§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [2nd April], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.943
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, that he rose to take part in this Debate, which was of such supreme importance to Ireland, with a feeling akin to despair. This feeling, however, was not due to any doubt entertained by him as to the course which he ought to pursue, because he had no doubt on the point. It was when he considered the difficulties lying in the path of the Bill that he almost despaired of the result. There were, in the first place, a number of Members in that House, and a large number of people outside, who were firmly convinced that the Irish tenants had already obtained more than justice at the hands of the Legislature. Then, in dealing with the subject of Irish land, they were touching a question which aroused the bitterest feelings and the most unpleasant memories in Ireland itself. There were thousands and thousands of tenants fighting against bad seasons, foreign competition, and low prices, and smarting under what they believed to be wrong legal decisions. On the other side there were landlords, with but a small margin of income left to live upon, and who saw that margin in danger of disappearing and naturally fought to preserve it. These were the last people from whom one could expect calm reasoning or sober judgment, and that added greatly to the difficulties in the way of a Bill like the present. In the third place, the measure was so complex that he feared he should be unable, not being a lawyer, to make plain to the House that which was plain to his own mind. He was glad that the leaders of the Unionist Party had resolved not to challenge a Division on the Second Reading. They had been taunted for that decision, but he did not see any ground for the taunt, the measure being one pre-eminently suited for discussion in Committee. He supported the Motion for the Second Reading because he was convinced that for Ireland itself, and for the Union, there was no safety except in a manly and resolute endeavour to grapple with the land question upon lines just both to the landlord and tenant. He would first refer to the question of procedure which the Chief Secretary had announced his intention of dealing with in Committee. The Irish landlords took a sound objection to the Bill as read a first 944 time, their complaint being that the present procedure was costly, slow, and cumbrous, and that the Chief Secretary had not attempted to remedy this evil. He rejoiced, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman had announced his intention to take the subject in hand in Committee. What was the present procedure for the fixing of a fair rent? A tenant wishing to have a rent fixed served an originating notice on the Land Commission. That notice went before a sub-Commission, comprising a legal gentleman and two agricultural experts. The tenant had usually to fee a lawyer to fight his case, and, if either landlord or tenant disagreed with the finding, there was an appeal to the head Commission. Other lawyers had to be feed, another legal fight took place, and costs were run up, which often exceeded greatly the reduction of rent granted. That was a costly proceeding. In its place the Chief Secretary proposed that the tenant should serve an originating notice on the Land Commission, which notice was to cost 1s. The Commission would then send down to the holding two valuers. In non-contentious cases, involving no complicated questions of improvement, the decision of these valuers might and probably would be accepted. Thus, in non-contentious cases, the whole costs incurred either by the landlord or the tenant would not exceed 1s. When, however, either the landlord or the tenant declined to accept the decision of the two valuers the right hon. Gentleman proposed that an appeal should lie to a sub-Commission Court constituted as now, and he stipulated that this Court of Appeal should consist of the permanent servants of the Land Commission, and they would therefore be the very men whom the Land Commission appointed now as Court valuers in appeal cases. Cases of appeal on points of law were, of course, to be reserved for the Judicial Commissioner, as at present. He thought the proposal a reasonable and fair one, and one that neither the landlord nor the tenant should object to. Passing to the Bill itself, and without beating about the bush, he would go to what was the kernel of the Bill—namely, the 5th clause, which dealt with the question of improvements. What was an improvement? He admitted the definition of an improvement in this 945 Bill differed somewhat from the definition of an improvement in the Act of 1870. According to the Act of 1870 an improvement must be "suitable to the holding." Those words were left out of this Bill, and he approved of the omission, for the presence of the words had worked injustice. The landlords and their representatives contended that the present definition of an improvement made "every expenditure of capital or labour which increased the letting value of the holding" an improvement. They argued that that was a new departure, and that it was unjust. In the first place, he demurred to the statement that ordinary tillage and cultivation would increase the letting value of the holding; it would do nothing of the kind, and no Commission would hold that it would. It was quite true that tillage of a high character would increase the letting value, but where it occurred it was protected in the Act of 1870; the definition of improvement there covered the question of tillage and manures that were unexhausted. He did not believe the phrase "every expenditure of capital or labour that increases the letting value of the holding" would cover ordinary tillage or cultivation, and he maintained that it ought not to do so. If the Chief Secretary intended it to do that he demurred, and for the reason that the tenant got the benefit of his ordinary tillage and cultivation in his crops, and had no right to get it a second time at the expense of the landlord by way of improvement. If that was what the Bill really meant, the landlord's interest ought to be protected by the addition of the words, "except ordinary tillage and cultivation." The next sub-section, dealt with the question of increased letting value. That was a question of comparatively little importance so far as the practical working of the Land Acts was concerned; but, inasmuch as it had been raised, and the landlords attached great importance to it, he desired to make his position quite clear. Sub-section 3 of Clause 5 was, to his mind, the most enigmatic piece of print he ever read. The other night the hon. Member for Cavan, who knew just as much about casuistry as most people, declared—and he had great sympathy with the hon. Member's contention—that that sub-section as it stood would give far more to the landlord than he got now 946 under the law. He was quite certain that if the sub-section were passed six months would not go by before there was a greater Adams and Dunseath case than ever there had been in the history of land in Ireland; and, not wishing to see that, he believed the sub-section could not be allowed to pass as it stood. What did the sub-section mean viewed in the light of the actual practice of the Land Commission? What was proved before the Committee upstairs was that when a rent was to be fixed, there was, first of all, a hearing in the Court, and then the two agricultural experts went upon the land. If they came upon a house and out-offices they simply ignored their existence unless the landlord claimed them. It was so much a matter of ordinary notoriety that the buildings belonged to the tenant that in 95 cases out of 100 the fact was unchallenged, and the Commissioners never took the slightest notice of a house on the land, and no rent was fixed upon it. If the Commissioners came across drainage work or reclamation the tenant had to prove the actual improvement work; it was not enough for him to say that a field was drained or that laud had been reclaimed, but he had to prove that the work had been done and what it cost. After the tenant had done that the Commissioners allowed him a certain percentage upon his expenditure. So far as the overwhelming majority of cases was concerned that really covered the equity of the case, and if the transaction were not governed by the 4th section of the Act of 1870, if it took place solely under the fair rent section of the Act of 1881 by itself, he should consider it a very fair proceeding, and, upon the whole, reasonably satisfactory. But in the small number of cases in which there was an increased letting value over and above the percentage which the Commissioners allowed to the tenant on his expenditure, a great controversy had arisen. There were three legal Commissioners. [Mr. J. MORLEY: "Four."] The fourth had not sat for a long time; he never left the office. There were three who were examined before the Committee. He asked Mr. Greer—question 8,149—Where you have decided this question of increased letting value, what has been your legal direction to the lay Commissioners?947 "My legal direction," he replied, "has been to them to give a percentage in a case of that kind of 5 or 6 per cent. upon the actual cost, and nothing more." All the rest went to the landlord. According to Mr. Greer, the landlord received the whole of the unearned increment, or, as the Law Courts in Ireland called it, the increased letting value. There was another legal Commissioner examined—Mr. Laurence Doyle. He was a very tough customer indeed. Whatever prejudices he had could not be fairly said to be prejudices in favour of the tenant. He made no charge against Mr. Doyle, who gave his evidence in a most straightforward manner; he was a very able witness, and impressed every Member of the Committee. The hon. Member for North Kerry asked the witness:—At any rate, where the improvements give a letting value over the interest, the rest of the letting value goes to the landlord?Mr. Doyle, cautious as he was said—"I do not admit that in every case." The hon. Member replied, "But that is the law is it not?" Mr. Doyle — "I should say it is." The House would see how cautious he was; he was not to entrapped. At all events, he was forced to admit that whatever he did as a legal Commissioner that was the law he was bound to administer—namely, that where unearned increment arose it belonged to the landlord. The third legal Commissioner examined was Mr. Bailey. He asked that gentleman, "Is this your procedure under Adams and Dunseath? It is proved that a tenant has expended £100 on improving his holding, that the expenditure has increased the letting value of the land from, say, 10s. to 15s. an acre. Is it the law that you will simply deal with the £100, and that the whole of the increased letting value will go to the landlord?" Mr. Bailey replied, "That is the law." He had elaborated the point, because very great efforts were being made to confuse this simple issue They were told that certain lay Commissioners divided the unearned increment. What he wanted to impress on the House was that this was a question of law, and not of value at all. So far as it was a question of law under Adams and Dunseath, it was for the judgment of the legal Commissioners, and not for the judgment of the lay Commissioners, 948 and he affirmed that during the 14 years that had run since the Land Act of 1881 was passed the landlord had received in all these cases, be they few or many, and he thought they were few, that to which he was not entitled by law. He said that on the authority of Lord Justice FitzGibbon, who told the Committee—Being suitable and ameliorative they (the improvement works) of course increase its letting value. But the works are one thing and the increased letting value another. The works executed by the tenant are wholly his and are to be completely protected and secured against confiscation, whether by imposition of rent on them or otherwise. But, so far as these works may have brought out latent powers and capacities of the soil and so increased its letting value, that increased value does not necessarily belong to the tenant.Asked whether he meant that this increased letting value should go to the landlord, Lord Justice FitzGibbon said—Not only not the whole of it, but in every passage (in the judgment on Adams Mr. Dunseath) in which it is referred to it is stated that the interest of landlord and tenant in that remainder was to be had regard to.The landlord party in the House had been hurling charges of confiscation against the Government and against hon. Members who were supporting the Bill. But he said, on the evidence of the officials charged with the administration of the Act of 1881, on the evidence of one of the Judges who had decided the case of Adams v. Dunseath, and who probably was one of the ablest judges on the Irish or any other Bench, that the Irish landlords had for 14 years been receiving a share of this unearned increment which did not belong to them according to law. This matter probably concerned the north of Ireland more than the south, because those cases arose more in the north than in, the south; but the view of the tenants, north and south, was that, while the soil and its inherent capacities belonged to the landlord, the landlord, in letting to them the land for 15 years, let also its inherent capacities, and that therefore, the result of what they might choose to do with the land during that period belonged to them and them alone. In that view he did not, however, agree. He desired simply to stand as a juror indifferent between the parties, and to try to do his duty at once to the House 949 and to the landlords and tenants respectively. He did not, therefore, agree with the tenants' view, though it was strongly held by the tenants of Ulster. If the Land Commissioners, in fixing rent, took into account the improvability of the soil and its inherent capacities, he should say the tenants were entitled to the whole result. But that was precisely what the Land Commissioners did not do. He was bound to say that if the Land Commissioners did do so they would double the rent of Ireland. They dealt with the land as it stood; they calculated its carrying powers at the moment, whether in corn or cattle, and they never considered the question what the land would produce if it were in the hands of an enterprising tenant with capital. Therefore, as the Land Commissioners fixed the rent on the land as it stood, he said it was the tenant's for 15 years; but at the end of that term the Commissioners, on going on the land and finding it improved, ought to judicially decide in each case how much of the improvement was due to the expenditure of the tenant and how much was due to the capacities of the soil which belonged to the landlord, and so in determining the rent decide what the landlord ought to get and what the tenant ought to get. That was his view of the question. The House, however, should never forget that the question was more academic than real. [Nationalist Cries of "No, no."] The Commissioners examined upstairs agreed that it was academic, and some of them stated they had never met a case in which the point was raised. An issue of far greater importance was the question of the occupation-right of tenants. He would like to know what was meant by the fourth sub-section, which directed the Land Commissioners to have regard to the interest of the tenant in fixing rents. If the Chief Secretary meant by the occupation-right or interest of tenants the difference between a competitive rent and a fair rent, he thought regard ought to be paid to it; and, indeed, regard was paid to it even now, for no one proposed to fix a competitive rent in Ireland, because, as Mr. Doyle had said before the Committee, that was a rent which no one could pay. If the Chief Secretary meant that the tenant in possession was 950 to get consideration which was not extended to a man who simply walked on to the land without paying anything, he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman; and the whole of the evidence before the Committee showed that regard was paid to this point in the fixing of the rents. But the Irish landlords put a very different interpretation on the fourth sub-section, with, he should say, something like just reason. Lord Waterford, for instance, was clearly of opinion, according to his published letters on the question, that it meant that, when a fair rent had been arrived at, a reduction should be made on account of occupation right or interest. It would, therefore, be better to make the matter quite clear. He had stated, over and over again, that all he wanted in this matter was to make the Land Act of 1881 carry out the intentions of its authors. This question of occupation right was fully discussed in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords during the consideration of the Act of 1881. Speaking on August 10, 1881, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian said:—They [the Lords] had introduced into Clause 7 expressions which led to the belief that the value of the tenant's interest was to be deducted from the fair rent before the fair rent was fixed. That the Government had always disclaimed. The Government denied that any deduction was to be made They believed that the tenant's interest should be fairly estimated on its own ground under Clause 1, and the fair rent similarly estimated under Clause 7.Speaking again on August 15 the right hon. Gentleman said:—When these words came before the Lords (i.e. the interest of landlord and tenant respectively) they were viewed as being intended to bring in again an idea which the Government had always emphatically disclaimed—viz., that the value of the tenant's interest in the holding was to be legitimately deducted from the rent which would be otherwise due to the landlord.Lord Selborne, in the Lords, said on the same question of occupation-right:—On the one side and on the other it would be the duty of the Court not to lay a rent upon the tenant because of the value of the tenant-right in the market, and, on the other hand, not to deduct from the landlord rent justly due because of the value of the tenant-right in the market.If, therefore, Lord Waterford's construction of the sub-section was right, it was a departure from the clearly expressed intentions of the authors of the Act of 951 1881. It was never intended that this question of occupation-right should be considered in estimating a fair rent. In the Court the question had never arisen. The hon. Member for North Kerry asked Mr. Doyle before the Committee:—You do not think that the legal revolution made by the Act of 1881 entitling the tenant to perpetual occupation marks any difference in his interest as should affect the rent?Mr. Doyle replied:—I do not. It gives him a saleable interest as between himself and the landlord.The hon. Member for East Mayo asked Judge Neligan if the valuer ever deducted anything in respect of occupation-right, and the reply was this—No, I have never heard of such a thing. Since the Act came into operation I have been administering it, and I have never been asked to do anything of the kind.The truth was that this bombshell had not been thrown into the camp by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, but it was thrown into the Committee by the Judicial Commissioner, Mr. Justice Bewley, and whatever blame arose Mr. Justice Bewley must take upon his own shoulders. What did Mr. Justice Bewley say? He (Mr. Russell) never saw such a conclusion drawn from such a premiss before. This Judge, before the Committee upstairs, quoted these words from the judgment of Lord Justice FitzGibbon in the case of Adams v. Dunseath:—I guard myself, as the Master of the Rolls has done, from saying that the whole surplus profit belongs to the landlord, as I do not desire to prejudge the question which is not now before us, but which may hereafter arise, whether the tenant under the Acts of 1870 and 1881 has not an interest in the holding over and above his statutory tenure and right of compensation.Lord Justice FitzGibbon thus expressly guarded himself from giving any opinion on the matter, but, paraphrasing his observations, Mr. Justice Bewley said—I interpret you as saying if, after making allowance to the tenant in rent for his improvements, there remain any improved value the whole 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, which may be taken into account in fixing the rent.In other words Mr. Justice Bewley calmly assumed that which Lord Justice Fitz Gibbon had expressly guarded him 952 self against. The short and long of this occupation-right was clearly expressed by the right hon. Member for Midlothian in 1881, who said that the tenant's interest was guarded and protected in Clause 1; it was there made a marketable and saleable commodity to the highest bidder. It was not a question which was to be taken into account in fixing the rent; it was an asset Parliament had conferred on the tenant which he was at liberty to sell and which was a valuable property. He objected to the subsection on a totally different ground from that stated by Lord Waterford. What was the position of an Ulster tenant? Suppose he went to the Court to get a fair rent fixed, proved that he had made many improvements, and then said he had an occupation right in the holding, which he valued at £500, and that he claimed a reduction on account of that. There were sub-Commissioners who would hold that that was ground for increasing instead of decreasing the rent. If that was the meaning that was to be put upon the occupation right in this sub-section, he said it was indefensible.
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY, New-castle-upon-Tyne)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I will remind him and the House that that is the very interpretation I expressly repudiated the other night.
§ *Mr. T. W. RUSSELL
expressed the hope that whoever spoke for the Government would tell them what they really meant by this occupation-right, and how it was to be taken into account. Turning to sub-section 7 of Clause 5, he came to the question of presumption as to the ownership of improvements. The landlords said that this sub-section spelled prairie value. He thought the landlords and their friends were needlessly alarmed at the sub-section. On every Ulster custom estate the presumption without exception and limitation of any kind went back to the creation of the world if necessary. Had they got prairie value in Ulster as the result of the presumption being unfettered and unrestricted? Was there a man who would dare to propose to take that presumption away from Ulster or to touch the Ulster custom even with his little finger? So far from this presumption in Ulster having produced prairie value, 953 it had produced higher rents than those of Minister, Leinster, or Connaught. The operation of the Law now was governed by Section 5 of the Act of 1870. Some people imagined that the Chief Secretary had invented these words for the first time, but 25 years ago this House expressly enacted that the improvements on a farm should be the tenant's until the contrary was proved. There were five or six exceptions— leaseholders, for example, and a man whose valuation was over £100 not being given this presumption. He might be told that this was barred by the year 1850. A tenant who applied for a reduction of rent claimed, say, the house and out-offices on the ground that they had been built by himself or his predecessor in title. But if the landlord asserted that the house was built before 1850 the presumption disappeared, and unless the tenant could legally prove that the house was built by his predecessor in title the landlord got rent upon it. That was an every-day occurrence, and it happened only last week in Ulster that in five distinct cases where the houses plainly belonged to the tenants they were rented for the benefit of the landlord. That was how the present law operated to the detriment of the tenant. They did not hear anything about confiscation when that occurred. It was only when they proposed to lay hands on the sacred ark of landlordism that those dreadful epithets were heard. Was the house not of as much value to the tenant as to the landlord? The landlord or his predecessor had never put the stones there nor carried the mortar which welded them together, and what right had he to have the benefit of the house? What was it but confiscation for him to claim it or thus bar the tenant's claim to it? This clause would not work the damage that the landlords imagined. He said the House had a right to secure the buildings to the tenants who had made them. Supposing this clause were in operation and the tenant claimed for drainage and reclamation and relied upon presumption. Presumption was only applicable to visible improvements. The first thing he would have to do would be to prove, not only that he did the improvement work, but what it cost and all about it. How was the tenant to 954 go behind 1850 to prove anything of the kind? In Ulster, on estates outside the Ulster custom, claims were made in which the tenant was unable to give the necessary legal proof. This section did not mean prairie value. It literally gave the tenant what was his due; he had in the main made the improvements, and he ought not to be put to expense and trouble which ought to fall by right on the landlord. He wished to say that even here he was disposed, if the landlords still maintained their ground, to compromise the matter, subject to the buildings being first secured for the tenant. There were two other short points in connection with this clause before lie finished with it. A small sub-section dealt with contracts by tenants not to claim, on quitting their holdings, compensation for any improvement made by them, and provided that no such contract by a tenant nor anything in the Act of 1870 should authorise the allowance of any rent in respect of any improvement. He was glad to see this sub-section. Landlords before the Act of 1870 would not grant leases to their tenants, but afterwards gave them willingly. Why was this? He had a lease in his hand the other night. The whole gravamen of that lease lay in one clause by which the tenant contracted himself out of the Act of 1870 or any other Act in regard to claiming for improvements. It might be asked why tenants signed such leases. The answer was that they did so in the way that Irish farmers signed anything to remain on the land, and not be driven out to earn their livelihood elsewhere. He thanked the Government for their courage in inserting that sub-section, by which they said that these covenants would not in future be worth the paper they were written on. People talked of confiscation. How many improvements, he would ask, had landlords in Ireland confiscated under such clauses in their tenants' leases as the one he had referred to? Proceeding now to the next and last sub-section of Clause 5, and dealing with the assertion, of the hon. Member for South Antrim on the point to the effect that Parliament intended that Section 4 of the Act of 1870 should be read into the Act of 1881, he would point out that the late Sir Stafford 955 Northcote on 10th August 1881 moved an Amendment in these words:—The Court Shall take into consideration the time during which such tenant may have enjoyed the advantage of those improvements, and also the rent at which such holding has been held, and any benefits which such tenant may have received from his landlord, in consideration, expressly or impliedly, of the improvements made.That Amendment, embodying Section 4 of the Act of 1870, was rejected by a majority of 130.
§ MR. W. G. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said, that he quoted to the House the distinct question then put to the Attorney General by Mr. Gibson (now Lord Ashbourne) as to whether he was to understand that the Act of 1870 was to apply to all the provisions in the Bill then before the House, and it was distinctly stated that the Act of 1870 was intended to be read in.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, that it was very inconvenient for any one to quote HANSARD without having it by him. He was now going to quote from HANSARD, vol. 264, p. 1,489, where the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Midlothian, speaking on the Amendment of Sir Stafford Northcote, said:—The doctrine accepted at the time of the Land Act of 1870, and which he certainly declined to accept the night before, was the doctrine that the enjoyment by the tenant for a certain time of his improvements might have reimbursed him for the cost of those improvements, and by a natural process they passed to the landlord. But that was not the basis upon which they proceeded now, and there was no occasion for it. The tenant's improvement's were the tenant's own property, and he would not admit the principle that the time during which he had enjoyed those improvements was any reason for their passing away from him.Could there be any clearer statement upon the point than the rejection of that Amendment proposed by Sir S. North cote and that statement of the author of the Act of 1881? It was a fact which could not be disputed that, in the main the tenants, and not the landlords, had made improvements on the land in Ireland, though where the landlord had made the improvements he ought to get protection in Court. He was in favour of the law following the facts am putting a difficulty in the way of the man who wished to grab the improvements from another. If the landlord 956 could prove his expenditure on the improvements, he would still be able to get the benefit of them. Turning to the cases of exclusion which the Member for Mid Armagh thought rather hard and cruel in reference to demesne lands, he would remind him that this Bill only proposed to go back to the old law of demesne lands as laid down by Lord Fitzgerald. In regard to pasture holdings, he considered that to be a matter for compromise. When the landlords' representatives so foolishly retired from the Land Acts Committee last year—the most foolish thing that was ever done by them—he and the hon. Member for Louth fought the matter out, and arrived at £200 as a compromise on this question. In regard to the big graziers who lived in Dublin, they were not eligible under the clause of the Bill and never would be. He quite recognised that the cattle trade in 1881 and in 1895 were two different things, and in many cases the smaller graziers were in as bad a plight as the tillage farmers. But all the points in regard to them could be debated without any heat. As to sub-letting, that was largely an Ulster question. Subdivision and subletting were, no doubt, evils; and anyone who attempted to extend those evils would be doing a very questionable thing for Ireland. But those were evils which existed now, and to which the landlords had, in fact, assented all round. It was only when the farmer who had sublet came in to get a fair rent fixed that the landlord turned up and grew eloquent over the evils of subletting. The clause in the Bill would effectually prevent many of the evils arising from subletting and subdivision, and practically confined those evils to the present state of things. In regard to town parks, he wished to protest against the Courts, ever since the Act of 1881, having been engaged in deliberately narrowing down the definition of a "town." What had the Court of Appeal done? In a case within his own constituency they had given a decision which simply meant this—that every hamlet at a crossroads in Ireland which might have the characteristics of a town—having, that was to say, a church and a school-house. [An HON. MEMBER: "And a public-house."] He did not know about that—and where a demand for accommodation 957 land arose—and where did not that arise?— wherever these things came about, that was a town within the meaning of the Act, and was surrounded by a zone of privileged land. That was absolute nonsense. The Courts had been engaged for the last 23 years in deliberately narrowing the Act of 1881, and the privileges of those who should have been under the Land Act. Whatever the House of Commons did, it ought to make it impossible for any Court in Ireland to create hamlets with the characteristics of a town at their own sweet pleasure. The Act of 1881 was never intended to cover wealthy shopkeepers who had a field in the vicinity of a town for the convenience of themselves and their families. But wherever you had a shopkeeper who held land not for convenience, but because he was a farmer and used the land in order to make a profit out of it., such land ought to be removed from the category of a town park altogether. This was largely, in his opinion, a question of definition. As to the alteration of the statutory term of 10 years, he could see no dispute of a serious character arising upon it, and there he was heartily with the Chief Secretary; but there was a serious question when they approached the proposed abridgment to fixtures already running under the 15 years' limit. It was a serious thing to break a judicial contract any day. It was one of the worst lessons they could teach the people of Ireland. Then there was the question of the British taxpayer. For his part, he would not allow any scruples about the British taxpayer to stand in the way of any reform in Ireland, but he thought the British taxpayer, if he was on the alert, might have something to say about this. The Land Commission had cost a million sterling since 1881. The British taxpayer might say:—We have spent a million of money making judicial contracts in Ireland that have been broken twice in 10 years; what is the use of doing anything of the kind; Let them make their own contracts.The British taxpayer might send them back in Ireland to free contract. It would be better to let the British taxpayer repose quietly, and not rouse his suspicions. By allowing the cases to come in as the 15 years' statutory period expired, there would be 45,000 cases due 958 in November next; if they broke existing contracts, and allowed the 10-years' limit to apply to these also, there would be 240,000 cases coming in, in November next. That would mean a block in the Land Courts. It meant that there must, perforce, be appointed an army of temporary commissioners to administer the new Act. Probably it would be a way of settling the evicted tenants question to appoint some of them commissioners. He admitted there was a good deal to be said in favour of this proposal, because the rents fixed between 1881 and 1886, both inclusive, were now admitted on all hands to be excessive rents. The Chief Secretary had had a choice of difficulties. Doubtless he had chosen the course of least resistance. Personally, he should have been glad if the Chief Secretary had adopted the plan of allowing a temporary abatement on rents fixed between 1881 and 1887; but, looking at the difficulties on both sides, he should not offer serious opposition to this clause in the Bill. The proposal with regard to future tenancies he welcomed. It was reasonable and moderate, and no landlord ought reasonably to object to it. He did not know why the landlords should object, either, to doing away with the right of pre-emption. To begin with, the right of pre-emption did not exist on estates where the Ulster custom prevailed. An Ulster tenant did not sell under the Act of 1881; he sold under the custom. Did any great grievance arise? He admitted frankly that the practice of giving large sums for tenant-right was a bad one. But not only did the right of pre-emption not exist in Ulster, but there was the stronger fact that where it did exist the landlord had not used it, so that the privilege was useless for its purpose. The right was unused. He observed that the landlords objected to the part of the Bill relating to the evicted tenants, because it did not give them two votese instead of one. If they did not want to take back an evicted tenant they had only to say so, and the proceedings were at an end. But if they cared to take him back, they said they ought to have another veto in case the Land Commission fixed too low a price. That was asking too much. It was perfectly plain, however, what the Irish landlords dreaded. They dreaded the price being fixed by one man. Why not allow the 959 Judicial Commissioner and two other Commissioners to exercise it? This, he submitted, was not a question on which the Government ought to stand. The words "revolutionary" and "confiscatory" had been freely used on the other side of the House. Well, confiscation was rather an awkward word for the representatives of the Irish landlords. He knew their position now. He did not desire to embitter it. Before, and up to 1870, they were masters of the situation. The tenant then had on legal interest in the land, no legal property of any kind whatever in the soil. His wretched position was often assuaged, he admitted, by kindness, by generosity on the part of the landlord, but at the best it was a position of absolute serfdom; and even the Ulster custom, which the landlords ate into as far as they could, often failed to protect the men of the north. These bitter days for the Irish tenant were gone for ever. They spoke of rents which were fixed at the famine time and had never been changed since. What was the basis? Every rent was fixed on the tenants' improvements. They denied the justice of any comparison between English and Irish rents. So did he. In the one case it was a farm fully furnished and equipped by the landlord; in the other it was the bare soil. The Irish tenant had, undoubtedly, passed into a new atmosphere. He at last was a free man. How he used that freedom was another thing. He had shown that in the past he had been ready to resist lawlessness oven where it was born of despair. His position had been complicated in this matter by an ungenerous attack made upon him the other night by a supporter of the Government. That hon. Member was not ashamed to taunt him and say that he acted as he did now because he was afraid of his seat. He held for the Unionist Party a perilous and a coveted seat. He valued it highly. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, acting within their undoubted rights, had fought him twice with their best men, and he had no doubt they would do so again. But he declared now—and the declaration would be read in every corner of Ulster tomorrow—that if he could only hold that or any other seat by acting dishonourably towards any class, then he should welcome exclusion from the House of Commons. Since the First Reading of this 960 Bill he had been in Ireland. He had been in the midst of his constituents. He had conferred with the representatives of the Ulster tenants in Belfast—with men who understood the Bill and the question. They were reasonable men; they were prepared to act in a reasonable spirit. And, while supporting cordially, heartily, and strenuously the Second Reading of this Bill, he said now that when the Committee stage was reached he should endeavour to stand indifferent between the two parties to this great issue. He should see to it, so far as his vote could do it, that the tenant was protected fully, and in a way no Court could misunderstand, in his expenditure of capital or labour. He should, on the other hand, be as anxious to protect the landlord in all that was justly his. He recognised his difficulties—difficulties not made nor created by the, present generation, but inherited by them. It was an old issue they were trying, and if the House was weary of it, let them remember it was England which planted her system of land tenure on Irish soil. They would not be right until they retraced their steps, until single ownership had been restored; until the occupier should be the owner. Believing that this Bill would immensely facilitate this, he supported it with all his heart.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
sympathised with many of the views which had been expressed by his hon. Friend, and perhaps if his hon. Friend were responsible for the conduct of the Bill in Committee, it might be expected to assume ultimately a shape which even he could support. He did uot believe there was a landlord in Ireland who had ever tried to coerce the hon. Gentleman in his views. [Mr. T. W. RUSSELL: "Hear, hear!"] Knowing his views on the land question, the landlords had sunk their own opinions and had given his hon. Friend a loyal support. But it would not be the views of his hon. Friend which would govern the action of the Government; it would be the dictation of hon. Gentlemen from Ireland by whose support they remained in Office. In order to judge, therefore, what the action would be, they had to find out what hon. Gentlemen said on the subject of the land question when they were on the other side of the channel. In studying 961 the speeches of hon. Gentlemen, he could not say that that study led him to believe that, when the Bill was in Committee, the Government, on the main points upon which the landowners agreed, would be allowed to "back down." He did not believe, however, that the Government meant this Bill to become law. He had occupied a seat in the House at different times for 20 years, and during that period he had enjoyed the pleasure of listening to some of the greatest statesmen in modern times bringing forward some of the most complicated and most important measures that ever occupied the attention of Parliament. He had recognised from their speeches that they realised the different interests which those, measures affected, and they sought at any rate to conciliate the support of those who might oppose them. But, with this experience of previous statesmen, he gave the claim of absolute originality to the method adopted of bringing forward a difficult and contentious measure to the present Chief Secretary. There was a marked difference in the tone of the speech in which the right hon. Gentleman moved the First Reading and the tone adopted in moving the Second Reading. The First Reading speech was a very moderate one, so moderate that he had expressed the hope when he saw the Bill in print to be able to give fair consideration and possible support to it. In the Second Beading speech the right hon. Gentleman admitted that the Bill was of a contentious character and full of difficulties. At the very starting-point the Chief Secretary executed a sort of oratorical war-dance before his enemies. The right hon. Gentleman divided the representatives from Ireland into two classes. He said:—In this House we were fortunate to possess some of the ablest and most ingenious Representatives of the tenants.He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman. He admired the ability of his compatriots, and no one could deny their ingenuity. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on:—The landlords were represented in this House by a row of Queen's Counsel;and, referring to his hon. and learned 962 Friend, the Member for the Dublin University, the Chief Secretary added:—The hon. and learned gentleman made a speech full of that rather mechanical and automatic violence which is sometimes called forensic, and of which Irish lawyers have a large command, but which neither helps any question forward nor keeps any question back.He could not conceive a more useless kind of Queen's Counsel than that. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to describe the other Representatives of the land-owning class in the House:—One or two lay spokesmen who, I regret to think, represent that irreconcilable junta 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.Why did the right hon. Gentleman call the land-owning Representatives blind? He supposed because they had never yet succeeded in seeing the beauty of placing Ireland under the government of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. Then they were described as being unteachable. Well, there were lessons which it was hard to teach to Irish landlords—say, for instance, that it was a pleasing process to be skinned. Under this Bill the landlord had no protection; and it was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which had led him to think, firstly, that the Bill was never meant to pass, and, secondly, that he had been improving his vocabulary by taking lessons from his friends below the Gangway. Speaking as a layman, he declared that the Bill, if passed as it now stood, would bring about a revolution, for it would utterly sweep away and destroy one class of Irishmen. It was all very well for the Chief Secretary to say what he meant, but the Irish Courts, in interpreting the Act, would not first try to find out what the right hon. Gentleman, or even the Government, meant. They would take the letter of the measure as it stood, and the result would be that the property of the landlord would be confiscated, and that it would be impossible for him any longer to live in his native country. He looked upon the first clause of the Bill, limiting to ten years the period of judicial rents, as specially designed to satisfy the wants and requirements of the lawyers. They would reap a crop every 10 years instead of every 15. The expenses would 963 come mainly out of the pockets of the landlords, but he believed that the amount which would be paid by the tenants in this respect would more than swallow up any benefit they would deirve from the operation of the clause. But the most important provision in the Bill was Subsection 2 of Clause 5, which enacted that "improvement" should include every expenditure of capital or labour on or in respect of the holding which increased its letting value. That meant prairie value—that the land was to be valued as if nothing had been done to it. The hon. Member for South Tyrone said that some landlords would be very lucky if they got prairie value. That would depend on the kind of prairie. When Cromwell settled his soldiers in Ireland the rent of grass-land was a sheep an acrea. If he could get prairie value of that sort for his land it would be an excellent thing for him, but the prairie value within the meaning of this Bill was the value of the game on the land in the days of Brian Boru. The Bill would sweep away practically the whole of the rent of every landlord in the country, and it was not a matter of wonder, therefore, that they should look upon it as a revolutionary measure which would destroy the present social conditions in Ireland. But that was not all. If the landlord were allowed prairie value he would get something. But the Bill brought in the occupation interest, and that was the finish. That provision was defended solely on the ground that Judge Bewley said occupation interest was now taken into consideration. That threw some light on the practice of valuing land in Ireland. They never before understood how it was done. They knew that two or three men came to the land. They looked at it, sometimes they tasted it, they invariably smelt it, and, having done so, they decided, according to the humour which they were in, on a reduction of 25, 30, or even 35 per cent. Now, they knew that these men took into consideration not only the character of the land and of the improvements of the tenant, but also his occupation interest. Was it not monstrous, because a farm was let low and consisted of good land, being therefore a valuable asset in the market, that another slice should be taken off the owner's rent? The combination of the 964 provisions in regard to prairie value of the occupation interest were in themselves enough to sweep away all the rents of the landlords of Ireland. The position of hon. Members below the Gangway was logical. They had always stated that they wanted to hunt the landlords out of Ireland. Therefore, as the Bill was drafted under the influence, if not under the supervision, of these hon. Gentlemen, he could not put upon the fifth clause the harmless interpretation which the hon. Member for South Tyrone was inclined to put upon it. This clause was the sting as well as the marrow of the Bill. It was the "scorcher" of which the hon. Member for Cork had spoken, and if carried into law it would drive the landlords from Ireland. With regard to the evicted tenants, he could answer for the landlords that, unless some change were made in the proposals of the Bill, there would be an effectual liar to the reinstatement of any of these tenants. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Because under the clause in the Bill the very fact of a landlord consenting to take back an evicted tenant would place him at the mercy of the Commissioners; and there was no landlord, no matter how willing he might be to see these men restored to their holdings, who would run the risk of placing himself at the mercy of men who had never, up to the present, shown much sympathy with him.
MR. J. MORLEY
May I point out to my hon. and gallant Friend that the clause contemplates the possibility of an agreement between the landlord and tenant, such as may take place now?
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, he was aware of that, but if the landlord gave his consent, under the clause all further power was taken out of his hands. He was entirely at the mercy of the Commissioners, and that, to his mind, was an absolute bar to any settlement in a satisfactory manner of the question of the evicted tenants. He had taken up this Bill in no unfriendly spirit, because he had been more or less disarmed by the speech with which the right hon Gentleman moved the First Reading; he had hoped that he should have been able to give the Bill his support and help to make it a really good Bill. They all acknowledged that 965 a Bill was necessary—that was conceded; but the present Bill was not one which he could support. That which struck him, after reading through the Bill, was the language contained in the the Preamble, and he believed that in the Preamble they would find the reason why the Bill was brought in. This, it was stated, was a Bill further to amend the law relating to the occupation and ownership of land in Ireland, and for other purposes relating thereto, and if those other purposes had not been before the minds of the Government and their Irish allies they never would have had this Bill brought into the House of Commons. Those other purposes were—to sweep the landlords away, and to try, if possible, to throw down a bone of contention in Ulster over which the Unionist Party would fight; and those other purposes, depend upon it, had been the leading and guiding motive which had brought this Bill into the House. The Ulster farmers, however much they might desire that protection which he himself was quite ready to accord them, would never allow a bribe, no matter how highly flavoured, to win them from that solid formation which they had taken up in confronting their opponents. That, he believed, would be proved at the next Election, and he was not in the least afraid of meeting his constituents, no matter what course he took upon this Bill. There would be no doubt before the Bill left Committee as to what he and his colleagues thought of its provisions; they would move Amendments giving expression to their opinions; and before the Bill left the Committee the right hon. Gentleman would be an older and a wiser man—at least he hoped so. It had been said that they did not propose to divide the House on the Second Reading because they were afraid of their constituents in Ulster, but they gained nothing by abstaining from dividing on the Second Reading. The Ulster farmers would watch their proceedings in Committee with just as much interest as they would a Second Reading Debate or Division, and would see exactly what they thought, and of what they disapproved in the Bill. But when the Bill had passed through Committee—and if they failed, as he believed they would, to carry out any material alteration in 966 those parts of the Bill which they believed to be perfectly fatal to the position of all landowners in Ireland—they would divide upon the Third Reading, and then there would be no doubt as to what they thought of its merits. The right hon. Gentleman, in a speech which he made the other day, placed the new principles which actuated his Party on Irish subjects clearly before the House. He stated that the right hon. Member for Midlothian did not desire to make a holocaust of free contract; he hoped that political economy would some day return from its far exile, but they had to deal with that part of the world called Ireland as it was. That was the answer to every argument. In regard to Ireland, everything was capsized; what was treason in one country was patriotism in Ireland; what was robbery in one country was philanthropy in Ireland. He did not look upon the Bill as a bonâ-fide measure which the Government believed would ever become law. It was another instance of ploughing the sands of the sea-shore, an agricultural operation which was first performed by Ulysses to prove that he was mad, and for the purpose he yoked to his plough an ass and a bullock. Who the ass was in the present case they knew from the confession of the Member for Northampton; which Member of the Government represented the bullock he would leave to their imagination. They had no hesitation in opposing what they did not believe to be a bonâ-fide attempt to settle this land question. If it had been bonâ-fide the right hon. Gentleman would not, on the Second Reading Debate, have breathed defiance at the landlord class and its Representatives, but would have tried to disarm opposition and shown a desire to meet any fair proposal in a fair and candid spirit. They looked upon this Bill as robbery dressed up in the flimsy covering of an Act of Parliament. Some time ago the Member for Cork had said that the landlords in Ireland were made to be hunted, and that they should be hunted until they were hunted out of Ireland. At that time Mr. Parnell managed the pack. Now they had got a new master of the hounds in the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who helped, as far as he could, to perform that operation, which, he believed, instead of bringing 967 peace, happiness, and prosperity to Ireland, would absolutely destroy it. The Bill contained principles destructive of their class, and, worst of all, it did not even offer them up on the altar of their country's prosperity, but tried to sacrifice them to the odious cry of political expediency.
[Attention was called to the fact that there were not 40 Members present. House counted and 40 Members being present,]
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, B.)
said, it appeared to him that as far as the Irish Members were concerned, the case for the Second Reading of this Bill was so strong and had been so thoroughly made out, that it was really unnecessary for them to occupy the attention of the House at any length at this stage of the Bill. There was, undoubtedly, in Ireland, an unanimous opinion in favour of some measure of this kind, and the unanimity of feeling was never more strikingly illustrated than by the statement of the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh, who himself admitted that there was a necessity for passing a Bill of the nature of that before the House. He supposed that the hon. and gallant gentleman represented the interest of the Irish landlords in the House that night; but the speech in which he replied to the hon. Member for South Tyrone was, in his opinion, absolutely the weakest defence of Irish landlordism ever put before the House. The hon. and gallant gentleman declared, towards the end of his speech, this Bill was robbery pure and simple, very slightly disguised. If that word was introduced at all in connection with this measure, it should be in connection with the action taken under the Land Acts, which had already robbed the tenants of their improvements and their interest in their holdings. The Irish landlords had commenced by opposing every Bill of this kind, but in the end they had always been obliged to admit the necessity for legislation. The hon. and gallant Member said that, if this Bill were passed into law, he would be unable to live in Ireland; but in the speech he delivered there was no sign in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's mind of any such fear. Speaking for himself, he would 968 say that the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and other landlords, would live in Ireland under much more favourable circumstances if they found the tenants around them satisfied and contented. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said, at the end of his speech, that he thought that the second part of the Bill would not succeed in accomplishing its object, and he gave as his reason, that the landlords would not consent to enter into an agreement, because they would not have a word in fixing the price to be paid for their interest in the land. It seemed to him a new state of affairs that a representative of Irish landlordism should cast doubt on the integrity of the Land Commissioners. He did not suppose that the hon. and gallant Gentleman imagined for a moment that if an agreement was come to between the landlord and an evicted tenant, the Land Commissioners would deal unfairly with the interests of the landlord. A new feature had been introduced into the Debate by the hon. Member for South Tyrone. The hon. Gentleman was representative of men in Ireland most strongly Unionist in their opinions, and was himself, perhaps, the strongest opponent of Home Rule coming from Ireland to the House; and yet he was advocating as strongly as any Nationalist Member could, the changes contemplated by the Bill before the House. The hon. Gentleman, in the course of his able speech, said that somebody, on the last occasion of this Debate, taunted him with the fact that he was to some extent a new advocate of the interests of the tenant farmers of Ireland. All he could say was, that he thought there was nothing' to be gained by recrimination of that kind, and as far as he was concerned he welcomed most heartily the intervention of the hon. Gentleman. The tenant farmers were to be congratulated on the fact that, if a Unionist in politics, the hon. Gentleman had given to the interests of the occupiers of the soil in Ireland great assistance. He could not help thinking, after listening to the speeches of the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh and of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, that it was a pity that the case for and against the Bill could not be left to those two speeches. He doubted if anybody who listened to them could come to any 969 other conclusion but that the hon. Member for South Tyrone had made out an overwhelming case in favour of some change in the law. As far as he was himself concerned, he desired to say but very little about the Bill, and he commenced by saying that he regretted exceedingly that it did not occupy the first place in the Government Programme. He did not deny the urgency of the case made out for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. He was as anxious as anybody in the House that justice should be done to the people of Wales on that question; but the question of Disestablishment in Wales was not nearly so urgent as the, question dealt with in this Bill, and it seemed to him to be to some extent a hollow proceeding to discuss this Bill at any length at the present time, because they knew perfectly well that unless some arrangement was made, which had not yet been announced, for pushing it forward, the chances were that it would not leave Committee in time to enable it to be dealt with in another place and to become law. Last year a measure dealing with Irish land was introduced into the Programme, but it did not occupy such a place as to have a chance of being passed into law. It was introduced in such a way at the end of the Session that there was very little time for its discussion, so that when it went to the House of Lords they were encouraged to reject it simply because they were able to say that it had not been properly considered in the House of Commons. The same kind of treatment was being meted out to this Bill, and unless the Government came to some arrangement to run this Bill side by side with the Welsh Bill, they might just as well save the time that would be occupied in discussing it, as there would not be time to pass it into law after the Welsh Bill was disposed of. This Bill dealt with the requirements of thousands and thousands of tenant farmers in Ireland. If the second part was to be operative it would deal with men now out of their homes, and how could any representative of the Government for a single moment get up and attempt to show that they were justified in placing a Bill dealing with the lives of the people of Ireland behind a Bill which had for its object the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales? 970 There was no excuse for the Government in this matter, and no words could adequately express the condemnation which the Government deserved in having relegated this question to a second place. The change of the statutory term from 15 to 10 years was, in his opinion, justified by the course of events. In 1887, judicial rents were interfered with by an Act of Parliament passed by a Conservative Government, and in view of that fact he could not understand how any Member, even of the Conservative Party, could find fault with the proposal to reduce the term. He cordially approved the inclusion in the scope of the Bill of those tenants who had hitherto been excluded from the benefits of the Land Acts. He referred to the holders of town parks, pastures, and demesne lands. It was not too soon to deal with these cases, for these tenants had suffered much. They had seen their neighbours receiving statutory leases and fair rent, whilst they, who were just as much entitled to the same benefit, were excluded completely from the operation of the Act of 1881. The 14th Clause of this Bill proposed to limit the time for the recovery of rent to the two years after such rent had become due. He considered it a good thing that a landlord should not be allowed to heap years upon years of arrears of rent upon a tenant and so to get the tenant completely in his power; but he feared that this particular clause might have a disastrous effect in Ireland, because it would induce landlords throughout the country to attempt, collectively and at once, to recover large arrears which it would be quite impossible for the tenants to pay. He hoped that in Committee this clause would be modified and amended, because as it stood it was a direct incitement to Irish landlords to proceed against their tenants. The second part of the Bill he viewed as wholly inadequate. The position taken up by the Government last year on the Evicted Tenants Question was, that the evicted tenants had been so treated that they were entitled to look to the State to replace them in their holdings. The Government took up the position that so much was it the duty of the State to deal with these tenants, that State money ought to be granted to facilitate their reinstatement. 971 The Bill of last year was thrown out by the Lords, and now it had been abandoned by its authors. Under the present Bill conpulsion was not to be used, and the question whether tenants should be reinstated was to be decided by voluntary settlements. But the Chief Secretary knew as well as he or the hon. Member for South Hunts, near him, did, that in the absence of compulsion, no arrangement was likely to be come to between the landlords and the evicted tenants, the victims of the war in the Plan of Campaign and other estates. The re-enactment of Clause 13 of the Land Act of 1881 was offered to the Irish tenant farmers by the Conservative Government some time ago, and if, at that time, the farmers had been advised to take advantage of the clause, they could have done so with much more success than would attach to such a provision at the present time. Could it be imagined that men like Lord Clanricarde and Lord Lansdowne, who had been carrying on a fierce and desperate struggle with their tenants at enormous cost, would voluntarily agree to reinstate the very men who had been fighting them? The Chief Secretary might say "at any rate, give the present proposal a chance. Even if it only results in the reinstatement of half-a-dozen tenants that will be better than nothing." In his opinion, that would be worse than nothing at all, because by making the measure voluntary the Government were enabling the House of Lords and its supporters to say, "See how we have been justified. Last year the Government introduced a compulsory Bill; we objected, and now the Government have abandoned compulsion, agreeing thereby that we were right in the action that we took." That argument would carry weight with a great many people who were opposed to legislation of a compulsory character. Therefore, he affirmed that it would have been better if the Government had stood by their former proposals. The Chief Secretary had been asked whether it would not be possible in cases where agreements were come to between landlords and tenants to place some money at the tenant's disposal to enable him to start afresh. The right hon. Member satisfied himself with the reply that that was a matter which the Government would consider. He assured the right 972 hon. Member that unless some money was provided it was folly to suppose that any substantial number of evicted tenants were likely to be restored to their holdings. The fact that no money was provided for the tenants would prevent agreements from being brought about. If nothing was done to provide tenants with the means of stocking their holdings the Bill would fail completely. Last year the Government proposed that compulsion should be used and that money should be granted; this year they had abandoned both those proposals, and he could not but express his disappointment in consequence. The abandonment of the position taken up last year by the Government upon the Evicted Tenants Question was likely to injure the tenants' cause. It would be better not to touch their case at all than to deal with it insufficiently and in a manner that was not practical. Sooner or later, either this Government or another would be obliged to deal with the question again, and compulsion would have to be used to compel landlords who would not reinstate their evicted tenants upon fair terms, to do so in the interests of peace, under a good Government.
§ MR. EDWARD BARRY (Cork Co., S.)
said his intervention in the Debate would be very brief. He could not help observing that the hon. and gallant Member for Armagh viewed the departure of his own class from Ireland with the greatest equanimity. He wished to view the question from the standpoint of an Irish farmer, and first he must express his sense of the inadequacy of the clause dealing with the evicted tenants. He did not hold the Chief Secretary responsible, for he did the best he could under the circumstances. He frankly confessed, however, that he regarded the merits of his Bill in its present form as completely overshadowing any defects that it might contain; but it should not be forgotten that judicial decisions often neutralised disastrously the best land legislation. The intentions of the Chief Secretary were everything that could be desired, bnt the decisions of the Court of Appeal had gone a great way towards neutralising the intentions of Parliament. It was difficult to exonerate the judges, or some of them, from the feeling of bias in favour of the landlords. But for the 973 decision in Adams v. Dunseath there would be very little need for this fresh legislation except in the matter of subletting town parks and the like. That decision, however, plucked the heart out of the Act of 1881 and left it a very useless measure indeed. From his own experience of the Act he could not say that he had ever known a case in which, to any appreciable extent, the improvements created in the soil by the tenant had been taken into account in the fixing of a fair rent. The Commissioners sat in the Court, and they went through certain formalities, and it was even said to-night that they went to the extent of testing the land, but in his experience the result had been the same; and he had not the slightest hesitation in saying that if instead of sitting in Court the Commissioners went on the farm in the first instance the result would be the same. They valued the land as they found it, regardless of the improvements made by the tenant and the predecessors in title. This vicious system put a premium on idleness, for the more a farm was neglected the more the reductions were sure to be. The Act of 1881, therefore, had proved little better than a mockery, a delusion, and a snare to good tenants. In the case of careless and bad tenants it was different; having made no improvements they got off with fair reductions. But even in these cases the reductions made were far more than counterbalanced by the fall in prices. He cited cases in support of his contention. He knew an estate where two tenants went into Court in 1882. In both cases the conditions were similar. In one case the tenant had sons who cultivated the farm and added yearly to its arable capacity. In the other case the tenant was unable to do more than cultivate the farm from year to year without effecting anything in the way of permanent improvements. The improving tenant did not succeed in getting a penny reduction, but the other tenant got a reduction of 30 per cent. He wished to add that the improving tenant got a reduction of 20 per cent. voluntarily from the agent, who saw the injustice done to the improving tenant. He considered this case typical. As to prairie value he did not think that need disturb the minds of Gentlemen above 974 the Gangway. Prairie value could not be worked out to its logical conclusion, but if it could in many cases there would have to be considerable restitution made by the landlords to the tenants. He knew farms which bore evidence that if the prairie value were applied it would not be a case of handing over the farm merely, but a good deal of restitution in addition. If under this Bill the fixing of fair rent was carried out, the rental of Ireland would be sufficiently reduced to meet the views of the Irish people without falling back on prairie value. There was one other question of special interest to him. Hereferred to town parks. He thought a population—and population was the best safeguard—of 2,000 was too exclusive. At least it should be 5,000. The hon. Member for Mid Armagh had fallen into an inaccuracy with regard to a case with which he was well acquainted. He desired to impress upon the Chief Secretary the necessity of adopting some safeguards against the recurrence of those legal decisions to which he had called attention, and also of importing some new and more sympathetic blood into the Land Commission.
§ *MR. A. H. SMITH-BARRY (Huntingdon, S.)
said, they all admitted that a Bill must be passed of some kind, and most of the Irish landlords were anxious to see a Bill proposed which they could all consider in a conciliatory manner, which would set at rest certain disputed points in connection with the Act of 1881, and which would be an amending Act in the strict sense of the word. But the Bill now before the House was not such an Act as that. The Bill appeared to him, and to all those with whom he acted on this question, to be of a confiscatory character. It would introduce the system of prairie value, and, not withstanding all that had fallen from the hon. Member for South Tyrone, they still regarded it as being a pure confiscation of landlords' property. They also thought that the Bill contrived to take from them every safeguard that was introduced into the Act of 1881 for the protection and benefit of the landlords. He presumed the Chief Secretary knew what the Bill contained, but in his speech on Monday night it seemed as if he was scarcely clear as to what the effect of many of the clauses would be. 975 He would take the sub-clause under which the tenant's right of occupation was to be taken into consideration in fixing his rent. It was scarcely necessary for him to go into the effect of that sub-clause, for, if it worked as they believed it would work, the absurdity of it had been clearly shown by the right hon. Gentleman himself and by his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin. The curious thing was that this sub-clause, interpreted as they believed it was to be interpreted, had already been acted upon by a County Court Judge in Ireland whom they had always considered as high in the counsels of the Chief Secretary. On October 10 last Judge Adams had before him in the Land Court at Limerick a tenant who applied to have a fair rent fixed on a holding of 4 acres 7 perches statute, with a rent of £3 5s. After considerable difficulty the fact was extracted that the tenant had recently purchased this holding, and had given no less a sum than £200 for the goodwill of the place. Judge Adams gave the old man a lecture upon the extreme folly of giving such a price as that, and reduced his rent to £2 10s. That was in direct anticipation of the clause in the Bill as it was interpreted by Lord Waterford and others. In the face of the possibility of such an interpretation being placed upon the clause, words should be inserted by which such a monstrous reduction as that, clearly in consequence of a preposterous price being given for a tenant right, should be prevented in the future.
MR. J. MORLEY
The hon. Member must see he has no evidence that what weighed with Judge Adams was the price the tenant paid. He may have fixed the rent on the merits of the case.
§ *MR. SMITH-BARRY
said, what were the merits of the case he could not say, but Judge Adams stated there were no buildings and no improvements of any kind, and so it was clear that what he gave the price for was the right of occupation as distinguished from any tenant's improvements on the holdings. The right hon. Gentleman told them that the principles from which this Bill, which they looked upon as far-reaching and very dangerous to the Irish landlords, sprang are contained in the Act of 1870. 976 Like his hon. Friend the Member for North Armagh, he supported that Bill throughout all its stages, but he must say it never entered into his mind that it would be possible for such a revolution to take place as to bring about such a system of land legislation as was now proposed. And he would venture to remind those who owned property of any sort in Ireland that, if it were possible for such principles as were supposed to have existed in the Act of 1870 to have produced a Bill of the character they were now discussing, those principles were not likely to settle on one side of the Channel, but they would probably have them enacted here on this side of the water in a very short time. When he heard the right hon. Gentleman speaking of the principles on which these things were done, he could not help thinking he had in his mind Macchiavelli's saying that "Every violent change presents the possibility of making another." The right hon. Gentleman had complained that when he had to brine forward such measures as this dealing with the land, he did not get assistance from the Irish landlords.
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I complained not that I did not get assistance, but that I did not get rational criticism.
§ *MR. SMITH-BARRY
hoped, that since the right hon. Gentleman made that remark, he had been satisfied with the criticism which he got from the hon. Member for the Dublin University, the hon. Member for South Antrim, and the hon. Member for Guild-ford. He thought those criticisms were not only national, but so far-reaching that they might well be looked upon by the general public as having knocked a very large portion of the bottom out of the Bill. But Irish landlords were not likely to look upon measures of this kind with very great kindness. They had had a very bitter experience of land legislation. They had been told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian that "they had been acquitted," and that "sufficient sacrifices had been exacted from them," but notwithstanding that they saw one Act come in after another, sometimes introduced by their enemies, sometimes even by their friends, which took further slices off their property. 977 The right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) declared that rents in Ireland were too high. If the prices of agricultural produce fell, it stood to reason that rents must also fall. But there was one thing which never fell, but which went on increasing in value, and that was the tenant-right. He referred to the occupation right independently of the right in improvements. How was it that the tenant farmers were prepared to pay enormous prices for the tenant-right of holdings the rents of which they declared they could not afford to pay? So long as tenant-rights retained such a high value it was monstrous to say that the landlords' interests must be still further whittled down. Supposing that the agricultural depression had been as great in Ireland as in England—and that he absolutely denied—was it right or fair that the landlords alone, of all classes interested in the land, should suffer? In England, agriculturists had suffered bitterly; but the owner, the farmer, and the labourer, had all suffered together. He would pass to the second part of the Bill, dealing with the evicted tenants. He was glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to re-enact Section 13 of the Land Purchase Act of 1891, because it would assist very much in the carrying out of a certain number of agreements between landlords and their ex-tenants. He had never pretended to think that the whole of the evicted tenants could be re-settled under the 13th Section or under any purchase system at all. If they were to be placed back on their holdings—and only a certain portion ever could be—it would be sometimes by purchase, and sometimes by reinstatement as tenants. But the right hon. Gentleman had put an addendum to Section 13 which would make it absolutely inoperative. It was not, at the hon. Member for South Tyrone said, that the landlords wished to have a double veto. The fact was this: under the right hon. Gentleman's proposals, if the landlord consented to place the matter in the hands of the Land Purchase Commission, he was bound to accept the price for the land which the Commissioners placed upon it. But the Commissioners would not advance the full value of the land except to a tenant on an ex-tenant who was, in their opinion, 978 capable of paying the instalments upon that purchase. In the case of estates where the Plan of Campaign had been in operation, there were a large number of tenants to deal with, and it was impossible to know the circumstances of those tenants. But it was known that a considerable number were so impoverished that it would be quite impossible for the Purchase Commissioners to grant them anything like the full value of their holdings. Consequently, the landlord would, in the first instance, be bound to refuse the arbitration which the right hon. Gentleman offered, however much they might wish to come under Section 13, which offered great facilities for, and removed great obstacles in the way of settlements. That would be an absolute bar to the landlord accepting the arbitration proposed; unless the landlord had the power afterwards of accepting or refusing the price offered, he feared that the whole provision would be absolutely unworkable. The right hon. Gentleman said that if the landlord and tenant parties were agreed, he should be prepared to "implement" the provision by a money grant. In this matter he did not venture to speak for the landlords of Ireland. He had not had the opportunity, since the right hon. Gentleman sprang this proposal on the House, of consulting with any of them on the subject. But he was sure that there was no representative body of Irish landlords who would disagree with him when he said that he should most strongly object to any money grant being given, either out of the Imperial Exchequer, or the Irish Church Fund, or any public fund, for any such purpose. There was a very large number of tenants who, from their position, were quite incapable of ever being put back on their farms as ordinary tenants, or as purchasing-tenants, except by extraneous assistance; because, not being solvent men, it was impossible for the Purchase Commissioners to advance them sufficient money. The party who got them into their present trouble ought to get them out of it. It was said that the tenant farmers of Ireland owed a deep debt of gratitude to the evicted tenants who had fought the Plan of Campaign and the No Rent Manifesto. If that were so, let the tenant farmers show their gratitude by finding 979 the money necessary to restore them to their holdings. He had always understood that there were funds at the disposal of hon. Members, below the Gangway, raised and available for this purpose. Whether those funds were adequate or not, it rested with hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to find the money. As he told the right hon. Gentleman last year, the Evicted Tenant Question was settling itself. The re-enactment of Section 13 was well, but it did not greatly matter. Since the Evicted Tenants Bill of last year was rejected, a number of tenants on the Ponsonby Estate had been trying to make arrangements with the agent for reinstatement. Even since the present Bill had been in print, and since its provisions had been known, other tenants on this estate had come in, preferring reinstatement on conditions to be arranged with the agent, to waiting for the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. Since the Bill had been known, some tenants had come forward who had not come forward before; and, within the last few days, 20 of these men had been reinstated, even while the House of Commons was discussing the method of reinstatement. The hon, Member for East Clare had mentioned the Clanricarde Estate as one on which a great many evicted tenants had to be put back. What was the case in regard to that estate? He was not there to speak for Lord Clanricarde. He did not know him, and he had never spoken a word to him in his life; but he believed that he was a deservedly unpopular gentleman. But so far as his dealings with his tenants were concerned, Lord Clanricarde had been one of the most lenient men in the whole country. The gross rental of the estate was £23,000 a year. It was generally supposed that the Plan of Campaign had existed over the whole of the estate, but, as a matter of fact, only £2,400 of the rent was ever the subject of eviction, and out of that, the lands which had not been relet only represented £200. It might be interesting to hon. Members to hear that according to a statement in one of the Irish papers of Tuesday a tenant's interest at Portumna had been sold at 16 years' purchase, although the outgoing tenant owed 7½ years' rent. In conclusion he said the Bill bristled with contentious matters of all sorts and kinds, and therefore English, Scotch, 980 and Welsh might rest assured that though a division might not be taken on the Second Reading, the measure would, in Committee, be hotly contested line by line.
§ MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said he would not have intervened in the Debate at this stage but for the speech to which they had just listened. He regretted the tone of the hon. Gentleman's reference to the evicted tenants, for the hon. Member announced that he was determined to oppose most strongly any proposal to make a money grant from any source whatever to facilitate a settlement in the case of those unhappy men. [Mr. SMITH-BARRY: "From any public fund."] Was the hon. Gentleman prepared to make a grant himself for that purpose? The hon. Member objected to the clause in the Bill which had for its object the settlement of the evicted tenants' case on two grounds. In the first place he objected to the landlords of Ireland, even if they were willing to reinstate the evicted tenants, being compelled or asked to agree to a price at which the farm should be sold which should be settled by the Land Commission. Last year it was repeatedly stated on the Conservative and Liberal Unionist benches that some practical scheme should be framed for the reinstatement of the evicted tenants, and that if the Irish Members would consent to a voluntary arrangement such an arrangement would meet with no opposition from any quarter. The Irish Members were said to be irreconcilable and unreasonable; they would not, it was said, agree to a voluntary settlement. At the time he denied that he and his friends were irreconcilable and unreasonable.
§ *MR. SMITH-BARRY
said he had not stated that he objected to the reinstatement of the evicted tenants. What he said was that the 13th Section was an excellent section, but he was afraid that by the addendum the right hon. Gentleman would defeat his own object.
§ MR. DILLON
said the hon. Gentleman did not object to a section which long experience proved would not reinstate the evicted tenants, but he objected to a section which might reinstate the tenants at a fair and reasonable price. The hon. Gentleman objected to the price at which the evicted tenants 981 should be put back being settled by an impartial tribunal, a tribunal which no one could pretend was likely to favour the evicted or any other tenants. He asked the House whether the attitude of the hon. Member for South Hunts was not proof of what the Irish Members said last year—namely, that there was no intention on the part of the hon. Member and those who sat round him to accept a voluntary settlement? The Irish Party would be glad to settle this burning question upon a voluntary system, but there must be two parties to a voluntary arrangement. Clause 13 was in operation for 12 months or more [Mr. T. W. RUSSELL: "Six months."], and the Irish Party did their best to promote settlements under it. [Laughter.] He heard scornful laughter on the Tory benches. He would like to know whether any Tory Member gave any money towards settlements under Clause 13. The Irish Party out of their Party funds, which, he regretted, were not very superabundant at the present moment, did make such grants. It was impossible, however, to get the landlords to agree to terms which the tenants could possibly hope to fulfil. The hon. Member also objected to the re-instatement of the evicted tenants because the farms were in a state of dilapidation. [MR. SMITH-BARRY: Because the tenants were insolvent.] Because the tenants were insolvent the Purchase Commissioners could not, the hon. Member said, advance the full price of the farms. Within two minutes the hon. Member swept away the whole of his own argument, because he boasted that at the present moment on the Ponsonby Estate, which was well known to be under his control, settlements were being arrived at. He abstained from informing the House as to the terms. Did the hon. Member believe that the Ponsonby tenants who were now out were insolvent men? [Mr. SMITH-BARRY: "Yes."] He believed they were insolvent men, and yet he had not hesitated to be a party to settlements based on what he (Mr. Dillon) called excessive prices. By his influence the hon. Gentleman had induced the Purchase Commissioners to advance the money of the British taxpayers to insolvent men. The hon. Member was quite willing to pocket the money and let the British 982 taxpayers recover the advances as well as they could. What about the large number of Ponsonby tenants who settled two years ago? Those tenants agreed to purchase at 19 years' purchase. The hon. Member, or the committee with which he was identified had pocketed the money. They were all right; they had escaped responsibility, and the British taxpayer had to look to insolvent men, who, owing to some occult influence, had been enabled to borrow a great deal more than the true value of their farms, for the sums advanced. The Member for South Hants and the Marquis of Clanricarde might find it a very congenial occupation to squeeze their rents out of the starving Irish tenants, but if the unfortunate Ponsonby tenants had settled on terms which they could not fulfil, he believed the British taxpayer would be more soft-hearted than either of those gentlemen. The hon. Member shrank from the task of defending the Marquis of Clanricarde, but the case of that landlord had to be dealt with. What was the condition of things on the Clanricarde estate? It was now, and had been for ten years, a disgrace to this country. The hon. Member for South Tyrone proposed that a special Bill should be introduced for the expropriation of Lord Clanricarde. But if something were not legally done this year to settle the question of the evicted estates there would have to be a special Bill introduced next year to get rid of the difficulty. He would like to recall to the House the history of the Clanricarde Estate during the last 15 years, for he noticed that the memories of English Members in connection with Irish affairs were extremely short. In 1881 he attended a large meeting of the tenants of the estate at Portumna, at which a combination was formed to demand a reduction of 20 per cent. in the rent, which was a very moderate demand. Shortly afterwards he received word from the estate that the combination had broken down and that the tenants were paying their rents. He recollected very well being taunted in the House with the defeat he and his friends had suffered on the Clanricarde estate. He was accustomed to defeats in Ireland, but they always turned up again and won something in the long run. During the five years which 983 followed the break-up of the tenants' combination on the Clanricarde estate which he formed in 1881 there were no public meetings, and there was no agitation on the estate, but during those years 11 men—including two agents of the estate—were murdered in the neighbourhood of Loughrea, and no one was ever brought to justice for the crimes. That was the result of the breaking-up of the tenants' combination of 1881; that was the result of the defeat with which he and his friends had been so often taunted. In 1886, at the earnest request of the Woodford Tenants' Defence Association, which had been formed on the estate in the preceding year, he once more went down to the estate, with considerable doubt and anxiety he confessed, and started the Plan of Campaign. What was the result? From the day the Plan of Campaign was started down to the present time no considerable outrage had been committed in the whole of South Galway. During the past three years, under the administration of the present Chief Secretary, Ireland had been reduced without coercion to a state of peace, unexampled for the past 50 years, although at the beginning of that rêgime the adjournment of the House was moved almost every week by Members of the Unionist Party to warn the country of the awful state of things which would prevail in Ireland if coercion were abandoned. But if Ireland was peaceable now owing to the absence of coercion and the hope in the hearts of the people that justice would be done them, that was no reason why the hon. Member for South Hants should sneer at the evicted tenants and at their sufferings, which during the last year had been cruel beyond the power of language to describe. These people were human beings. Were they to be ground into powder? If crime and outrage were again to follow discontent, the responsibility would lie on the shoulders of the hon. Member for South Hunts and men like him who turned a deaf ear to just demands, unless those demands were enforced by agitation and tumult. He had endeavoured honestly and earnestly to settle the evicted tenants' question in a way that would be reasonable. He had been willing, though a man of strong views on the subject, to make large concessions and to meet the landlords half-way. 984 He had agreed that there should be public money voted to smooth the transaction. Yes, Irish money, and to what better purpose could such money be devoted? He had been willing—and this was a large concession for the Nationalist Members to make—that the prices of the evicted farms should be settled by a Commission appointed by a Unionist Government. In his judgment it would have been to the material interest of the landlords to have met the advances of the Nationalist Members in a reasonable spirit. But it was the policy and purpose of the landlords to have vengeance on the evicted tenants—to persecute and drive absolutely desperate by starvation the men who, in the opinion of four-fifths of the Irish people, had been the means of bringing about not only the present Land Bill, but the Land Act of 1891. Was it reasonable or fair, or in accordance with human nature, to expect that the masses of the Irish people would forget the men who, in their judgment, had been the means of getting the present Land Bill and the Land Bill of 1887 passed, or that they should calmly consent to see these men treated as insolvent tenants and left to starvation or the workhouse? They would not consent to any such thing, and they would regard those who opposed so moderate a clause as that in the Bill, which was directed to the case of the evicted tenants, as showing a cruel and vindictive spirit, whilst they were also taking upon their shoulders a serious and terrible responsibility. Turning to the main body of the Bill, he should like to say a few words on the speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who had done a great deal of service to the Irish tenants on the Land Acts Committee. With many portions of the hon. Member's able speech he heartily agreed, but there were one or two points on which he strongly differed from him. The hon. Member, while cordially agreeing with the general propositions of the Bill, seemed to think that, if anything, it went a little too far in the direction of the tenants. He totally differed from the hon. Gentleman in that respect, and he would call his attention to a meeting of the constituents of the hon. Member for West Down, held at Banbridge on Monday last, and which was typical of many meetings which had taken place 985 amongst the Unionist farmers of Ulster within the last few months. The Mem-for the West Down Division was invited to be present, but he wrote excusing himself on account of business. The meeting was attended by a number of Presbyterian and Church of Ireland Ministers, and from the names it was evident that it was in no sense a Nationalist meeting. One of the Resolutions passed was this—That this meeting of West Down electors desires to thank Mr. John Morley for the attempt to embody in legislation the recommendations of the Select Committee on the Irish Land Laws, and approves generally of the Bill as an instalment of the just claims of the Irish tenants; that we call upon all Irish representatives, irrespective of their political opinions, and upon our representative, Lord Arthur Hill, in particular, to support the Bill as it now stands, with such amendments as are required ot protect the interests of the fanner.These were the Unionists of Ulster who had been quoted over and over again as loyal men who would not think of doing anything dishonest. They were not ignorant southern and western farmers, but educated Ulster Loyalists who had studied the Bill and considered it to be an instalment of their rights. He could tell hon. Members from Ulster that this would be a serious question to them in the autumn if they did not obey the demands of their constituents. Did any man in the House suppose the hon. Member for North Armagh would calmly see the Bill pass the Second Reading if it were not for Resolutions of this kind? Some hon. Members had spoken in very violent language of the utter absurdity and incomprehensibility of the tenant's interest as apart from his improvements being taken into consideration as distinct from a fair rent. Here was a Resolution passed at the same meeting:—Inasmuch as it has been proved that in the administration of the Act of 1881 there was on the part of the Lund Commission neither a common understanding of the law nor anything approaching to uniformity of practice, we consider it essential in the framing of any fresh land law to clearly indicate the basis upon which a fair rent may be determined, having regard to the tenant's interest in his holding, the cost of production and yield, and the market value of the produce.The Resolution went on to declare that improvements made previous to the year 1850 must be allowed to the tenant. 986 That clearly demonstrated that the Unionist farmers of Ulster—for whom only the hon. Member for South Tyrone and the hon. Member for South Derry could speak in that House—considered the present Land Bill a most moderate Bill, and one which, in some particulars, required amendment in the direction of the protection of the farmers' interest. He agreed with that view. The Bill was a great improvement on its predecessors, and this was no doubt due to the fact that, while in the drafting of all previous measures the opinion of the representatives of the Irish farmers was totally ignored, in this instance the Chief Secretary had, upon the Select Committee on this subject of land legislation, a fair representation of those who spoke on behalf of the Irish farmers, to whose views he listened, and by which he was, no doubt, somewhat influenced. Some Conservative Members seemed to think that it was so utterly revolutionary and outrageous for the Chief Secretary to adopt such a course that this alone was sufficient to stamp his proposals with condemnation. It had come to be considered an outrage in some quarters if Irish Members were allowed to express their views upon a Bill before it was drafted. He gladly recognised that the Chief Secretary, by the Committee of last year, did give fair weight and consideration to the opinions of those who were sent by the Irish tenantry to represent them in that House. For that reason the right hon. Gentleman had produced a Bill which was vastly superior to its predecessors. So far from being an extreme and revolutionary measure, this Bill was, in his judgment, most moderate, and Irish Members would have to propose in Committee one or two Amendments in the spirit of the Resolution which he had just read out. Those Amendments would, he was certain, insure the support of the hon. Member for South Tyrone and other hon. Members. He would now touch on one or two points upon which he differed from the hon. Member for South Tyrone. One of these was the occupation interest. The hon. Member seemed inclined to throw discredit on the occupation interest, as an element for fixing the fair rent, and he said that he was willing to throw that element overboard, and he 987 asked that it should, at all events, be made perfectly clear what was meant by the occupation interest. It was very difficult to convey to a body of Englishmen and Scotchmen—perhaps Welshmen would understand it better—what was meant by "occupation interest." It meant, in his judgment, that the Irish tenants held their land, not under contracts to which they never assented, but by old and immemorial custom, and that there exists in the Irish tenant an estate in a form similar to what the landlord possesses. The hon. Member for South Tyrone said that he fully recognised that in fixing a fair rent the occupying tenant should get a lower rent fixed than a stranger coming in as a tenant. But that was exactly what was meant by "occupation interest." It was, no doubt, an entirely unknown principle to an English landlord that a sitting tenant should be charged a lower rent because he was a sitting tenant as contradistinguished from another tenant coming into the farm. This was a very important and burning point in relation to this Bill, and he would like to direct the attention of the House to the course of some evidence which had been given on the subject. It was perfectly true, as the Member for South Tyrone said, that two or three of the witnesses who had been examined—Judge Neligan, of Cork, and Mr. Doyle in particular—had stated that they knew of no such thing as an "occupation interest," and that they were in the habit of fixing a fair rent at a figure which a solvent tenant, taking one year with another, ought to be able to pay for the farm. But that was the very reason why some definition must be laid down by law to drive the Commissioners in the future, and bring them into harmony. Several sub-Commissioners gave evidence directly the reverse of that given by Judge Neligan and Mr. Doyle. Mr. M'Afee, one of the most able of them, said that he always made a considerable reduction in favour of a sitting tenant, simply because he was a sitting tenant, and that, in addition to any allowance which he made for improvements. Mr. M'Afee's evidence was supported by four or five sub-Commissioners of great experience; and the evidence of all these was directly contrary to the evidence of Judge Neligan and Mr. Doyle. Therefore it appeared 988 that a large section of the Commissioners were pursuing one course, while others were pursuing another and different course. This was a question of law. The first thing which an independent person, who might be sent by a humane and considerate landlord to value a property, would do, would be to ascertain the value to be charged on any income of the tenancy if the land were in the landlord's hands. Then, according to Judge Neligan and Mr. Doyle, that would be the fair rent. But Mr. M'Afee and others said that they fixed the rent, making a considerable reduction in respect of the fact that the farm was in occupation of a tenant, and they made that reduction before fixing the amount of the improvements. Was that a right condition for the law of the land to be in? Several of the witnesses were asked, for how much they would value for fair rent a farm which was in occupation, to the tenant in occupation, less than to a new tenant. Mr. M'Afee stated that the percentage was considerable, although he did not mention the exact rate. A very remarkable thing was this—that the representatives of the landlords brought up as a witness to support their cause Mr. Toler Garney, a well-known agent in the King's County, and, he must add, one who had anything but a savoury reputation. He was brought up because he was looked upon as a strong man, and yet he declared in his evidence that he would not charge the same to a sitting as to an incoming tenant. In view of this great discrepancy in the administration of the law in Ireland, were they to be told that the law was to be silent on this subject and no notice taken of it? The hon. Member for South Tyrone asked, "what do you mean by the occupancy interest? They did not mean—nobody outside a lunatic asylum would suggest—that the occupancy interest was to be estimated by the saleable right of the tenant. That was a preposterous suggestion. The occupancy interest was a well understood thing in Ireland; it meant the difference between the rent which would be fixed on a sitting tenant who had been, either through himself or his predecessors in title, in possession of the farm from time immemorial, and the rent which might be fairly fixed on an incoming tenant if the farm were in the 989 hands of the landlord. That was the occupancy interest. He contended that it was quite as easy to estimate that interest as the fair rent. He therefore asserted that there was in the evidence the strongest possible proof that the occupancy interest was a reality, and that in a great number of cases—he should say more than half—which had been settled under the Land Acts it had been taken away from the tenant by those who had misunderstood the law. The hon. Member for South Tyrone made one very great mistake in his speech. He said he was inclined to minimise this question of the occupancy interest and he added——
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
denied that he minimised the occupancy interest, but he certainly minimised the question of the increased letting value; and he declared that he agreed with what the right hon. Member for Midlothian said in 1881 on the subject of the occupancy interest.
§ MR. DILLON
But did not the hon. Member say that a sitting tenant was to get consideration as against an incoming tenant?
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, he asked the Chief Secretary to say what he really meant by the occupation interest, and he put several alternatives to him. He could assure the hon. Member that the sum and substance of his argument about the occupation interest was this—that it was simply an asset conferred on the tenant by Act of Parliament which he could sell, But he denied that it had the slightest relation to the fixing of a fair rent.
§ MR. DILLON
replied that his recollection of the speech of the hon. Gentleman was that he said:—If you mean by the occupation interest that a sitting tenant is to got consideration as contradistinguished from an incoming tenant, then I am heartily with you.
§ MR. DILLON
said, he could answer the hon. Gentleman, for, recognising that the hon. Member had been so useful on the Land Act Committee to the 990 Irish tenants, he hoped the Irish Nationalist Party would be able to carry his able support throughout the discussions on this Bill. The reason why they wanted a new sub-section was explained out of the hon. Member's own mouth. An occupying tenant got a consideration as against an incoming tenant—that was to say, he got his rent fixed at a lower figure because he was a sitting tenant, and for no other reason. Yes; he got it from Mr. M'Apee and from several other Commissioners, but not from Judge Neligan and Mr. Doyle, and he wanted a definition because he wished the practice of Mr. M'Apee to be laid down as the practice of the Land Court. He denied that this question of the occupancy interest was first introduced to the committee by Judge Bewley. When he gave evidence Judge Bewley certainly said most emphatically—and it was an agreeable surprise to the friends of the tenants on the Committee—that the law as now administered recognised the occupation interest, and, lest there should be any doubt about it, he defined this as an interest which the tenants had in the soil quite irrespective of any improvements they had made, adding that that was recognised by the law in Ireland. But it appeared over and over again in the Blue Book that legal sub-Commissioners and County Court Judges had never heard of such a thing, and never gave tenants the benefit of it. In these circumstances a case was made out beyond all question for some definition in order to secure to the tenants in future the enjoyment of that which Judge Bewley said was at present the law of the land. In urging for a definition of the law which secured the interest of the tenant they were not advocating any revolutionary measure or innovation; they were simply asking that the law, as laid down by the head of the Land Commission and by one of the Judges of the Court of Appeal in Ireland, should be distinctly set forth in the Act, so that there might be no mistake about it. In connection with improvements the hon. Member for South Tyrone spoke of the increased letting value. In his judgment the term "unearned increment" was a very incorrect and misleading one The proper term for this particular point in 991 connection with the Irish Land Act was "increased letting value." The question was neither so complicated nor so difficult to understand as many persons seemed to think. If a tenant rented a farm, or was in the enjoyment of a farm for a number of years at a certain rent, and if he executed work which increased its letting value say 50 per cent., was he to receive the benefit of the increased value, or was he only to get a percentage on the cost? That was the question which had to be considered. It was admitted by everyone that nineteen-twentieths of the improvements made in Ireland for generations past had been made by the tenants. It was further admitted that in the future all the improvements would be made by the tenants, for the landlords were now reduced to such a position that their representatives declared they would never make any more improvements. Where, then, was the justice of saying that there might be in the soil of Ireland dormant so-called "inherent capabilities" which might be aroused into value, if the landlords, left to themselves, would never do anything to obtain that increased value? If, on the other hand, the tenants by their exertions and at their own risk drew out those "inherent capabilities" of the soil, were they to be fined for doing so on their own capital and labour? A great deal had been heard about the surplus letting value. There were hundreds of thousands of farms in Ireland where the labour of the tenants had been applied to inhospitable soil, and from which they did not get 2 per cent., and in many cases 1 per cent., on their outlay. Half of his own constituency, for example, had been reclaimed by the ceaseless toil of generations of poor men. This was land which, if it had been reclaimed on commercial principles and as an investment, would be waste mountain and waste bog at this day. Was it fair to say to a tenant:—If you lay out money and get only 1 per cent., or 2 per cent., or nothing, your money must go; but if you chance to get a stroke of luck and obtain 40 or 50 per cent., then the landlord is to say: 'You have developed the "inherent capabilities" of the soil, and therefore you must hand over all the profits to me beyond the interest on your outlay.'992 That was a monstrous proposition to be put forward on behalf of men who had contributed nothing to the work and to the advancement of the country. In considering the question, therefore, of the unearned increment, two considerations should be prominent—first of all, to think of the multitude of men who did not receive fair interest for the capital and outlay expended on the farms; and, secondly, to consider what was for the interest of the community at large as contra-distinguished from the interest of a small class. He maintained that it was enormously to the interest of the community at large in Ireland that everything should be done consistently with justice to encourage Irish farmers to lay out capital on their land and so to improve the condition of the country. The wealth of Ireland could be enormously increased if the people were properly encouraged to improve the land. He knew one estate where the tenants bought the land 10 or 15 years ago, and he was told that they could scarcely recognise the same district as compared with its former condition. The moment the tenants got possession of the land, and possessing the knowledge that every improvement they made would be their own, their spirit of enterprise and industry was evoked. That was what they wanted to encourage in Ireland. He was in favour of purchase as a solution of the Irish land question, but purchase must take a long time to produce effects. Consistently with safeguarding the just rights of the landlords, who, after all, were only rent-chargers, the House ought to aim under this Act to bring about this condition of things in Ireland on the farms of those who were still tenant-farmers. It was ridiculous to say that the landlords who were only too anxious to sell at 17, 18, or 19 years' purchase, and even less, were so eager about their share of certain alleged inherent capacities of the soil, so long as the rents of the farms as they stood were secured to them. He welcomed the clearing away of these cobwebs, because the system of holding over a farmer the idea that a portion of the improved value which he had given to his farm would be grabbed by the landlord had a dulling and deadening effect on the enterprise of farmers. They were not satisfied to be told that they 993 would get sufficient interest on their outlay; they wanted to know that if they improved the value of their farms the landlord would not be able to step in and take away any of that value. There was another important consideration. Every member of the Select Committee was struck with the extraordinary complexity of the law and its uncertainty. It ought to be their desire in passing this Bill to make the law as simple as possible, and everybody could understand what was meant by saying that a farmer should get the benefit of all the increased value of his farm resulting from his improvement. But if they introduced the question of dividing the increased letting value between the landlord and tenant, according to some occult formula, based on the inherent capabilities of the soil, there would be no end to the difficulties that would arise. They had an example of the result of such a course in the speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who stated that if the Land Commissioners took into account the inherent capabilities of the soil in valuing farms in Ireland the present rents would be doubled. That would be agreeable intelligence to the tenants of Ireland. He held it to be a matter of the highest policy, pending the final settlement of the Irish Land Question by a system of purchase, to do everything possible to encourage the Irish farmer to put his capital and labour into his farm; and the simplest and most straightforward way of doing that would be to give the farmer all the value he could add to his farm by the expenditure of that capital and labour. With regard to the question of reclamation, he could point to thousands of acres of land, which in its unreclaimed condition was not worth sixpence an acre, and which now, owing to the labours of the people, and without any expenditure on the part of the landlord, were let at 10s. and 15s. an acre. The Land Commissioners had said that it was impossible to go back upon old reclamations, but in these cases not only did the tenants lose the inherent capabilities of the soil, but they got nothing like a fair interest on their outlay. Thoughout East Mayo it would not have paid a man to reclaim a quarter of the land, and it had only been made available for the growth of human food, because the small holders 994 there did not reckon their labour as capital. It was a remarkable and sad fact that, in Ireland, the richer the land the more moderate the rent in proportion to its value, and the poorer and more wretched the land the more extravagant and excessive the rent. It was most unreasonable and unjust that these poor reclamation tenants should be charged enormous rents because they were unable to prove their own improvements. Under the present Bill the Commissioners and valuers, in fixing a fair rent, would be justified in accepting evidence which, without being actually legal evidence, might absolutely satisfy them. He held that the tenants should get a fair value for these reclamations. With regard to the question of presumption, he could not avoid mentioning that the Report of the Devon Commission in 1845 said that, upon a review of the evidence furnished to them on the subject, they believed that some legislative measure would be found necessary in order to give efficacy to such agreements and to provide compensation for improvements, and earnestly hoped that the Legislature would be disposed to entertain a Bill of this nature and pass it into law. From that time down to 1887 not a single move was made to protect the improvements of the Irish tenants in the spirit of that recommendation. He would strongly appeal to the Government, and to the members of the Liberal Party, not to follow the bad precedents set by previous Parliaments; not to neglect and treat with contempt the views of those who were entitled to speak on behalf of the tenant farmers of Ireland; and, if they really desired to lay this question to rest—for some years at least—to insist that this Bill should pass as a comprehensive and full measure, and not to accept the Amendments which had been threatened from the Opposition Benches, which would minimise the good effects of the Bill. This was absolutely the first great Irish Land Bill which had been introduced into the House since the Act of Union which, had not been coupled with a Coercion Act. The people of Ireland had never seen the House apply itself to any proposal for moderating the condition of the Irish tenants and settling for a time the Irish land question, except upon the heels of a Coercion Act, until now. Ireland was 995 peaceable and quiet to an extent hitherto unknown to this generation. He had read the other day that in Kerry, Limerick, Clare, Galway, and Roscommon, white gloves were presented to the Judges of Assize because there were no prisoners to try. The Bill was a most auspicious sign, and he trusted they would not take their hand from the plough to which they had put it; it would be impossible to exaggerate the profound effect which would be wrought on the minds of the people in Ireland, and upon the Irish race scattered all over the world, if this Parliament passed a great and beneficent measure to give justice to the Irish tenants, and, in spite of the Member for South Hunts, to restore the evicted tenants to their homes without agitation and crime in Ireland. On the other hand, if this great measure of justice was defeated, the effect on the people of Ireland—and he recommended this consideration to the Unionists—would certainly be most evil; and whatever might come in the future history of Ireland of disturbance, misfortune, or disaffection, the responsibility would entirely lie upon the shoulders of those who now, when they had no kind of excuse for their action, obstructed and resisted an honest effort to do justice to the Irish people.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
Mr. Speaker,—Although the accident of the Debate has led to my following the hon Gentleman who has just sat down, I have no intention of following his argument step by step. It would lead me much too far from the line upon which I propose to address myself to the House. His standpoint and mine are entirely different. The hon. Member has dealt at some length with the history of the evicted tenants' question; he is now in a most conciliatory mood. He is also in a mood, not unusual with him, of great forgetfulness. The hon. Member said he was anxious for a settlement, and that he is ready to do anything in his power to promote the resettlement of those tenants who have been evicted, entirely, as I think—mainly, as most people would say—in consequence of the action of the hon. Member and his colleagues. That is not the line the hon. Member has always taken. This is not the first opportunity he has had. This is a late repentance. In 1891 the 13th clause, of which the clause in 996 the present Bill is substantially a repetition, was passed by the House. An offer was made to the tenants to replace them if they could agree, as owners of their holdings from which they had been evicted. What was the line then taken by the hon. Member for East Mayo?—My advice," he says, "to the tenants is this: Be very slow to purchase your farms or have anything to do with the Land Act until after the General Election. Trust to your own exertions in your own localities. Abstain from taking these farms, and do not purchase at present.Unfortunately they accepted the advice of the hon. Member, and now he comes down and expresses these views, denounces the landlords as being an un-conciliatory lot of persons, and professes the utmost desire to secure for the evicted tenants the very provisions he advised them to reject in 1891. I have said that the standard of the hon. Member is different from mine. He says the tenants of Ireland have been driven by almost intolerable oppression and outrage to commit crime. I do not believe anything of the kind as regards recent years. But I believe even in recent years they have been driven to crime by the incentives which have been offered to them by the hon. Member opposite and some of his colleagues. He says—This, forsooth, is a good time for dealing with this Bill. This is just the time—when you have Ireland in a state of peace and quiet which has not been known to the past generation.To whom do we owe that? Have we to thank him? Sir, in October, 1894—only a few months ago, before this Bill was brought in—what was the advice the hon. Member was then giving to the tenants in Ireland? He makes here tonight a conciliatory, or, at any rate, a plausible, speech. That is for the House of Commons. We have had this over and over again from the hon. Member. But what did he say yesterday when he spoke to the tenants in Ireland; and tomorrow, when he leaves this House, will he use the same language and argument he thinks good enough for this House? He says:—I tell you that if the Land Act is rejected by the House of Lords, it will not be the fault of the Irish Party or the fault of the Government who have introduced it and done their best to pass it. It will be your fault if you do not make Ireland a little warm during this autumn and winter.997 Then the hon. Member comes down here, and because the tenants of Ireland, whom he has deceived, have found him out and, on this occasion, rejected his advice, and, because they have not made Ireland "warm" during the autumn and winter, he comes down here and takes credit for the peace of Ireland—an unusual peace during this generation. Sir, I have no sympathy whatever either with the spirit or method of the hon. Member, and in regard to this Bill my own view is not any different, I think, from the views winch have been expressed as to its several provisions by my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone. But I would point out to him that there is considerable difference between the net result of the criticisms which he has made of this Bill and the general description he has given of it. If the Amendments which my hon. Friend has suggested to-night should be accepted by the Government and made in this Bill, then, indeed, I should be prepared to say the Bill will be, if not a perfect Bill, at all events, a very different one from what it is at present. But I am not going to address myself to the imaginary Bill as it may be after the Amendments of my hon. Friend have been incorporated in it. I have to address myself to the Bill of the Government, and assume that they have carefully considered this question, and we—at all events on the Second Reading—have to take it in its present condition and upon that pass judgment. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, in introducing the Bill, made a special appeal to me, because he said I was one of the Members of the Cabinet of 1881, the others remaining being the right hon. Member for Midlothian and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who passed the great measure of Land Reform of that year. He appealed to me as responsible for that, and said that, under the circumstances, he expected from me favourable consideration for the proposals intended to amend that Act and further the great object which my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian had in view. He said his measure was—just and politic, and a strenuous effort to meet practical difficulties," and was "one to which a sober and responsible man should give impartial consideration.I am much obliged to him for referring to me as a sober and responsible person. 998 I think I know what he meant. He is a catholic-minded man, and he meant everybody except those who are tainted with any kind of sympathy with that discredited class—the owners of land. I think I come within his description. It is quite true I am a landlord myself. I have only one tenant and he does not pay any rent, although he makes frequent claims for compensation. As my tenant is my hon. Friend the Member for East Worcestershire, I do not think I am much prejudiced on either side of the question. I will say that if the Chief Secretary can justify the description he gave of this Bill he will find me among the most enthusiastic of his supporters; but he did not in his opening speech lead me to anticipate anything like this Bill. It is really altogether a misnomer to call this a Bill founded upon the Act of 1881. Why, it ignores the declared principle on which the author of that measure recommended it to the House. It destroys almost every one of the safeguards which he introduced to prevent the injustice he foresaw and deprecated. It seems to me to carry out the majority of the principles of the Land League, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian expressly repudiated, and which he said on that occasion, for his part, he was unable to distinguish from schemes of public plunder. What were the declared intentions of the promoters of the Bill of 1881? I felt then and publicly expressed the opinion I have always entertained that the only final solution of this land question will be some system of transfer of ownership from the landlord to the tenant. The occupier of land in Ireland must also be the owner if you are ever to end these perpetually recurring difficulties. That was the view I learnt from my late friend Mr. John Bright; it received confirmation again and again, and especially I recollect on one occasion in 1887, it did so from a high authority, Mr. Parnell. I venture to hope there is no disagreement as to that. But we felt in 1881, as my right hon. Friend says, that land purchase must take a long time. You cannot secure this great result over a whole country in a few months or years; and in the meantime some modus vivendi had to be found. The 999 right hon. Member for Midlothian declared that he looked forward to a time when this measure would have done its work; when we might recur to a better and more natural state of things; when political economy, which had been temporarily banished to Saturn, would be amnestied and would revisit this earth. Accordingly he did not conceal from the House or from his supporters the danger attending the proposals he was making. He knew perfectly well that to interfere with freedom of contract, to fix rents by a legal tribunal, was a matter open to the gravest abuses; he did his best to prevent as much as possible the abuses which he foresaw; he distinctly laid before us the provisions, those exceptions and safeguards to which reference has been made, as calculated to prevent the abuses which he so greatly feared; and he said:Take that Bill; with all its faults it is a less evil than the existing state of things.Now, the object of the present Bill is to remove almost every one of the safeguards which were introduced in the Bill of 1881. I do not say that experience may not have shown that these safeguards are unnecessary or wrong; but we are bound to consider the proposals of the Government on their merits; and it is an absolute misnomer, an attempt to prejudice this question, to say that it follows the machinery of the Act of 1881, the authority of which it directly impugns. A man invents a locomotive. Someone says,If you do not take care the boiler will burst, or the locomotive will run away.He replies, "No, I have put in a safety valve and a brake." A few years later some one proposes to fasten down the safety valve and to jam the brake; and he says that that was the original intention of the inventor. That is the position of the Government. It is not merely that the principle of this Bill differs from the Act of 1881; but the spirit in which the two Bills were introduced is entirely different. My right hon. Friend quoted Mr. O'Connell as having said that crime in Ireland was due to iniquitous land laws. Suppose that were true; when did O'Connell say that? What has happened since? Even if it were true of the time of O'Connell, 1000 it cannot be true now, in 1895, after all the measures that have been passed. The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) laughs at my suggestion, and implies that the legislation in which we have been engaged since the time of O'Connell, from 1870 to 1891, has made no difference in the state of things, and that it is still open to him and his friends to say that crime in Ireland is due to iniquitious land legislation as it was in the time of O'Connell. What have we done in the interval? will the hon. Gentleman listen to the opinions of his colleagues? I know he has not much respect for the opinions of his colleagues, but here is the Member for Cork City. He says that in the interval—that is, since 1879—there has passed over the face of Ireland a revolution which has secured to the Irish peasantry all that and more than the French Revolution secured for the peasantry of France";and the hon. Member for Longford, in an address to Irishmen, said thatthe powers of Irish landlordism, the powers of unchecked exaction and arbitrary eviction, which were the causes of indescribable wrong to the Irish people, have been shattered and destroyed.They have been shattered and destroyed, and yet my right hon. Friend still appeals to the authority of O'Connell and allows the House to infer, as a reason for the introduction of this Bill, that the present state of Irish land is entirely due to the iniquitous character of the Irish landlords! That is quite a different spirit to the spirit in which the Act of 1881 was introduced. My right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian said in 1881, before the Act of 1887, and before the Act of 1891, that he disclaimed altogether the charge of iniquity which was sometimes brought against Irish landlords. He said it was an exaggerated charge. If that is true—and my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary will, I am sure, accept the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian—if that was true in 1881, still more is it true now, and I say it is unworthy of my right hon. Friend to introduce into this matter this appeal to prejudice and passion. Then, again, my right hon. Friend quoted from Sir William Gregory; but since the time when the oppression 1001 which Sir William Gregory described took place, we have altered the whole circumstances of the land in Ireland. A case of that kind cannot happen now. Therefore, what is the object of my right hon. Friend in referring to such a case in introducing this Bill, except it be to create prejudice amongst people who are ignorant on this matter? The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Midlothian, in introducing this Bill, appealed to the highest considerations of national policy and statesmanship; but my right hon. Friend has thought fit, on the contrary, when he knows that the only chance of success for the Bill is that it should be dealt with without party feeling and without party prejudice—my right hon. Friend has thought it necessary to speak with the voice of the Land League, with the voice of the hon. Member for Mayo. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, Mr. John Bright, and the late Mr. Forster, speaking on the Second Reading of the Act of 1881, expressed the belief that, while the Bill would enable the Land Courts to deal with exceptional cases of hardship and to reduce rents where gross exaction had been practised, yet in the great majority of instances it would not injure the landlords at all. It is rather curious to read these expressions of opinion and to contrast them with what has actually happened; and when so much is made of the intention of the promoters of the Act of 1881, it is surprising to remark the fact that on the result and operation of the Bill the intentions of the promoters have not been fulfilled—that is to say, that the operation of the Bill has been to reduce rents all over Ireland. I come now to consider, as briefly as I can, the provisions of this Bill. It is very difficult to deal with it in a Second Reading Debate, because each clause contains a separate principle. You might cut out half of the measure and still have a Bill of very considerable value. But I want to ask the House to drop the consideration of separate clauses and to think of the Bill as a whole. The main thing for us to look at is the general effect of the Bill, what is going to be its general operation, and I am going to take what is admitted to be the keynote of the Bill—namely, Clause 5. Clause 5 deals with improvements. The Act of 1881 laid down the 1002 broad principle that the tenant was not to be rented on improvements made by him and not paid for or otherwise compensated by the landlord. That is a fair principle, and nobody has objected to it in the slightest degree; but now let us see what is the extension that is going to be given to that principle under this Bill. Sub-section 2 defines as an improvement every expenditure of capital or labour which increases the letting value. It allows, therefore, good cultivation to come in as a ground for a reduction of rent. That is to say, if a man fulfils the ordinary conditions of his tenancy, for the non-fulfilment of which he would be punished, and for which deterioration would be claimed in this country, he is justified under this Bill in claiming a reduction of rent. Surely that is a perfectly monstrous proposal, which would not be entertained for a moment by any reasonable or fair-minded person. A man consents and contracts to farm his farm properly and well; and if he does not farm it badly he is invited under this Bill to apply for a reduction of the rent which he has agreed to pay on the condition that he farms the land well. The third section gives the whole additional value of improvements to the tenant when those improvements are due to his own expenditure or to the inherent capabilities of the soil. The fourth sub-section reduces the rent in consideration of the occupancy-right. Whatever may be the meaning and intention of my right hon. Friend himself, the meaning and intention of the the clause is, that in fixing the rent the valuer is to have regard to the occupancy right, which he must therefore value, and the deduction which he makes from the rent will depend upon the amount of that right, and that depends upon the sum which the tenant may have given for the goodwill of the farm. So, if the tenant has paid a pretium affectionis, if he has given 60 years' purchase, as some tenants have done, I believe, that is to be another ground for claiming a reduction of his rent. Under Sub-section 5 the landlord is to be debarred from pleading low rental or length of enjoyment as a set-off against reduction. Now, I ask the House to consider the cumulative effect of these provisions. The sixth Sub-section sweeps away the time limit, and allows compensation for 1003 improvements made, or alleged to have been made, up to the creation of man. Then the seventh Sub-section establishes the universal presumption that every one of these improvements, real or imaginary, has been effected by the tenant or his predecessor, although, as a matter of fact, the tenant who really made the improvements may have disappeared ages ago and the present tenant may not have paid a single penny for them. I will not apply the term "confiscation" to this Bill, but I will say that if it is logically interpreted in the Law Courts rent will absolutely disappear, for it will be reduced, not to "prairie value"—because I presume that prairie value is some value—but to no value at all. By a logical interpretation of these subsections you will arrive at a negative value, and, in course of time, I suppose a landlord will be considered a very bad landlord unless he pays a substantial sum to any tenant who will graciously consent to occupy his farm. I am not imputing to my right hon. Friend that he meant the Bill to have this effect; what I say is, that it will have this effect unless it is amended. Let me put this to the House. Take any land in Ireland at the present time. What was it 1,000 years ago? I suppose that in the majority of cases it was bog or swamp. What was its letting value then? Nothing. Everything that has given it a letting value since then is, under this Bill, to be presumed to have been done by the tenant or his predecessor, and therefore is to be deducted from the rent. In such circumstances, how can you arrive at any rent at all? This, I hold, is a mathematical demonstration, and, although it is a practical absurdity, that only justifies me in saying that the Bill requires large amendment. I said at the beginning that this was the doctrine of the Land League. What was that doctrine? As we read in the report of the Parnell Commission [Derisive Home Rulecheers]—the object of the gentlemen who were brought before that tribunal was—to promote agrarian agitation against all payment of agricultural rents, for the purpose of impoverishing and expelling from Ireland the Irish landlords who were styled the English garrison.What I want to point out is, that what the League proposed to obtain by coercion 1004 and intimidation this Bill will give by constitutional means unless it is altered. Let me ask the House to look at subsection 3, which gives the whole increase in letting value to the tenant. I complain that the Chief Secretary either does not understand his own Bill, or speaks with two voices with regard to it. It seems to me that the speeches of my right hon. Friend on the Irish Land Question are affected by the principle of dual ownership. Sometimes he speaks with reason and moderation, and at other times he appears to speak the extreme doctrines of the Land League. He says that the whole increase of the letting value ought to go to the tenant, because the capacity of the soil was let to the tenant in his initial bargain, and that was accounted for in the fair rent. That is what I call the extreme view, and I say that it is inconsistent with another statement in the same speech. What the Bill says is not what my right hon. Friend says. The Bill says that the potential capacity of the land being accounted for, the whole of the letting value is to go to the tenant. The occupation-right, as described by my right hon. Friend in his speech on the Second Reading, involves, in my opinion, an absurdity, and it will have a result, whether he likes it or not, such as described. The Bill says you are to take into account the occupation-right, which is the goodwill of the tenant, and if you take that into account you must fix your deduction at the same rate as the interest upon the value. Whether it be 5 per cent. or 1 per cent., the principle is exactly the same. My right hon. Friend seems to have founded himself upon the obiter dictum of Mr. Justice Bewley that some if the Assistant Commissioners did take his right into account, not as a right. They did not take into account the occupation-right, but they did take into account the absolute concrete question whether the sitting tenant has been there for a long time or not. Somebody has said that that was all that he required to be taken into account, and that where a tenant or his family has been on the land from time immemorial he ought to have a lower rent fixed on his holding than the man of yesterday. I do not, on principle, see the force of that argument, but I wish to observe that it is a different thing from 1005 what is in the Bill. If you mean that, put it in the Bill; and if the only demand is, that some additional consideration shall be given to the old tenant, as compared with the new one, that at least—though I do not recognise it on principle—appeals to a sentiment which very likely this House would favourably consider. Only, I point out, unless you make this clear and define what you are driving at, if you leave in a reference to the occupancy-right, you will by that means ultimately destroy all rent altogether. It does not matter whether the deduction is small or large. Every decrease increases the occupancy value and therefore increases the demand at the next application. You destroy rent altogether. I will only mention, in passing, another sub-section, and that is the proposal to carry back the presumption beyond the memory of man. There is a practical question involved in that which I want to submit to my right hon. Friend. I think it is grossly unfair to take the presumption back so far as that, and I can conceive of a number of cases in which it would be a great injustice to the landlords. But even in the interest of the tenant I do not think it desirable to encourage possible claims of this imaginary description. If you do it is perfectly certain you will enormously add to the litigation and claims that would come before the Court, and I believe it would be in the interest of simplicity and therefore of economy that some limit of time should be fixed. If that limit is fixed, as it was fixed in the Act of 1870, at the year 1850, that would be a limit 45 years behind the the present time, in which the vast majority of improvements will have been practically exhausted; and really there cannot be anything of great importance which can practically substantially exist as a claim behind that time. I approve generally of the second clause, which deals with the exclusions, though I think there may be some room for amendment 1006 and criticism in Committee. I admit there does not seem to be sufficient reason for keeping all these clauses out of the Act, only I would remind my right hon. Friend that by this provision you are introducing a number of new claimants, and when you couple with that the principle of shortening the statutory term, and breaking the statutory term in the case of all tenants whose rents have been fixed within the last ten years, and the reinstatement of the evicted tenants as present tenants, you are immensely increasing the work in the Courts and enormously adding to the already great cost of litigation unless you do a great deal, more than I am afraid my right hon. Friend proposes, to simplify procedure. I do not think that when we come to the Committee stage the question of procedure will deserve more attention than up to the present time the Government have been able to give it. I will not argue the matter of pre-emption as I had intended, but I will ask my right hon. friend to look to the Debates in 1881, and to see what the Member for Midlothian said in regard to this particular clause. He said in effect that nothing could be more absurd than to allow restrictions upon competitive rent if you allowed competitive tenant-right unlimited extension, and he regarded sub-Section 3 in Clause 1 of his Act as tending to prevent this unlimited extension of tenant-right. I know my right hon. Friend says it has not fulfilled its object, but although that may be a reason for making it more stringent, it is certainly no reason for repealing it altogether. Before sitting down let me go back to what I said at first. My view is, that the one proper and final solution of this matter is land purchase; and one of my great objections to this Bill is, that it makes land purchase more difficult and throws increased obstacles in the way. By this Bill you are increasing the uncertainty of everything that concerns land purchase in Ireland. You are doing more than that. 1007 You are throwing doubt upon the past. What do you think is going to be the effect upon those persons who have purchased land if you are going to produce legislation, the result of which is to make a further considerable reduction in rents? Will it not bring upon you from those tenants who have purchased a universal demand for some reduction of the purchase price which they have paid? But one thing is certain. The tenant is a shrewd person, and he will not go into the Courts to buy so long as he believes there is an element of uncertainty as to what his ultimate rent is to be. He is not such a fool as to buy in a falling market, and unless, therefore, you introduce some kind of finality into your proceedings you will never carry out this great operation of land transfer, which everybody agrees is most desirable and most important. I want to make one suggestion to my right hon. Friend before I sit down. I want to ask him to consider between now and the Committee stage whether, at the time he is dealing with this question of land, he cannot do something as well for land purchase. Can he not, for instance, simplify the procedure with regard to land purchase and with regard to the guarantees which are demanded? I am told that some of those guarantees are unnecessary, and that they are not only unnecessary, but that they do act as a deterrent. If that be so, I hope my right hon. Friend will consider the question and see whether or not it may not be possible, with the experience which we have gained, to facilitate the transactions under that Act. But I am going much farther than that. I say this Bill is going to perpetrate the land war in Ireland. Every ten years under this Bill you will now bring every tenant in Ireland and every landlord in Ireland into sharp conflict, probably before the law. It cannot be otherwise. At the same time you will subject this country to enormous additional cost. As my right hon. Friend has already told the House, in the years since 1881 we 1008 have spent £1,000,000 endeavouring to deal with this question, and I say that was not the intention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian. When he brought in his Act he contemplated a better result than this. Even now, if we are going to legislate again after having, as hon. Members opposite say, "shattered the power of the landlords," we might say to the landlords and tenants:—We have interfered in your affairs and have spent a million in order to fix rents and to settle your respective interests. In many cases we have failed to do justice, though we have tried to do our best, and if we try again it is doubtful whether we shall do better. What we propose now is, that if either of you is discontented with the present state of things, and if you come before the Courts for revision, in that case the other party shall have the right to say, 'We cannot agree. We are continually disagreeing, I am tired of this perpetual warfare. Our partnership is not a success, let us end it.'Thereupon the Land Court should intervene and settle the transfer. That is my suggestion. It is a scheme of limited compulsory purchase. It is limited, in the first place, by the number of applicants who may come into Court; and, in the second place, by the amount of money with which the Court may be, provided by this House. I believe that a scheme of that kind would suffice to deal with most of the urgent and bitter contests which may arise in this matter, and that it would give a large extension to this principle of purchase which we desire to see made universal. I have shown that the Bill does not, in its present form at any rate, carry out the intentions declared by my right hon. Friend, and that it does not justify his description. It is not a moderate Bill, nor is it founded on the principles of the Act of 1881. On the contrary, it will, unless amended, bring about results which the promoters of the Act of 1881 all of them publicly disavowed. On the other hand, I agree that there is much in the Bill that is good. It is difficult to discuss it on a Second Reading, and fine must approach it with mixed feelings, for while there are some things 1009 whfch are good, and others which may be good but which require explanation, there are others which are absolutely bad. I do not know with what intention my right hon. Friend introduced the Bill. If it is only part of an electioneering programme, let him closure Debate in Committee as soon as he can, and get it out of this House. We know then what its fate will be. [Ironical cheers.] Certainly. If a Bill in this form were to go to the other House, that House would undoubtedly be failing in its duty if it did not give the same treatment to the Bill as to the Home Rule Bill But I do not believe that that is my right hon. Friend's intention. I believe he wants to pass a good Bill, and I hope that he will treat with consideration the amendments and suggestions which are submitted to him. If he dues that, I do not see any reason why a Bill dealing with the practical difficulties to which he has referred should not be passed, not only through this House, but through the other. Bull if the Bill is treated as a measure on which no amendments are to be allowed, then, though I do not vote against it on this occasion, I shall certainly oppose it on the Third Reading.
§ Debate adjourned.