HC Deb 03 June 1881 vol 262 cc34-57

Clause 1 (Sale of tenancies).


moved, in page 1, line 13, after "only," insert— But if the landlord shall unreasonably decline or omit to give his consent to the sale to more than one person, the Court may give such consent. He submitted that the tenant was entitled to a further concession than the Bill at present gave him, and that the proposal contained in the Amendment was absolutely necessary, in order to prevent the continuance of that friction on this important subject which had hitherto existed between the landlord and tenant. It was as well that the Committee should understand at the outset that he was not in favour of giving to the tenant an absolute and unrestricted right of sale; and he was not in favour of giving him any right to sub-divide his holdings, except under certain restrictions, because he was of opinion that such a right conferred upon the tenant might in future work evil to himself, and evil to the country. At the same time, he considered that the power of the landlord, under all circumstances, to prevent the sub-division of a holding, was detrimental to the interest of the occupier and a hardship to private individuals. It could not be denied that the tendency of the landlord class had been to take into their possession, on all possible occasions, land from which the tenant had been evicted, and there had also been a tendency on every occasion when there was a sale to amalgamate the farm about to be sold with the adjoining holding. To a limited extent he believed that both of these objects were perfectly legitimate; but, at the same time, he knew that they had been carried too far, and that there had been an amount of amalgamation and an amount of depopulation throughout the country for the purpose of consolidating farms that had been exceedingly detrimental to Ireland, and especially to that portion of Ulster with which he was most intimately acquainted. He knew large tracts of land in Ulster in which he could recollect numerous homesteads containing contented, and comparatively prosperous families, on which there was not at this moment the vestige of a human habitation. The old residents had been evicted, and the population had gone away and scattered themselves over the country, the land remaining either in the hands of the owners themselves or of wealthy Scotch settlers. Looking at the statistics in regard to agricultural holdings in Ireland, he might mention that between the years 1841 and 1879, a period of just 38 years, the number of holdings had been reduced by 90,500. Incredible as it might appear, hon. Members not acquainted with the habits of the Irish people, and more intimately acquainted with the agricultural population of England—incredible as it might appear to them—he had no hesitation in saying that among the most contented and prosperous tenants in Ireland were tenants holding farms containing from 12 to 25 acres of land. He knew in his own neighbourhood that some of the best tenants, farming very good land and being industrious sober people, had money in the bank, had sent their children abroad, and even put some of their sons into the learned professions, out of farms of 15 acres for which they paid a fair rent. He had no hesitation in saying that if Ireland were populated now with an agricultural population settled in holdings from 15 and 30 to 40 and 50 acres, it would be a richer country, and a better support to England than it was now with large consolidated farms. He was quite sure that when he referred to the immense diminution which had taken place in the number of holdings, many hon. Members would say, "So much the better." Well, those who said that did not know Ireland as well as he did, because he knew that the towns and villages in the neighbourhood of those depopulated districts, where the commercial inhabitants were once in a flourishing and prosperous condition, were now on the verge of bankruptcy, and that, even as regarded the farmers themselves, they had not available for agricultural purposes the same number of labouring men they had in olden times when the population was more dense; and, consequently, in the management of their farms they were obliged to pay a higher amount of wages than was formerly the case. Coupled with this fact, there was the further fact that since 1841 the increase of farms of above 30 acres was 112,000, made up as follows:—In Ulster, 32,000; Connaught, 19,000; Munster, 40,000; and Leinster, 21,000. There was also this extraordinary fact connected with the system of agricultural holdings in Ireland—that since 1845 the increase of farms between 50 and 500 acres had been 20,314. Now, he did not believe that from the history of any country, and especially from the history of Ireland, it could be authentically deduced that farms of 500 acres were at all practical for the purpose of maintaining a wealthy and a prosperous agricultural population. Those large farms which had sprung up since 1845 were chiefly occupied and used for sheep and cattle. Perhaps some would say a better population than the Irish race. But if he appealed to some of our departed Generals and our greatest Commanders, to speak of the men who had carried the English flag from time to time to victory and glory, he was sure they would not say that it was for the benefit of either Ireland or England that the best blood of the Irish race should be driven to other countries. It was calculated that since the year 1845 there had been 2,000 farms created, ranging from 500 to 5,000 acres in extent, and it was estimated that there was a total of 4,000,000 acres thus appropriated in these large farms which, divided into farms of 40 acres, would give 100,000 additional holdings. He contended that if this land was thrown at once into the market in Ireland it would for a long time appease any land hunger that might exist, and which was, at the present moment, doing so much mischief in that country. He would respectfully suggest to the Prime Minister that there was a class of cases in which the people to which they applied had a reasonable right to sub-divide. They were formerly mountainous districts, and by the industry of the tenants they had been turned into arable land. He knew cases where men—now old men—were years ago farming 50 or 150 or 200 acres of land, which, in numerous cases, were covered, with moss and moor and bog. Those men had large families, and they had reclaimed a very large portion of their holdings with the view of settling some of their sons upon them in their own immediate vicinity. No doubt it was originally one holding; but the amount of arable land there now, compared with the amount of arable land there at the beginning of the tenancy, was as 20 to 1. They had reclaimed acre after acre with the assistance of their sons, and he could not see how the interest of the landlord was prejudiced, but, on the contrary, he thought it would be improved, by allowing the tenants to divide a portion of their farms among their sons. The rental would be more secure, a greater stimulus to industry would be given to the entire family, and the extent of the holding would be large enough to afford a tract for more than one respectable son. The power of the landlord capriciously and without reason to refuse such sub-division was a power which in his (Mr. Givan's) opinion ought to be taken from him, provided that his refusal to permit the sub-division was purely capricious, wholly unreasonable, and not founded upon any ground consistent with his own protection or with the good of his estate. He knew there was another class of holdings which he might put still stronger. No ambition of the small Irish farmer was greater or more legitimate than the ambition of procuring farms in his own immediate vicinity for his sons. He had known farmers, particularly on good estates, where the landlord and the agent were respected, and the families lived in comfort at fair rents to save up and hoard money for the purpose of acquiring adjoining land. They were able to purchase farm No. 1; this was done with the sanction of the agent, and the first time they went to pay the rent they got two receipts. That went on for some years, and they were able to purchase another farm and then another. Having three or four farms they got three or four receipts. Then, after a while, at the instance of the agent, the whole sum was put into one receipt, and the rent of the respective holdings was marked on the back of the receipt; but by-and-bye the agent made out a new ledger and consolidated the three holdings, putting them into one, and henceforward the three farms were united. The effect of what the agent did was not appreciated or understood by the tenant; but by-and-bye one of his sons married, and then the tenant wished to transfer one of the farms to him. He accordingly went to the agent and said—"Please to put my son's name into one of the farms." But the agent said—"No, I don't know any such farm." There might have been a new agent or a new landlord who knew nothing of the history of what had taken place, or there might have been a purchaser under the Landed Estates Court after the farms had been consolidated. The agent went on to say—"My policy is to keep up the consolidation of the farms and to keep the holdings as large as possible, and I will not, therefore, permit subdivision." In a moment the hope of a man's life was blighted. His family was unsettled, and all his arrangements were upset; and then, after consultation with his family, the sons found that they were obliged to reconcile themselves to the arbitrary refusal of the agent, and to console themselves with the knowledge that there were fertile plains and wide lands abroad. The result was that, although the tenant was entitled in all equity to restore the farm to its original state of sub-division, he was prevented by the transaction which had taken place, and his sons were lost to the country. Then, he asked, if this was to be a Land Bill dealing with the rights of the tenants, why- should there not be some provisions in it to protect cases of this kind? All he wanted was that in regard to tenants with large holdings and land enough to make a comfortable arrangement with their family, and especially where the holdings were originally separated, restricted sub-division should be permitted, and that the landlord should be deprived of the power of putting an unreasonable and capricious veto upon the sub-division. At the same time, he would not place the power of sub-dividing the farms in the hands of the tenant, because he knew that in Ireland there was a tendency towards excess of sub- division; and so great and so foolish was the love of an Irishman for the soil that he would prefer settling his sons on a few acres of land rather than send them abroad. It was only where the landlord unreasonably refused to give his consent to a sub-division that he would bring in the intervention of the Court; and if there was a Court competent to settle questions of rent it ought to have power to dispose of this question also, limited by the proviso that such sub-division should not in any case prejudice the interest of the landlord in the holding. He did not think it would be fair for the tenant to sub-divide his holding, and in this way reduce the chance the landlord had of getting the rent or increasing the compensation for disturbance in case of eviction; but he did think, taking into consideration the size of the holding, its history, and all the surrounding circumstances, that, if the Court should be of opinion that the sub-division would not be prejudicial to the landlord's interest in the holding, it should have the power of giving consent to the sub-division on such terms and conditions as it might think proper. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman, who was so vigorously defending the Bill in its entirety, would, when he came back after the Whitsuntide Recess, be prepared to make some concessions. Certainly, a concession in this respect would prevent great irritation, and would give widespread satisfaction. If reasonable concessions were made, so as to give the tenant the right of free sale and confidence in the Court before which he had to go, and also to extend the number of peasant proprietors, he thought the Bill would be one that was calculated to throw a considerable quantity of oil upon very troubled waters.

Amendment proposed, In page 1, line 13, after "only" to insert the words "but if the landlord shall unreasonably decline or omit to give his consent to the sale to more than one person, the Court may give such consent."—(Mr. Givan.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


I at once commence what I have to say by two admissions—one is that the adoption of a Motion such as this seems to be desired by a very large proportion of the Members from Ireland. I am prepared to make this admission, and the second is, that I think my hon. Friend the Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan), by the form in which he has put his Amendment, has taken great pains to avoid anything that might be injurious to the interest of the landlord. On the contrary, he has taken great pains to show that he is anxious to maintain as well as he can the interest of the landlord. But the first objection I take to the Amendment is that it is evidently calculated to be injurious to the interest of the landlord. My hon. Friend, in the terms of his Motion, has not only, like hon. Gentlemen opposite, withheld absolute discretion from the tenant, but he also imposes upon the Court the duty of compelling the landlord to sub-divide his property if he unreasonably refuses to comply with the wish of his tenant. Although I think my hon. Friend has laboured, with earnestness and sincerity in this behalf, I do not think it is altogether in his power to secure the object he has in view. For example, I am presuming that we shall now adhere to the principle of the Act of 1870, and of the present Bill in this respect—that the compensation for disturbance shall be on a varying scale, and that the amount of compensation for large holdings shall be less than that which is to be obtained for small holdings. But if that is so, there will be very serious difficulties you will have to encounter in breaking up large holdings into small holdings. If it is also provided that the farm, when broken up, shall form the ground for a larger claim for compensation for disturbance against the landlord than would be the case if the holding remained a large one, I do not think it would be possible to make this enactment distinctly compatible with entire justice to the landlord. But, beyond this, there are many other matters involved. Beyond this I urge the argument, which was scoffed at by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), that the privilege which it is now proposed to give to the tenants had been, in a manner, in the contemplation of the tenants themselves. I thought that a serious and a weighty argument; but the hon. Member for Cork ridiculed it, as he was perfectly entitled to do in a Parliamentary sense, and said—"You are giving to the tenants a great many things they had not expected." What we are giving to the tenants by the present portion of the Bill is the privilege of selling their tenant right. Am I to be told by the hon. Member for Cork that that is a new and gratuitous proposition, without foundation in the traditions of the people, in the practice of the people, and in the expectations of the people? [Mr. PARNELL: I referred to a particular class of tenants.] I altogether disclaim all participation in that particular argument of the hon. Gentleman. It is surely one thing to remove restrictions in the disposal of an interest which exists in a certain form under the Land Act of 1870, as was ably shown by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Davey), and afterwards in a more definite form, and another to import a privilege that is entirely novel in its character. Then let us see what more is to be said, for there is a great deal more to be said; and I can assure my hon. Friend that if the question did not involve considerations of the gravest character, I should feel disposed to give every weight to the representations of Members for the Irish constituencies in order to meet their views. But let us consider the scope and basis of the Bill. The Bill makes, I admit, two large and serious changes. I do not say they are of equal magnitude, because I do not think they are. The first is that it guarantees tenant right, with respect to which I may say that it is not only established already in very extensive portions of the country, concentrated in Ulster, and dispersed over the rest of Ireland, but that it is also recommended to us by a very great weight of authority from without. The other great change, and the greatest change of all—at least, in my judgment, by far the greatest change of all—is the introduction of the jurisdiction of the Court to fix judicial rents between the landlord and the tenant. In making so great a change as that, and in assigning-to a Court the determination of that which is properly and economically, in all ordinary circumstances, far better settled by private agreement, we must consider both the grounds of that recommendation and the limits within which it is made. I hold it to be a matter of the greatest importance—and I would assure the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), if he were here, that it is not for the purpose of fastening upon him a personal responsibility, but of pressing on the mind of the House the due significance of a great public fact that I have always insisted on—I hold it to be a matter of the highest importance to bear in mind that we have had various authorities, all thoroughly competent and respectable, examining into the state of the Land Question in Ireland, and that these authorities, acting under the sanction of the Crown, notwithstanding differences on a multitude of things, have all unanimously agreed on this—that it is desirable to introduce the jurisdiction of the Court for the purpose of determining judicial rents. If I found myself on their authority, which I think ought to carry immense weight in the minds of reasonable men, I must consider up to what point that weight of authority is to be carried, and I am not entitled to plead that general authority for the purpose of bringing within the jurisdiction of the Court matters which have never been examined or recommended, and matters which I have no right to say are recommendations which have ever been in the slightest degree within the scope of the inquiries of any of the Commissions. Now, my hon. Friend has founded his Amendment upon the mischief which, as he thinks, has resulted from the undue tendency to the consolidation of agricultural holdings in Ireland. I do not pretend to that acquaintance with the agricultural condition of Ireland which would enable me to support the statement of my hon. Friend; but I can well believe it, and I most certainly have the strongest conviction that the landlords of England have committed a great and serious error in this respect within the last 30 or 40 years, and have proceeded on a total misapprehension in assuming that the way to make agriculture cheap and profitable is to make the holdings large. They are now paying the penalty of their mistake, and I have not seen a landlord of whom I have inquired what has been the difference to him in the present distressed state of agriculture between a large holding and a small holding, who has not told me that his losses on a large holding has been far greater than upon a small one. Then, by any fair and legitimate means we can use, we should be glad to promote, if we can, any rational movement in another direction; but that is a question of public policy. It is a question, undoubtedly, of public policy; but it is one we cannot see our way to taking out of the hands of those entitled by law to adopt the measures they think requisite for the management of their own property. We do not think that in making any recommendation at this moment we should have anything to rest upon except an argument, of some weight certainly, but, at the same time, one which has not been sifted in the latest public examination of the facts of the case, which rests on grounds entirely exceptional, and which, when we are attempting to carry a measure which is exceptional in its character, would be greatly enlarging the bounds of the Bill, without having the slightest support from authority. We have made a proposition as to the jurisdiction of the Court. We are now asked to extend the jurisdiction of the Court to the division of holdings through the medium of the regulations for the sale of the tenant's interest. That is, undoubtedly, beyond all question, taking out of the hands of the landlord one of the most distinctive features of the management of his estate. In the distinctions between the position of the tenant and of the landlord, there is none so fundamental as this—that the business of the tenant is with the holding, and the holding alone, while the business of the landlord is with the entire property. If we were to say to the tenant—"You shall, by an indirect process in the management of the estate, have the power of breaking up the holding for other people, and settling for the landlord through the Court what number of tenants he shall have," you would be plainly placing in the hands of the tenant and of the Court together one of the most essential responsibilities which belong to the management of landed property. And why should you stop there? Why not give the Court jurisdiction when similar questions arise in regard to sub-letting? It may be shown that, in some cases, sub-letting would be reasonable and natural. Why is not the judgment of the Court then to come in on the appeal of the tenant to determine whether the land may not be sub-let under given circumstances, and under securities like those which my hon. Friend proposes? But it does not even stop there, for, as far as I can see, I am not aware of any of those incidents which make up the character of proprietorship which we desire to maintain in its efficiency, which might not afford grounds quite as fair and quite as applicable to be brought within, the jurisdiction of the Court. I am responsible for the proposals contained in the Bill. I believe in its utility, but I believe in its utility as a means of escape from greater evils, and I am not willing to be a party to its gratuitous extension where there is neither necessity nor conclusive authority to justify such extension. There is one other form of the argument which I desire to put to the Committee. I do not think, Sir, that we can safely overcharge this Bill. I do not think that hon. Gentlemen will be wise if they determine to take advantage of this Bill for the purpose of endeavouring, perhaps at a considerable expenditure of time, to introduce into it everything that they may individually, or that even an important body of them may believe to be the material constituent of a perfect Land Law for Ireland. I hope, Sir, that the Bill is a good ship, and that she carries sufficient cargo. But if she takes much more, and especially in deck loading, I am afraid lest she should founder or capsize. In other words, and in strictly Parliamentary language, let me observe upon what is the true character of our duty when we are dealing with a measure of this kind—the duty, above all, of the Government, but the duty also, undoubtedly, of Parliament. We must not be led by our own ideas of abstract perfection in a measure. If we can frame a measure which is sufficient in our conscientious judgment for the attainment of certain great public objects, the next thing which we have to consider is the balances of forces which it will have to encounter—the propelling forces which we can reckon in its favour, and the opposing forces which it will excite to resist its passing, and thereby defeat our efforts. Now, that has been the most anxious part of the task of the Government in the preparation of this measure. We have, we hope, framed a measure which it is well worth the while of the people of Ireland to accept; a measure which we hope will, without violence, but by a steady process, tend to allay and reduce to comparative insignificance the difficulties that now mar the relations of landlord and tenant. But having done that, and fully believing with my hon. Friends on this side that to have presented a weak measure on a subject of this kind would have been idle fatuity, we are bound then to consider how we can frame such a measure best, and insure, humanly speaking, the assent of the Legislature to it. I cannot conceive a greater public evil than the failure of the measure. But if I have that impression about the failure of this measure, if my Colleagues and myself are anxious to use every effort they can to secure its passing, the first effort is to exclude from the measure all that they do not deem essential to their purpose, for fear that they should needlessly multiply and aggravate the obstacles they have to overcome. That is the first duty incumbent upon us; and it is on that ground, more than on the ground of any special narrow argument, that we are most desirous to exclude from the Bill, and to persuade the Committee and my hon. Friend if we can to exclude from the Bill, propositions which, although they might be useful in themselves, they must admit to be novel, for which they cannot claim any authority extraneous to this House, and which they cannot prove might not, by parity of reasoning, lead to many proposals which would tend to weaken the propelling force of reason and authority which we hope to enlist, and have, perhaps, enlisted in favour of this Bill, and to increase, on the other hand, the resisting forces against which we must be on our guard, and to which, above all, we must take care not to impart, by any act of ours, the appearance of reason. It is on that argument of political prudence that I would almost hope that Gentlemen, who may even attach great value to this proposition, may, nevertheless, be inclined to desist from prosecuting it. At any rate, they will see that it is not from pedantry, nor from indifference to the importance of their objects, but on a deliberate and careful examination of the interests involved in the question, and with the earnest desire to prosecute in the most effective manner the common end that we have in view, that we feel bound to say that we are not able to accede even to so carefully framed a proposition as that of my hon. Friend.


said, he believed he expressed the sentiments of most Members from Ireland sitting on those Benches in saying that they were not insensible to the arguments so ably put before the Committee by the Prime Minister. He felt sure his hon. Friend the Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan) would give those arguments every consideration before deciding on the course to be pursued with regard to his Amendment. Still, he could not help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman had somewhat exaggerated the possible effects which would follow from the adoption of his hon. Friend's Amendment. He could not admit the parity of the cases of sub-dividing and sub-letting. Subletting had been in the past, as was well known, and would be in the future, a most terrible evil; and he felt sure there was not a single Member from Ireland who would ask for one moment that subletting should be tolerated. As his hon. Friend had clearly and practically put it before the Committee, sub-division in itself was, no doubt, an evil; but he had not asked the Committee to pronounce in favour of it. As he had understood his hon. Friend, he asked the Committee and Her Majesty's Government not to pronounce in this Bill in favour of consolidation—not to pronounce, as it were, indirectly in favour of the system under which grazing farms were established. He appealed to the principle of free trade in land, and to the principle of contract, of which so much had been heard of late, in favour of this Amendment, which would set more land free, and thereby lessen the present land hunger by enabling those in want of farms to get them. But the effect of the Amendment would, after all, be but slight. It would not affect those large grazing farms which his hon. Friend had so well described, except very indirectly. The Amendment would, therefore, have but a limited effect; and he thought that very limitation might induce the right hon. Gentleman, even after all the arguments which he had laid before the Committee, to re-consider the question, and to say that the Government would leave it open during the progress of the Bill, in order to see if, on Report, something could be done in the direction of the Amendment of his hon. Friend.


thought, in view of the statement of the Prime Minister that it was his intention to exclude all Amendments extending the operation of the Bill, that it would save a good deal of the time in Committee if some Officer of the Crown would go through the Amend- ments standing on the Paper, and then state those which the Government would accept; because, from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, there was every reason to fear that no Amendments of any kind would be accepted. It was very desirable that the Committee should know whether it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to accept any substantial Amendments. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted that the consolidation of farms in England had worked badly for the landlords; and it was, therefore, only reasonable to conclude that consolidation would work badly in Ireland. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister said it was altogether too much to give the tenant the power of sub-dividing his holding with the sanction of the Court. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that the great majority of Irish Members were in favour of the Amendment; and as he had declined to accede to it, he thought it would be well if Her Majesty's Government would give an intimation as to whether or not they intended to meet all the Amendments put forward by Irish Members in the same way.


pointed out that the County Court Judges were admitted to be unfit to deal with matters of this kind. For his own part, although he approved of small farms as much as other hon. Members, he could not agree to the Amendment in its present form, inasmuch as it left the question of subdivision "to be settled by the Court. He thought that some directions ought, at any rate, to be given that the landlord should receive compensation in cases of this kind.


thought the Amendment, if it were adopted by the Government, would be found to be most useful. The only argument of any strength contained in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister was that, by turning a large farm into a number of small ones, the claims for compensation for disturbance would be increased, and that this would work against the interest of the landlords. But he thought that difficulty could very easily be remedied by adding a proviso to the clause that the rate of compensation should remain the same for a portion as for the entire farm. By that plan the landlord's interest would be fully protected, and it would give an opportunity in urgent' cases, where the Court thought it was for the good of the locality, to extend to the tenant the permission to subdivide his farm. He trusted the Amendment might still be agreed to by the Prime Minister.


, said, he regarded the Amendment of his hon. Colleague (Mr. Givan) as a step in the right direction, and, therefore, trusted the Prime Minister would reconsider the determination he had expressed not to accede to it. With regard to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, founded upon the injustice which might be caused by reason of increased compensation in cases when large holdings were divided, he thought the suggestion of the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Gill) would very easily remove the injustice which the right hon. Gentleman feared might ensue. No doubt it would be more troublesome to a landlord to have to collect his rent from several persons than from one; but in the peculiar circumstances of the case he thought the landlord might be fairly asked to make some concession, and to forego the process of consolidation which, at the present moment, was acting so injuriously to the best interests of the country. It was not to be supposed for a moment that the Court would act in any way harshly or unfairly towards the landlord or his interest. The Court would have the power of examining into all the circumstances of each case; and he was quite sure that the Court, which would be appointed by the Government, would be such as to give satisfaction to everyone. If it did not do so the Act would be altogether a failure. Of course, if the Amendment were accepted, some provision must be made for the apportionment of the rent in case the division was allowed by the Court. On the whole, he was quite sure the proposal of his hon. Friend would give great satisfaction to the tenant farmers in Ireland, and would satisfy the people that a genuine effort was being made to promote that general distribution of land which was so much wanted in Ireland.


said, he hoped the Prime Minister would not follow the recommendation of the hon. Member who had just sat down, to disturb the determination already arrived at. For his own part, he was inclined to look at this matter rather from a public point of view than from that of the landlord or tenant. He did so, notwithstanding that the right hon. Gentleman had pointed out that the landlord must, if this Amendment were carried, suffer great injuries. No one could doubt that the effect of the Act of 1870 had been to increase very much the consolidation of holdings. The effect of this Amendment would be to increase the amount of claims for compensation for disturbance. Again, the tenant might sell only that portion of the tenancy which related to the valuable portion of the land, and then the landlord would retain only the less valuable portion of it. That was another case in which injury would arise to the landlord. He looked upon this point also from a public point of view, and was quite sure that the action of the Land League in such cases as that would be very potent and very quick. There was no doubt that the Land League would call upon all persons who had farms, say, of 100 acres, to apply to the Court for leave to sub-divide their holdings; and, of course, every pressure of the kind that had been but too frequent of late would be brought to bear on holders of larger properties to go to the Court in the same way. The Committee were aware that land hunger expressed itself in various ways; and he could not but think that this Amendment, if adopted, would give it the power of expressing itself very powerfully. The sub-division of land was already a fertile source of family disputes in Ireland. One of the witnesses, among several who gave evidence on this point before the Bessborough Commission, stated that nothing was so fatal to the peace of families and the neighbourhood as that anything like divided ownership should exist—that was to say, divided ownership of the tenancy, which the individual members of the tenant's family could bring pressure to bear upon the father to divide as they wished.


said, it would be to inflict a great injustice, quite outside the object of the Bill, to place landlords in a position in which they would be exposed to injury. It was manifest that the object of the measure was that the tenant should have security for the improvement of his holding, that he should pay a fair and reasonable rent, and that he should also have the power of selling his interest in his tenancy. That was the object of the tenant right movement—which had never claimed the right of' sub-division. Now, he thought that in asking the landlords to concede those points they were asked to concede a great deal, and he did not believe the area of the Bill would be wisely extended by asking for a further concession in the direction of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan). If the Amendment were agreed to, a landlord who had, say, 20 tenants, and whose rents were punctually paid, might have the number of his tenants increased to 100, because there was no limitation in the proposal of the hon. Member as to the amount of subdivision which might take place, and in that respect the Amendment before the Committee went far beyond the intention of the hon. Member for Limerick County (Mr. O'Sullivan), who proposed that the principle of sub-division should be confined to farms of £100 annual value, and to portions of them of not less than £30 annual value. The Amendment before the Committee, therefore, appeared to him more unreasonable than that of the hon. Member for Limerick County; and in the interest of the Bill itself he took the opportunity of stating that his opinion did not coincide with that of hon. Members who supported it.


entreated the Prime Minister to look again into the question and reconsider it before the Report. For his own part, he was in favour of completely protecting the interest of the landlord; there was no reason why the landlord's property should be cut up, or why he should have 10 tenants on his estates instead of one. He thought the case would be met by adding to the subsection the words—"Except such cases as may be brought before the Court upon reasonable and just grounds."


reminded the Committee that the late Mr. Butt was in favour of sub-dividing farms exceeding 60 acres in extent into parts of not less than 30 acres and £30 rental. No doubt the question was beset with difficulties; but, at the same time, public feeling in Ireland was very much in favour of the sub-division of large holdings, and he trusted the Government would re-consider the Amendment. He wished to know what would be done in the case of co-partners or tenants in common? There was no plurality clause in the Bill to meet cases of the kind, and he understood that if there were two partners a sale could not be effected.


said, the Amendment before the Committee was felt by the great majority of Irish Members to be vitally important to the interests of Ireland. In his opinion, without some provision of the bind proposed by the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan), the Bill would be practically useless in many parts of the country. Unless the power of sub-division were conferred upon the tenants, many districts of Ireland would, he believed, remain depopulated. It was a mistake to suppose that he and his Friends wanted to see farms established of 5 or 10 acres. They wanted to see farms of about 30 acres, on which a man and his family could live comfortably; and it was a well-known fact that there were farms of even 20 acres in Ireland on which the occupiers were more independent than on large farms of 200 and 300 acres. The Prime Minister had certainly advanced no argument of sufficient strength to sustain his objection to this Amendment. After saying there was no necessity for the change proposed, the right hon. Gentleman stated that the Bill would be overcharged by bringing forward the Amendment; but he appealed to him to say whether this was not the first Amendment that had been brought forward by an Irish Member, with the exception only of that which he (Mr. O'Sullivan) had moved on the previous evening, and which dealt with the same subject. He and his hon. Friends had not the slightest wish to impede the progress of the measure; but unless some proposal was made by the Government they would feel it their duty to press this question to a division.


believed that sub-division and sub-letting had been for many years the curse of Ireland; and, feeling very strongly in favour of the Bill, he should certainly vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Monaghan if it went to a division. He suggested, however, that the Government should add to the sub-section the words "unless to occupiers on the same estate." It could not be said that this would increase the number of the landlord's tenants. On the contrary, the number would be diminished by the circum- stance that the tenancy would be purchased by tenants already on his estates. It would tend to consolidate the farms, and he was in favour of that. Therefore, he hoped the Government would take into consideration the making of a special exception in favour of tenants on the same estate.


thought there was a considerable amount of misapprehension existing as to the extent to which very large tracts of land in Ireland were held as single holdings. Anyone who consulted Thom's Directory, which was an excellent authority on agricultural statistics, would find that the number of holders of farms from 50 to 100 acres was 56,513, and of farms from 100 to 200 acres 22,223. The next in order, 8,296, was the number of the holders of farms from 200 to 500 acres; and there were only 1,546 holders of farms in Ireland which exceeded the latter number of acres. Considerably more than half, very nearly three-fourths—namely, 414,261 of the farms were of and under 30 acres. The Prime Minister having pointed out that an Amendment of this kind would have the effect of overweighting the Bill, and, to some extent, risking its prospects, he trusted the hon. Member would not press the matter to a division.


hoped his hon. Friend would not withdraw his Amendment. The test which the hon. Member for Dublin (Dr. Lyons) had applied to this subject was not a correct one. He thought it would be well that, at least, a very large proportion of the land of Ireland, which was in the occupation of the 1,000 tenants whom he described as holding over 500 acres each, should be made available. Many of those men held over 5,000 acres; and he considered it of the utmost importance that power should be given to the Commission, or the County Court Judges, to arrange for the sub-division of those large estates for the purpose of getting the industrial population of Ireland on the land. This was at the root of the question. Ireland would always be poor until they enabled the bone and sinew of the country to work on the land; and if they started by removing a large proportion of the land from the possibility of the people getting on it, they would establish a system of entail which would bring about the most dis- astrous results. The Prime Minister had warned the Irish Members that they were undertaking considerable responsibility in pressing Amendments on the attention of the Government which were likely to overweight the Bill. It was, he thought, necessary to come to some understanding on this subject, because he was sure that no Irish Members desired to press any Amendments on the Government which had no chance of being accepted. Many people in Ireland had been under the impression that there was a good chance of having the Bill materially amended in the direction indicated by the Catholic Bishops of Ireland in their recent pastoral. He himself had never had very much faith in that; but surely they were only occupying the time of the House uselessly by continuing to move Amendments which the Prime Minister could not entertain favourably, and which he looked upon in advance as being within the class which were likely to overweight the Bill. It would be better, therefore, to ascertain what were the Amendments which the right hon. Gentleman considered could be entertained without running the risk of defeating the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had put his position very plainly before the Committee. He admitted that Irish public opinion was overwhelmingly in favour of the principle of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Monaghan; but he pleaded weakness, that he had not force sufficient to carry this Bill through Parliament in a stronger form than it was at present, and that he should, by accepting the Amendment, run the risk of defeat from his own supporters in "another place." This might be an excuse for the right hon. Gentleman passing the Bill in its entirety; but it was no excuse for Irish Members to accept it. It would therefore clear the way, and save an infinite amount of time, if they could have some knowledge or intimation as to which of the multitudinous Amendments on the Paper the Prime Minister was able to accept. The Irish people would then know whether they ought to prepare their minds to accept the Bill in its present imperfect condition. For his own part, he should consider himself bound, after having placed his views before them, to take the course which he considered to be right, whether they accepted the Bill or not. But here was an Amendment supported by the almost unanimous opinion of Irish Members, and the Prime Minister was obliged to admit that English public opinion was so weak behind him in support of the Bill that he dared not accept it. There was no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman would plead the same excuse for rejecting other Amendments; and, therefore, he hoped Irish Members would not, for want of intimation on the part of the Prime Minister, be put to the necessity of wasting the time of the Committee by moving Amendments which he could not accept. Although the Prime Minister had exercised his remarkable skill in trying to show that the Amendment was not a good one, he had never seen him less successful in making out his case. He must have thought that some additional right was being asked for the Irish tenants. But Irish Members were only seeking to elevate the tenant's right which the Government had introduced into the Bill. While the landlord was allowed to consolidate his estate the tenant was deprived of the power of selling his tenant right to more than one person. He could not conceive the slightest reason for such a limitation. Those in favour of the Amendment had upon their side the authority of the late Mr. Butt and Professor Baldwin, who recommended that something should be done in this matter. The latter declared that it was absolutely necessary that some steps should be taken for the purpose of bringing back the population of Ireland to the land.


remarked, that the Prime Minister had stated that one of the clauses of the Bill appointed a very powerful and important tribunal, which was to fix the rent of holdings in Ireland. But when this Amendment came forward the right hon. Gentleman also said it was not desirable to give similar powers with regard to the question of sub-division of particular holdings. Now, it seemed to him that if the Prime Minister thought it legitimate to give such an amount of power to this tribunal for the purpose of fixing rents, it would not be giving an unreasonable amount of power to allow the Court to decide the cases in which sub-division should take place. Because the number of sales which would take place in Ireland during the present generation could not be very great, and of those a very large proportion of the tenants would not wish to sub-divide their holdings. Therefore the number of instances in which this question would arise would be anything but large. On the point he had referred to, then, he did not think the Prime Minister had made out any case. Again, the right hon. Gentleman had said that this Amendment would overcharge the Bill. But it was not the Amendment that would overweight the Bill—it was the Prime Minister, who first gave authority to the tenant to sell his interest, and placed upon the tenant's right of sale a number of restrictions which would render it almost useless. The right hon. Gentleman had introduced into the Bill two subjects of great importance—emigration and the reclamation of waste land—which were really unnecessary for reforming the relations between landlord and tenant. He could not help thinking that if the right hon. Gentleman threw overboard those parts of his scheme, he would very much lighten the ship and give an opportunity for the discussion of substantial Amendments to other parts of the Bill. The result of refusing this Amendment would be that ultimately there would be none but large occupiers in Ireland, and that, in consequence, the population would be driven off the land. That, as was perfectly well known, was directly contrary to what competent authorities believed to be for the interest of the people of Ireland. The Bill as it stood was, therefore, calculated to intensify the evil which now existed. He contended that the people should be allowed to sub-divide their farms down to a certain point, because it was clear they would not do so unless it was proved by their experience that they could get more money for their holdings in several portions than by selling their interest entire. He thought the Government should weigh this question thoroughly, and agree to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Monaghan.


said, that, up to the present time, he had not spoken either for or against the Bill. Nor had he addressed the Committee upon any of the proposals which had been the subjects of discussion. That, however, was no reason why he should not, to the best of his ability, support any Amendment which he conceived to be good, or, on the other hand, oppose such as he con- sidered to be bad. He thought the Amendment before the Committee should have received the support of the Government, and he was astonished when he found that the Prime Minister not only did not support it, but actually went the length of opposing it. It appeared to him that the Government were jealous of giving to the future tenant what he held to be nothing at all. They already, in Clause 20, gave power to the Court to purchase estates and sell them in parcels to the tenants, and yet they refused to the tenant the power of applying to the Court to sell his interest to more than one person. He thought the Government were drawing the line at almost nothing, and that the limitation imposed upon tenants not to sell their tenancies to more than one person would have a very injurious effect. Within his own knowledge there was a gentleman in Ireland who farmed so many acres of land that he was obliged to keep a horse for the purpose of carrying him over his farm. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take time for further consideration, and that he would not refuse to accept the Amendment before the Committee, otherwise it would be the duty of Irish Members to resist the passing of the clause.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 38; Noes 206: Majority 168.—(Div. List, No. 228.)


said, he proposed to add at the end of line 13 the following words:— Unless when the yearly value of the holding exceeds £30, and so that neither the part sold nor the part remaining shall he of less value than £15 per annum. He had no doubt that the Amendment which had been proposed by the hon. Member for Limerick County (Mr. O'Sullivan) would have worked well in the county represented by the hon. Member, where, he supposed, there were many large farms; but the proposal would be of no use in Cavan and other counties with which he (Mr. Biggar) was acquainted. He was not disposed to give his adhesion to the proposal to leave this question of sub-division to the decision of the tribunal appointed by the Bill, because he thought that every farmer should have authority to dispose of his interest in whatever way he might think best. By the Act of 1870 it was declared that a certain interest in his holding belonged to the occupier; and, therefore, seeing that the occupier had that right, he failed to see on what grounds he was now refused the liberty of selling it to more than one person. If it could be shown that this power of selling to more than one person was calculated to injure the interest of the landlord, that contention would, of course, be entitled to its full weight, and he should not consider himself in a position to defend the Amendment he was about to propose; but he held that it would in no degree lessen the security of the landlord, because it was well known that small holdings would sell at a higher rate of purchase and rent than larger holdings. Although his Amendment proposed a minimum of £15, the actual limit would probably be from £20 to £30, because holdings exceeding £30 in value could hardly be divided with perfect equality. No doubt there would be difficulties in the way of an exact sub-division of farms.

And it being ten minutes to Seven of the clock, Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday 13th June.

The House suspended its Sitting at Seven of the clock.

The House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the clock.

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