HC Deb 11 April 1888 vol 324 cc963-1031

Order for Second Reading read.

MR. BLANE (Armagh, S.),

in rising to move that the Bill he now read a second time, said, that in so doing he would draw attention to the necessity of dealing with the present state of the agricultural interest in Ireland. Last year the Government found it necessary to admit 150,000 leaseholders in Ireland to the benefits of the Land Law (Ireland) Act of 1881. That Act enabled them to enter the Court and get a fair rent fixed, but there were still a number of tenants, although not quite so large a number, who were deprived or excluded from the advantages of the Acts of 1881 and 1887—namely, the holders of toties quoties and perpetuity leases, and these were deprived of the benefit of having a fair rent fixed by the Land Act. It seemed to him that it was because Trinity College, Dublin, returned two Members to the House that there was a political reason for excluding the perpetuity leaseholder from the benefits of the Bill. Trinity College, Dublin, had a large number of these perpetuity leaseholders, and these men were deprived of all right to enter the Land Court and have a fair rent fixed. The Trinity College tenants offered a fair example of the tenants they sought to bring within the scope of the Bill so as to supplement the measure of last year. The Trinity College Leasing Act of 1851 provided for the revision of rents every 10 years on the basis of the rise or fall in the prices of the staples of agricultural produce—wheat, oats, potatoes, pork, cream, and butter; but the rent of all those farms to 1861, to 1871, and to 1881, had been increased with never-failing regularity. If the tenants failed to pay exorbitant rents they were sent out to the roadside most remorselessly. The clause with reference to the rise or fall of prices had never lessened, but had always raised rents so far as Trinity College was concerned. They intended by this Bill to put an end to such injustice, and to enable the tenants to enter the Court and to get a fair rent fixed. It would be impossible, if this Bill were passed, for Trinity College to act towards its tenants as it had done. Trinity College might be taken as an example of the close co-operation of landlords. It was an Institution that Lord Ashbourne—whose partizanship in this matter had been complained of—boasted in "another place" had his entire sympathy, and he presumed he included also the injustice from which these tenants suffered. Those below the Gangway who promoted the Bill were not only anxious that it should apply to Ireland, but they would be ready to see it made applicable to England and Scotland. They did not claim any privilege for the people of Ireland that they were not willing to see extended to the people of Scotland and Scotland. They did not stand alone in condemning the position of the unfortunate leaseholders, for Lord Leitrim, in the Upper House, said that he had a proposal of his own. His Lordship was not much of a Radical; he was a landlord, and belonged to the race of landlords. He proposed to insert a clause in the Land Bill of 1887 dealing with perpetuity leases, which the partizanship of Lord Ashbourne had excluded. The present Bill proposed to remedy the grievance under which the perpetuity leaseholders suffered. Another noble Lord also complained of the exclusion of these leaseholders. Lord Ventry called it a great hardship, and pointed out that these perpetuity leases were not taken by the people from free choice, but were forced on them at a time when they had no choice. The tenants were, in fact, told that they must either take the leases or go. The action of the House had in former times destroyed the woollen and other industries of Ireland, so that the tenants had no choice, and they had to accept these leases or perish. They were compelled to accept these leases from Trinity College; but it was a poor alternative. The promoters of this Bill contended that the Government, having last year admitted 150,000 leaseholders of 99 years and more to the benefits of the Land Act, they should go the full length, and admit all leaseholders. If the country was in favour of setting up a tribunal for settling fair rents between landlords and tenants, what reason was there for the exclusion of these men? There might have been an argument against it before the passing of the Land Act of 1887, because it might be urged that in this case there was a signed contract. But now even a Conservative Government had voided signed contracts. The fact was that the signed contracts were preserved by the Liberals, and in that respect they were more Conservative than the Conservatives. If the Conservative Government admitted leaseholders in their Act, why, then, did they stop at leases for 99 years? Other leases besides those had been forced on the tenants, and if they did not take them they were driven on to the roadside to perish. Lord Herschell, in the other House, said there was a manifest grievance in this case, and that it required a remedy; and he complained that the leaseholders who now sought to be enfranchised by allowing them to enter the Land Court were excluded. If Lord Herschell's advice had been taken, these proposals would have been included in the Act of last year, and there would have been none of the notices of evictions they now heard of. In this Bill they were merely copying the Scotch Crofters' Act; and if it had been passed the Court would have been able to compound for arrears, and a great deal better feeling would have been the result. With regard to the question of turbary, there were a great many landlords, and some of them were known in the House, who were notorious for their treatment of their tenants. When the Land Commission had from time to time adjusted the rents between landlords and tenants, the landlords had kept the right of cutting firing from the poor people, thereby leaving them to perish amid snow and ice in the depth of winter. They proposed to act generously by the landlords in the Bill, for they proposed to give the Land Court power to settle what rent should be paid for turbary. That proposal prevented the Government from saying that they proposed to defraud anyone, or to take from anybody his just rights and due. In enabling the Court to compound arrears on any agricultural holding they only copied that portion of the Scotch Act that was at the present moment the law of Scotland. The Bill had not been long printed, but it was not a new one. It was not before the House for the first time. It had, in fact, been before the House several times in principle, and its promoters had been guilty of a little piracy where it was thought necessary. They were not so bigoted as to refuse to take anything in the way of a hint from their political opponents, and accordingly they had copied from them where it was thought just and right to do so. Those who supported the passing of the Bill for compounding arrears in Scotland could not resist the extension of the measure to Ireland. The Irish Parliamentary Party was in favour of the plan, and some Unionist Members were in favour of it, so that there was very little division as far as Ireland was concerned with regard to the Bill. To those Unionists who said that the people of Ireland would have as fair a hearing in that Parliament, and that their grievances would be as swiftly remedied as they would be by an Irish Parliament, this Bill was put as a test. The promoters of it fairly and honestly put before them a measure of reform which was supported by the vast majority of the Representatives of Ireland. Of course, it would not be supported by the Representatives of close Corporations. That was a matter to be deplored. The Universities had never yet been in the van of reform, and never would. They had never been in the van in the matter of education, and never would. They were opposed by the Representatives of the Universities, just as the Bill of 1886 was destroyed by the advice of Trinity College. The Leaseholders' Defence Association of Ireland had by means of circulars and public meetings endeavoured to bring this question before the public and their Representatives in Parliament. On one occasion when the Association met in Dublin, the Lord Mayor in the chair, a letter was read which threw some light on the position of perpetuity leaseholders. The writer of the letter stated his own case as being one of exceptional hardship. He rented an agricultural holding on a 999 years' lease when the prices of all farm produce were at their highest—namely, in 1873. The present landlord, the Rev. William Lister, a Protestant rector in the county of Westmeath, would not, the tenant said, give him a penny of reduction, although for six years he had been losing £160 a-year. The landlord refused to have a fair rent adjusted this year, either by arbitration or by means of the Land Commission, telling the tenant that he had "made a bad bargain, and that he should hold him to it as long as the law allowed him." They proposed in this Bill that the law should no longer allow the landlord to do this, because he contended that the House could not with any show of justice give the benefits of the Act of 1881 to the 99 years' leaseholders and refuse them to the perpetuity leaseholders. He challenged the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Madden) to show any difference in the right as a matter of justice. The hon. and learned Gentleman might defend the Institute with the ability that they all admitted he possessed, but he would be unable to show anything that could satisfy the House that these men should be excluded. It was not necessary to say much for the necessity of power being given for compounding arrears. At the present time there were 6,000 farmers in Ireland whose terms were running and would shortly expire. The notices were served last October, and, therefore, no fewer than 36,000 persons—allowing six to each family—would be affected by the evictions now about to take place. That was a very serious state of affairs, and one intimately connected with the defence and integrity of the Empire. Englishmen were jealous of the Empire, and they heard a great deal-now-a-days about the integrity of the Empire; but in his judgment there was nothing more certain, if the present area of cultivation in the Three Kingdoms was constantly decreasing—for their readiness to supply themselves with food was one of their best, if not chief, defences—than that the integrity of the Empire would not be maintained. The main garrison of the Empire was not the naval or military force, but the civil population. At the present time 33 per cent of our imports of breadstuff came from abroad, from those countries which had been our enemies in the past, and who would undoubtedly, at some future time, be our enemies again. The present state of the Land Laws in Ireland, England, and Scotland tended to the area of cultivation becoming smaller and smaller, while our importations from abroad were getting larger. The result was that in a time of disturbance the garrison of the Empire would most likely be starved into subjection. It might be said that we depended on our Army and Navy; but he thought the best way was to have our supplies within our coast lines. This Bill would largely enable this result to be achieved, and therefore they claimed to be the best friends of the Empire. He remembered on one occasion assisting a sailor to desert from the American Navy. He found, however, that the sailor was not an American at all, but an American from Whitechapel. He asked the man what was the reason the United States had such a small Navy and England such a large one. The sailor replied that the United States did not require a large Navy because her supplies were within her own coast line. This man's observation indicated the strength of nations and the pith of their defence. Our legislation should tend as much as possible to keep the largest area in cultivation, and we should import as little of our breadstuffs from abroad as possible. The present Government could not care much about the integrity of the Empire if they failed to support the Bill. The Bill was not an extensive one, and had been drafted with all the moderation that characterized the Irish Parliamentary Party from which it emanated; and he was sure that it would commend itself to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland if he stood alone, and not in the very bad company of the Irish Tories who made him resist such measures as this. The Irish Parliamentary Party were imbued with a sense of their responsibility. They were animated by a desire to do the best they could for their fellow-countrymen, whose confidence they possessed, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would give fair consideration to this measure. He repeated that the measure was not a very advanced one—it was not so advanced as he should have liked; but, such as it was, he hoped that the House would fairly consider it, and if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would take what was good in it and give its promoters his assistance, the result would, he (Mr. Blane) believed, tend to the pacification of Ireland and to the lessening and relief of the burdens of the taxpayers of Great Britain. He therefore begged to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

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

MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)

in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, the hon. Member (Mr. Blane) had not, he thought, in introducing the Bill, made out a case sufficiently strong to induce the House to accept it. This measure was an extremely strong measure. The only interesting statement made by the hon. Member was that in which he related an incident in his previous career; the hon. Gentleman told the House how he had assisted someone to evade the laws of the United Kingdom.


The United States.


begged the hon. Gentleman's pardon. At all events, the hon. Gentleman admitted having assisted somebody to break the laws of some country, a task which was probably not at all uncongenial or unpleasant to him. The hon. Gentleman had rested the principal portion of his statement upon the case of the Trinity College tenants. He (Mr. Macartney) very much doubted whether the clause in this Bill which was designed to relieve those tenants would have the effect of relieving them. He did not wish to make a definite statement upon the matter, because the position of those tenants was one of great technicality, but he very much doubted whether the clause in relation to those tenants would have the effect the hon. Gentleman desired. He might, perhaps, relieve the hon. Gentleman's anxiety in regard to the Trinity College tenants by telling him that those tenants had met, and had introduced into that House a Bill which embodied all their desires, and in which they had stated what relief they desired to obtain. That Bill, he hoped, would come up for second reading on some occasion during this Session, and then he trusted they would have the support of the hon. Member. He could not admit for a moment that the case of the Trinity College tenants was sufficient to satisfy the House that the Bill they were now considering was one which ought to receive a second reading. This Bill, which was called a Bill for the relief of agricultural tenants in Ireland, would be much better described as a Bill for the abolition of rent in Ireland. He admitted that it was the most honest agricultural measure that had come from the Benches opposite, because it went straight to the point at issue. That which divided hon. Members opposite from hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House was the contention of hon. Gentlemen opposite that no such thing as rent should exist in Ireland, and that the country would be much better if deprived of such a class of persons as landlords, and the Bill, if carried, would undoubtedly effect that object. He therefore imagined that the hon. Member would not be surprised if he (Mr. Macartney), having regard not only to the desires of his constituents, but to that sense of responsibility which the hon. Member denied to the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Madden), refused to assent to the provisions of this measure. This Bill, not only in minor details, but in important principles, upset the settlement of 1881, It upset three of the principal provisions of the Land Act—namely, as regards sub-letting, the length of the judicial tenancy, and the status of the present and future tenants. He observed that the hon. Member did not think he had really a very strong case to make for, having dealt at some length with the Trinity College tenants who could not possibly benefit under the Bill, he glided over the other important provisions of the Bill, and went on to deal with the question of arrears and of turbary. Upon the question of arrears, which was now attracting a good deal of attention in Ireland, he (Mr. Macartney) desired to say that, as far as the landlord were concerned, the compounding of arrears or the dealing with them in instalments was not a question, in his opinion, of mere monetary benefit, but it was a question which they must regard with great interest and with great seriousness on account of its moral effect. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Yes; and it was not only regarded by the landlords from that point of view, but by the tenants who were not in arrear. He did not believe that at the present time there was any feeling stronger in Ireland than the feeling of objection to any other action in regard to the arrears of rent that was entertained by the tenants who for years past had been honestly paying their rents. Those tenants considered that if the House of Commons proceeded to give further encouragement to what they considered the idleness and inability to work their farms properly of their neighbours there would be no possibility in the future of the question of arrears being ever settled in Ireland. If this House proceeded now to deal, as the hon. Member (Mr. Blane) desired to deal, with arrears, it was impossible to suppose that any tenant in Ireland would consider it worth his while in the future to avoid getting into arrear. He had no hesitation in saying that 95 per cent of the tenants who would be benefited by the proposals of the hon. Member with regard to arrears would be tenants whose arrears had been wiped out since 1882 by the action of the House, and who since then had never attempted to avoid getting into arrear. Unfortunately, perhaps, both for the tenants and for the landlords, the landlords had not been sufficiently rigid in making the tenants pay their rents when due. He did not give that merely as his own opinion, but he had had a great many statistics sent to him on this question. He had received an account of case in Country Galway in which the judicial rent was fixed in in 1881, the arrears were wiped out in October, 1882, and since then the tenant had only paid one and a-half year's rent. Yet in the proposal of the hon. Member this tenant would be freed from his arrears which he had made but little attempt to prevent accumulating. He had another case which occurred in County Tyrone, in which on rent had been paid for the last four years, by a tennant whose arrears were wiped away in 1882. He had a case, also, from the neighbourhood of Edgeworthtown. His informant said that out of 27 tenants who were cleared on the 25th of March, 1881, under the Arrears Clause of the Land Act of 1881, all but one owed rent on to March, 1887. Fourteen owed two years' rent and upwards, seven owed four years' rent and upwards, and others owed rent in different proportions.


Upon what property is that?


said, he would hand to the hon. Gentleman the letters afterwards, if he chose to look at them.

MR. HARRIS (Galway, E.)

What is the property in Galway?


said, that when he had resumed his seat he would give the hon. Gentleman the papers he had relating to the case in Galway. His objection to dealing with arrears in the manner proposed by the hon. Member (Mr. Blane) was the great danger from his point of view, and from the point of view of the great majority of the tenants whom he represented, of the moral effect; it was an encouragement, they believed, to the tenants in Ireland not to be honest and saving, but to be lax in endeavouring to meet their legal engagements. Another point upon which the hon. Member for South Armagh relied in asking the House to agree to this Bill was a provision in it relating to turbary. He did not think the hon. Member made out a very strong case upon that point. He did not altogether object to the way in which the hon. Gentleman proposed to deal with the right of turbary; but he could not say that he relied very much on the hon. Gentleman's generosity, the generosity which he exhibited in the 17th clause of the Bill. He fancied that the hon. Gentleman himself did not imagine that that generosity would redound very much to the landlord's benefit. It was one of those gifts which he was afraid that they on the Ministerial side of the House must look upon with great suspicion. But he wished the House to consider how turbary was dealt with at the present moment by the Land Commission, or by most of the Sub-Commissioners. A landlord might deny when he came into Court that the tenant had any right of turbary, and if he proved that, a judicial rent was fixed altogether irrespective of the right of turbary, and the landlord and the tenant were left to settle the question of turbary outside as best they could. In the second place, the landlord might deny the right, but he might undertake to allow the tenant turbary during the period of the judicial rent. In the third place, the tenant might prove his right. In both of the last cases the question of turbary was considered by the Land Commission, and the right of turbary was included in the judicial rent fixed. It appeared to him that the practice of the Land Commission at the present moment was extremely fair to both parties; but if there was a complaint to be made on the question of turbary, he did not think it was of such a serious nature as to induce the House to agree with the Bill of the hon. Gentleman, which, not only as regarded turbary, but as regarded almost every provision of the Land Act of 1881, would add fresh confusion to the relations between landlord and ten- ant in Ireland. The Bill proposed to shorten the term of judicial tenure, but it did not propose to do so even in the manner which was recommended by the Cowper Commission. The Cowper Commission undoubtedly did recommend that the 15 years' tenancy should be reduced, but they thought that if the tenancy were reduced it ought not to involve all the complications which now arose when a tenant came into Court. The rent which was to be paid in future, for instance, should be arranged in some automatic manner, and should only have regard to the rise and fail in prices. The hon. Gentleman's proposal would entail every seven years all the expense, and, he might say, all the confusion, which now existed when a great number of tenants on a large property went into Court; and it would undoubtedly, he was afraid, tend to re-introduce in many parts of Ireland feelings between landlord and tenant which now, he was glad to say, were rapidly abating. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Blane) said that he did not imagine that the Bill would receive much favour from the Representatives of close Corporations. Representatives of close Corporations in that House would have an opportunity later on in the Session of dealing with the Bill which, he informed the House before, was to be drawn up so as to embody the desires of the tenants of Trinity College, and of all classes of perpetuity leaseholders. The condition of the Trinity College tenants was the main point upon which the hon. Gentleman had invited the House to agree to his Bill, and he had said he felt a sense of responsibility weighing very heavily upon him. He (Mr. Macartney) hoped the hon. Member would not deny that they on the Ministerial side of the House felt a certain amount of responsibility in connection with the last question. He did not know whether the hon. Member would admit that, but, at all events, he asked the House to take it, that he and others who thought with him were quite as anxious as any hon. Member from Ireland that the Land Question should be settled. They might differ, and undoubtedly they did differ, as to how it should be settled; but surely hon. Gentlemen opposite could not imagine it helped him (Mr. Macartney) and his hon. Friends in any way, either politi- cally or otherwise, that the Land Question should be kept unsettled. If he was opposing the hon. Gentleman to-day, it was because he sincerely believed that the Bill would not in the slightest degree help the settlement of the Land Question. He reminded the House that the hon. Gentleman stated that the Bill did not satisfy himself, and that, even if they were to pass the Bill, he would probably next year bestow some additional gift on the Irish landlords, who only took a small instalment in the 17th clause. There might be something to be said for this Bill if it settled the question, but the bon. Gentleman did not propose to settle the question; he merely proposed to confer benefit on the landlords. If it was to be supposed that he (Mr. Macartney) in any way represented the landlords of Ireland, he might say he declined the hon. Gentleman's gift with thanks. He hoped the hon. Member would reconsider, before introducing any other Bill, the question of turbary, because he believed that as far as turbary went, if it were an impediment to the action of any of the Land Courts in Ireland, it was an impediment which existed largely in regard to the Land Purchase Act. More difficulties had arisen with regard to the question of turbary in connection with the administration of the Land Purchase Act than with regard to any other question. It was unnecessary to delay the House further; the Bill had an object of enormous magnitude; it would break up the whole settlement of 1881; and, having regard to the fact that the Mover of the Bill had made no attempt to justify either its major or minor provisions, he (Mr. Macartney) asked the House to assent to his Motion, "That the Bill be read a second time this day six months."

MR. MULHOLLAND (Londonderry, N.)

seconded the Amendment.

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

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

MR T. P. GILL (Louth, S.)

said, the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) had said that the Bill upset the settlement of 1881, and his criticisms of the Bill had almost driven him (Mr. Gill) to the conclusion that the hon. Gentleman had not studied the Bill. What was the proposal in regard to arrears? If the House would allow him to read the clause, they would see that the hon. Gentleman's conclusion was entirely inaccurate. The Bill proposed to give to the Courts power to take evidence of all the circumstances which had led to certain arrears, and to decide whether, in view of such circumstances, the whole or what part of such arrears ought to be paid. That was not a proposal to wipe out or to reduce the arrears of the tenant at all; it was simply a proposal to give the Land Courts equitable jurisdiction in regard to arrears. The clause, as drafted in the Bill, was simply taken word for word, with a change of name, from the Crofters' Act, which was the law of the land in Scotland, and which worked successfully. At the present moment a most serious agrarian crisis was gathering to a head in Ireland, in consequence of the accumulation of arrears upon certain small holdings, and in consequence of the exercise of the power which the 7th section of the Act of last year gave to the landlords to prevent, by reason of arrears, the tenants from obtaining the benefit of the Act of 1881. Now, what had taken place on various properties all over the country? The tenant was in arrear, say, for one, two, or three years' rent. He appealed to the Land Court to fix a fair rent; the landlord demanded payment of arrears; the tenant was unable to pay, or, like the Louth tenants, to whom the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) referred on the second reading of the Arrears Bill of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), he asked that the landlord should wait for his arrears until the Court fixed a fair rent, and should then be content with the arrears at the same figure as the fair rent had been fixed at. The landlords, in thousands of instances all over the country, met that demand by suing for ejectment in the County Courts. The tenant was kept out of the Land Court by reason of the arrears of the old rent which he was unable to pay. That was a most deplorable state of things, and he (Mr. Gill) did not think that in any quarter of the House any hon. Gentleman would get up in his place and say that it was a just and equitable state of things. It was owing to the character of the law that the tenant was prevented from obtaining the benefits of legislation which the House was most desirous he should have access to. The Bill before the House simply proposed to alter the technicality of the law and the character of the law, so far as to enable the tenants to have free access to the benefits of that legislation; and it proposed to do so in a manner for which there was a most valuable and important precedent—it proposed to do so in the manner in which the same difficulty was met in Scotland under the Crofters' Act of 1886. When the tenant applied to the Land Court to have a fair rent fixed, this Bill simply proposed to give the Land Court the power of taking into account the tenant's indebtedness in respect to arrears of rent, and of arriving at an equitable decision as to how much of those arrears he should pay, or whether, in justice or in the exigencies of the case, he should pay any arrears at all. This was not a sweeping proposal to wipe out or reduce arrears. The Court to whom the tenant applied would inquire into all the circumstances of the case, and it would make what was tantamount to the same inquiry as would be made in the case of a bankrupt. The Court would have power to inquire how the tenant came into arrear; whether his position was due to his own laziness or thriftlessness, or to causes over which he had any control. That was a proposal which could do no injury to any class in the country; it could not do injury to the landlords, except the landlords contended that the tribunals before whom such cases would be heard were not tribunals such as they could expect justice from. The hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) referred to certain cases of arrears in the North of Ireland, in which he stated that it was habitual on the part of the tenants to allow arrears to accumulate. He (Mr. Gill) was glad the hon. Member referred to that, because within the last few days County Tyrone had afforded a very striking illustration of the strength of the case for this Bill. The County Court Judge of Tyrone, Sir Francis Brady, in one day last week granted 200 ejectment decrees on account of arrears of rent. The arrears in almost all these cases were arrears upon the smallest, the poorest class of holdings, which thus showed that the allegation of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Macartney) was, so far as County Tyrone was concerned, entirely without foundation. The arrears were only for one, or two, or three years' rent; in but a very few instances, indeed, did the arrears run beyond three years—did they run to four or six years. A very great number of them were for a single year's rent. The arrears accumulated during years of very severe distress; the tenants were unable to pay them; but with almost brutal severity the landlords were suing them, and endeavouring to evict them from their holdings. He hoped the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) was in his place, and would have something to say upon the question of the proceedings for arrears in County Tyrone. When the Arrears Bill was under discussion, a short time ago, that hon. Member stated that his constituents were not interested in the question of arrears at all, and that, in acting as he did, he acted out of a pure public spirit of benevolence. Now, they found the hon. Gentleman's own county being rent in the most cruel and ruthless fashion by the landlords in respect of arrears. The case of Tyrone was the case of most of the counties of Ireland at the present moment. Judgment processes were being obtained by hundreds and thousands for arrears of rent of a similar character to those he had referred to. Let him point out, moreover, that the arrears were in connection with small holdings of £2, £5, and £6 a-year rent, the very poorest and most wretched class of holdings in the country. What said Judge Monroe, one of the Judges of the Land Judges' Court, the other day in Dublin? An application was made to him to have a reduction made in the case of the Bomford estate in County Westmeath. He granted a reduction of 30 per cent, and then the tenants' counsel made an application to have the arrears of the tenants wiped out. One tenant owed four years' rent, and. Mr. Justice Monroe, in response to that application, said there was not the slightest use in holding on to arrears on small holdings of this kind. They were but small holdings such as these in the case in Tyrone he had referred to, and such formed the bulk of the holdings on which these arrears difficulties arose. Mr. Justice Monroe accordingly made an order that a year's rent should be paid, and that the arrears should be wiped out. The discretion which Mr. Justice Monroe had in the limited class of cases which came before him was simply the discretion which they now asked the House to extend to those tribunals before whom the bulk of the cases to have fair rent fixed in Ireland came. He and his hon. Friends simply wished to transfer the jurisdiction, which was already possessed by one Court in Ireland—unfortunately a Court whose powers were of a limited description—and was already possessed by the Crofters' Commission in Scotland, which was analogous to the Irish Laud Commission. They wished simply to extend the powers which were already given to certain tribunals by law. There was nothing revolutionary and nothing novel in their proposal whatsoever: A grave crisis existed, and the crisis was growing graver and larger every day, and they asked the House to meet that crisis by a very simple and a very reasonable proposal, and one which had already been accepted by the House in respect to a large part of Scotland, and of at least one Court in Ireland. This Bill proposed to improve the method by which the Land Commission should take into account the improvements made by the tenant or his predecessors in title. He thought that was a matter of most vital importance at the present time. People in numerous instances all over Ireland, from whatever the cause might be, were losing confidence in the tribunals which were now fixing rents in Ireland, and they were declaring that these tribunals were fixing rents upon improvements made by the tenant or his predecessors in title in a manner in which the Commissioners had no right to fix rents at all. Take the case of County Louth. A Commission there had been fixing rent for some months past, and all classes of tenants—Protestants, Catholics, Loyalists, and Nationalists—had been holding common meetings and passing resolutions expressing their utter dissatisfaction with the decisions of this tribunal; they had also expressed dissatisfaction at the personnel of the Commission, which they declared to be composed in the greater part of the partizans of the landlords. They pointed to the fact that Mr. Wrench, the head of the Land Commission, who had chiefly to do with the selection of the men who were to compose the Sub-Commissioners, was the son-in-law of Sir A. Bellingham, a large landowner in the county of Louth, whose rents were being revised. It was said that the Commission were fixing rent upon the improvements of the tenants. One of Sir A. Bellingham's tenants had made most important improvements; he had very highly cultivated land, and he had built a house and different offices, and had fenced and drained his holding most effectively. This tenant had had his rent reduced in the year 1888 by 18 per cent only. That was a grossly inadequate reduction, considering the depression which agriculture had suffered from in recent years, and considering the amount of improvements which the tenant himself and his predecessors in title had made on the estate. This tenant was one of the men whose means were such as to enable him to risk the heavy costs of an appeal in case the appeal went against him; but what redress could he really have when he was practically appealing from a tribunal which he believed, and stated he believed, to have been expressly packed by his landlord's son-in-law to the son-in-law himself? The result of recent appeals in Ireland had been such as to practically destroy confidence in the Appeal Court as at present constituted. In numerous cases where tenants had appealed, mark what had occurred. The rents had either been confirmed or raised, and raised by sums amounting to 10s. or 13s. or 15s. He thought that was the most grotesque evidence which could possibly be adduced of the humbug and rottenness of the Appeal Court as at present constituted. What did it mean? Would anyone tell him that any man, or any combination of men, could fix the value of a holding so closely as 10s. one way or the other? Yet here was a tribunal in Dublin, who had never seen the land, and who had not even got the assistance of a Court Valuer's evidence, reversing and changing the finding of the Sub-Commissioners, who were, at least, supposed to be practical men, and who had made a careful inspection of the holdings. This was a most extraordinary state of things. The Appeal Court would change the rent by 10s. or 15s., as though they had got in their minds of necessity exactly the value of the holding, which they had never seen at all. In consequence of this kind of thing occurring in respect to County Louth, the tenants whose cases had not been heard—and there were over 1,000 of them—had held meetings in Dundalk and Drogheda, and had passed resolutions, apart altogether from any dictation of the National League or any other body, to withdraw their cases altogether from the Court unless the personnel of the Commission was changed, or unless some legislation was adopted by the House of Commons which would compel the Commission not to increase the rent in respect to improvements made by the tenants themselves or their predecessors in title. If these tenants were really driven to take that course it was a serious state of things. Louth had always been a quiet and orderly county; but if it was driven to declare itself unable to place confidence in the tribunals which the law had set up, they would have a state of feeling existing between landlord and tenant, which he, for his part—and he was the Representative of one-half of the county—would very deeply deplore indeed. He sincerely hoped that one result of this discussion would be that some change would be made in the character of the Sub-Commission, and that the Government, if they did not see their way to accept this Bill, or the provisions of it dealing with the improvements of tenants and with the arrears of rent, would at least announce that they had some intention themselves of taking action in the matter. He considered the proposal in regard to arrears as most pressing, and as one which the House could not afford to neglect. It was simply a proposal to give that jurisdiction to the Land Commission Courts which was already possessed by one Court in Ireland, and had been exercised by the Crofter Commission in Scotland. He hoped the Government, having regard to the fact that there was a precedent for this proposal, and to the fact that the main principles of the Bill had been accepted by the House, and that some such Bill as this was called for by the state of things in Ireland, especially upon small holdings throughout the country generally, would show some appreciation of the gravity of the situation, and the necessity of meeting the proposal in a proper spirit.


said, that he listened with some surprise to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Blane) who moved the second reading of the Bill, because, while the Bill consisted of 18 clauses, the hon. Gentleman passed over the first 10 of them in absolute silence. But those clauses were, in his (Colonel Waring's) opinion, very important clauses, perhaps the most important in the whole Bill. It had been complained that rents were fixed in respect of tenants' improvements. No one, for a moment, contended that any rent should be put upon bonâ fide improvements made by a tenant at his own expense. That was not claimed by any of the resident landlords in Ireland; there was no attempt to enforce rent upon improvements in the true sense of the term. [Cries of "Oh, oh"] It was very easy for hon. Gentlemen opposite to cry "Oh, oh" He knew perfectly well that they meant to say that every piece of work done on the land during, say, the last 50 years should be charged against the landlord. Suppose a negligent and lazy tenant in former times had not taken the trouble to keep his pasture land in proper order, was the landlord to be taxed if a later tenant cleaned the land and brought it into a condition fit for use? The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Gill) alluded to the estate of Sir A. Bellingham, and talked of a tenant who had made a large addition to the buildings on his holding. But did the landlord claim those buildings? The hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that, as a rule, in the North of Ireland, landlords, when going into the Land Court, did not claim buildings at all. It was certainly quite clear that under the Bill a great many things would be claimed by tenants as improvements which were simply rectifications of slovenly farming of a preceding tenant. Turning to the question of arrears, he must say he thought the question was pretty well threshed out in the debate upon the Bill which the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) introduced just before the House separated for the Easter Recess. Arrears consisted of three kinds. There were arrears which had been brought about by the action of a certain association of which hon. Gentlemen who sat below the Gangway opposite were distinguished Members, arrears which had been brought about by tenants withholding the rents which they were able to pay and which many of them would have paid if they had been left alone. Another class of arrears consisted of bogus arrears. They were the arrears of tenants who reckoned on future measures of relief, and in the meantime kept their money in the bank without tendering their rent to the landlord. Lastly, there were the general arrears into which many tenants fell in consequence of their ignorance of agriculture and indolence. He was afraid many other people besides farmers were in debt from similar causes, although he had never heard any proposition made to Parliament for their relief. The majority of those now in arrear were farmers who were in arrear in 1882, and whose indebtedness to their landlords was wiped out by the Act of that year. He knew a case where a man owed arrears in 1882 of £30 upon a farm for which he paid £24 1s. 3d. in 1881 and £16 8s. 10d. in 1882. The Arrears Act stepped in and wiped off the arrears up to November, 1883, giving the tenant a fresh start; but the result was that in four years, on a rent of £16 8s., the tenant now owed his landlord 30s. more in the shape of arrears than he owed in 1882; so that he was in a condition to require another Arrears Act, and to wipe off his indebtedness again. Were men of this kind to be relieved by Parliament periodically? If so, he maintained that it was most unfair to the tenant who paid his rent honestly and who never missed paying it punctually at every gale. How was it to be ascertained that the arrears had been fairly incurred? He thought it would be impossible for any Court to decide that question. There was nothing to go upon but the simple unsupported oath of the tenant himself. He knew that the Irish tenant had great respect for an oath, and he would not insinuate that they would deliberately and on purpose tell any glaring untruth; but he was also aware that where their own interests were concerned they were likely to be guilty of much exaggeration. He recollected an instance in which only last year a tenant alleged that certain land he was farming was not worth 16s. an acre; but when he appeared before a Court of Arbitration the tenant swore that the same land was worth 40s. an acre, and that his interest in it was worth 20 years' purchase of that sum. He had no doubt that that tenant thought he was telling the truth on both occasions; but any person who was connected with the Irish land must have noticed how strong the discrepancies were in the evidence. It would be extremely difficult for any Court to deal with the question, and he saw but one way in which these arrears could be satisfactorily dealt with, and that hon. Members opposite had rejected—namely, the fair proposal of the Government last year that the indebtedness of the tenant should be treated just like the indebtedness of any other person, and that his estates should be distributed among his creditors in proportion to their claims upon him. That proposal, however, was scouted by the followers of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), on account, he fancied, of their sympathy for the money lender. He would say nothing of the gombeen man. The gombeen man was said to have disappeared, but the money lender had screwed more out of the sweat of the Irish tenants within the last generation than all of the landlords put together. He made that assertion without fear of contradiction, and if hon. Members would go among the Irish tenants, he ventured to think they would not feel inclined to take the warm part they did now in support of the money lender. The gombeen man was said to have disappeared. Perhaps he had been absorbed by the benevolent grocer who sold goods to the poor starving tenants and charged them 25 per cent. He would tell a short story. He had the misfortune to have a few tenants himself. One of them was an old fellow named Jack Harwood. On one occasion Harwood went to pay a small bill at the grocery stores, which had been owing for some time. He was asked if he did not want some bacon. At that time Harwood was pretty well off, and said he supposed he could do with a little bacon. The parcel was wrapped up and taken home, when it was discovered to be nothing but a ham bone. He took it back, but was compelled to receive it, and gave a bill in payment. That bill had been constantly renewed, interest was charged upon it, and in the course of 8 or 10 years it amounted to £20, for which this man's farm was sold by the benevolent grocer in question. If hon. Members wanted to know where the gombeen man had gone, he would tell them that he had gone into the grocer's shop, or had set up a shop of his own to supply the starving tenants with provisions. He found charging 25 per cent on unpaid accounts the most profitable form of lending money. Something had been stated in reference to Mr. Justice Monroe's recent decision. He would give the decision of another Judge of the Land Court, Judge Boyd. In the Court presided over by that learned Judge certain tenants had been evicted, and they were told that they might resume their holdings, provided they got 90 per cent reduction of rent. Judge Boyd did not see that, and, accordingly, instructed the Receiver to take proceedings. The result was somewhat singular; the rents which were previously declared to be impossible were all paid within a few days. Nothing would give him more satisfaction than the wiping out of every arrear duo to him if he felt that it could be done without inflicting serious injustice on those tenants who had been steadily paying their rents. He did not think the matter was one which called for legislation on the part of that House. He did not believe that any landlord, except the very small residuum, would issue process for the recovery of arrears if he thought the tenant had no means of paying. The turbary question he did not think he would enter into, because, after all, it was a very small one, and not of material importance. Of course, they heard a great deal about the dreadful state to which the tenants in Ireland had been reduced, and how much more oppressed they were than any other tenants on the face of the terrestrial Globe. Statistics, however, did not carry out that contention with strict accuracy. It was admitted that there were as many tenant farmers in proportion to the population in Ireland as anywhere else. One great argument which had been used against all the landlords in Ireland for many years was that they had, by their exactions, driven a large number of the tenants out of the country. This was given as a proof of the harsh way in which the tenants had been treated; but what was the fact in regard to the proportion of tenants who had emigrated? It was admitted that a great part of the emigration from Ireland was to the United States of America. During last year there emigrated to the United States from Switzerland six farmers to every nine labourers, from Germany seven farmers to every 12 labourers, from Scotland one farmer to every three labourers, from Italy two farmers to every seven labourers, from England one farmer to every six labourers, and from Ireland one farmer to every 10 labourers. He thought that was a question that was worthy of consideration by hon. Gentlemen opposite. He might be told that the persons who emigrated as labourers were really farmers; but his experience of Ireland was that if a man owned a potato garden, he called himself a farmer, and would never dream of describing himself as a day labourer when he knew that he could go to a country which would receive him with open arms as a farmer.

MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)

asked the hon. and gallant Gentleman to say where he got his figures from?


said, he quoted them from The Farm and Home, which professed to derive them from the United States Government Returns. He should be happy to show the hon. Member the quotation if he desired to see it. He had no wish to detain the House longer. In conclusion, he would only express an opinion that the question had already been fairly settled, and he thought they ought not to disturb the tranquillity which was beginning to prevail in Ireland by entirely re-opening the Act of 1881.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


said, the hon. and gallant Member for North Down (Colonel Waring), who had just resumed his seat, had made a remark in which he thought the Irish tenants, when they read the hon. and gallant Member's speech to-morrow, would thoroughly agree. The hon. and gallant Member said he would not suggest that the Irish tenants, on going into Court, would tell any great untruths but that it was strange how persons, when they were looking after their own interests, viewed matters through strangely-coloured glasses. He thought when the Irish tenants read some of the assertions of the hon. and gallant Member they would be inclined to think that he had been looking through very highly coloured glasses. The hon. and gallant Member had stated that he had hoped the House of Commons would not have been troubled again this Session with discussing the question of arrears of rent in Ireland. He thought that was rather a shortsighted view to take, and he could assure hon. Members opposite that the House of Commons would be troubled with the question, and some other grievances which the Bill proposed to remedy, until they were settled. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also remarked that neither the Mover nor the hon. Gentleman who followed had gone very closely into the details of the proposed measure. It struck him that that was an unfair comment to make in respect of those speeches; but, at all events, the hon. and gallant Gentleman had hardly supplied the omission, for the whole of his speech related, as far as he could gather, to the subject of arrears. It struck him forcibly—and he thought it must have struck anyone who had paid attention to the subject—that the Bill before the House, and the discussion which was taking place upon it, formed part of the great drama which had been unfolded over many years in that House with regard to the question of Irish land. They were only to-day reading a few pages from the great volume of the struggle in Ireland between landlord and tenant which had been going on for generations. There had always been two pictures on the subject presented to the House. As regards the first, he would only quote the utterances of three of the Members of Her Majesty's Government from many others which he could quote. He did so because they fell from men of high position in their Party, and their utterances were clear and to the point. The First Lord of the Treasury, speaking on the 20th of July last year, used these words— We entered upon a vicious surrender in 1881; we brought the State in between two parties who ought to have been left free to make their contracts one with the other, and the State—as the State always will if it inter- feres with free contract between man and man—has made a mess of it. The political philosophy of the right hon. Gentleman was rather faulty when he remarked that whenever the State interfered it made a mess of it. The right hon. Gentleman had been a Member of the House of Commons for 20 years, and had been a Member of more than one Administration. If he would look back to all the Acts which had been passed he would find that they were passed on the fact of the interference of the State with free contract between man and man. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, on the 11th of July last year, declared that "the principles on which the Act of 1881 was based were fundamentally erroneous;" and last winter the right hon. Gentleman declared that the Irish tenant was "the spoiled child of the English Legislature." The Prime Minister, speaking on the 12th of January, used these significant words— In my opinion we have made two steps in a downward course since this depression commenced. I regard the Irish Land Act of 1881 as one of those downward stops. I shall venture to maintain that which I believe to be the truth—namely, that the course on which we started in 1881 was a mistaken course, dangerous to property, and, therefore, dangerous to the best interests of the Empire. And mark where the danger lay. It was not simply that Parliament interfered and said—'You shall only let your land on such and such conditions; you shall only let it at such a rent and on such terms as we lay down.' That might have been unwise, but if Parliament gave fair notice it was not unjust. What was unjust was that when a certain number of landowners had let land to a certain number of tenants on certain agreed terms for Parliament to come down and say—'We will twist and turn those terms entirely to the advantage of the tenant.' He presumed that the ideas conveyed in those quotations were those which agitated the mind of Her Majesty's Government at the present moment. They represented that the Act of 1881 transferred, in a revolutionary manner, the property of one man to another. They, in fact, suggested that it was a confiscation of property. He thought it was desirable that the House should know whether Her Majesty's Government adhered to those ideas at the present moment. Did they still regard the Act of 1881 and their own Act of 1887 as following the same principle; did they regard those Acts in the manner stated by the Prime Minister on the 12th of January last?—because they on the Liberal side of the House regarded the Act of 1881 as a tardy placing of the law in relation to the facts. They maintained that the principles embodied in that Act gave the tenant the property which really had been his in equity before. There was, then, a most fundamental distinction between the views held by the two sides of the House on this subject. He had always been and always should be a believer in continuity in such matters. The Land Question had not grown up within recent times. There appeared to prevail in the Press and in the speeches of public men an idea that this Irish struggle began when the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) entered the House and created the present Irish Parliamentary Party. Those who would go back two or three generations up to the time of the passing of the Act of Union would see that over and over again the grievances of the Irish tenant and the relations between the owners and occupiers of the soil had been discussed in that House. Lord Stanley delivered a great speech on the subject in the House of Lords on the 9th of June, 1845, and Mr. O'Connell delivered another on the 3rd of April, 1846. Those who would read those speeches would readily admit that the struggle between the landlord and the tenant in Ireland had its roots in the far past. He was struck with the acquaintance possessed in those days with the wants and grievances of the Irish tenant, compared with what was the case now. They were told by a high authority the other night that there was not a man on the Treasury Bench who knew the difference between a horse and a cow. Without endorsing that view, he must say that in speaking of 30 or 40 years ago on the question of the Irish land, some of the occupants of the Treasury displayed a singular want of historical knowledge. During the first 40 years of this century five Acts of Parliament had been passed solely in the interest of the landlord—namely, in the years 1816, 1818, 1821, 1830, and 1836, circumscribing, diminishing, and mutilating the rights of the tenant, grievously afflicting him, magnifying the rights of the landlord, and placing him in an entirely different position from that which he occupied prior to the Union. In 1881 the Bessborough Commission, which consisted of three Irish landlords and one Irish Judge, made use of this significant sentence— In many instances, principally in connection with the law of ejectment, powers have been conferred upon the landlords in Ireland that have no existence in England. The debates not only in the House of Commons, but in the other House of Parliament, contained ample evidence of the abuse of the great powers which had been conferred upon the landlords. The speeches of Members of the House of Commons in those days were saturated with evidence that their sentiments of humanity had been shocked by the exercise of those powers. The human nature of Sir Robert Peel was so stirred that, speaking from the Treasury Bench in 1843, he said he hoped it was possible that the expression of indignation on the part of the House of Commons might have some effect in checking the power of legal ejectment. He wished they could hear some similar suggestion from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The circumstances of the Clanricarde and other estates in Ireland were very similar to those which called forth that expression of opinion from Sir Robert Peel; and he would repeat that if they could have some indication from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that he had been touched by the circumstances of the case, and that the state of things had made a deep impression on the minds of the English Ministry, he would be very pleased indeed. Nor was this sentiment confined to speech-making. What happened in 1853? The Irish Attorney General brought in four Bills on the 22nd of November, 1852, of a most remarkable character. Anyone who would take the trouble to go through those Bills introduced by Mr. Napier would see that at last the conscience of the House of Commons was awakened to the state of things existing between landlord and tenant. One of those Bills contained a clause with this Proviso—that if it could be shown that a landlord had neglected to keep the house of a tenant in a proper state of repair he should forfeit his power of recovering rent until it was put in repair. There were hundreds of thousands of acres in Ireland at the present moment on which, if such a provision were enforced, no rent could be recovered at all. He need not say that that Proviso did not pass into law, but it was a Proviso contained in the Bill as originally introduced by the Government Head, the late Lord Derby. For 40 years Parliament helped the landlords, and during the next 30 years the House of Commons was in a state of doubt; but in 1870 a now chapter was opened. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) pointed to the fact three weeks ago that it was immediately after the Household Franchise was passed for the boroughs that that change took place. The Prime Minister maintained that the Act of 1870 commenced a career of confiscation. On the other hand, hon. Members on that side of the House thought in 1870 Parliament very tardily and very imperfectly commenced to give to the tenant some of those rights which he had actually possessed long before. In fact, the whole conflict was about the ownership of certain property. The question was to whom did the property rightly belong? They might call it "rent," but that word did not convey to the mind the correct idea. The Prime Minister, in the speech he delivered in January of the present year, asserted that the course which was commenced in 1881 was a mistaken one, dangerous to property, and the best interests of the Empire. He wished they could hear a little less about the rights of property and a little more of those of humanity. He had always understood that property was created for the purpose of humanity, but it might be imagined from the utterances of Lord Salisbury that humanity existed for the sake of property. He believed that property was the reward of thrift and industry, and he would be false to his convictions and a poor Representative of those who sent him to that House if he were to give countenance to some of the wild doctrines that were heard in some quarters as to the rights of property. But he returned to the question—To whom did the property belong? Who created the property? If any hon. Member would visit some of the great estates on which these rights of property, with the connivance and assistance of Her Majesty's Government, were being so ruthlessly exercised at the present moment, he would find a population creeping up the sides of the hills, and even barren bogs and inhospitable hill-sides turned into fruitful fields with ditches, fences, and everything that made the land worth occupying. Who had done that? It must be well known to every man in that House, who had looked into the matter, that not a single sixpence had ever been contributed by the owner of the estate who was exacting in the most merciless manner unjust rents for the occupation of this "property." The entire value was made by those from whom the rent was taken. Not only did this apply to land on the hill-side, but if they went to Wicklow, Derry, and other parts of Ulster, they would find there men of substantial means who had spent thousands of pounds in creating the value of the land they rented, and towards which the landlord had never contributed a single farthing. He thought that no one who looked carefully into the facts would quarrel with the definition which was given in the Bill in regard to "improvements," and he ventured to say that if the hon. Gentleman who spoke on the other side of the House a short time ago would really act up to that which he had suggested—namely, that no landlord could wish to derive rent from property which did not belong to him, he would support Clause 5 of the Bill. The Prime Minister, in the speech he had already quoted, spoke of the principles of the Land Act of 1881. The noble Lord said— Supposing a bank had lent money to a certain number of people at a fixed rate of interest, and suppose Parliament were suddenly to enact that that money should never be repaid and that a fixed rate of interest should be lower by one-third, I think you would cry out that Parliament was exceeding its province and was committing a considerable act of injustice. Yet that, and nothing else but that, is the principle on which the Act of 1881 proceeds. Now, he was prepared to say, with some knowledge of banking, that nothing could be more fallacious than that statement. He would give a really analogous case. Supposing a bank lent £100 to a man, and he by his industry and thrift turned that into £1,000, and that the bank charged interest at a rate of its own fixing on the whole £1,000: that would be precisely what the landlords in Ireland had done and what the English Legislature had enabled them to do. The noble Lord said— A certain number of landlords have let their land to a certain number of tenants on certain agreed terms. Surely the Prime Minister must have forgotten the Report of the Bessborough Commission. On page 21 hon. Members would see a most instructive paragraph on this very question of freedom of contract. The Bessborough Commission said distinctly— Freedom of contract in the case of the majority of the Irish tenants, large and small, does not exist. He ventured to think that these circumstances showed that the terms "landlord" and "tenant" were entirely inapplicable to the state of Ireland, and that was the true reason of the ridiculous nature of the "bankruptcy" proposals from certain quarters. He did not think he had ever heard effrontery carried further than in the case of the hon. Member for South Birmingham the other day. The hon. Member knew little or nothing about land, and yet he told the hon. Member for Cork, who ranked as one of the half-dozen real statesmen in the House, that he did not understand the effect of his own Bill! It was a favourite device of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour) to quote past legislation against those who sat on the Liberal side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman said the other night that it lowered the rents of the Irish landlords but gave them Parliamentary authority, and rendered them more secure. Well, the right hon. Gentleman must make up his mind in this matter. Was this legislation bad or good? If it was bad, the right hon. Gentleman was not entitled to throw it in their teeth and declare it to be good and final. Hon. Members on that side of the House maintained that there was no finality about the legislation of 1881 and 1887, but that it was imperfect. Why was it imperfect? It was because a great deal of it was passed in the teeth of the men who knew more about the subject than any other persons in the House. The hon. Member for Cork, in the year 1881, was very careful not to assume any responsibility for the measure which was passed in that year. The error of passing legislation in respect of the Irish land in the teeth of the opinions of Irish Representatives had cost this country very dear. What was happening in Ireland was what would always happen so far as the landlords were concerned. As soon as an Act of Parliament was passed they set themselves to mutilate it and pick holes in it. The landlords had availed themselves of every possible means at their disposal, and, so far as the laws themselves were concerned, they bristled with opportunities for the exercise of such action on the part of the landlords. He might give some examples by way of illustration. As regards the Act of 1881 there were provisions respecting non-residents on pasture lettings; occupants of town parks; demesne land; home farms; tenancies created since 1881; and as to covenants in leases preventing tillage and covenants in leases against meadowing. He would mention a fact which came under his own notice. It was a case in which two men had a joint holding, but the fences separating the holding were somewhat irregular. With the consent of the landlord they obtained permission to straighten the fences, so as to make the little holding rather better for agricultural purposes. But what was the effect? What they did carried them out of the Act of 1881, and they lost all the benefit of that Act. He had no doubt the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) would be able to give scores of similar cases in which the landlords, immediately after an Act of Parliament was passed, set themselves to pick holes in it. No sooner was legislation in favour of the tenants passed than the landlords sot themselves to work to tear the Act of Parliament in pieces. And what was quite as serious, those who were administering the Land Act were in sympathy with the landlords and opposed to the tenants. Not content with this, the Chief Secretary had brought forward a Bill further to mutilate the original Land Act in the interests of the landlords. The fact was that the Government of the day were in close alliance with the rack-renting Irish landlords, and the Chief Secretary was the cat's-paw of the Clanricardes and King-Harmans of Ireland. The Government of the day placed the forces under their control at the disposal of the landlords, and so enabled them to baton and sabre the Irish people and to stifle public opinion in Ireland. [An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear!] He was glad to have that cheer from the hon. Member, seeing that within the last few days the hon. Member had been a witness to the occurrences he had referred to, and he was glad to see the hon. Member safely back again. Last night he asked a question of the First Lord of the Treasury respecting a "printed statement" left by an influential deputation of Irish landlords with the Prime Minister. Seeing that the Government placed at the disposal of the Irish landlords the Forces of the country, the House of Commons was entitled to know what demands such persons as the Duke of Abercorn and his relatives and other Irish landlords had been making upon the English taxpayer in their recent interview with the Prime Minister. Were they asking the Government to remodel the Irish Land Commission. The Government were with one band placing their whole force at the disposal of the landlords, crushing down all combination among the Irish tenants, which was stated by the late Under Secretary for Ireland to be their only salvation; and, on the other hand, they were, through the mouth of the Prime Minister, inviting the landlords to exhibit greater unanimity and closer combination. He did not think that when the English people understood what was taking place they would allow the present condition of things to continue very long. The only safety for property in Ireland was in making the laws relating to land harmonize with the just and reasonable wishes of the Irish people. If this were the case, no people would be more truly Conservative in the best sense of the term in their principles than the Irish tenants; and, in his opinion, no people more easy to govern. The late Lord Melbourne sent out a very strong man to Ireland to fill the post of Under Secretary, Mr. Thomas Drummond, who did not hesitate to take steps for the preservation of law and order. He was, however, penetrated with an absolute sense of justice, and he was the author of the celebrated maxim that "Property has its duties as well as its rights." In the year 1785, one of the greatest men who ever sat in that Assembly, William Pitt, said, speaking of the commercial treatment of Ireland, that that Which had been the system had counteracted the kindness of Providence and suspended the industry and enterprize of man. It was only because of the unquenchable spirit of the Irish people that these words had not come true as regards land. On that side of the House they were resolved that the existing state of things should no longer continue, that the intentions of Providence should no longer be counteracted, and that enterprize and industry should receive their due reward. He did not underestimate the magnitude of the great struggle, of which the Land Question only formed a small part. On that side of the House they would acknowledge the force of the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that "patience is an Imperial virtue." For his own part, he deprecated any fever of exultation for Spalding and Southwark; and, on the other hand, he had no sympathy with the unreasonable depression which had been felt in certain quarters in regard to Deptford and Doncaster. They would go on unflinchingly in the task they had set themselves of bringing to the people of Ireland good government, and a realization of those just aspirations which would make them a loyal and contented people.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)

said, the history of the Bill before the House was a miniature history of the Irish Land Question. It was somewhat remarkable as being the seventh time since 1881 that the Irish Party had brought in a Bill practically similar in most of its details to the present measure. During the 10 years subsequent to the passing of the Act of 1870, about a score of Bills amending the Act of 1870 had been ruthlessly rejected. The Irish Party began a system of bringing in amending Bills which were rejected by the House. Many of his hon. Friends had dealt principally with this measure as one affecting arrears; but it was right that the general scope and purport of the measure should be dealt with, and they should ask from the Government some distinct statement of their objection to the various principles of the Bill. There was one important clause in the Bill to which he would direct attention. In 1881 the House exacted that no rent was to be allowed or made payable upon improvements of a tenant or his predecessor in title, unless compensated by the landlord or his predecessor in title. Constructions had been placed upon that section which had led to most iniquitous confiscation of the improvements, the contention being that the enjoyment by a tenant of his improvements was to some extent a compensation of them. During the progress of the Bill of 1881 through the House the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had declined to accept the Amendments proposed by the Irish Members, on the ground that the Courts could not decide in the way they wished to guard against with regard to the tenants' improvements; but, as a matter of fact, the Court of Appeal, by a majority, had just decided in the way that the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian had said they could not. That right hon. Gentleman had repeatedly declared that wherever the improvements belonged to the tenant, enjoyment of those improvements should not be held as compensation for them. Yet, despite that emphatic declaration, the Land Courts for the last seven years held that enjoyment of improvements was compensation for them. That, to a certain extent, the 1st clause of the Bill would remedy by a very simple provision, and he could not see what objection the Government had to it. There had been a constant confiscation of the tenants' improvements going on, especially with regard to leaseholders, simply because of the surrender of leases. It was a most unhappy thing that the decision in the case of "Adams v. Dunseath" laid down a doctrine which nobody could understand. The decision was so extraordinary that where there were four Judges to three on one point, there were on a subsequent point three Judges to four, and one of the Judges who made up the minority in one case was one of the Judges who made up the majority in the other, and decided, by a majority, a principle which the four Judges who had previously formed the majority had declared to be bad law. Notwithstanding that extraordinary state of facts, the tenants of Ireland continued to be robbed of their improvements. He took from the newspapers of the 28th March, the decision of a Sub-Commission presided over by a very able barrister (Mr. Bailey), who expressed views which he (Mr. Healy) did not agree with, of the law under "Adams v. Dunseath," and that would show the House the way in which the tenants were being robbed of their own property by the most miserable technicalities possible to conceive. In the case in question the tenant was a Rev. John Kane, who held under a lease. He paid £275 in 1879 to the representatives of the former tenant, and bought the interest in the existing lease. There was a clause in the lease against alienation, and the landlord gave him a new lease purporting to demise the dwelling-house. Now, because this man took out a new lease, Mr. Bailey decided that although the lease purported to demise the house, although the tenant had paid £275 practically for the house alone, under all the circumstances it was held that the buildings were the property of the landlord, and the rent must be charged upon them. That was simply because the tenant went on the technicality of surrendering one lease and taking out another, and simply because that was done his property was to be confiscated. He (Mr. Healy) could only say he thought it would be to the interest of all parties in Ireland that the law as regarded tenants' improvements should be put on a decent basis, and he had mentioned before, as a remarkable fact, that, by some curious circumstances, this question which arose in "Adams v. Dunseath" arose in a different way under the Crofters' Act; and while in every instance in Ireland the law was decided against the tenant, in every instance in Scotland it was decided in the tenant's favour. But that was not the sole grievance respecting improvements. Another remarkable decision was given recently in the case of a tenant named O'Neill, in the County Dublin. A clause in this man's lease, which was made since the Act of 1870, was to the effect that at the end of 31 years he was not to claim compensation for improvements under the Act of 1870. It was solemnly decided by the Sub-Commission, presided over by Mr. Kane, that because there was a provision in the lease that the tenant was not to claim compensation for improvements under the Act of 1870, the landlord was entitled to rent on these improvements, and though the tenant had put up buildings during the last 10 or 12 years to the extent of £1,600, which the landlord admitted to the full, yet the Court allowed rent on these very improvements. Was it reasonable that such a state of the law should continue? The worst of the matter was that these hardships and grievances were decided in a corner where nobody knew to any extent anything about them except a few lawyers in the Four Courts. The Sub-Commissioners operated in 32 counties. In many cases no report was furnished of the enormous hardships which were being done. These things were practically taking place in the dark, in a padded chamber, and no echo reached outside. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite would not contend for one moment that the law in "Adams v. Dunseath" was satisfactory; and, if it were unsatisfactory, was it not reasonable they should seek to change it? This decision affected millions' worth of property, and they asked that the law as regarded that property should be decided. If this property were the property of the landlord, it would be very quickly decided. They knew from the words of the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), now so fond of attacking them, that if the soil of Ireland were denuded of the tenants' improvements, it would be as naked as the American prairie. He (Mr. Healy) took from the House of Lords' Reports of last year the words of Earl Cowper, the appointee of Her Majesty's Government, who presided over the Commission, with which they (the Irish Members) had nothing to do. They had no Representative on that Commission. Their friends gave no evidence before that Commission—they left it severely alone, as if every one of its Members had got the plague; and notwithstanding that the only witnesses were witnesses not in sympathy with them, what was the solemn conclusion at which Lord Cowper arrived. He would quote from the report in Hansard of April 22, 1887— With one or two exceptions, he (Earl Cowper) distinctly stated that, until very recently, landlords did not make improvements on the land, and when the tenants made them, the rents were immediately raised. He attributed the present condition of Ireland to the fact that the landlord class in Ireland—who, in other respects, were a most admirable race of men—had in many instances been undoubtedly bad landlords."—(3 Hansard, [313] 1596.) He (Mr. Healy) did not know how a man could be, in other respects, an admirable man, if in regard to the chief matter in which he was allowed human power, enjoyment, and authority in the country, he was in the opinion of his own friends a bad man and a bad landlord. Lord Cowper was challenged as to his statement by an Irish landlord, Lord Belmore, on the 2nd May, 1887, after he had a full opportunity of reconsidering his words, and he reiterated them, as the report in The Standard showed. After using words similar to those he employed on the previous occasion, Lord Cowper went on to show how, while Irish tenants made all the improvements, they in England were done by the landlords, instancing a case where an owner of 70,000 acres in 22 years expended on the land and improvements £930,000. In face of these facts, he (Lord Cowper) thought he was justified in saying that, as a rule, the improvements were made in Ireland by the tenants, and in many cases the rents had been raised on such improvements. He (Mr. Healy) ventured to think the tenants' property in improvements in Ireland would not be represented by a sum of £150,000,000. Sir John Gray, in one of the debates following the Act of 1870, was of opinion that the Land Act of 1870 gave the tenants an interest equivalent to £100,000,000 in the soil, and taking into account the fall in prices, it was now a moderate estimate to say that £150,000,000 worth of property was at stake in this matter, that had been put in the land by the tenant, and to which the landlord had not contributed one farthing. Take the case of the Bath Estate, where the tenants' sweat had been coined into sovereigns for the benefit of the landlord. Under the Purchase Act, Lord Bath bad sold his estate at Farney, the entire rent of which, whilst in the time of Queen Elizabeth it was only £200 a-year, had been increased to £40,000 at the time Mr. Godkin inquired into it; and he ventured to say that not £1,000 of the improvement had been made by the landlord in all that time. Landlords like the Governor General of Canada and the Countess of Kingston would say they had spent large sums of money in improving their estates; but their money was spent only on rent offices and gate lodges, and little or none of it on the real work of reclamation or improvement of land. The landlords said they borrowed money from the Board of Works for the purpose of making improvements, but if they did, they made the tenants pay for it. He had recently seen a notice of ejectment against a man whose rent was originally under £50; but the rent had by accumulated charges of £5 for title—such charges as these landlords were now crying out to have remitted to them, although they had put them all on to their tenants' rents—as well as £30 for drainage, and £20 for building and other charges, had been raised to about £120. It was a monstrous thing that they should allow the law on the subject of tenants' improvements in Ireland to be in such a condition that at one moment it was decided one way, and at another moment it was decided another way. He ventured to say that if the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland were asked for a statement as to the exact condition of the law in this respect, he would not be able to tell them with any sense of confidence. Nobody really knew what was the law in Ireland in regard to tenants' improvements; it was in a most miserable state; and if the Government did not like the mode of dealing with the matter proposed by the present Bill, which proceeded on the policy of the Act of 1881, he appealed to them to propose their own clauses for that purpose, and at any rate to place the law on a sure and sound basis. Then there was the question of the legal presumption as to improvements. The Act of 1870 did deal with that question to a certain extent; it made the presumption largely in favour of the tenant, but it did not go far enough, considering that the tenant was often an illiterate man, unable to read or to write, a fact which the Conservatives, although they had kept him thus ignorant for centuries, hurled at them as an argument of his unfitness for self-government. He was much less able to keep accounts in respect to his improvements in the same way as the landlord, who had a staff of clerks; and surely, therefore, knowing as they did from the Reports of the Devon and the Cowper Commissions that the tenant made the improvements, they ought to recognize them as such, and put the law on the subject on a just and proper foundation. The presumption ought to be made more largely in favour of the tenants. Pasture tenants, too, ought all to be admitted. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and his distinguished Relative the Prime Minister had continually stated on English platforms that every Irish tenant might enter the Land Court and might claim compensation for disturbance. A more hollow statement was never made, and the way to test that statement was to look at the figures. The exceptions contained in the Land Acts of 1870 and 1881 drove large holes in those Statutes. The right hon. Gentleman stated that all went into the Land Court who wished, and that those who did not go had fair rents. The case of the Government had been stated with an audacity which could only spring from that ignorance which was certainly the solid basis for most of the statements of the Chief Secretary in regard to Ireland. The Irish Members said that the tenants did not go into Court, because they were excepted from the provisions of the Act; and if the Government contested that assertion, let them bring the matter to the proof. There were about 600,000 tenants in Ireland, and out of that number only 200,000, or one-third of the entire body of tenants, had applied to the Court. It might be said that the other 400,000 could go into Court, too, if they liked; but out of the 200,000 who went into Court to have fair rents fixed, 36,000 had their applications dismissed or struck off. That was to say, those 36,000 had their applications dismissed as not being included in the Land Acts of 1870 or 1881. Was not that an extraordinary proportion to be hunted out of Court out of 200,000 who tried their luck, feeling confident that they had rights? Under such circumstances, they asked that the Legislature should deal with the excepted cases. He admitted that they mended their hand in last year's Bill on the subject of town parks and sub-letting, and he asked that they should now deal with the question of pasture holdings, which they had not touched at all. Almost the entire Province of Munster was pasture, and that was largely the case in Leinster and Connaught also. The Irish Members asked that pasture should be properly defined, and the whole question dealt with fairly. That Bill provided most moderately that— A holding was not to be excluded from the benefit of the Land Act if it should appear that such holding was originally laid down in pasture by the tenant or his predecessors. All pasture holdings had not been excluded by the Act of 1881. The Act admittted those under £50 valuation which did not lie adjacent to the tenant's residence, this latter provision being a piece of legislative tomfoolery, by the way, such as that House was always sticking into Irish Acts, the Lord only knew why. It was yet an undecided question whether, if the man's valuation was £50, and that he lived solely by making butter and grazing, whether he would be excluded from the benefits of the Act of 1881. The Courts, it was true, had shrunk from so terrible a decision as to exclude him; but still the question was undecided, and the Government should deal with it. He could understand why the larger pasture holders had been excluded. That had been through the late Mr. Butt's influence in 1870, in consequence of the bitter feeling in the country against the large graziers who had assisted in the famine clearances of 1848. He (Mr. Healy) was, indeed, thankful to Providence that some of those large graziers, like Captain Pollok, of Galway, who held land that was uninhabited for miles and miles, and from which the people had been driven out like rats in 1848, now found these farms turning to moss on their hands, and that many of them were becoming, like Captain Pollok, broken and bankrupt. Captain Pollok had come to Ireland with £100,000, but he (Mr. Healy) did not suppose that he was now worth 100,000 farthings, noth withstanding all his consolidations and clearances of the wretched Irish peasantry. He ventured to say that in this matter the present Bill, so far from representing the real justice of the case, was watered down a tenth remove from it. They had here also a definition of the word improvement. They went the revolutionary length of providing that an improvement was any agricultural operation on the holding that added to the letting value, or any expenditure of labour or capital which added to the letting value. Now, the definition of an improvement was as much in favour of the landlord as of the tenant, according to whoever made the improvement. It cut both ways. He hoped, under those circumstances, that the House would adopt the amendment of the law. They dealt with sub-letting on the same basis. As an illustration of how the law at present worked, he knew of the case of Captain Bolton, which came under his own knowledge within the last 12 years, where the Sub-Commissioners reduced the rent from £142 to £90; in other words, it was judicially found that the landlord had been robbing the tenant of £1 a-week. There was no question raised in the Court below as to any sub-letting point; but the landlord stated it upon appeal, and but that the tenant produced a letter dated in 1838 condoning the subletting, he would have lost the benefit of the Act. The late Mr. Law inserted the provision as to sub-letting in the Act of 1881 in the interest of the tenant. It was not in the Bill as it was originally introduced, nor as it passed through Committee. Well, he (Mr. Healy) begged of Mr. Law to withdraw the provision from the Bill; but he said he was putting in the provision in the interests of the tenants, because, according to the definition of "holding," any tenant who let the least bit of his land would be deprived of all the provisions of the measure; and, knowing the enormous sympathy of Mr. Law for the tenants and his enormous learning, they did not for a moment dispute the wisdom of introducing the provision, as he considered it would be in the interest of the tenant. But what happened? Its analogy in the Registration of Votes Act was applied to this agrarian legislation, and that unfortunately had been the use that had been made of the Sub-Letting Clause. But what injury was it to the landlord if a tenant let a bit of his land? If he did so, the landlord had his remedy against the head, and also the subtenant, and he would be in a position to eject both if the rent was not paid. Under those circumstances, they asked, whether, in cases where the sub-letting had been of a reasonable character, they should oust the tenant from the benefit of the Act. He must say he thought that if the House was inclined to act in a reasonable spirit, some of the provisions of the Bill would be accepted, and what they would say to the Government would bo—"If you object to the Bill, but not as a whole, let it be read a second time, and then in Committee strike out or modify the provisions to which you object, but do not reject the whole Bill because you think that some of the provisions are unfair." They owed it to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian that the stringency of the Act of 1881 had been mitigated; but tenancies were being continually broken down in the cases of old and aboriginal tenants; and therefore they provided, that with regard to any tenancy created before the 1st of January, 1886—and he thought that was a too moderate proposal—the tenant should have a right to go into Court. A tenant who had been evicted should be regarded as an old tenant, and should not be considered as a man put upon the basis of contract. In the next clause they followed the Crofters' Act, which reduced the period of statutory tenants from 15 years to seven. They were more moderate oven than Lord Cowper, who proposed to make the judicial term five years. They asked that if seven years was considered fair for Scotland, why should not seven years be considered fair for Ireland also? The House found that the rents fixed from 1881 to 1885 were unfair, and declared that there should be a reduction; and now the Irish Members asked that the period of seven years should be put into this Bill, and under that basis, and with the new definition of improvement, they believed that some justice might be done for the tenants. The next provision dealt with the staying of payment of arrears, and some hon. Gentlemen considered that the central provision of the Bill. Some hon. Members had talked about the men who had got the arrears wiped out in 1882, that they should not again come into Court and get their arrears wiped out. But he (Mr. Healy) would point out that no such thing would have occurred if the rents fixed in 1881 and 1885 had not been rack-rents. To say that every spendthrift and dishonest tenant would get the benefit of the Act would be to write down every Irish Judge who dealt with these cases an ass, and to ignore the element of judicial discretion and determination. They found every day that the Chancery Judges were exercising their discretion; and, in his experience, they had fairly met the application of the tenants under them, and that exercise of discretion had been under judicial sanction and upon affidavit. But the Chancery Judges had only power to deal with estates that were rack-rented and encumbered, while previously they were bound, under the decision in "Hamilton v. Nagle," not to make the reduction if the owner objected. Under the Act of last year, the power of objecting had been taken out of the hands of the owner and placed in the hands of the Court alone; and if the House thought it just and fair to do that in the case of tenants under the Courts of Chancery, was it not equally fair to take out of the landlords' hands the power of objection in all cases? As regarded the rental of Ireland, the power which they claimed under that Bill was already in existence; and they now asked the House to give the County Court Judges and the Judge of the Superior Courts the very power which the House itself enacted in the important powers which they conferred upon the Chancery Judges in the Act of last year. That clause was given with the assent of the legal Representatives of Her Majesty's Government. Another consequence of the decision given by the Court of Appeal was this—that the reduction of rent in the way of wiping off arrears should not take place when the landlord objected. The Tory Party took away from the landlord that power of objection, and left it to the Land Judges in the Court of Chancery to make any reduction they pleased for the good of the estate. If Judges Monroe and Boyd were fit to be entrusted with that power, surely the late Colleagues of the Government—Judge Gibson and Judge Holmes—were fit to be entrusted with similar power, and all the Irish Party asked was the extension of the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery to the Common Law Courts under similar circumstances. Why should not the Irish tenant be treated with as much consideration as the Crofters in Scotland? When rent had been judicially reduced, would not the House take care that a tenant should not be reduced to the position of a caretaker by arrears? He now came to the provision dealing with the fatal 7th clause of the Act of 1887. He should say that he hardly believed that the Chief Secretary and the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) could scarcely have foreseen the operation of the clause under which eviction notices were sent out by post. It was operating largely in the case of leaseholders. The notices might or might not blossom into evictions; perhaps the Chief Secretary was right in anticipating that all would not do so, but many of them had already done their deadly work; they had put the leaseholders back to the status they occupied before the Act of 1887, and the landlord could refuse terms except on condition that the leases should be extinguished. If a tenant whose rent became due on the 1st of November received an originating notice on the 31st of October, that tenant, for an amount of arrears which did not exist, except as a legal fiction might lose his status. He (Mr. Healy) asked the Government to at least say that the fact of a tenant being served with a notice of eviction should not deprive him of having a fair rent fixed. It might be said, what good was it to the tenant to have a fair rent fixed if he could not pay up his arrears? The moment his rent was reduced, he could go to the bank or the terrible gombeen man, and, on the faith of the fixture of a fair rent, he could get sufficient money to wipe out his arrears. It was the knowledge on the part of the landlord that when a fair rent was once fixed, a man could either continuo in his holding, or sell the tenant-right for its full value, which made the landlord so anxious to perform an operation that would destroy the tenant's status. And the unnecessary provision by which leaseholders were prevented from going into the Land Court was the one which compelled them to prove their title. Because lease-holders would not go to the heavy expense of getting the solicitor of the estate to make out their lease, they were to be deprived of the provisions of the Act of 1887. Why was it that it was made so difficult for tenants to get the benefit of good laws in Ireland? There were no exceptions of town-parks or grazing lands or leaseholders from the Crimes Act; it was only in the excellent legislation about which the Government boasted that these differences were made. Why should the Government leave these distinctions to be traded upon, as they said, by those who lived by agitation? Another provision they objected to was the one excluding leases for 999 years from the benefit of the Act. Because a tenant had a lease in perpetuity, he was to be robbed in perpetuity. Why, it was the leaseholders of that kind that needed the benefit of the Act. A man who held a lease for a short time had the hope of getting rid of it in a short time, but the man who held a lease for over would never get rid of it. He thought it a great misfortune that a man should be denied the benefit of good laws because there happened to be an additional figure of 9 on his lease. The expenditure of a little ink in writing an additional 9 on a piece of parchment was the difference in Ireland between a pauper and a prosperous tenant. Absurdities of that kind should be avoided in legislation. The turbary question was an important one, and ought to be dealt with. With reference to the turbary clause, he would point out that landlords, the moment a tenant got a fair rent fixed, often tacked the difference between the fair rent and the old rent on to the bog. He (Mr. Healy) ventured to say that in the old grants given by the Crown these bogs were never included. They were the immemorial right of the tenants, and the landlords had afterwards craftily got possession of them by getting the tenants to give them acknowledgments of the bog and then putting on a rent of a penny a week for the turbary. In Ireland peat for fuel was a necessary of life, and this truth had been partially recognized in Deasy's Act and in the Act of 1881. The woods in Ireland had been destroyed, and therefore the people had only the bogs to supply them with fuel. Enormous injustice was done to the tenants by reason of the deprivation of bog, and it was reasonable to ask the House to deal with this question in the manner suggested. He would give an illustration of how the Court of Chancery could dispose of such matters. There was the case of a gentleman who had recently been appointed one of the Sub-Commissioners who appeared before the Court in respect to the sale of some property. On the title of the estate it was put down that the tenants had a right to the bog. Though it was proved the bog had been the tenants' for generations, and that they had never paid for it, this landlord commenced a suit, and what happened? Judge Monroe, instead of letting the brief of the tenant be opened, addressed the landlord to the following effect:— My dear Sir, if this property were to be sold without the rights of the tenants to their bog being recognized upon it, the purchaser would only be buying a small civil war. And Mr. Justice Monroe dismissed the Sub-Commissioner's application with costs. That was an instance of the summary way in which the Court of Chancery dealt with these pretensions of the landlords. Fortunately, a wise jurisdiction was exercised in that Court by the two gentlemen who presided over it, but unfortunately such cases seldom reached the ears of the public. The principles which guided the Court in cases such as that to which he had referred ought to receive general and undisputed recognition; and what they asked was that some provision of that kind in regard to rent should be recognized. The British Parliament by its legislation had made the Irish tenantry more easily "huntable," to use an expression applied by a German poet to the condition of the Irish people, than rabbits were by sportmen's ferrets. Legislation was passed upon the mere ipse dixit of a Gentleman sitting on the Treasury Bench, and the Irish Representatives were brought to Westminster to cry in vain in the ears of the Members of that House. He feared that this Bill could not hope for kindlier treatment from the author of the famous "pay or quit" declaration than its predecessors had received; but he warned the Government that the ghost of the measure would haunt them, and that the time would inevitably come when the principles which they now rejected would find a place upon their Statute Books. He appealed to the House, as the Bill was of such a moderato character, to agree to the Motion of his hon Friend.


said he willingly accepted the challenge thrown out by the hon. and learned Member (Mr. T. M. Healy) to state, on behalf of the Government, in detail as to each of the provisions of the Bill, the ground on which they suggested the rejection of the measure. He must say he thought the challenge the hon. and learned Member had thrown out was a more practical one than that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Rushcliffe Division of Nottingham (Mr. J. E. Ellis), who suggested that, as an occupant of the Treasury Bench, he should state the opinion of the Government as to the merits or demerits of the Irish land legislation commenced in 1881. It was rather remarkable that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. E. Ellis) threw out this challenge in the course of a speech in support of a measure which had been three times rejected by the authors of the legislation of 1881 as an unsettlement of that measure, and that in the same speech—and he (Mr. Madden) mentioned this as a tribute to the hon. Member's fairness and candour—he recalled to the recollection of the House what was undoubtedly a fact, namely, that in the year 1852 the Attorney General of the then Conservative Party introduced into the House a measure with which the hon. Member was evidently familiar, which went far in advance of any provisions which up to then had been submitted, in the direction of legislation for the relief of the tenants of Ireland, by any person occupying the position of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, then the Law Officer of the Crown. It would be admitted, however, that it was more practically useful to discuss the Bill before the House than the views and opinions of the Conservative Party on the course of legislation during past years. He was glad that the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down had recalled the attention of the House to the points upon which the decision of the House must be given. He (Mr. Madden) was the more glad because until the hon. and learned Gentleman addressed the House they had no such light on the matter. The hon. Gentleman who moved the second reading of the Bill had devoted a great deal of his attention to the perpetuity clause, and it was not a little remarkable that his advocacy of that clause seemed to be inspired chiefly by some views which he entertained with regard to the Trinity College tenants; That certainly was the main subject of the hon. Member's address to the House with reference to that clause. Well, he (Mr. Madden) would not go into the question of the Trinity College tenants now, for two reasons—first, because the time of the House was limited, and the question did not appear to be really pertinent to the important questions raised by the Bill; and, secondly, because there was another Bill before the House upon which the question could be more fully and conve- niently discussed. He did not think a more infelicitous example could have been shown by the hon. Member, for the hon. Member had overlooked the fact that the great bulk of the Trinity College tenants were not occupying tenants, but middlemen; and that the settlement come to between the College and their tenants involved the principle of periodical re-adjustment of rents, therefore it was difficult to see why—unless it were for the purpose of making reference to Trinity College as a "close Corporation"—the hon. Member had devoted any time to the subject. Following the criticism of the Bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, he would take first the most important question—namely, that of improvements. The hon. and learned Gentleman had made a statement—and had made an appeal to him (Mr. Madden) in regard to that statement—in reference to the position of the law on the subject of improvements. The hon. and learned Member had stated that if a case were laid before a practising member of the Bar—and the hon. and learned Member had selected him (Mr. Madden) as the example—he would experience considerable difficulty in giving advice as to the exact state of the law. Well, the main difficulty in giving advice was generally in the application of the existing and the undoubted law to the particular facts of the case. They might make the law more simple—he was prepared to admit that this Bill, by removing all fair limitations and provisions in favour of the landlords, would probably simplify the law very much indeed, and any member of the Bar who had to advise under these circumstances would find it a very simple matter. But they must look beyond that, and he could not agree with the statement of the hon. and learned Member that, if they looked at the substance of the law in regard to improvements, there was any difficulty or injustice in the law as it at present existed. The hon. and learned Member had referred to the case of "Adams v. Dunseath"—a case with which those interested in the administration of the law were very familiar. The facts of that case might be somewhat difficult, but the two principles of law, decided in two cases, to which the hon. and learned Gentleman had referred, stand out clearly. One was clearly decided in favour of the fair rights of the tenant, and the other, it appeared to him, with equal clearness and with similar fairness, in the direction of the rights of the landlord. The former of the two questions to which he referred was this—the question as to the position of the tenant in cases where improvements existed on the holding and where there had been a series of tenants. By the decision in the case of "Adams v. Dunseath," the strict legal interpretation which had been put on the words "predecessor in title" in the Act of 1870 was departed from. The decision in the case which arose under the Act of 1881 was entirely in favour of the tenant on that point.


Not altogether.


said, the decision was entirely in favour of the tenant in respect of the point he was referring to. Of course he did not mean to say that it went so far in favour of the tenant as the hon. and learned Member would have it go. The decision got rid of a technicality which had been imported into the Act of 1870, and put—to use the language of Lord Chancellor Law, who was an eminent authority on that Act—a less technical interpretation on the term "predecessors in title," and adopted the principle that where there was a series of tenancies upon the land, each should be regarded as a predecessor in title to those who followed, although he might not have been predecessor in precisely the same title. But the Bill now before the House sought to go far beyond that. It sought to adopt the principle of predecessorship in occupancy, and that would include the case where a landlord had taken up the land, and perhaps farmed it for a time and then re-demised it with all the improvements. That seemed to him the most curious clause he had ever seen in a Bill of this kind. It provided that the expression "predecessors in title" should be construed to be "predecessors in occupancy," when it should appear to the Court that the justice of the case so required. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes, that was all very well when they submitted for the decision of the Court a question involving a question of discretion or justice; but this was a question of general principle, winch was not to be decided by what was just in an individual case; the question was as to the principle to be laid down—as to whether they were to go beyond the case of tenants who had made improvements, and a series of tenants who had done likewise. That was the question of principle to be decided by the House. He could not understand the demand for the recognition of the principle of succession of occupancy when they were dealing with the question of tenants' improvements, and they had already provided for the succession in title of a series of tenants when succeeding each other. The Crofters' Act had been referred to over and over again, but it was a most remarkable fact that if they looked at that Act they would find that in that Statute the term "predecessors in title" was limited to predecessors in title of the same family.


That is because alienation is impossible. It is prohibited, and free sale does not exist.


said, the point of his observation was that in Ireland the tenants had benefits which they could not have in Scotland. In Scotland, with regard to improvements, they could not look at the succession of tenancies generally, but the succession was limited to Members of the same family. The hon. and learned Member had referred to two cases as an illustration of what he called the unsatisfactory state of the law. Now it was remarkable that in one Sub-Commissioners' Court, presided over by Mr. Bailey, a decision was made with which the hon. and learned Gentleman said he should not agree—


No; I said, "with which I do not say that I agree."


said, at any rate, if the head of that Sub-Commission had made an erroneous decision as to the law, it was easy to set it right. They could not easily lay down in a Bill a principle which was to guide them in dealing with every holding. Difficulties must crop up in individual cases. For one moment let him call the attention of the House to a rather important matter, which he did not think was very clearly brought out in the speeches which had come from the Opposition side of the House; he referred to the meaning of the term "improvement," and, as the time of the House was limited, he would not go into detail more than was absolutely necessary. He wished to point out that the importance of this Bill did not lie so much in the definition of the word "improvement" in the fifth clause as in the second clause, which dealt with the interest of the tenant in his improvements. Perhaps the House had not yet realized the extraordinary change in the law which that clause would effect. The clause provided that where— Application has been made to the Court in the said Act mentioned to fix the fair rent of a holding, the Court shall ascertain whether any improvements have been made thereon by the tenant or his predecessors in title for which he or they have not been paid or otherwise compensated by the landlord or his predecessors in title, and shall estimate the extent of any increase in the letting value of the holding resulting from such improvements. Such increase in letting value shall, for the purposes of any such application, be deemed to be the property of the tenant, and no rent shall, in any proceedings under the said Act or this Act, be allowed or made payable in respect thereof. Now, be that right or be it wrong, under the shelter of the not quite so formidable definition clause, a total and absolute change in the law as to tenants' property in improvement was introduced by this section; and he would endeavour to explain what he meant. The first of the questions—the one which had been discussed—was whether, in the construction of the existing Acts, the "improvement" meant the works done by the tenant, in the carrying out of which he had spent his money, and the effect of which had been to add to the letting value of the holding on the increased value which was the result of those works. The second of the questions decided is the case to which the hon. and learned Member (Mr. T. M. Healy) referred. As the former question to which he had referred had been clearly decided in favour of the tenant, so as regards the latter question with equal clearness a decision had been given in favour of the landlord. The making of an improvement was one thing. It cost the tenant money, or time, or labour—it cost something which might be the subject-matter of compensation, and that it should be the subject-matter of compensation had been long ago admitted. The increased letting value was a totally different thing. Whilst the increased letting value depended in part, no doubt, upon that expenditure of money, it depended in part also upon the capability of the thing improved, and that capability was the property of the landlord. ["No, no!"] He supposed hon. Members opposite would admit that before the tenant carried out improvements the landlord had the property which was capable of benefiting by the improvement, and could himself have carried out the improvements and realized benefit from them. He would quote the opinion of an eminent authority, which hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House as well as hon. Members on the other side of the House respected. Mr. Isaac Butt, in dealing with the question, made an observation which would show to those who accepted it that such a settlement as that proposed in the present Bill would be unjust—namely, the definition of the increased value, instead of the thing done as being the improvement. Mr. Butt had said— The additional value is not the creation solely of the tenant. It is the creation partly of the expenditure of the skill of the tenant and partly of the inherent capability of the soil. Mr. Butt had pointed out cases in illustration of this contention, and had gone on to say— These powers of the soil were the property of the landlord, and he has the right to have them returned to him when the tenant's interest expires. He has not the right, however, to appropriate the expenditure which the tenant has incurred in making them productive. That was the foundation of the law as it existed at present. The tenant had no right to say that the increased value of the land was his. That was the doctrine laid down; but this principle would be reversed by the 2nd clause of the Bill. The entire increased value of the holding was to be made the property of the tenant totally irrespective of whether it was due to the expenditure of money or to the capabilities of the soil which was the property of the landlord. That he looked upon as one of the most objectionable features of the Bill. He asked the House if it was correct to describe this Bill as having for its object to do away with pitfalls that had been detected in the work of the Legislature. He could understand a measure being brought forward to supply deficiencies of that kind, and to correct matters which were not foreseen by the Legislature, but this was not such a measure. The provisions of the Bill were matters of principle which had been discussed in that House over and over again; and, in substance, the House had had the Bill before it on many occasions. It had been made the subject of Divisions, and had frequently been pronounced against by the House. Of course it was impossible to prevent difficulties arising under the best drawn Act of Parliament, but this was the class of questions with which the Bill dealt. With reference to the Improvements Clause of the Bill, the only other remark he had to make was that the third section appeared to him to be extremely unjust with regard to the presumption which it created as to improvements executed in the last 50 years. The presumption which at present existed was extremely fair and equitable to the tenant, but under this section of the Bill they would have to go back for an unreasonable time, and prove that the work had been done by the landlord. The hon. and learned Member had mentioned the provision under the law which now existed that the enjoyment by the tenant of his improvements might be had regard to by the Court in fixing the amount of compensation. That he held to be a provision eminently fair. But how did the Bill deal with this subject? No matter whether the landlord and the tenant had dealt together on the basis of the improvements, no matter what forbearance had been shown, and no matter what the arrangement between the landlord and the tenant might be, an express contract must be produced or the matter was not to be considered. He submitted that it was more fair and equitable to leave the question to the consideration of the Court than to lay down a hard and fast rule, and that the decision previously come to over and over again by the House on this question was just and fair. This part of the measure reversed the present law in a manner that was exceedingly unjust to the landlords. The next point of the hon. and learned Member was the question of the exemption of pasture land. There was no general exemption in the case of pasture land under the Act of 1881, which provided that the land must have been let wholly or mainly for the purpose of pasture, and that the holding must be valued at not less than £50. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the provision relating to pasture lands adjoining the farm on which the tenant resided as nonsensical, but it seemed to him, on the contrary, eminently fair and sensible. The Act was intended to apply to the ordinary class of occupying tenants who resided on their holdings, and was not intended for the protection of those who entered into large grazing speculations. But the class of cases to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred was not so numerous as the House might be led to suppose. The hon. and learned Member had stated that of the 500,000 or 600,000 tenants in Ireland, about 200,000, less a certain number of cases that were dismissed, had had fair rents fixed, and that of the remaining 400,000 a large number were kept out of Court by the fact that they were pastoral tenants—tenants of demesnes or otherwise exempted. He did not think that statement consistent with what was generally said on the subject, and he would remind hon. Members opposite that the statement had been over and over again made in that House that it was the large amount of arrears that prevented tenants going into the Land Court. Another question with which the Bill proposed to deal was that which, it seemed to him, had been already provided for by existing legislation—namely, the question of sub-letting. No doubt the original Act of 1881 was intended for the benefit of occupying tenants, and the clause which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred to had the effect of excluding certain cases where there had been sub-letting of a trivial character; but what was done last year? The Land Law (Ireland) Act of 1887 contained a clause which appeared to him to remove the difficulty and to do away with the two cases where the former Act might work injustice. In the first place, it exempted from exclusion cases of sub-letting where the tenant was a bonâ fide labourer on the holding; and, in the second place, cases where the amount of sub-letting was so trivial that the Court deemed the tenant in substantial occupation of the holding. Surely, the hon. and learned Gentleman did not contend that where a man was not substantially in occupation of the holding he should be admitted to the benefit of the Act? He submitted that it was only where the Court declared that a tenant was substantially in the occupation of the holding that he was entitled to the benefit of the Act; and, therefore, the object of this part of the Bill had, in opinion, been attained. The next provision of the Bill was with regard to future tenancies, and was of a very anomalous character. He could understand the provisions of the Act of 1881 on this point; but he could not understand admitting the distinction between present and future tenancies, and adopting the arbitrary point of time suggested by the Bill. Then as to the suggested limitation of the terms of the judicial tenancy to seven years, the hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to it as a more moderate proposal than that of the Cowper Commission, but there was an essential difference. As he understood the Bill, all questions relating to the tenancy must be re-opened and gone through at the end of seven years. But the Cowper Commission suggested nothing of that kind. Their recommendation was an entirely different one—namely, that there should be no entire re-opening of the whole case, but only a sort of automatic adjustment of rent, which was a much less objectionable proposal. As to the matter of staying evictions, that matter had been the subject of the most careful legislation already, and the existing provisions were, he considered, just and liberal to the tenants. The Courts had power to stay proceedings for ejectment, pending the fixing of judicial rents, and there appeared to him no necessity whatever for further legislation on the subject. With regard to arrears, he was aware that there was no power to deal with them except by spreading them over a certain period by instalments. It was stated by the hon. and learned Member that this provision of the Bill had been taken from the Crofters' Act; but although it might have been copied from that Act, it was now applied to a case entirely dissimilar. The Crofters' Act dealt with primary applications for fair rents, but this Bill dealt indiscriminately with various classes of tenants, whether tenants under lease, tenants who took the benefit of the Arrears Act of 1882, or tenants who might have had fair rents fixed years ago. A clause of this kind, as applied to the tenants of all those classes, had absolutely no resemblance to the Crofters' Act. The hon. and learned Member had referred to a clause which was introduced into the Act of 1887. It was perfectly true, as the hon. and learned Gentleman said, that the Chancery Judges, in dealing with the estates of minors and lunatics, had power to remit arrears. But the Court of Chancery in dealing with such estates acted as the owner of them; it did what the owner might do, and what the vast majority of landlords in Ireland were doing. The Act of last year merely placed the Land Judges, when an order had been made for sale and a receiver had been appointed, in the position which the Judge of the Court of Chancery had always held when acting for minors and lunatics, and enabled them to make abatements of rent. With reference to turbary, a more extraordinary provision had never been submitted to the House than that contained in this Bill—namely, that what was called the reasonable expectation of the tenants, the licences and usages which they enjoyed as a matter of favour, should be converted into a matter of legal right against the landlord. He was far from saying that the question of turbary was not a difficult one, but the Government could not accept a provision which converted what were called privileges by custom, but which were not rights in any proper sense of the term, into legal rights. The question of perpetuity holdings had been fully discussed and decided last year, and what reason had the hon. and learned Member given for going behind that decision? The hon. and learned Member asked what magic there was in the number 999. But where a line has to be drawn it must be drawn somewhere, and you must draw it at some definite point with regard to tenancies which are within or without the scope of the Acts. He submitted that no grounds had been laid before the House sufficient to induce it to depart from the decision arrived at last year. This Bill had a long Parliamentary history. It was brought forward in substance in 1882, and was then opposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). It was again opposed by him in 1883 and 1884, and he asked what prospect there was held out that if the House in 1888 were to adopt its provisions it would be regarded as a final settlement of the land question in Ireland. It was admitted that it would be only a new unsettlement. The mover of the Bill did not claim finality for it, and one of his supporters had declared that the real question underlying it was the question of real property in what was called rent. Therefore, seeing that the Bill was not proposed as a settlement of the question, and that its provisions were neither just nor fair, he would ask the House to reject the Motion for its second reading.

MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

said, the hon. and gallant Member for North Down (Colonel Waring) had quoted a number of statistics, and shown that there was only one farmer who emigrated from Ireland for 10 labourers. He would point out it was the farmers' sons who went away, and that the farmers, who were generally old men, were those who remained. This Bill might be called an omnibus Bill, and he was going to vote for its second reading, although by that he did not intend to commit himself to the details of every clause. The hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland had said they must draw a line somewhere with regard to leaseholders, but he wanted it to be drawn nowhere. Last year, when perpetuity and long leaseholders were shut out from the Bill of the Government, there was an understanding that a Bill would be introduced by which these tenants were to purchase the fee-simple of their holdings. New they had heard nothing of that Bill. Seeing that the Government were not prepared to deal with this matter in the way they practically undertook to deal with it, he thought they might, at all events, bring the long leaseholders under Lord Ashbourne's Act, and enable them to compulsorily buy the fee simple of their holdings. The other point he wished to touch upon was the question of arrears. There were four classes of arrears which the House ought to consider. He did not deny that what were called bogus arrears existed, but he wanted to know what was the use of a Judge with a discretion vested in him if he was not able to find out whether the plea of inabilty to pay was real or a sham. He thought that was a question which must be left to the Irish Judges, who were acquainted with the state of the country. The next class of arrears were those which had accumulated under the Plan of Campaign. He thought these were entitled to different treatment from that of the ordinary class of arrears with which he proposed to deal, but they would have to be dealt with in some way or other. It was quite clear that the landlords could get none of these until they came to terms, and it was for their interest that this question should be settled. The tenants now going into Court for the first time were getting reductions of rent to the extent of 30, 40, and 50 per cent. If that was so, the rents could not possibly be fair, and if arrears had accumulated in consequence—the tenants were entitled to relief. It was an erroneous impression that it was desired that these arrears should be swept away. All he had asked in the Bill which he had introduced was that the County Court Judge should have discretion to deal with them—to wipe them out or reduce them, in the same way as the Judges of the Landed Estates Court had power to do at the present moment. The Solicitor General for Ireland had impressed upon the House that the Judge of the Landed Estates Court practically took the place of the owner. But he would call attention to a case decided last week by Mr. Justice Monroe. The owner had consented to the reduction of rent, but refused to consent to the reduction of the arrears, and the Judge then swept them away entirely, saying that it was not of the slightest use to continue the arrears in the case of these small holdings. Having worked for years with the Ulster tenant farmers, he knew that the decision in the case of "Adams v. Dunseath" was felt to be a heavy burden, and in his opinion rightly, the tenants being under the impression that they were rented on their improvements, and that the Court of Appeal had decided that this was right. He had been struck with the discussion of that morning. He believed in his heart that the Irish Question was much more economic than political in its character, and he likewise believed that the Land Question was at the root of the Irish problem. He did not know how long it would take to carry the provisions of this Bill, or how many years they might spend in passing the Bill through the House clause by clause; but he was certain that in substance it would be ultimately carried, and that until it was carried the peace of Ireland would not be secured.

MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

said, that the legal aspects of the question raised by the Bill had been so powerfully and so exhaustively presented in the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) that he should attempt to add nothing to his argument. The point upon which he wished to make a single remark was the extraordinary position of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Madden) took up, in supposing that he could get rid of the question of arrears by saying that the Government could not approve of the clauses of the Bill. Surely the hon. and learned Solicitor General forgot that the Government induced the House three weeks ago—at the instance of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain)—to pass an Amendment accepting a proposition which virtually committed both the Government and the House to the admission that there was a case for dealing with arrears. The hon. Member for North Antrim did not object to the arrears clauses of the Bill because they would inflict monetary loss on the landlords, but because of their moral effect on the Irish tenants. He did not doubt that the hon. Member, like other hon. Members on his side of the House, voted for the Amendment of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, and by so doing committed himself to the proposition that there was an arrears question, and that the tenants were in urgent need of a proposal for dealing with arrears of rent. He (Mr. John Morley) would point out that nearly every set of provisions of the Bill received their support that day and got authority quite outside the ranks of the Nationalist Members for Ireland as much as from within those ranks. The turbary clause was taken from the Bill of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), and the clause reducing the statutory term was supported by the Cowper Commission. Though the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland had demurred to there being any parallel between the claims of the Scotch Crofters' Act and the application of similar clauses in Ireland, he would remind him that no less a powerful supporter of his Government than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham expressly stated that in his view the clauses of the Crofters' Act of 1886 furnished an exact precedent upon which they might wisely go in dealing with arrears of rent in Ireland. He (Mr. John Morley) submitted that the House was asked to reject propositions for the welfare of the Irish tenants which were not propounded merely by Members of the Nationalist Party, but which received support from authorities of the utmost diversity of opinion, but all agreeing in this, and all differing from Her Majesty's Government in this, that they knew the conditions of the case in Ireland, and that Her Majesty's Government either did not know them or else made it a point of honour to ignore, and behaving as if they were not worth a moment's consideration.


I must say I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's remarks with the greatest surprise. He gave the House to understand that this was a Bill which the Government were going to reject against the wishes, not merely of the hon. Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway, but against the wishes of all land reformers who have given attention to the subject, whatever Party they belong to. Precisely the reverse of that statement is the fact. Every one of the important provisions of the Bill has been discussed in the House, and has been brought under the consideration of the Front Opposition Bench—has been commented upon by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan), and has been rejected by the House on its merits, chiefly in consequence of the arguments advanced by those right hon. Gentlemen.


The arrears clause was never brought forward at all, and it is one of the most important.


I absolutely differ from the hon. Gentleman in thinking the arrears clause the most important.


I said one of the most important.


The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) stated that we who voted in the majority three weeks ago on the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork committed ourselves, by voting for the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Birmingham (Mr. Powell-Williams) to the proposition that there was an important arrears question remaining to be dealt with in Ireland. If that be so—and I do not argue the point—the arrears question in Ireland would not be dealt with by the proposition which is now laid before the House. What does the arrears question in Ireland arise from? It is stated to have arisen from the fact that in a large number of cases judicial rents were fixed before the fall of prices; that in consequence of the fall of prices those judicial rents became impossible; that in consequence of the judicial rents becoming impossible arrears accumulated; and that in consequence of the accumulation of arrears tenants were turned out of their holdings. Sir, not a single tenant who ever went into the Land Court to get a fair rent fixed under the Act of 1881 would obtain the slightest fragment of relief by the proposition which is now seriously put before the House; and consequently this Bill is no solution of the arrears question in Ireland. So much for the question of arrears. But the most important proposition in this Bill was not alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle. The right hon. Gentleman said that the proposals of the Bill were supported from outside the Irish Party. I ask him whether a single Member outside the Irish Party except one—the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division of Nottingham (Mr. J. E. Ellis)—is seriously prepared to go into the Lobby and to vote for a Bill which reduces the interest of the landlord to what is known as "prairie value." If you take the second and fourth clauses of this Bill in combination, as was pointed out with unanswerable force by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) in 1884, you absolutely deprive the landlord of everything but prairie value. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) gave us a case of Lord Bath's property, which he said was worth nothing when it came to Lord Bath, but which had been sold to the tenants, and was now worth £40,000 a-year. The contention is that the whole of that £40,000 annual value was conferred upon the land by the tenants. Work that to its logical conclusion, and it is perfectly clear that Lord Bath had no legitimate property interest in the land at all.


There is a limit of 50 years in the Bill.


But observe, that if you once admit the principle how far it may go. Is this Bill regarded as final by the Irish Party who bring it forward in this House? T hon. and learned Member for North Longford described it as a "watered down tenth of what was required," in the hope that it may be allowed to pass. Therefore we know that it is merely regarded as an instalment, and that if it were adopted hon. Gentlemen would come next year or the year after and tell us that the Land Question was still unsettled, and that if we would only make a further advance upon the principles which we had accepted, then the Irish tenantry would be at last contented. The result will be that even if we pass this measure, the question will still remain unsettled. Now, I do not wish to argue the question of property in land; but it is perfectly clear that if you are to cut down the landlords' interest in land to the original value of the soil, unimproved by the tenant and unaffected by the progress of society, you would destroy at one sweep every atom of property in land throughout the Three Kingdoms. Is that principle accepted by any Gentleman outside the Irish Party? I do not think that any hon. Member outside the Irish Party will desire to see such a result as that brought about. Does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle accept it? The right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow four years ago denounced such a proposal, and I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman's conversion has reached such a point that he now repudiates all arguments which he had himself advanced at such a recent period. There is a proposition in this Bill which entirely removes all the restrictions upon sub-letting. Does that meet the approval of hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway? Does not everyone who knows anything about the Irish. Question know—this that half the difficulty and half the evil which Ireland suffers from in the West and South-West arises from reckless sub-division? Is the House prepared, after removing every inequitable provision against subletting, to remove every equitable provision? Then we come to the reduction of the judicial term. It has been contended that half the difficulties and evils under which Ireland suffers would be removed if the judicial rents were to be revised every seven instead of every 15 years; but although, if the original Land Act were now before the House, I might prefer to see the period of the fixed rents shortened from 15 to seven years, I do not think that by shortening the period now the evils under which the Irish tenants are suffering will be mitigated in any great degree. Seven years only have elapsed since the Act of 1881 was passed; precisely the period, therefore, which the hon. Gentleman now advocates. But long before ever five years had passed, did not he and his friends begin shouting out that it was impossible to pay judicial rents? Is it not, therefore, a farce to suggest that a change of period from 15 to seven years is a true solution of the difficulty? The way to deal with it is, not by shortening the term, but by trying to find some expedient by which rent may be made to bear a proportion to the price of products. I will not dwell upon the question of future tenancies, but I will point out that if you abolish them by this Bill you will give up the last fragment of hope which was held out to us by the framers of the Act of 1881, that free contract should some day or other be restored to Ireland. For my part, I am unwilling to give up that hope, and I will not be a party to a Bill which cuts away the last chance of that hope being fulfilled.


What about perpetuity leases?


My hon. Friend reminds me that I have not alluded to the question of perpetuity. Well, that question was raised at great length last year, and I have nothing to add to the arguments which I then had the honour to address to the House. But I will sum them up in one sentence—we were prepared to release lease-holders, but we were not prepared to release people who were in effect proprietors. We were not prepared to draw a distinction between a man who had practically become a freeholder at a permanent rent, and a man who bought his estate with borrowed money. We regarded a man who had purchased a lease for 999 years as practically a purchaser, and we no more saw our way to relieving him than the unfortunate purchaser in the period of high prices, 15 years ago, who now finds that he made an extremely bad bargain. In addition to the objections to almost every provision in the Bill, there is a grave objection to re-opening this year, and every year, the great question of land in Ireland, and to convincing every landlord and every tenant, every man who lends, and every man who borrows money on land in Ireland, that finality in dealing with Irish land is beyond the hope of the sanguine political prophet.

SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

said, he felt bound to meet the charges of inconsistency which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had brought against him in reference to this subject. The right hon. Gentleman, in three very pointed references to him, said he had before opposed every provision of this Bill.


said, he only referred to the question of improvements.


He said opposed to all the most important provisions.


said, there was no doubt the late Government, in which he had had the honour of serving, endeavoured as long as possible to maintain the settlement of 1881; but they were driven from that by the course of circumstances and by bad seasons and by the state of Ireland. But hon. Gentlemen opposite had themselves upset the settlement of 1881, because they had been compelled last year to extend the benefits of that Act to most leaseholders. What was desired under this Bill was to extend it to all. The Party opposite had reduced the judicial rents. The supporters of the Bill wished to reduce those rents at shorter intervals. They did not pledge themselves to every part of the Bill, which would require to be looked into in Committee. For his part, he should require to look very closely into the 2nd and 3rd clauses before he could consent to the Bill as a whole. They supported the Bill mainly on account of the Arrears Clause, the arrears question being the main cause of the present miseries of Ireland. In doing so they were not inconsistent. In 1882 they introduced an Arrears Bill for the purpose of enabling all the tenants of Ireland to take advantage of the Land Act of 1881, and they now called upon the House of Commons to consent to this as an Arrears Bill, in order that all the tenants of Ireland might be able to take advantage of the Land Acts of 1881 and 1887. It was for that purpose that he, for his part, would vote for this Bill, and he maintained that in doing so he was not inconsistent, but consistent with the policy of the Liberal Party ever since the Act of 1881 with regard to land in Ireland, which was to give to the tenant in fulness and completeness those rights in his holding which he and his predecessors had morally but which they never had legally till now.

MR. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c.)

said, because the Bill dealt with the grievance that rent was charged in Ireland on tenants' improvements he was prepared to vote for this Bill. He could not approve of it in its present form; far from it, but he should support the present Motion, because the Bill dealt with the question of improvements, and because its effect would be very largely to reverse the decision in the case of "Adams v. Dunseath." It was the opinion of many hon. Members that the decision of the Irish Court reversed the express intention of the Legislature in passing the Act of 1881. He was glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) in his place, because he would, no doubt, confirm the statement that the operation of the Act in this respect had been very different from the intention of Parliament. He trusted that the House would send the Bill into Committee, and, as was very necessary, amend it when it got there.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 190; Noes 247: Majority 57.

Abraham, W. (Glam.) Gill, T. P.
Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.) Gladstone, right hon. W.E.
Acland, A. H. D. Gourley, E. T.
Acland, C. T. D. Grey, Sir E.
Allison, R. A. Gully, W. C.
Anderson, C. H. Harrington, E.
Asher, A. Harrington, T. C.
Asquith, H. H. Harris, M.
Atherley-Jones, L. Hayden, L. P.
Austin, J. Hayne, C. Seale-
Balfour, rt. hon. J. B. Healy, T. M.
Barbour, W. B. Howell, G.
Barclay, J. W. Hunter, W. A.
Barry, J. Illingworth, A.
Biggar, J. G. Jacoby, J. A.
Bolton, T. D. James, hon. W. H.
Bradlaugh, C. Joicey, J.
Broadhurst, H. Kennedy, E. J.
Bruce, hon. R. P. Kenny, M. J.
Brunner, J. T. Lalor, R.
Buchanan, T. R. Lawson, Sir W.
Burt, T. Lawson, H. L. W.
Buxton, S. C. Lea, T.
Byrne, G. M. Lefevre, right hon. G. J. S.
Cameron, C.
Campbell, Sir G. Lyell, L.
Campbell, H. Macdonald, W. A.
Campbell-Bannerman, right hon. H. Mac Innes, M.
Mackintosh, C. F.
Carew, J. L. Mac Neill, J. G. S.
Causton, R. K. M'Arthur, A.
Cavan, Earl of M'Cartan, M.
Channing, F. A. M'Carthy, J.
Childers, rt. hon. H. C. E. M'Carthy, J. H.
M'Donald, P.
Clancy, J. J. M'Donald, Dr. R.
Clark, Dr. G. B. M'Ewan, W.
Cobb, H. P. M'Lagan, P.
Coleridge, hon. B. Mahony, P.
Commins, A. Maitland, W. F.
Conway, M. Mappin, Sir F. T.
Conybeare, C. A. V. Marjoribanks, rt. hon. E.
Cossham, H.
Cox, J. R. Marum, E. M.
Craig, J. Mayne, T.
Craven, J. Menzies, R. S.
Crawford, D. Montagu, S.
Cremer, W. R. Morgan, rt. hon. G. O.
Crilly, D. Morgan, O. V.
Crossley, E. Morley, rt. hon. J.
Davies, W. Morley, A.
Deasy, J. Mundella, rt. hon. A. J.
Dillon, J.
Dodds, J. Murphy, W. M.
Ellis, J. Neville, R.
Ellis, T. E. Newnes, G.
Farquharson, Dr. R. Nolan, Colonel J. P.
Fenwick, C. Nolan, J.
Finucane, J. O'Brien, J. F. X.
Firth, J. F. B. O'Brien, P. J.
Flower, C. O'Brien, W.
Flynn, J. C. O'Connor, A.
Foley, P. J. O'Connor, J.
Forster, Sir C. O'Connor, T. P.
Foster, Sir W. B. O'Kelly, J.
Fowler, rt. hn. H. H. Parker, C. S.
Fox, Dr. J. F. Parnell, C. S.
Fry, T. Pease, Sir J. W.
Fuller, G. P. Pickersgill, E. H.
Gaskell, C. G. Milnes- Picton, J. A.
Playfair, right hon. Sir L. Stanhope, hon. P. J.
Stansfeld, right hon. J.
Plowden, Sir W. C. Stevenson, F. S.
Potter, T. B. Stewart, H.
Power, P. J. Stuart, J.
Price, T. P. Sullivan, D.
Priestley, B. Summers, W.
Pyne, J. D. Swinburne, Sir J.
Quinn, T. Thomas, A.
Randell, D. Thomas, D. A.
Redmond, W. H. K. Trevelyan, right hon. Sir G. O.
Reed, Sir E. J.
Reid, R. T. Tuite, J.
Richard, H. Vivian, Sir H. H.
Roberts, J. Waddy, S. D.
Roe, T. Wallace, R.
Rowlands, J. Warmington, C. M.
Rowlands, W. B. Watt, H.
Rowntree, J. Wayman, T.
Russell, Sir C. Williams, A. J.
Russell, T. W. Williamson, S.
Samuelson, G. B. Wilson, H. J.
Schwann, C. E. Wilson, I.
Sheehan, J. D. Winterbotham, A. B.
Sheehy, D. Woodall, W.
Simon, Sir J. Wright, C.
Sinclair, W. P.
Slagg, J. TELLERS.
Smith, S. Blane, A.
Spencer, Hon. C. R. Ellis, J. E.
Stack, J.
Addison, J. E. W. Campbell, Sir A.
Agg-Gardner, J. T. Campbell, J. A.
Ainslie, W. G. Campbell, R. F. F.
Aird, J. Carmarthen, Marg. of
Allsopp, hon. P. Cavendish, Lord E.
Amherst, W. A. T. Chamberlain, R.
Anstruther, Colonel R. H. L. Chaplin, right hon. H.
Churchill, rt. hn. Lord R. H. S.
Ashmead-Bartlett, E.
Baden-Powell, Sir G. S. Clarke, Sir E. G.
Balfour, rt. hon. A. J. Coddington, W.
Baring, T. C. Coghill, D. H.
Barnes, A. Colomb, Capt. J. C. R.
Barry, A. H. Smith- Commerell, Adml. Sir J. E.
Barttelot, Sir W. B.
Bates, Sir E. Compton, F.
Baumann, A. A. Cooke, C. W. R.
Bazley-White, J. Corbett, J.
Beach, right hon. Sir M. E. Hicks- Corry, Sir J. P.
Cotton, Capt. E. T. D.
Beach, W. W. B. Cross, H. S.
Beaumont, H. F. Grossman, Gen. Sir W.
Bentinck, W. G. C. Cubitt, right hon. G.
Bethell, Commander G. R. Curzon, Viscount
Curzon, hon. G. N.
Bickford-Smith, W. Davenport, H. T.
Bigwood, J. Dawnay, Colonel hon. L. P.
Birkbeck, Sir E.
Blundell, Colonel H B. H. De Cobain, E. S. W.
De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P.
Bond, G. H. De Worms, Baron H.
Boord, T. W. Dickson, Major A. G.
Borthwick, Sir A. Dimsdale, Baron R.
Bristowe, T. L. Dixon-Hartland, F. D.
Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F. Donkin, R. S.
Dorington, Sir J. E.
Brookfield, A. M. Duncan, Colonel F.
Brown, A. H. Duncombe, A.
Burghley, Lord Dyke, right hon. Sir W. H.
Caine, W. S.
Ebrington, Viscount Hughes-Hallett, Col. F. C.
Edwards-Moss, T. C.
Egerton, hon. A. de T. Hulse, E. H.
Elcho, Lord Hunt, F. S.
Elliot, hon. A. R. D. Isaacs, L. H.
Elliot, G. W. Isaacson, F. W.
Elton, C. I. Jackson, W. L.
Ewart, Sir W. James, rt. hon. Sir H
Ewing, Sir A. O. Jarvis, A. W.
Eyre, Colonel H. Jeffreys, A. F.
Farquharson, H. R. Jennings, L. J.
Feilden, Lt.-Gen. R. J. Kelly, J. R.
Fellowes, A. E. Kennaway, Sir I. H.
Fergusson, right hon. Sir J. Kenrick, W.
Kerans, F. H.
Fielden, T. Kimber, H.
Fisher, W. H. King, H. S.
Fitzgerald, R. U. P. Knowles, L.
Fitz-Wygram, Gen. Sir F.W Lafone, A.
Laurie, Colonel R. P.
Folkestone, right hon. Viscount Lawrence, Sir J. J. T.
Lawrence, W. F.
Forwood, A. B. Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.
Fowler, Sir R. N. Lees, E.
Fulton, J. F. Legh, T. W.
Gardner, R. Richardson Lethbridge, Sir R.
Lewis, Sir C. E.
Gathorne-Hardy, hon. A. E. Lewisham, right hon. Viscount
Gathorne-Hardy, hon. J. S. Llewellyn, E. H.
Long, W. H.
Gedge, S. Low, M.
Giles, A. Lowther, hon. W.
Gilliat, J. S. Lowther, J. W.
Godson, A. F. Lymington, Viscount
Goldsmid, Sir J. Macartney, W. G. E.
Goldsworthy, Major General W. T. Macdonald, rt. hon. J. H. A.
Goschen, rt. hon. G. J. Maclean, F. W.
Green, Sir E. Maclean, J. M.
Grimston, Viscount M'Calmont, Captain J.
Grotrian, F. B. Madden, D. H.
Gunter, Colonel R. Makins, Colonel W. T.
Gurdon, R. T. Malcolm, Col. J. W.
Hall, A. W. Mallock, R.
Halsey, T. F. Marriott, rt. hn. W. T.
Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F. Maskelyne, M. H. N. Story
Hamilton, Lord E. Matthews, rt. hon. H.
Hamilton, Col. C. E. Mattinson, M. W.
Hardcastle, E. Maxwell, Sir H. E.
Hardcastle, F. Mayne, Adml. R. C.
Hartington, Marq. of Milvain, T.
Havelock-Allan, Sir H. M. More, R. J.
Moss, R.
Heath, A. R. Mount, W. G.
Heaton, J. H. Mowbray, rt. hon. Sir J. R.
Heneage, right hon. E
Mulholland, H. L.
Herbert, hon. S. Murdoch, C. T.
Hermon-Hodge, R. T. Newark, Viscount
Hervey, Lord F. Norris, E. S.
Hill, right hon. A. W. Lord Northcote, hon. Sir H. S.
Hoare, E. B. O'Neill, hon. R. T.
Hoare, S. Paget, Sir R. H.
Hobhouse, H. Pearce, Sir W.
Hornby, W. H. Pelly, Sir L.
Houldsworth, Sir W. H. Penton, Captain F. T.
Howard, J. Plunket, rt. hon. D. R.
Howorth, H. H. Raikes, right hon. H. C.
Hozier, J. H. C.
Hubbard, hon. E. Rankin, J.
Rasch, Major F. C. Theobald, J.
Ridley, Sir M. W. Tomlinson, W. E. M.
Ritchie, rt. hn. C. T. Townsend, F.
Robertson, J. P. B. Tyler, Sir H. W.
Robinson, B. Vincent, C. E. H.
Rollit, Sir A. K. Walsh, hon. A. H. J.
Russell, Sir G. Waring, Colonel T.
Sandys, Lieut.-Col. T. M. Watson, J.
Webster, Sir R. E.
Sellar, A. C. Webster, R. G.
Selwin-Ibbetson, right hon. Sir H. J. Weymouth, Viscount
Whitley, E.
Selwyn, Captain C. W. Whitmore, C. A.
Seton-Karr, H. Wilson, Sir S.
Sidebotham, J. W. Winn, hon. R.
Smith, right hon. W. H Wodehouse, E. R.
Wolmer, Viscount
Spencer, J. E. Wood, N.
Stanhope, rt. hon. E. Wortley, C. B. Stuart-
Stanley, E. J. Wright, H. S.
Stephens, H. C Wroughton, P.
Stewart, M. J. Yerburgh, R. A.
Stokes, G. G. Young, C. E. B.
Talbot, J. G.
Tapling, T. K. TELLERS.
Taylor, F. Douglas, A. Akers-
Temple, Sir R. Walrond, Col. W. H.

Words added.

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

Bill put off for six months.