§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
, in moving that the Bill be read a second time, said, it was extremely simple in its character. The Bill only contained two clauses. The first stated that tenants under this Act, holding under the statutory terms of the Land Act, should be entitled to claim and exercise the rights and privileges conferred by the 1st section of an Act passed by the Irish Parliament in the Reign of George III. for encouraging the planting of timber trees in Ireland. At present tenants holding under the Land Act could not plant their holdings with trees, or if they did plant they would have no proprietorship in them. In the Reign of George III. an Act was passed which enabled tenants on holdings with leases for lives renewable for over to plant trees on their holdings. The 2nd clause of the Bill guarded against any injustice, or supposed injustice, to the owners of the farms on which the tenants would plant by providing that where the tenants did not register their trees planted, the presumption as to their property must be against them and in favour of the landlord. These were the simple provisions of the Bill, and at that late hour of the evening he did not propose to detain the House further upon the matter, but trusted that the House would read the Bill a second time.
§ MR. MARUM
, in seconding the Motion, said: For many years Irish Members have been anxiously endeavouring to encourage the planting of timber trees in Ireland. This is a simple Bill, having for its object to apply to statutory tenants, or tenants subject to statutory 637 conditions, principles of legislation already well recognized in relation to such class of tenures, and now in operation under the existing law. The clauses are in the following form:—From and after the passing of this Act tenants of lands for statutory terms, and subject to statutory conditions under the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, shall be entitled to claim and exercise the rights and privileges conferred by the first section of the Statute passed in the Parliament of Ireland in the Fifth year of the Reign of His late Majesty King George the Third, intituled 'An Act for encouraging the planting of Timber Trees,' in the same manner as if they had been such tenants for lives renewable for ever, as are in the said section of the said last-mentioned Act mentioned or referred to in reference to all such timber trees or woods as shall be planted by such tenants from and after the passing of this Act. For the purpose of this Act all such timber, timber trees, and woods, shall, nevertheless, until the contrary is proved, be deemed to have been so planted by the inheritors of the said lands, unless such tenants shall fulfil the conditions specified, and carry out the several proceedings set forth in the third section of the said last-mentioned Act. And for the purposes aforesaid the provisions of the said section shall apply to and be in force in relation of such timber trees and woods as if the same had been planted pursuant to the enabling provisions of the said Act.As to the necessity for a measure of this character, and the present deficiency of timber in Ireland, I need only give the House an abstract of the Statutes passed upon the subject-matter, and especially a recital of the first Statute which I find enacted. The 10 Will. III. c. 12, recites that—For as much as by the late rebellion in this Kingdom and the several ironworks formerly here, the timber is utterly destroyed, so that at present there is not sufficient for the repairing of the houses destroyed, much less a prospect of building and improving in after times, unless some means be used for the planting and increase of timber trees.Now, this Act was passed in the year 1698, and such was the condition of the Island 200 years ago, owing to several causes—first, that for the purpose of military strategy the forests were cut down; secondly, that there was an enormous export trade — magnificent oak trees selling for about 1s. a-piece; thirdly, the large iron smelting operations consumed an immense quantity of timber, of which smelting operations there remains scarcely a trace or a tradition at the present day, yet we had it recorded in a contemporaneous Act of Parliament; and, lastly, from the utter neglect and absence of planting trees 638 in Ireland. Here, then, was an Island that was styled in the Celtic tongue, "Inis-na-Fiod buide"—namely, the "Isle of Woods"—actually denuded of timber 200 years ago! What was the remedy applied? A very elaborate, extensive, and severe one. By the provisions of this Act of William III., all resident persons in Ireland, or persons having freehold inheritance under stock of £10 value yearly, and all tenants of unexpired terms of 11 years of the annual value of £10, were bound to plant every year for 31, years, 10 saplings of oak, ash, or other timber trees of four years' growth. Every owner of iron smelting works or iron works was bound to plant 500 saplings of like kind and age annually for 31 years; and all occupiers of land of certain extent were bound to enclose and plant one acre every seven years with like saplings. In addition to these compulsory provisions, all bodies, politic or corporate mortgagees, or in anywise in possession of lands, were rendered liable to plant a certain proportion of 260,600 trees annually for 31 years. The proportion was set out in the Act for each of the 32 counties, from the largest number of 31,900 for Dublin County, down to 2,600 for Longford. The Grand Jury of each county was to apportion the county quota amongst the baronies, and subdivide it amongst the parishes of the same. Certificates were to be furnished to the High Constables, and by them delivered to the Vestries and churchwardens, and then to be applotted upon the individual occupiers, and to be thereupon chargeable upon the lands. Every Easter Quarter Sessions the lists were to be read, and upon second call of the occupiers, and failure of appearance, and proof on oath of compliance with the planting registration last year, the defaulters were deemed not to have planted, and were forthwith subjected to fine and imprisonment in default of distress on the lands. The stringency of the Statute and the penalties were severe. After 23 years a revolt of public opinion took place, and in A.D. 1731, the 8 Geo. I. c. 8, repealed these provisions, and proceeded upon the policy of encouraging the planting of trees by giving one-third of them to "limited" owners—tenants for life or for years. This Statute was enlarged in A.D. 1735, by the 9 Geo. II. c. 7, giving one-half 639 instead of one-third, and authorizing a writ of inquiry to be sped by the representatives of the tenant for life from Chancery, and the value of the timber to the extent of the one moiety to be a charge on the lands. This is the law still, and without any registration. Next came the Act of 5 Geo. III. c. 17, passed in A.D. 1766, and extended to fee farms by the 7 Geo. III. c. 20, which gave all the timber, instead of a partial interest, to lessees for lives, renewable for ever, without any registration; and, secondly, the Act gave "limited owners" and lessees for terms unexpired of at least 12 years the entire interest in trees planted by them upon registration. The recital in the Act exhibited the temper of the times—Whereas it is equal to inheritors whether tenants do not plant or have a property in what they plant.It was enacted that such limited owners and lessees should be entitled to "estovers," such as "housebote," "plough-bote," and "carbote," during their terms, and on expiration thereof, or the maturity of the trees, power to cut down and carry them away was given. The certificate of registration should be lodged with the Clerk of the Peace within six months after planting, with particulars set forth. Next came the 23 & 24 Geo. III. c. 39, passed in A.D. 1783, applying to the same parties, save that the lessees should have at least 14 years unexpired of their terms, instead of 12 years, and this latter Act was passed without directly repealing the former, and it is almost impossible to reconcile the provisions of both Acts, thus leaving registration of trees in a very uncertain and confused state; and uncertain proceedings in litigation have arisen, and there have been conflicting decisions as to registration in the Courts of Dublin, and subsequently in the House of Lords, as to the requirements of the Code and their fulfilment, which renders the process of registration a most uncertain title for a tenant. This is why I propose that it be not compulsory. In addition to which, a tenant of a small holding cannot afford to come, perhaps, 30 or 40 miles to a county town to make the affidavit, and then to publish the names of the owners and other particulars in The Dublin Gazette; and, further, to serve certain notices, the failure of compliance with any of which 640 particulars would prove fatal to his claim to the trees. In 1860 the Landlord and Tenant Act confirmed the lessee or grantee of a "perpetual interest" in the property of the trees by enabling him to cut them, &c., and this principle we only seek to carry out in this Trees Bill. Next comes the Land Law Act of 1881, which virtually created all tenancies from year to year into statutory terms renewable for ever in payment of judicial rents—in fact, giving a perpetual interest, as contemplated by the above Act of 1860, and we seek to apply that principle. A monstrous anomaly now exists—namely, that no tenant of lands for statutory terms, or subject to statutory conditions, can own any timber trees he plants. On the contrary, the moment he plants a tree it becomes the property of the landlord, for the present registry law does not enable him to register it; and, on the other hand, the landlord cannot plant trees on the tenant's holding, as he would be a trespasser; therefore, as the law now stands, no one is in a position to plant trees in Ireland when there is a tenancy. Surely this is a grievous anomaly in any civilized country when timber is a matter of vital necessity. Seeing the crying hardship of this case, and great injury to the country ensuing, I brought forward during the passing of the Land Law Act of 1881 the self-same provisions that I am now proposing; but the Prime Minister and Mr. Law (afterwards Lord Chancellor) feared that if we over-weighted the Bill it would be fatal, and I was obliged, ultimately, to withdraw the Amendment. I brought forward the same Bill in 1882 and in 1883, and in that year three Conservative M.P.'s of Ulster—Mr. Corry, Viscount Crichton, Sir Hervey Bruce, and the hon. Member for Maidstone (Captain Aylmer), brought in a Bill accepting my propositions, upon the basis, however, of registration. Finally, for the fourth time, I propose this Bill to apply the principles already affirmed in legislation to the new tenure under the Land Act of 1881, and I do not think it ought to receive opposition from any fair landlord. As to the objections of those who wish that registration shall be compulsory in all cases, and necessary in order to entitle tenants to timber trees, I desire to point out, first, that no registry was required under the 9 Geo. II. c. 7, as to trees planted; nor was registry 641 required under the 5 Geo. III. c. 17, in reference to lessees for lives renewable for ever; nor was registry required by the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1860, as to perpetual interests—of which the new statutory tenures virtually constitute one. Secondly, it must be held in mind that these Registry Acts ended in failure, as proved by the Returns furnished to Parliament—firstly, in 1859; and, secondly, upon the face of the Return moved for by myself last year. The miserable results exhibited by this Return may be judged by the statement of the great German Forest Conservator (Howitz), who says that the waste lands of Ireland alone would require from 300,000,000 to 400,000,000 of trees to be planted each year for 30 years; and yet we find only some 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 planted in 25 years! In the next place, the Law of Registry has been found most uncertain, and to afford little security to the tenant, owing to the complication and confusion of the provisions. But, thirdly, I have inserted a clause to meet the objectors—namely, that unless the tenant registers the timber, and if he chooses not to do so, the onus probandi of proving that he, and not the landlord, planted the trees will be cast upon himself. In the fourth place, the details may be well settled in Committee. All I now ask in the second reading is the affirmation of the principle of the Bill, which is recognized in legislation. I, therefore, submit this Bill to the House, now nearly four years before it, and I must say that I think it is one of the most important amendments of the Land Law of 1881. The complaint of the destruction of timber trees in Ireland has been going on since A.D. 1698, and all remedies heretofore tried have failed. It is time, after 200 years, to apply some real remedy, and I affirm this Bill will prove so. On behalf of the tenantry of Ireland, I make this demand as the mouthpiece of the Irish Parliamentary Party, in conjunction with my hon. Friend the Member for Meath. I have not touched the re-afforestation scheme of the hon. Member for the City of Dublin (Dr. Lyons), which we also desire to support. It is a Governmental scheme, likewise of national importance; but our Bill relies on the energies and industry of the tenantry themselves, without external aid. It is manifest that arboriculture has been en 642 tirely neglected not only in Ireland, but over the United Kingdom. The Continent—France and Germany—are giving us examples of statesmanship and paternal care in regard to free culture; and now we are only asking, not any aid, but facilities to enable us to develop our industries.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Harrington.)
§ MR. VILLIERS STUART
said, he had great pleasure in supporting the second reading of the Bill. Its provisions appeared fair to the tenant in enabling him to make the best of his land; and they would also prove advantageous to the country in giving an opportunity for the growth of valuable timber where profitable crops seemed to be exceedingly scarce.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
pointed out that the Bill introduced last Session by the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Corry) was withdrawn after its merits had been considered. The hon. Member for Belfast had very good reason for withdrawing the Bill; because, when it was discussed in Ireland, he found that very grave and serious objections existed with regard to it. He entirely agreed with many hon. Gentlemen who affirmed that the planting of trees in Ireland, as in any other country, was a very important matter. It was important not only as a matter of ornamentation beautifying the country, and not only in connection with the improvement of the timber of the country—it was important as affecting the rainfall and the storage of water. At the same time, it was absurd to suppose that any benefit would be conferred upon the country by planting trees on small holdings of five, six, or eight acres by the persons upon whom the right would be conferred by this Bill. It was absurd, too, to suppose that the Bill, if passed, would be largely availed of in Ireland. The Act of George III. conferred a right upon tenants who, for all practical purposes, were tenants for ever; and, under such circumstances, it would have been manifestly a hardship if they were prevented from planting trees. But when they came to a number of small holders of a few acres it was quite a different thing. Was it likely that they would be inclined to avail 643 themselves of the Bill? In this connection he might remark that during the whole of the recent agitation in Ireland he had been free from all annoyance, except in one particular, and that was that some of his tenants had burnt two plantations, from which it had been his custom to provide them with fuel gratis. When they required timber for roofing or other purposes it was invariably given them, and yet these two plantations were set fire to—one no less than three times. It was upon these very tenants the House was now asked to confer the right of planting trees for themselves. Agricultural holdings might, under this Bill, be turned into forests, woods, copses, or anything else but farms. He himself knew something about these tenants; and his own experience was that when they wanted to plant trees they invariably got permission to do so on the condition that the land was suitable and the wood would be of use. Under this Bill there would be no safeguard for any purpose whatever. His impression was that if this Bill were passed it would not be availed of by tenants for any useful purpose. He could quite conceive that a tenant who had fallen into arrear with his rent, and who, therefore, quarrelled with his landlord, might revenge himself by planting a number of trees, and on leaving the holding cut them all off short and leave the landlord to take up the stumps. He could understand a tenant, after 15 years' occupation, coming to the conclusion that he ought to have his rent reduced. He might then plant a number of quick-growing trees, call upon the Sub-Commissioners to re-value his holding, and make out that it was utterly unfit for cultivation, and could only be used to grow timber upon. He would be very glad to encourage any tenant of his in planting oziers; but he would be exceedingly sorry to see any tenant of his without proper provision for registration allowed to use the land for planting trees, and then at the end of his tenancy to cut the heads off the trees and leave the stumps for the landlord. There was no provision in the Bill for enabling the tenants to plant "sallow" beds in low-lying land, which might be extremely valuable to them.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
, believing that the Bill would be perfectly useless, and that it might be used for purposes of annoyance, begged to move that it be read a second time that day three months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Colonel King-Harman.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, he had great pleasure in supporting the Bill; not because he thought it would lead to any very extensive planting of trees, but the Bill would accomplish something towards that which all those who knew the country most desired. He believed that in a vast number of instances it would encourage people to plant trees about their dwellings, and thus give to them a more home-like character and add a charm to the rural landscape. He also thought it was very possible, if they were to have peace and tranquillity in Ireland, good farming tenants would begin to plant fruit trees in the neighbourhood of their houses. Such, however, was the rooted distrust felt by tenants that they would not plant trees unless they knew they would have a property in them, and were encouraged by a special Act of Parliament. He could not understand why, if tenants were to have a statutory term of occupation, as they now had for 15 years, they should not be encouraged to make good use of a portion of their land to plant trees, which, at the end of the 15 years, would be good timber. They might plant larch, which would have a beneficial effect on the soil, and might be used for repairs in various ways about their cottages and farms. He believed that the provision in the second part of the Bill was ample provision for the landlord. As this was a practical measure it ought to receive the support of the House.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, that any measure for planting trees in Ireland must attract a great amount of sympathy on both sides of the House, as, fortunately, it was not a political question. His hon. Friend the Member for Dublin City (Dr. Lyons) had, by his publications, 645 drawn great attention to the subject for the last two years, and he and others had shown the extraordinary falling-off in the number of trees in Ireland, and the benefit that would accrue by encouraging their planting in every legitimate manner. He (Mr. Gibson) was willing and desirous to give a fair trial to every measure which was proposed on the subject. His hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel King-Harman) was entitled to speak on this question with authority, from his great knowledge of Irish affairs and of trees, and from the admirable manner in which he had managed his property for the benefit of his tenants. He hoped when the Bill reached the next stage that the observations of his hon. and gallant Friend would meet with all the attention they were entitled to. He gathered from what had been said that it was recognized that there must be a provision on the face of the Bill for creating a machinery for the registration of the trees planted. There were other things, also, that should be attended to. Looking at the present state of Ireland from a common-sense point of view, though he hoped any Bill for encouraging the planting of trees would be honestly used for that end, the possibility of its being perverted for purposes of annoyance and exasperation ought to be borne in mind. In the Labourers' Cottages Act of last year a provision was inserted that the cottages should not be placed so as to damage the amenities of the landlord's property, and a similar provision should be made in the case of the planting of trees. So, also, there should be a provision against the planting of trees in the middle of, perhaps, the best grass fields at the caprice of a tenant—a thing which might ruin a farm for all time. When the Bill reached another stage, he would venture to submit, possibly by way of Amendment, such points as might be deserving of attention.
§ SIR HERVEY BRUCE
said, that a Bill on this subject which had his name on the back provided ample safeguards against any wrong being done by the tenant to the landlord. He did not mean to oppose the Bill now before the House, though it did not contain those safeguards. He hoped hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway would put in Amendments which would make the Bill safe to the landlord as well as the tenant.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, the opinion of the House appeared to be almost unanimous in favour of this Bill, and he should therefore assent to the second reading, although he, perhaps, might have to make some remarks on Amendments proposed in Committee.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Friday.