§ [Progress 31st May.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ PART I.
§ ORDINARY CONDITIONS OF TENANCIES.
§ Clause 1 (Sale of tenancies).
In page 1, line 8, after the word "sell," to insert the words "such interest as under any contract, express or implied, between himself and his landlord, or by any legal custom or usage he may then have in unexhausted improvements or in the unexpired term of."—(Sir Richard Cross.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR HARDINGE GIFFARD
thought that, from some of the phrases used by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, this Amendment was absolutely necessary. The Bill, as it stood, provided that the tenant for the time being of every tenancy to which the Act applied must sell his tenancy for the best price that could be got for the same; and within that provision they were bound to include the Interpretation Clause, from which it appeared that 1890 "tenancy" meant the interest on the holding of a tenant and his successors in title during the continuance of a tenancy; and a "tenant" meant a person occupying land under a contract of tenancy, and included the successors in title to a tenant. If they were to ask for the limit of the interest which the tenant was to possess within the contract, express or implied, which existed between the landlord and the tenant, Her Majesty's Ministers had been much misunderstood if they had been credited with the desire to let the interest of the tenant be only that which was contemplated by the contract between him and his landlord. If the only interest the tenant was to have was that which the law gave him—namely, the right of assigning the unexpired term of the tenancy, there could be no difficulty in adopting his right hon. Friend's (Sir R. Assheton Cross's) Amendment. But if, on the other hand, there was something more to be placed in the power of the tenant—something upon the mere fact of occupancy—one searched through the Bill in vain in order to ascertain the nature and extent of the new thing which the tenant was to sell. The Prime Minister, in discussing the Bill, used two remarkable phrases. He said the tenant's interest was an interest made up of what the law gave him; and he also used that extraordinary phrase, "or should give him." [Mr. GLADSTONE: "Gives," or "shall give."] He accepted what the right hon. Gentleman said; but if what was meant was what the law gave the tenant by that Bill, what was the interest of the tenant? Was it to be measured by time or value? Were there any circumstances that went to show that the interest had been created by the tenant? In his concluding words, the right hon. Gentleman said that it was a right which meant nothing more than the occupancy of the tenant, together with such incidents as the Legislature might be pleased to attach to it. They were enacting now that the tenant might sell that thing whatever it was; and, apart from the phrase to which he had referred, he looked in vain through the Bill to find anything limiting the power to sell beyond phrases which meant nothing. It was said that the interest was to be also created by the contract. Be it so; but here must be something beyond the contract. He thought he had some right 1891 to appeal to his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. W. M. Johnson), because he had observed in his speech that when it was sought to draw him into a definition of what the interest was which the tenant possessed, he said that he declined to be inveigled into a verbal discussion as to what the thing was. Now, he (Sir Hardinge Giffard) did not think that that was altogether a satisfactory reply, because the matter was not a mere question of words, but what was the principle underlying what the Government thought proper to introduce into the Bill. What was it that was to be sold? As lawyers they knew what the interest was. They knew it was the unexpired term of the tenant's lease whatever it might be; but in this case there was no limit to the thing that was to be sold. If Her Majesty's Government meant to limit the tenant's interest to that which the law gave him by the Bill, no alteration in the law would be necessary. Then, what was it, and in what part of the Bill was he to find the definition? It must be remembered that this was an ambiguity which had been left in the Bill—he did not say intentionally, but of which hon. Members opposite had availed themselves abundantly. In the course of these discussions, a touching picture had been drawn of cases in which the tenant had, by his own exertions, turned useless bogs into arable land, and had applied his capital to arrangements which had given to the land its present value. That was a very striking case; but this power to sell was universal and indiscriminate, and there was no part of the Bill which described the cases in which either of these indications existed. It was given universally, whatever the contract, or however much it might actually negative the existence of any such right of disposition. The Bill, and the particular clause they were passing, gave that right universally, whatever the tenant's right might be, although the tenant might not have added one farthing to the value of that which he held. He was not at present arguing whether it was right or wrong that the tenant should have that interest. He assumed for the present that it was proper that he should have such an interest, and that he should, by statute, be permitted to deal with it in that way; but he thought it should be plainly set forth what it was, 1892 and what were its limits. He did not know what the Land Commission might say should be given to the tenant, or what the law said ought to attach to the tenant. He was not arguing whether it was right or wrong to give him this interest; but it ought to be shown within the four corners of the Bill what the circumstances were that were adverted to. At present, upon the face of the Bill that was altogether uncertain; and, therefore, some Amendment of this kind was necessary. This ambiguity affected the whole Bill. It was shown in the 1st clause, and the moment they came to Clause 7 they would be in exactly the same difficulty, because there they were to have regard to the interest of the tenant. What did that mean? Was it that he was to be a tenant from year to year, or that he was made a tenant for seven or 15 years? Where in the four corners of the Bill was there any definition to show the Committee that if they passed the 1st clause in the form in which it stood it would not be said—"You have now admitted whatever the tenancy may be, whatever the circumstances of it may be, you have enacted by that 1st clause that any tenant, under any tenancy, may be able to sell that thing, and yet you have not defined what that thing is in the Bill?" On a former occasion, in reference to the Bill introduced by the late Mr. Butt, it was pointed out that what was disrespectfully described as "legal jargon" ran throughout the measure, about the profits of the soil making up that which was the fee simple of the land; and if by any circuituous language they gave to the tenant the right of perpetual succession, what they did would have the effect of making the landlord a mere rent-charger. He contended that they were doing precisely the same thing now. They were concealing, in a multitude of words, no one of which was capable of being expounded, not what the legal interest was, but some interest or another, which somebody hereafter was to acquire, and they were declaring that that was the interest which the tenant might dispose of and sell. He thought they had a right to know, before they went any further, whether it was intended by the Government to accept his right hon. Friend's Amendment, or some other Amendment, which should define and make clear that which was intended.
§ MR. MORGAN LLOYD
said, that what rights were given to the tenants of Ireland under the Bill was a matter which would have to be discussed upon the subsequent clauses of the Bill. The only question now was whether or not the tenant was to be allowed to sell or part with whatever interest he might have. The clause gave no interest whatever to the tenant which he had not got already. It simply gave him the right to sell his interest in his tenancy. If he was a tenant at will he would have no interest to sell, because the landlord might determine his will at any moment; but if he was a tenant from year to year, he would have his unexpired term to sell increased in value by the right to compensation for disturbance, to which he was entitled under the Land Act of 1870. If he was a leaseholder, he would have still more to sell. Even as the law now stood, if a tenant from year to year, he would have a right to sell his title to the improvements he had effected. All that was proposed by this clause was that he should have a right to sell whatever interest he had. It was said that that meant something besides a legal interest. Now, he (Mr. Morgan Lloyd) contended that it meant nothing more than a legal interest—whatever interest the tenant had must be a legal interest. By the words of the clause the tenant's interest was a legal interest; and, therefore, what was proposed to be done now was simply to give the tenant a right to part with whatever he now had, or what might be given to him by the Bill. The discussion as to what interest the tenant had or might have was premature, and would come before the Committee much more conveniently on the subsequent clauses of the Bill.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, they all agreed with what the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Morgan Lloyd) had just said, that the tenant should have a right to sell his interest. But what the Amendment of his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Assheton Cross) intended to do was to define exactly what the interest of the tenant was, so that there should not be any trouble in interpreting what the House intended to give. In one part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), in criticizing the words of the Amendment, he quite agreed. It seemed to him that the words as they stood 1894 would deprive the tenant of the opportunity of selling his own improvements, unless there was some contract between him and his landlord. He (Mr. Ritchie) was satisfied that that could not be the intention of his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Assheton Cross), because they were all agreed—even those who were most bitterly opposed to the Bill as it stood—that the tenant ought to be able, at least, to sell his own improvements; and he would suggest to his right hon. Friend that it would be as well to leave out the words from the word "under" to "improvements," in his Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister seemed to find great difficulty in defining what it was the tenant was to have the right to sell. Over and over again the Government had been pressed to say what they meant by certain clauses of the Bill, and there had always been a delightful vagueness in their explanations. He did not know whether it was that the Government themselves did not understand what the result of many of the provisions of the Bill would be; but he (Mr. Ritchie) thought it was desirable that the question should be fought out now, rather than be fought out in a Court. It was essential that they should lay down for the guidance of the Court, in fixing a fair rent, what it was that the tenant's interest consisted of. He had no hesitation in saying that he had always been in favour of conferring upon the tenantry of Ireland a moderate amount of tenant right. He thought the evidence given before the Commissioners pointed clearly in that direction; but he by no means considered that the method provided in the Bill was the right and proper method. On the contrary, he was convinced that it would impose a considerable amount of hardship upon the landlords of Ireland, and that it was desirable and necessary to modify it. They must take care, in removing the injustice under which certain tenants of Ireland certainly suffered, that they did not inflict a much greater grievance upon the whole body of landlords. If they gave power to the tenant to sell the unrestricted tenant right, one of two things must occur. Either part of it must come out of the landlord's pocket in the shape of a reduction of rent, or they would be giving something to the present tenant 1895 at the expense of the future tenant, and would be thereby laying up for the future tenant a mass of injustice far greater than that which they proposed to remove. The only way to remedy this evil was to insert in the Bill some provision for securing to the incoming tenant the value of the money he paid; and if they did that, neither the landlord nor the incoming tenant would be aggrieved. The Amendment specified that the tenant would be entitled to sell the interest he had in unexhausted improvements, and the value of his unexpired term of the 15 years in which the rent could not be raised. His right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told them there was another interest beyond these, and that was the right of continued occupancy. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that the right of continued occupancy was something of value which they were conferring upon the tenant; but he disagreed with the right hon. Gentleman that that was something which the tenant ought to have the right to sell. He assumed that it was intended by the Bill to confer that right of uninterrupted occupancy not only on the present tenants, but on the tenants of Ireland present and future; but the result of allowing the present tenants to sell would be to take away from the future tenants the boon they were conferring by the Bill. It would be no boon at all if, while conferring it, on the one hand, upon the present tenant, they declared that it should be paid for by the future tenant. They did not propose that the present tenant should pay anything to the landlord for this right of continued occupancy; but they proposed that the man who succeeded him should pay for it, although the present tenant paid nothing. Now, it seemed to him that, while appearing to confer on the whole of the tenants of Ireland for the future the right of continued occupancy, they were taking away the value of the gift by saying to the incoming tenant—"You shall pay for it when you come into possession of the holding." The right hon. Gentleman, in support of his position, used one argument which told conclusively against the Bill. Speaking of the payment the incoming tenant was to make to the outgoing tenant, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister said, with vigour and energy—"Why 1896 is it hard upon the incoming tenant that he should pay for a thing that which he is willing to pay for it?" A more conclusive argument against the principle of the Bill could not have been adduced. The necessity for the Bill was based upon the fact that the landlords were receiving, and the tenants paying, a higher rent than the one ought to receive and the other to pay; that there was such a land hunger, and such a desire to possess land and enter upon a farm, that the tenant was willing to pay any rent which might be demanded. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman was unwilling to allow freedom of contract to exist between the landlord and tenant. He would not allow the landlord to take the rent which the tenant was willing to pay; but the moment he came to deal with a contract between tenant and tenant, he threw all this argument over, and said—"The proper price for a tenant to pay and for a tenant to receive is what the outgoing tenant can get and the incoming tenant is willing to pay." Now, he (Mr. Ritchie) should like to know what difference there was in the two positions, so far as the tenant was concerned, whether the tenant paid a high rent to the landlord, or a low rent and a high premium to the outgoing tenant? The only difference was that the money, instead of going into the landlord's pocket in the shape of rent, went into that of the outgoing tenant in the shape of premium, and the incoming tenant paid rent to the owner as interest for the money he borrowed to pay the premium; and the position of the tenant was really worse, owing to the exorbitant interest he had to pay to the usurer. He held that if they were to allow free contract to exist the necessity for this Bill was done away with altogether. If the tenant was to be a free party to the contract, as between tenant and tenant, then there was no earthly reason why they should destroy the freedom of contract between him and his landlord. There was another argument used by the right hon. Gentleman in support of the position he took up, and that was the comparison which he made with reference to Ulster. They had heard, over and over again, comparisons made between the condition of Ulster and other parts of Ireland; but in Ulster tenant right had been bought and sold 1897 for generations. There was no question of conferring something new on the tenant, but something which had been bought and sold for a long series of years; therefore, there was no analogy between the two cases. It must be borne in mind, also, that the habits of the people were different from those in other parts of Ireland, and that there were manufacturing and other interests in Ulster which existed in no other part of Ireland. But even in Ulster tenant right was not unrestricted, as was proposed by this Bill. The proposal in the Bill was that the sale of tenant right between tenant and tenant should be unrestricted. ["No, no!"] Then, all he had to say was that that was a feature of the Bill he had failed to understand. He wished to point out that in Ulster the tenant right had been by no means unrestricted. If this Bill did what it professed to do, two things were necessary. Some definition must be laid down as to what it was the tenant had to sell, and in that definition the question of quiet possession should be entirely excluded, or else they were conferring an immense boon on the present tenantry, but no boon on the future tenantry of Ireland. He trusted, if the right hon. Gentleman would not accept the proposal which had been made by his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Assheton Cross), that he would indicate some means by which the tenant's interest might be defined, and that he would be prepared to support the proposal that it should not be free sale in the open market; but that there should be some kind of tribunal to settle the price between the outgoing tenant and the incoming tenant, so that the incoming tenant should not lose a great part of the benefit intended to be conferred on him by the Bill.
I never said a single word in favour of an absolutely unrestricted tenant right; but we shall come to that point by-and-bye, and then it will be seen whether the Government are in favour of unrestricted tenant right or not. The sole question now has reference to the propriety of attempting to define tenant right.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
said, there could be no doubt whatever that the effect of the Act of 1870, as far as the South of Ireland was concerned, was to create a tenant right, or some sort of 1898 right of occupancy. He challenged contradiction on that point, and he contended that a great majority of the tenants in Cork and Kerry were now in possession of a right which some people valued at seven years' purchase, and some at 10 years. They were in possession of a certain right totally irrespective of improvements, and the question was whether Parliament was going to take away that right, or to allow the tenant to sell it. Judge Longfield, who was originally an opponent of tenant right, starting from the Act of 1870, and viewing the matter in the light of coming legislation after an experience of 10 years of the working of the Act of 1870, said that that Act did give to every tenant a certain qualified right of occupation and security to enjoy it at a fair rent. Judge Longfield went on to say that, having given that right, the right of free sale followed as a matter of course. The learned Judge argued, and, in his opinion, most conclusively, that of all the "three F's" the right of free sale was the one that injured the landlord least and conferred the greatest benefit upon the tenants generally. How was the right worked in Ulster? He would quote the evidence of Mr. Vernon, one of the largest land agents in Ireland. He was asked by Sir John Leslie—Are not these large sums so much capital subtracted from what the tenant ought to have in order to manage the farm properly?The answer was—Perhaps it is; but look at your own county of Monaghan. A man pays the fee simple of the land for the right of occupation, and still he will thrive.Sir John Leslie asked no further questions. The late Major D'Alton was examined in reference to land belonging to Lord Headfort in one county where the tenant right was worth 18 years' purchase, and land in another county where there was no tenant right allowed, the tenants being of the same class in each county. He was asked which tenants were the most prosperous, and his reply was—The tenants of the county of Cavan, who paid 18 years' purchase for tenant right, are more prosperous than those who have paid nothing.On being asked to account for it, he said that he could account for it in no other way than that there existed a sense of 1899 quasi-ownership—in other words, a security similar to that proposed to be created by the present Bill.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
thought it might not be inconvenient at that point to say a few words with reference to an Amendment standing in his name. He ventured to think that the word "tenancy," as it was used in line 8, could scarcely stand with the definition of the term "tenancy" in Clause 44. The words in line 8 of Clause 1 were "may sell his tenancy;" but the definition of the term in Clause 44 was—'Tenancy' means the interest in a holding of a tenant and his successors in title during the continuance of a tenancy.He (Mr. Staveley Hill) said that definition could not apply generally to the term "tenancy," as used throughout the Bill; indeed, the Government had already altered it in the first line of the present clause by substituting for the word "tenancy" the word "holding." Now, if the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would look at that part of the 3rd clause where the word "tenancy" occurred, he would find the words "beginning of such tenancy." The word "tenancy" could scarcely be used there, because it was the beginning of his occupancy that was really referred to. Again, at the end of the 4th clause, page 5, line 21, the word "tenancy" was also used in a sense inconsistent with the definition contained in Clause 44. It was clear that the words "provided that the rent of any tenancy" could not mean the rent of the "interest," but the rent of the occupancy; and, therefore, the word "tenancy" in this instance, as also in Clause 3, could not stand with the definition as given in Clause 44. It would be better to stick to the meaning of "tenancy" as Johnson defined it, "the temporary possession of that which belongs to another," and not to give it a new sense as a vox artis. It was obvious that the right hon. Gentleman and himself, upon the wording of the Bill, differed as to what it was that might be sold; and, although he agreed with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaumaris (Mr. Morgan Lloyd) that this was not the proper part of the Bill in which the Committee should say what it was the tenant had to sell, and he, therefore, could not support the Amendment now before the Committee, as he thought 1900 that no words should come in here which would at all prejudge the great questions which they would leave to decide in Clause 7, still he thought that they might with propriety indicate that he might sell his improvements and any right he had gained. On the other hand, he did not think the Committee ought to preclude a future definition by adopting the words "sell his tenancy;" and, therefore, he suggested that it would be better to substitute for them the words "may sell any interest he has in his tenancy."
§ MR. GIVAN
said, the matter involved in the Amendment before the Committee appeared to him to lie in a nut-shell. The question was whether the tenant had the right of free sale of whatever interest he had in his holding, and the first test was to ascertain what was his interest in the holding. By the 1st section of the Land Act of 1870 it was provided that the tenant should have the interest known as the Ulster tenant right, custom, or usage subject to certain limitations. It was clear from the observations which had fallen from the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) that the object of some of the Amendments which had been placed on the Paper by hon. Gentlemen opposite was to introduce into this clause a wording which would enable landlords hereafter to place some restrictions upon what the tenant had to sell. He pointed out to the Committee that it had been the practice on some estates to institute office rules, many of which were not in existence before the Act of 1870, and that these had gone on increasing in stringency until the benefit conferred by the Act had been in many cases cut away altogether. Now, if there was one thing more than another upon which the Irish people had set their hearts, it was the total abolition of office rules, and every unreasonable and local restriction upon the right of free sale. It was the power of selling what was known as the Ulster tenant right which made the tenant right so valuable, and had contributed so much to the prosperity of the Province of Ulster, and it was the want of that which made it indispensable in the Act of 1870 to give the tenant the benefit of the provisions contained in the 3rd clause—that was to say, the right to compensation in case of disturbance. The Compensation Clause of the Act of 1901 1870 was, therefore, the equivalent given to the other Provinces for the Ulster tenant right. And if the tenants in the Province of Ulster had profited under the right of free sale, surely the tenants in the other Provinces were entitled to sell the right given to them by the Act of 1870. If the tenants of Ulster had the right of free sale of their holdings, why, he asked, should the tenants of the rest of Ireland be placed in a worse position under the present Bill by taking away from them the right of free sale in respect of the equivalent given to them by the Act of 1870? He contended that no such power ought to be given to the landlord. The effect of this Bill would be the taking away of those dishonest and improper restrictions which landlords had put upon tenants in the way of cutting down their tenant right; and, therefore, it appeared to him that the wording of the clause was wholly unobjectionable. There was no tenant in Ireland who had not some kind of interest to sell, and the clause simply implied that it might be sold. He thought the only proper way of dealing with this matter in order to give the tenant that free right which he was so anxiously looking for, and in order to take from the landlord the temptation of introducing office rules and thereby causing irritation to the tenants on his estate, was to allow the explicit language of the clause to remain without alteration.
§ MR. GREGORY
thought that some alteration of the wording of the clause was needed. That had been admitted, to a certain extent, by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Law), who had substituted the word "holding" for that of "tenancy;" and he (Mr. Gregory) thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman might have gone a little further in the same direction, because, after Clause 44 had defined "tenancy" to be "the interest in a holding of a tenant," it went on to say "and his successors in title." There could be no doubt that the Bill did contemplate a succession of interests in the present holding; and, therefore, if the Committee agreed to the word "tenancy" standing in the clause, they would be admitting the principle of succession, which would have to be discussed hereafter. Some qualification was therefore necessary, and he thought that necessary qualification would be 1902 best introduced by adopting the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Staffordshire (Mr. Staveley Hill).
§ MR. H. DAVEY
said, it appeared to him that, under the guise of an Amendment for the purpose of making clear the meaning of the Bill, the Committee were asked to agree to a restriction of that right of free sale which it was the object of the Bill to give to the tenant. For his part, he saw no necessity for giving any further definition than was contained in the Bill of that which the tenant was to sell. His answer to the question—"What is it that the tenant has to sell?" would be—"He is to sell whatever he has got." The object of the clause was not to define the interest of the tenant, but to allow him to make a free sale of his tenancy, whatever his tenancy might be. Further definition was, therefore, unnecessary. For his own part, he found no difficulty in defining that which the tenant had to sell. He would endeavour, as well as he could, to follow the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Assheton Cross) in discussing what it was that the tenant had to sell. The right hon. Gentleman had stated, with perfect accuracy, that the tenant, before the Act of 1870, was a tenant from year to year. But it appeared to him (Mr. Davey) that when the right hon. Gentleman made that statement, he omitted a very material factor in what constituted the interest of the tenant before the passing of the Act of 1870. Because, not only was he a tenant from year to year, but he was a tenant from year to year with the reasonable expectation that he would be continued in his tenancy; and he (Mr. Davey) regarded that reasonable expectation as just as a valuable incident to the legal right to his farm. That reasonable expectation was founded on a deep-rooted tradition, and on a sentiment which pervaded the entire Irish people, which few landlords could afford to ignore, and which most landlords did, in fact, recognize. The Committee would remember the strong terms in which the Report of the Bessborough Commission spoke of that deep-rooted tradition and that sentiment which pervaded the whole Irish people, that a man in the possession of land, so long as he continued to comply with the terms of his tenancy, had a right to continue to occupy it. It was 1903 therefore necessary to look facts in the face, and admit that what the tenant had, even before the passing of the Land Act of 1870, was something more than a mere tenancy from year to year. He felt sure the experience of the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) would confirm the statement that in cases of claims for compensation in London the resonable expectation of being continued in occupancy had been treated as ground for compensation. A great deal had been said by hon. Members opposite by way of comment on the language used by the Prime Minister in the course of the debates upon the Land Act of 1870; but it appeared to him (Mr. Davey) quite irrelevant to consider whether in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman, especially when divorced from the context and the circumstances under which they were spoken, there might not be found some inconsistency. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the Land Act of 1870 did not confer any new estate or interest on the tenant, but was intended merely to protect that estate and interest which he had already, in his opinion, described exactly what was the object and effect of that Act, inasmuch as it gave a legislative recognition to that reasonable expectation on the part of the tenant of being continued in his tenancy. It also gave, as far as the compensation clauses went, a statutory protection to that interest. What the tenant had to sell, then, would be his position as tenant from year to year, coupled with his "reasonable expectation;" and when the right to sell this interest was proposed to be given to him, why should it be said—"We will give you the right to sell part of your interest, but not that part which is the most valuable?" Therefore, as he had before pointed out, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Assheton Cross), in moving the Amendment before the Committee, omitted to give consideration to a fact which was one of the most material elements in this discussion. He held that the neglect of that sentiment referred to in the Report of the Bessborough Commission lay at the root of all agrarian crime in Ireland. It was the fact that this tradition and sentiment existed, and that the reasonable expectation founded upon it had been disregarded, that presented to his mind the most 1904 ample justification of the legislation in which they were then engaged; and, therefore, if it became necessary to consider what it was that the tenant had to sell, it was impossible to leave out his reasonable expectation of being continued in his tenancy. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) had argued that the Bill would take away a portion of the landlord's interest merely to give it to the future occupant; but to that he (Mr. Davey) replied, that the experience derived from the operation of the Ulster Custom showed that this was not so. The hon. Member also asked what difference did it make to the occupier whether he paid in the form of increased rent, or in the form of purchase money? It appeared to him (Mr. Davey) that the difference lay in the fact that in one case the tenant paid for something which became his own property, while, in the other, he paid an annual charge for nothing beyond the annual enjoyment. It was the payment by the incoming tenant to the outgoing tenant which gave a sense of property to the tenant, and it was the want of this which was said to lie at the root of the discontent in Ireland. It made a very great difference to a man whether he paid for something in the nature of property which he could sell, or whether he paid simply in the form of rent to the landlord. The unearned increment upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire had addressed the Committee was a subject of extreme interest. He (Mr. Davey) had no doubt in his own mind that the idea of the tenant's getting the whole of that increment was perfectly illusory. There could be no doubt that in the case of a tenant with a statutory term the landlord would, at the expiration of such term, be able to reap a portion of the unearned increment. The unearned increment would be divided proportionately between the landlord and the tenant, according as the tenant was an ordinary tenant or a tenant under this Act. On the whole, he regarded the definition attempted to be given in the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman as both insufficient and inaccurate, and he was of opinion that the Committee would do well not to define exactly what the tenant might sell. The intention of the clause was that he should sell his tenancy, and 1905 better words than those could not be inserted. What the term "his tenancy" included might be a matter about which theoretical political economists would dispute; but the tenant's occupancy of the land, with all the incidents which attached to it by common law, custom, or statute, was what the tenant had to sell.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I must say, Sir, that this discussion, and not least the speech of the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down (Mr. Davey), have gone far to justify the terms of the Amendment put upon the Paper by the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners), in which this Bill was referred to as calculated to confuse, without settling, the relations between landlords and tenants in Ireland. In what condition those relations will ultimately be left it is difficult to conceive. I understand the point to be this—we are called upon to provide that the tenant shall be at liberty, freely, or subject to certain conditions, to sell his interest; and we want to know what that interest is. It is obvious that if you leave that uncertain you will be in great difficulty. If the tenant is only to sell the improvements which he has actually effected, no other condition is necessary than that you should have a fair and proper valuation of those improvements. But if he is to sell something more than those improvements, we ought to know what it is, so that both parties should understand the rights about to be created and the interests which will come into existence. What is to be the nature of the right of the tenant to sell? We do not find that either in this clause, or in any clear form in Clause 44, where we might have expected to meet with a definition which would enable us to know precisely what this new thing was that the tenant had to sell. We have had this evening an intimation from the Prime Minister which was something to this effect—you have at present to consider about giving the right to sell; but if there is any question as to what is to be sold we can settle that hereafter. That is really leaving the matter in a very curious position, particularly when it is coupled with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, made a few nights ago, when asked to lay upon the Table of the House the Amendments he was 1906 about to move to Clause 7—that the Committee could not deal with Clause 7 until they had dealt with Clause 1. We find ourselves quite unable to understand what it is that the Government propose to do in order to clear up this state of uncertainty. I think it is desirable, in the interest of both parties, that these matters should be made perfectly clear, because, as I presume, the object of this legislation is to prevent quarrels and disputes, to clear up the rights of parties, and to diminish litigation. We have, however, to thank the hon. and learned Member for Christchurch (Mr. Davey) for cutting the Gordian knot. He said—"The tenant is to be at liberty to sell whatever he has got." I will not attempt to say whether or not that solution is satisfactory—it is the old rule "that those should take who have the power, and those should keep who can." This, as it seems to me, is the point at issue—what is it that the man has got?—in all these quarrels, litigations, and outrages. The landlord says—"This is not your property, it is mine." The tenant says—"It is not. I have possession; you cannot turn me out without infringing my rights." If we are to leave the matter as it stands we are thrown back on the solution of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Christchurch, and in that case I cannot help thinking that the last state of Ireland is worse than the first. But I cling to the hope that before we get to the end of the Bill a definition of a more intelligible character will be arrived at. If you do not like the definition of my right lion. Friend (Sir R. Assheton Cross) let us take yours. We should prefer to have any definition that is clear to being left without any definition at all.
MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
said, that in expressing difficulty in understanding what was the interest of the tenant, which this section dealt with, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) spoke as if, with all respect to him, he had not studied even the elements of the question. He appeared not to have in his mind the pronouncement of the Devon Commission of 1845, which, although it did recognize the existing state of affairs in Ireland, did not recommend legislation with reference to them. It, however, did, in plain terms, assert what was reiterated in the Report of the Bess- 1907 borough Commission, that there had long been a practical assumption in dealings relating to land in Ireland of a joint proprietorship. That meant that the very thing which the right hon. Gentleman opposite ignored was in accord with the prevailing sentiment and practice both in and out of Ulster. No doubt the Act of 1870 was a bold effort of statesmanship, but still, as he (Mr. Charles Russell) thought, an imperfect mode of dealing with the Land Question in Ireland. It did, to a certain extent, recognize that interest of the tenant by providing a scale of compensation for disturbance, which, by putting a check on the right of eviction, gave to the occupying, tenant an increased reasonable expectancy of occupation in his holding; nevertheless, he had thought, and continued to think, that the Act did not go far enough. He was glad to find that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister declined to commit himself to a definition of the tenant's interest. He wished the Committee to mark this, that "interest" was something more than interest in unexhausted improvements—it was that "legal recognition" for which they who represented Irish constituencies contended. What was the state of things as regarded this goodwill? The hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan)—and no one knew the actual working of the matter better than he did—had said that even in Ulster it was interfered with, to some extent, by office rules. The result was that the tenant was uncertain as to what his interest might be—he might be allowed to realize it, and he might not be allowed to do so; whereas, if he could sell to his neighbour, who might be a stronger man than himself, he would not go out of his holding a dependent, but with some money in his pocket and with a career before him. The landlord was sufficiently protected by his right of pre-emption. The best answer that could be given to the arguments against the right of free sale was the practical answer that in the part of the country where the highest prices were paid by the incoming to the outgoing tenants there the greatest prosperity prevailed. Why was that? It was because the heart of this matter was not merely a question of rent, but a question of security; and because a man who had paid, it might be, an extravagant price to come into possession of 1908 the holding, worked with a property in it, and with a sense of security. The result was that the question of rent was often of comparatively little importance; and he would add this, as following from it, that the greater security the tenant enjoyed, the greater security the landlord had for the collection of his rent. The noble Lord the Member for Barnstaple (Viscount Lymington) had pointed out, very clearly, how this tended to the security of the landlord. It was because the money paid by the incoming tenant was a security for arrears of rent, and a security against waste on the farm. The man who paid to come in, and had invested his all in the farm, would struggle as though it were a matter of life and death to make due payment. Money was not the only capital; energy was capital; bone and sinew, and the energy to struggle manfully for an existence, were often the best capital. On those grounds, he submitted this was not an Amendment which ought to be accepted. Let those who voted on the question clearly understand that the object of the Amendment was to cut out of the Bill that which the Irish people strongly desired, and that which the needs of the country strongly required.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he did not wish unnecessarily to prolong the discussion, and his Amendment was intended for the purpose of facilitating the proceedings of the Committee rather than the reverse. He had understood the Prime Minister, when he (Sir R. Assheton Cross) had asked the right hon. Gentleman about the Amendment on Clause 7, to say that this matter would be postponed until that clause was reached. He should like to see what the Amendment on Clause 7 would be; and if, on consideration of the merits, he could see his way to accepting it, he would not press his proposal. If he could be sure that the question could be dealt with in the Government Amendment on Clause 7, he should be happy to withdraw his proposal.
It certainly seems to me at present, Sir, that we shall not gain anything by endeavouring exhaustively to define "tenant right." That is the impression of Her Majesty's Government. We believe that tenant right consists of the interests of a man in his occupancy, and our impression is that 1909 we cannot mend the matter by defining it. The right hon. Gentleman will certainly lose nothing by the course he proposes to take, because it is plain that he will have a legitimate opportunity of making his proposal when we come to the Interpretation Clause.
wished to point out in one word that some hon. Members on that (the Conservative) side of the House seemed to be in a complete state of ignorance as to what took place in Ireland. They wished to save the incoming tenant; but they forgot that it was the invariable practice for that tenant to pay a fine to the landlord. ["No, no!"] He said "Yes, yes." The practical effect of the Bill would be to give the outgoing tenant money which was now pocketed by the landlord. There seemed to be intense curiosity as to what it was the tenant had to sell; and he would suggest that this matter should be left to the purchaser, for they might depend upon it that if there was nothing to sell there would not be a buyer.
§ MR. A. MOORE
said, his experience was very different to that of the hon. Member for Tralee (the O'Donoghue). Very large sums of money were in many cases passing from tenant to tenant. This happened sometimes openly, and with the consent of the landlord; sometimes it was restricted and forbidden; but, all the same, the money was passing. It sometimes happened in case of a marriage that the man paid a large sum of money to the father or mother of the bride to obtain the occupancy of a farm; and, in a thousand ways, these valuable considerations were passing. They were passing under the sanction of the Civil Bill Courts, and under the sanction of the Court of Chancery. A learned Judge, who administered the estates of lunatics and so on, had stated in evidence that he permitted it. This Bill would give the tenant a very substantial and tangible interest, which it would be a great hardship to prevent him from selling. It was said that the passing of these large sums of money would be found, in the course of time, to oust the interest of the landlord, and the reply to that was that practical experience in Ulster showed the very opposite. In conclusion, he would point out that free sale was very much desired by many landlords, as it would enable them 1910 to get rid of insolvent and unsatisfactory tenants. It was all very well to bring companies of soldiers to carry out ejectments; but they could not always enforce the payment of arears of rent by such means.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, that many references had been made to the Ulster Custom and its practical working. Well, he believed that they could raise that question much better on the next Amendment, which related to the tenant being permitted to sell at the best price. He had heard of one of the largest estates in Ulster, which, he believed, was rented at below Griffith's valuation, on which tenants had asked for 50 per cent reduction on their rents. He (Lord George Hamilton) had inquired the reason for the demand, and had found the answer in a very temperate and able letter written by one of the tenants in The Belfast News Letter. The claim was as distinct as it could be, and was to this effect—"I pay a certain sum for tenant right on a certain farm, and the money is my property, and unless I can get that money back the rent is too high." When hon. Gentlemen stated that tenant right did not interfere with the payment of rent, that was one fact they should bear in mind. A Paper had been issued, showing the number of ejectments in Ireland, and he was sorry to see that those which took place in Ulster far outnumbered those in other parts of the country.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
contended that there was every reason for defining accurately the tenant's interest, because a little later on they came to a clause which stated that, under certain circumstances, the Court might be called upon to fix the price of the tenant's interest; but how, he would ask, could the Court fix the price if the interest was not defined? Were they going to ask the Court to define something which they were unwilling or unable to define themselves? There appeared to him to be the strongest possible reason for defining the tenant's interest in his farm; and for that object and for this reason, before this clause was disposed of, he should certainly propose an Amendment.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he did not wish to enter into any argument upon the question, but desired to ask the Government, as a step towards further clauses, 1911 to clearly define in Clause 1 what they considered to be the tenant's interest in his holding. This seemed to him to be a very simple question, and one the Government should give a sufficient answer to. What they had heard from the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland was no answer at all. What was the tenants "reasonable expectation?"
said, that the large number of evictions which had taken place in Ulster had been referred to; but those evictions could be easily explained. In other parts of Ireland the tenants were not entitled to sell, and the only thing they had was compensation for disturbance. In the North of Ireland, however, they had the right to sell, which was a right worth a good deal of money. When the rent was over due, the landlord had no compunction whatever in selling out his tenant. ["No, no!"] If the rent was not paid the tenant must go out. He sold his holding, he was compelled to sell it, and out of the interest due to him he paid the landlord his rent.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, that, as had been stated in evidence, there existed in some parts of the South of Ireland that which, to all intents and purposes, was equivalent to the Ulster Custom. He was glad to take that opportunity of saying that he believed that custom had never been interfered with. The discussion had perfectly convinced him—even if his mind had not been made up—that it was a very great mistake for the Government not to attempt, simply and boldly, to say in the Bill what the measure was—what ought to be found in it, and what ought not. He believed it conferred on the tenants of Ireland a very valuable right, giving not merely a reasonable expectation, but something more—it enabled them to continue undisturbed in the occupation of their holding, so long as they fulfilled certain statutory conditions. That went quite two—fifths of the way towards giving what had been sometimes called the "three F's," and sometimes "perpetuity of tenure." The great misfortune of the position they were in was that, although these things were in the Bill, the Government would not acknowledge that such was the case. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland came for- 1912 ward and said that that was not "perpetuity of tenure," but that it was "continuity of occupation"—
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, he should be sorry to misrepresent the right hon. and learned Gentleman; but he had actually taken down the words which had been used. Between perpetuity of tenure and continuity of occupation he failed to see any difference; but perhaps an Irish lawyer might. He had voted for the second reading of the Bill, because it contained an admission of that which he had always believed in in regard to small tenants in Ireland—namely, that in regard to holdings below a certain amount in value they could not maintain freedom of contract or anything of that kind. He believed that in the case of tenancies above a certain value they might leave everything to freedom of contract; but with regard to small tenants, it was necessary to give them a certain determined right, and a certain determined interest, such as existed in Ulster. That interest the right hon. and learned Gentleman had attempted to define as "continuity of occupation." He (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice), however, did not shrink from defining the tenant's interest as the right or custom of yearly tenants to continue in undisturbed possession, so long as they acted properly as tenants and paid their rents. This was what he believed to be the tenant's interest in Ulster; and he regretted that Her Majesty's Government, instead of giving them this confused and involved measure, had not plucked up their courage and given boldly that which was undoubtedly in the Bill. Although they gave those rights in the Bill, they gave them in such a confused manner that the peasant on the Kerry mountains, of whom he knew something, would have very great difficulty in understanding that they had given him anything at all. Therefore, their measure, although framed with very great trouble, might fail of the beneficial effect they wished it to possess.
I must remind the Committee that the Question before it is—"Is it your pleasure that the Amendment be withdrawn?" If it is 1913 not your pleasure such discussion as we have had is quite legitimate.
§ MR. R. H. PAGET
said, they had a right to ask Her Majesty's Government what this thing was that was to be sold by the tenant. Let it be little, or let it be much, whatever it was it should be clearly explained to them. If the measure left the House in its—
I did not give it as a ruling; but, finding that the discussion was a very long one, I reminded the Committee of what the Question really was.
§ MR. R. H. PAGET
said, he wished to refer to what had fallen from the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), who had complained, with great justice, that the interest of the tenant had been left undefined in the Act of 1870. One hon. Member after another had been obliged to admit that one of the great causes of the present difficulty was that the Act of 1870 had left things in a state of confusion. No doubt something was given, or intended to be given; but that something was not defined. He ventured to say, without contradiction, that if the Bill left that House in its present state, indefinite and uncertain, it would prove no more a settlement of the question than the Act of 1870. That Act failed because the House did not know what it gave, and if it was intended to give something the House ought to know what it was.
§ MR. WARTON
regretted that the Amendment was about to be withdrawn, because the more time was spent in getting from the Government something like a clear statement as to what was really to be given to the tenant, the more would the way be smoothed. Nothing was obtained from the Government but confused and indistinct statements. One evening the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Law) used the word "deduction," and the next official disavowed it. There had never been one decided statement, and he (Mr. Warton) believed the Government intended to leave the matter in confusion in order that the country should not know what it was that was taken from the landlord and given to the tenant.
1914 He warned that Government that the Bill would go to "another place."
§ MR. WARTON
said, there seemed to be a determination on the other side to prevent discussion. He was giving the Government a friendly warning, in order that they might avoid a collision between the two Houses. They wanted to provoke a collision, and in such a way that they should get the best of it; but the way to prevent that was to send the Bill to "another place" with a clear definition. To send it up in a confused state, so that the country would see that one House refused to have a clear definition, while the other wanted it, would not be to the interest of the Government. There were men in "another place" who would give a clear definition to the object of the Bill. In 1870 something was taken away, and the Government were now going to take something more away. The Prime Minister had said that, in addition to the value of his improvements, the tenant was entitled to something else, he having paid the competition rent. It was put somewhat in this way. First, there was the land hunger, and it was assumed that that existed on every farm in Ireland. There might be places where it did not prevail; but supposing it did exist, and the competition rent of a farm was forced up from £400 to £500, then, as he understood the Premier, if a tenant paid £100 more than the farm was worth, that would give him a property in the farm. He should say it should be the other way; but the object of the Bill was to give every tenant, whether he paid a fair rent—or on some properties more or less than the value—something else. This iron rule was to be applied alike to the Ulster tenants and to others; and the man who had not paid was to be put in the same position as the man who had. Then there was another thing, the desire to benefit present tenants only. Present tenants were to be benefited; but the Government cared nothing about the landlords or the future tenants. That was why the Bill was a premium to agitation.
§ LORD ELCHO
thought the Committee was etitled to have a clear definition from 1915 the Government, for they could not legislate without knowing the meaning and intention of the Government. He trusted the Government would reconsider the matter, and before the clause passed say clearly what they considered to be the tenant's interest, which, in fixing the rent, the Court would have to take into account.
§ MR. BIGGAR
thought the Mover and supporters of the Amendment were more or less unreasonable; because, if the Amendment was carried, it would take away something which the Act of 1870 gave. At the same time, he thought the opponents of the Amendment had some cause for complaint against the Government, for the Government seemed to leave a great deal to chance; and he would suggest to them, as much for the satisfaction of the friends of the tenant as of those of the landlord, to be a little more clear in their definitions with regard to some parts of the Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
said, he did not propose to make a speech upon his Amendment; but he proposed in page 1, line 8, to leave out the word "his" and insert the words "any interest he has in such," and so make the clause simpler to the end of it. He believed his Amendment would be a clearer definition, and would do more justice than the clause as it stood.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 8, to leave out "his," and insert "any interest he has in such."—(Mr. Staveley Hill.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'his' stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, the proposed words were quite unnecessary, and explained that "tenancy," according to the Definition Clause, meant the interest the tenant had in his holding. It was more convenient to use one than half-a-dozen words, and the Bill had been framed with a view to using the word "tenancy" throughout. The change was at most only a verbal one, and he should prefer to retain the words in the clause.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
thought "interest" was very little longer than "tenancy;" but after what the right hon. and learned Gentleman had said 1916 he would not put the Committee to the trouble of dividing.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
pointed out that the words proposed by his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Staveley Hill) were used in Clause 7, and he thought they might be used in Clause 1.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
proposed, as an Amendment, to leave out, in page 1, line 8, the words "for the best price that can be got for the same." It was one thing to tell a man to sell something which was not defined; but it was not necessary to add "the best price to be got for the same." He thought that was going too far, and the words were also contradictory, because further on in the clause it would be seen that, under certain circumstances, the highest possible price could not be obtained. If a landlord wished to make use of his pre-emptive right, he would have to go to the Court to fix the price. The Court would naturally fix a fair and just price between the parties, and it would be contradictory for the tenant to say he would get a higher price, and that the Bill said he was to get the best price he could. He would be dissatisfied, and his confidence in the Court would be shaken. He did not wish to go over the question of what tenant right was; but it was almost impossible to avoid doing so, because the Bill was so much involved. The Prime Minister had invariably said the tenant right was to be limited. But how? It might be limited by a clause saying the tenant might sell this or that; but they must restrict the price. He had never been able to find out what the interest was; and there should be some principle by which the landlord and the Court and everybody concerned could know what they had to deal with. The landlord would think it hard if the pre-emptive clause forced him to pay the highest price to be got in the market—namely, a fancy price for a fictitious value. He believed, as the Bill proceeded, it would be necessary to introduce some restrictions; but it was unwise to hamper themselves at the beginning by saying "the highest price to be obtained." It was sufficient to say the tenant might sell. There was another point worthy of attention. The tenants in Ireland had always been easily misled; they 1917 never cared to study Acts of Parliament, and the very 1st clause of this Bill, telling them to get the highest price, would lead them to imagine themselves with their pockets full of money. The hon. and gallant Member concluded by moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 8, to leave out from the word "for," to the word "same." in line 9.—(Captain Aylmer.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'for' stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. MACFARLANE
thought the Amendment involved almost a truism. The object of the Amendment was to prevent the Bill from saying that the tenant should sell for the best price. He did not think it at all necessary to say that, because the tenant would sell for the best price he could get, and the Amendment was only a verbal one, which it was not worth while to discuss at any length. The tenant would not sell except for the best price, and it was a matter of little practical importance whether the words were left in or not. He hoped the hon. and gallant Member would withdraw the Amendment.
§ MR. LITTON
observed, that the Amendment must be taken in connection with other Amendments on the Paper, which were limited to the right of free sale. The way to look at it was this. The Ulster Custom was originally an unrestricted right of free sale; but recently it had been restricted by office rules. The first lines of the Bill contained a declaration that the tenant should sell for the best price. That recognized the right of the tenant to get the best price; but if these words were struck out, that would enable the landlord to come in and say—"You may sell, but we will restrict the price." The words could do no harm, and he hoped they would be retained.
§ MR. R. H. PAGET
said, that having an Amendment very much to the same effect as this, he would state the reasons why he thought the words should be omitted. He did not object that the words were too indefinite; on the contrary, they definitely stated that the price for which the article was to be sold was to be the very best price. They defined that only too well, because they established an inconsistency with sub- 1918 section 3 of the clause, according to which, in certain cases of disagreement as to the price, the price was to be settled by the Court; and if the words "the best price" remained in the Bill it would be clearly held in Court, when the Court was called upon to decide the value of a tenancy for sale, that the principle of assessment and value had been laid down in the Act. There would be no limitation, and whatever the tenant had to sell, he was to get the "best price" for it; and it would become a nice question whether the Court would have to define, not only what it was that the tenant had to sell, but what the best price was to be. If the price was to be defined as the best price, what would he the best price? The open unrestricted market price. He wanted to understand where they were in this matter. There were many reasons for omitting these words. He recognized to the fullest extent the Ulster Custom—not because he approved of the theory of tenant right, but because the system had grown up and he was not going to disturb it. But they were dealing now with cases in the South of Ireland where there was no such custom; they were dealing with a number of cases in parts where all kinds of habits and customs were in vogue. It was said that in many cases estates were managed on the English principle, and improvements were made by the landlord and not by the tenant. One of the great difficulties of the Bill was that it proposed to proceed on one system with regard to all kinds of tenancies. Suppose a tenant had entered a holding without paying anything, and in a few years, without having made any improvements, he desired to leave and to sell his interest, what sort of interest could he be considered to have created? He had made no improvements and spent no money on the farm; and yet, according to the Bill, he would be enabled to sell for the best price that to which he had no legal right by any action of his own. That would establish, in such cases, a usage which had never before existed, and by which a tenant would obtain property to which he had not contributed one sou. There was another reason for the Amendment. They had been constantly assured that it was intended to deal out even-handed justice as between landlord and tenant. If the State thought fit to restrain the 1919 authority of the landlord and prevent him from dealing in open market and getting the best price he could in the way of rent for his farm—and he was not contending against that principle, for it might be quite necessary to do so—even-handed justice demanded that if, on the one hand, they limited the interest of the landlord by preventing his going into open market, on the other hand they should limit the right of the tenant to go into open market. It seemed to him the commonest act of justice to treat the landlord and the tenant equally in this matter. But there was another reason, which he considered stronger still, for these words to be omitted. They were dealing with Ireland, unfortunately, in a state in which they would not wish to see it. Ireland's misfortunes existed, despite the fact that in the last few years many remedial measures had been passed with the object and intention of improving the condition of the people. If that was the condition of Ireland despite those Acts—he might almost say owing to those very Acts—
§ MR. BIGGAR
rose to Order, and asked whether the hon. Member (Mr. R. H. Paget) was speaking to the Amendment before the Committee?
§ MR. R H. PAGET
said, if the hon. Member for Cavan would have a few minutes' patience, he would see that the remarks had some bearing on the point. The Encumbered Estates Act had induced speculation and jobbing—
I am waiting to see whether the hon. Member (Mr. R. H. Paget) does make his remarks applicable to the Question.
§ MR. R. H. PAGET,
again resuming, said, he maintained that the Encumbered Estates Act had failed in a large measure, and was responsible for much of the present state of things in Ireland. He contended also that the Act of 1870 was likewise responsible, and that under that Act there had grown up exorbitant rents which had led to the present disturbances. Why did those two Acts fail? Because, in spite of them, extravagant rents had grown up, and there had been undue competition for land. Competition for land had caused the failure of those Acts; and he wished to 1920 prove that if the present Bill remained as it was, unamended in this particular respect, there would be the same competition and the same result. To give the tenant the power to get the best possible price would give rise with the most absolute certainty to this—step by step, as each successive occupier went into a holding, the amount of payment would be more and more heavy; that would continue, and although the landlord would be unable to get 6d. more of rent, the tenant would be unrestricted in selling his interest, and the value would go on increasing until the rents would be as exorbitant as ever. The term "the best price" might satisfy the present tenant, and the present landlord; but they alone were not to be considered. How would the Act affect the future tenants? He believed it would lead to those exorbitant rents which were one of the chief causes of Ireland's difficulties. But how as to the future landlord? If exorbitant rents existed in future, the tenants who paid them would never stop to consider that the landlord was not to blame; but that they were due to the fact that they themselves on entering tenancies paid extravagant prices for what they bought. If the story of landhunger was true; if men would still continue to commit the folly of bidding against each other, and paying for occupation a great deal more than it was worth, what would be the inevitable result? The successful competitor would be launched by his success on the high road to ruin, and his only possible escape would be to sell to some equally deluded purchaser. With their experience it would be madness to deal only with present landlords and present tenants. Everybody wished to restore peace and prosperity to Ireland; and if they took a lesson from the past, and applied that to the present difficulties, they might hope for a happier future for Ireland. But if these words were left he believed they would have but one effect—to prepare for Ireland a certain future of exorbitant rents. He hoped the appeal to the Government would not be vain on this point. There was nothing in the Amendment out of harmony with the principle of the Bill. The principle of the Bill was not absolutely uudiluted free sale. It was conditional free sale, and the object of the Amendment he proposed to 1921 move was to infuse into that free sale the principle of justice. He believed it would secure the fullest right to the tenant without injury to the landlord.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, that with regard to these Amendments by English Members, he would suggest that inasmuch as this was a Bill entirely affecting Irish Members, it would be well if English Members abstained from taking part in the discussion. As to the particular Amendment before the Committee, he hoped the Government would not agree to it, and for this reason, that, after all, the best test of the value of any article was what it would fetch in the open market. It was very desirable the clause should remain unchanged. Provision was made in a subsequent part of the clause that the holding might be taken into the possession of the landlord, and if these words were struck out, there would be nothing to show what the landlord was to give. It was argued that tenants were very likely to give too high a price for a holding, and that they might impoverish themselves. Hon. Members who argued in this way forgot that in most of these cases the tenants probably had money lying in various banks and bearing interest at 1 and 1½ per cent, and, taking that into account, it would be found that although a very large number of years' purchase might be given, the price could not be called exorbitant. No tangible reason had been given for the acceptance of the Amendment.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, the Amendment now before the Committee was to strike out certain words which either had or had not any meaning. He believed they had a distinct meaning, and therefore he was disposed to support the Amendment. What was the condition of the tenantry of Ireland contrasted with those who wished to become tenants? Speaking roughly, he might say there were some 600,000 men at present in the occupation of land, and there were some 400,000 who wished to become tenants. Now, the clause as it stood gave an enormous advantage to the 600,000 at the expense of the 400,000. The whole measure was supported upon the idea that the "land hunger" was so great that the tenants must be protected against the landlords. But what class of Irishmen were most possessed of this hunger? Was it that 1922 class already in the occupation of land, or that class who were not in occupation, but who wished to become so; and which class was most deserving of the protection of the Legislature? Why, clearly the latter, and not the former. The clause as it stood was entirely in favour of the existing race of tenant farmers, and against the 400,000 who wished to become tenants. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), following the lead of the Prime Minister the other night, defended the clause as at present framed, on the ground that after all a bargain made in the open market was the best. If there was anything just in the principle of the Bill, it was ten times more just to limit the purchase-money which was to be paid by these most dependent people in Ireland to the men who were now in possession. It seemed to him the Bill, as drawn, was nothing more or less than one huge bribe to the men in occupation. These men were a very powerful class politically; but it was said that socially and morally they were without power. It was a great bribe to this class at the expense of their landlords on the one side, and against the interests of the incoming tenants or would-be tenants of Ireland, who, politically speaking, were a powerless class on the other. The clause as now drawn was essentially unfair, and he should support the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Aylmer).
§ DR. LYONS
pointed out that the total number of occupiers of agricultural holdings in Ireland was, on the authority of the Registrar General, not more than 576,040 in 1879, and, by the present Census, was shown to be not more than 523,609. What particular argument the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) chose to draw from the fact that there were 400,000 labourers in the position of expectant tenants, he (Dr. Lyons) was not able to see, because no one could conceive that the labourers of Ireland were in a position to replace in any considerable number the present tenant occupiers. It might be a very desirable thing at a later stage of the Bill to discuss whether additional provision should not be made to place a certain portion of the labouring class upon the waste lands. That was entirely beside the question at present. An absolute necessity existed 1923 for retaining the words in the clause, or for substituting some other words which should preserve to the occupying tenant the right of selling his holding. This was really one of the most vital and essential clauses of the whole Bill. For the first time for many centuries in this country the Legislature now proposed to recognize what anyone who took the trouble to inquire into the historical position of the Irish tenant must and could easily find out—namely, that the tenant had an undoubted right to the position which he at present occupied; that he was, in fact, the historical successor of the primary owner or occupier. He trusted the Government would see the absolute necessity of standing firm to this clause. There was no question whatever that the great expectation existing throughout Ireland was that there was now to be, not a confiscation, but a restoration of those rights to which the tenants firmly believed they were entitled by an unbroken tradition. Unless these traditional rights which the tenants had in their hearts, and which all the Commissions plainly showed really existed, and were habitually acted upon, were fully acknowledged, they would never be able to produce a condition of stable equilibrium in Ireland, or one that would give satisfaction to the Irish tenants. In point of fact, the right to an occupation, and a continuous transmission of occupation in Ireland, was far more clear and far more ancient in other Provinces in Ireland than it was in Ulster. In the Province of Ulster it dated from the reign of James I., while in the other Provinces it dated from periods earlier than the Desmond confiscations of property in the reign of Elizabeth. In many instances where large seignories were conferred upon the English settlers, it was only upon the conditions that they should plant the lands and establish a certain and defined number of tenants upon them, with a clearly determined acreage for each class of tenant. It was worthy of note that the Irish property so ably represented in that House by the noble Lord the Member for Barnstaple (Lord Lymington), and on which "free sale" existed with such happy results, as shown in the eloquent speech of his noble Friend, was held in direct descent from one of the original grantees of a seignory (Sir Henry Wallop). It was said that it was the Act of 1870 which first created an 1924 interest in the tenancies of Ireland. He believed that was a mistake, for that Act only went a short way, and it was simply a timorous step towards the recognition by the Legislature of a pre-existent right; and one reason why it did not give full satisfaction to the Irish tenants was that it did not recognize what they themselves knew very well from tradition to be the fact—namely, the right they had to continuous residence on the land they now occupied. He believed the great step they were now taking would undoubtedly have the effect of producing a state of tranquillity by recognizing in the tenants the right to dwell in the lands they now occupied, so long as they fulfilled the conditions under which they held them. He would venture to cite to the House the words of the Statute 18 Edward I.—"Liceat unicuique libero homini terram suam, vel tenementum, vel partem, inde pro voluntate suâ vendere."To the operation of that statute might be traced the growth of that class which in a shortly subsequent period had furnished the soldiers who fought at Cressy, at Poictiers, and at Agincourt. He had never heard it alleged that that was a Confiscation or Spoliation Statute as against the great lords, the magnates, and the Domini Capitales of the Kingdom. He trusted, as he had said, that the Government would stand firm upon this clause, and he regretted that any intimation had as yet been given that it was possible it might be altered. He believed that nothing would be more dangerous with regard to the future effect of this clause than trying to whittle it away or qualify it. Such a step would only be to open up ground of future dissension among the tenants. Any attempt made to minimize or qualify the clause would only be laying ground for future discontent and trouble. If they had the courage to take as their precedent the great Statute of Edward I., now nearly 600 years old, they would go a long way towards putting an end to the dissatisfaction and discontent which prevailed in Ireland, and in producing a condition of permanent tranquillity.
§ SIR ANDREW LUSK
did not intend to enter into a discussion of the clause at all, but would confine his remarks to the Amendment, and he would ask the right hon. and learned 1925 Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Law) the meaning of the words "the best price that can be got." Was it not a very clumsy phrase to put in an Act of Parliament? What was the best price that could be got? If a price were named, and they went up to a Judge upon the Bench, with one lawyer on the one side and another on the other, the one would say whatever the price was, that it was the best that could be got, while the other would as certainly say that it was not; and where were they then? Was it the best phrase that could be used, or was it not a most clumsy phrase? He did not find fault with the clause; but he did not think that the Judge should be bothered and annoyed because they could not understand the meaning of any particular expression in an Act of Parliament. Surely they would never dream of putting into the clause "the best industry that could be got," "the best honesty that could be got." No Court could understand the meaning of such phrases. He hoped the phrase would be left out, and that some words would be afterwards inserted to define what it was that was meant. It was by such clumsy legislation that Courts of Law were puzzled when they came to consider Acts of Parliament.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, the words referred to would occasion no embarrassment to any Judge who had ever been in the habit of interpreting the common trust for sale which was contained in ordinary deeds. The hon. Baronet the Member for Finsbury (Sir Andrew Lusk) asked the meaning of the phrase. He would tell the hon. Baronet the meaning. It meant that a tenant should have the power of transferring what was his to another tenant for the best price that could be got for it in the market. They did not mean to authorize any restrictions, or to enable the landlord to insist upon the tenant not selling to a stranger. They meant, as a general rule, that the tenant should be able to transfer his property—namely, what belonged to himself as distinguished from what belonged to the landlord—and by no possibility could a provision of that kind operate to the disadvantage of anybody. The tenant simply transferred property that was his own, and subjected the landlord to no more injury than the tenant 1926 would be subjected to by the landlord transferring his reversion. The clause provided that whatever the tenant might have to sell, he should be able to sell in the open market for the highest price that he could obtain for it.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, he trusted, before they came to a decision, the Government would recognize the immense gravity of the question before them. The statement just made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland was not quite consistent with the Bill. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the clause gave the tenant the power of selling only what belonged to him. If it only gave the tenant the power to sell what belonged to him, why did they give power in the Bill, if he sold something that did not belong to him, to recoup the owner? [The ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. Law): Where is that?] It was in that very clause, which said that if the outgoing tenant sold the improvements which the landlord had made, the landlord could then claim from the person to whom the improvements were sold the value of them; and in Clause 7 it was specially provided that if the rent was below what the Court considered a fair rent, and the outgoing tenant sold the difference between that rent and a fair rent, the landlord might get compensation from the person to whom the property had been sold. Those words in the Bill appeared to be utterly inconsistent with the declaration of the Prime Minister, because the right hon. Gentleman told them that it was not intended to give by the Bill an unlimited right of free sale. The argument which had been used in favour of unlimited right of free sale had been naturally derived from the experience gained by what was going on in Ulster. Now, he lived a great deal in Ulster, and in a part of the county where the tenant right was higher than almost anywhere else. It was perfectly true that in the North of Ireland there was a more satisfactory condition of things so far as land tenure was concerned than in other parts of Ireland; and it was also true that free sale was an ingredient of the Ulster tenant right system. Therefore, it was argued that if they extended that system of free sale to other parts of Ireland, they would establish a state of things as satisfactory as that which existed in 1927 Ulster. Now, that was an entire illusion. The hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell) had given an eloquent description of the wrongs which Ireland had so long been suffering—social, political, religious, and commercial. But it must be remembered that Ulster was especially free from such disabilities. In the first place, there was a similarity in creed, an affinity in race between the occupiers and the owners of the soil in Ulster which did not exist in any other part of Ireland. Secondly, they had concentrated in the North of Ireland the one great manufacturing industry—namely, the cultivation of flax and the manufacture of linen. The enormous advantage of that manufacturing industry in Ulster might be stated in a sentence. The increase in the population of Belfast alone was greater than the increase over the whole of Ireland. Outside Ulster, the population of no town had increased; whereas, in Ulster, the population of almost every town had increased. Thirdly, there had never been among the Northern districts the same dislike of emigration; and fourthly, and lastly, the people of Ulster had brought to bear more concentrated habits of industry than existed elsewhere. The advantages of tenant right wore self-evident under those circumstances. Every tenant had a right, which he could realize whenever he wanted to sell. In many parts of Ulster, what were called roadside evictions were almost unknown—that was to say, that people were not turned out houseless and penniless on the roadside. But if any pressure were put upon them, they could realize their tenant right at once. He had no wish to depreciate the enormous advantages of Ulster tenant right; but there were certain disadvantages. The most preposterous price was paid for tenant right, so that a new tenant came in rack-rented up to the very hilt. He had seen cases in which the tenant had put forward improvements effected by the landlord as an inducement to purchasers to buy the farm, and had stated that the landlord was considerate, and would not press for arrears. In Ulster, what were known as "sweeteners" went round and forced up the price of tenant right, so that men who desired to obtain land were compelled to pay a tremendous price for it. He had no wish to attack 1928 the system of tenant right in Ulster. He approved of that part of the Bill which prevented the rights of the tenant from being confiscated at the termination of a lease. Therefore, he was not arguing against the question of tenant right; but he contended that that clause did not apply to Ulster tenant right. And he would go further, and say that wherever the Ulster tenant right did hereafter apply to a tenancy, the principle of free sale should be given to the tenant. They knew the advantage of the Ulster Custom, and its disadvantages also. Then, could not they, in the new statutory tenant right they were about to apply all over Ireland, give to the tenant all that he could justly claim, and, at the same time, give it to him free from the unquestionable danger which attended unlimited free sale? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland said he had never known a case where the incoming tenant was not wealthier than the outgoing tenant. That meant that the only tenants in future would be rich ones. Another argument which naturally occurred why Ulster tenant right remained so high was, that very few farms changed hands. That being so, it would appear to follow that the efficacy of the proposed arrangements would be shown in their being practically inoperative. He quite agreed that as the House, by a large majority, had assented to the second reading of the Bill, and as the condition of Ireland was very critical, it was the duty of all of them to point out any dangers that existed, in order to make the remedies as complete as possible. There was one suggestion which he himself would make to the House, and he had placed an Amendment on page 4 of the Paper with that view. He would give to every tenancy to which the Ulster Custom at the present moment applied, or to which it might hereafter apply, with the consent of the landlord, an unlimited right of free sale. But to those tenancies to which that section applied outside Ulster, he would give the landlord power in any case to ask the Court to value the tenancy the tenant proposed to sell; and in this way a tenant would get complete security for his improvements and for any interest he might have. But if they did not enact some such limitation as that, they 1929 might find themselves involved in very great difficulties. He might enumerate one or two which unquestionably would occur. It was difficult, however, to raise the question without referring to Clause 7, which affected rent. He would illustrate his meaning by a casual reference to that clause. The reason why the Government brought in this Bill was, he understood, that owing to the land hunger which existed the prices given for land were very high, and that the landlord took advantage of this land hunger to charge excessive rents. The Bill said—"You shall have a rent assigned to you by the Court, and not one farthing more shall you get;" and to the tenant they said—"You shall sell your share for the maximum competitive price you can get in the market." Then what followed? It was a matter of certainty that if the landlord's interest was so regulated by statute as to prevent him getting one farthing of this inflated price for land, and the tenant could get what price he could obtain, that he would get the inflated value, not only on his share, but on the landlord's share also. This was what did happen now, and would happen again. Then what did they do? They deducted the interest they had given to the tenant from the commercial or full value of the farm. He had talked pretty often to the farmers of the North of Ireland about their tenant right, and the argument they always used was this—"We have a property in this farm." Had the Prime Minister ever attempted to define what that interest was? It was the simple definition of "pounds, shillings, and pence;" and if, hereafter, any landlord allowed any tenant to sell any portion of his interest, and the incoming tenant had paid money for it, the tenant would regard the sum he had so paid as a pecuniary charge upon that farm. It would naturally be suggested at once to that tenant, that if hereafter, owing to a fall of prices, or to a series of bad years, he could not realize in the market the money he had given for that interest, it was due to the rent being too high. That had happened before, and would happen again; and what were they going to do under the Bill? A great deal had been said as to the satisfactory relations which existed between Lord Portsmouth and his tenants. No doubt, Lord Portsmouth 1930 treated his tenants with kindness and consideration; but his estates were in a different position from the majority of estates. The land was exceptionally good; there were no holdings under 20 acres; and, lastly, it was situated close to an excellent market—the town of Enniscorthy. If those conditions existed elsewhere, they would not have the Irish difficulty to deal with; and it was because they did not exist that they were called upon to deal with it. Therefore, they could not draw any conclusion from what was the result of unlimited free sale on Lord Portsmouth's estate. The fact was, that if they split an Irish tenancy into two, the two halves would exceed the whole. It was a curious fact, but it was so. He challenged contradiction of the statement that if the landlord bought the tenant right on his farms, he would get a better price by keeping them separate than by amalgamating them. If this clause passed in its present shape, he was afraid that the result would be that the landlords whose rents would be most reduced would be those who had shown the greatest consideration for their tenants. It was admitted that rent regulated tenant right—that was to say, the higher the rent the lower the tenant right. If that was so, the position could not be reversed; it could not be said that unlimited tenant right meant higher rents. It was an entire fallacy to assume that rents in the North of Ireland were so much higher than they were elsewhere, in consequence of the existence of tenant right. Rents were higher because in that part of the country there were a certain number of towns, each with a largely increasing population, which afforded better markets for the produce of the neighbouring farms. Having advanced what he considered to be good reasons why the words "for the best price that can be got for the same" should not stand in this section, he said he was anxious, in every possible way, to protect the Ulster Custom. At the same time, he thought the Committee would, be acting unwisely deliberately to ignore the experience derived from the working of that custom during some years. Some years ago, when the Prussians had beaten the French, it was determined to adopt in England the short-service system, in spite of the warnings that the conditions of its success in 1931 Prussia were wanting here; and the result had been recurring difficulties, which could be met only by expenditure. The defects of Army organization might be remedied by the expenditure of money; but if we now insisted on an unlimited extension of tenant right in Ireland, ignoring the disadvantages which accompanied it in Ulster, we should not find it easy, by expenditure or any future legislation, to remedy the mistake. We should be giving every tenant a right in his tenancy, the value of which would vary as the landlord was good or bad, and the better he was, the higher would be the tenant's interest. This seemed to him very hard upon those who treated their tenants well. On those grounds, he asked the serious attention of the Committee to his proposal, which was to protect the Ulster Custom where it now existed, or where, hereafter, it might exist, but to prevent a tenant selling that which unquestionably did not belong to him, because hereafter he would claim it as his property, and that claim would have to be made good.
§ MR. SHAW
said, he had listened with interest to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), who spoke with great fairness as well as knowledge of the subject. The question of Ulster tenant right occupied a large share of the attention of the Committee on which he (Mr. Shaw) had served. Evidence of all kinds had been laid before them, and they had endeavoured to find out, as far as they could, the defects of the system, and how they could be remedied. The result of their investigations was that, according to the experience of every man who knew the country, it was not of the slightest use to attempt to limit the Ulster Custom, and that any attempt to do so must end in failure. None of the office rules that it should be limited either to five or 10 years' purchase had been effective; for when a sale took place it was invariable that a sum of money was paid outside the office in addition to that which was paid within it. Take the most prosperous parts of Ireland—the Downshire property, the estates of the noble Lord's father, and almost any in the North of Ireland, where the tenant right had been unlimited and practically uninterfered with by the landlord in any way—would there not be found on 1932 these estates the best class of tenants in Ireland, who had been in all respects the most prosperous, and who had improved their holdings to the greatest extent? There were other things than high rents to be considered by landlords; there was such a thing as safety in the matter of rents to be borne in mind. The man who was content with moderate rents, when his neighbour fixed them 10 or 15 per cent higher, would in in a number of years obtain the most money, with the satisfaction of being surrounded with a more prosperous and contented tenantry. What had made Ulster prosperous? It was the fact that the landlords had been kind and indulgent, and the security afforded to the tenants had induced them to lay out money in improvements upon their farms, until there was better farming than was to be found on some of the crack farms of England. If they could embody the 7th clause with the 1st, he believed there would be little trouble with the rest of the Bill. As to the tenant right, that was about to be extended to the rest of Ireland. The Bill would not create it. On almost every estate it had existed, not only since the Land Act, but before the passing of that measure. Wherever a tenant got into arrears and wished to move, no landlord prevented him realizing something for the goodwill of the holding and for improvements. This was rooted in the minds of the people, and there was no use in trying to interfere with it. You might as well attempt to root out the Irish brogue or an English accent. The English system of managing estates hardly existed in Ireland, and no landlord would try to adopt it; he must accept the conditions of the country, and in that way he would get more rent in the long run from a happier population around him.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he could not pass without contradiction the statement of the hon. Member for Cork County (Mr. Shaw) that there was absolutely no part of Ireland in which tenant right did not exist. He was bound to point out that the statement of the hon. Member did not tally with the evidence given before the Agricultural Commission, and to remind him that there were cases in which the landlords had actually bought up and extinguished the tenant right.
reminded the Committee that the only objection that had been taken by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland to the Amendment was that it would enable landlords to fix office rules. There was amongst landlords no particular objection to the fixing of fair rents, nor to a certain continuity of tenure; but they very much objected to unlimited free sale. It was clearly unfair that the landlords should have the value of their property fixed, and that the tenants should be able to sell their holdings in the open market. He thought that sufficient reasons had now been given to enable the Committee to come to a decision.
§ MR. P. MARTIN
did not understand on what grounds landlords should thus strongly press these objections to the right of free sale. It had been admitted that instead of insolvent tenants, solvent tenants would be substituted. In consequence, more capital would be applied to the cultivation of the land, and the arrears of rent due to the landlord would be made good. He submitted that it was a great mistake to suppose that the right of continuous occupation in unimproved land had sprung into existence only under it in consequence of the passing of the Act of 1870. That right had been recognized by the Devon Commission, and the Report showed that it was created not alone by the improvements effected by the tenant, but that it existed also in connection with land on which there had not been a shilling expenditure in that way by tenants. It arose, as shown in the evidence, from the fact only of occupation by the tenant. Therefore, he appealed to hon. Members to dismiss from their minds the idea that this right of sale which existed under it was incident to the Ulster Custom. The tenant's interest had been alone created by the tenant's improvements.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, there was a distinct divergence in the statements made by the Prime Minister and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, as to what was intended by the words which stood in the clause at the point now before the Committee. The former right hon. Gentleman stated that he did not mean there should be unlimited tenant right; while the right hon. and learned Gentleman stated, with equal distinctness, 1934 that the meaning was that the best price that could be got should be obtained for the tenancy. In view of so complete a divergence between the statements of those right hon. Gentlemen, he did not think the Committee should go to a division without further explanation.
Sir, the hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. Brodrick) has pointed to a supposed divergence in the statements of my right hon. and learned Friend and myself, which I am able to show is no divergence whatever. My right hon. and learned Friend, whose opinions I know, and who is in the closest communication with me on the Bill, in supporting the wording of the clause, declared that to obtain the best price that could be had in open market was the general rule in Ulster. With regard to the inflated state of the market, and the consequent unhealthy competition—these are matters which have created the exceptional conditions which we are about to deal with, and can be considered separately.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 141; Noes 55: Majority 86.—(Div. List, No. 225.)
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. R. H. PAGET,
who had the following Amendment on the Paper:—In page 1, line 8, omit "the best price that can be got for the same," and insert—A fair price—that is to say, in the case of any holding subject to the Ulster tenant-right custom, or to any usage corresponding therewith in which the customary sale of such tenant-right has hitherto been in open market, the best price to be obtained by such sale in open market.And in every other case such price as may be agreed upon between landlord and tenant, or, in case of dispute, may be settled by the Court, after consideration of all the circumstances of the case, as the fair price for such tenancy;said, he had hoped that the last Amendment, which was one of a liberal character, would have been met by Her Majesty's Government in a friendly spirit. It was not hostile, and it had not been conceived in a spirit of hostility, to the Bill. But it had not been its fate to be accepted, and they had an important admission from the Prime Minister that the point the Committee had decided 1935 was to be the ordinary law for the present, and that exceptional cases, the result of which was feverish excitement, intense competition, and extravagant prices, could be dealt with subsequently. They had had a most important admission from the Prime Minister; and, seeing that they were to have another opportunity of considering the matter under the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), in order to shorten the debate, he should be willing to withdraw his proposal.
said, the Amendment which stood in the name of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) had been decided by a previous Vote.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said he had an Amendment to move which he thought deserved to receive some consideration from the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman had practically declared that he was prepared to entertain any reasonable Amendment to the proposal for free sale which had just been carried—that where it could be proved that there were cases deserving consideration, where tenant right had been bought up by the landlord, an exception should be made. The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Brand), had stated that in cases of new tenancies, where the landlord let at a reasonable rent, there was a primâ facia case for saying that no tenant right should exist. Would the right hon. Gentleman say how far he was prepared to go with regard to these exceptions? He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had put down a very reasonable Amendment, to the effect that exception should be made where the landlord had purchased the tenant right from the tenant, or where the tenant had received some equivalent for the same; but if the Prime Minister would give a satisfactory answer to his question, he would withdraw the Amendment and accept the words the Government would put in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman, he felt sure, at any rate, he hoped, would not run away from his promise, and he would ask him to rise in his place and state to the Committee how far he was prepared to go. In the meantime, he would formally move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
In page, 1, line 9, after the word "same," to insert the words "except where the landlord has purchased the tenant right from the tenant, or where the tenant has received some equivalent for the same."—(Sir Walter B. Barttelot.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
MR. H. R. BRAND
said, the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) dealt with the point that he (Mr. Brand) had raised in the Amendment he had moved; in fact, it went further, and he was therefore unable to support it. He would remind the Committee of what occurred on the occasion to which he referred. He had moved to omit from the operation of this clause future tenancies. It was acknowledged by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) and by the Prime Minister that there was some good in the Amendment; but it was said that it would prevent a certain class of tenants from selling that which they had bought. It was not his intention to do that; and, therefore, as he had understood the Prime Minister to make a concession to the effect that in regard to exceptional cases—namely, where a man rented land which the landlord had in his own hands at the time of the passing of the Act, or land of which the landlord had bought up the tenant right, there should be an exception made, and that favourable consideration would be given to any new Amendment on the question, he had withdrawn his proposal. The right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) had rather complained of his action in this respect, and seemed to think that he (Mr. Brand) ought to have pressed his Amendment, even if it were shown to be an unreasonable one. The Amendment, as it was clearly shown, went too far; therefore, he thought he was justified in withdrawing it, and trusting to the concession which he understood the Prime Minister to make. Well, he had considered the question of making further Amendments to the Bill; and as the effect of the Bill as it stood would be to rack rent the future tenant, he thought the best way to meet the point would be by a permissive clause, enabling the tenant, in the cases contemplated, to contract himself out of the Act. That Amendment had better come 1937 in another part of the Bill; but it seemed to him that this was the best way of meeting the point. His Amendment would give the landlord an opportunity to offer the tenant an alternative, and would enable him to say—"If you will contract yourself out of this sale clause, I will not charge you any premium; it will not be necessary for me to charge you the full commercial rent." He (Mr. Brand) might be right, or he might be wrong; but that was the way the matter struck him, and he would ask the Prime Minister how far he would be able to go in accepting it?
I was about to rise when I saw that my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Brand) wished to address the Committee; otherwise I should not have lost a moment in replying to the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir Walter B. Barttelot). If this had been a matter of confiscation, I should have requested him not to introduce the Amendment on this portion of the clause; because I think it evident that the best thing to do would be, first to decide upon the general construction of the clause, and then proceed to introduce the limiting conditions or exceptions which it might be proper to introduce. With regard to what has fallen from the hon. Member behind me, I may say that I am fully prepared to carry out the pledge I gave the hon. Member the other night in qualified terms—in qualified terms, because then I had not been able, as I have had an opportunity since, of considering the matter fully and discussing it with my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland. As my hon. Friend has observed, the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Baronet goes further in one respect than the Amendment my hon. Friend moved on a former occasion, because it deals with two cases; first, where the landlord has purchased the tenant right from the tenant; and next, where the tenant has received some equivalent for the same. With these last words I must own I do not feel able to deal. I am not sure what they might mean. I do not know into what they might lead us; therefore, I could not give any pledge as to that. But, with regard to the first category, and likewise some other classes of land touched by the Amendment of my hon. Friend behind me, the hon. and gallant Member does not mean, I presume, to 1938 include cases in which the tenant has been evicted and a caretaker has been put in possession, but only those in which, by voluntary arrangement between the landlord and tenant, the tenant right has been bought up. There is also another class of cases which have not been mentioned in the debate, but which are strictly analogous in substance—cases where the converse process has occurred, and where the tenant has purchased the interest of the landlord. With regard to both these classes of cases, what we propose is to allow the parties interested to contract themselves out of the Act. That is what my hon. Friend suggests. As to demesne lands, none of these are subjected to the ordinary conditions of agricultural holdings, and we should propose to include them with the classes to which I have just referred in the clause, which would give freedom to contract out of the Act. That is applied to the whole mass of agricultural holdings in Ireland, and I do not think it would interfere with the general action of the Bill. I have much pleasure in so far meeting the views of the hon. and gallant Baronet; and if there is in the latter part of the clause anything that he thinks it material to propose, it will be fully considered. I would suggest the withdrawal of the Amendment, in order to insert in their proper place words making the clause, in certain instances, permissive.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
saw, in the proposal to render the Act in certain cases permissive, the germ of an exceedingly grave danger. The spirit of the Bill was to throw a shield over the class who were not in position to make free contracts; and if they admitted the right to make free contracts, they would be abandoning the object of the Bill. Looking at the condition of the Irish tenantry, all contracts ought to be within the view of the equitable tribunal which the Government were setting up for the protection of the tenant. He could quite see that it might be right to meet some such case as this—that was to say, where the landlord had bonâ fide extinguished the tenant right. No one could pretend that the tenant should be paid twice over; but he would ask the Prime Minister to beware. He thought he should be able to show, in his humble way, that most inequitable written contracts were extorted from the tenants by 1939 the landlords. Knowing that the whole spirit of this Bill was so equitable, he trusted that the Prime Minister would accompany it by a safeguard framed in this spirit.
MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
pointed ought that there might be cases where the landlord had purchased the tenant right 20 years ago, and where, since that time, there had come into existence a new tenant right of a different value, varying in kind and character, but still a right which ought to be protected—namely, the right of occupancy, with a reasonable expectation of its being continued, and that right fortified by the Compensation for Disturbance Clauses. There were, besides, the improvements which the industrious tenant from year to year created.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, he understood from the Prime Minister that he did not accept the words proposed, and that the whole matter was to be left over for a new clause to come afterwards. He knew cases where the landlord had for many years given up all arrears of rent in order to prevent the sale of tenant right on his estate. For instance, a man might go out owing a deal of money to the landlord. He might say to the landlord—"I want to sell;" and the reply might be—"No, you shall not sell; but I will forgive you all your arrears, and you shall go out free." That had been done on a very large scale in Ireland; and although it might not be a distinct purchase of the tenant right out-and-out in form, yet it would be practically purchasing it. It ought to be quite clear that a case of this kind would not be lost sight of in the clause.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, the Prime Minister had objected to the second part of the Amendment of his hon. and galland Friend, because he did not know how far it might lead; but if his hon. and gallant Friend would divide his Amendment into two, there would be no difficulty in accepting the first part. As to allowing the tenant to contract himself out of the Act, that concession did not seem to have any considerable weight, because if the Bill became law he failed to see what there was in the world to induce anyone to contract himself out of it. The tenant would be in a most advantageous position; and if it was proposed to him that he should contract 1940 himself out of the Bill, he would say—"I will see the landlord somewhere first." No one could propose that if a landlord had bonâ fide purchased tenant right, that the tenant should be paid for that right a second time.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, that if, under the provisions of the Act of 1870, the landlord had purchased the tenant right, the Prime Minister was willing to bring up a clause to preserve and secure that contract. That was a statement of the case as it stood.
MR. H. R. BRAND
said, that, as he understood it, the Amendment proposed by the Government would only affect cases where, in the past, the landlord had bought up the tenant right—that was to say, cases since the passing of the Land Act. Was it also to apply to cases in the future where the landlord had, by voluntary arrangement with his tenant, purchased up the tenant right? ["No, no!"]
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I do not wish to enter into this particular discussion; but I rise for the purpose of asking the Government whether they will be able, before we meet again after the Holidays, to lay on the Table the Amendment they really propose to submit to the House? We have now so far discussed the Bill as to raise, in a practical form, several of the difficulties that occurred to us in dealing with the question, and we have had promises from the Government that they will consider and endeavour to meet some of the difficulties so raised. It would be a great advantage to us if the Prime Minister would put the Amendments he proposes to make on the Paper—the Amendments he proposes to make either in the 7th clause or in any other part of the Bill. It is not unreasonable that we should be allowed, as soon as possible, to see the Amendments in print.
The request of my right hon. Friend is not unreasonable; but, at the same time, it is desirable to remember what progress we have actually made with the Bill. Before the Government proceed to stereotype any alteration of their views by laying Amendments on the Table, from which it would not be desirable for them subsequently to recede, we must be allowed to consider what ground we have made when we re-assemble to-morrow. Tomorrow, I will say all that I can, when 1941 I see the progress we have made to-night. As to creating a power, in the cases I have described, for contracting out of the operation of the clause, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland will be prepared to-morrow, or certainly before the House meets again after Whitsuntide, to lay on the Table the words of the proposal we shall make.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
considered this an important Amendment; but he was not altogether satisfied with what the Prime Minister had stated. What they distinctly wanted to know was whether all who had purchased the tenant right in tenancies which now existed would be exempt from the provisions of free sale under this Bill? Future tenancies were altogether different from tenancies existing at the present moment in which solemn contracts had been made; and what was wanted was an explicit declaration from the Prime Minister that present tenants should not come under the provisions of the Bill. That was a clear and simple statement, and he felt sure the Prime Minister would see that, with a view to passing this Bill, it would be better to state plainly what he meant.
§ MR. SHAW
said, the hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) seemed to think that if a man bought up the tenant right he could extinguish it for ever. That, however, was not so. Some years ago a man bought up the tenant right, and thought he was all right; but the land was sold, and the tenant right revived, and was as strong as ever. They might as well try to make water run up a hill as, by legislation, to prevent this or that. No matter what they did, tenant right would go on. The hon. and gallant Baronet seemed to think there were a great many estates in Ireland where the tenant right would be bought up; but he (Mr. Shaw) thought there were very few, and that in the future there would be fewer. No landlord would be such a fool as to spend his money in buying up tenant right, getting 1 or 1½ per cent for his money; he would rather leave the tenant right where it was, and put the money into some good outside investment.
§ VISCOUNT LYMINGTON
hoped the Prime Minister would not accept the Amendment. He thought it would lead to great difficulty, possibly in some cases to great imposition, and that it would be much better to leave the matter to the Court.
§ MR. GIBSON
objected to the proposal of the Prime Minister, and thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland was unreasonable. As he understood, they proposed to deal with this question under the 17th clause, and with a new Amendment. This Amendment proposed to deal with present tenancies, and there was not a single syllable to narrow it down to future tenancies. [The ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. Law): It includes both.] Then, there was no difference on the point; and if it included both, then the way in which present tenancies were to be dealt with was this—every contract in which a landlord had purchased or acquired, before the passing of this Bill, possession of the tenant right would be exempt. If that was not meant, then he failed to see how the Government proposed to deal with the question. The Government proposed to deal with the present Amendment in respect of both present and future tenancies. [The ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. Law): Only future tenancies.] It appeared, then, that the Government were going to deal with the Amendment as if it was absolutely confined to future tenancies, and to leave out of view present tenancies. Was it to be understood that under no circumstances whatever, no matter what were the privileges the landlord might have given, no matter how benevolent his conduct or how wide and generous his consideration for the tenant, the Government did not intend to deal with his control of free sale in any remedial form? If so, there had better be some further explanation. Was it to be understood that under no circumstances whatever was any present tenancy to be dealt with, no matter what the landlord had given to acquire the right to control free sale? [The ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. Law): Yes.] Then ho was prepared to wait for the way in which the Government proposed to deal with future tenancies. The Prime Minister had pointed out that it would be a hardship to exclude future 1943 tenancies from the benefits of this clause in cases were they had purchased from the last present tenant the right of occupation. He understood that the Government were prepared to deal with future tenants, and, therefore, there was no difficulty about that; but there was a difference of opinion as to present tenants.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. Law)
stated, that the Government proposed to deal simply with future tenancies, and called attention to the fact that the whole matter arose from the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Brand), who wished to exclude all future tenancies from the Bill. The Government objected to that, and they did not propose to allow any present tenant now in occupation to exempt himself in any way from the operation of the Bill, unless it were a tenant who held above a limit of £150 a valuation. In cases where a landlord had bought up the Ulster tenant right, leaving the tenant in possession, the tenant right was, by the Act of 1879, extinguished, mid there was nothing in this Bill to revive it. The Irish tenant in possession at the time this Bill passed would be practically in the same position as the tenant in Ulster alone had hitherto been. He would have the same protection as the tenant in Ulster; his occupation rights were protected by the Act of 1870; and the Government did not intend in any way to enable the tenant whose Ulster Custom had been bought up to contract himself out of the provisions of the Bill, unless his valuation exceeded the proposed limit. Subject to this, all would be in the same position.
§ Mr. HEALY
regarded the Amendment as being conceived in the spirit of the Emergency Committee. What was proceeding in Ireland now was that the landlords were going on evicting, and where they could not evict they bought up the tenant's interests. Forced sales, not in free auction, but surrounded by the police and the military, were taking place, and yet the hon. and gallant Baronet, while the country was in that condition, desired that the entire right of free sale should be extinguished. He appealed to the Government to remember that while making concessions to the opposite Party on the one hand, they were on the other storing up reser- 1944 voirs of future danger to themselves. It was those Gentlemen who had brought Ireland to its present state—by the policy of repression and keeping down the tenants at all times and on all hands, and by which, when an excellent Bill was brought forward, it was sought to minimize it in every direction, and which, if the Government made concessions, would whittle down the Bill to such an extent that it would not be worth the paper it was printed upon. If the Government wished their Bill to be successful, they must pay some regard to the wishes of those who were most interested in it. They had studiously held their tongues during this discussion, and in the course of about ten nights' debate on the last stage of the Bill, not three speeches had proceeded from that part of the House. The Bill had been in Committee four days, and how far had they got? Two lines. He was not one of those who approved very much of this Bill, and he would rather see it thrown out altogether; but what he complained of was, that while on the one hand liberty was being struck down in Ireland, on the other hand they would not get this Bill at all.
I think we should carefully endeavour to avoid mixing up the discussions on this Bill with references to the condition of Ireland. I assure the hon. Member, in the most perfect good faith, that we adhere to what we formerly declared. We desire to bring this Bill to the best possible success, and we shall accept fair discussion upon any fair Amendment, without regard to the quarter from which it may proceed. The hon. Gentleman, I am sure, will see that if we were to adopt a principle so unjust as to say to any particular Party—"We have a suspicion of your intentions, and decline to examine Amendments proceeding from you," we should only exasperate excited temper and lengthen the discussion. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) has, I think, stated with accuracy that which is really the material part of the question raised by this Amendment—namely, that which relates to future tenancies; because, in my belief, with regard to present tenancies, the matter is so small as to be almost infinitesimal. But he will perceive the 1945 nature of the difficulty. We are anxious that nothing given by the Act of 1870 shall be taken away by this Act. But he says that where a landlord had purchased the Ulster right, the effect of that would be to throw the tenant back on the Act of 1870; so that whatever general rights he possesses under the general law he possesses notwithstanding the purchase of the right. We wish that the right should be purchased; but it would not be fair that the man should stand on an equal footing with the general tenants.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
found it difficult to reconcile what the Prime Minister had just said with what he had previously said upon this Amendment. In his first speech, the Prime Minister said that in those cases where, under the Act of 1870, the tenant right had been bought up, the landlord and tenant should be under free contract. But, since that statement, the right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had spoken again; and now it appeared that even when a landlord had, under the Act of 1870, bought up the right, he would not be under free contract. The landlord would have again to buy up the tenant right. Then there was this further question. His hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), he thought, believed the Prime Minister agreed with him a great deal more than he really did, since he supposed that if his Amendment was carried, the landlord, after buying up the tenant right, could not come under the provisions of the Bill. But all that the Prime Minister said, even with regard to future tenancies under those circumstances, was, not that the landlord and tenant would not come under the provision of the Bill, but that they would be able to contract themselves out of the Bill. That was altogether different, because, in order that the landlord and tenant should contract themselves out of the Bill, there must be something to give the tenant to induce him not to contract with the landlord not to come under the Bill; whereas, if the Amendment was carried, those landlords who had purchased the right would not be under the Bill at all. They would not be required to give any consideration, and by the operation of the Bill there would be no difficulty at all. The real fact was, that the Prime Minis- 1946 ter did not agree with the hon. and gallant Member as to present tenancies, and only in a modified degree as to future tenancies.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
pointed out that if a landlord had bought up the tenant right, under the arrangement proposed by the Government, he would be free to deal with it as he pleased. But if he re-let it, the tenant would come under the Act of 1870, and have the right to compensation for disturbance. On the other hand, under the Act of 1870, he might contract out of the Act if the holding were above £50, or gave a lease recognized by the Act for 31 years. As the Bill now stood that would be saved by the provisions of the Bill. Either the tenant had acquired the right or already had it under the Act of 1870, or it was reserved to the landlord; and it seemed to him impossible that the Committee could settle the details of the arrangements the Government would make. He hoped the hon. and gallant Member would withdraw his Amendment on the understanding that the Government would re-consider the whole question and bring up a new clause.
§ SIR THOMAS BATESON
said, he knew a number of cases in which the tenant right had been purchased up by the landlord with hard cash, and the farms re-let to new tenants on the understanding that tenant right was to be extinguished under the 2nd sub-section of the 1st clause of the Act of 1870, and that such holdings should cease henceforth to be subject to the tenant right custom. He understood the Prime Minister to agree to the first part of the Amendment of his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Walter B. Barttelot); but, after some conversation with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Law), he shifted his ground, and then stated that if a landlord had bought up the tenant right, the tenant would under the new Act be in the same position as the tenant in Munster; but he would be able, under Clause 1 of this Bill, to sell his holding, including the buildings and improvements of his landlord, to the highest bidder, and the landlord who had purchased the right under the Act of 1870 would have his purchase money confiscated. He had purchased the tenant right; he had re-let the farm as an English tenancy; and the Prime Minister 1947 might, with quite as much justice, confiscate a tenancy in Cheshire or Hampshire as to confiscate the tenant right purchased by the landlord under the Act of 1870. The Bill, as now drawn, confiscated such tenant right. He would read a letter which would explain the matter more clearly than he could. It was written by a Member of the Land Commission, who said—But when we come to remember there are landlords who have bought up the tenant right on their properties, and that this 1st clause will immediately take from them what they bought, and without any compensation hand it back to those from whom they bought it, an even more striking example of the grave injustice which it involves is presented to our minds. I have present in my mind the exceeding danger of the endorsement by the Government of such a principle of purposeless confiscation. To correct the clause and render it just in this respect, would in no appreciable degree restrict its scope. The number of holdings on which the tenant right has been bought up is not great, but their fewness does not mitigate the injustice.That letter was written by a Gentleman upon whom the Prime Minister only the other night passed the greatest possible eulogy—namely, Mr. Kavanagh, one of the Members of the Bessborough Commission. He (Sir Thomas Bateson) knew many gentlemen who, on the faith of the Land Act of 1870, had so far placed confidence in the Prime Minister that they purchased up the tenant right on particular holdings, fondly imagining that no Minister of the Crown would, within 11 years, come down to this House and deliberately propose to confiscate property which he himself had created.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, that to anyone who had taken the pains to consider the details of the Bill, speeches like the one they had just listened to were distracting, because they showed that an almost inconceivable misconception existed in respect to the Bill. Let him say what he understood the Prime Minister to say, because the utterances of the right hon. Gentleman had been pulled to pieces and read in various ways. It seemed to be forgotten by hon. Members that this discussion arose out of another discussion concerning future tenancies. It was essential to recollect that if they would correctly understand what the Prime had said. By a subsequent clause in the Bill the future tenant was, in the first instance, at all events, allowed freely to contract 1948 with his landlord; he must make the best terms he could with the landlord as to his holding. He understood the Prime Minister to say that one of the elements of an agreement in the case of a future tenancy would be an agreement between them; that previous to the passing of this Act the landlord had bonâ fides extinguished the tenant right from his holdings. If he was correct in the understanding that this matter related exclusively to future tenancies, and that it was only in that sense that what was called free contract existed, he did not think the observations just addressed to them had at all touched the subject. They were now discussing the tenant's right to sell whatever might be in him, and yet they had the hon. Baronet the Member for Devizes (Sir Thomas Batson) suggesting that when the landlord had bought the tenant right on any particular farm, the tenant under the Bill would be free to sell the right again. Such a thing was impossible. The tenant could only sell what was in him. Had the tenant nothing to sell but the occupation right? Supposing a landlord bought the occupation right, surely he would not prevent the tenant selling whatever else belonged to him?
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, they were getting rather deep, and he wanted to see if they could not prevent themselves getting deeper. The hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had done very good work in calling attention to this point. The hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) said just now they had had four nights' discussion on the Bill, but they had only got to the 3rd line of the 1st clause. That, of course, was literally true; but though they had only reached the 3rd line, they had raised in the discussion several very important questions, and they had shown what the difficulties were with which they had to deal; they had also got from the Government an acknowledgment, in general terms, that they were sensible of some of those difficulties, and to a certain extent they were prepared to meet them. Instead of fighting the Government in the dark, he would like to see their proposals upon paper. He at first thought the Government were prepared to agree with the greater part of the proposal of his hon. and gallant Friend—namely, that where a landlord had purchased the tenant right, they would 1949 recognize the purchase. He could quite understand that they might be prepared to recognize the principle, and yet not like to take the exact words of the Amendment. He was not sure that the Amendment, as now worded, might not raise difficulties with regard to the sale of improvements and other matters; and, therefore, it perhaps would be as well not to press the Amendment in its present form if they could get the principle admitted. It would then be understood that the Government would submit that principle to them in a form in which they could challenge and discuss it. The Government said they were ready to do this with regard to future tenances. The hon. Member for County Cork (Mr. Shaw) said they need not trouble themselves very much about the matter, because in the uncertainty which the Bill would involve they would not be likely to find landlords buying up tenant right or anything else. But with regard to persons who had to deal with the matter in future they had, after all, the question of caveat emptor. The Prime Minister seemed to think that very few persons would be affected, and that therefore it did not signify what injustice was done. They ought, in point of justice, to take their stand for the present on the proprietors who had, in some way or other, acquired the tenant right, as they all knew there were certain important and excellent landlords who had acquired the tenant right at very great sacrifice on their own part. They had acquired the right, and they ought to be protected. The words of his hon. and gallant Friend were not, perhaps, the best chosen, but words mattered little. If the Government admitted the contention upon which the words of the Amendment rested, his hon. and gallant Friend would be happy to leave them to choose their own words, and put them before the House.
understood the recommendation of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Stafford Northcote) was not to take the issue on the present occasion, because the words of the Amendment did not appear to be quite accurate for the purpose. That was a matter, of course, with which he could not interfere; but he was always sorry to have long discussions without really deciding anything. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman opposite had any idea of the point at issue. He had said he 1950 knew cases of persons who had made very considerable sacrifices to acquire the tenant right. The real question they were discussing was not that of persons who had made sacrifices by keeping down rents or foregoing arrears, but of all the persons who had really purchased the right. [Several hon. MEMBERS: It is the same thing.] It was not the same thing; the two things were totally distinct. There were landlords, without doubt, who had charged less rent than they might; there were landlords who might have foregone arrears with direct or partially direct views towards the exclusion of the growth of tenant right upon their properties. But these cases were never touched in the debate on the Motion of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr Brand), and they were not touched at all in the 1st part of the Amendment now before them. They belonged to a very different class, and the Government were endeavouring to provide for them in a different way. But the point which was not perceived by the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly perceived by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson). It was with the purchase cases of present landlords only that the Committee had now to deal. He had said these purchase cases were few in number; in fact, he had not yet even heard of one. [Sir THOMAS BATESON: I know of several.] If the hon. Baronet would supply the Government with the particulars they would be very useful indeed, and should be inquired into very carefully. Let them suppose such cases existed. What had happened? They would be exclusively Ulster cases; and the Ulster landlord had purchased up the Ulster Custom, and he was encouraged to do that by the Act of 1870. By purchasing it up, the landlord extinguished the right, and it remained extinguished and would not be revived by the present Bill as it now stood. But that was not the whole of the transaction. If he got rid of the tenant, and let the farm afresh, he brought in a new tenant, which new tenant took the tenancy fortified by compensation for disturbance; and it was with regard to that new tenant that, in the name of justice, some people say we confiscate the property of the landlord. The Government, however, said—"Leave to the landlord the full effect of that which he bought up, 1951 and leave to the tenant that which the landlord in this very transaction left to him—namely, that he should take an occupancy which was kept fortified by compensation for disturbance." The Government considered that if there were individuals who liked to buy, they ought to be allowed to sell.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, it seemed to him that his hon. Friends opposite were rather hard upon the Treasury Bench in regard to this matter. He was a party to the discussion the other evening upon the point raised by his hon. Friend (Mr. Brand), and it appeared to him there could be no strong complaint against the course adopted by the Prime Minister. The understanding which was entered into had been most honourably carried out. The point which his hon. Friend the Member for Stroud brought forward related purely to future tenancies, and to future tenancies alone; but the Amendment of his hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) related to a totally different matter. He (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) could not quite find where, in the Land Act of 1870, the doctrine was contained which his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland had stated that night for the first time—namely, that when a landlord has, under the 2nd clause of the Land Act of 1870, bought up the Ulster Custom, or the value of a custom analogous to the Ulster Custom outside Ulster, thereupon the holding or the tenancy came within the Compensation for Disturbance Clause. He wished to point out to his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland that the 3rd clause strictly limited compensation for disturbance to cases upon estates outside Ulster, or upon estates where no custom analogous to the Ulster Custom existed.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, he thought his noble Friend would not contradict him, when he (the Attorney General for Ireland) said that no lawyer had construed the Act in the way suggested. All the 1st and 2nd sub-sections of the 3rd clause did was to extinguish the peculiar usage in the particular holding.
could quite understand that if a landlord bought from the present tenant the right to sell, and if the tenant wished to go, he could 1952 not expect to be paid again. But supposing the landlord let the farm to another tenant, would that tenant have the right to sell? If he had not that right, the danger contemplated by the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) would be very apparent—and that was, they would have landlords buying up the tenant right expressly to deprive future tenants of the right of sale.
§ MR. HENRY THOMSON
said, a tenant of his brother's desired to go to America, and wanted to be bought out. It was decided he should have £800, and that was handed to him. The farm had been let to another man; and he (Mr. H. Thomson) would very much like to be informed by the Prime Minister under what clause his brother could be repaid the £800 he had paid to the last tenant?
replied, that if the hon. Member for Newry would supply him with particulars, he would cause an inquiry to be made into the case. He would not now say anything as to the prudence or imprudence of the transaction; but it appeared to him that the incoming tenant would be entiled to compensation for disturbance, and for such compensation people were ready to give money.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, it would have been much more satisfactory if the right hon. Gentleman had explained whether, in a case of the sort referred to, a present tenant, under Clause 1, as it stood now, would have a right to sell his tenancy at the best price in the event of his going out of the farm. Although hon. Gentlemen opposite had argued as if there were only two cases—namely, one in which the landlord had purchased the tenant right and occupied the farm himself, and the other where he had re-let the farm, there was a third case which often happened in Ireland, and that was where the landlord had purchased the tenant right and let the farm. Where the tenant right had been bought by the landlord one day before the passing of the Bill, was the tenant the day after to have the right of re-selling the tenant right and to be paid twice over? That was a point upon which an answer should be given before the division was taken. Then the right hon. Gentleman said the cases were limited to Ulster. That was a point he (Mr. Chaplin) was not prepared to contest then, though he thought 1953 reference would show its existence outside Ulster. But, even if limited to Ulster, the right hon. Gentleman said—"Leave to landlords the right they have bought up from the tenant, and leave to tenants the right of compensation for disturbance;" but the principle of the Land Act was damaged for causeless eviction, nothing else. But how was it proposed to extend that now? It was proposed to give the tenant compensation for disturbance, even if not evicted at all. The sole right they had, under the Act of 1870, was for damages for causeless eviction, and now it was proposed to extend that right to compensation whether evicted or not.
§ MR. GIVAN
said, a good deal of misapprehension existed as to the present state of the law and the effect of the Act of 1870 on the tenant right and custom of Ulster. It had been explained by the Prime Minister and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland. (Mr. Law) several times that when the landlord had acquired the right, the custom became extinct, and did not again attach to the holding. He (Mr. Givan) did not agree with the hon. Member for Cork County (Mr. Shaw) that, no matter how the landlord purchased it, tenant right would attach to the holding again. It would not exist, owing to the express provision of the Act of 1870, which said as much. Then, if tenant right did not attach to the holding after it had been acquired by the landlord, the plain answer to the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) was this—that a tenant could only afterwards sell what he had got; and he had not got tenant right, because the landlord would have purchased it. It was plain that if the tenant right was once extinguished it did not again attach to the holding; and the tenant, not having the tenant right to sell, could not sell under the Act. All he could sell was what he had got—that was, his interest in his tenure; but not the tenant right, when the landlord had bought it up. What he (Mr. Givan) understood the Prime Minister to say was, that present tenancies, where the tenant right had not already been purchased, should be exempted from any action of the landlord to acquire or appropriate it in future. He had known instances where the tenant, being a year's rent in arrear, was evicted 1954 for non-payment; and then the landlord insisted subsequently that by the eviction of the tenant and the loss of one year's rent, owing to the misfortunes of the tenant, that he (the landlord) had acquired the tenant right. But it had been held, on several occasions, that was not acquiring the tenant right. No one, however, on that side of the House would insist that the landlord having purchased the tenant right, that right again attached to the holding. The Land Act of 1870 settled that conclusively.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he was exceedingly disappointed at the after-statement of the Prime Minister. When the right hon. Gentleman first rose, he distinctly understood him to say that he would have every regard for present tenancies, where the right was bought up by the landlord; but now he had gone absolutely away from that proposal. It would have been much better, in the interests of the Bill, if, instead of looking to hon. Members below the Gangway, he had listened to those who were not unwilling to assist the Bill by amending it in a reasonable manner. The people of the country would judge whether confiscation was or was not intended, if after a man had entered into a deliberate and solemn contract with his tenant, and bought up the tenant right; if after that they were going to take that absolutely away from him, and hand it over to the tenant—if that was intended, then people would know that not the most solemn contracts, deliberately entered into, and money having passed, were sacred now that the present Government were determined to take from those what they had every reason to consider their legitimate right.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, the words in the clause in question were "the tenant for the time being of every holding may sell his tenancy, &c.," and then upon reference to the Interpretation Clause it would be found that the definition of tenancy is "the interest in the holding of the tenant and his successor in full during the continuance of the tenancy." It was clear, therefore, that the 1st clause could only give to the tenant the right to sell what was his own. What might become his own was a question that should be discussed under the 7th clause.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 125; Noes 199: Majority 74.—(Div. List, No. 226.)
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL,
in moving, as an Amendment, that the words from the word "regulations" in line 9, down to the word "conditions" in line 11, be omitted, said, it must be considered in connection with Section 45, a section which he did not like, and which, when it came on for discussion, he proposed to amend, for it seemed to him that it affected the whole character of the Bill. The present Amendment was merely to raise the question which really turned upon Section 45. That section appeared to be an afterthought, suggested in a spirit of compromise to satisfy somebody who did not like the Bill, for it was wholly inconsistent with the rest of the Bill. By that section, whenever the landlord was enabled to sell on account of any breach of the statutory conditions, that tenancy was determined, and the landlord could create a new tenancy, and the after-tenancy would not have the conditions such as were attached to the old tenancy. Now, that appeared to him (Sir George Campbell) to be a confiscation of the tenant's right created under the Bill. It was most severe as against the tenant, who would have this sword continually hanging over his head—that if by any chance he committed a breach of the statutory conditions he would find his tenancy determined. During the debates it had been clearly shown that, a new tenancy being created, a landlord might protect himself by a rack-rent of the full value; and so the new tenancy would leave nothing to the tenant, and everything to the landlord. He was delighted to see that the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) had given Notice of an Amendment going in the same direction as the one under Notice, and he had hoped for the unusual pleasure of going into the same Lobby with the noble Lord; but, for reasons best known to himself, the noble Lord purposed to withdraw his Amendment. It was important to observe what the statutory conditions were, the breach of any of which would lead to the forfeiture of the tenancy. There were many. If a tenant failed to pay his rent at the appointed time he was ejected, his 1956 tenancy forfeited, and his right confiscated. And so in other cases, a tenancy, according to Section 45, wouldBe deemed to have determined whenever it is sold in consequence of a breach by the tenant of a statutory condition.He would be glad to find if he was mistaken in his construction of the section; but it seemed to him these conditions were much too severe, infinitely more severe than most leases. In the case of a breach of a condition attached to the lease of a London house, by an equitable provision of the law, the tenure was not forfeited, and it seemed unreasonable that this severe condition should be imposed on the Irish tenant. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would explain that he was mistaken in his construction of the words, and that the Amendment he now proposed would not be necessary.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 9, to leave out from "regulations" to "conditions" in line 11.—(Sir George Campbell.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. Law)
said, the Amendment was unnecessary, and that the provisions to which the words referred were not those of the 45th section as to determination of tenancies, but those of the 4th section as to resumption of tenancies in certain special cases.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN,
who had the following Amendment upon the Paper:—In page 1, line 12, after "(1)," omit from "except" to "shall," and insert instead—In the case of holdings valued under the Acts relating to the valuation of rateable property in Ireland at an annual value of not more than forty pounds, the sale shall, except with the consent of the landlord;In line 13, after "only," insert—Provided that by no such sale shall any holding, unless by leave of the Court, be divided so as to constitute a new holding of less than twenty acres of arable land,said, that it raised a very serious question, and one which would arise on the consideration of various parts of the 1957 Bill—namely, the permission to tenants to sub-divide where the farms were large. But as the hon. Member for Limerick County (Mr. O'Sullivan) had also a similar Amendment to propose, and because he (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) thought it desirable that Amendments of a similar character should be condensed, he should withdraw his, in order that the Committee might reach the Amendment of his hon. Friend.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN,
in moving, as an Amendment, to insert, at the end of the 1st sub-section—In cases where the tenancy for sale is value for one hundred pounds per annum and upwards the court may allow the tenant to sell to more than one person: Provided that the value of any one lot shall not be less than thirty pounds per annum,said, he thought the Committee would be glad to reach, at last, a sensible and practicable proposal. The object of the Amendment he was about to propose was to give power to the tenant to sell to more than one person. In the case of the large farms, unless the power of sub-division was given, it would be almost impossible to find purchasers on account of the large amount of capital required to pay for the tenant right and. tenant's improvements, as well as for the purpose of stocking the farm. Another reason why he thought the Amendment should be accepted was that it would assist in breaking up the large grazing farms, which had been the curse of the country. He would now move it, and trusted the Prime Minister, in view of its reasonable character, would be able to adopt it.
In page 1, line 13, after "only," insert" In cases where the tenancy for sale is value for one hundred pounds per annum and upwards the court may allow the tenant to sell to inure than one person: Provided that the value of any one lot shall not be less than thirty pounds per annum."—(Mr. o' sullivan.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
I am sorry we cannot entertain this Amendment. The first reason against our doing so is that it might be extremely injurious—nay, almost ruinous—to the landlord, because it might involve detaching for one por, 1958 tion of a holding a building which could be fully utilized only for the whole farm. But the other reason, which I think more fundamental, is that there is no reasonable expectation on the part of the tenant that he should sell to more than one person. When ho took the holding, he took it to keep as his holding, and it could not possibly have entered into his expectations that he should have the right to cut it into several portions. It would, therefore, be unjust to allow him to do so to the injury of the landlord.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, that was the first instance in connection with the Bill in Committee in which anything like a conflict of opinion had arisen between the Government and hon. Gentlemen near him. The Amendment before the Committee was of tremendous importance, because its principle touched cases of devolution and inheritance of property as well as cases of intestacy. The intention of the Bill was that there should be no sub-division of those large farms in Ireland from which the tenants had been sent away, while hon. Members who supported the Amendment believed it would meet the real difficulties of relieving congestion in certain parts of Connaught if, within the four corners of the Bill, encouragement was given towards the sub-division of those large farms in Ireland. Moreover, it was the impression in Ireland that in the mind. of the Government, when proposing some of the clauses of the Bill, there lurked a desire that the consolidation of farms might proceed, and that the sub-division of the large grazing farms might not be effected. He said that while it was granted that there was a mischievous excess of small holdings in some parts of Ireland, the real way to relieve the people was not by encouraging the deportation of every class of people who ought to be maintained in Ireland, but by encouraging migration to the farms which might be reasonably and rationally carved out of those large farms which sprung up in 1871 to 1875. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to recollect that this was not a case of what the tenant imagined when he took the farm. A great deal of domestic bitterness and strife might, undoubtedly, take place, unless sub-division to a reasonable extent were admitted on farms large enough to bear it. He 1959 entreated the Government to consider once more before they came to a final decision on the question of permissive sub-division. He represented a county in Ireland in which one might travel five or six miles without seeing what the farmers called red earth; and his blood had been chilled in places where neither the smoke of a cottage was to be seen nor the cry of a child heard for nine miles. The question now raised touched deeply the feelings of the Irish people. They asked that these large farms might be made the means of relieving the miserable little holdings which painfully existed in some parts of Ireland. He assured the Government that Irish Members who had fully considered the Bill were unanimously of opinion that subdivision was necessary; and he again appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to re-consider the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick County.
MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
said, he fully recognized that it would be utterly unjust to the landlords to give the tenants power to sell their farms in lots. That had been clearly pointed out by the Prime Minister. But he failed to see why the Court, to which so many great powers were to be committed by the Bill, might not safely be trusted to protect the interest of the landlords, and, in cases where it was right and just, to give their sanction to a moderate subdivision of farms.
§ MR. SHAW
said, he would also appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to give his consideration to this subject, which was one of very great importance. There were cases, he would admit, in which it would be most absurd to compel the landlord to agree to the cutting up of his farms; but there were also cases in which the landlord, by acting like the dog in the manger, would prejudice his own interest if he did not consent. For his own part, he deplored the existence of these large farms in many parts of Ireland, and he looked to this Bill as a means by which they might be broken up.
§ MR. PARNELL
thought a good deal might be said in favour of the suggestion that the question of sub-division should be left to the discretion of the Court. The Prime Minister had said it would be unjust to allow the tenant to sub-divide his holding, because when he came into 1960 possession he never expected to have the right of selling his interest in portions. But, in all probability, neither did he expect to have to sell any interest in the holding at all. So that the argument, if it cut against the right of selling the interest divided, would also cut against selling the interest as a whole. But, speaking on this question from an economical point of view, he thought it was one of the utmost importance for the proper cultivation of many of those large grass districts to which reference had been made. It was a matter of perfect notoriety that the grazing tenants holding large tracts of inferior grass land in the Western counties of Ireland were many of them in a state of bankruptcy; that they had an insufficiency of capital for the purpose of cultivating their holdings, many of which, from an agricultural point of view, were urgently in need of tillage. He had himself driven over a distance of from nine to 12 miles in county Mayo and had not seen a single human being or a single habitation. A state of things existed there that was truly deplorable. There were large tracts of land of inferior quality in that county which were not capable, agriculturally speaking, of remaining long in a condition of permanent pasture without deterioration. The way to break up these lands was by adopting the plan recommended by the hon. Member for Limerick County (Mr. O'Sullivan), or by applying the principle of purchase. He did not agree with what had been said by the hon. Member for the County of Cork (Mr. Shaw). He thought it a very fair compromise, and one which the Prime Minister might accept with confidence, under certain restrictions and regulations, that the Court should permit the present occupying tenant to sub-divide his holding. It had been said that the Bill was an Ulster Bill; but it so happened that the Ulster counties would not be affected by the Amendment, because the system of clearances had not proceeded to any great extent in those counties. It was the Western counties—Galway, Mayo, and Sligo—where these clearances had taken place, and which would be affected by the Amendment. He did not think the county of Cork would be affected to any great extent. There were, however, five or six counties in Ireland where the adoption of some such provision as that 1961 contained in the Amendment of his hon. Friend was necessary to secure and protect the proper cultivation of the soil. He would therefore suggest that, if the Amendment were withdrawn, the Prime Minister should give some substantial hope that he would, before the house met again that day, re-consider the whole question with a view to meeting the almost unanimous wish of Irish Members.
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
also hoped the Prime Minister would re-consider this matter, and if a division was not taken on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Limerick County (Mr. O'Sullivan), that he would, perhaps, see his way to adopt the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member below him (Mr. Charles Russell) to allow the Court to deal with the question of sub-division. He had the honour to represent the county which in Ireland was called "The county of small farms," which, he believed, would compare favourably with any other in respect of the payment of rents.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he hoped, on the contrary, the Prime Minister would stand by the declaration he had made. He agreed with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that the tenant when he took his holding could have had no notion that he would have the right of dividing it. As the Bill stood already, the landlord was not to get the best price he could for his property. But the case was different with the tenant; he was to have the power of getting the very best for his share, and now it was proposed that not only should he get the best price for it as a whole, but that he might, so to speak, cut it up into little bits. Considering that, up to the present time, the tenant was not supposed to have any joint proprietary in the soil, it was a strange thing to say that the landlord was not to get the best price he could, but that the tenant was to do so, and was to be allowed to cut up the land into small portions.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
thought that of the two Amendments, that of the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan) was to be preferred. If it were accepted, he did not think any harm could follow, for the reason that the operation of the clause would be limited in respect to the particular sub-divi- 1962 sions which the Court might sanction. In the other Amendment there were no limitations, and it would be hopeless to pass it if the present Amendment were rejected.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, that, in his speech on the second reading of the Bill he had commented very seriously on the 1st clause, in reference to the restriction of the sale to one person. They had heard a great deal about the necessity of relieving certain districts by distributing the population over other districts. He had pointed out that they had an opportunity, by allowing large farms to be sold to a number of persons, of effecting the very thing they had attempted in vain to bring about by the "Bright's Clauses" in the Act of 1870. He was not so sanguine as the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) that they would be able to relieve the congested districts of Ireland under the provisions of the Bill; and, he contended, it would be a great pity to lose the opportunity they now had of breaking up some of the large farms. It was proposed, not that the tenant should have this power absolutely, but that a Court should have the decision of that very difficult question. It seemed to him that the power which they sought to confer on the tenant was analogous, in spirit, to the abolition of the Law of Primogeniture, of which almost every land reformer was in favour; and he thought the sense of the Committee should be tested on the question, either on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Limerick, or that of the hon. Member for the County of Monaghan (Mr. Givan).
§ MR. WALTER
said, that hitherto in the course of these debates he had not said a word; but he now wished to say that, though he had no objection, in principle, to the sub-division of these large farms, he doubted very much whether the tenants should be allowed to bring it about on their own motion. [An hon. MEMBER: No; the Court.] He doubted whether the tenants should be allowed to bring it about, even with the consent of the Court. One of the main features of this legislation, as well as of the legislation of 1870, was that farms of a certain size and rental should be excluded from the operation of these Acts. Well, bearing that in mind, was it right to allow the tenant or the Court 1963 to sub-divide the farm, when the immediate effect would be to break up a farm, say, of 300 or 400 acres, which ex hypothesi was outside the operation of the Act, into a number of small farms which would come under the operation of the Act? The feeling of most landlords would be rather to be outside than inside the operation of the Act.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) had started with a fallacy, because he laid down the principle that the tenant, when he took a holding, took it subject to certain conditions; but time right hon. Gentleman must know that in a great many cases a particular holding had been possession of a family for one or two generations. Ireland was an agricultural country, and time land should be so apportioned that it could be turned over with the spade, instead of being treated to farming operations on a large scale, which system had failed so miserably in England. In their experience in Ireland, the small farms had been most successful. He had given Notice of an Amendment which went very much further into the question of sub-division than the Amendment of the hon. Member for Limerick, which would have very little practical effect in the parts of Ireland with which he was acquainted. The hon. Member's Amendment might have effect in Meath, Tipperary, and Limerick; but the principle which would allow a farm to continue increasing in size without chance of sub-division was a most objectionable one. One of the great causes of the present agitation in Ireland was the existence of large farms without facilities for sub-division.
§ MR. A. MOORE
said, that it was a very serious thing to compel the landlord to increase the number of his tenants; but, at the same time, the question was of enormous importance. Emigration was going on to a considerable extent. The Bill afforded facilities for the increase of that emigration, and he really thought it was of great importance in the life of a nation that some steps should be taken to counteract 1964 the enormous emigration that was going on.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, he was anxious to see the Bill passed without delay, because, though it might not be all they wished for, still there were some very good things in it. However, he felt bound to press the Amendment, as he believed it to be important, so far as the peace of the country was concerned. The Prime Minister had pointed out that new buildings would have to be erected. Well, there was nothing to complain of in that. Then the right hon. Gentleman said the tenants never expected this. In reply to that, he would ask whether the tenants were not now getting many things that they never expected? If this Bill were not carried, they would get much more than they ever expected. Every tenant in Ireland, no matter how small or large his holding, would come under the Bill. He had known cases where tenants had farms of the value of £30–20 or 30 acres in extent—and were able to live as comfortably as other men with 100 acres. He wished to prevent the landlord from selling the tenant's interest; and, as he thought it would be fatal to the interests of Ireland if his Amendment were not passed, the matter was of too great importance to be decided to-night. Hon. Members should think over the matter; and, in order to enable them to do so, he would move to report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. O'Sullivan.)
I admit the time has come when we ought to think about reporting Progress; but it really seems to me that we ought to dispose of this Amendment first. It must be borne in mind that we do not dismiss the entire subject by disposing of this Amendment, because there is the proposal of the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan) to be discussed. He has put his proposal in a different form, and has evidently framed it with greater care, and he has announced that he will bring it forward to-morrow. I hope, therefore, that we shall be able to decide upon the Amendment before us to-night.
§ MR. O'SHEA
said, the Amendment of the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan) would give them all they wanted; 1965 therefore, he trusted that the hon. Member (Mr. O'Sullivan) would withdraw his proposal.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, that if hon. Members would look at his Amendment, they would see that he did not want to give power to the tenant at all. All that he proposed was that the Court should allow the tenant to sell.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA,
speaking from the landlords' point of view, would think the Amendment of the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan) infinitely less objectionable than that of the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan), because, according to the former, the permission to sub-divide would only become operative in cases where the rent was over £100 a-year, and no tenancy would be reduced below £30 a-year. The hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan), no doubt, was animated by the best intentions; but he proposed to sanction division to any extent the Court might allow. Let them take the decision on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Limerick, which, though it did not so far recommend itself to the Committee would, he ventured to say, have a bettor chance of support than the other.
§ MR. PARNELL
I wish to ask you, Mr. Chairman, as a point of Order, whether, if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Limerick is negatived, that of the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan) can be moved afterwards?
I see nothing in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Monaghan that is not completely in Order.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
would appeal to the hon. Member (Mr. O'Sullivan) to withdraw his Amendment, as there was not much difference between the two, if the withdrawal of his Amendment would smooth the way to some reasonable understanding. There had been such unanimity on that (the Opposition) side of the House, that he had no doubt his hon. Friend would give way. There had been exhibited that night a feeling on the part of the Irish Representatives which any Cabinet Minister who ever ruled must, in some measure, defer to. He would ask his hon. Friend to withdraw his Amendment, though it seemed to him preferable to the other.
did not think the Prime Minister had given any reason worthy of the name against the Amendment of his hon. Friend. Far greater powers than were proposed to be conferred on the Court by the Amendment were already conferred by the Bill.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
On condition that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan) will be discussed to-morrow, I will withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.