HC Deb 21 June 1876 vol 230 cc224-6

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it was similar to that which he brought forward last year; and though on that occasion it was described as extravagant and wild, its principle was simply that of Ulster tenant right as it existed before the passing of the Irish Land Bill in 1870. That principle had been well defined by the late Mr. Conolly when he said, in supporting his father's Bill in 1852, that the custom of tenant right in Ulster implied a power on the part of the tenant, whether on lease or at will, to sell the goodwill of the premises which he occupied to an incoming tenant at the highest price he could obtain in the market, and that he should not be disturbed in his occupation so long as he paid his rent. That was the Ulster tenant right. That was what the late Mr. Sharman Crawford contended for. Moreover, since the passing of the Irish Land Bill many practical grievances and anomalies had arisen in the system, which required a remedy. For instance, on properties where tenant right had existed for generations many complications and misunderstandings arose, and changes had taken place. Farmers having tenant right were not now allowed to sell their right without the consent of the landlord. Last year a farmer died; his widow wished to dispose of the tenant right of the farm, and was offered for it by a respectable and solvent tenant £500. The office would not accept the offered purchaser as tenant, and offered to take the farm and gave her £170 for it—£330 less than she could have got from a solvent tenant. In another case, a tenant's wife died, leaving a family of sons and daughters. He made up his mind to leave his farm; a wealthy and respectable farmer offered £200 for the tenant-right. The office refused to permit the sale. Circumstances, however, compelled the tenant to leave his farm, and he left without receiving one penny of the £200. He and his young family had to start life a new pennyless. It was unjust to the out-going tenant that he could not sell his right without the consent of the landlord. He hoped the House would consider the hardship which this restriction imposed on the tenant, and allow the Bill to be read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Sharman Crawford.)


opposed the Bill, and said the hon. Member had prudently abstained from stating the provisions of his Bill, which, in fact, proposed almost a revolution in the law of the land; and he did not think one or two hard cases, such as those the hon. Gentleman had cited, were sufficient to justify a revolution. The Bill pretended to amend the Land Act of 1870, but it was not an amendment Bill: it was a Bill not to settle, but to unsettle—a Bill not to allay, but to create excitement. The fact of the Bill having been brought forward at so late a period of the Session did not look as if the hon. Member intended it to pass—it was obvious that it was brought in to satisfy the tenant-farmers of Ulster that something was about to be done for them. Ulster was prosperous and contented. The tenant right they were now discussing grew up and was fostered under generous landlords, but until the Act of 1870 it had no legal sanction whatever. According to the present law in Ireland the occupier could get compensation for disturbance and for improvements, and any attempt to change such a satisfactory state of things required much grave consideration. The Ulster tenants were in a better position than those of any other parts of Ireland; for in other parts of Ireland the tenants could only appeal to the Land Act, but in Ulster the tenants had the benefit of the Land Act, plus the Ulster customs; but, in attempting to define these customs, the hon. Member was proposing to do that which the right hon. Member for Greenwich was obliged to admit was impracticable, because the customs varied so much in different places and on different estates. It was, therefore, futile to endeavour to compress a description of these customs into seven or eight lines of an Act of Parliament. The only point of doubt which it was desirable to clear up—the extent to which custom should operate in the case of a lease—this Bill would not settle; indeed, it might have been settled satisfactorily by a Bill which had been lately before the House, but for the opposition of the hon. Member himself and of the secretaries of the Tenant Right Leagues, whose occupations and salaries it would have put an end to. The hon. Member (Mr. S. Crawford) had kept back all the main provisions of his measure, putting forward two cases of alleged grievances, which, if they existed, this Bill would neither have prevented nor remedied; while he kept out of sight the enactments he proposed, which were so unfairly adverse to landlords—so manifestly unfair that he could not suppose the hon. Member had the slightest wish or intention of carrying them. The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving an Amendment that the Bill be read the second time this day three months.


rose to second the Amendment, and was addressing the House, when—

It being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.

Then the House having gone through the other Business on the Paper—