HC Deb 25 March 1879 vol 244 cc1705-67

rose to move— That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the operation of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1875, and into the conditions of Agricultural Tenancies in England and Wales. Having given a summary of the provisions of the Act, he said it was a curious fact that it had no Preamble; but the reasons why it was passed could be gathered from the speech of the noble Earl at the head of the Government (the Earl of Beaconsfield) when, as Mr. Disraeli, he moved the second reading in that House. He said it was devised to supply the deficiencies in the law relating to agricultural tenancies; he referred, with approbation, to the efforts of Mr. Pusey and others to give compensation to tenants for unexhausted improvements effected by them, and to prevent the deterioration of the soil; and he described the measure as one that would place owners in a strong position and occupiers in a just position—one that would secure to the tenant compensation for unexhausted improvements, and to the owner compensation for waste and injury through breach of covenant. Notwithstanding the declarations of the Prime Minister as to the benefits the Act was calculated to secure to the tenant, it appeared from inquiries instituted by very competent persons that it had proved to be, to all intents and purposes, a dead letter. ["No, no!"] He was perfectly aware that such a statement would not pass unchallenged; but when it was made on respectable authority, a case was surely made out for the inquiry he proposed. The weak point of the Actlay in two formal clauses at the end which enabled landlords and tenants to remain outside its provisions. This was done in ordinary cases by mutual agreement, and in the case of yearly tenancies by the act of either party without the concurrence of the other. The Prime Minister called this "freedom of contract;" but it was certainly a question whether the phrase properly described an arrangement by which one party gave up that to which he had previously been declared to be entitled without receiving from the other party anything in return. Why the Act had been so strangely constructed he (Mr. B. Samuelson) could not imagine, unless the Prime Minister had counted upon educating his Party sufficiently during the passage of the Bill to enable him to conveniently drop the last two clauses altogether. No sooner had the Act passed than a remarkable circumstance occurred. Both the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall, which had been specially included in the Bill, contracted themselves out of it, without a word of explanation being offered. Probably there were excellent reasons for this step being taken; but hon. Members would agree with him that the fact was not calculated to inspire confidence throughout the country generally in the working of the Act. Returns collected by The Mark Lane Express, and also by the Farmers' Club, soon after the Act came into operation, showed that at the time it was almost universally evaded. He had caused inquiry to be made in every county in England and Wales from persons well informed on the subject as to the operation of the Act, and had received in all over 200 replies from 51 counties. In the great majority of instances the reply amounted to this—that the Act was a dead letter, or had not been adopted at all; in some cases the existing customs rendered the adoption of the Act unnecessary; while in one or two instances the reply was that the existence of the Act had caused 12 months' notice to be given instead of six. One agent on an extensive estate said—"Nearly every land agent in the Kingdom has noticed the tenants out of the Act." One other question he had put was whether the passing of the Act had led to any improvement in the conditions on which farms were let. There, again, the effect of the vast majority of the replies received was that it had not; while, in a few cases, the reply was that it had led to the giving of longer notice and to more liberal dealing with the tenants—that it had opened the eyes of the tenants, and had led to their making better terms; and, in one case, it was said that the Act had led to a revision of agreements and an increase in their stringency. He had now made known to the House the replies which he had received, and it was for the House to judge whether the statement he had made, to the effect that the Act had resulted in very little improvement, was correct or not. In some cases, where agreements existed before the passing of the Act, the agreements had been altered so as to be more in conformity with the principles laid down in the statute; but, on the other hand, no agreements had been granted in consequence of the Act in those cases in which none existed before the introduction of the measure. In answer to inquiries that he had made, he had found that the system of paying for unexhausted improvements was followed in very few quarters. The words of the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read), in reference to this point, were well worthy of attention. The words to which he (Mr. B. Samuelson) referred were— Is it or is it not true, that the half or more than the half of the land of England is held at six months' notice to quit, without any compensation to the outgoing tenant, either by agreement or custom? The hon. Member for South Norfolk appended a note to those words to the following effect:— The question has become a national one, and it is a disgrace that a great portion of the land of England should be held by tenants on the conditions on which it is held now. In refutation of the argument that a low rent was an equivalent to compensation for unexhausted improvements, he would refer to an essay on The Relations of Landlord and Tenant, by Mr. W. E. Bear, whose name would be recognised as that of the writer of two recent papers in The Fortnightly Review. There were numerous estates in the country, he knew, where the tenants had such faith in the continuance of their possession that a sufficient encouragement existed for them to lay out money on improvements; but that faith surely could not be thought to be the equivalent of a law which would grant to tenants such compensation as was just. According to the statistics lately published by Mr. Caird in his little book on the landed interest, the value of homegrown food was about £260,000,000 per annum. It appeared that during the last eight years there had been no increase whatever in the production of grain, and only a very trifling increase in the production of animal food, in this country. But within the last five or six years there had been a sensible diminution in the production both of grain and of animal food. Our imports of foods of various kinds during the year 1878 amounted to £100,000,000. Comparing 1878 with 1868, there was an increase of nearly 100 per cent in grain and of 125 per cent in animal food and various products. He had shown that, in the opinion of the Prime Minister, it was desirable that our home produce should be increased, if possible. The estimates varied greatly—from 10 to 100 per cent—but they all agreed that it was possible, by causing capital to be invested in the soil, to increase our supply of food. Additional capital would not, however, be invested in the soil until tenants were enabled to obtain compensation for their improvements. Therefore, we must consider this as a question affecting not only landlords and tenants, but also the consumers and the country at large. Agriculture was at present suffering from great depression. He had had the curiosity to examine the Return of the number of bills of sales lately granted by farmers. In the eight months from July, 1878, to the beginning of March, 1879, as compared with the corresponding eight months of 1877–8, the number of bills of sale had nearly doubled. This fact was in itself sufficient to show that great distress prevailed among agriculturists. He hoped, if the House were to grant a Select Committee, that the inquiry would have definite limits; if it were to go into the questions suggested by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), it would be a waste of time to all concerned. The course taken with regard to the Amendment was rather suspicious. His Notice had been on the Paper for three months, and the hon. Gentleman took no steps to bring the question to an issue. But when the Amendment was put down, the cry for Reciprocity, which was another name for Protection, was rife in the country; and, if he (Mr. B. Samuelson) was not mistaken, the Amendment pointed in the direction of Reciprocity. But he was quite certain the country would never allow import duties to be placed on the food of the people. Import duties were neither more nor less than protection to the landlord's rents. He held in his hand an account of a sale of 25,000 bushels of wheat imported from Chicago into Liverpool. The freight and charges, including the cost of sale in Liverpool, were 12s. per quarter in addition to the expense of conveying the wheat, perhaps from the interior of Illinois to Chicago. In point of fact, the landlord had a protection already of from 14s. to 15s. per quarter, which was about equal to 35 per cent of the present price in this country. If that were not a sufficient protection, one of two things alone could happen. Either the land must be made more productive—which could only be done by an expenditure of capital, and that could be obtained only by giving the tenant security—or rents must fall. He hoped that, by adopting equitable measures towards the tenant, we might avoid any great reduction of rents. But if rents fell, then would be the time for the inquiry of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire, and also for inquiry into a state of things which was bound up with the system of primogeniture and entail. Farmers were no longer so ready as they used to be to take leases; and in the present state of things, when they did not know what a just rent was, it was not desirable that they should. If that were so, there was the greater reason for security for agricultural improvements. He would like that the Committee he asked for should, in the first place, ascertain on independent testimony whether the Act of 1875 had failed; secondly, what were the objections of landlords and tenants to it; and, thirdly, that they should determine the best way of meeting those objections—whether by amending the Act, or repealing it and enacting something more simple. He asked, that if a man had to part with what the law declared to be his property, he should receive a valuable consideration in return. If the Act of 1875 were maintained, the scheme of compensation should be made more elastic; the award of an arbitrator should be simpler than it now was, and appeals should be much more restricted than they were under the Act. With regard to the Amendment to be moved by the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell), that hon. Member could have very little knowledge of the circumstances under which farms were held in this country, if he was not aware that if his proposal, which looked like fixity of tenure, were adopted, no labourer could ever become a landowner without a middleman between him and the landlord. The hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Harcourt) had also given Notice of an Amendment that agricultural agreements prescribed by the Legislature should be permissive in their character. He (Mr. B. Samuelson) entirely agreed with him; but he could not consider that a permissive agreement, where one party was at liberty to contract himself out of it without the consent of the other party. He had only, in conclusion, to state that the London Farmers' Club, which was in every sense a representative body, had at their last meeting passed a resolution in favour of his Motion for granting a Committee. Thanking the House for the attention they had paid to him, he begged to move for a Select Committee.


said, he rose with pleasure to second the Resolution which had been so ably moved by the hon. Member for Banbury. The subject was one which demanded inquiry. The distress which existed among farmers was so great, that many who had been long engaged in agriculture, and were unfit for any other calling, were leaving it in order to save the remnant of property still left to them; and unless the depression were in some way quickly removed, many others would follow their example. Some of the causes of that depression were practically irremovable. First of all, there was the importation of foreign agricultural produce. Though large, that importation was at present in its infancy, the great efforts of foreign countries being directed to provide food for the English market. The British farmers expressed no desire that these importations should be restricted by law, for they knew that no Government could, or ought to, place any obstacles in the way of the consumers obtaining cheap food. The increase in the price of labour must, of course, depend on supply and demand. The decrease of the home-consuming power would not be alleviated until prosperity was again brought to the commerce and trade of the country. Unpropitious seasons were beyond the control of the British House of Commons. But there were three causes which were preventable by legislation—the importation of disease, the increase of local burdens, and the insecurity of capital invested by the tenant in the cultivation of the soil. It was to remedy the last of these evils that the Agricultural Holdings Bill was introduced. The question was, had it effected its object? If not, why not? The Committee now asked, if granted, would be able to give an authoritative reply to these questions. The right of the outgoing tenant to compensation for unexhausted improvements left on the land for the benefit of the future occupier, although a most beneficent provision, was rendered ineffectual by the power of one of the parties to contract himself out of it. Were the provisions of the Act necessary? If unnecessary, why were they enacted? Were they just; and, if just why should they be ignored? To his mind, they were alike advantageous to the landlord and the tenant. The tenant could not contract himself out of the return of the property tax, which he had a right to deduct by Act of Parliament, notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary. So, by Act of Parliament, should the right of tenants be recognized to payments for unexhausted improvements, notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary. This should be secured, not for the benefit of the tenants alone, but in the interests of the community at large. He knew this view of the question would not be acceptable to those who considered the maintenance of freedom of contract incompatible with the restrictions imposed by law; but might not freedom of contract be carried too far? Was not freedom of contract limited in many ways by Acts of Parliament? Landlord and tenant ought to be able to make any agreement they pleased, provided that agreement did not deprive the tenant of the compensation to which he was justly entitled. But an Act of Parliament was unnecessary, if not unjust, which, while exacting that certain things should be done in the interest of all, still retained a provision that any two parties might by agreement divest themselves of the obligations which the Act imposed. The general consensus of opinion expressed by the farmers' clubs was in favour of changes in the law which would secure compensation to the tenant for unexhausted improvements, as well as to the landlord for dilapidation and deterioration caused by neglect; and he therefore seconded the Resolution.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the operation of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1875, and into the conditions of Agricultural Tenancies in England and Wales." —(Mr. Bernhard Samuelson.)


expressed satisfaction that the Liberal Party were coming forward to take their proper place in the movement for the emancipation of agriculture. A generation ago the Liberal Party obtained Free Trade; but, somehow or other, the interests of the farmers were overlooked. A generation ago Parliament took certain advantages from the agricultural classes; but no step was taken to relieve them from their exceptional disadvantages. He was of opinion that it was high time that free agriculture should supplement Free Trade. He did not see that the speech of the hon. Member for Banbury was in favour of his Resolution; but, on the other hand, he considered that speech to be a support of his Amendment. The Amendment he would move was to the effect— That there can he no adequate remedy for the agricultural depression existing throughout the country, and severely affecting also the interests of town labour, which does not, especially at this period of increasing Foreign Competition, protect the application of skill and capital to the soil by the establishment of compensation for unexhausted improvements, equitable appeal against exorbitant rents, and substantial security of tenure for the agricultural classes both in Great Britain and Ireland. That Amendment he moved for two reasons. In the first place, if the block of the Liberal Party, influenced by many considerations, could not go on the present occasion further than the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman, he thought it expedient that the country at large should know that, at any rate, a section of the Liberal Party was prepared to go thoroughly and to the fullest extent into the demands and requirements of the farmers. In the second place, he made a special reference to the agricultural question in Great Britain and Ireland, because he wished to remind the agricultural classes that they had common interests, and that, as they suffered in common, they should cooperate against common opponents. He had had something to say with regard to exceptional legislation for Ireland on many occasions; but just at present he was inclined to think that the Irish people and the English people were in this matter to some degree influenced by the feelings and desires of common humanity. The Resolution before the House appeared to him to be of the character of a very make-believe sympathy with the agricultural classes, similar to the Agricultural Holdings Act of the Government. It was quite clear that that Act had not introduced any reform into the agricultural relations of this country; and it was a question whether it was ever intended to introduce any important reform. The position which the Conservative Party held, and probably liked to hold, was that, while they were leaders of the country party—the farmers—and enjoyed all the advantages of leadership, they gave in return but a minimum of protection. There was exceptionally severe agricultural depression throughout the country; and this would continue until we got rid of the mischievous features of a mischievous system. What effectual remedy could there be which did not start with the removal of the artificial hindrances to agriculture? One of the chief of these artificial hindrances was the power of capricious eviction. In Ireland they had been more keenly sensible to the evils of the system that weighed on agriculture than the people of England had; but, unfortunately, it was only in England that public opinion was felt, and it was because Irish public opinion was so weak, that nothing had been done to effect a remedy. Irish public opinion had been powerless against the combination of English landed interests, covering and protecting Irish proprietary interests. This matter had a very close relation to the towns. So long as the towns were swamped by ignorant refugees from the country, deprived of the chance of settlement in their old country seats by the wretched system of insecurity, so long would these evils continue to be felt. They knew how the land system in Ireland was causing the expatriation of hundreds of thousands of the Irish working classes. Through no fault of their own, the poor Irish emigrants were driven from their native homes and villages; and, landing on the quays of Liverpool and Bristol, they became active and reckless competitors in town labour with the English artizan. As a consequence, the health, wealth, and comfort of the English artizan suffered, in common with the Irish emigrant, from the desperate struggle that now took place between the Irish beggar for food and the established English labourer in possession of the field. In the same way the mischievous character of the English land system flooded the manufacturing towns with wretched labourers of every kind, members of farmers' families deprived of their only chance of settlement and advancement on the land. This flooding of the towns and manufacturing districts would not be got rid of, and the town industries could not be protected, until they could provide the rural population with guarantees and inducements to put their ability into the land, instead of transplanting it into a wretched competition with town labour. He did not wish to refer further to the question of the agricultural labourers; but he was satisfied that until there was greater security introduced into land tenure, the farmers, even if they desired it, would be quite unable to guarantee a permanent improvement in the condition of the agricultural labourers. The evils of the present Poor Law system, the enormous amount of pauperism existing in and disgracing this country, in comparison with every other progressive nation in the world, could not be got rid of until they remedied the evils of the land system. So long as the agricultural classes had no alternative but anxious labour for bare sustenance, so long an immense portion of the country population would have no refuge to look forward to in old age but the poorhouse, supported at the cost of the ratepayers. To a very large extent the poorhouse system—the poor rate—was a fund which the landholders of this country levied upon the ratepayers at large, in order to provide a degraded and degrading pension for the victims of the landholding system. He would not go further into that matter. The speech of the hon. Member for Banbury had been in favour of his (Mr. O'Donnell's) Amendment more than it had been in favour of his own Resolution. He would repeat the expression of his earnest wish that the Liberal Party would progress in the path on which it had entered that night. The Liberal Party owed a debt which ought to have been paid long since to the agricultural classes of England and of Ireland. Protection was abolished by the voice of the Liberal constituencies, and the farmers were thereby deprived of all their exceptional advantages; but they had been left under all the disadvantages of the quasi-feudul system of cultivation which was maintained in this country, though it had been abolished in every other. It was time for the Liberal Party now boldly to place the motto of free agriculture on their banners, by the side of, and as a supplement to, Free Trade. Protection, he hoped and believed, could never be introduced, and for this very reason—they were bound to place the working classes in the counties on an equality and under the same regimé of liberty as they had insisted on for the workers in towns. It was said that the Liberal Party was in want of an Election cry. He would respectfully submit to its Leaders that they could have no such excellent Election cry, or one so worthy of the Liberal Party, as "Land Reform and Free Agriculture." In conclusion, he would say that, as an Irishman, he had great pride and pleasure in endeavouring by his Resolution to lay the basis of some common agreement between the distressed interests of England and the distressed interests of Ireland. A feeling of revenge—and no ignoble feeling of revenge —confirmed his desire that the movement for which he prayed might succeed. On many an occasion the worst offenders against the hearths and homes of the Irish peasantry had been protected by the perverted feelings of English landlords. The Irish could exact no nobler vengeance than by enabling the English agricultural classes to wrest from those who governed them—certainly not for their benefit—those blessings of freedom and security for which they had so long sought in vain. It would be a great thing if they could punish English misgovernment in Ireland by doing good to the masses of the English people. He need not fear that to do so would be a bad investment. English farmers could have no permanent interest in the oppression of Irish agriculture. As the free land movement gathered strength, and the certainty of land reform in England became nearer and nearer day by day, the representatives of Irish tenant right, instead of coming as humble supplicants to hon. Members opposite for some poor measure of protection for the wretched tenantry of Tipperary and Donegal, would come as the allies of a great English popular Party to enforce their demands, and then eviction and oppression would fly, and not appear again in the field at any future day.


begged to second the Amendment, which so well set forth nearly all that the Irish tenantry had so persistently demanded. A disheartening process of raising rents had been going on, which prevented the people enjoying the land or deriving profits from it. Why that process should go on he did not know, unless it was because Irish proprietors demanded higher interests for their money than the English. Purchasers of Irish property were rarely satisfied with less than 4½ per cent interest, and the result was that the silent process of raising rents had been going on all over the country. He thought it ought to be shown up and put down. He was a landlord himself; and, as such, had had no hesitation in giving his support to the Land Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt), which did not entrench on the rights of landowners, but only gave the tenant what he had a fair claim to expect—namely, security of tenure. He should, therefore, support the Bill whenever he had the opportunity. Meanwhile, he thought the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) deserved the thanks of the Irish tenants for having brought forward his Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "there can be no adequate remedy for the agricultural depression existing throughout the country and severely affecting also the interests of town labour, which does not, especially at this period of increasing Foreign Competition, protect the application of skill and capital to the soil by the establishment of compensation for unexhausted improvements, equitable appeal against exorbitant rents, and substantial security of tenure for the agricultural classes both in Great Britain and Ireland,"—(Mr. O'Donnell,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


thought the speech of the hon. Member for Dungarvan, though very interesting, had very little to do with the subject before the House. The Amendment, as he read it, advocated a system of fixity of rents.


observed, that he had said nothing about fixity of rent.


accepted the disavowal, and hoped the day was far distant when an English Member would be found to support such a proposition. He preferred the Motion of the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. B. Samuelson) to either of the Amendments. While, with one hand, the Legislature had been alleviating the burdens of the landed interests, on the other hand they had been increasing them by the imposition of education, highway, valuation, and other rates. He did not think the time had come for a Select Committee to inquire into the operation of the Agricultural Holdings Act, for a Committee could not recommend anything at the present moment that would alleviate the existing distress. A temporary remedy would be a considerable reduction in rents; but he believed that there had not been of late years as large an increase in rents as many people supposed. Another remedy might be found in the removal of some of the existing restrictions from agriculture. The abolition of the law of settlement and entail would not influence one way or the other the prosperity of agriculture. No doubt the Game Laws exercised at one time a disastrous effect upon the agriculture of the country; but they did so no longer, as the discussions that had taken place in the House in former years, when the advisability of abolishing those laws was under consideration, had produced much the same effect as would, have resulted from their actual abolition. The House had been told that the abolition of the privileges of the landlords would be of assistance to agriculturists; but what, he asked, were those privileges? He did not believe that the remedy which was sought would be found to lie in greater production. Many of those suffering distress at the present time were among the largest producers and best farmers in the country. The Agricultural Holdings Act was, in his opinion, one of the best measures affecting agricultural interests that had been introduced into Parliament for many years. As far as the county which he represented was concerned, the statistics quoted by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. B. Samuelson) were misleading. He knew hundreds of farms that were farmed under the Agricultural Holdings Act, and their number was increasing every day. The number of landlords who were contracting themselves out of the Act was, on the other hand, daily diminishing, and as leases fell in he thought they would hear little more of the use of the powers of contract. The Agricultural Holdings Act had established a local custom where no previous custom existed, and this was an advantage. His opinion was that the Act could be made to do more than it had done; and therefore he was in favour of the appointment of the Committee which was asked for. He did not wish to impair private contracts as far as annual holdings went. Four-fifths of the land in England was let under the system of annual holdings. In all such cases he believed the landlords had contracted themselves out of the Act; and he did not object to this, because an annual holding meant a low rent and a six months' notice to leave. In point of fact, the tenant was compensated by the lowness of the rent. But in the case of land let on lease at a fair rent, a different principle came into action. If, therefore, the object of the Committee would be to inquire how far the Agricultural Holdings Act had benefited the country, and whether any compulsion was necessary, even in the mildest form, he should have no objection whatever to the Committee being constituted; and he was certain that the evidence adduced before it would be of a very different character from the evidence which had been placed in the hands of the hon. Member for Banbury.


said, the state of agricultural matters had now become so very grave that he doubted much whether, even if the provisions of the Agricultural Holdings Act were made altogether compulsory, they would suffice to rescue the agriculture of this country from the collapse that was now threatening it. He did not think any hon. Member who had addressed the House was sufficiently aware of the great gravity of the crisis which was impending over the agriculturists. For four or five years past, partly through bad seasons, and partly through the low prices of produce, agricultural capital had been gradually melting away. The statistics quoted by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. B. Samuelson), showing a large increase in the number of bills of sale in the last month or two, proved to what straits the agriculturists of this country were driven. He did not, of course, suppose that any Committee of that House could do anything to moderate the seasons which, for the past two years, had been so adverse to the farmers; nor did he think it desirable that any Committee should recommend anything whatever in the way of increasing the prices of agricultural produce; but what he hoped was, that a Committee might be appointed to ascertain whether the position of the cultivator of the soil might be improved, and whether the conditions under which he held the land might be so changed as to enable him better to meet adverse seasons and low prices. It was quite true that wheat had been as cheap on some previous occasions as it was now; but since the increased cost of farming in recent years, the price of beef and mutton had never been so low as during the last 12 months. When the price of grain came down, the farmers were exhorted to turn their attention to live stock, and that had been done to a considerable extent; but now the price of beef and mutton had also come down to such an extent, that the production of those articles could only go on at a great loss to the farmers. Last spring, for instance, farmers were buying store cattle at 75s. per cwt., which they had had to sell within the last few months at 65s. He did not blame the Government for the recent Order, under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act, directing the slaughter of cattle from the United States; but it had frustrated the hope of getting cheap store cattle. By a large importation of cattle from the United States, farmers might be able to buy store cattle at 60s. per cwt., and, after feeding them, sell them at 65s. to 70s. with a profit. He did not think it possible for this country at all to compete with the United States in the actual breeding of cattle; and he regretted that the Privy Council should have declined to make inquiry as to whether disease existed in the great breeding grounds in the Western States, which he was informed it did not, and whether it would not be possible to make arrangements for the safe importation of cattle from those States to England through Canada. The refusal to institute such an inquiry showed a want of appreciation of the vast importance of the subject to the farmers of the country. As to the low prices, considerable hopes were entertained that, when trade revived, the prices of grain and meat would revive also, and he had no doubt that would be so to some extent; but he would point out that, in consequence of the stream of migration which had taken place from the Eastern into the Western States of America, there was likely to be an increase rather than a decrease in the importation from that quarter, not only of corn, but also of beef and dairy produce. The Agri- cultural Holdings Act was really of more importance to the landlord than to the farmer, in proportion as the landholder's interest was greater than that of the temporary occupant. The fact that wheat was only fetching from 35s. to 40s. meant something serious to the landlord. Wheat could not be produced in this country at less than 48s. a-quarter; and therefore, if the selling price was only 40s., there must be a loss of 8s. a-quarter, and it was impossible that that could continue to be borne by the farmer. The capital of the farmers was now pretty well exhausted. The profits they had made in bygone years had not been such that they could afford any reduction of them. Newspaper correspondents advised farmers to cut down personal expenses and live more humbly; but, at all events in Scotland, farmers could not live more carefully and economically than they did. If the landlords wanted to reduce the farmers to mere workers on the land in smock frocks, they would have to reduce their holdings very considerably, and to have a system of farming which would not require any capital. He objected to the Resolution of the hon. Member for Banbury, on the ground that it was too limited in its general scope, and because it had reference only to England and Wales. The case of Scotland required investigation quite as much. Farmers who held leases, when the stimulus of Free Trade came, had expended their profits in improving their farms; and those profits had been almost, or altogether, in the majority of cases, appropriated by the landlords in the form of increased rent. It said a great deal for the energy and enterprise of Scotch farmers that they had improved the land so much as they had done; but of late years it had been discovered that a 19 years' lease was not sufficient to enable the tenant to reap a fair advantage from his improvements, in consequence of the much greater cost involved, and the smaller margin of profit. He was in favour of a thorough inquiry; and he denied that those who sought such an inquiry wished to raise the question of Protection. He had no faith in Protection or reciprocity, and he had heard no such idea suggested among his constituents; but he thought an inquiry might serve to educate landlords and land agents as to the proper management of land, so as to make the most of it both for the landlord and the tenant. Nothing was done precipitately in the House of Commons; and he had had very great fears whether any inquiry or change would come in time to prevent a very large number of the present occupiers of land being absolutely ruined: but an investigation by a Committee, and the facts which such a Committee would collect, might result in a new class of cultivators of the soil being enabled to start on a fairer basis, and with much more advantageous prospects than hitherto.


admitted that if, as some hon. Members maintained, half the land of England was farmed under the conditions of six months' notice, with no provision at all for the compensation of the outgoing tenant, the state of things would be well worth the attention of that House. But he was very much inclined to doubt whether the Agricultural Holdings Act had proved to be the dead letter which the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. B. Samuelson) said it was. No doubt a good many landlords had contracted themselves out of it; but it was incumbent upon the hon. Member, if he would establish his case, to show that the provisions of the Act had not been replaced by any good working agreements between landlord and tenant, and also that such agreements had been demanded and refused. He thought that the Act of 1875 went, as far as any Act ought to go, in the way of interfering between landlord and tenant. It was absurd to say that it did nothing. It had this effect—that whereas, before it was passed, the presumption was that at the end of the lease improvements effected during its continuance were the property of the landlord, now the presumption was that the tenant was entitled, to compensation in respect of them. It had the effect, also, of bringing the landlord and the tenant face to face; and it embodied a provision giving the landlord a right to compensation in the event of its being found that by his neglect the tenant had impoverished his farm. Exaggerated notions about high farming were not quite so popular now as they were a few years ago. He was opposed to the inquiry sought for, because he believed that nothing practical would come of it; but principally because it would give rise to expectations which could never be fulfilled.


supported the Motion, because he believed a case had been made out for inquiry, and because the hon. Member who proposed it was most moderate in his demands. He did not think the time had come for an inquiry so wide as was to be proposed by the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin). He could not support the proposal to make the Act compulsory. He could not agree with those who held that the farmer had not good times in store for him. The agricultural depression was, he imagined, largely due to the sympathy between farming and other occupations. He was not a pessimist in this matter, as he remembered times quite as bad as these—so bad, indeed, that the cry was raised that it was useless to go on growing corn. He believed the depression was only temporary, and that the time was not far distant when they would have times as bright as before. The fact was, that the British farmer did not depend on corn-growing; but on meat, butter, hay, and other articles that still fetched good prices. His hon. Friend (Mr. J. W. Barclay) had based his argument upon the foreign competition in corn; but the House would remember that the repeal of the Corn Laws had not turned out disastrous to the farmer. They ought not, however, to run away with the idea that the days of Protection, or, as it was called, of "reciprocity," would return. He did not hesitate to say that they would never see a protective duty imposed upon any article consumed by the people. There could be no idea of entertaining reciprocity proposals. Allusion had been made to the necessity of sufficient capital in farming; but, for his own part, he would prefer a tenant with moderate capital, and great experience and skill, to a man who was comparatively ignorant of farming, but had plenty of money. Thinking that the time had come for an inquiry into the operation of the Act—which clearly did not come up to the expectations that had been formed by many of those who were in favour of it—he intended to give his support to the Resolution of his hon. Friend (Mr. B. Samuelson).


referring to a statement made on a former occasion, to the effect that a speech which he had delivered in connection with the subject under the consideration of the House was one which should only have been uttered after a "two-shilling ordinary," said that, as a matter of fact, what had just been quoted was uttered after imbibing an eighteen-penny market tea, and, consequently, might easily be of a weak character: The House was much indebted to his hon. Friend the Member for Banbury, who had brought forward the subject of the Agricultural Holdings Act, as it was not likely that another opportunity of considering the agricultural situation would have presented itself this Session. He held that the Act was a very good one, and said so because it was a copy of a Bill which Mr. James Howard and he had introduced into the House. It was a good Act, but it was not free from imperfection. In it there was an excellent homily to landlords; but he was sorry to say that a vast majority of those to whom the homily was addressed had excused themselves from attending to the duties which it enjoined. He regarded its provisions as the minimum of what ought to be given to the tenant, and anyone who sought to restrict these did an injustice. The great fault of the measure, however, was that it came into operation where it was not wanted, and where it was wanted its provisions were not, unfortunately, of much avail. The good landlords, for whom the Act was not required, had accepted it; but the needy or grasping ones had, as a rule, rejected it. In the ranks of those who had contracted themselves out of the Act was the Duchy of Lancaster—a fact which must, in his opinion, naturally give rise to wonder. Therefore, as he said at the time the Act was passed, it ought to be compulsory. He believed the permissive principle was only adopted by the Government as an experiment, with the view of an ultimate resort to compulsion, if necessary. Recently, without doubt, the Act had been more generally adopted, as tenants had become more independent in consequence of bad times, and had therefore been able to get a greater amount of justice done them than formerly. An assertion of his, that half the land of England was held at six months' notice to quit, had been called in question, but it had not been disproved. He wanted to see whether it could be disproved or not, and therefore he should support the Motion for inquiry. He did not know what the Amendment to be proposed by the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) aimed at. For his own part, if there was to be a general inquiry into the condition of agriculture and the cause of the existing depression, he should like to see that inquiry intrusted to a Royal Commission, instead of to a Committee of the House of Commons, as the Report of a Royal Commission would be accorded more confidence than would be placed in that of a Committee. The depression in agriculture had been produced by a large number of circumstances, and he wished he could see a chance of recovery. There were burdens which it was impossible for legislative enactments to relieve. He thought he was right in saying that the chief cause of the distress had been our unfruitful seasons—particularly those of the last four years. Another cause was the absence of restriction on imports. We had had 31 years' experience of Free Trade, and the predictions of the Protectionists had been proved to be true. In 1851 and 1852 we were given a dose of Free Trade, and then followed the discovery of gold in different parts of the world, then the Crimean War, the Cotton Famine, and the Franco-German War—all of them circumstances tending to raise the price of the commodities produced by farmers. Only three times in his life had he heard of the price of wheat being as low as it was now. The first occasion was in 1836, when there was a heavy protective duty. In 1833, 1834, 1835, and 1836 the harvests were good; and now, after four exceedingly bad harvests, the price of wheat was just the same as it was then. In 1851 the price of wheat was again as low as it was now. That was in the first days of Free Trade. It had been said that rents had come down. He did not believe, however, that where there was a fair proportion of grass and good tillage land rents had been considerably reduced; nor did he think they would fall very much, although, no doubt, the very light land and the very heavy land would go out of cultivation. Farmers had a right to complain of the tithes, which were 12 per cent above the amount at which they had been commuted. This arose from the unfair way in which the corn averages were struck. Again, the increase of rates was most burdensome; and where a school board had been established in a small agricultural parish the pressure became really grievous. He knew school board rates which were 1s. or 1s. 6d. in the pound, and this meant a property tax on the farmer of 2s. or 3s. in the pound. What would any tradesman think if such an impost were inflicted upon him? Moreover, the farmers had still to complain of the operation of the Malt Tax. As for the agricultural labourer, he had never been so well off as he was at the present day. Formerly a bushel and a-half of wheat represented the cost of a week's labour; but now a labourer could buy a bushel of wheat for the price of two days' labour. He rejoiced in the improved condition of the agricultural labourer; and the only thing he thought the labourer should now be asked to do was to give a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. It had been urged that the property of the landlords had greatly improved since the introduction of Free Trade. He did not see, however, that there was very much in that, as comparisons between increased values ought to be comparative, and not absolute. Mr. Caird told them, in his recent work, that land had increased 21 per cent in value between 1857 and 1875. How was that arrived at? In the first place, there had been a great increase in the general assessment; next, the enlargement of towns, the increased value of residential estates, and the construction of railways had considerably raised the value of land. Again, the landlords had embarked an immense quantity of capital in the land in the shape of permanent improvements, and large contributions to the value of estates had also been made by the tenantry. The Returns of Property Tax in England, from 1847 to 1877, showed that land had increased in value 26 per cent; but in the same period houses had increased in value 40 per cent; while the profits of trades, professions, and public companies had increased 231 per cent. Taking from 1857 to 1877, land had increased in value exactly the same, or 26 per cent, which showed that in the early days of Free Trade land was stationary in value—houses had increased in value 170 and trades 155 per cent. In another period, from 1865 to 1875, according to figures given by Mr. Giffen—who, he believed, was not generally regarded as particularly favourable to the landed interest—land had increased in value only 8 per cent, houses 38, railways 58, public funds 146, mines 190, and iron works 314 per cent. Therefore, as compared with other property, the increase in the value of land was very small. He thought the inquiry proposed would be of great value, and he intended to support the Motion.


who had given Notice of an Amendment, to the effect that the inquiry should be into the present depressed condition of agriculture, and how far it is owing to causes which can be remedied by legislation, disclaimed any idea of raising the question of Protection. It was true he had not placed his Amendment on the Paper for three months after the hon. Gentleman's Notice of Motion; but that was because at the close of last Session he had been subjected to such long and severe indisposition that he was not able to attend to any business. He put his Amendment on the Paper immediately after the proposal of the hon. Gentleman had been brought to his notice. It was no wonder, however, that distrust should be felt in the principles of Free Trade, seeing how the predictions of the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and the late Mr. Cobden, that if we adopted Free Trade all other nations would follow our example, had been falsified. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. B. Samuelson) had said that if any import duty were placed on corn it would be a protection, not to the tenant, but the landlord. His answer to that was, let them do so before the next harvest, and then ask the farmers whether it would be a benefit to them. He had put his Amendment on the Paper, not from any wish to advocate Protection or oppose inquiry into the working of the Act of 1875. He believed then, and he believed still, that the Act was right and wise in principle, and that the longer it was tried the more beneficial its operation would be found. But the Motion of the hon. Gentleman dealt only with one branch of a very large question; and if the inquiry were limited, as proposed, the conclusions arrived at would be erroneous. He agreed with all that had fallen from hon. Members as to the depression in agricultural circles. It was more than depression. He was not sure that hon. Members would be far wrong if they described it as the decline of agriculture in England; and if that decline were prolonged and permanent it would be a calamity, not only to the agricultural interest, but to all classes of the community. The hon. Member attributed our diminished production to the want of security for his capital on the part of the tenant, and to the Act of 1875 being permissive and, therefore, non-effective. This diminished production, however, was entirely independent of that or any other Act; its causes were many and various. The hon. Member had called the Act a dead letter. On the contrary, the Act of 1875 had made cardinal changes in the relations between the landlords and tenants of England. Before the passing of the Act all improvements, whether exhausted or otherwise, arising out of the capital and labour of the tenant became the property of the landlord. After the passing of the Act, the whole presumption of the law was reversed. The hon. Member said it was impossible for agriculture to flourish until they provided for the tenant greater security than he now enjoyed. He told them that the Crown Lands had all been contracted out of the Act—that the author of the Act had contracted himself out of it. Now, he was in a position to state that all the farms of the noble Duke referred to were under lease; and that of the 37,000 acres of the Duchy of Lancaster 3,500 acres in the county of Norfolk were let under lease. He stated that the Act had been adopted in very few instances. What did all this mean? The contracting parties had preferred—and very properly—to enter into agreements of their own. The tenant was in as good a position as possible to make terms for himself. No one acknowledged more readily than he did the right of the tenant to have the fullest security for the capital he embarked in the land. If he could share the opinion of the hon. Mover of this Resolution—that that security would be attained by some compulsory measure—he would consent to this Act or some other being made compulsory. But he could not share that opinion in the smallest degree. He was convinced there was not the slightest necessity for it. What had been their experience on this point? They had heard a great deal at one time of the Lincolnshire custom; it was very much the same as this Act, especially in this respect—that it was also permissive; but was he to be told the Lincolnshire custom was a sham? Nothing of the kind. Under that custom, the most perfect security was enjoyed by the tenant for everything he could put into his farm. He was perfectly satisfied there was no necessity for the change that was proposed to be made. The first of the causes which had led to the present depression in agriculture was the succession of three or four very bad seasons, resulting in greatly diminished produce, which had suffered not only in quantity but in quality. Another cause was the very bad prices received for that produce. These were the real causes of distress in agriculture—the consequence had been little return or loss on the capital invested. It was no wonder that agriculturists should be more or less disheartened. Agriculture in England was not fairly treated. Land was far more heavily taxed than any other property in the country. Why should real property alone contribute to many important national objects? While they were imposing heavy additional taxes on land, they were also largely increasing the expenses of the farmer in the labour he employed. They compelled him to pay men's wages for a great quantity of work which had hitherto been often better done by boys at one-third of the price paid for men. The labour question itself was by no means one of the least of the farmers' difficulties. But more than all this, there was the great competition he had to meet in the increasing importation of food from abroad. The trade in meat had sprung up in America and developed with a rapidity which was unprecedented. If the American trade was really capable of all that was claimed for it, the conclusion must become almost irresistible that, so far as arable land was concerned, the days of the farmers were nearly numbered. What was the case in dairy farms? He was told that the price hitherto obtained for their cheese had been diminished of late by nearly one-half, owing to the competition they had to meet with from America. Nowhere, he understood, was distress greater than in farms of that description at the present moment. A statement of the ex- penditure and returns of a farm, the details of which he would show any hon. Member, exhibited a loss of 2s. if the holding were rent free; and that brought out the important fact that rent was an insignificant proportion of the outgoings on ordinary average arable farms. On a farm of 500 acres the outgoings amounted to £3,377, and the rent, at 30s. an acre, to £750, or one-fourth of the whole. A return of 20 or 25 per cent of the rent was a mere bagatelle to the tenant, and it might be ruin to the landlord. It would not enable the tenant to cultivate the land if he could not do it now. If things remained in their present position, it would be difficult to cultivate a great part of England at all. No doubt the difficulties of the farmers were largely owing to the bad seasons they had gone through, and the general depression in trade had re-acted on agriculture in England; but, before considering remedies, it was necessary to ascertain whether our depression was of a temporary or of a permanent character. If it proved to be permanent, the serious position and prospects of agriculture would render it incumbent on they to look the matter fully in the face with a view to devising an adequate remedy.


regretted that more of the farmers' Friends had not remained in the House to hear the speeches. No substantial question had been raised except by the speech and Motion of the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. B. Samuelson). The hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) attributed depression to bad seasons, low prices, and competition; but he did not give the smallest hint of the good that could be done by inquiring into these questions. It was satisfactory to know that the hon. Member did not speak in the name of his Party. There was nothing to show what the practical purpose of his Amendment was. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had made occupiers a present of about £2,000,000; but how many farthings in the pound were farmers the better for it after the demands made upon them by the additions to Imperial taxation? The next generation would find out that the towns and the country had better bear their own burdens. As to the burden of educating the labourers, it had been made possible to earn from the State a capitation grant of 17s.; so that, where any great burden fell upon the tenant-farmers, it was where the landlord had not built a school, and clerical subscriptions alone had been forthcoming to maintain one. He thanked the hon. Member for having shelved the docrine of Reciprocity, which would encourage some of his Friends to do likewise. The question before the House was very much one of fact. Was the Act or not a dead letter? Not knowing the witnesses whose evidence the hon. Member for Banbury had quoted, he frankly confessed that he did not accept their statements with entire confidence; but there was certainly a very strong case for inquiry. The credit of the Government who passed the Bill, and of the great Party who were accused of nullifying it, was at stake, and in their own interests they ought to court inquiry. He believed that there were a great many more good agreements in England than was generally supposed, and that they had not been made under the Act. But if those good agreements had not been made under the Act, had the Act conduced to them? Well, nobody, he thought, was at present in a position to say. A number of them, he knew, were entered into before the Bill passed, and many farmers had elected to remain under their old agreements rather than adopt the Act. But that circumstance furnished all the more occasion for inquiry. If the Act had not proved the boon to agriculture it was expected to be, what was the reason for its failure? Was it the fact that the landlords and the land agents as a body were opposed to the Act, and would not allow the farmers to take advantage of it? These were questions which it was very desirable to get answered. No doubt, the Act had done good by changing the presumption of the law, and by enabling limited owners to do more than they could do before. But there was, he believed, a general distrust of it throughout the country. It was essentially a Conveyancer's Act, and smelt of the Court of Chancery from beginning to end. It was, moreover, very complicated in its details, and it was deserving of consideration whether something less complicated could not be substituted for it which would do an equal amount of good to the farmers. He admitted that the provisions in the Act which enabled either party to go before the Inclosure Commissioners and demand an arbitration was a valuable one; but he thought that power should be given to some public authority to appoint valuers. There was one thing that the Legislature ought to take into their serious consideration, and that was the protection which the farmer undoubtedly required on the question of game. This was provided for by a clause in the Tenants Compensation Bill introduced by him (Sir Thomas Acland) on the basis of the practice of the hon. Member for Scarborough. Another subject provided for in that Bill was security for tenants, that on the sale of an estate they should not be disturbed in them two years at least. He trusted that the Government would not consider the present Motion in the light of one of censure. It was not. On the contrary, it was to carry out to its legitimate conclusion a most useful work which they were the first to initiate.


I hope that the House will allow me a few minutes of its time on this question, seeing that it was I who, in 1848, first induced the House seriously to entertain the matter included in the Agricultural Holdings Act. The hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Thomas Acland) has said that those who were the "farmers' friends" prevented Mr. Pusey from doing anything towards improving the relations between landlord and tenant. Sir, the late Mr. Pusey was an old and valued friend of mine, and for some years we sat together on the Publication Committee of the Protection Society for this country and the Colonies. I laboured with him for three or four years; we acted together most cordially; we wrote at the same table, side by side, like two schoolboys; and I find it rather trying to hear it said that I prevented Mr. Pusey's doing anything, when I induced this House to appoint the Committee on Agricultural Customs for the very purpose of giving substance and form to several of Mr. Pusey's proposals. When that Committee was appointed I gave way to Mr. Pusey, and proposed that he should take the Chair of the Committee. This being the case, it is rather hard to tell me that I, as one of the "farmers' friends," assisted in defeating Mr. Pusey. It is perfectly true that some of Mr. Pusey's views went beyond what I considered consistent with the continuance of that happy understanding between landlord and tenant—that partnership between them—which is the great characteristic of the tenure of land in England; for in Ireland, I am sorry to say, the application of large capital by the landlord to the improvement of the land was in former years—in 1848, for example—the exception, whereas in England it has long been the rule. And when an hon. Member like the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) speaks as though he would import Irish legislation into England, I beg to tell him that the circumstances of the two countries are totally different. In England—I speak from personal experience and knowledge of the fact—it is the habit of the landlord to make most, as a rule, all the permanent improvements, such as building, road-making, draining, and so forth. These have never been made so exclusively by the landlords either of Scotland or of Ireland. It was to preserve that English principle of action that I opposed some of Mr. Pusey's views. I myself, personally, in my private capacity, acted upon the Report of the Agricultural Customs Committee of 1848, and, I believe, Mr. Pusey did so likewise. I imported the best custom, as proved before the Committee—I mean the Lincolnshire custom—into Warwickshire. I wanted Mr. Pusey to move the amendment of the law of emblements—an amendment of the law which was afterwards carried through this House by another hon. Member of the House, by which the right to fixtures on the part of the agricultural tenant has been placed on the same footing as it stood on under the law relating to the commercial tenants; but Mr. Pusey preferred that that should be done by another Member. In the Committee of the Whole House on the Agricultural Holdings Bill I did all I could to improve and to modify the tenour of that Act; and the hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon, as well as the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. B. Samuelson), have admitted that the 'provisions of that Act as to compensation are so stringent as to have deterred both landlords and tenants in many cases from adopting that Act, according to its exact terms. Those provisions I strove to mitigate; but I am happy to say that, by that Act, I saw another of Mr. Pusey's objects carried out, for the presumption of law, as it previously stood, was against the tenant's right in his improvements; this was changed, and the presumption is now in the tenant's favour. I think I have said enough to show that when the hon. Baronet accuses me of lukewarmness upon this subject, his observations may apply to others; but I am one of those who supported Mr. Pusey's main objects; so his observations do not apply to me. With respect to the Motion now before the House, the hon. Member for Banbury, who proposed it in a speech, the tone of which was, I am sure, appreciated by all who heard him, must forgive me for saying that I think it is too soon after the passing of the Agricultural Holdings Act for the House now to interfere with it. I quite admit that the great body of landlords and tenants have contracted themselves out of the Act. My own tenants have contracted themselves out of it, because they had already an agreement with me, which is based upon the Lincolnshire custom. I know that this has been the case on other estates to a large extent; but it is an immense benefit that the Act should come into operation where the landlord has failed to make provision for the tenant's improvements. I know, also, that the present distress among the agricultural classes has rendered many a farm vacant, and that in almost every instance of retake the provisions, at all events, the principle, of the Agricultural Holdings Act is operating powerfully in the sense in which the Act was intended to operate when the Bill passed this House. The intention of the Act is, not that it should be compulsory in its provisions, but that it should be considered a kind of model Act, not violating the principle of freedom of contract between landlord and tenant, but coming into operation whenever there was an absence, a lapse, of private agreement between them. That was the sense in which that Statute was passed. It is difficult, however, to trace the operation of the Act, for this reason—that it does not generally operate in a direct manner by the immediate acceptance of the exact terms of the Act itself; but I know that it does operate indirectly, and very powerfully. It has given the tenant a right to his improvements, and every tenant who takes a farm now can claim to have that right de- fined in the agreement with his landlord. Thus it has brought freedom to contract into action, and recognizes the right of the tenant in his improvements. The Act has, however, another side to it, and upon that the hon. Member for Banbury did not touch. It would be most unjust, where the landlord had shared largely in making the improvements on a farm, if there were not clauses inflicting a penalty for the deterioration of those improvements and of the farm itself.


was understood to say that he had in speaking recognized the necessity of such provisions.


The main object of the hon. Member is in course of being attained; because, under the agreements which are now framed, the rights of both parties are contemplated and provided for. The hon. Member thinks that the Act has little operation, because it is not accepted as a whole, and leaves it to the parties to adopt its principle—in other words, leaves them free to contract. In my opinion, that is the best operation which the Act could have, considering the great variety in the agricultural circumstances of different districts; and as it has been in operation only three years, I am opposed to disturbing it. I am sure that the House must have listened with pleasure to the able speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) on this question; and I am equally confident that agriculturists generally, on reading that speech, will recognize in my hon. Friend a Representative who is worthy of his position in this House. I, for one, am very glad that the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire proposes to extend the sphere of inquiry; and now I wish to say at once that, farming having been placed by law upon a commercial footing, I should deprecate any measure not of a commercial nature being adopted with reference to that interest. The hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire has alluded to the fact that agriculture is suffering from various causes, depression of trade, and others. In the constituency which I have had the honour of representing for more than 30 years in this House the agriculturists are in a minority; and I should deprecate, as I have always deprecated, any idea of separating the interests of the farmers from the interests of the manufacturers and traders. In my constituency they are united, intermixed, intermarried, and connected in every way; and I would regret sincerely if any words that I may utter should purport the separation of those interests. The hon. Member for Banbury has mentioned that £100,000,000 worth of food annually has been of late years imported into this country; will the House forgive me, therefore, if I quote from documents which are in its possession, which show the state of trade, including this large importation of agricultural produce during the last eight years? On referring to the Commercial Abstract and other documents in the Library, hon. Members will find that, taking the period of four years—namely, from 1871 to 1874, both inclusive, the gross value of the imports amounted to £1,427,000,000, and that, taking the next period of four years, from 1875 to 1878, also inclusive, the gross value of the imports—I am speaking in round numbers—was £1,511,000,000. Conquently the excess of the value of the importations for the last four years over the value of the importations for the previous four years was no less than £84,000,000. This was the value of the gross importations. I will now take the exports of British produce during the same two periods, and I find that in the four years from 1871 to 1874, both inclusive, these amounted to £974,000,000, and for the four years from 1875 to 1878 inclusive, to only £817,000,000. Thus, there was a diminution in the value of exports of British products in the latter four years that amounted to £157,000,000. I have also a summary of the value of the exports of Foreign and Colonial produce, which for the first period of four years was £233,000,000, and for the second period, £220,000,000; and now I come to this general result. The gross value of the imports during the first four years being £1,427,000,000, and in the second period of four years being £1,511,000,000, the gross value of the total exports of British, Colonial, and Foreign produce, were in the first four years £1,207,000,000, or an excess in the gross value of imports over exports amounting to £220,000,000. The gross value of the imports in the second period, 1875 to 1878 inclusive, was £1,511,000,000; the gross value of the exports, £1,037,000,000; so that the excess in the value of the gross imports over the gross exports in the second period of four years was no less than £474,000,000—in other words, the excess in the value of imports over exports for the four years, 1875 to 1878 inclusive, was more than double the excess of imports over exports for the previous four years, 1871 to 1874 inclusive. Now, with such a state of trade as that, how, I ask, can we expect that the country should be prosperous? True, the country was prosperous, whilst the excess of imports over exports was £220,000,000, during the first four years; but when, in the next four years, that amount was much more than doubled, no less than to £474,000,000, that certainly cannot be said. My opinion is that the country has a right to demand of this House that it should inquire into this state of affairs. I am not taking upon myself to suggest a remedy; but there can be no doubt that this is altogether quite an exceptional state of things. If hon. Members will take the trouble to go through the figures to which I have referred, they will see that they bear out the conclusion at which I have arrived. I know it may be said—"Oh! it is idle to attempt to base your conclusions on a calculation of the balance of trade." But the great teacher of Free Trade—Adam Smith—in the fourth book of his Wealth of Nations, emphatically records this opinion, that— There is another balance … very different from the balance of trade, and which, according as it happens to be either favourable or unfavourable, necessarily occasions the prosperity or decay of every nation. This is the balance of the annual produce and consumption, which, according as it is favourable or unfavourable, occasions the prosperity or decay of every nation. This is one of the maxims which have been overlooked and neglected for years in this country. I do trust that the rising generation, of whose education we hear so much, will learn that if they do not read the whole of Adam Smith's famous work—if, after reading the three first books, they fail to study the fourth book of The Wealth of Nations—they will fail to understand the true principles of political economy. I believe, then, that the proposal of the hon. Member for Banbury falls far short of that which ought to be the scope of inquiry, and I believe that inquiry is really required. I shall certainly vote with the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire for the kind of inquiry which he proposes; because, even according to the hon. Member for Banbury, the inquiry ought to comprehend the £100,000,000 of imports of grain and the like, and their effect in competition with the produce of this country; but the instruction he has moved would not comprehend that sphere. I thank the House for permitting me to make these observations, and I would add that, if witnessing, as we have done during the past eight months, the issue of 1,700 bills of sale, farm after farm thrown upon the hands of the landlords, farmers struggling for existence or absolutely ruined; knowing of these difficulties, and many of us, I trust, coming to the assistance of our tenants, it would, in my humble opinion, be discreditable to the county Members in this House—we should hardly be worthy of our seats in the House—if we did not submit to this, the appointed jury of the nation, a state of things, which is the more grave as indicating the decline, not only of the agricultural, but of the commercial prosperity of this country, than anything I can remember. At present we see but little light through the widespread gloom that prevails. True, the wages of the labouring classes have not as yet been reduced to the point which competition may demand. I look with no pleasure to a possible reduction of wages; but I scarcely know the manufacturer, the mine owner, or the commercial man, who believes that, without a reduction of wages, this country can continue to compete with the low-priced labour of the several parts of the world. I deprecate a reduction of wages, and I have stood out against it to the utmost of my power; I look upon it as the cheapening of the individual Englishman. But a reduction of wages must come, though we have this satisfaction, that food is cheaper now than ever it was. Still, a reduction of wages, if permanent, would be a cheapening of the Englishman—an idea I detest. In former years agriculture has sometimes been prosperous when trade and commerce were depressed, and "vice versâ; but, at the present moment, you have in this country a depression which extends through the entire agricultural, industrial, trading, and commercial classes; and when you are experiencing this widespread, nay, this universal depression, I do not think that it would be becoming in the House of Commons to treat such a circumstance with neglect. The House should investigate this condition of things, and, without prejudice or undue prepossession, consider whether there is anything that the Legislature can effectually do, with the object of relieving the depression that so widely prevails.


said, he saw no reason to regret the passing of the Agricultural Holdings Act; but as the Act had only been passed four years ago, it was hardly time yet to set about inquiring into its operation. They ought to have more experience of the working of the Act before they proceeded to institute such an inquiry. Unless hon. Members could show that there were glaring defects in it, or that its operation had been actually prejudicial to the interests of the country, to ask for a Committee was exhibiting a sort of childish, inquisitive disposition. There was one thing very remarkable about this debate, and that was that not a single suggestion had been made in any of the speeches that the present depression in agriculture and trade could be remedied by legislative enactment. But, unless hon. Members had some idea of what they would propose by way of remedy, it was hardly fair to ask for a Committee, as to the constitution of which, if assented to, there would be immense difference of opinion. If there was to be any inquiry at all, it would be better made by way of Commission than Committee. He believed that the Act of 1875 had effected a very good purpose, though the proprietors of certain large estates had contracted themselves out of this operation. He knew some who had done so through pure laziness, having never even read the Act; but they had done so unwisely. There was, however, a vast number of small properties, of which hardly any notice was taken, where in hundreds and thousands of cases the landlords had not contracted themselves out of the Act. Besides, there was an immense amount of property which was under the Act—namely, ecclesiastical property, for clergymen, as a rule, had not contracted themselves out of its operation. He believed the best chance for agriculture would be perfect freedom between landlord and tenant. This was what the Act had given. It had established freedom where there was no freedom before—in cases where owners could not charge their estates for improvements made by tenants. He could not see what good an inquiry through a Committee would effect. In his opinion, it was quite unnecessary, and more time ought to be given to see the working of the Act before any further attempts were made to alter the law.


said, allusion had been made in the course of this debate to the distressed state of the agricultural interest. That distressed state nobody could dispute, and he would like the House to know that the depression existed throughout the Kingdom, and was quite as great in Ireland as in England or in Scotland. He did not, indeed, believe there ever was a time when the agricultural and commercial interests in Ireland were suffering more than at the present moment. The hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) laid great stress on the very bad prices which were now obtained for agricultural produce as the cause of the distress; but he (Mr. Mitchell Henry) asked the House to consider how that very depressed state of prices had come about. The immense impetus which had been given to trade and commerce of late years, owing to causes he would not enter into now, produced a demand for meat and agricultural produce which had the effect of causing in Ireland a degree of social misery which had led to half the difficulties of late years between that country and England. Small holders had been driven out of their farms; the farms had been converted into grass land, and money had been borrowed at high rates of interest to stock the land and produce meat for England, whilst the price of beef had gone up from 7d. to 1s. per lb. Now he would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were so greatly distressed at the low prices given for agricultural produce, what would have been the condition of England if it had not happened that a bountiful harvest had providentially been reaped abroad, and brought to this country? Why, they would have had a famine instead of being able to pass through the crisis with the tranquillity which had distinguished the condition of the country. In regard to the Motion of the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. B. Samuelson), there were many hon. Members who believed that the agricultural question in England would be the great question of the future, and that it was utterly impossible to separate the agricultural interest in England from the agricultural interest in Ireland. The sympathy which hon. Members had met with from various parts of the House, when they detailed the sufferings of Irish tenants, induced him to remark that those sufferings had arisen almost entirely from the same causes that were only now beginning to be felt in England. So long as prices were high everything was satisfactory; but now that a new era had dawned, and we were drawing on all the markets of the world for produce, what was to be the condition of agriculture for the future? In England they were only beginning to feel the force of that question, but in Ireland they had felt it for years. The secret of much misery was the sense of insecurity that existed amongst the farmers; and he apprehended this Motion was designed to ascertain whether the feeble Act of 1875 had been fairly worked or whether it was a dead letter. There were considerable differences, in some respects, between England and Ireland. In England they had farms to let in numbers, and no tenants to take them. In Ireland they had people clamouring for the land, desiring only to be fixed in the soil and not evicted at the caprice of an individual. The hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Thomas Acland), had said that in his own experience he had seen great misery produced when an estate which had been sold passed into new hands, and the new possessor thought fit to raise the rents; but that was a complaint which had been made over and over again, as it was what was going on almost universally in Ireland. Estates were sold, rents were raised, and no protection was given to the tenants against the arbitrary raising of rents. The hon. Baronet had pointed out that even in England they required some protection against raising the rent, which produced so much misery and such a sense of insecurity. They in Ireland only asked for the same thing. The hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell), as appeared to him, had only elaborated what underlaid the real principles of the Act of 1875, with one exception. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Dungarvan, after alluding to the agricultural depression, went on to say that no good could be done unless they protected the application of skill and capital to the soil by establishing compensation for unexhausted improvements. Well, that was the object of the Act of 1875. Then the hon. Member's Amendment said it was necessary to give an equitable appeal against exorbitant rents. Now, that equitable appeal had not been universally asked for in England. The people there were only just beginning to demand it. It had been said that his hon. Friend the Member for Dungarvan asked for fixity of rent; but he begged to say that the Irish people had never asked for fixity of rent. They were perfectly willing that their rents should fall or rise in justice. What they asked for was simply fixity of tenure—that when they had cultivated their holding they should not be capriciously evicted from it. If they were to have meat brought in large quantities from America, as well as from the Continent, it was impossible that large farms, requiring capital and expenditure in manures, could continue to exist. They must have, as in other countries, moderate-sized farms, in each of which a farmer and his family could find a permanent, and, he trusted, a happy home. This would really make the country strong in the prosperity of a contented people.


desired, so far as his own experience went, to deny that the Act in question had been made a dead letter by tenants contracting themselves out of it. He sent round to his tenants a circular, asking them whether they preferred to come under the operation of the Act, or to remain as they were—and they preferred to remain as they were—tenants under six months' notice to quit, leaving their farms by will to their sons, subject to the approval of the squire as to one son being more acceptable than another. However feudal the arrangement might be, it showed at least that there was no want of confidence.


Sir, I think we have every cause to congratulate ourselves upon the consideration shown to a very large class of our fellow-countrymen, who at the present time are suffering so severely. The same feeling has been expressed on both sides of the House; and this, in my opinion, can have no other than a very soothing and satisfactory effect upon those who are struggling with the most difficult circumstances in which men can be placed. At the same time, although I confess I do not agree with the Motion of the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. B. Samuelson), I congratulate him upon the interesting speeches to which we have listened for some time past, and which have added so much to the information possessed by the House upon this important subject. But I think the hon. Member must make up his mind that we should require to have a very clear case indeed presented to us, before we could assent to submit an Act of Parliament, which has only been in operation three years, to the judgment of a Committee of the kind suggested. As far as I can recollect, the promoters of the Act never anticipated that it would produce any rapid or revolutionary consequences; on the contrary, I believe they took a perfectly different line, and said they wished its operation to be gradual. Now, what reason has the hon. Member shown us for taking the very unusual step of submitting an Act which has only been three years in operation to the judgment of a Select Committee? He goes upon one point, and that is that the Act has become entirely a dead letter, and that it has been set at nought. I beg the House to remember that the object of this Act was not, I am perfectly confident, to force all the tenants and landlords of the country to adopt it; but to provide, as far as possible, a security that the tenant should have complete compensation for any improvements made on his farm. This is the key of the position. We must bear in mind that anything which induces the tenant to embark his capital in his farm is of the greatest possible benefit to the landlord, as well as everybody concerned in the soil. I now come to the point which is alleged by the hon. Member for Banbury as a reason for submitting the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1875, to the judgment of a Select Committee—namely, that the Act has become a dead letter, and has been entirely set at nought. I have heard so much, to-night to that effect that I wish to go beyond the authorities mentioned by the hon. Member, and refer to the meeting held in January or February, 1877, by the Farmers' Club of London. A most interesting discussion took place upon that occasion, when the secretary to the Club brought before the members a report which had been got together by their orders. The Club had sent out 700 or 800 circulars to farmers in every county, and received 250 answers from persons who might therefore be considered to represent every county in England. Among those replies, I observe there were 13 or 14 from Norfolk. The secretary of the Club says— To sum up the above results I think we may fairly say that, as a general rule, the Act is excluded, and that by landlords, from operating in respect to tenancies from year to year, or at will, which were current when it came into operation. Secondly, as to tenancies which have begun since the Act came into operation, the Act is to a largo extent excluded. Thirdly, and this I venture to think most important, the provisions of the Act relating to payment of compensation for unexhausted improvements, especially those of the 2nd and 3rd clauses, are adopted by special agreement, and, in many cases, the time of notice to quit is extended from six to twelve months. It is to be presumed that the farmers would get as good witnesses as possible; and the testimony of those who were summoned, after one year's experience of the working of the Act by the Farmers' Club, sufficiently showed that tenant-farmers throughout the country were, as to unexhausted improvements, as to notices, and as to agreements, in a much better position than before the Act was passed. In the face of that testimony, I decline to adopt the conclusion of the hon. Member that the Act has become a dead letter and been set at nought. I will just quote one or two words of the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read), who said— I do not say the Act has not done some good; I believe it has already done a great deal of good, and I am certain it will do a great deal of good in days to come. Now, surely the House should be very 10th to accept the testimony of the hon. Member for Banbury, however great an authority he may be, against the authorities I have quoted. Of course, he fortifies himself with the answers to the circular to which he referred; but it is asking too much from the House to expect that it should put a very great amount of confidence in the opinions of those anonymous gentlemen quoted by the hon. Member. We ought to be informed a little more as to their position with reference to this question. Are they townspeople? Are they gentlemen who have always backed up compulsion, and who are, therefore, one-sided in their views? All these things we ought to know. At any rate, I will back the circular issued by the Farmers' Club against the statements of the hon. Member for Banbury. It is a very remarkable thing that, while, for months past, it has been known that the hon. Gentleman intended to bring forward this Motion, he has not quoted to us any letters from the tenant farmers, who are said to be in such a state of agitation, although, if his case were a good one, we might have expected that he would have been armed with a sheaf of such letters. The hon. Member has quoted answers to circulars which he sent out; but he speaks of no great amount of correspondence as having passed in consequence of these circulars. In fact, the more you look into the case of the hon. Member the less it will hold water. He, moreover, lays down a rather dangerous doctrine for the consideration of the House, when he puts very great stress upon the importance of agriculture to the nation generally, and makes it a reason for interference with the freedom of contract. Undoubtedly, agriculture is a matter of the greatest national importance; but I ask, are there no other questions of national importance that will have to be handled? Are not strikes of national importance? Is not the question of the price of commodities one of national importance? We have associations asking us to interfere in the question of prices, and are we to be asked to interfere in that question, because it is one of national importance? I think the hon. Gentleman is taking up rather a dangerous argument, when he asks us to interfere with the law of contracts between landlord and tenant, on the ground that agriculture is of national importance. Another curious argument, which I think he used, was that the home produce was diminishing. Quite true; it has diminished, because we have had four bad seasons, as we all know and deplore. He said, also—"Your home produce has diminished, and I argue from that fact that capital is not flowing into the farms;" and from this he in- ferred that there was something wrong with the system under which farms were held. The argument is a curious one, and it seems strange that, after we have experienced four notoriously bad seasons, he should be surprised that increased capital has not been embarked in the cultivation of the soil. The hon. Member has told us that he did not send his circulars into Lincolnshire, because, as he says, a custom prevails there which renders the application of the Act unnecessary; but surely it is a matter of notoriety in this House and elsewhere that the agricultural depression has been much more severe in Lincolnshire than in any other county.


reminded the noble Lord that he did not for one moment say that the absence or presence of an agreement had anything to do with agricutural depression.


I accept the disclaimer of the hon. Member; but, at the same time, I must be allowed to say that the whole current of his argument certainly seemed to point in a contrary direction. As to the question of capital, hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to think that the landlords are shrinking from putting capital into their farms; but if there is one thing more than another which a landlord is willing to do, it is to embark his capital when any scheme presents itself which will secure for him aproper return for the investment. I think that, in asking us to see what the landlords and the tenants want, and to investigate carefully what changes they require to be made in the Agricutural Holdings Act, would be to open up a very wide field for inquiry. I will just remind the hon. Gentleman that all he said really points to the old story of direct compulsion. That plan of direct compulsion has, no doubt, been thoroughly discussed in this House; and hon. Members will remember that it was ably put to them in the speech of the hon. Member for Forfar (Mr. J. W. Barclay), and that, on a former occasion, it was rejected by a large majority. The hon. Member would not go farther than this in meddling with the landlords; but, on this point, it is important to notice the speech of the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell), who said that the extreme wing of the Liberal Party, of which he is the Representative, would, if the present demand be granted, endeavour to push their views still farther. In what is all this to end? We are to consider whether or not we are to advise the House to grant the Committee proposed by the hon. Member. I have taken considerable trouble carefully to consider what are the real causes of the present agricultural depression, for it is impossible for us to shut our eyes to the fact of its existence; and it has, moreover, been clearly brought out by the speech of the hon. Member for Dungarvan, and still more so by that of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), in the course of this debate. We have to consider the proposal for a general inquiry. Now, is it clear that there is any doubt as to the cause of this depression? There is no mystery at all about the question, and I hold the reasons for the present state of depression to be perfectly clear. But when we talk of agricultural depression, let us remember that, so far, it has not extended itself to the agricultural labourer, for the condition of suffering to which hon. Members have referred has not reached beyond the landlords and tenants. If you look to the Returns, you will find that, instead of an increase of pauperism having taken place as a consequence of this depression, there has been a continual decrease. The agricultural labourer has not shared in the general depression and pressure, which has, therefore, been confined to the tenant-farmer and the landlord, who are both in a distressing position. The peculiarity of the present period is that, as far as agriculture is concerned, there has been a concurrence of unfavourable circumstances. We have had four seasons, all of them more than usually unfruitful, and during which the farmer has had the greatest difficulty in working the soil. At the same moment we have the terrible recollection of the cattle disease; and even at the present time there are very many herds which have not recovered from the losses they have sustained from that cause, which alone has had a terrible effect upon the agricultural interest. Concurrently with that we have had the labour difficulty, which, after all, is one of the most serious kind to the employers of labour. I am stating facts simply as they have occurred. The men are unsettled, wages are high, and the work, in too many cases, clearly bad; and besides this, there is the difficulty arising out of the recent Education Act, which has deprived the farmers of juvenile labour for ever, because that labour has from time immemorial formed an important factor in the farmer's calculations of his expenses and profits. It is constantly being said that when we have had bad years the farmers have been recouped by high prices; but instead of that being the case, hon. Members are aware that prices have been exceptionally low. The price of meat has been kept up, but it must be remembered that the stock of cattle has only increased 7 per cent in 10 years—a very small rate compared with that of former periods. But the sheep, the great staple of the country, and a most important item with the farming class, have decreased by 8 per cent. That implies a great amount of suffering among the flocks and herds. Butter and cheese have decreased very largely in the quantity manufactured. The price of wheat has fallen from 62s. to 54s. since the year 1868, during which period barley has declined 2s. 1d., and oats 1s. 7d. to 1s. 11d. per quarter. This fall in the value of grain crops has been one of the peculiarities of the bad seasons through which we have passed, and it represents a loss of about £13,000,000. I ask, why have these prices been low? It is a very interesting and a very important question; for it will be seen that, during the last decade in which this fall in value has occurred, the population has increased by 3,000,000. I have no doubt that the badness of trade, together with the abundant harvests in America, have to a very considerable extent affected our prices. Again, in what way has the stagnation of trade in England and throughout the world affected the whole conditions of the agricultural interest? The great stagnation of trade has, of course, set free an enormous amount of tonnage; while the steam shipping power of the British Empire has increased, during the last 10 years, by 1,800,000 tons. Thus we have had a most enormous increase in the carrying power of the world just at the moment when trade was slack. These steamers represent the power of three or four sailing ships, and are, therefore, able to carry foreign produce at so low a rate as will explain the enormous increase which has taken place in the importation of food. Of course, we must all rejoice for the sake of those who eat the food so cheaply imported; but we must also sympathize with the farmers for the great increase of competition. To sum up the figures relating to home and foreign produce in two groups, I see that from 1868 to 1878 the value of the annual imports of wheat, barley, oats, Indian corn, peas, and beans has risen from £40,000,000 to £60,000,000, thus showing a rise of £20,000,000 in 10 years; while the value of the imports of live and dead meat, and of butter and cheese, has risen during the same period from £14,000,000 to £35,000,000, which shows, again, a rise of about £20,000,000. I think I have now shown that the cause of the present agricultural distress is quite clear, and that there is no mystery whatever about it. We have not to look to any recondite cause for this condition of things, but to the unfortunate concurrence of four bad seasons, with the other circumstances which I have detailed to the House—a very unusual coincidence of events, which would appear fully to explain the existing state of agricultural distress. We hope for better times; and encouragement has already been given by various hon. Gentlemen who have addressed the House, particularly by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. M'Lagan), who said that he remembered periods of as great agricultural depression from which we recovered, and that as bright days as those formerly enjoyed were, no doubt, in store for the farmer. There are good reasons now, at any rate, to hope for improvement, although whether we can absolutely rely upon them is quite another matter. The general improvement in trade in America and in this country, for which we are all looking, will, no doubt, affect the agricultural interest in a favourable manner, especially in respect of the excess of steam carrying power, and the other causes of depression to which I have alluded. The position of the labourer, also, let us hope, will become a much more settled one, because it ought to be superior and more comfortable to that of any town artizan. His houses are improving, and his wages are rising, while everything points, in my opinion, to the belief that in a few years' time his position will be one of the most comfortable in the country. Again, the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act, passed last year, has already restored confidence in the agricultural interest, which will, ere long, become more marked. As to future good seasons, it may be presumptuous to express anticipations with regard to them; but as we have had a cycle of bad seasons, it is not an unreasonable thing to express a hope that we may have a cycle of good ones. But the practical point before us is this—Will it be wise to have a Committee to inquire into the state of agriculture? I cannot too much impress upon the House that the inquiry could not be confined to one point alone. Would the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) be satisfied with that? Certainly not. Would the Irish Members be content without pressing us upon points in which they take an interest? They have already touched upon the question in the revised Motion of the hon. Member for Dungarvan, and I do not see what answers we can make them if they want to press their points. It is not wise to raise the flag of distress too hastily; and I believe that the effect of a Committee might be the very reverse of that which we all desire. It would be like calling in the doctor when he is not needed; the doctor comes in, and the patient is almost obliged to put on airs of great sickness, and as soon as he has gone, adopts more of the habits of a sick man than are necessary. In the interests of agriculture itself, I doubt extremely the necessity for any examination of this kind; but if the distress continues to be prevalent, I should be the last man to say that some proposal for inquiry might not be listened to. At the present moment, however, I must say that it would be wiser, in my opinion, to refrain from entering upon any such examination, both as regards the interest of the British farmer and the interest of the British landlord. Let us hope that, as there is nothing recondite in the causes of agricultural distress, we may, by the blessing of Providence and the return of better seasons, pull through these difficulties; and that the British farmer may again set up the agriculture of these Islands as an example to foreign nations without the interference of further laws.


Sir, the noble Lord has given a very interesting account, drawn from the resources of the Board of Trade, of the present condition of the agricultural interest in this country. It is, no doubt, an accurate as well as an interesting statement; but I cannot help thinking that, as far as the Motion before the House is concerned, the greater part of the speech of the noble Lord has been absolutely irrelevant. The noble Lord assumed that the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. B. Samuelson) rested his case for a Committee of Inquiry upon the question of agricultural distress. Now my hon. Friend carefully guarded himself against being supposed to entertain any such notion. He referred to the depression which existed in agriculture, as well as in every branch of trade; but he carefully explained that he took altogether different ground than that suggested by the noble Lord. I do not deny that the greater part of the speech to which we have just listened may be relevant to the Amendment which the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) intends to move if he gets an opportunity; but I must remind the noble Lord that his Amendment is not now before the House. The House has to discuss the Motions of the hon. Member for Banbury and the hon. Member for Dungarvan; and when they have been considered, we may be able to undertake the Amendment of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire. That Motion is not before the House, and therefore I consider that the greater part of the speech of the noble Lord was extremely irrelevant. But I entirely agree in one remark made by the noble Lord, as to the great importance of the subject which has been brought before the House with so much ability by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury. The importance of the subject may be judged of when the House remembers what was stated by the hon. Member in his quotation from a work of great authority, recently published by Mr. Caird, to the effect that the amount of agricultural produce of the United Kingdom amounts to something like £250,000,000 annually. In the opinion of a very great and high authority, that amount is capable of very great increase, and some nave gone so far as to say that it may possibly be doubled. I do not profess to trust to that opinion; but when we have to deal with figures so enormous as these, it must be very evident to the House that any increase or decrease therein, however great, or however small, must become a matter of very great and serious importance, not only to the agricultural interest, but to the whole body of consumers in the country. As to the condition of this enormous industry, the question is not whether it is at this moment suffering under exceptional circumstances, but whether it is, on the whole, in a satisfactory condition; and that is the question which my hon. Friend asked the House to consider, altogether independently of existing agricultural distress. The noble Lord has so assiduously endeavoured to lead the House away from the question raised by my hon. Friend that I must ask the House, for one moment, to allow me to recall them to it. In 1875, in the opinion of the Government, the condition of that great industry was not satisfactory. Their opinion was shown by the fact that they introduced a measure intended to regulate the relations between the landlords and tenants, and, if possible, to increase the cultivation of the soil. I do not think I can show more surely the views of Her Majesty's Government at that time than by reading an extract from the speech of the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, in which he said that— As the law now stands—in many places there being no custom—the tenant may put his capital in the soil, and so increase the value of the soil, the benefit of which is unexhausted at the termination of his tenancy, and yet reap no benefit whatever from the investment of his money, but the whole goes into the pockets of the landlords; and the noble Duke adds— I think this is a state of matters which is not at all satisfactory."—[3 Hansard, ccxxii. 1684.] There are some other extracts, but I will not read them at this late hour of the night (12.30 A.M.). Such was the state of things which, in the opinion of the Government, existed at that time. The question which the hon. Member for Banbury has brought forward tonight is whether the Act then passed into law has succeeded, or whether it has failed? I do not wish to prejudge the answer to that question. If I were to give my own answer, I might, perhaps, not be perfectly impartial, for I never viewed that measure with any great degree of favour, and I have stated to the House why I thought it would be nothing but a failure. It was my opinion that the Bill did both too much and too little, and that it entered a great deal too much into detail. I thought it attempted to regulate a great many matters as between landlord and tenant; but, at the same time, it laid down no broad principle which the tenant could grasp and which would make him insist upon receiving the benefit of the Act. I thought also that the Bill was one not likely to commend itself to the landlord, or confer much benefit upon the tenant. As I said before, I do not want to prejudge the question. The Act has now been in operation for three years, and there is, I must say, a very considerable weight of evidence in favour of the opinion that it has been, to some extent, a failure. Nor do I rest altogether upon the evidence brought forward by the hon. Member for Banbury; but I appeal to any Member who has had an opportunity himself of making an inquiry in any of the agricultural districts whether, to his own knowledge, he has ever heard that this Act has been found to have had the important effect of altering the relations as between landlord and tenant? The House must remember that, according to the statements made on introducing the Bill, a very considerable alteration was wanted to be made in the relations which existed four years ago between the landlord and tenant. It is of no use for the noble Lord to come down to the House and tell us that he is aware, from personal knowledge, that in Lincolnshire and Staffordshire many tenants very much prefer agreements with their landlords to the advantages offered by the Act, for I am perfectly well aware that that condition of things existed on a very large number of estates before this Act was ever dreamt of. But the question is not whether there are not a great many estates where the agreements are extremely liberal towards the tenant, but whether the state of things described by the Duke of Richmond and Gordon as being unsatisfactory is in any degree altered for the better. I have not heard one single statement made this evening which has shown that the estates which were badly managed in 1874 have been bettor managed since. It is objected by the noble Lord, and other hon. Members opposite, that it is too soon to inquire into the operation of this Act. I do not think, however, that anything whatever will be gained by delay. No doubt, when the Act was passed, and when landlords and tenants heard that it would effectually change their relations to each other, it caused a considerable stir in the agricultural world, and everybody looked about to see in what way it would affect them. The result was that the landlords generally would look at the 57th clause and find it conferred upon them, not the power to contract with the tenant to get out of the operation of the Act, but that it conferred upon themselves solely the power to bar the operation of the Act. The result has been that notice has been given in 99 cases out of 100. I challenge hon. Members to dispute the statement that the main and principal operation of the Act up to the present time has not been carried out. There is nothing in the Act which either offers an inducement to the landlord and tenant, or puts a screw upon them to induce them to come under the Act, unless they choose voluntarily to take that course. I also assert that the operation of the Act has been confined to the first year, and that its operation during the second and third year has been very trifling in comparison with that of the first year. Therefore, there is no object to be gained that I can see by deferring an inquiry into the operation of the Act, while if it is the intention of the Government some day to inquire into it the sooner it is done the better. If the result be shown that the Act has had very little operation, we shall be confirmed in the opinion expressed by the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, four years ago, and we must be driven to suppose that the state of things described by him still exists and does require a remedy. It will be reasonable to consider in what way that unsatisfactory state of things is to be remedied. A short time ago an hon. Friend of mine called attention to the operation of certain clauses of the Irish Land Act, the principles of which had been unanimously agreed to by the House; but which there was reason to believe had up to that time had very little effect. My hon. Friend moved for a Committee to inquire into the operation of that Act, and the Government granted that Committee, which made a Report recommending some very considerable changes. Why should not Her Majesty's Government take that course in the present instance?


The Irish Act had been passed seven years.


No doubt, that was seven years after the passing of the Act in question; but I have given some strong reasons to-night that there is no cause for delay, and that it must not be supposed that any ground whatever exists for thinking that this Act will have more operation in the course of seven years than in the course of three years. Then there are very strong reasons why the Government should take the course followed in the case of the other Bill, and allow a Committee to be appointed to inquire into the operation of the Act. In my own opinion, there are some other reasons besides those stated for making inquiry into this subject. And it seems to me that it is perfectly clear that all who are connected with the management of land should possess full knowledge upon this controverted question. I do not believe that anything would be more effectual for obtaining full knowledge upon such a subject than the appointment of a Parliamentary Committee. It is said that both landlord and tenant are by nature an extremely Conservative class. That may be so; but I entirely deny that they are an unintelligent class. Neither landlords nor tenants are so unintelligent as to persevere deliberately in a course which is injurious to all concerned in the culture of the soil. That is, however, the assertion of many agricultural reformers of the present day. The assertion is that the system now pursued is injurious alike to the landlords and the tenants. If it can be proved by discussion, by inquiry, or by examination, that there does not exist under our present system adequate security for the investment of capital in the soil—if it can be shown that undue restrictions are placed upon that capital by agreements between landlords and tenants—surely that knowledge, that discussion, and that information, would of itself tend to produce an immense effect, even if it were not embodied in legislation. I cannot help thinking that, on a subject so important as this to the whole community, assertions cannot be made by persons of very considerable authority without their being thoroughly examined. My hon. Friend desired, very prudently, that the inquiry of the Committee should be limited in its scope. I think it would be altogether beside the object of my hon. Friend, and would not tend to any good, that the inquiry should take a wider scope than that suggested by the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin). I think it should embrace the effect upon cultivation of the limited ownership of a largo part of the soil of this country. Mr. Hunt, whose absence we all regret when we remember the great part taken by him in the passing of the Act of 1875, laid very great stress upon the provisions of the Bill, which enabled limited owners to charge compensation for improvements effected by tenants; but I have not heard a word said by the other side as to the effect of those provisions. It is impossible to place a limited owner in as good a position as regards the management of an estate as an absolute owner. Mr. Hunt said that the greater part of the soil of the country was in the hands of limited owners; and I do not imagine there is any doubt whatever of that being the fact, which must show how important a matter it is that the larger part of the property in the land of this country should be in the hands of persons who are not, and cannot be made by any legislation that has been devised, in as good a position to manage that property as the absolute owner. What an important matter this is, not only to this class, but also to the whole body of consumers, and the whole of the industrial population. These facts alone show the importance of an inquiry into the subject. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Lincolnshire disclaims any intention of bringing forward anything in the shape of Protection, and was most indignant with the hon. Member for Banbury for supposing that his Amendment covered any such thing. I think the hon. Member ought not to be surprised that such an interpretation was placed upon the very vague terms of his Motion. I have read a speech delivered by him, in which he did allude very strongly to that topic, and gave it as his opinion that it was in this direction that the legislative remedy was to be found. He cannot, therefore, be surprised, when we know him to entertain these opinions, that we should anticipate that when he placed upon the Paper an Amendment asking for inquiry perfectly vague in its character, he intended to cover some of those doctrines which he is known to entertain.


asked to what speech the noble Lord alluded?


I really cannot give the exact information asked for; but the speech to which I refer was made in the presence of the Marquess of Ripon, who spoke very strongly in favour of Free Trade, when my hon. Friend made some observations which gave me the impression that he was strongly in favour of Protection.


said, the noble Lord was under a complete misapprehension, for he had guarded himself expressly against any opposition to Free Trade.


I have the speech in my recollection, and it was a speech, at all events, in favour of Reciprocity. If, however, I have made a mistake, I am extremely sorry for having misrepresented him. The speech of my hon. Friend was a very valuable one, and afforded a striking commentary upon the policy pursued by the Government during the last five years. He described the then condition of things to be the decline of agriculture, and he expressed the opinion that agriculture had been materially deteriorating. That, no doubt, is as gloomy a picture as has been drawn in any quarter by any hon. Member, and probably it has not been drawn for Party purposes, in the manner in which, according to the opinion of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, some questions are drawn and exaggerated. This seems to me to be a somewhat remarkable commentary upon what has been said by the Government who came in, five years ago, with the policy of protecting certain classes and interests. Now, if there were one special class or interest which deserved the peculiar consideration of Her Majesty's Government, surely it would have been the agricultural interest—for the farmers have ever been the professed object of interest to the Conservative Party, which certainly does owe them a very considerable debt of political gratitude. But what was their position five years ago, and what is it now? What has been done for them by Government? No doubt, the agricultural interest was complaining loudly of the pressure of local taxation; no doubt, Government, out of the surplus of £5,000,000 which they inherited, did bestow upon the agricultural interest certain relief in the shape of a transfer of burdens; but I have not heard that they are now any better off than they were five years ago. I do not think the pressure of the rates has become less; on the contrary, I think it has increased; and, perhaps, after all, it will be found that relief from local burdens has not been gained by the transfer of burdens. Perhaps, also, it will be found that real relief from these local burdens is only to be accomplished by administrative reform, and not by shifting them from one shoulder to another. But if their rates have not been raised, their income tax has been increased. I must say that I sympathize and feel as deeply for those who have suffered by the great agricultural depression under which we labour as any hon. Member opposite; but I must also express my opinion that this trial will not altogether be thrown away, if it leads us to take a somewhat wider view of our political duties. It seems to me that farmers, considering the vast amount of political power placed in their hands, have been in the habit of taking somewhat too narrow a view of political questions, for they seem to consider themselves outside the general sphere of politics. Now, the agricultural interest must have observed by this time that they are as much interested as any class of their fellow-countrymen in politics, and that they have at least as good a cause to take an interest in their own prosperity and that of the country at large. I cannot help thinking that these are considerations which have forced themselves, and will continue to do so more and more, upon the attention of the great agricultural interest of this country, and I sincerely trust that such will be the case. In conclusion, I regret that the Government have not seen their way to grant an inquiry into the operation of this Act; because I believe there exists a well-founded impression that it has failed up to the present time, while I have endeavoured to show that it is not likely that it will have more effect hereafter. I think the present time, quite irrespectively of the peculiar depression under which our industry is suffering at the moment, is one very favourable to a full, impartial, and exhaustive inquiry.


If it had not been for the closing remarks of the noble Lord opposite, I should have been perfectly content to leave the question where my noble Friend (Viscount Sandon) had left it; but I could not help taking notice of the very remarkable conclusion of the noble Lord's speech. He began by twitting my noble Friend with having made a speech of which a great portion, however interesting, was altogether irrelevant to the subject under discussion. We were told it had no reference to the Motion of the hon. Member for Banbury, although it might be relevant to another proposition not formally before the House. Well, I suppose bad manners are catching, and that, when one Gentleman makes an irrelevant speech, it excites another Gentleman to make one which is still more irrelevant. I will not say that of all the apparently irrelevant conclusions of any speech I ever heard in my life the conclusion to which the noble Lord tried to lead us was the most irrelevant; but that really would almost seem to be the case. The noble Lord, no doubt, has means of information which are denied to us who sit on this side of the House; but I really was not aware what were the ulterior motives in the mind of the hon. Member for Banbury in bringing forward this Motion. That hon. Gentleman, in a very interesting and instructive speech, did give us the result of many communications which he had with different parts of the country; and undoubtedly he did, in reading some of these communications, read to us statements of his correspondents as to the kind of remedy which they would suggest, and one of the favoured remedies was to turn out the present Government. As he put it, I imagined it was purely a playful expression; and the proposition he made to us, that we should appoint a Committee to examine into the working of the Act passed several years ago, did not appear to me to be connected with those hints. But the noble Lord has given a totally different complexion to the question, and those playful remarks now appear as the real sting of the Motion. It is not at all for the purpose of seeing whether this Act has or has not failed to carry out all that was expected of it that a Committee is asked for, but in order that some opportunity may be given to expose to the agricultural community, and especially the voting portion of the agricultural community, the extreme hollowness of all the proceedings of the present Government. Noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen opposite are quite right, if they think the time has come to challenge the acts of the Government, and to propose a Committee on the state of the nation and the condition of agriculture, for the purpose of showing how far those misfortunes at present existing amongst the tenant-farmers are due to the policy of the Administration; but I do say that it is exceedingly irrelevant to hang all these great remarks upon so very small a peg as the proposal of the hon. Member for Banbury. He comes forward and says, very fairly, that this Act, passed three years ago, was an Act intended to improve the relations between landlord and tenant, and especially to give the tenant a greater security in his holding, and a greater encouragement to invest capital in his farm, than he had before. The hon. Gentleman then says—"Now, if you will give me a Committee, I will show you that this Act has not done all that was anticipated from it." My noble Friend near me has very well answered that challenge. Nobody expected that the Act would produce tremendous alterations; but it has produced a very considerable change. And even my hon. Friend and former Colleague (Mr. Clare Read), who was not particularly in love with the Act, himself admits that it did produce two very great and important results, in altering the presumption of law, and in giving facilities to limited owners. I have no doubt it is quite true that a complete change has not been produced in all the relations existing between landlord and tenant in all parts of the country; but the effect of the Act may not be the less for that; and it must be borne in mind that this period during which it has been in force has been a period during which the tenant has not been seeking to invest his capital, and has been stopped from doing so by the difficulties raised by the landlord. But it has been, on the other hand, a period in which landlords have been only too anxious to get tenants to come and invest their capital in farming their land. My noble Friend has pointed out, what other Gentlemen have also alluded to, that the character of the seasons of late has been very unpropitious. But the noble Lord opposite has now given us the key to the whole thing. He says it is not the seasons, it is not the foreign importations; it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government that has caused all this. Then he goes on to declare that we have promised to do a great many things, and have held out expectations which have proved entirely false and deceptive. I say, in reply, that with regard to a particular point in which he refers to Her Majesty's Government, and with regard to the assistance to be rendered as to the rates, that those pledges have been kept. With regard to other matters, these have not been matters that we have had anything to do with. We have been utterly unable to control, and we have had no more to do with the effects of bad seasons, or cattle diseases, or other matters, than the noble Lord himself and the hon. Gentlemen who follow him. It would be quite as fair, indeed it would be much fairer, to say that their policy has prepared the way for all these evil things that have happened, as to say that they have been the result of our policy. But, as far as I can see, neither the one nor the other is the case. Some people will tell you these bad seasons arise from a revolution in climate, from spots in the sun, and from various other physical causes of that sort, which I will not go into. But I do say, however, that the proposition of the hon. Member for Banbury, however well it has been put by him, is not a proposition which would really have the effect of meeting the depression or distress under which we are suffering. As to the last remarks of the noble Lord opposite, I confess I can see very little connection, indeed, between the premiss and the conclusion, except, indeed, that very well known connection, in which we are told that the wish is father to the thought.


begged to be permitted to say a few words in reply to the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite. He regretted that he was not aware of the indisposition of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), or he would have spoken in very different terms on the subject. He could also assure the junior Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Bromley Davenport), that he never for one moment intended to include him among the gentlemen he had mentioned, and he certainly would not have made the statement if he had not been able to say it from his own personal knowledge. As he stated at the time he made it, he believed it was an exceptional state of things; but he did know that it was accurate. With reference to what the noble Lord opposite had said as to his sources of information, he would say that he was himself utterly unacquainted with the names of those gentlemen who had furnished these particulars. He had intrusted the inquiries to a very high agricultural authority, and he had every reason to believe that his instructions had been fairly carried out. It had been suggested that inquiries of this kind would tend to interfere between landlord and tenant; but he could only say, in reply, that the suggestion first came from the Government. They first said it was necessary that security should be given to the tenants, and all that he had done was to state that he did not believe that the Act had done that. He believed that the interests of hon. Gentlemen opposite would have been better served if they had consented to this inquiry. If he did not think it right to treat this matter as a farmer's question, he should have been rejoiced at the decision to which they had come, for he believed it was a mistaken decision, and that before long they would discover that it was so.


said, he did not intend to say anything on this subject, and he now merely wished to make an appeal to the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) on the subject. He had always been a supporter of the rights of the Irish people; but he did not think the hon. Members could fairly interfere with the Motion before the House—[Loud cries of "Divide!"]

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 115; Noes 166: Majority 51.

Acland, Sir T. D. Baxter, rt. hn. W. E.
Adam, rt. hn. W. P Biggar, J. G.
Amory, Sir J. H. Blake, T.
Anderson, G. Blennerhassett, R. P.
Ashley, hon. E. M. Bright, Jacob
Balfour, Sir G. Bright, rt. hn. John
Barclay, J. W. Brise, Colonel R.
Barran, J. Brogden, A.
Bass, A. Brown, A. H.
Brown, J. C. Lefevre, G. J. S.
Burt, T. Lloyd, M.
Campbell, Lord C. M'Arthur, A.
Campbell, Sir G. M'Clure, Sir T.
Cavendish, Lord F. C. M'Lagan, P.
Cole, H. T. Martin, P.
Colman, J. J. Meldon, C. H.
Conyngham, Lord F. Middleton, Sir A. E.
Courtauld, G. Milbank, F. A.
Courtney, L. H. Monk, C. J.
Cowan, J. Moore, A.
Cowen, J. Mundella, A. J.
Cross, J. K. Muntz, P. H.
Davies, D. Noel, E.
Delahunty, J. Nolan, Major
Dilke, Sir C. W. O'Brien, Sir P.
Dodds, J. O'Clery, K.
Dodson, rt. ton. J. G. O'Conor, D. M.
Duff, R. W. Palmer, G.
Earp, T. Parker, C. S.
Edge, S. R. Parnell, C. S.
Egerton, Admiral hon. F. Pender, J.
Ramsay, J.
Errington, G. Rashleigh, Sir C.
Fawcett, H. Rathbone, W.
Ferguson, R. Read, C. S.
Fitzwilliam, hn. W. J. Roberts, J.
Forster, rt. hon. W. E. Rothschild, Sir N. M. de
Fry, L. Samuelson, H.
Gladstone, W. H. Shaw, W.
Gordon, Sir A. Sheil, E.
Gordon, Lord D. Simon, Serjeant J.
Goschen, rt. hon. G. J. Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.
Gourley, E. T. Stevenson, J. C.
Grant, A. Stewart, J.
Harrison, C. Swanston, A.
Hartington, Marq. of Tavistock, Marquess of
Havelock, Sir H. Tracy, hon. F. S. A. Hanbury-
Hayter, Sir A. D.
Henry, M. Waddy, S. D.
Herschell, F. Walter, J.
Hibbert, J. T. Wedderburn, Sir D.
Howard, hon. C. Whitbread, S.
Howard, E. S. Whitwell, J.
Ingram, W. J. Williams, W.
James, Sir H. Wilson, I.
James, W. H. Young, A. W.
Jenkins, D. J.
Kensington, Lord TELLERS.
Law, rt. hon. H. Samuelson, B.
Lawson, Sir W. Phipps, P.
Leatham, E. A.
Agnew, R. V. Boord, T. W.
Allcroft, J. D. Bourke, hon. R.
Arbuthnot, Lt.-Col. G. Bousfield, Col. N. G. P.
Archdale, W. H. Bowen, J. B.
Arkwright, A. P. Brooke, Lord
Assheton, R. Brooks, W. C.
Bagge, Sir W. Burghley, Lord
Balfour, A. J. Castlereagh, Viscount
Baring, T. C. Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.
Barrington, Viscount Chaplin, H.
Bates, E. Christie, W. L.
Beach, rt. hon. Sir M. H. Cobbold, T. C.
Beach, W. W. B. Cole, Col. hon. H. A.
Bentinck, rt. hon. G. C. Cordes, T.
Beresford, Lord C. Crichton, Viscount
Birkbeck, E. Cross, rt. hon. R. A.
Birley, H. Cust, H. C.
Blackburne, Col. J. I. Dalkeith, Earl of
Dalrymple, C. Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.
Davenport, W. B. Marten, A. G.
Denison, W. E. Merewether, C. G.
Dickson, Major A. G. Mills, Sir C. H.
Digby, Col. hon. E. Muncaster, Lord
Douglas, Sir G. Naghten, Lt.-Col. A. R.
Edmonstone, Admiral Sir W. Newdegate, C. N.
Newport, Viscount
Egerton, hon. A. F. Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H.
Elphinstone, Sir J. D. H.
Ewart, W. Onslow, D.
Fellowes, E. Paget, R. H.
Floyer, J. Parker, Lt.-Col. W.
Forester, C. T. W. Pell, A.
Fremantle, hon. T. F. Pemberton, E. L.
Garfit, T. Pennant, hon. G.
Garnier, J. C. Plunkett, hon. R.
Gibson, rt. hon. E. Price, Captain
Giffard, Sir H. S. Puleston, J. H.
Gore-Langton, W. S. Raikes, H. C.
Gregory, G. B. Rendlesham, Lord
Hall, A. W. Ridley, Sir M. W.
Halsey, T. F. Rodwell, B. B. H.
Hamilton, Lord C. J. Round, J.
Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. Russell, Sir C.
Ryder, G. R.
Hamilton, Marquess of Salt, T.
Hamilton, hon. R. B. Sanderson, T. K.
Hamond, C. F. Sandon, Viscount
Harcourt, E. W. Sclater-Booth, rt. hn. G.
Hardcastle, E. Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J.
Harvey, Sir R. B.
Hay, rt. hn. Sir J. C. D. Severne, J. E.
Helmsley, Viscount Shirley, S. E.
Heygate, W. U. Sidebottom, T. H.
Hicks, E. Smith, A.
Hill, A. S. Smith, rt. hn. W. H.
Holker, Sir J. Smollett, P. B.
Holmesdale, Viscount Somerset, Lord H. R. C.
Home, Captain Spinks, Serjeant F. L.
Hood, Capt. hn. A. W. A. N. Stanhope, hon. E.
Stanhope, W. T. W. S.
Hubbard, E. Stanley, rt. hn. Col. F.
Isaac, S. Starkey, L. R.
Johnson, J. G. Starkie, J. P. C.
Johnstone, H. Storer, G.
Jolliffe, hon. S. Sykes, C.
Jones, J. Talbot, J. G.
Kennard, Col. E. H. Taylor, rt. hon. Col.
Kennaway, Sir J. H. Thornhill, T.
Knowles, T. Thynne, Lord H. F.
Lacon, Sir E. H. K. Torr, J.
Lawrence, Sir T. Tremayne, A.
Lechmere, Sir E. A. H. Turnor, E.
Legard, Sir C. Wait, W. K.
Legh, W. J. Wallace, Sir R.
Leighton, Sir B. Watney, J.
Leighton, S. Watson, rt. hon. W.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Welby-Gregory, Sir W.
Leslie, Sir J. Wellesley, Colonel H.
Lindsay, Col. R. L. Wheelhouse, W. S. J.
Lloyd, T. E. Winn, R.
Lopes, Sir M. Woodd, B. T.
Lowther, rt. hon. J. Wyndham, hon. P.
Macartney, J. W. E. Wynn, C. W. W.
Mac Iver, D. Yarmouth, Earl of
M'Garel-Hogg, Sir J. TELLERS.
Makins, Colonel W. T. O'Beirne, Major F.
Mandeville, Viscount O'Donnell, F. H.

Question proposed, That the words 'there can be no adequate remedy for the agricultural depression existing throughout the country and severely affecting also the interests of town labour, which does not, especially at this period of increasing Foreign Competition, protect the application of skill and capital to the soil by the establishment of compensation for unexhausted improvements, equitable appeal against exorbitant rents, and substantial security of tenure for the agricultural classes both in great Britain and Ireland,' be added, —instead thereof.


said the question which the House was now asked to discuss was a very different one to that which they had been discussing during the evening, and it was very important it should be fully gone into. He therefore begged to move the adjournment of the debate.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. J. W. Barclay.)


said, after the very favourable opinion which had been expressed in favour of the proposition, it was a matter of comparatively slight importance to him how much further the debate went on. He thought, considering the circumstances of Ireland, it was right to invite the House to consider the general question of the general condition of land in the three Kingdoms; and he now was of opinion that it would be better to take the vote on the Amendment that he originally proposed. He knew that the opinions expressed in that Amendment were to some extent different from, and somewhat advanced as compared with, the notions largely held by English land reformers; but, on the other hand, he thought he had expressed his views in very moderate terms, and that it would be only fair to allow the more advanced land reformers outside the House to understand to what extent their views were represented. Both sides, by this time, must have pretty well made up their minds; and if he was not supported by as large a number of hon. Members as had already expressed themselves in favour of weaker views, he should be perfectly satisfied to await the gradual advance of public opinion. He should hope to bring on the subject next year, and, that then he should find a larger support. He could see no advantage, however, in moving the adjournment.


said, this was not a matter to be decided in that off-hand way. The question what was to be done was a simple matter compared with the points to be considered in reference to the land. His humble opinion was that the hon. Member for Dungarvan had taken upon himself a position which few men would care to occupy, in asking the British public to enter into one of the greatest subjects that could be presented to their attention at an inopportune moment. So far as he could judge from his own experience, and from what he had heard from others, this question was one of the immediate future; and he did not think the hon. Member for Dungarvan, unacquainted with the subject and unconnected for a long time with land, could bring this forward at half-past 1 in the morning, and hurry them into a Division. He declined to vote with the hon. Gentleman. He did not yield to him in anxiety to carry out the views of the Irish people in connection with the tenure of land; but he did deny his right to assume, as he was too happy to assume on many occasions, the right to rush rashly in and deal with very important questions, and so to damage their prospects in Parliament.


I think it would be desirable we should have the views of Her Majesty's Government on this question. As far as I can recollect the two speeches from the front Bench, we had no opinion expressed in them on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dungarvan. All we can judge from is the vote of the Government, and from that vote I can only collect that the Government is prepared to support the Amendment of the hon. Member. If that is not the case, we ought to have some indication of the line the Government are going to take.


I have no hesitation in saying that the Government do not intend to support the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman. It sometimes happens, in Motions of this sort, that we are forced to vote in a certain way. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester (Mr. Dodson) thinks, when an Amendment is moved which we cannot accept in itself, that we ought not to support it. On the whole, however, that seems to be the least confusing way of voting; though, at the same time, as happened just now, it sometimes leaves an impression which we do not desire to produce—such an impression as I have just disclaimed. I think, however, under these circumstances, that the views of the Government have been sufficiently explained by my noble Friend (Viscount Sandon). I do not think there is any occasion for debating the Motion of the hon. Member for Dungarvan. Therefore, I do not think we can do much better than to vote for the adjournment.

Motion agreed to.

Debate adjourned till Monday next.