§ Order for Third Reading road.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
*SIR HENRY KIMBER (Wandsworth) moved the rejection of the Bill on two grounds, namely, that it destroyed freedom of contract between grown persons in dealing with their own affairs, and altered contracts freely made, at the instance of one party only and against the other. The Bill had a peculiar history. It was not originally brought in by the Government, but by a private Member who was no longer a Member of the House. It had been adopted by the Government with the very laudable intention of pleasing a certain body of their supporters in the
country whose support they wished to secure. On being introduced it was entitled a Bill relating to the tenure of land. It was very curious that from one end of the Bill to the other there was not a single clause or sentence that affected the tenure of land at all. The tenure of land after this Bill passed would be precisely the same as before. It was true that it affected the right of a man to do what he chose with his own, or what he chose to agree with any other person to do in regard to the land. The Bill did not allow a man to be bound by what he had agreed to. The preamble of the measure was singular. It originally stated that it was—
In the interest of good husbandry that better security should be made for the capital and labour invested by tenants in the cultivation of the soil.
It stopped there, but since the Bill was adopted by the Government these words had been added—
But consistently with the interests of the rural labouring classes and of the community generally in such investment.
Why these words had been added they would, perhaps, see later on. One of the things which he wished to do was to ascertain what was the mind of he Government in fathering the Bill, for this description in the preamble had no relation whatever to any of the objects which the Bill endeavoured to effect. He found that outside the House there was a very vague idea of what the Bill proposed to do. When he had explained to men of business the nature of what was proposed to be enacted by the Bill he was met with incredulity. They would not believe that the House of Commons even of the present day would be capable of passing a Bill which went to the root of every business transaction between man and man. He therefore proposed to state what it was that the Bill effectively proposed to do. There was no mention of the labouring classes throughout the Bill, but it proposed to alter the arrangements between landlord and tenant in five distinct particulars. The first was as to damage to crops by game. It was provided in the Bill that any agreement between landlord and tenant by which damage to crops by game was met and allowed for should not hold good if it turned out that the contract, freely made as to what the parties considered fair, was disadvantageous to one of the
parties. If it was disadvantageous to the tenant, he was to be at liberty to alter it and to claim compensation, but if it was disadvantageous to the landlord by his having agreed to give more than was necessary to pay for the damage done, he was not to be indemnified. It was provided that, even if the landlord proved that in fixing the rent allowance was made for any damage that might be expected to be done—and it was always provided for in his experience—the matter must be referred to arbitration, and the arbitrator was to be allowed to deduct what had been provided for in the agreement and to give compensation to the tenant. But if the damage was less than the allowance made under the agreement the landlord was to get no relief. The next innovation was that under farm leases the tenant was no longer bound by his own covenant as to the course of cropping. What was known, for instance, as the four-course system in Norfolk a tenant was to be at liberty to abrogate, even if he had deliberately by his contract agreed to carry out that system. The covenant to follow that system would not be inserted in the lease except for the fact that, as the result of long experience, owners and tenants had found that it was best for the land itself, and for the production to be obtained from it. The next innovation was as to compensation for unreasonable disturbance. He undertook to say that the clause dealing with that matter was to most people unintelligible, and certainly if it went before the Courts of law they would say that it was crowded in every line with ambiguity. If he rightly understood the learned Solicitor-General for Scotland, the clause was not intended in any way to break, or to enable a tenant to break, an existing tenancy agreement. If that was so, it meant that an existing tenancy agreement was to run out, and yet the tenant was to be at liberty to claim compensation for expenses of removal which was called unreasonable disturbance, even although the agreement was at an end. There was no criterion laid down as to what was to be "unreasonable disturbance." It was presumed in the clause that a tenant might be unreasonably disturbed, although the landlord had conformed to the terms of the agreement. He was also to be compensated if the landlord refused a renewal of the lease. There
was, therefore, a new term imported into the agreement which had actually expired, and the tenant was to be at liberty to recover compensation for breach of that which had never been agreed to be given to him. There was yet another innovation. The Agricultural Holdings Act of 1883 was amended by providing that, notwithstanding any agreement between landlord and tenant, differences between them should be referred to one arbitrator instead of two arbitrators and an umpire. That was, perhaps, a minor matter of machinery, but if landlord and tenant thought it was better to have two arbitrators and an umpire, why was their liberty of action to be taken away? The five points which he had mentioned did not affect the general community at all, but landowners and tenants, the parties principally concerned in agricultural holdings, were to be prohibited from coming to any agreement they chose in the light of their experience. Why should any contract between any two persons be voided? It had been for centuries a principle of our jurisprudence lying at the very foundation of justice that a contract between any two persons, provided that it did not injure a third person or the community generally, should be carried out. What use was it to establish courts for the administration of justice unless it was to see that persons entering into bargains fulfilled their bargains? He had always thought that it was the glory of a Briton to say that he stood by his bargain and that his word was his bond. Under the existing law contracts might be voided on the grounds of infancy, lunacy, fraud, misrepresentation, duress, and mistake, but he did not imagine that any good business man would say that there were any other grounds on which contracts should be voided at the instance of one of the parties. He wanted to know on what principle they wore going to legislate in order to enable one party to a contract to void it to his own benefit and the detriment of the other party. It had been said that this Bill had been brought in on behalf of tenant farmers. Had the tenant farmers complained, or had they examined the Bill? Did anybody believe that half a dozen farmers would come and say that they wanted to be relieved of the contracts they had deliberately made? On what ground was it that the tenant farmer was to be
relieved? Not because he was a lunatic or an infant, not because any fraud had been committed upon him, and not because he was under any duress, or that he was incompetent in any sense whatever. He was the man who was presumed to know better than the landlord, because they wore giving him liberty under this Bill, after having agreed to crop in one manner, to change his mind. If they assumed that the tenant knew better than the landlord, they must also assume that he was the better man when the original contract was entered into. The tenant should, therefore, be bound by the bargain because he was the better man and knew best what he was doing. They were taking upon themselves to give to certain persons the right to prescribe, as against the will of the owner and everybody else, what should be the course of husbandry upon somebody else's land in future. A man who had agreed to cultivate another man's land in a particular manner was to be enabled to make experiments on that land which might by reason of his mistake or negligence ruin it for a considerable time, and to claim an arbitration respecting the money he expended in making these experiments. This amounted to requiring the compulsory investment of the landlord's money in bad cultivation. He asked the House to consider what were the interests of the rural labouring classes which according to the preamble, the Bill was intended to promote. Were the labouring classes benefited by unsuccessful experiments by tenant farmers? This Bill enabled a man to enter into a contract with his landlord which he intended not to carry out but to break at his earliest convenience. A tenant might sign a lease by the covenants of which he was to crop his farm in a certain manner, and to dispose of his produce and the manure made on the farm in a certain manner, yet he might under this Bill the very next year set to work and cultivate the holding in quite a different way. He might, while solemnly signing the lease, have the very, intention of so breaking it. This was not a question affecting the particular agricultural industry alone. If a man with certain views entered into a bargain which he afterwards found or thought was bad for him, and he could get did of the terms of the bond, what became of
confidence between man and man in every kind of commercial transaction? The sentiment of the inviolability of contracts had been maintained for centuries and had been transmitted to our descendants in other parts of the world—notably in America. In the Constitution of the United States, adopted 120 years ago, there was a proviso that
No State shall pass any ex post facto law impairing the obligations of contracts.
That proviso could not be altered except in a very crucial manner which was not likely to receive the sanction of Congress. When this Bill was introduced there was never a word of explanation from the Government that they wished to violate this great fundamental principle of confidence in contracts between man and man as well as between nation and nation. In the preamble of the Bill it was said that it was for the benefit of the community, but the Government had not condescended to show how it would benefit the rural and labouring classes much less the community. Were the Government, because they had a large majority, to be entitled to bring in Bills without stating the reasons for them, and force them through the House and impose them on the country by the same means? The Government might have told the House that this Bill was to alleviate some wrong. But did the Bill remedy a wrong? If so, who was hurt? Did the tenant farmer say that he was hurt by being bound to a contract into which, as a grown man, he had entered? No tenant farmer in the House had said so. His conviction was that the tenant farmers were too much of men to demand the protection of such a provision as was contained in the Bill to enable them to dishonour their own word and their own signature. There were other motives attaching to the passage of this Bill through the House of Commons. Were those motives political, or social, or were they for the benefit of any particular class? Were the Government not, by this measure, demoralising every class in the community by allowing people to suppose that they could deliberately violate their contracts and so destroy all confidence between man and man? To sum up what he had said, he moved that this Bill be rejected because it violated one of the first and fundamental principles of all business life; because it offered
direct inducements to men to make contracts which they never intended to perform, and then helped them to break those contracts; because it set two classes of the great agricultural industry of this country in distrust of and hostility towards one another; it destroyed the sentiment of honour and of self-reliance which was ashamed to break the given word and stood by the bargain which a man had made though to his own hurt; it annihilated the liberty of action and transaction between individuals for their mutual benefit where no third person or party was injured; it introduced a principle into our legislation subversive of the best interests of the community and demoralising to the individual immediately affected by it—all things which were not consistent with the interest of the rural labouring or of any other class. He therefore begged to move the rejection of the Bill.
§ MR. CARLILE (Hertfordshire, St. Albans)
seconded the motion for the rejection of this measure. They, on the Opposition side of the House, could not help feeling that if the Government, new to its task, had brought in a thoughtfully prepared measure of their own it would have shown that they had considered the interest of the agriculture of the country, which was the most important and ancient of our industries. But so far from giving any thought to the great problem the Government waited until a casual Bill, the offspring of a private Member, was introduced, read a first and second time, sent to a Committee upstairs, passed through that Committee, and then at the eleventh hour were pleased to take hold of that measure and force it through the House and on to the Statute-book. They on the Opposition side of the House felt more warmly than any other section an interest in the agriculture of the country, and knew what were the real relations between landlord and tenant; and they felt that if the subject was to have been dealt with at all in the present Parliament it ought to have been introduced seriously by the Government after proper care and thought had been given to it. Many of the provisions in the Bill were in many respects most unsatisfactory. How, for instance, could those relating to game be satisfactory to either the landlords or tenants of the country? The landlord, in 1127 fixing the rent of the tenant, took into consideration the amount of game that was on the farm, and reduced in some cases the rent by 2s. 6d. or even 5s. an acre. How could such a landlord look back with any satisfaction to a provision into which he and the tenant had willingly entered by which allowance was to be made for the game and the landlord was to be given a free hand in that regard, when the landlord was to be taken into an arbitration court and made to pay twice over for the damage done by the game? That was preposterous. The hon. Baronet who moved the rejection of the Bill had referred to the fact that the Bill tore up contracts which they had been accustomed to regard as sacred. They all thought that when they put their hand to a deed of contract they were in duty bound to carry out their bargain. Up to the present time there had been an excellent feeling between landlords and tenants in this country. In other countries the feeling between landlord and tenant might be unsatisfactory, but in this country it was of a most cordial character. Why was it necessary, by using compulsion, to destroy that feeling of friendliness and mutual consideration and conciliation which had hitherto obtained? The only thing that the Bill would involve was a large amount of unnecessary trouble and expense. The consequence would be that the contracts as to rent would have to be revised in the future, and landlords would have to increase their rents. As under the Bill the landlord was liable to have his land handed back to him in a much deteriorated condition, the incoming tenant would not take it except at a reduced rent, and in order to make himself safe and to protect himself against the consequences of this ill-considered and ill-timed measure, the landlord would have to protect himself in that way. The rich tenant could, under the Bill, if he were so disposed, ruin a poor landlord. This was a preposterous Bill which involved that the landlord should, at the end of a lease, pay a large sum in the way of compensation for alleged improvements which he, so far from wanting, had objected to, and which were of no marketable value to an incoming tenant. Nobody in this or any other country liked to see a large class of property depreciating in value or 1128 becoming unmarketable, but, if this Bill passed, people who had money to invest would keep to the very last the thought of investing their savings in land. Twenty or thirty years ago, men thought that in investing their savings in land they were investing them in a moderately safe manner, but under this Bill nobody would put a penny in land if he could help it. A man now would probably put his money in foreign stocks and allow the interest to accumulate, in order that he might secure the benefit of the graduated income-tax of the future. They did not want the greatest commodity of the nation to be deteriorated by this "scratch" legislation of a Radical Government, under which anybody who had any money to invest would prefer to invest it in any other part of the world rather than in English land. He did not think he had overdrawn the case at all. People liked to invest their money in property which was free from danger of depredation and robbery. This Bill possessed all the qualifications that appealed to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, and there really ought to be no surprise—although apparently here was surprise—that they had laid hold of and grabbed a private Bill which contained those principles of rascality and robbery which people in this country were already beginning to associate with right hon. and hon. Gentleman opposite. For these reasons he hoped the House would reject this abominable measure.
To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, and add the words 'This House declines to pass a Bill which destroys freedom of contract between grown persons in dealing with their own affairs and alters contracts freely made, at the instance of one party only and against the other.'"— (Sir Henry Kimber.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ * MR. SOARES (Devonshire, Barnstaple)
said the mover and seconder of the Amendment which, of course, if carried, meant the rejection of the Bill, had not erred on the side of moderation in language. He had taken down a few of their expressions. The Bill had been described as "scratch" legislation; it 1129 embodied, they were told, the principles of "rascality"; it was an ill-considered and ill-timed Bill; it was demoralising in every clause, and was in fact an abortion of a Bill. These words were pretty strong and he was very curious indeed to see if hon. Gentlemen on the other side backed up their strong language by their votes. The hon. Member for Wandsworth had moved the rejection of the Bill mainly on the ground that it altered contracts already made and interfered with freedom of contract. Perhaps the hon. Member would allow him to say that the Bill was in accordance with all the precedents of agricultural legislation. It had been recognised by legislation that the tenant farmer was not quite in a position of freedom to contract with his landlord.
§ * SIR HENRY KIMBER
thought the hon. Member would find that in all previous Agricultural Holdings Acts they recognised contracts.
§ * MR. SOARES
said he was quite prepared to go into that question. Clause 55 of the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1883 provided that any covenant under which the tenant contracted himself out of the Act was void. If the hon. Member turned to the Act of 1900, passed by a Tory administration, he would find that it provided that notwithstanding any previous contracts the tenant should not pay compensation to a greater extent than the actual amount of damage done to the landlord.
§ MR. SOARES
said the next clause provided that compensation in respect of improvements made before the passing of the Act should be such as would have been paid if the Act had not been passed but should be ascertained in the manner prescribed by the Act. That, however, did not alter the principle. He did not say that the Bill they were discussing was exactly the same in all particulars as the Bill which passed its Second Reading. It had been considerably altered on both the Committee and Report stages; and although he thought that by some of those alterations it had been 1130 improved, he thought that by others it had been worsened. Looking at the Bill as a whole he thought it was a good Bill and one well worth carrying in the interests of the agricultural districts of the country. He was sure that they would look upon it as a great boon. He thanked His Majesty's Government for taking up the Bill. From the first they had acted in a perfectly straightforward and honest manner. A Cabinet Minister gave his blessing to the Second Reading of the Bill with no uncertain voice. Then a deputation waited upon the Prime Minister and asked for facilities, which the right hon. Gentleman promised to give if time allowed. That time had fortunately been afforded, and during the recess Lord Carrington the President of the Board of Agriculture went all over the country and interviewed farmers' clubs and tenant farmers and ascertained their views, which were favourable to the Bill. The consequence was that the Government had decided that the Bill should have a chance of being placed on the Statute Book. He represented a large agricultural constituency, and was acquainted with most of the farmers in it, and whatever their politics might be they were almost to a man in favour of this Bill. The Central Chamber of Agriculture and many others were in favour of it, and a great many letters had been received from tenant farmers by hon. Gentlemen in this House asking them strenuously to support this Bill. That, in itself, meant much, as farmers were not fond of letter writing. Only the other day he had received a letter from a friend in Cheshire, who told him he had been speaking to one of his largest farmers, who expressed the opinion that this Bill "just delighted him," and that if it was mutilated by the Upper House the Lords would lose many of their best friends. They had been told to-day that the Government ought not to have taken up this Bill, as it was a private Member's Bill. He would admit that the action of the Leader of the Opposition had been perfectly consistent throughout on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman had objected to the Government taking up a private Member's Bill, and when old Members of the House remembered the scorn with which he had treated private Members' Resolutions and private Members' Bills they could 1131 not charge the right hon. Gentleman with any inconsistency in this matter. They would all remember the dignified manner in which the right hon. Gentleman had walked out of the House when private Member's Fiscal Resolutions were down for discussions. But he would have thought that the result of the last election and the drastic remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham would have pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman that the views he held upon private Members' legislation were not those universally held even by his own supporters. He did not pretend that the drafting of this or any Bill was perfect; if it were there would be no reason for a Committee stage; but it was more perfect than the drafting of the Education Act of 1902 the bottom of which had been knocked out by the West Riding judgment. If this Bill had not been adopted by the Government it would have been a very serious blow to the energy of private Members, having regard to all the work which had been done upon it. Private Members had been responsible for an enormous amount of work in regard to this measure, and now it was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that all that work should be looked upon as a kind of intellectual gymnastics and that it should go for nothing. The right hon. Gentleman should have recognised by now that this Parliament was returned for work, and that the private Members were as anxious that their work should be as fruitful as the Government were determined their legislation should be. He denied that the Bill was revolutionary; on the contrary, it was a mild measure of justice to the tenant farmer. Neither was it a Socialistic measure. It was a Bill to protect the capital of the tenant farmer, and as such was an individualistic measure. He thought, however, they owed a great deal to the Socialists in the House who had not allowed a pedantic adherence to their own principles to prevent this act of justice being done to a class of hard working men. He absolutely denied that the Bill would set up a system of dual control, and in that view he was upheld by the statement of the hon. Member for Leith Burghs on the Second Reading, that the Bill did not constitute a system of dual ownership. In dual ownership there had to be two persons with 1132 indefeasible saleable rights in the land. This Bill did not give those rights because, although there was compensation for disturbance, the landlord could disturb his tenant on paying compensation. The principle of compensation for improvements had been assented to by a Tory Government, and if there could be compensation for improvements surely there could be compensation for what might be termed wrongful dismissal. In his opinion dual ownership was a phrase invented to frighten timid people. He regretted that Mr. Rider Haggard, whose opinions on the agricultural question all must respect, should have said that, if this Bill passed, mortgages would be called in and the whole country ruined. Such statements were always made with regard to measures affecting the interest of the workers of the country, but notwithstanding the fact that this class of legislation was steadily increasing capital was always to be found when good security was offered for it. The Bill did not in any sense of the word tend to depreciate the value of property. If hon. Members carefully considered the Bill they would easily see the truth of this statement. The clause for compensation for damage by game-had been accepted by the Opposition, and therefore hon. Members could not now say that that would tend to depreciate the value of land, and the clause with regard to freedom of cropping was hedged round with restrictions to prevent the deterioration of the land or the value of the holding. Clause 4 only provided that estates which had been badly managed in the past should be brought up to the level of well managed estates, and he had yet to learn that anybody would suggest that a badly managed estate was better security than a well managed estate. The only effect of the Bill would be to give tenants security for their capital and, by giving them a free hand, enable them to produce more from the land, and this would tend rather to appreciate than depreciate the value of land. He hoped a good fate awaited the Bill in another place, and that it would be there considered on its merits. If it were it would be placed on the Statute-book in its present form, to the great benefit not only of the tenant farmers of the country, but of the community at large.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD (Essex, Epping)
said he had consistently opposed the Bill at every stage, and had succeeded with other hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House in getting many Amendments made in it. He thought now he would be wanting in the courage of his opinions if he allowed the Bill to he read a third time without continuing his opposition to it. The hon. Gentleman for Barnstaple had of course strong reason for rejoicing in the fact that the Government had taken up the Bill, because he was the seconder of the Bill when it first came before the House. The hon. Gentleman had also given another and a curious reason for the action of the Government in making this Bill their own, namely, that that action of the Government was due to a desire on their part to stimulate the flagging energies of private Members.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
said that the hon. Member distinctly stated that he was grateful to the Government for having adopted the Bill and made it their own because if they had not done so it would have been a great blow to private Members. The words which he (Colonel Lockwood) had used might not have been exactly the same, but the sense was indentical. He in company with many hon. Members on the Opposition benches had endeavoured to discover the reason for the Government's taking up the Bill. Various reasons had been suggested, but he believed it was done in pursuit of the policy announced by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite at the last election when they promised that peace and prosperity would speedily follow the return of a Radical Government. He would be one of the first to admit that prosperity was wanted by the tenant farmers of the country. The hon. Member for Barn-staple had stated that he had received a number of letters from tenant farmers advocating the passing of this measure. All he could say was that he also represented an agricultural constituency and he had never had a single letter from any farmer in 1134 that district or in the adjourning county in support of the Bill. The Agricultural Act brought in by the Tory Government was said to be a dole for the landlords; should not this Bill be called a dole for the tenants? If this was so important a Bill as the House was lead to believe why was it not brought in by the Government of the day? Surely they had on the Front Bench a Member who could produce a Bill in the interests of agriculture. Every Member of the House, Liberal and Tory alike, was desirous of diminishing legal expenses, but this Bill went out of its way to invite the sometimes friendly and sometimes unnecessary intervention of legal gentlemen. Many men would be unable to pay the charges involved in a legal inquiry, yet legal inquiry was stimulated. He objected to the Bill because it substituted legal proceedings for the hitherto friendly relations between landlord and tenant, and he knew, and right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Bench knew, with what dislike many followers of the Government viewed the Bill. The hon. Member for Barnstaple had stated that numerous Chambers of Agriculture were in its favour. He (Colonel Lockwood) could produce a list almost, if not quite, a long of Chambers of Agriculture we were opposed to it. The Scottish Chamber of Agriculture had passed a resolution saying that the Bill was useless, and the Lincolnshire farmers had made a similar pronouncement. Quite apart from its merits the Bill would always meet with his opposition on account of Clause 4. The learned Solicitor-General for Scotland and others had endeavoured to explain away the fact of dual ownership being in the Bill, but his rooted objection to it remained. He could never accept a Bill containing such a clause, and all the concessions which had been made during its various stages had not altered his opinions with regard to it. No man was more anxious than himself to assist the tenant farmer, and right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were no doubt actuated by the same spirit. With Clause 4 the Bill violated all the principles he held, and without Clause 4 it would be about as useful to the tenant farmers as were side pockets to a toad. He maintained that a good landlord and a good tenant could get on very well together, and right hon 1135 Gentlemen opposite seemed to have forgotten that besides bad landlords there were also bad tenants. He looked upon the game clause as absolutely valueless. If the Government desired to legislate on the subject of game by all means let them do so, but let them do it in a Bill by itself. Let them bring in a Bill making it illegal to shoot more than three pheasants any year and then people would know where they were. He should continue to hold his opinion on this measure, and if the House divided he would certainly record his vote against it.
§ THE SOLICITOK-GENEEAL FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. URE, Linlithgow)
said he could scarcely hope at the eleventh hour to effect the conversion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but, before the final reading of the Bill was taken, he might be able to relieve some misgivings on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite if he were to express his views with regard to the scope of the measure. Undoubtedly the Bill had had a somewhat chequered career due, not so much to the fact that it was in its origin a private Member's Bill, but mainly to the difficulty there had been in obtaining the views of agriculturalists upon it. He did not altogether defend the original drafting of the measure, but he felt bound to say that the criticisms addressed to it had been somewhat exaggerated; the Bill did not even in its original form deserve the unmeasured denunciations that had been poured upon it by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. It had been amended in Committee, and the labours of this House during the Report stage had resulted, in his opinion, in its now being a very ship-shape measure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin had complained of the lack of legal assistance in the Committee stage, but the right hon. Gentleman would agree that the Government could not be expected to turn on more than one Law Officer on the Committee stage, and if he was right when he stated that from the outset of the Report stage the representation of the Government had been confined to the Law Officers of the Crown, the Government stood absolved from the charge of providing too little legal assistance in the discussions on the Bill. He thought it was a little hard upon the Government and not altogether fair on the part of the right hon. 1136 Gentleman to denounce them for having a lack of legal officers in the Committee and for having a plethora of legal officers on Report, on which occasion the right hon. Gentleman had complained that the defence of the Bill was left exclusively to Law Officers. The Bill had merits, although hon. Members opposite had used some somewhat hyperbolical language with regard to it. He would explain what its merits were. It was a measure to advance the interests of agriculture, and he was one of those who believed that the interests of agriculture could not be advanced if the interests of either the landlord or the tenant were injured. He was quite certain that the interest of the tenant could be advanced without injury to the interest of the landlord, and he was equally sure that in the long run the interest of the tenant could not be advanced if the interests of the landlord were injured. In order to reconcile opposing interests Parliament once gave to the tenant the right to trap and snare hares and rabbits. This Bill proceeded to deal with winged game, but somewhat differently. It gave the landlord an option either to allow his tenants the right of shooting the game upon the farms, or to keep the right of shooting in his own hands but with the liability to pay compensation to tenants for damage done by the game. The fact that for many years the Scottish farmer had had the right to claim compensation for damage done by game should help to remove the apprehensions of the representatives of the landlords. In Scotland, more than in any other country, the relations between landlord and tenant had been happy. The clause was designed exclusively in the interests of agriculture. He now came to the free cropping clause. Complaint had been made on the Front Bench opposite as to the inadequacy of the defence offered for this clause on the part of the Government. He denied that it was inadequate; but, if it were, it was nothing to the feebleness of the attack upon the clause. It was said that he had only defended the clause on a purely legal ground, to wit, that it was not, after all, so bad as it looked, because the late Government six years ago had given the right of free cropping. He would claim that argument still. He could not for the life of him understand why right hon. Gentlemen opposite should repeat their claims to be the farmer's friend. 1137 Under the Act of 1900 one of the improvements which the tenant might make without the landlord's consent was the laying down of temporary pasture, and as he could not contract himself out of his right, it was impossible to enforce against him any particular system of cropping specified in a lease. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had done good by stealth. Why should he blush to find it fame? It was said there was no defence of this clause upon its merits. Not being a skilled agriculturist he could not, of course, offer a defence which could hope to claim the approval or be entitled to the attention of the House; but he had submitted some cogent sentences from the speech of an experienced farmer, and none the worse because a Tory and a Scotsman, which admirably set forth the merits of the clause. As it seemed to him to be the kernel of the argument, he would repeat what the gentleman in question said to the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture:—The intelligent man in the future is to be advised to use his brains, and is not to be tied down to a number of ' thou shalt nots;' but he is to use his land and cultivate his land as he thinks best, to sell his produce in the market to the best advantage and what is good for the tenant cannot in the long run be bad for the landlord.He adopted those words on the Report stage, and he adopted them now. Although he listened throughout the debate on Report, he heard nothing more cogent and more favourable than the words of this Tory farmer-. There was, however, one reason given against the clause which merited serious attention. It was put forward by the right hon. Member for South Dublin, who asked how it would be possible under this clause to prevent the tenant from making disastrous experiments. The right hon. Gentleman had given an instance in which a cautious and skilful man had persuaded him against his better judgment to make an experiment in laying down a certain field, and although the experiment promised well to begin with, it ended in disaster. The right hon. Gentleman would admit that if at the end he found himself a loser, at all events he had gained some very valuable experience, and the House had had the advantage of it. He supposed the right hon. Gentleman's argument was that if this Bill became law 1138 the tenant would be entitled to make such an experiment without getting the leave of the landlord. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was wrong. Under the provisions of the Bill, if the tenant desired to make an experiment, the landlord could obtain an injunction restraining him if it could be shown that the experiment would deteriorate the holding. He would not be-compelled to go before a single arbitrator, but he would be entitled to go before a regularly constituted tribunal of the land. Assuming that the landlord failed to satisfy the tribunal that the experiment would probably injure the holding, did the right hon. Gentleman not think that it was for the advantage of agriculture that experiments should be made by tenants who were so eager and earnest that they were prepared to justify before a Court of law the soundness of their theories? Was it not better that here and there a mistake should be made than that the paralysing hand of some landlord, perhaps ignorant and stupid, should be allowed to stay the progress of inquiry in the science of agriculture? He did not think that it was at all unreasonable that a tenant should be allowed to make an experiment of that kind, if he could justify it. Probably the clause in regard to which controversy raged most fiercely was that dealing with compensation for disturbance. In his humble judgment he thought that both friends and foes of this clause had somewhat exaggerated its importance. The clause left the rights of property possessed by the landlord untouched and unimpaired it made no inroad on the sacred rights of property. While it contained no invasion of the landlord's rights he asserted that it conferred a very valuable right on the tenant—namely, that where he was turned out of his holding, or if the landlord refused to renew the tenancy whereby a loss was inflicted on the tenant incidental to his removal, he would be entitled to compensation if he could show that the landlord had acted without good reason. Could the House say that that was an unfair provision? Personally, he admitted that it made a radical change in the law, because it gave to the tenant a claim to compensation where he could not say that he had been the victim of any legal wrong, and it made the landlord 1139 who had committed no breach of contract pay compensation for disturbance. At first he was inclined to think that that was a change in the law without precedent, but an hon. friend had pointed out that there was a precedent instituted by the late Government in the English Licensing Act. A publican who formerly had no legal right to a claim for compensation if his licence was not renewed was now entitled to have compensation paid. But there was a radical difference between the two cases. The magistrates could not refuse to renew a licence unless they were prepared to pay compensation; their right to refuse was conditioned by the payment of compensation. But the landlord could terminate the tenant's right without any condition being imposed upon him whatever; and until the tenancy had ceased, until the last link between landlord and tenant had been severed, the claim for compensation did not arise. The landlord only paid compensation when it was shown that he had acted unreasonably. But there was not a trace of dual ownership in the Bill. The Scottish Chamber of Agriculture, in considering this question, seemed to possess a double dose of besetting sin in an otherwise sinless country. He did not call it parsimony, he would rather call it an overweening disposition to scrutinise too closely and too microscopically both sides of a well-known coin. They believed that if this clause became law the immediate result would be that the landlord would raise his tenants' rent, and there was nothing that the Scottish farmer abhorred so much as the raising of his rent. But the landlords and tenants in Scotland had hailed with delight a clause which set up a compulsory tribunal of a single arbitrator, because a Scotsman could not stomach the idea of having to pay for three judges when he really got the services of only one. He submitted that by the efficacy of the whole of these features in the Bill the value of the measure must ultimately be judged.
§ MR. LAMBTON (Durham, S. E.)
criticised the hon. Gentleman for the inconsistency of his advocacy of this Bill when he pointed out that most of the clauses of the original Bill were altogether inappropriate to a Land Tenure Bill. He had hardly given sufficient reasons to show why the Government took up this 1140 private Member's Bill at all. The Government pursued a very devious course in regard to private Members' Bills. It was like a motor omnibus on a greasy road; they did not know in what direction it would skid next. It was dangerous to the community and damaging to all property on the entire route. He thought if the Government had studied the preamble of the Bill they would never have taken it up. The words of the preamble were a disgrace to the English language. It ran—Whereas it is expedient in the interests of good husbandry that better security should be made for the capital and labour invested by tenants in the cultivation of the soil, but consistently with the interests of the rural labouring classes and of the community generally in such investment.In the original Bill the word "but" and the subsequent words did not exist. When the Bill was discussed on Report the evidence of hostility to the landlord was so marked that he felt compelled to move as an Amendment that the words "landlords and" be inserted, so that the interests of both landlords and tenants should be secured in the cultivation of the soil. The words were rejected, and yet others were inserted securing the interests of the labourers. It was therefore evident that the promoters aimed the Bill directly at the owners of the soil. He asked whether after that exhibition of hostility towards landlords the Opposition was not justified in opposing every line of this pernicious Bill. Surely the hon. Member who brought in the Bill must have been thinking of the house that Jack built and of the beautiful logical sequence of events which followed its construction. The hon. Member had evidently had very little experience in such matters, for instead of putting the land clauses in first, so that the House might understand who was to own the land, he had put the game clauses in first, so that reading the Bill according to the order of clauses one was disposed to say: "This is the game that ate the crops that grew on the land that X. owns." He would not enter upon Clause 4 except to say that he thought the Solicitor-General for Scotland was not conversant with land practice. He was himself more or less conversant with land practice, and he could assure the House that landlords and tenants were very much averse 1141 to going to the Courts with very little prospect but that of enormously increasing the incomes of the legal profession. As to Clause 4 he quite agreed that a landlord ought not to evict his tenant for vindictive or personal reasons, but he himself had not in a pretty wide experience come across a landlord who had done so. The hon. and learned Gentleman had stated that such cases never occurred in Scotland. Would any English Member get up and say that they occurred in England? They had heard a great deal about Scotland, but this Bill applied to England as well. Reference was made by the hon. and learned Gentleman to Clause 7 in regard to rhubarb and asparagus, and he told the House that it ought never to have been in the Bill. That was what he and his friends on the Opposition side had thought all along, and that was one of the chief reasons why they opposed the Bill. The other night when the House was considering the Bill, there was a revolt among Members on the Government side in respect of the strawberry clause. But when the asparagus and rhubarb clause was before them there was a riot, the military had to be called in, and it was only by the intervention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the riot was quelled without blood-shed. He knew of a case at Alnwick where a tenant—a Mr. Stevenson—rented a thirteen-acre farm from the Duke of Northumberland, seven acres were permanent pastures, and six acres market garden. The rent was £65, which panned out, with rates, at £3 7s. 8d. an acre. The tenant left the farm, and claimed compensation from the Duke of Northumberland. His total claim was £1,028, and the umpire awarded £259. But the tenant had planted a plot with Duke of Norfolk strawberries, and for this plot he claimed compensation to the amount of £433, which panned out at £2,117 an acre. He made that claim in all seriousness, but the umpire took no notice of it, and the compensation at the rate of £25 an acre was paid by the incoming tenant, so it must have been a fair valuation. That case showed what exorbitant claims might be made by a tenant who turned a holding into a strawberry farm. He did not wish to prevent experiments by tenants, but they ought not to be made at the expense of landlords. There were good 1142 and bad tenants, and there were also very foolish tenants. One never knew what the vagaries of a tenant might be. He knew of a tenant who turned a pasture field successively into a rabbit warren, a fruit garden, and a chicken farm. Who would say that a landlord should be responsible for such ridiculous changes? A tenant should not be permitted to make experiments that would harass a landlord. Another case he had heard of was that of a tenant who conceived a new way of ploughing. He planted a field with acorns six inches apart and eight inches below the surface; he then turned GOO hogs into the field with the idea that they would effectually plough it up and at the same time manure it. He could assure the House he was quite serious. Jokes were expected from Irish Members; they were permitted from Welsh Members; an occasional one might come from a Scottish Member, but there was nothing so disastrous to the reputation of an English Member as to be guilty of joking. He hoped the House would not pass this kind of legislation which would create differences and difficulties between landlord and tenant. The land owning system of the country had gone on very well for a great many hundreds of years. Alterations in the law might be necessary, but in the long run it would be found that the best managed estates were those which did not suffer interference from the State. To pass legislation of this kind was to do a great deal to upset the stability of the agricultural interest. He and his friends had not been actuated in their opposition to the Bill by any desire to fill the pockets of the landlords, but by a desire to see justice done between the two classes, and to protect the one against the other. They did not want protection if they were left alone, but they would want protection if they passed a measure of this kind, which was intelligible to no one but a lawyer. He hoped it would be a long time before the Government again took charge of a measure which the private Member who introduced it did not understand.
§ * MR. BRACE (Glamorganshire, S.)
said that a great deal had been made by the Opposition of the fact that the Government had adopted a private Member's Bill. He was quite sure, however, that even if the Government had brought in a Bill of their own on this subject it would 1143 have been received with the same measure of hostility by Members of the Opposition, because the landlord's interest was much more carefully looked after by them than the tenant farmer's. There was undoubtedly a strong desire among tenant farmers generally, and among Welsh tenant farmers in particular, in favour of land reform on the lines proposed by the Bill before the House. It was because the tenant and the landlord did not stand on the same footing in negotiating contracts that the Government thought it desirable to take up this measure, in order that the tenant might be enabled, in making his bargain, to meet the landlord more on terms of equality than was possible at the present time. The evidence given before the Welsh Land Commission showed the necessity for removing the inequalities which existed between landlord and tenant in the making of bargains. As representing a Welsh constituency which contained a substantial proportion of tenant farmers, he advocated the Bill, not as fully meeting the needs and requirements of the case, but as an instalment towards a greater and fuller measure of land reform which he trusted the Government would introduce before this Parliament ended. It had been said that the Bill gave no relief to labourers. That, however, was not the case. If the tenant farmer got relief he would be enabled to secure a better profit than at present, and the natural deduction was that the labourer would be able to get a better wage and better conditions from a successful tenant farmer than he could hope to get from one who was not successful. Hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House had talked about landlords having a grievance under the Bill. As a matter of fact, each advantage given to the tenant farmer was accompanied by a corrective in the form of a protective clause for the landlords. When the right to kill game was vested in some person other than the landlord, the landlord was entitled to be indemnified by such other person against all claim for compensation. They were therefore giving the landlord the fullest protection. They gave the tenant some kind of right, but it was all whittled down until it was the tenant who had the right to complain rather than the landlord. Clause 3 provided for freedom of cropping and disposal of 1144 produce. All the clause did was to give freedom to the tenant farmer to cultivate according to the highest standard of his intelligence. They gave him, in fact, full liberty to use his brains and all the scientific inventions for agriculture known in the country. But they did not give the tenant farmer absolute liberty without compelling him to accept a large amount of responsibility; because if the tenant made a mistake, provision was made that he should make suitable and adequate provision to protect the farm from injury or deterioration and "return to the holding as soon as may be the full manurial value of all crops sold off or removed from the holding." Therefore they protected the landlord every time. Sub-section (2) of Clause 3 expressly provided that if the tenant exercised his rights in such a manner as to injure or deteriorate the holding or to be likely to injure or deteriorate the holding, the landlord should be entitled to recover damages in respect of such injury or deterioration, or, as the case might require, to obtain an injunction restraining the exercise of the rights in that manner, and the amount of such damage might in default of agreement be determined by arbitration. Clause 4 provided compensation for "unreasonable disturbance."When a landlord without good and sufficient cause, and for reasons inconsistent with good estate management, terminates or refuses to grant a renewal of the tenancy, or it is proved that an increase of result is demanded from the tenant as the result of improvements which had been effected at the cost of such tenant, and for which he has not, either directly or indirectly, received, an equivalent from the landlord, and such demand results in the tenant quitting the holding, the tenant, upon quitting the holding shall, in addition to the compensation (if any) to which he may be entitled in respect of improvements, notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary be entitled to compensation for the loss and expense which the tenant, by reason of his quitting the holding sustains or incurs upon, or in connection with the sale or removal of his goods, implements, produce or stock.If a tenant farmer was without reasonable cause turned out of his holding which had become dear to him by family associations, and which had been made what it was by the expenditure of the united genius of generations, was it unreasonable that he should seek some compensation? He did not look upon this Bill as anything like meeting the demands 1145 of the tenant farmers, but he accepted it as an earnest of the intention of the Government to give them a measure of land reform that would correct a good many of the wrongs at present in operation, in connection with not only agricultural land but other land in the country. The tenant farmer had a right to protection. He should be given freedom in his holding, and be made to feel that as long as he did justice to the soil, as long as he was endeavouring to do what was right—and the tenant farmer was a highly intelligent man—he should not, through the caprice of the landlord or landlord's agent, be turned out of his holding. Far be it from him to suggest that there were no good landlords, or that all landlords were bad; but he maintained that the good landlords stood to lose nothing by the Bill. It was because he was persuaded that it would take them forward some step towards the solution of a great problem, and to check the exploitation of good tenants by bad landlords, that he supported the Bill.
§ * MR. GARDNER (Berkshire, Wokingham)
said that he had been a tenant farmer for nearly half a century, and was a specimen of that downtrodden class. He thought that the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had allowed his eloquence to run away with his common sense. He had to look at what the practical effect of this Bill would be. Although the Bill had boon much modified—and he desired to express his appreciation of the conciliatory manner with which it had been conducted through the Report stage by the hon. Baronet the Member for South Somerset—his objections to it were far from removed. In his opinion it still contained elements of confiscation. Some of the provisions of the measure were injurious to all classes of agriculturists, and involved possibilities of untold litigation. Clause 1 wantonly took away from the landlord his interest in the inherent capabilities of the soil. He saw no reason or justice why the property should be taken away from the landlord. The Bill contained provisions of an irritating nature. Clause 2, which dealt with sporting rights, would set landlords and tenants at loggerheads as to the amount of the compensation to be paid for damage done by game, and prevent landlord and tenant entering 1146 into a free bargain between themselves. If there was one factor more valuable than another to the tenant it was to live on good terms with his landlord; by so doing, he would get a good deal more out of the landlord than the provisions of this Bill would give him. Clause 4, which dealt with the cropping of the land, had been considerably modified, but as it stood it would be injurious to landlord, tenant, and labourer. The Bill professed in the preamble that it was going to do something for the benefit of agriculture, and that something was to include a benefit to rural labourers. He, however, could discover nothing in the Bill which would be a benefit to the agricultural labourer. Then as to the tenant. He had hitherto cropped his land according to the conditions laid down in his contract of tenancy—conditions which had proved to be the best for the particular part of the country in which the farm was. He had never known a tenant to be injured by following the course of cropping recommended by the accumulated experience of generations. He was not one of those who thought his grandfather was a fool, and did not know the proper way to cultivate the land. He had known tenants who had burnt their fingers by cultivating the land differently from their predecessors. He had done it himself, and had been compelled to return to the course of cropping which he pursued forty years ago. The clause would not only enable a tenant to run riot with his holding, but it would fill the pockets of land agents, arbitrators, and lawyers, and thus inflict a cruel hardship on an industry which demanded capital at a cheap rate. It must be understood that landlords, after all, were not fools. He was a landlord himself as well as a tenant. If the tenant was given the right to sell all the produce off the land, immediately he entered on his tenancy, the landlords would be compelled in self defence to take out of the holding capital hitherto left for the use of the incoming tenant. The only remedy the landlord had with a bad tenant was to get rid of him as soon as possible, and the landlord was bound to have some security for his interest in his land. The tendency of the Bill would be to drive the landlord to take his capital out of the soil at a time when the greatest need of agriculture was more capital. He, however, believed that even under 1147 this Bill, bad as it was, the good sense of landlords and tenants would enable them to get along very well. They were told that the agricultural labourer led a monotonous life and was poorly paid, but whatever prospect he had of getting on in life would not be advanced by this Bill. He had known agricultural labourers who afterwards were able to farm their own lands; but the prospects of the agricultural labourer would be actually damaged by the provisions of the Bill, as the landlord would not trust his land under these provisions to a man with little capital. He admitted that tenants ought never to be rented on their improvements, but he should like to know where such tenants were. An hon. Member opposite had said that he had been bombarded by his constituents with letters in favour of the Bill, but he who represented an agricultural constituency had not had a single letter approving it. On the contrary, at every mooting of farmers in Berkshire, they were opposed to the Bill as unnecessary and likely to sow seeds of dispute between landlords and tenants.
§ * MR. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
said he was sorry to listen to the furious denunciations of the Bill on the part of the hon. Members who had moved and seconded its rejection. To him it appeared that the Bill would not have any very great effect at all, and that no one need stand in mortal fear of any evil consequences arising from it. He quite agreed that the Bill, when first introduced, did contain some very drastic provisions of which he was not able to approve, but it had been whittled down by the Government to such an extent that it was now very harmless, though it still contained pro visions that would be of some little use to the farming class. In his opinion the Bill aimed at dealing with exceptional cases. It was not the ordinary landlord but the exceptionally bad landlord who would be dealt with. The ordinary landlord would come into no conflict whatever with the tenant with whom he was now on good terms. There were two clauses in the Bill which were of some value to farmers. One was Clause 2, which dealt with game. They all knew that hares and rabbits were dealt with by an Act passed some years ago, which prohibited land- 1148 lords and their tenants from contracting themselves out of the Act. He had heard many farmers say that no measure had ever passed this House which was of so much benefit to them as the Ground Game Act. It was proposed under this Bill that similar provisions should be made in regard to winged game An excessive stock of winged game, and especially pheasants, could be extremely hurtful to farmers' crops. A friend of his who had a game farm had told him that in the first year of his tenancy he had a ten acre field of oats near a covert. He cut the crop, and when he thought that the oats had been stooked long enough to cart them to the steading, he found on examination that nearly the whole of the oats had been eaten by pheasants, and that what remained was not worth carting. Surely it was only just and equitable that when a tenant farmer's crop was destroyed by live stock which had wings and which did not belong to him, if the damage done was more than the amount by which his rent had boon reduced on account of game being kept he should receive compensation. The principle of the clause dealing with this matter had been admitted by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and they were no friends of the farming class if they objected to its very reasonable provisions. The landowner could help himself if he had let his shooting, because he could recover from his shooting tenant. The whole effect of the clause would be beneficial, because it would tend to repress the excessive preservation of game. The most valuable clause in the Bill, as he thought, was that which dealt with unreasonable disturbance. Those who had dealt with farmers knew how a man became attached to the holding in which he lived and about which he was early and late. It was often the place to which he brought his wife when he was married and in which his family had been born and brought up. He knew every field and every acre of it, and arbitrarily to disturb such an occupation was a very cruel act. It was, it was true, an act of cruelty which was not often perpetrated, and therefore this clause would not have a large operation, but it would help to prevent the occasional perpetration of deeds of that sort. He remembered a time thirty years ago when it was difficult to get a 1149 farm at all, and when it was dangerous for a man to show his polities or to go to chapel instead of going to church. Who would say that it was defensible to turn a tenant out of his holding for such an offence as that? He had a remembrance of an estate in his neighbourhood which was purchased by a very rich man who came into conflict with a neighbouring rich man, but was not successful in his quarrel, and as the result of that he gave notice to quit to all the relatives of the other rich man, of whom he had several on his estate. Who would justify such action as that? It was a case of cruel, arbitrary and unjust eviction of tenants from their holdings. He had been much struck by the term used to describe the cultivator of the soil in the Old Book. There the cultivator of the soil was called a husbandman, which meant that he was married to the soil, and as he loved and cherished his wife so he was wedded to the soil and loved and cherished it. That was the ideal and often the actual relationship between the two and it was cruel unreasonably to divorce them. The only fault that he found with the clause was that His Majesty's Government on the last day of the discussion whittled it down, and he hoped that in another place the clause would be restored to the form in which it came up on Report.
§ MR. ABEL SMITH (Hertfordshire, Hertford)
said the two last speeches they had heard in that debate had been from practical men, one on either side of the House. His hon. friend the Member for Berkshire had denounced the Bill unnecessary and even injurious, and the hon. Member for the Woodbridge Division had not answered one of the arguments which he brought forward. He very much doubted whether the promoters of the Bill would relish the very faint praise which the hon. Gentleman had bestowed upon it. He whittled down the merits of the Bill, although he said that two clauses of it had some little value. For himself he would rather take the view of his hon. friend the Member for Berkshire, which was expressed in such a lucid and practical manner. But he would like before he discussed the clauses of the Bill to say with what admiration he listened to the speech of the hon. and learned Solicitor-General for Scotland, and to express on his own 1150 behalf and he believed on behalf of his friends their thanks to him for the uniform lucidity and courtesy with which he had met their arguments on each stage of the Bill. He had been a constant attendant in the House while the Bill was being discussed and had some right to speak on that subject. The hon. and learned Solicitor-General, referring at some length to the provision of the Bill which gave freedom of cultivation to the tenant, had said it had been practically given under the Bill of 1900 which was passed by his right hon. friend the Member for South Dublin, who was then President of the Board of Agriculture. He would like to point out, however, that what the Act of 1900 did was to sanction the laying down of permanent pasture and to place it in a category of those things which having been done without the landlord's consent compensation should be paid for, but the Act of 1900 did not take away from the landlord the right to say in what rotation and in what manner the holding should be farmed. It simply said that if the tenant had laid down permanent pasture he might be able to claim for it, but if he had broken his contract or farmed contrary to the custom of the country, he was liable to a set off against his claim for compensation for any damages which were due for his having broken his contract. Under these circumstances he did not think the Act of 1900 gave freedom of cultivation. He thought they had a right to criticise very adversely the conduct of the promoters on the one hand and of the Government on the other in regard to the conduct of the Bill. It was said, he thought by the Prime Minister, that this Bill had been very fully discussed in the Grand Committee upstairs, but it would be in the recollection of hon. Members on that Committee that they had very little assistance indeed from members of His Majesty's Government except from the learned Solicitor-General for Scotland, or from the promoters. They raised objections to various clauses and proposed many Amendments which they thought necessary to make it an acceptable Bill, a great many of which Amendments bad been accepted by the Government. But as far as the promoters of the Bill were concerned, there was one common form always used either by the hon Member for Barnstaple or by Mr. Robertes when 1151 an Amendment was proposed. They' got up and said that the promoters of the Bill were very sorry that they were unable to accept the Amendment. He heard that some scores of times, but no arguments were advanced in reply to the Amendments moved. Therefore, he did not think it was a very good argument, even if used by the Prime Minister, to say that the Bill was discussed at length before the Grand Committee on Trade. Some one had said that the Government had acted in a most straightforward and open manner in regard to the Bill, but the complaint of the Opposition was that they had been kept in the dark. The only Member of the Government—he gave him credit for this—who had behaved in an open and frank manner was the President of the Board of Agriculture. The noble Lord had gone up and down the country making speeches in favour of the Bill showing that he would spare no effort to pass it. But what did the Cabinet do?. They kept the House absolutely in the dark until Monday as to their intention to take the Bill on Report on the following day. That was a most unfair and improper way in which to deal with an important Bill. He quite agreed that the "great interest centred round Clause 4. The promoters claimed that this clause would protect the good tenants against the bad landlords, but it was perfectly obvious that in its amended form the clause could just as well be used against a good landlord as against a bad landlord. Whatever might be the action of the landlord who gave the tenant notice the latter was perfectly certain to think that the landlord was behaving unreasonably, and if he could induce a single arbitrator to take the same view he would be able to recover damages from the landlord, however reasonably from his point of view he might have acted. They had heard in the course of the debate of the case of a man who was treated in a harsh and cruel way and was turned out of a farm with which he and his family had been connected for generations. That was a case with which they sympathised, but no damages awarded under this clause could compensate a man in such a case. They could not legislate for moral and intellectual damage nor could they legislate for some of the improper motives which landlords had in giving tenants notice. Landlords who wished to get rid of a 1152 man who was distasteful to them, if they did not find one reason would find another, and a rich landlord would be quite prepared to pay damages in order to get rid of a tenant whom he did not like. If he was a poor man the clause would make it impossible for the landlord to deal with his property as he was justified in doing. If that was the case, they were not giving security of tenure to tenants, and they could not give real security to the tenants without giving the three F's. But did the tenants want the three F's? Hon. Members on that side of the House who knew anything about tenant farmers knew that 99 per cent, of them would condemn any such proposal. They did not desire any such legislation and any Bill of this kind would not carry out the purpose of its promoters. The present system of land-holding in this country might be good or bad, but it was the system which at the present moment they had to deal with. He for one was willing to improve it if it could be made possible to give security to the occupying tenant as well as to the owner. Any proposal to create a number of small holdings where there was need of them would receive support on that side of the House, but to say that this Bill would tend to bring into existence such holdings was contrary to the fact. Supposing a man thought that in the neighbourhood where his land was situated there was a demand for small holdings, he would have greater difficulty in obtaining land to divide up after this Bill was passed than before. He had ventured to urge in regard to Clause 4 and the fixing of compensation under it that it would be a reasonable proposal to follow the Irish precedent laid down by Mr. Gladstone in 1870. He thought that that was a matter which ought to occupy the attention of His Majesty's Government before the Bill came to be considered in another place. A further matter which he understood the learned Solicitor-General for England said His Majesty's Government would consider was the difference between yearly tenancies and leases for a fixed term. When a lease for fifteen or twenty-one years came to an end the landlord was perfectly entitled to say whether he would renew it for another fixed term, but in his judgment the whole question of the difference between these two classes of tenants was left 1153 in a very unsatisfactory position. Another clause that should receive more consideration, in his opinion, was Clause 4. The words with regard to the sale of stock were very unsatisfactory. The introduction of the word "sale" was most objectionable; it would bring into the arbitration matters most difficult to settle satisfactorily and it would give an opportunity to an unscrupulous tenant, who was leaving a farm, to make all sorts of fraudulent claims with regard to the sale of stock, etc., which would be detrimental to the landlord. He wished hon. Members to bear in mind that there were two kinds of landlords, the rich and the poor. This Bill would have the effect of making the rich landlord, who did not depend for his income on the rents he received from his land, hesitate long before he let a farm; in the future he would make much more careful inquiries as to what sort of man was applying for the farm, and many landowners were now thinking of giving notice to their tenants, not because they were unsatisfactory, but because they feared they would have so much annoyance in the future under the provisions of this Bill. He did not think that men who could afford not to do it were justified in acting in that way, but that was the actual effect that this Bill would have in many cases, and that would be a bad thing for the country. A man was entitled to make what arrangements he liked in order to safeguard and enjoy his estate, and he did not say he would be wrong in so doing, but it would be a hardship to a tenant who was prevented from taking the farm owing to those considerations, and it would be a very bad thing for the country as a whole. What was much more serious, however, was the effect that such a measure would have upon the poor landowner. There were many poor landlords in this country, men who owned considerable estates—two thousand acres or more—and who depended for their income entirely upon the rents derived from the land. Supposing a man owning 1,500 or 2,000 acres of land let it at a rental of 12s. or 15s. an acre to two or three largo fanners with a decent amount of capital. Each of those men would probably be better off than the landlord, and if the farms were thrown on the landlord's hands it would mean ruin to him, because he would be unable 1154 to find the capital to farm them himself and therefore would be compelled to accept any terms offered to him for their occupation. It was on these grounds that he thought such a clause would press very hardly indeed upon the landlords. Though he protested most strongly against its introduction, he thought, having followed the Bill very closely and having taken a moderate part in the discussion of its provisions, he would be most ungrateful if he did not acknowledge the way in which the Government had met the Opposition in regard to some of these matters. It was in his opinion a much more mischievous Bill in its original form, arid he grate-fully acknowledged the manner in which the suggestions of the Opposition had been met in regard to some of the clauses and particularly in regard to Clause 7. But he still held that there were objectionable principles in the Bill, that its introduction was necessary, and that in the main it would inflict incalculable injury on the agricultural interests, that being so, he could not allow it to leave this House without recording his final objection to it.
§ * THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. LAMBERT, Devonshire, South Molton)
said every Member of the House would cordially agree with the expression of regret by the hon. Member who had just sat down, at the absence of Mr. Agar Roberts, who made such a promising appearance when he introduced this Bill to the House. The Bill, with which he (Mr. Lambert) had been connected for many years, had now reached its final stage in the House of Commons. Its rejection had been moved by the Member for Wandsworth, representing, he supposed, the tenant farmers of Wandsworth.
§ * MR. LAMBERT
said the hon. Baronet evidently thought that the common sense of the community resided in the city of London and in Wandsworth; others might think differently. The seconder of the Motion was that fine old crusted Tory whose constituency appropriately contained Hatfield House. That hon. Gentleman condemned the Bill in most severe terms. He had no wish to 1155 quarrel with the hot). Member's somewhat facetious description of the Bill, but thought he might perhaps throw some light upon this matter, and possibly induce the hon. Member to change his opinion on the measure. The hon. Member for the Wokingham Division had described himself as a specimen tenant farmer. He thought there were many tenant farmers who would be glad to exchange positions with the hon. Gentleman. There were few specimen tenant farmers who could afford to fight a contested election for a seat in Parliament. The Bill had been toned down to a very moderate measure indeed. It merely embodied the practice of good landlords, and would not injure a single landlord who had managed his estate on just and reasonable principles. The principles upon which the Bill was based were three. It provided that the tenant should have compensation for damage by game, freedom of cropping, and reasonable security for his capital. He did not think the tenant farmer would consider these "principles of rascality" as the Member for St. Albans had considerately suggested. He would not refer to the preamble of the Bill, but one hon. Gentleman had raised considerable objection to "the inherent capabilities of the soil," being left out of the first clause of the Bill. The omission of that phrase from the Agricultural Holdings Act was recommended by the Royal Commission of 1897, of which the right hon. Member for South Dublin was so distinguished a member, and the right hon. Gentleman left it out of that Act when he introduced it in 1900, but it was re-inserted in another place. He maintained, however, that if the tenant farmer by his skill and enterprise developed the inherent capabilities of the soil the result ought to accrue to him instead of to the man who had not made the improvement. As to the arrangements for arbitration, all the Government had done was to simplify the procedure. They did not prevent the tenant farmer and his landlord from coming to an agreement as to the arbitration or the selection of an arbitrator. What they de sired to prevent was unnecessary legal expenditure. One concrete case was worth a dozen illustrations. One case came before the Board of Agriculture in which a tenant farmer in Scotland wished under the Act of 1900 to have a single arbi- 1156 trator. He applied to the Board of Agriculture in February, 1903, to appoint a single arbitrator. After some considerable hesitation as to whether they could in this instance appoint a single arbitrator the Board did appoint one in the following May. The landlord objected and took the matter before the Courts. The decision in the first instance was in favour of the tenant, but that was revised on appeal. These preliminary legal proceedings occupied eighteen months. The costs were thrown on the tenant, the landlord's being £160, and the tenant's £200. These were taxed costs alone; therefore the tenant was mulcted in £360, before even the arbitration began at all. That was work for the lawyers with a vengeance. He maintained that when such a state of things could arise under an Act of Parliament they were justified in putting an end to it. As to compensation for damage by game, he could not, conceive any real answer to the reasonable proposals made. Everyone know that game did enormous damage. It was argued that under the Bill, if damage was done by the game of an adjoining owner, the landlord of the farmer damaged would have to pay. That case was demolished the other day by the Prime Minister, who pointed out that in such a case all the landlord had to do was to give the tenant the right to kill game. But such a case never would occur. No landlord in his senses would rear a large stock of game right on the boundary of his property.
§ * MR. LAMBERT
said that in that case he did not think all the wisdom of the country was to be found in the City of London. He submitted that such cases were extremely rare. One of the first acts of nearly every landlord or sports-man in the early part of the season was to go round and see if he could not borrow a few of his neighbour's birds. That was a well-known fact. [An HON. MEMBER: Not among sportsmen.] At any rate, no real sportsmen would object to compensate a farmer. He, probably a rich man, would not wish to enjoy sport at the expense of the farmer. Surely also there was nothing unreasonable in allowing freedom of cropping and sale of produce, provided the fertility of the 1157 soil was maintained. The Royal Commission of which the right hon. Gentleman the member for South Dublin was a member said that the restrictions imposed in many districts were unnecessary and objectionable. Penal rents were included in the lease, and if a tenant missed cropping, or cropped under conditions not according to the lease, he had to pay. That, however, was dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman himself in the Act of 1900, much to his credit, when he limited penal rents to actual loss. Who was the best judge as to the best method of cultivating the land, the tenant farmer who tilled the land, the landlord who was seldom on the estate, or the agent who passed his time in his office? He contended it was the farmer who had to get his living out of the land and suffered if he did not cultivate aright. Hon. Members opposite had argued that long experience and custom were the best criterion; but in the last twenty-five years the method of cultivation for profit had changed enormously, and any man who attempted to cultivate on the principle in vogue before 1880 would soon be in the workhouse. The farmer in this matter should no more be hampered than any other man was hampered in his trade. Why should he be hampered by conditions which had been laid down for cropping years ahead? The Report of the Tariff Commission just issued had referred to the enormous amount of foodstuffs imported, and it was suggested that the one remedy for increasing the prosperity of agriculture was to alter our fiscal system* That he put on one side, but he held that the House could not go wrong in encouraging enterprise and experiment among farmers. If there was any risk in it, it was well worth running, for if nobody ever took a risk no discoveries would be made. Then they were told the compensation for unreasonable disturbance clause would shatter the good relations between landlord and tenant. He did not believe a word of it, and no friend of the farmer could stand up in his place and say that 1158 the clause was a bad one, for the farmer at any rate. It was to give greater security to the good farmer that the clause against capricious eviction was introduced. It was the good tenant who would lose most by change. As to the suggestion that the labourer would get nothing out of the Bill, if good cultivation was encouraged the labourer was bound to benefit. The poor farmer would starve the land and the labourers too; it was the good farmer who would increase the prosperity of the labourer, and benefit the whole of the community by getting the best possible result from the soil. The Government had been very careful to prevent dual ownership. They allowed the landlord to do what he liked with his own, subject to his doing no injustice to the tenant farmer. He had now dealt with the three main principles of the Bill. The clause dealing with market gardens had simply re-enacted what was the original intention of Parliament, which a little judge made law had rendered null and void. Another clause introduced enabled the tenant to repair buildings when the landlord refused to do so. That surely was not unreasonable. It was said that the Irish system was introduced by the Bill into England. The Irish system was, from the point of view of the farmer, infinitely superior to the English. Under the Act of 1881 the Irish tenant got a reduction of 20 per cent, on his rent; a further reduction of 20 per cent, under the second revision of that Act; and under the Land Purchase Act he had the equivalent of a further reduction of 20 per cent. There were a good many English farmers who would like to be able to take advantage of the Irish Land Purchase Act, under which the tenant paid instalments representing 20 per cent, reduction of his rent, and got his land as a freehold at the end of sixty-nine and a half years. It was said that the landlord was going to be robbed and the lawyer enriched. He did not think there were many tenant farmers burning with a desire to spend 1159 6s. 8d. in lawyers' fees, nor did he believe land would be driven out of cultivation when they gave security to the capital of the cultivator. It was also said that the Wealthy landlords would turn out their tenants and farm the lands themselves. If they did so they would be no longer wealthy, because he was sure they could not make farming pay. Moreover, it was contended that the Bill would be a great blow to the establishment of small holdings—as if the landlords were burning with a desire to establish small holdings all over their estates! He did not believe the Bill would transform a peaceable and punctual rent-payer into a monster thirsting for his landlord's blood. It was a moderate and a reasonable measure. At any rate, he thought the tenant farmers might congratulate themselves that in the first session of the new Government there had been passed measures dealing with fertilising and foodstuffs and the worrying of their cattle by dogs; and that now by this Bill there would be secured to the struggling cultivator of the land a reasonable prospect of security for his money.
§ MR. WALTEE LONG (Dublin, S.)
said he did not wonder the hon. Member for the South Molton Division was so enthusiastic an admirer of the Bill, even in its considerably amended form, because he had been closely identified with it for many sessions, and was to a large extent its author. Still less did he wonder when he recollected that for a considerable time circumstances had rendered it impossible for the hon. Gentleman to take an active part in the debates upon this question. But the hon. Gentleman had been so long treading the quarterdeck of the Admiralty that he seemed almost to have forgotten what a turnip field was like. When he heard the hon. Gentleman comment on the usual practice of landlords and sportsmen to pursue their neighbours' game in the early days of the season he realised for the first time what an evil influence the 1160 freedom of a sailor's life might have on the more prosaic occupation of the agriculturist. As to the hon. Gentleman's criticism of the speech of the hon. Member for Wandsworth, he thought it was the privilege of hon. Members> irrespective of the constituencies they represented, to express their opinions upon every subject of public interest. The question was not what was going to be the effect of this or that particular clause, but would this Bill in its general effect benefit or injure the agricultural interest? He passed by the game clause because it was a matter, comparatively speaking, of very small importance. The two most important clauses were those dealing with freedom of cropping and compensation for unreasonable disturbance. He was glad to see present the hon. Member for Barnstaple, who took a prominent part in the earlier stages of the measure. After his absence he must have gazed upon his altered off-spring with startled eyes. It was gratifying to know that he looked upon all the changes as satisfactory. The clause which dealt with freedom of cropping had been practically eliminated and the new clause was practically one moved by an hon. friend of his own and not by the Government. Of the clause which dealt with compensation for disturbance the same might be said. The conditions which wore to precede disturbance were so stringent that they took away a large part of his objections. The Solicitor-General for Scotland had sought to prove that this freedom of cropping was really introduced by the Act of Parliament for which he (Mr. Long) was responsible. The hon. and learned Gentleman had expressed surprise that he should be so unwilling to accept the honour of being the founder of this new principle. But surely that surprise must be mutual. Why did the Government waste time on this clause if they found the principle already in existing Acts of Parliament, and why were they so anxious to thrust upon his unwilling shoulders the glory of what he 1161 said they had done? The hon. and learned Gentleman did not now appreciate the effect of the clause dealing with temporary pasture. That provision dealt with the custom of farming under what was called the "four-course system" and had nothing whatever to do with the permanent alteration of the character of the holding. But if the hon. and learned Gentleman believed that the late Government gave freedom of cropping by the Act of 1900 he did not agree with him, and he thought any practical farmer would disagree with him too. But if it was done under the Act of 1900, why did the Government seek to do it now? This was an extension of the principle introduced by the Act of 1900, and that in itself was a full and sufficient reason for the Government's dealing with the question. But he did not think they had made good their case that the Unionist Government in their Act of 1900 either dealt with freedom of cropping or interfered with freedom of contract. It had been pointed out that the Unionist Government dealt in that Act under Clause 6 with penal rents. What was the position of penal rents at that time? They had an ancient existence, but they were at that time practically abandoned throughout the whole of the agricultural world. There was not a practical agriculturist at that time, or at the present time, prepared to advance the argument that the penal rent clause was any real part of the agreement entered into. Those penal rents, however, were abolished under Clause 6 of the Act of 1900. To advance the mere abolition of penal rents, which though in existence had to a large extent been abandoned, and the introduction into an Act of Parliament of what had been the custom for years all over the country, as a justification for interference with contracts was to stretch precedent very far indeed. The hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton had teen very eloquent on two special subjects, the arbitration clause and Clause 4. In 1162 regard to the arbitration clause the hon. Gentleman had cited a case where arbitration had taken place only after long delay and great expense. No doubt under a law which gave an alternative course such delay might occur, but the great bulk of the agriculturists of England and Wales believed that they ought to be given freedom to select between one arbitrator and a plurality of arbitrators. Under the Act of 1900 they might resort to a single arbitrator unless the parties otherwise agreed. And it was better that it should be left in that way. The right of an individual to appoint his own valuer could not be interfered with. In his belief the provision, in the opinion of many tenant farmers, was unnecessary; and therefore it ought not to go into the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman indicated that he (Mr. Long) had been a sort of public benefactor in making an experiment which resulted badly; but the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had asked that experiments should be made and risks run at the option and will of the occupying tenant, and the ultimate result, if unsatisfactory, was to fall upon the landowner. Many agricultural experiments could only be tested at the end of a considerable period of time, and it was impossible under a series of years to know whether the money had been well or ill spent. A farmer might quit his holding before an experiment came to maturity, and his compensation would not represent the ultimate value to the future occupier. Therefore the Bill would encourage experiments by one person at the risk of another. All this turned upon the question he referred to at the commencement of his remarks—was it for the general benefit of agriculture or not? The hon. Member for Barnstaple had referred with regret to Mr. Rider Haggard's letter in The Times, but nobody could doubt the immense trouble the writer had taken to make himself acquainted with agricultural affairs, and his absolute sincerity in his efforts to lend help and guidance on the subject. Mr. Rider 1163 Haggard bad pointed out with unanswerable force the effect the Bill would have on email holdings. The varying emotions among Members on the other side of the House were perhaps due to an increasing perception of this fact. He asserted without fear of contradiction that the Bill would have a deterrent effect on the creation of small holdings. They were not going to interfere with the creation of small holdings by merely giving the sitting tenant an increased security in his holding. He agreed with the Solicitor-General for Scotland that in those clauses, which were so objectionable in this respect in their earlier form, there was little now to which a practical agriculturist could take objection. But would not any landowner who desired to break up his property into small holdings be bound to ask himself what would be his liability towards those who occupied his land? There was no branch of agriculture more experimental or more fraught with risks in its earlier stages than the creation of small holdings. It was practically impossible for the owner to have knowledge of the amount of capital a man wishing to take a small holding had in relation to the work he had to do. In the majority of cases the small holder had little or no capital. What was the cry of hon. Gentlemen opposite? They called in question this argument of his, and yet they told their constituents that the remedy for agricultural depression was to bring the agricultural labourer back to the land. It was only here and there that a man had saved £150 or £200 or was fortunate enough to get such a sum lent him, but in the majority of cases they hoped by unremitting labour eventually to make the holdings self-supporting. They were obliged in the first instance to appeal to the good-will, and, it might be, the generosity of the land owner. They said "Give us our chance, and we will prove worthy of it." Many landowners had given these men their chance, and often they had found the men to be abundantly worthy of it. But now it was 1164 to be deliberately enacted that everyone of these new tenants was to be an additional difficulty in the development of property if development in another direction hereafter seemed desirable. It was very doubtful indeed if the Bill would give any assistance in the direction of the extension of healthy agriculture. The hon. Member for Barnstaple had told the House very naively that the President of the Board of Agriculture had been up and down the country speaking about this Bill. The President of the Board of Agriculture had indeed been industrious in cultivating opinion in favour of the Bill, but there was little foundation for the statement that the great mass of farmers desired that it should become law. If it was true, as Lord Carrington had said, that this was a most important Bill on a matter of great urgency, and every man desired to see it pass, how was it that a Government so full of benevolence towards the agricultural community had not themselves thought of producing a Bill, but were content to take up and adopt this Bill, which had been left a deserted orphan on the floor of the House? What was the course he ought to take who had been very closely connected with this Bill from its beginning? At all events he could claim to be disinterested in his action, because his constituents were in no way affected by it. He had objected to the Bill from the beginning, and he thought there was much in it even now that was bad. He thought it was thoroughly bad so long as it contained in their original form the three clauses to which he had alluded. But in the later stages of the Bill the Government had done all that could be expected of them to meet fairly and frankly the criticisms of hon. Members on his side of the House. Although he did not like the Bill even in its later form, after what had happened on the Report stage he would be very reluctant to vote against the Third Reading, for he regarded the position as one in which the Government had gone a long way, in opposition to the views 1165 of many of their supporters, to meet several of the objections of the Opposition. He said without hesitation that there wore no hon. Members on the Opposition side afraid to give expression to their views in the lobby, and the only reason which would prevent anyone from voting for the rejection of the Bill was the feeling that the Government had gone far to meet the Opposition and had accepted many of their Amendments.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Sir H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN, Stirling Burghs)
said there was no man in the House for whom he had a more sincere admiration and respect than the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. Apart from his abilities, he had some of the very best Parliamentary qualities. He had courage and straightforwardness, he was good natured, and he had adroitness. He had never known the right hon. Gentleman's adroitness more conspicuously displayed than it had been this afternoon. The Government had had some difficulty in supporting the Parliamentary declamation to which they had been subjected for the last week or two upon the subject of this measure. If they tried to give some compensation for the depredations of game, they were held up as if they were destroying the very foundations of the British Empire. If they thought that a man ought to be entitled to pursue his avocation without being interfered with, and to be more secure than he was in the results of his industry and enterprise, they were told that they were breaking up the agricultural system of the country, and bringing ruin upon the fanner and the landlord alike. But they kept up their spirits, because they were not with- 1166 out recent experience, and they wondered whether this was to be a case in which hon. Gentlemen were going to die in the ditch on the Second Reading, and again die in the ditch on the Committee stage, and pursue that process on the Report stage, and then after all discover that the best thing for them to do was to pull themselves together in order to escape, if possible, the necessity of dividing. [OPPOSITION cries of "We are going to divide."] Hon. Gentlemen who divided would not have the authority of the right hon. Gentleman. He half expected them to follow the most recent example and dismiss the Bill with something very like a blessing or, at all events, with a mildly phrased passport on its journey along the corridor to the other place whore its friends were waiting to receive it. He admitted that there were qualifying circumstances in this case, because the right hon. Gentleman had acknowledged that the Government had gone very far to meet the most virulent objections to the Bill, and he had based his acquiescing attitude on that ground. The Government wore accused of having committed almost a Parliamentary offence in taking up a private Member's Bill and treating it as their own. It was a Bill with which the House was very familiar; there was a very strong body of opinion in favour of it, among those who entertained that opinion being the members of the Government and the leading Members of the Party. Therefore, it was a Bill with whose general aims and scope the Government entirely sympathised. The Bill might have, and did have its faults. It was read in the House by a huge majority without the closure, and in Grand Committee it was materially altered and many of its faults were removed. It was considered in the House during two days on Report. In 1167 these circumstances the Government had to consider whether they would let the Bill drop or give it their assistance, lick it a little more into shape, and do their best to pass it into law. He thought they had taken the proper course. The whole argument in this matter depended on the view they took of private Members' legislation generally. If private Members existed only for the purpose of furnishing a peg on which to hang an academic debate called a Second Reading, then, no doubt, the Government had pursued a novel course. But that was not only treating private Members with scant courtesy, it was also shutting out a great means of effective legislation. When a Bill was so far advanced as this one was, it was the duty of the Government to turn the opportunities and labours of private Members into a reality, and to carry out what had been proved to be the general desire of the House. They had been told a good many things about this Bill. They had been told, for instance, that it created dual ownership, and that was supposed, upon the example of Ireland, to be a very evil state of affairs. He was not convinced of that. He had heard better arguments designed to prove that the reason dual ownership failed in Ireland was that it could not exist side by side with a system of land purchase. But if single ownership were to be defended on the ground of denial of reasonable rights to the tenant it was a very bad advertisement for single ownership. However piously the fact might be disguised by phrases, dual ownership existed in this country already. The whole series of Agricultural Holdings Acts involved dual ownership. They wave the tenant certain rights of which the landlord could not dispossess him. Therefore, the landlord was not the free single owner of the 1168 property that he considered himself before; and it was a mere question of degree how far the principle should be extended. Then it was rather inconsistently said that the Bill was unnecessary because the vast majority of landlords did these things already without being told to do so by the law. If no landlord evicted a tenant capriciously, if every landlord gave generous compensation for the damage done by game, never raised the rent on the tenants' improvements, and never put impediments in the way of free cropping, how would this Bill affect him? But was not Parliament bound to protect the tenant from the capricious, selfish, or foolish landlord? Then it was said that the Bill would stand in the way of the introduction of a system of small holdings. The Government were entirely in favour of small holdings, but the small holder required these advantages just as much as the large holder; and the large majority of English farmers were now small holders. Those gentlemen who were so solicitous about not discouraging small holdings might sleep quietly of nights, because he did not think it would be very long before the Government attempted to deal on a large scale with the question. The hon. Member for Wandsworth had said that he did not know what good this Bill would do to the community at large. The more the tenant farmer's hand was strengthened and his scope enlarged, the more security that was given him, the greater would be the productiveness of the soil, the greater would be the number employed, and in every way the community would be benefited. They had been asked very frequently in the last few years, "What are you Liberals going to do for agriculture?" The question had been principally 1169 asked, not by the farmers, but by the friends of the farmers who were tariff reformers. Now the tariff reform landlords were to be seen marching into the lobby against this protection for the farmers. His friends were anxious to protect the farmer from the foreigner; but to give him legal protection for his crops and improvements—perish the thought! The Amendment was based on the allegation that the Bill involved a breach of contract. But the right hon. Gentleman opposite, speaking of his own Bill in 1900, said it was undoubtedly true that one of the clauses made "a serious breach in the existing law with regard to contracts that had been already made. "So that the right hon. Gentleman at least was not squeamish on this point. But was there freedom of contract at present? Was the tenant able to make a perfectly free contract? In one sense he was, and in another sense he was not; for he was hindered and bound by conditions which did not leave him in a state of freedom. But he did not wish to be misunderstood. The great bulk of landlords in this country were most estimable, amiable, wise, and sensible men; and he had perfect confidence in them. Under their administration the tenant had nothing to fear. But it was necessary to protect the tenant from the landlords who were foolish. The relations of landlord and tenant had been spoken of as co-partnership. If that were so, what was the harm of putting the terms of the partnership in black and white? It was not fair that one of the partners should claim control and management, and that the other should not have a similar claim. In his belief this was a moderate, reasonable, and some of his hon. friends thought, even an imperfect step in advance; but it certainly was a step in 1170 advance, and he believed that nothing could be done which would be more beneficial to the country than the passing of such a measure as this. In his judgment it was capable of giving greater opportunity and fresh life to the great industry of agriculture.
§ LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)
said the Prime Minister had many admirers in the House, and among the many qualities he possessed was that of courage, of which he required some amount when he ventured to taunt the Members of the Opposition with a want of consistency. If there was one quality which this Government had shown throughout this session it was that they had been always ready to abandon their most strongly expressed opinion when sufficiently pressed by one section or another of their supporters. It would be impossible, and altogether unfitting for them, at this hour to attempt a prolonged argument on this Bill, but he wished to say that so far as he was concerned, so long as Clause 4 formed part of the Bill, he should feel it his duty to oppose it in the division lobby and in every other way he could. The Prime Minister had said he was not afraid of the charge that Clause 4 established dual ownership, and the right hon. Gentleman had gone on to say that in his judgment dual ownership already existed. The right hon. Gentleman had not heard the extremely elaborate argument of the Solicitor-General for Scotland to show not only that dual ownership did not exist at present, but that it could not be established by this Bill. Unquestionably the rights of the landlord were very materially diminished by Clause 4 of the Bill, and diminished in respect of his right to obtain possession of the land. It was true that it only diminished that right to 1171 the extent that he had to pay damages for the exercise of his lights, but that was the only way the law could attack the rights of anyone. His objection to Clause 4, however, was rather deeper than that. Of Clause 4 it might be said that it was "willing to wound and yet afraid to strike." It established a principle which he believed to be thoroughly pernicious, but it established it with such safeguards and so many entanglements and hampering conditions that in point of fact it would be of no service to those people whose interest it was supposed to serve. It would not remedy a single grievance, but it would establish for the first time a principle of very wide and dangerous application. He did not think it would be maintained that a landlord was entitled to exercise his strict legal rights without regard to the principles of equity, justice, and compassion. He did not consider the landlord was in any better or worse position in that respect than any one else, and he did not believe for a moment that as a class landlords did exercise their rights with less regard to those considerations than any other class. What he held was that this Bill, which they had been perpetually told was aimed at bad landlords, would, in fact, hit good landlords. It would not touch the bad landlords. Men of great wealth and little scruple would always be able to get round such flimsy legislation. A man, say, who had made his fortune in the city and went into the country and purchased the estate of an impoverished landlord, could turn a good tenant out at short notice thereby causing hardship and injustice. It would be always open to say that such action was consistent with good estate management or that there was due and reasonable cause for the action. The clause would be of no use whatever. A good landlord, 1172 however, would find it difficult to substantiate his action, even though of the best, in a Court of law. It was not uncommon for a tenant to treat his labourers badly, and for the labourers to appeal to the landlord for protection. The only protection the landlord could afford the labourers was to tell the tenant that he would get rid of him unless he behaved better. In such a case it would be exceedingly doubtful whether that could be said to be a question of good estate management, and it would diminish the power of the good landlord to protect the labourer, which was of the utmost importance to the labouror in many country districts, while it would not in any way diminish the power of the bad landlord to exercise his rights arbitrarily and unjustly. The whole of this clause was an anachronism and belonged to an era when the Liberal Party were impregnated by a spirit of blind hatred and dislike of the landownor class. He believed that feature in politics was pissing away. He believed the Labour Members and the Labour vote would not be affected nearly to the same extent by feelings of that kind. He believed that the Socialist vote would be much more favourable to the landowner than the old individualistic capitalist. No one who had ever considered Socialism seriously would be without a very considerable admiration for the fundamental principles upon which Socialism rested. Individualism, after all, rested only upon the principle of self-interest; but Socialism substituted the principle that the individual should do his duty by the State. Personally, he believed the socialistic principle could not be attempted safely, and he doubted very much whether, human nature being what it was, it could be ever attempted safely. But he did say that the fundamental 1173 principle of Socialism, which was opposed to the principle of self-interest as the only motive of legislation, called for respect and admiration. He said further, that the principles on which land-owning had so far been carried on had far more affinity to the principles of socialistic legislation than any other industry in the country. The general desire of the landowner in dealing with his estate was to do the best, not only for himself, but for the whole interests of the estate, treating the tenants, labourers, and himself as part owners and jointly interested. The great evil of a Bill of this kind was that it substituted for the
§ admirable understanding which had hitherto existed between the landlord, tenant, and labourer a hard and fast set of rules to be found in Acts of Parliament and enforced by law. It was a retrograde step. It was going back to the worst form of individualism, and it belonged to a period of legislation that was passing away. Such legislation was dictated by class jealousy and envy, and its passing would not conduce to the true interests of the country.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 260; Noes, 27. (Division List No. 433.)1175
|Acland, Francis Dyke
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston
|Flavin, Michael Joseph
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.
|Flynn, James Christopher
|Churchill, Winston Spencer
|Gibb, James (Harrow)
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry
|Clancy, John Joseph
|Gill, A. H.
|Astbury, John Meir
|Clarke, C. Goddard
|Cleland, J. W.
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John
|Biker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.
|Glendinning, R. G.
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)
|Coats, Sir T. Glen (Renfrew, W.
|Gooch, George Peabody
|Burlow, John Emmott (Somers't)
|Cogan, Denis J.
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)
|Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)
|Barnard, E. B.
|Collins, Sir Wm. J. (S. Panrcas, W)
|Gulland, John W.
|Barnes, G. N.
|Condon, Thomas Joseph
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton
|Beale, W. P.
|Cooper, G. J.
|Beaumont, Hn. W. C. B. (Hex'm)
|Corbett, CH. (Sussex, E. Grinst'd
|Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)
|Beck, A. Cecil
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.
|Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r)
|Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford)
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)
|Haworth, Arthur A.
|Crombie, John William
|Hayden, John Patrick
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine
|Hazel, Dr. A. E.
|Crossley, William J.
|Hedges, A. Paget
|Bolton, T. D. (Derbyshire, N.E.
|Dalziel, James Henry
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)
|Boulton, A. C. F. (Ramsey)
|Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan)
|Henry, Charles S.
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)
|Herbert, Col. Ivor (Mon., S.)
|Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycomb'e)
|Brodie, H. C.
|Dickinson, W.H.(St. Pancras, N.
|Higham, John Sharp
|Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)
|Brunner, Rt. Hn. Sir J. T. (Chesh.)
|Dobson, Thomas W.
|Bryce, Rt. Hn. James(Aberdeen
|Donelan, Captain A.
|Holden, E. Hopkinson
|Bryce, J. A. (Inverness Burghs
|Duffy, William J.
|Hope, W. Bateman (Somerset, N.)
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn
|Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)
|Burke, E. Haviland-
|Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall)
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John
|Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)
|Idris, T. H. W.
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas
|Edwards, Frank (Radnor)
|Isaacs, Rufus Daniel
|Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Chas.
|Elibank, Master of
|Jardine, Sir J.
|Byles, William Pollard
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas
|Essex, R. W.
|Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.
|Everett, R. Lacey
|Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.
|Jones, Leif (Appleby)
|Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard Knight
|Ferens, T. R.
|Chance, Frederick William
|Kearley, Hudson F.
|Kekewich, Sir George
|Shipman, Dr. John G.
|Kennedy, Vincent Paul
|Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John
|Napier, T. B.
|Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie
|Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster
|Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
|Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester)
|Soares, Ernest J.
|Norton, Capt. Cecil William
|Spicer, Sir Albert
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)
|O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid)
|Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.)
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
|Steadman, W. C.
|Leese, Sir Joseph F.(Accrington)
|O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
|Stewart, Halley (Greenock)
|Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)
|Lewis, John Herbert
|O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)
|Straus, B. S. (Mile End)
|Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David
|O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)
|Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury
|Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.
|O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)
|Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr)
|Lynch, H. B.
|Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E
|Mackarness, Frederic C.
|O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
|Torrance, Sir A. M.
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.
|MacNeill, John Gordon Swift
|Pearce, William (Limehouse)
|Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.
|Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)
|MacVeigh, Chas. (Donegal, E.)
|Pickersgill, Edward Hare
|Walters, John Tudor
|M'Callum, John M.
|Power, Patrick Joseph
|Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds, S.)
|Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)
|Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent)
|M'Hugh, Patrick A.
|Price, Robt. John (Norfolk, E.)
|Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)
|Radford, G. H.
|Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
|Rainy, A. Rolland
|Waterlow, D. S.
|M'Micking, Major G.
|Raphael, Herbert H.
|Watt, H. Anderson
|Mallet, Charles E.
|Rea, Russell (Gloucester)
|Manfield, Harry (Northants)
|Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro')
|White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)
|Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston
|Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
|White, Luke (York, E.R.)
|Marnham, F. J.
|Redmond, William (Clare)
|White, Patrick (Meath, North)
|Rees, J. D.
|Masterman, C. F. G.
|Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n)
|Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
|Meehan, Patrick A.
|Rickett, J. Compton
|Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
|Roberton, J. M. (Tyneside)
|Wills, Arthur Walters
|Molteno, Percy Alport
|Robson, Sir William Snowdon
|Wilson, Hon. C. H. W. (Hull. W)
|Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)
|Money, L. G. Chiozza
|Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)
|Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
|Montagu, E. S.
|Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)
|Mooney, J. J.
|Schwann, C. Duncan (Hyde)
|Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)
|Schwann, Sir C. E.(Manchester)
|Yoxall, James Henry
|Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)
|Sears, J. E.
|Seaverns, J. H.
|TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas
|Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.)
|Salter, Arthur Clavell
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George
|Fletcher, J. S.
|Thornton, Percy M.
|Bowles, G. Stewart
|Gardner, Ernest (Berks, East)
|Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. Howard
|Boyle, Sir Edward
|Harrison-Broadley, Col. H. B.
|Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)
|Butcher, Samuel Henry
|Hervey, F. W. F. (Bury S. Edm's)
|Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
|Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)
|Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)
|TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir Henry Kimber and Mr. Carlile.
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)
|Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington
|Craik, Sir Henry
|Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon
|Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)
Bill read the third time, and passed.
§ Adjourned at two minutes after Five o'clock till Monday next.