§ (Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Forster, Mr. Bright, Mr. Attorney General for Ireland, Mr. Solicitor General for Ireland.)
§ COMMITTEE. [FOURTH NIGHT.]
§ [Progress 30th May.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)1795
§ PART I.
§ ORDINARY CONDITIONS OF TENANCIES.
§ Clause 1 (Sale of tenancies).
§ MR. RAMSAY
, in rising to move, in page 1, line 8, after the word "applies," to insert "the annual rent of which does not exceed thirty pounds," said, in deciding as to this Amendment it was right that they should consider what the general object of the Bill was. He had listened with much attention to the views of the Prime Minister when he introduced the measure, and he thought that the Amendment which he now proposed was not in contravention of any leading principle of the Bill. He understood that the Bill was introduced by its promoters for the purpose of interfering to the least possible extent with freedom of contract between the owners and the occupiers of the soil; and he thought they only required, in judging what should be done, to consider what was the cause of the discontent and the disaffection in Ireland, and the misery and distress of her population. He felt that anyone who had considered the merits of this question must feel that the people of Ireland were entitled to much sympathy and respect. He had heard the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) denounce the legislation of the English Parliament, when they bad succeeded in destroying the industrial resources of Ireland and the development of her manufactures, and preventing the application of the intelligence and energy of the people to any other occupation than the cultivation of the soil. Now, that he held to be the true cause of the necessity for the present legislation, and he felt that everyone who was acquainted with the subject must recognize the accuracy of his opinion on that point. They had occasion last year to legislate for the distress and destitution from which the people of Ireland suffered, in consequence of the bad harvest of the previous year. Now, he could not conceive that anyone acquainted with the condition of farms could be in doubt as to the cause of the destitution amongst the Irish people. It was nothing that legislation had done during the present century. It was the legislation of previous centuries that was responsible for that, and they were now suffering because of the iniquity of their forefathers. He admitted the accuracy 1796 of that view, and he appealed to the friends of the Irish people to recognize the fact that no change in the tenure of land, and no change in the ownership of the land, could affect the permanent welfare of the Irish people so long as there was a greater number of persons depending exclusively upon the cultivation of the soil for their existence than the cultivation of the soil was fitted to support. That observation might, indeed, be held to be an axiom? What were the real facts of the case? There were, at the present time, 660,000 holdings in Ireland; and from a Return presented to the other House which he had obtained of the occupations he found that there were 286,957 occupiers within the distressed districts scheduled by the Irish Board of Works each holding land under £15 rent. The number of holdings did not necessarily determine the number of occupiers; but, on the contrary, the number of occupiers was less than the number of holdings. In the distressed districts, he found there were 306,000 of these occupiers in 1879, the rent of whose occupations was under £20 in each case. Thus, no one acquainted with the management of land and with the amount of produce it could yield would fail to realize what was meant by such a number of families as these 306,000 occupiers expressed in the distressed districts of Ireland. These were not the whole of the occupiers of Ireland who were under £20, but only the families who were within the districts scheduled by the Board of Works, because of the distress which prevailed in those districts. He called the attention of the House to the recognition of the fact that this implied that 1,500,000 persons in Ireland were placed in circumstances in which destitution must have been continually staring them in the face, which circumstance could not but cause that discontent and disaffection which at present characterized that country. He had heard Gentlemen in that House refer to the fact that to the lack of industry on the part of the Irish people could be attributed in great part the cause of the distress that prevailed among them. He held that there was nothing so unjust as an imputation of that character against the Irish people. He believed they would not be able to find on the face of the earth a people placed in similar circumstances who had 1797 developed so many virtues as the Irish people. It was not in human nature that men who were constantly living in circumstances not free from the risk of seeing their families destitute at any time should have developed energy and industry in prosecuting the means of subsistence. And as to the so-called land hunger, which was said to be one of the grievances of Ireland for which Parliament had now to provide redress, he held that it was not land hunger, properly so-called, at all. The people of Ireland, when they went to other countries, did not show any special liking for the cultivation of the soil. In the United States, the Irish people dropped the cultivation of the soil and engaged in trade and commerce; and a large number of them, having left the small homes of their ancestors and gone to America, found that they were able to embark in trade and commerce with success. Many of them fought their way upward, and became eminent men in all the cities of the United States. Well, for these evils they were to provide a remedy, and as such he regarded this Bill; otherwise he would not have voted for it on the second reading. He regarded it as an honest attempt on the part of Her Majesty's Ministers to do something for the people of Ireland. But what were they to do? He conceived that freedom of contract, which was a very desirable thing in itself, and for which he had always contended, was not applicable to the circumstances of the people who were small occupiers of land in Ireland. The men were in such circumstances that, when the landlord came round and said they had to pay a certain amount of rent, they were ready to agree to any terms he was pleased to name, not because they had any liking for the cultivation of the soil, but because they saw no other source from which they could obtain subsistence for their families. It was truly, indeed, a struggle for existence on the part of the Irish people that drove them to stick to the land as they did, and nothing else. It was not any hunger for the land itself. In dealing with the question, he thought these facts showed they ought to restrict the operation of the Bill to the classes whose circumstances were such as to require the protection of Parliament; and he, therefore, proposed that this clause should apply only to holdings the annual 1798 rent of which did not exceed £30. It was not the £50 tenant, however, that he specially cared about, because, in his judgment, he was just as independent as the man in any other part of Great Britain who occupied land of the same value, or who was a tenant of £100 or £150; and it would be held to be a mockery to give such a man compensation. He did not wish to take anything from anyone which they at present enjoyed, and hon. Members would see an Amendment on the Paper in his name, which provided—That nothing in this Act shall ….in any respect restrict or impair any right or privilege to which any tenant is now entitled under the foresaid custom or usage, whether the rent of the tenancy be greater or less than the amount of the rent herein specified.If they were to go beyond that, he held that, so far from doing good to the class especially considered, and who were really suffering so much, they would do an injury. Indeed, it seemed clear to him that if they were to give to the occupiers holdings less than £15 of annual value, they would do them no good, even supposing they were to make them fee-simple holders of the soil without money or price. If that were the case, it might be asked what good was expected to be done in confining the operation of the Act to those under £30? There was one way in which good might be done. The Prime Minister, in introducing the Bill, consented to embody in it the principle of compensation for disturbance. That he held to be a most important feature in it, for by it it was proposed to confer upon those who were in a state of destitution seven years' value of the holding for the purpose of providing them with the means of going elsewhere; and he believed they would avail themselves of the privilege for the purpose, not of emigrating, but of migrating. The state of distress in which the poorer tenants were had been brought about naturally, and it never could be otherwise so long as there was a larger number depending upon the soil than the soil was capable of supporting. He was not arguing in favour of taking away anything from the rights and privileges that were at present enjoyed; but he did not think that if the Amendment were adopted it would interfere in any way with the passage of the Bill or tend to diminish 1799 its usefulness. Nor would the Amendment in any way tend to lessen the rights and privileges of those who paid a rent above £30; but it would render it certain that those who paid £30 would have the advantage of the Bill. He did not know whether it was generally known, because it was not at all times recognized, that the Amendment he suggested would reach more than nine-tenths of the farmers of Ireland. There were in all about 600,000 holdings occupied by about 500,000 occupiers, and there were 356,000 of these occupiers, within the distressed districts, who had suffered greatly from the bad harvest of the last few years. He trusted that Her Majesty's Ministers might see their way to accept the Amendment, and if they did he believed they would not lessen the benefits conferred by the Bill, but, on the contrary, that they would increase the prospect of the measure being acceptable to all classes, and would confer permanent good upon the Irish people. He, therefore, begged to move the Amendment which stood in his name upon the Paper.
Amendment proposed,In page 1, line 8, at the end of the previous Amendment, to insert the words "the annual rent of which does not exceed thirty pounds."—(Mr. Ramsey.)Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. BIDDELL
approved of the Amendment, because it limited the operation of an unwise clause which, as it stood, might be a good clause for the present generation of tenants; but he thought they were bound to look to the probable operation of the Bill as regarded the tenantry beyond the year 1881, and to see how it would be likely to operate, say, in 1901. What would they find then? Why, that the incoming tenant would be burdened with a heavy payment to his predecessor, such as had hitherto been unknown in three-fourths of Ireland. It had been argued by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister that such a payment would not affect rent. He altogether disagreed with the right hon. Gentleman. He cared not in what form they put it; but the greater the sum the man had to pay on entering upon a farm, the less sum he would agree to pay as rent, and they could not eventually separate this payment from 1800 rent. He wished now to call the attention of the Committee to the different principles on which the tenant and the landlord were treated under the Bill. One of the great objects of the Bill was to counteract what some people called the cupidity of the landlords; but he (Mr. Biddell) was not satisfied that it existed in Ireland except to a limited degree. The Bill said to them—"You shall not exact an excessive rent in the present exigencies of Ireland." And, apart from that position, he thought the Court was a good institution for the purpose of regulating the rent. But what did the Bill say to the tenant? It said—"Not only shall you sell the goodwill of your holding, but you shall sell it for the largest sum you can get for it." But he should have thought the financial sagacity of the seller would need this superfluous direction to obtain the highest price. The Bill would induce nearly all the tenants to go into Court in this way. A tenant finding his relations with his landlord getting shaky, although satisfied with the rent he was paying, would go to the Court in order to get as good as a 15 years' lease. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] At any rate, that was the way in which he (Mr. Riddell) road the Bill, and he should be glad to find that he was not correct in his reading. Perhaps he might make himself best understood if he put a hypothetical case. A tenant's father dying, the son wished to take his father's farm, it being larger than his own; accordingly he went to an auctioneer to assist him in getting rid of his own, stating—"I expect to get a good round sum for my tenant right, as I had a cute man to represent me at the Court, who induced them to put it at a low rent." The auctioneer said he had other farms to get rid of, and that he would call an auction. He accordingly did so, and, probably, after the whisky had circulated and the bidders got a little excited, the most sanguine man with the least judgment and the most money would obtain possession of the holding. He ultimately finds he has given too much and fails; nobody sympathizes with him as he outbid his neighbours; whereas, had he hired direct of the landlord, he would have excited general sympathy, and the finger of the agitation would have branded the landlord as a rack-renter, and thus have tended to keep 1801 down rents. The Bill, then, encouraged competition in the keenest way, and did everything for the present, and was most injurious to the future tenant. The same result always followed a departure from great principles. ["Question!"] The Amendment before the Committee was that the operation of the clause should be limited, and that was the question he was now speaking to. He was of opinion that they ought to consider something beyond the old proverb—"Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." It might be that the Government thought their time might only be short, and they were therefore anxious to get over the difficulty in the easiest way they could. But that was not the principle which ought to guide the legislation of the House of Commons.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, that, as a point of Order, he wished to take the opinion of the Chairman whether the hon. Member was speaking to the Amendment?
I think the hon. Member is rather speaking against the sale of tenancies altogether, and not to the limit of £30 proposed by the Amendment.
§ MR. BIDDELL
said, he was endeavouring to show the expediency of fixing the limit of £30. If a landowner died with an estate in hand of £1,000 a-year, and the trustees did not care to carry on the farm themselves, were all the tenants to be paid under this clause who paid nothing on entry? If they were, all he would say was that they would, by thus depreciating the estate, be depriving the widow and children of that which, in all equity, belonged to them. He did not wish to express hostility to the Bill, for he had forborne to follow those whose judgment he generally approved in voting against the second reading. Far from it. Indeed, he approved of the establishment of the Court, and he thought the Government were perfectly right in bringing the matter forward; but he did not think that a property should be created in the tenant which had never before existed, except in one quarter of Ireland, where it had arisen solely in consequence of the kindness of the landlords.
As I understand the Amendment, it certainly appears to me that the hon. Member who has just addressed the Committee has travelled over a very much wider field. He has said that the clause is entirely bad, and 1802 because the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay) gets rid of the application of it to a large number of tenants in Ireland, he is prepared on that ground to support it. I understand that to be the explanation of the hon. Member. My hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Ramsay) spoke in favour of the general principle of the Bill and of the clause; but he considers that tenants above £30 in Ireland, or above some other figure, which is not the figure of his Amendment, are perfectly independent persons, and are quite able to make their own contracts. Now, if the clause is bad, I do not think the House ought to limit its operation, but it ought to reject it altogether. I will, therefore, not attempt to deal with that particular form of argument. But my hon. Friend behind has said that the tenant above £30 is independent in Ireland and quite able to make his own contracts. I do not hesitate to say that my hon. Friend must have made this Motion, and must have made that statement, without the smallest regard to any of the conclusions drawn by the Commissioners who have inquired into the subject. The only Commission which has reported upon it is the Commission of Lord Bessborough, and the judgment of that Commission is entirely and directly contrary to the statement of my hon. Friend, and is to the effect that unless Parliament is prepared to negative such a proposition as is contained in the Amendment, the independence of tenants of £30 and upwards cannot for a moment be maintained. But I am bound to say, even if it could be maintained, that there are other arguments which would lead me to believe that it would be unwise in the interests of the landlord. When, in 1870, we limited the operation of the Act by introducing freedom of contract, not to the point of £30, but to a point somewhat higher, I believe the effect of that limitation was evil in two ways. For the evidence before the Commission places it beyond doubt that tenants very far above £30 are still under the greatest pressure and difficulty in Ireland, and are obliged to pay excessive rents when the landlord thinks fit, as he has done in certain cases, to demand them. Besides that, the policy of the limitation has been to drive all the most important and substantial part of the tenantry in Ireland into the ranks 1803 of agitation for further change. The error we committed in the legislation of 1870 in lowering the limitation was, in my opinion, unfavourable to the durability of the settlement then made. But there is another argument which I would venture to press upon hon. Members. I say, first, that it is not politic to make a limitation in the interests of the landlords and of the stability of any law we may pass; secondly, that it is not equitable to the tenant, because he is not independent; and, thirdly, I would call the attention of my hon. Friend to the actual state of the law. Parliament has created by law what has proved to be a real tenant right in Ireland, and the tenants of Ireland generally are in the possession of that tenant right. But they are debarred from its exercise by way of transfer by a prohibition which is inserted in a particular section of the Land Act, and thereby the real interest we have created is made comparatively useless to them. It is available for them in case of their eviction, but it is not available for them in any other case. In the event of the Amendment being carried, we should still have to deal with the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy). We intend to support that repeal of the 13th clause of the Land Act; and if we repeal the 13th clause of the Land Act, then I apprehend that, even independently of the stipulations of the present law, you will have an effective tenant right in operation throughout Ireland.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
The Prime Minister, in what he has said, repeats an argument that he continually uses. He says—"This is a case in which we have, by recent legislation, created a right which we have given to the tenant." [Mr. GLADSTONE: Interest.] Well, an interest. "But at the same time," he says, "we have so guarded it that he can only use that interest which we have created for him subject to a certain limitation, that he is not able absolutely and freely to assign; and, therefore, it is obviously necessary that you should remove that restriction upon the interest you have created." But why? I fail to see the reason. I might or might not be ready to remove that restriction; but the Prime Minister puts it as a matter of course that, having first of all created an interest, you have done something very shocking in re- 1804 stricting the free and unfettered use of it. But if, by the same instrument as that which created the interest, you limit the interest, I do not see that it necessarily follows that you should take off the restriction. The argument I refer to has continually cropped up in the course of these discussions, and I entirely dispute the proposition that no man should have an interest in property without the power of selling that interest. However, we are not at this moment at liberty to argue that question; but it has been so often brought into the discussion that I am right in referring to it, especially because the Prime Minister has just used it in his argument against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay). But I understand the argument of the hon. Member to be this. He said, especially with regard to this part of the Bill, which is contrary to economical principles, which raises very great doubts in my mind as to whether it is for the good either of the tenants or the country in general that it should be enacted, I admit that you have to deal with a very special case. You have to deal with a class of men who are small tenants, and who, owing to circumstances—whether by their own fault, whether by the fault of their landlords, the fault of legislation by this House in former Parliaments, or from whatever cause—are in a position of exceptional difficulty. And, he says, I am prepared to deal with the case of these small tenants by putting them on a different footing to that which applies to the case of larger tenants. He names a limit of £30 as typical of the class which ought to be exceptionally treated; but I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that he is ready to substitute some other figure. My hon. Friend the Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Biddell) was, I think, perfectly right in calling the attention of the Government to a fact that is too often forgotten—that you have not only to deal with a present emergency, but that you must look to the interest of the country in the future. In the belief that this exceptional provision should be confined to those on whom the pinch and stress has come, I shall vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Falkirk.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, it was a mistake to suppose that the clause would 1805 confer upon the Irish tenant property which he had not got. It simply enabled him freely to use the property which he had. Her Majesty's Government thought that the 13th clause of the Land Act of 1870, which they regarded as an unwarrantable interference with the tenant's interest, ought to be repealed. By the Land Act of 1870, protection was given by Parliament to the Irish tenant from year to year against disturbance by notice to quit—an operation which the purchaser or assignee of the yearly tenancy had to fear. The effect of the 13th clause was that if the landlord did not choose to accept the tenant, however unreasonably, the assignee had no protection whatever. The other House established a hard-and-fast rule that the landlord might, without any reason whatever, refuse to accept the assignee of the tenant, and, serving the dreaded notice to quit, put him out without any compensation, the effect of which, of course, was practically to destroy the right of assignment, because the purchaser, knowing that, though assignee, he would thus be at the mercy of the landlord, would give nothing for the tenancy. Her Majesty's Government thought that the landlord should have power to object to the new tenant, but only on reasonable grounds; and that power, accordingly, they proposed to leave to him. More than that he did not think that any fair landlord would ask for. The proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay) would establish a limit to the operation of the 1st clause of, say, £30. But the objection to all these arbitrary lines was that they were founded on no real principle. Why should they do for a man who was rented at £30 what they would not do for another rented at £30 10s.? Another objection to the proposal was that it was not to limit the clause by the valuation, but by the rent of the holding, so that there would be the strongest inducement for the landlord to carry on the process of raising his rent in order to get the farm above the prescribed limit. Further objection to the Amendment was that it might encourage the attempts of owners to avail themselves of hard times, when tenants could not pay, to consolidate their farms for the purpose of placing them beyond the operation of the Bill. His hon. Friend said that the tenants above the limit named in the 1806 Amendment were more independent than those below it, and that statement of his hon. Friend would be perfectly intelligible to him if they had anything to do with the freedom of contract which he spoke about. But they had nothing to do with freedom of contract here, or with the rules of political economy, except that it seemed to him a very sound economical principle that a man should be at liberty to sell his property for what it would fetch. The hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Biddell) had said that the clause would prejudice whole generations of Irish tenants, who, he thought, would be damaged by the increased amount they would have to pay for their farms. It seemed that hon. Members could never get rid of the notion that tenants in Ireland were constantly buying and selling their farms. That idea was utterly unfounded. The number of sales was extremely small. In Ulster, where free sale had always existed, there was not more than one sale in two generations. But he had still another objection to the Amendment of the hon. Member, and it was this—that on farms of over £30 one looked for a better class of tenants, as well as for the greatest amount of improvement in cultivation; but what possible encouragement would a tenant have to adopt improvements if he was not to be allowed to sell his interest to the best advantage? The right of sale had acted admirably in Ulster, where it not only secured the landlord his arrears of rent, but the tenant a valuable, because saleable, interest in his holding, and the result was that land was cultivated far better in Ulster than any other part of the country. For these reasons he trusted the Committee would not accept an Amendment which, he believed, would only sow afresh the seeds of discontent and disorder amongst the tenant farmers of Ireland.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had omitted to state some of the most important items which the farmers would have to contend with. He had told the Committee that the effect of limitation on the landlord would be merely to remove the landlord's control from his property; but he had not stated that the landlord would have no security against the imposition of a bankrupt tenant upon him, inasmuch 1807 as it was impossible to prevent a sum greatly in excess of the value of the holding being paid. A case came before him a few days ago, which showed that the Bill as it stood would work unfairly to the landlord. A man, five years ago, took a farm on the English system for £500 a-year. In consequence of his not succeeding in his operations his landlord made him a reduction of £50 a-year for the last four years. The tenant in a short time had the farm in such an impoverished condition that he was willing to get out of it on any terms. He had never been able to put money, so to speak, on the soil, for he had lost his capital elsewhere. He (Mr. Brodrick) asked what interest that tenant had to sell in his holding, except, perhaps, the reduction in the rent which the landlord voluntarily made him? It seemed to him a bad principle to deprive the landlord of the power of choosing a tenant who would be able to pay a fair average rent. The Solicitor General for Ireland cited a case of a man being willing to expend £1,100 on an £80 holding, or about £20 of capital per acre. He (Mr. Brodrick) asked whether that was a typical case, especially in Ulster, where, if they could get a tenant with a capital of £7 or £8 per acre, it was the utmost they could get? He entirely denied that the present system had produced the vast amount of injustice on large holdings which the language of the Prime Minister had implied; and he challenged anyone to prove from the Reports of any Commission that such a condition of things existed. With regard to the Amendment of the hon. Member opposite, exception had been taken to the term "rent," as distinguished from the term "valuation." Upon this point he wished to say that if the tendency would be for landlords to push up their rent in order to get above the operation of the clause, then he thought it would be better to substitute the term "valuation." The Amendment was one which he believed the Government ought not to reject without the fullest consideration, and if the hon. Member carried it to a division he should give him his support.
§ MR. SHAW
pointed out that in nine cases out of 10 the persons who took large farms in Ireland had not the capital to work them. This class of farmers 1808 was not generally successful throughout Ireland. Unfortunately, there was such a liking for sport there that almost immediately a man got possession of a farm of 400 or 500 acres he purchased a hunter and indulged in other luxuries. The custom of selling farms had become very general all over Ireland, by permission of the landlords, and it was therefore unwise to limit the right, because it would work very great injustice, and would, moreover, stir up the elements of another agitation. The men who were most prominent in the present agitation were those who were excluded from the Act of 1870.
§ MR. R. H. PAGET
considered there was great force in the remarks of the hon. Member who had just addressed the Committee. It was only right, when the Attorney General for Ireland argued that every man should have the right to sell that which he possessed, and that there should be no limitation placed on that right of sale, to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman how many limitations of the kind there were in the Bill? The clauses of the Bill abounded in exceptions and limitations of the right of sale. Clause 9, with reference to leases, had these words—And the tenancy shall during the continuance of such lease be regulated by the provisions of that lease alone, and shall not be deemed to be a tenancy to which this Act applies.The holders, therefore, of judicial leases were excluded from the right of free sale. Again, Clauses 10 and 11, where the right to create fixed tenancies was given to the landlord, and the payment of fee farm rent by the tenant, provided—"The tenancies so created were not to be deemed tenancies to which this Act applied." The Committee had just heard from the Attorney General for Ireland that it was wrong to establish a limit of £30, because it was not founded on principle, and there was no reason why the limit should not be placed at £30 10s.—in short, that it would create immense difficulty to introduce into the Bill any limit whatever. But it must not be forgotten that in Clause 17 the limit of £150 was set to the power of contracting out of the Act; and it might, on precisely the same principle, be argued that the line of £150 was wrong, because there was no reason why it should not be extended to tenants rated at a less annual value 1809 than £149 10s. If the clause did not fix a distinct limit, he was entirely at a loss to know what the word "limit" meant. There were again, in Clause 46, a number of limitations relating to the demesne lands and other property to which the Act did not apply, and Clause 47 provided that existing leases "should remain in force as if the Act had not passed." Why, the Bill throughout bristled with clauses referring to tenancies "to which this Act does not apply," and when the right hon. and learned Gentleman based his argument against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Falkirk upon the statement that it was wrong, as a matter of principle, to attempt to introduce any limit because all limitations were wrong, he (Mr. Paget) said he had entirely forgotten the character of his own Bill. There was one point raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman which he thought worthy of a moment's consideration. He understood the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to be that, previous to the Act of 1870, any Irish tenant had the right to assign his holding at Common Law, and that this right was destroyed by the Act of 1870. Now, what was the nature of this right? The right hon. and learned Gentleman had himself answered that question when he told the Committee that "it was of no commercial value, because the moment it was assigned the assignee could be turned out," and therefore the commercial value of the legal right to assign, which existed previous to the Act of 1870, amounted to nothing at all. But the Prime Minister went further, and the Committee were told that, by the Act of 1870, real property was created for the tenants. But the Act must then have created what it was never intended to create; and the Prime Minister, in his first speech on the Bill made this Session, told the House that it was a surprise to the Government to find that the result of the Act of 1870 was to give to the tenants of Ireland that which he and the then Government never intended to give them. But now, because the tenant had got by accident something which the Prime Minister had said it was never intended to give him, they were told that this right of the tenant must be completed because it was at first necessarily incomplete. Undoubtedly what was given to the tenant rightly or wrongly, inten- 1810 tionally or unintentionally, was incomplete, and the Government were now prepared to give him a complete right. To do that might be right or otherwise; but he (Mr. Paget) ventured to submit that the argument by which it had been supported by the Prime Minister would not for one moment bear examination. He, therefore, contended that the arguments by which this claim was supported on behalf of the tenants were untenable—plainly so as a matter of logic-and that there was no reason why limitations of the application of the clause should not be introduced if necessary.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, it was clear that the general feeling of the Committee was, at any rate, against the figure named in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Falkirk. He hoped, therefore, that the Amendment would be withdrawn, especially as the general question of limitation would be raised by another Amendment on the Paper. For his own part, he had no wish to sit into September, and ventured to hope that the Committee would not have to listen to a discussion of the same point two or three times over.
§ MR. GIBSON
desired to guard him-self against any possible concurrence with the statement of the Attorney General for Ireland, that the Government had made up their minds to yield to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wexford to strike out Clause 13 from the Act of 1870. That must not be allowed to pass without challenge, and it must not be supposed that it was a proposition that would be yielded to without a large amount of discussion. The clause was deliberately framed, and he was strictly accurate in saying that it was placed in the Bill on the Motion of Earl Granville, and that it came before the House at the time accredited from the Government of the day. It would not be a matter of surprise, therefore, when the subject came on for discussion, that hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House declined to agree to its withdrawal without full discussion.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
appealed to the hon. Member for Falkirk to withdraw his Amendment, and, if necessary, to move it in the form of an Amendment to the proviso at the end of the clause. The proviso, he reminded the hon. Member, would afford a much more suitable opportunity for the discus- 1811 sion of the question of limitation than the part of the clause at that moment before the Committee. The Bunt was so low, and would exclude so many tenants who had an undoubted right to come within the provisions of the Bill, that if the present Amendment were carried to a division he should be obliged to vote against it.
§ Mr. W. FOWLER
said, he held in his hand the Bill of 1870 as it came down from the House of Lords, and with notes of the particular changes which were there introduced. It had been said by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General for Ireland that Clause 13 of that Act forbade all assignment by the tenant; but that was confined to tenancies held from year to year existing at the time of the passing of the Act. Without going into the question of the right of limitation, he thought the Committee ought not to run away with the idea that the 13th clause of the Act of 1870 was a general forbidding of assignment by the tenant. He was disposed to think that it was exceedingly difficult to place any limit to this section. If they once admitted that they were about to make a new code of law as between landlord and tenant, and then attempted to set up limitations, it was extremely difficult to do so unless they applied them to whole classes of estates and people. He had on the Paper an Amendment which proposed a limit of a different kind from the present. Again, he thought the limitation by a money figure would work very awkwardly; indeed, he did not see how it would work at all in the present state of confusion and dispute which existed throughout the country. While he felt that the question was one of immense difficulty and that there were others arising from the new code which were in themselves so difficult that they must not he discussed in a hurry, but with care and patience, and with a desire to get to the bottom of the whole matter, still he recommended the hon. Member for Falkirk not to press his Amendment to a division. If a division must be taken on the question of a money limit, he thought it would be taken with greater advantage on the limit of £100.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he honoured very much the spirit shown by the last speaker, and wished it were more common on the Benches opposite. He de- 1812 precated most earnestly any attempt to hurry the discussion on the Bill, such as was shown by hon. Members opposite when they constantly cried "Question!" and "Divide!" This had been very obvious during the speech of the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Biddell), who, in criticizing the clause, had stated his case with such complete fairness, and who had never wandered by one word from the point raised by the Amendment. For his own part, he believed that the more carefully the Committee discussed the important matter contained in the early part of the Bill the sooner the end of the Bill would be reached. On the other hand, if the work was scamped, so to speak, and the clauses hurried through, it would be found when they got a little further into the clauses that the confusion in which the Bill was at present involved would become a great deal worse. One of the strongest reasons why the Committee should not be so anxious to save time was that they had not got their definitions in order. He had himself heard the Prime Minister say they had created a "tenant right;" but when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) repeated those words, the Prime Minister said he had used the term "tenant interest." Therefore, he regretted to remind the Committee that they did not even then know what it was they were discussing. Again, that which had been called by the Prime Minister both "tenant right" and "tenant interest," he had himself also described as "goodwill" by an analogy which might be supposed to hold between a tenancy and certain trading occupations. Therefore, according to the varying phases of the Premier's mind, they had every possible definition and every sort of difference of idea. Then with regard to Clause 13 of the Act of 1870. They found the Attorney General for Ireland making use of a most extraordinary argument, in saying that in a normal condition of things there was not more than one sale in two generations. But that, he contended, was not a normal condition of things. As they had, according to the Premier, confirmed tenant right, the moment that right was confirmed by this Bill the tenant would want to sell it, because it was only the present tenants who would get any benefit from the Bill; it would not be 1813 the tenants who wanted to become the landlords of the future. When it was fully understood that 200,000 people were going to have the power to sell what they had never paid for, the absurdity of the argument of the Attorney General for Ireland that only one sale would take place in two generations was very apparent. But he must remind the Prime Minister that when the Compensation for Disturbance Bill was before the House last year, he himself accepted a limit, he believed, of £30 beyond which that Bill was not to apply. It might be that £50 was a more convenient figure than £30 in the present instance; but as the principle of limitation was introduced into the Bill he had referred to, and was considered a good one, it was difficult to see why it should not be also admitted in the present Bill.
§ MR. RAMSAY
thought he was entitled to address the Committee after the representation which had been made in opposition to his views on that side of the House. He had no objection, if the Committee would allow him, having regard to the difficulty which had been stated as between rent and value, to amend his Amendment by substituting for the words on the Paper the words "which does not exceed the annual rent of £50." He reminded hon. Members who had listened to the discussions on the Compensation for Disturbance Bill that the argument of limitation was supported on the sole ground that there were two classes of tenants in Ireland, and that there must be some line at which to draw a distinction. There was one class of men so dependent that there was no possibility of their making a free contract, and there was another so independent that they were perfectly well able to make a free contract with the owners of the land in Ireland. The Bill was intended to benefit a poor class which demanded the sympathy of the people of this country; but he believed that no measure would do much to alleviate the distress of the small occupiers, to whom he believed it would do no good to give the lands even without money and without price.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I must say I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should not extend to his 1814 own Friend and supporter the Member for Falkirk the courtesy which is generally extended to Members when they desire to amend their proposals. I would point out that the hon. Member for Falkirk, in his opening remarks, said he had no exclusive preference for a particular limit, although he argued on the assumption that there should be some limit. I think it would be but courtesy, in accordance with the ordinary practice of the House, that the hon. Member should be allowed to withdraw his Amendment and re-submit it to the Committee in the form which he desires. Of course, the Committee will exercise their discretion as to the mode in which they will deal with the Amendment; but I think the best course will be to allow the hon. Member to withdraw it.
I dissent altogether from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, which is founded upon an entire misapprehension of the facts of the case. It is perfectly true that it is usual to allow a Member who proposes an Amendment to make alterations in it, even at the last moment, for the purpose of making it clear. But this is simply a case of proposing an Amendment entirely different from the original. The Committee will see that a holding rented at £30 is one thing and a holding valued at £50 is a totally different thing, and means a holding rented at between £60 and £70.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he accepts the principle involved in the Amendment? If that is so his observations will be in point; but if he declines to accept the principle, I contend that he should allow the hon. Member for Falkirk to put his proposal in the form which the hon. Member considers most favourable.
The Government think that the only safe method of limitation is by introducing at a certain line freedom of contract; and we intended to propose, if there were to be any limitation at all, that it should be in that shape. But my point is, that when a particular proposition has been made to the House, and has been debated for a couple of hours, it is better that it should be disposed of instead of being passed by without any judgment being pronounced by the Committee.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
pointed out to the Committee that by the arrangement indicated by the right hon. Gentleman there would be two divisions; whereas, if the proposal of the hon. Member to amend his Amendment were accepted there would be but one. He repeated the statement made by his right hon. Friend the Member for North Devon, that all through the discussion the Amendment of the hon. Member for Falkirk had been distinctly argued on the principle and not with respect to the particular figure inserted in the Amendment. He had a most complete recollection that the hon. Member himself, in his opening statement, actually said that he did not lay any stress upon the figure 30, and that he was prepared to substitute the figure 50. That had been throughout the general opinion of the Committee.
reminded the Committee that there would have to be two divisions if the Amendment was not withdrawn in order to insert £50. It was quite within the competence of any hon. Member to move that the word "thirty" be omitted.
Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, to leave out the word "rent," and insert the word "valuation,"—(Mr. Fitz Patrick,)—instead thereof.
Question, "That the word 'rent' stand part of the proposed Amendment," put, and negatived.
Question, "That the word "valuation' be there inserted, put, and agreed to.
Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, to leave out the word "thirty," and insert the word "fifty,"—(Mr. Fitz Patrick,)—instead thereof.
Question proposed, "That the word 'thirty,' stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, before the Question was put, he wished to ask whether it was competent for a Member to move a succession of Amendments, each one involving an increase of, say, £1 upon the other? Suppose a sum of £50 was proposed to be inserted, was it competent to Members to move that £51, £52, and so on, be inserted? He believed the present proceeding was 1816 irregular, and that a division should be taken once for all in accordance with previous decisions on points of this kind, otherwise the reductions proposed might be interminable.
If the Committee negative the Amendment to insert the word "fifty," it will be competent to any hon. Member to move that another sum be inserted.
Question put, and negatived.
Question, "That the word 'fifty,' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
Question proposed, "That the words 'the annual valuation of which does not exceed fifty pounds,' be there inserted."
It is not necessary, as far as the Government is concerned, to renew the debate; but I wish to point out that this was the limit introduced, unfortunately I think, into the Land Act of 1870, but for a very different purpose. It was introduced for the purpose of allowing freedom of contract at a certain point; but it did not exclude from a free disposal of the interest, which, we think, should be an equitable interest existing in law. Her Majesty's Government, of course, regard the Amendment in its present form with feelings of somewhat diminished intensity; but our objections to it are absolutely of the same force as they were to the figure of 30.
The Committee divided:—Ayes 140; Noes 243: Majority 103.—(Div. List, No. 224.)
§ MR. BOURKE
said, there was a point which he wished to raise which limited the tenant right to farms on which the tenantry resided; but as his object was covered by the Amendment of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Gibson), he should not move.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would see his way to go, at any rate, some distance in the direction of the Amendment he was about to propose. He could understand a wide sympathy existing for those occupying tenants who were themselves working men, and worked their farms by the aid of their families. He could also have great sympathy for those who, although they did 1817 not actually exist on the farm, had, by industry and thrift, two or three farms. These classes formed a meritorious and industrious tenantry who were deserving of every consideration. His Amendment, therefore, made the distinction clearer between those tenants who occupied and those who sub-let; and, although it might not be the best way of dealing with the question, he ventured to think there was substantial justice underlying his proposition. He was fully conscious that this was not the intention of the Prime Minister, or of his Colleagues; and, therefore, he presented his Amendment, which needed no lengthened argument to support it, in perfect good faith, and in the hope that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to make some concession in the direction which he had indicated.
Amendment proposed,In page 1, line 8, after "applies," insert "and in actual occupation of the holding."—(Mr. Gibson.)
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, if his right hon. and learned Friend would turn to the Definition Clause he would see the word tenant defined as meaning "a person occupying land." If, accordingly, the tenant sub-let his holding, he ceased to be "tenant" within the provisions of the Bill. The tenant was, in short, the person in occupation.
§ MR. GIBSON
accepted the statement of his right hon. and learned Friend; and he would not press the matter further at that stage of the Bill.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, that, as he understood, the Government proposed to establish on those holdings which were not subject to the Ulster Custom a new custom or tenant right, and that the regulations relating to the sale under that custom were contained in this clause, but that the regulations in this clause were not meant to control the Ulster Custom or usage. That being so, his Amendment would not in any way affect any holding subject to the Ulster Custom. But the custom which the Government proposed to establish outside Ulster differed from the Ulster Custom. Now, it was quite clear that outside Ulster a different state of relations between landlords and 1818 tenants prevailed, as compared with the relations between landlords and tenants within that Province; and, therefore, he desired by his Amendment to make provision for certain cases which were likely to arise. The Committee would bear in mind that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had just stated that it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to give the tenant the right of selling anything he had not got; and he was quite willing to suppose that a tenant in Ireland was, in this respect, in the same position as any other individual—that was to say, he could not sell anything which he had not created, or bought, or inherited. There were persons on estates in Ireland who had neither bought nor inherited tenant right; and, therefore, he thought some words should be inserted in the clause to enable the Court to deal with cases of this kind when they came before it. With this view, he proposed to add words that would make it clear that, while the Committee, on the one hand, were desirous of protecting tenants improvements, and giving them the right to get compensation for such improvements, and for tenant right where they had either inherited or bought it—that it was not the intention of the Committee to allow a tenant who had neither bought nor inherited it to sell any part of his tenant right.
Amendment proposed,In page 1, line 8, after the word "may," insert "except in the cases hereinafter in this section specially mentioned."—(Lord George Hamilton.)
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
asked what were the intentions of the Government with regard to cases similar to that which he would describe to the Committee, and of which there were any number that could be instanced to his personal knowledge. There were men in Ireland known as "gombeen men," who acquired, by lending money to small tenants, their rights and interest in their occupancies; and he was acquainted with one case where fully 10 or 12 small farms were in the hands of a person of the kind he had alluded to. Therefore, he asked, was that man to be considered a tenant in occupation under this Bill, having acquired the tenant right in a holding for which he had paid only a nominal sum? In his opinion, there ought to be a pro 1819 vision of the kind which had just been proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex inserted in the clause, for the exclusion of such persons from the operation of the Bill.
In answer to the observations of the hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Tottenham), I may say that I think the question raised by him is substantially and entirely disposed of by the conversation which has just taken place between the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin and my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland. It is the intention of the Government to fix the tenant's interest where it now subsists—namely, in the real occupier, consequently no transaction between the "gombeen man" and the tenant can come within the scope of the Bill. The Bill would take no cognizance of such a person whatever. But it appears to me that such an Amendment as that suggested by the noble Lord is unnecessary, because, if I understand aright, he has in view the making of a substantial and improved proposition, these words being merely words of reservation, pointing to some other operative Amendments which the noble Lord is going to introduce, the nature of which I am not at present acquainted with. Now, the Amendment before the Committee I think is unnecessary, because the noble Lord will, when he makes his operative proposals, put them in strong indicating words; and, therefore, I hope we may pass over this point without prejudice to the proposals of the noble Lord.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
said, in the case of the transaction of the "gombeen man," the tenant was got rid of, and the" gombeen man" actually became the occupier of the property. He maintained that there was no provision under the Bill for the protection of the man who had sold his right in the way indicated, and a valuable property was being created for the money lender, for which he had only paid a nominal sum; and, therefore, it was but reasonable that an Amendment should be inserted to meet the case.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
was understood to say that the "gombeen man," if in occupation as tenant, and accepted as such by the landlord, must, of course, be 1820 recognized and treated as tenant by the Bill.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, after the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, he was willing, by leave of the Committee, to withdraw the preliminary Amendment which he had moved. There was one question, however, which, no doubt, the Attorney General for Ireland would answer. Was he right in saying it was quite understood that the restrictions in Clause 1 were not intended to apply to time Ulster Custom so far as free sale was concerned?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. Law)
said, there was no intention to alter the Ulster Custom by the regulations contained in the clause; but it was hoped that when the Bill passed, it would be in such a form that the Ulster tenants, like other tenants, would find it convenient to avail themselves of this statutory right of sale.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, he had known instances of persons getting hold of property in the manner alluded to by the hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Tottenham); but he had never known the law of property interfered with because these persons were "gombeen men."
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
reminded the Committee that, a few days ago, he had asked the Prime Minister when he would furnish the words proposed as alterations to the 2nd clause. At that time he had intended to press the point; but the answer of the right hon. Gentleman was, he thought, satisfactory—namely, that it would be better to see in what shape the 1st clause stood before they came to deal with the actual wording of the section. He wished to draw the attention of the Committee to the question of how they could best got a clear notion and definition of what it was that the tenant could sell; and that was the main object of the Amendment he lied placed on the Paper. It appeared to him that great confusion of ideas prevailed amongst the Committee with regard to this subject; some hon. Members thinking that the tenant who had created improvements had the right to sell everything that could possibly be sold in connection with the tenancy; whilst others took an entirely different 1821 view. He asked for a definition of what the tenant actually could sell, because the words of the clause, "his interest," were extremely vague, and carried with them no definite idea. He wanted to draw the attention of some hon. Members behind him—particularly those from Ireland—to this fact. They appeared to think, if you allowed the tenant to sell without defining what it was he had to sell, that you could afterwards limit what he could sell by limiting the price. They said, if the tenants could sell their full interest, the proper course was to limit the price at which the tenant could sell. But that suggestion was open to answer, because if you once allowed the tenant's right to sell absolutely, there was clearly a difficulty when you once fully acknowledged the power of the tenant to sell his interest to limit the price at which the tenant could sell. He did not say there were not certain limits which could be put on the right of sale; but the matter was one which required very careful consideration on the part of hon. Members; for, after having given the power to sell, he thought that the tenant might say—"It is very hard to limit me after giving me the right to sell." There ought to be a clear and definite understanding as to what the tenant could sell, and what he could not. Supposing that the Bill of 1870 had not passed, what was it that the tenant would have had a right to sell? He clearly would only have had a right to sell that which he had—namely, an unexpired tenancy. He was to have the full benefit of all his improvements, and, if he had paid money on entering the farm, either with the expressed or implied assent of the landlord, he would be entitled to have that recouped. He could sell his improvements and receive back the money he had paid; but all he could sell beside was the unexpired term of his tenancy, and, he being a tenant from year to year, that was not of high marketable value. That, he understood, was the foundation of the argument of the Prime Minister; for, when he introduced the Bill, the Prime Minister said that what the tenant had to assign was so small that it was little worth giving or receiving. The Prime Minister founded the power to sell in this Bill upon the Act of 1870, and what that Act did was, not to put money in the pockets of the tenants, but to secure them in their hold- 1822 ings, in order that they might work out the land to the best advantage. The proposition advanced by those who represented Ireland at that time was that the tenant had a right to continual occupation, subject to the payment of rent, and also that he had a right to sell his interest to any solvent tenant to whom the landlord could make no reasonable objection. That was the contention of the Irish Party at that time; and what was the answer of the Prime Minister? He (Sir R. Assheton Cross) contended that the Act of 1870 was passed, not to give the tenant the right to sell, but to secure him in his holding; and the Prime Minister in 1870 said the Government wanted to shelter the tenant from loss by eviction and to make that shelter effectual. Therefore, the object of the Act of 1870 was clearly not to put anything in the tenant's pocket except what he got through having security. It was distinctly stated that the object was not to give the tenant a paramount and permanent interest in his holding; but that was the whole position of the Government at the present time. The Bessborough Commission, considering this question of free sale, said in their Report—We say that the tenant, upon whom has been conferred fixity of tenure and fair rent, will be in a position differing little from the owner of the soil, and ought not to be unnecessarily deprived of any ordinary incidents of property; and, therefore, he should be at liberty to sell.That was the particular thing the Government said was never meant. They fought against it, and in 1870 said their object was to give the tenant effectual shelter. But, if that was coupled with the restrictions in Clause 13 of the Bill, it became clear what Parliament meant at that time. What the Prime Minister then asked Parliament to do was to give shelter to the tenant, but not the right to sell. Now, what had a tenant to sell when he left his farm, not by reason of eviction, but because he left for some reason of his own? If he left at the expiration of his term, what could he recover? He would have a right to recover from the landlord the value of the improvements he had made; and probably, if he had paid something to the outgoing tenant with the landlord's assent, he ought in justice to recover that. But he had no claim against the 1823 landlord for anything else. The argument of the Government was that under the Act of 1870 the tenant had a mysterious share in the soil, which he could not sell, but which made him practically the proprietor, and was entitled, therefore, to get a higher price than he could have got before this tenant right, for which he had not paid a farthing, came into operation. He happened to be the tenant for the time being, and was to be invested with a right given absolutely for nothing. The Act of 1870 gave to the tenant absolute security in his holding while he was there; but the Government were now proposing to take away from all incoming tenants for the future what they would possess under the Act of 1870, and to make them pay for all future time to the outgoing tenants that which was given to them free in 1870. What the tenants were to be required to pay for was security; but without this Bill they would have that free as a birthright. What was the practical result? If there was one thing more than another that the tenant wanted when he went into possession it was the use of all the capital possible with which to work the farm. When the question of perpetuity of tenure was being discussed some time ago, the Prime Minister used a remarkable argument. He said that if that was carried into effect it would be found that all that active and energetic class which did not require any permanent stake in the soil, but existed by the intelligent and profitable application of capital to farming, would be absolutely prescribed, and no man would be found to put spade or plough into the land unless he could purchase it as a permanent estate. Now, the Government were doing something very similar to that—the same thing, but not in precisely the same degree; for they said the tenant should not go into his holding unless he could pay something which he could not spare, and practically had not got. The ultimate result would be, unless the tenant's interest was more clearly defined, men who were tenants from year to year would be turned into a sort of perpetual leaseholders. He was not sure that that was a point at which all wished to arrive. Then there was another point which ought to be carefully cleared up, and this was the proper time to raise it. They had asked 1824 several times of what this tenant right was made up. They had been told a good many things, and on the second reading the Prime Minister had introduced an additional element, for which at the time he thought no one was prepared. As he understood the Prime Minister, the accidental tenant was the man who was to put into his pocket the value which his holding had in consequence of the scarcity of land in the particular district; and the Prime Minister said tenant right excluded the excess which was found in open biddings for holdings in Ireland, because of the scarcity of land as compared with the demand for it. Just as in this country when one article was rare the price might go beyond a fair value, so in Ireland, through the necessity of the much closer bidding for land, the buyer was ready to give more than he ought to give, and more than he could afford to give, and that excess was the second element of the tenant right. Were they to really accept that as what the tenant could sell? If so, it was difficult to see why that should be applied to land alone. One could hardly conceive that it was not to apply to land in the neighbourhood of a town; and, if so, then it must apply to the houses built on the land; and, therefore, the increased value of land, and the buildings upon it, in the neighbourhood of growing towns, owing to the scarcity of the supply, was to go, not to the landlord, but to the tenant. He would like to know how far that doctrine could be carried, because land in the City of London was valuable because of the scarcity in comparison with the demand; and, if that was what was meant, it was time to look about. He saw nothing in the Bill including that, and if that was the intention there must be some safeguard; otherwise they would be in an absolutely hopeless state of confusion in dealing with the other parts of the Bill. Then, as to what the tenant had to transfer, his holding was his means of livelihood; but he could not sell his means of livelihood. They all knew that the conditions of holdings in Ireland were all different. If he held land under a good landlord his holding would be much more valuable than if he held under a bad landlord. But if the holding was put up to public auction, was the good conduct of the landlord to be 1825 put forward as part of the price of the holding? He did not know whether that was contemplated or not. Again, it was undoubtedly the case that a large quantity of land was held at a low rent, and some at a rack rent. Was it to be held that the accidental tenant of the low-rented farm was to pay all the difference between the low rent and the rack rent unless the landlord made a bargain to raise the rent? That was not fair. That question was considered by the Duke of Richmond's Commission; and in the Report of the minority of that Commission, speaking of that point, they said—We believe that any new legislation ought to follow more closely the Ulster example, especially in respect of what is known as free sale and tenant's interest. There are objections to the unqualified application of that system to every holding, which may be thus stated. Tenant's interest might in many cases exist with no difference between fair rent and low rent actually paid, and this value, where no tenant right payment has been made at the beginning of the tenancy, is not morally the property of the occupier, and to treat it as such by legislation would be to wrong the landlord.Then, there was another point—the unearned increment. Suppose a tenant held a holding of £100 a-year, and the landlord, by enterprize and industry, had brought a railway there, and a trade sprang up there, was the tenant to have the advantage of that entirely? Those advantages would be in perpetuity, and the tenant would be able to sell his tenant right at a much higher rate than if they were not taken into consideration.
Amendment proposed,In page 1, line 8, after the word "sell," to insert the words "such interest as under any contract, express or implied, between himself and his landlord, or by any legal custom or usage he may then have in unexhausted improvements or in the unexpired term of."—(Sir Richard Cross.)Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
Before speaking generally on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I think I may as well notice the point which he raised at the conclusion. He said—"Is it to be held that when a landlord has brought a railway into the neighbourhood, or by other measures has added to the value of the farms, that increased value is to form part of the tenant right?" Most 1826 certainly, in point of right, that would not form part of the tenant right; and if the landlord is wise he will take care that it shall not form part of the tenant right. And that word "tenant right" is not a word that I have chosen. It is so much in usage, and it is difficult to exclude it from the discussion; but the word I have always chosen is the word "assignment," because I do not want to raise the question at all how far this value of assignment is in the nature of a right, but wish to treat it rather as it is—as a matter of fact. I have never laid down the doctrine that the tenant was entitled to the whole of the difference between a fair rent and full rent which arises from the scarcity of land in Ireland. I do not know that it is any part of my duty to prescribe or attempt to lay down an abstract proposal on the subject. I think the more we avoid abstract doctrines in dealing with this subject the more practical progress we shall make. But what I must repeat is this. I was describing the actual position of the tenant—and, unquestionably, the occupancy of the land, which is what the tenant has to sell, does bear value in Ireland which it would not otherwise bear in consequence of the scarcity of land. But for that it is impossible to suppose that that would happen which constantly has happened—namely, that when a landlord has evicted a tenant from a farm under the Land Act, he does not pay compensation for disturbance, but that it is paid by the incoming tenant. I dealt with that, not as a matter of right, but as a matter of fact. That is an actual interest of the existing tenant, limited, however, by certain stipulations of the Land Act. I make that statement to ensure its being clearly understood that I lay down no abstract rule as to the property of the tenant, in the strict sense of the word, in that extra rent which is due to the extreme competition for land. I think it is not very easy to make out, perhaps, if that were an abstract doctrine, a claim either for the landlord or the tenant, in so far as that disposition may be the result of that competition and excess in the demand as compared with the supply. We have had before us, in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, two questions which are quite distinct. One is the question whether there is any element of value in tenant right in Ireland beyond the 1827 tenant's improvements; and the other is the question whether it is wise to attempt to define tenant right. On the first of these we hold that there was an element of value in the tenant right beyond improvements; but that is an element of value which attaches to the fact of occupancy, and it has been indicated by the willingness of the tenant to pay for obtaining it. As to the expediency of attempting to define the tenant right, without having any absolute conviction, the more I think of it the less I think it would be expedient to make that attempt. It is quite plain, in my opinion, that the definition proposed by the right hon. Gentleman will not do. I have no doubt he has bestowed great pains upon this definition; but I think it would be unsafe to adopt it. The tenant's interest is the interest made up of what the law gives or shall give him. We are going to operate on the tenant's interest in all the clauses of this Bill. We shall adopt from time to time enactments which, I hope, will improve the tenant's interest. There seems to be a general admission that the Court, under the circumstances of Ireland, shall have the power to fix a judicial rent. There seems to be also an admission that the judicial rent, once fixed, must endure for a certain time. I do not want to gain any surreptitious advantage; but these admissions are generally made. But, supposing that we may agree in considering that the Court shall fix a judicial rent, and that that rent, when fixed, shall be followed by a statutory term—15 years is the period in the Bill, but it has been proposed to increase it and to reduce it—I do not think we should increase or reduce it for the purpose of this argument; but if you adopt any provision of that kind—and the majority of the Committee seem disposed to adopt it—you will at once add to the value of the tenant's interest. The right hon. Gentleman puts the tenant's interest under the head of a contract between himself and his landlord; and, secondly, under the head of legal custom or usage. That element of contract, derived from a statutory term, will not flow from the legal custom, but from the enactment of the Bill. I think that is an indication of my meaning when I say it would be unwise to attempt to define exhaustively the tenant's interest at the time when we are going to consider that matter 1828 under the different clauses, and we do not know in what shape the interest may come out from the discussion. There-fore, the right hon. Gentleman will understand that I am only using this as an illustration. Evidently, the object is to prevent the invasion of the landlord's rights. The landlord's rights will not, in my opinion, be infringed. The landlord's rights are to be defended mainly under one head only; and, secondarily, perhaps, under neither—mainly, of course, by preserving to the landlord the right of obtaining, in the shape of increased rent, or in the shape of judicial rent, the fair rent of the land which we shall hereafter have to discuss. The landlord may possibly have an interest in preventing tenant right from running to an excess, partaking of no rational explanation by reference to improvements, or to any such interest as has usually been known in parts of Ireland other than Ulster. But these are the limits of the landlord's interest; and so far as the landlord's interest depends on the augmentation of rent, that is provided for in other parts of the Bill. As far as it depends on the value to be given for the assignment, that is a question that will be raised at a future time. There is no necessity for our defining the interest; but, if we look to the general argument of the right hon. Gentleman, what does it mean? He admitted, in the first place, that we do not constitute any new claim on the landlord. We did in 1870, but we do not now; and he says that the ultimate result will be that the landlord will have to pay. But against the speculative and hypothetical argument of the right hon. Gentleman I place an assertion, founded on historical experience, that in Ulster, where tenant right has prevailed, and where it has prevailed to a greater extent than it is likely to do under the provisions of this Bill as it stands, rent has exceeded the rent paid in the rest of Ireland, and has increased, as we know from undeniable figures, very much faster than elsewhere. Therefore, I cannot admit the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman. Then he asks, what has the the tenant to sell? What he has to sell has to be tested in this way—is anybody ready to give anything for it or not? He says that I laid down the abstract doctrine that because a tenant has the means of livelihood in his occupation, therefore, that is in the 1829 market. I laid down no such abstract proposal. I said the tenant would have the means of livelihood in his occupation, and that his means of livelihood were fortified by the law which prevents his being removed except on a certain payment, and that that increased the value of his occupancy. Why is he not to have that? The right hon. Gentleman thinks it is extremely hard on the incoming tenant; but why is it hard that he should pay that which he is willing and desirous to pay? He only wants the opportunity and the opening to pay, and you are not satisfied with facilitating the way to do that, but you insist that for this thing, which has value, which in innumerable cases is paid for, he shall not pay at all. Why? Has it been inexpedient in Ireland? Has it produced bad effects? The hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Tottenham) says it has. He denounces the Ulster Custom as vicious in principle and mischievous in effect. The united wisdom of the Bench below him had devised the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Leicestershire, which declared it to be a matter of great importance that the Ulster Custom should be maintained. If that is so; if it is good for the outgoing tenant; if it has been proved to be good for the incoming tenant; and if it is proved that he desires to do that which you, in the tenderness of your interest, will not allow him to do, why do you prevent him from doing so, and deprive him of the right to sell the interest he now possesses, which policy and principle alike recommend? The present question is a narrower one. I frankly own the fair spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman has sought to consider the arguments for this Bill. I separate from the general argument the question of a particular argument for a definition. I think I have shown that the definition he proposes is not practicable; and I think that as we progress with this Bill we shall do wisely, taking every just security for the landlord's interest, when we come to the proper provisions of the Bill, not to attempt to define the right—which means, after all, the occupancy—of the tenant, together with such incidents as it may please the Legislature to attach to it.
Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do now report Progress, 1830 and ask leave to sit again,"—(Mr. Ritchie,)—put, and agreed to.
Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.
And it being ten minutes to Seven of the clock, the House suspended its Sitting.
The House resumed its sitting at Nine of the clock.