HC Deb 10 February 1891 vol 350 cc330-92

Order read, for resuming the adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to the Bill [9th February] (on consideration, as amended,)

And which Amendment was, in page 2, line 14, after the words "or other powers," to insert the words,— ''Provided that if the officer satisfies the Court that there is no sufficient distress on the lands liable to the payment of the tithe rent-charge, the Court may authorise the owner of the rent-charge to sue out a writ of habere facias possessionem, in accordance with Section 82 of The Tithe Act, 1836:—(Sir M. Hicks Beach.)

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

Debate resumed.

(6.16.) MR. S. T. EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)

I would invite the close attention of the House to this proviso. It provides that in any case where the officer—it does not say by what means—satisfies the Court that there is not sufficient distress on the land where the occupier is the owner, then there may issue a writ of habere facias possessionem, and the entire property of the small freeholder will be handed over to the tithe owner. The President of the Board of Trade last evening said there was a provision of this kind in the Act of 1836, and that it would take effect under this Act; to which, there was the obvious retort, if that is so, then there is no necessity for the insertion of the Amendment in the Bill. But on further considering the Bill I think it will be evident that without the incorporation of these words there will be no power of the kind under the Bill, because by the 1st subsection of Clause 2 it is expressly enacted that tithe rent-charge as defined by the Act shall not be recovered in any other manner than that provided under this Bill. That would clearly repeal any provision of the Act of 1836, which is inconsistent with the provisions of the present Bill. I would point out how severely the occupiers and small freeholders are dealt with under this Bill, and it is apparent from this and other provisions that the interest of the tithe owner is considered first, then the interest of the landlord, and last of all the interest of the occupier and small freeholder. By way of illustration I may mention that the landlord is allowed three months before proceedings are taken aginst him, but the occupier is allowed no time at all. By the next sub-section of this clause no similar provision is made for seizure or sale of land which is let by the landlord to a tenant. Without stretching the imagination, a case might be conceived where it would be impossible that the rent and profits from the farm would equal the tithe rent-charge, and yet the Government have not inserted any provision to secure the payment of tithe in such a case, though that might be done by the sale of, or a charge upon, the land. I might put a case where rent and profits would not be sufficient for payment of the tithe. Take the case of land let in consideration of buildings being erected, or a fine or premium being paid—say let for 14 years with only a peppercorn rent for the first seven years; what is there then for the Receiver of the Court to receive? Where the landlord is not himself in occupation, where he is a big landlord letting to small tenants, there may be cases where the tithe rent-charge is not recoverable at all, and the only way to secure it would be by a charge upon, or sale of the land. That, of course, would not be to the interest of the landlords, but to many classes in the community it would be an advantage to have land sub-divided more than it now is. The Government are not prepared for that, but they are prepared on the ipse dixit of an officer to allow a writ of habere facias possessionem to be issued. The Bill was thoroughly discussed in Committee, but I do not know by whose suggestion this proviso is moved, or why there is no similar provision in the case where the land is let. You say that the powers of the tithe owner are not to exceed those under the Act of 1836, and the first sub-section of Clause 2 expressly states that the tithe rent-charge shall not be recovered in any other manner than by this Act.


Will the hon. Member look at Sub-section 2, which, of course, governs these words— The order shall be executed by the appointment by the Court of an officer who, subject to the direction of the Court, shall have the like powers for the recovery of the sum ordered to be paid as are conferred by the Tithe Acts on the owners of a tithe rent-charge for the recovery of arrears of tithe rent-charge, and no greater or other powers. That includes the officer's right of entry.


But the right hon. Gentleman has an Amendment.


The hon. Member will allow me to explain that as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby urged that the words might be construed to give the right of entry to the officer and not to the tithe owner, our object is to remove uncertainty from the construction to be put upon the words.


I hold that the words are very clear. There does not happen to be a law officer on the Bench opposite at the present moment, but there is a great legal luminary there who could decide between us. The words of the sub-section run as follows:— Where it is shown to the court that the lands are occupied by the owners thereof the order shall be executed by the appointment by the court of an officer, who, subject to the direction of the court, shall have the like powers by distraint for the recovery of the sum ordered to be paid as are conferred by the Tithe Acts or the owner of a tithe rent-charge for the recovery of arrears, and no greater or other powers. The words "by distraint" were inserted last evening, and it is clear that only the powers of distraint are intended. I am sorry to find myself in conflict with the right hon. Gentleman, but I have no doubt that only the powers of distraint are given by the words of the section. Coming back to my first point let me say this. If you have power already under the Act of 1836, will that power be still applicable, and if so let me ask what is the necessity for incorporating this proviso at all? If the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to confer more power than already exists—why put in the proviso? The proviso itself is very much more obnoxious than Section 82 of the Act of 1836, to which he has referred. I contend that that section does not apply, but if it does then let it be so, but this is a very different proviso, that the Court without hearing evidence shall be satisfied with the ipse dixit of its officer.

(6.24.) MR. H. R. FARQUHARSON (Dorset, W.)

I hope this proposal will be thoroughly threshed out, for from the landowner's point of view it is most important. I cannot understand why this addition is proposed to be inserted. As the hon. Member opposite has said, if it is in the Tithe Commutation Act why insert it here? I cannot help thinking from the experience we get of the wishes of the tithe owners that they must have some very good reason for this Amendment. There is another objection. With other hon. Members I have had the advantage of a classical education, but I must confess I have forgotten the Latin I learned in my younger days, and of this I am quite certain, that when yeoman and tenant farmers come to read over this Bill in which they are so much, interested, they will stumble at this proviso, scratch their heads, and wonder how it is an English Parliament cannot use English words. I know the right hon. Gentleman has said that the Act of 1836 gives power to enter on land for the recovery of tithe, but I will say that this clause in the Act of 1836 is the most objectionable clause in the whole Act, and is ten thousand times more objectionable now than when it was enacted. The conditions of agriculture have immensely altered, there are thousands of pounds invested in agriculture now where there were tens or hundreds of pounds in agriculture in 1836. This Bill puts into the power of the tithe owners to enter on a man's land and take possession of what is known as tillages. Under the Agricultural Holdings Act it is specially laid down that tillage and a variety of acts of husbandry shall be considered property for which the person entering on the land shall pay, but here you allow the tithe owner to come in on a yeoman farmer's land, seizing the whole of the tillages without any allowance whatever. I do not see why the tithe owner should have greater freedom in taking another man's property than any other man in the kingdom. When the tithe owner takes advantage of this clause there will be several courses open to him. He might enter on a man's land, and, devoting the whole of it to grain, breaking up most valuable pastures, he might do an incalculable amount of mischief to the land and cause great loss to the owner; he might get in a large crop to satisfy himself, ruining the land for years to come. The land might be farmed badly or too well, causing future loss. There is another course which the tithe owner may adopt, and which he generally does adopt when he takes possession of the land. If the tithe owner, when he takes possession, does not pay for what are termed tillages, it is perfectly clear that when he goes out of possession neither he nor his tenant, if he have one, can have any claim for tillages. I should like to know what respectable farmer at the present time will enter upon land upon such conditions. The tenant will have to quit directly the tithe owner is satisfied, without being able to claim any notice. No respectable tenant farmer would give anything like a reasonable rent for land that has to be let upon such conditions. The result will be that the tithe owner, by taking advantage of this clause, will be able to keep the landowner out of the possession and enjoyment of his land, not only for a year or two years, but possibly for the whole of his life-time. I think it is a most objectionable clause, and I propose to move a slight addition to the words proposed by the right hon. Gentleman with the object of, to some extent, obviating the difficulties I have mentioned. I propose to add the following proviso:— Provided always that any person obtaining possession of any lands by virtue of such right shall make such payments to the owner as would be due from an incoming tenant under the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1883, and shall during his occupation he subject to the provisions of that Act and to the custom of the country. Clearly, if a man has to pay for tillage on coming in, he will have some claim for them on going out. Under my Amendment it will not be in the power of the tithe owner, as I believe it is at the present moment, to destroy the tithe payer's property. It would be the most wanton destruction for a tithe owner who took possession of pasture land to plough up that land for the purpose of securing one good crop to satisfy his claim. I hope this matter may be thoroughly discussed, and that the yeoman-farmers and landowners generally will be protected from the rapacity of the tithe owners.

Amendment proposed at the end of the proposed Amendment, to add the words— Provided also that any person obtaining possession of any lands by virtue of such writ shall make such payments to the owner as would be due from an incoming tenant under 'The Agricultural Holdings Act, 1883,' and shall, during his occupation, be subject to the provisions of that Act and to the custom of the country."—(Mr. Henry Farquharson.)

Question proposed,, "That those words be added to the proposed Amendment."


I think my hon. Friend rather misconceives the occasions on which this proviso would operate. This sub-section has nothing whatever to do with a case where land is let.


My suggestion is that the tithe owner would let the land to cover the tithe.


Of course if the tithe owner let the land he would become subject to the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1883 like any other landlord. That is not the case which the Amendment, as my hon. Friend has moved it, would deal with. The case it would deal with is that in which an occupying owner fails to pay the tithe rent-charge and the tithe owner, finding nothing on which to levy a distress, enters upon the land. In that case there will clearly be no tenant on the land. My hon. Friend proposes that the occupying owner shall be paid by the tithe owner when he enters into possession for acts of husbandry and other compensation under the Agricultural Holdings Act. Now, what acts of husbandry could there be? Of course, there could be no hay or straw on that land, because if there were the tithe owner would distrain, and the case that it is desired to meet could not arise. There might be growing crops; but the tithe owner would be entitled to those. They would be his right; he would come in by right of ownership of the tithe. The acts of cultivation which have produced those crops will have been done by the owning occupier with the money with which he ought to have paid his tithe rent-charge, which is the first charge on the land, and when the crops come to maturity the tithe owner has the right to seize them as, under the existing law, he has the right to seize hay and straw. There can come in no question of compensation at all. I have endeavoured to deal with the case from the hon. Gentleman's point of view, but from my own point of view the case where this right of entry would come in force, would not be that of farms under cultivation, but that of derelict farms in the legal occupation of the owner, which he is unable to cultivate and on which there is no distress. The tithe owner in those cases would enter upon the land or let it under the provisions of the Act of 1836. If in doing so he committed waste by breaking up pasture or any thing of that kind he would be liable for damages for that waste. I confess I do not see in what way the words moved would apply to the case in point.

(6.43.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)

This Amendment arises in connection with the question of derelict farms, and it is a singular fact that the case of such farms was overlooked by the framers of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of these discussions fairly enough, but I hope no one behind him will say we are delaying the Bill, seeing that we are discussing an important feature which was not even considered by the framers of the measure. We have had Tithe Bills before us now for two years, and have gone through them clause by clause, and Amendment by Amendment, and that the attention we have bestowed upon the Bill is amply justified is shown by the fact that the Government never considered this subject until now. We know that in several parts of the country land has not yielded any rent at all, and there being no means of distress, the farms have become derelict, and have passed into the hands of the tithe owners, very often into the hands of the colleges, who—as I once took the liberty of saying, and I think further inquiries justified the statement—are not the best cultivators of the soil in the world. I have seen an example given where the land passed into the hands of the colleges under such powers as are now proposed, and was let subject to the condition that it should not be cultivated according to the custom of the country. Now, what did that mean? It meant that the land would be run out. The custom of the country is intended to preserve the fertility of the soil, and, by keeping up a proper rotation of crops, to prevent its exhaustion. But in the case to which I refer, in order to facilitate the letting of the derelict farm, it was tendered subject to conditions which would be possible under the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, and which led to waste of the land as complete as could be. The right hon. Gentleman has introduced this Amendment, but he has not at all met the objection I took, and in consequence of which this proposal has been submitted, because I asked what was going to happen in the case of the County Court if the land under this process, which is known in connection with the old tithe rent-charge as a writ of habere facias possessionem, passed into the possession of the Court? Before, the tithe owner was the person who came in under this writ, but here, under this Amendment, the Court may authorise the owner to sue under a writ of habere facias possessionem, and it is not clear that the County Court itself will not take possession in the person of its receiver.


The right hon. Gentleman has omitted to notice that we have inserted the word "distraint," so as to show that the only power the officer of the County Court will have will be that of distraint.


I want to know what are going to be the exact limits of the County Court powers in this matter of derelict farms, because it is a very material question. You know the tithe owner is not placed in permanent possession of the land. He is only placed in possession for a period sufficient to repay the distress and the costs. That is the object with which he receives possession of the land, and when he has satisfied the tithe-charge and the costs, the land is restored to the original owner. What we want to know is what will be the treatment of the land in the interval, because after three or four years' treatment in the manner I have just referred to it would become so dilapidated that when returned it would be in a worse condition than it was at the beginning. These are matters which arise on the question of derelict farms, and I shall be very much surprised if hon. Gentlemen opposite, who take some interest in the treatment of the land, do not give consideration to these points. Simply to introduce this right under the authority of the County Court without any further provision or explanation as to how it will act seems to me a most unsatisfactory thing.

(6.49.) MR. C. W. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)

The point under discussion is a much more important one than the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade seems to think. It is quite true that if there are crops on the land which can be turned into money, the tithe owner will have the right to turn them into money. But there may be a considerable number of acres on the farm under what is called tillage, on which nothing is growing. Now, if there is a tithe of some £10 or so due to the tithe owner, I do not think that he should be allowed to enter and spoil the tillages.


I would point out that the tithe owner's desire to realise his tithe would compel him to complete the cultivation that had been begun. If the land had been ploughed he would harrow and sow and reap the crop, and after selling it keep the amount of his tithe and pay the remainder over to the owner of the land.


Quite so, if the tithe owner, or whoever the man may be, who got possession of the farm understood as much about agriculture as the right hon. Gentleman does. But I can assure him, that in dealing with the heavy clay lands of Essex it would take a very clever man to know what to do with a particular tillage. It is a perfectly reasonable supposition on the part of my hon. Friend that a great deal of injury might be done to a vast amount of preparatory work in the way of tillages by a man who might enter under this clause, and who might know no more about farming than I do about legal definitions or other lawyers' work. Under these circumstances, unless a great deal more light is thrown on this proposal of the Government. I am afraid I shall be compelled to oppose it. I should be very sorry indeed if the tithe owner for the sake of recovering a small amount of tithe, should be able to spoil a great deal of labour that had been done in the way of tillages.

(6.54.) MR. WROUGHTON (Berks, Abingdon)

I have viewed this Bill with great suspicion, because I believe it to be drawn solely in the interest of the tithe owner, and with no regard to the interest of the tithepayer. I have a suspicion of this Amendment, which, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman may be able to remove. It says— If the officer satisfies the Court that there is no sufficient distress on the lands liable to to the payment. That seems plausible enough. But it does not assure us that what is found on the farm in the shape of chairs and tables will not be touched. I do not find those words in the old Act. In the Act of 1836 the word "premises" is used instead of "lands," thus rendering personal property liable to distraint.


I am willing to take the words of the old Act. Nothing will be liable to distraint except that which is liable now.


I do not think that is satisfactory. The whole nature of tithe is that it is a charge on the land or the produce of the land. At present, as is well known, landowners and yeomen farmers have found it impossible to farm their land at a profit. They have been farming for years and finding all the capital—giving themselves all the trouble and incurring all the risk—and they have found that after paying the heavy tithes, commuted in the time of the Corn Laws, they have nothing for themselves. Unless we are careful in framing the clause we shall find that everything may be taken from them, personal property, as well as the produce of the land.

(6.56.) MR. H. T. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)

As one who has been for years engaged in practical agriculture, I must say I think the hon. Member for Dorsetshire has made out a very good case for this Amendment. I do not think the President of the Board of Trade was justified in assuming that no acts of husbandry would be performed by anyone coming in under this order. It seems to me that cultivation and tillage of some kind is always going on, and that whilst the tithe owner was waiting for £10 worth of produce to pay his tithe damage to the extent of £20 or £30 might be done. I do think that under the circumstances, it is reasonable that the owner of the land should be protected, and if my hon. Friend goes to a Division, I shall go into the Lobby with him.

(6.57.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir R. WEBSTER, Isle of Wight)

There has been considerable misapprehension on this matter. The subject has, no doubt, been brought under consideration, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby stated, by the raising of the question of County Court dealings with derelict farms. But hon. Members have exaggerated the extent to which the Amendment will have application. If there is an owner or occupier in the place it is scarcely possible to conceive that there will not be sufficient distress, therefore, it is only in cases of derelict farms where any necessity for entry will really arise. In these cases, the assumption is that the land has, to a great extent, gone out of cultivation, and that cultivation has to be taken up on behalf of the tithe owner, who desires to make what he can out of the land. It is at this point that we have stepped in. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has said, over and over again, that he does not wish to improve the position of the tithe owner. Well, this Amendment does not improve his position one whit, but simply enables him to take up the powers conferred by the Act of 1836, and exercise them in the case of derelict farms. It is not the case that any fresh powers are given of touching tables or chairs or anything of that kind, but the tithe owner will be able to go in and cultivate the land. An hon. Member said it is a question of the ipse dixit of the officer of the Court, but it is nothing of the kind. The object is to put the tithe owner in exactly the position he would have been in under Section 82 of the Act of 1836. I think if hon. Members who know anything of the law will look into the matter they will see that if the tithe owner is allowed to go on to a farm he should be under the same liabilities as occur at present where compensation can be claimed if he wantonly or wilfully mismanages the land. Hon. Members below the Gangway do not seem to understand the circumstances in which this proviso is applicable. It is applicable to the case of derelict land, because if there is sufficient on the premises to satisfy a distress the question as to power of entry never arises. The argument about ploughing up the corn lands, and so forth, would not, of course, apply where the owner is in occupation. Let me instance a case where the owner has been in occupation. He will either go on cultivating the farm or not. If not, the time will come when there will be no crops on which a distress can he levied, and the power of entry will arise. This power has not been taken advantage of by the tithe owners to any extent, because they find it better to wait till the crops are ripe or have been raised by the occupier or owner, so that they may then avail themselves of the power of distraint. It is only where the landowner is unable to cultivate the crops, and treats the land as derelict, that the power of entry would be exercised by the tithe owner instead of by the Country Court bailiff.

(7.5.) MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)

I would put it to the Government: Why cannot they avail themselves of the exceedingly useful suggestions which have been offered from both sides of the House on this matter? The hon. Member who spoke before the Attorney General has suggested certain limitations whereby the distress shall be only on the produce of the land, and there was the suggestion of the hon. Member for West Dorsetshire (Mr. H. Farquharson), whose object was that if any harm ensued from the undue proceedings of the tithe owner in entering upon the land the owner might obtain compensation for wasteful or improper cultivation. As the matter stands, however, we have not even the ghost of a guarantee that the operation of the Government Amendment may not extend to other cases besides those of derelict farms. I can conceive a case in which a man, having got in his crop, finds that he has not sufficient money to pay the tithe, and the land may be of such a nature that it may be thought desirable to let it lie fallow for a certain number of months. What, I ask, will be the position of the tithe owner with that land, say between autumn and the end of March? During that period the land may be much in the position of derelict land, and yet it would be unjust to permit the tithe owner to step in and take possession of the farm. The tithe owner might not be sufficiently acquainted with the proper rotation of crops or with the character of the soil, and the farm might thereby suffer deterioration. In a case of that kind, I fail to see what the operation of the Amendment moved by the President of the Board of Trade would be, and therefore I feel that some sort of limitation or safeguard ought to be interposed.

(7.10.) MR. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)

I would remind the House that this power of entry has always been in force under the old Act, by which the tithe owner was enabled to put the writ of habere facias possessionem in force if he could not get what was due in any other way. I am somewhat surprised that the hon. Member for Berkshire when he addressed us did not give us a case in point with which he is intimately connected. The hon. Member owns a farm which was unable to pay rent or tithes, and he handed it over bodily to the tithe owners, who, I believe, are still farming the land. I think it would have been very interesting if the hon. Member had told the House what results had been obtained by the tithe owners. I am afraid they do not get much. As a rule, however, the tithe owners are afraid to take the land, and would rather forego a large portion of tithe than have the land upon their hands. Still the question that has been raised as to tillages is a very important one, and I think it obvious that there ought to be some safeguard against the land being injured or deteriorated. It would be a simple matter to add a few words that would effect this object, and I hope the Government will see its way clear to the adoption of that course.

(7.15.) MR. S. T. EVANS

We are told that if the tithe owner, in entering upon a farm, breaks up pasture land or commits waste, he is liable to pay compensation; but I do not know under what provisions that liability is incurred. However, assuming he is liable for actual waste, is there any security that he is liable for permissive waste. I do not know that he would be liable if he merely allows the land to go out of cultivation or does not cultivate it properly. It is said that the officer of the Court would not have the power suggested by the right lion. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt), namely, of management, but only the power of distraint; and that appears to be so, as far as I can gather from the construction of the section; but let me point out what a circuitous procedure this would require. After the passing of the Act you cannot enforce the payment of tithe except by the intervention of the County Court, and in certain cases the order of the Court is to be executed in one way, while in other cases it must be executed in another way. The Amendment says— If the officer satisfies the Court that there is no sufficient distress on the lands liable to the payment of the tithe rent-charge, the Court may authorise the owner of the rent-charge to sue out a writ of habere facias possessionem, in accordance with Section 82 of The Tithe Act, 1836. And you must go to a Superior Court to get that writ, and again to supersede it. In fact, proceedings may go on for ever. Moreover, the Government do not adopt the words of the Act of 1836—"If there should be no sufficient distress on the premises." If the Amendment of the Government should be adopted, I shall feel it my duty to move the omission of some of the words and the insertion of those used in the Act of 1836.


I cannot but think that the Government would have done well not to have put this Amendment on the Paper, as it seems to me only to complicate the difficulty. I cannot see why, when they have got nearly all they want they should go out of their way to introduce into the mode of procedure under the Bill this old fashioned, arbitrary and inconvenient mode of trying to get at the tithe. I would suggest that they had better withdraw the Amendment altogether; if they do not I think they will find they are placing their friends the tithe owners in a very different position. I think hon. Members are right in insisting that if the tithe owner takes it into his head to enter into possession when he finds a farm will not pay tithe, the occupying owner shall be placed in a fair position, and afforded an opportunity of obtaining from the amateur farmer, or tithe owner, a fair compensation for whatever injury may be done. I hope the Government will see the wisdom of not persisting with this very foolish Amendment.


With the permission of the House, I think I may state that I shall be able to some extent to meet the wishes of my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon. This does not seem to me to be a question to be dealt with as a matter of compensation between landlord and tenant. The positions of the parties are different, and, therefore, the law as to compensation, as it appears to me, would not properly apply. But I think there is a great deal in what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, and by hon. Members on this side of the House as to the possibility of the landowner being injured by waste or improper cultivation, and I will undertake that we will have the point carefully looked into with a view to having words drawn up and inserted so as to make it perfectly clear that the land owner shall be properly safeguarded by rendering the tithe owner liable to him for any injury by waste.

MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon, &c.)

Will those words be inserted tonight?


I cannot undertake to frame the words off-hand. The Amendment would have to be made elsewhere.


I do not think that this is at all a convenient way of dealing with the Amendment, and surely, when our conduct on this side of the House has been so freely criticised in relation to this Bill, it is a singular thing that the Government cannot manage, on account of the extreme haste with which they are pressing forward this Measure, to introduce a few words qualifying their proposal before the Bill leaves this House. This is the second Amendment they cannot find time to introduce into the House of Commons, and what is the consequence of all the helter-skelter with which the Bill is being forced upon us? These are Amendments which, from time to time, the Government have resisted, hour after hour, until, when an Amendment has been proposed from their own side they allow themselves and the House to be driven into a corner, and then say, "For heaven's sake allow us to propose an Amendment in the House of Lords, and take your chance whether it will be adopted there or not."

(7.25.) MR. HAMBRO (Dorset, S.)

I have not heard a single remark from the Government showing what objection they have to the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Dorset, and I hope to hear from them some assurance that they will meet the object he has in view.


I would ask whether the Government cannot meet the object by re-commiting the Bill in order to introduce the Amendments they propose. We have no business to be met by the statement that Amendments will be introduced in the House of Lords. If I am in order in doing so, I will give notice that we will call on the Government to re-commit the Bill for the purpose of introducing their Amendments before the Third Reading.


It is quite competent to the House to re-commit the Bill before the Third Reading.


I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to accept words carrying out the object of my Amendment?


What are the words?


I have no form of words to propose; I leave it to the Government to frame the words they may think necessary for the purpose.


May I ask whether we are still expected to agree to the Amendment the right hon. Gentleman has upon the Paper? Would it not be better to allow it to remain in abeyance?


As there seems to be a good deal of division of opinion on the legal aspect of the matter, the Attorney General saying one thing and hon. Members belonging to the legal profession on this side saying another, I think it would greatly facilitate the passing of the Bill if it were re-committed for the purpose of having an Amendment inserted that would meet general acceptance.


In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon I may state that I will not press my Amendment now.

Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

(7.30.) Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 21, after the word "Receivers," to insert the words, "as in any other case."—(Sir M. Hicks Beach.)

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


These words were struck out in Committee. I raised an objection in Committee which was supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. These seems to me the very same words which were struck out in Committee.


There was a misapprehension when the words were struck out in Committee, and these words are necessary to make line 21 read in accordance with subsequent provisions. They do not enable the County Court to confer more powers upon the Receiver, but simply to give the Court control over the Receiver.


The words are in accordance with the alteration which the hon. Member himself effected in Clause 2, and they are to enable the Court to have full control over the Receiver, and not to enable the Court to confer further powers on the Receiver.

Question put, and agreed to.


Would it not be better to insert the word "over" instead of "in respect of?"


I have no objection at all.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 21, to strike out the words "in respect of," and insert the word "over."

Amendment agreed to.

(7.37.) MR. S. T. EVANS

We come now to the case which the Government promised to consider in Committee. I beg to move to insert at the end of Sub-section 3 the following words:— Except in cases where the Receiver satisfies the Court that such rents and profits are not sufficient to comply with and satisfy such order. I think it is very clear to the House that in cases where the rent and profit of the land are not such as to satisfy the tithe rent-charge, there is no provision at all for the recovery of the tithe charge. Take the case which I used before, of a lease of 14 years between an occupier and a landlord. It might be that the landlord had a spite to the tithe owner, and would say to the occupier—"Give me a big fine, and let me have it at once; or, pay me the rent in advance and I will give you the farm at a lower rent for the subsequent period of the lease." In that case the lowered rents may not be sufficient to satisfy the tithe, and it will not be paid at all. Or take the case of a landlord letting the farm for 14 years on these terms: The buildings are wrecked, and he says—"I am a poor landlord; I cannot spend money to erect buildings; but if you (the tenant) will erect the buildings, I will for the first seven years let you have the farm rent free, or for a peppercorn rent." That is very often the case, I am told. Under such circumstances, it would be impossible for the tithe owner to get his tithe at all. This is one of the cases which the Government promised to consider. I should like to hear what the Government have to say about it, for it is clearly a case which ought to be governed by the Act.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 24, after the word "lands." to insert the words— Except in cases where the receiver satisfies the court that such rents and profits are not sufficient to comply with and satisfy such order."—(Mr. S. T. Evans.)

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


The words proposed by the hon. Member inflict upon the owner a disability from which under the Bill he is especially guarded, and it is contrary to the existing law that any land should be sold for arrear of tithe. I hope the House will not agree to the Amendment.


It is quite obvious that if the owner of the land objects to the tithe, he may arrange with the occupier for a fine or some other consideration, and the consequence may be that the tithe owner does not get his tithe. Or it may be that no actual rent is paid for a term of years, and that the sum due by the ordinary tenant to the ordinary landlord is considerable. My hon. Friend might adopt a form of words which require the Receiver to satisfy the Court of the value of the land.


I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to take the case of a farm which is let at a peppercorn rental in consideration of some outlay by the tenant or some capital outlay. Under this section the tithe owner is only entitled to enter into receipt of the actual rent of the land. If the tithe is in excess of that actual rent, then the tithe owner is barred of his remedy. Again, suppose the landlord lets his farm to his son or to some relative at no rent whatever, or merely a nominal rent, in that case under this section the tithe owner would not receive a farthing out of the landowner. He is only entitled to receive rents which the tenant is liable to pay to the landlord. He cannot go beyond the actual extent of the rent of the property at the time, because this section is only applicable to cases in which the owner is in occupation. It cannot be said the owner is in occupation when he has let his land at a nominal rental. I think in the interest of the tithe owner this Amendment should be made to apply. Unless this Amendment is adopted it will be open to anyone by a simple contract of the character I have indicated to get out of the payment of any tithe whatever. Therefore the tithe owner would be deprived of any remedy whatever. If I were asked how to get rid of this Act, I would reply that the simplest way was this. Let the owner of the land, instead of letting at an annual rental of £100, ask the tenant to pay a premium of £1,000, letting the tenant have the land rent free in consideration of the premium for ten years. If there were an agreement of that character, the tithe owner would be absolutely without any remedy whatever. Now if the landowner refuses to pay tithe, the tithe owner makes application to the Court, which appoints a receiver, who simply steps into the shoes of the landowner himself. The Receiver can only do what the agent of the landowner might do; he can simply receive the rents and profits and compel the occupier to pay such rents and profits as he would be liable otherwise to pay to the landowner. Therefore, the tithe owner would have no remedy whatever. I certainly venture to think that my hon. Friend's proposal is a very good way of getting out of the difficulty.

(7.48.) The House divided:—Ayes 99; Noes 133.—(Div. List, No. 48.)


I beg to move the omission from Sub-section 6 of all the words after the words "rent-charge." My reason for doing so is that the last portion of the clause appears to be taken, in substance at all events, from the Irish Coercion Act, and I believe that it is unknown to the English law. I believe the practice is unknown to the English law, that we should proceed against unknown persons. The clause at present reads that proceedings may be taken against the owner of land without the name of the person being known. I think that is entirely unconstitutional, and against the practices and wishes of the law-givers, at least in England. I have no doubt we shall hear from the Law Officers of the Crown what is their opinion of it. We may find that a statute of Edward III. may be brought to bear on this. The practice laid down under the Irish Coercion Act of proceeding against unknown persons does not commend itself to the British public. I hope that the Government will agree to these words being struck out of the clause.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 41, to leave out from the word "rent-charge," to the end of Sub-section (6) of Clause 2.—(Sir John Swinburne.)

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


The hon. Baronet has assumed a most lively interest in these unknown persons. What we say is that when the tithe owner is not known proceedings may be taken to force him to disclose. It seems to me a proper thing that there should be procedure by substituted service. An owner may be lying dark, and the object is to force him to a disclosure. It is a mistake to suppose that this machinery has never been provided in any Act except the Crimes Act. It has been put into Bills during the last five or six Sessions, and before that—into the Bankruptcy Act, the Merchant Shipping Act, and other measures, of which I could give the hon. Member a catalogue. I am sure there can be no objection to the clause.


Before the question is put I should like to know whether is it incumbent on the tithe owner to make any inquiries as to who the owner of the land is. Is it sufficient for him to say, "I do not know who the owner of the land is?" Is there no protection against the landowner saying, "I am not going to take any trouble to ascertain who the owner is?"

The House divided:—Ayes 120; Noes 67.—(Div. List, No. 49.)


Now that my Amendment has been rejected I beg to add at the end of Sub-section 6 "and the occupier has refused to give the name of the owner."

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 3, at the end of Sub-section (6) of Clause 2, to insert the words "and the occupier has refused to give the name of the owner."—(Sir John Swinburne.)

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


I hope the hon. Member will not press the Amendment. As he was told twice before the last Division, this is a matter which will be settled by rules.


Perhaps I may explain.


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

SIR W. PLOWDEN (Wolverhampton, W.)

I think the Government might well accept this Amendment. If the question has to be settled by rules, why should it not be settled here?


May I point out to hon. Gentlemen that you might just as well insert in the Statute every condition that will enter into the minds of those who will frame the rules. To insert such a condition as the hon. Baronet proposes would be stultifying the Act.


I rise to a point of order. Mr. Speaker, as I have not spoken upon this Amendment, I wish to ask you whether I have not the right to speak?


The hon. Gentleman has proposed the Amendment, and has actually spoken to it. He cannot speak again.


Could not the Government accede to the insertion of some such words as the Attorney General suggested, so as to make it necessary for the tithe owner to make all reasonable inquiries as to who the owner is? What I am desirous of providing against is the possibility of the clerical tithe owner saying "I am not going to bother myself as to who the owner is." Only a few weeks ago, the case came under my notice where the tithe owner served a notice upon a wrong person. I can quite understand that the Amendment will not cover every circumstance and contingency, but it is a proper Amendment as far as it goes. The rules will simply set forth the method whereby service shall be effected. I should like to see some indication, direction, or instruction to the framers of the rules, as to the character the rules should assume. Unless some Amendment, such as this is adopted I trust my hon. Friend will go to a division.

(8.20.) The House divided:—Ayes 73; Noes 114.—(Div. List, No. 50.)


Before the right hon. Gentleman proposes his Amendment I have an Amendment to propose in words suggested by the Attorney General at the end of Sub-section 6 of Section 2, as follows—"Every reasonable inquiry having first been made as to who the owner of the land is." This will provide a sort of direction to the framers of the rules as to what line they should take with regard to tithe owners serving notices under this Bill without having made any investigation into the circumstances of ownership.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 3, at the end of Sub-section (6) of Clause 2, to insert the words "every reasonable inquiry having been made as to who the owner of the land is."—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)

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


I really must protest against the hon. Member taking this course, casually taking out one of the many provisions which will have to be made a matter of consideration, and making it the subject of special reference in this way. It is impossible that we can accept this Amendment.


But I hope the Attorney General will give some consideration to this suggestion. Cases have happened in which tithe owners have served these notices upon the wrong men altogether; and these men were put to considerable expense to get relief from the consequences of notices being served. The hon. Member has knowledge of the law, and practical experience of what has actually happened in Wales, and certainly I do not think it is asking too much to say that some small trouble should be taken to ascertain the real owners. The words are those actually used by the Attorney General himself.

(8.35.) MR. S. T. EVANS

I am sure my hon. Friend does not wish to put the House to unnecessary inconvenience. His intention was by introducing some words of this kind to prevent a tithe owner from capriciously serving notices upon the land when he had no real difficulty in finding out the actual owner of the land.


I hope the hon. Member will not think it necessary to press this; it is a matter that must be dealt with by the rules, and I will undertake to mention the matter to the Lord Chancellor.


Since the right hon. Gentleman has undertaken to see that proper protection shall be given to owners in this matter I will not press the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 3, at the end, to insert the words— ''The fees payable on the proceedings under this section shall not exceed those set forth in the Schedule to this Act, and the fees, charges, and expenses in or incidental to any distress under this Act shall be the same as are for the time being payable under "The Law and Distres Amendment Act, 1888."—(Sir M. Hicks Beach.)

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

(8.38.) MR. S. T. EVANS

I was in hopes the right hon. Gentleman would have tendered us some explanation of the proviso and the Schedule to which it refers. When this question was discussed in Committee it excited the greatest interest in all parts of the House, the suggestion for a Schedule being thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury in discussion upon my Amendment which was defeated. It is because of the evident interest that in several quarters of the House was taken in the subject that we have to thank the Government for a Schedule. But this Schedule is very defective inasmuch as it deals simply with the question of "fees," and not of costs. There seems to be a universal agreement in the House that costs ought not to exceed the amount of present distress proceedings. The right hon. Gentleman said last night that the Schedule which I in Committee proposed dealt with fees only, and at the time I could not refer to a copy of the Schedule or a report of the proceedings, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman he is mistaken.


I have a copy of the Schedule here.


With the proviso referring to the Schedule?


Yes; referring to the Schedule where nothing but fees are set out.


The right hon. Gentleman is not so conversant with the practice of the Courts as the Attorney General. The Schedule does deal with other matters. "In all proceedings for the appointment of an officer under Sub-section 1 of Clause 2, if the sum does not exceed £5; 2s. 6d.; if the sum exceeds £5; 5s." There is not a word there about fees at all.


But those are fees.


Yes, but it does, not say Court fees. Further, "For every day's possession, 2s. 6d." This is not a Court fee. You might as well say that a witnesses allowance is a fee. Then the Schedule must be considered in connection with the proviso, which governs its application; and my proviso ran— Provided always that the total costs to be allowed to the tithe owner, in any case under Section 2, shall not exceed the costs specified in the Schedule of the Act. I might also refer to the words used by the right hon. Gentleman himself in his speech in replying to me, in which he made use of the following terms: He had endeavoured to point out the objections to framing a Schedule of costs. "And again, there was a prospect of a long discussion upon questions of shillings and sixpences in a Schedule of costs;" and, in fact, throughout it must be in the recollection of Members that the discussion turned upon the question of costs, not of Court fees only.


It is quite possible that I may have inadvertently used the word "costs."


Well, the point is not worth elaborating. The proviso referred to the total costs, and it will be in the recollection of hon. Members that the discussion ranged over cost of various proceedings, notices, interrogatories, witnesses, solicitors, &c., and I would point out that if we are simply to have a Schedule of fees we are very little better off, for these fees in the proposed Schedule are not appreciably lower than the fees now are. It will be remembered, too, that in illustration I cited a case in which the amount in dispute being only 30s. the cost of witnessess was £11. I said witnesses in that case came from Brighton, and the Attorney General seemed to question whether witnesses would be required; and then it was shown there must be proof of title of the tithe owner, and proof of assessment, and that costs would be incurred by this means. Now, starting from the principle accepted, that so far as we can, costs shall not be heavier under the new procedure than under the old, let me point out that now , you can only have the costs of distress, but under the new procedure you must incur greater costs to some extent, because there will be County Court proceedings before the distress takes place. That, however, is the framework of the Bill, and we cannot alter it. But I think it would be entirely against the spirit and intention of the House when this question of costs was left over to the "Report" stage that we should allow a set of rules to be framed and the costs of barristers, solicitors, witnesses to be left uncontrolled——


It is my duty to point out to the hon. Member that on a previous occasion, when an Amendment proposed by the President of the Board of Trade was under consideration—an Amendment to provide for the recovery of costs as well as the tithe in the County Court, an Amendment to this Amendment was proposed by the hon. Member for Camborne to the effect that the costs should be "according to the Schedule." The House negatived that proposal, negatived, therefore, the inclusion of costs in the Schedule; and I cannot, therefore, reconcile that negative with the proposal in the name of the hon. and learned Gentleman to include "total costs, charges, and expenses" in the Schedule.


With every respect for your ruling, Sir, may I point out that the word "costs," as they appear in that part of the Bill, refer to costs allowed by the Bill, and we are now discussing what those costs should be. In that case, the reference was general to costs allowed under the Act, and the costs were not specified.


On the point of Order, may I remind the House that on the occasion to which you have referred the hon. Member for Camborne argued that the costs should be set out in the Schedule, and it was for the purpose of so including them that he moved his Amendment.


That was so. The question was whether there should be a Schedule of costs and fees, and upon that the House decided in the negative.


Then, Sir, I will say no more on the Amendment, but defer my remarks until we reach my Amendment of which I have given notice, if I shall than be in order in bringing it forward.


My ruling will apply to that Amendment, inasmuch as he hon. and learned Member proposes to leave out "fees" and insert "total costs, charges and expenses," or, in other words, to include in the Schedule that which the House has already negatived. The Amendment would be out of order.

MR. W. BOWEN ROWLANDS (Cardiganshire)

If I may say a word on your ruling, Sir, I would observe that nobody supposed we were so arguing he question at any time as to exclude this point of costs from consideration when reached.


Of course. I have nothing to do with what may have been in the minds of hon. Members; I can only take the facts as I find them. It was the question that costs should be according to the Schedule that the House negatived, and I am bound by that decision.


May I be allowed to observe, Sir, that I pointed out that this Amendment was one upon which the question might be raised.

MR. RANDELL (Glamorgan, Gower)

But are we excluded from debating the question of costs? We are now dealing with Court fees, letting costs stand quite apart. Are we excluded from debating costs? With all submission to your ruling, Sir, I would say I believe the House fully understood this question would arise on the Amendment of the President of the Board of Trade, and I feel sure the House will consider the Government have broken faith with the House if——


Order, order! That is apart from the point of Order. It would be out of Order to discuss the question whether costs should form part of the Schedule. (8.45.)

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


I understand from your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that it would be out of order to include a scale of costs in the Schedule.

I do not know whether I should be in order in discussing, without going into figures and detail, the question whether that Schedule should cover costs as well as fees.


That is the point of Order I decided.


I understand, Sir, that the question of costs being part of the Schedule was disposed of on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Camborne. I venture to submit that if the Amendment now before the House is adopted, there is nothing that would preclude me from moving a proviso to follow it, which would deal with the total amount of costs to be recovered. The Attorney General shakes his head, but it is to you, Sir, I appeal, to decide the point of Order.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade whether in the event of our agreeing to this clause without discussion, he would consent to re-commit the Bill with the view of discussing the Amendment of the Schedule so as to include the question of costs.


I cannot agree to re-commit the Bill. The situation is this: I have moved the words on the Paper with regard to fees. The Schedule has been on the Paper several days, and hon. Members were well aware it relates to fees and not to costs. I understand the ruling of the Speaker to be that costs cannot be dealt with in the Schedule; but I should imagine it is possible for hon. Members to move Amendments expressing their views as to costs. It is not for me to express an opinion as to whether that would be in order or not.

(9.20.) MR. SPEAKER

My ruling was that the Schedule is exclusively a Schedule of fees, and the Schedule cannot be amended so as to include costs associated with fees. When the hon. Member for South Glamorgan asks me if he can bring forward the question of costs, I reply that he can bring forward an independent Amendment to the effect that the costs shall not exceed a certain amount. That will be in Order, but it cannot be included in the Schedule.

(9.21.) MR. S. T. EVANS

Would it be within our competence to add a second Schedule dealing with solicitors' and barristers' costs?


I should like to see the Schedule before expressing an opinion upon it.

Question put, and agreed to.


I beg to move the following proviso at the end of the last Amendment:— Provided always that the total cost, including fees, chargeable against the tithepayer shall not exceed 5s. in the pound on the total amount recovered, and in no case shall exceed £5. I was afraid, Sir, when I heard your ruling with reference to the Schedule on the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that we were by a misapprehension of the gravest kind, I would call it, precluded from discussing that which, from the point of view of the people of Wales, is the most important matter in this Bill. I apologise for intervening with this Amendment, and hope it will not preclude other hon. Members from dealing with the question of costs at a later stage of the Bill. I think, however, that this Amendment will meet the views of my Welsh colleagues. It will be in the recollection of the House that when the question of costs was raised in Committee it was discussed in considerable detail. As I understood, in response to objections and to suggestions from this side of the House, and after a very emphatic statement on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir H. James), an undertaking was given by the Government that they would deal with the question of costs in the Schedule. I may have been wrong—it may have been owing to my denseness and stupidity. I am not imputing bad faith to the Government. The question is a highly technical one, and the word "fees" and the word "costs" are very often interchangeable. My hon. Friend below the Gangway clearly has used the word "costs" in that double sense, though no doubt, technically, there is a broad distinction between the fees charged on entering upon a stage of County Court procedure and the costs as between attorney and client or party and party. The Welsh Members quite understood that the whole question of penalty and costs to be imposed upon the unhappy tithepayer was to be considered by the Government, and that the result was to be put before the House in some way. I was never more amazed than when I found the Schedule on the Notice Paper. What does the Schedule come to? The Government might have saved themselves the trouble of putting it there, for it is simply a statement of the Court fees. Of what use is that to us? What are we gainers by it, except that we have a slight reduction of the Court fees? If you are going to use this Act in reference to the freeholders in the whole of Wales, let us realise what it comes to. I confess I am not familiar with the procedure which puts the receiver into the possession of the rents and profits of land, and, so far as I can make out, it is a process that is not very convenient under ordinary conditions. It has been imported into this Bill; but when I turn to the County Court Consolidation Act, I find that the method of procedure is a very unusual one, and that it involves a number of steps. First of all, we may assume that the occupying land owner is disinclined or unable to pay his tithe. Well, under the procedure we are about to introduce it will be necessary to go to the County Court. If the application be to the Court, you must have as many copies as there are parties, and one for the Judge, and these must be furnished to the Registrar. The application having been made, notices are served on all those who are concerned. This involves a certain number of fees. The cost of service of the summons or notice where the claim exceeds £10, I find, is 5s., and there may be three, four, or five persons on whom they have to be served. Is that charge included in the Schedule? No. Then come the solicitor's charges, and from the first to the last stage of this complicated and expensive process the costs may be heaped up to any extent without any safeguard on the part of the tithe-payer. Looking at the scale of costs that may be dealt with, I have no hesitation in saying that, in order to obtain the appointment of a receiver where the sum of £10 is being sued for against a recalcitrant occupying owner, it would be possible to spend £10, £15, or even as much as £20 in costs. In fact, there seems to be no limit to these charges. The receiver becomes an officer of the Court and has to render all the accounts, and is thereby entitled to poundage and costs generally. It is, indeed, almost impossible to define the numerous ways in which costs may be piled up. We have it on the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir H. James) that the costs of the County Court are exceedingly high, and after that statement was made the Government told us they would not only look into the matter, but would arrange a Schedule that would give a fair scale. But how are they doing this? They have drawn up a scale which I unhesitatingly say will press very harshly on the poor tithepayer. This ought not to be, especially when we remember that the effect of this Bill will be to increase the value of the tithe at least 25 per cent. The present Prime Minister recommended in introducing a former Tithe Bill that, considering the increased security it would give to the tithe, at least one-fifth should be allowed in return to the tithepayer; but the tithe owners refused this, and that Bill was not proceeded with. By this Bill you not only give the tithe owner an easy debt-collecting machinery, whereby the payment of the tithe may be enforced, but you actually increase the value of the tithe at least 25 per cent., and to a large extent render it a saleable security, and yet at the same time, you, propose to inflict a system of costs that will press with extreme harshness on the tithepayers as a body I think that when a machinery such as is provided by this Bill is put at the service of the tithe owner it ought to be put in motion at his own expense. The costs of County Court processes are admitted to be absurdly high, thereby inflicting an unjust tax on those who have to pay them, and the sooner these heavy charges are swept away, and the doors of our Courts of Justice are opened in such a way as to get rid of this shameful tax on the public, the better will it be for the country generally. But whatever the costs are I say this: that they should be borne by those who are acquiring by means of this Bill an enormous increase of property, and ought not to be imposed on the poor tithepayer.

Amendment proposed, at the end of the foregoing Amendment, to insert the words— Provided always that the total cost, including fees, chargeable against the tithepayer, shall not exceed five shillings in the pound on the total value recovered, and in no case shall exceed five pounds."—(Mr. Arthur Williams.)

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


It is contended on this side of the House that in imposing a new process for the collection of tithe the Government should take care that those who have to pay the tithe will not be put to greater cost than is incurred under the present system. This question was discussed in a tolerably full House when the Bill was in Committee, and, as has been stated, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury agreed with us in saying that the Schedule of costs in the County Court at the present time was excessive. What, I ask, would have been the meaning of the arguments then employed if we were only considering the mere question of fees? And here let it be understood that I am not charging right hon. Gentlemen opposite with having consciously violated any engagements, although certainly from what occurred I should have thought they would have been disposed to have taken a more favourable view of the question, and to have adopted the moderate proposal now made by my hon. Friend. Under the old system of distraint nothing but the ordinary fees were chargeable against the person whose goods were seized, and it was in view of this fact, and of all the other considerations that have been brought forward, that the Government gave a pledge that the whole question should be dealt with in a Schedule. I cannot imagine how they can have supposed that we understood their promise in any other sense than that in which we have been discussing the matter this evening. Surely there can be no objection to their re-considering the question, and dealing with the entire matter of costs and fees in an amended Schedule. It is obvious, and has been fully admitted, that under the new and substituted process for the recovery of tithe the costs should not be more onerous than they have hitherto been; and I would appeal to the Attorney General to say whether it was not intended that the penal consequences to the tithepayer should not be increased by this Bill? Even assuming it to be right that the tithepayer should pay the solicitor's costs, he ought, at any rate, to know what those costs will be. I cannot understand what objection there can be to the framing of a Schedule from which a man may learn the extent of the costs to which he may be put in resisting a claim for tithe. I hope, therefore, the Government will see their way to the production of such a Schedule as will show the ultimate limit to which the costs in these cases may hereafter be carried.


I think I am right in saying that hon. Members on this side of the, House do not wish to deprive the tithe owner of the legitimate costs he may incur in sueing for his tithe, and, therefore, we would not oppose any rational Schedule of costs. What we say is that the present Schedule of County Court costs is utterly irrational and highly oppressive. The vast majority of cases under the Bill will be undefended cases; but wherever a case is defended all sorts of intricate points relating to questions of boundary and law will be sure to crop up, and in such cases it is only fair that the tithe owner should have a proportion of the costs he may be put to; but it would be only right to adopt some such Amendment as that suggested by the hon. Member for the Gower Division, that in such cases we should not allow costs beyond the Schedule of the Bill. The House negatived that proposal, so that the present position is this: that whenever there is any legal point involved the Judge may certify that the point was in the public interest, and that the tithe owner should have his proper costs. But the cases to which the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Glamorgan is applicable are those in which there is no trial. In Wales there will be shoals of cases in which the tithepayer will protest against the payment of the tithe. These cases, when brought before the Court, will not be defended; there will be no intention of raising points of law. Why should a solicitor be employed in those cases? There is absolutely no necessity for one. Or, why should witnesses be called? Under the Schedule, if applied to undefended cases, a solicitor would be allowed to charge 6s. 8d. for preparing the proof of each witness; 5s. for every copy; and a fee for every brief, where, in fact, no brief is required at all, because there is no defence. I think it is a most offensive exercise to be made of the Act. In hundreds of cases in England the tithepayer cannot pay his tithe except only by instalment, and when summoned before the Court he states his willingness to pay by instalments of £1 a month. If this Schedule is allowed to stand in these cases all the costs to which I have referred would be incurred, though not in the slightest degree necessary. The other day I looked into the costs of an undefended case in the County Court. It was very well known that the case would not be defended. In fact, the only reason the defendant was in Court was that he could not pay, and he was asking for time. In this case the solicitor was allowed 13s. 4d., or 6s. 8d. for entering the case, so much for serving the summons, and so much for preparing the brief; and in this case, as in every case, it was within the power of the solicitor to give notice to defend. So that you may have undefended cases—I am not speaking of defended cases—in which the costs can be run up to £6, though the sum owing is only £20. I think this a most monstrous thing. Another strong argument is, that the costs in these cases should be circumscribed in a greater degree than in ordinary cases. As a rule, in Wales, these cases will be presented in batches of 40. To enter one involves little more expense and trouble than to enter the whole 40. Really the whole work could be done by the solicitor's clerk in a couple of hours. Yet the solicitor is entitled by the Schedule to run up a bill in these 40 cases of from £100 to £200. I venture to think that a separate Schedule should be given limiting the costs in undefended cases, unless, indeed, it is intended that the costs should be used as a means of crushing agitation. But in endeavouring to crush the agitation, it seems to me that you will also be oppressing the yeoman farmers of England, by the introduction of these costs and fees.


I have not enjoyed a legal education, but I distinctly understood the Government to say during the course of this discussion that they would take care that the tithepayer was not in a worse position after the passing of this Act, especially with regard to this matter of costs. But now the Government are endeavouring to ride away on some ridiculous difference between fees and costs. To my mind, either one or the other is very much the same against the tithepayer, who is compelled to pay them. I venture to suggest to the Government that it would be wise to re-commit the Bill altogether, so that we might clearly understand what the Government does mean.


I do hope the suggestion coming from the hon. Member will be taken into consideration by the Government. We laymen, not learned in the law, look not upon legal complications, but upon the broad principle, that the tithepayer should be put in no worse position with regard to costs than he was before. Though I do not go so far as some of my hon. Friends below the Gangway, yet I know that those who look upon tithe as national property are prepared to accept a reasonable solution of this question of costs, and surely the proposition that they should not exceed 25 per cent of the sum claimed is a reasonable one.

(9.58.) SIR HUSSEY VIVIAN (Swansea, District)

Sir, I have refrained hitherto from joining in discussions which appeared to be to me of a purely legal character. We have a strong bench of Welsh lawyers, which, has enabled Welsh Members to take up a leading position in discussions on this Bill. I have always thought it undesirable for Members to speak in this House on question which others know better than themselves. But here is a question which the lay mind is perfectly well able to grasp. I think it would be unreasonable to refuse the request contained in the Amendment. How can it be justified that the costs may be 50, or perhaps 100, per cent. of the amount paid? Is that reasonable, is that just to the Welsh people? Surely it is desirable to pass an Act which will be regarded as just. If the Government refuse this limitation to 25 per cent. the Welsh people will consider that justice has been denied them. The learned Attorney General smiles. A lawyer may look at the matter from his point and a litigant from his; but I venture to suggest to the Government that, in the interests of justice, it would be well to allow this Motion to be carried.

(10.1.) MR. S. T. EVANS

I should think the Government would be glad to seize an opportunity of fulfilling their pledge to give a Schedule of costs. The noble Lord the Member for Darwen dissents from that statement, but he is not the Government. This point has so far been argued from the Welsh point of view; but I would point out to hon. Members who are interested in the Eastern Counties that it equally affects the farmers in that district. There, as I understand, the farmers suffer severely from the agricultural depression; and I would ask, are they not the men most likely to go to the County Court in order to secure the advantage of paying the tithe by instalments? And yet it is the fact that, whether the case be defended or not, a solicitor will incur all the costs. At present no costs are allowed, either of solicitor or barrister, in recovering tithe by distraint. The necessary preliminary proceedings in the County Court will cost something, and that cost will be additional; but you are heaping upon them the costs of solicitor and counsel, which are not at present allowed. I maintain that it was clearly understood that the total burden in the way of costs imposed by the new procedure should be comprised in a Schedule, and yet the Government are now under cover of a strict technical difference between fees and costs, refusing to do so. I hope that the Government will re-consider the question, if they wish the Debate to be carried on in the same spirit in which it has been conducted hitherto.

(10.5.) SIR R. WEBSTER

I hope that nothing which falls from me will prevent the Debate being carried on in the same spirit; but I confess I think that the kind of spirit shown by the hon. Member for South Glamorgan, who said that the tithe owner should get nothing of these expenses, but use this improved machinery at his own expense, is hardly likely to promote a fair settlement of the question. I wish to appeal to the recollection of the House to say that there has never been one word said to justify the assertion as to the inclusion of costs in a Schedule. There was a suggestion that a maximum should be imposed; but I wish to call the attention of hon. Members opposite to the speech in Committee of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, who followed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury, and supported his demand, on the ground that it was not a question between plaintiff and defendant but between the plaintiff and the Treasury. He stated that the Treasury were exacting in fees more than was necessary. That was, in the main, the argument which induced the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade to agree to insert a Schedule. In language which was, perhaps, not so careful as it should have been, I expressed my own opinion that in an undefended case the costs would not exceed a few shillings, and in reply to me either the hon. Member for Gower or the hon. Member for Carnarvon quoted fees, and fees only. I took it down at the time, and the words may be found in Hansard. The hon. Member referred to the plaint fee of 1s. in the £1, and the hearing fee of 2s.in the £1, and he showed that in a case in which the claim was for £5 19s. 6d. the costs would be 18s. But I venture to submit that these fees have nothing whatever to do with the costs of solicitors or witnesses. It has been suggested not only that there should be a maximum, as proposed in another Amendment, but that individual costs in the County Court should be reduced. Costs, however, necessarily depend upon the number of witnesses, on the distances they have to travel, and on other circumstances. Hon. Members opposite, therefore, are under a misapprehension, and it is most remarkable that this notice having been down on the Paper for four or five days nobody has put down any Schedule purporting to deal with costs. The only Amendment on the Paper, that in the name of the hon. Member for the Eifion Division, proposes that there shall be a total percentage limit; but no one has framed a Schedule enumerating item by item the particular costs to be incurred. Taking a defended case, prior to this Bill the costs in an action of replevin, whether in the County Court or in the Superior Courts, would be five or six times as much as in the procedure under this Bill. In an undefended case, I admit the order of procedure would be that there would be small costs before distress, and then distress. As to distress, it is provided that the costs shall be the same as were payable under the Distress Act, 1888. There is no doubt as to the way in which costs in undefended cases ought to be dealt with, and the Government will take care that they shall be dealt with by rules of the Rule Committee. Under these rules the costs of employing a solicitor will not be allowed where no notice of defence has been given. If the tithepayer admits that he owes the money, a rule that no costs shall be allowed beyond the fees will meet the objections that have been made. I say this with the authority of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. If the tithepayer admits owing the money no witnesses will be necessary, and the fees wholly or in part will be remitted. If witnesses are called in such cases, the tithe owner will have to pay for them himself. The only case which will not be met by these rules will be cases of strenuous defences, where the tithepayer goes into Court meaning to put the tithe owner to the expense of proving his case, although he knows that he owes the money. In all fairness and justice the moderate costs allowed under the Bill ought in such a case to be borne by the tithepayer. What is the proposal before the House? Is there anything more ridiculous than to say that the maximum costs, including fees, shall not be more than 5s. in the £1, when any one of the fees may in small cases of a few shillings exceed the proposed maximum? Such a proposal is not businesslike. It is the kind of suggestion which does very well for those who endeavour to pose as the friends of the poor tithepayer, but which really suggests a false standard, which would allow an absurdly excessive amount of costs in large cases and a ridiculously inadequate amount in the small cases. I hope that I have satisfied hon. Members that they are under a misapprehension, and that in undefended cases the costs will be strictly limited by the rules which the Government will have framed.

(10.22.) MR. S. T. EVANS

It is not contended that in undefended cases solicitors' and barristers' costs are not now incurred; but will the hon. and learned Gentleman undertake that in such cases there shall be no legal professional costs under this Act?


I am perfectly willing to undertake that the rules shall, in cases in which there is an admission of liability, prevent such costs being charged against the tithepayer.

(10.23.) The House divided:—Ayes 108; Noes 146.—(Div. List, No. 51.)

Amendment moved, in page 3, line 7, before the word "have," to insert the words "or of the County Courts Act, 1888."—(Sir M. Hicks Beach.)

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move the next Amendment which stands in my name.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 9, at the end, to insert the words— And shall in any other case have no other or greater powers of fine or imprisonment than are conferred by the County Courts Act, 1888."—(Sir M. Hicks Beach.)

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


This is the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade undertook to put on the Paper the other evening in place of one which I withdrew. I will explain why I put my Amendment on the Paper to restrict powers of imprisonment to Section 48 of the County Courts Act. On the 2nd of February I put this question to the Attorney General— Is the Attorney General willing to confine cases of imprisonment to this one Section 48? The right hon. Gentleman replied as follows:— I am not aware that I ever said I desired to avail myself of any other section. I have never suggested by one word that there should be any liability except under this section.


I beg pardon, but if the hon. Member will look back he will see that that answer was given in reference to a discussion concerning interference with the bailiff.


It was a discussion on an Amendment moved by an hon. Friend of mine, dealing with imprisonment in general under the powers of this Bill. Bat there is one point on which I should like to have some explanation from the Law Officers. Everyone would desire that the power of the County Court to protect itself and its own dignity should remain intact. There are, however, in the 162nd section of the County Courts Act words relating to officers either going away from or coming to the Court. I should like to know whether, in the opinion of the Attorney General, those words have reference to the time the Court is actually sitting, or whether they would include the case of a bailiff going from his office armed with the warrant of the County Court to execute a process? If the hon. and learned Gentleman's answer to that question is not satisfactory, I shall ask the Government to insert the express sections in the Act, and I am not sure that in any event I shall not do so. The County Court is a Court of Record. [Mr. ADDISON: Hear, hear!] I am glad that an hon. Queen's Counsel has found that out at last. It seems to have dawned quite freshly upon him. Is it not the case that a Court of Record has the power inherent in itself of imprisoning for contempt? We want to make it perfectly clear that no power to imprison outside the specific cases mentioned in the County Courts Act, 1888, is given to the County Court Judge.


I have no doubt that "going to and returning from the Court" means going to and returning from the Court in which the Judge sits—not going to the place armed with a warrant. Again, power to commit for contempt in face of the Court is now controlled by Section 162. The other powers as to imprisonment are in Sections 48 and 50 and following sections, and they refer to jurors, bailiffs, and so forth. There was a case where a County Court Judge attempted to exercise some other power, and he was restrained. There is no power of the Court to exercise the power of imprisonment, except in the cases mentioned in the section of the Act.

Question put, and agreed to.

The following Amendment stood in the name of Mr. A. WILLIAMS:— In page 3, line 9, at end, to insert—"Provided that in no case shall a person charged with having committed any offence under the forty-eighth or one hundred and sixty-second sections of 'The County Courts Act, 1888,' be taken into custody by an officer or bailiff of the county court, or be brought before a county court judge, hut the charge shall be inquired into by a court of summary jurisdiction. On such inquiry, the person charged shall be asked whether he will have his case summarily decided or tried by a jury. If he elects to be tried by a jury, and the Magistrates consider that a case for committal has been made out, he shall be committed for trial at the next quarter sessions.


This Amendment is not in Order. The hon. and learned Member proposes an alteration of the County Courts Act in respect of Clauses 48 and 162. He proposes that anybody charged with contempt of Court shall not be tried by the County Court Judge, but shall go before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, and, on appeal, shall have the right to a jury. The House has passed an Amendment to the effect that in the case of any second action or matter under this Act it shall be lawful for the plaintiff or defendant to require a jury to try the said action or matter.


Am I to understand, Sir, that when these sections of the County Courts Act have been incorporated in this Act it is not competent for the House to modify the general law?


Certainly not; because it is not applicable to this Act. The hon. and learned Gentleman refers to any officer of the County Court.

(10.46.) MR. C. W. GRAY

The Bill contains three principal provisions: Firstly, the tithe rent-charge has in future to be recovered from the landlord only; secondly, tithe has to be recovered through the County Court; and, thirdly, there is the clause which by a misnomer is called a Relief Clause. I have always contended that if we deal with cases where the tithe is out of all proportion to the value the landlord derives from the land from which the tithe issues, we ought to deal with them in a spirit of justice and fair-play. In my opinion, this House owes a long-standing debt to the tithepayers on this description of land. The debt was set up when the Corn Laws were repealed. That was the time when the tithe question ought to have been taken up by Parliament. Again, there has been a great change in local rating, and that charge has a great bearing on the point. At the time of the apportionment of tithe in 1836 it was found that during the seven previous years rates had been so high—in some cases 10s. and 15s. in the £1. In consequence, a large sum was added to the tithe apportionment to enable the tithe owner, after the passing of the Commutation Act, to pay the rates. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset (Mr. Farquharson) in the very interesting pamphlet he has written on the tithe question, shows that in one case in which the tithe apportionment was £800 per annum, between £400 and £500 was added in respect of the payment of the rates. My hon. Friend shows, and no one has ventured to question his assertion, that since the passing of the Commutation Act a very much less sum than £400 or £500 in the case mentioned would have been sufficient to enable the tithe owner to pay the rates. In reality, the tithe owner has been saving, out of the sum which was added to the tithe apportionment to enable him to pay the rates, a very large sum, if not every year, at any rate during most of the years which have passed since the enactment of 1836. Under these circumstances, I have a right to claim that if relief is to be given by this Bill at all, it should be real and not illusory. The hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Talbot), who, I think it will be admitted, notwithstanding the presence of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Gedge) is the leader in this House upon all matters connected with tithe and the Church, said on the 26th of January— This Bill is essentially a Bill of compromise and conciliation. It is a Bill for the settlement of a long vexed question, and we can never settle any vexed question unless there is a certain amount of give and take. I ask the hon. Gentleman if he can place his finger upon one part of this Bill which can be said to contain the principle of give and take, or to exhibit any spirit of compromise in the interest of the tithepayers. The hon. Member and his friends will not suggest for a moment that the give and take principle is to be found in the first part of the Bill, which transfers the payment of the tithe from the tenant to the landlord. Anyone who knows anything about the tithe question must admit that in that clause there is an invaluable concession to the tithe owners. Can the hon. Member show me one word in the next part of the Bill—in that part which deals with the recovery of tithe through the County Court—which breathes of compromise in the interest of the tithepayers? If there is any give and take, it must be in this 3rd Clause to which my Amendment applies, and I ask the House to bear with me if I repeat one or two arguments I have used before. This clause puts the tithe question for the future in this position: Parliament in 1891, decides that the tithe owners' property from the land may be double that of the property of the landlord or the yeoman farmer. If I am asked whether I will accept this 3rd clause as a relief clause, I shall say no. Although, we have waited for years to get this question settled, I would ten times rather the question remained as it is than have it settled as now proposed. During the last few years, several Bills dealing with the tithe question have been introduced, and I think every Member of the House will agree with me, when I say that each Bill has been better than its predecessor. When we have concluded the consideration of this Bill, I think all fair minded men will, on examination, find that every Amendment accepted by the House has improved this Bill. That leads me to believe that as we go on, as Parliament becomes more and more acquainted with the technical questions relating to tithepaying in the Eastern Counties, and those parts of England where tithepaying has become such a grievance, we shall get a fair recognition of our just claims. If this so-called relief clause is passed, we shall be twitted on every platform, from Land's End to John O'Groats, with having dealt with the question in this way. A certain amount of relief will be given to a very limited number of large farms, but we shall be challenged to name one small farm of from 10 to 15 acres upon which there are buildings of any value which will come within the point of relief. I am very sorry that I have to take up this position to-night. I acknowledge most freely the courtesy with which we have been met by the President of the Board of Trade, but I feel I should be false to the promises which I gave to my yeoman farming friends in the Eastern Counties before I entered the House if I did not say on their behalf that we much rather the whole question of relief remained in abeyance than be settled on the suggested terms. We are to have a Commission to inquire into the question of Tithe Redemption. Why should not this question remain in abeyance until that Commission has reported? I am satisfied that when that Commission present their Report we shall be able to make out such a strong case for the small farms that Parliament will not dare to turn a deaf ear to our appeal. I have another very strong point in connection with my proposal. I may say with almost literal accuracy that there are not twenty Members in the House who really approve of this clause, or at least they have not expressed themselves in favour of it. We have had a number of speeches condemning the clause from all points of view. It has been condemned because it does not go far enough, and again, because it goes too far; but who are the Members who approve the clause I have failed to discover. I am sometimes accused of being a confiscator and I was twitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby with being a greater robber than the Government, and thereupon he held out to me the right hand of fellowship. But now I ask the attention of the House to the wishes and recommendations of a most important meeting of tithe owners held in the county of Essex with the Rev. H. F. Johnson, Archdeacon of Essex, in the chair. A number of the clergy were assembled, and I am bound to say, judging from the report of the proceedings, they do not seem to have been a very happy family; but at any rate we are right in paying every respect to the resolutions passed at this important assembly of clergy, and one of the resolutions arrived at was that the whole of this third clause should be expunged. Now what will the Government do? Will that stalwart champion, of the Church, the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Talbot), assist in giving effect to the wishes of this assembly of clergy? They sent me this circular and, at last, I am happy to say that I am not only acting in accordance with the wishes of my own particular friends, the yeomen farmers of the Eastern Counties, but with the wishes of the clerical gentlemen who met at Chelmsford, and also with the wishes and request of a gentleman who has taken an active part in connection with, the payment of tithe and this Bill, Mr. Lloyd of the Tithe-payers' Association. I regret to have to ask the House to eliminate an important part of the Bill, but still, the other two parts of the Bill will be just as valuable and just as workable.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, to leave out Clause 3.—(Mr. Gray.)

Question proposed, "That the words from the word 'where,' in line 22, to the word 'payable,' in line 26, both inclusive, stand part of the Bill."


The first and second clauses of this Bill, as the House is aware, alter the present law with regard to tithe by transferring the direct liability for tithe rent-charge from the occupier to the owner. That has been felt almost universally by tithe owners to be a great benefit and advantage to them. I do not think that that is denied by my hon. Friend who has just spoken. There has been a general admission, I do not say a universal admission, for there have been a few exceptions, such as the resolution passed at the meeting to which my hon. Friend has referred, but I think there is a general admission from the tithe owners that in return for this benefit and advantage something should be given to the tithepayers. That something has been embodied by the Government in the clause now under discussion. That has been loyally accepted by Members who represent more especially the interest of the tithe owners in this House, who though feeling—I know they feel—that perhaps it will be giving the tithepayers more than tithepayers are fairly entitled to, bearing in mind the settlement of 1836, are yet willing to support the proposal as a quid pro quo in return for the advantage to tithe owners gained under Clauses 1 and 2. That being so, this 3rd clause which does certainly give an advantage to tithepayers over the present law—I do not think my hon. Friend will deny that—is attacked because it does not give enough. That is my hon. Friends position. My hon. Friend would have been content if the maximum amount of tithe had been fixed at half the value of the land instead of two-thirds.


A compromise.


Certainly, if his Amendment had been carried he would not have moved the omission of the clause. But what is his action now? I recalled to his mind the old proverb, "half a loaf is better than no bread." I think my hon. Friend must have taken note how, during the course of his speech, he was cheered by hon. Members below the Gangway opposite. What is the position they have taken up in reference to this matter? I must say a rather inconsistent position, because in contesting the 2nd clause they have done their utmost to throw impediments in the way of recovery by the tithe owners of tithes justly due, and now when we come to deal with this 3rd clause they stand up as defenders of the tithe owners, and object to tithepayers receiving any relief. Therefore, if my hon. Friend succeeds in defeating the clause he will do it, not by the aid of those who agree with him, but by the aid of those who absolutely differ from him, and who, if they had their way through his aid, would take very good care his friends should get nothing from the tithe owners. That would be the result of the success of my hon. Friend. I do not for a moment deny that if this 3rd clause is struck out it will to my mind amount to a very serious alteration of the Bill. But my hon. Friend must face the possibility of this Bill going on without the 3rd clause, and what then will he say to his friends and farmer constituents in Essex? Will he say, "The Government proposed that the tithe should in no case exceed two-thirds the annual value of the land, and that would have relieved some tithepayers; but I got that clause struck out, and now there will be no relief at all." I trust that hon. Members who desire to give some relief to tithepayers will not take what, with all respect to my hon. Friend, I must characterise as the ostrich-like view he takes; but although they may think the clause does not give tithepayers as much as they would desire, yet they will see that it is better than that there should be no relief at all.

(11.10.) SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

I take it that the hon. Member for Maldon knows very well what he means by his Amendment, and those who support that Amendment know very well why they do so. The argument of the hon. Member for the Maldon Division amounts to this—that there is no concession whatever in this Bill of the slightest value to the tithepayer. Last year a concession was proposed that would have been of real value, and not at all an excessive concession, of 5 per cent. all round.




There certainly was a proposition that there should be a concession of 5 per cent. all round.


That was not proposed by anybody last year.


The year before, or previously, it does not seriously affect the argument. The concession of 5 per cent, in the original scheme would have been a very genuine alleviation to the tithepaying classes as against the very great benefit which the Bill confers on the tithe owner. All who are engaged in agriculture in this country, whether landlords or tenants, and still more so the yeomen farmers, are aware that some thing ought to be done to correct those serious cases in which the excessive payment of tithe is a hindrance to the due cultivation of the land; and no one who knows agriculture well can believe that the proposed relief in the Bill will affect more than one or two farms in many counties. What is the proposed relief? It is where under Schedule B the valuation of the tithe exceeds two-thirds of the valuation of the farm there is to be a reduction. But what is the expense of carrying on the work of an estate in this country? In old days the working expenses in agriculture used to be, on a large estate, something like 25 per cent. of the rent; but now-a-days, with the fall of rents; these working expenses have risen to 33 per cent. I speak generally, but from knowledge of a good many estates. Thirty-three per cent. is equal to a third of the rent, and the Government propose that when the tithe turns two-thirds of the valuation under Schedule B then the tithe shall be reduced; that is to say, the proposal of the Government is that no relief whatever shall be given until the tithe has eaten up the whole of the available rent of the land. To that no answer is given. That will be the case on large farms and large estates, but it will be very much worse on small farms, where buildings make a very excessive part of the valuation. On those farms where relief is most wanted the proposal of the Government will give no relief whatever. Hon. Gentlemen opposite who are concerned with the cultivation of land know perfectly well that in those serious cases where the tithe makes such inroads on the rent or profits from the land, cultivation cannot be carried on at all, or only on sufferance. This proposal gives no relief whatever, therefore it is, I conclude, that the hon. Member proposes to strike out this clause, feeling certain that it will relieve nobody. It is a sort of pretence of relief which the right lion. Gentleman says the tithe owners have accepted loyally, and well they may accept it loyally. On that account the hon. Member makes the most emphatic protest in his power against this sham, this illusory relief to the tithepayer, in a Bill which gives such relief to the tithe owner, by proposing to strike out the clause; and in the interest of sound and sincere legislation I shall certainly vote with him, and I trust every hon. Member who has the true interests of agriculture at heart will do the same.

(11.15.) MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)

The simple answer to the right hon. Gentleman's opening remark in reference to the 5 per cent. reduction is this, that it was a proposal made when it was suggested that tithe rent-charge should be a personal debt recoverable upon the whole estate of the landowners. There is nothing of the kind in this Bill, and, therefore, no reason for the reduction. As the clause was brought in I very readily voted for it, because it seemed to me to give temporary relief to both parties, a temporary reduction from the tithe owner, and a temporary relief to the tithepayer, which might bring into cultivation land which otherwise would fall out of cultivation. The clause is wisely framed in the interests of both parties. The clause then contained a sub-section which has since been struck out on the Motion of the hon. Member for St. Pancras (Mr. T. H. Bolton), a sub-section, having special reference to the 58th Section of the Act of 1836. Under the section a landowner in possession of different lands, upon the whole of which there was a tithe rent-charge of, say £200 a year, was permitted to put the whole of the tithe rent-charge upon a portion of such lands, providing such lands were worth three times the value of the tithe, or £600 a year, leaving the remainder of the land free. But even without that sub-section I think the clause ought to remain in the Bill on the general ground that the temporary giving up of a portion of the tithe due to the owner will assist in bringing land back to cultivation, and then in the future the tithe owner will be enabled to receive his full amount of tithe due to him.

(11.18) MR. F. S. STEVENSON

It appears to me that the attitude of the hon. Member for the Maldon division is one that does him a good deal of credit. The position in which he stands is this. Under the first clause it is admitted there is considerable advantage to the tithe owner, because henceforward he will recover his tithe in a single cheque instead of in a number of small cheques with all the inherent difficulties of collection. It is also admitted that under the second clause a great advantage is given to the tithe owner on account of the more stringent means of recovery placed at his command. Under these circumstances, with these two points admitted the only question remaining is whether in compensation for these advantages to be conferred on the tithe owner there is to be any benefit to the tithepayer. Now the contention of the hon. Member for Maldon appears to be that under Section 3 of the present measure you are conferring on the tithepayer a visionary and theoretical advantage which will be of no real benefit. Under the circumstances I hope the hon. Member will not be content with an academic protest, but will go to a Division on the point. It is a question which excites the deepest interest among all concerned in the cultivation of the soil, and more especially among yeomen farmers, to whom the clause can only give relief in an infinitesimally small number of instances. I question whether throughout the whole of Suffolk the clause would give relief to two small farmers. The same might be said of the counties of Berkshire and Essex, where in typical cases brought forward this clause will effect no reduction, though some benefit might be effected by the alternative proposal of the hon. Member for Maldon. Even that Amendment if carried would have effected in a very small degree any alleviation of those grievances for which a remedy is only to be found in a revision of tithe. Under the circumstances, I think that every hon. Member who is concerned with agricultural interests should go into the Lobby with the hon. Member for Maldon as a protest against this pretence of reduction, which is really no reduction at all. If this clause is struck out I hope it will leave the way clear next year, or the year after, for more definite and complete proposals based to some extent on evidence brought before the Royal Commission, over which it may be assumed Lord Basing will preside.

(11.23.) MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)

I must draw attention to the curious anomaly which presents it self on this almost the final stage of the Bill. This clause we are now discussing and which my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon wishes to excise, is the only relief to the tithepayer in the Bill. The other two clauses are in the interest of the tithe owner, the hon. Member says and I do not deny that. This clause is by the admission of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Maldon the only relief clause in the Bill, but he now says it is illusory. Having allowed the 1st and 2nd clauses to pass without protest, the hon. Gentleman now asks the House to excise the only clause which conveys any relief to the tithepayer. I should have thought it impossible that any friend of the farmers could make such a proposal. If any intelligent farmers have listened to the hon. Gentleman they will find it difficult to support the hon. Member's peculiar position. From my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade we have heard the position clearly put, and I should not have risen but for the hon. Member's allusion to myself. My hon. Friend said that I, in a previous stage of the Bill, spoke of the Bill as a compromise—a Bill of conciliation—a Bill of give and take. I repeat that now, and I say that as the first two clauses place the property of the tithe owner on a more satisfactory basis than before, so this clause, I believe, is a concession to the tithepayer. My hon. Friend says it is a concession hardly worth having, but at any rate, it is better than no concession at all, and if it is worth anything, my hon. Friend had much better accept it. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Stevenson) suggests that if the clause is refused now something better may be secured a year or two hence, but when the hon. Gentleman has had such a length of Parliamentary experience as I have had, he will not expect that a subject which has been five times before Parliament in recent years, and has occupied so much time, will be likely soon to be taken up again. If my hon. Friend thinks the concession to the tithe-payer is worth anything at all, he will do well to accept it; however small the concession it is better than none at all.

(11.26.) MR. H. R. FARQUHARSON

I have no hesitation in saying that I shall vote for the omission of the clause, and for the reason that I believe it absolutely contains no concession to the tithepayer. The right hon. Gentleman says that a half a loaf is better than no bread, and I accept all the wisdom of the proverb, only here I do not see the half-loaf. It is said that the object of this so-called concession is to induce the landowner to keep his land in cultivation for the benefit of the tithe owner. How can that be called a concession to the tithepayer? The noble Lord (Lord Cranborne) says, the only good reason for revision of tithe is to keep the land in cultivation, for it is directly to the disadvantage of the tithe owner that the land should go out of cultivation. Again the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Gedge) says this proposal will no doubt for a time reduce the amount of the tithe on certain lands, but the reduction would in many cases lead to the full tithe being paid in future years. In other words hon. Members who have spoken on behalf of the tithe owner have made no secret of their real opinion, that this clause contains no concession to the tithepayer.

VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire N.E., Darwen)

The hon. Member is not quite right as regards what I said. I stated that I thought the Government had gone too far, and that the only defensible ground for action of this kind was to prevent land going out of cultivation.


At all events, the noble Lord is of opinion that it is directly to the disadvantage of the tithe owner that the land should go out of cultivation, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has told us that the object of this so-called concession is to keep the land in cultivation for the benefit of the tithe owners. That bears out my statement that there is no real concession in this clause. The tithepayers have claims upon the tithe owners for some concession. One of those claims is based upon the question of the corn averages. The amount of tithe payable is based upon he average price of British grown corn in the English market. It does not, however, pay the farmer to send in inferior samples of his corn. Only the best samples are sent in, and the result is that the corn average, and consequently the tithe average, is based upon he picked samples of the year's crop. In this way you get a fictitiously high tithe average. Reference has already been made to the question of rates. Act the time of the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act the Tithe Commissioners were instructed to award to the tithe owners such a sum for the future as would equal the net value of their receipts on the average of the previous seven years. In some cases the Commissioners added to the tithe a sufficient amount to enable the tithe owner to pay the rates, but as the rates were very high at that time the average amount added to the tithe in this respect was 10s. in the £1. Immediately upon the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act the new Poor Law came into operation; down went the rates, and ever since then the tithe owner has had the advantage of having a sum awarded to him equal to 10s. in the £1, although the amount of rates he is called upon to pay does not exceed 2s. in the £1. These constitute distinct claims which the tithepayer has upon the tithe owner. The only bargaining power the former has had in his hands is now being taken away by the Government without compensation. And not only do the Government take away the tithepayer's bargaining power, but they impose a very heavy fine of extra costs upon him, and compel the landlord to become the collector for the tithe owner. The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. F. S. Powell) told us a few nights ago that in Yorkshire the tithe was so small in hundreds of cases that it was not worth while to collect it. Therefore you are imposing upon landowners the duty of collecting sums which the tithe owners in some cases have not thought it worth while to collect. Then we have this instance—I do not like to say of bad faith—with regard to the buildings: When the Tithe Commutation Act was passed it was argued that the landlords would lay out their money more freely if the tithe owner had no claim upon the extra value imparted to property in consequence of increased expenditure on buildings. On the faith of the understanding then come to, money has been spent on buildings all over the country. Now you are providing that the tithe owner may take into the valuation buildings which have been put up by the landlord. This clause contains no concession whatever to the tithepayers. I would remind the House that the President of the Board of Agriculture (Mr. Chaplin) has made no remarks whatever upon the Bill, nor has the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. W. Long), a gentleman whose opinions on agricultural matters are much valued. I can only say that their silence on this matter is much more eloquent than any speech they could possibly make. For my part, as the representative of a constituency largely composed of tithepayers, I must decline to accept this so-called concession, which is no concession at all, and I shall vote for the omission of the clause.


The hon. Member who has just sat down, and some others, have so often alluded to me in the course of this Debate that I wish in one sentence to say why I support this clause. Whether the concession made by the clause be great or small, the Bill is undoubtedly more favourable to the tithepayer than it would be without the clause. After what has been said with such admirable clearness by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Sir M. Hicks Beach) on the point, I do not think it is possible to dispute it. It is a matter of great surprise to me that representatives of the agricultural interest are about to oppose the clause. If I were still sitting in the place which I formerly occupied below the Gangway, and had to choose between the retention or omission of this clause, I should most unquestionably vote for its retention.

(11.38.) The House divided:—Ayes 170; Noes 109.—(Div. List, No. 52.)

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 26, after the word "payable," to insert the words "exclusive of any costs incurred in the recovery thereof."—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)

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

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move, in page 3, lines 26 and 27, after the word "exceed," to leave out the words" two-thirds of." By this Motion I propose to restore the clause to the shape in which it stood in the two or three original Tithe Bills of the Government. Under those Bills power was given to the County Court to inquire whether the tithe exceeded the annual value of the land, and, if it did, a remission was given to that extent. Why the Government have backed out of that position I cannot understand. The position of the Prime Minister in the House of Lords was that he was anxious that the land should not be driven out of cultivation, and that would be the case if the tithe was in excess of the annual value. The moment the tithe is reduced so as to be on a level with the actual value of the land, there is no fear of the land being driven out of cultivation, and why the Government propose to go beyond that I cannot understand, unless it be for the purpose of bribing the landlords of the country to accept this measure. Something has been said about a quid pro quo, but there is nothing of the kind—there is no consideration given to the tithepayer. In the first clause of the Bill it is provided that the burden of paying the whole tithe shall be thrown on the landowner, even though there be a contract to the contrary. That means that 25 per cent of the value of the tithe is taken out of the pockets of the landowners, and transferred to the pockets of the tithe owners. It is stated that under this section one-third of the value of the tithe is taken out of the tithe and put into the pockets of the landowners as a sort of consideration for what they have been deprived of in the first section; but, as the hon. Member for Maldon has amply shown, this section will only apply to a very few instances, and in 99 cases out of 100 the landowner will be deprived of £2 per cent. of the tithe by having the burden of collecting it thrown on him, and will only get 15 per cent. in return. Why should one-third be taken from the tithe and put into the pocket of the landlord under this clause? Land in Wales is much inferior to land in the Eastern Counties; the tenants have to pay 15s. or £1 an acre for it, and they have to pay heavy railway rates to get the produce to market, and are then supposed to compete with the farmers in the Eastern Counties. If land is driven out of cultivation in the Eastern Counties it is often the fault of the landlords themselves. Why is land in the Eastern counties at present uncultivated? It is because the policy of large farms has been adopted. Small holdings, on the other hand, can be cultivated at a profit. I know a farm of 200 acres which could not be cultivated so as to make even the tithe; but the owner let it to labourers in small holdings at £2 an acre, and they are making an excellent thing of it. I do not see why bad landlords who have mismanaged their land and starved the tenants out of their holdings should receive one-third of the annual value in order to induce them to accept the Bill, whilst good landlords who manage to keep their tenants on the farm, and keep them in a tolerably good condition, get nothing but the burden of 25 per cent. cast on them by the Bill. The Government have introduced so many and so contradictory Bills, that I cannot understand why they should be in such a difficulty with regard to this. The arguments which have been used in support of one Bill can always be effectually quoted in favour of its successor. The noble Lord the Member for Darwen who represents the clerical party in this House, and who acted as a sort of adviser to the Government in this House, pledged himself against diminishing the interests of the clergy, yet now he is found marching through the Lobby in favour of reducing that very interest by one-third. I should like to know the reason why hon. Gentlemen opposite change their minds, and why they should treat as dishonest in 1890 that which they accept as honest in 1889. Is it that they are ready to sacrifice to political and party expediency that which they will not sacrifice in the interests of the community at large? Another Member who has always supported the interests of the clerical party is the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. H. Byron Reed). That hon. Member has not been so constant in his attendance since the reduction by one-third. When speaking in support of the Bill of 1889, the hon. Member for East Bradford, after expressing a sort of sentimental sympathy for the tenant farmers, said— That a contract is a contract, an agreement is an agreement, and that the bargain between the land owners and the tithepayers in 1836 must be adhered to, and the tithepayer must be prepared to take the rough with the smooth. In 1891 the hon. Member opposes that view by voting for the reduction of the tithe property by one-third. I submit that that is grossly inconsistent. What becomes of the charges of confiscation? We are continually reminded about the Ten Commandments, and about the necessity of inculcating the decalogue among Radical Members of this House. But to apply the Ten Commandments to the tenant farmers of Wales is to be told that we intend to rob the Church. It is a very different thing when the landlord takes his one-third. Then the Ten Commandments are entirely forgotten. They are not a question of ethics, but a question of objects altogether. They have rolled the Ten Commandments into one: "Thou shalt keep thy contracts," and there the "thou" is to apply to the occupier, and is not to tend to the landowner by any means whatever. From whatever point of view we regard this, whether from that of the clerical tithe owners as one class of the community, or of a class which does nothing, or of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester and others, who regard this as national property, I submit that there is no reason at all why we should rob the whole country for the sake of a few landlords.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 26, to leave out the words "two-thirds of."—(Mr. Lloyd-George).

Question proposed, "That the words 'two-thirds of' stand part of the Bill."


As this question has been discussed at length more than once, I hope hon. Members will not think it necessary to discuss the decalogue, political morality, and the respective merits of large farming in Essex and small farming in Wales. The object of the clause is to secure to the owner of the land something which will give him sufficient interest in the land to keep it in cultivation. That cannot be fairly called robbing the owner of the tithe, because it is his interest as well as the landlord's that the land shall be kept in cultivation.

(12.12.) MR. BYRON REED (Bradford, E.)

I should not have intervened in this Debate, but for the observations which have been made with regard to myself personally. There was not a grain of argument in the mass of rhetorical chaff which the hon. Gentleman addressed to the House. As far as the rhetoric went, it was to the effect that there was a discrepancy between this Bill and previous Bills introduced by the Government—a discrepancy against the tithe owner and in favour of the tithepayer. That is to say, the hon. Member complains of the Government having, under great pressure, made concessions to the party which he represents. For those concessions hon. Members opposite now prove themselves ungrateful, and I venture to think that the Front Bench on this side of the House should take note of the way in which their efforts at conciliation are received by hon. Members on the other side.

(12.14.) MR. S. T. EVANS

Sir, I had not intended to speak until the hon. Member addressed the House. I am rather sorry that he has not been able to grasp the argument of my hon. Friend which was clearly stated. His argument was not that the Government was inconsistent, but that the hon. Member had swallowed the principles he previously professed. Two years ago the hon. Member for East Bradford proclaimed the sacredness of contract, that a bargain once made ought never to be changed. Now the hon. Member is a supporter of the Church, while we on this side regard tithe as national property which we object to see whittled down. The hon. Member, however, though champion of the Church, is really, for party purposes, making ethics dependent upon objects, and he is going to rob the present holders of tithe of one third of their property to put it into the pockets of the landlords.

(12.15.) The House divided:—Ayes 146; Noes 76.—(Div. List, No. 53.)


I now beg to move in page 4, line 7, after Sub-section (2) insert— For the purposes of this section the owner of tithe rent-charge shall have the same right of appeal as the owner of lands, whether under the enactments relating to the said assessment or under this section.


There is no objection to that.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 14, after Sub-section 3, to insert the following sub-section— If either the tithe owner or the owner or occupier of the said lands is dissatisfied with the said assessment, he may appeal to the county court for the district in which the said lands are situate, and the county court may, after such service upon the owner and occupier of the said lands and the said surveyor of taxes as may be prescribed, appoint a valuer to determine such annual value, and his valuation shall be final upon the matter."—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)

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


I hope the hon. Member will not press that Amendment, as it is not possible that I can accept it, as it would entail a double hearing, and would afford no advantage over what is already provided for.


Then I will ask leave to withdraw this Amendment, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment which stands next upon the Paper.


I shall be able to accept it with a slight modification, which I will explain when it is moved.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, In page 4, line 17, after Sub-section (4) to insert the following sub-section:—"Where a special apportionment has been made in pursuance of Section 58 of 'The Tithe Act, 1836,' whereby tithe rent-charge has been charged specially upon certain closes of land in different proportions, and to the exclusion of certain of them, the court shall not grant a remission under this section unless satisfied that the applicant would have been entitled to such remission if no such special apportionment had been made."—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)

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


I propose to insert words which will make the subsection more clear, and will obviate the extensive litigation that might otherwise arise. I would, therefore, amend the proposed Amendment by adding in the first line, after the word "where," the words "It appears from any award that."


I will accept that Amendment, which I think is very reasonable.

Amendment to proposed Amendment agreed to.

Amendment, as amended, agreed to.


I do not think that the Amendments already accepted by the Government give a right of appeal in any action or matter arising out of the recovery by distress of tithe rent-charge, and I certainly cannot understand why any distinction should be drawn between an action in the first instance and one arising out of distraint. I have no doubt there will be several actions involving very complicated points of law, and I think this section will become inoperative unless the words I suggest are added.

Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 27, after the word "Act," to insert the words "or in any action or matter arising out of any proceedings for the recovery of tithe rent-charge under this Act or the Tithe Acts."—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)

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

(12.33.) SIR R. WEBSTER

It is impossible to accept the Amendment. No new jurisdiction is being created which will necessitate the Amendment, and the ordinary rules of appeal will apply in cases which do not arise under this Bill. The principle the Government act upon is this that, except in cases of new jurisdiction, matters shall be left as they are. This Amendment would alter the County Courts law in respect of actions of replevin, simply because they may arise in tithe cases. I hope the House will at once decide this point and not further discuss it.

(12.34.) The House divided:—Ayes 68; Noes 141.—(Div. List, No. 54.)

(12.45.) MR. T. M. HEALY

I beg now to move the adjournment of the Debate. Seeing that to-morrow the House has to meet to discuss the marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, there is no reason why the officers should be detained here longer to-night. We know that the Government have power to put this Bill down whenever they choose. There are still some important matters relative to costs to be considered, and I think in the extra two hours they will have to-morrow for attending church, they would do well to try and agree to some reasonable arrangement.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Further Proceeding on Consideration, as amended, be now adjourned."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)


I hope the hon. Member will not press this Motion. There are only two Amendments remaining on the Paper, and for some little time past the discussion has been proceeding in a spirit which shews the desire of hon. Members to arrive at the conclusion of this stage. I am endeavouring to meet their wishes so far as I can, and may I point out that if the Report of the Bill is finished to-nigh there need be no further interference with the rights of private Members.


I think the Government ought to grate- Fully accept the proposal of the hon. Member, as it will afford them time to reconsider their position, for considerable confusion appears to prevail in their minds on several points which we have had to discuss at great length. If the Bill were re-committed some Amendments might be introduced with very great advantage.


There are two Amendments which I am afraid it will take some time to discuss unless the Government give us an undertaking with regard to the costs. I understood the Attorney General to pledge himself that a rule shall be made securing that in undefended cases no solicitors' costs whatsoever shall be charged. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman agree to incorporate such a rule in a clause in the Bill? Of course I do not doubt that he will adhere to his undertaking, but I want to point out that when the rules come up for discussion we cannot deal with them in detail: we shall have to accept or reject them as a whole. But if the hon. and learned Member will insert this particular rule in the Bill I think we can complete the Report stage to-night.

(12.50.) SIR R. WEBSTER

If the hon. Member wishes to have on the face of the Bill the fact that rules, dealing with undefended cases, will be made I have no objection. But I think my undertaking ought to have been sufficient, for it is a most unusual practice to put, say, half a dozen rules on the face of an Act of Parliament. The words of the rules which I have read are clear, that the costs of employing a solicitor will not be allowed in any case in which no notice of defence is entered and in cases in which there is such notice they will only be allowed for work done sub-sequent to such notice. Again, witnesses' costs will not be allowed in any case where the tithepayer has not given notice of defence.

(12.51.) MR. S. T. EVANS

As the question of costs was raised upon my Amendment, I may perhaps be allowed to point out that if such rules are put in the Bill they cannot be altered without the Bill being repealed; but if they are not so incorporated they might be changed in a few months. For this reason I shall be glad if the Attorney General will agree to the incorporation of the Rules in the Bill.


It shall be done.




It can be done in another place.


Under these circumstances, I do not propose to move the remaining Amendments on the Paper.


And I, of course, withdraw the Motion to adjourn the Debate.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule brought up, and read the first and second time, and added.

Bill to be read the third time upon Thursday.