§ Clause 7 (Determination by Court of rent of present tenancies).
§ MR. BIGGAR,
in moving, in page 7, line 12, at the end, to insert—And also, if the rent payable by the tenant for the time past much exceeded what the Court now considers a fair rent, the tenant shall get credit in his coming rent for what the Court believes to be reasonable, having regard to the extent of the yearly overcharge and the length of time which it had been paid,said, he did not at all allege that even those tenants who were charged an outside rent—say, one and a-half times the Government valuation—would get any compensation or allowance under this Amendment; but there were cases in which tenants had been charged very extravagant rents—much more than the holding was really worth—and if a landlord had for a number of years been getting money beyond the reasonable rent of a holding, he thought that circumstance ought to be taken into account when the question of the rearrangement of the rent arose. He would give' one illustration of what he meant. There was a great discussion some years ago in regard to property in the county of Tipperary. He did not 1836 remember the details of the matter now, but in general terms it amounted to this. Mr. Buckley bought a property which paid 4 per cent on the old rental, and he raised his rent so as to receive 7 per cent. Some allowance ought to be made for a tenant who had been kept in a state of continual poverty all these years, and therefore he thought it reasonable that the landlord should give some compensation for what he had unjustly received in times past.
In page 7, line 12, at the end, to add the words "and also, if the rent payable by the tenant for the time past much exceeded what the Court now considers a fair rent, the tenant shall get credit in his coming rent for what the Court believes to be reasonable, having regard to the extent of the yearly overcharge and the length of time which it had been paid."—(Mr. Biggar.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. PARNELL
thought this Amendment was a very important one. It had reference to a question which had not attracted very much attention up to the present time. The question of arrears was one which had attracted a great deal of attention in Ireland; but the question of tenants who had paid rack rents, but were not in arrears, had not attracted so much attention. He submitted, however, that it was a question which ought not to escape the view of the Committee. How had these rents in many cases been paid? They had been paid owing to the facilities which the Laud Act of 1870 conferred on the tenants. They had been paid by means of loans from the banks and from small money-lenders, and by borrowing indirectly from the shopkeepers, and in every other way but out of the legitimate produce of the holding itself. If the Committee were going to confer, upon this class of tenants a tenant right, as they proposed to do by this Bill, and were going to leave them without any right to a claim of drawback, as regarded the future payment of their rent, from their landlords, the tenant right would, in reality, be given not to the tenants, but to the shopkeepers or to the bankers from whom they had borrowed the money to pay these rack rents up to the present time. The indebtedness of every class of farmer was of a two-fold character. Some of them owed money to landlords, 1837 and some to shopkeepers and banks. Some owed money to both landlords and the banks; but the class of tenants now under consideration would be the class who had paid the rent, although it was a rack rent, and who, when they came into possession of the privileges conferred by this Bill, would find that those privileges would not be to their own enjoyment, but to the enjoyment of their creditors who had advanced them the money. He submitted that that was not a fair nor a just operation, and that some Amendment ought to be introduced into this Bill giving the Court power to take into consideration, in fixing a fair rent for the future, the fact, if it were a fact, that the tenant had been paying largely in excess of the rent.
It is not possible for us to accede to this Amendment, either in its present form or in any form it may assume, for reasons which, I think, will be obvious almost to the Mover of it. In the first place, there is 'the difficulty of making retrospective operations and examining all the particulars which determine the equity of past transactions, and of reviving all these questions, long, perhaps, after the record of them has disappeared. But there is a stronger objection to the proposition, and it is that if you give to a tenant who is going to have a judicial rent the power to go back on former years to prove that his rent was too high and to claim a return of the difference, how are we to meet the proposal which would unquestionably be made from other quarters of the House with resistless force, that it should likewise be open to a landlord to claim the difference if, in former years, the rent has been too low?
§ MR. WARTON
wished to make one observation on the advocacy of this Amendment by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). The hon. Member had said that, on the whole, rents in Ireland were low. [Mr. PARNELL: I did not say that.] He (Mr. Warton) had the Report of the hon. Member's words in his hand. Speaking at a convention of the so-called Land League in April last, the hon. Member said—It was also apprehended that on many estates the landlords would force their tenants to have recourse to the Court to fix what was called a judicial rent, and that the result would be to raise rents on estates in Ireland. The net result would be to raise rents generally.1838 Therefore, we had the hon. Member's own confession that rents in Ireland were generally low.
§ MR. PARNELL
submitted that the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) had twisted the interpretation to be placed on his words, and had deduced from them a meaning which could not at all be attached to them. He believed he had stated to the House much the same thing. He did not dispute the accuracy of the quotation; but he had stated in the House that the net result of the action of this Bill would he to increase, and not to diminish, the total amount of money which the Irish landlords would obtain from the tenants in Ireland. He believed, also, that the Bill would undoubtedly reduce many rents which were extreme rack rents; but he thought that, on the other hand, it would raise many rents which were at present moderate, and that, as regarded the class of rents which were too high, but which could not come under the denomination of rack rents, it would leave these untouched. The net result would be that the total amount of rent paid to the landlords in Ireland would be increased rather than diminished. But that was a different thing from paying that, on the whole, rents in Ireland were low.
§ DR. COMMINS
thought that if the hon. and learned Member for Bridport would consult the authorities, he would find that the reality was quite the opposite of what he had stated. Mr. Arthur Fitzgibbon, a Master in Chancery, in his work entitled Ireland in 1868, distinctly said that in general the rents imposed and paid in Ireland were higher than could be imposed or paid in England. If rents were generally overcharged in 1868, they were still more overcharged now.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
said, that, in reply to the statement of the hon. Member who had just addressed the Committee, he might quote what was said by the Bessborough Commission and the Richmond Commission. The Report of the former Commission stated distinctly that rents in Ireland were not charged on the same scale or to the same extent as they would be in England.
§ SIR WILLIAM PALLISER
said, it followed, from the words used by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), that rents fixed by a competent 1839 tribunal would be higher than rents generally were in Ireland at the present time, and yet all reasonable men would admit that rents fixed by a competent tribunal would be fair rents. Consequently it followed, from the statement of the hon. Gentleman, that the greater part of the land in Ireland was let at rents below fair rents. If the statement of the hon. Member for the City of Cork were looked into, he thought it would be found to be absolutely correct. If that were the case, there was little ground for all the abuse and invective which the hon. Member for the City of Cork had heaped on the landlords as being a rack-renting class.
Before the discussion proceeds further, I wish to point out that hon. Members are getting away from the Amendment.
§ MR. PARNELL
remarked, that he certainly never used the expression that rents in Ireland generally would be raised by the operation of this Bill. He said that the total rental of Ireland would be raised, which was a very different thing. He believed the Bill, practically speaking, would affect but a very small proportion of the rents in Ireland. It would leave the great majority of them untouched. In his opinion, it would raise some and diminish others; but the total result would be to raise the total rental of the landlords derived from the land in Ireland.
§ SIR WILLIAM PALLISER
said, the speech of the hon. Member for the City of Cork was reported in The Times in exactly the same words as had been quoted.
§ MR. LALOR
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had remarked that if this Amendment were agreed to the landlords would have a right to look for credit for rent which they had not already demanded. He denied that there was the slightest analogy between the two cases. If heretofore the landlords had not a higher rent, it was because they conceived that the rents they had already imposed upon their tenants were fully equal to what the land was worth. At all events, the landlords could have raised the rents if they had wished to do so, whereas the tenants had no option in the matter. Again, if the case of arrears of rent were not taken into consideration in this Bill, there would he a large class of the people of Ireland left out altogether from the benefits of the 1840 measure. And there was no doubt that if these men were allowed to go without the arrears of rent they had already over-paid, they would not be allowed to remain on the land. He knew cases where the rack rents previously paid by the tenants had been enough to purchase the fee-simple of the land from the landlords.
§ MR. MARUM
said, one of the witnesses examined before the Commission stated that he believed the gross rental of Ireland was £20,000,000 a-year, or, taking out the houses and non-agricultural portions, £16,000,000. In a debate in the Irish House of Commons in 1773, the gross rental of Ireland was stated to be £4,000,000 a-year.
pointed out to the hon. Member that his remarks had no reference to the Amendment now before the Committee.
§ MR. BIGGAR
must say he could not follow the logic of the argument adduced by the Prime Minister. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman's argument was a sufficient answer to the Amendment. He and his Friends had never argued that all the landlords of Ireland charged too much rent, and the case put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Marum) told very strongly in favour of his contention. It was known that on very large properties the Government valuation was about the average of the rents charged by the landlords. If this were so, the circumstance proved that a certain proportion of the rents in the country must, be extravagantly too high. He did not suppose the right hon. Gentleman would agree to such an Amendment as he had himself suggested—namely, that a very low rent charged in times past should be charged against the tenant, to some extent, in the rent he would be charged in time to come. There was not much force in that argument. The reason why a moderate rent was charged in times past was because the tenant improved his holding very much. Even if the suggested Amendment were introduced into the Bill, the number of cases in 1841 which, a landlord could derive benefit from it would be infinitesimal; whereas the tenants who had been charged a severe rent in times past, and who had, in consequence, been kept in poverty, would derive benefit from his Amendment, which was based on the principle of justice and fair play.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, the clause provided that the interest of the tenant should be taken into consideration. How could that interest be ascertained without going back some time? And if retrospective inquiry were allowed in one case why should it not be allowed in another? After all, it came to be a question of degree, of discretion, and of convenience, as to how far the Court should go back in making inquiry. If it could be shown that a tenant was unfairly rack-rented in former years, he was unable to see on what principle we could refuse to permit that circumstance to be taken into account by the Court in fixing his rent for the future. That was all the hon. Member for Cavan wished to do. In his opinion, the Amendment was a perfectly fair and reasonable one.
said, he thought the strongest argument which had been used in this discussion was that urged by his hon. Friend the Member for Queen's County. It was to the effect that a landlord who had voluntarily accepted from his tenant a rent below the value of the holding could not have the same claim to restitution as a tenant who had been compelled, against his will, to pay an exorbitant rent. He thought his hon. Friend the Member for Cavan need not be deterred at all by the argument used by the Prime Minister; and he hoped his hon. Friend would go to a division, for he thought they might with great safety incur the risk that had been pointed out by the right hon Gentleman at the head of the Government. He differed from some of his Friends; for he believed the landlords of Ireland, as a body, had been rack-renters. This had been asserted by the Marquess of Buckingham before the Union, and by the late Lord Derby. And a great lexicographer had defined rack rent as an exorbitant rent, usually extorted from their tenants by Irish landlords.
§ MR. SCHREIBER
said, that as, in spite of the Chairman's ruling, the charge of "rack-renting" had again 1842 been hurled at the heads of Irish landlords, he hoped he should be permitted in reply to read to the Committee the precise words in which the Report of the Bessborough Commission dealt with that subject. The extract was as follows:—Lastly, though the amount of rent was always at the discretion of the landlord, and the tenant had in reality no voice in regulating what he had to pay, nevertheless it was unusual to exact what in England would have been considered as a full or fair commercial rent. Such a rent, over many of the larger estates, the owners of which were resident and took an interest in the welfare of their tenants, it has never been their custom to demand. The example has been largely followed, arid is to the present day rather the exception than the rule in Ireland.He was glad to see the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India in his place, because he hoped he would call the attention of his Colleague the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to the passage. He held that it put the matter beyond dispute, and he wished it to go forth to the country.
On the general subject of rent I cannot allow discussion. We are upon the Amendment before the Committee, and we must keep to that Amendment.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
expressed a hope that this Amendment would not be pressed to a division, because it was not a practical Amendment. It was impossible that the Court could go into this matter, and revive the question of the rents paid in former years. Surely nobody could possibly imagine that a Court constituted for the purpose of determining rents in the future could enter into the question of rents paid 10 or 20 years ago. That would impose on the Court a burden which it could not possibly discharge. Therefore, he should vote against the Amendment. He made this statement because he was aware that several of these Amendments would be represented to the tenants as Amendments moved in their favour, and that it would be said that some Members who ought to have supported them did not do so. He did not hesitate to call this Amendment a "bogus" and a claptrap Amendment, which it would be impossible to work, and which could not be adopted by a practical Assembly.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
hoped the hon. Member for Cavan would not press this Amendment. If they encumbered 1843 the Bill by such an Amendment as this, they would be laying the ground-work for future litigation, and-thus, in his opinion, it would do more harm than good.
§ MR. BIGGAR
observed, that nobody was responsible for the Amendment but himself. He only wished the Amendment to apply in extreme cases where the tenants were rack-rented.
§ MR. P. MARTIN
said, he thought the Amendment raised a very proper question; but, at the same time, it did not raise the principle the hon. Member desired to raise in the most convenient way, or in exactly the proper place, because it would be difficult for any Court to come to a right decision, having regard to the words of the Amendment. The Amendment contained these words—If the rent payable by the tenant for the time past much exceeded what the Court now considers a fair rent, the tenant shall get credit in his coming rent for what the Court believes to be reasonable, having regard to the extent of the yearly overcharge and the length of time which it had been paid.These words, "much exceeded," left the matter so vague and general that it appeared to him impossible that the Court could come to any conclusion. He conceded that certain limits must not be passed in the application by the Court of the general principle involved in the Amendment, but he could not coincide in the sweeping condemnation pronounced by the hon. Member for the County of Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry). Incases of gross rack-renting and oppression the Court should have some power to turn back, even retrospectively, with a view of saying in such cases that they would look at rack-renting as regulating the future payment of rent. He was anxious to affirm the principle, but he could not support the Amendment.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he observed that when an Amendment was brought forward from that side of the House much less patience was exercised by the Ministerial Party in listening to the arguments in favour of that Amendment than was exhibited when an Amendment was brought forward by a Ministerialist in favour of the landlord, and arguments in support of that Amendment were given. They were several hours, the other evening, discussing the Amendment of the hon. Member for 1844 Great Grimsby, which set up a most absurd and unjust—["Order!"]
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he, of course, bowed to the Chairman's ruling; but he had been only endeavouring to point out why, in spite of some interruptions, he was justified in continuing the discussion. He had not had the advantage of hearing the views expressed by the Prime Minister on this question; but he gathered from the comments of hon. Members around him, and the speech of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry), that it seemed, by the Treasury Bench, to be thought unfair to ask the Court to show anything like a retrospective regard to the rent paid by the tenant. Why, under sub-section 7 and the 1st clause of the Bill, the landlord was entitled to have a retrospective regard paid by the Court to the amount of rent he had extracted from the tenant. Under that section, the landlord was entitled to say to the Court—"I made such and such improvements on the land out of my own pocket; I do not get any return for these improvements in the shape of increased rent; therefore, you must make me compensation for the money I abstained from charging." Accordingly, most clearly they gave the landlord the right to demand retrospective regard to the lowness of the rent he had been charging. If the landlord had a right to that consideration, on a perfect parity of reasoning the tenant had a right to demand retrospective regard to the highness of the rent the landlord had been charging. The cases were on all fours; and he, therefore, thought his hon. Friend was justified in the course he was taking. The hon. Member for Count Galway had characterized this as a "bogus" Amendment. Did the hon. Member use that phrase in the case of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby? Of course not, because it was in favour of the landlord. The Amendment of the hou. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), however, was to be denounced as a "bogus" Amendment because it was in favour of the unfortunate tenant and not in favour of the landlord. One of the points which, he understood, had been raised by the Prime Minister was that if the Amend- 1845 ments were admitted the Court would have regard to the lowness of the rents charged by the good landlords. Well, his hon. Friend was not afraid of admitting that before the Court. Let both the good and bad landlords be allowed to bring before the Court the question of the rent of the past. Professor Baldwin, in the evidence he had given, had referred to a case where, on the Earl of Arran's estate, a tenant, between the years 1860 and 1869, had had his rent raised from £6 to £12. Every penny added to the original rent during those nine years was money robbed from the tenant, according to all moral considerations. Well, was this unfortunate man, who paid his £12 a-year rent, to be precluded from showing to the Court that he had been robbed of £4 or £5 a-year for several years past? He had only one objection to the Amendment, and it was this. He was not sure whether, under the loose wording of the first part of Clause 7, they were not entitled to bring this question before the Court as the case at present-stood. The words agreed to last night were very vague and wide, and, if he were to advise any tenant going into the Court, he should tell him he was perfectly justified in bringing the rent of the past under its survey. If this were so, it was clear that the Amendment might be objected to on the ground that it was only establishing a principle that was already admitted; but his hon. Friend was perfectly within his right in challenging the verdict of the Committee on a question in which the Irish people were so deeply concerned, and which had the support of all parties in Ireland, including the Bishop of Ossary, who was not at all a Prelate of extreme views. With the Committee would rest the responsibility, not with the Irish Members, who had done their best to get the matter settled.
§ MR. LEA
said, there was a very strong feeling in Ireland that some clause should be inserted in the Bill having regard to rack rents which had been paid by the tenants in the past. That was in sympathy with the principle of the ton. Member's Amendment; but he did not think that that Amendment was altogether a practicable one. If he thought it would have the desired result, he would vote for it, but he did not think it would; therefore, he trusted the 1846 hon. Member would not put the Committee to the trouble of a division.
§ MR. FINIGAN
said, he had often listened to strong arguments from the Front Bench opposite against Amendments, but he must say he had never heard a stronger argument in favour of this Amendment than that adduced by the Prime Minister when he had said that if they extended this equitable consideration to the claims of tenants they ought to extend an equally equitable consideration to the claims of landlords. He was sure the hon. Member for Cavan would only be too happy to accede to that principle, or to the completion of a very great and important principle. The Prime Minister would be in perfect Order, both logically and practically, if his statement were put into the form of an Amendment, and added to this Amendment moved by his hon. Friend. It would be a very unfair average to ask the House to judge of the Irish rents by the English standard. It was a very great mistake made in the Committee, and in the House generally, of judging Ireland by an English standard. The two counties were eminently different, both in their rules and in their administration. If commerce were as extensive in Ireland as it was in England, perhaps the parity might be fair and just; but as circumstances existed now, he held that Irish rentals should be judged from an exclusively Irish point of view, having regard to the interest in the land of both landlord and tenant. It was necessary to admit the principle of this Amendment, and to mark out to the Court, in specific terms, whether it was to take a retrospective view of this question, or whether it was only to take a present view. Hon. Members had urged on the Committee that rents in Ireland were fair enough; but it behoved them to look at facts, and, in view of the facts of the case, all hon. Members, on whichever side they sat, must confess that the Irish land system had been an utter failure. He hoped his hon. Friend would divide the Committee on this important principle, not so much in the hope of getting a large number into the Lobby with him, but for the purpose of uttering a protest against their being denied, by the Government and a Party who always boasted of their fairness, a principle of justice and equity.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 24; Noes 305: Majority 281.—(Div. List, No. 280.)
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, he had now to move an Amendment which stood in the name of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson). The Amendment spoke for itself, and was devised, not in the interest either of the landlord or the tenant, but of the holding itself. Under the provision, when the tenant went to the Court and asked to have a fair rent fixed, it would be competent for the Court to say—"No, you have broken the conditions of your tenancy, you are doing no good to yourself or the holding, you are allowing the holding to become deteriorated, therefore we will not accede to your application, or we will not accede to it until you have re-instated the holding in its proper condition." It might be thought that there was some innate power in the Bill enabling the Court to deal with this matter, but a careful examination of the clause would show that this was not the case. If hon. Members would look at the 8th sub-section of the clause, they would find that the Government proposed that the Court should have power in one particular case—where the holding in which the tenancy subsisted had been maintained and improved by the landlord—to refuse an application for the fixing of a fair rent. All that he asked was that there should be another case where the Court should have permissive power granted to it to disallow an application or to adjourn it. The proposal was a reasonable one in itself, and it was for the Government to say whether or not this was the part of the Bill in which it should be inserted.
In page 7, line 12, after "title," insert "Provided always, that where application is made to the Court under this section in respect of any tenancy, and the Court is of opinion that the tenant of the holding in which such tenancy subsists, or his predecessors in title, has or have caused or suffered such holding to become and be then deteriorated, contrary to the express or implied conditions constituting the contract of tenancy, the Court may disallow such application, or may postpone the hearing of the same for such time as the Court may think fit."—(Mr. E. Stanhope.)
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, the Go- 1848 vernment could not accept the Amendment. It was not a fair reason to say that the Court ought not to consider this matter; but the answer was that it was provided in Section 8 of the Bill that the Court might refuse an application, or accede to one, subject to conditions to be performed by either landlord or tenant. Any attempt to provide for particular cases would only be a temptation to parties interested to come forward and propose exceptions where they thought they could be made. In the one case the Government had provided for, and to which the hon. Member had alluded, the Government had considered it right to say that the Court might, if it thought fit, refuse the application. The 8th section of the Bill, which provided that the application might be refused, or granted conditionally on the landlord or tenant doing certain things, was identically the same as the 18th section of the Land Act of 1870, which referred to an Ulster tenant who had committed waste. It had been held in Ulster, where questions of this kind had been raised, that the tenant who had acted unreasonably, in the sense that he had committed waste on his holding, should suffer for it.
§ MR. PLUNKET
said, that the language of the 8th or Equities Clause would not be sufficient to deal with the state of affairs contemplated in the Amendment. It was no doubt true that cases of this kind had been decided under the Ulster Custom, but such cases might arise where the Ulster Custom did not prevail. The Ulster Custom was such a very difficult thing for people who were not familiar with it to understand, that it would be a great advantage to have this case dealt with as the Amendment proposed.
§ MR. BIGGAR
asked whether it was really intended to press the Amendment? The arguments used against the Amendment he had proposed would apply with much greater force in the case of the present proposal, which was equally retrospective in its character.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
approved of the spirit in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had met the Amendment. The Government were willing to meet the point raised, and considered that the 8th clause was sufficient for the purpose. It was a curious construction to put upon that 1849 clause, notwithstanding that it might be supported by the Courts in Ulster. He did not propose to divide the Committee on the Amendment; but when they came to Clause 8, he was not sure that he should not feel it his duty to raise the point again.
The construction that the hon. Member describes as a curious one is not one put on the clause by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, but is an actual judicial construction applied in Ireland. It appears to me to be a much safer course to rely upon that actual judicial construction than to set about amending the Bill in this sense.
§ MR. WARTON
said, that notwithstanding the arguments of the Premier as to the construction put upon the provision of the Act of 1870 by the Courts in Ireland—the construction put upon the word "reasonable"—there was considerable danger that the Courts, in future, would not act upon that construction. He was certain that no lawyer, on a first impression, would say that this case would cover the matters sought to be dealt with in the Amendment. He would remind the Committee that when they were discussing the question as to whether the tenant should sub-divide or sub-let his holding, it was said that under the loose words of the Bill—under the 8th clause—the tenant could go to the Court and say—"I have offered to sub-divide my holding; I have made a reasonable offer to the landlord." The Attorney General for Ireland had said—"Oh, no; you cannot stretch the point in that way." And it, therefore, seemed to him (Mr. Warton) that the clauses of this Bill were to be open to any temporary construction it might suit the purposes of the right hon. Gentleman to put upon them.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
said, the next Amendment was in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), but he had undertaken to move it. Its object was to prevent tenants coming to the Court unless their rent had been raised since the passing of the Act of 1870. The Amendment, it was believed, would prevent a considerable amount of litigation by keeping out a great many cases that would otherwise come before 1850 the Courts. The Amendment was recommended, too, inasmuch as the Act of 1870 was the parent of the present measure.
In page 7, line 12, at end of sub-section 3, insert "Provided, That the tenant shall not be entitled to make such application where the rent of his tenancy has not been increased by the landlord since the passing of 'The Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act, 1870.'"—(Captain Aylmer.)
I am afraid I cannot accept the Amendment. The fact of the rent not having been altered might be an important reason for going to the Court to have a fair rent fixed. In the interest of the landlord as well as the tenant it may be important that, in this case, power should be given to go to the Court, because the landlord may himself have made valuable improvements of which, hitherto, he has not taken advantage. If the Amendment were made at all it should be in other terms, but I am not certain that in any case it could be made with safety.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, that what the Prime Minister said was that there might be cases in which it might be reasonable for the Court to take these matters into consideration. That being so, if this were a permissive Amendment there would be no objection to it. The Amendments, no doubt, went a little too far; but there was one in the name of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin, a little later on, which was permissive in its character, and that he should submit to the Committee when the proper time came.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
said, the next Amendment standing in his name was a very short one—namely, to leave out the word "if" at the beginning of subsection 4. It really, however, meant the omission of two sub-sections. The object of these sub-sections was to deal with the cases where the judicial rent was equal to, or less, or greater than, the rent payable by the tenant when the application was made. The proposition he had to make was that the three cases should be dealt with alike. If the Amendment and consequent Amendments were accepted, the sub-section would read thus— 1851The rent fixed by the Court (in this Act referred to as the judicial rent) shall be deemed to be the rent payable by the tenant as for the period commencing at the next succeeding rent day.This would simplify the matter very much, and would leave all on an equal footing. He could not help thinking that there was an oversight in the Bill, because he could not see, if the Court said the rent was to be higher, why the landlord should not have the increase at once, just as in the case of diminished rent the decision was, immediately operative. The drafters of the Bill seemed to think that the landlord would not like to take the increase though the Court might award it. Hon. Members below the Gangway might fail to imagine how that could be, but the provision seemed to be constructed on that theory. If the landlord wished to have the benefit of sub-section 6, he could take the rent allowed by the Court, however high it might be, and allow a rebate to the tenant. It would be a great saving of time if the Government were to assent to this Amendment, because the necessity for considering a great number of proposals on the Paper would be done away with.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 7, line 13, to leave out the word "if."—(Captain Aylmer.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'if' stand part of the Clause."
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL,
hoped the Government would see their way to accepting this Amendment. It was difficult to conceive what motive could possibly have guided the Government in putting the landlord in the position in which he had been placed by sub-sections 5 and 6, because he must remind the Committee that the rent could not be fixed by the Committee until the landlord and tenant had found themselves unable to come to terms. The case would be one of dispute—it would not he a friendly matter at all—because if the tenant offered, and the landlord was willing to take, a lower rent, the case might not come into Court at all. the case might be one where the landlord would be dragged into Court, and the decision would be that the tenant had to pay a less rent than he had paid before. Let the Committee see how the Government 1852 went to work in these matters. In this case to which he referred if the rent was ruled to be too high, the tenant was to have, ipso facto, at once the advantage of that ruling. If, however, the rent was ruled too low, the landlord did not at once obtain the increase, but he had to serve a notice on the tenant before he could secure execution of the decree. If they wished to have the decisions of the Court respected, why, in this last-mentioned case, should they leave it to the landlord to put the decision of the Court in motion? If the decision of the Court was to take immediate effect in the case of the tenant, why on earth should it not take immediate effect in the case of the landlord? Why was the landlord to have this further burden imposed on him of going to the tenant and serving him with a notice, or of going to some officer of the Court—some functionary hateful to the Irish tenant—and getting him to serve a notice on the tenant? The Government could not advance any satisfactory argument in favour of this extraordinary distinction, and he could not tell why it had been so framed, unless it was for the purpose of throwing on the landlord an odious and invidious task.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, that if he read the 6th sub-section aright, the position of the incoming tenant coming in under these circumstances would be most unfortunate. On the assumption that he would have to pay a lower rent than the judicial, he would pay a higher sum for the tenant right, and then, after he had obtained possession, he might be compelled to pay the judicial rent. He thought the Government ought to accept the Amendment.
§ MR. PLUNKET
trusted that the Government would accept the Amendment, which was supported by so many hon. Members interested in the subject on the Conservative side of the House. The object they had in pressing on the Amendment was to render the Court a perfectly impartial tribunal between landlord and tenant. No difference should be observed between a case where the rent was raised in the interest of the landlord or lowered in the interest of the tenant. In the latter case, as the Bill now stood, the change would take immediate effect, whereas in the former case it would not take effect until notice had been served on the ten- 1853 ant by the landlord. The object of this Amendment was to obviate the necessity of serving that notice. He could not conceive the logic of the clause, which was said to be entirely in the interest of peace and good will between landlord and tenant, unless the landlords—who might be excellent in all respects—were allowed to avail themselves at once of a change made in their own favour, while that privilege was allowed to the tenants. The difficulty raised by the hon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. Brodrick) was a very serious one. He had been discussing this clause with some of his Friends, and they were all at a loss to know how it would work in the event of its being applied to an Ulster tenancy. It was obvious that it would give rise to a great deal of uncertainty and doubt in the event of the provision in sub - section 6 being availed of.
§ SIR THOMAS ACLAND
said, he had been a silent spectator of these proceedings hitherto, but he could not help protesting against the disparaging imputation which had been cast upon Her Majesty's Government by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill). The Government had prepared this elaborate clause and had put in provisions expressly to enable a landlord, who was entitled to a higher rent than he received, to forego that higher rent without being placed in a worse position for so doing. If hon. Members opposite did not like this provision let them say so; but do not let young men get up and accuse much older and wiser men than themselves of having put words into the clause for the purpose of fixing odium upon the landlords.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, what he had stated was that it might appear that the Government were throwing an invidious and odious task upon the landlords.
§ SIR THOMAS ACLAND
said, that the noble Lord, who, no doubt, had a great future before him, would find it of advantage to learn a little more caution. The Government had prepared a very careful and elaborate provision to save the landlords from the objectionable alternative of having to raise their rent or to lose their right. If those interested in property in Ireland did not like the provision, and thought the notice put them in a false position, the 1854 Government could have no object in pressing it upon them. The clause seemed to him to have been prepared with great care; and, certainly, if he might place himself in the position of an Irish landlord, he should like to have the option left to him of exercising or not, as he thought fit, his right to raise or not to raise his rent.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I must say that I think this controversy is being conducted in a very curious manner. My noble Friend (Lord Randolph Churchill), and my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Brodrick), have raised a question which, on the face of it, appears to be extremely well deserving of consideration—namely, whether it is not a reasonable, natural, and lenient course, if a judicial rent is fixed by the Court, to give effect to the judicial rent as soon as the Court has decided, instead of making a distinction between the case in which the rent has been found to be in excess of what it should be in the opinion of the Court, and a case in which the rent has been found to be too low? The question has been raised in a very temperate spirit. It has been argued by my noble Friend, and by my hon. Friend behind me—who speaks with considerable knowledge of the circumstances of Irish land—but, when all these things have been said, the Government make no sign whatever. Instead of that, up gets my hon. Colleague. He says very little as to the merits of the proposal. What he chiefly has to say is a rebuke of my noble Friend, which, I have no doubt, my noble Friend will survive. I think we are entitled to have an explanation from Her Majesty's Government as to why they think it is necessary to retain these complicated provisions in place of the Amendment now submitted to them. The onus probandi clearly lies with the Government.
If the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) has had the misfortune to receive a rebuke from my hon. Friend, he has had the advantage of receiving a compliment from the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the very temperate manner in which the question has been raised and argued; but the "temperate manner" of the noble Lord was to declare that this provision is so irrational that it appears to have been devised by Her 1855 Majesty's Government for the purpose of bringing odium on the landlords, and for that the noble Lord received a compliment from the right hon. Gentleman. I quite admit the justice of the right hon. Gentleman's statement that Her Majesty's Government should express their opinion on these clauses, and state their motive for introducing them—which I am now proceeding to do. But the right hon. Gentleman knows very well that it is desirable for the promoters of the Bill to gather, with respect to certain clauses, the sense of the Committee before committing themselves definitely to a particular course with regard to them. That was exactly the consideration which kept us silent until we had heard expressions of opinion from the quarter of the House which represents those for whose benefit these sub-sections were framed. They were framed by us with a view very contradictory to that purposed by the noble Lord. They were framed, I will not say to meet the interests of the Irish landlords, but for the purpose of satisfying and largely meeting the feelings which have been described as swaying large classes of the Irish landlords, and which deserve every respect. It has been stated that these sub-sections are elaborate, and I quite agree that that is an objection. I admit, also, that hon. Gentlemen opposite may have some grounds for objecting to the landlord being called on to serve a notice on the tenant when the Court had raised the rent. But I should like to mention one or two points before the Committee makes up its mind as to the object with which these subsections were introduced. And, first, let me say that I cannot see the force of the argument of the hon. Member for Surrey as to the interest of the tenant. The hon. Member has said that a tenant will give a higher price for the tenant right on the consideration that the rent is lower than the judicial rent, and that directly afterwards he may find that the rent is raised on him. I have not the slightest apprehension on this subject, for no tenant, I should think, would be so short-sighted as to give a high sum for the tenant right in consideration of the rent being low when he knows that the landlord can raise the rent at any moment. The noble Lord is under a mistake when he says that all the operations must be the result of a previous 1856 conflict between the landlord and tenant. If such were the case, I admit there would be great force in the noble Lord's contention. But it is not so, because what will happen is this. That in a great many cases where the rent is a reasonable rent the tenant will require to know something as to the stability of that rent. He will go to the Court to get his rent judicially fixed, because, as has often, with justice, been said in these debates, he knows perfectly well that though he may be a good landlord now the present landlord say shortly disappear, and he may come under someone in whom he has not so much confidence. The tenant will, therefore, go into Court, not because he has had a quarrel with his landlord, but because he wants stability and desires to know what is the maximum he can be called upon to pay. He may do it at the time the landlord is asking from him a rent lower than that he knows the Court will fix. He will go into the Court without the slightest hostility to the landlord, and then the sub-section will operate. It is said that many landlords in Ireland think fit to charge a rent lower than the law of fair rents would allow them. There are, no doubt, a number—and not an insignificant number—of landlords who are content to take, and, perhaps, take a pride in accepting, a less rent than the law would give them. I would ask why should we compel such landlords to raise the rents, or have the tenant rights sold at an elevated price? These sub-sections have been devised distinctly in the interest of this class of landlords. In cases where the landlord is taking a less rent than the Court allows, after the Court has been appealed to, he may continue to charge the same low rent. We put it in his power to prevent the tenancy being sold at a less rent than the judicial rent. The Government attach importance to these sub-clauses, and really consider that the tenant has no very distinct interest in them, and that it is a matter in which we should wish to follow and consult the feelings of those who may be fairly supposed to speak in this House from the point of view which the landlord would be likely to take. Under the circumstances, I am quite willing to take any course that may be agreeable to the Committee. If hon. Members desire it, we will let the matter stand over for further consideration.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, he should infinitely prefer the proposed clause to those it was sought to strike out, and that in the interest of the tenant himself. With reference to what the Prime Minister had said, he thought the working of the clause would be this—Where the tenant was under a good landlord, and for years he and his family had only been called on to pay a reasonable rent, he would not dispute the matter. He would not go into Court until a change took place in the landlord, or until a demand was made of him for an increased rent. He would think it desirable, both in his own interest and that of the landlord, that their relations should continue to remain undisturbed without litigation. On the other hand, suppose the tenant did go into Court, he would be made to feel the responsibility of his action. He (Mr. Mitchell Henry) did not want the tenant to be treated like a child. No one could suppose that the tenant would go into the Court until there had been a conversation, probably many conversations, between himself and his landlord with regard to the rent. If the landlord demonstrated, or endeavoured to demonstrate to the tenant that the rent was reasonable, and it was proved by the action of the Court in raising the rent that the landlord was more than right in saying that the rent was reasonable, the tenant ought to bear the consequences. These sub-clauses were open to two very great objections. If they did anything at all they would increase litigation. They would be a sort of lottery—they would hold out a kind of promise to every tenant in Ireland to induce him, whether his rent was fair and reasonable or not, to try his chances in the Court. That, he thought, was extremely objectionable. Then, if it was proved that the tenant's contention was unreasonable, and his rent was absolutely lower than the landlord and the Court thought was just, the tenant should take the consequences. What, therefore, would be the result of passing the clauses? He believed they would be inoperative. He did not believe that where the rent was reasonable and the tenant went into the Court and complained, even then the Court in one case out of a thousand would raise it. But, if the Court did so, why should not the tenant take the consequences of going 1858 to the Court? It was not imperative on the landlord to take the increase. He might say to his tenant—"I think you were very unreasonble in this matter; you have put me to great inconvenience; you have altered our relations; but, at the same time, I will only exact the increased rent, for such a length of time as will pay the expense you have put me to; after that our relations shall remain as they were." But the sub-sections would tell the tenant that even if the case had gone against him he had still a chance of getting off by having the matter put in abeyance until the estate was sold. Another effect of the sub-clauses would be that the tenant would not be able to look his landlord straight in the face in consequence of their own action. He had argued in the same way on the question of the dilapidations of buildings. If tenants allowed buildings on their farms to get into a state of dilapidation let them bear the consequences, and if they dragged the landlords into Court unreasonably let them equally bear the consequences. He hoped, therefore, that the Government would strike out the sub-clauses.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, that if this Amendment were rejected, and the sub-section were passed in its entirety, they would then have to consider the two sub-sections that followed, and he was sure they would find that there were a number of difficulties connected with those sub-sections for which they had not made provision. It must be recollected that this Bill would very much increase the difficulty of settling the respective rights of the landlord and tenant in each tenancy. Hitherto tenant right had meant that the tenant had a right of sale or interest in his holding subject to the rent imposed by the landlord. Now, however, they had set up a Court which was to establish a statutory rent, and every single landlord from one end of Ireland to the other was entitled to the statutory rent which the Court might impose upon his property. Therefore, in all cases where the rent was less than the statutory rent, the difference would be a saleable commodity, the value of which the tenant would be able to realize when he sold the tenant right unless the landlord interfered. The hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Brodrick) had said that under 1859 the subsequent sub-sections injustice would be done to an incoming tenant. He (Lord George Hamilton) was sure that would be the case. The value of the tenant right, of course, very much depended upon the rent. The lower the rent the higher the tenant right; therefore, wherever the rent was less than the statutory rent the tenant right would be higher than where the statutory rent was charged. Thus, an outgoing tenant would sell to his successor that portion of the rent—namely, the difference between the rent imposed and the statutory rent which this Bill said belonged to the landlord. The outgoing tenant would receive twofold compensation. He had had the advantage of paying a less rent than might have been asked, and because he had paid less rent he received compensation from his successor when he left. The incoming tenant, on the other hand, would be liable to have his rent raised, to the statutory level, though he had paid to the outgoing tenant a sum to free him from that liability. The net result was that the outgoing tenant would be twice compensated for what did not belong to him, and the incoming tenant would have paid for that which was never given to him. The landlord would step in and say—"The tenant has sold something that belongs to me; "and then the Court would have to decide between the tenant who had sold something and the other tenant who had bought something. If at the end of this complicated transaction the Court decided that the landlord was entitled to a portion of the tenant right, he would have to get from the outgoing tenant that sum which the incoming tenant had paid that outgoing tenant. Then would arise the question whether the landlord would be precluded in consequence of the sum he thus received from raising the rent. If he retained that right, the incoming tenant had paid money for nothing. Practically, this had been done; and it seemed to him that the landlord was always entitled to raise his rent to the statutory level during the statutory term. Suppose the landlord obtained this compensation, the incoming tenant had been done. He was afraid the result of the Bill would be in a certain case to force the landlords to raise the rents.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, that all these calculations were based upon what 1860 he could not help regarding as an entire fallacy—namely, on the assumption that the incoming tenant, who knew that the landlord had obtained a judicial declaration from the Court which would enable him to raise the rent, would be fool enough to buy the tenancy on the expectation that the rent would never be increased.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, the outgoing tenant would say to the incoming tenant—"The landlord has got a judicial declaration; but he is so good that he does not charge me the rent that the Court said he could charge me—or, at least, he has not done for four or five years." If the incoming tenant bought on the strength of that statement, he would not be such a fool; on the contrary, he would be proving himself to be a wise man, because he would buy knowing that the landlord would be certain to treat him well. He wished to point out to the Prime Minister that he had made the statement that it was not necessary that the action under this clause between the landlord and tenant should be a hostile action. On the contrary, he (Lord Randolph Churchill) believed that it would be absolutely hostile. If the tenant only wanted to get stability, and the landlord was a good landlord, the two might come to an agreement under Clause 9. They could agree to create a fixed tenancy, and they need not bother themselves about the Court at all. All the arrangements that would take place under this Bill would be hostile. [An hon. MEMBER: You can have arbitration.] No doubt there could be arbitration; but the whole of the action under this clause would be hostile. Therefore, he thought the arguments of the Prime Minister on this point were answered. With regard to the observation of the hon. Member for North Devon (Sir Thomas Acland), he took it in good part; but sometimes a rebuke of that kind, whether merited or unmerited, led to prolonged controversy.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, that the generous landlord who was inclined to take less than the law allowed him could always do so. The Amendment would simplify the Bill very much without injuring it; therefore, he hoped it would be accepted.
§ SIR WILLIAM PALLISER
said, it seemed to him that the acceptance of the Amendment would have the effect of 1861 simplifying and facilitating the progress of the Bill. It would have the effect of enabling them to get rid, at one stroke, of at least 20 Amendments, all of which might otherwise have to be discussed.
§ MR. SHAW
said, he looked upon the clause as very much in the interest of the landlord. He could say, from his own knowledge and experience, that there were many landlords in Ireland who desired to treat their tenants generously, and who would not, after the passing of this Bill, make any rush to raise their rents. Many of these landlords had lived on good terms with their tenants for generations, and desired to continue on those terms; and even where the tenant, owing to some temporary excitement, and thinking he could get his rent reduced, went into the Court, and instead of getting a reduction got a declaration that the rent should be raised, the landlords might not avail themselves of that declaration. The real object of this clause was to give the landlord an increase of rent against an incoming tenant if he thought it right to charge it and the Court allowed it. He (Mr. Shaw) could not imagine how, in the interests of the landlords, these clauses could be objected to. He should like to hear the opinions of the Irish landlords on the matter. He did not think that the Irish landlords wished for the rejection of these words, and thought that valuable time would be wasted in facther discussion upon the question.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, that hon. Members who represented the Irish landlords claimed to be actuated by feelings of the greatest benevolence towards the tenants; but the object of this Amendment was to make their benevolence permissive. It would seem, therefore, that those hon. Members who were continually insisting upon the benevolence of their intentions were afraid to allow it voluntary action. He suggested to Her Majesty's Government that it would be a great saving of time to put the question to a division at once.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
wished to point out that the statement of the Prime Minister in one respect opened up quite a new view of the effect which this clause would have. He thought both sides of the Committee would agree that inevitable difficulty and confusion would arise if anything like the majority of the tenants of Ireland went into Court 1862 at once. In mitigation of this it had been pointed out that a great number, if not a majority, of tenants were low rented, and it had been confidently expected by the Government that in no circumstances would the low-rented tenants go into Court. But it was now said that the low-rented tenants would go into Court in order to obtain stability; and as the high-rented tenants would, undoubtedly, do the same for the purpose of getting their rent reduced, there would be 600,000 tenants going into Court immediately the Bill passed.
I have never stated that all the low-rented tenants would go into Court; I said that many individual tenants would do so.
§ MR. LITTON
said, he did not attach much importance to these supplementary sub-sections; and, on the whole, he believed, in the interest of the tenant, they would be better omitted. He thought it was far better that the tenant should understand that the judicial rent had to be paid, than that he should be under the impression that it would be allowed to accumulate.
§ MR. PLUNKET
said, the Representatives of the Irish landlords certainly regarded this clause with a good deal of embarrassment. They saw that in certain cases an opportunity would be afforded to persons to act in the manner indicated by the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton); but they also saw that the retention of the words would lead to the necessity of their serving a notice at every step, if they wanted to get the judicial rent, and that was the reason why they were in favour of striking out these sections.
said, the proposal of the Government was made in good faith; but experience showed that there was sometimes no greater mistake than to attempt to do kindnesses that were not recognized. After what had been said, he was prepared to accept the Amendment on the Paper with the consequential Amendment.
§ MR. BIGGAR
thought the Government ought not to agree to an Amendment unless some strong reasons were advanced in favour of it, which had by no means been the case in the present instance. He agreed if a landlord charged less than a reasonable rent that, at the time of sale, he should receive a certain sum out of the purchase money. The 1863 clause appeared to him much more in favour of the landlord than the tenant, and he was not opposed to its being struck out of the Bill.
§ MR. A. MOORE
said, it was clear that the meaning of the sub-section was that if the rent was kept low the landlord should not be a loser when a sale took place.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he was in favour of the Amendment because, without some such provision under the sub-section, a landlord who had charged a low rent would, when the tenant came to sell, be able to swamp the tenant right altogether by the accumulation of the amounts he had hitherto declined to look for.
§ MR. LEAMY
said, he had always thought that the way in which tenant right in Ireland was swamped was by the rent being increased. The whole effect of the sub-section was that if a decree was given that the rent ought to be higher than the tenant was paying, the tenant should, upon notice from the landlord, pay the increased rent from the next rent day; but that if the landlord did not claim it, the landlord should receive some compensation. The retention of the clause could do no harm to the landlord.
said, the Amendment had been spoken of as being brought forward by an English Member; but the hon. Member who made that remark must known that he was as much connected with Irish land as any Member of the House.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
said, that the strongest arguments in favour of the Amendment appeared to him to have come from those hon. Members who had spoken in opposition to it from both sides of the House.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 35; Noes 371: Majority 336.—(Div. List, No. 281.)
§ Amendment proposed, in page 7, line 14, omit from "is" to "rent" in line 15.—(Captain Aylmer.)
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
protested against the action of the Government with regard to Amendments proposed from the Conservative Benches. It was plainly in the interest of the tenant that the landlord should have the choice of 1864 charging the higher judicial rent. He agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) that the clause as it originally stood would throw odium upon the landlord in his endeavour to get an additional rent, because the final choice then rested with the landlord. The Amendment which the Government had agreed to accept, however, would transfer the whole matter to the Court; and, inasmuch as his object was to throw as much odium as possible upon the landlord who raised the tenant's rent, he very much regretted the change sanctioned by the Government. Irish Members had now become perfectly familiar with such changes on the part of the Government. The moment an hon. Member got up from the Conservative Benches to say that unless assent were given to a particular Amendment a number of others would follow, the Prime Minister became as soft as wax, so to speak, in the hands of the Conservative Party. He could not but think, if the Attorney General for Ireland were allowed to have the final word with reference to these Amendments, that Business would proceed more satisfactorily, because, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman was allowed to speak, he always advanced something like a firm and rational argument in support of his view; while, on the other hand, the Prime Minister, who had not that steadiness of purpose which characterized the Celtic mind, and was, perhaps, influenced a little by his prejudices as an Englishman, at once yielded to the wishes of the Conservative Party. Still, he did not think the right hon. Gentleman was so much to blame as the hon. Members for Tyrone and Galway, who gave him a push whenever they saw him about to yield to the Conservative Party against the interest of the Irish tenants. He thought that the Irish people would be able to understand both the action of the Prime Minister and that of the two hon. Members to whom he had referred.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 7, line 17, leave out "next succeeding."—(Mr. Plunket.)
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, he had no objection to the omission of these words.
§ MR. CALLAN
was by no means satisfied that this was but a verbal Amendment. When the Bill was framed some meaning was undoubtedly attached to the words "next succeeding," and it was difficult to understand why they were so readily given up. He had a strong objection to the hasty adoption of so-called verbal Amendments; and he remembered that during the passage of the Act of 1870 several Amendments of the kind were admitted which afterwards worked injury to the Irish tenants. For his own part, he viewed with suspicion any Amendment to an Irish Bill which came from the Conservative Benches.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ On the Motion of Mr. PLUNKET, Amendment made, in page 7, line 17, after "day," by inserting "next succeeding the decision of the Court."
§ On the Motion of Captain AYLMER, Amendment made, in page 7, by leaving out sub-sections 5 and 6.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, that some discussion had already taken place with reference to the subject of labourers' cottages. When the question was raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler), the Government stated it would be more convenient if the discussion took place in connection with the 7th sub-section of the present clause. The Committee would observe that the effect of that portion of the sub-section which he proposed to strike out was to make an exception in regard to the first 15 years of the statutory term obtained in the manner referred to in the 1st sub-section of the clause. He was quite at a loss to understand why this exception should be made. If it was right for the landlord to take any portion of the holding for the purposes mentioned, when the statutory term had arisen, in consequence of the increased rent demanded by the landlord having been accepted by the tenant, it appeared to him right that he should do so when the statutory term arose in the manner contemplated by the present clause. Then, again, if the right was given to the landlord during the second period of 15 years, why should it not be given to him during the first period of 15 years? The whole procedure appeared to him to be of an 1866 arbitrary character, and the work of some ingenious person outside the House, rather than that of a practical statesman. On the whole, he concluded that the Government did not attach very great importance to the words, and that their omission would tend to the simplification of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 7, line 40, to leave out all the words after the word "landlord," to the end of sub-section 7.—(Lori Edmond Fitzmaurice.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'with this modification, that during the statutory term in a,' stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. PARNELL
wished to point out to the Committee the great danger which lay in propositions intended to give the landlord a right to interfere with the holding of his tenant. Already in Ireland a movement had been started for the purpose of protecting the interest of labourers in the soil, and he thought it very proper that the interest of the labourer should be protected, and that some provision should be made for the purpose of helping him in his hard lot in life. But it was exceedingly dangerous, under cover of protecting the labourer, to give power to the landlord to come in and set the labouring class against the tenant. A disposition already existed in Ireland to create disputes between those classes; and if the Amendment of the noble Lord were adopted, he feared that the result would be that the labourers would be used as an irritating force, and that when a landlord had a tenant who displeased him, and whom he wished to influence in any way, he would threaten to resume a part of the tenant's farm for the purpose of providing for labourers whom he would plant on the farm, and over whom the tenant would have no control whatever. Therefore, he submitted that the tenant should hesitate before adopting the very dangerous modification of the Bill urged by the noble Lord.
§ MR. CARTWRIGHT
pointed out that the observations of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) were entirely outside the argument of the noble Lord. The argument of his noble Friend was based upon the arbitrary distinction made between the two forms of statutory tenancy, created by the Bill under different conditions, in 1867 respect of the landlord's power of resuming land for certain specific purposes.
§ DR. COMMINS
said, if the stability of tenure which this clause proposed to give was to be anything more than a sham, the words which the noble Lord wished to be struck out ought to be retained in the section. He admitted that there were some exceedingly good landlords in Ireland; but, on the other hand, there were others who deserved the description applied to them in The Times—that they exacted their rights with hands of iron, and neglected their duties with foreheads of brass. It was to protect the tenants of Ireland from such landlords as those that this 15 years' stability was comtemplated by the clause, and which was the central provision of the Bill. What was to become of that security which the tenants in the North of Ireland were willing to buy at 10, 20, and even 50 years' purchase if this power of resumption was to be allowed to the landlord? This was not paid for improvements, nor so much for possession, as for security from the landlord's exactions, and the possibility of capricious and unjust eviction. If this part of the sub-section were taken away, there would be no security whatever for any of the Irish tenantry; for immediately the Act came into force, those landlords who neglected their duties with foreheads of brass would develop an interest in the labourer, and, under the pretext of furnishing him with cottages and gardens, would apply to the Court for permission to resume possession of their farms. It was admitted to be a good thing that cottages should be built for labourers, and that gardens should be given to them; but was' it to be supposed for a moment that the only place where a cottage could be built was upon the estate of a rack-renting landlord, whose tenants had been obliged to bring him into Court, and whose rent had been thereby reduced 20 or 30 per cent? There were plenty of places where that could be done, without giving the rack-renting landlord the opportunity of seizing upon a portion of the holding of a tenant who had brought him into Court and exposed him, in order to save himself from exaction. He contended that a landlord so situated, and smarting under the decree of the Court, would 1868 not be long without finding a labourer who wanted a cottage in the neighbourhood; and, under the pretext of supplying that want, he would make application to the Court for permission to resume possession of the tenant's holding. For these reasons he was opposed to the Amendment of the noble Lord opposite, which would remove one of the most valuable features of the Bill.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
thought the question had turned too much on the resumption of part of the holding for the erection of labourers' cottages. The sub-section began with a declaration that the tenancy during the first 15 years after the fixing of a judicial rent would be subject to statutory conditions. A special modification was then introduced, and his noble Friend asked why that modification was made to apply only to tenants during the first 15 years? The reason was that Her Majesty's Government wished to give confidence to the tenant in his fixity of tenure during that period. He reminded the Committee that there was a far more important reason for resumption than that for the purpose of erecting cottages—namely, where it had relation to the good of the holding; and that there would be more resumptions upon that ground than any other. He trusted the Committee would consider this Amendment, with reference to the main feature of the clause.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he had listened with great interest to the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, but still failed to see why there should be any different conditions applied to the statutory term which gave an increase of rent to the landlord and the statutory term which gave none. The Committee had passed a provision that—During the continuance of a statutory term in a tenancy consequent on an increase of rent by the landlord, the Court may, on the application of the landlord, and upon being satisfied that he is desirous of resuming the holding, or part thereof, for some reasonable and sufficient purpose, having relation to the good of the holding, or of the estate, or for the benefit of the labourers in respect of cottages, gardens, or allotments, authorize the resumption thereof by the landlord upon such conditions as the Court may think fit, and require the tenant to sell his tenancy, in the whole or such part, to the landlord, upon such terms as may be approved by the Court as being full compensation to the tenant.1869 The right hon. Gentleman had very properly laid great stress upon the fact that this was a provision where the increase of rent was obtained by the landlord, and which gave the landlord power to effect necessary improvements on the holding, or on the estate—improvements which were as necessary in the interest of the tenant as in that of the landlord. He (Mr. W. H. Smith) pointed out that there were improvements which were probably more necessary to the tenant than the landlord, such as roads, or works of that kind, and the landlord was to have the power of resumption for such purposes if he obtained an increase of rent from the tenant, while, under the sub-section before the Committee, the Court was not allowed to give him that power during the first statutory term of 15 years. That appeared to him to be an unwise and unnecessary restriction, inasmuch as it would tend to cheek improvement and outlay on the part of the landlord, and to retard, in consequence, that development of Irish agricultural resources which they were all anxious to bring about. He could not but feel that if the Court was trusted in the one case it ought also to be trusted in the other; and that this restriction, which was neither for the interest of the tenant nor for the interest of the landlord, ought not to be maintained.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
appealed to the Government not to carry any further the objectionable principle of resumption on the part of the landlord. He thought the power of resumption ought not to be given at all; but as it had been conceded, to a certain extent, in the Bill, he would only express a hope that it would be confined to as limited an area as possible.
§ MR. SYNAN
said, he wished to point out, in reply to the inquiry as to why a distinction had been set up between the two kinds of statutory tenancies, that the power of resumption had been given to the landlord in the case of the statutory term which arose out of the agreement between the landlord and tenant, because it was not inconsistent with such, an agreement, and because the tenant, under those circumstances, might be supposed to have confidence that it would not be used for any hostile purpose by the landlord. But the statutory term referred to by this sub-section was 1870 created by the Court, subject to certain conditions; and the tenant, having power to sell during the 15 years, would., unless this part of the section were retained, find the value of the tenancy reduced to zero by the landlord's power of resumption. With regard to the labourers, he regretted that their case had been dragged into the present discussion, although their welfare was as much connected with the interest of the tenant as with the interest of the landlord; and it was not for their good that the value of tenancies in Ireland should be reduced by the landlord having power to resume possession of the tenant's holding.
I do not consider that we are, at this moment, confining ourselves to the discussion of the question as to whether the words at the end of this clause, beginning "with this modification" and ending with the words "shall not be entertained by the Court," might not undergo some Amendment. The Committee may wish to raise the question whether there should, be the power of resumption for special purposes, such as the purpose of labourers' cottages, within the first statutory term, consequent upon the fixing of a judicial rent. I do not, however, enter into that. I understand the contention of the noble Lord to be that the first statutory term should be like all other statutory terms, as regards the power of resumption by the landlord. The Government propose to make the first statutory term under a judicial rent an exception to the general rule, and we are asked why we make that exception. It is in order to attain the main purpose of the Bill—namely, the composing of differences and the settlement of relations between class and class in Ireland. We do not require to make any proposals for composing differences where the parties are already agreed and understand one another. Where there is an increase of rent proposed by the landlord, and consented to by the tenant, there would be no difference or disturbance between the parties, and the only reason why we introduce the statutory term in this case is in order that the tenant may not be annoyed by another increase of rent after a short interval. But the rule would be totally different where the rent is fixed judiciously. Whatever cases there are, and their 1871 number is not small, where the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland are disturbed, those relations will settle themselves through the Court, and the judicial rent settled by the Court is to be followed by a statutory term, which is imposed not merely for the purpose of ending uncertainty, but also for the purpose of putting an end to a disturbed and unsettled state of things. Therefore, I think it is wise, to introduce an exceptional provision to say that the power of the landlord to resume shall be suspended during that term in order to give confidence to the tenant.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that a few hours ago the Prime Minister stated that under this Bill a large number of people would go into Court without any hostile feeling to the landlord for the purpose of getting the statutory term. Why, then, should not the landlord have the power of resumption under these circumstances, with the safeguards provided by the Bill in the case of the statutory term arising out of the agreement between the landlord and tenant? Under those provisions he would not apply to the Court to resume except he could show that he wanted to carry out something for the good of the holding, the estate, or the labourers; and all that would have to be proved before the Court would grant the power of resumption. He was quite unable to see the reason for the distinction that had been set up between this clause and Clause 4, which had already been passed by the Committee; and he was bound to say that his difficulty in that respect had not in the least been removed by the last observations of the Prime Minister, especially when coupled with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, to which he had referred—namely, that a large number of persons would go into Court for the purpose of getting stability.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, he had never been able to understand why the statutory term should carry certain consequences in one case and not in the other. Looking at all the circumstances, it could hardly be supposed that the arrangements connected with the acceptance of an increase of rent by the tenant would always be of a perfectly friendly character. The Committee could not feel too strongly that the resumption of possession, under Clause 4 of the Bill, could take place only in the most quali- 1872 fied manner; and, therefore, there was little danger in applying it to all terms alike. He was quite unable to understand why the Court should not have power to grant resumption to the landlord under the statutory term arising out of the fixing of rent by the Court, while they had power to do so in the case of the statutory term created by agreement between the landlord and tenant. The hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Synan) had tried to explain that there was an extraordinary difference between the two cases; but he (Mr. W. Fowler) was utterly unable at that moment to see in what the difference consisted. They were bound to assume, having passed the 4th clause, that resumption of possession in certain cases was right; but they were, by this part of the sub-section, asked to say that there should be no power of resumption whatever in the vast number of terms which would be created by the Court under this clause. He was not prepared to say that the landlord should not have power to get back his land for 15 years; and, as at present advised, he could not see that sufficient reason had been shown for establishing this remarkable distinction.
§ MR. MARUM
said, the omission of the modification of this clause would deprive the tenant of 15 years' security of tenure, and it was not to be wondered at that Irish Members met the proposal of the noble Lord with hostility. If the power of resumption were given to the landlord in the present case he would be able to use it as a deterrent whenever the landlord went in for a judicial rent.
§ MR. SHAW
said, he was entirely against the power of resumption, and against anything which would limit the security of the tenant farmer. It would probably meet the case if the power of resumption were given to the landlord for the erection of labourers' cottages; but the Court should have before it a clear and not a mere speculative case on the part of the landlord. He hoped the noble Lord would not press his Amendment.
§ MR. FITZPATRICK
said, as far as he could gather after reading the subsection in connection with the speech of the Prime Minister, the effect of this distinction was to urge the tenant to go into Court and not come to an amicable agreement with the landlord. There- 1873 fore, he thought as the Amendment of the noble Lord opposite tended to lessen the business of the Court, by facilitating an amicable agreement between the landlord and tenant, it ought to be accepted. From his own experience of Ireland, having lived there all his life, he did not think there would be many instances in which the landlord would incur the odium of the district by resuming possession of a holding while, at the same time, paying heavily for it.
§ MR. HENEAGE
thought it was during the first term that the landlord would want, if at all, to take back the land if labourers' cottages were to be built. Something ought to be done when labourers' cottages were required and tenants would not provide them. But after hearing the discussion, he thought the suggestion of the Prime Minister might be favourably considered, on the practical view of the position that half a loaf was better than no bread. He would, therefore, advise the noble Lord not to press his Amendment.
§ MR. GIVAN
said, the explanations of the Prime Minister had convinced him that this was not the place to discuss this question, and that they would have an opportunity by-and-bye of fairly considering how the claims of the labourers might be met on the proposal which the Government would bring forward at a later stage of the Bill; and he, therefore, joined in requesting the noble Lord to withdraw his Amendment, and not prejudice the matter to be hereafter considered. As to the new-born zeal displayed for the labourers, he might mention that within the last two or three days he had received a letter from Ireland, stating that if their new friends went on in their present advocacy the labourers intended to hold mass meetings for the purpose of praying that they might be delivered from them.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
remarked, that the hon. Member for Grimsby(Mr. Heneage) prided himself upon taking a practical view; but how far was it a practical view to speak strongly in favour of the 1874 Amendment, and then advise its withdrawal? He (Mr. Chaplin) hoped the noble Lord would not accept the alternative suggestion made, and would not withdraw his Amendment. Why should there not be this power to resume for purposes having relation to the good of the estate? It would be as flagrant an act of confiscation of the property of the landlord to take it away as anything he had heard of. He hoped the Amendment would be pressed to a division, and he certainly should resist its withdrawal.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, of course he was in the hands of the Committee; and if there was a wish, especially among those with whom he usually acted, that he should withdraw his Amendment, he was quite willing to follow out the principle mentioned by the hon. Member for Grimsby, and accept the half loaf when he could not get the whole. But what he wanted now to know, and he put the question to the Chairman, was, whether his Amendment could be put in such a shape as not to prevent his bringing up words on the top of the next page which would enable the case of the labourers to be dealt with specifically, assuming that his Amendment was not now accepted by the Committee? He had no wish to force the Committee to divide; but, at the same time, he did not mean to run away from his Amendment.
In answer to the question of the noble Lord, it will be quite competent for him at a future stage, to move his Amendment. There will be no difficulty at all.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 226; Noes 146: Majority 80.—(Div. List, No. 282.)
§ And it being ten minutes before Seven of the clock the Committee suspended its Sitting.
§ The Committee resumed its Sitting at Nine of the clock.