§ Progress resumed.
Amendment again proposed,
In page 1, line 21, after the word "arrears," to insert the words "without loss of his holding, or deprivation of the means necessary for the cultivation thereof."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he desired to make a few remarks on the subject of the Amendment of his right hon. Friend. The question whether it was necessary to insert any words at this point, after Sub-section (c), had been discussed on a previous stage of the Bill; and it was understood, the point having been raised on both sides of the House with reference to the possibility of difficulty arising as to the inability of the tenant to pay his arrears in consequence of his having property in the nature either of the selling value of his tenancy, or of stock on his farm, that it should be carefully considered by the Government; and they undertook to give it their consideration, and state the result on this stage of the Bill. Only a few words were necessary upon the point, because it was fully discussed on the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair; but the question was this. In the absence of any words instructing or directing the Commission as to the meaning of the words "inability to pay," a great injustice might be done to the tenant, because it might be assumed he was the owner of—as he in every case would be—either of the tenant right or the saleable value of the farm; or if he was also the owner of a certain amount of stock on the farm, unless some direction was given in the Bill as to the intention of the Legislature, the whole of that property might be deemed to be property which the tenant ought to convert into money in order to liquidate arrears on his farm, and the position of the tenant would thus be really no better at all, and he would be utterly unable to continue his business of farming. He need not say that any such construction was mischievous, and would defeat the object of the Bill. On the other hand, if a tenant had the full value of the 97 saleable value of his farm, and had also stock on his farm, and would be able to raise a sufficient amount of money, without injury to the carrying on of his business, to discharge a moderate amount of arrears, it would be manifestly unjust that he should be considered, in the words of the clause, a person unable to discharge his arrears. Therefore, it became necessary to say—which the words of the Amendment expressed, and which, he would venture to say, was not only the view of the Government, but which must be, and was shown to be in a previous debate, the general view—the medium between these extreme propositions. To give an instance. Suppose a tenant had a farm valued at £30 in Ulster, and he had a tenant right of the saleable value of £150 or £200, and that the farm was well stocked, and there was no mortgage upon it—clearly it would be quite proper that this farmer should not be able to obtain the benefit of the Bill if he owed a year's rent or so, for he would be perfectly well able to raise £30, £40, or £50 on the value of his farm and stock, without interfering with the means necessary for the cultivation of his land. If, on the other hand, a farmer had only a saleable value on the farm, or a tenant right worth only half that amount, or if he had already mortgaged that value for a considerable sum, and his stock was small, and he was called on to pay £30, it was quite clear he could not, without interfering with the conduct of the farm, pay these arrears, and that he ought to come within the provisions of the Bill if the Act was intended to have any practical working. This was a practical question, to which the Amendment offered a practical solution, meeting the two cases, on the one side, where a man could divest his farm of part of his stock or surrender a part of his tenant right; and, on the other hand, where, if he did so, he would be unable to carry on his farm. The Government therefore proposed the Amendment, the words of which had been carefully considered, and he did not think it would be easy to express the view of the Government in a more clear and simple manner, and he hoped the Committee would adopt the Amendment.
§ MR. HENEAGE
asked whether, in the event of this Amendment being put from the Chair, his Amendment on the 98 Paper would be precluded from being moved; and whether the whole question of a tenant's interest in his holding could be raised on this Amendment? His Amendment had been placed on the Paper for three days, and, though he had been in communication with the Government, they had moved their Amendment at the last moment without any notice to him.
The hon. Member's Amendment is a little way ahead yet, and I would like a little time to consider. I would rather not answer the question now.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, but what was he to do? If the question wore settled now, then he would be precluded afterwards; and, in that case, he must certainly oppose the Government Amendment, which he had no wish to do.
The Amendments have only come before me five minutes ago. I just want a little time to consider the bearings of them.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he had listened with great attention to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, and he understood him to say it was necessary this provision should be inserted, in order to give the tenant an opportunity of continuing in his occupation; but he failed to see there was any protection against any right of action which an ordinary creditor possessed against the tenant under similar circumstances. This provision would preclude the landlord from taking any step which might result in turning out the tenant from his holding; but it did not preclude any ordinary creditor from pressing the tenant at law, obtaining a judgment against him, and compelling the tenant for a sum, less probably than the sum owing to the landlord—compelling him either to sell his holding, or part with his stock or crops. He wanted to know, before pressing the subject further, what security the Government supposed this was against all creditors, and how the tenant could remain in his holding when pressed by these for his liabilities?
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, if the question was addressed to him, he could only 99 make the reply that this Bill merely dealt with the question of arrears of rent, and not in any way with other debts on a farm; they would remain in exactly the same position in which they were now.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, that was an extraordinary statement to make. This was a proposal to enable a very large class in Ireland, as it was understood, to continue their undertakings with the hope of maintaining themselves and their families. The Government and the House knew that nearly the whole of the men who were in debt to their landlords were also in debt to a great many other persons. The evidence gathered by the Bessborough Commission showed that where a man was in debt for three years' rent to his landlord he was also in debt to shopkeepers, bankers, and others, to an amount equal at least to the landlord's debt. Now, it was understood this proposal would save the tenant so far as the debt to the landlord was concerned; but it would not save the tenant from the action of his other creditors. They would be at full liberty to take any steps they pleased to recover their debts, even if those steps resulted in turning the tenant out of his holding, and depriving him of the means of livelihood, swallowing up his stock, or whatever means he had of continuing his livelihood; in point of fact, pronouncing that very sentence of eviction which the Bill was intended to avoid. He confessed he failed to see what justice or charity or consideration there was in extending this measure of protection to the tenant only, so far as the landlord was concerned. The landlord would suffer, but the tenant would not be secure.
said, he might also point out that the proposal would encourage what in Bankruptcy proceedings would be called a fraudulent practice. Suppose a tenant owed two years' rent to the landlord, and was unable to pay this as well as his debts to shopkeepers and other persons, inasmuch as the landlord would by the Bill be prevented from recovering his rent; while the shopkeepers would not be prevented from recovering, the tenant would be in this position—that he would have to use all his available resources, including his tenant right, if necessary, in order to pay all the other creditors in full; and, having paid all his other creditors in full, he would be able to come before the 100 Land Commission and make out a case of inability to pay one unfortunate creditor, and, in that way, would obtain a grant from the Consolidated Fund for the purpose of compounding with his landlord. The hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hop wood), interrupting with an interjection, said—"What is the harm?" and it seemed to him the harm was that it was contrary to the natural ideas of justice. Here was a man confessedly unable to pay everybody, and why should all the other creditors be paid in full, being able to put a pressure on the tenant to force the payment, and why should the landlord be the only unfortunate creditor, not only not paid in full, but forced to accept a composition paid out of the Consolidated Fund? That would be the natural result of this measure.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
said, he desired to recall the attention of the Committee to the fact that the Bill before them was one dealing with arrears of rent. The Bill they were considering was a Bill to make provision respecting certain arrears of rent in Ireland, and the hon. and learned Member said if the object of the Bill were carried out it would put the tenant in the position of a fraudulent debtor.
said, he said nothing of the kind. He said it would induce the tenant to do that which, in Bankruptcy proceedings, would be called a fraudulent practice.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
said, that what they were considering was this. The tenant, being deeply indebted to the landlord, this provision was proposed to enable him to earn the money to pay his debts so far as he could, and for that purpose the State would advance a sum as a gift. The very fact of enabling the tenant to remain on the land, not, as the Prime Minister pointed out, by anchoring him there, but to allow him to earn the means of paying his way, not only with the landlord, but his other creditors, was by no means a fraudulent practice in Bankruptcy proceedings; it was to enable the man to pay his way in the world that was the ground for the introduction of the Bill. If the Committee were to travel outside the lines of the Bill they would embark on a sea of speculation whereof no man could see 101 the other shore. They were dealing with a known class of debts and debtors; the Bill came before the House, and was read a second time on these lines, and it was now too late to go back on those lines laid down for the consideration of the Committee and enter upon matters entirely foreign to the Bill. On those lines, it was provided that the Court appointed to investigate the circumstances should decide whether a tenant was one for whom the Bill was designed as being unable to pay his arrears of rent; and it was a general impression in the Committee that it was desirable that some line should be laid down as an instruction to the Court as to how they should proceed; and, as the Prime Minister said, it was perfectly idle to continue a man in his holding with no means of carrying on his farming. There was an old saying in Ireland, "Samson was a strong man, and Solomon a wise one; but neither of them could pay their rent if they had no money." What was intended was to subsidize the tenant by a gift from the State which would enable him to pay his way in future. It was for the advantage of the community that this should be carried out. Suppose a tenant were held able to pay, if he could pay by selling out all his resources by which he carried on work, that would defeat the object of the Bill. The object was that the man should continue to pay, and on those lines the Amendment was proposed, that the tenant should be left with the means of making an honest livelihood, paying all his creditors in future. The Amendment must commend itself to the good sense of the Committee. If they were to travel outside their object into unwise speculation as to what the tenant might owe, then they might as well give up the Bill at once.
I have examined the Amendments, and I am of opinion that the hon. Member can put his Amendment; but the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan) will be precluded.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, it had been attempted to limit the scope of the discussion in an extraordinary manner. It seemed to be thought by the right hon. Gentleman that the question of the position of the tenant, in regard to other 102 creditors than the landlord, was outside the limits of discussion, and that it was irrelevant to suggest the possibility of the tenant owing money to the usurer or the shopkeeper. What did the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War tell the Committee was the meaning of the Amendment? He said if a man was in the possession of a farm with a valuable tenant right, and if that tenant right was not mortgaged, then he would be compelled to borrow money on that to pay the landlord; but if the tenant, through misfortunes or any other cause, had mortgaged his tenant right up to the eyes, if he had mortgaged it to its full value, then the State would intervene, and assist the tenant to remain on his mortgaged holding, helping him to pay his landlord out of the Consolidated Fund. No answer had been given to his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), who pointed out that the operation of the Amendment would be that the State would help the tenant out of the Consolidated Fund, and would enable the tenant to pay his other creditors in full, while only paying the landlord in part—perhaps in small part. A great many Amendments urged from the Conservative side had been met by the Government with the argument—"Your Amendment may be founded on principles of justice; but, in order to carry it out, you must complicate the working of the Bill, and thus practically do more harm than good." But had not the Government now put forward an Amendment which would greatly add to the complexity of the working of the Bill, compelling the Court to decide an exceedingly difficult and complicated problem—namely, the amount of capital required to work a farm? Now, in those parts of England where farming was carried on upon a more elaborate system, no doubt anyone with experience could tell the amount of capital required for a farm, say, of 300 acres; but could anyone say what would be required on one of the small holdings in the West of Ireland? These were not worked on scientific principles, and it was impossible to state definitely the amount of capital required. He imagined that in the West of Ireland no holdings probably were worked with what in England would be considered sufficient capital. According to English and Scotch ideas, better buildings, more stock, more ma- 103 nure was required than it was the practice to use in that country, in order to carry on farming properly. Now, on what principle was the Court to decide these matters? Was it to be on the Scotch principle, and was the Court to say no tenant should be required to sell any part of his stock unless he had left such stock as a Lothian farmer would require? If so, he could only say that oven the best stocked farm in the most prosperous times in the West of Ireland was extremely imperfectly provided with the necessary capital for working it. So much as regards Ireland; but had the Committee gone into the consideration of how this proposition was likely to be received by the taxpayers of England? It was well known, especially to those connected with agricultural constituencies, to what condition the English farmer had been reduced by the last four or five bad years. It was sufficiently grievous that he should be told that he was to assist out of his taxes in paying the just debts of other people; but if this Amendment were carried his grievance would be much greater, for it would be telling him that not only would he assist in the payment of the just debts of other people, but the debts of people who had property of their own amply sufficient to pay those debts. How would the English farmer receive a statement of this kind, he probably having been paying his rent for years past partly out of his capital? It was too well known that there were cases where the farmer had found it difficult to maintain on his farm a sufficient amount of stock for working purposes, and had found it difficult to get advances from the local bankers. To these struggling men came the proposition that they should pay something in taxes to the Irish farmer, and that the Irish farmer was not to have his capital or his stock touched, and was not to dispose of his property in any way; but he was to be kept on his holding, and not required to go to any of the sacrifices which his unfortunate brother on this side of St. George's Channel had to make. He agreed with the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) that unless there was an Amendment in this direction there would be a great deal of complexity. If they were to have a Bill of this kind at all there was a great deal to be said as to introducing an Amendment 104 of this kind; but the fact of having to introduce such an Amendment showed what an exceptional and vicious principle there was in the Bill, and he confessed he could not, as a Representative of the British taxpayer, consent to an arrangement which would not only compel the English taxpayer to assist in paying the Irish tenants' debts to his landlord, but would compel the English taxpayer to pay those debts, even when the debtor had sufficient assets in his possession to meet those claims.
§ MR. GIVAN
said, he regretted that so much was said in this discussion of an Irish Bill of the pressure that would be likely to fall on the English taxpayer, because he thought it had been demonstrated already that the Church Surplus Fund would almost meet the amount of the advance that the public would be called upon to make. And there was another reason why he regretted this. It was the object of the Bill to give relief to the Irish farmer in his present unfortunate condition; and the effect of this relief, it was anticipated and hoped by Her Majesty's Government, and those who wished well to Ireland, would be to put down crime, disorder, and outrage, and to restore peace to the country. Now, at present a standing Army was maintained in the country at the expense of the British taxpayer; and was it not better to pay out of the Public Exchequer a sum of money towards settling arrears, accompanied by peace and prosperity, than to keep up a standing Army there, which could only produce irritation and discontent all over the country? He regretted that this Amendment of the Prime Minister's did not go far enough, because he considered that in estimating whether or not a tenant was able to pay antecedent arrears, regard should be paid to the tenant right being absolutely protected. It had been said by the Secretary of State for War, in his observations, that a tenant might mortgage his tenant right for the purpose of getting money to pay his pressing creditors. And the result would be to start the tenant anew in the debt of some usurer, who ultimately, by process of law, would sell the tenant right, or keep him paying an exorbitant rate of interest, which, in the working out of the Purchase Clauses of the Act of 1870, had the effect of entirely stopping the whole of the intention of the Government in passing those 105 clauses. Of course, the Amendment now before the Committee would render it impracticable for him to move his Amendment subsequently to protect the tenant in his tenant right, and such stock as was necessary for the working of his farm; but with regard to what had been said by the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) as to the position of shopkeepers and others to whom the tenant might be indebted, he had only to say, as was said by the Attorney General for Ireland, that such considerations were not within the scope of the Bill; but, so far as they were within the scope of the Bill, surely, when the tenant was relieved of the weight of his arrears to his landlord, he would be in a better position to satisfy his other creditors. He was greatly amused at the man of straw the hon. Member for Hertford had set up for the purpose of knocking down again, in estimating what capital would be required for the working of a farm. They were not going to Scotland to know what capital small Irish farmers required; but they were going to appoint men in Ireland who were intimately acquainted with the amount of capital that was absolutely necessary, and who were thoroughly able, from their knowledge of the condition of small farmers in Ireland, to administer this Act. Surely they would infer that the Government would select for the administration of this Act men of common sense and competence. He considered the Amendment a very moderate one, and regretted it did not go far enough.
§ SIR HARDINGE GIFFARD
could not help thinking that the Attorney General for Ireland had somewhat misstated the Amendment, which, in his opinion, seemed to alter the whole character of the Bill. As the condition stood, it would have been the duty of a Judge to determine whether or not the tenant was unable or not to discharge his antecedent arrears. The effect of the Amendment was to make the duty of the tribunal, not to determine this question, but to determine whether the tenant was unable to discharge his antecedent arrears, keeping in his possession the farm, and retaining his saleable interest in it, and whatever might be necessary to work the farm. The Bill was to enable certain advances to be made on certain conditions, one condition being that the tenant was unable to 106 discharge his arrears; and he (Sir Hardinge Giffard) invited the Attorney General for Ireland to tell him whether the words of the clause, unqualified or unlimited by this Amendment, would not involve the necessity that the tribunal should determine, before an application should come into force, that the tenant was unable to discharge his antecedent arrears, and whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman would contend that if these words were inserted the same duty would be existing on the tribunal? He was sorry to detain hon. Gentlemen opposite, but this was not altogether a new sort of provision. We had something of the sort in England. In 1869, when imprisonment for debt was abolished, there were saved out of this abolition those cases in which, after an order should be made, the Judge should be satisfied that the debtor had the means of payment, and, having the means of payment, would not pay. That was an investigation, which went on in every County Court now upon a judgment summons when an order had been made; and it did appear a somewhat singular thing that a farmer, in asking State aid in order to keep on his farm, should be entitled to receive it, if he did not exceed a certain standard of possession of property, or possession of saleable interest in land; it did seem strange that a farmer in Ireland should be entitled to State aid, although he had property which, according to the Bankruptcy Law, he would be compelled to distribute amongst his creditors. This provision was made solely against one particular creditor—namely, the landlord, and it was not intended to protect the debtor generally. A tenant's interest in land was saleable, his farm stock was saleable, so this Bill, intended as a relief to tenants, was covertly an attack upon landlords.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE
said, that very much depended upon this clause whether the Bill would tend to good or evil. This Bill was, no doubt, a very exceptional Bill. The principle of it was one which was generally disliked; but the expediency of the Bill he was bound to admit, and having admitted that, he thought the greatest care ought to be taken in order to guard against the evils which everyone had foreseen if this Bill were abused, and to try to make it run in those lines in which it would be 107 difficult to abuse it. With regard to this Amendment, he had tried his hand, as he had no doubt many hon. Members had, to draw up words as would provide for those cases they feared. It seemed to him that they could not possibly ask that the man should sacrifice his tenant right in procuring the means for payment of his rent; and, on the other hand, they could not allow a man who had an actual cash value in his tenant right to say that he had no assets in that tenant right. It was impossible to deprive a man of the means of cultivating his farm, and to take away his tenant right; but if his tenant right was of such value that he could mortgage it, not to the usurer, but on a fair rate of interest, it became necessarily one of the things which were to be taken into consideration by the Court. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had talked of the rough justice of the Court. He (Sir Joseph Pease) thought they would have to leave a great deal to the rough justice of the Court. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had asked on what principle the Court was going to judge? He believed the Court would have to be driven back to common sense. The Prime Minister had pointed out that the whole question before the Court would be, what a man could part with, retaining his farm, and what he must keep on his farm in order to cultivate it, and avail himself of the good which this Bill was intended to do him. They would have to trust a great deal to the Court, in whose common sense they would have to confide. It was an absolute absurdity to suppose that they could place a man on his farm and cut off his arrears, and then take away either his tenant right or those things which he required on his farm for the purpose of working it, on the ground that the tenant right and his implements and stock were assets.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
said, he must enter a protest in the strongest terms he could command against the manner in which this Amendment had been sprung upon the Committee. It had been brought forward, without being placed on the Paper, without Notice, and at a time when not one-third of the Members of the Committee were not even aware of what was now being discussed.
said, the hon. Gentleman would remember that this 108 Amendment was introduced in deference to what appeared to be the wish of the House. The Government had not the slightest desire to force the consideration of it, if the Committee did not wish to do so.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
asked if he was to understand that the Amendment was not to be pressed at the present time?
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
said, in the absence of any assurance to the contrary, he must assume that the Amendment was going to be pressed. The terms of the Amendment were diametrically op-I posed to those which were announced by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) recently as presumably the opinion of the Government. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster pointed out that the tenant right ought to be, and was fairly, chargeable with such charges as were now proposed to be taken off the tenant. He felt the country and the Committee would appreciate the reason why this Amendment had been introduced, and that it was for the purpose of cutting the ground from under any Amendment of a similar nature which had already appeared on the Paper, and, by now affirming the principle as to whether or not the tenant right was to be charged, prevent every Amendment of a similar nature being brought forward. Hon. Members must have observed, during the pro-gross of this discussion, the persistent manner in which Members of the Government, and those speaking in support of the Government, had entirely ignored the true manner in which those arrears had accrued. The Prime Minister himself had often said that the general cause of arrears in Ireland was the failure of crops.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
said, he took it that the arrears generally to be affected by this Bill were the arrears in Ireland, and those arrears were put down by a Member of the Government last year at a sum not exceeding £700,000. The arrears that were to be affected by the Bill in the present year were put down by the Government at a sum not exceeding £2,000,000. That being so, and the statement of the Government 109 being that the arrears had been principally caused by the failure of crops, he should like to know how the Government accounted for the difference between £700,000, the estimate of last year, and £2,000,000, which it was now proposed should be the amount, when there had been no failure of crops during the interval which had elapsed between the making of those calculations; but when, on the contrary, there had been one of the finest harvests with which Ireland had ever been blessed. The true quarter to which they must now look for the cause of arrears was the quarter in which the Government were now looking for support in the passing of the Bill. He should not go into that question at present, as it would probably arise further on. What were they about to do by this Amendment? They were going to say to the tenant—"If you cannot pay your debts to the landlords without selling your interests in the farm, or your stock, or your implements of trade, we will not compel you to do so; but, at the same time, we will leave every other creditor you may have in possession of his full rights and powers over you. The only one we will prevent from asserting any right whatever is the man whose rights have hitherto always been considered paramount." By the Act of last year the Government created a saleable interest of the tenant's right, which they said was to increase the security of the landlord's just claims. By this Bill it was proposed to leave the bankrupt tenant in possession of that interest which was created for him, and it was proposed to absolve him from any obligation to pay his debts so far as the landlord was concerned; it was proposed to whitewash him with one hand, and to tar-and-feather with the other the man from whom the interest was taken last year, and diverted to the tenant. It was proposed that the creditor from whom the interest of last year was taken was now to be the only one who was not to enforce his right against that interest. Now, in carrying out the principle enunciated last year, he asked, was this right or just? Was it right that a man who committed an act of political and moral bankruptcy should be enabled the following week to sell property which Parliament had created for him, and which was now in his possession, notwithstanding that by this Act he was 110 declared to be unable to pay his lawful debts? By this Act the ordinary creditor—the shopkeeper, the money-lender, and the banker—would be left in possession of all rights and powers of recovering his debts which he now possessed at law, and could seize upon the property which had been taken from the landlord and given to the tenant. Possibly there were many hon. Members who were not aware that in the absence of other property applicable to the payment of debt in Ireland, the interest or goodwill in a farm could be sold to the creditor. That was being done almost every day. They gave the ordinary creditor all these powers, whilst they said to one solitary creditor, whose rights had hitherto been considered to be superior to those of anybody else—"We will take a way from you the right of recovering a shilling of the amount due to you;" and they said this notwithstanding the fact that from that very person they had taken his property and transferred it to the tenant. What sort of justice, he would ask, was this? What justification could there be for such a proposition? With regard to the tribunal which was to decide these questions between the landlord and the tenant, it was a tribunal which the Prime Minister had said, within the last day or two, commanded the confidence of the country. But there were two sides to every question, and although the tribunal might command the confidence of that side in whose interest it was working, it certainly did not command one grain of confidence on the other side—on the side of those in whose interest it was not working. The Bill as it stood at present provided that the tribunal to adjudicate in these matters should be a single member, possibly of one of the Sub-Commissions. Why, they would probably not find a single landowner in Ireland who, if he were asked about it, would say that he would be satisfied to allow the matters at issue between himself and his tenant to be decided by any one of these single individuals. These creations of the Land Act were to be extended for the purposes of the present measure; and, so far from their commanding the general confidence of the country, he (Mr. Tottenham) should say that the general opinion with regard to them upon one side certainly was that they were a mockery of justice and a 111 parody on a judicial tribunal. He hoped the Committee would not agree to the Amendment.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he desired to put one or two points before the Committee in regard to this Amendment, which had been moved by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government. Perhaps it was not possible; but if it was, no doubt it would be greatly for the convenience of the Committee that they should ascertain what was the general view of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the part which the tenant right was to play generally in the estimation of the assets, and he (Mr. Goschen) said this quite as much from the point of view of the tenants as from the point of view of the landlord. He had ventured to suggest the other evening that it was bettor that this should be defined in the Bill, than that it should be left entirely to the discretion of the Commissioners; and he was bound to say that it appeared to him that his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had given effect to that idea in the Amendment he had proposed, in suggesting the introduction of the words "without loss of his holding." Those words differed from the original draft of the Bill in this—that they distinctly laid down in favour of the tenant that his ability to pay was not to be considered if his tenant right was so small that the selling of it would inflict upon him the loss of his holding. He took it that the Amendment was drafted in favour of the tenant. He did not say on that account that it was an Amendment that ought to be opposed; but what he did say was, that they should distinctly understand where they were. The Bill as drafted did not recognize tenant right as an asset in considering ability or inability to pay; but if the words of the Prime Minister were inserted, it would possibly be the duty of the Commissioners to compel the tenant to sell, because as long as he had a tenant right it would constitute ability to pay. If he was not mistaken, therefore, the words of the Prime Minister were necessary, not in order to limit, but in order to guide the Commissioners, not to take into consideration the tenant right as part of the assets, but, on the contrary, to exclude it, and to provide that no tenant was to lose the benefit of the Bill in consequence of the exist- 112 ence of a certain tenant right. He did not know whether his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister disputed the justice of this interpretation; but that was how he (Mr. Goschen) read the Amendment—"without loss of his holding or deprivation of the means necessary for the cultivation thereof." These were the words to be taken into consideration by the Commissioners before they decided whether or not a man was able to pay his arrears. His (Mr. Goschen's) view with regard to these words would be influenced to a very great extent by the attitude which he should expect Her Majesty's Government to take with regard to the other Amendment that stood upon the Paper. He was quite sure the hon. Member who spoke last (Mr. Tottenham) was mistaken when he thought this Amendment had been put down by Her Majesty's Government in order to exclude other Amendments which stood upon the Paper. He (Mr. Goschen) was convinced that nothing of the kind had entered the minds of his right hon. Friends on the Front Ministerial Bench. On the contrary, he believed they would be prepared to give every facility for the bringing on of Amendments, and every attention to Amendments when proposed. He should be prepared to admit himself that the one object of the Bill was to settle the Land Question, and to prevent evictions; and he granted to the fullest extent that if the tenant right in every case were to be taken into consideration as an asset, it might so affect the operation of the Bill as to make it nugatory and inefficient for the purpose for which it was intended. Therefore, he was prepared to admit the argument, if it should be made on the part of the Government, that if they were in all cases to take the tenant right into consideration, they would too much limit the operation of the Bill; but, on the other hand, he thought they were equally entitled to ask Her Majesty's Government, if they assented to words which committed them to a very important principle, that when the value of the tenant right was so large that it constituted an actual asset, it should be taken into consideration, and should be realized, and the taxpayers of the country should be relieved, the surplus being given to the tenant. He thought the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would admit that he 113 (Mr. Goschen), and those who thought with him, were fairly entitled to put this question to the Government—If they assented to words of this kind, that no tenant was to be forced to lose his holding, through the realization of his tenant right, what safeguards, on the other hand, would Her Majesty's Government be prepared to accept, so as to prevent the burden upon the taxpayers becoming unnecessarily heavy? He did not think he had explained with perfect clearness the last part of his argument; but what he meant was this—that when the tenant right was so small that it would simply mean eviction if it were taken from the tenant, it should not be considered as an asset, as he did not desire that the tenant should lose that tenant right for the purpose of diminishing his chance of availing himself of the benefits of the Bill; but, on the other hand, where the tenant right was large enough to constitute a real asset, it would be wrong on the part of the Committee not to take it into consideration. He, therefore, ventured to suggest to Her Majesty's Government that before considering the further Amendments which stood on the Paper, they should make some statement as to their general attitude on this question. The Committee should know whether, if they accepted this Amendment of the Prime Minister, they might at the same time look forward to the Government accepting Amendments in future which would have the effect of realizing the surplus value, if he might so express himself, of the tenant right as an asset?
said, the speech of the hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Tottenham), he was sorry to say, impressed him with the perfect hopelessness of any attempts which Her Majesty's Government might make at conciliation in regard to opinions such as those the hon. Member entertained. According to the view of the hon. Member for Leitrim, everything that the Government proposed to do was to be interpreted in the worst sense. All that the Govern-had done, and all that they proposed to do, was an unmixed evil. His right hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Goschen) approached the question in a totally different spirit. He (Mr. Gladstone) had not the smallest objection to raise to the spirit in which his right hon. Friend re- 114 garded the matter. In fact, he (Mr. Gladstone) wished to approach it in exactly the same spirit. If he did not agree entirely and absolutely with the right hon. Gentleman's construction of the Amendment, that was a matter for fair difference of opinion; but in the right hon. Gentleman's spirit and aim he entirely concurred. He did not, however, agree with him as to the precise construction to be put upon the Amendment proposed, because his right hon. Friend seemed to think the Amendment was proposed in the interest of the tenant. That was not the case so far as the tenant was concerned. He (Mr. Gladstone) owned that, in his opinion, they would do wisely to forego all attempts at definition, and perhaps he was influenced in some measure by the recollection of the unfortunate issue of such attempts last year. The Government had not felt justified in closing the door against them; but he would point out to his right hon. Friend that the hon. Member for Cork County (Mr. Shaw) had not objected to the Amendment because of its being in favour of the tenant, but he had taken exception to it as constituting a deduction from the import and efficiency of the Bill. In the opinion of the Government, if the Amendment could not be properly described as an Amendment in the interest of the tenant, neither could it be properly described as an Amendment in the interest of the landlord—it was neither the one nor the other. As a matter of fact, it was intended to express the meeting-point of the two interests—it was intended to embody in words simply and impartially the spirit and intention of the Bill, and if it failed in that so far, it was a fault and a flaw which they were bound to admit and thoroughly to remedy if they could. It seemed to the Government that the effect of the Amendment was to lay down certain limits to the province of the Commissioners in regard to determining inability, which limits were not to be found in the Bill at the present moment further than were absolutely implied in the word "inability" itself. Those limits were, he thought, well understood by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Goschen), and he did not think the right hon. Gentleman had shown the Committee that if the Amendment before it were adopted there was any great necessity for anything further. He did not mean by that to infer that 115 the mind of the Government was closed against the acceptance of any Amendment. They felt that really between persons who accepted the principle of the Bill there was very little room for difference as to the Amendment with which they were now dealing, in regard to its spirit and aim and its proper limits. If the intention of hon. Members, by moving Amendments in Committee, was to defeat the main principle of the Bill, that, of course, was quite a different matter; but he conceived that they were proceeding in Committee, thoroughly recognizing the fact that the measure had received a second reading. Her Majesty's Government could be no parties to anything that could impair the principle of the measure. The Amendment before the Committee, first of all, pointed to the loss of the holding, and said that the Commissioners were to consider a tenant as unable, or in a condition of "inability," to discharge his arrears to their full amount, by submitting either to the loss of his holding, or deprivation of the means necessary for the cultivation of it. These two, on the one side, were the positive objects which Her Majesty's Government considered essential to the Bill—first, that the tenant should not be driven to part with his holding; and, secondly, that he should not be driven to the scarcely less objectionable alternative of remaining on his holding without the means necessary for its proper cultivation. These wore the two purposes on the one side, and so far as they went, no doubt, his right hon. Friend was right in saying that this Amendment was an Amendment in the interest of the tenant. But his hon. Friend the Member for Cork County (Mr. Shaw), with the astuteness that belonged to him, had perceived with truth and justice that in their reference to the tenant's loss of his holding there was a reference to the tenant right as a possible asset. There could be no doubt about that. The Government said that a tenant might be considered unable to discharge his arrears if he could only do so by losing his holding—that was to say, by selling his tenant right, and the tenant right was at once brought into view as a possible asset. He (Mr. Gladstone) was bound to say, in regard to the Amendment of which the hon. Member had given Notice, proposing that under no circumstance should any liability be in- 116 curred in respect of the tenant right, that the Government were not prepared to accede to the principle. They did not think it reasonable or fair. He (Mr. Gladstone) could do no better than quote the instance given the other night by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who took the case of a man whose rent was £20, and whose tenant right was estimated at 40 years' purchase—namely, £200, and whose arrears were supposed to be £ 10 or £50. It would not be according to reason and according to justice to the taxpayers of the country, or to any parties interested, if they were to say, in such a case as that, that not one shilling should be raised upon the tenant right in order to pay the arrears. He had taken a strong case, but it was the case which had been selected by his right hon. Friend (Mr. John Bright) for the purpose of illustration, and he (Mr. Gladstone) believed it at once struck the House by its justice and fairness. He adopted it fully as expressing the view of the Government, that there was a point at which the tenant right should, if need be, be made the subject of an advance. It ought not to be an encumbrance of such a nature and extent as to endanger the tenant's continuance in his holding. The Government had contrived to find words—he could assure his right hon. Friend who had just sat down that it had caused Her Majesty's Government a good deal of pains to put them together—but they had contrived to find words which he believed were as fairly balanced as any they could adopt. They indicated no change whatever in the view of Hoi-Majesty's Government in regard to this matter, but simply indicated the unfolding and putting into expressed words that which had been in their minds, and with regard to which they had thoroughly and perfectly understood one another. It would not be open to objection on principle to point to the tenant right as a possible asset, but to point to it as more than a possible asset would be highly objectionable. The tenant right of these tenants in arrear was not based upon the general rent; and excepting in Ulster, and on comparatively few estates where the Ulster Custom or something analogous to it prevailed, the tenant right was but a very indefinite affair. The Government distinctly affirmed the 117 principle that they would not exclude the tenant right from consideration; but they could not affirm the principle that it had invariably to be taken into consideration, because they believed it to be a fugitive asset so uncertain in its value that if it were taken into account in many cases it would cause the defeat of that which the Government regarded as the chief purpose of the Bill. Without unduly wishing to press the Amendment upon the Committee at the present moment, yet it did appear that these were words which, so far as they went, were good words, and should be accepted. But, at the same time, he did not say that in order to give good effect to the wishes of Parliament, it would not be possible to further assist and develop these words by some additions. He did not say that they would be prepared to accept any Amendment on the Paper as thoroughly satisfactory for that purpose; but this Amendment was for the purpose of showing that it was intended by the measure to give a man a reasonable chance of becoming the free tenant of his holding, and that it was not intended that he should be driven either to the loss of his holding or the loss of the stock necessary for its cultivation. He reserved for future consideration the question whether it would be wise to say that the saleable value of a holding might, if the Commissioners should think fit, be taken into account as an asset in determining the extent of the man's ability to pay, or of his inability.
said, that when the Land Bill was under consideration last year, one of the strongest arguments used by the Government to induce the House to consent to the passing of it was that in Ulster they had tenant right. It was said that tenant right possessed many advantages, one of the greatest being the security it gave to the landlord for the payment of the rent due to him; and it was pointed out that if they gave this tenant right in the rest of Ireland they would give the landlords a security which they did not then possess. Well, that security was given last year, but by the Bill this year it was to be taken away. He could imagine a case which would well illustrate the point before the Committee. Let them take what was not very unusual in Ireland, a holding valued at £30 a-year upon which there were five years' rent due. Such cases were not 118 very unusual; in fact, he knew of them upon his own property. This Bill said to the tenant—"You pay one year's rent, that is £30; the Government will give you another, making £60; and the landlord will give you a receipt in full for the whole amount." And that £60 which the landlord had been paid would be less than the tenant would be perfectly certain to get under the usual Ulster Custom by the sale of his tenant right. In the county where he had property the tenant right was frequently worth £30 an acre—£22, £23, £25, and up to £30 an acre. It was not an unusual thing for the tenant, in addition to the £150 he owed his landlord, to owe £150 to other creditors, making in all £300, which amounted to about half the value of his saleable tenant right. They were told that the tenant right was to be considered by the Court as a picture—that was to say, it was to be hung up against the wall, and was to be looked at and admired and valued, but was not to be taken down and used; or, in other words, it was to be used only so far as to enable the tenant to raise money on it, and not so as to deprive him of it altogether. But the tenant had already raised the money on it, and the people who were in the habit of lending money to the tenantry as well as to the landlords were now beginning to draw in their horns; indeed, it would be difficult even to get the gombeen man to lend money on a farm where the rent was five years in arrear. And it must not be forgotten that in addition to five years' rent due in 1881, there would probably be before the case of the farmer was decided in the Court two more years' rent due, which would make seven years. The Government said the landlord was not to have the power of demanding that this estate should be sold for the payment of the debt to him; but in Ulster the tenant right had always been considered a saleable asset for the payment of rent. They said the tenant was not to be deprived of that which he required for the cultivation of his farm. But what was it that he required? They surely could not mean ploughs, harrows, spades, wheelbarrows; they must mean something else, for these articles were of very small value. They must mean cattle and horses. These were things which were valuable assets as well as 119 the tenant right. They might have a man with a farm worth £600, with five cows worth £10 or £12 each, with a horse worth £20, and with a good crop; but before the claim under the Bill was made he would have disposed of the crop. The question might be asked of him, "What have you done with your crop of flax?" and his answer would be, "How could I feed my family? I had to sell it to provide them with food." Then the question might be put, "What did you do with your crop of oats?" and the answer would come, "Oh, I owed my neighbours some money, and what I realized by the sale of my oats I paid to them." The Court would have to consider all these points. Here was a man with the usual means of paying his rent, and who ought, if he neglected to pay his rent, to be sold out without the slightest commiseration, because he had property and was able to discharge the debt to his landlord—lie was a man who should be regarded just as the landed proprietors were in the time of the establishment of the Landed Estates Court. They had property, and their creditors got their estates and away they walked. But since the establishment of the Landed Estates Court ideas seemed to have marched very rapidly. He was not saying that the tenant right was in any way to be considered as an asset if it was not to be sold—what was the use of taking into consideration the property remaining in the possession of a debtor if it was not to be taken as something by which his debts were to be discharged? They did not expect that the Irish farmers had large sums of money in the bank. Where, then, were their creditors to go if not to the property that they had accumulated, whether in the form of tenant right or goods? All other creditors but the landlords would be able to realize in the ordinary way, and they would not hesitate to proceed against tenants who were in their debt. The tenants would be certain to pay these people; and, therefore, the effect of this Bill would be that the tenants would rob the landlords, to a great extent, for the benefit of their other creditors.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, if the Government pressed this Amendment he should not oppose it; but he confessed that he was rather sorry it had been introduced. He thought it was one of 120 those cases in which, in a very difficult matter, they were forcing on the Committee words to define what was right and just to be done for the tenants throughout Ireland. The circumstances of the case were most difficult; and, in his opinion, it would be impossible to find words which, while appearing to meet the difficulty in some parts of Ireland, would not increase it in others. The question as to whether the tenant right should be considered as an asset varied very much in different parts of Ireland. In Ulster, no doubt, it was an asset, and had been looked upon as such for a long time, both by law and custom, in that Province; and although it did not apply so much to small farms it was, no doubt, a real asset. The Amendment, when looked upon from an Ulster point of view, seemed rather strong. It said that the tenant right was not to be looked upon as an asset if the sale of it would interfere with the continuance of a tenant on his farm, and that was a very strong thing to say. Supposing a man paid £30 a-year rent, and had an estate worth £300—and the tenant right was often worth a great deal more in proportion—it would be a strong thing for the Committee to lay down that in a provision regarding the payment of rent that asset ought not to be interfered with, if such interference would prevent the tenant from cultivating his farm. He was not quite sure that that was the proper thing to say, and he believed there was a great deal in what had been said upon this subject—namely, that if they gave the sanction of the law to that interpretation of tenant right it would diminish the value of that right to the tenant, as it would be by no means easy for him to raise money on mortgage, say, from a bank or other persons. If they went outside Ulster to the South and West where tenant right did not exist, or was a very shadowy one indeed, the case was a very different one, and his impression was that they had much better leave it alone. The Court would have to consider whether a man was able or unable to pay, and would take into account all his property, and whether the property was really valuable. Where the property was valuable it ought fairly to be considered, but where it was shadowy no Commissioners in their senses would attach much value to it. He could not help thinking, both in 121 the interest of the landlord and the tenant, that they had better leave the thing to be decided by the Commissioners according to the circumstances of the country. No doubt the Land Act might make tenant right in some districts, although it had not done so yet. When it had done so, he certainly thought that it would be a property which ought fairly to be considered. The Amendment proposed had been objected to on both sides, both by landlord and tenant; and he (Mr. W. E. Forster) was not at all sure that it was not objected to with some degree of justice.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, there was one remark made by the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down that he did not think they who sat on the Conservative side of the House, and who lived in Ireland, could agree with. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to leave a great deal to the discretion of the Court which would have to administer this Bill; but the hon. Members to whom he was referring had rather a painful experience of the use the Court made of its discretion. There was very little doubt as to what the intention of Her Majesty's Government was in passing the Land Act of last year; but certain as was their intention it was equally clear that the Sub-Commissioners had not given full effect to it. With regard to the Amendment, he wished to interpret it in the most friendly spirit, and he might say he believed it to be an attempt on the part of the Government to give practical effect to the expressions contained in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) the other night with regard to tenant right. The Prime Minister must find himself a little out of court in discussing this Amendment, when he remembered that during the early part of the evening he had objected to a proposal which had been made because two words in it were in manuscript. Well, the whole of this Amendment was in manuscript.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, it might be in print now, but it was not when it was moved. He quite admitted that it was one of the most difficult and complicated matters that any Legislative Assembly could be called upon to discuss. What he ventured to remind the Com- 122 mittee of was the main argument urged during the whole of the discussions of last year, and, he might say, during the discussions of the preceding year, on the question of land tenure and the establishment of tenant right; and it was this—that though there might be economic objections to the division of property between landlord and tenant, yet when the landlord had security in the tenant right for the payment of rent he was enabled to allow exceptional consideration to the tenant. That was the argument used from first to last by the Government; and when, in 1880, they introduced the Compensation for Disturbance Bill a very remarkable proposal was made by that, which threw a little light on the present Amendment. The Compensation for Disturbance Bill was a proposal to prevent evictions; and the Government added a very important clause to that Bill, which would have had the effect of preventing evictions, the proposal being to give to the tenants in the scheduled parts of Ireland a tenant right that previously had not existed. The object in giving the tenant that tenant right was to enable him to realize his interest in his holding for the payment of the rent due to the landlord. ["No, no!"] Well, he had the document before him, and he would rather be guided by that than by the opinion of the Prime Minister. There happened to be in the House at that time an authority on the question of tenant right—namely, the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland (Mr. Law), who, in the discussion of the Bill of last year, said the Court was to consider whether or not a reasonable proposal had been made by the tenant to the landlord, and if the proposal were unreasonable no compensation would be given, but if it was reasonable compensation should be given. He would just read two sentences from, perhaps, one of the most important authorities to be found in Ireland on the subject of tenant right. Mr. Law said he had to remind the House, on the second day of the debate, that no Court would hold that a landlord had acted unreasonably in evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent where he allowed him the option of selling his tenant right. Now, under the Act of last Session a tenant had a greater tenant right than he had in 1880, or than it was then proposed to give him. He had hoped that one of the results of giving tenant 123 right would be that this question of arrears would have settled itself. It was pretty evident to everybody living in the North of Ireland, where tenant right had existed to a greater extent than in any other part of the country, that if the Government, instead of making the present proposal take the shape of a gift, made one to take the shape of a loan, all these difficulties would have been avoided, because the great advantage of tenant right was that it gave good security for the payment of the rent. The question the Government had had to consider was, what were they to do with the tenant right—whether or not they were to consider it as an asset? There were one or two large estates that he (Lord George Hamilton) was acquainted with where the tenant right far exceeded in value the fee-simple of the landlord; and it was obvious that in cases of that kind it would be grossly unjust to exclude the tenant right from consideration as an asset? But then came this difficulty—that, supposing they excluded altogether from consideration this asset, what would the tenants in the North of Ireland say? he undertook to say that the enormous mass of tenants in the North of Ireland had an interest in their holdings that far exceeded the amount of their arrears, and, consequently, none of them would come under the operation of this Bill. Let the Committee consider the case of a tenant who had, by his idleness and neglect, dissipated his tenant right, and the case of an industrious tenant who had cultivated and improved his holding. The former would come to the Court and demand assistance, saying—"My tenant right will not cover the amount I am in arrear;" while the industrious tenant, whose tenant right exceeded the amount of his arrears, would not come under the operation of the Bill at all. It seemed to him (Lord George Hamilton) that the effect of such an arrangement as that upon the tenantry of Ireland would be of the worse kind. It seemed to him that it would be necessary for the Government—and he said it with all respect—to insert fresh clauses in the Bill, by which they would give to tenants in the North of Ireland, who could offer good security, advances of money at a low rate of interest to enable them to pay off their arrears. If such a proposal as that were made, he had no doubt that many 124 landlords, especially in the North of Ireland, would only be too glad to compound with their tenants and effect a settlement. He was afraid that the Amendment before the Committee would not effect the object the Government had in view, as it would simply put a limitation on the Court in estimating the tenant right as an asset. If the Amendment were inserted in the Bill it seemed to him that the Government should also adopt the Amendment of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage), because that Amendment was in the sense of a direction to the Court that they should take into consideration the saleable interest which the tenant had in his holding. That would be a clear direction to the Court, and the Court would take into consideration the tenant right. It seemed to him that unless the Government were prepared to adopt an Amendment equivalent or similar to that of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) the present proposal had better be left out of the Bill altogether. A proposal had been made and had been ruled out of Order, and he believed the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had put another on the Paper practically to the same effect—that the tenant right was not to be taken as an asset for the payment of arrears of rent. Well, he believed there was no other proposal that could possibly be made that would be more detrimental to the interest of the tenant than that, because, if any such view were sanctioned by Parliament, what position would the landlord be in? He would be in this position—he would find that the security the tenant had previously been enabled to offer him for the payment of his rent no longer existed. Whenever bad seasons occurred, not having a prior claim upon the tenant right, he would be forced to evict the tenant and make him sell his tenant right.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, everybody admitted that this was an extremely difficult point; but he thought the difficulty the Government had to grapple with in defending their fortress—to use a simile with which their minds were now pretty familiar, in consequence of the warlike operations in Egypt—was on account of the shots that came from behind themselves. It seemed to him (Mr. Mitchell Henry) that the words 125 proposed were perfectly apt and expressive words, and extremely conclusive and useful. If the Bill were passed without them, it would be perfectly open to the Commission, or to those who administered the Act, to enforce the sale of the tenant's holding, and to apply the produce of the sale of the tenant right to the arrears, which would actually be to defeat the primary object of the Bill. The words before the Committee seemed to him to express precisely that which Parliament wished to accomplish. Parliament wished to prevent the loss of the tenant's holding, and it also wished by this Bill to prevent the tenant from being deprived of the proper means of cultivating his holding. But if these words were left out of the Bill, he (Mr. Mitchell Henry) himself should have great fear of the operation of the Act, and especially in consequence of what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He (Mr. Mitchell Henry) had heard the right hon. Gentleman's words on the subject of the sale of the tenant's interest with the greatest dismay, because if the doctrine the right hon. Gentleman had laid down were to prevail, and the value of the tenant's interest was to be taken tentatively and without qualification, the result would be that, instead of settling the tenants in their holdings and making their tenancy permanent, there would be a fresh impulse given to eviction. These words of the Prime Minister, therefore, were exceedingly grateful to him, who, in common with his Friends who represented Ireland on both sides of the House, wished to see the people of Ireland settled once more in their own homes and able to maintain themselves in decency and comfort. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) seemed to him, notwithstanding all his experience, to have failed to master the condition of the tenants in Ireland. It was not the fact that there was no tenant right except in Ulster. There was a tenant right in existence both in the South and in the West of Ireland; and there was hardly a tenant who gave up his holding in either of those two portions of the country who did not obtain for his interest in that holding a very considerable sum of money. It was perfectly true that that tenant right had not proceeded in the 126 South and West to the extravagant extent to which it had proceeded in the North; but tenants in the South and West had obtained either from their neighbours or from their landlords on giving up a holding five or six years' value of such holding. He himself had repeatedly given it to his tenants when they had given up their holdings. They had expected this consideration with quite as great confidence as any tenants in the North of Ireland could have done, and, of course, the object in purchasing these holdings from the tenants who wished to leave was to enlarge the boundaries of those who were left, and make them more capable of supporting the tenantry. The hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney) had spoken of tenants being five years in arrear, and that in Ulster, of all places in the world, and of there being an additional two years to be placed against the tenants before this Bill became operative. Well, he (Mr. Mitchell Henry) denied entirely that there was any considerable number of tenants in Ireland who owed five years' arrears. If tenants had been allowed to accumulate five years of arrears it had been upon very badly-managed estates. It had been observed that that was what had brought them to the present difficulty—that the people had not managed their estates properly. He (Mr. Mitchell Henry) had too great a respect for his hon. Friend to believe that he could have many tenants who were situated as he had pointed out, and he felt sure that if the hon. Member would look at his rent-book he would find that there were very few who owed him as much as five years' rent. But even if, on the hon. Member's estate, there were some individuals who owed such an amount of arrears, he (Mr. Mitchell Henry) could say with confidence that there were very few in the rest of Ireland. The point to which he wished to direct the attention of the Committee was this, that this Bill only affected tenants of a very low class in Ireland—that was to say, tenants whose rating was not above £30. The majority of these tenants, he was perfectly convinced, were unable to pay their arrears; and were the Government going to assist them effectually or not? If they did not assist them, the result would be that they would be evicted, and there would be a worse state of things existing in Ireland than 127 had existed hitherto. He hoped the Government would adhere to their Amendment, because it would be a direction to the Commissioners who were to administer the Act, and would show that it was not the intention of Parliament that the tenant right of holdings should be taken into account to such an extent as to cause the eviction of tenants. Tenant right was like latent heat—it did not practically exist until they released it—and to say that any number of tenants in Ireland had been in the habit of borrowing money on their tenant right was to state that respecting which the Royal Commission on which he (Mr. Mitchell Henry) had had the honour to sit for the past three years had received no evidence whatever. A tenant did not know the value of his tenant right until he was ready to leave his home and his holding, and then he got what those who had to assess the value chose to give him; but it was an unheard of thing in the North of Ireland, or almost anywhere in Ireland, for the tenant to borrow money on his tenant right; and, therefore, if they were going to place a value on the tenant right on that assumption they would be adopting a different course from that which had been taken in Ireland for years past.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he saw no provision in this Bill that would render it obligatory on the part of the tenant to make an effort to obtain a loan such as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had suggested he ought to obtain, supposing his tenant right to be a tenant right of considerable value. A man might say, "I cannot get the loan, and I will not attempt to obtain it." It appeared to him that the Amendment would permit a man who owed arrears to remain in undisturbed possession of his tenant right and of his farm, and it seemed to him to be a very undesirable thing that such a principle should be adopted. He (Mr. W. H. Smith) wished to know whether, under this Amendment, that charge could properly be made by the landlord?
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that question raised one of the difficulties incident to the new light thrown upon this Bill by the statement the Committee had heard. As the Bill was drafted, it would undoubtedly be necessary for the Court to take the tenant right into consideration 128 as an asset. If that were so, certainly it was necessary to insert some definition in the Bill of such a character as to exclude the tenant right from any consideration; and he could not but think that it would be very much better for the Prime Minister to have determined to adopt this course rather than the alternative course of permitting the Court, in some cases not definable, and in which it would be impossible to lay down certain rules, to take this tenant right into account. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) had just asked a very pertinent question. Supposing a landlord told the Court he was willing to advance money for the payment of arrears on the security of the tenant's interest in his holding, that, of course, would put the tenant in a position to pay his rent, and the arrears would be wiped off. The tenant's interest would have been mortgaged to the landlord. Supposing, in six months or 12 months, the landlord called upon the tenant for payment of the loan so advanced, and, failing the payment of the loan, turned the tenant out, of what benefit would the Arrears Act then be to the tenant? If the question put by the right hon. Gentleman was answered in the affirmative, that at once opened the door for the wholesale evasion of the Act. Looking at the nature of these arrears and the nature of the Bill—looking at it as an exceptional measure which could not be strictly defended by the rules of political economy, and brought in to meet very exceptional circumstances in Ireland—he thought it would have been better to have entirely exempted the tenant right, the right conferred by the Act of 1881 no longer being charged in respect to arrears which had accrued during the very bad seasons, and which in most cases were arrears due to rack rents. That would have been a sounder policy, and would have removed the difficulty of defining how far the tenant right should be considered as an asset. It appeared to him that this was a hopeless task for the Committee to enter upon, and it would be impossible to lay down any rule as a guidance to the Court in this matter. The Amendment of the Prime Minister appeared to admit that the Bill, as drafted, permitted the Court to consider the tenant right as an asset, and to say that it should not be considered in such a way as to deprive 129 the tenant of his holding or of the means of cultivating it properly. At the same time, the Amendment implied that the tenant right might be pledged—that was to say, that if the Court saw that a tenant could fairly obtain a loan upon his holding upon not unreasonable conditions, he ought not to be permitted to have the benefits of this Bill, and that would leave open the question of how far the Court might direct the interests of the tenant to be pledged as a security for the loan, while it prevented the loss of his holding and of the means of cultivation. He objected to this exclusion of the tenant's interest as an asset, and thought it would have been better to have left that element out altogether, and to have allowed the tenant to start clear by getting his judicial rent fixed, after he had proved his inability to pay, apart from any ability he might be supposed to have of being able to borrow on his tenant right. Under the present proposal injustice was done to the tenant in regard to borrowing, for, no matter how unjust the arrears of rent might be, he was not to be allowed the advantages arising from the Bill in order to partially wipe out the arrears; neither was he to be permitted to have the advantage of a gift from the State for the payment of one year; but he was to be compelled, not only to forego a gift from the State, but to repay all the arrears, even supposing they amounted, as in the case instanced by the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon), to arrears for 13 years. No matter whether the arrears arose from the famine, the tenant, if he could borrow money on the security of his tenant right, was to be compelled to borrow in that way, although he might practically swop the whole value of his interest, and render worthless that which the Act of 1881 was supposed to confer. He did not think that was the intention of the Government when they brought in this Bill, but that it was their intention, having regard to the circumstances under which the arrears had accrued, to make a gift to the landlord of one year's rent, and then to compel the tenant to pay another year's rent, so that the tenant might start clear without the necessity of borrowing on the security of his interest. There was very great difficulty in laying down a rule as to the line of demarcation between tenants who were 130 to be compelled to borrow on their holding and those who were not. He did not see how this could be done by this Bill, and he should prefer the tenant right being excepted from consideration altogether, and the tenant allowed to start free under the judicial rent to be fixed by the Court. However, as something must be done, he hoped that proper safeguards would be inserted to limit, as far as possible, the number of tenants who might be deprived of the benefits of this Bill. He did not know that it would be of much use to move any Amendment, as the Prime Minister had announced his intention not to accept an Amendment; but as he had an Amendment on the Paper he would propose it.
§ Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, after the first word "of," to insert the words "or without pledging."—(Mr. Parnell.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the said proposed Amendment."
I am very glad to hear the general tone of the speech of the hon. Member. The hon. Member has put one case in regard to tenant right, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite has put another, and both of them, in my opinion, are perfectly right in their respective cases; but they look at the question not as a whole, but from one extreme. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) says you may estimate the tenant's interest in the saleable value of the holding in such a way as to swamp that interest—that is to say, to make the burden of his debt such that he will not be free even if he continues in the holding, because on the slightest disturbance of his position—say, by a bad harvest—he would be placed in a position of necessity, and be unable to meet his liabilities. That is perfectly fair, and no such case ought to be allowed; and, in our opinion, we have excluded such a case by the words which say that he is now not only not to be deprived of his holding, but he is not to be deprived of the means of cultivating his holding. Let me take another case—let me suppose the case of a man with a farm of £ 10 rent and a tenant right of the value of £50, and in whose case his nominal arrears run up to £30 or £40. To charge that amount on the tenant 131 right would swamp his interest in it. It would not nominally turn him out, but it would leave him in almost a hopeless condition, and it would not be in the spirit of a provision such as this to charge that upon a tenant right which might be worth £50. What am I to pay to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who takes a very different case, not a case where arrears would form an overwhelming portion of the tenant right, but a more common case, where the arrears only form a moderate portion of the tenant right? We take a case in which the tenant right is manifestly or almost certainly £200 and the arrears are £50. I do not say it would be necessary to pledge the tenant right; it might not be necessary to base a positive transaction on the knowledge of the tenant right existing. The tenant might have a tenant right and yet might be evicted: but that is without pledging the tenant right, or without constituting anything in the nature of a mortgage. People will lend money to those who they know can pay without knowing the specific relation between the amount lent and the sources to which they will look for payment, and therefore I should say a little more than the right hon. Gentleman. He asks, suppose a landlord is willing to accept a charge on the tenant right, is he to be excluded from taking that away? I would deal with it a little more broadly. If the Commissioners, on examining the value of the tenant right, find the proportion of arrears is moderate in proportion to the tenant right, it is their business, without any inquiry into any question between the landlord and tenant, to say they cannot entertain the case, and he is not one of those who are unable to pay. That is such an instance as the right hon. Gentleman suggested.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, he thought the speech just made showed the inconvenience of this Amendment being sprung on the Committee when the Committee were about to take into consideration the whole question of a tenant's interest. He did not object to a single word in the Amendment, provided it came as a Proviso to the Amendment he had proposed. The Prime Minister had only quoted the first few lines of an opinion given by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster upon this point. The right hon. Gentleman had said, suppose a man 132 had a farm of 20 acres worth £20 a-year, the tenant right would be worth £10 or £5 an acre. Would it not be unreasonable to say that the Government should advance money and the tenant right should be untouched? He (Mr. Heneage) thought it would have been wise for the Government to have waited until there had been a thorough discussion on the question of tenant right. There was very little he should quarrel with in the speech of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), for he did not wish the tenant to be deprived of any right under this clause, but thought a tenant's interest in his holding should be available as a mortgageable asset. The Bill was not brought in on economical principles, and altogether it might be described as an immoral Bill. He did not say it was wrong on that account; it was only a corollary to the Bill of last year, which was brought in to meet exceptional circumstances. He voted for it in that light, and he wished the question of arrears had been taken up in the Bill of last year and dealt with at the same time. But it was not fair that the money of the taxpayers of England, or the property of Ireland, should be given to tenants who had money of their own, and that that money should remain untouched. It was hardly possible to avoid discussing the question of tenants' interest upon this Amendment. His proposal, which he had yet to propose, was, that where the tenant had not sufficient interest to pay the rent due, and also to provide the means of cultivating his holding and to remain upon it, then it should not be taken into account. But if the man had sufficient interest in his holding to pay, that interest should be made available, and the Government should lend money to the tenant at reasonable interest. Such a tenant ought to be able to pay interest; and otherwise it might as well be said that a tradesman in England might decline to pay his rent because all his capital was locked up in stock.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, that what he complained of was that the Committee were asked to vote for an Amendment which was not objectionable in itself, but would be very objectionable if placed in the Bill without any other Amendment 133 stating that the tenant's interest was to be considered an asset. He would, therefore, ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the Amendment for the present and allow the whole question of tenants' interest to be discussed, and then he would vote for the Amendment.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he would not discuss the morality or the immorality of the Bill. He was surprised that the hon. Member should vote for the Motion that the Speaker should leave the Chair. Neither did he approach the question as opposing the principle of the Bill. That principle had teen accepted by the House, and the Committee were endeavouring to carry out the views of the Government in this particular matter of the consideration of the tenant right as an asset. It seemed to him that the Government, as had been already stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), had only carried out part of the views they had stated to the Committee. The present Amendment would carry out what was said by the Secretary of State for War on more than one occasion; but it would not at all carry out what had been stated by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He was quite willing to admit that, looking at this matter from the point of view of those who were in favour of the principle of the Bill, the Government were right in proposing that an Amendment should be inserted in the Bill by which a tenant should be safe from loss of his holding or deprivation of the means necessary for cultivating it; but he would ask the Prime Minister to carry into effect what he had said in his last speech. He had said that the tenant right had been brought into view as an asset; but he went beyond that point in his last speech, and almost suggested words by which it might be made clear that the views of the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell) were not to be carried out in this respect. He himself was ready to accept the words which the Government proposed to insert in the Bill; but he would wish also to see them accompanied, as they ought in fairness to be accompanied, by other words such as the Prime Minister had suggested to carry out what the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had said on the debate on the Motion that the Speaker should leave the Chair. Then the Com- 134 mittee would have what, he thought, they were bound to have—namely, the insertion of a guidance to the Court in this Bill. He differed entirely upon this matter from the opinion expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), quite irrespective of the fairness or unfairness of the Land Act of 1881. He thought nothing was more reprehensible than that, when complicated questions were debated and utterly opposing views were expressed, the Committee should shrink from settling such questions and leave them to the interpretation of the Courts. It seemed to him that legislation carried out upon that principle could not but be mischievous.
I cannot quite agree with the hon. Member behind me as to the inconvenience of our not taking the course of proposing words of our own which will advance us a considerable way. We have been spending the evening on the discussion of this Amendment, and I do not believe it to be the general wish of the Committee that the words of the Amendment should be withdrawn. The clear wish is that there should be words added, not at this particular place, but it should be understood that when we come to the proper part of the Bill, which we think will be more convenient, words shall be introduced in a separate section. Her Majesty's Government, wishing to unite as far as they can with the feelings of the Committee, are perfectly free to make a proposition to introduce the words—For the purposes of this Act the saleable value of the tenant's interest may, if the Commissioners think it reasonable, he taken into account as an asset.That would distinctly throw on the Commissioners the duty of distinguishing, as they must distinguish, between the cases in which it would be perfectly reasonable, as has been pointed out by the hon. Member for the City of Cork and others. I am not going to move those words now, because I think they would be more conveniently introduced in a subsequent clause; but I think they will satisfy the desire, which appears to exist, for something specific with regard to tenant right to be expressed in the Bill.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he considered the suggestion of the Prime Minister most important, as bearing on the ques- 135 tion before the Committee. He should have had some objection to vote for the words of the Prime Minister unless it was certain that other words would be inserted in the Bill. He sympathized with the object of the Government in this measure. He was sure that many Members took the view that the tenant right ought to be considered an asset, and at the same time they did not wish to defeat the object of the Bill. It appeared to him at the first sight that the Prime Minister had met the Committee very fairly upon this point by suggesting words providing that the interest of the tenant should be taken into account as an asset. That was a point to which he thought many hon. Members would have objected; but if it was understood that the Commissioners might consider the tenant right as a saleable asset, then he thought they might vote for the Amendment proposed by the Prime Minister—namely, that it was not to be pushed to the point of depriving a tenant of his interest.
§ MR. MAGNIAC
said, he thought the words proposed by the Prime Minister should have rather more consideration than they could have now, because he thought they would go far to defeat the object of the Bill. Hon. Members had talked very freely about making loans and lending money on tenant right—an hon. Friend behind him had talked of making loans of this kind at a reasonable rate of interest. Well, he would venture to say that there would be hardly a case which would come under the Bill in which it would be found that the owner of the tenant right was able to pay a charge in respect of his tenant right in the shape of interest. He would put a case in a general way in this fashion. The maximum rental to which this Bill would apply would be £30, and they might take it as a rule that the amount of profit the tenant derived from his holding was about equivalent to his rent. A payment of £30 to the landlord they might take it would represent a profit of £30 or £35 to the landlord. That would be about 12s. a-week. The tenant right might be worth £200, and English Members would naturally say that was a valuable asset; but how could it include any profit to the tenant?—it was only a sum invested by him in the right to earn his living. He paid it for the purpose of getting employment. 136 The root and bottom of all this tenant right in Ireland was the want of general employment in that country. In England this sort of thing did not prevail, for if a man had £200 or £300 in land he would realize it and invest it in more remunerative operations. In Ireland it was not possible for a man to do that; and his (Mr. Magniac's) contention was that if they forced these tenants to borrow a year's rent, in order to pay a year's rent due up to 1881, they would so load him with a charge upon a minimum of sufficiency for existence as to render him a pauper. If a man only had 12s. a-week and had to pay out of that 1s., or 2s., or 3s., it would have a ruinous effect, and, to his (Mr. Magniac's) mind, it would result in defeating the objects of the Bill by bringing the poorer tenants to a state of pauperism. As he understood it, the object of this measure was to enable the Irish tenantry to avoid being thrown into a condition of pauperism and distress, and thereby to prevent discontent and outrages. [A laugh.] If hon. Gentlemen opposite thought the question of preventing outrages a laughable matter, he (Mr. Magniac) must say he did not agree with them, and would contend that this was a subject upon which every Member, however imperfectly informed, might be able to bring to bear some little information, or some new suggestion which had not been mentioned before. He ventured to say that every shilling a week they charged these poor tenants the nearer they would bring them to pauperism; and as they wanted to put those men in the position of being able to earn their living, and to avoid the necessity of having to sell their tenant right—being in that way driven to emigration to some more congenial place—he trusted that every effort would be made to keep them from having unnecessary charges imposed upon them. If they were going to fritter away the tenant right by charging the tenant with the interest of a loan upon it, there was no doubt they would be defeating the object of the Bill, and the measure might as well be abandoned. What would happen if they abandoned the Bill; would not hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House interfere in favour of the landlords? The House had heard a great deal last year about the landlords not getting their rents, and could anyone desire to 137 abandon the landlords in the position in which they were at present? He ventured to say that to do so would be a frightful catastrophe to the landlords and their families. They had heard a great deal about political economy and about the British taxpayer being violated; but the British taxpayer was used to being violated—he had been violated on the subject of public loans; he had been violated on the subject of loans to landlords. What did hon. Members do every time they passed the Estimates? Why, they made the British taxpayer pay a large sum for the purpose of tenant right in the Army; they did that every year, and he had no doubt they would continue to do it for a great number of years to come. He would urge the Committee not to so frame the Bill as to prevent its being able to bring about peace and tranquillity in Ireland, which he sincerely hoped would be its effect. They should deal with the question in a liberal spirit, and not parsimoniously, and he trusted that the Committee would refrain from frittering away the boon which it was proposed to give to the tenantry.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
said, he perfectly agreed with the remarks of the hon. Member who had just spoken, and he was afraid, from the tone the debate was taking in connection with the question of arrears, that if the measure became law, it would pass in such a shape as to afford very little relief indeed to the struggling tenant farmers of Ireland. He confessed he was very much disappointed at the whole tone of the debate on this question to-night. He had no hesitation in saying, from his knowledge of the North of Ireland, that if the value of the tenant right in the small holdings throughout Ulster was taken into consideration in dealing with arrears due from the tenants, no relief would be afforded to the struggling peasantry. It was said that Parliament was going to pass this measure in order to meet a great and a grave difficulty; but he could see that the House was going to fritter away the Bill, so that when it became law it would be of no greater value than the Arrears Clauses of the Land Act. He would say to the Committee—"Face the difficulty of the Arrears Question in Ireland in a broad and generous spirit, and let the question be finally settled." Undoubtedly, if the 138 value of the tenant right in the small holdings in Ireland, especially in the North, were to be taken into account, he declared, as an Ulster Member, the Bill would be perfectly useless.
said, he wished to say just one word upon this question, with regard to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). The right hon. Gentleman seemed to imagine that small holdings were not worth so much in proportion as large holdings; but he (Mr. Macartney) would point out this—that on his own property last year a small farm of 16 or 17 acres was held by a widow at a rent of £3 15s. The woman considered that too much, and said that at such a rent she could not make a living on the farm. They had, therefore, entered into a voluntary agreement under the terms of the Land Act, and the rent had been reduced to £3; but a few weeks afterwards the holding was sold by the widow to a neighbour for £80, and that in spite of the fact that she had previously said that at the original rent she could not make a living.
said, he thought the Committee ought to deal with this question in a broad and liberal spirit. He was quite certain of this—that if they excluded from the operation of the Bill all cases in which there was any value of the tenant right existing, the measure would be utterly valueless, for it could only apply in cases where the tenants were entirely bankrupt and insolvent. He would put it to the common sense of the Committee whether, if the Bill only applied to tenants who were entirely bankrupt; it would be any use at all to deal with a class of people who, when the operation had been effected, would be in no better position, so far as the cultivation of their holdings were concerned, than they were before their arrears were paid? He would put it to the Committee that in the majority of cases in Ireland, excluding the cases of insolvent tenants, there was just sufficient value in the tenant right to meet the arrears. If, therefore, they were to consider the tenant right as an asset in these cases, the whole of the tenant right would be absorbed in paying the arrears. The tenant right would be equal to the debt which the tenant owed to his landlord, and if they were 139 to compel the debt to be paid by the tenant right, this Bill might just as well have never been introduced. What would be the effect? Why, a tenant would have to cease cultivating his holding—he would be sold out; he would have to part with his holding. The object of the Bill was to continue a tenant in his holding in cases whore he had an amount of tenant right, and only that amount of tenant right, which would enable him to pay the arrears without being able to continue the cultivation of his holding. He (Mr. Brand) could quite understand hon. Members opposite opposing that view of the case. They said if a tenant was in such a condition as he had described, they ought to follow the economical rule, and require the man to clear out, and make way for someone who would be able to farm the holding in a more satisfactory manner. That might be true in an economical sense; but they had to take this into consideration—that they had passed the Land Act, by which they had given increased benefits to the tenants of Ireland, and that having been done, they were bound, as far as they could, to see that every tenant in Ireland reaped the benefit of the increased advantages given to him by this Act. He (Mr. Brand) imagined that they should draw, as far as possible, in the words of this Bill, a clear distinction between those tenants who were thoroughly able to pay, and who, it might be said, had "held the harvest"—and he imagined those who were able to pay, and who had "held the harvest," were dishonest tenants, and would, in most cases, be found by the Commissioners to be solid men and able to pay their arrears—they must draw a distinction between these cases and the cases of tenants who were either insolvent, or who had only just a sufficient amount of the value of the tenant right to enable them to continue cultivating their holdings after the Land Commission had paid their arrears of rent.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that perhaps he might state at once that he entirely agreed with the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, that if the effect of the Bill was this, that any tenant who had either tenant right or saleable value at his disposal were compelled to get rid of a large portion of it, or be deprived of the means of cultivating his farm, 140 the object the Government had in view would be altogether defeated; but that, they had explained over and over again, was not their object.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he entirely agreed with his hon. Friend as to his object; but the difficulty was this. The Government had proposed words in the Amendment, the object of which was perfectly plain. The words were, after the word "arrears," to insert—Without loss of his holding or deprivation of the means necessary for the cultivation thereof.His hon. Friend very properly said that was the principle of the Bill; but then the Government had been asked what course they would take when they came to consider the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage), who wished to express distinctly that under any circumstances the tenant right should be taken into consideration. The Government had stated that when they arrived at that part of the Bill, or, rather, after the 2nd sub-section of the clause, they would put in words which were somewhat different to those proposed—namely, the words—For the purposes of this Act the saleable value of the tenant's interest may, if the Commissioners think it reasonable, be taken into account as an asset.This was a totally different thing from suggesting that the value of the tenant right should be swamped. If the tenant's interest were swamped, the tenant would be unable to carry on his farm. The Government said distinctly that it ought to lie with the Commissioners to say whether, without loss of his holding, or without being deprived in any degree of his power of cultivating it, the tenant was a man who could raise a sufficient amount of money to pay off his arrears. He would ask the Committee to pass this Amendment, and when they came afterwards to the end of the 2nd sub-section they could discuss the words he had indicated in the sense in which the Government proposed them, and not at all in the sense pointed out by the hon. Member.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
said, he might point out that they were bound to take the words, not only as they had been 141 proposed, but as they had been accepted by his hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage), and by others who had taken the same view of the matter; and that was certainly a view which would entirely alter the Amendment first proposed by the Prime Minister. His hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney) and his hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Brand) both agreed in the view that the second set of words proposed by the Government entirely altered the position of the case and the original Amendment. In voting upon the Amendment before the Committee hon. Members were not pledging themselves in anyway, and the Government were not pledging themselves in any way, to stand by the later words.
§ SIR HERVEY BRUCE
said, he agreed with the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney) with regard to the tenants, and he must say that he thought that if the Government had acted by way of loan instead of gift, many of the difficulties which had arisen would have been obviated. If they were to say that where a man had a considerable property at his back, it was not to become available for the payment of his just debts, they would be advocating a principle that was dishonest and immoral, and one that would very much dishearten honest men who, notwithstanding what had fallen from the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) had in bad times pledged their tenant right to meet the just demands of their landlords. The Government would be placing in the hands of the honest tenantry an engine—he would not use the expressions with regard to it that had been made use of in other quarters—but they would be placing in the hands of the tenantry a motive power for agitation against the Legislature of England which it would be very hard to suppress, if they were to be left out in the cold. If tenant right was excepted from the payment of just debts, they would be bringing about a state of things in Ulster from which there would be no recovery for a long time.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, that the view put forward by the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Childers) in the remarks he had just made seemed to him to amount to this—that they ought to feel quite at their case on the point, as 142 a discretion would be left to the Commissioners. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to admit that if the Amendment was acted up to to the very letter it would utterly destroy tenant right in Ireland.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that he had said the very contrary. He had said, with regard to the Amendment before the Committee, which he hoped would be adopted, that it was not possible to give it that interpretation.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, that, nevertheless, it seemed to him that what was given by the Prime Minister with one hand it was now proposed to take away with the other. The fact was that the Commissioners were to be allowed discretion in this matter, and they were to put that charge on the tenant right only where they thought it reasonable. But it would be found in practice that it would be impossible for the Commissioners to resist the pressure that would be put upon them to give the landlord his arrears out of the value of the tenant right. The landlords would apply for what they considered their rights, and if it was found that the tenants had anything of value in their possession, the landlords would put pressure upon the Commissioners to make good their claim out of it. It therefore seemed to him (Mr. T. D. Sullivan) that to put this Amendment into the Amendment of the Prime Minister would be to deprive the right hon. Gentleman's proposal of all its merit, and to endanger the success of the Bill.
§ MR. HEALY
said, he rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the Amendment they were going to propose, they intended to repeal the 3rd sub-section of the 1st section of the Land Act? The Land Act said that if a tenant were to sell the landlord should have the right of preemption. He (Mr. Healy) wished to know, if the Sub-Commissioners considered that they might take the tenant right as an asset, whether they were to fix the value of the tenant right, and to cut it down if they chose? In a case on the estate of the Earl of Dartrey the value of a tenant right had been fixed at £150; but on an appeal the Judge had cut the tenant right down to £70, so that the tenant lost £80 by the transaction. Were they by this Bill going to allow the tenant right to be thrown in as an asset, and then to give 143 the landlord the power to go before the Judge to get the value of it cut down? Whenever the tenant right was set up to auction, not merely in cases where the tenant had applied for a judicial rent, and applied for the benefits of the Land Act, but in all cases what so ever, the 1st clause of that Act was forced upon the tenant whether he willed it or not, and then what happened? Why, there was a dispute between the landlord and tenant as to the value, and then the fatal power was given to the landlord of pre-emption—the Court stepped in and fixed the value of the asset.
said, the argument that the hon. Member used could not possibly apply in the case of this proposal. They had made a proposal that, on recognition of inability of a tenant, he should never be considered able to pay if ability implied parting with the tenant right. The Commissioners might form for themselves a general estimate of the tenant right, and that, might be an abstract estimate, having nothing to do with the sale, because forcing a sale would be absolutely precluded by the words they proposed to accept in certain cases.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he very much doubted whether the sale of the tenant right would be precluded if the Committee agreed to the Amendment of which the Prime Minister had given Notice.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 42: Noes 323: Majority 281.—(Div. List,' No. 250.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he wished to suggest to the Prime Minister that he should consider, in the interval between the discussion upon the section he had mentioned, the desirability of limiting the application of that section to tenants of below £10 or £15 valuation.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, the Prime Minister seemed to give an assent to that suggestion, and therefore the Committee ought clearly to understand the point. What he understood to be the position with regard to this 144 Amendment was, that it was an Amendment proposed by the Prime Minister, and one to which, by itself, many Members would have objected. If it was accepted, it would only be accepted as part of an arrangement, the second part of which was to come in the words to be suggested by the Prime Minister; but if there was any doubt as to what these words were to be, or whether they were to be limited as suggested by the hon. Member for the City of Cork, that would quite disturb the present understanding.
The whole of this proceeding, on the part of Government, is to meet the views of the Committee; and, secondly, it would be absurd to absolutely preclude ourselves from any modification of the proposal which might appear to be consistent with the spirit. We have considered to some extent whether we should have any provision of this kind. I do not wish to be precluded from giving a further consideration to the question.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, he wished, then, to know where the Committee was at present? He understood that the Prime Minister had said that he was willing to propose an Amendment in a subsequent portion of this clause, in order that the saleable value of the tenant's interest might, if the Commissioners thought it reasonable, be taken into account as an asset. That was tolerably clear, though it was open to criticism; but if it was to be cut down by considering whether it should be subject to a maximum, it might be frittered down to nothing. He thought there should be something like a statement made in order to guide the Committee on the action they were now about to take. The Government had had every possible opportunity of coming to a determination, and he supposed they had considered the words which they now intended to propose. Was the Committee to understand that these words would be placed on the Paper to-night without qualification? If so, that would be satisfactory; but he desired to point out an element which might fairly be taken into account by the Government. The Government had intimated that they wished to give power to the tribunal to consider when the saleable value should be taken into account as an asset. "Asset" was a word which was gene- 145 rally used in considering the administration of an estate; but here they were considering the particular administration of a particular property between a landlord and tenant; and if the interest was to be taken into consideration as an asset—its value on one side as a saleable asset, and, on the other, the value of the landlord's right, plus the interest of other creditors—that might leave the landlord in a questionable position. He would suggest the desirability of making it plain that the interest was only to be taken into account as an asset in taking the account between the landlord and the tenant. If the proposal went any further than that, it would practically give no relief to the landlord, and become a source of confusion to the tenant.
The suggestion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is worthy of consideration, and the Law Officers of the Grown will, I am sure, give it their careful attention.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, it was perfectly clear that the Committee could not possibly settle one Amendment when voting upon another. He was prepared to give the Government his support in regard to this Amendment; but he did not yet see the bearing of the other Amendment, and it must be understood that that Amendment was not settled, but might be subjected to modification or amendment hereafter.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
, in proposing an Amendment, said, he desired to look at the principle of grants, not from the narrow point of view whether it would be agreeable to the tenant or agreeable to the landlord, but on the much broader ground of how far it would be of advantage from an Imperial point of view, and whether those who had to contribute the funds for the purposes of the Act had not a right to demand that if they contributed, the money ought to be used for purposes which were not temporary in their nature, but would be of permanent advantage to the tenants, and to the landed interests of Ireland generally. There had been abundant statements as to the condition of the poorer tenants in many parts of Ireland, and he would not again quote the cases which had been so often cited; but a statement 146 of the Land Commission itself had been laid before the Committee, and he found that The O'Conor Don and Professor Baldwin said there were large districts in Ireland where, if the tenants had to pay any rent at all, it would be impossible for them to live and thrive. If hon. Members had read Professor Baldwin's statement they would have been much struck by it, because that gentleman pointed out the absolute necessity of grappling at once with the main cause of Irish discontent. He said the main cause was the poverty of the tenants in certain parts of the country, and while that continued it would be impossible to get rid of agitation and discontent. How did the present Bill propose to deal with that class of cases? In the first place, the Prime Minister said the Bill did not propose to deal only with those who were unable to pay their rent, but with those who were unable to pay because they had been deprived of their means of livelihood. That was a considerable widening of the scope of the Bill; but he wished the Committee to consider how that enlargement was likely to be considered by one class who were very largely interested in it—namely, the tenant farmers in England. They had had five or six successive bad seasons, and during two or three seasons they been unable to employ in the usual way harvesters coming from Ireland. Now, they were going to be told by this Bill that, although they had not been able to employ these men for their own purposes, nevertheless they would have to pay them, and to contribute a sum of money for them, although they—the farmers of England—had not employed them for any purpose. How was it proposed by the Bill to deal with the classes of whom he spoke? Why, it was proposed to clear off, by a process described in the Bill, the arrears of rent due to the landlords, and to do no more; and the result would be to leave the tenants, after the arrears had been paid off, to drift back as quickly as might be to exactly the same position as they now stood in. Was it proposed to clear off all their encumbrances? By no means. The encumbrances or obligations which they were under to other creditors of other descriptions would remain exactly as they were before; and the main result, in his opinion, would be this—that the Irish tenant would have afforded to 147 him, by paying off and getting rid of these arrears, a greater borrowing power in other directions, or, in other words, greater scope would be afforded to the operations of the money-lender, and in a very few years the condition of the tenant would be no better than it was now. This could only be described as a mere hand-to-mouth policy, which did not look at the future of the tenant and deal on a statesmanlike and permanent basis with the difficulties which existed. He would not propose to withdraw from these unfortunate men any of the benefits which they were likely to receive—very far from it; but he would propose only that if any money was to be offered for their benefit, it should be applied in a manner likely to bestow more permanent benefits upon that unfortunate class. Of course, one direction in which that could be done would be by offering greater facilities for emigration. That, however, was not the scope of his present proposal, and he only touched on it to say that a very high authority, from whom he had quoted before—he referred to Professor Baldwin—had told them that it was their duty to grapple with the causes of Irish disaffection, and to apply permanent remedial measures, and had also told them that 80 per cent of these unfortunate people would go away and commence life afresh in other countries, if they were only given the opportunity of so doing. The present Bill simply proposed to pay something to get rid of the debt due to the landlord; but if they looked at the permanent condition of these tenants, it was of no use whatever to get rid simply of the arrears, and to leave afloat all the other debts of the tenant, which must undoubtedly, within a very few years, afford a new ground for agitation, and a scope for new arrears. He knew he should be told, in the first place, that any inquiry such as he proposed in the Amendment he had placed upon the Paper would lead to delay. He quite agreed with all they had heard from the Prime Minister as to the advantage, if this Bill was to come into operation at all, of having a quick inquiry. There was a great deal to be said in that respect; but, at the same time, he felt even more strongly in his mind that it would be desirable to incur even a little delay, if only they could be sure that, as a consequence, they would 148 arrive at something which would be of real and permanent benefit. However, he would not admit for a single moment that there would be any delay caused by his proposal. They had already the Land Commission in Ireland, upon whom the administration of this Act would rest; and the Land Commission already had ample information before them. The very facts he had mentioned were taken from the evidence laid before the old Commission, presided over by Lord Bessborough, which Commission had suggested that a certain part of Ireland should be dealt with in a different way from the rest. Therefore, all that he had to say was that the Land Commission should bear in mind the statements which had been made with regard to those districts, and should not apply in districts where a permanent remedy was needed—a remedy which could only give temporary relief from embarrassments, and which would land the country in permanent difficulties, and compel the making of fresh demands year after year for more relief. He begged to move the Amendment which stood in his name.
In page 1, line 21, after "arrears," insert "and that there is a reasonable prospect of his being able to continue to cultivate such holding, and to pay a fair rent."—(Mr. E. Stanhope.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. CHILDERS
The object of the hon. Gentleman is, no doubt, a good one; but I would ask the Committee to consider for a moment what it is that he proposes to do. By the present Amendment he proposes this—that in addition to the other requisites which should enable the tenant to come under the operation of the Bill, the Commissioners should consider that there is a reasonable prospect of his being able to continue the occupation of his holding, and to pay a fair rent. He has quoted the language of Professor Baldwin to show that certain holdings in the West of Ireland could not be profitably carried on by the tenant, even if that tenant paid no rent at all. But what is the remedy proposed? First, that the Commissioners should decide what is a fair rent, and if the rent is a fair one, there is, of course, primâ facie, a prospect of its being paid. But then it is proposed that the 149 Commissioners, having decided what a fair rent shall be, shall then consider whether the particular person can pay it or not. Well, Sir, is it conceivable that after the Commissioners have fixed what would be the equivalent of the judicial rent they shall be called upon to consider the character of the individual who holds the farm, so as to see whether he can pay what is settled to be a fair rent? I can only say that it appears to me to be absolutely impossible to throw such a task upon any body of men; and, if that is so, however much we may desire that the question of emigration should be considered, that certainly is not the way in which any practical advantage would be gained towards that end. I therefore hope that this Amendment will not be accepted.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
I think the right hon. Gentleman has not appreciated the force of the remarks made by my hon. Friend; and I believe he has followed a plan with regard to this Amendment which, I am sorry to say, the Government have followed with regard to several others. That plan is that the Members of the Government should take the actual words of the Amendment as if on special demurrer, without going to the main principle involved in them at all. My hon. Friend has struck a point which I have always thought is radically wrong in the Bill of the Government. It is not a matter of detail at all, and ought not to be treated in that slight and off-hand way in which the right hon. Gentleman tries to laugh off a question of grave importance. He says my hon. Friend has referred to what Professor Baldwin no doubt did say, that there are a great number of persons in the West of Ireland who could not afford to live on their holdings even if they had no rent to pay at all. That is quite true, but that is not the only thing; and I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman, if he has read it at all, has forgotten what the evidence of Professor Baldwin was. Professor Baldwin did not refer simply and solely to poor people in the West who could not afford to live on their holdings even if no rent were charged against them at all; he went a great deal further, because there is distinctly a most unfortunate state of things in existence; for there are people in holdings in Ireland, not only in the West, but elsewhere, 150 who are indebted to their tradesmen, very often to the extent of seven, eight, nine, and even ten times the amount of their rent, and it is cases of that kind that are contemplated by my hon. Friend as well as the case of poor holdings—cases, namely, where a man is struggling with difficulties and owes money, not only to his landlord, but to his trades-people. Now, the question is whether in such cases you are going simply to pay the landlord his arrears of rent and stop there. Would not that be ridiculous, if it is absolutely clear, from the state of general bankruptcy in which the tenant is placed, that it is absolutely impossible for him to continue in his holding? That is a question of principle; it is not simply a question of the mere wording of an Amendment, or only of people who live in the West. It affects a much larger number of people who cannot live on their holdings; it is a serious matter and should be seriously considered. What is to be done in the case of a tenant of this kind, who really is in a state of insolvency on account of the amount of money which is due from him to the persons who have lent it to him at exorbitant rates of interest? Do you benefit his position or not by providing that the State shall advance him one year's arrears of rent?
I must say that the complaint made by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down appears to me to be a very singular one. He says that when the House, after having had opportunities of considering every question of principle, is in Committee upon the details of a Bill, and when hon. Gentlemen propose words to be inserted as Amendments in the Bill, the present Government have a vile and vicious practice of considering those words and commenting upon them, and finding fault with them, and showing that they are inadmissible, and that, under these circumstances, they are even so irrational as to ask the Committee to reject them. I sympathize from the bottom of my heart with the right hon. Gentleman. I should like to know his manner of doing business; and what would be the case if we adopted the opposite method, and if, instead of considering the words proposed by some hon. Gentleman, we flew off upon the general principle and considered the matter in the abstract. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would 151 say that that was a most abominable practice, and that if the Government, instead of considering the words proposed in Committee, flew off into the region of principle, there was no catching hold of them. I do not think it would be wise to allow the Commissioners to go into an examination of the general state of the prosperity of the tenant, and to form a separate judgment on the merits of each particular tenant, and then, after fixing the judicial rent, to arrive at the conclusion that a body of the poorest people are to be excluded on account of their poverty from the benefits of the Act. Why, the Bill has for its object the relief of poverty, so as to give it a chance of holding its head above water. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment has told us, on the authority of Professor Baldwin, that there were many who were willing to go from the country if they only had the opportunity. This Bill will just give them that opportunity, because it will produce money from public funds, and because the landlords will have a great power as to the direction of that money. The landlord will in many cases get money where he expected to receive nothing at all, and where, but for this Bill, though he might have evicted the man, he never could have got anything at all. The landlord will also have the power to demand from the tenant a year's rent, and if the tenant owes money to his tradesmen he will not go to the landlord to produce one year's rent in order to satisfy him. The landlord will have immense power in facilitating or opposing the tenant's application; and if the landlord is in favour of emigration, he will have great power of influencing in that direction. But, whether that power is exercised or not, it is impossible for us to accept these words, which my right hon. Friend has been so injudicious and unfair as to consider as they stand. Nor can we agree in any form of general principle that there should be a general inquiry into the whole aspect of the conditions and prospects of the tenant. Such a task would, in our opinion, be immeasurable, and we could not undertake to impose it upon the Commissioners.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, he did not think what had been said was quite justified. What happened generally was that, when a particular form of 152 words was proposed, the Government suggested that had that form been different they might have thought something of it. But the Government never themselves suggested any form that would be acceptable to them, and hardly any Amendments from the Opposition side of the House had been accepted in any form whatever. Of course, if the Government were determined that they would, under this Bill, pay, or assist in paying, the arrears of every body without any discrimination, he could say no more; but he welcomed with great satisfaction what the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had said with regard to emigration—namely, if he had not misunderstood him, that the Bill would open the way to a very large amount of emigration from the West. This Bill was to give that opportunity, and he (Mr. E. Stanhope) hoped that when the Irish Land Bill was introduced next year they would find that it made further proposals for facilitating emigration. He would not trouble the Committee to divide on the Amendment he had proposed.
§ MR. PARNELL
wished to say, as emigration had been mentioned, and as he and his Friends were accused of opposing schemes of emigration, that he quite agreed with the Prime Minister that this Bill would decidedly have a tendency in the direction of facilitating emigration, because it would supply the tenant with something to sell and with something to emigrate with. He had never opposed emigration in a proper form. He had always said that if Irish tenants offered to emigrate he would be perfectly willing that they should do so, and that the State should assist them, not merely with the actual cost of sending them out, but with something over, so that on their arrival in the Now World they should not be put down with no opportunity of getting on—with nothing before thorn but to lead the lives of day labourers in the Eastern States.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY moved to insert, at the commencement of line 22, the words, "such matters having first been duly proved upon oath." He had thought it necessary to raise this question, because the point had been referred to earlier in the evening by the hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. Moore), who ex- 153 pressed a hope that the tenant should not be required to give this class of evidence upon oath, and there had been no intimation on the part of the Government at the time that they disagreed with the hon. Member. A great many of those who sat on the Opposition side of the House considered that signs were not wanting to show that the Government were disposed to be content with an extremely low standard of proof of the inability to pay. He and his Friends thought it should be kept high.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 22, to insert the words, "such matters having first been duly proved on oath."—(Mr. Stuart-Wortly.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
said, it was the intention of the Government that the Land Commission should frame rules, and power was taken in the Bill for the purpose—for the way in which the application was to be made and the investigation conducted. It was intended that under those rules it should not be compulsory, but should be optional as to what part of the evidence should be taken on oath. Much of the investigation would, no doubt, consist of the comparatively formal examination of books, &c, where an oath would not be necessary; but in other matters it might be necessary to have the sanction of an oath. Possibly the hon. and learned Gentleman would be content with that assurance.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
wished to know whether there would be an oath in all cases where oral testimony was taken?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
said, it would depend entirely the character of the evidence to be given. Where it was unsupported an oath might be required.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, he thought the assurance offered was not very satisfactory. There was a disposition on the part of the Government to show an extreme laxity with regard to the means of arriving at a knowledge of the inability of the tenant, and to make the investigation one of a purely formal character. He hoped the Amendment would be pressed, unless it was understood that oral testimony should be taken on oath.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
said, he had already stated that, as he understood it—and he believed he was in a position to give an engagement—where the oral testimony was of such a character that it must have some sanction of credibility, the only sanction that could be given was the sanction of an oath. The only object the Government had in declining to accept the Amendment was this—that in an investigation of this kind there must be a large class of evidence which could not and ought not to be taken upon oath.
§ MR. GIBSON
wished to make a suggestion which would make the matter clear. He recommended the acceptance of the Amendment, with the addition of the words, "where the taking of evidence upon oath is practicable." Their experience of the working of the Laud Act had been such as to prevent them from taking upon trust any other Act. In their opinion, they had been misled as to the way in which that Act would be administered, and he would not lend himself for a single second to keeping anything open which he could possibly close.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, the Government accepted the principle which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had laid down; but he thought it would come better in a separate clause than in this one.
§ MR. BULWER
wished to point out that there was no necessity to administer an oath where the evidence relied on was documentary; but the Committee must bear in mind that no man could administer an oath unless authorized by Act of Parliament, or some equivalent authority; and the tribunal, in this case, could not administer an oath unless it was provided for in the Bill.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, he thought it quite right that the tribunal should have power to impose an oath, but strongly objected to its being imposed in every case, because it would only make the proceedings more formal and expensive, and would dribble away a great deal of the credit which the Irish people ought to have for the Bill.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
said, that after the assurance given by the Government he was quite willing to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.155
§ CAPTAIN AYLMER moved, in page 1, lines 23 and 24, to leave out "or for the benefit of." He thought this Amendment would cause some doubt as to whom the money was to be paid to. The words of the clause were "payment for the benefit of the landlord;" but Clause 10 laid down that "landlord" should mean "any person for the time being entitled to receive the rents or profits of such holding." He could not understand how any other person could receive the arrears of rent; and the landlord was the person so entitled as defined by that clause.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, lines 23 and 24, leave out "or for the benefit of."—(Captain Aylmer.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to he left out stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
said, that was merely a technical matter, for if the landlord did not receive the money an order would be made for the proper payment.
could not understand the necessity for putting in the words, "Any person for the time being entitled to receive."
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he had no doubt he should receive the support of the right hon. Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) in the Amendment he proposed, and which he would ask the Committee to accept upon its merits. He had no great fancy for this Bill at all, because he was an English taxpayer, and he thought it doubtful policy to call upon the English taxpayers to pay debts for any class of people, especially landlords, and more especially Irish landlords; because it seemed to him that if a balance was struck, it would probably be found that the landlord owed a great deal to the tenant, and the tenant nothing to the landlord. His Amendment was conceived with the object of doing as strict justice as possible, and providing, at least, that the landlords should not receive more than they were properly entitled to, having regard to their relations with their tenants. What the Bill would do, if his Amendment was accepted, was very clear. The rack-renting landlord 156 might have charged for many years £40 for a tenancy worth £20, or, perhaps, £15; that would be £25 per annum too much. There was a case coming before the Land Court in which it has been judicially proved that such rents were greatly in excess of the fair and legitimate amount. The Bill gave an advantage to the man who rack-rented. Such a man, perhaps, had a farm worth £10 or £20, and for a number of years he had put at least £10 into his pocket each year that belonged to the tenant. Consequently, his rent, when it was paid from the Public Exchequer, ought not to be calculated on the basis of £20 or £30, but upon what was a fair sum. It might be said that there would be some difficulty in arriving at what a fair sum was; but he thought that might be arrived at by a rough-and-ready process; Griffith's valuation, or 10 per cent above Griffith's valuation, might be taken, as that was about the extent to which the rents were being reduced by the Land Court.
In page 1, line 25, after the word "arrears," to insert the words "or if it be further proved that the tenant has in previous years paid a rent in excess of what was fair, one half of such antecedent arrears, less the amounts which have been paid as rent in excess of what was fair."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, he thought that, at this time of the night, especially after the extremely indulgent manner in which the hon. Member had treated the Committee, he need not speak long. It had been stated, especially by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), that the Government were disposed to tamper with the rights of property; but he thought they would be acting with very great injustice if they accepted this Amendment, for that would be laying down a rule which would imply a distinction between two classes of property. The hon. Member must be prepared all-round, and if he recognized a case in which the rent had been lowered by the Land Commission he thought he was bound to recognize those cases in which the rent had been paid. He ought to have added to his Amendment, "Plus the amounts which have been paid as below what was fair." But to that he 157 (Mr. Trevelyan) should as much object as to the original proposal. The real ground upon which the Government objected to this Amendment was, that this was not a penal Bill against rack-renting; the Government did not intend this Bill to punish crime; but by passing this Amendment they would, so far as it could be done by a single Amendment, strike at the rights of private property by declaring that the Government did not recognize the legal right of the landlord.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 23; Noes 186: Majority 163.—(Div. List, No. 251.)
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.