§ As to Improvements executed before the Commencement of Act.
§ Clause 5 (Reservation as to existing and future contracts of tenancy).
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 5, after the word "secures," to insert the word "compensation."—(Mr. Chaplin.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'compensation' be there inserted."
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, that, as he was unfortunately absent yesterday when this Amendment was moved by his hon. Colleague (Mr. Chaplin), perhaps he might be allowed to say a word or two in explanation of the object he (Mr. Stanhope) had in view in putting it upon the Paper. He had read carefully the remarks made last night, and he found it was stated that the words he proposed were vague. He was not going to say for a moment that they were not vague; but what he did venture to assert was, that they were very much less vague than the words proposed by the Government in the Bill, and that it would be very difficult indeed to frame any words at all which would not be more or less vague. No one could doubt that the words "fair and reasonable compensation" were vague. They had no reference to any standard at all; but the Amendment he proposed had a standard to which they could refer, and that standard was the 1st clause of the Government Bill. The 1st clause of the Government Bill laid down that the compensation to be paid should be such a sum as fairly represented the value of an improvement to an incoming tenant. Therefore, his 69 Amendment, and the whole of the clause, if his Amendment were accepted, would be interpreted by the valuers to have reference to the provisions of the 1st clause, wherever the compensation under any particular agreement was contrary to, or in evasion, of the objects of the Bill.
§ SIR HENRY HOLLAND
said, that he regretted to be compelled to differ from the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. E. Stanhope); but he thought that, vague as were the words "fair and reasonable," the words proposed in the Amendment were quite as vague, and more difficult to deal with. In truth, lawyers would have really little difficulty in dealing with the words "fair and reasonable," as they were words well known to lawyers, who had often to determine whether conditions were "fair and reasonable;" and he did not believe that valuers, though laymen, would practically have much trouble in deciding whether the compensation awarded by a contract was "fair and reasonable" within the meaning of the Act. But what would valuers have to do under the Amendment proposed. They would have to consider what was the "object and intention" of the Act. That might sound easy to do; but only last night, in the Lobby of the House, when lie (Sir Henry Holland) was discussing this Amendment with an hon. Member of great experience, and who had paid great attention to the Bill, he found that they differed as to the exact intention of the Bill. If, then, they, who had been all these days discussing the Bill, could not quite agree as to the object of it, what difficulty might not the lawyers or valuers have, who had not had the advantage of hearing all these debates? He believed that the intention of the Bill was to secure to the tenant a "fair and reasonable" compensation; and, therefore, in considering, under the Amendment, whether the agreement which gave the compensation was in accord with the "object and intention of the Act," the valuers would have, in fact, to consider whether the compensation was "fair and reasonable." Why, then, should not that be done directly under the words, as proposed by the Bill, rather than indirectly under the words proposed by the Amendment? He was informed that one important Chamber of Agricul- 70 ture, if not more, after full discussion, had resolved in favour of the term "adequate" in lieu of "fair and reasonable." he confessed he did not himself think this term less vague, or more likely to secure a just decision, nor did he think it so much in keeping with the spirit of the Bill. Unless, therefore, the Government could find some better term than "fair and reasonable"—and he doubted whether they could do so—he hoped they would adhere to the Bill as now framed.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, it was quite possible that landlords would compel tenants to enter into agreements, giving compensation entirely inadequate to the circumstances under which the agreements were made. He was quite aware that lion. Gentlemen might say that there was no great chance of tenants being put under such a screw, because landowners were of opinion that, in the present state of agriculture, tenants had a better chance than they had had in former years of looking after their own interests. That was true, no doubt. It was to be hoped that the great depression in agriculture would not continue; but, at all events, as long as it had continued, the effect had been, no doubt, to reduce the value of the land, and to increase the number of farms not in occupation; and, therefore, to give tenants seeking farms an opportunity of making terms with landowners and land agents. This Bill had been drafted, not with a view to a particular state of agriculture, but to the normal state of agriculture. In Great Britain, there was but a very small amount of land; and it was quite clear that, under normal circumstances, applications for land would be greater than the land could meet, a knowledge of which would put tenants in a position of not being able to make fair contracts. Under the circumstances, it appeared to him that they ought to keep words in the clause which would give some protection to the tenant. he appealed to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were landlords, not to try to water this Bill down to such weakness that it would be scarcely worth having.
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
said, it would be in the recollection of the Committee that they arrived at this point last night—namely, that his right hon. Friend (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) asked whether an agreement, under the 71 Agricultural Holdings (England) Act of 1875, would be deemed to give "fair and reasonable compensation?" The right hon. Gentleman stated that, generally speaking, such would be held to be the case, but that there might be parts of the country where that might not be held to be so; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) suggested that a Proviso might be added to the clause defining what was "fair and reasonable." Now, what was wanted was that which many Amendments and speeches had pointed to—that there should be some sort of definition, as far as they could determine, as to what was "fair and reasonable;" so that the matter should not be left in doubt. It was of the greatest disadvantage to the tenant, quite as much as to the landlord, to have this matter remaining undecided. The Government had expressed a willingness to listen to a proposal to define the words "fair and reasonable." His right hon. Friend the Member for East Gloucestershire did make some such suggestion, although he did not formulate the words. He (Sir Baldwyn Leighton) desired to take this opportunity of acknowledging and recognizing that Her Majesty's Government had, during the course of this Bill, endeavoured to meet reasonable proposals coining from any side of the House; and he believed they would find this feeling was reciprocated by the Members of the Committee generally. He had on the Paper a Proviso which he was not competent to move on this Amendment; but he would be in Order in reading it. It was a Proviso in the sense of the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon; and if it were adopted by the Government, it probably might take the place of many Amendments on the Paper, and tend very much to shorten the discussion. It was to this effect—Provided always, where such an agreement in writing secures the prescribed compensation in the Agricultural Holdings (England) Act of 1875, or such other compensation as is generally equivalent to the same, according to the custom of the locality, such compensation shall be deemed to be 'fair and reasonable' within the meaning of this Act.That would be a definition and standard for a Court of Law, or an arbitrator, or a referee to go upon; and he believed 72 that if the Government could intimate their readiness to accept some such proposal at the end of the clause they would get rid of many Amendments, and farmers and landlords would be no longer in suspense as to how "fair and reasonable" would be interpreted. All that was asked was, that there should be a standard of what was "fair and reasonable." There was no doubt that "fair and reasonable" were legal words; but they were not agricultural words, and the uncertainty was what they wished to get rid of.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, he had also been greatly puzzled with the words "fair and reasonable." He could not understand what their operation would be. His impression was, that the proposal made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope) would meet the difficulty. He understood that the hon. Gentleman would subsequently move to add, at the end of the clause, these words—"Unless the agreement is contrary to, or in evasion of, the object and intention of this Act." Of course, these words were, in a certain sense, vague; but he apprehended that no words they could possibly find could be otherwise than vague. They must either say that any agreement should oust an Act of Parliament, or they must have some words of this kind, which were liable to discussion, and possibly to litigation. It was only a question as to which would lead to the least litigation, and which would be most clear to ordinary minds. What was wanted was an Act of Parliament which a farmer could understand as well as a lawyer; and he was of opinion that the words proposed by the lion. Member for Mid Lincolnshire were certainly as good — indeed, he (Mr. W. Fowler) thought they were better — than the words "fair and reasonable." If the hon. Gentleman went to a Division he should vote with him.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he was glad to hear the observations which had just fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for the borough of Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler), because he (Mr. Chaplin) had never departed from the view which he entertained in regard to this matter. There was just one word which fell from the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) upon which he would 73 like to make a remark. The hon. Gentleman said that the effect of this Amendment would be to water down the Bill. Now, he (Mr. Chaplin) had ascertained two matters in connection with this Amendment, which, perhaps, he ought to have mentioned to the Committee before. The first was, that the Amendment was unanimously accepted at a meeting of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, met for the purpose of discussing this Bill, and of making suggestions, with the view of strengthening it in the interests of the tenant. He also found that these words were taken from an original draft of one of the measures introduced by the Farmers' Alliance. Tinder the circumstances he did not think these words could be considered to weaken the Bill in the interest of the tenant farmers. The Committee were most anxious to come to a decision, and he would appeal to the Government to accept the Amendment, and put an end to what must necessarily be a prolonged controversy.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he sympathized with the wishes of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), that there should be as much latitude as possible given to an agreement between landlord and tenant. They were told there was no standard set up of what was "fair and reasonable compensation;" but they had laid down in the Bill what he presumed was considered to be fair and reasonable compensation for improvements. He thought that the clear course to adopt in regard to this measure was to lay down that the provisions of this Bill formed a reasonable standard of compensation; that landlords and tenants might have power to enter into agreements for a higher rate of compensation than would be provided in the Bill; but that, in order to avoid litigation, and to make sure that farmers should have the benefit of this Bill, such as it was, a Proviso should be inserted, to the effect that farmers entering into agreements of the kind which was desired by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire should have the option of claiming compensation, either under the agreement, or under the Bill. If hon. Members were anxious to give farmers the benefit of the Bill, or something better, and also at the same time to avoid litigation, they ought to accept 74 the solution of the question he (Mr. J. W. Barclay) now proposed.
§ MR. DODSON
said, he stated last night that the Government had not heard, or received, from any quarter, any suggestion which they could prefer to the words to be found in the Bill; and he was bound to say that the reflection over night had not altered that opinion. The words "fair and reasonable," as he had stated last night, and as was stated just now, by the hon. Baronet the Member for Midhurst (Sir Henry Holland), were words known to the law. It was said they were not words understood by farmers. It certainly appeared to him (Mr. Dodson) that they were clear and intelligible to the lay mind—at least, as intelligible as the words proposed to be substituted; and he could not agree that those hon. Gentlemen who had taken the view that the Amendment to be moved by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope)—namely, "unless such agreement is contrary to, or in evasion of, the objects and intention of this Act," would be as clear as the words "fair and reasonable." It would be very difficult to say what agreement was contrary to, or in evasion of, the Act. It was necessary to have, in relation to these words "fair and reasonable," some standard upon which the Court could go. There was a standard provided by the Bill. The Bill laid down what the compensation should be—namely, the value of the improvements. There was thus a standard for the Court to go by; and, therefore, "fair and reasonable" compensation might be something which approximately gave to a tenant the value of his improvements, though it might be given in some other form than that which was provided under the terms of the Act. He presumed they were now discussing the Amendment of which Notice had been given by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), therefore he would not proceed to discuss the Amendment which had been placed on the Paper by the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), which he presumed would be moved as a subsequent Amendment ["Go on!"] If it was the pleasure of the Committee that he should on, he would state why he preferred to retain the clause in the form in which it stood, 75 rather than adopt the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Baronet. The Amendment of the right hon. Baronet was to insert the words "the specific compensation provided by 'The Agricultural Holdings (England) Act, 1875' or other." Now, the effect of that would be to set up a double standard—a standard under the Bill, and a standard under the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1875. He was at a loss to know, if they provided in this clause that an agreement in the terms of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1875, was to be considered a "fair and reasonable" standard, how the Court could set aside such agreement. If they were to put before the Court, by the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet, an agreement embodying the terms of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1875, he did not know how the Court could decide that it was not "fair and reasonable," or how it could set the agreement aside. He thought it would be unwise to adopt that Amendment in other respects. It would bring in all those petty restrictions with regard to manures and feeding stuff; and, therefore, he thought they had better leave in the clause the words "fair and reasonable," which were generally intelligible to the lay mind. To go back to the Amendment immediately before them—namely, that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), it had been stated that the words wore approved by the Central Chamber of Agriculture. He (Mr. Dodson) had great respect for the Central Chamber of Agriculture as an authority on agricultural matters; but when they were drafting an Act of Parliament, it was the Government and the House of Commons that must be responsible, and must take upon them-solves the framing of a measure that would work, and be acceptable to the public at large. They could not, therefore, be content to accept what they thought worse words, because they had received the approbation of agricultural meetings.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH
said, the provisions of the Bill might be intelligible to lawyers; but what was feared was that they would not be intelligible to the public generally. The object of this and several other Amendments was, that there should be something done to preserve the landlords 76 and tenants who only desired to make bonâ fide agreements amongst them-solves from troublesome and costly lawsuits. He disclaimed, as he was sure his hon. Friend (Mr. Chaplin) did, any desire to water down the Bill; but lie could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Dodson) that there was anything in the Bill which was a sufficient standard on which the valuers could work. On the contrary, it seemed to him that the provisions of the Bill were framed so as to leave everything in the vaguest possible way to the valuers, although, no doubt, the Bill had been, to some extent, made plainer by the Amendments that had been already introduced in the 1st clause, Now, his proposal, which he would venture very shortly to allude to, because the right hon. Gentleman had alluded to it, was that there should be some standard fixed on which both landlord and tenant might agree, and which, if once fixed, should be recognized by the Courts, when it came to be interpreted at the determination of the tenancy, as an agreement giving, in the words of the Bill, fair and reasonable compensation. Why had the right hon. Gentleman proposed an alternative agreement? It seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman must have felt, in the first place, that the provisions of the Bill were, as he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) had already stated, so vague that landlords and tenants, in very many instances, would, in order to insure some certainty in the future, seek to make an agreement; and, in the second place, that the provisions of an Act of Parliament on this subject, whatever they might be, could not be universally applicable to every part of the country. He believed many landlords and tenants would desire, by a bonâ fide agreement, to relieve themselves from the vagueness of the Bill, and he proposed to enable them to know when they had succeeded in doing so. The Act of 1875 laid down, clearly and distinctly, what the improvements were for which the tenant was to be compensated.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, the right hon. Gentleman had described those as potty restrictions; but he did not believe that there were any petty 77 restrictions in the Act of 1875 at all. If, however, the Government considered that they were unfair restrictions, would the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy suggest in what particulars they were unfair; and would he go further than that, and amend his Bill, in order to make provision for them? Let the Committee turn to the rules relating to artificial manures and feeding stuffs. The Act of 1875 provided that, in awarding compensation, consideration should be given to the expenditure incurred in this way for a period of two years preceding, provided that the outlay during the last year of tenancy was not more than the average annual outlay for the three years preceding. That proposal it was intended, in a subsequent Amendment, he believed, to engraft upon the Bill; but what he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) desired was, that such an agreement as was contained in that provision should, if made, be held to be a valid agreement between the landlord and tenant. He certainly failed to see anything wrong in such a proposition, and it practically endorsed the proposal made by the Select Committee last year, of which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was Chairman. He believed that Committee unanimously agreed that the provisions of the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1875 should be adopted as one of the alternative methods of granting fair and reasonable compensation to a tenant. Why were the Committee to depart from that basis now? All he wanted was that there should be some possibility of landlords and tenants meeting each other on fair and suitable grounds. If they adopted the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), embodied in the Bill which his hon. Friend had introduced last year, and agreed that the landlord and tenant, having made rules by which compensation should be assessed, should submit those rules to arbitration in the manner provided by the Bill on the commencement of the tenancy; and if an agreement so sanctioned by the arbitrator were held to be valid at the termination of the tenancy, then he should be quite content. All he desired was, that there should be some possibility, on the part of the landlord and tenant, who desired to act fairly by each other, to relieve them- 78 selves and their representatives from the future litigation which this Bill certainly seemed to open out for them. All he wanted was, that there should be some opportunity of making a bonâ fide agreement, and that the landlord and tenant should be placed upon such a footing that they should be able to adopt that course. But, by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the Government absolutely declined, as far as he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) could see, to accept any Amendment; it declined to put any interpretation upon the words "fair and reasonable;" and it refused to insert words in the clause which should have the effect of enabling the parties to escape from litigation. He had no alternative left but to support the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that he objected to the Amendment which he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) had placed upon the Paper, because it would have the effect of establishing the Lincolnshire custom—which the right hon. Gentleman admitted to be a good custom—throughout the whole of England. Now, his Amendment proposed nothing of the kind. It simply allowed a reference to that custom, and if anything different was required, it could be adopted; but he sincerely hoped that there would be, before the debate closed, a much more favourable expression of opinion from the Government than that which had yet fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, and that the Government would not persist in their refusal to consider an Amendment on. the subject.
§ MR. DODSON
said, be thought he ought to apologize for discussing two Amendments at once; but he was afraid he had been encouraged in doing so by the action of the Committee itself. The right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), however, proposed to go a step further, and ask the Committee to consider three Amendments, with a view to carrying out the object of the Bill of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin). As the Amendment now before the Committee was the Amendment which the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire had himself moved—namely, to insert certain words in the clause, and as he (Mr. Dodson) had already expressed his opinion that the 79 words proposed to be inserted could not be accepted, it was not necessary that he should carry the discussion further.
§ MR. JAMES HOWARD
said, that an allusion had been made by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) to the fact that it was proposed to add a clause, on the recommendation of the Farmers' Alliance, in order to prevent the Bill from leaving anything to be determined by a Court of Law. The proposal of the Farmers' Alliance contained an Arbitration Clause, and that clause was so clear in respect of compensation, that there could be no difficulty as to the interpretation of its terms. He (Mr. James Howard) objected not only to the words "fair and reasonable," but to the whole section; but on totally different grounds from those which had been urged. He objected to it, because it was an unnecessary interference with the form of contract; and he objected further to the present section, because it proposed to allow the provisions of the Act to be set aside. If the Act were just and reasonable, and its conditions were suitable, why should they allow any parties to set it aside? He would ask the Committee seriously to consider whether a Bill which provided for compensation to tenant farmers should involve the necessity of an appeal to a Court of Law? How could such a course inspire that confidence in the breasts of tenant farmers, necessary to induce them to make the outlay which it was the very object of the Bill to stimulate? He entirely agreed with what had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay) in believing that the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for West Staffordshire (Mr. Staveley Hill) afforded a solution of the difficulty. The Bill introduced by that hon. and learned Member gave the tenant the option of claiming compensation under the provisions of the Act; but it did not involve the necessity of resorting to a Court of Law. He could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucestershire that the Act of 1875 left nothing to be desired. He objected to the whole section as being a most one-sided one, and he believed that the entire object of the Bill would be defeated, unless the tenant and the landlord were 80 precluded from the necessity of resorting to a Court of Law.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, that, as far as he could understand the matter, the words of the clause as they stood were the best. What the Committee had to consider were the improvements referred to in the Schedule of the Bill; and the question was whether any agreement between the landlord and the tenant for compensation, in respect of such improvements, should prevent the operation of the Bill? His opinion was that the only way to prevent the operation of the Bill was to provide for the payment of proper compensation. It was only fair that such provision should be made as far as the landlord and tenant were concerned; and he failed to see how they could better provide for it than by inserting the words "fair and reasonable," which were words well known and recognized by law, and ought not to give rise to much difficulty as far as he knew. Of course, either party might apply to a Court to decide what were fair and reasonable terms; and it was desirable, therefore, to provide, as far as possible, by the Bill, that the umpire or arbitrator should be a competent person. The working of all the clauses of the Bill would depend, to a great extent, upon the competency of the persons who were appointed to carry out the provisions of the measure. He, therefore, trusted that the provisions of the Bill would secure the nomination of properly-qualified and competent persons. If that were done, he certainly failed to see that there would be any difficulty in the matter.
§ MR. ALBERT GREY
said, he hoped that the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) would withdraw his Amendment, and allow the Bill to proceed. He could not see the slightest difference between the words in the Bill and the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member. He certainly failed to see any possible safeguard in the Amendment. If an impartial person were asked to read an agreement, and to decide whether it was fair and reasonable on the one hand, or whether such an agreement was contrary to or an evasion of the Act, he would be bound to express the same opinion. He therefore thought that the Committee were at present engaged on 81 a most unprofitable discussion; and he hoped the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire, by withdrawing the Amendment, would allow the matter to drop, and enable the Committee to proceed to something which was of real importance.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 84; Noes 221: Majority 137.—(Div. List, No. 219.)
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH
said, he now proposed to move, as an Amendment, in page 3, line 7, after the word "Act," to insert "the specific compensation provided by The Agricultural Holdings (England) Act, 1875,' or other."
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 7, after the word "Act," to insert the words "the specific compensation provided by The Agricultural Holdings (England) Act, 1875,' or other."—(Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. DODSON
said, he hoped the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) would not consider that he was wanting in respect to the Amendment if lie declined to discuss the questions which had been raised further.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, there was only one question he wished to ask—namely, that if the Government would not accept the Amendment, would they agree to the insertion of a clause in the Bill, which would define more accurately than at present the rules under which the arbitrators were to assess compensation under the Act? If that were done, the object he had in view would be entirely accomplished.
§ MR. DODSON
said, he could not undertake to insert in the Bill rules for the guidance of the valuers. He was bound to say that he thought the valuers were much more likely to know their own business than the House of Commons was able to teach them.
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
asked if the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster would accept a provision which he proposed to insert at the end of the Bill, in order to attach more certainty to the terms upon which the compensation was to be given?
§ MR. DODSON
said, the question be fore the Committee was the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach); and, no doubt, when the proper time arrived, the Committee would be prepared to give the proposition of the hon. Baronet (Sir Baldwyn Leighton) every consideration it deserved.
§ MR. H. H. PAGET
said, the decision at which the Committee had arrived by a large majority in no way interfered with the Amendment they were now discussing, although, no doubt, the question had been discussed, to a great extent, in considering the last Amendment before the Committee. At the same time, the decision of the Committee had been taken upon that Amendment, and upon that Amendment alone, and in no way had the Committee arrived at a decision in regard to the present proposition. Therefore, he hoped the Committee would see its way to the acceptance of the Amendment now before it; and, with the indulgence of the Committee, he would give one or two instances why, in his opinion, that course ought to be taken. Since the Act of 1875 it was notorious that thousands of agreements had been entered into, embodying, more or less, the provisions of that Act, in respect of the different districts to which those agreements applied. Every one of those agreements had now the force of law. The present Bill would destroy the validity of every one of them, and in future they would be left in a state of absolute uncertainty, because the Bill set up no standard which was to give the valuer anything whatever to go upon. Nay, even more than that—and he would ask the particular attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to this — by the Bill they virtually repealed the Act of 1875. Might not the valuer be likely to say—"Parliament has repealed that Statute, because it was a bad Act, and because its provisions were not applicable; and, therefore, I decline to consider that the sections of that Act afford any information to guide me in making my award in regard to the valuations." He did not think there could be any difference upon that point, and the effect of the present Bill would be to set aside every 83 one of the agreements made under the Act of 1875, no matter how well weighed, or how well considered they might have been. It would be a matter of the greatest possible advantage to a valuer that he should, at least, have before him one standard to go upon. He would say—"Here is an agreement made absolutely in accordance with the Act of 1875; it is a perfectly valid agreement; but here is another agreement which does not follow that Act word for word, or line by line, but it makes some minute alteration applicable to the peculiar circumstances of the case. Now, he (Mr. R. H. Paget) contended that that, nevertheless, ought to be considered to be a valid agreement. If they took away the Act of 1875, let them see what it was that the Bill proposed to set up instead. It provided no standard whatever, and it was as clear as possible that everything would he landed in confusion. There would be a doubt thrown upon the validity of every ono of these agreements, no matter how bonâ fide they might have been entered into with the tenants; and he was bound to say that, in a great majority of cases, they would have been entered into after full discussion and consideration with the tenants. The consequence would be that, although they were fully prepared to recognize the spirit and justice of the Act of 1875, every agreement entered into under it would not be worth the paper upon which it was written; because at any moment it might be said that the agreement was not fair and reasonable. It was in the interests of the farmers of England that he strongly urged Her Majesty's Government to accept the Amendment now before them. If they did not, the consequence would be that both landlords and tenants in the future would be landed in a world of difficult litigation, the end of which it was impossible at present to foresee. He, therefore, made the strongest appeal in his power to Her Majesty's Government to accept the Amendment; and if he wanted to adduce any argument in favour of the proposition it was this — that there had been no meeting of farmers, either in connection with the Central Chamber of Agriculture or any other Chamber or place throughout the whole of England, where distinct exception had not been taken to this very clause, 84 owing to its vagueness and uncertainty, and to a strong feeling that it must eventually give rise to an enormous amount of litigation. He knew it was contended that, if these words were inserted, a Court of Law would be bound to interpret the Act of 1875 as being of universal application. He was of opinion that it would be impossible, in the face of the words themselves, to maintain that view. How would the words run as the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire proposed to introduce them?—not that the Act of 1875 should be the one and the only thing; but there were to come in afterwards the words "or other fair and reasonable compensation." The point the Committee had to consider was this. Wherever the Act of 1875 was applicable, that Act having been accepted ipso facto, an agreement entered into under it should be a legal and valid one; but if the Act had not been accepted, then it should not be applicable, if any other fair and reasonable arrangement could come in. He asked the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Government to give the farmers of England the credit of understanding their own business. He knew what they wanted, and he was bound to say that what they did want was that they should be able to bring in the Act of 1875 as a standard, and as something to help them in preventing future litigation.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, he hoped that, after the lengthy discussion which had taken place upon the subject, the Committee would consent to arrive at a decision upon it. He fully recognized the fact that his right hon. Friend the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) had not approached the subject with any hostility to the Bill, but with a desire to assist the Government in framing the clause. But if Her Majesty's Government were prepared to stand by their proposal, it must be considered that it was not only on the ground that they had no hostility to the proposal because it came from the other side of the House, but from a firm belief that the proposition now made in the Bill in its present shape was the best for the House and the country to accept. His great objection to the Amendment of his right hon. Friend was that it set up a second 85 standard in opposition to that which was already contained in the Bill. The proposal of the Bill was that—In the case of a tenancy under a contract of tenancy beginning after the commencement of this Act, any particular agreement in writing secures to the tenant for any improvement mentioned in the third part of the Schedule hereto, and executed after the commencement of this Act, fair and reasonable compensation, then in such case the compensation in respect of such improvement shall be payable in pursuance of the particular agreement, and shall be deemed to be substituted for compensation under this Act.But the right hon. Gentleman proposed to set up a second standard—namely, to provide that fair and reasonable compensation should be the specific compensation provided by the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1875. Now, for his (Mr. Shaw Lefevre's) part, he had been under the impression that the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1875,,had not been so universally accepted as to afford any indication that the tenant farmers or landlords were satisfied with it. Personally, he had never been one of those who had condemned the Act, or who had entertained any great objection to the compensation -provided under it; but he was certainly under the impression that the great bulk of the persons interested in the Act declined to adopt it, and that many of the landlords had given notice of their intention not to be bound by it, or to accept its provisions as a satisfactory standard of compensation. No doubt, in many parts of the country the standard of compensation had been accepted as a suitable one; but, in other parts, that had not been the case. For instance, in the county of Lincoln, although the standard laid down by the Act very nearly approached the Lincolnshire custom, it was not considered to be as satisfactory as that custom itself. Now, the Government had no desire to set up a second standard in the present Bill, and there were other objections to such a course—namely, the confusion which would occur in a Bill which virtually repealed the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1875, by incorporating in it certain clauses of that kind in a very inconvenient form. If the principle of the Amendment were adopted by the Committee, it would be necessary to specify the particular scale of compensation under the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1875, in a new Schedule; and 86 any reference in such a manner would, he thought, be a most inconvenient mode of dealing with the question.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, his right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had admitted that the difficulty of form might be overcome by inserting a new Schedule in the Bill. He must confess that he was very much surprised to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that, in his opinion, the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1875 had failed, because it was not acceptable to the country at large. he had certainly heard, over and over again, from the right hon. Gentleman and others who sat on that side of the House, that the failure of the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1875—and it was a point in regard to which hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House had always been twitted—was due to the fact that it was not compulsory, and that wicked landlords prevented their tenants from coming under it. It was now objected to upon entirely different grounds, although the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works admitted that it was suitable to the relations between landlords and tenants in many parts of England. All that he asked was, that in those parts of the country where Her Majesty's Government deemed that it was suitable, the landlords and tenants should be at liberty to adopt it, and that if they did adopt it, Parliament should sanction their action, and not exclude them from the benefits of these definite provisions, which had already received the assent of the Legislature.
§ MR. BULWER
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works was labouring under an entire misapprehension when he told the Committee that the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) would introduce a new standard of compensation. It would do nothing of the kind. All that it did was to ask the Committee that agreements made in accordance with the provisions of the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1975 should be considered to be fair and reasonable. The Amendment of his right hon. Friend did not add anything to the Act of Parliament; but it simply made that clear which otherwise would be obscure. It was simply a direction to 87 the valuer or to the Court to justify them in holding that an agreement entered into under the terms of the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1875 was a valid agreement. The only object was to make that which was considered a fair and reasonable agreement compulsory. Therefore, the Amendment could only have a good effect. It was introducing nothing new, and certainly not establishing a second standard.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 111; Noes 167: Majority 56.—(Div. List, No. 220.)
§ MR. JAMES HOWARD
rose, and said, he had a similar Amendment upon the Paper, which preceded that of the hon. Member.
said, the Amendment which appeared on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. James Howard) had already been disposed of by the previous Division.
§ MR. BIDDELL
said, he was of opinion that the circumstances of the case were not sufficient to warrant Parliament in upsetting the freedom of contract; and he should therefore propose to leave out the words "fair and reasonable." Perhaps his position would be better understood if he were to put a suppositious case. Suppose that a man made an agreement allowing his tenant 70 per cent for the oil cake consumed upon the farm. Now, that would not be reasonable; it would be a most excessive amount of compensation. At the same time, if a contract of that nature had been entered into, he did not see why it should be upset. On the other hand, if the contract was to allow 10 per cent for the use of oil cake, that would be excessively low and unreasonable; but, nevertheless, he did not think that the contract ought to be upset on that ground. His great object in proposing that Amendment was to uphold freedom of contract. At the same time, as he saw no chance whatever of carrying his Amendment, he thought the best thing he could do was to withdraw it, and not submit it to the decision of the Committee.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.88
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
moved, as an Amendment, to leave out "fair and reasonable compensation," and to insert—Such compensation as, in the opinion of the Referees, is not less than is provided by this Act.His object was to provide that the reasonableness of the compensation should be determined by reference to the provisions of the Act. One great objection to the use of the word "reasonable" was that it required a lawsuit in order to determine what was reasonable; and he thought it would be better, therefore, to guide the arbitrator in his determination of what was fair and reasonable by referring him to the terms of the Act itself. He did not happen to know what was the policy of the Government in regard to this question. He did not know whether they intended to propose one general clause dealing with questions arising between the landlord and tenant under agreements. If they did, it would not be necessary to persist in this Amendment; because the object he had in view would be fully covered by a general clause in the Bill relating to disputes between the landlord and tenant. In submitting the Amendment, he was simply anxious to give the Government an opportunity of stating their views.
In page 3, line 8, leave out "fair and reasonable compensation," and insert "such compensation as, in the opinion of the Referees, is not less than is provided by this Act."—(Mr. J. W. Barclay.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. DODSON
said, he thought he had stated the other night that these matters, under the Bill as it stood, might be questions of the construction of the agreement, and would have to be determined by a Court of Law. He doubted very much whether the determination of matters of that kind should be left to a referee or valuer. It might be a question altogether of the construction of the agreement; and he thought the effect of incorporating Clause 36 of the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1875 would be to take all such questions to a Court of Law. He was inclined to think, from what passed the other night, that that would be the best course to follow. Perhaps there might be a question 89 whether minor disputes might not be settled by arbitrators — for instance, where the sum at issue was less than £100, and that questions of a higher amount should be subject to an appeal to a higher Court. But, as at present advised, he should prefer to leave the clause in the form in which it stood.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, that, as he understood the Bill, the only resort, in nearly every one of these cases, would be to a Court of Law. There should be something in the Act to enable an ordinary valuer to decide the position in which an agreement might place the contracting parties; and he still hoped the Government would do something in that direction.
§ MR. DODSON
said, he apprehended that if any difference as to amount arose between the parties, it would be submitted, in the first instance, to arbitration.
§ SIR THOMAS ACLAND
said, in his opinion, if matters had to be decided, he should prefer their being decided in open Court. The objection to references was that they were secret, and no one ever knew how they were settled. If a high class umpire could be secured, possibly some kind of arbitration might be arrangeable; but he believed it would be far better for the parties to go into open Court and be examined as witnesses.
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
said, he had been to may meetings where this matter had been discussed, and the farmers all put their finger upon this clause, and asked what was the meaning of "fair and reasonable compensation." It was not a term which conveyed anything definite to the agricultural mind, and he doubted whether it did to the legal mind. Farmers were entirely opposed to having this matter hung up in this manner; and, therefore, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be ready to accept an Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman said these matters would be settled by valuation; but a valuation was one thing, and the point whether an agreement was fair and reasonable was another thing. "Fair and reasonable" was simply a legal opinion; it was a matter simply of judgment and custom, and therefore the two things were not the same.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, everybody seemed to treat an agreement as if it 90 were a matter of about two lines. Until an agreement was in the hands of the valuators they could not tell whether it was fair as a whole, or in part, or what part they objected to; and therefore he did not see that, as a matter of necessity, the matter would go a Court of Law. He hoped such a matter would not go to a Court of Law at all, and he thought the obvious way of dealing with the question was for the valuator to take the agreement into his own hands; and if he, on the part of the tenant or the landlord, took exception to any portion of it, an umpire could be called in to decide whether it was fair or not. There was a very good class of men—Inspectors under the Land Commissioners — and either landlords or tenants would rather have their decision on a practical point than that of a County Court Judge, who knew nothing about agriculture, and nothing about agreements. Therefore, he thought there was a great deal in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay), for anything that would keep landlords and tenants out of a Court of Law would be a great advantage.
§ MR. CARTWRIGHT
said, he hoped the Government would not give way upon this point. It appeared to him that the Amendment involved this—that not only when a dispute rose, but in every case if compensation was secured by private agreement, it must be made a matter of reference. That, he thought, would be most objectionable; because, although he had great respect for valuers, very nice questions might arise; and, while he was as unwilling as the hon. Baronet the Member for North Devonshire (Sir Thomas Acland) to go into Courts of Law, yet, if difficult and delicate questions arose, it would be far better that they should be settled in Courts of Law than by valuers, who had very little experience in reference to such matters.
§ MR. JAMES HOWARD
said, he hoped the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay) would go to a Division, unless the Government gave a promise to introduce some words to the same effect as the Amendment. He was satisfied that the Bill would be a failure, for there was no class of people in the country more afraid of law than tenant farmers. As to valuers, they were constantly called upon to settle difficulties 91 arising from agreements, and to determine what they meant.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, the valuer had only to determine what was fair and reasonable; but if the matter went to a Court of Law, lie would not express any opinion, for it was a question of practice, and he would refer it to someone of skill to determine.
§ MR. RAMSAY
said, he hoped the Government would do everything in their power to avoid the necessity of a tenant having to go to a Court of Law. He knew of nothing that was a greater detriment to the community than that landlords and tenants should go to law; and if the words of this section in any way encouraged litigation, they would be very prejudicial. As the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay) had said, there was no class in the community who regarded with distrust and suspicion the action of Courts of Law and deprecated litigation so much as tenant farmers. He hoped, therefore, that when the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dodson) considered this clause, he would be able to introduce some specific provision which should render any appeal to Courts of Law unlikely.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
said, he hoped the Government would not give way. The Committee had, spent several hours last night on this matter, and he thought the argument which had had most weight was, that the words were well known in legal documents, and, so to speak, were capable of legal interpretation. Now, however, it was proposed to refer this delicate question to hap-hazard valuers, who, whatever their other merits, were not very well informed on such matters as this.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, that another objection to throwing this matter into the hands of valuers—namely, the question of whether the compensation was fair and reasonable — would arise on every occasion; but if it was left to a Court of Law the question would only arise in extreme cases.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
, in moving to insert at the end of the clause—Provided always, That where such agreement in writing secures specific compensation prescribed under 'The Agricultural Holdings Act, 1875,' or such other compensation as is 92 generally equivalent to the same, according to the custom of the locality, such compensation shall be deemed fair and reasonable within the meaning of this Act,said, that when this question was discussed last night at the instance of the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks- Beach), he raised the point whether, in the case of a farm or an estate under the Act of 1875, compensation upon these terms would be held to be fair and reasonable; and the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Dodson) expressed the opinion that it would be so held, in most cases, except in such cases where the cultivation or custom of the district made it unreasonable or insufficient. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) suggested that some Proviso, embodying the opinions which had been put forward by the right hon. Baronet, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and himself should be proposed. He (Sir Baldwyn Leighton) believed that would be the easiest and simplest way of getting some standard of compensation, and doing away with constant references to Courts of Law. The hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay) had just told the Committee that what tenant farmers dreaded most was litigation. He quite agreed in that. They were afraid of uncertainty, and would rather trust to the evils they had than fly to others they knew not of; and nothing would more weaken the effect of this Bill than matters being left over. Tenant farmers had pointed oat this element of uncertainty at many meetings. The words "fair and reasonable" conveyed nothing to them, and what a landlord might consider "fair and reasonable" a tenant might not; and a definition or standard incorporated in the Bill would greatly simplify matters. There was also an element of elasticity desirable, for it was impossible to draw any agreement which would suit every county.
In page 3, at end of Clause, to add these words—"Provided always, That where such agreement in writing secures specific compensation prescribed under the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1875, or such other compensation as is generally equivalent to the same, according to the cultivation or custom of the locality, such compensation shall be deemed fair and reasonable within the meaning of this Act."—(Sir Baldwyn Leighton.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
In page 3, to add at the end of the Clause—"Where, under a tenancy commencing before the passing of this Act, either no rent or a merely nominal rent was made payable at the commencement of the tenancy, and thenceforth during either the whole or a portion only of the term of the tenancy, in consideration, either expressed or implied, of the tenant making any reclamation or other improvement, then the tenant shall be deemed, by means of abatement of his rent, to have received compensation for such reclamation or other improvement, and the compensation so received by him shall be deemed substituted for compensation under this Act."—(Mr. A. F. Egerton.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH
said, he desired to raise a very important point, upon which he had spoken on a previous Amendment. he proposed to add at the end of the clause—Provided, That a landlord and tenant may, before executing any such particular agreement, concur in referring the terms thereof to an umpire, to be appointed in manner provided by section twenty-three of 'The Agricultural Holdings (England) Act, 1875;' and an agreement which has been found by such umpire to secure such fair and reasonable compensation as aforesaid, and has been signed by the landlord and tenant and countersigned by the umpire, shall be deemed to secure fair and reasonable compensation to the tenant.All that he desired, by this Amendment, was to enable the landlord and tenant, if they chose, to do at the commencement of a tenancy what the Bill would enable them to do at its termination. The compensation under this Bill must, of course, be settled by the valuers at a certain amount, but according to certain rules. He did not interfere with the 94 amount at which the compensation was to be fixed; but it would be necessary that an agreement should contain certain rules as to the mode in which it should be computed, and he wished that the two persons who desired to make an agreement of this kind should be permitted to refer it to an impartial umpire of the independence contemplated by the Act of 1875, who should decide whether or not the agreement provided the fair and reasonable compensation intended by the Bill.
At the end of the Clause, to add the words—"Provided, That a landlord and tenant may, before executing any such particular agreement, concur in referring the terms thereof to an umpire, to be appointed in manner provided by section twenty-three of 'The Agricultural Holdings (England) Act, 1875;' and an agreement which has been found by such umpire to secure such fair and reasonable compensation as aforesaid, and has been signed by the landlord and tenant, and countersigned by the umpire, shall be deemed to secure fair and reasonable compensation to the tenant." — (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
said, that, in his opinion, if the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Dodson) was going to oppose every one of these Amendments, it was time to report Progress, and let this question stand over till the Amendment could appear on the Paper and the right hon. Gentleman had had an opportunity of judging whether he could accept it or not.
It being ten minutes before Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to report Progress; Committee to sit again this day.