§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Dodson.)
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he was certainly somewhat surprised that the ordinary course had been departed from, and that the Minister in charge of the Bill had not taken the opportunity, when moving the second reading, to thoroughly explain the principles of the measure. It was true, a statement of its provisions was made on the first introduction of the Bill; but it was also true that that statement was very brief, and was made at a time—about 1 o'clock, A.M.—when but few Members were present to hear it. That was not according to the old Constitutional practice of a Member of the Cabinet explaining clearly every part and every line of the Bill to a full House, and laying down clearly what were its main and vital points. They had especial right to complain on this occasion, because they knew what had been done in times gone by. In 1870, the Prime Minister introduced a Bill in a remarkable speech, in which he told the House that there were no germs of tenant right in it which could be afterwards construed as introducing fair rent, and free sale. Yet, in 1881, the right hon. Gentleman said that, although he thought at the time there was no tenant-right introduced into the Bill of 1870, he had since found that it had crept into it. They had, therefore, a right to ask from the Prime Minister an explicit declaration as to the vital principles of this Bill. They wanted to know what were the lines upon which the Bill was drawn, and whether it was intended to allow Amendments to be introduced in Committee contrary to what was now thought to be the principle of the Bill. This was a question they had a perfect right to ask, considering what had occurred during the last few years. He would at once admit that there had been great discussion with regard to this question 1111 of so-called unexhausted improvements since 1875, but more especially since 1879. As to the Act of 1875, that was introduced by those now sitting on the Front Opposition Bench. That Act had, undoubtedly, done a large amount of good—far more good than hon. Gentlemen opposite were inclined to admit—although some of them thought it a weak Act, because it did not contain compulsory powers, and left to tenant farmers that freedom of contract which hon. Members on his side of the House had always advocated. A large portion of that Act was, however, now embodied by the Government in their own Bill. There were several other Bills before the House, and the Government very wisely had considered them all, and taken such provisions from them as they thought were wise and prudent—notably from his hon. Friend the Member for Midhurst's Bill. His own name was also on the back of that Bill, which had dealt so well with the Law of Distress. But, besides those Bills, there was another Bill introduced by the Farmers' Alliance, but not before the House—a Bill which the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. J. Howard) talked a great deal about in the country; but that Bill was not palatable to that House or to the tenant farmers. It contained provisions for fixity of tenure, and for the establishment of Courts for the revision of rents, which he hoped would never become part of the law of this country. [Mr. GLADSTONE intimated assent.] He was glad to hear that the Prime Minister approved of that view. He believed there was to be a proposal that sitting tenants were to be taken into account. He would not enter into this question now further than to say that the sitting tenant at present had the matter in his own hand, for he was in possession and had all the benefit out of the land; but his best hope in time of adversity lay in that generosity on the part of his landlord which no Act of Parliament could enforce. A landlord dreaded nothing more, at the present time, than that his tenant should leave his holding, because a new tenant invariably required expenditure on the part of the landlord as a condition of his tenancy. There were large numbers of independent men who had weathered the storm of adversity, and believed that their best 1112 security lay in an honourable understanding with their landlords. But he was bound to say, also, that there were many tenant farmers who thought they ought to have more security than they possessed at the present moment; and that was a question which it was absolutely necessary to face. What they had to arrive at was this—that the tenant should, on leaving his farm, be repaid the sum he had laid out in improvements which would be for the benefit of the incoming tenant. That was the principle of this Bill. Upon this point there was a difference between the present Bill and the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1875, for in the latter Act the question was one of money value; and, no doubt, the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) would have something to say on that point. The question was certainly worth discussing in Committee. There had been some curious writings on this point in the public Press recently, especially a letter in The Times newspaper of yesterday from the Hon. Auberon Herbert—a former Member of that House and an advanced Radical. That Gentleman, it appeared, was not in love with the present Bill. He thought the rights of property ought to be respected, and was not quite sure what would happen if this Bill passed. That letter he understood as expressing the views of the Radical Party. ["No!"] Mr. Herbert asked whether a lease did not offer fair inducements to a tenant farmer, and whether a lease for a term certain did not exclude the landlord and the tenant from the "unknown and unknowable" evils of this Bill. And he expressed a hope that the Bill would never grow into tenant right. That was what he was afraid of; and he further stated his belief that freedom of contract and common honesty should form the basis of all action. He would put it to the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) whether a Bill of this kind—to which he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) intended to give his support—would not, unless amended, keep only the large farms going; and he would also ask whether that was not the sole intention of the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. J. Howard), who was naturally anxious that there should be a demand for large and expensive implements in country districts; whether the hon. Member did not wish to keep on the farms 1113 men who could pay for those implements, and whether he was not looking to that class of men rather than to the interest of the tenant farmers? With regard to the Law of Distress, he thought the question as to whether the period should be two years rather than one year was a question fairly open to discussion. He himself was in favour of two years, because the general practice in England was not to pay the first half-year's rent till three months or more after it was due; in fact, not, in many cases, until near the end of the first year. If the period wore confined to one year only, landlords would have to be more stringent in demanding their rents than at present. There were many agricultural labourers whom they were anxious to place in small farms, who had brought up their families well, and who had a small amount of money, but who, when they went into the farms, though the landlords placed them in without any valuation, wanted a little money to buy that stock and those implements which were absolutely necessary for working the farms. If, then, there were a Law of Distress that would not be put in force, still there would be a security, and they could get the money from, the landlord at a far cheaper rate than if they went to the bank to borrow it. Those men lived economically, and they would be able to pay the rent which, as it were, they borrowed from their landlord. Therefore, the Law of Distress should be looked at from both sides of the question, and not from the tradesman's point of view only. If the hon. Member for Ipswich would put aside his prejudices and crotchets in regard to land, he might do a good service to those honest and excellent men whom everyone would be glad to see in the occupation of a farm. The main principle of the Bill was comprised in the 1st clause, which provided that where a tenant had made in the holding any of the improvements included in the Schedules he should be entitled, on quitting the holding, to such compensation as was represented by the value of the improvement to the incoming tenant. So long as that principle was fairly maintained, and the Schedules worked in with that principle, there would be little to be said about the Bill. But, on looking a little further into it, they saw how much there might be of disputable 1114 matter when they came to deal with the different Schedules. Take the question of drainage. It was said there was to be 5 per cent on the outlay. He supposed that meant 5 per cent per annum, though that was not stated in the Bill. If they were to have compulsory drainage, as there might be by the Bill, that 5 per cent was not sufficient to pay the expenses. Some time ago he had charged 6 per cent on the drainage; his neighbour charged 5 per cent; and it was complained that he was charging 1 per cent more than his neighbour. He went into the question, and he found that his 6 per cent was less per acre for drainage than his neighbour's 5 per cent. And why? Because he only charged for the absolute cost to himself—for the money he actually laid out—whereas supervision and all other matters were brought into the other charge; so that, in reality, it was 6½ per cent, or considerably over his 6 per cent. Again, the life of a drain was about 20 years, after which time it required renewing; and when they put a compulsory clause into a Bill there ought to be some proper inspection as to drainage, so that the landlord might know, and the incoming tenant might feel assured, that it was properly done and efficient for all practical purposes. The last Schedule was a very important one. No doubt, the great majority of tenants would be honest, and would state exactly what they had placed on the land, and would buy the best articles they could; but there were a large number of tenants who dealt with men in their immediate neighbourhood, and it was known that the stuff sold to them was absolutely valueless, and that much of the feeding stuff sold to them was of little value. Those things might be charged for at such a price as could not possibly pay the incoming tenant. There should be some guarantee and regulation to secure that the person paying for them might know that the feeding stuff was good, and that the manures which had been used were of the best quality. There ought to be proper supervision, and proper samples should be given, that they might know that what they were paying for was really of value to the incoming tenant. In the counties of Surrey and Sussex, and he dared say in other counties, there were such things as dressings, half-dressings, and 1115 things which had been manufactured and made up to a large amount. Many landlords had purchased up those rights, so that the incoming tenant should go on without any of those dressings and half-dressings; and they ought to be secured by the Bill from having to pay over again for things many of which were manufactured from stuff that was not fit to be put into the land. They ought also to have some guarantee that they would have good and satisfactory valuers, men in whom both landlords and tenants had confidence. Many valuers were independent and honest enough; but it was necessary to have security that the incoming tenant should not have to pay for that which was really of no value. In giving, then, his assent to the second reading of the Bill, he wished it to be understood that he was not going to travel one inch beyond the principle to which he had referred; and if the measure was to be a final one—["Oh!"] That expression was exactly what he wanted to elicit. He saw in his place the Chairman of the Farmers' Alliance (Mr. Borlase), who made a speech the other day, following the example of the President of the Board of Trade. He did not use exactly the same words as the right hon. Gentleman about those who "toiled not, neither did they spin;" but he referred to the landlords as "the class whom an arbitrary appropriation had called into being, who reaped where they had not sown, and gathered where they had not strawed." If the hon. Gentleman knew anything of the landlords and of the agriculture of this country, he would know that what he had said was absolutely and entirely without foundation. He admired a man who had the courage of his opinions; but he did not admire the man who, for the sake of gaining a little applause from those around him, stated that which he must know, if he took a little trouble to inquire, was not true. What was it that, taking one acre with another, the landlords had put into the soil as compared with the capital of the tenant? Estimating the tenant's capital at £10, £12, or £15 per acre, the landlord's capital, then, consisting of farm-house, farm buildings, cottages, roads, fences, drains, and other matters, could not be less than £15 an acre, besides the value of the land. Nothing done in this country had im- 1116 proved the position of the working classes more than the improved dwellings erected for labourers on the large majority—he believed 90 per cent—of estates; certainly, large estates. [Mr. JESSE COLLINGS dissented.] The hon. Member for Ipswich shook his head. Let him look at his own town, and the suburbs of other towns, where the working men had to lodge as best they could in a miserable room without anything like a garden. Then, compare it with the comparative luxury of the man in the agricultural districts, who, in many instances, had his three good bedrooms, a good sitting-room, a good kitchen behind the house, a good larder and out-offices, and a good garden. He, for one, was willing, provided the Government did not proceed to alter the Bill, to accept it as a fair and an honest attempt to deal with the question. Goodness know that in the agricultural districts they wanted encouragement; and he hoped something in the direction of this legislation might be of real service. But they might pass this Bill in the hope that it might help to insure a return of prosperity. But there was one far more important factor in the case, and that was fine weather, with which he hoped they might be blessed. He was confident that that would do more for them than anything that could be done in that House. He would conclude by saying that glad as he should be to see a good measure like this passed, he could not leave the subject without reminding the right hon. Gentleman that there was another matter which he had totally ignored; and that was the question of local taxation, pressing heavily, as it did, hour by hour and day by day, upon the agricultural population of this country. Now, having brought in this Bill, let him deal with that question. He knew the right hon. Gentleman did not like to spend more money; but, depend upon it, he would have to do it, and let him take heart and deal with that question. It was one of those questions to obtain legislation on which they would have to thunder at the door of the House; but he confidently believed that, if they thundered loud enough and long enough, they would yet get an acceptable measure.
§ MR. BORLASE
* Mr. Speaker, I think, Sir, it would be painful to this House to keep it any longer in the state 1117 of fervid excitement in which the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) has, as is his wont, left it, I do not wonder he did not approve of my travelling back, when speaking at Hackney the other day, into the precedents of history, because he knows very well that those precedents tell against that class which he so ably represents in this House. I do not think it necessary, at present, to deal with the attack which he has made upon myself; but I will venture, Sir, to give you the reasons why I, for my own part, mean to vote for the second reading of this Bill. I do so, because I consider that it sanctions a principle, and carries with it admissions which are far too valuable to be lost, which may give scope for new departures in the direction of the reforms we seek, and which have been long and earnestly, though up to this point vainly, contended for by those Liberals who represent the agricultural interest in this House. By the principle it sanctions, I mean the just and, therefore, the ultimately indefeasible and inalienable right—however much that right may, unfortunately, have been restricted in this Bill—of the tenant to receive, in virtue of his holding, full and adequate compensation for the improvements which have been effected by him. By the admissions the Bill carries with it, I mean, first of all, that which was contained in the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Thomas Acland)—that is to say, that the measure of compensation is to be the value of the improvement to an incoming tenant; secondly, that no lapse of time shall suffice to exhaust the right to compensation in respect to that improvement while it is still in existence. But, having said thus much, I must not hesitate one moment longer to express, not only for myself, but on behalf of many whose views are made known to me, the great disappointment which this Bill has been to us—a Bill introduced by a Government from which so much was expected, and in whose name so much was promised by us in the Election of 1880, when we were led to suppose that an efficient and drastic measure of agricultural reform would have been put before us such as we cannot regard this Bill to be. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, speaking at Leeds the year following that Election, said— 1118It is of capital and immediate importance for the farmers to see that effectual and not abortive measures are taken to secure the whole interest of the tenant—not a part of that interest, but the whole interest in his improvements; and his interest, as the law may define it—in his tenure.Sir, I fail to see bow I can find anything in common between the spirit that breathed life into that sentence, and hope into the hearts of those to whom these reforms are dear, and the words contained in the clauses which follow on and distort the first and Declaratory Clause of this Bill. Now, what are the characteristics of this Bill, and what does it do? That it is an honest attempt, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, to deal with this question upon certain existing lines, I do not for a moment deny; but honesty and poverty sometimes go together. I hold that it is an essentially poor measure, a halfhearted measure, little calculated to carry out its own principle of "payment by results," much less to produce enthusiasm, or to leave a brilliant impression on a future age. It begins with a general right of the tenant to compensation; it goes on to provide reservations, restrictions, limitations, call them what we will, of every conceivable kind, to prevent that principle from coming into practice. It is not original. It bears too much the stamp of its parent, the old Agricultural Holdings Act. It is inadequate; it is complicated; it is not plain and straightforward; it is not in any sense the ultimate solution—as the hon. and gallant Baronet would so much wish it to be—of this, the great and burning home question of the day. It is nothing more than the bare admission of a vital principle, for which we should record our vote, with such a measure of thanks to its authors as is their due, simply and solely because it will serve as a precedent, as a basis, as a vantage ground, and a leverage for further and more thorough reform. Now, I wish to ask the House to consider what are the sources from which this Bill is derived, and what is the past history of this just claim for compensation. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman himself who has introduced it (Mr. Dodson) will not claim for it the distinction of originality. I am sure he will admit that, in reducing it to its present shape, he has culled what he has thought to be the best from every Bill which has been before this 1119 House. From the programme of the tenants he has borrowed the principle. From the programme of the landlords he has borrowed the means of evading it. It is eminently eclectic. It is a skilful compilation. It is a diplomatic compromise, which comes in most seasonably just now. It will prove successful; if the passage through this House of a measure so drafted as to meet the views of both sides can be regarded as a success. What, then, are the main influences, we recognize in it? Naturally enough the influence of one whose name should never be forgotten in connection with this question—of one who was the pioneer of agricultural reform in this House—I moan Mr. Pusey. All I can say is, that I wish that no other influences had been brought to bear, but that this were Mr. Pusey's Bill. Secondly, that of one whom I hope I may be allowed to call his lieutenant, who, together with Mr. Denison, had his name at the back of the original Bill—I mean the veteran land reformer, the hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Thomas Acland). I must say that for thoroughness and logical result I would have preferred his Drainage Clause to that which is in this Bill. The influence on this measure of the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for Midhurst (Sir Henry Holland) has been duly acknowledged; and we come, in the fourth and last place, to an influence which I would were absent. In that clause, which requires the consent of the landlord to some dozen necessary improvements—in that clause which we may call "the dog-in-the-manger" clause—where the landlord may say that he will neither effect the improvement himself, nor suffer it to be done by others, surely we cannot but recognize the influence of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin). Now, what is the past history of the desire for this reform? It is no mere cry raised up during bad seasons. It is not the offspring of the last unfruitful years. Its roots are deep down stretching in the English soil. Not to go back to the market-places of the Middle Ages, and the revolt against the feudal power, what is the past history of this desire for reform? I had in my hand, the other day, a little book written during the period of that noble uprising in favour of justice and truth which we know as 1120 the Commonwealth. It was dedicated to the Protector. Its author was one Walter Bligh, and it was entitled The English Improver Improved, or the Survey of Husbandry Surveyed. The first great hindrance to husbandry, Bligh says is—That if a tenant be at never so great pains or cost for the improvement of his land, he doth thereby but occasion a greater rack upon himself, or else invest his landlord into his cost and labour gratis, or, at best, lies at his landlord's mercy for requital, which occasions a great neglect of all good husbandry, to his own, the land, the landlord, and the Commonwealth's suffering. Now this, I humbly conceive, may be removed, if there were a law enacted by which every landlord should be obliged, either to give him reasonable allowance for his clear improvements, or else suffer him or his to enjoy it so much longer, until he hath had a proportionable requital.And then, after drawing a comparison with the rapid progress of agriculture in Flanders, he goes on—Some tenants have advanced £20 to £40 per aero, and, depending upon the landlord's favour, have been wiped of all; and many farmers, by this uncertainty, have been impoverished and left under great disgrace, who might as well have been advanced.The days in which those words were written wore days too soon to pass away, when the bonds of class privilege had for the while been cast aside, and when the tongue of the suffering classes had been loosed and could freely speak out the truth. Yet it was not until more than 200 years had passed away, that this question, which had been seemingly sleeping so long, was recognized as one of primary importance. The farmer once more was gaining his power of speech and action. The Reform Bill and the Ballot Act had restored to him what two centuries of landlord government and class domination had taken away—freedom of speech and action. Coincidently with these reforms district customs appeared, due mainly to economic causes, involving tenants' claims and landlords' concessions. Amongst others, the Lincolnshire Custom arose in the early decades of this century. In 1841, Lord Portman, a Liberal Peer, introduced a Bill giving—Power to the tenant to charge his landlord with the unexhausted value of any permanent improvements which he had executed, after having given notice of his intention to execute them with the consent of the landlord.Arbitrators were to fix the amount. Six years later, Mr. Pusey brought in his 1121 Bill for compulsory tenant right. Of that Bill my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. J. Howard) said—I believe that no more honest measure ever was proposed to the British House of Commons. It held the balance fairly between landlord and tenant; it gave the landlord an indefeasible right to his improvements, whilst it secured the interests of the owner.Mr. Pusey presented Petitions from farmers representing 200,000 acres; but the landlord influence was too strong, and he dropped his Bill almost with an apology. A Committee was, however, appointed, and the evidence before it was clearly in favour of compulsory legislation to secure the tenant's capital. The question grew. Farmers found they could see their way; they could feel their feet; they could hold their own. Their opinion was respected. They formed Clubs, Chambers of Agriculture, Associations, Alliances; and now, when rent-day came, they dined in the dining-room, and no longer in the servants' hall. In 1850, there was a Liberal Government, and Mr. Pusey's Bill passed this House by a Liberal majority. It went to "another place," where Tory briars spring up and choke the Liberal seed. The Landlord and Tenant Bill was, in 1873, introduced by the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. James Howard) and Mr. C. S. Read. I wish that Mr. Bead were only here now. ["Hear, hear!"] If hon. Gentlemen opposite think so, why did not they support Mr. Read's Bill? Under that Bill compensation was compulsory, as it is under this; yet they opposed it. The cry of danger to freedom of contract was raised. Sir, once for all, what freedom of contract can there be, where, unless economic causes are present to prevent it, all the power to dictate terms is on the one side, and all the obligation to accept them is on the other; or, what freedom of contract should there be, where a bargain made between man and man is detrimental to the common weal;—where, as in this case for instance, it can set restrictions on the full and free produce of the home soil? I need not do more than remind the House of what followed. Hitherto, with one exception—Mr. Pusey's Bill—everything that had been done for the farmer had been done by Liberal statesmen. The Tories saw they must do something; so they passed that great measure of concession, 1122 the Agricultural Holdings Act, which was not only full of vexations and restrictions, and unfair assumptions, but was absolutely, from its permissive character, abortive. Well, how did hon. Gentlemen opposite act with regard to even so mild, a measure as that was? Having opposed the principle of compulsory compensation then, I am anxious to see how they can support this stronger measure now. What did the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire say then—The public feeling in favour of the Bill had been very much over-stated. There were, beyond doubt, many districts, and some counties, in England where nothing of the kind was required."—(3 Hansard,  470.)The hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) stated boldly that "compulsion would not do." The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) stated that "the merit of the Bill was that it was permissive." But the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for West Sussex, as usual, surpassed them all in thoroughness and fervour. He sneered at Farmers' Associations, and denied the evidence of their grievances. He said—They knew that through the length and breadth of the land Agricultural Chambers had risen up and demanded that there should be some legislation. But he was not absolutely clear, and no one had pointed out, that Agricultural Chambers represented the views and wishes of the tenant farmers of this country. What he wanted was, that the Bill … should respect—as the measure of a Conservative Government ought to respect—the rights of private property."—[Ibid., 508–11.)In that wish, the hon. and gallant Baronet was not disappointed. The Bill did guard what he meant by private property—that was to say, the landlord's interest. In fact, it was a landlords' measure, passed by a Government of landlords, and in such a form, that while they could not be one penny the worse the tenant could scarcely be one penny the better. Such were the "farmers' friends." Since the passing of that Act, years of unexampled distress having set in, the demands of the agriculturists have again and again forced themselves on the attention of this House. What consolation have the Tories had to offer? The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire told the farmers, in 1879, that for the want of security "they had no one to thank but themselves." Their manner of living was made a subject of ridicule;—that their 1123 daughters played the piano, and that they drove their phætons. I do not say that they did not merit the charge of extravagance; but was the fault all on the one side? What were the landlords doing at the same time? Were they not building for themselves palaces all over the country? The whole business was, in fact, inflated. What wonder was it that the bubble burst? The Royal Commission on Agriculture has left out the raising of rent during the last 30 years as one of the main causes of depression. I have in my mind an instance of two estates, lying side by side in an Eastern county. They are only divided by a little stream. The one has passed from father to son, and has been held for generations; on that the rents have not been raised during the last 30 years. The other was purchased—I will not say as a speculation—some 25 years ago. During the good times the landlord raised his rent, and no objection was raised by the farmers. On the former of these estates, there is not, at the present moment, a single farm unoccupied. On the latter, there is scarcely one which is not on the landlord's hands. It is not that the landlord would not reduce his rent, even below that asked by his more fortunate neighbour; but what has happened is, that the land has been racked out in the meantime, so that no one can be found to take upon himself the responsibility of bringing it back to what it was once. We have seen what consolation the Tories had to offer. What remedies had they to suggest? The Bill of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire—a measure which was as dry a crumb of comfort for the farmer as are the dry bones in its Schedule, since it left him just in the position he was before, by making the landlord's consent precedent to any improvement at all. What has proceeded from the Liberal side of the House? I have mentioned several Bills. I will add to them that of the Farmers' Alliance, a Bill which has been much misrepresented. Hon. Members opposite would know, if they had studied that Bill, that it contained far stronger clauses to protect the landlord against deterioration than either the Government Bill or any other Bill introduced into this House. I recognize but little of the influence of that Bill in the present measure, except the principle of compulsory compensa- 1124 tion. For that principle, let it be ever remembered, the farmers had to thank the Liberal Party. For that principle the Alliance has been contending from the very outset. Of the Royal Commission on Agriculture and its influence on this Bill I have not time to speak. Suffice it to say that, in common with this measure, the Report was disappointing, since the landlords' gloss had to be read between every line. Such, then, are the sources from whence this Bill has been derived, and, in brief, a sketch of the movement which has brought it into being. In the Declaratory Clause, which stands in the position of a Preamble, it represents, in principle, the consensus of opinion as expressed in this House by individual Members, who have introduced Bills on this subject, both before and since the Agricultural Holdings Act. In so far it is valuable. In practice, it will be found not to go as far as some of them; and that it will fall far short of what the vast majority of tenant farmers have expected at the hands of this Government I have no doubt. Now, what are the principal objections to this Bill? They are three:—First, that for the tenant who is continuing in his holding three is no protection given against his rent being raised on his own improvements. In fact, the Bill, as it stands, holds out a premium to the least deserving class of farmers—that is to say, the quitting tenants. As Sir James Caird well pointed out, these restless spirits are fortunately at present "the very small minority of British farmers." The other class—the vast majority—are the backbone of British agriculture. To deny to them the benefit of this Bill is discouraging to them, detrimental to the public weal, as gauged by this produce of the soil, and repugnant to our sense of right and justice. It is said—"How can you do this act of justice for them, without introducing the machinery of the Irish Act;" I think you can, and I shall move an Amendment in Committee with reference to this. But not only do I think you can, but I think, for reasons of the highest State policy, you ought. I have always been opposed to a Land Court in England; but we must remember that the Channel which separates us from Ireland is a narrow one, and that, although we fully recognize that the conditions under which the Irish Act 1125 was passed were different to our own here, yet, Sir, the penny paper has supplanted the history of conditions in the mind of the community at large; and the day may come when, if we do not take this opportunity of placing the sitting tenant in his proper position in this Bill, he will, if times continue bad, look across the Channel, and ask, with no little show of reason, why the security extended to his Irish brother has not been extended to him. To quote Sir James Caird once more, if the Bill is to be of any real advantage—The change" it effects "must crahrace not only the few thousands who are going out of business, but the hundreds of thousands who desire to continue in it.The second objection is, that the consent of the landlord is required in the case of improvement other than drainage. I fail to see why irrigation is not as essential to dry land as drainage is to wet, or why pigstyes are not as essential to the rearing of pigs as drainage is to the raising of crops, or why the landlord has to be asked leave to make hop gardens, when the tenant in Kent, for instance, may, as I am told, do so already without it. The third objection is, that contracts are allowed to replace the compensation given by the landlord. This is the permissive principle which destroyed the Agricultural Holdings Act. There is a fourth objection, the retention in any form of the Law of Distress. This subject I naturally leave to my hon. Friend behind me, who has made it especially his own (Mr. Blennerhassett). Now, Sir, whether he be a member of Chambers of Agriculture, of Farmers' Clubs, or of the Farmers' Alliance, there is one thing which every farmer wants, and that is security. He wants to be treated like any other manufacturer. He does not want to have to invest his money on a good understanding. A good understanding may have done something for England; but how much more would have been done had the land been free? The farmer wants to be treated as a business man, engaged, as he is, in the first and most sacred industry of all. It is for the land we have to legislate—not for landlord, tenant, or labourer—in order that every artificial restriction may be removed which tends to prevent the community from gaining the full home produce of the soil, and to secure to each member in our tripartite system 1126 full remuneration for the labour and capital he expends upon it. There are two ways of dealing with a measure like the one before us. One is to adopt the plan, so well known to the Representatives from Ireland, of opposing all legislation, even when it would ameliorate their country, in the hope to gain the ultimate end desired. The other is, to act as the old Free Traders did in 1841, when they accepted the 8s. duty, and admit that reform must proceed step by step, not bound by bound. I cannot think we should be justified in throwing out a measure in which there is so much which may be beneficially altered in Committee, and which opens to us so wide a range for future reform. I shall, therefore, vote for the Bill.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, that, after the remarks that had fallen from the last speaker (Mr. Borlase), he wished to make a personal explanation. He just desired to call attention to the remarks that he did make in 1875. He had Hansard's Debates before him; and it seemed to him that Mr. Borlase had credited him with some of the remarks that he (Mr. Borlase) had himself now made, and he did not desire to rest under that imputation. All he had said was that—They knew that through the length and breadth of the land Agricultural Chambers had risen up, and demanded that there should be some legislation. But he was not absolutely clear, and no one had pointed out that Agricultural Chambers represented the views and wishes of the tenant farmers of this country. He would like to know whore the gross injustice had been where the evictions had occurred which led to the introduction of this Bill?"—(3 Hansard,  508.)That was all he had said, and yet the hon. Member had quoted considerably more than that as being his speech. In quoting speeches an hon. Gentleman should be very careful to be perfectly accurate, which the hon. Gentleman had certainly not been in the present instance.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, that the hon. and gallant Baronet who opened the debate commenced by making some severe observations upon his right hon. Friend for not having entered into any further explanation of the Bill. But as the hon. and gallant Baronet went on to say that the Bill was a fair and honest one, and that he would give it his support, he showed that he had read the 1127 Bill to some advantage, and was not in need himself of any further explanation. The hon. and gallant Baronet then referred to the Act of 1875, which, he stated, had produced a great amount of good, notwithstanding that it did not contain the principle of compulsion which the Liberal Party desired to include in it. He could not agree with the hon. and gallant Baronet that the Act of 1875 had done a great amount of good. He had before him the Reports of the Sub-Commissioners of Agriculture; and he was surprised to find to what extent the farmers were still without protection, either by customs or by agreements with their landlords. He was under the impression, before he read their Reports, that a very large number of tenants in England and Wales were under protection either by customs or agreements with their landlords; but the general conclusion to which he had now come was that this was the case to a very much less extent than most people supposed. According to the Commissioners, there were only three districts where the customs of the country were satisfactory and sufficient—these were the counties of Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, and Glamorganshire. The Reports showed, it was true, that on the better managed of the larger properties there were agreements between landlord and tenant of a satisfactory character; and on some other properties landlords conceded compensation to the tenants notwithstanding the absence of special agreements. But no one who read the Reports could come to any other conclusion than this—that the great majority of tenant farmers would not obtain compensation for their improvements. That was the state of things which had led the Government to conclude that a compulsory measure, such as that now before the House, was necessary and expedient. With the exception of Mr. Auberon Herbert, who might be entitled the political hermit of the New Forest, no public man had pronounced in favour of freedom of contract as against compulsion. It was not the fault of the Liberal Party that compulsory powers were not given by the Act of 1875. Amendments in favour of compulsion were proposed by Members of that Party; but they wore defeated. The late Mr. Ward Hunt, who had charge of the Bill, said that he could 1128 not suppose that landlords would rush to their lawyers immediately after the passing of the Act for the purpose of issuing notices excepting their property from the operation of it; but, notwithstanding that prediction, no sooner had the Act passed than landlords, as a body, did rush to their lawyers, and did issue such notices, the result being that the Act was of no avail, except in those cases whore, through ignorance or negligence, landlords had failed to issue notices. ["Oh!"] Well, it certainly was the fact that the landlords had, to a very large extent, contracted themselves out of the Act. It now fell to the lot of the present Government to deal with the question; and he ventured to say that it was their intention to deal with it in such a way that it should be a reality and not a sham. The Act of 1875 specified three different classes of improvements for which compensation was to be given according to a scale based upon the theory that the improvements would be exhausted respectively in 20, seven, or two years. That scale of compensation was unsatisfactory and insufficient, for the great bulk of the improvements contained in the three lists were calculated to last more than the specified number of years. If, after 20 years, an improvement still existed, why, in the name of justice, should not the tenant be compensated for it? The durability of the improvements in the second class in question differed in different parts of the country, and no general rule could be laid down as applying to them all. It was, therefore, considered necessary to adopt a rule of a flexible character; and the only kind of rule which could be laid down was that which they had adopted in the Bill—namely, that of the value of the improvement to the incoming tenant. The next question to decide was, whether the rule should be applicable to every tenancy, and should exclude every kind of agreement or custom. In some parts of the country, as he had already pointed out, customs existed and agreements were made which gave satisfaction to landlords and tenants alike. That being so, it would not be wise to compel all landlords and tenants to come under the general rule in the Bill; and the Government, therefore, had reserved the right to make agreements, provided always that they wore fair and rea- 1129 sonable. He could not agree with the view taken by the hon. Member for East Cornwall (Mr. Borlase) that the power of substituting an agreement for the rule laid down in the Bill rendered the measure inoperative. Substituted agreements, it should be borne in mind, must be fair and reasonable; and, of course, bogus agreements simply for the purpose of depriving the tenant of his compensation would not be held by a Court of Law to be fair and reasonable. The principle of compulsion was, therefore, contained in the Bill, for a landlord would have to give compensation either through the operation of the measure or by special agreement. One important point which the Government had had to consider was the question of the kind of improvements to which the Bill should apply. The Schedule of improvements contained in the Act of 1875 had been adopted by the framers of the present measure, and thus nearly all the various kinds of improvements would be affected by the Bill. If, however, there was any other class that might be included in the list, it would be open to the House to consider them in Committee. They thought that where any improvement was made or contemplated which really altered the character of the holding, it was only reasonable that the consent of the landlord should be obtained to such improvement before he was called upon to pay compensation. They had made an exception to this in the case of drainage, because they thought the drainage was so important that it could not be said to alter the character of the land or the tenancy, and for that reason they had put it into a Schedule itself. If the landlord was not himself prepared to drain the land when necessary, the tenant should be permitted to drain it without consent of the landlord. He did not think the tenants would drain their farms on a large scale; but he thought they might put the Act in operation to drain parts of their farms. He had no doubt that this provision would operate as a great stimulus to landlords to drain their property; and, in this way, it would have a most beneficial effect on the tenants. In respect to the second class of improvements, they thought that the notice to the landlord should be dispensed with, as they con- 1130 sidered it an unnecessary condition. Some people doubted whether the Bill would give any protection to the sitting tenant. It was said that no compensation would be given to the sitting tennant, and that the landlord might so raise his rent as to exhaust the value of his improvements. He could not subscribe to that view. In his opinion, the Bill gave a very important encouragement to the tenant by materially altering his position when his landlord proposed to raise the rent. During the last few years there had been more cases of reductions of rent than raising of rent, and he believed this state of things would continue. There could not be a doubt, however, that the man who was under the protection of this Bill would be in an infinitely better position to resist any demand for an increase of rent on the part of the landlord than the man who had no protection whatever. The positions of landlord and tenant under this Bill would not be unequal, for if there were some tenants who would rather pay a higher rent than break up their homes and go, there were landlords, on the other hand, who would prefer receiving a lower rent from a tenant to running the risk and expense involved in a change. It was said that greater protection might be given to the sitting tenant by compelling the landlord, when raising the rent, to pay the tenant compensation for his improvements. That would be an impossible transaction. The landlord would raise the rent in proportion to the amount of compensation paid in order to recoup himself; and the position of the tenant would, therefore, be unsatisfactory. The only protection which could be given to a sitting tenant, besides that given by the Bill before the House, would be by a system of judicial rents. That really was the system preferred by the Farmers' Alliance. If the Bill were amended in accordance with the views of that body and of the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. J. Howard) and the hon. Member for East Cornwall (Mr. Borlase), it would cease to be a measure for the compensation of tenants, and would become a Land Tenure Bill in the true sense of the expression. It would introduce into England something closely approximating to the Irish system. The Farmers' Alliance wished to refer proposed augmentations 1131 of rent and questions of reduction to the Union Assessment Committee, which was always largely composed of farmers.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, he was simply interpreting what had been stated by the hon. Member for Bedfordshire. Whether he looked to the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, or to those of the Farmers' Alliance, they practically had one end—namely, a judicial rent. That was what they must ultimately and logically come to, and nothing else. The next proposition was that the tenant should have power to make improvements either with or without the consent of the landlord; thirdly, it was proposed, there should be the right of assignment; and, fourthly, that there should be an indefeasible right to compensation for general improvements, no matter what might have been the condition of the farm when the tenant came in. It appeared to him that these propositions, hanging together and forming part of an harmonious whole, were really part of the Irish system, and flowed logically from the doctrine of judicial rent. It had always been argued, in the debates on the Irish Act, that one F involved the three F's. Judicial rent led logically to a term of years, and then followed naturally the right of assignment. The proposals of the hon. Members for Bedfordshire and East Cornwall (Mr. J. Howard and Mr. Borlase) constituted all approximation to the Irish system. The House would recollect that in the debates on the Irish Land Bill he was himself a warm supporter of that Bill, and he supported it on the ground of the exceptional condition of the Irish tenants as regarded their historic and economic connection with the soil; but, in doing so, he always took care to point out the great distinctions that lay between the case of the Irish tenants and that of the English tenants, and he frequently said it was both impossible and unjust to apply the system then proposed to England. Therefore, for his part, and on the part of the Government, there was no intention of applying the doctrine of judicial rent to England. None of the conditions existing in Ireland existed in England. The tenants in England had no hereditary connection with with the holdings as in Ire- 1132 land, and they had not effected the permanent improvements that had been effected by the Irish tenants. It was purely a question of contract with the English tenant. That being the case, they were not entitled to consideration such as that which led to the Irish Act. In speaking as he had done, he did not wish it to be understood that he was afraid of land reform in England. He had often spoken on the subject of land reform; and he thought there were dangers in the existing system of England, owing to the paucity of landowners, dangers of a political, social, and economic character, that ought to be guarded against. In his opinion, Parliament and the Legislature would act wisely in doing all in their power to multiply ownerships. In this country people did not sufficiently appreciate the importance of a combination of ownership and occupation. He believed, however, that the highest forms of cultivation could not be carried out unless combined with ownership; but reform, whenever it did come in that direction, would not come in the direction of settling the tenant farmers as owners of the land, or constituting a joint ownership with the landlord. He did not think a proposition of this kind would find much sympathy with a large class in this country. The hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. J. Howard) was himself but a recent convert to the doctrine he now supported, for his Bill of 1873 contained no proposition of that kind. That Bill was a moderate and prudent one. Again, the hon. Member's Bill of last year fell very far short of that foreshadowed by the Farmers' Alliance. [Mr. JAMES HOWARD: No.] The Bill contained no proposal for judicial rent, or for the protection of the sitting tenant. Since last year the hon. Member had become a convert to the doctrines now propounded. Lastly, he would say, with regard to judicial rent, that if his hon. Friend or the Farmers' Alliance had any prospect within a reasonable time of carrying that principle, or even of converting the Liberal Party to their views, he did not think that English landlords would be found prepared to give up their rights, or to sink into the position of mere rent-chargers, without a struggle. He believed that if such a measure were proposed by the Liberal Party the landlords would proceed to take the land into their own hands, which would cer- 1133 tainly not be beneficial to the tenant farmers. With regard to the Law of Distress, the hon. Member for East Cornwall (Mr. Borlase) had but very slightly alluded to it. The Government had, in dealing with the subject, followed the recommendations of the very large majority of the Committee of last year. He was satisfied himself that a very large majority of the tenant farmers were in favour of a moderate Law of Distress, and were opposed to the total abolition of that law. That law was considered by many of them a protection to the small farmer—a protection against his creditors. The present moment was very inopportune for entering on a total abolition of that law, there having been so many years' depression, which had resulted in the tenants being heavily in debted to the landlords. The abolition of the law would, therefore, in his opinion, not be in the interest of the tenant; and he accordingly thought the House would consider the Government w ere right in their conclusions. Finally, he would say that the Government did not propose this measure as a remedy for agricultural depression; a few good seasons would do more for the tenant farmers than any amount of legislation. All that could be done was to put the farmers in a position of justice, so as to enable them to effect whatever improvements were possible, and take full advantage of the better seasons which he fervently hoped would come, and reap the reward of their industry, which had been so long postponed.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he had risen with the right hon. Gentleman who had spoken last, because, after the pointed attack which had been made upon him by the hon. Member for East Cornwall (Mr. Borlase), he was anxious to take up the challenge immediately. The hon. Member had favoured them with a prolix history of agricultural reform; but as they were all practically agreed on the necessity of some legislation of that kind, it was hardly necessary for the hon. Member to have inflicted on them his antediluvian researches. Moreover, if the hon. Member was not more accurate in the earlier part of his history than he was in its later portion, the House need scarcely pay much attention to it. The hon. Gentleman had cited a Bill which he (Mr. Chaplin) had introduced on that subject, and had told them it was as dry as dust in the mouth of the 1134 farmers. Well, he recollected that when that Bill was submitted to the Chambers of Agriculture it was received with almost unanimous approval. The hon. Member had also said that he was inconsistent in blaming the farmers themselves for all their troubles, which he had stated to be owing to their manner of living. There never was, in his judgment, a wilder charge made by one hon. Member against another, for there was not the slightest foundation for it. The hon. Member supported his statement by referring to a Motion which he (Mr. Chaplin) had made for the appointment of a Royal Commission on the State of Agriculture; and he actually cited his speech on that occasion in order to justify this unfounded allegation. Well, he had referred to that speech himself; and, so far from there being any justification for the charge of gross inconsistency now brought against him, this was what he found there, and this was what he said—Better security … is essential for good cultivation … If it could be shown by experience that that security could not be obtained without some compulsory measure of legislation I would consent to it without hesitation."—(Hansard,  1431.)Well, he had learnt by experience that permissive legislation was not so satisfactory as might be desired; and, therefore, he was consistent in supporting other measures.
§ MR. BORLASE
said, the words to which he referred were—I declare I really do not know one single well-managed estate where good security is wanting. I suppose there are some, or this complaint would not he made; but, where it is the case, really the tenants must allow me to tell them there is no one to blame but themselves."—(Ibid)
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, that if the hon. Member had not been in such a hurry to interrupt him, he was about to read that sentence himself, as well as the one that succeeded it, which was as follows:—With farms lying vacant all over England, if a tenant cannot make satisfactory terms for himself … nobody can. I can only say, from my own experience, that no tenant farmer in the county of Lincoln, which I represent, would ever dream for a moment of taking a farm upon terms by which he was deprived of either the benefits of the Agricultural Holdings Act, or the custom of the county, which is almost the same thing; and I do not understand why farmers in any other part of the country should do so."—(Ibid.)Those were his (Mr. Chaplin's) words 1135 on that occasion; and it was upon that language, in the speech which he cited as evidence himself, that the hon. Member charged upon him that he imputed to the farmers of this country that it was to their extravagant mode of living—to the keeping of pianos, and he knew not what besides—and to the neglecting of their business, that the blame for their present distress was owing. He repeated, that a more unfounded charge was never made by one Member against another, and he repudiated it altogether. It is a specimen, he supposed, of the fairness and accuracy of the President of the Farmers' Alliance; and if he was to be taken as a fair Representative of that body, he certainly was not surprised at the statements which he sometimes heard were made about them. Having tested the accuracy and fairness of the present Chairman of the Farmers' Alliance, he now came to the course pursued by the hon. Member's Predecessor in that office. On the first night of that discussion the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. J. Howard) announced to the House that, although nobody else did so, he would oppose that Bill; and that statement he made at a time when it was quite impossible for him to have known what the Bill really contained. A short time afterwards that hon. Member placed an Amendment on the Paper, and a few days later he withdrew it, and he put another Amendment on the Paper afterwards. Having placed that Amendment on the Paper and given Notice that he would move the rejection of the Bill, what was the line of conduct which he had adopted that night? The Bill was called on; the hon. Member for Bedfordshire was not in his place; it was to be supposed that he had thought better of it. The hon. Member's first Amendment was to the effect that the Bill was inadequate; that it would fail in securing its object—namely, the higher cultivation of the soil—because it contained no provision to guard the sitting tenant against an increase of rent on his own improvements. His second Amendment was to the effect that the Bill must fail if the compensation was permissive, and if the compensation was contingent on the tenant quitting his holding. Now, he differed entirely with the hon. Member on both those propositions. Was the hon. Member acquainted with any district in this country 1136 where any security at all analogous to that contained in this Bill had failed to increase or improve the cultivation of the soil. If he was, the hon. Member's experience certainly was totally opposed to his. In his own county—Lincolnshire—where they had had five or six bad harvests in succession, before that time of depression the cultivation of the soil would not have compared unfavourably with that of any other district, or, indeed, of any other country in the world. The system of security there prevailing had undoubtedly resulted in a considerable improvement in the character of the cultivation of that district. The system was one under which the outgoing tenant was compensated for his improvements; but it made no more provision for the interest of the sitting tenant than was made in the present Bill. How, then, could it be contended that because it contained no express provision for the sitting tenant, and because the compensation was made contingent on the tenant quitting his holding, therefore the Bill must fail in effecting its object—namely, the higher cultivation of the soil? The hon. Member's, contention would not hold water for a moment. The sitting tenant and the grievance which he laboured under, in the first place, was really a creation, and nothing else but a creation, of the fertile brain of the hon. Member; because, when once they passed a measure of that nature, there could be no such person as a sitting tenant who suffered from injustice because his rent was raised upon his own improvements. And, secondly, he maintained that if there was, there was no way and no possibility of guarding him against a rise of rent upon his improvements, or on anything else, unless Parliament was prepared to adopt the principles of fixity of tenure and valuation of rents by the State; and he would tell the hon. Member why. He said that the "sitting tenant" of the hon. Member was a myth, because they could not raise the rent upon any sitting tenant except in one of those two ways—either by his own consent or by serving on him a notice to quit his farm. If the rent was raised with his own free will, his own consent, no human being could complain. If, on the other hand, a notice had been given he ceased at once to be the sitting and became immediately the outgoing tenant of the farm; and as such, 1137 of course, he could claim the compensation which was given by this Bill. He granted that he forfeited the opportunity of continuing to hold the farm and of making any further profit from the land; but if they recouped him his outlay, as they would do by this Bill, what right had he to complain more than the tenant, or, indeed, even half as much as the tenant, to whom, by declining to let him a farm in the first instance, they refused the opportunity of making any profit at all? In the one case, thanks to the landlord, he had had that advantage for some years; in the other, not at all; and yet, in the last case, was there anyone who would pretend for a moment that he was suffering from the slightest injustice at all? There were some who thought that the words "on quitting his holding" might be omitted from the Bill, and that the grievance might be met by making compensation obligatory upon any change whatever in the rent of any tenancy, even though the tenant still remained in the occupation. But, supposing they did this, it would not really alter their position. The landlord, it was true, would have to pay him compensation; but it would still be open to the landlord to raise the rent in proportion as much as he pleased, and the position of the tenant would still remain the same. They told them that the rent should not be raised in consequence of improvements or outlay by the tenant; and he would be the last man in the world to urge or to justify the practice. But who was to decide on what it was that the increased rent was demanded? There was no way of separating the rent arising from improvements, from the rent arising otherwise from the farm, unless you first made a valuation of the whole. If that were done, then, of course, you could say—"So much of this belongs to the tenant, and so much to the landlord." But then you would be landed at once in the principle of dual ownership, and of valuation of rents by the State. He passed, then, from the question of the sitting tenants, because, except on the hypothesis that they were prepared in some form or another to adopt the principles of fixity of tenure and rents fixed by the State—and even the hon. Member for Bedfordshire was not prepared, he understood, for so extreme a step at present—the sitting tenant did not, and, indeed, 1138 he could not, enter into their calculations at all. He took the principle of the Bill to be as follows—namely, to give security to tenants for the capital which they embarked in their occupations, and which they would be deprived of without that security in the event in any case of their leaving their farms. That was an object which had always commended itself to his views, and one which, in common with many Gentlemen sitting upon both sides of the House, he had long sought to secure more thoroughly by additional legislation. Indeed, the Bill which was then before them did not differ very widely from some of the other propositions on this question which had been already submitted to the House; and he was especially glad to find that, on one point in particular—namely, that, while it secured to the tenant the certainty of compensation for his improvement, it allowed the largest possible freedom of contract consistent with that end, it was entirely in accord with the measure which he had laid himself upon the Table. There were two or three criticisms, however, which he thought, perhaps, he ought to make at once. It would have been better, in his opinion, if the Bill had allowed the power of distress for rent for two years, instead of limiting the landlord's right to one year. There was a good deal to be said for the abolition of the Law of Distress in the interest of the general creditor; but he protested against its being advanced as a measure in the interest of the tenant farmer, who, in his opinion, would be injured, and not benefited, by a repeal of the law. It was a mistake, also, that no power was given to the landlord to make an original claim for waste or dilapidations against the tenants. The same omission occurred in the Act of 1875, and it should be remedied in Committee. Then he thought with regard to the improvements contained in the second and third schedules, other than the use of feeding stuffs and artificial manures, that some control should be given to the landlord over the making of improvements on which a large outlay was to be expended, when a tenancy was shortly to expire. In the case, for instance, of a lease which was drawing to a close, or in a yearly tenancy where a notice to quit had been either given or received, Then there was another point 1139 of more importance, but on which he did not feel clear—whether he placed the right interpretation upon the Bill or upon the intentions of its framers—and that was with regard to the measure of compensation to be given in the 1st clause of the Bill. In the first place, there was nothing in the Bill that he could see, if the arbitrators so decided, to prevent the compensation being very much greater than the outlay. Now, in his view, that was altogether wrong, and for this reason. Everything they gave to an outgoing tenant over and above his outlay, and the fair interest upon it, clearly represented the profit which he would continue to make if he still held the farm. But the right of making that profit was precisely what he paid rent for. Rent was the consideration for which he purchased the right to make that profit out of another man's land, as long as their agreement lasted; and as soon as he ceased to pay the consideration, surely the right to make a profit should cease with it. Otherwise, what would happen would probably be this—so, at least, it seemed to him. The incoming tenant who now paid the rent would make his profit on that outlay from the increased crops he found, and which he took to market and sold. But, according to his reading of the Bill, the outgoing man was to have the same thing, although he paid no rent at all, for he was to receive "such sum," entirely independent of his outlay, as represented the value of the improvement to the incoming tenant. What was that value, and how was it to be estimated? Might not the arbitrators decide that it was the whole value of the increased crops to the incoming tenant? And, if they did, then they would have two parties at the same time making a profit out of one outlay of capital, and one of them doing so entirely at the expense of the landlord. Against that they were told that, for unsuccessful improvements, nothing would be paid, and that as the tenant ran this risk on the one hand, so he ought not to be limited in compensation to his outlay on the other. But the risk which he was said to run was more imaginary than real. The first step in valuing was always to examine the bills of expenditure, and with this actual outlay before them, no valuers would ever dream of deciding that the tenant should get nothing. Payment by results was a very taking 1140 phrase. But it would be wholly inoperative as far as unsuccessful improvements were concerned, while it might open the door to what might prove to be, he feared, a ruinously heavy tenant right; and in these days, in particular, a too heavy tenant right would really be almost worse than no tenant right at all. For his part, he wished the compensation could have been more definite, and that the Government could have seen their way to introduce, as a voluntary alternative, something in the nature of the Schedules which were in two of the other Bills this Session. Those were points to which he felt bound to call attention. He was glad to find himself in a position to give, subject to the modifications which he had mentioned, a general, and, he hoped, not uncordial support to the Bill. And, although he agreed that no legislation could remove the cause of the recent agricultural depression, yet, now that there seemed to be more hopes that the worst had been passed, he trusted this Bill would do something to stimulate and encourage those who were engaged in the pursuit of that which, after all, was the chief and greatest industry in the country.
§ MR. JAMES HOWARD
* said, he had been frequently referred to in the course of the debate; and he hoped to show, before he concluded, that some of the views attributed to him were misstated or misrepresented. The right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had twitted him with having changed his views since the introduction of his Landlord and Tenant Bill, 1873. To that charge he replied, at that period they had not had an opportunity of seeing the working of the Irish Land Act, 1870; but, in his Bill of last year, it would be found that the sitting tenant was secured under Clause 19. He regretted that he had felt compelled to assume a hostile attitude towards the Bill now before the House; he had felt compelled to oppose it, because he believed it to be radically defective, and that it would utterly fail to accomplish its object. Before, however, he proceeded to point out its shortcomings, he would allude to the fact that, after the subject of tenant right had been discussed for 40 years, the late Government attempted to deal with the question by the Agricultural Holdings Bill of 1875; 1141 and he had ventured to tell the late Prime Minister (the Earl of Beacons-field), when that Bill was before the country, that it would assuredly fail. It had proved abortive; and he now ventured to tell the present Prime Minister that the Bill under consideration, if carried in its present form, would fail almost as utterly. Since the passing of the Act of 1875, these Islands had been visited with a series of disastrous seasons. British agriculture had passed through a period of depression unparalleled in history; and those farmers who had weathered the storm were looking forward to a brighter future. There prevailed also an idea—a deep impression—that the laws and customs relating to agriculture, which had sufficed for the past, did not suffice for the present, nor would they suffice for the future. The country was looking forward to something substantial in the way of legislation. A Royal Commission had sat for three or four years to inquire into the condition of agriculture and the changes necessary. Two of the foremost statesmen of the present generation had used language in reference to these changes which warranted the farmers of the country in expecting advantageous legislation. The late Earl of Beaconsfield, speaking upon the Duke of Rutland's Motion in March, 1880, said—I shall be deeply disappointed if one result of the labours of that Commission is not to afford the farmer the most complete and absolute security for the capital which he has invested in the cultivation of the land which he occupies."—(3 Hansard,  1254.)The Earl of Beaconsfield has been removed from this sphere of labour; the other is still amongst us, and it is to be hoped he will be spared, and spared to this House for many years to come. Speaking at Leeds in October, 1881, the present Prime Minister stated—I have said emphatically that, in my opinion, the Irish Land Act ought not to be an English or Scotch Land Act. I say as emphatically that it is an object of great importance for the farmer that effectual and not abortive measures are taken to secure the whole interest of the tenant—not a part only, but the whole of his interest—in his improvements.He (Mr. James Howard) would ask, was it to be inferred from this language, or the language of the Earl of Beaconsfield, that only a fractional part of the interests of the tenant farmer was to be 1142 secured; and, further, was it language which would convey the idea that that fractional part of their interests was to be confined to a fractional part of the class—he would say an infinitesimal portion? He had been told by his hon. Friends around him that he was mistaken in opposing the Bill, that he ought to accept it as an instalment; the half-a-loaf doctrine had been dinned into his ears; but when he had asked his hon. Friends to point out where the half-loaf was to be found in the Bill, it had eluded their grasp as it had eluded his own. With reference to the charge brought against him by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), that he (Mr. James Howard) had formed a hasty opinion of the Bill, he would say that he was convinced, from the opening statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Dodson), that the Bill was a milk-and-water affair. The 1st clause was simply the expression of good intentions, and was all very well so far as it went; but it was only declaratory, and simply asserted a general right to compensation. One of the first letters he had received upon the Bill was from a Norfolk farmer, who so accurately described its character, that, with the permission of the House, he would read them. Mr. Thomas Brown, of Marham Hall, one of the best known farmers in England, wrote thus—I thank you for the copy of the Agricultural Holdings Bill. It contains a good principle, that an outgoing tenant shall be entitled to 'such sum as fairly represents the value of his improvements to an incoming tenant;' but, having enunciated that principle, the Government seems to have stood aghast at their own boldness, and to have exercised the utmost ingenuity to render that principle of as little value as possible.Mr. Brown, the writer, was not one of the revolutionary band supposed to form the Farmers' Alliance, but a steady-going and staunch Conservative, whose opinions, nevertheless, upon agricultural topics he (Mr. James Howard) highly valued. The Bill dealt with the tenant farmers' interests under five heads—namely, notice to quit; the Law of Distress; and the three classes of improvements. "What, he would ask, did the clause do for the farmer in respect of notice to quit? It changed the notice from six to 12 months; but, at the same time, it said in effect to the 1143 landowners of England—"We, the framers of the Bill, do not want to be unreasonable; if you object to 12 months, go on, as you are, with six months." When the Agricultural Holdings Act was introduced in 1875, a deputation of the Farmers' Club waited upon Mr. Disraeli. He (Mr. James Howard) was selected to place the views of the Club before the Prime Minister; and he informed him that, as practical men, they could not see the least use in troubling the Legislature to pass an Act to say to the landowners—?"You may give compensation for improvements, and you may give 12 months' notice to quit instead of six." Mr. Disraeli was too astute to make his clause directly permissive; it was reserved for the Liberal Government to give a special invitation to the landowners to set the clause aside. Was it made permissive for fear that the Conservatives would oppose a compulsory clause for 12 months? He had no such fear, for the Conservative Party could not forget that the late Lord Beaconsfield's solution of the landlord and tenant difficulty was a two years' notice to quit. This he stated in his celebrated Newport-Pagnell speech; and, therefore, even out of respect for their late Chief's memory, they could not have opposed a one year's notice. He (Mr. James Howard) did not hesitate to say that a weaker—he would say a more childish clause was never submitted to the consideration of Parliament; at all events, it did nothing for the farmer, but left the question of notice to quit exactly where it was found. As to the Law of Distress, he would ask, what did the Bill do upon that question? He would not enter into an elaborate argument upon the justice or injustice of that law, for he believed that nothing new could be advanced either for or against. Those who had advocated its total abolition had done so upon the ground that, in the past, the tendency of the law had been to raise rents to an artificial standard, to impair the credit of the farmer, to repel capital from the land, to diminish production, and to confer an unfair class privilege to which there was no natural right. What, he would ask, was the Law of Distress, when stripped of its surroundings and the antiquity which attached to it? It was simply a State guarantee for the debts of the most 1144 opulent class of the community. He knew it was maintained that the law was in favour of the poor and the struggling tenant, and many had been led to believe in the doctrine; but that it was in favour of the richer class, he would point to the example of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), who had recently recovered a sum of no less than £2,600 upon one holding, and he had still more recently distrained upon another farm. He (Mr. James Howard) did not say the hon. Gentleman had done any wrong—he had acted within his legal rights, and he believed, from what he had told him, that he had acted leniently; but he maintained that the State had done a huge wrong in thus giving a preference to one creditor, who had recovered the whole of his debt, and had left the other creditors—who had claims of £5,000 against the tenant—without a shilling. No one had denounced the Law of Distress in stronger terms than the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). He (Mr. James Howard) had quoted the words of the noble Lord in that House and upon many a platform; and he hoped that, when the Bill went into Committee, the noble Lord would render assistance in getting the obnoxious law abolished. He had said that no one had spoken in stronger terms of the Law of Distress than the noble Lord. He ought to have excepted the Prime Minister, who had used still weightier words. When receiving a deputation from the Farmers' Alliance, the Prime Minister used these words—I quite agree that the Law of Distress is a law of severity that cannot be justified. The course which has been taken in Scotland may doubtless lead the English farmer to say and to think, with justice, that he is entitled to he treated on the same principles as those of which the Scotch farmer has obtained the application.Yet this law, which could not be justified, was to be perpetuated. Further, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir William Harcourt) and the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), two Members of the Government, voted, in 1881, for the Motion of the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett), which was as follows:—That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable to abolish the power of levying Dis- 1145 tress for rent on Agricultural Holdings in England, Wales, and Ireland.He would ask, if it was desirable and expedient to abolish the law in 1880, why was it desirable to perpetuate it in the year 1883? He might be told that, since that period, the whole question had been referred to a Select Committee. He had served on that Committee, and had been amused at the tenacity with which the landowners clung to their privileges, especially the new men, those who had recently become landowners. As to the constitution of the Committee, he would ask the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) whether, upon the subject of Local Option, he would have been content to refer it to a Select Committee composed of the brewers and distillers in that House? Before the Committee, not one single witness ventured to assert that the Law of Distress was of any advantage to agriculture; and all the most experienced and intelligent witnesses bore testimony to its injurious effect in diminishing the productions of the land and the credit of the farmer. Notwithstanding these facts, the Liberal Government recognized as just a law which had been admitted to be indefensible, injurious to the public interests, and the severity of which, in the opinion of the Prime Minister, could not be justified, and to which no natural right could be claimed. He thought he had said enough to show that, whatever benefit the changes contemplated might be to others in the community, they were of no advantage to the farmers; and they had, therefore, nothing whatever to thank the Government for. On the contrary, he believed the change would be to their disadvantage, for it would diminish the credit of the farmer with his landlord, whilst, at the same time, it would not increase it with the general creditor, nor would it check the tendency of the law to raise rents. Turning to the question of compensation for improvements, he would ask—What will the farmer gain by the Bill in respect of permanent improvements? The answer must be, nothing. The Bill merely contained an exhortation to landlords to enter into private agreements with their tenants; but surely an Act of Parliament was not necessary for this purpose. If the clause was struck out altogether it would not weaken the Bill, nor would its retention 1146 strengthen it. Seventeen years ago the late Mr. J. Stuart Mill declared in that House that—He failed to see of what earthly use to any landed proprietor was the right of preventing improvements.He (Mr. James Howard) would go farther, and would say that he believed the power to be absolutely injurious to their interests. He had asked one of the largest landowners of England, who had objected to the Compensation Clauses in his (Mr. James Howard's) Landlord and Tenant Bill of 1873, how many tenants on his 50,000 acres quitted their farms in the course of a year? Another large landowner—the late Mr. Whitbread—had asked him, at the same period, when his revolutionary Bill was coming on? He replied that it might not come on at all; but if it were passed into law it would make no difference to him (Mr. Whitbread), as he neither changed his tenants nor raised their rents, and, therefore, no claim could be made upon him for compensation. Landlords would not suffer in any way from the freedom of tenants to make improvements, and the incentive to exertion on the part of tenants would be immense. The landlord would not have to pay compensation in one case out of 50; for it was not the improving tenant, as a rule, who quitted his holding, but the tenant of the opposite class, against whom should be given greater power to stop waste and dilapidations. One of the oldest and largest tenants in North Lincolnshire wrote to him, in 1873, as follows:—I cannot for the life of me think why landlords are against your Bill, for with the provisions it contains they would, as a rule, get their land improved without any cost to themselves.If called upon to pay greater compensation in one case in 20 than was just, a landowner would be abundantly compensated by the improvements effected on 19 other farms for which no compensation would ever be demanded. The main object of legislation, he maintained, should be to encourage, not to check, tenants in making improvements. To do so was against public policy—was against the interests of the owners themselves. He would point out that by the conditions imposed in Part II. the Government had recognized that the so-called rights of property might be overridden when the public interest de- 1147 manded it—for instance, when recalcitrant or obstructive owners refused to carry out drainage, the tenant might carry out this essential improvement in spite of the owner; and he believed that this provision was the one redeeming feature of the Bill, for it did enact something; but the condition attached to it was worthless and injurious. It sent the tenant to the landlord armed with a legal revolver; whereas, if the right were conceded without the condition, the landlord or agent would, in most cases, approach the tenant, and an amicable arrangement would be arrived at. In his opinion, tenants would rather pay 5, 6, or even 7 per cent on their landlords' capital, than expend their own on drainage, subject to the uncertainty of recouping themselves for a portion of their outlay. He objected to the limitation in the clause, because it was unnecessary, and would delay the carrying out of such an essential improvement as draining, the want of which was a scandal. Evidence was given before the Royal Commission on Agriculture that 15,000,000 acres in this small Island required drainage. If only half that number of acres stood in need of it, it was a scandal and a disgrace to the landowners of England, and the small landowners were not the only-ones to blame in the matter. A few months ago he had ridden over the estate of a noble Duke (a Member of the Royal Commission), in an adjoining county to his own, the drainage of which was in a disgraceful condition. The stipulation went beyond the limits required by the "Lincolnshire Custom," and the right to drain ought to be absolute and unconditional. If any limitation whatever were placed upon permanent improvements it ought to stop at buildings. He would now touch briefly on the fifth and last head—Improvements of the third class, probably the most important to the tenant of all, for it was upon these the farmer risked most of his capital upon the property of another. And what was proposed? The Bill stated that the tenant should be entitled to compensation; but it contained a direct invitation to the landlord to contract himself out of the Act, and to substitute for it a private arrangement. It was provided that such agreement should give "fair and reasonable compensation;" but there was no definition of "fair 1148 and reasonable," nor who was to decide the point. The right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works had asserted that, if the agreement was illusory, it would not be upheld by a Court of Law; but why have to submit it to a Court of Law?—why not provide that the compensation should be equivalent? Mr. Pusey, in his Bill of 1847, had permitted agreements; but he had provided that any agreements entered into which, in the opinion of the arbitrators, were illusory or contrary to the spirit of the Act, should be invalid. It was highly objectionable to compel a tenant to resort to a Court of Law upon such a point. He (Mr. James Howard) believed there were 20 ways in which the proverbial coach-and-four might be driven through the clause. For instance, suppose a tenant applied for the offer of a farm, the rent of which was 30s. per acre, the landlord might say—"I do not want to be bothered about compensation; if you will forego your claim for improvements you shall have the land at 25s. an acre." If an agreement were entered into on this basis, would not that contract the landlord and tenant out of the Act? And if that could be done in one case it could be done in many others. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Staffordshire (Mr. Staveley Hill) had dealt with these private agreements in an effectual way. He had provided that they should be equivalent; and, to test whether they were bonâ fide, the tenant could claim under the Act, or under the agreement. A good deal had been said the other day by the Prime Minister about a certain clock being always behind time; but it seemed to him (Mr. James Howard) that, on this occasion, the Government clock was not only behind the clock of the Conservative Member for West Staffordshire, but 36 years behind the clock of Mr. Pusey's time. The truth was that the clause, in respect of the improvements of the third class, was practically permissive; and that was why the Tory Party were so ready to accept the Bill. Judging by the alacrity of the landowners to contract themselves out of the Act of 1875, he did not share the sanguine views expressed at Canterbury last Saturday by Lord Brabourne as to the provisions of the Bill being cheerfully acquiesced in by owners. The 1149 Prime Minister had said to the Farmers' Alliance deputation—With regard to the principle for which you contend, the principle that effective protection ought to he given to the improvement made by the farmer, upon that I cannot entertain the smallest doubt whatever.He (Mr. James Howard) contended that the Bill did not give any effective protection, and that it would fail in its object. Having dealt with the five heads, he would turn to the omissions of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works had pointed out that the measure did improve the position of the sitting tenant; but the question was—Did it place him in the position to which he was in common justice entitled? The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire said that, as the Lincolnshire Custom had sufficiently protected the sitting tenant against a rise of rent upon his own improvements, this Bill would be sufficient. Upon that point he (Mr. James Howard) would quote a letter he had received from a Lincolnshire farmer of the greatest experience, a man whom the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire would admit to be a man whose opinions were respected throughout the county—he alluded to Mr. Frank Sowerby, of Aylesby. Mr. Sowerby had written the day before the Bill was introduced, and could not, therefore, have known what it contained. He said—I hope that amongst you you will get a thoroughly good Tenant Right Bill passed this Session; but I do not think any Bill could he called a good one which did not secure the sitting tenant against a rise of rent upon his own improvements, which, in many cases, have been sadly taken advantage of.And Mr. Sowerby is an impartial authority, because he adds that, in his own case, he has not much reason to find fault on that score; and he would rather take the opinion of Mr. Sowerby upon so practical a question than that of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin). The Bill left the question of compensation contingent altogether upon the tenant quitting his farm. He (Mr. James Howard) would inquire—What were the arguments for the introduction of such a Bill? Was it justice between one class and another? He did not think the necessity for the Bill could be supported by such a claim, although he thought it could upon 1150 higher ground. No one was satisfied with the present condition of agriculture, nor with the amount of produce raised from the soil. Our herds and flocks were diminishing year by year; the price of meat was steadily advancing, until it had become a question of great national concern; and he believed it was mainly attributable to the want of security for the capital of the farmer, and the instability of his tenure. On what ground did the Duke of Richmond base the Agricultural Holdings Act? He had said that the object was to increase the food-producing power of the country—that unless the tenant had greater security for his capital it could not be expected that the resources of the soil could be increased to any great extent. That was a practical view of the subject, and it was the same as that taken by Mr. Pusey in 1847, the Preamble of whose Bill ran as follows:—Whereas it is expedient for the better security of Farmers in the Improvement of Land, and for the consequent increase of Produce therefrom, as well as of Employment for Farm Labourers, to enlarge and extend the custom of Agricultural Tenant Right in accordance with the modern advancement of Husbandry.Both were right. The only justification for invoking the aid of the Legislature in settling the relations of landlord and tenant was the public interest; and he believed that, if the landowners of Mr. Pusey's day had permitted his simple and just Bill to pass, the national wealth would have been increased by hundreds of millions, that the recent agricultural depression would have been far less, and that the House would not now have been sitting upon a Tenants' Compensation Bill. Surely, if the State were justified in legislating for the smaller class of outgoing tenants, it was justified in legislating for the larger and more useful class of sitting tenants. The country, he was sure, agreed with what Sir James Caird had written in The Times upon this subject. He said—Unless the interests of the sitting tenants, who are the real backbone of British agriculture, are equally recognized and dealt with, it will fail to give that security which would promote good farming and justify legislative interference with the contracts of landlord and tenant.Sir James Caird had the character of being a safe and sound man; at all events, he did not belong to the so-called revolutionary band, the Farmers' Alliance. The 1151 conviction he had expressed had taken a deep hold of the minds of the farmers, and it was growing stronger and stronger, which he (Mr. James Howard) had found at the numerous agricultural meetings which he had addressed. One of the main causes of the failure of the Irish Land Act of 1870 was that, although it secured compensation, it did not secure tenants against a rise of rent upon their own improvements. The true solution of the difficulty, in his opinion—and that opinion was shared by the majority of the members of the Farmers' Alliance—was, that the tenant who had improved his holding should have a power of appeal against his rent being raised upon his own improvements; and to show the necessity for such security he would read, with the permission of the House, one or two letters. The first was from Sussex, which was as follows:—When I entered my present occupation, leases were not granted on the estate. In 1852, a circular was issued by my landlord's agent, in which the tenants were assured that they had no reason to anticipate a desire on the part of the landlord to originate frequent changes of rent. Thus assured, I expended several thousand pounds in under-draining and other improvements in 1857, and in 1867 I received notice to quit; and the "best terms that I could obtain was an increase of 25 per cent on one farm, 28 per cent on another, and 150 per cent on the third.That was on the estate of a Liberal Peer. Take another case, which was in the county of Kent. An uncle, who was getting into years, asked his nephew to succeed him in the tenancy of a farm. He assured him that he might do as he liked with the land; that neither the landlord nor the agent ever came near. He entered upon it, planted hops and fruit, constructed a hop-kiln and other farm buildings; the upshot was that he had to submit, within a few years, to two rises of rent amounting together to 80 per cent. The farm was subsequently sold, and he had to quit. He had no claim for the improvements he had effected; but the new owner put in a claim for dilapidations of the very buildings which he had put up at his own sole expense. He (Mr. James Howard) had had wellnigh a bushel of letters on this subject; but he would not weary the House with reading more than one other, and that was from a Scotch tenant farmer, who was a Member of the Royal Commission. Mr. John Clay wrote to him, on the 20th of April last, as follows:— 1152I see your letter in The Daily News of to-day. If the progress of agriculture is to be kept going, security to tenants must be given in full. Without that honest and just principle is carried out by law, both capital and tenant farmers will go and seek investment and reward for industry in some other land. I know there is a difficulty in getting the rent-raising process on tenants' improvements put an end to. I do not know a farm that has been improved for the past generation that the landlord has not pocketed hundreds, and in many cases thousands of pounds by increased rental, without his contributing one shilling to warrant that increased rent which he puts upon his old tenant. In Scotland the confiscation of tenants' capital has been worse than it ever was in Ireland, and that is bad enough. It is a crying injustice and must be remedied in some way or other.Another Scotch farmer, of 40 years' experience, wrote thus—There is an old Scotch proverb that looks untrue, but which I find, from my knowledge of farming for 40 years, is true in nine cases out of ten. It is—'Let alone, and you sit;Improve, and you flit!'If they were going to legislate, they ought to do so in such a way as to render injustice to so important a class of the community as the tenant farmers impossible. The tenant farmers of the Kingdom were essential to its welfare, and no other country in the world could boast of such a class. Give the improving tenant a power of appeal, and it would act as a check upon a class containing some arbitrary members, the land agents, who would consider twice before doing many of the acts which they now did, if they knew that their conduct would be made public, and the fair fame of their employers jeopardized. One other great advantage of such a power of appeal would be, that it would lift the improving tenant to a higher platform than the slovenly and standstill; and, seeing that the improving tenants were lifted on to this higher platform, it would be an incentive to others to strive to gain it. He maintained that the property of the tenant, whether quitting or sitting, should be held as sacred as the possessory rights of the landlord himself. Lord Carlingford, in "another place," had proved, from Mr. Stuart Mill, that the right of the tenant in his improvements rested precisely upon the same basis as the possessory rights of the landlord, and it was a Conservative view to recognize those rights. There were men prepared with violent remedies for the settlement 1153 of what was popularly called the Land Question. He (Mr. James Howard) had never joined or given any countenance to these visionary or violent measures. He maintained that the most effectual and the safest plan was to make the best of our existing system. The English land system of landlord and tenant was the growth of centuries, and men of experience and observation knew that to change the conditions under which the agriculture of a country was carried on could only be brought about by slow, very slow, degrees. It was, therefore, far more statesmanlike to endeavour to make the best of the system which prevailed, than to seek to uproot it. He believed that the present Bill was not the best way. Lord Granville, in 1875, upon the second reading of the Agricultural Holdings Act, in "another place," said—I do not know whether your Lordships have ever observed in the streets little hoys carrying bunches of small balloons.… They are very fine to look at, and their lightness makes thorn float easily; but when you come to examine them closely, you will find they have absolutely nothing in them."—(3 Hansard,  958.)He then went on to describe the character of Bills introduced by the Government, remarking—They deal with interesting subjects, they have very attractive titles; and when you examine them, either they have nothing at all in them, or they contain clauses by which no one need be bound.He further added—This description, I think, applies to the present Bill…Without compulsion it is impossible for the Bill to have any effect."—? (Ibid. 958–9.)That description of Lord Granville's would be almost as appropriate if applied to the Bill of the Government of which he was a Member. He (Mr. James Howard) believed the measure would fail, and would not accomplish the object it had in view. It was upon that ground that he had assumed a hostile attitude towards it; but, acting upon the opinions of hon. Members around him, he had come to the determination not to move the Amendment which stood on the Paper in his name, but to wait and see what shape the Bill would take before it came to a third reading.
§ MR. BIDDELL
said, that, so far as he could ascertain, the general feeling with which tenants regarded this Bill 1154 was by no means unsatisfactory. Subject to amendment in details in Committee, it was as fair as they could expect. He believed that nearly every practical farmer had come to the conclusion that the ancient customs—some of them of feudal origin—by which farming was now regulated were not adapted to meet the requirements of modern farming. Therefore, on that ground, tenants were agreed that a Bill for revising the old customs was entitled to their cordial support. For his part, he should have been glad if the Government had consolidated the various Acts which affected agriculture into one Bill. Nothing was more confusing than to have to refer to two or three Acts to know what the law was. There would be in future Pusey's Landlord and Tenant Act, the late Agricultural Holdings Act, and the present Bill. With regard to the matter of buildings, the Bill appeared to be very harmless for landlords who were liable to pay for little or nothing but what they had consented to. At the same, time the Bill would have its effect in showing what ought to be done. As respected incoming tenants, who were affected more than landlords, he had great doubt whether the action of the Bill would ultimately be so beneficial as seemed to be supposed. Landlords, as a rule, were not now exacting to outgoing tenants, generally acting on the principle of "depart in peace." But if stricter rules were applied to them, they would probably act more on commercial principles than at present.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. BIDDELL
, resuming, said, that the Bill was somewhat inconsistent on some points, for it was retrospective in. small matters and not in large. He trusted that that anomaly would disappear. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplain) had expressed the opinion that when an outgoing tenant had been adequately recouped for his outlay he should have no further demand. He agreed that they ought not to go too far in that direction. As regarded drainage, he was inclined to agree with the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. J. Howard) that a tenant ought to have an opportunity of draining his land. There was good security in the 1155 Bill against tenants doing unnecessary drainage. He could not agree with the 5th clause of the Bill, by which, if a landlord agreed with a tenant as to the value of his improvements, and if that agreement was not fair and reasonable, it should not be acted upon, but the tenant should be at liberty to fall back upon the Act. In his opinion, tenants, in such a case, could be trusted perfectly well to look after themselves and to protect their own interests in future agreements. With regard to notice to quit, he thought it ought to be extended 12 months in leases as well as in agreements. The question of increased rents from tenants' improvements was one of great difficulty. It must be remembered that the landlord had as great an interest against dropping the rent as the tenant against raising it. Therefore, if the one was to be secured against alteration of rent, so must the other. Then, in many cases a tenant took a farm that was thoroughly out of condition. He should like to see some arrangement by which the landlord could not take advantage of the improved condition of the farm unless the tenant had been compensated by a previous low hire. A tenant ought to be able to build whether the landlord consented or not, and to remove the buildings at the end of the tenancy if the landlord would not take them. If the Government did not meet this point, he would move Amendments for the purpose. As to the whole Bill, as its faults of omission and commission were not of great magnitude, he did not see why the House should not go into Committee upon it. He hoped they would do so, and not make the Bill a Party question. The interests of both classes, landlords and tenants, should be considered, and not the interests of one class only. With regard to the Law of Distress, he thought two years' notice would be beneficial both to landlord and tenant, though he did not think it would be equitable to the general public. He hoped, however, that the House would not be induced to do away with the one year. He concluded by saying that the Bill would receive his hearty support.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, he hoped that he might be excused, as one not representing an agricultural community, for taking part in this debate on the ground that this was a subject in which he had always taken a consider- 1156 able interest, and also because the in terests of agriculture were not confined to a class but to the whole nation. The House entertained this Bill not solely as a question between landlord and tenant, but because the interests of the people were deeply concerned in giving to every tenant every reasonable guarantee in order to secure the utmost prosperity. He was one who had always entertained a strong hope that by simplicity in the mode of transfer and tenure of land agriculture would be placed in a better position. It appeared to him, in spite of all that had been said by the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. J. Howard), that no law could be devised by this or any other Parliament that could make the tenant absolutely secure in his holding. Everything showed that the only way to absolute security was by ownership, and he found nothing in the antecedents of English tenants to induce the House to give the tenant any of the attributes of ownership. He would not be a party to any attempt to stereotype the existing distribution of land between landlord and tenant. He had always opposed forcing any particular system of land ownership or occupancy on this or any other country, as he desired as much freedom for the land as we could have. But as between landlord and tenant, it was necessary that we should have a just law for compensation for tenants' improvements. They should be careful not to import into that anything that would impede the transfer of proprietorship in regard to agricultural land. The sitting tenant was the primary subject of regard; but it must be admitted that he might make an outlay upon his farm which they could not secure to him, and which ought not to be secured. Tenant farmers might engage in experiments in regard to agriculture, and if they did not result in useful improvement it would not be just that the expense should be charged on the landlord. He agreed very much with what had been said in regard to drainage, and thought that when the Bill was considered in Committee it would be found desirable that tenants should have large power given to them as to the execution of drainage works. If hon. Members would take the trouble to read the Preambles of the several Bills introduced for the promotion of land drainage, they would be of opinion 1157 that it was the duty of the House to encourage that much-neglected work. But, at the same time, the landlord ought to be protected against having to pay for improvements which in no way added to the letting value of the farm. With regard to the erection of buildings, there was nothing in the Bill to prevent a tenant erecting as many as he liked without the consent of his landlord, subject to the condition that he might not be able to claim compensation for them, and that such buildings were removable without damage to the freehold. If the Bill was passed on the lines on which it was drawn, one of its probable results would be to promote the acceptance of agricultural leases by tenant farmers. Under present circumstances tenant farmers fought shy of such leases, because they looked at the period at which they would expire as the period at which their rents would be raised. But if the tenant farmer approached that time with the certainty that he would receive compensation for his unexhausted improvements, he would much more frequently than at present desire to have a lease granted him. The Bill should be amended so that the sitting tenant might feel that upon the determination of a tenancy he was in a position to obtain compensation, although he might not quit the holding. He did not argue that that would make very material difference, or that the tenant would frequently make a claim on his landlord for that compensation. The compensation would be discharged ultimately by an allowance of rent in most cases; but he believed it would strengthen the position of the sitting tenant, and would be agreeable to the tenants throughout the country; and the Government would find the Amendment to their interest and advantage to adopt. He certainly could not agree with Sir James Caird or anyone else who said there was nothing in the Bill of advantage to the sitting tenants. It would be a very great advantage to them to be able to claim compensation for their unexhausted improvements. More than that, it was plain that if a tenant accepted a lease, and the terms of it were such that they did not give him fair and reasonable compensation for his unexhausted improvements under the 3rd part of the Schedule, it would to that extent be void. To revert for a moment to the granting of leases, it should 1158 be remembered that two great authorities had spoken in favour of them. Adam Smith had said that it was against all reason and probability to suppose that a yearly tenant would improve the soil. And the late Mr. George Hope, writing in the interest of the Scotch farmers to The Times, said that what he desired to see was that the Lincolnshire custom should be adopted in Scotland, together with the Scottish system of leases. Mr. Hope believed the effect would be to add a third to all the crops of the Kingdom. The Bill went, in fact, very far towards the realization of that desire on the part of Mr. Hope, and it would therefore turn out probably to be one of the most useful measures which had ever been passed, certainly in the life of this Parliament. It was to be regretted that it did not make a more bold attempt to consolidate the law as to agricultural improvements. It would have been a great advantage certainly to the lay element if the Bill had incorporated in one Statute all the Acts of Parliament which were extant upon this important subject. He could see no advantage in the retention of the 2nd clause. There were thousands of farmers throughout the country who had executed improvements before the passing of the Act, and who might be put in a worse position by the clause. He should certainly advocate the omission of this clause which prohibited compensation for improvements carried out before the passing of the Act, partly because the other clauses appeared to give quite sufficient security to the landlord. It was plain that the object of the House in promoting a measure of this sort was to promote a better cultivation of the soil. They should keep clear of everything like joint ownership, and he did not wish anything put into the Bill which would carry the country one step nearer that position, as he felt sure its effect would not be to increase the economic production of the soil. Being in favour of a reform in the laws of the ownership and transfer of land, he was not anxious to change the position of the tenant. There could be no doubt that the capital employed in the improvement of the soil had mainly come from landlords, and it was to the interest of the country to encourage the landowner to spend his money by giving him reasonable security. As regarded 1159 distress for rent, he should prefer to see it totally abolished; and as to the clause dealing with notices to quit, he believed it would prove quite illusory. It was because he believed that the Bill was an honest and useful effort to deal with this subject, which was one of very great importance, and because he believed, further, that it was a measure which, so far as it required amendment, could and would be amended, that he supported it, and that he rejoiced that there was no disposition to divide against the second reading.
§ MR. PELL
, who was indistinctly heard, was understood to say that the measure was one that commended itself to the good opinion of the House, with some rare exceptions below the Ministerial Gangway. The opinions of those hon. Members had been dealt with severely from the Conservative Benches, and very severely from the Government Benches. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had said nothing more in his admirable speech than the merits of the case had deserved. He was glad that Her Majesty's Government had not adopted any of the views put forward in the Bill drafted by the Farmers' Alliance. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Reading had made a statement that the Act of 1875 had not been generally adopted; but that was impossible to prove. He would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether or no, since he had had the direction of the affairs of the Crown lands, he had continued to contract tenants out of that Act? That would be a little practical illustration of how the right hon. Gentleman viewed the application of that Act. The very Bill of 31 clauses they were now discussing had boiled down the whole of the Agricultural Holdings Act of 60 clauses, with the exception of 12, and the preliminary clauses. Strike out these, and they had the whole of the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1875. He thought it was a direct compliment to the Conservative Government that time should have proved how extremely well that Act had worked. With the object of concluding the debate that night, he thought if there were any improvements to be made in the Bill they should be made in Committee. He deprecated wasting any time over the crotchets which had been ventilated respecting 1160 what were called sitting tenants, whose case was a mere chimera. If the sitting tenant wanted a. new arrangement, he had only to give notice to his landlord.
§ MR. THOROLD ROGERS
said, he believed that this Bill was a genuine and sincere development of the Act passed in 1875. That measure gave a promise to the ear, but broke it to the hope. He thought that the evidence as to how far the Act of 1875 assisted or developed the agricultural interest was to be judged from two facts, The first was that the anger and dissatisfaction of the Farmers' Alliance had been especially developed since the passing of the Act; and the second was that there had, since the passing of the Act, been an exhibition of agricultural distress, to which it was easy, as far the causes went, to find parallels in agricultural history, though the results were more serious and lasting than any he had read of before, which seemed to him to imply that the Act had not done any good, but that by developing hopes which had not been satisfied it had done a great deal of farm. At the beginning of the debate his hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) spoke about the purposes of the Government, and wished to extract from the Prime Minister a pledge that no future developments would be made of the principle embodied in this Bill; but in the nature of things it was impossible to give a pledge as to what popular opinion would be in the future. The question that would come before the public of this country hereafter would be how to discover some permanent modus vivendi under which landlords and tenants would have the whole stimulus of development and the whole sense of property. Mr. Auberon Herbert had been spoken of as a Revolutionary Radical. In point of fact, that gentleman was a revolving politician, for at one time he was a Radical and at another time a Tory. Consequently his opinions did not bear very much upon this subject. He reminded him of one of those stars which revolved about once in seven years; in his perigee he was a Liberal, in his apogee a Reactionary. One of the earliest writers on agriculture stated the feeling which prevailed in regard to occupiers in his time, and which, indeed, likewise prevailed now. He was referring to a writer of the Reign of Henry VIII. [Laughter. He was aware that historical allu- 1161 sions were received with great impatience in that House; but we were what we now were by what we had been. Fitzherbert, one of the most eminent writers and jurists of that age, said the tenants were doubtful of their landlords, because they feared that if they made their holdings much better they would either be put out or else have to pay a great fine. If his opinion as an economist were asked, he confessed he could see no reason why we should interfere with the relations between landlord and tenant any more than we did with the relations between producer and consumer. But both sides of the House agreed that a change in the direction of this Bill was necessary, in order to give a chance to good husbandry in the future. Further, he denied that the Law of Distress was beneficial to tenants. It injured their credit, and thereby induced their creditors to bring undue pressure to bear upon them, and sometimes insured their ruin. This was illustrated by the fact, of which he was assured by a banker, lately a Member of this House, that the cause of agricultural distress was mainly to be found in the action of the country bankers, who secured themselves, when they found that tenant farmers were greatly indebted to their landlords, by calling in the advances they had made them. Besides, the farmers were ignorant, servile, and timid, and needed the protection with which other classes could dispense. They did not like a lease, because they did not understand the legal jargon of a lease, and were afraid they would be compromised by it. [Dissent.] Hon. Members dissented from his statements; but he would illustrate what he said from an anecdote for which he could vouch. He remembered some time ago hearing of a very distinguished younger member of the aristocracy who was a candidate for a seat in Parliament for a Midland town. He was the victim of the last phrase, and a mischievous phrase, of the late Mr. Mill—namely, the "unearned increment"—which had got into the heads of people at that time, and talked so continuously of the necessity of securing the "unearned increment," that, at last, a large body of people determined to vote for him. On being asked their reasons, they said they would vote for the man who was going to give them "free manures." However, both Parties in the House had come to the conclusion 1162 that it was necessary to take action; and, on the whole, the Bill was an honest and thorough attempt to carry a questionable theoretical principle to a practical result. At the same time, he hoped that the important question of silos would receive favourable consideration from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who was also the new Minister of Agriculture.
MR. E. W. HARCOURT*
Sir, I quite approve of the principle of this Bill—namely, that the measure of compensation should be the value of the improvements to the incoming tenant. Justice, however, requires that the compensation should not exceed the money actually expended; what goes beyond that is the value for which rent is paid, That principle was laid down by the Committee of your House last year, of which I had the honour of being a Member, and of which the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was the Chairman. Sir, I agree in the necessity for classification; but I cannot help thinking the 2nd Schedule somewhat fanciful. I hold that, where drainage is required, the drainage should be done by the landlord; I do not think that which requires drainage is fit to be left without it. That is a very different matter, however, from giving the tenant power to compel the landlord to drain all lands, whether they require it or not. The landlord must be the judge of this, with an appeal, if he should think right, to the Land Commissioners. I shall, therefore, propose to add some words at the end of Clause 4, to carry out those views. Well, next we come to the question of sets-off to benefits to tenants, and here we enter upon a very difficult matter—namely, compensation for manures. Sir, the real fact is, that, in light lands, the treading in of green crops is of more value than any compensation that could be given for taking them away. Besides these circumstances, I should like a provision inserted in the Bill that these crops may not be sold off the land, after notice to quit has been given on either side, without leave from the landlord. Then, Sir, at the end of Clause 6, I cannot for the life of me understand why, in a 21 years' tenancy, we will say, waste or breach is to be permitted for 17 years. And now, as to the Law of Distraint, that I consider to be more of a tenant's question 1163 than a landlord's. It is rarely used by landlords, excepting in the direction of giving credit to small tenants. It is the small tenants who will be losers by it, a circumstance I cannot help regretting. Sir, I am willing to accept this Bill, as offering a fair arrangement between landlord and tenant. I will go further, I will thank the Government for it. But, Sir, my thanks must be limited to the proportion of backbone which the Government shows in Committee, in respect to retaining the principles of the Bill as it is now presented to us, and to the resistance which it offers to Amendments of an extreme nature. Sir, there is amongst us, in this House, a class of Philosophers, such as in old times would have been called Epicureans. Now, of that school the celebrated Cyril Jackson used to say, that if their premises had been correct, their conclusions would have been magnificent. Sir, here, I am afraid, the magnificence is entirely wanting; I think it is the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Collings) who has a Motion down on the Paper, the object of which is to increase the productiveness of land. Well, to increase the productiveness of land, of course, capital is required. And what is the method proposed by the hon. Member? Why, to make the land over to agricultural labourers and to tenant farmers. In respect to the agricultural labourers, the experiment has been tried over and over again. I think, Sir, you have tried it yourself. In my neighbouring county (Buckinghamshire) the experiment was tried by Fergus O'Connor. The result has always been the same. In good seasons, the occupier manages to scrape on, in independent indigence; in bad seasons, he is ruined; and he ruins the land, for he has nothing to put into it. He manages to fight with starvation for a longer or a shorter time; but, in the end, he is forced to part with the land to those who can afford the luxury. With all my very heart I wish that the agricultural labourer should occupy as much land as is compatible with due attention to his regular work, and then, with a certainty of maintenance from his hired labour, he would possess the luxury of being able to grow his own potatoes, his vegetables, his pigs; and I should like to add, common rights for a cow. Then, as to the tenant farmer, I should be glad to see him the possessor of land, if it only suits his 1164 book—but how does the matter stand? A tenant farmer requires all his capital to work the land he occupies, if it is to make him any return for the labour he expends upon it. If he uses up that capital in buying land, or in paying for the imaginary advantages of tenant right, then there will be an inadequate capital left to him for working his land. On the other hand, if there is someone at his back, to supply the capital required for buildings, for repairs, for drainage, to let him the farm at a fair rent, and to meet him generously in bad times, then he will be free to cultivate the land to the greatest advantage, and to leave the land, if it does not answer his purpose. The tenant should most certainly be assured in respect to anything he may leave in the soil for the benefit of his successor. Whilst he is a sitting tenant, he reaps the benefit of it himself. No landlord in his senses would wish to disturb a sitting tenant, if he is a good one, either by an unjust rise of rent, or in any other way. Sir, I am convinced that the majority of tenants prefer this sort of tenure to being tied up to land which they have not capital to work. I have known instances of tenants, who after they had inherited land, went to their landlords and asked them to buy the land, and to to give them a lease of it. As a matter of fact, the English landlord, as a rule, deals very fairly with his tenant. If protection is required by a general measure against exceptional cases of unfairness, I would give such a measure my hearty support. For this reason, I am prepared to support this Bill. Sir, incalculable mischief is often done by our Epicurean Philosophers with their insufficient knowledge. It is through them, that well-meaning reformers defeat their own objects; and it is through them that reasonable progress is frequently thrown back for an indefinite period. I do hope the Government is not going to give way to these clap-trap Philosophers. I hope they are going to set themselves to pass a possible, a practicable, and a useful measure. And now, Sir, before I sit down, and whilst I am on agricultural affairs, I must remind the Prime Minister, that there are other things nearer to the farmer's heart even than the Agricultural Holdings Bill—I allude to the matter of Local Taxation; and under this head I should like to include 1165 the maintenance of main roads, of indoor poor, of lunatics, the matter of Education, and I must not omit the very important point of the protection of our flocks and herds from the import amongst them of foreign disease. We have received some little kindness from the Government, in the matter of highway maintenance; but I am sorry to see a falling off this Session even in that matter. But, Sir, there is a great deal behind that. I dare say the Prime Minister may consider it the mark of a feeble intellect to care about such trivial matters as these; but to us, Sir, these trivial matters are of the highest importance, and I must try to remind the right hon. Gentleman that we have the majority of the nation on our side, and it Is for that majority that he will have to legislate.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, he must congratulate the Government on the introduction of the Bill, the principles of which he approved. He believed the measure was an honest attempt to deal with a complicated question in a thoroughly practical manner. With respect to some of the observations that had been made in the course of the debate, he would remark that he did not at all believe in the existence of the sitting tenant in the sense it had been used. Either a tenant was an existing tenant, in which case his rent could not be raised without his consent; or his tenancy had been determined, in which case he would obtain all the advantages of the Bill. The words "sitting tenant," as advocated by the Alliance, simply meant judicial rents and fixity of tenure. There was no greater fallacy on this question than the statement that improvements had been made, on the whole, by the tenants. The great majority had been made by the landlords, and whatever Bill passed the great majority would continue to be made by the landlords, because it was far better that the tenant should devote what money he had to the cultivation of the land. It was certainly not an advantage to a tenant to borrow money from a bank, and he thought that banks had been the cause of a great deal of the failures of the last few years. It was still worse that the landlord should borrow money from his tenant to make improvements; and he hoped the tenants would be protected by the Bill from incapable land- 1166 lords, while no encouragement would be given to landlords to leave the tenants to make necessary improvements, because, if there was any clause in the Bill which would tend to throw the making of improvements on tenants, it would drive away from agriculture itself that capital which the landlords ought to supply. The hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. James Howard) spoke strongly with reference to the abolition of the Law of Distress, and said the Select Committee which sat last year was a Committee of landlords.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, the hon. Member asked how any tenant would like to be judged by a Committee of landlords—[Mr. JAMES HOWARD: No, no.]—and he understood him in saying this to refer to the Committee. That Committee, however, went thoroughly into the question, and he knew many of the Members who went on it in favour of the abolition of the Law of Distress, and who, after hearing the evidence, changed their opinions. The hon. Member for Bedfordshire said that all the witnesses of intelligence gave evidence in favour of the abolition of the Law——
§ MR. JAMES HOWARD
Surely the hon. Member could not have heard what I said. I did not say what he states; but I said that all the witnesses of intelligence stated that the Law of Distress operated in raising rent.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, he could not see what object the hon. Member had in making the observation he did if it was not to show that the witnesses were in favour of the abolition of the law. But such was not the case, and the hon. Member referred to the evidence of several of the witnesses to prove this statement. He did not believe this was a landlords' question at all. As a landlord he would give up the Law of Distress to-morrow, but it was the tenant farmers who wished to maintain it. In proof of that he would adduce the discussion recently at the Farmers' Club, where an amendment in favour of the abolition of the law obtained only 10 votes out of 100 persons present; whilst at a meeting of the Chambers of Agriculture on the following day no motion in favour of toe total abolition of the Law of Distress was even suggested, but an amendment was moved and carried 1167 by a small majority of the farmers themselves, to substitute two years for the limitation of one year proposed by the Government Bill. With regard to the landlords, he believed himself that they would be far better off without the Law of Distress, for then there would be no credit system. In respect to the Bill itself, it was drawn on the only principle on which any such Bill could be drawn—in the interest of both incoming and outgoing tenants. Some persons were too much inclined to think that there was only one tenant—the outgoing tenant; but he ventured to say that the incoming tenant was as much to be considered as the outgoing tenant, and the farmers themselves were of this opinion. He believed the Bill would be taken by the farmers of England as a fair measure, and as one calculated to be of equal benefit to the two classes of tenants he had just mentioned.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, he thought that the commendation which had been bestowed upon this Bill was due to a desire generally entertained that a good tenant should not, when he left his holding, be placed at the mercy of a bad landlord. But he was inclined to think that the Government, in aiming at the conclusions they had in view, had drawn the Bill in such a manner as to leave the good landlords at the mercy of the bad tenants. While there were ample provisions for compensation for improvements made by the tenant, there was not a sufficient set-off for the deterioration of farms, which would be to the detriment of the landlord. He therefore suggested to the Government the necessity of introducing some provision which would enable the landlord during the continuance of a tenancy to call on the tenant to make an assessment of damages which might have been done to the holding, so that the landlord might not find himself left out in the cold. The hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. J. Howard) contended that the tenant should not only have the alternative of receiving his capital back again if he went out, but should be allowed to remain on his farm without having his rent raised. This seemed to come very near fixing a fair rent. Then, with regard to the Law of Distress, which the hon. Member proposed to abolish, he wished to call the attention of the House to the reason given by the hon. 1168 Member for that view, as it appeared in the evidence he gave before the Royal Commission. He there stated that it was of no use to limit the distress to one year without abolishing it altogether, as that did not do away with the injustice to the commercial classes. It was not, then, the tenant, but the commercial classes, the agricultural implement makers, and so on, whom it was desired to benefit. It appeared to him that such a proposal simply took money from one class in order to pay it to another, and was nothing more than robbing Peter to pay Paul. With regard to the question of set-off, he wished the Government definitely to say whether such an arrangement as had been suggested, whereby the landlord accepted a lower rent in lieu of the tenants' right to compensation, would be permitted under the Bill; because, if it was not, he did not see any chance of improvements being undertaken in cases where neither landlord nor tenant had much money. He also wished to know whether it was proposed to limit the compensation to the outlay; and he hoped the landlord would be permitted to assess the deterioration, when necessary, before the end of the time. The questions of unexhausted manure and of drainage also required careful attention; and it was obvious that if the landlord was not permitted to drain his land by means of borrowed capital, except under stringent restrictions, the tenant who undertook to drain his landlord's land, whether he wished it or not, ought not to be allowed to do so except under the same restrictions. The Bill came before the House as a just settlement of the tenant's claims, and, no doubt, the right hon. Gentleman who introduced it regarded it as a juste milieu between the claims of both parties. He trusted that the Bill was to be regarded as final, and not merely as an instalment and incentive to fresh agitation, and that the Government would view with the greatest suspicion any Amendments which might be proposed with the object of enlarging its scope. The extent to which they had gone in this Bill was the full extent to which they were justified in going by the present agricultural condition of the country and the desire expressed by the farmers; and by stopping there it might be possible to legislate in such a way as to secure compensation to the tenant for 1169 his improvements without deteriorating the property of the landlord. But if the Bill was simply to operate, as the hon. Member for Cornwall (Mr. Borlase) hinted, as an instalment, and as a vantage ground for fresh agitation, the House would incur serious responsibility in passing it. He (Mr. Brodrick) was not at all sanguine that the Bill would greatly relieve the tenant farmers from the difficulties from which they suffered. What the farmers required was a degree of capital which could not be given to them by any legislation.
§ COLONEL KINGSCOTE
said, his feeling was that freedom of contract between landlord and tenant was by far the best system. But it had been shown before the Royal Commission that there were black sheep among both landlords and tenants, and that there was a demand for a measure of this sort. He had looked carefully at all the Bills that had been produced on this subject, and he had no hesitation in pronouncing this to be by far the most equitable and most workable. There were some things in it that might be improved; but these could be better discussed in Committee. If the members of the Farmers' Alliance knew what they were about they would accept this Bill; and he believed that 99 per cent of the farmers of England would refuse to join in the opposition to it. He had the opportunity of hearing what farmers did say, and in the main it was—"Let us hear a little more about relief from local taxation, and never mind about tenancies." He trusted they would get the measure out of the way before the end of the Session, and that they would pass it not as an instalment, but as a final settlement of the question. If independent valuers were appointed under the Inclosure Commission, they would do their work far better than it was done at present by the valuers representing respectively the landlords and the farmers. A good deal was said about unexhausted improvements; but the word "improvements" was a misnomer, for a man worked a farm in order to get out of it the most that he could; and why should he expect to obtain more than the value of what he had put in during the last one or two years? It was, therefore, quite right that the Bill did not go further back. He could not admit that the Schedules were open to the objection 1170 that they were not minute enough. [Mr. CHAPLIN said, he had suggested a voluntary alternative, which might be taken, or might be left] He did not quite like the term "voluntary alternative." With the allowances that had to be made for differences in localities and of seasons, it was impossible to lay down hard-and-fast lines. As to joint ownership, those who had read the Report of Mr. Jenkins, the Assistant Commissioner, on joint ownership in Denmark and Holland, would know that it was a failure in both those countries. It was said that the sitting tenant ought to be recompenced for the improvements he had made; but the sitting tenant had been master of the situation for some time, and he was quite able to take care of himself—indeed, the continuance of farms in the same family, and the readiness with which banks lent money, were two of the main reasons why farmers did not prosper. The farms passed to eldest sons, and the money made was given to younger children. The eldest son was left with nothing but the stock on the farm. As long as seasons were good, he was all right; but when a bad season came there was no money to fall back upon, and it had to be borrowed from the bank. He would not detain the House further, but would only express his satisfaction with the Bill, and his confident hope that it would benefit both landlord and tenant alike.
§ MR. DONALDSON - HUDSON
said, he was not by any means a friend to the Bill, because he did not believe it would confer any benefit whatever on the agricultural interest. But he did not view it with disfavour, because he thought it would commit no injury on any of the classes engaged in agriculture. He was convinced it was only a step to something further. There had been an assurance from the Treasury Bench that this was to be a final Bill on the subject; but, to show how opinions changed in a very few years, it was only necessary to call the attention of the House to the opinions expressed by hon. Members who sat opposite at the time when the Agricultural Holdings Bill of 1875 was introduced by Lord Beaconsfield. In the debates it was proposed by some hon. Members opposite that the provisions should be made compulsory. This was opposed by Lord Brabourne, and Lord Sherbrooke said the result would be to 1171 raise rents, and the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) said that so long as rent was left an open question any legislation in that direction must fail. The noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington), in his speech at that time, said—I should have very great objection to see the provisions of this Bill become compulsory, or the provisions of any other Bill on the subject made compulsory, because I believe this or any other Bill, if made compulsory, would limit in a most injurious manner the arrangements which ought to be made between landlord and tenant."—(3 Hansard,  521.)Well, it could be seen how the opinion of the noble Marquess had changed in the interval, for it was to be presumed he was a supporter of the present Bill; and was it not reasonable to suppose, although the Government had given an assurance that this was not a step to something further, that pressure would be applied at a future time which would compel them to adopt some measure which would be of the nature of fixity of tenure, because, if there was any truth in the statement that to make such a measure compulsory would have a tendency to raise rents, it stood to reason that such an agitation would be set on foot and as great a pressure would be brought to bear on the then Government as had been brought to bear against the Government of the present time? But he wished to briefly allude to a few of the provisions of the Bill, some of which decidedly needed improvement. It seemed to be of very great importance that when notice was given by the landlord to the tenant—notice requiring the tenant to supply an account of what he had expended—the tenant should at stated periods supply to him thorough accounts showing what he had spent on these improvements, and producing vouchers for the money he had expended in artificial manures or in feeding stuffs; for it seemed to him very unreasonable that the landlord should be called upon—as he must be in certain cases—to actually give the tenant on leaving his holding a larger sum than the tenant had expended in these improvements. There was another point which seemed to him a great blot in the Bill, and that was with regard to drainage. He would very much prefer to see the 2nd part of the Schedule, that which dealt with drainage, included in the 1st, in order 1172 that the consent of the landlord should be necessary to these very important works. But, failing that, if it should be decided that the tenant should have the power to execute the drainage works himself, provided the landlord did not execute them, it seemed to be a very unreasonable thing that the landlord should be called upon to do this drainage at a sum not exceeding 5 per cent, and for this reason—hon. Members knew that drainage did not last for ever, but for a period of from 20 to 30 years. Even the Drainage Companies limited the years over which they spread the drainage to something like 30 years; and he had known it to fail under 20 years. But, taking the period at 30 years, and allowing for the sinking fund to supply the capital to enable the parties to reconstruct the drainage when carried out, the sum of 5 per cent would only return an interest of something like 2½ per cent. It seemed quite unreasonable to expect a landlord to invest money in improvements on which he would only get 2½ per cent supposing they lasted 30 years, and under that if they only lasted 20 years. It was utterly unreasonable to compel him to expend his money upon such terms. The idea of many hon. Members opposite was that landlords, as a rule, were bad, that they dealt with their tenants in a very unjustifiable manner; but he thought it would be found on inquiry that landlords in far more instances than was supposed actually gave as good provisions to the tenants as were given to them under this Bill, with the exception of allowing them to drain. But even when these compensations were given, he did not find on these estates that there was such a perceptible improvement. He knew an estate of 20,000 acres, which, as soon as the Act of 1875 was passed, was put under the provisions of that Act, and yet he did not find that this estate was more a Garden of Eden than other estates in the neighbourhood. He therefore wished that hon. Members would dispossess themselves of the idea that as soon as this Bill came into operation the whole country would smile and become prosperous again. The Bill in itself was innocuous. He only hoped that care would be taken in Committee to prevent injustice to either of the classes whose interests ought to be consulted, the one quite as much as the other.
§ MR. DUCKHAM
said, he had heard with great satisfaction the speeches from both sides approving this measure as a whole. The people had a right to expect that the best should be made of the soil; but he felt that until security for capital requisite to be invested in the cultivation of the soil was obtained, they could never hope to see the land made to yield its full increase. The Bill now before the House was a fair and good one, and was a great improvement upon the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1875. He thought that the several clauses of the Act to which it referred should be incorporated into it, and that we should have one good and comprehensive Act which farmers could understand, and not an Act referring to the provisions of another. He also thought that the Act should be made the one Act under which all agricultural holdings were regulated, instead of part being held under the Act, part under custom of the country, and part under private contract; and that those changes should be carried out at the termination of the present tenancies. Customs, where they existed, were very varied. They had been told that they were almost exclusively confined to Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, and Glamorganshire; but even in those counties they did not extend over the whole area. In the county of Glamorgan, he believed, they were limited to the Vale. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) had said that no tenants were raised upon their own improvements, that when rents were raised it was usually by their own consent and their own free will. He (Mr. Duckham) did not believe that any tenant ever put his head into the collar willingly to increase his burden. When the hon. Member made that remark, there was in the Gallery a son of an old friend of his who occupied an estate in the West of England, considerably over 1,000 acres. In good faith he drained the land, collected the water near the homestead to supply a water wheel for the use of his machinery to thrash his corn, &c. After incurring a heavy expenditure the estate changed hands, and he had to pay a greatly increased rental upon the improvements he had, in good faith, made. But that was not a solitary case. They had been told that in these times no I landlord would be so absolutely mad as to turn a tenant out; but only recently he had heard of one being turned out 1174 because his dog caught a hare in the month of March of last year. The adoption of the Schedules in this Bill he considered an error, as they could not be rendered applicable to all counties, neither did they embrace all the improvements for which a tenant should be compensated. He considered that no practical man could have aided in drafting the Schedules in the Act of 1875. In illustration of his meaning he would mention the compensation for planting fences and orchards; the tenant was considered to be recouped the cost in 20 years, sinking 1–20th every year, so that if, at the expiration of 10 years, he had to leave the farm he would sacrifice one-half the cost, notwithstanding that he had incurred a continual expense during that period in protecting what he had planted, and without any corresponding benefit. He hoped that the permissive element would be removed from this Bill. The effect of permissive legislation was clearly shown in the working of the Act of 1875. He would not go so far as some did, and say that that Act had done no good, as he felt it had done great good, although generally its provisions were barred. It had educated the public mind; it had brought both landlord and tenant to consider what should be done, and what was requisite for the country. That something was requisite was manifest to all when they beheld the very miserable state in which large areas of the land in this thickly-populated nation were at the present time, and when they referred to the Agricultural Returns and saw that there were some 320,000 less cattle, 6,000,000 less sheep, and 600,000 acres less corn grown in Great Britain in the year 1882 than in 1874, to meet the wants of a greatly increased population; also that there was now about 1,750,000 acres more permanent pasture than there was at that time. It certainly behoved the Government to consider by what means this state of things could be rectified. But whilst legislating for the security of tenants' capital, deterioration of landlords' property should be guarded against. He felt that Clause 16 of the Bill was not sufficiently clear upon that point, that it followed too closely in the lines of the Act of 1875 that precluded a claim for depreciation being made unless the tenant first claimed compensation. The valuations, 1175 he considered, should be made by two men conversant with the locality, and, in the event of their disagreeing, application should be made to the Land Commissioners to appoint a competent person, who should take the evidence of the valuers and others, and whose award should be final, binding, and conclusive. When the Bill was introduced, they were told that the part relating to the Law of Distress was that of the Bill of the hon. Member for Midhurst (Sir Henry Holland); but one important part of that Bill was omitted by the exception from distraint of an animal on the premises for breeding purposes. Agricultural machinery was proposed to be exempt, and surely the other should be. It had also proposed the Court of Summary Jurisdiction to adjudicate in cases of dispute. He thought the County Court should be substituted. The County Court was the Court for dealing with other matters connected with the Bill; it was the Court for replevin, and he felt it would be wrong to introduce another. Again, he had to complain that a clause he last year caused to be added to the Report of the Select Committee of the House which sat on the Law of Distress, empowering the tenant to deduct any claim for compensation he might have against his landlord from rent due, had not been introduced into the Bill. He felt that such a clause should be added. He had produced evidence before that Committee of two cases of extreme hardship. Neither of the tenants was insolvent. In one, the valuation made between landlord and tenant exceeded the balance of rent due. The tenant quitted the holding, expecting to be paid at an early date; but, instead of that, he was applied to for the rent. He unavailingly claimed exemption; his off-going wheat crop was seized under distress for rent. His neighbours were so disgusted with the case that they raised a subscription; an action was brought against the landlord at the Hereford Assizes, the venue was removed to London, and the tenant had a considerable amount to receive. He thought the possibility of such a state of things should not be allowed to exist, and he hoped that some clause would be introduced into the Bill that would for the future prevent it. He should support the Bill.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I think, Sir, it is a matter of congratula- 1176 tion, not merely to Her Majesty's Government, but also to all hon. Members—and they are many on both sides of the House—who are convinced of the necessity of further legislation on this question, that the principle of this Bill has been so generally approved. There were, no doubt, two great exceptions to the approval with which it has been met, and they were the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. James Howard) and his follower and successor the hon. Member for East Cornwall (Mr. Borlase). Nothing could exceed the violence of the language with which those hon. Members denounced this measure. They talked of it as essentially a poor Bill; as a milk-and-water measure; as not straightforward, and not likely to create any enthusiasm in the country; and, perhaps, in that respect they may be right. I am glad this is a Bill which is not likely to create enthusiasm in the country. We should be extremely sorry if the Government had been so ill-advised, in attempting to settle a question which hitherto has not been approached as a Party question, as to bring in a Bill which would be acceptable to the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. J. Howard). But, after those violent denunciations, I was hardly surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the First Commission of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) commenced his very able exposition of the Bill by a depreciation of the Act of 1875. Now, I do not want to follow him in that matter. I agree with the hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. Duckham) that the Act of 1875 did very great good, not only in educating the country, as he expressed it, but also, where it was not itself adopted, in inducing landlords and tenants to come to an agreement on questions of compensation. But, Sir, Her Majesty's Government are themselves the best witnesses to the value of the Act of 1875. It is not too much to say that the Act of 1875 is the parent of this measure. My hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) has pointed out that there is nothing in this Bill not to be found in that Act, except that it makes compensation compulsory. The clauses of the Act of 1875 are, one after another, incorporated in this Bill, or else referred to in the measure; and I should wish, on that point, to join my appeal to that already made by my hon. 1177 and gallant Friend the Member for West Gloucestershire (Colonel Kingscote), and by more than one other speaker in the course of this debate, that Her Majesty's Government would take heart in this matter, that they would repeal in toto the Act of 1875, that they would insert in this Bill all the provisions of that Act they desire to maintain, and that they would pass a Statute which, above all others, ought to be self-contained. There were two things in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works of which I was very glad to take note. The first was as distinct a repudiation as could well be of what I may call the germ principle, which the hon. Member for East Cornwall referred to as his justification for voting for this measure. Nothing could exceed the clearness and frankness with which the First Commissioner of Works laid down his total dissent from the principles of the Farmers' Alliance, and the determination of Her Majesty's Government that they would not introduce judicial rents, fixity of tenure, or the Irish system into the relations between English landlords and tenants. Well, Sir, I have no doubt that, after that clear and definite declaration, we shall not have to complain of Her Majesty's Government, as some hon. Members behind me seem to anticipate, assenting to any propositions, from whosoever they may come, which would be contrary to the principles laid down by the First Commissioner of Works. But there was another part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which I also heard with satisfaction. He gave no support whatever to what has been a very favourite contention of the many who have taken an active part in this question, and which, to my great astonishment, was repeated in the speech of the hon. Member for East Cornwall—namely, that, in the present state of agriculture, landlords can dictate their terms and tenants had only to accept them. A more ridiculous assertion was never made in this House. Anybody who knows anything of the condition of agriculture at the present time, in the South of England, at any rate, knows this—that if a tenant wishes his landlord to give him security, he can get it for the asking for it; that not only can he protect himself against 1178 an increase of rent, but if he wants a reasonable reduction of rent, in 99 cases out of 100, his landlord will be ready to give it him; that, so far from the tenant being in any danger of notice to quit, the landlord is the person who fears that notice to leave may be sent to him; that, in fact, the tenant, at the present time, is master of the situation, and would be the first to repudiate the proposition of the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, that a long notice to quit should be made compulsory on landlord and tenant. I only know this, that within the last three or four years instances have come under my own observation where tenants possessing the right to that notice which, in the absence of agreement to the contrary, the law now applies to all parties—namely, 12 months—have come to their landlord, and said—" The prospects of agriculture are so serious that we should be very glad if you would reduce the 12 months notice to six." It may be asked, "If this is the case, why should we legislate at all?" I answer that, in my opinion, there is nothing in the principle of this Bill which is inconsistent with justice, and that, although it may not be necessary at the present moment to provide by law security to a tenant for compensation for his unexhausted improvements, yet, for that reason, I am prepared to support the Bill. I take the principle of the Bill to be this—that, in some shape or other, either by this Act or by agreement, fair and reasonable compensation for unexhausted improvements shall be given. Well, now, that seems to me to be a principle which it is quite unnecessary to support by argument, after the reception which the second reading of this Bill has met with to night. I fully accept it; but what I should like to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Dodson) to for a few moments, is the mode in which the Bill provides that compensation should be given. I confess it does appear to me that there is something entirely too vague and indefinite in the provisions of the Bill on this head, and that its result, if it is passed in its present shape, might be to cause that which everybody, whether landlord or tenant, would be only too desirous to avoid—namely, a very large amount of litigation, simply 1179 because neither party will be able to be quite certain of his position towards the other. Let me compare, on this matter, the provisions of this Bill with the provisions of the Act of 1875. The House will remember that, with regard to the three classes of improvements under the Act of 1875, a certain term of years was laid down in each case, after which the improvements were held to be exhausted. For the first class of improvements, there was a term of 20 years laid down; for the second class, a term of seven years; and for the third class, a term of two years. With respect to the first class, it was provided that the amount of the tenant's compensation should be the sum laid out by the tenant on the improvements, with a proportionate reduction for each year, while the tenancy endured. With regard to the second class, it was provided that the amount should be the sum properly laid out—and I wish to direct attention to the word properly—with a proportionate reduction for each year that the tenancy endured. With regard to the third class, it was provided that the compensation paid should fairly represent the value of the improvements to the incoming tenant. There were other safeguards as to improvements of the third class; their duration was not only limited to two years, but there was a proviso, that where an exhausting crop had been taken after the improvement had been effected, no compensation could be given. I do not wish to dwell upon the provisions of this measure so far as the first class, or permanent improvements, are concerned. The necessity of first obtaining the landlord's consent will practically govern the whole of that matter; but, I must say, I fully agree in the expression of regret which has fallen from more than one speaker in this debate, that Her Majesty's Government have thought fit to remove drainage from the class of permanent improvements, and permit it to be done by the tenant without the consent of the landlord. There seems to be an idea, on the part of some hon. Members, that all land in the country ought to be drained. Yet I have no doubt many hon. Members of the House, including the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dodson) himself, are acquainted with tracts of land in the chalk formation, where there are thousands and thousands 1180 of acres on which a drain would be a simply ridiculous thing. You find the same state of things on the light stone formation in other districts of the country. Ought a tenant, who may be under notice to quit, who may be desirous in every way of harassing and encumbering his landlord—ought a tenant to have power, in such a position as that, to make his landlord pay for a drain which would be absolutely useless? I find nothing in this Bill which would protect the landlord against such action on the part of his tenant. Why should drainage not be considered a permanent improvement? The matter was discussed by a Select Committee last year. I think the hon. Member for Herefordshire (Mr. Duckham) proposed that the tenant might be allowed to drain without his landlord's consent. The proposition was negatived by a large majority of that Committee, and the hon. Member for East Cornwall has very properly said this evening that irrigation and some kinds of buildings are often improvements on precisely the same footing, so far as regards permanence, as drainage, and that, therefore, if the landlord's consent be required in the one case, there can be no reason why it should not be required in the other. I trust the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will either give us some reason we have not yet heard, why drainage should be separated from other permanent improvements, or consent to reconsider the matter, and put drainage where it was before; or, at least, that he will put in his Bill some provision to secure that drainage, where effected by the tenant without the landlord's consent, shall be properly executed, and that it shall not be effected by the tenant without the landlord's consent after notice to quit has been given. With regard to improvements of the second and third classes, now to be entirely comprised in the third class, I am bound to say that it seems to me that, in removing the necessity for notice to the landlord on such matters as were formerly classed as durable improvements, Her Majesty's Government have taken a course which will very materially add to the difficulties of the valuers or umpires or referees of the Court by whom the provisions of this Bill will have to be carried out. If it were required that notice should be 1181 given to the landlord, before these improvements were effected, the obvious result would be that a landlord would take care to have evidence to produce at the proper time, as to the manner in which they had been made, and the amount of compensation which should properly be awarded. Now, such evidence will probably be wanting, and therefore I think the right hon. Gentleman has made an alteration, which will scarcely tend to a just settlement, based on insufficient evidence. Sir, I must add that I do not think this class of improvements should be permitted, after notice to quit has been received or given by the tenant. Improvements of the third class are, practically the most important of all, because they are improvements which people all over the country have been in the habit of making. Yet, under this Bill, there is no guide whatever to the landlord, or tenant, or referee, or umpire, or County Court, as to the mode in which compensation for improvements of the third class shall be assessed, except that the compensation given is to represent the value thereof to the incoming tenant. No doubt there is great force in the argument, that the limit of 20 years, or seven years, possibly even of two years in the third class, as required by the Act of 1875, was sometimes too little. I can quite understand that proposition; but I do not understand why it should have been thought necessary by Her Majesty's Government, when dealing with that matter, to abolish the limit of time altogether, instead of extending it. It is obvious, surely, that the effect of improvements of the third class must be very limited in duration; that after five years, at any rate, such improvements must, in all cases, be exhausted, and that where an exhausting crop has been taken after the improvement was effected, the tenant should be debarred from compensation as is provided by the Act of 1875. I now' come to the alternative which her Majesty's Government propose to this Bill. If the provisions of this Bill will be found vague and indefinite by those who have to interpret them, how much more is that true of the agreement securing the fair and reasonable compensation which is proposed as the alternative? I should very much like the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to 1182 inform us what he means by fair and reasonable compensation? Would he hold, for instance, that compensation under the provisions of the Act of 1875 would be fair and reasonable compensation? Supposing a landlord and tenant, at the commencement of the tenancy, agree together on certain terms, which to both of them appear to be fair and reasonable compensation for unexhausted improvements, whatever shape that compensation may take—suppose that, after many years, the tenancy comes to an end, and the tenant's representatives desire to repudiate the agreement. They bring the matter before the referees, and the umpire, and the Court, and the agreement which to both parties, when made, appeared fair and reasonable, may then be actually ruled to be nothing of the kind. It seems to me that such a result as that would be worse than absurd, because it would be a setting aside of an agreement entered into by both parties as a bonâ fide agreement. I will venture to make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman, which I think might very much facilitate the working of the Bill, and diminish the dangers of litigation, and it is this. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Gloucestershire (Colonel Kingscote) suggested that the valuers might be certified as efficient by the Inclosure Commissioners. I would suggest that the Inclosure Commissioners should be directed to draw up certain forms of agreement, providing compensation for unexhausted improvements, and that this Bill should refer to the forms of agreement so drawn up, as satisfying the provisions for fair and reasonable compensation. I believe it would be perfectly easy for gentlemen, with the experience of the Inclosure Commissioners, to deal with the question in that way. A landlord and tenant desirous, at the commencement of a tenancy, to come to an agreement which would be binding on both parties, and which would bonâ fide carry out the object aimed at by the Bill, would be then able to do so without any fear that the agreement would be repudiated at any future time. There have been some observations made in the course of the debate upon the Law of Distress. Well, I see no particular objection to the proposals contained in this Bill on the matter; but, I confess, I see no particular reasons why these proposals 1183 should have been inserted in the measure. I suspect there is a growing change of feeling in the agricultural mind upon this subject. I very much doubt if the abolition, or even an alteration, of the Law of Distress would be popular, at the present time, amongst as English farmers as it might have been five years ago. I have heard some remarks as to the effect which this Bill may have upon the fortunes of agriculture. The hon. Member for Herefordshire (Mr. Duckham) seemed to anticipate wonderful results from its working; and I think that, to the absence of such a measure, he attributed the diminution in our stock of cattle and sheep, and many other evils that have affected us. I am afraid, if we look into these matters very slightly, a good many of us may be of opinion that the losses of agriculturists on that head, at any rate, are far more due to a neglect of sufficient precautions against the introduction of disease from abroad, than to a want of security for compensation for unexhausted improvements. Again, I do not believe, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Harcourt) has already said, that anything which is contained in this Bill is likely to prove as welcome to those who are engaged in agriculture as some relief from the burdens of local taxation. I doubt if the measure will very much relieve existing tenants. I am afraid that many of us know, to our cost, that during the last few years, the losses of existing tenants have been so heavy that, so far from having been able to expend capital in permanent or durable improvements, they have barely been able, if they have been able, to maintain their farms in a proper state of cultivation. I do not, in the least, believe there is any desire on the part of the tenantry of England to alter the existing system under which, very much to their benefit and their pecuniary gain, permanent improvements are effected by their landlords. On the other hand, I am not very confident as to the success of this measure in inducing capitalists to embark money in the pursuit of agriculture. I suspect there is something which far more deters capital from agriculture than any absence of legal security for improvements, and that is the unfortunate fact that, for some years past, agriculture has not been a paying pursuit. But, Sir, as a 1184 measure dealing solely with the question of compensation for improvements, as a measure dealing with it in its main principles, consistently, I believe, with the laws which up to the present time have regulated the relations between landlord and tenant in England, I am ready to give my hearty support, to the second reading, and I shall certainly do my best to give what assistance I can to Her Majesty's Government in conducting the Bill through Committee.
§ MR. DODSON
It would be very ungrateful, Sir, on my part, after the favourable reception the Bill has met with from all quarters of the House, if I were now to detain the House by an unnecessarily long speech in support of, or in vindication of, the measure. I will, however, make one or two observations in answer to the speech, which was no exception certainly to the friendly character of the speeches this evening, which has just been made by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach). The right hon. Gentleman has pointed out that we are, in a great measure, indebted for the foundation of this Bill to the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1875. But we hope there will be this material difference between this Bill and the Act of 1875—that whereas the Act of 1875 has remained almost, if not entirely, inoperative, this measure will prove operative and practical. The right hon. Gentleman expressed the hope that Her Majesty's Government will adhere to the principle of the Bill, as laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), in the able speech which he delivered in the earlier part of the evening, and that we should not introduce the principles of the Irish Land Act into the land tenure in England. In further confirmation of what fell from my right hon. Friend, I would remind the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the House, that English-managed estates in Ireland are exempted from the provisions of the Irish Land Act; and, therefore, I do not think he need be under any apprehension that we shall apply the principles of the Irish Land Act to England. I should just like to say one word with regard to what has been said by some hon. Gentlemen who spoke early in the debate. It has been said that the Bill affords no protection to the sitting 1185 tenant. I maintain that, economically, the Bill does protect the sitting tenant. If a landlord proposes to raise the rent, and the tenant objects, on the ground that a part of the rise of rent is due to his improvements, what happens? The landlord must give the tenant notice to quit; and, if so, he must either provide a lump sum to pay the compensation for the improvements, or he must find a tenant to come in who will do it. If the landlord has other funds besides his land, and can provide a lump sum himself, he must sacrifice as much in interest upon the money as he will gain by the rise of rent. On the other hand, if he finds an incoming tenant to pay the money, that incoming tenant will say—"I can afford to pay so much less rent." Now, let me put another example. Let us suppose that you frame some clauses that are to protect the sitting tenant against a rise of rent for his improvements. If you put a sitting tenant in the position that he is the only man in England from whom a landlord cannot obtain an increase of rent, you make it directly the landlord's interest to get rid of the tenant, and you do not improve the position of the tenant by that. If the state of the market for farms was such that a landlord could obtain a given increase of rent; but you provide that in the case of the sitting tenant that increase shall be reduced by a certain amount, the landlord will either cut the knot by giving notice to that tenant, or he will pitch his demand for an increased rent at such a figure as to discount the amount which he knows will be taken off for the tenant's improvements. The fact is, that when you come to argue the matter out, you will find this—that the actual and only practical protection any proposal that has been made gives to the tenant against an increase of rent is the compensation which is provided by the Bill, or that, if you are to do it otherwise, you cannot stop short of fixity of tenure and judicial rents. ["No, no!"] Some hon. Gentlemen say "No, no; "but all I can say is, that I have not seen any effectual proposal intermediate between the two. The right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), in criticizing our proposal that the measure of compensation should be the value of the improvements to the incoming tenant, said it was too vague. We had purposely made 1186 it general, and we think that is the merit of it. We think that you cannot properly lay down a definite rule, applicable to all parts of the country, and to different soils, and to different conditions of agriculture. We wish to lay down a broad principle and an elastic rule, which will be generally applicable; and we think this rule of value to the incoming tenant is the most elastic, most equitable, and most sound that we can take. As I stated the other night, if a tenant lays out money wisely and successfully, he is entitled to compensation; on the other hand, if he lays out money unwisely and unsuccessfully I do not think he is entitled to compensation, and we do not provide he shall receive it. We think it undesirable to introduce, as the principle of our rule, the limit of outlay, or the limit of period. The right hon. Baronet adverted particularly to the question of drainage; and he asked me, if I did not know a good deal of land which did not require drainage? Of course, I know there is a good deal of land which it would be as absurd to drain as to plough the sea-shore and sow it with salt; but then comes in the virtue of our principle. If a tenant were foolish enough to lay out his money in draining the South Downs, for instance, either before or after notice to quit had been served, there would be no value, he would have wasted his money, and he would receive no compensation. The right hon. Baronet also spoke of the alternatives, and said they were vague. First of all, as to the principle of the Bill, in allowing compensation under agreement to be substituted for compensation under the Act. We think that the permitting such alternative arrangement does not detract materially from the efficiency of the Bill; because the compensation which is substituted is to be substantial and bonâ fide compensation. But we think that to allow such other compensation to be substituted as may be for the convenience of the parties will make the Bill much more acceptable and juster to both, and, at the same time, encourage the application of capital to the soil, and not discourage it, as some hon. Gentlemen seem to think. It remains to me to say one word on the subject of the Law of Distraint. A Committee of this House recommended the limitation of distress to one year; we have followed that recommendation. The Royal Com- 1187 mission which inquired into this subject also reported against its abolition; but in favour of the period being reduced to two years. We have, therefore, two bodies of great weight, who have inquired into the matter, reporting against the abolition of distraint. One word upon this from the landlord's point of view. As long as we are to have a classification of debts with regard to mortgages and other matters, I think the landlord may fairly claim to have some place in that classification on account of rent, because it must be remembered that he cannot recover the possession of his property all at once; he can only recover it twice in the year, while his debt is one that accrues from day to day. I do not, however, look upon this matter of abolition or non-abolition of distraint as mainly a landlords' question. Should it be abolished, the landlord will have it in his power to protect himself by taking caution money, or advances, or otherwise, for the payment of his rent. But it is really a question more particularly between large tenants and small tenants. The existing law is an advantage, to a certain extent, to the smaller tenant, because he can, as it were, obtain by means of it a loan from his landlord for a certain period of time without interest. It has been said that the existing law is very unfair to other creditors. Well, I think there is some force in that argument, when one considers that the limitation, under the present law, stands at six years; but if we reduce it, as the Bill proposes, to one year, I think that, without altogether depriving the poorer tenant of advantage, we take away the objection in regard to the creditors almost entirely, because any creditor dealing with the tenant will know the maximum of preference there can be over his claim—he will know there can only be one year's rent. In conclusion, I can only thank the House for the favourable reception that has been accorded to the Bill, stating, at the same time, that although I shall not fix the Committee stage at too early a date, it will be taken soon enough to allow the details of the measure to be fully dealt with.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday 11th June.