HC Deb 25 March 1886 vol 303 cc1930-50

Bill, as amended, considered.


, in rising to move, in page 1, after Clause 2, to insert the following New Clause:—

(Definition of demesne, demesne lands, and home farm.)

The expression 'demesne' or 'demesne lands' in the said Acts and in this Act shall, for all the purposes of the said Acts and of this Act, be held to mean land immediately surrounding and ordinarily occupied with the mansion or other dwelling-house in which the owner usually resides; and the expression 'home farm' shall not be held to apply to more than one farm occupied by the same owner within the area of any sanitary district, said: By the Acts of 1883 and 1885, demesne lands were excluded from the operation of those Acts. Cases have arisen in which the landlord has successfully resisted the claim to build cottages on portions of his land by declaring them to be "demesne lands." I am under the impression that when Parliament legislated on this question in 1883, it had no idea that the Act would be so worked as to enable landlords to throw out every claim made upon them. I am willing that any interpretation should be given to the term "demesne;" but, Sir, I know of a case in Ireland where, when a proposal was made to build a cottage on land in the occupation of the landlord, he called the land "home farm," and when a proposal was made to build on another portion of the land, he called that "home farm" also. I am under the impression that there can be only one home farm, and I think that the term should not be held to apply to more than one. There are 160 sanitary districts and 32 counties in Ireland, and therefore it will be seen that the authorities could not build on more than one property owned by the same owner. I beg to move the clause in my name.

New Clause,—(Mr. Sexton,)—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."


I have no wish whatever to prevent the carrying out of the intentions which, I presume, underlie this clause, although I think they are unfortunately chosen. I happen to know many instances in which demesne lands are said to be lands immediately surrounding and occupied with the house. But I know two cases in my own county in which the landlord has a house on one side of the street, town, or village in which he resides, and where the demesne lies on the opposite side. Under the clause of the hon. Member that detached portion would not be held to be demesne land. I cannot think that that was the intention with which the clause was framed. On the question of home farm, I think a similar objection would lie. I am sure that none of us wish that any door should be left open for such action as the hon. Member for Sligo has decribed; but I know that my own home farm has a detached field, which lies between it and the demesne, and I think it would be a great hardship if that should be held not to be demesne land. I think, therefore, it would not be desir able to add this clause to the Bill, as it at present stands, for the reason that it would produce an effect not contemplated by the House.

An hon. MEMBER: The putting of these two stipulations together may often lead to difficulty, because it will frequently happen that a mansion is surrounded by demesne lands which are let away. I would, therefore, propose that the words "ordinarily occupied" should be left out, and the words "immediately surrounding" should be left standing. I know a case where the mansion is surrounded by a garden fence, the land being let away.


I would point out to the two hon. Members, that if they do not object to the principle they should allow the clause to be read a second time, and then should move Amendments to it.

Motion agreed to.

Clause read a second time.

MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)

The hon. and gallant Member for North Down (Colonel Waring) has shown most conclusively that great hardship would be done, against the intention of the clause, if the words "immediately surrounding" were left in. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has shown equally conclusively that the words "ordinarily occupied," in cases where the demesne has been let for grazing purposes, will operate in a manner which is not desired. If, therefore, the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) presses his clause in this form, injustice and hardship will be done that I am sure is not contemplated by the House—injustice and hardship that were guarded against in the last Acts by no definition of this kind being inserted. I would venture to remind the hon. Gentleman that the cases he has spoken of, of landlords taking advantage of these provisions to defeat the objects of the Act, were not brought before the Select Committee, which went exhaustively into this part of the subject. In the same way as to "home farm," though landlords might take advantage of having several farms in their hands, the phrase "sanitary district" is a very wide one. I hope the hon. Member will not press the clause.

MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)

I wish to point out a few errors into which hon. Gentlemen have just fallen. In the first place, land that is not "ordinarily occupied" would not come under the definition of demesne land. One hon. Gentleman pointed out that it would be a hard thing to deprive the landlord of a part of a home farm, because it might not be immediately beside the dwelling-house. A home farm may be a couple of miles from the dwelling-house. Not a single site has been taken from landlords, and not a single piece of land has been taken from property in their own occupation up to the present; and if any clause can give protection against that in the future, it is this clause that hon. Members are now contesting. The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Brodrick) pointed out that a landlord may have a number of unoccupied farms in his possession. Every farm from which a tenant has been evicted does not become a home farm for that reason. They are distinctly not home farms for that reason. [Mr. BRODRICK: Who said they were?] The hon. Gentleman pointed to the difficulty that would arise from the landlord having a number of home farms, and said that he might take one or two, or more, farms temporarily. Those, distinctly, would not be home farms, and on that point I think the hon. Gentleman is slightly mistaken.


I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sexton) is well-advised in endeavouring to define demesne land. There is no definition of it in the Land Acts, in the Acts of 1870 or 1881, or in the Labourers Acts. There have been various judgments and decisions on the point already in the Land Court, and I should have thought it would have been much better to leave the decision of the matter to that process, and to leave those things without definition. The more important part of the clause, from the point of view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, is, no doubt, that as to home farms; but I must say that, after having carefully examined that part of the subject, Her Majesty's Government have come to the conclusion that there is no objection to be taken to it on principle. There are some imperfections in the wording which may be remedied later on.

MR. GIBSON (Liverpool, Walton)

I must admit I quite agree with some of the observations I have heard in regard to home farms. I think a hardship might be occasioned, and I will tell hon. Members why. The clause says— The expression 'home farm' shall not be held to apply to more than one farm occupied by the same owner within the area of any sanitary district. There might be two very small farms, or two farms of very different areas, and it is perfectly obvious that the interests of the landlord in them must be quite different. One landlord might have one large home farm, and that would be safe; whereas another might have two small ones of only a quarter the acreage, and they would be affected by this provision. I agree that the Amendment would be likely to cause a great deal of litigation. As I understand the hon. Member for Sligo, his objection to the word "demesne" arises from the fact that a number of sham demesnes have been started. But that is a question which can always be raised on appeal, and will always be easy to get rid of; and, on the other hand, there are cases where real demesnes have been decided not be demesnes at all. The very words which are used in this clause may have the effect, in many cases, of causing demesne lands to be treated as other than demesne lands. Then what is the meaning of the words "immediately surrounding?" Do they mean 50 acres, or 500 acres, or only a small garden? It behoves us, in view of possible litigation, to say what is the amount of land, and what the amount of contiguity. [Mr. SEXTON: "Ordinarily occupied" gives the explanation.] I agree that "ordinarily occupied" forms part of the legal definition of demesne, for when a man ceases to ordinarily occupy land the land ceases to be his demesne. I only make these observations in a friendly spirit towards the Bill. The attitude of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on this Bench, I take it, should be to simplify the Bill and make it a fair and proper measure. I do not wish to offer opposition; but I see the possibility of great unfairness coming about unless some proper definition as to the extent of a home farm be given.


I beg to move to amend the clause, by leaving out the words— Expression 'demesne' or 'demesne lands' in the said Acts and in this Act shall, for all the purposes of the said Acts and of this Act, he held to mean land immediately surrounding and ordinarily occupied with the mansion or other dwelling-house in which the owner usually resides; and the.

Amendment proposed, to leave out all the words after the word "expression," to the words "home farm."—(Mr. Brodrick.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."


I feel obliged to resist this Amendment. I have received representations from various parts of Ireland, which lead me to believe that the words the hon. Member wishes to leave out are necessary. I am told that on these two pretexts, that land is demesne land, or home farm land, landlords have been able to keep land out of the operation of the Act, and it has had to be taken from the tenants who possess very small farms. I do not know any such case as that the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Gibson) put. Home farms are very substantial. They are conducted on the system of ground culture; and I am sure the clause would not be a hardship in connection with any legitimate home farms. The hon. and learned Gentleman says it would promote litigation; but so ingenious a lawyer as the hon. and learned Gentleman would no doubt be able to promote litigation on anything. I think, however, that these words "immediately surrounding" and "ordinarily occupied" would enable the Local Government Board, or anyone else, to decide what is demesne land and what is not. My impression, considering the present state of the land interest in Ireland, is that if the House agrees to these words, the landlords will be found to raise no objection, and the result will be to give a great impulse to the Act.

MR. PLUNKET (Dublin University)

I understand the position of the Government is, that they agree with the reasonableness of the view of my hon. and learned Friend who sits beside me (Mr. Gibson) as to the inadvisability of endeavouring to define demesne lands, but that they do not agree to the view held on this side of the House as to the second part of the clause, the object of which is to define home farms. As to the hon. Member for Sligo, his objection applies to the opposition raised to the second part of the clause. [Mr. SEXTON: I object to the Amendment entirely.] The Amendment only deals with the proposal in this clause to attempt further to define what "demesne land" is; and I must say that, so far as my opinion goes, I entirely agree with what has fallen from my hon. and learned Friend beside me, that any attempt to pass a hasty definition of this kind to vary the law as it stands on existing decisions as to the meaning of "demesne land," is much more likely to lead to further confusion than to facilitate the operation of this Act. As I understand the object of the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, it is not to enable landlords to frustrate the working of the Act, but to prevent litigation by confirming the law on the subject of the definition of demesne lands. I hope, therefore, that the Government will support the hon. Gentleman in his Amendment. He only proposes to deal with the first part of the clause now inserted in the Bill, and, as I understood it, his view was the one we all adopted when we assented to the clause.


I agree that a difficulty arises on the second part of the clause, and is not affected by the Amendment of the hon. Member. The difficulties of the construction of a definition of demesnes in the clause are so great that I feel sure that litigation will be greatly increased, instead of being diminished, by allowing the clause to stand in its present form. I will not detain the House longer than to point out one instance. The clause might be construed as affecting the demesne of an officer on foreign service, on the ground that that officer had no residence there. I think, therefore, it will be the duty of Her Majesty's Government to support the Amendment to this part of the clause.


I would point out that the right hon. Gentleman is slightly at sea as to the legal meaning of the word "reside." Residence does not require a man to physically occupy a certain spot. The law is fully satisfied if the owner keeps an occupied house on the land on which he is said to reside, and keeps the land in his possession. If that is the right hon. Gentleman's objection to the acceptance of the first part of this clause, I would ask him to take legal advice on the matter and to reconsider his positon.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

I should like to say a word in reference to the opposition to this Amendment. First of all, what strikes me as a strong argument is the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Gibson). He said, or led us to believe, that great uncertainty exists in Ireland as to what is demesne land. He says appeals have been made to the Court, and that in his own experience land had been declared not to be demesne land which really was demesne land, and that land had been declared to be demesne land which really was not so. Well, what we want is something that will be a guide to the Inspectors of the Local Government Board. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is a strong argument in favour of the proposed definition. His statement is that at present the definition is in a state of fog. It would seem, from his remarks, that no one knows what is demesne land and what is not. It must be remembered that we have Local Government Board Inspectors going about the country who have to make Reports; and I think it will be admitted that this clause would be a very plain and simple guidance to them, and I think the objection of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has been completely removed by my hon. Friend. We know that a person who ordinarily or usually resides at a certain place means the person who keeps up the residence or establishment in such a condition that if he chooses to come and reside there he can do so. In Ireland, as Irish Members are aware, there are large tracts of land which are continuous of the land which is really the demesne of the landlord, but which are not used for the purposes of demesnes, but are let out by public auction from year to year for the purposes of grazing. I cannot see why this House should desire to allow these men to set up a claim to such lands, and prevent their herds or agricultural labourers from having proper residences thereon.

MR. J. H. A MACDONALD (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)

I rise—because there is a strong desire on the part of hon. Gentlemen who represent Ireland to have a workable clause made out—to express an unbiassed opinion. I can imagine no words which could lead to greater difficulty than these— The expression 'demesne' or 'demesne lands' in the said Acts and in this Act shall, for all the purposes of the said Acts and of this Act, be held to mean land immediately surrounding and ordinarily occupied with the mansion or other dwelling-house in which the owner usually resides. No words would lead to greater uncertainty and dispute; and I am the more confirmed in that view from having heard the views of hon. Members who have spoken, and particularly those of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. What does he propose? Why, that the clause is not to include lands that are regularly held for the purposes of grazing. Whatever may be the case in Ireland, if such a thing were passed for England or Scotland, you would find cases where the grass up to the doors of the dwelling-house or mansion of the demesne islet annually for the purposes of grazing, and is let for that purpose though it is part of the demesne. A proprietor may not choose to work the grazing of his parks, and, therefore, lets it; but the parks are none the less parts of the demesne. The proprietor lets them because it is convenient for him to do so, and because, though he does not work it himself, he desires the grazing to be carried on. Every word of explanation that has been given by hon. Members in favour of this clause, and every one of the instances they have adduced, simply confirms me in the opinion that any attempt to define these demesnes will lead to greater difficulty than could be experienced without such definitions. That being the case, I would, acting on my own independent judgment in this matter, support Her Majesty's Government if they continue to support the Amendment. I am very certain that it would be much better to leave the thing as it stands than to attempt, in this rough-and-ready way, to give a definition of this matter that is so difficult to define. It seems to me that if we are to put into a clause of this kind words giving definitions based on individual cases from one part of Ireland or another part of Ireland, there will be no end to the thing, and you will never have a clear definition.


I desire to disabuse the mind of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken. The letter to which I referred, and to which he no doubt alludes when he speaks of individual cases, was written by a person who lives in Ireland. Well, no doubt, he is bound to live in some individual place; but this gentleman is one of wide experience. It is strange that words which are approved by lawyers at one time are objected to by lawyers at other times. These words that I propose were in the Act of 1883 as an alternative definition; but that fact does not seem to preclude Irish lawyers from raising a fog as to the meaning of the word "demesne." It is exceedingly strange that words drawn by the most eminent lawyers in Ireland should be exposed to the contempt of one of the most eminent lawyers from Scotland. As to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, I would ask him if he really has an objection to the first part of this clause? He spoke of officials on active service—the Governor General of Canada and the Viceroy of India, for instance—being liable to have their demesnes interfered with by reason of their not being physically resident in their mansions; but in order to overcome the difficulty, if any exists, we might say "the owner's mansion or dwelling-house," leaving out the words "in which the owner usually resides." All we want to provide is that the demesne lands shall be lands that can be fairly said to surround the dwelling-house, whether the owner lives there at the moment or not. This proposal, I think, would get rid of the difficulty as to the Governor ral of Canada and the Viceroy of India.

MR. SHEEHY (Galway, S.)

I hope the objection to the Amendment will not be pressed. The landlords seem to desire to press their interests in this case to an inordinate extent, for they not merely want to have demesne lands in possession of occupiers, but they want power to include in demesne lands any land to which they may choose to give the name "demesne land." ["No, no!"] Excuse me, but that is so. A landlord may have three or four demesne lands, and although he resides only upon one, he desires to stick by all the rest, and have them preserved to his interests as against the interests of the people at large. I would urge upon the Government that they should not stand by their objection to this clause, because the landlords, although before the new electorate they do not like to put themselves against the labourers, are really against them at heart. They are trying to do indirectly that which, if directly questioned upon it, they would altogether disclaim. They want to preserve their demesnes and properties to themselves in the future as they have done in the past. The landlord has a perfect right to the lands in his possession, no doubt; but he urges his claim over the border when he asks the House to say that all lands which he may choose to call in his own occupation, but which, as a matter of fact, he is drawing a rental from, may be exempted from the operation of this Bill, as though he were actually farming them himself.

MR. PYNE (Waterford, W.)

I rise on this occasion to say a few words as a tenant farmer. I must say that the last Labourers Act worked very badly, in so far as that in the Union in which I am a Guardian one of the largest landowners—namely, the Duke of Devonshire, or, rather, his agent—wrote to me to say that he objected to give any Board of Guardians half-an-acre in fee. I may say that I have found that the landlords all along the line have refused in every sort of way to grant this land, and have been encouraged by the Local Government Board to put all sorts of obstacles in the way of the working of the Labourers Act. Not only do they want to secure what they may call their demesne lands, but they also want to secure to themselves their home farms. A home farm, to them, is every bit of land from which they have power to evict a tenant. It seems to me that nothing save real demesnes should be excluded from this Bill.


I wish to correct a mistake into which the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) has fallen. He says the words he proposes to insert are those wherein the Act of 1883 has an alternative definition for the word demesne; but if the hon. Member will refer to the Act, he will see that that it is not the case.


What the hon. Member for Sligo objects to is that the landlords should have the right to claim a multiplicity of home farms.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 50; Noes 98: Majority 48.—(Div. List, No. 45.)

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the further proceeding on Consideration of the Bill, as amended, be now adjourned."—(Mr. Johnston.)


I hope the hon. Member will, at all events, allow us to finish this clause.


Then I will withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


I would throw out this suggestion for the consideration of the hon. Gentleman opposite—whether it would not be well to leave the remaining part of the clause as it stands, so that it will read— The expression 'home farm' shall not be held to apply to more than one farm occupied by the same owner within the area of any sanitary district; and then to add— except in the case of two farms being occupied as aforesaid, neither of which exceeds [blank] acres.


I certainly must say that that is an extraordinary proposal. One landlord may have a very big home farm, and another landlord may have two very small ones, as has been suggested by an hon. Member below me, and that would enable the owner of the large one to escape. If one demesne will satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman's purpose in one case, why not in this?


The clause will require some further amendment. The question is which farm is to be the home farm if a man has two larger than the stipulated limit. We should have words in the clause to specify that.


Both will be home farms if they do not exceed the stipulated area.


But suppose one does exceed it, and the other does not, from which is the land to be taken under this Bill? That will have to be provided for in the Amendment. It might not be a very pleasant thing to allow the Sanitary Authority an option in the matter.


The hon. and learned Gentleman's ingenuity would have more point if he had looked into the existing Acts. By the Act of last year it is provided that when a site is not acceptable to the landlord he can offer one some-whore else. If he has two farms and does not want to give a site in one he can give it in the other.


I would propose to fill the blank with the figure "30" acres.


Take "25." The Inspectors of the Local Government Board said that the size of the farm should not exceed 20 acres.


Does the hon. and learned Member substitute 25 acres?



Amendment proposed, At the end of the Clause, to add the words "except in the case of two farms being occupied as aforesaid neither of which exceeds twenty-five acres."—(Mr. Attorney General.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


I should object to that limitation. In my opinion the limitation should not be less than 100 acres; but the Government have struck a mean between the two. I am intimately acquainted with cases where immediately one of two home farms would become available were the limit of 25 acres to be accepted. I hope the Government will stand firm to their determination, which is a fair compromise between the two parties.


The hon. Member speaks as if we were inflicting some tremendous blow upon the landed interest in Ireland. All we are doing is giving landlords an opportunity of doing something for the interest of the whole community. The difference between 25 acres and 50 acres is not very considerable; 100 acres is clearly entirely out of the question.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, added.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the further proceeding on Consideration of the Bill, as amended, be now adjourned."—(Mr. Johnston.)


I think we might almost get through with the Bill in a few minutes.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

MR. MAYNE (Tipperary, Mid.)

I beg to move, in page 5, after Clause 12, to insert the following Clauses:—

(Compulsory purchase of land.)

The jurisdiction vested in the Irish Land Commission by 'The Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1885,' in reference to the exercise of compulsory powers of taking land for a term of years shall be, and the same is hereby extended, so as to include the case of compulsory powers of taking land by purchase, and in any such case the sanitary authority, instead of pursuing the course provided in the Lands Clauses Acts, may apply to the Irish Land Commission to do anything which, under the said Acts, or any of them, may be done by an arbitrator, and any judgment delivered upon any such matter by the Irish Land Commission, as defined in section twenty-three of 'The Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1885,' shall be in all respects as valid and effectual as the award of an arbitrator under the Acts aforesaid. I do not think this clause will cause much delay. I propose to confer on the Irish Land Commission power to deal with compulsory purchase cases just as the Act of last year conferred on them power to deal with compulsory leasing cases.

New Clause,—(Mr. Mayne,)—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Clause be now read a second time."


I only want to say one or two words. We have no objection to the hon. Member's object; but grave difficulties may arise from the manner in which the clause is worded. I would propose that he should withdraw the clause, on my undertaking that when the measure reaches "another place," the Government will have a provision drawn up to effect the object he has in view. There are many different points in the clause which will require consideration.


I will accept that assurance, and withdraw the clause.


I hope the hon. Gentleman will provide an appeal to the Land Commission, so that these matters may not be entirely settled by the Sub-Commission.



Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.


Now the hon. Member (Mr. Sexton) can move his Amendment, on page 1, line 21— The expression 'agricultural labourers' shall include hand-loom weavers and fishermen doing agricultural work as aforesaid, and shall also include herdsmen.


I think that my clause as it stands on the Paper—namely, The expression 'agricultural labourer' in the said Acts and this Act shall mean a man or woman who does agricultural work for hire, at any season of the year, on the land of some other person or persons, and shall include hand-loom weavers and fishermen doing agricultural work as aforesaid, and shall also include herdsmen, down to the word "persons" is already in the Bill. What is now to be done is to leave out all the words after the word "persons." I propose to leave out the words you recited.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the Clause (Definition of agricultural labourer) the words— And shall include hand-loom weavers and fishermen doing agricultural work as aforesaid, and shall also include herdsmen."—(Mr. Sexton.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."


It is difficult to know what is the effect of the clause, because it has been a good deal altered. As I understand it from the way you put it, Sir, the proposal is to omit the first three lines in the proposed new clause. If the Government thoroughly understand what is being done, well and good. I shall reserve any criticism on that for a clearer atmosphere.


The difficulty arises from the form in which the clause appears on the Paper. The more convenient course would be to omit the clause as it stands, and substitute new words altogether.

Question put, and negatived.


As to this clause, at this late hour I shall deal with it as briefly as I can. If hon. Gentlemen will turn to Clause 9, Sub-section (b), I think they will see that this is very important, and has a considerable bearing on the rest of the Bill. I would make an appeal to the hon. Member for Sligo. The matter stands in this way at the present moment. By the Acts of 1883 and 1885, we have successively given to the Sanitary Authority power to build new cottages and attach allotments to them, to take old cottages and repair them, or to take old ones that do not need repair and put allotments to them. This sub-section goes further, and says that where no cottages are taken, and there is no connection with house accommodation, allotments shall be taken and given to the inhabitants of neigh-bouring villages or towns. I wish to make an appeal to the hon. Gentleman on this ground. I think this provision will greatly limit the action and usefulness of the Bill. Everyone who has studied the question at all knows that there is great difficulty in getting Sanitary Authorities to put these Acts in force. The difficulty lies in the enormous expenditure of putting up cottages and repairing them, and the consequence is we have been brought almost to a deadlock. The great object of this Bill, as I understand it, is to remove that deadlock; but, side by side with the provisions that will do that, they propose to put in provisions that will give the Sanitary Authorities a very easy means of doing nothing at all for the labourers. They have only to put their eye upon a piece of land, and take it for an allotment, by the simple process of buying it compulsorily, and then they may give up the other portions of the Bill and adopt the dilatory methods which have been described from these Benches. The hon. Member may say it is a foregone conclusion that the Bill will be put into operation advantageously to the labourers; but I submit it is nothing of the kind, and I have no doubt that if the tenant farmers could be appealed to at this moment, they would unanimously go against this sub-section. In my opinion, this is not a landlord's question at all—not in the least. We all know the land hunger that exists in Ireland. The desire to possess land is the strongest feeling of the tenant farmers of Ireland, and you propose to take from them a portion of their property and give it to the labourers. Her Majesty's Government must consider whether this is a fit subject for a new departure altogether, for I am strongly of opinion that if those who labour in the towns of Ireland and are not resident in the country are to have allotments given to them, there is every bit as good reason for the inhabitants of towns in the United Kingdom to have them. If that is to be so, I humbly submit that it is a subject which ought to be dealt with in a comprehensive measure for both countries, and that this is not the time or the opportunity for taking from the tenant farmers by piecemeal what the House spent many days of trouble in giving them in 1881. Although hon. Members may be justified in urging that the labourer has a right to some portion of the soil, they interfere with that right if they interfere with his ability to make his home comfortable. I would point out that this Bill is not yet eight nights old, and the previous Act has certainly not failed, because it has not yet had time to be properly tried. Seeing that the Party opposite are almost pledged to deal comprehensively with this great subject, and seeing also that we have for Ireland the Act of 1885, which gives them greater power than we have in England, I think we ought to stop there. It will be time enough to come here for extended powers when it is found that the Act already in existence has not worked properly. What is to happen to our Legislature if we are to come here, year after year, to amend Acts which have never had an opportunity of being tried? I hope that if the hon. Member adheres to this clause, the Government will give their most serious consideration to this matter, and will bear in mind that the Act of 1881, which has been so often quoted as being the full benefit that it was intended to confer upon the tenant, is interfered with by this Bill.

Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 25, to leave out sub-section (b.)—(Mr. Brodrick.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."


I think the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Brodrick) was one which, if it was to have been delivered at all, ought to have been delivered long before. It savoured strongly of a second reading speech. He seems to have forgotten that this matter was discussed the other evening in Committee; but on that occasion, which would have been the proper one for him to deal with the subject, he did not lend his presence to the debate, although he eventually dropped in and moved to report Progress. That was his sole contribution to the debate. Up to the present, hon. Members both below and above the Gangway have discussed this matter in a business-like and harmonious way; and I hope that we shall go on discussing it in that manner throughout the future stages of the Bill. What is the hon. Member's objection? He objected to the compulsory power being given. But is it a very great advance to say that what this House has already admitted may be done voluntarily shall, under certain circumstances, be done compulsorily? The hon. Member in his speech attacked the whole Bill; and I should like to know what he meant by saying that this question ought to be put back until the Government were ready to deal with it in a comprehensive way. This matter has been already considered in Committee, and I think that it is one in which the Government ought not to interfere now. Therefore, I shall support the clause.


I do not think that my hon. Friend who has opposed this Amendment laid himself open to the somewhat fiery answer of the hon. and learned Gentleman. It is a subject on which he has a very strong opinion, and although I know we all ought to be here always, we often find that that is impossible. I quite agree with my hon. Friend that this large subsection is a matter which ought to be dealt with in connection with the larger question of allotments, and not in a Labourers Bill. But under the present circumstances of the House, and as he cannot obtain the support of the Government, I will appeal to him not to go to a division.

MR. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)

I wish emphatically to repudiate the suggestion of the Attorney General (Sir Charles Russell) that I and those who act with me have any intention of sitting in a Parliament in Ireland.


After what has fallen from my right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Plunket), I do not wish to take up the time of the House further; but I must dissent from the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General as to my absence on a previous occasion. My absence was due to the misfortune of the Government going out of Committee an hour sooner than they expected.


I rise to Order. The hon. Member has already spoken.


I will not contest the matter; but I will point out that the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) made two speeches a little while ago.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

MR. SEXTON (Sligo, S.)

I beg to move, after Clause 9, at end, to add the following sub-section:—"(c.) Any existing cottage." The object of this Amendment is to get over this difficulty. As the matter stands at present, if a cottage is in good repair the Guardians have no power to buy it; and the difficulty would therefore arise of the labourer having one landlord for his land and another landlord for his cottage, and that may lead to this further difficulty, that supposing the labourer displeases the landlord by taking a cottage from the Guardians, he might raise the rent for the land so as to make the house and land of no use whatever to him. What I want is to enable the Guardians to purchase any existing cottage, as as to obviate this difficulty.

Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 26, at the end of Clause 9, to insert the following sub-section: — "(c.) Any existing cottage."—(Mr Sexton.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


I am very sorry that, in spite of the ingenious argument of the hon. Member for Sligo, I am unable to support this Amendment, which would create a very great extension of the existing principle. The existing Act punishes the owner of a cottage out of repair by giving the Guardians compulsory powers of purchase; but I cannot see by what principle of equity you can give compulsory powers in the case of a cottage that is in good repair.


Because the permissive powers are null and void.


The object of the Bill is to provide suitable dwellings for the labourers; but if they have them at present, then I say it is inconsistent with the spirit of the Act to introduce the compulsory principle.


The Chief Secretary has been so attentive to the wishes of Irish Members with regard to this Bill, that I am sorry he is not able to accept this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman regards this matter from an English point of view, and not from the point of view of Ireland, where matters are very different. For my part, I know that this is one of those points which the people of Ireland consider most important, and if it is not accepted the person who will be punished will be the man who puts up a good cottage for himself. If he puts up a bad cottage, then you give him half-an-acre of land; but if he puts up a good one, then you deprive him of the benefits of this Bill.

MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)

I think the right hon. Gentleman is labouring under a mistake when he suggests that it would be a hardship to take a half-acre of land compulsorily. The owner will get a good price for it, and, therefore, I think the right hon. Gentleman has missed his point. The position will be this, that if the tenant builds a decent cottage and has no land, the Board of Guardians have no power to give him any. The cottage will not be a holding for which a fair rent can be fixed or perpetuity of tenure obtained under the Land Acts; but if the landlord's land is near by, and they give him some of that, the landlord may become so annoyed that he may put on a large rent on the cottage and drive the tenant out.


I will not press the matter further at this hour of the night; but I feel very strongly that very serious results will happen in regard to the working of the Bill, if this provision is not inserted.


This Amendment would give the Guardians the power to take the whole cottage property of Ireland without any distinction whatever, and without reference to the question of sanitary condition. It is a most extra ordinary principle, and I am glad the Government have not accepted it.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 48; Noes 66: Majority 18.—(Div. List, No. 46.)

Bill to be read the third time To-morrow.