HL Deb 09 June 1845 vol 81 cc211-35
Lord Stanley

My Lords, I now proceed to lay on your Lordships' Table the Bill which, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, it is my duty to bring forward, for the purpose of providing compensation to tenants in Ireland, in certain cases, on being dispossessed of their holdings, for such improvements as they may have made during their tenancy. And, as this Bill is of somewhat an unusual character, I may be excused if, instead of confining myself to merely describing the provisions of the Bill, I preface those provisions by a statement of the motives which have induced the Government to consider it to be their duty to submit this measure to the Legislature. A noble Friend of mine, whom I do not now see in his place, expressed a regret the other night, in which I fully participated, that Ireland has been too often made the battle field of contending political parties. On this occasion, my Lords, I am happy to say there can be no such complaint; and whatever differences of opinion there may be as to the merits of the measure itself, there can be no such differences as regards the objects we have in view; for the agricultural improvement of Ireland, and the raising of the condition of the agricultural population of that country, is an object which I am confident will meet with your Lordships' unanimous concurrence. In the Report of the Commission which was presided over by my noble Friend the noble Earl near me (the Earl of Devon)—a Report which, if it did not contain anything of striking novelty, has at all events the merit of bringing together a large mass of unsuspected testimony from all parts of the country, of analyzing it and bringing it to bear on all the prominent evils of the country, and of pointing out the specific remedy for those evils of which the existence was admitted. In the commencement of that Report I find the following passage:— Whatever difference of opinion may be put forward or entertained upon other points, the testimony given is unfortunately too uniform in representing the unimproved state of extensive districts, the want of employment, and the consequent poverty and hardships under which a large portion of the agricultural population continually labour. The obvious remedy for this state of things is to provide remunerative employment, which may at once increase the productive powers of the country, and improve the condition of the people. Now, my Lords, I apprehend there is no man who knows aught of the state of Ireland who will not concur in this statement of the Report—that between the population and the means of employing that population there is a great and alarming disproportion; and that that disproportion can be met and conquered only by one of two modes—either by reducing the population to the limits of the means of giving employment, or increasing the means of employment so as to make them commensurate with the amount of the population. The first of these modes is that which is advocated by those who are in favour of a large and general measure of emigration, by which the amount of the population may be reduced so as to bring it within the means of employment. And in certain circumstances, and in certain localities, I believe that a well-devised system of emigration, carried on with prudence, with humanity, and with discretion, may have the effect of placing the emigrants, as well as those who remain at home, in a more prosperous situation than under present circumstances they can hope to attain; but I cannot look to any system of emigration as that which should be applied as a general, much less a compulsory measure. There will necessarily be great evils, and great liability to abuse, in any system of emigration. Compulsory clearly it must not be; if there be anything like compulsion in the emigration, it becomes an act of tyranny and oppression; and, under the most favourable circumstances, the warm attachment of the Irish peasant to the locality in which he was born and brought up will always make the best and most carefully conducted system of emigration, a matter of painful sacrifice on the part of the emigrant, involving to a large and painful extent his personal and domestic feelings. But, moreover, you cannot, consistently with the considerations you owe to your Colonial possessions, or to the parties you send out, content yourselves with merely removing a vast mass from this country—a vast mass, be it remembered, of labour, and labour only—or flattering yourselves that by thus removing the superabundant labour from this country to the unoccupied lands of your Colonies, you are doing more than removing from your own eye the misery you do not want to see, to be renewed in the Colony to which you transfer it to an aggravated extent. You cannot send that labour to your Colonies without, at the same time, sending with it capital to employ it; and the expense which would be necessary for that purpose—even if you had the land at your disposal—would be so great to this country, that no Parliament would be found willing to agree to it. The expense you must incur to send out from this country, and maintain even for a year, until the land would afford the necessary occupation and subsistence—the amount of labour which now goes out annually to your Colonies by voluntary and spontaneous emigration, and is absorbed by the legitimate demand for labour, and the employment of capital in those Colonies, would be at least two millions sterling. You must be careful also, in any general system of emigration, who you send out. If you send out only the able-bodied and industrious, you deprive yourselves of the strongest and most valuable part of your own population; and if on the other hand you send out only the infirm and indolent, you send them from misery here, to the absolute certainty of still greater suffering, if not actual starvation. Therefore, while I am ready to admit that emigration may be relied upon to some extent, and though I have had recourse to it myself in some instances, and with the full consent of those who went out, I say, that as the means of proportioning the population of Ireland to its means of giving employment, emigration is not to be thought of for a moment. That being the case, we must look to the means of increasing the amount of the employment so as to make it more equal to the amount of the population. And it is not space that is wanted in Ireland; though undoubtedly the population is superabundant in some districts, I am not prepared to say that the country is overpeopled. There are in Ireland many large tracts of waste land which might be brought into cultivation, and many other large tracts which, though now cultivated, might be made more productive under improved management, and by a further expenditure of capital. Mr. Griffiths, in his able Report upon the State of Ireland, says, there are now no less than 1,300,000 acres of land in Ireland unoccupied, which were capable of being brought into successful cultivation and tillage, and there are also 2,400,000 acres that might be made profitable for pasturage. There is then of lands now entirely waste and unoccupied, not less than 3,700,000 acres, which require only an expenditure of capital to make them productive and remunerative to the landlord. But there is also another remarkable circumstance, which was stated in the Report of the Commission appointed to inquire into the state of the Poor in Ireland in the year 1836, which was this—that the produce per acre of land in Ireland, as compared with the produce of the land in England, scarcely amounts to one-half in value, notwithstanding that there are employed upon it a number of labourers, more than double the number per acre employed upon the land in England. The total number of cultivated acres in England is 34,254,000—the number of cultivated acres in Ireland is 14,603,000—the produce per acre in England was 4l. 7s. 6d.; in Ireland the produce per acre was 2l. 9s. 3d.; and yet there are employed no less than 100,000 more labourers on the cultivation of the 14,000,000 of acres in Ireland, than on the 34,000,000 of acres in England. Therefore, I say that you do not want space to employ the labour upon in Ireland, but what you do want is capital to employ it, and that capital can proceed from one of these sources only—from the State—the landlord—or the occupying tenant. With regard to the first of these sources, I do not mean to undervalue in any way the importance of the improvements which have been effected in Ireland at the expense of the State, or of the great alterations made in the face of that country under the superintendence of my noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Besborough) while he was at the head of the Woods and Forests Department. I do not deny or undervalue the importance of the great alterations effected, and profitably effected, I believe, as regards the interests of the Crown; but certainly as regards the country, by the expenditure of the public money, in bringing into cultivation and productiveness large tracts of waste and previously uncultivated lands. But what I say is, that this is not the legitimate source to which you should have recourse, and to which you should be taught to look on all occasions. You cannot, in the first place, supply it for the purpose of carrying out any general system of improvement; and if you could, it is not the source to which either the landlord or the occupying tenant should be encouraged to look for the improvement of his land. Then the Legislature has given facilities to the landlord, and I rejoice at it, for it is the only way in which it can be done effectually, by removing those legal impediments which stood in his way, to enable him to improve his own property; an interference which all must admit to be a most proper and a most useful one for the Legislature to make, and which has tended much to the improvement of the country. But the most important, because the most effectual, means of improvement must be effected by encouraging the occupying tenant to invest his capital and his labour in the land; and this is an object to which the Legislature has not yet directed its attention, though it is an object well worthy of its most serious consideration—not only because you will thereby engage, in increasing the produce of the soil, a large amount of capital which is now lying dormant and idle, but because, in those improvements, effected by the labour and industry of the occupying tenant, and in which he has been induced also to embark his capital, there is additional security for the permanent settlement of property in Ireland, the maintenance of good order, and the general contentment and happiness of the country. Perhaps your Lordships may say, it is somewhat extraordinary to talk of the capital of the occupying tenant in Ireland. I do not mean to deny that the great bulk of those tenants are men in exceedingly penurious circumstances, having no monied capital; but then there are, nevertheless, some of them who are in possession of sums of money that would surprise many of your Lordships to hear stated, knowing the habits of the occupying tenants of England. Though generally poor, they do contrive to get together among themselves large sums of money; and it is a prominent, though an unhappy feature in the state of that country, that whereas the occupying tenant in England, when about to enter upon a farm, endeavours to prove to the landlord that he has capital wherewith to improve the farm he is about to take, in Ireland no such anxiety exists; but, on the contrary, the incoming tenant there, studiously conceals whatever amount of capital he may have, fancying the knowledge of its being in his possession would lead to increased demands and increased exactions from the landlord. [The Marquess of Westmeath here made a gesture of dissent.] I am happy to see my noble Friend near me shake his head, for I conceive I may infer from that, his experience in this respect is different; but I have known instances where the money in the possession of an offering tenant has been studiously concealed, in order to prevent such demands on the part of the landlord, to prevent such demands on the part of his clergy, and to prevent such demands on the part of other claimants, not so legitimate, perhaps, but equally pertinacious, and whose claims, he knows, will be pushed forward with a pertinacity and an importunity exactly proportionate to the means which it is known he has of satisfying them. Then, my Lords, I say, there is an amount of monied capital amongst the occupying tenants of Ireland; but that capital which they have in superabundance, undoubtedly, and which might be beneficially employed in improving their holdings, is, if not their monied capital, their personal industry, which is now, in a great measure, locked up and lying dormant, and which I now call upon your Lordships to invite the tenantry of Ireland to apply to the cultivation and improvement of the lands upon which they are settled. But this capital can only be called forth into practical activity, by giving to the tenant security that for its expenditure and outlay he shall not be removed from his land whereon he has expended it without fair compensation for the improvements which it has effected. I am quite aware that I may be met with the general objection that to do this by legislation would be an interference with the rights of property, and the relations between landland and tenant in Ireland, which you do not admit in this country; and though I perceive that I am not to expect my noble Friend at the Table (the Marquess of Londonderry) to agree with all I say as to the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland, I speak without reference to the exception, but as regards the general rule, I must say of those relations, that if they were as well understood in Ireland, and their obligations were as strictly enforced there as they are in England—if the relative circumstances of landlord and tenant were the same in Ireland as they are in England, I do not know that I should be disposed even to support any Bill to interfere with those relations; at all events, I freely acknowledge that I should not be found to stand up in support of this Bill which I am now about to introduce. But the circumstances of Ireland and England, in this respect are so different, that I think a sufficient reason for some such interference is proved. In England, though it is certainly true that there are many very large estates, it is also true that there is a large number of only a moderate extent. Property is considerably subdivided throughout the country; the number of freeholds of moderate extent is large, and the number of very large estates is not, comparatively speaking, so great as in Ireland. Then the landlords in England are, for the most part, resident on the property they hold; and though it would be going too far to say, that generally speaking, they are unencumbered, still, as a body, they are not in that state which renders it necessary for them to press harshly and oppressively on their tenants; and, in fact, if they did so, the result would be, that they would have the farms in their own hands, and they would find great difficulty in obtaining tenants at all. Then, again, in England the presence of an intermediate lessee between the landlord and the occupying tenant is the exception and not the rule. Except in some cases of life interest, to which it is not necessary that I should refer further, the landlord is, as a general rule, brought into direct communication with his tenant; and a knowledge of circumstances and a feeling of kindness and consideration on the one side, and perfect confidence on the other, is engendered between landlord and tenant. Then, at the expiration of the lease, in England both parties understand, as a matter of course, that the contract between them is at an end, and both are free to make other arrangements. The landlord is free to change his tenant if he think fit, and to let the farm to some other person who will pay a higher rent for it, or who may be, from other circumstances, a more advantageous tenant; and the tenant, on his part, is free to seek a more eligible farm. Both parties know that a lease is binding only while its term holds; but that from the conditions of which both parties are free when it expires. Then, again in England the farms generally are of some considerable extent—sixty or seventy acres is a small holding for one farmer, and it often happens that the farms extend to many hundreds of acres. Here too, the tenant farmer is a class distinct from the agricultural labourer: for though there are many tenant farmers who cultivate their land with their own hands, yet the class of tenant farmers of England are distinct as a class from agricultural labourers; and, lastly, every tenant farmer, on taking a farm in England, and I believe in Scotland, looks as a matter of course—not founded upon any law certainly, but upon a custom which is rarely departed from—to the landlord to place the farm before he enters upon it in tenantable repair; that is, in regard to the fences, the drains, the dwelling house and buildings, and, in short, in regard to all those things which in England are considered as the necessary accompaniments to a farm. But in Ireland the case in reference to all these various matters is not only dissimilar, but exactly the reverse. There the number of the proprietors of the land is small, and their average holdings is large; the landlords, many of them, are non-resident, and consequently but little acquainted with the occupying tenants; there a large portion of the estates is held by middle-men—though I am happy to say that practice is now to some extent falling into disuse—and they let out the land to the occupying tenants at rack rents. [Loud cries of "Hear, hear!"] I say at rack rents, and I must also add that the holding is at will. If leases are granted in Ireland, it is as the exception, and not as the rule; whereas in England it is the rule, and not the exception; unless, indeed, in some few cases, where the family of the landlord, having been long resident in the district, has, in its successive generations, been brought into connexion with successive generations of tenants, and in those cases both landlord and tenant being perfectly and intimately acquainted, have an implicit reliance upon each other's character and honour; but in Ireland, at all events, as I have said, the lease is the exception, and not the rule; and in Ireland the farms are of the smallest possible dimensions. When I say the farms in Ireland are of the smallest possible dimensions, the fact is so stated in the Report, I think, of the Poor Law Commissioners made in 1843, in which it is stated that out of 1,140,000 tenements rated to the Poor Law in Ireland, 629,000 and upwards, say 630,000, or more than one-half of the whole, are rated below the value of 5l. Here is a strong proof of the smallness of the holdings, though it is true that this statement applies to the towns as well as to the country. But your Lordships will find, on examining the Report, and the evidence on which it is founded, that complaints were made as to the practice of consolidating farms, and of the hardship of the practice which was growing up of throwing several small farms into one large one; and upon the question being asked to what extent the farms were raised by this practice of consolidation, it turned out that these large farms, of which complaint was made, amounted to twenty-five, fifteen, and in some cases, to no more than ten acres. This proved how small was the average amount of the farms in Ireland, when a farm of twenty-five acres was looked upon as a monstrous grievance, and an exorbitant holding of land by one person. Farms of twenty-five and down to ten acres—[a noble Lord here made some observation which was not audible]; well, take them from fifty, if you will, down to twenty statute acres—were looked upon in Ireland as exorbitant holdings; and these were held under middle-men, often tenants at will under a non-resident landlord, and held to an extent not exceeding twenty acres—the universal practice being that all buildings, including even the dwelling - house, all fences and drains, which in England were put in repair by the landlord, were expected to be done by the tenant, and if not they were not done at all. Now imagine the case of any one of your Lordships having an estate of 20,000l. a year divided into twenty acre farms, the owner never visiting the tenants, those tenants holding under an intermediate lease, and, as tenants at will only, paying a rack-rent, and required not only to make good and keep in repair all drains, fences, and outbuildings; but even to build their own dwelling houses! Could that noble Lord be surprised to find that no improvement took place in those farms, and that the dwellings of the tenants were mere hovels? Could he be surprised to find on those farms everything neglected and in ruin; the land unproductive, the cultivation defective, and the estate peopled, instead of by an industrious, thriving, and a peaceful, by an idle, a dissolute, and a disturbed population? And yet this, with some honourable exceptions, is not a highly-coloured or exaggerated picture of the position of a large portion of the tenantry of Ireland. Then is not this a state of things in which it is for the interest even of the landlord himself that we should apply the same rule in Ireland as exists in England, and that we should interfere to give to the tenant some security and encouragement, that if be chose to spend his capital and labour in improvements that will increase the value of the property, he should not be turned out of his wretched holding without compensation for his outlay, whether of money or of labour? Look at the consequence of the absence of some such interference on the part of the Legislature. What is the practical result, and what is the nature of the imperfect and most, objectionable remedy which has been applied to meet this intolerable evil? It is that which is referred to by the Commissioners in their Report, and prevails in the north of Ireland, and under which more security existed and more improvement had taken place than in any other part of the country, and which is known by the name of the 'tenant-right'—that was, the purchasing by the incoming tenant of the good will of the former, who is about to give up his farm, though he holds it only as tenant at will. Under that right, the outgoing tenant sells to the incoming tenant the right to occupy that which he holds only as tenant at will; and what is the result? The tenant, while in the occupation of the farm, has sunk a sum of money which is lost to him, principal and interest; if he goes out without transferring his right to another tenant, then the amount paid for this 'tenant right' is not measured by the extent of the improvements the outgoing tenant has made in the farm, but by what he can obtain by the competition of several needy tenants paid down to him on his quitting. This must necessarily neutralize all the advantages which would otherwise arise from a landlord letting his land at moderate rents; and there would be but little use in doing so, if the result is to be that the tenant who goes out is to sell his interest to the tenant who comes in; and instead of the latter paying to the landlord a rent proportionate to the improvements made in the property, he is to pay a large consideration to his predecessor in the shape of a fine, which necessarily leaves him a poor man, and incapable of stocking his farm properly, and of making further improvements. [A Noble Lord: The right is exercised subject to the will of the landlord.] My noble Friend says this right is subject to the will of the landlord. It is true that the landlord has in some cases exercised a right as to the amount to be paid as the 'tenant right,' and of saying who shall be the tenant to come in; but that I believe is the exception, and not the rule. On the contrary, the general practice is as I have stated it; and the result is, that the tenant, at that moment when he wants all his money to stock his farm, is compelled to make himself a poor man, and perhaps an indebted man, by being compelled to pay, on taking possession, a premium varying from ten to fifteen years' purchase, and often more, for the right to occupy the land. This, my Lords, is the principle of the 'tenant right;' the remedy which has been applied in the north of Ireland to the gross injustice of the tenant having no compensation, and which has given to a certain extent a sense of security to the tenant, and has led to considerable improvement, but a remedy which, both in principle and detail, is only one degree less gross and unjust than the principle it is intended to supersede. But what is the case in the south of Ireland? There the tenant holds by a more dangerous tenure; not by the character of his tenancy on the payment of rent, but by the security he derives from the fears of his landlord. [Loud cries of "Hear, hear!"] I say, throughout the south of Ireland, if a tenant continues to pay his rent, however ill he may farm the land, and however little hold he may have by law upon the land, the bulk of landlords dare not, and therefore do not, attempt to remove even the most disorderly, idle, and objectionable tenant, though, for the purpose of substituting the most industrious man, a man possessing capital, and willing to expend it in improving the estate: therefore, the 'tenant right' in the north, and the general feeling of sympathy of the mass of the people for the ejected tenant and the intimidation that prevails in the south, are the only substitutes for what I now recommend; namely, a legal security to the outgoing tenant, that, under certain circumstances, he shall be entitled to compensation for the effects of his own industry, and the expenditure of his capital in improving the value of land, if he should be ejected before he has had time to reap their fruits. I have no doubt I shall, by this proposition, disappoint those who think the Legislature should interfere to annihilate the rights of the landlord, and secure the tenants, under all circumstances, in their farms. I know I shall disappoint them; for, my Lords, I consider that nothing could be more ridiculous, more suicidal, and I might almost say criminal, on the part of any Government, than to propose such a measure. I do not propose to interfere in any way by this measure with the discretion of landlords to grant leases to their tenants or not, or to interfere in any way as to the amount of rent which it shall be legal to exact from the tenant; but what I propose is to give to the tenant security that if he does improve, by the expenditure of his industry or capital, the feesimple of the land, he shall not afterwards be turned out penniless and without compensation. Now, my Lords, in speaking of compensation for improvements, and in placing this Bill upon your Lordships' Table, you will permit me to explain the terms that I use, and the persons to whom I apply them. In speaking of tenants, I speak of occupying tenants, whether they are tenants with leases or tenants without leases, or whether their occupations be for a short or along period. I included amongst tenants all those occupying land and paying rent. I except one class of tenants, those persons who take land for the special purpose of cropping; in fact, those who are conacre tenants, and whose occupation cannot tend to the improvement of the land, and who merely take it for a temporary purpose; I do not mean to include those under the term 'tenants.' With regard to landlords, I mean by that, persons who hold land immediately above occupying tenants, who receive the rents from the tenants, and who are possessed of the powers of eviction, whether those powers were to be applied to tenants at will, or to those who have a more continuous occupation. Now, my Lords, Her Majesty's Government propose to limit the compensation to be secured by this Bill to three principles and to three objects. The first object is building, the next is draining, and the third is peculiar to this case—that is, it is peculiar to Ireland—namely, fencing; and I mean by that, my Lords, not the making of fences, but destroying fences. The principle of compensation for building I propose to take in this manner; and I am now going, in a few words, to tell you of the new machinery by which I propose to carry it out. I propose that the amount of the outlay shall be taken as the basis of compensation, and that that compensation shall be diminished one-thirtieth every year during the continuance of the occupancy by the tenant, so that the longer he continues the tenancy, short of thirty years, the smaller shall be the compensation he shall be entitled to receive on quitting, and at the end of thirty years he shall have lost all claim to compensation—that the longer the tenant has had the advantage of his industrial occupation, a proportional share of his claim for remuneration should be diminished. The same principle is to be applied to draining; and, when I speak of draining, I mean deep thorough draining, not less than thirty inches deep, and conducted upon proper principles. For such draining, I propose to allow to the tenant, for his outlay on draining, compensation, subject to be reduced one-fourteenth every year, instead of one-thirtieth, as in the case of building; so that at the end of fourteen years the tenant will be expected to have received the full advantage from draining, and will have lost all claim to compensation, having continued for that period, reckoning from the date of the outlay, in occupation of the farm. And now I take the liberty of calling your Lordships' attention to the third case—that is, of levelling fences. Those of your Lordships who have seen many parts of Ireland, must be aware of the nature of the fences that I speak of. Those who have not, will, I expect, be not a little surprised to hear a description of them. The fences in Ireland consist of what is there called a ditch—which does not mean what we call in England a ditch, but what is here called a bank, and is, in fact, a bank with a ditch on each side; and these banks are sometimes so wide at the top that a car could run along them, and they are composed generally of loose crumbling earth. The average width of them, in a great many parts of Ireland, is not less than eleven feet, so that 400 yards of such a bank gives a surface equal to a statute acre of land. These fences are used in the nature of enclosures or boundaries to fields varying in the extent of three, two, and even one acre. These not only occupy a great space of land uselessly, but they are not useful to the purpose for which they are intended to be applied. I will be bound to say that that no one ever saw those fences run in parallel lines to each other; I never saw one of them go in a straight line; I have seen them running zigzag, and in all directions, but I never yet saw one of them going in a straight line; and, to conclude with describing the merits of these fences, there is not one of them that is a fence against any Irish animal in the world—there is not an Irish horse, cow, sheep, pig, much less a goat, that cannot find some one place in these crumbling banks through which it cannot make its way; so that for the purpose for which they are raised they are absolutely useless. Being, then, of this description—unsightly in appearance—being injurious to cultivation, it is very desirable to induce the agricultural population of Ireland to do away with these fences. If you look to the proportion of land occupied by those fences, you will find that on their destruction—that on levelling them you will add a large portion to the acreable amount of the farm. I know that in England the removal of fences has been calculated to add 7 or 8 per cent. to the farms. The destruction of fences in Ireland would add 14, 15, and I might even say 20 per cent. to the extent of the farms. Recollect, too, that what is removed from these fences would form the best top dressing of the land, and that for their destruction no outlay of capital is required, nor any skill; all that would be necessary would be the superfluous labour of the tenant and his sons. During five months in the year they could not more usefully employ their labour than in the destruction of these fences. The principle on which we propose to give remuneration to the tenant who destroys these unsightly obstacles in the way of agricultural improvement, is to take the average acreable rent of the farm, and having its acreable measurement, and the acreable area added to the farm, we then propose to grant to the tenant compensation at twenty years' purchase—calculating he has so added to the value of the farm — deducting one-twentieth part of that compensation for every year the tenant continues in possession; that is, supposing the tenant pays 100l a year, and that he adds ten acres to the land at 1l. an acre you give him compensation to the amount of 100l, deducting 5l. for every year the tenant stays after the removal; so that it is calculated that at the end of the twenty years, having the enjoyment of the farm, with its increased extent, at the same rent for which it was originally taken, will be a remuneration for his labour; and if he continue to occupy after that period his claim to remuneration will have expired. These, then, my Lords, are the three subjects in which we propose to allow the claim of compensation for improvements on the part of the occupying tenants in Ireland; they are building, draining, and fencing. Now, with respect to these claims, it is certainly necessary that we should provide restrictions, so as to ascertain that the improvemements are really improvements, and of value to the owner of the estate in feesimple, and that there be not imposed an exorbitant burden upon the proprietors, when the tenant leaves before he has exhausted the period of his claim to compensation. We propose to limit the amount of compensation to be given, that it be 3l. an acre for improvements in buildings, 1l. for repairing fences, and 3l. for draining; but we propose that in no case shall the aggregate exceed 5l. an acre, supposing the three improvements be executed; and having so limited it, and the tenant remaining on the farm, during the whole period for which compensation was allowed, no incumbrance will then be thrown upon the land, and no debt incurred. It is only in the case where the tenant is ejected by his landlord that we propose to give compensation. If the termination of the lease should arrive before the period at which the claims to compensation is extinguished, and the landlord offers the farm to the tenant at the same rent, and to continue to the expiration of the period, from year to year, or at will, in no such case shall the landlord have to make compensation. We propose to the landlord the option either that he shall continue the tenant for the full time of the term, which is considered an adequate compensation for the improvements, or pay him such a proportion as he is entitled to from the time he has remained on the farm after the outlay. It is altogether necessary, however, that these improvements be substantial improvements. And now I have to propose to your Lordships the machinery by which there may be provided an unexpensive remedy to landlord and tenant, in all cases between landlords and tenants. I believe that the Act, relating to this subject in England, called Pusey's Act, containing provisions to enable landlords to charge their estates in certain cases with the outlay for the improvements effected upon them, has been found, from its legal forms being so tedious and expensive, to neutralize what were the intentions of the Legislature in passing it. I have seen propositions in Ireland made, for effecting the object of arbitrating between landlords and tenants in respect of improvements. One proposal has been that the Assistant Barristers' Courts should be the place of reference; but, my Lords, whether with a jury, or without a jury, I think them equally objectionable, and certainly expensive. No reference could be made to them, except at the time the Assistant Barrister was sitting; and the places to which his jurisdiction might be required might be at a distance from the place where the improvements were to be made; no opportunity would be thus afforded of seeing the improvements that were required, or that had been made. The case would then have to be argued before the Assistant Barrister; it would depend upon the production of witnesses, who might have to be brought a considerable distance, and an unwilling landlord would thus be afforded the opportunity of defeating the objects of this measure. If you apply to arbitrators, or to the judgment of a jury, I confess I should look with suspicion upon a verdict given in any matter between landlord and tenant in Ireland. If the jury were taken from the neighbourhood of the landlord, they might feel with him; or if they were taken from an inferior class, you might find their sympathies with the tenant. The only means, then, that we have been able to devise, and it is one — which, though one of my noble and learned Friends who has just left the House (Lord Brougham) at first proposed the Assistant Barrister, he was at last satisfied was the least expensive mode—the means that we have devised is this—to establish in Ireland an office and officer, with the title of "Commissioner of Improvements." The amount of duties with which that officer will be charged will depend upon your Lordships' sanction to our proposition. We propose to remunerate this officer by a salary, and to establish his office in Dublin. We propose also, according to a plan which is familiar to many noble Lords connected with Ireland, that this Commissioner shall be empowered to appoint from time to time Assistant Commissioners, who shall be previously qualified, as it was done in the case of county surveyors, and to whom, having proved their qualifications for the duties required from them, certificates shall be given. We propose that members of an unpaid Board sitting in Dublin, shall grant certificates of qualification to persons desirous of acting as Assistant Commissioners under the Bill, and that those persons shall be paid a certain remuneration from time to time, as their services shall be required from the Treasury; but we do not propose that they shall be salaried officers. Supposing, then, that a tenant desires to improve the land, he will have to write up to the Commissioners of Improvements. Upon receiving that application, the Commissioner will have to examine a register to be kept in his office of all improvements on the estates, and all the charges affecting that estate, for the purpose of seeing whether the maximum of outlay has been reached, or whether the improvements should be then carried on or postponed. Supposing the result of the search to be favourable vourable to the tenant's application, the Commissioner will send him back three copies of his proposal in a proper form, with instructions as to the proper manner of filling them up. One of these copies will be retained by the tenant, and the other two returned to the Commissioner; and it will be the duty of the Commissioner to serve one of these copies on the landlord or his agent. A provision will be made for enforcing due notice being given by each landlord on his superior landlord, so that no one connected with the proprietorship shall be left in ignorance of what is going on. In three weeks, if the landlord dissents, or is not satisfied with the proposal, he may call for a preliminary inquiry to be conducted on the spot. In order to conduct this inquiry, one of the Assistant Commissioners will be desired to go down, and on the spot, and in the presence of the landlord and tenant, examine into the contemplated improvement. The Assistant Commissioner will then have to report to the Commissioner at Dublin, upon the proposed outlay, and all attending circumstances, and to give his decided opinion whether the proposed improvements were judicious and proper, and calculated to add to the ultimate letting value of the farm.

In answer to a noble Lord,

Lord Stanley

said, there was no intention that any party be compelled to go to Dublin for any purpose whatever connected with this Bill. The tenant writes to the Commissioner at Dublin, the Commissioner to the landlord. The Commissioner is to receive from the tenant two copies, and one of these copies is to be sent to the landlord or his agent for his information. If the report of the Assistant Commissioner be adverse to the improvements proposed by the tenant, he will be informed that if he proceed with them it must be at his own risk, and that they will give him no claim for compensation on the land. Supposing, then, that the tenant be not evicted before the term for his compensation has run, no further step is necessary. The landlord and his agent are to be authorized to go upon the land and inspect the works carried on, and to remonstrate if they be not efficiently and fully carried out. If the tenant be evicted before the compensation has been destroyed, then we propose that the Assistant Commissioner shall come on the spot and examine the state of buildings and the improvements, and being furnished by the Commissioners at Dublin with the date when the improvements were undertaken, he shall certify whether any deduction is to be made on account of the imperfection of the works, or their being badly conducted, whether as to building, draining, or fencing; and the Commissioner having made the Report, then the tenant shall receive compensation corresponding with the terms of years unexpired at which it has been calculated. Now, my Lords, perhaps it may be said that this will bear hard upon the landlord's property who has a number of small tenants—that it will bear particularly hard upon the tenant for life—upon him who has not the estate in feesimple — that he may be called upon to pay a sum that he may not have at command. We propose to meet this difficulty by a plan which is familiar to most of your Lordships, derived from a measure passed some time ago. We propose then to enable the landlord who is tenant for life to charge the estate with the sum that he is called upon to pay; but that power shall be subject to the same condition that the tenant's claim to compensation is limited, namely, that it shall be forfeited by instalments of twenty years, that is, if he continue to enjoy the improvement of the property, and the improved rents for twenty years, then the charge shall then expire; and if not, that the estate shall be charged with the proportion for the number of years unexpired. I think, my Lords, I have now stated the Bill to you in detail, at much greater length than I desired, a much longer time than I wished; but I was anxious to put your Lordships in possession of the object of the Government, and the main principles of the future Bill, in order that I might enable your Lordships to form something like a candid and deliberate judgment respecting it. On the present occasion I am only laying this Bill upon your Lordships' Table; but I thought it of so much importance that it was necessary for me to detain you some time in explanation of its details. It is a measure I feel of so much importance, the subject on which it deals is so interwoven with the peace and welfare of Ireland, that I did not think it ought to be laid before you without such a statement as would give you a full knowledge of the motives and principles of Her Majesty's Government, and the general nature of the scheme that they have prepared. It is for you, my Lords, to judge whether we have properly discharged the duties entrusted to us, and whether the provisions of the Bill will effect the objects we have had in view; whether we have steered a middle course, not invading the rights of property, and yet assuring the due remuneration of capital rights, which no one more than myself should deprecate an interference with. I commit, then, the Bill to your Lordships' judgment, with the anxious hope that in practice it may lead to the improvement and prosperity of Ireland.

The Marquess of Clanricarde

remarked that the subject was so full of details, indeed so much in detail that the very depth of the drains was fixed by it, that it was impossible then to discuss it at all in a satisfactory manner. He was, he must say, very glad that the Government had brought forward this subject: because for many years the landlords of Ireland had been subjected to great and unmerited attacks with respect to the management of their property. As to compensation to tenants and ejectment of tenantry, they were always told that they left improvements on the land; but nothing more was stated than that, and nothing was told of the real facts of each case. He did not think that the Bill of the noble Lord would lessen the difficulties of the case. As he understood the Bill, it would relieve the landlords from all the troubles of agency, and everything was to be done between the tenants and the Commissioner. They were to settle everything that was to be done with the farm. He observed that his noble Friend had evaded saying what, in case a tenant was ejected for non-payment of rent, was to be the claim for compensation. He must remark that he never heard of a tenant being ejected without his owing large arrears of rent. He had also to observe, as to leases, that if they inquired as to the estates in England and Scotland, they would find that tenants in both countries the longest time on farms were those who had not leases. He also observed, that in one part of Ireland he knew the practice prevailed, that of 'tenant right,' the same as in Ulster, and that the incoming tenant often paid a high price to the outgoing tenant for occupying the land. He was greatly afraid that the Bill would do very little towards relieving the poor of Ireland.

The Earl of Wicklow

was sorry that discussion had taken place at this stage of the Bill. He was bound to state that the impression produced upon his mind by the principles of the Bill, as stated by his noble Friend, was, that it was founded on justice, equity, and good sense. He must own, from all he had heard on this subject, he expected that it would have been a Bill more objectionable in principle than it proved to be. He saw, however, that there would be great difficulty in the details being carried into execution. He was glad that the limitation for claims was confined to three heads. He could not but say, that in all his experience of Ireland, he had never seen that description of fences which his noble Friend had so graphically described.

In answer to a question from the Marquess of Clanricarde,

Lord Stanley

said, that it was not proposed that there should be any appeal from the decision of the Commissioner. It had been suggested, indeed, that an appeal should lie to the Court of Exchequer; but it was thought much better, in order to remove objection on the score of expense, to be content with the decision of a person who would be, at all events, impartial.

The Earl of Rosse

said, there could be no dispute that the measure just explained by the noble Lord contained a very strong principle, and a principle which could not fail to be in a certain degree objectionable. The question whether or not it would be useful must depend very much on the causes which had produced the state of things which they were now asked to remedy. The inquiries conducted by the noble Lord (the Earl of Devon) were of very great value, and calculated to throw very great light on the state of Ireland. The Commission stated that the miserable destitution, and the evils generally of Ireland, had arisen from a variety of causes. He believed that there was one cause which was infinitely more powerful than those which they had assigned—namely, that for the last fifty years the rights of property could not be exerted in that way which was essential to the prosperity and well being of the country. The measure contained, he repeated, a very objectionable principle; but, at the same time, he thought there might be cases in which it would be necessary to assert that principle.

The Earl of Devon

would not have deemed it necessary, in that stage of the measure, to have made any observations, had it not been for the nature of some of the objections made to it, together with some of the observations which had fallen from the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde); which objections and observations seemed to render it necessary that he should say a few words. In the first place, it was a great mistake to imagine that his noble Friend, or that Her Majesty's Government, were putting this measure forward as a panacea which was to cure all the evils in the social condition of Ireland which had been brought to light by the inquiry which had recently taken place. He understood the Government to propound this measure as a measure applying only to one particular class of the evils and difficulties which existed in Ireland, which was the case of the great variety of small holdings on which the tenant was able and willing to employ that which was his only capital in many instances—namely, the labour of himself and of his sons—but on which tenants were now restrained from employing that capital, from the apprehensions which prevailed that they might be turned out from their holdings without compensation. If they wished to ascertain whether this was a real and substantial evil, pressing upon the holders of small holdings, instead of an imaginary one, he would simply refer their Lordships to the Blue Book which had been published in connexion with this subject. Their Lordships would there find distinct evidence, that in almost every part of Ireland—indeed, in every part—the difficulty he mentioned arose: there were persons who were quite competent in every way to effect the desired improvements upon their farms, who were withheld from so doing because this apprehension prevailed. During the progress of the inquiry made by the Commissioner, this question was frequently put to witnesses from different districts of the country: "Are you aware that in many instances persons have been turned out from their holdings, after improvements, and without compensation?" The answer generally was, in purport, if not in words—"I cannot say; but if one is turned out the feeling of apprehension is so strong in the minds of others, that the whole population in the immediate vicinity is restrained from exerting themselves at all." That was, no doubt, a true picture of many parts of Ireland. He had, therefore, only to beseech their Lordships, when the Bill was printed, and when they had the opportunity of looking carefully into it, to consider that the Government were not now proposing to them a measure calculated to produce a state of things in every respect as favourable as their Lordships might think might be produced; but a measure, the object of which was, to apply a practical remedy to a great practical evil. Noble Lords were apt to refer to the situation of the estates with which they themselves were connected. His noble Friends knew perfectly well that no one suspected them of a disposition to turn out a tenant who had expended his labour and capital in improvements. [Lord Hawarden: Without compensation.] They would not do so without compensation: but some noble Lords did not seem to know that in many parts of Ireland there existed many instances in which this had been the case, in which tenants had been so evicted without receiving compensation; the want of improvement arose from many causes. In many places, supposing an estate to be subdivided and held by tenants, not merely tenants under middle-men, but holding originally of the landlord himself; this system of eviction frequently obtained, not always from the fault of the landlord, but in most cases from the position in which the landlord was placed. Landlords possessing large estates, held in farms of ten, or fifteen, or even eight or nine acres, could not, whatever might be their kindly disposition towards their tenants, be expected, without submitting to enormous sacrifices, to place these persons in tolerably decent houses, or to furnish them with what was a great desideratum in Irish farming, good and serviceable cattle sheds, or to incur the expense of draining the land. Most of all these might, however, be effected without much outlay of money. They could be effected by the tenants themselves. It was a matter of the greatest importance to induce tenants thus to employ their labour, not only to increase their own personal comforts, but also to lay a solid foundation for securing that good order and tranquillity which were so much endangered by the miserable condition in which the tenants in many places were now left. The present question had in effect been more than once submitted to the Legislature; and something of the kind of measure now proposed was thought to be necessary by statesmen of various political opinions and of various views with respect to Ireland. The Bill did not interfere to prevent the landlords themselves effecting any arrangements with their tenants with regard to improvements, which might be agreed upon between them. But there was a class of cases in which the landlords either would not or could not enter into arrangements which were necessary for the benefit of the tenant; and in these cases it afforded the power of securing' the tenant's interest. And as it was important for the peace and tranquillity of the country that the condition of the people should be raised, and that the productive power of the soil should be increased, it was to cases of this sort, and of this sort alone, that the Bill now introduced was intended to apply. He hoped that in considering it further noble Lords would not dwell solely upon the objectionable, or what might appear to them to be the objectionable parts of the Bill. Let them rather consider what were the real and admitted evils for which it was designed as an antidote; and before they condemned this, let them assure themselves whether any less objectionable mode could be devised for successfully counteracting them. It was a Bill clear in its principle, and simple and easy in its application; nor was he ashamed to confess that he rejoiced in it as a measure for the benefit of the tenant, who, in numberless instances, was to be found in the most miserable state, and requiring assistance and relief. He would think the task of applying the relief required but very imperfectly performed, if there were not other measures yet to come, which would speedily be submitted to Parliament.

Lord Portman

wished to express his unqualified and sincere disappointment at the measure of the Government; a measure which, as he contemplated, would by landlords generally, be received with great fear; because he saw in its details a great quantity of matter which he was quite sure it would be dangerous for the landlords to admit. It involved, indeed, a series of difficulties very different from any that could arise in England, where the task of ascertaining and securing the right of the tenant was far easier; for certainly the cases of property being held by generations of tenants off generations of landlords, differed entirely from the description of property with which his noble Friend now proposed to deal. He was disappointed that his noble Friend should have introduced a Bill containing what he considered such objectionable provisions; because he had thought that his noble Friend, when he entered the House, would have been his best ally in assisting him to carry the measure which he contemplated, for giving compensation to tenants in England—a measure which he hoped in the course of a few days to be able to lay before their Lordships. Now, his noble Friend threw him completely over by attempting to show, as he had done that night, that it was, for many reasons, impossible to extend such a Bill to England. He earnestly hoped the Government would give to England no such measure as they now proposed for Ireland. In reference to England he might here say, in passing, that there was no such security to tenants as his noble Friend supposed there was, from the difficulty of finding a successor to a tenant evicted. He was satisfied that the only mode of properly dealing with the question of compensation in England, was by laying down a well-established and well-regulated 'tenant right;' and he would think it his duty to lay upon their Lordships' Table, in a few days, a Bill for the purpose of defining, as far as they could do, the tenant's right, and to give the landlord his remedy—the landlord and tenant both having the same remedy—namely, the power to go before arbitrators, instead of having to incur the expense and delay of going to courts of law. He objected to the system of paying the Commissioners by fees.

Lord Stanley

The Commissioner in Dublin is to be paid by salary—the Assistant Commissioners to be paid out of the Treasury, according to the time during which they are employed.

Lord Portman

would, in a few days, trespass upon their Lordships' attention, by bringing forward a very different measure for England. He thought that he should vote in opposition to the Bill, with those Irish landlords who appeared, on first blush, to be opposed to it.

The Marquess of Westmeath

thought that the case as regarded the landlord and tenant question in Ireland, would be found to be very different in Ireland from what it appeared on the face of the Report of the Commissioners, when a balance was struck between the real facts and the exaggerated evidence given before the Commissioners. It was the interest of landlords to give leases, because in that case they had a direct and immediate remedy against tenants by ejectment; whereas, in the case of tenants at will, they were usually subjected to fifteen months loss of rent. Debate on the Bill in its present stage might be rather premature; but he had thought it his duty to state generally what he knew to be the case.

Bill read 1a.