactory; but actually resolved itself into a piece of advice which he was afraid landlords and land agents would not think Parliament specially qualified to give. The Resolution he had the honour to submit he admitted dealt with only one portion of the question; but that however, was the most important part, and he proposed to deal with it in a manner that would gradually work out a practical solution of a very difficult problem. In discussing this subject it was of great importance to keep steadily in view the object they desired to attain, and the obstacles which stood in the way. He apprehended that they were all agreed on this point—that the ultimate object they had in view was to encourage the increase of the fertility of the land, by the passing of such measures as should have this effect. How far the fertility of the land might be increased might be matter of controversy; but, speaking from his own experience and observation generally, he thought it might be profitably increased at least 50 per cent. This, of course, would be open to dispute. But, taking England and Scotland together, the agricultural produce, he believed, might be increased 50 per cent, and that profitably to the landlords and farmers. What were the obstacles to that being done? The limited owner of an estate complained that if he spent money in the improvement of his land he would only reap part of the benefit, and the remaining half would descend to his 1670 successor, whom he had not power to charge with part of the cost. He considered it a very simple act to remove this obstacle, and to give the limited owner the power to charge his estate with a fair share of such improvements as added to the letting value of the estate. Tenants said that increased fertility involved an increased investment of capital in the soil which could not be suddenly withdrawn, and as the opportunity to do so was uncertain, they would not make the investment because the money might be lost; and the professed intention of the Bill was to meet this objection by securing to a tenant compensation for such part of his farming capital as was left to benefit his successor. In framing the Bill, however, the Government had made a fundamental error in confounding together permanent and temporary improvements. A permanent improvement was such as might be said to last for ever, or for a very lengthened period, such as drainage. The proper measure of the value of such improvements was the amount of permanent increase which they added to the annual revenue of the land—that was to say, the increased letting value of the holding. Rightly speaking, these were improvements which should be done by the landlord's capital, but whether done with his capital or by a tenant entitled to compensation, a portion of the sum, in his (Mr. Barclay's) opinion, might fairly and properly be charged on the limited owner's successor. In dealing with this it had been assumed that valuators valuing improvements would take the rent of the land paid by the tenants and compare it with the rent the land would fetch in the market. The question for the valuators, however, was not the value of the land, but the increase in the value owing to the particular improvement. The compensation to the tenant who executed such improvements ought properly to be a lump sum, and the landlord recouped himself in an increased rent. Temporary improvements were altogether different. They lasted only for a limited period. If the tenant executed these temporary improvements, he also had the power, if he had the opportunity, of withdrawing the money so invested. These did not add permanently to the value of the land, and therefore could not properly be estimated 1671 by any addition to the letting value. Arbitrators in valuing temporary improvements would consider whether they were really judicious and valuable improvements, and if so, they would then estimate the cost of doing the improvements, how much the tenant had been repaid, and the balance would be the value left to the tenant's successor. Either permanent improvements ought to be executed with the landlord's capital, or, if executed by the tenant, compensated for in a lump sum and charged on the farm, so far as any portion of it went to the owner's successor. Temporary improvements, as part of the capital employed in farming, the outgoing tenant had, in one view, properly no claim for on the landlord, but on the incoming tenant, for whose benefit part of the farming capital had been left. It was admitted by all that Parliament could not directly enforce either class of improvements, but Parliament could indirectly enforce permanent improvements by giving to tenants authority to execute such, and empowering them to claim compensation from the landlord. Parliament, however, was evidently not disposed to grant this authority, and certainly the Bill did not, for although it was quite true it professed to give a scale of compensation for permanent improvements, he did not think it worth while to occupy the time of the House discussing this scale and the proposals to which it referred, for he did not believe it would ever be adopted in practice if the Bill passed. The provisions relating to permanent improvements were now regulated by the 9th clause of the Bill, which stipulated that the landlord must give his consent to the improvements before he could be liable to any claim for compensation. What would be the practical working of that provision? A tenant might suggest to his landlord, or more likely to the agent, a permanent improvement. The first reply received would be—"Well, I shall submit your proposal to the landlord; but tell me what you intend to do, and at the same time how you expect to be compensated." If the landlord agreed to the execution of the improvement it would be on the terms of the proposal, and the improvements would not come within the provisions of the Bill. A great deal had been made of the argument that the opinion of Parliament on this question would 1672 exercise a considerable influence on landlords. But he hoped he would not be thought guilty of any disrespect to Parliament when he expressed very great doubt upon this point, and indeed so far as they had gone they had had but little encouragement afforded them to entertain that expectation. He had read a great many speeches of hon. Members of Parliament in that House, and of hon. Members out-of-doors who supported the Bill, but no one, not even the noble Duke who had introduced the measure had said that he would adopt its provisions in regard to permament improvements. If no hon. Member would rise and say that he would adopt the provisions of the Bill which related to permanent improvements, what right had they for expecting that landlords generally would pay greater respect to the opinions of Parliament? But let the House consider what would be the effect of a Bill of this permissive nature in other directions. Last year Her Majesty's Government passed through the House a Factory Act limiting the hours of labour for women and children; but of what value would it have been if it had been of non-effect in cases where special bargains were made between the employers and the employed? He could easily imagine the derision and scorn with which such a proposal would have been met. Had they any right to expect that landlords would be more powerfully influenced by the opinion of Parliament than manufacturers? While he did not now ask Parliament to give the tenant power to execute these improvements, he thought Parliament should give more complete powers to limited owners to charge their estates for such improvements as went to benefit their successor. He believed there would be no difficulty in doing that. He would propose, as regarded temporary improvements, to apply to tenants and their successors the same principle as he would to limited owners and their successors with respect to the permanent improvements, and would ask the House to lay down and enforce the principle that in cases where the outgoing tenant left a part of his farming capital for the benefit of his successor, that successor should be in equity made to pay for the part of the capital left in the soil for his benefit. Landlords would not necessarily be called upon to pay 1673 any portion of the compensation, for matters might be arranged so that the incoming tenant relieved the landlord of liability altogether. The incoming tenant would be quite prepared to pay not only compensation, but an additional rent for having the farm in good condition, because if the outgoing farmer left a portion of his farming capital in the land his successor would be benefited, while if he did not leave it the successor would have to invest in the farm a like sum before he could get a return, and probably it would require two or three years to do so productively. He would briefly indicate the provisions which seemed to him to be necessary to carry into effect such a principle. The Prime Minister in the early part of the year, in reply to a deputation on this subject, indicated that in drawing up the Bill they would do well to be guided by the experience of Lincolnshire. In all its details, however, the Lincolnshire custom was not applicable to all parts of the country, but what he (Mr. Barclay) desired to see was a corresponding custom established all over the country. Assuming that they had enforced the principle that the incoming tenant should compensate the outgoing tenant for such part of his capital as he had left in the soil for the benefit of his successor, Parliament, then, instead of going into details, might lay down a maximum period beyond which no compensation should be claimed; secondly, matters in respect of which compensation might be claimed; and, thirdly, the maximum amount of compensation might be limited. If the measure embodied these principles, they might leave it to local valuators and men of experience throughout the country to settle the details and the amount of compensation. The details of the Lincolnshire tenant-right custom had grown out of the experience of practical men; and, following the same principle, they would in time have established in each district a tenant-right custom adapted to the circumstances of that particular neighbourhood, and settled by men of local experience. The scale laid down in the Bill was altogether too rigid, and the provisions in regard to temporary improvements had evidently been framed by the drawers of the Bill without consultation with any practical farmer. Had the Bill, before being printed, been shown to any experienced 1674 agriculturist, the discrepancies in the scale would have been so apparent that it would not have been presented in its present form. He did not wish to enter fully into details which might be better discussed in Committee, but to justify his remark would refer to the provisions for compensation for lime. The duration of lime and the beneficial effects of it varied very considerably, according to the soil. Practical farmers would tell them that on certain soils the beneficial effects of lime were not found till two or three years after it had been put in, and he knew that that was the case in some lands in Scotland. Now, by this Bill the benefit of lime was supposed to be exhausted in seven years, in seven equal annual proportions. Then, as to manures. A tenant might, in the month of March or April, apply 30s. worth of nitrate of soda to his hay crop; he might reap that crop in June and leave his farm in October, and yet, according to the Bill, would be entitled to claim the full 30s. in compensation, although the beneficial effects of nitrate of soda were generally almost exhausted by the first crop. Then, in regard to the question of boning, without entering into the scientific aspect of the matter, he might say that the value of bones did not depend on whether they were dissolved or undissolved, but on the quantity of phosphate applied. Assuming that a farmer boned his land with 3 cwt. of undissolved bones, and that his succeeding crops exhausted 1 cwt. of phosphate of lime each year, the beneficial effects would have been expended by the end of three years. Yet the Bill went on the assumption that something would still be left at the end of six years. He would not detain the House further with these details. He thought the real and sound thing to do would be to state definitely the matters in respect of which compensation might be claimed, the maximum period for which the claims might be made, and their maximum amount, leaving it to local arbitrators of experience to fix what should be the actual compensation in each case, having regard to the soil and mode of farming in the district. The details would then, in course of time, be settled by lengthened experience, as was now done in the case of the Lincolnshire tenant custom. He must, however, call special attention to the deterioration 1675 clause, and to the claims landlords were to be allowed to make on the tenant in regard to what was called waste under Clause 14—a clause which seemed to him so one-sided and unjust that he was surprised it should have come down from the other House. In regard to the claims which tenants were to be allowed to make, the landlord was protected and closely fenced about by conditions as to what the claims might be made for, their maximum amount, and how they were to be valued; but in regard to the claims the landlord might make, the tenant was protected by no limit or conditions. A tenant quitting his holding would have no idea as to what claims he might be liable for from his landlord in regard to waste. The next clause was still more objectionable, because it permitted landlords to claim compensation in respect of breach of covenant or other agreement connected with a contract of tenancy. Those acquainted with the management of land knew that in almost every case the tenant had to submit to a great number of stipulations and conditions of lease, some of them almost absurd, many impracticable, and some impossible; and the only excuse landlords could offer for making those stipulations was that they were never enforced. Under the Bill, however, the landlord had the option of going back through the whole period of the tenant's occupation and claiming for damages, waste, and breaches of agreement during that occupation. If the Bill was allowed to remain in that condition, he should recommend the tenant farmer to contract himself out of its provisions, because otherwise, when he came to leave his holding, he would be liable to claims from the landlord of the extent of which he could have no idea. Furthermore, the Bill contained provisions which seemed calculated to encourage the landlords to make those claims. Clause 15, after providing that a tenant should give notice of his claims for compensation, went on to say that where the tenant gave such a notice the landlord might, prior to the determination of the tenancy, give a counter-notice. Certainly, that was inviting landlords of a certain class to make claims. It seemed to indicate how the purpose of the Bill might be defeated, by pointing out that if the tenant sent in a claim for compensation landlords might get up a counter claim. 1676 If a landlord was entitled to compensation at all, his right to claim ought not to depend on whether or not the tenant made a claim, as the Bill seemed to provide. It would, doubtless, be said that his proposal, if carried, would be fatal to the further progress of the Bill; but if the Government really wished to pass a measure serviceable to the tenant farmer, it would be easy enough to re-model the Bill in Committee in the manner he had suggested. It could be done by withdrawing clauses, rather than by adding them. He hoped it would not be pleaded that the success of his Amendment would necessitate the withdrawal of the Bill. His proposal would in no way interfere with the rights of property. It would not affect the rights of landlords; and if it affected their property to any degree, it would do so only to benefit it. He appealed to those who knew the Lincolnshire tenant-right custom to say whether it had not added largely to the rents and value of estates in that county. Indeed, he thought the Bill, without any reference to landlords at all, might simply provide that the outgoing tenant should be entitled to compensation from the incoming tenant for what he left behind him of benefit to such incoming tenant. There would be no interference with contract. On the contrary, Parliament would only be establishing an equitable arrangement between the outgoing and incoming tenant—parties who could not have an opportunity of making any contract together. A farmer, when making an improvement, had no idea who his successor was to be; and, indeed, had very often no idea that he himself was going to quit. He (Mr. Barclay) only asked in reference to temporary improvements that Parliament should step in and lay down the basis of an equitable arrangement between outgoing and incoming tenants in a matter as to which they had no opportunity of dealing themselves. That would be simply to develop a system which already obtained to a considerable extent, because there was hardly ever a change of tenancy in which the incoming tenant did not take over from the outgoing tenant a considerable amount of plant and farming property either by valuation or agreement. All he proposed was that that system should be carried out to a greater extent than, except in Lincolnshire and one or two other places, 1677 it was at present. It might be urged as an objection to his proposal that it did not settle the question. Well, he must confess that, in his opinion, the question would not be finally settled until all parties having an interest in it were directly represented in that House. He did not think any hon. Member would deny that the agricultural labourer was very deeply interested in these questions. He was aware of the unhappy state of matters at present between farmers and labourers, but that would not continue. The farmers had been successful in putting an end to the strikes; but the labourers were taking a more effective course by withdrawing themselves from the poorly paid districts to places where wages were higher, and to foreign lands. That must by-and-by have its effect, and unless farmers were prepared to do without labourers at all they must come to terms, partly perhaps by increasing the wages, but a good deal more he thought could be done by the improvement of house accommodation, and also by granting the labourers allotments, which would give them a greater interest in, and a much stronger tie to, the soil than at present. But the farmer could not grant those advantages to the agricultural labourer without having greater facilities secured to himself. Speaking from his own limited experience, he believed those increased facilities would not be granted to the farmers, until they were extorted by the joint pressure of the farmers and the agricultural labourers in that House. The Bill now before them was far from settling matters; indeed, it would leave the whole question in a more awkward position than it was at present. He had no hesitation in saying that the utter futility of the Bill would be fully discovered before the next General Election; but it would, at all events, give the tenant farmers this advantage, that they would be able to put to candidates the categorical question— "Will you make the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1875 compulsory?" That was a question which he was sure hon. Members would have to face at the next Election. If the Bill passed in its present form, it would unsettle the existing relations between landlord and tenant without doing anything to establish a better system. Instead of giving security and confidence to farmers, it would create, and indeed was already creating, 1678 alarm, distrust, and insecurity. The measure would serve as an excuse for certain landlords to re-value their farms, and increase the rents on the plea that the Bill might otherwise be used against them. The Resolution he had now to submit to the House would tend to a solution of at least one branch of the question, and in a manner which would be admitted, by hon. Members who looked at the matter impartially, to be at once practical and safe. If his proposal was embodied in the Bill it would do a great deal to satisfy farmers, and was perhaps as much as could be expected from a Government dealing for the first time with a very great and intricate question. In conclusion, the hon. Member thanked the House for having so patiently listened to him, and moved the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. PEASE
In seconding the Amendment of the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay), I beg the House will not think I desire to postpone so much the Committee as to address myself to this important measure. It seems to me we are starting upon the details of a measure, the importance of which cannot be over-estimated—both in its immediate effect upon both landlord and tenant, and still more in its immediate effect on future legislation on this subject—and this I deem the most serious point for consideration. Indeed, Sir, when we look upon the enormous interests involved, I may say that no Bill of equal importance has claimed the attention of this Parliament. The Returns show that there are 23,000,000 acres of land in grass or under cultivation in England. This is valued at £1,000,000,000, and the value of the tenant's capital is estimated at £230,000,000. With this large interest you are about to deal. And, Sir, if there is no other reason for a discussion on this Bill, it would be that the face of the measure is altered very materially, in accordance with the intimation made to the House by the Prime Minister on the second reading of the Bill—an intimation which took the House so much by surprise. I am one who has for long advocated legislation in this direction, and I still do so, notwithstanding the many difficulties which surround everyone who approaches this question. But, Sir, whilst I have advocated legislation, 1679 I have always admitted that which the House will generally admit—that, as a rule, the understanding between land-lord and tenant in this country is excellent and cordial. The legal tenure, we all know, is a short one—the practical and actual tenure a long one, we all know; it is one which exists from generation to generation, an evidence at once of the excellent character of the relationship, and that legislation is only required for exceptional cases. It is evident, therefore, that the enormous powers vested in the English landlord are not generally abused, and that a short tenure is the favourite tenure nearly everyone will admit. With an opinion so general, and a state of things so satisfactory, we ought, in my humble opinion, to be most careful how we break up existing relations; and if we do so, we must be sure that we are laying the foundation-stone at least for building up a better state of things than that which we, in any degree, destroy or even jeopardize. The main reasons for dealing with the question of tenant-right were well stated by the right hon. Gentleman in moving the second reading of the Bill. He said, putting the proposition negatively, it is to be deprecated that there should be no security for capital. He put the proposition positively, and said the tenant should be secured compensation for his unexhausted improvements. To that proposition I would add a second—that the landlord's right in his property should be interfered with as little as possible. We all agree to interfere in some degree. It is only a question of in what degree; and, as a question of degree, I propose to argue it. But by far the most important aspect is a view on which little stress has been laid—that it is to the interest of the Commonwealth that the land should produce as much as possible. I would also add, up to a certain mark—that any law which secures to the tenant his unexhausted improvements will be a benefit to the landlord; as such a condition, carefully laid down, would add to the value of a farm for purposes of rent. Therefore, any Act of Parliament on this subject should increase the tenant's security in his holding, should add to the value of the land to the landlord; and should add to value of the products of the land to the Commonwealth. Now, Sir, I have come 1680 to the conclusion that this Bill, if passed into law, will not come up to this standard. It certainly gives no security to the tenant for his capital; it certainly detracts rather than adds value to the landlord's property; and, as it gives no statutory security—or an infinitesimal one—to the tenant for the outlay of capital, so it gives no guarantee to the Commonwealth that it will increase the production of the soil. The obvious effect of the Bill will be, though it disturbs all the existing relations between landlord and tenant—which we all agree, in the majority of cases, are working well—it yet raises nothing in their place but weak and ill-conceived permissive regulation. If it gives, it gives so grudgingly as to take away all benefit in the gift. It plays so weak a game it must lose. To use the words of a tenant farmer, who writes me on the subject—The present concoction of absurdities cannot please either landlord, tenant, or the public—each and all must feel that it is all bosh. It is worse than milk and water, as that will allay thirst; but this Richmond mixture will only add heat to the tongue.The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty told us this Bill came from the Lords, and that they thoroughly understood all questions of land. I think we shall all agree that the Bill bears on its face its paternity, and all the alterations made by their Lordships were not in accordance with the apparent desires of the Government, but to narrow the action of an already most impracticable measure. There is no impress of the tenant farmer upon it. Now, Sir, let us look at the Bill, which we are invited to go into Committee either to pass or to amend—to pass in its present form, or to amend according to Notices on the Paper. The first part of the Bill is the first class of Clause 5. Why is this class put into the Bill at all? At present all the powers conferred exist. Landlords and tenants can do all that this clause gives them power to do, and far more. The whole effect of valuing things, which a landlord and tenant may do, is to define what they are expected to do. The whole effect of this is detrimental to the tenant farmer, and I object to it. To schedule a list of improvements, and then say that the tenant shall not be entitled to compensation, unless he has executed it with the pre- 1681 is simply to say he may do under this Act what he could do, and do better, before it passed. I say your Schedule is a blind guide, which can do no good, and may lead astray. Then, I shall be told that I must look at this in regard to the limited owner. I think the limited owner portion is the best part of the Bill, but the limited owner can be aided much more easily and simply than by this clause. I am no great friend to your laws of entail; but I say if these laws are to be maintained, you have no right to allow the limited owner to spend and arrange for expenditure, without an appeal to some tribunal which must guard the interest of the remainder-man. I have endeavoured in the Amendments, which I have ventured to suggest, to do away with the first class, and to preserve and improve the Bill as regards the limited owner and his successor. Mr. Knollys, the well-known land agent, in his paper—read to the Surveyors' Institute, 4th January, 1875, says—Limited owners should not have power to agree with tenants to make permanent improvements, except under the authority of the In-closure Commissioners.And now, Sir, let us look at your second class improvements—burning, chalking, liming, and marling. How do these affect the tenant? He cannot claim compensation at all, if he gives 22 days' notice before beginning—or if he only gives six days' notice. There are 14 days in which he must give notice and begin, or he has no compensation for seven years' improvement. Why, Sir, I often waited three weeks for lime, and, when it came, two weeks for weather. But, Sir, we will imagine all having gone on well, and the improvements made. Are you going to give the tenant this power to do what he calls a seven years' improvement—of which his landlord may have to pay six—and give his landlord no appeal against the notice? It seems to me to be a very extraordinary proceeding. I go further than this, and I say that the landlord, at least, ought to have a reference of how the money is to be spent, where it is to be spent, and what sum expended. Well, Sir, the lime is bought; the landlord is not consulted; he sees his tenant not going on satisfactorily, and the compensation has to be arrived at. They may vious consent in writing of his landlord, agree, for so plainly is this Act worded 1682 that we are told—the landlord and tenant may agree. If not, they go to a reference; andthe amount of compensation shall not in any case exceed a capital sum fairly representing the addition which the improvement, as far as it is unexhausted at the determination of the tenancy, makes to the letting value.Makes to what? The letting value? The arbitrators have to find not the rent, but the letting value, and the tenant's compensation is to be leased on the amount added thereto, limited by the amount originally spent. Knollys says truly—How can this additional letting value be ascertained, unless the previous state and value of the land are known to the arbitrator.It seems to me that by substituting letting value for the actual rent you raise a most artificial and dangerous standard of comparison between landlord and tenant, and one that there is no necessity to set up at all in this case. The bargain between landlord and tenant involves a certain payment, and a certain mode of cultivation on the part of the tenant. If the tenant by expending money in a course of husbandry adds to the temporary productive character of his holding—if he remains, he reaps the benefit; but if he is discharged, all that he requires from his landlord is the repayment of the unexhausted portion of his extra expenditure, the amount of which would cost the succeeding tenant to produce the same effect as the outgoing tenant's expenditure would accomplish. This the landlord can afford to pay, as the incoming tenant will repay him. The payment may be spread over a longer or shorter period. But I fail to see why it should be estimated by a standard of actual or estimated rent, which must ever be a matter of bargain between landlord and tenant, whilst the amount of unexhausted manures is a matter which experience alone can determine and value. Well, Sir, I was anxious to see "what the true friend of the farmer" would say to this, and I looked at once to the Amendments of my hon. Friends, the Members for Mid-Cheshire (Mr. Egerton), West Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot), East Derby (Mr. Arkwright), and Clitheroe (Mr. Assheton). They say lime must be applied to pasture. Cheshire says that no compensation is due to improvement 1683 if one crop of hay has come off the land. The lime used in my part of the world is generally not used in pasture so much as in bare fallows for corn. But all the "farmer's friends"—from the Lords, who give no compensation after corn or potatoes, to my hon. Friends who only pastures lime, and give no compensation if hay has been mown—all take away from the compensation awarded to tenants by Her Majesty's Government! If there was one greater friend to this Bill than another, it is the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), whose speeches we always hear with so much pleasure. Well, Sir, he complained on a very recent occasion of not being able to find animals to carry him. He seems to have ridden this Bill through the second reading; but he finds by the time he gets into Committee that it does not suit him. The hon. Gentleman proposes to divide Class 3 into two classes, 3 and 4–3 to relate to manures. By the Lords Amendments in the Bill, no compensation is allowed after a crop of common potatoes; but the hon. Gentleman restricts this still further. No compensation is to be allowed unless manures are used with green crops; and the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wilts (Sir George Jenkinson), goes still further—that no compensation shall be due unless all home-bred manures are used first of all.
§ MR. SPEAKER
reminded the hon. Member that he would not be in Order in discussing the Amendments until the Bill was in Committee.
§ MR. PEASE
Sir, I have no desire to forestall the discussion of this Bill in Committee; but I wanted to show by these Amendments how variously hon. Gentlemen look upon this subject from the different districts in which they reside, and to show how impossible it is to draw a hard-and-fast Parliamentary line on that which relates to soils, climates, and manures. I look upon Clause 14 of this Bill with great jealousy. Under it, I think I foresee that any good which this Bill might do the tenant farmer might, in certain cases, be withheld from him. The clauses as to cropping, and as to ploughing, and as to repairs of fences, gates, and ditches, in many of our agreements are stringent and close, and old-fashioned—these are made to hold a bad tenant, rarely if ever put into force. A tenant claiming under 1684 this Act will, in many cases, raise at once the scrutiny of the landlord, and, under this clause, it will be in his power to bring up counter claims so serious in character, and yet which would never otherwise have been named, as to make void the actual intentions of the Government by the Bill. And yet, Sir, the clause on the face of it is fair. I could not see my way to say that the same tribunal which gave the tenant compensation for unexhausted improvements should not also compensate the landlord for acts done by the tenant which damage the letting value of the holding. I propose, in Committee, to offer some suggestions in this direction. Then, Sir, Clause 24 seems to me a most extraordinary provision. I have often been in reference—not unfrequently been referee—but this is the first time I ever heard of an arbitrator having to give reasons for an award. I cannot think that in this instance they are wanted or desirable—" Your reasons may be, probably will be, wrong, and yet your judgment right," is said to be a wise judicial axiom. I should think in this matter more than in all others this is salutary advice. I am told, by a most competent Judge, that Clauses 17 to 30 should come out, as better drawn and stated, provisions are to be found in 8 & 9 Vict., c. 19—the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act. On this I offer no opinion. Now, Sir, through this most unsatisfactory Bill, and through these Amendments, we have to steer a way in Committee. I do not myself see how, with such a feeling on the part of the House, any satisfactory measure is to be arrived at. I was unwilling to oppose the second reading, or to oppose going into Committee, because I see behind a not very deep or dark cloud, a measure for compulsory compensation "looming in the future" behind the Bill of Her Majesty's Government. The Act looked for by the tenant farmers of England is one that must be binding, as far as it goes, on both landlord and tenant. We know such a Bill is not wanted in the vast majority of cases—the law now, as of old, is wanted for the evil-doer—" They that are whole need not the physician, but they that are sick." It must give the farmer security for the outlay of capital, not in these large and more ambitious arrangements—the day for these is not here yet—but in carrying 1685 out the simpler and everyday processes which distinguish good farming from bad. What we want is to make the farmer feel as he lays down his cash—for cake, food, and manures—"If my farm looks better—is better, bears better for my expenditure, my new landlord cannot raise my rent, my old landlord cannot think I can pay more, my hard up landlord cannot give me notice to quit, without he pays me fully and fairly for that which I leave behind me, that which I have placed in the land over and above the expenditure in which ordinary farming consists." This is the position which the English tenant farmer asks should be his by statute law, out of which no agreement can shift him. This Bill gives him nothing of the sort—all that it does is to offer a Permissive Bill, unsettling alike to the landlord and tenant. I would, therefore, most respectfully urge on Her Majesty's Government not to go into Committee on that which, when it comes out, will satisfy no one; but to feel that having done great good by bringing this matter fully before the country, next year they can come to us again, with a much simpler Bill, but one much more binding, and directly compulsory in its character.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "instead of attempting to deal with all classes of agricultural improvements by optional provisions as in the present Bill, it would be more satisfactory to the Country to defer dealing with permanent improvements, and to provide at present that compensation for temporary improvements be imperative in all cases,"—(Mr. James Barclay,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ MR. WILBRAHAM EGERTON
said, he did not believe that the tenant farmers of the country had any wish for a compulsory Bill. Such an opinion might be held by Chambers of Agriculture or Farmers' Clubs, but he had yet to learn that they represented the majority of the tenant farmers of the country. He believed, in fact, that the majority of the tenant farmers neither cared nor had any anxiety as to the probable fate of the Bill, because they were perfectly satisfied with their landlords, and an alteration of the law was only required for exceptional cases. The only thing they cared for was the "letting value." It would be a great advantage 1686 to the tenant farmer that the presumption of the law was in his favour, and a Bill of the kind would be a great boon to any who happened to have bad landlords. The effect of a compulsory measure would be to drive small tenants out of the field. The chief cause of bad cultivation was the ignorance of the farmer, and for improvement in that direction they must look to an increase of education. Again, compulsory legislation would tend to raise rents, which would be a great evil. In his own neighbourhood the moderate rents paid by the farmers enabled them to get through the scourge of the cattle plague without being turned out of their farms or becoming bankrupt. They found that throughout the different countries of Europe there were no compulsory regulations between landlords and tenants. They existed to the greatest degree in Denmark, where the farmer, to entitle himself to a return for the capital he invested, must give notice and have the farm re-valued. In this country, too, under a compulsory system, there should be are-valuation of farms. Compulsion was not found to work well abroad; but there prevailed on the Continent more or less of regulation of the relationship existing between landlord and tenant very much of the kind proposed by the Bill. One of the great difficulties in the way of compulsory legislation in this country arose from the variety of customs in the different parts of England, which took their origin in the different natures of the soil. He believed that if the measure became law it would indirectly have the effect of spreading the Lincolnshire custom over the Kingdom, and that before 20 years had elapsed the main provisions of the Bill would form the general basis of all agreements between landlords and tenants, and he must therefore vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member opposite.
§ SIR THOMAS ACLAND
said, that the Bill as it now stood was not the measure which had been introduced into the House of Lords, or oven into the House of Commons. They had been told that there was a great deal of agricultural knowledge in the Cabinet, an amplitude of knowledge, he presumed, from the source from which it came; but he still was of opinion that they were not wise in the course which they had adopted, and that they had not taken a fully sufficient 1687 view of the subject. One mistake they had made was this, they had not taken sufficiently into account the difference between the broad acres and corn lands of the East of England and the grassy slopes, hills, and valleys of the West of England—to say nothing of the great cheese pastures of Cheshire. It could not have escaped the observation of hon. Members that a great and in-creasing public interest was being taken in the question of the ownership and cultivation of the land. That question had had the light of public opinion thrown upon it, and he had no doubt the country would be the better of a thorough and searching discussion of the subject. They had now for the first time a responsible Government laying down the lines of a great national land policy, and it behoved Parliament clearly to understand from the Government what were the lines on which that policy was to be laid down. It appeared to him, however, that in the Bill the Government introduced details which were quite inconsistent with its general principles. Three views or ideas appeared to prevail on that subject—first, that a small class of peasant proprietors ought to be created, having something like fixity of tenure; next, the encouragement of large capitalist farmers, having, for a time at least, concurrent rights of ownership with perfect freedom of action, and a guarantee against risk to be secured by Act of Parliament; and, thirdly, an improvement of the existing and prevailing relations between the owners, occupiers, and labourers, of the land. It was a noticeable fact that the class which would notreceive the slightest benefit from the Bill was the occupiers of less than five acres; but he was quite aware of the difficulty of compensating such small occupiers for labour, manure, and other matters which came under the general head of improvements. In relation to the question of compensation, he had received a letter from a Yorkshire farmer, stating that to give the tenant-farmer a territorial right in the land and to secure him an undue amount of compensation for improvements would be the first step towards Communism, inasmuch as it would encourage the farm labourer to assert that he had rights in the soil. He, however, assumed that it was the intention of the Government by the Bill to improve the relations which 1688 now subsisted between the owner, the occupier, and the labourer in the country, as well as to give security to capital already invested in a practical manner in the land, and thereby to facilitate the improvement of land and the production of additional food. He wished to know why this measure was received with dislike in some quarters and with apathy in other. The Prime Minister's relations to his party in regard to the Bill were very much like those of a certain physician and his patient. The doctor gave his patient some medicine to take, and the latter, on being subsequently asked if it had done him any good, said—" It did me no harm; yonder it stands." The Conservative landlords of the House and the landlords generally said—" Oh, we will accept the Bill, for it will do us no harm;" whilst the farmers said—" The measure will do us no good, but we had better take it for what it is worth, and we shall get a good deal more at some future time." The Bill gave the farmer no certain security for the farming capital he had invested in his business; while, at the same time, it raised apprehensions that more stringent covenants in leases and higher rents would be exacted in future. Another fault in the measure was that it laid down broad principles with regard to the abstract right of the tenant to compensation for improvements effected by the expenditure of his capital without any reference being made to the covenants under which he took his land or the amount of rent he paid. Thus, although the Bill was not a permissive one, it gave the landlord very strong inducements to insert stringent covenants in his leases. What he wished to impress upon hon. Members opposite was that the Bill would tend to destroy freedom of contract between the landowner and the tenant-farmer and to bind them both by arbitrary rules. It would press most seriously on limited owners, and in many respects would be found impracticable, when they once got into Committee. The fact was the Government were endeavouring to force customs of the great corn counties of England on other parts of the country to which they were by no means adapted. He objected to the power proposed to be given to the County Court Judges to select the arbitrators, and he thought it monstrous that the patronage on matters so vitally affecting 1689 the landed interest of the country should be handed over to any class of judges, whether high or low. Of the 400 Amendments on the Bill which had been placed on the Notice Paper 100 were in favour of the landlords, 25 were in favour of the tenant, and but few in favour of the security of freedom of contract. Yet it was the opinion of the President of the Institution of Surveyors that permanent improvements in land could never be effected by an Act of Parliament, and must entirely depend on the mutual interests of the owner and occupier. No law could effect such a state of things, and it was idle to introduce such a principle in the Bill now before the House. More than a century ago Sir Robert Peel stated that by setting industry free the value of land would be increased, and so it had turned out to be. In his opinion, the form which Amendments should take was so to modify the clauses of the Bill as to deal with the operations for the ordinary conduct of farming business, and with permanent improvements on a different footing; secondly, to provide for different practices in different parts of the country giving the force of law to custom, and not forcing on one part of England the customs which prevailed in another. In the third place, the measure of value with regard to manures and feeding tuffs should be altered. The measures of value as the Bill came down from the House of Lords was "the letting value." That was now taken out of the Bill in favour of the landlord, and "the actual outlay" was introduced in its place. He had several communications on the subject last week, and three-fourths of his correspondents were most emphatic against both the present and former measures of value, and were in favour of that measure which he had placed on the Paper. The Bill before the House was opposed to the principles which were acted upon on the best-managed estates, and he appealed to the Government to make it simple in its form. If they did so, they would give more satisfaction to their own supporters and would do much more for the benefit of the country. The Government had a great opportunity before them if they dealt honestly, simply, and wisely with this subject. No obstruction was offered to them by their opponents. The whole responsibility of initiating a land policy for England rested upon them, and the 1690 decision of this great question mainly depended on their land-holding supporters. Much as he felt indebted to his hon. Friend who had introduced this discussion, he should have great difficulty in voting with him, because he thought it inexpedient to ask the Government to defer anything they might think it right, on their own responsibility, to bring forward on this subject. His hon. Friend had done good service in raising this debate, but he trusted he would not consider it necessary to press for a division. With the principle of the hon. 'Member's Amendment, however, he (Sir Thomas Acland) fully agreed, for in fact it substantially embodied the principle of a Bill which he himself had drawn, and which had been extensively circulated through the country and had met with much approval.
said, he agreed with those hon. Members who thought the Bill was not required except to meet very few and very exceptional cases. They had been told that it was called for by a great agitation, but he believed there was no agitation outside the Chambers of Agriculture, and he very much questioned whether they represented the feelings of the farmers in general. The majority of landlords filled their position as regarded their tenants very much to the satisfaction of the latter. His own tenants actually left their holdings in their wills, a fact which, whatever other construction might be placed upon it, and although it might be called a feudal relation, indicated no want of confidence in their landlord. As to unexhausted improvements, he had always had agreements on principles so settled that he had a printed form. Those principles went in the direction of securing to outgoing tenants the value of their unexhausted improvements; and he believed, in the majority of instances, the same was the case with English landlords. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) made some extraordinary statements the other night; but everybody must have been struck with their electioneering tone. He twitted hon. Members with their claims to be called the "farmers' friends," and hoped that they appeared in that character for the last time, intimating, however, that he was quite ready to undertake the management of 1691 a new company. The right hon. Gentleman availed himself largely of the reckless assertion of the late Lord Derby—the sole instance in which that eminent statesman was guilty of anything of the kind—that the land was capable of producing twice as much as it did now. The right hon. Gentleman based a most unworthy argument upon the fact that the population was increasing in numbers and intelligence, when he said in substance that the first use they would make of their power would be to get hold of other people's property. [Mr. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman said there would be a revolutionary movement to get hold of land, and that the landowners would be closely watched. But in a revolutionary movement other property would be in danger, and jewellers' shops would be watched as well as landowners.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
begged the hon. Gentleman's pardon. He had not said anything about a revolutionary movement.
said, in that case he begged the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. He had read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and it certainly contained the words he had quoted. He was sorry if he had been misled by a mistake of the reporter. He repeated that the Bill was unnecessary except in cases which were extremely rare. He objected to it because it would flood the country with referees. But having gone so far with the Bill, he said pass it and have done with it. It might possibly stop a great deal of unnecessary talk throughout the country.
§ MR. M'LAGAN
said, he would not, as he had supported the second reading of the Bill, occupy the time of the House long, and would confine his remarks to the Resolution now before them. That Resolution opened up the whole question with regard to making compensation by the landlord to the tenant for temporary improvements compulsory. The effect of such a Resolution would be to force them to enter upon a difficult path. They were not left to guess what would be the effect of their proceedings, for the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay) had fairly told them that one of the principal questions to candidates at the next General Election would be—"Do you approve of the extension of compulsion to the Agricultural Holdings 1692 Bill? "He (Mr. M'Lagan) would say that he objected to interference with all contracts in agricultural matters, as he objected to all interference in contracts relating to other matters. It had been stated that last year they passed a law amending the Factory Acts, and that it would have been of no avail if it had not been for the clause prohibiting contract between employers and employed; but in making that assertion the hon. Member forgot that in legislating last year with regard to the Factory Acts, they were dealing with the case of women and children. In this Bill, on the contrary, they were legislating for educated and intelligent men. He believed, therefore, that the instance quoted by the hon. Member did not apply. He agreed with the hon. Member that full encouragement should be given to tenants making permanent improvements, but any legislation which would interfere with the flow of capital would be unwise, because the great bane of English and Scotch farming at the present time was deficiency of capital. As to this compulsory legislation, going in the direction of encouraging the tenant to lay out part of his capital on permanent improvements such as buildings, the effect would be that he would be induced not to spend it on the ordinary operations of his farm. If it were to be placed on the landlord at all, it should be put upon him directly, and not indirectly through the tenant. He believed that the time might come when the exigency of the State would demand that there should be some compulsory legislation introduced to apply in such cases as where the landlords were neglectful of the duties of property. The hon. Member had, he believed, stated that his Resolution was satisfactory to the whole country, but he (Mr. M'Lagan) had searched in vain for expressions of opinions in its favour in the Petitions presented to the House. The committee of the London Farmers' Club had certainly passed a series of resolutions in which they declared that, while they did not propose to give compensation for improvements in respect to the first or second classes of improvements under a lease of 20 years, they considered that a tenant was entitled to compensation in respect to improvements of the third class. They had not said that they approved of any interference with freedom 1693 of contract between landlord and tenant, though they considered that the tenant was entitled to compensation. The farmers of Scotland had recently expressed their views at a deputation which waited upon the Duke of Richmond, and what they required was a fair field and no favour. They asked that laws for the undue protection of the landowners should be repealed, such as the law of hypothec. They wished to be placed, so far as regarded the question of contract, on a level with their landlord, and they thought it a childish request to ask the House to make bargains for them. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Forfarshire denied that his Motion interfered with the contract between landlord and tenant; but if that were so he was at a loss to account for the presence of the word "imperative" in the Resolution. The hon. Gentleman said the contract would be between the outgoing and incoming tenant, but hitherto the practice in Scotland had been that the contract was made between the landlord and the incoming tenant, and to alter it would be an interference in the very direction the hon. Gentleman disclaimed, and for that reason he should object to it. The hon. Gentleman said his object was to legalize the Lincolnshire tenant-right; but if so, there was no necessity for their legalizing compulsion, since the Lincolnshire right was entirely permissive, and the landlord might contract himself out of its obligations so far as he was concerned. He must confess he heard to-night, with some surprise, the statement that putting manure into the soil did not add to its value, for it was well known that a farm in good condition would bring more rent than one in a bad condition. He believed that compensation for unexhausted improvements was simply a matter of rent, for if a tenant knew he was to be paid compensation for such improvements, he would pay a higher rent than if he knew that he was not to receive such compensation, and it was much the same to him whether he was to have £1,000 at the end of 20 years' lease, or a reduction of £40 or £50 in the rental. On the whole, he could not help thinking that much that had been said upon the Motion might have been said with much better effect when they got into Committee on the Bill. Whatever it might amount to, the Bill was a step in the 1694 right direction, and if it had no other provision than that which gave a presumption in favour of the tenant, it would be a great boon to the country. The objection to the 45th clause could be got over by adopting an amendment that appeared on the Notice Paper, and agreeing to the declaration that a tenant was entitled to unexhausted improvements, leaving the tenant and the landlord to settle among themselves how the compensation should be paid. He would, too, extend the term of notice to two years, as the notice to quit at six months was a cruelty, especially in this country, where there was such a demand for land that the tenant under notice had not the time to look about him for a new holding. In the course of two years he might recoup to a great extent what he had laid out on the land, while the interest of the landlord might be preserved by making it obligatory on the tenant to put a certain quantity of manure upon the land in the interval. There was another thing he would like to see added to the Bill. At present any buildings erected by a tenant must remain on the land, but he would like to see a provision by which a tenant who erected buildings without the consent of his landlord should be able to remove them or sell them at a valuation. He believed that no reasonable landlord would object to such a provision.
§ MR. ASSHETON
believed that if the Bill passed in anything like its present form, it would do much to derange that good understanding which now happily subsisted between landlord and tenant. The measure might have been drawn to meet the circumstances of some parts of the country, but it certainly was not suited to the conditions of agriculture in the county with which he was connected (Lancashire), where the land was occupied in dairy farming. There it would lead to fresh agreements if the tenant did not agree to contract himself out of it. The landlord would refuse to let him the land, and this would, in its turn, lead to an increase of rent, and the result would be that over large tracts of country there would be a discontented tenantry, who would not bless their friends for the measure they had got Parliament to pass.
, who had had some experience of land in one of the southern 1695 counties, judged from the Bill that the draftsman had a local knowledge of some other part of the country, and that, without making any inquiry, he had assumed the facts in his possession to be general and not merely local. They certainly were not the conditions which prevailed in Kent. With regard to the first Schedule of improvements, they were those which it was admitted ought to he carried out at the expense of the landlord's capital, so that when the tenant executed them he was in fact lending the money to the landlord, to be paid back to him at the end of his tenure, and the only interest he was to receive for it he would receive, not from the landlord, but from himself, in the annual increment of the value of his holding. Ostensibly the Bill was to apply not to good landlords, but to bad, and yet it was not made compulsory even upon them. Well, his opinion was that there was something ridiculous in the idea of giving landlords and tenants power to do a thing by means of an Act of Parliament which they could easily and readily do without such an Act. The first Schedule of the Bill he therefore thought was unnecessary, and the second was unjust, because it laid down a hard-and-fast line which could not possibly apply to three-fourths of the land in England. How could anyone say, for example, that a manure applied to a particular class of land would last seven years, where, in some cases, it might last three, and in others ten, and yet the Bill laid down that, in all cases, certain manures applied to all soils, however varying, were to last seven years. In any legislation about such matters there ought to be an elasticity which would suit greatly varying circumstances. The proposed third class of improvements practically implied the recognition of the system of half-manures; but experience had shown that nobody could tell, after a manure had been used for a particular crop, the proportion that should be considered as standing over for the next crop; the result was that in the part of the country in which he lived the system of half-manures had been by common consent abolished, and yet it would be re-introduced by this Bill, unless landlord and tenant contracted themselves out of it. At present, difficulties were experienced by the small proprietor in obtaining the capital he 1696 required, and those difficulties were all the greater when he happened to be a limited owner, yet there was nothing in the Bill, when the tenant did not wish, or was not able to lend money to his landlord, to alleviate the position of the limited owner in this respect and to remove the evils which had been complained of. At a distance from a town a large farm could be cultivated so much more advantageously than a small one that small farms would become impossible; and in view of this fact the question was raised whether the Bill would not hamper the farmer who was well able to contract for himself, as it certainly would by providing for practices which were not customary in five-sixths of the country. The Bill contained too much reference to the County Court; that of itself would make farmers suspicious, and in practice it might prove more costly than agreements. If the letting value were brought in, the matter would be complicated unnecessarily, and in such a way as to cause great difficulty between landlord and tenant. It was undesirable to hamper a Bill by what was permissive, and, therefore, unnecessary, and by a reference to the County Court, which could only produce difficulty. What it was required to accomplish by legislation was that the presumption of law should be in favour of the tenant on the question of manures and temporary improvements, and the tenant ought to be compensated for what remained according to a valuation. If the method of taking this valuation were left to be settled in every case, according to the varying conditions of different parts of the country, the result would be more satisfactory than it could be under the hard-and-fast provisions of the Bill. A second object to be attained was to enable a tenant for life, who had, practically speaking, very little power over his property, to obtain money for reasonable and permanent improvements which would add to the permanent value of the property. The difficulty of doing this was the cause of half the disagreements that arose at present. If this grievance were met, it would, he could assure those who were its supporters, do more to maintain the law of entail than could be done by any other amendment of the law.
§ LORD ELCHO
Sir,—"We have taken a leaf out of the Irish Book, and 1697 we learn quickly." These are not my words; they were spoken by one of the witnesses who came up with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay) to give evidence before the Committee on the Game Laws, over which, two years ago, the right hon. Gentleman the present First Lord of the Admiralty so ably presided. This witness had given utterance to the wildest possible views on matters relating to land and the relations of landlord and tenant, and these words were spoken in answer to this Question—" Did such ideas as you have just propounded ever enter into the heads of the tenantry of Scotland before the passing of the Irish Land Act?" "No," was the reply; "but we have taken a leaf out of the Irish Book, and we learn quickly." Here, then, we have words of warning, the moral of which I wish to point out. But, although anxious to speak upon this question, I should, had the hon. Member for Forfarshire not persevered with his Amendment, readily have assented to the proposal of the Prime Minister that we should, without further discussion, go into Committee on this Bill. As it is, I shall now endeavour to show what I believe to be the evils and the outcome of this kind of legislation. The Bill itself is, no doubt, in appearance innocent, inasmuch as it professes to maintain freedom of contract; nevertheless, I believe it to be dangerous, as containing the germs of future evil, as well as being uncalled-for and inexpedient, whether we look to the interests of the landlord or the tenant. It is a departure from sound principle. The Bill is said to be necessary on the ground that it will increase the food of the people. I take issue on that ground. If we look at what is passing around us in the agricultural world, we see everywhere signs of the great strides which agriculture has made during the last 30 years—since the days when "Ialpa" wrote to prove the necessity of draining. Everywhere, those who run may read the signs of this improvement. We see it in all directions as we are borne along by the rail from John o' Groats to Land's End. It is visible in the Taunton and agricultural show yards; in the increased demand and multiplication of machinery, wherewith the earth is tortured and its produce increased; it is seen in the reclamations 1698 of wastes and commons proceeding so rapidly, that an association has been formed for their protection from enclosure; and I can trace it in my own country, where what was a few years ago moorland, the habitation of the grouse and the snipe, now grows turnips and other crops. And although, no doubt, Lord Derby has said that the soil could be made to produce 50 per cent more than it now does, that was, I believe, meant to apply only to the lands in his own neighbourhood; and we have the authority of my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Pell) that this possible increase could not be put higher than 20 per cent; while Mr. Caird puts it at 25 per cent; and the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) puts it at 10 per cent. Mr. Caird further says that, acre for acre, we produce 60 per cent more than any other country of Europe. I say, then—" For God's sake, leave that system of agriculture alone that is producing such results." No inducements are required to bring money to the soil. Capital is now freely invested in farms wherever such investment will pay. You cannot, indeed, expect to find everywhere Dukes of Sutherland, who at enormous expenditure will tear up bogs by machinery, in the hope of growing an indifferent, un-remunerative turnip. The food of the people argument, therefore, will not hold water, and that is the only possible grounds upon which it is attempted to justify this Bill, which is a departure from the sound principles of political economy. It is not for the sake of the tenant; it is not out of charity; it is not because he may in some cases have made a bad bargain that you dare say you legislate upon this question, because on that principle you might as well legislate for the man who may have bought some of the bad china, of which so much was recently sold at Christie's, or who has invested his money in a box at the Albert Hall. Caveat emptor is a sound doctrine, and men should be taught to look after themselves. I say, moreover, that this legislation is uncalled-for, even as regards the tenant, for we have heard from the Leader of the Opposition that there are few, if any, cases where legislation on his behalf is required, and a gentleman of great experience in the management of land—I give his name (Mr. Randall)—has told me that in the 1699 course of 40 year he had only known one instance of a landlord taking advantage of his tenant's improvements, and taking possession of his farm. But this legislation is not only unnecessary, but also inexpedient, both as regard the State and the tenants. Let us take the tenants first. What will be the effect of substituting the State for the landlord? Why, you will build up a wall between them. Where there was confidence you will cause distrust, and you will substitute litigation for friendly understanding and agreement. But if this kind of legislation is to prevail; if the food argument is to be carried to its legitimate conclusion, it will be necessary for the State to go a great deal further; to prescribe what amount of capital a tenant shall have, what shall be the rotation of his crops, and the cultivation of his farm. It will, further, be necessary to consolidate farms, and send round a Royal Commission to turn out incompetent farmers; nay, to fix wages and the amount of labour for each farm. And what will be the inevitable effect of the Bill? Why, to raise rents, as the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington) has already pointed out. I cannot, then, think that this legislation is in the interest of the tenant. But now as to the State. The next thing will be that the State must prescribe to landlords how much land they shall devote to certain purposes. It would, in my opinion, be an evil day for the State when it steps in and dictates to the farmer or the landowner what he should do, and what he should not do with his land, yet it is anticipated that such a day will come, and one hon. Gentleman has given it as his opinion before that same Game Committee that the time might arrive when the State would say to a particular individual—" You must not have more than 10 acres of flower garden." That Gentleman was the hon. Member who has moved the Amendment.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
explained, he had stated in answer to a theoretical question, that he could fully conceive a time when the population of this country would become so dense that the area of land devoted to certain purposes would require to be limited.
§ LORD ELCHO
I claim to have correctly stated the substance of the hon. Gentleman's reply. True, the time has 1700 not arrived; but its arrival is to be fixed by political exigency. But if the Government interferes in the matter of food, why not also in the matter of clothes? Clothes are supposed to be a necessity of civilized life, although, no doubt, I see ladies going about society who appear disposed to dispute that necessity. Still, clothes are accepted as one of the necessaries of life, and would necessarily, upon the food principle, come under the charge of the State. So, also, fuel, without which you cannot cook your food; so, also, houses. And what does that argument prove, but that these are matters with which no wise State would interfere; for if it meddles, it will infallibly muddle, as this Bill shows, for it fails altogether to lay down sound intelligible rules for dealing with these matters. It is, indeed, impossible to do so in an Act of Parliament; and there is proof of this in the working of the Irish Land Act. Let me give an instance. There was, last year, a case where a tenant of the Duke of Leinster, on a farm of 220 statute acres, claimed £1,000 for unexhausted tillages and manures. A witness of supposed experience in such matters, called by the claimant, said he had made a field to field valuation, and he put the rightful claim of £708; but Mr. Lawes, who is admitted to be one of the highest scientific agricultural authorities in the Kingdom, was also examined on behalf of the Duke, and the conclusion at which he arrived was that, so far from the tenant having any claim against his landlord, the landlord had rather a claim against the tenant for deterioration. Mr. Lawes, indeed, was so forcibly struck with this case that he wrote an able pamphlet on the subject, in which he came to certain conclusions in the matters to which this Bill relates. He therein says that the Irish Land Act, while very explicit in all that relates to the legal machinery by which claims may be tried or established, gives no information as to what constitutes unexhausted value, or how that value is to be estimated. In all cases of English customs, including Lincolnshire—pace my hon. Friend the Member for that county (Mr. Chaplin)—there is, he says, this error, that the allowance is expressed in a certain proportion of the "original value" of the purchased feeding stuff or manure—"original value" meaning original cost 1701 of the article. Now, it is entirely fallacious to assume that the manure value of a food, whatever may be its composition, bears a fixed position to its original cost. And Mr. Lawes sums up this question as follows:—1st, In the existing state of our knowledge no simple rules applicable to various soils, sub-soils, climates, seasons, crops, and manures, can be laid down for the valuation of the unexhausted residue of previous applied manures which have already yielded a crop. 2nd, Under such circumstances valuation upon such a basis would very frequently result in injustice to the one party or the other, and would probably lead to much litigation. The manure value alone should be adopted as the basis of any calculations of the unexhausted residue of manures derived from the consumption of purchased or saleable cattle food.Now all this tends to show how unwise it is for the State to meddle in such matters. Better far to leave men free to enter into contracts between themselves, and maintain inviolate the freedom of contract which the Duke of Argyll has well said is "the very breath of commerce." The Government Bill does not, indeed, so far as it goes, interfere with freedom of contract; but the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. J. W. Barclay) does, for it contains the word "imperative." Such interference would be antagonistic to the legislation which has ruled of late years in this country, and would be directly opposed to the policy of Free Trade, of which hon. Members opposite boast themselves the originators and champions. The policy of the country in modern times has been not to impose restrictions where they do not exist, but to remove them where they do, and the Law Courts and lawyers exist not for the purpose of preventing, but of enforcing contracts. Hitherto, happily, if there have been exceptions to this sound principle, these have been confined to the protection of women, children, and lunatics, and to questions of life and health; and I should be glad to know under which category farmers are classed by those who thus seek to legislate for them in the sense of this Amendment? It may, no doubt, be said that some Chambers of Agriculture hold different views; but I have yet to learn that the Chambers of Agriculture really represent the true feeling of the mass of the farmers of this country upon this question. I would take the Suffolk Election as a test, which shows that those 1702 who are most noisy in demanding that the relations between landowners and farmers shall be subject to compulsory legislation do not always represent the views of the farmers on this question. I have myself just come from an agricultural gathering in the county of East Lothian, and when I spoke against the introduction of compulsory legislation between farmers and their landlords, not a single farmer uttered a word of dissent from the views I had laid before them. I am inclined to think that the real views of the farmers of Great Britain upon this point were more truly expressed by Mr. Hope, late of Fenton-barns, who, when speaking upon the compulsory clause of Mr. Loch's Game Bill, said—The farmers were not so imbecile as to require to go, hat in hand, to the Legislature and ask them to protect them from their own acts.And in 1870, the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read), in referring to the Irish Land Act, asked why they did not follow the example of Belgium in dealing with the Irish Land question, and abstain from legislating upon the relations of landlords with their tenants as to the granting of leases, &c, considering that such action would be interfering with the individual rights of property. And he further asked—"Why Her Majesty's Government could not have emulated Belgium, instead of introducing a measure which would interfere with the rights of property?"—" Why should the Irish tenant be treated as a spoilt child? "—" Why should we vitiate every law of political economy? "No doubt, we now had political philosophers who hold different views. Thus, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) had told them that there was no freedom of contract as between a landlord and a tenant, who had only the freedom to refuse the landlord's conditions if he did not like them, and he had added that—"When the landlord was bound only by his own will and pleasure, and the farmer was bound by the will and pleasure of the landlord, it was a farce to call it freedom of contract." But I turn from this fairyland philosophy, fit only for a Christmas publication, and I come to the more serious philosophy of the hon. Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs 1703 (Sir George Campbell). That hon. Gentleman has come to us from the East, from governing 80,000,000 of men, and he deliberately tells us that throughout a great part of this country "the farmers had long been subject to a tyranny—he meant an economic and social tyranny—from which he maintained they ought to be relieved, and that a moderate interference with freedom of contract was called for by the circumstances of the case." And what, let me ask, is this economic and social tyranny of which the hon. Member speaks, and which calls for this interference with free contract which he advocates? Why, the law of supply and demand, which regulates all the transactions of this life, from the taking of a farm to the purchase of a tea-cup. But we must, in justice to the hon. Member, bear in mind that his views are somewhat advanced, inasmuch as he stated a year or two ago at a Social Science meeting in Glasgow, that the time was approaching when the land would have to be divided among the people. It is, Sir, a comfort under these circumstances to turn to the unofficial sound Saxon sense of my hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), who said the other day—" Do not propound to simple-minded men coming out of the country, ideas of law and legislation and political economy which could never be reduced to practice." And it is pleasant also to be able to quote upon this subject words of wisdom which fell from the lips of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London, before the passing of the Irish Land Bill, and before he was seduced from the paths of virtue by the late Prime Minister. Speaking in 1868 on the Irish Land question, he said—" I hold it is a retrograde notion in jurisprudence to pass laws to limit the power of contract between landlord and tenant. I hold this introduction of a compulsory term into voluntary contracts to be a blunder and a solecism. All these attempts against nature, against the laws of political economy, and against that natural law which binds men by the contracts they make, must in the nature of things recoil, and the person whom you mean to benefit is injured by them. There is an oasis in the desert of polities upon which we may safely rest, and that is afforded us by the principles of political 1704 economy." I well know that it is the fashion with some philosophers and professors to denounce political economy, which they describe as "the dismal science;" but what, after all, are the canons of political economy but the generalized deductions of common sense from the accumulated facts of daily human life and action, and these canons, I venture to think, will endure long after the new-born, crude, sentimental, false philosophy has been blown to shivers and the winds. Let us then hope that the oasis referred to by the right hon. Gentleman will not be abandoned; but if any be inclined to do so, let them take warning by Irish land legislation and its consequences. It is admitted that it was what is called "exceptional"—that it was a departure from sound principles. What was its cause? It was not the land laws, but the land lawlessness of Ireland. It was because the Irish tenant shot his landlord or the agent, and because it was necessary to secure the Irish vote that we had the Irish Land Act. And what has been its effect in Ireland? Why, that agricultural improvement, so at least I am told, has been stopped through the operation of the clauses on alienation, disturbance, and presumption. And how can it be otherwise? for a relative of my own has told me that half his Irish estates, being in large farms, he has some control over that portion of his property; but that, on the other half, where he has a considerable income paid in small sums by innumerable tenants, there, owing to the operation of the disturbance clause, his property is practically withdrawn from his management and control, and must ever continue so. And yet, after all this, have you satisfied the Irish tenant or his Representative in Parliament? Why, I recollect reading, a year or two ago, in The Daily Telegraph, the special organ of the then Prime Minister, an article, in which the Irish were reproached for their ingratitude in not being satisfied with the "confiscation," that was the word, of a considerable proportion of the landlords' property—a confiscation, the amount of which the late Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) put at untold millions. And is it not further notorious that the Irish vote has not been secured, and that such is their ingratitude, that the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who passed this measure, was 1705 turned out of Parliament, and has had, as Lord Carlingford, to take refuge in "another place." And have the demands of the tenants now ceased? Are their Representatives now satisfied? So far from it, that last winter a meeting was held, a land conference, in the Rotunda at Dublin, where one Irish Member said—The people of Ireland demanded—first, occupancy "by the tillers of the soil as they paid the rent; secondly, that their rent should be a fair rent; thirdly, that it should be a valued rent. They also insisted that the landlord should, as in many parts of Ireland, have the privilege of selecting the tenant, but that the tenant must be allowed to bring the land into the market so as to realize the highest money value by selling it to any person he chose. This was what they wanted. They would not be content with anything less than he had stated. The Land Act of 1870 admitted the principle which they now struggled for.And another Irish Member shortly put the question by advocating what he called the three "F's"—namely, fixity of tenure, fair rents, and free sale. If, then, such have been the results of this kind of legislation in Ireland, what has been its effect in Great Britain? Why, two years ago an English Tenant Eight Bill was brought in by a Gentleman whom I now see beyond the Bar, and whom I should like to see in the House again. ["Order!"] I admit that I am out of Order; but I have, at any rate, the advantage of being able to speak of this Gentleman by name. Mr. Howard, then, introduced a Bill which interfered with freedom of contract between landlord and tenant, and which unfortunately was never debated owing to his illness; but I sent a copy to a most experienced land agent asking his opinion respecting it, and this was shortly given, by his affixing a new title to the measure, which ran thus—"A Bill for embittering the relations of landlord and tenant, and for raising rents;" results which infallibly would have followed from such legislation. But nothing, perhaps, shows more the rapid progress we have made in England on this question than the publication at that time of a thick octavo volume on land tenure, which was written by a Mr. Macdonnell, a barrister, who said that the next phase was the enfranchisement of leaseholders, not indeed turning them all into landlords, regardless of the rights of the present owners, but that all leaseholders should be enabled to claim enfranchisement 1706 on payment of a sum calculated on the average rent of the last four or five years. And, strange to say, on the title page of this very remarkable work, I read that as regarded the author's own property in his book, "all rights were reserved." And now I come to my own country, where some tenants have assuredly "taken a leaf out of the Irish book, and learnt quickly," for nothing can be wilder than the views propounded before the Committee by some of the wild men who came up to give evidence from the wilds of Scotland. [Sir WALTER BARTTELOT: Hear, hear.] Yes, wild men, and if this style of legislation goes on, my hon. Friend will find that wild men will arise in the Wealds of Sussex, as in the wilds of Scotland. Well, one of these witnesses, a Mr. Purves, a sheep farmer on a large scale, said—A tenant is no more capable of making a bargain with his landlord, than a sheep is with its butcher.an illustration I commend to the right hon. Member for Sandwich, for his next Christmas tale, as it suits his philosophy of land. And when asked if he looked to fixity of tenure, which he had said they wanted, as the result of good feeling between landlord and tenant, or as the the result of legislation, he said—I look to it as the result of legislation, for we have tried the landlords and found them wanting, and we now intend to have it for ourselves.Another large tenant from the North, Mr. Mundell, wished for a law by which shootings should always be compulsorily let along with the grazings; and when asked wherein certain of his proposals differed from confiscation he replied—"God Almighty made the land." [An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear.] Yes, He made the land as He made coal and everything else; but without the labour of man expended on the cultivation of the one, and the production of the other, they would be of little value. It was to turn these gifts to account for the general use that they have been granted by the State to individuals, and I can only say that if the State chooses to purchase back the land, few landed proprietors would, I think, object to getting five per cent for their money in some profitable investment, instead of its returning them two per cent on land. But to return to Mr. Mundell; he went on to say that "God Almighty first gave the land to 1707 the people, and he gave the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea." But the climax was reached by a Mr. Stuart, who showed what the farmers really wanted was to bar competition on the part of the capitalists, and others who had made money in trade. Thus he told us he wished that landlords be compelled to let land on leases at a fair rent, fixed by a public valuer, to practical farmers, and that none but practical farmers should be allowed to hold land—shopkeepers and those who have made money in trade, being debarred from bidding for land. Such have been the effects, in three short years, of Irish land legislation upon the minds of the canny Scots. And, when one sees this, and feels how entirely it is due to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, that abnormal principles have been embodied in the Irish Land Act, one can only wonder that he has sat silent in these discussions, and has not had the courage to state boldly, in the face of Parliament, whether he is in favour or not of freedom of contract in this country between grown-up men. I hope I have now said enough to show whither all this tends; but I would, before concluding my remarks, point out that, if those are right who say that the Chambers of Agriculture do not represent the opinions of the great body of the farmers, and that they are mainly managed by an agitating political clique—a view of this question which is, I know, taken by one who had an active part in the first formation of these Chambers of Agriculture, and who has long since withdrawn from their meetings as not representing the real opinions of the tenant-farmers—why, then, assuredly those Members of the Opposition, who, for Party purposes, are endeavouring to trump the Government Bill, in the belief that by going further they will thus gain support from the agriculturists, are making a considerable mistake. The truth is, the great body of the farmers are beginning to perceive that if the political doctors, philosophers, and professors, who are now in favour of dealing exceptionally with land, because the tenants are more numerous than the landlords, and it suits the exigencies of Party to do so, were to succeed in overriding the rights of proprietors, they would, when the exigencies of Parties again required a political cry, be equally ready to take up the cause of the labourers against 1708 the tenants; and remember this, that the principles which this Bill would apply to agriculturists are equally applicable to every other profession and trade. There is at present much dispute as to wages and profits between capital and labour. The artizans and labourers are more numerous than the capitalists, and when Parliament has settled the question between landlords and tenants, you may depend upon it that philosophers will contend that the State should fix a fair share of profits and wages, as between capital and labour. I hold all such legislation to be unwise and unjust. I well remember the late Sir James Graham calling certain legislation in his day "Jack Cade" legislation, and now in this our day, I see the spirit of Dick Turpin abroad—that is, I see attempts by Act of Parliament to convert tuum into meum. What Dick Turpin did with the help of a black mare, a pistol, and a mask, is now done, or attempted to be done, more safely and more effectually by means of constituency, a vote in Parliament, and under the mask of public policy. I believe the late General Election to have been a rising up against this state of things—a protest against the course of the last Parliament, which interfered with everybody and everything. I believe the Conservative Government were placed in power to protect individual liberty, to give security to property and to avert the dangers of modern Liberalism, so that liberty be not lost in legislation, and public policy be no longer made the class apology for plunder. And who, looking to the Irish Land Act, its principles, and its consequences, will venture to say that these dangers are not apparent? In this Bill, it is true, they are not so visible, but innocent though it appears to be, and sound as it undoubtedly is in the matter of free contract, I yet perceive in it the germs of legislation, which must sooner or later develop into Socialism as its legitimate outcome, substituting State help for that self-help to which in so great measure we owe the feedom we enjoy, and which has tended so much to form the character of our race.
§ Mr. DISRAELI and Sir WILLIAM HAR-COURT rose together, but the latter gave way, although there were loud cries for him to first address the House.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I am sure the House listened, as I have, with pleasure to the pleasant and versatile speech of 1709 my noble Friend. The only difficulty I have is in rising after him, and, had I been aware that one who commands the attention of the House was equally willing to address you, I might have escaped from my embarrassment, for I really do not know to what practical point the invective of my noble Friend was directed—whether it was directed against the compulsory principle represented by hon. Gentlemen opposite, or against the Bill which I trust we shall soon be considering in Committee, or against the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, or against Irish legislation, or against that mysterious catastrophe which my noble Friend describes as the outcome of all, I confess I am at a loss to ascertain. But the admiration and regard that I entertain for my noble Friend, and the anxiety which I have to induce the House to enter into Committee on this Bill, alike justify me, I hope, in making one or two remarks upon his speech. My noble Friend says in considering this question he will not for a moment consider what caused the food movement, that there bas been great exaggeration on that subject, and that this legislation, instead of increasing the food of the people 50 per cent, would not increase it by more than 25 per cent. I cannot recall at this moment—I think I could recall, but I will not trust myself to a statement which would not be severely accurate, and I will not state to the House at this moment the exact amount of the agricultural produce of the United Kingdom, but it is counted by hundreds of millions, and I think that even 25 per cent in times like these would be scarcely considered a contemptible accession to the public wealth and the public welfare and convenience. My noble Friend asks what is the object of this legislation? The object of this legislation is to induce an increased application of capital to the cultivation of the soil. And, certainly, when statistics show that the produce of the soil is greatly curtailed by circumstances which legislation can remove, I cannot conceive that the question is one which ought not to be entertained by Parliament. And what are those circumstances? Why, we find, as we have always known and always acknowledged, that there is not adequate security for the capital that is applied to the cultivation of the soil. It has been said that, practically speaking, 1710 that circumstance is not an obstacle to the application of capital to the cultivation of the soil, because in this country the relations between landlords and tenants are satisfactory on the whole. Who denies it? Who that lives in England is not proud of such a state of things? The satisfactory relations between landlords and tenants in this country is one of the sources not only of our public wealth, but also of our public security. No doubt, it is the result of our civilization—that peculiar civilization of which this country is most proud. But, after all, the laws of a country must not depend upon honour, but upon justice, and when once the question is mooted, if we find there is a combination of circumstances which has caused an opinion to prevail throughout the country that the production of the national food is not so large as it might be, and if we have a state of the law in which adequate security is not given for the capital applied to the cultivation of the soil, surely the question is one which those who are responsible for the government of the country must consider and deal with as, I believe, we have in this Bill. I cannot doubt that we have dealt with the subject discreetly, or my noble Friend would never have sanctioned the second reading of the Bill. My noble Friend further speaks as to what will be the outcome of this legislation? But whether by this legislation he described the land laws of the late Parliament and Government, or whether he referred to the Oriental speeches of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy, I am entirely at a loss to know. My noble Friend's observations might be very legitimate upon the Irish land laws or upon the speeches of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy; but I wish to impress upon my noble Friend and others who sit on this side of the House, that the object of our legislation is to prevent that outcome which he dreads; and that, in fact, the remarkable characteristic of the legislation which we have to consider is, that it is established upon principles exactly opposite to those which my noble Friend thinks must lead to so fearful an outcome. My object in rising was to induce the House to take a step which I flattered myself it might have adopted at an earlier period in the evening, for nothing that has happened, except the oration of my noble Friend, has been of 1711 a character to induce the House to refrain from entering upon a fulfilment of its legitimate duty—I mean that of investigating this Bill in Committee. The hon. Gentleman who introduced this question (Mr. J. W. Barclay), and the hon. Member for South Durham (Mr. Pease), who seconded his Amendment, favoured the House with two most ingenious addresses. Indeed, I have rarely listened to two more interesting addresses; but the interest I drew from them was not merely due to the talent of the speakers, but to the fact that I felt the convenience of having laid before me all the facts and arguments which the hon. Gentlemen meant to urge when we had got into Committee on the Bill. But the House, and you, Mr. Speaker, who exercise over us a greater authority only because you seldom call upon us to acknowledge it, felt at last, after having had a catalogue raisonné of all the clauses in the Bill laid before us, that it was time to draw the attention of the hon. Member for South Durham to the fact that the occasion was one on which he ought to draw upon his generalizing powers, instead of indulging in the detail with which he was favouring us at the time. One remarkable circumstance that I noticed while both the hon. Gentlemen were speaking was, that almost all the points which they raised had been anticipated by the Amendments which had been placed upon the Paper. It would be premature for me now to give an opinion on those Amendments, and all I can say concerning them is, that they shall receive fair and candid consideration at the hands of the Government. Every argument used by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment in reference to the necessity for a relaxation of what they described as a hard-and-fast line has been anticipated by Amendments of which Notice has been given by hon. Members on both sides of the House. That ought to have convinced the hon. Members that, instead of interposing, it would have been better to advance a little and enter into Committee at an earlier moment. The only exception to this general description consists in the speech of the hon. Member for Forfarshire, and comes in at the end of his speech, when he indulged in what I will not call revolutionary, but abstract doctrines. He laid down certain principles on the tenure of land and the conduct of 1712 tenants which might have been made in a different assembly and on another occasion—which were suited, in short, to a much wilder scene than the House of Commons. The hon. Baronet the Member for North Devonshire (Sir Thomas Acland) followed, and I could not gather more than two points from the speech which he made. He addressed the House with elaborate detail, and he had the advantage of the best counsellor in the world, the printed document from which he read. It is really almost taking an unfair advantage in a House managed by a Parliamentary Government, which depends so much upon speaking, for an hon. Member to read his speech. No one can well tilt with a knight whose armour is of that magical temper. I remember that in the old days nobody was allowed to read his speeches in this House except the late Mr. Henry Berkeley when speaking upon the Ballot. The proposition he annually made was considered so ludicrous that the hon. Gentleman was allowed every appliance and advantage to assist him in getting through so difficult a task. Those who are interested in the land question were, said the hon. Baronet, divided into different schools. The first of these advocated peasant cultivation; the second, a mysterious school quite unknown to me, held the doctrine that the profits of the farmers were to be guaranteed by the State; and with regard to the third, the hon. Baronet, in the extreme excitement with which he had described the second, forgot to favour the House with any information. I have no doubt, however, that by a reference to the review or magazine from which the hon. Baronet read I shall be able to refresh my memory. We have had from one or two hon. Gentlemen opposite—and in particular from the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid), who only followed the observations which had been made before, a great deal of invective against the draftsman who drew this Bill. The gentleman who drew the Bill seems, in the view of some hon. Members, to have been a most remarkable man. He seems, in their view, to have been instructed to draw a Bill upon a most difficult subject with no further instruction than this, merely—that the Bill must be drawn; and the result of that has been also in the view of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, a measure 1713 filled with incongruities, crudities, and blunders. As a matter of fact, the gentlemen who draw Bills are men of high education and great ability, who deserve and possess the entire confidence of the Government, and whose duty it is skilfully, technically and legally, to embody in Bills the instructions they receive from the Government. To suppose that the Government instructed a draftsman to draw this Bill without giving him full details is to suppose a state of things under which the course of human business could not be sustained for four-and-twenty hours. The utmost experience and skill have been at the disposal of the draftsman of this Bill; the most skilful possessors, managers, and cultivators of land in the country have been consulted with in regard to its details; and, indeed, if any other course had been taken, it might have been said of us that we were deficient in the ordinary prudence of human beings. To say, therefore, that any of the features of this Bill are due to the fact that it is the work of an uninstructed draftsman is to say that which, if not an absurdity, is at any rate an erratic conclusion which will not be favoured by the House of Commons. I have endeavoured to touch upon some of the points which have been raised in this unexpected discussion, and, having done so, what I want to impress upon the House is that they should remember what they have done with regard to this Bill, and supposing that they are prepared to stand by the conclusion at which they have arrived, to adjure them to proceed to the next and longer step. I presume the House is in favour of the principle of the Bill. I presume that a large majority of the House is in favour of it. I draw that conclusion from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sandwich, and the manner in which it was received, notwithstanding his reluctance to challenge the House. I think it was freely acknowledged on both sides of the House that the principle of the Bill was accepted, and that that principle was that the principle of free contract should be maintained. The Amendment of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. J. W. Barclay) is an Amendment against freedom of contract, and unless he is prepared to challenge the House on the subject, I regret that at a time like this, when 1714 every day is precious, we should occupy the time of the House in a manner which I cannot see is of advantage to the public interest. If hon. Gentlemen opposite will frankly tell us that they repel the conclusion at which we have arrived—that there either ought to be no legislation, or, if legislation, it should be founded on a compulsory principle—I should regret the course they take, but should be grateful for their candour and be ready to meet them. But if they believe that this is a Bill which ought to be examined in Committee, let them alter or improve it if they can, and let them meet us in fair discussion on all its details. I hope they will not allow the debate to proceed further, but at once assent to the Motion for going into Committee.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he did not think the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had any reason to complain of hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House having unduly protracted the discussion, for there had been a general feeling on both sides that there should be some discussion upon the principles of the Bill. He did not recollect that when the Irish land question was under discussion hon. Gentlemen opposite thought that a single night was sufficient, and amidst the mass of Amendments which had been placed upon the Paper he thought there were indications that hon. Members had but little made up their minds as to what the Bill was intended or ought to do. There was the more reason for discussion at the present moment because the right hon. Gentleman had not given to the House that assistance which it might have expected in ascertaining the objects of the Bill. He had stated that the principle of the Bill was the maintenance of freedom of contract. But that was not the question. There was a preliminary one—Why was such a Bill necessary, and why had the Government introduced it? He (Sir William Harcourt) was as far as ever from knowing what the Government desired the Bill to do. He had been in the habit of believing that the relations between landlord and tenant were satisfactory. He had heard so from hon. Members on both sides of the House, and the right hon. Gentleman himself had drawn pictures of rural felicity and Arcadian contentment. But 1715 all at once a thunderbolt descended out of the serene sky, and a Tory Government thought it necessary to introduce, and enforce with the persistence which the right hon. Gentleman had expressed that night, a Bill to redress the glaring injustice of the relations between landlord and tenant. Well, that was a remarkable proceeding, and one which required a little explanation. His noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) had denounced what he called the food of the people argument, but it was upon that argument that the Bill at its introduction was mainly based, and the noble Duke who introduced it took a wide, sensible, intelligent, and statesmanlike view, and declared that it was of the last moment to the country that the producing power of the agricultural districts should be brought to such a pitch as to meet, as far as possible, the requirements of the millions of the population of this country. It was upon that principle that it was settled in the House of Lords. In 1873 they had a solemn and well-considered Report of the House of Lords, the first paragraph of which set forth the evidence from which the conclusion was drawn that only one-fifth part of the land of England had been improved as it might and ought to be. He might have supposed that the Bill was introduced in conformity with that statement. A remarkable thing had occurred which he had never recollected to have occurred before in a Bill of this importance. After being settled in the House of Lords and sent down, the most important principle which the Bill contained was withdrawn before its second reading in that House. Six Members of the Cabinet in the House of Lords recommended one Bill and settled it upon one principle, and six of their Colleagues in the Cabinet declined to recommend it to the acceptance of the House of Commons. The letting value, which was to be the basis of compensation in the Bill, was withdrawn, and the present was the first opportunity of discussing it upon its new and different principles of compensation. That principle of letting value went to the whole root of the Bill, for without it the farmer engaged in an enterprize in which he might lose all, but in which he could gain nothing but what he had expended. In his first speech the Prime Minister had not alluded 1716 to the "food of the people" argument, though he had accepted the doctrine. In introducing the Bill he gave an interesting historical retrospect of the question, which seemed to partake somewhat of the nature of an apology, and which was probably made because he thought it essential that he should explain to his Party why it became necessary for him to interfere between landlord and tenant with a measure of something like Radical Reform. He pronounced a strong eulogium on the late Mr. Pusey; but it appeared to him (Sir William Harcourt) that it seemed to possess that melancholy cadence which partook of the accents of posthumous remorse. When he remembered the political fate of that hon. Gentleman, he was reminded of the lines—See nations slowly wise, and meanly just, To buried merit raise the tardy bust.Mr. Pusey laboured for years to enforce the principles of a measure which the right hon. Gentleman the other night pronounced to be a perfectly salutary and great measure. He failed, however, and why? Because the great body of the country gentlemen did not sympathize in his views. And yet the right hon. Gentleman was going to pass the Bill without even allowing a discussion. Thirty years had elapsed. The old generation of farmers had passed away. They had lost the benefit of that measure which was so just and salutary, and no panegyric of the right hon. Gentleman would compensate that generation of farmers. They lost the benefit of that measure, because the great body of the country gentlemen did not sympathize with those views, and now when the right hon. Gentleman based his measure on the panegyric of Mr. Pusey, it might be said—"Ye have stoned the prophets, and now ye build them sepulchres." The right hon. Gentleman had told them how it came to pass that the Bill had been proposed by a victorious Conservative Government. He said that it was the philosophers and economists who had done it all. It was they who apparently had induced that Conservative Government and the great body of the country gentlemen to support a measure which they had refused at the hands of the late Mr. Pusey. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were not in the habit of being so strongly disposed towards 1717 philosophers and. economists. He had understood that they rather disclaimed the opinions of philosophers, and certainly that they did not embrace their theory of economy. Yet it was these malignant beings who had formed that public opinion which had induced the Government to introduce the Bill. There was, however, another cause which had led to this change, and that was, as the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) had told them, the passing of the Irish Land Act. The noble Lord complained of that; but he (Sir William Harcourt) was very glad that it should go forth to the farmers of England that the Irish Land Bill had in part secured to them that measure of justice which the Government said they ought to have, which Mr. Pusey 30 years ago advocated, but which for 30 years they had not had, because the great body of the country gentlemen did not sympathize with those views. That was the history of the Bill, as given by the right hon. Gentleman; and now as to its object. The right hon. Gentleman told them upon the second reading that the Bill was to remove an abuse in the hierarchy of the land. He gave credit for that phrase to the lamented Mr. Pusey, but it was so remark-able a phrase that it seemed to bear the mint mark of the genius of the right hon. Gentleman himself. Now, the right hon. Gentleman was not in the habit of using words without meaning, and consequently the word "hierarchy" conveyed a very definite meaning of the manner in which the Bill was regarded. What was a "hierarchy?" It was a privileged class, a class consisting of various grades, which were set apart from the rest of the nation for special objects. If they were to deal with this question as one of "hierarchy," he must say that there had been throughout the discussion a remarkable silence as to one grade of that hierarchy, and that not the least important, the grade of the agricultural labourer. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the other grades of the hierarchy, and said the object of the Bill was to protect the owners of the soil, to place them in a stronger position, as well as to place the occupiers in a juster position. Now, each of these adjectives was singular and appropriate; but there was nothing about the third member of the hierarchy, and it was 1718 remarkable that small farms of five acres were exempted from the Bill. Yet the labourer was as much interested as anybody in the capital invested in the soil, for it was the fund from which his wages were paid. But the real question was whether they were to regard this as a question of hierarchy or as a national question? If it were a mere question of hierarchy, then the landlords and tenants might arrange it as they pleased between themselves; but if it was a national question, then all classes in the community were interested in it, and might discuss it together. They were told in "another place" that the Bill was to secure to the farmer compensation for the capital which he might invest in the land, and so remedy an injustice; but such an injustice the farmers could discover for themselves without the aid of philosophers or economists. When they were considering the interests of the tenant farmers, it must be noticed as a remarkable circumstance that there was one hon. Member who was conspicuous by his absence in these debates—the one tenant farmer in the House, and he a Member of the Government (Mr. Clare Read). Considering the fact that hon. Members had always been in the habit of listening to anything he might say on this subject with the greatest attention, it was a remarkable thing that he had not risen on behalf of the tenant farmers to say that they were satisfied with the Bill. Until he did so, the First Lord of the Admiralty might reserve the taunts in which he had indulged on the subject of the Suffolk election. The measure had not been forced upon the Government, as the Prime Minister had intimated, by philosophers and economists, but by Farmers' Clubs and Chambers of Agriculture, which had been denounced by the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire.
§ LORD ELCHO
denied he had denounced them. What he had said was that those who took a political part in those institutions did not represent the opinions of the farmers.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
wished, then, to know, if those clubs did not represent the opinions of the farmers, why hon. Gentlemen opposite took such pains to have them established? That was a point he would leave them to settle with the clubs themselves. The 1719 Government were in this dilemma. Either this was a matter in which Parliament had nothing to do, and on which there ought to he no Bill, or it was a matter with which Parliament had to do, and with which it ought to deal effectually. A middle course on the subject was only what his noble Friend had called "meddling and muddling." The Bill was merely a dissertation on unexhausted improvements'—a sort of moral essay on the whole duty of landlords—and was useless, unless something was done to give practical effect to the principles which it enunciated. It was said that you must not interfere with the sacred privileges of contract, and he was not fond of doing that; but he had heard of a great many things called sacred principles which covered a great many absurdities, and he would advise the noble Lord not to use it here in reference to private contracts which he violated himself whenever his doing so did not affect his own interests. [Lord ELCHO: Name, name!] The noble Lord asked him to name where he had violated the sacred principle of private contract. He had done so in the Mines Regulation Act, and in the Truck Act, and he could furnish him with other instances. It was forbidden by law to landlords and tenants to make contracts for the payment of the income tax. But the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken in thinking that this Bill secured the sacred principle of freedom of contract. Yearly tenancies were continuous contracts; but the Bill, when passed, would compel everybody to accept its terms; or, if not, they must make a new contract. Therefore, to say that the Bill maintained the sacred principle of freedom of contract was quite to mistake its character. Its great evil was that it altered all existing arrangements, and would make a great disturbance all over the country. Practically, it abolished yearly tenancy, as with yearly notice that notice must be given at the same time as the tenancy began. But they might say—"We will contract ourselves out of the Bill." If so, of what use was the Bill? What would the farmers get by it? The right hon. Gentleman said—" We do not look to legal compulsion by this Bill, but to the moral pressure it will have." He also said—" The object of the Bill was to establish an universal custom, and make it as difficult 1720 to contract out of it as to contract out of the custom." In Lincolnshire—as the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Chaplin) could tell them—it would be practically impossible to contract out of the custom; not legally impossible, of course, but virtually, as no landlord could say to a tenant—" I will let you the farm; but I bar the custom." Then the object of the Bill was to put all the landlords of England into that position. By the admission of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hunt) what was meant was virtual compulsion, and the Bill, in his (Sir William Harcourt's) opinion, was only valuable so far as it was compulsory. The compensation clauses certainly would either work as compulsory clauses, or, if not, they would, by future legislation, be made compulsory. He could not help thinking that if the Common Law were interpreted now-a-days as it was expounded by those great lawyers (Black-stone and Coke), there would be no necessity for legislation to secure the tenant right of the cultivators of the soil. There was another portion of the Bill which he regarded as of the utmost importance; and, in saying that, he referred to the power it gave to charge the inheritance. He had always felt that the greatest evils, both to the occupiers and owners of land and the labourers, were the laws of entail and of settlement. The Lords Committee which sat in 1873 recommended certain alterations in those laws, but the Bill made a great breach in the barricade of settlement and entail when it gave the County Court Judges power to set aside settlements so far as compensation under the Bill was concerned. And there was this remarkable feature in the Bill. If a landowner had two tenants, and had to pay to one £500 as compensation for improvements, and to receive from the other £500 for waste, he could charge the former sum upon the inheritance, but no security was taken that the latter sum should be spent on the estate. So that both ways it operated against the inheritance. Besides that, the Bill did away with the law of entail and inheritance so far as restrictions on improvements were concerned. In fact, it practically gave to the tenant for life, power to deal with the estate in regard to improvements as if he were the owner in fee. If for nothing else in the. Bill, these provisions would induce him to support 1721 it. He welcomed the Bill, not because it was directly compulsory, but because it would—in the words of the right hon. Gentleman—be "as difficult to contract out of it as out of custom." He agreed with his noble Friend (Lord Elcho) that it laid down principles which would have their consequences in the future, and he received it not for what it actually achieved—which was very little—but for what it involved, which was very much. He supported it not for what it performed, but for what it promised. He should vote for it because he looked at it as the beginning of a new system; not hierarchical but national, and because it shook to its foundation the ancient edifice of entail, and cleared the way for a speedy and certain reform of the laws affecting land.
§ LORD ELCHO
, in explanation, denied the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the City of Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) that he (Lord Elcho) had supported other measures which were levelled against freedom of contract. What he said was, that the legislation to which he alluded only interfered with freedom of contract in the cases of women, children, and lunatics, and on questions of health and life.
said, the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford was entirely in the wrong in supposing that it was practically impossible for any landlord to contract himself out of the custom of Lincolnshire. The hon. and learned Gentleman might, perhaps, be surprised to learn that he (Mr. Chaplin) had contracted himself out of that custom. But the effect of the custom, which was permissive, was precisely what he believed the effect of this Bill would be. He had heard no valid reason why, if the whole presumption of law was reversed in favour of the tenants, they should sign agreements which would deprive them of the material benefits which the Bill conferred.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
protested against the language of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire. He had characterized previous legislation on this subject as "Jack Cade" legislation, and the present attempt at legislation as "Dick Turpin" legislation. Now, it was to be borne in mind that Dick Turpin was a person who robbed upon the highway and took purses by 1722 means of a celebrated black mare. He hoped the noble Lord did not intend to compare the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government to that animal. He begged to call the attention of farmers to the fact that it was from the Conservative side of the House that the Dick Turpin simile came, and that it was applied to a Bill which was supposed to benefit the tenants.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, that his noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire had asked him to explain that he (Lord Elcho) had been misunderstood. He had not applied the phrase "Dick Turpin" legislation to the Bill before the House. He had applied it to language made use of on a former occasion in Dublin in respect to Irish land, which language had been endorsed by the late Government. Passing from that, he (Mr. Bentinck) would go on to say that the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire had asserted that the principle of the Bill had been assented to by the House. That he did not deny; but he should like to know what was its principle? Up to the present time there had been no explanation of it. His objection to the Bill was, that it really had no principle. Again, the right hon. Gentleman said the Bill upheld freedom of contract. But where was the use of that when they had it already? The truth was, there was no need whatever for the Bill. He asked the House to pause before sanctioning a measure which would simply lead to agitation and a re-valuation of lands, without yielding any adequate compensation whatsoever.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 303; Noes 76: Majority 227.
§ Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. DODSON
said, he hoped, if the Motion were agreed to, as he presumed it would be, it would be on the distinct understanding that it would only be pro formâ, and that the Chairman would at once report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Gourley).
§ MR. DISRAELI
hoped for the sake of Public Business—he did not like to say for the sake of the character of the House—that the hon. Member would not proceed with the Motion. They did not for a moment contemplate going into any controversial matters in Committee, and he hoped the hon. Member would not insist upon a Motion which he must say was rather of a vexatious character.
§ MR. DODSON
said, he made the suggestion he did in the belief that if the Government acquiesced there would be no opposition; but as he had been challenged by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty to give reasons for his suggestion, he would do so. One was the hour of the night; another was the extraordinary position the House was placed in by the course adopted by the Prime Minister. The little discussion the Bill had received in the Lords was a reason why it should be more thoroughly discussed in this House, in which small estates and small farmers were supposed to be represented.
§ MR. DODSON
repeated what he had said, that considering the importance of the subject, the House should not be called upon at so late an hour to do more than go into Committee on the Bill pro formâ, on the understanding that Progress would be reported immediately.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 96; Noes 255: Majority 159.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed. "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Morgan Lloyd.)1724
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, that upon the Main Question the Government had taken two divisions, in which he thought they had shown some strength. If, however, it was the determination of the opponents of the Bill to prevent further progress, he would, if the Motion was withdrawn, accept the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Dodson) and consent to the Committee being gone into pro formâ and Progress being immediately reported. He hoped that would meet the views of the noble Lord and his Friends.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, he was glad that the Prime Minister had assented to his right hon. Friend's proposal, which appeared to him a thoroughly reasonable one. The first question which would arise when they got into Committee would be that the Preamble be postponed, which would give hon. Members an opportunity of raising questions on the general scope of the Bill, and he could not help thinking that such an opportunity ought to be afforded, and also that the House might hear what was to be said in defence of the proposals of the Government. He was, therefore, glad that the right hon. Gentleman had acceded to the proposal of his right hon. Friend.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again on Thursday.