§ (Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Forster, Mr. Bright, Mr. Attorney General for Ireland, Mr. Solicitor General for Ireland.)
§ COMMITTEE. [FIRST NIGHT.]
§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ MR. R. POWER
rose to move—That it be an Instruction to the Committee to insert such Clauses as may check the evils 1370 arising from absenteeism, and to impose upon absentees such conditions and restrictions with respect to their estates as the Committee may direct.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he was bound to inform the hon. Member that the Instruction would not be regular or permissible, because it proposed to authorize the Committee to do that which it already had the power to do.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, it was, nevertheless, competent to the Committee to insert Amendments in the sense indicated. The same objection would apply to the proposed Instruction of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) to take the fifth part of the Bill first. The Committee would have such authority; and, therefore, the Instruction could not be put.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
, if not out of Order, proposed to move an Instruction to the Committee to do that which it would certainly not be within the competence of the Committee to do without authority from the House. It was to the following effect:—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to snake provision that sums may be advanced to Irish tenants for the purchase of their holdings from such funds as Parliament may direct, and without further restriction as to amount than the Committee may direct; and also that the Committee may direct that money may be advanced to poor law unions, town commissioners, or other public bodies to provide land for labourers to such an amount and with such restrictions as Parliament may direct.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the proposed Instruction was inadmissible on different grounds to those which applied to the Notices of the hon. Members for Waterford and Bridport. It was inadmissible because it involved a charge, and according to the Standing Order such a proposition could only be introduced in Committee of the Whole House, and upon the recommendation of a Minister of the Crown.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
rose to move to leave out all the words after "That," in order to insert the words—No Bill can be a satisfactory solution of the question unless it includes provisions enabling the court to hear all claims by landowners for compensation for losses proved to have been sustained under the provisions of the Bill, and, on sufficient proof thereof, to award reasonable compensation.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
rose to a point of Order. He submitted that the proposal of the hon. and gallant Gentleman was to impose a charge, and could not, therefore, come from a private Member.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the Resolution was in terms of so general a character that it did not, in his opinion, fall within the Order referred to. He had considered the point carefully, and the Resolution appeared to him to be in such general terms that it was competent to the hon. and gallant Baronet to move it.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR a
asked whether it would be in Order to move an Amend- meat to the Resolution, provided it was in equally general terms?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, it would be impossible for the hon. Gentleman to do that till the House disposed of the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Baronet. Should the House think proper to affirm the Resolution it would then become the Main Question, and the hon. Member would be at liberty to propose an Amendment before it passed.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, that he was well aware of the difficulty of his position in making this Motion on the Question that the Speaker leave the Chair. If he believed that remedial measures of this kind, hastily passed, could produce pacification and friendship in Ireland, he would be the last man to say a word about the Bill at this stage. What was the condition of Ireland at this moment? Did the reception of the Bill justify any expectation that it would alter the attitude of the agitators in Ireland? Had agrarian outrages ceased? No. On the contrary, they had rather increased. The state of Ireland, in fact was such that he thought he was quite justified in interposing at that stage of their proceedings to make a few suggestions which might be the means of helping the Government forward in the course which they wished to follow. He knew it might be said that he was only endeavouring to obstruct the Bill; but he was perfectly ready to take the responsibility, because those who know him knew perfectly well that he would not get up to obstruct any Bill unless he thought there was some very good reason for making some remarks upon it. He appealed to the Attorney General for Ireland to tell the House, whether, in his Parliamentary experience, a measure of such grave importance had ever been 1372 treated upon its second reading as this Bill had been. Notwithstanding the very able speeches that had been made, and notably by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell), no one, not even the Prime Minister, and certainly not the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India, who closed the debate, had stated what the real principles of the Bill were. They did not oven now know what the principles of the Bill were, or how much was contained within its four corners. While, at one time, they were told that unlimited free sale was to be given to every present tenant holder of land, they were told, at another time, by occupants of the Treasury Bench, that the principle of free sale was to be regulated and controlled. No one had described what "fair rents" were, or informed the House what was proposed to be taken out of the pockets of the landlords, or how those who had obtained a Parliamentary title under the Act of 1848 wore to be dealt with. Then he should like to know what was fixity of tenure, as contained in the Bill. They land to look all over the Bill in order to find what its principles were; and if Clauses 1, 3, 4, 7, and 13, were looked at together, it would be seen that a landlord who should once part with his land in favour of a tenant would practically be debarred by the penalties to which the Bill would subject him from ever regaining possession of his property. The Bill, therefore, provided perpetuity of tenure; and if they found within the four corners of the Bill free sale, fair rent, and fixity of tenure, he had a right to ask the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor what was the value of the statements they so solemnly made, and which both houses so implicitly believed, when the Land Bill of 1870 was under discussion? The First Lord of the Treasury said, at that time, that the Legislature had, no doubt, a perfect right to reduce the landlord to the position of a pensioner or rent-charger, giving hint proper pecuniary compensation for his loss; but that it was bound not to do that unless it was shown that the change was for the public good. The right hon. Gentleman continued—Is it for the public good that the landlords of Ireland, in a body, should be reduced by an Act of Parliament to the condition practically of 1373 fundholders, entitled to apply on a certain day, from year to year, for a certain sum of money, but entitled to nothing more? Are you prepared to denude them of their interest in the land; and, what is more, are you prepared to absolve them from their duties with regard to the land? I, for one, confess that I am not; nor is that the sentiment of my Colleagues. We think, on the contrary, that we ought to look forward with hope and expectation to bringing about a state of things in which the landlords of Ireland may assume, or may more generally assume, the position which is happily held, as a class, by landlords in this country—a position marked by residence, by personal familiarity, and by sympathy with the people among whom they live."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 351.]The Lord Chancellor said that fixity of tenure meant the taking away the property of one man and giving it to another, and declared that when they deprived landlords of their property compensation must be given. The tendency of this measure would be to turn the landlords out of Ireland, which was the last thing that they ought to do; because their great object ought to be to induce the landlords to live in the country, and to work in harmony with their tenants—in such harmony as existed on the estates of the late Lord Bessborough. It could be clearly shown that, in many cases, the landlords would he severely and hardly treated under the provisions of this Bill. He knew there were landlords who acted most harshly and unjustly; but to condemn all on that account was indefensible. Those landlords who lead done what they considered to be their duty to their tenants; who had fixed their rents at a moderate sum; who had done half the improvements, and who had reduced rents when the tenants had made efforts to carry out improvements, would be greater sufferers under the Bill than those who had exacted rack rents; because tenants would give a far larger sum in open market for holdings where the rent was low, and the laud was held under a fair, just, and good landlord. Then they came to the case of the landlord who did all the improvements. He should like to know by what right in the world, when a man had done all the improvements, and treated the estate fairly and justly, and done everything he could to make his tenants comfortable, free sale was to be given on an estate like that? He might be told that was guarded against under the 8th sub-section of the 7th clause, or under the 7th sub-section of the 1st clause. 1374 In his humble opinion it was not. He should therefore like to know what was to be done in a case like that? He believed that properties like that ought to be excluded entirely from the Bill. Tie believed they should then have a definite notion how men who had done the best they could for their estates were to be dealt with. Turning to the landlord who had purchased up the tenant right, which was a totally different case, he should like to know how that landlord was to be treated? The hon. and gallant Member having rend to the House extracts from The Pall Mall Gazette tending to show the great hardship that would result to the landlord by this proposal to grant free Sale, proceeded to remark that he was glad to see the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell) had an Amendment on the Paper in the direction of the landlord going into Court. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) would ask what could be more unfair than that, whilst any tenant could any moment drag the landlord into Court, the landlord was to be excluded from going into Court at all? He ventured to think that some definite answer ought to be given to that proposal before going into Committee on the Bill. It had been said that the worst feelings existed between landlords and tenants; but he would venture to say there was lying dormant at the bottom of the mind of the Irish tenant a feeling of respect and regard for the landlord, in many instances, which not even all the tyranny of the Land League, or any other tyranny could break through. In illustration of this the hon. and gallant Member read to the House a Memorial which had been submitted to the owner of a very large estate by his tenants in the year 1879, in which, after acknowledging his past kindness and consideration, they asked for some reduction of rent. The prayer of the Memorialists, it was hardly necessary to add, was granted. He contended that there were in Ireland a large number of landlords who would be pressed to act in a similar manner if the occasion arose. In the present instance, the landlord had made reductions at a time of great depression; but at a time when he believed three parts of Ireland were in a better position to pay their rents than England or Scotland. ["No, no!"] Hon. Members might say "No, 1375 no;" but he would ask them to look at the fact that last year 1,800,000 head of cattle of all sorts came from Ireland to England, while not more than 1,200,000 came from all the rest of the world to this country. A great deal of power for good or evil rested in the hands of hon. Members below the Gangway, and he was sorry to say that hitherto they had used it only for evil. He ventured to ask them whether, by a different course of conduct, they might not promote in an important degree the returning prosperity of their country. When it was said that the tenant had done everything to improve the land, he might call attention to a letter from Mr. Kavanagh, who showed that 6,700,000 acres were held by a certain number of owners who had done all the improvements; the number was a little more than 11 per cent. The tenants who had done all the improvements were about 26 per cent, while 63 per cent of landlords and tenants had equally divided the cost of improvements between them, which showed conclusively that in many parts of Ireland a fair—he might even say a large—proportion of the improvements had been made by the landlords. [Mr. PARNELL: Over what period?] He did not think the period was stated in the letter. [A laugh.] It was all very well for hon. Members to laugh; but they could not say that Mr. Kavanagh was a man who was likely to put forward misleading figures, or against whom, as a landlord, any reasonable complaint could be made. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) was not defending all the landlords of Ireland; but what he wanted was a fair, reasonable, and just settlement established between the two classes. He appealed to the hon. Member for Cork, for he had stated it not once, but over and over again, that if they wished to get the estates of the landlords a fair price ought to be paid for them. [Mr. PARNELL: Hear, hear!] That was all he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) was asking for. If the landlords who had done their duty were placed under the statutory conditions of this Bill, they ought, in fairness and justice, if it was wished that they should be relieved from their properties and become mere rent-chargers upon them, be enabled to go into Court and offer their estates at a fair and reasonable price. When he looked at the Bill, and saw the condition 1376 of the Notice Paper, he would venture to ask the Attorney General and Solicitor General for Ireland whether, in their experience, a Bill which now was met by 80 pages of Amendments, with the probability of 20 or 30 more being added, could be accepted with confidence, seeing that its provisions were so much misunderstood? What did all those Amendments, many of which came from the Ministerial side of the House, show? It meant that the Bill was one which ought never to have been introduced in its present shape. He was not going to say anything against the draftsman of the Bill. The draftsman might have been blamed from the Front Ministerial Bench; but they knew from whom the draftsman received his instructions. This was a drastic measure which took all one's time to master, and when one thought he had mastered it he found he could not understand it at all. That portion of the Bill which dealt with the condition of the landlord and tenant had received great prominence; but the subject had been so mystified that he defied even the clearest-headed man to know where he stood after reading those provisions. The Notice which he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had put upon the Paper showed his bent and inclination. He only asked for definite information. He was quite sure if any of those who sat on the Front Ministerial Bench would clearly state what the Bill really and positively did contain, they would do more towards passing the measure than anything which they had yet heard. He ventured, therefore, to hope he would receive some answers to the questions which he propounded for the consideration of the Government.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
could certainly not complain of the tone of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member, whom he acquitted of ally desire to obstruct the Bill. The Lon. and gallant Member's remarks were perfectly fair from his point of view. He had not, however, been able to gather very clearly from the observations of the hon. and gallant Gentleman on what ground he asked that the Court should be empowered to award compensation to landlords. He (the Attorney General for Ireland) had expected to hear somewhat more of the way in which it was proposed to entitle the 1377 landlords, as a class, to require compensation for the rights of which they were said to be deprived. Most of the observations of the hon. and gallant Gentleman were simply repetitions of the arguments which were urged against certain clauses and parts of clauses in the debate on the second reading of the Bill, and which more properly belonged to a discussion in Committee. The principles of the Bill were, he submitted, abundantly clear. The Prime Minister had shown them to be simply fair rents, a certain amount of fixity of tenure, and free sale, subject to certain qualifications for the protection of the landlords' interests; but from the commencement to the end of his able speech the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not touch on, much less controvert, any one of those principles. The same might, indeed, be said as regarded other speeches which had been made by hon. Gentleman opposite, even including that of his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), which was, after all, only an able and acute criticism of some of the details of the Bill. Now, ho would like to know upon what ground the landlords claimed to be entitled to compensation. Was it because of the clause in the Bill which was to effect a fair adjustment of rents? Was any Irish landlord prepared to come forward and say that he was aggrieved and injured because he was not allowed to enforce more than a fair rent? In 1870 no claim to compensation was preferred because, for the first time, the tenant was secured a property in his own improvements. No landlord then complained that he was thus deprived of the right to take every building, for example, that had been erected on the land—that he was prevented from any longer appropriating the tenant's improvements without paying for them. Was it, then, because of the qualified fixity of tenure established by the Bill? If a fair rent was rightly left to be fixed by a Court, some degree of fixity of tenure was inevitable; for without this it would be absurd to attempt to fix a fair rent. He must, however, remind the House that the fixity of tenure proposed in the Bill was by no means equivalent to perpetuity of tenure in the sense those words were used by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government in 1870. It was not at all a 1378 necessary consequence of the Bill that all the tenants in Ireland would go into Court and, getting their rents fixed, obtain a statutory term of 15 years. If tenants were well treated and paid only reasonable rents they would do wisely to keep out of Court. Thus one very large class of tenants would be excluded. Another class to a large extent excluded would be future tenants. In fact, all that would probably happen would be that a certain number of rack-rented tenants would get their rents reduced and have a limited fixity of tenure. If, after that, the tenant wished to sell, the landlord had the power of pre-emption, and under the 4th clause he had the power of resumption whenever he could show that the benefit of the estate required that he should do so. Therefore, to call this perpetuity of tenure in the sense of practically transfering the fee simple of the land from the landlord to the tenant was a mere abuse of language. It was said, however, that the Bill, at all events, would substantially convert the landlord into a rent-charger, and would therefore tend to drive the landlords out of Ireland. One fact was worth a dozen theories of this kind. In Ulster, where this system existed to the fullest extent—where it had existed for centuries—and especially in those parts of Ulster in which it was unfettered and unrestrained, there were more resident landlords than in any other part of Ireland, and they had just as much notion of quitting Ulster as the hon. and gallant Gentleman had of quitting England. They had better tenants, and they had far happier relations with their tenants, than were found in other parts of Ireland where such a system did not prevail.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
If a man in Ulster could not pay his way he disappeared, and instead of an insolvent the landlord obtained a solvent tenant. The tenant simply went out because he could not meet his engagements. That was how the Ulster landlords and tenants managed their affairs. The hon. and gallant Member, in a dim, shadowy way, made a claim for compensation to the landlord on the ground that his rights could or might he in some undefined re- 1379 spects infringed upon, and proposed that the ascertainment of this should be devolved on the Court. But was the Court to determine the question of compensation to be paid out of public money? He should entirely object to the Court having the matter of compensation submitted to it. If landlords as a class, or any class of landlords, claimed to be entitled to compensation, the question must be decided by that House. The Government, however, did not admit that there would be any loss to the landlord except the loss of a power which he ought not to exercise; and he must protest against the idea that landlords, any more than other people, could be regarded as having a vested interest in a right to commit injustice. The cardinal and central principle of the Bill was one which was admitted by statesmen on all sides—that they must have a tribunal to determine what were fair rents as between landlords and their occupying tenants. The farm and all its equipments in England belonged to one man, and therefore ho could charge what he liked. The farm with its equipments in Ireland belonged to two men—the landlord and the occupying tenant—and to allow the landlord, under the terror of eviction, to enforce from the occupying tenant as much rent as he could, under such pressure, be induced to promise to pay, was a thing which that House would not sanction, and which every Commission had protested against. In Ireland, part of the farm as it stood belonged to the tenant, and for that part, whatever it was, he could not honestly be charged with rent. [Mr. TOTTENIIAM: In Ulster or out of Ulster?] In Ulster or out of Ulster, just the same. No good landlord in Ireland ever dreamt of acting in any other way. Unfortunately, in cases of this kind the class feeling was very strong, and the best landlords, many of whom were in that House, made common cause with the worst because they thought that a common danger threatened their entire order. He knew very well that the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Tottenham) did not act upon the principle of the proverb which he had hastily quoted on a former occasion. He knew very well that the hon. Gentleman was perfectly willing to treat, and did treat, his own tenants fairly; but there was the question of what those might do 1380 who should come after him. Hon. Gentle-opposite were doubtless willing to treat their tenants with all possible fairness; but it seemed as if, in their opinion, this must be the outcome of their own free grace, and not be claimable as a right by the tenants, who must be satisfied to get as much as the landlord was pleased to give, trusting simply to his sense of honour. He (the Attorney General for Ireland), however, would remind them that during the debates upon the Agricultural Holdings Act which was passed for England, the true principle was laid down by the late Lord Beaconsfield, who said that the rights of tenants must depend, not on honour, but on justice. Now, apply that principle to the present case. It was clear there must be a tribunal to determine what was a fair and just rent; and there could be no right to compensation for enforcing what was just and fair. Again, he (the Attorney General for Ireland) submitted there could be no right to compensation for enabling the tenant to sell his interest, for they carefully guarded the landlord's right. Allow the tenant to sell what belonged to himself. There was here no transfer of property from one class to the other. The harsh and unjust landlord could not claim compensation because his harshness and injustice would be checked; and as to the other class of landlords referred to—the good landlords, who, it was said, did half the improvements and charged a moderate rent-their case was fully provided for in the Bill. The landlord would be entitled to come to the Court, and in dealing with the purchase money, the value of the improvements made by him and not charged for was to be considered; so that if the landlord, under such circumstances, had made the whole of the improvements, then he would get the value of the whole. As to the arguments which the hon. and gallant Gentleman had founded on the letter of Mr. Kavanagh or on that of the correspondent of The Pall Mall Gazette, why, the sale of the tenancies by the tenants in the cases mentioned was no such alarming matter, though the amount might be equal to many years' rent. Had those gentlemen stated what amount of building or other improvements had been done by the tenant? No; all that was omitted, and yet everything depended on it. It was idle to 1381 argue from a special case without knowing the facts. Suppose the tenant had added valuable buildings or turned wild mountain into arable land, was he not to got the full value of those improvements because that value amounted to 30 or even 40 times the rent of the land in its improved or natural state? So, also, as to the case in Kerry, where the holding at £35 a-year rent sold for £800, what did they know about the value of the improvements? Every Commission, from the Devon Commission in 1845 down to the Bessborough and the Richmond Commissions in 1881—all stated that as a general rule the buildings, improvements, and equipments of a farm were the work, and therefore the property, of the tenant. These high figures, then, did not necessarily mean extravagant prices. Could the hon. Member explain why all the Ulster Conservative landlords acknowledged that the system did them no harm, but, on the contrary, did them good? They knew that the tenant right, with its clement of free sale, meant greater exertion on the part of the tenant, bettor cultivation, and more and more improvements, and therefore increased security for the rent. If the tenant fell into arrears, the landlord was thus secured against all risk of loss. With regard to the number of Amendments on the Paper, and the allegation that this of itself showed the Bill to be badly drawn, it must be remembered that the Government had to deal with a large and complex question, and had to regulate the rights of landlord and tenant, so that if possible the one should be secured against the encroachment of the other. In conclusion, he must repeat that, for his part, he could see nothing in the Bill that interfered with the just rights of the landlord, though he saw in it a great deal which preserved the just rights of the tenants, by preventing unjust conduct on the part of landlords; but, as he had already said, he submitted that no landlord had a vested interest in injustice, or any title to be compensated for not being allowed to practise it. The Government, therefore, could not accept the Motion which had been proposed by the hon. and gallant Member opposite.
said, that the language of the Bill was extremely obscure. He believed that it was intentionally and purposely obscure. No man knew better 1382 than the Attorney General for Ireland that it was not because the draftsman was deficient in skill, nor because he and his Colleagues were incapable of showing the Government how to make the Bill clear, that it was obscure. It was not a Bill, but a treaty. It came before the House in the shape of a Bill; but it was a treaty which satisfied the conflicting views of at least two parties in the Cabinet, and it was difficult to say how many parties out-of-doors. If the language of the Bill was such that it was not easy to be understood outside that House, it was because it had been carefully framed to mean one thing to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham and another to the Secretary of State for India—one meaning for the Constitutional Whigs behind the Treasury Bench, and another for the Irish Members—and everybody must have remarked the oscillation in the Attorney General's speech between the Scylla of one and the Charybdis of the other. If the Government would allow him to give them a piece of advice, it would be that before the Speaker left the Chair, and before they began the discussion of the clauses of the Bill, the Government should make up their minds what it was they really meant to enact; for there was an irreconcilable difference of opinion between the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham. They should throw one or the other overboard, and go into Committee with the distinct understanding in their own minds what the measure was they intended to try and carry through the House. It did not require much Parliamentary experience or political foresight to predict that if they did go into Committee without making up their minds, they would find themselves unable to carry some particular clauses without creating such a split in their own Party as might possibly prove fatal to them.
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, it seemed to him that Gentlemen opposite would best consult their own interests if they were to put aside all Party feeling and prejudices and lend their practical knowledge to the Committee in the consideration of the clauses of the Bill. The noble Lord who was to have fathered the Resolution adopted to express the deliberate convictions of the Conservative Party on the Irish Land Bill asked a very perti- 1383 nent question. It was—" What is the difficulty which we have to meet?" He thought he could answer that question; and, further, he thought he could show from facts and experience how that difficulty had arisen. The difficulty which they had to meet, and which must be met before Ireland could become contented and prosperous, a source of strength instead of weakness to the Empire, was that the bulk of the Irish people were not on the side of the law; that they did not regard it as their protector, their friend, and their ally; and they could not so regard it as long as the law did not protect the property of so large a portion of the Irish nation, and left that property to be protected only by custom and good feeling. The great misfortune in the case of Ireland was that the law in the past had been in so many ways unjust, especially in relation to the tenure of land, that the bulk of the people had acquired a conviction, which, unfortunately, was not unnatural, that the law was their enemy, and not their friend and protector. In the matter of land, the injustice of the law had been admitted even by authorities such as the Duke of Richmond, the Duke of Buccleuch, and other persons, whose position and circumstances certainly would not expose them to the suspicion of being affected with Communistic ideas. What did the Duke of Richmond's Report say—Bearing in mind a system by which the improvements and equipments of a farm are very generally the work of the tenant, and the fact that the yearly tenant is at any time liable to have his rent raised, in consequence of the increased value given to his holding by the expenditure of his own labour and capital, the desire for legislative interference to protect him from an arbitrary increase of rent does not seem unnatural, and we are inclined to think that by the majority of landowners legislation to accomplish this end would not be objected to.He did not know that they could find anywhere more clearly expressed than in this extract the radical injustice of the Land Laws in Ireland, which injustice consisted in not recognizing the property which the tenant had acquired in his holding by furnishing the labour and capital, which had greatly added to the permanent value of the land. One mischievous consequence of this state of things was that it had stimulated the demand for the separation of the two 1384 countries, because the Irish contended that if they had made their own laws such an injustice as this could not have remained unremedied. They had, therefore, a deep interest in settling this question, not only in order to cement upon a firm and peaceable basis the union of the two countries, but also because they might depend upon it that in these days, when throughout Europe Communistic ideas were in the air, it was not the interests of holders of any kind of property to allow the law to remain in such a state that large masses of the population were induced to question and cavil at the fundamental basis on which the rights of property rested. The difficulty being probably admitted, could it be removed? They had the actual facts of experience to show that it could. In alluding to these facts, he must correct a statement that was made with respect to the action of the landlord of the Portsmouth estate, and the effect of the custom which was introduced by the late Lord Portsmouth some 60 years ago. They had there exactly the results they wanted to produce by this Land Bill; they wanted to have landlords receiving fair rents punctually from prosperous tenants, and farms which, without cruel evictions, should yet be of a size large enough to maintain a family in prosperity and comfort. At the last annual settlement lie had Lord Portsmouth's authority for stating that he had only £500 of arrears out of a rental of £13,000 a-year; so the landlord was satisfied, and he could go to any of the farms on his property and be certain of a cordial welcome, while the fact that the tenants could and did pay the rents after the bad times they had passed through was in itself a proof that they were prosperous and contented. He believed, moreover, it was the one part of Ireland where the visits of the Land. League had not been successful. But perhaps the most valuable experience of all which this property furnished was the effect of free sale in doing away with tenancies too small to be profitably worked. The tenants, by the effect of free sale, when they found that they could not properly cultivate farms under 20 acres, sold out before they were ruined, and had taken their capital and their labour elsewhere; and he was assured by Lord Portsmouth that what the hon. Member for Cambridge- 1385 shire (Mr. Rodwell) stated the other day—that this was the result of evictions—was a mistake. It was the natural result of free sale in enabling a tenant to realize his capital when he found that it was not advantageously employed in the cultivation of unusually small farms. But the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire and the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) objected that, under such a system, the landlord became a mere rent-charger. Well, of course, it was much better to have wealthy landlords who could, by doing all the improvements to their own property, with justice to the tenant, retain the whole of their property in their own hands. But you could not produce that result by leaving unprotected the property of the tenant or confiscating it; and if you had not landlords in the position to be generous, they should, at least, begin to be just. That was what Lord Portsmouth had been; and as long as the tenant had a property we should, if we protected it, teach the tenant to consider the law as his protector and his friend. Much had been said of the importance of producing peasant proprietors. On that point all were agreed. But he would ask hon. Members to consider whether, if that could not be done to the extent wished, could they not do something very much akin to it, and which would have the same effect, by letting the tenant feel that he had, protected by the law, in his tenant right, a property in the land? The sense of property was so Conservative, that he was satisfied that if, by this Bill, they could accomplish for Ireland what Lord Portsmouth had done for his own property, they would find Ireland to be the most Conservative and easily governed part of the Empire.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, that, as one of those sitting on the Opposition side who voted in favour of the second reading of the Bill, he desired to say a few words in order to put himself right with the public and his constituents. He should support the Motion to go into Committee on the ground that it was absolutely necessary to do something with reference to the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland. Whatever might be the causes, those relations were simply intolerable; and if he had to speak of the causes he should speak mainly of 1386 the part the Government had taken in allowing the present state of things to be brought about. It was useless to go very far back or minutely to investigate the causes; but they must recognize the fact that the Bill would and could fairly be looked at as neither more nor less than the endowment of agitation and outrage. He supported the Bill in the main, because in one of the later portions it afforded the opportunity to landlords to escape from the difficulty of their position—namely, by selling their ownership to occupying tenants. He believed that experience told them that unless they dealt with the question of ownership and the occupation of the land in Ireland in that way, they would be only nibbling with the fringe of the evil. He took a strong view, because they had experience to guide them. No one could doubt, although the experiment had been a small one, that the working of sales to tenants under the Church Act had been satisfactory. It was idle to attempt to fritter away the great results of that experiment. A large number of purchases of Church lands by occupying tenants had been carried out, the advances having been repaid with singular regularity; and when they looked at the amount of the arrears they could not fail to appreciate that the result had not only been advantageous to the tenants, but that the State was not likely to run much risk by the transaction. This system gave the tenant the solid position as owner, and, at the same time, it gave solidity to the State, loyalty to the people, and good order to society. He believed by a due extension of the purchasing portion of the Bill they had one of the best solutions of a grave public difficulty. He thought the State might, with great advantage, advance a larger portion of the purchase money than was now proposed. There had been a good deal of discussion as to the principles of this Bill. What were they? The first was the institution of a Court of Arbitration with reference to rents. Such a Court was necessary and expedient; but they had a right to ask the Government for some distinct statement of their definite views as to this Court. The foundation of the whole matter was the establishment of a satisfactory Court likely to do justice and give satisfaction to both parties that came before it. The County Court Judges had 1387 accumulated a vast amount of experience in deciding land cases. The tenant, of his own motion, might pass by the Civil Bill Court. He strongly objected 0 the power which was given to the Court of naming Assistant Commissioners, about whose qualifications and emoluments nothing was said in the Bill. They were to have plenary powers, but they would exercise them with a rope round their necks, for they were subject to almost instant dismissal. It was of the greatest importance to have further information as to the structure of this Court from the Government. It had been found fault with on both sides. His hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had discussed the question of compensation, a claim which was based in justice. This opened up a great practical question. What was likely to be the condition of the Land Court under this Bill fur three or four years? It would be congested with business. There must inevitably be a vast amount of delay and arrears. What was likely to be the result? The tenant knew that by taking his landlord into Court to fix a judicial rent, he would be able to delay the enforcement of all arrears of rent till the case was disposed of. That would be a great hardship on the small owners of laud in Ireland, of narrow means and solely depending on their rents. He would next deal with the question of compensation, as to which he thought that the landowners could clearly make out a case with the Bill as it now stood. What were the ordinary conditions of ownership of property? There was the right of resuming possession—the right of selecting a tenant. Were not these rights taken away by the Bill? That first right was one of the primary advantages of property in land, and was entirely destroyed by the Bill, if the tenant thought fit to exercise his power of bringing the landlord into Court. Was not that a valuable right? Then the right of entering into, or rather resuming possession, was taken away. He was not speaking of Ulster, for in some respects he thought the Bill would be disadvantageous to the tenant in Ulster. He was speaking of property in the rest of Ireland. What would be the direct and immediate result of the Bill? He thought owners of property would have a right to say, with respect to the application of the compensation for disturbance 1388 clause, as the value of the tenant right, that the amount of the judicial rent was being fixed on a new standard, created ex post facto, a standard wholly beneficial to the tenant, and necessarily taking away from the owner some of the primary elements of property. Would not the result of the establishment of that system be to limit the number of purchasers from the owners of land in Ireland? In many eases the only persons who would buy would be the tenants. In that way the Bill was reducing the enjoyable and the money value of the property of landowners in Ireland, and formed a just basis for a claim to compensation. The Attorney General for Ireland had said that the landlord who bought the tenant right of a farm and then let it to another tenant would do a foolish thing. [The ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND dissented.] He (Mr. Lewis) was in the hearing of the House, and he believed they would bear him out in saying that the Attorney General for Ireland stated that a landlord who let a farm after he had bought the tenant right would be guilty of a folly, thus showing that injustice might be done under the Bill, in compelling a landlord to farm his own land, or to re-let under the disadvantage of incurring liability to pay the value of tenant right twice over. The landlord could not go to the Land Court unless the tenant brought him; and, as the Prime Minister had said, the landlord could only get into Court by increasing his rent so that the tenant would deem it necessary to drag him there. This was not a mere matter of sentiment, but it would bring about a state of bad feeling between landlord and tenant, and the landlord only in these circumstances could come into Court as an accused person, so to speak. He would next advert to the condition of another class of persons, who had been entirely overlooked. They were persons who had bought under a Parliamentary title—under the Church Act of 1869. He was not referring to the occupiers, who were not the only purchasers from the Church Commissioners. He had received a letter from a gentleman—a stranger to himself—which described the condition of ordinary purchasers. His correspondent stated that about four years ago he had invested all his money, and that brought to him by his wife, £2,400, in laud pur- 1389 chased from the Commissioners of Church Temporalities. The rental of the estate had remained unchanged for the last 30 years, but was about 50 per cent above Griffiths' valuation, and the price paid for the land was, therefore, correspondingly high. Now, if the Court to be established by the Bill reduced the rents, as it probably would, it came to this—that the Government, having sold land as worth a certain price, now proposed to reduce its value without giving compensation. That was an exceptionally strong statement of the hardship that would be inflicted by the Bill. If such a thing were done by a private individual, it would be barely possible to describe or denounce it in sufficiently strong language. The case he had mentioned was, no doubt, one of those instances in which small and suffering interests had to content themselves with being overridden for the good of the State; but its injustice was palpable and undeniable. He feared it was only a sample of many others, and that it represented in a minor degree the unfairness with which a landlord would be treated who found himself for the first time under new rules and a new valuation. He, however, did not despair, despite the disadvantageous circumstances of the Bill, as it had been presented to the House, that it might be made a more workable measure. They had been told in that House, and outside it, what might be expected to happen to the Opposition if they attempted to alter the Bill to any extent, and also what might happen to those in "another place" if they interfered with the principle of the Bill. He, however, should hope and believe that it would be so amended before it ultimately left the Legislature that it would be made less liable to objection than it was in its present form. He hoped that the Government would, as regarded upholding the authority of the law, act in the bold and intrepid manner indicated in the Prime Minister's recent speech, and that it would not be followed by weak and vacillating conduct. Whilst he had stated his principal objections to the Bill, he (Mr. Lewis) would not vote for anything that would delay its receiving full consideration, because he believed that by means of substantial alteration it would be possible to remove some of the provisions unfavourable to landlords, and so make it, on the whole, 1390 a safe and expedient measure under the difficult circumstances of the position.
§ MR. A. GREY
observed, that he would not follow the example of the two hon. Members who had preceded him by making a second reading speech, nor would he attempt to explain the vote which he had given in favour of the second reading by professing his belief, as the hon. Member opposite had done, that this Bill was an endowment of agitation and outrage. He was anxious—earnestly and outrage. He was anxious—earnestly anxious—that the Bill should reach Committee stage with the least possible delay; and he would only trespass upon the indulgence of the House for a very few moments. The Question before the House was that the Speaker do now leave the Chair, and no Amendment had been moved as yet to prevent this course being taken by the House; for he understood the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite had not moved the Amendment which he had placed upon the Notice Paper, and very glad he was that he had not done so, for, although he agreed with the substance of the hon. and gallant Baronet's Amendment, it would be impossible for him to vote for it, if pressed to a division at the present moment as a vote against the Speaker leaving the Chair would be as hostile to the Bill as a vote against the second reading. At the proper stage, however, when the Bill was in Committee, he hoped to support an Amendment in the direction of the hon. and gallant Baronet's Resolution. He was emboldened to hope, too, that the Prime Minister would give to such an Amendment his very favourable consideration, for what did such an Amendment amount to? It amounted to this—that in those cases where it might be proved to the satisfaction of the Court that injury had been done to any party by the operation of the Bill, that the Courts should have the power of awarding fair, reasonable, and just compensation. He was aware that the Prime Minister was of opinion that no injury would be inflicted on anyone under the provisions of the Bill, and he heartily hoped that that would be the case; but he ventured to submit, that if the right lion. Gentleman was right, there could be no objection to granting to the Court such powers as were proposed to be conferred upon it by the hon. and gallant Baronet's Amendment, 1391 inasmuch as those powers would never be called into play. But if, on the other hand, it did happen that in some way, perhaps unforeseen at present, the Bill did inflict injury, then it was unquestionably only fair and right that the Court should have the power of awarding such compensation as might, in its opinion, appear just. The terms of the hon. and gallant Baronet's Amendment were, he thought, capable of improvement. He only contemplated the case of the landowner. But there were other persons besides landowners whose interests might be injuriously affected by the working of this Bill. There was the case of the middle man, who would be required to fulfil the terms of his lease and pay the rent agreed upon to the head landlord, but who might have the rents which he received considerably lessened by the intervention of the Court. This Bill was admittedly a departure from sound principle, brought forward as an exceptional measure in consequence of the exceptional condition of the country; but when a departure from what was recognized to be the principles which should govern general legislation was taken, then it became impossible to foresee all the consequences that might arise. It might very well happen that cases unforeseen and uncontemplated by the Prime Minister might occur in which this Bill would inflict direct injury on certain persons. He, therefore, maintained that he was on very strong ground when he asked that the Court should have the power of awarding compensation in those cases in which, in its opinion, injury had been proved. He hoped the Prime Minister would give the House some assurance that an Amendment such as that proposed by the hon. and gallant Baronet would receive his favourable consideration when in Committee; and he would most respectfully venture to hint to the right hon. Gentleman, if it were not presumption in so young a Member to do so, that if he would give the House such assurance he would conciliate and disarm, both inside and out of the House, what threatened to be a very angry opposition, and he would greatly facilitate the passing of this Bill through the different stages of Committee.
§ MR. GRANTHAM
said, it was rather anomalous, that the strongest speeches 1392 against the Bill had been made by two hon. Members who either voted for the second reading or abstained from voting for it. The great difficulty which he and others had in this matter was in determining whether there would be injury or not, and he hoped that a satisfactory answer would be given to the question. He had heard with pleasure the speech made by the Prime Minister in introducing the Bill, and agreed with nearly all he had said; but when the Bill was brought in they found that it went far beyond what the right hon. Gentleman said or intended. He complained that the Government had given four or five different constructions of the meaning of the clause relating to fixed rents, and the Attorney General for Ireland had delivered two speeches that were altogether inconsistent with one another. On the first occasion he had given his opinion as to the way in which the clause would affect the Ulster tenants, The right hon. and learned Gentleman said—Although I am not going to tell you what it dons mean, it at any rate means a minus quantity.He would, however, vote for the Bill if those who were responsible for it would give to the clause the same interpretation which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had given to it to-night. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] He was glad to hear the Prime Minister adopt that interpretation. But the Attorney General for Ireland in his first speech asserted that the Ulster Custom was to be treated as a minus quantity, and how could they have a minus quantity unless it were taken from something? To-night, the Prime Minister had intimated that it was not his intention that anything should be deducted from the rent in consequence of the right of sale. [The ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND: What do you mean by rent?] He wanted to know what the right hon. and learned Gentleman meant by rent. Judging from what he had said, there was nothing to show that those persons who were in receipt of rents qua rents would have justice done to them under this Bill. In reference to sub-section B, his right hon. and learned Friend had said it was clear that something was to be deducted from the rent. He presumed it would be for compensation for disturbance and other rights which were 1393 equivalent to the Ulster right. Consequently, if there were to be a minus quantity in the one case there must also be a minus quantity in the other, and it must be deducted from the property of the landlord. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had informed the House to- night that it was no loss to the landlord to have the power to commit injury taken from him. That he quite admitted. If that power existed now he would not move a hand to enable the landlord to retain it. He quite agreed also that the landlord ought not to be able to get a rent or to increase his rent for any improvement which had been made by the tenant. This was a different thing, however, from deducting from the rent something which the tenant had in the shape of a right to sell. If the tenant was to give more for the right of sale why was it to be deducted from the landlord in the first instance? He understood the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say to-night that if the landlord took to himself the land and bought up the tenant right he would get a higher rent when he let the land again. He presumed the meaning of that to be, that where a tenant had the right of selling his holding it was worth something to him plus the rent. He believed the Prime Minister wished to improve the position of the landlord rather than to make it worse. He would like to see the Bill leave Parliament in such a form that while justice was done to the tenant justice would also be done to the landlord, and there would be no need, therefore, for a clause providing for compensation to the landlord. But if the matter were left in the uncertain state in which it now was, he was certain that difficulties were in store, because the clause would be interpreted differently in different parts of the country. It had been assumed that the question of tenant right was one which only affected people in Ireland, and that there was no such thing as tenant right in England. As far as he knew, there was no county in England in which tenant right did not exist. The county of which he had the honour to be one of the Members (Surrey) had as extensive a tenant right as any county in England. In Ireland the foundation of tenant right was exactly the same as in England—that was to say, when a tenant was going out of a farm he would be en- 1394 titled from the incoming tenant to the value of what he had done in preparing the soil for future crops, and of the crops which were in the ground at the time. He approved of the proposal for fixing a judicial rent; but he thought to the Court to take some of the fixing of rents. He hoped that the Bill would be so shaped that Gentlemen on both sides of the House could vote for it, and he believed that it would then go a great way towards bringing peace and prosperity to Ireland.
wished to ask the Attorney General for Ireland a question. He understood him to say, in stating what was the position in Ireland with regard to rent, that landlord and tenant had a joint interest in the holding, that each of them had a certain interest, and that in estimating the rent the value of the improvements by the tenant was to be taken from the rent. Now, he wished that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and, if he could not answer, the Prime Minister or the Solicitor General, might explain what was the real meaning of those words. The other day the right hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) gave a meaning to the clause that was so satisfactory as to make him (Mr. Macartney) feel quite happy about it. But to-night he felt as much confused as before. If they were to take the meanings given by four or five Gentlemen on the Treasury Benches, and that given by their followers which had not been contradicted, how were they to look at the Bill? He was completely puzzled, and should be glad to receive an explanation.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
explained that what he had said was this—He was drawing a contrast between England and Ireland, and said that in England, where the farm with all its equipments belonged to one man, and he the landlord, he was entitled to the highest rent he could get—in other words, a full competition rent—but that in Ireland, where the farm only belonged to the landlord, whilst all the improvements and equipments belonged to the tenant, it was impossible to allow the landlord to charge that tenant the highest rout that might be obtained from a stranger in the open market, because this would 1395 be making the tenant pay for what belonged to himself as well as fur what belonged to the landlord.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
complained of the want of explanation of the Bill in the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, and said, that if this Bill bad said exactly what was proposed to be done he should not have ventured to trouble the House either now or on the second reading of the Bill. But the measure was drawn with such a singular facility of difficulty that it was impossible that anyone could let it pass by without inquiry for some answers on one or two points. Tie did not wish to go further into the subject of the Amendment now before the House than to quote the words of the Prime Minister, who had said—I deny that there is confiscation; but if there is confiscation, then I agree that there should be compensation.On that it might be sufficient to remark that it might be left to the House after they got through Committee to say whether there was any confiscation in the Bill, and then they should inquire whether there should be compensation. He next called attention to the first five lines in the operative part of the Bill. They began thus—The tenant for the time being of every tenancy to which this Act applies may sell his tenancy.Now, before they could understand the meaning of that part of the clause they must turn to the Interpretation Clause, and there they would find that the interpretation of the word "tenancy" was "the interest in a holding of a tenant." That reminded him of the definition he once saw in a Cattle Plague Order of the term "private sale" namely, "everything shall be considered to be a private sale which is not a public sale." The definition in the Pill wars very little better than that. It might be meant that every occupier of land might sell any interest which he had in that land; but if that was what they meant, why did they not say so? The 1st clause stated that every tenant for the time being to whom the Act applied might sell his tenancy—Subject to the following regulations, and subject also to the provisions in this Act contained with respect to the sale of a tenancy subject to statutory conditions.1396 In order to understand what those very obsure words in the first five operative lines of the Bill meant they had to turn to five different parts of the measure. The Prime Minister had stated that he was proud of his draftsman; the right hon. Gentleman had precious little to be proud of, and he (Mr. Staveley Hill) hoped he might have greater cause to be proud of him hereafter. It was a matter of great difficulty for any person to understand the Bill. He would in particular ask the right hon. Gentleman what was the explanation of the 7th clause? The Prime Minister waved his hand as if he would say—"What a very stupid person you are not to understand that." He had listened to every word of the Prime Minister and of the Attorney General for Ireland, and also of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld). But he was sorry to say he had not yet been able to grasp its meaning. Now, he would first controvert the statement which he had heard that evening that there was such a thing as an Ulster Custom in this country. There was no such custom, and every effort was made to prevent such a custom arising. But he would ask, was it meant by the 7th clause that when a man had kept his agreement he should receive something ultra what he had bargained for? He agreed to the justice of giving a 15 years' tenancy when a fair rent was fixed. But when they spoke in the clause of a fair rent being what a solvent tenant could pay, did they mean a man who intended to remain solvent? The second question he had to ask was—Did they consider that the total amount of fair rent was to be calculated as the profit arising out of the land? If so, what proportion of that amount as fair rent was to be returned to the landlord, and how much to the tenant in respect of tenant right, and as compensation for his improvements? Outside of Ulster the valuation was to be made on the scale of compensation for disturbance, so that where the rent was £30 per annum the capital sum represented would be, on seven years' purchase, £210, the interest upon which would be about £8 10s. Now, what he wanted to know was whether that £8 10s. would be deducted from the landlord's rent? Under the 3rd sub-section of the 7th clause—["Order, order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
reminded the hon. and learned Member that he could not criticize the clauses of the Bill at the present stage.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
bowed at once to the ruling of the Chair. As an Englishman, he cared nothing about Ulster tenant right. If they liked to have their custom in Ireland, let them have it. But if the Government proposed to give persons who were carrying out a contract something outside and beyond the contract, they would violate, not only the principles of political economy, but of honesty also. Now, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) put the case in this way. He spoke of the sales of tenant right taking place on the Duke of Abercorn's estates for land that produced a rent of £1,093 a-year, as realizing when bought in £26,000. Taking these figures, and for the purposes of calculation, the proportionate prices of land in Ireland with 25 years' purchase, did the clause mean that taking the rent at £1,093, and the tenant right at £26,000, if you multiply £1,093 by 25 that brings £27,325, and adding £26,000, was it to be understood that the capital value of that estate must be taken as £53,325? Of this, was a 25th, or 4 per cent, to be taken as the tenant's interest? Alluding to the words used by the First Lord of the Treasury in reference to the murder of the late Emperor of Russia, he said he trusted that nothing was about to be done by the Government which might bring about a state of things akin to the present peasant proprietorship in Russia. ["Question!"] He concluded by assuring hon. Members from Ireland that he had no wish to impede the progress of improvement in their country, and, exhorting them to forget grievances of days gone by, asked what would be thought of the Saxon population in England were they ceaselessly to bemoan the miseries brought upon them by the filthy Norman robbers?
§ MR. W. FOWLER
hoped the House would go into Committee. He should have liked to make some observations on the question, but he did not think that was the right time to do so; and he thought the evening would have been spent far more usefully if the House had been in Committee, because all the speeches had been on details which arose 1398 out of the clauses of the Bill. He would only refer to two points in connection with the speech of the Prime Minister in introducing the Bill, which had disappointed him. The right hon. Gentleman had said that English managed estates could be taken out of the Bill; but it appeared from the Bill itself that the Court had power to take such estates out of the operation of the Bill as to one clause only. The representation made by the Prime Minister was thus not borne out by the Bill. Then there was a point respecting tenants' improvements which he thought required great consideration. A great deal had been heard about the improvements in Ireland made by tenants; but sufficient had not been heard as to how far those improvements were due to the land being under-let, and, therefore, were practically made out of the property of the landlord—out of the rent which would have been the landlord's if he had chosen to take it. That had been spoken of as a matter of great importance, and he thought more ought to have been made out of it. Then, he failed to understand how injustice to the landlords would be prevented when free sale was established where the land was notoriously under-rented and where the landlord had made the improvements for many years. He had listened with the utmost attention to all that had been said, and the only answer he had heard had been that the landlord might raise the rent, and thereby protect himself from the effect of the Bill. That was to say, on all those estates which were now decidedly under-rented, and where there existed most contentment, the rents were suddenly to be raised in order to protect the landlords. If that were done, the Bill would prove a great disappointment to its authors, and he earnestly hoped that would not be the result. Those hon. Members who were in the House in 1870 could not forget that the Act of 1870 was described as an Act which would bring about a great and happy settlement of the Land Question. He hoped they might so consider this Bill in Committee that their prophecies might not again be unfulfilled. He had voted for the second reading because he strongly felt that a measure with regard to the Land Question in Ireland was required; but he also felt that in passing such a measure they must have regard to justice to all classes. 1399 They must do justice to the tenants, and they must do justice to the landlords; and if they lost sight of either class they would find it out hereafter. If there were injustice under the Bill, that injustice ought to be compensated; but he was not prepared to say that there would be injustice. He hoped the Bill would be so framed that there would be no injustice, and if there were none, they would not need to talk about compensation. The House ought, however, to go into Committee at once, and not waste more time in discussing details of the Bill when they were not in Committee.
I rise for the purpose of seconding the appeal with which my hon. Friend commenced his speech, and I think I could have done so with greater effect but for the latter portion of the speech, which practically amounted to a contradiction of the recommendation with which it began. There is, however, only one point to which I need refer. It was with great regret that I heard his reference to the Act of 1870. He thinks that was a bad measure, and his remarks were cheered; but sentiments of a peculiar order and penitential expressions by those who voted for the Act of 1870 will draw plenty of cheers from that quarter of the House. I am sorry he thought it necessary to go that far, and I am not at all disposed to accompany him in that operation—I hope we shall go into Committee now—because that might involve us in controversy. I rose to second his appeal, and at the same time to say that I had listened not without satisfaction to the discussion which has taken place this evening. The hon. and learned Member for Staffordshire (Mr. Staveley Hill) was so good humoured and kindly in the most energetic part of his speech, that I was quite sorry when the Rules of Order made you, Sir, find it necessary to check him. The hon. and learned Member, passing from clause to clause, appeared to me like a bee flitting from flower to flower, gathering from each a fresh load of honey. That is a most pleasant process; but, at the same time, we cannot make practical progress at this stage by a discussion of this kind. The hon. and learned Member calls energetically for an explanation and definition of the 7th clause. In speaking on the second 1400 reading, I endeavoured to give as good and full an explanation and definition as I could; but if that was not sufficiently full and explicit, the best way to get a more full and explicit definition is to go into Committee. Then we can get to the point of the definition of a fair rent, so that every man may be held to it; but when we pass from point to point of the Bill, as must necessarily be the case, all these discussions become indeterminate, and although they may be useful, yet there is a point beyond which they cease to be useful. I think, after the long discussion we have had on the second reading, I may fairly urge that that point has been reached, and if we are in earnest, as the majority of the House are, it is well that we should go into the details of the Bill. For instance, a good deal has been said to-night on the subject of the arrangement by which the landlord and the tenant are placed on a different footing as to the power of going into Court; but the House will recollect that we have never stated that as one of the essential conditions of the Bill. We have referred to it as a matter fairly open to discussion. That arrangement was misunderstood: but we have left it open for discussion in Committee, when we could hold ourselves bound to come to a particular conclusion. But it is plain that we cannot make further progress until we get into Committee. There is, however, one subject on which I wish to give an assurance. With regard to the question of fair rent, although the deduction has been an idea, as we think, forced upon us by the interpretation placed on the clause by hon. Gentlemen, we have never once, on any occasion, propounded that method of proceeding as the mode in which we thought fair rent should be arrived at. I disclaim that altogether, and when we get into Committee we shall be prepared to deal with the clause in that spirit. Again, it is asked what a tenant has to sell? Well, Sir, that we should consider when, in the 1st clause, we come to deal with tenant right. But I would ask the hon. and learned Member what it is that traders in England have to sell, and how it is that a tradesman when he wishes to sell, finds his successor quite prepared to give him something not only equal to the value of his premises and his stock, but something considerably beyond? 1401 That shows that there may be something beyond the limits of the contract under which the tradesman holds, that he may have to sell and for which another person is willing to give him money, and for which it is right and legitimate that he should receive money, and in receiving money for which he does not interfere in the slightest degree with any just right. The hon. and learned Member also asked whether it is not a monstrous thing that where there are two parties to a contract one is to receive something for the mere performance of his contract—something not included in the contract? That was put as a crucial test, the answer to which, if we meant to do that, would be absolutely fatal. But what was my surprise when, after he had declared that where there are two parties to a contract, neither of them is to receive anything except what was in the contract, he said he found that when a judicial rent was fixed the tenant might enjoy it for 15 years without any removal or change, except for his own misconduct, and he thought that was perfectly just and right. Then he is prepared to give to the tenant for keeping his contract something that is not in the contract? The remarks I am now offering are, I admit, open to the criticism I have mentioned; but it is only in Committee that we can make further progress. I have noticed the spirit of most of the speeches with great satisfaction, and the hon. and learned Member for East Surrey (Mr. Grantham), who said he had not been able to vote for the second reading, delivered a speech the spirit of which was eminently calculated to encourage rational and, at the same time, sanguine hopes that we may find some solution of the problem. I would also offer my congratulations to the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) in respect, not of the Motion he has made, but of the Motion he has not made. When I saw that Notice, and that it was to be persevered with, I regretted it. It appears to me that if he had made that Motion in the present state of Business, it would have been an error from his point of view, and would have interposed obstacles to the legitimate discussion and progress of this Bill. Clearly, I think that, according to the ordinary and reasonable mode of proceeding, we could now set about dealing with the actual provisions 1402 of the Bill which will determine the relations between landlord and tenant under the new law; and when you have fixed those relations, then will be the time to consider whether there is injury of a nature requiring compensation on the one side or the other. The hon. and gallant Member has allowed us—and I thank him for it—to approach the consideration of these practical questions, and according to the decisions on these practical questions, and according to the light that may be thrown upon them, he will have the means of judging at the proper time whether he has occasion to raise them or not. If I do not in detail refer to some of the remarks upon other passages of the Bill, I hope it will be understood that is from no want of respect for the hon. Members who have made them, but is simply because we have reached a point when we cannot make proper progress except in Committee. The preliminary obstacle has been removed, for it appears that those hon. Gentlemen who proposed to give Instructions to the Committee were not in a position to give those Instructions. That being so, I hope that, the evening being now spent, we may be permitted to take the preliminary and first essential step of dealing with the Motion that you shall leave the Chair, and then we can proceed with the provisions of the Bill one by one to-morrow.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I am not at all disposed to deny that the time has come when it would be convenient to take the step which has been suggested. At the same time, I do not think there is any blame to be thrown on the House for the manner and the fulness of the discussion that has taken place upon this Bill; and even if there had been a disposition to carry on the discussion at the present moment for a longer time, I think there would have been much to be said in view of the very large number of Amendments which have been placed on the Paper, with regard to which it is not inconvenient that there should be some discussion indicating which of those were the Amendments upon which the greatest stress would be laid, for the matter now seems to have resolved itself into this—that we may do well to enter into a discussion of the clauses as they stand, bearing in mind that when we are in Committee we shall be met with another 1403 difficulty in discussing the principle of these clauses—that the whole scheme hangs a great deal together; but when we are discussing one clause we shall not be allowed to refer to another when the two are connected. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) expressed surprise and regret at the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler) having made some observations with regard to the Land Act of 1870. Well, but we certainly cannot help from time to time recalling the memory of that Act. There were many things in connection with that Act; and when the Prime Minister told us that, in reference to a particular question, neither he nor any of his colleagues had propounded a particular mode, or a particular interpretation of a clause, we could not be satisfied what he and his Colleagues propounded. We must look into the Bill itself, for there were a great many things that were propounded which, after all, we find are now thrown aside. We are referred, in regard to certain matters, not to the interpretation put on the clause, but to the Bill itself; and therefore I was not surprised to hear the hon. Member for Cambridge, who took an active part in the proceedings on your Bill, express some astonishment at the change which seems to have come over the feelings of the friends of the Act of 1870 in respect to every important question such as those we are discussing. With regard to the question that has been raised by my hon. and gallant Friend behind me (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), it is really one of the very highest importance. It is one, I readily grant, that we could not bring to the vote at the present moment with full advantage, because it is difficult to show what is the precise amount of damage and confiscation this Bill will cause until we have made some progress with it. But my hon. and gallant Friend, having called attention to the subject as one of the prominent matters for consideration will be understood before we discuss the Bill that we have the question in events in our minds. I think I may gather from what has been said other Gentlemen that that feeling is not confined to Members who sit on this side; but I think that there will be a mutual disposition to do justice to those who may suffer in consequence of any steps which may be taken. I under- 1404 stand that we are now asked simply to move the Speaker out of the Chair, and that we shall proceed to discuss the clauses of the Bill to-morrow morning at the Morning Sitting. We shall be quite prepared to do all we can to give proper facilities for the discussion of the Bill with no desire whatever to obstruct it. At the same time, I hope that we may not be called to task if we discuss very fully and carefully the important questions which will be raised, and that we shall not be taken too strictly to account for considering the bearing of particular provisions upon the other parts of the Bill.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
must apologize to the House for rising at that moment, after the two speeches they had just listened to from the Leaders of the House. His apology, however, must be this—that in the course of the long debates which must ensue in Committee, he did not intend to trespass upon the attention of the House. He was only anxious now to state the objections which he entertained to the Bill. His views were in accordance with those which had been expressed by the noble Lord the Member for the county of Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho). He objected to the Bill on two grounds. In the first place, it was a Bill which violated the great principle of freedom of contract; and in the next place, he regarded the measure as a concession to sedition. In regard to the first objection, he knew that right hon. and hon. Gentleman opposite were staunch maintainers of the principle of freedom of contract, and for the life of him he could not understand why the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was to have the privilege of buying his goods in the cheapest market and selling them in the dearest, while his Colleague the Lord Chamberlain was to be refused the privilege of letting his farms to the highest bidder. In the next place, he could not but feel that the Bill was a concession to the sedition which had prevailed for some time in Ireland. He had referred to the noble Lord the Lord Chamberlain. He recollected the present Lord Chamberlain, when Lord Castlerosse, sitting on the Benches opposite,; and the Members of Her Majesty's Government would agree with him, although he was afraid they would concur with him in nothing else, that a more 1405 high-minded and courteous Gentleman never occupied a seat on the Treasury Bench. But what did they find in regard to the Earl of Kenmare? This high-minded Nobleman, who had done so much to improve his estates in Ireland, and who was not an object of any religious difficulty, because, as was well known, his religious views coincided with those of the great majority of the Irish people—this excellent and distinguished Nobleman had been driven out of Ireland by the conduct of his neighbours and tenants. It seemed to him (Mr. Fowler) that, under these circumstances, they ought to hesitate before they assented to a Bill which was a concession to the sedition of the Irish people. He had the honour of a seat in that House when the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister came down and proposed to cut clown the Upas tree of Protestant ascendancy, in order to send a message of peace to Ireland. At that time the right hon. Gentleman was at the head of as powerful a majority as he possessed at this moment. It might not be numerically as large, but it was practically as powerful. The right hon. Gentleman cut down the Upas tree of Protestant ascendancy; he abolished the Irish Church; and when he (Mr. Fowler) recollected the debates which took place on the Irish Church, he might say that there was no portion of his life upon which he looked back with more unmingled thankfulness and satisfaction from the knowledge he had that in every division he had voted against the right hon. Gentleman. The Upas tree of Protestant ascendancy had now been cut down; and he should like to know how many hon. Members on the other side of the House would get up and tell him that Ireland was as peaceful, at this moment, as it was when the right hon. Gentleman acceded to power in 1868? He should like to know if any hon. Member would say that Ireland, at the present moment, was in as peaceful a condition as when the Duke of Abercorn left it in that year? The result of the legislation of the right hon. Gentleman in his previous Government was depicted in a few burning words uttered by that illustrious man whose recent loss they, on that side of the House, so deeply deplored. Mr. Disraeli, when sitting on the Bench below him, said— 1406Under the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman we have legalized confiscation; we have consecrated sacrilege, and we have condoned high treason.He (Mr. Fowler) believed there was no more sacrilege to consecrate; but with regard to legalizing confiscation and condoning high treason, although he hoped never again in the course of these debates to trouble either the Committee or the House, he wished emphatically to say that on every occasion he hoped to give his vote against this Bill.
Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
Bill considered in Committee.
(In the Committee.)
§ PART I.
§ ORDINARY CONDITIONS OF TENANCIES.
§ Clause 1 (Sale of tenancies).
I beg to move that the Chairman do report Progress.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, there was one question he would like to ask the Prime Minister. In the course of the debate on the second reading he understood that the wording of the Bill in the second part, which related to the intervention of the Court, and especially of the 7th clause, was not happy, and that it was desirable to amend it. He wished to know from the Prime Minister whether any Government Amendments were likely to be put down? If the right hon. Gentleman would indicate at an early period how the language of the 7th clause might be amended, it would probably greatly facilitate the discussion of the clause in Committee.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
thought it would be a great convenience to the House if the right hon. Gentleman would explain the course he proposed to adopt in regard to the further progress of the Bill, and whether he intended to take Morning Sittings or not. It would be convenient for private Members to know whether Morning Sittings would now be continuous; because, if they were, private Members would be deprived of the only days now open to them.
I thought it was understood that the Government in- 1407 tended to proceed with the Bill at Morning Sittings on Tuesdays and Fridays. With regard to the question put by the right hon. Gentleman, we have considered the matter to which he refers, and our proposal is to deal with Clause 1 in the first instance. By taking that course we believe that we shall raise the several points in the most convenient form. After we have dealt with Clause 1, we shall have something to guide us in framing the proper phraseology of the rest of the Bill.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, this was a convenient opportunity for asking the Government if it was intended to take perpetual Morning Sittings for the rest of the Session, to give to private Members some opportunity for bringing on the questions they desired to submit, by making a House and keeping it in the evening? He alluded more especially to Tuesday evenings. The Government were already under an absolute obligation to make a House so far as Friday evening was concerned; but the duty of keeping it devolved upon independent Members themselves. He took it that the duty of making a House was, by the Rules of the House which related to Sittings on Friday, a positive engagement on the part of the Government. But then came the Tuesday Sittings. He thought that the House had some claim upon the Government to assist hon. Members in making and keeping a House on Tuesdays, at all events, during the remainder of the present Session. The same claim might not apply to an ordinary Session; but, as the House was aware, all the private Members' nights before Easter were taken by the Government, and independent Members were obliged to give up a large number of Motions they were anxious to bring forward. He therefore hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give some kind of assurance that the Government might be able to find it in their power to make some bonâ fide effort to make a House both upon Tuesday and upon Friday, in the event of private Members not objecting to Morning Sittings on those days.
§ MR. HEALY
hoped that the Chairman would be able to give some contradiction to a rumour to the effect that when the consideration of the 2,000 Amendments of which Notice had been given came on, it was his intention to 1408 allow the first Amendment to be disposed of, and then to follow the course adopted in the debates on the Coercion Bill, and rule all other Amendments relating to the same matter to be out of Order. He knew what newspaper gossip was, and did not himself give much credence to the rumour. It would be most unfair, in the event of an hon. Member obtaining precedence for a bad Amendment, to rule that any other Amendment, although there might be several good ones on the same point, were to be shut out. He would, therefore, put the Question direct to the Chairman, whether there was any foundation for the rumour, and whether such an intention really existed, so that hon. Members in that and other parts of the House who proposed to move Amendments might have timely Notice? He certainly thought that a clear and distinct intimation ought to be given by the Chair.
It is not for me to interpose between the Chairman and the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy), or to make any answer to his appeal; but I must say that I heard the assertion with surprise that the Rules upon which the procedure was conducted in Committee upon the Protection of Person and Property Bill for Ireland involved anything new. The proceedings in regard to that Bill were conducted upon the fixed and established and usual Rules of the House, and which are, in fact, justified by the necessity of making progress. No doubt, the hon. Member is justified in saying that there is a great deal that is arbitrary in the precedence given to one Member over another; and it may often, unfortunately, happen that an insignificant Amendment obtains precedence, while an important and significant Amendment is excluded. But that is an evil under which we continually suffer. For instance, Motions are put down for a private Members' evening. It so happens that the first two or three of them are Motions in which no one feels the slightest interest, except the Members who bring them forward, whereas there may he Motions in the rear of them of very great interest and importance, which are shut out by those which have been more favoured by fortune. I do not know whether our Rules in this respect can be improved; but it is quite clear that they cannot be arbitrarily changed, and we must pro- 1409 ceed upon them until we are able to substitute better. In regard to the observations of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), while it is perfectly true that independent Members suffered heavily during the first three months of this year, I am sure the candour with which the noble Lord has spoken will prevent him from saying that there was any gain to the Government. The Government were themselves as completely shut out from prosecuting Public Business as private Members were shut out from prosecuting the Motions they wished to bring forward. It was a common loss. With regard to Morning Sittings, my understanding is this—So far as Tuesdays are concerned, the making and keeping of a House is an affair for private Members themselves; and the House must take its chance, depending entirely on the interest taken in the Motions about to be submitted. But with regard to Fridays, the case is different, because while the Government are called upon to use their best endeavours to make a House—and, I believe, their engagement does not go further—it is their duty, I think, as far as they can, to make every reasonable endeavour to keep a House.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
remarked, that, so far as he understood, the Morning Sitting on Friday had been obtained by appointing a Bill of comparatively no importance—the Land Tax Commissioners' Names Bill—for 2 o'clock on that day. By that means the arrangement was made without the knowledge of many hon. Members. So far as he was concerned, he should certainly not offer any opposition to the appointment of a Morning Sitting for to-morrow; but he thought the matter ought not to have been settled at the backs of hon. Members. It was most desirable that, when it was intended to take Morning Sittings, hon. Members having Notices on the Paper should be aware of it, so that they might have an opportunity of challenging the proposal if they thought fit to do so.
said, he was not in the House when the arrangement was made; but he understood that the announcement would be that the Government would ask for Morning Sittings for the purpose of prosecuting this Bill. The arrangement, he believed, was made 1410 with the concurrence of all persons concerned in it. In order that there might be no misunderstanding, he should ask, when the Chairman left the Chair, that the Bill be fixed for a Morning Sitting to-morrow.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
wished to note that there was a distinct step backwards, so to speak, in what the Government now said. With regard to the Sittings on Tuesdays, of course no one understood that the Government were under any special obligation to make or keep a House; but, up to the present time, it had been the rule—at all events, the late Government acknowledged and continually acted upon it—to come down and make a House at 9 o'clock, leaving the House to continue or not according to the view which might be taken by hon. Members. It appeared that the present Government acted on the principle of reversing this policy.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that his recollection did not confirm the statement of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The imperative duty, which the right hon. Gentleman stated to belong to the late Government, of making a House on Tuesday evenings must have been very imperfectly performed, because he was quite sure that on many occasions those unfortunate "counts-out" actually occurred, in spite of what, he had no doubt, was the sincere desire of the late Government to prevent them.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
observed, that he had a distinct recollection that during the tenure of Office by the late Government, the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite was very rarely in his place at 9 o'clock on Tuesdays and Fridays when there had been Morning Sittings. From his own knowledge, having been present in the House throughout the greater part of the last Parliament, he could say that when it was the duty of the late Government to ask the House to sit on Tuesdays, they made it the rule to be in their places at 9 o'clock in the evening. It was true that the House had been frequently counted out; but on those occasions there were some 18 or 20 Members of the Government present. The late Government regarded it as their duty to make a House; but, having done so, they were not responsible for what afterwards occurred.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, that, whatever had been the rule of the Government, they were certainly unfortunate in their endeavours to carry it out. He remembered that when the Motion on the Endowed Schools of Ireland was appointed for discussion at an Evening Sitting after a Morning Sitting the House was obviously and notoriously counted out through the influence of the late Government.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
expressed a hope that the sudden announcement of Morning Sittings for 12 or 2 o'clock the following day would not be made after 12 o'clock at night. It was totally impossible that hon. Members could conduct their correspondence and their ordinary business if they were not informed by that time at what hour the House would meet next day. He remembered this had been the practice during a former Administration of the present Prime Minister; and he trusted the House would insist that at an early hour of the Sitting on the day previous they should be informed at what hour they were to meet again. Unless this was done it was impossible for private Members, or for any Member of the House, to conduct the necessary communications with their constituents, or to prepare themselves for debate. The result of violating this understanding was the perpetual moving of adjournments. Again, when the Rules of Urgency were adopted by the House, it was provided that adequate Notice of bringing those Rules into force should be given. That was the last precedent set up by the House bearing upon the subject; and he trusted that the House, out of self-respect, would insist upon its observance, and that it would never submit to Morning Sittings unless Notice was given before post time on the preceding day.
said, before the Question was put he should be glad to relieve the mind of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) by stating that after a hard day's work he had only succeeded in getting through the Amendments on Clause 1. He had been working with the object of preventing one Amendment killing another.
Question put, and agreed to.
Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.
said, the Government proposed to take the Bill to-morrow, immediately after the Report of the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill.