HC Deb 08 May 1901 vol 93 cc1044-116


Order for Second Reading read.

MR. LAMBERT (Devonshire, South Molton)

In moving the Second Reading of this Bill I wish to say that I do not think there could be any more important subject brought before the attention of this House than the condition of our rural districts, for undoubtedly the statistics of the recent Census returns show that the agricultural population is gradually drifting into the towns. In my opinion that is a serious matter, not only to the towns, where it creates undue competition in labour, but it is also a very serious matter for agriculture. I know from my own experience that farmers are at their wits' end to get the labour to cultivate the land, and it is impossible for them to do so unless they can get it at the proper season of the year. I am certain that any practical farmer will agree with me when I say that it is absolutely essential to till the land at the proper season, otherwise you will not get any crop at all. This Bill deals with this pressing problem, which is of national importance, and I think the House will not begrudge the time spent in considering it.

I am not introducing a heroic measure. This Bill, in my opinion, is a moderate, simple, and straightforward one, and the principle involved is that the capital of the tenant farmer should be secure against confiscation. No man ought to object to such a measure, no good landlord would object to it, and no landlord ought to object. I think the principle that the man who makes an improvement shall reap the reward of such improvement is a thoroughly sound one, and calculated to encourage the best cultivation of the land. It is perfectly well known that farmers have to suffer many risks. They have to suffer not only trade risks, but also the risk of the seasons. A man may plant twenty bushels of wheat in a ten-acre field, but no man can tell how much he is going to get out of it. If a man has to suffer these risks together with the risks of the climate it is intolerable that his capital should be liable to confiscation. It is proposed in the first clause that such sum as fairly represents the value of an improvement to an incoming tenant shall be paid to the man who makes the improvement. This is a fair proposal, because if a tenant makes an improvement which is worth nothing he will not be paid anything for it, but if he makes a change which is of great value to the holding, surely the man who, by his capital and industry, has made that change or improvement, should be paid for it. The landlord is safeguarded, because if an improvement is worth nothing the tenant will not be paid for it, and the landlord is in the position of an interested spectator who can see his property improving without cost to himself. I propose by the second clause—that— where the tenant has sustained any loss or damage from game that he has not the lawful right to kill, he shall at any time and from time to time during the tenancy be entitled to claim compensation from his landlord for such loss or damage, and any agreement to the contrary shall be void. I cannot imagine that any man—even the most bigoted Conservative on the opposite side of the House, if there are any—could object to such a clause as this. If a man's crops are damaged by game which he has no lawful right to kill, surely the person to whom that game belongs should pay. It is almost impossible that a farmer can pay his outgoings and his rent if he has his crops destroyed or devoured, and he ought to be able to claim compensation for any such damage. The next clause proposes to extend the operation of the Ground Game Act. At the present time the right of the occupier to kill ground game with firearms is limited to himself and one other person. If it is necessary that the occupier should have the right to kill ground game by firearms, then why not give him the right more freely? I have never understood why a farmer, who has to maintain the ground game, should not be able to invite his friends to shoot rabbits and have a little sport. Under the present system, if you are ferreting rabbits, when you put the ferret in on one side of the hedge and the rabbit bolts out at the other side, a farmer has no chance of shooting that rabbit. It may be said that under this clause farmers would be tempted to kill the winged game belonging to the landlord. My contention is that it would have just the opposite effect, for a man is more likely to "pot" at a partridge or a pheasant if he is alone than when he is accompanied by friends. I cannot help thinking that this clause will add to the protection of the winged game. The principle is that the man who rears and feeds this ground game should have the right to kill it. I am also in favour of the farmer having freedom for cropping, providing that the fertility of the soil is maintained. I will never be a party to any measure which would tend to impoverish the soil. We want to encourage the best methods of cultivation and penalise any tenant who goes to a farm, robs it of its fertility, and then leaves it in an impoverished condition in order to go to another farm. We have here a proviso that a tenant shall have freedom of cropping and disposal of produce provided that he has made a reasonable provision to protect the holding from injury or deterioration. When there is a proviso that the holding shall not be allowed to suffer injury or deterioration, then it is only reasonable that the tenant farmer should have the right to cultivate whatever crop he pleases. You would not dream of tying up any manufacturer as to the manner in which he should produce a certain article, and you should not tie up the farmer as to what he shall produce. The agent of the landlord may insist upon those old-fashioned and out-of-date methods of cultivation which may have been all right in the middle of last century but which are altogether out of place to-day. The farmer should have the right to cultivate what he likes and take advantage of his opportunities. Sometimes a man sows a field of corn and it comes to nothing. Why on earth, if he brings in the proper manure substitute, should he not be able to till the field again? Suppose a man has a considerable quantity of hay which is dear when corn is cheap. Why should he not have the right to sell his hay and buy corn? A farmer has often these obstacles before him, and he should be allowed to cultivate the land exactly as he pleases provided that no injury is done to the farm.

Now I come to a clause which may excite some little controversy, and it is one which proposes that where a tenant is unreasonably evicted from a farm he shall be entitled to compensation for disturbance. Anyone who has studied this question knows that the tenant is at a great disadvantage, as compared with the landlord, upon leaving or changing his farm. If a farm is in good condition and the buildings are in good order, it costs a landlord nothing to change his tenant. [An HON. MEMBER: Yes it does.] What does it cost him? If the landlord does improvements for the new tenant which he would not do for the old tenant, then I admit it costs him something, but I hope landlords will not for a moment pursue that policy. To a tenant it is a very serious matter to change farms. He has to go into a new neighbourhood, and sever his business connections and all his old associations, and, what is still more important, he has to gain experience of his new farm. Any man who understands the cultivation of land knows that different fields have different capacities. Some fields will produce one thing abundantly and some another, and you can only get to know this by experience. While to the landlord a change of tenancy means very little, a change to the tenant may mean ruin. It is absolutely essential for the successful cultivation of the land to have reasonable security of tenure. This has been shown to be essential in Scotland, where the tenants had nineteen years leases, and the land has fallen into disuse, because it is impossible for a tenant farmer at the present time, with prices fluctuating so much, to bind himself to pay a fixed rent for a period of nineteen years. Good cultivation and anything that will encourage it should be encouraged by this House, because it means an increase in our home production. I may be asked, what is an unreasonable disturbance? I should say it was an unreasonable disturbance to raise a man's rent on his own improvements, and, if he did not consent to pay the increase, to make him quit his farm. I should say that it was unreasonable disturbance to evict a man on account of his political or religious convictions. There was a case of this kind occurred in Norfolk, where a farmer had been in possession of a farm for sixteen years. He had paid his rent regularly, and was one of the best farmers in the county; but he held strong religious and political opinions. He worked very hard at the late election for a gentleman who is now a Member of this House, but the day after the declaration of the poll he received notice to quit his farm and home. I say that that is an interference with his political and religious liberty, and it is an act which savours more of the Spanish Inquisition than of the enlightened days of the twentieth century. I say without fear of contradiction that such an action would constitute in the eyes of any reasonable man unreasonable eviction from a farm.

The next provision deals with the limitation of time for distress. I should have preferred to abolish distraint altogether, but I have taken the proposal in the Government Bill of last year, which they dropped owing to the opposition of their supporters. I have embodied that clause in this Bill, hoping to meet the objections of hon. Members opposite. If a man gets into arrear with his rent, he is entirely at his landlord's mercy, and I do not think that is a good thing either for the landlord or the tenant. There is also a proposal to give compensation for permanent pasturage, which adds to the value of the farm, and there is also a proposal that the farmer shall have liberty to plant fruit trees for fruit cultivation. We know that a change of cultivation is absolutely necessary now, and if men wish to make farming pay they must be prepared to devote themselves to dairy farming and the production of meat. Permanent pasturage cannot injure the farm, because if you want to change the cultivation you can easily plough it up. It will do the landlord no harm to lay down permanent pastures, and if there is an increased agricultural value added to the holding, surely the landlord ought to be willing to pay the tenant for that added value. I believe myself that in many districts there are good opportunities for successful fruit farming. Let us hope that the prospects of fruit farming will not be stifled by the tax on sugar. It may be said that it is very easy to get the consent of the landlord, but practically it is no such thing. When a tenant goes to his landlord to ask consent to plant fruit trees and to lay down permanent pastures, the landlord thinks there may be some compensation to pay for these things, and he hesitates to give his consent. Very often the tenant has to suffer because the landlord's consent has been withheld. I think it is very unreasonable that up-to-date methods of cultivation should be restricted by old-fashioned legislation. Why should we not give every facility for the production of as much agricultural produce as possible in our own country, so as to give employment to our own people?

There must be many questions which will arise for settlement between landlord and tenant, and the procedure which is proposed by this Bill is one of the most important parts of this measure. The procedure suggested for the settlement of disputes between landlords and tenants aims at simplicity, cheapness, and equality. Under the Agricultural Holdings Act the claim of the tenant has to be lodged before the determination of the tenancy, and the landlord is able to see it before he draws up his counter-claim. This is very unfair. It is like two men playing at cards, one of them being compelled to play with his cards exposed on the table. What this clause does is to put both parties on terms of perfect equality, and surely in every case involving a dispute where a judicial judgment is wanted, both parties should be placed upon an equal footing and no favouritism should be shown. The cost of arbitration is very largely in excess of what it ought to be. At present the landlord and the tenant each appoint an arbitrator, and if these two gentlemen cannot decide they have to call in an umpire. All this means expense. I have been told of a case in North Devon where the award made was £400, and the costs amounted to the enormous sum of £120. That is a ridiculous farce, for the money has to come out of the pockets of the farmers, who can ill afford to pay it. The landlord is the richer party, and he has greater advantages than his tenant; and such a system as this is so costly that it tends to keep tenants from having any disputes or making claims for compensation from landlords. If you want any precedents for this clause, there are plenty. Very frequently a Local Government Board inspector is sent down to a large town to inquire whether the water supply is sufficient, and to see into other matters in dispute, and surely if one man is sufficient for that purpose one man ought to be enough to settle disputes between landlord and tenant. The provision in the Bill is that the procedure adopted in the Bill of last year shall be compulsory, and that in the event of disagreement between the landlord and tenant the final umpire shall be appointed by the Board of Agriculture, who would, no doubt, see that a capable and practical man was appointed.

I do not introduce this Bill with the idea of harassing landlords. This measure will not touch the good landlord; it will only protect the good tenant from the bad landlord. It will, in my opinion, also encourage good cultivation, which is very important in our country districts. It may be asked why we should legislate now. We know there is a keen competition for farms, and this competition constrains tenant farmers to come and offer more money for the farms than they can afford to pay, and to sign conditions which are almost intolerable. I know it is said that there are more farms than farmers. The evidence given before the Agricultural Commission proves that the tenant farmer is unable to get fair-play and freedom in his own country. That is all I ask this House to give to tenant farmers in this Bill. I see that there are two motions down on the Paper for the rejection of this Bill. The hon. Member for St. Albans put down his motion about six weeks before the Bill was printed, but I presume that he has since thought better of it, for he is not now in his place. I cannot see how any man can object to this Bill, which, as I have said before, will not touch the good landlord, but will protect the good tenant from the bad landlord.

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

*MR. SOARES (Devonshire, Barnstaple)

Knowing as I do how keenly my constituents are interested in this Bill, I feel that I should be lacking in due regard for their interests if I were not to support this Bill upon the present occasion. It seems to me that there is a broad principle underlying all the provisions contained in this measure, namely, justice to the good landlord and to the good tenant, and short shrift to the bad landlord and the bad tenant. I am sure that no hon. Member of this House wishes to see the number of bad tenants increase, and I feel sure that they would like to see them diminished. The kind of men we want on the land are shrewd, hardworking business men of ability, who will devote the whole of their time and attention to their business. We want men on the land with a sufficient amount of capital to ensure that they will have, at any rate, a fair start. If you are to get those shrewd, hard-working men of ability you must offer them such terms and conditions as shrewd men will be prepared to accept. You must also offer them proper security for their capital, and a reasonable prospect of reaping a fair return for their labour. It seems to me that tenant farmers have a right to come to Parliament and ask this House to say what those terms shall be. Parliament has already recognised its duty in this respect. We have recognised the fact that the tenant farmer has no powerful trades union behind him in order to protect his interest, and you have realised the fact that it is necessary for the State to interfere to protect the tenant farmer in his dealings with his landlord. You have recognised this principle in various Agricultural Holdings Acts, and in the Ground Game Act you have gone so far as to say that the tenant shall not be allowed to contract himself out of the benefits which the State has conferred upon him. I say that if we can prove that the provisions of this Bill are just and reasonable, as between the landlord and the tenant, and that it will increase the number of good tenants and diminish the number of bad ones, it should not only be read a second time, but facilities ought to be given in order that it may become law this session.

I will take the case of the bad tenant farmer first. I say this Bill will diminish the number of bad tenant farmers, and the clause I rely upon for accomplishing this is Clause 6, which limits the time for making a distress. In many parts of England, as my hon. friend has said, there is a keen competition for farms at the present time, notwithstanding the very small profits which are being made by farmers. Amongst the competitors are to be found men who have had little or no experience of farming, men who have little or no capital, and men who are incapable of assessing the true rent of a farm. Such men often offer more rent than they can possibly afford to pay consistently with making a business success of the venture. I think it will be admitted that naturally the landlord will have a prejudice in favour of the tenant who offers the highest rent. It is perfectly true that a wise landlord will endeavour to get a good practical farmer for a tenant, but a number of instances could be given in which the offer of the good practical farmer has been refused, and the offer of a tenant accepted because he was willing to pay a higher rent, although he was not otherwise possessed of the necessary qualification. Under these circumstances an unhealthy competition is set up, and that competition would be somewhat diminished by this Bill, even if it did not abolish it altogether. The landlord knows perfectly well that, under the present conditions, his rent is absolutely safe. He knows that whoever else may suffer, he is the last man to lose. The agricultural implement maker, the manure merchant, and the seeds man may all go unpaid, but the landlord comes in front of them all, because he has a prior claim. It may be true that occasionally the landlord does not get his rent, and that he runs the risk of his farm depreciating in value. If his farm is in poor condition he does not care much about that, because he knows that he is always sure of being able to get another tenant, and the weary round of bankruptcy and ruin of small tradesmen goes steadily on. This clause would stop a good deal of that. At the end of the year the landlord would have to investigate the position of his tenant's affairs if his rent was unpaid, and such an investigation could not fail to be beneficial. If he should discover that the trouble arose from no fault of his tenant, or if he finds that there is a reasonable prospect of affairs coming round again, then, naturally, as a good landlord, he would let his rent stand over and take his place with the other creditors, and they would all be in the same boat. If, on the other hand, he found that his tenant had been negligent, if he found that his farm was going to rack and ruin, and there was no prospect of a better state of things, then not only would he terminate the tenancy, but he ought to take that course, and then there would be one bad tenant the less.

This Bill also deals with another class of bad tenants with whom I am perfectly certain there will be no sympathy. I refer to a class of men known as bad shooting tenants. A considerable number of them consider that when they have paid their rents and the expenses of their keepers they have done every- thing that is necessary. They do not consider that they are absolutely dependent upon the tenant farmer for the amount of sport they enjoy, and they fail to realise the elementary principle that no man has a right to enjoy sport at the expense of other people, and more particularly at the expense of a hardworking, industrious set of men like the tenant farmers. Clause 2 would give full compensation for all damage done by winged game, and I think such a clause is urgently required. I have seen stooks of corn on fields adjacent to moors simply black with grouse, and it is idle to say that they do not consume many bushels of corn, for which the farmer can obtain no compensation. As the law now stands the tenant farmer is not entitled to a penny as compensation for such damage; he is not allowed to touch a feather of those birds; and the only thought he has to console him is that he is feeding birds for the sport of a richer man than he is himself. Suppose a farm is let upon a long lease, and a change of the shooting tenancy occurs. The old tenant may have been in the habit of rearing a few hundred birds, whereas the new tenant may rear thousands. And still the tenant farmer is not entitled to a penny of compensation. He may see his fields overrun with flocks of what are practically tame poultry, and still he cannot get a penny out of his landlord. Surely this is wrong, and I sincerely trust the House will not allow this injustice to continue, more particularly having regard to the fact that you are punishing the poor man in order that the rich man may enjoy the luxury of sport. I know that in this Bill the remedy is against the landlord, and not against the shooting tenant, but the landlord can contract himself out of this liability by stipulating that his shooting tenant shall pay all reasonable compensation to the tenant farmer. In this way the burden would be borne by the right shoulders.

There is another clause which the tenant farmers are very strong about, and it is the clause giving them a further right than they now enjoy under the Ground Game Act. If this Bill becomes law a tenant farmer will be able to have his little parties for rabbit shooting, and he will thus be able to combine business with pleasure. By giving this harmless boon you will be considerably increasing the amenities of country life, and I should like hon. Members to remember that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. You like to have your shooting parties and kill your pheasants in a sportsmanlike manner, and I do not see why the tenant farmer should not have the right to shoot his rabbits also in a sportsmanlike manner. There are many other clauses, but they have been so very ably explained by my hon. friend that I need only say I heartily approve of all of them. Their general tendency seems to me to be that a farmer shall have the right to manage his own farm in his own way, and I think the man who has to use the raw material and get his living out of it knows a good deal more about it than the man who has only got the raw material to sell or let. I hope this Bill will pass into law, and if it does this House will have conferred a great boon upon agricultural tenants, and good landlords will not be one penny the worse.

*ME. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)

I rise for the purpose of moving an Amendment which is not on the Paper. It is as follows— That this House, in view of the fact that an Act was passed last year dealing with the questions contained in the present Bill, is not prepared to alter the settlement so recently arrived at. In moving this Amendment I should like to say that neither myself nor any of my hon. friends who will support me are less anxious than hon. Members opposite that tenant farmers' property should not be confiscated, and that they should have absolute security and the full advantage of any improvements which they make. But while we say that, we do think it is unreasonable to come here this afternoon and ask this House to adopt such a measure as this, when a Bill was passed so recently as last year dealing with these very questions. The settlement last year of these questions was arrived at after very exhaustive inquiry by a Royal Commission, and after a good many years of agitation. The subject was discussed a great deal last year by farmers associations, by the Central Chamber of Agriculture, and by almost everybody interested in the question who had a knowledge of the subject. Therefore, I say that to come here and ask us to upset that settlement, which was arrived at a year ago, is really inviting the House of Commons to do a thing which it has never done before. The matter was fully discussed in this House on the Second Reading, and before the Standing Committee on Law in the last Parliament.

MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)

Yes, by the last Parliament.


Does the hon. Member think this Parliament is so very much different to the last Parliament that we are likely to make a very great change like this? My point is that a Bill upon this question was passed into law last year. The new Act came into force on the 1st of January this year, and everybody who knows anything about land knows that the ordinary time for terminating tenancies is the ordinary quarter days, of which only one has passed since the Act of last year became law. Therefore, we have no experience whatever as to how that Act is working, and we have not the slightest evidence as to whether it is giving satisfaction or not. Under these circumstances the hon. Member opposite comes here and asks us to upset the whole of the settlement of last year by proposing a series of clauses which are nothing more or less than a réchauffé of the stale Amendments and new clauses which hon. Members opposite moved last year. I have been interesting myself in going through the clauses of this Bill to see to what extent they were dealt with in this House last year. I find that every single one of them was touched upon in the Second Reading, and nearly every one of them was moved and most carefully considered, and afterwards rejected by the Standing Committee on Law. Some of them were discussed and rejected on the Report stage. Let us-take one or two of them. Clause 8, which asks for a record of every holding to be kept, was moved by my hon. friend the Member for East Northamptonshire as a new clause last year, and it was rejected by 142 votes to 46; or take Clause 1, Sub-section 3, which provides that in all cases, whether the parties are willing or not, there must be only a single arbitrator. That clause also was moved as a new clause last year by Mr. Buchanan, who is no longer a Member of the House, and it was rejected by 189 votes to 77. Take Clause 7, which deals with improvements for which it is necessary to get the landlord's consent. That question has been dealt with over and over again in this House by Amendments moved from both sides, and the House arrived at the settlement which was embodied in the Act of last year. Then there is Clause 5, a monstrous clause, providing compensation for unreasonable disturbance. My hon. friend the Member for East Northamptonshire moved an almost identical clause last year, which was rejected by 207 votes to 111. And now we are asked to discuss again all these stale Amendments and new clauses which the House refused deliberately to adopt last year. I venture to say that, whatever may be the real effect of this Bill, it is absolutely inopportune and most unreasonable to ask the House to waste its time discussing a question which was fully considered last year, and this is being done before you have any chance of letting us see how the new settlement works. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of this Bill seems to have an idea that if this Bill is passed it will form a remedy for the agricultural depression which has existed so long.


I never said so.


He gave us to understand that farming would be so much improved that the depression in agriculture due to falling prices would be very much modified. If the hon. Member could produce a measure which would achieve that object he would be received with open arms on both sides of the House. But so far from this Bill being a panacea for agricultural depression, my idea is that it will make matters much worse than they are at present. The one chance of the British agriculturist is in the mutual confidence and loyal co-operation of all those who are interested in the soil, but this Bill will practically deprive the land- lord of the control of his own property. The hon. Member opposite said that a farmer should have the right to use his own land in his own way. That is all very well where the farmer is the occupying owner, but when he happens to be using somebody else's land it is rather a tall order. By this Bill you would drive the landlord from the control of his own property to a very large extent, and you would drive him back to the letter of the law. The result would be that you would destroy that mutual confidence which exists at the present time, and which is the one hope for agricultural prosperity. You would compel the landlord to take advantage of the letter of the law, and I believe the last state of agriculture and of the tenant farmer would be very much worse than the first. The hon. Member opposite claims that this Bill will give greater security to the tenant, but I contend that he has full security already. With regard to higher farming, from what I know of the farmers of this country I think they are farming as high as their capital enables them to do at the present time, and I do not think that the tenants in the future are likely to have more capital to put into the land. But is it true that by farming as high as you possibly can you will make agriculture more profitable? That certainly is not the impression of the Royal Commission on Agriculture, upon which several hon. Members opposite served. Upon this question the report of the Royal Commission says— The evidence which we have received certainly does not lead us to the conclusion that high farming can in this country counterbalance the effect of low prices. Sir John Bennet Lawes, than whom there is no higher authority, while holding that it is certainly bad economy to farm too low, is strongly of opinion that high farming is no remedy for low prices. Then the report quotes some very remarkable evidence from this distinguished expert (Sir John Bennet Lawes), who said— It is generally supposed, and has often been said, that the lower the prices of our agricultural crops, particularly of wheat and barley, we ought to grow more and more. Unfortunately the result of all our experiments, which are very extensive, is that the reverse is the aw. As you increase your crops so each bushel after a certain amount costs you more and more. Sir John Bennet Lawes was asked the following questions— Then in you opinion a remedy is not to be found in higher cultivation in the sense of putting more manure to the land? And the answer was— No, it is quite contrary to that. The last bushel always costs you more than all the others. Another question put to him was— Then I suppose you would deduce from this that in the corn districts the higher the farmer has farmed his land in the sense of adding manure the worse has been the financial result? And the answer was— Yes, quite so. And the last question was— Do you think that those farmers who have farmed on a very high system have probably lost more money than those who have farmed on a lower scale? And the reply was— I am afraid so. I contend, therefore, that even if this Bill had the effect of inducing farmers to put capital into the soil and to farm more highly than at present it would not be any real advantage to the agricultural interest. The farmer has got very full protection under the Act of last year, and it is quite unnecessary for us to try to alter that Act before we have given it a fair trial.

With regard to the actual proposals which the hon. Member makes, I confess that I never read a Bill which was drafted in a more extraordinary—I think the proper word to use is "slipslop"—way. The first clause practically repeals the first sub-section of Section 1 of the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1900, and I suppose in so doing it repeals also the first schedule to that Act to which it refers. It refers also to a new schedule in this Act, but when I turn to the end of the Bill I find that there is no schedule at all. A certain procedure is laid down in this Bill in respect to certain improvements, and when one looks for those improvements they do not exist at all This Bill also provides "That a tenant shall be entitled to compensation for improvements at the determination of his tenancy," leaving out altogether the words "on quitting his holding." What follows from this? That a tenant whose tenancy has been determined, but who remains on the holding is to have compensation. If a tenancy is determined and the tenant wishes to renew the tenancy is he to receive compensation? The ordinary plan is that the incoming tenant pays compensation to the outgoing tenant. In the case I have mentioned the same man will be both the ingoing and outgoing tenant, and has he to pay some money out of one pocket into another, or is the landlord to pay him although he continues on the farm? If that is the case it is unfair to the landlord, because the same tenant is still having the advantage of the improvements, and this Act suggests that the tenant is to receive compensation for the improvements which he is still enjoying. This is an extraordinary proposition. Now I come to Sub-section 3 of Section 1. This provides that in all cases, whether the parties like it or not, there is to be a single arbitrator. I venture to say that that is a most unwise proceeding, likely to lead to more friction than the ordinary way of each appointing a valuer and leaving the settlement to an umpire in cases where an agreement cannot be arrived at. I think that is perfectly unnecessary, and would lead to friction with the landlord. Now we come to two clauses dealing with the game laws. So far as rabbits are concerned, the tenant at the present moment has full right to shoot rabbits, and I cannot say I have come across any demand for the present laws to be altered. The next clause provides that where a man suffers damage, not by rabbits, which do by far the greatest amount of damage, but by winged game, he is to have compensation for that. I wonder whether the hon. Member has considered how that will work. Supposing that I am the owner of a cover, and he is the tenant of a farm on the neighbouring property; game out of my cover strays on to his farm, and what happens? He can go to another party who happens to be his landlord and get compensation for damage done by my game.


That is not in the Bill.


That is what the Bill says. Let me read the clause. Clause 2 says— Where the tenant has sustained any loss or damage from game that he has not the lawful right to kill, he shall at any time and from time to time during the tenancy be entitled to claim compensation from his landlord for such loss or damage, and any agreement to the contrary shall be void. The clause does not say that he is only to receive compensation for loss or damage from his landlord's game. What is going to happen when the loss or damage is caused by game from a neighbouring property? Why, the tenant is to claim from his landlord for damage done by somebody else's game. Really this is a very crude Bill when such an effect could obviously follow from the clause. The hon. Member has not taken the trouble to consider what the clause would mean. Passing from that and coming to Clause 4, we have another proposition which was fully discussed last year with reference to freedom of cropping and disposal of produce. A very great deal has been said to-day as to the right that the tenant ought to have in disposing of his produce. I venture to think that clause is perfectly unnecessary, and to talk about this right of the tenant is absolutely unnecessary, because the matter is really very well settled and fully secured by Clause 6 of last year's Bill. Under that clause the tenant has really full protection, unless he does absolute damage to the farm. I pass on to the proposal to give compensation for unreasonable disturbance. I venture to say that is an absolute interference with the rights of property, and is alien altogether to the spirit of the Agricultural Holdings Acts. The Agricultural Holdings Acts go on the principle that where a tenant has added something to the farm he should be fully compensated. That is right and proper. This clause gives the tenant something beyond his own improvements—that is, a certain right in the soil itself and a certain right to be there. In other words, it is the first step towards that dual ownership which has done so much harm in Ireland. If you recognise that the tenant has a right to be there—and you do recognise it by providing that he must be compensated for having to go—then you say that he has a certain right to the soil; you at once enact dual ownership, and if you give the tenant part of the landlord's property—for that is what you are doing—you you must allow him the right to sell his position as tenant. If you give him fixity of tenure and free sale, I think you will introduce into English land legislation an element which has worked badly elsewhere, and which would have disastrous results here. I ask the hon. Member as a practical agriculturist—does he think that will conduce to the tenant's comfort? If a landlord is always to be in mere business relations with his tenants, it will be necessary to define what these relations are. The hon. Member knows very well that landlords are in the habit of giving beneficial leases and agreements to their tenants. But a landlord would do nothing of the sort if when he had given the tenant every benefit, the tenant could claim to be on the game by right and to be entitled to compensation if removed. I think if that was enacted it would cause the tenant farmers of this country a great deal more harm than good.

Coming to the other clauses of the Bill, we have a limitation of the time for distress. Well, that again was discussed here at great length last year, and it was impossible to find any satisfactory conclusion, and the result was that the House deliberately chose to fall back on the provision which exists in the Act of 1883, Section 44, which provides that there shall be a limit of only one year except in cases where the rents are deferred. Now that is a perfectly reasonable proposition, and one for the advantage of the tenants, because the tenant has very often an immense advantage by deferred rent; whereas, if you enact the hard and fast rule which would be laid down by this clause, no landlord would allow time for deferred rent, seeing that he would lose his time for distress altogether. Another clause provides that a record of the holding must be kept in the case of every tenancy, and may be demanded in the case of an existing tenancy at the request of either party. I believe that is a very harmless provision, and such a record might be very useful, but I venture to say it would be a very expensive provision, and to make it compulsory in every case is to put the agriculturists, whether landlords or tenants, to a very absurd additional charge. The Royal Commission on Agriculture, while admitting that such a provision might be useful, said also that they did not think it reasonable or proper to suggest that it should be made compulsory by law. We have in the seventh clause a proposal to alter altogether the law in the case of those improvements for which the landlord's consent has to be obtained. All this was discussed last year, and I would venture to say that in looking at this proposition we ought really to be guided by a certain principle, and that principle is clear and obvious. Where the tenant makes improvements that are bona fide improvements on the farm, then surely he ought to have compensation, even if he does these things without the consent of the landlord; but where he wishes entirely to alter the character of the farm, he certainly ought not to have compensation for such alterations unless the landlord gives his consent. Otherwise, what would happen? The landlord might have a farm which is principally arable, and having lived there all his life, he knows quite well that that particular farm does best as an arable farm. A new tenant comes and takes it, and proceeds to turn half of it, perhaps the whole of it, into permanent pasture. He could do so under this Bill without the consent of the landlord, and finding permanent pasture a failure, he could throw up the farm and the landlord would have to pay compensation for what was not an improvement, but what was absolutely a deterioration of the farm—the farm is thrown back on the landlord's hands, and he finds it exceedingly difficult to get another tenant. Many of the alterations the hon. Member proposes are really quite unnecessary. As far as the laying down of permanent pasture goes, I think I have just given good reasons why the consent of the landlord should be obtained. As regards the provision in Clause? relating to— Repairing buildings, roads, bridges, watercourses, ponds, wells, or reservoirs, or of works for the application of water power, or for suppy of water for agricultural or domestic purposes, powers already exist for dealing with these matters. The proposal in the same clause dispensing with the consent of the landlord for the planting of orchards, fruit bushes, or fruit trees, is not required, because that is already provided for subject to certain conditions in the Act of last year. A great part of this clause is already in the existing Act, and what is not in the existing Act is excluded, very properly, because it would enable a tenant to alter the character of a farm.

Now the real question at issue is not whether these particular small alterations in the law should be carried or not, but whether the landlord is to have the right to manage his property, or whether someone is to manage his property for him. On this side we point to the Agricultural Holdings Act, and say that the landlord is to remain in control of his own property, giving the tenant full compensation for bona fide improvements. On the other side you wish to do here what has been done so fatally elsewhere—to deprive the landlord of the control of his property, to make him a mere rent-charger, and to allow the tenant to alter his property as he pleases. I venture to think that is a proposition and a policy which will not commend itself to the present House. I think I have shown that the Bill is inopportune, and that the present Act has had no time to do its work. We have no evidence to show whether it is unsatisfactory or not, and I think I have shown that these particular proposals, mild as they are, as the hon. Member says, are in themselves objectionable. They were rejected last year, and ought to be rejected this year, and for these reasons I beg to move the Amendment I have given notice of— That this House, in view of the fact that an Act was passed last year dealing with the questions contained in the present Bill, is not prepared to alter the settlement so recently arrived at.

MR. LLEWELLYN (Somersetshire, N.)

seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed— To leave out all the words after the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'this House, in view of the fact that an Act was passed last year dealing with the questions contained in the present Bill, is not prepared to alter the settlement so recently arrived at.'"—(Mr. Griffith-Boscawen.)

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

*MR. EDWAEDS (Radnorshire)

I rise to support the Second Reading of the Bill now before the House. The hon. Member for South Molton referred to the depopulation which is taking place in Wales, and urged that something should be done to arrest it. That is a matter which is pressing seriously on my constituency, and if anything can be done to arrest this it will receive my very warm and cordial approval. I am sorry to hear from the hon. Member for Tunbridge that the provisions of this Bill have been rejected already. It seems to me that the proposals are moderate and in the interest of the tenant-farmer. I am bound to say it is a matter of regret to me that in a House having a majority of people interested particularly in the land these moderate provisions should have been already rejected. I cannot but think it is a very serious matter while we have passed laws suited to the needs of the time with regard to trade and commerce, our legislation as regards the tenancy of land has not placed us in the position required by the needs of the time. That is the more to be regretted when we consider that the land is our most important interest. I suppose that the reason we have legislated so successfully so far as regards trade and manufactures is that our public men have been sagacious enough to see what remedy was needed, and wise enough to supply it, whilst those who proposed every such reform were constituted into an organised body to support it. There has been no lack of sagacity with regard to suggestions for the reform of the land laws, but farmers and farm labourers have not constituted themselves into an organised body to support that reform. Landlords to a great extent dominate both Houses of Parliament, and the consequence of this condition is that the land laws are not such as can be looked upon with complete satisfaction, at any rate by Members on this side of the House. I know it is often said that it is difficult to deal with this question because of the want of agreement and the want of a true remedy. Well, that is a common excuse for shelving questions, but, at any rate, it seems to me that in regard to the tenancy of land in Wales nobody can say that there is now any want of agreement, because the Royal Commission, which inquired into the matter and took evidence as to the evils complained of and the remedies to be applied, made most valuable recommendations, and particularly the Commissioners who signed the Minority Report. I think the Minority Report supports the provisions of this Bill. The Minority Report was the result of long and careful inquiry into the conditions affecting the tenure of land in Wales. The Welsh Land Commissioners were agreed that the two chief defects affecting tenure in Wales were the want of security for tenure and the want of compensation for improvements. One object of the Bill, I understand, is to cheapen and simplify the law as regards compensation for improvements. Under the present law serious and disastrous loss of capital is involved to the tenant, because it is estimated that removal from one farm to another costs a tenant something like 20 per cent. of his capital. It may be asked, how can Parliament remedy this? Parliament cannot prevent tenants from removing, but it can see that the tenants who change their farms will not suffer as they do under the present law. That is to say, it can compel the landlord to give ample compensation for improvements. If I were asked why farmers do not prosper in Wales, I would say that there is a percentage who fail from lack of energy and industry, but that is a small percentage, for the farmers in Wales are singularly frugal and hardworking. There is a certain number who enter upon farms without sufficient capital. They begin with borrowed money, and often end with bankruptcy, but I think no one who knows Wales intimately can state confidently that this is the true explanation. These do not form a large proportion of the tenant-farmers of Wales. The true explanation of their failure, I think, is the loss of capital from want of compensation for the improvements. A farmer in Wales when he takes a farm has generally a nest egg, and I believe inadequate capital is not the cause why he does not succeed. Let me give an instance I know of in Wales. A farmer took a small farm of 130 acres, and had a capital of £1,100. He was an industrious, sober, intelligent man. His intelligence was testified to by the fact that he was one of the first to introduce improved machinery and improved methods in the cultivation of his holding. After twenty years the landlord, who had gradually raised the rent to a point where there was no reasonable margin of profit left, seized the opportunity of a good season for imposing fresh conditions, and a fresh addition to the rent. The tenant saw that the position was hopeless, and so gave notice to quit. He had laid out a large part of his capital on that farm, and when he left the farm he was a poorer man by several hundred pounds, while the landlord, a rich and hard man, did not give him a penny of compensation. The tenant was obliged to take the first farm offered, to secure a home for his wife and children. For this farm he had to pay a high rent, and after ten years more he found his capital gone. That farmer's experience was repeated, and he had to leave the farm he had well tilled without compensation for the money he had sunk in it. He found himself a ruined man, and dependent on the charity of a relative. This want of compensation and want of security of tenure works out in a curious way. It puts the tenant on the horns of a dilemma. The landlord gives the rent screw another turn, and if the tenant agrees to pay the additional rent, it means that slow but sure ruin awaits him. If he determines to leave the farm, he knows that he will not receive adequate compensation for the money sunk in the farm, and that he will have to face the cost of removal and the inevitable wastage consequent upon removal from one farm to another. This is not a mere wild generalisation on my part. If you go through Wales you will find plenty of instances to justify this deduction. In the face of this condition of affairs there is no wonder that the Welsh farmers, who, as a class, have earned the highest character for thrift and industry, regard land law reform as a matter of life and death. There is no meeting in Wales that cannot be stirred to enthusiasm over any gleam of hope that such a reform can be obtained for them.

I wish to refer broadly to the Report of the minority of the Royal Commission on Welsh Land. The Minority Commissioners expressed themselves in these terms— The tenant has hitherto been placed at a disadvantage by the knowledge that, under the present law, on leaving his farm much of his capital must be left behind him. It is admitted that the tenant's security as regards compensation cannot be made too complete, and that such security would go a long way towards lessening the risk of grievance incident to a yearly tenancy. I welcome that expression of opinion as being in favour of the tenant farmers of Wales, and as in the main supporting the provisions of this Bill. I call the attention of the House to this because it is the opinion of impartial men. The three Commissioners who signed the Minority Report were Lord Kenyon, Sir J. T. D. Llewelyn, and Mr. Seebohm. Two of these Gentlemen are themselves landlords, owning large estates in Wales, and we know them to be prominent members of the Unionist Party. Therefore their recommendations carry all the more weight as coming from men beyond the suspicion of partisanship in this matter. The matter of compensation for disturbance excites the indignation of the hon. Member for Tunbridge, and he calls the proposal in the Bill interference with the rights of property. But these Commissioners have property themselves. They say that they have the strongest views with regard to the security of tenure. This is an old grievance. It is known to have been felt so long ago as 1843, when the Rebecca riots took place. A petition signed at one of the meetings on that occasion contained this clause— The petitioners humbly conceive that it would be most desirable, in order to restore a good feeling between landlords and tenants; that means should be devised by which the occupancy of the land should be assured to the tenant subject to a fair rent. What farmers said was necessary fifty-eight years ago has not yet been given to them, and that that demand is a just one is now proved by the Report of the Commissioners to which I have referred. The Royal Welsh Commissioners say— Lastly we recommend that where a tenant is capriciously evicted, that is to say, receives notice to quit for inadequate reasons, or from any cause other than the following—(11 that he has not paid his rent; (2) that he has committed or permitted waste, or has committed a breach of any condition of the tenancy materially affecting the value of the holding—the tenant ought to be permitted to claim in addition to the compensation due under the Act of 1883, or any amended Act, some compensation for disturbance. That is the recommendation of men who are themselves landlords, and who are not likely to advocate any revolutionary change in the law. This is not a demand for a land court. These Commissioners rejected that demand, and therefore it is not a demand for dual ownership. It is therefore desirable that the tenant should be secured from capricious eviction, and it seems to me that the reasonable way to do this is by enacting Clause 5 of this Bill, which provides for compensation being paid by the landlord to the tenant for unreasonable disturbance. The Bill contains other provisions of value to the tenant farmer relating to game and cropping, but I do not intend to deal with those questions. I consider the clauses with reference to compensation for improvements and disturbance of the utmost importance, and I confine my remarks to these points. I think I have shown that the Bill proceeds on the lines of the Report of the Royal Welsh Land Commissioners. Their recommendations were made unanimously, and by representatives of landlords as well as tenants. A lifelong residence in Wales has convinced me that this question demands the earnest attention of Parliament. The state of things revealed by the Report of the Commissioners shows beyond all question that the cry for relief from the Welsh agriculturists is based on the solid and substantial grounds of justice. My countrymen believe that although Parliament sometimes is slow to realise the true position of affairs, no case based on justice will fail ultimately of success here.

DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

said some Members had referred to division of opinion among agriculturists with respect to the matters dealt with in the Bill. He was happy to say there was no division of opinion in the part of the country with which he was connected. Nothing paid so badly as bad farming. Agriculturists in Aberdeenshire had shown in the past excellent results by the admirable way in which they had worked against an uncertain climate, and for the simple reason that they had not a system of long leases. The hon. Member for the Tunbridge Division stated that he thought that under the provisions of the Bill a landlord would become a mere rent charger. He was himself a landlord, and he was not the least afraid that any of the rights this Bill would confer on tenants would curtail the benefits he enjoyed as a possessor of land. His hon. friend had referred sarcastically to the fact that many of the Amendments now proposed were rejected by the House last year. He was bound to say that was a good reason why they should be brought forward again, because many hon. Members thought they were rejected wrongly. Experience showed that they must press these points over and over again, until the agriculturist got what he wanted, and what he had a right to expect from this House. This Bill might be a rechauffé of former Bills, but he did not mind that at all. He looked upon this House as a great reforming institution, and it was no use twitting those who brought forward measures with having brought them forward and had them rejected on former occasions. His hon. friend had referred to the much debated question whether a tenant should get compensation on determining; his tenancy. Was it not a fact that occasionally a tenant might have crippled himself by making improvements? and it might be absolutely essential, to enable him to carry on working the farm, that he should have some money in hand from the landlord. With regard to the question of game, and the suggestion which had been made that occasionally a landlord might be called upon to compensate a tenant for damage done by game coming from another man's property, he thought it would be only fair that the tenant should be obliged to prove that the damage he had sustained had been from game belonging to his proprietor. His hon. friend knew that game birds did not fly long distances in order to get their food. They kept very close to the neighbourhood of their own cover, and, as a general rule, the damage was nearly always done by game belonging to the landlord. A Bill of this sort would not in any way touch a good landlord either in his comfort or his convenience; but, as occasionally happened, cases arose in which, for some political, social, or other reason, a man was ejected from his farm without any proper or sufficient reason being given. He did not think it unreasonable that such a man should be allowed to go before some kind of tribunal and have his case investigated. He did not think a single arbitrator would be the best form of tribunal before which to thresh out a matter of this kind. It was rather a matter of ethics, which should be considered by a sheriff or a county court judge, or some other legal authority, who should have the right to call witnesses and investigate generally the questions in dispute. He would give his general support to the Bill, because he believed it would aid in maintaining the continuous cultivation of the soil, because it would encourage tenants to put their money freely and boldly into the cultivation of the soil so as to get as much out of it as they could, and also because he believed it would do a great deal to protect the landlords' property.

*SIR MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbrightshire)

said he was sorry he could not agree with the remarks which had fallen from his hon. friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire. He could speak for several counties in the south of Scotland, and he could not see that this Bill would do the good expected of it. There were one or two points in the measure which he would readily support; but, taking a general view of the question, he was satisfied it would do a great amount of harm. He believed that, instead of cheapening, extending, and simplifying the law with respect to compensation for tenants' improvements, it would have an effect entirely the reverse, because if they once went to law in this matter there was no end to it. The lawyers' bills must be paid, and that would touch the tenants a good deal harder than would be the case if they came to terms with the landlords. If this Bill were carried it would prove most disastrous to the agricultural world. The landlord would lose all interest in his property. He would no longer take a proud interest in the success of his tenantry, but he would let every man take his own way. That might possibly do where only one or two tenants were concerned, but where there were 30, 40, or 100 tenants generously treated, and in a state of contentment, it would be found that, instead of contentment and prosperity, the very reverse would take place. The Bill provides that a tenant might on the determination of the tenancy, whether quitting the holding or not, claim compensation. If a yearly tenant—and a great number of tenants were yearly tenants—were to claim compensation every twelve months, where would the landlord be? That would hinder all improvement, and, if the tenant took the bit between his teeth, the landlord would have ruin staring him in the face. He himself had had a very large experience in such matters. He had farmed many thousands of acres, and at present was farming in a very high manner, and he could say that it was in these times better to keep the land in a fair state of cultivation than to expend large sums of money on it. The hon. Member opposite said that it would be a good thing to induce a tenant to spend money on his holding; but, suppose he spent money merely in his own interest and on improvements which were valueless in giving a return, why should the landlord be compelled to pay him compensation? Again, what was reasonable compensation? There were very few men who could take a fair and just view of all the circumstances of the case. It was very difficult to know whether a holding had deteriorated or the reverse. If a holding were in good condition at the commencement of a tenancy it might not deteriorate for five or six years. Who was to determinate the question? It was said that a record might be made and that an arbitrator from the Board of Agriculture might be sent down, but such men were not always practical men. Would such a man know that what was good in Aber- deenshire would not be suitable in a farm in the south-west of Scotland.

All these things had to be considered and the more freedom that was given to landlord and tenant the better it would be, always providing that the tenant could get due compensation when he left the holding. He did not think Parliament could do more. That was what it tried to do last session. Was the act of last year not working properly? He had never heard it was not. From what he had heard, he believed it was working well. It did not go so far as hon. Members opposite would have liked, but was that any reason for disturbing the Act until they had a fair test of its worth? If it was not worth what it was supposed to be worth, by all means let it be remodelled, but time should first be given to test the Act by experience. With regard to the game clause, it would be practically impossible in the form in which it appeared in the Bill. Everyone who had any knowledge of game, knew that grouse came miles to feed in the late autumn. The tenant could not be perpetually guarding the fields, and it would be impossible for the landlord to attempt it. He could tell hon. Members of different farms where grouse did not lay at all, but they came down in thousands from the high lands in October. The landlord of the property could not help that, and if he went into court he would say that the birds were not his, but would the court believe him? They could not legislate for that sort of damage. There might, however, be some very hard cases, such as an adjacent wood, and he would be perfectly willing to support any reasonable clause giving the tenant some right of protection in such a case against the landlord who owned the wood. To spend a whole day at the beginning of a Parliament when business was in arrear in urging these matters, about which they all heard so much in the last Parliament, was, he thought, sheer waste of time. As regarded the clause enabling a tenant to sell the produce of the holding without restriction, practically that was in operation already. At present the tenant could without any Act of Parliament do that which the Bill tried to enforce. If stringent rules were laid down, it would be the cases which would be left out that would really pinch, and it was better to leave the matter alone altogether. All these points; were discussed in the Act of last year, and let them have a decent time to see how the Act would work. If it failed he would only be too glad to join in improving it with a view to giving the tenant ample compensation and perfect satisfaction.

MR. TAYLOR (Lancashire, Radcliffe)

As one of the 170 new Members of the present Parliament, I cannot be expected to share the indignation of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Tunbridge Division that we should wish to amend the law relating to landlords and tenant. Although I represent a constituency which is more manufacturing than agricultural, I claim to be heard on this question, because I have always found that there is no subject that excites greater interest among our working classes—many of whom have come from the country, where they would rather have remained had the conditions been favourable—than the question of the maximum amount of food supply that can be produced by the land of the country. I think this is a Bill to assimilate the practice of the worst landlords to the practice of the best. It is not intended in any way to interfere with the good landlord, nor does its provisions in any way injure him—rather, they help him. The hon. Member for Tunbridge told us—and there is a great deal of truth in it—that the agricultural prosperity of the country depends on the mutual confidence between landlord and tenant, which he fears to see destroyed or injured by such legislation as this. But I hold that fair laws will not destroy but promote that confidence. The hon. Member says that this Bill would make matters worse for the farmers, but I should like to submit it to a plebiscite of farmers and see whether that is their opinion. The hon. Member was horrified at the statement of the hon. Member 'or Barnstaple that a farmer should be able to farm his own farm in his own way—meaning, of course, that the farm was the farmer's for the time being—and the hon. Member saw in that the introduction of the principle of dual ownership, which he said was fraught with such disaster in other countries. I think it is not to be said lightly that dual ownership or peasant proprietorship is injurious. I am not ashamed to say that I advocate this measure because it looks in the direction of dual ownership. I have been recently interested in letters published in the newspapers by Mr. Rider Haggard, who, at all events, cannot be described as a destructive kind of Radical. He shows what a large amount of extra production has been secured by what he calls "the magic of ownership." The hon. Gentleman opposite stated that high farming did not pay. I suppose he means the very highest class of farming, for I am sure he would be the last to say that bad farming paid. We are all agreed that the kind of farming that pays is not high farming, but yet it is far removed from the lowest kind of farming. We desire legislation like this in order that the tenant may be allowed to be the judge as to what kind of farming will pay him best. I agree with the hon. Member for Kirkcudbright that there should be as much liberty as possible for both landlord and tenant, always subject to the very important provision in the Bill that the tenant shall be allowed to farm in his own way. The hon. Member drew a terrible picture of a tenant making an improvement, which was really only an alteration, for which the landlord would have to pay compensation. But Clause 1, Sub-section 1, states that the compensation to the tenant shall be "such sum as fairly represents the value of the improvement to an incoming tenant." That does away entirely with the contention of the hon. Member. This interest in the maximum production of the land is not a sectional but a national interest. Our home markets can never be taken away from us by protection or any other action on the part of other countries, and it is because I value our home markets that I wish to see the utmost amount of production yielded by the soil. I believe that although the Act of last year was an improvement, it was not a sufficient improvement. The tenants of this country do not feel that they have that security or freedom of action which would induce them to put capital into the soil. The Bill, no doubt, has defects, but its main principle is, I believe, just and honest as between landlord and tenant, and I support it because it will give the tenant greater security for his improvements and will induce him to put the very best that is in him into the soil.

MR. HERBERT ROBERTS: (Denbighshire, W.)

It is quite sufficient for me to say, representing as I do a Welsh agricultural constituency, that it is impossible for me to avoid taking a deep, interest in any phase of the land question which may be brought before the House. I heard with regret the remark made by the hon. Baronet who spoke against this Bill from the other side of the House, to the effect that he considered this discussion was a waste of time. I feel that if we were to probe this matter to the bottom we would find that anything relating to the land question, in the widest and most general sense, is of vital importance to the life of the country. This Bill has a special relation to Wales. Hon. Members know how acute the land question is in Wales. The conditions surrounding the land question in Wales are no doubt different from those which obtain in England. The historical development has been different, and the present circumstances surrounding the question are in many ways different. This Bill deals with one branch of land reform, and, so far ass it goes, it has my hearty support. It is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but I think we ought to make it plain that although we recognise it to be so, we cannot in any way regard it as a final reform, or as an adequate remedy for the difficulties of the land question in Wales. A more drastic remedy is required before a permanent solution of that problem is obtained in the Principality.

There are one or two points which have arisen in the debate to which I would like to refer. First of all the action taken by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Tunbridge in moving his Amendment is, to say the least of it, somewhat remarkable. He had a notice down on the Paper moving the rejection of the Bill, but he has receded from that to another position. He says it is inexpedient to bring in such a measure so soon after the passing of the Agricultural Holdings Act of last year. But we are to-day in a new Parliament. It was admitted last year by the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman in the office of Minister of Agriculture that the Bill of last year was a small Bill, a small instalment, and a limited Bill. The Government, he said, were pressed for time, as they are this year, and it is quite plain that the Bill was not a comprehensive measure, but only an instalment of reform. Beyond that, anyone who knows the strength of the feeling amongst tenant farmers throughout the country will admit that no Bill such as that passed last year can possibly satisfy them; and it is the duty of those of us who have the honour to represent in a special way tenant farmers in Parliament to reaffirm on every occasion what we consider to be their just rights. It may be said that the tenant farmers in Wales have not latterly persisted in a very outspoken and strong way in the position which they take in regard to land reform; but I think I might reply to anyone who made that remark that the tenant farmers of Wales are in many ways a proud class of men. They do not care to be always coming before this House whining for certain reforms which are vital to their prosperity. They have presented to Parliament on many occasions their demands; they have also set their case before the country in the inquiry which was held by the Welsh Land Commission. Speaking for myself, I think the Report of that Commission is a plain verdict as regards the justice in the long run of the main demands which they make. Representing a county which has taken a leading part for many years in Welsh land reform, it is impossible for me to refrain from taking some part in this discussion. Upon the whole, if you take the history of the past century, it may be said of the Welsh tenant farmers that they have been too silent in regard to what they consider to be their just rights. There has been a great deal too much silent suffering in Wales on the part of the tenant farmers in relation to the conditions that surround their agricultural life. But we are moving forward, and this Bill is a step in the right direction. Whatever the verdict passed upon it in the coming division may be, the House may be assured that the debate will have served a very useful purpose. There are one or two points in the Bill itself to which I would like very briefly to allude. First of all, there is the plain demand which tenant farmers put forward for compensation for improvements, and which has not been adequately dealt with by previous speakers. For instance, the hon. Member for Tunbridge pointed out that in the possible event of a tenant farmer having laid out permanent pasture leaving his farm, and that pasture not paying, he might claim compensation; and there would be a manifest injustice in that. But that is not the crucial position. That tenant farmer would have to prove that an improvement had taken place. If no improvement had been made there would be no compensation. Then a further point was raised by the hon. Gentleman. He said, What is the good of putting in this Bill a clause dealing with the right of the tenant farmer to claim compensation for roads, bridges, and wells, when all these things were included in the Act of 1900? But the hon. Gentleman forgot to mention to the House that these are the very points which we did not obtain in the Act of last year. Then he referred to the right given in the Bill to claim compensation from the landlord for laying out orchards and the cultivation of fruits. I think that provision is a most important one, because if there is anything more obvious than another, it is that if the farmers of this country are to make farming pay they must be encouraged to take steps in the direction of what I might call specialising in the raising of agricultural produce. To take one item alone—namely, that of apples; does the House realise that during last year there were imported into this country from foreign countries apples to the value of a million and a quarter sterling, and that the value of the total imports of fruit and vegetables last year was eleven million and a half sterling? It is open to argument whether the farmers of this country can hope permanently to compete with the facilities of America and other countries in regard to the live cattle market, but undoubtedly in regard to the raising of fruit and vegetables we ought to be able to provide the market as well as our friends and neighbours in America and elsewhere. I look upon this provision in the Bill encouraging farmers to develop fruit culture as most valuable.

I wish to emphasise what my hon. friend the Member for Radnorshire has said in regard to the importance we attach in Wales to the provision in the Bill which would give tenants a right, under certain circumstances, to claim compensation for disturbance in addition to that which exists under the law as it now stands. I am not going to detain the House with any detailed arguments on that point. Everyone must know that the conditions of the country are such as to make a proposal of this kind of the utmost value to tenant farmers. Owing to events in the past history of Wales the land there is mainly in the hands of a class which is largely without sympathy with the sentiments of the great majority of the people in regard to politics, religion, and many other fundamental questions. It is only natural, therefore, that under these circumstances the tenant farmers of Wales are placed in difficulties which are not so acutely felt in other parts of the country.

I will pass over the provision in regard to the alteration proposed to be made in the game laws; but I wish to say a word or two as to the clauses in the Bill dealing with the question of freedom of cropping. The hon. Gentleman opposite said that in Scotland tenant farmers did not attach very much weight to that proposal; but anyone who knows the conditions of farming in Wales cannot agree with that statement. In many parts of that country cases of injustice in reference to damage done by game still continue to occur. I will prove my case by referring to an incident which happened within the last few years in my own constituency. On a farm which had been for over three hundred years in the occupation of a certain family, a question arose as to the necessity of repairing the house and outbuildings. The long and short of it was that in 1896 the tenant got notice to quit the farm, which was of 110 acres in extent. A claim for £692 was put in by the landlord for breach of contract in regard to cropping. After a lengthened and costly arbitration the tenant had to pay close upon £400, including heavy costs. Hon. Members may say that the tenant, who was a widow, should not have signed the agreement, but she, like most tenants in Wales, signed the agreement without really understanding its full force and effect, and the result was that this poor woman had to pay this large sum of £400 and costs in reference to breach of agreement in regard to cropping affecting only a small number of acres on the farm. That case will show the House, at all events those who take a fair and impartial view of the situation in Wales, that it is necessary that there should be some change in the law in regard to this particular point.

I wish to emphasise the importance of this Bill, especially from the standpoint of what is patent to all who open their eyes—the depopulation of the rural districts. I think some startling facts will be revealed in regard to that when the details of the Census are made known to the country. I am sure that many hon. Members will agree with me in regard to this alarming sign of national life. The population of Wales during the last century, has, as a whole, increased 200 per cent.; but since 1840 down to the present time there has been a steady decline in the rural population. One of the arguments in favour of the coal-tax is that coal is a national essential asset, which must be preserved. I say nothing of that now, but what is of more importance than coal to the country is the life of the rural districts. Apart from all political prejudices and considerations of every kind, I say it is the duty of everyone who feels an interest in the country to take steps to arrest the exodus of people from the country to the city. I think the Bill is an honest attempt to deal with that problem, and I have great pleasure in supporting it.

*MR. SPEAR (Devonshire, Tavistock)

I think the unremunerative character of British agriculture in recent years, and the consequent temptation to farmers to reduce the outlay on manures and labour, makes it more than ever important that we should seek to avoid aggravating that deterioration by placing the farmer in a postion of receiving at the end of his tenancy full compensation for unexhausted manures and improvements. I support this Bill because I think it will do something to accomplish that, although I may at once say that there are certain clauses in it with which I disagree, and with which, with the kind indulgence of the House, I will presently deal. I feel, however, that it is a measure which deserves the most careful consideration of the House. I take it we are all agreed as to the desirability of encouraging the development of the soil of our country in a way which will contribute to the common wealth by producing the largest amount of food supply for the people and by affording full employment to those located on the soil. After the speech of my hon. friend opposite, I fee that we are also in accord in wishing that this may be accomplished in a way that will not in any degree alienate the interest of the landlord in his property. I likewise agree with the last speaker that the way in which the rural population is drifting into the towns is a very serious matter; it is a national disaster, and one which we should do what we can to avert. As a practical farmer, I must say that the chief way to accomplish that will be by making it better worth while for the rural population to remain in the country. That is the gist of the whole matter, and consequently I appreciate very highly the fact that the Government has recognised the importance of this by seeking to remove from the agricultural community part, at least, of the unjust taxation which rests upon us by introducing and passing the Agricultural Rating Acts.

I am in full accord with the hon. Gentleman opposite in wishing that such conditions of security to the tenant shall be created and maintained as will conduce to good farming. After all, what the average British farmer wants, before even justice when he quits his tenancy, is to be able to live on his holding. I venture to state that this will be accomplished largely by the removal of unjust burdens. I think the Bill in the main will do something to check the rural population from drifting into the towns; and consequently, while disagreeing with some of the clauses, I shall vote for the Second Reading, with the intention of moving in Committee such Amendments as will, in my opinion, improve the Bill and make it more in accordance with the interests and welfare of my constituents I admit that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Tunbridge is a very plausible one. I know a Bill was passed last year to deal with this question, and under that Bill many advantages were secured to the farmer; and it may look a little bit unreasonable, before that Bill has had a fair trial, to re-open that question in this House. But I am convinced that, though the Bill last year did some good, it did not go far enough, and I am not able to abstain from supporting some ideas which will improve the condition of the farmers without injuring in the slightest degree the interest of the landlords. I would rather that all the Agricultural Holdings Acts had been repealed, and that we had had brought forward a simple, workmanlike measure which we could all understand. Farmers are not lawyers, and cannot unravel the intricacies of a measure like the Agricultural Holdings Acts. We feel that we are almost ignorant of the whole thing, and that we cannot grasp the full effects of the Acts. That ought not to be. We ought to have a simple measure dealing with the whole question, a measure which we could understand and work.

I must confess that there are more clauses in this Bill with which I agree than with which I disagree. I agree with the proposal in the first clause giving full compensation to the farmer on quitting his holding, provided it is compensation for improvements and not for alterations merely. I say there is nothing more disheartening to a tenant farmer than that he should have his rent raised on his own improvements; but the landlord should only pay for those improvements which, at the end of the tenancy, are worth so much money to the incoming tenant. That clause is absolutely just. I would rather that my hon. friend had seen his way clear to suggest the abolition of all previous claims. I know, from my own experience, that nothing causes greater irritation between landlord and tenant than each trying to out-bid the other in sending in claims at the end of a tenancy. I would much rather that adjustments were made on improvements or damage on the basis of the actual condition of the holding at the end of the tenancy. As to compensation for damage done by game, I think that my hon. friend has not displayed his usual ability in drawing the clause in its present form. It is clear that under that clause a tenant would be able to recover from the landlord compensation for damage done by another man's game; this would be unjust. I quite agree with the principle that, when the landlord's winged game does damage to the tenant's crops, there ought to be an easy process of obtaining compensation for that damage. I would suggest to my hon. friend that it would be well if it were stipulated in the clause that the tenant should give notice to the landlord immediately on the damage taking place. I think it is only right that the landlord should understand that something is going on for which eventually the tenant will claim compensation. I fully agree with the proposal to give the tenant the right to shoot rabbits. I do not believe it will injure the landlord's sport. I know for a fact that nothing gives the tenant farmer greater pleasure than to see his landlord come on to his holding and enjoy a few days sport; and I am sure that the tenant farmer would not use this privilege to interfere with the landlord's winged game. Why should not the tenant farmer have a few days sport? He would then become not only the landlord's tenant, but the landlord's game preserver. Moreover, rabbits are becoming an intolerable nuisance, and, therefore, it is right that the tenant should have the privilege to kill them in any way he likes. I am thoroughly in favour of the free sale of crops grown on the farms, provided that steps are taken to prevent deterioration of the soil. That is an equitable principle. We know that in the changing condition of agriculture it is necessary to grow varied crops to meet the needs of the times. But I would suggest to my hon. friend that an exception should be made in the last year of the tenancy, because it would be a very serious thing for the in-coming tenant to find no fodder or roots to carry his cattle through the winter. That would be prejudicial to the interests of agriculture, and I will move in Committee an Amendment to the effect that a tenant should not be able to sell his straw and root crops off the farm in the last year of his tenancy. I come to the next clause, with which I say at once I disagree. I would be sorry to see the day when a landlord would be unable to dispossess his property of an undesirable tenant—a bad farmer whose occupancy of the land is neither good for himself, the landlord, or the country. I do not see the justice in a landlord being mulcted in order to rid himself of an undesirable tenant—a bad farmer, a bad employer of labour, and a man who does not do what he ought to do in developing the resources of the land. I admit at once that cases do occur in which landlords raise the rent on their tenants' improvements, and if a method could be devised to prevent that, and to make the landlord pay for any such arbitrary proceeding, I should support it. But I fail to see how it can be done under this measure. I know, as a farmer, that there is an instinct in the breast of most farmers that at all hazards they want to stay in the old homestead, where they have been born and bred, and that their ambition is to live all their days there. Any ruthless interruption to that sentiment—I call it a noble sentiment—ought not to be permitted if legislation can do it.

My excuse for detaining the House so long is that as a farmer, representing an agricultural constituency, I want to put the farmers' case fully and freely before the House. I agree with the principle of a single arbitrator. Where there are two or three arbitrators, and they fail to agree, and a big bill is run up, very nearly as much as the compensation given, there is always dissatisfaction. Appoint one man in whom you have confidence. That is the principle I advocate. But I hope precautions will be taken to secure that the arbitrator is not a stranger to the district. He should be appointed by the county council, and should understand the peculiarity of the district in which he is to adjudicate. Then there is the question of permanent pasture. The Act of last year, in my judgment, conferred a great benefit on farmers by securing to them compensation for temporary pasture. I am not quite prepared to follow my hon. friend in his proposal that a tenant farmer shall have the right to lay down the whole of his holding to permanent pasture, whether or not it is good for himself, for the rural population, or for the culture of the land. I think we might almost leave that question to be settled by the landlord and tenant them selves. The average landlord, if a tenant came to him and said, "I am of opinion that these two or three acres would be better if laid down to permanent pasture," would at once assent. Still I would be prepared to go thus far with the hon. Member, that if the permission is applicable only to one-fourth of the holding of arable land, then I would not much demur to it. But as the clause stands I am opposed to it altogether, because I maintain that it would aggravate the evil upon which hon. Members have enlarged, namely, the depopulation of the rural districts. I know what temptation there is to the farmer now a days, when there is a difficulty in getting men, and when their labour is far from remunerative, to lay down the land to permanent pasture, and if this measure is passed it will only be an encouragement to him to go on doing so. With regard to repairs, buildings, and permanent improvements, I hold it is better that this class of work should be performed by the landlord rather than by the tenant. I know that the average tenant farmer, through the agricultural depression, has too limited a capital to enable him to carry out permanent improvements. I think the cultivation of the soil would suffer if this clause were passed, and the dual responsibility would operate severely against the tenant. There might be a case in which a farmer who was inclined to dairy keeping would erect all manner of houses suitable for the industry. His successor on the farm, however, might he altogether opposed to dairy keeping, and surely it would be rather hard on the incoming tenant to compensate the outgoing tenant for expenditure on buildings which would be of no service to him whatever.

With reference to the planting of orchards and fruit bushes and trees, the number of cases in which fruit growing can be practised to any extent in this country is very limited, and although I should like to see it encouraged where practicable, I can hardly conceive any landlord objecting to compensate his tenant for any reasonable and just outlay of this character. But I am not prepared to make it possible for a tenant to plant ten or twenty acres of orchard at all outlay which might prove completely useless in the future, and then be able to go to his landlord for compensation. I do not think that would be reasonable. I quite agree with the idea of a record being kept of the condition of a farm, and to its being open to either the landlord or tenant at any time of the tenancy to call for a re-valuation, at, of course, his own cost. That would, I believe, tend to increase the fertility of the soil. It is a purely commercial arrangement, just to both sides. One hon. Gentleman this afternoon said that the laying down of the conditions in this manner between landlord and tenant would be likely to aggravate the relationship between the two classes. I do not agree with that. If there were a clearly defined, just, and equitable scale of allowances and compensation, it would be more likely to remove causes of friction than to create them. I know very well what creates friction between landlord and tenant. It is the difficulty of agreeing as to what, under the law, is subject to compensation and what is not. Once the law is clearly defined we shall then have more amicable relations than at present exist. I agree that these measures are not required for good landlords. But there are instances in which they are necessary. If we can do anything to induce a larger expenditure on the cultivation of the soil, with the consequent increase of employment and the enlargement of our food supply, we shall do something not only to improve the position of the tenant, but also to make it more easy for the landlord to obtain his rights. It is the good farmer who is best able to pay his rent, and it is, therefore, to the interest of all that good farming should be encouraged. I shall, for the reasons I have explained, vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, reserving to myself the right to propose such alterations in Committee as I think will secure justice, not only to the landlord, but to the tenant, and will contribute to the development of the soil of this country in a way which will secure what we are all anxious to see—a return to some degree of agricultural prosperity.

COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)

I always take a great interest in agricultural debates, and although I differ from some of the views held by the hon. Member for South Molton. I am in many instances in accord with his opinion, and if ever I were so unfortunate as to be involved in a dispute on my own property. I should feel absolute confidence if I could persuade him to adjudicate upon it. I should not have the slightest fear of the result. After that he will not, perhaps, mind my saying I consider that this Bill is framed on two very considerable fallacies. In the first place there seems to run through it a sort of general presumption that of the two persons interested in the cultivation of the soil—one being the owner and the other the occupier—the owner is supremely ignorant of all that is necessary for the carrying on of that industry, and that the occupier alone has the requisite knowledge to enable him to farm properly and successfully. That is a very great mistake. I am not prepared to say that every landlord in the land knows as much as he ought to of the details of property management; I wish he did, and I think it would be a good thing if, in our large public schools and universities, there were established a branch for the study of rural economy, so that those who are to eventually succeed to estates may be better trained for the discharge of their duties. As a matter of fact, in many cases owners of land know quite as much, and even more, than the occupier. Many of them in our English districts are actuated by an extreme love for and devotion to the place in which they five. They know almost every corner and every drain outlet, and they are aware of the capabilities of every inch of the soil. To deny their possession of the knowledge, and to deprive them of the right of saying what is the best way to cultivate the land, is to make a great mistake. That is the first fallacy which underlies this Bill. But, assuming that the owners and occupiers have an equal knowledge on the subject of the cultivation of the soil, how many of the proposals contained in this measure fall immediately to the ground? Many of them are based on the idea that, if a difference of opinion arises between the occupier and the owner, the latter is necessarily wrong from an agricultural point of view. I venture to say that in a great num- ber of cases the opinion of the owner is at least as good as that of the occupier. That is one of the dangerous mistakes which are to be found in clause after clause, and it constitutes a reason why the House would be well advised not to assist in the further progress of the Bill. There is another fallacy, but before I deal with that I should like to point out that in all these agricultural debates we naturally argue from the point of view with which we are acquainted, and we do not perhaps realise how widely different circumstances are north, south, east, and west, and how argument which may seem so strong in one quarter may be absolutely futile in another. It is wrong to generalise, and we would do well to bear in mind that that which may be a useful measure in one part may prove dangerous if introduced in another part of the country.

The second fallacy underlying the Bill is the suggestion that there is a strong, burning and unrequited desire on the part of the occupier of the land to have a more permanent tenure. The debate has been taken part in by some of the hon. Members for Wales, and it may be true that in that Principality the views held on this point are different from those which obtain in other parts of the kingdom. Speaking from my knowledge of the Midlands, I am inclined to question whether there is any great desire on the part of the occupiers of the land there to have any more permanent or greater security of tenure than now exists. I have a very good reason for saying that. Not very long ago, in my own knowledge, an offer was made to transform the whole of the yearly tenancies on one estate into leases, but not a single tenant would take a lease. They preferred absolutely, for their own benefit, to remain under yearly tenancies, to being placed under the terms which must pertain to a lease. It is a mistake to suppose that occupiers are clamouring, for any such tenure as would be provided by the Scotch system of long leases.

If I have proved the existence of this second fallacy, I beg the House to recognise how entirely it cuts away almost all the remaining grounds on which this Bill has been recommended for acceptance. If the owner is as competent a judge as the occupier, and if it be true that the occu- pier does not wish for more permanent tenure than he has at present, surely nearly the whole of the Bill falls to the ground, and we may be content to let it go to the limbo to which have been sent so many worthy aspirations which have not been found possible of practical application. I must add my protest against asking the House again and again, while the echoes of the debate of last year are absolutely fresh in our ears, to listen to a repetition of stale old arguments. I do not think any advantage is gained by so quickly resuscitating these old debates. With regard to the compensation proposals, it is evident—and I do not think the hon. Gentleman will deny it—that they will prove unworkable even from his own point of view. The Bill provides that a tenant holding under a yearly agreement is to be entitled at the end of every year to receive compensation for any beneficial improvement he may have made, and apparently he is to be his own judge of the value of the improvement. That would never work, and the clause must be struck out. Then I come to the clause which deals with the repair of buildings. It is provided that the landlord's consent shall not be necessary for the repairs. I should only be too pleased to welcome on my own estate tenants who do not want my consent to repair their own buildings. In these latter days it has become too much the fashion to run to the landlord or the estate agent every time some twopenny-halfpenny repair has to be done by the occupant of the holding. My experience is that there is too little inclination on the part of tenants to do repairs, not too much, and I do not think we need be afraid of legislation on that score. As to laying down permanent pasture, I beg emphatically to state that I consider the opinion of the owner, and especially the resident owner, to be at least as valuable at that of the occupying tenant. If it would be an improvement to turn arable land into pasture, the landlord would not only consent, but would probably be willing to bear a considerable proportion of the expense. In my own experience, I have never known a case in which, where arable land would carry grass fairly and properly, its conversion into pasture has been prevented by any un- willingness on the part of the landlord. On the other hand, the landlord's knowledge of the land would tell him that the idea of laying it down to pasture, although in a particular year it might look promising, was falsified by experience, and he would be able to save his tenant from a large and unproductive outlay.

One or two fair and honest words should be said about game. The sporting value of some portions of the land of England is in excess of its agricultural and occupation value, and Parliament must be careful that by legislation it does not rob the landlord of the enjoyment of what is his own. There are many districts in England in which the maintenance of the sporting value of the land is of intense importance to the maintenance of the rural population. In the winter months and in hard times the rural population depend on the existence of the sporting value of the land to supply what agricultural labour will not produce. I hope no one will run away with the idea that the sporting right has no value except for the man who happens to enjoy the shooting, and that it is an element of rural life which can be got rid of without injury to anyone except the sportsman. With regard to ground game, it seems to be thought that the occupier should be armed with greater powers for the destruction of rabbits. There is a considerable misconception on this point. I believe that the owner and the occupier are at one in the desire to keep down if not to absolutely exterminate rabbits. My own experience is not of any wish on the part of the landlord to unduly preserve rabbits, but the extreme reluctance of the occupier to thin them down too much and lose the value and amusement he and his friends got from rabbit shooting. In many cases the joint ownership of the rabbits was used by the occupiers of the land for the preservation and not the destruction of rabbits. I doubt if any objection has ever been made by a landlord to the tenant enjoying rabbit shooting; indeed, more often he does his best to help him enjoy it. But directly you begin to allow that there is a sporting value to be given over to the tenant, you are going very far from the provisions of the Ground Game Act, which was certainly not passed to ensure the preservation of ground game, and you are embarking on a course of legislation which is subversive of former Acts, I want the House to recollect that if by passing this Bill it is recognised that this is a sporting value passing from one to the other, the provision may be used by the occupier, for the purpose not of the destruction, but the preservation of ground game. I cannot help recognising when I look at the names on the back of this Bill how many people are inclined to speak on these subjects whose practical acquaintance with life in the country is almost nil. I am astonished at the willingness with which hon. Gentlemen unacquainted even with the outside fringe of the agricultural question deliver the strongest possible opinions on every possible matter. I often wonder what they would think if the agricultural Members were to dash into commercial subjects in the same way. The common object of both landlord and tenant ought to be to destroy rabbits, but it is over and over again defeated by the tenant for reasons I have already indicated. With reference to free cropping, my experience is that no landlord will interfere with free cropping and free sale if the tenant farms honestly and well, and the circumstances of the market make it more advantageous to him to sell produce which, at other times, it would be more profitable to him to retain. But in the general interest of the productiveness of the soil it must be recollected that the interests of the incoming tenant must be considered as well as those of the outgoing tenant, and frequently the two interests come into very direct competition. It is Undoubtedly too frequently the case that the outgoing tenant by cropping the land in a certain way may considerably increase the sum going into his owner's pocket, and at the same time unfairly handicap the chances of the incoming tenant to do what is fair and right by the soil.

Now I come to the question of unreasonable disturbance. That has been fully dealt with. Instances of eviction have been cited which I do not hesitate to denounce as perfectly scandalous, if the facts stated be true. But here again I must fall back on personal experience, and I must say I do not think I have ever heard of any cases of the sort described by one of the previous Speakers. It is manifest that it is absolutely against even the ordinary pecuniary interest of a landlord to raise the rent on a tenant's improvements. Anything more absolutely disastrous to a landlord's chance of getting a good and properly capitalised tenant than the reputation of being one who will raise, even by a penny, the rent on a tenant for any improvements he has made, I cannot possibly conceive. And here I must add my protest against anything which, however indirectly or distantly, even flirts with the fringe of the question of dual ownership. I do not see how it is possible to carry out the theory laid down by the hon. Gentlemen opposite without embarking on a very dangerous and immoral connection with the system which is playing such utter havoc in the sister country. I now pass to the question of claims. I think my hon. friend is mistaken when he says that the tenant has to make his claim at the termination of the tenancy, but that the landlord may come and see it before he puts in his counter claim.


There is no limit of time in the case of the landlord.


The hon. Member, I think, is mistaken. Within the last few months I put in a claim before a tenancy was terminated. Still, I quite agree that if there is any system under which the owner can see the claim of a tenant before sending in his own counter-claim, it needs correction. However, my own opinion is that, by the Act of last year, the owner is obliged to send in his claim within seven days of the determination of the tenancy. Both sets of claims should undoubtedly rest on their own merits. Next comes the question of distraint. We discussed that subject last year, and came to a decision on it which went some way to meet the alteration some people thought desirable. I believe that if you were to take 500 occupying tenants into that lobby not one would assert that he desired any change in the present law of distraint, and it is curious that their amateur friends should try and force upon them, in the interests of good farming, that which they themselves are not inclined to wish for. If we were always in the position of being able to secure wealthy and prosperous tenants, there might be no reason for making this distinction; but the very fact of its existence enables the landlord to give a considerable measure of credit to a hardworking, struggling man, and you must be careful, in the interests of such tenants, how you take from the landlord the power to enable him to tide over times of misfortune. With regard to records of condition, I like the idea theoretically, but I do not think it would work out practically. It has frequently been said that this Bill, if passed, would have the effect of arresting the depopulation of the rural districts. Where does that come in? I see nothing in the Bill which would have that effect. On the contrary, the tendency of the Bill would be to encourage the farmer to convert great breadths of arable land into pasture, and that would tend to remove the rural population in a far more rapid ratio than any other system.

On the whole, I must say that this is not a businesslike Bill. If it were passed to-morrow I doubt whether one single good agriculturist would thank you for it. I do not think the Bill would affect in the slightest degree the bigger questions we have to consider, and I would beg the House to bear in mind that to pass legislation which would have as its effect any loosening of the ties between resident owners of land and their properties is the most pernicious thing we can possibly carry out. I fear that the Bill would have the effect of loosening those ties, and of making residence in the old country homes a little bit less secure. I do not mean to suggest that the passing of the measure would have the effect of anything like a revolution in the conditions of rural life, but I do think it would defeat the object of getting more money spent in the country by those who find a pleasure in it, and, not only a pleasure, but also the feeling that they are discharging the highest duty by doing something to maintain the prosperity of the district in which they live. It is because I do not see any practical advance in the Bill upon that which we passed only a few months ago, and which only came into operation at the beginning of this year, and because I see in it pitfalls, snares, and dangers which it would be much better to avoid, that I shall vote against it.

MR. F. W. WILSON (Norfolk, Mid)

I cannot claim to be a tenant farmer, but I belong to a family which for three generations remained on the same farm, and I can well remember the feeling of insecurity which my for bears gave expression to. It is time we got rid of the nonsense which has been talked in the past in regard to agriculture. What we require is a feeling of security of tenure. Old methods of agriculture are, to a large extent, played out. Last Saturday it was my lot to attend the funeral of an esteemed Member of this House, and on the journey thence I had to pass through a certain district, where I noted that sixty acres of land had just been converted into orchards. Well, the tenant would not dare do that unless he had bought the land. No man would venture such an experiment in agriculture without becoming the owner of the land. Further down the line I saw hundreds of yards of glass houses, and, again, no tenant would thus have invested his capital under the conditions which at present exist between landlord and tenant. Unless something is done to give the tenant absolute security and to prevent his being arbitrarily evicted, or to prevent his rent being raised on account of his own improvements, we may well keep on crying about depression for the rest of the century. Much has been said about checking the migration of the rural population into the towns, but the best plan to do that is to enable people to put their money into the land with safety. In my own county of Norfolk we have lately formed an association, through which we have bought farms by auction, and let them out in small holdings of from one to twenty acres. One of our conditions is that a tenant is not to be disturbed so long as he cultivates his land fairly and pays his rent. I can conceive no fairer terms of tenancy. We hear on the other side of farms going begging, but for the 100 acres or more that we let last Michaelmas we got an average of 25s. an acre. Another difficulty that has occurred in the course of these proceedings was the almost absolute impossibility of getting a solicitor to draw up an agreement that was fair as between landlord and tenant. I had some experience of this when I wanted some agreements drawn up for some half-acre lots we were letting. The agreements were so full of advantages to the landlords that I was ashamed, and I had to go to a barrister to draw me up a proper agreement. I think the same thing ought to be done for landlord and tenant as is done for trade. For every trade you have your conciliation committees; when a difficulty occurs between a buyer and a seller you can go to the President of the Board of Trade and discuss the matter, and I think it would be a grand thing if a conciliation board was formed—not with compulsory powers—to which landlord and tenant alike might go and talk over their disputes. I do not suggest that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture should personally attend to these matters, but a department should be formed for that purpose. In the county of Norfolk, Mr. Sewell Read would be an ideal conciliator at a time when unfortunate disputes arose, and I suggest that a man like Mr. Read should be called in when occasion arose. I know a case now where a farmer in hard times took a load of hay to the market and sold it, and the next week he heard from the agent that he had learned that he had done so, and that he had no right to sell hay off the farm. It is these things, small as they appear, that bring about the evils and disasters which have overwhelmed this country. Old tenants have gone away and new tenants have taken the land, who have allowed the land to get into such a bad state of agriculture as to practically ruin it. Although the details of this Bill may not give satisfaction to the landlords opposite, they are honourable men, and I trust they will listen to the voice of the only tenant farmer among them, and give the Bill a Second Reading.

MR. JEFFREYS (Hampshire, N.)

said the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had referred to the endless disputes which arose between landlord and tenant, and had said that this Bill was going to settle the whole matter. He did not believe there ever was a time when landlord and tenant got on better together than now. All landlords recognised that tenants had bad times, and they had done their best to help the tenants to meet the difficulties under which they had to struggle. There were fewer disputes now than there had ever been in the whole history of the country. Why should the tenant have the right to lay down land to permanent pasture or orchards without the consent of his landlord? A man might go down to Hampshire, where there is a large chalk formation, who did not know the country, and want to plant a lot of fruit trees with the idea that he would get a great harvest of fruit, saying to himself fruit grows well in Kent and it will grow well here; but a wise man would go to his landlord or the agent and would be advised upon the matter. At the present time, if a tenant wanted to plant fruit trees or pasturage, he and the landlord, or the agent, would consult together, with the result that for pasture he not only got permission, but very often was given the seeds. There was no harm in that, and it surely was not desired to set the landlord and tenant against each other. The Bill passed last year gave compensation for temporary pasturage which had been laid down for not less than two years that was for laying down sainfoin, clover, and other seeds, which were very useful indeed, and worth a great deal of money very often when a tenant went out of his holding. With regard to the other matters, permanent pasture and so on, the nature of the soil had to be considered in the first place, and great care and experience were required before permanent pasture could be laid down. With regard to the introduction of the Bill, he remembered that last year there was considerable opposition to the Act of last year as it was said to be legislation by reference, but the passage of this Bill would Only add another Act to that legislation by reference. It had been said that in Scotland the farmers enjoyed greater liberty in the management of their farms than they did in England, and that consequently there was a great deal less depression in Scotland than in England. There was, indeed, less depression in Scotland; but the reason was that very little wheat was grown in that country. The depression here had always been caused by the low prices of wheat. There was less distress in Devonshire and Somerset, and in certain other English counties, because they were grass counties and very little wheat was grown there. If this Bill passed it was urged that it would tend to bring people back to the land. But the measure enabled the tenant to lay down more land in pasture, and that was the very process owing to which the land was depopulated at the present time. Arable land would employ four or six times as many persons as pasture land. The true way to get labour to stick to the soil, and possibly to bring back labour to the soil, was to provide labourers with good cottages and gardens. That, he believed, would do more to bring back labour from the towns to which it had gone than any legislation in the world. With regard to the Bill itself, he believed if it were passed, instead of simplifying and lessening the disputes which arose between landlord and tenant at the present time, it would cause endless litigation, and certainly it would cause more disputes between landlord and tenant than had ever occurred before. Then again, why should a man take land from another man under an agreement, and then lay out a great deal of money in making roads and bridges which might afterwards be found to be quite unnecessary, and why, if he left his holding, should the landlord have to pay a great deal of what had been so spent? The proposals in the present Act were most reasonable. Another thing they objected to in the Bill was that it abolished all agreements whatever. To override every agreement, as this Bill did, was most unfair, not only to the owners of the land, but to the farmers. The Bill might prevent owners from letting their land at all. The hon. Gentleman had instanced a case of a man who for selling a load of hay in the market would receive notice. Why did not that man get the consent of his landlord? Did not everybody know of what was called "scourging" a farm, taking a farm for four years, and then for the first three selling off everything which they could get out of the land, and then throwing it back on the landlord's hands in a worthless condition? In any case, if the man wanted to sell his hay he had only to obtain his landlord's consent, and that could not be construed into a hardship. He knew some cases in Norfolk, Suffolk, and Hampshire where the rent got from the shooting tenant was more than that from the farmer, and, if there was any question as to which would have to go, in many cases it would be the farmer. The rents in most cases were as low as possible, and there was a most excellent feeling at present between landlords and tenants. He should support the Amendment of his hon. friend, first, because he thought this was a bad Bill; and secondly because it was unwise to bring it in directly after the Agricultural Holdings Act of last session, the result of which they ought to see before they did anything else.

*MR. MOULTON (Cornwall, Launceston)

said that the speech to which he had listened accentuated the feeling of regret with which he heard the Amendment which had been moved against the Second Reading. He thought it would have been much fairer, and would have shown greater courtesy towards a question felt to be of great importance by an important section of the community if its mover had not sheltered himself under the Act of last year. To all who remembered what that Act was, this was nothing more than a pretext. Beyond a slight variation, in the schedules of the principal Act it only provided a new form of procedure, and did not touch the vital part of the question. The hon. Member for Tunbridge had rightly said that this was a question of a policy. It represented a policy of which they were not ashamed—namely, that it was to the interest of the whole of the community that the land of England should be put to its best use. While they recognised the right of the landlord to draw revenues from the land, they did not recognise his right to spoil its utility. They said that everything that made for good agriculture should necessarily be a part of the contract of tenancy. They were a little tired of good landlords coming forward and speaking in the name of the tenant-farmers. He was amused at the speech of the hon. Member for Shropshire, temperate and sincere as it was. The hon. Member found fault with the "amateur friends" of the tenant-farmer, to whom he attributed this Bill; but this Bill was brought in by the only tenant-farmer on that side of the House, and was supported by the only tenant-farmer on the other side. It was said that over a great part of England there were excellent relations between tenant-farmer and landlord. He was very glad of it, but if there was a way of ensuring mutual respect and fair dealing between any two classes of people it was to give both of them rights, and not to let one be at the mercy of the other. By the Bill the tenant might choose the method by which he could get the best return from the land. He was at present prevented from doing this by restrictive covenants inserted in his lease, and by the fact that there were many improvements which he could not carry out without the landlord's consent, which meant that the landlord had power to grant consent on terms which might be onerous. The conditions in the lease ought not to restrain the tenant from making the land more profitable, although if he was making an experiment it was important that the interest of the landlord should be safeguarded by his giving security. How could these who suggested that the landlords were being attacked by this Bill object to such a fair condition as that? With regard to hares and rabbits, the farmer should have power to treat them as vermin and destroy them as and when he chose. If the tenant was not allowed to defend himself against winged game, he should be paid compensation for the damage they did, not because the game belonged to the landlord, for game belonged to no one, but because the landlord had tied the hands of the tenant in such a way in his agreement that he could not defend himself against the depredations of the game. Engagements should not be entered into between landlord and tenant which would make the tenant's heart heavy; because he knew that the fruit of his labour might be spoiled or taken from him and he would get no remedy. It led to improvidence and careless farming. The supporters of the Bill thought it would conduce to farming being better in England if a man knew that, whatever he put into the land, however hard he worked, he would be there to reap the fruits of it. Therefore there was a clause in the Bill which said that the landlord should not turn out any sitting tenant unreasonably without giving him compensation for disturbance. If the land of England was to be turned to the best purpose the conditions of the tenure of the land must be such as to promote that object.


With some portion of the speech of the hon. Member who brought forward this Bill I am able to agree. I entirely recognise, as he does, the fact that the rural depopulation is a serious question indeed for the country, and one that will have to be seriously taken in hand; but if the hon. Member thinks that a Bill of this kind is one which will remedy the evil, then at once I come to an issue with him. On the contrary, I think the hon. Member is a little incorrect in saying there has been a great decrease in farmers. If we have regard to the amount of small farms, then farmers during the last twenty years have increased. The decline of the rural population is chiefly among farm labourers, small shopkeepers, and those who carried on the smaller rural industries. The effect of the Bill upon that class of the population will be nugatory. But there is a class, and a not unimportant class, which the Bill will tend to diminish, and that is the landlords. This Bill does not offer any fresh inducements to landlords to live on their estates. On the contrary, it takes away inducements which at present exist, because it is not only the pleasures of country life which keep a landlord upon his property, it is also a strong sense of duty, which makes him feel that he ought to live amongst his own people. That sense of duty, surely, must be very largely diminished if, as I think will be the effect of this Bill, all practical interest in his property is taken away from him, and if he remains it will be as little better than a mere rent-charger. With the principle enunciated by the hon. Member I am in entire agreement. The Government entirely agree that a tenant ought to be compensated for real improvements upon his farm. But that is a principle which we maintain was thoroughly carried into effect by the Bill of last year. When, however, the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire says that my right hon. friend did that only as an instalment, I must give an emphatic contradiction to the statement. That Bill was meant to represent the final view of the Unionist party as to the rights of tenants and landlords. I believe that that is the opinion also of the tenant farmers. I believe they are thoroughly well satisfied with the Bill, because all the appeals that have come to me are appeals, not for amendments of the law, but for a consolidation of the Agricultural Holdings Acts, from which it appears that the tenant farmers, at any rate, suppose that the time has come when the question has been settled, and when all the Acts dealing with this subject should be consolidated into one. I believe that farmers generally want a little period of rest from political agitation—and I doubt whether agitation has ever done much for any industry, least of all for agriculture—but we have now brought before us a number of purely one-sided Amendments, the discarded work of the Grand Committee of last year. Positively it seems to me that the hon. Member must have clipped his hand into the waste-paper basket of the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire, and picked up every Amendment which that hon. Member brought forward last year.


The principle of this Bill was assented to by the House of Commons in 1895–96.


I am perfectly correct in what I am saying,


So am I.


The whole of the Amendments—eight of them, at any rate, and there are only eleven—were Amendments brought forward by the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire, and discussed both in the Grand Committee and on Report, and at both stages they were rejected either unanimously or by large majorities. I think, therefore, it is a little too bad that the time of the House should be wasted in considering Amendments in the session following that in which they have already been rejected. I know it may be said that this is a new Parliament, but I do not think it is a Parliament which is any more likely to accept the proposals here put forward. Several Welsh Members have spoken upon this subject. We are to have a Welsh Bill, I believe, on a Wednesday two weeks hence. But I must refuse to deal with the case of Wales upon any different footing from the case of England. The Commission to which reference was made was not appointed by a Unionist Government, and I utterly refuse to recognise Wales as being in any different position from the rest of the country.

The usual course for a Minister to follow on the Second Reading of a Bill is to discuss the principle of the measure under discussion, but I am sorry to say that with regard to this Bill I can find really no principle in it. The principle was settled only last year. We have here only a series of disconnected clauses, and I am afraid it will be my duty to deal with them one by one, so far as they have not been dealt with, in many cases admirably, by hon. friends behind me, and to treat them more or less in the manner in which an ordinary Bill would be treated in Committee. I will take Clause 1, which has been dealt with by the hon. Member for Tunbridge. That clause omits from Clause 1 of the Bill of last year the words "on quitting his holding." Those words were inserted in the Bill of 1883 by Mr. Gladstone's Government, and they were inserted, as Mr. Shaw-Lefevre stated in debate, entirely in the interests of the tenant. What is the objection to the words? What has been the principle upon which this question of compensation has been discussed hitherto? It has always been assumed that the aim of the tenant was that he should receive full compensation for his improvements when he quitted his farm. But this point raises an entirely new question—certainly one entirely different from anything which has been discussed hitherto in connection with this subject. It is now claimed that if a tenant remains on his farm he is to receive compensation in cash, and continue to receive the full benefit of the improvements he has made. That is literally eating his cake and having it he has it twice over.


He pays for it in extra rent.


That is exactly what I wanted to get from the hon. Member. He says that the tenant pays for it in extra rent. Does he object to that?


Not if the farm is worth the money.


Then really, what is the point of the Amendment? The suggestion of the hon. Member is that in such a case the rent should be raised, and that the landlord, having paid the old tenant for the improvements, ought to be free to treat the old tenant on the same footing as a new tenant. If he has paid the old tenant full compensation for the improvements he has effected, he ought to be free to charge the incoming tenant interest on that money. If that is so, what on earth is the effect of this Amendment?

I will now pass to another point, namely, the inherent capabilities of the soil. That proviso, I see, is omitted. It was also omitted by the Government in the original draft of their Bill, and introduced only at the last moment. Why was it introduced? On all sides it is admitted that there is really no virtue whatever in the words, and, therefore, it is rather idle to try to withdraw them now. The reason they were inserted in the House of Lords was that, the words having been in the statute ever since the year 1883, valuers, when valuing for compensation, had acted on a certain principle, and if the words were taken out it would be assumed that the valuation was to be made on a different principle.

Another Amendment is the insertion of the words—"or any claim for indemnification by a landlord under any custom or contract of tenancy." That is to say, this clause provides that any claim by a tenant for compensation under the principal Act or this Act—that is, any claim which he can make under Statute—is to be brought forward before the determination of the tenancy, and the landlord's claims under custom or under contract are also to be brought forward. The tenant has three kinds of claims. He has his claim under Statute, and it is only this claim that he is obliged to bring in before the determination of the tenancy. But there are two other sets of claims—those under custom and those under agreement, and neither of these is the tenant forced to bring in before the determination of the tenancy. It is here proposed that the landlord, who has only got claims of those two kinds, should be treated entirely differently from the tenant, and be forced to bring in his claims under custom or agreement before the determination of the tenancy. That is absolutely unfair. I am the more surprised that this proposal should have been made by the hon. Member for South Molton because, when the Bill of 1900 was before the Grand Committee, he laid great stress upon this fact. He said he did not care very much when the claims were sent in, but he did insist that both landlord and tenant should be treated on equal terms.


That is what I say now.


But he is entirely departing from that principle here. He cannot say that he is treating them alike when he refuses to force the tenant to bring in his claims under statute, but compels the landlord to do so. Then I come to the question of arbitration. It is a small point, but the Amendment is based upon the idea—which seems to be very prevalent on the other side of the House—that the tenant is never able to take care of himself, and that even in such a small matter as to whether there should be one arbitrator or two arbitrators and an umpire, the tenant is such a poor creature that he cannot be trusted to decide the point. What has been done is to put these agricultural arrangements on exactly the same footing as all commercial arrangements; that is to say, the Act, I think of 1889, lays down that, unless the parties otherwise determine, the case should be referred to a single arbitrator. I do not know why agricultural arrangements should be treated in a manner different from commercial arrangements; it is surely better that the law of the land should be the same for all? Now I come to Section 2, which deals with the question of compensation for damage by game. There is no doubt whatever that the clause as it stands does make the landlord responsible for damage caused by game coming over from the property of another landlord altogether. I do not know whether the hon. Member admits that.


I do.


Very well; I thought he must admit that, because that very point was taken when a similar Amendment was moved in Grand Committee. I am glad to have that admission of the hon. Member, but in what a ridiculous position he places his own Amendment. I was simply astonished to hear the hon. Member for the Launceston Division of Cornwall support this Bill, and especially this clause. This precise Amendment was proposed in the Grand Committee, and here is a statement he is reported to have made on that occasion— I seriously hope that this Amendment will not be persisted in, for a more ridiculous suggestion could not be made. Just consider. We all of us feel that it is a very hard thing for a tenant farmer that his crops should be destroyed because his neighbours will not keep their birds and rabbits and other game to themselves, and any attempt to remedy that injustice I shall certainly support. But consider what this proposition means. The proposition means that in that last year of the tenancy the tenant can make his landlord pay for damage done by his neighbour's game. The greater part of the damage is done by game which the tenant has] the right to shoot down, and ought to shoot down, and the remainder is done by game which is preserved by somebody, but the landlord may have nothing to do with it."† So much for the support of the clause by the hon. Member for the Launceston Division. I now come to Clause 3, which utterly upsets all the principles laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth, because if the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman had any justification it was to prevent †See Debates, Fourth Series, Vol. lxxxv., page 1215. the landlord from encouraging rabbits upon his property so that they would be detrimental to the crops, and perhaps a permanent injury to the property itself. The hon. Member now brings in a clause by which, while a restraint is put upon the landlord, no restraint whatever is put upon the tenant. The tenant may not only himself shoot, but he may empower not only members of his own family, but any other persons to shoot; he may let the rabbit shooting, or turn his farm into a rabbit warren, and do not only damage to the crops but actual injury to the land. All this he may do without any restraint whatever.


That is entirely forbidden by the Ground Game Act.


The hon. Member is entirely wrong. What is forbidden by that Act?


The tenant is forbidden to prevent the landlord shooting rabbits on a holding which belongs to the landlord.


That is not the point. This gives an inducement to the tenant to encourage rabbits to such an extent that they may not only damage the crops, but actually injure the property. In regard to the next clause, I do not think the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells quite realised how far it goes. As I understand Clause 6 of the Act of last year, it was that any restraints upon cropping, or cultivation, or disposal of produce, which are prevented by penal rents, should be done away with. Penal rents were practically abolished, but the right of the landlord to have and to enforce covenants with regard to the mode of cultivation, profits, or disposal was not abolished. Those covenants can still be enforced in three ways. In the first place, the landlord has an action at law, but under the Act he cannot recover beyond the amount of the actual damage done. Then he might issue an injunction to prevent damage being done, or he might re-enter for breach of covenant. This clause proposes that the tenant should have a right practically to effect breaches of covenant with regard to these matters as he likes, and that the landlord should have no power whatever to enforce his covenant. That is a very long step forward indeed. The hon. Member for Carnarvonshire said that the tenants do not read these covenants. What an absurd argument that is. It assumes either that a farmer is a fool or that he does not know his own business. We do not take that view of the farmer. If a man puts his pen to a covenant, whether he be a farmer or anybody else, it must be assumed that he knows what he is about; and I venture to say that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the farmer does know what he is about. I think the hon. Gentleman is a little out of date with reference to the restrictions. These restrictions, I believe, exist in very few leases at this moment; and if they do exist they are very seldom carried into force. That applies to the great majority of landlords in this country, and I think it is bad policy indeed that you should legislate merely for a very small minority. You do very little good by legislating for a small minority, and you do very great harm by inducing landlords to take less interest in their property than they otherwise would do. The hon. Member for Carnarvonshire also said that a specialised kind of farming was, or ought to be, in vogue at the present day. I believe that is perfectly true, and it tells distinctly against this clause. The farming of the future will, no doubt, be farming of a specialised character—farming applicable to the soil, the condition, and the climate of a particular farm. But this clause lays down no restriction whatever, the tenant is allowed to adopt a kind of farming which may be utterly unfit for the farm of which he is the tenant.

But I object to this clause, as I object to Clauses 5 and 7, on much more general grounds. I feel certain that practically there is no half-way between the Act passed by my right hon. friend last year and the pernicious system in Ireland. If you are going gradually to creep on to dual ownership, as you do by this clause, I say let us resist those steps at the very beginning, because there can be no doubt whatever about what the result will be. Clause 5 certainly does go a long way in the direction of dual owner- ship, because, so far as I can see, it gives fixity of rent, because the landlord is never to raise the rent under any conditions whatever, and it practically gives the tenant fixity of tenure also. My first objection, to this clause—so vaguely worded—is that it would lead to much litigation, who is to decide whether a landlord "unreasonably and without good and sufficient cause" gets rid of a tenant? As to "requiring more onerous conditions," I presume that means that he is never under any circumstances to have a higher rent. That surely is fixity of tenure. After all, are there so many capricious evictions as the hon. Member seems to suppose? Whenever a Bill of this kind comes before the House we are told of cases in which tenants have been evicted from their farms on account of their religious or political opinions. Probably, it is the same man over and over again—a stage army which is always before our eyes. Such cases are very few indeed, and I agree they are to be deprecated. The landlord who turns out his tenant for reasons of that kind is a bad landlord, but cases of the kind were very few indeed. I am not speaking only my own opinion with regard to the fewness of these cases. Let me read an extract from the Reports of the Royal Commission. What is the good of appointing Royal Commissions unless we sometimes follow their guidance? [Opposition cheers.] I do not understand those cheers, because I venture to say that six, at any rate, of the Amendments in this Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Northampton are directly in face of the Royal Commission on Agriculture, on which the hon. Gentleman himself sat. What does the Royal Commission say? It reported that cases of unfair or capricious evictions were exceedingly rare, and thought that no countenance should be given to such a demand for which there was no justification if full compensation were paid. But let us take the facts also. In the case of long leases, at any rate, this danger was reduced to a minimum. But it so happens that long leases are falling out of favour, and we are coming more and more in England to a system of yearly tenancies. Tenants dislike long leases, and I should like to know, if that is the case, why a tenant should be able to give the landlord notice to quit at short notice and the landlord himself should not be able to get rid of a bad tenant. Even if you were argue from the analogy in Ireland, and say that the tenant will not be likely to give notice, I am not so sure that that would be so. I think the conditions in England are entirely different from the conditions in Ireland as regards the tenant. In Ireland the tenant has practically no occupation other than upon the land, and that naturally induces keen competition for farms. But in England the case is clearly different. There are many other occupations to which a tenant can turn his hand.

Then I want to say a word in regard to the next clause, dealing with distress. What is the history of this clause? It was originally, no doubt, in the Bill of my right hon. friend last year, and no doubt the Central Chamber of Agriculture and others were anxious that a fixed period of twelve months should be in the Bill. That I do not deny. But really the whole of this question is a conflict between those, on the one hand, who say that the existing law of distraint enables a landlord to show leniency towards a small and struggling tenant, and these are the tenants whose interests we ought particularly to look after, and those, on the other hand, who say that the law of distraint encourages tenants with insufficient capital. I am glad to say that, on the whole, the balance of opinion is cast on the side of the small and struggling tenant, and the clause was unanimously struck out on the Report. My right hon. friend had a great number of applications from both sides of the House, from landlords and tenants alike, in favour of the law of distraint being allowed to stand as it was, because, if it were altered, it would deal very harshly with those who were tenants of landlords who were trustees of charitable institutions and other institutions of that kind.

I have now gone through practically the whole of the clauses, and my main objection to the passing of this Bill is, in the first place, that the great majority of the clauses go directly in the face of the recommendations of Royal Commissions which had gone most elaborately into all the circumstances and requirements of the case, and I think the House ought to pause before it acts against the advice of those Royal Commissions. We are asked to upset decisions of the House of Commons of only last year—decisions arrived at, some unanimously, and others by large majorities. It is, on the whole, a thoroughly unfair and one-sided Bill, because every clause is directed against the landlords. I wish I could say that every clause was in favour of the tenant, but I cannot say even that, because, in regard to the law of distraint, for instance, it aids the richer against the poorer and struggling tenant. There is a clause at the end referring to the record of the holding. There, again, the hon. Member has not the courage of his conviction. He does not propose any penalty for the case of a record not being taken; he only advises that it should be taken, and therefore the clause has no practical value. I understand bold treatment of these subjects. I understand those who boldly advocate—although I should entirely dissent from them—the Irish system with regard to the land. The Welsh Members are largely in favour of applying that system to Wales, but I venture to say that a half-way house of the kind here proposed, which is neither the one thing nor the other, which leaves the rights of landlord and tenant in a very doubtful position, is calculated to lead not only to litigation, but also to great confusion in regard to the respective rights of landlord and tenant. If a Bill of this kind were passed, I venture to say it would be impossible for either a landlord or tenant to know exactly how they stood. The result would be that immediately afterwards, when it was found how unworkable and impracticable this Bill was, we should require fresh legislation, and we should gradually get to the Irish system. That is an obsolete idea. The country has had such a lesson from Ireland in this matter that nobody can desire that such legislation should be introduced in this kingdom. It is because this Bill is not only unjust to the landlords, but is unfair also to a certain class of tenants; and because it revives obsolete ideas with regard to the land which have been shown to be so utterly impracticable, and to have led to such mischievous consequences in Ireland; and not only because of what it does, but because of the consequences to which it will ultimately lead, that I oppose the Second Reading altogether.

MR. TOMKINSON (Cheshire, Crewe)

The constituency with which I have been connected may perhaps be called the land of three acres and a cow; it is one of the most prosperous agricultural constituencies in the whole of England, and it is largely because I know from experience what can be done by good landlords, and how prosperous the condition of the tenant may be under a good system, that I desire to support this or any other Bill which is likely to improve the condition under which the tenants live. Putting aside smaller issues, I think there is a general agreement that anything which will attract capital, intelligence, and enterprise to the business of agriculture is a wholly desirable thing, as thereby we shall be increasing not only the wealth of the country, but the employment for labourers, and we shall do much to keep the rural population in the rural districts. There are three points which I conceive to be primarily necessary. The first is absolute security for tenants in their holdings, and the second is compensation to the tenants, whether sitting or quitting, upon which point I wish to offer a few remarks, after what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman opposite. There appears in his mind to be a difficulty about compensating a tenant without leaving his farm. If a tenant has improved the value of his farm by £50 a year, and there is a change of landlord either through succession or through the sale of the farm, and the new landlord desires to raise the rent by £50 a year

the tenant has to take his choice of quitting his farm or paying the extra rent. He cannot, under present conditions, obtain the value of his improvements without quitting the farm, while it is to the public interest that he should be retained on his farm. The Cheshire Chamber of Commerce, some years ago, passed a resolution that in any such case the landlord should be, compelled to pay down the value of those improvements to the tenant without the tenant being obliged to quit his farm. The landlord, having to pay for the improvements, is naturally in possession of the whole farm with the improvements, and he and his tenant are at liberty, of course, to make a fresh contract. The third principle is that of compensation for unjust disturbance. I fully admit that the cases are few and far between. No one has a fuller appreciation of the good qualities, as a general rule, of the landlords of England—I happen to be one myself—but there are exceptional cases. We all remember a recent case in Norfolk where an excellent tenant, against whom there was not a word to be said, was practically evicted for taking too active a part in a certain political contest. It is for such cases as that that legislation is required. Laws are made not for the good, but for the bad. It is because I desire to place the tenant under a bad landlord in the same position of security as he would be under a good landlord that I shall support this or any other Bill for that purpose.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 164; Noes, 225. (Division List No. 173.)

Abraham, William (Cork N. E. Burt, Thomas Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)
Allan, William (Gateshead) Buxton, Sydney Charles Delany, William
Allen, Chas. P. (Glouc., Stroud Caldwell, James Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles
Asher, Alexander Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Dillon, John
Atherley-Jones, L. Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H. Donelan, Captain A.
Austin, Sir John Carew, James Laurence Doogan, P. C.
Barry, E. (Cork, S.) Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton Duffy, William J.
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Causton, Richard Knight Duncan, J. Hastings
Bell, Richard Cawley, Frederick Dunn, Sir William
Black, Alexander William Channing, Francis Allston Edwards, Frank
Blake, Edward Colville, John Emmott, Alfred
Boland, John Condon, Thomas Joseph Evans, Sir F. H. (Maidstone)
Boyle, James Craig, Robert Hunter Farquharson, Dr. Robert
Brigg, John Crean, Eugene Fenwick, Charles
Bryce, Rt. Hon. James Crombie, John William Ffrench, Peter
Burns, John Cullinan, J. Field, William
Flavin, Michael Joseph M'Arthur, Wm. (Cornwall Rigg, Richard
Flynn, James Christopher M'Fadden, Edward Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)
Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) M'Govern, T. Roche, John
Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry M'Kenna, Reginald Russell, T. W.
Furness, Sir Christopher M'Laren, Charles Benjamin Schwann, Charles E.
Gilhooly, James Mooney, John J. Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)
Goddard, Daniel Ford Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen) Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire)
Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick) Morton, Edw. J. C. (Devonport) Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Griffith, Ellis J. Moss, Samuel Spear, John Ward
Hammond, John Moulton, John Fletcher Stevenson, Francis S.
Harcourt. Rt. Hon. Sir William Murphy, J. Sullivan, Donal
Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil Nannetti, Joseph P. Taylor, Theodore Cooke
Harmsworth, R. Leicester Newnes, Sir George Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)
Harwood, George Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South) Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.
Hayden, John Patrick Norton, Capt. Cecil William Thomas, David Alf. (Merthyr)
Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale- O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid) Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.)
Helme, Norval Watson O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Tomkinson, James
Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H. O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.) Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol, E. O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W. Tully, Jasper
Holland, William Henry O'Doherty, William Ure, Alexander
Hope, John Deans (Fife, West) O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.) Wallace, Robert
Horniman, Frederick John O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.) Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)
Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C. O'Dowd, John Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Jacoby, James Alfred O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.) Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan
Joicey, Sir James O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N Weir, James Galloway
Jones, Dav. Brynmor(Swansea O'Malley, William White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Jones, Win. (Carnarvonshire) O'Mara, James Whiteley, G. (York, W. R.)
Joyce, Michael O'Shaughnessy, P. J. Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Kay-Shuttleworth, Rt Hn Sir U Palmer, Sir Chas. M. (Durham Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Kitson, Sir James Palmer, George W. (Reading) Williams, Osmond (Merioneth
Layland-Barratt, Francis Partington, Oswald Wilson, Fred. W. (Norfolk Mid.
Leamy, Edmund Perks, Robert William Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)
Leigh, Sir Joseph Philipps, John Wynford Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)
Leng, Sir John Pirie, Duncan V. Woodhouse, Sir J T (Huddersf'd
Lewis, John Herbert Power, Patrick Joseph Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)
Lloyd-George, David Price, Robert John Yoxall, James Henry
Lough, Thomas Priestley, Arthur
Lundon, W. Redmond, John E. (Waterford) Tellers for the Ayes—Mr. Lambert and Mr. Soares.
MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A. Redmond, William (Clare)
MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries)
Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F. Bull, William James Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Bullard, Sir Harry Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton
Anson, Sir William Reynell Campbell, Rt Hn J. A. (Glasgow Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas
Anstruther, H. T. Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Faber, George Denison
Arkwright, John Stanhope Cautley, Henry Strother Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.) Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J (Manc'r.
Arrol, Sir William Cayzer, Sir Charles William Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst
Atkinson, Rt. Hn. John Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Finch, George H.
Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Fisher, William Hayes
Bain, Colonel James Robert Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r Fison, Frederick William
Baird, John George Alexander Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose
Balcarres, Lord Charrington, Spencer Fitzroy, Hon. Ed ward Algernon
Baldwin, Alfred Coddington, Sir William Flower, Ernest
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r Coghill, Douglas Harry Forster, Henry William
Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W (Leeds Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Galloway, William Johnson
Banbury, Frederick George Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready Garfit, William
Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor) Colston. Chas. Edw. H. Athole Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick
Bartley, George C. T. Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Gore, Hon. F. S. Ormsby-
Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol Cranborne, Viscount Goschen, Hon. George Joachim
Beach, Rt Hn. W. W. B. (Hants. Cripps, Charles Alfred Goulding, Edward Alfred
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Cust, Henry John C. Green, Walford D (Wednesb'ry)
Bill, Charles Dalrymple, Sir Charles Greene, Sir E W (B'ry S Edm'nds
Blundell, Colonel Henry Denny, Colonel Greene, Hy. D. Shrewsbury)
Bond, Edward Dickinson, Robert Edmond Grenfell, William Henry
Boulnois, Edmund Dickson, Charles Scott Gretton, John
Bousfield, William Robert Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P. Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill
Brassey, Albert Digby, John K. D. Wingfield- Halsey, Thomas Frederick
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Dixon-Hartland, Sir F. Dixon Hamilton, Rt. Hn Lord G (Mid'x
Brown, Alexander H. (Shropsh. Dorington, Sir John Edward Hamilton, Marq. of (L'nd'nd'rry
Brymer, William Ernest Doxford, Sir William Theodore Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.
Harris, Frederick Leverton Maple, Sir John Blundell Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)
Haslam, Sir Alfred S. Martin, Richard Biddulph Seton-Karr, Henry
Haslett, Sir James Horner Maxwell, W. J. H (Dumfries-sh. Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)
Hay, Hon. Claude George Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M. Simeon, Sir Barrington
Heaton, John Henniker Middlemore, J. Throgmorton Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)
Henderson, Alexander Milward, Colonel Victor Smith, H C (North'mb, Tyneside
Hoare, Edw. B. (Hampstead) Montagu, G. (Huntingdon) Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)
Hoare, Sir Samuel (Norwich) Moon, Edward Robert Pacy Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk
Hobhouse, Hy. (Somerset, E.) Moore, William (Antrim, N.) Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Hornby, Sir William Henry More, Robert J. (Shropshire) Stewart, Sir Mark J M'Taggart
Horner, Frederick William Morgan, David J. (W'lth'mst'w Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier
Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry Morris, Hon. Martin Henry F. Talbot. Rt Hn J. G. (Oxf'd Univ.
Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham) Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford) Thorburn, Sir Walter
Hozier, Hon. James Hy. Cecil Mount, William Arthur Thornton, Percy M.
Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C. Tollemache, Henry James
Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton Murray, Rt Hn A. Graham (Bute Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Johnston, William (Belfast) Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath Tritton, Charles Ernest
Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex) Myers, William Henry Tuke, Sir John Batty
Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. Nicol, Donald Ninian Valentia, Viscount
Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop. O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens Walrond, Rt Hn. Sir William H.
Kimber, Henry Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay Wauklyn, James Leslie
King, Sir Henry Seymour Pease, Herb. Pike (Darlington) Warde, Colonel C. E.
Law, Andrew Bonar Penn, John Wason, John C. (Orkney)
Lawrence, William F. Percy, Earl Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C E (Taunt'n
Lawson, John Grant Platt-Higgins, Frederick Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd
Lee, Arthur H (Hants. Fareham Plummer, Walter R. Whiteley, H (Asht'n-und Lyne
Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie Purvis, Robert Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
Leveson Gower, Fredk. N. S. Quilter, Sir Cuthbert Williams, Rt Hn J Powell (Birm
Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R. Randles, John S. Willox, Sir John Archibald
Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Rankin, Sir James Wills, Sir Frederick
Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham) Remnant, James Farquharson Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S.) Renshaw, Charles Bine Wilson, John (Glasgow)
Lonsdale, John Brownlee Rentoul, James Alexander Wilson-Todd. Wm. H. (Yorks)
Lowe, Francis William Renwick, George Wodehouse, Rt. Hn E. R. (Bath)
Loyd, Archie Kirkman Ridley, S. Forde (Bethnal Green Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsm'th Robertson, Herbert (Hackney) Wylie, Alexander
Macartney, Rt. Hn. W. G. E. Robinson, Brooke Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong
Maconochie, A. W. Rolleston, Sir John F. L. Young, Commander (Berks, E.)
M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Ropner, Colonel Robert Younger, William
M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E. Round, James
M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edmburgh W Rutherford, John TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire) Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford- Mr. Griffith-Boscawen and
Malcolm, Ian Sadler. Col. Samuel Alexander Mr. Llewellyn.

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

Debate arising.

It being after half-past Five of the clock, the debate stood adjourned.

  2. c1115
  3. PRIVATE BILLS (GROUP J). 39 words
  4. c1115
  6. c1116
  8. c1116
  10. c1116
  11. BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE. 68 words