§ [THIRD READING.]
§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."397
§ * VISCOUNT CASTLEREAGH (Maidstone)
in moving that the Bill be read a third time that day three months, said that he did so because he considered that the provisions of the Bill were not calculated to benefit Ireland or any class of the community. He had no desire to take up the time of the House by repeating the arguments which had been put forward on the Report stage, but he considered that on the Third Reading it was incumbent on him to repeat the protest of Members on the Opposition side in the hope that he might influence the Government at the last moment. He might be allowed, first of all, to make a protest that the Bill had not been printed in the form in which it would probably go to another House. It was obvious that a great many difficulties would arise to those who were interested in the measure inside as well as those outside Parliament from the fact that the alterations had not been printed.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. BRYCE,) Aberdeen, S.
said that a corrected copy of the Bill was in the Reading Room.
§ * VISCOUNT CASTLEREAGH
said that his first reason for moving the rejection of the Bill was that it was not a measure which was in any sense required, and if passed it would probably have to be extended to England and Scotland. He believed that the Bill in its present form was absolutely unworkable. During the debates neither the authors of the measure nor the Government had attempted to show that fresh circumstances had arisen in recent years which would justify Parliament in setting aside the finding of the Town Holdings Select Committee in 1899, who after an investigation of the subject during three years reported that no case had been made out for separate legislation for Ireland. He was personally in favour of compensation being given to tenants for improvements, but there were various facts which had to be taken into consideration. The Government desired that no facts should be taken into consideration. Hon. Members below the gangway thought that landlords had a stigma attached to their name, and that nothing in the way of injustice could be too hard for a person who owned property in Ireland. The great blot on the Bill was its retrospective character. Another great blot was the provision of 398 compensation for disturbance, and these points alone justified him in moving the rejection. The case for the Bill appeared to rest mainly on the point that short terms were more prevalent in Ireland, than in England. This was fully recognised by the Select Committee in 1899, but they refused to regard it as sufficient reason for legislation. If short terms were to justify exceptional legislation, why was not the Bill limited to such leases? In its present shape, if the existing term lasted for generations or even for centuries, the outgoing tenant could compel his landlord, subject to the very slender provisions in Clause 2, to compensate him for permanent buildings found on his holding, unless the landlord could satisfy an arbitrator that the buildings were not erected by the tenant or his predecessor in title or that the tenant was partly compensated by having a low rent, or receiving certain other benefits. If the Bill was to be retrospective all facts should be assumed in favour of the landlord, and the onus of proving the contrary should fall on the tenant. He appealed to English and Scottish members who owned properties, and who would be affected if such a Bill came into operation all over the kingdom, to consider whether it was just that a landlord should be called upon to prove that he was in no way responsible for buildings which might have been in position for years with nothing in writing to show who put them up, and that in such a case the tenant should be entitled to claim compensation. Another anomaly was that the Government had provided the landlords with certain safeguards in regard to contracts after the passing of the Bill, but had left him obviously at the mercy of a tenant in regard to contracts before the passing of the Bill. He submitted that this was in itself illogical and contradictory, and it proved that the Government were fully cognisant of the fact that they were inflicting gross injustice by making the Bill retrospective. The Bill would bring about a great many anomalies, and the result would be that a landlord would have to look about with a view of safeguarding himself, and notwithstanding the provision in the Bill against contracting out he would try to bring about a system of eleven-months leases, which they were all agreed was a most objectionable form of lease. Another thing was that the landlord would attempt 399 to get rid of his property at any price, and it was obvious that it would pass into the hands of middlemen who were not actuated by a desire to benefit the property, but by a desire to extort rents which would bring a good return for their money. If there was to be legislation on this matter it should be so framed as to promote improvements and prevent deterioration of house property generally. Such a measure would be a boon to the whole community, but it would require very careful consideration and the Government would have to obtain the assistance of the most experienced philanthropic men in the country. Tenants should not only be assisted in making improvements, but landlords should be assisted in improving their property where the tenant was unable or neglected to do so. In most leases there were covenants to keep in repair, but in practice it had been found impossible to enforce performance of those contracts, so that houses and neighbourhoods which had been healthy places had been converted into unhealthy slum quarters. If the Government would bring forward a good measure for the whole kingdom he was convinced that it would be welcomed by all Parties, but such beneficial legislation would be indefinitely postponed by passing such a limited and one sided measure as the present Bill. He maintained that the Bill was so drafted that it would defeat its own object. Its purport was to improve the position of the tenant, but many urban proprietors were poor men and it would be impossible for them to incur the risks which this Bill would impose upon them. They would be compelled to sell their properties in a glutted and a depreciated market, and more distress than at present existed would ensue. The properties would be bought up by the middle man with the avowed object of speculation; and to his mind in a few years the Bill, instead of being a benefit to the tenants, would be a curse. It might be said that the landlords might postpone their troubles by granting long leases, but in most cases these were only desired by building tenants who intended to sublet or by traders. Lettings from year to year or short leases with covenants for surrender or renewal had always been the most popular form of tenure among the majority of residental tenants in Ireland. The Bill, however, would make 400 such terms objectionable to landlords, and to escape them there would soon be all over the country an absurd system of eleven-months lettings in towns on the model of the grazing lettings which were at present the subject of so much popular denunciation in many parts of Ireland. Perhaps the most important part of the Bill and the most objectionable feature of it was that dealing with compensation for disturbance, which he maintained was absolutely and entirely inapplicable to town property. It was argued that there was an analogy between agricultural holdings and town holdings, but he ventured to diagree entirely with that, because they knew that agricultural tenants were willing to take up leases on terms which were often not advantageous to themselves. He was convinced that if the Bill was passed it would be a warning to small proprietors to sell as quickly and as unconditionally as possible. The contracting out provisions of the Bill was another instance of the Government's stepping in for the purpose of interfering with contracts between man and man, and if the provision was passed it would all go back to that objectionable system of the eleven-months letting, and consequently it would compel tenants to accept a precarious form of tenure when otherwise they would be able to make a profitable bargain both for themselves and for the landlord. He had no doubt it would be possible to embody in a new Bill the few good points which there were, he admitted, in the present measure. He agreed that compensation should be accorded to tenants for improvements they had carried out in their holdings. He hoped a Bill would be brought in omitting those injustices which he believed were only included in the present Bill by the Government for the purpose of satisfying the vindictive dislike the Nationalists entertained towards anybody in the unfortunate position of owning property in Ireland. While he could understand and would heartily support a Bill including compensation for improvements, he protested against this measure because it was obviously class legislation, and from its retrospective character it would benefit tenants to the detriment of landlords. They had heard nothing from the Chief Secretary or the Attorney-General in favour of the Bill. It was true they had made a few vague statements that they were desirous of 401 removing injustices which existed, but they had never explained what those injustices were, though they had been forward in explaining what injustices they proposed to leave on all who happened to be members of the landlord class. The Attorney-General, in a voice quivering with indignation, had repeated on several occasions the question why should not a tenant receive compensation for improvements which he had paid for. The obvious answer to that was that when a tenant entered into a lease of a site or a house he knew perfectly well what the covenants of such a lease required him to do; and it reflected on the intelligence of the average tenant in Ireland to admit that he was deluded by his landlord. He was afraid he would not be able to claim the support of all sections of the House for his Motion. They knew perfectly well that hon. Gentlemen opposite constituted a mechanical majority and gave implicit obedience to the commands of their Party Whips. He knew well why those orders had been issued. The Government were on the horns of a dilemma. They were desirous of gaining the support and also the silence of the Nationalist Party, because the Hibernian gibe was more distasteful than any other to the right hon. and learned Gentlemen on the Government Benches. They also wanted to redeem the promise made at the general election that Home Rule was not a question of practical politics, and to vindicate the assertion that when brought forward on that occasion by members of the Unionist Party, it was done with the object of obscuring other issues. But let the House not be deceived by the tactics of the Government. It was obvious that while Home Rule was on the shelf they were prepared to give a sop to the Nationalist Party in the shape of the present Bill, which meant that this Government, who called themselves the champions of liberty, were prepared to create injustices and to inflict hardships on a class in Ireland who happened to own property as a price for Irish support and Irish silence, which he might tell them once and for all they would not got, and which, if they got it would not redound to the credit of the Government. In moving the rejection of the Bill he protested against the methods the Government had adopted. He ventured to challenge the sincerity of the Govern- 402 ment on this measure, and although he had little hope of carrying his Motion, he was convinced that no Government which stooped so low as to sacrifice their principles in the endeavour to prolong their existence would earn the respect of the people of this country, which it should be the desire of every responsible Government to obtain.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG (Antrim, S.)
seconded the Motion for the rejection of the Bill. He admitted that it seemed rather peculiar for a person who had always claimed to be a friend of the town tenants in Ireland to rise to move the rejection of a Bill which dealt with them, but when one considered the history of this question he did not think his action would appear so strange as it seemed at first sight. As he was addressing hon. Gentlemen who had not been Members of former Parliaments it was necessary to go into the history of this movement at some little length. There had been several Bills before Parliament in former years dealing with the question of compensation for improvements made by town tenants to their holdings, and he believed that in some of the Bills provisions for compensation for disturbance were included. He thought, however, he was right, in saying that in the case of every previous Bill dealing with compensation for disturbance that principle had received short shrift at the hands of Committees of the House, and that this was the first occasion upon which it had been seriously considered, or at all events dealt with, by the House. The question had been very inadequately dealt with by the Chief Secretary and the Attorney-General for Ireland, and although he admitted that there were a number of towns in which the condition of the town tenants was not satisfactory, the sum total of their claims had hitherto been compensation for improvements when they left their holdings. He would be very glad to see them get compensation for their improvements, although he was not sure that he approved of certain provisions contained in the Bill which would deprive some tenants of that compensation on account of the looseness with which the contracting-out section was drawn. In regard to improvements made ten, fifteen, twenty, or thirty years ago, he did not believe that in justice and equity any 403 compensation could be awarded, although as to those made within the last three, four, or five years there might be some justification for the argument that they should be included because this question had been before the House of Commons on many occasions during the last few years, and there was a possibility that tenants might have thought they would receive compensation for their improvements. But to include improvements made long before the agitation started was contrary to all principles of equity or justice. The case of Mr. Ward of Loughrea and Lord Clanricarde had nothing to do with the matter. The Bill was passed through a Committee upon which there was a very inadequate representation of the Irish Unionist Party, and it had not received the careful consideration which it deserved, especially as it would eventually affect the whole of the United Kingdom as well as Ireland. He ridiculed the idea that the Chief Secretary was influenced by no other motives and ideas than to give a useful measure to Ireland. He disagreed with that view of the case. He said deliberately that the action of the Government in this matter had been affected strongly by more than one consideration. Mr. Ward's case had a strong bearing on the matter. Hon. Members would agree that the impression left on the House by the Chief Secretary and the Attorney-General on the Second Reading of the Bill was that the Government intended to deal with compensation for improvements and that part alone. They were told that the case of Mr. Ward had nothing to do with it, but from the speeches of the Nationalist Members most hon. Members would agree that Mr. Ward's case had a great deal to do with compensation for disturbance being included in the Bill, and he maintained that one isolated case should not be allowed to influence the Government in a matter of this kind. Two days ago there was a Bill introduced into the House having for its object the expropriation of Lord Clanricarde, and he wished to quote a few lines that were spoken on that occasion.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
asked whether it was in order to quote speeches made on the occasion of the introduction of another Bill.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
submitted that his object in making a quotation was to show, in reply to the Chief Secretary's statement he was not influenced in any way by that case, that the Loughrea case had a very definite bearing on the Government's action in this matter.
§ * THE SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not entitled to refer to debates which have taken place this session on another matter.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
maintained that the question of Mr. Ward's eviction had a close bearing on the Government's action in providing for compensation for disturbance. He simply desired to quote a few words spoken by the Prime Minister in answer to the speech made by the hon. Member for Galway.
§ * THE SPEAKER
said he did not think the rules of the House allowed references to be made to debates which had taken place during the same session on another matter, however cognate it might be.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
said he bowed to that ruling. Another reason why they should not read the Bill a third time was that they had only discussed six of the sixteen clauses on the Report stage. He dismissed the Committee stage altogether, because that stage was practically a farce. ["Oh, oh" and "Why?"] Well, owing to the smallness of the representation on the Committee of those hailing from the North of Ireland. They had only three or four Members on a Committee composed of thirty or forty Members, and they considered they were not properly represented.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)
Do you say you had not fair treatment by the Chairman of the Committee?
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
I do not think I need answer that question. It will be quite time enough to do so when the charge is made.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
I did not. In consequence of the arrangement they were forced to make they had to stop the discussion on the Report stage after Clause 5 had been added to the Bill. In the rest of the Bill there were many points of considerable importance which the House had been unable to touch, and which should not be allowed to become law without the House having the opportunity of saying a word about them. The hon. Member for Maidstone had referred to the few changes in the Bill, but, had never said why those changes were made. If hon. Members would compare the proceedings on this Bill with those on the Land Tenure Bill they would see a great difference. The Irish Bill had been treated differently from the English Bill. The provision in the English Bill dealing with compensation for disturbance was so materially modified that in its present form it was not a very harmful clause. But in the Irish Bill they had the clause as originally introduced into the English Bill and no modification of it had been allowed. Taking all the circumstances into consideration, if it was right and proper to modify the clause in the English Bill, it was equally right and proper to modify to the same extent the clause in the Irish Bill. But the Government had not seen fit to do so. Why? Simply because in one case it was an English Bill and in the other case it was an Irish Bill. That was not a proper consideration to weigh with any Government, and where the conditions were the same the same treatment should be meted out to Ireland as had been meted out to England. For that reason, if for no other, they had reason for moving to reject the Bill. The other clauses were bound to lead to an immense amount of litigation, and yet they had never had an opportunity of discussing to what courts these matters were to be referred, how the appeals were to be managed, or anything of the sort. As to the contracting out clause, the Government would bring about a system of eleven-months tenancies, against which the Nationalist Members had spoken so strongly in the West of Ireland. It was well known that the eleven-months system was one of the bugbears of the Nationalist Party, and the Attorney-General, who was supposed to be their strongest friend, had put into the Bill a provision to set up for 406 town tenancies the very bad system which had given so much trouble to both landlords and tenants in the West of Ireland. From what he had said he was sure hon. Members on the other side would not think that the Bill should be disposed of in the summary way proposed. The whole matter had been discussed at very inadequate length. The issues involved were very great, and they had never heard until the Report stage what the real intentions of the Government were. He did not think that was right or proper. Compensation for disturbance was an evil provision, because it was bound to necessitate the setting up of fair-rent courts. It brought about fixity of tenure and dual ownership, and everybody who knew anything of Ireland knew that these three things had brought about an intolerable amount of mischief in his country. He did not think anybody could give any reason why the same system applied to town tenants should not be productive of as much inconvenience and difficulty as had been the case in regard to land. For these reasons he thought the House should carefully consider the matter before embarking on legislation dealing with compensation for disturbance. The Chief Secretary had told them that nobody would deny that the Lands Acts had done great good to Ireland. That was a point which might be argued at considerable length. It was true that landlords had been bought out by the action of the 1903 Act. All the Acts which led up to the Act of 1903 were necessitated by the initial mistake of the Act of 1870. As to whether these Acts had been a success or not, or whether the condition of Ireland owing to these Acts was better than it was before, was a debatable point. He did not think many people would say that it was a good thing that there should be fair rent courts for town property and dual ownership in small houses. It was acknowledged that the condition of affairs set up by these Acts was most undesirable and harmful, and yet they proposed to set up the same state of affairs under the present Bill. It was impossible that the thing should stop there. The Bill would lead inevitably by the same steps to a similar state of affairs as had occurred in the case of land namely, the purchasing of houses all over the country. 407 He supposed no English Member would look forward with pleasure to the time when they would have to provide £100,000,000 sterling for the purchase of small houses in Ireland. He supposed, too, it was hoping against hope to suppose that the House would now seriously consider the magnitude of the changes proposed to be made in the law of Ireland, changes which would bring about a state of affairs very much worse than existed at the present moment. They admitted that there were cases where legislation was necessary, but in 95 per cent, of the cases legislation was not necessary, and the others had been made the pretext for setting up this legislation for the whole of Ireland. He always understood that Parliament only legislated in cases where a large number of people; would be affected by the legislation. Here only a very small minority was concerned, and to legislate in the manner proposed for a small minority was not statesmanship.
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day three months."—(Viscount Castlereagh.)
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. J. F. MASON (Windsor)
said he had considerable sympathy with the principle of compensation for improvements. His objection to the Bill was entirely confined to its retrospective character. Clause 5, the House had been told, had been taken from the Land Tenure Bill, but it much more nearly resembled the original clause in that Bill than the clause eventually adopted, and he failed to see why the reasons which influenced the House to make such considerable alterations to the clause in the Land Tenure Bill, had not received more attention when applied to this particular case. The operation of the words "refuse to grant a renewal of the tenancy" and the operation of the word "loss" at the end of the clause would not have the same effect in the Land Tenure Bill as in this. "Loss" opened the door to claims for sentimental damage as well as damage for loss by removal. The clause also affected contracts) and though he believed in the case of holdings let on short terms the evil effects would not 408 be great, in the case of holdings let upon lease for a term of years the evil effect would be very serious indeed. Under the lease land was let for a definite purpose for a definite term, yet by this Bill it was proposed to take away from one party to the contract and to give to the other something that had never been bargained for, paid for, or mentioned in any way at the time the original contract was made. It was proposed to give the tenant power to renew his tenancy, but it was not proposed to give any power of refusal to renew to the landlord. This was an unjustifiable interference with the right of contract and the freedom of two individuals to enter into a contract. If the State was to interfere with existing contracts of that kind he failed to see by what logical argument it could be maintained that the State should not interfere with contracts of other kinds. Was it to be said, if an iron master contracted with a certain colliery owner for the supply of coal for a year, that colliery owner was to have the preferential right over other colliery owners to have his contract continued for all time? Was a builder who had built a row of ten cottages for a man to have a claim on that man if in the future he required another row built? If any such principle as that wore accepted it would destroy the whole principle of contract upon which our commerce and industry was founded, and at the same time it would remove that free competition which was necessary to the government of business contracts and encourage to a very large extent the principle of monopoly. It seemed to him also that Clauses 5 and 7 were antagonistic one to-the other. In Clause 5 the tenant was distinctly given a right to break his existing contract by claiming a right to renew at the end of the tenancy when in many cases under the lease he had undertaken to surrender the property. It was a common practice to insert words in the lease that at the end of the term the tenant should give up his holding without proceeding to law. Clause 5 encouraged the tenant deliberately to break that contract and to claim that he had a right to stay if he thought fit, and Clause 7 said that a tenant should not be entitled to compensation for disturbance if he broke any of the conditions of the lease or tenancy. It seemed to him that 409 the effect of this principle of interference by the State in the question of contracts would be very serious, because there was no logical reason when it was once adopted why it should not be extended to contracts of other kinds. Clause 5 might have a very serious effect upon building operations in general, because the dual ownership that would be constituted must tend to deter owners of land in future from building houses upon it. The only people who would be able to build houses in the future would be those who were going to live in them. They would buy their land and build their houses. But at the same time there were those who had not the capital to build a house and whom it would suit much better to hire one. In the case of such people they would in building have to borrow the money, and as the only security for the loan would be the house the rate of interest under those circumstances would be very exorbitant. The principle of the Bill to which he most objected was the interference by the State with existing contracts, because it must have a very destructive effect in the future upon that confidence which should exist between man and man. He believed that no contract would be safe, as one could never be certain that the State would not step in and upset it. He believed this feeling would extend to all classes of the community, and the effect generally would be to paralyse our industries. The time for appeal he supposed was passed, and therefore he must content himself with entering a vigorous protest against the Bill being-passed into law.
§ MR. L. HASLAM (Monmouth Boroughs)
said he could not accept the position which the Government had taken up in regard to the retrospective nature of the Bill. He thoroughly sympathised with the objects of the measure. If it was prospective only he would support it to the utmost of his power because there was very little in it with which he could not agree. But he thought the retrospective element in the Bill was one fraught with great danger to the community. In the interests of the tenants themselves, it was advisable that it should be altered in that respect. It seemed to him that it would lead to an immense amount of litigation-than which nothing was more undesirable, as the costs 410 would have to come out of the pockets of people who could ill afford to pay. It had been said that by making the Bill retrospective they would help to extend this principle to other Bills on similiar subjects. He did not say that no Bills should be retrospective. There was a good deal to be said for the proposal that the Bill should be retrospective for five years only. He quite agreed that great injustices had been done by the landlords of Ireland to their tenants, and if an Amendment could be introduced in the House of Lords by which the retrospective clauses, in this measure were limited in application it would tend to much greater confidence in the working of the Bill.
§ SIR D. DIXON (Belfast, N.)
protested against the Bill because it was not wanted. It would stop building and exercise a prejudicial influence. The hon. Member for South Antrim had estimated that not more than 5 per cent, of the town property owners in Ireland wanted it. So far as the North of Ireland was concerned, he could say that not more than one per cent, of the people affected required it, and he did not think it was right or just that such a Bill which only a few wanted should be passed.
§ * MR. VERNEY (Buckinghamshire, N.)
said there was a great deal to be said against a retrospective clause when it was not guarded by fair conditions, but the clause they wore discussing was conditioned in a proper manner. The conditions on which alone compensation was to be granted were that the improvements, added to the value of the holding —not only when they wore made, but that they continued to add to its value, when the claim was sent in, and that the improvements were suitable to the character of the holding. Another question dealt with was that of contracts. They had heard a good deal about freedom of contract, but that did not exist in many cases in Ireland, and the best substitute for this defect was the interference of the Court. The Court would introduce freedom of contract where practically it did not exist and could not exist before owing to the nature of the case.
§ LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)
said that in a former debate the Chief 411 Secretary for Ireland had stated more than once that this was a Bill which affected only Ireland and was not to be regarded as a precedent for England. That view, however, had not been accepted by all his supporters, and therefore he was afraid that he must treat the Bill as one likely to be adduced as a precedent for similar legislation in England. That was the situation which English Members had to face. Another argument adduced by the Chief Secretary was the precedent of 1870. He would not deal with that precedent at any length, because he did not think the right hon. Gentleman would seriously contend that the condition of urban tenure in Ireland was in any way similar to agricultural tenure of land in that country. As this Bill would be treated as a precedent for England they were obliged to consider the question on its merits, and decide whether it was the kind of legislation of which this House approved, quite apart from anything which was done in 1870. Those were the two main arguments which had been put forward by the Government, and although the Opposition had repeatedly asked for reasons why they had taken up that position, the Government had not produced one single justification for suggesting that there was anything special about the condition of Irish town tenure which made it desirable that a special and otherwise indefensible piece of legislation should be passed for that particular branch of industrial and urban life in Ireland. The only special case put forward was contained in the word "Clanricarde." When any proposal of this kind was put forward hon. Members below the Gangway found consolation in the fact that at any rate it would hit Lord Clanricarde. He did not think that that was a position which could be maintained. If Lord Clanricarde was the enemy of the human race the Government ought to pass a measure for his expropriation and have the case submitted to the proper tribunals. The country would then be able to judge how much of this Lord Clanricarde bogie was a reality and how much imagination. The House, however, could not accept the Clanricarde argument pure and simple. It was admitted that Lord Clanricarde was quite an exception, and that other landlords in Ireland were 412 behaving very well. Therefore, it was quite plain that this measure could not be defended merely on the ground that Lord Clanricarde interfered with one of his tenants at Loughrea. He submitted that the arguments to the effect that this was purely an Irish proposal which did not affect England, and that it was simply carrying out the legislation of 1870, were quite unsound. He agreed with his noble friend the Member for Maidstone that the two principal parts of this measure to which exception was taken wore those which made the compensation for improvements retrospective and gave compensation for disturbance. They had not up to the present heard any defence, and indeed there could be no defence, for making the Bill retrospective in regard to improvements, quite apart from any questions of precedent. It had been said that the Bill was not unfair in itself, because the improvements which the tenant had executed necessarily increased the letting value and that, therefore, it was quite fair and just that when those improvements came into the hands of the landlord he should pay for them. That contention left out of account altogether the fact that the property might have changed hands since the improvements wore executed, and those improvements might have been paid for and sold on the footing that the landlord would not pay for them. It might be that the person actually in possession of the property had never expended any money at all upon the improvements, and that he had only paid for them in proportion to the period for which he was likely to enjoy them. He presumed that many hon. Members on the Ministerial side had carried out transactions of that character, and it was well known that they never paid the full value of the improvements unless they were going to own them for ever. All that they paid for was the interest they would get in the improvements until the end of the lease. He wished to remind the House of the unfair results which this Bill would produce if it was made retrospective. If a tenant handed over to his successor an extra room which he had added to his premises that would be an improvement carried out since the lease was granted, and the new tenant would be paid compensation for that although he might not have paid anything for it. Surely that was a most unreasonable 413 provision, and he thought the hon. Member opposite was fully justified in saying that the retrospective element in the Bill was utterly unsound and unnecessary. As far as the Bill was retrospective it was utterly indefensible. He could easily give to the House instances from his own personal knowledge where the result of this Bill, if applied to English town property, would put money into the pocket of the tenant although he had not spent anything at all in connection with the improvements. With regard to the clause dealing with compensation for disturbance, he thought in the case of town property there was a very great grievance and hardship constantly inflicted on tenants by reason of their being evicted from their tenancies or by reason of their tenancies not being renewed. He instanced the case of property let by an urban landlord where the tenant established a business. That tenant would expect to get a renewal at the end of his lease, although it was true that he had no legal right to demand it. At the end of his lease his tenancy might be put an end to and he would not only suffer the ordinary disadvantage of having to change his place of abode, but his business might be altogether destroyed in consequence. He fully appreciated that hardship, and it was one which ought to be met. Such cases were as common in the wealthy parts of great cities in England as in any poor country town. None the less he was opposed to the provisions contained in the Bill. His point was that the Bill would not deal with that state of things which was one of the essential difficulties they had to face. There was some truth in the proposition that the land upon which a great city was built had a monopoly value, but it should not be overlooked that they could not keep a city in the same condition for ever as that in which it was originally built. They were obliged to face the question of development and improvement, and it was those two questions which in ninety-nine cases out of every 100 in England brought about the hardships which had been complained of. He knew a case where a man carried on an excellent business in a street in London, and when his tenancy came to an end he found that an arrangement had been made to rebuild and reconstruct the 414 whole district, completely altering its character. That tenant was necessarily turned out, and was unable to obtain a renewal of his lease. Undoubtedly the tenant in that instance suffered very great hardship, and he would have been very glad if some provision could be devised to meet cases of that kind. But this measure would not help in the least in such cases, for they could not be dealt with by legislation. What was more he did not believe that any clause could be devised which would effectively deal with such cases of hardship without unduly hampering the development and improvement of a town. The hon. Member for North Hackney had stated that the provisions of the Bill were defensible upon the ground that land was a monopoly. He agreed that the land on which a town was built was to a certain extent a monopoly, but that was not in the least true of agricultural land. He had a great sympathy on one side of his nature with the socialistic solution of these questions, which he agreed was somewhat attractive, but he was forced to the conclusion that in the end it would prove no remedy whatever for the existing evils. It did not matter whether land was owned by a private individual or by the State. If a city was to grow properly and progress and improve, it did not matter whether the owner was a private individual or the State, individuals must suffer. The phrase "minorities must suffer" was quite true. Consequently he rejected the socialistic solution as useless for the purpose they had in view. The methods proposed in this Bill would do no good, and would simply irritate landlords by a series of pin pricks. Such proposals would not draw the teeth of Lord Clanricarde.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said they might succeed in enraging a wild beast but they would not kill it by such methods as they were now proposing. All the Acts dealing with this subject which had been passed for Ireland had done no good; in fact, they had done harm. [NATIONALIST cries of "No, no."] That was the experience in Ireland. The Land Acts had done no good in Ireland in the past, and Parliament had been driven to adopt a system of peasant 415 proprietorship which was simply going back to the old system, the only difference being that they had substituted one set of owners for another.
§ * MR. BYLES (Salford, N.)
thought that it was just as well that a voice should be heard on this question from a quarter where it was said it was hard to find a fair-minded man. He had listened to the rather long but extremely interesting speech made by the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone, who appeared to see the injustice which this Bill was trying to remedy, but who had unfortunately finished up his remarks by saying that nothing could be done. He knew a little about the town tenants of Ireland, for he had had opportunities of attending their meetings advocating the remedies which the Government now proposed to apply. He had stood face to face in the open air with crowds of men, and he had seen their earnestness and sincerity and he knew their deep sense of grievance in this matter. He rejoiced that the Government during its first year of office had tried at any rate to find some remedy to meet the case of these poor men. He was quite unable to follow the noble Lord's argument against the retrospective character of the Bill, which appeared to him to be perfectly just. If tenant A made an improvement on the property of landlord C, and sold that improvement to the second tenant B, surely B ought to have the right to sell the property which he had purchased from A.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said in the illustration which he gave he was not dealing with the justice of the claim of tenant B to recover what he had paid. His proposition was that he only paid for the interest which A had in the improvements up to the end of the lease, and therefore he had not bought anything beyond an interest in the improvement to the end of the lease.
§ * MR. BYLES
said he had stated what he considered to be the justice of the case. In previous debates on the Bill he had noticed that hon. Members belonging to the Opposition had warned the House that this was only the thin end of the wedge, and that the principle of the Bill would be extended to this country. He hoped 416 it would. He thought English tenants had a grievance as well as Irish tenants. On the Bedford and Westminster estates in London tenants who enormously improved their properties knew that at the end of their leases the money they had invested would be swept away. In a place where he carried on business he took from the lord of the manor a lease of an old warehouse which was practically disused. He could only get a lease for forty years, and he built on the site a property worth £5,000, which in another twenty years would go to the lord of the manor, who had not provided a stone of it. [An HON. MEMBER: What was the rent?] He did not know what the rent was at this moment, but, at any rate, the rent had nothing whatever to-do with the matter. He recollected remarking to his partner at the time that it was a very short lease, and that perhaps-it would be unwise to take it, as they would have to give the property up at the end of the lease. His partner replied, "Perhaps in the course of forty years we shall get all that remedied and justice will be done to tenants." This was the first instalment—the first attempt to give them justice, and he sincerely hoped that within the next twenty years the property which he had built with his own money would be protected for him, and that it would not have to be handed over to the lord of the manor. He was not in the least surprised at the rather strong language used not only by the last speaker, but by other speakers on this matter. They might call it an attack on private property. He did not deny that it was an attack on the old theory of the sacredness of the private property of landlords. He expected to find that view expressed on the Opposition side of the House. After all, it was only the rump of the historic Tory Party that was left in this House, but rump though it was, the Members of the Party still held the same views. He was not surprised. Toryism had always been Toryism, and he supposed it always would be. It shut its eyes to the great public interests involved in private property. When the supporters of such a measure as that now before the House were accused of confiscation, h-answered that the confiscation had all been on the other side. What they were trying to get now was restitution, or what one of the great leaders of the Tory 417 Party had called "ransom." It was restitution they were asking for, and this measure carried out just the sort of thing they wanted to do. That was just what they had been sent to Parliament for. If he might say so without disrespect, he really did not think that the leaders of the Tory Party fully realised the meaning of the great upheaval of opinion which occurred last January, and which utterly transferred the power and the right of governing the country from the few to the many—from the classes to the masses. At any rate, it was the beginning of a process which he hoped would go on, and he warned lion. Members, however disappointed and alarmed they might be at legislation such as was now under consideration, and was embodied in the Land Tenure Bill which was under consideration last week, that these measures were only the beginning of what the democratic Party proposed to do. He hoped they would go on until they had transferred the government of the country from the few who had been appropriating to themselves all the power of looking after the "Haves" to the great democratic mass of the people of the country who possessed no property excepting common property, social property, and public rights. It was for those people he pleaded, and it was in the interest of a section of thorn that this Bill was now before the House.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY (City of London)
said the hon. Member for North Salford had stated by way of illustration something which had occurred in his own case, and which he considered justified him in voting for this Bill. At the end of the lease did the hon. Gentleman propose to move the warehouse off the land? How could he separate the land from the building? The hon. Gentleman conveniently forgot the rent he was paying, and then he added that it had nothing to do with the matter.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY
said that question showed the extraordinary confusion in the hon. Member's mind. He obtained the land at a low rent because there was on it a disused 418 warehouse which was not available for letting. It did not matter to him what the landlord had spent on that property. If the hon. Member was a prudent business man, when he took a lease of the land for forty years at a low rent, and proposed to spend £5,000 on a new building, he would have made a calculation as to whether he would be able during the currency of the lease to recoup himself, knowing that the building would fall into possession of the landlord on the expiry of the lease. It was evident that if the hon. Member had been able to get another warehouse ready built, or cheaper premises, he would not have taken a lease of the land on which he had erected the new building. When he took the land he was perfectly aware that at the end of the lease the building would go to the landlord, and he would doubtless know from the calculations he made, that the interest on the money expended and the sinking fund would amount to a sum less than he would have had to pay if he had rented an equally good and convenient warehouse. It was clear that under the circumstances the hon. Gentleman would not only get his £5,000 back, but that he would be paid twice over. He himself objected to the Bill because it would lead to dual ownership. When the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone stated that in his opinion the Irish Land Acts had worked badly, the hon. Member for East Mayo laughed. During the fourteen years he had been in the House there had not been a single session in which hon. Members from Ireland had not attacked the land system. If the Land Acts had been a success hon. Members would have said that nothing further need be done in the matter. What had that legislation done? It had landed this country in an expenditure of £120,000,000. He earnestly hoped the House would not pass this Bill. The hon. Member for North Salford had said he did not see any injustice in the Bill being made retrospective. It seemed to him that the injustice was so manifest that he could not understand how any hon. Member could say so. The Bill said that, after the passing of this Act, if a tenant desired to make improvements in his holding, he should send to his landlord notice in writing, and if the landlord objected the tenant might go to the Court, and if the 419 Court came to the conclusion that the proposed improvements would add to the letting value of the holding the Court might sanction them. That was what was going to happen after the passing of the Act, and both landlord and tenant would be able to protect themselves; but he contended that it was monstrous to make the provisions of the Bill retrospective in this respect. If they were going to introduce this principle into legislation there was no knowing where they would stop. The hon. Member had said that now the Government of the country was in the hands of the people who had nothing, they were going to see that they got something from others who had it. He thought that that was one of the most dangerous prophecies ever made in the House. The right of applying to the Court by the person who wished to make an improvement after the passing of the Act was, of course, a safeguard, but he made no offensive allusion when he said there were provisions in all the Bills they had been discussing during the last three or four weeks which must result in an immense amount of litigation. Who desired that litigation? Who was to prove to the satisfaction of the Court that the proposed improvements would increase the letting value of the property? The landlord would go to a surveyor, who would probably say that the proposed improvement was not an improvement at all. The tenant would go to another surveyor, who would say it was a most excellent improvement. In the end they might not be able to prove that the letting value of the property would be increased. As everyone who had had to do with surveyors when making a valuation knew, one would make a low valuation for the one party and the other would make a high valuation for the other party. The only result of the Bill would be, besides benefiting the lawyers, to feed the desire for spoliation, which he was sorry to say was rife just now in the country. [Ironical MINISTERIAL laughter.] It was all very well for hon. Gentlemen opposite to laugh, but it was perfectly evident that when a man had seized a share of somebody else's property he wanted something more. The only people who would gain under this Bill would be the existing tenants. When they departed and new tenants came in, the latter would have to 420 pay. He insisted that legislation which broke contracts was ruinous to every man. It was ruinous to the man who gained an advantage at the moment, and ruinous to the man who lost by it. It discouraged all enterprise. Did hon. Members opposite think that people who had got anything were going to stand quite idly by and see their property taken from them? He knew, as a matter of fact, that during the past six months-enormous sums of money had been sent abroad for investment. [Ironical cheers-from the LABOUR Party.] Hon. Members below the gangway who cheered did not seem to have grasped the economic truth that the working classes, above all classes in the country, were injured by the investment of money abroad. How were-the working classes to obtain employment if capital were sent out of the country? He would have great pleasure in dividing against the Third Beading of the Bill.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. BRYCE, Aberdeen, S.)
said that they had not added very much in the debate that day to the arguments which had been offered on the Report stage. He noticed that the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London stated that the later clauses of the Bill had not been so fully discussed as they ought to have been, but that was because the debate on the earlier clauses had been so prolonged. The noble Lord the Member for Marylebone had gone into the details of the Bill and criticised them. There was nothing in the Bill as it now stood to warrant the statement that it introduced fixity of tenure and dual ownership into the occupation of houses. The words of the Attorney-General for Ireland, which had been often quoted, referred to a clause that had practically been removed from the Bill. That clause might, as originally drafted, conceivably have been so worded as to tend to the giving of fixity of tenure; but the clause now in the Bill had been so amended that it had no such tendency whatever. He also thought it was ridiculous to say that a Bill passed for Ireland was certain to be extended to England. It was not probable that such a thing would happen unless and until a similar condition of things existed in England as existed in Ireland. The principles of the Irish Land Acts of 1870 and 1881 had not 421 yet been applied to England. He did not quote these Acts as necessarily showing that the case of houses and land was identical. But he did quote them to show that the House of Commons, where a sufficient case was made out, was not going to be frightened out of passing legislation because it was said it would interfere with contracts or prevent contracts being made in the future. The mere fact that a Bill interfered with freedom of contract did not prevent the House of Commons from doing what was right. The arguments used by hon. Gentlemen opposite had been disregarded in many cases, and therefore the House might come to the consideration of the case presented by this Bill with a perfectly free hand. Nothing that Mr. Gladstone did in regard to the disturbance of existing contracts went so far as what was done by the Tory Government in 1887. In fact, Mr. Gladstone refused to do it some years before. It was also said that the Bill would forbid contracting out. But in recent legislation that had been common, and he would cite the Acts in which that had been done, viz., the English Agricultural Holdings Act of 1883, the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1897, the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1870, and a similar Act in 1881. Really, it was impossible at this time of day to allege the prohibition of contracting out as a substantial argument against the provisions of this Bill. The criticism of the Bill had almost entirely turned on two clauses— that which gave compensation for disturbance and that which made compensation for improvements retrospective. The clause relating to compensation for disturbance seemed to have been misunderstood. He was quite sure that many hon. Members could not have appreciated the meaning of the clause, or they would not have used the language they had. It was a clause which was not to change the general relations of landlord and tenant, but to meet exceptional cases, and to restrict the power of the landlord to deal with his property in a vexatious and capricious way-—to prevent him from turning out a tenant in an unreasonable and improper spirit; in other words, to prevent him from doing a thing which no good landlord would do. Moreover, it applied only to business premises. It was very hard that a man who had built up a good 422 will in a business by his energy and skill should be unreasonably turned out of his premises. That had been constantly or often enough done to justify legislative restraint. The case of Lord Clanricarde had been cited as an exceptional case, but it was not an isolated case, and these things happened often enough, as he had said, to make it the duty of the Legislature to apply a proper remedy. The House would note that the landlord was by no means debarred from raising his rent. The compensation for improvements clause had been attacked for its retrospective character, but hon. Members who criticised the retrospective aspect of the clause had failed to notice the safeguard with which it was surrounded. Such compensation was not to be recovered for any improvement except permanent buildings made more than twenty years ago. Then the improvement must be suitable to the building, aud any benefit received by the tenant in respect of it must be deducted. Further, the improvement must be such as not to diminish the letting value of any other property on the same land. Again, in order fully to safeguard the landlord the matter was not to go to an arbitrator, but to a County Court Judge, who knew the condition of those places in Ireland, and who was not likely to exercise any unfair bias between landlord and tenant. Lastly, no compensation was to be paid for any improvement which did not add to the letting value of the property. The landlord was not to be asked to pay for that from which he did not get a benefit. The hon. Member for Dublin had said that that was not clear in the wording of the clause, but if that were so he promised him that it should be made more clear in another place. If the landlord was not to pay for anything except in respect of benefit received whore was the injustice, or where was it contrary to a sense of equity? He submitted that the Bill in its final stage was a moderate and reasonable measure, and injustice and oppression would lie in the denial and not in the application of its principles. He deeply felt that anything which would tend to the improvement of property was greatly needed in Ireland, and the Bill would put the relations between landlord and tenant on a basis of fairness and justice. It was going to another place 423 where measures were sometimes subjected to Rhadamanthine scrutiny, but he hoped the just principles which this House had recognised by large majorities would be considered on their merits. Whether in this session or not, he felt sure that those principles would before long be placed on the Statute-book.
§ SIR E. CARSON (Dublin University)
said he did not think that anyone who had listened to the discussion on this Bill could doubt that it raised questions of first-rate importance. In fact any Bill which enabled people to break contracts into which they had entered, prevented people from freely entering into contracts in future, and set up the new principle of compensation for disturbance was a very serious matter and deserved the careful consideration of the House. He much regretted that in regard to a Bill of such first-rate importance this House by the action of the Government had only been allowed to consider it in detail for some three days, the time which was given to them for the Report stage, with the result that only four clauses had been considered by the House. That seemed to him to be a very serious state of affairs, and if anybody told him that a Bill of this sort could be properly discussed in three days they must be little acquainted with the ordinary methods of discussing a Bill and the ordinary principles governing debate. They had reason to complain of the course taken and of the reasons which had actuated the Government in taking up this private Bill in an autumn session. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that the clauses of the Bill were likely to be subjected in another place to Rhadamanthine scrutiny, and he could not help thinking that it was better to leave the other place alone, to discuss their Bills and transact their business in their own way. The right hon. Gentleman, in making that allusion, to a certain extent gave them an insight as to what had been the policy of His Majesty's Govern- 424 ment in this autumn session in taking up private Bills and asking the House to discuss those which they thought would be subjected to Rhadamanthine scrutiny rather than those which were wanted by the country and which this House would wish to discuss. They were always hearing of the policy of "Filling up the cup," and the Government he suspected by their method of conducting legislation this session were actuated by the desire that the House of Lords, by the spirit in which it dealt with other Bills, should assist them in a controversy upon another measure of a contentious character. He regretted that the Bill had not been made applicable to England. The right hon. Gentleman who at one time seemed to think that the Bill ought to be applied to England now said that there was no reason to expect such an extension because the Land Acts had never been so applied. He thought that some of the followers of the right hon. Gentleman must have been troubling him since he spoke on the Second Reading, because on that occasion he said he hoped to see the principles of the Bill shortly extended to England. He thought that if the principles of the Bill had been going to be applied to England the benches on both sides of the House would have been much more thickly tenanted than they were on the present occasion. He could not help contrasting the action taken by hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite in regard to a very moderate Bill relating to land tenure in England when it was before the House and the anxiety which they now displayed. Now, when they thought that it was only the vile body of Ireland that was to be operated on, and that these principles as regarded the breaking of contracts and compensation for disturbance were only being applied to his fellow-countrymen, it was an extraordinary thing how indifferent the House of Commons was. The night before one could not but feel for the pauperised coal owners who were asked to take precautions against the loss of lives of workers 425 in a most dangerous industry, and he did not think hon. Members should have less regard for their own fellow-subjects in another quarter of the country, where it was not a question of lives at all but of men, very needy men many of them, being mulcted by a Bill of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman said that the situation was different in England. He believed it was, having lived in the two countries and having been both a tenant and a landlord. There was no need, however, to press this legislation for either of the two countries. The right hon. Gentleman had said that because the Acts of 1870 and 1881, which applied this class of legislation to land in Ireland, had been passed, it was necessary to bring forward this measure, but that was no reason for applying the provisions of those Acts to the towns in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman ought first to have shown how the land in Ireland and the town houses in Ireland wore in the same position. He had always thought until he heard the right hon. Gentleman that the reason why the Land Acts were passed was that there was only a limited quantity of land in Ireland, and, agriculture being the staple industry there, there was great land hunger. But was there any hunger in regard to houses? Let any man walk through Dublin or the country towns in Ireland, and see the condition into which sometime prosperous streets had fallen. It was one of the most lamentable things in Ireland to walk through those streets and see the state of dilapidation of the houses and the number of houses to let. So far from there being a demand for houses or anything like house hunger, landlords could not get tenants to occupy their houses, and that made the whole difference in regard to applying the principles of the Land Act to this sort of property in Ireland. His own experience both as tenant and as landlord agreed with that of others, that there was nothing in the condition of house property in Ireland in the least com- 426 parable to that land hunger which formed the justification of the principle of the Land Acts of 1870 and 1881. He was interested in a number of houses through some relatives, and through no fault of his own the management devolved upon him. He could get nothing out of them, and there was no demand made upon him for those houses. On the contrary, he had always been glad enough to let the houses so as only to pay expenses, and he was more than proud to say that he had got rid of his whole interest in the property, which had always been a nuisance to him. As a tenant he paid a considerable fine on the purchase of a lease in one of the squares in Dublin. He spent a considerable amount of money on improving the house, but so far from getting compensation for improvements he could not get anybody to take an assignment of the lease, and he was glad to get the landlord to take it off his hands without any expense to himself. A friend of his the other day was very glad to assign the lease of a house, upon which he had spent a considerable amount of money, to a man and give him £30 a year to take it off his hands. In that state of facts what comparison was there between land and houses? It was ridiculous and silly to apply to houses in Ireland the provisions of the Acts of 1870 and 1881, as the right hon. Gentleman had announced his intention of doing. On the question of urgency the right hon. Gentleman had once more trotted out to the House the case of Lord Clanricarde and Mr. Ward. Lord Clanricarde had been the standing bogey ever since he came into the House, and he had been the sole excuse for half the Land Acts passed. But what was true in regard to this matter, and it showed the futility of trying to pass legislation on an individual instance, was that in Lord Clanricarde's case, if it were inquired into to-morrow by a committee, it would be found that if there was one man who suffered less than others by the land legislation passed by this House, it was this very Lord Clanricarde. He 427 ventured to say that in legislating against Lord Clanricarde, with whose crimes he was not acquainted, the House was making a mistake. He knew that he was a landlord who lived away from Ireland and spent no money there, but had the House injured him by their legislation? He did exactly the same still, and, as he had said, if an account were taken they would find that there was not another man who throughout the whole of the land war had got more out of his property than Lord Clanricarde, but by Parliament's legislating against him ruin had been brought upon men who had lived on their property and had spent money in improving the condition of their tenants. The rents of these men had been cut down out of all proportion to the reduction of Lord Clanricarde's rents, and very few of that nobleman's tenants went into the Land Court at all. Still, there were complaints of the disregard by the noble Lord of his duties and obligations. There could be no greater fallacy than to take the case of one man in order to justify legislation of this kind. The arguments which had been brought forward on the other side had not held water when examined by the light of the real circumstances of the case, and, so far as he knew, no argument had been adduced which showed that this matter was urgent in regard to the necessity of dealing with the tenancy of houses in Ireland. Lit there be no delusion. In passing this Bill they could not stop the progress of the movement and such legislation could not be stopped. The Land Acts of 1870 and 1881 led to subsequent Acts by which they had to buy out the landlords of Ireland. What they did by such legislation as this was to set up a system which in a few sessions more would necessitate their buying out the system now being set up, exactly in the same way 428 as the Irish landlords in consequence of the Acts of 1870 and 1881 had had to be bought out. He had not the least sympathy with landlords who confiscated tenants' improvements, and if this were a Bill which made provision as regarded improvements and did not interfere with existing contracts he would support it; but he objected to the retrospective scope of the Bill, to its principle of compensation for disturbance, which, whatever might be said, would set up dual ownership, and to its interference with free contract. The moment they set up the intervention of the Court between landlord and tenant in dealing with property they set up the provisions enabling one man to deal with another man's property which were embodied in the Act of 1870. He objected to the provision of the Bill which prevented parties entering into any contract in the future. Nothing could be more absurd than to tell the House that with regard to houses easily available all over Ireland parties wore not able to enter into a contract on a fair basis. Let the House consider for a moment how absurd this Bill was without limitations. An insurance company, a bank, or a large commercial undertaking were to be absolately prohibited from going into the large streets of the big cities of Ireland, and entering into a contract such as they would be allowed to enter into in Fleet Street in the City of London. He wished he could believe that the Bill would work in the way that Nationalist Members wished. They thought it would work in such a way that the tenants of the small houses would be in a better position. He, on the contrary, believed they would be in a worse position. The men who owned these houses would be compelled to provide against the obligations that would 429 be put upon them by this Bill either by raising again the rents of the houses or leaving them to fall into decay and disuse. Even if some benefit was to be given to the existing occupiers—a thing which he entirely disbelieved—with such a Bill as this before him, what man in Ireland would be fool enough to invest his savings in building houses in the future? It would be better for him to put his money in other investments in which he would not be hampered and harassed as he would be on each change of tenants, first by a lawsuit and then by having to pay compensation for damage by disturbance He believed that since the Land Acts of 1870 and 1881 every landlord had been anxious to get back as much land as he could into his own hands, because he did not wish to be troubled with the necessary litigation which would arise by reason of there having been set up tribunals to interfere between him and his tenantry in relation to his property. That was a matter they could deal with, because there was at present in Ireland an agitation going on and a Commission sitting to deal with the question of unoccupied land in the possession of landlords. They could take it out of their hands. They could compel them to let it out in farms if the country was prepared to go in for such drastic interference with the rights of property. But while they were able to do so in regard to land, that course would be impossible if the effect of this Bill was to deter the owners of land from spending money in erecting buildings upon land. They could not compel the landlords to spend their money in erecting such buildings. But above all they were conferring upon the Irish people by this Bill—the people of Ireland who could ill afford it— the expense of thousands and thousands of lawsuits in which the cost would be out 430 of all proportion to the compensation re-covered. They had set up a tribunal with valuers, counsel and solicitors and with an appeal to the High Court—all in reference to small claims arising out of the creation of so-called improvements to these houses. They were raising questions of the greatest difficulty and nicety. The Government was passing a Bill for which no reason had been put forward, and which, so far from conferring any benefit on the community of Ireland, would shake the confidence of those who had invested their savings in this class of security, and in the long run the persons who would suffer would be those tenants, who by reason of the Bill would be charged higher rents.
§ THE ATTORNEY - GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. CHERRY,) Liverpool, Exchange
said the right hon. Gentleman began his remarks by referring to the insufficient time which had been allowed for the discussion of the Bill upon the Report stage. He would point out that this Bill was discussed in Grand Committee most fully in all its details, and he believed as large a number took part in those discussions as in the discussions on Report. There was no restriction upon the discussion in Committee. There were powerful arguments used as regarded the right of the landlord, and the whole discussion occupied only four days. A day in Grand Committee consisted of only three or four hours. The Government very naturally thought that when four short days were sufficient for the Committee discussion the Report stage might have been concluded within three long working days On the Report stage the time was not spent as it might have been. Amendments of the most trivial character 431 were moved by Members representing English constituencies not really dealing with the matters that concerned the Bill, but dealing more with English matters, and the discussions in point of time were entirely out of proportion to the importance of the Amendments. The result was that the really important matters in the later clauses could not be discussed in the time left to the House. That was not due to the action of the Government in limiting the discussion to three days, but to the way in which hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, representing the landlords' interest, had used the time at their disposal. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the senior Member for Dublin University had argued that there was a great difference between house property and land in Ireland; that there was a great deal of land hunger and an enormous demand for farms which did not exist in the case of houses; and that therefore there was no case for exceptional regulations as regarded house property.
§ SIR E. CARSON
No; my argument was that if that was so there was no analogy between the cases of town and agricultural holdings as the Chief Secretary had argued.
said he understood the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument to be that, owing to the fact that there was a large number of vacant houses in large towns in Ireland, it was unnecessary and improper that tenants should obtain compensation from landlords.
§ SIR. E. CARSON
said if the right hon. and learned Gentleman had listened to his argument he would have seen that he was answering the argument of the Chief Secretary, who had said that the reason 432 for bringing in this Bill was that the same principle had already been applied to land. He was pointing out that, while as regards land there was no free contract, as regards houses there was free contract.
§ MR. CHERRY
said that if the facts were as the right hon. and learned Gentleman stated, and if there was such a glut of houses and such an absence of tenants, what excuse or justification was there for a landlord turning existing tenants out of their houses? He reminded the House that under the Bill no landlord was compelled to pay one penny of compensation unless he turned his tenant out of a house. It was clear as noon day that if a landlord did not wish to pay compensation, all he had to say to his tenant was, "continue your tenancy and pay me the same rent as you have hitherto paid me." Under such circumstances no landlord was compelled to pay compensation unless for his own purposes he chose to turn the tenant out of his tenancy. If he did so the Bill only compelled him to pay for the increased value he himself obtained at the time he terminated the tenancy. That was a matter of common sense, common justice, and common fair play. So far as regarded the retrospective character of the Bill, he failed to see any difference between the rights of a man for compensation for improvements whether those improvements were made in 1904 or 1907. Surely it would not follow that owing to a particular procedure or a particular Bill a man should be deprived of his remedy for compensation for improvements. The right hon. and learned Gentleman's second objection was to compensation for disturbance. The question of compensation for disturbance did not, and could not come before the Court until the 433 tenancy had been finally determined and there was no longer any question of arranging terms. The Court would have to determine whether the offer made was reasonable or unreasonable, and there was no justification for the assertion that this clause would necessarily involve the fixing of rents. It did nothing of the kind. It applied to the conditions only in the one particular case when the landlord improperly turned his tenant out and so injured his business. As to the objection that the Bill interfered with freedom of contract, he could only say that this was not the first time that the House had interfered with freedom of contract, nor would it be the last. It appeared to him that all the objections made upon this Bill by the other side had been amply, fully, and frequently answered in the Report stage, and he did not think it was necessary for him to say anything more about it.
§ MR. FELL (Great Yarmouth)
said that in the course of his business career he had frequently noticed that in wills and settlements in England lawyers were in the habit of putting in a provision that the funds were not to be invested in mortgages of house property and freeholds in Ireland. As a young man, he wondered why that was so. But after the Acts which had been passed during the last forty years, there could be no wonder that lawyers who settled those drafts should put in such a provision. It was a pity that it should
§ be so, and that it was so he could only imagine was duo to the legislation which had taken place with regard to Ireland-What had taken place in Ireland since the date of the passing of the first Land Act? The population then was 5,400,000. It was now 4,300,000—a reduction of more than 1,000,000, since the first Act giving dual ownership of land and houses was passed. It was now desired to apply the same principle to town property. With reference to these matters, one could only judge of what would happen in the future by that which had happened in the past. The country knew what had happened in regard to land in the past, and therefore they could judge what would happen in the future with regard to these town tenancies. Would anybody in the future lend money on land or house property in Ireland? This Bill had so scared people that they asked themselves was it possible that house property in Ireland could over by any means be improved. It would follow as certain as this Bill was passed that men would not put any more money into house property in Ireland, and in that case the property would go down in value. The effect of creating dual ownership was to depreciate the value of house property in Ireland. Was there anywhere in the world where dual ownership had proved successful?
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: — Ayes, 201; Noes, 28. (Division List No. 455.)437
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Beauchamp, E.||Boland, John|
|Alden, Percy||Beaumont, Hn. W. C. B. (Hexh'm)||Bramsdon, T. A.|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Beck, A. Cecil||Branch, James|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Bell, Richard||Brooke, Stopford|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romf'rd)||Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Billon, Alfred||Bryce, Rt. Hn James (Aberdeen)|
|Barnes, G. N.||Black, Arthur W. (Bedfordshire)||Burke, E. Haviland-|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Henderson, J. M (Aberdeen, W.)||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Henry, Charles S.||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)|
|Byles, William Pollard||Herbert, Colonel Ivor (Mon., S.)||O'Malley, William|
|Cairns, Thomas||Higham, John Sharp||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Hobart Sir Robert||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Hodge, John||Paul, Herbert|
|Causton, Rt. Hn Richard Knight||Hogan, Michael||Philipps, Col. Ivor (S'thampton)|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pollard, Dr.|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Hudson, Walter||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Clarke, C. Geddard||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Raphael, Herbert H.|
|Clough, William||Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)|
|Clynes, J. R.||Jowett, F. W.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Cogan, Denis J.||Joyce, Michael||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Kearley, Hudson E.||Richards, T. F (Wolverh'mpt'n)|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J (S. Pancras, W.)||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Cooper, G. J.||Laidlaw, Robert||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinst'd||Lambert, George||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Corbett, T. L (Down, North)||Lamont, Norman||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Rogers, F. E Newman|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Lewis, John Herbert||Rose, Charles Day|
|Crean, Eugene||Lough, Thomas||Runciman, Walter|
|Crombie, John William||Lundon, W.||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Crooks, William||Lyell, Charles Henry||Seddon, J.|
|Crossley, William J.||Lynch, H. B.||Shaw, Rt. Hn. T. (Hawick, B.)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Mackarness, Frederic C.||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.||Snowden, P.|
|Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||M'Callum, John M.||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Dickinson, W H (St. Pancras, N)||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Steadman, W. C.|
|Dillon, John||M'Killop, W.||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Dolan, Charles Joseph||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Sullivan, Donal|
|Duffy, William J.||Massie, J.||Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury)|
|Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall)||Masterman, C. F. G.||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr)|
|Elibank, Master of||Meagher, Michael||Thorne, William|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Menzies, Walter||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Micklem, Nathaniel||Verney, F. W.|
|Faber, G. H. (Boston)||Molteno, Percy Alport||Vivian, Henry|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Wallace, Robert|
|Fenwick, Charles||Montagu, E. S.||Walters, John Tudor|
|Ferens, T. R.||Mooney, J. J.||Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds, S.)|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Findlay, Alexander||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Watt, H. Anderson|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Murray, James||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Fullerton, Hugh||Myer, Horatio||Whitbread, Howard|
|Gill, A. H.||Napier, T. B.||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Ginnell, L.||Nicholson, Charles N (Doncaster)||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Nolan, Joseph||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Glendinning, R. G.||Norman, Sir Henry||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Whittaker, Sir Thomas Palmer|
|Grant, Corrie||Nuttall, Harry||Wilson, Hn. C. H. W. (Hull, W.)|
|Greenwood, Hamar (York)||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid)||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Gulland, John W.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r.)||O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.|
|Hart-Davies, T.||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)|
|Haworth, Arthur A.||O'Dowd, John|
|Hayden, John Patrick||O'Grady, J.|
|Hazel, Dr. A. E.||O'Hare, Patrick|
|Ashley, W. W.||Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J A. (Worc)||Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.||Hervey, F. W. F (Bury S. Edm'ds)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Dixon, Sir Daniel||Kimber, Sir Henry|
|Cavendish, Rt. Hn. Victor C. W.||Fell, Arthur||Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich)|
|Liddell, Henry||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Lockwood, Rt. Hn. Lt. Col. A. R||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter|
|Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Viscount Valentia and Lord Balcarres.|
|Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Talbot, Rt. Hn J. G. (Oxf'd Univ.)|
|Morpeth, Viscount||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Lanark)|
|Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. Howard|
Question put and agreed to.
§ A verbal Amendment made.
§ Bill passed.