§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. SHARMAN CRAWFORD
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that this question of landlord and tenant in Ireland had many times been inquired into by Committees and Commissions. The Land Act of 1870 was intended as a final settlement of the question. In his opinion, the right hon. Gentleman the. Member for Greenwich deserved the thanks of the country for bringing forward that measure, and for the zeal he had manifested in carrying it through Parliament, for without his aid and strenuous exertions, the proposal would never have been brought to a successful conclusion. It had, however, failed to carry out the intentions of the Legislature; nor was that to be wondered at—it was not to be expected that one Act of Parliament would dispose of all questions between landlords and tenants in Ireland. Nor was this legislation at all singular in this respect, for they had every Session precedents in the shape of Amendment Bills. If the Act had passed through Parliament as it was originally introduced, it might possibly have carried out the intentions of its framers more completely; as it was, it had been found that it had failed of satisfying the expectations with which it was passed. Now, the present Bill was intended to make more clear the tenant-right of Ulster, and to give to the tenants in that province the same security they had formerly enjoyed, but which had been greatly interfered with by the Act of 1870. All that he need now say about the Ulster tenant-right or custom was that it was almost general throughout Ulster. Under it the tenants felt 1296 such security that they laid out their capital on their land, made improvements, and applied their labour to their farms. The custom being universally acknowledged and acted upon, the tenants felt they had security; they enjoyed prosperity and contentment; they had a quiet and peaceful life, while at the same time they fully and freely acknowledged the rights of the landlords. He must remind the House that the only security the tenant had for the outlay of his labour and capital was the inviolability of the tenant-right custom. Fifty or sixty years ago there was an attempt on the part of some landlords to set aside the Ulster customs by the introduction of certain "usages," as they were called in the Land Act; but where the custom was ousted, evictions and depopulation followed, and there being at that time no Poor Law, the people were driven to poverty, sometimes—too frequently, indeed—to absolute starvation, or it might be the whole population were driven out of the country. This state of things went on for years, and it was to secure to the Ulster tenants their rights that his father brought forward legislation with the view of preventing those evictions. The present Bill related to Ulster, and Ulster tenant-right alone. He and those who acted with him were not forgetful of other parts of Ireland—indeed, a Bill had been drafted having reference to the security of the rights of tenants throughout all Ireland; but such difficulties were found to exist relative to the other Provinces that the portion of the Bill outside Ulster had to be given up. What they now sought was a measure to secure, restore, and strengthen the tenant-right custom of Ulster. He would be quite ready to assist the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) in carrying through a measure to benefit the tenant-farmers of Leinster, Munster, and Connaught, either by extending the tenant-right custom of Ulster to those Provinces, or by means of some analogous measure. He contended that the Land Act of 1870 had failed, notwithstanding the intentions of its framers, to legalize the tenant-right custom of Ulster; but when that Act came to be administered, instead of being accepted as an admitted and unquestioned practice—instead of the Courts of Law holding the landlord bound by the custom, 1297 the tenant was called upon to establish by the strictest proof what he claimed as a right, and any departure from the custom was taken as evidence against him. The object of the present Bill was to show clearly what the custom was, and to make the practice secure.
§ MR. SPEAKER
reminded the hon. Member that the question now before the House was whether the Bill should now be read the second time. The hon. Member appeared to be going through the clauses seriatim; this was unusual on the Motion for the second reading, when the discussion was generally confined to the principle of the Bill.
§ MR. SHARMAN CRAWFORD
said, it was the first time that he had conducted a Bill through the House, and if he had erred against the Rules of the House he must apologize. He would confine himself to the principle of the Bill. Since the Act of 1870 various attempts had been made to destroy the principle of the tenant-right custom. New office rules had been drawn up and new agreements made, the effect of which was to do away altogether with tenant-right and the advantages obtained under the Bill of 1870. In some instances those agreements, thus forced on the tenants, were accepted, and his rights became thereby destroyed. A new feature, too, entirely unknown under the old custom, sprang up. Where tenant-right was claimed, an attempt was made to raise the rent on the holdings, and sometimes to a large extent; thereby most materially affecting the interest of the tenant. The right of re-sale to an incoming tenant was also stated to be interfered with. This was essential under the old custom, and it was one which if it were abolished would to a considerable extent diminish the value of the Ulster custom. By such practices the proprietors of estates in the North of Ireland were not doing much for themselves or others. There were many Ulster landlords sitting on the opposite benches; but they would not say that tenant-right had ruined them. On the contrary, there were no better cultivated estates in Ireland, no rents more regularly paid, no tenants more content, respectable, or industrious. And why? Because their tenant-right had for generations been maintained inviolable. This was not a Bill directed against good landlords. If all landlords had been 1298 good, neither the Act of 1870 nor this amending measure would have been necessary; but there was at present a feeling of discontent and insecurity on the part of the tenant-farmers of Ulster, which would continue to exist until they found themselves supported by the law in what they believed to be their rights. In this Bill he proposed nothing that was not borne out by the old tenant-right of Ulster. He wanted nothing more than that which hon. Gentlemen opposite had already conceded to their tenants; but short of that, neither he nor the Irish tenantry generally would be satisfied. Many years had elapsed since his father first proposed legislation on this subject in that House, and the measures he advocated were as nothing compared with the Act of 1870. His remonstrances were unheeded; he spoke to deaf ears; and the result was that they were eventually obliged to pass a more important and a more sweeping measure than would have been necessary if legislation had taken place in those earlier days. He asked the House now seriously to consider its position with that looming before them. He hoped, if this Bill were agreed to, that it would be a settlement satisfactory to the tenant-farmers of Ulster; and he should be happy to assist the other parts of Ireland to obtain a similar or such other settlement to extend to England, Wales, and Scotland, and which would give the tenant-farmers proper and sufficient security, so that the land might be improved to its utmost capacity. Since 1870 rents had increased, so that on that ground landlords had nothing to fear; while if the intention of the Act of 1870 was carried further by his Bill, it would bring to Ireland a greater state of peace and prosperity, and bring about greater union between landlord and tenant. In conclusion, he begged to move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed" "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Sharman Crawford.)
§ MR. GIBSON
said, that having carefully studied what his hon. Friend had been pleased to call the principles of the Bill, he had not the slightest hesitation in asking the House to reject it. Whether regarded in its principles or in its details, it was essentially an extravagant, unreasonable, and entirely uncalled-for 1299 measure—entirely uncalled-for either in Ulster or in any other part of Ireland. It seemed to him (Mr. Gibson) that the relations of the landlords and tenants of Ulster, if only let alone, were admirable. The usages which had been alluded to had grown up through the forbearance and generosity of the landlords, and the highest eulogy of that class was to be found in the fact that duties of imperfect obligation, which rested solely upon their sense of justice, had, in the course of generations, acquired the force of an absolute unwritten law. His hon. Friend had not sufficiently drawn attention to the law as it now existed. It might be thought, from such a proposal as was made by this Bill that the tenants of Ulster were suffering under some monstrous injustice—that the landlords were as a rule unjust and oppressive, and that the tenants were paragons of virtue and moderation. It was necessary to consider for a moment the incidents of the tenant-right of Ulster. What was Ulster tenant-right? As the right hon. Member for Greenwich pointed out in 1870, it varied in different districts, in different counties, and on different estates—in some parts of Ulster there was no usage at all: so that in the Act of 1870 the word "usages," in the plural, had been properly adopted as an accurate description of the true state of things. These usages varied almost on every estate; but roughly it might be stated that under these usages the tenant had a right of sale, subject to the approval of the landlord. It was usual for the landlord to give a preference to persons who were already his tenants; next, he would look to the relatives of the tenant who wanted to sell; and probably after them he would prefer a person belonging to a neighbouring estate—his object always being to fix upon someone who had already some association with the land. It was very rarely the case that this power was harshly or oppressively used. Surely, it was right that the landlord should have a voice in the selection of a tenant, for the outgoing man was perhaps leaving the country and in future would have no concern whatever with the property, while the character of the new tenant was a matter of very great moment to the landlord. As to the price to be paid, there were different modes of regulating it. On some estates—on very few, however 1300 —the price was ascertained publicly by auction: on others it was fixed by means of private and friendly inquiries; on others by arbitration; while, in other cases, the landlord would allow the outgoing tenant to get so many years' purchase of the land, or to get so much per acre. There was a prevalent desire to give almost anything to get into the possession of land, and the landlord's power of restricting the price was of great advantage in checking that disposition. It had already been stated that the Ulster usages did not prevail over the whole of Ulster, and that there were parts of the Province where no usages existed at all, and where the ordinary common law of the country prevailed. That was an important circumstance to bear in mind when one came to consider the sweeping measure now before the House. His hon. Friend had alluded to his father the late Mr. Sharman Crawford; but surely no one who had known that gentleman could doubt that he would have opposed a Bill of this character? Nothing more transcendentally beyond the views of that eminent Irishman could be conceived. Although the consent of the landlord was the essential principle of the Ulster usages, the Bill now introduced by his hon. Friend was intended to prevent him from having a word to say in the matter—neither as to the incoming tenant nor as to the price to be paid was his consent to be required—everyone might consent except the landlord. There was another circumstance to be borne in mind when it was attempted to define and restrict within fixed limits the varying customs of Ulster. In 1870 the right hon. Member for Greenwich not only stated that the essential distinction of Ulster custom was that it rested upon the consent of the landlord, and that in some parts of the Province there was no tenant-right at all, but that it was utterly impossible to define the usages which did exist. The Cabinet of that day tried repeatedly to fix upon a definition, but without success. The hon. Member who had introduced the present Bill, and those acting with him, were wiser in their generation, and, boldly grappling with the difficulty, had set forth what they regarded as the essential elements of the various usages. A little consideration would show that the present position of Ulster with respect to tenant-right was exceptionally good. All the usages 1301 whatever they might be, which had previously rested upon goodwill merely were by the Land Act made absolutely and entirely legal. But, more than that, the Act left the tenant at liberty either to rest upon the custom, or to avail himself of the provisions as to compensation which were considered good enough for Leinster, Connaught, and Munster. There was a good dash of Scotch blood among the people of Ulster, and no doubt they were well able to decide for themselves as to which of these courses would be the more advantageous. If he pleased—that was, if he saw it was more to his advantage—he could go upon the general law, or if he thought it would pay him best he could go upon the Ulster usage. In the history even of the British Parliament there never was passed a measure of such vast dimensions as that of 1870. According to a statement of the late Sir John Gray, a great advocate of the tenants, the Act of 1870 transferred £18,000,000 of property from the landlords to the tenants of Ireland. In the history of Parliament there had never been such a transfer of property from one class in whom it was legally invested to another class, without one farthing of compensation being given. All the great statesmen who took part in it treated it as a final settlement of the difficulties which had been agitating Ireland for a great many years. Now, after the lapse of only five years, a further sweeping measure was proposed, and it appeared from the candid expressions of his hon. Friend that it was intended to be a means of enabling him and others to lend a helping hand towards passing a similar measure for the other Provinces of Ireland. His hon. Friend had even expressed a hope that before long something of the same kind would be done for England, Scotland, and Wales. So they were asked to start upon a new wave of agitation, beginning with Ulster and ending—God knew where. The present Bill might be roughly summarized in the statement that it selected all the strongest incidents of the most favourable customs in any part of Ulster and proceeded to say that they should be held to apply in every part of the Province—even where the usage was more restricted, or where there was absolutely none at all. It was a Bill not to legalize usages, but to create usages. It was 1302 not a Bill to explain the law, but to make the law. The Land Act made the existing usages legal, and the effect of the present Bill, therefore, could only be to make legal that which at present did not exist. What right had the Ulster tenants, in justice or in fair play, to get more than the legalization of any usage which existed? What right had they to have something made law that was not at present law? The Bill cast on every landlord the onus of proving a negative? When the Ulster tenant sought, over and above the advantage of the general law, to get the benefit of a special usage, the landlord must prove that the tenant was not entitled to the special right which he claimed; and, if he did not prove that, the tenant would only have to walk into Court with that Bill—at which the late Mr. Sharman Crawford himself would have shuddered—and the landlord must pay. One of the essential principles of the Bill was unrestrained sale. It was obviously not for the interest of the tenant-farmers of Ulster that they should have any such power of sale, because if the outgoing tenant was enabled to get the most extravagant price he could wring by competition in Ireland from the incoming tenant, the latter would be placed in a very difficult position, and the gravest possible danger would result. He believed that the tenant farmers themselves would view the proposition with the greatest distrust. Another provision, of an amusing if not of an audacious character, was that somebody who was not named was to have the power of valuing the rent; so that if the landlord tried to raise the rent—perhaps by a few shillings—there would be frequent applications to that undefined tribunal to prevent it; while, in the case of the tenant who had run himself out by the extravagant price he had given to his predecessor, the attempt would be made to get the rent reduced at least for a time. The fundamental principle underlying the Ulster tenant-right was that the landlord had absolute power in selecting his tenant—and undoubtedly if the power of retaining landed property was to exist at all in Ireland, it was only reasonable that the landlord should-have some little voice in the management of his own estates. This Bill, however, upset all that—it proposed that the landlord should be 1303 bound to accept whoever was tendered to him as a tenant if he was not ready to put into black and white something which sombody would decide was a reasonable objection. Surely that was an audacious proposal. There were a great number of things which went to make up a good or a bad tenant which it was not easy to reduce into an exact definition. A man who had been to Australia and had returned with a little money might be tendered as a tenant, and, for various reasons, the landlord might not care to have him; but he was to be compelled to take him, or prove at some sort of judicial inquiry that his objection was reasonable. Was not that an absolute mutilation of the landlord's right of selection? How was it possible for such a provision to be worked? He contended that danger and confusion would arise out of such an arrangement. Moreover, it would create a gross injustice, for he held it to be utterly undeniable that the landlord ought in all cases to have a substantial voice in the selection of his own tenant. Really it was very hard to tell what were all the principles of the Bill, or how far its pernicious suggestions might not extend. He had pointed out some of its more glaring defects, but it was even very much worse than he had yet described. It appeared that there might be an appeal from the inferior tribunal to the Court for Land Oases Reserved to say whether, under all the circumstances, the landlord's objection was a reasonable one—the onus, as he had said, was thrown on the landlord to prove that the land was not subject to some special usage—and yet he was not to be allowed to prove the negative by any of the usual reasons that would be recognized in an ordinary Court of Justice. It might be reasonable, if a tenant-right existed in a particular district, to allow that tenant-right to attach at the termination of a lease; but that was not what was done by the Bill, because under the Bill it was to be presumed that the usage was not the usage of the district, but one of the widest character; regardless of the fact that it was a particular usage which was to attach on the expiration of the lease. Again, the landlord might have purchased or otherwise acquired the tenant-right; it might have been surrendered to him by a former tenant; and on what principle of equity was the tenant to obtain 1304 the benefit of a special usage for which he had given nothing, and which had been surrendered to the landlord by some person with whom he was in no privity whatever? In a case in which a usage had lasted for a substantial time, say a generation or two, and assuming that the tenant might only have come in at a restricted price, say £5 an acre, what would be the justice of saying that this man should be able to get from the incoming tenant £20 or £25 an acre, or whatever other sum he could wring out of him by competition? He was now speaking, not for the landlords, but for the tenant-farmers of Ulster. The last proposal of the Bill he should touch upon was the one which proposed to give to the tenant the power of selling by auction. What would be the result of such a provision as that? Let them test its application to any estate in England. Let them imagine a man employing an auctioneer and working up the figure to the greatest possible pitch in his power. That would be neither reasonable towards the landlord or the tenant, and he should be much surprised if Parliament were to listen to it for a moment. What must be the consequence? That a tenant who had given his all for the purchase of the right would strip himself of the capital essential to the development and ordinary working of the farm. They had been told by his hon. Friend—perhaps with too much frankness—that this was to be extended in time, when they saw their way, to England and Scotland. It was said, in justification of the proposal, that it was at present practically a legal proceeding in the greater part of Ulster. That he denied—the estates in Ulster, where those sales by auction occurred, were really few, and formed no substantial part of the Province. Within the last few weeks that question had been decided in Ireland by Chief Baron Palles. In that case it was sought to be shown that a person who had bought under a sheriff's execution at an auction was entitled to be put upon the landlord and to get the benefit of the tenant-right, and that sale by auction should be regarded as an incident of the usage. The Chief Baron, however, said that was no part of the usage, and was inconsistent with the portion of the custom which gave the landlord a voice in the nomination of a new tenant. If the proposal with regard 1305 to sale by auction were legalized, they would have more unwelcome visits from the sheriff's officer in Ulster than they had heretofore; and then they would not see in that Province what had hitherto been witnessed there—namely, so many families remaining under the same landords and in the same holdings for centuries—the introduction of the system of sale by auction would put an end to that. Having gone carefully over the entire Bill, he had failed to discern any substantial benefit to the landlord under its provisions—there would be no such benefit—on the contrary, under the Bill the landlord was treated as a kind of interloper, and everybody had a right to interfere with his property but himself. He was to be burdened with legal presumptions; he was tied neck and heels, and was not to discharge himself by any of the ordinary modes by which they could be rebutted. A Bill more extravagant in its details, or more utterly unreasonable in its principles, had never been introduced in that House. If the measure was good, why did it stop short at Ulster and not extend to Cork and Galway? No case had been made out, however, for giving it any consideration whatever. The Ulster tenants were in a better position than any others in Ireland, and if the agitation were allowed to die out they would be satisfied with things as they were—as, indeed, he believed the majority of them were at present. Legislation could not do everything for a country, which must sometimes do something for itself. They could not be eternally looking to Parliament to regulate the minutest circumstance of every possible relationship. Ireland was now prosperous, emigration was diminishing, the deposits in the savings banks were vastly increasing, and the House would do well to leave the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland to be regulated by existing legislation, by the working of the ordinary economic laws, and by the growth of mutual goodwill and forbearance among both of those classes. The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving that the Bill be read the second time that day three months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Gibson.)1306
§ MR. BUTT
said, he was anxious to rise early in the debate and state shortly why he should support the Bill, though it only extended to the Province of Ulster. He wished the hen. Member who had introduced the Bill had shown the logical necessity, when they were giving security to the tenant-right of Ulster, of extending something like the same protection to other parts of Ireland; but as he had not done so, and had taken another course, leaving the duty to him, he could not avoid supporting the Bill, because to his mind it did nothing more than a most simple act of justice to the tenants of Ulster. If any Representative for Ulster had risen to move this Amendment, he thought the House would have had a more accurate description of Ulster tenant-right than the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down (Mr. Gibson) had given them. Ulster tenant-right was no new law. It had long existed as an unwritten law, and had the force of law—it was a custom, in fact, which long usage had made binding, and which in honour, justice, and truth was as binding on landlord and tenant as any of the customs of society that bound them all, and which no man could violate, though there existed no legal means of enforcing them. It was a misrepresentation to say that the tenant-right of Ulster was altogether founded on the goodwill of the landlord. Its origin was clear enough. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would turn to the Report of the Devon Commission of 1845, and to the evidence which that Commission took, he would find it was plain enough. When James I distributed among the "Undertakers" the confiscated lands of the proprietors in the nine counties of Ulster, every grantee got them under a distinct covenant and undertaking to have no uncertain tenures on his estate, but to plant them under persons holding on long leases. When the Undertakers got their lands, however, they began to neglect the undertaking they had given, and to such an extent did this neglect prevail among them that there was in existence an extraordinary document, a survey made by Sir James Skinner by order of James I., who directed him to ascertain whether the stipulated conditions had been respected. Sir James Skinner visited the estates accordingly; and he found that in all cases the grantees 1307 had neglected the condition of their grants. He reported all this to the King, stating in his Report that there was not one holder who had not violated the terms of his grant. The tenants, on the faith of the grants, had improved the lands, built the houses which the proprietors required to be built, and had created a value for their properties, which had endured until this day. The success that had attended their labours, and the prosperity which that part of Ireland enjoyed, had often been attributed to the fact that those men were Protestants; but, looking perhaps to the significant fact that they had arms in their hands—he quoted from Lord Devon's Commission, and to the evidence which was given before that Commission—he was rather of opinion that that success and that prosperity should be attributed to the sense of security under which, in those circumstances, they carried out their labours. Of so much importance was tenant-right regarded by that Commission, that they told the Government that if there were any attempt on the part of the landlords to interfere with tenant-right in Down, all the military force the Horse Guards could send there would be unable to preserve the peace, and Down would become another Tipperary. And why so? Because religious distinctions had made it the policy of the Government to disarm and to crush the South, which was Catholic. The North was Protestant, and had arms, and was secure and prospered. The South was Catholic, it was disarmed, and it was crushed. These were things the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Gibson) either had not studied or had forgotten. The security of tenure which existed in Ulster became a custom that was enforced by law; and Lord Devon said it was owing to the tranquillity which Ulster thus enjoyed that the Province prospered as it had done. The Government recognized the custom, and it was by the recognition of the custom that the question should now be judged. No doubt, the custom had not the force of law, but it was exactly analogous to the custom which had grown up in England under the name of copyhold tenure, and which was as much a part of the law of the land as if it had been created by statute. But the Legislature had thought it reasonable and right to give the force of law to the Ulster tenant 1308 right, and that was the foundation of this Bill. If the details of this Bill were open to objection, they could be amended in Committee; but the principle of the Bill was that the Ulster tenant-right, as defined and intended to be given by the Land Act of 1870, did require further protection; and, also, that the restrictions in the price to be got by the sales should be abolished. Remember that this was an ancient custom, which ought to be a written custom. In ancient times the tenant sold his interest in the property, and was entitled in a further degree to the value which his skill and improvements had given to the land. He thus acquired an additional right in the land, and had a right to sell it to the highest bidder. In ancient times the tenant sold his interest in the property to the highest bidder, with only one restriction—namely, that he was not to force an unreasonable tenant on his landlord. Who, it was asked, was to judge of that? He answered that the unwritten law which bound landlord and tenant had judged it before; and the landlord would no more refuse, in the opinion of his neighbours, a reasonable tenant, offered by the outgoing tenant, than he would raise his rent unjustly. Moreover, that was judged at present in the Land Court, on questions of valuation of Ulster tenant-right. Professionally, he had never known a case in which an indiscriminate right of rejection was alleged by a landlord. Having seen a sort of embryo copyhold growing up against them, the landlords of Ulster began to restrict the right, and a rule was made on some estates that the tenant should not sell his interest for more than ten or seven, and, in one instance of which he had heard, for not more than two years' purchase of the fee. If justice demanded that certain usages and customs should be legalized, why should restrictions be placed on the sale of property which the tenant had so acquired? In truth and justice, he should not be subjected by his landlord to restrictions in the sale of his land. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dublin University showed great anxiety for the interests of the incoming tenant-farmers; but would restrict the interest of the outgoing farmers under their ancient custom. Why should they not put restrictions upon the landlord as well as on the tenant? There was just as much 1309 right to control the one as the other; and to give a power to the landlord and withhold it from the tenant would be an act of confiscation. His hon. and learned Friend said, would you prevent the landlord from raising the rent? He (Mr. Butt) would maintain the tenant-right of Ulster, and he was astonished at the view taken of the question by his hon. and learned Friend, for it was the essence of the tenant-right custom of Ulster, that the landlord should not raise their rents unreasonably. In the county of Armagh, were tenant-right prevailed, there was a landlord who raised his rent 2s. or 3s., and the tenants acquiesced; in another year he raised the rent 2s. more, and they acquiesced; and a third time he raised the rent an additional shilling. The tenants then said—" This is carrying it too far; now it is time for us to stand against it," and one of them, a widow, resisted and left the land. She brought an action, and he (Mr. Butt) advocated her right, and the case resulted in the Chairman awarding her £700 compensation against the landlord. In another case where the landlord raised the tenant's rent, the tenant sought compensation, and exclaimed in Court—" I have laboured on this land from sunrise until I saw the stars shine out at night. I have laboured in the ditches and brought the land into improved condition, and this injustice is imposed upon me." Upon good landlords like the Duke of Abercorn and the Marquess of Downshire, who had recognized and acted upon the just principles of tenant-right, the opponents of the measure would place restrictions, and would give a premium to the oppressive and tyrannical landlord. Was that justice? No? it was trying to overthrow Ulster tenant-right. The question had also arisen whether Ulster tenant-right could countervail the covenant contained in all leases to give up all improvements at the end of the lease. The Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland (Chief Justice Whiteside) decided that it did. It was not a question of custom, but a question of a lease coming in conflict with the Common Law unfortunately. When the case came on to be argued the landlord died on the very day, and the point had consequently remained undecided. Now, if they would really recognize the Ulster tenant-right, which had all the 1310 sanction of usage, and which descended from father to son, he asked them not to do anything that could injure that right, and if the tenant had a property under the Ulster tenant-right, he had a right to dispose of it in the best way he could. They had legalized the Ulster tenant-right, and no man could say he had not a right of property under it. He (Mr. Butt) maintained that a tenant in such a position had just as much right to dispose of his property in the land as the landlord had. He regretted exceedingly that some such provision had not been made for the rest of Ireland; but he had nothing to do with that now. In Ulster at least it was an act of direct justice; but he might use the words of Chief Justice Whiteside when he visited Italy and saw what tenant-right had done. In Tuscany and other portions of the country the ordinances of the Emperor Joseph had covered the hills with vegetation. The learned Judge exclaimed—"Is it not melancholy that our statesmen, who have done all this for Ulster, should not have done it also for the rest of Ireland?" That was the language of an eminent statesman and Judge. It was not differences of religion or of race that had caused the difference now in the condition of the North of Ireland and the South, but the fact that there had grown up around Belfast and in its vicinity a people trained in the sentiment of security, an act of right which if given to the South of Ireland would cause it to become as peaceful, as loyal, and as contented as Ulster.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
said, he considered the Bill to be simply a transfer of the property of the landlord to the tenant. It was a direct measure of confiscation, entirely antagonistic to the principles of the Irish Land Act of 1870, and contrary to all the promises and statements then made in the House as to the scope of Ulster tenant-right. The Solicitor General for Ireland then laid it down distinctly that the presumption of law would not be in favour of the custom, because the law required that the tenant should prove that his holding was subject to it; and the Ulster tenant-right was defined very clearly to be the right of a tenant to part with his interest in the property concerned, subject to the rule of the estate, and, in most instances, subject to the approbation of the landlord as to the new tenant: and after the 1311 Bill had been introduced a clause was added, expressly providing that where this right had once been abrogated by purchase by the landlord it was not to be set up again, yet here was a Bill introducing an entirely new set of rights for the tenant, and this within five years after the passing of an Act which was declared to effect a general settlement. He had looked upon the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) as one of the soundest Conservative Members in the House, but the views he had expressed on the present subject had a little startled him. What the hon. and learned Member contended was that, tenant-right having been legalized, they must now determine what that right was. A new right, in fact, was to be built up which the hon. and learned Member hoped would be extended to the whole of Ireland and hereafter to the whole of the United Kingdom. The Bill was brought forward at a most unfortunate time. Ireland, like England, required to have capital infused into the land, and for that purpose it was necessary that the tenant should be able to secure a fair return for the benefit which he passed on to the incoming tenant, while at the same time security was given to the landlord against excessive claims. But this Bill set up entirely new rights for the tenants of Ireland far beyond what had ever been dreamt of in respect to the tenants of England. The Bill professed only to deal with the occupiers of land in the Province of Ulster, but there could be no doubt that, if passed, immediate steps would be taken to extend its principle to the whole country, and so to absorb every possible interest which the landlords possessed in their properties by vesting the entire property in the soil in the tenants. He hoped, therefore, that the House would reject the Bill by a large majority, on the grounds that it came immediately after the passage of an Act dealing with the same subject by a powerful Government, and with the general assent of the community; that, though from its Preamble it might have been expected to review, illustrate, or explain the principles of Ulster tenant-right, it did no such thing; and that it came at a time when several Bills dealing with the question of tenant-right in England were passing through Parliament. Attempts to tamper with the laws affecting the holding of land 1312 must of necessity render property insecure, and therefore such experiments ought not to be made, except after very grave consideration and in the face of urgent facts. No such circumstances existed in the present case, and therefore he urged the House to reject the Bill.
said, surprise had been expressed at the fact that his name, he being a Conservative Member, should have been found on the back of the present Bill. The explanation of the circumstance was to be found in the fact that, in his view of the matter. Parliament ought to conserve the rights of the tenants as well as those of the landlords. The prosperity and stability of the landed interest depended upon landlords and tenants mutually respecting each other's rights, and it was in order to promote this that the present Bill had been introduced. He did not approve all the proposals which the Bill contained; but he had allowed his name to be put upon the back, in the hope that it might be sent before a Committee, where the objectionable portions might be removed. The real principle of the measure which in his view of the matter deserved support was that when a tenant in the North of Ireland sold his tenant-right, he should be entitled to receive the full market value for it. It was desirable that the discontent which now existed should be removed. On the whole, advantage had followed the passage of the Land Act of 1870 in that it had worked justice for the tenants of bad landlords; but it must at the same time be admitted that in some cases neither landlords nor tenants derived any advantage at all from the measure. The Act had worked well where the landlords had treated their tenants justly; but it failed just where its operation was most needed. He believed that the landlords of Ireland had been greatly maligned as a body. The idea had prevailed in this country that every Irish landlord was a grasping man, seeking to get all he could out of the tenant, and that every Irish tenant was actuated by a somewhat corresponding feeling towards his landlord. He had had a good deal to do with the management of land in the North of Ireland, and in most districts which he knew there was a feeling of respect and consideration on the part of the tenant towards the landlord. But this was not the class of landlords with 1313 which it was sought to deal. The present Bill proposed to cure the defect in the Act of 1870 by dealing with the cases of property held by owners who, within the last 30 years or so, had bought lands in the Encumbered Estates Court and refused to pay any regard to the custom under which the estates were let prior to their entering upon possession—they treated the matter as a mere question of profit and loss, raising the rents and turning out the tenants if they would not pay the advance. The arguments of the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin against the measure were to a great extent answered by the fact that in the counties of Down, Armagh, Antrim, and Derry, where tenant-right was almost universal, the rents were higher and the land fetched higher prices than in any other part of the country. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had practised in the Quarter Sessions Courts, where causes affecting the land question were tried, he would have possessed knowledge which would have preserved him from falling into that error. He saw no reason in the fact that Bills affecting the English land laws were before Parliament, why the present measure should not have been brought forward at the present time. The circumstances of the two countries in this respect were widely different, and he therefore hoped the House would pass the second reading and go into Committee upon the Bill.
§ MR. KAVANAGH
said, he had listened in vain to the speech of the hon. Member who had introduced the Bill (Mr. S. Crawford) for any arguments which should induce him to support its provisions—indeed, if he might say so, he had wondered that any sane man could be found to support the measure. He had listened also to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) with great interest—with all the greater interest because the hon. and learned Member had formerly held the office of Professor of Political Economy in Trinity College, Dublin—a fact which added value to the opinions which he expressed on this subject. It was clear that the hon. and learned Gentleman was thoroughly in earnest in the view he took; but it was equally clear that the illustrations with which he supported his arguments showed the existing law to be sufficient 1314 for the protection of the rights of the tenants, in whatever part of Ireland their holdings might be. He did not wish to go minutely into the provisions of the Bill, but the interest he had always taken in the matter made him anxious to say a few words. When the Irish Land Bill was passing through Parliament, he went as far as anyone to protect the rights of the tenants, and though he was looked upon as taking an exceptional course, he had not seen any reason since to regret what he then did. He always regarded those clauses of the Bill which dealt with tenant right as the least satisfactory, because of the difficulty there was in obtaining from the Government of the day any clear and distinct definition of what in their view tenant-right really was. The present Bill was tolerably clear in its definitions, and its meaning, which was not to amend, but to repeal, in many of its material features, the Act of 1870. Its provisions were more stringent than any which existed in the minds of the framers of the Act of 1870, and gave powers to the tenants greater than they ought to have. If the Bill passed a tenant who from caprice or any other reason chose to give up his farm would be able to put it up to auction, and sell it to the highest bidder notwithstanding anything his landlord might have to say to the contrary. He was willing to restrain the landlords' capricious power of eviction, and to secure to tenants payment for permanent improvements effected by them, and also the re-payment of monies paid for the acquisition of their tenancies; but he could not support a Bill the effect of which would be to leave landlords with a mere rent-charge on their estates. He knew the case of a landlord in the North of Ireland who had expended a large sum of money in buying up the tenant-right on his estate, but if this Bill were to pass he might as well have thrown his money into the sea. He was glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich in his place, because he could explain what were the intentions of his Government when they passed the Land Act. In the interest of the tenants themselves it was to be hoped the measure would not be allowed to pass. If this principle of selling the interest in farms by auction were legalized it would be impossible for poor men to get farms at all, and unless 1315 tenants were absolutely rich they would be unable to stock and cultivate their holdings after they had expended the large amount of capital necessary for their mere acquisition. The Irish people were perfectly reckless as regards the price they would pay for the possession of a bit of land, and a more nefarious tax could not be imposed on them than by rendering the possession of a farm impossible except by the payment of a heavy price, which would be the immediate effect of this Bill becoming law. By a decisive repudiation of measures of this kind the House would do much to discourage that sensational legislation which was one of the products of the exercise of the agitators calling, and would do more to allay the wild hopes and discontent that had been thus created than could be done by the provisions of any Peace Preservation Act.
§ MR. LAW
said, it was somewhat remarkable that though this discussion had now lasted a considerable time, no representative of any Ulster constituency had as yet addressed the House, with the exception of his hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone who supported the Bill. In opposition to it they had heard the strong observations of his hon. and learned Friend the junior Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), who as had already been noticed, had still much to learn of Ulster tenant-right; and they had had speeches from the hon. Member for the County of Carlow (Mr. Kavanagh), who did not pretend to understand the custom, and from the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney), who could hardly be expected to know much of anything so merely Irish; but, strange to say, one Ulster Member only had expressed his views on a subject of such great importance to himself and his constituents. He hoped before this debate proceeded much further to hear the opinions of some hon. Gentlemen opposite, who at the last General Election professed a warm interest in the subject, and an anxiety to have the legal recognition of Ulster tenant-right by the Land Act of 1870 supplemented by provisions calculated to facilitate its enforcement. The Irish Land Act was indeed a great measure, and one the difficulty of which might be partially estimated to recalling the many abortive attempts of the preceding 30 1316 years to effect any satisfactory settlement of the question. But it must be borne in mind that its enactments as to Ulster tenant-right were substantially confined to a single clause, which declared that the custom should thenceforth have the force of law, and be enforced in the ease of any holding proved to be subject thereto. Now, practical difficulties had arisen in applying and carrying out this simple enactment, and with these the present Bill proposed to deal. However, before proceeding further, let him say a word upon the so-called transfer of £18,000,000 worth of property from the landlords to their tenants which some hon. Gentlemen opposite were so fond of attributing to the Irish Land Act. He begged to remind the House that many Conservative landlords voted for that measure; and to suggest that in so doing they very well knew they were not assisting towards the confiscation of their own property. What the Act did and what they deliberately voted for was, the placing of some reasonable restrictions on a landlord's unjust exercise of his superior power. The Ulster custom which the Courts should long ago have recognized as binding was brought within the protection of the law; and landlords were on the one hand made amenable in damages for capricious eviction, and on the other were debarred from confiscating the property created by their tenants' improvements—a provision which the supporters of the Agricultural Holdings Bill, now soon to be discussed, could hardly stigmatize as robbery. But it was said, Why attempt any fresh legislation?—that the Act of 1870 was believed to be a final settlement of the Irish land question—that since then only five years had passed away; and we should rest quiet for some unspecified period—perhaps a generation or two—or, at all events, he presumed as long as suited the convenience of hon. Gentlemen opposite, before we sought to effect any further amendment of the law. Well, he did not recollect that any principle of this kind had ever been observed by hon. Gentlemen when they themselves desired legislative change. In 1872, provision was made by the Licensing Act of that year for regulating the sale of intoxicating liquors throughout the United Kingdom. It was supposed 1317 to be a fair and satisfactory settlement of the matter; but that did not prevent the Conservative Party from listening to the complaints of their friends, and introducing a measure last year for the removal of the publicans' grievances. So, also, a few years ago we had an Act which nationalized all English endowments for intermediate education—and yet only last Session we saw the Government endeavour to carry a Bill which would have reversed the policy thus deliberately adopted. Need he mention Purchase in the Army, formally abolished in 1871, and now partially restored under the name of Regimental Exchanges? But he would pursue these illustrations no further. The truth was, that arguments for delay, such as he had been alluding to, did not impose on anyone—not even on those who used them. In this, as in other cases, they merely meant that hon. Gentlemen disliked the proposed measure, and yet could assign no good reason for objecting to it. It was, however, a total mistake to imagine that the Bill now before the House sought to undo the settlement intended to be made by the Act of 1870. Its object, on the contrary, was to carry out that settlement so far as the Ulster tenant-right custom was concerned. The Act of 1870, it would be recollected, declared that the usages, prevalent in the Province of Ulster, and which it stated were, as a matter of fact, know as "the Ulster tenant-right custom," should be deemed legal, and in the case of any holding proved to be subject thereto should be enforced as afterwards provided. Now there were two things in this enactment to which he wished to draw attention—first, the declaration by the Legislature that the usages, though, perhaps, many in number, still all collectively constituted, and were in fact popularly known as one single custom; thus indicating as it seemed to him that the usages, however varying in their minor details, had a central principle common to them all: and, secondly, the declaration that this custom made up of these cognate usages was, as a matter of fact, prevalent through-out the entire Province of Ulster. What, then, was proposed by the present Bill, which had been assailed as utterly unreasonable in its principles and extravagant in its details? It did not seek to legalize any usage that had not been 1318 legalized already. It took the substance of the 1st clause of the Land Act as its basis, and dealt simply with the means by which the already legalized usage might be more easily enforced. This it attempted to do by taking the one central principle which characterized the Ulster tenant-right custom in every form—namely, the right of sale, and declaring that the existence of this right should be presumed until the contrary was proved. Now this appeared to him to be entirely reasonable, having regard to the nature and prevalence of the custom, and the actual conditions under which it would have to be established. For he would venture to assert that of agricultural holdings in Ulster 99 out of every 100—perhaps he might say 999 out of every 1,000—were, as a matter of fact, notoriously subject to the tenant-right custom; and further that, whatever subordinate variations there might be in the custom, this usage or right to sell, subject to a fair rent and to an unobjectionable successor, was a constant element of it in every form. He appealed to those hon. Gentlemen opposite who represented Ulster constituencies whether this was not an accurate statement of the matter. Indeed, he might challenge any of them to rise in his place and contradict either of these propositions. Well, then, if that be so—if almost every holding in Ulster was admittedly subject to this usage—this guarded right of sale—was it unreasonable to provide that Courts of Justice, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, should presume such right to exist? Nay, was it not, under the circumstances, unreasonable and gratuitously vexatious that the tenant, when forced into Court, should be required to prove the existence of that which out of Court nobody called in question. But then it was said, if nearly every farm in Ulster be really subject to the custom, what hardship was there in the tenant being obliged to prove it. Well, even supposing that witnesses were to be had who could establish the fact, he (Mr. Law) thought it was a hardship on the tenant to be obliged to prove the usage—that was, to prove the general rule—the applicability of which was as notorious to the landlord and every one else as that the sun shone at noonday. For it must be recollected that the procuring of witnesses was always a matter of more or 1319 less difficulty and expense; and that even when summoned, they might fail to attend, and the tenant's honest claim thus probably be defeated. Now, considering that this usage or right of sale mentioned in the Bill existed almost universally throughout the Province, would it not be more reasonable to require the landlord to show, if he could, that as to the particular holding in question, the general usage did not apply, than, as at present, to oblige the tenant to prove its application? As a matter of legal principle and common sense he submitted that presumptions ought to be in accordance with what obtained generally, and not in favour of that which was merely exceptional; and therefore, even if there were nothing more in the case than this, there would, he conceived, be sufficient reason for the change proposed. But the truth was, that however notorious the usage might be, the production of witnesses to give the necessary legal proof was often found extremely difficult. When the Act first came into operation chairmen and Judges used to allow the custom to be proved not only by evidence relating to the particular holding in question, or the estate of which it formed part, but also by evidence of the usage on neighbouring estates. It was, however, soon urged, and at length settled, that the necessary proof could only be given by showing recognition of the custom on the holding itself, or on the estate it belonged to. Now, the holding might not have been sold for generations; and in many instances the breaking up of large estates, and their sale in lots—especially in the Landed Estates Courts—interposed a serious difficulty, and one which was constantly increased by the mere lapse of time. The lots frequently comprised but two or three farms, none of which might have been sold for many years, and the House would readily perceive the risk to which the tenant was exposed under such circumstances. How, for example, was he to prove—save by title deeds and other documentary evidence, much of which he had absolutely no means of the now separated portions once formed a single estate, and accordingly, should still be so considered for the purpose of supplying evidence of the usage claimed? But great as the difficulty was, even where the breaking up of the estate was recent, what would be the position of 1320 the tenant when some 20 or 30 years had passed away? Was it not plain that proofs of this kind would then be simply impossible for him? Having regard, therefore, to those different considerations, he submitted the change of presumption proposed by the Bill was fully justified by the state of things in Ulster, and was, indeed, necessary to carry out and effectuate what was the real intention of Parliament in recognizing the custom of tenant-right as prevalent throughout the Province, and declaring that it should thenceforth have the force of law. But his hon. and learned Friend opposite (Mr. Gibson) had objected to the way in which the usage or right so proposed to be presumed was described, urging that no such right had ever prevailed in the Province, and that in this respect the Bill would not provide for the enforcement of an existing usage, but would be the creation of a new usage. He (Mr. Gibson) contended that the right mentioned in the Bill differed from the ordinary Ulster usage by unwarrantably restricting the power of the landlord; first, as to the increase of his rent, and, secondly, as to his approval or disapproval of the purchaser as tenant. The argument, however, was he (Mr. Law) thought founded on a misapprehension. The supporters of the Bill did not desire to make any alteration in the custom already legalized by the Land Act. As the law now stood the landlord was not at liberty to raise his rent as he pleased. If he could do that, the legalization of tenant-right would be futile, for he might by indefinite increase of the rent simply transfer the value of the tenant-right from the tenant's pockets to his own. No; the increase of rent must be such as not to encroach on the tenant's legalized interest; in other words, it must be reasonable; and accordingly, if a difference now arose on this point, it had to be decided by the Land Court. So, again, the landlord was not at present free to object to any purchaser without alleging some reasonable ground for doing so. Did hon. Gentlemen opposite seriously contend on behalf of the Ulster landlords for a right to make unreasonable objections, to refuse any person they pleased whether for good cause or for bad? Was it not obvious that the existence of such a power would enable them to defeat the tenant-right altogether 1321 and thus practically to repeal the Land Act? But the answer was, that this supposed unlimited power of objection was not part of the Ulster custom as it existed before the Act of 1870, and when protected only by what his right hon. Friend the late Prime Minister called the "authoritative traditions" of the Province. To object to a purchaser, then, save on reasonable grounds, would have been condemned by the public opinion of the country as a departure from the local usage; and to do so now was happily prohibited as a breach of the law. Here, just as in the matter of the rent, if a difference arose the Land Court must determine whether the course taken by the landlord was reasonable or unreasonable, and award or withhold compensation accordingly. The Bill, in short, did not propose to make any change in either respect. It sought to establish a primâ facie presumption in favour of the prevalent usage or right of sale, which it properly described as subject to two qualifications—namely, the liability to rent which might be reasonably varied from time to time, and the landlord's right to refuse the purchaser, if he could allege any reasonable objection to him. And he (Mr. Law) would again ask the Ulster Members whether this was not a correct description of the custom which all knew to be prevalent throughout the Province? But it had been alleged that the Bill was unjust in this—that whilst on the one hand it would create a presumption in favour of the tenant, it would not allow the landlord to disprove it by any of the ordinary modes usual in such cases. Well, he admitted that if the measure were open to this objection, it would be difficult to justify it. Here again, how-over, his hon. and learned Friend was labouring under a misapprehension. There were this moment just two modes by which the Ulster farmer's claim to tenant-right might be defeated. One was by showing that the holding had never been subject to the custom—a position which he believed it would be exceedingly difficult to establish, whilst the other mode was by showing that the tenant-right had been purchased up by the landlord. Now, the Bill would not interfere in the very least with the landlord proving either of these positions. Some hon. Members, however, seemed to think that there were, or at least 1322 ought to be, other means of getting rid of tenant-right, and regarded the proposal that the presumption should not be rebutted by merely showing that the farm had been leased as particularly audacious. Now, a very serious question was here involved, affecting as it did some 32,000 holdings in Ulster, and the property of tenants to a very large amount. The point had been much discussed, but unfortunately no decision had yet been obtained upon it from the Court for Land Cases Reserved. The House would therefore not be surprised to hear that the doubts which existed upon the subject had caused a great deal of anxiety in the Province; and that hon. Gentlemen who sought the suffrages of these Northern farmers at the beginning of last year almost all pronounced for a statutory declaration in favour of leasehold tenant-right. [Mr. Law here referred to some of the addresses, and read a joint declaration by the Marquess of Hamilton and Mr. Conolly on the subject.] [Mr. CONOLLY: I adhere to every word of it.] He (Mr. Law) then hoped he might be permitted to ask the hon. Gentleman to give a little instruction on this matter to his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, whose study of Ulster tenant-right had, no doubt, only recently commenced. But with regard to this subject of leasehold tenant-right, he wished to point out that the evidence given in 1845 before Lord Devon's Commission, and again in 1867 before Lord Clanricarde's Committee, as well as also the Reports of the Poor Law Inspectors in 1869 all proved conclusively that the custom was recognized in the case of leaseholds and tenancies from year to year alike. Accordingly, in 1870, when in Committee on the Land Act, the hon. Member for Linlithgowshire proposed to add to the 1st section a Proviso making the acceptance of a lease for 31 years operate as an extinguishment of tenant-right, the present Lord Carling ford secured the rejection of the Amendment by referring to these authorities and showing that leaseholders, in fact, enjoyed the protection of the custom as fully as other tenants. The truth was that the Ulster tenant-right custom had grown up and been established under a universal system of leases. It would be recollected that up to 1829 and for centuries before the county franchise depended on the 1323 possession of a 40s. freehold. Accordingly, the landlord in Ulster as elsewhere was induced to make as many leases as possible so as to secure a large following of voters, and thus increase his political power and influence. To use the language of the late Colonel Blacker, who knew the North of Ireland well, "the landlords cut up their estates into ribbons for the purpose of manufacturing freeholders." Indeed, it appeared by a Parliamentary Return issued in 1830 that in 1829 the freeholders of Ulster—that was to say, the leaseholders for lives—numbered 70,349; being upwards of 8,000 more than the whole rated-occupation constituencies of 1865, and 5,412 more than they were even at this moment. For example, in the County of Monaghan there were 12,860 freeholders in the year 1829, whereas now with the reduced occupation franchise there were but 5,608 registered electors. Leases, in short, were long and almost universally used in Ireland as mere political instruments, being seldom regarded by either landlord or tenant as contracts defining their mutual rights for any purpose beyond fixing the amount of rent, and until comparatively recent times almost all the tenants of Ulster—as of the rest of Ireland—and certainly all favoured tenants held their farms by lease. The Bill, then, before the House proposed to declare in accordance with the ruling of Chief Justice Monahan already referred to, that tenant-right was not to be defeated by merely showing that the farm had been held under a lease. Of course, if the landlord could prove that he or his predecessor had bargained for the purchase of the tenant-right, by granting a lease at an under-value the custom would be disproved; but as to such cases he thought it would be right to provide that for the future at least, the lease itself should record the real nature of any such arrangement. Objection, however, was also taken to the clause of the Bill declaring that the presumption should not be rebutted by merely showing that the tenant had paid nothing for his holding. Now this very point was raised and fully discussed when the Land Act was in Committee. The present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, then a Member of the House, proposed a clause negativing tenant-right in such cases. The Amendment, however, was opposed, not 1324 only by the then Solicitor General for Ireland now Mr. Baron Dowse, but also by an Ulster Conservative Member, whose authority on the subject would not be questioned—he referred to Sir Frederick Heygate—and who declared that such a provision would be at variance with the custom, and would in fact destroy tenant-right in a large proportion of cases in which it was notoriously recognized throughout the Province. Thereupon, in deference to Sir Frederick Heygate's arguments, his right hon. and learned Friend, Dr. Ball, withdrew his Amendment, which he said he had only suggested at the instance of some hon. Members from Ulster whom he had supposed to be well acquainted with the subject; and who he (Mr. Law) might add, like Ulster Members, now appeared to think it best to urge their views through one of the hon. and learned Members for the University of Dublin. The last point he (Mr. Law) would observe upon was the provision of the Bill, that restrictions on the price of tenant-right should be disregarded. This also seemed to him to be expedient and reasonable. A certain interest in the holding being now legally secured to the tenant, was it not absurd to permit the landlord to fix the price for which it should be sold? Such attempts belonged to an exploded order of ideas, and were inconsistent with all true principles of legislation. We might just as well try a new "assize of bread "or a new "statute of labourers," as authorize the Ulster landlord to say how much the tenant might take for his tenant-right. All such rules, therefore, as affected to fix a limit of so many pounds an acre or so many years rent as the regulation value of the tenant's interest should be disregarded as unreasonable and unjust. For let the House consider for a moment how such rules must operate. Suppose two adjoining farms of equal size and quality and held at equal rents. On one of them the tenant had made considerable outlay, building houses, or draining, or otherwise improving it; whilst the second farm was kept in its original state and used merely for purposes of pasture. How was it possible to justify a rule which said that both should be sold for the same price? And yet this was the practical result of the system: the limit being generally placed so low as not to allow a fair value for 1325 even an unimproved farm. Was it not obvious that this, if permitted, must operate as a direct discouragement if not prohibition of all improvements? He therefore ventured to submit that these attempted restrictions of price were not only unreasonable and unjust as regarded the tenants, but also opposed to the public interest from their necessary economical effects in retarding the improvement of the country. Besides, these regulation prices were quite modern inventions, and formed no part of the true custom of Ulster. Their beginning might be traced in the evidence of some of the witnesses examined before the Devon Commission, who mentioned the attempt as then just begun to be made by a few landlords. But even on estates where such rules were nominally most insisted on, they were in practice continually disregarded. If a farm were worth more than the prescribed price, more was, of course, given; and though the landlord or his agent might affect to ignore the fact, it was perfectly well understood by him and everybody else that the full value had been paid. The result was that, even on an estate thus nominally regulated, if the landlord, for his own purposes, resumed possession of a farm, he paid the real value of it to the tenant; or, if he did not, the public opinion of the district condemned his conduct as unfair. He (Mr. Law) would then venture to suggest to the Ulster landlords themselves, whether it was worth their while to contend for these modern encroachments on tenant-right, which, they would see must operate unjustly to their tenants, and which, when tested in Court, they had not—as far as he (Mr. Law) was aware—been able to enforce, save in one or two instances, and that at the cost of much irritation and estrangement. These were the several grounds on which he (Mr. Law) would support the Bill. There were, perhaps, some of its provisions which might well be amended in certain particulars; but, he thought the principle of the measure should now receive the approval of the House; leaving the details to be carefully considered in Committee. In conclusion, he hoped, before the close of the debate, to hear an expression of opinion from some at least of the Representatives of Ulster counties. It was not desirable that a division should be taken without any 1326 Ulster landlord, who was opposed to the Bill, giving the House the benefit of his views on so important a question. It was a subject on which the House naturally looked to them for information, and which their constituents in the North of Ireland might reasonably expect them at least fairly to discuss. It would be matter of regret if these expectations were disappointed; for it was only by open and intelligent discussion that such questions as this could be satisfactorily settled. He should vote for the second reading of the Bill.
§ VISCOUNT CRICHTON
said, that in answer to assertions that the late Government, in passing the Act of 1870, had never defined what tenant-right was, he would appeal to the House whether in the discussions on that Bill, the present Lord Carlingford had not distinctly acknowledged that the usages that prevailed on the different estates constituted the customs of Ulster, and whether he did not propose that these customs should be legalized? He was surprised at the course now taken by the hon. Member for Tyrone in supporting the Bill, because he found that in March, 1872, in the case of one of his tenants, the hon. Gentleman insisted that the restrictions which this Bill sought to remove should be enforced. In a letter addressed to the executors of that tenant the hon. Gentleman said—In reply to yours of the 22nd inst., relating to the farm lately held by Alexander Adair under me, I beg leave to say that I decline to sanction the sale by auction to the highest bidder as suggested by you of said farm. Previous to Adair's death, hearing that he was desirous of disposing of his interest, I went to see him, and offered £200 for it. He said he expected to recover, and would hold on. I am prepared to give to his executors the same price, provided possession be given to me as soon as I pay the money. If they are disposed to take my offer let me know, and I shall instruct my solicitor, Mr. G. R. Smith, to take the necessary steps in the matter. Two hundred pounds is £10 per statute acre, quite enough, methinks, for a farm which has been held at an extremely low rent since 1802, and which has been out of lease since 1842. I permitted Adair to continue in occupation at a low rent on account of his age and being an old tenant.—Yours faithfully,J. W. ELLISON MACAKTNEY.But since 1872 the General Election and many other things had occurred. He (Viscount Crichton) did not wish to approach this question merely from a landlord's point of view; but he must say that if this Bill were to become law he thought most landlords would be of 1327 opinion not only that their rights of property were abrogated, but that their duties as landlords were so abridged that they were no longer bound to continue to reside in Ireland, and they were at liberty to spend their lives and their money in a more pleasant place. As he believed the interests of tenants would be seriously damaged if this Bill became law, he wished to state a few reasons in the interests of tenants why the House should reject this Bill. It provided that a tenant should be able to sell his tenant-right to anybody to whom the landlord should not have a reasonable objection. Now, that power of the landlord to object to an incoming tenant was a very valuable one in the interest of the tenant, and he knew it was highly valued by the occupiers of adjoining farms. A tenant might go to a landlord and propose that his holding should be transferred to a man who was a Fenian; but how was the landlord to prove that he was a Fenian? Or it might be that an unconvicted thief who could pay a much larger price for a farm than the honest people around him would be proposed as an incoming tenant to a landlord. But the landlord possibly could not give exact proof of the fact, and therefore might not be willing to run the risk of exposing himself to legal proceedings in case of failure. He might, perhaps, be none of these things, but he might be a cantankerous quarrelsome fellow, whom it would be exceedingly unpleasant to have on the estate. It was obvious, therefore, that to deprive landlords of the power of imposing the restrictions in question, would be highly injurious to neighbouring tenants. He was no advocate for an indiscriminate enlargement of farms in Ireland. He believed that in the present want of capital and considering the soil and climate of Ireland, any extensive consolidation of farms would be a great evil; but he also believed that the proposed unlimited tenant-right would be the greatest misfortune that could be inflicted on Ireland, and many good landlords who permitted tenant-right on their estates only did so under strict and well defined regulations. As the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Kavanagh) had said there was a mania for the possession of land in Ireland, because it gave a social status to the occupier, and there was no other outlet for the energy of the people. Persons desirous to obtain possession of 1328 a farm, would, to use a common expression, bid the coats off their backs to gain their object. In some instances 40 and even 50 years' purchase had been given for a farm. A poor man would be ruined by giving such a price. He would come in on borrowed capital, he would not have means to cultivate the farm and would be obliged again to sell it—his successor would come in a similar position, and so this vicious process would repeat itself ad infinitum. On the other hand, tenant-right, if properly regulated, would be a great benefit, as it had been to Ulster, where it had been regulated. Ulster, he believed, owed its peace and prosperity to that regulation. Under a system of unrestricted sale of tenant-right the farms would be almost ruined, as the people would be so hampered by the price they paid that they would be utterly unable to do justice to their farms. He thought it unfair that the Motion for the rejection of the Bill should have been left to his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin. In his opinion, some Member of the late Government ought to have risen to discharge that task, because this Bill amounted almost to a Vote of Censure on—at any rate it challenged—the policy of the late Government. In 1868 the late Government came into office on the distinct understanding that they were to deal with the questions of the Irish Church, Irish Land, and Irish Education, and they passed measures on the first two of these subjects. They introduced their Land Bill when they were in the very zenith of their power. In introducing it, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich made a very strong and remarkable statement. Speaking of the delays and procrastination in legislating on this subject, the right hon. Gentleman said—What I hope is, that haying witnessed the disaster and difficulty which have arisen from this long procrastination, we shall resolve in mind and heart by a manful effort to close and seal up for ever, if it may he, this great question which so intimately concerns the welfare and happiness of the people of Ireland."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 335.]The measure introduced in 1870 was passed into law unaltered in its main principles, and he wished to know whether the Members of the late Government, who were still in that House, intended to abide by the declaration which their Chief then made, or whether they 1329 were going to follow the example of the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Law) who sat on the Opposition bench and vote for the second reading of this Bill? Would they consent to undo what they did not five years ago, and thus proclaim to the world the failure of one of their pet schemes for the regeneration of Ireland?
desired to explain the letter read by the noble Lord (Viscount Crichton). The facts were that the two executors of his deceased tenant Alexander Adair had agreed to sell for £230. There was a year and a half's rent owing, amounting to about £37, and he offered to forego that and to pay them £200. This offer was higher than their valuation, but they would not hear of it, and said they would go to public auction. Upon this he refused his consent, and having stated that in this case he would use his power, he accordingly stood his ground. This explanation, he trusted, would be satisfactory to the House.
§ MR. CONOLLY
said, he had never listened to so irrelevant a debate on a subject which was still of great moment in Ireland, particularly in Ulster. For once he must estrange himself from those with whom he usually acted, as he felt it his duty to vote for the Bill. He had given his cordial assent to the measure of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich on the subject of Land Tenure in Ireland, justifying himself at the time by a statement to the effect that it legalized nothing more, but considerably less than was the universal practice of good landlords in Ulster. Prolific as the Land Act had been of good results in Ulster, it yet left a good many blemishes which ought to be considered by this House, and for which remedies would, no doubt, some day or other be found. Whatever hon. Members might say, there existed in the North of Ireland a widespread opinion that the legislation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich was imperfect. The case of leases was one defect; the case of restrictions upon the saleable value of farms was a still more conspicuous one. Both these defects must be remedied, if there was to be a good understanding between hon. Members and those whom they represented in the Province of Ulster. As the only principle involved in the present measure was that the Act of 1870 1330 required amendment, he should feel bound in honour and conscience to support it.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. PLUNKET)
rose to explain why he could not, and why he believed Her Majesty's Government could not, for a moment consent to the second reading of this extravagant, wild, badly-drawn, and ill-conceived Bill. Certainly, it was not his intention to defend the Land Act of 1870 from the criticisms of his hon. Friend who had just sat down: he had been, however, a good deal struck by the circumstance that it was his right hon. and learned Friend opposite—who was one of the Law Officers in the late Administration (Mr. Law)—who pointed out so many defects in that Act, and had not only abandoned but condemned many of its leading principles, instead of defending it against this rival and usurping measure. His hon. Friend who had just sat down intended to vote for the second reading of the Bill because he thought some statute in addition to the Act of 1870 ought to be passed in order to protect the interests of the Ulster tenants. Although, no doubt, his hon. Friend would vote for the Bill most conscientiously, yet he would be acting on a principle from which the House at large ought to shrink, because the present Bill was not in any sense a Bill to make more perfect the protection offered by the Act of 1870, but one to substitute for the policy of that measure new and unheard-of principles. His hon. and learned Friend who spoke from the front Opposition bench (Mr. Butt) had appealed to the House that there was no reason why a statute passed in 1870 should not be amended in 1875, and he instanced such cases as the Licensing Act and the Endowed Schools Act in support of that view. But, in truth, there was not the smallest analogy between such measures and the Bill now before the House. Those Acts were altered by what were faithfully described as Amendment Bills; but what was the nature of the Bill now under consideration? It could not in any sense be described as an amending Bill—it was an entire departure from the principles that had been so deliberately adopted in 1870 in order to close up for ever a long controversy. Under what circumstances did the Act of 1870 pass? Parliament was told on high authority that the hour was come, and that at last, after great thought, deep 1331 research, earnest consideration, and a candid scanning of all the circumstances, the Government had arrived at the conclusion which they submitted to the House as a fair and final settlement of the much-vexed question of land tenure in Ireland. Such was the spirit in which the Land Bill was introduced, and such, beyond all doubt, was the spirit in which it was accepted by those who formed the Opposition in that Parliament. All that had been said this afternoon about the history of tenant-right in Ulster was brought before the House and the country when the Bill of 1870 was under discussion. As the noble Lord (Viscount Crichton) had remarked, a great many things had happened since then; but this observation was not applicable to the present case, for the reason that the difficulty was to ascertain what was the ancient custom in Ulster. Reverting, however, to the measure of 1870, he might remark that after passing this House it was again scrutinized in another place," where all the legal ability and stored wisdom of those who tested its provisions were expended upon it. Earl Granville, in recommending the House of Lords to adopt it, described it as a measure not to be introduced to-day and abandoned to-morrow, but as the ripe matured fruit of calm and long deliberation, and that it was presented to their Lordships with confidence as a final settlement of the land question in Ireland. But the present Bill proposed to re-open the whole question, and reverse the policy of the Act of 1870 in its most essential principles. Therefore, he submitted that the argument of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick about amending Acts did not apply at all to the measure now before the House. What had been the effect of the Land Act as regarded the Province of Ulster?—and he begged to remind the House that he was referring only to that part of the Act which dealt with the Ulster custom. It had been stated that the property or the rights of the Ulster tenants were secured to them by that Act to the amount of £20,000,000. This was no small boon—no slight change in the law. Previously not one penny of this enormous sum, however well secured it might have been by feelings of mutual esteem between landlords and tenants, had been legally secured to the latter. And what had happened since that should lead 1332 the House of Commons thus hastily, on a Wednesday afternoon, to depart from the fundamental principles of the measure which was so deliberately adopted five years ago? Why, nothing had happened. There had been some cases decided which had caused in Ulster a certain amount of anxiety; but only one notable case had been cited in the course of the debate in which the rights intended to be conferred by the Act had been diminished or set aside. In that case a County Court Judge decided that the covenants of an ordinary lease conflicted with the rights of the tenant as intended to be legalized by the Land Act. The decision had been appealed against, but by an accident a final decision of the case had never been secured. He regretted much the accident; and he believed whenever it came to be decided finally by the Court of Appeal the result would be satisfactory to the tenantry. If the Bill now under discussion was merely intended to set at rest the anxiety raised by that case, which was the only one cited of hardship under the Act, he should not deny that it was worthy of consideration.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. PLUNKET)
said, he would admit, then, that two cases of hardship had been found in the course of five years, one only of which was within his own recollection. If the present proposal was merely to redress the disadvantage and injustice inflicted on leaseholders under such circumstances he should gladly see it passed; but the truth was that a new tenant-right would be created for the first time by this Bill. Another grievance had been brought forward—namely, that in certain cases landlords had cut down to an unjustifiable extent the tenant-right of Ulster by imposing unjust limits on the power of sale. Well, if this Bill proposed only to remove real injustice of that kind he should think it well worthy of consideration. But it went very much further. It provided that every holding in Ulster should be presumed to be subject—not to the tenant-right proved to exist on that holding—but to a kind of average tenant-right—and a very high average 1333 —in favour of the tenant. This was a new invention concocted in this Bill—a total and fundamental difference from the principles of the Act of 1870, and this difference went to the bottom of the whole question. What the tenantry of Ulster demanded, and honestly demanded, was that those rights which the land enjoyed under the Custom they should not be unjustly deprived of; and it was to protect them in those rights that the first clause of the Act of 1870 was passed; but the words used were—"the usages prevalent within the Province of Ulster." And why were these words used? Because, as was admitted on all hands, the custom varied in almost every county and district in the North of Ireland, and the usages were not the same. He would by the permission of the House, quote the words of a high authority on such subjects—namely, his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt), who, in his treatise on the Land Act of 1870, wrote thus—It does, however, seem certain that, so far back as the custom can be traced, the landlord has very generally exercised a control over the admission of the new tenant; he has had the power of refusing an objectionable one, or of selecting between several equally eligible; and upon many estates, at all events of late years, he has exercised the power of restricting, sometimes within very narrow limits, the amount which the tenant is to receive. The payment is generally made through the landlord or his agent, and is in the first instance subject to all the demands which the landlord may have against his tenant. On some estates the landlord or his agent exercises a kind of equitable jurisdiction over the sum realized by the sale,and so on. After that no one could deny that the usage varied in every particular in different districts and on different estates, not only as to the degree of control in choosing the incoming tenant, but also in regard of the terms of sale which had always been sanctioned by the landlord, and as to the manner in which that sale was to take place. But, in every one of these respects, this Bill proposed to enact a certain presumption against the landlord's authority, and as to several of them the landlord was not to be allowed by any evidence however clear to rebut that presumption. But once you attempt to define the Tenant-right custom, even these wild proposals could not be considered final. For there were in some parts of Ulster still more unlimited forms of the custom, and even now there was a sound in the 1334 air of further demands on the part of the agitators, and this Bill had been denounced as unsatisfactory. What justice was there in the argument of his right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Law), in support of enacting a general presumption in favour of an average usage, when every material characteristic of these usages everywhere differed? Was he (Mr. Plunket), therefore, not justified in saying that in its main provision this Bill was an absolute departure from the fundamental principles of the Act of 1870, so far as it affected Ulster? The cardinal principle of the Act of 1870 was the ordinary principle that the laws of property should prevail in Ulster as elsewhere, and that the landlord should be regarded as having the original proprietary right; but that the tenant should be entitled to whatever limitations of these rights in his favour he could prove to have been conceded under the various usages. But the principle of this Bill was to reverse this theory, and presume original proprietary rights in the tenant, leaving it to the landlord in certain eases to disprove these encroachments, if he could, while in other cases he was not even to be permitted to attempt such proof. That was the radical and essential principle as to which the present Bill, and those who supported it, abandoned and condemned the policy of the Act of 1870. Time would not permit him to deal in detail with the provisions of this Bill, as he was very anxious that a decisive division should be taken upon the merits of such a proposal. But he would wish, before he sat down, to make to the House, and especially to hon. Members on the front bench opposite, a grave appeal. He was convinced that it would be an injurious and lamentable thing if the Ulster tenantry should be led to believe that Parliament wavered upon the question as to whether the Land Act of 1870 was to be considered as in the main and in principle a final settlement. Such symptoms of doubt and uncertainty would invite the agitators to fresh exertions, not only in Ulster but throughout the whole country, and reckless and exorbitant pledges would be again, as they had been already in some instances, extorted in the excitement of a general election. He hoped that the hon. Members who were not bound by any such pledges would hesitate to sanction what was nothing less 1335 than the opening of a new campaign against the proprietary rights of the Irish landlord. Nor must they for a moment imagine that, having passed this Bill, they could stop there. Once depart from the principle upon which the Act of 1870 dealt with the Ulster tenant-right—simply sanctioning whatever usages existed as to each holding, instead of attempting to define in any respect this ever-varying custom, and you would have committed yourselves to a course of unlimited innovation. If you gave by this average custom advantages to the tenant of any holding which he had not before, how could you then refuse to extend legislation still further, lest those should be at a disadvantage who had before enjoyed the custom in the most unlimited form in which it had ever been anywhere allowed? Or if you once admitted the principles of such a wholesale transfer of rights, how could you stop at the limits of the northern Province? The limits of Ulster were merely a capricious geographical distinction. There was no magical principle of right or wrong in the boundary of a county. How could you afterwards resist the appeal that, as in Ulster, you were ready to transfer the rights of certain tenants to others who had never enjoyed them before, you should in like manner extend your concession to Leinster, Munster, and Connaught? Why not even apply the same principles to England? Having regard, therefore, to the solemn compact and settlement arrived at in 1870, a measure passed by the consent and mutual understanding of both sides of the House, he charged upon the hon. Members who sat upon the benches opposite, a grave responsibility if they pledged themselves to these principles which were now for the first time propounded. It was a curious thing that every hon. Member who had professed his intention of supporting the second reading of this Bill had, at the same time, repudiated many of its leading principles, criticized all the clauses, and repudiated the language in which it was drawn. And was it not a strange thing, merely because some additional legislation was sought for Ulster, to support the second reading of this particular Bill, and thereby pledge themselves to the principle of a measure than which a more unwise proposal had seldom been submitted to Parliament? The more the Bill was studied the more clearly 1336 must they come to that conclusion. He, therefore, trusted that the House would so vote as by an overwhelming majority to set at rest the wild hopes that had been excited by those who made a trade of disturbing those happy relations which had so long existed, and he hoped and believed would long continue to exist, between the landlords and tenants of Ulster, making that famous Province the most prosperous, the most peaceable, and the most loyal of the Provinces of Ireland.
THE MAEQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, he was unwilling that a division should be taken without saying a few words in explanation of the vote he intended to give. He could not help thinking it was a somewhat remarkable commentary upon the denunciations of the Bill just made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Plunket) that the only Members personally affected by it who had taken part in the discussion were three Members for the North of Ireland, all of whom supported the measure, and one of whom was connected with a county where the Ulster tenant-right did not prevail very extensively; If the measure were fraught with all the pernicious consequences represented by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, he could not help thinking that the House would have heard of it from hon. Members connected with the North of Ireland by ties of property and residence, a great many of whom he now saw present. If he agreed with the premiss of the right hon. and learned Gentlemen that this was not an amendment, but an alteration of the principle of the Land Act of 1870, he should have no difficulty in accepting his conclusion, and in voting against the second reading of the Bill. But he did not think this was an alteration in principle of the Irish Land Act; and the example had been set—not by his own political friends—of looking upon that Act as containing no final settlement, because it was at the instance of the political friends of the right hon. and learned Gentleman that a Committee of the House of Lords was appointed to consider the operation of that Act. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, therefore, could not then have been of opinion that the Land Act contained so sacred a settlement of all questions connected with the tenure of land in Ireland that it admitted of no further improvement. The explanation which he specially 1337 desired to make to the House before the division was that, although after careful consideration he was prepared to vote for what he considered the principle of this measure, it contained much to which he should be unwilling to pledge himself. The principle of the measure, as had been very clearly explained, was that the presumption in the case of a holding in Ulster as to its being subject to tenant-right should be altered, and that, in place of its being incumbent upon the tenant to prove that his holding was subject to the custom, the onus should be cast upon the landlord of proving that it was not. Now, he had not heard any opponent of the Bill this evening deny the statement of his right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Law) that, in 999 cases out of every 1,000, the Ulster custom applied to every holding in the counties subject to it. If this were so, did it not seem somewhat vexatious and unnecessary to cast upon the tenant the onus of satisfying the Judge by legal proof that his holding was subject to a custom the almost universal existence of which was a matter of such notoriety? The Bill proposed to change the burden of proof in this way:—It selected an incident of the Ulster custom which, as no one denied, was an incident in every one of the usages, whatever they might be, known as Ulster right. Various as those might be, and incapable of definition as they might be, he had heard nobody deny that the right of the tenant mentioned in the first clause, ofSelling his holding, subject to the payment of the rent at which the same is held, or such fairly valued rent as may be payable in respect thereof from time to time,was an invariable incident in every usage known as the Ulster tenant-right. It was said that the clause admitted a principle of an extremely dangerous character; and the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Plunket) urged that it raised the question of the valuation of rent. But, as his right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Law) had shown, this question was raised already. A case had arisen, and might arise at any time, when a landlord might, by increasing his rent, drive his tenant to seek redress under the Act of Parliament from a court of Law; and at this very moment it might become the duty of the Judge under the Irish Land Act to decide whether 1338 the increase of rent demanded was a reasonable increase or not. Thus the principle was not for the first time imported into the Bill. The difficulty was one not created, but only acknowledged in the Bill. Exactly the same observation applied to another point urged by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who stated that the Bill would deprive the landlord of all control over the tenant in the sale of his right. Now, the Bill would deprive the landlord of no control which he had at present. That question might be raised in exactly the same way as the reasonableness of the rent, and a Judge might be called on to decide whether the objection taken by a landlord to the purchasing tenant was a reasonable one or not. He had stated what he believed to be the main principle of the Bill. But the Bill went a good deal further. It not only selected an incident which existed, he believed, in every usage known under the name of Ulster custom, but in Clause 6 it selected another incident which might, for aught he knew, be a common incident under the Ulster custom—though, as far as his information went, it certainly was not an invariable incident—namely, the permission to sell by auction. To this principle he should be unwilling to pledge himself; and as it was not likely, after the course announced by the Government, that the House would ever be in a position to discuss the clauses of the Bill, he was unwilling to vote for the second reading, as he intended to do, without acknowledging at once that there were certain provisions of the Bill to which he should be unable to assent. He was also unwilling to pledge himself to vote for the second and third clauses. Every hon. Member from the North of Ireland who had spoken acknowledged that some amendment of the law was desirable in cases which occurred upon the expiration of the lease. He understood even the noble Lord the Member for Ennis-killen (Viscount Crichton) to admit the necessity for such an amendment. But he (the Marquess of Hartington) did not think the case referred to in the second and third clauses were essential to the principle of the Bill—namely, that tenants should be freed from the unnecessary annoyance and trouble of proving that their holdings were subject to the custom. Believing that principle to be 1339 a sound one, he should vote for the second reading of the Bill.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 151; Noes 301: Majority 160.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Second Reading put off for three months.