§ *THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY, Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
rose to move the Second Reading of this Bill. He said:—Mr. Speaker, I made so exorbitant a demand on the patience of the House in moving for leave to introduce this Bill, that I regret to have to be obliged again to make a further draft on their indulgence—this time, I hope, a much more moderate demand. The truth is, this subject is so technical, so complex, and so many opposite principles of law are interwoven in such a mass of unfamiliar fact, the subject is so full of terms of art in what is essentially a foreign language, or what is more confusing still, terms in our own tongue with a foreign sense,—that I hope the House will excuse me if I again attempt to make some of the principles of the Bill more plain than I was able to do before the Bill was in the hands of hon. Members. I am disappointed in having to say that none of the difficulties have been cleared up in 736 any way by any serious criticisms since the Bill was printed. I have been a pretty industrious reader of all the speeches and articles on the subject. The articles I have read have been rather querulous and railing than critical. The hon. and learned Gentleman who sits opposite me made a speech full of that rather mechanical and automatic violence which is sometimes called forensic, and which Irish lawyers have at command, but which neither helps any question forward nor keeps any question back. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the proposals of the Government were the most disastrous and most revolutionary measure of land reform that had ever been produced. [Mr. CARSON: "Hear, hear."] The hon. and learned Gentleman still thinks so; but my mind was considerably relieved when I read, in another part of the hon. and learned Member's speech, that he had not determined whether or not to vote against the Second Reading. [Mr. Carson Made some observation which did not reach the Gallery.] I presume if the hon. and learned Member did really believe this was the most revolutionary and disastrous measure of land reform ever introduced into this House, he would, I am sure, have influence enough with the Gentlemen who sit near him to persuade them to share his view. Then there was my hon. Friend the Member for the Guildford Division, who has taken an active part in the Committee that discussed this subject. The hon. Member wrote a letter to The Times, in no very agreeable tone, in which he said that I had missed a great chance. But on reading that letter very carefully, all I could find was that I had missed a great chance of introducing a sham, an empty and a retrograde Bill, which would satisfy neither Irish landlords nor Irish tenants, and which would not have settled one single difficulty which the experience of the working of the Act of 1881 has brought to light. Then, Sir, finally the Landowner's Convention has met and passed resolutions, and the effect of their resolutions was that they were willing to remedy any defects which admittedly existed in the Irish Land Acts, but they take care, so far as I have been able to read their proceedings, not to admit any particular difficulties as to which they are ready with a remedy. In the three 737 or four weeks that have elapsed since the First Reading of the Bill, I have not come across from gentlemen in Ireland—and English Members have been, perhaps discreetly, silent—one single effective or practical criticism. The Irish landlords may be a falling class, but even broken causes have a statesmanship of their own; and the Irish landlords are certainly not without men of strong understanding, of enormous and complete familiarity with the subject, of a high order of intelligence and large experience, some of them, of great public affairs. They are gentlemen from whom Parliament has a right to expect some responsible aid in reaching a settlement of these difficulties. It is a peculiar misfortune of the Irish Land question that the House of Lords contains some of the ablest—I think I may say, without offence to Gentlemen in this House, the ablest—representatives of the landlords, and not one single direct representative of the tenants. In this House, on the other hand, we are fortunate enough to possess some of the ablest and most ingenious representatives of the tenants, but the landlords are represented mainly by a row of Irish Queen's Counsel and one or two lay spokesmen, who, I regret to think, represent that irreconcilable junta—I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin calls them—which is always violent, which is unteachable, which is always wrong, which always fights these Bills and these proposals with a blind and, I must say, rather stupid, desperation. Well, there are signs in the present Session that English and Scotch Conservatives, including the Leader of the Opposition, are rather shaking off the thraldom of their Irish friends. There was a Bill in reference to the Irish Poor Law Guardians, and another Bill as to Irish Municipal Franchise, in connection with which both the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his supporters seemed to show their willingness to look at Irish questions more or less from the Irish point of view. There are some questions upon which it would be mere mockery for a Minister standing at this box to ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to approach them with a mind free from all prepossessions. I believe the great subject which we were debating last night to be one of the sort in regard to which it would be unreasonable to ask hon. Gentlemen 738 opposite, in their deliberate action, to place themselves in the same position which we hold. The Irish Land Question is not, or ought not to be, a question of that sort. I can quite understand that the Irish Land Act of 1870 and the Act of 1881 contained so many daring and innovating principles that it was natural for gentlemen of the Conservative Party to meet them with antagonism, but there is no reason whatever in this Bill, if its proposals are first of all correctly understood, and secondly if they are rightly weighed in connection with the exigencies which give rise to them in Ireland, why gentlemen belonging to the Conservative Party should not be able to take as fair a view of them as we do ourselves. In treating this Bill, I must ask the House to consider that the Legislation of 1881 has been more or less restricted and baffled, not through any fault of the Legislature, but by the action of the Courts in what they consider to be perfectly sound judicial decisions. The object of this Bill is, broadly speaking, apart from some three or four provisions which do not affect the Legislation of 1881, such as the 14th and 15th Clauses, to restore the great objects which the right hon. Member for Midlothian and Parliament had in view. I am not going again to ask the House to accompany me through all the clauses at this stage. But I should like, if the House will allow me, to explain and to defend two or three of the proposals which have aroused, as I understand—though I have not seen any evidence of it, except in the speech of the hon. and learned Member—a strong degree of antagonism among the Irish landlord party. I need not say anything about the limitation of the statutory term. That is an important proposal, and something will no doubt, be said upon it in Committee; but I have only to point out in the meantime that the alteration of the statutory term from 15 years to 10 was a proposal recommended by the Cowper Commission, and it needs no particular defence from me, because by the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman opposite passed through the House in 1887, the inviolability of the statutory term was, of course, repudiated.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
The hon. and learned Member says not the least. Of course it was not formally repudiated, but the Act of 1887 carried out certain enactments, with regard to the revision of rents, and I am sure it will be agreed that no statesman holding the view that the statutory term was inviolable could admit any proposals of that kind. The provision most open to criticism, no doubt, is that for making the abridgment of the statutory term retrospective. I am all the more ready to admit this proposal open to criticism and to dispute, because in the Committee I myself gave a casting vote against it. Fuller reflection and a wider acquaintance with the facts of the case and a fuller consideration of the arguments for and against, convinced me that the extension of this abridgment to terms already fixed was required both by policy and by the principles upon which we are acting in other parts of the Bill. It is not denied that rents fixed in 1882, 1883, 1884, and possibly 1885 were too high. That is easy to understand. The procedure was novel, the Court itself was an entire innovation, the gentlemen who had to work the new system were inexperienced, and the action of the Lords' Committee which sat in 1882–83 was not calculated to aid the sub-Commissioners in fixing fair rents, but rather—and I believe it is admitted it did have that effect—stimulated the fixing of too high rents. Cases are brought before me every day. I have in my mind a case where the old rent was £72, and the judicial rent was fixed at £63, and the other day landlord and tenant agreed upon a new valuation, according to which the rent was further lowered to £45. How can this House, in face of a multitude of facts of that kind, say that a fifteen years' term is not too long, and if it is too long for all future rents, on what principle can you deny that it is too long for rents already fixed? There are certain classes of holdings which are excluded from the benefit of the fair-rent Court—demesne lands, town parks, pasture holdings, and so forth. I will point out under this head that we have not abolished one single class or category of exclusion. They all remain excluded. What we do is to endeavour to extricate them from the position in which judicial decisions have placed them. 740 Whether the limitations we have laid down are correct and sound, are all matters fairly open to discussion, and it is perfectly proper they should be fully examined in Committee. But assuredly there is no ground whatever in any proposal that we make under this head of the Bill, which would justify anybody in regarding the Bill as violent, innovating, or revolutionary. I now approach that portion of the Bill round which the most stubborn contest is likely to be waged—I mean the question of improvements. Before dealing with that, I may be permitted one remark on the subject of the landlord's right of pre-emption—a subject on which the hon. Member for Guildford in the Committee showed he takes an interest. As the House understands, the Act of 1881 gives to the tenant the right of selling his interest in the holding, provided that he gives full and proper notice to the landlord that he is going to do so, and the landlord has the right, after notice, to buy up the tenancy at the true valuation. The hon. Member for Guildford contends that by abolishing the landlord's right of pre-emption, as we propose to do, we are removing an effective check against the monstrous prices, as he would regard them, which are paid for the tenants' interest. Nobody who knows the facts will deny that the prices paid for the tenants' interest are amazing. An enormous number of years' purchase is given in many cases. It is absurd to say that the landlord's right of pre-emption is in practice and effect any check at all. It is extremely rarely that the landlord exercises his right. If pre-emption is to be an effective check, the landlord must step forward in every case, or nearly every case. As a matter of fact—I am speaking in the presence of gentlemen in both camps who know the facts of Ireland—the landlord does not step in to exercise his right in one case in a thousand. This jealousy on the part of my hon. Friend for the right of preemption only means a jealousy of losing the power of buying the tenant's interest at one price and selling it at another and a higher price. I am not going to argue, the question further than to point out to hon. Gentlemen opposite that this right of pre-emption does not exist where the Ulster custom exists. There the landlord has no right of pre-emption, and 741 everybody knows that the real and undisputed exercise of the right of free sale is one of the reasons why the agrarian question in Ulster has generally been so much less acute than it has been in other parts of Ireland. But you need not go to Ulster after all. Our knowledge of human nature is quite enough to tell us that the more you make the tenant sure that the more he improves his holding, the greater will be the price which he will receive in the open market, the more is your assurance that that tenant will do the best he can to cultivate his holding. Perhaps it may lighten a somewhat tedious exposition and bring the matter more vividly before the House, if I read to them a very short description which I came across the other day in the autobiography of a gentleman once a Member of this House, and well known to many Members of the House now, I mean the late Sir William Gregory. In his autobiography I find this passage. He is speaking of the sale of some portions of his ancestral estates in the county of Galway:—I may here mention that the result of this sale had a very strong influence afterwards in my political career, and rendered me a very advanced politician on the tenants' side, on the landlord and tenant question. Shortly after my father's death, I visited every holding on the estate, and was struck with the results of the unflagging industry of the tenants who occupied the light stony land about Kinvara. They had by their labour, and with no allowance from the landlord, cleared large portions of their farms, and the great monuments, as they called them, of stones attested their industry. From these clear patches they had excellent barley crops, and were in prosperity. My great-uncle and father were both just men, and allowed them to enjoy the fruits of their toil for many years without raising the rent. On the occasion of my visit, when I was about to drive away, I said to these tenants, who had assembled to greet me, that I was surprised to see so much good land, and that I thought it was capable of bearing a higher rent. Of course, this called forth a general protestation, and very sad were their faces; but they soon cleared up when I said to them, 'Were I to take one shilling out of your pockets on account of the additional value yon had given to my properly by your industry, I should be a robber and ashamed to look you in the face. You can go on in good heart with your work, and be assured that while I own this property, your rent shall never be raised on account of your improvement.' Such were my intentions, and such was the confidence of those tenants that they never asked for a lease, or I should have gladly given it to them. When the sale came on I was so occupied with other matters that I quite forgot their danger. Indeed, it never crossed my mind, for I had then heard 742 of no particular instances of rapacity on the part of new purchasers; but I very soon had a terrible account of my remissness in not securing these poor folk. Mr.——, to whom I have referred, as soon as he was placed in possession of the lots he had purchased, on which those tenants dwelt, lost no time in dealing with them in the most remorseless fashion. The rents were raised so as to pay £5 per cent. on the borrowed capital, and a large income besides for himself. They were almost invariably doubled, and in some cases £5 was charged where £2 had been the rate of the former rent. But he killed the goose for the golden egg, the town of Kinvara was all but ruined, and the best tenants ran away. I met one in Australia, at Ballarat, and he assured me he was well off when I was his landlord, but a pauper three years after, when he emigrated.It is things of that kind that have sent thousands and tens of thousands of Irish across the sea, not only to Australia, but still more to the United States, with hatred in their hearts for the system which exposed them to these abominable cruelties, and for the Government and this Parliament which allowed such wrongs. I am all the more glad to have read that passage, because Sir William Gregory and his ancestors had none of this harsh spirit, and it shows that there were some exceptions, at all events, to Mr. Justice Keogh's violent description of the Irish lairds as "the most heartless, thriftless, and indefensible landocracy in the world." The history of Ireland is a history of confiscation, of plantations and transplantations, of settlements and re-settlements. The great fee of Ireland has been, transferred half-a-dozen times—in the time of King Henry, of Elizabeth, of James I., and of Cromwell—sometimes by soldiers and violence, sometimes by lawyers and chicane. The unwritten history of Ireland is the important thing, and the thing that is worth remembering. While all these changes were going on—all these great superficial processes of plantation and transplantation—the cultivation of the soil was all that time being carried on under difficulties untold and discouragements indescrible by men who were kept in a condition not much better than that of serfs and bond slaves. It was they who, under the system of Irish landholding, made all the improvements that were made, and who now claim that the fruits of their labours shall not be taken from them. I am not going to read passages, although they abound in 743 the reports of the Devon, Bessborough, and Richmond Commissions, to show that the tenant has really made the improvements. What I want the House to do is, not to look at the past, but to consider the future. That is what gives its importance to this Bill. Who is the Irish landlord now? Has such a change taken place in his means and in his position that he is better able, or likely to be better inclined, to make improvements? Is he more firmly rooted and planted in the soil than he was, and are his individual interests bound up in making two blades of grass grow where one grew before? Why, it is obvious that he is little more than a rent-charger now with tenants who may leave him when they like, but whom he cannot displace or control so long as they observe certain conditions, however much he might like to. With him—I am not blaming him at all for it—the vital and crucial question is, whether he will get 15, or 17, or 19 years' purchase to clear out. That is the policy—I do not dissent from it—of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. They have agreed that the true policy of settling this question is the policy of purchase. That means the specific, compensated, ordinary expropriation of the Irish landlord. The Irish landlord knows it perfectly well, and I am not blaming him when I say you cannot expect him to be an improving landlord. As the hon. Member for South Hunts said last year, "They would be great fools if they were." Human nature and common sense being what they are, it is irrational to expect men in this position to apply themselves to the improvement of their own country in the same spirit in which, for example, the Scotch proprietors 150 years ago applied themselves to the improvement of their country, and transformed the land—I am speaking especially of the Lowlands—from heath and stone and morass into one of the most productive agricultural districts the world has to show. You cannot expect that from the Irish landlord. I should like to make one more general remark. You cannot settle a fair rent by a mathematical formula. People talk as if there were in existence in the empyrean or in vacuo 744 an abstract, perfect, ideal figure of a fair rent which omniscience could discover. There is no such ideal figure. I understand what the value of a holding in England is. It is what it will fetch in the market. But by the legislation of 1881 that was exactly what you enacted should not be the value of a holding in Ireland. The whole policy—it may have been right or it may have been wrong—the whole policy of the Act of 1881 was to withdraw the question of value from the open market. The whole structure of that Act rests upon the difference between competitive rent and fair rent. But there is no abstract perfect figure for a thing of that kind. Valuation is a matter of opinion, and you often, in the Land Court, find two valuers, one of whom will fix the value of a holding at so much, and another, who will say he is equally skilled, who will fix it at something quite different. The discrepancies in valuation are sometimes nothing short of appalling. Gentlemen must not expect in the Bill any precise statement of practical directions, but they will find perfectly clear indications of the principle on which we expect this Bill to be carried into effect. What do we say when we come to the substance of Clause 5? We say to the valuers, "In fixing a fair rent you are not to make the; tenant pay on his own improvements. You are to make him allowance for the right of occupancy." I will take the case of a tenant who has a holding for which he pays at the rate of 3s. an acre. He expends £5 on the holding, and the letting value after the improvement, has risen from 3s. an acre to 10s. an acre. How are you going to dispose of the 7s. increment? What do we say? We say that, in the absence of any special circumstance, the whole of that increase due to the improvements should go to the tenant who made the improvements. We are going to give the whole of the increased letting value under ordinary circumstances to the tenant who, as I have said, made the improvements. Are we going to allow nothing for the capacity by which the tenant was enabled to make that increased letting value? That seems to me to be a fundamental principle in the matter. What else was there to let? I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman 745 who I understand is to follow me will kindly pursue my position to the end. Now, suppose the Land Court revising and fixing a fair rent for 10 or 15 years. Are they to assume that their predecessors did not know their business, and that they were not alive to what they were doing, and that they did not take into consideration and account the improvability of the land—that they did not include the use of the improvability and the expectation of making money as one of the elements when they made up the rent, whether the initial rent of the landlord or the judicial rent? I know I shall be referred, as I was referred last year, to the speech of the Lord Chancellor (Lord Herschell), and we shall be told of the case of two pieces of land—two holdings in different circumstances in respect to natural advantages—such as exposure to the sun, absence of boulders, kindliness of the soil, and the like. In one case the expenditure of £100 will produce £5 in the letting value, and in the other case the expenditure of £100 will produce a return of only £2. It is perfectly clear that the holding which, by reason of its natural advantages, returns £5 will have a higher rent than the other holding which makes an inferior return. Why are we to suppose that the landlord or the. Land Court 10 or 15 years ago made no allowance as between the holdings A and B—between the holding which produces£5 and the other holding which produces £2? Why are we to suppose that? Under the Bill the Valuers would consider these differences of circumstances, and would estimate the letting value of those two holdings accordingly. They would estimate them at their letting value without the improvements, according to the circumstances of each, and they would discriminate between them in fixing a fair rent. I wonder what Gentlemen opposite will find extravagant in this proposal? The valuers will estimate the rent of the holding at the time, fixing a fair rent without the improvements, and that would be the letting value. It is not the letting value of the land after the subsiding of Noah's flood, or the letting value in the time of King John or King James, but the letting value in the time of Victoria. The question is—What 746 is the letting value without those improvements? All the improvements we count in the tenant's interest. I shall no doubt be told, Suppose a harbour is constructed, or suppose a railway is made, or suppose that for any other reason there is an advantage conferred upon the holding which the tenant has had no share in producing, what is to be the effect of that? Is it to have no effect? Well, we neither argue nor intend anything of the kind. We intend that such changes due to alterations in local circumstances apart from the holding shall be treated exactly as they are treated now. These matters will remain just the same after the Bill as before. I now come to special circumstances. You take a holding of 100 acres, and 20 acres of it are swamp it 1s. an acre. The tenant will have to drain this swamp, and the effect of that is to transform the swamp into land value for 20s. an acre. The landlord then says, "It is perfectly obvious to any just man that when I fixed the rent if those 20 acres, I did not take into account the possible improvability of the swamp." The landlord will recite the circumstances when he is making objection to the tenant's claim, and we think that in that case the special circumstances should be taken into account. There have been so many misapprehensions upon the provision which I am going to say a word about that I am sure the House will excuse me if I detain them for a moment or two. This was the question of the occupancy right. We say that in fixing a fair rent the Court shall consider the interest of a tenant as including the right of the tenant to the continued occupation of his holding. I am not going to ask the House to listen to a disquisition as to tenant-right. I was reading an Irish law book the other day and I found there were no fewer than nine different significations to be attached to the word "tenant-right." Fortunately, it is not necessary for me to ask the House to consider their comparative validity. In putting this provision into the Bill, we found ourselves upon authority and also on practice, and hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite will agree that the authority of the judges is not to be lightly set 747 aside. Before the Committee, the gentlemen who were in a minority complained that they were not allowed to produce evidence, but they did produce a certain Mr. Toler Garvey, who gave evidence upon this subject. Now I beg the House to listen to what he said upon the process of valuing. He said, in reply to the hon. Member for North Kerry—I always take into account in valuing that there is a tenant there in occupation. I never put on as high a rate for a tenant, in occupation as I would it the farm was in the landlord's hands. I always thought the truant in occupation should never be charged the full rent.And then he gave an illustration. Mr. Garvey then said:—When I am valuing a farm, if I consider that the full value of that farm is worth 25s. an acre, I would say, 'Well, that would be the value of it if in the hands of the landlord; that special field, irrespective of the buildings, or anything else; that field there is worth 25s. an acre, but the tenant being in occupation of that farm, 22s. or 21s. would be enough to charge.'And then he went on to say that he made his allowance proportionate to the length of time the tenant had been in occupation. But it is not merely a casual valuer who lays down this doctrine. Will the House listen to what the judges say? Mr. Justice Bewley, a Judge of the High Court and Chief Land Commissioner, wrote to Lord Justice Fitz-Gibbon and used this language:—I understand the effect of your judgment in Adams and Dunseath,' and of your evidence before the Committee to be this—if, after making an allowance to the tenant on the rent for his improvement works, there remains any improved value of the land reclaimed or drained, the whole of it does not necessarily go to the landlord, because the tenant may have a tenant-right or interest in the holding quite irrespective of his improvements, to which effect must be given in assessing the rent. I was going to point out that it seems to me that, from the commencement, that is what the Land Commission has, in fact, done. They have, in fact, apportioned what, would otherwise be the full letting value between landlord and tenant, because they have taken into consideration this, whatever you may choose to call it, tenant-right or goodwill arising from occupation.I have only one passage to quote from Lord Justice FitzGibbon, a judge of the very highest authority, as everyone will agree. He said:—The decision that the interest of the tenant was to be ascertained, defined, cheeked or limited, by the consideration of what he would get 748 under the Compensation Clause, on leaving the holding, was that of six of the seven judges. But how the relative interests were to be worked out in figures in fixing the rent was not within the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal. Whether it was to be done by first allowing a percentage upon outlay to the tenant, and then fixing a rent on the remainder, with due regard to both interests, or whether the whole value was to be dealt with on some more general principle, making a fair proportionate allowance for so much of the value as was justly attributable to the tenants' outlay, was a matter for the Land Commission.Therefore we founded ourselves on authority, and the authority is there. Lord Waterford, a man of strong understanding and ample experience, has written a letter which shows he has put an entirely different view upon this clause. He seems to assume that we mean that the interest on the tenant right, the sum paid for the tenant right, is to be deducted from the fair rent from time to time, and he really assumes that we are the authors of so preposterous a proposition as this:— My rent is £100. I have a mind to go. I sell my interest for £1,000. The man to whom I have sold my tenant's interest goes into Court and has a fair rent fixed, and it seems to be supposed that by this clause we direct the Court to deduct, say, 3 per cent. from the £1,000 for the tenant's right, and deduct that from the rent. Mark what may follow. My friend has purchased my tenant's interest for,£1,000, and then, by the operation of this clause as interpreted by those who do not rightly judge it, £30 is taken from the rent. That leaves the rent £70. What he does is to go to some other friend and say:—"I have got this holding down to £70, what will you give me for my interest?" The man says:—"I will give you £1,500." The theory of hon. Gentlemen is, that he will again have a deduction made of 3 per cent. That would be £45, and so reduce the rent to £20. ["Hear, hear," and laughter.] Well, we may be abandoned politicians, but we should not have been so idiotic as to make proposals of that kind. Anyone, I think, who reads the clause with tin open mind, will see that all we mean is that the sitting tenant shall have an allowance made. If he is a sitting tenant, he shall have a deduction made, because he is a sitting tenant, exactly of the kind which Mr. Garvey and others of the Sub commissioners admit to be their 749 regular practice. That is all we intend this clause to carry, but if it is found that these words have that preposterous meaning which is imputed to them, they shall be put right. As I have explained, we go no further than the doctrine laid down by Mr. Justice Bewley. I will just say one word upon the the Presumption Clause. There we say, or intend to say, that the presumption is always to be in favour of the tenant. The Act of 1870 laid down that the presumption was always to be in favour of the tenant, but there were so many restrictions and qualifications introduced that that has not been an operative presumption. We say that the presumption is always to be in favour of the tenant, but we draw a line at the year 1850, and we say that in the case of improvements prior to 1850, though the presumption remains where it resided before, the landlord is to have the privilege of rebutting that presumption with evidence of a somewhat lower quality. We put him on a less high degree of proof than would be legally admissible evidence in a law Court. If you find that, this is unfair to the landlord, do not forget that it is an Ulster custom, and I have never heard that there has been any great injustice or hardship done to the Ulster landlords, or that they have complained of any such injustice or hardship.
§ *MR. J. MORLEY
If there is an injustice or hardship, perhaps some Gentleman from Ulster will get up and say so. Then there is Clause 16, the Evicted Tenants Clause. I only want to make one single observation upon that. Questions have been put to me from the other side of the House by gentlemen below the gangway from Ireland asking whether, and if not why not, the Government would consent to "implement"—to use, a horrible and barbarous word—this clause by a financial grant such as was proposed in the Bill of last year. My answer remains good now—that, as at present advised, the Government do not propose to introduce provisions of that kind. But if hon. Gentlemen think that it is possible that the representatives of the landlords and the representatives of the tenants may come to some agreement that this clause would 750 not have a fair chance without this "implementing," the Government would be prepared to consider a fair proposal of that kind. As to procedure, we admit the necessity of trying to meet the influx of new cases; and when I introduced this Bill, I pointed out that we have got ready what is called an automatic scheme. But I do not myself feel—though competent authorities think otherwise—that it would he regarded as a fairly workable plan. It was printed in the newspapers, though I did not see any comments on it, good, bad, or indifferent; while all the remarks which I have privately heard are of the most discouraging character. This necessity for an automatic scheme has been felt in India, too—not, indeed, in reference to the land, but in reference to land revenue. The Indian Government have from time to time carefully considered the point, and minutes and memoranda on the subject abound, but they have failed to produce any automatic and self-working scheme. The proposals of the right hon. Gentleman opposite in 1887 were very limited in character, and their success had not been such as to make them an example to be followed in any large and general proposals. But something might be done by dispensing with a hearing where the parties acquiesce in the prima facie fixing of a fair rent. The Land Commission might send a valuer to fix the fair rent, and then, on his report, make a conditional order; and if the parties acquiesced, that order would become absolute. Legislation is not needed to enable the Land Commission to regulate its proceeding in this way. They can do it by rules. But there is a more important alteration of procedure which would need legislation, and which we propose to introduce into the Bill on the Committee stage—I mean in reference to appeals and rehearings. For the moment we will call them all appeals. I do not believe that anybody can regard the present system of appeals in Ireland with anything but the utmost dismay, and, as a legislator, with something like a sense of shame. What happens is this. Where the parties are discontented with the finding of the Sub-Commission, notice is given to the Chief Commission, who send down one or two Court valuers 751 to report. The Chief Commission then decide between their own valuers and the Sub-Commission's valuers. I will take a case to illustrate this operation. I have here a list of 50 fair-rent cases heard at Cork some time last summer when I happened to be in Ireland. The judicial rents of the whole fifty amount to £1,900. In ten cases the Court valuers' estimate was the same as the judicial rent fixed by the Sub-Commission. In 16 cases the difference between the two was a plus difference of £20; and in 21 cases the difference was a minus difference of £68. In only 11 cases out of the whole number was the difference between the judicial rent fixed provisionally by the Sub-Commissioners and the estimate of the Court valuers more than 1s. an acre, and in 21 cases it was not more than 6d., an acre. What is the cost of all this? There was a five-days' sitting at Cork, when the cost of the Court alone was about £270. The clerks, valuers, and other official expenses would be about, £200 more; and the suitors' expenses could not be less than £250— so that the total cost of settling whether the rents should be varied altogether by £88 at the most would be £700. You first of all have three, men who see the holding, hear the evidence, and know all about the case. You then send down one or two more Court valuers, who also see the holding; and then you have three, gentlemen—two of them lawyers, knowing nothing about expert valuation'. —who decide between the two sets of men who have seen the holding and know all the circumstances of the case. I cannot conceive a more unsatisfactory or unpromising procedure. What we shall propose is this. That one or two valuers should, in the first instance, be sent down to the holding and report a failrent to the Land Commission. The Chief Commission will then give notice of those figures to the parties, and, if no objection is raised, that rent will be fixed as the judicial rent. If objection is raised within the prescribed time—and this is the new proposal—the case is to be sent by the Land Commission for rehearing before a Sub-Commission of the ordinary kind, composed of one lawyer and two laymen; but the two laymen must be of the rank of permanent 752 Assistant Commissioners. If their decision, arrived at after seeing the holding, is unanimous, then that shall be final, subject, of course, to allegation on affidavit that some omission has been made from the valuation. That ought to remove the objection which the hon. Member for South Tyrone urged. I believe that he was in a minority of one in the Committee on the clause dealing with appeals. The objection was that such pressure of business would be put on the Sub-Commissioners that it would be necessary to increase the staff, and that the Chief Secretary would appoint "a pack of Land Leaguers." "How," it was asked, "could the landlords be expected to accept the finding of such men?" Rut these officials are permanent Civil servants of the Crown, made so by the right hon. Gentleman opposite in the Bill of 1891. Out of 80, 30 were approved by the right hon. Gentleman; and their antecedents having been revised and considered by the right hon. Gentleman, it would show an extremely suspicious nature on the part of the hon. Member for South Tyrone to object to them, and to say that all this farcical and costly procedure of hearing by the Chief Commissioners should be maintained.
§ *MR. J. MORLEY
I quite agree. But the hon. Member's objection was an argument against taking appeals from the Chief Commission.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I voted upstairs in a minority of one, as the right hon. Gentleman says, on this question. The Motion that was proposed was practically a Motion to abolish the right of appeal for at least 350,000 tenant farmers in Ireland. I argued that I could not consent to abolish the right of appeal when I knew that there would probably be appointed 100 temporary Commissioners, brought from all parts of Ireland.
§ *MR. J. MORLEY
I have always admitted that the hon. Member's argument had considerable weight in it. But I would point out that the hon. Member's objection does not lie against this proposal. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite may, indeed, object to it. These Gentlemen who would have the final voice under our proposal are the very men who now act as Court valuers. 753 It is under the valuation of these very gentlemen that the Chief Commissioners are guided and led in the rehearing of cases. If the Chief Commissioners now vary rents, it is according to the Reports of these very men. If the Land Commission can be trusted, as it is now, for the. performance of its duties, you must trust it not to delegate this rent-fixing authority to any but perfectly competent persons. I have to thank the House for its indulgence in listening to me in making this necessarily somewhat tedious statement, and I hope that this Bill will receive that fair consideration which I, for a second time, ask for it.
§ MR. E. CARSON
said, that in the opening words of his speech the right lion. Gentleman indulged in a spasmodic outburst of good temper in which he was pleased to refer to the speeches of Members of the Opposition as being of automatic violence. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to a phrase of the hon. Member for Bodmin's describing certain Gentlemen on the Opposition Benches as being an irreconcilable junta of Irish landlords. The reference was somewhat unfortunate, because hon. Members were so described when they were assisting the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman with reference to the Evicted Tenants Bill. Those proposals were now abandoned by the right hon. Gentleman in this very Bill.
§ MR. CARSON
did not know to whom in particular the right hon. Gentleman referred when he used the phrase of the hon. Member for Bodmin. Whether they were called irreconcilable or not they had the gratification that the Evicted Tenants Bill had received the quietus it deserved, and the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to write the motto over the grave, "Let it rest in peace"; he was perfectly satisfied now that his proposal was an erroneous one. ["Oh, oh!] If he was not so satisfied, he had not, at all events, had the courage to again introduce it for the consideration of the House. The right hon. Gentleman also found fault with his (Mr. Carson's) statement that this was a revolutionary proposal. He did make that statement, and he made it now. He took the phrase from the speech the present Lord Chancellor made upon 754 similar proposals which were introduced in the Bill of 1883. If he erred in describing these proposals as revolutionary, he erred in very good company, for which the right hon. Gentleman ought to have somewhat more respect than he seemed to have. But a very short glance at the Bill would at once show it was a revolutionary measure. What did it propose? It proposed to reduce the interest of the landlord to prairie value. There, again, he was not using his own language; he was using the language of the Lord Chancellor in reference to absolutely similar proposals. In the second place, the Bill abolished the right of preemption, which right was given to the landlord under the Act, of 1881, when Parliament was wresting away from him and giving to the tenant the difference between the full market rent and what was conceived to be a fair rent to the tenant who was in the occupation of the holding. In the third place, it set aside the contracts entered into by the landlord under the Act of 1881; in the fourth place, it in certain cases abolished the only remedy for rent in Ireland—namely, ejectment for non-payment of rent; in the fifth place, it set up new statutory limitations in regard to arrears of rent; and, in the sixth place, it let in the tenancies created between 1881 and the passing of the Act of 1887. Any measure which introduced changes of that kind could only be properly described as a revolutionary measure, and if the right hon. Gentleman took any consolation to himself from the fact that he had seen it stated that the Unionist Party were not going to divide against the Second Reading of the Bill, let him say that while that might be so—he did not know whether it would be so or not—but while it might be so, the six fundamental proposals in the Bill he had enumerated were proposals which they were determined to fight to the last extremity; they would fight them line by line and word by word. The Chief Secretary asserted that the Conservatives of England and Scotland were shaking themselves free from the landlord party in Ireland, but he assured the right hon. Gentleman there was not a shadow of foundation for the supposition that the parties were not, in respect of those fundamental particulars, absolutely united and determined to 755 resist the proposals in Committee. In the last portion of his speech the right hon. Gentleman referred to the necessity for a simplification of procedure. If ever there was a case in which the eagerness of politicians in a hurry and the ill effects of it had been most clearly demonstrated, it was the present. So eager were the majority of the Select Committee to bring in their report and exclude evidence that no proposal whatsoever was contained in the report upon the most vital point. To do him justice, the right hon. Gentleman, in introducing the Bill said that he had hit upon an automatic scheme. It was a pity that automatic scheme was never submitted to the Committee, because that scheme broke down on the very night it was introduced by the weight of its own un-workability. What was the description the right hon. Gentleman now gave of this wonderful automatic scheme which he had not even ventured to put in his Bill? He said it was intelligible, but it was unworkable. The Chief Secretary told them some effort must be made in the Bill to bring about a reduction in the expense of the rehearings. The right hon. Gentleman passed lightly over the shortening of the statutory term; his words were "I will say nothing about the shortening of the term." Had he for one moment considered the disastrous expense he was about to put on the Irish landlords? When the Act of 1881 was passed, the landlord was told that when the rent was fixed, it was fixed for a term of 15 years. When the question of the fixing of the term was before the House the party to which the right hon. Gentleman belonged wanted to extend the period to 35 years: indeed, the present Lord Chief Justice actually moved an Amendment extending the term from 15 years to 30 or 35 years. Had the Chief Secretary ever thought what expense the landlord was put to in having his rents fixed for 15 years? He (Mr. Carson) knew of one case in which a landlord was on one day served with from 180 to 200 notices. That meant from 180 to 200 law suits. The landlord had to employ professional advisers and valuers, and have a regular hearing in reference to every one of the cases. He believed that there was not a single appeal which was fortunate for the landlord, who told him that the costs 756 averaged £10 a case. That was £2,000 for the luxury of having his rents fixed under the Act of 1881. He had, at all events, the assurance of Parliament that he would not have to repeat the dose for 15 years, and that when it became necessary to repeat the dose, it would be repeated by degrees, because the whole 200 tenants could not have their cases settled at the same time. What was being done by this Bill? Every case in which ten years had run was to be thrown again on the hands of the landlord. The right hon. Gentleman said the Act of 1887 broke the statutory term. Would he preserve the statutory term as that Act did? Would he save expense by putting in the same automatic procedure which was put in the Act of 1887? The right hon. Gentleman, it appeared, would not. He was willing to refer to the change made by the Act of 1887 so far as he could use it as an engine against the landlord, but he was unwilling to make any any use of it at present so far as it might save the landlord disastrous expense by throwing into his hands the resettlement of those rents at a cost which would, in many cases, leave the landlord absolutely nothing when they considered the reductions which must necessarily be made in the rents. He should also like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman had considered the cost to the State of this provision. Had the right hon. Gentleman considered how many tenants would be thrown into the Court if he let in all those tenants whose terms had now run the full term of ten years? He believed it was almost impossible to estimate the number; it would take the first five or six years after the Act passed to get the applications settled. The right hon. Gentleman said that the cost to the State of the Land Commission had been over £1,000,000. He had seen a calculation made that if the business was to proceed in anything like a satisfactory way, and if those cases were to be worked out by the Land Commission and rents fixed, it would be necessary to appoint 30 or 40 additional Sub-Commissions. He therefore said that the first clause in the Bill was a most disastrous one, and about which the right hon. Gentleman had said nothing. He hoped to have some concession from the right hon. Gentleman, though he did 757 not suppose it was of the slightest use suggesting to the Chief Secretary that some method ought to be adopted of trying in an equitable way to arrive at an average. But in a Bill of this kind, when they were breaking through a statutory right, they ought not to add to the misery and the want of so many landlords by mulcting them in those extravagant amounts of cost which they would necessarily have to pay if the Bill passed in its present form. The right hon. Gentleman dealt next with the proposed abolition of the right of preemption. He did not quite follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument to its logical conclusion in that case. What was his conclusion? Why was this right of pre-emption given to the landlord? It was given when they passed the Act of 1881, by which it was said that the landlord was not for the future to be allowed to take what was the full market rent, but merely the fair rent—something apart from the competitive rent. If they were transferring to the tenant this difference between the full rent and the fair rent, it was only fair that if the tenant came forward to sell in the open market he should not again establish on the holding the full rent, which it was said was not beneficial to the relationship between landlord and tenant. It was because they wished to put down that full rent that they said, if the tenant came forward to sell, the landlord was to have the right to have the interest of the tenant assessed in the holding; but the tenant was not to go into the market and again create as against the landlord, whose rent they had taken away, the full rent which they had said ought not to prevail in these cases in Ireland. He could imagine no provision more absolutely essential for the purpose of carrying out the basis of the Act Of 1881; but the only answer given by the right hon. Gentleman was—My experience is that this provision is only exercised, perhaps, in one case out of a thousand in Ireland.If that was so, then what was the necessity for abolishing it? The reason why it was not exercised in those cases was because the landlord, having got notice of who the incoming tenant was, and seeing that he was a substantial tenant who would be able to secure him a fair 758 rent fixed, notwithstanding the large price he had given, might possibly not interfere; but the moment they took away the right of pre-emption and the right of the landlord to interfere to the limited extent under the Act of 1881, they took away all safeguards and they allowed the tenant to go freely into the market and create once more the very mischief which the Government themselves were trying to abolish. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to discuss the thorny question of improvements, and in order to make his task lighter he read an in teresting passage from the life of Sir William Gregory. But there was an important matter which the right hon. Gentleman had omitted to tell the House—namely, that the reference by Sir William Gregory related to a time long antecedent even to the Act of 1870. When some biographies came to be written in years to come of Irish landlords or by Irish landlords some touching reference might be made which would lead to the conclusion that the Chief Secretary was right in 1886 when he thought it was high time to devise some scheme by which the tenantry in Ireland might be prevented from confiscating the landlords' property. The right hon. Gentleman said it was impossible to give the exact figure which represented the, fair rent. That was what he and his hon. Friends used to say in 1881, when the right hon. Gentleman was proposing the scheme. They told the right hon. Gentleman that the question of fair rent was a question of valuation; it might differ according to the men who made the valuation. Once they put an end to the free contract as between landlord and tenant they were always driven back to those absurdities, that the rent to be a fair rent would be held by one valuer to be, £10 and by another £30, according to the predilections of each individual. While valuers differed sometimes, it was alleged occasionally that in making an independent valuation they had arrived at the same conclusion as regarded fair rent. He recalled one case in this connection. Two valuers were called up, one after the other, to value a farm. One of the valuers valued the farm at £59 19s. 11¾d. Another gentleman: who was called up said that he had valued the farm exactly at the same figure. On further examination this 759 gentleman, said that he had not communicated in any way with the previous valuer, and that he had made his valuation from field to field, and without having seen the result brought out by the previous witness. In cross-examination the witness told the Court that he had great experience in valuation work, and that he had taken charge of many difficult cases. Then the witness was asked this question by counsel:—May I ask whether you happened to see on any part of the farm 'a coincidence'?Turning over the leaves of his note-book, he replied:—Yes, I think in one of the fields, near a far corner, there was one, but I do not know that I paid particular attention to it.The right hon. Gentleman having so far pressed the Act of 1881, all of which he supposed was appropriate to what he was coming to, viz., what had been so often called the unearned increment, told them what the provisions of the Act in that respect meant, and he certainly made use of some of the most extraordinary arguments in reference to his own section that, he ventured to think, he had ever heard. He said that except under special circumstances the whole unearned increment—which was the term that had always been used—was to be considered the property of the tenant.
§ MR. CARSON
said, the right hon. Gentleman argued that the whole of the improved letting value, or unearned increment, was to be considered the property of the tenant. But when they looked at the section the extraordinary part of it was that the words "special circumstances" never occurred at all. The right hon. Gentleman went on to give an elaborate explanation of what the special circumstances would be held to mean, and said that, having regard to the interest of the landlord and tenant respectively, they were of opinion, and had been so advised by the highest authorities, that, read in the light of what he was then stating to the House, any Court would hold that that was the meaning. The right hon. Gentleman ought to know that, unfortunately, it could not be read in the light of what he had stated to the House. The words "having regard to the interest of the 760 landlord and tenant respectively" were already in the Act of 1881 in relation to the fixing of the fair rent, and, so far as he could ascertain, they had never received any judicial interpretation at all. During the Debates of 1881, when this question was before the House, in answer to a pacific question, a noble Lord who represented the Government in the other House said that these were the most innocent words in the world. It was a long way from that definition to make these words mean special circumstances read in the light of what the right hon. Gentleman had stated to the House. Nothing had been treated in a more uncertain manner by the Committee which sat upon the question, and by the right hon. Gentleman himself, than this question of the improved letting value. This was of course one of the fundamental Clauses of the Bill. The law, as had been stated before the Committee, was this, that when a tenant expended money in improving his farm he was in the first place allowed a reduction, varying, he thought, from 5 to 12 per cent. upon the outlay which he had made, and that was deducted from what would otherwise be the rent of the farm. In addition to that, if there was anything over and above, in the nature of increased letting value, what would otherwise be the value of the farm by reason of such improvements, it was at present divided between the landlord and the tenant. The Attorney-General shook his head, but that was Lord Justice FitzGibbon's evidence.
§ MR. CARSON
said the evidence was that it had been so decided, and the Lord Chancellor, when he had been in that House, said not only that that was the decision but that it was right and equitable. He would ask if the present law was not a fair law. He ventured to think a more equitable arrangement could hardly be conceived. That was an arrangement which up to the present hour had been always approved of even by the most advanced advocates of agrarian reform in Ireland. If the right hon. Gentleman would look at Mr. Butt's book upon the Land Acts he would find that that was the full length of the demand that he made. He had 761 always understood that to give the land-lord his share over and above the fair interest that the tenant got for his improvement was the recommendation of the Committee—i.e., that the law should be so expressed as had been laid down by Lord Justice FitzGibbon. He did not really know whether it was upon that assumption that the right hon. Gentleman voted in favour of the Report, or whether he thought it was something else; he had now, at all events, gone one better, because he proposed to deprive the landlord of the small residuum left to him after they had taken away the interest that the tenant got on his outlay. Of this he was absolutely certain, that the hon. Member for South Tyrone when he voted for this proposal in the Committee was under the impression that this was what the Report was recommending, and he would like to know whether this was a proposal framed on the recommendations of the Committee, or a new proposal in advance of the proposals of the Report of the Committee, which was drawn up without any opposition at all on the part of the minority, and after the minority had left the room. The right hon. Gentleman said surely what the landlord let to the tenant and what the tenant paid rent for were the inherent qualities in the soil so let, including the improvability in the soil. That was the first time he had ever heard that put forward on the part of the tenants, and it only showed what a process of evolution went on; the moment they conceded one matter as belonging to the tenant then another matter was immediately started, until in the end—probably that was what was meant to be brought about—there was practically nothing left of what was conceded to belong to the landlord at all. The hon. Member for South Tyrone, in an article which was published, he thought, at the time that the right hon. Gentleman's Bill was introduced, said that if the practice of the Land Commission had been to take the capacity of the soil into account in fixing the rent, he should have concurred with those who took the extreme tenant's view of the question, but the practice of the Commission being to value the land as it stood, and not in view of what might be done with it by the expenditure of capital, he thought when any great improvement took place 762 by reason of any exceptional expenditure of capital the landlord was entitled to some consideration. Where did the right hon. Gentleman get his information that this improvability had been included in the rents? The law had been hitherto that when the improvement had been made, then the adjudication took place. He doubted if the right hon. Gentleman would be able to bring up any sub-commissioner, or other person, to say any such thing, and it would be a gross fraud on the tenant if it were done. He would test the right hon. Gentleman's sincerity by asking him if he would put a clause or a proviso into this very clause that, in fixing fair rent, the Commission were prospectively to take into account the fact that the tenant might improve his land. If the right hon. Gentleman did so, he would meet with considerable opposition, not from that side, but from other quarters of the House. He believed that that proviso went beyond even the Report of the Select Committee, which at the time it reported, was composed entirely of members who represented the tenants, and the tenants only, in Ireland. Coming to the question of occupation right, he wanted to know what the Chief Secretary meant in reference to it. Some definition of "occupation right" should be put in the Bill. He wished to point out how absolutely absurd it was to say that a tenant should have a deduction for his occupation right. Let him take a concrete case. The tenant, in the first place, because he was in possession, had a right to have a fair rent fixed. A fair rent was a rent entirely different from a marketable competitive value. In the first instance, therefore, they had to knock off the difference between the fair rent and the market rent. They would then take away riot only the tenant's interest for all the improvements he had made, but they subtracted all the improved letting value which resulted from the improvements. When they had done that, what interest had the tenant over and above that in the holding? They gave him the difference between a full and a fair rent because he was in occupation, and taken off all round from his improvements. But in addition to that, under this Bill, something was to be added for his occupation specifically. 763 How was it to be estimated? Was the man in possession for one day to get the same occupancy rent as the man who had been in possession 60 years, or was his occupancy rent to vary according to the time he had been in possession? On the other hand, was his occupancy value or occupation right to be estimated according to the rent fixed? It seemed to be quite clear that the tenant who held at a small rent had much more occupation right than a tenant who held at a large rent. Therefore, because the landlord had, in one case, let at a small rent, he was to have a larger occupation right than a landlord who had let at a larger rent, and had not created the same occupation right in the tenant. The thing was absolutely absurd. The right of the tenant was a totally distinct matter from his rent, and should not be taken into account when the rent was being fixed. Give him the difference between the full rent and the fair rent (which was the rent fixed by the Court); interest for his improvements; deduct everything for the increased letting value of the land and he defied the wit of man to tell him of anything else the tenant had a right to have estimated in the fixing of what was called fair rent. If Lord Justice FitzGibbon said the tenant would have the interest he got under the Compensation Clauses of the Act of 1870, he must have forgotten that he was dealing not with a man who was leaving but with a man who was staying on in his holding, and why the fact that he was entitled to compensation if put out should be taken into consideration in fixing a fair rent (which he had only to pay as long as he remained in his holding) was absolutely unintelligible. He would remind the Chief Secretary that the Bill of 1881 of the right hon. Member for Midlothian contained a proviso that in fixing fair rent the Court was to take into consideration the fact that he was entitled to that compensation when being turned out of his holding under the Act of 1870, and immediately it was seen that the clause led to the exact absurdities now pointed out, the right hon. Member for Midlothian said he never for a moment intended, nor could it be reasonably so enacted, that the tenant's right should be taken into consideration as an element for the reduction of his 764 rent. The result was that the very Clause of the Act of 1870 which the Chief Secretary said was his reason for introducing this into the present Bill was abandoned by the right hon. Member for Midlothian because it would have brought about results which he never intended. He wished the Chief Secretary had given some idea how occupation right was to be applied. He failed to see how it could come to anything but this—the lower the rent, the more would be taken off that rent. The question of presumption in favour of the tenants was one on which there had been much shifting and wobbling since the matter was before the Select Committee. The hon. Member for South Tyrone, in the article he had referred to, said he acceded to the report of the majority because he was under the impression that there was nothing to repeal the limitation of the Act of 1850 as set by the Act of 1870. The Chief Secretary, in introducing the Bill, said the limitation of the Act of 1850 was to be preserved, but that, while the tenant was to have absolute presumption in relation to all improvements made since 1850, he was to be able to prove all antecedent improvements by evidence which would not be considered legal evidence. But when the Bill was produced the Chief Secretary said the limitation would be continued in this way—that there was to be an absolute presumption that the tenant had made every improvement on the holding, but that if the improvement had been made prior to 1850 then the landlord might show that he made it by giving illegal evidence. The difference really was this. In the other case it was the tenant who was to give illegal evidence, but apparently the Chief Secretary thought it an improvement to say that the landlord might give this evidence. Perhaps he imagined there would be some amount of opposition from that side of the House, and that illegal evidence would not be illegal when the Bill was passed. The House was a long way off from that. But until the Bill did pass they were entitled to say:—You are attempting to have these matters proved by a method which has never been approved by the jurisprudence of this country.He wished to point out the unfairness 765 of the presumption that everything on the holding had been done by the tenant. What did that mean? It not not only meant that the tenant and his predecessors in title had done every single improvement on the holding, but it presumed that every person who had been on the holding was the predecessor in title of the, tenant who was claiming. Could anything be more ridiculous? In many cases in Ireland the previous tenants had gone away owing a vast deal more rent than the whole value of the improvements on the land. In cases of that kind—and there were thousands of them Ireland—was it fair to presume that the tenant who made the improvements and went away owing six or seven years' rent was the predecessor in title of the tenant subsequently let in? The moment they made this double presumption—that the works were carried out by the tenant and the predecessor in title of the tenant claiming—as Lord Herschell pointed out, they at once arrived at prairie, value. A sub-Commissioner might go to the land and say:—I presume everything here has been done by the tenant or the predecessor in title of the tenant. I see other land lying near which is furze land or unprofitable land. Why should I not presume that this was of the same quality at some time or other, and I value not this land, but the furze and waste land which adjoins it?This was absolutely prairie value, and nothing else, and it was brought about by a vast and searching change—to which the Chief Secretary had not alluded—in the definition of "improvements." He had changed the definition which had been understood since 1870, and improvements were now defined asevery expenditure of capital or labour in respect of the holding which increases the letting value thereof.The effect of the Bill was that a sub-commissioner was to take even the very cultivation of a farm used in the ordinary way, and without any exceptional expenditure, and this was to be taken into consideration on the principle laid down. This new definition raised some very interesting questions. If a sub-commissioner went on land and found a crop sown, it must have been done by labour and by expenditure, and he was to make a deduction because there happened to be 766 a crop; whereas if it were grass land, and there had been no exceptional labour to make a crop, he would value it in a different way. This was what the new definition came, to. So, whether a sub-commissioner went on the land after a crop was reaped would determine whether he was to make the deduction which would be necessary by reason of the definition introduced. This showed that it was not going too far to describe the Bill as a revolutionary measure. There were many other provisions which would be heard of in the Debate, but he was referring to those which were mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, and which, therefore, might be supposed to be the most contentious. The Bill proposed to abolish the right of ejectment for the non-payment of rent as against a middleman. If a middleman had subtenants he might bring an action of, ejectment for non-payment of rent, and, if he recovered, the land was not to be given up whether the rent was paid or not, and a second action was to be brought by the landowner for the recovery of the land. Was that provision drafted by anybody who knew anything abut Ireland? Surely to require a landlord to bring an action against subtenants was beyond all fairness and reason in dealing with the rights of landlords. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: "Nonsense!"] Well, the hon. and learned Member was not particularly anxious to see the rights of landlords safeguarded in the matter of the recovery of land. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: "Any rights they have."] In the view of the hon. and learned Member, probably, their rights were less than those recognised by this Bill. Another provision to be noticed was that dealing with property put into Court, by reason of the owners being minors or lunatics; in future, perhaps, a majority of owners would come in the second category. It was actually proposed that when the Court came to deal with these cases the land should become subject to perpetual tenancies when lettings were made by the Court. This in itself was a revolution. A man might, die leaving several farms and one or two sons in infancy; the Court had no way of managing the property except by making lettings, and hitherto it had always made them to terminate with the minority, so that a minor could take 767 possession on attaining majority; but the Bill proposed to put an end to that and to make the tenants admitted during minority perpetual tenants, so that the heir could not get the property into his own hands when he came of age. On what recommendation of the report was this put into the Bill? It was unanimously disagreed to by the Select Committee; where did the right hon. Gentleman get the justification for such a revolution? The right hon. Gentleman said that the Conservatives of England were coming to a better frame of mind and were shaking off the landlord party of Ireland. But let the Conservatives of England and Scotland pay attention to the real as distinct from the apparent meaning of the Bill. Everything that was attempted in Ireland would sooner or later be attempted in England. There was before the House a Bill to make applicable to England the terms of the legislation for Ireland of 1881 and 1887. The confiscation embodied in every clause of this Bill would be demanded in England sooner or later. The matter might be dull or technical, but every clause must be sifted, and even those who represented what had been described as a junta of irreconcilable landlords might in the long run succeed in modifying the j bitterness of the Chief Secretary.
§ *MR. E. F. VESEY KNOX (Cavan, W.)
said that, if the Bill were a revolution, it was, at all events, a peaceful revolution, and seldom had a Bill of this importance been received with such general acceptance. Its opponents, according to the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin, were going to fight, not to the last ditch, but to the last extremity, which was a little pleasanter phrase. Still, if the Bill embodied so much confiscation, it was strange they were not going to divide against the Second Beading. The hon. and learned Gentleman had shown what might happen if certain constructions were put upon the Bill, but it was only by assuming that the Commissioners would be unreasonable men that he had been able to make out a case against the Bill. He could understand a man who still objected to the provisions of the Act of 1881 objecting to this Bill, but when you had reconciled your conscience to that Act there ought to be no difficulty about this Bill. It seemed strange that 768 Ulster, which was so useful to the Opposition on the Home Rule Bill, should be forgotten on a Land Bill. It seemed strange that the hon. and learned Gentleman throughout his speech, not merely in the wording, but in the whole texture and substance of his speech, should have forgotten that there was such a place as Ulster. Not one of his arguments took into account the province of Ulster. On the question of Home Rule, it was shown that Ulster was about equally divided, but with two or three exceptions Ulster was united in favour of this Bill. Why, if divided Ulster was worth so much to the hon. and learned Gentleman's friends two years ago, was a united Ulster to be neglected now? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary referred to some of the evidence before the Committee last year, as to the practice of the Land Court upon the question of the occupation-right, This occupation-right, the right to have a lower rent fixed than the competition rent, was of the essence of the Ulster custom, and there was plenty of evidence to be obtained as far back as 50 years, that that custom then ruled the fixing of rents in the province of Ulster. The Devon Commission reported that—a feeling of proprietorship seems to have grown up in the tenant.The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh absolutely denied that there was any sort of half property in the soil belonging to the tenant. In saying that, he denied the Ulster custom. Dual ownership in the soil was of the essence of the Ulster custom, and when the hon. and gallant Member denied it, lie was going against the whole history of Ulster. Two or three centuries ago, when men were, brought over to colonise Ulster, there was a sort of feudal arrangement. They were to fight for their land, but they were to have in that land a certain right, not a full proprietary right, but a right distinct from the tenant-right custom which prevailed in this country. The Devon Commission reported that the Ulster tenant-right amounted to—an embryo copyhold, which must decline in value to the proprietor.He was speaking of a custom that grew up in Ulster from the circumstances of 769 plantation. An embryo copyhold went a good way to form a dual ownership. The Devon Commission also reported:—It is not uncommon for a tenant without a lease to sell the bare privilege of occupancy with possession of his farm without any visible sign of improvement having been made by him, at from 10 to 16 up to 20 and even 40 years' purchase of the rent; and the comparative tranquillity of that district may perhaps be mainly attributed to that fact.He ventured to say that all elderly men who remembered the circumstances of Ulster before any Land Act was passed would agree in saying that, instead of the land Acts increasing the Value of the tenant-right in Ulster, they had rather diminished it. In 1844, before the Town Lands Valuation Committee of that year, Mr. Senior, an Assistant Poor Law Commissioner gave an account of the Ulster tenant-right. He said:—My view of tenant-right is, that it is the difference between the rent actually charged by the landlord, according to the custom of the country, and the utmost competition value; therefore, if the rent on a large estate is low, and confidence in the landlord is great, the amount of tenant-right per acre will be very large.Then he was asked:—May not the tenant-right be taken to be an indication of the difference between the rent paid to the landlord and the letting value of the land?And he answered:—That is exactly the definition I have before given of the custom.It was said at the same time by Mr. Hancock:—An attempt on the part of landlords, to convert the value which their property bears in the shape of tenant-right into increased rent, would certainly be regarded by the tenant as an invasion of tenant-right.Of course it might be said that this was absolutely illogical. He thought it was. The Ulster custom was one of the most illogical things in the world, but it had made a great difference between Ulster and the other provinces of Ireland. The essence of the custom was the occupation-right of the tenant, the right of the tenant to continue the occupation of his farm at less than full competition rent. In 1863 Judge Longfield, of the Landed 770 Estates Court, was asked before the Land Tenure Committee, the following questions:—You are aware that the sum paid for tenant-right represents a sum paid for occupancy and not a sum paid for Compensation?And he said: "Yes, certainly so." Then he was asked:—Whenever you introduce the custom of Ulster tenant-right and bring it into the consideration of questions of compensation, you are mixing totally different things?The answer was: "They are totally different things." So that they had this opinion years ago, that, by the Ulster custom, there was an occupation-right in the tenant which gave him a right to have his rent kept lower than the competition rate. His contention was, that up till now the course the House had pursued to Ulster had been to rob the tenant of the occupation-right, and it was only now proposed to restore it to him by law. The effect of the Land Act of 1870 was, to raise the rents of the Ulster tenants. There was no doubt that that Act was followed throughout Ulster by a large increase in rents, and it was found that, although the House had sanctioned the Ulster custom in vague words in the Act of 1870, there was no definite provision, which would give the tenants a right to the lower rent due to occupation interest, and in practice in most cases under the Act of 1881 occupation-right had not been allowed for as it ought to have been. So far as Ulster was concerned he held it to be clear that what the right hon. Gentleman, proposed by his section dealing with occupation-right was only a restoration of a right which, according to the Devon. Commission, existed more than half-a-century ago. The object of the Act of 1881, it, was generally understood, was to apply the Ulster custom to the rest of Ireland; so that if it were proved that the Ulster custom included this occupation-right it was clear that it was intended, by the Act of 1881, to give the occupation-right, to the rest of Ireland. As to sub-Section 3 of Section 5, dealing with improvements, the House would no doubt hear a good deal more of it before it was done with, and he would with deference suggest that, if anything, this Bill gave the 771 tenant somewhat less than he possessed to-day. The sub-Section said:—In fixing a fair rent for a holding the Court shall have regard to the interest of the landlord and tenant respectively, and where it appears to the Court that any improvement, made by the tenant on the holding, and not paid for or otherwise compensated by the landlord, has resulted in an increase of the letting value of the holding, beyond what the holding would at the time of fixing the fair rent, let for without such improvement, such increase of letting value shall be included in the tenant's interest.This sub-Section might be expected to work in this way. The sub-Commissioners on coming upon the land would see the improvement, and would try to imagine what the state of the land was before the improvement was made, and what a tenant would at the present time give at competition value for the land if it had remained in that state. This was open to the objection that it would introduce into the fixing of fair rents an imaginary being well known in assessment cases in England—"the hypothetical tenant"— who was a very remarkable person. When the Chief Secretary referred to the differences between the valuations of valuers in Ireland, he might have remembered that there were valuers in England who were not infallible, and these valuers had made great play with "the hypothetical tenant." When lands or buildings were un let they introduced this supposititious personage, and asked: "What would he give for them?" He doubted, therefore, whether by this sub-Section the right hon. Gentle man had not introduced the difficulty of "the hypothetical tenant" to swell the already existing number of difficulties surrounding Irish land law. The hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin objected to this provision as confiscatory, but, having regard to tin use of the term "letting value," which seemed to him to point to competition value, which was not what lie understood as a fair rent, he rather doubted whether the sub-Section as now drafted would give the Irish tenant as much a he was entitled to according to Lord Justice Fitzgibbon's view of the law At any rate, if the sub-Section were capable of the interpretation which he had put upon it, it would prove that the right hon. Gentleman had not tried by this Bill to confiscate the property of the landlords, but had endeavoured to do 772 his best to act fairly between the two classes. In Committee the Bill would need amendment as much from the point of view of the representatives of the tenants, as from the point of view of the representatives of the landlords. There was one part of the Bill to which the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin had paid no attention, namely, the part dealing with the exclusion from the Land Acts of tenancies in certain holdings. That was even a more vital part of the Bill than the Improvements Clause. Up to the present time little more than half of the Irish tenants had been able to get fair rents fixed. He asked Englishmen to consider that fact. How many tenants were there in Great Britain who were paying at the present moment the same rent that they were paying in 1879? He did not suppose that more than five per cent, of them at the outside were doing so. Yet it was a fact that in Ireland only a little more than half the tenants, certainly less than two-thirds of them, had been able in all these years to get their rents fixed. Having regard to this fact, the exclusions dealt with in this Bill were of greater importance than some of the more contentious provisions. Some of the present exclusions were most absurd. There was, for example, the exclusion that kept out pasture of over, £50 valuation. Could a more important improvement be made in many cases than the laying down of a farm of 200 acres in permanent pasture? But that was one improvement which, if the farm were let for pasture, would exclude the holding from the fair rent clauses. In raising the limit from £50 valuation to,£200, the right lion. Gentleman had neither exceeded the needs of agriculture nor the demands of justice. Then there was the case of town parks. He did not think that all Members understood how absurd were some of the I conditions affecting town parks. A town park was land which, on a certain day in August 1881, was used by a person living in a town, and which had an extra value as accommodation land. In the village of Dundrum, in County Down, there were at one time, some 300 people, two very pretty churches, and 17 public houses. Soon after the Land Act was passed, the village was held not to be a 773 town for the purposes of the Act. However, years went on, and the population rather diminished. A case then came before the Land Commissioners, who held that a holding of three acres out-side the village was a town park. The decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal, but the expenses of going to court in order to obtain a decision on the question whether Dundrum was a town or not, must have far exceeded the value of the fee simple of a farm three or four times the size of this field of three acres. It was absurd that the state of the law should admit of such disputes. Another case of the sort was furnished from the village of Newcastle, on the same coast. This village, in which there were about 1,500 people, was held to be a town within the section of the Land Act. The question in this case was, whether the holder of a farm lived in 1881 in the village of Newcastle as his ordinary place of residence, or whether he lived in Newcastle-on-Tyne in England. If the tenant could have proved that his ordinary residence was in Newcastle-on-Tyne he would have been able to get a fair rent fixed, on the ground that he did not reside in a town near his holding. If he lived in the village of Newcastle he could not have a fair rent fixed. Evidence was given showing how many nights during the year 1881 he lived in the village, and how many nights he lived in Newcastle-on-Tyne, and, in the end the Court came to the conclusion that he lived mostly in the village or town in Ireland. There were innumerable cases of the kind showing that the existing provisions as to town parks could not be left as they were. Then there was the exclusion of demesne land. Under the existing law, land, on which there was a tumble-down house which the landlord had no intention of rebuilding, and perhaps a wall and a few old trees, was held to be demesne land, and the rent of a farm upon such land could not be fixed. There were numbers of cases of that kind throughout the country. The present provisions as to demesne land were in his opinion absolutely absurd. Where there was real demesne land let not the ownership be disturbed, but where there was no resident owner, and where there was no possibility of the lands being resumed as 774 demesne land, it would be absurd to continue to apply the existing law. Another matter which ought to be changed was the landlords' right of preemption. In theory, possibly, a case could be made out for it. The hon. and learned Gentleman had contended that the right of pre-emption was the only barrier in the way of excessive demands for the transfer of tenant-right. But it was a fallacy to suppose that the average landlord had the money with which to pay for the interests of his tenants. The vast majority of the landlords of Ireland had no spare money to invest in this form of property, and it was an error to suppose that this right of preemption formed an economic barrier against excessive demands. Upon the question of occupation-rights, it was no doubt possible to spin verbal arguments to show that the Chief Secretary for Ireland had given too much on the one side or the other, but with regard to the important question of the exclusions from the operation of the Land Acts it was not possible to present to the House any reasonable case against the proposals in the Bill. In conclusion, he thanked the right hon. Gentleman for having introduced this measure, which he believed to be just and moderate. Bill or no Bill, there must be large reductions of rent in Ireland. Economic circumstances demanded such reductions. Since the rents were fixed, prices of agricultural produce had fallen enormously, find unless prices rose again, the reduction in the rents would have to be large. The Bill would not probably make those reductions larger than they would otherwise be by more than five per cent. But the Bill, though it was not a revolutionary Bill, was a good and just Bill; and while it had been welcomed by the vast majority of Irish Members representing popular constituencies, the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University, though he, represented a constituency in which there, were no tenant-farmers, and was safe from all blasts of popular feeling, did not dare to divide the House against the Second Reading.
§ *MR. J. F. LEESE (Lancashire, N.E., Accrington),
said, he ventured to intervene in this Debate with some diffidence because he recognised the extreme complexity and difficulty of some of the issues which the 775 introduction of the Bill raised. But, inasmuch as he had the honour of serving on the Committee on the administration of the Irish Land Acts last Session, and as his name appeared as a signatory of the report of the Committee—on which the Bill was based—he felt an obligation to give some few reasons for the faith; that was in him. Outside the Irish land question the conviction had grown upon him that it was next to impossible for Englishmen to deal with Irish questions, and that it was infinitely better to have left this question for ultimate settlement by Irishmen in Ireland, who had full knowledge of Irish decisions and customs. In the Act of 1870 there was a presumption in favour of the tenant. Section 5 of that Act provided that all improvements on a holding should, until the contrary was proved, be deemed to have been made by the tenant and his predecessor in title. That, so far, was clear and straightforward, and there could be no doubt as to what it meant. But, unfortunately, six exceptions to the section followed. It was usually thus when England legislated in regard to Ireland. What was given with one hand was taken away with the other. Those six exceptions, according to the evidence taken before the Committee, practically I annulled the presumption in favour of the tenant. Of course, if the presumption of ownership of the improvements of the tenant was not permitted, the improvements would be lost to the tenant unless he could prove them. The onus of proof was therefore cast upon the tenant. It would also be well to point out that although these exceptions applied to the presumption in the tenants favour in all the rest of Ireland, they did not apply to Ulster. This was an inequality at any rate demanding redress. One of the witnessess examined by the Committee, Mr. Bailey, said that these exceptions put great difficulties in the way of the tenants in proving their improvements, and that the smaller Irish fanners did not, as a rule, keep either books or accounts. When the House considered that out of 490,000 agricultural tenants in Ireland there were 396,000 holdings of under £20, it might well believe Mr. Bailey when he said he could not recollect a case where a tenant produced books. This condition of things made it interesting 776 to know what sort of evidence was permitted before the Sub-Commission Courts. Mr. Bailey said the Commissioners took the legal evidence that was allowed in any Court of Law. But how did that work in the case of improvements more than 20 years old? The third exception took away the presumption in favour of the tenant in this ease, and if he had not seen the improvement made himself, or unless he produced as a witness some one who had, he could not, in the absence of documentary proof, prove his improvement at all, and, of course, hearsay evidence would be excluded. In the case he had just quoted he believed it was argued that, except buildings and the reclamation of waste land, there were no improvements that were 44 years old, that was dating back to 1850; but it was quite clear that that argument would not apply when the Act was passed in 1870, for there must have been many improvements still unexhausted. He would ask the House to recall the underlying fact that all improvements were done by the tenants. If this was so, who was hurt if the Law said that the Courts of Law must in future treat it as a fact proved in Court—a presumption subject always to the landlord's right to displace the presumption of proof if he could? But if it was the fact that the Irish tenant did these improvements, why should he be forced to prove a fact that all the world knew to be admitted? It had been proved in evidence many times before the Committee that if the tenant did not improve the holding it would not be improved at all. He presumed that no one, even those chiefly interested for the landlords, would say that improvements were undesirable. What encouragement was there to a tenant to put his money into his holding and to improve it if his right to abatement of rent in respect of the improvement was made so difficult to prove? He submitted that the highest public policy demanded that these exceptions should be swept away, and that the presumption should be in favour of the tenant until the landlord proved the contrary; and he could riot conceive of any serious ground of complaint, especially as the landlord was not to be bound by the strict rules of evidence, but was to give such information as was available whether legally 777 admissible in evidence or not. With regard to the question of the statutory term, which the Bill proposed to reduce from In years to 10 years, the evidence given before the Committee was strongly in favour of the reduction. Mr. Cunningham told the Committee that 15 years was too long, and that the rents fixed in the first five: years—between 1881 and 1885—were; now too high. There was a fall in percent, in the prices of store cattle, and according to another witness it was a far more serious matter in Ireland to have a fall in store cattle than to have a bad harvest. Mr. Cunningham went on to say that there had been no corresponding fall in the cost of production, and he added—I should say that those tenants who had their rents fixed for 1885 have suffered a 20 or 30 per cent, fall in prices, since then; and, of course, have had their moans of living vastly diminished.
, another witness, said—I think 15 years is too long; if a tenant is over-rented it would crush him altogether.The hon. Member for South Antrim put this question to Mr. O'Keeffe:—But if a tenant happens to be able to struggle through 15 years at the judicial rent, is it not, in your own mind, primâ-facie evidence that he has not been over-rented?To that Mr. O'Keeffe replied—-No; it is astonishing what rents some tenants will pay under trying conditions.Messrs. Greer, Roberts, and Neligan took, substantially the same view. On the other hand, Messrs. Doyle, Heard, and Bailey preferred a longer term, though, speaking generally, the effect of their evidence was rather against seven or five years than against a reduction to 10 years. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin University had raised, in the course of his speech that evening two objections to reducing the statutory term. The first was, that the constant re-valuation of farms would upset and disturb the country: and the second, that tenants would allow their farms to deteriorate when the end of the term was approaching, with a view to getting larger reductions of rent after the re-valuation. But Mr. Greer, the legal chairman of a sub-Commission, told the Committee that he thought a seven-years' re-valuation would rather 778 settle than disturb the country; nor did he anticipate that it would cause enormous litigation, as the hon. and gallant Member for North Down (Colonel Waring) suggested. The wilful detetioration theory had likewise no foundation. Mr. Bailey stated in his evidence that, if drains and fences were not kept up, the sub-Commissioners did not allow for them in fixing the rents. Mr. Heard spoke of a Recorder who raised the fixed rent on a tenant against whom deliberate deterioration had been proved. It would, therefore, be a dangerous practice for the tenants to resort to. Both Mr. Heard and Mr. Roberts were of opinion deliberate deterioration would be very exceptional; but Mr. Dovle, indulging in prophecy, said "it would certainly be done in many cases." But here again, if he might be allowed to appeal to the common-sense of the House he would suggest that the Irish tenant was not such a fool as to deteriorate wilfully his farm. Just look at the facts. ' There were 396,000 tenancies in Ireland under £20 a year. Suppose that such a tenant desired to get a reduction of rent, and in order to do so resorted to deliberate, deterioration. Such deterioration would begin two years before the expiration of the statutory term; and it would take two years to cure or even more. Supposing that he got 10 per cent, of a reduction, 10 per cent, on £20 a year would be £2 a year for ten years, or, in all, £20. The tenant would himself, out of his own money, have to remedy the deterioration and he would, therefore, really be the sufferer if he permitted himself to get a reduction of rent by fraudulent practices. He regarded this argument as a rather foolish and unnecessary insult to put upon the Irish tenant on very insufficient and prophetic evidence, and he did not know whether the insult to the tenants honesty or his good sense was the greater. It was not conceivable that, in his own interest, he would be so dishonest, or so foolish, as to wilfully deteriorate his farm under circumstances when lie would himself have to cure the evils he created without any assistance from his landlord. He now turned to Section 1 of the Bill, which proposed to reduce the statutory period to 10 years. If that statutory term were so reduced, what were they to say to the 779 tenancies started, or rents fixed, during 1881 to 1886? Take the cases of rents fixed in 1885—that was just 10 years ago—if the 15 years still remained the term, they would have five years more to run at a rent which Mr. Cunningham said was "20 to 30 per cent. above the real value to-day, so that if not altered and if the present law were not assimilated to current terms, these men would have to pay—not a fair rent, but from 20 to 30 per cent, above a fair rent. He only hoped, as an Englishman, that the efforts of the Select Committee—which were by no means light—might result in bringing peace and some measure of prosperity to the Irish tenant farmer, who had had struggles enough; and that he might now have some prospect given him that he would secure the reasonable comforts of existence by the advantages afforded by this Bill.
§ *MR. W. E. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
remarked that the right hon. Gentleman had, upon the Introduction of this measure, asked for a full and impartial consideration of the proposals in the Bill, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to such consideration, because he (Mr. Macartney) did not recollect any proposal of a more grave and far-reaching character than those contained in his Bill. He regretted that in moving the Second Reading the right hon. Gentleman should have used language which appeared to him to be absolutely unjustifiable, and which was certainly not calculated to induce those who might not be in complete sympathy with his proposals to give that consideration which he claimed for them on the First Reading. The right hon. Gentleman had burst out again into one of those savage and bitter attacks upon Irish landlords, which the House had been too much accustomed to hear from him. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman thought that, by such a course, he would make the passage of the Bill through Parliament more easy; but he regretted that, on this occasion, he had used language which he must know must be highly irritating to a class which, though they might be, as he described them, a falling class, had not themselves contributed so much as the Legislation of that House to their misfortunes. He would like to ask the 780 House to consider whether this measure could be classified as a mere amendment of details, or whether it was a measure, the main proposals of which practically amounted to a virtual reconstruction of the Act of 1881. Anybody who had closely examined the provisions of the measure would be compelled to say that this was not a measure for the amendment of details, but was one which practically and in reality reconstructed the main provisions of the Act of 1881. He admitted that the House had reason to be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his candour on one point, for he had told them that his contribution to the Irish Land Question did not contain one single element of finality, and that this was the first of a long series of measures which were to investigate the rental of Ireland until, he supposed, it approximated to the view of those politicians who held that the landlord had no right to anything except prairie, value. If the provisions of this Bill passed in anything like their present shape, he might say for himself that he did not believe that many successors would be required to this measure in order to attain to the ideal of Irish Land reformers. This Bill dealt, as it was intended to deal, a blow to the Irish landlords from which they were never meant to recover. The more one examined the provisions the more certain was it that that would be the result of its passing. He submitted to the House there was only one thing which could justify that House in dealing such a blow at the Irish landlord, and that was the necessity and the condition of the tenants. The question he would like to ask the House was:—Was the necessity of the tenants in Ireland so great—is their position under existing legislation so precarious and so unprotected—that in order to guard them effectually, Parliament and this House will be compelled to assent to the proposals of the measure; brought before it on this occasion, and to adopt certain principles of action which were strongly and successfully repudiated by the authors of the Bill of 1881, and which they absolutely declined to have anything to do with? He submitted that the Report of the majority of the Committee which recently sat on the subject was not a reliable guide for the House. The right 781 hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the fact that the majority were compelled to leave the Committee Room was a matter for complacent self-satisfaction. He disagreed with him on that point, because he thought that the achievements of the right hon. Gentleman in the chair of that Committee were unprecedented in the annals of Parliamentary Committees; and, outside the annals of Parliamentary Committees could only find a parallel in the action of the Progressive Chairman of the London County Council. It was an achievement which could only be looked at by those interested in arriving at a settlement of the question as most unfortunate and most, unhappy. The. right hon. Gentleman, in his speech in introducing the Bill, used an expressson with regard to the Report which was absolutely accurate. He said the, Report represented the opinions of the most important section in Ireland. With that one would agree when they recollected whom it was he regarded as the most important section in Ireland. It contained their opinion, but no evidence whatever' in support of it. He could not understand any reason why this Report should not have been written in the first week in May instead of the month of August of last year: or why, indeed, the Members of the majority should have taken the trouble to meet together on three or four occasions to debate the Report, instead of handing the work over to the hon. Member for North Kerry. In that case there would have been a coherence, about the Report which was now wanting. The right hon. Gentleman attempted to justify the provisions of the Bill by a comparison between the reductions of rent in Ireland and those which had taken place in England since agricultural depression set in. The analogy, however, was not a sound one, and could lead to no correct conclusions, because the circumstances of agricultural life in the two countries were entirely dissimilar. It was fully shown in the Report of the Bessborough Commission that it was not the custom to exact the full commercial rent in Ireland as in England, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, in introducing the Bill of 1881, endorsed that opinion, and further stated that rentals in England had risen more rapidly than in Ireland. Upon the 782 question of reductions of rent the evidence was in favour of the Irish landlord. Out of 157,178 cases of judicial rents fixed up to March 1894, in nearly 12,000 cases, or a little over 8 per cent., there had been no previous alteration of rent as against the tenant before the date of the judicial fixing of rent; and Mr. Barnes, a valuer of large experience in Ireland, who had valued over half-a-million of acres, told the Committee that he very seldom came across cases of increase of rentals. In England, moreover, the large reductions which had been alluded to were restricted to certain well-defined areas where the agricultural interest had been enormously depressed, whereas in Ireland the reductions had been general all over the country. He would take as an illustration the county of Lincoln, which stood at the head of the agricultural counties of England, and which had suffered severely from the depression. It appeared from the interesting Report of Mr. Wilson Fox, what, indeed, was stated by the right hon. Member for Midlothian, that rentals had risen much more rapidly in England than in Ireland, and that consequently no correct conclusions could be drawn from a comparison of the relative reductions of rental in England and Ireland. Passing from that point, he would like to turn to the right hon. Gentleman who read to the House an interesting extract from the Memoirs of Sir W. Gregory, who posed as a model Irish landlord, and he went on to attack the conduct of the person who purchased from Sir W. Gregory in the Landed Estates Court. Much as the conduct, of the landlord who bought from Sir W. Gregory was to be reprobated, at all events that gentleman walked off with the "swag," which he obtained under the provisions of an Act of Parliament, and 110 doubt, like all the other estates sold in the Landed Estates Court, his Bill of Sale held out the inducement that the rents could freely be raised, and that the property could bear a large increase in the rental. He did not know that what took place so many years ago was a sufficient justification for the provisions of this Bill, but, at all events, the right hon. Gentleman, and those who supported the Bill, might at this time discover some better and sounder reasons for a great Land Bill than a series of events which 783 took place 40 years ago, and which everybody knew could not, under existing legislation, be repeated now. He was not there, nor would any Irish landlord care to defend what might have been done by some speculators under the Landed Instates Act; for there were cases in which speculators, having bought under that Act, did, in fact, carry out in practice the inducements held out to them when they bought. That was no foundation at the present moment for proposals which would fall with great severity on a large body of Irish landlords who could not be held accountable for things done under an Act of Parliament. He held strongly the necessity of giving to the tenant not only adequate but ample protection for the improvements he carried out on his holding. But the right hon. Gentleman had entirely failed—and the evidence before the Select Committee also entirely failed—to prove that the position of the Irish tenant was such that he required the proposals of the Bill to safeguard, his improvements. And further, the proposals now made were not consistent with the equity of the case. The right hon. Gentleman said that from the evidence before the Committee it was clear that undoubtedly the intention of Parliament was imperfectly guarded, so that the Courts in Ireland had felt bound to decide in a sense that had the effect of defeating the intention of Parliament. That passage might mean that the Irish Courts, and especially the Court of Appeal, felt that, in some way or other they were bound by the language of the Act to construe it against its clear intention. If that were what the right hon. Gentleman intended there was not a syllable in any judgment of the Court to justify that suggestion. But it might mean, as the Report of the majority of the Select Committee distinctly stated, that the intention of the Legislature had not been carried into effect in the judgment in the case of Adams v. Dunseath, and seemed to have been defeated in the practice of the Court in fixing rents. Upon that statement the Report of the majority of the Committee made two recommendations: Firstly, that improvements, of whatever character, should be exempt from rent; and secondly, that the definitions and limitations imported from 784 the Act of 1870, should not apply to the administration of the fair rent provisions of the Act of 1881. The Bill, they were told, was founded on the Report of the Committee, and therefore it was important that the House should consider whether these recommendations were within the scope of the Act of 1881, or whether they were not only absolutely at variance with the provisions of that Act but hostile to the, principle upon which it was founded These recommendations could not be construed as mere amendments of detail: they would introduce into the land legislation of Ireland certain principles which amounted to "a virtual reconstruction of the Act of 1881." First of all he would ask the House to consider, with regard to the Act of 1870, whether or not it was the intention of the authors of the Act of 1881 to incorporate that Act? There could be no doubt as to that In the first place, there was the incorporating section. It might be said that that section had had too much inuflence on the Act of 1881. But there was a most important question put after the first reading of the Bill in 1881 by the present Lord Ashbourne (then Mr. Gibson). And Mr. Law, the then Attorney General, replied that the Act of 1870 was meant to apply and to govern the proposals that had then just been laid before the House. With regard to the recommendations that improvements of whatever character should be exempted from rent, he asked—Was that the intention of the authors of the Act of 1881? Certainly it was not the intention of the right hon. Member for Midlothian. He drew a very clear distinction between improvements on which a tenant should be rented, and those on which he should not, and he assented to the proposition of Mr. W. H. Smith, that there were various classes of improvements which would fall under the definitions of improvements for which a tenant was not entitled to be exempt. That being so, he would ask the House to consider what the practice with regard to improvements had been. The paragraph in the Report of the Select Committee, which referred to the case of Adams v. Dunseath, and which dealt with the question of the practice with regard to improvements, like many other 785 paragraphs were absolutely misleading. That paragraph stated that the Land Commission in that case interpreted the direction in the Act to mean, that all letting value resulting from tenants improvements was to be excluded from consideration in fixing a fair rent. The decision of the Land Commission was stated in that paragraph to be unanimous, but it was not unanimous. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Report does not say it was."] At any rate it did not say it was not. The Report went on to say, that the Court of Appeal held, by a majority of the Judges, that the direction of the Act not to allow any rent in respect of the tenants' improvements must he taken to mean, not what the language of the Act conveyed to the ordinary mind, but something different and much more complex, namely, that the tenant was entitled to a percentage on his outlay in making the improvement, but that any remainder of letting value due to his improvement, was to be divided between him and the landlord according to the discretion of the Land Commissions, having regard to the interest of the landlord and tenant respectively. In this case the decision of the Court of Appeal, represented in the Report as that of a majority, was absolutely unanimous on the point alluded to. Lord Justice Fitzgibbon impressed that upon the Committee repeatedly. Then the paragraph represented that the remainder of the letting value due to the tenant's improvements after the percentage on his outlay had been allowed to him was to be divided between, him and the landlord, according to the judicial discretion of the Land Commission. Now the decision of the Court was perfectly clear. The Court distinctly held that the whole increase of letting value might be given in certain circumstances to the landlord, and that where it was not given to the landlord entirely it was to be apportioned between the landlord and the tenant, having regard to the just interest of both. The practice of the Commissioners was dealt with in another paragraph of the Report, and here again, Members who imagined that in the Re-port of the majority they would find a correct guide as to the weight of evidence, would be wofully disappointed. The Committee stated that they learned with 786 extreme surprise from the majority of the official witnesses, including three legal assistant Land Commissioners, and two lay assistant Commissioners, as well as the County Court Judge of Kerry, the County Court Valuer, and Mr. Greer, that the practice was to give the land lord, after allowing the tenant a percentage for his outlay, any remainder of letting value. That was an entirely misleading representation of the evidence. Mr. Greer's evidence would not support that assertion. And with regard to the three Legal Assistant Land Commissioners the House must recollect that the Legal Commissioners had nothing whatever to do with the assessing of the value of improvements. The Legal Commissioners had nothing whatever to do with the question of the value of the improvements, or how much of the increased letting value was to go to the landlord, and how much to the tenant. The County Court, judge of Kerry, who was quoted as an authority fin- the statement made in paragraph 4 of the Report had stated that he never interfered in questions of value, and had repudiated the statement attributed to him in that paragraph. The learned County Court Judge had also stated that if he had to deal with the increased letting value, he would apportion it between the parties. The important evidence on this question was that of the. Lay Commissioners, three of whom had stated that they made it their practice to give the whole of the increased letting value to the tenants. To sum up, seven Commissioners all agreed that, after the tenant had received a percentage on the costs of his improvement work—which they generally put at 5 per cent—practically nothing remained over to be dealt with. The House should recollect that, even assuming a case where the whole of the increased value, had been left to be be given to the landlord, that did not take away from the tenant the whole of the result of his improvements. The increased letting value was not commensurate with the increased produce. The tenant would get a very large proportion of the increased production of the land arising from his improvements. If the landlord's increased letting value were estimated at one third part, the tenant would get two-thirds as the result of his improvements. The conclusion which the 787 House had to arrive at was as to the protection which the Irish tenant now enjoyed under the Act of 1881, and whether under that Act he was sufficiently encouraged to make improvements. Anybody acquainted with Ireland could not for a moment doubt that the Irish tenants, as a body, knew that their improvements were adequately protected. Mr. Greer had told them that there could be no doubt upon this question, and, that upon lands where he had fixed rents in 1881, 1882, and 1883, he was able to see the faith which the tenants had in the administration of the Act. Anybody who lived sufficiently long in Ireland must know that, so far as the improvements which the Irish tenant was in the habit of making, and which e had carried out in times past under the Act of 1881, those improvements were made in the absolute conviction that he was protected. Then, he would ask, was Clause 5 consistent with the equity of the occasion? The Chief Secretary had admitted that that was one of the necessary conditions of his legislation. The proposals made in that clause had never appeared in any Bill submitted to Parliament until about the year 1883. From 1850 till 1883 innumerable Bills had been presented by representatives from Ireland, who, it could not be denied, were active, energetic, advanced land-reformers. But this project was never included until after the No Rent Manifesto and the suggestion of "prairie value" had been put forward. These proposals had been adequately described by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, and the Member for the University of Dublin was amply justified in describing them as revolutionary. The present Lord Chancellor, in describing the proposals of the Bill of 1883, had said that it proposed to hand over to the tenants that which they had no right to, and he had also said that tenants, as well as landlords, must hold their property according to equity, and, that it was the duty of the House of Commons to hold the balance fairly between them. The Chancellor had also repudiated the notion that, because certain claims were made by sections of the Irish tenantry, there was therefore any obligation to meet those claims by legislation; and he had said that no Government could meet 788 the proposals put forward by the Irish agriculturists. Those proposals were precisely the same as were dealt with in Clause 5 of the present Bill. There were other provisions of a different character in this Bill, which amounted to a virtual reconstruction of the Act of 1881. As an instance, he would take the sub-section dealing with demesne lands. It had been sought to show that thousands of tenants were excluded either from the clauses of that Act or from the interpretation put upon those clauses by the Court of Appeal in Ireland.
§ *MR. MACARTNEY
replied that he was sure there was not an Irish tenant out of Court who was not out of Court for very excellent reasons.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
, interposing, said, that it was not reasonable to take four thousand odd as the number of cases that had been excluded. Every case of exclusion decided in the Courts might rule a thousand other cases out.
§ *MR. MACARTNEY
said, that the number of Irish tenants swelled with every argument. The number of cases of exclusion that had come before the Courts was 56,823, but of these only a very small proportion had been excluded by reason of the clauses of the Act. The exclusion of demesne lands, as an element of hardship, was extremely difficult to prove; but the words in the Act showed that the intention of the Legislature was distinct. They showed that Parliament knew there, was a con siderable number of tenants in Ireland who were occupying demesne lands as agricultural tenants, and they proved also that it was not the intention of Parliament to give those tenants occupying demesne lands for agricultural purposes the advantages of the Act. He should like to say a word with reference to the attack made on the Court of Appeal; that it had limited the operation of the Act, and restricted the benefit conferred oil the Irish tenant. What had been the action of the Court of Appeal?—211 cases had come up from the sub-Commission; 202 decisions had been given, 107 in favour of the landlord, and 789 95 in favour of the tenant; 90 appeals had been made by the landlord and 112 by the tenant. No doubt, there had been decisions of great importance on the landlord side, and evidence was forthcoming to show that the decisions given on the side of the tenant had been equally important, and had conferred on the tenant as much benefit under the Act as had been conferred on the landlord. Another provision of the Bill, which amounted to a virtual re-construction of the Act of 1881, was the provision to interfere with the future tenancies. This was a very serious invasion of one of the principles which the right hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Gladstone) clung to—a material invasion on the residue of free contract which he left to operate in Ireland, upon which he laid the greatest emphasis, and which the right hon. Gentleman told the House would be an element of valuable consideration at some time or other in the future of Ireland. Then there was the repeal of the pre-emption clause, the right conferred by which, they were told, had not been largely taken advantage of by the Irish landlord. The Hill also contained some amendments of detail, like the shortening of the statutory term and its retrospective action. But every argument used before the Committee would be just as applicable to seven, five, three or one year as to ten years. Not one of the agricultural experts could give the Committee any reason, except a very general reason, for shortening the term from 15 to 10 years. This was a point which could be raised afterwards, no doubt; but the proposal was not one which would lessen the friction between the Irish landlord and the tenant, or tend to diminish the expense of the administration of the Act. The right hon. Gentleman said that the sub-Commission Court, to be constituted under the new procedure as the final Court of Appeal, was to consist of Commissioners now in the permanent Civil Service. Were the Valuers, who were to take the first step, to be selected from those who were now the permanent Assistant Commissioners, because they were as important as the constitution of this new Court? A Court of Appeal of high standing was necessary, for in the general deluge which would follow the application of 790 this Bill in Ireland to the rents already fixed, and which had still some years to run, he asserted that very material damage would be inflicted on the landlords. Other two provisions of the Bill dealt with sub-letting and the extension of pasture holdings from £50 to £200. No witness that came before the Committee on the question of sub-letting had gone as far as the right hon. Gentleman. The evidence taken went, he thought, to show that no very substantial injury had arisen from the exclusion of sub-letting; every one of the Commissioners who appeared before the Committee was obliged to admit that, as regarded the necessity of carrying on agricultural operations on the land, the farmer was amply protected. As to the extension of pasture holdings, the only suggestion made was that the limitation should be raised, but the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman went far beyond even the most extreme suggestion made in the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman had repudiated with very considerable warmth the idea that his proposals were revolutionary or confiscatory, but he could not help adhering to his opinion that, though there were many minor provisions of the Bill which could with justice be considered as amendments to the legislation of 1881, there were other proposals in it so large and far-reaching that, if the House consented to give legislative effect to them, he believed the landlords of Ireland would be ruined. If those were the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman, he could not help thinking that he had given very remarkble and distinct utterance to them.
§ *MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said, the Bill was founded on the report issued a few months ago by a Committee after a laborious investigation. To him it seemed that that Report constituted the most important incident, in connection with Ireland, which we have had for 25 years. Parliament had passed many Acts for Ireland during that period, but had never before made any inquiry as to how they affected Ireland and whether they had produced the results intended. Hitherto Parliament had passed great measures, and had as sumed that the effects would be proportionate to the time spent upon them. Our remedial legislation had been of two kinds, affecting the Church and the 791 Land. In the recent Debate on the Welsh Church Bill not a single remark had been made on how the Irish Church Act affected the condition of Ireland apart from religion. They had not been told what effect the withdrawal of tithes had upon particular localities. Yet it had greatly increased absenteeism in Ireland by turning tithes into so much absentee rent. Nothing had been done for local government in Ireland, although it had been established in every other part of the United Kingdom; and the Church Act and Land Acts were the only trophies of remedial legislation. Land Acts were passed in 1861, 1871, 1881, 1885, 1887, and 1891; and there had been numerous Bills which did not pass, such as the Purchase Bill of 1886 and the Evicted Tenants Bill of last year. The hon. and learned Member opposite asked the Government why they did not bring in the Evicted Tenants Bill again. It seemed to him that it would be rather a superfluous task to begin again the work they undertook last summer, which was so lightly set aside by the House of Lords. One result the inquiry of last year had made clear, and that was, that the difficulties connected with the Irish Land Question were not by any means solved. There -was singular unanimity on that point. The Government had asserted it, and they had given the best evidence of their sincerity by introducing the measure before the House. But the Opposition also admitted that something more must be done, and even The Times newspaper admitted that some Land Bill was wanted. The Unionists who represented the north of Ireland, who had been such a stumbling-block to reform in Ireland, also admitted that the Land difficulty was not solved. But the Report of the Committee had had one effect greater than all: it had roused Ulster. Hitherto Ulster had been the great barrier to progress. When Home Rule was before the House it was said that Ulster was perfectly satisfied with the Imperial Parliament. They did not hear that story to night. All the meetings in Ulster showed that the province was moved as it never had been moved before, and he ventured to say that the appetite of Ulster for reforms would be whetted by this Bill, and that the province would go on and look for other reforms. Therefore lie thought that the 792 rousing of Ulster was a very great point indeed. What was the reason why the House had not yet succeeded in solving the Irish Land Question? From a study of the Report, one reason of a negative character was apparent. It was not because the intelligence of the House had not fully seized the difficulty, but because the House was not able to grapple with it. Nothing was clearer than that the chief difficulty to be dealt with was not a new difficulty. What was the evil? The failure of the attempt to protect the property of tenants in their improvements. That was the object of the Act of 1870, and the object of the Act of 1881. This particular question, too, was embodied in the Report of the Devon Commission in 1845. Therefore they had this great fact, that for 50 years the House had been fully seized of the difficulty, and yet had been impotent to deal with it in any effective manner. The Report of the Committee dealt with this failure to protect improvements in the most complete manner, and it showed the four stages through which this question had passed. When the great measure of 1881 was passed, there was an absolute intention to put an. end to the question. That Act provided that no rent should be made payable in. respect of improvements made by the tenant. What took place in Ireland upon that? It was one of the most graphic stories that could be told. The Land Commissioners decided one case in accordance with that law, and the decision was at once appealed against. That was the first stage. The majority of the Judges in the Appeal Court held that the Act—must be taken to mean not what the language of the Act conveys to the ordinary mind, but something different," viz.: "that the tenant is entitled to an annual percentage on his outlay in making the improvements, hut that any remainder of letting value due to hits improvements is to be divided between him and the landlord.That was the second stage. Then the Land Commissioners having obtained this sanction, inproved on it, and so they adoptedthe practice to give to the landlord, after allowing the tenant a percentage on his outlay, any remainder of letting value due to the tenant's improvements.That was the third stage. Then there came the fourth stage. At first the 793 Land Commissioners were obliged to show in their judgment what allowance they made off the rent on account of improvements done by the tenant, and a column was reserved for this purpose, but this column became useless, and latterly it had been left out of the forms, so that, under the Land Act of 1881, the bad old practice is still in full swing in Ireland. If land was to be cultivated, if human beings were to make a living out of it, improvements must be made, and therefore, if the people who alone made the improvements were discovered, surely it was in accordance with good policy that the parties making the improvements should be protected in them. The Report of the Committee and the introduction of this Bill had made it perfectly clear that the House had, hitherto failed in the attempts to protect the Irish tenant in his improvements. In some respects the unfortunate tenant had been worse off under the Land Acts than he was before. He would give a typical case. There was a very common case in Ulster of a tenant who had a lease granted, say 30 years ago, and on his promise to spend a certain amount of money he got the land at a lower rent than he would otherwise. His lease fell in, and how was he treated? When the Court settled a fair rent for the land they added to the fair rent a sum for the value of the improvement made by the tenant. All that the landlord would have done 30 years ago would have been to refrain from making any allowance off the fair rent. He would not have added to it. Therefore, it seemed to him that in this particular case the tenant was worse off under the Land Acts than he would have been before them. Irish Members had argued more than once that that House, being full of English business men, could not grapple successfully with the Irish land question; and in the House of Lords the question suffered even worse treatment. But there was another difficulty in the way of successful land legislation when it had passed, namely, the difficulty created by the administration of the law by Irish judges. Measures having run the gauntlet with success in the Lords and Commons at Westminster, had afterwards to be administered in Ireland, and often the law administered in that 794 remote part of the kingdom was not the law of Parliament but the law of the Irish judges. He did not wish to say a word against judge-made law. Whilst Parliament was so congested, and whilst the two Parties obstructed each other as they did at the present time, the people would fare badly in some respects if there was no such thing as judge-made law. But this rather dangerous method of adding to the Law ought to be subject to two restrictions. The judges ought to make their law in accord with the will of Parliament on the one hand, and in accord with public opinion on the other. These restrictions were operative in England, but in Ireland, in connection with land legislation, the will of Parliament was too often set at nought, and the judges were trained to disregard the public opinion of the country. Therefore, they were likely to make mistakes, which it behoved the House to put right. If the efforts of the House to ameliorate the condition of the peasantry of Ireland were to be more successful now than in the past, they must have more regard to Irish opinion. The failures of the past were chiefly due to the fact that the House had listened too much to English opinion, and English minds could not easily grasp the difficulties surrounding the subject of Irish land. It was a curious circumstance that, after their first efforts at remedial legislation, the ratio of decrease of the population doubled. The people ran out of the country in the ten years following 1881 twice as fast as in the previous decade. When they realised that the population had diminished by one-half, that there were 30 or 40 acres of land in the country for every able-bodied man willing to work it, was it not remarkable that the people should continue to go away? Notwithstanding the great decrease in the population, the people were starving to-day. It was a disgraceful state of things, that that House found itself compelled to pass Bills after all these years as they were now doing, for the purpose of meeting an Irish famine. It ought to be clear to them that this famine did not arise from any natural causes, but solely from the bad legislation of that House. Ten millions were levied in rents in Ireland, and eleven millions in taxation. They wrung from the poor peasantry these twenty-one millions a year before they 795 could put bread into their mouths, and the result was that the people were starving. Surely the House ought to do all that it possibly could do to lighten the burdens of these unfortunate people. Why were the farmers in Ulster so keen about this Bill? It was because they knew that they could not exist any longer under the present system. They knew that the last penny was being wrung from them, and had realised that the burden of life was too heavy for them under existing condition. The hon. Member for South Tyrone during the last six months had confessed to his constituents on many occasions that most of the action which he had taken in the House with regard to Ireland was misjudged action. [Mr. T. W. RUSSELL: "Not at all. I never made such a statement to my constituents, nor to anyone else."] He understood that the hon. Member had delivered speeches in which he said that he had spoken on the land question in England at many public meetings in a different spirit from the spirit in which ho was speaking to them, and that this was because he had been looking at the question from a Parliamentary point of view, and had not known what was going on in Ireland.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, that he had never made such a statement, nor anything resembling it, in England or anywhere else.
§ *MR. LOUGH,
of course, accepted the hon. Member's denial. He had quoted the statement from memory, and he was still of opinion that he had read something of the kind. The tone of the hon. Member's speeches in the recess—it was to the hon. Member's credit—contrasted greatly with the tone of his speeches upon the land question in the ten previous years. The hon. Member had admitted the failure of Land Acts as he had never done before. If he had misrepresented the hon. Member for South Tyrone he apologised. He did not want to look in the mouth of a gift horse, and he was glad to find that the hon. Member was willing to help them now to give some measure of justice to Ireland. He thought in the interests of the landlords they should try and satisfy the tenants. The fault of all past Land Acts was that the landlord was too well protected. The 796 landlord and the tenant were partners together, and the landlord would gain if the tenant were satisfied. He believed it would pay the landlords to go farther than this Bill in order to reconcile the tenants. As to the subject of exclusions from the Land Act it was idle to go against the current of events. The old system in Ireland had completely passed away. The old idea of the landlord fixing the rent had gone never to return. It might be right or it might be wrong, but it was settled. Under these circumstances was it not a serious thing to fling back tenants from the courts to the position of having to deal with these landlords. He thought they ought to recognise that the tendency of legislation had been to make it impossible for the tenant and the landlord to meet, and therefore these exclusions must be a constant menace to public order. Let every tenant have free access to the courts. It would be well not to wrangle over constituional or small points. Let them grasp the serious facts of the situation. The man who was willing in these times to bring something forth out of the sodden soil of Ireland was a man who ought to be encouraged, and who ought to be treated in a liberal spirit.
§ *Mr. BRODRICK, (Surrey, Guildford)
said the hon. Member who had just spoken urged the landlords to treat this question in a business spirit, and certainly he had treated it in a different spirit from the Chief Secretary, the tone of whose speech was little likely to commend itself to those inclined to treating this question in a business spirit. He did not think that he had ever known a Minister moving the Second Reading of a Bill, and claiming for it impartial consideration, go so far out of his way as the Chief Secretary had done to heap obloquy and scorn on some of those concerned—in this case the landlords of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had throughout his speech gone out of his way to sneer at the landlords, and to load them with damaging imputations. First he attacked the landlord who sold. The Chief Secretary said that the one idea—the one interest—which the landlord had in the country, was to shuffle out of it (Mr. J. Morley was understood to dissent). Well, the words were, to "get out." There were good landlords 797 in Ireland and bad ones, but there were good landlords who were endeavouring to do their duty, as landlords in England were trying to do their duty. There were many landlords who had no intention of leaving the country. Then he produced an instance of a landlord who came to terms with a tenant and reduced his rent, and on this he based the conclusion, that all rents required reduction. If the landlord had done the reverse, no doubt the Chief Secretary would have used this as an argument for coercing such landlords by Bill. But the right hon. Gentleman went beyond this when he came to the right of pre-emption. He looked upon the right of pre-emption as absolutely the only barrier which at present existed to prevent the tenants giving enormous sums for the tenant-right, which would make it in the end impossible for them to pay the rent. The Chief Secretary said the desire of landlords for pre-emption was due to jealousy of the tenant getting a high price—the desire to buy from the tenant at a low price and sell at a high one. He challenged the Chief Secretary to give any evidence of that; to give him an instance of the extremely opprobrious suggestion he had made. Did he know one single instance in which the landlord had bought at the lower price for the purpose a few days afterwards of selling it at a higher one? [Mr. J. MORLEY: "I have heard of it."] Then the right hon. Gentleman should produce the case to the House. He defied him to do so. He did not believe it to exist, and unless the right hon. Gentleman had got chapter and verse for the statement, he did not think that on such an occasion that statement should have been made. He did not believe the right hon. Gentleman would make it again if he had the opportunity. He must say that, knowing full well how carefully the Chief Secretary usually weighed his language, he was very much astonished to hear him indulge that night in the sort of clap-trap which was sometimes used by irresponsible Members of the party opposite on some platforms, instead of devoting himself to a responsible and statesmanlike explanation of a most important and intricate Bill. One very 798 curious feature of the speech that night was the difference in its tone compared with the speech which the Chief Secretary made on the first reading. He did not think he ever heard a speech in which the appearance of fairness and suavity of manner, which always distinguished the right hon. Gentleman when he was making a rather revolutionary proposal, were approached in such a way as to lead nine out of every ten Members who heard it to believe that the Bill was a very mild and innocent one, and to imagine that it really was an impartial attempt emanating from the right hon. Gentleman's own brain to deal with this question. But when they got the Bill they saw that the speech was one thing and the Bill was another. The voice was the voice of Jacob, but the hand was the hand of Esau. They knew where the Bill came from. It came from much the same source as seemed to have inspired the right hon. Gentleman in drawing up the majority report which gave the Member for Islington so very much satisfaction. The Chief Secretary apologising for introducing this Bill. He apologised for placing upon the House a burden which he said was heavy and almost unbearable, and which was calculated to lead to discouragement not far removed from despair. He thought the best apology he could have made to the House would have been not merely an explanation of the Bill, but a justification, and a statement of his case for it. He wished to clear away at once the idea that the landlord party in Ireland were unwilling to deal with what were obvious defects in the Act of 1881. In the minority report which he submitted on behalf of his hon. Friends last session they intimated that they were ready to deal with one point, the question of the status of the tenant, instantly. That was not an unimportant question, but one which, if they mixed it up with other questions, might not be dealt with this session, but which, if they did not mix it up with other questions, might have been passed after midnight any night by the right hon. Gentleman merely raising his hat to move the Bill. There were other non-contentious matters connected with the Act of 1881 which they were ready to settle, and which he ventured to submit 799 were as important to the tenant, certainly as important for the peace of Ireland, as any of the provisions of this Bill. What he complained of in this Bill was that every matter which had been a matter of doubt as to whether the Land Act had failed or had carried out the intentions of its authors, and wherever that doubt was on a contentious point it had been crammed into the Bill. But wherever there were matters which were non-contentions—that was to say the doubt, the certainty in fact, of the failure of the Act in regard to procedure, the certainty of its costliness, of its delay, and of all the numerous points which had been harassing landlords and tenants alike in the past few years—in no single instance had the Chief Secretary included them in this measure. He believed that if Irish Members spoke their whole mind on this subject they would agree with him that the omissions from the Bill were almost as serious and important as the inclusions in the Bill. He wished the right hon. Gentleman had approached this matter in a different spirit. He thought his speech that night was calculated to keep discussion on a low level, and was certainly such as to make the political test the final test. He could not help thinking, when he heard him addressing the House, of the speech of the Member for Midlothian in 1881, when he introduced the Bill of that year. The Member for Midlothian established a case for that Bill. He dealt with a condition of agricultural trouble not far removed from agrarian war—of land hunger which had led in some cases to impossible rents, resulting in heartbreaking evictions. He established premisses, and worked up to a logical conclusion for those premisses. But the right hon. Gentleman that night had assumed premisses, had eschewed logic, had shaped his conclusions to his convenience. They had not heard one grievance of the Irish tenant from that Bench that night. They had had, he, thought, one case, not of hard ship, but one in which a landlord bar stepped in to prevent hardship. He had not given the House one single instance 800 of landlord tyranny. He had based this measure alone upon the point that the demand for legislation was universal in Ireland. If the demand for legislation meant simply a demand for a reduction if rents, he thought he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that whatever Bill he carried, he would find a demand for legislation in Ireland following it very quickly, and very much in the same direction. But he would remind the House that, only a few days before the right hon. Gentleman introduced his Bill, they had a demand made by the whole of the agricultural class of Great Britain, who had suffered infinitely more in the last few years than the Irish farmers, whose case was infinitely stronger, and who universally demanded that their grievances should be remedied. There was no action even in contemplation with regard to the case. If any impartial onlooker looked into the figures brought forward in support of the Bill, he would hardly come to the right hon. Gentleman's conclusions. There were six millions of rent decided, and a reduction of 20 per cent, had been granted. The Chief Secretary asked whether that was an excessive reduction, having in view English reductions during the same period. The right hon. Gentleman left out this very important fact, which he supposed was known to him, that the number of rents which had been raised was small, though the amount by which some rents had been raised was large. Out of the total six millions of rent, in 92 per cent, of the cases the rent had not been raised. That condition would not be paralleled in any part of England, Wales, or Scotland. It was well known that in England and Scotland rents were raised in the seventies, when prices were high; but rents were not raised at the same period in Ireland. In 92 per cent, of the cases the rents had run unchanged since the famine. Therefore a reduction of 20 per cent, was a considerable reduction. But surely the test of the matter was this. There was not one single acre of land in Ireland which 801 could be obtained for a public urpose except by a heavy payment to thptenant for the surrender of his interest. There was not a tenant in all the four provinces of Ireland who had not waiting at his door men eager to take his farm at from 10 to 30 years' purchase of the rent Then again, looking at the bank-balances in Ireland, and especially at the tenants' banks, last week they reached the highest point which had ever been touched in the history of Ireland. They were absolutely higher by several millions than in the years 1880 and 1881. Could any English or Scotch Member point to a tenants' bank in which the balances showed the same satisfactory result? By representing men, who were prospering so well, and bound to a bargain which they could at any moment get a large sum for surrendering, as tyrannically oppressed and unable to carry out necessary improvements, the Chief Secretary found justification for proposing the most drastic changes which had ever been proposed in regard to Irish land. To give the tenant not only every improvement, but every rise in its value, to give him the presumption that all improvements were his, and the right to wipe out his bargain where he contracted not to claim his improvements, all this was to give him an enormous bonus; and when at the same time it was remembered that the landlord was limited in his rent, though the tenant was not limited in his tenant-right, it would be evident that the estimate of the reduction at 60 or 70 per cent, was rather under the mark. The Bill was not only drastic, but it did not touch some of the most important points to be dealt with. Mr. Forster, in speaking on the Bill of 1881, stated on behalf of the Government that the main object which the Government had in view was not merely a reform of the land tenure, but an increase in the number of peasant proprietors, and the relief of overcrowded districts. The Chief Secretary had not only not advanced those objects by this 802 Bill, but he had actually pushed them back. He would take the case of two men who went into Court under the Bill of 1881, one of whom, having had a fair rent fixed, was still a tenant farmer, and the other of whom had bought his holding on the basis of the fair rent. To the former man the Chief Secretary now said that his rent had been assessed on a wrong basis; that there had been a miscarriage of law; and that he was to receive a much larger share in the produce of the soil than formerly, besides having his term shortened. But the other man, who had become, a peasant proprietor, and whose rent, had been fixed on exactly the same basis before he purchased, was to get no advantage or bonus whatever. Literally, by this Bill, the peasant proprietor would be at a disadvantage in selling stock in the market when compared with the tenant farmer. The tenant farmer would be able to sell stock for less. Surely the peasant proprietor would reason this with himself:—Would I were as other men, especially as this tenant farmer. Here is this man who pays no rates, pays a less rent than I, and only pays that when convenient, while I pay my instalments with regularity, even if I have to fast two days a week in order to do it and to pay rates on all that I possess.I reckon that the tenant farmer would go down to his house justified rather than the proprietor. If the Home Secretary, who had offered to wager 100 to one against the passing of this Bill, were present he would offer to bet him 100 to one that if the Bill passed they would have the whole mass of peasant proprietors at their door asking for a remission of their instalments. It was well the right hon. Gentleman should apply his mind to the question of the machinery of the Bill. At present the Bill was framed for the benefit of the sitting tenant. He had no animus against the sitting tenant. He was only too glad to see any tenant prosperous, but they could not make the whole of agriculture in Ireland prosperous if they benefited the sitting tenant at the expense of those who had to come after 803 him. What they did for the sitting tenant was all very well, but it was only an umbrella, and could never be a real roof to the land question. The Chief Secretary asked them to include future tenants in the Bill. A great objection to the machinery of the Measure was that it would increase litigation. A great object of the Act of 1881 was that a certain number of cases should be settled by agreement. 300,000 tenants had had their rents fixed already, and upwards of 100,000 of these would be eligible to come into Court at once. They also invited into Court all future tenants who had held for five years, and the number of such was reckoned by the Chief Secretary at, several thousands a year. They also gave an entry into Court to all the men holding pasture farms of between £50 and £200 rent; men of substance—men paying just as large rents as many of the inhabitants of Belgrave Square, and many of them quite as capable of making a contract with their landlords as the Belgrave Square tenants were. They also gave permission to go into Court to practically all the men who farmed townparks or demesne land. How were they going to deal with this glut in the land market? If litigation has been slow and costly hitherto, how did they mean to quicken it and make it less costly in the future? He supposed they would have to appoint 100 or 120 new Commissioners, and he did not believe that number of competent sub-Commissioners was to be found in Ireland. They had to get men who had not only a knowledge of land, but men who were also experienced in the weighing of evidence. He had not the least doubt hon. Members below the gangway would produce a numerous list; but he was quite certain that nobody would pity the Chief Secretary more than the Chief Secretary himself if he had to appoint 100 or 120 new Commissioners, and he was equally certain that that 804 portion of the Bill had never been brought to the particular notice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There was another point. Each Committee and each Commission which had sat had agreed in regretting the indefinite nature of the instructions given to the sub-Commissioners. What progress had been made in getting a fair rent defined? In Ireland no attempt had been made to define fair rent. Did the Government intend to turn 200 or 300 gentlemen loose in Ireland to endeavour by their own means to arrive at a fair rent? Why could not Parliament set to work to lay down, not in a mathematical way, definite rules for the guidance of the sub-Commissioners? They were going to put upon two or three hundred gentlemen, some of whom must necessarily be novices, a duty the High Court of Parliament would not undertake. One of the best of them, a tenant's man, a man, at least, who showed no favour to the landlord, told the Committee it was ridiculous to expect him to value a farm on the same principles as the man who valued the next farm. No two men valued in the same way. In the early days, there was one sure standard to guide the sub-Commissioners—the standard of the competition value. But that had been destroyed, and the only thing set up in its place to guide the sub-Commissioners was what the Chief Secretary had called "the special circumstances," which was a phrase of a highly speculative character. As to the mode of hearing applications to have fair rents fixed, there was to be no improvement on the machinery provided by the Act of 1880, which had led to an enormous consumption of landlords and tenants' money in litigation as well as of the money of the nation. At present there were two processes—a hearing before the sub-Commission and an Appeal to the Chief Commission. But as if those processes were not sufficiently costly, the Chief Secretary now proposed that the 805 Chief Commissioner should send down two valuers to the farm, and that there should be a sub-Commission of four. But if the sub-Commissioners were not unanimous, there must be a resort again to the High Court. The object to aim at was to make the machinery more rapid and less costly. He would therefore suggest to the Chief Secretary whether it would not be better to have simply two valuers and an appeal from them to the Chief Commissioner, with a penalty of costs to be enforced against the appellant if he failed to prove his case. Such a process would be less troublesome and less costly in the long run, and would bring the landlord and tenant closer together. There was one most important subject which should be in the Bill, but was not in it. The Bill was silent in regard to those provisions of the Act of 1880 which pressed hardly, though they were not intended to press hardly on the landlord. There was the question of improvements in connection with English-managed estates. He might be told "De minimis non curat lex" for there were so few of them.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said, the Leconfield estate was one and the Fitzwilliam estate another. Lord Leconfield had lost every sixpence of his expenditure, amounting to £100,000, in thirty years, for the rents had been for years below the level of 1852, when the expenditure began. If it had been the case of a tenant the House would have heard of it every month, but being only the case of a landlord no attempt was made to meet it in the Bill. It was just the same in regard to the question of deterioration, which was another question seriously affecting the interests of the landlords. Not one word was said by the Chief Secretary on that important point, and there was no provision in the Bill to charge anything against a tenant who left his farm in a dilapidated condition. There were plenty 806 of cases of tenants in the south and west of Ireland who had allowed their farms absolutely to run out; who sold their interest for three or four years' purchase, and went to America on the money. There was no provision in the Bill to put a lien on such tenant; but to the new tenant was left the responsibility of bringing the land back to a good condition again. The only words in the Bill dealing with the subject made it impossible to put the real value on such a farm. The sub-Commissioners were bound to assess the land at what a solvent tenant could afford to pay for it, and if the farm were greatly deteriorated a solvent tenant could obviously afford to pay less in the condition in which they found it. If the tenant had improved the land, then they reduced the rent payable to the landlords; but if on the other hand, the tenant had neglected the farm, and so greatly reduced the value of the soil, there was no means whatever of compensating the landlord for such deterioration. Clause 5, if passed in its present form, would perpetrate a monstrous injustice, for it not only restricted the landlord to everything down to the prairie value, but it carried on the most undesirable system that could be set on foot in regard to Irish land—namely, that of putting the worst proportions of an estate on a level with the rest of the property. On the question of the town parks he regretted that they had not been able to call their evidence, because he believed they could have changed the view of the Chief Secretary as well as that of hon. Members on the Committee. But the Chief Secretary was in the position of the reviewer commended by Sydney Smith for his impartiality, who never read a book he was going to review. The right hon. Gentleman, in a similar way, showed his impartiality, for he had not heard the evidence on the matter on which he was going to legislate. The question of town parks was a most important one. It was 807 obvious that if a man got agricultural land just outside a town, where there was a demand for accommodation land, at an agricultural rent of £1 or 30s. per acre, when on the occasion of a fair or market he could get £1 per night for the use of the field, and his tenant-right would be worth £30 or £40, that they were transferring to the tenant a value in the land which did not really belong to him. There was a demand for land outside towns for public purposes; but look at the position in which the landlords of such land were placed by this Bill. He would give an instance within his knowledge. A man held a farm at an agricultural rent just outside a town which was spreading. The holding had never been treated as a town park, the tenant professed to be unable to pay the rent fixed, and he certainly had spent no money on improvements. It so happened, however, that his land was the only land available for the purpose of a fair green, which was required, and yet he asked £25 per acre, or £250 for 10 acres, for giving up the tenant-right of land, the rent of which, he alleged, he could not pay. An arbitrator decided that the tenant-right, was worth £200, and the landlord had actually to pay this sum as a gift to the tenant, who had expended nothing on improvements. What was the use of talking of tramways and light railways for the smaller towns if such a practice as this were to be perpetuated? The moment they required land for any public purpose near a town they would not only have to pay the landlord for his property in the soil, but would have to give a large sum to the tenant for his tenant-right, although he might have spent nothing on improvements. He agreed that if there were genuine cases in which land, not accommodation land, was treated as such to prevent the tenant getting a fair rent fixed, a stop should be put to such a practice, but the limit drawn by the Bill was both artificial and absurd, 808 and would fail in its operation. Now could they not hope, before going into Committee, that the right hon. Gentleman, if he could not reconsider his contentious proposals, would consider how far he would meet the Opposition on the non-contentious proposals? Could they not have some clause, for example, to provide for deteriorations? Could they not have some reconsideration of procedure which, at all events, would prevent the cost of litigation? And, above all, would not the Chief Secretary reconsider the right of pre-emption, without which the rent must ultimately be eaten up in the tenant-right? He knew of cases on honest and good estates in which the rents had been reduced 20, 30, 40, and even 50 per cent, in the beginning of the year, and where the tenant-right was sold for between 20 and 30 years' purchase before the end of the year. He would like to see a tenant put to the price at which the goodwill should be sold. He did not know of any arrangement in any other walk of life in which a man might expect to get more than double the value of his improvements when he proceeded to sell. The language which the Chief Secretary had used in reference to Irish landlords was not calculated, in his opinion, to enhance the good feeling with which Debates in. this House ought to be conducted, but he would appeal to the House also to consider the enormous change which had taken place since 1881 in the position of landlords and tenants. In 1881 the cry constantly was that all the power and property of the country was in the hands of the less numerous class. But all that was changed. Power had now been transferred into the hands of the more numerous class, and it would not be too much to say that by successive Acts of Parliament more than one-third of the property had been transferred also. The cause of the tenants was represented in this House by 80 or 90 gentlemen, many of them of 809 great ability, who urged everything that could be said on behalf of the tenants. The cause of the landlords, on the other hand, had to be set forth by a few gentlemen—not, he thought, ten in all—who were connected in any way with Irish land. There was no class of individuals so numerous and possessing so large a stake in the country who had so small a representation in this House as the Irish landlords. He submitted that that transference of power transposed the duty of this House. This House sat here to administer justice between all classes of Her Majesty's subjects. If they chose to do it, the Government could, by their majority, disregard the views and the rights of the class of the Irish landlords. They could even carry this Bill if they remained indifferent to argument and impervious to criticism. That was not the way in which the business of this House had been conducted in the past. The Chief Secretary would find that even in Ireland bad principles would not in the long run tell, and, depend upon it, the unsound principles embodied in this Bill would ultimately find him out if he proceeded to perpetuate them in an Act. If they were to disintegrate the existing system, the Government should constitute a fresh one which would have some elements of soundness in it. It was not desirable to pass a measure which must drive all capital out of the country. At a time when good feeling could only be promoted by residence it was not desirable to pass a measure which must banish from Ireland nine-tenths of those who now joined in local work there. The Opposition had been taunted with not dividing on the Second Reading of the Bill. They did not divide because there were some points in it which they were willing to concede, and others on which they were not prepared to abandon all hope that the Chief Secretary would meet them. But if the Bill were passed in its present form it 810 would be without their concurrence, and for partisan reasons by partisan votes, and would create evils which had been clearly foreseen.
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON (Mid Armagh)
reminded the party to which he belonged that there were about 100,000 tenant-farmers in Ireland who supported the Unionist cause. These farmers looked to their party to give a fair consideration to those provisions of the Bill in which they were interested, and if that party was not going to divide on the Second Reading it could take no wiser course. The effect of that course in the province of Ulster would be to lead a, large number of the tenant farmers to support their Members in trying to do justice to those landlords who had shown themselves willing to do justice to the tenants. He firmly believed that the tenants desired no injustice to the landlords, and that the points in the Bill of which the landlords were most afraid were not the points the tenants most desired. The cause of these tenants had been prejudiced more than anything else by the wild words of some Members below the Gangway, who went about Ireland saying that this Bill was to be a "scorcher" and a death-blow to Irish landlordism. Nothing was more calculated to raise the fears or arouse the opposition of every fair-minded man in the country than language like that. The farmers of Ulster did not desire anything in the nature of a "scorcher;" they did not wish to strike a death-blow at Irish landlordism. What they wanted was, to clear up the doubts that had arisen in connection with the Land Acts, and to remove technicalities that had crept into them. In many respects the Bill dealt with these matters, and in so far as it did he sympathised with it. He was glad to hear the Chief Secretary distinctly indicate that he was willing to go in the direction of compromise. The Bill could never pass without compromise. Any sensible man must realise 811 that.The tenant farmer of Ulster realised it, and the declaration of the Chief Secretary was an encouragement to him. But he regretted that the Chief Secretary had levelled taunts at the Irish landlords. That was not the spirit in which the Member for Midlothian had introduced the Bill of 1881, when he asked the Irish landlords to make sacrifices. That right hon. Gentleman did not insult the Irish landlords when he was asking them to make those sacrifices. The Chief Secretary seemed to indicate that bad landlords in Ireland were the rule and not the exception.
§ MR. BARTON
was glad to have drawn that disclaimer from the right hon. Gentleman. In his belief the landlords of Ireland were good, and compared favourably with landlords in other parts of Great Britain. In his view there never was a Bill which was more essentially a measure of details than this one, and which, therefore, more essentially required discrimination. He defied any hon. Member either to praise or condemn the Bill in toto. Lord Salisbury had, on a former occasion, used words which were the description of a Bill of details like this. The noble Marquess said that the Bill contained points—white, gray, and black; things which he admired exceedingly, things which he distrusted, and things which he condemned with his whole heart. He (the speaker) adopted those words upon the present occasion. Some points in this Bill were absolutely non-contentious. For instance, every landlord agreed in wishing that there should be no delay in declaring the status of the tenant at the end of the statutory term. In regard to the forms of procedure dealt with in the Bill the Opposition would be more willing than the Government to deal with that question, and the landlords would be as willing not only to support, but to enlarge, the procedure for decreasing the 812 cost of rent-fixing in Ireland. One point in the Bill not mentioned hitherto in the Debate, was that of sub-letting. This subject had given rise to great discontent among members of his constituency. Tenants did not like being compelled either to evict a subtenant or to forfeit their position under the Land Acts. Sub-lettings were, it must be remembered, accomplished facts, and nobody wished to evict these subtenants wholesale. He contended that if a farm were substantially within the spirit of the Land Acts, it was not fair that the tenants should be excluded from those Acts. Dealing next with the question of mill holdings, he said that this was a question which excited a great deal of interest in Ulster. Public opinion in the north of Ireland had admitted that cases like these ought to be admitted into the Land Acts, and he did not believe there would be much opposition to their inclusion. Another class of tenants were excluded. Under the Act of 1891 a large number of perpetuity tenants were admitted to the Land Acts, including fee-farm grantees. Under a technicality in the state of the law which existed before 1860 a certain number of those tenants had been excluded from the Act. Legislation was needed to put this omission right, because it was a matter which had excited a great deal of heartburning among those men who were some of the best tenants in Ulster. When there was a complicated system of real property law, it was inevitable that a certain number of consequences should follow, resulting from the application of the general law of the land to a new system. The man who made a settlement created sub-tenancies; then came the tenant for life who created other tenancies, and the remainderman might create another body of tenancies; but, owing to the law of settlement, tenants created by limited owner were excluded. He could not see why here and there a number of tenants should exist differing in 813 no respect from their neighbours save in this, that the owner who created their tenancy was a limited owner. Small inequalities like this created a great amount of discontent. There were also tenancies created by the mortgagor or the mortgagee in possession, and there was the case where a middleman was evicted for non-payment of rent. With reference to improvements, he said that the general principle ought to be made clear that no tenant should be rented on anything which could properly be called his own improvements. He believed, moreover, that no landlord in Ireland wished to do anything else than recognise this principle. What the landlords were afraid of was that, under the name of improvements and under the disguise of improvements, there might be deductions from rent which were not really deductions for improvements at all. This was not what the tenants of Ulster wanted. What they wanted was that what were really their improvements should receive protection He agreed entirely with that, but he did not think the Bill carried out that intention in the way they aimed at. With reference to improvement he would also mention that there were certain limitations and exceptions which had been applied to the Act of 1881 which existed in the Act of 1870, and certain of those exceptions ought certainly now to be reconsidered and some of them removed Then the question of the evicted tenants was another matter which he considered was non-contentious in the form in which it now appeared. The improvements he had enumerated he could cordially support, and they constituted, perhaps, one half of the Bill; and it was right to remember that there were some of them who, while determined to do no injustice to the landlord, considered that a considerable part of the Bill was open to no objection, and would effect improvements which would strengthen the law. Coming to the second class of objects, there were 814 grave suggestions which aimed at excellent objects—and they were matters which could be fairly dealt with, but not in the way proposed. In the first case there was the shortening of the statutory term from 15 to 10 years. In itself he offered no objection to that. It was said that they could not calculate or foresee rents over 15 years, and that was the main argument for the proposal. But, he complained, if they were going to have litigation all over Ireland every ten years, they ought to accompany that change by some really effective and cheap procedure. He knew that a great many people in Ireland thought that the shortening of the term would be of no more use to the tenant than the landlord unless the procedure was cheapened, and would benefit nobody but the solicitors. Another proposal was that villa-owners and publicans should be dealt with in the same way as millowners. He thought they were sufficiently protected by the law as it stood; he was quite willing to relax it further for the mill-owners, but he would point out that villa-owners were very often richer than landlords. They already had protection, and quite enough of it. With regard to the proposal in respect of demesne land, it was one which might be monstrously unjust in some cases. Under that subsection one gentleman might hire the demesne of another for 22 years, and at the end of the time grab it and sell it to the first comer. He could conceive hardly anything more monstrous. Let them bring agricultural tenants within the policy of the Act, but not people who were better off than the landlords, and who were never intended to benefit. Nationalist Members had found a new-born sympathy as regarded pasture holdings. In 1870 the pasture farmer was spoken of by a Nationalist Member as "a carnivorous monster who devoured the smaller people of the neighbourhood." Judge Bewley recommended that the limit should be raised from £50 815 to £100, but he (Mr. Barton) thought £200 valuation, £300 rent, was too much pasture farm to come under the Act. Pasture farmers made no improvements, and he was doubtful whether the provisions of the Bill did not go too far. As to tenants who had lost their tenancy under the eviction section of the Act of 1887, but had not lost their holdings, the Leader of the Opposition did not intend, when the eviction notices were issued, to alter the rights of the tenants in the land, and the clause of the Bill dealing with the matter went beyond the mischief at which it aimed, and should be limited strictly to grievances with which many Opposition Members sympathised. The Improvement Clause should be the best clause in the Bill, but in his opinion it was the worst. The Report of the right hon. Gentleman to the Committee was, on the whole, a fair Report, but in the hands of the Committee it grew into a very different and much more extreme document. In the clause relating to improvements provisions had been inserted which did great injustice to the landlords and little good to the tenants. The tenant wanted, above all, the provisions as to improvements put in plain and homely language. The definition of improvements given in the Bill would make confusion worse confounded. The Bill did that which every fair-minded student of the question, from Isaac Butt to Lord Herschell, had always declared ought not to be done— they had assigned to the tenant what was attributable to the inherent capacities of the soil. The clause would not be fair and just unless it embodied the principle of the words of the hem. Member for South Tyrone:—That the Commissioners did not take the capacity of the soil into consideration in fixing the rent; therefore, when the capacity of the soil had been developed by the tenant, the landlord had a claim to share the result.With reference to the time for improvements, it was understood that the limit 816 of 1850 would be applied outside the Ulster custom. When the right hon. Member for Midlothian was asked, "Why are you favouring the Ulster tenants?" he said:—I am not favouring them; but the Ulster tenants have paid for these things over and over again.Every report had called attention to frequent clearances in Ireland. There were many evictions when the 40s. freeholders were abolished and also at the time of the Famine. Farms went completely back to landlords, improvements and all. Therefore, there was strong reason why there should be a limit to presumption in point of time. With reference to the objection that statutory tenancies existed at the present time, there was a great deal to be said for it; but, if the question was to be dealt with at all, it ought to be dealt with by some such plan as in 1887. You could not adopt the monstrous plan of all at once, next year, flooding the Irish land courts with 200,000 cases. That would be so extravagant that, as the hon. Member for South Tyrone said, nothing could be worse than the results. He would now deal with some of the omissions of the Bill. As to the omission with reference to procedure, he concurred in what had been said by the hon. Member for Guild-ford. What was wanted was a cheaper and simpler procedure; and an effort would have to be made to supplement the provisions of the Bill. He regretted that the Bill did not deal in some way with land purchase. If it were said that was not dealt with by the Committee's Report, he replied neither were the evicted tenants. The Government went out of their way to deal with evicted tenants. He knew districts in which tenants wanted to become peasant proprietors, but not because the wanted to get rid of the landlord. Why were these men excluded? Because they were honest, rent-paying tenants, and that made the property so 817 valuable that the Land Purchase Acts did not offer advantages to the tenants. It was most unfortunate that the Government had not, as they easily might have, done something to help honest tenants under the Purchase Acts as well as Plan of Campaign tenants. With a large part of the Bill he substantially sympathised; there were parts in which Amendments might be made; there were other parts which he could not and would not support. If the Bill, by some compromise, were made to help tenants without injuring landlords, it would confer some advantages on the people of Ireland, and he would not grudge the Chief Secretary the opportunity of co-operating with them in making the Bill more acceptable.
§ Debate adjourned to Thursday.