The Marquess of Londonderry
If the landlords had the same discretionary power as they enjoyed at present, he should not object to this Bill. But if a Commissioner in Dublin had the power of dictating what arrangements should take place, he should consider it a most prejudicial measure. This Bill had grown out of a Report which contained a mass of valuable information; but this Bill did not certainly confirm the principle laid down by the Commissioners, that the rights of property should be respected. He understood a measure of this description was first suggested by a 1117 Member of the other House, a man of talent certainly, but one whose political opinions had undergone a variety of changes; for he was at first a supporter of the disturber-general of Ireland, and then a Federalist. He understood, however, that this gentleman was always a supporter of fixity of tenure; and, therefore, he concluded that he was in a great measure the author of this Bill. He much regretted the rapidity with which the Commissioners had been compelled to carry on their inquiries. He admitted that the noble Earl at the head of the Commission was a man of great talent; but when he understood that these Commissioners did not approve of the machinery of this Bill, then, as an Irishman, acquainted with the country, he claimed a right to be heard as to its provisions. It was no party question; it was a question concerning the welfare of the whole country. The Bill was introduced, he admitted, with the view of serving the agricultural interest in Ireland. But it should always be borne in mind, in legislating for Ireland, that a measure which was applicable to one part of the country was inapplicable to another. He not only opposed this Bill as not requisite in his part of the country, but he had the signatures of thirty-six Peers backing that opinion. Could he give their names, he was satisfied the noble Lord would not press the Bill in the face of such a remonstrance. It was true the Bill was introduced in a very eloquent speech; but that speech failed in carrying conviction to his mind that the machinery of this Bill was called for. There was one most extraordinary clause in the Bill, which not only gave the Commissioner the power of deciding differences between landlord and tenant, but enabled him to impose a fine of 20l. That was putting the landlord under the control of this junto. The landlord would thus be exposed to a vexatious surveillance, and the tenant, though expecting some relief from this measure, would only be seduced by it into the expenses of litigation. It might be said, "This law does not apply to your estate, for tenant-right prevails there." But he might say to his tenants, "If you choose to take advantage of this enactment, you must give up that tenant-right under which you have been contented and happy." The tenant-right was interpreted in this way, that when the tenant and his descendant conduct themselves properly and 1118 pay their rents, they shall never be disturbed. This produces a confidence which stimulates industry, and the farm became the bank where the tenant invested all his savings. The sale of the interest of the tenant on the farm was a guarantee that the fruits of his labour should never be taken away from himself or his family. If their Lordships consulted the blue books on this Table, they would see what extraordinary improvements were effected on those estates where the tenant-right existed. It was a mistake to suppose that compensation was what was required. What the tenants wanted was security for their tenure. But, then, a mistaken notion had got abroad as to that security. Tenant-right and fixity of tenure were very different things. The latter system established in favour of the tenant a proprietary right, and was a violation of the principle of ownership of land. Fixity of tenure, in short, was a system as mischievous, as tenant-right—properly understood and under proper limitations, it would be beneficial. At present, however, the spirit of improvement was so active in Ireland, that he thought things would go better if left to themselves, than were they to attempt to force measures like the present, in opposition to the decided feeling of everybody connected with Ireland. He believed that the Bill was disapproved of by all the noble Lords connected with Ireland, who had expressed an opinion on the subject; it was disapproved of by an individual in another place who was supposed to represent the feeling of a majority of the Roman Catholics of Ireland; it was disapproved of by Mr. Sharman Crawford, who formerly submitted a measure on this subject to the other House of Parliament; and yet the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) persisted in pressing it, and had expressed his anxiety that it might pass a second reading that night. He must say that he regarded the principle of this Bill as obnoxious in the highest degree; and he thought their Lordships ought, if possible, to stop it in limine. He held in his hand a protest or remonstrance against the Bill signed by thirty-six Peers, having property in Ireland; a document which, as it embodied the feelings of so important a body, he would read to the House. It stated that—We the undersigned Peers, connected by property with Ireland, having given our best consideration to the Tenant Compensation 1119 Bill now introduced into Parliament, whilst we admit to the fullest extent the principle that the tenant is justly entitled to receive from his landlord compensation for all capital expended in bonâ fide improvement made in accordance with the consent of his landlord, are of opinion that the tendency of this measure is so destructive to the rights of property, and likely to be so injurious in its operation, should it be found practicable, that we hope Her Majesty's Government will not persevere in it.This was the opinion of thirty-six Peers, Members of their Lordships' House. As for himself he would only add, that he would never consent to allow any appeal by tenants from their landlords to a Commissioner sitting in Dublin.
§ The Earl of Gosford
recommended the Government to withdraw the present Bill, and to introduce a new Bill without the clauses objected to in the present one.
said, that he was content that the Bill should have the fullest consideration in the Select Committee, both as to its principle and details. Before that tribunal both could be fully discussed and canvassed; but he was not prepared to say—he was not so satisfied of the justice of the objections urged against the measure, as to be prepared to say—that he was ready to withdraw it. On the contrary, he was prepared to defend the Bill as it stood, and it would be with the greatest reluctance that he would see their Lordships reject the second reading of a measure going upon the principle of securing compensation to tenants for improvements, by which they added to the value of their Lordships' property. He had hoped, after what had fallen from his noble Friend, that any lengthened discussion might, for the present, be avoided. The question was before their Lordships, and if there were a general understanding, founded on the statement which had been made, and the Bill were allowed to go to the Committee without further discussion, they would be more able to consider the matter after the Select Committee had examined it, and made such alterations as they might think expedient before it was submitted to the final decision of the House.
The Earl of Wicklow
said, that notwithstanding thirty-five or thirty-six noble Lords had signed a declaration condemnatory of the Bill, he must declare his conviction that the principle which it contained was a good and sound one, and 1120 thar principle mainly consisted in making compensation for improvement compulsory. What was the origin of the Commission of his noble Friend (the Earl of Devon)? A Bill similar in principle to the present had been introduced into the other House by Mr. Sharman Crawford. It was withdrawn on the assurance that a Commission would be issued to inquire into the subject. That Commission was appointed, therefore, for the express purpose of investigating the matter, with a view to the adoption of the principle contained in the Bill in question. The present measure, however, he was happy to see, did not contain a provision which made part of Mr. Sharman Crawford's Bill. According to that measure, a tenant could make improvements on his farm without consulting the landlord about them, or obtaining his permission, and then he could come upon the landlord for compensation for the improvements thus effected. The present Bill, however, contained no such clause. It provided that a full inquiry should be made as to the necessity and propriety of the improvements before they were undertaken. This arrangement, he contended, was a much better one than that contained in the Bill to which he had alluded. Those who opposed this Bill objected, as he understood, to the machinery by which its object was sought to be attained, and not to that object itself. If a tenant was to be allowed to carry on improvements for which he could claim compensation, he thought it only fair that some previous inquiry should be made as to the necessity of such improvements. The question was whether the machinery of this Bill was or was not desirable? He approved of the machinery as well as the principle, and he believed that the appointment of the Local Commissioner of Improvements in Dublin was an improvement upon the suggestion of his noble Friend's Commission. It might be said that some of the Members of that Commission disapproved of this Bill; but be thought that, though they might object to its details, they could not disapprove of its principle. He was aware that it might be said, and had been said, that this Bill involved a violation of the rights of property. This he fully and entirely admitted. He allowed that in this country such a principle would not be tolerated; but, in the peculiar state of Ireland, some measure of this kind was 1121 absolutely and indispensably necessary. Reports after reports had been laid upon their Lordships' Table confirmatory of the fact, that in Ireland, circumstanced as that country was, improvements in land could not be carried on. This state of affairs was produced by some causes which could not be removed by legislation, and by others which it was the province of legislation to remove. It was well known that the soil of Ireland was fertile in the extreme, and yet land which might yield fivefold its present produce was lying waste and uncultivated. Now, it might be asked what was the cause of such a state of things? In his opinion the cause was this—that neither landlords nor tenants were able to effect the necessary improvements; the landlords could not or would not undertake them, and the tenants were unable to do so. Was it not advisable, then, that, under such circumstances, the Legislature should step in to effect, with justice and fairness to both parties, that which was necessary for the welfare of the country? If this were admitted, the only question was, were the provisions of the Bill now under consideration founded on principles of justice and fairness towards the landlord and the tenant? In his opinion, the great and fundamental principles of this Bill were just and fair, although it might contain some provisions which in Committee it might be deemed advisable to alter and amend. If, however, the Bill was referred to a Select Committee with the object of altering what he considered one of its main principles, namely, the compulsory clauses, they would at once defeat the great object of the measure.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
thought that the speech of the noble Earl was worthy of the Bill to which it related; for as the former exhibited a most original mode of dealing with property, so the latter was not a whit behind in the startling doctrines which it set forth. He had often been asked what was the precise object of the Commission of his noble Friend (the Earl of Devon). To that question, he never found himself in a situation very explicitly to reply. It now appeared, however, from what had fallen from the noble Earl, that the Commission was appointed and sent to Ireland because Mr. Sharman Crawford's Bill had miscarried, and it was expedient to find out some other mode of carrying out the 1122 principle of compulsory compensation to tenants.
The Earl of Wicklow
observed, that he had said nothing but what the noble Marquess might read in the newspapers of the day.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
said, that although he was in the habit of looking to newspapers for information of various kinds, he did not refer to them in order to ascertain the object of a Government measure, more particularly when, as in the present case, he was referred to the Commission itself as setting forth the objects for which the Commission was appointed. The Commission certainly stated that the inquiries of the Commissioners were to be directed to ascertaining whether existing laws might not be so altered as to encourage the cultivation of the soil, and to extend a better system of agriculture; but it did not contain a word as to any compensation to be afforded to tenants for improvements they might effect. He thought the noble Earl had very justly stated that if they struck out the compulsory clauses they would do away with the principle of the Bill. The principle of the Bill before them was to secure to the tenant compensation for improvements he might have executed on his farm; improvements whereof the owner in fee derived the permanent benefit. If such were the principle of the measure, it was one which stood in much need of practical improvement and application in England and in Scotland, as well as in Ireland, for they had often heard that amendments of the law of landlord and tenant in Great Britain were very desirable. He did not know whether or not such were the case, but he would say that the opposition of the people of Ireland to the present measure would be at once withdrawn if they only struck out of the Bill one clause—the 28th, the shortest of them all—providing that the provisions of the measure should extend only to Ireland. No such Bill would be entertained for a moment if proposed to be applied to this country; and were such an attempt to be made, he would like to hear the indignant eloquence with which the noble Duke on the cross benches (the Duke of Richmond) would oppose it. But what was there in the circumstances of Ireland to make it necessary to have recourse to "violation of the rights of property," as the noble Earl 1123 termed it? What was it which made it advisable that in that country the rights of property should be violated? Was it thought that they were held too sacred there? Was it deemed that justice had been so strictly administered in Ireland, that it was expedient to relax its sway? Of all countries over which the Crown had sovereignty, Ireland was the one in which they should be most cautious of enacting any such law? What had of late years been the drift of their Irish legislation? Had it not been, as far as they could, to assimilate the laws of that country to those of Britain? And if they meant to preserve tranquillity—to support the Union—they must persevere steadily in that course of legislation. It was a mistake to suppose that the Bill was opposed only on the part of the landlords. It would be opposed also by the tenants, and justly so; because it was one which tended to lessen the feeling of good will which subsisted between the two classes. He reminded the House that the fact was notorious, that improvement was proceeding at present very rapidly in Ireland—to a greater extent, indeed, than ever had been the case before. There never was a moment when it was less necessary, and less expedient, to interfere between landlord and tenant, than at the present time. The spirit of improvement was abroad in both classes. The farmers were every day becoming more willing to be led in the path of advance by their landlords, and more ready to look upon suggested improvements in a proper light, and not as mere innovations upon old-established use and wont. It was not the state of the farmers which ought so much to occupy their attention, as that of the pauper population of Ireland. The Poor Laws had done nothing for that country; and, at this moment, the pressure of pauperism upon land was most severe—greater, indeed, than it had ever been before. He repeated, that he objected to the principle of the Bill. He could never agree to the appointment of a Government officer who was to be enabled to interfere in the most vexatious manner between landlord and tenant. The noble Earl concluded by moving, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ The Amendment having been put,
The Earl of Fortescue
said, much as he regretted to differ from so many noble Peers connected with Ireland, and from so 1124 many of those noble Lords with whom he usually acted, and whose opinions on such a subject were entitled to far more weight and authority than his, yet he should not do justice to the views he had long entertained of the defects of the law, and of the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland, if he did not express his entire concurrence in the main principles of the Bill, and if he did not give it in the present stage—without, however, committing himself to the details of the measure—his cordial support. He fully admitted what had been stated by his noble Friend as to the great extent of the improvements now going on in Ireland, and he was disposed to think that the noble Earl opposite in some degree underrated the extent of the progress now making. The Report of the Land Commission spoke in the strongest terms on the subject. But he believed that, notwithstanding that improvement, the necessity for the present Bill existed in the peculiar circumstances of Ireland—circumstances differing entirely from those of this country, in respect of the relation of landlord and tenant. It was known to every one connected with land in England—and he believed the same observation was equally applicable to Scotland, though not being personally connected with it, he could not speak so positively of that country—that no landlord let a farm without providing suitable buildings, and seeing that the whole was generally put in good and tenantable repair; and the cases were rare indeed in which the whole expenses, especially as to the buildings, were not borne by the landlord. But in Ireland the direct contrary was the case. In that country—he spoke especially of those parts of it with which he had been personally acquainted—whatever improvements were made, whatever repairs were required in fences or drains, and whatever buildings were necessary to be erected, had to be done, if they were done at all, by the tenant, and at his expense—in some cases, certainly, with more or less assistance from the landlord; which assistance had, he understood, been increasing of late years, but which assistance had been, he believed, until a few years ago, the exception, and a very rare exception, and not the rule. He was, therefore, he thought, justified in saying that the circumstances of the two countries were not similar. Now, he thought if these expenses were to be borne by the tenant, encouragement should be given to him to make them, by insuring him compensation for the outlay, if the tenancy 1125 were terminated before a fair return had been obtained. At present the tenant had no security that, if the property were sold or passed into other hands, advantage would not be taken of the improvements made by him to raise his rent to an unreasonable extent. The noble Earl opposite had referred to the Bill introduced by an hon. Member a year or two ago in the House of Commons, professing to have an object somewhat similar to that of the present Bill. He did not remember what occurred on the occasion of the introduction of that Bill; but taking his information from the usual sources as the noble Earl had done, he did understand that the Prime Minister of the Crown had held out a sort of promise that an inquiry should be instituted into the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland, with the view of producing some means for affording, under certain limitations, the kind of compensation to tenants contemplated by Mr. Sharman Crawford in his Bill. That was what he understood to be the object of the Commission, and the principle of this Bill; and believing it to be a measure of justice to the tenant, and likely to conduce to the improvement of the country, he was prepared to give it his cordial support. He could not concur with the general condemnation of the Irish Poor Law that had been expressed on the other side—he believed the law had been of considerable advantage, and if it had not accomplished all that had been expected of it, still it had afforded relief to many; and though it had not superseded mendicancy, and given relief to all that required it, it had nevertheless materially lessened, in the aggregate, the misery and sufferings of the destitute poor. He thought that compulsory power should be retained; for though in cases where there was already a good understanding between landlord and tenant, the Bill would, no doubt, be a dead letter, without wishing to say anything harsh of the Irish landlords, it could not be denied that there were many, who, from want of means or other causes, were unable to give that assistance to their tenantry which they required. He conceived, too, that this Bill would do more than had ever been done hitherto for the relief of the labouring classes, inasmuch as it would give a great stimulus to employment in Ireland, by securing to the employer a fair return for the capital expended in improving the property he occupied. He looked upon the compulsory clause as a necessary and essential part of the Bill; so much so, indeed, 1126 that he should be almost inclined to withhold his support from the measure were that clause omitted. He hoped his noble Friend would not think it necessary to persist in his opposition.
§ The Duke of Richmond
said, it would have been impossible for him to vote for the second reading of this Bill, had it not been stated to be the intention of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) to refer it to a Committee up-stairs; and if he had not stated that the principle of the measure was to give compensation to the tenant for permanent improvements made by him, but the benefit of which he might not now enjoy, because the landlord had the power of ejecting him from his farm without such compensation. This was a principle which, in his opinion, ought to be carried out, not only in Ireland, but he hoped to see the day when it would be also carried out both in England and in Scotland. In many parts of this country, it was true, custom gave the tenant compensation for such improvements, when he was compelled, under such circumstances, to quit his farm, but that custom was not general; and he regretted, when the Government were applying this principle to Ireland, they had not undertaken to extend it also to England and to Scotland. He believed the principle of the measure was founded in strict justice, and was, in every respect, most expedient; and so far from setting the tenant against the landlord, it would tend to cement that union which they all believed to be essential to the interests of both, and to the interests also of the country at large. He thought their Lordships should pause before they determined upon rejecting such a Bill, brought forward on the authority of the Government, and with the avowed object of improving the condition of, and doing an act of justice to the tenants. The principle of the Bill, as he understood it, had his warmest support; and he trusted that the Government, while they were thus doing justice to Ireland, would not forget to do equal justice to England and Scotland. He could assure them that such a measure would be received by the landlords and farmers of those countries with gratitude and thanks; and though he did not believe that it would make them popular with the farmers—for he did not believe that anything would make them again popular with that class—it would be looked upon as a step in the right direction; and he regretted that Government had taken so many that had an opposite tendency.
§ Lord Monteagle
remarked that though it could not be denied that a large portion of the population of Ireland was in a state of great destitution and suffering, yet on the whole there was an admirable system of improvement going on, and there might be even an accumulation of national wealth. But the question he had to ask himself with reference to the Bill now before the House was, whether it was calculated to remedy the mischiefs complained of? And he must say that some of the arguments which had been advanced in favour of reading the Bill a second time, and referring it to a Select Committee, presented to his mind insuperable obstacles against taking that course. The noble Earl opposite considered the compulsory part of the Bill most important; and the noble Earl near him (Earl Fortescue) looked upon that provision as the very essence of the Bill. Now, he (Lord Monteagle) regarded the compulsory principle as so fatal an interference with the rights of property, and so fatal a disturbance of the beneficial efforts now in operation in Ireland, that the mischiefs that must result from that principle would far more than counterbalance any good that could be expected from the measure. Then, if they consented to go into a Select Committee, they gave a great advantage to the supporters of the Bill; and he, for one, was not prepared to concede to them that advantage, especially when in supporting the second reading, they declared the compulsory principle to be so important a part of the measure that it would be valueless without it. He was not prepared to admit, either in regard to Ireland, England, or Scotland, such an interference with the rights of property as that compulsory principle would occasion. The noble Duke on the cross benches said, he wished to see the same principle applied both in England and in Scotland. Let it be so applied, and let the Government undertake to propose a Bill, founded upon the same principle upon which the noble Duke said he grounded his vote, applicable to other parts of the United Kingdom, and he (Lord Monteagle) would be ready to vote for it; but not till then. But his noble Friend opposite, who also supported the Bill, did not take the same ground; for he said the principle of the measure was not only generally inapplicable to the rights of property, but was a principle which would not be tolerated in this country; and he contended that it was a principle equally mischievous to the tenant as to the landlord. He, 1128 however, rested his opposition to the measure upon the arguments he was about to state—he spoke under the correction of the noble Earl who had presided over the Commission from whose Report this Bill had originated—if he misstated the facts. He had stated that there was a great spirit of improvement now afloat in Ireland. They were aware, and no one more than the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond), that in respect to agricultural improvement in England, there had been of late years a great development not only of agricultural industry, but of scientific application of new principles, chemical and mechanical, and especially of new principles in reference to draining, not previously known. Now, of all countries to which the principles of improved drainage might be applied with the most immediate and certain benefit, that country was Ireland. He would undertake to show that the principle of agricultural improvement well defined for its successful prosecution, was now at work in Ireland, and also to show that the Government Bill, if it passed into a law, would impede and check their operation. Now, was there any one branch of agricultural improvement in which it was more necessary that it should be carried on on a large scale than drainage? They all knew that Ireland was divided into the smallest possible patches of land—by the courtesy of the country, called farms; but which in England, did they there exist, would require some new name wherewith to designate them. To carry on, therefore, drainage in Ireland properly and effectually, it must be carried on upon a larger scale than could be expected to originate from the occupiers of these small holdings; and care must be taken that in draining one farm the neighbouring land was not injured; but to consider it possible that any effectual system of draining would originate from the holders of twenty, ten, or even five acres of land, was the most consummate absurdity of which any man could be guilty. He would take the liberty of stating to their Lordships how improvement in this respect was then proceeding. It had been discovered that the land of Ireland contained resources of which formerly they were not aware. Experiments had been tried on particular estates under scientific direction, and the effect was not confined to those estates. He would state a case with which he was familiar. It was far from being an isolated one. He believed that on every well-managed estate, if not for 1129 the sake of his tenantry, at least with a view to his own interest, the landlord employed a good scientific agriculturist, who was fixed upon not only for the benefit of the land in his own possession, but for that of the tenants around him. The landlord placed this person at the command of his tenants, and the drains were laid out, not only for the benefit of the particular farm, but with a view to the improvement of other farms. When the drainage was complete, the proprietor and the holder of the land contributed in a given established proportion to the expense. This was not the description of a single case; he could mention many Members of that House who were working with their tenants to effect that object.
§ Lord Monteagle
Won't interfere with them? It will stop them altogether. This system of Act-of-Parliament improvement would put an end to all improvement. Act-of-Parliament improvement in this, resembled Act-of-Parliament improvement in morality, and Act-of-Parliament improvement in religion—it would defeat its own object. There were some things not susceptible of compulsion, and when they found these things going on in the right direction, Act-of-Parliament interference was likely to direct the energies of men from their exertion to the purposes of good, rather than to stimulate them to further exertion in the direction to which they wished them to go. With regard to the condition of the houses of the tenantry in Ireland, he must say, that he never looked at the houses of his own tenantry without regret and something like self-reproach at their condition; but then they were all improving, and all parties were doing their best, and doing it by a voluntary agreement between the landlord and tenant, by which the landlord furnished the necessary outlay of money, and the tenant the required outlay of labour. But if Parliament interfered, and a Goverment Commissioner was appointed to go from Dublin to all parts of the country, and say what house should be built, and what amount should be paid as compensation for improvements made by the tenant, so far from promoting a good understanding between them, the only result would be to foment differences, and to encourage litigation between them. Again, much had been said of central despotism; but never was there a despotism so complete, but at the same time so impracticable, 1130 as that which this Bill proposed to establish. Twenty millions of acres, subdivided into the smallest possible portions of land, were to be brought under the view of a single Commissioner, a fixture in Dublin, and the Sub-Commissioners appointed, not by the Government on their own responsibility, but nominated by him. If these persons were to be appointed, let the Government appoint them on their responsibility; if not, if they were to be appointed at the will of this one Commissioner, it was impossible that any satisfactory result could follow, or that the Bill could work with effect. It was true some of these objections might be remedied in Committee; but he should not act fairly if he consented to the Bill going to a Committee when he thought it was quite impossible that anything could be made of the Bill. He believed if they passed the second reading they would create expectations on the one hand, and excite fears on the other, which legislation would not afterwards be able to remove. Disappointment and injurious legislation had been the source of many calamities in Ireland. Its history was full of misery; and now, over-excited hopes, not accompanied by any gratification, would be the greatest of evil to any country, but most of all to Ireland; it would enable those disposed to do mischief to interfere in the relations between landlord and tenant—a subject of such great delicacy that they ought never to approach it without the certainty that they could succeed in their object, and that the object itself was a good one. He, then, said that if they would not disturb the relations between landlords and tenants—if they would not excite hopes which they might not be enabled to realize—they would not now, in the month of June, go on with a Bill which had for its principle this—that they could not rely upon the generous feelings of the Irish landlords—that they had no confidence in those landlords' knowledge of their own interests—but that a compulsory bill and a paid officer were requisite to improvement of the lands, and justice to the tenants of Ireland. He warned noble Lords against the mischief and danger of the course they were pursuing.
§ The Earl of Devon
said, that if it were for one moment to be imagined that, in his anxiety to take part in this Bill, he was acting on the principle of an entire distrust of the Irish landlords, or on the belief that they were disposed to act harshly to their tenants, and therefore must be interfered 1131 with by law, he should reluctantly appear as its supporter. Though he might look for great improvement from the great body of landlords in Ireland, and particularly of those who were present discussing this measure, yet be was equally aware, from facts that could not be disputed, that throughout a great part of Ireland improvements could not go on through any co-operation on the part of the landlords; and, therefore, that this measure was absolutely necessary. He admitted that, with the opinions his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) had expressed, the open and the plain course was to vote against the second reading. He admitted that this was a Bill to secure remuneration to the tenant for the outlay of his own labour and capital on a farm, even though the landlord might not have consented to the improvements made on it. Objections of various kinds, he was aware, had been made to the Commission over which he had presided. It was singular that that Commission, composed of Irish landlords, should be said to take views entirely favourable to the tenants; and yet that it should be charged from others as taking evidence in favour of the landlords, and not paying any respect to the real interests of the tenants. Under charges like these, he felt perfectly easy; and he could truly say, that the greatest pains had been taken to collect the evidence impartially; and a very large body of unimpeachable testimony had been obtained, and was embodied in the Report laid before their Lordships. He could assure noble Lords that they were not aware of what was going on in parts of Ireland with which they were not connected. Now, one great object to be secured by this Bill, was that of bringing into employment the superabundant labour of the lower classes in Ireland. To the country and to that House it was important to know that for four or five months in every year, a great portion of the labouring classes of Ireland were utterly unemployed; and it was believed that if this Bill were passed into a law, there would spring up in Ireland the greatest possible desire for extending agricultural employment; and the employment of the labouring classes in Ireland, he would assure them, was not merely a matter of private interest, but it was one in which the safety and tranquillity of the State were intimately concerned. Their Lordships would bear in mind, that when they spoke of the "improvements" of farms in Ireland, they used a term which in England 1132 would be applied to things that would be considered as "indispensably necessary" to a farm. Bearing, then, this definition in mind, he denied that the object of the Bill was to interfere between landlords and tenants in the "improvements" of their farms. He was one who would be sorry to think that the Legislature pursued a measure which would give facilities to landlords, and yet when tenants were wishing to make "improvements," and a Bill was proposed to give them security for such improvements, that they would not pass such a measure for the benefit of the tenants. His four colleagues in the Commission were taken from the four provinces of Ireland; and if they were mistaken in their conclusions, then it must be from any other cause than the want of materials for forming a correct judgment. This measure which they sanctioned was analogous to that which had been proposed by Mr. Sharman Crawford, and had been preceded, in 1835, by a measure of Mr. Lynch and Mr. Wyse, than whom there did not exist two more zealous or more enlightened friends to Ireland. Objections had been made to such measures. Formerly it might be said they legislated upon theory; but this measure had been founded upon a mass of evidence taken before a Royal Commission, and had not been taken up upon fanciful or ill-conceived grounds. There had been examined by the Commission 303 witnesses; of these, 47 were landed proprietors, 47 agents, 128 farmers, and 81 not classed. Those included persons from all parts of the country. They were invariably asked what they conceived to be the best mode of encouraging the tenants to improve the land?—and in answer to that question, 55 of these witnesses considered that the right way to encourage tenants was to give them leases; and 146 gave their opinion to this effect, viz., that it was most important to secure to the tenants, on the expiration of their leases, or upon ejectment, a fair compensation for their outlay in labour and capital. The first witness who gave that opinion was Mr. Sharman Crawford himself, who was a resident, an excellent landlord, and a man of great practical experience. Almost all agreed that it was of the utmost importance that the tenants should feel that they were not to be turned out without compensation for what they had done; that was of great importance. Many of their Lordships might, perhaps, wish to confine compensation to those who had made the improvements 1133 in accordance only with the wishes of the landlord; but when the witnesses were asked if there were any cases of persons who, having made improvements, had been turned out without compensation, the answer was, that there were a few such cases, but that where one did exist, it was always fatal to further improvements in that part of the country. Without troubling the House at that time more with the evidence, he trusted that their Lordships would refer to it themselves before they came to any ultimate decision; for he did assure them that there was a very large volume of evidence to show the necessity for the interference of the law to provide compensation for the tenants, even in cases where the landlords did not desire, or did nothing themselves towards effecting those improvements. It had been objected that this Bill, more especially the compulsory clauses of it, gave an undue interference with the rights of property. In reply to that, he denied, in the first place, that the principle was at all a new one; and, in the second place, he would ask, what could the landlord suffer if he got his land from the tenant greatly improved, and had to pay only a fair sum for the capital expended upon it? His strong feeling was, that the measure, by creating a security in the minds of the tenants, had a tendency to secure property and the rights of the landlord. A right had for many years existed in many parts of Ireland, by which the tenant, without even the notice required in this Bill, could plant trees upon his farm, which trees he might take away when he left the farm, without giving the landlord any benefit from them; the landlord being, on the contrary, injured by the land being left encumbered with the stumps of the trees. But under the operation of this Bill, as now contemplated, the tenant would leave the land in an improved state, instead of encumbered and injured, as in the case he had just mentioned. It was objected, also, that if the landlord were displeased with the improvements sought to be effected by the tenant, he might serve the tenant with notice to quit, the tenant being a tenant at will. That might be so; but was that a ground upon which any of their Lordships would be likely to rest their objections to this measure? If there were cases in which landlords would so act, it was much better so to act than to allow the tenant to go on making improvements, and then turn him out after having made them. 1134 Another objection made surprised him. It was said that this Bill, most injurious and objectionable as it was as regarded landlords, was still more objectionable as regarded tenants. The noble Lord (Lord Monteagle) admitted the necessity for large and extensive drainage, and said that the contemplated improvements in drainage could not be executed except on a large scale, being paid for from the pockets of the landlords. In many cases that might be so; but there were hundreds of thousands of acres held by tenants holding a few fields, which might be drained with advantage, by the tenants applying to their fields the system of what he might call surface or agricultural drainage, in contradistinction to that contemplated by the noble Lord; and that was precisely the species of improvement which tenants of small capital might effect. The Bill did not, as had been generally alleged, interfere with any contracts that existed between landlords and tenants, or with those which they might in future make. If it was found to be otherwise, it might easily be altered to that effect in the Committee. He thought, however, that it would be found as he had stated. The measure was intended to encourage contracts between landlords and tenants; and he (the Earl of Devon) could not insist too much upon the importance of giving such encouragement. He should, indeed, be extremely glad to see some provision introduced into the Bill for the purpose of instituting a registry of such contracts, with a view to their better enforcement. What would be the situation of the Irish landlord under the present measure? That class would be under compulsion to do that which the English landlords did voluntarily and of ther own accord, namely, make a fair and equitable compensation to their tenants for improvements on their land. If the avowed and prominent principle of the Bill was acceded to by their Lordships, the machinery by which that principle was to be carried into effect could be very easily settled in the Committee to which it was proposed to refer the measure, should it pass the second reading.
objected to that part of the Bill which referred the tenant to a Commissioner in Dublin when he contemplated an improvement, with whose sanction he might affect that improvement, even against the will and inclination of his landlord. The noble Lord was understood to say, that he thought it but right that the tenant should receive a fair remuneration 1135 for such real improvements as were effected by him.
§ The Earl of Essex
said, that if a pledge were not given that the compulsory clause should be withdrawn, he would vote against the second reading of the Bill.
The Marquess of Salisbury
said, that although he did not approve of all parts of the Bill, he intended to vote for the second reading, reserving to himself the power of voting in Committee against any parts of it which might seem to him objectionable. His opinion originally was, that the compulsory clause, though of an important character, was not so objectionable as to induce him to vote against the second reading of the Bill, as he thought it might be modified in the Committee. But the language of noble Lords, and the tone of the debate generally, had changed this opinion, more particularly since his noble Friend near him (the Earl of Wicklow) had declared that the Bill was nothing without the compulsory clause. He had heard no arguments which in the least justified so great a violation of the rights of property as the Bill proposed to effect. He was unwilling to crush the Bill at the second reading; and if the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies would put the question on the ground that the Bill was worth something without the compulsory clause, he expected, from his known candour, the noble Lord would say so at once. But if he considered that the compulsory clause was an essential part of it, then, although he was very reluctant to do so, he was willing to go into the Committee upon it, and to discuss the point there.
The Earl of Roden
could not agree to a measure which was to interpose a Government officer between him and his property. As one of the landlords of Ireland, who were prepared to do their duty, he could not consent to the second reading of a Bill which would go to put an impediment between him and his tenantry in doing for them what he might conceive, and what they might think, to be best for the mutual interests of landlord and tenant. To look to the interests of his tenants was a duty which he owed to them; and they would, he was sure, much rather look to him for the proper management of his own property, and of those lands which they held of him, than to any Government officer. It was his intention to oppose the second reading of this Bill.
The Marquess of Normanby
had anticipated 1136 from the beginning, that many inconvenient consequences would arise from the Commission, at the head of which was the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Devon), because he was well aware that many exaggerated expectations would be excited as to the result of that Commission; and the result had been as he had foreseen. These expectations were very different indeed from the result, if they were to measure that result by the Bill now under consideration. One great convenience which was expected from the Commission by its promoters was, that under it those specific subjects upon which it might be thought desirable afterwards to legislate, would be so arranged and methodized, that when that House and the other House of Parliament were called upon so to legislate, a great many difficulties would be removed which otherwise might obstruct them. He would call their Lordships' attention to the result, if that were to be measured by the Bill now before them. The noble Earl himself, with the exception of the compulsory clause, upon which he (the Marquess of Normanby) would pronounce no decided opinion at present—the noble Earl himself seemed to doubt whether this Bill was the best measure that could be devised; his doubts as to the Government officer were quite obvious. He thought that, considering the state of the Session, and the impossibility of the measure coming from a Committee in time to pass into a law this Session, the Government ought to take upon themselves the responsibility of any temporary disappointment that might be felt from its not being proceeded with at present. Those noble Lords who must be looked to in that House for advice upon such subjects, were of all shades of opinion, and all assured the House of the impracticability of passing the measure this Session. If his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies could state to the House that he felt there was any probability that the result of a Select Committee would be that the measure might be carried this Session, he should be sorry to take so strong a step as voting decidedly against the second reading. The state of Ireland, as regarded the relation between landlord and tenant, was very different from that of this country. He could not shut his eyes to the effect of that system in that country; but he said this without imputing blame to any one, for the result of his experience was, that ample justice should be done to the merits of a very 1137 large number of the Irish landlords. During his administration in Ireland, he had found many landlords, of all persuasions, ready to make personal sacrifices to counteract the effects of the system under which they held, beyond what would be required from their brother landlords in this country. The whole system, however, was so different, that he felt the necessity of establishing a better system of protection to the tenant for improvement; and to that part of the Bill he gave his most unqualified approbation. If his noble Friend could assure the House that it was likely the Bill might pass this Session, he should be inclined not to withhold his assent from the second reading; but he begged him to consider the danger of prolonging expectation which might end in disappointment. Ireland had not been neglected this Session—a good deal of business connected with that part of the Empire had occupied the attention of Parliament—and he suggested to his noble Friend the consideration whether he might not postpone this measure to another Session, when it might be accompanied by some of those other measures to which the noble Earl had referred.
said, that any law which would secure compensation to the tenant for his improvements must be a just law, and deserving of support. But he must look for the principle of this Bill in the Bill itself; and when he looked at its enactments, he found that the Government officer was the principle of the Bill. Anything that would give effect to agreements between landlord and tenant, he should think highly commendable; but the principle of this Bill was to give to a tenant power, with the concurrence of a Government officer, to make alterations in the land which he held, whether the landlord liked it or not, and whether they were advantageous or prejudicial to his estate. Such a violation of the rights of property, instead of facilitating the agreements between landlord and tenant, which the noble Earl considered so desirable, would very greatly discourage them, and would promote dissensions and disputes between the parties. Where there was a lease, the solemn contract between man and man would be interfered with; and in the case of tenancies at will (for which the Bill was chiefly meant), it would have no operation, and would not be needed, except where the landlord and tenant disagreed about improvements; and then it would put an end 1138 to the tenancy. By law, the raising of rent was an eviction; and the result would be, that the rent could not be raised during the whole period contemplated by the proposed arrangement without the crisis being brought on, and the landlord being immediately liable to pay for the improvements. He gave the Commissioners the highest credit for their labours to suggest a useful measure; but, not approving of the manner in which they sought to effect that object, he could not vote for the second reading of the Bill.
said, he could perfectly understand that the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Londonderry) and the noble Earl (the Earl of Roden), conscious of the good management of their own estates in Ireland, conscious of the footing upon which they (like many other noble Lords) and their tenants stood, should feel it a sort of imputation upon themselves and their co-landlords there that a Bill of this kind should be introduced: he could understand the natural feeling of repugnance which led them to object to legislation of such a description. But the noble Duke on the cross benches had stated, that he so entirely approved of the principle of granting compensation to tenants for improvements of which they had not derived the full benefit during their occupancy, that he should be glad to see it extended to England and to Scotland. Now, if these noble Lords were not the exceptions, but the rule, in Ireland, he (Lord Stanley) should not be prepared to submit such a measure as this; and if the cases in which compensation was not awarded, through the good feeling of the landlord or the custom of the country, in England and in Scotland, were not the exception, but the rule, then there would be ground for extending this Bill to England and Scotland. But although he admitted the expediency of legislating, as far as possible, upon the same principles for Ireland as for England and Scotland, yet, because the circumstances of Ireland as regarded the relations between landlord and tenant were so widely different from those which obtained here, that he felt the Government were justified in applying principles of legislation to Ireland which they were not called upon to introduce in the other portions of the Empire, where it was not called for by the necessity of the case. The principle that the tenant should receive compensation for permanent improvements, was pretty generally admitted. He had hardly heard a single 1139 objection to that principle; and yet, practically, exceptions were taken, not to the machinery by which the Bill sought to effect that object, but to the principle upon which the Bill was founded—the principle of enabling tenants to have such legal compensation. His noble Friend at the Table (Lord Monteagle) had said, that this Bill would interfere not only with good and kindly feelings at present existing between landlord and tenant, but with great improvements which were now going on in that country; but he did not think his noble Friend's arguments bore out that assertion. This Bill would not apply to those cases in which the landlord and tenant were on good terms. Where the estate was well managed, where there was abundance of capital on the part of the landlord, and abundance of confidence on the part of the tenant, and where the latter had effectual security, either in the duration of his lease or otherwise, for compensation for his improvements, this Bill would not be called for—would not apply—and, he frankly admitted, would be a dead letter and a nullity. But was it the fact that, in the majority of cases in Ireland, the landlord had abundance of capital, or that the tenant possessed the security of a lease? Was it not the fact, on the contrary, that a great portion of the land of Ireland was held by tenants at will of encumbered proprietors, who had no capability, not only on account of their own encumbrances, but also on account of the strict manner in which they were tied up by settlements, of making improvements; and was it not, consequently, expected that if any improvements were to be made—if any building, fencing, or draining was to be done, it must be done by the occupying tenant, even though holding as tenant at will? To that state of things this Bill did apply; and if that was a correct picture of the general state of the land in Ireland, he asked was it not necessary—he did not say desirable—to give the tenant upon the land so circumstanced, if he laid out his capital in effecting improvements, security that he should receive some compensation for his outlay? How, otherwise, could it be expected that they would lay out their capital? Could it be denied that upon a vast space of the surface of Ireland there was immense room for improvement to be effected by labour, and that there was a vast amount of superabundant labour seeking for and desirous of employment; but the employment of which was checked because 1140 there was no certainty of a return for the laying out of capital? In England, the right was secured not only by law, but by the custom of the country, which was equivalent to law: that right was capable of being pleaded in a court of law, and compensation was awarded for improvements, made not only with the consent of the landlord, but if made without asking his leave for a single one of them. That custom, which had the force of law in England, applied to various improvements and outlays of a very limited duration. In I certain parts of the country, the tenant was entitled to compensation for using bone-dust as manure, though that might not produce an effect upon more than two or three crops. Notwithstanding that, however, and even though the landlord should not have sanctioned the expenditure, he would be compellable, by the custom of the country, to make compensation. Take another case of a more exclusive character—that of drainage. In a great part of the south of England, where there were large quantities of copse wood and faggot wood, nothing was more common than to drain with that faggot wood. The tenant, even the tenant at will, never asked the opinion of his landlord whether he should drain a particular field: he drained it. The work might last twelve, fifteen, or twenty years; but it was not permanent, though durable. And yet, without asking leave of the landlord, the tenant being a tenant at will, and being ejected by his landlord, would summon him for compensation, and the custom of the country would compel him to pay the tenant. But that was neither the law nor the custom in Ireland; and he asked their Lordships to apply that by law in Ireland, which by custom had the force of law in England. And what were the apprehensions that were conjured up respecting this Bill? They were, that the Irish occupying tenant of a small farm would, at his own expense, incur a fearfully alarming outlay of money on the property of his landlord. He thought these apprehensions most unfounded. A tenant might expend his capital improvidently, unadvisedly, or wastefully; but however improvidently or unskilfully he employed it in England, he was secure of compensation. He said that the tenant in Ireland ought to have compensation, even when the landlord did not consent to his improvements, as was the custom in this country.
§ Lord Beaumont
interposed, and observed, that the away-going tenant had a right to 1141 plead the custom of the country to have the case referred to arbitration as to what amount the landlord should pay him. With regard to drainage, it would apply to the labour of two years only; and with respect to bone-dust manure, only to the previous year.
said, he did not wish to push the argument further than it could stand. All he meant to argue was, that in England the custom of the country with the force of law gave the tenant compensation for certain improvements of the landlord's land.
§ The Earl of Essex
remarked, that the landlord had it in his power to object to the demand; but if he did not object, that would imply assent.
resumed: He was merely urging upon their Lordships to apply the same principle to Ireland by law which was recognised in England by custom. But the tenant in Ireland was not left absolutely to apply his capital or his labour in improvements, at his own discretion. He was bound by the Act to obtain from the Government officer—whom a noble and learned Lord had most erroneously called "the principle of the Bill"—a form of application, and according to that form to give notice to his landlord of his intention to make particular improvements. This proposal he was compelled to submit to his landlord, and it would be the duty of the Government Commissioner, for the greater security of the landlord, to see that notice of the intended improvements was duly served. A period was then to be given to the landlord to object; and it would be a question, which he admitted to be fairly an open question, whether the landlord should have the power, at that stage, to put a veto on the further proceeding. He himself did not think that in the present state of Ireland it would be wise to give the power of an absolute veto; but, on the other hand, he did not go the length of some noble Lords in maintaining that the compulsory clause was the only valuable part of the Bill, and that without it the measure would be useless. He frankly admitted that he thought its omission would damage the Bill; but, even without it, he considered that the measure would be an important improvement of the law. It had been said, on both sides of the House, that it was desirable to afford facilities for voluntary agreements between landlords and tenants; and one noble Lord had pointed out the expediency of means 1142 being taken for registering such voluntary agreements. The Bill, as it stood, did provide means for making and for registering such agreements. The proposal of the tenant and the assent of the landlord, if he did assent, would go up to the office in Dublin, where a register would be kept of the proposed improvements—the estimate for their formation, and the time within which they were proposed to be executed. There would also be a register of the previous expenditure on the same property under the Act, so as to furnish a ground for calculation whether the land was capable of bearing a further change. So far from the Government officer being the principle of the Bill, he declared that if any noble Lord could suggest any more advantageous, any more inexpensive, any more easy or impartial tribunal, to which reference could be made; to that part of the Bill he did not attach the slightest importance, beyond the convenience of having one general office, to which application and reference could be made. Their Lordships all said, that they were quite willing to give security for compensation to the tenant for permanent improvements. The noble and learned Lord said that the tenant was to receive compensation for work, whether beneficial or prejudicial to the landlord's property. Why the whole Bill proceeded upon the assumption that the improvements would increase the feesimple of the estate, and raise its letting value. If they did not, he could not conceive that the idlest tenant, the man with the most labour at his command, would embark in speculations or improvements which would not remunerate him for the time he was to hold the land. He might hold for a longer or shorter term, but he would calculate whether or no that which he intended to do would be beneficial to the land he worked. His noble Friend at the Table would propose as a remedy for the evil of the existing state of relations between landlord and tenant, "to leave things alone." On well-managed estates it might be very well to leave things alone; but this Bill would not apply to well-managed estates. On well-managed estates, where the landlord maintained an agriculturist for the purpose of instructing his tenants, how was the present Bill likely to interfere with the arrangements between the landlords and the tenants? The only effect of the Bill here would be to provide that, where the tenant laid out his money on the estate he should have compensation, either in 1143 money if evicted, or by duration of term if he remained in possession. It had been stated that the landlord would have no means of knowing how the works of any particular improvement were done. In the first place, it would be still more the interest of the tenant to have them well and substantially done, when the expense was entirely his own, than if it were divided between the landlord and him; but in addition to this, there was a provision in the Bill to the effect that, during the whole time that the works occupied in their execution, the landlord or his agent should have free access, and be enabled to see how the work was done. Their Lordships admitted the principle of compensation. How were they to secure to the tenant that this compensation should be awarded? It had been said, "by giving him a long lease—give him a fixity of tenure." That was what the Legislature could not do. Talk of the rights of property, and then call upon the Legislature to secure to the tenant a long lease! That would, indeed, be a most serious interference with the rights of property; and such an interference he, on the part of the Government, repudiated the right or the power of Parliament to make. What the Government proposed was, not to interfere with respect either to a long or a short lease; but where the tenant laid out his money upon the land, and thereby increased the value of the feesimple, and the landlord then took advantage of his being a tenant at will, and turned him out of the estate—the Government then said that it was the duty of the Legislature to interfere, and in case the landlord did not give him compensation, to afford him the means of obtaining it by law. That was the principle of the Bill. But there they were bound to secure its operation; and that in fact was what was called the compulsory part of the Bill. But would any one contend that the compensation should be left to the landlord? If it were left to the landlord, the tenant would practically be without any compensation at all. Some person must be appointed to award that compensation between tenant and landlord. Would their Lordships drive the tenant to a court of law? In many cases, where there might be a litigious, angry, or prejudiced landlord, determined to deprive his tenant of all compensation, and against whom he might have some other ground of offence, he might drive him to such law expenses as to render ultimately the amount of compensation 1144 nugatory. It was the desire of the Government to introduce a cheap and impartial tribunal for the settlement of these questions. For this purpose very little discretionary power would be given to the Commissioner. The principle upon which the compensation should be awarded would be laid down in the Act of Parliament. The Bill said, that compensation should be awarded according to the amount which the tenant had originally laid out—so much for draining, for building, and for ditching, and then a proportionate amount would be deducted for the time which he continued to occupy the land after these improvements had been made. The amount of the outlay and the time during which the improvements were made was to be registered. The arbitration would not be attended with any expense to the parties, because it was thought that the advantage to the public, in having these questions adjudicated, was so great that the expense ought to be defrayed out of the Treasury. Could their Lordships expect a more impartial tribunal? Did they think a local jury would be better, or more impartial? If their Lordships thought that a better mode of arbitration might be adopted, let it be suggested, and if it would be the means of ascertaining the amount of compensation to be awarded to the tenant, he should not object to its discussion, for a just compensation was the only principle for which he contended. It was unnecessary to press upon their Lordships the necessity of inducing the tenant to lay out his capital on the land, for nobody denied it. But while all admitted that, yet they almost all appeared to be agreed in rejecting the only practical means by which to effect that object; namely, the course suggested by his noble Friend (the Earl of Devon), that of securing to the tenant compensation for his outlay. He asked their Lordships to go into Committee upon this principle—to bear in mind that the state of Ireland was far different from that of England and of Scotland, and to bear in mind the necessity of great improvement in Ireland, and, at the same time, the inability of a large proportion of the Irish landlords to contribute towards that improvement, or to encourage the tenant to make such improvements by granting him a lease; and also to bear in mind the necessity of fixing the mode which should secure by law that which in England and Scotland, if not secured by law, was by custom. He begged their Lordships 1145 to recollect that this was not a new principle—he did not mean to say, that the case of an occupying tenant, and that of a tenant for life, or a tenant under settlement, were exactly analogous — but he entreated their Lordships not to consider that the supposition of such an analogy was altogether fanciful, and that there was not room for the occupying tenant to say that while the House of Lords were studious to devise measures for the advantage of that class to which they themselves belonged, they did not put in the same position the occupying tenants. The tenant for life had, by numerous Acts of Parliament, been empowered without the consent of his successor to lay out any portion of money for the permanent improvement of his estate, and then to charge the expense upon his successor. He might be far advanced in years—his tenure might be only three or four years' duration—and yet their Lordships had not hesitated to say that such tenant might have those powers which he had just mentioned. Comparing this with the case of the occupying tenant in Ireland, he might be told there was a difference in principle as to the tenure; still would they say there was not such an analogy between the two cases as to lead the occupying tenant to look with suspicion upon such legal provisions when he was himself deprived of any such analogous protection? Let the landlords of Ireland take what security they pleased that the improvements should be real, valid bonâ fide substantial improvements; but he did trust that when they had taken that precaution, they would not, after they had encouraged the tenant to lay out his capital, and had held out to him the prospect of his having a just compensation awarded to him, reject a Bill which was intended to give him that compensation, and which would only operate to give him that compensation in the event of his being evicted by his landlord. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had stated that Her Majesty's Government should take upon themselves the responsibility of disappointing the hopes entertained in Ireland, which would be the result of rejecting this Bill. On the part of Her Majesty's Government he (Lord Stanley) must, in the exercise of his best judgment, refuse to take upon himself that responsibility. The Government had acted upon the judgment, not of enthusiasts, not of men dependent upon party ties, but upon men acting upon a full knowledge of the real state of Ireland. 1146 It was upon the recommendation of such men that the Government had introduced a measure falling far short of what was desired by many, for they had encountered the danger of creating disappointment by not going beyond the recommendations of those to whom they had entrusted the task of inquiring into this matter. But, on the other hand, they would now he most justly open to the charge of creating disappointment, and of incurring the highest responsibility, if, after having founded a measure upon the recommendation of men of the highest character and of the greatest experience—men taken from all parties in Ireland—and whose recommendation was sustained by witnesses from every quarter—men separated from each other by politics and by religious opinion, but who in common were all connected with the landed interest of Ireland, Her Majesty's Government would have incurred a serious responsibility if, after all this, they were to consent to abandon a Bill introduced under such circumstances. They would then be justly open to the charge of creating a feeling of well-founded disappointment and dissatisfaction among the people of Ireland, and of shaking that confidence which he trusted the people of Ireland reposed in the liberality and justice of the British Parliament. That was not a responsibility which he, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, was prepared to undertake. He was certainly prepared calmly and deliberately to consider in Committee all the details of the measure; but if, without going into Committee their Lordships should think fit to reject the Bill, the responsibility must rest, not upon Her Majesty's Government, but upon their Lordships.
said, that the 10th Clause of the Bill, to which the noble Earl had referred, was what in the course of the discussion had frequently been termed the compulsory clause; and he considered it most important for the efficiency of the measure that that clause should be retained. He did not, however, go so far as some noble Lords, who had expressed their conviction that if this clause were withdrawn the Bill would be entirely ineffectual: but he was ready to go into Committee, leaving that clause entirely an open question.
The Earl of Roden
wished to ask the noble Lord if it was to be understood that this Bill had received the unanimous approbation of the Commissioners?
said, he was quite willing to state that this Bill had not received, in regard to its machinery, the unanimous assent of the Commissioners. He believed some of the Commissioners were of opinion that an appeal to the Assistant Barrister, for the purpose of deciding the points at issue, would be more advantageous than an appeal to the Government Commissioner. But the Commissioners were unanimous in their recommendation, first, that means should be provided for registering voluntary agreements between landlords and tenants as to improvements; next, that when the landlord and tenant could not agree with reference to such improvements, the tenant should be empowered to serve notice upon his landlord of any proposed improvements; and that the desirableness of such improvements should be determined upon by two mutually chosen arbitrators, with power of appeal to the Assistant Barrister; and also, that if a tenant should be ejected within a fixed period—thirty years having been mentioned—he should be entitled to an amount of compensation proportionate to the improvements he had effected.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
said, he could not but feel that the practical effect of this measure would be to introduce a new principle—namely, the intervention of an authority at Dublin for the purpose of compelling landlords to defray an expenditure which, in their judgment, might be improper and unnecessary, and which they might not think conducive to their interests. He entertained very strong objections to this Bill; but, at the same time, he felt for the position of Her Majesty's Government. The Government had given their assent to a Commission of Inquiry, attended with circumstances of publicity, of notoriety — he was almost going to say of ostentation, but that such a term might seem offensive to his noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Devon), who had so industriously, so ably, and so assiduously conducted that inquiry—and they had excited among the Irish people, whose hopes and expectations were very easily raised, the most extravagant and undue expectations, which, whatever measures might be adopted, would still be disappointed. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) had stated that he was prepared to abandon the compulsory clause 1148 of this Bill. [Lord Stanley: No, no.] The noble Lord had, at least, said, that he considered it would be advisable to adopt this Bill, even if their Lordships should think fit, in Committee, to omit the compulsory clause, That statement had been made by the noble Lord, not only once, but twice or thrice, in the course of this debate. The noble Lord had also assured them, that though he was desirous of retaining the Commissioner at Dublin to judge for the landlords of Ireland how they ought to improve their estates; yet that if the landlords of Ireland should be so obstinate and conceited as to think they knew better than that Commissioner could do how to improve their own paoperty, he (Lord Stanley) was, with the same candour, ready to give up the Commissioner with the compulsory clause, and cling to what would then remain of the Bill.
The noble Marquess is entirely wrong on both points. What I said was, that I did not go so far as some of my noble Friends, in thinking that this Bill would have no beneficial tendency, even if the compulsory clause was withdrawn, though I thought that clause a great additional advantage to the Bill. I also stated that I did not think, as has been said by a noble Lord opposite, that the Government officer is the principle of the Bill, because I was ready to admit any other mode of arbitration which would secure to the occupying tenant the same advantage and security for his compensation. I said also, with regard both to the Commissioner and the compulsory clause, that while I adhered to my belief that both were most advantageous, and while I was prepared to defend them, I did not intend to pledge any noble Lord who might vote for the second reading to the adoption of either of those principles, and that I was ready to discuss them in Committee. I certainly did not consider that discussion and abandonment have the same signification; I think the meaning of those terms is widely different. As I leave to noble Lords, after the second reading of the Bill, the discretion and the right of dealing with the principles I have mentioned in Committee, so must I reserve to the Government the right of considering the Amendments, whatever they may be, that may be made in the Bill in Committee, and of determining what course they will adopt.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
said, the statement contained in the last part of the noble Lord's explanation, their Lordships 1149 had heard for the first time; all the rest the noble Lord had stated for the second or third time; but the reservation on the part of the Government, whether it would proceed with the Bill at all if these alterations should be made, was only now mentioned. He had never meant to imply that the noble Lord was willing to abandon the Bill; but that if outvoted in the Committee, he would be willing to give up the compulsory clause, still thinking it worth while to preserve the rest of the measure, as likely to be useful to Ireland. He was not prepared to say the Bill would be of no benefit after these alterations were made, but he thought no very essential feature of the measure would remain afterwards. The compulsory principle was a new one, to which their Lordships ought not to consent without grave deliberation; the appointment of a Commissioner in Dublin was also a most questionable provision, tending to be cumbersome and inconvenient in operation. It would lead to perpetual disputes; it would be of no advantage to a respectable tenant and a good landlord, while it would put a weapon into the hands of a litigious person, to be used in order to obtain revenge upon his landlord. The noble Lord had stated that the Bill referred to building, fencing, draining — things that were clear and simple enough; but there remained behind the question of what kind of building, and what sort of draining and fencing, would be best calculated to make an improvement: on these points it would be difficult for the Commissioner to arrive at a right judgment. Voluntary agreements between landlords and tenants in Ireland had been of late years increasing, and were increasing every day; it was this wholesome spirit of improvement the Legislature ought to encourage. The noble Earl (Devon) had stated the Bill would not impede the action of the spirit of mutual agreement; but it would lead the tenant to another quarter besides his landlord; he ought to apply to his landlord in the first instance. [Lord Stanley: It is done in the Bill.] [A noble Lord: Through the Commissioner.] That was what he objected to; the tenant ought to apply to the landlord in the first instance. If, however, the noble Lord attached importance to what might remain of the measure after it should be altered, he would not take on himself the responsibility of arresting its progress in the present stage; the House should have an opportunity of considering how these objectionable parts could 1150 be removed, and what could be the efficacy of what remained in reference to the present state of Ireland. The Bill was important to England and Scotland as well as to Ireland; though the circumstances of the countries were different, yet the principle of the right of property was the same in all three, and they could not long introduce a new principle in one for many years, without being compelled to apply its operation to the others. If the Bill proceeded, it ought to be referred to a Select Committee; and he should vote that it be so referred, reserving to himself the right of afterwards reconsidering the whole measure, being as anxious as the noble Lord to promote the prosperity and encourage the improvement of Ireland.
§ The Earl of Devon
, in reference to the question of the unanimity of the Commissioners on the present Bill, read some passages from their Report.
The Marquess of Londonderry
said, the noble Earl had given them no information whatever; what they stated in the Report was known before; the question was, had all the Commissioners agreed as to the provisions of the present Bill?
§ On Question that "now" stand part of the Motion? House divided:—Contents 48; Not Contents 34:—Majority 14.
§ Bill read 2a.
§ House adjourned.
- 1. Because whilst we are most solicitous to support any measure which produces, or which has any tendency to produce an improvement in the condition of the occupying tenantry of Ireland, we are unable to discover in the provisions of the present Bill any enactment which will have that beneficial effect.
- 2. Because we consider the improvement of agriculture and the extension of a demand for labour in Ireland, to depend very mainly upon the mutual good understanding and co-operation between landlord and tenant, and the contribution of the capital of the one class in aid of the industry of the other, which the provisions of this Bill seem calculated to check and limit, rather than to increase and to encourage.
- 3. Because the intervention of a Government officer, called in, not as a guide and adviser, by two parties anxious to combine in the execution of a definite system of well-considered
1151 improvement, but interposing at the request of one party only, and possibly against the consent of the other, appears to us manifestly unjust in principle, and likely to lead to dissensions and jealousies, where it is most important that goodwill and cordiality should permanently exist.
- 4. Because we consider the compulsory introduction of new and varied obligations between parties who have already entered into contracts, and this without a saving of those existing contracts, gives to this Bill an ex post facto operation, contrary to justice and to the first principles on which sound legislation should proceed; principles which have hitherto been regarded by Parliament as sacred and inviolable.
- 5. Because the introduction of a measure like the present seems peculiarly rash, dangerous, and inopportune, at a time when it appears from the Report of the Commissioners that "in spite of many embarrassing and counteracting circumstances, in almost every part of Ireland, unequivocal symptoms of improvement continually present themselves to the view, and when there exists a very general and increasing spirit and desire for the prosecution of improvements from which the most beneficial results may fairly be expected."
- 6. Because a facility of erecting new buildings on small farms, without taking any adequate security for the future and permanent appropriation of those buildings to those uses only which may be conducive to the real interest of the tenant as well as of the landlord, and to the improvement and good cultivation of the land, can hardly fail to promote the increase of a pauper population, lowering the rate of wages, augmenting the price of food, adding ultimately to the competition for leases, and thus aggravating incalculably many of the most serious evils incident to the condition of the Irish peasantry.
- 7. Because a provision to encourage the levelling of existing fences is not only inapplicable to the greater part of Ireland, but, as being unaccompanied by clauses to provide for the erection of new fences of a permanent or improved character, or indeed of any fences at all, seems to us most irrational and absurd.
- 8. Because even if it is assumed that the principle of the Bill is as wise and just as, for the reasons stated, it appears to us indefensible and impolitic, it is manifest that the machinery provided in this Bill by the establishment of a single officer of the Government in Dublin, acting through Assistant Commissioners, nominated by himself, is wholly inadequate to the performance of duties extending over the whole surface of a great country.
- 9. Because the enactment of an ill-considered measure like the present, may raise serious obstacles in the way of a wiser system of legislative interference, to which we should feel disposed to give our most favourable consideration: a system which, by affording guidance and instruction, where skill and science
1152 are required; in facilitating the application of capital where capital is needed and is likely to be profitably applied; by encouraging co-operation not only between landlord and tenant, but between parties interested in adjacent estates; by securing to the tenant the strict and accurate performance of all covenants entered into with him, and a full return for all improvements which he has effected with his landlord's approval; by securing to the landlord the maintenance of all improvements to which he may be called on to contribute, shall increase the amount of agricultural produce, shall augment the national wealth, shall stimulate and render more permanent the demand for labour; and thus without the violation of any principle shall facilitate the discharge of the duties, whilst maintaining the rights, of property, and shall thus improve the condition of all classes of Her Majesty's Irish subjects.
- MONTEAGLE AND BRANDON,
- CHAWORTH (MEATH),
- CROFTON (except for 7th reason),
- CHARLEMONT (ditto),
- SOMERHILL (CLANRICARDE),
- KINNAIRD AND ROSSIE,
- CLANBRASSILL (RODEN)
- LUCAN (except for 7th reason),
- MASSAREENE (excepting 7th reason),
- ROSSE (except for 7th reason),
- LORTON (ditto),
- VANE LONDONDERRY.