§ Order for consideration of Bill as amended (by the Standing Committee) read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now considered."
§ *MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
On the consideration of this Bill, 326 I wish to offer a few remarks as to its provisions as amended by the Standing Committee. As the right hon. Gentleman will remember, I dealt, perhaps at some length, on the general aspect of the Bill on its Second Reading. I do not propose to deal with it in the same sense now as I did then, but I wish to draw attention to one or two points which it may be desirable to consider before we proceed with the Report stage.
§ Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present (Lord HUGH CECIL, Greenwich). House counted, and, forty Members being found present.
§ *MR. CHANNING
resumed: I would desire to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman and the House to one of the points of the Bill, to which great exception was taken not only on the second reading, but also in the Standing Committee as well as in the country. That is the provision with regard to arbitration. I understood that the right hon. Gentleman gave an undertaking in the Standing Committee that Cause 2 should be amended in somewhat the sense which I then suggested. The Bill in its present form gives first place to an agreement as superseding, where it exists, the arbitration procedure. The effect of the clause as it now stands places the landlord in a position in which he might really dictate the whole mode of procedure, and even name the arbitrator. It provides that an agreement, if it existed, should entirely supersede the operation of the arbitration procedure, and that the arbitration procedure could only come into effect where there was no agreement. Very strong objection has been taken to that proposal, and in the Standing Committee I understood from the right hon. Gentleman that that part of the Bill would be amended in the sense which I and other hon. Members suggested—namely, that an agreement should not supersede the arbitration procedure, and that the arbitration procedure should come into operation if either party desired it. That is a very important point, and I wish to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to it. Then there was another matter which has somewhat a comical aspect. Some amusing speeches were made on the Second Reading as to the relations of this Bill to Scotland. The clause as it now stands was the re- 327 sult of communications between the right hon. Gentleman and the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture; but the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture have now come to an exactly opposite conclusion, and have decided, after a very prolonged discussion, that it would be far better to revert to the original clause of the old Act of 1883. That is a serious situation, on which I think it would be well to have some light before we proceed further. It also seems to me that it would be extremely desirable if, in legislation of this kind, the Government would place the landlord and the tenant absolutely on an equal footing as regards the initiation of proceedings under the Act, and also as regards certain stages of the proceedings so far as is possible, especially the lodging of claims. Several Amendments were adopted upstairs, but they do not go far enough. What is really desired is that there should be an equality of position, and that as a corollary the landlord should be given the right of initiating proceedings under the Act. Then the Bill improves very greatly the procedure of arbitration, but does nothing to improve the status and position of valuers and arbitrators to be employed under the Act. I think that is a very grave omission. It seems to me that the success of the Act will largely depend on the improvement it effects in the status of valuers and arbitrators. The Act of 1883 failed principally owing to the inferior status, character, and capacity of a great many local valuers who had to carry it out. These will be eliminated to a certain extent by the adoption of a single arbitrator procedure, and I hope the Board of Agriculture, under their powers under this Bill, may be able to do something in the direction of weeding out unsatisfactory valuers, to be succeeded by a better class, who will deal with this question in a broad spirit. I regret very much that we were unable in the Standing Committee to obtain any real and substantial extension of the Bill with regard to essential improvements, which have done so much to keep both landlord and tenant going during the period of agricultural depression. The Government have given a concession, in making an allowance for seeds, but it does not go half far enough. It seems to me that the right of the tenant who, by great sacrifices, has created on the estate of the landlord one 328 of its most valuable assets—namely, permanent pasture—should be recognised. That is a serious blot on the Bill, and if it is passed without that defect being, remedied, I can only repeat what I said on the Second Reading—that the Bill will not go far enough in dealing with an essential situation. A tenant who improves the land to the highest degree, and who employs a large amount of capital, ought to get the sort of protection he really needs. I wish to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to these points, the first of which I understood the right hon. Gentleman gave an, undertaking to rectify—namely, the placing of an agreement before the procedure for arbitration.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE ERESBY (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
At this stage I desire to raise a point in connection, with the Bill which I think is of the most vital importance, and I would wish to know what action the Government intend to take regarding it. There is, much in this Bill of which I heartily approve, and I should be extremely sorry to see it lost, but I think, the Government have brought it on at a very inconvenient time. I understand there is to be a meeting of the Central Chamber of Agriculture to meet Members representing agricultural constituencies to consider the provisions of this Bill, and it is a pity that the Bill has been brought on before we have had the advantage of their opinion regarding it. I may say at once that the question which, I consider of vital importance is the question of the arbitrator not giving any details whatever as to the reasons for his award of compensation, and I think we should have a very definite explanation, from the Government in this matter. One of the objects of the Act of 1883 was to, alter the very slipshod and unsatisfactory method of making valuations both on, behalf of the landlord and on behalf of the tenant, and it was distinctly stated in; Section 19 that the arbitrator should give the reasons—the broad reasons, at all events—on which he based the amount of his award. This has been entirely dropped in this Bill. No doubt it is the wish of the Government to simplify matters, and I believe that one of the chief arguments which will be used against giving details is that it will do away almost entirely with litigation, and 329 also with the right of appeal. I, personally, do not in the least care about the right of appeal, but [do care very much indeed that the arbitrator should give reasons for his decision. I think it is perfectly easy to understand why it is desirable that these details should be given. It is ridiculous to provide that an arbitrator should simply state that he awards a sum of £300 or £400 which the incoming tenant has to pay to the outgoing tenant, and yet give no reason whatever for that award. It would be equally unfair for an arbitrator to decide that the outgoing tenant should pay £200 to the landlord for dilapidation and state no reasons. Take a very simple instance. The arbitrators may act, and, I believe, will act, in all good faith, but it is perfectly plain that a clerical error may occur. Take the case of a tenant with a mill on his farm. With the consent of his landlord he has put new machinery into that mill. He dies, and the arbitrator fixes the amount of the compensation to be paid to his executor's. In perfect good fait a the agent states that the improvements and works were carried out by the tenant, but by a clerical error the landlord is credited with the new machinery, and the arbitrator thereupon proceeds to award to the executors a sum of £50, which, under the circumstances, would be a grave injustice, and there is no possible means of finding out if a clerical error had been committed. This is, of course, a very strong case, but it might arise. Take another case. A tenant goes to a landlord and asks that a certain field may be drained. The question arises to who is to pay, and ultimately the tenant carries out the work. He dies leaving a widow who knows nothing about the drainage, and it would be perfectly easy in that case, owing to a clerical error, for the arbitrator to conclude that it was the landlord and not the tenant who drained the field. It is to the interest of the landlord as well as to the interest of the tenant that the arbitrator should give the reasons on which he based his decision. With regard to valuers and arbitrators they stand very high indeed, but I think it would very greatly raise their status if they were required to give details of their decision. I myself cannot understand what the difficulty in the way is. I do not wish an arbitrator to go into every minute detail, but he should give the 330 broad reasons. He should state, for instance, how much was given to the tenant for tillage, and how much for drainage and other permanent movements, and then again, how much was given to the landlord for unpaid rent, and how much for waste, and how much, if any, for breach of the contract of tenancy. I do think, broadly speaking, that this question will commend itself to most men. It is not a difficult question in the least to understand, even by those not engaged in agricultural pursuits. In the interests of landlord and tenant it would be far more convenient, and would improve this Bill enormously. I do not think it matters one bit whether we have a right of appeal or not; for there is no doubt that if the umpire or arbitrator were to state under what heads he gave certain sums of money, and it was found that these were unfair, he would instantly lose caste in the county and nobody would employ him again. The effect of that would be to raise the status of the arbitrator, and it would be a matter of convenience to landlord and tenant. Under the present proposal the arbitrator is to go through a hundred matters, and at the end he is to give his decision; but are one can tell whether he has given consideration to any one of these matters. Unless some satisfactory answer to this question is given by the Government, I shall use every endeavour to hinder the progress of the Bill, though I admit there are many things in it of which I heartily approve. I think, really, that the Government ought to give way on some points.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. LONG,) Liverpool, West Derby
All the points raised by the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire and the noble Lord the Member for Horncastle, with one exception, will be raised in regard to new clauses to be moved on Report stage. The one question which could not be raised by any Amendment is as to the effect of an agreement under Clause 2, to which reference was made by the hon. Gentleman opposite. I was astonished to hear him say that he came away from the Committee upstairs with the impression that I had undertaken to consider his Amendment to the Bill which would have had the effect of destroying; the purpose of an agreement between landlord and tenant.
§ *MR. CHANNING
I consented to withdraw my Amendment in Committee on the distinct understanding that the Government promised to consider and provide for it before the Report stage.
§ *MR. LONG
I cannot admit that I entered into any agreement to leave the matter in that way. I do not recollect that I did so, and it certainly never entered into my mind that I should be able to accept an amendment which would destroy the effect of an agreement between landlord and tenant. What I undertook to consider was whether it would be possible to deal with cases in which there was an unwilling agreement. The view the Government have taken throughout, with regard to the relations, of landlord and tenant, is that we believe the tenant is very well able, if he chooses, to examine for himself, and to make up his mind for himself, what the form the agreement ought to take. And if he chooses to enter into an agreement with the landlord as to arbitration, we have not thought it desirable to substitute the arbitration procedure of the Bill for any procedure so adopted as between landlord and tenant. The next question is as to Sub-section 4, Clause 1. The hon. Member said that the Amendment on that was the result of a conference with the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture, but it was amended in Committee in a direction which, I am sure, will secure justice to all parties. The hon. Member also expressed his hope that the landlord and tenant should be placed on the same footing, and that the landlord should be able to initiate proceedings. I was rather surprised to hear him express that pious hope in regard to the footing of equality of landlord and tenant in relation to operations on the farm. A landlord enjoys at Common Law certain rights which he is entitled to enforce, and therefore there is an essential difference between the position of landlord and tenant. Unless you are prepared to deprive the landlord of those rights which he enjoys at Common Law—and this, I take it, is not desired by the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire—it is impossible to put the landlord and tenant on an equality. As to giving the landlord power to initiate proceedings, that would be obviously unnecessary and useless, because, as I have said, you cannot get rid of his rights at Common Law. I agree with the hon. Member that 332 the position of valuers would be materially improved by the adoption of the procedure under this Bill. It will increase their dignity and throw a greater responsibility upon them than at present. But for the Board of Agriculture to select arbitrators, and thus to limit the choice to those so selected, would, I think, be most undesirable. It would be extremely difficult for a satisfactory and sufficiently comprehensive list to be adopted to suit the requirements of all parts of the country, and enable parties to feel certain that they would get justice done. In regard to the question of permanent pasture raised by the Amendment on the Paper, I will deal with it when we reach it. But I may say that although I regard permanent pasture as a great advantage to a farm when properly laid down, I will endeavour later on to give my reasons for believing that it would be unfair and undesirable to give the tenant the right to lay down permanent pasture without the consent of the landlord; the exercise of such a right would involve a complete change in the character and nature of the holding. My noble friend the Member for Horncastle raised another point altogether. I confess I was a little astonished at his blaming the Government for bringing on this Bill at this time. He suggested that we should have waited till the meeting of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, but I would remind him that the date of that meeting had not then been fixed. When the time comes when he will be responsible for the business of Parliament he will realise that we cannot be guided in our business arrangements here by those of outside parties, otherwise public business would be indefinitely prolonged, and I am inclined to think that that is not desirable. I am now going to deal with what is undoubtedly a very important point, and that is the action of the Government in regard to arbitration proceedings. In the first place the Government were urged, I may say on all sides, when we were considering this question at its earliest stages, to secure machinery for the settlement of differences between landlord and tenant which would be economical both in regard to money and time, and which would make the settlement of these differences as simple as it could possibly be made. The Royal Commission which dealt with this subject recommended that the pro- 333 cedure of the Arbitration Acts should be applied to the settlement of these differences. That procedure is a single arbitrator, from whose decision, in reference to facts, there is no appeal. He gives his award exactly in the form provided by this Bill. What is it that my noble friend is afraid of? He gives us as an illustration a case regarding mill machinery, in which an injustice has been done through a clerical error; but it struck me that it was an illustration of injustice arising not so much owing to a clerical error as to a misstatement of fact. My noble friend will not depend on the award of the arbitrator; he wants to know what the different claims are by the tenant, and the different awards by the arbitrator. But suppose there are two classes of property owned by the same man—say, 1,000 acres of agricultural land and 1,000 acres of urban land. Some of the urban land is taken, and there is an arbitration as to the price; he gets his award on a single sheet of paper, without any details as to the value of the different parts of the property. Why not adopt the same procedure in regard to agricultural land? My noble friend says he does not care about an appeal; he only wants the information as to the valuation of the different parts of the property. But what, I ask, is the use of that information if there is no appeal?
§ *MR. LONG
If the arbitrator has given an unfair award, you would discover that without taking the award to pieces. If yon are going to give the heads under which the award is decided, or the reasons for the amount at which the arbitrator arrives at his figures, you must give an appeal in order that the differences of estimate may be ascertained. The moment you give an appeal you get rid of the simplicity and finality of these proceedings, and thus introduce litigation. Now, our main object in introducing the Arbitration Act procedure is that we may simplify the machinery, cheapen the procedure, and give to the arbitrator a responsible position so as to enable him to settle definitely and once for all, all matters of fact—leaving an appeal only on matters of law. This procedure of 334 the Arbitration Act has been successful where it has been employed. In no other kind of arbitration is it necessary for the arbitrator to give reasons for his decision or the heads of his award; and I do not see why we should give a procedure to agricultural tenancies different from that in all other arbitrations. My noble friend concluded his remarks by saying that if my reply was not satisfactory he would offer every opposition to the passage of this Bill. I would point out that there will be abundant scope for him on Report stage to criticise the parts of the Bill to which he objects without the sweeping method of rejecting the whole Bill.
§ *EARL PERCY (Kensington, S.)
I am not at all surprised that my noble friend the Member for Horncastle should have adopted the point of view that he did, both on the ground as to the time selected by the Government for bringing this measure before the House, and on the ground of the provisions which it contains. The hon. Member for East Northamptonshire complained that the Bill had been brought on before the meeting of the Central Chamber of Agriculture. That is not a point on which I feel strongly, although the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill might have deferred the consideration of the Bill until he had had the opportunity of hearing the opinion of that body. But there is another point of far greater importance than that of the opinions of chambers of agriculture. Many Members who take a great interest in the Bill were given to understand, through the ordinary channels of communication, that the measure would not be taken for several days, and it was with considerable surprise that we saw, last Friday, that the Bill, instead of being made the third Order of the Day, was put down as second. It must be remembered that comparatively few on this side of the House were present on the Select Committee, and it cannot be denied that the procedure adopted is not a very satisfactory one for discussing such debatable provisions as are contained in this Bill, especially for hon. Members who are engaged on Committees on other Bills. I think the Government would have consulted the convenience of their friends by postponing the consideration of this measure. I do not believe there is any real demand for the Bill, and I cannot conceive 335 that there is any great advantage in it over the Bill of 1883. It, however, to a certain extent, simplifies procedure, and we are all in favour of simpler procedure, of getting rid of the legal element as far as possible, and of reducing cost. But the Bill goes far beyond that, and introduces principles of a totally different and debatable character to which many in this House, and outside it, object. One is the limitation of the landlord's right of distraint, which, in my opinion, is against the policy systematically argued for fifteen years, of increasing the number of small holdings. Then it increases the number of cases in which the tenant may claim compensation for improvements which he has carried out without the consent of the landlord. I hold strong opinions on that point. I think that you should limit the number of improvements which the tenant may embark upon without the consent of the landlord to those which are absolutely necessary for the proper cultivation of the holding. The moment you go beyond those improvements absolutely necessary to proper cultivation, and go in for orchards, osier beds, permanent pasture, etc., you introduce a radically different principle from that which has been long established—a principle capable of very serious and indefinite extension. There is another point in regard to the question of an appeal from a decision of an. arbitrator. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that this Bill does not introduce any very material difference in the practice of the present law.
§ *EARL PERCY
Yes, a radical change in this sense: that you get rid of the power of appeal; and that is one of the points to which I most object. You set up a single arbitrator without any limits to his discretion. He has no assessor, and from his decisions you have no right of appeal. He has the power of entirely confiscating the property of the landlord and transferring it to the tenant. Now, my noble friend asks a very simple question. He asks the right hon. Gentleman to give an assurance that provision shall he made in the Bill that the arbitrator will state the reasons for his award. But the right hon. Gentleman says that if such a provision is made 336 it will be necessary to retain the right of appeal. For my part I should be very much in favour of retaining the right of appeal, and I frankly admit that I disagree with the measure on that point, and agree with my noble friend. If there were a right of appeal to a judicial court we should soon create a general code which would be a guide to future arbitrators. By an appeal, for instance to a County Court Judge, you would obtain a decision from a competent judicial authority, and that decision would be a guide, as I have said, to the arbitrators but at present there is no principle to assist them. One arbitrator gives his decision on one principle which appeals to him, and another on another principle. It is only by an appeal to a court of justice that you can get a definite code of principles which would be binding on the arbitrators. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question on one point. When he talks of the necessity of an appeal, if the arbitrator gives details under separate heads of the award, I think he is probably confusing two points of view which are really distinct—that is an appeal on a question, of law and an appeal on a question of fact.. The Bill proposes to do away with an appeal on questions of fact, but not on questions of law. The right hon. Gentleman says that no details are given in the award in commercial cases, or in cases of the compulsory purchase of land in towns. There is one answer to that, and that is that the owners of that class of property have never had a right to appeal against the decision of the arbitrator, whereas since 1883 the holders of agricultural property have, equally with the tenants, had a right of appeal. But another point far stronger than that is that in the case of the compulsory purchase of land I believe it is the fact that the arbitrator always states a case for a superior court on his own initiative. Therefore, it is always possible for the parties to the dispute to get a decision upon questions of law as well as questions of fact. But it will be said that under this Bill they can also appeal; that they can go to the County Court and say this is a question of law, and ask for a mandamus against the arbitrator, calling upon him to state a case. But you cannot appeal for the statement of a case without knowing the facts, and if the arbitrator makes the award in a 337 lump sum upon two schedules, each containing fifteen or twenty provisions, how is it possible for any landowner or tenant to lay his finger upon a particular point as the point where the particular question of law has arisen? All we ask is that the right hon. Gentleman will consider the points I have placed before him. I am not a legal authority, but I have studied this subject with some care, and I am certain that if leave is given, the principle on which it will be given is on a question of law. Such a solution as has been suggested will relieve the Member for the Horncastle Division of Lincolnshire from the painful necessity of obstructing this Bill. I do not myself desire to obstruct it, and should be glad to see it passed into law; but I do think there are many points which require consideration.
§ CAPTAIN PRETYMAN (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
This question of arbitration is a simple one, but I think there is some misapprehension with regard to it. As we read the Bill I think some of us have rather gathered that this arbitrator is to come in as between the parties in dispute without the intervention of anyone. If that had been so there would have been the gravest cause of complaint. Here are two parties, one of whom has a claim against the other, or each have claims against the other, and if the arbitrator, who is called in, has to come in and inquire into the whole complicated case and give his decision, embracing all the different issues, and give no particulars as to how that decision is arrived at, and there is to he no appeal whatever, and no intervention of an expert between him and the parties concerned, there would ensue a condition of things which would probably give rise to very great complaint. But as I read the Bill that is not the case. There are some very important words in the second section, line 8, page 2: "If the landlord and tenant fail to agree." I take those words to mean that arbitration is only to be resorted to when the valuers, who are naturally appointed between the parties in the first instance, and who are experts, have failed to agree with regard to any particular matter mentioned in the schedule, and not necessarily, I may say never, with regard to the whole of the schedule. The Bill further says, If there is a 338 difference in respect of an improvement." I take that to mean in respect of a particular improvement in regard to which there is a difference of opinion. When there is a difference of opinion under this Bill the parties appoint each his own valuer, and then if the valuers fail to agree upon any particular point the arbitrator is called in and his decision is final upon the matter of fact. That is, as I suppose, on the financial fact of £ s. d., and if that be so there will not be any serious source of complaint, because there will be two experts appointed by the parties themselves. Therefore, instead of not knowing upon what facts the arbitrator took his decision, the facts would be laid before him by the valuers—the experts—of the parties concerned, and the aggrieved party would only have to apply to his own valuer, because he, having laid the case before the arbitrator, must know what points the decision was given upon. If that is so, it brings these cases within the category of those commercial arbitrations, or Lands Clauses Act arbitrations, referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, because in those cases the parties between whom the arbitration is are represented by experts, who lay their case before the arbitrator. And there the arbitrator's decision, as to matters of fact, is final. In regard to matters of law there is an appeal which is exactly similar under the old Act. Under the Lands Clauses Umpire Act of 1883 there were first of all two referees, and then an arbitrator, although I do not know that the advantage was greater because you had three experts instead of one, because if you had two parties concerned in a case of this kind either party if he be cantankerous could drag the other party before an arbitrator, and put him to considerable expense. As a question of landlord and tenant I personally look upon it as a landlord, but I also look at it from the point of view of the farmer, and I feel myself that if my valuer failed to come to an agreement with the valuer of the party who is quitting my land, and a responsible arbitrator was appointed to decide between those two men, and my valuer had a locus standi to put my case before him, I should be quite satisfied with the decision as to matters of fact. As to questions of law it would be different; and as to questions of law and the stating of a case for a superior court, I do not see why agricul- 339 tural experts should not do the same as is done in commercial arbitrations.
§ *EARL PERCY
In commercial cases questions of law that are likely to arise are stated at once before the arbitration commences; in agricultural arbitrations they are not so obvious. I cannot see what objection there can be to giving the particulars.
§ CAPTAIN PRETYMAN
When it comes to stating a case for a superior court, of course particulars must be given, and particulars can be demanded. To take a case to a court of law without any particulars would be a preposterous thing, but I never contemplated that. The point I am dealing with, and it is a point which I think requires an answer, is whether the parties themselves should say whether it was desirable or not that a case should be stated. Where experts are appointed by the parties, they will be of the same class as the arbitrator himself; they have the same knowledge of agricultural law, and I think they would be able to decide for themselves whether there is any necessity to state a case. Therefore we have no reason to fear that a decision will be given by the arbitrator which will be wrong in law, and that neither party will be able to find the point upon which that decision was given, and that the wrong decision will stand. I am bound to say that, although I examined this Bill very carefully, I was very much of the opinion of my noble friend; but having given it further and closer study, I think this Bill will work out very satisfactorily—that very few cases indeed will come forward; the valuers will be able to settle nearly every case, and when they cannot settle a case the appointment of an arbitrator supported by the appeal to the County Court on a question of law will be very satisfactory. There are two other points which were mentioned by my noble friend, which require the careful consideration of the House. The first was in regard to the question of distress. I think we should look very carefully indeed at the distress clause before we interfere with the existing clause in the Act of 1883. It is not a landlord's question, it is a tenant's question, and, as a landlord, I feel very loth to express an opinion upon it; but I hope that this clause will not be pressed. With regard to the question raised by 340 my noble friend with respect to the change in the character of the holding, that should also be looked into very carefully. The broad principle has been laid down in the first schedule of this Bill that where an improvement has anything to do with the cultivation of the farm only it ought to be allowed, but that when it comes to altering the permanent character of the holding the consent of the landlord should be necessary. The three things mentioned by my noble friend—osiers, gardens, and orchards—would distinctly alter the character of the holding, and would require careful consideration by the landlord. It is in itself, perhaps, a small matter, and as it stands I do not think a single landlord would object; but it happens that there is a great principle involved, and whether it is worth while to insert this particular provision to depart from that principle, which is of value now and may be of good use hereafter, is questionable. Therefore I think, for the reasons I have laid before the House, that this Bill when it, passes into law will prove satisfactory.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
I venture to think that the interpretation which the hon. Member for Woodbridge has put upon this Bill is different from that which is generally put upon it, and I should like to know whether the interpretation which he puts upon Clause 2 is that which the Government puts upon it, because the substance and the character of this Bill will be entirely altered if that interpretation is correct. As I understand it, whenever a case arises where a tenant wants to make a claim, under this Bill an arbitrator is to be at once appointed and give his decision. There is no intermediate stage, as the hon. Gentleman stated, of appointing valuers. The hon. Gentleman accentuated the importance of the interpretation which he placed upon Clause 2, by saying that if his interpretation was correct there would, be very little resort to this Bill either by tenants or landlords. I think, therefore, that we ought to have from the right hon. Gentleman a statement as to whether the interpretation of the hon. Member for Woodbridge is correct, and the procedure indicated by him that which it is intended shall be taken under this Bill. I hope the Government will not listen to the arguments urged by the noble Lords 341 opposite. First of all as to the form in which the award of the arbitrator is to be given; that is one of the few gains offered to the agricultural community under this Bill, and you do simplify these cases when you say the award shall be given in a lump sum. I also hope the Government will not listen to the arguments urged as to the appeal. As I understand the two noble Lords, they wish to have incorporated not only the question of law but also the question of facts. I think we ought to simplify and cheapen procedure as much as possible; but when you give a right to appeal on a question of fact as well as of law you increase the procedure, and also the cost. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced this Bill said that one of the objects was to simplify and cheapen the procedure, but in my opinion, if he accepts the suggestions of the noble Lords it will have exactly the opposite result.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL (Greenwich)
said that, in all honesty, he thought by the arrangement which had resulted in this Bill being considered at the present time the Government had not displayed very much consideration for their supporters, many of whom had received the impression that the Bill was not to be discussed at so early a date.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. LONG,) Liverpool, West Derby
May I ask where the noble Lord obtained that information, and whether it was through the ordinary channels of the House?
§ LORD HUGH CECIL
I understand so; the information was conveyed to me. I do not suggest any breach of faith, but this is a very inconvenient time to have this debate, and it happens that a great many Members are unable to be in their places on the present occasion. One cannot rid one's self of the suspicion that that was one of the considerations which induced the Government to put down the Bill for to-night.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL
did not suggest anything improper or dishonourable on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, but 342 the occasion was inconvenient, and therefore he thought it was necessary to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to consider as favourably as possible the Amendments which came before him, especially on points which, like the one under discussion, were somewhat intricate. Who was to decide what was the proper interpretation of the Act? The hon. Member for Woodbridge took one view, the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire took another. He hoped before the discussion came to a conclusion the Attorney General would advise the House as to what was the proper interpretation. He thought the House would be well advised in inserting words into the Bill which would make the matter plain, as there was certainly no object in passing an ambiguous clause. With regard to the question of appeal, the appeal was resisted on the ground that it would destroy the character and the simplicity which was the great feature of the Bill. He quite agreed that simplicity of procedure was a very good thing, but it might, he thought, be purchased at too high a price. Cheap justice or rough justice, generally meant no justice at all. A similar discussion arose during the passage of the Workmen's Compensation Bill through the House, and a very important Amendment was inserted upon the question of the right to take the master to the Court of Appeal. In that case the Government allowed the House to take its own course, and that Amendment was carried in spite of the arguments brought against it. Then, as now, it was said that the character and simplicity of the Bill would be destroyed, and that artisans would be involved in great expense, but ultimately the Amendment was inserted. It was no doubt essential to have a simple form of doing justice, but the object of such a system was, it must be remembered, to do justice between the parties, and it should be made so plain that the people knew what to expect when they went to law. Probably the most simple system of law and administration the world had ever seen was the system of revolutionary government under the Convention in 1793. Nothing could exceed the simplicity of that procedure under which people could get a decision in an extraordinarily short space of time—cases of a criminal character being disposed of in the space of twenty four hours. But because the procedure 343 was simple it was not good. Simplicity was apt to be synonymous with a rough and ready system of justice, which was often very unfair. This Bill was one which undoubtedly commanded wide support, but it was impossible not to see, even in the course of the present discussion, that the Bill might be used as a platform for further legislation of a much more objectionable character. The hon. Member for East Northamptonshire frankly said that he regarded the Bill as very faulty. He said it did not go far enough, and he anticipated that in the future legislation must go much further. His right hon. friend the President of the Board of Agriculture had argued as from past precedents, and a similar argument would be applicable to all the precedents set up under this Bill. Therefore they were entitled to consider this Bill most carefully, and he earnestly hoped that the Government, in spite of exhortations coming from the other side, would not shut the door in the face of their own supporters. It was, of course, only too easy for the Government, anxious to pass the Bill, to remember that opponents could give more trouble than supporters, and not to give too much consideration to the merits of the case. He hoped, however, that that would not be the case in regard to the present Bill, and that the Government would decide these questions in accordance with right and justice.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir ROBERT FINLAY,) Inverness Burghs
There is one point on which I cannot agree with my noble friend who has just spoken. He said that our opponents could always give more trouble than our supporters. I am not sure that my noble friend has described that matter accurately. I was very glad to hear my noble friend the Member for South Kensington say that this is a good Bill, and that, on the whole, he is anxious that it should pass. I gather that that is the opinion of all the other noble Lords and hon. Members who have spoken. Various points have been raised, but I would remind the House that what we are now asking is that this Bill should be considered, and all these points, of course, will be considered at the proper time and in the proper way. It has been said that the clause with regard to the right of distress goes too far, but the intention of that clause is to carry out what was the 344 object of the Legislature in 1883, and if anyone can say that that intention has not been carried out it will be legitimate ground for considering whether the law should not be amended. There are only one or two points on which I wish to say a word or two at this stage. I shall refer first to the construction of the second section of the Bill—If a tenant claims to be entitled to compensation, whether under the principal Act or this Act, or under custom, agreement, or otherwise, in respect of any improvement comprised in the First Schedule of this Act, and if the landlord and tenant fail to agree as to the amount and time and mode of payment of such compensation, the difference shall be settled by arbitration in accordance with the provisions, if any, in that behalf in any agreement between landlord and tenant, and in default of and subject to any such provisions by arbitration under this Act in accordance with the provisions set out in the Second Schedule to this Act.Provision is made for raising any question of law which may relate to one of the parties and which may not relate to the other. I quite agree with my hon. friend the Member for the Woodbridge division that landlord and tenant before they rush to arbitration will probably, like sensible Englishmen, take skilled advice, and put their differences in the hands of experts, although, of course, there is no obligation upon them to do so. If they fail to agree, after every facility has been afforded, then, and not till then, they will go to arbitration. The practice hitherto in too many cases has been for the landlord and tenant when they failed to agree each to appoint his arbitrator. The provision now is that if any question of law emerges in the course of the arbitration either party may require the arbitrator to state a case, and if the Judge of the County Court directs that he should do so he is bound to state a case. In the second schedule of the Bill the ninth rule says:The arbitrator may at any stage of the proceedings, and shall, if so directed by the judge of a county court (which direction may be given on the application of either party) state, in the form of a special case for the opinion of that court any question of law arising in the course of the arbitration.I would ask the House whether it is not more convenient, if a question of law arises in the course of an arbitration, that it should be disposed of while the case is pending and before the final award. 345 Formerly the matter went to award, and from that there was an appeal. I do not think the word in regard to that matter can be made clearer. It is not the intention of the Bill in any way or in the slightest degree to prevent full consideration by the court of any question of law that arises. It would be a question of law whether an improvement was of such a nature that compensation was fair or not under the Act, but with regard to that we desire that the fullest opportunity should be given for the consideration of these questions. The appeal on the question of law is intended to be conserved, and, if any change is necessary to make that clear it can be considered when the Bill is dealt with upon the Report stage.
§ MR. HUMPHREYS - OWEN (Montgomeryshire)
The point in the Bill which we have hitherto been discussing docs not seem to me to be nearly so important as the point which originated the discussion—I mean the point raised by the noble Lord opposite, namely, the direction to the arbitrator that he should specify in his award the different heads. He referred to what is done under the Lands Clauses Act, but the case is not at all parallel to the number of different questions which will be raised between landlord and tenant as to the various improvements specified in the Bill. Each separate improvement raises a separate consideration, and it is perfectly reasonable that the parties should be told in which of these points they have succeeded and in which of them they have failed. Moreover, it is considered that many of the arbitrators before whom those questions will come will not be men of any very great experience, and certainly will not have any great amount of practice in deciding upon points on which they have to say yes or no. It will tend very greatly to satisfactory awards if they are tied down to state in each case what the breach of covenant consists in, what the claims consist of, and what the award is in each case. Another question has been raised as to distress. It has been said that this is a tenants' question, but it must not be forgotten that the existence of the right of distress necessarily tends to increase competition for farms, because it enables men with rather less capital to take farms on account of there being a first charge in 346 favour of the landlord for a considerable amount. It is said that to give the right of distress will encourage small holdings. In my opinion it is not likely to have that result, and I speak with very considerable experience in small holdings. My experience is, if a small holder once gets into arrear his case is hopeless, and it is better that there should be no inducement to the landlord to give indulgence. That clause in the Bill should be allowed to stand. Complaints have been made against putting permanent grass and other improvements of that kind in the category of those which in the view of the landlord are not required. There is no doubt that any sensible landlord would assent to the laying down of permanent pasture, and the planting of osier beds, if done reasonably and by a reasonable tenant; but there is still a considerable number of absentee landlords whose estates are managed in a rigid way, not by agents familiar with country affairs, but by London lawyers or agents. On these grounds I hope the Government will consider before we come to the Report stage the suggestion made, and if the noble Lord the Member for Horncastle should press any Amendment in the direction he has indicated certainly I should be very glad to support it.
§ *MR. JONATHAN SAMUEL (Stockton)
I have listened with astonishment to the different views expressed as to the mode of arbitration procedure under Clause 2, and therefore it is very difficult to understand what the procedure will be. The suggestion I am going to make to the Government is this. During the negotiations between this Government and the Transvaal Government before the outbreak of the war, the Transvaal Government introduced a Bill offering to reduce the term of qualification for the franchise to five years for Uitlanders, the Colonial Secretary made the very unique suggestion that the Transvaal Government should appoint a joint. Commission to inquire into the working of the law before it came into operation—that is, if the Bill became law. My suggestion is that the Government should try the experiment by suspending this Bill and appointing a Commission to inquire as to how the second clause would work. I believe that suggestion to the Transvaal Government was a unique one, and it would be interesting if the Government would try the experiment on their own 347 particular measures. Members Who had listened to the discussion on this side of the House were absolutely in a state of confusion as to what this clause is.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
I certainly think it is most proper that this Bill should be considered, and I would suggest respectfully that it should be considered from the point of view of the drafting. My view is that it is the extraordinary method of drafting that has caused much of the confusion that has been apparent during this debate, and to that also is no doubt due the outburst of the noble Lord. It is in consequence of the defects of drafting that the Bill as it stands is the most remarkable example of referential and allusive legislation I have ever come across. As it stands the Bill is an absolute cryptogram, and nobody can possibly approach to an understanding of it until he has provided himself with nine other Acts of Parliament. Without these it is as much a mystery as the hieratic writing of the great Egyptian priests was a mystery to the common people who only understood the common writing. Yet the Act is intended for plain men, and to enable landlords and tenants to understand their positions and relations to each other. The whole suggestion of the Attorney General is that they should make up their minds as to what their powers are, what the justice of the case demands, and then consult an export. Pass the Bill as it stands, and no landlord or tenant, unless inspired with extra wisdom from on high, will be able to understand what his rights are. I will give an example from the first clause—References in the principal Act to the First Schedule to that Act shall be construed as references to the First Schedule to this Act.At the end of the second clause I find these words—Subject to any provision contained in any agreement between landlord and tenant the Arbitration Act, 1889, shall not apply to any arbitration to which this Act applies.The third clause contains the following—Sections twenty-nine, thirty, and thirty-one of the principal Act shall apply to any money paid by or due from a landlord to a tenant as compensation for any improvement comprised in the First Schedule of this Act, Whether the compensation be claimed under this Act or under custom or agreement or otherwise.348 I do not think anybody can understand that clause without collating all the different Acts. I desire once again to renew the protest I have made many times as to the monstrous abuse perpetrated by one Government after another, perpetrated by one front bench after another, in introducing into the House, and passing by Government majorities, Bills which no human being can understand. It is perfectly outrageous to pass a Bill like this which you cannot understand until you have learned by heart nine other Acts. On a representation being made to the late, Government on the subject, when the Behring Sea Bill was before the House, they embodied all the clauses of other Acts to which the Bill itself alluded. That was reasonable. If the Government had done this now, I should not require to make any reference to this matter. Look at this cryptogram in the tenth section—References to the principal Act and to Sections 29, 30, 32, and 34 thereof, shall be construed as references to the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1883, and to Sections 24, 26, 2o, and 30, thereof, respectively. References to Sections 31 and 39 of the principal Act shall not apply.One more quotation from the tenth clause—A reference to the Arbitration Act, 1899, shall be construed as a reference to the Arbitration (Scotland) Act, 1894, and a reference to the Market Gardeners' Compensation Act, 1895, shall be construed as a reference to the Market Gardeners' Compensation (Scotland) Act, 1897.Clause 9 contains the following—References to 'manures' in the principal Act, and this Act shall be construed as references to the improvements numbered twenty-four, twenty-five, and twenty-six, in Part 3 of the First Schedule to this Act.You have no right to ask this House to spend its time passing solemn Acts of Parliament to which the Royal Assent should be given, and by which the people of this country should be bound, without giving them some chance of understanding what the law is. Many and many a time in this House I have risen to protest against this system of not saying what you moan. Why do you not say what you mean? Are you ashamed to say it? Do you think the House will not accept it? If either of these reasons were true you ought not to introduce the measure. If you are not ashamed of it, if you do understand it, and if you believe the 349 House will adopt it, in God's name state it in plain language. The landlord has got to try to understand the Act; the tenant has got to try to understand the Act; even the unhappy Court of Arbitration has got to try to understand it. Will you give none of them a chance? Are you determined that nobody should know what it is you put into an Act of Parliament? Do let us once for all come to a resolution to bring to an end this mischievous, false, deceitful, and dishonest system of getting the House of Commons to pass clauses in Acts of Parliament which do not say what they mean, which allude to other Acts of Parliament—and not even to them, but only to them with differences, and differences upon differences, and again differences upon those. It is not creditable to Her Majesty's Government, it is not creditable to the House of Commons, and it is not creditable to the country.
§ MR. HEYWOOD JOHNSTONE (Sussex, Horsham)
was understood to express his entire agreement with the complaint of the last speaker. He had no conception until this discussion of the infinite possibilities which lay within the four corners of the Bill under consideration. Apparently a tenant might be entitled to compensation in five different ways in respect of any of the improvements comprised within the schedule to the Bill, and of those improvements there were thirty-four. Each person was to appoint his expert, and these experts were to sit down and endeavour to agree, but if they could not agree absolutely and entirely the matter was to go before the arbitrator. This was simplicity of procedure; this was shortening the deliberations between landlord and tenant at the expiration of a tenancy. This was deliberately put before the House as a means of simplifying the relations between landlord and tenant. Simplicity indeed! One's mind almost reeled at the contemplation of the possible variety of claims that might be put forward in different ways. He preferred the simplicity of the common law, even before the Common Law Procedure Act. He was greatly in favour of anything which would simplify procedure; but there was one thing more desirable than simplicity, and that was certainty. When they were dealing with a multiplicity of facts such as might reasonably arise under the third 350 schedule of the Bill, what possible objection could there be to the arbitrator giving the amount he had arrived at on each item? That would be much more satisfactory than lumping them together and leaving the parties to discover for themselves the compensation awarded in respect of particular items. He did not very much care whether the Bill passed into law or not, but if it did he hoped it would first be amended in several material particulars.
§ MR. H. C. RICHARDS (Finsbury, E.)
I have no doubt the Attorney General will suggest that I am somewhat obtuse, but up to the present I have failed to understand the position of Clause 3 and Clause 2. I propose to deal with Clause 3 first. Under that clause the powers of the County Court are to be exercised by the Board of Agriculture, "and' the Board of Agriculture 'accordingly should be substituted for 'County Court' in Sections 29, 30, 31, 32, and 39 of that Act." What I want to understand is how that inquiry is to be dealt with, whether locally, or whether the Board of Agriculture will have a court in London to deal with these questions. While I have every confidence in the President of the Board of Agriculture, I am perfectly confident that, from a legal point of view, that will not prove a satisfactory tribunal, because its decisions will not be properly reviewed by the courts of law. I do not pose as an expert in agricultural holdings, but I do claim to have some knowledge of arbitrations and proceedings in County Courts, and I must say that if there is one way more unsatisfactory than another of obtaining decisions on points of law it is by reference to a County Court. I will give my reasons for that view. In London alone, with which I am more familiar, on the question of the Workmen's Compensation Act, there are two or three County Court Judges who entertain contrary opinions upon particular points in that Act, and one may be fairly clear as to what a variety of decisions there will be if the opinion of County Court Judges is to be taken on these points of law. I venture to say that what the Act of Uniformity deals with in the preface to the Book of Common Prayer about the uses of Sarum, Hereford, and Bangor will certainly be illustrated by a greater number of decisions of, say, the County Courts of Essex, 351 Hereford, or Cornwall. If points of law arise in regard to the wording of any new Act, the proper and only way of securing simplicity and expedition is by referring that point of law not to the County Court of the district, but to the Court of Queen's Bench, and from there, if necessary, to the Court of Appeal. I am astonished that the Attorney General should be satisfied with the suggestion that these arbitrators, these expert persons with every knowledge of agriculture but none of law, should be permitted to state a case. To state a case for a Superior Court is a work of great difficulty. It has to be drawn first by one side, then approved by the other, and finally approved by the person from whose decision the appeal is to be made. What sort of a case will be stated by the ordinary arbitrators in an agricultural district, and in what condition will that case find itself when it goes before the County Court Judge? There is another point to which I should like to draw attention. I am perfectly confident that this House ought not to sanction the abrogration of that portion which under Clause 19 of the old Act of 1883 made it absolutely necessary for the arbitrator to give each of his findings under a specific heading. It has been said that in arbitrations which take place under the ordinary rules of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, or in arbitrations which arise in connection with public improvements, the arbitrator does not give a specific amount under each head of the claim. But if desired the arbitrator, especially if he is not a legal person, always gives those particulars if he is asked to do so by either of the parties to the inquiry. If the law is to be altered, let it be altered with some probability of the law being ascertained not only in a simple and speedy way, but in a satisfactory way. Then, Sit, why should not Sub-section 3 apply to Scotland? I see later on that no portion of the Bill is to apply to Ireland, but I cannot understand why Sub-section 3 is not to apply to Scotland, while it applies to England. The Bill is a most unsatisfactory one in the way in which it deals with other Acts—in citing, repealing, or incorporating them. One of the most painstaking members of the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Smith, has complained over and over again of the manner in which Parliament throws at the Judges 352 these Acts with references to a number of other Acts without specifically setting them out. It is not fair to the public, and it is not fair to Her Majesty's Judges. The only thing it does is to make the position of the law utterly impossible for an ordinary person to grasp, and to suggest that an ordinary County Court Judge is to decide points of law under Sub-sections 9 and 10 is a suggestion which might be very well for a political meeting, but it is not worthy of the commonsense or deliberation of this House. I trust that if this Bill is to be persevered with Her Majesty's Government will endeavour to remedy the defects which different hon. Members have pointed out, and which I humbly suggest might be dealt with in a more satisfactory, and certainly in a less complicated, way than they are at present.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (Forfarshire)
I should like to add one word to what has been said with so much point by the lion. Member for King's Lynn, and that is to renew the protest made at an earlier stage of this Bill against the infringement of the principle which has hitherto been observed in this class of legislation of bringing in separate Bills to deal with the case of Scotland. Much of the complexity to which the hon. Member for King's Lynn alluded is traceable to the tact that instead of having a Scotch Bill unending former Scotch Acts dealing with this question, we have our legislation coupled with English legislation on the same subject. I simply wish to renew the complaint with as much emphasis as I san that we have not got legislation more intelligible to the Scotch farmer and more in accordance with Scotch precedent on this question.
§ *MR. CHANNING
I do not know whether I shall be in order in moving the clause put down by my hon. and gallant friend the Member for Stratford-upon-Avon.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member cannot move the Amendment of another hon. Member; he can move his own.
Then I will move my own. I will only say it was my 353 intention when I put it clown to put it down with the slight alteration made by the hon. Member for Stratford-upon-Avon in his draft. As it is, I hope, if the House agrees to the Second Heading, that it will be amended in the sense of my hon. and gallant friend. I do not know that this clause needs many words to recommend it to those who have followed the discussion of this question. The matter was brought before the Royal Commission by nearly every practical witness who went into this question. One of the objections raised to this proposal by the President of the Board of Agriculture was the question of expense. My hon. and gallant friend the Member for Stratford-upon-Avon has received several letters from practical valuers of position in the Midland counties dealing with this question of expense, and I would ask to be permitted to read them to the House. One of these letters is in reply to Colonel Milward, and is as follows—In reply to yours of the 18th inst. my own opinion is that the records of farms can be taken at the time the valuation is made, that the charge should be £2 2s. for 100 acres, £3 3s. for 200 acres, £4 4s. for 400 acres, and so on. This would not be a great charge; you can say a minimum charge of £2 2s., and £1 for every 100 acres after the first 100.Another letter from a Warwickshire valuer says—I wired you this morning 'Charges for 100 acres two guineas, 300 acres four guineas.' I do not consider the fee named should prevent its being carried, as such a procedure must be mutual to landlord and tenant. I have not consulted any other valuers as to foes; these are my ideas only.Then from a Worcestershire valuer—I have no doubt valuers will be found who will survey holdings on the fees you mention. I should say, in most cases, it will be done by the landlord or his agent and the incoming tenant themselves, If the Act is passed I should make it part of the terms of letting a farm in our agency that we agree on a statement as to present state of cultivation, etc.The next is from a Hereford valuer—Thanks very much for the Agricultural Holdings Act and Amendments. I have carefully read them through, and I think your clause as regards a record of the condition of the holding a most important and necessary addition. I have for some years on one estate been in the habit of noting in the agreement the state of cultivation at time of entry, which I have found most useful. I also number their gates on the plan, and keep note of what is done to them by a new tenant. It is on very few properties that I have had to do with that any sort of record of cultivation is made, and I think it would save very much trouble to 354 arbitrators and save endless disputes if such a proceeding was made compulsory. As to the fees you name, I think they are reasonable and fair. It is so often said by tenants, 'When I entered my hedges were not trimmed, my ditches were all blocked up, the house drainage was choked, the pump was practically worn out, the boilers were cracked.' After a man has been in a farm twelve or fifteen years it is forgotten, if ever noted, what a farm was like, and if such a record as you propose is made compulsory, and is to form part of the agreement it will be a grand thing for all concerned.He then gives a schedule showing how he would propose to carry out his idea. I thought, as my hon. and gallant friend furnished me with these letters, I might lay them before the House as practical evidence in support of this clause. My own view has always been that it was a proposal as to the practical machinery of which we should consult and rely upon the opinions of practical men. It seems to me that it will be of the greatest possible advantage to the valuer to have some such record. I think, as has been mentioned in one of the letters I have read, the matter could be dealt with in a very short and clear form, and would certainly lead to the elimination of many causes of dispute between landlord and tenant, because the details could be easily comprehended by both parties, and disputes could be settled reasonably and amicably. This mode of procedure can be carried out without entailing extravagant expenditure on either party, and would be a valuable addition to the Bill. I hope, therefore, Her Majesty's Government will see their way to accept this clause. New clause—Every contract of tenancy entered into after the commencement of this Act shall contain a scheduled record of the agricultural condition of the holding and its several parts, and of the buildings, fences, roads, and drains at the beginning of the contract of tenancy. At any time during a tenancy existing at the commencement of this Act, either party may require a record in similar form to be made by an arbitrator. Copies of all such records shall be deposited in the office of the registrar of the county court, and either party shall be entitled to inspect the same at all reasonable times, and to take copies thereof."—(Mr. Channing.)—brought up and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the clause be read a second time."
§ *MR. LONG
I hope the hon. Gentleman will not think it necessary to press 355 his Amendment, because there is really no such agreement among us as he imagines, even as to the theoretical advantages which would arise from a system of this kind. The question which will present itself to every hon. Member is whether it is just to make such a record compulsory on the landlord and the tenant. Whatever such a record would cost—whether the expense would be small, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, or whether it would be large—it would have to be borne not only by the party requiring it, but also by the other. I can conceive that a record carefully and exhaustively made would be of some value, but I confess I heard with surprise the hon. Gentleman's statement that the cost would only be £2 2s. per hundred acres. That strikes me as a very moderate charge if the work is efficiently done, but it seems to me rather a loose way of describing the charge likely to be made. A great deal would depend of course on whether the hundred acres were lying together, or were in separate lots, or if they were composed of the same kind of land or not. Then, again, two guineas may be a reasonable charge for a hundred acres, but if the same amount were charged for thirty acres or forty acres it would, I submit, not be a reasonable charge, and if reasonable in one case it would be excessive in the other. There is nothing to prevent either the landlord or the tenant having a record made; but, without knowing either the form of the record or its cost, I think it would not be desirable to make it compulsory, and under these circumstances I hope the House will not assent to the clause.
§ MR. HUMPHREYS-OWEN
I hope my hon. friend will press this clause, as it seems to me an extremely valuable one. The objections of the President of the Board of Agriculture are more objections in Committee than objections on the Second Beading. If this Bill is going to be valuable at all it will only be so because it lays down a model form of agreement between landlord and tenant, and if anything tends more effectively than another to soothe the feelings between landlord and tenant at the termination of a tenancy, it is that there should be as few disputes as possible on the question of compensation. In nine cases out of ten the tenancy has lasted for a great number of years. The 356 tenant will tell you that when he went into the farm it was in a state of general neglect, that the fences were broken down and the drains choked up. Then, on the other hand, the landlord will be equally convinced that the farm was in a thoroughly satisfactory condition when the tenant entered it, and who, in the circumstances, can decide between them? The establishment of a record of this kind has the approval of very many eminent agriculturists. I may mention that many years ago it was warmly advocated by a man whom many hon. Members will remember, Mr. Albert Pell, who was one of the most practical agriculturists of this generation. He went even so far as to suggest photographs to show the condition, of the fences, but that is a counsel of perfection which I certainly should not cave to insist upon. At all events, a record as to the condition of a farm when a tenant enters it can be easily and, I venture to say, cheaply made. In a farm of any considerable size it would be made as a matter of course by the agents and the incoming tenant. As a matter of fact they do now go over the farms in most cases, and the landlord or the agent tells the tenant what he is prepared to do. Where would be the difficulty in putting such a statement into the form of a record, with a few additional particulars regarding the condition of the fences, roads, drains, etc.? I am convinced that the adoption of this clause will tend very greatly to improve the working of the Bill, and I heartily support it.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE ERESBY
If Her Majesty's Government make no concession on the point I raised at the beginning of the discussion, namely, that the arbitrator should give details of his award, I certainly shall vote with the hon. Gentleman. At present, in many cases, when a tenant gives up his farm the arbitrator decides the amount to be paid to the landlord for dilapidation or waste, and that money is expended in repairing the holding and the farm house. It is impossible for anyone to learn in what state the holding was left by the outgoing tenant, unless it be plainly stated by the arbitrator on what grounds his arbitration is based. Unless some concession is given on this point, I shall certainly support the clause.
§ SIR WILLIAM WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
I trust my hon. friend will press this clause. The present method of ascertaining the condition of a holding seems to me to be extremely unsatisfactory, and to be done in a merely mechanical manner. What the farmer wants is that the farm should be judged by its general condition and by its fertility, which depends on continuous good husbandry. That is a very delicate matter to decide, and after a period of years it is almost impossible to ascertain what was the condition of the farm when the tenant went into it. This Amendment will be not only useful but also economical, because it will prevent disputes. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill objects to this clause because it is obligatory, but my hon. friend has stated that he will be willing to accept the wording of the clause which stands first on the Paper, and which is entirely permissive, leaving the tenant to ask for a record or not as he likes. Of course, if he asks for it he will have to pay for it. That would get rid not only of the objection that the clause is obligatory, but also of the objection with regard to the cost. The difficulty is that almost all valuers are regarded as either landlords' men or tenants' men, and what we want is impartial men appointed as permanent officials who would be very careful not to lean either to one side or the other. The foe should be a moderate one, and a very small payment would enable this valuable record to be made.
§ *SIR JOHN KINLOCH (Perthshire, E.)
thought that this clause was quite unnecessary. It was a clause to defend landlords. They, the landlords, were perfectly able to defend themselves. In all
§ their leases the objects of this clause were taken notice of except the agricultural condition of the holding. The criterion by which they could judge that was the sum paid to the outgoing tenant for compensation. All the other things, such as buildings and drains, were guarded in the lease. From the tenants' point of view, it would be most objectionable to have a fussy landlord or factor coming in every year to make a record.
§ MR. HEYWOOD JOHNSTONE
pointed out that in this clause no provision was made as to who was to make this scheduled record, and there was nothing as to who should pay for it. The parties might not be able to agree, and no provision was made for a third party. The tenant had ample opportunities of looking into all the matters raised by this clause, and of gauging the agricultural condition of his holding and of seeing what the conditions of the buildings were. The clause provided that—At any time during a tenancy existing at the commencement of this Act, either party may require a record in similar form to be made by an arbitrator.There was no suggestion there as to who was to appoint the arbitrator or who was to pay him. He did not think this matter had been sufficiently considered by the hon. Member who moved the clause. He certainly thought that the clause as drafted was absolutely unworkable, and would operate to the disadvantage both of the landlord and the tenant.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 46; Noes, 142. (Division List No. 168.)359
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Gurdon, Sir William Brampton||Murnaghan, George|
|Billson, Alfred||Horniman, Frederick John||O'Dowd, John|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Hutton, John (Vorks, N.R.)||O'Keefe, Francis Arthur|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Price, Robert John|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Jones, W. (Carnarvonshire)|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb'l'nd)||Reckitt, Harlod James|
|Caldwell, James||Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham)||Richardson, J. (Durham S. E.)|
|Cawley, Frederick||Lough, Thomas||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Daly James||Macaleese, Daniel||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Dalziel, James Henry||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift|
|Doogan, P. C.||M'Ghee, Richard||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Evershed, Sydney||M'Hugh, Patrick A. (Leitrim)||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Ffrench, Peter||M'Kenna, Reginald||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.||Wilson, Frederick W. (Norfolk)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Wedderburn, Sir William||Woodhouse, Sir J T (Huddersfld)||Mr. Channing and Mr. Humphreys-Owen.|
|Williams, John Carvell (Nobts.)||Woods, Samuel|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Pilkington, R. (Lancs, Newton)|
|Arrol, Sir William||Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Plunkett, Rt Hn Horace Curzon|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Gull, Sir Cameron||Pollock Harry Frederick|
|Baillie, J. E. B. (Inverness)||Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robert Wm.||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hanson, Sir Reginald||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds)||Hardy, Laurence||Purvis, Robert|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Hayne, Rt. Hn. Charles Scale-||Rankin, Sir James|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol)||Heath, James||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Henderson, Alexander||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Bethell, Commander||Hickman, Sir Alfred||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hoare, Sir Samuel (Norwich)||Richards, Henry Charles|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W|
|Brassey Albert||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Johnston William (Belfast)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Sandon, Viscount|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||Keswick, William||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Chamberlain J. A. (Worcester)||Kinloch, Sir John George Smyth||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Sidebottom, William (Derbysh)|
|Charrington, Spencer||Lafone, Alfred||Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Lawson, J. Grant (Yorks.)||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Leese, Sir Jos. F. (Accrington)||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Cooke, C. W. R. (Hereford)||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Smith, James Parker (Lanarks)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasg'w)||Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn- (Swans.)||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Cornwallis, Fiennes Stanley W.||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Strauss, Arthur|
|Cross, Herbert S. (Bolton)||Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverpool)||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Cubitt, Hon Henry||Lowe, Francis William|
|Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Talbot, Rt Hn J. G. (Oxf'd Univ.)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Macdona, John Cumming||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Douglas, Chas. M. (Lanark)||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Dyke, Rt. Hon Sir Wm. H.||Maclure, Sir John William|
|Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. H.||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Warde, Lieut.-Col C. E. (Kent)|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E)||Welby, Lt-Col. A. C. E. (Tauntn)|
|Faber, George Denison||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.||Welby, Sir C. G. E. (Notts.)|
|Fardell, Sir T. George||Middlemore, Jn. Throgmorton||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Finch, George H.||Monckton, Edward Philip||Williams, Joseph Powell- (Bir.)|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Fisher, William Hayes||More, R. Jasper (Shropshire)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.)|
|FitzGerald, Sir R, Penrose-||Morgan, Hn. Fred. (Mon'mthsh)||Wodehouse, Rt Hon E. R. (Bath)|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||Morrell, George Herbert||Wylie, Alexander|
|FitzWygram, General Sir F.||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Wyndham, George|
|Fletcher, Sir Henry||Murray, Rt Hn A Graham (Bute)||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Flower, Ernest||Newdigate, Francis Alexander||Young, Commander (Berks, E.)|
|Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Galloway, William Johnson||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlingt'n)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—|
|Gedge, Sydney||Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)||Sir William Walrond and|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Fred.||Peel, Hon. Wm. Robert W.||Mr. Anstruther.|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
§ It being after Midnight, further Proceeding on Consideration, as amended, stood adjourned.
§ Bill, as amended (by the Standing Committee), to be further considered To-morrow.