§ [BILL 308.]
§ (Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ COMMITTEE [Progress 26th July.]
§ [THIRD NIGHT.]
§ Bill considered in. Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Amendments of General Application.
§ Clause 4 (Substitution of a written notice for execution of an ejectment).
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
On behalf of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). I beg to move the Amendment which stands in his name in line 35, page 2, before the word "in," to insert "for the space of three years after the passing of this Act." The object of this Bill, independent of Clause 1, is to bridge over a period which must necessarily intervene before any system of purchase can be carried out. Whatever form this 4th clause may ultimately assume, it is clear it ought to be confined to that period which we all desire to bridge over, and no provision permanently altering the law of the land of a serious nature ought to exist longer than the necessity for it exists. "Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." The law as it exists is strongly in favour of the landlord, and an opinion has been expressed from these Benches that the change proposed by this clause will 199 make it even worse than the provisions which are contained in the existing Statutes. Under these circumstances, I think it is only reasonable that whatever form the Bill is to assume, or whatever Amendments are to be made in it, the proposed change should only last for three years.
In page 2, line 35, before the word "in," to insert the words, "for the space of three years after the passing of this Act."—(Mr. O'Doherty.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
The hon. Gentleman, as far as I understand his argument, has based his proposal on the analogy of another proposal of the Government, which provides that the measure should only have temporary duration. But there is a distinction between that case and the case we are now considering. We support this clause not because we consider it a convenient measure for bridging over a temporary difficulty, but because we regard it as a real and permanent amendment of the law; and, therefore, we can hardly accept the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman to confine its operation to the next three years.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
We are now told that this is to be a permanent alteration of the law of Ireland, although it has been stated, over and over again, that it is only a measure of a temporary nature. Not only is it a permanent alteration, but a permanent alteration of a very serious character, dealing with one of the most important, intricate, and complicated parts of the law of Ireland concerning the relations between landlord and tenant. I find myself in a serious difficulty in regard to this clause; I find it extremely difficult to deal with it without travelling outside the four corners of the clause itself. I, therefore, think that the Committee are entitled to discuss the effect of the clause generally.
The only issue raised is the Amendment itself, which limits the operation of the clause to a period of three years.
§ MR. DILLON
I will do my best to confine myself to the Amendment, and I will give my reasons why I think we ought not to be asked to make the clause 200 permanent. In the first place, I will point out, without going into detail, how enormously over-reaching the clause is in its nature, and I think I may be allowed to indicate to what extent it effects a large portion of the landlords and tenants of Ireland. This way of dealing with the status of an ordinary tenancy, and the remedies provided for the tenants, are altogether based on the law of 1860. We have there two sections—Sections 70 and 71—which deal with the status of the tenants after a legal ejectment has been executed, and dealing also with the rights reserved to tenants in that position. It is only fair, however, to remember that the rights reserved to the tenants under these sections of the Act of 1860 are only a small modicum of the rights they were robbed of by that legislation. It is necessary that the Committee should bear in mind that at that time the Irish tenants were practically unrepresented in this House; and, consequently, that the then existing status of the tenant was swept away by that confiscatory measure passed in 1860, and the measure itself was passed without a single voice being raised against it. In fact, by an Act of gigantic fraud the whole system by which land was hold in Ireland was revolutionized and turned upside down in the interests of the landlord and against those of the tenant. Seventy or 80 Statutes were repealed by that Act; and although some small fragments of the rights of tenants were preserved by Sections 70 and 71, they were certainly of a trifling character. What the Government now propose to do by this Bill for the relief of the Irish tenants is intended to be done by an enormously long clause extending over no less than two or three sheets of the Bill, and the clause itself proposes to take away from the tenants, permanently and for ever, those small fragments of right which were reserved to them by the Act of 1860. What I contend is that if I am right in saying that this is really a clause of an over-reaching character, robbing the tenant of most of the protection left to him by the Act of 1860, at least we are entitled to ask that it should be strictly temporary in its character. The Government have not attempted to establish any case for making the Bill permanent; and, that being so, I think we are fairly entitled to demand that the 201 clause should be temporary instead of permanent. Perhaps I shall have to trespass on the indulgence of the Committee at some length before the clause is disposed of; but I shall not do so at present. There are, however, three or four points in the clause to which I am bound to call attention, and I trust that the Government will feel inclined to receive any suggestion we may make for the amendment of the clause in a frank and generous spirit The Government have stated that the clause has been drawn and conceived in the interest of the tenants rather than of the landlords. Let me, then, point out very briefly, at the outset of the discussion, three points upon which I should like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary whether the Government are ready to receive Amendments or not. In the first place, they are now seeking to deprive the tenant of what is a very substantial protection—namely, that the tenancy shall not be broken without the execution of a writ. That is undoubtedly a protection which, the law gives to him, and I would ask the Government whether they are prepared to extend the period of redemption from six months to 12 months? In the Bodyke ease the tenants got 10 months before the ejectments were executed. That is the first question I would put to the Government. The second is this—the Government have stated that their object is to improve the position of the tenants and to put a stop to evictions. Now, I want to call attention, to a point which has been raised by the lion. Member for South Kilkenny (Mr. Chance)—namely, that under this clause the moment the notice is served the tenant ceases to be a tenant, so that the day the notice is served it will be possible for the landlord to evict him. He ceases to be a tenant and becomes a caretaker, and as a caretaker he may be easily removed. The question, then, which I desire to put to the Government is whether they are willing to accept an Amendment to the clause, which will secure to the tenant that during the period which is to elapse between the serving of the notice and the expiration of the time during which he has the right of redemption he shall be in undisturbed possession of the holding. If they really want to stop evictions by the clause, surely that is the only way by which they can do so. If 202 they do not wish to rob the tenant of the protection he now enjoys—for I do think it is a protection seeing that the tenancy cannot be broken and the tenant turned into a caretaker without the execution of a painful and unpleasant process—painful to the landlord as well as to the tenant, I cannot see any other course open to them than to accept this Amendment. If they do not desire to rob the tenant of his protection, will the Government consent to extend the period for redemption and secure to the tenant that, pending the lapse of the period during which he can redeem his holding, he shall not be evicted from it? As the clause stands at present the moment the notice is served he can be evicted from the holding, and evicted in a much more easy way than it is possible for him to be evicted now. It is only a pretence, and a dishonest pretence, to say that this clause has been framed in the interests of the tenants for the purpose of avoiding evictions. These are some of the points which may simplify the discussion of the clause if we hear a satisfactory explanation from the Government. There is, however, a third point, and it is an enormously important point. We heard last night from the right lion. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), as a reason for not postponing the clause, that the tenant will get the protection of equitable jurisdiction under Clause 22. Then I would ask the Government will they agree to allow the tenant during the interval between service of the notice and the period of redemption to appeal to the Court under the Equitable Jurisdiction Clause, and thus give him a chance of stopping the eviction? If they will give the tenant that protection, I should certainly consider it a substantial concession—namely, to extend the period of redemption, and give, the tenant a chance for his life by preventing eviction, and by enabling him to come before the Court of Equitable Jurisdiction. Let me point out the enormous importance of that last provision. There are in Ireland to-day at least 10,000 ejectment decrees which have been token out, and are now in the hands of the landlords for execution. This clause will facilitate the execution of those decrees. The clause, as it stands, has absolutely no effect whatever over those 10,000 ejectment de- 203 crees. Therefore, the Government ask us to pass a clause which will facilitate the execution of ejectment decrees, and give no protection by Clause 22 to these 10,000 persons. I thank you, Mr. Courtney, for allowing me to go a little outside the Amendment; and I will now ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to make some statements on these points, which, I assure him, are of a vital character; and if he makes a satisfactory statement it may prevent the opposition which I should otherwise feel it my duty to give to the clause.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The last proposal which has been made by the hon. Member for East Mayo is that Clause 22 should be rendered retrospective in its character. That would be the effect of carrying out the suggestion he has made that the 10,000 decrees of eviction which he states to be in existence should be stayed. I do not know whether the hon. Member's figures are correct; I am inclined to think they are not; but the time to discuss his proposal will clearly be when we reach Clause 22.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Certainly the time to discuss whether Clause 22 shall be retrospective or not is when that clause is reached.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes; there is an Amendment to Clause 22 upon the Paper. The proposal of the hon. Member has no reference to the clause under discussion. The hon. Member began by saying that we are removing from the tenant the great protection which he now enjoys. The protection to which the hon. Member alludes is simply a protection which consists in the public cost and the public scandal, which have unfortunately, owing to the action of certain agitators, attended the execution of the law in Ireland. Now, Sir, that is not the kind of cheek which, in my opinion, ought to exist in regard to any law. The law may be good or it may be bad. It may require cheeks and qualifications, or it may not require checks and qualifications; but the kind of cheeks and the kind of qualifications by which the hon. Gentleman appears to set great store is, in my opinion, one 204 which ought not to exist for the public good. We think—and the whole Bill shows that we think—that it may be necessary to check the harsh use of this law; but the way to do so is by inserting such provisions as those contained in Clause 22, and not by encouraging a system which is simply that of revolution in disguise. That deals with one of the benefits which the hon. Member alleges to be removed, as far as the tenants are concerned. Any benefit which he says we are removing from the tenant consists of the length of time which, under certain circumstances, may elapse between the execution of the writ and the obtaining of the decree of execution.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes, between obtaining the decree and its execution. The hon. Member alleges—and he alleges truly—that there is a certain lapse of time between those two events, and in that lapse of time it constantly happens that arrangements are come to between the landlord and the tenant. In our Bill we give seven days. Lord Cowper's Commission did not even suggest that notice should be served upon the tenant. The mere fact that a decree had been obtained was to be sufficient.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am attempting to argue the question, and I trust that hon. Members will allow me to do so in my own way. The suggestion of Lord Cowper's Commission was that six months should run after obtaining a decree. The Government, however, did not think that that would be fair to the tenant, and they have introduced a notice to the tenant so that he should have warning of what may have taken place. By our proposal the notice is to Deserved on the tenant; and the Government are quite willing to consider some Amendment not on the lines suggested by the hon. Member, but some Amendment which will provide for a slight delay between the obtaining of the decree and the serving of the writ of ejectment upon the tenant, so that the tenant should have time to turn himself round between the obtaining of the decree and the time when the decree will be enforced. I do not understand even the hon. Gentleman to desire that any delay should take place between the 205 action of the Court and the action of the Sheriff. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that we facilitate the expulsion of caretakers by the latter part of the clause; but that, I apprehend, is an incorrect interpretation of the provision which appears in the Bill. We have practically and substantially left the law as it stands at this moment, with this change only, that we substitute the notice for the act of eviction. That is the only difference. We do not facilitate at all the expulsion of caretakers from the holding. That remains exactly where it is.
§ MR. DILLON
I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland; but I do not think that that is so. If he will look at the end of the clause, there is a careful and elaborate provision which will facilitate the expulsion of caretakers.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is quite true that at the end of the clause there is what the hon. Gentleman describes as an elaborate provision; but its object is simply to facilitate the action of the officer by whom the expulsion is to be effected. It is out of the question for the Government to accept the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman that a caretaker shall not be expelled from the holding for six months, because that would have the effect of requiring the landlord to hand over his land for six months without rent. It would practically deprive the landlord of six months' occupation of the holding, and that, I think, is a proposition which it is impossible for the Committee to accept. If you give the tenant the land for six months, practically rent free, you would give him the greatest bribe not to do that which we all want him to do—namely, to come to some arrangement with his landlord. Therefore it is out of the power of the Government to accept the suggestion which the hon. Gentleman has made to us. But the Government, as I have said, will be bound to consider some plan by which undue hurry, harshness, and pressure may be avoided in any action taken by the landlord in enforcing the decree. We cannot possibly accept a six months' interval, but there may be reasons for giving an interval of some kind. I think I have endeavoured to meet the proposals of the hon. Member as far as I can, and I have pointed 206 out the reasons why the Government cannot accept them.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I hope that when I state that I am in favour of this clause hon. Members below the Gangway will not consider that I am in favour of eviction, or of making eviction easy. There are one or two questions in regard to the clause to which I should like to call the attention of the Government. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) has spoken of six months' redemption. I conclude he means that after a man has been evicted, and put back as a caretaker, he has six months to redeem the holding. That is the popular idea; but it is well that hon. Members should understand that it is not the fact under the law of 1860. Under the Act of 1860, although a landlord may put a tenant back as caretaker at 1d. a-week, the tenant can be turned out by an order from Petty Sessions within three days or a week from the time he has been put back.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY
Will the hon. Member allow me to say that he can be turned out by the neck within an hour?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I was putting the matter as moderately as I could. I am not a lawyer, and I only speak of these things from a layman's point of view. When the tenant is put back as a caretaker, with six months for redemption, it does not follow that he is to pass those six months on his holding. Now, I think that the Government has dealt with this question very fairly. It would be utterly impossible to put a man back for six months on the holding, paying no rent, and having the entire control of the holding. The Government are willing to consider the proposition in favour of the tenants. They do not propose to alter the law as it stands, and if the landlord puts a man back as caretaker he will have the same right as he now has under the amended law. As to the point of the service of the notice itself, I am afraid I am travelling beyond the scope of the Amendment, strictly speaking, as well as other hon. Members; but I believe it will shorten discussion in the end. As to the point of the notice itself, I think that it will put an absolute stop to one-fourth of the evictions, and do away with public scandal, and what has been made so very effective as a means of agitation by hon. Members 207 below the Gangway. I prefer to keep these tenants in their holdings rather than have electioneering pabulum provided for hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway.
I have been willing to allow the discussion of the clause generally; but I think that all matters of an irritating character should be avoided, and the hon. Member is going much beyond the Question before the Committee.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I have said all I desire to say that may be regarded as being of an irritating character. In conclusion, I will only point out that the proper time to consider the question of caretakers who have been put back on their holdings will he when we reach Clause 22. I understood the Government to consent to that course when the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) was speaking last night, and that they implied that that was their idea. If that is so, and a caretaker is not in a position to avail himself of Clause 22, then he will undoubtedly be in a more dangerous position than I supposed. As to the other point regarding the retrospective character of Clause 22, I have an Amendment on that point which I propose to move at the proper time. I shall support the clause as a whole, and I hope that the Government will listen to reasonable Amendments which will not deprive the landlord of his property, and will not put either the landlord or the caretaker in a better position than he ought to occupy.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
There was not a clause of the Coercion Bill which was supported by more dishonest pretences than this clause. It has been said that the clause will get rid of double eviction, and get rid of the scandal which exists in the administration of the existing law. It will get rid of neither the one nor the other. It will tend, on the contrary, to render evictions easy, and the Government themselves must see how transparent the object is for which they are bolstering up the clause. There is no such thing as double eviction; and I challenge the Government to show whether there has ever been any trouble about what is called the second eviction. It is only an eviction in the sense that the officers of 208 the law may see that the tenant is out of the holding; and I challenge the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (MR. Gibson) to show that once a man has been put out he can go back again. If he did he would get six months under the Crimes Act. Whore, then, is the double eviction if it is impossible for the tenant to get in a second time? Then what comes of the dishonest and hypocritical pretence that the clause is to put a stop to double eviction? It is a sham and a lie.
Order, order! I must ask the hon. and learned Member to restrain the impetuosity of his language. He must be aware that the discussion is wide of the Question before the Committee, and that it can only be pursued by the indulgence of the Committee.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I have been much suprised by the language used out-of-doors by the friends of the Government. It is absurd to say that the clause will avoid scandal. It is much more likely to provoke it. There will be the same trouble and expense at evictions as before; even by the admission of the Government themselves, instead of two chances the tenant will only have one. What comes, then, of this humbugging pretence—["Order!"]—that, double evictions and scandal will be avoided? Hon. Members opposite must restrain their impatience. I am not referring to language used by the supporters of the Government in this House, but outside of it. If there can only be one eviction now, what becomes of the second pretence, that the clause is to avoid the scandal of a second eviction? The tenant has not got two chances, and when once turned out of his holding he is out and cannot get back again; we are bound to discuss this matter. We are sent here by the frieze-coated men of Ireland, who at present have to get the money they pay to the landlords from America—from the servant girls of New York; and we firmly believe that all the fear of the Government in regard to a public scandal is that we have turned the bull's-eye of the policeman's lantern too strongly upon the wretched scone. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has entirely mistaken the value which Lord Cowper and his Commission attached to this question when they recommended a 209 clause of this kind. They have no desire to save the scandal of evictions; that was an after-thought. What they want is to break the tenant's interest in the holding. They want to provide that when the landlord serves his notice the tenant shall cease to be a present tenant, and that he or his successor shall be compelled to take a lease. It has nothing to do with preventing the scandal of evictions. That is not the secret of the clause. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to show that a single scene has ever occurred at a second eviction. If the Government will prove to me that the successor of the present tenant will be able to subsist on the soil and have his full interest in it, I will make them a present of the clause. But they will not do it. More benevolent than Lord Cowper, they provide that the landlord shall send an attorney's letter and put a penny stump upon it. Let me point out what will exactly happen. The landlord will send this letter, and in six months from that time the tenant is in his power. He can put on the tenant what rent he likes. He is as much at the mercy of the landlord as a lamb would be in the fangs of a tiger. He has no hope; he is a beggared man; altogether at the mercy of the landlord. Prove that he shall have a present tenancy in the holding if, after six months, he is able to beg, borrow, or steal the money to satisfy the just demands of the landlord, and you can have your clause. It is not to get rid of the scandal of double evictions that it is presented to the Committee. It is one of the electioneering dodges of the Government.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Very well, Sir; I will say no more on that point. I will ask the Government to tell us whether they will give the tenant a present tenancy in the holding? I wish I could quote the words used many long years ago by Daniel O'Connell when this House was engaged in sweeping away, one by one, all the protections of the Irish tenant. The question was taken up eloquently by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) in 1870, and, later still, only last year, when he showed how, one by one, every point in the traditional policy of the country disappeared, and was substituted by the tyrannical and feudal policy 210 which the Irish landlords have for so long a period maintained towards their tenants. Daniel O'Connell enumerated a list of Acts of Parliament as long as my arm passed by this House in the worst periods of Irish history in order to destroy the traditional tenure of the Irish tenant. This clause, about to be passed in the Jubilee year of Her Majesty, is a fitting climax to the list, and it is introduced after you have just passed a monstrous Coercion Act. All I ask is, that you should provide the tenant with a present tenancy. You prefer to evict him; but he is Paddy O'Rafferty still. Leave him in possession of his farm and he will have to pay the rent, and ail the benefits of the legislation passed by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian will be his. I regard this clause as being so bad that it entirely outweighs the benefit conferred by the Bill. I would rather lose the Bill than see it pass with this clause in it. I regard the Bill as a valuable one; but if it pass with this clause in it, then, I say, "perish the Bill," so far as I am concerned. The Irish Members below the Gangway represent men whose only chance, when a writ of ejectment is out against them, is to get a little time to scrape the money together to pay the landlord. They will never get that time under this clause. The Government know very well that these men's tenure will be broken by the serving of a six months' notice; and it is to break the tenure more easily that the clause has been introduced. It is to save no scandal, or prevent double evictions. What I want to secure is that the subsequent tenant shall always be the successor in title to the preceding tenant. That is what the Government wish to avoid, and not the scandal which now attends evictions.
§ COLONEL WARING (Down, N.)
I hope that nothing I may say will add to the bitterness in which the discussion has been carried on. I am only going to add a very few words indeed; but I wish to ask the Government whether, under the circumstances, it is not desirable to consider the propriety of interposing an interval between the issue of the decree of the Court and the serving of the notice upon the tenant? The only wish of the landlord is to get payment of the rent of the holding, and he would not be likely to serve a notice with undue or indecent haste. There- 211 fore, I hope the Government will consider the propriety of introducing a short interval between the serving of the notice and the actual eviction. As far as I have any experience of the matter, when a man is admitted as caretaker it is intended, unless he commits waste and does injury to the property, that he shall remain there. All I can say is that, if I thought he would do that, I would take the precaution of not putting him on as caretaker at all. When made caretaker he should remain on the holding for a reasonable time, unless he showed a disposition to destroy the property left in his care. Under all the circumstances, I would suggest that the Government should take the course I have pointed out; and so far as I am concerned, and such landlords as I have the honour to represent, we should not object to some such provision.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
The Government say that this clause contains a valuable principle; that that principle they will not qualify in any degree; and that they are prepared to stand or fall by it. Practically, since last night they have thought over the matter, and it would now appear that they are not prepared to stand or fall by the principle of the clause. That is exactly what I expected, and I am not at all surprised at the course they have taken.
I have pointed out already that this is a somewhat irregular discussion, which, if permitted at all, should not be carried on in an irritating manner. I will, therefore, ask the hon. Member to confine himself strictly to the Amendment.
§ MR. CHANCE
I will obey your ruling, Sir; but it must be admitted that on some subsequent occasion it will be necessary to have a full and free discussion of the clause. I understand that the object is to put a stop to harsh and unnecessary evictions. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) stated last night, in most positive terms, that the result of this clause would be to suspend or postpone evictions for six months after obtaining the decree of eviction. Now, I want to point out to the Committee two things in regard to this clause. The first is that in order to secure the eviction of the tenant it will only be necessary for the landlord to serve a notice. 212 The landlord will reap all the benefit of the clause, which does not tie his hands in any way, while he does not confer on the tenant the slightest right or protection. Some remarks have been made about the existing state of the law; but I think they are altogether beside the question. I will not attempt to defend the present state of the law. It is admitted that it leads to harsh and unnecessary evictions; but I would ask the Government to tell me what the tenants will get under this clause? The clause is said to have been introduced, to some extent, for his advantage and his benefit, and I want to know what it gives him? It is provided, under the present law, that when once the decree of ejectment has been obtained that judgment may be executed, and the tenant put out of the holding. When the decree of ejectment has been obtained, the landlord may not, if he so chooses, evict the tenant on the spot; but he can, under this clause, serve him with a written notice, which would have the effect of instantly reducing him to the position of caretaker, and all the interest which depends on his legal tenancy would be determined. It does not give the tenant six months; it does not give him six weeks; it does not give him a respite of six hours; immediately after the notice is served the tenant may be put out. In eases where the operation of the clause may be compulsory it gives him no protection whatever, and landlords who have used the present law harshly will be inclined to use the new law still more harshly, because they will be able to serve a notice through the post with a penny stamp upon it. Well, they assert, then, that a notice served on the tenant will leave him in precisely the same position as if this clause never existed. The tenant has now six months to redeem the holding, and those six months will not commence to run until he has been actually evicted. That is a certain protection to the tenant, because before the six months begin to run not only must he go out, but every subtenant under him must go out also. Moreover, he has the fullest and most ample notice that the six months are commencing to expire. Therefore, while it is impossible to deprive the landlord of his rent during the period which must elapse for redemption under the present law, the landlord can only make a tem- 213 porary letting during the six months, a thing it would be almost impossible to do. The tenant, therefore, would be retained, and would be bound to pay the rent for six months. If the landlord allows the tenant to remain there for the six months he cannot be deprived of his rent to the extent of one penny; but, at the same time, he cannot evict. Under this clause the whole period of redemption may have commenced to run, and although the tenant is on the holding he may not have received his notice. It may have been posted on the police barracks; the time may be going on; and it really means eviction without the slightest hope hereafter for the tenant, and the eviction which would be likely to be opposed to every extremity by the person whom the landlord seeks to evict. At present when a tenant is evicted not only is it the tenant who is dealt with, but the sub-tenants also, although they get notice that if they want relief they had bettor go to the Read tenant and come to some arrangement. This clause says, on page 3—Such notice may be in the form contained in the Schedule to this Act, or to the like effect, and may he served by the person entitled to the possession of land under a judgment in ejectment for non-payment of rent, upon every person served with the writ or process in such ejectment who at the time of the service of the notice shall he in possession of such land, and if no such person is in possession, it may be posted in the prescribed manner; and a copy of such notice shall be filed in the Court in which such action is pending within the prescribed time. Upon such service or posting the tenancy in the holding shall be determined as if a writ of possession under the judgment has been duly executed.We then come to paragraph 2 of the clause, which is to the effect that—Every person upon whom such notice is served shall thereupon be deemed to be a person put into possession as a caretaker, and the enactments of 'The Landlord and Tenant Law Amendment Act (Ireland) 1860,' relating; to persons put into possession of lands by permission of the owner as caretakers shall apply as if on the date of the service of the notice a writ of possession had been duly executed, and such person, having been removed from possession, had been re-admitted as caretaker.If the notice is served on the Read tenant alone he is the caretaker, and when once the notice is served the tenancy is absolutely determined, and also that of all sub-tenants, without a particle of notice being given to the sub-tenants. The sub-tenants can, in fact, be dispossessed entirely without notice.
At any rate, the notice may be fixed to the wall of the police barracks without being served on the sub-tenants at all. So much for the dissent of the right hon. and learned Gentleman; but the clause does not end there, because if hon. Members will look at the end of it they will find the following words:—In this section expressions referring to the service of a notice upon persons in possession of land shall include the posting of a notice where no person is in possession.Provision is also made in this clause for the execution of a decree by special bailiffs. Anyone who has followed the course of events in Ireland will know that where the Sheriff and the police have had the matter of evictions wholly in their hands there has been less hardship, disturbance, and trouble than when the landlords have had it wholly in their own hands with the assistance of Emergency men who are the servants of the Property Defence Association, and who have often acted with the greatest brutality. The Government find a substitute for eviction by the Sheriff; they take power under this clause to put the execution of the decree of ejectment in the hands of men like Wood, who has disgraced himself in every way. I think it would be far kinder to the tenants to enact that the execution of decrees should only be effected by the Sheriffs' bailiffs, who perform their duties with far leas heartlessness. The clause, as it stands, will, in my opinion, lead to much friction and trouble, and there will be far more brutality than has been experienced up to the present. I hold that the tenant would derive no benefit from the clause; it would, on the other hand, improve the landlord's position, because it would have the effect of shortening the period within which the tenant can redeem. Lastly, I maintain that the effect of the clause would not be, as at present, to postpone for six months unnecessary and harsh evictions.
§ MR. GIBSON
The hon. Member for East Mayo has suggested a large number of Amendments to this clause. Possibly the discussion of those Amendments might be facilitated if some of the difficulties he suggested could be met in any way. The speech of the 215 hon. Member was replied to by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland; but since then the discussion has assumed a very polemical aspect, ranging over the entire clause, and embracing the whole of the matters which will have to be discussed when the clause, as amended, is finally put to the Committee. I do not think that any Member of the House below the Gangway has any reason to complain of the way in which my right hon. Friend met the observations of the hon. Member for East Mayo. It was suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Down (Colonel Waring) that it might be possible to meet one difficulty which has been suggested and discussed in all parts of the House—namely, that there should be an interval between, the judgment and its execution. It has been said that the judgment may be possibly unknown to the tenant, and that there is also a danger of his attention not being called to the notice. My hon. and gallant Friend suggests that there should be a short interval between obtaining the judgment decree and the execution of a formal notice. That is a suggestion which is worthy of consideration and discussion at the proper time, and the Government will not be prepared to approach the consideration of that question in any unfriendly spirit. The Government have never vacillated in their view the importance of the clause; but, as far as it has been possible, they have shown that they are prepared to deal with the question in a fair spirit. Nevertheless, the discussion has proceeded, and the hon. Member for South Kilkenny (Mr. Chance) has taunted the Government with having abandoned the position they took yesterday in regard to the clause. I do not know why a disposition to consider the matter in a fair and proper spirit should be regarded as an abandonment of the principle of the clause. The hon. Member taunts us with a want of firmness in not adhering to our own declarations; so that his complaint of the Government is that they are willing to consider every suggestion for the Amendment of the clause in a fair and equitable spirit. The hon. Member thinks that is a proper reason for taunting them, and for prolonging the discussion. I understood that the object of the discussion was to remove certain difficulties, 216 so that hon. Members might abandon unnecessary Amendments after they had ascertained the views of the Government. As I have said, the Government acknowledge the importance of this clause. The intention of the clause is this—that instead of unnecessary expense and harsh evictions, involving hardship upon many persons, a notice should be substituted; and in the opinion of the Government that notice will have the effect of making it unnecessary to expose the tenants, in a great majority of instances, to the necessity of being put out of their holding. I will tell hon. Members exactly how the notice will work, because I do not think it was very clearly put to the House by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy). The way in which the law works at present is this. If it is found necessary to evict the tenants of 1,000 holdings in Ireland, and to enforce ejectments for non-payment of rent, the landlord is obliged, by going through the necessary forms, to put every tenant out of his holding lock, stock, and barrel. That is a necessary condition precedent before he can get any advantage from the ejectment decree at all. If the landlord finds it necessary to resort to an ejectment, in order to obtain the slightest advantage from the decision of the Court it is necessary to have this complete dispossession, and to carry it out within a certain limit of time. According to the computation of the Government, it has not been found necessary to put out more than 300 tenants out of 1,000 decrees obtained. Consequently, it is necessary, where there are only 300 effective evictions, to put 1,000 families to the pain and expense which is occasioned to them by executing writs of ejectment. It is necessary to enforce the ejectments before the landlord's rights will commence to run; and the Government propose to substitute for the present mode of procedure a more inexpensive and natural operation, such as the serving of a notice. Then afterwards, if it is found necessary in consequence of the parties not coming to terms, the decree may be enforced. At present, when a judgment in ejectment is executed most of the tenants are allowed to go back as caretakers, and if the landlord is not able to come to terms then he has to enforce the decree, and to 217 put them out of the character of caretakers. What we propose to do is to substitute for the formal eviction, which is now necessary in order to give effect to the ejectment, the service of a notice, and we should be quite ready to consider the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member for North Down that an interval shall be allowed to run between the delivery of the ejectment decree and the action of the notice which is substituted for the decree of the Court. Some other matters have been discussed: but it would be rather inconvenient if I were to refer to them now. This discussion, which was entered into in order to facilitate the disposal of the Amendment, has already occupied an hour. There was, however, one matter in which the hon. Member for South Kilkenny was completely in error. [Mr. CHANCE dissented.] The hon. Member shakes his Read, but he cannot shake the section out of the Act of Parliament. I refer to the provision of the section with regard to the service of notice. The hon. Member said that the clause only requires notice to be served on the chief tenant, and that the under tenants on the property will know nothing about it. Now, I say to the hon. Member, with full knowledge of the clause and of the sections of the Act of Parliament which govern it, that he is wholly incorrect. It is necessary to serve under the 55th section of the Act of 1860 a notice of ejectment on every tenant who holds under a Read tenant, so that in order to get a valid ejectment notice must be served upon every one of them.
§ MR. GIBSON
"Who at the time of the serving of the notice shall be in possession of the land as tenants or under-tenants." What I call the attention of the Committee to is that the persons to be served with notices of eviction are the tenants, and the whole of them must be served with notices if they remain in possession. I think that the hon. Member has mistaken the meaning of the clause, and all I mention the matter for is to point out that I do not agree with him in his view. I would now venture to suggest, as an hour and a quarter have already been occupied in this dis- 218 cussion, that the Committee should proceed at once to discuss the Amendments which are very numerous—almost as thick as snowflakes.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
I wish the Government would definitely make up their minds whether this clause of the Bill will be of advantage to the landlord or the tenant. That point once settled would greatly clear the ground for the purpose of arguing the clause. We are now met with a double set of arguments. We are told when we say it is for the benefit of the landlord that it is nothing of the kind, and when we argue the other way and say that it may be for the benefit of the tenant we are met with a contrary declaration. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson) appears clearly to have made up his mind, because he has spoken in the loftiest and most off hand manner of the landlord evicting 1,000 tenants, and he appears to have made up very satisfactorily to his own. mind for whose benefit this clause is introduced into the Bill. I, for one, am inclined to get rid of the contention which was originated, I think, not for consumption in this House, but for consumption "elsewhere," that there is nothing in this clause which is hostile to the unfortunate Irish tenant. Why do we oppose the clause, and insist that the law as it stands in the matter of redemption is more favourable to the tenant than the law as it will be if this Bill passes? What is the present state of things? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary tells us that what we want is the odium of evictions and the public scandal which now attends their enforcement——
Order, order I have already on three occasions endeavoured to stop that form of discussion. In my opinion these questions have been sufficiently discussed, and I invite the hon. Member to address himself to the Question directly before the Committee.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
I can assure you. Sir, that I do not approach the consideration of the clause in a contentious spirit, and I intend to address myself to the direct operation of the clause. My object is to show why the clause is objectionable, and I think that in that direction what I am about to say will be relevant. What we desire is that the process of eviction should con- 219 tinue to be, as at present, as troublesome to the landlord, for various reasons, as it is now. The very fact that it is troublesome to the landlord is a protection to the landlord. That is my argument, and I do not know that I need elaborate it. What is the present stale of things? The Irish landlord is not a very soft-hearted person; but even to the Irish landlord eviction is so odious and so unpleasant that he will hesitate before he goes to the extreme length of the law. The effect of that is seen in the fact mentioned by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland—that out of 1,000 decrees of eviction, in the interval which elapses between the obtaining of the writs and their ultimate execution, scarcely one in 10 is carried out. Now, I venture to say, and I have had some little experience of the matter, that not one in 10 of the writs of eviction or decrees of ejectment for nonpayment of rent obtained by the landlords is ever put in execution. I will further say that of those which are put in execution, not one in 10 is put in execution immediately, or without a very long interval of time between the time at which they were obtained and the time they were put in execution. That is our whole ease. The tenant has that protection precisely because eviction in Ireland is a troublesome and unpleasant process—a process which brings odium and public notoriety on any person who freely indulges in it—and no Irish landlord will resort to it, except in what he may consider an extreme case. I invite hon. Members opposite to consider whether that is not a more reasonable explanation of our attitude in regard to the clause than the suggestion that we desire to keep up the scandal of evictions for some ulterior electioneering purposes? On the contrary, I may say that if the clause was really what it professes to be—a means of putting a stop to evictions, an agent for rendering evictions pure and preventing them in large numbers—there is no section of this House which would jump at it more readily than hon. Members who sit on these Benches. What is the argument of the Government on this point? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland has dealt in a light-hearted manner with the case of a landlord who wants to evict 1,000 of his tenants, and he says 220 that at the present time, before he can get rid of them, he must go through the unpleasant process of putting every one of them out, "lock, stock, and barrel." He tells us, however, that when the time of redemption is about to expire, and the last day of grace has come, three-fourths of these 1,000 tenants in some way manage to settle their differences with their landlords, and ultimately only one-fourth are evicted. Now, why do the three-fourths remain? It is because they are absolutely at the mercy of the landlord, and have no alternative but to accept the terms he chooses to force upon them. What have we witnessed in Kerry in the last six months? We have seen the Sheriff going out with a writ of eviction in one hand and an agreement of purchase in the other—using the one as a crowbar to enforce the other. If this clause passes there will be no longer any necessity for that. The landlord will not have to send out the Sheriff at all. All he will have to do will be to serve a notice with a penny stamp on it, and the process will be quite as effective as if he had all the machinery of the law at his back. That is the answer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's statement about the 1,000 tenants, three-fourths of whom settle. They settle because they are at the landlord's mercy, and because they are willing to do anything and offer anything rather than take the only alternative open to them—namely, to walk to the workhouse door or beg their bread on the public road. This is a monstrous proposition, because the tenant is helpless and must accept whatever his landlord offers him. Is it desirable that, in such a state of things, the process of eviction should be rendered less troublesome to the landlord than that to which the landlord is compelled to resort at present? If this clause passes the mere posting of a letter to the tenant will be sufficient. I was quite impressed with one argument which fell from the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) on the second reading of the Bill. He said that the person he feared when the clause came to be put in force was not the landlord, but the solicitor or attorney. Now, let me tell the Committee that that was a most just and far-reaching observation. Hon. Members opposite seem to think that the landlords will only serve those 221 notices which are to determine the tenancy in the same sense as they would put the tenants out ultimately. But that is not the case. It would be the duty of the solicitor who obtained the ejectment decree to serve a notice the very day after he got it. Any solicitor worth his salt, or who knew his business, would be bound, in the interests of his client, to serve the notice, and instead of having a few decrees in 10,000 executed, you would have this notice to determine the tenant's interest served in every ease in which a decree of ejectment for nonpayment of rent has been obtained. That is my real answer to this clause. Instead of one ease in which the landlord resorts to eviction there would be 100 in which the notice would be served; and that is the reason why I shall continue to offer a strenuous opposition to the clause. Great stress has been laid on the enormous concession the Government has made in not accepting the Report of the Cowper Commission in all its nakedness—namely, in letting six months run from the date of the ejectment decree. Now, that does not make the smallest difference. It would be the duty of the solicitor, when he got the ejectment, to serve the notice, as the consequence necessarily resulting from the decree, and any solicitor who neglected to do so would be neglecting the interests of his client. That being so, so far from the clause diminishing evictions—so far from it, in any way, decreasing the number of cases in which the last extremity of the law would be ultimately resorted to—the effect of the clause will be to increase the cases of eviction one hundredfold by the facilities which the law will give to the landlord and his agents. There was one great point made by the Chief Secretary. We in this quarter of the House have pointed out, and justly pointed out, what the effect of this clause is. The general impression is that the tenant can remain in occupation during the six months allowed for redemption. The fact is, that the very day after the notice is served he may be put out—put out not merely by a magistrate's order, but put out without any legal process whatever. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary deems it a sufficient answer to say that that is the existing law. We were told when the Bill was introduced that the Irish tenants were to get somecon- 222 sideration for what was to be taken from them, and we were further told that that consideration was an extra six months on his holding. We do not hoar now that he is to get anything of the kind. The Government are determined to take the law as it stands, and to deprive the tenant of every protection by insisting on this process in regard to evictions. They leave the law as it stands at present, and they enable the tenant to be put out of the holding the very day the notice has been served. What is the effect of that? Of course, it is necessary to facilitate the process of eviction. The landlord now has first to get his ejectment; he has then to serve a notice on the relieving officer; he has then to put the writ into the hands of the Sheriff for execution; and the result is that, in a majority of cases, months and months, and sometimes years, elapse before the writ is executed. Indeed, I have known landlords allow the decree to lapse before putting it into operation, because they knew they would have to go through the unpleasant process of carrying out the eviction. But when this clause is enacted, all the landlord will have to do will be to serve his notice, and the very day after he can either send his servants to the tenant's house and put him out without legal process, or he can go to the nearest Magisterial Bench and get an order from the magistrate, which I suppose will be executed, as all his orders are, without any of that fuss and unpleasantness which hon. Gentlemen opposite so much object to. We protest against the claim that the tenant is getting anything from this clause. The assertion that he is getting an extra six months upon the land is the merest show and presence. On the contrary, the tenant will be more helpless than he is under the present law, and in consideration of being put in that helpless condition he will not get a single additional day on his holding which the law does not now give him. These are a formidable set of reasons why we should resist this clause in its present shape, seeing that it is so much more overreaching than the law as it now exists. It is not only an obnoxious but a dangerous clause—a clause which has no object but to facilitate evictions and to make the position of the unfortunate Irish tenant ten times more helpless than it is now. Sitting on these Benches we 223 should be false to our duty if we do not fight every line, word, and even comma of the clause.
I have repeatedly pointed out that this discussion is irregular in its character. It originated with the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), who submitted three points to the consideration of the Government, an answer to which he thought might facilitate the consideration of the clause. For that purpose, perhaps, discussion was convenient; but the procedure has now degenerated into a discussion of the entire clause. It is therefore right, I think, that the discussion should cease, and that we should come back to the Amendment before the Committee, which is to leave out the word "in" and insert "for the space of three years after the passing of this Act." The Question is, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. O'DOHERTY
As I had the honour of moving the Amendment, and had not intended to go into the whole subject, I think it is only proper that I should correct an error into which the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland has fallen in respect of proceedings against the caretaker.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY
Then I have nothing to add to what I have already stated. I do not think that I have been answered by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland in the arguments upon which I have based my proposal for making the clause correspond to the temporary period which was to bridge over the arrangement between landlord and tenant, until purchase comes in. Up to this moment I have heard no answer to that part of the question. Indeed, it seemed to be unanswerable, although the right hon. Gentleman admits himself that the provisions made for reduction of rent, which will follow that period, are also to be confined to three years. His only answer was that there was no analogy between the two things.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
Before the discussion closes I should like to say a few words in order to explain why I think the clause ought to be a temporary and not a permanent one. The question immediately before us is, as far as I can understand, a very 224 difficult and highly technical question I had no very strong feeling against the clause when I first read it, and I thought there was a good deal to say in its favour. It appeared to me that it was desirable to do away with what has been called the double evictions; but after the discussion which has taken place, I think the Irish Members have made out a strong case against the clause. Under those circumstances, I think it scarcely worth while for the Government to press the clause without, at all events, some attempt to give it a temporary character. What is the real effect and purpose of the clause? It is introduced for the purpose of substituting a written notice for the process of first eviction. What would be the legal effect of that? The tenancy would be broken, and the tenant would cease to be a present tenant, and simply become a caretaker.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I do not think I am mistaken. No doubt the tenant would have the power of redemption; but he would be converted into a future tenant instead of a present tenant. What would a bad landlord do, and nobody can doubt that there are bad landlords in Ireland? Let me put the case, as suggested by the Attorney General for Ireland, in which a landlord seeks to get rid of 1,000 tenants. He can only get rid of them at present by breaking the tenancy of every one of them, and ousting every one from his holding. By this clause he would be able by a simple paper notice to convert them into mere caretakers. It does not follow that he is to go further, but being reduced to the position of caretaker, the tenant will be at the mercy of the landlord, who may reject him at any moment. He may convert him into a future tenant, and leave him in that position month after month, and year after year. It therefore appears that under this clause there is a possibility of making a material and substantial change in the future position of the tenants of Ireland. I should not be surprised if, under this clause, a largo number of the tenants wore converted into caretakers, and their status materially altered in future. Under these circumstances, it is worth while to consider whether the clause ought to be made of a permanent cha- 225 racter. If so, let us be satisfied of the justice of the change before we make that permanent alteration in the law of a substantial character, and place such a powerful weapon in the hands of bad landlords, who may make a most improper use of it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) appears to be under the impression that we are doing something to the tenant in the way of breaking his tenancy, which is not done in the law as it at present stands. We are doing nothing of the kind. Under the law, as it at present stands, the tenant is entitled to be evicted out of the holding, or left as a caretaker. If he has the power of redemption, and if he exercises that power of redemption within six months, he does not become a future tenant, but will be a present tenant under the old tenancy. [Mr. SHAW LEFEVRE dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman shakes his Read. I assure him he is wrong in his law. If we were of opinion that the effect of the clause we propose would be to break the tenancy, and make a man a future tenant who would not otherwise be a future tenant, we should certainly modify the clause. But I assure the right hon. Gentleman that he is wrong in his law. Then the right hon. Gentleman tells us that the clause gives increasing facilities to the landlords, by which they will be able to convert their tenants into caretakers. That argument I have already answered from a broad view of the Bill. I venture to point out to the Committee that what hon. Gentlemen appear to value is a chock which amounts to a revolution—namely, the chock upon the exercise of the landlords' rights by requiring him to incur the odium and traceable of resorting to eviction. Where a landlord resorts to eviction it now becomes necessary to employ hundreds of policemen, hundreds of soldiers, and practically to enter upon a siege, and thus there has been brought about a form of civil war. We do not think that that is a proper check to apply to any law. Apply any other chock if you like. We have applied other checks, and the right hon. Gentleman has made no allusion to those other checks which are a material and integral part of the policy of the Government—I refer to Clause 22, under 226 which the Court has a discretionary power to stay proceedings, and to reduce oven judicial rents when they become harsh owing to a fall in prices. If we succeed in carrying through the Committee the further remedial measures which we have put on the Paper it will be impossible to carry out harsh evictions. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will see that we have put a proper kind of check upon the abuse of the law such as that which he appears to fear. I hope he will see that I have met his arguments, which are based upon a misrepresentation of the effect of this clause; and I hope he will also recollect that the proper corollary to making this clause temporary would be to make Clause 22 temporary. A proposal to that effect was made in the House of Lords; but it was resisted by the Government. Of course, if anything of this kind in regard to the present clause were carried against the wishes of the Government, and the clause were made temporary, it would be absolutely necessary to make Clause 22 temporary, and to enact that it should last for three years only.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
The right hon. Gentleman has misinterpreted what I said in regard to the law. I did not for a moment pretend that caretakers called into operation under this Bill would have any other position than the legal position of caretakers under the law, as it now stands, I do not deny that they will have the equity of redemption, and that these status will be ignored if they do redeem. What I said was that the Government, by this clause, are putting into the hands of the landlords the power of creating a larger number of their tenants caretakers by serving them with a simple notice, and I feel, convinced that bad landlords will avail themselves of that opportunity in regard to tenants who are unable to pay their rents.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
I express my regret that I was not in my place to move this Amendment, but which has been moved in my absence by my hon. Friend the Member for North Donegal (Mr. O'Doherty). I desire to confine myself, Mr. Chairman, strictly within your ruling, and if, in speaking upon the question, I trespass beyond the line which you have most properly laid down it will be entirely the result of inad- 227 vertence. Owing to the fact that we were not in a position to know the form in which this Bill would pass through Committee I have pressed upon the Government the desirability of postponing the consideration of this clause, and I would again urge upon them the necessity of postponing it until, at all events, Clause 22 has been considered. I wish to point out that my attitude, and the attitude of my hon. Friends, with regard to this clause will depend very much upon the form of that clause, and upon effectual protection being given to the tenants by the remainder of the Bill in the way of preventing evictions, providing for the reduction of unfair rents, and the manner in which it is intended to deal with the question of arrears. If these three points are fairly provided for I think this clause might pass without any very great danger, at all events, if it be limited to a period of three years. I do not join with my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) in saying that, under any circumstances, no matter what this Bill may become, I would consider it my duty to oppose the clause, as he intimated his intention of doing last night, with unceasing pertinacity. If we postpone the clause we shall be in a position thoroughly to weigh the balance between the risk of losing the Bill on the one hand, and the undoubted risk which will be incurred if the clause is passed in its present form, and if the Bill does not eventually contain those provisions on behalf of the tenants which I have alluded to. Now, these are matters of grave importance, and their ultimate issue must influence our action very largely. We are not now in a position to judge of the extent to which the opposition to this clause ought to be carried at present. I do not think I was fairly met by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A, J. Balfour) last night, when he said that my speech was intended to convey cither a warning or a threat. I submit that it was not intended to convoy either a warning or a threat, and that it was unfair on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to characterize it as he did, without attempting to point to a single passage in the whole speech which could be held to indicate such intention. Now, the effect of the clause has undoubtedly been very fairly explained by the right 228 hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) and the clause undoubtedly does give the landlord power in the case of a tenant in arrear of rent by serving a paper notice upon him, and without taking further steps to constitute that tenant a caretaker. At present that cannot be so; he need not evict the tenant until six months have passed, but he can evict him on the next day, and in that respect the position of the tenant is not altered because the landlord can evict him in the same manner as he can under the present law. Under the present law the status of the tenant cannot be interfered with before process of eviction, and before that is obtained there is time in which negotiations may take place between the landlord and the tenant, and which undoubtedly have prevented hitherto many evictions. But if this clause be passed it will not be necessary for the landlord to resort to the process of eviction. Even in the case of 12 months' arrears, and practically as regards six months' gale, although not always, it will not be possible for the landlord to deprive the tenant of his status. It is said that the tenant can re-instate himself within the period of six months, but he can only re-instate himself with the consent of the landlord. Even if he pays the rent and costs after the receipt of notice that will not re-instate him in his position as tenant. He must apply for the right of restitution, and that is an expensive and difficult process, because no tenant can apply personally to the Court; it will be necessary for him to engage a solicitor. Whereas the landlord by this inexpensive form of process is able to get rid of the status of the tenant, the tenant on the other hand, although he pays up all the rent and costs, is not able to recover his status without going to several pounds expense, and I believe that the granting of the right of restitution is at the discretion of the Court, and that an appeal lies against the decision of the Court. Now, these are grave perils in the way of ignorant tenants throughout Ireland, and I ask what prospect there is of many of them knowing anything about their position with regard to recovering their status, and the means which they ought to adopt for that purpose? I think there is very little chance of their recovering their position, and 229 unless the Bill really raises an effectual barrier to the immediate action of the landlord by interfering with the proceedings under Clause 22, we shall have seriously to consider our position with regard to the Bill—we shall have to balance the pros and cons, and we shall have to consider on one side the effect of giving up the Bill as compared with the opposite course. This is a question which will have to be fully considered, and I would remind hon. Gentlemen who represent constituencies in the North of Ireland, that they incur a very grave responsibility in supporting this clause, which would not be in the Bill at all but for their support. I think I have shown no desire to press the Government unfairly, or urge them to make undue concessions by prolonging debate in reference to any part of this Bill, and I shall be no party to prolonging debate on this clause, or asking the Government to make any undue concessions with regard to it. But the position is a very serious and. grave one, if Clause 22 does not give the protection necessary to do away with the evils brought into the situation by the adoption of this clause. I hope, therefore, that the clause will be postponed, and that we shall be able to go forward with non-contentious matter.
I point out to the hon. Member with respect to his suggestion that the clause should be postponed until after Clause 22 has been disposed of, that the Committee last night decided against the postponement altogether, and a further proposal to that effect cannot now be made.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The remarks of the hon. Member for Cork divide themselves into two portions, one of which deals with general policy, and the other with legal questions relative to the clause. I think we have discussed the legal points sufficiently, but I may remind the hon. Gentleman that this clause does not make any alteration whatever in the status of the tenant as the hon. Member supposes. It substitutes, no doubt, a notice for process of eviction, but with that single change it leaves the status of the tenant after the notice exactly where it was. I think the hon. Member is under a wrong impression as to what the law is at present. He 230 alluded to the fact that the landlords and tenants habitually came to some arrangement, or, at least, had the opportunity of doing so. I regret that the hon. Member was not in the House when I made my first statement this morning, at which time I admitted that it was the duty of the Government to consider, and that they were prepared to consider, whether there might not be some slight delay interposed between the obtaining of the decree and the serving of notice upon the tenant.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Then the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying that if he heard me making the statement he did not allude to it in his speech. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that while this clause cheapened the procedure of the landlord it left the procedure of the tenant as costly as at present, and he gave a description to the House of the cost to which the tenant would be put in endeavouring to re-instate himself as present tenant. The process to which the hon. Member refers is a writ of restitution; but I believe that, as a matter of fact, that is not the common method by which a tenant is re-instated. The hon. Member went on to complain of my representation last night that his speech had conveyed to the Government a warning or a threat. I at once withdraw the word "threat" as having possibly an unfair application; but I certainly understood the hon. Member last night to give a warning, and I certainly understood him this morning to repeat that warning. If I understand him aright he said that he intends to balance in his mind whether he should not destroy the measure which the Government have brought in to relieve the tenants in Ireland, and if that is not a warning I am at a loss to attach any meaning to the word.
§ MR. PARNELL
I spoke with reference to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Member has stated that he should consider whether he would wreck the Bill if this clause were retained, and the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) I also understood to say—" Perish the Bill if this clause remains in it!" Therefore, I think I am not misdescribing the action of hon. 231 Members opposite, when I say that they are actually hesitating whether they shall destroy the largest measure of relief for the Irish tenants ever introduced, merely because the Government have added to the Bill a clause relating to a legal process, and one which we hold as beneficial to the tenant, and an enormous gain to the cause of law and order in Ireland. I hope the hon. Member will withdraw the warning he has given, and that he will not reproach the Liberal Unionists in this House with having endangered the passing of the Bill by the aid they have given to the Government. The hon. Member knows that Clause 22 is not the only clause of an equitable nature by which we propose to restrain evictions. The Government presents it in conjunction with other clauses which will prevent the extra powers, if extra powers there be, from being harshly enforced by the landlords. The hon. Member wants to postpone the clause until he sees what happens with regard to the other clauses of the Bill; but there are hon. Gentlemen who may wish to postpone other clauses until they sue what becomes of this clause. The truth is that the whole of this Bill is connected in its parts, and you must discuss those parts in regular order. The remedy which, the procedure of the House applies to the difficulty lies in the fact that there is a later stage—the Report stage—on which the House can consider the Bill as a whole. The hon. Gentleman will then be able to consider this clause as it leaves the Committee in connection with Clause 22 in the form in which the latter leaves the Committee, and if hon. Members feel seriously that the evils inflicted on the Irish tenants by the Bill outweigh the advantages given to them, it will then be time enough to wreck the Bill. I hope the hon. Member will see that, if this measure does not give all that he desires, it gives him, at any rate, more than he has ever yet been able to obtain from any former Government.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I did not hear the whole of the speech of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), but I have been in time to hear some of the observations which he addressed to myself. He told us to consider carefully what we were doing in this matter, because this clause would not be in the Bill, but for our 232 I support. I do not think the hon. Member is entitled to say that we have had anything to do with the introduction of this clause or any other clause of the Bill. We have given our support to it because we think it is something which will be of advantage to many tenants, and of enormous advantage to law and order in Ireland. I am prepared to go through with my support of the Government in respect to this clause, although I desire to see it made as lenient as possible for the tenants; and if the Government stand by it we shall vote for them. [Ironical cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen may cheer, but I hope they will do us the justice to think that we have done our best for the tenant farmers in Ireland. The hon. Member for Cork stated that it would become the duty of himself and his Friends, if this clause were persisted in, to consider whether they should not allow the Bill to go rather than accept it under the circumstances. That, at least, is what I understand him to say, and that is what the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has just said he understood. Now, I have had during the last week the advantage of seeing a deputation of Ulster tenant farmers, who came to consult with me and my hon. Friend the Member for South Londonderry (Mr. Lea). I took pains to place this clause before them and consult them upon it, and it was their deliberate opinion that it ought to be supported by my hon. Friend and myself. What I wish to tell hon. Members below the Gangway is that if they are going to run the risk of wrecking this beneficent measure for the sake of Clause 4 which is offensive to them, and which they think to be against the interest of certain farmers in Ireland, they will take a vast responsibility on their shoulders. I say that this is the best measure that has ever been introduced for the tenants in Ireland: I believe that it is only under exceptional circumstances that such a measure could be passed, and speaking in the name of a section of the farmers of Ulster—[Cries of" Oh, oh "]—I am quite prepared to compete with the hon. Member for Cork for the confidence of the Ulster tenant farmers, and I say that if the hon. Member and his Friends run the risk of this Bill being lost for the sake of the 4th clause, they will take upon themselves the heaviest responsibility that mortal men ever undertook in 233 this House, and will do the tenant farmers of Ireland irreparable injury.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I rise to enter a protest against the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) saying that he speaks in the name of the farmers of Ulster.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
The hon. Member said nothing about a section, and, seeing that he and the hon. Member for South Londonderry are the only two out of all the Ulster Members, the hon. Member's pretension goes beyond the limits of reason and endurance. I am disappointed at the way in which the Government have received the remarks of the hon. Member for Cork. You, Mr. Chairman, have found it necessary to restrain the language of some Members who have spoken on this clause; but I say that it requires all a man's self-control to speak on a clause which is defended in this manner by the Government. Here is a clause which will work enormous evil to the Irish tenant farmers, but which is defended as a been to them. I think I am, under those circumstances, entitled to demand a little patience at the hands of the Committee in dealing with arguments so utterly contrary to common sense. The hon. Gentleman threatens us with all kinds of pains and penalties if the Bill be lost; but if any pains and penalties rest upon any section of the House it is with the Government for insisting on a clause which is condemned by an important Member of their own Party. In this matter the Government are going in opposition to the counsel of their own Friends; and the responsibility for what may occur will rest, in the first place, upon them, and, in the next, on those hon. Members above the Gangway who call themselves Liberal Unionists.
I must ask the hon. Member to coniine his observations to the Question before the Committee.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I was referring to some observations of the hon. Member for South Tyrone. I will not, however, attempt to interfere with your ruling. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland stated over and over again that this clause would make no difference in the status of the 234 tenant. That, at all events, is inaccurate and unfounded. The clause in its present form will most seriously endanger the status of the tenants. At the present moment the almost universal custom is that 12 months should elapse between the time when the judgment is obtained and eviction.
I must again call the hon. Member's attention to the point before the Committee, which is whether this clause is to be temporary or permanent in its action.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I feel that I am speaking rather under difficulties, because I understand the right hon, Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to have raised the question as to the position in which the Bill at present stands before the House, and the attitude which a section of the House may be compelled to take up with regard to it. I am pointing out that we are compelled to take up an attitude of hostility if the Government are not prepared to modify this clause. The right hon. Gentleman has thrown out some hints of what he is prepared to do, but I think it would have been well if he had been a little more definite. He has not given us any guarantee that he would make a change in the clause that would safeguard the tenants against eviction by the protection which Clause 22 is intended to give them. Why does not the right hon. Gentleman state the limit of time which he is ready to grant between the ejectment judgment and the issue of the notice? If the right hon. Gentleman will not offer explanations on these points, it is he who will be responsible for the prolongation of this debate, and for any further opposition there may be on this subject. So far as we on these Benches are concerned, we are quite right in taking what responsibility we may in this matter. The tenant farmers of Ireland know that we have been their friends in the past, in season and out of season, fighting both political Parties in their behalf, and we feel satisfied that our country will be able to judge on whom the responsibility rests for anything that may be detrimental to their interest.
§ MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
I am bound to say that my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) is well known to represent many thousands of tenant farmers in Ulster, and that he has given expres- 235 sion to their views on this question. On the serious point as to the wrecking of this Bill, if Clause 4 is retained, I wish to make a few observations. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has said that if you make the law just and fair to the tenants, you ought also to make it just and fair to the landlords; and so with regard, to the cost of procedure, this ought to be made cheap both for landlords and tenants. That is all the clause does. I have always had the feeling that some harm might be done to the tenants if you do not make your Bill one which will stop the injustice of unnecessary evictions. We look to the preceding clause of the Bill to do that; and then I say that the landlords should be able to carry out just evictions when they are necessary, and in such a manner as to avoid the scandalous scenes we have witnessed of late in Ireland.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland rather upbraided the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) for not having studied the Bill to a greater extent; he said that if he had given more attention to Clause 22, and the Amendments that might be introduced, his objection to the present clause would not have been so strong. In that appears to me to lie the whole difficulty of the case. The hon. Member for Cork has said there are objections to this clause which might be removed by subsequent parts of the Bill; but the difficulty is that we are dealing with a question here the extent of which we cannot gauge, because there is something behind which might altogether change the complexion of the clause. I think, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman has by his observations confirmed the justice of the claim for postponement put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). My hon. Friend asks that the clause may be postponed until Clause 22 has been taken, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary himself says that that clause will greatly alter Clause 4 It seems to me that we are discussing Clause 4 at a length which is quite unnecessary, and that in doing so we are very much in the position of person groping in the dark.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 156; Noes 212: Majority 56.—(Div. List, No. 327.) [2.45 P.M.]238
|Abraham, W. (Glam.)||Harris, M.|
|Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.)||Hayden, L. P.|
|Hayne, C. Seale-|
|Acland, C. T. D.||Healy, M.|
|Allison, R. A.||Healy. T. M.|
|Balfonr, Sir G.||Holden, I.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. J. B.||Hooper, J.|
|Ballantine, W. H. W.||Jacoby, J. A.|
|Barbour, W. B.||James, hon. W. H.|
|Barran, J.||Joicey, J.|
|Barry, J.||Jordan, J.|
|Blane, A.||Kennedy, E. J.|
|Bolton, J. C.||Kenny, C. S.|
|Bradlaugh, C.||Kenny, J. E.|
|Bright, Jacob||Kenny, M. J.|
|Broadhurst, H.||Kilcoursie, right hon. Viscount|
|Buchanan, T. R.|
|Burt, T.||Lalor, R.|
|Buxton, S. C.||Lane, W. J.|
|Cameron, C.||Lawson, H. L. W.|
|Campbell, H.||Leahy, J.|
|Carew, T. L.||Lefevre, right hon. G. J. S.|
|Chance, P. A.|
|Cobb, H. P.||Mac Innes. M.|
|Commins, A.||MacNeill,J. G. S.|
|Condon, T. J.||M'Arthur, W. A.|
|Connolly, L.||M'Donald, P.|
|Conway, M.||M'Ewan, W.|
|Corbet, W. J.||M'Lagan, P.|
|Cox, J. R.||M'Laren, W. S. B.|
|Craig, J.||Mahony, P.|
|Crawford, D.||Maitland, W. F.|
|Cremer, W. R.||Marjoribanks, rt. hon E.|
|Deasy. J.||Marum, E. M.|
|Dillon, J.||Mason, S.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Mayne, T.|
|Duff, R. W.||Molloy, B. C.|
|Ellis, J. E.||Morgan, O. V.|
|Ellis, T. E.||Morley, rt. hon. J.|
|Esmonde, Sir T. H. G.||Morley, A.|
|Esslemont, P.||Murphy, W. M.|
|Farquharson, Dr. R.||Nolan, Colonel J. P.|
|Fenwick, C.||Nolan, J.|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro-||O'Brien. J. F. X.|
|Finucane, J.||O'Brien, P.|
|Flower, C.||O'Brien, P. J.|
|Flynn, J. C.||O'Brien, W.|
|Forster, Sir C.||O'Connor, A.|
|Foster, Sir B. W.||O'Connor, J. (Kerry)|
|Fowler, rt. hon. H. H.||O'Connor, T. P.|
|Fox, Dr. J. F.||O'Doherty, J. E.|
|Fry. T.||O'Hanlon, T.|
|Fuller, G. P.||O'Hea, P.|
|Gaskell, C. G. Milnes-||O'Kelly, J.|
|Gilhooly, J.||Parnell, C. S.|
|Gill, T. P.||Paulton, J. M.|
|Gladstone, right hon. W. E.||Pease, Sir J. W.|
|Gladstone, H. J.||Powell, W. R. H.|
|Graham, R. C.||Price, T. P.|
|Gray, E. D.||Priestley, B.|
|Grey, Sir E.||Pyne, J. D.|
|Haldane, R. B.||Reid, R. T.|
|Harrington, E.||Reynolds, W. J.|
|Roberts, J.||Tanner, C. K.|
|Roscoe, Sir H, E.||Thomas, A.|
|Rowlands, J.||Tuite, J.|
|Rowntree, J.||Vivian, Sir H. H.|
|Samuelson, Sir J.||Wallace, R.|
|Schwann, C. E.||Wayman, T.|
|Sexton, T.||Will, J. S.|
|Shaw, T.||Williamson, S.|
|Sheehan, J. D.||Wilson, H. J.|
|Sheehy, D.||Wilson, I.|
|Stack, J.||Woodall. W.|
|Stanhope, hon. P. J.||Woodhead, J.|
|Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.||Wright, C.|
|Stevenson, F. S,|
|Sullivan, D.||Biggar, J. G.|
|Sullivan, T. D.||Sheil, E.|
|Addison, J. E. W.||Crossley, Sir S. B.|
|Aird, J.||Crossman, Gen. Sir W.|
|Ambrose, W.||Davenport, H. T.|
|Anstruther, H. T.||Davenport, W. B.|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, E.||De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P.|
|Atkinson, H. J.|
|Baden-Powell, G. S.||De Worms, Baron H.|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.||Dimsdale, Baron R.|
|Baird, J. G. A.||Dixon, G.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. A. J.||Duncan, Colonel F.|
|Banes, Major G. E.||Duncombe, A.|
|Barnes, A.||Dyke, rt. hn. Sir W. H.|
|Barry, A. H. Smith-|
|Barttelot, Sir W. B.||Ebrington, Viscount|
|Bates, Sir E.||Egerton, hon. A. J. F.|
|Baumann, A. A.||Egerton, hon. A. de T.|
|Beadel, W. J.||Elcho, Lord|
|Beckett, W.||Elliot. Sir G.|
|Bective, Earl of||Elliot, hon. H. F. H.|
|Beresford, Lord C. W. De la Poer||Ellis, Sir J. W.|
|Elton, C. I.|
|Bickford-Smith, W.||Ewing, Sir A. O.|
|Bigwood, J.||Eyre, Colonel H.|
|Blundell, Col. H. B. H.||Feilden, Lt.-Gen. R. J.|
|Bolitho, T. B.||Fergusson, right hon. Sir J.|
|Bond, G. H.|
|Bonsor, H. C. O.||Field, Admiral E.|
|Bridgeman, Col. hon. F. C.||Fielden, T.|
|Finch, G. H.|
|Bristowe, T. L.||Fisher, W. H.|
|Bruce, Lord H.||Fitzgerald, R. U. P.|
|Burdett-Coutts, W. L. Ash.-B.||Fetcher, Sir H.|
|Folkestone, right hon. Viscount|
|Caine, W. S.||Forwood, A. B.|
|Campbell, Sir A.||Fowler, Sir R. N.|
|Campbell, J. A.||Fraser, General C. C.|
|Campbell, R. F. F.||Gathorne-Hardy, hon. A. E.|
|Carmarthen, Marq. of|
|Clarke, Sir E. G.||Gathorne-Hardy, hon. J. S.|
|Cochrane-Baillie, hon. C. W. A. N.|
|Coddington, W.||Gibson. J. G,|
|Collings. J.||Godson, A. F.|
|Colomb, Capt. J. C. R.||Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.|
|Cooke, C. W. R.||Gorst, Sir J. E.|
|Corbett, A. C.||Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.|
|Corbett, J.||Green, Sir E.|
|Corry, Sir J. P.||Grenall, Sir G.|
|Cotton, Capt. E. T. D.||Greene, E.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hall, A. W.|
|Cross, H. S.||Hambro, Col. C. J. T.|
|Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F.||Marriott, rt. hn. W.T.|
|Matthews, rt. hon. H.|
|Hamilton, Lord E.||Maxwell, Sir H. E.|
|Hamley, Gen. Sir E. B.||Milvain, T.|
|Hanbury, R. W.||More, R. J.|
|Hardcastle, E.||Morgan, hon. F.|
|Hardcastle, F.||Morrison, W.|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir H. M.||Mulholland, H. L.|
|Heathcote, Capt. J. H. Edwards-||Northcote, hon. H. S.|
|Heaton, J. H.||O'Neill, hon. R. T.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Parker, hon. F.|
|Hermon-Hodge, R. T.||Pelly, Sir L.|
|Hervey, Lord F.||Planket, rt. hn. D. R.|
|Hobhouse, H.||Plunkett, hon. J. W.|
|Holland, rt. hon. Sir H. T.||Pomfret, W. P.|
|Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.|
|Holloway, G.||Rankin, J.|
|Hornby, W. H.||Rasch, Major F. C.|
|Houldsworth, Sir W. H.||Reed, H. B.|
|Ritchie, rt. hon. C. T.|
|Howard, J.||Robertson. W. T.|
|Howard, J. M.||Robinson, B.|
|Howorth, H. H.||Ross, A. H.|
|Hozier, J. H. C.||Round, J.|
|Hubbard, E.||Russell, T. W.|
|Hughes, Colonel E.||Sandys, Lieut-Col. T. M.|
|Hughes-Hallett, Col. F. C.|
|Sellar, A. C.|
|Hunt, F. S.||Seton-Karr, H.|
|Hunter, Sir W. G.||Sidebotham, J. W.|
|Isaacs, L. H.||Sidebottom, T. H.|
|Isaacson, F. W.||Sidebottom, W.|
|James, rt. hon. Sir H.||Smith, rt. hon. W. H.|
|Jennings, L. J.||Smith, A.|
|Johnston, W.||Spencer, J. E.|
|Kelly, J. R.||Stanhope, rt. hon. E.|
|Kennaway, Sir J. H.||Stanley, E. J.|
|Kenyon, hon. G. T.||Stephens, H. C.|
|Kimber, H.||Stewart, M. J.|
|King-Harman, righ hon. Colonel E. R.||Talbot, J. G.|
|Tapling, T. K.|
|Knowles, L.||Temple, Sir R.|
|Lafone, A.||Theobald, J.|
|Lambert, I. C.||Thorburn, W.|
|Lawrence, Sir J. J. T.||Tomlinson, W. E. M.|
|Lawrence, W. F.||Townsend, F.|
|Lea, T.||Trotter, H. J.|
|Lechmere, Sir E. A. H||Vernon, hon. G. R.|
|Lees, E.||Waring, Colonel T.|
|Legh, T. W.||Watson, J.|
|Lethbridge, Sir R.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Lewis, Sir C. E.||Wharton, J. L.|
|Lewisham, right hon Viscount||Whitley, E.|
|Whitmore, C. A.|
|Llewellyn, E. H.||Wilson, Sir S.|
|Long, W. H.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Lubbock, Sir J.||Wood, N.|
|Macartney, W. G. E.||Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Macdonald, rt. hon. J. H. A.||Wright, H. S.|
|M'Calmont, Captain J.||TELLERS.|
|Madden, D. H.||Douglas, A. Akers-|
|Makins, Colonel W. T.||Walrond, Col. W. H.|
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
I have submitted an Amendment which you, Mr. Chairman, were of opinion, would amount practically to the rejection of the clause. The clause applies 239 to all ejectments for non-payment of rent; and on a point of Order I ask I whether I am at liberty to move to insert, after "in," the words "Ireland, after the passing of this Act, no judgment of ejectment shall apply?"
§ MR. O'DOHERTY
Then I would ask to submit an Amendment which would except from the operation of the clause all holdings on which the tenant is constituted caretaker.
§ MR. MARUM (Kilkenny, N.)
The object of the Amendment which I rise to move is to subject to the operation of this clause holdings at a valuation of not exceeding £50. I wish to restrict that operation, in the manner which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) suggested last night, to such cases as are covered by the equitable jurisdiction provided for in Clause 22. I wish to make a few observations on the right, of redemption, which the Committee has, I think, lost sight of. There was formerly no such thing as ejectment for nonpayment of rent at Common Law. The Courts of Equity afterwards defined the right of redemption in such a way that, in point of fact, the landlord might have a redemption suit pending against him for two or three years; then came a series of Acts, the 4th of Geo. I. and the 8th of Geo. I., which Acts culminated in the Landlords and Tenants Act of 1860. The effect of this Act was that the period of the right of redemption was cut down to six months. Now, although this period is popularly supposed to be a sort of period of grace, such as obtains in the case of bills of exchange it is quite the reverse, for, as a matter of fact, it represents the cutting down of the tenant's Common Law right. You are now going to take away the substituted right which the Act of 1860 f gave; you propose, by notice under this Act, to constitute the tenant a caretaker. It is well known that, in a normal state of things, landlords, from feelings of I humanity, do not desire to bring down upon their tenants the Sheriff with his posse and a number of people, if he can possibly avoid it. But you are taking 240 that small protection away from the tenant. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) will allow me to point out that he has now at his disposal provisions of the most stringent character. He has asked for enlarged powers, and he has obtained them. Is the right hon. Gentleman distrustful of those powers? Is not this the legislation of despair? If the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied with the powers he has already, why is he asking for this addition to them? Surely the powers with which the Resident Magistrates are clothed—men of whom I will say no more than that they are under the control of the Executive—are sufficient for the purpose of preventing obstruction to the officers of the law. The clauses of the Act just passed which apply here provide that any person taking part in an unlawful assembly is liable to six months imprisonment with hard labour; that any person who, within 12 months after the execution of any writ or process of ejectment, shall wrongfully take forcible possession of any house or land, or any part thereof, shall be subject to the penalty provided; and the same with regard to any person who shall assault, or wilfully or unlawfully resist, any Sheriff, bailiff, or other officer of the law in the performance of his duty. Surely these powers are sufficiently large to enable the right hon. Gentleman to dispense with this particular notice to quit, which is grounded on the difficulty, annoyance, and scandal which take place at evictions. Then there are the powers given under the Conspiracy Clause to deal with those who conspire to interfere with the administration of the law. I say that the powers taken in the Act are a complete answer to the claim made here to cut down the rights and privileges of the tenant. It is idle to talk of protecting the rights and privileges of the tenant, when this notice is interposed during the period in which public opinion and other considerations are brought to boar with a humane landlord. This Bill gives a strong incentive to all landlords to issue this; notice immediately after judgment, so that the six months may run out as soon I as possible. We know that, as a rule, landlords in Ireland do not execute their judgment for months after they are obtained; the process is an expensive one, 241 and they generally leave them over till the tenants have got in their crops. But now the case will be different. The notice will be served, the tenant may be hard pressed, and will let the six mouths run out; by that means his position will be entirely broken, and even if the landlord wish he cannot rehabilitate him as present tenant. I have put down an Amendment to provide that after the six months have elapsed the landlord may, if he wish and can come to terms, rehabilitate the tenant; but, as the Bill now stands, the tenant is placed in the position in which he stood before the passing of the Act of 1860; he is practically subject to arbitrary eviction, and he will be liable to all the evils which called forth the legislation of 1881.
I am unwilling to interrupt the hon. and learned Member, but must point out that he is travelling widely from the Amendment he has placed upon the Paper.
§ MR. MARUM
I abide by your ruling, Mr. Courtney, of course. I was pointing out what would flow from the operation of the clause, but I will not pursue that particular point further. As the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) said, even if the tenant tender his rent and costs, the landlord cannot reinstate him. That is, of course, a very great objection in itself. The next ground of objection is this—that, as it appears to mo, it is almost unconstitutional for the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to ask for this power to cut down and sweeps away the old Common Law privileges and equitable rights of the tenant. For these reasons I have no hesitation in moving the Amendment of which I have given Notice, which will restrict this clause to such tenants as will be covered by the equitable jurisdiction of Clause 20. Finally, as it has been alleged that Irish Members have supported the resistance of tenants to evictions, I wish to say that having been during 30 years a magistrate for two counties, I have always upheld law and order; and I deny that it lies in the teeth of the Government supporters, or anyone else, to say that Members on these Benches wish to have a continuance of scenes of disorder which this Amendment is intended to put a stop to.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 35, after the word "holding," to insert the words "to which section twenty of this Act applies."—(Mr. Marum.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
The hon. and learned Gentleman has told us something of the Common Law, something relevant to the Act of 1860, to the Bill itself, and to the clause taken as a whole, but it was only in his last sentences that he said anything relevant to the Amendment which he moved. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that he introduced this Amendment for the purpose of putting an end to the scones of disorder which we have ample power to stop by the existing law. If that is so, it entirely disposes of the arguments of some hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If we are able by this means to prevent the recurrence of such scenes as have recently disgraced Irish history, it seems to me that the arguments of hon. and learned Gentlemen below the Gangway are disposed of. I understand the main argument of the hon. and learned Member to be that this clause removes what he says is a valuable right to the tenant. But our view is that the clause is undoubtedly an improvement in procedure in cases of tenancies under £50. In the case of the Bodyke evictions, if I remember rightly, the tenancies were nightly under £10. I do not believe that there was one over £50; and if there were, that is the only amount I am concerned with here. The tenants whose rental exceeds £50 may be regarded as capitalist tenants, and we do not consider that there is any reason why we should avoid a general improvement in the law in favour of that class. In the case of tenancies over £100 it rests with the landlord to determine whether he shall take advantage of and proceed under this section, and therefore the limit of £100 does not constitute the protection which the hon. Gentleman supposes it to be. There is no ground for supposing that the clause will press hardly on the larger class of farmers, and therefore we consider there is no need for the Amend- 243 ment of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I have to complain, Sir, that, owing to the unreasonable conduct of the Government I am not able to say whether I am in favour of this Amendment or not. My attitude on this Amendment will be largely influenced by what the Government propose to do in regard to Section 22 of the Bill. Now, I am entirely at one with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Kilkenny, who moved this Amendment, in the reasons which he gave for it. I think it is beyond any sort of doubt that the scope of this section and the scope of Clause 22 will be exactly the same, and that this section would not apply to any class of cases to which Section 22 will not apply. But my notion of remedying the present discrepancy in the two clauses would be rather to extend the provisions of Section 22 to the limit of £100 than to cut down the limit of the section we are now on to £50. I therefore think, Sir, that I have some cause of complaint against the Government for not letting us know what they propose to do in Section 22 on this matter. Now, Sir, the whole case which the Government have made for this clause is this, that they are agreed—that all parties are agreed that fresh evictions should be put an end to—but that their view is that they should be put an end to by the legal means provided in Section 22 of this Bill, and not by the means which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has called civil revolution—that being his description of the scenes which take place at evictions. But if that be so, if we are agreed upon this point, and if the sole defence for this clause is that in the future under it there will not be any fresh evictions in Ireland, how can the Government defend the application of this clause to any class of tenants who are not protected by Clause 22? I submit that they are in a great dilemma on that point. Either this clause will apply to cases in which fresh evictions can in future take place, or they will be bound to extend the equity clause of the Bill to the same limits as this clause. Let me call attention to the remarks which were made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) on the subject of this 244 very clause last evening. He declared that any objection from this quarter of the House based upon such proper considerations as those upon which my hon. Friend relied just now would be met by concession from the Government. He declared that any Amendment designed to limit this section to that class of clauses, in which the Government by this Bill put an end to fresh evictions, would be met in a spirit of concession by the Government. The effect of that statement would practically be that we might rely upon this clause being limited to the class of cases in which the tenants were protected by the equity clauses of the Bill. That being so, I must say that I have been very much disappointed with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. Instead of bearing out the prophecy, if I may call it, of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham as to the amiable spirit in which the Government would meet us, he met the Amendment of my hon. Friend by a direct negative. He will not make concession on this point, but will carry the clause in its present form, and grant no sort of limitation whatever. Now, I say, Sir, that that attitude of the Government places us in a very embarrassing position, because no one will concede more readily than I that there is great force in the language which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary addressed to the House. I agree with him in the fullest manner that if this clause is to be limited at all the people who ought to be exempted from its provisions are the poor tenants, the ignorant tenants, the tenants whose valuation is low. If there is to be any exemption in its scope, it ought to be in the case of that class of tenants who are evicted, not in the case of that class which he has described—namely, the capitalist tenants and the people who are excluded from the clause by the £100 limitations. It is the contradictory considerations which are to be found here which, I confess, place me in some doubt as to whether or not I should vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend. There is a subsequent Amendment on the Paper to limit the scope of the clause, not to tenants below £50, but actually to tenants whose valuation is above £100, and I conceive that reasons of the strongest, the gravest, 245 and most serious character can be urged in support of tins Amendment; and, therefore, I complain that the Government have placed us in a position of great embarrassment. We are compelled to recognize the force of the argument that this clause, if limited at all, ought to be limited to the case of large tenants, and, at the same time, we are in ignorance as to whether or not the Government mean to carry out the pledge of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham that the clause will be equal in its scope to the subsequent equitable provisions of the Bill. I think I shall be consistent in taking this course—until I get some promise from the Government that they will carry out the pledge of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, that they will protect, by subsequent clauses of this Bill, every tenant to whom the clause aprJios—I shall feel myself at liberty to support the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend. But that will not prevent me, in the smallest degree, if concession on that point is made, from subsequently voting for the proposal to exclude from this clause, not the tenants with a small valuation, but the capitalist tenants, to whom the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary referred—educated men, who may be held to be better able to protect themselves than the poorer tenants. I will conclude by again complaining of the embarrassing situation in which hon. Members on this side of the House are placed by the course which the Government have adopted. It is idle to say that every clause in every Bill must be discussed in it place, and that all arrangements on any clause of the Bill are subject to changes which may subsequently be made. Our position is this—that we cannot argue this clause on the Bill as it stands. We must argue it in the light of separate concessions which have been vaguely promised, but the precise nature of which we do not know; and, that being so, I say we have great reason to complain of the attitude of the Government. We really do not know in what position we stand, and therefore if any loss of time results in the state of things which the Government have thus brought about, the responsibility must rest not on our shoulders, but on the shoulders of others.
§ MR. MARUM
I have brought forward my proposal, and have explained to the Committee my views; but as I have not found them meet with anything of the nature of a substantial acceptance—as I have not found them received in a manner in which I fancied that from their importance they ought to be received—I shall not trouble the Committee to divide, but shall withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. MARUM
I have the following Amendment on the Paper:—Clause 4, page 2, line 35, after "holding," insert—Other than a holding under a lease which has been or can be converted into a fee farm grant under the Renewable Leasehold Conversion Act, or any fee farm grant executed after the first day of January, 1861.On similar grounds to those I have already stated, my idea in putting this Amendment on the Paper was that perpetuity cannot be excluded altogether from the benefit of the Act. The Amendment I have moved similar in effect to this has not been acceded to. My idea was that if the perpetuity tenants did not get any benefit from the Act they should be put in the corresponding measure. All perpetuity tenants liable to eviction should remain liable to it, but fee farm grants should not be liable to eviction. I should have moved this Amendment, if I had received any encouragement on my other Amendment; but, under the circumstances, I will not move it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
In the absence of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), I beg to move the Amendment which stands in his name, and I think that in doing so I need not waste much time of the Committee with words. It is the principle of all legislation that where you affect existing rights, where you deal with what I may call vested interests, your legislation shall not be retrospective in its character. That is a principle of legislation which I do not think anyone contests. I complain that this legislation is retrospective in its character. I complain that tenants in Ireland holding tenancies which will be in existence at the passing of this Act get 247 their tenancies with certain legal rights and incidences, and that you propose to make a very large inroad into these rights by the clause before the Committee. That being so, I can see that nothing can be more proper if the clause is to pass at all, which I hope it may not, than that it should be limited in its scope to tenancies created after the passing of the Act which fanners have undertaken with a full knowledge of the law on this subject. I think the clause should only apply to those who have taken their tenancies subject to the provisions of the section when it passes into law. Let me recall the attention of the Committee to what the attitude of this legislature was when it was making inroads into the rights of the landlord, and not into the rights of the tenants. In the Act of 1870, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W, E. Gladstone), made an important proposal on the subject of county cess. He proposed in that Bill that thenceforward instead of being' liable to pay all the county cess, as he had previously been, the tenant should be entitled to deduct half the cess from his rent. Did the right hon. Gentleman make the clause, as the Government make this clause universal in its character? Did he make that clause retrospective? Not at all. He limited its scope, and there is a great deal to be argued in favour of that course, to tenancies created after the passing of the Act. Now, all I ask is that the precedent thus set—a precedent which I may say has been universally followed—should also be followed in the case of this clause. I ask, that if the clause is to pass at all, it shall be limited to tenancies created after the passing of the Act. I have been told that that will necessarily somewhat limit the application of this clause, and that the tenancies which will be created after the passing of this Act will necessarily be somewhat fewer in number. Well, all I can say is, that I cannot help that. If it is an injustice to interfere with vested rights, it is an injustice no matter what consequences follow, and it is not made a bit more just by the fact, that if you do not commit the injustice the proposal will have a very narrow effect. I therefore do not attach the smallest weight to any argument of that kind; because, as I have said, the justice of 248 the case is that vested rights should be protected, and that therefore the clause should be restricted to tenancies created after the passing of the Act.
In page 2, line 35, after the word "holding," insert" held under a tenancy created after the passing of this Act."—(Mr. Maurice Healy.)
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
The hon. Member has really given us no reason in support of this Amendment. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] At any rate, no reasons which to my mind should commend themselves to those who look for reasons. Clause 4 we believe and hope—it is drawn with that object—will put an end to unnecessary evictions, and make it possible for landlords and tenants to come together in a manner and spirit in which they will be free to act, and settle their differences amicably, unless they are prevented by outside influences. That argument has been put fully before the Committee. That being so, the hon. Member proposes that that remedial provision shall not apply to existing tenancies, on the ground that he wishes to preserve vested rights. Why vested rights should be suggested, it is difficult to conceive—in fact, what vested rights there can be which would warrant an exception of this kind I am at a loss to discover. The only analogy the hon. Member was able to bring forward was the analogy of the action of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) in regard to county cess. Well, I can understand that in altering the incidence of taxation it is necessary to limit the operation to future tenancies; but the arguments in favour of such an operation cannot apply in the present case. If we have a case at all it exists as much with regard to tenancies previously existing as to those which may be created in the future. I have dealt as fully as I can with the arguments of the hon. Member. It seems to us that if we have a case at all for the clause, it ought to apply to existing tenancies with equal force as to future tenancies. For that reason we are unable to accept the Amendment.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I must take issue with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General in the statement he has made. We 249 object to innovation. I am rather at a loss to understand the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman; but, at any rate, I think I can make a suggestion, which if accepted, will render this matter very simple. The object of the Amendment is to provide that any existing tenancies shall not have a new method of procedure applied to it. The clause applies to the landlord whether he likes to avail of it or not. There may be cases that the Government will admit that the landlord might not wish, to avail of it. That is conceded, because, by the argument of the Government as the hon. and learned Gentleman stated just now, this is practically only intended to affect certain things where the parties are willing to come to an accommodation, unless they are prevented by outside influences, and, as a matter of fact, those people do come together; but for those outside influences. My proposal is this, and I ask the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this point, do not alter the existing law altogether, leave it optional to the landlord to adopt the plan of the Government, or not to adopt it; but provide that where the landlord adopts the plan of the Government and relieves himself of the trouble of the ordinary method of procedure, and there is afterwards a coming together of the parties, and eviction is avoided, the provision of the section of the Act of 1881, which provides that a tenant who resumes his holding 15 years after a present tenancy, shall subsist on a holding prevail. Leave the landlord to his old remedy, let him "sheriff out"—as it is called in Ireland—anyone he pleases. The statement of the Government is, "let the parties come together and accommodate matters "; they say there will be no real eviction at all, and they say, "take measures to prevent the landlord from going through a very unpleasant process in order to get possession of their holdings, and to insist on their legal rights." Now, I offer this suggestion, and I shall be glad if I am followed by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under Secretary for Ireland (Colonel King-Harman), who has some practical acquaintance with those matters—doubtless a great deal more than I have myself—in addition to leaving the landlord to adopt the old procedure, as it is alleged there is generally no breach of the tenancy, let the 250 tenants have the benefit of section 21 of the Act of 1881, which provides that the landlord may, in certain cases, get possession of the farm from the leaseholder to be used as a farm for himself, or as a residence for himself or some member of his family. But as it was pointed out that the landlord might use that process to break a tenant's tenure, (Section 21 went on to provide that if the holding, which was resumed, was re-let, it should be within 15 years of such resumption subject to all the provisions of the Act applicable to present tenancies. My suggestion I call a practical one in ease of the present situation. I say, if it be true, that the landlord wants actually to get rid of the tenant by sheriffing him out, why should he not do so? If it be true that the notice is served practically in order to promote peace and order, and to bring about accommodation between landlord and tenant, my suggestion could take effect. The original Amendment is of a more general scope, but I am willing to accept the compromise. The Amendment provides that the clause shall not provide at all for existing tenancies, I am willing to forego the greater part of that Amendment if the Government will accept the compromise. I do hope that the Government will accept that compromise. It is true our objection to the clause, as a whole, will remain as fierce and vigorous as it was before; but if we are met in a spirit of compromise we are willing to meet the Government in a similar spirit. We shall be willing to withdraw the Amendment and to accept the very moderate concession which I have asked for. If the Government really bonâ fide mean and believe that this clause will got rid of evictions, that, in fact, evictions will never take place at all, and that the tenant-right will never be disturbed, why should there be any breach of tenancy? If a man is never disturbed why should there be a breach of his tenancy? If this eviction is only a form, why should there be any alteration in the status of the tenant? If the Government do not accept this moderate suggestion I think I am justified in saying that it is they who desire to push matters to extremities. I am willing that the Amendment should be withdrawn if the Government will see their way to accept this small compromise. If they will accept it they will 251 find that, to a large extent, it will modify our opposition to the clause. I have no authority to speak for my hon. Friends, but I ask that the procedure already embodied in the legislation, and to be found in the Act of 1881, will be engrafted into this clause. I ask the Unionist Members—reminding them that their Party are responsible for the Act of 1881—to support me in my proposal, and in so doing to support the proposal of 1881.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
In addition to what has been already stated on this question to change of status, might I point out that by reason of that change of status by the mere service of the notice, say on the 19th July in any year, the tenant will lose his right to Tote at a Parliamentary Election. The tenant becomes a mere caretaker, and his right to vote goes away absolutely. This power will certainly induce landlords, to a large extent, to serve their notices, when they know that by so doing on the 19th July and continuing them to the 21st, they would deprive every one of those tenants with whose politics they do not agree of the right to vote for two years.
§ SIR. RICHARD WEBSTER
I am sorry that the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) did not spare the Committee his statement in regard to the Amendment and his suggested compromise, because I fear it is impossible to accept either the one or the other.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
The hon. and learned Gentleman says I must not commit myself. There may be those who can understand these questions better than myself. If anyone who knows more about these things than I do considers that the proposal made is a good one, I shall make a statement to that effect from these Benches. I shall not have the slightest objection to get up and acknowledge his greater authority. The hon. and learned Member desires, in the case of past tenancies, that the landlord shall never get himself free from whatever trammels are put upon him by the existing law.
§ Ms. T. M. HEALY
The hon. and learned Gentleman is speaking of the Amendment, not of my suggested compromise. I evidently did not make my- 252 self clear. No doubt, the hon. and learned Gentleman correctly states the position in regard to the Amendment before the House; it would prevent the landlord from availing himself of the now procedure in regard to existing tenancies: but my suggestion is that in regard to cases in which the landlord avails himself of the new method that then, as the Government allege that there is really no breach of tenancy whatever, they shall provide that there shall be no such breach.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I quite understand the hon. and learned Gentleman. I quite understand that his suggestion went that length, but I cannot understand a distinction should be drawn. If the hon. and learned Gentleman brings up an independent proposal in regard to the matter, and it is considered by those who have more knowledge of this subject than I possess to be desirable to accept it, I shall be very glad for that course to be taken. I shall allow no opinion that I am now expressing to stand in the way. My opinion, however, is that the Amendment is opposed to the whole principle of the clause, and that there must be no different operation applicable to new as distinguished from old tenants. We are discussing the question as to whether or not Section 4 is to be applied to past tenancies. That is the only matter that I can discuss. The hon. and learned Gentleman has said to me "I will withdraw my Amendment if you will make this concession, and I cannot consent to withdraw it on any other terms." Well, I must say I cannot consent to the Amendment—I do not think the proposal should be adopted under any circumstances. I take it that this particular Amendment should be dealt with on its merits, and I see no reason why, when dealing with a notice served under this section, there should be any difference made between past tenancies and tenancies of the future. I will not pledge myself either for or against the other proposal, as I have not heard it sufficiently argued.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I think that my proposal was prejudiced by the fact that I made it as an Amendment to an Amendment. I would propose that the Amendment should be withdrawn and that an independent Amendment, by way of compromise, should be brought 253 up at a later stage. This would give the Government full time to consider the question, and to make up their minds upon it.
§ MR. CHANCE
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General sees no reason why a distinction should be made between a present tenancy and a future tenancy; but, as a matter of fact, there is a great distinction to be drawn between them under circumstances such as the present. If the landlord, by means of serving this notice, is enabled to get himself outside the Act of 1881—if he is enabled to break an old tenancy, he will have the strongest possible reason for doing it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
I beg to move, in line 36, to leave out "has been," in order to insert "shall be." Whatever may have been the action of the Government in regard to the Amendment just withdrawn—an Amendment which I admit was somewhat extensive in its scope—I think they will agree that I can make out the strongest case for the Amendment I now move. It is an Amendment which limits the operation of Section 4 to judgments recovered after the passing of the Act. Whatever may be said of the vested interests of this clause as a whole, I certainly do claim that a man who is in the position of having an ejectment recovered against him, has some vested interest in insisting that, if his tenancy is to be formally put an. end to, it shall be put an end to by the somewhat difficult process of the existing law, and that the determination of the tenancy shall not be facilitated by the new methods now for the first time invented. Now, this again raises the whole question of what the ultimate form of Section 22 of this Bill is to be. We have been told—and I repeat the argument without apology—that the Government insist upon this clause because they are of opinion, that the Bill will put an end to all eases of harsh eviction. That being so, harsh evictions being put an end to, there is no reason why evictions which are other than harsh should not be facilitated by this clause. But Section 22 of this Bill is not made to be retrospective. Section 4, properly speaking, should deal only with future tenancies. It does not apply to cases of judgment or distress recovered 254 before the passing of the Act, and I do now ask either that the Government shall accept this Amendment, or that they will make some declaration to the effect that Section 22, when we roach it, shall be so framed that it shall apply to the case of judgments which have been recovered before the passing of the Act. I claim, again, that this section shall be made equal in its scope to Section 22—that it shall be no greater, and that it shall be made no less; and I do say that, whatever may be said in favour of this clause, so long as you limit it to the case where the tenants are protected by the equitable jurisdiction granted by the subsequent clauses, not a word can be said in its favour where harsh evictions are impossible.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 36. to leave out the words "has been," and insert the words "shall be."—(Mr. Maurice Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'has been' stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON) (Liverpool, Walton)
Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as retrospective legislation in regard to matters of procedure, and this Section 4 is merely a section dealing with procedure. All the Acts of Parliament that deal with procedure hit the proceedings in Court at the exact period when the Act is passed. The Legislature takes the proceedings in the state in which it finds them, and directs that in future they shall be dealt with and go on in a particular way. The statement as to hardship and unfairness of retrospective legislation has no application whatever to legislation dealing with procedure, and procedure only, and it has been so laid down, over and over again in the Courts of Justice, and has been very often stated in argument in this House. As to cases of judgments recovered before and after the passing of the Act, it seems impossible to conceive any principle which would say that one class of judgment should be exacted in one way and another class in another. There is no difference whatever on any ground of policy which can be conceived why a judgment which was recovered say on the 15th of August, the day before the Act becomes law, should be enforced under the old Rules of Procedure, whereas a judgment recovered after the 15th of 255 August should be enforced in a different manner. There would be no principle in suck difference unless every tenant had a vested right to have the proceedings against him carried out in the way best suited to his liability. Every litigant has a right to have his case dealt with in the same way——
If a man owes a debt which can only be recovered by an expensive process of law, Parliament, in cheapening the process, could hardly say that it would only apply the new system to new debts and new debtors, and that so far as old debts and old debtors were concerned, they had no right, from a moral point of view, to the advantages of the new system, but must have recourse to the old and obsolete course of procedure, which may have been in force years before. That is a view which I cannot accept, and I must say I never have heard it put forward with such confidence before. Suppose that we are right, and that the way we propose is the only way in which this matter can be satisfactorily arranged; if we are right in thinking that this section is the result of a wise and prudent decision as to the mode in which judgments ought to be recovered I am unable to under stand——
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
Section 22 protects the tenant in one case, and why should he not be protected in the other? Answer that if you can.
§ MR. GIBSON
With the observations I have made I do not think it necessary to trouble the Committee further on this matter, [Cheers.] Hon. Members appear to be satisfied with what I have said, therefore I will resume my seat.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I am sorry that the Government should have given the right hon. and learned Gentleman the function of making Nisi Prius speeches against Amendments whenever they have made up their minds not to accept thorn, no matter whether those Amendments are just and reasonable or not. When the Government wish to make a concession they put up the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, or the hon. and learned Attorney General for England, or the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury—some English official—but when an Amendment is to be refused, whether 256 it is just and reasonable or not, they leave dirty work of that kind—if I may use the phrase without offence to the right hon. and learned Gentleman—to the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland. An Irish official is quite good enough for duties of that kind. Now I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman avoided in a very pointed manner the challenge I threw out to him—in a somewhat irregular manner I admit—across the floor of the House. He challenged me to say why a distinction should be drawn between a judgment recovered after the passing of the Act and a judgment recovered before the passing of the Act. I gave him a reason across the floor of the House, and if it was a bad reason, I can only say that I am very sorry that he did not turn his great abilities and his well-known legal skill to the simple task of exposing the futility of it. But it was not a bad reason, and he sat down because he knew that it was not a bad reason. He knew it was a perfectly good reason, and he had no reply to it. He knew he could discharge his duty by making the usual kind of Nisi Prius speech—and when I say that I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not consider that am making any personal attack upon himself. I hope, in fact I believe, that no one would be batter pleased than the right hon. and learned Gentleman if, instead of being put up to discharge an unpopular function and to make indiscriminate attacks upon Amendments which he must know in his heart to be perfectly reasonable and proper—if, instead of doing this he were allowed to exercise his own judgment and discretion, and give that candid consideration to the proposals which are made, which, I am sure, he would like to give them. I therefore say that I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not consider that in any remarks I make I am attacking him personally. Nothing could be farther from my wish than to do such a thing as that. I desire to recognise the courtesy with which the right hon. and learned Gentleman always meets the observations addressed to him from this side of the House. But I challenge the Government to say—will they or will they not provide that all classes of tenants, who are put at the mercy of the landlords by this clause, will get the protection which 257 they furnish to a certain class of tenants; under Section 22? I want an answer to that question. It is a plain question. It is a question which I think should not be avoided. It is a question which I think it is not a worthy thing to attempt to avoid, and I do ask that we should have some declaration from the Government on the point. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) has stated that there are, at least, 10,000 cases in which at the present moment judgments have been recovered against tenants in Ireland. These oases are not pending in the Courts in a technical sense. They are at an end as far as the Court is concerned. The judgments have been recovered, and the tenants are now at the mercy of the landlords. I say that if a tenant is to be put under the disadvantage that this clause puts him under, he should, at any rate, get any benefit which is given by Section 22. That is a plain demand. I know the right hon. and learned Gentleman clearly sees its force and cogency, and I do ask that he will give us some definite reply to it.
§ MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)
The Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend, Sir, was one which I myself intended to put upon the Paper. I was anticipated by the hon. and learned Gentleman; but, having listened to what he has stated, I may say that he has exactly put forward the views and adduced the arguments which I should have expressed and put forward if I had had the honour of moving the Amendment. I think the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) rather under-estimated than exaggerated the number of ejectments in respect of which decrees have been pronounced against tenants, which decrees are still unenforced, but which may be exacted according to the ordinary processes of the law. The section, as it stands, will make it competent for the landlords to serve this notice which appears in the Schedule to the Bill. The status of the tenants if this Act had never passed, and had never entered into the contemplation of Her Majesty's Government, would be this—that if the landlord wished to take possession in the event of the tenant not being able to settle, the Sheriff might be put in motion, and possession taken in the usual way, and these tenants would afterwards be either re-instated as caretakers, or, if they were able to pay, restored to their ordinary status 258 as tenants. In addition to having this provision carried out against them, another further provision must be made. The relieving officer must be communicated with, and if the tenants were in destitute circumstances it would be his duty to see proper accommodation supplied for them, either in the workhouse or elsewhere. Under the Bill, as it at present stands, the eviction may be enforced the day after the service of the notice—the people may be turned out of their houses, and they may be left to accommodate themselves by the roadside or left to crawl to the workhouse, from the door of which, if a notice has not been served upon the relieving officer, they may be turned away in despair. Section. 22 is meant to make provision in, future for tenants against whom evictions may hereafter be recovered. But where we have a large number of tenants—where the tenants number, perhaps, 10,000—under the present clause they are left without any resource whatever. They cannot come into the County Court and ask the County Court Judge to give them consideration, and understand the merits of their cases. Section 22, no doubt, affords some protection; but, as regards cases already decided, all the accumulated powers of the Act will be levied against the tenants, and they will be placed at a disadvantage of a most unjust kind. They will be put at an unfair disadvantage, and harassed in a way in which the Government had not contemplated they should be harassed. I believe the Amendment a reasonable and proper one, and, in my opinion, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland failed to meet it in a straightforward and ingenuous manner.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
I listened very carefully to the arguments of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson), and I quite agree as to the first part of his observations in regard to procedure. No doubt, the Legislature deals with procedure as it exists the day after the passing of the Act. No one will contradict him in that matter. But then the right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to point out that this was merely a question of procedure—that was the only argument which he used, He went on to point out that this being only a question of procedure, it was unfair and 259 unjustifiable that the procedure in this case should be different to the procedure in other cases. I would point out to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that it is not a question of procedure as regards these old tenants. We have shown over and over again that the status of the tenant is altered by Clause 4, and that the status of the tenant is a part of his right in his property. Therefore, the only argument the right hon. and learned Gentleman used being that one as to procedure, I think he will now see that it is not one of very great value as against the Amendment. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman could show that the status of the tenant which is a part of his right in his property is not injured by Clause 4, I should agree with him in saying that there is no reason or justification in asking for any alteration in the date when this new procedure shall come into force. But it is not a question of procedure—it is really a question of the status of the tenant which is injured by the procedure. You are dealing not with procedure, but with an actual right which the tenant has in his property. I am not dealing with the question of the form of eviction, or anything of that kind, or a question of procedure. I should agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman in his view, if the question were only one of procedure; but I hold it is not.
§ MR. CHANCE
Might I point out, as a grave reason why this proposal should be limited to judgments obtained after the passing of this Act, that, of course, as has already been stated under the Bill as it stands, the tenant has a certain protection under Clause 22, and the equitable jurisdiction of the Court. I feel that the position of the tenant against whom judgment has been recovered before the passing of the Act should be considered in this way—up to the present when you proceed to execute an ejectment decree against a tenant you are bound to give the relieving officer 24 hours' notice, because he it is who has to remove infirm and destitute people from the scene of the eviction to the workhouse. That is a provision which is necessary. When the landlord does not take the precaution to communicate with the relieving officer in that way in order to afford the tenants necessary protection, he is liable to a 260 fine. But what do you do now? You do away with the writ for possession, and you serve a notice on the tenant and make him caretaker; but when later on in his capacity of caretaker you turn him out, he is outside that provision as to the notice to the relieving officer—it is no longer necessary for the landlord to give notice to the workhouse official to provide accommodation for him in the workhouse, should it be required.
§ MR. CHANCE
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman be good enough to look into the matter? If he does I think he will find that I am right.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA (Monaghan, S.)
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman discovers that the facts are as the hon. Member for South Kilkenny has stated, will he take care to introduce an Amendment to obviate the difficulty pointed out?
§ MR. GIBSON
Certainly. I think hon. Members opposite are under some misapprehension in regard to this matter; but as to Section 22 I think it is as well to defer the consideration of it until it is reached. Some points raised by hon. Members may be deserving of consideration when that clause comes on; and if there are any improvements which hon. Members can propose, I can promise that we will give them the most favourable consideration. All I would say now is, that I do not think hon. Members will be well advised in allowing this subject to be discussed at greater length. It seems to me to be obviously inconvenient to be devoting time to the use of arguments which may have to be repeated later on, when we come to the consideration of Section 22. If hon. Members will present to the Government any case which can be properly dealt with as to ejectments and stay of ejectments not actually put in force, I will undertake, on the part of the Government, that it shall be fully considered. The point raised by the hon. Gentleman is not as to ejectments exacted by execution, but ejectments that remain unexecuted, and as to which a stay of execution may be allowed.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I include cases in which the ejectment has not been executed, and cases in which the ejectment has been executed, but in which the six months have not run out.
§ MR. GIBSON
If the hon. Member looks at the provision in Section 4, he will see the way in which it runs. Section 22 provides that the Court may put a stay upon the execution of the judgment for such time as it thinks reasonable, if it thinks that the tenant is unable to satisfy, by an immediate payment in full, the landlord's claim for arrears of rent. Section 22 is conversant only with stays of execution; and if an execution has taken place, it is really introducing a whole new set of provisions and a whole new set of principles to say that the execution which has already taken effect is in some way to be got rid of subsequently. That was not the point raised by the hon. Gentleman himself; and it was because I thought that I caught in some expression used language that might be thought to cover the case of executions that I took care to point out the enormous difficulty that would arise in dealing with these matters before we come to Section 22. I am glad the matter has been elucidated; but it appears to be contemplated that a wholly new principle should be introduced—in as much as that the execution and the landlord's rights should be superseded, and that when the landlord has a right vested in him by process of law, it ought to be considered whether it should be dealt with by subsequent legislation. That is an important principle; but it is not a principle such as is to be found in Section 22. If it is discussed it will have to be discussed in a separate form, and I do not think it would be reasonable to prolong this discussion now. I would suggest that it would be convenient to withdraw the Amendment.
§ MR. CHANCE
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has rather suggested that the provisions of the existing law, which require that notice should be given to the relieving officer by the landlord when an ejectment is contemplated, would apply in this case. I do not like to be contradicted when I believe I am right, even by an Irish Attorney General. I pointed out that the Act dealing with the relief of the destitute poor evicted from their hold- 262 ings provides that no writ or process for obtaining possession of the land shall be executed until 48 hours' previous notice has been given to the relieving officer. Obviously no order to eject a caretaker from the land is a writ or decree for "possession of the land."
§ MR. GIBSON
I am afraid I must adhere to my opinion. Surely an order of the Court of Petty Sessions to eject a caretaker is an order for obtaining possession of the land.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I acknowledge the spirit in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman met me on each occasion on which he rose, and probably I have no right to expect that at this stage of the discussion of this Bill I shall obtain a more definite promise than I have received from him. I do not desire to prolong this discussion further than to say this—he has told us—and I hope he will consider this point during such time as he may have to reflect what change may be necessary in Section 22—he has told us it would be introducing a new principle into the law to give the benefits of Section 22 to persons who had been actually evicted before the passing of the Act, but where the six months' grace for redemption had not expired. If he wants a precedent for that, I will give him one—and I mention precedents because he says thore is no principle in the mutter. The matter is covered by a precedent strictly in point in the Arrears Act passed in this House three years ago. That Act specifically permitted, by express decree, tenants who had been actually evicted to get the benefits of the Act. Consequently, if it is difficult to find a precedent for my proposal, I would recommend the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider this case. He will find the difficulty vanish. I, therefore, hope that, in any concession the Government may be willing to make, they will not exclude what are really the most pitiful cases of all, The tenants who have actually been put out of their homes before the saving hand of the Legislature has been extended to them by this measure, but whose six mouths for redemption has not yet expired, and who, therefore, may be supposed, in ethics and morality, whatever their position in law may be, to have some claim on the little holding on which they may be living. I hope the right hon. and 263 learned Gentleman will consider the matter. Having regard to the fair spirit in winch he has mot mo, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
Now, Sir, I beg to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that this clause, as at present drawn—while, of course, it gives very slight benefit, if any at all, to the tenant—leaves the back door completely open to the landlord. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), and a number of hon. Gentlemen who act with him, feel very strongly upon this question of the back door; they desire that the back door should be shut against the landlord as well as the front door. There are two processes by which the landlord can recover his land. One of the processes is that of ejectment, and the other is the more drastic process by which, a landlord deals with a tenant who does not pay his rent—that is, to sue him for his rent in the ordinary way as he would sue an ordinary debtor. Having obtained judgment against him for the non-payment of the rent, which is primâ facie an excessive rent, the landlord thereupon obtains a decree of fieri facias to direct the Sheriff to go down to the holding. The Sheriff visits the place, and the first thing that is put up for sale is the tenant's interest. The sale is caused in the great majority of cases by the fact of the excessiveness of the rent; and, consequently, no person other than the landlord is in a position to bid for the holding. As a matter of fact, the landlord has the field to himself, and when the auctioneer puts up the tenant's interest in the holding, the landlord, either by himself or through an Emergency man, bids, say, £5 for the holding, which is thereupon knocked down to him, and the conveyance of the Sheriff is executed to him, and he proceeds to evict upon the title. The tenant right is absolutely obtained for one £5, which, of course, the landlord simply transfers from one pocket to another. That is a much more drastic power than the ordinary process of eviction; there is no six months allowed for redemption, and the landlord, by this process of transferring a £5 note from one pocket to another, becomes the possessor of the whole of 264 tenant's interest in the holding, and in addition to that has the right to recover the remainder of the rent whenever the tenant does get assets. If the tenant migrates to another part of the country, or leaves the country altogether, he is still liable for the rent unpaid, and the landlord may come down upon him at any time he chooses. The rent is only wiped out to the extent of the £5 paid for the tenant's interest. Now, this clause proposes to leave the remedy of the landlord absolutely untouched, and the result will be that the landlord will say to himself—" There are two methods open to mo. Up to the present I have not been inclined to use the more drastic of tie two methods open to me; but I do not see why I should not put an end to the whole business by getting rid of the tenant altogether." The great difficulty in this matter is the use which will be made of this backdoor. The result will be that while this clause, on the face of it, proposes to give what the Government describe as a sort of protection to the tenant of a loss rental than £100, every landlord who chooses to avail himself of this rapid and expeditious manner of obtaining admission by the back door may do so. I know the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson), who is fertile in legal experiences acquired by long practice before the Irish Courts, will say—" Oh, there is no period of redemption allowed to tenants under this summary process before he is sold up by the Sheriff." By the simple transference of a £5 note from one pocket to another in the manner I have described, the landlord may completely ruin the tenant. He ought not to be permitted to do that. I see no difficulty in the way of the adoption of my Amendment; it simply asks for the period of six months which a tenant gets under the Land Act. I trust I shall receive some support in respect to the Amendment from oven the dissident Liberals.
In page 2, line 36, after the word "rent," to insert the words, "or a judgment for possession consequent on a sale by a Sheriff under a fieri facias in an action for rent."—(Mr. Chance.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON) (Liverpool,
I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) must regret ever having said anything about a back door in reference, to Section 22, having regard to the use made of this phrase by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway in connection with this clause. I am altogether at a loss to understand the extraordinary introduction of the hack door argument into the consideration of this clause; indeed, I do not understand what it means. The provisions of Section 4 of this Bill tire objected to by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway because they imagine that landlords will be encouraged under it to adopt the drastic measures to which reference has been made. It is not every landlord who is impressed by the proposals of Section 4, and who would be encouraged to exercise his rights to the extreme. It is suggested by the hon. Member for South Kilkenny (Mr. Chance) that the provisions of Section 4 are onerous and harsh, and that the landlord, therefore, will try and enforce an ejectment for non-payment of rent by the old method. If I understand the hon. Gentleman's view, it is one which is opposed to every argument we have been hearing for the last two days. It has been argued up to this that this clause will remove all the obstacles in the landlord's way; that, in fact, it amounts to an invitation to him to bring about harsh and unreasonable ejectments for non-payment of rent. The argument of the hon. Gentleman now is that this section places such pressing restrictions upon the landlords that they will not make use of its powers.
§ MR. CHANCE
I did not say any such thing. I said that was his opinion; and if the right hon. and learned Gentleman accuses me of abandoning my position, I can with equal truth accuse him of abandoning his.
§ MR. GIBSON
I think I am justified in saying that the argument of the hon. Gentleman is that Clause 4 places large restrictions of so oppressive a character upon the landlord that it may be assumed that the landlord will not proceed under the section, but will sooner have recourse to ordinary eviction with all the glory and honour attending the presence of police and soldiers. The hon. Gentleman proposes that the provisions of this clause should be extended 266 to cases of ordinary judgment, because he says that landlords would sooner have recourse to ordinary judgment than ejectment. If the argument advanced for the last few days had any meaning at all, it would be a very serious matter indeed for the tenants' interest if you enlarged the scope of Section 4 by introducing into it the judgment in any ordinary ejectment. The Committee will see that this Amendment does not apply to landlord purchasers, but to ah purchasers. When a landlord puts in an execution for rent, other people may buy beside the landlord. I do not think that this Amendment of the hon. Member is a very serious one. I apprehend that his object in moving it is that he wishes to introduce ordinary judgments into the beginning of this section, and then to go on to provide that in each case a tenant, who has ceased to be a tenant because his interest has been bought in, shall have compulsory power of redemption without the exercise of any discretion whatever by the Court. I gather that that is the hon. Gentleman's meaning. [Mr. CHANCE: Certainly.] So he is setting aside by anticipation all the provisions of Section 22 which allow for the individual discretion of the Judge; and he is providing that in the case of a tenant who has ceased to be a tenant, and who has ceased to have any equity of redemption, the tenant shall have the right for six mouths to restore his tenancy by paying the arrears of rent. That is an enormous proposition, and one to which the Government cannot be expected to accede.
§ MR. CHANCE
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has, with great vigour, asserted that we have now changed our arguments—that our arguments upon this clause are different from those we have advanced for the last two days. I never said that this clause would throw any serious obstacles in the way of an evicting landlord; but I said it would throw some slight obstacle. The reason why I said that was that early in to-day's proceedings the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Down (Colonel Waring) suggested that this clause should be modified. He pointed out that the moment a notice is served, the tenant will be converted into a caretaker; that the tenant can then be ejected as a 267 caretaker; and that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) was quite incorrect when he said that this clause would postpone for six months all evictions. It would not do any such thing. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said he was a landlord, and we know he is a very good landlord, too. He said he thought that some time should be given to the tenant after the service of the notice; and some Member of the Government rose, and, in most honied tones, declared that the suggestion thrown out by the hon. and gallant Gentleman was one most worthy of consideration. We know perfectly well what that means. We know that there is to be some modification in the power of eviction, and that, at least, for some weeks after notice has been served rendering the tenant a caretaker he is not to be turned out. That is the slight obstacle in the way of eviction to which I have referred. The Government have stated that by every word and line of this clause they will stand or fall; but they have already departed from that eminently virtuous position, and now we are dealing with a clause which is different to that defended by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith). My argument has not been touched by the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland. I say that some slight obstacle is thrown in the way of eviction by the ordinary process. A miserable back door is left open to the landlord; while you close one door you open another; you absolutely tempt the landlord to ruin the tenant by the process which, as I have said, simply amounts to transferring £5 from one pocket to another. This being the effect of the clause, I maintain that the clause is illusory and dishonest.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson) and the hon. Member for South Kilkenny (Mr. Chance) have both referred to some observations of mine in reference to this matter. In answer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland. I must tell him frankly that I do not regret in the 268 slightest degree my allusion to the back door which is left open by Clause 22; and I regret it still less because the force of my observations has been acknowledged by the Government, and they have expressed their intention of dealing with the matter in a subsequent Amendment. But the question now raised appears to be an altogether different one. Let me, in the first place, allude to a statement made by the hon. Member for South Kilkenny, to the effect that in speaking last night I had spoken of this clause as one which would postpone evictions for six months. Upon that I understood him to say that, as a matter of fact, as soon as a man becomes a caretaker he may be ejected by the landlord. That, of course, is true; but this is a matter of practical politics. Is it likely that the tenant will be evicted by the landlord when, as a matter of fact, his right of redemption remains for six months? What can be the use of turning out a tenant, and undergoing all the odium of the process of eviction, when at any time the tenant, by settling with his landlord, can re-instate himself in all his rights?
§ MR. CHANCE
Every tenant who is evicted now has a period of six months for redemption; but I think this House is familiar with the fact that there are a large number of evictions under the precise circumstances which the right hon. Gentleman says would render evictions practically impossible.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
I, of course, yield to the practical knowledge of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Kilkenny; but it is perfectly clear, from the Return with which we have been furnished, that the number of second evictions which takes place bears but a very small proportion to the number of original ejectments; and consequently I think that, although I was not strictly correct in what I said, I practically represented the state of the case when I said the effect of this clause would be, at all events in the vast majority of instances, to postpone evictions for six months after the service of the notice. What is the present proposition of the hon. Gentleman? He proposes that in every case of proceedings under [fieri facias] the tenant should come under; the 4th clause; that notice should be served; and that during sis months after; that notice the tenant should have the 269 right of redemption. In the first place, I may say this. From the hon. Gentleman's own point of view it does not appear to go far enough, because the proposition in regard to Clause 22, which I understand the Government have accepted, is that the interposition of the Court shall take place in every proceeding under fieri facias, not only in proceedings in actions for rent. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to be perfectly consistent, he should strike out the words "in action for rent," and leave it that this alternative is to be granted to every proceeding under a fieri facias. "What is the present position of a person under a fieri facias? A person gets judgment under a fieri facias, and it does not give to the tenant any right of redemption at the present time. Why should he have it? I quite understand that when we come to deal with Clause 22, where we wish to interpose an equitable jurisdiction of the Court, it would be desirable to allow to the landlord an alternative proceeding; but in this we only provide that in a case in which the landlord would proceed under the ordinary law by eviction he shall proceed by notice. I confess it appears to me that the hon. Member's proposition is an unnecessary one: I am doubtful, indeed, whether it would prove of advantage to the tenant, and I think it stands upon a totally different footing from the proposal we shall have to deal with when we come to Clause 22.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Chamberlain) fails to grasp the meaning of the Amendment. He has said my hon. Friend (Mr. Chance) has gone too far, or not far enough. I do not agree with that view. I understand the meaning of my hon. Friend's Amendment is that the landlord has two modes of recovering his rent, and that one mode is a great deal more summary and dangerous than the other. It you are going to assimilate the two modes of recovering rent on one point, it is only fair you should assimilate them upon all other points. That is the argument of my hon. Friend, and I think that that ought to relieve him from the allegation of any inconsistency. Let me admit at once, so far as the historical aspect of these two legal remedies is concerned, that there is no sort of analogy between them. The remedy by fieri facias is a 270 remedy of the ordinary creditor; it is the remedy which any man who has a claim for damages against a person has, and the landlord has it only in common with every other creditor. But the landlord may take the special remedy peculiar to his position; and, therefore, so far as its historical aspect and so far as its legal aspect is concerned, his special remedy is totally different from the other. Whatever difference there may be in the history of the two remedies, and whatever difference there may be at present in their legal effect, in substance, so far as the landlord is concerned, they are the same. They are an attempt made by him to recover rent which, for the purpose of argument, must be admitted to be unjust; and what we say is this—that if you interfere with one of these remedies for the recovery of an. unjust debt, it is, as the right hon. Gentleman himself pointed out, an absurd thing to open another door by which the landlord can accomplish the end you desire to prevent him accomplishing. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland has taunted my hon. Friend with being inconsistent in the views he is now advancing. He says that the case of the Irish Members up to this has been that this section is of so atrocious a character that they ought to have no truck of any kind with it; that it ought to be got rid of altogether; and he said that that view is inconsistent with the view put forward by my hon. Friend in proposing that this section should actually apply to cases it does not now apply to. Permit me to say that my hon. Friend's attitude on this clause is not inconsistent in the smallest degree with the views hitherto put forward by us. We have never said that the landlord's remedy by ejectment for the nonpayment of rent, as it will be altered by this clause, was worse than the remedy by fieri facias. All we have said is that the remedy by ejectment for non-payment of rent, as altered by this clause, will be a great deal worse than the remedy for the non-payment of rent as it exists at the present time. There are three degrees of comparison in this matter. There are the present proceedings, which are bad; there are the proceedings for non-payment of rent, which are worse; and there are the proceedings by fieri facias, which are the worst of all. What we propose is this—that the pro- 271 ceedings by fieri facias shall be so materially altered and cut down that, at any rate, they shall not be worse than the Second class of remedy—namely, the class of remedy for non payment of rent, as it will be modified by this clause. I am sorry the right hon. and learned Gentleman so little appreciated the matter of this Amendment that he can possibly say it was proposed in a light or trivial spirit. I can assure him that there is no question which so presses on the Irish tenant as his position when he is sold up under a writ of fieri facias; and when he is absolutely helpless for all purposes, he is bound hand and foot, his goods are confiscated, and he knows that the debt for which the landlord has resumed has not been wiped out by the process of resumption. There is nothing presses so keenly on the Irish tenant as the fact that when the landlord turns him out he is from that moment separated from his holding and rooted out of the soil. I do think that if the Government have in their minds any idea of making a beneficial alteration of the law upon this question of remedy by fieri facias, and I understand they have, they will consider the question fairly from the point of view we have put before them.
§ MR. CHANCE
I am afraid the Government are in a state of unusual stubbornness this evening, and that 24 hours' consideration may be of benefit to them. I think that if the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland looks into the matter a little more carefully, he will find that some expedient may be devised by which, the landlord will not be enabled to wrong his tenant so absolutely and cruelly as he may do under this clause as it at present stands. In order that the Government may have some time to eon-eider the desirability of making a concession upon this point, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
I desire to move the Amendment which stands in my name—namely, to leave out "does not exceed," in line 37, and insert "exceeds." I admit that this Amendment, if accepted, will turn the clause upside down. This Bill is said to be introduced to protect the people in the 272 remote districts of Ireland from the scandal of eviction. I assert from a practical experience of evictions—for the purposes of business, and owing to my sympathy with the people, I have dogged the footsteps of the Sheriff for the last six or seven years—I assert that this clause, if passed in its present shape, will be entirely nugatory in its good effects; indeed, I believe we shall find people perishing by thousands in Ireland as the result of the operation of this clause. I do not bind myself to the figure of £100 a-year rent, but I take the figure in the clause. I ask the Government, is it not more likely that there will be more justice in applying this provision to the larger tenants of Ireland, who road the papers and know what is going on in the Law Courts, than in applying it to the poor and ignorant people in the remote districts of the country? There is another aspect of the question. I fancy the great trouble in evictions is the removal of the effects of the party evicted; and if he be a tenant farmer, with a large property, and suitably furnished, and with a good stock in his outbuildings, is it not reasonable to think that in the case of an eviction such as that there should be some long delay in the proceeding? The putting of a man's goods outside his door for an hour or so, and then replacing them, must injure and deteriorate them. A case of this kind really deserves some consideration from the House, if you at all intend to facilitate the progress of evictions. Now, I do not agree with a single line of the clause, and I was glad to find that the voice of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), though it was only a voice in the wilderness, was raised in protest against this clause. I believe than if the noble Lord had followed the example of many of his countrymen during the last autumn, and visited Ireland, and seen for himself the evictions which took place, and which are sometimes glibly described in this House as got up altogether for theatrical effect—if he had seen the character of the land from which these people were evicted, I really believe that what he would have seen there would have had a far better and more useful effect on his mind than association with Irish landlords on the 273 Benches opposite and other hon. Gentlemen who fire intermingled by social, political, and financial relations with Irish landlords, and whose votes, therefore, cannot be regarded by us with that respect they otherwise would be. Now, at this hour (5.20), I had batter not speak at any length upon this Amendment. [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] There is one thing hon. Gentlemen opposite most cordially invite, and that is our silence. I believe that silence is the only thing that they admire in us; but it is hard for us to be silent when we remember that in Kerry alone, since 1880, 14,000 human beings have been evicted from their homes. Thousands of these people are still homeless. Is that not a consideration, I ask, which should always be present to our minds? I ask you whether you ought to facilitate by legislation the horrible process of eviction which has already, God knows, been carried far enough in the county of Kerry at least? What will happen under this clause? If the landlord intends to evict the people of a whole mountain district, or of what I may call a sea-coast mountain district, people who are constantly on the verge of starvation, what will happen? An affidavit will be lodged in Court, and the people will have posted to them evicting notices which have been described as amounting to sentences of death. These sentences of death will not be delivered physically by the Sheriff and the crowbar brigade as hitherto. Many people may never get the notice which is posted to them, and thousands may not be able to read them or to estimate their value. One of your strongest arguments at the time of the passing of the Franchise Bill against the enfranchisement of the smaller tenants of Ireland was that they had not the intelligence necessary to understand political questions. If that is so, how can they be expected to understand the intricacies of this clause; how can they understand its value or meaning? The first intimation which hundreds of thousands of the people will receive of the proceedings taken against them will be when the police-constable walks in at their door and turns them upon the road-side. I wish to mention in connection with this fact, that there is no provision—at least, we are in doubt as to whether there is any provision—by which the relieving officer 274 can be apprised of the distress of those people. There is no doubt you will have these people, homeless and starving, presenting themselves at the workhouse gate, but shut out from all relief. I consider this is one of the most barbarous proposals ever made by any Government under the pretence of remedial legislation. I think the Government ought to have entitled this clause, and written the title in letters of blood—" A clause for destroying the property of all tenants in Ireland, and for silently doing to death thousands of people whose fate at the present time awakens the interest of this country." I pledge myself to this Committee solemnly that the first intimation that numbers of the people at Glenbeigh received oven under the existing law that they were the subjects of eviction was the application of the crowbar to the gable ends of their houses, or the setting lire to the thatch. That is what we shall have again. We shall have a repetition of the scenes of Glenbeigh; we shall have the landlords burning poor Irish tenants out of their humble cabins. Humble as these cabins are, they are, after all, the homesteads of Irishmen. Do not Irishmen and their families live in these cabins; have they not been born and reared in them; and is it beyond the bounds of possibility that out of every cabin you blot out by a stroke of your pen there may spring men whoso voices will ring through the world hereafter in deprecation of your rule? These cabins are the homes of Irishmen, and the humbler they are presumably the more miserable is the let of their occupants, and the more tender should be the treatment those occupants should receive. I do not think you ought to apply this clause at all; at all events, you are proceeding to apply it to the wrong section of the farmers of Ireland. A man who pays a rent of upwards of £100 will, in all probability, have an account at a banker's; he will be a man of some intelligence, and will be able to realize the value of any documents served upon him. He will be able to seek legal assistance, and I appeal to you, if you will inflict this cruelty upon men, to inflict it upon those who are able to bear it. Do not by this clause attempt to deceive yourselves in this Pharisaical way that you will get rid of second evictions. We do not desire that hundreds and thousands of the poor people of Ire- 275 land shall be dragged from their homes, and have no chance of obtaining the sympathy of the public opinion of this country and of thy world. I think it is a paltry pretence which animates this clause, and it is plain to me that an evil genius has been at work. It is not to protect the interests of the poor people of Ireland that you have conceived this clause; it is not for the purpose of obviating evictions; but it is for the purpose of putting a premium upon evictions. Notwithstanding what there may be said to the contrary, I am sure there is sufficient human feeling left in the breasts of hon. Members to prompt them, if they only receive enlightenment on this question, to agree with me with respect to it. I repeat that this clause ought to be applied, if it is to be applied at all, to the better-to-do class of tenants, rather than to the poor and obscure tenants of Ireland. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 37, to leave out the words;" does not exceed," and insert the word "exceeds."—(Mr. Edward Harrington.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'does not exceed' stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON) (Liverpool, Walton)
If the contention of the hon. Gentleman were well founded, that this clause will increase the hardships of the poorer tenants who will be liable to these notices, there would be good reason for this Amendment; but the Government believe, on the contrary, that this clause will diminish the hardships of eviction on the poorer tenants. The clause is confined to tenants paying a rent of under £100, because it is the opinion of the Government that the more wealthy tenants are well able to arrange with their landlords, and require no such special protection as will be afforded by this clause to smaller class of tenants.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland has declared that it is the wish of the Government to benefit the smaller tenants, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has said that the Bill will be endangered if this clause is rejected. I certainly cannot reconcile 276 the contradictory speeches which are made on the Government side of the House. For my part, I must, in the strongest possible way, support the Amendment of my hon. Friend. We must recollect that the smaller tenants of Ireland are, in the main, not men of education, and that they cannot be expected to understand immediately what the effect of a Resolution of this House is. If it be true, as, I assert and believe, that immediately after the passing of this Bill, if this clause be retained in it, an enormous multitude of notices under this clause will be instantly served in respect of judgments already hold by the landlords of Ireland for the most part against the poorer tenants—if that be true, you will have, long before any possibility of these tenants being brought to understand the effect of the notices they receive, thousands of poor tenants receiving notices by registered letter. By the sending of these registered letters tenants will be turned into caretakers, and for weeks and months they will not have the slightest idea of what has occurred. What is proposed by the hon. Member for West Kerry (Mr. E. Harrington) is that the operation of this clause shall be confined to men who, by their position in life and education, may be assumed to understand the proceedings which have been taken in respect of them when they receive a notice under this clause. The receipt of this notice is nothing more or less than an eviction from the holding. In reference to the smaller tenancies, a gross and absurd fallacy has been attempted to be palmed off on this House in the course of these discussions. Hon. Gentlemen have spoken of the sufferings of Irish tenants through evictions. Now, why do tenants suffer through evictions? Is it because the Sheriff tells them to go out of the house? No, Sir; it is because the tenancy is broken. Am I to be told that the mental sufferings of a man is not precisely the same whether he is physically put out or receives a notice of this kind? Notices under this clause will be served by thousands in the very first week after the passing of this Bill; and I ask hon. Members to endeavour to realize, if they have never done so before, the frightful sensation to an Irish tenant -which an eviction causes him—to realize the terrible mental suffering that the serving of a notice 277 under this clause will cause him. It has been said that one of the objects of the serving of this notice is to spare the tenant's sufferings. I have had some little experience of evictions. Men have come to me from time to time, and have told me, with tears in their eyes, that for weeks, while their evictions were pending, they have never closed their eyes. Try and realize to yourselves what the feelings of an Irish tenant must be if he really does understand the meaning of a notice under this clause being served upon him. Try and realize what his feelings must be when, day by day and week by week, the time is elapsing, and the hour approaches when all hope disappears. The operation of this clause is calculated to leave the tenant at the mercy of the landlord without the sympathy of the neighbours. Hon. Members have thought well to sneer at the public manifestations of sympathy with the evicted tenants of Ireland. Why, Sir, I invite any hon. Member of tills House, be he Liberal or Conservative, to go over to Ireland and ask the men who have been evicted whether they have derived any comfort from the public manifestations of sympathy with them. I tell hon. Members that the let of the evicted tenants in Ireland has been elevated beyond description by the interest in their sufferings which has been evoked in this country. Under the operation of this clause the period of redemption will go on elapsing without public disturbance, without public meeting, without public sympathy being excited on behalf of the tenants. Everything will be done in the dark, and the tenant will be kept for six months, as it were, upon the rack, and when he feels that all hope is gone, he may find the landlord coming into his house and compel ling him to agree to any terms the landlord may choose to dictate. No doubt, under pressure, a poor tenant will sign anything. Let me say, in conclusion, that when you talk about a settlement, the settlement will, in 99 cases out of 100, be a settlement most convenient to the landlord, because it will always be made on condition that the tenant sacrifices some of his rights.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland declared that if any class of tenants ought to be ex- 278 empted from the operation of this clause that class ought to be——
§ It being now a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.