HC Deb 05 March 1884 vol 285 cc551-607

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he approached the important subject with less diffidence than he otherwise would have done, because he was strengthened by the reflection that since the Bill of 1881 was before the House there had been a considerable advance in public opinion upon the subject of Land Reform in Ireland. It would be his duty to submit to the House to-day some of the proposals which hon. Members on those Benches thought should be carried into effect in the interests of the people of Ireland. There was something approaching to a common agreement between all sections and parties in Ireland as to the necessity for some of the proposals which he was about to submit; and, under these circumstances, it was unlikely that the proceedings which followed the passing of the Land Act of 1870 would be repeated. He remembered that after the passing of the Land Act in 1870 the British mind was, so to speak, hermetically sealed upon the question of Land Reform in Ireland. He then, like the late Sir John Gray, endeavoured to induce the House to sanction an amendment of the Land Act; but every effort was futile, as everyone seemed then to think that they had arrived at the final settlement of the question of Land Reform in Ireland. Matters were then allowed to drift on, until they culminated in the events of the past few years, when the distress in many parts of the country amounted to a state of famine. It was not until then that the House was prepared to search further into the question of Irish Land Reform. He was bound to say, in justice to his hon. Friends who sat around him, that when the Land Bill of 1881 was before the House they were subjected to no small amount of adverse criticism on account of the position they had taken up. Their intentions and their motives were grossly misrepresented. It was, indeed, openly stated that their action was calculated and intended, not to assist, but to throw obstacles in the way of passing the measure, so as to maintain a state of acute agitation in Ireland. He imagined, however, that everyone would agree with him when he now stated that the House had since had abundant reason to change that opinion. It was now pretty generally admitted that the Act of 1881 ought to be reformed if it was to be of any service to the people of Ireland; and if it was to be made to work satisfactorily, it must be amended in the direction proposed by the Irish Party when the Bill was before the House. In addition to the original shortcomings of the measure, their position had been strengthened and reinforced by certain decisions of the Superior Courts, with which many of them were familiar—especially the decision of "Adams v. Dunseath," by which one of the great principles of justice contained in the Act was abrogated and nullified. In moving the second reading of the Bill it was not his intention to discuss any of the minor details, which would be more fittingly dealt with in Committee. He would lay before the House, as well as he could, four of the leading features of the Bill. The 1st was a very brief clause, which provided that the judicial rent should commence from the gale day following the date upon which the tenant first applied to have a fair rent fixed, with power to the Court to suspend evictions pending their decision. The 2nd clause simplified the sale of tenancies, and gave the tenant greater freedom of action. The 3rd clause dealt with the question of town parks. The 4th clause defined the term "improvements." The 5th. clause dealt with the question of the tenants' improvements, and the 6th, 7th, and 8th were minor clauses in their object intended for the safeguarding of the tenant's right to his own improvements. The 12th and 13th clauses proposed to extend the scope of the Purchase Clauses. The remaining sections of the Bill were, in the main, consequential. With regard to the portions of the Bill fixing the date of the judicial rent from the gale day following the application to have a fair rent fixed, and granting power to the Land Commission to suspend eviction whilst the ease was at hearing, he would ask the House to remember that when the Bill of 1881 was introduced by the Prime Minister, the original clause provided that the fair rent should run from the gale day following the application. He did not remember at the moment whether the alteration was made in Committee or in the House of Lords; he rather thought the latter. He thought he would not have much difficulty in showing to the House the absolute injustice of the arrangement. He could best do so by submitting the condition of the Land Courts according to the last Return, which showed that of the total applications made to the Land Court, 91,856, there were, up to the 31st of August, 1883, only 42,768 decided, and 19,163 withdrawn or otherwise disposed of, leaving the enormous balance of undecided cases at 29,925. He would ask the House to consider the effect of leaving these 30,000 cases in abeyance with the unfortunate tenants. As the law at present stood, a farmer on one side of a road might get his rent reduced in a prompt manner, while his next neighbour, having made an application for the fixing of a judicial rent, might—and in many cases had to—wait six months, 12 months, or even a longer period before he could obtain a decision, having, in the meantime, to pay a rental of 25 or 30 per cent higher than that which was borne by the farm next his own. Nothing could be more calculated, he need hardly say, to promote dissatisfaction, discontent, and disturbance amongst the tenants. The immense mass of arrears in appeal cases was enough to establish the fact that appeals were lodged for no other purpose than that of delay. That number was 10,0C0, and out of it, up to August last, 1,934 were decided, 1,459 withdrawn or otherwise disposed of, leaving a balance of 6,687 still to be heard. The rate at which the appeal cases were disposed of was 1,000 per annum, so that it would take seven years for the Court to get through the appeals lodged up to the present. But an analysis of the Returns from the different counties showed something worse. In the county of Antrim, 841 appeals were lodged, 284 were settled, 75 withdrawn, leaving 682 still to be dealt with. In the County Wexford, 93 appeals were lodged, 10 heard, 11 withdrawn, leaving 72 to be dealt with. In the County Kerry, 328 appeals were lodged, 63 heard, 4 withdrawn, leaving 261 to be dealt with; and in the County Mayo 459 were lodged, 39 heard, 43 withdrawn, leaving the enormous balance of 367 to be dealt with. To show that these appeals were, for the most part, vexatious and intended to cause delay, he need only refer to the net result of the Appeal Court for the one year ending 31st August last, which was that 1,079 cases were dealt with, giving a total reduction of £742 on judicial rents of a total of £28,000, or less than 15s. in each case. The object of the appeal, therefore, was to secure an extension of the time during which the excessive rent should be paid; and until a change was made in the direction he suggested, it would be found that the clause as it stood at present in the Act would be a fruitful source of discontent and dissatisfaction for the Irish tenantry, and it was because the clause so stood at present that there was such a meagre result as regards the cases settled out of Court. But the portion of the Land Act which promised to give most satisfaction in Ireland was that which reserved to the Irish tenant an absolute right to his own improvements; and there was no part of the Act on which the Members of the Government, and par- ticularly the Prime Minister, made such emphatic and specific declarations. The Prime Minister distinctly laid down the principle that the tenant's improvements were absolutely his own property, and that no length of enjoyment would deprive a tenant of the right to his own improvements. Unfortunately, owing to a compromise with the House of Lords, what appeared at the time to be a very innocent Amendment was proposed by the hon. Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing) and adopted by the Government. By that Amendment the following words were added to the Improvement Clause:— For which the tenant or his predecessor in title shall not have been paid, or otherwise compensated for by the landlord or his predecessors in title. He acquitted the hon. Member of any knowledge that his Amendment would bear the interpretation which Irish Judges gave it—the hon. Member was a Gentleman who had shown much sympathy for the suffering Irish tenants. He did not wish to say anything offensive of the Irish Judges; but they all knew that they were gentlemen trained up in the old traditions of landlordism, and although the late Lord Chancellor Law, than whom no person in the House, during the passage of the Act, displayed a greater knowledge of the subject, or a more thorough mastery over all its details, and—[Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!]—whose unfailing courtesy would be always gratefully remembered by the Irish Party, although he went out of his way to declare that no such construction of the words "otherwise compensated for" could be in the minds of the Ministry, his brother Judges declared that length of enjoyment should be taken into consideration in deciding the question of the tenants' improvements. Now, all he asked was that this principle of equity and justice, so explicitly laid down by the Prime Minister in his Land Bill, and so abrogated by the Irish Judges, should be re-affirmed and restored, so that by no process of legal jugglery or legerdemain could Irish tenants be deprived of their property or their improvements. He regarded this question of tenants' improvements as the very corner stone of the Irish Land Question. The Purchase Clauses, inclusion of leaseholders, town parks, would all remain, to a large extent, inoperative, so long as the question of improvements was left in its present shape. How could they expect rest or contentment as long as a tenant was called upon to pay twice over for his own property? It was absurd to expect that in one, five, or ten years this question would solve itself until tenants' improvements were placed beyond all doubt. And now, incidentally, he would remind the Representatives of the Territorial Party in the House that it was a rather dangerous principle for them to lay down that length of enjoyment was sufficient compensation for improvements. What if the public mind woke up some fine morning, and declared that lengthened enjoyment of the fee simple was sufficient compensation, and that, therefore, the great hereditary landowners should surrender their property right off? [Laughter.] The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) might laugh'; but what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander, and he would like to have it explained how this principle could be applied equitably on one side and not upon the other. He would illustrate his argument by mentioning the particulars of the case of a farmer named O'Halloran, of Rathbane, County Limerick. This farmer was now nearly 70 years of age, and in 1850 he took a farm of 28 acres at £2 14s. an acre. In the survey, he might mention, the place was described as "Rathbane bog." The tenant improved the land very much. About 1863 the trustee came to the tenant and said—" O'Halloran, we want money very badly, and you must pay so much more." The money, it appeared, was wanted to pay some jointure. The tenant of whom he was speaking was compelled to take a lease, and to pay the rent imposed upon him during the minority of the person to whom the property descended, or until the property was sold in the Landed Estates Court in 1872. When that event came he made an application to the Board of Works in Ireland for a loan to enable him to buy his holding, and an advance was promised to him in the event of his becoming the purchaser; but a wealthy man, who had determined upon becoming a landlord, bid a larger sum than he could afford to pay, and so became the possessor of the land, to which he had no previous relation. This gentleman served him with a notice to quit, with the alternative of paying an increased rent of 50 per cent upon what he paid for the farm when he took it in 1851, and 50 per cent more than Griffith's valuation. Last year he made an application to the Commissioners and obtained a reduction to a sum which was still 20 per cent over Griffith's valuation, notwithstanding that the whole of the work which had increased the letting value of the property was done by the tenant himself, the owners of the soil not having expended a penny in the business. According to the decision in "Adams v. Dunseath," all the improvements made by that unfortunate man would revert to the landlord. Such a state of the law was an outrage on every principle of equity and justice, and he called upon the House to remedy it. The next point of the Bill provided for the inclusion of leaseholders, who were outside the operation of the Act of 1881. The Lease Clauses of the Act were so overladen with difficult conditions that their result had been very meagre; so that, out of 1,500 applications up to August last, the number of leases declared void was only 116. Judge O'Hagan expressed the opinion that all those leases, so flagrant were their conditions, could have been upset in any Court of Equity, even if the Land Act had not been passed. The leaseholders in Ireland, who numbered 100,000, and farmed between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 acres of the best land in the country, were also the most rack-rented landholders in Ireland. He could easily understand the desire of the landlords to exclude leaseholders from the operations of the Bill of 1881, because they knew that if leaseholders had access to the Courts the exposé of the conditions on which leases were imposed upon the farmers would be nothing short of terrible. It was, therefore, proposed to include leaseholders among those who would receive benefit under the present Bill, under certain conditions which would not interfere with the ordinary conditions and covenants in their leases, some of which conditions might be, and probably were, quite right and proper. It was an unmitigated evil that a man who had no option but to accept a lease should be called upon to pay 25 or 30 per cent for his land more than was paid by his neighbour who was not a leaseholder, and should have no right to apply to the Court to fix a fair rent. He had a great respect for freedom of contract—manufacturing and commercial industry without freedom of contract would be impossible—but it was absurd to urge the argument of freedom of contract as against giving to leaseholders the right which was proposed to be conferred upon them, because anyone with the most superficial knowledge of the circumstances must know that the landlords had absolute power, control, and authority, while on the other side there was abject helplessness—the leaseholder must accept the conditions imposed upon him, no matter how onerous, odious, and extreme they might be. The next and only remaining important point was the Purchase Clauses. Great hopes were entertained regarding the Purchase Clauses of the Act of 1881; but they had proved disappointing. They had no vitality, no elasticity; they were practically inoperative; but, fortunately, both tenants and landlords were vying with each other in their desire to bring the question to a satisfactory issue, and it was not necessary for him to labour the point. The total number of applications made under these clauses was 173, and the total amount of money granted was £104,173. As he had said, landlords and tenants were now vying with each other to bring this purchase question to a successful issue; and since Parliament had assembled a Memorial, signed by 81 Members, representing all the Irish Members in London, had been presented to the Prime Minister, directing attention to the question. Therefore, he found himself relieved from setting up any arguments in favour of tenants purchasing their holdings. He might quote the example of Russia, where the experiment was carried out on the largest scale 23 years ago. Mr. M'Kenzie Wallace, in his remarkable book, noticed that 20 years after the emancipation of the serfs and the purchase of their lands by the State the amount of arrears due by them to the State was infinitesimal. If people, like the serfs, who, from their previous condition, knew extremely little about commercial transactions, thus kept their faith with the State, why should they be apprehensive that the Irish would act otherwise? He had, however, the fullest confidence that if the Government would accept the pro- posal in the present Bill on this subject, and then carry out a comprehensive scheme of purchase on the part of the tenants, the result would be a large influx of purchasers, whose advent would be advantageous not only to the tenants and the country generally, but to the landlords themselves. There was another danger to which he should wish to direct the attention of the House, and that was the possibility that the unhappy history of the Encumbered Estates Court was about to be repeated. Bad as the owners of encumbered Irish estates were, the purchasers of those estates were far worse, and they were the cause of the untold miseries which had been inflicted upon the Irish people. Events were tending more and more in the same direction, and unless something were done to extend and enlarge the operation of the Purchase Clauses of the Irish Land Act, a repetition of the miseries which had been caused by the establishment of the Encumbered Estates Court would be inevitable, and Ireland would be handed over to land-jobbers. He trusted, therefore, that he had said sufficient to induce the Government to support any fair proposal for the extension of the Purchase Clauses of the Act of 1881. In touching upon these four points he believed that he had dealt with the leading features of the present measure. There were, however, two or three minor matters with which the Bill proposed to deal to which he should wish to refer. One of those minor matters was the proposal to bring within the operation of the Purchase Clauses of the Land Act the holdings within the town parks. He confessed that he could never understand upon what principle of justice the holdings in the town parks of Ireland had been excluded from the operation of the Purchase Clauses of the Land Act, because, in his view, there were special reasons why those holdings ought to have been included. The lands adjacent to the Irish towns required a more minute kind of cultivation, a larger and more continuous supply of labour, and a greater expenditure of capital, than that of the farms demanded. There was a large mass of evidence to show that the tenants of this class of holdings, who formed one of the most deserving classes in Ireland, had suffered great hardships from the exaction of increased rentals, which amounted practically to a confiscation of their property. To omit from the Bill this class of tenants would be to do injustice to a most deserving portion of the working population of Ireland. The last two clauses of the Bill related to turbary and the right of way. With regard to turbary, it had been found that in many instances landlords had been able to neutralize the reduction of rent under the Land Act by raising the charge for turbary; and as the tenant was obliged to obtain fuel, he was compelled to pay the charge for turbary which the landlord demanded. The clause in the Bill relating to this matter limited the tenant's right to cut turf to his household necessities, and did not entitle him to extend his right for purposes of trade. The question of the tenant's right to access to his holding stood in a somewhat similar position, and was dealt with by Clause 16. That right of way ought to be secured to him on the payment of a moderate charge; and the landlord ought not, by means of exacting a high charge for access to his holding, to be allowed to render nugatory the provisions of the Land Act. He asked the House not to be influenced by the imperfect manner in which the Bill had been drawn, but to judge it on its own merits, and to replace the Land Act on those principles of justice on which it had been originally based by the Prime Minister. He believed that the adoption of this measure would bring about an end of the agrarian movement in Ireland. [Mr. TREVELYAN dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman appeared to be somewhat sceptical upon that point; but he believed that such would be the case. With the end of that agitation there would come about the beginning of a better state of things, and he hoped they would see a self-governed country anxious to secure the interests of a great and consolidated Empire. He begged, in conclusion, to move the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Barry.)


said, that, in the interesting and ingenious speech to which the House had just listened, the hon. Member had endeavoured to persuade them that this measure was identical in principle with, and followed closely the lines of, the Irish Land Act. That, doubtless, was a legitimate thing for the hon. Member to do; and, doubtless, if hon. Members had not in their immediate recollection the exact provisions of the Land Act, they might be led to believe that this measure was merely an extension of the principles of that Act. He believed, however, that those hon. Members who had supported the principles of the Land Act, and who desired to see the temporary settlement that had been arrived at maintained, would join him in opposing this Bill. The principles of this measure were not now for the first time brought under the notice of the House. A measure similar in character, and almost identical with this in its main provisions, was brought before the House last year, when it was discussed at considerable length, was commented upon by the Prime Minister in a speech of unusual acumen and force, and was rejected by an overwhelming majority on a Division. In these circumstances the House would probably be inclined to ask what were the circumstances which had caused the measure to be re-introduced in an almost identical form with that which had been rejected last year. In fact, if there were any difference in form between the two measures this was the worse measure of the two. If the present measure were carried, it would have the effect of entirely upsetting the settlement that had been come to under the Land Act. He thought that he was entitled to ask the House whether they believed that this measure, put forward from the quarter from which it had come, was entitled to be regarded as a loyal attempt to extend the provisions of the Land Act? In February, 1882, the Prime Minister had said that while the Land Act was working well in the direction of restoring social order and contentment the Irish Members were working in a direction which, although it might seem to them legitimate, he considered to be antagonistic to the operation of that Act. What were the principles of this measure, and how did they not correspond with those of the Land Act? The provisions of the Land Act gave an almost complete authority to the Land Commissioners to lay down the principles upon which the judicial rents were to be fixed, inasmuch as they were to consider the circumstances connected with each holding. This measure proposed to alter those provisions by making a change in the principle upon which judicial rents should be fixed, and by declaring that when the next fixing of judicial rents should take place the Commissioners should be absolutely bound by the present rent as the maximum. The remarks of the hon. Member as to the fixing of the judicial rents were calculated to mislead the House. The controversy was as to whether a judicial rent should take effect from the date of the application to the Court, or from that of the judgment of the Court fixing the rent. The hon. Member stated that the fixing of the rent by the Court would not cause the rent to be paid as a judicial rent in the case of an appeal being made. In that opinion, however, he believed the hon. Member was absolutely wrong. What were the facts of the case? Last year the Prime Minister stated that 90,000 applications had been made to the Court, that 30,000 of those applications had been already dealt with, and that the remainder were being dealt with at the rate of 100 a day. It appeared that more than half of those arrears of cases had been worked off within 11 months. He did not know to what date the statistics quoted by the hon. Member extended. [Mr. BARKY: TO the month of August in last year.] Well, since then a large number of cases had been disposed of, which the hon. Gentleman represented to be still before the Court. Since last August the Court had been dealing with cases at the rate of 100 a day. When they were asked to form a judgment on figures so absolutely delusive as those given by the hon. Member, the House had a right to ask that they should see clearly what was the real state of the case. If he had any fault to find with this part of the Act, it was that, as he believed, the fixing of judicial rents was made by the Government not a matter of accuracy, but a matter of pace. From the first everything had been done to force the Sub-Commissioners to quicken their movements. At the time when valuers were appointed the right hon. Gentleman opposite used words which were interpreted to mean that if they did not perform their duties with sufficient celerity the system would have to be reconsidered, and they would have to be removed. He believed the right hon. Gentleman had explained that language; but, at the same time, there could be no question that the Government had been in the habit of putting a spur behind the Sub-Commissioners whenever they had an opportunity. Last year the right hon. Gentleman vaunted that the daily rate of dealing with applications was at first 14, then 40, then 76, and afterwards 100. This boast was little calculated to convey a belief in the justice of the decisions to the minds of those who were principally concerned. But, whatever might have been the effect on their minds, the celerity of the decisions had cut away the whole of the case of the hon. Gentleman, inasmuch as the amount of arrears was nothing now compared with what it had been. In point of fact, the number of cases waiting in each district had been reduced by two-thirds since this time last year. There was another matter which had been brought before them with amusing reserve. It was that the judicial rent of a tenant's ex-statutory term was not to be more than the maximum of the rent of his statutory term, except in respect of any improvement actually made by the landlord. What, then, was to be done? The settlement of 1881 was arrived at when prices were very low; and the hon. Member asked the House to affirm that, although there might be a general rise in prices, or a town might grow up near the farm, or a railway might run through the middle of it, and thus the farm might become accommodation land of very great value, but rent must not be increased.


said, he thought the hon. Gentleman could not have read the clause. It made a distinct provision under which the rent might be raised in case the holding had, independently of the tenant, permanently increased in value.


said, he maintained his contention that unless the particular holding was included in the value, so that larger crops could be grown from it, no increase could be made in the rent. If the clause were adopted he should be sorry to have to argue before the Sub-Commissioners that a general rise in values had increased the value of the farm. As the hon. Member appeared to attach so much importance to this clause, he ought not to have passed it over as being one of the three "minor clauses." He turned, however, from that point to the great question of the improvements. The hon. Member's proposal was to permit open robbery of what was acknowledged by the Act of 1881 to be the interest and property of the landlord. It was proposed that the tenant should get the full value of improvements without regard to the length of time he might have enjoyed them. According to the hon. Gentleman's contention, it would be perfectly reasonable to allow nothing whatever for wear and tear of the improvements, and for the degeneracy of those improvements. Secondly, the hon. Member proposed that the landlord should have no power of enforcing any contract by which improvements were to be made his own. Thirdly, the hon. Member would transfer from the landlord to the tenant the assumption as to who had effected improvements; and, lastly, he treated the tenant and his predecessors in title in precisely the same fashion as predecessors in occupancy, although they might have had no title whatever to the land. The effect of these four provisions would be to reduce the landlord's interest in the land to the precise position in which it was at the time of the Deluge. In fact, these provisions were absolutely prohibitive of any expenditure of money by the landlord. Well, he would only point to the enormous increase which had taken place in some counties in the amount of the tenant's interest in consequence of the Act of 1881. This was so remarkable that it had become evident to every sane man in the country that the tenants had received not only all that was theirs, but also a large slice of their landlords' property. He might mention the case of an estate in the county of Clare, where it had not been customary for large sums to be given for tenant right before the passing of the Act. The landlord had not only executed the greater number of the permanent improvements, but had actually built houses of considerable value all over his estate. When the Sub-Commissioners came to assess the rental on that estate they said— Although these houses were built in pursuance of a contract with the tenant, and although the landlord has charged a sum not exceeding 2½ per cent on his outlay, we cannot take account of that in valuing the land. They could take 15 acres of land, and if it was worth 65. or 8s. per acre they could give that price, but no more; al- though, of course, an outlay of £150, at 2½ per cent. would justify an addition of £3 15s. to the rent. They, therefore, deliberately declared that it would be impossible to take those improvements by the landlord into account, and they expressed their regret at being driven to that opinion. He believed that regret was perfectly genuine, because the Sub-Commissioners felt that in thus acting they were impeding the much-desired amelioration of the dwellings of the poorer classes in Ireland, and also that they were putting an insuperable obstacle in the way of any landlord who desired to improve his property. [An hon. MRMBER: What is the name of the estate?] Lord Leconfield's, in County Clare. On that estate there had been sales of tenancies in the course of the past 18 months. The sales of these tenancies had averaged 20½ years', and in one ease 45 years' purchase. The facts seemed to be that in a case like this the Sub-Commissioners said they could not put value on the land if these men were ready to give 20½ years' rent in order to obtain possession of the farm. Was it not, therefore, a fair deduction from that fact alone to say that where a man was voluntarily raising his own rent double, and sometimes more than double, by giving as much as 45 years' purchase for the farm, that he had not only bought all his own improvements, but also his landlord's improvements? He would further say that in many cases, through the operation of this Act, jointly with the operation of the Arrears Act, a tenant had committed a gross fraud upon the estate. He would take an instance from the letter of Mr. Hussey, one of the best known land agents in the South of Ireland. That gentleman mentioned the case of one of Sir George Colthurst's tenants, whose rent was £48, the Poor Law valuation £45, and who sold his interest for £630, or, with auctioneer's fee, £661 10". Last year this same tenant, under the Arrears Act, applied for a year's rent upon the estate. In order to do that he was obliged to swear what his available assets were, and he put them down at £104 10s., and according to the form for that purpose he was bound to include the selling of the farm. That man, who received a year's rent from the State to enable him to pay his way, had just realized from the incoming tenant £661 10s. He would also call the attention of the House to the fact that a tenant who considered £48 too high a rent was succeeded by another who thought £71 not too much to give. They had been told that the effect of the decision in the case of "Adams v. Dun-seath" had been to effectually destroy the interest of the tenant in these improvements. The House had not had a particle of evidence placed before it to bear out that assertion. The only instance mentioned was 12 months old, in which a fair rent notice had actually been served; but there was no evidence to show that with that fair rent the tenant would not sell his improvements for an enormous sum. With regard to the presumption of title by the tenant, all he could say was, why stop short there? If they were giving presumption to a tenant in respect of improvements, whether he had a predecessor in title or not, why not go a step further and say that the landlord, before he engaged a tenant, must make his title clear to the land? There was another very strong argument against this clause. They were told that it had been done in pursuance of contract; but if the improvements had been executed in pursuance of contract, still the landlord was not to have the benefit. What would be the effect of that clause? The literal effect would be that at the close of any building lease which might have been given, its main provision would be invalidated. He undertook to say that this clause was not only prejudicial to the lease-owning classes in Ireland, but against the whole tenure of land and house property in this country. It would be a complete subversion of the principle of property in this country, and he would decline to discuss it, because it was absolutely foreign to the principles on which legislation on this subject had proceeded in this country. The next point was that in regard to leaseholders. The hon. Gentleman had stated that they constituted the most rack-rented body of farmers in Ireland. He also said that no suspicion of freedom of contract could have entered into the arrangement between the leaseholders and the landlord. That statement was not only not the fact, but it was the direct reverse of the fact. The House must be aware that the great majority of leaseholders in Ireland took their leases after the Act of 1870. ["No, no!"] Well, a great number of them. Those leases were given at a time when, as the hon. Member would persuade the House, the system was in vogue that when a proposed rise of rent in a good year had taken effect, the tenant would only have to claim compensation for disturbance and leave his farm with a large sum of money in his pocket. The House would therefore see the position of a man who deliberately took a lease, and was essentially in the position of a man protected in his freedom of contract by Act of Parliament. He could not conceive that the House would interfere with leases which were taken almost under a Parliamentary title. The hon. Member quoted a statement made by the Prime Minister, that as regarded the leaseholders in 1882, the question of altering leases was distinctly considered by the Government, and that, in their judgment, they would not be warranted in asking the House to interfere with leases in regard to land. On the 14th of March of last year the right hon. Gentleman also said that the Government, after long consideration, had decided not to attempt to deal with the matter of leases unless in certain special and exceptional cases. The Prime Minister added that he was inclined to admit that there were certain cases with regard to which exceptions ought to be considered, and might be considered with advantage, while not in the least degree departing from the principle of the Act, but merely giving clearer and fuller effect to it. What were the main facts of the Bill with respect to which the hon. Gentleman had addressed the House? There was in the Bill an animus exceedingly distasteful to the House. It was not merely the fact that what the Prime Minister called the main provisions of the Act of 1881 were to be reconsidered, but all the securities, small as they were, and little as they had been beneficial to the landlord since they had been inserted, were to be taken away. Then, with respect to the question of town parks. The town parks represented accommodation land which varied greatly in value from year to year. It would be as unjust to the tenant as to the landlord to fix the value at a recognized figure. Considering also the proximity of the land to the town, the value of building property, and the value of accommodation land, it would be, he thought, most injurious and unjust to re-open that question in a sense opposed to the landlord. These questions, like turbary and right of way, had been gratuitously introduced into the Bill without any necessity arising from the transgression of tenants' rights by landlords. An attempt was also made to simplify the sale of tenancies, which was already so simple that enormously increased prices had been received for them, and the simplification was to be effected by the omission of notice to the landlord when a sale was effected. It was absurd to suppose that such notice was any check on the sale of tenancies. Generally speaking, the Bill was opposed in principle to the Act of 1881. Now, it was no new fact that all the predictions which had been made of the Act of 1881 had been falsified. It had been said that rents, for the most part, would not be disturbed. In 99 cases out of 100 they had been disturbed by the Sub-Commissioners, whom it was not originally intended to appoint as arbitrators between landlord and tenant. There had even been cases where the valuers on both sides, and even in individual Sub-Commissioners themselves before their appointment, had recommended an increase of rent which the Chief Commissioners had not seen their way to authorize. They were also assured by Lord Carlingford that the great estates in the country would not be affected; but in the result the great estates had suffered as much as the smaller. Again, they were told that the selling value of land would not be diminished; and the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) had gone the length of saying that to compensate the landlords would be to compensate them for a benefit conferred upon them, and that new purchasers would be brought into the market. But what were the facts? In 1876, the sales amounted to £1,175,000, and the average price realized was 22½ years' purchase. In 1882, the amount received on sales was only one-fifth of that sum, only 146,000 acres were sold, and the average price realized was only 17½ years' purchase. Between 1876 and 1881, in the Province of Munster the value of estates sold had gone down from 21 to 14 years' purchase. Thus, the prophecy of the right hon. Member for Bradford was not only not fulfilled, but the result had been a gigantic depreciation in the value of land. Moreover, the Fair Kent Clauses of the Act of 1881 had entirely prevented any operation of the Purchase Clauses. The true state of the case had been revealed by a Cabinet Minister in one of those inconvenient accesses of frankness which sometimes occurred. On January 16, 1884, the President of the Board of Trade spoke of tens of thousands of men, fathers of families, and tillers of the soil, who a few years ago were without motive for exertion, but were now practically owners of the land which they cultivated. Those men were then, it would seem, no longer mere occupiers, and after that testimony he need not enlarge upon the point as to whether this Bill would legitimately extend the operation of the Act of 1881. He had always understood that the House of Commons was agreed that the three things really wanted in Ireland were an increase in the number of owners of land, an improved class of tenants, and emigration from the starving districts where people could not gain a living from the soil. The Bill would do nothing to aid any of those objects, and its only end was to take another slice of the landlord's cucumber. It would tend to increase the number of the least desirable class of tenants. The purchase question was a large one, and ought not to be dealt with in a Bill of that character, the only effect of which would be to take another instalment from what the landlord had to sell. Such a question ought not to be left to people who deliberately opposed the efforts of those philanthropists who were endeavouring by emigration to find better homes for those who wished to emigrate, and who only desired to fix men on farms which could not support them in order to continue the agitation which they had promoted. Those Gentlemen only desired a purchase system on the condition that the occupier should have hardly anything to buy, and the owner hardly anything to sell. The Government ought firmly to resist such attempts, and procure a period of rest from fresh so-called remedial measures of that character. They ought to control their utterances, and as far as they could the utterances of their supporters. If they did so, something like a settlement, something like stability might be brought about. But if they did not adopt that course, it could not be said that the agitation proceeded from the exactions of landlords, which could no longer be perpetrated, nor from the internecine hatred of hon. Members below the Gangway, but from the encouragement constantly given by the Government to the introduction of measures of that character which disturbed the stability of the country, and from a state of affairs against which he and others had all along protested.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Brodrick.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, no matter what difference of opinion might exist in the House on the matter under discussion, no fault could be found with the very moderate speech in which the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Barry) had introduced the Bill, nor with the equally moderate and able speech with which its rejection was moved by the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Brodrick). He (Mr. T. A. Dickson) meant to confine himself principally to two points—first, as to leaseholders; and, secondly, as to the expansion of the Purchase Clauses. The Prime Minister had in several speeches referred to the leaseholders and their grievances, and promised, under certain circumstances, to deal with them. It would be very desirable for some Member of the Government to announce what their intentions were, in order that the leaseholders in Ireland might know where they stood; for, undoubtedly, whether rightly or wrongly, the leaseholders had the idea that the Prime Minister was willing to legislate on their behalf. No class of tenant farmers in Ireland was more deserving of relief. They had been in the past, and still were, the most thrifty class. They were the tenants who had improved their lands, who had built, fenced, and drained, when other tenants were indolent and idle. By so doing they had placed themselves in such a position that they were at the mercy of the landlord. Since 1870, as well as prior to that year, they had been compelled to take leases, and pay whatever rent the landlord chose to impose. The hon. Member for West Surrey had spoken of freedom of contract; but before the Act of 1870 no freedom of contract really existed in Ireland. The tenants had to accept leases on the landlord's terms or surrender all. This injustice had come to be admitted by many landlords, especially in the North of Ireland. Already the Drapers' Company of London, who owned a large estate, had taken a surrender of all their leases. This example had been followed by Sir William Cunningham, their agent. The father of the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. J. N. Richardson) had accepted the surrender of the leases of his tenants, and many other landlords in the South of Ireland had been equally generous. Why should the very cream of the tenants of Ireland, as the leaseholders were, be excepted from the benefits of the Land Act? Clearly, they must be brought within its scope sooner or later, and the sooner the better. The noble Lord the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice), in a speech in the House two years ago, said— He had never been able to see that there was anything in a lease which necessarily took it out of the purview of the law.…It was natural that that should cause dissatisfaction among leaseholders, and that they should complain of having been dealt with differently from others, and bethought they should ha placed on an equal footing."—(3 Hansard, [268] 1517–18.) The noble Lord correctly expressed the idea which prevailed in Ireland. As to the Purchase Clauses, they originated in 1868, when the "Bright Clauses" were introduced into the Church Temporalities Act. They had now been in operation for 16 years, and no difference of opinion existed on this point, that they were a failure, and, although patched up in 1870 and in 1881, they were simply a dead letter as far as any practical results were concerned. It was satisfactory to know that the Government were now prepared to deal with the Purchase Clauses, and he hoped they would be so expanded and amended that they would become equally beneficial to landlord and tenant. During the past year or two the question of the Purchase Clauses had almost ceased to be a tenant's, and had became principally a landlord's question. In the present condition of affairs the landlords were as much, if not more, interested in the question of the extension of these clauses than the tenant farmers. A proof of this was afforded last year, when the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) moved his Resolution on this subject, which was passed unanimously. There could be no permanent settlement of the Irish Land Question until these clauses were amended and expanded, so that under them an occupying proprietary might be created, and he believed that this could only be obtained by the prompt intervention of the State. They found themselves to-day face to face with the same state of affairs that they had in 1850, when the Encumbered Estates Court came into operation. The landlords' estates were again heavily encumbered. Last week, according to a Dublin newspaper, there was put up for sale in the Land Court a property in the county of Westmeath, bringing in a rental of £365, and the Judge said he could not sell at £5,500 a property for which a few years ago the landlord paid £10,600. In the very same county a tenancy was put up comprising 7½ acres, with a thatched dwelling, on which a judicial rent had been fixed, and it sold for £330. A good deal of interest was taken in that sale, as it was looked upon as a test of the value of the Land Act; and, no doubt, from the tenants' point of view, the result was very satisfactory, for the tenant right sold for a fair price. As they were now in the same position as in 1850, he would ask the Government if they were prepared to allow the same fatal blunder to be made? There was a splendid opportunity in 1850 of having a peasant proprietary created all over Ireland, if facilities had been given to the tenants on the great estates for the purchase of their holdings. That opportunity was missed, speculators and jobbers rushed into the market and bought, at ruinously low prices, property which should have been passed to the tenants. The result of the change of ownership from landlords to small speculators and jobbers was disastrous to the tenants, because under it they were exposed to the very worst system of rack-renting and oppression. Not far from where he lived, in Ulster, a speculator, in 1854, bought an estate, the rent of which was £180. When the Land Commissioners came to declare a fair rent, the Sub-Commissioners found that this rent had been increased to £430, and they reduced it to £230; but even then it yielded the owner more than 6 per cent on his original purchase. That was only one of many instances which might be adduced of the evils brought by the breaking up of large estates and their passing into the hands of speculators instead of tenants. The Government alone could say whether these evils should continue to be perpetuated, or whether the tenants should have every facility for becoming the owners of their holdings. He would follow the example of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Barry), by quoting some figures. From April 1, 1882, to April 1, 1883, under the operations of these clauses, 95 tenants only became owners, at the cost of £46,000; and since the passing of the Land Act in 1881 the total number of sales to tenants was only 830, representing 15,000 acres, with a rental of £11,500. Such results from an Act, which a large staff had been provided to carry out, had disappointed Ireland, as well as the Members of that House. Why had the Act failed? He thought there were three reasons. The first was the hard-and-fast lines drawn in the Bill, and the main cause of failure was that the Act prescribed that one-fourth of the purchase money must be advanced by the tenant, and three-fourths by the Land Commission. The second difficulty was that the rate of repayment and of interest could in no case be varied by the Land Commission. The third was that before a landlord could sell his estate three-fourths of the whole number of tenants must agree, representing two-thirds of the rent. The result had been that owing to these difficulties, as the last Report of the Land Commission showed, up to August 31, 1883, advances of £225,000 to the tenants to buy their holdings having been sanctioned by the Land Commission, only half the number who applied were able to complete the transaction, owing to the difficulty of complying with the rules. He recommended that some authority should be created which should be free from all these restrictions, and be empowered to settle between landlord and tenant on a sound commercial basis. He knew that many English Members objected to the; advance of the whole of the purchase money; but he maintained that by doing so the State would run little, if any, risk. Irishmen found it difficult to make Englishmen understand this point about the Irish Land Question—that the tenant had almost an equal interest in the land with his landlord. If they insisted upon the tenant paying a large part of the purchase money, they impoverished him, so that he could not cultivate the ground properly, or they sent him to the moneylender, from whom he had to borrow money at an exorbitant rate of interest, He knew cases of tenants who purchased under the Church Temporalities Act, and, taking into account the law charges and the rate at which they had to borrow one-fourth of the purchase money, the interest and costs upon one fourth came to more than the three-fourths advanced by the State. Whatever the Government would do, he should urge for their advancing the whole of the purchase money, the repayment to be spread over a period of at least 42 years at 4½ per cent. The result would be that a tenant with a fixed judicial rent of £20, buying at say 20 years' purchase, would have £400 to pay. His charge in future would be £18, leaving a margin of £2 for poor rate and other charges, now partly borne by the landlord. In cases where the whole money was advanced, of course the Government should have the entire security—namely, the fee-simple of the land and the tenant right. Whatever authority might be created to deal with these clauses must be free to deal with every case solely and entirely on its own merits, unhindered by restrictions which had proved so disastrous in the past. Then came the question, what authority should put into operation the Purchase Clauses when amended? It was quite hopeless to expect the Land Commission to do this. Their hands were more than full. They now had 8,000 appeals to deal with, and they were only able to accomplish 300 a-month, so that they had quite three years' hard work before them. If the question of the Purchase Clauses was to be satisfactorily solved, it must be by the creation of a new authority, which he would designate the Irish Land Bank. There was no existing local authority that would answer the purpose. The Grand Juries were on the eve of being abolished. The Poor Law Guardians were too small a body in each district. In the debate last year on the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) the Prime Minister said— My impression is, that these clauses will have to be revised; that the revision, if it is to be made, ought to be of a serious character; and if it is to be of a serious character, it would be impossible to effect it, except with the introduction of a local authority."—(3Hansard, [280] 450.) He (Mr. T. A. Dickson) had no doubt that when the Premier used these words he had in view his great scheme for the establishment of Local Government in Ireland on a comprehensive basis. But that scheme seemed to be as far off as ever. There was no local authority in existence which could possibly undertake such a responsibility, and this question of land purchase and transfer could not wait. The question of Local Government of Ireland he believed was, at any rate, two or three years ahead. Then, why not deal at once with the Purchase Clauses in a broad and comprehensive spirit? There existed amongst Irish Members an almost perfect unanimity of opinion on this subject, and the prompt settlement would be equally beneficial to landlords and tenants. He did not despair of seeing a system of Local Government established in Ireland; and, when accomplished, what was to prevent every county and every province taking over its own responsibility in connection with advances to tenants and the repayment of interest? The Government should prepare the way for a local authority, for when they had an occupying proprietary created in Ireland they would have laid the foundation for Local Government on a safe and sound basis. He believed great exaggeration prevailed in English minds as to the amount of money required for putting the tenants in possession of their holdings. In the debate last year £300,000,000 was mentioned as likely to he necessary. He had consulted a number of practical men in Ireland, and their opinion was that not more than £1,000,000 or £1,500,000 could be expended prudently in any one year in bringing about this transfer. On the day the House met he gave Notice of a Bill confined to the one subject of amending and expanding the Purchase Clauses. The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, a day or two afterwards, in answer to a Question, stated that the Government would announce their intentions on the second reading of his (Mr. T. A. Dickson's) Bill; but he was glad they had changed their minds. It was satisfactory to know that after Easter they would be prepared to deal with this question, and take it into their own hands. If the Government should fail to produce a satisfactory measure it would not be for want of suggestions coming from all quarters. Public opinion was ripe for a settlement. It was a matter of vital interest to Ireland, and when 81 Members of that House were agreed on this question, it was time that the Government should take it into serious consideration, and deal with it in a broad and comprehensive spirit. In conclusion, he must express his strong conviction that if the Government were to settle this question, the only way in which it could be satisfactorily settled was through the intervention of a financial institution established in Ireland under the guarantee of the State. It should be created upon no narrow lines, but upon lines so drawn as to be able to accomplish thoroughly the object they all had in view, and such lines as would ultimately lay the foundation for bringing in under this institution many questions relating to land, and to advances for land improvement, which were now dealt with by the Board of Works. He hoped, when the Government came to make their statement, Irish Members would not be disappointed in the hopes they now entertained.


said, that while he supported the entire Bill he should confine his remarks to the question of purchase. He did not believe that the present system could continue to be worked. It stopped everything, and no progress was possible under it. The way to get out of the present difficulty was for the Government to do everything in their power to establish a peasant proprietorship in Ireland; and whether they adopted the scheme of the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson), or whether the work was done more directly by the Government, it was the only way in which peace and tranquillity could be obtained in Ireland. If the proposition of this Bill to extend the time for the repayment of advances from 35 to 52 3'ears was adopted, and the annual payment was thus reduced, say from £5 to £3 10s., they would at once have a great rush of purchasers. At the same time, he agreed, with the hon. Member for Tyrone in thinking that the State would not be put to a great expense by advancing the whole of the purchase money. The cost would not exceed £30,000,000 in 20 years: and the possible loss on the transaction would not exceed £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 in 20 or SO years. But he believed there would be no money lost, and the obvious advantages were great, to say nothing of the increased revenues that would be realized from indirect taxation. If it was suggested that there would be a practical difficulty in collecting the money that would be due periodically to the State, he thought there would be no such difficulty, for the Income Tax collectors would be glad to make the collection. If the Government undertook the collection of rents which were reduced rents, and which should be determinable in 40 or 50 years, they would incur very much less odium than was at present incurred by the collection of rents by the landlords, the process would be less expensive both to the tenants and to the country, and such a course could not fail to conduce to the tranquillity of the country. There was a large class of landlords in Ireland who did no good whatever to the country, and who spent there none of the money they derived from it. He did not wish to deprive those of their property, but most of them were anxious to sell, and the great body of the tenantry in Ireland were anxious to give them fair terms. He believed that if the Government would adopt the policy which had been recommended to them by over 80 Members of Parliament in the Memorial presented to the Prime Minister there would soon be a complete change in Ireland. One hundred thousand proprietors would then be established on these farms at a trifling cost to the State—perhaps £50,000 or £60,000 a-year for a few years—and no odium would be incurred by the Government which would bear any comparison with the odium excited by the present system of collection by the agents of the landlords.


said, he gave the Bill a general support, feeling, as everyone must, the supreme necessity of bringing this question to a satisfactory termination now, whilst the state of Ireland was tranquil. The dispute as to the Purchase Clauses was practically at an end, and the only anxiety now was to know what the Government were going to do. But there were two great difficulties in the way of the extension of these clauses which had not yet been placed before the House, and which had nothing to do with the difficulty usually urged—that, namely, of inducing the tenant to change his tenure. A very large number of landowners in Ireland were limited owners, who were compelled to invest a certain part of their incomes in Government Stocks and Securities, and who, under such a scheme as had been put forward, would have to suffer a very great reduction in their rental. Another difficulty consisted in the fact that one-third of the whole land of Ireland was held under middlemen, and no provision had yet been suggested for compelling the superior landlord to sell in case the middleman desired to do so, or vice versâ. These were matters with respect to which provision would have to be made. With regard to the question of town parks, he had little difficulty in supporting the provisions of the Bill; because, now that the Courts had settled down to work in a business-like way, it would be better that some sacrifice should be made for the sake of symmetry in a large measure of this sort. He believed it would be wise to throw in the town parks with the other holdings to which the Bill applied. Of course, it was quite evident that there was a great additional value inherent in such property by reason of its proximity to large towns; but he did not see why that could not be fairly estimated by the Sub-Commissioners' Court. The proposition that judicial rents should date from the time of the application to the Court was so inherently just, that, in his opinion, there could be no opposition to it. Then came, perhaps, the most important question of all—the question of leaseholders, which, to his mind, really amounted to this. Had the leaseholders any more freedom of contract at the time they made their leases than yearly tenants had? He was quite certain that in many cases the leaseholders had no freedom whatever, and that in the great majority of cases tenure of land had been so perilous and dangerous to the tenant that for the sake of temporary rescue and security he accepted a lease on terms which he would otherwise have refused. The Government gave relief in two cases—first, where the lease had been forced upon the tenant; and, secondly, where it contained terms in themselves unfair. But it was limited by this provision—that he should only be able to go to a Court if he had been a year to year tenant when he took the lease. In many cases men were forced to take leases, no opportunity being given to them to become year to year tenants, and on this point he would refer to what had happened in two properties—namely, the Perry and the Strad-broke properties. On the Perry property a lease was taken in 1853 at 36s.; in 1860 it was raised to 60s., in 1867 to £5, and in 1874 to £6. In 1867 the tenant was served with a notice of ejectment, to oblige him to take out the renewal of the lease; and he (Mr. Moore) believed, though he was not sure, that the same thing was done on another occasion. This man's lease fell out just in time to enable him to take advantage of the Land Act, and the tenant stated before the Court that on the occasion of each one of the renewals he had to pay 50s. for expenses. Mr. Reardon, the Sub-Commissioner, stated that it was such cases as these that were the cause of the passing of the Act of 1881. The leases on the property forbade a man to build a house; and he (Mr. Moore) knew a tenant who passed one winter in a house the wall of which was down waiting for the written permission of the landlord to build. Almost all the tenants on the property were excluded from the benefits of the Act. Now, as to the Stradbroke property, it was purchased in 1853 for £103,000, and sold in 1874 to Lord Ashtown for £163,000. This profit of £60,000 was wrung from the increased rents charged for land, which, in the main, was below average value. [Mr. CHAPLIN: What is the value of the property now?] It was worth now about the same. One-third of the tenants were tenants from year to year, two-thirds were under leases, and of these all but 12 were entirely excluded from the benefits of the Act. Even those 12 tenants had been in great danger by a curious technicality of losing the advantages of the Act, their case being taken from the County Court Judge to Lord O'Hagan, who decided in favour of Lord Ashtown's representatives, that they having purchased for value without notice of the tenants' claims, the leases of the tenants could not be broken. The four Judges of the Appeal Court, however, reversed that decision, and declared that the tenants were entitled to the benefits of the Act in reference to the representatives of Lord Ashtown, and so these tenants obtained some relief, though the bulk of the tenants did not. One of these cases was that of a woman whose lease dated from 1843, when the rent of the holding was £53; in 1857 it was increased to £81, in 1873 to £92, and in 1874 it was attempted to be raised to £103 17s. 6d. No chance was given to the tenant to become tenant from year to year, and in 1873 he was threatened with ejection if the lease were not renewed. Besides this, the lease contained a provision binding the lessee to "resign all possible claim to improvements under the Act of 1870." The exclusion of leaseholders from the present Bill had this unfortunate effect—that it afforded a means of escape for the very worst landlords. If all the leaseholders were emancipated to-morrow, they would not all get reductions, nor even all come into Court, for many of them held under beneficial terms; but, for the sake of those who were being held to excessive rents and unfair conditions, it was desirable that the law should be altered. He trusted these extensions of the Act would be made, so that the Act might, once for all, be rendered a statesmanlike and comprehensive measure.


said he had not the least intention of following the hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. Moore) into the particular cases he had quoted. It was obviously impossible to do so, though it was generally found, when they came to be tested, that there was some very good reason for what had been done. His chief reason for rising was to put a little gentle pressure upon the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to induce him to take part in the debate, and tell the House what the intentions of the Government were, for until they knew them the discussion must necessarily be somewhat of an academic character. As regards that part of the Bill which dealt with the Tenure Clauses, he thought it was impossible for the Government to go back upon the pledges they had given, and distinctly repudiate their previous declarations. As far as the Purchase Clauses went, it was of no use putting forward arguments until they knew the substance of what the Government proposed. The hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Barry), in introducing the Tenure Clauses of the Bill, spoke in a very popular and friendly manner; but this Bill was really the Bill of last year. It was a caricature of the Act of 1881, and brought out in striking and unpleasant prominence the worst features of that measure. In some respects the clauses were word for word identical with the Bill of last year, and of last year's Bill the Solicitor General for England said they had all heard hon. Members opposite contend that all the landlords were entitled to was the prairie value of the land. In this case the Bill denied everything but prairie value. It proposed that prairie value should be the test of fair rent, and that everything beyond that should be the property of the tenant in occupation. He would therefore ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to state what were the proposals of the Government with respect to the Purchase Clauses. The matter was not now before the House for the first time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) had previously introduced it; and last year a Resolution was carried, on the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), upon this very subject. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Trevelyan) would also repudiate the other parts of the Bill. Anyone who knew Ireland knew this—that, however skilful the proposal to establish a peasant proprietary, it must fail so long as hopes were excited in the peasantry of further advantages to be gained by agitation. He hoped, therefore, the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland would take the opportunity of declaring not only the intentions of the Government with respect to the purchase, but also with respect to the other clauses of the Bill.


said, he was not indifferent to the call of the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Plunket) to enter the arena. He was glad to seek, as early in the afternoon as was consistent with the rights of hon. Members, an opportunity to join in the discussion. Everything that related to land was important everywhere, and in Ireland it was enormously more important than anywhere else, because the agricultural interest was quite the dominant interest in that country. In other parts of the country the agricultural interest had been suffer- ing from economic causes; but those causes tended to cure or settle themselves, though the process was sometimes unpleasant enough to landlords. In Ireland the uncertainty and anxiety which now hung over agriculture came in great part from the constant applications made by both parties to the Government for assistance, and for further administrative and legislative changes. He could not give stronger proof of that fact than the Memorial which was presented two or three days ago to the Prime Minister, signed by all, or nearly all, the Irish Members, except the Solicitor General for Ireland and the two right hon. Gentlemen who sat opposite, and who probably abstained from putting their names to it on account of their former official position. Under these circumstances, it was the first duty of the Government to inform the mind of everyone concerned, both landlords and tenants, would-be vendor and possible purchaser, as to the intentions which the Government entertained, and to do that in the plainest words. This Bill, which raised in the House every question relating to the Land Act that had been raised outside it, with the solitary exception of the question of appeals, afforded the opportunity of doing what, as he had stated, he conceived to be the absolute duty of the Government. These questions were grave in the highest degree, and the able and agreeable treatment of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Barry) did not rob them of their gravity. Perhaps the gravest of them were those which related to improvements. By Clause 5 it was proposed to enact that where a tenant had made any outlay leading to an increase of value in the land, the whole of such increase of value should be deemed his property. In other words, an improvement was not to mean a work done, but the improvability of land as developed by a work done. The clause was quite clear. It was drawn by a hand that well knew what it was about, and by a rigid rule, which no Court of Law might mitigate or modify, it handed over the improvable qualities of the land from the landlord to the tenant. On this point he wished to read to the House an extract from the works of the late Mr. Isaac Butt. In his book on the Land Act, 1870, at page 128, he said, with respect to this very proposal— A little reflection will show that such a mode of estimation would be unjust. The additional value is not the creation solely of the tenant. It is the creation partly of the expenditure and skill of the tenant, and partly of the inherent capabilities of the soil. It so happens that those inherent capabilities, when undeveloped, do not always enter into the calculation of the letting value of the land, as will he at once understood from the fact that it has frequently happened that land valued at 2s. an acre has been, by a trifling expenditure, made worth as many pounds. There are instances not uncommon in which the reclamation of bog or land on the edge of moors or lakes has repaid the whole expenses of the process in the crops which were raised in the course of it. In instances like these, the property is not created by the expenditure of the tenant, but by the latent powers of the soil. Those powers are the property of the landlord, and he has a right to have them returned to him when the tenant's interest expires. He has not a right in morals or in justice to appropriate to himself the expenditure which the tenant has incurred in making them productive. The principles laid down by Mr. Butt, he maintained, were exactly carried out by the Land Act. This clause went straight in the teeth of this sound view. When this formidable virtue was given to tenants' improvements it became vital to define what these improvements were. And here the Bill spoke very plainly. At present, under five sets of circumstances, the presumption was that the improvement was made by the landlord. One of those sets of circumstances was where the improvements were made before 1850. Clause 6 of this Bill swept away these sets of circumstances, and enacted that the presumption should be that all improvements were made by the tenant or his predecessors. That was to say, to the beginning of time, as to the end of time, all the improvable qualities of the land were presumed to be the possession of the tenant. This, again, made it important to see what constituted a predecessor; and Clause 8 enacted that a predecessor should be a predecessor in occupancy; and the combined effect of the three clauses would be, as the Solicitor General for England declared last year, to confiscate almost all the property of the landlords of Ireland, or to render their tenure of it so insecure that their financial position would be to them, at best, a source of constant anxiety. One effect of passing these clauses would be to invalidate the immense operations which the Land Courts had been engaged in for some 30 months past. The decision of the Courts had been given on the theory of improvements contained in the Land Act of 1881, and those decisions governed not only the cases where they had been made, but indirectly regulated the arrangements made outside the Court, which affected the great majority of the holdings in Ireland. But as soon as these clauses became law, all the tenants who had not hitherto come into Court would apply, for the purpose, not of getting a fair rent, but of getting rid of nearly all rent whatever. The first element in a land settlement, whether made in India, in Germany, or in Ireland, was permanence. Without that it would not be a settlement at all. In 1881 a settlement was made which was coming into operation steadily, largely, and, as they believed, justly; and the Government could not consent even to entertain the notion of upsetting that settlement in 1884 in a manner that would disquiet every owner of property, and probably utterly ruin the greater portion. Now, the other parts of the Bill, though not as sweeping as these clauses, still were very sweeping indeed. Before he left the Improvement Clauses he should like to refer to one sentence in the speech of the hon. Member for Wexford. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill said that there could be no hope of peace in Ireland until the tenants' improvements were their own. He was bound, as a Member of the Government which had passed the Tenants' Improvements Act for England and Scotland, to say that, putting aside all the other immense advantages which the Irish tenants had got in the way of fixity of tenure and of the fixing of a fair rent, the improvements of the Irish tenant were at least as much his own as such improvements were the property of the tenants in England and Scotland. The other clauses of the Bill were not of so serious a character as were the Improvement Clauses; nevertheless, they were by no means unimportant. Clause 2, by its 2nd sub-section, proposed to enact that in case of a sale of tenant right, the landlord's right of pre-emption should cease to exist, and the 3rd sub-section repealed the enactment that the Court, in fixing a judicial rent, should also fix the pre-emption price of the holding. If, indeed, the Improvement Clauses became law, the tenant right would be so very valuable, and the landlord would be so very poor, that there would not be much probability of his exercising his pre-emption; but the conditions securing him the right of pre-emption were fully before the framers of the Act of 1881. They carefully considered them then, and they certainly could not reconsider them in 1884. These were a specimen of the importance of the provisions the Bill contained. But it contained many others, which touched every corner of the question. Clause 9 set aside existing leases, if the tenant thought he could get his rent lowered, giving the landlord no reciprocal right of applying to raise the rent, and striking away even the covenants of leases, as well as giving rise to those grievances which had been described by the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Brodrick). Clause 1 made the judicial rent count from the gale day after the application to the Court, instead of the gale day after the judgment of the Court; and, pending the judgment, allowed the tenant to pay on Griffith's valuation. Clause 10 admitted middlemen, under certain conditions, to the benefit of the Act. Clause 7 laid down the conditions under which alone, at the end of the first statutory term of 15 years, the rent could be increased. These were the leading proposals of the Bill; they were not matters of detail. They went to upset the main principles of the Land Act, and were intelligible only on the assumption that that Act was wrong in its main principles; and, further, that it was a failure in fact. This the Government could not admit. The grievance of the tenants who applied early in the proceedings of the Land Court was, in the opinion of the Government, a genuine grievance; but the time had passed when any serious benefits could come to the tenants by stirring it up again. The hon. Member for Wexford had justified the opposition of the Irish Members to the Land Bill at the time of its passing on the ground of its shortcomings, and he asked the House to consider the effect of 30,000 cases standing over for decision in the Land Court. That fact, however, was now a thing of the past, because, although there were in March, 1883, 56,000 cases unsettled, there were, at the present time, only 19,000 awaiting decision. At the end of the next six months tenants need have no fear of being kept waiting for their cases to be determined by the Land Court for any appreciable time. The necessity for any alteration of the law in this respect, therefore, was rapidly disappearing; and to make this measure retrospective, and to call upon the landlords to pay back the rent which they had already received, would be most unjust. In his opinion, to interfere with existing contracts with regard to turbary rights and rights of way in Ireland, which concerned not so much the landlords as the tenants, would give rise to actions at law, and to assaults which would seriously increase the trouble of the Executive in maintaining peace and order in the rural districts of the country. An intelligent stranger in the Gallery would think that the House was discussing an Act which had been passed in the interest of the landlord; but what had the Act done for the tenants in Ireland? In the first place, it established in Ulster and gave to the rest of Ireland the right of free sale of tenancies. In the next place, it gave fixity of tenure, subject, of course, to the payment of rent. And, next, but by no means lastly, it gave the tenants the means of having a "fair rent" fixed. Now, on this branch of the subject he must give some figures. Since the passing of the Act up to the 29th of February there had been 111,419 applications to fix fair rents. In 63,78y cases a fair rent had been fixed, and 27,683 cases had been withdrawn or struck out; 19,947 cases remained for decision. In addition to these, there had been 63,073 cases in which agreements had been come to between landlords and tenants, and a "fair rent" agreed upon. Thus, they had the large total of 126,862 cases in which a fair rent had been fixed under the provisions of the Act. Now, as to the previous rental and the present. Of the 126,000 cases, according to the Report of the Land Commissioners, which gave the figures up to the 21st, or practically the end of August, it appeared that in 94,278 cases the former rent had been £1,848,153, and that the judicial rent was £1,496,925, being a reduction of £351,228. Making an estimate of the cases since August, the total former rent would be £2,488,700; judicial rent, £2,014,300; showing a reduction of £474,400, or nearly £500,000 of rent per annum. This, in itself, was a great work; but it was greater still when they looked at these decisions as ruling decisions under which a great number of arrangements had been made that never came into Court at all. The amount of security that had been given to men whose tenure was previously from hand to mouth, the amount of ease that had been given to men whose rents were previously excessive was very great; and, in the opinion of the Government, the Land Act was regarded by the tenants of Ireland with increasing satisfaction and confidence. It had had a marked influence in quieting the disturbed districts. The constant proposals, however, coming from all quarters of the House, and from the Benches behind him, had produced an impression that further and larger changes were in the future. This impression retarded the healing influence of the Act. Moreover—and this was a most important matter—it was certainly one of the leading causes which had produced something like a deadlock in the purchase and the sale of land. A tenant would not purchase his holding and become a proprietor as long as he hoped that by remaining a tenant he might sit at such a very small rent as he would have to pay in many cases if this Bill passed. There was an interesting proof of the effect of certainty of prospect on the sale of land by comparing the sales under the Land Act and under the Church Act, although he allowed that other important considerations here came in. The Church Act was supposed to be final. Out of 8,000 tenants,6,000 bought their holdings at a cost of nearly £1,700,000. No one was allowed to think that the Land Act was final; and for that reason largely the very favourable terms—much more favourable than the Church Act—had failed to induce the tenants to purchase. Hitherto only a little over 400 tenants had actually bought under the Land Act, at a cost of about £340,000. For the reasons he had given, the Government thought, as they had always thought, it was necessary to speak plainly about the amendment of the Land Act. Two courses were open to them. One would be to introduce a Bill carrying out the very small questions of details in which they thought the Act might be amended. But the objections to this course were that they would re-open the whole question; that they would give occasion to endless controversy; and, what was much more important, that the Amendments which the Government would propose would be regarded as infinitesimal and worthless by the hon. Gentlemen who had brought forward this or any other Bill to amend the Land Act. The Government preferred, therefore, to state that if ever there was a great Act which, in their opinion, was carefully and thoroughly considered, and which it was not expedient to ask Parliament to amend, it was the Land Act of 1881. It was meant for a land settlement of Ireland, and the character of permanency and immutability, so necessary, in their opinion, to a settlement, they intended, as far as in them lay, to give it. He could only repeat the language of the Prime Minister in March, 1883, in which he stated— We have at no time since the passing of the Land Act used any word, or done any acts, which would justify, in any way, anyone in supposing that we were prepared to concur in, or, so far as we are concerned, to allow any disturbance of its fundamental provisions."—(3 Hansard, [277] 481.) That language he could only respectfully repeat to Gentlemen on both sides of the House who desired to change the organic structure of the Land Act. But in one essential particular—and that, however essential, not organic—the Government had not said its last word. The Government had watched with attention the growing opinion that the hopes of making a peasant proprietary in Ireland had fallen short in their fulfilment. His hon. Friends the Members for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson), the County of Cork (Mr. W. Shaw), Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell), and Donegal (Mr. Lea), who yielded to none in knowledge of Ireland and interest in Ireland, had a Bill on this subject after Easter. The 12th and 13th clauses of that Bill testified to the interest of its promoters in the same question; and he was aware that their feelings upon this subject were shared by those who sat on the Benches immediately opposite. His hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone spoke of the statement which he had made, and hoped the Government would be prepared to state what they intended to do in regard to the Purchase Clauses of the Bill which he was going to bring in. Now, his hon. Friend said the Prime Minister had written a letter to another Member of that House, in which he proposed to anticipate that disclosure by stating that the Government proposals would be made known to the House after Easter. The Bill was to be introduced on the 30th of April; and as that day was after Easter, he could see no inconsistency between his statement and the Prime Minister's letter. The Land Commission, as the Land Act was planned, would, it was hoped, be able to give much of their time to acting as benevolent intermediaries between owners and tenants in facilitating the sale of estates by the one and the purchase of holdings by the other. The result of those fair expectations had hitherto been the purchase of six small estates for a sum of £22,000, and of a rental of some £1,100 a-year. That certainly did not represent a sufficient, or by many degrees a sufficient, advance in the direction in which the Government were very anxious that Ireland should move. The Government had for some time past been applying themselves to this very great and intricate question. It was a very delicate and intricate question, for if they went to work on a false system, or if they once made a concession inconsistent with sound principles of finance, the country might be involved in burdens and difficulties which were very serious to contemplate. [Lord GEORGE HAMILTON: Hear, hear!] He was glad to hear that cheer from the noble Lord, who was well aware that if the Government went to work on a false system, and made the smallest concession to any unsound financial doctrine, the country might be involved in great difficulties. He did not intend to give the slightest indication at this moment of what the Government might ultimately propose. It was a fascinating subject, and when one began to discuss it it was almost impossible to avoid a preference for this or that mode of settling the question. The Government would carefully consider all the various proposals which had been made. From this time forward the Irish Government and the Treasury would apply themselves with increased diligence to the work; and he hoped that after Easter the Representative of one or other of those Departments would be able to lay before the House the line in which the Government intended to move, and the extent to which it intended to go. The earnest wish and desire of the Government was to further in any way that was not dangerous to the interests of the Treasury, or to the safe administration of Ireland, the creation of a peasant proprietary. But one essential and preliminary condition was that the minds of those who alone could buy, or, at any rate, who the Government were anxious should buy, should be fully informed as to the permanence of the conditions under which they had been living since the Land Act of 1881; and on that point he had thought it necessary to speak in terms which could leave no doubt in the mind of any single Member of that House.


said, that hon. Members of all classes must have derived an interesting lesson from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had told them that by the direct operation of the Land Act reductions of rent amounting to nearly £500,000 a-year had been effected, and added that the probable effect of the indirect operation of the Act, outside the cognizance of the Commissioners, had been as great as the results achieved by them. Thus, in the fore part of his speech, they had the extraordinary admission that the landlords had been plundering the tenants to the extent of £1,000,000 a-year. Wonder had been expressed that the Irish Members should have the temerity to ask the House to consider a Bill which was rejected last year and the year before by considerable majorities. There was no legislative Party in the world more accustomed to be beaten by considerable majorities than was the Irish Party. They had not lost sight of what was the prominent fact in their legislative history—that measures concerning Ireland rejected at one time in that House by considerable majorities had at another time been meekly passed into law by considerable majorities. He had no doubt, notwithstanding the declaration of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland concerning the finality of this question at present, that every clause of the Bill of his hon. Friend would substantially become a part of the law before the conclusion of the first statutory term in Ireland. He could not help observing that while the right hon. Gentleman was, if not boasting to the House, at least appreciating himself on his plain speaking to the House, his Colleague in the Government of Ireland was not only dumb, but was absent. Where, he asked, was the Solicitor General for Ireland? Where was the Gentleman, the sole living proof of the claim of the Whig Party to have an existence in Ireland, who had lately deluded the electors of Derry by promising that if he was elected he would endeavour to have the leaseholders included, and that he would endeavour to obtain the development of the Healy Clause? Of course, they might venture to suggest that his absence, like that of Prince Bismarck, could be explained by the fact that he was suffering from a diplomatic cold. He could not congratulate the Government upon the position to which they had brought themselves upon the Irish agrarian question. While the right hon. Gentleman set before himself the impossible task of endeavouring to convince the tenants of Ireland that finality in regard to the Land Question had been reached, the fact lay broadly before the notice of the House that a supporter of the Government could not obtain a Parliamentary seat in Ireland except by traversing upon the hustings the statements of the right hon. Gentleman. The Government would have to arrive at a unity of mind themselves before hoping that the tenants of Ireland would arrive at the same result. With reference to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, he wished to tell him that when Mr. Isaac Butt, who was now eulogized by the right hon. Gentleman as a moderate Land Reformer, brought forward in the House his proposals for agrarian reform, the Gentleman who then controlled the official affairs in England spoke as plainly to Mr. Butt as the right hon. Gentleman now spoke to the Irish Members. Mr. Butt was told that his proposals could not receive countenance. Mr. Butt had passed away, and the proposals he had made had been carried out to a possibility he had never dreamt of. They had become part of the law of Ireland; and, looking back on the futility of the "No" to Mr. Butt, the Irish Members of to-day valued at very little indeed the plain speaking of the right hon. Gentleman. They had been told that the proposals of the present Bill were radically opposed to the principles and proposals of the Land Act of 1881. He most emphatically questioned that assertion. There was nothing to be found within the circuit of this Bill that was not an endeavour to clear the administration of the principles of the Land Act of 1881 from deleterious vagueness, and to develop those principles to their true and consistent result. The proposal was that the judicial rent should run from the date of the application of the tenant, and not from the date of the judgment of the Court. Observe the reply of the right hon. Gentleman. He said the Court were proceeding now with such speed that there were very few applications left to be dealt with, and that this proposal had now become of slight importance; by withholding this necessary reform for the past two years they had wronged and ruined all the tenants that could be wronged and ruined, and now it was hardly necessary to come to the rescue of the few that were left. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that there were still 20,000 cases to be heard. He (Mr. Sexton) found, upon examining the official records from August to December, that the Commissioners were only overcoming the arrears at the rate of 1,400 a month. At this rate of progress the Commission might still consume 15 months in disposing of the cases before it, and this alongside of the fact that the tenants were obliged to pay the old rack rents. He claimed that they made no strange and no unreasonable proposal in asking the House to extend to the tenant, who was seeking to have a fair rent fixed, the very moderate and very reasonable measure of protection and relief which was accorded to him under the Arrears Act—namely, that pending the fixing of a fair rent proceedings for rent or ejectment should be suspended upon the terms that the tenant, in the meantime, should pay such rent as the Court should fix, not exceeding Griffith's valuation. The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had spoken with great plainness on the essential proposal of the Bill, that dealing with improvements. And when the right hon. Gentleman told them that to secure to the tenant full and absolute right in the use and profit arising out of his improvements was to come in conflict with the Land Act of 1881, he invited his attention to the answer given by the Prime Minister in March, 1882, to a question put to him by the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy). His hon. Friend, in asking the question, drew the attention of the Prime Minister to the judgment of the Court of Appeal in the "Dunseath" case. The Prime Minister, in reply, said— It is perfectly clear, as correctly stated by the hon. Member, that it was not the intention of the framers of the Act, but directly contrary to their intention, that the interest of the tenant in his improvements, as understood and defined by the Act, should either lapse or be impaired by the enjoyment of them. When pressed as to whether he would protect the interests of the tenant against the innovations established by the Court of Appeal, the right hon. Gentleman said— I must remind the hon. Gentleman that our position is not the same now as it was in 1871; that the facilities for transacting Business are very different from what they were then."——(3 Hansard, [267] 1663–4.) The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had stated that the principle put forward by the Irish Members was inconsistent with the construction of the Land Act of 1881. He (Mr. Sexton) told the Government and the House that upon the question of the absolute right of the tenant in his improvements in the soil, unfettered by the theory of improvable capacity, the Irish Members took radical issue with the Government. In doing so they were firmly convinced that they spoke the; deliberate and unchangeable mind of the agricultural population of Ireland on this question, and that they were setting out a principle which they believed at no distant date would attain the force of law. What was this theory of the improvable capacity of the soil? Was it for the public interest that such a theory should be maintained? Look back at the past condition of things in Ireland. They need not go so far back as the Deluge, as they had been invited to do by the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Brodrick). But let them go as far back as Cromwell's time. No one had spoken the truth upon this question more eloquently than the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright). Ever since the days of Cromwell nine-tenths of the improvements on the soil of Ireland had been planted there by the tenant. If the tenant's capital, labour, and skill could now be swept away, the land of Ireland, generally speaking, would be practically as bare of every trace of human industry as the surface of the African desert. A tenant who wished to improve his farm and who borrowed the money from the Board of Works had to repay it at the rate of £6 10s. per cent per annum. When he had effected his improvements and the Land Commissioners came to fix his rent, they would, acting under the decision of the Court of Appeal in "Adams v. Dunseath," allow him no more than 5 per cent per annum for his improvements. The reward, therefore, for his capital and skill was a loss of £1 10s. per cent per annum upon his outlay. If the tenant did not improve the soil the landlord most certainly would not, and this state of the law would naturally prevent a tenant expending money on improving his farm. In Ireland it was supremely important that the capacities of the soil should be developed; yet they were told that the land was to be left in an unimproved condition, because, in deference to the figment of the landlord's interest in the improvability of the soil, the tenant was not to be allowed to benefit by the full improved letting value of the soil due to his own improvements. The tenants of Ireland would demand that the Healy Clause should be interpreted in a rational manner, and not in the warped and fraudulent manner in which it was treated by the Judges who decided the case of "Adams v. Dunseath." And there was one thing very certain—if the tenants in Ireland were not permitted to enjoy the full letting value which they put into the soil, and unless the clause was fairly interpreted, there was a very slender chance of success for any Purchase Clauses. The hon. Member for West Surrey had referred to the present unsaleability of land in Ireland, and had said it was the result of the Land Act. But the unsaleability of land did not proceed from the Land Act. It was the result of the obstinacy of the landlords in refusing fair terms to their tenants, in keeping the crowbar and sheriff so busy, and in thus giving rise to so fierce a movement, that no capitalist would now feel land in Ireland to be a safe investment. If land in Ireland was to be sold at all, it must be sold to the tenant, for it would be bought by no one else. The need of the Irish landlord was greater than that of the tenant. The landlord in most cases had the millstone of a mortgage round his neck, and if he had to struggle along much further he would fall inert and prone. His only hope was in some system of purchase. The tenant, on the other hand, was able to remain in his farm. It would soon become a question of life and death to the landlord to sell. The reductions of rent made by the Land Commissioners had in many cases left the rent still higher than Griffith's valuation, which included every improvement that had been made in and upon the soil, and which was admittedly based on a calculation giving the value of the improvements to the landlord. There was usually an unbroken line of title between the tenant in Ireland and his predecessors in title. The tenants had a right to improvements in the soil which were handed down from father to son upon the holding, even though they were effected before his time. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) would apply his keen intelligence to this point, he would be able to see whether it was likely that the tenants of Ireland, with increasing political power in their own country and in that House, with the certainty of being able to remain in their homes, would join in carrying out a purchase scheme, the basis of which would be a rent which still continued to be fixed upon their own improvements. They never would. The right hon. Gentleman, by his speech that day, had bolted and double-barred the gate to any such solution of the question; and if the landlords of Ireland still hoped to obtain any improvement in their desperate condition, they would have to unsay the words spoken that day, and to admit, as the Solicitor General for Ireland recently did at Derry, that the Land Act was open to amendment and improvement. For his part, he would say in Ireland as he said there that day, that the tenant who knew that his rent was fixed upon his own improvements was no better than an idiot if he consented to become a purchaser upon such manifestly unfair terms as paying for his own improvements. He had already quoted from the speech of the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and he must say also that he had never heard a more fatuous argument than that of the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Brodrick)—that the action of the tenants prevented landlords from expending money in the improvement of the soil of Ireland. The hon. Gentleman had yet to learn what the masses of the people had already learned—namely, that the great principle of Irish landlordism in the past had not been to put money in the soil of Ireland, but to take all the money they could out of it, even to the last penny. They were never very willing to invest money in the soil, but were always engaged in trying to dig money out of it to pay their dues. A good deal had been said as to the unfairness of presuming that the improvements had all been made by the tenant. But landlords had agents and bailiffs who kept books, and it would be no difficulty to them to prove what improvements had been made by the landlords. On the other hand, it was a notorious fact that the improvements were nearly in every case made by the tenant, and he, being a poor ignorant man, keeping no books, would naturally find a difficulty in giving legal proof of the improvements he and his predecessors had made. The right hon. Gentleman had given them no arguments on the subject of leases. He merely refused to reopen the subject, although it was notorious that in respect of leases the functions of the Land Act had been nugatory. But there were 100,000 leaseholders in Ireland, holding about one-third of the area of the country and one-half of the value of all the agricultural land, and representing 500,000 people. Was it reasonable to suppose that, while that great body of tenants were excluded from the operation of the Land Act, and suffering from rack-rents while they saw their fellow-tenants going into the Land Court, they would desist from agitation until they were placed on an equality with the other tenants of Ireland? By the tone and matter of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, he was reminded of the Prime Minister's apprehension that the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) might have to lead a new crusade in Ireland. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman would be the signal for renewed agitation. The purchase scheme was only the second stage of the Land Question, and it could not be dealt with until the leaseholders were allowed to enter the Land Court on an equal footing with the other tenants of Ireland.


said, he regretted that the Government had refused to take into consideration the claims of the leaseholders, which was a burning question in the county which he represented (Cork). The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had not attempted to reply to the arguments which had been advanced upon this subject. The leaseholders suffered very great hard ships, as they were prevented from any participation in the provisions of the measure, yet there was no doubt that many of these leases had been forced upon them, more particularly since the passing of the Act of 1870. He concurred in the expressions of opinion given by the hon. Members for Clonmel (Mr. Moore) and Sligo (Mr. Sexton) on that subject. There were a large number of tenants in Ireland whom the Land Act had been intended to relieve, who were debarred from its benefits owing to leases which had been forced upon them. Several cases of that sort had come to his knowledge in the County Cork; and, as the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down observed, it would be impossible to suppose that while this source of discontent existed the country would be free from agitation, particularly when they bore in mind the fact that in Munster one tenant in every five was a leaseholder. The refusal of the right hon. Gentleman to make any concessions was, in the case of those who took leases since 1870, especially unjust, as they were really intended to be included within the scope of the Act. He thought it would be only justice to allow all leaseholders to surrender their leases, and apply to the Land Court to have a fair rent fixed.


said, he had no desire to prevent a Division being taken; but he wished to make a few observations before the debate closed. Everyone must have listened with great attention to the speech of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; but there could have been little doubt as to what the right hon. Gentleman would say respecting several of the proposals contained in the Bill. Having regard to the way in which the Prime Minister last year repudiated any consideration, or toleration, or approval of the main proposal of this Bill, no one on the Treasury Bench could have adopted a different line to-day. Reference had been made to the decision in "Adams v. Dunseath." Anyone who was disposed to give the slightest weight to what was said by the hon. Member for County Wexford (Mr. Barry) in reference to the important case of "Adams v. Dunseath," or to what was said by the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) in reference to that decision and the Healy Clause, had only to turn to the speech last year of the Solicitor General (Sir Farrer Herschell), and they would sea that the hon. and learned Gentleman, who was one of the highest authorities on matters of this kind, had given conclusive reasons showing that the decision in "Adams v. Dunseath," on the topics referred to, so far from meriting the extraordinary adjectives applied to it by the hon. Member for Sligo, was one not only legal in the strict sense of the word, but in accordance with the highest principles of justice. No one could deny that there was, at the present moment, in Ireland an absolute deadlock in the Irish land market. The Land Court was practically doing nothing, and the private sales were practically at a standstill. The tenants did not buy, and were not encouraged to buy. They were discouraged to buy in some quarters, in which they might, he thought, receive different advice, and in other quarters from which such advice might not unnaturally be expected. His right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith), a man entitled to deal with the question from the tone and habit of his mind, applied himself to it last year, but deferred bringing it under the notice of the House, as he understood it would be taken up by the Prime Minister. Later on his noble Friend the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) brought the subject under the notice of the House, and it was unanimously resolved that it deserved the early attention of Parliament. Therefore, the country had a right to expect that this year the Government would be prepared with some adequate proposal. Bearing in mind, however, the supreme importance and the obvious difficulties of the question, he was not surprised that the Prime Minister should have deferred making any statement upon it until after Easter. They would look forward with hope to what would then be the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman; and he hoped that proposal would indicate that Her Majesty's Go- vernment realized the difficulties of the problem, and had a resolute determination to meet them. He confessed he was a little disappointed at the tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Sligo. There was no greater master of speech in the House than the hon. Member, who had the power of presenting shades of meaning and of denunciation which, for his own part, he constantly envied. But the drift of the hon. Member's speech was to discourage the purchase of land in Ireland, and to keep the land market at a deadlock. That was a course which was opposed to the best interests of the country, as well as to all the interests both of landlord and tenant. The speech of the hon. Member was pervaded by this spirit—that it was desirable by legislation to reduce the land to the prairie value, so that then the tenants might come with smiling countenances to the landlord and say—" We will purchase now." It must be evident to all who regarded the question with any degree of impartiality that it was in the last degree undesirable to say anything which would again throw this question into a state of unrest, un-settlement, and agitation. Anyone who desired to advance the cause, not only of good government, but of prosperity in Ireland, must also desire to see the settling down of the public mind in that country; and, therefore, it was obvious that if the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, by one single sentence of his speech, had departed from the statements of the Prime Minister and the Solicitor General last year, he would have put himself into the position of supplying motives for a new agitation. Now, he had himself always said that the Land Act ought to be administered, not in the interests of landlord or tenant, but with fair and impartial justice all round; and if they accepted the Act as a settlement, permanent and immutable in its essential conditions, and saw that it should be fairly and impartially administered, they would have done as much as they could reasonably be expected to do for the settling of Ireland at the present time. The debate had been opened by a speech moderate and persuasive in tone, and of considerable ability, but almost exclusively directed to make the House forget the grave, dangerous, and unsettling character of the proposals contained in the Bill. His hon. Friend who moved the rejection of the Bill (Mr. Brodrick), in a speech of great acuteness and force, went into detailed criticisms of all the clauses of the measure; and the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland took up its main proposals and reasoned upon them in a way which must have struck everyone for its great force and unanswerable power. The speech of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), on the other hand, did not go back upon a single one of the proposals contained in the Bill, or meet any one of the objections which had been taken to them. The Bill proposed to abrogate the restrictions upon the right of free sale, and to include not only town parks, but the demesnes of the landlord, let obviously for a temporary purpose, and to alter the date of rent, as if in that respect the Bill had been changed to the prejudice of the tenant in the House of Lords. But the fact was that no change whatever in that respect had been made in the House of Lords. Any change which had been made was made in that House by the Members of the Government in charge of the Bill. As to the Healy Clause, a most inaccurate history was given by the hon. Member for Wexford. An exception was made "where the improvements have been paid for or otherwise compensated by the landlord." The word "otherwise" in that connection was introduced by the late Mr. Law, who, in doing so, said he moved the introduction of the word with the object— That the lowness of the rent paid by the tenant might be taken into consideration in awarding compensation for improvements. That was the object of the then Attorney General for Ireland, one of the greatest lawyers that ever sat in that House, and whose early death was such a great loss to the country. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), feeling that the ground was cut from under his feet by the introduction of the word "otherwise," moved to add— Provided that the time during which the tenant may have enjoyed the advantage of those improvements may not he held to be compensation within the meaning of the section. But that proposal was rejected by 262 to 91 votes. It was idle, therefore, to argue that the intention of Parliament was not curried into effect by the Judges. It was said that the Bill before the House would only mate a change in the rent allowed by the lease, and would leave the other conditions unaffected. That was not so. The Bill, if it became law to-morrow, would put it in the power of the tenant not only to sweep away the condition with respect to his rent, but every clause and covenant of the lease at his option. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the last clause of the Bill. He would not go into it; but it was obvious that it would create the greatest possible heart-burning, not only between landlords and tenants, but between the tenants themselves, if it became law. The clause proposed that the tenant of a holding should be given the right of way wherever his convenience required it, not only over the land of his landlord, but over the land of other landlords, and over land held by other tenants, without any regard whatever to their convenience. The Bill, according to its most obvious meaning and intention, would have the most confiscatory effect upon what was left of the property of the landlord, and would also lead to very grave disputes and quarrels between the tenants themselves. For himself, he should look with despair for anything like a settlement of that country being ever arrived at, if any encouragement were given to that measure at the present moment. What was now most wanted in Ireland was that they should encourage the tenants to believe that, as far as could be, the proposais of the Act of 1881 were in all essential particulars final proposals. That was vital to the peace and prosperity of the country, and when a measure like the Land Act of 1881 had been passed, which had so largely interfered with the property of the landlords, and had had the effect of rendering land unsaleable in Ireland, to attempt to reopen the question in the way now proposed would tend to dishearten everyone who desired the real welfare and tranquillity of that country. The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had told them that if he were to exceed by one word what was said last year on the subject by the Prime Minister the task of governing Ireland would be made much more difficult even than it was at present, and the future of that country would be seriously imperilled. He hoped, therefore, that few would be found to vote for disturbing the existing settlement of that question without having weighed very carefully the immense responsibility they were incurring.


said, that great part of the criticism offered by the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down had been addressed to matters which could be better dealt with if the Bill were in Committee than at the present stage. He deplored as much as any hon. Member any renewal of agitation which was not peremptorily called for in connection with the Land Question in Ireland; but, he asked, how was that agitation best to be avoided? Was it to be avoided by shutting the door against those who were urging, in a perfectly Constitutional manner, certain Amendments which they conceived to be necessary in the Land Act of 1881; or was it not more likely to be avoided by remedying the defects in that Act which were proved to exist? This was not a re-opening of the Land Question. There was not one of the points touched upon in this Bill that was not made the subject of a deliberate proposal by one Member or another, many of them by himself, during the progress of the Act of 1881 through that House; but they were over-borne, as Irish Members were so often over-borne, by the solid phalanx which supported the Government, and was reinforced by the Opposition. The Solicitor General (Sir Farrer Herschell), he (Mr. Charles Russell) submitted, had last Session taken a very exaggerated view of some of the provisions of this Bill. He must express his regret that the House had not been favoured with the views of the Solicitor General for Ireland, who had recently been in very close contact with, and had felt the touch of, a great Irish constituency—a great constituency, moreover, in that part of the country to which hon. Members on both sides of the House were so fond of pointing as affording a bright example of what should be imitated all over Ireland. Let the Solicitor General for Ireland state what were the opinions entertained on the question raised by that Bill in that law-abiding and most respectable part of the country from which he came. For himself, instead of endeavouring to minimize the effect of the Land Act of 1881, it had been his constant aim to impress on the minds of the Irish people that the passing of that Act, considering the great difficulties to be encountered and the prejudices to be overcome, was a great and solid achievement effected in their interest. He said, therefore, as a sincere friend of that Act, he was anxious to improve it where it was capable of being improved, always within the lines of honesty and justice. Not a word had been said from the Treasury Bench that could be called argument on the proposal that the force of the decree fixing the judicial rent should date back to the day of the application. Could anything be more obviously just than that proposal? Why should those men who had their cases disposed of in six months be put in a better position than those who, without any fault of their own, having applied to the Court with equal expedition, had the settlement of their rent postponed for two or three years? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had, no doubt, sought to minimize the weight of their claim; but he had not said a word to meet the justice of the claim itself. Now, on the question of tenants of town parks, why should those tenants be denied access to the Land Courts? They were tenants of agricultural lands, and that they were to be deprived of the rights conceded to other agricultural tenants, because their lands were in the neighbourhood of towns, he could not admit to be an honest argument. With regard to the leaseholders, was not the real question whether they had been any more free contracting parties with their landlords than other tenants? Could anyone say that they were? It was intolerable to suppose that on one side of a boundary fence there should be men who were tenants from year to year with free access to the Land Court, and on the other side of the fence men with holdings of the same size and character who were debarred from access to the Court. And why debarred? Merely because their contract was on parchment sealed! As to the question of improvements—the great bone of contention—and the clause rightly called Healy's Clause, he himself, in conjunction with the late Mr. Law, then Attorney General for Ireland, drew the clause as it stood in the Act; and he confessed that the result of the clause had disappointed him. The clause was to the effect that no rent should be allowed or be payable in any proceedings under the Act in respect to improvements made by the tenant or his predecessors in title, and for which, in the opinion of the Court, the tenant or his predecessors in title should not have been paid or otherwise compensated for by the landlord. The Solicitor General (Sir Farrer Her-schell) last year said that meant going back to the prairie value of the land. Nothing of the kind. Hon. Members would find that in the 7th clause of the 'Bill there was a distinct recognition of the fact that where there was a distinct increase of value not arising from expenditure either on the part of the landlord or of the tenant, that was properly and fairly to be taken into account for the benefit of the landlord; in fact, it gave to the landlord the unearned increment, and that to a greater extent than he (Mr. Charles Russell) was prepared to concede. He thought that the effects of the proposals of this clause had been greatly exaggerated; it was a mistake to think that it involved any sweeping confiscation of the landlords' rights. If, for instance, a tenant occupied land on which there was a lake, and, at a trifling expense, drained that lake, adding, perhaps, an acre to the farm—in such a case as that, where the improvement was greatly in excess of the outlay by the tenant, it was perfectly fair and just that the landlord should have a proportion of the increased value arising from the improvement. But in the vast majority of cases that arose in agricultural life, where the tenant made the improvement at his own risk, the increase made in the value consequent on that improvement was nothing more than just and adequate compensation to the tenant for what he had done. He thought that the clause was but just to the tenant, and not unjust to the landlord. For these reasons he should vote for the second reading of the Bill.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 72; Noes 235: Majority 163.

Arnold, A. Came, W. S.
Biggar, J. G. Campbell, Sir G.
Blake, J. A. Collings, J.
Briggs, W. E. Collins, E.
Bright, J. Colthurst, Colonel
Broadhurst, H. Commins, A.
Brogden, A. Corbet, W. J.
Burt, T. Cowen, J.
Dawson, C. O'Donnell, F. H.
Deasy, J. O'Donoghue, The
Dickson, T. A. O'Gorman Mahon, Col. The
Findlater, W.
Gabbett, D. F. O'Shea, W. H.
Harrington, T. O'Sullivan, W. H.
Holden, T. Parnell, C. S.
Hopwood, C. H. Pease, A.
Kenny, M. J. Peddie, J. D.
Labouchere, H. Power, J. O' C.
Laing, S. Power, R.
Lawson, Sir W. Reid, R. T.
Lea, T. Rogers, J. E. T.
Leamy, E. Russell, C.
Lynch, N. Rylands, P.
Macfarlane, D. H Sexton, T.
M'Carthy, J. Shaw, W.
M'Kenna, Sir J. N. Slagg, J.
M'Mahon, E. Small, J. F.
Martin, P. Sullivan, T. D.
Mayne, T. Summers, W.
Meagher, W. Synan, E. J.
Molloy, B. C. Thomasson, J. P.
Monk, C. J. Williams, S. C. E.
Moore, A. Willis, W.
Morley, J. Wills, W. H.
Nolan, Colonel J. P.
O'Brien, Sir P. TELLERS.
O'Brien, W. Barry, J.
O'Connor, A. Sheil, E.
O'Connor, T. P.
Acland, C. T. D. Clive, Col. hon. G. W.
Alexander, Major-Gen. Coddington, W.
Amherst, W. A. T. Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Anderson, G. Coope, O. E.
Armitstead, G. Corry, J. P.
Balfour, Sir G. Cotes, C. C.
Balfour, rt. hon. J. B. Courtney, L. H.
Balfour, A. J. Crichton, Viscount
Baring, T. C. Cropper, J.
Barttelot, Sir W. B. Cross, rt. hon. Sir R. A.
Bateson, Sir T. Cross, J. K.
Baxter, rt. hon. W. E. Cubitt, right hon. G.
Beach, W. W. B. Davenport, H. T.
Beaumont, W. B. Davenport, W. B.
Bontinck, rt. hn. G. C. Davies, R.
Birkbeck, E. Dawnay, Col. hon. L. P.
Blackburne, Col. J. I. Dawnay, hon. G. C.
Boord, T. W. Digby, Colonel hon. E.
Brown, A. H. Dilke, rt. hn. Sir C. W.
Bruce, rt. hon. Lord C. Dillwyn, L. L.
Bruce, hon. R. P. Dodson, rt. hon. J. G.
Buchanan, T. P. Duff, R. W.
Burghley, Lord Eaton, H. W.
Buxton, Sir R. J. Egerton, hon. A. de T.
Buxton, F. W. Egerton, hon. A. F.
Cameron, D. Elcho, Lord
Campbell, J. A. Elliot, hon. A. R. D.
Campbell, P. F. F. Elliot, G. W.
Carden, Sir R. W. Emlyn, Viscount
Cartwright, W. C. Ewing, A. O.
Causton, R. K. Fairbairn, Sir A.
Cavendish, Lord E. Feilden, Lieut.-General R. J.
Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.
Chamberlain, rt. hn. J. Fellowes, W. H.
Childers, rt. hn. H. C. E. Ferguson, R.
Christie, W. L. Finch-Hatton, hon. M. E. G.
Churchill, Lord R.
Clark, S. Fitzmaurice, Lord E.
Clifford, C. C. Fitzwilliam, hn. C. W.
Fletcher, Sir H. Mackie, R. B.
Folkestone, Viscount Mackintosh, C. F.
Forester, C. T. W. M'Arthur, A.
Forster, rt. hn. W. E. M'Garel-Hogg, Sir J.
Foster, W. H. M'Lagan, P.
Fowler, rt. hon. R. N. Makins, Colonel W. T.
Fowler, W. Manners, rt. hon. Lord J. J. R.
Fremantle, hon. T. F.
Fry, T. Mappin, F. T.
Gibson, right hon. E. Marjoribanks, hon. E.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Marriott, W. T.
Gladstone, H. J. Maskelyne, M. H. N.
Glyn, hon. S. C. Story-
Goldney, Sir G. Master, T. W. C.
Gordon, Sir A. Matheson, Sir A.
Gorst, J. E. Maxwell, Sir H. E.
Goschen, rt. hon. G. J. Mills, Sir C. H.
Grant, Sir G. M. Milner, Sir F.
Grant, A. Morgan, rt. hon. G. O.
Greer, T. Morgan, hon. F.
Gregory, G. B. Moss, R.
Grey, A. H. G. Mowbray, rt. hon. Sir J. R.
Grosvenor, right hon.
Lord R. Muntz, P. H.
Gurdon, R. T. Newport, Viscount
Hamilton, right hon. Nicholson, W. N.
Lord G. Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H.
Hamilton, Lord C. J.
Hamilton, J. G. C. Northcote, H. S.
Harcourt, rt. hn. Sir W. G. V. V. Otway, rt. hn. Sir A.
Palmer, C. M.
Hastings, G. W. Palmer, J. H.
Hay, rt. hon. Admiral Parker, C. S.
Sir J. C. D. Patrick, R. W. Cochran-
Hayter, Sir A. D. Pell, A.
Herbert, hon. S. Pemberton, E. L.
Herschell, Sir F. Pender, J.
Hill, Lord A. W. Percy, rt. hon. Earl
Holland, Sir H. T. Percy, Lord A.
Hollond, J. R. Phipps, C. N. P.
Holms, J. Plunket, rt. hon. D. R.
Home, Lt.-Col. D. M. Price, Captain G. E.
Hope, right hon. A. J. B. B. Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.
Ramsay, J.
Hubbard, right hon. J. Ramsden, Sir J. G.
Rendlesham, Lord
Inderwick, F. A. Richardson, T.
Jackson, W. L. Ritchie, C. T.
James, Sir H Robertson, H.
James, C. Rolls, J. A.
James, W. H. Ross, A. H.
Jenkins, Sir J. J. Ross, C. C.
Jenkins, D. J. Round, J.
Kennard, Col. E. H. Russell, G. W. E.
Kennard, C. J. St. Aubyn, W. M.
Kennaway, Sir J. H. Samuelson, B.
Kensington, rt. hn. Lord Scott, M. D.
Kingscote, Col. R. N. F. Seely, C. (Lincoln)
Lawrence, W. Seely, C. (Nottingham)
Lefevre, rt. hn. G. J. S. Sellar, A. C.
Legh, W. J. Severne, J. E.
Leighton, Sir B. Smith, rt. hon. W. H.
Lennox, right ha. Lord Smith, A.
H. G. C. G. Smith, S.
Levett, T. J. Spencer, hon. C. R.
Lewis, C. E. Stafford, Marquess of
Lewisham, Viscount Stanhope, hon. E.
Loder, R. Stanley, rt. hon. Col. F.
Lopes, Sir M. Stanley, hon. E. L.
Lowther, hon. W. Stevenson, J. C.
Lowther, J. W. Strutt, hon. C. H.
Lusk, Sir A. Talbot, C. R. M.
Macartney, J. W. E. Talbot, J. G.
Thornhill, T. West, H. W.
Tillett, J. H. Whitley, E.
Tomlinson, W. E. M. Williamson, S.
Tottenham, A. L. Wilmot, Sir H.
Trevelyan, rt. hn. G. O. Wilson, C. H.
Tyler, Sir H. W. Wilson, I.
Waddy, S. D. Winn, R.
Walrond, Col. W. H. Wolff, Sir H. D.
Walter, J. Wortley, G. B. S.
Warton, C. N. Yorke, J. R.
Waterlow, Sir S. TELLERS.
Watkin, Sir E. W. Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.
Watney, J.
Waugh, E. Bruce, Sir H. H.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Beading put off for six months.

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