§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(The Lord Advocate.)
§ SIR HERBERT MAXWELL
said, he thought that if Scotch Members were inclined to complain of the manner in which Scotch Business was transacted in this House, they would have a grievance on the present occasion. A most important question had been raised, affecting the whole agricultural interest of England and Scotland. One would suppose, in common fairness, that the question relating to Scotland would have been given the same prominence as was given to the same question respecting England. But that had not been the case; for whereas the English Agricultural Holdings Bill was put down as the first Order upon a Government night, the Scotch Bill was only put down as the second Order last night. Scotch Members were kept waiting in uncertainty until a comparatively late hour, and now the Bill was almost flung at their heads without a word of explanation from the Government. Therefore they approached, or might approach, the consideration of this measure in a very unfavourable mood, as they had no official knowledge of the provisions of the Bill. They would be referred, no doubt, to a great deal that had been said in the promotion of the English Bill as applicable to this measure; but, for his part, he thought it would have been a preferable mode of procedure if one Bill had been devised for the two countries, with such variations in the clauses as might be called for by the difference in the laws of the two countries. He was glad, however, to have an opportunity of considering the Bill, even at this comparatively late 1763 period of the Session. Any remarks as to the details of the Bill which might suggest themselves to hon. Members would, he thought, be better deferred for discussion in Committee. Therefore, the few remarks he should offer for consideration would refer rather to the general principles involved in the Bill, and its general effect upon land tenure in Scotland. He supposed that among the many promises entered into by candidates for Parliamentary honours at the late General Election, none flowed more glibly from the tongue, none commended themselves more to the honest judgment of those who made them, and none were more acceptable to those who heard them, than the promises made to support a measure to secure the farmer in the outlay of his capital, and to give compensation for unexhausted improvements. Agriculture at that time was, perhaps, at the depth of depression. The sympathies of every class of the community had been extended towards the farmers, and any practical means of relieving them, consistent with prudence and expediency, had been discussed and considered by every class of the community. As was usual in times of perplexity and difficulty, there had been a plethora of advice. A host of plans had been suggested, and some that seemed to many of them to have a very small practical bearing upon the question at issue. Advantage had been taken of the state of matters that prevailed to recommend the abolition of long-established customs, which had not been thought inimical or deleterious to the farming interest. But even those of them who could not approve of the movement for abolishing the Law of Primogeniture or the Law of Entail, not seeing how farming was to be affected by the abolition of these laws, had thoroughly agreed that, if a sound measure could be provided to protect farmers against loss, to prevent landlords gathering where they had not strawed, they were all of one mind and one voice in promising their support to a measure of that description. He supposed there never was an abstract proposition made which commanded such universal consent as that a farmer should have reasonable security in the outlay of his capital, and that his improvements should not be confiscated either by the landlord or by the incoming tenant. It was only when the 1764 question came to be practically considered and discussed that its magnitude, its complexity, and its innumerable dangers and perplexities loomed upon them. He recognized in this Bill, as drawn by the Government, an honest, and in many respects a skilful, attempt to deal with a most complicated question; but he would ask the leave of the House to point out one or two directions in which he thought it might be improved, and one or two respects in which he was bound to say he thought it objectionable. Of the many suggested improvements connected with this question of compensation for unexhausted outlay, the plans proposed grouped themselves into two classes. The first, which been ably propounded and supported by many attractive arguments, was that of mulcting the landlord of a proportion of any increased rent obtained at the beginning of a new lease; and the second group of plans based the proposed compensation on the ground of the tenant's original outlay. It seemed to him that the framers of this Bill had adopted neither of these plans. The 1st clause proposed that the compensation should be in proportion to the benefit received by the incoming tenant. There was no reference whatever to the original outlay by the old tenant. He thought a little consideration would show that this was not a practicable or a fair proposal. The compensation of the old tenant should surely be based upon the original sum of which he was out of pocket by the original improvement, and diminished by so much as the improvement had ceased to be of value. As to mulcting the landlord of a portion of any increase of rent which might be obtained on account of the rise in value of the farm, he thought Government had done well to abandon that suggestion. Although he thought it would probably have turned out in the end to be less costly to the landlords, as a class, than either the present proposal of the Government, or the second alternative he had mentioned—namely, basing it on the original outlay of the tenant—still it would be so difficult to discriminate between the rise in value caused by the improvements of the tenants and by other circumstances which constantly affected agriculture, that it would have ended in a very complicated state of things. What he wanted to impress 1765 upon the Government was this—that it was most important that Clause 1 should be altered so that no compensation should be awarded to any tenant greater than his original outlay. He did not suppose that any respectable tenant would ask or expect that; but very often under the proposed clause it would be granted. He would give the House an instance that affected himself. Some years ago there was erected on a farm on his property some buildings which cost £270. The agreement was that the tenant was to be compensated at the end of the lease. That agreement was modified upon a new lease being entered into by the tenant continuing the occupation of the holding and of the buildings, and the compensation was deferred till the end of another lease of 19 years. Well, the tenant died, the lease continued, and when the second lease came to an end compensation by arbitration had to be undertaken, and he had to pay his tenant, or rather his tenant's representatives at the end of the lease, whatever sum was put upon the buildings by the arbitrators. Now, if hon. Members would remember that the original outlay was £270, they would, perhaps, be inclined to attach some weight to his objections to this clause when he told them that he had to pay £500, and the ground upon which arbitrators went was that these buildings could not be erected now at a less cost than £500. It was true they were erected for £270 originally, but they had nothing to do with that. They had only to look and estimate what the cost would be if undertaken now; therefore, he had to pay nearly double the original outlay to the representatives of the tenant. That he did not think was fair. Well, there was another point which specially applied to the Scotch Bill. Farms in Scotland were generally held under leases of, as a rule, 19 years. This Bill was made to apply to existing leases, and that without respect to any conditions that might exist under these leases. For instance, the operations under the 3rd part of the Schedule—manuring and the use of feeding stuffs—although they might have been, as they frequently were, stipulated for and agreed to by the tenant in the lease, without compensation, still, under the Bill, that was to be set aside, although in fixing the rent it must have entered into the calculations 1766 —that was to be set aside, and compensation awarded under this Bill. Surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman who was in charge of the Bill had sufficient practical knowledge of the management of land to know that nothing was more common in the past—and it was still very common in Scotland—than the granting of improving leases. A farmer takes a farm at a certain rent, which is fixed with due regard to certain improvements which he undertakes to carry out. Now, was it light that a lease of the description should be affected and altogether set aside in this way by this Bill? He thought not; and he thought the Bill would be made not less valuable to those who would benefit by it, if some modification were made in this respect. Another point to which he should like to call attention seemed to him a very important one. That was as regarded drainage. He thought it was pretty well acknowledged by those who were most interested in agriculture that it was not worth while undertaking drainage, unless it was to pay at least 10 per cent, and for this reason, that it was not a permanent improvement; and if they undertook drainage which was only to pay 6½ or 7½ per cent, then at the end of 22 or 25 years they only got back their capital, with the interest, and no more, and very probably the work had to be done over again. Therefore, they were not a bit richer or better off at the end of 22 or 25 years than they would have been had a tile never been put into the ground at all. He thought, therefore, that when they limited the landlord to charging his tenant 5 per cent upon an improvement of this description, they were putting the figure too low, especially when a limited owner could obtain money for the purpose at a much greater outlay. But it might be said, if a landlord chose not to conduct this operation, then the tenant might do so. This was very good. It was a very proper proposal; but he thought it should be made under certain restrictions. He thought the power should not only be given, but it should be required, that all drainage executed by the tenant, for which the landlord had to compensate him, was to be executed under the inspection and with, the approval of an Inspector appointed by the Inclosure Commissioners. He thought there would be an advantage to 1767 both classes from this provision. The farmer would have the advantage of the direction of the Inspector, and the landlord would be satisfied that the work was done in an efficient manner. Therefore, he thought, when they imposed the condition in the Bill upon the execution of drainage by tenants and compensation by landlords, they would be doing no more against the interests of one class than already existed in relation to another class. But perhaps the most difficult question that was attempted to be dealt with by this Bill was that of compensation for unexhausted manures and feeding stuffs. There was no time limit provided for it, and yet it was well known that no manures were perennial, and some of them were of a decidedly ephemeral character. There was no condition made for the landlord satisfying himself that manures and feeding stuff's used should have been of a proper character, and should have been kept in the holding when the tenant flitted. It should be left to the arbitrators to decide whether the manures, of which they saw the results and which results might very well be confounded with the results from other operations, had been of a proper description, and whether there was really any value remaining from them. He failed to see how arbitrators, unless they were gifted with something approaching to second sight, could be expected to discriminate in questions of this nature; therefore, he would ask, would it not be well to insert a clause empowering the landlord to give notice to his tenant that he required to be satisfied as to the nature of the operations to be carried on under the 3rd part of the Schedule; that the tenant should give the landlord every facility to visit the holding, and to take samples of the manure and feeding stuffs, which should be submitted to a competent analyst, and the analysis should be taken into account in fixing the amount of compensation to be awarded? He might be told that this was an undue interference with the tenant. Well, the whole Bill was an interference; it was an interference with landlords, and he thought tenant farmers must expect to be interfered with also, as it could not be an interference altogether in one direction, and he was prepared to prove that benefit would accrue to the tenant from that very interference. Farmer 1768 were liable to be imposed upon, and the most worthless trash was foisted upon them in the shape of manure, and they had to pay through the nose for it. He had the last number of The Transactions of the Highland Agricultural Society, and in it there was a Report from the Strathearn Agricultural Association of the manures submitted to analysis by the purchasers and the sellers. He was told that the Report had had the effect of alarming the agriculturists of the district so much, and was making them so careful as to the kind of the manure, that the sellers of the manures were about to bring an action for libel against the Highland and Agricultural Society. He knew not how that might be; but the manures were sufficiently startling. For instance, in one kind of manure mentioned—bone manure—that was analyzed, the price charged for it was £8 10s. per ton, and the value put upon it by the analyst was £4 per ton. There were several instances of that sort; in the case of turnip manure, the price charged was £7 10s. per ton, and the value put upon it by the anal3'st was £5 5s. per ton. Now, if a clause such as he proposed were included in the Bill the tenant would have the advantage of analysis and a guarantee as to the manure, and the landlord, on his part, would be satisfied as to the nature and the mode and kind of application of the material for which he had to compensate his tenant. Of course, the intention of the Bill was to protect tenants against grasping landlords; but it would only be fair if the Bill was extended so as to protect landlords against fraudulent or dishonest tenants; and unless some provision was inserted to enable landlords to satisfy themselves in the direction he had mentioned, there would be a door opened to all sorts of imposition by indigent or unscrupulous tenants. They had heard a great deal during the debates on the Ground Game Act as to the terrors of a Dominus contractus. The landlord was assumed to be the Dominus contractus in that Act, and now they were going to make another. They were going to make the tenant absolute master of the situation, and deprive the landlord of every defence against him. There was one aspect of the Bill which he thought had escaped the attention it deserved. In Scotland their agriculture had always been distinguished for the system of 1769 leases. After this Bill was passed into law there would be no reason whatever for a continuance of this system. The object of a lease was that the tenant should enjoy absolute and undisturbed possession of a holding for so long a time as would secure him a reasonable return for his outlay. If that reasonable return was to be secured to him by this Bill what reason existed for continuing the lease? Looking at the position of the tenant farmers of Scotland at the present time, compared with that which they occupied 50 or 100 years ago, it would be seen that leases had been distinctly advantageous.
§ SIR HERBERT MAXWELL
replied, that they had undoubtedly been advantageous to the landlords, and it would not be without regret that he would see the good old custom of leases departed from. It was an advantage to the farmer in this respect—that it gave to the Scotch farmer a position of independence that had been altogether unknown under the English system. Of course, this Bill was another step in the direction taken by the Ground Game Act of 1880. It was another interference with contract, and as such he regretted it. As was pointed out in Mr. Auberon Herbert's letter the other day in The Times, the word "child" was to be written in large letters on the back of the English farmer—"under State protection, and not allowed to make his own contracts." He thought that was very much to be regretted, because many of the farmers with whom he was acquainted resented this as an interference with independence and self-respect. There was an idea prevalent among Members of the Radical Party that a tenant was conferring a great benefit upon his landlord by taking his farm. He could not conceive how anybody practically acquainted with agriculture could adopt that view. He should recommend to them the perusal of a pamphlet by Sir John Lawes, published in 1881. In summing up the results of his experience, he stated—When we come to the application of results given in the foregoing 35 pages of the general agriculture of Great Britain, it is hardly possible to avoid the conclusion that in most cases profitable agriculture involves the slow but continuous exhaustion of the soil—an exhaus- 1770 tion from that state of virgin land in other countries which British agriculture has to meet in competition.Therefore, so far from the benefit being all conferred by the tenant upon the landlord, in the very vocation which he pursued upon the property of the landlord he was deteriorating his property inevitably and unavoidably. He knew that many hon. Members regarded this Bill and the English Bill with indifference, because they really enforced stereotyped customs which were prevalent on the most liberally-managed estates; but he thought the history of the last few years must have been in vain if they did not perceive that no sooner would this Bill pass into law than attempts would be made to carry legislation further. This Bill, as soon as it became an Act, would be used as a lever further to alter the relations and regulations of land tenure in this country. He knew that his hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) approved of this Bill. The hon. Member told him of the established custom which had long prevailed in his county. That bore an immense resemblance to arguments which were used in favour of the Irish Land Act. If he remembered aright, in 1870 certain customs which had grown up in certain parts of Ireland were established by law all over Ireland, and they were told that that measure was final; but it was far from being so. It must not be supposed that he grudged support to this measure. He thought, on the whole, it was a tolerably successful attempt to deal with one of the most difficult problems that had ever been presented to any Government; and it was in the faith that it would not be made the basis of further legislation, and because of the respect shown therein for certain principles which he had been taught to hold in honour, that he would give the Bill his cordial support, although, at the same time time, reserving to himself the right to amend it in Committee; and he trusted that the motives of those who had framed the Bill would be carried out—namely, that it would result in the increased development of the land industry, in whose prosperity the whole welfare of this country was so much wrapped up.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he thought it was very evident, from the Bill which they were now considering, that the Go- 1771 vernment did not sufficiently realize the justice of the complaints of farmers or the necessities of agriculture, which the Bill was intended to meet. It was quite true that much of the present depression was due to the bad seasons of the last few years; but it must be remembered that the state of agriculture eight years ago was such as to demand the intervention of Parliament, and the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1875 was the consequence. That Bill, it was now generally admitted, bad proved inadequate to meet the necessities of the case. During the last eight years the position of agriculture had been still further aggravated. New countries had been opened up, facilities for transport had greatly increased, and the British farmer had now to meet a much more intense competition from abroad than formerly was the case. On the other hand, and from various causes, principally from the deterioration of the soil and the decrease of capital, the British farmer was in a worse position to meet the competition. If, therefore, legislation was necessary in 1875, it was much more necessary now, and if the Agricultural Holdings Act had failed to meet the state of matters which then existed, a much more comprehensive and efficient measure had now become necessary.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, the hon. Baronet had reminded him that the Act of 1875 did not apply to Scotland; but, practically, that did not affect the argument. Although the Agricultural Holdings Act applied to England and not to Scotland, the state of agriculture in England was worse than in Scotland. It was quite true that agricultural depression greatly prevailed in Scotland; but it had not got to that extent that largo portions of land had gone out of cultivation, as in the case of England. Almost every Member who had addressed the House upon this subject dealt with the question of compensation for tenants as if it were to benefit tenants only, and as if the farmers were asking something at the expense of the landlords. Compensation for improvements would, undoubtedly, be a great advantage to farmers; indeed, it was his case that compensation to farmers for unexhausted improvements was indispensable to the successful 1772 carrying on of the business of farming. But the question was of far greater importance to the landlords than to the tenants in these times. It was not now with the farmer a question of more or less profit, but whether he could carry on the business of farming, pay any rent, and make a living? If he found he could not make a living, the farmer would take his capital to other lands. That I was a course that was hardly available to the landlord. It was quite true, as the First Commissioner of Works suggested the other night, that the landlord might farm his own land; but he did not observe that that suggestion was received with anything like approval from the other side of the House, and those who knew anything about the matter would have little difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the experience of the right hon. Gentleman in the direction of his suggestion was very slight. It seemed to him that the experience of the last five years ought to have convinced the landlords of both England and Scotland that there was something radically wrong in the conditions under which a farmer held his land. The symptoms certainly had been very decided. They had had unpaid rents, unlet farms, and large deductions from the rents where landlords were successful in re-letting their farms, and in some instances a large amount of land had gone out of cultivation. It was cultivated neither by the tenants nor by the landlords. This applied to England, where the symptoms were more intensified than in Scotland. Then there was the disappearance of tenants' capital, shown by the decrease in the numbers of cattle and sheep during the last eight years, and this decrease began to take place before the bad seasons came upon them. Under these circumstances, it appeared to him that it should be the anxiety of landlords to offer inducements to tenants to make that expenditure on the land which was absolutely necessary to meet the growing competition from abroad. What did the farmers demand? They asked, in the first place, for freedom of cultivation; and, in the second place, for security of capital. By freedom of cultivation the farmer desired the opportunity of cultivating the soil in the manner which his experience told him would be the best and most profitable. He desired to have the right to 1773 grow such crops as he found to be most advantageous, and to sell his produce in the market which he found the best. Security of capital meant that the tenant should have the right to reap such return as the soil might yield for the expenditure of his capital and skill on the soil, and if he was deprived of that right, that he should receive full compensation for the increased value of the holding to his successor. These were surely no unreasonable demands. These were the conditions on which every manufacturer carried on his business, and they were no less necessary to the farmer. Farmers demanded nothing which was the property of the landlords. The question which they had to consider was, whether the Bill gave that freedom of cultivation and that security of capital which was necessary? If the Bill failed in inducing farmers to increase their expenditure in raising the fertility of the soil, it would fail in its main objects. There had been heard very little during the discussion of the public interest in the cultivation of the land. He wished to point out that the interest of the farmer and the interest of the public were identical. The object of both was that the land should yield the maximum of produce. This Bill was spoken of as embodying a new principle—that the tenant should be entitled to compensation for unexhausted improvements left to benefit a successor. That was the basis of the Act of 1875; and if a declaration of principle had been sufficient then, the failure of that Act would not have necessitated new legislation now. But what was the use of declaring a principle, and at the same time declaring that the principle should not be applied? But they were told that there was a difference between this Bill and the Bill of 1875, in this respect—that the present Bill was compulsory. He admitted that it was, to a certain extent, compulsory. It went as far as the Amendment which in 1875 he had proposed to the Agricultural Holdings Bill, and that was to make the provision in respect of the 3rd Schedule of that Bill compulsory. If that policy had been adopted at that time, he did not say that agricultural depression would not have existed now, but the state of matters would not have been so bad as they were, and they would have got some experience of the ope- 1774 ration of such a measure, and would have found out whether it was sufficient to induce the farmer to make improvements. Although this Bill was, to a certain extent, compulsory, the difference between it and the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1875 was not very great. He thought the Government would admit that, so far as the 1st part of the Schedule was concerned, the provisions of the Bill were entirely permissive, because the Bill would have no effect without the consent of the landlord. It was of importance to consider some of the improvements which the Government thought the tenant should not make without the consent of the landlord. One of those improvements was the reclamation of waste land. The Government thought the tenant should not be at liberty to reclaim waste land unless the landlord gave his consent. He could not help thinking that that was a very extraordinary position for the Government to take up. What possible harm could arise to the landlord if his tenant did improve the waste land? If he did so it would be at his own expense and risk? Then there was the erection of labourers' cottages. This had been a question of great importance among farmers for many years, and some years ago a Bill was brought before the House, endeavouring to provide that a tenant might erect labourers' cottages, and obtain compensation at the end of the lease. He felt that a great responsibility attached to farmers in respect of the dwellings which labourers occupied; but, after the declaration on the part of the Government, that the tenant should not be at liberty to erect such cottages without the consent of the landlord, there would be sufficient excuse for the farmers to avoid incurring the expenditure themselves. The Government ought to have at least made provision to enable the farmers to make as decent accommodation as they could for the labourers, and so remove one of the scandals which affected very seriously a good many districts of Scotland. It struck him as very strange that this Bill seemed to be framed upon the idea that if it were made an effective measure, farmers would enter on a wild and reckless expenditure. He did not know what farmers had done to raise such an expectation. It seemed to him that the landlord had full security against any reckless expenditure 1775 on the part of his tenant, if the landlord only paid such compensation as he would receive from a successor. As regarded Part II. of the Bill, he was ready to admit that it was, to a certain extent, compulsory. Provision was made whereby, if the landlord, upon notice given, did not execute drainage, the tenant might do so at his own expense, and claim compensation at the end of the lease. He did not like very much this notice on the part of the tenant to the landlord. He thought such an improvement would, practically, always be carried out as the result of a conference between the landlord and the tenant, as the tenant would never be anxious to invest money in permanent improvements if the landlord would advance money at a moderate rate of interest. But this provision was very much better than the 1st part of the Schedule; and it would be a very great improvement to the Bill if the Government would give the tenant power, on giving similar notice, to make all improvements which he might desire and consider profitable under the 1st part of the Schedule. That was to say, if the tenant thought the improvement desirable and profitable, he should be bound to give notice to his landlord, who would have power to carry out the same, and to charge the tenant 5 per cent on the expenditure; or, if not, the tenant would carry out the improvement himself, and claim compensation at the end of his lease. Before the Bill passed through Committee, he hoped Her Majesty's Government would provide some simple means of determining what was a fair and reasonable agreement, so that there would be no room for dispute at the termination of a lease when the settlement came to take place between the parties. As regarded Part 3 of the Schedule, so far as he had been able to make out, the provision amounted to this—that an incoming tenant should be bound to pay to a way going tenant such portion of his expenditure on manure as could be ascertained to remain unexhausted in the soil. That was an extension of the present system that prevailed throughout Scotland. At the present moment an incoming tenant had to pay a way going tenant for the manures which remained on the holding; and if he understood the intentions of the Government aright, this principle was to be extended so far 1776 that there was to be paid, in addition to the manures which were not applied to the land, also such portions of the extraneous manure which had been applied to the land as were still unexhausted. That was an application of the principle of the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1875; but the basis of settlement was completely different, and he was not at present prepared to say whether he should not prefer the mode of settlement provided for by that Act. The broad provision in the Bill looked fair and equitable; but he thought there would be much more difficulty in carrying it out. This he would say in favour of the Act of 1875—that both the outgoing and incoming tenants had a better idea of what they were to receive and what they were to pay than was possible under this Bill. The Bill endeavoured to engraft on the Scottish system a part of that custom which obtained in considerable portions of England. He thought that was something in the nature of an experiment; but he was quite willing to recognize the compulsory character of that part of the Bill, and that it would be of considerable advantage to certain tenants. He had very considerable doubt whether the Bill would have the effect of inducing farmers to lay out much greater expenditure on manures, and thereby increase the fertility of the soil. This system of payment by Schedule for individual improvements was, in his opinion, altogether inadequate to meet the present necessities of agriculture. The fertility of the land must be largely increased before the farmers of this country would be able to meet competition from abroad. One of the great advantages of the 19 years' lease in Scotland was that it had induced the farmers to increase the fertility of the soil, and have a much larger stock of manures in it than had been the case in England. They saw the result in what had taken place in the two countries. In England, when bad times came upon farming, a great many farmers at once became submerged. Panning became unprofitable more quickly because there was not a stock of manure in the soil, and farms were either unletable, or in some cases going out of cultivation. The Scottish farmers had found out that a 19 years' lease was long enough to induce an energetic young man to enter on a course of improving, and 1777 much too short to enable him to reap the benefits of his improvements. In order to see how increased fertility had to be compensated for, let them consider what took place in a 19 years' lease. According to usual experience, farmers had to enter upon a farm in a poor condition, and with the soil much exhausted. It was necessary largely to increase the quantity of manure in the soil so as to produce crops which would pay. This was a very slow and expensive process. It required not less than from five to 10 years to get a farm into fair condition. During all this time the improving tenant was making large expenditure, and seven or eight years at least would elapse before his liberal expenditure began to repay him, and if the farm was in poor condition, he would find that he had sunk £3 to £5 per acre in the soil. He did not know anything in the Bill that would do much to stimulate that large investment of money; and if the Bill failed to induce the farmers to do so, he thought that, so far as the public were concerned, it failed in its main object. He admitted that freedom of cultivation was a difficult subject; but, still, he thought the Government ought to have gone, and he hoped they would still go, a step in that direction. It was absolutely necessary, to give farmers confidence, that they should have freedom of cultivation. On the best managed properties in Scotland, under the most enlightened management, farmers were now getting freedom of cultivation. He himself, under an enlightened management, 20 years ago, got full power to farm as he thought proper, and he believed the landlord had had no cause to regret giving that liberty. What Scottish farmers complained of was this. They were bound to a strict rotation of crop, and if from any accident the crop failed, it was not lawful for them to replace it by another crop. They could not change to any extent the rotation specified in the conditions of the lease. There was almost invariably a clause which provided that for every acre cropped out of rotation the tenant should pay a pactional penalty of from double the rent up to £5 or even £10 per acre. The landlord could exact this penalty altogether irrespective of damage done to the farm. This was unfair and unnecessary, and it was only unscrupulous land- 1778 lords and agents that took advantage of it to oppress a tenant quitting a farm. What the tenants of Scotland were prepared to accept was this. They wished free cultivation, leaving it always open to the landlord to claim damages for any deterioration of the farm. It was, unfortunately, the case that few landlords or agents had yet realized the fact that the most profitable crops to the tenant were also the most profitable to the landlord. There was another grievance of which Scottish farmers complained, of a subsidiary character, no doubt, but in some cases of very great importance, and that was that they had no power of assigning leases. It would be a very great advantage, and give great confidence to farmers, if they had power to do so under certain circumstances. At the present time the tenant could not assign a lease under any circumstances without the landlord's consent. There was another exceptionally arbitrary power possessed by landlords, in the fact that the tenant could not dispose of his lease by testament. According to the law of Scotland, the landlord had the power of refusing to accept any tenant except the heir-at-law. The farmer could not leave his lease, however much his improvements might be, to his widow without the landlord's consent. He had known cases in which this had given rise to considerable hardship. He thought it would be no violation of the landlord's rights if the power of assignment and of bequest were made by this Bill the right of every tenant under proper safeguards. Looking at the Bill as a whole, it was certainly not such a measure as the tenants of Scotland had a right to expect, particularly after the declarations made by the Prime Minister and other Members of the Government. If these declarations had been implemented, the Bill would have been highly satisfactory to the tenants of Scotland. These pledges, as they were understood to be, had certainly not been fulfilled in the measure before the House. No one doubted the intentions and the goodwill of the Prime Minister, or his desire to carry out and fulfil the expectations which he thought he was fully justified in saying were encouraged at the last General Election. He could only assume that the Prime Minister had not been able to carry out his generous intentions of doing justice 1779 towards the tenants of Scotland and England. They had heard a great deal of protection being desired for the sitting tenant. His great objection to the Bill was that it did not protect sufficiently the removing tenant. If it had sufficiently protected the removing tenant, it would have done a great deal to protect also the tenant who desired to remain in his holding. What the tenants looked for was not a measure on this basis of compensation which proposed that every improvement should be dealt with by itself; but they desired, and it would have been much better for the landlords to have granted, a measure which would have secured to the farmer compensation on the basis of the increased value of his holding as a whole so far as that was due to his improvements. The improvements of the farm might be due to very many causes—to improved manuring, or to superior cultivation. The system of compensation by Schedule in the Bill put off the tenant with the least compensation that could possibly be granted to him. If a farm were, during a tenancy, increased in value 10s. per acre, and if 5s. per acre of the improvement was due to the tenant's own industry and skill, he was fairly entitled to be compensated in respect of the increased value due to his exertions when he was turned out of his holding. If such a measure had been introduced, be was confident that the farmers of Scotland would have accepted it as a settlement of the question for an indefinite period. A very considerable amount of uncertainty would prevail under the Bill, and it might operate very differently in different parts of the country, according to the arbiters appointed. So far as existing tenants were concerned, the Bill would be a advantage to them. Tenants who were anxious to give up farming, would see that in this Bill they would have a certain amount of compensation for unexhausted manures, to which at present they were not entitled. These farmers were quite justified in giving the Bill their support. But this did not give very much hope for the revival of agriculture. In fact, it seemed to him that the Bill, as it stood, would rather hasten the breaking down of the system of tenure under which farmers were now struggling to carry on their business. That system of tenure was altogether too artificial and too unnatural to resist 1780 the strain of free competition from abroad to which it was being subjected. If they were to make the most of the land—and they would have to make the most of it if farming was to be carried on and rents to be paid—the farmer must have such security as would induce him to apply his best energies, and all the money necessary, to the cultivation of the soil. The Bill, unless very materially amended in Committee, would greatly disappoint the farmers in Scotland. The Scottish farmers were law-abiding, industrious, and loyal. They had done as much as the tenants of Ireland to improve their holdings. If he was not mistaken, the increase of rental in Scotland between 1850 and 1875 had been two-thirds more than in any other part of the country. The Scottish farmers thought they were entitled to be dealt with no less liberally than their Irish brethren. They had looked forward to have some security of tenure, or at least full compensation for their improvements. The tenants in Ireland did not get fixity of tenure because of their historical connection with the soil, as they were told by the First Commissioner of Works. Their historical connection with the land was as great in 1870 as in 1881, and it was only by means very unfortunate for Ireland and for the credit of Parliament that the Irish tenant was able to get fixity of tenure in 1881. The tenants of Scotland had no desire whatever to imitate the policy of the Irish; but they intended to contend for their just rights. It was their intention, he believed, to continue this loyal, peaceful, and Constitutional agitation, which was now organized, until they secured that which they thought was justly their due. The Bill had been received with some satisfaction by the farmers of Scotland; but it was rather on account of what it might be made than from what the Bill really was. They had not abandoned the hope that very considerable amendments would be made in Committee; and he should be happy to co-operate with the Government in making the Bill worthy of a Liberal Administration, and to some extent, at least, redeem the pledges which farmers in Scotland understood to have been made.
§ MR. ORR-EWING
said, he should not have trespassed on the House on that occasion but for the statement by 1781 the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) in the debate on the Agricultural Holdings (England) Bill, that, with the exception of Mr. Auberon Herbert, no public man had pronounced in favour of freedom of contract, as against compulsion. That was a very strong statement to come from the Government Bench. He (Mr. Orr-Ewing) had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman had read the letter of that veteran Whig Statesman, in which he called the right hon. Gentleman to account for this great departure from the great principles that used to guide the Liberal Party, and he should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, whether he intended his observation to extend to all future legislation, or to confine it only to the Bill before the House, or to the Agricultural Holdings (England) Bill? If he intended to apply that observation to all future legislation, it was one of the most dangerous and unfortunate principles ever announced by a Government to the House. If it applied only to the present Bill, what was peculiar to the relations between landlord and tenant, that they required such exceptional legislation? He (Mr. Orr-Ewing) believed freedom of contract to be the only principle on which business of all kinds could be conducted; and legislation which interfered with that principle must be injurious to the interest of the parties so interfered with. He, therefore, regretted that such a Bill as this had been thought necessary for Scotland. He did not blame the present Government more than the late Government. Both had endeavoured to deal with this question on what he believed to be false principles; and, indeed, there were independent Members on both sides of the House who, Session after Session, had been tinkering with the question. Under the old system of freedom of contract—of men dealing with men as rational, independent beings—farming had been conducted in Scotland in a way superior to that known in any country in the world. Notwithstanding a barren soil and a poor climate, they had, in Scotland, perhaps, the most intelligent, the most energetic, hard-working, and independent tenantry that would be found anywhere. They required no such legislation as this in order to make bargains with their landlords. They were as fit as the landlords to know what was 1782 best for their own interests, and, as a class, they had hitherto been fairly successful. No doubt, during the last seven or eight years, with very wet, cold, sunless seasons, bad crops, and bad harvests, and enormous importations of agricultural produce from every quarter of the world, grain-growing farms had been most unprofitable. Of course, that unfortunate state of matters must be dealt with. Some remedy must be found; but, in his opinion, the only way in which it could be properly dealt with was by an arrangement between landlords and tenants themselves. They understood better what arrangements it was necessary to make to overcome a state of matters arising from causes over which they had no control. In Scotland, the relationship between landlord and tenant had hitherto been of the most cordial description. The best evidence he could give of that fact was to state, what he believed would be accepted by every Scottish Member, that long leases were generally renewed by members of the same family, so that the same family remained in possession from generation to generation. So that there was a feeling of sympathy between landlords and tenants in Scotland, and landlords were ready to recognize losses sustained by bad seasons, and to give a helping hand by a reduction of rent, or delay in payment. But, of recent years, a set of busy bodys, few of them agriculturists, or belonging to the agricultural class, but political agitators from the manufacturing towns, had stepped in, and perambulated the country organizing societies, and stirring up class against class. At one time it was the farmers against the landlords, and at another the labourer against the farmer. Such conduct he strongly condemned, in the interest of both tenant and landlord. It was very strange—and he did not know whether it had occurred to any other Scottish Member—that that agitation had only taken hold on one part of Scotland—that was, in the North and North-East. In the West and South-West it had no effect whatever, and his belief was, that was owing to the fact that in the West and South-West the tenant farmers were constantly coming in contact with commercial and mercantile men, and, in that way, they derived a better idea of political economy, and had more confidence in themselves in deal- 1783 ing with business matters. It was amusing to watch the action of these agitators. At one time they assumed the character of the friends of the people in the towns; at another as the friends of the farmers; and at another as the friends of the agricultural labourers. In the large towns they urged the reform of the Land Laws in order to attract more capital into the farming interest, and, by producing a larger crop, cheapen the price of food; but, considering the fact that already the farming of this country was so superior, that they grew more than double the quantity of cereals per acre than was grown in any part of Europe or America, that was rather absurd. These agitators also desired to remedy the Land Laws, with the view of giving tenants fixity of tenure. That had been acknowledged by the hon. Member who had just sat down, the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay); and when they addressed the labourer they wanted the Land Laws reformed in order that the labourers might have better houses, larger gardens, and larger wages; and they pointed to the wages received by the artizan classes in the towns and cities. Sometimes in England those agitators had been so successful in their agitation that they had managed to bring about more than one strike; and it was remarkable that such strikes had always been agitated for at the most difficult season of the year—the harvest. Such was the tortuous course of those self-constituted friends of the agricultural classes. Was it not strange that many of these agitators, who carried_ on this work in the pretended interest of the working classes, were large employers of labour in our towns and populous districts, in some instances employing thousands of men, women, and children, who were living in miserable houses, to which the sun's rays seldom penetrated, and from which disease was rarely absent? Yet these philanthropists, who were so deeply interested in the improvement of the condition of the agricultural labourers, with whom they had nothing to do, took no steps whatever to provide better houses for the workpeople by whom they were making their money. He believed the most degraded and neglected and most miserable class of people in this country were the working people in the 1784 large towns; and yet nothing was done for their amelioration. They might send Commissioners to Skye and to Lewis, and those beautiful Highland districts, where there was not one-tenth part of the misery which was to be found within a stone-throw of this House; but such a thing as a Commission of Inquiry into the dreadful condition of the vast population around them was not to be thought of. The people in Skye, though they might be poor, had always a healthy atmosphere, and surroundings which elevated the mind, and sufficient food to keep them in health. The hon. Member who had just spoken had given a very gloomy view of the condition of agriculture. With that he (Mr. Orr-Ewing) could not agree. His own opinion was that dairy farms, sheep farms, and breeding farms were paying remarkably well; and in his own part of the country he had not known a farm which had been let to a new tenant which had not brought the same rent, or a little higher. He was not aware of a single dairy farm which had not brought at least the same rent, and some had brought more. Last year was one of the best for sheep farming which had happened in his day. The hon. Member for Forfarshire had also drawn the attention of the House to the different condition in which he said farmers and manufacturers were placed with regard to improvements. He (Mr. Orr-Ewing) was afraid, however, that the hon. Member was not so conversant with the position of manufacturers as he was with agriculture, for he (Mr. Orr-Ewing) could assure him that the law with regard to improvements was the same in both cases, and that if a manufacturer chose to lay out money in extending or improving his manufactory he got nothing allowed for it at the end of his lease. It was not his (Mr. Orr-Ewing's) intention to vote against the second reading of the Bill. He sincerely hoped it would be successful. He might be mistaken; but he confessed he had great doubts of its being found of much benefit to the farming class. What he feared most of all was that it would create many dissensions, many appeals to the Law Courts, and much bad feeling between landlords and tenants, who had hitherto been on the most friendly terms. He had no doubt some amendments would 1785 be effected in the measure, and he thought it was necessary that some improvements should be made. There was no provision, for instance, for such a case as his own. He was now about to let his land, which was in most excellent order—perhaps there was none in much better order in any part of Scotland. What provision was there in the Bill with respect to the incoming tenant? Was the latter to pay him (Mr. Orr-Ewing) for improvements he had made in the last three or four years? Again, what was to be the evidence of the condition of the land 19 years hence? It might now be worth 50s. an acre, while perhaps at the end of the 19 years it might not be worth 20s. an acre. In a case of that kind, what was to be paid to the landlord for deterioration? All that showed what a dangerous thing it was for the Government to interfere with matters which ought to be settled by private individuals alone. It was impossible to foresee all the evil effects of the Bill. He believed that the only way in which farms could be let was, as he had said at the outset, by freedom of contract; and the only way in which business could be properly conducted was by man meeting man and dealing with the matter for settlement on business principles. Only on these principles could the agriculture of the country be maintained.
§ MR. M'LAGAN
said, he thought he was in the House of Commons discussing the Agricultural Holdings Bill for Scotland; but, listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Orr-Ewing), he had been transported to a meeting of the Social Science Association, in which, no doubt, a very interesting subject was being discanted upon with very great eloquence—namely, the social condition of the people; and he had not hoard a word either in favour of or against the Bill, excepting one remark on which he should like to speak. His hon. Friend found fault with the Bill in so far as it interfered with freedom of contract. He was as much in favour of freedom of contract as any man in that House; but they must remember that freedom of contract had been tried on this subject in England, and they must remember further that the hon. Members who represented the agricultural interest on the other side of the House had come forward and said that 1786 it had failed in England, and that they were prepared now to try another plan. They must further remember that the Legislature of this country had placed one of the contracting parties in this freedom of contract in a far more advantageous position than the other, and that there could not, therefore, be true freedom of contract. For that reason, he was prepared to waive his opinion in favour of freedom of contract so far as this Bill was concerned. His hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay) said this Bill had not proceeded upon the proper principle—that was, in so far as compensation was given for the value of unexhausted improvements to the incoming tenant, while it ought to have been given to the outgoing tenant for unexhausted improvements.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he had not said that. What he said was, that the settlement which would be satisfactory to the farmer would be compensation, based upon the increased value of the holding, so far as that increased value was due to his improvements.
§ MR. M'LAGAN
said, he was quite prepared to take it on that footing; but his hon. Friend should consider that there were two ways of putting this question. So long as agriculture was prosperous and rents were rising, it was evident he would receive the improved value. But what had been the case during the last two or three years? They found that the land, instead of rising, had been decreasing in value. In considering this question, there were the interests of four parties to be taken into account—the interests of the incoming tenant, the outgoing tenant, the landlord, and last, but not least, the public; and all these had been taken into consideration in his view in this Bill, and would be more or less benefited by it. The Government were to be congratulated on the introduction of the Bill, for two reasons—first, on account of the basis on which they had laid the compensation for unexhausted improvements—namely, that the incoming tenant should pay for what was value to him; and, secondly, for the elasticity of the Bill. He thought that a most important consideration. Let them take, first, that the incoming tenant should pay for what was value to him. It was quite just, when they compelled a man to pay for a 1787 thing, that they should make the law such that he would receive value for what he paid. That was the principle of the Bill. If they deprived the incoming tenant from knowing what was in the soil, it was but just they should have arbitrators, who were likely to know that he was getting value for his money. The Schedule system which was in use in Lincolnshire was, he thought, productive of much harm. He found in some parts of the district, where the Schedule system had been adopted, it had led to fraud, and had, in fact, stereotyped a system of agriculture which was most detrimental. But this was quite different to the Bill introduced by the Government; and be thought the Government should be congratulated on having solved a difficulty, in having the compensation based upon the value which the incoming tenant got of the money he paid. Not only were they to be congratulated on that, but also upon the elasticity of the Bill. The provisions of this Bill did not dictate to the agriculturists of the country any system of farming which they were to pursue over the whole country, and which would stereotype in some cases perhaps a very bad system of farming; but the provisions of the Bill gave every farmer scope for the exercise of his energy, his skill, and his experience. The Bill allowed him to adopt such systems of farming as were best adapted for him and the particular district. He believed the effect of the Bill would be to lead to the advancement of all, and on that point he differed from his hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire, because there was no doubt that this Bill, if carried out in its entirety, or with such amendment as might be made in Committee, would be calculated to do very much good. Indeed, the hon. Member for Forfarshire had given very strong instances why a tenant farmer ought to receive compensation at the end of his lease. He was sorry to say that the hon. Member had missed the object of the Bill altogether in giving these instances. There was no doubt that, at the present time, when a farmer entered upon a farm he generally entered upon an exhausted farm. He had to lay out a good deal of money in bringing it into condition, and it would require perhaps seven or eight years to improve it. When he left the farm, it was necessary and just that he should receive 1788 compensation for his unexhausted improvements. That was the present system; but the object of the Bill was to prevent that in future, and to enable a farmer to keep his farm in condition right up to the end of the lease, and then the incoming tenant paid so much money on entering on the farm which was in a good condition, and not in a done-out farm, and, consequently, the instances given were quite beyond the question. Coming to the 2nd clause of the Bill, he found that a tenant under a lease, at the present time, was to receive compensation for unexhausted improvements, under the 3rd Schedule. He must say that must be made with very great caution. Indeed, the instance taken by his hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton, was a case where a tenant would scarcely be entitled to compensation at the end of his lease. The tenant might have entered on his farm in a very high condition, and to keep up the farm he must buy every year a good deal of extraneous manure. It would be unjust to say at the end of the lease, when the farm was in high condition, that in such a case the tenant should receive compensation for the unexhausted manures. It was well known that they could not keep up the fertility of the soil without purchasing a large quantity of cake, corn, or manure. It would be a question at the end of the lease, when this Bill come into operation, whether the tenant was entitled to compensation on all the purchased food and manure which were absolutely necessary for keeping up the fertility of the soil in the state in which he got it from the landlord. He did not object to compensation; but he saw that there would be considerable difficulty, and perhaps injustice, when a question came to be decided some years hence under the 2nd clause. As regarded the 3rd clause—that which referred to the 1st Schedule—he could not say he agreed with all in the Schedule. In fact, when the Schedule system came into operation, he thought it was absolutely necessary to have a neutral party to decide between landlord and tenant. He did not see how it could be done otherwise. He was not going to advocate a Land Court for Scotland; but he thought it would be necessary to have some authority to apply to, when landlords and tenants differed, such as on the question of roads and bridges neces- 1789 sary for the proper work of the farm, and supply of cottages for the labourers. Then as regarded the 2nd Schedule, dealing with drainage, the tenant had to give notice from the landlord whether he should perform drainage or not, and if the landlord did not perform it, the tenant might do it himself, and claim compensation. He should be inclined to place that in the 1st Schedule, because if they had such a neutral authority as that referred to above, it would be of great advantage. It should be in the power of the landlord to have it in his power to consult some proper individual as to whether the farm should be drained or not. The hon. Member for Forfarshire said the tenant should be allowed to improve waste land. He (Mr. M'Lagan) knew some farms in Scotland where there was a good deal of waste land used for winter feeding; but in one case the landlord got an improving tenant, who improved the waste land, and the result was that he depreciated that farm, in so far as he had not winter food for his sheep. These were points that every now and then occurred, and they ought to be provided for in the Bill. As regarded the 3rd Schedule, there were certain points that he thought should be put into the 2nd—such as boning, claying, and limeing the land. He could not sit down without referring to the comparison which had been made between the Irish and Scotch tenants. He was surprised to hear that any hon. Member in the House, much more his hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire, who understood agriculture so well, represented that the position of the Irish tenant and the Scotch tenant were similar. He (Mr. M'Lagan) was pretty well acquainted with agriculture throughout Scotland, and he must say he knew very few instances indeed where the permanent improvements had been made by the tenants. Here and there it had been done; but, as a rule, it had been done by the landlords. He did not wish to depreciate the great energy that had been shown by the tenant farmers, because he thought they were as much entitled to the merit of the increase of rent as the landlords were; but they should not praise the one at cost of the other. He knew instances where tenants had improved very largely indeed, and had, unfortunately, been turned out of their farms; but these 1790 were the exceptions to the rule. Then, as regarded the sitting tenants, he really wished the Government would see their way to solving the question. He knew it was a difficult question; but he knew many instances where the tenant had had his rent raised upon his own improvements, and if that could be avoided it should. It would not be so bad in the case of Scotland, where they had leases. But in England it must be serious, where they had no leases. Where they had no leases, it was necessary to have some provision for the sitting tenant. In Scotland, where they had leases, there would not be the same difficulty; but, at the same time, it would be advisable if some plan could be devised by which the sitting tenant could be compensated for his improvements. He would conclude by again congratulating the Government on the introduction of the Bill. He thought that it was an honest attempt to solve the question, and he must say that it had been solved in a much better way than he expected it to be; and, instead of making carping speeches, and putting down carping Amendments, they should all put their shoulders to the wheel, and endeavour to make the Bill as good as they possibly could. For his part, he should give all the assistance he could to the Government. He believed this was a turning point in agriculture, and that the effect of it would be to improve agriculture, and to increase the national wealth.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
said, the speech they had just listened to from his hon. Friend (Mr. M'Lagan) had been very different, both in tone and temper, from that of the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay). His hon. Friend had pointed to some Amendments in the Bill, which were in the direction of making it plainer, and guarding against possible misconception, or even fraud, and the like. But the hon. Member for Forfarshire pointed to Amendments of a very different kind. In fact, as he (Mr. Dalrymple) understood the hon. Member, the support which the hon. Member gave to the Bill was only given upon the condition of its being transferred into a very different one indeed. He (Mr. Dalrymple) took comfort, however, in the belief that it was not at all probable that Her Majesty's Government would follow the lead of the hon. Member—at 1791 least, if they had any desire to pass the Bill. He heard, with surprise, the reference made by the hon. Member for Forfarshire to the case of Ireland, and was glad that his hon. Friend (Mr. M'Lagan) took the opportunity of deprecating the notion that there was any real analogy between the case of the tenants of Ireland and those of Scotland. He (Mr. Dalrymple) should have been ashamed, if he had anything like the the knowledge of the farmers of Scotland which the hon. Member for Forfarshire had, to have attempted any comparison between the two cases. But that was the sort of language which was used by the hon. Gentleman, and those like him, when they met their tenant continents in Scotland. They said—"Look at the favours which have been showered oil the Irish tenants. You are a far more law-abiding class than the Irish tenants, and you do not get half as much." But there was one thing they left unsaid, and that was that the respective cases were of a totally different kind. He ventured to say that, whatever might be said by the hon. Gentleman who professed to speak with so much confidence, the great majority of the tenant farmers of Scotland would repudiate the notion that their circumstances were similar to those of the unfortunate tenants of Ireland. He would not attempt to enter into the details of the measure, as it was not opposed on the second reading, and it was quite obvious that the discussion of details must be deferred till they were in Committee; but would merely say that he should deprecate extremely anything which would seem to throw discredit on the system of leases which had been prevalent in Scotland so long, and of which, till lately, they were in the habit of expressing themselves as being proud. He could not believe that any circumstances which had occurred in reference to agriculture in Scotland, notwithstanding the sharpness of competition, bad seasons, and so forth, had in any way thrown discredit on the system of leases; and he should look upon it as a retrograde step if they gave currency for a moment to the idea that they drew back from the admirable system of leases which had prevailed hitherto. He trusted that care would be taken when the Bill was in Committee to guard against fraud in reference to some of the manures which were likely to be employed. He 1792 confessed he did not understand how it was to be positively discovered whether such things as bones, for instance, had been really used upon the soil. It might happen, he believed, that a man, who was disposed to behave in a fraudulent manner, might produce a bill for bones, lime, and so forth, which he professed to have purchased, and there would be no means, so far as he (Mr. Dalrymple) knew, of ascertaining whether they had been inserted in the soil. For the purpose of defeating fraud in respect of such matters, it would be important that that there should be arbitrators of a respectable kind; and it was plain that the arbitrators would have to be appointed from quarters that were above suspicion, as, otherwise, he was afraid, room would be left open for fraud. He would now leave the discussion of the Bill to others more immediately affected by it than himself, only desiring to make one further remark of a general kind. He wondered why it was not thought possible to deal with this measure relating to Scotland together with that relating to England in one Bill. He believed there was no such difference between Scotland and England in this matter, as there was between different parts of England; and, if it was not for the fantastic and ridiculous custom of dealing separately with Scotch matters, he believed that that would have been done in the present case. Was it, or was it not, a separate measure from the English one? If it was the same, then, he said, it might have been dealt with at the same time. If it was a separate measure, then, he said, it ought to have been prefaced by an introductory statement by the Government. If it was a different measure, it was a most unseemly and irregular practice that it should have been introduced for second reading without any statement on the part of the Government. They were all familiar with the somewhat disjointed condition of the management of Scotch affairs. He was not one of those who reflected, in the least degree, upon the old system. He had not, and never had had, any jealousy of what was called the bureaucracy of the Lord Advocate. He believed the old system answered very well; but what did not answer now was the absurd and fantastic and uncertain management of Scotch affairs. He was not reflecting 1793 for one moment upon the Law Officers of the Crown for Scotland, who were able and distinguished officers; but it was a ridiculous circumstance that the names on the back of this Agricultural Bill should be the names of the Law Officers of Scotland. Perhaps that was the reason why they had no introductory statement; because he put it to the House whether it was likely that the Law Officers of the Crown in Scotland should be especially qualified to discuss questions like those of the improvements to which the consent of the landlord was required, or improvements to which that consent was not required? It required a perfect spasm of the mind to conceive the notion of the Law Officers of the Crown sitting down to consider, critically, questions as to boning land with un dissolved bones, and questions connected with claying, liming, and marling. It was no reflection upon the Law Officers of Scotland; but it showed how exceedingly disjointed and strange was the arrangement of Business connected with Scotland. All that might have been avoided, if there had been one Bill for England and Scotland, with such separate clauses as were necessary to meet the case of Scotland. He regretted that that course of procedure had been adopted on the present occasion, as he knew of no subject which should less be treated separately than the question of land. He could not see that there were any questions involved in this Bill that would have been at all inappropriate in a general measure; and he must repeat his regret that the opportunity was not taken to introduce a measure applicable to the whole country. It was of the greatest importance that, when it could be done, there should be general legislation for the whole country; and he could not imagine a subject more suited to such treatment than that which was now before the House.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
Sir, I wish, in the first place, to thank the House for the manner in which the Bill has generally been received. I think the discussion has been highly satisfactory; and, although there have been certain criticisms of such a nature as one might have expected on a matter as to which there are considerable difficulties, and large and well-known differences of opinion, yet the reception of the Bill has been decidedly 1794 favourable on the whole. I do not propose to go into any general discussion of the Bill, because I think it has been very fully and satisfactorily discussed already; and I only propose to follow the course which has been adopted by previous speakers, and to make some remarks upon the main points with which they have successively dealt. I may, in the first place, say, with respect to the criticisms of the hon. Baronet the Member for Wigtonshire (Sir Herbert Maxwell), and the hon. Member for Buteshire (Mr. Dalrymple), as to the Bill for Scotland having been brought in separately from the English Bill, that we still think there are good and valid reasons for that course. The English Bill made reference to the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1875. There was no corresponding Act for Scotland. The English Bill imports, by reference, a not inconsiderable portion of that prior measure; and it would have been inconvenient that that course should have been followed in the Scotch Bill, for, from beginning to end, it contains phraseology and deals with many matters of which we have no knowledge in Scotland. It was surely very much better, when we had to make an entirely new Bill for Scotland, without a predecessor like that of 1875, that the Bill, although it is founded upon the same principles as those expressed in the English Bill, should be a separate measure, so that the Scotch tenants and the Scotch people should not require to go outside their Bill, and that they should not be bewildered or embarrassed with phraseology or subjects with which they were not acquainted. I can scarcely imagine any kind of Bill which it is more appropriate, or, indeed, more essential, should tell its own story, and not any other story, than a Bill addressed to the class of persons who are mainly interested in the present measure—namely, the agricultural tenantry of Scotland. I need, therefore, I think, say nothing more in justification of the course which, after due consideration, we thought fit to follow, and which we still think was the right course. There has been, I hope, no undue claim upon Parliamentary time in following that course, because no one who has listened to the discussion to-day will say that it has been at all thrown away. What I have already said affords also a sufficient justification for the course I 1795 followed in not making an explanatory speech in introducing this Bill. It was from no want of respect to the House, but simply for two reasons, the first of which was that, when I asked leave to introduce this Bill, I stated it involved the application of the same principles which are contained in the English Bill. The second was that there is no Amendment, and no block upon the Bill today; and I believe that, according to the Rules of the House, if I had spoken at the beginning, I should not have had the power of offering any explanation, or making any answers to the criticisms which have been passed upon the Bill. Well, the first hon. Member who spoke was the hon. Baronet the Member for Wigtonshire (Sir Herbert Maxwell); and he, while approving of the Bill as a whole, made certain observations upon particular portions and provisions of it. In his first point, the hon. Member seemed to indicate dissatisfaction with the measure of compensation which is proposed by the Bill. I do not think, how ever, while he enumerated three measures as possible, that he greatly preferred either of the other two to that which has been adopted. I submit that the measure which has been adopted is the most just of all measures, if it can be practically carried out. It is the value of the remanent improvements to the incoming tenant. That is an asset of the outgoing tenant. It is the thing which he would have enjoyed if he remained, and which he leaves when he goes. Therefore, whether there may, or may not, be difficulties in assessing the compensation, I can hardly imagine that anything in its general expression can be more just than to define the measure of compensation as it is defined in this Bill. The only substantial objection which I understood the hon. Member to state to this measure was that it might possibly give the tenant a larger sum in name of compensation than the amount which he had laid out. It is possible; but it will not often happen, because most improvements will have so far exhausted themselves, and it will be in exceptional cases only that the value of the asset of the tenant, which he would have enjoyed if he had remained, and which is his to sell when he goes out, will be more than he paid for it. But I would ask, if the remaining value is more than he expended, why ought he 1796 not to get compensation for it? [Sir HERBERT MAXWELL: That is what I object to. What has he got to sell?] The hon. Baronet may object to it; but a thing is always worth its price—that is, what it would bring if sold. The value to the incoming tenant of the outgoing tenant's improvements is treated by the Bill as a thing for which he is entitled to be compensated; and it is a form of expression which does not inaccurately describe it to say that it is a thing for which he has to get a price. [Sir HERBERT MAXWELL: Tenant right.] No it is not tenant right, with great deference to the hon. Member. I simply put it in this way. It is no objection whatever to say that, in very rare, though possible cases, this remanent improvement may be worth more than it cost; because if the additional value it gives to the land is really and is bonâ fide the result of the tenant's expenditure, and does not invade or encroach upon any increment of value belonging to the landlord, it is truly an asset of the tenant, and should be valued accordingly. Therefore, the first criticism which the hon. Member passed upon the Bill is, I venture to say, not well founded. He next made some remarks in regard to improving leases. I understood him to convey that there are, in Scotland, long improving leases, and that the making of improvements is often the consideration for a low rent, which is agreed to be taken throughout the lease. We are quite familiar with such improving leases in Scotland; but I do not see how there is any observation which arises from the existence of these leases against this Bill. But if you find, as is the case in a proper improving lease, that there are certain obligations laid upon the tenant—say, for the reclamation of a certain area of waste land, or the execution of other specific improvements—and that his rent is fixed in consideration of these things, I do not see on what ground the tenant could make a claim for them. He had undertaken to make the improvements in respect of a diminished rent; and he is thus, by his bargain, compensated for them. That is just one of the fair agreements at the commencement of a lease which is left untouched by the Bill. No injustice, therefore, will be done by the Bill in the case of improving leases. They will stand on their own proper 1797 basis. The next matter with which the hon. Member dealt with was that of drainage, and he had various objections to the provisions in. regard to that subject. There was one point he made which, I am bound to say, does appear to me to have something in it. He said it would not pay the landlord to execute drainage with a return of only 5 per cent; and I rather think that observation would be, speaking generally, well founded. At all events, the common stipulation in Scotland is for payment of a somewhat higher rate of interest. It must be noted, however, that this provision is only introduced into the Bill as one of three alternatives; so that if any particular landlord does not think that his land is of such a character that the drainage would be so enduring as to make 5 per cent a fair return, he has two other alternatives. He can either allow the tenant to execute the drainage works, with the liability to pay him for what residue of advantage may remain on his quitting the holding, or the landlord and tenant can make a reasonable agreement in regard to the manner of executing the works. We are all familiar in Scotland with agreements of this kind; and although the hon. Member for Buteshire seems to be of opinion that the Law Officers of the Crown know nothing about agriculture, I venture to think that we are not altogether ignorant of it. Possibly, we may have been in the country sometimes, and we may know a little about the matter otherwise. But we are all familiar with cases in which the landlord and tenant do execute drainage works by joint and reasonable arrangement. We sometimes find that the tenant executes the carriages, and the landlord provides the tiles. Again, we know that one of them undertakes to cut the tracks of the drains, while the other makes some other contribution to their execution. When three alternatives are given, two of them certainly reasonable, I do not think any landlord could complain of unjust treatment if he accepted the alternative of executing the drains and charging 5 per cent interest, when he had the other two to fall back upon. The other point that the hon. Member made with regard to drainage was, that it should be done under inspection. He suggested that drainage executed by the tenant should be under inspection, and the kind of 1798 inspection he proposed was by an Inspector of the Inclosure Commissioners. We think it is very much better, as far as possible, to dispense with the introduction of public functionaries between landlord and tenant—a view which, I believe, is largely shared on the other side of the House; and the introduction, unless it was clearly necessary, of a person from the outside to see work done, the execution of which the landlord could watch, would be a step in a direction which I did not expect to hear proposed from the quarter from which the criticism has come. There would be no advantage to the tenant in the drainage work being executed in an inefficient manner. In the first place, it is his interest to have good drains, because they are for the benefit of the holding of which he reaps the profits; and, in the second place, he knows that he will only be compensated at the termination of his tenancy for any residue of his improvements which may then remain effective. If he does not leave any residue, he will not get any compensation, so that he has every sort of stimulus to make his drains in the best way; whereas, on the other hand, the landlord, having the power of coming on the ground and seeing what is done, may make suggestions, or take any notes which he pleases, for the purpose of preserving evidence, to be adduced when the question arises, how the work was carried out, whether judiciously or injudiciously.[Sir HERBERT MAXWELL: Ex parte.] No; the proceedings of the arbitrator will not be ex parte. The landlord observing, and the tenant executing, I venture to say that part of the hon. Member's criticism was not well founded. The next part of the Bill dealt with by the hon. Member was the 3rd Schedule; and his objection was that provision is not made for notice being given, so that the landlord should have an opportunity of analyzing the manures that were proposed to be put in the ground. I know that is a point in regard to which there is some difference of opinion, and which deserves fair consideration; but, upon the whole, the view taken by the Government is that it would not be reasonable or beneficial to either party to require antecedent notice in the case of manures. It would be a very vexatious provision upon the tenant if, in cultivating his holding, and possibly putting in. his manure hurriedly, 1799 when the weather suited, he had always to send a notice to the landlord, under penalty of losing any compensation for the manure, if it proved to be beneficial. It would be putting too much upon him in the busy period of the spring husbandry; and in the not improbable event of his neglecting to give notice his just claim would be cut off. And I must point out, further, that if there is any defect of evidence with regard to the character or quality of the manure it would be the tenant who would suffer. He would require to prove his case, to prove that he made an improvement of which a certain residue remained to be valued, so that if there was any defect of proof it would fall upon him. It would, therefore, be only natural that he would take care, in his own interest, to use manure of good quality, some part of which would remain in the soil at the expiry of his tenancy. It has been suggested that, in some instances, fraudulent devices might be resorted to. Of course, such things are possible; but I am bound to say that, knowing the tenantry of Scotland well, I should not anticipate that anything of that kind would be other than of the most exceptional character. On the whole, we see no reason to alter the view in which this Bill was framed, that the ordinary operations of husbandry should be allowed to be carried out in the proper time, without going through formalities that would always be vexatious, and which might sometimes lead to injustice. The next hon. Member who spoke was my hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay), and his observations were in a direction diametrically opposed to the criticisms which I have just now been dealing with. On the whole, he recognized the Bill as a distinct advance, and as conferring no small benefits on the tenant; but he thought that, in some of its particulars, it did not go far enough. The first two points which he made were these—first, that the Bill did not provide for freedom of cultivation; and, secondly, that it did not afford, in his judgment, a sufficient inducement to the tenant to embark his capital in the soil. I understood his practical proposal on the first point was of this nature. He said that in Scotch leases there were frequently stipulations providing that, in the event of the land being miscropped, 1800 there should be a pactional rent paid for it. Undoubtedly that is true; but what did he propose? I understood his proposal to be that, by an Act of Parliament, those clauses should be cut down, and a declaration substituted that only the actual damage sustained should be allowed. That, as it appears to me, would be a very strong measure indeed. It seems a violent proposal to say that, where two persons have deliberately agreed on an additional pactional rent, in the event of something being done which they contracted should not be done, the Legislature should deny the effect of that agreement. In regard to the next criticism of my hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire, in which he said there was not adequate security given for capital, I understood him to object to the principle of enumeration by way of Schedule. He contended that the whole improvements made by the tenant without specification should be submitted to arbitration. Now, Sir, no doubt the proposal so stated has an air of great fairness and great plausibility; but I am afraid that what we should have to consider is—is it practicable? If you put the question so much at large, as simply to say that you are to compare the condition of the farm at the beginning with its condition at the end of the lease, without having reference to special items of improvement, you would raise a question of the vaguest and widest kind. There are many improvements, in a sense, which are realty only works done in the execution of the tenant's duty, such as tilling and cleaning his land. These are points which it is suggested should be put into the Schedule, and made subjects of compensation; but I venture to say that these are simply ordinary agricultural operations, which it is the duty of the tenant to perform, both for his own interest and the interest of the holding. The theory of this Bill is, that where a man has done something beyond ordinary husbandry, something capable of definition, of proof, and of ascertainment, which adds to the value of his holding, he should be paid for it by way of compensation; and we think the proper and just mode is to schedule the items of improvement in the way we have done. Whether the Schedules would be better for being remodelled, or added to, or excepted from, 1801 are matters for discussion and determination in Committee; but on the general principle that scheduling is the right way, and that compensation should be given only for specified and definable items of value added by the tenant, we are disposed to adhere to the view presented by the Bill. The next criticism of the hon. Member for Forfarshire related to the requirement as to improvements contained in the first head of the Schedule, that they should be made with the consent of the landlord. Now, there is a great difference between works of the character there dealt with, and those things which are, like manuring, necessary for really getting the full advantage and benefit from the farm. You have building houses and doing things which alter the subject of letting; and it would be a very strong thing to say that where a man takes a holding under a contract, he should, without the consent of the lessor, be allowed to alter the character of the holding. Upon that ground we maintain that it is proper to distinguish between improvements which would alter the character of the holding, and improvements as to the propriety and necessity of which no two intelligent men could differ. Drainage, which occupies the 2nd Schedule, stands in an intermediate position between improvements for which we propose to require the consent of the landlords, and the third class of improvements, such as manuring, for which neither notice nor consent is required. And the reason for that distinction is this—that manuring and the like are necessary operations. Drainage may also be a necessary operation, and so it is allowed without consent; but then it is an operation of a much more important and extraordinary character; it is not a thing done every seed time—it is a thing done, probably, once during the currency of a lease; and notice is necessary to enable the landlord to say, first, whether he will do it; secondly, whether he can agree with the tenant in regard to it; or, thirdly, whether he will allow the tenant to do it, and submit to pay compensation; and I may add, fourthly, to obtain and preserve evidence as to how it was done. All these things seem to justify the placing of drainage in a separate category. With regard to what was urged by the hon. Member for Forfarshire in respect to cottages, it is, 1802 no doubt, exceedingly desirable that better habitations should be provided for farm labourers in many parts of the country; but I hope that this is a matter in which landlords have not been, and will not be, altogether neglectful. It is certainly much more considered now than in times past; and if the principle of classification which we have proposed is adopted, it would fall under the first, and not under the second or third heads. Of course, the landlord would get a charge on his estate, if he thought necessary. The next point that my hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire dealt with was that part of the Bill which proposes to make the Act compulsory, and he welcomed that, in so far as it went; but he seemed to have some misgivings as to whether difficulties might not arise in defining what were fair and reasonable agreements. Now, no doubt, it is a thing that will require care and skill in working out; but, at the same time, it is not a problem that is insoluble, and we should hope that no very serious difficulty will be experienced in solving it. It would be a simple matter for inquiry whether the arrangement made at the commencement of a lease was then a fair arrangement. If it appeared to be fair, it would be allowed to stand; if it was not fair, it would be disregarded. We are not unfamiliar, in law, with examples of contracts being sustained only if they were fair and reasonable. We know that, in railway law, agreements do not stand between Railway Companies which are supposed to have a monopoly and the trader, if they are not fair and reasonable; and the Courts have no difficulty in determining what is a reasonable agreement and what is not. Cases have arisen in which a Railway Company has said in a contract of carriage—"We shall not be responsible for the thefts of our servants." But the Law Courts hold that such a stipulation is neither just nor reasonable, and therefore they do not allow it to prevail. I do not apprehend that there would be any greater difficulty—probably there would be less difficulty—in dealing with the question of what is fair and reasonable, as a matter of agricultural arrangement, at the commencement of a lease than is already experienced in other matters. My hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire said that he preferred the mode of settlement 1803 provided by the Act of 1875. I am not quite sure whether he was entirely correct in supposing that there was such a difference, especially in regard to the third class of improvements as stated in the Schedule of this Bill, between its provisions and those of the Act of 1875 as he seems to imagine. If he refers to that Act, I think he will see that there is a variation in the principle adopted with regard to manures as compared with that applied to drainage and certain other improvements, such as buildings. Each is determined very much in the same manner as that which we now propose. My hon. Friend complained that there was no power conferred by this Bill to assign leases. I know that is a point as to which a good deal of difference of opinion has been entertained; but our system has been tried, and, on the whole, I do not think we have found that our Scottish leases have worked badly. They are generally for a period of 19 years. By them, generally, assignees and sub-tenants were excluded; and my hon. Friend can hardly expect that where a lessee has agreed that assignees shall be excluded—where the landlord has, in effect, said to the tenant—"I will deal with you; but I shall not deal with anyone who may become your assignee or sub-tenant"—it would be right to interfere with that stipulation, for which a consideration may have been given, possibly in a lower rent, or otherwise, when the lease was entered into. It is by no means uncommon that when a landlord comes to let his farm, he says—"If I get a good tenant, I will take a less rent." But if he has let his farm for less, because the tenant is a good tenant, the tenant has got the consideration in his lower rent, for agreeing that his lease should not be assignable. There was one point in regard to which I felt very much to sympathize with my hon. Friend, and that was in regard to the hardships that often result from the death of a tenant. There is no doubt that hardship is sometimes experienced where nobody but the heir-at-law can take up the lease, and where, perhaps, the widow and family have to be turned out. In the proposal to allow a bequest of leases, I apprehend my hon. Friend was coming nearer to sound principle than he was in dealing with assignation, and to some of the other points he men- 1804 tioned. In this connection I desire to say a word in regard to the appropriateness of the provisions of this Bill to the system of lease-holding in Scotland. I know that some people think it is not so appropriate to Scotland, where we have long leases—19 years usually—as to England. I venture to say that the idea is not well founded. I can hardly conceive any case to which the provisions of the Bill are more appropriate than to that of a 19 years' lease. One of the commonest experiences at the commencement of a 19 years' lease has been—but I hope it will not be so in future—that the condition of the farm had been let down, simply because the tenant would get no compensation for his improvements. The consequence of that was that the incoming tenant was occupied during five or six years in getting the farm up to its proper standard. Then, perhaps, he would keep the farm for six, or eight, or 10 years in high condition; and then, for the remainder of the lease, he, like his predecessor, having no security for his improvements, would begin to take what he could out of the farm, so that the result was that the farm was only in its highest and best condition of cultivation during about half the duration of the lease. We believe that, by providing for compensation as we have done by this Bill, we shall insure that the normal standard shall be uniformly maintained throughout. The incoming tenant will find the farm in high condition, and the outgoing tenant will leave it in the like condition. Therefore, I venture to say that the Bill is, if possible, more appropriate to our system, where, undoubtedly, the durability of tenure for 19 years did conduce to a high standard in the middle of the lease, although it allowed a somewhat low standard in the beginning and end of a lease. We believe that we shall henceforth see a high standard maintained throughout. There were various other points as to which I should have desired to speak; but I have already occupied too much of the time of the House, and we are very hopeful, as there appears to be a general consensus of opinion in favour of the principles of the Bill, that we may obtain the second reading at this Sitting. There are, of course, other matters which we shall be glad to consider and to discuss in Committee; but I submit that there 1805 has been a clear case made out for reading the Bill a second time now, and for the House accepting the main principles upon which the Bill has been based.
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
said, that no hon. Member who had addressed the House had described, in terms sufficiently strong, the great disappointment felt by the tenant farmers of Scotland on the appearance of the Bill, and especially on one part which had been referred to by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. M'Lagan), and to which he (Sir Alexander Gordon) was sorry the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had not referred—the absence of any provision for giving the tenant farmer the result of his good cultivation. The whole Bill was devoted to compensation for particular outlays; but there was one class of improvement which was as beneficial as any other, and that was a continued course of cultivation. That ought to be provided for. The Bill as drawn was, in fact, simply a premium upon slovenly cultivation, rather than a measure in the interests of good cultivation. He would explain what he meant. Take the case of two farms of the same size and condition in every respect, with a lease for 19 years, at the rent, say, of£300 a-year. The man who cultivated his farm with care and attention was placed at a disadvantage in comparison with the man who treated his holding with proportionate neglect, inasmuch as the rent of the former would be raised, whilst that of the latter would remain as it was. The good tenant might then be removed to make room for the man who was willing to pay the increased rent. Any Act which introduced such a practice could not be drawn upon sound principles; and he believed that that was one reason why the farmers were so greatly disappointed with the Bill. He was very much struck with the reference of the hon. Member for Linlithgow to questions of drainage and building being referred to arbitration. He (Sir Alexander Gordon) believed that such a system would hold out many inducements for carrying out improvements, and that it would give great satisfaction to the tenants. He should, therefore, like to see the system carried out farther than was now proposed. It was already the constant practice in Scotland for disputes between landlord 1806 and tenant to be settled by an arbitrator appointed by the Sheriff of the county. That was actually the law of the land now in England and Scotland, disputes being settled in the County Courts in England and the Sheriff Courts in Scotland; while applications were made in England under the Agricultural Holdings Act, and in Scotland by the custom of the country. As to compensation, he thought the test of value to the incoming tenant was not one that ought to be adhered to. It ought to be the value of the holding as it really existed. The incoming tenant might have in view objects different from those of the outgoing tenant; the latter might have erected buildings unsuitable to the objects of the other; and every improvement ought to be considered in its relation to the original purposes of the holding. He thought also the erection of the buildings should include cottages for farm labourers employed on the holdings. There was no allusion to them in the Bill, and he thought that was a very great omission. He was sorry the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate did not intimate that he would be ready to consider an Amendment of that nature.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
was understood to say that he would consider any Amendment in that direction.
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
said, he had not heard that part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech; but he was sure many Amendments would be moved in the interests of tenant farmers and labourers in order to make it more acceptable than the present.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday 11th June.